A/N: This little idea was born from watching National Geographic the other day. I couldn't get the idea out of my head of Sam and Dean dealing with a hunt like this. It gave me an excuse for some lighter banter as well as hurt. For anyone following Amen, I'm working on the latest chapter...it should be up soon.
For sixteen year old Sam Winchester, there was no logical reason for why they were parked out in the middle of nowhere, at three am, freezing their asses off. No logical reason at all. Just Dean, on one of his stupid hunches about a hunt that as far as Sam and most of the sane world was concerned? Was a complete freaking wild goose chase.
Sam felt stupid even thinking the name in his head as he lay stretched across the back seat of the Impala, his jacket zipped up to his chin. It had to be like thirty five degrees outside and if it got much colder? Sam hoped it snowed so he could cram a snowball down the back of Dean's shirt…maybe his jeans.
Then again, if Dad knew they were out here alone? He'd kick Dean's ass so hard, the snow would be a relief against the bruising.
It was a clear sign for Sam, of how bored his brother had been this past week….and how worried he was about Dad. Who should have been home three days earlier. Dean had stopped making excuses for Dad and become silent and sullen on the subject. Sam just figured Dad must have curled up somewhere with Jack, Jim and Jose. It wouldn't have been the first time and Sam was sure it wouldn't be the last. But there was no telling Dean. The black eye Sam was sporting, was testimony to his brother's loyalty to their father.
Truth be known, Sam was just as worried about Dad. But it was easier for him to be mad, to think about his father passed out in some motel room drinking away the grief of their mother's death, than think about Dad lying in some field or cave, bleeding out alone.
Anger was easier than the fear of being orphaned.
There was rustle of paper from the front seat. Dean put down the map he had been reading and glanced into the rear-view mirror at his younger brother. "Dude, are you sure this is the place?"
"No, Dean, I thought we'd sit here for the past nine hours freezing our asses off because I liked the scenery." Sam quipped sullenly. "Yes, I'm sure. You wanted dead cows? The farmer here reported one yesterday."
" I didn't say dead cows, dude, I said I wanted to check out any cattle mutilations in the area."
"That would be a dead cow, Dean." Sam voice carried a tone that indicated he was talking to an imbecile.
"Geez, what's put you in such a pissy mood, Cinderella?" Dean shifted in his seat and looked over into the back with a scowl. "And get your feet off my leather, dude."
Sam sat up, flipping Dean the bird before he jammed his hands back under his armpits to keep them warm. "Hmm, let me think about that, Dean. It couldn't possibly be that we've been sat out here, getting hypothermia for no reason when I could be at the motel, asleep in a warm bed."
"Yeah well, sorry to rob you of the beauty sleep you so desperately need there, Sammy, but a hunt's a hunt."
"This isn't a hunt, Dean. It's not even a stake out. It's nothing. It's a couple of morons in a car, in the dark, at 3am in the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere." Sam said in exasperation.
"Hey, watch your language, dude." Dean scowled in disapproval.
"Not a chance, dude. Don't swing that way, never have, never will." Dean grinned at his brother. Sam was so easy to wind up, it was almost tragic. Almost. "Come on, I don't know about you, but I need to stretch my legs." He opened the driver's door and stepped out, picking up his favourite nickel plated .45 and slipping it into the back of his jeans.
"You want me to get out? Into that cold? You're freaking insane, Dean."
Dean leaned in against the edge of the window. "Fine, bitch. Wind up all the windows, lock the doors and don't talk to any strangers, I'll be right back." He straightened up and took several steps away from the Impala, towards a stand of trees he could just make out in the moonlight.
It was barely a minute later before he heard a car door open and close, then Sam was beside him, his hands jammed into his oversized jacket, his expression one of pure petulance. "You're a complete asshole, Dean."
" Yeah, but you love me anyway."
Sam scoffed, but a hint of a smile was on his lips. "Whatever you need to believe to sleep through the night, man. So what's your big plan?"
"Figured we could check out those trees, have a look around, see if anything has come back to kill another cow." Dean shrugged easily. " How many sightings did you say had been around here?"
"Six. But yesterday was the first dead cow. There's been a few chickens killed recently…"
Dean nudged his brother in the ribs, grinning excitedly. " See? What'd I tell you, Sammy? It's a Chupacabra."
Sam looked at his brother as though he had serious concerns for his sanity. "A cow and some dead chickens tells you there's a Chupacabra in the area?"
