Characters: Dean, Sam
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature scenes
Spoilers: This story is set in Season 1, overlapping the ending of 1X12, “Faith.”
Summary: While Dean struggles to keep his head in the game after being healed, Sam works to come to grips with John's purposeful distance. The last thing they need is to run sideways of two brothers hunting for buried pirate treasure...
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Bad Company album of the same name.
“Hey! Hey! Whoa, easy, easy!” Sam knelt on the sand, one hand gripping Dean’s left arm, and the other pressed gently on his brother’s heaving chest.
Dean came around with a cry, his eyes wide and staring, fear and confusion etched on every line of his drawn face.
“Not dead… not dead…”
“Take it easy, man,” Sam said softly. “You’re okay.”
Dean looked up and Sam’s belly lurched at the terror still captured in the green of his brother’s eyes. Reaching up and out, Dean gripped Sam’s arm, the heavy shackle scraping Sam’s sunburned skin.
“I’m here. I’m here, you’re okay.”
Dean dropped his head back, blinking rapidly, trying to lift his hand to rub his face in a familiar gesture of exhaustion. “We left them.”
Sam frowned, looking back at the Guileys who were huddled close under their tent constructed of a shredded duffle bag, Emerson’s outer shirt, two jeep roll bars and the bleached skull of what Emerson assessed had been a very, very lost cow.
“They’re right here, Dean,” Sam assured him, reaching for a bottle of water.
When Dean looked over at him in panic, Sam felt more words of reassurance evaporate in the heat.
“’m I… awake?” Dean asked, his fingers convulsively gripping the sand.
“Yeah, man,” Sam nodded, lifting his brother’s head. “You’re awake.”
Dean drank, coughing as the water overflowed in his mouth slightly. Sam waited until he’d swallowed before offering him more.
“Dude!” Emerson spoke up. “One drink every two hours or whatever. Goes for him, too.”
Sam glared at him, but rested Dean’s head back against the sand, watching as Dean’s eyes came back to him.
“Left… the bodies,” he rasped.
“Victims,” Dean clarified.
“Oh,” Sam sank down on his haunches. Dean was worried about the bodies in the hold? They’d barely escaped with their lives, salting and burning bodies with no evidence of spirits had not been a possibility. “We had to, man.”
“Think they’ll haunt us?” Mack asked.
Sam saw Dean slide his eyes to the side and a dark look crossed his brother’s face. “Should… haunt you… traitor.”
Sam blinked in mild surprise, but Emerson chewed over any comment he’d thought to make with a, “Traitor my ass!”
“No, he’s right,” Sam said, carefully pulling Dean up next to him so that his brother slumped against his shoulder and chest, off of the itchy sand. “Not about the leaving him part, but, seriously, what the hell was up with joining up with the pirates?”
Mack shot a quick, guilty look at Emerson, then studied the small pyramid of sand he was shuffling together with his fingers. “I thought they’d killed Em,” he said.
“You joined up with them?” Emerson asked, the GPS in one hand, the small pocket knife in the other, his eyes on his brother.
“No! Not really… I just… I wanted to, y’know… make him think he was safe with me, then,” Mack drew a finger across his neck.
“Make who think—“
Emerson shook his head. “But, dude, the Captain wasn’t the one down there with us. I mean, he didn’t throw that knife.”
Mack shrugged. “He was their boss. He told them to do it.”
“So… you were gonna kill him… ‘cause you thought he killed me?” Emerson clarified.
Mack lifted a shoulder. “You’da done the same thing. You did it before.”
Emerson closed his mouth with a click of teeth.
“How’d that rum taste, man?” Sam asked with a tick of his chin, still unsure if he bought Mack’s traumatized child persona.
“Like shit,” Mack answered honestly.
Emerson huffed out a quick laugh, but was silenced when the GPS emitted a small beep. Everyone froze. Hands shaking, Emerson touched the same wire. The beep sounded once more.
“Holy Mary Mother of God,” Emerson breathed. “I friggin’ did it!”
Sam lifted an eyebrow. “Uh… it’s just beeping. Not that I’m not impressed, but… yeah, so the hell what?”
Emerson shook his head. “You don’t get it—this thing works off a satellite. The beep is bouncing off a satellite somewhere and is being picked up by someone else. We can tell them where we are.”
“Someone else,” Sam repeated dully. “So… could be someone in Melbourne, Australia for all we know.”
“No,” Emerson replied. “No, it would have to be in range—a few hundred miles or something. Seriously, this could work!”
Almost chuckling in disbelief, Sam looked down at Dean, ready to hear a cocky comeback or snarky insult from his brother’s quick mouth. Dean’s eyes were closed, his breath a quick pant for air, and his body had gone slack against Sam’s.
“Dammit,” Sam cursed, squinting out through their small shade to the sun tipping to the western crescent of the sky. Still too much daylight left… “Okay, fine, Q. What do you need to get the gadget working?”
“It is working,” Emerson insisted. “I just need to know how to say where we are.”
Sam closed his burning eyes, and almost startled at the immediate image of John Winchester’s serious brown eyes regarding him with a silent challenge. You know this. You can do this, Sam.
“Okay,” Sam sighed. “Here’s what you need. A group of short words and our coordinates.”
“Yeah, to start with.”
Sam reached over in front of Emerson, careful not to tip Dean too far onto his wounded shoulder, and swiped a patch of sand smooth. Closing his eyes, he searched through the filing cabinets in his mind, picturing text books, John’s journal, newspaper clippings, and finally, sheets and sheets of paper with letters and words next to columns of dots and dashes.
With eyes still closed, he used his index finger to etch into the sand Morse Code for SOS, four in danger, 3436N, 11437W. He’d committed the coordinates of their intended location to memory when programming the GPS on their way into the desert. It was frighteningly easy to recall those numbers now.
“Okay, so what does that all say?” Emerson said, looking at the series of dots and dashes.
“Says c’mere and get us now,” Sam said, shifting his hold on Dean. “Memorize it.”
“Dude, chill out.”
“No!” Sam roared, snapping Emerson’s eyes up in surprise. “You memorize that. You make it a part of you. Because we’re not sitting in this pile forever and you’re gonna have to send it out while we’re walking.”
