First, sorry for failing to get this out earlier. It was a bugger for me, for some reason. Thanks to anyone sticking around for the conclusion!
Second, I disclaim. Sam, Dean, the Impala and pretty much all things SPN don't belong to me. They belong to Kripke Enterprises and The CW. I make no money off of this story. In fact, I pretty much make no money out in the real world, either. It's quite sad, actually
Carry That Weight
The morning after an attack almost always felt worse than the actual event. There was time for the injuries to settle in and make themselves at home. Every one of Dean's muscles was stiff and his head pounded in time with his pulse. Being a supernatural critter's punching bag usually left him feeling like he'd spent the prior night on the bender to end all benders, and this one was no different. He didn't remember much of what happened once they got to the car, a vague notion that Sam had insisted on driving and that was all. He had stayed on autopilot, like the thing had drained him beyond all caring; he was there but not really there. He tried damned hard not to let himself get in that state, but recently it was exactly that state which came as second nature. He was so tired, all of the time, and when he wasn't tired he was pissed off. He figured it was safer to stay numb, less worrisome for Sam at least.
He rolled out of bed slowly and headed for the bathroom. Sunlight streamed in the window through a crack in the drapes. Dean squinted around the room, didn't see Sam anywhere. He was actually relieved his brother wasn't there, hovering and fretting. They'd both sustained far worse injuries than he had last night, not that long ago, and Sam's concern would just feel wrong and asphyxiating. He shut the bathroom door and peed, then moved to the sink, where he caught his reflection in the mirror.
The bruising on his face and neck was livid, and his skin was littered with nicks and cuts. He peeled the bandage on his forehead back, revealed a moderately deep wound, almost exactly where he still had a faint scar from the accident. He certainly didn't need the reminder, but there it was, staring at him. He tossed the soiled bandage in the garbage, winced at the pull of muscles from somewhere else on his body. He lifted his T-shirt and checked out the purple and magenta bruising on his left side. None of his injuries would prevent him from getting the job done, but they still hurt like hell.
He heard the electronic key card and faint metallic click of the room door as it unlocked. Sam. Dean splashed water on his face, less as a means to get himself awake and ready to go and more to brace himself to deal with his little brother. His overbearing, annoyingly gentle little brother who would be even more overbearing and annoyingly gentle with him now. He wasn't being fair and he knew it. The water helped clear his head but did nothing to help him get ready for Sam. He sighed and exited the bathroom. Sam was at the ugly square table in the corner, a tray with two steaming cups of coffee in front of him, pastry bags tucked in one of the empty slots, napkins in the other. Dean's stomach growled.
"Morning," Sam said. Dean waited for the follow up question about his injuries, but it didn't come. Sam limited his concern to furtive half-looks in his direction, which he probably thought Dean didn't notice. "I figured you could use something to eat."
Dean threw his clothes on quickly and followed the lure of food and drink. He didn't expect much, surprised when the coffee was actually reasonably good and the doughnuts fresh. The dark circles under Sam's eyes were evidence of a late night, and otherwise his brother looked haggard and slightly unkempt. Normally he'd say something about it. Dean shoved half of a chocolate old fashioned into his mouth in one giant bite. He knew that would make Sam stop looking at him. Sam did avert his eyes, but it didn't last long enough.
"You took the bandage off."
"Yeah, it itched."
"Looks like it would." Sam's face twisted uncomfortably, and Dean knew that his brother was flashing back to a smashed Impala the way he had, and to all that had come after it. Sam cleared his throat. "How're the ribs?"
"Sore, but nothing I can't handle." Dean shoved the rest of the doughnut in his mouth, chased it down with a swig of hot coffee. "I told you before that I'm fine, Sam."
"I wasn't trying to say you aren't," Sam said quietly. "Look, I care about you. If I hadn't found you last night you'd be dead, Dean. You were just gone, man. I can't…"
"I know," Dean said, cutting Sam off before he could say anything worse and before his expression turned sad-eyed and the grown man became a four-year-old boy just wanting Dean to tell him everything would be all right soon. Dean couldn't tell Sam that and have it not be a lie. "I know, okay?"
