Lady of the Autumn Wood
Disclaimer: The brothers, the car, and the concept belong to Kripke et al. The love belongs to us.
Beta'd: By Muffy Morrigan. Thank you, girl!
Special thanks to Carocali!
Time Line: Season 2
Dedicated: To Nana56 who graciously bid on me at the KazCon auction, the proceeds of which went to the American Cancer Society in memory of Kim Manners.
Sam's voice came to him from underwater.
"Dean, talk to me."
"Hate camping," Dean mumbled.
The earth rumbled with his brother's light chuckle.
"Stop, gonna hurl," Dean protested. The heaving started at his toes, curling his body inwards. Somehow though, he was on his side before the retching began. He panted through the stomach cramps, his mind gradually clearing just enough to remember a flash of claws, Sam in danger and then, black nothingness.
He felt the small circles rubbed between his shoulder blades, his face crumpling in a frown. Sam was comforting him like a colicky baby, and yet, it did seem to be helping. Suck it up, Winchester. "What happened?"
"You tell me what you remember," Sam said instead.
Dean cracked his eyes open and lifted his head to glare heatedly at his brother. "Um." He concentrated, trying hard to focus the kaleidoscope of memories into some semblance of order. "We were hunting an asin?"
"Is that a question?" Sam asked, softly.
The world flipped when Sam helped him sit, away from the sick, Dean's back resting against his brother's knees. "No?"
Sam huffed, but Dean could hear the worry behind it. "Do you remember hearing the music?"
He remembered the quiet susurration of autumn leaves in the tree tops, a gentle cry of a bird, and a haunting melody that sounded vaguely like a flute. "I think so."
"We found her, and she wasn't very happy when I shot her with the silver bullets," Sam supplied, apparently taking pity on his muddled brain.
A woman in a brown deerskin, face contorted in anger, fingernails the length of her forearm and in a flash she'd been on Sam, raking her claws along his arm as he spun away. "You were hurt," Dean said, concern lacing the memory. The flare of emotion caused the thumping in his head to increase and he pinched the bridge of his nose. "She got you."
"Just my jacket." Sam shifted behind him. "You stepped between us." His voice sounded scolding and thankful and scared all at once. Dean was going to have to ask him how he did that.
"She," Dean paused, closing his eyes as he tried to remember, "lunged at me, got me across the chest."
"And flung you across the clearing into the tree behind me in the blink of an eye," Sam finished. "Wendigo fast."
"You get her?"
"Didn't you say she was a cannibal?" Somewhere in his fuzzy memory he was sure that thought existed.
Sam nodded. "According to legend she lures people away with her music and then she eats them."
"Nice girl," Dean smirked, opening his eyes. He focused his blurry vision at the world around him. The shadows were long, the sky a deeper blue with a bright rose-red edge. It wouldn't be long before it was dark.
"Think you can walk if I help?" Sam asked.
The support behind Dean's back edged away and he leaned forward to compensate, resting his head in his hands. Sam's hand never left his shoulder as he moved around Dean to crouch in front of him. "Hey, are you going to be sick again?"
"No," Dean lied. He wasn't at all sure, in fact, it was a distinct possibility. "Help me up?"
Sam narrowed his eyes, and then, seemingly satisfied by what he saw he moved his hand from Dean's shoulder to his upper arm. Before he had a chance to register what was about to happen, Dean was on his feet, swaying slightly. The kid had definitely been eating his Wheaties.
The floor tilted up to meet him and he grasped Sam's jacket. "Whoa, easy, easy," Sam said. "Do you need to sit down again?"
"No, let's move before Ms. Wild and Crazy comes back." He took a tentative step forward bolstered by Sam's strong grip on his arm. Dean smirked, quirking an eyebrow at his brother. "See? No problem."
Sam shifted pulling Dean's arm over his shoulder. "That's great Dean, and based on your height in inches, multiplied by .415 for stride length, divided by two…" Sam's voice trailed off as he continued the math in his head, "you only have fifteen thousand and eighty-six steps left to the car."
Dean's expression changed from crinkled confusion to a wide grin in spite of his pounding headache. "Geek."
A momentary look of hurt crossed Sam's face before morphing into dimples. "Whatever, man."
"Seriously, Sam, you can do the math in your head and you still can't string together two words to a beautiful woman." Dean stumbled in the growing darkness, a groan sliding past his lips as the movement sent white-hot pain into his head.
