Characters: Dean and Sam, OC
It moved too fast for Dean to register more that a flash of pale color and a gush of fetid odor. He tensed, but even at peak performance, he was no match for a wendigo -- not one that was apparently intent on making them suffer before killing and eating them. It moved directly past him, spinning him with its motion and as he turned, Dean felt a brand-like heat cross his back just above the knife he’d tucked into his waistband.
It was heading for Sam. Directly for Sam. As Dean fell to the ground, unable to keep his balance, he saw the pale blur approach the travois as if in slow motion, saw Sam pull his arms up instinctively to cover his head, and then, amazingly, saw the blur deflect off to the right as if it had encountered an invisible wall.
Dean lay on the ground on his right side, the flare gun in his right hand, pointed toward the direction he’d seen the blur go. He blinked wide, shocked eyes at Sam, who was slowly lowering his arms, his dark eyes just as surprised. Then, Dean grinned. Sam blinked at him in astonishment.
“Yeah!” Dean bellowed from the ground. “How do you like THAT?!”
Sam stared at his brother. “What the hell?”
Dean grinned, still on the ground, laying on his right side. He didn’t look like he had any intention of moving. “Couldn’t get you, Sammy. You see that?” He tilted his head back and yelled to the canopy of trees, “Couldn’t get him you sonuvabitch!”
Sam blinked wildly at Dean. Something was wrong. Why wasn’t Dean getting up? Why didn’t he bounce right back up, ready to grab the wendigo, ready to wrestle it to the ground… Sam shook his head. He rubbed a shaking hand over his face. Get a grip, Sam.
Something was wrong… “Dean?” he called. “Dean, uh…”
“Gimme a minute, Sam,” Dean panted from over to his right. He had rolled so that he could leverage his upper body up with his right elbow, but as soon as he did so, he knew that he was in trouble. The fire-brand he felt across his back shot a trembling ice-cold heat through his body. He couldn’t seem to get his arms to obey him. He pulled his bottom lip in, lifting his eyes to look for the wendigo.
It wouldn’t be deterred that easily, he knew. When denied entrance to the cave it had eviscerated a wolf. Dean knew he had to be ready for its next attack. He had to make sure it didn’t get Sam.
“Dean,” Sam said again, his voice trembling.
“Stay there, Sam,” Dean panted, his eyes still scanning the trees, shaking a bit on his elbow, trying to get his feet under him, needing to stand. “It’s not gone.”
The tone in Sam’s voice chilled Dean. He blinked and slowly turned his head toward his brother. Sam sat very still, both hands gripping his right leg just above the knee. His head was directed toward his feet, but his eyes slid sideways to see his brother. On the other side of him, away from Dean and just a few feet from the travois, stood the wendigo.
Dean swallowed. “Shit,” he whispered.
He saw Sam’s eyes on him. He met them and shook his head once. Keeping his eyes on the wendigo and clenching his jaw shut, he ignored the knife-slice of pain that shot from his shoulders to his lower back, and pulled his legs up and pushed himself to his knees. He had to take a breath. And then, unbelievably, the wendigo smiled. A cold, dead smile, eerie in its humanlike appearance, evil in its emptiness.
Dean blinked, pulling his head back in an automatic reaction of shocked repulsion. He could see that this creature didn’t look as… far gone as the one in the cave. It was bone-thin, its skin an almost blue-white transparent parchment stretched over unnaturally long bone structure, its fingers lengthened by the claw-like nails clicking as it subtly rotated its hands. Dean could feel his heartbeat in his back and knew that the fire-hot pain there was due to those claws. He didn’t want to know how bad it was. It wouldn’t matter anyway. He had a job to do.
The smile worried him. The face seemed to hold some human qualities – a bit of a nose, thin lips, and opaque eyes that still flashed something akin to thought. Something like emotion. Dean swallowed. He knew what the wendigo had once been. He knew it had once been human. But he’d only ever encountered the creatures that had long ago left their humanity behind. Seeing one that still knew how to do more than simply hunt them… one that knew how to get to them…
Carefully, slowly, Dean eased himself to his feet, setting his legs slightly apart hoping it would help to balance him. For a moment when he stood, there were two wendigos, two Sams, two travois. Without thinking, he reached out a hand to grab onto something, realizing belatedly that he was standing on open ground. He wavered dangerously for a moment.
