A/N: Looks around, sighs dramatically. Nope, don't own them. Darn it.
A/N 2: Thanks again to friendly, Raven524, warrior of the shadow, prpleflipnhippo, Turner97, carocali, Ghostwriter, and Beautiful Ally for your reviews on the last chapter, and thanks to everyone who has reviewed this fic from the beginning. You all deserve cookies for putting up with the length of time between updates :) You all are the best, and kept me writing and wanting to finish this. Without further ado, here's the last chapter.
Dean turned back to the man and watched with horror as the stranger fired on his brother. He brought his own gun up but knew he was too late; it had happened too fast. Things seemed to slow down in his sight, his cry of "NO!' sounded distorted in his ears. He heard the shot from the rifle after what seemed like forever, the shot that would take his brother from him. He heard something else as well, a loud moan and then saw something that made things speed up back to normal. The bear had charged, but it didn't charge the poacher, it ran in front of Sam and rose on its hind legs in front of the younger Winchester, completely covering him from the poacher's view. Then it snorted as its body jerked and it fell back down to lie on its side. Dean's eyes swept frantically over Sam, not seeing any blood or gaping holes in his brother's body.
"You son of a-" Sam said, furious.
He'd been frozen in shock when the rifle had been aimed and fired at him, and then the bear had been there, protecting him like he was her cub. He watched her fall and saw red. Within a few strides he was standing in front of the poacher. He balled his fist and swung for all he was worth. Yes, it went against his training, but he didn't care. He felt a grim satisfaction when his fist slammed into the man's face and he went down. The rifle clattered to the ground and the poacher hit the ground hard, unconscious.
"Sam!" Dean said, coming to stand at his side. "Are you all right?"
Sam shook out his hand. "I'm fine. But Dean, we have to call for help. The bear got shot instead of me. And we need someone to pick up this garbage and take it to jail." Sam replied, not sparing the poacher a second look at he hurried to the bear's side.
Reluctantly Dean put his gun away, Sam had taken care of the problem before he could shoot the sorry excuse for a man for daring to threaten his brother. He'd come too close to losing Sam this time. He nudged the man with his foot, but the poacher was out cold. He wanted to kick the man on general principles anyway, but pulled out his cell phone instead and called the park official, letting him know they had run into the poacher and that a bear had been shot.
"How is she?" he asked his brother when the official wanted to know.
Sam gently ran his hands over the dark fur, spotting some blood. He could still hear the bear's heart beating regularly, she was unconscious as well, but the blood wasn't pouring out of her.
"She's still alive; I think she just needs a vet." he replied, taking off his outer shirt and folding it up to press against the wound.
"We need a vet too, I think the bear will be okay," Dean said into the phone. He then nodded and ended the call.
"The police and vet and park official will be here soon. I still don't believe what happened," Dean said, shaking his head.
"I knew she wouldn't hurt us. She deserves a good life, and to be protected from poachers. You think maybe there's a zoo where she can go and be with other bears? Some of them have habitats that are just like it is in the wild, but no one can hurt the animals there." Sam said, looking up at his brother with shining eyes.
"Well, if there is a place she can go that will keep her safe, we'll do all we can to get her there," Dean said gruffly. He owed her, after all.
After a short while, the park official showed up with a woman and two officers.
Dean had happily tied up the poacher with rope he'd found in the man's own bag. He shook his head when he found pictures in there as well, of presumably poached animal heads adorning various rec room walls. There was even a picture of the poacher himself standing next to an obviously dead bear cub, one hand pointing to himself and the other pointing to the cub. The man was smiling in the picture, and Dean hoped he'd regain consciousness so he could hit him again. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the poacher, he didn't wake up before the others arrived.
Dean gave the pictures as evidence to the officers, as well as the man's rifle and his bag. They grimly nodded their thanks, untying the man and cuffing his wrists instead.
"He might be the one that shot at some of the tourists," one of the officers said. "Coming in here with a rifle like this is illegal. There's a pickup in the parking lot, I'm going to get a warrant to search it. Judging by these pictures he's carrying around, I have a feeling there's going to be enough evidence in there to put this guy away for a long time."
