Title: North of Normal
Beta: Mad 's mine. You can't have her.
Disclaimer: Just borrowing these amazing characters. I will wash them and put them away when I am finished.
A/N: Soncnica, Mad Server, and I decided to all write h/c involving pouring something into a Winchester - Mad Server's "Boogeyman" and Soncnica's "Like Moths Upon Old Scarves" are going up today. Then. There's more. We rotated stories and are rewriting each other's stories from the other brother's POV to be posted next Friday. So Soncnica rewrote mine from Sam's POV (I haven't even seen it yet, I am excited) called "The Other Side of Normal" to be posted next Friday, June 26th on her page. I rewrote Mad Server's story ("Of Teddy Bears and Hummingbirds") and Mad Server rewrote Soncnica's story ("Meat")... get it? Yeah. We confused ourselves a little too. Anyway, if you enjoy them, stay tuned for the remixes next Friday.
A/N2: *smishes you all*
Some days they should just stay in bed.
They've just spent the last four hours traipsing through a humid Oregon forest hunting the ghost of a Mayan witch doctor a few lines of latitude north of where any Central American spirit should ever be.
Dean's jeans are clinging uncomfortably, wet from the soggy forest, his back and face sweaty from the sticky heat, and they've yet to see any sign of their daily prey.
Just when he's about to suggest that they call it a day, Dean hears a distinctive thwap and searing pain lances through his right shoulder blade. He sees Sam react immediately, launching an offensive attack in the direction of the assault and finishing off the spirit within moments.
Dean spends those same seconds wide-eyed and self-assessing. His movements sluggish, he reaches around his lat and his breath stalls when his fingertips feel the shaft of smooth foreign wood still spearing his back.
Gritting his teeth, he slips his fingers around the arrow and jerks it free. It comes out easier than he anticipates and flies out of his hand as pain slices all the way up his neck. By the time Sam reaches his side, he is blinking rapidly with his knees in the dirt, not sure when he fell.
Dean can't feel any telltale wetness of blood running down his back and he swallows forcefully. According to legend, the warlock had controlled his tribe through a toxic powder that caused extreme paranoia. The tribe, left scared of even benign shadows, quickly escalated the status of the calm witch doctor to god-like standing.
Dean wildly turns to seek out the arrow to see if any powder coated the wood. Before he can find it, Sam's hands are on his biceps, pulling him forward. Dean jumps at Sam's sudden intrusion, heart leaping into his throat.
"Sam," he grates out. "I think the arrow had the toxin on it."
"Okay. Okay, Dean." Quiet. Sam is pulling him close and while Dean puts his hands up to push away, he has to expend most of his energy pulling in breath and is easily manhandled forward until he's hunched over with his face buried in Sam's warm chest.
"Sam," he keeps trying, "it'll make me paranoid. You gotta clean it out."
"Dean, I know," Sam shoots back, holding on and already digging in Dean's pack at his side."Calm down. Holy water should neutralize it."
"Sam." Dean can hear the panic in his own voice, but he feels like Sam is missing the criticalness of the problem. Before he can continue, the shadows lacing the trees catch his eye. Were those there before? The forest pulses around them. "Sam," quieter now, trying to warn as disease crawls up his spine, eyes flicking to the trees and hands gripping tighter.
In response, Sam turns back to Dean, flask of holy water in hand. In one smooth,efficient movement, he grasps the back tail of Dean's shirt and pulls it up over Dean's head. Dean is left with his arms essentially trapped in the fabric, fingers still entwined in Sam's flannel and back exposed to the sticky evening air.
"Huh," he hears Sam murmur, probably to himself. "It's not even bleeding." Then louder, "Dean, it looks like a black powder. I'm going to rinse it out before any more gets in. Hold on."
Dean's aware enough to realize that he is rambling incoherently against Sam's chest at this point, still trying to warn Sam of the rampant danger in the trees pulsate around him, the shadows closing in. He vigilantly scans the surroundings, gulping thick air, then finally squeezes his eyes closed and buries his face in his brother's shirt.