It was Dean's turn to roll his eyes at his brother and fix him with a glare. "They didn't just drop dead, Sam. The cow was mutilated. No blood left in it's body, none found around it. How do you explain that, huh?"
"Maggots, Dean. There was this sheriff who sat out in a field for 48 hours with a dead cow and watched what happened to it. Turns out, all the wounds that happen to a cow in these mutilations? Can be contributed to insect and carrion feeders."
"Carrion what?" Dean frowned, quirking an eyebrow to punctuate his question.
"Buzzards and other animals."
"Wait a minute…" Dean stopped Sam in his tracks as he grabbed his arm. "What about the laser precise cuts?"
Sam smiled, sensing that he was winning here. Dean was always the believer of the two. The Mulder to Sam's Scully as his brother loved to put it. Although Dean usually added some stupid comment about Sam being the red headed girl, just to piss his brother off. But there was no denying the fact Dean was always more ready to believe.
They'd seen so many things over the years, that Sam knew it had left them both more open minded to what was in the world than the average person. They'd seen things that science said couldn't exist or explain….or hadn't discovered yet.
But there was nothing that would convince Sam that the accounts of people seeing Chupcabras, was anything but overactive imaginations at work….which brought him back to Dean.
"When a cow dies and the body bloats up? The skin eventually splits, looks like it was done with a scalpel." Sam nodded knowingly. "Come on, Dean, think about it. You've got some Sheriff saying the cuts are surgically or even laser precise? How would a Sheriff even know that?"
Dean contemplated that for a moment, not liking what he was hearing. He'd come out here hoping to take down something supernatural. Something to show Dad when he came home, so that he would know that Dean was capable of handling his own hunts. It didn't matter what Sam had been saying the last few days, Dean knew that Dad was coming home, his gut told him that he was okay.
"What about the eyewitness reports then, Sammy?" Dean demanded, not quite ready to give up on the idea of a hunt yet.
"What eyewitness reports, Dean? No-one here actually saw anything and please don't tell me you really believe that description? Spikes down the spine? Looks like some freaky little bi-pedal creature with fangs? And wings?? Dude, come on, seriously…" Sam crossed his arms and waited for Dean to concede defeat.
"Alright, so some of those people might been smoking something while they watched the Friday Night Creature Feature.." Dean admitted grudgingly. "But there's been four reports of glowing red eyes, Sam. Something's supposed to have been skulking around the farms around here all week. We have to check it out, it could be something."
"It had better be something," Sam muttered. "I've lost all feeling in my toes."
Dean looked at his brother and saw that he was shivering, even though he was buried in the wool line denim jacket Dean had handed down to his brother five months before. It never failed to surprise Dean to see that his little brother was now so big, he was fitting into all of Dean's shirts and jackets as well as forcing Dad to get him new jeans all the time. The kid was shooting up at a phenomenal rate, already as tall as his brother and Dean had a feeling he wasn't going to stop until he was tall enough to have a gorilla fighting off planes around his head.
"How about we have a quick scout around near the tree line and then we can head back? I'll put the heaters on all the way home." Dean smiled at his brother.
Sam nodded, content with that idea. With any luck, they'd head back in another twenty minutes and Sam would claim the first hot shower as soon as they got back to the room. Dean owed him after this.
There was enough moonlight to be able to see their way without needing to go back to the Impala for a torch. It allowed the boys to move quietly through the trees like a couple of shadows, Dean taking point and Sam ghosting along a step or two behind, in perfect fluid synch with each other.
A sharp, wet crack of wood to his right; was the only warning Dean received before a huge, black furry mass slammed into him, knocking the boy off balance and sending him rolling down a small embankment, into a creek.
A Black dog. Suddenly the sightings of glowing red eyes made sense.
"Dean!" Sam was already scrambling down after his brother, hearing Dean scream a moment later amidst a sea of growls and the sound of flesh tearing. A reflection of moonlight, guided Sam to Dean's fallen .45 as he half tumbled himself down the embankment, his heart racing in his chest at the pain filled screams that were filling the air.
"Sammy! R…run!" Dean choked out, his mouth filling with blood as the Black dog bit deeply into his side again, it's teeth tearing through his jacket and shirt like tissue paper, puncturing the skin beneath. Dean could feel his own blood soaking through his clothes as he desperately fought to push the dog off him. He punched the dog just above one eye, hearing it yelp as it left his torso alone and went for his arm instead. The teeth sank to the bone of his forearm, rending flesh as a series of shots rang out.
The Black dog bucked and jumped as the bullets slammed into it, before it turned tail and leapt over Dean, then disappeared up the embankment on the other side.
