Sam came back with a gasp, his body jerking upright. He felt like a flame that had just been extinguished as his lungs filled with cool air. He blinked rapidly, coughing, suddenly frightened. He didn't know where he was. Everything was dark, he couldn't see! Was he blind? A hand on his shoulder made him jerk again, and Toby's voice filtered through his confusion. "Easy, friend. You did well."
"I – what? Wh – ?" He squinted at his flickering surroundings, heart still trying to escape his chest. "What happened?"
"Don't worry. You passed." Toby sat back on his heels.
"I – passed? Passed what?" He was confused. He couldn't remember anything. Was he drugged?
"You successfully made it back."
"Back? From where?" Focusing on Toby's face, finally. What about – "Where's Dean?"
"Still in. He should wake up soon."
"Still in what?"
"Shadowland?" Sam asked dumbly. He glanced around, dumbly looking for it . Above him, the stars watched. It was night? The whole day was gone?
Toby raised his canteen to Sam's lips. "He'll wake up soon. No, wait – drink easy." Sam swallowed hugely and gasped, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "What do you remember?"
Remember? He could hardly think. "Ahh." He winced against the pain in his head, and continued. "Nothing. Images maybe, like a dream." He tried again, but nothing came to him. "I can't piece it together. I just know that. . ." his head jerked to the side to find his brother, lying peacefully on his back, his hands folded on top of his chest. "Wait, he's still under? I mean, he's still there?"
Fear flooded him, fear that he couldn't explain. Sam quickly pushed to his knees and crawled to Dean, leaning over him, one hand reaching out. He wanted to touch him, but he didn't want to scare him awake. "We've gotta get him out," he said urgently. "Now."
Why? Sam stared at Toby, then darted a glance around the small tent. "Wait. We've done this before." He blinked, forcing himself to remember. "The trial. He was still there. . ." his head snapped up as he noticed Grampa looking down at him.
The old man said nothing, just watched.
Sam pushed to his feet and grabbed Grampa by his arms, ignoring the way Toby had a sudden grip on him as he faltered. "Dean's still in there. He'll die if we don't get him out!"
"Do you know what to do?" Grampa asked, calmly.
Sam nodded. "It's the Taksvpolkv-cetto." He turned and looked down at his brother, laying still as stone. "We have to dig a pit. We have to set it on fire."
Grampa regarded him, steadily, and to such an extent that Sam wondered if he'd said the wrong thing. "Then that is what we will do."
Suddenly Dean woke, with a full intake of air followed by raking coughs.
Sam immediately pulled from Toby and shoved his brother over from his back to his side, bracing him as he folded in half. "Thank God! Easy, man. Breathe."
Dean curled, choking, and managed to pull in a pained breath. He coughed again, then fought for air. "Ah – crap!"
"Are you okay?" Sam demanded. Hands suddenly tried to bat him away, and he squeezed Dean's biceps tightly, not letting go. He looked so disoriented, it frightened him. "Dean! You hear me? I said we're back! Grampa's here. And Toby." He eased his grip as Dean rolled to his back and blinked rapidly. His arms jerked spasmodically, and Sam realized he was still half-fighting, caught between there and here. Since he had movement, he was trying to brush away the reptiles and other things that had covered him in the pit.
He grabbed Dean's hands and pressed them to his chest. "Dean! Look at me! You're safe." Dean blinked rapidly, and focused on Sam's face.
"Sam," he breathed, and his eyes darted around wildly. "Did we do it?"
"You okay?" They settled on Sam's own, reddened and wide.
The corner of Sam's mouth pulled in a smirk. "I'm great. You?"
Dean blinked again. He was breathing heavily. Sam held him for a moment more, then released him as he took in his surroundings. His eyes fell on Toby, then Grampa.
Dean watched the old man for a moment, then slowly rose. Sam hovered, as Dean didn't seem too steady on his feet. He lost track of the number of emotions that played across his brother's face as he faced the man. Rage? Fear? Sorrow? Four steps put him in the old man's face. Sam rose behind him, sensing Dean's confusion, and not sure what his sometimes unpredictable brother would do with it.
"You," Dean bulleted, accusingly. He pointed behind him to the blanket he'd been laying on, but his eyes never left the old man's face. "You did this. How?"
