Dean was running. And it was pissed. He could hear the trees shivering as the dark shadow impacted branches carrying the evil closer.
He could almost feel its breath. Not a good sign, but he knew that it was circling back on him and if Sam was going to get a clear shot, he had to keep running. Damn it! He wanted to yell at Sam to hurry up, but he didn't want to give away his position so obviously. Hell, he was making enough bloody noise as it was, thwacking and ducking his way through the brush. Whoever said that running through a forest was supposed to be easy? Dean's brief grin melted into a grimace as another branch whipped him in the face. How did he manage to get himself into this? Sam was supposed to be the one doing the dog work. In fact, Dean would have been making wendigo toast by now…
"Sammy!" Dean roared coming into the clearing. Sam was desperately working the torch, head shooting up and down trying to watch for the wendigo and get the damned torch working at the same time. Sam was gritting his teeth, yanking at something.
"What the hell? I thought you said this was going to work?" Dean barked, breathing hard and bending from the waist, rubbing the sweat off his hands and onto his jeans. He grabbed the pack at Sam's feet rummaging for the other torch.
"Yes. That was before you went and blah, blah, blah…"
Dean tuned out Sam's whining barrage, focusing, and getting the other torch going instantly. He half turned with a smug look forming on his face, but Sam was saved from the full force as he and Dean ducked and rolled, avoiding the long arms that suddenly came swiping at them. They both heard the shriek as the flame scorched it. Instantly, the arms retreated and the air around them was silent.
But they both felt the wendigo's attention had shifted. It had been silent too long.
Sam looked at Dean and his brother shrugged.
They both heard it at the same time and the look on Sam's face changed instantly.
Those damned hikers! Sam thought. He'd already told them to clear out, but apparently earth tremors and potential breaks in the earth's crust weren't scary enough. He could almost hear their voices being carried on the wind. It was faint, but he thought it sounded like some women…
"Ok, that's the last time I'm leaving you to do this…" Dean muttered angrily.
Sam threw his arms wide and backed up, looking around.
"Forget it, ok?" he yelled. "Just go!"
And then they were running.
They both ran hard in the direction of the voices, heading south through the thickness of the trees. It was getting darker now, the light of the sun slowly falling out of sight off to the right of them. Sam and Dean moved further apart, covering a wider swath as they ran. They paused, losing the sound, searching. The forest was too quiet and Sam couldn't see anyone or anything. He looked to the left and started heading down an embankment where a gully had formed. Dean made a cautious move to follow, half crouched and watching his back.
And then a woman screamed. It was a heart-stopping, high pitched shriek and Dean went stone cold. He could see into the gully now, and saw a young, dark haired woman on her feet, wrestling with what looked like a naked piece of meat. An older woman who looked Native American, stood about five feet away from the wrestlers. Her eyes piercing black, but human, were locked on the two, her body planted and stock still. There was a peculiar look on her face that wasn't quite the shock or fear that Dean was expecting.
Dean whipped a look at his brother and charged ahead, determined to get there before the wendigo could shred the girl like a mandolin. They ran skidding and stumbling down into the gully as they went. In fact Dean almost ran into Sam, who had skidded to a halt, when the piece of meat that was the wendigo erupted into flames. Both boys backed up, their arms over their faces, turned away from the charring blast.
The girl, who had a moment before been wrestling with the piece of meat, stumbled backwards, her arms over her head, shielding herself from the licking red tongues that engulfed the screaming, flailing wendigo. She almost fell as she retreated away. The thrashing fire ball that had once been a fearsome cannibal kicked uselessly, crumbling to the ground, still screaming. It wasn't very long before the howling wail subsided into guttural moans. And it was dead before the fire had even stopped feeding itself, the flames still licking at the remains.