But he still hated it when Sam made him feel guilty about being an asshat when he was trying to be an asshat. If Sam had been the one grabbed, Dean knew he would feel the same way. His brother wasn't doing or saying anything that he wouldn't himself, and didn't deserve the asshattery. Sam being himself wasn't reason for it. Mostly, it was always Dad's words, pressing down on him, eating away at the back of his head. All the time. For some reason, the nicer Sam was, the more he reminded Dean of those words, and so the more it hurt to be around him. It wasn't like he could explain that to Sam, or that Sam could figure it out on his own. The promise of a horrible secret, too, just made Dean miserable around the one person he had left.
"I'm sorry." Dean gave a weak smile and a shoulder shrug. "I just can't believe I let that thing get the drop on me."
Sam nodded, didn't look totally convinced that Dean was just embarrassed about falling prey. Last night, Dean had to admit to himself, he had partially wanted the thing to come after him. Both to keep Sam safe and to…no, he didn't really know why he'd moved away from Sam. It was like something had called to him. Then when the creature did jump on him, the pressure on his back was so familiar, a physical representation of what he walked around with every day. For one moment he heard the thing's plea and wanted to carry that weight, to see if he could. In some crazy way, it had seemed the perfect test for his life as a whole. After that initial moment was over, he no longer had a choice but to haul that creature wherever it wanted.
"Yeah, about that thing," Sam said. "I searched a bit while you were sleeping, based on what happened last night."
He hadn't made it a hundred yards before he'd started faltering, shaking, and that scared him spitless even now. Despite that, though, Dean did what he had to do. He had kept trying, silently, to move forward while the load on his back got heavier and bulkier, until the creature grew frustrated. Then his legs had just sunk into the ground. He'd crazily thought that the thing had somehow known that was where Dean should be, dead and buried, that it was just trying to fix what Dad had made go wrong. He swallowed thickly, the aftertaste of doughnut in his mouth like the dirt he should be buried in. He took another swallow of coffee, trying to get rid of the earthy taste. It only made the coffee taste like crap too. He grimaced.
"I think I have a pretty good idea of what it is. In Scandinavian folklore, there's a creature called a myling. Basically, it's the vengeful spirit of a baby whose mother took out to the woods or remote area and left it to die."
Dean sat up straighter. Some things about humanity still managed to surprise him.
"Why would anyone do that? That's sick."
"Well, the lore indicated the babies were either from unwed mothers, or they were sickly and would likely die anyway, or even just babies the family simply couldn't afford to feed," Sam said. "Mylings' behavior patterns fit everything that happened last night. They can paralyze people on sight, like you said happened to you. They're malevolent, seeking revenge even if their mother is already deceased. If a person happens near where they were abandoned, they'll jump on his or her back and demand to be carried to a cemetery, wanting to rest on hallowed ground. The problem is that the myling gets heavier the longer it's carried, too heavy for most to handle."
"So heavy that people sink into the ground?" Dean said. That made more sense than his earlier illogical assessment, though he didn't think it had been that heavy. Sam nodded. "That seems kind of counterproductive."
"Yeah. But if that happens, the myling knows that the person can't fulfill the task. It'll get so enraged and lash out brutally. Once they were trapped like that, the myling would be able to maul someone to death pretty easily."
"Sounds like our thing, except none of the victims were found halfway buried."
"Yeah. Oh, and iron and water will repel it, but they probably won't kill it. I think all we need to do is carry it to the cemetery and put it to rest. I'm not really sure about that, though."
Some poor dead baby ghost was responsible for butchering at least four people, and only because it wanted to be where it was supposed to be – at rest. In the ground. That wasn't such a terrible thing at all. Hell, Dean understood the feeling too well himself. He rubbed at his aching temples. He couldn't believe he was empathizing with some evil thing, especially some evil thing that had tried to kill him. He could buy the lore from hundreds of years ago, but Hoyt Lakes wasn't really that old of a town in the grand scheme. It would probably have happened more recently, and he couldn't quite wrap his head around that.
