Before it happens, they’re sitting there on their beds, heads groggy and hazed like they always are in the light of a morning following a night of moderate-to-heavy drinking. Holidays of any flavor ought to come with a courtesy recovery day, in Dean’s opinion. Otherwise, where’s the room to celebrate the night before? He scrubs his hands over his head, raking fingers through short, mussed hair, squinting across the dingy cement room to where Sam’s mattress sits several feet away from his. Sam looks like he’s doing better, but only marginally. He’d done marginally less drinking last night, so Dean supposes that’s fair.
Dean is just opening his mouth, about to ask about the diner down the street as a breakfast option to soak up some of the sour feeling left behind by too much revelry the night before, when their door explodes open so hard and fast it bounces back off the wall. Before Dean’s hangover-deadened reflexes can snap him to his feet, he’s taking a long look down the short barrel of a gun, wielded by a man who he’d last seen running out of a bar with his ass literally smoking.
Abraxas is grinning, wide and manic and edged with what Dean would guess are some pretty heavy duty non-prescription painkillers, and he’s shouting in Russian. Behind him are the other two from the bar, Dean can’t quite remember their names, he thinks they might be Spevak and Ruby. Much of the fight, including what the bratva soldiers had shouted at each other, is a blur.
“We’ve come here to fucking kill you,” Abraxas shouts at Dean, and in the space between one skipped heartbeat and the next, that gun jerks perilously closer. “But now,” he goes on, voice jumping around in octaves and volume, erratic and out of control, “I don’t think we’ll fucking kill you.”
The gun swings, and now Dean wishes it was back on him, wishes it was jammed so hard into his forehead it’ll leave a bruise, anything that would mean it wasn’t where it’s aimed now. Sam isn’t even looking at it - he’s still looking at Dean, eyes a moment away from rolling in blase irritation - when one twitch of Abraxas’s trigger finger and Dean becomes an only child.
“Now, I think we’ll kill your fucking brother.”
When they pull Sam up off his bed, he starts spouting off, informing the woman - Ruby? - that this was “some kind of stupid joke.” It’s not the first time that Dean has wished his brother’s mouth wasn’t as smart as the rest of him, but it is the most fervently, especially as Sam actually does roll his eyes.
“Cuff him,” Abraxas says, almost a throwaway, aside to the other man, Spevak or whatever.
Spevak does as he’s told, yanking Dean over to the toilet in the corner of the room. Dean goes quietly- silently, boneless and stripped of words by the image of the gun, the bullets a twitch of a finger from blowing Sam’s skull apart. He barely registers the feeling of the cuffs around his wrists, cinched tight and forcing him into an uncomfortable, hunched position beside the toilet. It takes only seconds for his shoulders to begin to ache, and Dean shoves that to the side, clearing his brain of anything aside from that gun.
It's almost comical the way the tiny woman behind Sam is escorting him out of the room with a hand gripping the juncture of his shoulder like she has any hope of controlling him at all, after the growth spurt he'd gotten later than Dean had anticipated. Or it would be, were it not for the gun she's holding on him, pressing into the back of his neck like a reminder - she doesn't need height or muscle to control him. She's got a nine mil, and that's more effective by far.
As they pass the threshold, Sam looks back once, a kind of passive calm on his face that's somehow far worse than any kind of fear Dean could've seen there. Because it means Sam still doesn't think they're serious. There's a gun at his neck and a mobster threatening to pull the trigger and he can't possibly be ready to fight back if he doesn't think a fight is actually coming. He turns back and follows the man in front of him out of the loosely-termed apartment, and the last look of him Dean gets is the back of his head, disappearing around the corner. Before she leaves his line of sight, Ruby looks back as well, but the look she gives him is far from passive. She grins, waves the fingers of her free hand once, and Dean has never, in his life, been this afraid.
