A/N: (makes dorky 'victory' pose) I'm BACK! Three GCSE's in the bag, seven more to go. (Guhness) But I'm now on study leave, so I have some free time to write!
O.M.G you guys are all so lovely! (gets bleary eyed) I feel so loved, I had no idea so many people liked this story so much! (feels guilty) I am so sorry, you guys! Hope this chappy is worth the wait!
Thanks so much to all those who continue to review; it makes it all worthwhile, folks! You're awesome!
Disclaimer: I asked Kripke if I could borrow it, but he said no. Unsurprisingly. (depression)
Dean managed, somehow, to tear his eyes away from Sam's imploring ones and address the situation. He had already let his brother down once today; he wasn't too keen to have a repeat experience. Besides, his masculinity could only take so many more of these wretched chick-flick moments that seemed to pollute his otherwise macho day.
"Okay." He said, jaw clenched, sounding a lot more confident than he felt, forcing himself to think. Think. God dammit, they had to get away from here. With every second the air got thicker and the atmosphere grew colder.
"Okay. The car. We've got to get to the car." He muttered to himself, trying to clear the muggy fog in his brain and think where they had left the Impala. Sam said nothing, merely continuing to glance warily around, shivering, whether from the cold or the fear Dean couldn't tell. Either way, it kick-started him into moving.
"Um…right." He winced as he flexed his arm, glanced around the empty road and located the quickest route to the parking lot "This way. Come on."
The air was now so thick with fog that it seemed to cling to them like some sort of creature, tendrils of cold and flecks of moisture dampening their hair and clothes, weighing them down. Dean just bowed his head and pushed on, grimacing, painfully aware of just how close Sam was keeping to his back. He could feel Sam's hot, rapid breathing almost down the back of his neck, and could have sworn he heard his teeth chattering, too.
He said nothing. Not even a sarcastic quip. For once, he had no time for such things, no patience. Adrenaline and instinct had smothered all leisurely thought; now, he was merely a hunter. A hunter and a brother.
"Hurry." Sam hissed hoarsely, breathless with fear, so close to his ear it made him wince. He was aware of shuddering fingers fisting themselves in the material at his sleeve "Faster. Your legs are too short, Dean. You should eat spinach."
Sam was gabbling now; never a good sign. It meant his mind must have gone on autopilot, spouting every thought in the hope of finding a solution. Dean abruptly stopped, glancing over his shoulder as Sam slammed into him.
"The hell, Sam?" He hid his panic under scorn, desperately scanning the pressing obscurity which surrounded them. Nothing. He couldn't see a thing, nothing but fog and swirling mist. He cursed softly. They were lost.
"Eat spinach like Popeye, and get bigger and stronger." Sam muttered through gritted teeth, shaking harder. Dean took a brief moment to marvel at the mystery that was his little brother's mind before grabbing Sam's wrist and hauling him forwards. Keep moving. Just keep moving.
"Yeah, yeah, spinach, Popeye, got it." He said, more to fill the silence than anything, increasing their pace with each step "Quality no quantity is what I always say, and damn if I don't have quality," He grinned "but whatever. Let's just focus on the here and now and stumpy, huh?"
His feet impacted on hard, dark tarmac. Good. The Impala was parked on tarmac, so they were closer now, at least.
"You just insulted yourself." Sam observed, flummoxed, and Dean turned to find his brother blinking at him in confusion, fear momentarily forgotten. It was extremely unnerving to see naivety staring out of Sam's usually keen eyes. His little brother continued to tremble regardless, and one hand still clung to Dean's sleeve like a lifeline. But despite the terror in his gaze, something else caught Dean's attention.
Sam was afraid, but he was looking to Dean to make things right. And he didn't just expect Dean to. He trusted him to. And Dean would be damned if he ever broke that trust again.
"Shut up and move, Sammy." He said, the order coming out less harsh than he had intended. Nonetheless, Sam winced guiltily as he hurried to keep up with Dean's pace.
Dean sighed at the quiet apology, and shot what he hoped was a wry yet encouraging look over his shoulder.
"It's okay…" On impulse, he clapped his brother on the shoulder "I guess in your state you can't comprehend the finer sides of banter, such as sarcasm, wit, insults against masculinity…"
Where the hell was that car?! They had left it just a few yards down the road, it must be around somewhere…Absorbed in the here and now, Dean missed the shift on his brother's face from fear to worry; even slight hurt.
