Characters: Sam, Dean
Spoilers: Virtual Season story; VS 2, episode 18
Summary: While taking a break from the action, the brothers run into what they believe to be a werewolf. However, this hunt may prove to be their hardest one yet, their anonimity as hunters being both a blessing and a curse.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
a/n: Hope you enjoy this next part! Happy Supernatural Day!!
Casa del Eco Mesa, shortly after midnight
The silence of the desert night beat against Sam’s ears in the wake of the battle with the wolf. He took a breath; his lungs felt punched flat, his hands trembled, his knees sank deeper into the cool sand that had long ago relinquished the heat from the day. Dean lay before him, legs bent beneath him, arms splayed on either side of his body, empty hands still bent in mimic of holding the shotgun.
Sam dropped the shotgun in the sand, his gun next to it, and grasped Dean’s shoulders, muttering.
“What the hell happened to you, man?”
He carefully shifted his hands over Dean’s shoulders, head, the back of his neck, looking for a wound, a reason for Dean’s collapse. Images scrolled through his mind of the last several months, scenes from the horror show that was their life shaking him from the inside out.
Buried alive, poison bullets, trapping Haris in that ship, vampires on speed, nearly burned to death by a cult, tortured with nightmares, voodoo, amnesia… now this…
“Dean, c’mon, man, you gotta… you gotta give me a sign here.” Sam clutched Dean against him, feeling his heart in his throat, panic licking the edge of each beat. Wiping the back of his hand over his lips, he eased his brother back down on the sand.
“Check his side, kid,” Eugene said, crouching down on the other side of Dean.
“What did I miss?” Sam whispered, running his hands down Dean’s legs, straightening them from their twisted position, and finding nothing. “Dean? Hey, c’mon, I can’t…”
“CHECK HIS SIDE,” Eugene leaned across Dean’s body, his mouth close to Sam, bellowing in his ear.
Sam reached up and laid the back of his hand against the side of Dean’s face. “Man, you’re burning up,” he muttered. Rubbing a hand over his own face, Sam lifted his eyes, searching the empty expanse of the mesa. “I know I hit that wolf, but… it’s so quiet, Dean. The thing could be anywhere.”
Dean groaned weakly, his head shifting slightly in the sand.
“Oh, for the love of—“ Eugene straightened up, slapping his palms on his thighs in exasperation, bending from the waist to lend weight to his scream. “SAM! LOOK. AT. HIS. SIDE!”
As if in echo of the scream Sam couldn’t hear, a screech owl pierced the darkness with its cry. Answering sounds of the night returned and Sam found himself breathing easier. The night was only still when danger lurked; the sounds of the desert, the return of the wind, reassured him that for the moment, they were safe.
“Okay, so we’re not going to be some skin walker’s chew-toy in the next few minutes,” Sam took a breath, “but that doesn’t help me figure out…”
He suddenly tilted his head, looking at Dean’s chest. Beneath the gray T-shirt, he could see a slight rise of something that looked like… bandages. Reaching out to gently lift the edge of Dean’s T-shirt, he tightened his jaw when he saw two squares of white gauze taped on Dean’s side and colored with seeping blood.
“FINALLY!” Eugene straightened, throwing his arms in the air and letting them drop. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, kid! Took you long—“
“You stupid, stubborn… son of a bitch,” Sam interrupted, growling through clenched teeth. “Never touched you, huh? You’re fine?! Dean!” Sam worked his jaw, looking out into the night, then back at his brother. “You wouldn’t know what fine was if it wrestled you to the ground and beat the hell out of you!”
“Well, you got that right!” Eugene’s eyebrows shot up. “I think I’m beginning to like you, kid.”
Dean stirred weakly, legs shifting in the sand, a shaking hand reaching for his wounded side. Sam curled his fingers around Dean’s shoulder, his lips pressed together in a tight line of worry.
“Hey,” Sam said softly. “Hey, Dean, c’mon… c’mon, open your eyes.”
Dean’s mouth worked slowly, his lips parting to pull in air.
“That’s it, man,” Sam encouraged. “Come on back.”
Eugene watched Sam’s gentle encouragement of his brother back to the here and now with something close to wistfulness. He silently cursed the skin walker for leaving him his heart; watching this display of emotion, however subtle, coaxed an ache deep in his chest that he thought he would have left behind with the need for breath.
Dean’s lashes fluttered against his cheeks as he blinked himself aware.
“Sam?” Dean rasped. God, he thought, this sucks out loud… He was so hot. The heat rolled over him in rippling waves, washing him deeper into the sand with each ebb and flow. And he was shivering. Sam’s hand on his shoulder was too heavy. His shirt was too heavy. His eyes were too heavy…
“You’re a friggin’ jerk, you know that?” Sam’s voice was choked with frustrated emotion.
Eugene’s head snapped up and he looked at Sam with abject surprise.
“Bitch,” Dean muttered, his eyes closing briefly.
Eugene whipped his head over to Dean, blinking in astonishment. His felt a laugh build in his throat.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Dean?” Sam asked, shaking his head. “You could have gotten help… back at the sweat lodge.”
“I’ll be okay, Sam,” Dean whispered, forcing his eyes open. I’m okay, I just need to get out of the sand, back to my car … get Sam away…
“Yeah, you sure look okay,” Eugene commented.
Dean’s eyes tracked the now-familiar voice, lighting on Eugene’s multi-hued skin and jaundiced eyes. He winced. “You’re still here, huh?”
“Uh, well, since I don’t see any skin walker heads lying around… yeah,” Eugene retorted.
“Dean, look at me,” Sam said softly, tightening his grip on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean slid his eyes to his brother’s face. Damn, it’s cold out here…
“Where else are you hurt?”
“Just my side,” Dean whispered. “Wolf… c-caught me when it hit us.”
“Goddammit, Dean…” Sam shook his head, jaw working. He pulled Dean’s T-shirt down carefully, covering the stained bandages.
“Where’d it go?” Dean’s eyes slid around the darkness.
“What?” Sam’s brows pulled together in a frown.
Dean twisted his head around, looking across the empty desert. Reaching out, he gripped Sam’s forearm and with a grunt of pained effort, used his brother’s muscle to help pull himself to a slumped sitting position.
“Where’d the wolf go?”
“I scared it off,” Sam and Eugene said in unison. Dean’s eyes darted between them, then rested reluctantly on Eugene.
