"Iron Will" by Ridley C. James

Beta: Tidia

Chapter: 1

Author's Note:  This story is a birthday fic for one of my very best friends. The request was for a Sam and Dean centric story with extra Dean hurt (She is one of those crazy Dean girls after all so I went a little overboard on purpose). There is an injury in every chapter. And if I could somehow mirror The Big Valley Episode, Iron Box? Then all the better. If you haven't seen it, it is classic brotherly love. Sigh. The Big Valley thingy was a reach considering it took place in the 1800’s in a prison camp, but what the hell, I gave it a shot. I’ve owed her this for quite some time so screw the plot although Tidia gave me credit for trying to insert as much relevance to present day as possible. This is a pre-series story, taking place when Dean is nineteen and Sam fifteen. I hope it comes close to meeting my friend’s expectations and that maybe you all will enjoy it, too! Also, The Brotherhood AU got an early renewal notice too. (Someone was very kind to inquire about us). That is if we make it through our season four finale which we have already outlined. We're just waiting on Kripke to fill in some of the blanks.

There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”-Napoleon Bonaparte

Caleb opened the passenger door to his father’s rented sedan, slamming it behind him. It was childish, as was the silent treatment he’d given Mac during the flight from Manhattan to California, but Caleb felt justified. If his father insisted on treating him like a kid, he had no problem following through. He banged on the door, glaring at John Winchester when the man gestured him in. In Caleb’s mind, Mackland wasn’t alone in his betrayal.

“You should have called me.” Caleb tossed his bag on the first bed. “Preferably before you lost the boys.”

John looked to Mackland, who entered the room and closed the door. “I explained to Caleb why you didn’t contact him for the research.”

“I can handle a hunt on my own, junior.” John folded his arms over his chest. “I believe I taught you the game.”

“You know I’m the go to man when it comes to this cult shit. I was the prime choice for information.” Caleb ran a hand through his hair, trying to control his worry-fueled rampage. “Shit. You’re always saying ‘go to the closest source, Junior’. What the hell were you thinking?”

“Sometimes a source can be too close, Son,” Mackland said. “You don’t always see these situations clearly.”

“Don’t start with that again.” Caleb had listened to his father’s rationale. In Mackland’s opinion, Caleb was far too intense when it came to cults with possible demonic ties and he had taken steps to dissuade Caleb’s involvement. “You make me sound like one of your obsessed paranoid patients or are you afraid of what I might find out?"

“I was trying to protect you.” Mackland took a step towards his son. “After the last incident…”

“I don’t need protection,” Caleb cut him off, in no need of rehashing the mistakes he’d made concerning the last cult he’d infiltrated, the lines he’d crossed. “And this isn’t about me. It’s about Dean and Sam.” He turned on his mentor. “I could have handled the job. What the hell were you thinking sending them in there?”

“You weren’t the right age. These bastards prey on kids.”

“And now they have your kids.”

“We didn’t come here to argue or point fingers.” Mackland sighed, looking to John. “Have you gained any more information since we last spoke?”

John ran a hand over his beard. “No. I went back to that damn shelter, The Armor of God as soon as Dean missed his check-in. I showed the woman who runs the place a picture. She gave me an innocent act, claiming she’d never seen Dean or Sam, would have remembered someone as young as Sammy. But the first night Dean called me he said they had stayed the night at the place and that Sister Sarah had taken the bait. She was going to help them get a plan together.”

“So, she’s part of the group,” Caleb said. “It’s typical to have a go between, someone to lure potential members in. We’ll go down there and if she’s still singing the same tune I can take the information from her.”

“That’d be a great plan, Junior, but when I went back this morning with more or less the same idea there wasn’t a trace of the damn shelter. It was just like any of the other abandoned warehouses. We knew it was temporary, a collection spot of sorts, but I sure as hell didn’t expect them to vanish into thin air, or be so good at erasing evidence of where they had gone.” “I take it Dean hasn’t made any of his other check- ins?” Mackland said.

