Nathan Ford was very familiar with the reality of death. His sainted mother, long gone, had been his first introduction. The wound still smarted at times, but it was manageable.
When Sam died, his whole world collapsed. He’d watched as they lowered that small, gleaming casket into the ground and had wondered about what it truly meant to be dead. Was there an underground city, full of the recently dead and the long dead, going about their lives as if they still walked above? Or maybe heaven and hell did exist, and the wicked cried for mercy and the good found love and peace.
That day, Nate leaned towards neither. Dead was dead, and there was nothing after.
In the coming weeks, he’d thrown himself into his work, drinking more to get through the day, and staying away from home so he didn’t have to remember.
A different type of death introduced itself when Maggie left him. The death of his marriage should have hurt more, but Sam’s absence was all encompassing. He watched her walk away with a blank look and a glass of whiskey in hand.
The death of his job at IYS was neither a shock, nor an event to be noticed. He’d stopped answering the phone, and they had stopped calling.
After that he did the occasional freelance job, but that was mostly to keep a roof over his head and alcohol in his hand.
This was different. This time it was his death he was facing. The world behind him was a blur of white and gray images moving around like they were behind frosted glass.
The world in front on him was dark and looked remarkably like a parking lot. The space he stood in read fourteen zero five in bold white letters. The ground beneath his feet was a battered asphalt.
There were other spaces around him, some empty, others with people standing in them.
Fourteen zero four had a young woman about twenty. She wore a muddy dress and pink rubber boots. Her red hair was in braids, each braid had a different color woven through it, and she sat humming to herself. Fourteen zero six had an older man standing in it. His weathered hands rested on a cane, and he looked content to just wait.
For once, the thought of his life and those he’d lost didn’t hurt. He wasn’t worried about his team, his family really. Sophie would hold them together and Eliot would protect them. Maggie might even show up to lend a shoulder, or an ear. She had grown fond of them over the years.
A stray thought had him wondering if he’d see Sam again, or if kids just skipped this part.
A breeze rustled the leaves of the lone tree several yards off, but Nate felt none of it. The temperature was pleasantly warm, and the air smelt fresh despite his surroundings.
It brought back memories of the one time he’d gone camping. The air had smelt of pine and grass. A surprise rain storm had driven them from the site and to a hotel later that evening, and Sam had enjoyed ordering room service almost as much as he had picking a spot for his tent.
A high pitched whistle sounded, and Nate turned in the direction it had come from. He could see nothing out of the ordinary at first, just empty expanse of city.
He then noticed a light, slowly gaining brilliance. The whistle grew louder, and a memory niggled at the back of his mind.
The third time it sounded, the light now the size of headlights, Nate could have smacked his forehead. It was a train whistle, one that reminded him of the one that echoed through the night near his grandparent’s place when he’d been a kid.
The light soon grew in scope and a chugging sound echoed in with the horn. Smoothly, though there were no tracks before them, an antique steam train slowed to a stop, smoking rising from the chimney.
A lady with a wide smile and a tailored suite stepped into the doorway leading onto the train.
“Welcome aboard.” She gestured towards the train. “You’ll find your ticket in one of your pockets. Please board one at a time. There is no need to rush.”
Nate found his ticket in the inside pocket of his jacket. It had his name, birth date, and his place of birth neatly type across the front. Underneath that was a letter and a number, C-6.
The young woman reached the train first. She had a bounce to her step and a friendly smile for the attendant. The old man followed offering barely a glance.
Nate glanced over his shoulder. The wall of white looked thicker.
Steam shot up from the train’s chimney, and he took a few hesitant steps forward. The attendant smiled and held out her hand.
“Come along now,” she said. “You don’t want to be left behind.”
“And why is that?” Nate asked.
She shrugged. “Look.”
The way station was no longer bright. A gray tinge highlighted everything, casting a shadow against the white veil separating him for the world of the living.
Shades-- for that was the only thing Nate could think to call them-- lingered between the spaces he and the other passengers had occupied. Hollow eyed specters, with no purpose to their movements.
They skittered along the borders of the spaces, their feet unable to cross between the lines.
More gathered behind the empty lot, ambling along the grass and between the pillars.
“What happened to them?”
The attendant shrugged again and nudged him inside the train. “They couldn’t let go.”
Nate headed down the aisle and found his seat. The large window afforded him a view of the lot. More shades had gathered. They went by each other not seeming to realize the other existed. A shiver crawled up his spine when one tottered up to the train. Its hand was outstretched, mouth open.
He could not look away from the blank eyes.
He jumped and turned, his gaze no longer held by the thing outside.
The attendant stood with her hand out, and he placed his ticket in her hand.
She deftly ripped the stub off and handed one end to him.
“Welcome aboard, Mr. Ford.” Her smile dipped for a moment. “I suggest closing the blinds. It’s best to leave such worries behind.”
The beep of machinery had resolved to nothing more than background noise, each ping of the monitor, a familiar tune.
Eliot knew the rhythm by heart. Each spike, each blip, all told a story he’d memorized days ago.
Jesus Christ. It had only been four days.
The cast on his hand was cumbersome and covered in tiny little pictures of money and jewels. He’d woken up on day two to Parker hunched over his arm with a pen in one hand and a firm grip on his elbow with the other.
He was so tired.
The scent of disinfectant and food that reminded him of airplanes would not leave his nose. He’d showered that morning, and put on freshly washed clothes, but the smell still lingered. Florescent lights gave him a headache that had nothing to do with his own injuries.
Four days ago he’d been in a car headed towards the Brewpub. One moment of inattention, and a rapidly changing light, changed all of that.
Nate’s chest rose and fell with the mechanical whoosh and hiss of the ventilator. His hands rested at his sides, and tubs traveled from the needles in his skin to the IV bags hanging on poles by the bed.
“You brought the green one today.” Sophie placed a cup of good coffee on the tray next to him.
They’d all been living off the sludge from the vending machines, and he should have been grateful for the reprieve. The memories of what had happened made sure he could barely force anything down.
“It’s warmer.” Eliot reached out and adjusted the blanket, making sure any wrinkles were smoothed out.
Sophie came around to lean against the foot of the bed. Her arms crossed over her chest, and she gave him a shrewd look that had him glancing away.
“They were drunk.”
“You didn’t do this.”
Eliot ran a hand through his hair and stood. “I’m going to take a walk.”
Harsh light from the brightly lit hallway had his eyes squinting. The noise and the bustle jarred after the quiet of Nate’s room.
Eliot leaned against the wall for a second. He took a deep breath to steady himself.
An orderly exited a room pushing a cart full of dirty bedding. The cart’s wheels squeaked with every turn.
