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.'
Sam was surprised how quickly and completely fear gripped him when the boys carried him up the ramp and into the brightly lit surgery of the clinic. He blinked helplessly in the sudden brightness of the surgery, the white walls amplifying the artificial lights that burned brightly from the ceiling and in the lamps that were swung across his body to better assess his injuries. He looked wildly around at the boys as they set him on the bed, rolled him off of the stretcher and ran back out of the doors to Abe.
The idea that he was somewhere Dean was not, that his life was literally in the hands of strangers, that his brother wasn’t coming through those doors with that confident walk, his eyes saying that it was going to be okay, was more than Sam’s overtaxed system could handle. Dean had a way of commanding a situation just by walking into a room… the rolling of the shoulders, the loose, but prepared set of his arms, the slightly bow-legged swagger caught people’s attention before they realized it. The way he leveled his eyes or quirked his eyebrows -- the serious set of his jaw or the disarming grin controlled their response. He was a master of manipulation, and Sam needed him. Now. He needed him now.
Sam tried to control his breathing as a small, thin man with longish black hair combed straight back from his face, and wide-set blue eyes stepped up to his bed and started to hook him up to a blood pressure cuff.
“Kid, we’re gonna need to cut away your jeans, okay? Okay, we’ll give you something for the pain as soon as we get some X-ray’s, okay? You hang in there, okay?”
Sam gritted his teeth. The nervous rhythm of the man’s speech pattern wore on him instantly. Sam glowered at him as he hovered over his leg.
“It’s Sam,” he said.
“Not ‘kid’. My name is Sam.”
“Okay, Sam, okay.”
God, this guy is worse than Leo Getts, Sam rolled his eyes and let his head follow as he looked toward the window, watching the headlights of the truck pull away. Going to get Dean. Bring him back. Fix him.
Sam felt a pinch on the back of his right hand and looked over. “Leo” was hooking him up to an IV. As he opened the flow rate of the catheter, Sam felt the burn of the cold fluid as it rushed into his veins.
“Okay, we’re just giving you some fluids for now, okay? We’ll need to give you some antibiotics for your infection after Doc checks you out, okay? You allergic to anything?”
Sam shook his head, taking a deep breath, working to calm his frayed nerves. They were raw edges of patience worn thin. Dean would have floored this guy with some well-selected words in a way that he wouldn’t see coming. But Sam wasn’t that clever. And he was weary. And his leg ached into his teeth. And he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open. He decided to close them, just for a minute. Just a minute…
He blinked at a new voice. “Leo” had, thankfully, left the room. An older man, silver hair cut short in a crew cut, a scar down one side of his face, sparing his eye any damage, and a tattoo of an eagle head on the left side of his neck stood next to Sam’s bed, hands clasped behind his back, soft brown eyes regarding him coolly.
“We’ve looked at the X-rays of your leg. We’re going to have to put some pins in to keep the bone in place.”
The man smiled. “You’ve been out of it for about an hour, Sam. It’s understandable with the fever, but --“
An hour? “Where’s my brother?”
The man quirked his head to the side. “Brother?”
“They went back for him. Abe and… those guys,” Sam swallowed hard. An hour. They had to have been back by now. Dean had to be here.
The man frowned. “George,” he called. "Leo" came into the room and Sam visibly cringed. “Go check and see if Abe came back,” he ordered. George left with a silent nod.
Sam realized he had more IVs attached to him. He lifted his arm and followed the line. Three more bags led to the lines feeding into his arms. He blinked at the man. He’d been out an hour and they’d managed to take X-rays and hook him up to fluids and meds and find out what needed to happen and where the hell was Dean?
“You have a pretty serious infection in your leg, Sam. If you hadn’t gotten to us when you did it would have gone septic.”
Sam’s eyebrows went up but he stayed silent.
“As I was saying, we’re going to have to put some pins in your leg. Pretty simple surgery. You’ll be done in under an hour.”
“Doc, can you go check on my brother, please?” Sam shifted his eyes past the man’s shoulder to try to look beyond the door. It was becoming hard to take a calm breath. He felt it shuddering in his lungs as he exhaled.
“Oh, I’m not Doc. He’s probably with your brother. If he’s here,” the man answered in a casual tone, beginning to adjust the flow rate on Sam’s IVs, and check his vitals.
Sam clenched his jaw. “Listen!” he barked, lifting a trembling hand to grasp at the man’s white lab coat, pulling his attention down to Sam’s eyes. “Somebody needs to tell me where my brother is right the hell now!”
