Characters: Dean and Sam, OC
Notes/Disclaimers/Summary: This story is set in Season 1 between “Provenance” and “Dead Man’s Blood." When a hunt goes sideways, the brothers are hurt and lost in the northern Minnesota woods. They have only each other and their skills to get them out...and they aren't alone. They are being tracked by the 'perfect hunter.'
The sheriff had laughed at him. Doc had conceded that there might be something to his theory. Mark and Brian, well, they were teenagers. They would believe anything. And Mark was studying with the shaman, so he was easier to convince than his brother. But the mere thought that the deaths – five of them in all – could be attributed to a creature of legend, a myth, was inconceivable to the majority of the tribe.
They had lost touch with the old ways. They lived in an age of computers and cell phones. Of markets and refrigerators. They didn’t care where the meat came from, they didn’t listen to the chants of the hunter, thanking the Spirit of the hunt, thanking the Guardians of the hunters. The tribal shaman was nearing one hundred years old. As he left to hunt the wendigo, he had stopped there to look in the old man’s eyes. He’d seen there his conviction. His purpose.
In the early evening, when the sky was still too bright to be night, but too dark to be day, he found them. At first he wasn’t sure if they were alive. He saw the pile of ash and the distinct markings of a fierce struggle. He saw the travois with the tall, dark-haired boy stretched out on it. The broken leg looked bad; infection had begun. The other boy, though… he leaned forward carefully, not yet touching him. He was in a curled heap, his head on the younger boy’s chest. He was bloody from back to front.
As he leaned in he could see a bare slit of green showing through thick lashes. He reached out to touch the battered face. The boy flinched, turning his head slowly. The green eyes caught sight of him and blinked. He could see they were glassy with pain and exhaustion. He started to open his mouth to reassure him, to let him know he was there to help. He wasn’t prepared for the word the boy uttered in a thin, broken voice.
His heart caught. These two had very obviously been through hell – they looked like warriors home from battle where even the winning side had lost. There was a bloody knife next to the curled body of the boy. It was a hunter’s knife. Someone had to know what they were doing to effectively wield such a weapon.
“Easy,” he said as the boy tried to lift his head. He saw the immediate flash of pain pull across his face. It was hard to assess his injuries. He had blood covering his back, his left arm and hand, his face. He was slumped on his right side, so it was impossible to see if the injuries covered that side as well.
“Dad?” he said again, blinking his eyes in an effort to pull him into focus.
“N-no, son,” he started, his hand hovering carefully over the boy’s shoulder as he tried again to raise his head. “My name is Abe.”
He looked at the boy’s green eyes again, seeing pain, seeing confusion. His pupils were wide in the dimming light, and Abe surmised by the deep gash covered in dried blood near his temple that part of his confusion stemmed from a concussion… the rest, though… Abe looked at the younger boy on the travois, then over his shoulder at the pile of ashes.
“You killed it,” he said, awe plain in his voice.
“H-how,” the boy began, licking his bottom lip and pulling it into his mouth briefly. “How did you find us?”
Abe couldn’t tell if the kid still thought he was his Dad or not, so he answered him as honestly as he could. “I tracked you.”
He saw a look of chagrin cross the boy’s face.
“Yeah,” he whispered, blinking glassy eyes at him. “I guess I didn’t cover our trail all that well. That travois was friggin’ heavy and… the sonuvabitch played us, Dad.”
Guess that answers that question, Abe thought. “You killed it,” he repeated, somehow needing this boy to confirm that the beast was gone, that his people were safe.
“Yeah,” the boy whispered, trying again to sit up. Abe carefully eased a hand behind his shoulder and pulled his head from the other boy’s chest and helped him balance in a semi-sitting position. “It was a crafty bastard, though. Not like the one in the cave.”
Abe started. “Wait, what?”
The boy nodded, his apparently uninjured right hand going up to rub gingerly at the cut on his head. Abe winced in sympathy. Kid must have one hell of a headache.
“It… it talked,” the boy said, the heel of his hand pressing into the bridge of his nose, his eyes closing in obvious pain.