The older woman stepped forward with a fire extinguisher and casually put out the last flickers, careful to avoid spraying the foam on the surrounding areas. She sighed heavily, shaking her head, not even really noticing her audience. She was singing under her breath, low and in words that the boys didn't recognize. She continued to chant in a low voice, as she took out what looked like dried leaves from her pocket and lit them with a lighter. She blew it out and waved the smoke around the area covering the smell of dead flesh. Sam's eyebrows went into his hair when she bagged the carcass. She ignored the three young people and danced around the area, chanting, waving the smoking leaves, and afterwards spraying the whole area down with water from a canister.
Sam started breathing again.
That was when Dean finally noticed the young woman staring at him with an appraising look. Now that he could actually see her face in the warmth of sunset, he realized that she was stunning. Her long dark hair waved away from her face and it was lit red where the last rays of sun hit her hair. It was parted down the middle and ran like a waterfall down over her shoulders and to her hips. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a girl with hair that long. He cracked a grin at her, shoving his hands into his pockets. He looked at her creamy, tawny skin, and her chocolate brown eyes, the eyebrows arching with humour when she realized he was eyeing her up. She put her hands on her slender hips, which were encased in skin tight jeans, and smiled a smile of flashing white teeth. The smile lit her face, making him notice her high cheekbones. She let her long eyelashes sweep down and he grinned cockily. He couldn't quite figure it out, but she was oddly familiar. He brushed it off and out of his mind, pushing the thought away. He'd have remembered if this chick had walked into his life, leaving her panties behind as a souvenir, but maybe he was getting another shot…
Sam cocked his head and rolled his eyes, ignoring the fact that Dean was acting the dog, and shoved an elbow into his brother's gut as he passed. He grinned awkwardly and whipped his paw of a hand out in front of him.
"Sam Winchester," He said. "And this is my brother Dean." He gestured back at the idiot indicated, who was now sauntering forward and shaking hands with the pretty girl, who was only a few inches shorter than him in her boots.
The other woman, who Sam realized was a regal, almost statuesque, older version of the girl in front of him, was frozen, staring at them, and then she grunted one word.
"Hannah White Bird," the girl said, grinning and flushed, and gestured to her mother. "And that's my mum, Maggie."
Dean reached out his hand.
Maggie White Bird looked at the extended appendage and Dean could swear he heard her teeth come together. She looked at him full in the face with narrowed eyes, and the look made him shrug and awkwardly pull his hand back.
"The Winchester boys," she intoned. "Heard a lot about you two. Stay away from my daughter," she said drily, eyeing Dean as he walked in a little closer to Hannah.
Dean half barked with laughter, cutting it off short when he realized no one else was finding it funny. Hannah had a mutinous look on her face, but smoothed her features over almost instantly when she saw her mother watching her.
"Thanks for dealin' with that," Dean said, attempting to ease the tension.
"Well, you were making enough noise…" said Hannah with a smirk. "We thought we'd take the opportunity even though it looked like you were doing a fine job handling it all by yourselves…didn't look like you needed help at all…"
The look she gave him was smug. She peeked up at him exposing more of her creamy tawny skin and he saw a three-row bone choker around her throat, studded with turquoise and dentalian shell. An almost identical one was sitting on her mother's throat. He also noticed small elk skin pouches at the hips of both women, beaded sheathes around what must be silver buck knives tucked neatly onto their belts.
"We had it under control," Dean let out his breath slowly, trying not to get angry. What was it about this chick that was setting him off like this? He grabbed for his cool. So they were hunters too, but some of the most unusual looking ones he'd seen.
"Well, thanks," he said. "Are you from around here?"
"No," said Hannah, "We're actually from South Dakota, but we travel. We heard about the wendigo and came over to have a look. We actually live near Belle Fourche."
"Hannah," Maggie said warningly. She reached out and pulled her daughter closer to her.
"That's enough. We're done here."
"Hey, It's ok…" Sam started, but was silenced by a look from Maggie. Sam dropped the
hands that he had put up placatingly. Dean and Sam stepped back and moved apart, feeling the underlying menace emanating from Maggie.
