The Forest for the Trees
Disclaimer: The boys, the car, the concept and yes, sadly even the Eloko belong to someone else. I'm merely having fun.
Beta'd: By the irreplaceable, irrepressible, but never irresponsible Wysawyg. Be sure to check out her story in response to our writing challenge.
I had plenty of homework after she beta'd so any and all remaining errors are my own!
Challenge Issued: A oneshot of at least 2,000 words, but not more than 8,000 words using three prompts. The prompts are at the end of the story so as not to spoil it!
Phx and Banana4Dean: I haven't forgotten!
Time Line: Set between 'Home' and 'Nightmares'.
Dedicated: To R.C.
Dean leaned back in the booth, his belly content. The meals at this diner were large and tasty, Dean's two main requirements. His third approached the table and held up a carafe filled with coffee. "Top off your cup?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks," Dean replied and nodded towards Sam.
"No thanks, I'm good," Sam said.
Dean watched the waitress walk away before turning his attention back to his little brother. "So, this spirit in the woods, you really think it's a murder victim?"
"Yeah, I think so," Sam said. "I found a news article from 1949 about Matthew Haynes, an area farmer who went missing after he left the house to do the chores. The local police ruled him a missing person, but the general talk seemed to imply they thought he ran off with Greta Schultz, the neighbor's wife."
"So? People run off and have affairs all the time, Sam. It doesn't mean anything," Dean argued. He carefully stacked the seven unused cream containers into a pyramid, took aim and snapped the top container sending it flying towards his brother to land perfectly atop a mountain of uneaten mashed potatoes.
Sam frowned and pushed the half-buried cream container to the side with his fork. "Yeah, except they found Greta in the woods behind her house the next spring. She'd been murdered. The cause of death was nearly thirty blows with an axe."
"Someone would have to be pretty angry to hack someone else to death," Dean commented, shaking a soggy fry at his brother. "You thinking Mr. Schultz?"
"It would make sense," Sam said. He pushed aside his half-eaten plate of food and leaned across the table to speak to Dean in a hushed voice. "Bernard Schultz catches his wife having an affair with the neighbor, he follows them out into the woods where he kills them but only his wife's remains are ever found. I think the spirit could be Matthew Haynes. If he was murdered, he could easily be an angry spirit."
"He should have thought of that before he slept with another man's wife," Dean commented, popping another fry into his mouth. He started lining up cream containers again and Sam arched an eyebrow at him. "What?" he asked, catching the glare directed at him from his little brother.
Sam shook his head. "It's just…"
"What?" Dean asked again. He lined up the sight and snapped another cream container at Sam's plate. The flying projectile was easily caught by Sam. "Nice reflexes."
"It's just I'm not even sure where to start looking for Haynes in those woods other than in the areas the attacks have occurred," Sam continued as if flying cream containers were nothing unusual. "That still leaves us with a five mile radius to cover and if no one has spotted the remains in all these years…"
"There's probably nothing left there to be found," Dean finished. "Hey, it wouldn't be us if it were easy now, would it?"
A puff of laughter escaped Sam's lips. "I guess not," he conceded.
Dean nodded an affirmative and turned to flag down the waitress. Sam took advantage of Dean's momentary distraction by balancing one of the cream containers on his thumb, bracing it with his middle finger and flicked it like a beer cap sending it end over end towards Dean's water cup. At the last moment, Dean moved the cup away, not even sparing a glance at his little brother, and the container continued on to the next table where it landed in the soup bowl of a grandmotherly woman.
"I, I'm so sorry," Sam stammered an apology over his brother's chuckle. "I was aiming for my brother's glass." He blushed a hotter shade of red at the weak excuse.
"I think your aim needs perfecting," the woman replied with a twinkle in her blue eyes.
"That's what I keep telling him," Dean interjected, nodding in agreement.
"Shut up, Dean," Sam growled under his breath. "You're not helping."
"Not really trying," Dean said with a shoulder shrug.
"You had better try again," the gray-haired woman said good-naturedly, nodding at Sam. She fished the creamer out of her soup with her spoon and held it out for him.
"Don't even try it, Sammy," Dean warned, casting a hard stare in Sam's direction. "Eyes in the back of my head and I have nearly perfect little brother radar, remember?" The matronly woman laughed lightly and turned back to her own lunch, depositing the creamer in an empty coffee mug.