“Dean,” Sam’s voice was a tense, whispered plea.
“M’okay,” Dean whispered back, steadying himself. “I got it.”
“Seyenz,” the word seemed to come from the trees themselves.
The brothers exchanged a startled look. Sam’s eyebrows went up and he mouthed what the fuck? Dean shrugged in return. He looked back at the wendigo. The smile hadn’t wavered. Its teeth were bared, the sides of its mouth pulled back like a puppet master had pulled the right string. Dean shivered.
He raised the flare-gun with his right hand, expecting the wendigo to blur away at any moment. He was acutely aware that his little brother, wounded, sick, and nearly helpless, was sitting between him and the bad guy. His hand trembled, the tortured muscles in his back protesting with a vengeance. He lifted his left hand to steady the gun, amazed that the creature hadn’t moved. He started to wonder if it knew something he didn’t. He was slightly surprised to see the amount of blood on the back of his left hand. He steadied his grip on the gun, and leveled it on the wendigo. The smile was starting to creep him out.
Breathe, Dean, he heard his father’s voice in his head, as clear as if John had been standing next to him, just out of eyeline, whispering instructions. It’s just you and it… one of you has to walk away…
“Sam,” he said in a low command, pulling John’s voice from his ears through his voice, knowing his brother would hear, knowing his brother would obey. “Get down.”
He never took his eyes from the wendigo, but he could see his brother’s movement. As soon as Sam dropped, Dean pulled the trigger and the flare shot out in a true arch aiming directly at the wendigo... and hitting nothing. It continued until it buried itself into the soft ground about ten feet beyond Sam.
“Dammit!” Dean growled, dropping the gunsight, but not relaxing his grip. He hadn’t even seen the creature move.
He smelled it before he saw it. He started to turn toward the smell, feeling like he was moving underwater, and felt something hard clip him across the chin, knocking him viciously to the ground.
Dean pressed his right hand against his chest, dragging in gulps of breath. I’m okay, Sammy… I’m okay…
He realized he hadn’t spoken out loud. Sam’s voice was frantic.
“Get the other flare,” he said, surprised at how weak he sounded to his own ears. He lifted his head, looking at Sam. The flare that he’d fired was still burning and had ignited the dried leaves on the forest floor around it. “Well, shit,” he mumbled, rolling to his stomach and pushing himself to his knees.
Their heads jerked upwards simultaneously at the sound of the child’s cry. Dean pushed himself to his feet, keeping his eyes up, opening the flare gun.
“It’s in the goddamn trees,” he muttered. Searching the tree canopy with uncooperative vision, he moved slowly over to Sam, and held out his hand without looking at his brother. He felt Sam drop the flare canister in his hand. He shoved it into the gun and flipped it closed, his lips pursed with the concentrated effort it took to do such a simple task.
“Last one, man,” Sam whispered.
“Yeah,” Dean answered. He heard the fire from the wayward flare crackle. He glanced once more at the tree canopy. Moving carefully over to Sam, he looked down at him briefly. Sam’s face was pale and sweaty. He gripped his leg, and held his lower lip in his teeth like he was keeping a scream trapped inside. He didn’t meet Dean’s eyes; instead he scanned the forest around behind his brother knowing how quickly the wendigo could move.
Dean walked cautiously to the fire and began to slowly, carefully kick dirt over the flames, stomping on the flare until it was extinguished. He swallowed a suddenly nauseous feeling and the trees in front of him doubled, then slid back to where they belonged. He knew he was in trouble. The combination of the sharp pain from the new wounds on his back and the slow, sullen pain in his head and arm were swiftly wearing him down. The pain spoke to him. Told him it was staying around for awhile.
He started to turn back toward Sam, his gut clenching as he thought of how pale and drawn his brother looked. The ride in the travois, while quite literally their only hope of escape, had been hard on him and wasn’t about to get any easier. He gripped the gun, completing his turn, and about bit through his lip when he saw the wendigo standing in the clearing he’d just vacated, on the other side of Sam.
