Characters: Dean and Sam, OC
“He came back,” Abe said, listening to Dean.
“Yeah,” Dean sighed. “Yeah he did. But he wouldn’t have found you anyway, would he,” Dean wasn’t asking a question. Abe simply waited. “You didn’t want to be found. And no one can make you do something you don’t want to do.”
Abe winced. There was an undercurrent of bitterness in those words that he suspected had been developed over many years. He wondered where this man was, this father who had taught his sons to hunt wendigos and werewolves. He wondered if he knew the pain in his son’s voice that came from simply speaking his name.
He had to stop at a particularly narrow stand of trees, turning a bit to the right to get around them. The darkness was not a problem for him. He grew up hunting in these woods. He would know how to get home blindfolded. But then he remembered that he had someone following him.
“You hanging in there?” Abe asked. “Dean?”
The silence was weighty. Abe looked over his shoulder, but couldn’t see the pale face behind him. He slowed to a stop, easing the harness off of his shoulders, and lowering the top carefully.
“Where is he,” came a rough, weak voice.
Abe started, looking down at the travois. Sam’s eyes were dark in the moonlight, not bright like his brother’s. There was a dull sort of pain hidden there, shadowed by the fever that was busy burning through him.
“Where is he?”
Abe looked up from Sam to the darkness beyond. “Dean!”
There wasn’t an answer.
“Go,” Sam said, his voice faint. Abe looked down at him. “Go find him.”
Without waiting to find out how long Sam had been awake or if he knew who Abe was – and who Dean thought he was – he began to walk in a straight line back to the stand of trees. He could see exceptionally well in the dark, and the moonlight made that talent even easier. He didn’t see Dean along the path back to the trees. When he reached the trees, he could see on the other side a huddled mass that could only be Dean.
His gut clenched. He picked up his pace, crouching down at the wounded boy’s side. Dean was on his stomach, his right arm stretched out in front of him. Abe reached down and felt for a pulse. He felt the dull throb of Dean’s heart beat beneath his fingers and breathed a sigh of relief. He could see in the moonlight the increasing darkness of the back of Dean’s shirt. He shook his head. Three more miles. They had three more miles to go…
Dean groaned once, then blinked his eyes open. Abe reached for him and their eyes met. For a split second, Abe realized that Dean saw him. He saw Abe. He saw the dark skin, the black hair, the thick braids, the silver earring. Abe saw confusion, concern, suspicion, and wariness flood Dean’s wide eyes, and then a heartbeat later, they were gone as if they had never been there. Dean blinked his eyes and mouthed Dad.
Abe couldn’t bring himself to repeat the truth. Not now. The boy was broken and the only thing keeping him together was the thought that their father had come, that he was getting them to safety.
“I’m here, I’m here, Dean,” he whispered, rolling him over carefully, and offering him some water from his canteen.
“Where’s Sam?” Dean asked when he could speak again.
“He’s okay,” Abe answered.
Dean’s eyes immediately sharpened. “Dad, where is he?”
“He’s okay, Dean. He’s on the travois.”
“You left him?”
Abe clenched his jaw. “I had to… if it helps, he told me to.”
Dean’s eyes widened. “He’s awake?” He immediately started to push himself up with his right hand. Abe hurt for him as he struggled against his own weakness.
“Dean, hey, wait a sec, there, pal,” he said, trying to stop him. Dean wasn’t going to be deterred; he got his upper body up and slowly began pulling his legs under him. “Hey, Dean. Dammit, kid,” Abe was frustrated by his stubborn resolve to sacrifice himself to get to his brother. “He is okay,” Abe gripped Dean’s right arm. It trembled in his hands.
Dean lifted firey eyes to his. “How do you know? You left him,” the venom in his voice shocked Abe.
“What the hell did you want me to do, kid? Bring him all the way back here to find you?”
Dean clenched his jaw, his chin quivering once. “Just – just help me up,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.
“Dean,” Abe shook his head. “You need –“
He saw something then that he hadn’t truly seen in over forty years: devotion. It was as plain in Dean’s eyes as they reflected in the moonlight as the blood covering his face. Abe swallowed whatever words he was going to say, and gripped Dean’s right arm at the elbow, noting the hand that gripped him back was strong, solid.
He lifted Dean to his feet and helped him find his balance.
“Did he say anything?” Dean asked.
Dean nodded, moving carefully next to Abe so that he could follow his path, but not so that they touched.
Abe shrugged. “Just wanted to know where you were, and told me to go get you.”
“But he, uh, he didn’t say…he didn’t say anything to you?”
Abe went a bit cold. “No,” he said, suddenly aching for this boy all over again. He thought of Dean saying that Sam wanted to find their Dad. That he’d left Dean to find their Dad. Something about Dean’s complete devotion to his brother in the face of his injuries told Abe that the reverse situation would never have occurred. “No, Dean, he didn’t say anything.”
