A/N: First off, I want to give HUGE THANKS to my betas and truly wonderful friends: Darksupernatural, Merisha, and Soncnica. You guys are unbelievably patient and very supportive, and in which this story would not have happen without you three! Love ya! *hugs*
Disclaimers: don't own 'em....sadly
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
"Aw c'mon Sammy, don't you trust me?" Dean threw over his shoulder as he guided the only source of light from his flashlight with professional ease into the looming darkness of the woods, hazel green eyes searching warily around as every nerve in his body was on high alert.
"More like I don't trust the plan," Sam huffed from behind him as he followed his brother deeper into the woods, gun trained in front of him as he too searched carefully around while memories of the events leading up to where they were kept flooding his mind.
Six forty-eight p.m. Sam had glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of his laptop screen before casting his worried blue green eyes to the motel room door. He looked back at the computer and tried to shove the anxiousness to the back of his mind as he distractedly searched for another hunt. At a minute past seven, Sam gave a sigh of relief when he heard the familiar rumbling sound of the Impala's engine, followed by the squeaking-groan of the heavy door. He heard the damp crinkling of yet another greasy take out bag and Dean's heavy, booted feet on the chipped concrete walk outside the motel room door. Sam's worry was choked down as Dean came through the door.
He'd been doing that a lot lately, Sam noted as he eyed his brother and watched him place two brown bags on the small table in front of them, the smell of burgers and fries rifted through the air.
"So Geekboy, have you found a hunt for us yet?" Dean asked, pretending that nothing had happened.
It was now or never, Sam thought, bracing himself for what was to come, "Dean, we need to talk –"
"No, we already discussed this –" Dean started, shaking his head as he took out the contents in the bag.
Closing his laptop, Sam cut in, "Dean, we didn't discuss anything before you walked out six hours ago! Listen Dean, I'm so-"
"Don't Sam!" Dean snapped harshly, nose flaring dangerously and hazel green eyes threatening his brother as they glared icily, "Don't say you're sorry, 'cause for the last damn time, it wasn't your fault."
"Oh yeah?" Sam scoffed, "Then what's with the nightmares, huh? It seems I'm not the only one with them."
Dean was saved from answering when Metallica's Hit the Lights sounded off from this cell. "Drop it Sam," Dean said before he answered the call.
Sam's bad mood caused him to yank open his laptop roughly, almost breaking it in half, as he settled on finding a hunt, half listening to the one-sided conversation.
"Dean Winchester," the older man said as he lowered himself wearily on a chair. Sometimes getting into an argument with Sam was like going up against demonic pro wrestlers, Dean thought absently.
"Hey Caleb, how's it been? The waitress in San José's keeping you in check, is she?"
"Really?...Where?" Dean said, all serious now and noticing he attracted his brother's attention. Dean listened as his old friend filled him in on a potential hunt. "In Montana?...Yeah, we'll be there in a couple days…Listen Caleb, you haven't by chance seen or heard from our Dad yet?...No?...Well, I just thought I'd ask…Yeah, sure will."
"Dean –" Sam began once Dean ended the call.
"Drop it, Sam," Dean said in a tone that left no room for argument.
"Pack up your stuff. Caleb found us a hunt."
So after getting a call from Caleb that a black dog was running amok and caused eight brutal deaths in a small town in Montana, Dean was more than happy to hit the road right after the events in the Roosevelt Asylum in Illinois. Hopefully the more miles between us and that spook house for nut jobs, the quicker I can forget and Sammy… Dean shook his head to free him of the train of thought that made him want to put his fist through the cheap motel plaster.
Sam, on the other hand, wanted to take a break after what happened in Illinois as the flashbacks of him shooting his sibling with a shotgun full of rock salt and then pointing a gun – regardless whether it was loaded or not – and actually firing at his own brother, assaulted and tortured his guilt-riddled mind. He was hoping to use the break to talk about what happened and hopefully to get Dean to open up, seeing how badly it had affected him, but after many attempts and the many 'Drop it Sam's' Dean had uttered harshly, he gave up…for now. And so seeing the excitement sparkle in his brothers' eyes at the mention of a new hunt, he knew he couldn't take that from Dean. For now, Dean. I'll let it go for now. Sam plugged in the details of the hunt as Dean rattled of the information and soon Dean's eyes were dancing with the confirmation that it was really a black dog.