He pushed away from the wall and headed out of the ward. He bypassed patients and visitors, nurses and doctors. The cool disinfected air left his throat dry and his skin crawling.
By some luck he found the chapel. The small room was empty, the seats covered in battered cushions. He sank down in the second row, eyes towards the front. A stand with a vase full of flowers sat between two stained glass windows. The cross in the center was biggest, with a crucifix on the left, and a Star of David on the right. The lone box of tissues looked ridiculously out of place.
“What are we doing here?”
Parker settled cross-legged into the seat next to him. Her gray hoodie was wrapped tightly around her body, and she fiddled with the lock pick.
“I just needed to think.”
Parker nodded. She began unlocking and locking a padlock she’d pulled from her pocket.
“Sophie thinks you’re blaming yourself.” She looked up then and Eliot noticed an aged look to her blue eyes.
“And what do you think?” Eliot asked.
“I think you need to tell me how we’re going to kill them.”
“They were drunk.”
She stopped working on her lock and leaned forward. “They had black eyes.”
Eliot settled back in his chair. “It ain’t up to us.”
“Because that ain’t what we do.”
The door to the chapel opened and a tall familiar figure stepped inside. He shut the door, grabbed a chair and spun it around before sitting.
His jeans were worn, his boots scarred. Eliot noted the off angle fingers and the lines decorating his knuckles. He’d counted four weapons, and Eliot was sure his old friend was carrying even more.
Parker shot a look between Eliot and the other man. “Is it what he does?”
Eliot nodded. “Parker, meet Dean Winchester. Best damn hunter I’ve ever come across.”
The interior of the train looked old, with wood paneled walls and high backed seats. Tables were situated between the seats and it all afforded the travelers a nice view of the scenery. Nate sat in the aisle seat, and closed the blinds.
A few minutes later, he heard the whistle sound. The train lurched into motion, slowly at first, then gaining speed.
Dozens of others sat around him, quietly taking in the ride, or speaking softly to each other.
A glass filled with familiar amber liquid settled in front of him.
He jumped and nearly toppled out of his seat. The suit was a fine quality, the shirt and tie as black as the rest. A red handkerchief rested in one pocket.
“How?” Nate looked around but couldn’t find an answer.
Sterling gave him a smile and leaned back, hands settling on the table. It was the eyes though, that gave it all away.
“You’re not him,” Nate said.
The thing playing at being Sterling tapped his nose. “I knew you were smart.”
“Is this real?”
Sterling shrugged. “Maybe.” He glanced around. “Or maybe this is all in your head.”
Nate laughed, but he didn’t touch the glass. “If it was, you wouldn’t be here.”
“Ah, yes,” he said with a chuckle. The sound was right, but the soul was missing. It set Nate’s teeth on edge. “The lovely Sophie Devereaux. She certainly caught you.”
“That’s not what happened,” Nate said, momentarily forgetting the thing in front of his wasn’t his old friend.
“If you say so.” He nodded towards the drink. “Are you going to let that go to waste?”
Nate frowned, then pushed it away. Sterling gave him a knowing wink and picked up the glass.
“What’s going on here?”
“This is your afterlife,” Sterling said. “You tell me.”
Nate leaned back in his seat. He’d noticed the other passengers had someone sitting with them.
They looked animated, happy. They spoke freely with the person sitting across from them. He’d thought at first that the others had been mingling, but now he knew otherwise.
Those people were like Sterling, real enough, but something about them just wasn’t right.
“Are you here to…”
“Help you crossover?” Sterling asked, taking another sip. The alcohol in the glass never lowered. “Take you to heaven? Hell? Why don’t you open the blinds and find out?”
The blinds swayed with the train’s movement. His hand twitched towards the drawstring, but he stopped. All he could think about was that hollowed eyed face trapping him.
“Go on,” Sterling said, his voice taking on a sing-song quality. “Take a look.”
He knew this wasn’t Sterling, but the affect was the same. His back straightened, and his eyes narrowed. Reaching across the table, he pulled the drawstring. The blinds rose, giving him a glimpse of the world rushing by.
It was still dark, the lights of the city dotting the landscape like downed stars. He breathed a sigh of relief. There were no shades.
“There,” Sterling said. He placed the glass on the table and folded his hands. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“You’re not ready yet,” Sterling said.
Nate frowned and looked around. No one else seemed to be focused on the outside world.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You haven’t let go yet,” Sterling said. “You’re still clinging to what you can’t have.”
“I got on the train, didn’t I?”
“That’s just one step,” he said. “Now it’s time you take another.”
Fear settled in Nate’s heart and refused to be evicted. His hands clutched the table and sweat began to bead along his forehead. It was an odd sensation, since Nate hadn’t realized the dead could sweat.
The logical part of his mind, the part that picked apart people’s motives and let him steer them down the path he’d chosen, acknowledged that the sweat was there because he thought it should be, that the fear he felt was a byproduct of this unknown place he’d found himself.
It was the part of him that quit believing in God when his son was buried.
The world continued to flash by in a blur of light and dark. The thing that looked like Sterling toyed with the glass, giving him a knowing look Nate was all too familiar with.
“I always admired you, Nate,” Sterling said. He took another sip of the alcohol. Nate watched as the dim lighting turned it near black. “You were smart, ambitious, and you never backed down from a challenge.”
“I don’t know why you’re telling me this,” Nate said. He leaned back and crossed his arms. “You’re not Sterling.”
“True,” Sterling said. “But that doesn’t mean what I just said was false either.”
“I’m sure you have a point to all of this.”
“If you don’t face that unknown you’re so afraid of, you’ll end up like them.”
Nate’s eyes went to the window. He could see them now, hundreds, possibly thousands of gray shades dotting the dark landscape.
He jerked his eyes away and found the seat across from him empty.
The glass, however, was still there.
“Mind telling me what happened?” Dean rested his arms on his legs and gave his full attention to Eliot.
He’d done this before, taken statements from civilians back when he’d worn a uniform and been a scared kid, and after he’d listened as people opened up about how they had been wronged when he’d signed on with Nate and his crazy scheme to right the world’s wrongs.
He’d even done this with Dean a few times, questioning witnesses when the ugly unholy side of the world couldn’t be ignored.
Eliot had just never been on the receiving end. It was odd to put it mildly. Dean’s green eyes, full of knowledge no one should have, tracked his movements. He cataloged every breath, every glance. Dean might not think much of himself, but Eliot had yet to meet anyone better at this job than him.
“They had black eyes and big mouths.” Parker reached into her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “Like this.”
