An Eye for an Eye
By: Ridley C. James
Disclaimer: No, nothing Supernatural is mine, and I promise to put everything back as soon as I'm done playing.
A/N: Yep-spoilerish for The Benders. Just a little rambling of a tag on, because we just didn't get enough comfort to go with the hurt-or even a little recognition.
Justice is too good for some people and not good enough for the rest. -Norman Douglas
The squishing of the muddy earth giving beneath their feet was the only sound in the night except for the scurrying of the occasional nocturnal forest creature.
Sam glanced at his older brother and wished for not the first time that the deputy had caved to Dean's request for the ride. The older Winchester looked like shit, and he'd stopped talking miles ago- which was even more worrying than the spectacular array of bruises mottling his face and neck.
Sam could only hope that it was the levity of the night's events and not the beating that his brother had taken that was cause for the unusual quietness. He pushed the negative what if's away and kept moving-looking at his feet and willing his own aching body to continue the repetitive process of going forward.
At a familiar sound in the distance, his gaze suddenly came up from his close inspection of the ground and he stopped, cocking his head to one side.
Dean came to a halt also, curiously watching his brother's impression of a coon dog listening for game. "What?" he glanced around them and groaned. "Please tell me that you don't hear banjo music."
Sam frowned at his brother's poor humor and shushed him with a raise of his hand. "Sirens."
"You get super hearing now, too?" Dean shook his head in disgust and then winced as the motion sent little spikes of pain through his skull. "I was supposed to inherit the next super power, damn it."
His younger brother rolled his eyes and pointed up the road where flashing blue lights could now be seen. "We need to get out of sight."
Dean hesitated, not really thrilled with the prospect of going into the ominous looking woods-where countless people had been slaughtered. The twisted pictures of the victims were permanently burned into his memory.
But as the sirens grew louder, Sam grabbed his arm and guided him towards the tree line. "Let's go."
"Dude, what gives? You pull one lucky rescue and you think you're in charge?" Dean jerked away as soon as they were successfully camouflaged by the foliage tucking his arm protectively against his throbbing ribs once more.
"Stop complaining and sit down before you fall down," Sam sighed, watching as his pig-headed brother stumbled over a root in the darkness.
Dean had been moving slower for a while now and Sam assumed that the adrenaline rush had abandoned his body and the obvious injuries he'd sustained were starting to make themselves known.
The younger Winchester had caught him touching the back of his head several times as they'd quickly put distance between them and the nightmarish shack. He hadn't missed the way his brother had been favoring his left arm either. As a kid, he'd become an expert at scoping out hidden injuries his brother was constantly concealing. It pissed Dean off to no end, but Sam was pretty sure it had saved the idiot's life on several occasions.
He sighed, taking in their surroundings. The damp, dark woods wasn't the best place for either of them, but it was all they had at the moment. Sam would never again complain about lousy motel rooms or their crappy first aid kit. He'd almost kill for either at the moment.
Wailing sirens grew louder and the sound of approaching cars drove both Winchesters to the mossy forest floor.
"Sonuvabitch," Dean hissed as he used both arms to brace himself, and a lancing pain knifed through his left one, almost sending him face first to the ground.
Sam's steadying hand instinctively reached for him, coming in contact with the newly branded shoulder and he couldn't help the yelp of pain. "Dean?" His brother quickly released him, and Dean let his bottom hit the dirt with a bone jarring impact, that had his ribs reliving each punch they'd endured.
He had his eyes squeezed shut and was panting with the effort of not passing out, when he felt Sam's hand on his leg, as the younger man shifted closer to him. "You okay?"
"Yep, I'm good," he said, forcing his eyelids to cooperate. He eased himself back against a huge tree and his brother's worried face suddenly loomed in his personal space. He frowned and tried to scoot away from the scrutiny. "Back off, Dude. You need a shower."
Sam reached up with one hand and took his brother's chin, turning his head so that he could get a look at the cut along his hairline. "Sorry-that wasn't one of the amenities at the Sociopath Suites, " he muttered.
"Right," Dean smiled, jerking slightly when Sam's hand moved to the back of his head, where he was pretty sure a lump the size of a softball was lurking. "They probably prefer to clean their game after they kill it." The older hunter swallowed hard as he remembered the sick trophy room that he'd stumbled across. He couldn't stop the shiver than ran through him, and Sam's worried gaze was on him again.
"You sure you don't feel dizzy, or sick?" They'd been through this once before in the house, but Sam knew his brother.