Dean’s nod was slow, heavy. “He will, Dad,” he said. “You just gotta give him time.”
Abe didn’t know what to say to that. This boy needed his father. That much was plain. He needed his family. Guiding him carefully by the shoulder, without actually touching him, Abe thought that he could at least get him back to his brother.
When they got in sight of the travois, Abe saw Sam raise his head. Dean picked up his pace slightly, eager to get to his brother. Abe’s gut clenched at what would happen when Sam removed the mask, showed Dean that their father hadn’t come for them.
“Hey, Sammy,” Dean said on a sigh of relief, stumbling tiredly to his knees next to the travois. “You okay?”
“Me? What the hell happened to you, man?”
Dean’s whole bearing seemed to lighten as he grinned at his brother. “I, uh, ran into some old friends.”
Sam shook his head. “You look like crap, Dude.”
“Well, at least I’m on my feet.”
“Whatever, man. I wrestled a wendigo.”
“Yeah, well I shot it,” Sam retorted, then gasped as an obvious seer of pain burned up through his leg. “Twice,” he finished.
Dean frowned. “We’re gonna get you out of here, okay?”
Two sets of eyes shifted up to meet Abe’s. Abe first looked at Dean, reading the expression he realized he would now always associate with the word brother. When his eyes shifted to Sam, however, the look there sent chills down his back. Sam knew. Abe could tell just by looking at him. He knew who Abe was…and who his brother thought he was. Abe realized then that Sam must have been awake for awhile. He held his breath, waiting to see how he’d fill his brother in on the charade.
“I know you will, man,” Sam said, looking at his brother. Dean nodded once, and with what appeared to be a monumental effort, pushed himself back to his feet. Sam dropped his head back onto the travois. Abe shook his head, then lifted the harness back across his shoulders. The next mile was relatively quiet, except for intermittent checks from the boys to each other.
“You walkin’ with your eyes closed, Dean?”
“’Cause, you know, if you want to ride…”
“I’m not sitting on your lap, Dude, so can it.”
“What? I’m sure he could pull us both.”
Abe noticed the he… Sam might not be willing to crash Dean’s perception of reality at the moment, but he wasn’t, apparently, prepared to join in.
“Talk about the ultimate chick-flick moment.”
“Just sayin’… offer’s open.”
“Shut up, Sammy. Go back to sleep.”
Some time later, Abe thought Sam had done as his brother ordered when he heard the weak voice speak up from the depths of the travois again. Sam was keeping an eye on his brother; Abe realized that whenever Sam started talking, Dean had started fading. That his machine-like plodding of one foot in front of the other, his single-minded focus of getting out of there, getting safe had begun to waver on him.
“What song is it, man?”
“In your head… I know you’re singing it. I can see your lips moving.”
“Dude, you really can see in the dark.”
“Why didn’t you ever say so on all those night hunts?”
“My secret weapon, and you’re avoiding the question.”
“What was it again?”
“The song. You’re singing it in beats.”
“You know… from the group… the one that you left the CD… when you…”
“Don’t you fade on me, man.”
“Not fading. Still here.”
“The one that you left in our house… in our room.”
“In our room?”
Dean sighed, “Dude, I'm on the outside, I'm looking in…”
“Oh yeah. I remember now.”
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”
“You left it for me, didn’t you?”
“Well, it’s not like Dad would –“
Abe heard Sam stop with a strangled stilling of breath. He’d been so caught up in keeping his brother talking that he’d forgotten the act for a moment. Abe said nothing. They were getting closer to the reservation. He simply kept his forward momentum, listening to the brothers, learning.
They’d reached a clearing. Abe knew that the first buildings they’d come upon would be just on the other side of the far trees. First the bank, then the market, then the clinic. He began to reach into his pocket to retrieve his phone and check for a signal when he heard Dean call to his brother.
“Sam,” the tone in Dean’s voice changed suddenly, and Abe looked over his shoulder at him. He’d stopped walking. Abe stopped, and Sam’s head came up off of the travois. Dean was breathing hard and Abe could see him swaying in the moonlight, shadows from the trees casting across his face.
“Sam,” he said again, almost like a plea.
“Dean,” Sam tried to lift himself further off of the travois, but his shifting pulled against Abe and set him off balance. Abe hurriedly shifted out of the harness, easing it and Sam to the ground.
As he turned around, Dean went to his knees and Abe’s stomach sank. He moved forward, but stopped when Sam sat up and leaned toward his brother. Dean seemed to melt forward into the air at the same time and Sam caught him. He managed to hold him so that his left arm was up, his right shoulder against Sam’s chest, his back against Sam’s arm.
“Dean, hey, hey,” Sam said, his voice shaking, soft. Abe stepped forward, unsure how to interrupt, unsure if he wanted to.