“I didn’t hear from him this morning.” John rubbed his blood-shot eyes. “He would have found a way to call me if he could.”

Some of Caleb’s anger gave way under John’s guilt and concern. “If Dad can get me in close vicinity, then I should be able to sense them.” It wouldn’t be easy considering the size of the area but his telepathic connection was strongest with the boys. Caleb wasn’t sure if it had something to do with their future placement as The Triad or the years he’d spent keeping psychic tabs on them.

John met his gaze. “Can you get a reading on them now? Anything?”

“I know they’re alive.” He clung to that certainty. “Their presence is as strong as ever.”

“No visions?”

Caleb shook his head. “Not even a nightmare.” Considering death visions were his forte, no psychic warning was a good thing.

“That’s what I was hoping you would say,” John said. “Maybe the situation isn’t as bad as we thought. Sam and Dean can hold their own in most situations.”

Mackland stepped forward. “This cult you were tracking, does it have a name?”

“Yeah.” John went to the desk, picking up some of his notes. “Descendants of Anici.”

Caleb intercepted the paper, studying his mentor’s cryptic writing as John continued. “Two boys disappeared out of Orange County, weeks apart. One from a foster home, another from a group house for juvenile offenders.”

“This name is familiar,” Caleb interrupted. He searched his memory for the significance. “Fuck. That can’t be right.” He looked up at John. “Are you sure? You did the research?”

“I’m pretty sure I got the right name, Kid. I interviewed a witness, another kid in the foster home from where the first boy disappeared. He said his buddy was all chatty with this group called the DOA before he up and vanished.”

“Charming acronym,” Mackland said.

John grimaced. “I thought so.”

“Goddamnit, Johnny.” Caleb thrust the paper towards his mentor. “This isn’t a fucking cult.”

“What do you mean it’s not a cult? Like I said I did the research. The Descendants of Anici have been around for about a decade and display all the outward characteristics.”

“They do a damn good impersonation, but the only thing they might be into worshiping or conjuring is the ghost of Che Guevara.”

“What?” John frowned. “You telling me the Anici are some kind of militia?”

“Not the kind you’re used to. They sure as hell wouldn’t offer to sell us any weapons, or invite us to an enlightening rally about their cause.”

“They’re militia militants?” Mackland said. “Isn’t that a pleonasm?”

“More like opportunists.” Caleb recalled catching wind of them a few years back when he was working another angle with some diehard Satanists. His contact with the Army of the Armageddon had taken offense when Caleb had asked about the other group in question. “The name grabbed my attention, so I did a little digging.”

“Why did the name stand out?” Mackland asked.

“Anici.” Caleb raised a brow. “It’s from one of Pastor Jim’s stories.” He looked at John. “I’m surprised the runt didn’t pick up on it.”

“Sam dug up some kind of shit on Saint George. I thought he was bird walking.” John growled. “It had nothing to do with the disappearance of the teens or the damn demon I thought they might be calling up for sacrifice.”

“I still don’t understand the connection,” Mac said.

“Saint George, slayer of dragons, is also the patron saint of soldiers. He was supposedly descended from the Anici, which means ‘those who cannot be defeated’.”

“Dragons. Of course.” Mackland ran a finger over his eyebrow. “That makes perfect sense.”

“You can blame Jim for that little obsession. Maybe you should have been more vigilant about the bedtime stories The Guardian was telling us.” Caleb couldn’t help the dig. His father had been wrong to go behind his back and ask Bobby and John not to involve him in certain hunts, inadvertently putting Sam and Dean’s lives in danger. If he didn’t trust Caleb, he should have at least respected his role in The Brotherhood.

John growled. “So what did you find out about them?”

“That the dude from the Armageddon was right. The DOA weren’t into worshipping anything but the almighty dollar. They may propagandize their lofty goals of revolution and anti-tyranny, goodwill tidings, but at the heart their core faction is no more than a body market. Well trained, expendable soldiers are hard to come by.”

