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.'
Blue Earth, MN 1999
The role of George is played by Sam Winchester.
Sam had rarely seen his real name in print, but they were living at Pastor Jim's and had been for almost his entire Junior Year. Jim Murphy allowed many things, understood many things, but he made it clear to John when he invited them in that only the Winchesters were staying there. No fake names, no scams. John had wanted Sam to get at least one whole year in the same school. Something his brother never got. Sam could recall at least seven high schools for Dean, but he may have missed some.
He turned the music up slightly, trying to let the beat of the music seep into him as he watched it do with Dean. ‘Course Dean listened to the music his Dad had listened to. And by that very nature, even if Sam did enjoy it, even if it did draw a reaction from him, he wouldn’t listen, unless, of course he had no choice.
“I'm afraid to be alone, afraid you'll leave me when I'm gone. I'm afraid to come back home. Another sleepless night again. Hotel rooms my only friend, and friends like that just don't add up to anything. And I try so hard to be everything that I should never take away from you again.”
In an oddly reverent way, he ran his thumb over the black type of the program he’d been handed when he left school that day. He never thought of himself as being much in the way of dramatic – he knew Dean would loudly disagree – but one year at the same school had given him the confidence to step out. Try something new. Dean had teased him, as he expected. But he’d seen his brother’s quiet smile when he didn’t think Sam was looking. He’d even seen the shadow of his brother sitting in the darkness in the back of the school auditorium during rehearsals.
John, however, had been predictably stoic. Sam knew he knew about the play. He knew John had heard Dean teasing Sam. He knew he’d seen him coming in later from school. Yet he said nothing. Not one word. Not one question. Not until tonight.
Sam sat in the room he shared with Dean and listened to his brother calmly talk to his Dad, stating his reasons why they didn’t need Sam on this hunt, why Sam could go to his play, why Sam could have normal, just for tonight. “Dad, geeze, he’s sixteen, he just wants to do something that’s just his…” John snapped back that he didn’t want to hear that shit. Didn’t want to hear anymore whining from Sam about how their lives weren’t normal. “This is our mission, Dean. You know this. Sam knows this. Dammit, you know what’s out there in the dark.”
Sam waited for Jim to step in then realized that Jim was already at the school. Waiting. For him. He had no idea that John had come home and declared a Winchester hunt. The longer he listened to Dean’s patient voice the hotter his rage built. When Dean said for a third time, “Dad, c’mon, it’s just a spirit, we can get this, you and me…” Sam erupted.
He ripped the bedroom door open, slamming it backwards against the wall in his fury, and stormed out to the living room, passed his brother and directly up to his Dad. He was already taller than Dean and was able to stare his father directly in the eye.
“You’re a real bastard, you know that?!” he literally roared. His arms were held down to his sides by sheer will; he wanted to grab John’s jacket and push him away, against the wall. His father had never hit him – not once. But Sam knew there was a first time for everything. And he knew what John was capable of, so he held himself in check. Barely.
“Sam!” Dean yelled from behind him.
“You watch your mouth, Sam,” John bellowed back, his nose inches from Sam’s, the heat in his eyes matching his son’s. “I’m tired of this attitude of yours. It’s time for you to step up and work with this family!”
“Family?! FAMILY? You don’t know what that word means, Dad.”
“Sam!” Dean yelled again, trying in vain to get his attention. Sam knew Dean just wanted them to stop, just stop. But he was too far gone now. He was too angry. And yelling at his Dad felt good. It felt damn good.
“You want to go live a normal life, Sam? Is that what you want? So your brother and I can go out there and hunt and kill the evil that you fucking know is out there?”
“Yeah!” Sam yelled back, stepping even closer to his Dad, his hands trembling with the desire to hit, to lash out, to release the anger in a bright blinding burst of inflicted pain. “Yeah, Dad. THAT’S what I want. I want you two to go out and get yourselves killed so I can go have coffee with my friends. You don’t know anything, man. You don’t know ANYTHING about me.”
“I know you’re bailing on this hunt! I know you sent your brother out here to make excuses for you!”
“DAD!” Dean’s voice was getting angry now and Sam felt his presence close to him.
“Dean just did what he thought was best. He did what he knew was fair. It’s not his fault you never listen to him.”
“HEY!” Dean’s voice was loud, raw with frustration.
“What the hell are you talking about, Sam?! I listen –“
“No you don’t!” Sam bellowed. “You have no idea what he says half the time –“
“ENOUGH!” Dean was shorter than both of them, but his strength was fueled by a desire stronger than anger: hope for redemption. For his family. He grabbed both of them by their shoulders and with a mighty heave, wrenched them apart. The force of the motion set Sam off balance and he toppled back onto the couch. John just stepped back a couple steps.
