Dean's shoulder throbbed. Throbbed might be an understatement. He had to keep glancing down at it to make sure it hadn't ignited. He looked again. Nope. Not on fire. Just hurting to high hell. His head also hurt with a dull ache started at his neck, seeped into his temple, and faded out behind his ear.
"Dammit…" He said shifting the pack on his back. He fought back a pained grunt and cursed again. Yeah. He'd be cursing a lot on this hike back to the car. He had to release the pain somehow and it was either that or crying out. And he sure as hell wasn't crying in front of his Dad and this hotshot hunter that was working with them.
Dean stumbled along the rocky path. The ground spun if he looked at it too long. He tried to keep his eyes focused ahead on his Dad and Toby, the other hunter. Dean chuckled. Toby. Really? Shit, if he was named something like that he wouldn't admit it. He'd have used the name of some awesome guitarist, or, maybe, he'd have gone all out and called himself Bruce Wayne. Because Toby – that was what Sammy had named his goldfish last year.
But as much as Dean hated to admit it, Toby seemed to be damn good even with his name and floppy hair. And tough. And smart. One hour ago, Dean had witnessed the man tackle a freakin' earth spirit of all things, and those suckers were nasty. The guy was actually kinda awesome. Hell, it had even crossed his mind that the giant might be better than his dad. That notion flew from his head as quick as it had popped into it, but Dean was shocked it surfaced at all. The only person he'd ever wondered that about, albeit fleetingly, was Bobby.
Dean stumbled on a rock, jarring his body. "Shit." He hissed. He closed his eyes, evening out his breaths. The damn car was still eight miles away. He opened his lids. The figures ahead were silhouetted against the setting sun. They both slowed down and turned around. It was strange to think the taller one wasn't John.
Dean cursed, again, and quickened his pace to catch up with them. Toby frowned as he approached. Dean fixed him with his most pissed off look. The other hunter's face twitched in amusement. But his features scrunched into a bitch face that could rival Sam's – and that was really saying something – when he got a closer look at Dean.
"Ddd…" Toby paused, like he almost said something he didn't mean to say. "I mean…um…John, you sure he's okay?" The hunter asked his dad.
Dean sulked. "I'm fine." He said. After all, Dean was right there. He was more than qualified to answer that question. This talking-about-him-in-the-third-person crap – it got old fast. The hunter had been treating Dean like a kid for the last two days. It wasn't like gigantor was that much older than him either. Toby was under thirty, Dean was sure of it. Dean would be in his twenties in four or five years. So…yeah… practically the same age here.
"You sure, Dean?" His dad peered at him. "You good for the hike back, son?"
"Yes sir." Dean stood up taller. He was hurting, but so were the other two. That earth spirit flung all of them into the rocks. Dean glanced at his dad. John's arm was curled at his chest. Dean worried it might be broken from the impact. He wasn't going to burden him. Dean could carry his own weight.
"Good." His dad nodded, turned around and started down the path.
Toby didn't turn forward though. He peered at Dean through his mess of hair – looked at him long and hard like he was something that needed figuring out.
"What?" Dean said, fidgeting under the attention. Annoyance washed over him. Toby had glanced at him once when they'd all met, mumbled that he looked too young to hunt, and then spent the last two days glued to John's side and insisting that Dean stay home during this job. To make it worse, John seemed to take a real shine to Toby. He'd caught the two of them chuckling over beers like long lost friends. He'd never seen his dad take to anyone like that.
Not that it was a bad thing. His dad needed friends. God knows, John tended to piss people off. Any likable, capable, and not crazy hunter that liked his dad was a good thing. And John still brought Dean along despite Toby. It was just…
Dean frowned. It wasn't like he was jealous. But his dad worked most of the time. And he shared the man with Sammy when he was home. This week was supposed to be different. His brother was at soccer camp. This hunt was supposed to be the two of them. Just Dean and his dad…
But that wasn't what this was about. This was about saving people; killing that evil son of a bitch that crushed five people under the mountain. Toby had helped with that. Actually, Toby was the one that killed the thing. Yeah. Toby had some mad skills. Dean could appreciate that. Now, though, the other hunter kept staring at him.
"Look, man." Dean raised his eyebrows. "I know I'm nice to look at and all, but this attention is starting to make me uncomfortable."
"What?" Toby looked taken aback. He sighed. "Don't worry, dude. I'm really not interested." He huffed, rolling his eyes. "You're a stupid little jerk, you know that."
Dean glanced down. "Whatever." What the hell did he care what this guy thought? He was smart enough to do a lot of things. "Can you start walking or move off the path? I'd like to get back to the car before dark." He fixed his eyes back on the guy. The other hunter's mouth had fallen into a sad, little frown.
"Look...I didn't mean it like that." Toby said. Instead of moving forward, he stepped towards Dean. "You're not stupid. But you need to tell people when you need help." Before Dean could stop him, the other hunter grabbed Dean's pack, lugged it onto his shoulder, and started walking after John.