"We have our ways." Grampa was standing tall against him. Sam watched as Dean's hand rose and almost reached for the old man's face. Two fingers pointed at Grampa's eyes, then back to his own as he took a step back, his hand falling to his side, his head shaking in disbelief. "No. There's no way."
"Look at him, Sam!"
Sam looked. Grampa's eyes met his evenly, yet they sparked with an inner knowledge, with age and wisdom – and familiarity. "Oh my god," he breathed. "Zertepe!"
Red Hand merely raised his brows, and his pipe.
He couldn't wrap his mind around it. There was no possible way, but then there was no way they could have just gone through that journey, it wasn't possible. None of this was possible. Sam spun Dean to him, ignoring his surprised curse, probing his shoulder. His brother jerked back, his fingers rising to probe puckered skin around an old wound. He looked as surprised as Sam felt. "Chick dig scars," he said in a small voice. Wide eyes met his.
Sam looked at Red Hand. "How? How did you do this?"
"We have work to do," was all the old man would say, and he left the tent. Toby followed.
They watched him go, then turned to each other. Sam drank in the sight of his brother, whole and uninjured. He could see Dean doing the same thing.
Then they both glanced down at their shorts, and instantly started looking for their clothing.
They spent the next day digging the trench. People from the village came to help. The trench was wide and growing, a good ten feet across, and twenty feet deep. Red Hand was taking no chances, and ordered it much, much larger. Dean was hoping what he saw in the Shadowland was an exaggeration.
He puzzled through everything that had happened. His body ached from the constant movement, and he remembered doing this before. Twice, in fact. But that was a dream, right? They dreamed everything. But he could remember Grampa's words as he'd faded, something about what had happened to them there, would happen here. Had Grampa tended to his wound? An awful thought struck him, as he thought about Hai, and his feelings towards her. Oh, god, PLEASE, just let him have tended that wound.
He pushed himself up to brace on his shovel, and watched Sam to see if he favored his knee. He didn't, but then that injury had healed during their time - where ever. His brother's jeans were dusty. Dirt caked on his bare chest and back. Bastard didn't burn. His neck, shoulders, and upper back were darker. Dean, on the other hand, could feel his skin tightening with sunburn, and that was through his t-shirt. His face was already roasted. He'd tossed his hat hours ago, it made his head itch.
Red Hand stood in the distance, his own large hat planted firmly on his head, watching the workers with no readable expression. Dean wondered about him. He could easily be a descendant of Zertepe, if they had in fact been shown the family history of Simon Red Hand. If the curse was carried by Cherokee blood, and Zertepe was part Cherokee, then Grampa could carry the curse. But wouldn't that imply that Zertepe too was cursed? It was blood driven, right? But Akecheta was the one who – oh.
He quickly walked up to Sam. "Zertepe was the one that Alush's father chose to join the tribes. Akecheta was his son."
Sam stopped, mid shovel, and looked up at Dean. He straightened. "How do you know that?"
"Because the curse travels by blood."
"And Grampa looks so much like Zertepe he has to be a descendant. Which means the curse was brought on by Zertepe's union. . ."
"Given to Akecheta, and passed down."
"But why manifest itself now?"
Dean shrugged. "The legend lives on. For all we know, this's happened many times before. You really think the police are gonna keep accurate files on this? They wouldn't even help Gramps."
"Just as well, considering what we're really up against," Sam mused. His face was streaked with dirt and sweat. Dean wiped at his own face with his shirt, cursing at the burn, and pulled out a bandana for Sam to use. Sam thanked him, and took it. "Should we talk to him, tell him about the curse?"
"Later. When this is over. Besides, I think he's always know what this thing is, but not how it got here. If we can tell him the creature is gone for good, it might make breaking the news that he's somewhat responsible for it easier to chew." He looked again at the old man. "Must be powerful, if it's carried by blood. Their Cherokee blood would diminish in increments from generation to generation as they married outside the family."
Sam gave his head a quick tilt in acknowledgment. He pocketed the bandana, and thrust the shovel into the dirt once more.
"Oh. One more thing," Dean added before returning to his digging area. "How are we supposed to get that thing in here?"
"You're the one that said to dig a pit. You didn't figure that out?"
Sam looked at Dean for a long moment. "We use bait," he said.