"You think you'd be able to avoid some of those knocks to the head with a skill like that," Sam groused.
"It doesn't work that way." The waitress arrived with their ticket and handed it to Dean. He turned his megawatt smile on her, handed her a twenty and asked, "That'll cover it, right?"
"Oh, absolutely, I'll be right back with your change." The waitress spun on her heel, but Dean caught her arm.
"Keep it, Susie," Dean said. His tone was innocent enough, but she was blushing.
"Ah, thanks," Susie stammered.
Dean released her arm and turned back to his brother taking note of the small smile of amusement on Sam's face. "What?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing, let's go." He stood to leave and Dean followed suit.
"What's your hurry, Sammy?" he asked. Sam quirked an eyebrow in his direction, but walked away without saying a word. Dean picked up the pace to catch up to Sam in the parking lot. "Come on, Sam," Dean said. "What's the matter? We have a case, you've already figured out what's going on, the only thing left is to find the body and take care of the spirit."
"That's just it, Dean," Sam said, furrowing his brow, the lines on his forehead deepening. "We don't really know for sure where to look. We might never find the bones or find out there's more to it than we originally thought."
Dean felt his own eyebrows rising in response and he motioned for Sam to continue. "So, what's your point? We still have to get into those woods to figure it out?"
Sam sighed. "I, I guess I just feel like we don't know enough about what's going on. I don't want to walk into this thinking we've got a handle on it only to be blind-sided by pixies."
Dean mock shuddered. "Those little pixies were like rabid Tasmanian devils on crack."
Sam chuckled and ran a hand through his bangs. "Yeah, and I don't want to have to stitch you up again if we can avoid it." Sam smiled. "We're running low on sutures."
"Nice to know you care," Dean said, amused sarcasm lacing his tone. "It's the same as always. We, well you, research the best you can and then we go out there and figure out what's really going on. We're to the field trip part of this hunt, Sam. Time to hit the woods."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Sam conceded. The passenger door opened with a welcoming squeak and Sam sat down in the seat.
Dean joined him on the driver's side and started the engine. "Of course I'm right, I'm the oldest."
Sam puffed a laugh. "You are old."
Dean narrowed his eyes at his little brother before flicking his wrist and cranking the music louder. Sam opened his mouth to protest and Dean said, "If it's too loud, you're too old."
He bit back a laugh at the look of disgust on his little brother's face and ignored Sam's muttered reply. "Or you're so old your hearing is already gone." Dean pulled out of the parking lot and heading for the old Haynes' farm.
An hour later, they were out in the woods behind the old farm searching for signs of either the spirit or his remains. Dean hunkered down into his coat as the cold, late fall Minnesota wind picked up again, burning his ears. The rain dripping into the collar of his leather jacket and down his back caused a shiver to race down his spine. Why spirits insisted on haunting the most miserable and desolate of places defied all rational explanation. Just once, he would love to be on a hunt that took place in sunny, California or the warm, dry heat of Arizona rather than the bible belt Midwest in rain, sleet and snow.
Ahead, Sam trudged through the rain-covered leaves that slicked the path of the quiet woods, with his hood pulled over his head. The rain that pelted Dean's head and coat and slipped down his collar was soaking his brother's jacket and hoody causing it to hang heavily off his lanky frame. At least Sam had started eating and sleeping more regularly again and his clothes no longer hung off him like the hand-me-downs he wore for so many of their childhood years. That is, until Sam unfairly grew taller than him and threatened him with his hand-me-downs.
The rain muted the landscape and colored the world in shades of gray and brown. He was ready to be done with this hunt already. "Sam, any sign of it, yet?" Dean called as the wind kicked up again and whipped his words away. Predictably, his little brother did not hear him. The tops of the trees waved with the wind and branches danced in conspiratorial anger. Dean shivered again. Maybe it was just him, but the air seemed decidedly colder and he knew that something was nearby.
An owl hooted and Dean scanned the trees looking for the bird of prey. He spotted the large, brown bird perched on a fallen log. It seemed odd that a large bird, dependent on hunting would sit so close to the ground, but then again, the wind might be too much for even the owl's strong talons.