The man’s calm demeanor didn’t alter. He raised an eyebrow at Sam, his expression saying or you’ll do what, exactly. “George is checking on that, Sam.” He gently pried Sam’s fingers from his coat, and set his arm back down on the bed.
Sam took a breath. He started to feel oddly detached, slightly light-headed. He blinked at the man, trying to sharpen the blurry edges of his vision. “Look, man, I’m sorry, but…” he blinked again as the room suddenly swam. “He’s… he’s all I got… I just…” he blinked again. “Whoa, w-what are you giving me?”
“It’s just a mild sedative, Sam. To prepare you for surgery.”
“But…” Sam licked his lips, his mouth feeling suddenly dry, his lips too large for his face. He couldn’t seem to form a complete sentence in his head. Where was Dean?
“Do you need anything, Sam?”
“Dean…” he whispered as his eyes slid shut again.
Saginaw, MI 2006
Dean cleaned their weapons when he was bored. Sam had grown so accustomed to this quirk that he hardly thought about it anymore. In the small cabin-like motel room they had rented for this hunt, Sam sat on one bed, one leg braced on the floor, the other half bent in front of the laptop. Dean sat on the other bed, his hands moving with automatic precision as he lifted first one gun, then another, going through the routine their father had taught them years ago. He barely had to look at what he was doing.
“So, what do you have?”
Sam sighed. “A whole lot of nothing. Nothing bad has happened to the Miller house since it was built.”
Dean frowned, ramming a cleaning rod and rag down the barrel of the sawed-off shotgun. “What about the land?”
Sam shook his head. “No graveyards, battlefields, tribal lands, or any other kind of atrocity on or near the property.”
Dean folded his lips down and lifted a shoulder. “Hey, man, I told you I searched that house up and down. There were no cold spots, no sulfur scent, nada.”
“And the family said everything was normal?”
“Well, I mean, if there was a demon or a poltergeist in there, don’t you think somebody would’ve noticed something? I used the infrared thermal scanner, man, there was nothing.”
“So, what, you think Jim Miller killed himself? And my dream was just some sort of freakish coincidence?”
Dean shrugged. “I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing supernatural about that house.”
The pain began as a pressure behind his eyes, an intense beat that Sam couldn’t ignore. He pulled his eyebrows together and began to rub at his temples, trying to ward the pain away. “Yeah. Well, you know, maybe, uh—maybe it has nothing to do with the house.” The pain increased until he couldn’t seem to take an even breath. He tried to keep up with the conversation, tried to keep on the path that could lead to an answer… “Maybe, it’s just, uh—damn—maybe it’s connected to Jim in some other way.”
The pain blossomed then like a supernova behind his eyes. He grabbed his head, his eyes shut tight.
He heard the concern in Dean’s voice as his brother’s attention was pulled from the gun he was cleaning and directed at him. “What’s wrong with you?”
Sam couldn’t see, couldn’t think. He slid off the bed to land on his knees on the floor.
“Ah—my head!” He cried out from the pain in his head. It was too much… too much.
Suddenly, Dean was there. He was there, his hands grabbing Sam’s shoulders, bracing him, holding him. “Sam? Hey. Hey! What’s goin’ on? Talk to me.”
Sam lifted horrified eyes to Dean’s worried face as the vision burst into his sight, replacing Dean’s familiar hazel eyes with the horror and gore of Roger Miller’s murder. Sam saw it in vivid detail, saw Roger return home, going about his nightly routine, opening a beer, shutting the window, peering out of the window when it inexplicably opened again, and the horrendous finality of the window slamming shut, removing Roger’s head in a spray of red.
Sam blinked as the vision ended, sweating and shaking, his breath coming in short, panicky bursts. Dean was there, his eyes pinned to Sam’s, his strong hands gripping Sam’s shoulders, his arms bracing him as Sam nearly collapsed from the force of the vision. They had to stop this… he had to stop this… but first he had to stand up. And he didn’t want Dean to let go.
“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.
Dean didn’t move. Didn’t react to the sound of his name. Abe licked his lips nervously and crouched down in front of him. Dean was slumped against the tree where they’d left him, the gun clutched in his pale hand, his eyes closed, his lips slightly parted. Abe reached out a tentative hand to feel for a pulse. Dean’s skin was cold under his fingers and Abe trembled. At first, he could feel nothing. He shifted his fingers slightly and then… there. Faint, but there.
“Boys!” he barked, his relief at finding Dean’s pulse quickly replaced by intense urgency to get him to the clinic. “Get that stretcher over here!”
Mark and Brian had been waiting by the truck, both slightly afraid of getting too close… They scrambled as one to get the canvas stretcher and carry it over to Abe. Abe carefully eased the jacket from Dean’s chest and rolled the unconscious form forward into his arms. Dean was completely pliant; his breathing so shallow that Abe had to check twice to make sure it was there.
