Witches and Wicks
Disclaimer: Not mine – but ha-ha, not yours either! Hee.
Beta'd: By Carocali. Thank you for tempering the panic.
Dedicated: To Phx, Happy Birthday!
Time Line: Season Five, but no real spoilers. I don't think so anyway.
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy," she cooed from somewhere near his right shoulder. Sam cringed at the use of the diminutive nickname. Why evil creatures always wanted to infantilize him and sully the nomenclature that rightfully was only Dean's to use escaped him. Of course, right now it was the least of his worries. Tied down to a sturdy, cherry-wood table in the middle of an abandoned barn was the first. The second would be that he was naked save for the black brief style boxers they'd thankfully allowed him to keep. The autumn November evening was cold and getting colder by the moment. Sam shivered in spite of his best efforts not to show any weakness in front of the witch.
She ran a finger, long nail lightly scraping, up his stomach, his chest, and lightly brushing his collarbone. Sam turned his head away from her when the hand moved to cup his cheek. "You're not tired of me already?" the witch whispered, hot breath tickling his ear. A warm tongue slid up the freezing skin on his neck.
Sam turned his head, eyes capturing hers in an angry glare. "As a matter of fact, I'm a little bored." Inwardly he groaned. Now was a horrible time to be channeling his brother. Speaking of Dean, he could really use a big brother rescue right now because he certainly wasn't getting free on his own. He'd even take the ribbing that was sure to follow if Dean would just hurry.
They'd been on the trail of this particular coven for several days. Most of the members were practicing harmless spells and rituals of harmony and balance. It was the spin-off group of rebellious, power-hungry few who had stepped up the game to murder. Dean was interviewing two of the new members who seemed afraid of the ruling sect. Sam was supposed to be at County Records looking up property ownership as the backwater town had not moved to a computerized system yet. He'd found the farm where he believed the rituals were taking place after just an hour of trolling through stacks of dusty papers.
What Sam hadn't counted on was the witches finding him before he found Dean.
The sudden pain in his abdomen had taken him to his knees right outside the County Records building. He'd been easy pickings for the three women as he coughed up blood on the damp sidewalk. It hardly seemed to take any effort on their part at all to manhandle him into their Subaru Outback. Hours later, here he was tied down, freezing, and taunting witches. Not his best plan ever.
She laughed, a long cackling, straight out of the movies evil laugh. It was all he could do not to roll his eyes in spite of the circumstances. "We'll have to fix that, Sam."
Movement in the shadows caught his attention and he whipped his head to the right. A robed, hooded figure stepped out of the dark, up to the table. She placed a pillar candle near his head and lit the wick. Another woman approached from near his feet lighting a candle between his ankles. The first witch finished by lighting one on the other side of his head.
Small flames flickered in his peripheral vision carrying the scent of vanilla and thyme. Sam swallowed hard, closing his eyes briefly to regain control of spiraling fear. Fire was a long time foe of his family even as it was one of their best weapons. Fire had taken Mom, and Jess, and although Yellow Eyes had taken Dad's soul, fire had consumed his body. He swallowed hard again, opening his eyes. Candles were nothing; it was why the witches had lit the candles that concerned him.
The chanting began, low voices carrying only the rhythm of speech not the actual words to Sam's ears. Hands touched him everywhere. Legs, arms, torso, fingers threaded into his hair and then jerked accompanied by a slicing sound. The smell of burning hair reached his nose and for a moment his heart thudded desperately with irrational fear that they had lit his hair on fire. Glancing to his right, he saw it was merely a small clump of his hair, held in the witch's hand that was burning as she sprinkled it over the flame.
He felt the tugging again, but had no time to protest before a sharp, urgent pain sang up his arm as a knife drew slowly across his forearm. The raven-haired witch held a metal bowl under his arm, catching the thick fluid that ran freely from the slash wound. She held the bowl over the candle flame, adding another clump of his hair to the mix.
The red-haired woman at his feet joined the witch with the bowl. She threw several items that Sam couldn't make out into the metal receptacle, although he thought he smelled sage. The tall brunette who had originally harassed Sam was back, dipping her fingers into the bowl and then painting a design on his chest. Yeah, he was definitely ready to leave because things could only get worse from here.
A goblet was held to his lips, his nose pinched until he opened his mouth. Bitter liquid tore down his throat. Sam tried spitting it out, but he knew he'd swallowed some of it. Vision blurring and blending, head spinning, the chanting grew to a fever pitch. The shiny glint of a metal knife held high above his chest caused Sam to pant with anxiety. "No, no."
