Thank you to every one who has reviewed. I love hearing what you think about the story. Special thanks to Raven524 and her genorsity in the fic auction, and thank you to Red Hardy, and Kyriebess.
"He shot Sam," Dean's voice was flat, his anger hot and scalding. Responding to the tone, Sam whimpered and pressed his face against his brother's stomach, confused and traumatized, and God help him, but Dean wanted that guy dead, even as his arm cinched his little brother closer, careful of his damaged chest. "Shhh," he whispered. "You're okay, Sammy. You're good."
His father didn't respond just glared out the windshield, jaw locked tight, grip, bloodless, on the black steering wheel.
Seconds ticked and then the stranger smiled, cold and apologetic –
John's foot slammed the accelerator as the gun fired, the bullet punching through glass as a ton of black metal dealt out Winchester justice.
A dull thud.
It was over.
"Dean?" his father twisted frantically in his seat, his eyes following the trajectory of the shot, his face paling as he stared at a spot just shy of Dean's right shoulder.
Slowly Dean followed the gaze and then swallowed hard. There, nestled in the seat back a mere inch from being lethal, was a perfectly round bullet hole.
"Holy shit," he breathed out, his body trembling. "Holy. Shit."
"You okay?" John barked already shoving open the driver's side door. Dean stared at the near miss. Sure he'd been almost killed on a hunt before but this was – was… Holy shit. "What about Sammy?"
That got Dean's attention. He looked down at his injured sibling, loosening the death grip he'd had on the kid when the car braked, and gave a quick nod. "He's fine." He tried to ignore the damaged seat. "We're both fine."
Dean watched his father crouch down at the front of the car torn between watching his father's back or staying to protect his brother. However if John needed him Dean would know and leaving an injured Sam went against basic programming.
John stood up slowly and turned to look at Dean. An unreadable look filtered across his face and then he glanced at the ground again.
"Dad?" unease prickled at the back of Dean's neck.
"Damn," John ignored him and got back in the car. He looked over his shoulder as he backed up, spun the car around and hurried away from the lake.
Dean tried to look, but a gruff, "Leave it," had him firmly facing forward again, his little brother limp in his lap. He winced at the damaged windshield. As if reading his thoughts, his father growled, "Gonna need new glass." He glanced at Dean through the mirror, "When I get to the hospital, you take Sam in and get him looked at." Before the younger man could ask, his father added, "Tell'em the kid had a pet boa, it got the upper hand." Sammy finally got a pet. Cool.
"Yes, sir." It'd work. Exotic pets were always a good old standby for explaining odd injuries.
"I'm going to call Bobby, see if he can help me with the cleanup."
Dean wanted to ask but soft panting drew his attention to more pressing matters. Broken or cracked ribs were a bitch. "Sammy?" he leaned over his brother anxious at his obvious distress.
"Hurts," came a soft whisper and Dean felt his stomach lurch. He hated hearing his brother in pain.
"I bet, bro," he murmured softly, briefly meeting his father's eyes again.
"Ten minutes, Sammy," John offered, his voice rough. "Just hang in there, son."
"Y'sir." Sam slurred a response then went limp again. Dean checked the bandages then willed the hospital closer.
"Any ideas?" John Winchester asked a grizzled and tired looking Bobby Singer as the two stood shoulder to shoulder and stared into the large bonfire on the beach. Leaving his boys at the emergency room had been hard but the bodies had to be dealt with quickly before any wandering locals happened on them. Luckily enough there was just enough bad karma around the lake that few people actually went there anymore but now that the beast and its accomplice were dead, that might change. Eventually. And no matter how much it tore him up to drive away he trusted Dean to make sure Sammy was taken care of and that the authorities bought the story. Damn but that boy was a convincing liar. Shaking his head with fondness, he watched as Bobby took off his hat and scratched at the top of his head with dirty fingers.
"I dunno," the more experienced hunter admitted, "You say this guy pulled a gun on Dean and you... it was the same guy? But different? Different ages?"
John nodded his head. "Dean's age, then mine."
"Did Sammy see him?"
"Not sure yet."
Bobby nodded in understanding. Sam's coherency had been minimal at best.
The image of the large snake swallowing his son darkened John's face. That was something he'd be seeing in his nightmares for a long time. Dean's too, he more than suspected.
"Then when you killed it?"
