This came to me at 2 AM, and I figured I'd post it before I left for my spring break. I haven't written a story this long before, so let me know what you think either way.
This is after "Criss Angel is a Douche Bag" and makes a reference to "Metamorphosis."
Dean jerked awake, his muscles inexplicably bunched into knots under his sweating skin as he surfaced from the thick pond of sleep. Air tunneled down his throat as his chest resumed rising and falling, the knowledge that he had stopped breathing vaguely registering in the back of his mind. Stupid sleep apnea.
Groaning quietly, Dean rolled to a sitting position, letting one leg drop off the bed as he ground his knuckles into his forehead. The motel room was dark and not silent at all, the loud clanking and whirring of the heater in the corner of the room making more noise than some bar fights Dean had seen…and been in.
Unease traced his spine with soft fingers, drawing a shiver from the eldest Winchester. He ran a tired hand through his short hair, feeling the slight dampness of the strands. Glancing at the clock on the nightstand, the blurry numbers winked a couple fives and a two at him. Next to it sat a green and pink ceramic seahorse. The thing's glass eyes bugged crazily at him, its snout sneering with gold-lined teeth. Ugly ass piece of crap. If the thing was alive, Dean would be tempted to put a bullet through its head. Hell, might do it anyway.
With a grunt, Dean shifted and stood, waiting a moment until he could see through the sleep smearing his vision. Shuffling forward a couple steps, he looked blearily at his brother's bed. It was empty. Dean's heart rate spiked and his body began to feed him extra adrenaline.
Trying force himself to be calm, Dean fought panic as he turned around to search for his brother. Eyes sweeping the room, he quickly concluded there was no Sam brooding in a corner. Not that the kid brooded much these days – he was cool as steel and had that impenetrable Winchers wall blocking any display of emotions. Thank you screwed up childhood.
The bathroom was dark, its door open halfway, but Dean headed for it without hesitation. Grabbing the tarnished metal handle, he pulled the door wide. Dean's eyes fell on a large, shadowy lump huddled by the toilet. Reaching blindly, Dean fumbled for a moment until he reached a switch. A vacuum-suck of a fan started overhead. Nope, wrong one. He slapped at the other switch. Brightness seared his eyes as they struggled to adjust. They ached to close just for a second, but Dean refused to look away from his brother.
Sam was asleep with his head resting uncomfortably on the bathtub and one leg tucked between the toilet and sink. Had he come in to take a leak and just flopped over? Unlikely. They were both tired from their recent hunt, but Dean doubted Sam was that tired, despite the miles they'd had to trek in order to catch that orange thing.
Dean still had no clue what it was, really. But it had infected its victims with a poisoned slice of its claw to immobilize them before sucking their brains out through their noses, so yeah, it had to be taken care of. The bad part had been the victims they'd lost to the poison alone; there was no cure even if their brains stayed in their heads. Turned out it had been the pet of some whack job sorcerer with a fetish for rare human parts, thus the sucking of brains. The orange creature had been playing a twisted version of fetch-the-cranium. Now the thing was dead and the sorcerer had had all his magic crap burned and had been turned in to the police. In Dean's book that meant kickback time and relaxation. Just not on the freaking bathroom floor.
Crouching next to the sleeping giant, Dean swatted the slumped shoulder with the back of his hand. "Hey, Sam, you with me?"
Sam stirred and opened his eyes, blinking rapidly in the light of the bathroom. "D'n?" He cleared his throat. "Dean? What…?" He stopped and gave a sharp groan, curling forward. "Crap, man."
"You okay?" Dean asked sharply, quickly assessing what he could see of his brother, searching for an infected wound, sign of blunt trauma, anything. He found nothing. "Sam, are you okay?" he repeated when he hadn't received an answer. He formed his words clearly, hoping to get through Sam's sleep-addled brain.
"D'pends," Sam mumbled, screwing his eyes closed against the light, "Better than when Jake sliced me, worse than bleedin' from my eyes."
Cold trickled down into Dean's belly at Sam's words, but he quickly tried to shake it off. Sam wasn't all there, so Dean wouldn't hold it against him, but… Damn. Even two years after the fact, Dean couldn't think about Cold Oak without being plunged into that haze of loss. Time didn't seem to heal all wounds, he thought grimly.
"Where?" Dean asked, returning his focus to the now.