"Good," Dean said, looking over to where Sam and the woman were examining the bear.
"Will she be all right?" Sam asked, looking anxiously at the veterinarian. The woman nodded after a few moments.
"She's tough. It looks she has a scar under some fur here on her shoulder, see? I think she may have been shot before, and she recovered. There's a furrow along her side, she's probably just unconscious from the shock of it, but the bleeding is already slowing. She'll be fine," the vet said, smiling at Sam as she professionally dressed the wound with supplies from a kit she'd brought.
Sam smiled at her in relief. "Thank you," he said. "I don't even know your name."
"Ally," the woman said, shaking his hand after taking off the latex gloves she wore.
"Sam," he replied.
"Nice to meet you, Sam. I'm glad someone is on the bears' side. Unlike some slime I can mention," Ally said, shooting a venomous glance at the poacher, who was slowly groaning as he woke up.
"What do you think? Should we release her here or take her to your facility to heal?" the park official said to the vet as he came up to her.
"Is there a zoo or something she can go to where she'll be safe from poachers? I think she'll be okay with people," Sam quickly broke in.
Ally and the park official looked at him. Then the vet slowly nodded. "Actually, there is. There's been great success with polar bears at the San Diego Zoo, and I know of a new one that wants a female bear to mate with a male that they've got. They want to put a bear cam online in a natural habitat. She'd have a safe and full life." She turned to the official. "My facility then, I can give her something to sleep while we transport her."
The park official nodded and made a call.
The poacher shook his head as he awakened fully. He saw the officers holding his bag and thought about running, even though it would be awkward with his hands cuffed. Maybe he could even manage to come back and kill the young man who had identified him. Then he saw the shorter young man glaring at him, almost daring him to do it. He shivered, suddenly feeling more like hunted prey than a hunter. He went gladly with the officers instead, thinking he might be safer in jail than out where the dangerous-looking young man could get to him.
Sam patted the bear gently and whispered 'thank you' when no one was looking just before she was taken away. He felt Dean's hand on his shoulder briefly and then they made their way back to the Impala, promising to stop by the station and give a statement.
They didn't go, of course, but it turned out not to be necessary anyway, as for some reason the poacher told the police everything, even going so far as to give them evidence against him. Sam read about the arrest in the local paper the next day as they left town.
"Why do you suppose he cooperated with them?" he wondered aloud to his brother.
Dean gave a noncommittal snort. "No idea. Maybe he was just a big coward." he said, remembering the look he'd given the man, the look that promised death. No one threatened his brother and got away with it.
He grabbed a tape at random and put it in the player, and the long black car drove along the highway, one of Metallica's songs filling the comfortable silence.
A few months later Dean emerged from another anonymous motel's bathroom clad in a towel. He looked over at the small table which held the laptop; Sam folded into a small chair in front of it. His brother seemed intent on the screen.
"Find our next gig?" he asked, removing the towel and pulling on a clean pair of shorts.
"Not yet, but look. Masha's pregnant with cubs," Sam said, turning around to grin at his brother.
"Oh yeah? Is she on now?" Dean asked with interest.
"Yeah, see?" Sam said excitedly.
Dean leaned in close to look; he saw a running stream and then a familiar brown shape sitting on the bank of the stream, feasting on a fish. The blurbs to the right of the cam on the zoo's website happily stated that they were expecting that there would be additions soon. He turned to grin at his brother.
Sam smiled back. "Hope you have a good life," he whispered to the screen. At Dean's raised eyebrow he punched his brother lightlyin the arm.
"Jerk," he said.
"Bitch," Dean responded, and the brothers watched the bear fish for a little while longer in companionable silence.
Thanks so much for sticking with this for so long. I truly appreciate the time you took to review. And I do have a couple other story ideas, but this time I think I'll write them all out first before I post :) Hope you all have a most wonderful day or night. Bye!