Meet Me on the Battlefield
Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to the amazing Eric Kripke and the very fine people of Warner Brothers/The CW. I am merely playing in their sandbox. No copyright infringement intended.
No Time for Rest
Dean was tired. More tired than he could ever remember feeling, in fact. And it wasn't just a physical tiredness, but an all-consuming tiredness. Physical. Mental. Emotional. Psychological. Even spiritual, to whatever degree Dean Winchester could feel spirituality.
The exhaustion was so bone-deep that he ached with every breath he took. Even blinking his eyes felt like too much work, mostly because his eyes were scratchy and dry. His hands were shaky and his legs were barely supporting him. His heart pounded and his breaths were shallow and ragged. All in all, he figured he was as close to calling it quits as he had ever been in his life.
And he was alone. That was the worst part it all. Dean wasn't the type of man that needed a lot, but he needed his family and they had deserted him. They left him alone to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. His dad was off on a hunt somewhere, teaming up with other hunters instead of his own son. And Sammy… Sammy was off to find his own version of normality in Palo Alto, California. Dean had driven him to the bus stop six months ago, watching painfully as his brother turned his back on him and boarded the bus. Truth be told, up until that point Dean was sure that Sam would back out, that he would never actually turn away from his family. Apparently, he had been wrong. Sam waved to him as the bus pulled out of the lot and called him when he arrived in Palo Alto, but Dean hadn't heard from him since. Not that Dean hadn't called his little brother. He called at least once a week in the first few months, but Sam never answered. After that, he didn't try again.
When Dean returned from dropping Sam off, his father was gone, too, leaving behind a note saying that Caleb had called and needed his help in Utah. John Winchester's note also gave Dean instructions on what to do and for the first time in a long time, the note didn't end with "watch out for Sammy."
That first night on his own, Dean had gotten unbelievably drunk. He found the dirtiest bars in town and proceeded to drink until he could barely stand up straight. He knew his father would be pissed and his brother would be scared if they saw how drunk he was, but he didn't care. He only cared about killing the pain in his heart as quickly as he could.
By the end of the night, he had gotten into two separate fights, still able to hold his own despite the amount of beer he had taken in. A waitress from the last bar he was kicked out of offered to take him home and Dean let her, finding some distraction with the rather sweet and pretty young lady. But, when he woke up the next morning, the pain came rushing back in, more intense than ever.
Almost six months later and that pain was still just as present and overwhelming. Fortunately, he learned to control it somewhat through equal parts drinking and hunting. He did research on his own and found cases all over the country, making sure not to take any that were anywhere close to his brother. He couldn't trust himself to not go to Sammy, to check on him and make sure he was okay. He wanted to do that more than anything in the world, but Sammy didn't want him to. Maybe, it was more that Sammy didn't need him to. Whichever it was, Dean was determined to be a good big brother and give Sam what he wanted. It didn't matter that he felt like he was dying a little inside with every second that passed.
So, by throwing himself into whatever hunt he was on, Dean was distracted just enough to dull the pain to a level he could withstand. The latest hunt had taken him to a small town in Oregon where he was convinced a Rugaru was feasting on its residents. Three deaths in as many weeks called for aggressive action and Dean was ready.
What he wasn't ready for was coming face to face with his father. John Winchester had all but deserted his oldest son in the last few months, only contacting him when he had a job for Dean to do. They hadn't seen each other since the day that Sam left for college, so suddenly meeting up with him in the bathroom of a small café had thrown Dean for a loop.
"Dad? What are you doing here?" Dean asked after several long seconds of staring dumbly at his father.
"I'm on a hunt, Dean. What are you doing here? More importantly, why aren't you in Georgia hunting that poltergeist?"
Dean's eyes shifted away from his father, knowing that he wouldn't be happy with his answer.
"Eyes up, Dean. And answer the question."
Looking up at his father, Dean took a deep breath before answering. "I ran into Martin back in Tennessee and he was heading that way. He said he would take care of it, so I came here."
"You had your orders, son," John growled. "Orders are to be followed."
"I know, Dad, but it was just a poltergeist. It doesn't take two hunters for that and he was already on his way down there."
"How did you find out about the rugaru?"
Dean looked offended at his dad's question. "I did some research," he answered. "I do know how to do that, you know?!"
"Yeah, well, you should've called me to let me know that you weren't going to follow my orders. I could have saved you a trip out here."
"You've already taken care of it?" Dean asked.
"No, but Caleb and I are on it. You're not needed."
With that, John pushed his way past Dean, angrily throwing open the door and walking out. Dean stood there for a long time before finally making his way after his father. Looking around the small café, he didn't see his father anywhere, but seconds later, he saw the man standing by his truck, talking to Caleb.