“Sam,” Dean’s voice was barely audible. “I’m sorry.”
“What? No, no man, nothin’ to be sorry for, you hear me?” Abe heard the tears in Sam’s voice, but couldn’t see his face. It was bent down, facing Dean. The moonlight hit the back of his head so that a shadow covered Dean to mid-chest. Abe could see Dean’s hands visibly shaking.
“Dean? Hey, listen, we’re almost there,” Sam sniffed.
Abe bit his lip. Sam lifted his head. He could see the struggle in his tear-filled eyes. Abe simply looked back at him, trying to tell him without words that he’d follow his lead. It was his brother. He knew best how to keep him going. Abe pressed his lips together against the hard ache in his chest as one tear blinked out of Sam’s dark eyes, leaving a wet trail down his cheek that glistened in the moonlight.
Sam looked back down at Dean. “He’s right here. He’s right here, Dean.”
Abe knelt next to the brothers. “Hey, Son.”
The word had started as a casual reference, a way to mark Dean as younger, a way to greet him when he didn’t know his name. Now, though… now it was spoken almost as an endearment, as how he imagined their father would speak when faced with a moment like this.
“Get him out,” Dean said, his eyes lowered to Abe, bare slits of color shaded by dark lashes that cast shadows on his cheeks in the moonlight.
“What?!” Sam and Abe spoke as one.
“Dean, listen to me, man… I can wait… I’m okay,” Sam tried.
“No, Sam,” Dean’s voice was calm, belying his trembling body. “Send someone back for me, but you get out.”
“GodDAMMIT, Dean,” Sam yelled, his teeth clenched, tears now coursing freely down his cheeks. Dean seemed undaunted by his angry outburst; he lay in Sam’s arms, calmly looking at his brother, challenging him with his eyes to defy him, to dare tell him no.
“Dad,” Dean said, not looking away from Sam. “Promise me.”
Sam’s head whipped over to Abe. “Don’t you make that promise,” Sam growled. “You don’t.”
“Dad,” Dean repeated. “Please. Please, you have to get him out,” his eyes shifted down. “I’ll be all right if I know…”
“Sam,” Abe said in a low voice that only Sam could hear. “What would he do?” He was somewhat afraid of this father of theirs, afraid that he would have slung Dean over his shoulder and pulled the travois at the same time.
Sam’s eyes narrowed. Low blow. “He would leave him,” Sam said… so that’s why we can’t.
Abe felt his stomach turn to ice. He understood what Dean was saying -- he would be all right if he knew his brother was taken care of. Abe knew then, knew that no matter how hard Sam fought it, if he took Dean to safety and left Sam behind, he would be killing them both. There was only one thing he could do.
“Sam, let go,” he said, softly, attempting to reach out and grasp Dean’s arms.
Sam faced him, hatred in his eyes. Abe gasped. He felt an energy ripple through the air. He reached out for Dean again and the energy increased. Abe felt as though something were pushing his hands back.
“Don’t touch him,” Sam growled low. Abe shivered.
“Sam,” Abe tried again, and this time, he found he couldn’t move his hands. He swallowed, hard.
“Sammy,” Dean whispered. “Let me go.”
“You asked me that once before, man, do you remember?” Sam said in a watery voice.
“I remember,” Dean said.
“What did I tell you then?”
“That you’d hold on forever if you had to,” Dean answered immediately, as if those words were never far from his memory.
“You think that’s changed any in the last couple months?”
“Sammy,” Dean tried again, “Let go. Let him take you to help. Please. Send someone back for me.”
“You wouldn’t do that for me yesterday, man,” Sam pointed out. “You wouldn’t leave me, you jerk. How can you ask me to do this, Dean?”
“It’s different,” Dean sighed.
“It’s you, Sam. It’s you. Just, please… Arrr,” Dean clenched his jaw against a burst of pain.
“Sam,” Abe said, not trying to lift his hands this time, keeping his voice low and calm as though talking to a cornered animal. “The longer we stay here…”
At that Sam seemed to sag. The energy that had been wrapping around Abe vanished and he found he could actually breathe again. Sam relaxed his grip on Dean and allowed Abe to lift him from his arms. Abe got Dean into a sitting position, then, careful of the lacerations on his back, pulled him to the nearest tree, propping him up against it on his right side.
“Here,” Sam pulled Dean’s jacket away from him and handed it to Abe. Abe looked back to grab it and saw Sam’s blood-covered chest. He paled. Sam saw, and looked down at himself. “It’s not mine.”
Abe realized then. Pressing his lips together he covered Dean with the jacket.
“Gun,” Dean said, lifting his eyes to Abe. Abe looked back at Sam and nodded to his backpack next to the travois. Sam reached in and pulled out the gun he’d used to shoot the wendigo. He tossed it to Abe who plucked it out of the air, ejected and checked the clip, then loaded it and handed it to Dean.