It hooted again before flying off, crossing Sam's path and up into the trees on the right. Sam ducked out of reflex when the owl flew by; its wing tips nearly close enough to Sam's head to brush his hair. He paused for a moment, looking in the direction the owl had flown before he resumed walking down the path.
"Sam, look alive!" Dean shouted, louder this time. The giant pines and spreading deciduous trees surrounding them creaked as they swayed, adding percussion to the steady tinkling of falling rain. Sam turned around to face him. He shouted something back to Dean, but the only word Dean made out clearly was his own name. It was time to catch up to Sam and get on the same page.
Sheet lightning flashed high in the clouds and although daylight still filtered through the thick cumulous the afternoon was headed into evening. The flashes of light filled the woods in an intermittent pattern. As Dean picked up the pace, a frigid breeze blew past him. "Sam!"
He ran towards his brother, his boots slipping on the saturated ground of slick pine needles and the slippery leaves. He skidded to a stop and wind-milled his arms to maintain his balance, when a short, green man appeared directly in the line of path to his brother. "Sam, something's here!" Dean called over the rain. The tiny man was green and his face resembled a wild bore, with beady eyes and a large snout.
Dean pulled out his sawed-off and took aim. The animate shrub scowled and came rushing towards him at high speed and the bone-chilling impact caused Dean to fly backwards. He fired the shot gun shortly before landing hard on his back on the soggy ground, his breath knocked out of him.
"Sam, look out," Dean said, his voice coming out as a mere squeak. Several long seconds ticked by before Sam appeared, standing over him. He blinked against the raindrops hitting his face. Sam grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet in one motion.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked. His lips twitched and Dean knew he was holding back a laugh. He must have hit it or scared it off or Sam wouldn't be on the verge of what could only be classified as giggles.
"I'm fine." Dean brushed his hands off on the front of his jacket. He glared at his little brother. "What?"
"I'd say your problems are behind you," Sam smirked. He shoved his hands into his coat pockets and chuckled.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asked suspiciously.
Sam merely chuckled and gestured to Dean's posterior with his hand still firmly planted in his pocket. Dean craned his neck and twisted to get a better look at his backside. He was covered in mud and pine needles. An errant leaf bobbed up and down, pelted by the rain. Dean turned back around to Sam and smirked. The double-dimpled smile on his brother's face slowly faded.
"What?" Sam's face crinkled in confusion.
"It's just," Dean explained. "I'm not the one on laundry duty this week. Two hours from now, I'll be dry and warm and enjoying dinner and you, my brother, will be washing clothes." Dean clapped Sam on the shoulder and walked over to the approximate spot the spirit appeared.
"You'll be washing clothes," Sam mocked, muttering under his breath.
"What's that, Sammy?" Dean asked, turning to look back at his little brother. Sam had a guilty look on his face and he kicked the muddy ground with the toe of one boot.
"Nothing," Sam mumbled. He caught up to Dean and threw him a quizzical look. "What are you looking at?"
"It didn't look like a spirit to me and it just stood there until I pulled out my gun," Dean explained. "He looked more like he was going to invite you to tea and compets than attack."
Sam's lips curled into a smirk of his own. "Crumpets."
"Whatever," Dean said, barely pausing to acknowledge the correction. "It just didn't look like a normal pissed-off spirit to me."
"What did it look like?" Sam asked.
"A freaking bad rendition of Audrey II," Dean said. "Short, squatty, corporeal…" He grinned. He'd been waiting to use that word on Sam since Lost Creek.
Sam frowned and bent low to examine the ground. He looked up at Dean, lips parted and eyebrows raised. "Footprints."
Dean crouched down next to Sam. "What the hell is going on, Sam?"
"I don't know." Sam brushed soggy leaves away from a rapidly filling footprint. "These are small. Even if it had been Haynes' spirit and it had somehow left footprints, they'd be much bigger than this."
"The prints look human, but whatever it was, it was only about three feet tall," Dean said. Sam felt his eyebrows crawling up into his hairline, but he hoped his hood hid the action from his observant brother. "What?" Dean asked.
No such luck. "Nothing, Mulder," Sam said. A sound on his right drew Sam's attention to the trees.
"Let's go," Dean said, leading the way towards the creaking pines. He held the shot gun at ready, holding it out ahead.
