It is believed that Dean Winchester was weakened by the Mother’s return. The story most know, of course, takes place shortly after her resurrection when she is credited for saving Dean, Sam and the angel Castiel from a powerful brotherhood poised to take over their homeland.
A tiny British woman with evil intent overpowered the Winchester brothers and kept them tied and tortured in a dungeon until the Great Mary swept in, wearing angel white and possessing a sword worthy of Michael.
The Winchester Brothers were thereafter softer versions of their former, formidable selves. Evil ruled unchecked and God, in typical big brother fashion, blamed his sister’s interference, before returning to once more clean up the mess. It’s said His long-suffering cry caused a wind tunnel that razed most of Kansas, save one spot protected by virtue of being underground.
This scribe can say, however, that the stories of the Winchesters’ weakness were part of a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign by the aging rock star sometimes known as the Morningstar.
Cas’s return brings no relief.
“I’m sorry, Dean. I could not locate Sam.”
Cas’s profound earnestness is usually amusing, but not today, not when Cas isn’t giving him anything useful. Dean runs his hand over his face and arches his back in the unforgiving motel room chair.
Mary steps out of the bathroom and Dean watches her give Castiel an up and down glance. Cas avoids her gaze by lowering his head downward but Dean’s feeling of urgency prevents him from making a joke. He can’t get that blood stain on the bunker floor out of his mind and why in the name of Chuck couldn’t they just catch a break?
He knows he’s missing something, knows he’s off kilter because his mom is back and he’s supposed to be happy but Sam … Sam thinks Dean is dead and Dean knows what that does to his brother.
Worry winds his insides into a knot. Human, Cas said, the woman that took Sam was human. The dark-haired woman that had attacked them earlier had been human, too. But she’d had brass knuckles marked with Enochian symbols that enabled her to take out both him and Cas. British. It may be weak, but it’s the only lead he has.
Glancing back at his laptop he starts typing again. “Real estate,” he murmurs. “Rentals, purchases, hell, if they have money maybe they bought legit.”
His mother peers over his shoulder and Dean catches a side view of her amazed expression as he scans hundreds of listings filtered for recent sales. “Cas,” he says and doesn’t have to say more. He points to the five most likely possibilities.
“I will check the first three,” Cas says immediately.
As Dean grabs his jacket and heads out to the car, Mary is right behind him. Dean wants her to stay safe at the motel, can’t handle worrying about her, too. “Why don’t I take this one solo? We don’t know what we’re walking into here.”
“We never know. We’re hunters.”
Dean says nothing more as Mary slides into the seat next to him, but that off kilter feeling doesn’t dissipate.
The two houses he inspects are as normal as the apple pie he loves and Dean fears he might start retching on the side of the road because it’s been too long since that Brit whack job tried taking them out and what if the people holding Sammy moved on when she didn’t return?
Mary returns from searching around the back of the house and frustration pours from her clenched fists and rigid posture. She shakes her head at Dean. But before Dean can let the defeat settle in his bones his phone rings.
It seems like luck might finally be on their side because Cas says, “I think I may have found Sam's location. It's a farm, it appears empty. But it was rented two weeks ago to a woman with an English accent.”
“Did you have a look inside?”
“No. It's powerfully warded.”
“Powerfully warded? Okay, buddy, that was your headline right there.”
A glance at Mary shows she’s grasped that Cas has found the place. But his mother’s question as he burns rubber to get to Cas’s location startles him.
“When we do find Sam. How am I gonna face him?”
“What do you mean?”
“That yellow-eyed thing would never have come for him that night if I … I started all of this.”
Dean doesn’t want to hear that now, that his mother was at fault for the life he and Sam have ended up living. “You know when you died, it changed Dad. I mean he was hell-bent on finding out what happened. The hunter life just took him over. I guess I was the same. But Sam, he was different. He wanted out. He went to school, he went to Stanford.”
“Sam had a chance to get out and he came back?”
How can Dean make her understand? “When Dad disappeared, Sam and I looked around and something became very clear. The only thing we had in this world, the only thing besides this car, was each other.”
Mary is silent for the rest of the ride.
The farm appears empty and innocuous and the hairs at the back of Dean’s neck are standing. Call it his Spidey sense, but something is very wrong here. Mary’s hunter instinct kicks in, too, and she narrows her eyes and looks like she’s smelling something noxious.
“Those are very complex wards,” Cas confirms. “I cannot enter.”
Dean takes a few steps forward and nothing stops him. Too easy. Whoever that woman was, she managed to take out Sam. And keep him. Dean refuses to think any thoughts beyond that. He turns back to Cas. “You say there’s major mojo happening here?”
“Yes. Very powerful.”
He feels his mom’s eyes on him as he considers. “Can you … is there anything you can do to help me see the wards or sense them like you do?”
Mary glances from Cas to Dean before speaking directly to Dean. “You think it’s booby trapped?”
Looking over the lonely farm again Dean nods yes. “Someone went to a lot of trouble kidnapping Sam and dragging him out here. They are going out of their way to keep angels out.”