“Sam, we still gotta—“ His words were swallowed by another shuddering wave of heat, starting from the four parallel cuts on his side and blossoming slowly across his chest and down through his arms. He knew Sam felt the tremble through his grip.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get that damn skin walker,” Sam grumbled. He stuffed his gun in the front of his jeans, careful to keep his T-shirt between his skin and the still-hot barrel, grabbed Dean’s shotgun with one hand, then crouched and wrapped Dean’s arm across his shoulders. “Let’s just get you taken care of first.”
Dean couldn’t bite back the cry of pain as Sam pulled him carefully to his feet. He leaned heavily against his brother, his knees buckling.
“Hurts, huh?” Eugene asked, sympathy vacant from his tone. “Maybe you should’ve… I dunno… said something BEFORE!”
“Hey,” Dean gasped. “I don’t need to hear it from the man who wasn’t there…”
“I don’t get you, man,” Sam grumbled and started walking, shifting the weight of the shotgun in his grip and easing Dean along with him. “After all we’ve been through, why didn’t you just tell me?”
“See?” Eugene said, nodding toward Sam. “Told you. Shoulda trusted the kid.”
“Christ, Sammy… y-you’re pissed, I get it, but… you’d been bit,” Dean said, his voice shaking with the effort to breath. “I thought you were gonna… I was afraid that I…”
Unable to complete his thoughts to their nightmarish end, Dean pulled his head up, his eyes tracking Eugene’s panther-like prowl as he circled them, stopping on Dean’s other side.
Eugene continued with his tirade, oblivious of Dean’s attempt to explain his actions. “Screw that, you should have trusted me. I mean, it’s not like I studied this culture or anything! I told you the wolf was too fast for you—“
“Doesn’t matter, Dean—"
“—it knew you were coming before you even—"
“—protection is one thing, but this is just stupid hunting—"
“—might’ve had a chance if you were both ready, but—"
“—put us both in danger—"
“Enough!” Dean yelled, then pulled up short, his fingers fisting in the shoulder of Sam’s T-shirt as his sudden bellow shook his body. “One at a freakin’ time,” he finished weakly.
Sam sighed, waiting while Dean regained his balance, his fingers hooked into the belt loops of his brother’s jeans, helping to support his weight. He could feel the shape of his brother’s .45—that Dean was very rarely without—pressing into his forearm from its position in Dean’s waistband.
“Can he — er, Eugene — hear me?” Sam asked.
“Unfortunately,” Eugene groused. “Both ears are still in place.”
Dean cleared his throat, nodding wearily. “Yeah, he can hear you.”
Sam lifted his head, looking blankly around them, his blue-green eyes piercing the silvery darkness of the moonlit desert. “Eugene,” he said, looking in the opposite direction from where Eugene stood, waiting, on the other side of Dean. “I, uh, need a moment alone with my brother.”
“Yeah, well,” Eugene grumbled. “I need a million-dollar manicure. Guess we’re both shit out of luck.”
Dean laughed in spite of himself, pressing his arm against his side.
“What?” Sam asked, looking down at him.
“Nothing,” Dean said softly.
“I mean it, Dean,” Sam started walking again. “You can’t keep doing this… I mean ever since—“ Sam stopped talking, the night swallowing his words.
“Since you almost died?” Dean finished for him, the same choking fear he’d felt that moment in the airplane hanger, and again in the desert just the night before, working to stamp out his valiant efforts to breathe. Too many damn times…
“Guess you’ll just have to forgive me, Sam,” Dean managed, frustrated anger giving his words volume. “I mean, maybe I’m just over watching my brother die.”
“You guys are killing me,” Eugene muttered. “Figuratively speaking of course.”
“But I didn’t die, Dean. You saved me,” Sam said.
Dean closed his eyes. Sam felt the effort he was putting into each footstep.
“Not without help, I didn’t...” Dean whispered. He could still remember returning to that hospital, seeing the empty room, feeling the cold helplessness wrap around his heart.
“Well, so, we had help, but you stopped Haris from getting us,” Sam argued, shifting Dean’s increasing weight against him.
“Not for long,” Dean said, shaking his head, his short hairs ruffling against Sam’s shoulder as his neck surrendered. “Freakin’ demon got out somehow…”
“You kidding me? You guys got a demon named Haris after you?” Eugene asked, looking at Dean. He barked out a laugh. “How Ivy League is that? He got a cousin named Lance?”
“Dean,” Sam tried, concerned with the soft defeat he heard in Dean’s contrary words, the heat radiating off of his brother’s body as he leaned against him. “If we’re gonna win this fight… we gotta work together.”
“We do, Sam,” Dean said, his head bobbing down once.
“Not if you don’t trust him,” Eugene pointed out, helpfully.
“Not if you don’t trust me,” Sam argued. “Dad wouldn't hunt while he was hurt.”
“He sure as hell would!” Dean protested weakly, blinking his eyes open and pulling back slightly at the sight of Eugene staring back at him. Dean saw a shift in those eyes, an expression that he was having trouble placing as the world swam around the fuzzy image of the ghoul.
“Yeah, well,” Sam scanned the darkness, “we always knew where he was hurt so we could cover him.”
“I thought I could handle it, Sam,” Dean tried.
“Well, you were wrong,” Sam grunted as Dean sagged heavily. “You’re lucky I’m not in the mood to mess with Dad right now. He’d kick your ass for this.”
Dean didn’t reply. His eyes slid closed and he pressed his arm against his side.
“Hey, kid,” Eugene said to Sam. “How about giving him a break?”
“He can’t hear you,” Dean whispered.
Eugene stopped walking as they moved on through the darkness, following again only when the connection that bound him to Dean demanded it.
“You can,” he said softly.
Kokopelli Inn, wee hours of the morning
“I need to get you cooled down,” Sam’s voice trembled slightly with worry.
“It… it won’t kill me, Sam,” Dean managed through teeth clenched in pain. He pressed his head back into the pillow, watching with burning eyes as Sam set the gun he’d removed from Dean’s waistband and the shotgun he’d hauled out of the desert on the table next to their weapons bag and Eugene’s notes. “J-just makes me sick.”
“Oh, well, is that all,” Sam retorted sarcastically. He left Dean lying on the bed he’d vacated just hours before and barreled his way to the bathroom, forcing Eugene to jump out of his way.
