Dean circled the hunters slowly, sizing them up. He kept smiling, showing no fear because he honestly wasn’t scared. They were bigger and heavier than him for sure, but he was young and fast. He was also itching to beat the crap out of them.
These assholes tormented him in the back of the van for hours while Tim Matthews, somebody he’d considered an okay guy until now, drove them to God knew where. They made him sit on a bench in the back of the vehicle, chained his wrists to an eyelet in the roof and pulled a bag over his head. Then they provoked him with every taunt and insult in the book. Nobody and nothing was spared: Dean’s family, friends, skill set, intellect, sexuality, character and reputation was ridiculed and derided with imagination and relish. Especially his family…
He’d given as good as he’d got at first, but each smartass retort earned him a punch or kick. He couldn’t see them coming, couldn’t brace against them and they hurt. His left shoulder was a popular target and after three direct hits he shut up. It wouldn’t stand more damage and he needed it in one piece for whatever was coming.
His silence didn’t stop the tormenters. They kept poking and prodding, trying for a reaction but Dean bit his tongue and stayed silent. Even that earned him a few random cuffs. He satisfied himself by burning every one of their words into his memory; they’d pay for them later.
And how he’d gotten his wish; locked in a pit with the men he wanted to destroy. The last dose of painkillers had mostly worn off and he took perverse satisfaction in that. The comedown always made him tense, edgy and aggressive, but it also sharpened his senses and instincts. There was too much adrenalin in his system now for any of the recent injuries to register and he was eager to get started, put these bastards down as painfully as possible. He was finally getting the fight he’d needed for the past two weeks and he eyed his opponents coldly.
“This don’t end ‘til somebody’s in the morgue. You know that, right?”
He meant every word. Dean didn’t often kill humans but these ones had crossed the line. Hunters gone bad were the worst kind of monsters in his book and this was no different to ganking any other kind of creature.
They weren’t remotely fazed by his warning and one of them laughed.
“You talk a good fight, pretty boy.”
Dean shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
They were watching and signalling each other. He guessed they’d try and charge him, take him to the floor. If that happened it was all over so he kept moving, kept some distance between them. Dean had a few ideas of his own and backed up until he came across the handcuffs lying in the dirt. The moron who’d removed them from his wrists had forgotten to lock them, which was a mistake they’d both pay for. As he stooped to snag them he heard a voice shout from the gallery above.
“Put them down, Winchester.”
It sounded like that asshole Nathan. He could fuck himself as well. Dean yelled right back.
A bullet whined past his left ear and he ducked away, heard it crack into the wall behind.
“I said put them down.”
“And I said screw you.” Dean put the cuffs in his back pocket and turned in the direction of the shot. He spread his arms out wide, presenting an easy target.
“You wanna shoot me? Go right ahead, I got nothing to lose.”
No shot came, as he’d expected, but the distraction was nearly his undoing. He heard boots scuffing and saw the hunters hurtling towards him, side by side, intent on crushing him against the wall.
Dean’s reflexes saved him. He jumped aside and let the nearest man run onto his fist; embedding his face on the leather belt covering his hand. He felt a cheekbone snap and heard the grunt of pain. Dean broke his nose with a fast jab then drove the heel of his boot into his kneecap. The man’s right leg collapsed and he dropped ungraciously into the dirt. Dean kicked him in the temple but it didn’t connect as hard as he’d intended. His buddy probably saved his life by choosing that moment to barrel into Dean and knock him sprawling.
The blows came quickly, his ribs and back taking the brunt as Dean rolled. He kept rolling, trying to get his feet under him and finally succeeded in getting some traction. He scrambled up and launched himself at his opponent, grabbed him round the waist in a flying tackle and used his weight to wrestle him to the floor. He straddled the man and landed several brutal punches to his face before a knee jerked up and rammed him twice in the kidney. The impact, rather than the pain, knocked him off balance and he was thrown clear.
The man lurched after him, tried to get on top and reverse the tables but he was groggy and slow. They both stumbled to their feet but Dean got there first and delivered a right hook to the man’s jaw. It knocked him flat on his ass again. Dean kicked him in the balls, rolled him over and ground his face into the dirt. He punched him in the kidney and snarled into his ear.
“That’s for what you said about my family, asshole.”
He pulled the handcuffs from his pocket, dragged the man’s arms behind him and locked the ratchet mechanism tight. He stood up, breathing hard and looked for the guy he’d put down earlier. The guy found him first.