“The one in the cave?” Abe said, staring hard at the boy.
He shook his head. “There were two,” he sighed. “This hunt did not work out like we’d planned.”
Abe looked from the green-eyed boy to the one on the travois. He was unconscious and breathing heavily. His face was covered with a sheen of sweat and there was a fever flush coloring his pale skin. Abe could see blood on the side of the jacket that was covering him, but a quick examination helped him realize that the blood was not his. It was… what were they, partners? Friends?
“Dad, check on Sammy, okay?” the boy whispered as he held his head gingerly.
Brothers. That was the tone he heard. They were brothers, and this one was the older one, the protector. Simply looking at him, Abe could tell he was hanging on by a very thin thread, and yet his concern was for the other.
Abe looked at the boy’s – Sammy’s he remembered – leg. “You set it well,” he said. “But it needs attention. That’s where the fever is coming from.”
“Yeah,” the boy sighed again, the word barely more than an exhale of air. “He wouldn’t go to sleep.”
“He was… he was worried about me,” he replied. Abe was amazed at the note of disgust he heard there. “He falls and breaks his leg fighting that sonuvabitch and he’s worried about me.”
“You don’t look too good, Son.”
“M’fine,” he said, waving his right hand dismissively. “We gotta get Sam back to the car, Dad. Get help. Can’t call from here.”
“Where’s your car?”
“Over off of Kingsley Trail.” He said, rolling his neck.
Abe sat back on his heels. Kingsley Trail was about ten miles west of their location. His reservation was a five miles east. He knew he had to get these boys to help. Though awake and speaking, the older boy was badly injured and his confusion about Abe’s identity worried him. He knew that he could get them help back at the reservation, but how to convince him it was the right idea?
“We’re closer to the reservation,” he said.
“That’s what I thought,” the boy answered, staring at the ground, but Abe could tell he wasn’t seeing anything. He could hear it in his voice… this kid was blaming himself for something. “I’m sorry, Dad,” he said softly.
Abe couldn’t help himself. “What for?”
“I couldn’t get him out. I really screwed this up,” Abe looked at his profile, watched the jaw muscle jump, watched the chin quiver slightly. He knew nothing about this kid – not even his name – and he suddenly ached for him.
“Let’s just get you guys out of here,” Abe replied, trying to figure out the best way to do that very thing.
“He killed them both,” the boy whispered.
Abe had started to stand up, but dropped back to the ground at that. “What do you mean?”
“Sammy,” the boy clarified, giving him a quick sidelong glance. “You would have been proud of him, Dad. He killed them both.”
Abe gaped at the unconscious form on the travois. “How?”
Lips pressed together, the kid shook his head once. “Just did. You trained us well. The damn thing threw me off a ledge – into a wall. When I came to, he’d taken it out.”
“The one in the cave,” Abe asked, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that there were two. After the third body had been discovered, he’d figured out where one had come from – the only one, he’d thought. He’d back-tracked the signs, the tell-tail signs that took him back to the old shaman. He learned of the one who’d preceded him, learned what abuse of that power could lead to -- had led to. But two? Where had the other one come from?
“Yeah,” the kid said. “This one, though… it wasn’t… wasn’t,” he paused, and took a breath. “It said something. Bastard could still talk. Sounded like… séance.”
With a cold chill, Abe realized what the boy meant. Seyenz. Brother. Had that meant the creature knew he was battling brothers? Or… did that mean the other wendigo… Abe suddenly realized that the kid had rolled to his knees and was attempting to get his feet under him.
“Wait, wait,” Abe said, trying to keep the boy seated for a moment longer. He had to figure out how he was going to get both of them out of there, and he didn’t want this kid passing out on him.
“Dad, Sam needs help,” he said, turning to face him. Abe braced himself for the flash of realization that he wasn’t the person he thought he was; he knew by looking at the boys that their father was more than likely not Native American. But the wounded eyes simply blinked at him. “We can’t wait.”
