The Muskogean people are factual. The Seminole, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw are the most commonly known tribes of these people, but their branches go much, much deeper, and are much more complex. Tribes generally broke off from the "parent" tribe once the village reached around 600-800 people. There are more tribes, people and languages amongst the Muskogean than you can shake a stick at. Some languages and names merged, others were lost to history, and still others were bastardized into other cultures. That said, as far as the language goes, there is no real accuracy unless you grew up in the culture, and even then there is no way to tell exactly how many dialects were spoken in the earlier days of these people.
And again, concerning their lifestyles, many things varied from tribe to tribe while many things stayed the same. It is known that the European culture infiltrated these Indian communities from the 1700's on. It wasn't unusual to find Indians that spoke English, or Spanish, though this was more for purposes of trade than anything. And they did war with the Europeans as well as other Indian tribes (namely the Cherokee). It was a tense time of transition for all cultures, with each one wanting to maintain their integrity and way of live while at the same time having to come to terms with the "melting pot" that the nation was becoming.
This story was researched, but also takes artistic liberties. I in no way claim myself an expert, so if you should find an inconsistency, and you will, forgive me. I did try to be loyal to the people that are from "my neck of the woods". There is no easy way to catalog the immense Muskogean culture out of hundreds and hundreds of tribes, many from which only their name still exists.
Many, many thanks to LadyStarhawk for reading over this and putting up with me through our chats. Mistakes are mine. Reviews are loved, very much.
They pulled into the reservation around midnight. White moonlight shone over old rusted roofs that covered barely-there housing. Porch lights were on, but the light thrown on the ground was a sickly one, barely illuminating the barren land. Dean paused the Impala outside a large, dark building painted a park-green color, which probably served as the office, or something. The car rumbled loudly, and still he hesitated.
Sam stared at his brother. "Dude, what's your problem?" Enough was enough. Dean had been waspish most of the day, and Sam's butt was asleep. He wanted to get on the reservation, meet up with his friend Toby Redhand, and find a bed.
"Nothing! I just – I don't know." Dean's hands worked the steering wheel, his thumb rubbing over a worn groove. "Maybe I'm a little uncomfortable being around a medicine man, okay?"
"Why? You go around psychics all the time, this can't be that different."
"This is different." His eyes darted to Sam's. "Medicine men are holy, aren't they?"
"Well, I guess, but – oh." Only then did he realize the implication of what Dean had said. He crossed to the other side of the street when passing a church. He avoided tombstones with crosses on them. It was like he was scared of being struck down. He hadn't really thought about it until now. Did Dean carry guilt he didn't know about? It would explain the tension he'd carried all day.
Dean swung his head to look out his window, avoiding Sam's stare. "Hell, Sammy, I don't know. These guys can pull up some heavy mojo. Now if they've already got trouble, you really think they're gonna want me here?" His knuckles whitened.
Sam wasn't sure what to say. "Considering who lifted you out of hell, I think you're safe."
"It's more about the reason he got me out. I mean, what if. . ." Again, Dean glanced out of his window, and Sam sensed the walls coming up. "You know what? Forget it."
Okay, sure, that's going to be easy, Sam scoffed in his mind. He sure as hell wanted to ask, but didn't. Not like he wanted Dean involved in all his crap. His brother coming back, while terrific (and terrifying), had thrown him hard for a loop. He was still adjusting to having him back; again adapting to the jibes, the animated looks and groans, and unfortunately the bad smells that followed his robust meals. That was coupled with the fact that in an eerie way, it was like he'd never been gone, and that was layered with the realization that Sam could make it on his own. Without Dean.
But, four months without Dean had been pure hell. He wouldn't let himself think what Dean himself had gone through, or why he was released. He looked at his brother, seeing the tension set in the lines around his mouth, and wondered if Dean knew something that he wasn't telling. Keeping secrets. When did they start hiding from each other?
For now, Sam tried to ease back into a rhythm that should seem familiar, but in reality was more like a distant dream. Almost tangible in memory, but hard to grasp. "You'll be fine."
Dean glanced at him again, his sharp eyes darting back and forth from his brother to the road. Sam had noticed that too, how his brother's eyes seemed more expressive lately, almost glinting in the half-light. Touched by something unworldly. Or had he just never noticed before? "Oh, that's great," Dean snarked back. "Thanks for the pep talk there, sunshine. I feel so much better about things."
"I try. Look, we can't just sit out here all night." They needed to stop tip-toeing around each other. They needed a case. Something to pull them back together, resurrect the old Winchester team. Something structured and familiar to ground them. When Toby called, Sam had jumped on the opportunity. He pulled his jacket tight around him and folded his arms over his chest.
"You okay over there?" Dean's voice was calmer, concerned.
