Hi guys! First of all, I know I haven't finished 'A Stroke of Bad Luck,' but unfortunately my muse has left me on that one and I'm having trouble deciding where I want the story to go. I've gone for several months with this story in my head, promising myself I would finish the other one before putting this to paper. But the creative process finally won out and I figured it's better to post a story that has hope then to not post at all. So here it is...my new story. And I promise the other will be finished eventually; it just may take a while. As always, thanks for your support. Read and enjoy. Oh, and don't forget those wonderful reviews!! Happy Ney Year's every one.
Disclaimer: Don't own the boys, don't own the premise, but this here story is all mine.
"So tell me again why we have to make camp out here just to find this damn thing," Dean scowled, angrily swiping at a tree branch hanging in his way as he followed Sam through the barely chartered territory of Ontario woods in Canada in search of their newest prey.
Sam sighed, hands on hips as he turned around to face his obstinate big brother. "Dean, we've been over this. This thing, whatever it is, is going after campers. Deep woods, miles from nowhere, campers. We're not going to find anything patrolling the edges of the forest."
"Yeah, but Sam, I hate hiking. And I hate camping. I just hate this all the way around," Dean whined, pausing against a tree to take a drink of water. "Maybe we should just turn around now. We could hire a chopper to just drop us in the middle of the forest. Get in. Kill the damn thing. Get out. Bing - bang - boom."
"We've already been walking for almost four hours," Sam rationalized. "We're only about a quarter of a mile from where the first attack took place. Come on, Dean, let's just keep on going."
Dean huffed in annoyance as he hoisted his duffle back over his shoulder and pushed off again. "We're almost there," he mocked behind Sam's back. But out loud he shouted, "Do you honestly think this thing is gonna show it's fugly face tonight? These attacks aren't exactly happening in a regular pattern. Hell, Sam, we don't even know for sure what the hell we're after. What's to say we aren't just hiking out here for nothing?"
Several feet in front of Dean, Sam shrugged as he kept walking. "What's to say we're not?" came the simple reply, cutting short that particular line of questioning. "I just wish we knew more about what we're hunting."
"You're sure it's not a Wendigo?" Dean asked, stumbling over a root and quickly righting himself before Sam could notice. "I mean, we are in Canada. Isn't that where these things originated? It fits."
"No. I'm not sure. But I don't think it is. The location is about the only thing that fits the profile," Sam called back. "Wendigo's tend to have caves or someplace else that they can take their victims and eat them. And that's pretty much it...they're never seen or heard from again. But these campers, Dean, they've been mutilated but they're left visible. Whatever is hunting the campers wants to kill them, not eat them."
"So what do you think it is then?"
Sam sighed again, feigning annoyance, but Dean knew better. This was Sam's thing - research. And he was most in his element when he had something to figure out. "Well, all the bodies had deep, wide claw marks. Maybe a bear or a...I don't know for sure...something."
"Yeah, but if it's a bear then why are we out here?" Dean protested. "Shouldn't the forest rangers be taking care of it?"
"I don't think it's a bear bear," Sam added.
Dean halted, head cocked as he tried to figure out what Sam meant by that one, and then raced forward to catch up with his little brother. He grabbed Sam's arm and spun him around, bringing his footsteps to a halt. "What the hell do you mean by it's not a bear bear. Dammit Sam, either it's a bear, or it's not a bear. Which one is it?"
"I don't know, Dean," Sam shouted in exasperation, his arms flailing wildly over his head. "I just know this is our kind of thing. Call it a hunch, a feeling...hell, Dean, I don't really care, call it insanity if you feel like it. But we need to be here."
They arrived in a clearing as Dean backed off of his interrogation. Sam came to a stop, eyes falling to the compass he held in his hands. "I think this is it," he announced, spinning in a slow circle to get a better look at their surroundings. "This should be where the first attack took place. Let's make camp here."