Sam didn't break stride or loosen his hold on Dean as he fished into his bag for the flashlight. "Her name was Julie and I did too."
"Not intelligent words," Dean said. His toes caught a root hidden underneath fallen leaves. This time sparkles appeared in his vision and he felt his knees buckle, held upright only by Sam's hand on his chest.
Sam's eyes widened in shock and he shined the light on his hand, then looked at Dean with growing horror. It was all the warning he received before Sam kicked his legs out from under him and then contradictorily gently eased him to the ground. Large hands pawed at his shirt.
"What the hell?" Dean asked. He tried to capture his brother's hands, but Sam's movements were too fast for his blurry vision. Finally he snagged one of the other man's wrists. "Sam!"
"Dean, you're bleeding," Sam said, his voice edged with a hint of panic. "I didn't check. I should have checked."
Dean released his hold on Sam's wrist and a moment later chestnut hair was in his face as his brother examined his chest. He shivered as the chilling mountain breeze skimmed his skin. It was going to be a cold night. The heavy, yellow harvest moon rose large and close, just edging up past the top of the trees. It looked like he could reach out and touch it, the rabbit clearly visible on the moon's surface. Light music wafted past, encircling them from all directions.
Freezing water hit his chest and he gasped first from shock and then burning pain as the icy water lit his skin on fire. "Agh, Sam!"
"Sorry, holy water," Sam explained, splashing more of it onto Dean's skin.
"A little warning maybe?" Dean grumbled through the next wave of fire.
"I did." Sam moved a hand to Dean's forehead. "Didn't you hear me?"
"No." He shifted onto his elbows trying to see his chest.
"You have a fever," Sam said, making eye contact with him. "You didn't feel these scratches before? One of them is pretty deep."
He'd felt the throbbing in his head, the aching in his back, hips, and left wrist from colliding with the tree and ground respectively. He'd even felt the abraded skin on his back from sliding down the rough bark, but until Sam had mentioned it the scratches on his chest hadn't bothered him at all.
"No, not really."
The curling worry in Sam's brow sank deeper into his forehead. A couple of gauze pads and copious amounts of tape later, Dean's shirt was carefully lowered. Sam twisted to put the supplies back in the duffel. "Leave it alone."
Dean's hand froze mid-scratch. "You're not the boss of me."
Sam twisted around to smile in his direction. "In this particular case, I am. Get over it."
Dean opened his mouth to retort when Sam glanced around, slowly pulling out a knife from his belt sheath. Dean cocked his head in question, but his brother ignored him, rising quietly from a crouch to standing. Sam stood perfectly still, obviously listening to the forest around them, searching for something.
Crickets chirping mingled with the earthy scent of moss and bark, slipping around them like a comfortable blanket. Somewhere in the distance a wolf howled its lonely cry to the end of summer. A soft, rhythmic melody whispered through the trees, singing through Dean's veins, all other sounds falling into the background.
Rough hands gripped his arms painfully and Sam's face was so close to his that Dean could see the worry in the hazel depths. "Dean!"
The wolf's sharp barking echoed off the trees.
"Sam, what the hell?" Dean pushed himself up to sitting, brushing off his brother's punishing grip. He pushed with his feet until he back rested against a tree, hissing when sensitive scrapes met rough wood. "What's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me?" Sam asked, quietly. He took two steps forward, crouching low to Dean's face again. Hazel eyes sparked with frustration and concern. "What's wrong with you?"
Dean winced at the volume of his brother's voice hiding the worry behind the words. "What happened?"
Sam deflated in front of his eyes, shoulders dropping, the tight line of his lips turning down into a frown. "You were non-responsive, nearly catatonic." He twisted, sitting down next to Dean. "It's like you were in some sort of trance or spell."
"That's my guess." Sam sighed, the quiet exhale lasting longer than usual. "Dean, I don't like this. We need to get out of here, regroup and come back at this thing later."
"It's not like we weren't trying." Dean shivered in the cold air, vision darkening from the movement.
"Hey, hey," Sam said. "No passing out now."
"I think it's too late," Dean mumbled, as awareness slipped further away.
In the distance, the wolf howled again and the scratches on his chest burned in response as the world slipped away.
AN: Well, Nana, here's the first part of your story! Finally. Phew.