Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. *Boo Hoo* Now look what you've done.
A/N: I offer my most heart-felt thank you to everyone reading this story. It's been a labor of love. I don't want to bore you all with tales of my work life, just suffice to say things have not been great for me lately and all sense of accomplishment I used to get from my job has been leached away. I have poured myself into writing instead as a surrogate and, therefore, being able to complete this story and post the final chapter has me very happy and excited. It's a long one, the longest chapter I've written so far. Hopefully it's worth your time to read as I've spent many hours grappling with it. Of course, I'll never know if you don't tell me, so please leave a comment. XOXO
The Dope that we Smoke
Chapter 6 I'll Always be a Gypsy or Forever be Aloof
It's not raining.
Sam notes the absence and is thankful for the respite. His clothes are finally dry and he's happy to keep them that way. Sunlight dapples the forest floor, creating shifting patterns of light and muted shadows where the slight breeze catches the leaves in a slow dance among the branches. The air is thick and humid, unseasonably warm from the sunshine. He takes his jacket off, spreads it on the ground, and sits wearily facing Dean so he'll know if his brother needs anything.
Dean is a wreck, but he looks much better than he did twenty minutes ago. Sam had come out of his Blink Bear venom induced daze to see his brother standing nearby, every inch of him visibly trembling. It was a miracle he was able to stand at all. He'd been completely unresponsive to Sam calling his name and with his eyes closed, no color in his face, hair matted with blood, he'd looked like death warmed over. It had scared the crap out of him. He hadn't been lying when he said he thought Dean was having some kind of fit and he still isn't sure what could have caused the shaking. Something to do with the head injury maybe and that's still a little scary because they're miles away from a hospital and have no transportation.
"How you doing over there, Sam? All cylinders firing?" Dean interrupts his thoughts.
"Yeah, I'm still a little blitzed though. I…um…drank some stuff…a lot of it…and things are fuzzy. I'm okay though." As an after thought he adds, "Leg hurts."
"Oh, you're feeling that now, huh? We should wash the gashes out with holy water. It's a bit late, but better late than never I guess. Is it infected?" Dean blinks a couple of times as though he's gathering himself for some world record breaking feat and then slowly works himself up to his knees. "Whoa." He says, swaying uncertainly.
Busy inspecting the sliced skin for signs of infection, Sam doesn't see his self-proclaimed care taker battling his way to his feet until he hears the softly spoken exclamation. "What do you think you're doing? I thought we already established that you are supposed to be resting. I can get the holy water myself." Okay, that may have come out a little more pissy than he had intended and the look of hurt that flashes across Dean's face confirms that fact for him.
"Yeah, no, I get that. Knock yourself out. I'm pretty sure there's an extra flask of holy water in my pack." Dean tugs his jacket off with a wince and lays it out on the ground, mimicking Sam's idea, and then sprawls on top of it. "Gonna have a wet butt now." He mutters mostly to himself.
Sam instantly feels like a heel. Sometimes his worry comes out as anger, that anger that always seems to be simmering barely under the surface. The double standard that Dean employs on a regular basis irritates Sam to no end. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to get away from the stigma of being the younger brother. All he wants is to be treated like an equally contributing member of the team and sure, there are times when he needs Dean's help, and when he does, he asks for it. It irks him that Dean won't ask for his help, assumes he either can't or doesn't want to be there in return when in all honesty, he likes helping out, taking care of his brother when he needs it, and feeling useful just as much as he knows Dean does. Despite how annoying his brother can be though, Sam finds it difficult to stay upset with him when he still looks all wobbly and shattered. "Look, Dean…"
"There's regular bottled water in the other pack and energy bars. You need to eat and drink, get your strength up." Talking over him, Dean squints and waves his good hand toward the pack already open at Sam's feet, crippled hand tucked close to his chest.
In all honesty, Sam does feel light headed and dizzy himself, so yeah, priorities; water and food first, patching up Dean's hand and inspecting his hard head second, and seeing what can be done about the mostly scabbed over and possibly infected gashes on his leg third.
"Yeah and then I'll find some way to wrap you hand. How's you head?" In the absence of a request for assistance, which he knows he's not going to get, the best way to handle a badly injured and still conscious Dean is to bully past the defenses, refuse to take 'no' for an answer or never pause long enough for Dean to say 'no' in the first place. He's had a lot of practice at this and he's good at it, much better at it than their dad who always takes Dean's protests as proof positive that his son is such a good hunter he can take care of anything on his own, including broken fingers, concussion and much worse.
Instead of answering Sam's question, Dean says, "We can't stay here long. That locked door won't hold those assholes forever. I'm sure they must have some way to communicate with the other two. They'll be out here looking for us soon."