His father paled. “Modern slavery?”

“More like turn of the century shanghai.”

“They sell the kids to the highest bidder?” John sighed. “It’s all beginning to make a sick sort of sense. The ages and profiles of the victims, why there were never any bodies, no clear signs of ritualistic activity.”

“A lot of third world, out of the way places with civil unrest are willing to pay top dollar for skilled man power.”

“In a way the military and cults have some things in common. The way they target alienated youth, offering a mock family of sorts with the promise of a bright future, monetary gains and such.”

John snorted. “The Marines aren’t any goddamn cult, Mackland.”

Mac ignored John, continuing with his line of thought. “But how could they get children across borders without proper authorization?”

“Are you kidding?” Caleb laughed. “A professed group of do-gooders wanting to perform mission work-to save the savages from themselves. Hell, Mac, people have hid evil agenda’s behind goodwill since the beginning of time. And as you know, it’s not hard to forge documents.”

Mackland ran a hand through his hair. “I suppose we can take comfort in the fact that Sam and Dean aren’t in the hands of a crazy cult leader and won’t be offered up as sacrifice.”

Caleb found no comfort in his father’s suggestion. “Yeah because having them shipped off to some fucking guerilla infused foreign country is so much better.”

“I understand you’re worried, Son, and why you’re angry with me,” Mackland said. “But I won’t tolerate the disrespect again. Understand me?”

“There would have to be a period of conversion, a time to train them.”

John’s sudden declaration spared Caleb a reply to the chastisement. He turned his focus to his mentor. “Like boot camp.”

“Exactly. These kids they’re picking up would need a whole hell of lot of work before being combat ready.”

“Which would mean a more permanent facility, a place with equipment and firing range outside the city limits,” Mackland said.

“Can any of your cult contacts help?”

Caleb shrugged. “I doubt it. Your militia buddies would probably know more.”

John shook his head. “You know how hard that kind of information exchange is, Junior. It would take too damn long.”

“Then perhaps someone else could help us.” Mackland pulled out his phone. “The Great Storyteller himself.”

“Jim?” John said.

“If these people masquerade as missionaries, I’m willing to bet our favorite pastor and ambassador of goodwill may have heard of them, or will be able to put us in touch with someone who has. Maybe they can get us in a general location, or even better yet, provide a contact. Caleb is itching to infiltrate, after all.”

John crossed his arms over his chest. “Do we have to mention to Jim that I don’t know the exact location of my sons?”

“Are you asking me to lie to The Guardian about Sam and Dean missing?”

Caleb reached for the phone. “Let me handle it, Dad.” He gave his father a faint smile. “I’ll tell him it’s some cult I heard about. Apparently everyone knows how crazy I can get.”


The sound of flesh striking flesh was very distinct, and hard to ignore. Fifteen-year-old Sam Winchester wondered if the apprehension was a natural aversion, something that all humans shared. He thanked his latest biology class and their discussion of innate responses for the momentary distraction. It was good to have something abstract to consider when the poor guy across from you was getting pummeled.

Whether humanly predisposed to respond or not, Sam stamped down on his reflexes and tried to disregard the urge to react. He kept his eyes focused on the empty metal plate in front of him, taking heart in his father’s sage advice to avoid eye contact when wanting to appear submissive. On the inside Sam was anything but.

His Winchester instincts shouted at him to directly confront and defeat the current threat. Sometimes Sam wondered how much of his hardwiring was natural, and how much was brainwashed reflexes drilled into him by his larger than life father’s attempts at nurturing.

“What the hell are you staring at, Winchester?”

Sam bit the inside of his mouth, willing for the world to stop spinning. He even wished for a few pigs to fly by their barred window, because it would take a miracle for his older brother Dean, the Winchester in question, to even comprehend the word submissive. Dean was a textbook case of nurture prevailing over nature. Thanks to their father, Sam’s brother had little to no self-preservation instincts left.