Walking out the door, he didn't miss the look his father threw his way. It didn't stop him, though. Walking over to where the two men were standing, Dean caught the eye of the other hunter.
"Deano!" Caleb yelled as he pulled the younger hunter into an embrace, thumping him heartily on the back. "What are you doing here? I thought you were headed to Georgia."
"He decided to disobey a direct order," John growled. "I guess he just does whatever he wants now."
"It's not like that, Dad," Dean tried to explain.
John glared at his son before turning back to Caleb. "We don't have time for this crap. We're wasting daylight."
Caleb looked between the two men in complete confusion. "Are you hunting the same thing we are, kid? The rugaru?"
"Yeah," Dean answered. "It's been wreaking havoc on this town."
"It sure has. There was another victim last night, actually. A young girl this time. We were just on our way over to talk to her parents. Want to tag along?"
"We don't need a tag-along, Caleb," John interjected. "This is a two man job."
"Well, I just thought since he's here…."
"Since he's here he can make himself useful by staying out of our way."
Dean and Caleb shared a look, neither one fully understanding what had John so upset. Dean knew that his father expected complete obedience, but he also knew that the man could understand why Dean made the decision he did. He wasn't a kid anymore and Dean wished that his dad could see that. He had no idea why there seemed to be such a barrier between them at the moment, but he hated it.
"Never mind, Caleb," Dean said. "You two go do your thing. I'll be on my way as soon as I fill up the Impala and get some food."
Without saying another word to his father, Dean turned and walked back to the small café.
After eating a greasy burger that settled somewhat uneasily on his stomach, Dean turned his attention to the piece of pie sitting in front of him. He also paid attention to the waitress that kept looking over his way, making sure to give her his best smile.
Eventually, the waitress made her way over to his table under the pretense of filling up his almost full glass of water.
"You're not from around here, are you?" she asked.
"How could you tell?" Dean asked with a flirty smile.
"Well, for starters, I know pretty much everyone in this little town. I've lived here all my life."
Dean wondered for a few seconds what it would be like to live in one place your whole life. Something about it sounded appealing, but it also sounded a little scary. Dean didn't really like the idea of people other than family knowing you all that well.
"I also would have remembered that face," she said with a laugh. "It would be impossible to forget. So, what brings you to these parts anyway?"
"I'm just driving through, I guess. But it seems like something is going on around here," Dean fished for information. "I saw a bunch of cop cars a few streets over. Know anything about that?"
"Well, if by a bunch you mean two, I heard that someone might have died over on Bell street last night. I haven't heard who it was yet, but I'm sure it's someone I know. There's been a lot of strange things happening here lately."
"What do you mean by strange?" Dean asked innocently.
"Well, last week there was an attack on two campers that were camped out by the river. Something mauled them. It was weird, though. It wasn't like a normal animal attack. It seemed more violent."
"That is weird. Do you think it's safe here, Rachel?" Dean asked as he looked at her nametag. "Maybe I should forget about ordering a second piece of pie."
Rachel slapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Of course, it's safe here."
"Okay, then….How about that second piece of pie?"
Dean was just about to drive off when his phone rang. Looking at the screen, he was surprised to see that it was Caleb calling.
"Dean?" Caleb said as soon as he answered. "Are you still in town?"
"Yeah, I was just about to leave."
"Don't leave yet. We need your help."
"What's going on?" Dean immediately asked.
"There's more than one rugaru," Caleb answered.
"Really? How did you figure that out?"
"Because there were two murders last night. In two different places at about the same time. I figure it will be better if there are three of us."
"What does my dad have to say about that?"
"He argued, but I won. What's going on between you two? He's been a bear these last few months."
"You'll have to ask him that question," Dean said. "I have no idea what's going on with him."
"Well, meet us down by the river at the boat launch in an hour. We need to get going on this."
"I'll be there."
Hunting with his father had always been one of Dean's favorite things to do, but this was different. John Winchester was a force to be reckoned with on a good day, but this was anything but a good day. The man was hostile to anyone and everyone around him, which unfortunately was just Dean at the moment.
Caleb had taken a trail up the river, while John and Dean followed one that snaked down the river. There was an uncomfortable silence between the two until Dean tried to get his father to talk.
"Dad, what's going on? Why are you so angry?"
"I don't want to talk about it, Dean," John growled.
"Well, I do," Dean growled back. "This is ridiculous and you know it!"
"Remember who you're talking to, son!" John nearly yelled.
"I know who I'm talking to! I'm just trying to figure out why you're so mad. Why you've been all but ignoring me for the last six months."
"We're not having this conversation. End of discussion."
"Everything always has to be on your terms, doesn't it?" Dean yelled. "Why can't you ever stop trying to control everyone around you and just act normal?!"