Both looked at Dean with surprise. All were breathing heavily.
“This is how it’s gonna be,” Dean said, his voice was low and carried more authority than Sam remembered hearing from him before. “Sam and I are going to his play. You,” he said pointing to John, “are coming with us. Then we’re all going to go get this fuckin’ spirit bastard. Together.”
John stared at Dean and Sam thought that for an instant he saw something akin to respect flash across his father’s eyes. He knew Dean was counting on the fact that it took two to get the spirit, stopping John from going after it alone while they were at the play. For a brief moment, Sam was afraid for his Dad. Afraid that his stubborn pride would carry him into that fight without Dean there to back him up. Without Sam there to back up Dean.
“Fine,” John muttered, surprising them both.
“Get your coat, Sammy,” Dean muttered. “You’ve got some angst to project.”
“Gah…” Sam woke up on a gasp of air. He blinked, eerily completely awake. As if he’d never been sleeping. He looked around the stark white of the room, seeing that there was no window, no other furniture besides the tray covered with sterile surgical instruments on a blue sheet. The light above his bed was thankfully off, but the overhead lights were glaring in his eyes.
“Hey,” said a voice to his right. Sam rolled his head to see the same man with the eagle tattoo standing next to him, checking his IVs. “How you feelin’, kid?”
“Sam,” he answered automatically.
“Sam,” the man nodded. He jerked a thumb back toward his chest. “Josh.”
“Where’s my brother?”
Josh shook his head. “You realize you just had surgery, Sam? You have three pins in your leg.”
“Where is he?”
Josh sighed. “I’ll take you to him as soon as you can sit up.”
Sam looked at his right leg. It was encased in a thick, dark blue Velcro-strapped brace from just above his knee to his ankle. He couldn’t feel it at all. The numbness reached from his hip to his toes. It was raised slightly from the bed in a sling. Sam saw a handle hanging over his head within easy reach. He reached up and grasped it, pulling himself forward so that he sat up on the bed in a somewhat awkward position with the angle of his leg. His head swam for a moment, but as he held on to the handle, he was able to regain his equilibrium.
“Where. Is. He?”
Josh pressed his lips together. “I thought Abe said Dean was the stubborn one,” he muttered. He saw Sam about to open his mouth again. “Okay, okay, kid. Just let me chart your vitals and I’ll get you a chair in here.” He turned to get Sam’s chart.
“Josh,” Sam said, his voice low, soft. Now that he knew he would be seeing Dean he didn’t have to channel his father. “How is he?”
Josh lifted his eyes briefly from the chart and then looked back down reaching for Sam’s wrist to count his pulse. He stayed silent until he’d written the number down.
“Josh,” Sam insisted.
“He’s been through a lot.”
“I know that, man. I was there. I saw him. How is he now?”
“They’re doing everything they can, Sam,” Josh said, tightening the blood pressure cuff around Sam’s arm.
God, no, don’t say that… He’d heard the same tone in the voice of the doctor back before Nebraska… telling him that his brother’s heart was damaged… that Dean had maybe a month to live. He couldn’t deal with that again. He couldn’t. They had come so close so many times before and survived… They came so close to losing the fight in the forest and survived…
“I have to see him,” Sam whispered. He felt that somehow if he could be there Dean would be okay. If Dean knew he was there that he wouldn’t dare leave. “I have to see him now.”
Josh looked at Sam like he was afraid he’d jump off the bed and run down the hall, cast and all. “Sam. Listen. You have a very serious infection. We’re getting ahead of it, but your body needs rest, do you understand me?”
“I’ll rest in there with Dean.”
Josh regarded him coolly; he’d dealt with some very stubborn people in his time. Sam stared back and Josh saw in his dark eyes what Abe had been talking about. Sam needed to be near his brother. He realized then that the only thing that had kept them alive, the thing that had helped them survive a battle with two of the creatures that had attacked his people, was the fact that they had done so together.
“Fine,” he said, “but you’re gonna have to wait until I get a chair and we can rig something up for your IVs. You need to stay on these antibiotics for 24 hours.”
“Fine,” Sam answered his gaze not wavering.
Josh left the room quickly. He returned with George and a wheelchair. Between the three of them they were able to get Sam out of the bed and into the chair with the leg support out and Sam’s leg propped up.
“You hurting, Sam?” Josh asked.
“No, nowhere,” Sam answered, somewhat surprised.
