Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. *Boo Hoo* Now look what you've done.
A/N1: This story takes place during the middle of Season 1 and is a prequel to Consumed Memories, but both stories can stand alone.
The name of this story and the chapter titles come from the lyrics to the song Mudhouse by Jason Mraz. Don't worry, the name will make more sense in future chapters.
The Dope that we Smoke
Chapter 1 Was Grown on my Land
It's raining and isn't that just fucking great. The droplets collect on the leaves above them and cascade in mini waterfalls whenever the wind blows or the burden on the leaves becomes too great for the leaves to contain. Raindrops dribble out of his hair and down his back, even with his jacket collar turned up.
There are many kinds of rain in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. There's the light mist of early morning, the steady rain during the afternoons, and the deluge in the evenings and late at night. Not that Dean's keeping track or anything.
This is their third day traipsing around out in the woods searching for the Blink Bear. Three days of wet, miserable rain in all its varieties and he's sick to death of it. The Blink Bear is one crafty sonofabitch and although the town gossips can't stop talking about the unusual bear sightings and the string of missing persons reports, Dean and Sam have been up and down the myriad trails through the surrounding area with exactly nothing to show for their trouble.
But they aren't camping, oh no, they aren't camping. They're hiking...through the woods...in the rain. As far as Dean can figure out, hiking is camping, just without the tent.
The Smokies in Autumn are cool during the day, requiring only a jacket to make the temperature bearable. In the evening, once the sun goes down, temperatures can plummet into heavy coat territory. They've been lucky so far. If not for the rain, they would've been down right comfortable.
The rain is making Dean cranky and there's no one around to take it out on except Sam. He doesn't want to take it out on Sam, but it's out of his control really, nothing he can do about it. He picks up his pace, stretching his legs to their limit, trying to put a little distance between himself and his geeky little brother. It doesn't work, Sam matches his long strides with ease and that just pisses Dean off even more.
"Jeez Sam, back off, give me a little room. You're breathing up all the air."
Sam slows down, huffs his displeasure, and scuffs his shoes through the muddy dirt on the trail.
He should just stop there or better yet apologize, but his clothes are soaked through and it's just chilly enough up on this mountain to make his hands ache. He can't keep himself from barking, "I think you took us in the wrong direction again, Sam. Maybe you need some more time with the maps back at the motel room. At least then we could be out of this stinking rain for a couple of seconds."
"It's a rain forest, Dean, of course it's raining. And I checked the maps this morning. We're walking within a two mile radius of where the last hikers reportedly went missing."
Dean sighs, feeling guilty, wipes a hand wearily across his face. He's being stupid. It's not Sam's fault that it's raining, or that the damn Blink Bear is a no show, or that their Dad is ignoring them.
And yeah, it's more than just the rain that has him in such a bad mood. He misses their Dad with a yearning that's hard for him to describe, even to himself. The family ties that bind also cut like the lash of a whip, apparently. Dean values little in his life, but those things he values hold him hostage with their impossible importance.
The worst part is that they are much more important to him than he is to them. He's known it all his life, has had it shoved in his face more than once. It never gets any easier to take.
In a fit of temper that surprises even himself, Dean steps off the trail to the nearest tree, a medium sized buckeye tree, and kicks the trunk with the toe of his boot. An avalanche of water pours off the leaves above him and into his mouth, nose, ears, everywhere, and he splutters a curse.
He hears a snort quickly transformed into a cough behind him. Sam. He thinks about taking a swing at Sam because its not funny. He thinks about telling Sam to 'fuck off'. Then he goes in the opposite direction.
"Laugh it up, fuzzball." Dean says in his best imitation of Han Solo's gravelly voice. Apology offered.
And Sam...laughs...a low chortle that soothes like balm on an open wound, taking him back to shared childhood jokes and warm affection easily given. Apology accepted. Something dark and malignant releases its hold from deep inside him as he watches the dimples make an appearance on his little brother's face.
God, how he loves that kid.
He doesn't tell Sam that though, not in so many words. There are other ways.