The night was mild. The trench was ready. Men waited off in the distant hills, filling the backs of pickup trucks, or piled into their silent cars. And Summer Rain was roaming the edge of the trench, alone.
Sam and Dean watched intently, keeping concealed. Sam kept casting glances at his brother, seeing the tension in his shoulders as he watched the young woman make her slow circle. Nothing had been said about Hai since their return. He didn't know what Dean remembered. Everything, surely. Sam himself did. He remembered waking in the forest with Dean looking over him, afraid. Being pursued by the warriors and taken to the village. The pain in his knee that consumed him for the next two days. The hunt, where they first saw the Taksvpolkv-cetto, only they didn't know what it was. It tried to take Akecheta. Was that when it first manifested itself to him? Was he taken in by it after that? Sam didn't know what had ultimately happened to the man. Earlier, Dean had shrugged off the question with a shake of his head. Akecheta had survived, or had already left an offspring before his death. The fact that Simon Red Hand, Grampa, was here as a descendant was proof of that. But there was no firm answer.
Grampa had called on Eagle Eyes for protection. But this time, the spirit didn't talk through him.
The sky suddenly reddened as the sun dipped below the horizon. The haze settled over the ground. In the distance, an eagle's predatory screech bounced over the land. Sam felt caught between worlds, seeing the plains but looking for mesas, and all the while hearing the babbling of the water that flowed by the village of the Mvskoke.
Summer Rain walked softly. Her hair was loose and flowing over her shoulders. She drew her sweater tight around her thin frame. She was scared, and it showed.
Sam inched closer to his brother. "Tell me this brilliant plan again?"
Dean gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Like you said. Hopefully it'll come for her."
"And what, it dives into the trench? What if it doesn't want her?"
"Dude. Have you looked at her?"
"Dean, I don't think it goes much for aesthetics." He eyed the multitude of vehicles that dotted the land. "There's too many people here," he muttered.
"The ones that were killed, they were lured out away from the village. We've essentially moved the village out here to it. You really think it's gonna come here with all these people around? It's not stupid, Dean."
"How else are we gonna fight it? I mean, it worked back then."
"Back there, you started out alone. And you were going to fight it, alone. I realized what was going on and got everyone there, you know what?" He craned his neck around. "You really want to talk about your damn self-sacrificing spree right now?"
"No. You can save your fucking lecture, okay?" Dean peeked over the small hill he and Sam were hidden behind. "I've heard it all before anyway."
"Yeah, because you don't listen so I have to keep repeating it!"
"Dammit, Sam, I thought it was after you. Okay? I wasn't sure if you were hearing it, or Grampa, or Micky Mouse in that freaky head of yours and I sure as hell wasn't taking any chances! That's why I went out there. Now, you wanna go head to head on that?" Dean glared at him.
No. Not really. He fought back his anger. "We send them back. Keep ten men only."
Dean pressed his lips together in a tight, unhappy line. "Fine," he muttered, and signaled for Toby. "My suddenly self-educated partner here seems to think we've invited too many to this party. He's scared the guest won't show," he said.
"But we need these men," Toby argued.
"Maybe not," Sam insisted. He hazzard a look at his brother. "And there's something else. I think Grampa should be out there, not Summer Rain."
"But it comes for the women," Toby said.
"No, not really. It lures the women away. But it will come to a man." Sam looked at Dean. "It came to Akecheta. It came to you. It'll come to Grampa."
Toby rejected the idea, vehemently. "He is an old man. He can't fight it,"
But Dean was nodding. "Oh, I bet he has a few tricks up his sleeve. I'd say he has a better chance that your wife does out there. Let's play it Sam's way. Got nothing to lose, right?"
"Man, I paid these people in beer. You know how much beer I had to buy to get them out here?"
"Saving the land wasn't enough for them? Besides, they've still got the beer."
"Are they drunk?" Sam asked, alarmed.
"No, they're not drunk!" Toby chided. "Beer makes the cause stick."
"Now I know why they call it 'spirirts'," Dean joked. "Get them outta here. But, hey, listen, not too far. 'Bout halfway back to the reservation. That way we can call on the cell and get them here fast. Whose number you got?"