"Man, you know how long it's been since I got down and dirty with one of these fugly things?" Dean said, hunching over the laptop that he'd taken out of Sam's hands and rubbing his palms together like he was about to dig into a pie. Sam huffed and rolled his eyes, pulling the computer away from Dean again.
"Dude, these things are dangerous."
"Oh, they're badass alright. But bullets will do the trick. What's with all the trembles, Worry McWorryton? We don't even have to smell the thing to kill it."
Only Sam wished he could be as enthusiastic as his sibling, who was annoyingly almost beside himself with glee about the upcoming hunt, regardless of the dangers.
And here we are. Sam thought grimly as he watched the tensed muscles of his brother's back directly in front of him, the search of the black dog wearing both of them down. "I don't like this Dean."
Dressed in heavy shirts, sweaters, jackets, and with heavy thermal underwear, both Winchesters were ready for the icy, snowy conditions, and had begun their search early enough to hopefully avoid the snowstorm that was sure to start later on in the evening. But hours upon hours spent out in the woods in the freezing temperatures with no sign of any type of creature had Sam wondering if they were missing something.
Surely it would have shown up by now, he thought anxiously as one glance skyward showed him that dark had ascended and with it the strong winds indicating the early bouts of the predicted snowstorm. His mind quickly snapped back to the present at his brother's next words.
"What's not to like?" Dean refuted, cocking a brow at his brother before shooting his eyes forward, "We find the mutt, kill it, save future victims, and get the hell –"
"Oh, so that's the plan?" Sam replied sarcastically, coming to a full stop, "'Cause I understood that you were going to distract the mutt, almost get yourself killed, and that I would have to be the one to save your ass." Sam knew he sounded pissed, but given the certain circumstances and his freezing buttocks, he thought he at least had the right to be pissed.
I hate camping, Dean thought for the millionth time but kept walking long after his little brother stopped, swinging the flashlight here and there, and hoping to catch a small glimpse of a pair of evil red eyes before abruptly coming to a stop himself. Huh, he thought as he settled the flashlight to illuminate what only he could see. And as he turned incredulous eyes at Sam, he said, "Dude, you should know by now that I, the awesome big brother that I am, never need saving. It's your ass that needs constant watch…and I'd watch out for that neck of yours if I was you."
Sam deeply inhaled the crisp cold air before slowly exhaling it as his face reddened at the reminder that his neck was somehow a red bulls-eye for supernatural creatures everywhere. Even with what little light the half moon was casting down and reflecting monstrous shadows everywhere, Sam could still see the lines of his brother's eyes crinkled up in amusement.
Dean chuckled softly to himself at Sam's discomfort before turning around and booming out, "Besides dude, I think I found it."
"You think you found it?" Sam asked as he ambled his way to his brother, half curious and half annoyed.
Dean cleared his throat as he tried to still his somersaulting stomach, "Well, most of it…"
"Ew..gross…" Sam said as he turned away and put a sleeved arm to his mouth, breathing hard through his nose to keep the contents in his stomach from spilling, the stench unbelievable.
The sight before them was beyond anything they had ever seen. The top half of the dog's bones – including the skull – were crushed into powder, making its skin look like those animal skin rugs. The eyes were even missing from their sockets and a large pool of crimson stood out against the stark white of the snow. Following the small droplets of blood to the right a foot away showed the bottom half of the dog – its bones too, were crushed and leaving an even bigger pool of crimson.
Dean grimaced at the sight as he bent down for a closer look, using his shotgun to further inspect the dead being, "This looks recent. It looks like it hasn't been dead for more than twenty-four hours at most."
"Dean – stop, man," Sam forced out as the wet, squishy noise soon filled the air, making his queasy stomach harder to control.
Dean stopped immediately when he saw his brother's face turn a few shades greener, "Sorry."
