This is a Round Robin story started over at CWESS (check us out!!) for our Halloween rendition of Supernatural – and why Sam doesn't like it.
Authors are: TammiTam, BlueEyedDemonLiz, Rozzy07, and Vonnie836 (appearing in that order from Chapter 1).
When the undead figures out a way to come to life, Dean has a problem with that … especially when the ghost chooses his little brother as a host!
Now would we start a story without some Limp!Sam and Overprotective!Dean?
Hey, the only things we own are the spelling mistakes! Kripke, you dog, you and the CW have full rights to the boys. Just don't mind us while we play awhile.
Hey, a special thanks to all of you who reviewed. I passed your awesome words on to the rest -- it was much appreciated!
Dean waved the EMF meter one last time over the outside of what must have been the tenth mausoleum he'd scanned for activity. Rough stone grazed against his fingertips as he lent a hand against the structure and then pushed himself off and away from it, growling his frustration in rough gravel tones. John glanced over at his son, sensing the raw anger which was growing inside Dean and threatening to explode out like a volcano.
"Nothing." Dean fumed stamping his numb feet on the ground against the bitter cold, although he didn't need to say it because the quiet EMF meter said more than enough.
John strode over to his son and removed the device from unwilling fingers. "We're not done yet." And with that he set off, heading towards a secluded part of the graveyard which had yet to been subjected to their increasingly desperate searching methods.
Dean followed on behind his dad, exhaustion and something more soul destroying weighing down heavily on his shoulders but his heart-rate suddenly picked up the moment he saw something moving in the distance in front of them. It was little more than a glimpse really, a spectral flash of brilliant white which only briefly caught the corner of his eye.
Dean squinted, straining to getting a better look as he realized that it was an orb, dancing and zigzagging in the chill air before disappearing into nothing. Dean blinked heavily then, wondering if it had even been real or whether tiredness truly was beginning to overwhelm him. But Dean knew better than to doubt his own two eyes, he'd seen enough weird shit in his life to rival any episode of "Twin Peaks" and he just knew the orb had to mean something important.
Dean darted forward, quickly overtaking his dad's quick pace and ignoring John's confused shout of his name, Dean ran to the spot where he had seen the orb. The orb had been hovering over a skewed gravestone, which appeared older than the ones standing around it and was badly damaged. The inscription was hard to read, the words faded from the passing of time and decades of standing sentry in all types of weather conditions. Dean lifted his hand and rubbed at the barely visible words, tracing the letters with his fingers and mouthing them in turn. "In loving memory of Peter Grenwell." Dean read aloud, feeling something akin to melancholy claw at his chest, "beloved son, died aged 16 years." There were more words on the gravestone, a date of death most likely but despite Dean's efforts to wipe away the accumulated years of grunge, the missing words remained illegible.
John crouched down by Dean's side and the EMF in his hand came to life, a static filled buzzing and a flicker of red lights which died away again almost as fast. They both glanced down at the now silent meter and then at the gravestone. Unspoken understanding passing between them, they stood quickly and hurried back towards the Impala.
"Aged sixteen years." Dean repeated to himself as he drew his lock-pick out of his pocket and fumbled momentarily to open the heavy wooden door. He really hoped the fact that Peter Grenwell was sixteen years old when he died and the fact his missing brother was sixteen didn't mean what he thought it might. Regardless, the whole thing was starting to leave a bad taste in Dean's mouth.
Once the door reluctantly creaked open Dean slipped inside and switching on his flashlight, he began to make his way through the deserted and darkened library building heading straight for the archive stacks which resided in the library's somewhat mouldy cobwebby basement.
John remained in the car, holding the tooth which they had found in the graveyard and leafing through his journal. Time passed, not much but long enough that John was growing anxious when the passenger door suddenly opened and Dean flopped bonelessly into the seat. His eyes were dark and his face tired but there was new light in the green orbs, which John picked up on instantly and smiled at the hope he saw reflected there. "So?" John pressed.
"So, Peter Grenwell died from a stab wound, October 30th 1868. His murderer was never found and..."
"October 30th?" John questioned. Today's date. The grim and highly unlikely accidental coincidence echoed through his brain.
"Yeah." Dean answered, his eyebrows drawing together. "The records showed he was stabbed in the heart, dad."
John tightened his grip on the animal tooth, feeling the sharp edge to it with the pad of his thumb. He held it out towards Dean. "You seen anything like this before?"
"It's a protection charm, isn't it?" Dean stared for a moment and then his mouth dropped open as realization dawned. "An Aswang protection charm."
John smiled and resisted the urge to ruffle Dean's hair. "Damn right. Been a long time since any Aswang crossed my path and this looks like it came from a Hexer."
Dean whistled. Hexers were rare, damn near extinct and one of the worst types of that particular supernatural breed. Aswang Hexers were half-human witches who delighted in torturing their victims before they ate their flesh. They cast spells which put objects under their victim's skin, usually needles or other types of vicious blade. Anything which would cause their victim pain and eventual death. Nothing pleased a Hexer more than watching their victim choke to death on bits of sharpened glass, driven into the flesh of their oesophagus. "You can kill them with an iron dagger, right, Dad?" Dean asked.
"An iron dagger to the heart." John confirmed with a nod.