“Well, it’s the drugs. Your leg is pretty numb now. We’ll move the bed into your brother’s room later. You let me know when you can start feeling it, okay?”
The fact that the small clinic only had two surgeries meant that Sam’s insistence to go to Dean was actually doing them a favor. He was in Dean’s room in less than a minute and realized as they maneuvered his leg through the doorway that he’d been holding his breath. Dean was on the far side of the room – which was dimly lit with the overhead lights off and a window letting in the weak grey light of dawn on the other side of Dean’s bed. Sam swallowed. His brother always seemed larger than life – an immovable force. But… he looked… fragile.
Dean lay propped on his right side, a pillow behind him and one in front. His left arm was bandaged from the shoulder to the elbow, and there was a white gauze bandage over his left temple. He had an oxygen cannula across his face and Sam could see that a hospital gown had been tied loosely so that his back, though facing away from Sam, was exposed. Sam heard the steady rhythmic beeping of the machine tracking Dean’s heart. It was a familiar, chilling sound. One that Sam had hoped to never hear again.
Only when he got close enough to the bed to once again see Dean’s freckles did he allow them to stop the chair. Dean’s face was still and his lashes were smudges of dark on pale skin. Sam saw that he, too, had several IVs flowing into his arms. Dean’s right arm was bent, his hand near the pillow where his head rested.
“Hey, man,” Sam whispered, hesitantly sneaking his hand into Dean’s lax right one, reaching for a connection that was only possible when his brother was hurt, but that was needed always.
“You boys must live some kind of life,” said a voice like liquid gravel behind him.
Sam turned his head to see a tall man with tousled grey-white hair, glasses that covered dark brown eyes, and a mouth as wide as Steven Tyler’s leaning against the wall in the back corner of the room, arms crossed over each other. He realized this man had been watching Dean.
“Who are you?”
“Name's Doc. Been working on your brother here,” Doc nodded his head toward Dean.
“How is he, Doc?” Sam looked back at Dean. He was so still, so quiet. Dean just wasn’t quiet. He was always moving, always had to be in action – cleaning their guns when bored, pacing a set pattern when worried, tapping the rhythm of a Metallica song while driving. Sam had grown accustomed to his motion. The world seemed wrong if Dean was still.
“He’s fighting, boy, that’s the truth,” Doc pushed away from the wall and stepped over to the bed, next to Sam’s outstretched leg. “I called the hospital up at Walker. The only way to get him there is via helicopter or ambulance.”
Sam paled at the word helicopter. They would have to guarantee Dean wouldn’t wake up mid-flight or his fear might injure him further.
“Helicopter isn’t available until tonight. Ambulance is a six-hour round trip.”
Sam chewed the inside of his bottom lip, watching Doc. He kept his hand in Dean’s, noting how warm his brother’s fingers were. He waited for the rest. For the good news. For the bad news. For instructions on how to take his next breath.
“Gonna be honest with you, kid. Your brother is either gonna make it before either of those things get here, or he’s not.”
Sam swallowed, looking back at Dean. “Dammit Dean,” he said on a half-sob, folding his lips in to keep the emotion at bay. “Told you to go, didn’t I? Stupid, stubborn bastard…”
“Here’s the quick and dirty, boy,” Doc said, his voice softer now that he’d delivered the facts. “He hit his head pretty good, but CT showed no bleeding and it appears that he was functioning normally before he passed out, so I don’t think the concussion will have any lasting effects. We’ll know more when he wakes up.”
“He thought Abe was our Dad,” Sam whispered, his eyes not leaving his brother’s face. “That can’t be normal, right?”
Doc sighed, “Sam, your brother was moving on nothing last night. On will. His blood pressure was so low when he got here that we put almost three units of blood in him. The cuts on his arm are nasty with infection – probably from the bacteria and dirt carried on the creature’s claws. The lacerations on his back were heading that way. He’s running a fever. And the only thing he knows is that he has to get you out of that forest. So who does he need to help him do that? Who is he gonna trust to help him? Some Native American hunter that appears out of nowhere?”
Sam shook his head, tears building in his dark eyes as he looked at his brother, at the complete weariness that pulled his skin taut across his cheekbones, at the line of pain bisecting his eyebrows.
“No. He’s gonna trust the man who taught him to use that knife Abe showed me. He’s gonna trust the man who wouldn’t forgive him if he lost you out there. I got brothers, Sam. I know.”
“It’s not fair,” Sam whispered.
Doc shrugged. “Never is. But it’s the plight of family. You’ll go through hell just to make sure you see them on the other side.” He set his hand briefly on Sam’s shoulder, then left the room.