Sam watched it flee as he got to the creek, noting that it seemed to be dragging it's left hind leg now. Good, he hoped the bastard bled out soon enough.
Dean was lying in the creek, barely conscious. The creek itself wasn't deep enough to worry about the threat of drowning, but the water was icy cold as he lay half submerged in it. Sam gasped at the shock of the water on his limbs as he crashed into the creek and slid his arms underneath Dean's armpits, digging in and grunting with the strain of pulling his brother from the water. Even with only moonlight as his light source, Sam could see the darker stain to the water as Dean's blood continued to pump out of him.
Collapsing on the bank, Sam held Dean close, pressing his hand to his brother's stomach in an effort to staunch the blood flow. The move drew a sharp hiss of pain from Dean, his eyes snapping open and looking around wildly before they settled on Sam at last. "Thought I…told you…to run.." Blood spilt from his lips as Dean coughed suddenly.
"Shut up, Dean." Sam growled, his voice rough with emotion. "I told you this was a stupid idea."
"Yeah, you did…" Dean admitted. "Revel in it while you can, b...bitch.." His eyes started to glaze over slightly and Sam felt an explosion of panic as he watched them sliding closed. "DEAN!"
"Jesus, Sammy, i-ind-d-door voice, dude…I'm r...right here."
"Then open your eyes, Dean. No going to sleep on me, okay?" Sam was aiming for his voice to carry Dad's fire, but it came out more of a plea. He could feel Dean trembling in his arms as tears filled his eyes. What was he supposed to do? Go for help? There was no way he could leave Dean. Damn it, this would have never happened if Dad had come home when he was supposed to. What if Dean died here? What was Sam supposed to do without either of them?
"N…not sl…sleeping, dude…." Dean didn't want to tell his little brother he was dying, but it sure as hell felt like it. He was so cold and it was becoming harder and harder to stay focused on keeping awake. Dean wanted to let go and leave the pain behind, but there was no way he was going to die in Sam's arms. He couldn't do that to Sammy. He wouldn't. "You…you need to...leave me, Sammy."
"What? No!" Sam couldn't believe he was hearing this. "Dean, I'm not leaving you."
"Yes, you are, Sammy. That…that son…of a…bitch will be coming back and…it's…gonna be…pissed."
"So? I'm ready for it." Sam snapped darkly, his gaze flickering to the gun still clutched tightly in his hand, resting in Dean's lap, ready to be raised and fired in a heartbeat.
"Damn it, Sam!" Dean barked, before he was wracked by a wet, broken coughing fit that left more blood spilling down his chin. "Y…y...you're not d…dying with me. You…n...need…to l...leave me."
"The answer is no."
"S...Sammy, please." Dean pleaded now, his voice choking up. This was supposed to be a simple hunt and now he was going to get them both killed because Sam was too stupid to know when to follow orders. What good was the both of them dying? Sam needed to get back to the Impala before it was too late. "I…I can…distract it. You…you'll have a…chance."
" I said no, Dean. I'm not leaving, that prick of a thing is not getting another chance at you and you are not dying. Are we clear?"
Dean managed to focus his eyes on Sam and saw a fire and determination there that was pure John Winchester. Sam would never believe it, but Dean could see it as clear as day. He nodded, giving his brother a tired, bloody smile. "Crystal, Sammy."
Another coughing fit struck and Sam held Dean tightly, speaking softly as he tried to comfort his brother. Dean stared at Sam, holding his gaze on his brother as long as he could until his eyes lost focus and he sagged in Sam's arms, his eyes closing.
"Dean? Dean!" Sam gently shook his brother, tears spilling down his face. Pulling his hand away from Dean's stomach, Sam felt for a pulse and sobbed with relief when he found it, thready and weak, but there. Looking over his shoulder at the embankment they had come down, Sam knew he had to get Dean back to the Impala and to a hospital. Struggling to his feet, Sam held Dean under the arms and dug his heels in, growling with the effort of pulling what was almost dead weight now. He wasn't letting Dean die. Each backward step was back breaking, but progress was being made slowly. Sam bit down on his bottom lip, tasting blood as he struggled up the embankment. His chest was heaving, each breath feeling like he was inhaling razor sharp icicles that stabbed his lungs and sliced through his throat as the cold air took it's toll on him.