"Everyone's," Toby muttered, then muttered something else in his naive tongue, something that needed no interpretation, and eased back to make his calls. It wasn't long before the rumble of pickups were heard, headlights cut through the pending darkness, and the vehicles pulled away to meet back on the dirt road half a mile behind them. In a serpentine caravan, they eased their way in the direction of the reservation.
Dean exhaled sharply and turned to his brother. Sam glanced at him, then double checked. "What?"
"You better be right about this," Dean said.
"Hopefully we'll find out soon enough."
Grampa walked up to them. "She was happy to leave," he said of Summer Rain. "I didn't like her out there to begin with."
"You ready for this?" Dean asked.
Stars appeared overhead, matching the glint in Simon Red Hand's eyes, reminding him of the medicine man he'd known so long ago, and yet only a day earlier. It was all the answer he needed.
"You've done well, both of you," he said in reply, and walked out to the huge trench. And to the brother's surprise, he started a familiar chant. Only, the word sounded different.
Oh, Taksvpolkv-rakko. Oh, Revered One, look up at us with your glistening eyes, and hear our plea. Take not what belongs to us. We are weak in your grasp, and ill on your tongue. Take not what is ours, it will not please you.
Oh, Taksvpolkv-rakko. We meant no disfavor. We are young and stupid, and you are old and wise. Do not heed our words, for they are foolish. Do not hear our songs, for we can not sing.
Do not mind our children, for they are slow. Do not mind our women, for they are cruel.
Taksvpolkv-rakko, do not mind us at all for we are not worthy of your attention. Go and mind the bullfrog instead.
After the third recitation, the ground shook beneath their continued the chant.
Toby joined them. "What is he thinking? He's calling on the Rakko!"
"That name's not what I remember hearing before. It was cetto before. What's the difference?" Sam asked quickly.
"I don't know! The Rakko is a myth! It is told to small children to keep them home!"
"Doesn't work too well, does it?" Dean asked.
Sam was thinking, hard. "The Taksvpolkv-cetto, that's what they were saying. It must've evolved into the myth that you know as the Rakko. Wonder why the name changed?"
Toby shook his head slowly, watching the man as he spread his arms wide. "If it is the Rakko, then a pit of flame is fitting. They say it comes from the mouth of hell."
"Yeah, well, things still burn in hell, so it should hurt like a son of a bitch," Dean mumbled, and gave Sam an annoyed glance. "Will you take your scholarly ass out of the clouds, please?"
"I'm just, the word, – yeah. Sorry." And the ground shook again, this time knocking everyone off their feet.
Dean pulled Sam upright. "This didn't happen the last time."
"I know. I don't like it."
In the distance they could see Grampa. His feet were braced apart. He flung his hands into the air and cried out, "Taksvpolkv-rakko!"
And the trench below him exploded.
Anyone within range was thrown through the air. The noise was deafening, the air suddenly molten hot, and the creature that shot out of the remains was unlike anything that had been seen by man. It shot towards the heavens, blotting out the starlight, casting the area into pitch darkness lit only by the red gates of hell.
Sam felt Dean crawl away from him, and instinctively reach out, not wanting to be separated. He saw nothing but scales and an ever-widening body. It shrieked with the voice of a thousand lost souls, and started downwards, mouth agape, eyes glinting with sickly flames. The wind roared around its head as it plunged.
Sam yelled out and grabbed Dean with both arms, pulled him close, then rolled as hard and fast as he could as the creature dove back into the ground where they had been. The land cracked and split open from the impact, tearing beneath their bodies. Together, they hauled each other to their feet and ran away from the splintered earth.
"The hell?" was all Dean could gasp, his fists on Sam's shirt in a death-grip.
"I don't know!" was all Sam could gasp in response, looking for survivors as he clung to Dean. "You see anyone?"
"No!" Dean was clinging to Sam, his frightened eyes roaming over the area. "Sam, I don't think a pit of fire is going to get rid of this thing. You know, since it just came out of one!" The ground rumbled again beneath their feet. They backed away frantically, but had nowhere to go. "Now would be a good time for a plan B!" he shouted.
"Did we have a plan B?" Sam shouted back.
"Not so much!"
The ground lurched beneath them, then the vibrations faded. And everything stilled.
Sam swallowed hard, and panted. He released his grip, feeling Dean do the same, and glanced back at Toby's truck. Looked around the area. "The tent's gone."