“Tell him about that stuff Manuelito gave you,” Eugene reminded Dean.
“What?” Dean blinked blurry eyes at Eugene’s form standing just to the side of his bed, partly in shadow.
“The medicine and the… paste stuff to put on your cuts.”
“That stuff that smelled like…” Dean grimaced.
“Did you say something, Dean?” Sam called from the bathroom.
“Don’t be such a baby. You saw how fast it worked on Sam,” Eugene pointed out. “And you don’t get your own little sand painting and song and dance. Could take longer for you.”
“Doesn’t matter—" Dean closed his eyes tightly, his fingers curling into fists in the loose quilt.
“You talking to him?” Sam came back in the room, carrying two damp towels.
“I swear to God if you say it doesn’t matter because Sam is okay, I’m gonna—“ Eugene took a step forward, but Sam blocked his approach, reaching Dean.
“You’re not going to be sick, are you?” Sam asked, remembering how the bite had affected him.
“Hope not,” Dean whispered, turning toward the coolness of the damp towel Sam laid over his forehead in spite of himself.
“That makes two of us,” Eugene grumbled.
“I gotta clean out these cuts, Dean,” Sam said softly. “Can you sit up a minute, help me with your shirt?”
“Sam…” Dean murmured. “Package.”
“C’mon, kid, think,” Eugene groused, and resumed his pacing as he had in the sweat lodge. “I know you saw him carrying that package back to the car.”
“On the t-table…” Dean tipped his chin toward the corner of the room. “F-from the… shaman.”
Sam nodded, pushing himself to his feet and went to the table. Seeing the plain brown package sitting next to the weapons bag, he pulled out his pocket knife and cut the twine holding it together. Moving the paper aside, he saw a vial of green-colored powder, a note, and a small covered bowl containing a white paste. Reading the directions on the note, Sam went into the bathroom and mixed the greenish powder with water, his nose wrinkling in disgust as the odor breeched the glass and wafted upward.
He turned back to the room, approaching Dean, the medicine held slightly away from him. Dean’s eyes were closed, sweat slicking his forehead and cheeks, his lips slightly parted and his chest moving in quick repetitions of breath.
Dean flinched when Sam said his name, but couldn’t open his eyes. His lids felt weighted, melded to his face with heat. His head was full of voices: Sam’s, John’s, Haris’… The loudest, however being his own, mocking him with his failure, with the chance that he wouldn’t be enough… He’ll be okay if he stays close… I promise nothing bad’s gonna happen to you… long as I’m around, Sammy…
“Hey, man,” Sam gently shook his arm. “You need to wake up for just a minute.”
Sam watched as lines folded Dean’s brow, his eyes opening to the barest of slits.
“I’ll help you, okay?” Sam whispered, remembering how Dean had held him up in the sweat lodge, how he’d not wanted to leave his side until forced to by the shaman. Grasping the back of Dean’s head, Sam rested the edge of the cup against his lips, helping him drink.
“Gah, that’s nasty,” Dean whispered, his head dropping back.
“Well, it’ll help,” Sam said. “It helped me.”
Dean pulled in a shuddering breath, griping the bed in an effort to slow its spin.
“What I said about Dad... I’m sorry. I highly doubt he’d kick your ass,” Sam said softly.
“S’okay, Sam,” Dean slurred.
There was an odd grayish quality about the room as Dean worked to keep his eyes open. In the edges of the gray, he saw himself and Sam. Memories of what they had survived twitched through his fading vision like flickering images from a movie reel. He narrowed his eyes, trying to catch them, trying to hold one of the memories, trying to see… but when he looked closer, the images faded leaving in their wake a darker gray, a deeper silence, and a heat that threatened to burn him up.
Sam stood and returned to the table, preparing the poultice as Manuelito’s note instructed. How had he known? The Navajo shaman had known they would need this medicine… he’d seen what Sam had not. Maybe if I’d paid closer attention… He turned back to Dean and saw that his brother’s eyes were closed again.
Sighing, Sam perched on the edge of the bed, raising the edge of Dean’s T-shirt so that he could see all of the bandages, and began to remove them slowly.
“You scare me, man. One of these days,” he muttered softly, watching to see if his brother reacted. “I’m afraid of what you’re gonna do to save me…”
“He’ll do whatever it takes,” Eugene said, pacing in a tight pattern at the foot of the bed. “He’ll protect you no matter what, kid.”
“I know you think it’s your job to protect me, man,” Sam winced as Dean jerked slightly when he used the second towel to clean away the blood that had seeped from the shallow cuts. “But you gotta trust that you… you helped raise me right…”
Dean’s head rolled weakly against the pillow as Sam laid the poultice across his chest and he shivered at the contact of the medicine against the cuts.
“You taught me well, Dean. We… we take care of each other.”
“Do you two know how good you have it?” Eugene stepped up to Sam, staring at his profile.
“We still got a fight ahead of us, man… I mean… Haris… he’s still out there.”
Dean jerked slightly as the arms of a nightmare wrapped tightly around him. His lips moved rapidly, his brow furrowing.
“I mean, people just don’t… watch out for each other like you guys…” Eugene shook his head, then frowned. He reached up to the side of his face, scratching. As he pulled his hand away, his ear plopped to the floor. “Dammit!” he said in disgust, retrieving the ear with his few remaining fingers.
“And if we’re gonna stop him, we’re gonna have to do it together. It’s gonna take both of us—trusting each other… no matter what.” Sam dropped his head, staring at his hands lying loose and open in his lap.
“Couldn’t save him… sh-shouldn’t have promised…” Dean muttered, his jaw trembling as he shivered with fever.
Eugene and Sam lifted their heads as one, staring at him as Dean twisted to the side, the towel Sam had lain over his forehead slipping off.
Frowning, Eugene distractedly started to stuff the ear into his pocket, then changed his mind, throwing it across the room with a frustrated growl. He never saw it land.
“Dean,” Sam said, turning the towel to the cool side, and laying it back in place. “You did the best you could… you’ve always done the best you could.”
“Don’t think he agrees with you, kid,” Eugene muttered.
“And it’s not your fault that there’s some… guy wandering around… haunting you. Probably talking to me right now…” Sam glanced around the room, his eyes sliding over Eugene blindly. “Really friggin’ bugs me that I can’t see him. Or hear him.”