“We took apart the stretcher, though,” Mack said. “How are you going to—“
“You let me worry about that,” Sam snapped. “I’m not gonna just sit here and let him die in this desert. Not after…” he stopped, swallowing.
“Not after what?” Mack prompted.
“Forget it,” Sam shook his head, peering at the sun again. “Just memorize that and start tapping.”
“Think it’ll work?” Mack said softly to Emerson.
Quirking his lips in a frustrated frown, Emerson shrugged. “It’ll take a miracle.”
It was night and he was walking.
His canvas jacket felt heavy on him, his clothes rubbing on his skin as they always did when he’d been sick and everything held too much texture, too much weight. He heard gravel crunch beneath his feet and he brought his head up, looking around, trying to orient himself.
A car lot? No… a parking lot. In a muddy field. He turned swiftly, looking behind him at the large white tent in the distance lit from within, the humanity filling it humming with energy even out in the cold of the night.
“Aw, shit,” he muttered to himself. “What is the friggin’ deal here?”
Instinct alone had him picking up speed, slipping quickly between cars, running from shadows. He knew it was coming, knew it was only a matter of time, but the urge to survive, the impulse to fight was too strong in him. To do anything other than resist would be to lose himself to madness.
He turned left, angling his body around the front of a station wagon when it appeared. Standing silent and pale, its eerie eyes sunken in a wrinkled visage regarding him with a kind of resigned quiet that had him wanting to swing away.
“I beat you, man,” Dean snarled. “You can’t win! You won’t!”
Sam would find the altar, he knew. He’d get out of the cellar. He’d break Sue Ann’s necklace.
“This is just some tricked out, hinky dream.” Dean backed away. “You can’t hurt me.”
The reaper moved with swift grace, not walking, not chasing him, but catching him all the same. Dean took another stumbling step back and the ice-cold touch of a paper-like skin skimmed his cheek, the weight of the reaper’s hand resting on his head.
Dean felt his knees buckle, felt the dig of gravel through his jeans into his flesh. He was cold. Aching. His bones were turning brittle, his eyes clouding. And he held his breath as he waited. For the pain, for the fear.
The reaper held on even as Dean tried one last time to move away. And suddenly he was flooded with images… sunlight glinting off of Layla’s blond hair, the corners of her green eyes crinkling up with delight and humor, her life, her chance, her survival. And with the images of Layla’s peace came the slam of her pain.
Dean cried out as the pressure in his head built until he felt his brain push against the confines of his skull. He tried to reach up, to push the reaper’s hand away, but his arms were too heavy, and his body was freezing, and he couldn’t breathe and Sam wasn’t coming.
Sam wasn’t coming.
“Take it easy, Dean,” Sam panted.
“What…” Dean brought his head up slowly, fighting the painful motion of Sam tugging his limp body through the sand. “… the hell?”
They had been walking for nearly an hour in the twilight of the day. The last of the sun’s rays were sinking below the surface of the Earth, taking with them the heat that had done its best to siphon both the energy and the will of the weary travelers.
“Had to take apart the stretcher,” Sam told him, doing his best to keep his tenuous grip on Dean’s sweaty side, the fingers of his left hand gripping the shackle on Dean’s left wrist as it rested on Sam’s shoulder.
Once again awake, Dean worked to walk with him, the toes of his dusty boots dragging with each step, his body hitching and shifting against Sam’s. The sounds Sam heard slipping out through his brother’s cracked lips were those of a wounded animal, and he had an image of Dean caught in a trap, trembling, eyes bright with pain and fear, ready to attack anyone who came close.
“How are we going to know,” Mack panted, “if that code you gave him is even going to work?”
“Well,” Emerson paused in his trudging stride, his head hanging low, his eyes up. “If someone comes to get us out of this hell hole? Then you’ll know.”
Mack just shook his head. Sam continued past the brothers, unwilling to stop if Dean was moving, if Dean was with him. His brother’s body was heavy, weighted by the shackles, solid muscle shivering beneath taut, sunburned skin. He began to count in his head, eight slow strides, four dragging tracks in the sand behind them, one moment closer to help.
He wasn’t prepared when Dean’s knees buckled. He tried to catch him, tried to grip, but fatigue had slowed his reaction time and the cut on his belly chose that moment to sing with a sharp note of pain. Dean fell to his wounded shoulder and Sam to his hands and knees beside him, both crying out, both gasping as air vacated their lungs.
“Aw, shit…” Dean groaned, able to roll clumsily to his back. “Sombitch.”
“Sorry.” Sam panted for air. “I’m sorry, Dean.”
“Can’t… no more, Sam…”
Sam leaned over his brother, one hand on either side of Dean’s torso, dropping his face close so that Dean could see his eyes. “Don’t you do that.”
“No, Dean. We’re getting out of here.”
“Listen… listen,” Dean pushed out. “You listen.” His voice was rough, forceful.
Sam felt the tears press hot behind his eyes, felt his throat close in reaction. He didn’t want to listen. He didn’t want to face the truth. He didn’t want to leave Dean behind.
“I’m… done, man.”
“No, you’re not.” Sam shook his head, only realizing that he’d given in to the tears when one salty drop fell from the tip of his nose to slide down Dean’s check. “Don’t say that.”
Darkness was growing around them as the night closed in. Sam was only aware of the chill of his skin, the heat of Dean’s and the space between them.
“Sammy…” Dean’s voice cracked and Sam felt himself choke back a sob. “I’m not… supposed to be here.”
“Yes, you are! What are you talking about?”
“Reaper,” Dean said, then closed his eyes, catching his breath. “We… tried.”
“I’m not done, Dean. I can still try!”
Dean turned his head to the side, closing his eyes and Sam almost reached out to shake him when he saw the starlight reflect once more in his brother’s irises.
“Not enough miracles,” Dean whispered. “I… had mine.”
“No! No, that’s not—“
“It’s not okay!” Sam sat back on his haunches, gripping Dean’s forearms. “You can’t give up on me now, Dean. You can’t.”
“You… you gotta… go.”
