All Grace Abounds
By: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, Dean or Sam, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Summary: Sometimes you don't find faith, it finds you. (Post HOTH. Dean Centric. No Slash.)
Gripping the steering wheel tightly, Dean struggled to keep the heavy frame of the Impala on the snow covered country road, glad his brother wasn't in the passenger seat wearing his 'I told you so' glare. Having almost sideswiped a parked car, narrowly missed taking out two mailboxes and forced to manhandle the Impala as it slid from one side of the road to the other, Dean could admit, only to himself of course, that he had picked a poor time to go for a joyride.
'Joy?! Yeah, right, cause that's what I'm out here for?' he internally groused, knowing that anger, frustration, had led him to seek sanctuary in the Impala, certainly not joy. And the kicker was, he didn't know what he was angry about, what led him to get so frustrated at Sam for leading them to this town for what had turned out to be some snipe hunt. It wasn't the first snipe hunt they had gone on, not as a pair and not even as a family. False leads came with the territory.
'Maybe I'm sick of the territory,' came the traitorous thought, making Dean grip the wheel with more strength. But he denied it a moment later. Sure, the job was wearing thin, but there was more to his attitude this time around. Uncertainty, it kept his sleep at bay, made hunger an absentee friend and peace a fable, heard about but so long felt it seemed a tall tale.
The black and white that had colored his world was askew, smearing with greys and reds and blues and freakin' stripes! Hunting had always been so down the line, so here or there, so right and wrong and now it wasn't, not after his encounter with pacifist vampires and maybe never again now that Sam was topping some of the other hunters' hit lists. Dean Winchester was a man who lived and reacted on proof, who accepted that what he saw was real, that believing was seeing. Now everything was murky, what with Sam believing in angels and admitting to praying and then there was that kid skewered with that pole, rightfully getting what he deserved. Where did any of this leave Dean?! Grappling in the dark, awash in the gales of four winds, angry, frustrated, striking out at Sam, taking a "joyride" on slippery roads.
"Crap," Dean growled as the Impala's four tires lost their dubious traction and sent the 1967 vehicle sliding toward a telephone pole.
Sam shivered against the frigid air but couldn't force himself to take the two steps back into the motel room, to tear his eyes from the snow covered road that ran by the motel. He was acting like a scared kid, he knew that, a kid waiting for his big brother's return. Dean was the best driver Sam knew, evading a parade of cops was child's play for his brother, dislodging a zombie from the car, challenging but a piece of cake, controlling the car under the worst road and weather conditions, frustrating but doable…most of the time.
"But not all the time, Dean!" Sam lowly growled, anger mixing with his fear, his words stolen by the wind and punctuated with a white mist. 'Dean didn't need to be out in this, shouldn't be out in this! Not driving that tank of a car or wearing that stupid leather coat that's more about show than shelter.' It had happened so unexpectedly, so fast, one minute they were on the same side, griping about the false lead this "ghost" tale had been and then they were yelling at one another, making accusations, slinging insults. And then Dean had snatched his coat from the bed, jammed his arms into the sleeves and stalked for the door.
Sam winced as he remembered his parting words to Dean, "Dean, don't be stupid! It's freezing out there and the roads are dangerous!" Dean had thrown him a glare as he slammed the door, rattling the pictures on the walls.
That had been an hour ago, a freakin' long, hard hour ago. Squinting as intently as he could against the falling snow, Sam couldn't make out the sight of the Impala plowing its way down the road, back to him. The part of Sam that was accustomed to danger, danger to himself and to Dean, the part of himself that was all hunter, chastised him for his concern. But the other part of Sam, the part that lead him ninety percent of the time, the part that was all Dean's brother, offered up a silent prayer, "God, keep Dean safe. Bring him back to me safe and sound. Cause…well, I love him…even when he's being a big old stupid, bullheaded jerk."