Abe knew nothing about head injuries. He knew where to apply a tourniquet, how to set a bone, but when it came to the mind, he was out of his element. He wanted to know the boy’s name, but his father wouldn’t ask that question. He wanted to make the boy wait, check his injuries, but the kid was determined to get his brother to safety. In frustration, Abe shrugged the backpack off of his shoulders and snapped at the boy.
“Just wait. We’ll get your brother help soon enough,” his voice was clipped, harsh with concern.
“Yessir,” was the immediate response.
Abe’s eyebrows went up, but he masked his surprise lest the boy see him. So, it was the direct approach with this kid and his old man, then. Abe could do that. His father had been in the Navy. Abe was used to following direct orders; he could just as easily give them.
“First, let me see where you’re injured,” he said.
“I told you, I’m fine! Sam’s leg –“
“Hey,” the tone cut the boy’s words off. “I am either going to need to carry you out and come back and get him, or visa versa. I need to see you to know which way it’s going to go.”
The stricken look that crossed the boy’s eyes hit Abe like a punch to the gut.
“We’re not leaving him, Dad,” he said.
“NO. No way. I can walk. I’ll walk,” the voice shook with pain and emotion.
“Son, you look like you got more blood on the outside of you than on the inside,” Abe protested.
“C’mon, Dad. I’ve been hurt worse than this. Remember the werewolf in Cripple Creek?”
Abe swallowed. He felt the blood drain from his face, but the kid was looking down again and didn’t notice. Werewolf? What had these boys dealt with? He had just come to accept the fact that the wendigo was not a story of myth and legend, but a real threat to the survival of his people. But, a werewolf? What was he going to say next, that ghosts were real?
“Fine,” Abe said when he could trust his voice. “But I still need to know what we’re dealing with.”
“Fine,” he echoed. “First one took a swipe at my arm and threw me against a cave wall, and second one took a swipe at my back.”
Abe swallowed, and watched the kid look down at something next to him. He picked up the large bowie knife, dirty with blood.
“I got the bastard back, though,” he said softly, an odd little smile turning up the edges of his mouth.
“Dean,” the word was low, and the voice was strained. The kid dropped the knife and immediately turned to the figure on the travois, hissing in pain as his body rebelled against his sudden movement. Abe breathed a small sigh of relief at finally knowing his name.
“Hey,” he said, “hey, Sammy. I’m here.”
Abe watched as Sam turned his face toward his brother’s voice, not opening his eyes. Dean gripped Sam’s hand to back up his words.
Sam didn’t move or speak again, he just lay with his face turned toward Dean, his hand lax in his brother’s hand. Abe watched the muscle in Dean’s jaw jump. He was surprised at how much this boy conveyed with such subtle expressions. His worry for his brother was palpable.
“Sam?” he said again, giving his brother’s hand a shake. When Sam didn’t respond, Dean bowed his head slightly, then looked up at Abe.
“We have to get him out of here,” he said in a broken voice.
Abe gave in. The look of pained despair in those eyes was too much for him. He nodded.
“Yeah, okay,” he dug through his backpack for his canteen. “Here, drink some first.”
Dean took a long swallow, then turned to his brother. Prying Sam’s mouth open, he poured a little water in, closing his mouth to help him swallow. He did that a few times over until he was satisfied. He then handed the canteen back to Abe. Abe stood, shouldering his rifle, then reached a hand down to Dean. Dean was looking at his gun.
“Since when do you have a hunting rifle, Dad?”
Abe shrugged. “Why?”
“Wait, you were tracking us?” he asked, as though rewinding their conversation in his head.
Hearing the suspicion creep through Dean’s voice, but not knowing where it was coming from, Abe simply nodded.
“Did you know what we were hunting?”
“I had my suspicions,” Abe answered carefully.
“Dad,” Dean said in an incredulous voice. “You can’t kill a wendigo with a rifle.”
Abe thought fast. “I wasn’t after the wendigo, I was after you two.”