"Peter Grenwell lived with his mother on Maple Avenue but I crossed-checked it with a modern street map and Maple Avenue is called Cooper Street now." Dean glanced down at his watch, not for the first time counting the hours that Sam had been missing. The need to be doing something, to be shooting or fighting or hammering his fist into some creature's face was growing increasingly difficult to ignore.
"Well then, what are we waiting for?" John revved the engine and the Impala roared into the night.
Sam woke to a world of pain and squeezed his eyes closed again in despair once he recognized exactly where he was. Second verse, same as the first. Cold metal trolley, small bare room.
There was a sniffle and he distinctly heard the soft sounds of weeping coming from somewhere in the room. Sam rolled his head to one side and saw the woman, Maude, crying as she stared back at him. "I didn't realize...You're dead." Sam whispered, stating the obvious but it was pretty much all his pain-addled brain could focus on.
"I've been dead a long time, child." Maude replied. "You made me hurt you. Please don't make me need to hurt you again." She said. "Peter will have a body, your body, he'll be whole and then I too will take a host. Then we'll be together, a family."
Sam groaned, pain dulling his concentration and threatening to drag him down once more into darkness, darkness which even now played a merry dance at the edges of his vision. "I have a family."
"Family." She hissed, outrage sharp on her tongue. "You hunters don't know the meaning of the word." The woman's voice rose to high levels and her ghostly image wavered in and out as though to emphasis her anger.
Sam struggled to lift himself up into a sitting position, he wasn't bound or drugged but the battered and beaten state of his body prevented him from moving easily and as he lifted his arm a bolt of ferocious pain shot through it and down the spasming muscles of his back. He bit back the scream which bubbled on his lips and sank back down. His face now pale and slick with a fine sheen of sweat.
Maude was at his side in an instant. Pressing her hand to his forehead in the universal language of motherly comfort. Sam cringed and closed his eyes. "I sent Abel to deal with your family. He's not entirely useless but I doubt he will have succeeded in his task. We can't afford to waste anymore time." She turned away from Sam and glanced with loving eyes towards a darkened corner of the room. Sam swallowed around the lump in his throat when out of the shadows emerged the ethereal image of a teenaged boy.
John walked with a confidence that belied the fear churning deep in his gut. He had to keep his game face on for Dean but deep down he was terrified that he had already failed him when it came to them saving his younger brother. He wanted to have hope, the faith that Sam would be okay but after so many hours gone logic told him that he was more than likely to find whatever was left of his body than the vibrantly alive teenager he had been so callous in leaving behind tonight.
The thought of his sensitive son in the hands of a Hexer made his blood run cold, his mind conjuring up images that made him swallow back bile. He had to keep himself in check, couldn't let Dean see what his fears truly were, or he'd risk losing him too. He had to let Dean have hope, have faith, when his own was flagging as reality kept making itself heard in his head. It had been hours since Sam was taken. Too many hours when he could have bled out or worse.
As they approached the solitary house at the end of Cooper Street, skillfully hidden from the main street by overgrown hedges and trees, John flagged with a clenched fist for a halt to their approach.
Turning around to his son he whispered, "Remember the plan Dean, shoot iron rounds to incapacitate if you can and then use your knife when you get up nice and personal."
Dean nodded; his eyes going wide on see dark stains on the concrete path leading up to the house. Blood. His baby brother's blood he guessed and he spat out. "I'm gonna kill the bastards who touched him. Fucking ripping their Hexie-freaking-Aswangy hearts out with my own two hands…."
"Get in line, Son," growled back John, his face reflecting his own anger as he turned back to assess the large house in the dim light. "You follow my mark Dean. I go in first, you guard the perimeter. If I find Sam I'll bring him out to you. I'll finish off the job after that. We clear here?"
"Yes, Sir, I understand," came back Dean's automatic reply, his voice flat disguising the scream inside of him for revenge. To pump a full clip of iron rounds into the first ugly he came across to make it suffer for touching his brother, before cutting its heart out.
"Make sure you do," warned John in return. As much as he wanted to go into the house with all guns blazing he didn't want both his sons to end up dead tonight. He hadn't remained alive all these years without keeping a clear head on his shoulders, no matter the emotions churning inside of him.
A flicker of movement caught his eye and he hunkered down behind an overgrown bush, pulling Dean down with him. He nodded in the direction of a moving figure, a hulk of a man, exiting the side of the building. He walked with a skilful ease that belied his bulk, silent in his footsteps, leaving hardly a trace on the grass.
Instantly John realized just how damn easy it must have been for the creature to sneak up on his unsuspecting youngest. An Aswang -- the half light revealing his true features, the human mask slipping and sliding away as his ungodly features rippled as he sniffed the air. A long lizard like tongue darted out and the creature stiffened, as if he could taste on his tongue their presence.
As the man-creature loped down the path towards them John drew in a steadying breath, the heavy weight of the iron knife in his hand a comfort. He looked towards Dean and whispered, "Go round to the back, and wait for me."
For a moment he saw a look of defiance open on Dean's face but it dissipated with nod of compliance as he made himself invisible, heading back into the shadows to make his way to the other side of the house.
John sighed his relief that Dean had followed his command. He wanted to be found, wanted to confront this fugly bastard that had touched his baby boy, but didn't want Dean to go head to head with it. Not till he had a chance to assess just how strong it was. Maybe hopefully take it down himself without putting his oldest in any danger.