Despite Dean's displeasure at the idea of spending the night in the woods, he and Sam were both expert campers and they had the tent up and lunch cooking over a warm fire in no time flat. As they waited for their lunch to cook Sam began a thorough search of the area as Dean performed an equally thorough rite of protection on the perimeter, pouring a line of salt in a twelve foot diameter circle and placing protection charms every few feet. They ate when the food was ready and then regrouped, forming a search plan while it was still daylight.
"So what exactly are we looking for again?" Dean asked, slicing his feet through a thick pile of underbrush and uncovering nothing.
"I don't know man. Anything out of the ordinary. Anything that seems out of place or unusual out in the woods. Look for a nest or maybe a burial pit of some sort. You're a smart man Dean, you know as well as I do what to be looking for."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Dean groused, his sour attitude increasing as he stepped into an ankle deep puddle of mud. He pulled it out, cursing loudly while scraping his boot against the nearest tree in a futile attempt to clean it. "I just wish there was another way. Or at least that we knew more about this thing. Something just doesn't feel right, Sam."
"Like what?" Sam asked, willing to listen if Dean really felt something, but fearing it was just the older man whining more.
"I don't know, Sam, something just seems off."
"Well you've gotta give me more than that. When you figure it out, let me know."
Dean sighed, kicking at more debris as he walked along. "I'm gonna go check things out over there," he announced, nudging his head to the right a ways. There looks like another clearing just beyond those trees. Why don't you keep looking around here and we'll meet up in ten."
Sam nodded, slightly distracted by a patch of color he'd just spotted, and he waved Dean off without a second glance. He leaned in, hands playing cautiously over the dense foliage that covered the small reddish leather pouch he'd just found. Reaching in and retrieving it, Sam turned the pouch around in his hands, taking note of the ancient markings burned into the side, almost like a brand. They seemed to tell a story or maybe it was a ritual of some sort. Sam didn't know for sure. He was surprised, though, that as old as it appeared the stiff pouch was still in one piece. A piece of leather cord was tightly wound several times around the top, sealing the opening of the bag, and he found it difficult to get a good enough grip on the leather to get it open. He tugged, the old cord stretching and finally breaking.
At first glance, the contents of the small pouch appeared to be just a collection of dirt and twigs, gathered there through years living in the ground. But Sam knew better; knew there was no way that so much stuff could have collected in such a well sealed container. It had to have been placed there by someone. Which meant it must mean something. But he didn't have time to study the contents more, as his focus was interrupted by the sound of Dean's screams coming from somewhere off to his left. He tossed the bag haphazardly into his backpack, barely taking the time to re-close the bag, and took off running.
xxxxxxxxx A few minutes earlier xxxxxxxxx
"I think I see something over here!" Dean hollered over his shoulder as he made his way quickly off the path, and towards the movement he'd noted. He barely heard the muffled response from Sam who was several feet away inspecting his own find, his field of vision obscured by the mass of foliage between the two brothers.
The bush moved again and Dean quickened his pace, while softening his steps at the same time; a challenge only mastered by a rare few, Dean Winchester included. He kept his eyes glued to the waving bush, squinting in an effort to see the cause of the movement in the completely windless forest. It was that stalwart determination to not miss whatever was in the bush that caused him to miss the danger directly in front of him and as his foot fell, mere inches from the object of his scrutiny, he realized too late that he should have paid attention to where he was walking.
He heard the snap first, creaking hinges echoing far too loudly in the silence of early evening, and he went down hard, head smacking the ground with a resounding thwack. It seemed like an eternity that he lay there, partially buried by the loose ground covering of leaves and pine needles, oblivious to anything around him. But he was soon pulled out of his oblivion as another sense took control. There was pain; pure and savage and starting mid calf before spreading itself throughout his entire body, and God dammit how could an injury to his leg possibly make his entire body hurt.
The sound of screaming filled Dean's ears, agonized, carnal, and it took him several minutes before he realized that the screaming he was hearing was his own. By then, Sam was by his side, pulling Dean's shoulders into his lap and worrying frantically as only Sam could do.
"Dean! Oh man, Dean, what happened? How bad does it hurt?"