Dean took it and unfolded it. It was done in pen, the lines sure, the image clear. The driver of the car had a twisted grin and inky eyes, and a passerby had sharp teeth and a forked tongue.
He sat up straighter and smoothed out the creases. “You sure about this?”
Parker nodded. “That’s what I saw.”
“They think the driver was drunk.” Eliot fiddled with his cast. “He supposedly died at the scene.”
“And what about this guy?” Dean pointed to the one with the forked tongue.
“He was arguing with Black Eyes,” Parker said. “I couldn’t hear the specifics, but they were not happy with each other.”
“Well at least we have that.” Dean refolded the picture and tucked it away.
“What the hell are we dealing with here?” Eliot leaned forward, his sharp gaze catching Dean’s.
“Demons and a leviathan,” Dean said. “Luckily, they seem to hate each other. The bad news is we don’t know where either of them are, or what they look like.”
“They can change shape?” Parker asked, nose wrinkling.
“They can change bodies too,” Dean said.
Parker wrinkled her noise. “Gross. How do they do that?”
“Demons possess people,” Eliot said. “But there are things you can do to prevent that.”
“Leviathan just need a tiny bit of DNA in order to look like you.” Dean added.
“How do you stop demons from stealing your body?” Parker asked, a frightened look in her eyes that made Eliot’s stomach drop.
“You can use a hex bag, charms, or a tattoo.”
“What type of tattoo?”
“It looks like this.”
Eliot leaned forward and pushed down the back of his jeans. Just above his hip was a circular tattoo with a stylized pentacle inside. What looked like squiggly sunrays marked the outer circle. Parker let her fingers trace along the black lines, taking in the detail etched into his skin.
“Does Dean have one?” she asked.
Dean lowered the top of his shirt and showed off an identical tattoo.
Parker nodded. “I want us all to get one.”
Eliot shared a look with Dean. “You gonna tell the others about this?”
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Her arms crossed over her chest and she rested back against her chair. She was quiet for a few seconds before looking once towards Dean, then back to Eliot.
“No,” she said, her voice serious. “We do what the others can’t. But I still want them protected.”
Dean nodded. “I can sneak some hex bags into your friend’s room, and maybe paint some symbols on his bed.”
“Give ‘em to Parker. She could get the job done with a room full of people.”
The smile she flashed was a pale imitation of her usual crazy. Eliot never thought he’d actually miss it.
“Sophie and Hardison are going to be hard to get around,” she said.
“Sophie knows when anyone is lying, and Hardison might have seen symbols like these in his games.”
“Okay then.” Dean nodded and grabbed a piece of paper and the pen from the guest book. He quickly drew several protection symbols that were easy to recreate. “Here, just make sure no one sees you.”
Parker put the paper in her pocket with a snort. “I don’t get caught.”
“Then let’s get to work.” Dean stood and headed towards the door.
“I’ll meet you in the cafeteria. I’ve got a few phone calls to make.”
The door closed softly behind him, leaving Eliot and Parker in the warmly lit room.
He gave her hand a squeeze and pulled her to her feet. “You heard the man.”
“Eliot.” Parker tugged him to a stop, both hands clutching his arm.
He nodded and opened the door. “We’ll do what we have to.”
He stood, avoiding the windows and tottered toward the back of the train. He held onto the seats to keep his balance, the sway of the train, and the shock of the conversation keeping his knees weak.
Pushing through the door, he stepped from one car to the next.
This car was a long hallway with doors lining the side. Nate couldn’t tell if anyone was here with him, there were no windows on the doors, so he carefully slid open one of the middle doors. It led to a sleeper cabin and Nate sank down onto the bunk.
His head ended up in his hands and he sat there, just breathing, letting the sway of the train calm his nerves.
This wasn’t real. He wasn’t dead. He was just hallucinating, or having a fevered drug induced dream. Any second now he’d wake up and find himself in his home, maybe an empty bottle resting next to him.
A flash of a memory skittered through his mind, the echo of a gunshot, the spreading of blood staining his white shirt. No pain came with the images, just a sense of detachment and curiosity.
The train kept moving and the lights from the city sparkled and danced along the glass of the window.
“I never thought of you as one for self delusion.”
The accented words had the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. Chills marched up and down his spine, and his stomach rolled and turned sour.
Damien Moreau sat across from him on the other bunk. He held a glass of whiskey in one hand.
“You can’t be real.”
The smirk looked real enough, the contempt in his gaze well remembered.
“You always over analyze everything,” he said. He took a sip of his drink, and like before, the level didn’t change. “For once you should go with your instincts.”
Nate stiffened and his eyes narrowed. “I always follow my gut—"
“No, you don’t,” Moreau said. “You plan, you strategize, and you look at every possible outcome before picking your opening play. You are far from spontaneous.”
“Why you?” Nate asked. “Why now?”
Moreau sat back and crossed his arms over his lap. “How’s Spencer doing?”
“You leave my team out of this.” Nate surged forward and slammed him against the wall.
Moreau laughed and held up his hands in surrender. “I’m not the one who can’t let go.”
Nate stumbled back, his legs hitting the edge of the bunk. He fell back, stunned, the facts of his situation fighting to be acknowledged. A burst of light from the window drew his attention.
The city was gone, the twinkling night sky replaced with a sunny day and a sandy beach.
Figures walked through the scene, though Nate couldn’t hear anything over the chugging of the train.
One figure did catch his eye though. Long legs and dark hair, her bathing suit cut to show off her body the way she wanted it to. She twirled an overly large hat in one hand, the smile on her face took the scene from tranquil to breathe taking.
“Sophie.” Nate let his fingers trail over the cool glass. He missed her, and the absence of her presence caused his heart to ache.
“Why am I seeing this?”
Nate wanted to tear his eyes away, wanted to deny what was before him.
Eliot entered the picture then, broad shouldered and wearing rolled up jeans. The only concession he’d made to the environment was a tank top and bare feet.
They were talking, smiling at each other and Sophie wove her arm through his as they walked out of the scene.
The city came back into view and Nate blinked back the tears in his eyes.
It hadn’t been the meeting of lovers, just good friends who were comfortable with being so close. Nate had seen Sophie with her lovers, with him, and what he’d seen with Eliot had been a deep trust. They’d regarded each other as equals.
“Is this supposed to teach me something?” The bitterness in his voice was enough to sour the finest cream.
Moreau laughed and shook his head. “You still don’t get it. Look again.”
The scene was different. Headstones dotted the trimmed lawn. Trees spread sprawling branches across the sky providing shade to visitors.
One headstone was in focus, the words simple, cold, precise. They could never convey the true pain that had been felt that day, the day his world had crumbled beneath his feet.