"Wouldn't someone have noticed a baby going missing?" he said after a minute.
"You'd think. We might have to confirm that somehow before we'll know for sure it's a myling. I just can't figure out how – like you said, a disappearing baby would raise suspicion. People would search for it, and probably find it."
"Maybe no one knew the woman was pregnant, therefore couldn't know to look."
"Maybe. We still don't know why the deaths have only happened in late October."
"We don't know that they have. We didn't check for anytime else." Dean rubbed his head more. They were spinning their proverbial wheels. He'd rather just figure out what to do to get rid of the thing, but he suspected Sam was going to be pedantic about it. "We could get mired down in the details or we could just go deal with it. We need to get it to the cemetery, right, but do we really need to know what family plot to bury it in or if there were more attacks? Those things don't matter."
"All the lore says is that mylings seek rest on hallowed ground, so that part we could skip. But Dean, we don't know if we have to bury the actual being or its remains. That's something I don't think we should take a chance one and find out the hard way it's the other," Sam said. Dean sighed. He suspected he was in for another day at the library. "Bobby could probably give us the information we need on that and tell us if we need to bury it somewhere specific in the cemetery or just within its boundaries."
That was more like it. Bobby was even more with the research-fu than Sam.
"And we already know the general area to look for remains anyway, in case we need them," Dean said hopefully. Actually, he was pretty sure he knew exactly where to go. "So if we don't have to bury the thing on a family plot or something, then we don't really need to tackle the impossible task of tracking down someone who obviously didn't want anyone to know she had a kid. If she's already dead I doubt we'd find anyone who knew her story, and if she isn't dead, what would we do? Randomly ask women if they ever had a secret baby that they left in the woods to die?"
"Okay, Dean, you made your point. I just want all the bases covered."
They kept not saying what they were probably both thinking –no matter the details, someone was going to have to carry the myling to its resting place. There was probably safety in numbers, making it unlikely the creature would go after both of them if they went out in the woods together.
Dean knew two things: that for it to work only one of them would bear the weight, take the risk, and that it wasn't going to be Sam.
"Thanks, Bobby. Yeah, we'll be careful," Dean said and hung up the phone. Sam looked up at his brother expectantly. "Good news. Bobby said you were right about burying it, and it's the actual myling, not the baby's remains. He also said it wasn't tied to the mother, so anywhere on hallowed ground would do the trick."
"That is good news."
Sam frowned back down at the map spread out in front of him on the bed. The bad news was that Hoyt Lakes Memorial Cemetery was on the northwest side of town, and the straightest line between it and the haunting site was right through woods they were unfamiliar with. They'd have to wait until night to get it done without being caught digging in the cemetery (never mind carting around a hideous supernatural being), and to make sure all festival activities were over, both things making a hike through the wooded area more difficult. Dean had already experienced the myling once, and hadn't made it very far, which didn't bode well for the four or so mile trek that it would take.
"We were, what, three miles south of town last night?" Dean gave a nod in response. Sam pointed on the map. "The cemetery's way up here. We're looking at a four-mile walk. That's a long way to go with an evil, growing thing on your back."
Dean swallowed, looked vaguely queasy for a second. He covered well, but not well enough. Sam didn't know what that was about, and no matter how hard he tried Dean was going to keep shutting him out. Whatever Dean was shouldering, he thought maybe its mass was even bigger than the myling's. If that wasn't one of the most terrifying things to think about, then Sam didn't know what was.
"I should be able to do it," Dean said.
Sam looked at his brother sharply. He knew two things: that for it to work only one of them would bear the weight, take the risk, and that it wasn't going to be Dean. No way.
"Dean, no," he said. Sam shook his head, as if he needed the emphasis. "No."
"You don't think I can."
Sam pursed his lips. Apparently Dean's short-term memory was shot to hell. Less than twenty-four hours ago the thing had sucked him into the freaking dirt and had beat the shit out of him. It wasn't a surprised, really, that Dean had volunteered anyway, but the very thought of Dean going out there and failing again made him cold to the core. Selfishly, he couldn't take that, didn't want the chance of losing Dean.