Dean blinked. Somehow in his tangled head that seemed to make sense and Abe breathed out a sigh of relief when he nodded. Dean looked down at Sam, releasing his hand, and laying it across the younger boy’s chest.
He then reached out a hand to Abe. Abe knew hauling him up from the ground like that would pull on his back; he bent low before Dean could protest, stepped up next to him with an arm low across his back, avoiding the cuts.
“On three,” Abe said. “One, two –“ he felt Dean push up and lifted him the rest of the way.
Dean’s stifled cry of pain pulled at Abe’s heart. How was he going to get him to walk five miles? He held onto him for a moment as he caught his breath. As he stepped away, he did so slowly, keeping his right arm in his grip until he was sure that Dean had his balance.
Abe cringed at his deception. “Yeah?”
“Thanks,” Dean’s voice was a low. “Thanks for coming for us.”
Abe closed his eyes, pressing his lips together. “Dean, I’m not –“
“I know that you probably want to read me the riot act about now,” Dean continued, his eyes cast down, pinned to his brother. “And believe me, I know I deserve it. But… just… let’s get Sammy out of here first, okay?”
Abe nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He left Dean standing with his feet spread slightly apart for balance and walked around to the front of the travois. It looked like he’d fashioned a harness out of a green duffel bag.
“You made this thing?”
“Not bad, kid,” Abe admired.
“Geeze, you and Sam are just alike,” Dean shook his head. “No respect.”
Abe had to grin at the sarcastic tone. The sun was below the horizon and the brilliant gold of the sunset didn’t quite permeate the darkness inside the forest. The canopy of trees filtered the still-weak starlight, but as the sun faded, the moon’s brilliance grew and began to sneak through the openings in the trees to bathe the three of them in a blue-white light. Dean stood still, looking at him, waiting. The blood on his face appeared black in the moonlight, and the unmarked side of his face was almost white. He could see the kid shake with pain and exhaustion, but he held himself as still as possible, awaiting instructions, awaiting an order.
Abe looked around and saw a pistol and a flare gun not far from the knife Dean had dropped on the ground. He walked over and picked both up. He looked at the flare gun questioningly, then his eyes shot over to the pile of ashes. You can’t kill a wendigo with a rifle… It hit him then just how out of his element he had been when departing on his crusade to save the reservation. He’d been hunting bear, deer, and the like for the better part of thirty years – longer than either of these boys had been alive. And yet, had they not found and killed the wendigo first, he would have become its next victim.
He put the weapons in his backpack, then shifted it low on his back to make room on his shoulders for the harness. He saw how Dean had tied the harness together so that it dispersed the weight evenly across his chest and didn’t pull on his arms. Considering the shape of Dean’s left arm, it was created that way purposefully. Kid was damn clever.
Abe looked over his shoulder at Dean, who was standing where he left him, listing slightly to one side, his left arm cradled in his right hand, his eyes now on his brother. There was something about the look on his face, the way his eyes seemed riveted, his brows pulled together across the bridge of his nose, lips pressed together in a small frown… Abe was trying to place the expression. Concerned, sure, but… something else.
“Dean,” he said, calling the eyes up to him. “Here’s how it’s gonna go, you with me?”
Dean nodded, but Abe didn’t miss the tremble that shook his body. Resolutely ignoring it, he continued. “I’ll lead the way with Sam here. You keep close, watch him, okay?”
It was the right thing to say. He saw the defeated expression vanish and in its place swiftly flowed resolve. Giving him something to do, telling him to watch Sam, had kick-started a reserve of energy in Dean that Abe hadn't been sure was there. If he wasn’t going to be able to walk the five miles to the reservation, he would kill himself trying. That much was obvious.
“Let’s do it,” Dean nodded.
Abe shifted the harness and lifted the top of the travois from the ground. He heard Sam groan once at the movement, but then fall silent. He took a couple of steps forward, then looked over his shoulder. In the moonlight, he could see Dean next to the travois, his eyes on his brother, his expression miles away.
Brookings, SD 2006
“What the hell are you doing here?” Sam’s smile of pleased surprise turned to worry in the space of a heartbeat.
