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.
Sam pulled up in the corridor outside the ward, trapped in the middle of an impossible situation and momentarily unsure which way to turn. As ever though, loyalty to his family won out. Dean was ahead of him, moving fast and Sam called for him to stop. Dean didn’t though, just motioned for him to hurry up and Sam muttered a frustrated curse. His brother was one pig headed son of a bitch and sometimes, increasingly these days, seemed incapable of listening to reason. He caught sight of MacLeod sitting bolt upright in bed, wearing an expression which bordered on desperation and Sam’s stomach twisted.
Leaving him there didn’t feel right on any level. Undoubtedly MacLeod was a dangerous, conniving bastard who’d been instrumental in Dean getting flogged, but he’d also come up with this plan and got them to this place and time unchallenged. He called Dean again, louder this time and was ignored for his trouble as his brother disappeared into the guard’s station. The stab of irritation Sam felt propelled him into decisive action. He crossed the ward in three strides and unlocked MacLeod’s cuff. MacLeod eyed him dubiously as he rubbed at his ankle.
“Not that I’m complaining, but your self-righteous buddy out there might not…”
Sam cut him short. “Don’t be provoking him or you’ll wind up right back in this bed, you hear?”
MacLeod considered for a moment then nodded.
“Whatever you say, Moose.”
Sam hurried up to the guard’s station and MacLeod trailed behind, his bare feet slapping the stone floor. Dean was standing by the barred window in the warm, stuffy room and Sam’s nose wrinkled at the smell of sweat and whisky which hung pungently in the air. Two unconscious men were sprawled on the floor and he grabbed the larger of them by the collar, ready to haul him outside. Dean spoke without turning.
“What are you doing?”
Sam stared at his brother’s back, needled by his superior tone of voice. “Taking him to the ward. We need his stuff.”
Dean’s shoulder twitched. “No we don’t. Why would you…?”
In the doorway, MacLeod couldn’t resist the opportunity. “I think I’m entitled to a pair of boots, don’t you, boss?”
Dean spun round and the prison revolver appeared in his hand so fast it was like magic. It was pointed squarely at MacLeod’s chest and Sam moved smartly into the line of fire. Dean scowled.
“I told you he’s not coming. What part of that is giving you trouble?”
The simmering irritation flared into full-on anger and Sam clenched his fists, trying to keep a grip on it.
“Who the fuck put you in charge, Dean? MacLeod hatched this plan and I’m not leaving him to hang on your say so. He deserves a fair shot at freedom.”
MacLeod chuckled softly. “Bravo, Campbell.”
Sam spun round and fixed him with a stony glare. “I told you to keep it zipped, MacLeod. Shut the fuck up for once in your life and help me with this.”
He jerked his head at the man on the floor and grabbed his left leg. MacLeod took the other and together they hauled him from the room. Sam glanced at Dean and met a perfect poker face. His brother holstered the pistol, turned his back and resumed his vigil at the window.
“Fuck you, Dean.” Sam said it loud enough to carry and Dean’s shoulder twitched again, but he didn’t turn.
In the ward, they stripped the guard to his underwear and Sam trussed him up while MacLeod struggled into his uniform. It was a snug fit and he bemoaned the lack of quality tailoring the whole time. Sam stuffed his prison pyjamas into the piss pot, which seemed a fitting end for them, then stuck the guard’s pistol into his belt. MacLeod watched the show balefully.
“I make it two pistols and a rifle to you, diddly squat to me. I wouldn’t call that especially fair…”
Sam snorted. “I’m not giving you a gun so you can shoot me in the back. You think I was born yesterday?”
“Do you really want an answer to that?” MacLeod jerked his chin up petulantly. “Have you forgotten that Winchester just pulled on me? He’ll try to kill me the first chance he gets and I’m entitled to defend myself.”
“You’re not entitled to anything, MacLeod. Quit bellyaching.”
MacLeod changed tack and his expression turned shrewd. “Once we’re out of this shithole we need to look out for each other, mate. That desert is full of Navajo just itching to spill white men’s blood.”
His brow furrowed but his eyes were glinting with something like glee. “I’ve seen how they kill the likes of us, Campbell and it’s not pretty or quick. You’re putting me in a position of extreme vulnerability.”
Sam wasn’t buying it. “If you’re scared then go back to bed and do us all a favour.”
MacLeod raised an eyebrow. “Maybe you should find out how well Boss Man down the corridor knows Indian Territory before you go trotting after him like a dog. The way I see it, you boys are going to need a guide.”
“And you reckon it might be you?”
“Do you have someone better to hand?”
Sam hesitated. He’d read enough stories about renegade Navajo to know MacLeod was on the level. They favoured the desolate, wild places; places he’d spent his whole life actively avoiding and they killed white men for sport as much as revenge. But so long as their plan was underpinned by the Colorado River, MacLeod’s argument didn’t hold much water.
“They’ll have a hard time ambushing us in a boat, MacLeod. Get moving.”