“I haven’t quite figured it out yet," Dean said. Sam cringed, recognizing the tone all too well as his older brother continued. “I mean you look like a man, talk like a man, but the way you keep picking on kids half your size leaves me wondering if you aren’t missing the necessary equipment it takes to be one of the guys. ”

No one else at the wooden table spoke, no one moved. Sam was sure it was because everyone else was merely mortal. They were either trying not to draw attention to themselves or were perhaps dulled to the type of display by longer time spent in the camp. Dean Winchester however was in super hero mode. He lived for attention and was beyond desensitization to any cruelty or injustice done to someone he perceived as in need of his protection. Tonight that innocent was Henry Lopez. It was one of the reasons Sam both loved and loathed his brother. Dean’s self-sacrificing was bound to get him killed one day, and then where would Sam be.

“What are you trying to say, Cadet Winchester?”

“Lacking in the big brain department, too I see,” Dean taunted. Sam squeezed his eyes shut, not even having to look up to know that there was a cocky smirk firmly affixed to Dean’s face. It was as certain as Batman’s mask, Superman’s cape. “That’s alright.” Dean slid his chair back. “I don’t mind interpreting for the less fortunate. I basically called you a dick-less moron.”

“Is that so?” Mulroney slammed his fist into his palm. The younger but larger of the two sergeants made Dean look gangly, he was at least six-three with hands the size of the hams Pastor Jim would fix for Easter dinner.

Sam moved his leg against his brother’s under the table, pressing his heel down on Dean’s foot, praying for Dean to just once keep his mouth shut. His brother ignored him and Sam felt his apprehension swell.

Dean casually folded his arms over his chest, looking as if he were merely enjoying a fun loving game of insult swap with his best buddy, Caleb. The only problem being Mulroney was more likely to shoot Dean than offer up a good comeback. That didn’t inhibit Dean in the least. He was bulletproof, after all.

Dean laughed. “I guess it could also translate into spineless pussy and a few other monikers I probably shouldn’t say in front of the kids-I mean cadets.”

Mulroney left Henry’s side, his tormenting of the younger kid forgotten, replaced with a new target. Sam could see the bloodthirsty blaze in the guard’s black eyes as the mean-spirited taunting was replaced by a murderous rage. Dean often had that effect on people. It was one of his super powers. “Dean,” Sam hissed.

“Shut your mouth, Baby Winchester!”

Sam flinched, silently cursing the involuntary response. His reaction to the threat was like tossing accelerant and a match on old bones.

Dean pushed his chair back. “Chill, dude.” His voice was still calm, playful even, but Sam sensed the change in energy. Dean was as about as harmless as a coiled snake, only Mulroney was too pissed off or just plain stupid to hear the warning rattle. “I was only trying to be helpful,” Dean added.

The sergeant stepped into striking distance, which had been Dean’s plan all along. Bring the prey to you. Sam knew from the moment Mulroney had back-handed Sam for asking a question on their first night there that Dean would somehow find a way to provoke the guard. Rescuing Henry Lopez was just a bonus. Sam tensed as Mulroney came closer. “How about I help you into a state of unconsciousness, pretty boy?”

“That your favorite pick-up line.” Dean chuckled, ducked his head. “I got to say it really does suit a pansy-ass like you.”

“Fuck you, you little prick.”

Mulroney moved fast for a large opponent, but Dean was much quicker. He dodged the sergeant’s meaty fist, driving his shoulder into Mulroney’s gut, sending them both stumbling across the room. They crashed into the food cart, overturning dinner. Something akin to beef stew splashed across the dirt floor.

Sam stood but was caught in the wave of other boys as they all rose from the table, trying to untangle from the current chaos. Punishment for insubordination was severe and no one would want to be implicated as an accomplice.

The other sergeant, Smith, cursed. Sam pushed through the deluge of boys, pulling away from Brett Jonas as the teen grabbed his shirt. Sam was hoping to at least keep Smith distracted and away from Dean. Smith was smarter than Mulroney. He pulled his weapon, ordering Sam to stay where he was.