The metal of the handcuffs bites hard when he pulls at them, unyielding and unforgiving. Footsteps echo on the stairs, clattering down farther and farther away from him by the second, taking Sam with them, and Dean pulls harder.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, distant and echoing and completely irrelevant, Dean supposes this probably hurts. His hands are wet with his own blood, streaming down from where the force of how hard he’s pulling is driving the handcuffs deeper into his own skin, and he’s going to feel that later, but right now, it’s like static. There’s no room for anything in his mind, in his reality, except for Sam, and the gun jammed against his skull with a perfect trajectory through his brainstem. Ruined wrists, wounded skin, all that can heal. The murder of his brother… That would destroy him. There’s no question.
So he pulls harder.
The sound the toilet makes when it rips out of the floor, overlaid with a wordless scream of pain and adrenaline, is something primordial. Dean doesn’t hear it. All he hears is his own pulse, thundering in his ears as he races out of the apartment. Down will take too long, they’re five out of six stories up, so it’s up he goes, up the stairs, onto the roof he and Sam had gone straight up to, their first night in the building. They’d watched the stars and talked about how it looked the same back home, and how could the sky be the same when everything else was different.
When he reaches the edge, he doesn’t have a moment to spend hesitating, lest the fear of what he might see take up the last moments that separate Sam from ‘alive’ and ‘not alive’.
The scene in the alley comes in pieces of visual without any sound, each piece worse than the last. The Russians. Guns. Sam, on his knees. Sam on his knees and a Russian with a gun standing in front of him, and Dean stops thinking and just acts. It all comes in the moment his foot leaves the concrete of the roof and hits empty nothing. Air rushes around him as he falls, and finally something breaks through the rush of his own heartbeat when the ruined toilet cracks over the head of the man who’d been moments from shooting Sam, a gunshot ricocheting almost simultaneously.
What happens after that, Dean doesn’t know.
The hospital is busy and bright and there isn’t a corner around which a hundred different things aren’t beeping or whistling and a hundred different people aren’t running this way and that to attend to them. It feels frenetic and threatening, and Sam doesn’t want to be here. There’s too much going on, too much that could become dangerous at any moment, that he can’t keep track of it all, and if he can’t keep track of it, he can’t protect Dean from it.
And he has to, because right now, Dean cannot protect himself. He’s sitting on a gurney in the hospital hallway, slumped back against the wall with his eyes closed because the light hurts his eyes. They’re waiting on the paperwork that will allow him to be discharged. The hospital ran some scans on him, had a handful of doctors and nurses check him out for various life-threatening injuries, and while they’d determined he wasn’t going to die, he’s still in no shape to defend himself. So Sam has parked himself standing next to the gurney, arms folded over his chest, standing up to his full height and breadth, trying to look as intimidating as possible, daring anyone to approach them right now.
Sam is unable to bring himself to look away from Dean's hands where they sit gingerly placed, still and tense, in his lap. The dark lines of his tattoo, ÆQUITAS curling down over the knuckle of his trigger finger like an accusation, are smudged with blood, and Sam is gripped by the impulsive urge to wipe it off, to find anything he can to clean the blood away, or cover that hand with his own, sap some of the tension he can see gripping his brother's body away into himself. Of the two of them, Dean came out of this day far worse, and Sam's watching him like a hawk. He's hurt, and still hurting, shoulders bunched stiff under the dingy robe he wears over hospital scrubs. Every time he shifts there's a small puff of breath, an extinguished sound of pain Dean arrests in his lungs just barely too late to keep Sam from noticing.
It drives the protective feeling in his chest up higher, to the point that, when someone clears their throat behind him, Sam whips around and squares up like he’s ready to start something - or finish it. He relaxes his stance when it ends up being Bobby and Rufus, wheeling and walking up to him from the side of the hallway leading to the lobby. If it weren’t for the circumstances, Sam would probably feel foolish for the overreaction. But given the state of his brother, slumped on the gurney behind him, Sam is going to stand by his instinct. Neither of them comments on it, at least, letting him settle a moment before speaking.