"In my state?" He echoed hollowly, voice sounding terribly thin. "Dean…" he hesitated, then murmured quietly "do you think I'm sick?"
It was such a horrible thing to say, so vulgar and coarse that Dean felt a shudder creep up his spine. Sick. Was this what Sam thought? That Dean regarded him as some kind of burden, some kind of diseased version of his brother who wasn't really Sam at all?
That's horrible. How could he think… And yet, maybe on some deep, deep level, Dean had thought exactly that. Had been so focused on getting Sam back that he hadn't realized that his brother wasn't gone at all. Sam was Sam; no matter how screwed up his mind was, he was still the loveable idiot Dean was proud to call his brother.
"Dean, do you…" Sam trailed off, his painfully expressive gaze filling with hurt "Do you not like me anymore?"
A tiny body in your arms, thin bones shuddering so hard they feel as though they're shaking themselves apart. Blue lips in a pinched little face, icy skin blanched pale and bloodless with cold. Hard gravel digging into your knees, the creak of a rusty swing. Brown eyes half-lidded, dull and dark with grief .Empty eyes, shakes, cold breaths.
"Why, Sammy! What the HELL were you thinking!"
A voice. Yours? Accusations, anger, fear. Eyes drift shut. No, no, no, not this, you didn't mean it take it back please Sammy no…Your hands close around fragile, bony shoulders and jerk once, hard. Flutter, lift. Empty eyes.
"Thought…you didn't like me…anymore…"
Dean gasped like he had surfaced from being submerged in deep water, and Sam flinched back from him in surprise. No. He couldn't go there. Not now. He had a job to do: get them both out of here, safe, alive. Whatever was coming, it was coming soon. Real soon.
"No way, Sammy." He shook his head firmly, forcing the telltale tremble from his voice "No matter what you do, I'll always like you just the way you are. No matter how geeky or weird or disturbing that happens to be."
He turned, felt Sam do a couple of quick steps to catch up as they began to move again, sticking close together in the still impenetrable fog. It made Dean uneasy. Why was nothing happening? Why had whatever was coming not attacked yet? Why wait?
"Dean…" This time he did not stop, merely grunted an affirmative "What's wrong with me?"
Dean sighed, turned his head slightly and quirked his lips in a wry yet encouraging smile. Why did Sam always assume it was he that was the problem? Why did he always strive to take the fault and the blame, even when it was all Dean. All his fault.
"Your vibes are just a little squiffy, is all. You're okay, kiddo, I promise. It's even kinda nice to not have you being snarky all the time-"
Something hard and metallic suddenly impacted against his leg, and he grimaced at the stinging jolt of pain, reaching out blindly until his hand caught cool steel.
"Hey, I think my baby found my knee. And not in a good way."
Sam made a little gasping sound.
"Dean, look…" He pointed a the front left tyre of the Impala. Dean squinted through the mist, and then his eyes widened, face twisting with blatant fury:
"Son of a BITCH!"
"The tyres. They're…"
"Fuckin' slashed." Dean clenched his fists. The damn punks. They must have run over and gotten to the car before they left "They SLASHED my BABY! Those bastards. I'll fuckin' kill them!"
"And that model and fit is really hard to get hold of, too! They don't make cars like they used to. Fuck, dammit, dammit!"
Sam flinched, and lifted his clenched fist to nibble tensely at his knuckles; something he only ever did when he was beyond nervous. A slightly hysterical smile twisted his lips "It wasn't them." Dean raised his eyebrows in question "I think it's here."
It. The thing that attacked Sam.
"What do we do?" Sam asked through a mouthful of knuckle, hopping from foot to foot as Dean rifled through the trunk for the biggest baddest arsenal he could find. He could feel it coming. But not yet. A few more minutes, but then…
"Get big guns, cling to them and blast anything that moves. And hope. Lots of hoping." Dean muttered distractedly, loading up a shotgun with far more force than was necessary.
"Hope?" Sam murmured, trying to find some meaning to the word, but found that he couldn't. Dean absently shoved a knife in his direction and Sam took it carefully, biting his lip.
"And guns. Don't forget the gun bit."
