Category: Gen, AU, Western
Characters: Dean, Sam, Crowley
Summary: The year is 1882, the place is Yuma prison. Fergus MacLeod is awaiting trial and less than impressed with his new cellmate, the notorious outlaw Dean Winchester. Can they resolve their differences and form an escape plan, or is there a bigger agenda in play? What follows is deception, double dealing and deadly peril as the stakes increase along with the six shooters.
Dean was roused by someone shaking his shoulder and repeating a word over and over. It took a while to realise it was his name being spoken, longer to identify the voice as belonging to Captain Singer. He opened his eyes with an effort and recoiled when he found Singer’s face only a few inches from his own.
“Are you with us, Winchester?”
Dean grunted and lifted his head. There were lamps on the floor nearby and the light hurt his eyes and made them stream. He glimpsed three shadowy figures a few feet away before pounding pain in his skull forced him to delay trying to move any more. He’d seen enough to recognise some unpleasantly familiar surroundings, though. Weight and pressure on his wrists informed him he was also wearing shackles.
“Do you know where you are?”
Singer’s voice was way too loud and Dean winced. “Back in the Hole?”
The Dark Cell, colloquially known as The Hole comprised a strap iron cage erected in the centre of a rock cavern. There were no windows, there was no comfort. It was cold, dark, capable of turning a prisoner’s mind inside out and Dean had no desire to spend any more time in here. He propped himself awkwardly on one elbow and stared at Singer.
“Why the fuck am I back here?”
Singer patted his shoulder. “Best you remember for yourself.”
Dean tried. The last thing he recalled with any clarity was the stream of vitriol dripping from Fergus MacLeod’s lips, the words deliberately chosen to push him to the edge. With a jolt of pleasure he remembered attacking his cellmate, relishing the crunch of bone and sensation of every punch which hit its target. The rest, however was a jumble of incoherent flashbacks which he wasn’t even sure was real.
He flinched as Singer’s voice boomed out. “Campbell, fetch those keys over here.”
Footsteps echoed in the chamber and then Sam was looming above him, looking mutinous. Dean knew from the flare of his nostrils, the set of his jaw that his brother was furious and he was scowling as he leaned down to unlock the shackles.
“He should be in the hospital, Captain. Not this fucking place.”
Singer nodded. “I’m not arguing with that, son.”
Sam removed the restraints, threw them to the floor and stood back a few paces, arms folded defiantly. Dean watched him, rubbing the raw skin round his wrists, hoping his brother wasn’t about to lose his shit and blow their cover. His mind was still working overtime, trying to figure out what happened to land him back in isolation and slowly the memories returned.
He remembered getting hauled off MacLeod, dragged into the yard and beaten, which was mostly his own fault. He should have stayed down but he was so damned angry he’d gotten up three times before being knocked unconscious. He remembered waking up wet, standing before the Governor, trying not to puke or pass out and finally, with a shock, he remembered the worst event of all.
He sat up in a rush, regretted it as pain exploded all over his body but pushed on through, glaring at Singer like it was all his fault.
“I’m not getting whipped on account of that fucker MacLeod.”
The captain smiled but there was no humour in it.
“Memory’s come back, huh?”
Dean got to his feet, which took longer than expected and left him breathless and wheezing. He pressed a hand to his battered ribs and tried to keep his voice steady.
“He started that fight and I’m not taking the fall for it.”
“Calm down, Winchester. I don’t agree with Zachariah’s decision and as his deputy I’ll do my best to reverse it. I don’t agree with corporal punishment either and I'll go over his head if I need to. In the meantime, Fitz here’s gonna check you over. He ain’t a proper doctor but…”
There was a derisive snort from the shadows. “I’m better qualified than you might think.”
There was petulance in Garth’s tone. He stepped into the light and gave Dean a cursory inspection. “Leave him in those clothes and he’ll catch fever, I guarantee it.”
Singer nodded curtly and gestured to the remaining guard. “Rufus, go fetch a dry uniform. Winchester, strip down and let Fitz look at you properly.”
Dean was happy to oblige. He pulled off the clammy, stinking uniform and tossed it to Rufus. Sam held up a lantern while Garth probed the goose egg on the back of his head.
“How you feeling? Any double vision?”
The wound was tender and Dean grimaced. “How the hell would I know? It’s too dark to see jack shit.”
“A lump like that usually comes with complimentary concussion. Let me see…”
He came up close, looking intently into Dean’s eyes and Dean raised an eyebrow.
“I swear to god, man, if you try and kiss me…”
“Stow it, Winchester.” Singer’s voice was stern. “Let him work.”
Garth moved in a slow circle, examining the cuts and bruises and by the time he was done, Dean was shivering. Rufus Turner handed him a clean uniform and he got dressed while Garth was giving his report to Singer.