“Cops came around, asking about you two,” Rufus tells him, cutting straight to the point. It’s something Sam has always appreciated about him. Rufus has never been one to hem and haw around until he gets to the heart of an important topic. No, with him you can expect to have the crux of the matter slapped right into your hand the moment the conversation begins - sometimes without what Sam would usually expect to be the appropriate salutations, but right now, he appreciates that.
“Guess they want to talk to you about a couple of dead bratva footsoldiers in the alley by your building,” Bobby puts in. His eyes are focused past Sam, to where Dean is sitting with his eyes still closed, bruised head leaned back against the wall. His tone doesn’t betray anything about how he feels about that statement, anything he may have put together about what happened in that alley. Sam doesn’t volunteer it.
The last thing Sam wants to talk about right now is the alley, the bratva, the deep wounds in Dean’s wrists and the handcuffs the doctors had to cut through to get off him. He doesn’t want to talk about how he feels like they started a ball rolling last night in the bar, when they’d thrown down with the Russians, and that ball is now careening down a hill that’s too steep and goes too far for Sam to see where it ends.
“Get out in front of it.” Bobby still isn’t looking at Sam, and Dean still isn’t looking at Bobby. Rufus is looking around the hall like he’s standing some kind of watch. Four people caught in an unsteady kaleidoscope of focus and avoidance and blood. “Go to the police, tell them what happened. Better you don’t make them find you.”
“Okay,” Sam agrees, and it takes a lot of restraint to curb the lingering instinct to get between Dean and anyone else who might approach him, when Bobby wheels closer.
The man who’d been there to catch them when they landed in this country looks, in the sick glow of the overhead hospital lighting, old. Bobby’s face is lined and tired as he does what Sam had held back from doing just a few minutes earlier, reaching up onto the gurney and closing a hand over one of Dean’s. It’s the hand with the tattoo spidering away from white gauze and surgical tape hiding the deep injury left behind when he had literally ripped the toilet out of the floor.
Sam watches Bobby hold that hand between his, squeezing it, and thinks about what that must have took, the kind of blinding adrenaline required to push past that kind of pain. He’s heard the stories, parents lifting cars off their children, friends in wartime hauling each other over their shoulders and running miles past what they should have been able to. Sam swallows down the lump in his throat and looks away. He only flinches a little when he feels Bobby take his hand, apparently having released Dean’s. There’s a gentle squeeze, and then Bobby is clearing his throat and turning to leave back down the hall.
“Car’s out front,” he calls over his shoulder. “We’ll drop you off.”
When Sam looks back over, Dean’s got an eye cracked, peering at him with an unreadable expression. Sam shrugs, and Dean’s head bobbles back and forth, and then Rufus is helping him pull his brother up off the gurney, half-carrying him outside to the car. The drive to the police station is silent, and when they arrive, Dean pulls his head off the back of his seat and looks, hazy, into the front of the car.
“We do this alone,” he says, and he at least sounds halfway coherent by now.
Rufus and Bobby exchange a glance, and Bobby rolls his eyes. Rufus shakes his head, but neither of them verbally object, instead pulling up to the curb and allowing them to exit together. Looking up the steps to the precinct, Sam adjusts his ginger grip on Dean’s wrist, avoiding the bandages and the wounds hidden beneath them. He pulls Dean’s arm a little tighter over his shoulders, securing his own arm around his brother’s waist, and starts up the first step.
Victor is not having a good time in Boston.
Not that he was expecting this to be some kind of vacation, but still, this is not where they should be at this point of this investigation. What they saw in that alley is not the work of professionals - the victims may be organized crime but there was nothing organized about that attack. All they really have are a pair of names, attached to the two young men who live in the apartment with the ripped out toilet, fragmented pieces of unremarkable lives that didn’t leave much of a paper trail.
With the tip of one finger, Victor flips open the anemic file they’ve managed to put together from canvassing their loosely termed ‘apartment building’ and the factory where they both work. Dean and Sam Winchester. Nobody seemed to have a bad word to say about either of them. The worst Victor was able to get out of anyone was a couple of supervisors who described them as prone to goofing off on the job, especially when on shifts together. Good Catholic boys, looked out for each other and for the neighborhood. With a sigh, he flicks the folder closed. It’s so thin you can’t even tell there’s anything inside it when the cover is shut.