The barn doors burst open, slamming hard against the walls. Wind blew in carrying leaves and the smell of rain. Sam's hope flared as he tried desperately to make out his brother's form with blurry eyes. His head hit the table with a solid thunk. Dean wasn't here, it was just the wind.
"Shut the door, Emily," the brunette witch ordered. "Can't have our hunter here turning into a popsicle before we're finished with him, can we?" Her ruby lips curved in a grotesque smile that reminded Sam vaguely of a clown. She stroked his cheek. "Right, Sam?"
"Oh, you're finished lady." Dean's voice carried from the far corner and Sam nearly sobbed with relief.
"But I've grown rather attached," the brunette pouted, raking her nails down Sam's chest.
"Agh!" Sam shouted at the unexpected pain. He didn't hear Dean moving, but one moment he was alone, the next, his brother stood right next to him, coarse denim barely grazing Sam's arm.
"Yeah, well so have I."
It was the only warning the witches received before Dean unleashed. Calculated movements and controlled fury in an elegant dance of punches and footwork. Emily smashed against the makeshift altar and one of the candles fell onto the sawdust and straw covered floor. Flames sputtered to life.
One of the witches advanced towards Dean, the sacrificial knife poised to strike. "Dean!"
The witch screamed in anger, moving fast, but Dean was quicker. A blur of motion and the witch lay at his brother's feet. The air filled with smoke as the hungry fire spread. Flames licked at the table, and Sam twisted his wrists trying to escape the tight rope restraints. He had to get out, had to help Dean, had to get away from the fire.
The wood under his back grew warmer, nearly hot as Sam struggled. His movements knocked over a second candle. He held his breath as it lazily rolled near his ankles. Sam let out a long sigh of relief when the candle fell from the table.
Between whatever they'd forced him to swallow and the smoke, Sam could barely see his brother through the haze. He fought against the ropes once more, hoping they'd finally give and he could help Dean. The table was uncomfortably hot, slowly burning the skin on his back.
"Hey, there. Take it easy."
"Untie me," Sam said, his breath coming in short pants.
"I gotcha," Dean said, his voice calm. "Stop struggling, Sam, you're cutting your wrists."
Sam nodded, using all his self-control to keep still. The moment his first hand was free, he grabbed the hem of Dean's shirt. "They made me drink something."
Dean didn't take his eyes from the task of cutting Sam's other hand free, but the muscles in his jaw ticked. "We'll figure it out," he said, "When you aren't the pig waiting for the luau."
Sam snorted, though it sounded wetter and more desperate than he would have liked. His left hand free, he sat bolt upright as Dean moved on to his feet. "How'd you find me?"
"That old chick at County Records," Dean said and this time he did turn to look at Sam briefly, tossing him a smirk. "She knew exactly which papers 'that nice young man' had been reading."
"Maryanne," Sam said. He glanced frantically around the barn. If they didn't move soon, the fire would engulf them. One ankle was cut loose and Dean was working on the last restraint, but the penetrating heat threatened his resolve.
Dean puffed a laugh. "My point exactly." The last of the ropes fell away. "Shit, the whole floor is practically on fire." He held Sam's gaze, his eyebrows drawn with concern. "I'm going to have to carry you out."
"No way, we need out now," Sam said. "The smoke is too thick you can't carry me, too. We'll run."
Sam jumped off the table, bolting for the door. He could hear Dean cursing as he followed. He barely felt the heat on his feet, adrenaline and residual fear carrying him out the door. He collapsed on the muddy road several feet away. The frigid air caused his smoke damaged lungs to seize and he coughed violently. Beside him, Dean was coughing, too, and they spent several minutes just trying to get their breath back.
"Where's – the car?" Sam asked between coughs.
"I couldn't drive it right up to the door," Dean said, resting a hand on Sam's shoulder. "It's not exactly stealthy."
Sam laughed, provoking another coughing fit. He felt Dean wrapping his arm, tying the material tight to staunch the blood flow. He recognized his brother's green over-shirt immediately. "Sam, you're freezing." His arms were threaded into Dean's jacket, the zipper pulling it closed.
Sam made eye contact, seeing the apology in his brother's eyes. "Go."
"I'll be back in ten minutes," Dean said. "You stay awake."
He nodded, forcing a smile when Dean looked unsure about leaving. "I'll be fine. Just go."
With a final pat on Sam's shoulder, Dean stood taking off at a full sprint down the road. The younger man shivered, his back muscles tightening with each shake. Dean would be back soon. He could stay awake.
