Lady of the Autumn Wood
Disclaimer: Fine. They belong to Kripke. Bah!
Beta'd: By Muffy Morrigan. Many thanks, girl!
Time Line: Season 2
Dedicated: To Nana56!
"Sammy, look out!"
Sam heard the shout from his brother as he tensed for impact. The wolf was large, larger than he realized and all muscle. When the lupine hit his chest, Sam flew backwards landing against the log where Dean sat, all the air escaping from his lungs in one loud whoosh. It took both hands wrapped around the wolf's muzzle and hanging on with all his strength to keep sharp teeth away from his neck.
Claws ripped at his clothing as Sam fought to toss the wolf to the ground. He threw one long leg over the wolf's haunches, twisting his hip until the heavy animal hit the hard earth. He allowed the momentum to carry him up until he was over the wolf. The problem now was it took two hands to keep the snapping jaw contained leaving him a hand shy to use his knife.
The wolf writhed on the ground, working free of Sam's grip. It ran a few feet away, then spun around to launch itself at the hunter again. He pushed up, preparing to clamber to his feet when Dean shouted at him. "Sam, down!"
Sam dropped to his belly as three loud shots sounded, the wolf's sharp cry following. He stayed where he was, watching the lupine disappear into the woods as he tried to catch his breath. Finally, he arched his back, sliding up to his hands and knees, and then rocked until he was sitting on his heels. Sam twisted to look at his brother as he stood.
Dean was still standing in a shooter's stance, the gun hanging loosely by his side. His mossy green eyes trained on the horizon, waiting, determined to make sure the threat was gone before he relaxed. Bright spots of blood seeped through the new bandages. His gaze moved from the trees to Sam.
"Sam, what the hell were you thinking?" Dean shouted, his voice echoing off the trees.
"Dean, sit down, you're bleeding all over the place!" Sam shouted, simultaneously. He splayed a hand on Dean's chest, gently shoving him down onto the log, following the motion until he was crouched at his brother's feet.
"It isn't coagulating the way it should," Sam muttered, as he reached for the last of the bandages. He was completely absorbed in the task at hand and it took awhile for Dean's penetrating glare to heat his scalp enough to look up. "What?"
Dean's face scrunched into a mixture of glowering brows and thin-lipped frown. "What the hell were you thinking tangling with a wolf armed only with a knife?" he repeated, the quiet question belying the anger and fear behind it.
"I'm fine," Sam said, with a shrug.
"Sam," Dean growled, his volume growing again.
"I was thinking, 'Don't eat my brother!' all right?" Sam snapped. "Now, hold still and let me finish this." The silence was heavy and when Sam looked up, Dean was smirking. He dipped his head to hide his embarrassment. "Shut up."
"I'm not saying anything," Dean said with a smile in his voice. There was a pause before he added, "You know, it's not like a wolf to hunt alone or to attack humans."
"I don't think he was an ordinary wolf," Sam said, stopping his ministrations to make eye contact with his brother. "Part of the legend of the asin is how she mated with a wolf."
"That makes sense, he wouldn't be the first guy to want revenge on the person or thing responsible for his mate's death."
Sam looked up, frowning at Dean's thinly-veiled concern. He was supposed to be taking care of Dean right now, not the other way around. His brother was the one who was injured. So, like water, Sam flowed along the path of least resistance and ignored the statement entirely. "Their children are said to run wild with the creatures of the woods until adolescence when one of them turns into an asin, the others remaining with the pack."
"There's something just so wrong about that," Dean said, shaking his head in disgust. "You don't think they had any kids, do you?"
Sam glanced back in the direction the wolf had gone, returning his gaze to his brother. "I hope not. We'd never be able to tell them apart from other wolves right now."
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, shaking his head. "Guess we'll just have to add checking out this forest for a new asin to our to-do list in, huh, how long would say? Wolves hit their terrible teens somewhere around nine months?"
Sam nodded, tying off the last bandage. He moved to a spot on the log next to Dean. "Yeah, I guess, but if they did have pups we have no way of knowing how old they'd already be and maybe the hybrids age more like the asin who lives over a hundred years."
Dean sighed heavily. "Well that sucks."
Sam puffed a laugh, clapping his brother softly on the shoulder. "Yeah, it kind of does."