"It was nice meetin' ya, but we've got to get rid of this…" Hannah sighed.
"We could, uh, help with that…" Dean offered quickly, not wanting to lose an opportunity with this pretty little hunter despite the cranky wolf of a mother.
"Sure. All yours." Maggie said, thrusting the full weight of the bag into Dean's chest nearly knocking the wind out of him. Hannah's lips tightened, but she didn't say anything as she watched her mother walk away into the pressing darkness.
Sam's mouth was slightly agape and he shut it, not quite understanding the source of the older woman's hostility. He swallowed the words he was going to say and instead turned to Hannah, who seemed to be at least civil if not completely comfortable with them.
"Don't mind her," Hannah said, with her back turned away from them. "She doesn't trust hunters…not that I do, but she knows her way around. She's been doing this a lot longer than I have."
"So you don't consider yourselves hunters?" Sam asked, intrigued. His eyebrows came together thoughtfully, his lips pushing away from his face, as he watched Hannah turn and look at him.
"No," she said. "Mum's not a hunter…Not in the same sense anyway. I guess you could call me a hunter, but…I sure am talkin' a lot tonight. Don't know what it is about you two…" Hannah shook her head and laughed without humour. She turned away again so neither of the boys could see the emotions that were obviously running across her face.
She turned back to them with a curious look.
"I just have a feeling… that's all."
"Feeling like… touchy-feel good or axe murderer bad…?" he asked, slanting his eyes at her, his head tilted back. He was relieved that this girl wasn't leaving just yet. He imagined he must look like an ass holding a dead wendigo in a burlap bag, making a play for the girl who had just killed it. He hoped Sam wasn't thinking that same thing.
Sam was thinking about how much of an idiot his brother was when it came to girls. He'd had spent enough time to know the look on Dean's face and it was taking all his strength not to sucker punch him just because…the thought made him smile to himself. He rubbed the middle of his forehead to disguise it.
"So, ah, did you find the place…" Sam started and left the sentence to hang when she nodded.
"Yeah, mum and I didn't get here soon enough. There was only one victim. A guy. He wasn't in good shape when we got him out. I don't know if he'll make it. We left him at the local hospital and just told them that a bear got him."
Hannah shrugged and started to head back up the gully.
Dean nodded curtly. Good – no storage locker to clean out. He turned to Sam, ready to go.
"Come on" she said, surprising them both. She was waiting, half way up. "It's getting dark, and I don't want to run into any more ghosty ghoulies tonight."
Dean didn't waste time and was right after her, watching those slender hips sway in front of him. As he passed, Dean jerked his head at Sam, wiggling his eyebrows a bit. His sense of self-confidence was restored…after all what the hell? There was barely any time left now with his deal looming on the horizon.
Sam sighed: it wasn't as if there was anything else urgent keeping them in Sheridan. They were done with what they'd come for and with no hunt pending, they could afford to take some time. The mention of "not hunters in the same sense" intrigued him and he wondered how else one could hunt demons, kill vampires, or shut down dark spirits, if not the way they had already been doing it for the last few years. Was there another way to do this? Or even a way out of this life? Sam looked at Dean sideways, wishing that the yellow-eyed evil had ever come into their lives, had never killed their mother. He felt the blood slowly roaring in his ears, wondering how much time they had left...how much time Dean had left.
The highway was a lot closer than Sam had originally thought and when he broke out of the trees onto the curving and dusty roadway, he was surprised to see a large blue truck. Solid and old, it was a Ford. Maggie who'd been well ahead of them was loading some things into the back, the hard cover yanked up. Before she slammed the tailgate shut, he'd seen crossbows, silver arrow heads, bags and pouches made of elk hide, beaded in delicate patterns, but it was too dark to see what else was under the hard top. Maybe another bagged wendigo, he thought sourly, again puzzled by the older woman's reaction to them. Hunters were normally solitary, but Maggie's reaction to them was clearly and unapologetically unfriendly.