Dean sighed. "My brain is not hemorrhaging, Sam." When his brother still looked worried, Dean forced another grin. "At least the rates were cheep at that place."
"Yeah," Sam shook his head at the diversionary tactic, but continued his exam. "I wouldn't really recommend the sleeping quarters though."
"Definitely lacking in the comfort area- although they could have hung some mirrors and maybe appealed to the kinkier crowd."
Sam moved his hands from Dean's head to his side , lifting his shirt and running his hand over each rib. His brother hissed in pain, but at least nothing felt broken. "The extra-curricular activities would have still been a hard sale."
"So would the cuisine…" Dean jerked as Sam found a particularly tender spot. "Although the Donner Party Pantry has a nice ring to it."
Sam groaned, "Have I told you how warped you are, lately?"
Dean smiled at him. "Yeah, but you can never say I love you enough, cupcake."
"Ow!" Dean yelled, and Sam quickly reached up to cover his mouth, afraid that one of the passing cars might hear them. The vehicles were going by in a steady stream now.
"Sorry," he said and removed his hand before Dean was provoked into doing bodily harm. "Just take it easy."
"You take it easy."
Sam ignored the heated glare he received and let his hand move from Dean's side to the shoulder his brother had been favoring. There was a curious charred hole burned into his brother's jacket-all the way through to his shirt. What the hell?
The younger Winchester hadn't noticed it before, but now it was demanding all of his attention.
Back at the house when he'd freed Dean, his brother's bloodied face and glassy eyes had warranted his concern. But now he was afraid to find what atrocities had been concealed by the clothes and overlooked in their desire to be as far away from the scene as possible.
"Leave it, Sammy," Dean sighed, wearily. He'd seen the hurt flash in his kid brother's eyes, and he caught Sam's wrist in a firm grip. "It's okay."
Sam met his pain-filled gaze, horror feeling his own dark stare. "What did they do to you?"
A lop-sided grin and a one- shouldered shrug. "Let's just say I was lucky they weren't cattle ranchers or I'd be sporting some freaky-ass symbol emblazoned on my chest. Knowing those freaks, their brand would have been a skull and cross bones."
"They tortured you." Sam felt his stomach churn, and he gently tugged his hand from Dean's grasp.
Once again he reached for the burned material and this time his brother humored him- either too tired to fight him or knowing it would be a useless campaign. Sam could be worse than a dog with a bone.
The older Winchester gasped once as his brother accidentally pulled at an area of his shirt that was stuck to the wound. "Sorry," Sam said, wincing as the material finally gave way bringing skin with it.
"Dean…this looks bad," Sam nearly choked on the words as he took in the blistered, blackened area of skin. The fact that the treacherous act had been done to his brother on purpose, with no other reasoning than to bring him pain, had fury competing with Sam's previous intense worry.
He swallowed back his anger, along with the bile that was slowly climbing up the back of his throat, and tried to think straight.
Burns weren't something to mess around with. They could become infected easier than a cut, and the fact that clothing was still stuck to the destroyed flesh wasn't going to help matters. "We've got to get you cleaned up. You need a doctor."
Dean sighed, letting his head come to rest against the rough bark of the tree. "This isn't exactly the Ritz, Sammy, and unless you took some fancy class in natural medicinal practices- then I'm not trusting you to go feeding me mushrooms or plastering me with poultices."
"I could flag down a car."
"And catch a ride with an unmarked one way ticket to prison?" Dean shook his head, "No way, Sammy."
"Then we should keep moving." Sam wasn't sure that was the smartest of ideas either, considering the fact his brother more than likely had a concussion.
"No," Dean lifted his head, "we should give it some time. They'll be more people coming to the scene. We have to be careful."
Sam continued to look at him, the whole puppy dog eye thing going on. "I'm immune to your persuasive mind-bending powers, Captain Amazing."
Sam held his gaze for a moment, and Dean knew he was thinking of any other possible action he could take to help him-to make things right. You're here-alive-that's enough.
He recognized the moment his kid brother gave in. "You're an ass is what you are," Sam turned with a frustrated sigh, and sat down beside his older brother, their shoulders lightly touching.
"That hurts, Sammy."
Sam cut his eyes to his brother. "Yeah-I know it does."
Dean realized they were talking about two entirely different things. "Good thing I'm the tough one in the family."
Sam faced the darkened forest again, focusing on their collective breathing.
Dean recognized the pouting and sighed, not really sure of what he'd said this time. "What?"
"Nothing," Sam sighed again.
