Carnage was a sight Sam Winchester should have been used to by now, but on days like today, it still turned his stomach. Splayed out around him were the bodies of six witches, each killed by various methods; shot by witch-killing bullets, burned by angel's grace, and incinerated by a spell he'd cast himself. This was one of the most powerful covens they'd ever encountered, and though they had caused enough death and destruction to justify their gruesome fate, Sam still had a twinge of guilt when it came to killing humans. He scanned the room for his companions, Castiel looking calm and cool as ever, and Dean with steely concentration, gun still drawn, checking the other rooms for survivors.
"Think that's all of them," Dean said quietly. "Have I ever mentioned that I hate witches?"
"Yes," Cas said in his typical no-nonsense way. "Unfortunately, now we'll never know where they were getting the angel's grace for their spells."
"Yeah," Sam lamented. "Can't say we didn't try. Well, let's look around. Maybe we'll find a clue. Might as well raid the place for anything the bunker could use too - spelling supplies, books that might be of interest... Not like anyone's coming back for the stuff."
Dean nodded. "We're low on a lot of supplies. There was a whole room full of herbs and stuff upstairs. Cas and I will raid that, you take the basement and we'll meet up here"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Sure, give me the shitty job." When they'd entered the basement earlier, the stench of blood and rotting carcasses was so overwhelming, they'd nearly run out of the room. It had obviously been the site of many animal sacrifices throughout the years, evident by not only the smell, but the cages of decaying animals and the many body parts, labeled and lined up in jars along the walls. Everything about the place was morbidly creepy, and Sam couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.
"Hey, if you don't want to see the chili cheese fries I ate earlier come back up..."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll take the basement," Sam sighed. There was no sense in arguing about it. Besides, he'd eyed up some interesting-looking spell books down there, and you could never have too many research materials. Pulling a bandana from the old weapons bag they'd brought, he folded it a few times then tied it around his mouth and nose, hoping to block at least a bit of the smell.
He inched down the stairs, shining the flashlight around the room in a sweeping pattern, checking as much of the place as he could before cautiously working his way over to the rows of shelving. For Sam, ancient, dusty tomes were hard to resist, and if he had nothing but time, he could spend hours looking through this collection. Unfortunately, the smell in the room was overwhelming, so he hurriedly browsed the titles, tossing the most useful ones into his duffle bag.
He had been bypassing the gory rows of jars, looking for anything of importance, when a hushed rustling noise suddenly caught his attention. Cautiously, he drew his weapon, dropping his bag to the ground. His flashlight skimmed over the dozens of cages lining the walls and the floor, the sight of which he'd been trying to avoid. Seeing nothing menacing, he shined the light over the cages one last time. Most of them were still full of animals, or at least, they used to be animals. Whatever they had been used for, it seemed most of them had been neglected long ago. He looked back and forth between the wall of jars and the cages and shivered to think of what they'd been subjected to.
"Sick bastards," he murmured to himself.
He'd always had a soft spot for animals. Sam Winchester might be able to kill a monster or a monster of a human being without blinking an eye, but animal cruelty was just unforgivable. The larger cages were the most menacing. Shining the flashlight on one, he grimaced at what looked like a German Shepherd, and he partially covered his face in disgust at the next cage that seemed to be the decomposing remains of a human corpse.
"To hell with this," he murmured to himself, picking up his bag and turning towards the stairs. He'd barely set foot on the first step when he heard the rustling noise again, followed by something that sounded vaguely like a groan.
Frowning, he turned back in the direction of the noise, gun and flashlight aimed at the source of the sound. He crept toward the corner cage and aimed his light at it, half-sure he was just going to find a family of rats or a raccoon, but as he stooped to get a better look, his jaw dropped in shock.
Huddled in the back of the cage was something human and alive... Barely. The emaciated man was lying on the ground in the fetal position with his back toward Sam, naked save for a heavy-duty collar of sorts around his neck.
"Hey," Sam said softly. "I'm going to get you out of there, okay?"
Without looking at him, the man growled and tried to slink further back in the cage.
