Survival Tactics

A/N: This is the full recount of the vicodin incident as mentioned in Boy Blue, though you don't really have to read that to get this. StealthyOne wanted the full story, so here it is. She also did an awesome beta job. :) Dean is fourteen, so Sam is nine or ten. Read on...

John first realizes he must have seriously screwed up when Sammy is the one waking him up and not the other way around.

Sam is grabbing his father's shoulders, trying to shake him awake, though he's barely budging him.

"Dad!" he yelps. "Dad!"

Finally, John blinks heavy eyes open and is greeted with Sam, bouncing anxiously beside him, eyes wide with panic and fear.

"Dad!" he gasps. "Dean's dead!"

"Poltergeist," Sam says from the backseat, with his best Schwarzenegger accent. "It's German. It means 'a noisy spirit.'"

"Thanks Sammy." Dean grins, flashing him a sarcastic thumbs up.

Sam frowns. "I was just telling you."

"Yeah, well." Dean sighs. "We don't really care."

"Dean," John growls from behind the wheel.

His reprimands as of late have been reduced to two words spoken sternly. Either "Sam" or "Dean," or sometimes both. Their names were said as vague threats, which neither cared to have clarified.

"Sorry, sir," Dean replies.

John nods, pulling into the mud at the side of the road and cutting the engine.

"Get your stuff," he says gruffly, getting out of the car and striding back to the trunk. Once they're each armed with a sword and a good supply of holy water, John holds each item up in reminder. "Water will hurt the banshee. Then, use the sword to decapitate the thing. Easy. Got it?"

Sam and Dean nod simultaneously. "Yes, sir."

"All right then. We'll split up. You two circle east and I'll do the west end. We'll meet up in the middle in exactly fifteen minutes. Don't be late, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." John nods, starting off into the trees, sword held tight at his side. "Fifteen minutes." He disappears into the dark as Dean sets his watch.

"Let's go, Sammy."

Sam trudges after Dean into the trees, staying close to his brother's elbow.

"What's so bad about banshees anyway?" Sam asks quietly, glancing about the forest.

Dean shrugs. "They're just bad, Sammy. They're demons."

"But all they're doing is warning people somebody's going to die. That's not so bad. Maybe if people knew they could keep it from happening."

"Or maybe, if they hadn't said it was going to happen, then it wouldn't."

Sam scrunches his face up in thought, finally shaking his head. "No. They don't kill anybody. They just warn that it'll happen."

"Whatever, Sam," Dean mutters. He squints, focusing intently on the darkness that surrounds them.

"Plus," Sam adds thoughtfully. "They aren't really saying anything." "Yelling, screeching, same thing."

"Still, it's just a warning. I'd like a warning before I die."

"Sam." Dean stops walking, turns to face his brother for a moment. "Now is not really the time for a philosophical discussion. Dad's always telling you to focus on hunts, and this is exactly what he's talking about. You need to pay attention to what's out there," he says, gesturing into the trees with his sword. "Otherwise, it won't really matter if you're warned or not. You'll still be dead. Okay?"

Sam gazes up at the fourteen-year-old and nods. "Okay."

"Good." Dean nods. He turns to start walking again when a clammy gray hand shoots out of the darkness and grabs his arm, yanking him hard into a solid tree trunk. There's a pop and a shout, and then the thud of a body meeting something solid.

"Dean!" Sam shouts frantically into the darkness, moving toward where he thinks he heard the thud. He takes two steps before the banshee pops up in front of him, ghostly gray features inches from his face. He jolts back in surprise, tightening his grip on the sword while awkwardly trying to unscrew the cap from his bottle of holy water.

The banshee is female, apparently, with long, stringy, black hair and fairly human features. She wears a long gray dress that matches her skin tone and grins at him in the dark. Sam raises the water bottle, preparing to douse her, when she throws her head back and yells. It's wordless, nails on a chalkboard, screeching that echoes through the trees, bouncing off the solid wood.

He drops the bottle in a frantic attempt to cover his ears and block out the noise. Chills run up and down his spine, and he wonders whose death she is warning of.

He thinks that his earlier opinion of a banshee's harmless nature is changing rapidly

But then something happens. The banshee is still screaming, but it's not the gut-twisting yell. It's morphed into the softer cries of something in pain, which is somehow, easier on the ears. Sam looks up hesitantly.

Dean stands behind the banshee, emptying his bottle of holy water over her head.

"Your sword," Dean gasps out.

He steps back as Sam straightens and swings the sword around in one fluid motion, slicing through the banshee's neck. She drops to the ground, limbs crunching on dry leaves. Dead now, she reverts to true demon form. Makes the whole thing a bit easier on the stomach. Yet Dean still turns away and heaves stomach acid onto the forest floor, clutching at his left shoulder.