“He’s got concussion and some cracked ribs. They might be broken and if they are they’ll puncture his lungs. I can’t be sure of anything in here so it’s best the doc checks him over in the hospital.”
Dean suppressed a smile. He had plenty of experience getting hurt and knew full well the difference between bruises and broken bones. No harm in playing it up, though. Singer was watching him appraisingly so he leaned against the bars and slid to the floor with a heavy sigh. He feigned a coughing fit for good measure then closed his eyes while a muted conversation was conducted above him. He didn’t bother listening in. The emotions and exertions of the past few hours had been exhausting and despite the situation, the awful contemplation of what might happen at seven o’clock, he felt like he could actually sleep for a few hours. Singer’s voice roused him just as he was going under.
“I’m going to see Zachariah. I’m recommending we send you to the hospital and cancel the punishment.”
Dean nodded wearily and the rescue party took its leave. They took all but one of the lanterns and the Hole became decidedly gloomy. Sam hung back to collect the shackles and he didn’t say a word, which said plenty about his mood. Despite his better judgement, Dean felt he owed his brother some kind of explanation.
“Sam, I’m sorry if…”
Sam rounded on him, scowling. “You know what, Dean; screw you. It was your idea to buddy up with MacLeod and I hope to God it was fucking worth it.”
Dean’s instinctive reaction was belligerence, though he knew deep down Sam’s anger was justified.
“It’ll be worth it when we’re out of here and that bastard gives me...”
"Gives you what?" Sam barked out an incredulous laugh. “You think MacLeod’s gonna roll over and spill his guts; Zachariah’s gonna cancel the whipping cause Singer asks him nice? Hell might as well freeze over as well.”
His voice had risen from furious stage whisper to full on roar but now he reined himself in with an effort, speaking quietly and deliberately.
“You’re about to take a flogging for nothing. Let me speak to Singer, show him the telegrams from Chicago and he’ll stop this thing dead.”
Dean shook his head stubbornly. “No way I’m letting MacLeod think he’s got me beat. I’ll wring the information out of that fucker one way or another.”
Sam stared at him, utterly baffled. “You’re one naive son of a bitch, Dean; but have it your way. Don’t expect me to stand out there and watch though.”
He threw the shackles over his shoulder, picked up the lantern and locked the door to the cage. He stalked towards the outer door and was almost there when Dean called to him.
“What time is it?”
Sam hesitated then pulled out his pocket watch.
“Just after midnight.”
He turned and offered a tight smile which Dean interpreted as some kind of truce. “Hang in there, man. One way or another I’ll get this straightened out.”
Dean tensed. “You keep your mouth shut, Sam; you hear? Don’t you pussy out on me now.”
Sam shook his head sadly. “Never took you for a masochist, Dean.”
Then he was gone. The door slammed shut and the cell plunged into absolute darkness. Dean heard bolts ram into place, the faint crunch of Sam’s departing feet and then he was alone in complete silence. From his previous spell in the Hole he knew that however much he needed it, sleep would not come easily. The place was too cold and uncomfortable and the impending punishment, only seven short hours away had his guts twisting in apprehension. Then there was the seething resentment to contend with; not only the unjustness of his situation but also MacLeod’s part in it. The fact Dean had witlessly played right into his hands aggravated him beyond belief.
With nothing else to occupy his senses, he couldn’t stop his mind looping round events which brought him here. He’d known MacLeod was out to cause trouble just after lockup. Ordinarily he could ignore his cellmate’s incessant yapping and sleep through it, exhausted by the day’s work. Tonight MacLeod had chosen subjects designed to keep him awake. He’d focussed on the past and reminisced fondly about the three months they’d ridden together. He expressed satisfaction in leading the infamous Crowley-MacLeod gang and having the notorious Dean Winchester do his bidding like a good little doggie.
Dean let it wash over him, too tired to get even a little bit riled. MacLeod broke off the monologue while he pulled the undrinkable moonshine from its hole, which was time enough for Dean to begin drifting, but then he started up again. Now he’d changed tack completely, focussing on the one thing that was sure to get his cellmate’s undivided attention.
The shocking story, told with flair and embellishment was one Dean was intimately acquainted with, one he’d spent thirty years trying to reconcile with little success. It recalled the destruction of his family, the violent, futile death of his mother and his father’s withdrawal into addiction and inevitable slide into crime. At least he’d had the dedication to keep his sons close and Dean, particularly had learned the lessons of the outlaw well.
Six years ago MacLeod claimed to know who set the fire which destroyed Dean’s home and changed his life forever. That identity was the one thing he craved, the sole reason he was in Yuma prison and suffering all this shit. He wanted revenge, pure and simple and once that was done MacLeod would be getting similar retribution. Six years ago he’d given Dean a false name and watched him charge off to gun down an innocent man. Dean tried to kill him for the deception but MacLeod’s gang closed ranks and he’d narrowly escaped with his life. Next time would be different.
