Double Feature: Pick Your Poison
K Hanna Korossy
Can Hear It in the Silence
It just really wasn't right that he couldn't move but could feel everything. Seemed like he remembered some kind of biology lecture about nerves in one of the two dozen high schools he'd gone to, and he'd always thought them an all-or-nothing kind of deal. Figured he would be the one to find the loophole.
Not to mention how fun it was to have fire spreading along his side and not even be able to curse, or squeeze his eyes shut, or call Sam for help. And he really wanted Sam to get there, because lying in the middle of the woods helpless and hurt, no one watching his back, was even worse than the pain. And that was pretty friggin' bad.
That was the real kicker: Sam was there. Voice sometimes fading to silence, other times so close that Dean almost thought he saw movement through watery vision, but never near enough to see the heap of him behind the broad tree trunk, half-covered in leaves. He'd strained inside the cage of his body to make a sound, move a finger, anything to draw his brother's attention. But Sam and Bobby kept searching and not finding, and Dean was pretty sure he'd turn to ice before they discovered him. Well, that or bleed out; he was taking bets.
His teeth chattered—involuntary movement—and his stomach lurched as his body protested the blood loss. He tried not to think about what would happen if he threw up and couldn't turn his head or clear his throat.
"You searched the…northwest. Couldn't have gone…"
Yeah, he really coulda. Okay, so it was stupid to dive in after the White Fox like that, but he'd been sure the paralytic venom was a myth and, hey, he was a hunter and the thing was prey. And he had Sam, with those long legs that could usually keep up with Dean just fine. Maybe the kid had hung back to wait for Bobby, or maybe he'd tried to circle around to help Dean corner the Fox. Huh, maybe Sammy had just tripped over those big feet of his, but when Dean had finally stopped, panting, to take stock, there'd been no one bringing up his rear. Which, of course, was when the White Fox circled back and attacked.
Story of his life.
"Sam, maybe he…and headed…the car."
"No. He's here, Bobby…feel it."
Sam and his feelings. Dean would've rolled his eyes if he'd been able. Where was one of the kid's psychic downloads now when Dean needed it? Even Sam's visions were abandoning him.
The phone rang again in his pocket, muted by layers of cotton and denim, not to mention the weight of his body on top of it. Stupid thing was choosing now to work when it hadn't been able to pick up a signal for most of the hunt. Too bad he couldn't answer it. Or that Sam wasn't close enough to hear it.
Or that Sam wasn't there because, crap, Dean really needed him now.
"Stupid jerk, going off on his own like that. Doesn't he…?"
What? Dean wondered, and strained to hear, but he was pretty sure Sam trailed off. And that his voice got a little unsteady as he did. Probably would want to hug when he found Dean. The girl.
How lame was it that that made him feel a lot better?
But Sam was worried about him, and somewhere inside, Dean smiled at the thought. Even if Sam didn't find him, that meant something. Everything, actually. In a way, Dean hadn't been alone ever since Sam had come back on the road with him. Just as Dean had always sorta been alone ever since his little brother had left. Dying with the knowledge that his brother cared so much wasn't the worst way to go.
"Nope. Sam…maybe we should…'ed back to…car. Regroup, get some more—"
Oh, God, please, no.
"No…not giving up on him, Bobby."
"I'm not suggestin'—"
"No, just… No."
Attaboy, Sammy, he thought warmly. Right here, dude—don't give up on me.
Something brushed against his frigid fingers, and the fact Dean couldn't even train his eyes that way ratcheted his tightly controlled panic a little higher. Little legs: a big bug, or maybe a small mouse. Better not be a rat, and Dean's breath grew heavier at the idea. It touched his abraded side, just enough to make him scream inside his head at the thought of being eaten alive or something crawling into him through the torn skin, then backed off in a tiny scurry of movement.
God, Sam could find him anytime now, really. Please.
"He'd find me, Bobby. If I was missing. He always finds me."
So close now. The proximity had to be what was making his throat so tight.
"He's only human, Sam. Just like you."
Listen to him, Sammy.
"No." Almost amused. "Dean's—"
He'd never find out what, because Sam breathed in sharply then, words snapping off. For a split-second, Dean wondered if he'd hurt himself, but then with a cry of his brother's name, there was the thunder of footsteps shaking the ground he lay on—those stupid clodhopper feet—and then hands turning him over, patting him down, cradling his cheek.
"Dean! Hey. Hey, man. Y'all right?"