He saw himself sitting on his knees. Clearly drunk, Nate had barely remembered this day when he’d been alive. Now it was clear, sharp, and digging into his soul.
Maggie stood at his side, eyes red, and posture stiff. Nate hadn’t remembered the conversation either, but he could now hear her words ringing in his ears.
“He was my son too.”
He tore his gaze away, landing on the smug visage of Damien Moreau.
“Starting to see a pattern?” he said, his words smooth.
Nate ignored the comment. His eyes were drawn to the window again, though this time all he saw was a rapidly disappearing city. Countryside replaced concrete and the trees grew denser.
He spotted the occasional flash of gray between the dark branches, reminding him exactly what was at stake.
“You still refuse to see what’s right in front of you,” Moreau said with a laugh. He took a sip from his glass and shook his head. “This isn’t a con you can outsmart. You either accept your fate, or…” He gestured towards the window to make his point. “It’s all up to you.”
The train began slowing, and Nate felt fear crawl up his spine. It came to a stop faster than a real train ever could have, and Nate watched as a man stumbled off into the deep grass. Nate remembered seeing him when he boarded.
The man had been alone, and carried a nervous jitter to his movements. Now he slowly seemed to be fading, the color leaching from his clothes and body, his eyes becoming hollow.
Before, the man had been headed back towards the city, now he seemed to wonder as if lost.
The train let out a clanking noise, and slowly started moving again.
The man didn’t notice, he just faded in with the rest of the shades that had gathered.
“Now do you see?” Moreau asked. “You either let go, or join the others. Your choice, Mr. Ford.”
Nate tore his eyes way from the window. The seat across from him was empty.
Eliot spotted Dean in the cafeteria, a plate of pie resting before him. Doctors, nurses, visitors, and patients all populated the area. There were several places to buy food of different types, though none smelled at all appetizing to Eliot.
By passing the food on offer, he settled into the hard seat across from Dean. A cup of coffee sat next to his elbow, and Eliot waited while Dean scrapped the last of his pie from the styrofoam plate.
“Where’s your friend?” Dean asked as he set the plate aside and took a sip of his coffee.
“I left her with Hardison and Sophie.” Eliot fiddled with one of the unused napkins. “She insisted on keeping watch.”
“Good.” Dean finished his coffee and stood. His jacket settled on his shoulders like armor. “Let’s head out. We’re supposed to meet Sam at the hotel.”
Eliot followed, leaving the trash where it rested. It was quite a hike to reach the Impala, the hospital covered several city blocks, it was a university medical center, and traffic around the area was always packed.
The Impala was parked in an above ground parking garage. He settled into the passenger seat while Dean took his place behind the wheel. The engine started with a rumbling purr, and despite the circumstances, Eliot could appreciate the care Dean put into keeping the car going.
A yellow ticket sat on the dashboard and Dean handed it going to the parking attendant with a grumble about price gouging.
Construction around the hospital had two one lane closed. A set of traffic lights weren’t working, so a cop had to direct people through the intersection.
It took them nearly forty minutes to reach the hotel, the whole while
Eliot’s nerves were getting thinner and thinner.
Sam was pacing the room when they entered, a scowl directed at them when they entered.
“Where have you been?”
The comment was directed towards Dean, but Eliot’s patience gave out.
“We took a detour through Canada,” he spat, the growl in his words making his accent thicken. “Now what have you found out?”
Sam and Dean traded a look before Sam powered up his computer.
Eliot and Dean followed him over to the table.
“I searched the traffic cameras in the area,” Sam said as be began bringing up the footage.
The typing wasn’t a fluid as Hardison’s—whose fingers almost flew over the keyboard as an afterthought—but he was still better than average, certainly good enough for what they needed.
He pressed a few more buttons before leaning back.
The video played without any buffering, a surprise given the hotel they were in.
Eliot saw the team’s vehicle enter the intersection, the light green. Another car, only slightly smaller and green, tore though the red light, striking their car on the passenger’s side, the side Nate had been sitting on.
Their vehicle crumpled in on itself, and though he couldn’t hear any sound, the phantom sounds from that day still rang in his ears.
Metal shrieked and bent, glass exploded, and it all happened too fast for anyone to scream.
The car did a one-eighty, coming to stop next to one of the street lights. The green car’s front end was nearly smashed up to the windshield. Any human driving that car should have been severely injured or dead. From the feed Eliot could see no airbags had been deployed, but the drive was still able to force the door open and get out.
The drive didn’t seem to suffer any damage as he walked over to their car. Parker had already crawled out of the wreckage, and was busy stealing a witness’s phone.
The driver’s hand thrust into Nate’s busted window before withdrawing. Eliot could just make out a slender USB stick in the guy’s hand.
A woman in a suit came up then, causing the guy to step back quickly. Eliot could make out the less than friendly looks, the harsh words and the jerky movements. The wide open mouth, the rows of serrated teeth, and the forked tongue had the man backing up several steps.
The woman snatched the USB drive just as Eliot stumbled from the car. Blood caked the side of his head, and he cradled his right arm to his chest. Parker turned at this, and he witness the woman running off as black smoke spiraled from the man’s mouth.
Sam stopped the video.
“The rest is people milling around and the cops and ambulance showing up.”
“We need to find that, thing with the teeth.”
“Leviathan,” Dean said as he settled into one of the chairs.
“Okay,” Eliot said. “So how do we do that?”
Sam shrugged and Dean pulled out his phone.
“We call in reinforcements.”
Moreau’s words still rang in his ears. Nate struggled towards the back of the train, passing from one car to the next. Each transfer reinforced the otherworldly aspect of this vision. The rushing wind did not reach him, the temperature stayed the same whether he was indoors, or out.
The other passengers he past didn’t seem to know, or care, that he was even there. He came to the last car, and forced the door open.
What stopped him was the warmth; he’d forgotten in just a short amount of time what it had felt like. The car had an actual fire in a fireplace, the lights dimmed low. A couch and a pair of chairs were situated in front of it, a bar off to the side. Windows afforded a view of the passing world, but somehow the hollow clunking of the train sounded muffled, less distracting.
A coffee table sat between the seats, a deck of cards and poker chips were set up waiting for someone to come along and start a game.
“Have a seat.”
Nate did not know this voice. It was cultured, precise, and authoritative. Something deep, primal, a part of Nate he liked to believe had been bred out of him through human evolution screamed at him to run.
The man who spoke had dark hair and eyes. His skin was pale, and his body gaunt. The suit spoke of fine tailoring, the white stone ring and the silver tipped cane the only accessories visible.