Sam's eyes suddenly stung. Embarrassing. But that was the thing he had missed most. His big brother taking care of him. Being concerned for him. Ruby sure as hell wasn't, and Bobby, well, Bobby cared, but it wasn't the same. There was just something in Dean's voice when he spoke. When his voice fell, and he let himself be compassionate. He was a very feeling person, and he'd be the first to admit it was usually when a hot woman was in the room. Sam knew better. He selfishly didn't answer, prompting Dean to ask, "Sammy?" just because he wanted to hear his name. And he wanted to hear it without the underlying tension or anger that had marked most of their trip.
"I'm fine. I'm just tired."
"Yeah." Dean nodded. "Yeah, okay." He lifted his foot off the brake, and slowly turned the car towards the houses in the distance, bypassing the building by the gate.
Sam pointed. "There." Dean followed the line of his finger to a lone figure standing on a small porch, three buildings down. "I think that's him."
He shot Sam a glare. "You think?"
"Not like this place has great lighting, Dean. But I'm pretty sure."
"Really pretty sure?" Sam mocked.
Dean sighed and put the car into park. He hesitated. "They don't still carry bows and arrows, do they?"
"Just thinking maybe you should get out of the car before I do."
"Asshole." Sam grinned and opened the door. "I'm pretty sure they're past that point."
"Really pretty sure?" Dean mocked back.
The figure moved as Dean climbed out of the Impala and came down the concrete stairs. His grin was easily seen. "Winchester! Long time, no see!"
"Hey, man!" Sam was beaming, making Dean pause. Well. Whatever had gone on between the two men, it must've been big. Sam jogged up to his friend and grabbed his hand like he'd known him for years, and Dean was certain that wasn't the case. Then they embraced and clapped each other on the backs. Dean shoved his hands in the back pockets of his jeans and watched, warily.
"How've you been?" Toby asked happily, pushing Sam back at arm's length to look at him. He wasn't Sam's age, which surprised him. In fact, Dean was pretty certain the man was in his middle thirties.
"I'm good!" Sam grinned. "You?"
"You look good! And I can't complain, which is rare for me." Toby grinned and glanced over Sam's shoulder.
Sam looked back behind him. "Oh. This is my brother, Dean." He faced Dean, physically giving him permission to intrude on their reunion.
Nice to be remembered. Dean noticed the hesitation before Toby held out his hand. Terrific. "Dean Winchester," the man said, looking at Sam, and back. "Your reputation precedes you."
"Really?" Dean asked, reaching for Toby's hand. "And what reputation might that be?"
"Your - journey - is known to my grandfather."
The inflection of the word spoke volumes. He fought down an 'I told you so' as he looked at Sam. "And what journey might that be?"
Toby released his hand with an uncomfortable smile. Dean was surprised he didn't wipe his palm on his jeans. "You should come on in and meet Grampa. He stayed up in anticipation of your visit, but he's old and needs his rest."
"Stayed up?" Dean flicked a finger between his brother and himself. "Wait, you mean he knew we were coming tonight? Not tomorrow?" Strange. And not making him feel better about anything. Their arrival was originally slated for ten 'o clock the following morning, but they'd lucked up on a quick back road.
"He sees much." Toby said. "Have you eaten?"
"Yeah, about two towns back," Sam gestured with his shoulder like he could point to the restaurant. Dean had to question his brother's ease, because he felt tighter than a – never mind.
"Come on, then. No need to check in tonight, I'll take care of all that in the morning." Toby signaled that they should follow him.
Dean kept his hands in his pockets and followed them up the concrete stairs, into the small house. He paused outside the door, squared his shoulders, and walked in.
Toby's grandfather was sitting in a worn-out but comfortable looking recliner, smoking a pipe. The Andy Griffith Show was on the television. Beer cans sat on the table to the right side of him. Toby picked these up to take to the kitchen. "Grampa. They're here. Grampa!" He shifted the cans to one hand and turned down the volume on the television.
"I heard you the first time," the old man said slowly, and turned to the newcomers.
Dean had seen older Native American men. In person, on television, movies, pictures. But he'd never seen anything like this man, and it was all he could do not to take a step back when those coal black eyes glinted at him like polished metal.
His face wasn't just leathered, it was classically aged. Beautiful, maybe, and that was a word that hardly presented itself anywhere in Dean's vocabulary. But there was something - distinguished and otherworldly about his face. Wrinkles cut into his skin like crevasses on ancient ground. His hair was silver, and cascaded over his shoulders. His mouth opened and chomped down on the bit of his pipe. Dean couldn't be sure if the sharp incisors were real, or false. He wondered idly if the man was capable of shape shifting. He had wolf written all over him.
He gave his head a subtle shake. Too many late-night movies.
Gramps looked at Sam and Dean for a moment, before grunting and rising from his chair. It rocked back with a creak before settling. Worn wooden pipe in hand, he turned stiffly and faced them, then held out a hand. "Simon Redhand. Folks here just call me Grampa." He grunted again, making a sound like "mm-hm" as he breathed.