A low, menacing growl rippled through the bitter night air. Sam was barely a third of the way up the embankment when he caught sight of the Black Dog charging towards them. He let go of Dean, trying not to panic as his brother slid a little way down the embankment again. Sam brought the gun to bear on the Black dog, firing round after round into it before he was knocked onto his back, his head smacking hard on a half buried tree root.
It's front paws tore his shirt as it clawed and scratched Sam, an agonised scream shredding his throat while he fought to push it off.
A loud crack echoed across the creek as the Black dog was suddenly thrown backwards. It hit the ground and slid down the embankment, half it's head gone.
Sam rolled over, gasping for air, his eyes wide in shock at the sight of his father striding down towards him, slinging a high powered rifle over his shoulder. "Dad?" He managed to get to his knees before everything became hot and blurry all of a sudden. Pitching forward, strong arms caught Sam before he could faceplant.
"Easy, son…easy, I've got you."
"Dean…save Dean…" Sam begged quietly as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Hospitals. God how he hated them. So much pain and suffering and fear, all wrapped up in a cold, clinical scent of antiseptic and bleach. John Winchester had kept his bedside vigil for almost forty eight hours. A look that could turn blood to stone in your veins, was all it took for John to make it crystal clear to the nursing staff that he wasn't going to leave.
Dean was lying so still before him, various tubes and wires attached to all assortments of machines monitoring him. It was un-natural, seeing his eldest son so quiet and still. A tight, icy knot had formed in John's gut the moment he had found his boys bloody and torn on that embankment. Sitting here beside Dean had done nothing to diminish that feeling. He'd come so close to losing everything and it had felt like the longest drive ever as he rushed his sons to the hospital. Sam had been drifting in and out of consciousness, murmuring his brother's name while Dean had left enough of his blood on the front seat of the Impala, that John wasn't sure he would ever clean it all out of the leather. Just another layer of pain added to the interior of that muscle car over the years. John had bled on those leather seats more times than he could count, but the thought of his sons adding to those stains caused an ache in his heart that would never die. He only hoped Mary could forgive him and understand why he had to raise the boys in this way of life.
Sam was on the other side of Dean's bed, sound asleep, holding his brother's hand, his head resting on the bed beside Dean's arm. The boy had wandered in, IV fluids trolley in tow, a few hours before and John had kept vigil over him too, allowing nurses to check on him, but not remove him. Dean needed to know Sam was there, needed that presence to bring him back.
The first indication that Dean was waking, was a gentle flicker of his eyes, followed by his hand twitching within Sam's. The movement instantly woke the teenager, his head snapping up before the mass of bandages around his chest made him flinch, pause and then move more cautiously. But the fire of hope was burning as bright as John had ever seen it as Sam watched Dean, a tentative smile curling his lips.
There was a sliver of green for a moment, before Dean blinked several times and came into complete consciousness. His gaze tracked down his arm and saw Sam grinning back at him, looking for all the world like an excited puppy. Dean half expected to see a tail wagging on the kid, but damn it was good to see him. "Sammy…you okay?"
"I'm fine, Dean. Just a few scratches." Sam assured him, catching his father's half smirk out of the corner of his eye.
"You boys were damn lucky." John said seriously, announcing his presence to Dean. The mixture of emotions he saw playing through Dean's face as he realised his father was there, added to the ache John was already carrying inside. Relief, anger, love and even a little fear.
"Dad? How? How'd you find us?" Dean asked, his mind racing. He had no doubts about his father's ability as a hunter, but the guy wasn't a bloodhound.
"Sam's research." John replied. "You're lucky your brother tends to make thorough notes of what he's researching. It led me right to you."
"Guess I owe you, Sammy." Dean grinned at his brother, Sam echoing the grin with one of his own.
"You nearly got yourself killed, Dean. You nearly got Sam killed. What the hell were you thinking?" John demanded, leaning forward as his eyes became dark and guarded with anger.
"I'm sorry, it won't happen again." Dean's grin was gone instantly, guilt and shame flooding into his face in it's wake.
"You're damn right it won't."
"Dad, stop! It's not all Dean's fault. It's not like he made me go along at gun point or anything." Sam protested, hating the way Dean was so ready to take full responsibility.
"Sam, stay out this!" John growled in warning.
"No!" Sam shot back, grimacing at the way his chest tightened. "It wasn't Dean's fault, Dad."
"Then who's was it, Sam?" John demanded.
"Yours! It was your fault, Dad!"
"Sammy!" Dean snapped, throwing his brother a look that begged him to stop this, right now. He didn't want them fighting, not about this, not about anything. "Dad, Sammy…please, stop."
