Beneath

(c)2006 gekizetsu
Alternate ending to 'Skin' where Dean returns to Becca's apartment to find Sam and the Impala gone. Written for/plot bunny belonging to estei.
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-|-

The Impala was gone. That could have meant anything, so Dean didn't even pause.

Dean slammed the door the rest of the way open; it was already standing a little ajar. He wanted there to be someone, anyone, inside that he could decimate . Becca stayed just behind him, not wanting to catch a glimpse of the thing as she'd last seen it - wearing her own face - but unable to stay outside. Dean had his gun at shoulder height in a two-handed grip, dominant eye sighting over the top with practiced precision. He used the walls for reference and shield, searching the apartment methodically - he'd only been there once but it was all he needed. He didn't sense anyone else in there, but he didn't count on that this time

Blood, on the livingroom floor.

A bloody handprint on the facing wall, the shape and size similar to Sam's.

The knife in the pool table.

Dean lowered the gun as he realized what was happening; it was impossible, it was the absolute worst thing, but Sam wasn't there and there had been a struggle, and that meant it had Sam. For what? To be him? To use him as -

"Car," he said, reduced to monosyllables while he tried to understand that the thing had his brother. "Becca, tell me you've got a car."

"Yeah," she said, staring around, wiping her hands on the thighs of her jeans like it would get rid of everything that had happened. "Around back. Don't leave me here."

Shit. His first impulse was to say no, but staying there alone - that was too much to ask of her, and running to a friend's place? Yeah, right. And she'd tell them she was so upset because....Christ, no one was that good of an actor. No one covered in sewer-dirt and with abrasions on her wrists and bruises on her face. She was in as much danger staying there as she would be coming along for the ride. It might come back.

She was waiting for him to react or respond, eyes wide and wary, still associating his face with the one that had dragged her out of there earlier. Please God, don't let Sam look at me like that, ever. Dean held a hand out to her, keeping his distance, allowing her to make the choice. She didn't take his hand but she did follow him, and he could work with that. She ran ahead to the Dodge Neon in the back, fumbling for her keys with shaking fingers.

"Let me do it," he said, voice gruffer than he'd intended, and mumbled an apology when she dropped the keys in response. He knelt to the gravel of the drive and scooped the keys into one hand while gesturing at her to get into the car with the other.

"Where do you think they went?" she said as he turned the ignition.

"I think he wants to be found," Dean said, concentrating on not peeling out of there. Back to the sewer? Yeah, it would use its home turf to get the upper hand, but it probably wanted their attention first. He had a mental image of Sam tied to the hood of the Impala on some side street, splayed and lifeless, a knife in him just like the knife in the pool table. No, no no. Sam was useful to it for now, it wanted both of them. It hadn't tried using Sam's face, it had been so interested in being him. If it wanted to always be him, it would want them both gone. It wouldn't look at Sam as a threat if it had Dean's memories. If Sam was right and it had been using some sort of...connection to them to become them, there would be only so much it could absorb at a time.

"I need you to tell me everything it said to you," Dean said.

Becca relayed the conversation, and Dean ground his teeth. Born human, at least, and then discarded. What was it, a mutant? Comparing itself to him. Like it understood him.

"What's he going to do to Sam?" she said. Her voice didn't waver as much as it had at first.

Dean wanted to say hey, what do you think, he's going to kill him if he hasn't already but he stayed quiet because she didn't deserve his panic and he couldn't stand to hear the words aloud. The bloody handprint on the wall - Jesus. The fucker had worked Sam over. Sam would have given back as good as he got while he could, but no telling if it had him tied up, or had used any...weapons on him.

He needed to be careful. He needed to be still. Or he'd get them all killed.

-|-

"So now what?" Sam said, wanting to keep it talking but afraid to hear that voice. His jaw felt like it might actually come loose on one side. It had stolen Dean's right hook along with everything else.