Abruptly he shot up to his feet, and cocked a knowing look at the approaching Aswang, who made a startled jump backwards at the unexpected reveal. "Take it you're looking for me you ugly sonofabitch?"
A chuckle rose in a low rumble from the creature's throat, "I knew you were good, tracking me like this. Gonna make it an even more of a tasty treat when I eat your black hunters heart."
"Speaking of hearts…" growled back John in warning as the cocky creature raised a large fist to strike out at him. "You ready to lose yours?"
His answer was a screech that burned the air and John was left reeling as a meaty fist connected to the side of his head so fast it was but a blur of movement and instant pain.
John took the blow with a roll to the ground, seeing stars, surprised as just how quick the creature had been. Before he could get back up on his feet he was lifted up off the ground by a large hand clamped around his neck, crushing his windpipe, starving him of oxygen.
Instinct took over, knowing physically he couldn't match the raw power oozing from his attacker. Instead he leant forward and with a resounding smack smashed his forehead into its face, hearing the crack of bone with a grunt of satisfaction.
The creature howled at being on the unexpected receiving end of pain, grabbing at his shattered nose blindly, letting John dance away from his grip.
It was a mistake that John took full advantage of, snarling out his own warning, swinging his blade upwards in a vicious determined arc to plant it up to the hilt in the centre of the creature's chest.
A froth of dark liquid bubbled out with the strike and the Aswang mouthed a silent denial as he staggered backwards, in a disjointed jerk of limbs desperate to make it back to the house. To his Maude. To his family.
He only got another few steps before the iron blade worked its magic and he fell dead at John's feet.
John grunted out his satisfaction, pulling his knife is a sickening slurp from the dead creature's body. He kicked it for good measure when he straightened up, confident that the thing was destroyed. Vengeance felt good, revitalizing his need to get inside the house and finish off the job.
As he made his way to the back of the house John was left muttering a prayer, despite logic screaming in his head that his boy was already lost to him, that he'd walk out of the house with both Sam very much alive. That was after he had killed every single creature inside. Every creature that had dared tried to pull his family apart by threatening his baby boy.
The boy continued to slowly walk toward the trolley, or actually, he wasn't, it was more of a heavy limp than a walk. His frail looking body was hunched forward and he dragged his right leg behind him, the ankle dangling loosely from the joint. His hair was dark as Sam's and the shape of his face remarkably similar also. But what really made him look so much like the youngest Winchester, was the shape and color of his eyes. In opposition to his mother's strange violet coloration, his were hazel, changing from green to brown to blue in the flash of a moment.
Sam couldn't take his eyes of the ghost child, whose painful features seemed to beg from him for help. For a moment he was so pulled in by them that he sat up without feeling his own agony. Whatever the kid was now, it wasn't his fault and the hunter in training felt nothing but compassion for him.
The whispered words from Maude brought him back into reality and at the same time reminded him of his injuries. Dizziness and pain hit him with all their might and pushed him back down onto the hard metal surface with not too gentle force. Darkness threatened to take over again, yet fighting against it with all of his Winchester stubbornness; he was able to keep it at bay. Instead he watched the almost unbelievable scene unfold before him.
With incredible gentleness, Maude pulled her son into her arms, stroking the stray hair out of his face and singing a strange, yet soothing lullaby to him. The teen spirit relaxed into her embrace and slowly his eyes slid closed and his features relaxed. Now void of any pain and anguish, he looked even younger.
Even after falling asleep, his mother rocked him, quietly talking to him. Due to his keen hearing, Sam was able to pick up her words, yet was unable to understand the meaning. The language was strange to him and had an almost hypnotic quality to it. After a while she looked up at Sam, the smile on her face almost making her appear pretty.
"He wasn't totally like us, his father was human, you know. He was my husband and for a long time, he didn't know what I was. He was never supposed to find out, yet I wasn't the only one that had secrets. He was a hunter and when he found out what I was, he called on his friends and together they took Peter and tortured him, before they slowly let him starve to death." She paused for a moment and a crazed smile appeared on her face, "I ripped him and his friends apart with my own hands, before I devoured them."
Her attention shifted back to the boy in her lap, who was now shivering and moaning in his sleep. Again she sang and talked to him in the soothing language, making him almost instantly relax into her embrace again.
"You know, my kin lives on and keeps their powers even after death, many times becoming even mightier in this twilight. There is no need for us to constrict ourselves with new bodies. We can live and rule forever in this ethereal realm. No longer though, as your people found a way to destroy us even after they already took our physical life. Oh horrid salt and burn, how do I wish they never found this evil way of destruction!"
Her hands left her son's limp body for a moment, as she lifted them in a gesture of desperation. Pulling herself back together, she went back to gently stroke Peter, then continued her speech, "The only reason I'm still here is because they didn't get Abel. He took my body and hid it. With my new powers allowed me to cloak him from them and he became my only companion." She sighed, looking back down at the sleeping boy.
In a strange way, Sam felt sorry for the supernatural creature and her half blood son. He long ago accepted that the supernatural world was not always as black and white as his father and Dean wanted him to believe.