“Here, put it here,” Abe nodded to the ground next to Dean. “His back is… well, just be careful.”
He thought that the contact of the canvas against the cuts would cause him enough pain to shock him back to consciousness, but as they carefully lifted his limp body from the cold ground and laid him on the canvas part of the stretcher, Abe saw not one flicker of reaction cross Dean’s pale face. He nodded once to the boys and they lifted the stretcher and carried Dean over to the truck bed. Abe hopped into the back and reached down to take the handles of the stretcher from Mark.
Easing Dean into the back of the truck and setting him down, Abe flicked a glance to Brian. “You go ride in the cab with your brother. Call ahead to the clinic and let Doc know we’re on our way.”
He sat down at the head of the truck bed, pulling Dean’s head onto his lap to keep it from the hard surface of the truck, and pried open the window that separated the cab of the truck from the bed. Brian remained where he was, standing in the back of the truck, staring at Dean’s still form.
“He… he looks dead, Abe,” Brian choked out.
Abe slid cautious fingers against Dean’s neck and felt the faint thrum of his stubborn heart. “Well he’s not, now get moving!”
Brian blinked. He seemed to be frozen to the spot. Abe opened his mouth to yell once more when Mark’s voice echoed up from the cab of the truck. “Brian, it’s okay. Just get in here. We’re gonna take care of him.”
Brian lifted his dark eyes to the cab of the truck, not able to see his brother in the darkness, “I can’t bury anyone else, Mark.”
Abe swallowed at the beat of pain that flashed across his heart upon hearing the stark emptiness of the boy’s voice. He sounded almost shell-shocked. Mark reached out through the open window at the back of the cab, his hand beckoning his brother.
“You get into this cab right now and you won’t have to. I promise you. Never again.”
Brian nodded, believing his brother over Abe, swung over the side of the truck bed and jumped into the cab, slamming the door behind him. Abe looked down as he felt Dean jerk in reaction to the sound of the door slamming. Abe bent over him as Mark threw the truck into gear and turned around toward the town. He held Dean’s head steady on his lap as the truck bounced over the rough terrain.
“Dean?” He’d seen his lashes flicker. He carefully patted Dean’s cheek. His skin was so cold… “Dean, you there, pal?”
“Sam…” the name was a whisper of air. There wasn’t any weight behind the sound and Abe had to lean low with his ear over Dean’s mouth to hear if he said anything else. “Where…”
“Sam’s okay, Dean,” he reassured, gripping his shoulder with one hand. “He’s out and he’s safe, okay?”
Dean blinked once, his eyes flashing up at Abe in the moonlight for a brief reveal of emotion. The look hit Abe in the gut with the force of a punch. “I promise you, Dean. He’s okay.”
Dean’s eyes slid closed on a sigh, and Abe went cold. There was such finality in that look, in that breath of air.
“No, no, kid, don’t you dare do this to me,” Abe shifted Dean off of his lap and leaned over his mouth, trying to feel breath... no air brushed his face. He pressed his fingers against Dean’s neck. Feeling nothing, he rested his head against Dean’s chest. “Shit!”
Abe raised himself to his knees, and pressed his hands on Dean’s chest, one hand over the other. It was nearly impossible to stay balanced with the truck bouncing over the uneven ground. He counted fifteen reps, then pinched Dean’s nose and blew a deep breath into his mouth.
“Mark, floor it, boy!” he bellowed. He repeated the reps and leaned over to blow air into Dean’s mouth once again. “Dean, don’t you fuckin’ give up, man.”
He repeated the process, counting the reps on huffs of air. Mark hit a bump and tossed Abe backwards from Dean’s prone body. He cracked his arm and hand on the side of the truck. He saw Dean’s body bounce up off of the truck bed once and when he landed he dragged in a huge gulp of air.
Abe scrambled forward, easing Dean’s head up off of the hard surface. “Yeah, there you go. One more, one more like that.”
Dean breathed in again, and coughed. Abe cradled his head and shoulders in his lap with a sigh of relief. “You try that again, I’ll kill ya,” he muttered, pressing the palm of his hand against Dean’s forehead. Dean’s eyes remained closed, but he was breathing, and at the moment, that was all Abe cared about.
“Yeah,” Abe called back.
“We’re coming to the trees,” Mark said. “Hang on to him.”
“I got him, just get us back,” Abe said.