"I don't think guns will work, Dean." Dean looked up at him, frowning, and Sam searched inside him for words to express the terrible feeling the thing inflicted. Cold. Cold cold cold cold. Loneliness and despair.
"It's not out there. It's in here." He tapped at his head, silently begging Dean to understand. If your body was broken it would mend in time. The mind was a far more fragile thing.
"I don't get it." Dean shook his head, frustrated "Aw, crap. I'm getting a gun anyway. It'll make me feel better, at any rate." He dug around in his pocket for his phone and flipped it open.
"I'll ring the services for my baby and…" Sam glanced over his brother's shoulder, wincing a little when a loud negative beep sounded from the small device "Huh. Great. No reception. We'll have to walk to the next payphone or something…"
A deep sigh sounded around them, long and slurred, and it seemed as if the very earth itself was turning in it's sleep. Sam tensed up, spun around in a circle, breathing hard. Closer. Getting closer. No signal, no phone, no message, no escape.
"Speak no evil." He breathed, then abruptly turned, grabbed Dean by the jacket and shook him, hard "We need to go. Now. Dean? Please? Can't we just…" something giggled, and his blood ran cold "…run…"
A warm hand scalded the back of his neck and he flinched violently. Dean's face swam before his vision, and he was suddenly aware that the ground was tilting drunkenly from side to side "Sammy? What is it?"
It was a game. A wretched, miserable, never-ending game. Cat and mouse, cops and robbers, the hunter and the prey "Run, run, run, as fast as you can…"
"Uh…okay? Good plan, let's go? Sam?"
"Two blind mice. Two blind mice. See how they run."
Sam covered his face with his hands and let his fingers slide up to his hair, gripping painfully. He whimpered and tossed his head from side to side, trying to dislodge the growing, unbearable pressure building in his head. The hand on his neck slid down to rub circles in his back, and slowly, his gasping breaths eased into a more easy rhythm.
"We're in no condition to go anywhere, least of all run for it." Came Dean's firm voice from somewhere beside him "I think whatever it is, is boxing us in. 'Sides, look what happened to you when you went running out after it. Stay and hug guns and hope, I say."
A resounding BANG cut through the air like a gunshot, and Sam cried out while Dean nearly jumped out of his skin. The Impala dipped to one side with a hiss of escaping gas. A silvery laugh trilled through the thin air, and Sam's stomach turned over as he heard the light tip-tap of dainty footsteps. No. No no no no no no no no…
"What the HELL just-"
Something whipped through the fog with a sharp twang and struck Sam a glancing blow across his cheek. The force of the impact sent him sprawling to the ground, and he groaned as he felt the skin of his cheek split open and spill blood across the road.
His head was pounding so hard he was afraid it would burst, and he screamed at himself to move. It was coming back. He could hear her. She was coming back and he couldn't stop her and what if Dean-
"SAM! Get the hell up! Shit-" Hands on him. Cold. Dizzy. He wanted to sleep, but-
His eyes snapped open, to see Dean crouching concernedly over him, and behind him, a dark figure and a flash of metal. He opened his mouth wide but no sound came out. Speak no evil.
I win, Sammy. You lose!
A pair of white, bloodless little hands clapped over Dean's eyes and he was torn backwards away from Sam, and became swallowed by the swirling fog. Sam lashed out at the space where Dean had been just milli-seconds before, and he choked as panic strangled him.
"No…no no no…Dean…DEAN!"
He couldn't see. He couldn't think. He stumbled to his feet and ploughed through the cold mist, lashing at it, trying to clear it, searching desperately for the sign of a leather jacket, dark hair, skin, hazel eyes, anything.
I'm tired of this game, Sammy.
Sam's heart turned to stone. He cried out as something swept his feet from under him and he landed, hard, cracking his chin against the hard tarmac. He gasped, head spinning, and forced himself to look up.
A pair of shiny black dolly shoes. Lacey, pristine white socks with frills and little black bows and a row of buttons. Dried blood, artistically splattered. The tattered hem of a yellowing dress just visible beneath an apple-red cloak.
You're no fun anymore.
A thin wrist, slit, skin hanging and gaping revealing pearly white bone. Pale flesh clung to skeletal fingers, clenched tightly around Dean's neck. His head was lolling grotesquely sideways, eyes wide open, blank, unseeing. Her thumb was pressed lovingly against his jugular vein, and Sam could see it pulsating gently against her polished nail.