Done with the last few things, Maggie turned around, settling herself against the back of the truck, watching her daughter go up to the motorcycle parked slightly to the left and behind. Her face was expressionless. Waiting.
Dean eyed the sleek black crotch rocket with appreciation. Hannah grinned at him and patted the tank with loving hands. She snagged the helmet off the seat and swung a leg over, moving the bike with her thighs, side to side, almost suggestively, as she settled into the seat.
"Took you long enough," said Maggie, eyeing her daughter, who didn't reply, but simply swung her long hair up, twisting it until she could fit the thick coil of wavy black silk underneath a silver helmet.
Hannah flipped up her visor and gestured at Dean to get on.
"Sorry Sam, three's company," she said, smiling teasingly. "You'll have to ride with mum in the truck."
Dean felt like he'd won the lottery for once. Damn, that girl was hot. He didn't feel sorry at all when Sam made a face and gingerly walked past Maggie up to the passenger side. Maggie's face briefly broke into a hard smile before she stood away from the back of the truck and pulled out a set of keys. The door slammed with unnecessary force, and Sam winced a little before getting in. Dean tried not to look smug, but the corner of his mouth jerked up anyway.
"Where's your ride?" Hannah asked, kicking the motorcycle to life and easily bringing it into gear. "And don't forget to hang on!"
Dean was flying before he knew it and grabbed on before he could be pitched off the roaring machine beneath him. The wind and every bug alive was whipping his face. He sputtered a bit, wiping at bug guts, while he could feel Hannah shaking with laughter, his hands around her.
"You're crazy!" he yelled at her from behind, his words tearing from his lips and losing themselves in the rush of wind. "We were further north from where you were, so probably a few miles up the highway," he pressed closer to her helmet so that she could hear. In response she snapped the visor down over her face, and punched the gears with her foot, roaring into first and the whaa-whaaaaaa of the mechanical beast underneath them. The motorcycle shot forward, nearly throwing him off again. He shook his head laughing, feeling alive, and exhilarated, and crashed back down just as quickly remembering that his deal was going to catch up with him and there was just no need to feel like this. But the momentary resentment at her was just that. He was enjoying Hannah's company and her spirit. He sensed the wildness under her skin and gave himself up to it. The wind tore at his face and he let it have him for the moment, pushing the fear away into the deepest corners of his mind.
The road was winding and bumpy and with no conversation going on in the vehicle, Sam was uncomfortable looking out the window. Maggie White Bird stared straight ahead, keeping an eye on the road. She didn't bother looking at Sam.
"So how long have you been doing this for?" he asked, trying to get a conversation going. He wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to exchange information about the way she did her hunting. He could feel his head gearing up, already eager to soak up every little piece of information she could impart.
"Long enough," said Maggie in a voice that echoed with finality.
"Ah," said Sam, who slouched back against the pale blue vinyl seat, and went back to staring out the window. It would seem that his burning curiosity would have to wait.
Maggie was obviously not a talker.
There was just a little sprinkle of rain starting. The wind had picked up from earlier and was starting to press eager fingers against the glass, shaking the old Ford truck as it thundered along the highway. Sam watched the droplets pepper the dusty road, clearing off the earth and suddenly becoming a torrent of water. Maggie did not let her foot off the gas, but instead the truck plowed forward more urgently as the little black motorcycle whipped along in front of them, leading the way.
Outside, Dean was getting soaked and he was cursing under his breath because it was damned cold. Hannah felt his discomfort and pushed the little motorcycle faster in the darkness. He marveled at how she handled the machine, like she knew every part of it. She was molded tightly to the tank now, hunched over against the rain. They'd been riding for about ten, twenty minutes now and they were getting close. Dean knew that the Impala was not more than five minutes away and was glad that he'd parked it on the shoulder instead of at the lot near the ranger's office in the park. The lot was probably a mud bath by now and the last thing he needed was to be digging the Impala out.