With a small groan of pain, Dean raised his aching head from the steering wheel, blinking to get his vision to snap back into focus. It took a moment for the view through the windshield to morph from a white out to a picture of individual snow flakes, a country road to his left, a field to his right and a telephone pole right in front of him. "Just great," he grunted, shoving the car into reverse, he gave the engine some gas, only to be greeted with a lack of motion.
Hearing the tires spinning in the snow, feeling the car rumble under him but not move, Dean turned off the engine in defeat. 'I'm freakin' stuck in the snow!" Slamming his hand against the steering wheel, Dean seethed even as his eyes sought out a sign of civilization in the vicinity only to be met with a blanket of white snow over fields on every side as far as he could see.
"Stupid, stinking Mayberry," he cursed, yanking his cell phone from his coat pocket, planning on calling information to track down a local tow truck operator. No way was he calling Sam, admitting what had happened, giving his brother the greatest opening for a lecture on how right his little brother was, and how foolish his older brother was. No, Sam wasn't going to hear any of this from him, ever.
The flash of "no service" on his phone shouldn't have come as a surprise, considering the way things were going for him lately. "Course, no service. Why should anything be easy!" he railed at the phone, at fate, at life, tossing the phone angrily onto the passenger side of the seat. "Fine, I'll do this the old fashion way."
Climbing from the car, Dean was unprepared for the lightheadedness that hit him, making him grab clumsily for the door to steady him. Raising a hand to his head, he grimaced both at the pain and the wetness that coated his fingers. Frustrated, he used the back of his hand to smear away the blood he knew was seeping from the wound and threatening to run down his face, probably get into his eye.
He didn't look at his hand as he dropped it to his side, didn't need to see the blood to know it was there. Blood he knew about, pain he knew about, being in piss poor situations…he was king at. Stepping clear of the car, he slammed the door with force and trudged forward. His feet kicking and sliding in the snow that was above his ankles, he made it to the front of his car, saw the point of impact and felt some measure of relief. The bumper had taken the brunt of the abuse, was dented a little but the hood wasn't damaged.
As his hair turned white with snow, Dean frowned as he saw the front right tire was buried in a bank of snow and the two left side tires were sitting prettily on sheets of ice. "It just keeps getting better and better," Dean grumbled, scanning the area from his new vantage point, causing him to re-categorize the land to his right as a wooded area, leaving what lay beyond a mystery and his own hope.
Zipping up his leather jacket and stuffing his hands in his pockets, Dean gave one more hopeful look down the road. Seeing no rescue in sight, he kicked the telephone pole before he stepped off of the road and headed into the small woods.
The going was sucky, by all accounts. The drifts were coming up to his thighs, the tread under his boots was icy, and the snow was falling harder, making visibility about nil. He had not been this cold since the time he got pushed off that cliff by that werewolf in Wyoming when he was ten and it had taken his father half a day to find him. Shivering harder at the memories, Dean was about to break into humming 'light my fire' when he heard the music.
Stumbling to a halt, Dean swept his gaze around the trees that surrounded him, trying to distinguish a structure through the white wall of winter, seeking a source for the music he heard. Squinting, his teeth chattering and snowflakes clinging to his eyelashes, Dean was forced to let his ears lead him. Abandoning his direct route through the woods, Dean headed to his right, following the singing that echoed through the stillness of his world. With a jolt, Dean knew the song he heard was a hymn, knew it, not from his time in a church but from a time so long ago, a time when he was just a small boy who still got tucked into bed by his mother.
Faltering to a stop, Dean breathed hard, expelling white puffs into the air. His gut instincts were eerily quiet, leaving him to make his own conclusions about what was making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. 'Don't be so paranoid! There's probably a church just through the woods where some choir is practicing or a house where someone's playing the radio.' But Dean couldn't move forward, didn't trust the way any longer, had almost decided to retrace his steps when he heard it, a young boy's scared voice, calling out for help.
Dean took off at a run, his uncertainty forgotten, his determination giving him the ability to make his way through the thigh deep snow.