"It's not that. Under normal circumstances, I think you could. You're the strongest person I know," Sam said. "But you're injured, Dean. I don't care if you say you're fine. I'm not an idiot, I can see you're sore. It's too risky, and you know it."
"So, what, you think I'm going to let you do it? Just look at your track record." Dean mirrored his headshake, and Sam pretended not to be hurt by the implication that he'd had never been able to pull his own weight during the hunt. "I'll be fine. You'll, I don't know, hide until it latches on and if it gets rough, you can dispel it."
"You're crazy. You know it makes more sense for me to do this."
To his recollection, Sam had very rarely won an argument with Dean, even when he was as right as he was about this. His whole life, all he wanted from his father was to be treated like Dean and all he'd ever got for arguing that point was to be treated even more like a kid. All he had wanted from Dean had been to be an equal, but it was the same thing. Sam spent his whole life feeling choiceless, helpless and frustrated. The only time he'd ever got what he wanted had cost him so much, and it turned out even then Dad hadn't trusted him to be okay on his own, checking on him at Stanford. Dad had been right, he thought, and the doubt crept forward. There, too, went that twinge again, a year without Jess compounded with the reminder that Dad was gone forever. He could not lose Dean. He just couldn't.
"Sam, this thing is nasty. I don't like it."
"It's not like I'm excited about it myself," he said. "But Dean, I can't have you out there getting more hurt than you already are. I can't let you take the risk."
Dean stared at him, unblinking, for so long Sam started getting disconcerted. There was something in his brother's eyes, the same something that had been there in flashes since Dad had died. Sam was so damned afraid Dean was going to keep arguing until he inevitably lost and all that remained was the horrible panicky feeling that his brother was going to leave him like everyone he loved did. But then Dean finally nodded silently and Sam was able to breathe normally again. He couldn't take whatever intangible thing Dean carried with him, but he thought maybe if he could do this, then Dean would understand the burden could be shared.
"We need to walk the route first, get the lay of the land," Dean said. "And we need to do everything we can to make this work. Dig a grave for it first, find a route that's fast but takes advantage of the proximity to water."
Sam was so amazed Dean had given in he wasn't sure he could actually believe it. He bobbed his head up and down once. Then a different sort of panicky feeling set in, one that made him wonder what he'd gotten himself into. How did he think he could handle what Dean hadn't been able to? He tried to ignore that. There wasn't room for uncertainty. He would do this, if only because he couldn't let Dean do it.
"We have all afternoon to scout the trail. We can head to the cemetery at nightfall." Sam chewed on his lip. "Dig the grave and then go attract the myling to me."
"Yeah, all that should be easy."
"We should get started."
They had to fight the crowds and Dean's sudden, rampant hatred for pumpkins, but other than that it was as easy as they'd predicted. The woods actually had a number of wide trails they could use, marked for the heavy snowmobile activity during winter months and hiking during the two months in between that. The trails didn't take them near enough to water to use as a safeguard, but both agreed a clear path was a better option anyway. At a dead run, Sam figured he could make the hike in about half an hour. That wouldn't be the case that night, though. He didn't vocalize his concerns. He didn't have to, because he was sure Dean felt the same way.
"Okay, so I'll keep my phone on speaker so you can hear when it comes for me," Sam said. They'd walked most of the trail twice already, and now stood next to a small rock formation. "You're sure this is the spot?"
"Yeah, though you could probably be anywhere around here and still attract it."
"I just want to be have a specific starting point so I don't get disoriented."
The haunted walk and hayrides would start up soon. They'd keep an eye out for stragglers all night, then get to work. Sam squinted up at the quickly darkening sky. It was pretty out here, the colors not unlike they were in Palo Alto this time of year. He closed his eyes and yelled at himself for going there again. He didn't need the distraction, and he didn't know why it was springing back up now, of all times. He'd been fairly good at staying focused on this case. The eerie cry of an owl sounded through the air. He turned toward the sound, opened his eyes in time to see a snow-white owl swoop down from the trees, looking for an early dinner. Sam frowned. White owl, white owl. He thought back to his research. A few sites had suggested seeing a white owl was a precursor to a myling attack, but he hadn't thought anything about it.
