Quick A/N: My muse remains uncooperative for a plottier piece (my first attempt at kid!fic, a crossover with a show on the air before much of SPN fandom was even alive - oy vey!), she seems just fine flexing on these oneshots. Another comment fic, prompt from jujuberry136: she wanted to know why Dean said he hated camping in Wendigo.
Communing With Nature
A little known fact about moss: given the opportunity, it would swallow a person whole.
Dean was only in on the secret because as he lay on the forest floor staring up at the canopy, moss was encroaching ever closer to him. It seemed to know what it was doing. It seemed to have an evil master plan. Soon he would be green and consumed the way that huge stump he had passed on the trail about four hours ago was. Eaten alive by an enormous faceless entity.
He didn't know how long he'd lain there helpless on the damp, cool earth. It was just as likely to have been four days as four hours. What he did know was that it smelled of rot and decay and he was becoming one with it. If Dad didn't find him soon, there wouldn't be anything left. Overhead a large bird flew, its silhouette flashing through the shadows already darkening most of the forest. The sun was setting. Dean shivered, trying to ignore the pain that small motion caused. He was never going to hunt for anything in the woods ever, ever again if he could help it.
Until now, it was Sam who bitched and moaned about camping. Dean actually liked it when hunts took them into the great outdoors. There was something gratifying about roughing it for a few days, sleeping under the stars instead of holing up in a motel room in beds that had been occupied by too many faceless travelers to count. Evidence of other people's existence was always in those rooms, comforting and alarming at once. A cigarette burn on the carpet. Obscenities scrawled in the Gideon Bible. The musty smell of body oil on the maybe-laundered sheets. In the woods there was none of that, only birds and trees and a river. Peace.
And sometimes big, hairy monsters.
So, yeah, not loving the wilderness or camping anymore. The gnarled, sharp branch poking into his left side, slick with blood, prevented all movement. Dean was tough. He was almost as tough as Dad, though he'd never say that to the old man's face. But there was no way in this hell on earth that he could dislodge his carcass off the nature-made bayonet without killing himself. It was the only non-green or brown thing in the vicinity, his clothes coated with muck and fern fronds, but red was not a better color. Not when it was oozing and sticky and oh, shit, he was going to die.
It was the moss.
Motherfucking Pacific Northwest. It was impossible to walk without slipping here, let alone run. One moment Dean had been chasing a giant, probably smelly monster with lots of hair and big teeth, and the next he was ass over teakettle down a slope at speeds that seemed impossible. He doubted there was a cell signal out here in the sticks, not that he could reach the phone anyway. None of his shouts resulted in anything except an ominous rustle in the brush somewhere above his head he couldn't see.
All he had to do was hang on. Dad would eventually come for him. Hopefully that would happen long before Bigfoot returned to finish the job the fallen tree had started. Dean figured the legendary sasquatch must be a vegetarian, or the stench of his blood would have cooked his goose long ago. Scrambled his eggs. Peeled his banana. Etc.
Dean felt lightheaded and drowsy, but he was with enough to know he was about to not be with it. Shock and cold were affecting him more than blood loss, the plank poking through him stemming the flow. He even knew how to fix shock and cold. He just couldn't. A shiver wracked through him. Huh. It didn't even hurt anymore. There was barely any light left. The sounds of the forest muffled in his ears, he could still hear the sound of twigs snapping. His watcher, watching. Not watching, moving toward him. Like the moss. It was the moss.
"Oh shit," Dean said. He sounded scared. He should be more embarrassed by that than he was. "I'm losing it."
He wasn't sure at first, eyes deceived by the setting sun's rays trying to shine into his final repose. The shadows were long. One of them moved, shifting around. It was long, huge. Dean's time had come. He closed his eyes, bracing for an angry roar and pain. He always thought he'd die a hero. This was pathetic.
"Oh God, Dean," Bigfoot said, and its voice cracked into a new pitch. Rapid footsteps. The smell of dirt and fungus. "DAD! Dad, I found him! Oh shit, Dean. Hold on."