His stomach heaved, but he choked it down, gasping and floundering like a dying animal.
I've got a new toy. See? It's new and shiny and stronger than the old one. It'll be harder to break, and I think it'll be fun. Don't you?
Obsidian eyes glinted within the cavernous depths of a red hood, and a wide, childish mouth opened wide and emitted a gleeful laugh. She drew back her arm and threw Dean's lifeless body to the ground with a sickening thud, before turning on her heel and becoming consumed in the now thinning mist.
Quiet. Blank hazel eyes staring straight into his, mouth hanging open slightly, as though in sleep.
Blackness. Complete and utter blanketed dark, impenetrable. He felt like he was floating. A flicker of colour caught his eye, and he twisted sluggishly, peeling his eyelids back with considerable effort.
He had been expecting something a bit…bigger.
She…no, it, was in the shape of a little girl. A considerably worse for wear little girl, it looked like. He couldn't see its face, which was concealed by a red hood, but something foul-smelling was filling the air. Its skin was sallow where it was whole, and blackened and scorched where it was rotted. He could see the stubs of kneecaps above its lacy socks, and there was a large soaked bloodstain leaking across the remains of a yellow dress.
"So you're…what?" he drawled, his voice hoarse "The retarded illegitimate offspring of a Nazgul and a Dementor?"
You're funny. I like you.
It leant forward, its breath rattling, and the smell became overpowering. Dean wrinkled his nose and made a disgusted sound.
"Sorry, sweetheart. Can't say my first impressions of you are favourable…I mean, the grabbing and the fog and the cloak? Complete turn off." Inspiration struck him as he eyed her faded red cloak, and he grinned offhandedly "Oh, I get it, you're little red riding hood, right?"
There was a moment of silence.
What are you afraid of, Dean?
Dean was taken aback, but quickly recovered "Nothin'. I just have a certain aversion to planes that manifests itself in an imitation of fear. Like an allergic reaction."
The thing giggled, clasped its rotting hands in front of it and trilled in a sing-song voice:
Birds of a feather
And so will pigs and swine;
Rats and mice will have their choice,
And so will I have mine.
Dean raised his eyebrows, thoroughly unimpressed "You're making about as much sense as Sam on morphine and skittles." Long story. "Just cut to the chase, bitch."
Fee! Fie! Foe!
I smell the blood of a Hunting-man.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread!
Dean gathered his strength and lunged forwards, but it danced out of his reach, laughing mockingly "Not before I kick your scrawny corporeal ass!" his fingers caught the edge of it's cloak, and it froze "Let's see what you really look li-"
The head was black with decay; here and there the bony ridge of a cheekbone or jaw was visible beneath scarce flesh, yet the eyes were whole, bright china-blue with huge, dilating pupils. The mouth hang gaping wide open, as though the jaw was dislocated, and tufts of hair with the remains of bows hung from the top of the skull.
Hung from its sallow, sunken neck, was a very familiar object. A broken, circular wooden structure with strings weaved across in a disjointed pattern. Only one feather remained hanging on a length of beads. A dream catcher. The very dream catcher Dean had hung in the motel room all those days ago before leaving to meet Cassie.
It had been snapped in two.
"Dream reaper." He hissed at the creature, eying the tangled mess of string which adorned its shoulders. The thing grinned grotesquely, its tongue lolling "Son of a bitch."
That's rude, Dean. I have a real name. It's pretty, like me! Can you guess what it is?
Shit. He'd never come across one of these. Hell, Dad had never come across one of these. He didn't know enough. He didn't know how to stop it or wound it or even kill it. Nobody who had encountered one had been sane enough to tell.
"I'm gonna rip you apart, you ugly little freak." He hissed through gritted teeth "Just as soon as I-"
Don't call me ugly. That's not nice. I know, would you play with a more familiar face?
The dream reaper pirouetted neatly on the spot in a blur of colour, and Dean blinked, then scrambled hastily backwards, his lips curling. Standing in place of the vision of a rotting girl was the form of a six year old Sammy, complete with grubby sneakers and a plaster on his left knee. The reaper grinned cruelly with his little brother's face, its skin too pale and its eyes deep black instead of soft, expressive brown.