"But what about your son?" He asked with honest interest, for the time being forgetting what the spirit had planned for him.
A sad smile played around her bloodless lips, giving her an almost human appearance and deepening the compassion the young Winchester felt for her.
"Peter is only half my blood; because of it even in death he can't regain his strength. He is condemned to be frail of body and sick of mind, tied to his rotting bones for all but a day every fortnight. Only if I can find him a new vessel, one that is young, strong and healthy and can return everything his father took away back to him, only then can he be whole again. You are the one I chose, the perfect vessel."
A chill ran down Sam's back and this time it wasn't because of his injury, as the reality of his situation returned with overwhelming power. Grasping for straws, he said, "But I'm not healthy, your friend injured me and I know I'm going to die."
Not really having to pretend, he let himself sink back onto the smooth metal surface, purposely giving into the pain and giving it voice in a loud moan.
"Child, you underestimate me! You are nowhere near dying. Damaged yes, but even though, you are still so much stronger than my poor Peter. Yet as soon as he inhabits your body, his power will return and he will be whole. Then he will heal the wounds and nothing can stop him."
Wrapping his arms around his body to keep himself from trembling, Sam lowered his voice to an almost whisper, sure he wouldn't be able to hide the fear in it otherwise. He was a Winchester and because of that, wasn't going to let this bitch see him fear her.
"What are you going to do to me?"
This time her smile was self satisfying and evil, "I will speak the words of the ritual and with the last word spoken, will make a crosscut right above your heart with the sacred dagger. This will allow my son to enter your body."
For the first time the gangly teenager noticed the richly engraved weapon lying beside him on the table. Maude obviously knew it couldn't cause her or her son any harm, otherwise she wouldn't have left it within easy reach of the youngest Winchester. Letting despair take over, he closed his eyes, silently speaking his brother's name in the hope Dean would hear him. Yet Sam wouldn't have been his father's son, if he would have allowed himself in dwelling in self pity. He was not going to let Maude and Peter take over his body.
Watching as the woman made her way over to him, carrying her still sleeping boy in her arms, he realized that this time his brother wouldn't show up in time for a last second rescue. Unable to sit up again, he rolled to his side and took a hold of the dagger. With tears rolling across his face and down onto the cold metal, he couldn't help the sob coming from his lips, "I'm sorry Dean!"
With a last deep breath he plunged the weapon into his chest. The horror on Maude's face and the angry curse coming from her mouth were the last things he saw and heard before he let the warm satisfaction of his high cost victory guide him into dark nothingness.
Oh Dean followed orders, at least in part. He went around back and waited, John was, after all, his hero, and Dean never truly defied him. His whole life was spent being the good son, the one who excelled at everything John taught, who followed every order without question.
Except when it came to Sam.
Sam was his weakness, the one person that Dean would always drop everything for. Not that he wouldn't for dad either, but something happened to the boy of four when his baby brother was placed in his arms; and like it or not, there was no going back to that childhood innocence where his mother was always there to tuck him in, to keep him safe.
Dean knew damn well what lurked in the darkness – and it had Sam.
So Dean went around back – he just didn't wait there. Well, at least not longer than 30 seconds; probably the most patient he'd ever been when it came to protecting his brother. So after a quick pace back and forth (hey, dad never said how long he had to wait) Dean was getting out the lock pick and working on the ancient mechanism that seemed resilient to the Winchester charm.
But Dean wasn't a quitter, and no damn door was going to make him start now.
Maude let out a scream that was both fury and outrage as the sacred dagger drew blood … and not at the right time. Her scream roused Peter, but he was too weak to do anything more than stare uncomprehendingly as the boy they had taken to given him life lay on the trolley, his lifeblood seeping from a very mortal wound.
She was quick in moving, quick in settling her darling son down to rush to the hunter's son, the one that would be her salvation.
"Oh you bad, bad child…" She murmured before laying icy hands on his chest. The chill that ran down her arms, into her hands, then to the dying boy beneath them lowered the temperature of the room as frozen tendrils seeped into the cut, sealing it, stopping the flow of blood before it was too late … before the boy died.
Not that what they were going to do wasn't going to be worse, but it was for the greater good – her greater good.
But the hunter's boy, Sam, he failed to move, even as his lifeblood ceased leaking, even as the wound he'd inflicted on himself had sealed shut with her frigid touch.
"Oh don't you die on me now, Hunter…." And the sacred dagger was raised and drawn across flesh that had once been warm and very much alive. But instead of leaking brilliantly red fluid from the wound, what seeped from dead flesh was crystalline and so blue it was nearly white. It sparkled and shone like melted gemstones as it leaked from lucid flesh toward the slightly parted lips of the dying boy hunter.
"Now, Sam, you will…." But the slam of the door behind her startled her, causing a spin, the fluid that dripped splattering as she turn to face a very pissed Winchester.
"Get your dirty, dead ass away from my brother…"
Maude glanced back at Sam, at the droplets of her lifeforce splattered on his cheek, his mouth – so close.
"Didn't you hear me?" And the cock of the rifle drew her attention. She knew what that was, she'd been hit with one before. It stung, and for several moments in her excruciatingly long existence, she'd failed to be. It was almost like death, a real death where she didn't come back to this cold emptiness. But all that would change once Peter took on the life of this hunter's boy.