Dean wanted to yell after the man to cram it. To give him back his gear. He didn't need the little, pity-party Toby was throwing him. But the pain in his arm was more bearable now. His strides were faster. Oh. Fuck it. If the guy wanted to be his caddy, Dean saw no reason to stop him.
Two miles later, the others were getting further and further ahead of Dean. His arm and back had begun to hurt worse than when he was carrying his pack. The path ahead of him kept blurring out of focus. Maybe he should yell to Dad that he wasn't so good after all? His thoughts seeped into his head molasses slow. He blinked. Where was he again? Dean decided the best course of action was to sit down. His legs gave out and he landed hard on his ass.
"Ugh…" He hissed. Dean clamped his mouth shut. Pain radiated up through his body. Dammit. He scuffed his boot on the hard ground and frowned. Why the hell had he sat down? Now he'd have to wrestle himself back up. At least the knock seemed to clear his head. He needed to follow Dad and that other guy. They were going to the car. The car was good. But his thoughts stalled for a minute while he stared at the ground. A long shadow fell over him and shifted his awareness to the here and now. Dean glanced up.
Toby squatted down so he was close to his eye level. "Hey, Dean. What're you doing down here?"
"I'm getting up?" That seemed like a good answer, but Dean wasn't sure at this point.
"Yeah. Okay." Toby smiled. He put his hand under Dean's chin, turning his head gently from side to side, evaluating his pupils. He lips twitched downwards. "Your dad's not too far ahead. His arm is fractured; it's a bad break. I told him to go on to the car while I checked on you, but he's a stubborn bastard. He doesn't see us moving soon, he'll hike back here and try to carry you out himself."
"Oh." Dean bit his bottom lip. "He shouldn't do that."
Toby didn't answer. He busied himself by poking at Dean's damaged arm and shoulder. He glanced at the side of his head, frowning.
"I think if I put you over my shoulder, it's going to exacerbate these injuries."
Dean blinked at him a few times. The words took a few minutes to find meaning. "I can walk." He said.
"Yeah. I know. Here." Toby leaned towards him. The hunter grabbed Dean's uninjured arm. "Put your arm around my neck. Good." The guy reached his hand over and gently maneuvered Dean's head to rest against the crook of his neck. Then he slid it under Dean's knees. Dean didn't like they way this was headed.
"I can walk." He said again, although it came out muffled against the man's shoulder.
"Yeah. I know." The hunter said. "Hold on." Then he grunted and picked him up. Dean grimaced as he was lifted off the ground. Next thing he knew, he was being carried.
"Not a chick, man…" Dean mumbled. He was hoping this was some sort of nightmare, but he had a bad feeling this was real. A badass, named Toby of all things, was carrying him six miles to the car.
"Dude. Stop fidgeting." Toby sounded winded. "And stay awake. You go to sleep, I'm dropping you on your ass. You got it?"
"I can walk…" Dean tried a third time. The guy carrying him snorted, tightening his hold. Dean felt himself losing the battle and closed his eyes.
"You got him?" He heard his father's gruff voice ask a short time later.
"You don't drop him. You understand." His dad's voice was rough, thick with concern. Dean's stomach sank. That was his fault.
Toby chuckled. Dean felt the rumble in his chest. "Don't worry." He added in an amused voice. "He's not heavy…" The hunter laughed again like there was some hilarious joke in that statement. He felt the man gently shaking him. "Hey...Dean, stay awake."
Dean wasn't sure if he stayed awake or not, but next thing he knew he was in a motel room. His head was pounding too much to take a real inventory of the space, but the sheets were rough and smelled like bleach. He was under a thin, greenish comforter with his shoulder and elbow tightly wrapped. Something kept clinking in the background and he bet money it was the pipes. He cut his eyes to the left and saw his dad sitting on the other bed, leaning towards him. John's arm was splinted to his body.
He smiled. "How you feeling, kiddo?"
"Okay, I guess." Dean tried to sit up, but his dad rushed forward holding him down.
"Take it slow, son."
Dean sank back into the pillow. "You okay, Dad?"
"Yeah. I'm fine, Dean."
"Good." He paused. The details of the hunt and the aftermath were slinking their way into his head. "What about Toby?"
"Yeah. He's fine, too." John sounded sad. "He mumbled something about having found his way his way home and took off. Left right before dawn. He didn't leave contact information."
"Oh." Dean couldn't help the disappointment that swept through him. He peered up at his dad. The old man had taken to the guy, too. "You liked him, huh?" Dean asked.
"Yeah. I suppose I did." His dad turned away. "I think we might be related to him." He added in a soft tone that sounded like a confession.
"Huh." Dean didn't know what to make of that. "How?"
"Nevermind. Get some rest." John rubbed his thumb over his forehead. "He told me to tell you to take care of yourself."
"Okay." But something was still bothering him. "Hey, Dad?"
"Did he…" Dean wasn't sure he wanted the answer to the question. "Did he carry me back to the car? That was a dream or something. Right?" He peered up at his dad in pure horror. But instead of assuring him no like a good father, the man just laughed at him. Dean prayed Sammy never found out. He'd give him hell about being carried around like that.