"So, we're ready if this Blink Bear decides to teleport in here, right? You have your syringe of anti-venom stashed in your backpack?" Dean questions even though he already knows the answer.
"Yeah, I have mine, do you have yours?" Sam quirks an eyebrow in response.
Dean gives him a nod and pats the side of his pack for good measure.
They've got a good idea about what it is they're dealing with on this hunt. The first hand accounts leave little to the imagination if you know what you're looking for. A creature, easily mistaken for a bear, which suddenly appears out of nowhere, mauls its victim, and disappears just as quickly, unfortunate victim in tow. Traumatized observers don't notice the long, decidedly un-bear-like, tail tapering to a wicked point. Either that or they dismiss it as soon as it registers. Their Dad had faced a similar creature and it was well documented in his journal.
"Blink Bear." Dean shakes his head in exaggerated disbelief. "What kind of name is that for a savage, supernatural creature with a poisonous stinger for a tail? It sounds more like a cuddly friggin' stuffed animal."
The venom the Blink Bear can inject with its tail isn't painful or deadly. It acts as a sedative of sorts, making the victim complacent about his or her fate, lethargic and content to wait around in the Blink Bear's lair until the creature is ready to dine. The venom is also mildly hallucinogenic.
"Yeah, the name is deceiving, but it's meant to give warning about the creature's ability to teleport." Sam takes his backpack off, twisting to get the kinks out of his shoulders and neck.
The backpacks they each carry are heavy, stuffed nearly to overflowing with survival gear including bottled water, high energy snacks, rope, flashlights, and space blankets. They go back to the motel every evening to sleep, but experience has taught them to be prepared for the worst possible scenario. In addition to the normal hiking paraphernalia, they also carry the tools of their trade; salt, lighter fluid, waterproof matches, and holy water. Then there are the weapons.
Blink Bears have preternaturally thick hides, impenetrable by bullets or arrows. Their only vulnerable spot is their eyes. A knife jab through the eye and into the brain will do the trick. For that matter, a bullet or arrow through the eye works just as well, but the eye makes a small target and the chance of making the kill using a gun or a bow is a slim one at best. For that reason they each carry a long knife at the ready with a pistol tucked in the waistband of their jeans, just in case. You never know what you might run into while hunting for Blink Bears.
Dean, taking his cue from Sam, pulls his backpack off and sets it on the ground at his feet. With a groan, he rotates his shoulders until he hears them pop.
"Listen to you creak, old man." Sam taunts with easy familiarity.
"Yeah well, you should respect your elders." Dean quips, enjoying the banter and feeling like he's come home. "What's for lunch today."
Sam takes a moment to open his pack before answering. "BLT's on toast." He pulls out two sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, hands one to Dean and then unwraps the other for himself.
"Mmmmm, good choice." Dean manages to comment around a mouthful of sandwich.
They eat standing up as it's too wet to sit anywhere. Sam's shaggy hair is plastered to his head except for in the front where it sticks up from when he pushed it out of his eyes.
Dean leans against his friend, the buckeye tree, and chuckles. "Dude, you look like a drowned rat."
"Right back at ya." Sam absently retorts while pulling a bottle of water from his pack.
"You got these sandwiches from the deli this morning, right?" A mischievous glint lights Dean's eyes even as he stuffs another huge bite of sandwich into his mouth.
"Yup." Sam eats quickly also, shielding his sandwich from the rain as much as possible.
Sometimes, when things are really clicking, Dean feels like their verbal sparing is like a game of tennis, the banter flowing back and forth across the intervening space smoothly, effortlessly.
"Was that cute waitress there...Cathy?" Dean serves the ball.
"Yeah, she said to tell you 'hi'." Sam returns it with a nice chip shot.
"Right, I don't think so. She's totally into you, dude. Can't keep her eyes off you." Dean goes in for the kill.
"Whatever, man." The defensive lob enables Sam to wriggle out of the trap.
"So, we've been all over these paths where hikers have gone missing and the Blink Bear isn't taking the bait. Maybe we should go after its lair instead. Where do you think it'll be?" Dean's mind reverts back to the hunt with the absence of anything further to tease his little brother with.