He held out one long, slender hand and gestured towards the empty seat.
It was not a request and Nate reluctantly lowered himself onto the cushion.
The man across from him titled his head to the side, a slight smile curling thin lips.
“You are an odd one, Nathan Ford.”
“I’m sorry,” Nate said, hoping to keep his nerves from his voice. For the first time in many years he failed. “I don’t know who you are.”
The man’s smile broadened then, though it did little to calm Nate’s nerves.
“How about we play a hand?”
He leaned forward, picked up the cards, and began dealing them out, five each. He placed the extra on his left and picked up his cards.
After sorting them to his satisfaction he discarded two, drew two, and placed his bet. He let his cards rest on the table before him.
“You’re move.” He leaned back and let his hands rest on the cane, the hand with the ring resting on top.
Nate looked at his cards. He had a pair of eights and a king. He pulled out the remaining two, and placed them on the table. The man
nodded, and dealt him two more.
Nate picked them up, a queen and a nine. He studied his hand for a few seconds before choosing three chips. He placed them in the center of the table with care before sitting back, finally brining his gaze back to the man across from him.
“You never answered my question.”
The man nodded, and reached for his glass. It held a familiar liquor, and upon closer inspection, seemed to be the same glass he and Sterling traded like a chess piece.
“I much prefer something sweeter,” the man said before taking a sip from the glass. Fear crawled up Nate’s spine and settled in his heart when the liquid level in the glass fell.
“But I have to give you humans credit,” he said placing the glass down next to his stack of poker chips. “You are very good at making things that are bad for you.”
“This is all real.” Nate looked around. The room hadn’t changed, the train still continued on its journey, the city lights flashing as they drove by.
“You finally figured it out,” he said. “Bravo.”
“Where am I?”
“Between,” the man said, “on one side, life, on the other death. You just have to let go.”
“And crossover?” Nate asked. “Go towards the light?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“Who are you?”
He leaned forward and laid out his hand, two black aces and two black eights. He kept the fifth card covered.
Everything seemed to freeze at those words. The sound of the train traveling along the tracks disappeared. The sway of the cars, and the rushing world beyond the windows no longer registered.
He was sitting before Death, a being that existed in myths and fairy tales. There were countless depictions of Death in every religion that humanity had followed.
In Christianity there was the Angel of Death, and the Horsemen Death. Nate had studied both, but had never really believed.
He’d seen depictions in literature and television. Movies had their own version. Some showed a skeletal being in a hood with a scythe, others a demonic thing that tormented humanity before allowing peace.
Despite the skepticism that had dominated his life after Sam had died, Nate felt deep down that this man—this being-- before him was Death.
It was all he could say, his mind still trying to wrap around the idea that the personification of Death could even exist.
Death smiled. “It’s been awhile since I’ve garnered such a reaction.”
“Do you not get out much?” Nate flinched. He couldn’t believe he’d said such a thing. Even if he was dead, Death could probably make sure he didn’t exist.
He got a dry laugh for his comment. “The last human I spent any length of time with was rather disrespectful. Given who he is though, I wasn’t surprised.”
“Who was it?” Nate asked.
“You might find out soon.” Death took another drink.
“Why are you here?” Nate asked.
The fear had not receded, but his inborn need to have all the facts simply battled through. Nate had to know everything, he had to be the smartest one in the room, or at least appear like it.
Death gave him a fond look. “I wanted to meet the man who defied so many. You’ve changed fates, and rewritten the world to your liking. You’d be surprised at how few humans actually make such impressions.”
“If we’re so uninteresting, why stop by for a chat?”
Death shrugged and rose. “I told you,” he said. “I was just satisfying a simple curiosity. But then again, I’m not the only one.”
Nate blinked and Death was gone. The cards still laid on the table, the poker chips stacked neatly before them. The glass was still there, empty. Nate picked it up. There wasn’t a smudge of saliva, or an impression of fingers. The glass shone like it had just come from a box, never having been touched by human hands.
Frustrated, Nate tossed the glass. It bounced off the table and rolled across the floor. He was disappointed when it didn’t break.
Standing, he turned, ready to head back the way he’d come. The figure standing in the door stopped him.
Eliot nodded as a cup of coffee was placed on the nightstand. A bag of overpriced donuts dropped into his lap.
Hardison settled into the chair on the other side of the bed, his own breakfast in hand.
The sunlight had barely broken through the blinds, and the world outside the room was starting to come alive.
Yesterday had not been a good day. There had been no change, and the doctors were beginning to hint that it might be better for all if they just let go.
Parker had shut down, and walked out of the room, Hardison packing up his equipment to follow her.
Sophie had nodded in all the right places, but once the doctor left, she’d crumpled. A muttered excuse me was all he got for a warning, and she too, left.
Eliot had stayed in the chair, eyes focused on Nate. His chest rose in steady intervals, but the rhyme was off.
“So you’ve been here all night?” Hardison asked, fiddling with his cup.
Eliot shrugged. His eyes felt sticky, the cast on his hand made his skin itch, and the sense of being pushed long past his braking point hovered in the back of his mind.
It told him he needed food, and proper rest, that taking out the things responsible for hurting his family wouldn’t change a thing. Nate would still be hooked up to way too many machines, and the likelihood of him waking up would be the same.
Eliot didn’t care.
“I’m going out for awhile,” he said, leaving the bag of donuts with the coffee.
He turned back to look at Hardison, hand on the door knob.
“Whatever it is you and Parker are doing,” he said. “Be careful.”
He let the door close behind him. It was easier to focus on the rage when he couldn’t see the worried looks and Nate’s still form.
It was just nearing nine in the morning when he reached Sam and Dean’s hotel.
The door opened to Dean’s knowing look and another cup of coffee was shoved into his hands. This one he drank. It was bitter, and held none of the fine notes that the one Hardison had bought him was sure to have carried. The near burnt flavor suited his mood.
“You got here just in time,” Dean said as he held the door wide for him to enter.
The third party in the room had Eliot pausing. Dean had told him they were calling in a hacker, but for some reason it hadn’t quit sunk in.
She was tiny, with long red hair and a wide smile. Her bag was slung over her shoulder, and decorated with an assortment of patches Eliot was positive Hardison would know all about. If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Eliot would have sworn that Dean was fucking with him.
She bounced on her toes a little when she spotted him, obviously excited to be with Sam and Dean, but weary of him.
When she removed her coat and sat her bag down, Eliot was confronted with a blue t-shirt with a weird white tree on it. Sam took one look at it, snorted and gave her a hug.
“Thanks for coming,” he said.