Sam's scent, raw and sweaty and familiar even with strange hotel soap and discount aftershave, doesn't mask the subtle odor of pine and dirt of the forest around them. His nose picks up the faint smell of something decomposing, making the forest seem like a burial ground and suddenly he's aware of the decay of the trees and moss and leaves and small animals. His ears strain past the raggedness of his own breath, past Sam's soft words and he hears an ominous caw of a bird swooping in. The air prickles at the bare length of skin along his torso; he feels exposed everywhere except where he's pressed in to the hard line of Sam's chest. A small logical part of his brain feels embarrassed as he notices the high-pitched mewing that is accompanying each breath.
Dean's attention is ripped back to the here and now when Sam finally wrenches the bottle of holy water open and a few stray drops splash his back. Where they make contact with the powder, they sizzle with a vengeance, an entire battle of Good vs. Evil playing out on the hot sensitive span of his tight flesh.
That first spatter has Dean bucking away, trying to escape the burning acid. His world of fear redoubles and then quadruples and leaves him scrambling in the dirt, gripping at Sam, trying to pull away from the spray, but essentially pushing himself even closer to Sam's chest. Harsh panting breaths that do nothing to fill his lungsburst out of him as he tries to escape.
Sam's words wash over him but he doesn't have the extra energy or attention to allocate to logic. He hears Sam grunt and realizes he's grabbing skin along with clothing, yet he's unable to let go of the only solid thing left in his world.
Sam shifts him around until he has his left arm under Dean's chest, leaving Dean hunched over, folded on the ground, his left shoulder tucked tight into Sam's abdomen. Dean's hands scramble to regain purchase and he finally finds a hold on Sam's thigh and side, anchoring himself with everything he has. Sam's grip is solid around him and Dean can hear him trying to get his attention before he does anything else to the wound.
"Dean. Time out. Relax for a second."
Dean doesn't respond but he hears Sam this time. He tries to settle his struggles and swallows a grunt.
"Dean, I have to flush the wound. It's gonna hurt, but I've got you, okay? Just hang in there."
Dean keeps a tight grip on Sam, his voice still not cooperating. He can't see Sam, can't see what he's doing. He feels his body flinching and pulling and he tries to stay still and breathe.
Sam takes a deep breath and even without sight, Dean tenses in anticipation as well. When the water finally hits his back, Dean's world goes gray and then scarlet. His hands are scrambling again but he can't find purchase, can't find a place away from the pain. Sam's grip is solid and there are more soothing words between flushes. Dean's hands continue to wildly grab onto Sam and by the time the water is all gone, he is left sagging against Sam unable to get his breath.
Dean makes a jerky motion with his head that he hopes Sam can interpret as "That really sucked but I'm okay and we shall never speak of this again but don't let go yet because I'll end up with my face in the mud."
Sam doesn't move. Dean swallows a few times. Tries to breathe past the hitches still infiltrating his chest.
"Shhhh, Dean. I think I got most of the powder washed out. And it's bleeding... looks normal. I'm out of water but we'll flush it again back at the hotel." He pauses and then adds, "Might take a few stitches."
Dean dry heaves into the dirt.
He feels Sam rubbing the length of his back, squeezing the soft flesh at his side. "Easy. Go easy. The hard part's done. Just take it easy." Repetitive. Soothing words and hands slowly bringing his world back into focus.
When Dean feels himself slowing down, he pushes into a sitting , so he's still slumped against Sam's chest, but in a more vertical fashion. Sam just waits, shifting gently to slide Dean's shirt back into place. Digs through the sack again. Dean's eyes scan the trees, the shadows still encroaching on his space.
Sam's voice finally breaks through the fog. "Dean? Here." He's holding out some pain pills.
Dean just shakes his head, tries out his voice. "Feel fuzzy, Sam." He feels like he's already barely hanging onto reality; he's terrified by the thought of letting the drugs strip away the last of his control.