Dean never had enjoyed running the same way as his brother. He liked sparring, and weight training, swimming, even the occasional cycle at the gym. Running had been a necessity, part of the training his dad had enforced, but he'd never really liked it. Today, however, he was thankful it was still a part of his personal routine.
He made good time, flying over a mile down the road in a fraction of the time it had taken him to run up it. Something about the blisters forming on Sam's feet and the way his brother couldn't stop shaking seemed to be more than enough incentive for his legs to pump at high speed.
Dean's heart stopped beating in his ears when the Impala came into view. He slid into the driver's seat and sped up the road, not even wincing when his baby hit the potholes. He coughed repeatedly, his lungs protesting not only the smoke now, but the impromptu jog through the woods, as well. His eyes watered, but Dean drove the Impala with a practiced hand.
He pulled to a stop, lining up the passenger door directly in front of Sam. There was enough room to swing the door open without making his brother walk more than a couple of steps to the seat. To his credit, Sam had stayed awake, but his hazel eyes had a glassy sheen, pupils blown wide.
"Man, I hate witches," Dean muttered under his breath, helping his brother to his feet and into the car.
Pausing at the trunk long enough to retrieve the old blanket they stored there for emergencies, Dean climbed back into the car. He tucked the ratted quilt around Sam's bare legs; then headed straight for town.
He didn't consider the motel, though Sam emitted a strangled sort of protest when they drove by it. "Sorry, Sammy, we don't mess around with burns, remember?"
The furrowed brow, look of confusion on his brother's face told him he was making the right decision. If Sam didn't realize his feet were burned, it was shock, or the witch's brew, but it didn't matter. It only reaffirmed Dean's belief that they needed medical help.
He pulled into the emergency room at the small hospital, honking his horn as he ground to a stop at the door. Dean pushed an arm against Sam's chest to keep him from tumbling out of the car when the hospital staff opened the passenger door.
"What happened?" one of the nurses asked.
Dean ignored the question, there was time to think up a lie for the police later. "His feet are burned, and he has a cut on his arm."
The other nurse turned Sam's hand in his, looking at his wrist. "Linda."
Linda looked at the angry bruise and then to Dean. "We'll take care of him," she said, her tone hard.
"Sam," Dean supplied. "He's my brother, his name's Sam."
Linda's expression softened as she seemed to realize she'd jumped to the wrong conclusion. "We'll take care of your brother. Why don't you park your car and come inside. There's paperwork to fill out."
"Yeah, sure," Dean said. Sam grabbed at his sleeve when the nurses tried to help him out of the car. "They're going to help you, Sammy. I'll be here."
Sam nodded, his head bobbing heavy on his neck. "Okay."
It was a struggle for the two nurses to get Sam out of the car into the wheelchair. Dean knew firsthand how heavy his new, more muscular brother was than he had been just four years ago. The nurses probably had no idea what they were in for until they started moving him. It didn't take long to park the car or to get the infamous paperwork from the glowering woman at the desk.
Dean had barely finished signing the final page when Linda was back, standing in front of him. "I'm sorry, Mr…?"
"Dean," he said. "What's wrong?"
He must have sounded worried because Linda immediately stammered out an apology. "No, I'm sorry, nothing's wrong. The doctor administered a light sedative to calm Sam down so he could examine his feet, but Dr. Wayne isn't comfortable giving your brother painkillers without knowing what drugs are already in his system. Do you know what he took?"
"Sam didn't take anything," Dean growled, louder than he'd intended. "And what do you mean to calm Sam down? He was practically unconscious when I brought him in here."
"Please, Dean," Linda said, taking a step back. "We're trying to help your brother."
Dean took a deep breath, lungs squeaking from the afternoon's abuse. "I know, but Sam didn't willingly take anything. He was in a gang when he was a teenager, you probably noticed the tattoo?"
Linda nodded, placing a hand on Dean's shoulder in support.
"He's out now, but some of his former friends didn't like that very much. I don't know what they gave him, or everything they did," Dean finished. The talking aggravated his throat and he coughed.
"Sounds like you inhaled smoke, too," Linda said, giving him a disapproving look. "You should have said something earlier. Come back with me."
Dean allowed himself to be led through the doors towards an examine room. He wasn't sure what possessed him to look into the first room, but the sight of two men holding his brother's shoulders and legs down was enough to propel him back into action. "What the hell are you doing?" he snapped, pushing aside the nurse he recognized from earlier.
