A/N: This fic is for an awesome friend and person, Elena (elektra56765 here on fanfiction. net). This was supposed to be her Christmas gift but unfortunately as you can see it's a little late. She wanted a fic that takes place in season 6 that involves a hunt in the snowy woods and a cabin. I figured I could post the prompt since it doesn't give too much away. This fic takes place after Unforgiven in season 6 on New Year's eve so there are obvious spoilers through that episode. As always, please let me know what you think. I found it a bit of a challenge to write the bros during this time period so hopefully it's okay. Also, please check out Elena's Tumblr account if you get a chance at Clairvoyantsam dot Tumbler dot com. She is very talented!
A/N 2: The title of the fic comes from a line in the excerpt of the poem entitled "The Passing Of The Year" by Robert W. Service
The Dying Year
And You, deep shrinking in the gloom,
What find you in that filmy gaze?
What menace of a tragic doom?
What dark, condemning yesterdays?
What urge to crime, what evil done?
What cold, confronting shape of fear?
O haggard, haunted, hidden One
What see you in the dying year?—Robert W. Service
He wandered aimlessly, bitter cold stinging his nose and face, a wall of snow making it impossible to see only what was directly in front of him. One tree looked like another and he had no idea if he was making progress or if he was just wandering in circles. The more he walked, the less sure of anything he was, even who he was and what he was looking for. He knew he was looking for someone very important but the name seemed lost on him as disorientation set in. He also had a strange feeling of urgency pulsating through him that he needed to do something desperately.
"I can help you make it right," the voice said out of nowhere. The voice came on the heels of another cold gust of wind, which made him wonder if his mind was playing tricks on him, but then he heard it again.
"I know what it's like to want to fix it, to find the truth. Come with me," the voice said again, with a tantalizing sound to it that made him stop in his tracks and take notice.
How could this mysterious voice know him so well, he wondered. Yes, he wanted to make it right. He should follow him, he thought with renewed purpose heading deeper into the woods, not realizing he was heading farther and farther away from safety and from the person who was desperately searching for him.
"Dean, would you stop staring at me like that," Sam groused, as he dug into his bowl of cereal. "I'm fine."
"No you're not Sammy," Dean said, the vision of his recently re-souled brother collapsing to the floor fresh in his mind.
Just then, Sam let out a loud sneeze, blowing cornflakes across the table. His face flushed in embarrassment, or was it fever Dean wondered, as he grabbed a napkin to blow his nose.
"Are you sick?"
Sam just glared at Dean's over attentiveness as he cleaned up the mess on the table.
"It's just a sneeze," Sam said, attempting to calm his brother, who looked like he was on the verge of dialing 911, down.
However, Sam let out another sneeze and then another, then for good measure a cough too.
"Just a sneeze, huh?" Dean said, in a know it all tone.
Sam just brushed him off, depositing his half eaten cereal in the trash can.
Dean also eyed this uneasily.
"Well we have a hunt," Dean said, picking up a newspaper and trying to break the tension between them. "Seems there is a werewolf up in North Dakota."
"Dean, you know I wanted—"
"Sam, don't start. We are not going over this again. I told you. What was walking around for that year and a half wasn't you."
"I'm not going to argue the point any longer," Dean declared, cutting him off again. "It's not worth the risk. It's New Year's eve. Time for Auld Lang Syne and all that crap. Put it behind you," he instructed.
They were fresh off the arachne hunt and Sam had nosedived to the floor and Dean wasn't going to watch it happen again. He didn't even want to think of those all too brief, yet all too long, moments when he couldn't rouse his little brother, as he envisioned the nightmare, hell, Sam was seeing in his mind. He had gotten him off the floor, out of Rhode Island, and to another hotel as far away into the west as possible.
Sam sat with his head down, staring at the table. He sniffled once, wiping his nose on his sleeve all too reminiscent of a six year old Sam seemingly taking in Dean's words.
"But we have to move again?" Little Sam asked his brother, fresh tears in his eyes.
"Because we have to keep you safe."
"But what about Banks?" Sam asked, inquiring about the cat Sam had found prowling the hotel parking lot. Sam had found him in a snowbank, leading to his apt name and had been leaving him tuna every night.
"He'll be okay."
"No he won't. He doesn't have someone to watch him like I do. If something happens to him, it will be all my fault."
Sam sniffled again bringing Dean out of his reverie and his remembrance of the profound guilt Sam had felt about leaving the stray cat behind. Sam never could let things go and he knew it was going to be hard, if not impossible to get Sam to forget the fact that he was walking around without a soul.
