Dean stared at the syringe. “What’s in that thing?”
Highball’s narrow face split into a grin. “Think of it as a pick me up.”
“I said what the fuck’s in it?” Dean couldn’t hide the edge of panic in his voice which caused the grin to widen.
“PCP, LSD, a little crank...”
Dean clenched his fists. “Try and spike me pal, you’ll get more crank than you can handle.”
He tried to enhance the threat by getting up and cursed when his leg protested at full volume. Highball chuckled.
“Don’t fret Twinkle Toes; you’ll be back on the boards in no time.”
Dean stared at him, trying to figure his involvement in Suzie’s revenge pageant. “You do this kind of thing for kicks, asshole?”
“I take pride in my work, but the cash never goes amiss.”
He winked at Suzie but her spiteful grin was cut short when Kate seized the lapels of her coat and shook her hard.
“Where’d you get the fixings, huh? You knocking over cook labs now?”
Suzie shoved her away with a scowl. “Tim lifted the shit and you were right outside the clinic, which makes you an accessory. I wouldn’t be getting all high and mighty if I were you. ”
Kate stared at her, stunned. “Your eggs were always scrambled, Suzie; what made them slide off the plate? Don’t say it was Daddy dying ‘cause you were crazy as a shithouse rat long before that.”
“Don’t push it, bitch. We might share DNA but it only gets you one pass.”
Kate’s eyes went wide. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Suzie jerked her head at Dean. “You couldn’t wait to jump on lover boy there, soon as my back was turned. That not only makes you a sneaky skank, it’s also a compromised operation in my book.”
“You invited me to this party, dipshit.” Kate sounded incredulous. “I never wanted any part of your damned operation and just for the record; I didn’t have to cuff him to the bunk.”
Dean could see this situation going south and like a moron he got in the middle of the argument. “No need to fight over it, ladies. Have Highball toss some Viagra into that rig, we’ll all go home happy.”
The levity he’d tried for fell flat on its ass and Suzie threw him a dismissive look. “Nice try, honey, but that ship already sailed.”
Dean raised an eyebrow. “No party favours for the winner?”
“Listen to Balboa; thinks there’s gonna be a winner.” Suzie’s smile was feral and Dean’s chest tightened with dread. He tried to focus on Bobby; how dying in the pit wasn’t necessarily a done deal. He failed miserably on both counts.
“You telling me the shit in that syringe ain’t some kind of supercharger?”
Highball stepped inside the cage, a patronising expression on his face. “You an expert on street dope now?”
His sarcasm was beginning to piss Dean off. “How about we go one on one in the pit, powder finger? I’ll show you a few street moves.”
Highball snorted dismissively and passed the syringe to Suzie. “Would you care to do the honours?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” She approached the bunk, flanked by Ed and Toby and Dean glowered at them.
“Back off, or I swear to God I’ll…”
Suzie laughed. “What’s that you say, Hopalong?”
Dean was out of options but refused to admit defeat. He cast a desperate look round the cage, seeking some way out of this shit storm and came up empty.
“Back to the wall much?” Suzie ran a hand through his hair and he jerked away with a growl of disgust. “Don’t sweat it, Dean; here’s the plan. We get you all revved up for a rousing finale and…”
Dean interrupted, sneering. “Aren’t you running a little low on volunteers?”
Suzie shrugged nonchalantly. “There’s still a player in the game. You ready for some brother on brother action?”
“Bitch.” Dean made it to his feet but Toby swept his good leg and slammed him onto the bunk with force enough to crack the wooden base. He pinned him by the shoulders as Dean thrashed and cursed. He was holding his own pretty good until Ed sat on his legs and pressed down hard on his injured thigh. Dean howled in agony and Ed grinned.
“One armed bandit, huh? Jackass.”
Dean was fighting for breath and black spots were dancing before his eyes. He heard Kate yelling and followed the direction of her voice. Highball had her trapped in a corner of the cage and that made him renew his struggles.
“Get away from her, you four eyed sack of shit.”
“Calm down, honey; she doesn’t need to be part of this.” Suzie perched on the bunk beside Dean and showed him the syringe. “You should be more concerned about yourself.”