John turned so quickly on his son that he nearly fell. Dean stepped forward to stop the man from falling, but John knocked his offered hand to the side. "It would do you good, boy, to remember who's in charge here. We're not having this conversation here. And you will not talk to me that way!"
Dean took a step backwards, finally realizing that he wasn't going to get anywhere with his father. "Fine," he finally said. "Let's just get this job done so I can get out of your hair."
For a second, it looked like John might say something, but the moment passed. Instead, he turned his focus back to the trail and the search for the rugaru.
By the time the sun set, the trio of hunters had successfully tracked down and eliminated the two rugarus, but not without a few injuries. Dean had been solely responsible for saving Caleb's life when one of the rugarus snuck up behind him as he was tracking the other one. Dean wasted no time in shooting his flare gun into the rugaru's back, bringing it down to it's knees. Without wasting any time, he doused it with some gasoline and threw a match on it. Within a matter of minutes, the rugaru was nothing but a mass of burning skin and bones.
While he was doing that, though, he didn't realize that the other rugaru had looped around and flanked him. Just as Caleb was finding the strength to stand back up, Dean heard a sound behind him. Turning quickly, he found himself face to face with the rugaru. This particular one was rather big and Dean suddenly found himself being lifted into the air and thrown further than should have been possible. He couldn't help but cry out when he collided with a rather thick tree, feeling at least one of his ribs break in the process. He also cried out when the creature appeared in front of him again, this time sinking his teeth into his flesh. The rugaru was obviously aiming for Dean's throat, but he caved in on himself just in time for the bite to sink into his shoulder. Dean brought his legs up as much as he could and tried to push the rugaru away from him, but he barely moved him. Before he could come up with another plan, he heard the sound of his father's voice telling him to duck down. Dean immediately ducked as far down as he could just as John shot a flare into the rugaru's back. Sparks from the flare traveled down to Dean, but he quickly brushed them away before they could burn him. Within seconds, Caleb was at his side, pulling him out of harm's way while John finished off the rugaru.
Once both of the rugarus were disposed of, the three hunters made their way back to their vehicles. Dean was leaning heavily onto his dad who had yet to say a single word. Once they got back to their vehicles, John helped Dean into the passenger seat of the Impala before getting into the driver's seat. Without a word, he started up the car and drove off with Caleb following behind in the truck.
Dean didn't know where they were going and really didn't care at the moment. He was in so much pain and wanted nothing more than to lie down somewhere and never move again. His ribs hurt with every breath he took and the bite on his shoulder was burning like crazy. Eventually the car stopped and John helped his son into a motel room.
Without a word, John grabbed a first aid kit and started to work on his son. After cleaning and bandaging the shoulder wound, he wrapped Dean's ribs tightly, making it even harder for him to breathe deeply. Grabbing an antibiotic and a pain pill from the kit, John made Dean sit up and swallow them with some water. Afterwards, he helped Dean to lay back down, covering him with a thin blanket. Dean's eyes closed immediately and within a few minutes he was asleep.
John stared down at his son for a long time. He was so proud of the man that Dean was, but for some reason he found it too hard to let him know. Ever since his youngest son left, John didn't know how to act around his oldest. Part of him felt guilty for the way things ended with Sam, but another part of him felt angry at Dean for letting Sam leave. He knew that if Dean had asked Sam to stay, the boy would have. But, Dean didn't ask. Oh, the boy tried to talk Sam out of going multiple times, but he never came right out and asked him to stay. And because of that, John found it hard to look at Dean. He knew that wasn't fair, but he couldn't change it. He just wasn't strong enough, it seemed.
Eventually, he heard the sound of Caleb pulling up to the motel room. Looking down at his son again, he made a command decision to leave. He didn't think he had it in him to face Dean when he woke up, so he left a note for him, telling him where to go next and reminding him to take care of his injuries. After a brief argument with Caleb, who thought the man was being selfish and stupid, John stepped up into his truck and drove away, leaving Dean alone again.
Dean woke up almost six hours later to an empty motel room. It took him several minutes to get his bearing and to remember what had happened the previous night, most of it coming back to him when he realized how much pain he was in. At first, he assumed that his dad and Caleb had gone out to get breakfast for them, but after a quick look around the room, he realized that they had left.
Once again, Dean was alone. And so very tired. More tired than he could ever remember feeling.
Author's note: This is my first foray into Supernatural fanfiction, so bear with me. I've only just recently started watching the show and now I'm completely obsessed with the Winchesters. I know John seems a little harsh in this one, but if I continue the story, thing will work out. I would love to hear what you think of the story and whether or not you think I should continue. Thanks so much for reading and (hopefully) reviewing.