“Last night as I was going up the stair,” Eugene started to quote, wandering to the other side of the room, looking for his ear. “I met a man who wasn’t there…”
“Keep you safe, Sam… won’t let him get you…” Dean’s words were slurred, his lips barely moving. “Yellow-eyed son of a bitch…”
“He wasn’t there again today,” Eugene said, giving up on finding his missing appendage, looking back over at the brothers. “Oh, how I wish he’d go away…”
“Nobody’s gonna get me, Dean,” Sam reached for his brother’s arm, his hand hovering just above Dean’s wrist, fingers curling into a fist rather than making the connection just yet. “He’s not gonna get me,” he whispered.
“Won’t let him…” Dean’s face was pulled into a fierce frown and he started to pant a bit for air.
Sam pulled the towel from his forehead. “You're still burning up.” He went to the bathroom and soaked the towel once more in cool water. He grabbed a couple more from the shelf and wet them as well.
“Maybe we need to sing… singing seemed to work for you,” Eugene suggested. “Seems like he’s more of a ‘70’s rocker, though… I’d offer to do the healing hand tremble routine, but I’d probably just drop fingers all over him.” He looked ruefully at his rapidly diminishing digits.
Sam returned to the bed and laid the towels on Dean’s forehead, neck, and wrists. Dean’s breathing didn’t calm, and as he continued to fight for air, his body trembling from the fever and the medicine, sweat ran down the sides of his face, glistening on his chest. Lines of worry dug deeper grooves into Sam’s forehead.
“What is with you guys and your aversion to hospitals?” Eugene asked, his eyes pinned to Dean’s tortured face. “Then again, what are you gonna say? Hey, my brother is sick from a skin walker scratch?”
Sam sighed and rolled his neck tiredly, then used the towel from Dean’s forehead to wipe the side of his brother’s face, trying to cool Dean down. “Maybe I should try to take you back to… the shaman…” he whispered as Dean shivered.
Eugene continued his rambling monologue with the non-existent doctor. “What’s a skin walker you say? Kinda like a werewolf, only… not. Of course they exist! Do I look like a crazy person to you? Don’t answer that…”
“Hey, Dean,” Sam said softly, adjusting one of the towels at his brother’s wrist and using that excuse to grab Dean’s limp hand, thumb to thumb. “Y’know when we were talking before… about Mom and Dad?” He watched his brother’s face, watched as Dean frowned, the fever chewing through him.
“I, uh… I missed that. Just… just talking like that. Not having to fight a demon, or a vampire, or a spirit…” Sam rubbed his aching head with his free hand. “Sometimes feels like the devil himself is after us … even though I know that’s not possible.”
Eugene jerked his eyes to Sam. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…” He quoted, shaking his head slowly lest he work something else loose.
“I don’t know, man,” Sam sighed. “I just… I liked just hanging out with you. It was like… I suddenly remembered that we’re a family.” Sam continued softly, oblivious to Eugene, focused on the heat radiating from his brother in tremors so strong they shook the bed. “We’ve always worked really well together, y’know? I mean, Jesus, we face death just about every day. Monsters that people don’t even… don’t want to know exist.”
Eugene narrowed his eyes, listening for a moment.
“I would die for you, Dean, and I know that you’d do the same for me… but sometimes I think we get so focused on surviving that we forget… well, what all comes with just being… brothers.”
Dean twisted slightly on the bed, his free hand fisting in the quilt, his other gripping tightly to Sam’s. His eyes closed tighter, a wave of pain rocking through him as the Navajo remedy worked to rid his body of the skin walker’s poison.
Sam felt wetness on his cheek, and swiped at it with the back of his free hand, unwilling to release Dean. He was surprised to find tears there.
“Y’know… the Navajo don’t really have a word that means family… not really,” Eugene said, his face softening as he watched Sam.
“Being brothers is… well, it’s remembering things that the other one can’t… like how you remember Mom for me.” Sam sniffed, rubbing at his tired eyes. “It’s… carrying the weight that the other one can’t carry… and listening to what’s too hard to say… and...” Sam trailed off, tiredly.
“But there are actually two Navajo words that mean brother,” Eugene finished.
“You’re my best friend, man,” Sam whispered. He laughed softly. “I don’t know why I can’t tell you this when you can actually hear me.” He lifted his eyes to Dean’s flushed face. “Talk about a chick-flick moment.”
Eugene grinned slightly. “I was thinking after-school special, but chick-flick works, too.”
Sam released Dean’s hand and adjusted the towels. Dean groaned softly as the coolness was pulled away, sighing when it was returned. Sam checked the poultice, noting that the redness and swelling around the cuts on Dean’s side had already subsided. It’s working…
“Sam…” Dean whispered, his brow smoothing slightly.
“I’m here, Dean,” Sam said, patting his brother’s shoulder. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
As the first rays of the rising sun crept silently through the crack in the heavy, brown curtains, Sam sat on the floor next to Dean’s bed and watched his brother’s green eyes blink open, clear, and fever-free.
“Hey,” he greeted.
“Hey, yourself,” Dean returned, his voice sandpaper rough. “You been sitting there all night?”
“Seemed as good a place as any,” Sam replied, pushing himself up and reaching for the now-dry poultice on Dean’s side. “How are you feeling?”
“Uh… good,” Dean admitted. He smacked his lips together as if tasting the air. “Hungry, actually.”
Sam grinned when he lifted the poultice away and saw that the four identical lines crossing his brother’s ribs had faded to simple scratches. “Yep, that’s the Dean Winchester I know.”
Dean slowly eased himself up in the bed so that his back rested against the headboard. “And I didn’t even have to sweat my ass off this time.”
Sam gathered the towels and turned toward the bathroom. “That’s what you think.”
Dean watched him go and his eyes caught on Eugene sitting silently in the corner. “Hey,” he said. “You been here this whole time?”
“Huh?” Sam stuck his head around the edge of the bathroom, saw Dean staring at the empty chair and sighed. “Oh, him.”
Eugene didn’t reply.
Dean couldn’t clearly see Eugene’s face, but the parts of his body that weren’t hidden by shadow had become rather tragically tattered over the past few hours.
“Eugene… hello… Earth to Mr. Eastwood…” Dean waved a hand in the direction Eugene was sitting. “Did your tongue fall out?”