Cas lifts his hand tentatively. “I can give you the Sight. It is temporary but you will be able to see it as I do.”
Dean nods his consent and Cas lightly strokes Dean’s closed eyelids. He feels a warmth that he’s come to associate with Cas, a sharp, hot, sting that reminds him of a heated blade.
Blinking his eyes open Dean turns to the farm again and this time the air shimmers like translucent water in an arc surrounding the property. The farm is covered foundation to roof with shimmering sigils. Dean recognizes most but not all and he forces the anxiety down as to what these powerful people, likely witches, want with Sam. Behind him his mother addresses Castiel, “Me, too. I want to go with him.”
Cas waits for Dean’s permission and Dean signals ‘no’ with his eyes. Cas gets it. “I am sorry. I am afraid I may hurt you.”
Mary retorts instantly, “You didn’t hurt Dean.”
“Dean and I have a bond,” Cas says and Dean winces as his mother’s sharp blue gaze lands on him, one brow arching. She purses her lips and he knows she sees right through him but there’s no time.
“Stay with Cas,” he orders before softening it with a, “Please.”
Dean uses the scant cover he can find to get close to the building, expecting with each step to be attacked. It takes some maneuvering to find an unwarded spot but finally he’s close enough to break a window and fling himself inside, twisting his body to avoid contact with a wall filled with yet more symbols.
Who the hell are these people?
Gun out, he scopes the space. It’s an empty family room with a large fireplace on one end. Two of the four walls have symbols, some in a murky black ink and some a dark brown that he knows is dried blood. After a quick assessment, he moves on.
Methodically he clears each room until he’s left with the sinking knowledge that his brother isn’t on this floor. The kitchen shows some signs of life, an electric tea kettle and teacups strewn about. He spots a woman’s handbag hanging on a hook a second before an unassuming interior door opens. Dean had thought it was a pantry.
He quickly ducks around the large island and crouches beneath it. He hears a woman sing-song, “Hello, baby, it’s Mummy.” There’s a pause and then she continues, “I miss you too, baby. What did you have for dinner tonight?” She continues walking out the back door into the yard. “What did Mrs. Parker give you?” The conversation goes out of earshot.
The door she’d emerged from is unmarked and sports an ordinary latch lock, now unfastened. Gun drawn he looks out the back door but she’s no longer in sight. Squinting, he stares toward the unlatched door and notices something shimmering on the tile floor at its edge. It reminds him of a devil’s trap but the configuration is different. It glows like those stick-on-stars kids put in their rooms.
Dean shoves the gun in his waistband and picks up the counter stool, legs pointed to the door. Careful to stay on the far side of the floor markings he shoves hard and the door pushes open with a thud. Beyond the opening are steep stairs heading down.
Knowing she can return any moment Dean takes a long leap over the floor markings and half stumbles, half falls down a few steps before righting himself, drawing his gun again as he walks down into a large, unfinished basement that runs the length of the house, a second staircase at the far end.
His heart stops.
Sammy is slumped in a chair, hands tied behind his back, a bloody mess. Blood stains the floor beneath his bare feet, blood forms an irregular brown blob on his jeans leg, blood mats his tangled hair. Dean can see nothing but red, and he is frozen between agony and terror at Sam’s stillness.
He’s at Sam’s side in a heartbeat.
“Sammy.” Dean lifts his brother’s head up and checks his neck frantically for a pulse. Hand trembling, he touches warm skin and feels a slow, rhythmic thud against the pads of his fingers. “Oh. Thank God … Sam, c’mon, I’m here.”
Dean doesn’t know where to touch as Sam is cut everywhere. He thinks back to the sharp voice speaking to a child and shudders as Sam stirs, eyes opening slowly, like he’s coming out of a deep sleep.
“No,” Sam utters, voice laced with pain. “Not him. Don’t … don’t do that.”
“Sammy. It’s me. It’s Dean.”
Sam pulls back and twists away. “No!” he shouts. “Screw you.”
Ignoring Sam’s outburst Dean looks behind the seat to Sam’s cuffed wrists, rubbed raw from fighting against the metal. He pulls out a clip and frees his brother’s hands, kneels before him and pulls Sam’s arms toward him, holding his hands tight. “Sam. It’s really me.”
Wide eyes meet his. “But … Amara … the bomb … someone brought you back?” Complete incredulity softens his brother’s voice to a hoarse whisper.
“No. I didn’t die. I’ll explain. But first we gotta get out of here.”
Dean lifts and Sam comes up staggering, but his legs can’t hold him and he slumps hard onto Dean, almost knocking him over as he murmurs, “Dean.” It’s a broken sound, splintered like the phone Dean’d bent in half the day before.
He holds Sam up and wraps his arms hard around his brother’s trembling back.
Maybe Dean wasn’t resurrected again but it feels like he’s coming back to life right now anyway.
“We gotta go,” he urges, wary of how long they’ve been here. Sam limps heavily as they work toward the far stairs and Dean wants to know what they did to him but it can wait.
