Summary - A kidnapping, a ritual sacrifice, and a desperate hunt…just another typical holiday season for the Winchester family.
This is a SFTCOL(AR)S Secret Santa fic for Annonie.
A huge thank you to Faye Dartmouth for her beta on this one.
Winter Solstice – Part 3
John Winchester aimed his truck down the narrow road winding through St. Peter's. He could see tire tracks in the snow; someone else had recently visited the old cemetery.
"Keep your eyes open Dean. We could be walking into a trap," John cautioned his son. Dean nodded his understanding. Both men had been silent on the ride to the secluded cemetery, lost in their own thoughts.
Someone had forcibly taken his 15-year-old son from their apartment and if they were right he was about to be served up as a part of some ritual later that night. If that wasn't bad enough John regretted the way he'd jumped to the conclusion that his son had snuck out of the house. He should have known better. Sammy was a good kid. John didn't know why he was so hard on him.
To be honest John was hard on both of his boys but he acknowledged that increasingly he singled out Sam; he was such a dreamer and always had his nose stuck in a book. John despaired that Sam would be able to protect himself adequately or hunt evil with the purpose that John and Dean dedicated to this life. He was afraid of losing Sam and so he pushed harder. Pushed Sam farther away.
Dean was scared that they wouldn't find Sam in time. He was equally scared that they would find Sam but that his baby brother would be scarred by the events of the last twenty-four hours. He'd been ripped from the comfort of his own bed and who knows what had happened in the mean time. He didn't know what he would do if something happened to Sammy. He'd always protected Sam and when his brother had needed him most he'd let him down.
Dean shuddered as he recalled his parting words to Sam, "You'd better watch that smart mouth of yours or someone is going to shut it for you." Now those words somehow seemed prophetic and he wanted to take them back. It seemed like he'd been taking care of his little brother his whole life but instead of being a burden it gave him a purpose. He couldn't imagine life without his Sammy.
John stopped the truck when the tire tracks they had been followed halted. They were in parked in front of some kind of maintenance hut.
"Is that…?" Dean was out of the car before he could finish his sentence.
John made a grab for Dean's arm but wasn't quick enough. John swore out an oath, "Dammit Dean, I told you this could be a trap." The only thing he could do now was cover Dean and pray no one else was around. He slid out of the truck and aimed his rifle in the general direction of the building.
John had fanned out around the shack and determined that no one was around. The only footsteps he saw were the ones he'd just made. He looked up in time to see Dean drop to a crouch. His heart stopped as he heard Dean cry out. He forced his legs to carry him toward Dean afraid of what he would find.
"Oh God, Sammy. What did that bastard do to you?" Dean was beside himself. His kid brother was lying motionless in the snow. He reached out and tried to find a pulse. Sam was so cold and Dean's heart was beating so hard he couldn't feel a beat.
"Dad?! I can't find a pulse!" Dean had only thought he was panicked before when Sam had gone missing. Now the reality of the situation was setting in and he couldn't think coherently.
"Here, let me." John reached forward and frantically felt for a pulse. There, it was faint but present. He quickly stripped out of his jacket and wrapped it around his son. As he scooped Sam up he noticed the unnatural color of his exposed skin. Purplish blue was not a good look for Sam.
"Come on Dean. Let's get him to the hospital." Dean picked up John's discarded rifle and loped after his dad as he took off at a run for the truck, Sam held securely in his dad's arms.
Dean reached the truck first, throwing the rifle into the back seat before settling into the passenger seat. He held his arms out as his dad carefully transferred Sam into his keeping. John quickly slammed the passenger door shut and ran for his side.
He fired up the engine and turned the heat on full blast. He was freezing and he'd only been without his jacket for a few minutes. He could only imagine what Sam felt like. Throwing the truck into drive he quickly turned around and had them headed for the nearest hospital.
Dean felt like he was holding a block of ice in his arms. His brother's head was tucked against Dean's left shoulder and his legs dangled limply to the floor of the truck. Dean had wrapped his arms tightly around Sam and was rubbing his arms. The absence of movement was disconcerting. Sam wasn't even shivering.
Dean shot a look of pure terror at his dad. John met his eyes and Dean could see an answering look in John's face.
"We're almost there. Just hang on a little longer," John said softly. Dean didn't know if the words were aimed at him or Sam but he was grateful for them nevertheless. He'd been on the verge of a panic attack and that was the last thing Sam needed right now.
"Okay, here we go," John said as he jerked the truck to a halt outside of the ER entrance. He was out of the truck and opening the passenger door before Dean registered the fact that they had arrived at the hospital. John reached in and gently relieved Dean of his burden. Dean slid out of the truck and scrambled to keep up with his dad.