“No,” Eugene finally said.
“Hey, Dean,” Sam interrupted. “I think I saw a convenience store attached to this place. I’m gonna go get us some food.”
“Okay,” Dean nodded, starting to push himself out of bed.
“Hey, wait, just—just wait, okay?” Sam crossed the room and pushed Dean back against the headboard. “I was exhausted when the fever broke… remember?”
“Yeah, Sam, but you were—"
“Just lay here for a little bit longer,” Sam said. “Please? Just until I come back.”
“Fine.” Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. “But don’t take too long.”
Sam glanced around the room. “Make sure he stays put, Eugene.”
Dean blinked at Sam, hearing a soft chuckle from the corner of the room. “Can you… did you… see him?”
Sam shook his head.
“I could have lit myself on fire and he wouldn’t have noticed… oh wait… you already did that,” Eugene commented from the shadows.
“But I kinda… knew he was there last night,” Sam shrugged. “It was… comforting in an extremely creepy kind of way.”
Dean laughed softly. “Hurry up, Stretch.”
Sam grabbed the room key and started out of the door.
“And bring me coffee,” Dean called after him.
“Dean,” Sam stuck his head around the edge of the door. “I am not bringing you pie.”
“Nazi,” Dean frowned.
“Stay put. I’ll be back,” Sam pointed at him, then left the room, pulling the door close behind him.
Dean shifted his denim-clad legs over the edge of bed, easing up his T-shirt to look in amazement at the healing wounds on his side.
“Thought you were supposed to stay put.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Dean grumbled. “Why are you hiding back there, anyway?”
With a sigh, Eugene leaned forward so that the morning light hit his face. Dean glanced up and did a double-take, letting his breath ease out slowly. The night had not been kind. Eugene’s slashed face had started to cave in; the area of skin around one eye was gone, leaving the yellowed orb almost completely exposed. The opposite side of his face hadn’t fared much better: his cheekbone was prominent giving his other eye a sunken look.
“Holy shit,” Dean breathed. “What happened to… your, um, ear?”
“Your brother talked it off,” Eugene reached up and brushed two of his remaining fingers across the hole where his ear had been.
Dean ran his index finger over his lower lip, then scratched distractedly at the days growth of stubble along his jaw line, wanting to look away, but compelled to stare at Eugene at the same time.
“What do you suppose happens if I fall apart completely before you kill the skin walker?” Eugene asked calmly. “’Cause… I didn’t exactly get that far in my research before, y’know, dying.”
Dean felt a cold lump at the base of his stomach. Eugene may be haunting him, but Dean recognized suffering when he saw it. This half-life, this waking death, was torture — and not just to Dean.
“Eugene, I—“ Dean swallowed, bracing both hands on the mattress on either side of his legs. “I’m sorry.”
Eugene lifted a shoulder. “I know.” He looked down. “Sam was right, man. You did the best you could.”
“Sam said that?”
“Last night,” Eugene looked up at him and Dean tried hard not to grimace. “He said a lot of stuff that you probably should’ve heard… but, I think you already know.”
Dean shook his head. “Aw, Sammy… full-on chick flick moment, I bet.”
“Pretty much,” Eugene nodded. “But… in a little-brother, don’t-make-fun-of-me-for-this kind of way.”
Dean felt the corner of his mouth tick up. “Yeah,” he glanced down. “Listen, Eugene, we’ll get this thing, okay?”
“You promise?” Eugene lifted a teasing eyebrow.
Dean looked over at him. “Funny.” Feeling suddenly tired, he leaned back against the headboard. “We’ll figure something out, though. We always do.”
“Y’know… listening to Sam last night, I realized something.”
“That my brother needs to watch less Lifetime Television for Women?”
Eugene grinned, the effect gruesome in his ravaged face. “That, and… you guys are a lot like the Code Talkers.”
Dean frowned. “You mean those guys you said were heroes?”
“Those are the ones. I mean it, man,” Eugene leaned forward, his tone earnest. “The only people who knew about them were the soldiers assigned to protect them. They fought in secret and they did the impossible… and it wasn’t until long after the war was over that they were given credit for saving our collective asses.”
“Eh,” Dean waved a dismissive hand at Eugene. “We aren’t heroes, man. We just have a job to do, like everyone else.”
“Uh, yeah, but unlike my job, which was making sure that the numbers in the ledger added up so a rich guy could stay that way, you guys use… silver bullets and… hell, I don’t know… crosses and holy water to make sure some poor schmuck doesn’t… well, doesn’t end up like me.”
Dean looked down at the motel carpet as Eugene spoke, tracing the pattern of colors — that strangely resembled the design from the sand painting in Manuelito’s sweat lodge — with his eyes. He sighed. “Listen, Eugene…” He looked up, drawing Eugene’s haunted gaze. “Seriously, listen.”
Eugene looked at him, silent.
“We aren’t heroes, okay? I mean… the guys that go in to a job every day so that their kids can… play soccer or go to college… those guys are heroes. They don’t get thanked, they don’t get medals, but they keep doing it.” Dean clenched his jaw and looked out at the sliver of the world he could see through the crack in the curtains. “If they screw up… no one dies,” he said softly.
He shook his head, looking back at Eugene. “Sam and me… and our Dad… we’re just doing the only thing we know how and we do our best but… we’re not heroes. And you sitting there staring at me like that just proves that our best isn’t always good enough.”
Eugene looked down. “I think you might want to ask Sam if he agrees with you.”
Dean opened his mouth to reply but Sam stopped his retort as he returned carrying a bag of food and a container of coffee. His grin at seeing Dean still sitting on the bed lit up his face.
“How ‘bout that — you can sit still for two minutes.” Sam set the bag of food on the table, pushing Eugene’s notes to the side. He turned to Dean, holding out a coffee. “You look better, man.”
“I feel better,” Dean stood up, his legs slightly shaky. He crossed to the table, took the coffee from Sam and breathed deep. “Oh, my God…” he sighed, closing his eyes with pleasure.
“That sounds… vaguely dirty,” Eugene commented.
“Good?” Sam grinned as Dean pulled of the plastic lid and inhaled a mouthful of the black liquid.
“Oh, yeah,” Dean nodded, then began rifling through the bag of food. He grinned when he pulled out a yellow bag of peanut M&Ms. “Nice.”