Twelve year old Kyle Stap was scared, more scared than he had ever been before. All he had wanted to do was go to Howard's field and take some pictures while it was covered in snow. He had planned to do it quickly so he wouldn't miss his mother's phone call from work. She'd never know he had decided to turn the school snow day into his own photography adventure where Howard's field was stop number five.
He wasn't a fool, he had known it was going to be cold so he had pulled on his ski outfit, complete with scarf and hat. He had even put on the gloves though they made snapping pictures a real pain. And he knew the way to each of his photograph locations, had sought them out more than a dozen times in the past year. But never in snow, well not this much snow.
When he stepped from the road into the nearly waist high snow, he hesitated, contemplated turning around, chickening out. But the taunts of some of the boys at his school rang through his head, boys that didn't respect him for not returning a punch for a punch. He had heard the teacher tell the other boys that "fighting is just not in Kyle's nature. That doesn't make him scared to fight…" but he walked away after that, not wanting to hear her lame excuse and too ashamed to set her straight.
It had nothing to do with "his nature" and all to do with his beliefs. He was a Christian and he knew that it wasn't right to return evil for evil, even when you wanted to, really badly. But it didn't lessen his humiliation, doing the right thing, turning the other cheek. So it was with pride that he ventured stubbornly forward, stepping into the snow covered woods, made his way toward Howard's field.
The going was slow, hard and cold but he was making progress, would soon see the field in all its pristine whiteness. Without warning his right foot slipped out from under him, sending him falling face first into the snow. Awkward in his bundle of clothing, it took him a few moments to shove aside the fluffy snow and stand again, his face now coated in snow, his scarf frozenly resting on his chin. Anger spiked through him, "Stupid dumb snow!" Flinging the snow in his hands to the side, he shoved his way forward, taking no notice to his path.
A moment later he screamed in pain as his leg was pierced, sending him crashing to the snow covered ground, writhing in agony. He didn't need to clear the snow free of his leg to know what had happened, what was threatening to rip his leg apart. A steel trap used for catching small game. His father had joined him on his first trek to Howard's field, had carefully pointed out the traps and warned him that he had to always be conscious of his surroundings. A rule he hadn't thought of today, not when his sights had been on taking that picture, proving that he was no chicken, that he was old enough to do what he wanted with his day.
He knew he should bend down and try and open the trap but the pain kept him immobile, groaning, hands gripping the snow, unmindful of the cold stealing its way through his clothing. All he could feel was pain and fear. No one knew where he was! He hadn't even left a note for his parents because he had planned to be back home long before they got home, had meant to keep his little excursion a secret, well, until he showed them the award winning pictures his little trip earned him.
No one was going to save him! And he knew with brutal clarity that he was incapable of saving himself. Instantly he pleaded to the One he knew had always stuck by him, even when he was being the biggest fool in the world. 'God, please help me! I'm sorry I skipped out…that I didn't ask permission. That I wanted to hit those jerks at school! Please send someone to help me. I'll be better, obey my parents …well more than I do now. I'll talk about You, to everyone. I won't keep you a secret. Just please, help me, have someone find me.'
Then he choked out, "Help! Please help me" to God and to whoever God was sending his way.
If it hadn't been for Kyle's red hat snagging his searching gaze like a signal fire amid the white landscape, Dean would have walked right by the boy lying in the snow. Adrenaline, concern, and dread surged through Dean as he shoved through the higher drifts of snow to reach the too still body. With his breath burning in his chest, his heart pounding hard against his ribs, he drew close to the small body, huddled nearly into a ball. Drawing closer, he could detect that the boy was trembling in his merciless bed of snow.
Crouching beside the shivering boy, Dean felt a measure of relief wash over him as the boy's clear eyes flew up to meet his own green gaze. Adopting his gentlest tone, Dean greeted, "Looks like we both should have stayed inside today. Are you hurt?" he asked, reaching out a tender hand, brushing away the snowflakes from the boy's bangs that peeked out from his hat. To Dean's shock, a smile turned up the boy's nearly blue lips.