“I’ll be back,” Abe said. “I promise I’ll be back for you.”
Dean simply nodded. He shifted his eyes to his brother. “I’ll see ya,” he said.
“Yeah,” Sam nodded, frowning, not bothering to wipe the tears from his face.
Abe looked at Dean one last time; he somehow looked so young, and very, very old at the same time. He held the jacket around him, his right arm out and the gun secure in his grip. He rested his head on the tree and his eyes on Sam. The moon had cleared the trees in its steady rise into the night sky and the full force of its blue-white light struck Dean’s face and lit his eyes so that they seemed to burn from his face.
Abe hurried back to the travois, slid the harness on, and began to walk away as fast as he thought Sam’s injured leg could handle. He only wished he could spare Sam the sight of his brother shrinking in the distance.
As they reached the last tree line, Abe pulled out his cell and with relief saw bars at the top. He flipped it open, and punched a memory button.
“Doc? It’s Abe,” he said, feeling the travois shift with Sam’s weight as he turned his attention to Abe’s conversation. “Yeah, yeah, I know it’s late. Listen, I’m comin’ in hot with one wounded party and I had to leave his brother on the far side of the clearing just outside of town… yeah, pretty bad… both of them, but the one I left is worse… I know, I know, but it’s a long story… hey, listen when you meet them you’ll understand.”
“I need you to get Mark and Brian and have them ready with a stretcher when I get there. And the truck. Oh, and Doc? Yeah, call the sheriff. Tell him the wend--, er, the serial killer has been, um, handled… These boys. I’ll explain later. Just get to the clinic and get it ready.”
He flipped the phone shut.
“Serial killer?” he heard Sam ask from behind him.
“You try selling wendigo to a man who has to be shown proof how a fax machine works,” Abe retorted.
Sam didn’t reply. Abe felt his silence like a weight around his neck. “I didn’t want to leave him, Sam,” he offered.
“I know,” Sam whispered.
“He did what he did because he loves you,” Abe said.
“I know,” Sam whispered again.
Abe breached the edge of the trees and hurried down past the bank and market directly to the ramp in front of the clinic. The lights were on, illuminating that one part of the street. As Abe stopped the travois, two boys burst through the double doors at the top of the ramp, a cloth stretcher between them.
“Here,” Abe said, lowering the harness and travois. “Help me,” he moved around to the back of the travois. Carefully between the three of them they lifted Sam from the canvas and set him on the cloth stretcher. Sam clenched his teeth, not making a sound.
“Get him inside,” Abe ordered. “Tell Doc he has a compound fracture and is running a fairly high fever with loss of consciousness. Then get your asses back here with that stretcher. I’m going for the truck.”
He started to turn away as the men carefully lifted Sam.
“Hey,” Sam called in a rough voice.
“What’s your name?”
Abe smiled. “It’s Abe.”
“Thanks, Abe,” Sam said, his eyes sincere, his face impassive.
“I’ll bring him back, Sam,” Abe promised.
Sam simply nodded, but Abe shivered at the you’d better implied in the echo of his eyes. As the men pushed through the doors, Abe began to turn again to get the truck when his eyes caught on the black smudges on the canvas. He dropped to one knee, peering closer. When he realized that it was a crude copy of the protection charm from the cave wall, his jaw dropped.
“Well I’ll be a dirty name,” he whispered. “He kept the creature from his brother…”
Shaking his head, he stood and saw the two boys who’d carried Sam into the clinic charge back out through the doors. Mark addressed him first.
“What is going on, Abe?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Abe said, starting to jog toward the truck.
“Did you see the markings on the travois?” Brian spoke up.
“Yeah, I saw.”
“How did they know to do that?” Mark asked, slamming the truck door behind him.
Abe swung the truck around in a wide circle. “You got me… but it worked.”
“It worked? It’s dead?”
Abe nodded once.
Brian sighed. “No one else to bury,” he said almost reverently.
“As long as we save this boy,” Abe corrected.
“Aambe nimaajaadaa,” Mark nodded, slipping into their native tongue in his worry.
They drove into the tree line, each holding on to a different part of the interior of the cab as Abe maneuvered through the trees, narrowly avoiding clipping the rear-view mirrors on several occasions. They reached the clearing, and Abe made a beeline to the other side.
“Aanipiish gaa zhaat?” Mark asked.
Abe clenched his jaw, his eyes searching. Then he saw him, slumped under the dark jacket. “Mii zhewe, jiigi mitigoong yaa.”
Brian swallowed. “He doesn’t look good, Abe.”
“He’s gonna be fine,” Abe snapped, slamming the truck into park. As he jumped down from the cab, though, he said a silent prayer. He somehow knew that if he wasn’t able to save Dean, Sam’s anger would be terrible… and he didn’t know if Sam would survive.
He approached the still figure.