"Just what you saw," John gestured vaguely towards the burning carcasses. Thankfully they were going up fast. "A smaller version of that thing." It still unsettled him, and this whole hunt would go into his journal as one of the more terrifying and bizarre ones. He'd felt the car hit the gunman but instead of a body mangled beneath the wheels, he'd found a creature, a smaller snake like thing, a bloody smear on the road. Unsettled, John had rushed his family away, unprepared for questions he couldn't yet answer. He'd needed time to regroup and call Bobby, hoping his old friend and hunting icon could make sense of this.
Frowning, Bobby put the cap back on his head and turned to John. "A shape-shifter of some sort then, your gunman at least... Maybe aging to look less threatening? Most people trust other people their own age. Gotta find out if Sam saw it and if he did, how old it looked then…"
"Might explain how he got the drop on Sam too, that and the gun. He wouldn't have his guard up around another kid," John's gaze roved over the still lake, "I told him to stay away from the water… something convinced him otherwise." He considered what Bobby said. "Didn't need silver to kill it though," John mused, suddenly feeling incredibly old. "And that thing…" he indicated the monstrous snake again with a dismissive wave just as the mutilated body collapsed in on itself. "Bullets didn't do shit against it, we literally had to carve that sonnavabitch up to get to Sam."
"So all things considered, rather an easy kill, a quick hunt then. No special bullets, chants, herbs just a large enough knife, car… Good things to know but as to what it is, John, I'm stumped. I've never heard of anything like this before… We don't even know if we're dealing with a natural abnormality and a supernatural one that somehow got connected, like a shape-shifter and his really large pet, or one really messed up supernatural thing that has the ability to function as two different entities." Bobby grimaced as John shivered at the thought. "Hell for that matter, it could be a dinosaur and groupie. I'll put out some feelers when I get back and see… but I'm not too optimistic on it. I think that this, whatever it is, is new."
"Oh lovely," John snorted. "Just what we need, supernatural evolution."
Bobby shrugged. There really wasn't anything he could say. Sometimes an unknown was an unknown. "Hey," he asked after a moment, "You boys coming down my way for a few days when Sam gets out?" he continued on before John could protest, "I've got a windshield out back should fit the car."
John turned back towards the car. He'd forgotten about the windshield and hadn't even expected to be finished this job for another couple of days at least… A small smile twisted his lips, it would save them sleeping in the now air-conditioned car, give Sam a proper place to heal, and his sons loved Bobby's old junkyard, considering 'Uncle Bobby's' as a second home. Or perhaps for Sam, a first one. The thought saddened him and he sighed heavily. Damn that demon to hell. "Yeah," he nodded, "that would be great."
"Well good," Bobby briefly clasped a hand on John's shoulder before moving towards the road where his truck and the car waited.
"One thing really bugs me about all this though," the younger man commented as he matched his friend's stride.
"Only one?" Bobby challenged.
John ignored him. "What the hell happened to the guy's clothes?"
"I din wan go n'r the wat'r," Sam's words, slurred and soft, startled Dean.
"Huh?" After stunning the small town emergency room with a sordid tale of teenage boys and beloved pets gone wild, Sam had been rushed off to x-ray and had both the bullet wound and the gaping fang holes in his shoulder stitched before being settled in a quiet end of the triage ward where'd he been sedated with a concoction of pain killers and antibiotics, and left on a saline drip to combat a mild case of dehydration, courtesy of the food poisoning the poor kid was still recovering from.
Dean himself had been sent to the nearest bathroom to clean up and change into the spare clothes his father had tossed at him before taking off. Staff bought the story about him bravely disembowling his brother's 'pet' to save Sam's life, having no idea just how close to the truth it was. The only sting to his noble tale was having to take the blame for the bullet graze. It was easier to say Dean had nicked his brother in an ill fated attempt to shoot the 'pet' than explain an accomplice who looked eerily enough like a fantastical wizard.
"The wawa," the sixteen-year-old licked his lips and tried again, his eyes still closed although he was obviously awake, "Water. I din wanna go near it."
"That's good," Dean started slowly as he leaned forward in the hardback chair he was sitting in and stared into the still too pale face, watching as his brother's brow furrowed for a moment and then smoothed out. "Since dad told you not to."
Sam finally opened his eyes; they were dull and slightly gazed. His brother had been given very good drugs. "Hadda gun."
Suddenly the picture of what happened slid in place and Dean just felt sick, his own run in with the stranger adding vivid color. "Let me guess," he saved his brother trying to get it all out even as he grabbed the glass of cold water the nurse had left for Sam and held the straw to the teen's mouth so he could take a sip. "Weirdo guy with glasses and gun showed up?"
