Sam tried to wipe his nose discretely. Truth was, he didn't feel very good, but he wasn't about to tell his dad that. Winchesters didn't slow down for a cold, no; Winchesters were tough and did the job no matter what. Sam could handle a simple cold, no problem. The pounding in his head made it a little more difficult to deal with, but Sam could deal with that too.
"You ok squirt?" asked Dean from the driver's seat.
"M'fine." Sam mumbled, staring out the window. Dean wasn't convinced, but pushing the issue wouldn't do much good. Sam appeared to be in one of his broody-teenager moods, that was enough to make Dean drop the topic and pop in his favourite Metallica tape.
The truck ahead pulled over to the side of the dirt road and stopped. John and Bobby got out. Dean turned the Impala to the side and pulled up behind John. Sam gave a cough that didn't sound the least bit healthy, causing Dean to look down at his brother in concern. When he noticed Dean looking, Sam adopted the air of being focused on the hunt.
"Ok boys, here's the plan," said John, sounding like his drill sergeant self. "We're dealing with a crucota." Bobby gave a nod of understanding, while Sam and Dean looked blank. A trifle irritated that his boys didn't see the importance of this statement, John continued,
"A crucota is a lycanthrope that got infected by a ghoul, so it's a werewolf-ghoul hybrid. Their saliva contains some sort of anesthetic that will make your entire body go numb. That's when they eat you alive." Sam shuddered involuntarily.
"How do you kill it?" asked Dean, his concern for Sam growing.
"Iron; it disintegrates their skin, essentially." Dean winced at the image. Bobby rummaged through the truck's backseat and pulled out a couple of shotguns, a knife and what looked like a fire poker.
"Pure iron." He said as an explanation, handing the poker to Sam who took it looking determined. Dean took the knife.
"Bobby and I will search the deep part of the forest for the beast's cave. You and Sam search the forest areas closer to civilization; stop anyone else from getting hurt. Got it?"
"Yes, sir." Both brothers said, nodding, though the movement made Sam's head throb. John headed off into the woods without another word, but Bobby made a gesture of farewell before following suit.
The sun had set hours ago, the temperature dropping. Sam gritted his teeth to keep them from chattering. He knew that if Dean noticed how sick he was actually getting, he'd want to take him home and his Dad would call him weak. Sam already felt like a big enough disappointment; he wasn't about to make it worse by bailing on a hunt just because he felt a little feverish.
Dean was worried about his baby brother. He was making valiant attempts to appear healthy, but they were falling pitifully flat. He knew why his brother was putting on the show; he wanted to impress their father by sticking it out. Sometimes Dean wanted to knock some sense into his dad; Sam was only fourteen for crying out loud. Dean personally thought Sam handled himself well on hunts, all things considering. John pushed his youngest way too hard, and Dean knew that one day, Sam was going to snap. A twig cracked a little ways away and Dean instantly tensed up.
"Sammy," he hissed quietly, "get behind me." Sam apparently hadn't heard the noise, but obeyed his brother.
Dean surveyed the dark woods with a growing feeling of apprehension, the noises were becoming more frequent, but he still couldn't pinpoint the location of the crucota. He heard a snarl from behind him. The body resembled a human's, but the head was that of a wolf. It's rat-like tail thrashing in anticipation. The creature took a step forward, its yellow eyes glowing eerily in the dark. The moon glinted off the dripping fangs. Without warning, it darted forward and leapt, closing the gap between it and the brothers. It landed with a crash, growling and tossing its head. Dean pulled out his knife, trying to find an entrance. The crucota noticed, the sight of the weapon enraging it. It stalked forward, saliva dripping from its jaws as it eyed Dean hungrily.
It happened so quickly, Dean wasn't exactly sure what had happened. He saw Sam edge his way towards the monster and slash at it bravely with the fire poker. The crucota whipped its head with a fierce snarl, catching Sam's arm in its jaws. Sam cried out in pain and fear as he felt the saliva enter his body. Already, his arm had started to go numb, and the venom continued to spread. Without thinking, Dean ran forward, ducked under the crucota's arm as it tried to fend him off. Rage fueling him, Dean plunged the knife into the crucota's chest. It howled in agony, dropping Sam like a ragdoll as the iron sizzled its flesh. Dean rushed to Sammy's side, after being dropped; Sam had curled into fetal position, unmoving.
"Sam? Sammy? You still with me there, kiddo?" He turned his brother on his side; Sam's eyes were half open, and he mumbled something in an attempt to respond.
"Don't worry Sammy, I've got ya." Dean was about to lift him up when a forceful growl reminded him that they weren't safe yet.
Dean bent into a protective crouch in front of Sam, holding the fire poker. Green eyes locked on yellow, both gaze equally fierce. A gunshot rang through the trees, as John and Bobby rushed on to the scene. The crucota pinned its ears back, but turned tail and ran.
"Get your brother to a hospital, now!" John shouted as he and Bobby ran past. Nodding wordlessly, Dean scooped his little brother up into his arms and headed towards the Impala, torn between wanting to get there as fast as possible and wanting to be careful in case Sammy had any broken bones.
After what felt like an eternity, Dean saw his beloved car up ahead.
"Almost there Sammy, just hang on." Sam groaned and pushed his head into Dean's chest in response. Dean bit his lip, there was sheen of sweat on Sam's forehead and the bite mark on his arm was still sluggishly bleeding.