"Dean!" Sam yells, too loud over the shrill ringing in his ears, a result of the banshee's cry. "Are you okay?"

Dean swipes his mouth clean and straightens, still holding his shoulder. "Fine."


"It's fine."


"I'm OKAY," Dean yells next to Sam's head, and his brother finally nods, rubbing his ears.

"GOOD," Sam yells back.

Dean gives Sam a thumbs up with his good arm and points at him. "I'm okay," Sam says loudly, nodding.

"Sure you are, Sammy," Dean mutters, low enough so Sam can't hear, though that isn't difficult at the moment.

Sam leans forwards as he sees Dean's lips move. "WHAT?"

"You did good," Dean tells him loudly.

Sam nods vaguely again, watching the banshee's remains and still tightly clutching his sword.

"Dean!" John's voice reaches them from a distance. "Sam!"

Dean glances at Sam, but he shows no reaction to their father's shouts, still nodding solemnly and watching Dean

"Over here!" Dean yells. "We got it."

Sam leans in, hearing vague pieces of his brother's words as they cut into the ringing haze. "What?"

"Nothing. It's just Dad."


"I said it's JUST DAD."

"I'm right here," John cuts in, jogging up to them. "What are you yelling about?" He pauses and eyes the body on the ground. "You guys okay?"

"WE GOT THE BANSHEE," Sam announces.

John nods, but looks to Dean for an explanation.

"It yelled in his face." Dean winces.

"IT WAS YELLING IN MY FACE," Sam says, pointing at himself.

"He can't hear," Dean explains.

"I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING," Sam says, looking only slightly distressed by the fact.

"Okay." John nods, taking Sam by the shoulder to guide him back to the car. "We've got to go. Dean?"

His eldest shuffles behind, starkly pale in the moonlight.

"Are you bleeding?" John barks, concerned by his pallor. His worry grows when he sees the awkward posture Dean holds.

"My shoulder," he breathes.

John feels that ever-present pit in his stomach begin to grow. "Broken?"

Dean shakes his head, his pain at the slightest of movements suddenly apparent. "Dislocated."

John nods.

Sam watches the exchange carefully. "IT THREW HIM INTO A TREE," he offers obliviously.

"Okay." John nods. "Okay. We really need to go. Can you get to the car alright?"

Dean nods stiffly, following along on the painfully long walk back to the car. By the time they get there, he's breathing through clenched teeth and nearly falls into the backseat. Sam crawls in next to him, still rubbing his ears and wincing, while John jumps behind the wheel.

Dean's breath hitches with each bump in the road and while he'll never admit it, John can see how much it hurts, and it hurts him just the same way. Especially when he thinks of setting the shoulder back in the motel room. Grabbing the first aid kit out of the glove compartment, he digs down to the bottom with one hand while driving, and fishes out a bottle of prescription painkillers. Knowing he won't be able to work the cap off and steer safely at the same time, he tosses the bottle back to Sam.

Sam squints at it, trying to read the label in the dark car.

"Give him two of those," John says, pointing at Dean.

Sam shakes his head. "WHAT?"

"TWO," John says again, holding up as many fingers so Sam can see.

Sam nods then, shaking out the pills and pressing them to Dean's lips with a bottle of water. Dean doesn't protest, and after a few minutes, his eyes close. He's quickly asleep, head tilted awkwardly back against the seat. And while it's a pain to have to carry him into the room, Dean doesn't even flinch when John resets his shoulder.

John first realizes he must have seriously screwed up when Sammy is the one waking him up and not the other way around.

Sam is grabbing his father's shoulders, trying to shake him awake, though he's barely budging him.

"Dad!" he yelps. "Dad!"

Finally, John blinks heavy eyes open and is greeted with Sam, bouncing anxiously beside him, eyes wide with panic and fear.

"Dad!" he gasps. "Dean's dead!"

"What?" John sits up with a start. Sam scoots away from him as he turns to look at the other bed where Dean lies flat on his back. In the exact position he'd been in eight hours ago.

He's not moving.

"He won't wake up," Sam stutters.

John's off the bed and stumbling the few steps to his eldest before his brain even realizes what's happening.

He must have missed something, some other injury, a bleeding wound. No. No, the shoulder was it. He's sure of it.

"Dean?" he asks, sitting heavily on the mattress and leaning over his son.

Sam crawls up on his other side, reaching for his brother, but hesitating to touch him. Dean makes no reaction to their presence and John reaches an unsteady hand for the artery in his neck. It takes John a panicky minute to find a pulse, but it's there. Steady, but slow…slow…too slow. He holds the back of his hand near Dean's nose to feel the invisibly shallow, slow puffs of breath.