Dean sucked in a breath of air, begging himself to stop screaming. He had to get ahold of his emotions for Sam's sake if nothing else. "I'll be OK," he lied, gritting his teeth. It was crap, and Sam could see right through it. Of that, he was sure. But it was the best he could do under the circumstances. "Just help me up, Sam. I think I just need to walk it off."
Sam's eyebrows shot up into mountain sized peaks as he looked down at Dean's leg and then back to his face. "Dude, have you seen your leg?" he asked incredulously, the little bit of laughter in his voice clearly forced.
He hadn't even bothered to look. Didn't really want to. But Sam's question contained so much hidden fear that Dean couldn't help but cast his eyes downward to rest on the carnage that he had once called a leg. His stomach flip-flopped and somersaulted, performing a triple aerial before deciding that his breakfast and lunch should make an appearance and suddenly Dean felt himself being rolled onto his side as he emptied the contents of his stomach on the ground. He dry heaved for several more minutes, once he'd completely emptied every last speck of matter from within, and it was only after multiple gulps of dry, putrid air that Dean managed to regain control of his body.
Chancing another glance down, Dean was relieved to find that a second look, at the very least, didn't cause another reaction within his gut. It wasn't a pretty sight, his left leg, and it was all he could do not to turn away again. And yet, he found himself mesmerized by the sight at the same time.
It looked like a bear trap. Except, whatever the intended hunt was must have been huge because this was bigger than any bear trap Dean had ever seen. The black iron contraption was old; antique. Its huge, rusted, triangular teeth had embedded themselves deep into his calf, slicing through the muscle, nerves and tendons before coming to rest against his bone. Come to think of it, he'd heard a sickening crunch somewhere in there and he now realized the heavy trap had sprung shut fast enough to actually break the bone. Blood stained his jeans, spreading quickly and pooling on the ground beneath him.
Dean let his head flop back into Sam's lap with a tortured groan. "Just get the damn thing off my leg," he moaned
"Dean, I–" Sam hesitated, his hands hovering anxiously over the trap and then drawing back. "Dammit man, I don't know how to do this without hurting you more."
"Just fucking do it!" Dean growled, his hands clenching tightly at the debris on the ground.
Sam stood up slowly, shaking as he removed Dean's head from his lap and rested it against the ground, positioning himself over Dean's outstretched leg. He paused, studying the contraption more closely before attempting to open it. Sam didn't know a whole lot about bear traps, but he knew enough to know that if he didn't get it fully open, and the leg out, on his first try, the contraption would slam shut again and Dean would be in for a whole world of hurt.
"Fuck, Sam, just get it off!" Dean yelled again, slamming a fist onto the ground. He could feel his entire body shaking as adrenaline pooled inside, numbing the pain just slightly. But he knew that would never last. It was now or never.
Dragging a hand over his face, Sam looked back at Dean, hating what he had to say next. "Man, I can't do this on my own."
"What?" Dean demanded, voice alternating between repressed fear and anger. "Please, Sam. You have to get it off."
"I know," Sam apologized. "But it's a two person job, Dean. There's no way I can do this myself...short of standing on the levers, and I know you don't want me to do that. It'd jar your leg too much. You're gonna have to help me."
"Aw shit, Sam." Dean closed his eyes, biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. For a minute it seemed like he wasn't going to open them again and Sam felt his breath hitch, wondering how the hell he would get the trap off if Dean passed out. And then Dean's eyes shot open again. "Alright, Sammy. Just help me sit up."
Sam did as Dean asked, giving his brother a pass for the Sammy comment. Dean took a minute to rest against Sam before drawing the strength to sit up on his own. "So whado I needa do?" he asked, slurring his words just enough to make Sam worry.
"These levers here, there's one on each side. You need to hold them down...and then I should be able to pry the teeth apart and get your leg out."
Dean nodded his head quickly, not trusting his voice. His fingers fumbled a little before they found purchase on the two blood slick levers and he pressed down, repressing another yell as the movement jarred his leg. He looked at Sam, moist eyes pleading and saying what he couldn't speak out loud. Please, Sammy, just do it quickly.