Dean leaned weakly against the doorframe. He hurt everywhere, he could barely breathe, and he knew that if Sam didn’t help him inside he was going to fall on his face inside of two minutes, but he had never been more happy to see his brother than in this moment. “I checked myself out.”
“What, are you crazy?”
I would have been if I had to stay in that hospital, alone, one more minute. “Well, I’m not gonna die in a hospital where the nurses aren’t even hot.” He shrugged, using sarcasm as a defense against the very real fear that was gripping him harder than the pain in his chest. He was going to have to leave Sam. And there was no coming back from this trip.
Sam shook his head with a laugh of disbelief. He opened the door wider to let Dean roll his shoulders from the door jam to the inside wall for support. “You know, this whole I-laugh-in-the-face-of-death thing? It’s crap. I can see right through it”
I know, Sammy. And that’s why I need you right now. Because this is all I have left. It’s my only defense. “Yeah, whatever, dude. Have you even slept? You look worse than me.”
Sam put a hand on his lower back and another on his elbow. In any other situation he would have shrugged him off, but Dean knew that he was two seconds from collapse and accepted the help without complaint. Sam helped him sit in a chair, then dropped on to the bed directly across from him. Though nearly four inches taller than his older brother, when seated thus, Sam’s knees were level with Dean’s. Dean couldn’t help but notice that another fraction of an inch and they’d be touching. When had he craved touch so badly? Just the idea that someone wanted him close enough to them…
Sam rubbed his hands nervously on the tops of his thighs. “I’ve been scouring the Internet for the last three days. Calling every contact in Dad’s journal.”
Dean was confused. That’s why Sam hadn’t been to the hospital all day? “For what?”
“For a way to help you.”
Oh, Sammy. Don’t. Don’t do this… Your hope might kill me.
“One of Dad’s friends, Joshua, he called me back. Told me about a guy in Nebraska. A specialist.”
Dean sighed, “You’re not gonna let me die in peace, are you?”
“I’m not gonna let you die, period. We’re going.”
“You still with me, Dean?” It had been quiet behind him for awhile.
“Yeah,” Dean’s voice was low. A quick peak over his shoulder told Abe that his gaze was still cast down to his brother.
“You need a break?”
“Just keep going, Dad,” Dean said, followed by a gasp of pain.
“Yes,” the word was said through teeth clenched against his weakness, against the very idea that he might not be able to make it.
“Sam’s going to be okay, Dean,” Abe said. Somehow he knew that getting Sam to help was the only thing keeping this kid moving. They had destroyed a creature that moved faster than sight and butchered people without mercy, yet the idea that his brother was in need of help that he couldn’t provide was killing him.
“He’d better,” was the muttered reply.
“You just need to focus on following us,” Abe said. When silence was his only reply, he looked over his shoulder at the wounded man following the travois closely. “Dean?”
30,000 feet above Indianapolis, IN 2005
“Come on! That can’t be normal”!
“Hey, hey, it’s just a little turbulence.”
“Sam, this plane is going to crash, okay? So quit treatin’ me like I’m friggin’ four!”
“You need to calm down.”
“Well, I’m sorry, I can’t!”
“Yes, you can.”
“Dude, stow the touchy-feely, self-help yoga crap, it’s not helping!”
“Listen, if you’re panicked, you’re wide open to demonic possession, so you need to calm yourself down right now.”
“Dean?” Abe called again.
“Yeah,” Dean replied.
“Dad, why’d you come for us?”
Abe closed his eyes briefly. Well, it was bound to happen… he had just started to hope that they could get closer to help before he had to force Dean to realize that he wasn’t with their father.
“Look, Dean, I –“
“’Cause you know, you made it pretty clear that being with us…” Dean paused, and Abe heard him clench his teeth against a blast of pain. “Being with us was a danger. Made you an easier target for the demon,” this last bit said in a tight voice.
Demon?! Abe almost stumbled at that. Surely he was joking. Abe cast a furtive glance over his shoulder. Not joking. Not in that condition. He was completely serious about a demon.