Sam nodded his appreciation before turning around. Breathing in and out, and finding his voice again, he said, "Whatever did this, isn't human…and could still be here…"
"So let's head back to the motel and find out what the hell we're up against before we end up like him," Dean said as he took his brother by the arm and steered him away from the gruesome carnage, letting their light guide them back to the safety of the Impala.
As the brothers walked a few more steps, the muffled sound of moving snow reverberated around the Winchesters, barely heard, but loud in the sudden silence of the forest. Dean stopped and looked around for the source. The sound was almost inaudible, but he heard it as plain as day, and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stood out on end.
Just as soon as it started, it ended, throwing them back into silence. The sound of the usual nighttime critters were silenced, as if they knew something out of the ordinary was about to happen. The winds, it seemed, had died down. And all of a sudden, it felt like the boys were thrown into complete darkness as the stars and the moon died along with everything else.
"Dean?" Sam asked uncertainly, eyes darting everywhere for whatever caught the older hunter's attention, "What is it?"
Dean didn't answer as he strained to hear any sound that might alert them to its whereabouts, instead holding up a finger effectively silencing Sam with the hunter's gesture. All the while automatically stepping into Big Brother mode and placing himself in front of Sam, and forcing them to stealthily walk backwards, slow inch by slow inch.
All of a sudden, he wished his baby brother was still at Stanford and not about to get killed in freaking Montana. He was scared, but he would never admit it to anyone – and seeing how freaked Sam looked, he knew he had to have his wits about him and get them both out of there alive.
Eyes narrowed as he caught a tiny glimpse of their mysterious assailant in between the trees – what the hell was that?! –, he clicked the flashlight off, fired off a round, and began to frantically shove Sam in the direction of his beloved Chevy, "RUN SAM!"
"What about you?" Sam said crossly as he automatically began running, his brother right behind him. He seriously had no idea what they were running from or what had got his brother spooked. Dean is freaking out. What the hell is that thing?
Chancing a glance behind him, Sam saw something that made his heart skip a beat in fright, and he almost stopped running if it wasn't for Dean firing off another round and pushing him uphill.
It seemed like a lifetime for both of them before they slowed to a stop after making sure they weren't being followed by the thing.
"So, what the hell was that?" Dean spoke first after gaining his breath, hands on his thighs as he bent over at the waist. Maybe Bobby will know, Dean thought as he flipped open his cell to call their friend.
Sam shook his head as he sat down on a tree stump, "I don't know. I've never seen anything like it before."
Dean stood straight and ran both hands through his hair, turning away from Sam and wishing he had something to throw. "Great! First no reception out here and now we're being chased by something that looks like it came out of a Romero flick," Dean grumbled, turning back and sitting down next to him, followed by, "What do we do now, Sasquatch?"
Sam studied the compass and map he stored in his pack, and replied, "Well, we can always try and make it to the car."
Dean nodded, looked around and asked, "Which way?"
Sam winced and replied regretfully, "South. Ten. Miles. South."
Dean's jaw dropped, "T-ten miles south?"
Seeing his brother about to explode, Sam interjected, "Listen Dean, we were five miles away from the car when we found that black dog, and we ran five miles in the wrong direction when we were being chased by the Grim Reaper's friend. All we have to do is retrace our steps and –"
"And what, Sam? Come face-to-face with it? We don't even know what it is!" Dean exclaimed as he tried his hardest to mask how really scared shitless he felt, but the look on his brother's face told him he failed.
Sam's jaw dropped, but he quickly clamped it up and swallowed the lump in his throat. Shit, if Dean's really afraid of this thing…Sam stopped himself from pondering the various outcomes further and suggested, "We can go a different route."
Dean looked at Sam gratefully for not mentioning his almost-hysteria and said, "Sounds like a plan to me. So what are we waiting for?"
Three hours later found the Winchester boys still making their slow trek downhill as the snowstorm grew stronger and worse with each passing minute.
"D-Dean?" Sam gritted out as he shivered slightly, "can we find some s-sort of shelter and make c-camp?"
"W-we're not far away now," Dean said through chattering teeth, shivering just as slightly.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Dean, in three hours, we have, so far, walked what, a mile and a half…in a snowstorm no less…we are no nearer to the damn car and warm beds…and we probably won't reach them 'til sunrise…if we're lucky to be alive by then."