The reaper took an unsteady step towards him, and feigned a look of hurt when Dean scrambled away from it. Sammy's face pouted, and the reaper clapped its hands sharply, once.
Do you like my new toy, Dean?
Suspended limply from long, metallic strings was a doll. A doll with short, spiky brown hair and a comically angry look on its face. A doll with a leather jacket and shirt and jeans and army boots. A doll with hazel eyes. No. not a doll. A puppet.
Dean stared, lost for words, and felt suddenly afraid. He swallowed as the reaper laughed and shook the strings it held in its fingers, making the doll jiggle and wave its arms unnaturally.
It's pretty, don't you think? Dean and I want you to play with us, big brother. Sammy's face gave him a pleading look, but a cruel smile twisted its thin lips that his brother would never be able to achieve Will you play?
Let's play pretend.
Dean's entire body went cold, as though it had been plunged into a bath of ice. He breathed hard, and twisted and bucked in pain, pressing his lips tightly together to stop himself from crying out.
"Don't go to sleep. Dean. Wake up. Dean!"
Sam shook his brother's lifeless body so hard he could practically feel the bones rattling around inside, keeping up a constant stream of demands and threats and pleas. Eventually he stopped, trembling with exhaustion, and sank down, gulping in air cool evening air.
"Sorry. I'm sorry." He murmured, and tugged Dean to his chest, resting his forehead against his brother's hair "I'll be good. I won't do it again. Just wake up. Please?"
He rocked slowly back and forth, crooning and sobbing quietly, feeling pathetic and useless and like he had been torn in two. Dean's skin was freezing and clammy and his limbs sprawled awkwardly, but Sam only clung tighter.
"I'm scared." He choked, the words echoing about the empty road, his throat constricted and his whole head burning. He couldn't see through the tears of frustration which poured down his cheeks like cleansing fire.
"I'm really scared." He swallowed thickly "But…"
More than that, more than anything else…he didn't feel the cold anymore. Something was burning deep inside him. Some deep, dark, powerful force had lit a fire in him that was spreading molten strength throughout his whole body. He shivered and flinched at the intensity of it.
"But…I'm also angry." He slurred, slowly, as though in a trance, and his face twisted into an expression of deep fury, making it terrible and unnatural.
"Really…really…really…angry…" he murmured, and raised his head, resting his chin on the top of Dean's head. He felt…strange. Whole, yet torn. His mind felt fragile, yet more alive than it had felt in days.
"You hurt my brother."
There was no answer, and this only served to fuel the deep hatred that was twisting his insides with a pain that was beyond pain.
"I'll kill you. You hear me? I mean it. I will."
He threw back his head and screamed at the top of his lungs:
"I'LL KILL YOU!"
His heart felt as though it was trying to fold in on itself. The icy cold that fogged his mind and dulled its senses shied and hissed as it was pushed back by the heat which flowed through him. a thousands thoughts and feelings flashed before his mind, memory upon memory, built upon each other and forming the foundation of his very being, links forming and fusing stronger than ever before. Dad, Jessica, college, hunting…Dean. Always Dean.
His attacker had made a fatal mistake. He had broken Sam by using his greatest weakness against him…his brother. But it had failed to realize that Dean was also Sam's greatest strength.
"Get away. Go away. Leave us alone, or I'll kill you. I'll hunt you down and tear you apart." He muttered breathlessly in a frenzy, clutching Dean protectively to him "Get AWAY! NOW!"
Clap. Clap. Clap.
Oh, very, very good. I think I'll enjoy this. I thought you were getting boring, but we're just getting started. I'm glad. So glad!
He felt cold breath on the back of his neck.
Try and interfere, and things'll get bad. Understand? You're not a player. I'll be forced to play rough. See?
Cool metal across his throat.
A/N: Oh noes, Dean! (does the Dean!Angstyhurt dance of joy) Why do I do this to the boys? (shrugs) Meh.
Next chapter: John finally get's his act together! Sammy angsts and lugs his brother to safety, and Dean…well, wait and see!
Note on the dream reaper: more will be explained on how this supernatural being works later – see if you can work it out! I actually made this concept up, as far as I know, it doesn't exist in legend.
Thanks for reading! Review and Thursday will come faster! (hopefully) Hang in there folks!