"I NEED HELP NOW!" John screamed as they burst into the ER waiting room. Sensing the urgency in John's voice a nurse drew them back into a cubicle and motioned for John to set Sam down on a gurney. As soon as the nurse saw Sam's color she sprinted into the hallway yelling for a Dr. Roberts. Shortly thereafter the cubicle was inundated with hospital personnel and John and Dean found themselves pushed into the hallway.
A kindly clerk showed John and Dean to a row of seats just down the hall from Sam's cubicle. If anyone came out of the cubicle they'd be able to see it.
John didn't know what to think. He didn't want to lose his baby boy. He reached out and drew Dean into a brief hug. He needed that connection. The waiting was slowly killing him.
Dean's emotions had ricocheted from high to new low within a span of fifteen minutes. He'd been so happy to get back his Sammy but now he wasn't sure he would make it. He wanted to see the twinkle in his brother's eyes and the dimples in his cheeks. But his brother had been so cold and motionless in his arms.
A nurse came out a short while later and collected some information from the Winchesters about Sam. The only thing she'd say about his condition was that the doctor was with him right now and would be out to speak with them as soon as possible. She'd had a look of concern but not pity upon her face. Father and son both heaved a sigh of relief. At least Sam was still alive.
"Mr. Winchester? I'm Dr. Roberts," said a man in a lab coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. "Sam is alive but he's in critical condition. We're going to move him up to our ICU floor where we can monitor him closely."
John and Dean both sagged with relief. "When can we see him?" Dean asked. He never wanted to let Sam out of his sight again.
"Let us get him settled and then you can sit with him for a while." Dr. Roberts paused for a moment to let that sink in before further explaining Sam's condition, "Your son is suffering from exposure. He's hypothermic and we're slowly raising his core body temperature. He also sustained frostbite."
Dean swallowed down bile before asking, "How bad is it? Is he going to lose any fingers or toes?" He knew that was common with frostbite. He couldn't imagine his perfect little brother missing body parts.
"We don't know at this point. But I can say that all of that cold Sam suffered was actually a good thing in this case. He suffered anaphylactic shock from a drug we found in his system. We were able to counteract that here but if it had progressed at its normal pace, instead of being slowed by the extreme cold, he probably would have died before you got him to the hospital." Dr. Roberts took in the grave faces of the two men before him. There were two more things he needed to say and he didn't look forward to delivering either pieces of news.
"Sam also has double pneumonia but as soon as his core temperature warms we'll administer IV antibiotics. I'm afraid at this point we have to play a waiting game. But the fact that your son has lived through these traumas to this point gives me cause to believe that he'll pull through. He's definitely a fighter." Dr. Roberts didn't like to give false hope but from what he'd seen he liked Sam's chances of a full recovery.
"Any questions?" Both Winchesters shook their heads no so Dr. Roberts plowed on, "There's one last thing I need to mention. As a health professional I'm mandated to report possible cases of child maltreatment or neglect to Child Protective Services." Dr. Roberts noted the look of deep concern on John's face and incredulity on Dean's. He didn't know what had happened to his patient and frankly he didn't want to know. He fancied himself an excellent judge of character and didn't believe either of the men in front of him had anything to do with Sam's condition. He'd be certain to mention that in his report.
"I can tell how deeply you care for that boy and he's going to need you in the coming weeks. Be prepared for a visit from CPS. There going to want to know how Sam got into this condition." Dr. Roberts didn't offer his hand as he felt certain it would be rebuffed. Not many people took kindly to being reported to a county agency.
Dr. Roberts was shocked when John Winchester stuck his hand out and said, "We can't thank you enough for taking care of our Sammy." Dr. Roberts hand was pumped twice before it was released. He accepted the gesture and nodded to both Winchesters before returning to his patient. He felt that he and John Winchester had come to some sort of an understanding. Sam's well being came first.
After an hour John and Dean were finally shown upstairs to the ICU. Only one visitor at a time was allowed to sit with Sam. John decided he would go in first because he knew the police and/or CPS would be paying him a visit shortly. He could see by the mutinous expression on Dean's face that he wanted to go in first but John over ruled him. He just wanted to make sure Sam was okay and then he'd turn him over to his big brother's care.
John approached the bed with trepidation. His young son was covered by a silver warming blanket. He had an IV in his arm, an oxygen mask on his face and an assortment of monitors attached to his body. Sam was still deeply unconscious but the medical staff assured him that it was a blessing at this point. If he'd been awake he would have been in terrible pain as the nerve endings awakened from their deep freeze.