“Don’t bet on it, Fido.”
They walked in silence to the guard’s station. Dean was in a chair by the fire, hunched forward with a rifle propped across his lap. He looked pale, bone weary and was obviously hurting. As Sam approached he heard the click of the weapon being primed and laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“This isn’t the time. Let’s get moving, huh?”
Dean shrugged him off. “It’s not over, Sam.”
“Whatever you say. We’ll talk about it later.”
Dean winced as he pushed himself to his feet and Sam lit the lantern that stood on the card table. He gestured at the remaining guard.
“He can’t stay there. MacLeod, you do the honours.”
MacLeod groused as he dragged the unconscious man to the isolation room and Sam locked him inside with the ripening corpse. He groused louder when Dean thrust the lantern at him and ordered him to take point. He only shut up when they both threatened to shoot him in the ass.
He led them progressively downward into the guts of the hospital building. While MacLeod was sure footed and seemed confident of the path, Sam was considerably less so. He followed closely, keeping his boots inside the lantern’s pool of light and Dean bought up the rear, stumbling and cursing. Every time Sam turned to voice his concern however, he was met with a glare and a command to keep his damned eyes forward. They encountered five locked doors in the course of the journey and Sam used the keys on his guard’s chain to open and relock them. They moved quietly and cautiously, alert for guards and danger but encountered neither. After ten minutes they arrived at the strap iron door which opened into the river tunnel and Sam reached into his pants for some different keys.
Only Zachariah and Singer held keys to this door and authority to access the tunnel. All other personnel needed written permission to use it. Singer’s keys were secured inside his office desk and Sam had no trouble picking the lock and taking clay imprints. Complex prison door mechanisms were beyond his expertise so he’d overpaid a Yuma locksmith to make copies and paid him some more to keep his mouth shut about it. He’d recently had cause to break into Singer’s desk a second time and wondered how long it would take the Captain to find the letter he’d left inside. Wondered what his course of action would be after he’d read it…
The replica key fitted the lock but wouldn’t turn. Sam twisted with all his strength, heard some of the tumblers turn but not enough to get the job done. This wasn’t exactly news to him, the locksmith had warned there might be a few snags, but the delay was agitating MacLeod and Sam felt tension coming off him in waves. He understood their concern. If they were caught on this side of the gate, all because a damned key didn’t turn, they’d all know the meaning of living hell on earth.
“Didn’t you test it, you bloody great oaf?”
MacLeod’s voice was right in his ear and Sam bristled at the accusing tone. He drove his elbow sharply into MacLeod’s chest and took satisfaction at his sharp intake of breath.
“And risk getting seen? What do you think, asshole?”
As he reached into his boot for the metal file he’d brought along, Dean lunged at MacLeod, slammed him against the door and snarled into his face.
“Talk to him like that again and your fucking teeth’ll get adjusted.”
MacLeod retaliated by ramming the lantern into his chest, knocking him backwards and off balance.
“You and whose fucking army, Winchester?”
Sam grabbed him by the collar and hauled him away from his brother.
“Me and him, MacLeod? We’re a fucking army. You got that or would you rather go to war?”
MacLeod bit his lip, weighing the odds before shrugging and letting out an exaggerated sigh.
“Time’s a ticking, Moose. Best get to it, eh?”
Sam carefully filed the teeth of the key, blew metallic dust in MacLeod’s direction and Dean sniggered when he sneezed and coughed. It took several attempts before the door yielded but it locked smoothly once they’d passed through. They trudged fifty feet along a humid, claustrophobic stone passage before reaching the final door. This one was solid iron, pitted and corroded by the moist air but proved an easier affair to manage. The second key was a perfect copy and it swung inwards on squealing hinges. A cold blast of rain swept into the tunnel and Sam stepped back while he consulted his pocket watch. It read two minutes to twelve and there was a patrol scheduled at midnight. He pulled Dean aside, out of MacLeod’s earshot and spoke quietly.
“The boat’s a quarter mile downstream. There’s a perimeter patrol anytime now and the next one’s in fifteen minutes. We have to move fast or…”
Dean interrupted him, frowning.
“I won’t hold you up, man. There’s nothing wrong with my fucking legs.”
The stubborn set of his jaw informed Sam he’d keep his word, even if it half killed him. Dean squinted into the rain, hammering down with force enough to drive rivulets of sand into the tunnel.
“You think they’ll even see us in that?”
Sam looked at him quizzically. “You want to take chances at this stage?”
Dean shrugged but didn’t reply and they waited five minutes before easing through the door and pressing themselves against the wall outside. Sam re-locked the door, blew out the lantern then stepped clear of the wall to cast a quick glance upwards, searching for guards on the parapet thirty feet above. Satisfied there was nobody there, he led the party towards the riverbank, favouring the cover offered by overhanging trees and foliage. They stumbled and slid through spiny brush, tripping on roots and rocks and were soaked to the bone in minutes.