Sam followed, his own gun drawn. The storm seemed to be passing and the rain was slowing. The wind had kicked up a notch however and the air had dropped several degrees with the sinking sun. Sam zipped up his outer jacket, but it did very little to keep the cold wind from blowing through his wet clothes.
Dean stopped abruptly in front of him, aiming his gun at something in the trees. Sam brushed wet bangs out of his eyes and squinted into the shadows. A man, if it could be called that, was standing near a cluster of trees. Dean was right, he was only about three feet tall. He wore a leaf loincloth and appeared to have hair all over his nearly naked body.
Sam slowly approached his brother. "Dean?"
"I dunno, Sam," Dean admitted. "I was kind of hoping you knew."
"It looks vaguely familiar, like something I may have read about," Sam said. He ran possibilities through his brain and started ticking off the ones he knew it couldn't be. Somewhere his mind registered the tinkling of a bell, but he ignored it, intent on figuring out what exactly he and Dean were facing.
Later he would insist the bell distracted him from hearing Dean's warning call in time. He looked up as the creature raced past him and up the nearest tree. A blast from Dean's shot gun followed, but the little man jumped from the branches of the tree and landed on Sam's chest.
Sam grabbed a fistful of the creature's hair, hoping to keep it in one place long enough for Dean to help him. The creature continued downward not even slowed by Sam's grip. His claws left long scratches as it continued its descent. He barely registered the blur of green as the dwarf sprinted deeper into the woods.
"Aaaggghhh," Sam groaned. He clutched at his chest and bent over in pain. Dean's hands encircled his arms, forcing his to stand upright. Concerned green eyes met his and asked a silent question. "Go," Sam forced out. "I'm fine."
"You're not fine," Dean countered, his fingers pulling open the slashes in Sam's shirt to get a better look at the wounds.
"Fine enough. Go." Sam waved in the direction the creature had gone.
Dean hesitated only a moment longer before he said, "Keep your eyes sharp, Sam." He waited for a nod from Sam before taking off after the creature.
Sam took in gulps of air, trying to force back the pain. He straightened and examined the hair clenched in his fist. It looked like grass. Sam lifted it to his nose and smelled it. It was grass. What the hell? Is that even possible? There shouldn't be any Eloko here.
He heard bells again, this time sounding more distant than before. "Dean?" Only the wind answered. He couldn't hear the bells anymore, but somehow that wasn't terribly reassuring. He took a step in the direction his brother had headed. "Dean?"
A loud cracking sound caused Sam's head to snap in the opposite direction. He didn't see anything at first, until a large falling pine tree was hurtling towards him. He reacted, but it wasn't quick enough. He wasn't going to get out of the way in time. Branches hit his back, shoulders and head driving him to ground.
He lay in the mud trying to catch his breath against the pressure on his chest. Stupid little dwarf. He couldn't really be sure the Eloko was behind him getting tackled by a tree, but he was sure enough to curse it again with what little breath he could muster.
He could hear the muffled sounds of his big brother frantically searching through the branches. "Sam!"
"Yeah, Dean, over here!" Sam tried to wriggle out from under the tree, but his numb fingers were of little help and his foot was trapped. A branch snapped back and hit Sam full in the face. "Ow, Dean I'm right here!"
A flashlight hit his eyes and Dean's face peered through the pine needle branches. "Sam, thank God." Dean broke off a couple of branches to keep them out of Sam's face. "Can you move?"
"Yeah, but my foot's stuck." Sam frowned as the flashlight hit him in the eyes again. "When did it get so dark?"
"I've been searching for you for over thirty minutes," Dean explained. "I lost track of that thing and then I couldn't find you."
Sam could hear the concern and the suppressed fear in his brother's voice. More branches disappeared and he could breathe easier. "Huh, I must have passed out."
"Ya think?" Dean tugged on his jacket. "I thought you might be playing Hide N' Seek."
"Funny," Sam grunted. "Ow! Hey, stop."
"Foot?" Dean stopped pulling and shined the flashlight back into the heavier branches.
"Looks like you might be stuck under that big limb right there." Sam craned his neck to see where the light pointed. The limb Dean referred to was easily the diameter of a small tree. "Can you feel your foot?" Dean asked.
"Definitely," Sam groaned. He heard Dean rustling around in the branches behind him.