Abe tried again. “Dean –“
“And I went with it. I agreed… You didn’t see his face, did you? See how it hurt him to watch you walk away…”
Abe swallowed, unsure how to respond to that. There was so much pain in those words. Abe was unsure how to assuage a pain that went deeper than the outside, deeper than words could reach, deeper than tears.
“Do you know how many times Sammy’s saved my ass over this last year, Dad?”
“I’m sure you’ve returned the favor,” Abe muttered. As far as Abe was concerned, of the two boys, Dean was in worse shape and Abe was convinced that the only reason he was on his feet at the moment was because Sam was not.
“That’s not the point,” Dean argued. “It’s my job. You know that, Dad.”
Abe swallowed. “I’m not your Dad,” he blurted.
“You know he tried to leave me once? Wanted to go to California and find you,” Dean continued as though Abe hadn’t spoken. “I insisted we go save that couple you sent us to in Indiana, but finding you, being with you… it’s all Sam could think about.”
Intrigued despite himself, Abe stayed silent, listening to Dean’s mumbled memories. He was speaking in almost staccato beats, as though timing his words to a rhythm in his head.
“I let him go, too. I still can’t believe I did that. Let him walk away from me. In the night. In the middle of nowhere.”
Burkitsville, IN / Bus Station 2006
“The scarecrow climbed off its cross?”
Dean gripped the Impala’s steering wheel a bit tighter, his cell phone in his right hand pressed to his ear to make sure he didn’t miss a word. “Yeah, I’m tellin’ ya. Burkitsville, Indiana. Fun town.”
“It didn’t kill the couple, did it?”
Dean’s lips quirked. “No. I can cope without you, you know.”
Sam ignored that, going directly to the problem at hand. He always thought very linearly, “So, something must be animating it. A spirit.”
“No, it’s more than a spirit. It’s a god. A Pagan god, anyway.”
“What makes you say that?”
Dean shook his head, “The annual cycle of its killings? And the fact that the victims are always a man and a woman. Like some kind of fertility rite. And you should see the locals. The way they treated this couple. Fattenin’ ‘em up like a Christmas turkey.”
He could practically see Sam nod. “The last meal. Given to sacrificial victims.”
“Yeah, I’m thinking a ritual sacrifice to appease some Pagan god.”
“So, a god possesses the scarecrow...”
“And the scarecrow takes its sacrifice. And for another year, the crops won’t wilt, and disease won’t spread.”
He heard Sam’s thoughtful sigh through the phone line. “Do you know which god you’re dealing with?”
“No, not yet.”
“Well, you figure out what it is, you can figure out a way to kill it.”
“I know. I’m actually on my way to a local community college. I’ve got an appointment with a professor,” he paused, shrugging a grin into the phone. “You know, since I don’t have my trusty sidekick geek boy to do all the research.”
Sam’s laugh tugged at something inside of him. Dammit, man, I just got you back… and now…
After a moment, Sam said, “You know, if you’re hinting you need my help, just ask.”
Dean shook his head. “I’m not hinting anything,” he licked his lips, then continued. “Actually, uh—I want you to know….I mean, don’t think…”
Sam’s voice was low. “Yeah. I’m sorry, too.”
Dean pressed his lips together. He couldn’t just let his brother go…not like that. He had to tell him... He needed Sam to know. ”Sam. You were right. You gotta do your own thing. You gotta live your own life.”
“Are you serious?”
Dean nodded into the phone, feeling the unfamiliar burn of tears at the back of his eyes. “You’ve always known what you want. And you go after it. You stand up to Dad. And you always have. Hell, I wish I…” I wish I could tell Dad what I think… I wish I could make him listen… I wish I had your courage… He shook himself, “Anyway….I admire that about you. I’m proud of you, Sammy.”
Sam’s voice was tight. “I don’t even know what to say.”
“Say you’ll take care of yourself.”
“Call me when you find Dad.”
Part Ten can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/11873.html