“No! You’re a soldier, man. All those lessons, all that talk… you’re the soldier! Not me. You…” Sam sniffed, pushing himself to a crouch and tucked his arms beneath Dean’s chest pulling him up to a sitting position. “Get up. Get up!”
Dean cried out as Sam’s efforts pulled on his wound, but Sam ignored it, backing up in the sand, staggering as he worked to lift his brother.
“Get on your feet. On your feet, soldier! Get UP!”
Dean’s cry this time was more of a growl ending in a whimper as he cuffed Sam across the cheek with the shackle on his left wrist, toppling Sam on his rear in the sand and ending with his body crumpled in Sam’s lap, his face resting on his brother’s chest. They were both panting, Dean’s sounding like the rasps of a file across metal.
Sam fell to his back, tears rolling from the corners of his eyes to tangle in his hair and fill the hollow of his ears. His chest heaved with a tired sob and Dean bounced against him with the motion. The moon was up, its brilliant white light bathing their faces, the Guileys motionless forms, the desert floor in a pearly luminescence that would have been beautiful in any other situation.
“You’re not done, Dean,” Sam choked out, not even caring at this point if Dean were awake and listening, or if he were sprawled unconscious across him. “We still gotta find Dad. We gotta find this demon. We have work to do, man.” Sam felt the whimper before he heard it roll from his own throat. “I don’t want to do it without you.”
Dean was silent, his breathing rapid and rough against Sam’s chest. Sam was dimly aware of the Guileys moving closer, knew they were most likely unsure what to say or do, but he could care less. His world was falling apart around him for the second time in less than a month and he was sick of it.
Fisting his hands at his sides, Sam arched his neck into a primal scream of rage, his voice deep, broken, the cry going on for what felt to Sam like hours. As it died off, though, another sound filled the growing silence.
“You hear that?” Emerson said with soft awe.
Sam panted, looking up at the sky, not sure his ears could be trusted.
“Tell me you hear that!” Emerson demanded.
“Is that… is it a… helicopter?” Mack stepped forward, accidentally kicking sand onto Sam’s cheek.
Sam pushed himself to his elbows, looking around. “You see it?”
“I can’t see shit!” Emerson jogged forward, his form small in the moonlight.
“Hang on, wait… wait… look!” Sam pointed to the horizon as a beam from a searchlight cut down from the heavens and skimmed the desert floor.
Emerson and Mack went wild, screaming, waving their arms, jumping up and down. Sam sat up, rolling Dean down into his lap as he did so, trying to pull his limp brother into his arms to protect him from the blowing sand. The beam of light hit him and he cut his eyes to the side, holding up a hand in defense. The helicopter teetered to the right, cutting away from them.
“Where the hell are they going?” Emerson cried.
“Landing,” Sam said. “They’ll land at a distance so we’re not sandblasted.”
“Oh,” Emerson sank to his knees. “Right, sure, okay.”
“Dean.” Sam leaned close resting a hand on his brother’s cheek. “You just keep breathing, okay? Help is here. You’re not done until I say you’re done.”
The beat of the blades on the night air slowed and stopped. Mack sat down in the sand near Sam and they all stared in the direction the helicopter had banked, waiting. About five minutes after silence once more prevailed, they saw to figures approaching, one dressed in fatigues, the other in a red velour suit trimmed in fluffy white cotton.
Sam blinked. Emerson huffed out a quick bark of a laugh.
“Santa?” Mack said in the voice of a child.
“Someone here call for a dust off?”
“Over here, Sir,” Sam replied to the man in fatigues.
As if John were standing before him, he felt his shoulders square, his chin rise, his eyes empty as the men approached him. He recognized the stance of the man in fatigues, the way his unlined face and dark eyes looked him over, assessing. He was definitely military, if not a Marine.
“What’s the skinny?” The man in fatigues said, his lingo suggesting a lifetime in the military.
Sam tried to keep his eyes from sliding to the man in the Santa suit as he replied. “Four casualties, one critical. Three with knife wounds, one with a bullet to the shoulder. Dehydration, sun exposure, exhaustion.”
Santa tilted his head and Sam caught a narrowing of eyes before he snapped his attention back to the military man.
“How long have you boys been out here?” He asked as he knelt down to check Dean’s pulse.
“Two days,” Sam replied. “We were, uh, hunting.”
Santa brought his head up quickly. “Hunting?”
“Treasure hunting,” Emerson chimed in. “Lost ship of the Mojave. You heard of it?”
The man in fatigues ran his eyes over Sam, then skimmed Mack’s face. “Which of you is the diddy bopper?”
Sam nodded in Emerson’s direction. “Him.”
“Dude, I ain’t no—“
“It means you’ve been sending the Morse Code,” Sam translated, raising an eyebrow. “Chill out.”
“You in the Corp, kid?” Santa spoke up suddenly.
“No,” Sam shook his head. “My Dad was.”
“What’s your name?” asked Santa.
Sam hesitated for a moment, a laundry list of alias’ immediately scrolling through his head. He glanced down at Dean’s face, reflecting like porcelain in the moonlight, and another piece of his will cracked, breaking free and evaporating.
“Winchester,” he said on a sigh, looking back up at Santa. “Sam Winchester. This is my brother Dean,” he nodded to his lap. “The diddy bopper is Emerson Guiley and the kid there is his brother Mack.”
“Sam and Dean Winchester,” Santa repeated, brown eyes softening with wonder and appreciation. “No shit.”
The man in fatigues looked up at Santa from his position near Dean. “You know these two?”
“Yeah,” Santa nodded. “I do. These are John Winchester’s boys.”
The soldier looked back at him, his features folding into a frown of realization. “Oh,” he said softly. “You were… hunting.”
“We gotta get them out of here, double time, Mike,” Santa said.
Mike, reached for his belt and Sam saw a walkie talkie clipped there. He looked up at Santa as Mike twisted the dial.
“You know my father?”
Santa reached out a hand and Sam shook it automatically. “Yeah,” he grinned. “My name is Joshua.”