Better gratitude and relief made him lightheaded. Or maybe that was the blood loss.
"He's bleeding—Dean? Fox got ya, huh? You'll be okay—paralysis is supposed to wear off in a couple of hours, and the pain'll get better soon. I'll be here the whole way, okay?"
His head fell back as he was lifted, and a large hand cupped it, supporting his neck. It finally brought unruly hair and bright, worried eyes into Dean's range of vision: Sammy. Hands rubbed at his damp face.
"Hey. I know you're in there, Dean—just take it easy and Bobby an' me are gonna get you out of here, all right?" He was pulled forward, catching a blurred view of forest before he got up-close-and-personal with Sam's dark jacket. "I'm gonna shut your eyes, okay?" A warm palm, rough-skinned but gentle, slid over his eyes, shutting disobedient lids. His eyes watered in relief.
He was pulled even closer, and if he could have moaned in relief at being near a source of heat like the furnace that was Sam, he would've. Flesh and sinew moved as further layers were wrapped around him, and his clattering teeth slowly stilled.
"Bobby, can you get the car? I can get him to the access road."
"Yeah, kid. Make sure you tie off his side—warmth and moving him's gonna get his blood flowing again. And keep an eye on the trees around ya. Plenty of things in these woods that're attracted to blood."
"I've got him." Sam sounded petulantly defensive, and Dean would've smiled if he could've. It was the same tone that had balked at doing drills because he already knew the moves. It was the voice of a thousand of his memories, and kindled its own warmth in Dean's chest.
He was tilted forward, and his total helplessness to do anything except be manhandled like a baby rankled. But Dean had an extremely high tolerance where Sam was concerned, and the flood of gratitude that he'd been found hadn't abated yet, so he couldn't mind too much. Although he did utter a few choice curse words in his head as Sam pressed something tight against his side and tied it off.
"Think you're gonna live, you idiot. But, Dean, the next time you take off like that, I'm gonna…do something nasty to the car, man, I swear. You're not doing this alone, you know."
Yeah, 'cause being alone sucked. Figured that after the hundred ways he'd tried to tell Sam that, it would only sink in when Dean was paralyzed into silence.
Sam tucked his chin on top of Dean's head, wrapping long arms around him. "Bobby wasted the White Fox. 'Course, we were too busy looking for you to burn it—next time I'm putting a tracker on you or something, man. You really scared me."
Big girl. Dean couldn't ridicule him much, though, because he was safe and warm—well, warmer—and the pain had eased, and even more importantly, Sam was safe and there, too.
He kinda wanted to ask what Sam had been about to say when he'd spotted Dean: Dean's…awesome? My hero? In a class by himself?
"Hang in there, bro," Sam whispered, voice almost lost in the approaching rumble of the Impala and his gathering Dean up. "I gotcha."
Then again, Sam had really been telling him all along.
this one's for Jeanne
He was tied up, hands bound above his head. Helpless. His wrists hurt from the restraint, but no matter how much he twisted, he couldn't get loose.
The moan that escaped him was as much from fear as from pain.
"I know it hurts, Sam, but you gotta stop fighting me or you'll make it worse, okay? Just calm down and I'll let you go. C'mon, just relax."
Dean loosened his hold on Sam's hands experimentally, but Sam immediately reached again for the bandaged wound on his hip. Last time he'd managed to tear the gauze loose before Dean could stop him.
As gently as he could, Dean held his arms down again, hating the way his brother writhed in his grip but not having any choice.
He couldn't remember how he'd gotten there, but his aching head was probably answer enough. It pulled with every beat of his heart.
He'd woken up blindfolded, in total darkness. It should've been a relief for his aching head, but the panic the blackness instilled just heightened the vicious throbbing. If only he could see…
Sam's face scrunched in discomfort again. If the liquid painkiller had kicked in, there wasn't any sign of it that Dean could see.
He mirrored his brother's grimace, adjusting the wet compress that covered Sam's eyes and forehead.
"Easy, bro, it's just water, gonna cool that hot head of yours down. Nothing to see here right now, I promise."
The gag filled his mouth, trapping the air in his lungs, making it hard to breathe. Why? he despaired. His parched throat could barely make a sound as it was.
He choked around it, desperate to free his airway, empty his mouth, but it was just stuffed back in.
"Hey, hey, don't choke, don't—crap!" Dean thunked the glass down, tilted Sam forward so the water trickled out instead of down into his lungs. The hacking cough still shook them both.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut, pressing Sam's head against his shoulder.