"Not surprising." Dean was pacing as he rubbed and pinching at his forehead.
"Toby!" Sam yelled out. He didn't want to venture too close to the trench, but worry for his friends was about to force his hand. "Grampa!"
Dean raised his head and looked around, then he glanced back at the truck. "Stay here," he said, and gave Sam a quick pat on the back.
"Toby!" Sam called out again, and this time he saw a man staggering towards him, his dark figure wavering in the heat. Sam rushed to Toby and threw an arm around him, then escorted him back to the truck.
The man's face was burned. Sam quickly wet a cloth with water from his canteen and applied it to the worst of the burn, jerking in apology as the man cursed, then pressed his own hand against Sam's. "Grampa," Toby tried to ask with a scorched throat.
"I don't know," Sam replied hastily, watching Dean. Now he was pacing on the other side of the truck, deep in thought, and as much as Sam wanted to ask what was going on, he didn't dare.
"Flame won't kill it," he was muttering. "Flame won't kill it." He shook his head. "Dammit!"
"Where's Grampa?" Toby asked again as Sam tried to keep him against the side of the truck.
"Just stay there, we'll find him. I promise." He braced his friend as he grunted in pain, his head falling back, his face tight.
Dean's fist was planted against his forehead. He thumped it against his head in a rhythmic way, like he could pound the answer into his skull. He stopped, the hand coming away open-palmed, and he looked up with clear eyes. Sam noticed for the first time that his face was reddened, not from the sun, but from the heat of the flame. And his own face burned. Apparently they didn't escape the blast as much as Sam had hoped. He dampened another bandana and raise it to Dean's face, only to be batted away. "Toby. What happened to your father? And put that on your own face, Sam, you're burned."
"He died when I was young," Toby said.
"Is Grampa your father's father?"
Toby pulled his cloth from his head, looking at Dean in puzzlement, and a little annoyance. "Yeah."
Dean nodded, turning away. "Damn. I wish I knew. I wish I knew!"
"Knew what?" Sam patted Toby on the shoulder, then walked over to join his brother. He hadn't put the cloth on his head. Instead, he pressed it lightly to Dean's.
"What if this thing skips a generation?" Dean asked, taking the cloth without thought. "Zertepe didn't seem affected by it but his son, Akecheta, was. I don't know how many generations have passed 'cause I don't know when that time was."
"Could have been any time in the 1800's," Sam said quickly. "Possibly earlier."
"So Zertepe would have been what, the great-great – crap. There's no way to figure this out! We don't know how long they lived, when they had kids, and if we're just one generation off, that's it. We can't be precise."
"Does it matter? It's here now." The ground rocked beneath their feet again. Sam turned back to the pit to see what was happening, and saw another figure walking to them. "Oh my god. Dean! It's Grampa!"
Grampa was staggering towards them, his hands out like a blind man's. His face was charred. They ran to him, caught him right before he could collapse to the ground, and eased him down. Toby arrived with the remainder of their bandanas and water, and the three of them tried to ease the man's pain. Toby fished in his pocket for a bottle of aspirin, which would do little good but was available. "Grampa! Swallow. What happened? I thought you were dead."
The old man clutched at their hands, crying and moaning in pain. He gasped out his words in a rough voice. "I saw it. I never thought it was – I saw it."
"We all saw it, Grampa," Toby said, pulling the man to him. Grampa croaked out in pain, his hands frozen in the air before sightless eyes.
"My eyes. . ."
"You were burned pretty bad, old man," Dean soothed, "but you're okay. You'll be okay."
Sam hated to do this. He leaned over. "Grampa. Listen to me. That thing, it haunts your family. We think it skips a generation. Can you think back? Can you list your family?"
"Sam!" Toby exclaimed.
"I know, but I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. We have to know what's keeping it here, who's keeping it here. Now please," he implored the man, "can you think back?"
Grampa looked like he was ready to cry. "We come from Muskogee," he said weakly, his words hoarse. "Alabama, Georgia."
"How far back?"
Grampa made a choking noise. "Very far," he said, and his face screwed up as he tried to cope with his pain and fear.
Dean looked up. "Call the trucks," he said quickly. "Get him to a burn unit."
Toby nodded tearfully, gasping as the hot tears hit his burned cheeks. He reached for his cell phone.