"Sammy," Dean said. "When I give the word, pull your leg out."
"Okay." Sam said. He braced himself on his elbows so that he could scramble when Dean gave the word.
"Now, Sam," Dean said, his voice straining against the effort.
Sam army-crawled out from under the fallen tree and Dean was instantly at his elbow helping him stand. Sam put weight on his foot and a sharp pain throbbed through his ankle. "I don't think I can walk," Sam confessed through gritted teeth. Stupid grass-covered dwarf.
Sam could practically hear Dean's wheels turning. They were wet, it was cold and an Eloko was out roaming the woods. They really couldn't stay out here and he couldn't walk. "Think you can make it over there?" Dean shone his flashlight to a spot only a few feet away. "I'm going to look for something even remotely dry to burn."
"Yeah," Sam said. Dean helped him balance as he hopped the few feet to the clearing. "I think I figured out what that thing is."
"First things first," Dean said. He settled Sam down on an old fallen log. He shrugged off his backpack and started rummaging through it. "Fire, first aid, then the creepy little guy on 'roids."
"It's been raining all afternoon, I don't think you're going to find anything to burn," Sam said.
"It's getting cold, you need a fire," Dean stated calmly. He searched the area for anything to burn.
"Dean, don't worry about me," Sam said. "It's obviously not a spirit that's hurting people, it's the Eloko and that's a whole hell of a lot worse."
Dean continued to gather a pile of saturated wood. "Don't worry about you?" Dean exploded, ignoring the rest of Sam's words. "You do realize you could have died when that tree fell?"
Sam grabbed Dean's sleeve and pulled him to a stop. "I'm sorry."
"You're sorry?" Dean asked, his voice still hoarse with emotion. He swallowed and his next words came out normal. "You're sorry?" His green eyes bore into Sam's hazel. "Don't be sorry, Sammy. Just…be careful."
"I will," Sam said quietly. Dean nodded after a beat and Sam continued, "The Eloko is a dwarf, human-like creature that feeds on human flesh. According to legend, it can open its jaws wide enough to swallow a person whole."
"That's just great, Sam," Dean said. "Any idea how we get rid of it?"
"First we need to draw the charm symbols around us to keep us safe from the bells," Sam replied. He squinted against the flashlight in his eyes and pushed Dean's hand away. "You mind?"
"Sorry," Dean apologized. "Seriously? Bells?"
"You didn't hear them before?" Sam asked.
"Bells?" The look on Dean's face spoke volumes: his quirked eyebrow and half a smirk visible even by deflected flashlight.
"Yeah, Dean, bells." Sam frowned and rubbed his ankle absent-mindedly. "The Eloko confuse people using enchanted bells. You really didn't hear them before?"
"Ah, no," Dean said. He walked behind Sam, pulled off his soggy hood and sifted through his hair. "You do have a lump back here."
"Knock it off, Dean," Sam said, his voice lacking heat. "I'm serious."
"I know," Dean replied, walking back around the log and meeting his brother's gaze. "That's what worries me."
"Ha-ha," Sam said. "We need to work on those charm drawings."
"If that just keeps it away, what kills it, Sam?" Dean asked.
"I don't know," Sam admitted. "These things are from Zaire, Africa. They shouldn't even be here."
Dean squinched his face and shook his head. "Africa? It isn't the first time we've had emigrating supernatural creatures, but an African dwarf in a bunch of Minnesota 'we're so Scandinavian it hurts,' woods?"
"Wendigo in Colorado?" Sam shivered and shifted to look at Dean.
"Point taken," Dean conceded. He paused for a moment, his face drawn in concentration. "Guess we'll go with a silver bullet to the heart. It always seems to work best with an unknown variety of weirdness."
Sam puffed a laugh. "Yeah, it does." He slowly eased himself to the ground and picked up one of the kindling sticks Dean had gathered.
"What're you doing?" Dean asked, tugging on his jacket. "You're wet enough without sitting on the ground."
"I'm drawing the charm symbols into the mud. Hopefully, that will work. They're supposed to be carved into antlers." Sam snagged the flashlight from Dean and started to outline the first symbol.
"You know the symbols?" Dean asked, his eyebrows arching.