Dean shook his head and offered his own hug. “Your Majesty.”
“Handmaiden.” She laughed and turned to face Eliot. “So who’s short and broody?”
“His name is Eliot,” Dean said before he could respond. “He’s an old friend.”
“Hunter?” She asked as she dug out her laptop. There were stickers decorating it.
“Kind of,” Dean said. Sam just shrugged.
“I’m a hitter.” He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow in challenge.
She frowned and looked towards Sam and Dean. “He hits people?”
“Sort of,” Dean said giving him a scathing look. “It’s his job to protect his team while they search out and expose bad guys.”
“Okay,” she said as she sank down into her chair. “But if he tries to hit me, I’ll kick him in the nards.”
Eliot pinched his noise. “I should have just brought Hardison in on this.”
Charlie perked up, eyes widening. “Hardison?” She leaned forward, and nearly vibrated out of the chair. “As in Alec Hardison? You know him? Can I meet him?”
Eliot groaned while Sam and Dean snickered. “Damn, hackers.”
“What?” Charlie asked.
“No,” Eliot finally said. Her downtrodden look made him feel like he’d shrunk a great deal in height, or dropped kicked a puppy. “He’s busy with other things.”
Dean took the empty coffee mug from him and set it on the table. “Charlie, Sam will fill you in.” He started to lead them outside. “We’ll go make a food run.”
The sun was shining brightly now, the world well on its way to plowing through another day. Birds sung in the trees, and the smell of exhaust filled the air. Eliot took a deep breath and tried to let go of some of the stress he was carrying. It didn’t work. All he kept seeing was Nate lying in that damn hospital bed, machines keeping him alive.
“You know, when you said you were calling in reinforcements, she wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Eliot rested his hand on the warm metal of the Impala’s roof, letting the feel of it ground him. It didn’t quiet the rage whispering in his mind, but it let him ignore it for the moment.
“She’s our best shot,” Dean said. “Charlie can handle her own.” He opened the Impala’s driver’s side door and gave him a searching look. “Besides, I thought you wanted to keep the rest of your team away from all of this.”
Eliot growled and yanked open the passenger side door. “Don’t throw my words back at me.”
He slid into the passenger seat, and kept his gaze forward. Dean followed, closing the driver’s door. Quiet settled and Dean rested his hands on the steering wheel.
He didn’t start the car right away. “Look, I get it. You’re worried about your team, and you want to hunt down the bastards that hurt them.” He turned to face Eliot. “But we’ve got to do this the smart way, or someone else could get hurt, or worse.”
“I know, damn it,” Eliot said. He ran his hands through his hair grumbling when the plaster cast tugged on the strands. “I just…”
“You didn’t fail,” Dean said catching Eliot off guard.
He gave a humorless laugh that had Eliot’s stomach dropping. Dean hadn’t sounded that hollow the last time they’d spoken. It made him wonder what had happened over the years to make his friend so broken.
“Oh, I know all about guilt, misplaced, or not. Just keep your head in the game, okay?”
“Yeah, I will.”
“Good,” Dean said. He started the engine and the Impala roared to life. “Now let’s go find some real food. That crap at the hospital should be illegal.”
Dean drove them to a diner not far from the hotel. The inside resembled a time when no one thought it odd to eat deep fried food all the time.
The benches were a worn vinyl green and the floor an off white, but the place was clean, and the food did smell good.
They found a seat and the waitress came over to them with a bored smile. Her hair was in a messy bun, and her clothes told of a long shift.
“What can I get you?” she asked as she placed two menus in front of them.
Dean gave her his standard charming smile that worked on the majority of the population. He looked her in the eyes, and kept his voice soft.
“Two coffees,” Dean said. He gave her name tag a quick glance.
His manners worked, and her shoulders sagged and some of the tension bled away.
“I’ll have those out in just a second.” This time the smile was genuine, though still tired.
Eliot shook his head. “You’re almost as bad as Sophie.”
Dean preened. “I’ll take that compliment.”
He shook his head and grabbed a menu. Neither of them really needed to look, both having spent many hours in places like this over the years, so it was easy to figure out what to order, pancakes for Dean and Charlie, some eggs for Sam, and oatmeal for him.
The coffee arrived shortly. Dean drank it straight, savoring the dark liquid. Eliot let it warm his hand. He hadn’t been in the mood for much since the accident. Their orders didn’t take long either, and soon they were headed back to the hotel.
They walked in to find Charlie and Sam both focused on their computer screens, Sam with a battered book next to him, and Charlie with a tablet open.
They sat the bags of food down and came to stand by the table.
“Did you guys find anything?” Dean asked.
There were very few people Dean Winchester trusted completely, and at one time, they’d all had one thing in common, they had held the last name Winchester.
He remembered the young hunter he’d come across all those years ago, talented, but cocky. Dean had reminded him of several soldiers he’d served with. The attitude made up for insecurities they refused to acknowledge and their bravado had gotten people hurt.
He hadn’t been impressed, and had let Dean know. Dean had just flashed him a smirk and dove right into the job.
They’d gotten it done, though Eliot had had to revisit his opinion of Dean, cocky, but a danger to himself only. Dean would go to the end of the world to save someone, and if it meant his own life, then so be it.
He’d had little of his own identity outside of hunting and his family, and Eliot blamed John Winchester for that flaw.
This Dean, tired as he was, drew people’s eyes and held their attention. He’d had it before, but that was down mainly to his looks. This was a man who people followed, a leader. Eliot didn’t think Dean understood the affect he had on people, still seeing himself as that solider that cared for his family and nothing else.
“We might have something,” Sam said, finally looking up. “The demon who ran you guys over worked for a rival company, and the leviathan who stole the flash drive worked for VisionQuest.”
“You’re saying this is all a case of demonic corporate espionage?” Dean asked. Sam shrugged.
“Just fucking great,” Dean said as he pushed away from the wall. He began pacing the room.
“It gets better,” Charlie said. “VisionQuest is a medical research facility formally owned by Richard Roman Enterprises.”
Dean, Sam and Charlie shared a look. Guilt and fear were prominent, and Charlie gave the brothers a soft smile before turning back to the laptop starting to type again, eyes scanning the screen, looking for any information that could help.
“Dick Roman,” Dean said. “Well the real one, is dead. The fake one too, but he was a leviathan. They tried to turn us into mindless cattle so they could eat us.”
Eliot’s face scrunched up in disgust.
“They had this serum placed in high fructose corn syrup.” Sam continued to read and type as he talked. “It affected people’s brains, made them placid.”
“It basically turned them into mindless couch potatoes who ate all the time,” Charlie said, her fingers flying over the keys and occasionally tapping out commands on her tablet.