"Chest, mostly. Back and shoulders…uh, and head." Sam was slowly gaining volume as he struggled awake, eyes still slits against the light.
Dean slid a hand under Sam's chin and gently tipped his head up. Sam's eyes were a bit glassy, his skin was damp and clammy, and he seemed to be having trouble swallowing if the odd bobbing of his throat was anything to go by. Something was going on inside that freakishly long body other than the usual morbid thoughts Dean knew Sam was frequently fighting.
Especially so soon after the whole mess with Jay and his magician buddies, Dean wanted to keep an eye on his little brother. He hadn't seen Sam so riled and upset since… well, probably since Jack Montgomery. Despite Sam's pre-Hell resolution to be more "like Dean," the kid was still weighted down by his heavy conscience, particularly after a hunt in which they lost a life. Like a while back when Sam had tried to let Jack live, tried to find some hope for himself in Jack. There had been none.
Dean had seen the pain on Sam's face after his perceived failure; it was an expression he had always hated to see. It meant there was another dark blade of emotion shredding his brother from the inside. Sam hadn't slept much after the thing with Jack. And now, after leaving Magic Town and all the freaks in it, that behavior was coming back, and over the last two days Dean hadn't seen him eat a thing. Yet more cause for worry. Sometimes he thought he'd go crazy from the fear he felt for his brother, the fear that had intensified a hundred fold since Dean had discovered Sam's extracurriculars. Which, thank God, he'd stopped.
"Pr'bly just picked up a virus, Dean," Sam said, swatting at Dean's hand, "Go back to sleep."
Dean grunted noncommittally, continuing his examination. "Were you planning on waking me up anytime? Y'know, just to let me know you were gonna spend the night all cozy with the bathroom appliances." He tried to keep the edge out of his voice, he really did, but he didn't completely succeed. Unfortunately, Sam now seemed awake enough to catch it.
Giving a short sigh, Sam winced and pushed himself off the ground to stand on stiff legs. "I'm fine, man. Just the flu or something." Before Dean could get out a word, Sam was pushing past him and trudging back toward his bed. He had one arm wrapped loosely around his chest, the other swinging freely to help with balance.
Frowning, Dean followed. He hadn't been back much longer than he'd been gone, but he was pretty sure that didn't mean he'd forfeited his big brother rights as Sam seemed to think he had. Since he'd returned, Dean had watched injured Sam dig a four inch long spike out of his arm, stitch himself up without aid, and still manage to help patch Dean up afterward. His brother had, in most cases, calmly refused Dean's assistance, something which Dean had never before needed to offer – he'd always just taken care of Sammy without giving it a thought. Now he wasn't sure if he should ask or what.
Hovering somewhat uncertainly behind Sam, Dean was in a convenient position to catch him as the taller man let out a sharp sound of pain and folded like a cheap, shaggy lawn chair. Dean's arms darted out and gripped Sam's chest and shirt, trying to steady him. Alarm rippled through him. "What's wrong? Sam?"
Sam didn't answer, preoccupied with taking quick gasps of air, his eyes screwed shut, one hand pressed over the side of his head.
Dean scowled and heaved his brother forward one more step before lowering him until Sam sat unsteadily on the edge of the bed. He slid in front of Sam, pushing away the hand and shoving the floppy bangs out of his face. "Hey, look at me. Sammy!"
Sam grew very still, his body rigid under Dean's hands. "Dean, I think…" He swallowed hard before opening his eyes. He took a breath. "I'm okay. Just… lay back down." His words slurred a bit.
Dean didn't answer, frowning again as if he just caught something. His fingers push past Sam's arm and press over the left side of Sam's chest. The heartbeat beneath them was fluttery and strangely strong.
"Dean? Come on, man, let me sleep," Sam said, his voice shaking slightly. Dean didn't budge.
"Did it cut you?"
Brows knitting together, Sam stared down at his brother. "What? No. Dean—"
"Sam." Fist tightening in the cloth of Sam's shirt, Dean gripped him tightly.
"Let go," Sam protested, frowning.
"This is important. Did it cut you?" His hands move up and grab the top of Sam's t-shirt to steady his swaying brother.
"No, Dean. It's nothing."