Which is why she risked the pain of the rifle by turning to smear her gashed wrist across his parted lips. Breathe, damn you! It was the last conscious thought she had before the blast echoed her into nothingness.
Dean watched Maude's ghost dissipate, destroyed, in a bright burst of light and winding wisps of smoke as the iron round hit her in the chest. Her ethereal form had been blocking Sam from his view and now that she was gone the true horror of what had happened to his brother was revealed to him.
Sam was laid out flat on a metal trolley; blood soaked clothes clinging to his slender frame. Blood. Dean's brain caught on that one word and stayed there, too much blood. Sam was pale and limp on the trolley, his head tilted towards Dean and his grey-tinged features softened as though in sleep. Dean stayed stock-still like a statue, vision blurring as hot tears formed and the reality of the situation slowly froze him to the core.
Without warning a strong hand gripped Dean's shoulder, shaking him hard and Dean's teeth rattled in his head but his pale green eyes refused to budge, even one inch, from the sight of Sam's body.
"Dean? What?" John dropped his hand away, gasping in great lungfuls of air as he sagged heavily against the doorframe. His boys, one son seemingly catatonic and the other seemingly....No! John moved with a burst of new found strength and surged forward, covering the distance from the door to the trolley where his youngest lay in a heartbeat.
Sam looked exactly as though he had bled-out, to the point where crimson puddles had formed on the concrete floor from the blood which had seeped over the thin lip of the trolley. It was like a scene taken straight out of one of John's worst nightmares. He'd watched Mary burn and now he was staring down at the lifeless body of his boy.
It took several painfully long minutes for John to shake himself out of the waking stupor he was under and reach out a hand to touch Sam's blood dampened chest. John fought away a wave of nausea as he slowly rolled up the heavily sodden t-shirt covering his boy's broken body. It took even longer for John to absorb the fact that while Sam's torso was peppered with nasty bruising and shallow cuts as well as a poorly stitched wound across his stomach, there were no injuries John could find which could account for the amount of blood covering Sam.
Even as he stood there, dumbfounded, John's eye's widened further in mounting disbelief as he noticed Sam's ribcage rise. It was such a slight movement--barely any movement at all--that John hurried to put his large palm over Sam's heart, needing to feel as well as see Sam's chest as it shuddered and then rose again. Little by little the rising and falling continued, growing steadily stronger each time.
"Sam." John's voice sounded scratchy as he rasped his son's name. "Sammy." Repeating it like a mantra, a prayer to whomever the fuck was looking down on them from the heavens. John wasn't a man of faith, not since Mary. He found his strength in the trust he invested in himself and his sons but right at that moment he felt like he could gladly pledge an oath and strap on a fucking clerical collar if it meant he got to keep Sam.
The sound of his father's desperately hopeful voice had Dean moving and promptly Dean was standing right by his dad's side, almost forcibly moving John out of the way in his bid to get closer to his brother. "Sammy, come on, come on back." Dean pleaded as he stroked a hand across Sam's forehead, feeling Sam's skin warming beneath his fingertips and watching as a soft pink hue returned to his skin tone.
Sam's eyelids quivered and then opened to slits to reveal confused hazel eyes. "Where's my mother?" Sam asked and it was Sam's voice, their Sam's voice, but not his words.
"Oh my God." Dean stuttered letting his hand drop away, "Sam."
Sam's eyes grew frantic as he stared up at the two tall strangers leaning over him. "Mother? Mother?" He begged brokenly, trying to lift himself up on weak arms. "Where is she? What have you done with her?"
John dove forwards and pinned Sam's wrists, holding his son down. "Dean. They didn't take Sam to kill him, they took him to use his body."
"He's possessed?" Dean gaped as his brother struggled futilely against John's iron grip.
"Dean, get my journal and some salt out of the duffel." Dean turned on his heels and stumbled across the room to the door where his dad had abandoned the duffel bag, hurriedly grabbing the items John had requested.
"Make a circle around us son." John used one arm to keep Sam restrained while his free hand flicked through the journal's pages. Turning page after page until he found the exorcism ritual reserved for spirit possessions. "Adjure te, spiritus nequissime, per Deum omnipotentem…" John felt Sam's struggles growing more frantic as the spirit possessing his son fought to stay. The air was icy to the point of feeling almost glacial, little clouds of vapour were puffed out from John's lips with every word he uttered.
But the frigid conditions did little to slow John Winchester; he continued to reel off the exorcism his words flowing into a steady stream. Sam's legs were kicking as though he was being flayed alive. When the exorcism finally came to an abrupt end, Sam's body jolted like an electric current had shot through him and then he sagged, eyes closing and his hands falling away from where his fingers had been digging into John's forearms.
"Sammy?" Dean whispered, eyes darting between Sam's still face and his father's anxious expression.
Time stood still for Dean as he watched his father put a hand to the artery in Sam's neck. The blatant relief, which erased the fear on John's face, seemed to tell Dean everything he needed to know. John didn't say anything; overwhelming emotions robbing him of the use of his tongue Dean guessed seeing as he himself felt much the same way. Instead his dad lent down and scooped Sam up from the trolley, not once letting his face show any signs of difficulty in lifting the strong muscular body which almost matched him in height. With a gruff nod in Dean's direction, John carried Sam out of the room.