Mark had to slow his pace as he slalomed the truck through the trees, not as skilled at maneuvering the truck as Abe, however, in twenty minutes they were pulling up in front of the clinic. Doc ran down the ramp to help Abe ease the stretcher from the back of the truck. Abe watched Doc’s dark eyes flicker over Dean’s head wound and bloody arm behind the circular frames of his glasses. His white hair was rumpled as though Abe’s call had pulled him from the minimal sleep he managed to grab each night. Operating the only clinic on the reservation was a never-ending mitigation of death.
“Jesus Christ, Abe,” Doc muttered, his generous mouth turning down in a fierce frown. “What the hell happened to this kid?”
“He’s got some deep cuts on his back, too, Doc, and he stopped breathing on the way over.”
“Was it… did you see it?”
They moved through the double doors and down to the other surgery room in the clinic, raised the stretcher and eased Dean down onto the exam table. The gash on his head and the blood on his face and clothes seemed too red, too bright to Abe. He’d been seeing them as black in the moonlight for several hours. Abe then noticed how pale Dean was in the harsh exam light – the moonlight hadn’t lied about that. He also noticed that Dean looked younger than he first thought, although the life he’d led had etched on his face a visible sign of its passing, even while in repose. He had seen something truly evil, Abe realized. And it had changed him from the person he might have been into the person he was.
“Abe!” Doc barked at him. Abe snapped his head up from Dean’s face and looked at Doc.
“Did you see it?” Doc was cutting Dean’s bloody shirt from his upper body, carefully removing it from the open wounds on his arm and back with gentle, expert hands.
The scars that crossed the boy’s chest left both men gaping for a moment. Doc recovered first. He began hooking Dean up to a monitor, placing a pulse ox on his finger, electrodes on his bare chest, and a BP cuff around his arm. He set the machine and as the rhythmic tempo of Dean’s heart filled the small room. He pulled the oxygen cannula from the wall and adjusted it carefully over Dean’s battered face.
Abe shook his head. “Only its ashes.”
“They killed it. These boys. And Doc,” Abe swallowed. “There were two.”
“I couldn’t get many details from them, I mean…”
“Yeah, yeah, we’ll worry about that later,” Doc was focusing on the results of the blood pressure, then looking at Dean’s arm, shaking his head. “This kid, Abe. Looks like he wrestled a bear.”
“Pretty nearly. Take a look at his back, Doc,” Abe said.
“Here, hold him to you when I roll him over,” Doc said, easing Dean up on his right side to get a better look at his back. Abe gathered Dean to him, holding him in almost an embrace as Doc examined the lacerations across his back. Dean’s head rolled forward, his forehead resting against Abe’s arm. Thinking of the stubborn fighter that had followed him through the forest, Abe realized that had Dean been conscious, he would never have let himself be held this way. He wondered fleetingly if he would ever let himself be held, period.
“We’re going to have to adjust our thinking here, Abe. He can’t lay on these cuts while I take care of everything else. His blood pressure is dangerously low; we need to get some units into him, some fluid, and this arm –“
The door swung open and George stepped in. “Okay, Josh said to check and see if you got back, so, okay, it looks like you did.”
“Is Josh with Sam?” Abe asked.
Doc didn’t look up, but anticipated Abe’s question. “Sam’s gonna be okay. Put some high-powered antibiotics in him. He’s gonna have to get some pins in his leg, but he’s gonna be okay. It was close, though. You made the right choice, Abe. Kid could have gone septic real fast.”
Abe looked down at Dean’s bloody face. “I didn’t choose,” he whispered. “He did.”
“Well, he’s a brave kid,” Doc said, easing Dean carefully onto his back.
“You have no idea,” Abe said softly.
Doc shifted into gear, barking orders and moving around the room in a blur of calculated motion. It’s what Abe had always respected about the man: he was organized chaos.
Sticking his hands under a flow of hot water, he began, “George, tell Mark to bring me three units of O neg, and then tell him to get Brian and go home and get some sleep. Tell them I want them back here in the morning at nine sharp. Then go scrub up. You’re assisting Josh in Sam’s surgery,” he dried his hands and pulled on some latex gloves. “Oh, and you should probably tell Josh he’s handling Sam’s surgery.”
George nodded and hurried out of the room.
Doc continued, “Abe, you and I have to take care of this kid. He needs a real hospital, but unfortunately the closest one’s in Walker, which will take too long to get to even if the chopper’s available – which who the hell knows -- so we’re gonna have to stabilize him and take it from there. You ever had a massage?”
Abe blinked at the left turn in his staccato sentences. “A massage?”
“Yes, a massage,” Doc’s voice was clipped, impatient.
“Uh – yeah, yes. I have.”