"I'm Sam," he continued quietly. "Look, I don't know who they were our what they've done to you, but I'm not one of them, alright? I'm going to get you out." He dug through his pockets for his keyring and located his bump key, the one that he used to open most padlocks. He mentally crossed his fingers and popped the key into the lock, and he breathed a sigh of relief as it sprung open. It wasn't often things went so smoothly for them.
"Come on. I promise you, they're gone." He reached into the cage and gently tapped the man's shoulder, and drew back in surprise as he was snarled at.
"Hey! Oh shit," he said, suddenly noticing the rope tied around the cowering man's ankles. "I'm going to cut those ropes around your legs, okay?" he asked. He was met with only silence and anxious panting. Sam sighed and crawled a few inches into the cage and began sawing at the rope with his pocketknife. He worked quickly, sensing the waves of anxiety rolling off of the bound man. "See? I'm going to get you out," he repeated to the trembling mass. He angled his flashlight, trying to get a glimpse of the captive's face, but it was hidden beneath his arms.
"Dammit," Sam muttered, noting that the wrists were bound together in an ancient-looking pair of handcuffs. "I don't have a key for those cuffs but I'm sure we can pick that lock. My brother has a lock pick kit. He's upstairs. Please," he said as he finally managed to sever the rope, "Come with me. We can help you."
Still, the man made no attempt to move.
The smell in the room was seeping through his makeshift mask, making Sam's eyes water. He was fighting his gag reflex every few minutes, and the man's stubbornness was making him a bit impatient.
"You're probably too weak to even walk, huh?" Sam realized. "Alright. I'm going to pull you out of there, and I'll carry you up the stairs." He wasn't even sure if the man could hear him, but he kept talking in a soothing voice just in case. He grabbed hold of the man's elbow and tugged, and despite his growling and thrashing, he managed to pull him out of the cage.
"Please," Sam continued as the man continued to flail, kicking and making loud, incoherent noises. It was almost as if he were speaking in tongues, but it was a language Sam didn't quite recognize.
"Let me carry you," he insisted. "I'm not going to hurt you. They can't hurt you anymore either. I promise."
The thrashing slowly ceased, followed by a long, low wail and the man began sobbing. Sam still wasn't sure if the frail figure had heard him or if he'd just exhausted himself, but he took the opportunity to scoop him up and start up the stairs.
The man had a petite frame, several inches shorter than Sam, and was scarily easy to carry since he was nearly skin and bones. He was still hiding his face behind his cuffed arms as he trembled and shook violently in Sam's arms. The bawling, along with the pained, frightened noises were so heartbreaking, Sam was tearing up himself by the time he reached the top of the stairs. Dean and Cas weren't back yet and he needed more light to assess the man's injuries, so he stepped out the front door and walked toward the Impala.
The bony figure yelped as the cool air hit them, and Sam wasn't sure if it was surprise or fear, so he began quietly talking again.
"Haven't been outside in a while I guess... I know it's cold. I'm sorry. I don't have any extra clothes with me. You can have my flannel once we get those cuffs off. In the meantime, I think there's an emergency blanket in the trunk..." He managed to open the car door without setting the man down, then coaxed him gently into the back seat.
"Easy," he crooned. "You're okay. Just lie here a minute and I'll grab you that blanket, alright?" The man was clearly too weak to run, so Sam opened the trunk and located the thin metallic emergency blanket.
"Well it's not super comfortable," he said, "but it will warm you up." He shook out the foiled sheet and covered him, noting that the man was still hiding his face behind his arms.
"Really, you don't have to be embarrassed. Those were some evil, evil people. I can't even imagine what you've been through. But they're gone now, and... Hey, do you want me to get that collar-thing off of you?"
There was no response, but the trembling had subsided a little, so Sam walked around the other side of the car and opened the door nearest his head.
"Please..." He gently grabbed the man's wrists and lifted them away from his face, intending to remove the collar, but what he saw in the dim overhead light of the car made him pause. That face looked so familiar... but it couldn't be. It was pale and gaunt, and the recent stress to his body made it look older than it should. Still, the moment he locked on those honey-colored eyes, there was no doubt in his mind.