Sam tossed him a disgusted look and resumed etching the symbol. Of course I don't know for sure, I'm guessing here. Can't you see how much that scares me?
Dean patted Sam on the back. "Of course you know the symbols. Geek boy strikes again." Dean crouched down into Sam's line of sight. "But, you know – I'd be okay with a Sammy guess. They're better than most people's facts."
A smile touched Sam's lips. "Thanks." He finished the second symbol and glanced briefly in Dean's direction when he moved away to start the fire. "You think you'll be able to get anything to burn?"
Dean's smirk was only visible in his tone. "When has that ever been a problem for me?"
"Point taken," Sam replied returning Dean's earlier words. He crawled a few feet to the next spot, brushed away pine needles and soggy leaves and started the final symbol. "I hope this works."
"It'll work," Dean reassured him. Dean grasped Sam's arm and helped him stand and limp back over to the fire. It was mostly smoke with a few sputtering flames, but it was burning. The heat quickly dissipated into the frosty air, so Dean had pulled a log for Sam to sit on very close to the meager fire.
Sam sat with his back braced against the large fallen log, his legs bent, stretching towards the fire. The brothers sat in silence as the valiant fire fought for life. It snapped and crackled sending glowing embers floating up in the night air. The stars shone brightly in the crisp night sky, the thick layer of clouds having moved on with the storm. Sam shivered and hunkered down into his wet jacket, the cold fibers nipping at what little warmth the fire provided.
He watched Dean get up to gather more wood, the flashlight bobbing in the nearby trees. He felt guilty sitting here by the fire while his brother searched for something to burn. If he had been quicker, if he hadn't been distracted by the bells, he wouldn't have gotten hurt and he wouldn't be keeping Dean out here in the cold when they should be hiking back to the car. He knew Dean would have found the Eloko if he hadn't been searching for him.
He blinked tiredly and rubbed his ankle. Thank God it wasn't broken. He leaned back against the log and rubbed his eyes, trying to keep from falling asleep. "Look alive, Sammy," Dean said, dropping an armload of wood near the smoldering fire. "You can't sleep. It's too cold out here."
Sam nodded and shivered. "I'm awake." He shifted and his ice-stiffened jeans crinkled with the movement. It was cold. "What time is it?"
"Too early," Dean said. He turned to look at Sam, concern etched in every minute wrinkle by his eyes. "It's going to get colder."
"Fire's helping," Sam said. He rubbed his hands together, the movement pulled on the forgotten scratches on his chest. "What're you doing?"
"The wood's drier on the inside," Dean said with a smile. He had wedged a piece of wood into a crack of the log he had found and was lining up a rock to hit it. "Should burn cleaner."
"Smart," Sam said. He leaned his head back against the log. He felt a headache on the way. He was startled out of sleep again when cold air hit his chest. Dean shone a flashlight on the scratches he'd received from the Eloko earlier and he was making harrumphing noises.
"They don't look too bad," Dean commented. He rummaged around in the open first aid kit and pulled out the disinfectant. Sam gasped when the cold liquid hit his chest. "Almost done," Dean reassured him. A clean bandage later and Dean sat down next to him on the larger log.
Sam's eyes drifted closed while Dean busied himself with repacking the first aid kit and stoking the fire from his seat on the log. "No sleeping," Dean lectured, nudging Sam with his shoulder. "Stay awake, Sammy."
"I'm not sleeping," Sam protested. Okay, so maybe I was sleeping a little. "Hey, the fire's burning hotter."
"Mmm, but you weren't sleeping," Dean commented, his tone belying his disbelief. He nudged Sam with his shoulder. "Sing."
"What?" Sam asked. He sat up straighter and furrowed his brows.
"Sing." Dean repeated. "It'll keep you awake."
"I don't sing," Sam protested. "You know that."
"I know you don't sing well," Dean said with a small chuckle. "But it's okay, Sammy. I won't laugh."
"Whatever," Sam grumbled. He crossed his arms for warmth and sat in silence until his head snapped backwards when he started to doze off again. He looked around quickly to see if Dean had spotted his head bobble and caught the look of concern in his brother's eyes. "Don't look at me like that."
"I'm not looking at you any way," Dean protested. He fixed his gaze on Sam for a moment longer before turning back to the fire. "Tell me more about the Eloko."