"Linda, get him out of here," Dr. Wayne said, without sparing a glance in Dean's direction.
He shrugged off Linda's hand, moving up by his brother's head. "Hey, Sammy, take it easy."
"Dean?" Sam asked, his glassy eyes trying to focus, voice hoarse from smoke and coughing.
"Yeah," Dean said, "it's me. Listen, you have to let the doc patch you up so we can get out of here."
"Doc?" Sam blinked several times, his hazels landing on Dean, recognition lighting. "Hospital? I thought…" he trailed off.
"Tell you what, I'll stay here," Dean said, glaring at the staff, daring them to tell him no.
"Thanks," Sam said, with a sincerity that hurt to hear. Either the fire or the witches had done a number on him in his drugged state.
"I'll be right here," he repeated. A gentle hand on his arm drew Dean's attention to the chair Linda had brought for him. He sat, allowing the nurse to outfit with him with a nasal canula to match Sam's with barely a look of protest.
"Dr. Wayne, do you want us to stay?" one of the male nurses asked.
The middle-aged, balding doctor looked up from Sam's feet for the first time. "Can you keep him calm?" he asked, directing the question to Dean.
"He's not going to do anything," Dean said, jumping to his brother's defense. When the doctor's grim expression didn't waver he added, "Yeah, I can."
Dr. Wayne nodded, motioning the two nurses to leave. Linda stayed, standing near the doctor to assist. "You have to understand, Dean. Dr. Wayne is concerned for patient and staff safety."
Dean frowned, trying to see his overgrown, sometimes moping puppy of a little brother the way the hospital staff did. Sure, Sam was tall, and muscular, and if he'd bellowed in defiance or moved with the hunter's swift grace Dean knew his brother was capable of, it might be scary for people who didn't know Sam. Try as he might, he just couldn't see it.
"Why would you be worried about Sam?" Dean asked, pulling the hospital gown up further over his brother's shoulder.
"He was fine," Linda said. "Not entirely coherent, but aware. When we tried to take his jacket off, he fought against Mark."
"Cut," Sam said, struggling to prop himself up on his elbows. "They tried to cut off your jacket. I didn't let 'em, though."
Dean raised an eyebrow at Linda who flushed with embarrassment. He turned his attention back to Sam, pushing him back to the gurney with one hand. "Good boy, Sammy."
Sam shot him a withering look, huffing a note of displeasure at Dean's tone before drifting off, the sedative or the witch's potion finally getting the best of him. Dean affectionately brushed a too-long strand of hair off his brother's forehead, chuckling when a giant paw came up to swipe away his hand. It turned to a frown as he thought about the unknown drink.
"Is he going to be okay?" Dean asked, his gaze focused on Linda. Dr. Wayne may be competent, but his bedside manner needed work. "I don't know what they gave him, could it hurt him?"
"We sent a sample out for bloodwork, but it seems to be clearing his system already," Dr. Wayne said, addressing Dean as he lightly bandaged Sam's feet. "There're superficial burns on his back, I put staples in the cut on his arm, and the bruising on his wrists and ankles only required cleaning and dressing. Of course, you know about the more serious burns on his feet. I'd like to keep him for observation until I'm confident the drugs are no longer a concern. I'd estimate four to six hours."
Dean released a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "Good."
Dr. Wayne's expression turned soft. Dean would have to revise his estimation of the doctor. "Do you know what happened?"
"Why?" Dean asked. It was always best to keep the number of times you had to repeat a lie down to remain consistent.
The doctor cleared his throat. "I'll be blunt. Your brother's state of undress brings up the question of assault."
"What?" Dean took a moment to digest the doctor's reasoning, realizing what it must have looked like to the staff. "No, nothing like that."
"You're positive?" Doctor Wayne asked. "Sometimes it's hard for family members to come to terms with this type of violation and…"
"Doc, I'm sure," Dean said, although when it came right down to it, there had been time.
Dean knew his brother though and if something had happened, he was sure he'd have been able to tell. At least, he hoped so. Things had happened so fast, he really hadn't had a chance to talk to Sam. Dean mulled it over, deciding he was certain enough not to subject his brother to that kind of scrutiny without just cause. Thankfully, Sam was sleeping through this portion of the exam. He would have been mortified by the doctor's line of questioning.
"Good," Dr. Wayne said. "Well, I guess I'll leave you in Linda's capable hands." He gave the nurse a few last minute instructions before disappearing out the door.
Linda draped a blanket over Sam keeping his feet uncovered. "Do you need anything? I have other patients, but I'll be back in about an hour to check on him."