“Seyenz,” the whispered voice came from everywhere. Dean’s eyes widened and he began to pull the gun up. He was sick of this bastard putting Sam between them.
“Dean, wait!” Sam spoke up, his voice low, urgent.
Dean held his right arm straight, left hand supporting it, his head tilted to the side so that he could get a bead on the creature. He couldn’t afford to miss.
“What, Sam?” he growled.
“It can’t get me!”
“It’s toying with you, man,” Sam said, his teeth clenched. “It can’t get to me.”
Sam’s abbreviated logic hit home. You only have one shot, Dean, make it count… don’t fire from emotion… Dean started to lower the gun. Be smart, Son. Be smarter than the bad guy… Smarter than the bad guy. Right. How do you outsmart a somewhat-human wendigo? Dean blinked and in a blur of motion the wendigo moved from the other side of Sam to stand directly in front of Dean. He almost gagged at the stench, stumbling back in surprise.
“Seyenz,” this time Dean saw that the words came from the creature, its head tilting crazily to the side. Dean blinked rapidly, his mind searching in vain for a solution smarter than shooting it point blank with the flare and potentially lighting himself on fire.
Before he got a chance to think much past fire bad, he was flying through the air. He landed, hard, on his left side in the clearing near Sam. If he could have gotten air into his tortured lungs he would have screamed from the pain in his arm. He blinked wildly up at Sam. Panic, complete in its purity, took hold of him and dug deep. We have to run… we have to get out… get Sam, drag him… get out…
He was finally able to gasp in a breath of air, but just as he did he was ripped up from the ground and felt the wind rush passed his cheeks as he was flying again. This time when he landed, he curled in and tucked his head. He just needed to breathe, just get his breath. If he could get a second to fucking breathe…
The fear in Sam’s cry cut through the fog in his head. He opened his eyes and lifted his head. The wendigo stood above him. The dead, puppet-master smile graced its skeletal face. It lifted a hand, the lethal nails flashing in the mid-day sun that broke through the trees. Oh shit, Dean thought.
Then he heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire. Bullets slammed into the wendigo twice before it screeched and blurred away. Dean twisted around to look at Sam. He looked terrible in his fury, the gun still trained on the empty air where the wendigo stood, his body twisted at the waist to keep his leg steady, his jaw set, his eyes dark.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Sam?”
Sam pulled his lips back, sliding his eyes to Dean in an expression of defiant anger Dean had seen too many times – only in times past it had been directed at their Dad. “I think I’m stopping that bastard from turning you into lunch.”
Dean rolled to his knees, looking around. “Where did it go?”
Sam shrugged, tipping the gun up so that it wasn’t pointed at his brother. “Trees?”
Dean stood carefully, looking around. “Maybe we should… should go,” he said, trying to pull in air. His back flashed hot with each breath.
“It will track us,” Sam shook his head once.
“You got a better idea?”
“Yeah,” Sam said immediately, “You get on this canvas and we wait it out.”
Dean shook his head, “You’re staying put, Sammy.” He started to close the distance between them, holding the flare gun in front of him.
“Dude, get on the canvas with me,” Sam said. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his brother this battered and still on his feet. Dean had been hurt pretty bad before, but Sam had never seen him fight through it like this.
Dean lifted his head, his eyebrows pulled together. He opened his mouth to say that there was no way in hell he was sitting on Sam’s lap and waiting for the wendigo to show up when he was sidelined by a pale blur. The impact knocked the flare gun from his hands, but this time when he fell toward the ground he grabbed the paper-thin skin of the wendigo’s wasted arms as he went down.
The creature screamed in fury, but Dean held on -- held on as if his life depended on it, as if Sam’s life depended on it. His teeth bared, a growl in his throat, he held on and rolled with the creature on the forest floor. You are not going to get the best of me… you will not get my brother… you will not destroy us… you will not destroy us…
He felt a strange sort of strength blossoming from somewhere in his gut and he harnessed it, using it to push the wendigo from him, to reach with one swift hand for the knife he’d somehow managed to keep lodged in the waistband of his jeans, to wield the knife with the expert hands of a man who knew it better than a lover, and to plunge the silver blade into the side of the creature.