He watched as Sam got up and packed his bag. Dean didn't like the idea that Sam might be getting sick, but for now a minor cold would have to be ignored in favor of keeping Sam's hell memories at bay.
Dean was astounded how easy it had been to find the guy. Also, Sam didn't seem any worse for wear despite the occasional nose blowing and cough. He'd obediently followed Dean's instructions, once again his shadow like he was when they were kids. They had tracked the werewolf down, practically with its own trail that it had left behind. He was apparently quite the ladies' man and left around a lot of bodies in various hotels. His victims were all females and he had a sense of humor leaving the victims covered with a red hood over their faces, apparently a callback to the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood." Both brothers quickly realized that the guy was not only just a werewolf but a serial killer. He wasn't an innocent victim in the mess but someone who probably reveled in the idea that he was a werewolf and it made him all the more powerful.
However, his calling card proved to be his undoing as the fabric bags weren't exactly found in every Walmart. A little online investigating and a craft store later, and they were in business. They had simply stolen some camera footage from the store and identified the guy quickly. Then armed with the photo in hand and some magic from Sam on the computer, they found out where he worked, his picture plastered on a real estate website. Once they had his name, they found his address. They got him cornered leaving his house. Dean was sure they'd make it back to the hotel to see the Ball drop in Time's Square. However, there were some complications. The bastard was fast and had run back into his house. Sam made chase but was shoved unceremoniously into the banister causing a wound to his head. After multiple reassurances to his brother that he was fine, Dean had gotten the drop on him. He caught up with him, shooting at him, sure he had dinged him but it was not enough to take him down completely. He had jumped out the window.
They chased him down to the entrance of the woods and Dean was disconcerted by the fact that Sam was positively winded, his apparent flu, and now head wound, complicating things.
"I think we should split up," Sam rasped, breathlessly.
Dean pondered this a moment. He finally had Sam back and he surely didn't want to separate from him again. It was also snowing and judging by the massive cloud cover rolling in, Dean was sure it was going to be a serious storm.
Dean shook his head no and gestured for Sam to follow him. Sam sighed in exasperation or lack of oxygen, Dean couldn't discern which, but followed along behind him. Dean eyed him surreptitiously the whole way. Sam seemed slightly pale and congested. However, his head didn't look too bad and was barely bleeding. They trudged through some heavy snow cover into the woods, passing by a cabin on the way in. After walking farther into the woods, Sam stopped in his tracks.
"Look," Sam began. "We aren't finding blood traces or footprints right now with all this snow covering it up. There's a cabin here. We could split up and meet back here in an hour tops."
Dean couldn't deny the logic of the situation. They could cover more ground that way. However, Sam's flu seemed to be taking a toll of him now and he wasn't sure how well he'd do on his own.
"Okay," Dean finally acquiesced. "One hour." If they could get the hunt over as soon as possible, the better off they'd both be.
He watched as Sam ran ahead of him, somewhat slower than his usual. Dean just hoped he'd find him first so Sam could take to the bed and recover. He wasn't going to risk Sam's health or that fragile wall in his head coming down any time soon.
Dean ventured further into the woods, suddenly noticing that he was finding bloodspots. The guy was bleeding faster and quicker and not even the heavy falling snow was enough to cover that much blood up.
"Who's afraid of the big bad wolf now?" Dean mused aloud.
He knew that he wasn't, although the rapidly increasing snowfall was starting to alarm him just a bit. He knew he'd probably find the guy before Sam but he just hoped Sam would make it back to the safety and hopefully warmth of the cabin soon enough.
Sam walked further into the woods, his head aching him as he walked. He hadn't told Dean but he was feeling worse than before. Dean had been hovering over him so much the last few days that he didn't want any more attention or mother henning. He was actually glad Dean had even agreed that they could split up He wanted to find this werewolf. Sam couldn't fathom the pure evilness of the guy. Usually he felt some sympathy for those who were turned. After all they didn't choose it, much like he didn't choose the demon blood. However, this guy clearly lacked a conscience, seemingly taking delight in the destruction he caused. He shivered, not from just the cold, but from the thought that his soulless body had been much like that, cool, callous, unforgiving. It was everything he ever feared and even though he only got brief flashes of what he was capable of, it chilled him to his very soul, the one he was glad he got back, to even think of it.
Maybe I should feel more sympathy, he wondered. I'm not that far removed from the guy.
He kept walking, noting that the snow was heavier than ever before. Even though the cold air whipped his face, he could feel heat rising to his cheeks most likely from fever. He figured he should turn back, find Dean, or the cabin. However, the more he walked, the less sure he felt of what he was even doing, his sense of purpose diminishing like his footprints in the snow. Then there was that voice who seemed to know just what he needed to do. He followed the voice further along into the woods. He felt like he was burning up, yet very cold as the snow fell harder. He soon discovered that the voice belonged to someone, a pale young man, practically blue in color.
