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IN VINO VERITAS

By Andii Valo

Adventure / Drama

Chapter 1

It was the pounding in his head which finally forced Dean Winchester awake. He’d been drifting in and out for a while, delaying the moment when he’d have to open his eyes and face the hangover, concussion, whatever the hell it was. Maybe a combination of both, that’d be an awesome start to the day but he had no clear idea what day it even was right now. All he knew for sure was that he was cold, some bastard with a jackhammer was giving it full on Ace of Spades in the back of his skull and there was a smell he didn’t care for. Damp and decay, mixed with a coppery odour he couldn’t place. Dean was certain he wasn’t in whatever motel bed he’d paid good money for.

He tried to open his eyes, which required more effort than usual. His eyelids were heavy, some kind of gunk holding them together but he got there eventually. He was lying on his side and got a confusing look at what was directly in front of him. His vision was blurred, some rapid blinking didn’t do much to pull it into focus and it took his brain a while to catch up with what his eyeballs were showing him.

“What the hell?”

Dean sat up fast, which turned out to be a mistake. He felt something tear down his left side a second before the pain hit. He swore, feeling the familiar wet warmth of blood seeping from whatever injury was down there. He pulled up his shirt, wincing as blood-stiffened fabric parted company with raw flesh and stared at the jagged wound which ran from his ribs to his hipbone. He didn’t remember getting that.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and took in his surroundings, trying to put his brain in gear and connect with whatever danger he might be in. But the pounding in his head, definitely concussion, made it difficult to concentrate.

He was in a small, windowless room. The only light came from a dim bulb on a trailing wire above him. It was on the frizz, flickering and buzzing which gave the whole scene a bizarre, nightmarish quality. Dean knew he wasn’t dreaming though; it hurt too much. The walls of the room were damp and decaying; peeling wallpaper, rotting plaster and water trickling down in places. The floor was covered in dirt and debris and he didn’t let his gaze linger there for long; he really didn’t want to know what was stuck to that carpet. It all explained the stink though and he gagged as he got a nose full of the coppery smell which he finally identified as blood.

Right in his line of sight was a door and every instinct promised him it would be locked; but he had to be sure. He pushed himself to his feet and nearly fell straight back down as his legs buckled and his vision swam. He bent over, clasped his knees and breathed hard, waiting for the crappy moment to pass. When he was confident of not passing out or puking, he pushed himself upright and walked unsteadily across the room, grimacing as his boots stuck to the carpet. It wasn’t more than a few paces but the effort exhausted him and set his heart hammering.

The door was locked; no surprises there so he banged on it for a while, demanding release and promising bloody retribution on whoever or whatever was on the other side. All that got him was a butt load of silence and he kicked the door in frustration. In a room which was falling apart, why did the damned thing have to be so solid? The small acts of exertion did not go unpunished; Dean’s head began to spin and he leaned hard against the door, willing his legs to keep him upright. He couldn’t figure out why he felt so weak and tired until he caught sight of the bed he’d woken up on. The narrow bunk was topped by a grimy, soiled mattress but even in the dim, freakish light, Dean could see two large bloodstains on it. One matched up to the cut in his side, the other was right where…

He raised a shaky hand to his head, searching for the wound. He found it above his left eye, close to the hairline. He also found a golf ball-sized lump on the back of his head and dried blood all over his face. He eyed the bunk balefully; how much of himself had leaked into that damned thing while he’d been unconscious? How long would it take to catch some kind of skeevy infection? How had he ended up in this mess, how long had he been here? And where in the hell was Sam?

Fear and guilt hit Dean in roughly equal parts. Whatever had gone down; was Sam a part of it too? Was Sam locked up in some other room, hurt, bleeding and confused? Did he wind up there because Dean wasn’t strong or smart enough to protect him?

He cursed steadily as he rummaged through his jeans, looking for his cell phone. It wasn’t there. Last he remembered it was in the pocket of his coat, but he wasn’t wearing a coat anymore. Dean’s eyes flicked round the skanky room, seeking out the garment, but it was gone. He allowed himself a sardonic smile; of course it was gone because that was the Winchester way, right? Friggin’ difficult. Always.

He was beginning to lose it. He’d had the shakes since he woke up and put it down to the chill in the room. But they were getting worse. The bouts of nausea, which he’d put down to the smell, were consolidating in his guts and if he didn’t sit soon he was going to puke. He limped across the room and sat heavily on the bunk, his hand landing in a puddle of his own blood. The mattress was sodden and his stomach clenched up tighter as he realised he might be hurt worse than he cared to admit. The wound in his head seemed to have stopped bleeding but the gash in his side was leaking steadily. He knew he should rip up his shirt, try for a makeshift bandage, but he didn’t have the energy.

Dean’s head felt heavy and he let it rest in his hands. He could deal with this situation if he could just remember how he got here; at least figure out what he was up against. He cast round his shattered memories for clues, followed them up a few blind alleys before hitting on something he remembered with clarity. The Impala, his baby, had been misfiring. Most likely a fouled plug or loose cable, but he didn’t stop and make the repair immediately. He had someplace better to be.

Recollection returned with a vengeance and Dean reeled as it slammed him from all sides. The beers, the girl, the fight in the parking lot… Just your average Dean Winchester night out in all respects but one; this time he’d been set up and he honestly hadn’t seen it coming.

“Friggin’ dumbass.”

Dean slammed his hand against the bedframe and winced as pain needled across his ribs. Now he knew why he ached so much, how he’d got all the bruises and especially how he’d gotten that cut in his side. He knew it was serious, probably needed medical attention but rather than worry or fear, he felt relief. Because Sam hadn’t been there; Sam had got mad and driven back to their motel hours before it all went down. Sam was safe and out looking for his big brother this very moment. Dean kept telling himself that because he needed to keep hope alive. Right now it seemed like Sammy was his only hope.

He thought about lying down again but knew he’d pass out if he did. He needed to stay alert, be ready for whatever came through that door and he stared at it intently, willing himself to stay conscious. It didn’t take long to lose that fight.

He was roused by a loud bang and even louder voices. It took him a while to figure out he was on the bed again, flat on his back and the voices were right above him. He opened his eyes and squinted up at four faces; they didn’t look friendly and were decorated with cuts and bruises. With a jolt, Dean recognised them as the group who’d jumped him in the parking lot.

“Guess I showed you girls, huh?”

A tall, skinny dude with greasy blonde hair grinned right back. “Showtime, Dean. You all dressed up and ready to go?”

Dean didn’t let his mask slip. “Born ready, sweetheart; we going on a date?”

“Better than that.” The man held up his hand to reveal the shackles and chain he was holding. Dean stared at them.

“Bondage ain’t really my thing.”

Blondie was nonplussed. “We’re taking you to the sale room and the main attraction is… oh yeah, Dean Winchester.”

Dean reacted instinctively. He kicked out hard and got the skinny bastard square in the jewels. He dropped the shackles with a clang and staggered backwards, clutching himself and cursing. Dean tried to use the distraction to his advantage. He leaped up from the bed and cannoned into the remaining three men, adrenalin acting as an effective pain killer. He got in a couple of solid punches before they overpowered him, slamming his head against the frame of the bunk, stunning him and opening up the cut in his head. Blood began cascading into his eyes and he couldn’t see a damned thing. He felt his arms being forced behind his back, heavy shackles locked onto his wrists and then he was being dragged from the room.

Dragged towards God knew what.


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