"I knew you'd come," his young voice proclaimed, breathless but with unshakeable conviction, "That you'd save me."
At the boy's strange words, Dean felt fear grip him again, worried that delirium had already set in. Cupping the boy's cheek, Dean bent over and tilted his head to meet the boy's green eyes levelly. Lending more authority to his tone, Dean gently questioned again, hoping to jar the boy back from his confusion, "Are you hurt? Did you twist your ankle?"
Kyle shook his head and forced his chattering teeth to form words. "No. I stepped in a trap…I forgot about them and couldn't..couldn't see it because of the snow."
Apprehension brought Dean's brows together in a scowl; internally he cursed careless hunters even as he held back a cringe. Having traipsed about many a woods, he was well aquatinted with traps and he could hazard a knowledgeable guess at the damage they could inflict on a boy's leg. Cursing silently, Dean focused on Kyle, knowing the injured boy needed his help, not his anger.
"I'm going to get you free. Alright?" Dean promised, asking in the same breath for the boy's trust.
"I know you will," Kyle earnestly stated though his teeth chattered and the pain was nearly unbearable.
Unaccustomed to someone other than Sam having such conviction in him, Dean felt the full weight of this boy's life, his hope, his future rest in his hands. Swallowing to clear his suddenly thick throat, Dean calmly explained, "Well the first thing I'm going to do is move the snow away from your foot so I can see the trap. OK?" He waited for the boy's nod before he moved back a pace, knelt fully in the snow and carefully began digging out the boy's legs and feet with his ungloved hands.
Busy steeling himself for what damage he might uncover at the bottom of the snow drift, Dean didn't notice the boy's intent inspection of him. He almost startled as the boy's trembling voice broke the silence echoing across the frozen ground.
"I'm Kyle. What's your name?"
Shooting the boy a smile, he replied, "Dean," before he refocused on the snow which he was struggling to remove from the boy's legs. Certain that shock was stalking Kyle, Dean knew that the best thing he could do to ward off that predator was to keep the boy talking. "Were you heading to a friend's house?"
"No," the one word came out of Kyle's blue lips as a stammer. "I just wanted to take a picture of the snow. I didn't ask permission…didn't even leave a note…This is my own stupid fault…being out here."
Dean spared a moment of his attention to shoot the boy a smirk, "Yeah, I kinda did the same thing."
Kyle's brow wrinkled in confusion, "You didn't ask for permission?"
Snorting, Dean shook his head ruefully, his head down, his eyes on his task. "Kinda. I had a fight with my brother…he told me not to go out in this but…" Dean shot Kyle a cocky smile, "listening isn't my thing, especially to my little brother."
Kyle smiled, liking his guardian angel more for not giving him a lecture.
Having made good progress, Dean knew he was getting close to revealing the boy's trapped leg. He stilled, his mouth going dry as his heart thudded in his chest as he uncovered snow, red with blood. Slowing his actions, Dean traced the boy's leg down until they hit the startling cold of the metal animal trap's jawed arches. When Kyle moaned, Dean looked up at the boy, "You're doing great, Kyle. Better than I did the time I got hurt hunting."
"You step in a trap?" Kyle asked, hopeful almost because misery and stupid fools liked company.
"Ah…no, I tripped and got a piece of wood stuck in my leg," Dean lied outright, knowing that telling the truth about any of his injuries was out of the question. He was here to save the kid, not scar him for life with tales from the dark side. Wincing as shooting pain shot up his nearly frozen fingers, Dean continued to brush the snow from the trap, revealing the merciless anchor it had on Kyle's leg.