“Locked,” Sam mutters as they reach the bottom step. Dean shows Sam his gun in reply.
Before they’ve gotten past the first stair, a woman’s voice cries out, “Oh lovely. The party can really start now.”
Sam stiffens in his arms, gasping, and Dean sees absolute terror in his eyes. Anger burns through his veins as he turns and points the gun at the newcomer. “Yeah, honey, wanna dance?” he asks.
Despite the weapon pointed at her heart she seems very composed. “Dance?” she says back. Her laugh is stone cold. “I do love a good euphemism.”
Before he can act she flicks her hand and the gun grows unbearably hot in his grip.
Sam shouts, “No!” at the same time Dean drops the gun.
Now her weapon is pointed at them. “On your knees, hands in the air,” she orders.
Dean looks at Sam whose eyes are blazing with pain and dangerous fury. That witch has held his brother in this dungeon for days, has tortured him. But she hasn’t faced the two of them together. He squeezes Sam’s shoulder before letting go and partially raising his arms, never taking his eyes off the gun pointed at them.
“Dean Winchester, I presume. Lady Toni Bevell, Men of Letters, British Chapter.”
Startled, Dean turns to Sam who is looking venomously at Toni. “What’s she want?” he murmurs to Sam.
“Something about our hunter’s hierarchy and a list of names. Wants our supervisor.”
The derision in Sam’s voice almost brings a smile.
“I said, on your knees,” Toni orders again and shifts the gun so it’s aimed at Sam. Dean’s heart stutters as Sam sags against him.
“Can’t,” Sam replies. “You shot me in the leg, remember?” His brother’s voice is a controlled growl. Dean stares hard at Toni’s gun and murderous does not begin to do justice to his thoughts.
Toni is about to reply when another voice calls out coolly. “Drop it.”
Sam buckles next to him as Mary appears, gun held right behind Toni’s head.
“Who--Mom?” his brother mutters incredulously and Dean lets out a small chuckle.
“Yeah. A farewell gift from Amara.”
Mary gives a quick look over at Sam and that moment’s distraction is all Toni needs to whirl and strike the gun from Mary’s hand. Mary retaliates with a forceful punch but Toni is more of a fighter than she looks, and matches Mary blow for blow. They are flying all over the basement, and while Mary is all business, punching with purpose, they are evenly matched and a moment later their mom is pinned against a concrete wall, blood dripping from her cut lower lip.
Sam has pulled away from Dean to clutch the stair railing so Dean can scoop up his gun. As Toni pulls her arm back for another punch, Dean shouts, “Get away from her!”
Toni’s arm continues the blow and Dean doesn’t hesitate, takes a clean shot to her leg, just like she did to Sammy.
The reverb is deafening in the wide, empty space and then it’s quiet as a tomb. Toni’s on the ground, clutching her calf and Mary spits blood out of her mouth before pulling handcuffs from inside her jacket and efficiently securing the bleeding woman’s hands behind her back.
Dean loops his brother’s long arm back around his shoulder, holding him up best he can. They stagger over to Toni who has her eyes scrunched tight, mumbling some sort of spell that is stopping the blood flow. She’s clearly in pain—but Dean looks at the rivulets of blood trailing down Sammy’s cheeks and feels no remorse.
“If she can talk, she’s dangerous.” Sam pulls Dean’s gun from his hand and painfully inches to stand above the now quiet woman. Toni’s opened her eyes to stare down the gun barrel and Dean shares an uncertain glace with his mother before Sam brings the gun barrel down over the back of Toni’s head saying, “That’s for the blow torch.”
Then Sam is facing Mary with a look of lost wonder, but before he can say anything, Cas is coming down the stairs with another stranger.
He says his name is Mick and that Toni had overstepped her orders and some other stuff about hunters and Men of Letters and Dean just can’t care, because his eyes are on his mother and his brother at the same time and, the last time he saw that he was four years old.
“Cas,” he says, ignoring the arrogant Englishman. “Help Sam.”
His mother looks on with awe as Cas raises a finger to Sam’s forehead, knitting skin and bones and vanishing hurt. Dean’s been on the other end of that more times than he can count and he’s never stopped being grateful this particular angel singled him – them – out.
“Wow,” Mary whispers and Dean smiles at her and for the first time it doesn’t feel odd, because someone just healed her baby boy—his little brother— and the connection over that is solid and true.
Sam keeps looking at Mary and Dean knows they need time. Privacy. He and Sam start up the stairs and Cas and Mary follow.
Dean doesn’t trust the new Men of Letters player, Mick, as far as he can throw him, but now his priority is to get his family home. Sam sits shotgun and their mother is in the back, Cas following in his own vehicle. The bunker is six hours away.
Dean meets Sam’s eyes and he swallows hard at the moist stare that meets him back. In the familiar synchronization they’ve shared all their lives they both glance back at their mom at the same time before looking at each other again. A conversation ensues, although nobody says a word.