He was desperately beginning to want a hot shower back at the motel and was already thinking about magic fingers and what it be like to see that long dark hair wet and swirling around—
And then he was flying because Hannah had swung the bike around and skidded to a stop in front of his Impala and his fingers had slipped off her slick jacket. Lucky for him he impacted the hood of his car without breaking the windshield, but he was pissed. Damn it. What the HELL is she thinking?
"What was that for?" Dean yelled. He grimaced and then smoothly rolled off the Impala and onto his feet, in spite of the ache in his ribs.
Hannah shrugged, a little petulant.
"I thought you were paying attention. Sorry." She sounded rueful, as if he had chastised her. She swung off the bike, graceful as a cat. "I could make it up to you, you know," she said, smiling at him knowingly.
He grinned back, chagrined at how easily she charmed him. He was instantly giving himself a mental shake, despite the fact that the dude had other ideas. He took a quick breath and let it out noisily. He opened the door of the Impala and gestured for her to sit down…in the back seat of course. No girl was going to be sitting in the driver's seat while he still had balls. Hannah rolled her eyes laughing, sat down, and patted the empty space beside her, her smile brilliant and inviting. Dean bent down.
The blue truck roared up behind them and they were momentarily blinded by the headlights. Maggie was out of the truck faster than lightning, her face full of thunder. Sam watched her stomp through the mud and the rain in Dean's direction and he got out and ran to catch up. Maggie looked like she was going to kill something, and that something looked like it might be Dean.
"Up," Maggie said to her daughter in a tone that brooked no argument. "You even touch a hair of her head and I'll skin you alive and hang you from a tree for the crows. I told you the stay away from her."
Dean actually backed away from the car because he could see that Maggie meant what she said. Hannah looked up angrily, but got out of the Impala without a word. She turned to her mother with words on her lips, but stopped when she saw the look on her face. Sam saw it too, the eyes too bright, the tiniest flicker of her lower lip. She was staring at the Impala like it was a monster with too many heads.
"Get home," Maggie said without looking at her daughter.
Hannah made as if to say something, and Maggie's head shot up, facing her daughter full on. Hannah's face flickered through several different emotions, ranging from open rebellion to confusion. She backed up slowly and then faster, almost running to the motorcycle. She paused to look at Dean, her eyes torn, and then she was swinging her leg over, helmet thrust down on her head with her hair trailing behind her and she was gone.
"She was just looking at the car," said Sam, gently. He was confused by the look on Maggie's face, so open and unguarded. Her expression was raw and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on.
Maggie turned on Sam, her voice lashing at him in its naked fury. "Maybe you've never had a mother to worry about you, but Hannah does. And she ain't ever seeing you or your brother again. So I suggest you get in your car and drive in the other direction. Now."
Maggie got back in her truck, slammed the door, and gunned after the flying black speck that was her daughter and the motorcycle, leaving the two boys non-plussed, and dripping in the heavy rain.
Sam had a "what the hell???!" look on his face
Dean slammed his hand on the top of the Impala and turned against it to lean on it. His thumb running over his lower lip. Maggie's over-reaction had been so bizarre and all consuming that he hadn't realized his cell phone was ringing away in his pocket. He pulled it out, just barely catching the last ring. He didn't bother to look at the number like he usually did.
"Yeah, what?" he grunted into the phone.
There was barely a pause, but a chuckle came low and rustling over the line.
"Wendigo poop in your boots, boy?"
Dean knew that Bobby was rolling his eyes.
"I've got a job for you." Bobby said. Dean turned around and looked at Sam, mouthing at him.
Sam looked at Dean questioningly, wiping rainwater from his face.
A moment later Dean snapped the phone shut.
"We're going to South Dakota," he said to Sam.
"What? Why? Now?" Sam sighed impatiently, already knowing the answer, and already knowing that he was going to be wet and smell like a wet dog for another few hours before they got to Bobby's house.
Sighing, Sam slammed the door for good measure, which only earned him a scowl from Dean. Ok, so they were going to South Dakota. Great.