The howl in the air drove everyone flat to the ground, covering their ears. The earth trembled, and the Taksvpolkv-rakko rose out of the trench, and towered over them. The evil eyes glared down at them, and settled on Toby.
Sam noticed. He started to shake as he looked at his friend, as the creature hovered, staring down at him.
Toby stared back, in shock. "No," he said. "Go away! I don't believe in you!"
The Taksvpolkv-rakko rose. Then it's eyes fell on Dean.
Sam and Dean exchanged a glance, both with hands clasped over their ears, both wincing in pain. The creature dove back to the ground with a thunderous crash. Heat spread over the ground, once more cracking it beneath them.
And one huge finger snaked out of the pit, and wrapped around Dean's ankle. In an instant, he was snapped back towards the pit.
"Dean! No!" Sam bellowed. He pushed to his feet and ran as fast as he could, leaving Toby and Grampa. He dove for his brother right before he went over the edge of the trench, or what was left of it. Their fingers interlocked, and Dean stopped, dangling over the pit.
"Sam!" Dean had never sounded so desperate. His legs kicked over the molten void, his hands held Sam's own in a death grip. "Sam, get me up!"
"Get me up!"
"No, don't look down!" But Dean had, and the expression returned to meet his, Sam never wanted to see on his brother's face again. "Goddammit! Hold on! Just. . ." his words choked him.
It was Sam's nightmares come to life. Ever since his brother's death, he'd had dreams of him trapped in flames, burning for eternity, his flesh peeling off, then peeling back again as Dean's screams racked his bones. Now he was looking at his brother dangling over what looked like the jaws of hell, and fluttering deep within the heat was the figure of the Taksvpolkv-rakko, the long neck and head, the body that stretched forever, the long arms that braced against the sides of the cavernous trench that yawned beneath them to the center of the earth. Only one finger was wrapped around Dean's ankle, and it slowly climbed up his leg, coiling around his stomach and chest. It could so easily just suck him in, and they knew it.
And Dean looked terrified.
Sam was sobbing. His grip was slipping. Dean was pleading with him with his eyes, and his fucking grip was slipping? No. He wasn't losing his brother again. "Dean. I'm gonna let go, it's just for a moment. Grab the edge." He let go, and Dean scrabbled for a grip in the soil. It was just enough for Sam to reach down and seize his wrist. He did the same for the other hand, and lunged back with everything he had.
The finger coiled up over Dean's shoulder, and around his neck.
"NO!" Sam nearly released one of Dean's hands to pry it away, but he couldn't. And as he pulled, Dean strangled.
Sam frantically looked over his shoulder. He could just make out figures coming to him, one helping the other along. "Grampa! Do something!" he screamed out. He wanted to yell for them to stay back, that they were meant to work some major mojo, not get themselves killed. But if Toby could grab Dean, Sam could free his neck. "Toby! I need you!"
Dean made a sound, and Sam looked at him. "Toby," his brother forced out.
Sam just shook his head, and yelled as Dean suddenly slipped further. He grappled for a hand hold, and knew it wouldn't last. The Taksvpolkv-rakko leered up at them. Playing. It had a sour grin, and it watched from below.
Toby joined them and quickly grabbed Dean's right hand. Sam gratefully relinquished it, and tried to pry the odd finger from around Dean's neck, one-handed.
The Taksvpolkv-rakko bellowed, and Dean slipped again, making Sam's heart stop. Then it quieted. Slanted yellowed eyes looked at Toby.
"It's him," Dean choked out.
Toby just shook his head, looking from one to the other. "What the hell are you talking about?"
But Grampa knew, and he cried out in despair. "Oh, Taksvpolkv-rakko," he sobbed from his spot on the ground, and his unseeing eyes opened. Word followed jerkily, sadly, and he climbed to his feet, bracing himself on his knees.
Oh, Revered One, look up at us with your glistening eyes, and hear our plea. Take not what belongs to us. We are weak in your grasp, and ill on your tongue. Take not what is ours, it will not please you.
Dean's head was leaning back from the pull of the creature. His eyes were glued to Sam's, his hands white with the effort of hanging on. "It's Toby," he forced out again, barely heard, his eyes closing, his grip becoming lax.