"We should get you out of here before it gets totally dark, Dean."
Dean didn't answer. Sam looked back down. His brother was gone. Again. And this time Sam was almost completely unprepared. His knife was in the car, and so was his flask of water. It was too early. This wasn't supposed to happen until later, after the festival activities shut down for the night. The only thing that was different now was that he knew what had his brother, and had no way to get rid of it. Dean was right about him not pulling his weight. What kind of fool isn't prepared at all times? His skin felt itchy. His mistake might cost Dean's life.
"Dean!" he shouted, like déjà vu all over again.
"Over here." Sam ran toward his brother's strained voice, stopped short, horrified when he saw Dean was not alone. In the dusky light, the myling almost looked like a mutated black dog. Dean glanced at him, something like resignation, acceptance of fate, in his eyes. "Guess it doesn't matter if you're by yourself or not. And I guess it likes me."
"Take me," the myling shrieked. "Reeeest."
Dean winced, and started running at an unsteady gait. Sam followed, heart racing as if he were running full speed, because he couldn't do anything else. He wanted to tear the thing from his brother's back. Dean made it further than he had last night before he faltered. Sam reached out, but his brother didn't fall. Dean grunted as the myling started growing right in front of his eyes. Sam reached for the weapons he did not have, let out a mew of anger and fear. He couldn't just watch his brother like this.
"Dean, do you have your knife?" Dean was always prepared, unlike him. "Give me your knife."
"I can do this," Dean said tightly, and promptly started stumbling. Sam grabbed his arm and steadied him.
"Dean, please. Please."
The myling grew bigger and screeched again, drowning out anything Dean might have been able to get out. Sam squinted at Dean, and didn't like the obvious pain that decorated his face or the increasingly unevenness of his pace. Desperate, he kept his hold on Dean's arm and started to reach for where Dean's knife would be if he had it. He knew Dean did.
"No, Sam. You can't," Dean gasped and pulled away from him. "We'll lose the chance to kill this bastard."
Somehow once again, Sam had lost the fight, and could only watch, choiceless, helpless and frustrated, as Dean bore the weight alone. He regained his grasp on Dean, alarmed at the way his brother's muscles fairly thrummed under his touch. He didn't know how far they'd gone, at least a mile, maybe more. Time moved quickly and dragged slowly at the same time. He didn't really care. He knew Dean was not going to make it all the way, and he was terrified beyond all measure. He was going to lose Dean, and Dean was right there next to him.
"Dean, please. You can't," he said, his voice shaking as much as Dean's body. "You can't do this to me. Let me help."
The myling wailed again, such an angry, chilling sound, and this time wouldn't shut up. Sam punched it out of frustration, which only made it more volatile. Dean gave a strangled cry as it rained blows on him, punishment for Sam's offense. It looked like it weighed at least eighty pounds already. Dean fell, hard, and Sam went down on his knees with him. Completely exhausted and beaten, bleeding, Dean tried to duck the myling's attack and to keep going forward. He wasn't going anywhere. Sam could see Dean's left leg, up to his knee, had sunk into the ground.
As Sam reached for Dean's knife again, willing it to be there, all he could think was get the hell off of my brother, over and over.
And suddenly a great weight settled on his shoulders. It was as if the myling had heard and heeded his mantra.
Dean hadn't, even on a subconscious level wanted the myling to go after him this time, but he wasn't exactly sorry it had. This way, Sam wasn't in any danger. The creature was heavier than he remembered it being, and it smelled worse. His real focus was on moving. He knew within minutes that he wasn't going to make it the full four miles, but he couldn't give up on the second chance to change the outcome and do what he had to do. He knew Sam was right next to him, could feel his presence, but couldn't let it stop him. If anything, having Sam there made him work all the harder, gave him more strength. Every step in his life was because of Sam, now. Had always been.