“Yeah, well,” Sam shrugged, grabbing container of orange juice, popping off the top, and taking a big swig. “I was going to hide them from you if I came back and you were… cleaning our guns or something.”
“Believe me,” Dean said around a mouthful of chocolate, digging deeper into the grocery bag. “I was gonna get up, but Eugene distracted me.”
“Maybe we oughtta keep him around.”
Dean looked over his shoulder at Eugene, who had stood and was holding his hands — fingers now numbering a total of four — out in front of him.
“Nah… I’m not so sure about that,” Dean turned back.
“Why?” Sam asked, pulling the plastic wrapper off of a pre-made sandwich.
“Let’s just say it’s a good thing I can’t smell him,” Dean remarked.
“Hey!” Eugene protested. “Right here, man.”
“Speaking of smelling…” Sam lifted an eyebrow and plucked at his T-shirt, tucking his nose into the material and grimacing. “We’re… kinda ripe, man.”
“Dude, it’s been a helluva couple days,” Dean said, taking a large bite from the other sandwich he’d found in the bag.
They took turns showering and eating, both agreeing that hot water and food could cure just about anything. Eugene paced, noting rather loudly that he could benefit from neither, so they should just hurry the hell up already and figure out how to solve his problem before he lost a leg and was just dragging along behind them by some invisible puppet string.
“So, I've been thinking,” Sam commented, tying his boots as Dean fished out a clean T-shirt from his duffel bag.
“Well, that’s never a good thing,” Dean commented good-naturedly.
“We need to actually trap the wolf — not just catch him in a cross-fire,” Sam said. “It’s the only way we’ll be able to slow it down long enough to wound it — or get close enough to it to decapitate it. They’ve gotta have animal traps around here, yeah?”
“That’s not gonna work,” Eugene commented, leaning against the wall in the corner of the room.
Dean turned to face him, his back to Sam, black T-shirt bunched up in his hands. “Why not? Makes sense to me.”
“Good, so maybe we can ask the front desk lady—" Sam started, then realized that Dean wasn’t looking at him.
“Why not? Are you serious? Didn’t you listen to a friggin’ word I said?” Eugene pushed away from the wall.
“Oh, jeeze, excuse the hell out of me if I couldn’t filter through all the crap to find the one piece of information that might come in handy here,” Dean snapped, pulling his T-shirt over his head and tugging the edges down over the waistband of his jeans.
“Here we go again,” Sam muttered, slouching, his forearms resting on his knees as he watched his brother argue with thin air.
“Dude, they say skin walkers can read your thoughts…” Eugene stepped up until his rotting, purplish face was inches from Dean’s. Dean squared his shoulders, refusing to back down as Eugene continued his tirade. “They remember, okay? You’ve already tried to trap it once… it’s not gonna fall for that again!”
“Hey, you’re the one that needs us to kill this bastard, okay?” Dean poked Eugene’s shoulder with his index finger, wincing slightly as his finger squished in further than he expected. “Why are you so determined to shoot holes in all of our plans?”
“Don’t give me that whole I’m doing this for you crap. You need this thing dead as much as I do,” Eugene turned away from Dean. “Unless you really want some mute… skeleton following you around everywhere.”
Dean looked over at Sam, jerking his hand in Eugene’s direction. “You believe this guy?”
Sam lifted his eyebrows, his hands falling open between his knees, his expression a question mark.
“Listen, you have got to be smarter than the creature, here, okay?” Eugene turned back to Dean. “It’s not an animal!”
“Well, what’s your brilliant idea then, Einstein?” Dean yelled at him.
“Trap the man, not the wolf!” Eugene yelled back.
Dean opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. “Huh,” he said, turning to Sam. “That… actually makes sense.”
Sam darted his chin out, his shoulders back. “Gonna let me in on the plan?”
“Oh,” Dean glanced back at Eugene, then turned to Sam. “We, uh… we trap the man.”
“Not the wolf,” Sam nodded slowly. “Yeah, that… that might work.”
Eugene shook his head. “How you guys survived this long without me, I’ll never know.”
Bluff Free Clinic, mid-morning
“Why do you think he’ll come here?” Sam asked as they sat in the Impala, across the street from the Bluff Free Clinic. “Not that I don’t love stake-outs, but…”
“Well, he’s Navajo, so when Sam shot him, he should have gone to his father to be healed, but… it seemed pretty obvious that Manuelito didn’t approve of his son’s… choice,” Eugene mused from the back seat.
“Yeah,” Dean huffed out a merciless laugh, his arm on the open window sill, eyes on the clinic door. “Considering he told us how to kill him.”
“Dean? Hello?” Sam waved his hand at Dean’s profile. “I don’t speak ghoul, remember?”
“Oh, right,” Dean turned to Sam. “So… if you wound a skin walker in their animal shape, it has to turn human to heal or be treated, and since he couldn’t go to the shaman to get his bullet wound looked at, this was pretty much his only choice in town.”
Sam shook his head. “How do you know all this stuff?”
Dean jerked his thumb behind him where Eugene sat, resting his chin on the back of their seat. Dean grimaced.
“You better not leave… pieces in here, man,” Dean grumbled.
“Oh, pipe down,” Eugene said. “You know... it’s almost too bad this guy’s not a werewolf.”
Dean glanced at him in the rearview mirror, his eyes curious.
Sam spoke up. “I think I could have actually felt sorry for the guy if he’d been a werewolf, you know?”
Dean’s look of surprise mirrored Eugene’s as their heads whipped in Sam’s direction. Sam blinked back at Dean.
“What?” he asked innocently. “I’m just saying… lycanthropy seems like it’s almost as evil to the person suffering as to the victims. They don’t remember what they did as werewolves… but skin walkers…”
“Skin walkers remember,” Eugene echoed, nodding in agreement.
“You two are weirding me out on so many different levels,” Dean muttered, straightening as a tall, dark-skinned man with raven-black hair approached the door. He was holding his left arm crooked against his chest, a pained expression on his face. “Is that him?”
“How the hell should I know?” Sam asked.
“Yep,” Eugene confirmed. “That’s my Indian guide.”
“That’s him,” Dean said, watching as the man waited while someone else exited the building, then moved to enter, shielding his wounded arm from the swinging door. A horn blared in the distance and the man glanced over his shoulder, his eyes flashing like quicksilver.