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, the wince on his face indicative of the headache he was nursing. His stomach rumbled. "We're never going to make lunch at this rate," he moaned.
"Seriously, you're hungry?" Sam chuckled and rolled his eyes. "Do you want some jerky now?"
"Nah, I can wait," Dean said, although his tone suggested otherwise.
"Ready to head out?"
Sam stood, hefting Dean to his feet. The going was slower than he'd anticipated. The fog began to burn off as they picked their way through the thinning forest. Occasionally, one of them would stumble on a hidden root, or the other would get scratched by low hanging branches, but the journey was otherwise uneventful.
Conversation shifted from the hunt, to an incident in their childhood involving burned macaroni and the neighbor's dog, back to Sam's personal least favorite, which one of them was responsible for the crack in Pastor Jim's glass sliding door that one summer.
Sam frowned as his brother grew increasingly dependent on him. Dean was leaning heavily against him, sweat running down his hairline and disappearing under the collar of his jacket. "We're almost there," Sam said as the outline of the black car appeared through the last of the foggy mist.
"Awesome," Dean said, without any true enthusiasm.
Sam spared a glance at his brother, noting the pale face. "It's only two, we'll be able to eat a real dinner at least," he said, helping Dean the final few steps.
"Right now I'd be happy with anything," Dean said. He stroked the side of the Impala. "There you are, baby."
"Need a minute alone?" Sam asked, eyebrow climbing up to hide in his bangs.
"Maybe later," Dean said. He slid into the passenger seat, groaning as Sam helped him lift his injured leg into the car.
Sam tossed the duffel into the trunk on his way back around to the driver's side. Sliding onto the seat he started the engine, the big car rumbling to life. "First stop's a pharmacy. We need a few supplies."
"First stop's a drive thru," Dean contradicted him.
Sam gave Dean a pointed look, dropping his gaze to his brother's leg and back up. "No."
"Sam," Dean growled a warning.
"It's not going to work," Sam said, throwing the car into drive and starting down the gravel road. "Supplies first. I'll try to find a one-stop shopping area and I'll grab you chips or something while I'm in there."
"Deal." Dean leaned back, balancing his head against the back of the seat and the window. "You know, this isn't actually all that comfortable."
"Tell me about it," Sam grumbled under his breath. "You get used to it."
"Mmm," Dean hummed, not bothering to open his eyes.
Sam glanced over at his brother and chuckled fondly. Dean's ability to sleep anywhere was an impressive skill. "Get some sleep, bro."
A quick stop at a local Target for supplies while Dean slept in the car, and they were on their way down the road. Sam's goal was a real hotel, one that would have more amenities. Forty-five minutes and one town later, he quickly checked them into a Comfort Suites hotel.
"Dean, hey, Dean." He tapped his brother on the shoulder. "We're here."
"Where, what?" Dean blinked hard several times. "Why are we here?"
"We're spending a hundred extra dollars and losing tactical advantage for a bathtub?" Dean scowled.
"Yep." Sam slid out, walked around the car and opened the passenger door. "Don't worry, I scoped it out when I took the bags inside. We'll go in the side door."
"We can't afford this, Sam, we're already low on cash," Dean protested, easing out of the car with his brother's help.
"We can this time," Sam said. He pulled Dean's arm over his shoulder. "Now come on, let's go."
Dean grumbled, his voice rumbling low as he hobbled beside Sam. The trip inside was slow, but remarkably they went unnoticed. Sam deposited his brother on chair just inside the door and stepped into the bathroom flicking on the heat lamp. He started the water running, reaching back for the Target bag he'd put on the counter. He poured a generous amount of Epsom salt into the filling tub before going back for his brother.
"Time to get in the tub," Sam said, hooking an arm under Dean's.
"I got it," Dean protested, swaying slightly.
"Uh-huh," Sam said, assisting his brother the final few steps. "Need help?"
"No," Dean said, quickly. "I got it."
"I'll trust you." Sam backed up a step watching to make sure Dean's equilibrium was good before leaving. "I'll get the scissors to cut off those bandages. You need to soak your leg, see if we can get it cleaned out."
"Yeah, okay," he said.
Sam left to get the scissors out of the medical kit and clean clothes for his brother. By the time he returned to the bathroom, Dean was stripped down to his boxers and he'd turned off the water. Sam crouched down, cutting the gauze from his brother's leg.