"No, I want to hear this. How is this my fault, Sam?" John continued, like a dog worrying a bone. His youngest had become more and more defiant in the past year and John wasn't liking it one bit. Dean had always followed orders before, he knew the score, knew what was at stake if he messed up. But Sam liked to buck against John's authority at every turn and it was driving him insane.
"You weren't here!" Sam shouted, getting to his feet and leaning on the bed, his eyes fiery, his face tight with rage. "Where the hell were you, Dad? No word, nothing…you were supposed to have been home days ago! We didn't know if you were hurt, if you were dead! And all Dean could say was that you would be home soon. He followed your fucking orders, kept things running smoothly….waiting for you to come home and take over, let him stand down. But you didn't. So we went on a hunt, cause you've always told us that hunting was what mattered, Dad. Saving people. Dean was just trying to show you how good he is at that! He was trying to make you proud of him!"
"Sam, enough!" Dean pleaded, watching as Sam became paler with each passing minute.
A nurse appeared the doorway, surprised by all the shouting. " Mr Winchester, I'm going to ha--…"
"It won't happen again." John told the nurse in no uncertain terms, holding her gaze until she backed down and walked away. She would be back with a doctor soon enough, John was sure of that. He turned back to see that Dean had hold of Sam's forearm.
"Sam, sit down before I knock you down, damn it." Dean told Sam firmly, but gently. He was relieved when his brother complied a moment later.
John watched his boys in silence, taking in everything that Sam had said, guilt searing him inside. He knew that if the shoe had been on the other foot, if it had been Dean who was three days late in returning from a hunt? John would have been out of his mind with worry. He had put a lot on his son's shoulders by leaving him in charge of Sam for most of their lives so that he could focus more on hunting. It never occurred to John that Dean still felt he had to watch out and worry for his father too. The boy had the heart of a lion, always willing to look out for his family, always trying to make his father proud of him. Whether that was by looking after Sam, holding down the fort while John hunted, or by how he handled himself on a hunt, Dean was always trying to do his best.
"If you're going to blame Dean for this, then blame me too." Sam said quietly, feeling tired now, his body still healing. "It was my research that led us out there. I should have checked into things more. I should have considered all possibilities of what people had been seeing. If I had? Dean would have been better prepared, he would have gotten hurt….it's…it's my fault."
John stood up slowly, hearing the sound of footsteps in the hallway. He'd been right, the nurse was returning with a doctor. "Make sure it doesn't happen again then," He fixed his boys with a firm look, before it softened slightly. "And I'll make sure I'll call in when I get delayed next time."
It was as close to an apology as they were going to get, but both boys had the beginnings of a smile on their faces as they nodded in unison. "Yes, sir."
John smiled himself, then became all business again. "This isn't over yet, Dean. You'll have to answer for your mistake when we get home. Now I'm going to go run interference for you both with the doc, let you two have some time. Get some rest okay? That means you, Dean." John shot him a look that brooked no argument.
"Get me out of here and I will." Dean retorted with a smirk. He hated hospitals as much as his father.
"Soon as we can, dude. I'll be back." John's voice was warmer now, the drill sargeant replaced by their father.
The boys watched as their father left the room and closed the door behind him. The instant they were alone, Dean punched Sam in the shoulder.
"Ow! What the hell, Dean?"
"Dude, don't you ever do that again! This was my screw up. I could have gotten you killed out there. I'll take the heat for it and I'll take whatever punishment comes when we get home, okay?" Dean said firmly.
"That's the end of it, Sam. You argue with me on this and I swear? I'll make sure they send you nothing but male nurses to help you to the shower." Dean grinned evilly.
"Dude, that's sick." Sam wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"Better do as I say then…"
"Why? Cause you threatened me?"
"No, bitch….cause I'm older and wiser. You have to respect the chain of command, Sammy."
"You're so full of shit, Dean." Sam laughed. "And lay off the junk food, man…I nearly broke my back trying to drag you out of there, you tubby bitch." A teasing smile played across Sam's lips but Dean could see the true emotions swimming in his brother's eyes.
"Guess I really do owe you huh?" Dean smiled, reaching out to put a hand on Sam's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. "How about I swap those male nurses for a really hot brunette?"
"Make it a blonde and you've it a deal." Sam grinned.
Both boys were laughing when John came in with the doctor a few minutes later. He could see that no matter lay ahead of them, whatever lessons life had in store for his boys. If they had each other, they would survive.
It wasn't the life he wanted for his sons, but as long as they were alive, John knew he was doing his job.