Sam shuddered. “Reminds me of…”
“The shape shifter,” Dean finished softly.
“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “Now what?”
Dean sat back. “Now… we wait.”
“Oh, fun,” Eugene groused. “At least pick something better to listen to. Any Oingo Boingo? Oh! Wait! I know… how about George Strait?”
Dean glared at him in the rearview mirror, reached over and turned up the volume. AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill filled the interior of the car.
“Swell,” Sam shook his head, watching Dean stare down an empty back seat. “What did he ask to listen to? The Fray? Bon Jovi? Barry Manilow?”
“Worse,” Dean said, looking out of the window. “Country.”
Sam chuckled, glanced toward the empty seat, then laughed harder. “I think I’m beginning to like this guy.”
Four Corners Tours Airplane Hangar, afternoon
Following the skin walker’s exit from the town of Bluff at a discrete distance in a large, black car when the desert road is empty for miles in either direction was a near impossibility. Dean’s hands wrapped tighter on the wheel as each mile passed, tension building quietly inside of him as the sun began its decent across a cloudless blue sky. Sam remained quiet, his eyes pinned to the silver Honda that was far enough ahead that it was basically just a glint in the sun. Eugene, however, sat back, humming along to the music, purposely off-key.
“Does that look like a… runway? An airport maybe?” Dean asked, squinting at the images of buildings shimmering in the distance.
“A really small one, yeah,” Sam nodded. “Think that’s where he’s headed?”
The silver glint turned left just as Sam spoke.
“Guess so,” they said in unison.
Dean continued on, slowly passing the metal, pre-fabricated buildings and the weed-infested runway. Sam and Eugene craned their necks to take in the layout.
“Okay, so, his car is there,” Sam said, sitting forward once more. “And it looked like there were two of those small, shed-like hangars—"
“Three,” Eugene corrected.
“—spread out along the runway. Not like back in New Jersey. Much smaller. Almost… maybe a storage area for planes? I don’t know.”
“See any planes?” Dean asked, glancing to either side of the road for a safe place to pull off.
“Couldn’t tell,” Sam shook his head.
“I saw four,” Eugene said.
Dean glanced at him in the mirror. “You suddenly get X-ray vision or something?”
“Just at a better angle is all,” Eugene said. “Didn’t have to look through your thick head.”
“Nice,” Dean smirked.
“What?” Sam asked, his head tipped forward.
“There were at least four planes—" Dean started.
“Cessna’s,” Eugene supplied.
“Twin engine,” Eugene said.
“Alright,” Dean snapped. “There are four, twin-engine Cessna’s back there.”
Seeing a rock formation large enough to hide the Impala, he pulled off the side of the road and stopped in the shade of the rock. They’d traveled about three-quarters of a mile beyond the airport. Shutting off the engine, they piled out and gathered at the trunk.
“So, you think he’s… what? Gonna fly somewhere? Change hunting grounds?” Sam opened the trunk.
Dean shrugged. “Maybe we scared him — I mean, you shot him…”
“What’s Eugene think?” Sam asked grabbing his gun still loaded with silver bullets.
Dean looked over his shoulder. “Well?”
Eugene’s eyebrows shot up so suddenly that his exposed eyeball protruded slightly.
“Ugh, careful, man,” Dean scrunched up his face in an effort not to grimace. “No sudden movements, okay?”
“You… you’re asking what I think?”
“Sam is,” Dean said, grabbing his shotgun and checking the rounds. “See, Sammy here,” Dean clapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He needs to know why the bad guys do what they do. Me?” Dean spread his hand over his chest. “I just shoot ‘em. Reload. Then shoot ‘em again.”
Eugene looked at Sam. “I think you’re right, kid,” he said. “I think he’s changing hunting grounds. I think he turned his back on his people and didn’t realize what it was like to live like a lone wolf when his pack was so close by… not until he needed help and couldn’t get it.”
“Uhh…” Dean blinked, then turned to Sam. “He says you’re right.”
“Well, then,” Sam grabbed the machete and closed the trunk. “We’d better hurry. Don’t think you’re gonna want to fight this guy while he’s flying a twin-engine Cessna.”
Dean started shaking his head before Sam had finished his sentence. They took off south across the open mesa, heading for the tiny airport. The late afternoon sun hit their right sides, warming their faces. A slow, steady wind ruffled Dean’s short hair and blew Sam’s long bangs into his eyes. Dean glanced at Eugene. Sand was actually collecting in the open crevasses from the rotting claw marks on his face and neck.
“If he’s looking… there’s no way he’s not going to see us,” Dean grumbled.
“Well, let’s hope he’s not looking,” Sam said. “He knows he hurt both of us… maybe he’s banking on the sickness taking us out by now…”
“He saw Sam last night,” Eugene reminded them, flicking at the particles of sand on the loose flaps of skin at his neck. “Y’know… not dead and all.”
“Don’t think we can count on that, Sam,” Dean said, hefting the shotgun.
They reached the first hangar, pressing their backs against the corrugated steel wall. Dean ducked his head around the corner and saw that the man was actually parked at the last hangar. He ducked back and looked over at Sam.
“He’s two down,” Dean whispered.
“I hate airplane hangars,” Sam grumbled, pulling out his gun. He looked over as Dean lifted the barrel of the shotgun and started to move around the back of the hanger. “I can’t believe you brought that thing, man.”
“Now is really not the time to take exception to my choice of weapons, Sam,” Dean shot back in a whisper.
“I’m just sayin’—"
“Yeah, well, don’t just say,” Dean replied as they moved swiftly between the opening between the first and second hangar. “This thing has a kick — more power than anything else we own.”
“So that guy said, anyway… At least I remembered the machete,” Sam snapped as they paused along the backside of the second hanger. “Unless you were figuring on shooting his head off…”
Dean tilted his head at that. Good point.
“You know, the whole reason I—" Eugene started, his voice loud in the quiet of the afternoon. Dean jerked, startled, then grabbed the front of Eugene’s ruined shirt and shoved him back against the hangar with a soft thump.
Sam blinked at the ridiculous looking image of Dean’s hand fisting in air, his brother’s angry face staring at the side of the hangar.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dean whispered fiercely.
“What's your problem?” Eugene whispered back. “You’re the only one that can—"
“Are you crazy? The wolf saw you, remember?” Dean pushed Eugene away, resisting the temptation to wipe his hand on his jeans.