Sam did as he said, casting an anxious glance to the two men throwing punches. Dean was easily holding his own, his brother’s skill compensating for his smaller frame, but Sam knew there was no way for Dean to win the fight. It was senseless from the beginning. Logic could be Dean’s Kryptonite.

Dean took another vicious swing at Mulroney, followed it with some rabbit punches to the man’s body that had the big guard teetering. He could have finished him off with an upper cut, even Sam saw the opening but then so had Smith.

Smith fired his weapon, bringing wood chips and mortar raining down from the ceiling. Some of the newer boys yelped, herding towards the corner like sheep while the others fell into a semblance of formation. Sam watched Dean hesitate, his green eyes seeking out and meeting Sam’s briefly.

Dean’s concern for Sam’s safety was the only opening Mulroney needed. The thick-skulled sergeant rallied, hitting Dean with a sucker punch that sent him against the large iron pot-belly stove at the far end of the room. Despite being early summer, the desert nights were survived with a source of heat. It might have been harmless; a near calamity if Dean would have only brushed against the heated surface, but Mulroney pounced, using his bulk to take advantage of the situation.

“Dean!” Sam tried to move towards his brother as he realized what was about to happen.

“I said stay put.” Smith gave him a hard shove towards the others, keeping his gun pointed at Sam’s head.

Sam watched helplessly as Mulroney thrust his Popeye forearm against Dean’s throat, pinning Dean partially against the stove, his brother’s right shoulder blade pressed into the hot metal. Mulroney’s bleeding face was inches from Dean’s. “Who’s the hot shot now, Winchester?”

Dean struggled to free himself. Mulroney’s two hundred and fifty pound frame kept him in place like a sheet of folded parchment under a colossal paper weight. “Let him go!” Sam shouted. “Stop it!”

Dean cried out as the heat breached the flannel shirt he was wearing, eating swiftly through the thin tee beneath to reach defenseless skin. Sam’s every muscle tensed with the adrenaline fueled urge to act. If the sound of flesh striking flesh was disturbing, the smell of burnt skin was a hundred times worse, especially when it was accompanied by an anguished cry of pain from your big brother. “Dean!”

“That’s enough, Mulroney!” Smith ordered. “The colonel won’t be happy if he’s permanently damaged. Let the kid go.” Mulroney ignored the other guard, was grinning madly, and enjoying watching Dean’s tortured face. "Now!”

Mulroney held Dean to the stove a moment longer before finally pulling him forward. “Mess with me again, punk, and I’ll roast the rest of you.” He shoved Dean to the floor. “Maybe I’ll cook up your pip squeak of a kid brother as a side dish.”

Sam moved the moment Smith lowered his gun, sidestepping their ruined rations, going to his brother’s side. Dean was curled into a protective ball; his eyes squeezed shut against the pain. Sam rested a hand on his hair. “Dean?”

“Sonofabitch!” Dean spat. He was breathing quickly in and out through his nose. “Shit. Shit. Shit. I’m going to kill that fucking bastard….”

“Take it easy.” Sam moved his attention to his brother’s shoulder, trying to calm his own racing heart. The burn, although not as big as Sam feared, looked bad with pieces of cloth stuck to the red blistered skin high on Dean’s back. “I’ll get you fixed up.”

“No. Leave it. I’m good.” Dean took a deep breath, blinking up at Sam. He shook his head, using his good arm to push himself up. He gave Sam a critical once over. “You okay?”

A small scream bubbled from the recesses of Sam’s soul, but he clenched his jaw to keep it silenced. “You’re not okay.” There were some things even John Winchester believed worthy of an ER visit. Burns were one of them. Infection could set in too quickly. Sam turned to look at Smith. “My brother needs to see a doctor.”

“Your brother needs to learn his place and how to follow orders,” Mulroney answered. He let his gaze go to the other boys, addressing Edward Jonas. “Jonas, you and your men clean up this mess. Thanks to Winchester, no one’s getting any chow tonight.”