She glanced at Highball. “Where do I put it?”
“Straight into a vein if you want a quick result.” Highball’s voice was clipped and professional; he sounded like a chemistry professor. “If you’re looking for a delayed reaction go into soft tissue. Since he’s such an ass, I’d recommend somewhere in that region.”
Dean glared at him. “Takes one to know one, douche bag.”
Suzie gazed at the syringe thoughtfully. “What kind of delay are we talking?”
“That particular blend takes about ten minutes to kick in.”
He shrugged. “Depends on the subject, but it’s good for half an hour at least.”
She digested the information and reached a quick decision. “Hold him still.”
The grip on Dean’s shoulders and legs tightened, holding him immobile as she jabbed the needle into his ass and emptied the chamber. She patted him and smiled. “All over, hot stuff. Can I fetch you a sugar cube?”
He scowled at her. “Get fucked, bitch.”
“Missed the boat there, honey. Your loss.” Suzie stood up and nodded at Toby. “Take him over. There’ll be time for a family farewell.”
Her gaze swung across to Kate. “You can stay in here for a while. Keep the home fires burning.”
Dean was hauled away roughly. He heard the cage door bang shut, Kate’s outraged cries of protest fading rapidly, then they were outside and grey daylight speared his eyes. Ed and Toby hadn’t bothered cuffing him, didn’t see him as much of a threat but they were moving fast, almost yanking his arms from their sockets in their haste. They dragged him across the patch of soggy grass towards the Wall of Death, unbolted the door to the pit and threw him inside. Dean stumbled, tried to keep his balance and sprawled face down in the dirt, cursing and coughing. Seconds later he was rolled onto his back and Sam was staring down at him.
His brother seemed undamaged and a flood of relief washed over him. Sam frowned as he took in Dean’s battered appearance.
“You’re bleeding again.”
Dean glanced down, saw blood flecking the bandage on his leg and snorted dismissively. “Bigger fish, Sammy.”
It was hot in the pit and Dean broke out in a sweat; burning up so bad he began panting. This wasn’t fever or reaction to injury; it was the drug entering his bloodstream and his heart began pounding, fast and painful as he realised what it meant for them both. Sam shook him gently.
“What’s wrong, Dean? What did they do now?”
Dean’s vision was swimming in and out of focus and he blinked hard to clear it. “Spiked me. Some kind of fucked up speedball…”
He tried to get up but Sam grabbed his shoulder and held him down. “Your pupils are like dimes. What did they use?”
Dean struggled to remember. “Angel dust, acid, crank… probably a few they didn’t mention.”
“Jesus Christ.” Sam ran a shaky hand through his hair. “How long does the, uh… trip last?”
“How the fuck would I know? I don’t exactly party like this every day.”
Dean was getting aggravated and tried to keep a lid on it. None of this was Sam’s fault, after all. “Half an hour at least, according to the nut job who cooked it up.”
Sam sat back on his heels, breathing hard. “That stuff will make you hallucinate. It’ll make you feel invincible, like you can fucking fly…” He looked off into the viewing gallery and his face was flushed with anger. “Those sick bastards knew we’d never fight willingly...”
“You got the memo, huh?”
Dean caught movement in his peripheral vision. He looked round sharply but there was nothing in the pit except the two of them. He dragged his eyes back to his brother, tried to keep his thoughts from scrambling.
“You’re gonna survive this, Sammy. You get out of here, hunt those fuckers down and give ‘em the death they deserve. You do it for me, man.”
Sam spread his arms helplessly. “How, Dean?”
“Use your psychic shit, unlock the door and don’t look back.”
Sam shook his head. “I can’t just turn it on and off.”
You could if you practiced…
Dean bit back the words before they could leave his lips. Sam’s abilities were already common knowledge in the field. Without his big brother to protect him he’d fall prey to some other hunter, sooner rather than later. Dean didn’t want Sam using his unnatural gifts, ever, but right now he could see no other way. He wound his fingers into his brother’s shirt and pulled him down to ear level.
“Kate called Bobby. He’s rounded up some kind of posse and they’re real close.”