"Your symptoms aren't telling me 'nothing,' Sam," Dean said, his voice fringed with panic. In fact, the symptoms were screaming bloody, intentional murder. There was no time for anyone to slip Sam anything in a drink or food, not since they'd come back from the hunt. And that's exactly what the symptoms pointed to: poison. The only other option was that Sam had been cut by that orange monstrosity.
Sam's eyes widened, revealing a sliver of fear. "Dean, it never touched me."
So what the hell is going on? Before Dean could respond, Sam doubled up and cried out in pain, clutching at his chest. He gave a bone-rattling cough, and Dean watched in horror as blood dripped from Sam's mouth. Sam slid from the bed to his knees on the carpet, his back arching as he choked.
"Sam!" Dean's hands were on him, searching frantically for an injury that might have been missed.
"Didn't…not" Sam wheezed incoherently, clutching his chest. "Dean…feels like…" He began to pitch forward.
Snagging his jacket, Dean pulled Sam to him and put a hand on his forehead to keep Sam's head steady. Swearing harshly, Dean kept his grip tight. "Sam, hey! Come on man, talk to me."
"Feels like…hex bag," Sam bit out, grinding his teeth. Dean felt another wave of pain roll through Sam's body as his muscles locked. Purple veins stood stark against Sam's paling skin.
Cursing, Dean leaned Sam back against the bed and leaped to his feet. In five minutes he'd ripped open almost everything in the motel room, finding nothing but their belongings and a disturbing amount of previous tenants' used condoms."It's not here!" Dean shouted back to Sam, tearing through the extra blankets in the closet.
Behind him, Sam let out another cry of pain. Urgency burned through Dean and he pulled the cloth out faster. Finding nothing, he whipped around lunged at table holding the tiny TV. He pushed the set off, ignoring its crash to the ground. The table followed, flying halfway across the room. Dean froze. On the wall, painted in red, was a symbol he'd never seen before. It leered menacingly at him, small rivulets of goo running in dried drops from the picture. Dean bent closer, his stomach clenching painfully; the symbol had been painted in blood. Someone had been in their room.
"Sam!" he called out. He whirled and watched as Sam raised his head, blood coating his shirt, hands, and face, dripping in dark globs onto his jeans. Dean felt his heart stutter and start again. Sam didn't look like he should still be breathing.
Sam's eyes widened with shock, locked on the symbol before he grimaced in pain. "Dean," he began, struggling to stand.
"Hey, whoa." Dean darted back to his brother, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Dean gaped. "What?"
A hand was firmly planted against Dean's chest, shoving him away. "Leave, Dean," Sam ground out. His red-stained teeth clenched as his chest pounded in agony.
"Not leaving, Sam. What the hell…?"
The barked order was enough to still Dean's frantic movements to grab his brother.
"It's a curse, Dean. It's…agh!" Sam broke off as his body bucked with pain. Breathing heavily, he turned bloodshot eyes back to a panicked Dean. "Curse. It's… Unus tunc ceterus, Dean."
"What the hell does that mean?" Dean asked frantically, angrily. His hands grasped uselessly at his little brother as tremors punched at his body.
Sam gasped and gripped Dean's arm in a vise, saying nothing.
"Sam!" Dean bellowed.
"It'll kill me…'n then you. Unus tunc ceterus is 'one then the other.' Have to…get out before it…" Sam ended in a back-breaking cough that delivered another mouthful of blood onto the faded gray carpet.
"How do you break it?" Dean shook Sam slightly. His heart was pounding so hard it was sure to quit any second. Damn it, Sam.
"Can't. Leave, Dean."
With a frustrated growl, Dean stuffed a hand in his pocket and pulled out his phone. He punched in the numbers through a fog of panic. As the phone rang eternally, he cursed it.
"Bobby! 'One then the other' curse. How do you break it?" Dean tightened his hold on Sam. Fear raked through his body as Sam went slack and the heart that had just been pounding against Dean began to flicker and die.
Bobby didn't hesitate. "Quickest way is heather. Stuff it down his throat. He'll be sick, but he'll live. Won't stop it, but it'll hold it off."
Dean didn't pause to think about how Bobby had known it was Sam in trouble. Who else could it have been?
"How much?" Dean demanded.
"A teaspoon or whatever you've got."
Dean dropped the phone and let go of Sam, feeling terror thrill through him as his brother slid limply to the ground, his body trembling, blood leaking from his mouth and nose. Cold Oak flooded his mind as he charged outside to the Impala. Ripping the trunk open, Dean tore through the contents until he found the small packet of heather. Leaving the trunk, Dean flew back to Sam, who was now struggling to rise.