"That might work to our advantage." Sam digs out two bottled waters and a handful of energy bars, opens one of the bottles and hands it to Dean along with a couple of the snacks.
Taking a long swig of water that drains half the bottle, Dean hums contentedly and sinks onto his side, head propped up on an elbow. "What're you thinking, Sammy?"
"From this location we have a decent view of the building and the clearing." Sam pauses in his analysis to greedily swallow mouthful after mouthful of cool, sweet water, parched throat working steadily until he has to stop to take a breath.
"Yeah, I was doing some surveillance from here before I went in to save your sorry hide." Dean closes his eyes, rolls further onto his back, shifts to find a position that doesn't put pressure on the myriad bruises, gashes, and bumps on his head. It takes a while.
A wrinkle appears between Sam's eyebrows as worry surges through him. In the months since they've been back on the road together and in all the years before Stanford, he's never known his older brother to be this passive in the middle of a hunt unless he's seriously injured and many times not even then. It just goes to show how really rotten Dean feels.
Sam unwraps two energy bars and pushes one of the bars into Dean's unimpaired hand. "Eat." He commands, ignores the one eyed glare Dean manages to level at him, waits until Dean has taken a bite, and continues their conversation. "So, we'll see them coming long before they get here and we can get the drop on them. They'll never expect us to stop this close to the clearing. They probably think we want to get as far away from here as possible."
"That's a great plan and all, wonder boy, but it's not like they're going to step into the forest, see us standing here, and surrender. How do you propose we get the drop on them?"
"I haven't gotten that far yet." Sam admits while blissfully chewing on a large bite of what must surely be ambrosia. The energy bar tastes like heaven and he closes his eyes to better savor the carob covered protein. God, when was the last time he had eaten anything? "We need to list our assets, then we can see what we have to work with."
"List our assets? You mean like my charm and brilliant good looks and your powers of persuasion and uber geekiness?" Dean grins, immensely impressed with himself.
"Yup and don't forget your awesome sense of humor." Sam deadpans. Hey, at least his comedian of a brother hadn't decided to add Sam's freaky death visions to their list of assets. That's something to be thankful for as he's still sensitive about the subject and isn't really ready to start making fun of them just yet. "Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of the element of surprise, familiarity with the immediate terrain, stuff like that, but you know, you're right, your charm will most definitely be a huge asset in this situation."
The core of anxiety wriggling around in the pit of his stomach eases up a fraction. Dean's cracking jokes which means he isn't as bad off as Sam had worried he was. Of course, Dean also knows Sam better than anyone else has ever known him, knows how to smooth out ruffled feathers, calm the ripples of his agitation, almost as well as he knows how to push his buttons. Dean's just being Dean. It doesn't really have much of anything to do with how ill he is or how good their odds of finishing up this hunt and getting back to civilization are, but somehow, Sam still feels better. And that's the whole point isn't it? Good deflection you sneaky jerk. Sam snorts quietly and shakes his head while grinning back at his older brother and best friend.
"Well, we have weapons; guns and knives. Those should go on our list of assets." Dean stuffs the rest of the energy bar into his mouth and his mood becomes more serious as he stares thoughtfully up through the canopy of leaves overhead.
"Yeah, but no matter how much they act like monsters, they aren't…monsters, I mean. We can't kill them. We have to find a way to put them out of commission, ambush them and tie them up maybe. Then we can alert the authorities once we're long gone." Talk of the drug cartel hillbillies has Sam pushing up and craning his neck around a tree for a better view of the compound. No one is in sight, but the action triggers a spasm through his calf muscle and he grimaces with the reminder that his leg is going to need attention soon. Right, time to administer some first aid.
Dean's eyes drift to half mast and Sam thinks he may be about to fall asleep or pass out when he softly drawls, "Sometimes it can't be helped, Sammy. Sometimes it's kill or be killed…them or us. I'll do what I have to do to make sure it's not us."
Not you. Sam hears as plainly as if the words had been spoken out loud.
"We aren't murderers, Dean. Neither of us." For some reason it seems important to make this point, as though the events with the shape shifter in St. Louis still loom over them. In many ways they do. The sketch of Dean's face plastered all over the TV news, labeled a killer, will make hospital visits difficult at best, not to mention the whole legally dead thing. The entire situation will most likely haunt them both for the rest of their lives in one way or another.
"Maybe not, but there's such a thing as self defense, even in your precious law books." Dean sounds resigned, despairing even, and Sam hopes it's just the pain and exhaustion he hears because those things can be overcome relatively easily. The idea that his larger-than-life brother might be ready to give up is unthinkable and sends icy fingers ghosting along his flesh.
Standing over both backpacks, Sam pulls out one item after another. "Did we bring any first aid supplies with us?"