"Dean, please, you can't, you can't do this to me." Sam wouldn't leave his side, and that gave him more hope and comfort than he'd had in a long while. He could barely hear anything beyond the myling howling and the buzzing in his ears, yet Sam's voice was clear as a bell. "Let me help."
It hurt to breathe. Hell, it hurt to blink. The pressure on his back shifted awkwardly for a split second, and then it felt like he was stuck in a landslide, with rock after rock smashing against him and pulling him down. Dean tried to choke back a cry of pain, failed. The myling grew again, and he couldn't stay on his feet. He tried to prevent the fall, needed to keep going. He crawled when he could no longer jog, but it was like something held him in place. In the mostly horizontal position Dean now found himself in, the creature's weight felt even heavier than when standing. It was squeezing the air out of him. He saw Sam still at his side, face white and angular with tension and expression one of determination. Sam reached for him, muttering something Dean couldn't discern.
And suddenly he could breathe again.
Except he was face down in the dirt and leaves. He rolled onto his side, and gasped for air. Something didn't feel right. His left leg stayed firmly in place when he moved. He looked down, saw it was buried but it didn't seem like it'd be too hard to dig out again. He sat up, instantly woozy, and revised that assessment. His earlier injuries screamed at him, and now he had more bruises and claw marks to add to them. Something warm yet also cold dripped on his face, from his forehead. He reached up, and his hand came away sticky with blood from the reopened wound. A second after he saw the blood, it dawned on him that he was sitting without the weight of the myling on his back. Dean understood. Sam had found his iron blade and he'd blown their chance of ending the myling.
"Damnit, Sam, you shouldn't have done that," Dean groaned, though if Sam hadn't the outcome would have been nearly the same, only he'd probably be dead. He couldn't hold saving his life against Sam. He tugged at his buried leg, arms and hands still too shaky to be of much use. "Help me out here."
"I can't, Dean."
Sam's voice was a low whisper, and Dean didn't like the tone. It didn't sound like Sam. He stopped trying to get his leg out of the dirt and looked toward Sam. He squinted, the darkness making his brother look bigger and more awkward than usual. Sam leaned toward him, face right in front of his, his expression fervent and pained. Dean's stomach felt like it was in his shoes. His left one, specifically, full of dirt and cold.
"You…have to dig yourself out."
"I have to go."
"Reeeest," Sam's oddly misshapen shoulder cried out. No. "Take me, take me."
All of Dean went cold, understanding what had really happened now. His head cleared of the foggy, injury induced confusion. He forgot about his damned leg. The weight of the myling was gone from his shoulders, but the memory of it remained, and the weight that was always there was still heavy. He reached for his blade, sheathed safely away. Sam gripped his arm, stopped him, shook his head once and then stumbled away on the path Dean had started down.
"Sam," he said. His brother was running, faster than he should be able to, away from him. "Sam!"
The only response he got was the brash outcry of the myling, already too faint. Nothing could be a more effective motivator for him than keeping Sam safe. Dean tore at the dirt with his fingers, forgetting the blood and pain and ache of his body. He didn't know how far he'd managed to get toward the cemetery, but it wasn't far enough. Sam wouldn't make it, and he couldn't be stuck there while Sam died. It took him two long minutes to get free, and when he was on his feet he wavered and had to take thirty more seconds to let the lightheadedness dissipate. He started after Sam, itching to grab for the iron blade and holy water he had tucked in his jacket. The night air was filled with the myling's shrieks. He followed them, and they grew louder with each step.
He found Sam ten minutes later, still moving but so slowly. One hand at the back of his jeans, where the knife was tucked, Dean raced forward. His other hand shot out, steadied his brother when Sam took a shaky step. The myling was enormous now, big and black and ugly with discontent. Blood streamed down Sam's face, from an injury Dean couldn't see.
"Sam," he said, apparently the only word he could.