John took up one of Sam's cold hand in his own and chafed it lightly. Words failed him as he took in the sight before him. This should never have happened. After ten minutes he stood up and kissed Sam on the forehead. He needed to let Dean in with Sam before he caused a commotion.
As John exited the room he saw a police officer striding his way. "Take care of him while I see to this," John said touching Dean on the shoulder as his son walked passed him toward Sam's room.
Dean glanced back and saw the uniform. A small part of him wanted to stay and talk to the cop with his dad but he couldn't resist the urge to make sure Sam was okay. To see him with his own eyes. He made eye contact briefly with his dad before disappearing into Sam's room.
While Dean slipped into his brother's room John walked down the hall and greeted the officer. He suggested they walk down to the cafeteria where he and Officer Jacobs could talk in privacy. At least in more privacy then the small ICU wing afforded.
The cafeteria wasn't busy and after grabbing a cup of coffee the two men settled at a table some distance from other people. It was there that John spun a tale of how his youngest son had run away after an argument and had somehow ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
No, John had no idea how the drugs had gotten into Sam's system because Sam didn't do drugs. But teenagers sometimes made bad choices.
No, John didn't know why Sam wasn't dressed for the cold weather. He wasn't even sure when Sam slipped out of the apartment. Their neighbor, Mrs. Simpson, also hadn't seen Sam leave and she knew everything that went on in that neighborhood.
No, it hadn't occurred to John to call the police. He wasn't sure how long Sam had been missing and before they sounded the alarm they wanted to look for him.
Yes, they had been very fortunate that Dean knew Sam like to hang out at St. Peter's Cemetery. Dean said Sam liked the solitude there. Sam was a good kid but sometimes his teenage hormones seemed to get the best of him and he liked to be alone.
Yes, John knew how Sam supposedly got his black eye. Sam had said he'd gotten into a fight at school and that's what the argument between father and son had been about.
Officer Jacobs seemed to buy the story. He said he'd follow up with the school about Sam's black eye and talk to their neighbor and if everything checked out he'd probably receive one visit from CPS to wrap up the case.
As the officer left the cafeteria John breathed a sigh of relief. He hoped Sam would forgive him for blaming this mess on Sam's moodiness but he didn't want anyone digging deeper into their lifestyle. They had too much to lose.
At least this was one hurdle down. Now they just needed to get Sammy healthy and then hopefully they'd be able to leave Schaumberg before the visit from Child Protective Services. He'd crossed paths with CPS before and there was no way he was going to allow anyone to take Sammy away from him. From them.
John wished he could turn back the clock and make the last day and a half disappear. Neither son had come out unscathed and that was a parent's worst nightmare.
Dean pulled the lone chair in the ICU up next to his brother. Emotionally wrecked he reached out and touched Sammy on the arm lightly. It was just enough to have some contact but not enough to hurt his brother's sensitive, frostbitten skin. He'd come so close to losing his little brother. The center of his universe.
When John Winchester had placed his six month old brother in his arms Dean had taken his duty very seriously. For fifteen years he had nurtured and protected his brother from anything that would cause him harm. And now this. He'd left his brother alone for a short while and Sam had been snatched away.
Dean leaned forward and put his head down on the mattress next to Sam's pillow. A living and breathing Sammy -- it was a modern miracle. Now he just wanted Sam to wake up and tell him he was okay.
Dean closed his eyes for a moment. Soon moisture slipped from his eyes as the tensions of the last twenty-four hours started to dissipate. It was then that he became aware of movement. Sam's arm was moving.
"Sammy?" Dean pulled his head up and found himself staring into his brother's huge blue-green eyes.
Sam reached up with his bandaged hands and tried to pull the oxygen mask off of his face.
Dean reached forward and gently pulled Sam's arms back down to his sides. "You need to leave that on right now. It's to help you breathe."
Sam, disoriented, didn't know where he was. The last thing he remembered was someone breaking into his bedroom and drugging him. No, that wasn't right. He remembered someone talking and then he remembered falling.
Sam glanced wildly around the room and panic set in. "Who…" Sam wanted to know who had abducted him but his question was brutally cut off as he began to hack in earnest. He struggled to sit up so as to ease his breathing but he lacked the energy.
"Sam, it's Dean. I'm right here buddy." Dean reached out and touched Sam's shoulder as watched Sam struggle to breath. His brother looked dazed and large tears were spilling from his glassy eyes and drenching his cheeks. Sam's gaze finally landed on his disheveled brother as the heart monitor began to protest Sam's distress.
Sam reached out with both hands and latched on to Dean's arm. Staff spilled into the room and Dean tried to ease back to give them room to work but Sam wouldn't release his grip. No matter what the staff tried Sam wouldn't let go of Dean.