A fist connected with the side of his face and he staggered. The man was behind him now, got a grip on his biceps and slammed him against the wall with rib crushing ferocity. Dean tried to twist round but the man’s bulk was pinning him tightly. Fingers wound into his hair, mashed his face into the stonework and blood began pouring from his nose. He struggled and cursed, had a third conversation with the wall and managed to get his left hand behind him. He got a grip on the man’s nuts and yanked with all his strength. The dude screamed and backed off, clutching his sack. Dean wiped blood from his nose and punched him in the mouth, hard enough to knock out a couple of teeth. He buckled, went down and Dean kicked him everywhere he could get at. Black spots were dancing before his eyes and he heard voices from the gallery, ordering him to quit. He spat blood on the floor and laughed.
“It’s what you wanted isn’t it? Don’t pussy out now.”
He turned back to the semi-conscious man at his feet. He was going to break his damned neck; then he was going to gank his buddy. Dean’s mind was clear and focussed; no doubt there at all.
He heard a shot ring out a fraction of a second before something hard and hot punched into his left side, just below the ribs. The impact knocked him backwards and he lost his footing, went down on his ass in the dirt. Nathan’s voice echoed round the concrete pit.
“Stay down, Winchester. The next one goes through your lung.”
Dean stayed down. He’d proved a point and won by a country mile. They’d be more careful who they threw at him next time. He pulled up his tee shirt, looking for the bullet wound but all he could see was blood. The door to the pit clanged open and Toby stalked towards him, holding a shotgun. Dean smirked.
“Coming to try your luck, Doris?”
Toby hefted the gun. “Not today, you crazy son of a bitch.”
The stock of the gun slammed into Dean’s head and knocked him senseless.
He woke to the sound of his name spoken insistently, over and over. He ignored it. It was only when he realised the voice belonged to Sam that he tried to respond. It was slow going. His eyelids wouldn’t obey his brain’s command to open and when they finally did, light speared his eyes. He threw up an arm and pain seared down his side. He groaned and cursed as memory returned.
“They shot me. What the hell?”
“Don’t move.” Sam’s voice was right next to him. “I’ve got it.”
Dean felt pressure below his ribs and pain flared again. He winced and dropped his arm, let Sam’s face come into slow focus.
“How long was I out?”
“A while. They dragged you from that fucking pit and dumped you in here.”
Sam’s face was tight with concern but something else was burning in his eyes. “They made me watch you bleed for fifteen minutes before they let me in.”
Dean didn’t get it. “Why?”
“Because they…” Sam was having trouble getting the words out. “This is about me, Dean. They’re punishing me by hurting you.”
He sounded choked and Dean glared.
“Don’t you pull a guilt trip on me, Sammy. Don’t you fucking dare.”
Sam wouldn’t meet his eye. He dabbed the bullet wound with a bloody rag and Dean realised it was a piece of his own shirt, the one he’d discarded before the fight. He glanced down at himself.
“How bad is it?”
“Just a scratch.” Sam smiled wanly. “You’ve had worse.”
He placed Dean’s hand over the rag. “Keep pressure on it. The bleeding’s nearly stopped.”
He stood up, tense as a rattler about to strike. Dean stayed put and assessed his injuries. He was battered and bruised, sore and aching, probably had a concussion but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He was lying on a hard bunk with a thin mattress and no blankets, one grade up from the floor and Sam was watching from under his fringe.
“I’m sorry you got shot, Dean. I…”
“Shut up, Sam.”
Dean sat up gingerly and gazed round, taking in his surroundings . They were inside an actual cage. Steel bars made up the walls and roof and it was erected inside a larger building which smelled of age and damp. The floor was ancient wood, weak light filtered through dirty skylights and it was cold and empty. He figured it was some kind of storehouse, or used to be. Sam was staring off into the gloom.
“Somebody out there?”
Sam shook his head slightly. “Not anymore.”
Dean swung his legs over the side of the bed and Sam put a hand on his shoulder.
“Take it easy, man. You took a pounding in that pit.”
Dean put a hand to his nose and it came away sticky with blood. He felt it cautiously but it wasn’t broken. That was something, at least.
“What happened to those other bastards?”
Sam hesitated for a moment. “They went to the hospital.”
Dean grinned. “Who’s king of the ring, huh?” He tried to punch the air and winced at the pain it provoked all over his body.
Sam’s expression was inscrutable. “You beat the crap out of them, Dean.”
“Wasn’t that the point?”
“I guess… I don’t know.”
Dean frowned, trying to fathom his brother’s thinking.
“You feel bad for them? They get the hospital, hot nurses and painkillers; I get shot and thrown in a cage. What the fuck?”
Sam shrugged and irritation prickled up Dean’s spine.
“Are you taking their side? Are you judging me?”
“Of course not. They put you in there, you had no choice...”
He left the words hanging and Dean got carefully to his feet.
“You got something to say? Spit it out.”
Sam spoke quietly. “You were out of control, Dean. You would have killed them.”
“It was frightening, man. It wasn’t you.”