The creature’s scream physically shook him, the stench made him gag, but still he held on. He removed the knife when the wendigo turned them, the creature working to gain back control, working to get its claws into Dean’s neck, working to deliver the incapacitating blow, and he plunged it in again, this time joining the wendigo’s scream with his own cry of pain.
The wendigo tried to pull away, bracing its body on Dean’s wounded arm, pushing from its prey in a tangled confusion of reversed roles. Dean held firm. This was it. This was his final stand. If he failed now, he failed them all. He failed Sam.
“Nagazh,” the wendigo screeched. It managed to get a bit of distance and Dean started to lose his precious purchase on the creature’s arm. With a desperate attempt to regain his grip, his strength, he reached for his knife, but the turn of the wendigo pulled it from its body.
It was John’s voice. He responded immediately, his knife gripped in his hands, he let his body go boneless, dropping to the forest floor. He heard the shhnt as the flare-gun fired and then the satisfying scream of pain and anger as it found its mark in the body of the wendigo. He instinctively covered his face and head; the creature had been barely a foot from him when the flare hit.
As it burned, Dean stayed covered. He waited until the screaming stopped before cautiously peeking out from behind his arm to look at the still burning ashes of the wendigo. Slowly, painfully, he rolled to his back wincing as the scores from the wendigo’s claws made contact with the forest floor. His only thought was how did Dad find us?
When he turned, however, he didn’t see his Dad. He saw Sam. He was barely three feet from him, lying on his stomach, his chest lifted from the ground, his right arm slowly lowering the now-empty flare gun. His jaw was set, his eyes dangerous. Dean blinked at him in shock. Wounded and sick maybe, but sure as hell not helpless.
“Sam?” he said, his voice cracking.
“You okay, man?”
Dean couldn’t answer him. He just blinked at Sam. It had been Sam’s voice… “Y-you sounded…” he swallowed, “you sounded just like Dad.”
Sam lowered the gun the rest of the way, carefully pushing himself to his back and sitting up. “No wonder you reacted so fast,” he said on an exhale of pain.
Dean still didn’t move. His body was in a half-curl, pulling his back off of the ground, and his left arm cradled in his right hand. He couldn’t seem to pull his thoughts together, and Sam kept sliding out of focus.
“You broke your promise,” he said suddenly, realizing that Sam was several feet from the travois.
Sam looked at his brother out of the corner of his eyes. “Yeah. I did.”
Dean blinked, dropping his head to the ground, unable to hold it up any longer. “Took you long enough,” he said, a corner of his mouth pulling up into a trembling smile.
Sam’s tired grin reached his eyes as he shook his head. “You’re a friggin’ jerk,” he replied.
Dean’s automatic echo of “Bitch” was faint. The rush of strength that had allowed him to stab the wendigo drained swiftly from him and in its place flowed complete weariness and perfect pain. He blinked his eyes at Sam, trying desperately to pull the two images of his brother together into one. The part of his brain that was still processing coherent thought screamed at him to get up, get to the car, get Sam to help… but it was being drowned out by the increasing volume of his heartbeat in his head.
He tried to roll over, tried to get his arms under himself to push to his knees… if for nothing else than to crawl closer to Sam. But he couldn’t get his body to cooperate with him. His legs were like lead weights, the ache in his left arm went to the bone, and the white-hot pain in his back seemed to be increasing. He took a shaking breath, still working to focus on Sam. He could see his brother’s face, could see Sam leaning closer, pulling himself along the forest floor, but his features were distorted, blurred.
“Dean? Hey, hey man,” Sam’s voice dropped in pitch.
Dean had heard this tone before. He'd heard it in the hospital after the rawhead, in Massachusetts after the banshee, in New Orleans when he’d been in that box. Sam was worried, scared. For him. He opened his mouth to reassure his brother, but couldn’t get any sound past his frozen throat. He blinked slower. Maybe if he just closed his eyes for a little bit… maybe if he just rested for a second.
“Dean! No, hey, come on, man. Open your eyes,” Sam’s voice became urgent.