"Very nice to meet you," Sam said with even more sincerity than usual. Dean swallowed and took the hand once it was offered. The skin was as dry as corn husks, but warm, and as large as his brother's. His fingers disappeared in the grip. And did he imagine it, or was his arm tingling just a little?
"Sam, Dean." Toby said, pointing to each man respectively. "Think they busted their butts to get here tonight."
"Wasn't expecting you 'till morning." Grampa was giving Dean a piercing stare. He finally grunted and shuffled back in front of his recliner, then eased himself into it. "My show's on."
Toby grinned at them. "He knew you were coming tonight," he insisted. "He just likes to make people uncomfortable."
And he was damned good at it. "Oh hey, I understand," Dean said, loudly enough to be heard by the old man. "Certain perks come with age." The man grunted, sounding for a moment like he was agreeing, but said nothing.
Dean licked his lips, and grinned, feeling like he got one up on the old man. Though why he needed to feel that pleasure, he couldn't say.
Toby just sighed with a smile, and let his head fall back. "Look, let's get you two settled in, okay? The kids are all asleep. I'll bunk with Maya and you can have my room, if you two don't mind sharing a bed. My wife's with her sister tonight, but she'll be back at the crack of dawn."
"Sharing's fine," Sam said. "As long as Dean forgoes the hotdogs, we're okay."
"Hey!" Dean slapped out.
Sam ducked with a chuckle, and walked out to get their bags.
The room was a joke. Dean leaned in, and looked around. "This is a bed surrounded by four walls." It wasn't even that. It was a mattress on the floor, surrounded by four walls.
"Shh." Sam glanced back towards the den, where Toby and his Grandfather were sitting.
Dean winced and shouldered his way in. "Where do we put our bags?"
"Foot of the bed."
"Will they fit?"
"Barely, I think, yeah."
Dean sidled against the wall and wedged the bags between the mattress and the wall. He held out his hand for Sam's, and wedged it beside his. "Guess we'll get to know each other real good tonight. This seriously their room?"
"I think it used to be a closet. Guess all the kids kicked them out of their bedroom."
Dean surveyed the tiny space."You know what? This is sad. I'm by the door."
Sam shrugged, half-blocking the light that fed in through the open doorway. "Suits me. Don't want you stepping on me during your nightly excursions."
"Just for that? I'll find a way."
"You guys good?" Toby appeared, straining to see over Sam's shoulder.
"Yeah, sure. Great." Sam replied.
"Good. Come sit with us, have a beer. We have to get to bed soon, though, tomorrow's a busy day."
"Right – about that." Sam stopped Toby. "Is there anything we need to know before we talk to him?"
"He'll tell you everything. Later. Right now, he just wants to watch his show."
"And check us out," Dean muttered.
"Cause that's what you'd do, I bet." Toby vanished from beside Sam. The floor creaked as he walked away.
"Dude doesn't even have a dresser," Dean muttered. "I mean, just the bed?" He grabbed Sam's arm, prevent him from walking away. "How do you know this guy, anyway?"
"Toby? I met him shortly after you, uh. . ." Sam shrugged. His expression closed in.
Dean raised his chin. Finding someone to lean on? He wasn't sure how he felt about that. "Ah. Huh."
"Nothing. Just – when you first mentioned him, I thought he was one of your college buddies."
Sam's expression soured. "No. Lost touch with them, you know?"
Dean realized he was still holding Sam's arm. He let his hand drop. "Right. Sorry."
"Don't apologize. It's no big deal. Not like I could keep them at arm's length and expect them to run with it."
"No, I guess not." But something about that small confession hurt. Dean gestured towards the door, and they slowly filed out.
The den flickered with the light of the television. Dean sat on an old brown sofa and nursed his beer, but he didn't watch the show. Instead, he kept his attention on the old man. Grampa sipped at his can, his eyes glued to the set, but Dean had an eerie feeling that the man was looking right at him, even though that grey head never turned. The two sat in silence while Toby and Sam kept up a dialog, spoken softly so as not to interrupt the viewers.
He wondered exactly how Sam and Toby met. Theories were already playing in his head, the foremost being that he came here to see if there was a way to bring Dean back. The thought was unnerving, but it was the only one that made sense, considering what they obviously knew. The fact that Toby took Dean's resurrection with nothing more than a timid handshake just wasn't right. That wasn't normal. Meaning either he didn't know the whole story about Dean, or someone here had worked some major mojo in the past and he was used to it. But Sam had obviously not met Grampa, and Dean had his doubts about Toby's ability to do anything more than grin like a talk show host.
A movement caught his eye, and he saw a tiny girl peeking at him from around the corner of the hallway. Probably four years old, with shiny, mussed hair and big black eyes. She grinned, and he found himself grinning back.
"Maya. Back in bed." Grampa didn't look around, didn't blink, just spoke. Maya disappeared.
Major mojo. Had to be it.