Opening the door was a little tricky, as Dean was reluctant to let go of Sam, even for a minute. When he finally managed it, he placed Sam gently on the backseat, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. He put his hand on Sam's forehead.
Shit, Dean cursed inwardly; Sam's temperature was through the roof. Dean sat down and turned the key, sending the Impala tearing down the long empty road. To make matters worse, a fog was beginning to settle in.
He had only been driving for a few minutes when he heard Sam groan from the backseat.
"You ok back there,
"Dean?" Sam opened one bleary hazel eye, trying to figure out where he was. "M'sorry…" Dean almost slammed the brakes in annoyance; of course the kid would feel bad about getting hurt and 'screwing things up'. Once again, Dean wanted to give his Dad a good punch. Eyes darting between Sam and the road, Dean snapped irritably,
"You have nothing to be sorry for Sammy, got it?" Sam began to protest, but Dean didn't give him the chance, "The crucota beat you up enough without you adding to it." Through the fog, Sam thought he saw movement in the trees.
The fog was now so thick that Dean could barely see anything more than three feet ahead. He saw a giant shape leap into the road in front of him. The headlights illuminated the snarling face of the crucota only seconds before it sprang forward. Dean swerved, trying to avoid a collision, but because of the fog, he couldn't see the steep hill off the side of the road. The car slid down the hill, the growling animal clinging to the front. There was a crash and a jolt of impact as the Impala smashed into a tree, shattering the windshield and causing who knows how much damage.
Dazed and furious, Dean wrenched the door open, grabbing the fire poker. The car had done a wonderful job of pinning the crucota to the tree. A ruthless gleam in his eye, Dean stabbed the creature in the heart, again and again beyond after it had already died. Satisfied, Dean turned back towards the car and tore open the back door. Sam was unmoving, bleeding from the head.
"Sammy?" Dean lifted his baby brother into his arms, putting a hand on his face. "Sammy? You still with me there? Sam!" Sam was unresponsive; it was almost like he was…
No. Dean shook his head in denial, and was shocked when a wave of agony came over him. Placing a hand to his own face, he found that is was wet. He took his hand away too see that there was indeed very red blood there. Now that he was aware of his injury, the pain swelled to agony
No, I can't be injured this bad, I need to help Sammy… Dean weakly pulled out his cell and dialed 911.
Briiiiing Someone had to pick up.
Briiiiing Someone had to find them soon.
Briiiiing If nobody found them, Sammy was going to-
"Hello?" a voice answered. Dean was overwhelmed with relief, he opened his mouth to begin speaking, but the wave of blackness overtook him before he could make a sound.
The light was blinding. Dean opened a bleary green eye and took in his surroundings. White bed, beeping machinery, nasty small of antiseptic; oh, he was in a hospital. Dean closed his eyes and sank back onto his pillows in momentary relief. Seconds later, his eyes snapped open and he jerked upright, bringing another wave of agony. Dean swayed, head in his hands, eyes clenched shut.
"Mr. Styles?" Dean opened one eye just wide enough to see that a nurse had entered the room. She looked to be in her forties, and had a very motherly appearance, her light brown hair tied back in a loose ponytail. Her blue eyes were regarding Dean in genuine concern, not the condescending looks that Dean was used to. He gave a grunt of acknowledgement.
The nurse smiled and walked over to the bed, checking the IV hooked up to Dean's arm and talking soothingly all the while. Dean noted that her name tag read the name Carrie.
"Where's m'brother?" A funny look passed over Carrie's face.
"He's alive, Honey; he's only a few doors down from here." Dean looked far from reassured by her choice of words.
"I need to see him." Dean attempted to get up, but Carrie pushed him firmly back down.
"You need to rest right now," she said sternly, "Tell you what, if you behave and actually sleep for two hours, then I'll take you to your brother." Dean glared, knowing he didn't really have a choice in the matter.
"Fine," he grumbled, sounding like a petulant child but accepting the pills that Nurse Carrie offered him. Their effect was almost instantaneous; Dean slumped back against his pillows, all tension gone from his body.
Dean's sleep was anything but peaceful; he kept reliving the crash. The crucota's growls, Sam's mumbled apology, Dean's frantic concern. Even now, he had no idea of the condition Sammy was in. He felt a hand gently take his shoulder and a soft voice say,
"Mr. Styles, your two hours are up. You can see your brother now." At those words, Dean forced himself awake. He allowed Carrie to help him into a wheelchair. As she wheeled him down the hallway, Carrie told him kindly,
"I'm letting you see him because I promised, but I'm warning you; you might not like what you see." Dean inhaled in fear, less reassured then ever.
Carrie had been right; Dean didn't like what he saw one bit. Sam was perfectly still, eyes closed, the only signs of life being the gentle rising and falling of his chest and the beeping of the machine.
"Sammy?" He looked up at Nurse Carrie, "What's wrong with him?" She looked very resigned and Dean feared the worst.
"When we found him, he was unconscious and had already lost a lot of blood, from what we could tell. We had to stitch up several cuts, including the one on his head. Chances of a concussion are high." Dean nodded; this he could deal with; both boys had had concussions before. But Carrie wasn't finished.
"After the operations, we found that there was some strange toxin in his blood. That, in combination with the drugs we needed to use for the stitching reacted badly." Dean stared, wide-eyed.
"Reacted badly…" Dean repeated dangerously. Carrie looked grim.
"It put him in a coma, Mr. Styles. He might not ever wake up."