Sam only settled down once the staff withdrew and left the brothers alone. Dean realized that Sam had suffered not only physical trauma but also mental. This time Dean vowed to be there for his brother and protect him.
It had been two weeks since Sam's kidnapping and the subsequent health scares but he was finally back home. He hadn't lost any digits to the frostbite but it had taken a long time for his body to beat the pneumonia. He was still extremely lethargic and had no appetite but since he was a febrile the doctor had consented to his return home.
Due to Sam's lingering health problems they'd been unable to leave town and avoid the follow up visit from CPS. A young woman who looked like a teenager herself had interviewed Sam within an hour of returning home to the apartment. The meeting had been cut short due to Sam's grogginess but the CPS worker had assured herself that Sam was not in jeopardy and did not fear for his safety in his current environment. She told John that she was clearing him of neglect and he could have a copy of the report once she was finished with it. Once the door closed behind her John felt like he could finally relax.
John had just settled on the couch with a cup of coffee when he heard a knock at the door. Now what. Dean was upstairs keeping an eye on Sam and John didn't want the knocking to disturb them so he forced himself to get up and answer the door. He was surprised to find John Thompson on his doorstep.
"I'm sorry to barge in but Caleb said you needed help. Something to do with The Arcane. He also said Sam was really sick. I always liked that kid. Is he okay?" JT was all sincere concern.
JT was in fine form that day. He felt confident that Sam wouldn't recognize him. He'd been too drugged up and sick. Once away from the maintenance shack JT had second thoughts about leaving Sam to die and was somewhat happy to hear that he had survived his ordeal. JT thought that if Sam still met the criteria come next December he might take another stab at using him as his live sacrifice. But he had mainly come in a bid to get his copy of The Arcane back in the guise of offering help.
At one time John had counted JT among his friends but during the years he'd detected something duplicitous in his actions and had distanced himself from his one time friend. It wasn't something he could really put his finger on but his survival depended upon following his instincts so he'd allowed a chasm to develop between the two of them.
John warily invited JT into the living room. Now that Sammy was back home where he belonged John had a burning desire to even the score with whoever had stolen him in the dead of the night and that's why he opened his door to JT. Maybe he could help figure out who had dropped the book like a calling card while spiriting Sammy away.
At JT's request John retrieved the ancient tome and handed it to JT for his perusal. JT lovingly fondled the binding before eagerly opening the book.
"So tell me where you found the book," JT said as he plied John with questions about the night Sam disappeared.
Upstairs Dean heard someone at the apartment door followed by the murmur of voices. He stuck his head out into the hallway and leaning over the stairway railing he saw JT, another hunter, talking to his dad.
"Dean?" Sammy had awakened as Dean left the room. Sam couldn't explain why he was so skittish but if he didn't have Dean or his dad in the room with him he felt extremely anxious -- as in "can't catch your breath going to puke' anxious. Bereft without his brother by his side he steeled himself to venture out of the room in search of Dean.
As he wobbled across the floor Sam could now hear voices floating upstairs. Propping himself against the doorframe he paused to listen. Maybe Dean had gone downstairs to talk to their dad. Sam knew it was boring keeping the invalid company and he appreciated all of the time Dean was spending with him.
Dizziness flooded through him as he heard a strange voice. Only it wasn't really a stranger.
"winter solstice…son of a hunter, pure…sacrificial lamb…" The voice from St. Peter's was here in the apartment.
"Whoa there tiger. You're not supposed to be out of bed," Dean said as he turned to see Sam in the doorway. He became alarmed as he took in Sam's sudden pallor. "Sammy, you okay? Let's get you back into bed."
Sam startled violently as Dean took his arm and tried to lead him back into the bedroom.
"Sammy, what's wrong? Talk to me." Sam's face had that same dazed expression as when he'd first woken up in the hospital.
Dean was on the verge of calling his dad upstairs when Sam suddenly launched himself into Dean's arms and buried his head against Dean's chest.
"Shhh, it's okay. I've got you." Dean stroked Sam's back unsure of what to do. It was true that Sam had been clingy since he woke up in the hospital, wanting either his dad or Dean within sight at all times. This didn't seem unreasonable considering what he'd endured. Maybe he was just experiencing some sort of flashback.
"That's him." Sam's voice was muffled against his big brother's chest but Dean was still able to make out his words.
Dean wasn't sure who Sam thought was here but his kid brother was shaking like a leaf. "Sam, it's okay. That's JT downstairs. You remember him from Caleb's."
"That's the voice." Sam tried to pull away from Dean. He wasn't thinking clearly. He wanted to go downstairs and confront this person but at the same time he wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. He started to wheeze as his fight or flight response kicked in with a vengeance.