"Then why've you sprung a leak?"
Sam roughly pushed away from the tree and angled his body so he could deliver a dead-on glare. "Those bastards hurt you."
Dean looked oblivious. "Yeah-and they were going to kill and dress you like a prize buck-what's your point?"
"My point is- I didn't do anything about it."
"I locked them in a cage."
"You also locked their little sister , It, in a closet-let's not forget that."
"Sammy-as much as it pains me to say it-and it does pain me-you saved my ass, and Kathleen's, too."
"What if they'd done that to me?" Sam nodded to Dean's shoulder and then motioned to his bloodied face.
Dean started to open his mouth with a quick reply, but then the images flashed unbidden through his mind.
The remembered pain of the attack stole his breath, and the fear he hadn't been able to hold at bay came crashing down around him. He couldn't help the fact that his overly fertile imagination removed him from the scene and cast Sam in the leading role.
"I'd have killed them," he finally said, trying to get his heart rate under control. After all, it wasn't Sam they'd tortured-it was him. "I'd have killed them all." Dean had said as much when the bastards had rubbed Sam's imminent demise in his face. And he'd meant it.
Sam shook his head. "Exactly."
"But, Sammy-that's not who…"
"Don't Sammy me. Damn it!" The younger Winchester ran a hand through his hair, frustrated and exhausted from the entire situation. Didn't Dean get it? "You're my brother."
Dean nodded. "And you'd die for me." Sam had said as much-and Dean believed him.
He waited for his brother to look at him again. "And you'd kill for me-if you thought it would save my life. I don't doubt that."
"But murder isn't in your make up, little brother." Thank God.
Sam watched him quietly for a moment- trying to discern if there was any trace of disappointment in that confident statement.
"It's one of the reasons you wanted to be a lawyer- right? To help dole out justice in your own way."
Finally, Sam nodded. He glanced away. "I knew she was going to do it."
Dean frowned. "Kathleen?"
"I saw it in her eyes- when she told me to go find you. She had already decided to kill him."
"He killed her little brother-on her watch. He was her responsibility." Just like you're mine, Sammy. I wouldn't have hesitated either.
"I almost didn't leave her alone. I almost tried to talk her out of it."
"But you didn't."
Sam shook his head. "A part of me wanted her to do it. Because I knew how sick he was-and I could only imagine what his victims had suffered and…" his watery eyes lifted to hold Dean's steady green gaze, "but I felt bad …and now…"
Dean watched his brother struggle with his monstrous humanity and felt both sorry for him and extremely proud of him.
"I almost wish that I'd done it, you know. For what he did to you."
"The whole an eye for eye thing?" Dean shuddered as he thought about how close he'd come to bringing new meaning to that metaphor.
Sam clenched his fists. "Yeah."
Dean shook his head. "When it comes to monsters of the human kind, Sammy, I think the whole turn the other cheek works better for you."
Instead of a look of irritation he got one of guilt and it hurt almost as much as the frying pan to the back of the skull thing. "I'm sorry," Sam whispered.
"Sam-you don't have anything to be sorry for. I'm fine. A few more interesting scar stories to add to my chick- magnet repertoire, but that's it. Besides," he motioned his hand between them. "this whole kick-ass big brother gig is my job."
Sam frowned. "Being tortured by inbred, backwoods people is your job?"
Whatever it takes to keep you safe. Dean grinned. "All in a days work for…"
Sam quickly held his hand up, and with a quick shake of his head cut his brother off. "Yeah, yeah, Captain…yada, yada, yada."
"Don't mock the alter ego that has saved your ass countless times, Ungrateful."
Sam couldn't help the grin that tried to tug at the corner of his mouth. "Where was this super persona when you got dropped by a little girl?"
"I have a soft spot for kids," he smirked at his brother. "I keep you around, don't I?"
"You have a soft spot, all right."
Dean pointed a finger at him. "Yeah, well if I'd catch a break in the genetic freakiness area-then I'd be unstoppable."
"You'd be unbearable-is what you'd be."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Power might corrupt me without your goody two-shoed conscious to go along with it."
"Thanks," Sam shook his head, and finally leaned back against the tree. "I think."
"It was a compliment." Dean nudged his brother with his uninjured shoulder. "Really-you're my hero, Sammy."
Sam laughed and rolled his eyes to the blackened sky above them. "Eat me, man."
"Hey, I wouldn't say that too loud if I were you."
Sam snorted. "You are warped on so many levels."
"Yeah, yeah, I love you too, Sammy."