"Nope, we ran out of room in the packs. I left the first aid kit in the car. Thought it would be close enough." The loud exhalation that bursts from Dean's bloodless lips could be either the sound of amusement or dismay.
"Well, shit." Sam looks at the contents of the backpacks, now arranged in piles nearby. The rope and the holy water are the only useful items he sees, so the remaining gear gets repacked. "I wish we had some painkillers to give you before I reset those fingers."
Dean's heavy-lidded gaze skitters to him and away again. "I've had worse."
They don't have any medical tape for wrapping Dean's fingers, so they'll have to be innovative. Sam quickly removes his over shirt and his t-shirt. The warm, muggy air feels thick and moist against his skin, like he's moving through pea soup. Using his knife, he slices his t-shirt into long, thin strips, not stopping until the entire shirt has been reduced to a mound of cloth ribbons of varying widths ranging from one to four inches. He replaces his over shirt, selects a handful of the thinnest strips, and approaches his brother warily. This is going to hurt a lot and it sucks big time, but it's got to be done.
Without looking, Dean holds his twisted, bloody hand out, breaths deeply through his nose. "Just make it fast, Sam." His voice is deep and gravelly from the stress.
It's grisly. This is his first close look at Dean's hand. He wants to puke. The two broken fingers are not only bent at all the wrong angles, swollen like plump sausages, dried blood caking the digits, but there's also the unfortunate hint of cracked bone and ripped tendons peaking through the torn skin. Sam fights back his gag reflex. The absolute last thing Dean needs right now is to see or hear Sam react to the ghastly sight.
"You want a warning?"
"No…do it…just do it…no warning." Dean's panting, words coming out in choppy bursts.
Gripping Dean's lower arm and turning his back so Dean can't see what's happening, Sam breathes deep and slow, wishing that by doing so he could project calm and serenity into his brother's hunched frame. On an exhale he wraps his hand around Dean's index finger and squeezes as gently as he can while pulling firmly to straighten it out. He curls his upper body protectively over his brother's jerking hand when Dean groans through clenched teeth, his other fist slamming repeatedly onto the leaf strewn ground.
"Almost done, c'mon man, breathe through it." Sam pauses only long enough to croon quietly, his heart hammering double time against his ribcage
The middle finger looks to be more dislocated than broken. The joint clicks into place with a soggy sounding pop as Sam applies the proper amount of pressure at just the right angle. Fuck, no matter how many times he guides crushed bones into their sockets, he gets the same bitter take of bile at the back of his throat.
Dean's gone still and silent behind him. One look at slack features tells him all he needs to know. His brother's out for the count and that'll make this next part easier for both of them. Sam uses the cotton cloth to bind the two broken fingers and the undamaged ring finger together, continuing to layer strand after stand of cloth until Dean's hand looks like a paper mache project gone awry.
Head injuries bleed a lot and Dean's are no exception to this rule. Wetting one of the larger strips of shredded t-shirt, Sam wipes dried blood off his brother's face and angles his head so he can inspect the wounds there. There's not a lot he can do about them other than to note that yes, indeed there are two huge lacerations complete with golf ball sized knots, one still seeping blood and a clear thinner fluid. Dean will never put up with walking around in bandages resembling a turban on his head, so Sam has to satisfy his urge to coddle his brother by cleaning the area around the split skin as much as possible.
He knows it might seem crazy to other people, this mother hen complex he has when it comes to Dean, but the thing is…Dean won't take care of himself, has no instinct for self-preservation, refuses to act in his own best interests. There are few enough people allowed anywhere near Dean when he's sick and of those people even fewer who are willing to face his wrath at being taken care of – god forbid. Only one actually. So Sam bears the brunt of the rejection and the sarcasm as the price he has to pay to make sure that someone is there to catch Dean when he falls.
"Whatcha doin', Sam?" Dean blinks sluggishly, roused by the cool water pressed into his scalp. He pushes up to sitting uncertainly.
"Your hand is set and bandaged. I could use some help with my leg after all." Sam breathes an internal sigh of relief as he sits and positions his leg beside Dean's good hand, passing him the flask of holy water. Dean passing out twice in one hour is concerning, but there's no point in making a big deal over it until they have the overall situation under control. Besides, Dean usually feels better when he's doing something productive and cleaning Sam's gashes out is both useful and relatively easy, giving Dean a chance to work his way up to the big stuff yet to come.
Dean scowls at his bandaged hand, rubs the other over his face. "What the hell, Sam."
"Sorry, man. I might have gone a little overboard." Sam offers a rueful smile.
Confusion splashes across Dean's face as he looks at his mummy-wrapped hand to the flask of holy water where it lays next to his knee and then to Sam's leg. Sam waits patiently for his brother's concussed brain to catch up with their predicament and whereabouts, slightly unnerved by the lost expression.