Understanding the plea, Sam nodded his head with conviction. "Close your eyes."
Bile rose in Sam's throat as he reached down to grab the trap, wishing it wasn't necessary to dig his fingers into the flesh on Dean's leg just to get a good grasp on each side. But the teeth were in deep, and there was no other way. He afforded himself one more glance at his brother's face and immediately wished he hadn't. Dean was pale, too pale. Sweat sheened off his forehead as he sucked in short, ragged breaths. His face was contorted in unmasked pain and Sam knew he didn't have long to get the trap off his brother's leg before he really did pass out.
"On three," he whispered, finding a firm grasp on each side of the metal beast, making absolutely certain he was ready. "One..." He pulled hard, jumping the gun on the count so that Dean didn't have time to think about pain. The teeth pulled free with a sickening sucking sound and Dean screamed, the tortured yell echoing loudly through the forest. Then he went silent as he passed out and Sam felt himself grateful for the small bit of reprieve the action granted his brother.
The trap had snapped shut mere inches off of the leg, Sam just barely escaping having his fingers meet the same fate as Dean's now shredded calf. He allowed himself a few seconds to catch his breath, to regroup and decide what exactly he would do next. It was getting dark; they couldn't just stay here. But Dean was out, and they were a ways off from camp. At least twenty minutes away if he walked fast, and he couldn't walk fast. Not carrying Dean. Shit.
Sam pulled off his jacket and wrapped it tightly around Dean's leg, staunching the flow of blood as much as possible with his limited tools and once again having to swallow against the acidic bile creeping up his throat when he felt just how limp and floppy his brother's leg felt. It was like there was nothing there to support it's shape any more. But there was nothing Sam could do here. He had to get Dean back to camp, back to the first aid kit. Crouching down, Sam grabbed Dean's limp body and slung him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Dean moaned slightly, but otherwise stayed unconscious. Sam was grateful for small favors, knowing that as difficult as it would be to carry his brother's muscular frame so far, it would be even harder to try and convince the stubborn bastard to let himself be carried if he was conscious.
It took close to an hour to get back to their camp, Sam making slow but steady progress as he stumbled over the uneven ground of the forest. He kept his eyes straight ahead, only one thought in his mind that of getting Dean back to camp. Back to what little medical aid they had. Darkness had enveloped them fast on the way back, and Sam had had to stop once to pull the flashlight from his bag before slinging Dean back over his aching shoulders for the rest of the journey.
Sam's legs burned by the time he made it back into the camp and he made a beeline for their tent, dropping Dean as gently as possible onto one of the waiting sleeping bags and running back outside to check the salt line perimeter, just to be sure it was still intact. Confident that it was, Sam returned to Dean's side.
As Sam turned off the flashlight he reached above him, turning on the lantern that hung from a rope across the ceiling of the tent and filling the space with bright halogen light and giving the first good look at Dean that Sam had gotten. The older hunter didn't look good. He'd lost a lot of blood and the sweat that had once just been contained to his face now drenched his entire t-shirt. Every now and then his entire body quivered, a sure sign he was going into shock.
The jacket Sam had wrapped around Dean's leg was now drenched in blood and Sam removed in carefully, his hands becoming slick with the too dark, sticky substance before he'd even touched the actual limb. It scared Sam how dark the blood was, knowing that bright red meant oxygenated, but dark red did not. Dean wasn't getting enough oxygen in the blood in his mangled led.
Taking out his pocket knife, Sam cut away what was left of Dean's jeans and leaned over the leg to inspect it. The wound looked far worse in the light of the lamp. Sam inched closer, careful not to get in the way of the light as he studied the damage. His hand went to his mouth and he gagged, unable to hold it in any more, and he quickly made his way from the tent and lost his own lunch outside. Only when Sam was certain he would be okay did he make his way back into the tent, hands shaking uncontrollably as he opened the First Aid kit in search of the supplies he would need, unsure just how to sew on a leg that was barely hanging on by threads.