There’s a much thicker folder to Victor’s left, that Jody is presently paging through. It’s a primer on the landscape of the organized crime scene in Boston. The bratva stuff is pretty run of the mill, but it seems there’s a schism happening in their branch of the Italian mafia. The Shirley empire is apparently undergoing quite the family psychodrama at the moment. Missing patriarch, the Family factioning off behind Michael and Luke Shirley, the two lieutenants vying for the big chair.
In a truly Shakespearean turn of events, the bloodiest mob related battles fought in Boston in recent years have been fought internally as the two attempt to weaken each other, while each pretends not to know what the other is doing. They’ve been conducting business as normal and taking potshots at each other on the side. About a dozen people have died in the crossfire so far, and more promise to follow as things have begun heating up in recent weeks. Don Charles ‘Chuck’ Shirley hasn’t made an appearance, even as his sons up the ante, preparing to rip each other to pieces.
The word on the other two lieutenants, Raphael Reviello and Gabriel Novak, is that Raphael is biding his time until he can pick a frontrunner to back, likely leaning towards Michael, while Gabriel wants no part in the whole conflict. Rumor has it he’s got one foot out the door, and there are murmurs on the street that he may turn state’s evidence just to put an end to it before the men he calls brothers have the chance to kill each other. Victor knows this isn’t true, at least not yet, but it’s further stoking the unrest within the Family.
That’s one of the most baffling pieces of this case. While the bratva has been moving in on territory so far unclaimed, eating up new pieces of the city to establish a stronger foothold, the Sicilians have been too busy stabbing each other in the back to bother much with the Russians. Certainly not over something like a bar fight or alleyway scuffle. No matter how Victor twists them, the pieces just don’t fit together. There’s something here that’s missing, and nobody but Dean and Sam Winchester can tell him what it is.
“Okay,” he announces, turning away from both folders and getting up, facing his team along with the handful of local detectives he’s been given to work with, “let’s go over through again.”
As if they’d rehearsed it - which they may as well have, for as long and as successfully as the three of them have been working together - Jody and Donna launch into a tag-team rundown of everything they currently know.
“Sam and Dean Winchester,” says Jody, leaning against an empty desk and folding her arms, “recent Irish immigrants, dutiful Sunday Catholics.”
Donna’s turn now, and she says, “Work at a meat packing plant, nobody there has heard from them. Got unis staked out at the scene in case they return to the building at any point but so far no dice.”
“Spend most of their time at a bar when they’re not at work,” Jody jumps back in with, “kinda rundown place called The Salvage. We went over there but it’s closed, and the owners aren’t at home, we checked.”
“Nobody’s got a bad word to say about ‘em neither, neighbor called ‘em ‘angels’, if you can believe it,” Donna concludes, shaking her head. The totality of it, put together like that, isn’t enough information to so much as fill a radio advertisement time slot.
“And we’ve got nothing from where they live to tell us where they might be hiding out?” asks Detective Fox, while Bradbury sits next to him, tapping her pencil on her desk and staring up at the ceiling.
“The most personal thing in that apartment was a Bible with notes in it. We think it belongs to Sam, as it’s got the letters ‘SW’ etched at the bottom of the spine,” Donna tells him, and Bradbury drops her forehead down next to her pencil with a thunk and an annoyed sound in the back of her throat.
“Great,” says Fitzgerald, taking the dubiously advisable course of action and voicing the irritation he and his colleagues are all feeling. Victor raises an eyebrow at him, but the silent caution is not enough to stop him from going on, suggesting that they, “drive through the street of the nearest Irish Catholic neighborhood with the windows down blasting Gregorian chants,” to lure the brothers out.
"You'd probably have better luck with a beer," a voice from behind him says, and he can hear Fitzgerald groan.