“This is Razor,” Mike said in to the walkie talkie as Sam gaped at Joshua in disbelief. “Need the bus prepped for two and two. Got a whiskey tango foxtrot sitch coming back to you. Over.”
“Joshua?” Sam squeaked, looking at the sandy-haired man, rugged lines drawn in a seemingly ageless face. “Faith-healer Joshua?”
“The same,” Joshua nodded. “It’s good to finally meet you, Sam.”
Sam blinked. “Yeah, uh… you, too. How the hell—“
“Kid, you’re just outside of Needles,” Joshua shrugged. “And, I got me some, uh… let’s just say resources.”
“Morse Code-reading resources,” Emerson chimed in.
“You two can walk?” Joshua asked, looking first at Emerson, then to Mack.
“Yeah,” Mack answered.
Emerson took a step closer. “Dude, seriously. What’s with the suit?”
Joshua shrugged. “It’s Christmas,” he replied. “Everyone’s gotta work.”
Sam tried to clue in to the reply on the walkie talkie, but his head was buzzing. Dean’s weight was putting his legs to sleep and all he wanted to do was tip over in the sand and join them.
“Josh,” Mike said, standing, “you secure these two in the huey then bring back the stretcher for this one.”
Joshua nodded and motioned with a twirl of his index finger for the Guileys to follow him. With a worried, backward glance, they did as they were told. Mike knelt next to Dean again.
“I’m gonna ease him off of you, okay?”
“His shoulder is a mess,” Sam said, slowly moving his legs out from beneath Dean.
“I can see that,” Mike replied. “What’s the deal with the shackles?”
“Do you really want to know?” Sam asked, looking up as Joshua came into sight, carrying a canvas stretcher.
“I kinda need to, Son,” Mike replied. “Not something we can slip under the radar at the hospital.”
Sam swallowed as he watched Joshua and Mike carefully lift Dean and lay him on the canvass.
“We found the lost ship,” he said. “It’s a pirate ship named the Desolation Angel.”
On a silent count, the two lifted Dean and Sam pushed himself to his feet.
“Why do I think this isn’t going to be a story we can tell back at camp?” Joshua said.
“The ship’s cursed,” Sam continued. “And the pirates were still there. They chained Dean down in the hold, cut the rest of us, and then shot him.”
“With what?” Mike grunted as they closed in on the helicopter. “A cannon?”
“Close,” Sam puffed, shaking his head at the sight of the big machine. “An eighteenth-century Kentucky pistol.”
The helicopter looked like the men had stolen it from the set of Platoon. It was obviously pieced together from various metals, side door gunwales open, sans machine guns, and jumps seats inside the interior enough to seat six. Sam saw Mack and Emerson staring out at him with disbelief in their eyes.
“Oh, swell,” Joshua sighed. “So on top of everything else, the kid could have lead poisoning from the ball.”
“Shit.” Sam stopped as if he’d run into an invisible wall. “I didn’t even think of that!”
“Don’t worry, Son,” Mike said as he and Joshua lifted the stretcher into the helicopter, sliding the bars securely into place. He motioned for Sam to step in next to his brother. “We’ll get him squared away.”
Pausing for a moment in the opening of the helicopter, Sam tried to determine how a soldier and a man in a Santa suit had procured a potentially retired military helicopter, picked up their renegade Morse Code signal, and found them in the middle of the Mojave desert.
This is random, even for us…
Climbing in, Sam sat on a jump seat, belting himself tight, and tipped his head back against the wall as Mike and Joshua climbed into the pilot and co-pilot seats.
“Where are we going?” Emerson called out from his position on the other side of the bare interior.
“I got a place,” Joshua called back as he and Mike began flicking switches, “about three clicks from here. It’s kind of a… camp.”
“Like for kids?” Emerson replied.
“Not exactly,” Joshua replied.
Mike looked over his shoulder, his eyes hitting each of them, making sure they were secure. He looked at Sam, who was fighting to keep his eyes open.
“We’re pulling chocks,” he called over the noise of the blades. “You ready?”
“Hooah,” Sam intoned, lifting his hand in thumbs up.
Mike nodded once, tossing Sam a two-fingered salute, and then turned back around. Sam dropped his hand on top of Dean’s, curling his fingers around his brother’s and closing his eyes.
“What are they pulling?” Emerson called out to him.
“Means they’re leaving,” Sam called back.
The helicopter rocked a bit on lift off and Sam felt Dean’s fingers flinch around his. He opened his eyes and looked at his brother’s face. Dean’s eyes were still closed, but the lines around his mouth were tight and if Sam didn’t know better, he’d swear Dean’s lips were moving.
Are you humming Metallica?
It calms me down.
Sam began to hum, softly at first, but louder as he felt Dean’s fingers begin to relax.
“Exit light, enter night,” Sam sang, somewhat off-key, “take my hand. We're off to never never-land.”
He paused, but then heard Emerson’s voice pick up where he left off.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Sam looked over at the blond and when he picked up the song again his voice was louder joined with Mack until the back of the helicopter was filled with the sound of three worn, thirsty voices.
“Hush little baby don't say a word, and never mind that noise you heard. It's just the beasts under your bed, in your closet and in your head.”
Sam saw Joshua twist slightly in his seat to look back at them. With a grin, the hunter shook his head. “Okey dokey,” he commented, pushing his lips flat. “Whatever gets you through the night.”
The ride was short, but Sam was so tense it seemed to last hours. As Mike eased the helicopter down on a landing pad, Sam peered out at their surroundings. Several tall lights framed a square of blacktop about the size of a soccer field, flanked by two shed-like buildings. Mike yelled something out through his opened window, but Sam couldn’t make it out over the noise of the dying rotors.
Before he could unbuckle, Joshua was standing at the door, checking Dean’s pulse once more, and then looking at Sam.
“Here’s what’s going to happen, Sam,” he yelled, his voice coming down in decibels as the blades slowed. “My buddy here is going to take your friends to the hospital. He’s got an ambulance prepped and ready.”
Joshua pointed to a vehicle that looked like it had been a prop from St. Elsewhere.
“But what about—“
“We’re going to take Dean to the med tent,” Joshua continued.