"You don't need that coat. Do you?" The voice asked him. "It's heavy. It's slowing you down. That's what fear does, slows you down, stops you from fixing things."
Sam nodded his head like a puppet, taking off his coat, leaving it there on the ground. He couldn't live in fear. He had to fix it. Who was telling him that he should forget it, put it in the past? He couldn't remember but he was wrong.
Dean continued on, pretty sure by his watch that the hour had expired. He imagined one pissed off little bro if he didn't make it back in time or one pissed off person himself if Sam was not where he said he'd be.
The blood trail was growing though and soon it was apparent. The Big bad wolf was near death. He lay in the snow mound, morphed between human and wolf as if trapped between two worlds. Dean picked up his gun and finished the job, finding that it bothered him very little to put the evil bastard out of his misery. Just as the shot rang out, Dean heard another resounding crack. Was it the bullet's ricochet? He didn't know, only that the sound was awful and loud and he still had a little brother possibly wandering out there and he needed to find him.
Sam continued to follow, now stripped of his jacket, icy chills ran up and down his spine. But he had endured worse hadn't he? Memories hung, dangling, like the icicles forming on the branches, dripping, bleeding into his peripheral vision of a cold dark place he was trapped in. Perhaps this was his penance anyway for all that he'd done.
"Now look what you did," the spectre said suddenly stopping. "You led them astray. You made them die."
Sam hung his head in shame. It was true. He'd ruined it for everyone.
The piercing eyes of the spectre bore through him as the guilt settled like a grenade in his stomach, ready to explode at any moment. He coughed loudly and painfully as it rattled his chest.
Suddenly there was a shriek, so piercingly loud that Sam covered his ears to drown it out. Then a loud crack that split through the air. Sam couldn't be sure where it was coming from but suddenly it was as if hell itself rained down upon him as something crashed down from above and sent him to the ground. All the air was ripped from his lungs in one fell swoop. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't move as his world spun wildly, until he stopped and a heavy weight pressed him into the snow. He couldn't discern where all the pain was coming from but he was certain every bone in his body had been shattered at exactly the same time. He faded on the verge of unconsciousness as the ghostly figure, or was it his conscience, hovered just over him.
"It won't be long," the voice whispered. "It only hurts for awhile and then you feel nothing at all."
Yes he was right. He was starting to feel nothing at all. The guilt was still there as tangible as the snow that threatened to halt his breathing but everything else was numb.
Dean took off in a jog, going as fast as he could through the deep snow in the direction Sam had gone. There were no longer footprints for him to follow but he kept going. It seemed Sam shouldn't have ventured so far but the sound had most likely come from that area. Nearly another hour passed as he tried to keep a fast pace. However, it was a losing battle with the thick snow cover. He couldn't understand how he hadn't found Sam yet. The kid wasn't moving fast at all before and he was minorly hurt and ill. He should be finding Sam. He should be findng him what? Dead in the snow? The thought was unfathomable but with the frigid temperatures, even he wasn't sure how much he could stand. His toes were frozen.
Finally he saw a sign, but not the one he wanted. It was Sam's coat, balled up in the snow. Why in the hell had he taken it off? This meant Sam was out there in the elements with one layer of clothing on.
"Sam!" He yelled. "Sammy!"
Nothing, no response.
He walked further along, suddenly noticing what appeared to be the remnants of a mini avalanche. Was that the cracking sound he heard earlier? Twisted tree branches and debris lay amongst the ruins. Was Sam buried amongst this? He didn't know. He spotted a downed tree, mostly just a log now really, stripped of its branches, roughly 15 feet in length.
If he hadn't looked closely, he might not have noticed it. There appeared to be something sticking out from under the tree. Or was it someone?
He flew the next few feet through the snow, not feeling his toes anymore but racing to his brother's side.
Sam was under the tree with the branch strewn over most of his body. The other half of him was completely buried in the snow. His arms were sticking out and the side of his face was firmly pressed in the powder, a thin stream of blood staining the fresh powder as his head wound bled freely once more. Dean couldn't detect if Sam was breathing at all, only feel the icy chill of his skin, see snow that had filled Sam's nostrils. The most frightening thing of all was Sam's eyes were wide open. There was nothing there. It was as if he was staring at his soulless brother again, the eyes lacking everything that made Sam who he was, gone. Was he dead or were they frozen that way? Dean could only look away, up at the falling snowflakes, like little bits of paper falling from the sky, wishing the answer were written on them to tell him what to do.