Eliot shook his head. He immediately thought of all the soda Hardison drank and his stomach curdled. “I didn’t need to know that.”
“Hey, I think I found something.” Charlie turned the computer around so they could all see. “VisionQuest is working on a new drug that is supposed to help slow down the effects of some eye diseases.”
“Our client said it just made things worse,” Eliot said. “We were trying to find proof of a cover up so the FDA wouldn’t approve it.”
Charlie snorted. “You guys have no idea how much stuff gets pushed through as long as the money is there.”
Eliot cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow. Charlie shrugged.
“Okay, so maybe you do know.”
Dean crossed his arms and frowned. “You think some upstart leviathan is trying to do what Dick couldn’t?”
“That doesn’t explain the demon,” Eliot said. “Wouldn’t they be working together?”
“Leviathans think they’re superior to all others,” Sam said. “They wouldn’t lower themselves to work with a demon.”
“Great,” Eliot said. “Now what?”
“We kill the monsters, right?”
Eliot couldn’t hide his smirk when Sam, Charlie, and Dean jumped. Parker was sitting on the dresser like she had always been there.
“How..?” Dean asked.
Eliot just shrugged. “She’s Parker.”
Charlie gave him a confused look before eyeing Parker again. Her lips spread in a smile, and a light entered her eyes that he’d seen in Dean’s many times over the years.
“Hi, I’m Charlie,” she said, sitting up straighter and combing her fingers through her hair.
Eliot wanted to curse. He pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to ten. The cast rubbed at his forehead, but he ignored it, taking deep breaths to try and rein in his annoyance. She was nerdy like Hardison, but with some of Dean’s more outgoing personality traits thrown in.
Parker just gave her a confused look before turning back to Eliot.
“She’s a friend of Dean’s,” Eliot said, lowering his hand. .
“I’m a hacker,” Charlie said, her words light and airy.
“But we have Hardison.” Parker gave Eliot a squinty eyed look.
“You didn’t want him involved, remember?”
“You know what?” Dean said as he dragged the food over. “Why don’t we eat while we plan?”
“Then we can kill the monsters?” Parker asked.
Eliot nodded. “Yeah, Parker. Then we’ll kill the monsters.”
The smile was the same as he remembered, and the voice just as sweet. Dark hair lay in a messy mop on his head, and his eyes sparkled.
It was Sam. Not some imitation meant to teach him a lesson, but his son, real and whole.
Nate’s knees gave out and he tumbled back into the chair. His vision grew blurry and his throat tightened.
“Sam.” His words choked out and he gripped the arms of the chair so tight his knuckles turned white.
The giggle caused tears to spill down his cheeks. Nate had been so sure he’d never hear its music again.
He came to stand before Nate, climbed up into his lap, and Nate wrapped his arms around him. He was solid, warm, and so alive. The last time Nate had held him, the heart monitor had been ringing in his ears, the doctors and the nurses all trying to separate him from his son. Sam’s limbs had been limp, his eyes closed, and his chest still. Nate would never forget that day.
“You’re really here.” Nate said, voice muffled by the mop of hair.
“Of course I am,” Sam said. “I wanted to see you.”
“But why?” Nate asked. He pulled back to look his son over. Nothing seemed out of place, but worry drove some of the joy from his heart anyway.
Sam shook his head. “Heaven is really nice,” he said. “And I’m not lonely, or afraid. Well, for me anyway.”
Nate’s throat closed and the fear from before came rushing back.
“You need to let go, dad,” Sam said. He began playing with Nate’s tie. “You’ve got a lot of reason to be happy.” He glanced back up, eyes dancing. “Did Eliot really fight off an entire army with a Nerf Bat?”
Nate let his head dropped back onto the chair. “You shouldn’t be paying attention to those things.”
“But he’s so cool,” Sam said, his excitement making his arms wave around in wild gestures. “He’s like Batman, or Wolverine.”
Nate laughed. He could just see Eliot’s pretend affronted look if he’d heard Sam’s words. Hardison would have squawked at the comparison, claiming he was the cooler of the two.
Parker would have taught him how to pick locks, and Sophie would have tried to teach him the art of the con.
Nate’s heart broke at these thoughts. If Sam had lived, he wouldn’t have his team.
“It’s okay, dad,” Sam said. “I’m okay.”
“I tried so hard,” Nate said, his grief overriding his joy.
“I know,” Sam said as he lay his head against Nate’s chest. “But I was tired.”
Sam wrapped his arms around him again. “Rex is here.”
It took Nate a few seconds to remember the sick mutt his son had adopted for a few days. The dog had been a stray, and despite what he and Maggie said, Sam still fed it. When it had died, they’d buried it in the backyard while Sam cried.
He looked up at Nate. “He’s not old and sick anymore. We play fetch.”
“You can let go, dad.”
Nate drew back, confused at the sudden change. Sam was regarding him with a serious look, wisdom beyond his years shining in his eyes.
Nate glanced towards the windows. The world continued to pass by, though the occasional flash of gray reminded him of what waited.
“I don’t know if I can.”
“It’s hard,” Sam said, “if you’re not ready. I was ready.”
Thoughts of Sophie and the life they could have had drifted through his mind. He’d wasted a lot of years hanging onto the past.
“They’ll be okay.” Sam’s voice broke through his thoughts. “No matter what happens, they’ll be okay.”
“What do I do?” Nate asked. He could feel a weight lifting, years of grief falling away in the face of the son he so loved.
The smile he received was radiant. “You’re already doing it.”
Parker swiped extra comms for the job. Charlie’s excitement was obvious, she kept humming the Mission Impossible theme song. Sam and Dean were hesitant, but eventually agreed.
Stars glittered in the sky and a steady breeze ruffled hair. Their target, VisionQuest, was closed for the night, only a few offices lit from within.
Eliot had already clocked the security guards, and Parker and Charlie had worked to figure out a plan for the security system. Parker had been disappointed to learn the easiest access point was around the back where the garbage bins were located.
Dean shifted the dagger in his hand, twirling it as an afterthought.
“This should take fifteen minutes, tops,” Dean said. “Do not engage. If anyone is coming your way, hide.”
“I think they got it the first hundred times,” Sam said as he checked his gun’s ammo before hiding it at the back of his jeans.
“We know what we’re going,” Parker said. The look she shot Dean was the type she usually got when she was about to stab someone.
“No, you don’t.”
“Parker,” Eliot cut in before she could cause Dean bodily harm. “He’s just worried about you getting hurt.”
“But we go after bad guys all the time.”