"It's stopped bleeding, that's good." Tossing the soiled bandages into the trash, Sam rose to standing. He circled his hand in the air, gesturing to Dean's chest. "Do you need help with those?"
"Nope." Dean jerked his chin towards the door. "Go."
"Going," Sam said. "If you need help getting out of the tub, holler."
Sam chuckled, leaving the bathroom and clicking the door shut behind him.
Dean relaxed in the warm bath, the salty water stinging the cuts on his chest and the wounds on his leg. He let the warmth ease the deep chill from his bones, relaxing for the first time in hours. He shifted, taking the pressure off his tailbone. "Man, I gotta remember to thank Sam for the tub later."
He must have drifted off to sleep because the next thing Dean knew Sam was knocking on the door. "Dean, you okay in there?"
"I'm good," Dean said, reaching for the towel. The water was definitely cold. "Getting out now."
"The food's here," Sam said by way of reply.
It took more effort than he was ever going to admit to climb out of the tub, his muscles felt like lead. Slipping on t-shirt and boxers, he padded out to the main room. Sam looked up when he emerged and offered a huge smile, dimples sinking into his cheeks. "You look better."
"That's good, because I feel like crap," Dean groused. He flopped into the padded chair next to Sam. "Do I smell barbeque?"
"Spicy buffalo wings," Sam confirmed.
"Excellent." He reached for the box of takeout, snagging a plastic fork as he leaned back.
"How's the head?" Sam asked, his forehead curling with worry.
"I've had worse," Dean said, wincing. Oh yeah, he was totally not selling it to his brother. He could easily read the disbelief in the tight-lipped frown. "It hurts, okay?"
"Here," Sam said, handing him three ibuprofen. "They're fries in the bag, too."
"You're an awesome brother," Dean said around a mouthful of wings.
Although Sam wrinkled his nose in disgust, he smiled. "Dude, you're so easy."
"That's what she said." Dean smirked, grabbing a fistful of fries and shoving them into his mouth. He grinned wider when his younger brother rolled his eyes. There were days when nothing made him feel better than getting one over on Sam, even the times Dean suspected his brother allowed him to do it. He swallowed, washing down the pills with a gulp of soda. "Good call on the tub thing," he said.
"You should soak again in the morning," Sam said. "I'm going to hit the shower now."
"I'm going to eat my weight in wings and fries," Dean replied, waving a hand towards the bathroom to dismiss his brother.
"Just don't make yourself sick," Sam admonished, grabbing clothes as he headed for the shower. "I'll be out in ten."
"I'll be here."
True to his word, by the time Dean had polished off his food Sam had emerged from the bathroom, shaggy hair standing up all directions. He threw the wet towel around his neck hitting Dean in the face. "Hey!"
"I've been waiting five years to do that," Sam said. "You ready?"
"Bed. I need to dress that leg again."
"You're pushing it, Sam," Dean growled.
"I'll take my chances."
"You're such a mother hen." Dean grunted as Sam pulled him out of the chair.
"Learned from the best," Sam shot back, easing Dean to the bed. He stuffed a couple of pillows behind his brother's back.
"Remind me to beat that bossy streak out of you later," Dean said.
"Sure." He reached over to his bed, snagging a pillow and placing it under Dean's leg.
Dean sat quietly while Sam put antibiotic gel on his injuries. Gauze bandages finished the job before the sheet was pulled up. He watched while Sam puttered around the room throwing away the takeout containers and stuffing dirty clothes into the extra duffel. "There's a laundry room down the hall," Sam said. "I'll wash our stuff later."
"I'm good, Sam." Dean turned on the television. "You don't have to wait."
"Yeah, I know." Sam walked past him, snagging the remote from his grasp.
"You're going to fall asleep in five minutes," Sam said, changing the channel to 'Man vs. Food.' "That means I own the remote."
"Whatever," Dean said, scooting down the bed. He curled around his pillow to watch the program. He felt, more than saw, Sam's gaze flick to him several times. "I'm fine, really."
"I know." As Dean fell asleep listening to the quiet drone of the television he could have sworn he heard his Sam whisper, "And I'll be here to make sure you are." He tried to protest, but all that came out was a grunt of acknowledgment and the answering click of the television turning off for the night.
AN: Once again, thank you to Nana56 for her generosity at the KazCon auction!