The grumbles spread like a wave, but no one challenged the command as unfair punishment. “Let it go, Sammy.”

Sam met his brother’s glassy gaze, recognized pain beneath the bravado. He turned to Smith again. “The colonel won’t be happy if Dean gets sick and can’t play your war games.” Sam had yet to meet the colonel, but he was taking heart in Smith’s earlier declaration.

“The colonel isn’t here,” Mulroney snapped.

“And neither is the doctor,” Smith said. He ran a hand over his gray buzz cut. “Your brother will just have to wait until tomorrow.”

Sam got to his feet. Dean needed treatment now. “But…”

Mulroney wiped a hand under his bloody nose. “A ‘yes, sir’ is the correct reply, Cadet or do I have to teach you some more manners?”

Dean stood, edging in front of Sam. “Touch him again and I will end you.”

Mulroney grinned in challenge. Sam grasped his brother’s shirt. “Let it go, Dean.”

“That’s sound advice, Son.” Smith patted his gun. “No need to make things harder. The sooner you adjust to the way things work around here, the better off you’ll be.”

“A day’s maneuvers without breakfast should drive home the point,” Mulroney said. “You want to see how your squad feels about missing lunch and dinner, too?”

Dean finally took a step back, keeping Sam behind him. Sam knew it was as close to surrender as his brother could manage. Still, he breathed easier when both guards were gone and he heard the telltale clicking of the numerous locks being engaged. Only then did he let go of his brother, helping Dean to one of the chairs around the table.

“Sam. I’m fine.” Dean pulled away from him, wincing as he took a seat.

“Sure you are.” Sam looked to the group of boys still huddled by the bunks, focusing on Brett. “Is there any kind of medical kit in here?”

Brett was about Sam’s age, surpassing Sam in the height area, but skinnier. He had been the one to explain to Sam about the camp, about the true purpose of the Anici their first night in the make-shift barracks. “Maybe some peroxide and bandages in the bathroom.”

Sam nodded and the blond hurried into the other room. It wasn’t much but maybe he could manage until the morning. “Bring some cool water, too.”

A few of the teens started to pick up the remainder of their meal, removing plates and spoons from the table as the muttered to one another. Edward Jonas took the setting from in front of Dean. He was Brett’s brother, the oldest and biggest of the teens at the camp and played some kind of pseudo-leadership role. “We told you it was better to go along with what they say, Winchester. Do not buck the system. Even if you had gotten the best of Mulroney and Smith, there are plenty of other guards outside. The only thing you did was stir-up trouble for yourself and ruin dinner for everyone.”

“You want to play their little war games, Eddie,” Dean said. “Be my fucking guest. I didn’t sign on to be shanghaied to a psychotic boot camp.”

“And you think the rest of us did?” Edward slammed the plate on the table. “We were drawn in just like you and your brother.”

It wasn’t true. Sam and Dean had not been lured into the Descendants of Anici by hopes of finding a respite from life on the streets or a refuge from a hellish family. Sam and Dean had been sent to the Armor of God Shelter by their father to search out a supernatural being responsible for several disappearances.

“You are nothing like me or my brother,” Dean said.

“Why?” Edward crossed his arms over his chest. “Because I’m not stupid enough to provoke Mulroney? You haven’t been around long enough to judge me. ”

“What can I say? I have a special talent for sniffing out cowards.”

“Fuck you, man.”

“You pick that up from your hero, Mulroney?”

“Dean.” Sam sighed. His brother was hurt and pissed off and lashing out in typical Winchester fashion. Edward, on the other hand, was attempting to regain some of his territory. Growing up in his unique family most definitely had its downsides, but it also gave Sam a rare perspective. The Brotherhood was sometimes like a wolf pack and Sam had no problem recognizing an alpha male in fear of losing some of its ground. There was always much snarling and snapping of teeth. Sam met Dean’s gaze. “Cut it out.”

