Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters—not of them at all—even though Jensen and Jared are like... the hottest guys in history... they're sculpted out of stone... but they're so hot they can't be straight... ok, moving on, just read the story!
Chapter One: Starting Up The Trail
Dean Winchester glanced at the radio clock beside his bed and groaned, throwing aside a sports magazine and falling back against his pillow. He absolutely had to get some sleep if he expected to be coherent when morning came, but his eyes weren't heavy enough to close. He was too wired from the day, even though it was two o'clock in the morning and counting.
A knock sounded softly on the little door connecting the two hotel rooms, and Dean looked up. "Yeah?"
Sam, Dean's younger brother, slid into the room, shutting the door behind him.
"Are you kidding?" Dean said loudly. "It's two o'clock, bro, why the Hell aren't you asleep?"
Sam sat down on the end of Dean's bed. "Why aren't you?" He retorted.
Dean rolled his eyes and reached for the sports magazine again, choosing to stop the conversation in its tracks. He hadn't told Sam, but he'd had an awful lot of trouble sleeping lately. It wasn't related to nightmares or a subconscious uneasiness—at least as far as he could tell, it wasn't—he just hadn't been tired lately.
"Who was that on the phone?" Sam asked.
"Weren't you on the phone? You were talking to someone about the hike tomorrow, I heard you."
Dean, remembering, lowered the magazine again. "Yeah, that was the guy from Moosehead Lodge. He told me the trip leaves at eight sharp tomorrow, so don't sleep in."
Sam waited hesitantly. "Something wrong?"
"Well, on the phone, you... I thought I heard you... That wasn't the lodge guy. Was it?"
Dean looked up, meeting his brother's eyes. A fleeting look of uncertainty crossed his face for a moment. "Um... No, it wasn't the lodge guy. That was... That was Andy Thompson."
Sam frowned. "The witness?"
"Yeah. He—well, he actually called me. He wanted to make sure I knew what we were getting ourselves into."
Sam crossed his arms, fixing Dean with an interrogating stare. "Look, Dean, if we're gonna do this, you're going to have to tell me that truth. The whole truth."
"Andy doesn't think we have a chance," Dean expostulated, giving in. "All the others were taken with symptoms of the sickness within one day of exposure. He's the only one who's still functional, little bro. Tell you the truth, I'm pretty damn worried, too. He still won't tell me exactly what he saw up there."
"Why didn't you just tell me that?"
"I knew it would worry you."
"I'm already worried, damn. How do you think I feel, hiking up a mountain to a plane crash sight from which seven people have caught a supernatural disease and become incapacitated?"
"Time for you to go to bed, champ."
"No more patronizing. You stay up, I stay up."
Dean glared for a moment, and then sighed. "Fine. But don't complain to me when you can't make it half way up the mountain tomorrow."
Sam grinned, shoving back on the bed so that he could be more comfortable for a long period of time. "Pass me the other magazine."
"Get it yourself."
"It's less than three inches from your left hand!"
"My hand is comfortable where it is."
"Prick," Sam muttered, reaching for it himself.
The next morning came around more quickly than Dean had expected. Dean groaned, opening his eyes and sitting up, vaguely surprised that he'd fallen asleep at all. He smiled when his eyes found Sam, who had fallen asleep with one half of his body off the side of the bed, his arm resting on the carpeted floor in what looked like an awkward position. Sam didn't seem to notice, though, because his breathing was slow and soft, and his head rested easily on the comforter. Dean found himself watching Sam fondly.
"You're not so bad, little bro," He muttered.
Sam's eyelids flickered open. "Huh?" He muttered drowsily.
Dean cleared his throat, straightening up. "I said you're not too bad, if only you were always sleeping and never talking." He pushed the covers back and stood, ruffling Sam's hair gruffly as he passed. Sam rolled his eyes, also sitting up.
"Temperature's s'posed to be about thirty today," Dean said, pulling on jeans, a sweatshirt, and a brown jacket. "Going to be cold."
Sam shrugged. "We're going to die someday."