“I’ll explain in a minute. I got a guy over at Mercy who knows our kind of work,” he said, lifting his eyebrows expressively. “He can get Dean in and treated without too many questions and under the cops’ radar, but we gotta wait until he’s prepped. In the meantime, we’re gonna get these… cuff things offa him.”
“Your guy… he knows about… hunters?”
“That he does.”
“And he… can help Dean?”
Joshua nodded, seeming to see the edge Sam was riding. “It’s gonna be okay, Sam.”
“Wait!” Emerson called out as Mike took his arm to lead him to the old ambulance. “That’s… that’s it?”
“Go with the man,” Sam told him. “Keep an eye on your brother.”
“But will we… I mean, this is… it?” Emerson swallowed, looking down, then away, and Sam realized with surprise that the blond looked somewhat afraid to leave.
“Hey,” Sam reached out, grabbing his arm. “It’s been… interesting.”
Emerson looked back, silent, then turned to walk to the ambulance.
“Sam!” Mack called out.
Sam turned to face the strange red-head.
“Here.” Mack handed him something, then turned to follow Emerson to the ambulance.
Sam looked at his hand. It was a pearl. He looked back up at the ambulance and watched as it pulled off the blacktop and out into the night.
“Let’s go,” Joshua said.
Sam shoved the pearl into his pocket and turned in time to see a black man in a tie-dyed shirt and ripped jeans join a Jerry Garcia look-alike wearing a Boston Red Sox cap and a long-sleeved shirt with a faded Coca-Cola logo on the front. When Joshua stepped up in his Santa suit to join them, Sam shook his head, feeling oddly detached.
He watched with appreciation, though, as they transferred Dean from the helicopter to a stretcher and moved him swiftly across the blacktop, through one of the sheds, and into what looked like a M.A.S.H. replica.
“What the hell is this place?” Sam asked in wonder, following them.
Another man, this one also in jeans and a sweatshirt, but with a stethoscope around his neck, approached Sam. Instinctively, Sam backed away until his legs bounced a chair against the wall.
“Kenny,” Joshua said to the man, “why don’t you help here? I got this.”
“Sit down, Sam,” Joshua ordered softly, easing a chair beneath Sam’s legs. He handed Sam a bottle of water and made him drink. Sam felt his body beginning to slowly fold in on itself. He tried to look past Joshua to see Dean, but he could barely lift the bottle of water to his lips.
He felt something cool on his arm and looked down in surprise. Joshua was cleaning a patch of skin with an alcohol wipe.
“What is that?” Sam croaked.
“You’re both severely dehydrated,” Joshua said. “We giving you and Dean some IV fluids until we can get you to the hospital, okay?”
“Joshua, what is this place?”
“It’s a camp,” Joshua explained, “for Vets. Veterans. Kind of like an organic VA Hospital, but not government run. I started it… hell, probably before you were born.” He shrugged. “I didn’t have what you’d call a… stable environment when I got back from the war. I figured there had to be more like me out there. So, I started the camp and it just… grew. Guys come here to live or work, or just… work shit out.”
“And… they know about… us? Hunters?” Sam asked.
Joshua shook his head. “No, not all of them. Mike does, but only because I saved his ass from a werewolf some time back. He’s the one that got us the helicopter. Towed it here one day from an airplane graveyard and spent about, oh, ten years rebuilding it. Registered it with the FAA and everything. He may have been discharged from the military, but the military was never discharged from him.”
Sam shook his head, amazed that there could be pockets of civilization like this still out there—people who have been through similar Hells, coming together to actually help one another. Dean’s never going to believe this…
“There are all kinds of people here, Sam,” Joshua said as he eased the catheter needle into Sam’s arm. “Not everyone is medical. Mechanics, cooks, gardeners, writers, lawyers, accountants… you name it. They don’t all live here, either. Sometimes, they just come here when…” Joshua sighed. “When the world starts to eat them up.”
Sam frowned at Joshua’s tone. “Did you meet my dad here?”
Before Joshua could answer, one of the men standing around Dean’s bed called to him. “Josh, we need you.”
Joshua hung the saline bag on a pole next to Sam’s chair. “Wait here.”
“Like hell,” Sam replied, standing.
Joshua sighed and pulled the pole toward Dean’s bed. “I thought your dad said Dean was the stubborn one,” he muttered.
“He is,” Sam said, stepping to the foot of his brother’s bed. He moved closer, pushing Red Sox Hat out of the way, when he saw that Dean’s eyes were open. “Hey!”
“Sam?” Dean’s voice was faint, panicky.
“We’re okay, man,” Sam reassured him. “Joshua found us.”
“Hey,” Joshua stepped into Dean’s line of sight.
Dean shot wide eyes back over to his brother.
Sam looked up at Joshua. “Might want to re-think the suit,” he said.
Joshua shook his head, pulling the front snaps open. “Everyone’s a critic,” he muttered. “I was working the peds ward at Mercy when Mike got your distress call,” he explained. “Didn’t bother to change.”
Dean started to struggle slightly, as if working to sit up.
“Take it easy.” Sam put his hand on Dean’s forearm, wincing at the heat he felt there. “It’s okay, easy. They’re gonna get the shackles off and then we’re going to a hospital. Get that shoulder fixed up.”
“Dad,” Dean whispered, dropping his head back on the stretcher, his eyes fluttering closed as if his lashes were too heavy to lift.
“Dad isn’t here,” Sam replied, confused. When Dean stayed silent, Sam shook his arm slightly. “Dean?”
Sam leaned forward, tilting his ear to Dean’s mouth. “I’ll tell him. Dean?” He looked back at his brother’s face, then lifted tragic eyes to Joshua’s.
With a nod, Joshua looked at the three other men standing around the bed. “Right. Listen, this kid is one of ours, get me?” They nodded. “Ben, hydration and antibiotics. Kenny, keep on his vitals. Shep, we’re gonna get these shackles offa him.”
The team began to move, speaking to each other in semi-military code that Sam was too weary to follow.
“What about me?”
“You’re gonna sit there and talk to your brother,” Joshua ordered, “while someone takes a look at whatever made that nasty bloodstain on your shirt.”