So tired, Sammy… hurts…
“Dean, don’t, please, don’t fade on me now… it’s gone, man! It’s dead! We can get out of here… aw, dammit. DEAN! Hey… just a little longer, man, okay? The car can’t be far… Don’t… I can’t do this on my own…”
Sam’s voice was fading in and out like a static-filled radio station. Dean pulled every ounce of energy he had and focused it into opening his eyes once. His hazel eyes caught Sam’s, now looming close, and then, his exhaustion complete, he closed them allowing the welcoming darkness to fold him in her embrace.
Sam watched his brother’s eyes close and pounded his fist on the ground in frustration. He looked back over his shoulder to the travois. It was about eight feet from him. Dean’s jacket with the water and other provisions stuffed into the pockets was on the travois. He had to either pull himself and Dean to it, or pull it to them. Damn, but his leg hurt.
“Okay,” he said, rubbing a hand over his face. “Okay.”
He reached over and grabbed the collar of Dean’s shirt with his left hand, keeping his brother’s limp body away from his wounded leg, and with his right hand began the slow, tedious eight-foot journey back to the travois. By the time he reached it, he was trembling with exhaustion and near tears from pain, but he was there. He had Dean and he was there.
He uncapped the water, holding the precious supply to his brother’s lips and pulled Dean’s mouth open to pour a little in, then pressed his lips closed, massaging his throat so Dean would swallow. He did that twice more, then capped the bottle, putting it back on the coat. The sun was shifting slowly through the tree canopy, throwing angled shadows on the forest floor and across the brothers.
Sam closed his eyes, leaning his head over so that his forehead touched Dean’s. He could feel the cold shivers of the fever that had been dogging him all night wrap around him now that he didn’t have to concentrate on fighting, on keeping Dean in the fight, on keeping Dean in sight. He let out a shuddering sigh, gripping his brother’s arms in the closest he’d come to a hug since he’d been ten. He pulled his left hand back at the wet sticky feeling, looking at his palm. It was covered in Dean’s blood.
Sam pressed his lips down in a frown. This was bad. If he couldn’t get Dean awake… this was bad.
“What do we do, now, huh?” Sam said, his voice shaking from suppressed tears of pain and frustration. “You’re the one with the plans, Dean. What do we do now?”
Dean lay with his head on Sam’s leg, his body completely limp. His mouth was slightly parted, his lashes outlining the purple smudges of exhaustion under his eyes, his face a mottled combination of dirt and blood. From this angle Sam could see freckles across Dean’s nose. Funny, he’d forgotten his brother had freckles. How could you look at someone every day of your life for almost a year and miss something like that?
As he stared, he saw Dean’s eyes roll beneath his lids, dreaming. He frowned. Winchester dreams were never good. He shifted his weary body back against the tree the travois was under, pulling Dean up further into his lap, so that he could hold him carefully against his chest, keeping his right leg out and away from his brother. It was then he noticed Dean’s back. Four gouges cut from his left to his right side, two of them bleeding enough to worry Sam.
“Oh, Jesus, Dean,” he whispered. Out of options, he simply pulled Dean against him resting his cheek on the top of his brother’s head. “Just… just don’t go, okay? Just don’t leave me alone.”
Dean stirred, and Sam pulled away to look at his brother’s face. His eyes moved rapidly under his lids, but he didn’t wake. Holding him a little tighter, Sam leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes.
Kingman, AZ 2003
It had been quiet. For days. Five of them, actually. Five days of almost complete silence in the small house they’d rented for three months. Three months was a long time to be in one place these days. Since Sam had graduated high school, Dad had been restless and Dean was happy to oblige. He hadn’t enjoyed staying in one place too long since he was nine. Since he realized that the bad guys could find them, that evil was everywhere.
He stood still in the room he shared with his brother. Correction. Used to share with his brother. Sam’s bed was made, his side of the closet empty – not that they ever had much to put in a closet anyway. All they owned could fit into two duffel bags. Five days. It already felt like a lifetime.
Dean looked out of the window that separated the two beds, a small desk and chair positioned just beneath it. He knew what John was waiting for him to do. He knew they were to leave tonight to hunt. He knew it was a spirit, knew they’d find it, salt and burn, save someone else from becoming a victim, a spirit themselves. He knew he was supposed to care. It used to be why he woke up in the morning. Saving people. Hunting things. But now…
“Ten minutes,” John’s voice startled him.