MacLeod’s words stirred up all the emotions Dean worked so hard to suppress, which was a daily battle. MacLeod was showing part of his hand here, laying some major cards on the table while protecting his ace. Dean knew he’d never reveal the name until his life depended on it, maybe not even then but it was too late to turn back now. He fought to remain calm and tried not to let MacLeod push his buttons as easily as he’d done in the past. It wasn’t easy.
Unperturbed by his silence, MacLeod started talking about the bastard in question, how he’d bragged about the arson and murder he’d committed. The picture he painted was painfully vivid and Dean pulled his blankets over his head. They blotted out MacLeod’s voice but not the memories of being four and a half years old, confused, terrified and heartbroken.
He did his best to control the emotional blaze MacLeod's words were fanning, reminding himself he was a United States Marshal and should seek recourse within the law. He was about to get up and call for the guards when he felt something warm dripping onto his pants. He threw the blankets aside, certain MacLeod was pissing on him but found something worse. MacLeod was beside his bunk, dousing him in hooch and wearing an insane grin.
“I knew this would come in handy. Thanks for helping me out, Winchester.”
Finally pushed beyond reason, Dean surged to his feet. MacLeod hurled the bottle at the window and it smashed as Dean cannoned into him, knocking him onto his bunk and pounding him with every ounce of strength in his body. MacLeod hadn’t put up much of a fight, which wasn’t surprising but the guards arrived before he could inflict the kind of damage he really wanted. Before he could…
He jerked himself away from the frustrating memory and let the dark silence of the Hole calm him. Just thinking about those events had set his heart racing and blood was thundering in his ears. He stood up and turned carefully, felt for the cage bars and pressed his face to the cold metal, trying to get himself under control.
Time had little meaning here so when the door clanked open and light spilled into the cell, he couldn’t tell if he’d been alone for minutes or hours. He squinted at the group of men approaching him and instantly recognised Walt’s uneven gait. Roy was inevitably in attendance and they were both flanking a bulker figure. When Zachariah came into view, Dean’s worst fears were confirmed; there would be no reprieve tonight.
“Expecting someone else, Winchester?”
Zachariah seemed amused. He stopped a few feet short of the cage and Dean gripped the bars, praying he'd come closer so he could reach out and throttle him. Even Zachariah had enough sense not to do that, though.
“Captain Singer made a convincing case against punishing you. He said you were unwell so I decided to come see for myself.”
He sounded positively jovial and Roy sniggered. Zachariah beckoned to Walt. “Bring that lantern closer, Warden; let’s get a look at this profoundly injured prisoner.”
Walt raised the lantern and Dean blinked in the harsh light while Zachariah studied him. It made him twitchy, he felt like an exhibit in a freak show and got the distinct impression he was being toyed with.
“He looks fine to me.” Roy’s voice echoed round the chamber. “You want me to check him over properly?”
Dean scowled. “Come in here and you’ll leave on a stretcher.”
Roy just shrugged and pulled a baton from his belt. Dean moved into the middle of the cage, preparing for another fight and the superior expression on Zachariah’s face goaded him into some rash words.
“How did a spineless, sadistic bastard like you ever buy his way into the army, huh? How many men died on your watch, Zachariah? How many would still be walking if you hadn’t been in command?”
His words hit Zachariah like bullets and his expression turned ugly.
“There’s nothing wrong with you a good flogging won’t cure, and you’ll stay on the digging team until the day you hang.”
Dean sneered. “Your threats don’t scare me, Zachariah.”
“It’s no threat, prisoner. Additionally you’ll spend your nights in the Hole and if you lip me like that again, I’ll see you’re chained to the floor.”
Walt spoke up eagerly. “You want me to fetch the irons?”
Dean clenched his fists. "You wanna try putting them on me, Walt?"
Zachariah considered for a moment then shook his head. “Let him be for tonight. We don’t want him missing tomorrow’s entertainment on account of real injury, do we?”
Roy laughed and Dean spat on the floor. There was more laughter as they left the cell and for the second time he was alone in darkness.
The failure of Singer’s appeal was disappointing but no great surprise. Right now Dean didn’t give a damn either way. He was so mad that the prospect of getting whipped in front of the whole prison was more a challenge than a humiliation. He could take it. He could take anything those bastards threw his way and then some.
Ultimately this was his doorway to freedom and afterwards he’d have the time and resources to go after Zachariah and his cronies properly. His revenge bucket list was getting longer by the day and he revelled in it.
“Bring it on, you fuckers,” he murmured as his gun hand moved reflexively.
- ACES WILD (10/?)