On any other day, Dean would have been offended by Sam's use of words when concerning his baby, but right now he was too damn cold to care. Seeing how cold his baby brother was, Dean huffed out, "Yeah Sammy, we'll look for shelter."
And it was true. In three too short hours they had crossed two frozen lakes, a small ravine, and one snow-covered mountain that Sam swore was just a fairly large hill. All in all, both brothers were widely impressed by how far they've gotten in conditions such as this.
A half hour went by with no such luck on finding something to settle in from the storm, making Dean's gripes about not even finding one single cabin in the middle of nowhere, a mantra of its own.
Sam, on the other hand, just listened to his older brother's complaints half-heartedly as he tried to get his sleep-fogged mind to wrap itself around the mystery of the creature. Why hasn't it tried to come after us again? He questioned himself for the thousandths time, but was too tired to come up with a theoretical answer.
Actually, he was too tired to even catch himself from walking into his brother when the older man stopped, "D-Dean?"
Dean didn't know what was wrong except he knew – like his Spidey senses were tingling, gut feeling, but he was too tired to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The danger he sensed was just out of reach of his muddled mind. In fact he was too tired to even care that they were at yet another mountain. He knew it was due to the hypothermia, but for right now he just didn't care.
"Dean!" Sam shouted a second too late.
Dean whirled around in time to see his baby brother go flying through the air and crash land against a tree with a thud and a pained grunt, before sliding down in a boneless heap on the ground.
Seeing the blood pooling around the younger man's head jumpstarted Dean's mind into action, and using adrenaline to his advantage, he cocked his gun and fired at the thing that was slowly moving toward the unconscious hunter.
With lightening speed, the creature swung around and grabbed Dean's right arm just as the shot was fired, and snapped it in two, making the hunter grunt and hiss in pain as he dropped his gun from lifeless fingers. The creature's other hand shot out of nowhere and grabbed Dean by the throat, lifting him off the ground and efficiently cutting off his air supply.
Dean followed the long, grey, spidery, bony fingers at the base of his throat to a skeletal arm hidden beneath dirty, black, shredded-looking robes that seemed to move on their own accord, in tune with the creature's movements. Like shadows, Dean thought ironically. The hood of the robe shrouded the thing's face from its victims, but was revealed moments before their death, and what Dean saw was worse than Death itself.
A skull of part dragon and part human with a rare albino rattlesnake roaming in and out around the open sockets, nose and mouth appeared before him…and with it, a reek of death, a stench that if Dean had had any breath remaining would have robbed away as surely as if he'd drowned. In the sockets where the eyes should have been were sunken orbs aglow with a thin film of the palest blue, meant to leave their victims in a trance long enough to kill them. But it was the voices that snapped Dean out of the trance; it was the voices of long ago innocents being tortured as they were held trapped within the creature's grasp.
After he snapped out of it, Dean's oxygen-deprived mind noticed another faint glow, this time within its robes and right where the heart should've been. Questions about the thing in general circled around in his mind, but the need for much needed oxygen took first priority over the many inquiries.
Choking and gasping, desperately trying to get air to pass through his abused throat and enter his protesting lungs, and feeling the pressure building in his head when his lungs weren't getting any air, sent him to try to fight, claw and kick his attacker. The movement elicited a strangled yell from him over the use of his broken arm. The skeletal hand on his throat held on tight and did not budge heedless of the young man's struggles.
Chest burning and black spots dancing before his eyes made Dean attempt one last act to break free before succumbing to unconsciousness, or worse, death. Feeling his life draining out of him, he numbly felt for the silver knife he kept in the small sheath around his ankle with his left hand, and taking one last look over the creature's shoulder at his still unconscious sibling, he pulled out the knife and plunged it in the thing's heart.
The last thing he heard before giving in to the beckoning darkness was a disgruntled, ethereal scream and a sense of falling and tumbling down before coming to a bone-crushing halt.
A/N: Not to cause any confusion, but this takes place after the episode Asylum in the first season. I love to hear your thoughts! Please r&r! :)