Meeting Kyle's eyes, Dean spoke with conviction, "Ok, Kyle. I can see the trap and I'm going to open it up and get your leg out. But, listen…" his voice turned deep with emotion, "I…it's gonna hurt, kiddo. I wish it wasn't going to but it is," Dean fought down the vivid memories that flashed in his mind of having to say the same thing to an entirely too young Sam.
"It's alright, Dean," Kyle bravely replied, unknowingly making the same reply Sam always had, causing Dean's eyes nearly to water. "You came when I needed you to. I know you're gonna get me out of here. "
"Yeah, yeah I am. But you go ahead and yell if you have to, no one's gonna hear you out here," Dean allowed, offering the boy a luxury John Winchester had never given him, the acceptance that he was just a boy, that he was in pain, that courage wasn't just shown by pretending that he was stronger than the pain.
But Kyle's next words told Dean that someone had already began to teach the same lesson to this boy as John Winchester had taught his eldest son. "You'll hear me," Kyle's voice resonated that hurt little boy tone that had the power to rip Dean's heart out.
Dean's jaw clenched for a moment, hating to see this boy try to wear the mantle he himself had been forced to bear. Vividly he remembered how hard and tenaciously he had struggled to not let Sam be crushed under the too heavy weight. With his voice low with emotion, Dean said gently, "Not if I yell at the same time as you do, right?" A surprised but grateful look fell upon the boy's features and he nodded his head.
Wanting to act fast once Kyle was freed of the trap, Dean unzipped his leather coat, stripped it off and tried to make his uncooperative fingers loosen the buttons on his outer shirt. Frustrated at the clumsy motions of his digits, Dean ripped the shirt open, sending buttons flying. Removing the shirt he laid it around his neck before putting his jacket back on and rezipping it, knowing that he couldn't risk faltering under the cold if he wanted to help Kyle. Facing Kyle, he felt foolish needing help with his rescue plan but he would not let his pride hurt this kid.
"Kyle, you have to help me out here 'cause I'm not from around here. Which way is the church?"
Confusion marred the boy's cold features, "What church?"
"Ok, which way is the house?" Dean tried, knowing that the house couldn't have been that far, not when the music had been so clear.
"It's about two miles down the road," Kyle answered, lifting his hand, pointing behind Dean.
"No, I mean the one where the music was coming from," Dean clarified patiently.
"What music?" Kyle asked, watching Dean closely.
Stilling, Dean, for the first time since finding the boy, listened to the world around him. A world that was void of music, unless you were Frosty the Snowman and got off on the howling wind whistling through the frozen trees. Pushing the mystery aside, Dean concluded, "Well, we'll head back to my car then. You can sit inside with the heater running while I track down someone who can take us to the hospital."
Focusing back on the trap, Dean looked up to the boy and his heart clenched as he saw the boy's fear mixing with his trust in him, a total stranger. "Kyle, on the count of three we're both going to yell for all we're worth, alright?"
Kyle nodded his head, his fear tightening his throat too much to believe his voice wouldn't crack if he spoke. Dean nodded too, his feelings similar on the talking issue now that it was time to act, to inflict pain to save the kid.
"One," Dean said, pressing the trap trigger down with his knee, releasing the tension on the steel jaws. "Two," he counted as he wrapped his hands around the jaws beside Kyle's speared leg, unmindful of the spikes already promising to dig into the flesh of his palms. "Three," he growled as he tightly gripped the jaws and pried them away from the boy's flesh, yelling into the wind, his voice joining with the brave boy's.
Having levered the spikes free of the boy's leg, Dean slid the trap away, tossing it aside angrily. Sweeping the dry shirt from around his neck, he hurriedly wrapped it around Kyle's bleeding leg. As he tied it off, it elicited another yelp of pain from Kyle, the sound hurting Dean more than his own bleeding palms ever could.
Tenderly laying his hand on the boy's cheek, Dean commended, "You did just great, kiddo. Now we're getting out of this crummy winter wonderland."