Sam’s eyes widened. “Bobby’s coming?”
He tried to pull away and Dean tightened his grip. “Kate’s in the cage. You’ve got to help her, man. Suzie’s gonna go after her, soon as she realises who snitched.”
Dean saw something coming at him; scrawny and deformed. Blood was dripping from its twisted, mutilated mouth and it was moving faster than his eyes could track. He sat up in a rush, looking round in panic. The thing was gone, the pit empty again but now it was pulsing gently, steady as a heartbeat. It was as though some giant, subterranean creature was taking a nap downstairs. Sam was staring at him in alarm and then it wasn’t his brother anymore. It was a conniving, red-eyed demon with a flicking, forked tongue.
Dean leaped to his feet, backed up until he hit concrete and shook his head violently. The demon vanished and Sam was standing before him, white as a sheet and shit scared. Dean realised his leg didn’t hurt anymore, it felt as strong and sure as the rest of him. He was ready to fight, eager to kill something and all he needed was a target. His eyes found Sam again and his whole body went rigid. He was about to do something terrible, he was powerless to prevent it and the thought terrified him.
“Get away from me, Sammy. I’m done for.”
Sam looked worn out and ragged. There were tears in his eyes. “I’m not leaving you like this.”
Dean felt a pang of irritation. Was his brother always this damned stubborn? He couldn’t remember.
“It’s dragging me under, I can’t stop it. Take off, man.”
Sam’s anxious glance went round the pit. He was cautious, wary; like he was standing too close to a cornered, injured animal.
“We’re trapped, Dean. Try and stay calm.”
His voice was quiet but commanding; the tone he used when they were in the worse kind of peril. Dean could sense his brother’s fear and knew it was justified. God only knew what the drug was about to turn him into…
“You’ve gotta kill me, ‘cause in a few minutes…”
Dean was close to tears. He never dreamed he’d be saying goodbye to his brother like this. Sam glanced at his watch and Dean knew he was counting down the seconds. Blood was roaring in his ears and the pulsing of the pit was intensifying. All manner of half-realised creatures were waiting in the shadows, watching with greedy eyes, calling to him in a cacophony of thin, broken voices. Dean shouted to hear himself above their din.
“I was supposed to save you, Sammy. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”
Dean couldn’t stop the tears; they spilled from his eyes and ran down his face. Sam grabbed hold of him, pulling him into a tight embrace and Dean experienced a series of rapid flashbacks. He recalled each and every time they’d hugged like this and the memories spanned decades. Two brothers against the world, expressing mutual love and protection in the only way they knew how. It felt safe and secure. It felt like home.
“I’ll get us through this, Dean. Just don’t….”
Sam’s smell changed; now it was putrid and foul. The shrivelled, unclean thing clinging to him wasn’t his brother and Dean shoved it away roughly. “What the fuck are you?”
He got a brief look at something long dead. Desiccated flesh hung from ancient bones, milky orbs glowed in sunken eye sockets and withered lips stretched in a perpetual rictus. Dean still had enough sense to know this thing wasn’t real and he knuckled his eyes until they burned. Finally he could see his brother again.
“Sammy? For a moment there I swear…”
Harsh light came out of nowhere; invasive as a prison search beacon and he threw an arm across his face, trying to shut it out.
“Turn the friggin’ lights down; you trying to blind me?”
As the light dimmed Dean could see the shadows were larger and denser now. More creatures waited inside them, shivering with lust and anticipation and they wanted him. Movement at the top of the pit caught his eye and there were other monsters up there. He’d seen them before, thought he might even know them.
“Look out for the demons, Sam.”
Dean needed to get between his brother and the things in the gallery. He had to protect Sam, was compelled to do so with every strand in his DNA. The wall wasn’t very high; he could easily make it up top if he took a good run…
He launched himself across the pit and the demons began singing. Some god awful, out of tune karaoke number but he used the voices to track their positions. He leaped for the gallery and almost made it; fingertips brushing the top of the wall before he dropped back into the pit. He snarled in frustration, was getting ready to go again when one of the demons sang words he recognised. Its voice was familiar.
“Coming to show me a good time, honey?”