"Dean," Sam said, he winced at the whining tone in his voice. Dean nudged him with his shoulder and Sam sighed. "The Eloko are said to be spirits of ancestors who have a grudge to settle with the living and that is what makes them so malicious. They have grass for hair and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. According to myth, they live in the deepest, darkest part of the rainforest guarding treasures of rare fruit and game."
"Do you think it's here to settle a grudge?" Dean asked.
Sam hid a smile. He knew what Dean was doing. "I don't know, maybe."
"It doesn't really matter," Dean said. "I don't care why it's here. That thing dies tonight."
"I don't think we're going to find the Eloko in the dark. It's nocturnal. There's no way we'll be able to sneak up on it and…" Sam stopped talking when Dean waved his hand in a gesture of silence. Sam tilted his head and listened, hoping to catch sight of whatever had caught Dean's attention. The woods had gone silent.
Dean's stomach rumbled. Sam threw him a look of disbelief and Dean shrugged an apology. He snapped his head to the right and that's when Sam heard a light rustling sound in the underbrush. He squinted and leaned back in surprise, his eyes opening wide when he realized what he was seeing. Two red eyes peered out from the woods.
A blur on his right was the only warning he received when Dean stood to take aim at the Eloko. Two shots from Dean's weapon and the red eyes bore down on his big brother. It moved with feline quickness and as it drew closer Sam could see its snout was open wide, razor sharp teeth bared and ready. "Dean!"
Dean fell to the ground, the Eloko at his throat. "Dean!" Sam fumbled with the weapons bag at his feet and drew out his gun. He searched for the flashlight, flipping supplies out of the pack, but he came out empty-handed. Dean must still have it in his pocket.
Sam tossed the bag to the side, stood and limped towards Dean. He lifted his gun to fire, but he could not get a clean shot. The Eloko had stretched enough that it covered almost all of Dean's form.
"Aarrgh!" Dean's muffled shout of pain came from beneath the grassy mound of cannibalistic dwarf. Dean frantically kicked his legs and the grassy Eloko wavered, but held firm. It emitted grunting, pig-like noises as it fought with the eldest Winchester.
He needed to risk the shot. Sam fired his gun and the booming shot was matched by Dean's weapon. The Eloko squealed loudly and shuddered. For a moment, neither Dean nor the Eloko moved and panic fluttered in Sam's chest as he hobbled to his brother. "Dean?"
The grass-covered dwarf fell to the side as Dean sat up. "Yeah?"
"You okay?" Sam asked, his breath hitched once before he settled it back to normal.
"Yeah," Dean groaned. "That damn thing bit me." Dean staggered to his feet and held a hand to his shoulder. "I'm not going to turn into one of those things, am I?"
Sam knitted his brow and his lips twitched. "Well, you do seem a little short…"
"Funny." Dean walked over to Sam and placed his hands on his shoulders. He spun Sam around and pushed him back towards the fire.
"Oh come on, it's a little funny," Sam insisted, using Dean's own words against him.
Dean chuckled. "Maybe a little."
The brothers huddled by the fire as the morning rays shone through the woods in beams of soft yellow light. Sam looked at Dean, covered in mud, torn shoulder still oozing a bit of blood, his hair standing up in all directions and he had to chuckle.
"What?" Dean asked, his scrunching in confusion.
"You look like crap, Dean," Sam said. He reached for the backpack and pulled out the first aid kit.
Dean's face screwed up and he quipped, "You're not looking so hot there yourself, little brother." He watched as Sam pulled out the peroxide and several clean bandages. "What're you doing?"
"I should have cleaned the wound on your shoulder earlier." Sam poured peroxide into the wound and Dean hissed.
"You're bedside manner is lousy," Dean said.
Sam bit back a retort and grimaced, jutting his chin in the direction of the fallen Eloko. "Is it melting?"
Dean looked over his shoulder at the Eloko and then back to Sam. "Awesome."
"It's disgusting." Sam wrinkled his nose and pursed his lips. He finished taping the last of the bandages to Dean's shoulder and repacked the kit.
"So are you." Dean smirked, grabbing the kit away from his little brother.
Sam huffed and rolled his eyes. Dean smiled and knelt down next to Sam. He pushed up Sam's pant leg and pulled down his sock. He took a good look at Sam's ankle for the first time. It was a reddish-purple color and swollen to twice its normal size.