He had no idea where the hell they were, but it was just off the road. It was hard for him to make much out partly because it was dark and partly because he was tied facedown on the goddamn ground. When he'd tried to lift his head earlier, the bastard had slammed his head into the gravel. He really wasn't interested in making that a habit. There was a gravel turnaround of some sort and he could hear an occasional car pass, but he was still a little woozy and really didn't know how far they'd gotten from Becca's. He'd lost count of how many times he'd been hit.

It crouched by his head suddenly - he hadn't heard it coming - and he flinched before he could suppress it. That quick, it was straddling his back and leaning its weight (not Dean's weight, he couldn't think of it like that, not Dean, not Dean) on his shoulders and driving the breath out of him.

It spoke deliberately, using Dean's vocal inflections to create something clipped and scornfully malevolent. "Your big brother's going to come flying after you, all tough-guy, all badass cowboy, and I'm going to bury you both," it said. "I kind of like the setup you've got. I think I've finally found my calling, Sam. Yours."

"You can't steal any more of his memories, if he's dead," Sam said, struggling to breathe.

"Shit, I don't need anything else," it said. "He's pretty simply put together, that guy. And it's not like I've gotta put a show on for anybody. There isn't anybody . What, your dad ?" It broke into laughter, low and suggestive. "Like he even knows where you are. Like he thinks for two minutes that you'll stay with Dean. Dean sure doesn't think so. I won't have to explain why you're not around. All you do is leave." It shoved itself off his back, and Sam rolled up on one side reflexively. Before he could brace himself it kicked him in the back.

Oh, kidney. Jesus, what a night.

It wasn't like he was going anywhere.

He rolled further before the pain could really set in and looped a leg around as hard as he could. It didn't bring the bastard down, but it made him stumble a little.

Sam heard laughter as it moved away. "Sammy, Sammy-Sam. Did I hit a nerve, little guy?"

"He's not 'simply put together', you fuck," Sam said through his teeth. God, how he hated listening to Dean's laugh coming out of that thing.

"I don't wanna have to tie your feet, Sam," it said from further behind him. "I need you able to stand. Don't make me fuck you up so bad you can't stand. Dean's gotta see your face one more time."

-|-

He missed it the first time.

He wanted to believe he could feel Sam or just automatically know where he was, as if they were connected that way, even just this once, but really...shit. He was afraid he knew where the shapeshifter was. He was pretty sure that for just instants at a time, the psychic link went both ways.

He'd been driving around like an idiot, searching for his car. Sam wouldn't be all that far from the car, he could start there and work out where the damn thing had taken him. But it didn't work that way. It was only when he quit looking that he could see where he was going.

He missed the turnaround but the road he was on was residential and he decided to loop around. Headed back the other way, there was something - a reflection from the streetlights, a shape out of place, he wasn't sure. But he knew . And he passed and kept going for about a quarter mile, then pulled over and shut the car off. Before Becca could say anything, he slid the .38 off his ankle holster and checked it, five shots of silver winking back. There was nothing cocky in his bearing. Everything he did was compact and efficient, nothing wasted, no play in the wheel. "Get out, and stay behind the car," he said, handing the gun over. "And stay down."

"I don't - "

"Hey, Becca," Dean said, voice soft but edged with command, "Get out. Of. The car. Get down, and stay out of sight. You stay here no matter what you hear."

Some of the weapons in the trunk of the Impala were capable of punching through car doors, and possibly even the entire car. Or a house. Or a school.

"You shoot anything that comes near you, no matter who it looks like," he said.

"But if it's you..." she said.

"If it's us, we'll figure out what to do," Dean said. "Take off, either way. If it really is us, we'll give you time to get out of here."

"What the hell did it take Sam for ," she said, fear and anger audible.

"This...whatever he is," Dean said, taking his own gun off his belt, "...is pretty messed up to begin with. But if it's downloaded enough of me, hey. Good times." He grinned, but it was some strange mix of malicious self deprecation that startled Becca into looking away from him as he left.

-|-

There was no goddamn way to sneak up on the bastard - he'd put himself up against an old fence on one side. The Impala was parked off to the right, partly out of the light and back from the road, and -

And leaning up against it was Sam. With a gun to his head.