“I got cut,” Sam said as a chair was shoved beneath him and cool, brown hands lifted his T-shirt. He looked over at the friendly face and gentle eyes of yet another man, this one with a heavy, gray mustache.
“By what?” the man asked him.
“A… cutlass, I think.”
The man looked up at Joshua. “Suppose I shouldn’t ask,” he said.
“What is that?” Sam asked as the man prepped a needle.
“Tetanus shot,” the mustachioed man replied. “Hang on to something, kid. I’m gonna clean out this cut.”
For the next several minutes Sam slipped his skin, hovering just outside of oblivion, watching as a chisel was applied to Dean’s shackles, breaking them open and exposing the raw, bloody skin beneath. He felt the muscles of his belly tighten when antiseptic was applied as though they belonged to someone else. He felt cool, dry bandages applied over the wound and flinched slightly as the cuts and bruises on his face and knuckles were attended to.
He kept his eyes on Dean, never wavering in his vigil as his brother’s shirt was cut away, his superficial lacerations and wounds treated and antibiotics administered. It was when Tie-Dye man approached the jerry-rigged bandage on Dean’s shoulder that Sam came alive.
“You know what I want to do when we get out of this, Dean?” he spoke up suddenly, startling Mustache Man and Red Sox Hat. He ignored their looks and stared at his brother’s pale face. Tie-Dye started to gently lift the bandage. “I wanna go to the beach. The beaches here are nothing like where you’ve been before.”
The bandana had sealed to the wound, Sam saw, and as the sand slipped away and the cloth was raised, a dry, sucking sound followed and Dean jerked. Sam kept talking, reaching out with his IV-tethered arm to rest his hand lightly on Dean’s bare chest.
“First, the water is like navy blue. You haven’t seen blue like this.”
Dean’s head tossed to the side, his brow furrowed and his lips pressed tight as a low moan built in his throat.
“Then, there’s the girls,” Sam continued, watching carefully as the bandana was pulled off further while Joshua added water to the cloth so that it didn’t simply tear the scab free. “They walk around practically naked, man. You could have your pick. Put that chick, Joey, to shame.”
Dean bucked slightly, his neck arching as he bit back the tail-end of a cry.
“I mean, seriously,” Sam raised his voice, standing as Dean’s body tightened, keeping his hand on Dean’s chest, “do you want the last girl you sleep with to have a dude’s name?”
The bandage was pulled completely off, exposing the red, raw, seeping hole to the air and Dean thrashed, his breath quaking, his body trembling.
“I know for a fact you hate Concrete Blonde.” Sam’s voice wavered as Dean writhed. Tie-Dye brought a wet, soapy rag to Dean’s heated skin and washed the sand and dirt away from around the wound.
“You’re doing great, Sam,” Joshua spoke up when Sam sniffed. “Keep talking to him.”
Dean’s groan turned to a teeth-grinding growl when Joshua helped Tye-Die pour antiseptic on the wound, a white foam bubbling up around the jagged edges of skin.
“You could learn to surf,” Sam said around his tears. “Be like the Fonze in your leather jacket. Hell, man, you could jump a freakin’ shark if you want.”
“Arghhh!” Dean pounded a fist into the bed, his skin shaking so much under Sam’s hand that it felt unnatural.
“Stop, man,” Sam cried, reaching out to Joshua. “You gotta stop!”
“We need to clean this out, Sam,” Joshua said.
“Give him something at least!”
“We did,” Tie-Dye chimed in. “Ain’t legal to have anything stronger outside a hospital.”
“Well, let’s get him there, then!” Sam demanded. “You got the shackles off!”
Joshua looked over his shoulder. “Mike back yet?”
“On his way,” someone called back.
“Hang in there, kid,” Joshua encouraged Sam. “You think I’d get you the name of a faith healer just to let him die now?”
Sam wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, then looked down at Dean, watching him pant for air. “You got that number for where my Dad is?”
Joshua paused long enough for Sam to look up at him. “Joshua?”
“I do,” Joshua nodded. “You want to call him now?”
Sam shook his head. “Not yet. I just…” He looked back down at Dean. “I wanna have it.”
“Sure kid,” Joshua said softly. “Wrap him up,” he instructed Tie-Dye. “That bullet’s too deep inside for what we got to work with here.”
Sam sank down on the chair next to Dean, leaning forward so that his face was inches from Dean’s ear.
“You’re gonna make it, Dean. You’re too stubborn to let some pirates beat you. You’re gonna make it and we’re going to that beach together. And we’ll find Dad. We will.” He took a breath and lowered his forehead so that it rested on the sheet next to Dean. “Layla said she believed in miracles.” His voice was barely above a whisper. “Said we were blessed. ‘Cause we have each other.” He lifted his head a fraction so that he could see his brother’s profile. “She was right, man. Just remember that, okay?”
He heard a quick, digital beep, and looked up to see a clock on the shelf above Dean’s head. Midnight.
The solstice was over.
“Mike’s back,” Joshua reported.
December 22, 2005
The ride to the hospital in the back of the ancient ambulance was a blur of motion and sound to Sam. He wanted to stay engaged, to stay aware, but his body rebelled and his eyes slipped closed. He knew they arrived at the hospital, but let the darkness slide around him when he heard Joshua’s voice barking orders.
He heard his name called and tried to respond, but felt himself slip lower, sinking until he felt nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing. He floated in the nothing, finding comfort in oblivion. The next thing he was aware of was a small, cool hand touching his, lifting it. He turned toward the sensation of touch, feeling a drowsy smile pull at his lips, his pain forgotten for the briefest of moments.
“Hi, Sam,” replied a female voice. A female voice not Jessica’s.
He blinked his eyes open, memory crashing against awareness.
“Nice to have you back with us.”
He looked at her, wondering if he was supposed to know her. She was pretty, brunette with large brown eyes, wearing lavender scrubs.
“You been sleeping for about six hours now,” she informed him.
Oh, God, Dean.
“Where’s my brother?” Sam asked, surprised at the sound of his own voice. He sounded as if he’d been screaming for hours.