Was it Meg? One of the many red-eyed crossroads skanks he’d encountered? They all sounded the same to him. Whoever it was though, he was giving as good as he got.
“Toss me a rope and I’m all yours.”
Dean reached into the back of his pants for the Colt. He’d take this fucker’s head clean off and there were plenty of bullets to go round for the others. The Colt wasn’t there though and now another voice was singing in a lower register.
“Don’t sweat it, asshole; soon you’ll be flying.”
Dean could see the demons clearly now, a whole cluster fuck of them. Some had red eyes, some black and one was watching with eyes the colour of burger mustard. Dean realised it was Yellow Eyes, in the damned flesh and ready to rumble. He felt a jolt of excitement. This fucker had so much to answer for and he, Dean Winchester would be the one who sent it back to the boiler room for all eternity.
His confidence was boundless. He knew how to get up the wall now; could see cracks and holes all over its surface and he’d mapped the path up before he even started climbing. He was halfway to the top when something grabbed the back of his pants and hauled him down. It was too strong to be human and Dean realised Yellow Eyes had tricked him. The demon had jumped into the pit while he’d been occupied and he struggled wildly, enraged by his own stupidity.
“You can’t stop me, you yellow eyed son of a whore.”
Dean spun round fast and saw what he’d expected. The bastard was leering at him, mocking him and he threw a solid punch at its face. It dodged aside, faster than light then hit him in the mouth with force enough to send him staggering against the wall.
Something started running down his chin, probably blood but Dean couldn’t feel it. Nothing this fucker tried could hurt him. It had taken its best shot, failed and now it knew it’s time was up. He watched for a while, amused by the demon’s uncertainty and how the shadow creatures shrank from him in fear. It made him feel like a god. When the demon spoke its words sounded guttural and foreign. Dean struggled to understand them.
“I’m not a demon, Dean, I’m your brother. Look at me, really look. Try and…”
“Shut your hole, you bastard.” Anger swept through Dean like forest fire. This thing destroyed his family, fucked up his life and now it was mocking him. “You fried my mom, took my Dad, turned my brother into a freak and now it’s time for payback.”
The demons in the gallery were still singing but the sound was fading. A loud pounding had started up, like a gratuitous bass drum solo was underway and Yellow Eyes tried to slink into the shadows. Dean tracked every move.
“You bought a one way ticket downstairs; and I’m punching it.”
Yellow Eyes moved again but it was slow and clumsy. Dean was enjoying its futile efforts to get away. “I’m faster than you… stronger. You can’t escape.”
Dean was getting ready to tear those yellow eyes clean out of the fucker’s skull when a demon in the gallery let out a shrill scream. They were all scared shitless; knew their number was up and Dean barked out a laugh. He pointed at Meg, or whoever the fuck was up there.
“Pack your panties, bitch. I’m coming for you next.”
Yellow Eyes was on the move again. Dean could hear everything with absolute clarity; like the volume of the world had been turned up to eleven. He heard every grain of dirt crunch beneath its feet as it tried to sneak away. When he looked back from the gallery, the demon was on the other side of the pit.
“Going somewhere, asshole?”
It raised its arms, like a butt ugly bird who’d forgotten how to fly.
“You’re stronger than this, Dean. You can fight it.”
It spoke in the same harsh, unnatural tone, used the same archaic, alien words as before but Dean understood the dialect now.
“Save your breath, shithead; it’s lights out.”
He hurled himself at the demon, taking them both to the ground. Yellow Eyes twisted and writhed like a cyclone; far stronger than he looked and Dean struggled to keep hold. He took an elbow to the ribs, a fist to the guts and a blow to his face, powerful enough to crack his head against the floor. His vision blurred and the second time his head was slammed into concrete he nearly blacked out. He was flipped onto his belly and an arm, more like a tentacle, snaked round his neck.
It was squeezing hard, crushing his windpipe and blocking his airway. The pressure was relentless. Dean struggled and squirmed, tried to throw the creature off but he was trapped beneath its weight. Lights exploded before his eyes like Fourth of July fireworks and his strength drained rapidly.
His last coherent thought was how he was about to join this damned creature in Hell.