Sam leaned forward, easing his IV lines around the edge of his wheelchair. He looked at their hands. Dean had Johns hands. Sam had realized that a few month back. They were powerful, sturdy, calloused… and they fit inside of his. Dean would never allow this if he were awake. Sam wondered why it seemed like the only time they touched it was either in battle or as the result of one.
He cleared his throat, rubbing his thumb across the knuckles on the back of Dean’s hand. “Hey Dean, you remember that vacant lot we found that one time we were in Philly?”
He lifted his eyes to look out of the window, watching the gold of the sunrise crest over the leaf-covered hill just outside the clinic. The window faced the forest. Sam decided in that moment that he hated trees.
“It was summer… I think I was like twelve or thirteen. Dad had a job at that garage for awhile, remember? We were going nuts in that little studio apartment he’d rented and so you said we should just roam. You said it would be like patrolling, making sure our temporary neighborhood was safe…” Sam grinned and looked over at Dean’s still face out of the corner of his eyes. “I think you were just trying to get me to stop pouting. Not that I do that.”
“I remember we came across this empty lot with a basketball hoop, no net, just a hoop. We didn’t have a ball, but you said we could fake it. I remember it so well, too – we used a rock and it clanged so loud against the backboard when we shot the baskets…” he looked down at the bed, his eyes years away. “It was just sunset and the whole lot and all of the buildings turned this surreal red-gold, and it was just the right temperature outside, just the right amount of wind… and you were laughing, man… I think even then I knew that was something special, something I wouldn’t see a lot.”
He looked back up through the window, “And then… Dad found us. I remember he said he followed the swearing and clanging. And he leaned against the chain link fence. He didn’t have a beard then. I remember because I could see all of his face. He watched us and he hooked his fingers in the fence and he… he smiled man. He was watching us and the dude was grinning,” Sam found himself smiling in automatic reaction to the memory.
It was so rare that he smiled when he thought of his father. He felt something relax inside of him. He was always so angry with John; he could find a reason why John was at fault for nearly everything that had gone wrong in his life. But as he remembered that moment of life with his brother, with his father, he could see a glimmer of what Dean had been saying. John may be flawed, he may be harsh, he may be unyielding, but he was theirs.
Sam swallowed, and slid his eyes to Dean’s face. “You walked home between us. I remember you practically bounced. And you said that it was a perfect day.”
He wasn’t surprised to feel wetness on his cheeks. He sniffed and wiped his face with the back of the hand that was free of IVs. Was he imagining it, or did Dean’s face look slightly more peaceful than it had a moment ago?
“I hope you can hear me, man,” he whispered. “‘Cause you were right. It was a perfect day.” He reached out to Dean’s hand, his brother’s fingers curled against this palm. “I hold onto that, man. I want you to know that it’s my anchor.”
Sam rubbed his face. “Dean, I know you’re tired, but,” he took a breath, felt it shuddering in his chest. “I think you need to wake up. I… I need you to… let me know you’re still there, you’re still with me.“
He closed his eyes. “I need you to give me hell for something, man. You can pick the subject.”
The events of the last several hours were catching up with his body. He leaned forward and to the left so that his head rested on the pillow Doc had placed in front of Dean to prop him on his side, off of his stitched-up back. He had to turn his face toward the foot of the bed so that his body wasn’t twisted at an odd angle. He just wanted to rest. Just for a minute.
“I’ll be here when you’re ready,” Sam said on a sigh. His body relaxed with the familiar sound of his brother breathing, the rhythmic beep of the machine tracking Dean’s heart.
He awoke with a start, unsure how long he’d been out. He had the distinct impression that he’d heard his name… almost whispered, but it had been his name. He sat up stiffly, unfolding his arm from underneath him. His leg had begun to ache and the sun was pouring into the window in dusty beams of light. He rolled his neck, popping the joints and stretching his back. He turned his head and froze when he looked at Dean’s face.
Dean’s eyes were open, on him, watching. Sam’s face relaxed into an immediate smile.
“Hey,” he whispered.
Dean blinked and in his eyes was a look Sam had seen before. It sucked the air from him and left a hollow around his heart. It was a look of unabashed relief at seeing Sam safe. It was a look of complete love for his brother. It was a look of goodbye.
Dean blinked again, a small smile pulling up the corner of his mouth. And then on a brief exhale of air, his eyes slid shut. The shrill cry of the heart monitor drove into Sam’s head like a knife.
“Dean?!” He whipped his head around to the open door. “DOC!”