Of course it had known he was coming. It could download his memories, but it still wasn't him . It hadn't made it past all of the superficial layers he wore to keep the rain off. Oh, it had seen a few things. That was fine. It wasn't going to live long.

He walked out into the open, keeping his hands out to the sides, and kept coming. He heard the gun at Sam's head click as the action was pulled back. It was one of the revolvers, then, probably the one under the back seat.

"Close enough," he heard his own voice say from the other side of the space, and it was so surreal that he almost paused. He couldn't see either of them clearly, they were partly in shadow, but he could see the way Sam's head was tilted back a little, a darker slash of blood crossing his face.

"You don't know me," Dean said, and he did what John had taught him for years: scramble his thoughts into chaos and think underneath them. He was walking toward the car with a steady, measured gait, expressionless, not even trying to meet Sam's eyes across the distance or use any of their signals to let him know what the plan was. There was no plan except to kill anything that wasn't Sam. Colors mixing, wheels turning, memories that didn't exist. He 'remembered' falling from a cliff, he 'remembered' putting a gun to his own head, he 'remembered' dying and dying and dying -

He saw the hand waver from Sam's head a little, and knew he'd gambled right; he imagined killing himself and made it seem attractive and shoved everything insane he could back down the pike. If it wanted to be him, it could have all the things no one wanted first.

"Look away, Sam," he said as he kept walking, and he could see - he knew he could - the wide blue of Sam's eyes needing him to make contact, needing him to give him a signal so he could help . Dean wasn't saying close your eyes, this is gonna be bad , he was trying to get rid of Sam's attention. Some things Dean just could not do with Sam's attention on him.

Now the gun was pointed at him instead of Sam because Sam wasn't causing the thing pain. It wasn't even screaming at him, it wasn't threatening to kill Sam, it was just watching him come. He was a good forty yards off when he lifted the .45 off his belt again and aimed it two-handed, keeping a face he'd seen in the mirror centered over the sight, one breath, two, don't look at Sam . Sam didn't exist. Sam was every bright and healthy thing his mind didn't have room for right then, Sam would clear his head, Sam would make him incapable of destruction.

Blood and glass and fire, falling, drowning, suffocating, losing everything, he could imagine that, he could remember that.

The stupid fucking thing was like a deer in headlights. When his finger squeezed the trigger Sam was already dead weight, slumping forward without anticipting the fall, and the first bullet just missed him. Sam would find a nick taken out of his shirt later where the bullet grazed him, under the blood that soaked him when the body shot nailed the shifter just below the sternum and bisected the aorta. The second bullet shattered the sternum, the third punctured its throat. Dean watched himself die, the lights going out as the body fell, as Sam rolled away.

Dean wasn't Dean again until Sam finally got through enough to make him understand that the gun was empty.

-|-

They left the shapeshifter where it fell, sans anything belonging to Dean. Anything.

-|-

Sam left him alone.

They hadn't spoken a single word. Becca had seen them standing shoulder to shoulder in the road when they showed themselves to her, and she had taken off just like Dean had instructed. Dean had given Sam a rough once-over to make sure he was okay, and then there was just this, sitting in the Impala at a rest stop, reeking of blood and gunpowder and something intangible but familiar. A numb adrenaline cooldown.

He hadn't seen it in a long time, but he recognized what was happening. Dean had a way of pulling down into himself to regroup. It wasn't a black rage or a refusal to emote. It was like the backlash of any implosion, a collapse to the center. He was still working from a place he'd had to go to do what he'd done.

Sam remembered several instances where John and Dean had returned from hunts they had excluded him from, blood-spattered, silent, closed. Nothing like the whooping exhilaration Dean was known for after successful nights where he'd done everything but roll on the corpse of whatever they'd killed like any ecstatic pup. John would be contained and distant but Dean would border on feral with his inability to be inside a building. He couldn't be enclosed, he couldn't have anything above him. He wouldn't come anywhere near Sam during those times, eyes flat, back turned, motions stiff whether he was injured or not.

Sam had found himself wondering what kinds of things they were doing and what kind of damage it was inflicting on Dean.

The last couple of days had helped him finally answer that question.

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