"Dad?" Sam edges closer.

"He's okay," John breathes, after his quick assessment.

"Why won't he wake up?"

It's a good question, John thinks, scanning his son again for any wounds. A shoulder injury wouldn't cause this. Maybe he ate something weird. He reaches for Dean's wrist to check his pulse again and finds the limb disturbingly heavy, and the beat still rhythmically sluggish.

But they didn't even eat last night, John remembers. There was the banshee and the injury, he'd given Dean something for the pain, and then Dean had gone right to sleep.

Right after taking those pills.

"Oh, shit," he breathes, dropping Dean's arm, which bounces a bit as it falls back to the mattress. No muscle tone.

"What?" Sam asks thinly. "Dad?"

John swallows thickly, finally realizing his mistake. Two, he'd told Sam. Give him two of those. It's what he would have taken himself, but he's a two-hundred-plus-pound man and Dean is still a kid. And a skinny one at that.

"Dad?" Sam says again, more urgently and on the verge of whining. He's latched onto Dean's arm and is shaking him a bit. "What's wrong?"

"He's sleeping," John says simply, stating the obvious and leaning closer to Dean. Even though his pulse is slow, it isn't too slow. Two pills were too much, but it wasn't too much. Or so John hoped.

He reaches out with a loose fist and rubs his knuckles along Dean's breastbone, but when that draws no reaction he goes for the tender pressure point, where neck meets shoulder, and squeezes, hard.

Dean shifts a bit and his face scrunches up and he makes a humming sort of noise of disapproval. It isn't much, but both Sam and John release a heavy sigh of relief.

"Hey." John leans forward to gently tap Dean's cheek. "Dean, open your eyes," he commands.

Sam inches closer and, as if to help his brother follow orders, pries one eyelid up with his fingers.

The eye behind it is sightless and rolling, and Sam jumps back in fear.

"Dad," he yelps nervously. "I don't think he's okay."

"He's fine," John insists. "He's just sleeping."

"From the medicine?" Sam asks, wide-eyed and needing reassurance.

"Yes," John agrees quickly. "From the medicine."

"When will he wake up?"

John sighs, running a hand over his face. "Soon, Sammy. It'll be okay."

"Are you sure?" Sam asks, leaning close.

John pauses, watching Dean's shallow but steady breaths. "Yeah." He nods. "I'm sure."

They sit with Dean all of that day. And finally, when the sky is beginning to darken again, his eyelids flutter. Sam scrambles up next to him and John moves over to the bed from his position at the table.

"Dean," John says, leaning over him. "Open your eyes."

Sam reaches over and grips his forearm. It takes a few minutes, but Dean's eyes finally roll open, and his mouth opens and closes a few times before any sound comes out.

"'Ey," Dean drawls heavily.

Sam grins quickly. "Hey."

"How're you doing, son?" John asks, anxiously taking his pulse. It's considerably stronger now.

Dean blinks about the room and frowns, finally focusing on his father's face. He licks his lips. "You drugged me," he says, though not near so clearly.

"How's the shoulder?" John deflects.

"Wha' shoulder?" Dean grumbles.

"Your shoulder."

Dean slowly rolls his head to see the offending body part. "'S good."

"Good." John nods, glancing over the rest of him for other injuries. "Are you hungry?" he asks quietly, considering that the effect would not have been so great if Dean hadn't taken the things on an empty stomach.

"Nah, but…" Dean blinks slowly and holds up an index finger in a scholarly fashion. "I do think I'm going to hurl."

There's just barely enough time for John to help him sit up and for Sam to grab the trashcan before Dean's emptying his guts with coughing heaves.

Sam turns away and fixes John with an innocent stare. "Is this from the medicine, too?"

Dean lies back down, swiping at his mouth with the edge of the sheet. "Medicine," he drawls, laughing.

John stares between them. This was very serious. He screwed up. Dean knew it for sure and Sam probably did too, but for some reason they didn't seem to care. They should be ticked as hell at him. He is awful. He is stupid. He is unfit to be a father.

"'Ey Sammy." Dean grins lazily. "You can hear."

"Yep." Sam smiles back. "And I've decided that you're right, Dean." "I usually am."

"Banshees are evil."

"Usually." Dean nods, tripping over the word and slurring the "s."

Sam leans into his good shoulder, laughing. "You sound drunk, Dean."

"You sound drunk."

Sam giggles harder at this and, after a moment, Dean joins him, running a hand over his forehead and grinning.

John watches them, somewhat shocked, but even more amazed that they can laugh about something like this. He has no doubt that they understand how terrible things could have turned out. But this, John realizes, is their survival tactic and he's glad they've held onto it.

Despite everything they've struggled through, they can still find the light amidst the dark.