And Grampa, Simon Red Hand, rose with a deep bellow and lunged at Toby. Sam screamed out as they both tumbled over the side, and into hell.
The Taksvpolkv-rakkoroared. It released Dean.
Sam quickly urged his brother up, and Dean complied, digging the toes of his shoes into the soil and climbing out. Sam grabbed his shirt, then his belt, and hoisted him to land. They lay there together, panting.
A rush of heat soared up out of the chasm, and the Taksvpolkv-rakko exploded into the air, it's head craning in agony, it's cries deafening. The long hands clawed at the sky and seemed to grab the stars. Sam covered Dean with his body, scared it would come for him, and felt his brother trying to protect him in the same way. They huddled together as the creature fell back into the pit. They braced each other as the ground trembled, and the trench folded. It closed in on itself.
The air stilled, and cooled around them. Pure silence assailed their ears.
The brothers lay together, in shock.
The funerals were attended by the entire reservation, even those the bodies weren't recovered. There was hushed talk of what had happened. Most of the men were there, and had seen the orange sky and felt the rumbles. Some were primed to go to their aid, but were held back. Those that wanted to help, blamed those that kept them from it.
Summer Rain and her children were quiet. The youngest of them didn't understand, but they knew that something bad had happened. The next several days in Summer Rain's life would be spent answering questions that she really had no answer to. How could she answer them when she herself didn't understand?
"It was a family curse," Sam said to her the night they put Toby and Simon Red Hand into the ground. The children were in bed. His fingers played around a mug of coffee. Dean hadn't touched his. He sat with his head propped on his hand, looking out of the kitchen window. One hand was bandaged for minor burns. His face was red, as was Sam's. "It's been with the family for generations. Some members of the family act as a catalyst for it."
It was the first time they'd talked about what happened. Summer Rain was a very strong woman, but she wasn't ready for the details. In fact, that first full day she couldn't even look at the brothers. Dean had wanted to leave, to get out of her hair, but had Sam insisted they stay put.
"We thought maybe it skips generations, but that was hard to prove," Dean muttered, eyeing his mug but not touching it.
"And you think Grampa? Toby? They. . ." she shook her head.
"Take not what is ours, for it will not please you," Dean said, and looked as though he might actually take a sip of his coffee. He needed to. He hadn't eaten or anything since the event, three days prior. Of course Sam's appetite was gone as well.
"They sacrificed themselves," Sam explained. "They ended it. The Taksvpolkv-cetto couldn't take anything. They offered themselves to it. And two generations together, killed with the Taksvpolkv-cetto – or Rakko, as you might know it, would break any blood hold it had. It can't move on to the next generation. It's over."
Summer Rain managed a weak smile. "What did I marry into?" she asked, and her voice was like water.
"A community that looks out for its own," Dean said straightening. "I know it's late. Actually it's damned early, but I can't think of sleeping. I'm going for a walk."
"Coffee probably doesn't help," Summer Rain said quietly. "But I don't want to sleep."
"I know." Dean walked behind her and squeezed her shoulder. Sam noticed her eyes closed tight, her mouth a thin line, forcing the sob back. She leaned her cheek on his hand for a moment, then lifted it so he could leave.
Sam continued to toy with his mug, thumbing the rim. He gestured helplessly and gave a small, pathetic laugh. "I don't know what to say to you," he admitted.
"Let's just drink our coffee," she suggested.
In the distance, the sky lightened.
Dean was huffing, sweat tracking down his face. His legs folded and he fell to the dirt road, breathing heavily after his run. This was where he'd seen the snake. The time of morning was right. The sun was just about to break the horizon. He waited and looked. "Come on,"he muttered. "Come on, come on." He stood and turned, his hands on his hips. "Come on, you fucking bastard!" he yelled out. "Show yourself! Fucking coward!"
The sun broke free of the horizon and lit the skies. The lingering clouds were tipped in flame.
"I said I'll be fine. Now go." Summer Rain gave Sam a playful shove on his arm.
Nearly a week had passed. Food baskets covered the counter tops. Neighbors had constantly swarmed the kitchen, telling Summer Rain to sit while they brewed her a cup of coffee, or tea, or fixed her a sandwich. The kids were bounced from house to house so she could rest. Questions were answered by the older, wiser men. She was getting along, with plenty of help. There was nothing more Sam or Dean could do for her.