"Dad?" Dean wasn't making any headway with Sam and needed some reinforcements. Maybe his dad would be able to call Sam down.
John heard Dean calling him and went to the bottom of the stairs, "Dean is everything alright upstairs?"
"I could use your help," Dean said as he tried to keep the panic out of his voice. He didn't want to upset Sam further but it looked like his brother was on the verge of hyperventilating.
"I'll be right back," John said to JT as headed upstairs.
"Son, you need to calm down," John said as he took at the scene before him. Sam, held protectively in his brother's arms, was wheezing audibly.
"What happened?" John asked Dean as he carefully approached his sons. He didn't want to make any sudden movements and scare Sam further.
"He woke up while I was out of the room. He keeps saying something about the voice downstairs." Dean didn't know why Sam was so upset; he just wanted him to calm down and relax before he stripped his gears
John suddenly had an uneasy feeling about his fellow hunter, JT. He looked down the stairs in time to see JT slithering out of the door, the copy of The Arcane in his hand. Suddenly every thing clicked into place. A hunter John knew and trusted, had even once called friend, had stolen his son away and tried to sacrifice him to some God.
"Take care of your brother," John barked to Dean as he pelted down the stairs and out the front door. JT had a large head start but John was determined to catch up with him. And make him pay.
JT sprinted down the sidewalk with no specific destination in mind. He just wanted to get away from John Winchester who was snapping at his heels. He could picture John practically frothing at the mouth in his haste to catch up with the man responsible for kidnapping his son.
JT darted out into the road in an effort to gain some distance from his adversary. He turned back to see how close John was and that was his last mistake.
A speeding taxicab coming down the street had no room to maneuver and struck JT squarely in the middle of the back. He was thrown twenty feet into the air, his spine broken in half, dead before he even hit the pavement. The book that had caused so much grief was ground up under the squealing tires of the madly braking taxicab.
John felt absolutely no remorse at witnessing the demise of his one time friend. This was the man who had plotted and almost succeeded in taking away his baby boy.
John returned to the apartment unsure of how the news of JT's death would affect Sam. And there was no doubting that JT was dead; John had seen his eyes turned heavenward in an unblinking stare in the moments before he had turned away.
Turning his back on the mayhem in the street John slowly walked back to the apartment. After he let himself into the apartment he secured the door behind me. No one else would be bothering the Winchesters that day.
John's eyes immediately went to the top of the stairs. Dean was sitting on the topmost step with his arms around the frail shoulders of his younger brother. Sam was sobbing so hard John was afraid he was going to damage his healing lungs. He slowly climbed the steps and stopped in front of his sons.
John lifted Sam out of Dean's arms and carried him back into the bedroom. He needed Sam to calm down or he was afraid they'd be returning the hospital any moment now.
Setting him carefully on his bed he rocked Sam against his chest while rubbing his back. "Sam, you need to calm down. You're going to hurt yourself." John hoped the rocking motion combined with his voice would settle Sam down. Sam continued to sob as though his heart was broken.
"JT's dead and he can't hurt you now." John assumed that Sam was traumatized by hearing the voice of the man who had left him for dead. John could feel the tremors wracking Sam's body starting to slow and his sobs had turned to hiccups.
"I wanted him dead," Sam said softly as his breathing rate slowed to a normal level, "so why don't I feel any better? It hurts."
John stilled his rocking and pulled Sam's head up so he could look him in the face. The tear stained and ashen face of his distraught son. It hurt to see Sam in such distress.
"What hurts Sammy?" Dean had positioned himself next to the bed in case Sam needed him. They'd just brought Sam home from the hospital and he didn't want Sam to suffer a relapse; he wasn't willing to let him out of his sight anytime soon.
Sam's eyes slipped closed. The energy he'd expended had taken its toll and he now drifted into a troubled sleep.
John settled him into his bed and drew the blanket up, tenderly smoothing Sam's bangs back. He sat on the edge of Sam's bed and watched Sam's even breathing. "He's just sleeping."
John thought Sam would recover physically but he wasn't so sure about the mental scars. He made a promise to himself that he would put his sons, especially a now vulnerable Sam, first.
Dean watched his frail looking brother shift in his sleep. He would make sure Sam recovered. Sam once again needed him and he wasn't going to let him down.
(Information on Cernunnos from Wikipedia)
Thanks for reading this SFTCOL(AR)S Secret Santa fic for Annonie who wanted Sam, under the age of 18, captured by a monster or people looking for ransom…I put my own twist on it but hopefully Annonie enjoyed it. Did you?