"Could be anywhere really. It doesn't even have to be near here. It's using this area as its hunting grounds, but its lair could be miles away."
"That Blink Bear Dad killed in Montana hunted close to its cave. He didn't have any trouble finding it."
"I know, but that doesn't mean this one's the same." Sam looks over, amused. "Remember what he wrote in his journal, 'The razor-sharp claws coupled with snapping jaws make the Blink Bear a nasty piece of work.'" Sam singsongs to an off-beat cadence just before taking a swig of water.
"Heh, Dad's an aspiring poet." Dean verbally backhands the ball to Sam's court.
The idea of their father waxing poetic about anything, especially a Blink Bear, makes Sam draw in an involuntary breath to laugh at the same time he tries to swallow his mouthful of water. The resulting coughing, choking, and wheezing has Dean at his side, patting him on the back, one hand against his chest to keep him upright.
"You are such a dork." Dean fondly announces.
The only reply Sam can make is to push his shoulder into Dean's sternum in an attempt to knock him off balance, which fails miserably due to the continued hacking.
Once Sam catches his breath, Dean steps back to his pack to get his own bottle of water. He unscrews the cap and drinks deeply. When he returns the bottle to his pack, the syringe containing the antidote to Blink Bear venom draws his attention.
"Looks like we may have wasted our time making this antidote." Dean gestures towards the syringe.
The recipe had been in their Dad's journal along with the description of his encounter with one of the beasts. Where he had found the recipe, they didn't have a clue. He had his sources though and they were usually pretty reliable.
"Maybe. I hope we don't need it, but it makes me feel better to know we have it with us." Sam finishes the last of his sandwich and water, closes up his pack, and gets ready to continue the search.
"I suppose." Shaking a collection of water droplets from his hair, Dean moves out to match Sam's pace.
They walk along, side by side. The camaraderie loosens the band around his chest instead of tightening and constricting as it had earlier. Dean breaths deeply, soaks in Sam's presence and allows the remaining knot of tension to dissolve.
"How about we finish this trail, take it all the way down to the river and then head back to the trail head where we left the car. It'll take us a couple of hours to get back from there and then we can head to the motel. Call it a day and dry off. This rain is pretty miserable." Sam offers.
The motel where they're staying, Magnolia Springs Inn, is the only one in the little town of Cosby, Tennessee. Dean winces every time he sees the sign proclaiming the name of the place, much too girly for his tastes.
"Works for me. Maybe we can scout out a likely place for its den and search there tomorrow." Dean swings his knife through a fern frond protruding onto the trail.
"These Blink Bears, the one Dad killed in Montana and now this one, where do you think they come from? They aren't naturally occurring animals, obviously. I'd say we should be looking into local legends except they're too far apart." The gears in his mind are turning already as Sam works on the question of where to find the lair.
"I don't know, Sam. Could be someone is summoning them." Dean feels Sam tense beside him at the same time the fine hairs on the back of his neck prickle.
The Blink Bear isn't there...and then it is. No sound announces its arrival, just the minute change in air pressure that causes Dean's flesh to ripple unpleasantly. At first sight of the creature, Sam and Dean both shrug out of their backpacks, leaving themselves unencumbered for the coming conflict.
The creature does indeed look a lot like a bear, a very angry, very ferocious bear. It's dark brown fur shimmers although little sunlight filters down through the cloud cover and the leaves above them. Mouth open wide to showcase teeth glistening with saliva, the Blink Bear charges Sam, making full use of the element of surprise.
As if the fight is choreographed, Sam steps to the side and Dean steps forward in perfect unison. Dean's knife extends from his hand like its part of him, his grip sure and natural.
Apparently the Blink Bear doesn't like this reception. It must prefer it's victims unarmed and cowering, because it stops advancing to glare at the knives both hunters brandish.
The damn thing is still too far away for Dean to risk a head-on attack, but he doesn't like the way it's watching Sam. "Come on over here, Blinky. You don't mind if I call you Blinky, do you?" Dean taunts as he continues to move forward in a battle-ready crouch, trying to pull its attention away from Sam.