By the time the prison buildings were distant silhouettes, lit occasionally by forks of lightening, Sam was shaking with cold and fatigue. His legs were aching from the effort of wading through mud and sand and his back was stiff and painful from hunching over. He glanced back to find MacLeod a couple of feet behind, panting but thankfully silent. At the back, Dean was matching their pace step for step and Sam blew out a relieved breath, thankful his brother was still moving under his own steam.
They’d arranged for Garth to bring the boat up as soon as it got dark and Sam guessed it was moored somewhere round here. He scanned the river bank when lightning did him the favour of illuminating it but couldn’t see any sign of it. Finally he resorted to lighting the lantern and was rewarded almost instantly by a whistle and flash of light fifteen feet downstream. He headed straight for it.
The boat was rocking beneath a stand of willow which overhung the river and Garth was squatting in the bow. He was wearing a floppy sou’wester and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Sam? Dean? I’m so glad you made it…” He caught sight of MacLeod and the smile faltered. “That takes the shine off it.”
“And here’s the nursemaid, just as I suspected.” MacLeod jerked his thumb at the distant prison. “Best run along now, sonny; your supper’s getting cold.”
Garth scowled and flipped him the bird. “Go to hell, grandad.”
The boat was long, broad and high sided. It sat low in the water at the stern and there was a tarpaulin stretched across its gunwales. Garth stood up easily, apparently at home on the unstable vessel and pointed at the tarp.
“Dean; you can go shelter below. There’s plenty of blankets in there.”
His eyes lingered on MacLeod then flicked across to Sam. “
“She’s already low in the water with the supplies and all. With four of us on board…”
Dean interrupted him. “There’s only gonna be three on board. We busted this fucker out, which is more than he deserves, but now he’s on his own.”
MacLeod stuck his hands in his pockets and threw him an insolent smile.
“What about that name, Winchester? I was under the impression you still needed it.”
Dean snorted his contempt. “I don’t need anything that comes out of your mouth and you’d best get moving before they send the posse.”
Sam frowned. “We’ve come this far, Dean, we might as well…”
“Anything he tells us will be a lie, Sam. Haven’t you worked that out yet?”
MacLeod didn’t seem overly bothered by the prospect of being abandoned in the middle of a storm with no weapons and little hope of evading recapture. He was watching Dean keenly.
“You know what, Winchester? I’m going to give it to you anyway. Consider it a gift from a dreadfully wronged adversary.”
“Fuck you, Macleod.” Dean clambered inelegantly into the boat and MacLeod sniggered at the spectacle.
“Why don’t you sit down, before you go arse over tit and listen to me...”
A swell of current pushed the stern of the boat into the river and Dean lost his footing. He wobbled then sat down hard on the gunwale, narrowly missing Garth. Sam felt queasy just looking at the wildly rocking craft but MacLeod laughed out loud.
“Your footwork’s as agile as your brain, Winchester. Don’t you care about the man who torched mummy anymore?”
Sam whipped round to face him, feeling like he’d been sucker punched to the gut.
“What did you just say?”
MacLeod’s surprised expression immediately turned shrewd. Sam tried to wipe the shock off his face but it was too late.
“What’s on your mind, Sammy? How about sharing with Uncle Fergus, eh?”
From the boat came the unmistakeable sound of hammer being cocked.
“Shut your hole, MacLeod.”
Dean was back on his feet, his rifle pointed squarely at MacLeod and his balance was rock steady.
“One more word about my family and you’re a dead man.”
MacLeod ignored him, his eyes still on Sam.
“But now it seems like there’s another invested party in this little fellowship and I’m curious to know what Campbell thinks before I die.”
Sam stared at him, stunned and bewildered by this turn of events. Had his brother really possessed information about their mother’s killer this whole time and not bothered telling him? Dean’s finger tightened on the trigger.
“Keep talking MacLeod and you’ll get the short answer.”
MacLeod shrugged. “I’ve got nothing to lose. Leave me here and I’m a dead man anyway.”
Dean jerked the rifle towards the boat. “Get on board, Sam; we’re leaving.”
“No.” Sam squared his shoulders. “I’m not walking away from this. If he knows who killed… Who murdered… I want that name even if you don’t.”
“I already told you, any name he gives will be a goddamned lie.”
“I’ll take that chance, Dean. Either we all get on that boat or we part company here.”
They glared at each other, neither prepared to back down and the stalemate seemed to stretch out indefinitely. Eventually MacLeod broke the silence.
“Much as I love a good stand-off, this one beats the Mexicans so how about I speed things up? Winchester, the arsehole who killed your mother is the same arsehole who shot me in the back and rode off with my bullion.”
He hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and his eyes shifted across to Sam.
“Which means… we’re all looking for the same arsehole.”
Dean slowly lowered the rifle and Sam felt the balance of power tip perceptibly. While that didn’t bode well for himself or Dean, he had to admire MacLeod’s timing and style.
As aces in the hole went, it was a doozy.