Since coming upon the scene in the alley, Victor has been trying to imagine what sort of person - people, had to be more than one - could have wreaked that kind of very odd havoc with such crude efficiency. Seeing them now, he's surprised for only a moment. They're reedier than he'd been expecting, these boys, and they look like they've been put through the wringer. The shorter one is supported against the shoulder of the taller, with a hazy look in his eyes indicating he might otherwise be flat on his ass on the ground. His wrists are both bandaged and heavily spotted with blood, and there’s a combination of fierce protectiveness and deliberate care in how the taller boy’s fingers are wrapped around his forearm.
They're both wearing dusty, bloodied bath-robes over hospital scrubs, they both look like they’ve gone forty years through the desert and back, and Victor reasons he could probably take them both one-handed at the moment. He figures Donna could probably take them both one-handed. They don't look capable of murder.
But then, with self-defense thrown in the mix, it becomes clear. The blood, the dust, the bandages, it all paints a picture of 'fight like hell to survive', and he knows that in circumstances like that, where your life - your brother's life - is in question, all bets are off.
"Why don't I speak to you two in my office a moment," Victor says smoothly, gesturing towards an interrogation room that is in no way his office, if just to get out of the line of sight of the rest of the South Boston Precinct.
They follow him with an easy agreeableness, though how much of that is actual compliance and how much is a mountingly desperate need for a chair is not entirely clear. Victor holds out an arm and watches from the doorway as they sit down. The taller Winchester guides the shorter, more seriously injured one down first, and then sits down himself, the chairs pulled close together. Victor waits until they’re settled, then walks all the way into the interrogation room himself, sitting down across from them and steepling his fingers on the table.
“So,” he says. “Winchester brothers. Sam and Dean.” Twins, he wonders for a moment, not identical but fraternal maybe, then glances back down at the file, clocking the tentatively accurate birth years they’d gotten from the boys’ employer. Not twins, then. Four years apart, the older of the two at twenty-seven while his brother was a painfully youthful twenty-three.
“That’s Sam,” the shorter one tells him, and his voice is as hazy as his eyes are, hand braced up against his forehead. He indicates the thin-faced, shaggy haired younger Winchester, then throws the same hand in a general indication up at his own bruised, exhausted face. “I’m Dean.”
“Gotcha.” Victor nods, sweeping his gaze from one to the other, appraising the situation and the two young men in front of him. Neither of them looks good, per se, but Dean looks like he might be about to keel out of his chair at any moment. He’s tilting sideways as it is, elbow propped against the arm of his chair and his head held up by his fist, but at least he’s leaning in the direction of Sam. If he falls, there’ll be someone there to hopefully catch him before he can crack his already injured head against the floor.
“So. Tell me about what happened in the alley.”
"No charges will be brought against the Winchester brothers," Victor says, maintaining his well-rehearsed media-friendly neutral expression. He tries not to make eye contact with any specific person, knowing that the moment he does it will invite a barrage of questions he doesn’t want to answer. Questions he doesn’t have an answer to, which is worse, honestly, than having answers he simply doesn’t wish to provide. "They'll be released at an undisclosed time, as per their wishes, for the sake of privacy. They do not wish to speak to the media at this point."
"Agent Henriksen! Agent Henriksen!"
The voices are a seething mass, leaping and crashing over one another in a rush to be the first noticed, the first addressed. Another thing that’s the same in every city - the insatiable media who smells blood in the water better than any shark in the ocean and stirs up a bigger frenzy than they would, either. Sharks and tabloid reporters. Two of Victor’s least favorite predatory species.
"That's all folks, thank you," he says firmly, cutting the barrage of questions off before they can start. His attention catches for a moment on somebody in the crowd, a man in an odd tan coat skirting around the reporters and eyeing them like they make him nervous. He walks up the stairs and Victor's eyes track him, and then he's gone into the building and the line of sight is broken. Victor clears his throat, looking back to the gaggle of journalists, repeating, "Thank you," and turning around to go back inside.