Sam's already nodding. "Okay. Okay. Can you make it back to the car?"
Dean pushes off, kneeling independently in the dirt and not wasting effort on a reply. He makes an attempt to tame his erratic breath, but the looming forest and the menacing clamor attacks him from all sides. He whimpers and then scrunches his face up, embarrassment actually threatening to overwhelm the fear.
He feels Sam's hands assisting his rise, and then after a few wobbly steps he manages to stagger the quarter-mile to the car pretty much under his own steam. Sam paces him, keeping a hand on his back, pressure on the wound.
At the car, Sam helps him sit in the passenger side then gets the kit out of the trunk. He holds it up,catching Dean's line of vision, pulling his attention away from a looming rock at the edge of the trees that may or may not have moved between breaths. "You want me to numb it now or back at the hotel?"
Dean grunts and shifts around into the seat."It's okay. Save it for when you stitch it."
Being in the Impala initially sucks some of the tension out of Dean's frame and he sinks back against the headrest, only to jump again when Sam suddenly shuts the door at his side. He swallows and tries to breathe through the panic returning to the forefront. Sam drives carefully yet Dean has never been more aware of the subtle sentient whine of the engine, the regular pacing click of the air vent, the dark corners in the floor well that could be concealing... what? Dean's logical mind pushes through to fight back the paranoia: Now you're afraid of a rogue Cheetos bag? Nothing's in the floor. Close your eyes. Breathe. Pace yourself.
By the time they hit the highway, the nerve endings along the span of Dean's shoulder slowly come back to life. As Sam drives the shocked numbness slowly grows to a light burn and then to a pulsing heat, deep throbs intensifying with each breath. Dean bites back a grunt and lets the pain keep him in reality.
Finally they pull into the hotel. Fire crackles in his shoulder as he moves from the car to the door. He waits there, keeping his eyes on Sam as Sam grabs the kit and ushers him in.
Dean jumps at Sam's voice and Sam softens his tone. "How're you doing? Some of the toxin probably got in your bloodstream. Feeling anxious?" His gaze stays on Dean, assessing, even as he moves around the room, pulling off his coat and washing his eyes linger on Dean's face a few seconds longer than necessary and Dean feels exposed in an entirely different way. Sam cocks his head, eyes narrowing as he scans over Dean's rigid shoulders and alert posture.
Dean shrugs, still standing by the bed, eyes darting to Sam's hands where he is now pulling materials out of the kit. He swallows and then Sam is looking at him again, talking. "I'll numb your shoulder before I clean it again. I want to make sure I got as much out as possible. Then a couple stitches."
Sam fumbles for a minute, taking his focus off Dean to fill the syringe. The glint of the needle captures Dean's eye and he takes some quick,deep breaths to pull himself together before slowly shrugging out of his shirt. In a smooth motion Sam moves over, turns him around and wipes cool alcohol next to the wound. Dean tenses and pushes around. "Sam."
"Yeah?" Sam's hands are still up, alcohol wipe in one, and needle in the other.
"Uh." Dean averts his eyes, trying to figure out what he wants from Sam. Sam waits patiently and Dean lamely comes up with, "Go slow, okay? That stuff burns."
Sam offers him a small smile before he pushes him back around, "You got it."
Dean focuses on the thought that this is Sam at his back. He's safe. It's Sam and the shadows by the bed are not moving. Even with his mental coaching, he still stiffens as the needle enters the muscle along his shoulder blade. When Sam pauses,Dean takes a deep breath and then hums out a moan as Sam slowly injects the molten liquid.
Dean hears Sam's steady breath at his back. He focuses on that but even as Sam withdraws the needle Dean feels dread coiling in the pit of his stomach. He suddenly feels a little shaky and a lot nauseous and he is aware of how vulnerable he is with his back exposed.