Sam gave her a hug, and stepped back so Dean could do the same. "We'll call you," he said. "You let us know if you need anything, okay?"
"I'm fine, I promise. But thank you." She smiled, and looked down as a young boy flitted past her skirt and walked up to Dean.
"Killed it. Knew I would." He smiled and held out his small, chubby hands.
It was the red snake.
Dean swallowed hard, and knelt down, ruffling the boy's hair while eyeing the dead reptile. "Did you kill it, or did you find it dead?"
"Would have killed it if it wasn't dead."
Dean smirked. "That's my warrior," he said.
"I can't wait to show Grampa!"
He still didn't understand. Thank god Dean didn't have to explain it. "Yeah." Dean stood slowly. Sam watched him, blinking rapidly. "He'd be real proud of you."
The boy beamed and ran off to show his prize to his siblings. Summer Rain received one more hug.
The Impala was hot and stuffy inside. Sam climbed in and slammed his door closed, then lay his head back and sighed wearily. His eyes drifted shut. He heard Dean climb in beside him, heard the creak as the door swung closed, heard the familiar rumble as the car started. But it didn't move. He cracked open an eye, and saw his brother looking at him.
Sam raised his head. "Dean? What is it?"
"So, him sending us there. . .it seemed like he knew what that thing was."
"I think he had an idea."
"And that first time we went to – where was it?"
"Why did he send us?"
"He wanted to see if we could get there and back." Sam snorted. "I'll tell you, Dean. I really didn't want to go back there."
"How did you remember even going? Or anything about it?" Dean let his head fall against the seat, still looking at Sam. "Wait, you didn't remember anything. You sensed it, didn't you? What would happen."
"Huh. Like I've said before. Way to warn a guy."
"Wait. You don't think – I didn't. . ." Sam lowered his eyes, and swallowed hard. "I didn't know the details." He didn't want to look at Dean. His gaze turned to the window.
Dean licked his lips. He had that small smile on his face, the one he wore when he was uncomfortable with what he was about to say. "I'm just – I'm sorry. About what happened to Toby. I know he was your friend and all. And Grampa, I mean. . .damn."
"Yeah. Yeah, me too."
Dean nodded. "So, uh. I know this is shitty timing but – you never told me what he did for you. You know, while I was away." It took a moment, but Dean swung his head around to meet Sam's gaze. "Just thought you might wanna talk about it."
"You mean you want to satisfy your curiosity?" Sam blinked at him, not fooled.
"There's that," Dean relented.
Sam smiled. "He, uh, he was learning to do the spirit walk thing. But with him it was more hypnosis-like. He. . ." Sam shifted uncomfortably, and gave a small, embarrassed laugh, "he, uh, he took me back. To when you were alive and getting on my last nerve."
His brows raised slightly in surprise. "Really? That's how you wanted to remember me?"
Sam shrugged. "I was pissed, Dean. And I hurt – so much." He returned his attention to the window, unable to look at him. "It was easier that way. After a while I remembered things like us riding together and the chicks you'd hook up with. And, maybe, the way you'd take care of me." Now he definitely wasn't going to look at Dean.
The silence pulled at him. He licked his lips and swallowed hard, then turned. Dean was staring at him, and his eyes were soft. "Yeah," was all he would say, with that little smile that was more Dean than anything Sam could ever remember. And he slowly put the car in gear, and backed out of the reservation.
Sam cleared his throat as the car sped up. "Yeah, well, anyway. Looks like Summer Rain will be taken care of."
"Sure does. That's a good place."
"Yeah." Sam pursed his lips. He wanted to ask so bad. Wanted to know if Dean remembered Hai. What he was thinking about her.
"She's got someone staying with her, right?"
"Well, her neighbor. And I think she said something about Toby's brother coming up. He couldn't get away for the funeral, something about his business. Or something."
"You weren't listening, were you?"
Dean nodded. "Well, good. More family around. That's good."
The Impala darted off in a black streak towards the horizon. Sam blinked into the glare. He saw Dean reach over and pull his sunglasses from the glove compartment. They drove on in contented silence, until one word had them looking at each other warily.
Thank you SO MUCH for taking time out of your schedules to read this. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me. *grins* Please feel free to leave me a review!! Again, thank you!
-Kam : )