“He started it,” Dean growled, bringing a hand to his lip, which had stopped bleeding. “Shouldn’t put on the gloves if you don’t want to spar.”

Edward leaned against the table, getting dangerously in Dean’s space. “I don’t want you making things worse for my men.” Sam knew wolves could smell weakness, would strike when another was injured or sick. He imagined it was why Edward chose now to make his stand. We are making the best of the situation and for some of us, it’s better than what we left behind.”

“Your men?” Dean raised a brow. “Are you kidding me? This isn’t military school or even a fucking militia camp. You’ve been kidnapped, Patty Hearst. Your men are being trained to be sold off to the highest bidder as nothing more than moving targets.’’

“My men are being trained by some of the finest military minds this country has ever known. They’ll leave here with a marketable skill and be paid well for it. The DOA is giving them back control of their lives.”

Dean snorted. “Just how long have you been here, dude?”

“Two years.” It was Brett who answered. He’d re-entered the room carrying a scuffed black box and a pan of water. “We’ve been here two years.”

“Shut up, Brett.”

Sam felt his chest tighten as Edward straightened, taking a step back from Dean. He took the water and supplies from the other boy.

“Go help with the clean up,” Edward ordered.

Brett met Sam’s eyes, giving an apologetic shrug before joining the others. Edward placed the kit in front of Dean. “You’ll be lucky to make it two days, Winchester with your attitude.”

“That’s okay. I’m not planning on a long visit.”

“You think you’ll have a choice in the matter. You may not have signed a contract, but you’ve pretty much pledged yourself to the cause by coming here. Nobody gets an honorable discharge if you know what I mean. The best you can hope for is to get a good placement, the worst –you get recycled.” Edward cleared the rest of the mess from the table. “If you give it a chance, you might come to appreciate the opportunity you’re being afforded.”

“Can you say Stockholm Syndrome?” Dean said once Jonas left them alone. He winced as Sam soaked a sterile bandage in cool water and laid it across the burn.

“That’s not funny, Dean.” Sam didn’t want to think what ways Edward and the others might have been twisted into believing they were being trained for a greater purpose. “They’ve been brainwashed by poor conditions, sleep and food deprivation, and probably much worse things.”

“Some of the methods you’re talking about are typical military procedure, Bro.” Dean offered a weak imitation of his shit-eating grin. “Dad would make you drop and give him fifty for bad-mouthing the Marines.”

Sam dug in the poorly stocked med kit until he found what he was looking for. “Kidnapping and torture is not a standard operating procedure.” Dean hissed as Sam applied the antibiotic cream, but he didn’t have any way of cleaning the wound without making it worse. “Neither is a second degree burn. We need to get out of here.” Sam kept his voice low. No one knew their real purpose in being here, having bought into their cover story of two runaways from an alcoholic, abusive stepfather. Sam hadn’t found it all that hard to make it sound convincing. Dean congratulated him on his acting skill.

“We will, Sammy. Dad’s going to find us.” Dean turned to meet his gaze. “Just put a band aid on it. I’ll be fine.”

Sam unwrapped more gauze, furious that Dean was being so cavalier about the injury. If he gave his typical line of ‘I’ve had worse’, Sam might just have to do the unthinkable and bust him in the face. He let the facts do his battering for him. “It’s been two days. Dad has no idea where we are. We were on the road for hours once we left the city. We didn’t make our last two contacts. ”

“He’ll find us.” Dean’s confidence was unwavering invoking that primal urge to want to strangle him again. Sam wondered briefly if fratricide was some dark primal instinct, but then Dean wrapped his fingers around his wrist, giving it a brief squeeze and all thoughts of life without his big brother escaped Sam. “And if he doesn’t, I’ll get us out of here. I promise, Sammy. Everything will be okay.”

Sam didn’t speak afraid his voice would betray him. Instead he continued to treat his brother, taking care of Dean, who always put taking care of Sam first. Sam found solace for himself in the fact that Dean never broke his promises.

To be continued…


Onto the next chapter