Sam swallowed slowly and then released the straw. It was obvious that he wasn't fully with it. As Dean put the glass back down on the rollaway tray the kid exhaled, "Yeah…" Eyes blinking lazily, the teen stared up at the ceiling as his good hand slowly moved towards his injured shoulder.
"Hey stop that." Dean grabbed the hand when Sam plucked at the bandages and gently moved it lower to rest against the kid's abdomen. "Doc's gonna be pissed if you mess up all his good work."
The younger hunter gingerly rolled his head towards his brother, a confused look on his face. Dean eyed him critically. "What else do you remember?"
For a moment Sam didn't say anything and then he bolted up in bed, crying out in pain as he tried to curl in on himself. "Snake," he gasped, "Big."
Dean grabbed him, careful of the arm cinched close to Sam's chest keeping it immobile. "Whoa! Easy there, Sammy," he soothed, "Not so fast. You've got a couple of cracked ribs."
Groaning, Sam was gently man-handled back against the bed. "Only a couple?" he gasped again, as a pain torn tear scalded his cheek. "I hate this."
"Can't say I'm too crazy about this either, dude," the twenty-year-old admitted as he sat back down in his chair.
Sam huffed and then winced. Yup, that would hurt for a while. Kid's chest was a mess of spectacular bruising.
Dean frowned and reached for the call button. He should let the staff know Sam was awake. "So, weirdo guy and a big snake. I'd say you got the important parts." If his brother didn't remember almost being a tasty treat Dean wasn't in a hurry to remind him. Someone should be spared remembering that.
"What else?" But Sam never was one to just let things go…
"What else what?" John Winchester arrived in the nick of time and Dean had never been so happy to see him knowing that once his father knew Sam's memory wasn't complete, he'd spare the kid as well. If Sam didn't remember, why let his over active imagination make it up? Junior had more than his fair share of nightmares as it was. They'd saved him, that was all he needed to know.
"Sam was just asking what happened," Dean supplied with an over achieving smile. "He remembers the guy with the gun, who just happened to be a hormone-raging teen like Sammy here." Out of the corner of his eye he saw his brother weakly raise his good hand and give him a one-fingered salute. John raised an eyebrow but let it go, "– and what exactly is up with that anyways? Are there three guys or one seriously quick aging dude? And then a big snake. Nothing else."
His father seemed to take a moment to process that and then nodded, leaning forward so his hands rested on the foot of the bed. "Bobby has a theory on that. He thinks it was some kind of shifter that was aging itself similar to its victim-"
"So it's not so threatening," Sam sighed out. The kid might be muddled and hurting but he wasn't out of the game.
That's my bro, Dean silently crowed.
"Sorry, Dad," the sixteen-year-old continued, "I let'em get the drop on me."
Dean looked at his father. John sighed, and rubbed at the side of his head like he was getting a massive headache. "I highly doubt that, Sammy," he finally said and then patted Sam's foot lightly before straightening up. "Get some rest, son. I'm going to see what I can do about getting you out of here."
The brothers exchanged a look, neither overly excited about spending the night in the Impala especially with Sam hurting the way he was; it was bad enough when the kid was just puke-boy. It might actually be better to let the teen spend the night in the hospital this once, but just as Dean opened his mouth to voice that exact thought, his father added, "You can drop the dog faces. We're going to Bobby's."
And no sweeter words had ever been spoken.
Sam's eyes were closed before his father had left the room and his brother settled in the horrid chair next to his bed. It never occurred to him that Dean would be anywhere else. He heard a tired sigh and the sound of paper rustling. His brother had obviously pilfered a magazine from somewhere.
Sleep tugged at his consciousness but Sam couldn't let go yet. There was still one more thing to check out. "Hey, Dean?"
Denim shifted against plastic and he heard his brother sigh. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?" Sam forced leaden lids open, each word was work, a drug thick tongue moving in a mouth full of cotton, but this was important. "You and Dad?"
"What? Us? We're good. We're fine." Dean seemed surprised, and then suspicious. "Why?"
Sam just stared dully at his older brother. Did he really need a reason to ask? But then, in a once again amazing demonstration of just how eerily in tune Dean was to him, the twenty-year-old rolled his eyes and huffed out. "Yeah. Yeah. I know. Like you need a reason…" With a flourish he opened the magazine – MAD? – and held it directly in front of his face mumbling something about "Emo bitches" and "little brother's worrying about the wrong things" and Sam grinned finally letting himself answer the call of darkness and knowing that hidden behind those pages his big brother was grinning at him.
And God help him, but that made everything all right…
His last conscious moment was a whispered, "Jerk," and then Dean's snorted chuckle followed him down.