"You need to drink, Sammy—fever's eating you up, man. C'mon, a few more sips—we'll try it slow…"
He froze, panicked body vibrating with tension as the knife pressed against his throat. His Adam's apple bobbed painfully under the edge.
He wanted it to be over, but not this way. Please, not this way.
"You done now? 'Cause I gotta tell you, dude, my legs are starting to cramp here."
Sam arched again, neck resting against the basin's rim as his body fought to heave up what little fluids it had taken in.
Dean sighed, switching off his grip on Sam and the basin to give sore muscles a break. "Guess not."
Water filled his mouth, splashed on his face, making him sputter. I don't know what you want! he tried to scream, but every time he opened his mouth, they just threw more water at him.
God, why couldn't they just leave him alone!
"Yeah, I know that's not fun, but we gotta get your fever down."
Sam squirmed under the spray of the shower, mouth opening and closing like a guppy. Dean might've found it funny if there'd been a shred of comprehension on his brother's face, or if it wasn't taking all he had just to hold on to the wet, struggling form.
Or if Sam didn't look absolutely terrified the whole time.
He couldn't see the needle, but he could feel it sliding into his skin.
It was tiny, shouldn't have even registered in the litany of abuses he'd suffered. But he'd always hated needles, and his utter inability to fight even something so small crushed him. He whimpered in defeat.
"I know, I know you don't like needles, kiddo," Dean whispered, taping the IV into place. "But gotta keep you hydrated, and it's me or the hospital."
Sam rolled feebly from him, the sounds of suffering breaking Dean's heart and composure. He rubbed his thumb just above the site where the needle went in.
"Just hang on for me, Sammy. It'll be over soon, okay?"
The taunts rolled over him like a tank, battering his already broken will. He couldn't hear the words clearly, just knew they were talking to him and they wouldn't stop, breaking him down piece by piece no matter how much he tried not to listen.
They didn't want anything from him, and that was the worst blow of all. It was just about making him suffer. And he did.
"Easy, Sammy. Easy, Sammy. Gonna be over soon. It's already been almost twenty-four hours—poison's almost done. Just hang in there a little longer."
Sam no longer fought him, just twitched quietly where he lay against Dean's chest, resigned rather than relaxed. The only thing worse than not being able to help a hurting Sam was Dean doing what he could and Sam not knowing it, lost in his nightmare. Didn't stop Dean from trying to reach him, though.
"Almost over, then we're gonna get some bagels and watermelon and tea, all that healthy junk you like, and watch some pay-per-view porn, okay? Almost there, Sam."
It sunk in slowly, took who knows how long. But he suddenly realized he was free. He lurched up, made it two steps as the world swayed around him and the ground tilted under his feet, before he was grabbed from behind.
And as he was hauled back, captured once more, the last of his hope died.
Dean swore as Sam went limp in his arms. He shouldn't've taken so long in the bathroom, but Sam had been resting quietly when he left. Who knew Houdini had one last trick left in him?
He towed Sam back to the bed, then lifted him up onto the mattress…only noticing then the silent tears that painted his brother's face.
Dean rubbed them away, cursing unsteadily under his breath. His own eyes burned as he settled in beside his brother. He wasn't leaving Sam again until this was done.
After what seemed like forever in the darkness and the torture and the pain, he opened his eyes.
Light assailed them, and he quickly shut them again, blinked hesitantly. Found to his surprise he was in a room decorated cheerfully in yellow, lying on a soft bed piled with blankets. Instead of ropes, only fingers trapped his wrists, and when he lifted his aching head, it moved freely.
His faceless captors were gone. In their place was one lone figure slumped on the floor next to his bed. An unshaven face leaned back awkwardly against his pillow, mouth open in an unflattering snore. He reeked of sweat and morning breath.
The nightmare world slowly evaporated. Dean was solid against Sam's senses, and he swallowed hard from the overwhelming relief at the best thing he'd ever seen. This, finally, was real.
He put up with the scrutiny as long as he could, which was pretty long considering how relieved he was Sam was looking at anything at all. But finally Dean cracked his eyes open, gave his brother a tired, exasperated, and, yeah, maybe a little bit fond look.
"Quit staring and go back to sleep, Sammy. Everything's good."
Sam's mouth twitched as he obeyed, face soon peacefully smooth.
This, finally, was really Sam. Dean let himself relax in the knowledge then, smiling tiredly, joined his brother in sleep.