Dean stared at him in disbelief. “What friggin’ planet are you on? You think they didn’t deserve it?”
Sam shrugged again and Dean fought to control an anger which was threatening to consume him. He was tense, wired and he really needed to hit something. Listening to his brother, all he could hear was self-righteous bullshit.
“How about next time I offer them herb tea, maybe a palm reading. That suit you better, Sammy?”
Sam glared. “Screw you, Dean.”
Those three words pushed him over the edge. The anger Dean had bottled up for four weeks, the anger he couldn’t escape no matter how many people he punched, came spilling out again.
“You know what? We’re both screwed to hell and whose fault is that?”
Sam went rigid and the blood drained from his face.
“You saying this is on me? I was possessed, you son of a bitch.”
His words came out like bullets but Dean wasn’t buying it anymore.
“Maybe you should have fought a little harder, Sammy. Maybe then you wouldn’t have friggin’ shot me in Duluth...”
Sam grabbed him and slammed him against the bars of the cage.
“You want to blame me for that? Fine. But who’s to blame for the pills, huh? Who’s to blame when you go full-blown psycho ‘cause you don’t get enough, or nearly friggin’ OD? Who’s to blame when you lie and cheat and steal to get your fix?”
Dean pushed him away.
“Shut up or I’ll break your jaw.”
Sam backed off a couple of steps. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it?”
“You can’t handle the truth, Sam.”
Sam’s eyes flashed. “Try me.”
“You want me dead.” Dean’s voice came out as a menacing growl. “Don’t deny it; you’ve tried twice and I don’t give a damn about spirit possession or demon possession. Deep down you want it or you wouldn’t have let those things pull the trigger.”
All the fight went out of Sam. He looked utterly defeated but Dean carried on regardless. He was on a roll; all the fears and doubts of the past few weeks spewing into reality.
“Those pills help me forget my own brother hates me enough to kill me.”
Sam’s jaw dropped open in shock. “Christ, Dean. When did you get this messed up?”
“Tell me I’m wrong.”
Tears pricked at Sam’s eyes. “How can I reason with a junkie?”
Dean pulled up his tee shirt, displaying the raw gash below his ribs.
“Did you do this, huh? Did you pull the trigger, Sam, ‘cause it sure as hell fits your MO.”
Sam charged without warning; shoved him with enough force to knock him down then leaped on top of him. Dean struggled and cursed but the recent injuries were draining his strength. Sam overpowered him and pinned him to the floor. Dean glared.
“You want me to say Uncle?”
Sam glared right back. “I’m not your enemy, Dean. Don’t you get that? Don’t you remember all the times I’ve saved your sorry ass?”
“Get the hell off me, Sam.”
Sam didn’t budge. “We’re in a shit storm of trouble here. We need to stick together and fight what’s coming for us, not each other. Stay with me, Dean; we’ll work the rest out afterwards.”
The blinding anger was ebbing and Dean got a flash of clarity, felt a pang of guilt.
“It’s the pills, man. They’re screwing with my head; I can’t think straight anymore…”
That was the closest Sam was getting to an apology and he knew it. He got up, pulled Dean to his feet and appraised him with eyes which missed nothing.
“Look at yourself. You bottle this stuff up, drink too much, let it fester then act surprised when you lose the friggin’ plot. Why can’t you just talk about it?”
Dean stared at the floor. “You ain’t my shrink, Sammy.”
The door of the warehouse banging open effectively closed the conversation and for that he was profoundly grateful. Six people came inside and Dean gripped the bars of the cage, watching them approach. Suzie was leading the pack, Nathan and Toby flanking her with shotguns. Tim was there and Dean spotted two new faces, as mean and grizzled as the ones he’d recently put down. He smirked.
“More dogs for the slaughter? That hospital better be on standby.”
Nathan eyed him coldly. “That last fight was just an assessment. You’ll get something challenging next time.”
Suzie was looking him over appreciatively. “On your feet so soon, Dean? I’m impressed.”
Dean sneered at her. “Get fucked.”
“The boy’s a mind reader.” She produced a set of handcuffs and handed them to Tim Matthews.
“Tim’ll get you settled on the bed. Act up and little Sammy shits lead for a month.”
Nathan cocked his gun and pointed it into the cage as Sam’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“What’s going on?”
“Big bro didn’t tell you?” Suzie’s gaze swung across to Dean. “You knew this was coming, didn’t you stud?”
Dean had somehow managed to blank it out; never thought she’d actually go through with it and his stomach twisted. This was so much worse than facing down two hunters in the pit. He glanced at Sam and forced a smile.
“Psycho bitch thinks she’s going to work me over. Can you imagine?”
Suzie laughed. “He doesn’t have to imagine anything. Sammy here gets to watch.”