"Careful, Dean." Sam hisses through clenched teeth.
The warning registers as the concern that it is and Dean's lips curve up in a tight smile. Hunting with Sam and hunting with Dad both bring out his basic protective instincts, but his actions are received in completely different ways. Where Dad would take advantage of the distraction Dean poses to rush in heedless of the danger to Dean or himself until after the fight was over, Sam hangs back to analyze until he finds the right opportunity for a successful move with the best chance for minimal injuries.
That's not to say that Sam can't act on instinct or that he doesn't storm in if he sees Dean in immediate danger, just that his tendencies ran more toward caution and care.
Dean trusts his Dad to get him out of a bad situation, he trusts Sam not to put him in one to begin with.
Blinky snarls at Dean, low and guttural, more like a wildcat than a fucking bear. Then it turns to circle around Sam's left, head swinging from side to side. Dean gets a good look at the creature's wickedly pointed tail as it turns it's back on him to focus on Sam.
Oh, hell no! That is so not going to happen.
Sam pivots gracefully in one spot, never taking his eyes off Blinky's menacing form, obviously gauging distance and momentum. He is now between the creature and Dean, a position that makes Dean's throat close uneasily.
Long strings of saliva fall from Blinky's open jaws, glistening on it's lips and gums, making it's teeth shine even more evilly. It hasn't teleported since it arrived nearby, apparently preferring to use it's teleporting ability for longer distances only and not for purposes of relocating during an attack. Probably it normally doesn't face much opposition and isn't used to an extended fight.
Dean swings to Sam's right, planning a frontal attack once he gets to the salivating creature. Blinky is distracted by Sam who, seeing Dean's direction and guessing his intention, darts his knife toward the supernatural beast to keep its attention away from Dean's movement.
Although he fucking hates for his little brother to play bait, no matter how grown up he's gotten, Dean realizes that Sam's distraction is working. This may be his best chance to get close enough to put his knife right through the sonofabitch's eye. As quietly as possible with the leaves and branches underfoot, Dean edges closer, coming up from a little bit behind and to the side, hopefully in the creature's blind spot.
The Blink Bear rears up before lunging and swiping a paw towards Sam's knife arm. Sam easily deflects and attempts a lunge of his own. He has a long reach, but even he is unable to get past the wickedly slashing claws.
With a screeching growl of frustration, Blinky backs up suddenly, right into Dean, who isn't expecting the change in direction. The massive bulk of the creature throws him off balance causing him to collide heavily with a nearby pine. The impact and Dean's resulting grunt both serve to draw Blinky's undivided attention as it senses incapacitated prey.
"That's right, come and get me." Dean wheezes.
His breath temporarily knocked out of him, Dean backs up to give himself time to recover. The Blink Bear follows him, eyes flashing in anticipation. He doesn't get far before his back is once again pressed into the unyielding bark of a tree. His only hope is to go on the offensive. Using the tree behind him, Dean pushes off and hurtles forward with his knife extended straight towards Blinky's eyes.
Unfortunately, the beast is deceptively fast. Before Dean reaches his target, Blinky intercepts his forward momentum with the swipe of a deadly paw. Maybe its just playing with him or maybe it doesn't like for it's prey to bleed out. Whatever the reason, the creature doesn't use its claws on him, content instead to simply send him careening into another fucking tree. This time he hits shoulder first and falls to the forest floor dazed by the shooting pain.
"No! Dean!" Sam yells.
Dean hears his brother's angry shout through the ringing in his ears. Despite the circumstances he's amused that Sam sounds angry. 'You're in for it now, Blinky' he thinks hazily.
The unmistakable sound of gunfire rings out and Dean knows that Sam must have decided to take a chance on a random bullet hit through the eye. He begins the laborious process of obtaining vertical, but freezes when he hears a popping almost metallic ping and feels a bullet slice the air in front of his face. Sam's got decent aim, so there's no way a bullet should be getting that close to him. Ricochet...the bullets are ricoheting off the armor-like hide of the Blink Bear. Sam must come to the same conclusion because the gunfire stops.