“Okay, we’re gonna rig a head rest like that for this table so that I can work on his back. You follow?”
Abe nodded. He went to the cabinets, grabbing supplies: a donut for hemorrhoids, a cloth to cover the plastic, needle and thread to secure the cloth, and a square metal table brace. As Abe rigged up the head rest, Doc took Dean’s temperature and then started cleaning his head wound.
“He needs a CT,” Doc muttered as he finished cleaning Dean’s face and palpating the gash. “This cut is deep. What hit him, do you know?”
“He said he hit a wall,” Abe said, thread clenched in his teeth.
Doc shook his head, frowning, “What was he doing, mach five?”
“Said the wen—the creature threw him.”
“X-rays, too, then. He complain of any pain? Ribs? Arms? Shoulders?”
“Doc, he didn’t complain. At all.”
“He lose consciousness after you found him?”
“Yeah, twice. And, uh, Doc, he – he thought I was his Dad,” Abe said, not looking up from his task.
“Something you’re not telling me, Abe?”
“I’m serious. He looked right at me, but thought I was his Dad,” Abe said, this time raising his head to catch Doc’s attention. “I tried to correct him once, but he seemed to need it…”
Doc shook his head, “Sometimes we choose to believe lies to protect our hearts from the truth, Abe.”
The clinic was small. It boasted only two exam rooms that doubled for surgeries; Abe saw several pieces of medical equipment around him that he couldn’t identify, but as he watched Doc prepped his suture supplies, he figured that he would probably be making use of most of them to care for Dean. Mark walked in with the units of blood, set them down where Doc indicated and left again without saying a word. Abe continued to fix the head rest, watching as Doc hooked Dean up to several IVs – saline, a unit of blood, and a third bag. Doc saw his eyes tracking.
“Antibiotics. That arm is bad. He’s running a fever – ear temp says 101. It has to hurt like a son of a bitch, too. I am surprised he didn’t say anything,” Doc eased Dean’s head to the side so that his face was directed at Abe and started sewing up Dean’s head while Abe attached the headrest to the bed.
“I’m telling you think this kid could have lost his arm and not say anything until he knew his brother was safe. Doc, these boys…”Abe started, looking down at the closed eyes and pale face. He instantly recalled the look of utter devotion reflecting in Dean’s eyes at the thought of his brother. The fierce determination to save him… thwarted only by eventual, understandable exhaustion. “I’ve never met anyone like them.”
“Well, if they did what you say that they did…” Doc suddenly frowned, his eyes flicking to Dean’s profile as the steady beat of the heart monitor skipped and sped up.
“Shit,” he muttered.
“What? Is he --”
“It’s erratic. He’s feeling this,” Doc said, stopping his sutures. “I thought he was out, but his body has been through a hell of a lot,” he was filling a syringe with a clear liquid.
He inserted it into Dean’s IV. Abe saw then the line of pain that Doc had noticed appear across Dean’s forehead. He’d missed it; having seen it so often during their trek. But as the drugs took hold, the line of pain vanished and Dean’s features smoothed.
“Bush league,” Doc muttered.
“What?” Abe looked back to him as he calmly set to finishing his sutures.
“This clinic. These boys need a real hospital, Abe.”
Abe opened his mouth to attempt to offer another option, but his mind was blank. The only thing he could think of was the shaman and his remedies passed down through generations of healers. As though reading his mind, Doc looked up at him with a glare.
“Don’t even think about it,” Doc muttered. “No way am I having the crackpot in my clinic messing with these boys. Hell, he’s probably gonna turn into one of those things next. Give them something else to hunt – some other reason to bleed all over my surgery. Now, go scrub up. You’re gonna help me with his back.”
Abe paled. “Doc, I –“
“You saved this boy's life getting him back here, Abe. You gonna let him die now?”
Abe silently went to the sink and scrubbed up. He returned to the bed and helped Doc turn Dean over and carefully position him so that his face was in the rigged head rest, keeping his sutured gash above the cushion and making sure not to pinch the oxygen cannula. He swallowed as he got his first good look at the scores along Dean’s back.
As Doc cleaned off the dried blood, both men raised their eyebrows at the old scars on his back that matched the quantity of the ones on his chest. Abe chewed the inside of his cheek thinking of Dean almost casually mentioning werewolves and demons. Their lives frightened him.
“Abe,” Doc said in a low voice. “We will need to keep an eye on his vitals. This position isn’t going to be easy for him to breath, but, if I don’t get these wounds closed… well, I don’t think you want to be the one to talk to his brother.”
Abe tensed, shaking his head. As they worked on Dean’s battered body, Abe realized that they didn’t even know his last name.