“The wolf saw him?” Sam asked.
Dean ignored his brother. “Manuelito said that his family all had… sight or whatever. Even his son.”
“Oh.” Eugene blinked at him. “Right. Uh, sorry.”
Dean glared at him. “You just wait here.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Eugene argued as Sam ducked around them and scooted to the end of the building, peeking around the edge.
“Dean,” he said in a low whisper. “He’s heading to his car.”
Dean pointed his finger at Eugene. “Stay.”
He slid up next to Sam, darting his head around the corner to see the rear of the silver Honda not ten feet away, the skin walker flipping his keys around his fingers.
“We can’t let him get out of here,” Sam whispered in Dean’s ear.
“I know,” Dean snapped.
The car was parked in front of one of the four planes Eugene had seen from the road. Thinking quickly, Dean stepped out from the protection of the building, bringing the shotgun up. Take out your tires… you won’t be going anywhere…
Before Sam could say anything, Dean aimed at the rear tire and fired both barrels. The force of the gun literally blew Dean off of his feet, slamming him hard against the side of the building, his head hitting the corrugated steel with a resounding crack. He slid to the ground in a pile of legs, arms, and gun smoke.
“Holy shit!” Eugene exclaimed.
Sam had stumbled back at the sound of the blast and tore his eyes from Dean’s still form to the skin walker. The blast from Dean’s cannon had hit the rear tire of his car. In fact, it had obliterated the tire, part of the trunk and some of the back seat. That car was going nowhere.
The Navajo man had fallen back either in surprise or by the force of the blast and was sitting on the other side of his car, a look of shock frozen on his dark features.
“Dean!” Sam dropped to a crouch beside his unconscious brother, stabbing the machete into the ground and pulling the shotgun from Dean’s loose fingers. He reached down to check his brother’s pulse, exhaling when he felt the strong thrum of Dean’s heart against his fingers.
Sam looked back over his shoulder as the skin walker clambered to his feet, his eyes on Sam and Dean, then darted into the hanger. Sam reached behind Dean and grabbed his .45 from his brother’s waistband.
“I’ll be back,” he said to Dean’s lax face, pressed against the sand. “I swear.” He stood, glancing around blindly. “Eugene, keep an eye on him.”
“Hey, wait—" Eugene’s protest fell on deaf ears as Sam cocked both weapons and ran toward the opening that the skin walker had disappeared through.
Eugene crouched in front of Dean’s inert form, reaching out and poking his shoulder with one of his tenuously attached fingers. “Hey, man, you gotta wake up… gotta go… y’know… save the damn day and all that…”
Dean began to stir.
“That’s it!” Eugene bounced lightly on the balls of his feet. “You’re not gonna let a little shotgun blast take you down, right?” Eugene looked over his shoulder at the hanger. “C’mon, Dean. I got a bad feeling about this…”
I friggin’ hate airplane hangars…
Sam heard the snap-bang of a bullet as it ricocheted just above his head. Ducking low he dodged around the nose of a plane, scrambling below the wing. Another bullet sailed above his head, shattering a window.
Using the body of a Cessna for cover as best he could, Sam stuck one gun over the top of the tail and fired three quick rounds. He heard glass breaking and ducked low to see a man’s legs running between the planes. Sam gave chase, firing as he ran between the planes, working to herd the skin walker into the open, while he stayed behind cover.
“My fight’s not with you!”
The Navajo’s voice was deep and it surprised the hell out of Sam.
“Yeah, well,” Sam darted his head out quickly, checking to see where the man had stopped moving. He saw his boots near one of the propellers of the plane nearest the entrance. “You should have thought of that before you bit me!” Freak…
“I only wanted the writer! He knew of my kind.”
Shots pinged off of the metal wheel braces near Sam’s legs. Son of a—
“Well, you screwed that up!” Sam yelled back. “Turned him into a ghoul — he’s pissed as hell, about it, too!”
Sam stuck his arm around the nose of the plane, firing two quick shots, then pulled back behind cover and checked his rounds. Two bullets left in his gun, eight in Dean’s. He twisted his neck to look toward the opening of the hangar, knowing the skin walker was closer than he was now. C’mon, Dean… I could really use your help right about now.
“You should just let me go,” the Navajo yelled.
“So you can go hunt somewhere else? Kill more people?” Sam brought both guns up and took a breath. “Don’t think so.”
He gripped the guns, his fingers playing lightly on the outside of the trigger guards. See, Sammy here… he needs to know why… Me? I just shoot ‘em… Dean’s voice played in his head. Dammit, Dean… you and that damn gun…
He wanted Dean here; his brother’s swagger, bravado, his outright confidence made doing what had to be done something Sam could handle. It made their partnership work.
But Dean wasn’t here. He was in a heap outside the airplane hangar. And the skin walker was going to get away. It’s now or never…
Sam swung around the nose of the plane, bringing both guns to bear on where he last saw the skin walker. Nothing. Air. Brow creased in worry, he hurried forward, approaching the opening, his heart rate increasing, his blood thundering in his ears.
“Where the hell…” he whispered.
“Son of a BITCH!” His brother’s voice shot through his head again, only this time it wasn’t with the tease of a memory, but with the heat of rage and the sound of struggle. “I swear to freakin’ GOD I’m gonna ki—“
Dean’s voice was choked off, and Sam cleared the last of the planes, stepping into the opening. The site that met his eyes made his blood run cold. The Navajo skin walker stood, framed in the opening of the hanger, the light of the dying desert sun behind him, glinting off the silver of his gun, which was pressed tightly against Dean’s temple.
His strong arm was wrapped around Dean’s throat, and his brother’s feet shuffled at the sandy ground, his hands pulling ineffectually at the arm crushing his windpipe. Sam took a breath, his arms dropping to his sides.
“Sam, don’t you—" Dean’s breath ceased, cut off by the man’s muscular arm, ending whatever command he was about to hand his brother. Sam heard Dean wheeze as he fought for air.
“You really should just let me go,” the skin walker repeated.
Sam shook his head helplessly. “I… can’t.” He swallowed, then brought his gun up with his right hand, pointing the barrel steadily at the skin walker.
The Navajo pulled the hammer back on his gun, pressing it tighter against Dean’s head. “How ‘bout now?”
a/n: Thanks for reading! Final part can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/47737.html>