“You had a pretty nasty cut on your torso, but it’s been treated and stitched. Should heal fine if you’re careful. We gave you some antibiotics and pain meds,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Some cream for that sunburn. Need to make sure to apply it every day or you mi—“
“Where’s my brother?” Sam repeated, sitting up.
The nurse took a step back. “I don’t know,” she replied.
“Find out,” Sam ordered, reaching for his IV.
“Don’t do that!”
“I’m not staying here,” he snapped.
His name was spoken with such authority that Sam felt a quick wave of dizziness roll over him. He lifted his eyes, fully expecting to see his father. He tried to temper his disappointment at the sight of Joshua, but knew it reflected in his face when he saw the look of understanding cross the man’s weathered face.
“Don’t you have anything else to wear?” Sam grumbled, taking in the reassembled Santa suit.
“You can go,” Joshua said to the nurse. “I got this.”
“Don’t let him remove that IV on his own,” the nurse admonished before stepping away.
“Where’s Dean?” Sam asked.
“How are you feeling?”
“Pissed,” Sam replied.
“Dean’s in surgery,” Joshua replied.
Sam sat back. “Still?”
“You feel well enough to get dressed? Come with me somewhere?”
Sam narrowed his eyes skeptically. “Yeah…”
“Good.” Joshua stepped up to him. “I’ll get that.” He removed Sam’s IV, pressing a folded up piece of gauze over the puncture and fixing a bandage over it.
Sam found his jeans and shoes, then slipped on a hospital scrub top that Joshua procured for him. Silently, he followed Joshua down the hall from the ER and to an elevator where Joshua pulled out a fake beard and red hat with thick white hair attached to the base. Sam watched with a continuing sense of detachment. He glanced up, seeing his sunburned, disheveled appearance in the reflection of the elevator wall and almost didn’t recognize himself.
“Where are we going?”
Joshua twisted his mouth a bit, adjusting the beard, then turned to Sam. “Gonna remind you want a miracle looks like.”
The elevator dinged and Joshua stepped out. From the sign on the wall, Sam saw they were on the pediatric oncology floor of Mercy Hospital. He took a breath. Joshua stepped up to a counter and handed Sam a mask that would cover his nose and mouth.
“Put this on.”
“Why? Are they contagious?”
“No,” Joshua shook his head. “But they’re vulnerable.”
Sam nodded, following Joshua as he moved from room to room, pulling from pockets Sam didn’t even know the red suit had bits of candy, small dolls, yo-yos, cross-word puzzle books, parachute soldiers. Each room they stopped in, Sam watched eyes light up and smiles transform little faces from a tragic story into a promise for tomorrow.
He listened to the innocent laughter and squeals of delight, feeling as he did so the edges of his soul that the desert had peeled away slowly begin to paste themselves back into place. As they left the last room along the hall, a small voice stopped him as Joshua continued out of the door, stopping at the desk.
“Are you Santa’s friend?”
Sam turned and regarded the large, green eyes of a boy of about four. His brownish-blond hair was close-cropped as if it were just growing back in and his lashes were so long they touched the base of his eyebrows when he looked up at Sam. Crouching down slowly, careful of his sutures, Sam came eye-level with the boy and nodded.
“Yeah,” he said, “I am.”
“Good,” the boy nodded. “Santa needs friends.”
Sam smiled behind the mask. “Why do you say that?”
The boy shrugged. “Well,” he said. “He’s always doing stuff for us. Who does stuff for him?”
“That’s a good point,” Sam nodded. “You’re a smart kid.”
“I know,” the boy replied. “I’m a miracle.”
Sam blinked, his eyes watering. “Yeah?”
“I wasn’t apposed to be born,” the boy said, leaning forward and whispering.
Sam met him half-way, whispering as well. “You weren’t, huh?”
The boy shook his head. “But I got things to do.”
“I have a feeling you’re gonna get them done,” Sam said.
“Sure, I will,” the boy smiled, showing Sam his baby teeth. “You don’t give up on a miracle, my mom says.”
Sam swallowed, standing up and nodding. “You sure don’t.”
“Sam,” Joshua called him.
Sam waved to the boy. “Be good, kid.”
“You, too,” the boy replied, solemnly.
Sam stepped out into the hall. “Yeah?”
“Your brother’s out of surgery,” Joshua said. He pulled his beard down and Sam felt his knees turn to water. “The bullet broke up inside of him. One piece was stuck in a rib. They got that one out.”
“But?” Sam said, his voice barely present.
“The other was down in his abdomen and they had to remove some of his small intestine to retrieve it.”
“But they got it?”
Joshua nodded. “They got it. And the good news is, you got like seventy-five miles of small intestine, so he’s not going to miss it much.”
“They why do you look like you ran over my dog?” Sam said, wanting desperately to reach out for the wall, his world tilting dangerously around him.
Joshua wet his lips, looking at the nurses watching them from behind the desk. “C’mere,” he said, taking Sam’s arm and leading him to the elevator. He pushed the ‘door close’ button and faced Sam.
“It was a long surgery,” Joshua said. “And I’m not gonna lie to you, Dean’s pretty bad off, even if they got the bullets out. It takes awhile for tissue to heal, and he’s got plenty of it torn up, not to mention the broken ribs and intestine—“
“Skip to the part you’re afraid to tell me,” Sam snapped.
“My guy, he, uh,” Joshua shook his head. “He wasn’t able to cover our tracks completely. One of the nurses called the police when they found out the bullets were actually fragments of an 18th century musket ball.”
Sam closed his eyes. “Dammit.”
“We can’t move Dean, not yet anyway,” Joshua said, rubbing his face. “So, we’re going to have some explaining to do.” Joshua hit the button for the eighth floor. “I’ll take you to him.”
“Where are the two guys we were with?”
Joshua shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You might want to find out,” Sam told him as the doors opened. “I didn’t really prep them on how to explain a haunted pirate—“
Joshua caught Sam’s arm. “Wait,” he said, frowning. “You did finish the job, right?”
“Josh!” called a harried voice, saving Sam from having to answer. “I’m sorry, man.”
Joshua tapped the air with his fingertips, soothing the stocky, balding man. “It’s okay, Pike. You got him in there. You probably saved his life.”