As he fights back queasiness, Sam closes in with warm hands around his biceps and somehow manages to ease him down, belly to the bed. Dean grips at the brown comforter as Sam's words wash over him, quelling this round of panic. "It's okay, Dean. I'm gonna make it okay." In response to Sam's ridiculously soothing voice, Dean chokes out a laugh that unfortunately sounds similar to a desperate attempt to breathe.
Sam turns away for a moment and Dean turns to look over his shoulder just as Sam brandishes another large syringe.
Dean's unsteady stomach flips and he grates out, "What the hell is that?" while pushing up defensively from the bed.
Sam raises his hands appeasingly. "Easy, there's no needle. I'm just going to use it to make sure it's totally flushed out." Sam does an experimental squirt in the air, showing Dean that the tube ends in a blunt tip that will control the stream of water. Sam doesn't move until Dean assesses and lays back prone on the covers.
Dean takes a breath and holds it as Sam starts. His shoulder is no longer throbbing and instead he can just feel a hot, tight,numb plane spanning his back. He can feel Sam grip his shoulder, feel Sam's thumb rubbing soft lines back and forth, but he can't feel the sharp edge of the wound anymore. He waits.
"You okay?" Sam checks in.
Dean nods, not breathing yet.
"Okay. Here we go. You want me to tell you what I'm doing?"
Dean manages to throw an I'm-not-a-pansy face over his shoulder, though judging by the sympathetic look Sam gives him in return, it may need some work. Dean pushes his face into the pillow.
As Sam starts, Dean feels tight pressure pushing into and against his shoulder blade and rebounding along his neck and back. His breath catches and he pulls forward reflexively, trying to escape.
Sam's grip stays tight, keeping Dean in place, but his movements cease. "Does it hurt?"
Dean shakes his head tightly and curls his fingers into the bedclothes, embarrassed. He coughs. "Uhhhh... just surprised me."
Sam goes back to work and Dean's attention strays from the numb-pressure on his back to the flicker of the motel lamp. Then he catches his breath at a whining in the walls. Pipes. Just pipes. He shifts and the bed creaks threatening to cascade to the floor. He grips tighter. Concentrates on Sam's regular breaths above him. On Sam's hand, firm where it curls around his shoulder, keeping him steady.
"Okay. Almost done." Sam tosses the syringe onto the bedside table and pulls out the suture kit. He stitches it slowly and Dean calms as Sam works, breathing steady. He stays alert but his stomach is settling a little, relief leaving him sweaty and exhausted on the bed.
Sam bandages it and then pulls a soda out of the small fridge. "Drink this. It'll settle your stomach." He looks up, surprised that Sam knew he was feeling sick, catches Sam's steady gaze.
Dean shifts carefully on the bed, pulling to a sitting position. "Just be careful while it's numb and don't pull out the stitches," Sam cautions. Sam's gaze is still trained on him and Dean breathes out long and slow. "I'm gonna shower. You okay?"
"Yeah." When Sam's movement captures his heart rate again, he adds, "How long do you think the toxin lasts?"
Sam looks him over, eyes thoughtful. "Well, the legend said that he would use it in the nightly ceremony. If he had to dose them every night, then you should be good by tomorrow."
Dean breathes out a sigh and nods. A day. He could totally do a day. And Sam is here. Sam has his back. Ha. Literally. No problem. What was that noise? Sam's still looking at him. Dean gingerly settles back on the bed and forces a grin. "Don't use all the hot water."
"Dean, you can't get those stitches wet until tomorrow anyway."
A flash of light reflected from a passing headlight catches his attention. He looks at Sam. "Just... make it quick."
Sam's eyes widen when he picks up on Dean's meaning. "Oh. Yeah. No problem."
Dean notices that Sam leaves the bathroom door cracked as he showers and when he bustles out less than 5 minutes later, eyes instantly scanning over Dean, Dean is finally able to settle in and breath easy.
A/N: Stay tuned for Soncnica's version 'The Other Side of Normal' from Sam's POV. To be posted on her profile page next Friday. If you want a reminder, alert this story and I will send one out when it's up.