“Not these we don’t.” Eliot placed a hand on her shoulder. “Our bad guys are human.” He held up a hand to stop her protest. “Remember when you asked me about the worst thing I’d ever done?”
She nodded, her eyes wide.
He took a deep breath. “Parker, these things do worse and they do it for fun.”
“Okay.” She turned to Dean. “Let’s get this over with.”
Dean nodded. “I know you’re the thief, but you need to stay with me and Eliot. No running off, and no deviating from the plan.”
“Sam stays with me,” Charlie said as she slung her bag over her shoulder.
“Right,” Dean said. “Now let’s go see what the Great and Powerful Oz has to hide.”
Dean, Eliot, and Parker hefted their gear. They’d sent the regular cleaning staff on an unexpected, and paid, holiday.
Thanks to Charlie’s fast work, and Dean’s forgeries, they had exact replicas of the cleaning company’s ID cards and stellar work histories.
Sam and Charlie hurried around the back to wait for the all clear.
The two guards at the front desk were bored, and barely looked their way before buzzing them through.
Once in the elevator, they rode up until they reached the sixth floor. The doors slid open with a soft ding, letting them out into a deserted maze of cubicles. They were just one level below where the labs began.
“Guys, how’s it coming?” Sam asked, his worry carrying over the comms.
“Hang onto your panties, Samantha,” Dean snarked back. “The grownups have work to do.”
Parker had the security disabled and the server room door unlocked before the conversation had finished.
She grabbed one bag and slipped inside finding the correct server easily. She pulled out a small laptop and connected it to the company’s server.
“Okay, we should be in.”
There was silence for a few seconds before Charlie’s voice drifted into their ears.
“Oh, nice.” Her excitement had Eliot envisioning her bouncing like Hardison in a tech store. “I haven’t played with one of these in awhile.”
She began to coo at the system as she plowed through its firewalls and dug deep into the company’s secrets.
“Okay, download initiated.”
Eliot and Dean kept a look out while Parker went to random desk and started rifling through the contents of the drawers.
“Um, guys,” Sam said.
“What is it?” Dean asked. The tension straightening his shoulders had Eliot and Parker on edge. They traded glances before coming to stand by Dean.
“I think I know what they were up to,” Sam said. His voice was hesitant, his words carefully chosen.
“Sammy,” Dean replied. “Spit it out.”
“It’s a new version Croatoan, Dean.”
Dean didn’t swear. He didn’t punch any wall or rage at Sam’s words. He got quiet and very still. It was one of the most unnerving things Eliot had ever seen.
“Basement level,” Charlie said, a seriousness in her words Eliot hadn’t known she was capable of.
“Okay.” Dean turned to them. “I need you two to get out.”
He picked up his bag and started towards the elevators. “Get as far away from here as you can. Charlie, I need you and Sam to find out where they’ve shipped this stuff. I’ll handle what’s here.”
“Dean.” Eliot stopped him with a firm hand to his chest and a look that promised to violence if he refused to listen. “What the fuck is going on?”
“Croatoan is a demonic virus that turns people in to rabid flesh eating zombie--things.” Dean pulled out his ear piece and stuck it in the pocket of his coat. “Now get lost.”
“Like that 28 Days Later movie Hardison likes,” Parker said. She refused to move from his path. Eliot blocked him on the other side.
“Kind of, yeah,” Charlie said.
“Will fire stop it?” Parker asked.
Images of another mad dash through a city came to mind. That day a virus of a different sort had threatened, but the results would have been just as catastrophic.
“Yeah, why?” Sam asked.
“Save what information ya’ll can, then do as Dean says,” Eliot ordered.
He and Parker took out their comms and stashed them in their pockets.
“No, Dean,” Eliot said. He hefted his bag over his shoulder and steadied his stance. He would fight his friend on this if he had to. “We do this together.”
“Or not at all?” Dean asked looking ready to fight his way through them.
Eliot and Parker traded looks, then she grinned. She pulled out her favorite taser, small, red and with a strap that fit over her wrist. She pushed the trigger and let the electricity spark along the prongs.
“No.” Eliot grinned at the furious look on Dean’s face. “I let Parker take you out, and we blow this place up anyway.”
“Fine.” Dean started towards the elevators. “But you do as I say.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” Eliot shot off a mocking salute, the light highlighting the colorful drawings on his cast. He settled against the back of the elevator car, Parker on his right, Dean on his left.
The doors started to slide closed as Parker bounced on her toes. She reached into her bag and pulled out a small block of explosives. “This is going to be fun.”
“Where the hell did that come from?” Dean asked.
“I always have it with me,” Parker said, petting the device the same way she pet money.
“How many did you bring?” Eliot asked, going over the building layout in his mind. He could see Dean running the same calculations while adding in any potential enemy they might face.
“How long is the timer?”
“Ten seconds,” Parker said.
“Think we can rig them to go off at once?” Dean asked.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. A lab opened up before them, and a group of black eyed demons were packing vials into styrofoam boxes.
“Divide and conquer?” Eliot asked as the group turned towards them.
“Sure, why not?” Dean asked. Be brought the dagger up and settled into a fighting stance.
“I have a better idea,” Parker said. She pressed the detonation button on two explosive deceives and lobbed them into the lab. “Hey, demons, catch.”
A quick slap of the door close button had the elevator doors sliding closed just as the blast went off.
The beeps were the same, the hiss of the machines a constant. Eliot wished the chair beneath him had padding. His body hurt and the new cast on his arm chafed. His ears were still ringing.
He really wanted a shower too. His hair smelled of smoke and he could still see the dried blood under his fingernails. Parker was in better shape, though. She’d pulled Dean down with her as the explosives went off, sending fire and debris through the air.
It had done the job though. Parker had managed to get one of the explosives to land near some flammable chemicals and the whole lab had gone up.
They’d escaped through the elevator shaft and come out the back door to an angry and worried Sam.
Eliot had been glad for the hearing loss then. He hadn’t had to listen to Sam chewing his brother out.
A hand on his shoulder drew him from his vigil. Sophie settled on the arm and leaned against him.
“You didn’t have to do it.”
The morning news had talked of nothing, but the explosion at VisionQuest.
“Yeah, I did,” he said.
Nate shifted in his sleep, muttering nonsense. He’d turned a corner, his vitals improving while he and Parker had been committing acts of terrorism.
The ventilator had been removed and his sleep was natural, not induced by too many drugs. He was going to make it.
She leaned down and kissed his head, her lips a soft press against his hair.
He gave her a light squeeze and returned his attention to the man lying in the hospital bed.
Eliot let a smile grace his face and nodded. “Anything for family.”