Pike looked at Sam, then back to Joshua. “Well, now we just gotta get him back to your place before the cops ask too many questions. Otherwise, they’re gonna start handing out strait jackets.”
Sam shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans, dropping his head with a sigh. “Man, I wish my dad was here.”
“You think he’d come if we called him?” Joshua asked.
Sam frowned, feeling a small bead in his pocket, then looked up as he removed it. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Couple weeks ago, Dean was dying. He didn’t come then.”
“There’s gotta be a reason for that, Sam,” Joshua said.
“Oh, I’m sure there is,” Sam said, looking down at the bead in his hand. Not a bead… a pearl… “Just don’t know if it’s one I’m gonna like.”
“What’s that?” Pike asked.
“Pirate treasure,” Sam replied without thinking.
The lack of response made him look up. Pike was blinking at him owlishly. Joshua was shaking his head.
“Can I see Dean now?” Sam asked.
Joshua scratched the side of his head. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Pike, take him to his brother. I’m gonna change my clothes.”
Sam followed the small doctor down to a closed door with a sign on it that read oxygen in use.
“They only let one visitor in at a time while he’s in recovery and ICU.”
“That’s okay,” Sam said softly. “There’s only me anyway.”
He stepped through the door and wavered slightly at the smell of the room, the beeps of machines, the steady pump of a ventilator beating a rhythm of too soon… too soon… in Sam’s head.
His heart was pounding he rounded the curtain that shielded Dean from the other bed in the room—which was, thankfully, empty—and stepped up to the foot of his brother’s bed. Dean’s lips were parted around the white tube of a ventilator, his chest bare except for a bandage at his shoulder and another across his belly. Round patches connecting red and blue wires to his brother’s body like a car battery were attached to his temple and several different locations on his chest.
An IV catheter was fixed to the back of his left hand and his wrists were bandaged. The bruises on his face stood out against the paleness of his features, and Sam realized that his bandana trick had worked to spare him from most of the sun’s rays.
“We gotta stop this, man,” Sam whispered. “We are really due for a run of good luck.”
Sam heard the door open behind him and looked over. A middle-aged nurse walked in, smiling gently at him.
“I know it looks bad,” she said, “but he’s doing amazingly well. He’s a fighter.”
“I know,” Sam said, sniffing. “Always has been.”
“Your… friend?” She hedged.
“Brother,” Sam said, looking back at Dean. “My big brother.”
She nodded. “Here,” she pushed a chair forward. “Have a seat. Talk to him a bit. It will help him to hear your voice.”
Sam sat, feeling his body come together once more as he reached out to touch Dean’s arm. He didn’t even notice when the nurse left, but he did hear the door open sometime later. He looked up to see Joshua standing in civvies, his hair glistening wet in the dimmed overhead lights.
“Thought only one visitor could be in here,” Sam said.
Joshua lifted his hospital badge. “I’m staff.”
Sam squinted at the tag. “It says James Wong.”
Joshua lifted a shoulder. “Joshua Edwards has too many demerits to work at Mercy.”
Sam nodded, looking back at Dean.
“Here,” Joshua handed him a piece of paper.
“The number where John was staying.”
Sam looked at him sharply.
“I called it.”
“And?” Sam prompted.
Sam looked down. “Figures.”
“Maybe try his cell?” Joshua suggested.
Sam opened his fist, looking at the pearl in his hand. “Maybe.”
Joshua reached over and plucked the pearl from Sam’s hand. Sam watched as he rolled it around in his fingers, then solemnly regarded first Dean, then Sam once more.
“I think you and me need to talk, kid,” he said, tossing the pearl back to Sam.
Sam caught it against his chest, then turned back to face his brother. “Let me ask you something first.”
“When I called you, looking for help for Dean,” Sam said, watching the way Dean’s eyes rolled slowly beneath his closed lids, wondering what he was seeing. “You said you hadn’t been hunting in years—hadn’t heard from my dad since I was a kid.”
Sam looked over at him. “Why’d he call you with the name of the faith healer, then? How’d he know you would help me?”
Joshua had the grace to blush as he sank back against the wall. “Y’know… your dad told me that you were quick, but… I think he underestimated you.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
Joshua slid his eyes from Sam to Dean. “I know about your demon, the one John’s looking for. John was in California several months ago. Said he was checking in on you at Stanford.”
Sam looked down, remembering Dean telling him that, still unsure as to where to put the information.
“He told me he was going to have to separate himself from Dean. To protect him.”
“He planned on leaving that long ago?”
“He sent Dean to New Orleans on a hunt,” Joshua said, his eyes on Dean’s still form. “I don’t think he could just walk away. I think that’s why he contacts you through coordinates. Because if he got in contact with you two again, if he actually saw you… I don’t know if he’d be able to leave.”
“He doesn’t have to,” Sam snapped.
“He’s trying to protect you.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit,” Sam muttered. “He sends us on jobs. On hunts. Think that’s protection? This is what happens on hunts!” He thrust his finger toward Dean, ignoring how his hand shook.
“Yeah, let’s talk about that.” Joshua lifted his chin, smoothly bringing the conversation back to his turf. “Why do I get the feeling that this hunt’s not over?”
Sam sighed, dropping his head in his hands, his fingers shoved into his hair, the pearl rubbing against his scalp. “Because,” he said softly. “It’s not.”
a/n: I am continually appreciative of the freedom allotted by the very definition of the word fiction. I know I've pressed against the barriers of reality in this story, and I thank you for sticking with me.
I'm working to keep to an "every two weeks" timeframe for posting this story, but Kazcon '09 (www.kazcon.us) is coming up August 6th - 9th and preparation for that may delay chapter 5 just a skosh. However, I was also recently dealt a bit of a financial blow; I was among about 600 other Cisco workers who were laid off this week. Which means, at least for a short time, I may have more time available to me than I'd thought for writing! Always a silver lining around here someplace.
Here’s hoping you’re all still entertained—Christmas is on its way…
Enter Sandman by Metallica (hey, they were in the desert… seemed fitting)
Part 5 can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/56579.html>