Kyle nodded but when Dean slipped his arms under his back and legs and picked him up, a groan of pain broke from him. Curling into his guardian angel's chest, he mumbled, "Hurts.."
Tightening his hold on the precious burden in his arms, Dean forged his way back toward the Impala, "Yeah, I know it does," his voice nearly cracking even as his eyes stung from more than the ice cold wind that assailed him. "But at the hospital they'll make that pain go away," he promised, looking down but only able to see the boy's red hat as the boy tucked his head down, against Dean's chest.
A gloved hand wrapped itself in Dean's leather coat and a muffled small voice asked, "Why are you mad at your brother?"
Dean grimaced, 'Great, I'm getting a therapy session from a twelve year old traumatized kid,' but it wasn't within him to deny the hurt boy an answer. "I don't know. He just…wants too much from me. Sometimes I think that he doesn't even know me."
"I feel that way about my dad," Kyle quietly replied, his hand clenching tighter to Dean. "And I think…maybe, if he did know me…he wouldn't…" the boy broke off.
Nearly slipping on the ice under the snow, Dean regained his balance, squinted into the white expansion and caught sight of the very welcome sight of the Impala. Beginning forward again, Dean gently prodded, "He wouldn't what?"
A trembling sigh escaped the boy and Dean wasn't sure if the cause was the cold or the boy's emotions this time. "Like me, be proud of me," came the tremulous words.
The boy's words were like a spear of ice through Dean's heart. If anyone knew that feeling, he did, it was the way he always felt with his father, with Sam. It was the reason he had obeyed his father's orders, striving to 'earn' his father's love, why he sometimes barricaded himself away from Sam, hiding the part of himself he wasn't sure that his brother would like, could forgive. If this was a Hallmark movie, Dean knew he would sugar coat things for the kid, but life was no feel good movie, it was hard and uncertain and painful. "I know that fear, Kyle." 'I'm king of that feeling.' Finding he was unwilling to let the boy take the painful path which he had chosen to travel in life, Dean revealed, "Because of that fear I've shut out people who care about me. It's a lonely way to live. I wish….well, I wish I had taken a chance, you know, let someone really know me."
"But your brother…he wants to know you, right? The real you. And you kinda want him to know the real you, don't you? So you can still take that chance."
"You're too smart for your age kid. How about we make a deal?" Dean wagered, causing the boy's head to come up, his eyes meeting Dean's. "I'll take a chance if you do?"
"Deal," the boy smiled.
Finally Dean gained the Impala's side, his breath burning in his chest, his fingers pricking with pain and his body nearly frozen from head to toe. It took some tricky maneuvering but he managed to get the rear door open and settle Kyle unto the back seat without overly jostling the twelve year old's injured leg. Pulling a blanket from the floor, Dean tucked it around Kyle, patted the boy's chest and reassured, "I'm going to start the car and get the heater cranked on," not pulling back until he received the boy's nod of acceptance.
Closing the back door, Dean made his way to the driver's side of the Impala, having to catch himself on the car's frame as his feet threatened to go out from under him on the ice that gave him no purchase. Climbing into the car and shutting the door, Dean immediately brought the classic car's engine to life and turned the heater to its highest setting. With a silent plea, he picked up his phone from the passenger side but the doomed words of "No service" still appeared on the screen.
Surprisingly, not one to give up on the odds of a turn of good luck, Dean put the car into reverse, offered up a silent 'Please, God, if you're real, if you're listening, help me save this kid, cause he doesn't deserve to die. Just please, do it for him, not for me.' Then he tentatively hit the gas pedal. The Chevy lurked backward as if it were on the driest stretch of blacktop.
For a moment, Dean sat stunned as the Impala reversed away from the telephone pole and came to a stop back on the road. There were a thousand logical explanations for the car's now responsive motion…but he couldn't field them now, not them or the confusion that dogged his beliefs these days. 'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth,' he groused to himself as he put the car into drive and headed down the road, intent on getting Kyle to the hospital, quickly and safely.
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