"D'n…run," Sam murmured tightly. One hand was pressed to his chest, the other grasping weakly at the bed cover in an effort to keep his balance. There was a lot of blood. God, please not too much.
"Not a chance, Sammy," Dean answered unthinkingly as he reached for Sam's jaw. He tipped Sam's head back and pulled his mouth open, pushing the heather past his lips. Sam choked and coughed as he writhed to get free, but Dean's hold was firm. When all the heather was gone and safely down Sam's esophagus, he hauled Sam up against him, pinning his brother close, and he waited.
For thirty seconds Sam seemed to get steadily worse. His body convulsed and he hacked up more blood, but the heather stayed down. Dean held him tighter, closer. A minute through and Sam seemed to be calming, his limbs stilling, and the blood slowing, stopping. After two minutes, Sam lay still in Dean's arms. The heart that Dean had known all his life began to regulate itself until it was a steadier, stronger beat that traveled through Sam's back and into his own chest. Only the intermittent flutter let him know things were not normal. For a moment Dean held still, his baby brother clutched in his arms, and let himself believe that everything would be okay; for a moment, he let himself think that no one could take Sam from him. It had been too close. He released a shuddering breath as Sam began to open his still-red eyes.
"Dean?" he croaked.
"Yeah, Sammy, I'm here." I'll always be right here.
Sam's eyes traveled up and flickered across Dean's face. "…We dead?"
"Nah, just a little banged up, man. How you feeling?" His voice cracked a bit.
"Like s'm jerk jammed poisonous plants down 'm throat."
Unable to staunch the swell of hysteria, Dean let out a short bark of insane laughter. Biting down hard, he struggled to regain control of himself. "Yeah…yeah, that'll do it," he said softly. The heater clanked loudly in the background once again. Dimly, Dean wondered if it had stopped before, or if he just hadn't heard it.
Dean jumped as Bobby's weak, electronic voice snapped worriedly through the relative silence. Reaching out with one hand and holding his brother with the other, Dean retrieved his phone and cradled it against his ear. "Yeah, Bobby?"
"How's your brother?" he asked without preamble.
Did Bobby really think Dean would have bothered to pick up the phone if he'd lost Sam? "He's breathing, but…" Dean lowered his voice somewhat as Sam's eyes began to slide shut. "Bobby, what the hell is going on?"
"Someone wants you two dead, is what. And they sure as hell ain't messin' around," Bobby growled.
"But Sam's okay now?" Dean asked, fighting the fear that welled as he looked down at his brother. Sam's breathing was shallow and his body was limp. He looked all of twelve years old as he lay against Dean's chest, his cheek against Dean's collarbone.
"Not by a long shot. Where are you two?"
Dean relayed their location, not encouraged as Bobby began swearing vehemently.
"Can't reach you in time. Damnit all to hell."
"In time for what?" Dean demanded quietly, clutching Sam closer to his body.
"This thing's got a short fuse."
Terror struck Dean hard as he realized what Bobby was saying. Sam might not make it. "Bobby, what do I do?"
There was silence on the other end for what felt like an eternity. Dean nearly lost his mind waiting for a reply, but he couldn't make himself rush the answer he dreaded was coming.
"There's nothing I know to do for that curse, not if it's done proper. Just…let me call you back. And keep giving him heather. A pinch every two hours or so. It'll make him sick, but it might slow it down enough."
"What the hell does this curse do, Bobby?"
"It was created by a witch several centuries back. Story goes that she found out her lover was cheating on her with someone else, so she made a curse that would kill him and whoever he loved most, thinkin' it would be his mistress. Turned out he was just screwing around and still loved the witch. Killed them both."
Dean frowned. That was what Sam had been saying. "So, you think…?"
Bobby hesitated. "If Sam doesn't make it, it's after you next, boy."
"He's making it, Bobby. What do we do to stop this?" Grim determination took hold, refusing to be shaken. Sam wasn't dying on him.
"I'll hafta call you back. Answer your damn phone when I do."
Bobby's gruff, worried voice cut off with a soft click. The line went dead.
Note: I know zilch about Latin, so please forgive the name of the curse. I'm open to suggestions. I also know nothing about heather. At all. But I do know I like the Winchesters. :)