The faint orange glow radiating from the town was evidence they were at least close to city limits. Dean kept his hand firmly on the handle of his blade. It was too late now. He couldn't take this burden off of Sam's shoulders, didn't know how Sam had taken it from his or how he'd managed to get so far. He swallowed, his mouth full of bitterness.
"Yeah, I think so."
"Guh," Sam said, fell to one knee, struggled to stand back up. The myling lashed out. "Good."
"Sam," he said again.
He gripped the knife handle tightly, and pulled at it. Somehow, Sam knew.
"No, Dean. You carried it half…" Sam gasped loudly. The myling screamed again and dug its impossibly huge claws into Sam's shoulder. Blood welled, then flowed. His brother still managed to get up. Dean was torn between admiration and terror. "Halfway. I have to finish."
But Sam couldn't. He took all of five more steps and went down on one knee again, this time one arm also jutting out to brace himself. Dean gave up the hold on the knife, using both hands to grab Sam's shoulders in an awkward hold. The myling took another swipe, caught his own shoulder and then the side of Sam's face. Sam cried out, a semi-sob that ripped into Dean as surely as the myling's claws did. Sam's knee started sinking into the earth, but he scrabbled and fought against it. Dean stayed close to his side, willed the scant energy he had into keeping his brother going. Sam was right. It had to end tonight.
Dean draped Sam's left arm across his shoulders, shifted so that he had at least part of the load. In essence, he carried Sam while Sam carried the monster. Amazingly, amid the confusion and fear and myling's continued awful caterwauling, Dean thought it was actually working and that they were making progress. His brother's soft exhalations of pain were hot on his neck and in his ear as Sam leaned closer still with every step. He marked time and distance by Sam's falls, and his own. Sam left one of his shoes, buried in the dirt, with one of the collapses. Dean no longer thought he could do anything but hold Sam up, couldn't go for the weapons that would end this. Neither was in the shape to try again.
"Dean," Sam whispered, and lurched into him again.
Dean grunted and looked up. The cemetery was in front of them, as if from out of nowhere. It felt like they'd walked forever, but also like they hadn't moved at all. The myling stopped attacking them, hissed in way that sounded almost happy. Dean couldn't be sure that's what the sound was, or if it was just some resonant ringing in his ears, from Sam's involuntary gasps and whimpers of pain and from his own ragged breathing. They staggered the last few steps. Sam fell down, and took him with. Dean fumbled out from underneath his brother's heavy arm, looked back and saw Sam's legs were outside the cemetery's perimeter and buried in dirt. The rest of him was inside cemetery grounds and the myling stood next to him instead of on top of him. It raised its ugly head and let out a mournful yowl. Then it scampered away, to the shallow grave they'd dug near a lone pine. The night was quiet except for a faint breeze and his and Sam's labored breathing. It seemed so anticlimactic.
"Huh," Dean said.
Sam groaned and fished around on the ground, trying weakly to get himself free. Fortunately for both of them, his legs weren't deep. Dean was unsteady himself, and crawled to help unbury the limbs. By the time he was done, he was exhausted and his muscles quivered from the strain they'd endured. Sam managed to roll onto his back, but didn't even try to sit up. Dean checked Sam's injuries quickly, wanted nothing more than to get his brother cleaned up. Their wounds weren't severe enough that they had to rush things, he reconsidered when the world spun a little. Anyway, the car was four miles away and they'd have to walk to the hotel. No way in hell was Sam ready for that. So he lay down next to his brother instead, just let them both recover a little.
"You did it, Sam," he said after a few minutes.
"No, I didn't," Sam replied immediately, voice hoarse with pain and fatigue and even entreaty. "We did it together."
They had. For one fleeting moment, Dean actually thought about telling Sam everything. Every last detail of the message Dad had left him with, the terrible legacy. The words were at the tip of his tongue, and it would be such a relief to let it all go. But then he looked at Sam's pale, bloody face, the holes in his shoulder. He saw Sam's pain and relived Sam collapsing again and again under the myling's enormous bulk and wrath.
He couldn't be the one responsible for doing even worse to Sam.
"Yeah," Dean said instead, feeling the weight of their world on his shoulders. "Together."