It had been the longest of five days watching from the sidelines as Sam slowly recovered. Now the vicious wounds in his side were starting to heal over and the once vivid bruises were fading to just feint smudges on too pale skin.
For John Winchester it was a sign of victory that he had saved his child, although the stitches redone were still a painful reminder at how close he had come to losing him. Keeping infection at bay had been a battle but now they seemed to have turned the corner. It was enough to convince himself that his youngest son was well on the path to a full recovery, that all he needed now was for his oldest to see the same.
Dean for his part since the rescue had barely left his brother's side, hovering in an almost suffocating presence that left John more than a tad surprised that Sam hadn't started bitching about it yet. The one thing he had always trusted about his youngest son was his ability to verbalize his feelings. Having his big brother in mother-hen mode was bound to start rubbing him up the wrong way sooner rather than later. When that happened he knew that his youngest boy was well on the path to a full recovery.
Draining the last off his coffee John went to rinse out his mug in the sink when he heard the click of a door shutting and turned to see Dean walking towards him. He shook his head in worry as his oldest looked washed out, the dark stains under his eyelids and the stubble on his chin ageing him beyond his years.
John growled out a warning, "This has to stop, Son. Sam's on the mend and you need to take a time out from playing nursemaid to him. He'll never get back on his feet if you keep smothering him like this."
Dean eyed his father in return, "You don't get it, do you Dad? What happened to Sam in that room – it near enough destroyed him and you expect him to just bounce back and pretend none of it happened."
"Stop the dramatics. I know it was a close call here, but he's doing just fine now."
"Fine? How would you know how that kid is doing? You've barely said two words to my brother since he woke up. Hell, he's lucky if he gets you to spend a minute a day in the room with him, so how in the freaking hell do you know how he's really doing?"
"Knock it off, Dean. Sam doesn't need me hovering when he's got you babying him 24-7," snarled back John, knowing his son was right, that he had been avoiding spending time with his youngest.
It was his own guilt in abandoning him by the car, letting him get taken, that was still too much to want to deal, making it easier to let Dean continue to play the father to his youngest.
It had been the coward's way out; that much he could admit to himself. His youngest had the terrifying ability to see straight into the center of his being, weighing up the truth of something and judging him by it. It left him as a parent feeling vulnerable, a feeling he didn't like one little bit, and resisted being exposed to it whenever he could avoid it.
Finding his voice John countered the accusation, "As far as I can see that brother of yours is doing just fine."
"Jeez, Dad, fine isn't waking up with a silent scream on your lips, fighting down nightmare after freaking nightmare. Sam's too terrified to admit to them because he's more scared of you and what you might think of him than he ever was of those fucking monsters that near gutted him."
John sucked in breath, the anger rolling off of Dean beating at his walled defenses. "He just needs time, Dean. A month from now it's going to be like none of this will have happened. Sammy will be back to his usual bitching self and things will be back to how they've always been, him running us ragged wanting normal and kicking our asses when it doesn't happen."
Dean sank down onto a chair and cradled his head in his hands, his voice barely a whisper, "No, Dad, you're not listening. The fact is we lost Sam in that god awful place. We lost him, and I don't know how we can ever get him back whole again."
Confused John answered, "Sam just needs something to focus on other than himself."
Dean looked up at his father and put out a warning hand, "If you think dragging him off on another hunt is going to fix what's wrong with the kid then you really don't know him at all. Go talk to him, listen to what really happened in that room, and then come back and tell me he's going to be just peachy freaking 'fine'."
Still in denial John responded, "You're brother doesn't need me to hear what happened, I saw it with my own eyes. I know it was hard on the kid, but he will deal with this and move on as we always do…"
"Please, Dad, just for once go talk with Sammy. Make him feel that you really do give a damn about him. Don't let him think that he deserved to die because you think so little of him."
"He thinks that?" gasped out John, the stark realization that he had let his youngest down yet again by his absence hitting home, hard.
"Dad…." Dean paused, rubbing a weary hand over his mouth, blinking back tears, "He told me…Oh god… he did something…."
As a broken sob escaped from Dean, John clasped a hand on his oldest's shoulder, fighting down the panic pounding his chest, "What, Son, what did he tell you? What did he do?"
Green eyes swimming with tears Dean gasped out, "My brother picked up that bitches knife and stuck it in his own chest to stop from being possessed."
The color drained from John Winchester's face on hearing the admission that his own child had come close to killing himself. "No, Dean, no he wouldn't do that, not my baby boy..."
Dean continued, fisting away his tears with an angry admission, "He thought you would expect it of him. Sammy pushed the blade into the hilt, all because he was more scared of disappointing you than he was off those fuglies that had him. Now do you see how screwed up everything is, if my baby brother thinks he's better offing himself than ever daring to let you down again."
John felt his knees buckling; thankful that he could park his backside on the edge of the table to stop his fall.
His youngest had tried to kill himself. Had almost killed himself. Might have died, would have died, if that freaking ghost hadn't pushed her offspring into him, halting the damage done. The irony struck hard, that his child had tried to take his own life only to be saved by the very thing he had been trying to escape from.
Dean was right, everything was fucked up royally, but he just didn't know if he was emotionally equipped to deal with it and help his youngest in the process.