Dean chuckled. "Let's make it sixty years from now, alright?"
Three vans had already come and gone when Dean and Sam arrived at the Moosehead Lodge below Mt. Lafayette. The space outside the lodge was almost filled with the thirty-something hikers that had crash-touring on their list of holiday plans. As Dean hitched his backpack higher onto his shoulders, he couldn't help but throw them dirty looks. He hated tourists who cared about nothing but feeding on other people's tragedies and misfortunes, like those who followed ambulances just to see who was hurt and what was going on.
The bus to the base of the mountain trail was even more of a test of Dean's patience. People all around them were having loud, obnoxious conversations about the plane crash, and speculating on widespread rumors about the cause of it, as well as the mysterious fates of the last hiking group to ascend Lafayette.
"Yeah, I know, my Uncle actually talked to one of them," Someone said directly in front of the brothers. "He told me this guy was like, criminally insane, you know? Like, really crazy, like seeing stuff."
"Nuh-uh—what else did he say?"
"Well, I don't know if I should really talk about it, though, you know? 'Cause, like, isn't it classified, or something?"
Dean glanced sideways at Sam. "What a bunch of suckers, you know she wants to talk about it," He grumbled skeptically.
The girl in the seat in front of them continued noisily. "I guess I can just say that this guy, like supposedly saw this weird red thing in the air up at the crash."
"Like, a bird, or something?"
"No, no, my Uncle said it was, like, this red misty thing, and then it took some sort of shape, I wasn't really listening to him."
"You never listen."
"I listen, just not to him. Plus, the OC was on, ok? I can't do two things at once. Besides, he was drunk when he told me the story."
Sam, tired of hearing two friends yak a few feet away from him, opened the window and let the freezing air whip at his dark hair. Dean raised his eyebrows. "What are you doing, man? It's negative fifty outside."
"Yeah, but it's ninety in here. And we have tourists hogging our oxygen, too."
"Can't argue with you there. Can you see the mile signs outside?"
Sam turned back to the open window, squinting his eyes to see up the road. Finally a brown, wooden sign came into view on the side of the pavement that read, 'Benadon Trail, next left.' "Yeah, we're there."
The bus pulled to a stop in a parking space just below the opening to a small, crooked trail. Dean eyed it warily, waiting for Sam to catch up to him before starting up the path ahead of the rest of the group. It wasn't supposed to be a long hike—just 2 or three miles to the first summit, about forty five minutes to an hour of climbing. However, they had chosen the shortest trail, which unfortunately came in a package with the label 'steepest trail', too.
"Water?" Sam offered as they started up the steep slope. "You might want it later."
"No thanks. You hold on to it, will you? This shouldn't take too long."
Sam walked a little bit behind Dean in silence for a while, his brow furrowed. Underneath his jacket he could feel his pulse quicken slightly as he worked to keep up with his brother, and he welcomed the sense of physical activity that he hadn't felt in a week. But his mind was a little heavier than his body as he sank deeper and deeper into thought. His certainty about the two of them trekking up a hill to this crash sight had faded slightly, no thanks to the conversation he'd overheard on the bus.
Sam stopped quickly and looked up.
"I said, what's on your mind?"
"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking."
Sam shifted his weight faintly to the other side. Only Dean would be able to recognize the casual action as a signal of nervous contemplation in his younger brother. Sam didn't answer for a moment.
"Hey, what is it, bro?"
"Do you think what they were saying on the bus could be accurate? At all?"
"You mean that red—bird—misty shit they said?"
Sam shrugged. "What if it had some sort of basis in fact?"
Dean gave him a thoughtful stare. "You worried?"
"Of course I'm worried."
"Yeah," said Dean after a while. "I guess that deserves consideration. But it won't help either of us if we sit here and talk about it. We won't find out any more unless we just get there."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, I know." He still felt a little unsure.
"Hey." Dean reached out and put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You're my little brother. I'm not going to let any red misty ghost get you, alright?"
Sam grinned, and followed Dean further up the steep, winding trail.
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