He turned to see his Dad standing in the doorway, leaning on the jam, one arm tapping the inside wall of the room. He could still remember the anger in his Dad’s face. The anger that masked the complete fear that he couldn’t seem to show Sam. The fear of not being there for Sam. Of not being able to see him, watch over him, protect him. If John had just let Sam see how afraid he’d been the moment the truth was revealed. If he’d just been… just been human with Sam… just in that one instant. Sam probably still would have left for school, but Dean wouldn’t have lost him. Because those words closed a door. John’s words. The low, dead voice. The challenge that pushed his brother away.
“Yeah, ten minutes. Got it.”
“They will be.”
John just nodded, then pushed away from the doorway and moved out of the room to the interior of the house. He had aged five years in the last five days. He hadn’t shaved. Dean was pretty sure he hadn’t slept. But he was a stubborn bastard. One phone call. One days drive. That was all it would take. But then John Winchester would have to admit something he hadn’t been willing to admit in over twenty years.
The house was so quiet Dean could hear his Dad open a cabinet in the kitchen and take down a glass. He held completely still, eyes closed, counting slowly. Take away one of your senses so that the others become more powerful. John had taught him to do that when he needed to hear something he couldn’t see. This time he needed to hear how closely he was going to have to watch his Dad. What was the beverage of choice tonight, Dad? He heard the cap of the bottle of Jameson swish off, topple onto the counter.
Five days ago John would never have taken a drink before a hunt. Five days ago the house wouldn’t have been quiet enough for Dean to have borne witness to his Dad’s weakness. Sam didn’t make the noise that filled the house – he allowed it. Dean was the one that was usually doing all of the talking, playing music, cleaning weapons, generally clattering around. There were only two people in the entire world that he allowed himself to be that way around, to be himself, to let the wall down enough…just enough. And now one of them was gone.
Gone. The word sounded hollow and heavy at the same time. He licked his lips, pulling his bottom lip in and turned to his bed, unmade, with the duffel of weapons sitting on top. He lifted it with one handle, and the open bag sagged, his knife falling to the floor. He sat the duffel down and dropped to the floor to retrieve it, seeing on the floor beneath the desk a CD case. One of Sam’s. He picked it up. He hadn’t heard of the group.
Sam had always hated his music. Dad’s music. Dean liked it because it made him react, angered him, calmed him, empowered him, humbled him. It brought him close to his Dad when John was miles away – even when he was sitting right next to him. Dean had teased his little brother mercilessly on his music choices. Emo rock. You can’t rock and cry at the same time, Sammy
He flipped open the case, stuck the CD in the player, and picked a song at random. An acoustic guitar played slow, the slip of a finger on a string, a deep, gravelly voice sliding over the notes. It was foreign and familiar. He turned to gather the weapons bag so that nothing would fall out. As he looked to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, the lyrics of the song hit him.
“So I speak to you in riddles because my words get in my way. I smoke the whole thing to my head, and feel it wash away. Cuz I can't take anymore of this. I want to come apart.”
“Dammit, Sammy,” he whispered. He felt like someone had hit him, hard, in the gut. He stood still, duffel in his hand, his body facing the door, his head turned toward the player, a hand pressed to his stomach.
“Cuz it's always raining in my head. Forget all the things I should have said. I am nothing more than a little boy inside that cries out for attention, though I always try to hide. And I talk to you like children, but I don't know how I feel. But I know I'll do the right thing if the right thing is revealed.”
The bad part about having no one to talk to meant that he now had to be alone with his thoughts, alone in his head. That was not a place he wanted to be right now. He turned and hit the power button on the player.
“Dean, let’s go.”
He walked to the door, hefting the weapons. He followed his father to the door, to the car, to the junkyard, to the shallow grave. He blasted the spirit with rocksalt when it came after John. He pulled John away from the danger when his Dad didn’t move fast enough. He poured salt on the bones, drenched them with lighter fluid, struck the match, and watched them burn. And as he helped his Dad to the car, he realized he had done it all without saying a word.