Slowly he pushed himself off the table, daring a glance at Dean only to flinch at seeing high expectation on his suddenly young again face. That he could be the father his brother needed him to be for once.
As he walked with leaden feet to the bedroom John silently prayed that his oldest child's faith in him wasn't going to be misplaced. That he wouldn't end up doing more harm than good, that he would be able to restore both his sons back to him.
As he opened the door and looked in, his mouth going dry at taking in the gangly form of his son battling against the throes of a nightmare.
Daring to approach, he sank down onto the lip of the mattress and instinctively drew his fingers to his son's sweat drenched locks. "Shush, Sammy, shush. Everything is going to be okay."
He wasn't prepared for the response from his youngest, how his body went rigid under his touch and his eyes flew open dark with fear.
"Sammy….it's okay. It's just me, Dad," crooned John gently, continuing to stroke the wet strands sticking to his son's scalp.
Warily Sam looked around the room, before glancing up at his dad, a frown marring his forehead as he asked, "Where's Dean?"
Masking his hurt at the rejection he felt, John answered, "Taking a break, Sam. I thought I'd take over for a while, if that's okay with you?"
A look of bewilderment flickered across Sam's face, and then a blush rose on his cheek on realizing whose hand was stroking his head. "It's okay sir, I don't need anything."
John lifted his hand away and dropped it into his lap with a sigh. Sam was shutting him out, a skill he realized sourly he had learned from himself. "Look, Son, all I want is for you to get better."
"I'm sorry," whispered back Sam, turning his head back into the pillow as a means of escape from the unexpected scrutiny he found himself with his dad.
"Sorry for what, Son?"
Realizing that he wasn't going to escape the inquisition he felt readying to explode from his dad, Sam was fighting against the throb in his side as his stitches pulled, struggled upwards onto his elbows, hating having to face his dad flat on his back, "You know, for getting caught, for failing you again. I guess you're right thinking that I'll never be good enough…couldn't do the simplest of things right."
Biting down on his tongue John took a long breath before answering, "None of this was your fault, Sam. I should have realized what we were really facing and never have left you on your own."
"It has to be me screwing up – after all those years of training I didn't even know he was there till he'd grabbed me. He was just so strong that no matter how much I fought him it just wasn't enough."
John's face went dark with anger at the memory of facing the monster that had dared slice open his son, "He was a filthy, evil monster that I'm glad I stuck him like a pig for what he did to you, Sammy."
Sam wilted on seeing his father's angry expression and whispered out a tired admission, "You killed him when I couldn't. Just like always, I wasn't enough and let you and Dean down. I just lived up to all the low expectations you have of me, right, Sir?"
John grabbed at his son's forearm and clenched it fiercely; remember in stark clarity what Dean had told him only minutes earlier. His child had come close to killing himself all because he had drummed such low worth into him. "Sam, what you faced, what you went through, well I'm still trying to get my head around it all. You survived when a lesser man wouldn't have. You've got to remember that, stop letting this eat away at you or you'll never get better."
Not used to such praise Sam hooked onto the negative behind his father's words, "I'm trying. I don't mean to hold you back."
"No Sammy, everything is on hold till I know you are well again. Nothing else matters. Not to me and certainly not your brother."
He watched the confusion in his son's way too expressive eyes and quickly confessed, "I swear I never ever wanted any of this to happen, for you to face this on your own and feel that any of it was your fault. You hear me, Son?"
John waited for an answer but his boy sunk back onto the bed with a weary exhale, retreating back into his shell and he knew that he was losing that chance of connection he had strived to reignite with his son and himself. A connection he had lost too many years ago to want to remember why or when.
A sigh of his own escaped as John fought against his desperate need to hug his boy and tell him just how much he his world revolved around him and his brother. At just how damned proud he was that he had survived despite his own father's fundamental mistakes as a hunter.
Head bowed he plucked up the courage to say, "Sammy, I know I seem like a hard-nosed sonofabitch at times, but the way we live, facing the things we do, I have to be. But that doesn't mean that I'm not your dad, first and foremost, please don't ever forget that. Don't ever think that I don't love you and Dean more than anything else in this sorry assed world we live in. You hear me kid?"
Darting a glance to his son when he got no response he smothered a desperate chuckle on realizing that his heartfelt confession had fallen on deaf ears. His youngest, face relaxed and seemingly pain free had fallen back asleep.
John felt his heart break a little more on seeing such youth and innocence still intact in his child, exposed in sleep that he kept guarded during the day. It was a gift he had almost lost a week ago. A gift Mary had given him and he hadn't treasured fully enough to keep protected from his own mistakes.
Shrugging off his boots he slipped onto the bed and pulled his sleeping boy into his arms, landing a gentle kiss on the crown of his head, "Love you kiddo."
The seconds ticked by and a few minutes later he heard rusty hinges squeaking as Dean shoved his head around the door, face falling open in astonishment at the sight of his dad hugging his sleeping and seemingly nightmare free brother to him.
"Dad?" he queried, wondering what had gone down between the two of them to have his dad showing such affection to his baby brother.
John smiled softly at his oldest and nodded to the other bed, "Go get some sleep, Dean. I've got this watch."