"No, we're good," Dean replied. He had everything he needed from the hospital staff, now all he needed was for Sam to wake up and prove to Dean he was truly okay. He'd seen the drug-induced panic his brother's eyes back at the barn that had spurred the younger man to run barefoot across a burning floor. He needed to know everything was fine now that the situation had passed.
Dean rested a hand on Sam's shoulder. It had been so close, a minute later and the witches would have finished their ritual, a few seconds longer cutting Sam free and they might not have escaped the fire. Stupid apocalypse hanging over their heads and it was a couple of lit candles that almost took them out this time.
Dean snorted, this time. It was always something: demons, angels, shapeshifters, friggin' pagan gods dressed like Paris Hilton, why not witches with matches? He used to wish Sam could have normal, that he'd find what he wanted at college. For himself, at one time hunting with his dad had been enough, then with his brother, but for awhile there he'd craved normal, too. He'd wanted a life as simple as a wife, a kid, backyard barbeques with Sam and his family or just not fighting against everything all the time.
It wasn't their life though, as much as he wanted it for Sam or for himself and Dean knew that. This was, fighting the good fight, taking down as many evil sons of bitches as they could before the big showdown that would probably leave both of them dead, or empty shells, or wishing they were dead. Frankly, none of those prospects were what Dean got up for in the morning. This was, one more day with his brother and one more day of being Sam's brother. It was the only page he had left in his wish book.
Dean slowly drifted until he was dozing lightly, still fully aware and when heavy soled footsteps entered the room, he was instantly awake. The uniform, the stern expression, and the gleaming badge had Dean sitting up straighter. He pulled off the nasal canula and scrubbed a hand down his face. "I suppose you have questions for me," Dean asked, leaning forward to inspect the badge closer, "Deputy Johnson?"
"You could say that," the officer replied, voice gruff.
"Where do you want me start?" Dean asked, shifting until he could see the door, Sam and the deputy all at once.
"How about the beginning?" Deputy Johnson said. "That always works for me."
It took nearly an hour for Dean to answer all of the deputy's questions, while Sam slept blissfully unaware on the gurney. It was close to another two hours before he got the all clear from Dr. Wayne to take Sam home.
Linda found scrubs long enough for Sam, booties for his bandaged feet and a wheelchair that would accommodate his long legs. Between Dean and Linda, Sam was expertly moved from wheelchair to the passenger seat of the Impala.
"Thanks," Sam said, his voice rough from sleep and coughing.
"You're both welcome," Linda said, smiling. "Don't let them scare you, Sam. You stay away from that gang."
Years of practiced lying to people in authority allowed Sam to roll easily with the story. "I will."
"And you," Linda said, patting Dean once on the chest, "take care of yourself and your brother."
Dean smiled his most charming smile, "You know I will."
Linda laughed lightly. "See that you do." She waved, walking back into the hospital as Dean slid into the driver's seat.
Sam sat quietly, his expression inscrutable even to Dean's expert eye. "You okay, Sam?"
"Yeah," Sam said, "just tired." He looked up at Dean, hazel eyes clear. The drugs he'd been forced to drink were obviously gone from his system. "I could sleep for a week."
Dean pulled out of the parking lot onto the road which was eerily devoid of all activity at the early hour. "How about for a few hours while we drive a couple towns over? I just need to swing by the motel and pack up our stuff."
Sam shook his head. "It's three a.m., Dean, you should sleep."
"Sam, that barn burned down to the ground with three dead witches inside. I'd just as soon we had a few miles between us and the local police, as much as Deputy Johnson seemed like such a reasonable guy," Dean said, sarcasm lacing his tone.
Sam huffed, shifting in the passenger seat until he was turned slightly towards Dean. "Guess you're right."
"I'm always right."
That one earned him a snort from his brother. It was silent the rest of the trip to the motel, Dean thinking about the drive ahead, Sam nearly asleep beside him. He parked the car, leaving the engine idling for heat. "I'll only be five minutes," he said, starting to open the door.
He turned to face Sam. "Yeah?"
"Thanks," Sam said quietly. "You know, for finding me and…"
"Don't mention it," Dean interrupted. When Sam frowned he put a hand on his brother's shoulder. "That's what family's for, Sam."
Dean knew his message had been received when a wide dimpled smile spread across his brother's face. "Yeah, I guess it is," Sam said.
AN: Well, down and dirty H/C – no frills. Exactly how I wrap all my presents. At least this one isn't still in a Walmart bag! :D