He's almost regained his feet when he feels a prick in his side. Turning to face the source of this newest threat, Dean watches wide-eyed as the Blink Bear extracts the tip of it's tail from his flesh.
Apathy washes over him, the ground welcomes him back, soft like a lover's embrace.
Nothing much matters.
The wet leaves cradle his head, his body. They rustle soggily with every inhale, every exhale. One particular leaf presses against his cheek, scratching his face with its hard stem.
Nothing much matters.
Dean blinks lazily, watches as the raindrops pelt down on the dirt, the small ferns, and the moss. A centipede crawls out from under a stone, marches along a twig four inches from his face before hiding under a carpet of leaves. All this he sees without lifting or even turning his head.
Nothing much matters.
His shoulder throbs to the same beat as his heart. He feels the pain as a distant ache, real, but not his, not belonging to him. The wet ground is cold, the breeze chilling, and his damp clothes provide little protection from the discomfort.
Nothing much matters.
Thoughts, slow like molasses running uphill, go nowhere. They swirl and twist in random circles.
Nothing much matters.
He hears voices. His Dad's voice. Sam's voice. Dad sounds angry, yelling at him to 'get on your feet, boy' and 'that's an order, son'. Sam sounds worried, begging him to 'get up Dean, you have to get up'.
Dad matters. Sam matters.
Dean tries to sit up, but everything is heavy, so very heavy. He wonders what can be so important that it's worth the exertion it takes for him to lift his head up off the ground. That's right, Dad and Sam are calling him. With monumental effort, he pushes the lead weight of one arm underneath his upper body and pushes until his can swing his head on his wobbly neck. Dad's not there. Sam's not there. It's a relief to realize no one wants him to do anything after all. He lets his head drop back to the bed of leaves, lets his eyes close.
Time passes, he's not sure how much. Behind his closed eyelids he sees the forest spread out before him like a 3-D high definition map. He sees where his body sprawls still and lifeless. Then the map is moving, shifting to the southeast. His view zooms in and he sees a rocky outcropping with an opening cut in the side.
Blinky is there, nudging something with its nose. Another disorienting swoop and the scene magnifies. Sam's form lies motionless in a disconcertingly similar pose to his own. As Blinky nuzzles Sam roughly, his body flops over onto his side where he remains unmoving. Dean can see blood, dark and glistening, on the denim fabric of his ripped jeans.
Blinky has Sam! Sam is hurt!
Adrenaline courses through him, counteracting the debilitating effect of the venom just enough for him to pull himself into a sitting position. Pushing away the lethargy, Dean casts his gaze around the undergrowth of plant life until he finds his backpack. The sun has set and the moon risen. By the feeble light of the half moon he finds what he's looking for. Both packs lie about 300 yards to his left, an eternity away.
His legs feel like they're made of jello. Cutting a zig-zagging and staggering path, Dean reaches his backpack and drops to the ground next to it in relief. Trembling fingers grope inside until they come in contact with the smooth plastic of the syringe. He's never had occasion to inject himself with anything, but he has had to inject both his brother and his Dad with high grade pain medication from time to time. Point being that he knows what he needs to do and it doesn't take him long to pull the cap off, find a vein in the soft skin of his inside elbow, and stick the needle home with a quick jab.
The antidote works in a surprisingly short amount of time. He still feels fuzzy, but his arms and legs are all operational. The pain in this shoulder is down to a dull ache, so not dislocated, just bruised. The lethargy backs off from deadening to merely dragging.
"Sam!" Dean calls. "Sam! Sammy!" Each call becomes increasingly desperate.
Sam is nowhere nearby as the silence following each of his cries testifies. The cell phones are useless out here in the foest mountains. It might have been a hallucination borne of the Blink Bear venom, but the...vision?...is the only clue he has to Sam's location. He tamps the rising panic down to a manageable level with sheer will power. Panic isn't going to help Sam.
Gathering both backpacks, Sam's gun which he finds on the ground near where he last saw Sam, and both knives, Dean faces southeast and sets out.
To be continued.
A/N: I'm trying out writing in the present tense. It's new to me, so please let me know what you think.