Three weeks passed since that fateful night in the graveyard. Sam felt like he was having deja vue. Sure, it wasn't the same graveyard this time, but it might as well, it felt just as dark and creepy as the other one. The night was just as windy and the air just as chilly, maybe even chillier, after all, winter was coming.
Overall things had gone pretty well during the last few weeks. He actually didn't have any arguments with his father, well at least no major ones. At first he really didn't feel up to it and later John acted so strangely understanding, that it took the fun out of any argument the youngest Winchester might have considered to start. And for all the whole three weeks neither John nor Dean went off on any hunts. That was until this morning, when his brother had gotten him up early and told him to pack supplies for the day because they were going out for a salt and burn.
The drive took almost nine hours and by the time the finally arrived at the town, it took them almost two hours to find the rural cemetery, where the remains of the spirit were buried.
Peeling himself out of the car, Sam was ready to wait by the car, after all, that was what he usually did, yet John surprised him by pressing a shotgun in his hands.
"We need you to keep watch, while Dean and I dig. The ground is starting to freeze and it will be a lot faster, if two of do it and your injuries are not ready to take the constant digging."
Excitement ripped through the young hunter, as he slowly realized the meaning of his father's words. Following behind the two older men, he decided, this time he wouldn't disappoint his dad. This was his chance to prove himself.
As soon as they arrived by the grave, Dean and John started in on their back breaking task, while Sam held the gun ready and slowly moved around, taking note of every noise and movement.
An hour the youngest son looked almost longingly at his father and brother, wishing he could share in their hard work in order to get warm. Even his coat did little to protect him from the biting wind, which picked up shortly after they started their tasks. So he was happy to hear shovels hit wood, because it meant they were almost finished. At almost the same time he felt the wind pick up even further and then the silhouettes of not one but two spirits appeared out of the dark nothingness. As they manifested more, he could tell they looked completely identical. As one of them whooshed down onto Dean, holding the older brother in a choke hold, and lifting him slightly up, the other grabbed on to John and threw the older man against a tree standing several yards away.
Having to make a split second decision, Sam raised the gun and aimed at the spirit that had Dean, hoping he would have time to get the other one before it got his father. Seeing the entity dissipate and his brother fall back onto the coffin, he allowed himself a glance to make sure Dean was okay.
"Go, I'm fine!" the other hunter waved him off, although still trying to get his breath, already back on his feet and shovel in his hand.
Without hesitation the younger man focused on the other spirit, who by now reached his father and lifted the limp man up in the air. Trying to aim, Sam realized he was not going to get a clear shot without hitting John. Instead, he ran towards the ghost, reaching into his pocket at the same time and pulling a small canister of salt out. Opening the lid as he went, he flung the contents at the specter. Not enough to disperse, yet certainly enough to weaken it, it let go of the tall man, who fell to the ground in a boneless heap. Wasting no more time, Sam brought the gun up and hit the spirit point blank, effectively dispelling it.
Taking a deep breath, the young man allowed himself to look back at his brother. Only when he saw Dean just finishing pouring gasoline over the remains and was lighting a match, did he turn back and sink down beside his unconscious father. He pulled his flashlight out of his pocket and lit it, giving him enough light to inspect the older man for any injuries. It took him but a second to find the bump on the back of his head, well marked by the moisture of blood. Turning John's limp body proved more difficult but finally he managed and was able to look at the injury.
Sam let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, "Doesn't look that bad, probably doesn't even need stitching." He said more for his own assurance than anyone else's.
His father seemed to take his words as a cue, as he started to stir at the exact moment. Moving his hand against the back of his head, he moaned, before opening his eyes.
Sam smiled, grateful to see the other man awake, "There were two spirits, remember? One slammed you into a tree, trying to smash your head in, only your head was too hard. I'm not sure about the tree though."
As soon as the words were out, Sam couldn't believe that they just came out of him. He looked at John, whose eyes were wide open in disbelief, then heard a chuckle coming from Dean, who had walked up and obviously overheard him also.
Blushing, he stuttered, "I'm, ah…, I'm sorry…"
He didn't get any further, as the roaring laughter coming from his father interrupted him. Again holding his head, the older man finally stopped.
"Laughing is not the smartest thing, if you got your head slammed into a tree." He stated, then continued, "Sounds like Dean has been a bad influence on you kid, you sound way too much like your brother."
"I know I'm a great teacher and awesome big brother, ain't I?" Dean smirked.
Glad for the way John took his words, Sam relaxed a little, then added, "Sorry dad, that I didn't get the spirit before it threw you."
The oldest Winchester exchanged a glance with Dean, than made eye contact with his youngest.
"This wasn't your fault. You couldn't know we were dealing with twins. I should have known something was wrong, just by the amount of victims. At times there were three or four at a time, which would have been difficult for just one spirit. The grave marker said only Marcus Lucas Summertree and there were no records that indicated this was more than one person." He paused for a moment, before continuing, "Sam, you did good; you saved my life and you also saved your brother's. You kept your cool and did what was necessary. I am proud of you son."
The last words especially caught Sam completely off guard. How he thrived to hear them, yet he never really expected for John to ever say them. To hear them now made him forget about all the anger and disappointment he ever felt. He had Dean, who was beyond doubt the most awesome brother ever and now he also had a father, who was proud of him. Even if it didn't last forever, for now his world was complete.
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