"It doesn't look too bad," Sam commented. "I'll be fine."
Dean knew Sam was hurting. "We'll take it slow, but I'm going to wrap it just to play it safe."
Sam nodded. Dean removed the elastic bandage from the kit and wound it around Sam's ankle. It didn't look broken, but it had to hurt like hell. When he was finished, he pulled Sam's pant leg back down, pulled out two pain pills and stowed the first aid kit.
Wordlessly, he handed the pills to Sam and one of the remaining water bottles from the backpack. He nodded his approval when Sam swallowed the pills and drank half the water bottle without protesting.
Dean stood, walked over to the fire and kicked mud over the nearly extinguished flames before flinging the weapons bag over his good shoulder. Sam handed him the half-full bottle of water and Dean drank it in one gulp. He crushed the bottle before stuffing it into his coat pocket and carefully pulled Sam to standing.
"I could really use some coffee right about now," Sam said.
"Yeah," Dean agreed, walking slowly beside Sam and holding a portion of his weight. "And pancakes."
"We could go back to the diner and you could practice your creamer flicking," Sam suggested.
"Me? You're the one who hits innocent bystanders." Dean quipped. By the stiffness in Sam's stance, Dean could tell he was trying not to lean on him too much.
"You moved your cup," Sam protested. He drew in a sharp intake of breath when his foot hit a dip. His ankle gave and he stumbled to the right.
Dean grunted under the effort of holding Sam upright. "That's a great argument, Sammy." He adjusted the pack and pulled Sam's arm across his shoulders. "Dean, I would have hit the crazy dwarf – but he moved," Dean teased in a whining voice.
"Whatever," Sam muttered. Dean chuckled and Sam smiled. The rising sun warmed the air and Sam yawned.
Dean cast an appraising glance at his little brother. Sam was tired, hurting and they still had a long walk ahead of them. Unfortunately, at the rate they were walking it might be a week before they got back to the motel.
The walk continued in relative silence broken only by occasional grunts of pain from Sam or half-muttered curses from Dean. Chirping birds and winged insects flying past added to the sounds of the slowly awakening woods. Dean noticed his brother's flagging endurance and guided Sam to a smooth boulder.
"Time for a break," Dean announced. He slipped off his backpack and opened it, pulling out a water bottle and drinking deeply. He passed the bottle to Sam. "Finish it." Sam scowled at the barked order, but after a slight pause, he drank greedily.
"How far?" Sam asked.
"Not far," Dean reassured him. He squinted as he peered out into the trees. "At least I haven't seen any traces of more Eloko."
"Good," Sam replied. He wiped sweat off his lip with the sleeve of his damp jacket.
Dean frowned. Things were never good when Sam was rendered monosyllabic. "Ready?"
Sam simply nodded and Dean's worry notched up another level. Sam was fine, he was going to be fine, but he didn't like watching his little brother suffer either. He helped Sam stand and the journey to the car continued at a slower pace. Almost there, Sammy.
An hour later, sun glinting off the Impala's black paint could easily be seen through the thinning trees. Once Sam was seated in the car and the bags thrown in the back, Dean started the car. He turned to his brother and frowned at the pain he saw in the tight line of Sam's lips and the furrowed brow. "You know what, Sam? I changed my mind."
"About what?" Sam asked, turning to look at Dean.
"There's no way I'm taking my sweaty, stinky little brother into a diner. We're going through a drive through," Dean quipped. He pulled the Impala out onto the gravel road and slowly started back towards town.
"You don't smell any better, Dean," Sam said, leaning back against the seat and closing his eyes.
"Maybe," Dean conceded with a half a shoulder shrug. "But, I've still got two things you don't."
"Oh yeah?" Sam asked, sleepily, not bothering to open his eyes. "What's that?"
"Charm and good looks," Dean said with a smile. Sam opened his eyes long enough to roll them at him. Dean flicked on the stereo and Led Zeppelin filled the confines of the Impala as it made its way out of the woods.
AN: Wysawyg and I decided to have a writing challenge in an attempt to kick start creative juices. So, check out her challenge responses when she posts on her profile!
Prompts: Write a one-shot using the words blue, laundry and the Monster of the Week: the Eloko.