Opening his eyes a slit to see Sam collapsing to his knees, Dean tried to show his pipsqueak brother that he was fine by smiling. Sam stared at him, a fraught look on his face. Darkness swallowed Dean before the moss could.
If heaven smelled like bleach and ozone, then Dean now thought maybe it existed and he was there. Warmth cocooned him, a welcome embrace that reminded him of his mother. Mom had believed in heaven and angels and all that crap. He floated on that precipice, wanting to believe the unreality himself just for a moment or two. The illusion couldn't last. Illusion was just a fancy word for lie, after all.
There was a hum of machines and something else. A faint tapping. The distinct sound of a page flipping came next. Dean turned his face toward that sound, instinct rather than any concerted thought process or effort. His eyes were sticky, as if reluctant to open. As soon as they were, he understood why. It was too bright and things were too blurry. The dark shape amid so much white shifted, followed by a muffled thump.
His brother was a genius.
"I'm gonna get someone. Hold on."
"Sam," Dean croaked. "Don't. I'm okay. I'm good."
He needed this a little longer, a few minutes to relish the fact he was not dead on the mossy, cold forest floor, before medically certified people poked and prodded at things better left alone to mend. Dean didn't want to hear thirteen thousand times how lucky he was. He was okay. Dad and Sam had found him.
Sam ducked his head, scowling. "As soon as he knew you were going to be okay he went looking for that thing."
That sounded like Dad. Dean smiled, once again for Sam's sake and for whatever it was worth. His brother and father weren't even in the same room and he could feel the ever-increasing tension. It had been this way since last fall, all three of them growing separately unhappier for different and yet the same reasons. Dean love Sam and Dad more than anything in the world, but he was beginning to wonder if they, too, were some kind of illusion.
"Hey, he's doing the job," Dean said. "It's okay. I'm okay."
Sam scoffed and looked sullen for a second. Then, as if he were casting off a blanket, he straightened his shoulders and focused on Dean.
"You scared the crap outta me, Dean," he said, voice cracking the exact way it had back in the forest. "I thought you were dead. What happened to you? Was it … you know?"
"Bigfoot?" Dean said. He contemplated lying his ass off, but he wasn't good at keeping the truth from Sam. The kid would needle it out of him. "I wish. I fell, that's all."
"You fell?" Sam's lips twitched into an almost-smile. "That sounds like something that would happen to me."
"No shit." Now that he wasn't on death's doorstep – his side twinged, all hot and cold, making him rethink that idea – Dean had to live with Sam's teasing and Dad's disappointment. "Freaking moss tripped me up."
Sam nodded knowingly. He was still small for his age, but his feet had grown two sizes. He was constantly stumbling around like a puppy.
"I won't tell," Sam said with sympathy. "Dad won't ask."
That was true. The only way Dad would find out he had almost klutzed himself to death was if he coughed up details. It wasn't a lie if certain things were omitted, right? Yet another illusion. He'd cross that bridge if it came. They sat there quietly, Dean trying not to move and Sam toying with the corner of his textbook. It was comfortable. It might not be fake heaven, but moments of peace like this were all that Dean wanted. But he knew it was only going to last as long as he and Sam were alone. Toss Dad into the mix and peace transformed into war. He frowned.
"You really okay?" Sam asked.
"I'm fine, Sammy. Quit your worryin'"
Though Dean had just woken up, he started getting drowsy again. It was a good drowsy this time, nothing to be afraid of. No moss. No moster. He yawned, cradling his left side at the pull of muscle. He blinked, slow and lazy, drifting on the edge of sleep, sometimes in and sometimes out. Amid the hazy passage of time, new scents and sounds pulled him back. A deep voice. The smell of forest.
"Dad." Dean didn't even have to open his eyes to know his dad was there.
"Hey, Dean. You're doin' okay now," Dad said gruffly. "Sam and I will be here when you wake up again. You take it easy for a bit."
A hand on his forearm, Sam's barely fleeting touch. Rough fingers across his forehead and temple, Dad. For now, everything was just fine. There was peace without any damned communing with nature. He slipped into slumber with that illusion fresh in his mind.