Dean starts off slow, gaining speed and purpose along the way. Holy water trickles from the flask onto Sam's leg moments later. He's unprepared for the frothing, bubbling, hissing effect of the blessed liquid reacting to the supernaturally inflicted claw marks. It burns like molten lava. In sudden agony, Sam throws his head back, a scream wrenched from his throat. A hand traps the scream inside him and he opens his eyes wide in shock, Dean's hand securely wrapped around his mouth.
"Shhhh, don't want to give our position away."
Nodding his agreement, Sam chokes off the yell. Once the dried blood and some of the scabbing has been cleaned away, the wound appears raw and angry. The skin surrounding the jagged furrows is puffy, mottled red and white.
"Brace yourself, Sammy. You know I need to pour more holy water on that. Can't stop 'till it doesn't froth any more."
Whether it's because he's ready for it this time or because the reaction isn't as strong, Sam is able to suffer through the rest of the cleansing in relative silence, and if a whimper or two escapes his clenched teeth, neither he nor Dean comment on it.
Dean ties the remaining makeshift bandages around Sam's lower leg. All the cloth strips are gone by the time the gashes have been completely covered.
Sam lets his mind wander as Dean finishes wrapping his leg. The way back to the Impala is going to be arduous. He's not even such how long it took them to get here or from which direction they came. There are no paths leading to this spot. Looking out at the dense forest makes him wonder how Dean found him after the blink Bear spirited him away.
"Dean, how did you know where to find me after the Blink Bear attack? I could have sworn it stung you right before it got me."
"Yeah, it did." Dean hesitates. "Huh, I think that's why I found you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well…there's a lot we don't know about the properties of Blink Bear venom, right? Even the yahoos that summoned the beast are still trying to figure out what exactly it does and how someone behaves while stoned on it." Dean quirks an eyebrow, waiting for confirmation.
"Yeah, so? What happened to you?" A sneaking suspicion enters his mind, but Sam wants to hear Dean say it.
"I saw you...after the sonofabitch stung me…I saw you in the cave clear as if I was standing right next to you. I saw the way to get to the cave. Everything was so realistic. After I injected the antidote, I didn't have any other clues, so I followed the directions from memory and found the cave, just where I thought it would be."
"Same thing happened to me." Sam elaborates. "When they took me into the basement and you were still in the room, knocked out after the fight. I saw you unconscious and your head was bleeding."
"We should update dad's journal, add freaky visions of loved ones in peril to the list of Blink Bear venom side effects." Dean's eyes crinkle in amusement.
"Awww, you called me a loved one." Sam grins when his brother flips him off and marvels at their ability to yank each other's chains in the middle of hellish circumstances. He wonders how bad it would have to get before they were unable to have fun together and hopes he never finds out.
Thoughts of hellish circumstances bring Sam back to their plans for taking care of the Blink Bear's creators. They've been here for long enough and Sam's afraid they may be running out of time to prepare for the next show down. Steeling another glance at the plain white walls and windowless sides of the building at the other side of the clearing, he sees two men enter the front door.
"Shit, they're gonna be coming this way soon. What's the plan?" Sam groans at the pain that flares from his leg when he accidentally puts too much weight on it upon standing.
Dean gives him an appraising look, but accepts his hand and allows himself to be pulled to his feet. The muscles in his throat contract and he swallows convulsively, eyes closed and Sam knows its will power alone keeping his brother upright.
"We work off your plan, keep an eye on the compound and when they come after us we blend into the forest, trail them until they get lazy or the terrain offers us the advantage, ambush them and take them out of the equation." Waving the pistol in the air between them, Dean adds, "Deadly force only if necessary."
It's about as much of a plan as they ever have.
Three of the men had come into the wood searching for them, Gideon, Daniel, and Effriam. True to the plan, Sam and Dean had disappeared into the foliage, camouflaged in their dark, neutral colored clothing, melting into the shadows cast by tall trees. Thinking that their quarry had a large head start, the three men had crashed past to the north of them like a stampede of clumsy buffalo, intent only on catching up, heedless of the finer arts of tracking.
Now, the two hunters can fall back on finely honed instinct and a lifetime of learned skills. Injuries and disabling pain take a back seat to the more pressing concerns of remaining undetected, doing their job. It's second nature to find ways to work around the need to walk without putting much weight on his shredded leg and still keep pace with the men ahead of them. The same holds true for Dean who is surely fighting through nausea and dizziness and never slowing down or taking a break. The three hillbillies have inadvertently become the prey and are astonishingly unaware.
Effriam and Gideon come to a stand still, arguing loudly about which direction they should take. Daniel runs a hand through his blond, buzz cut hair. He's looking up at what little sky is visible beyond the swaying branches.
"Frank'll be startin' the ritual soon. Think we should head on back ta help'em?" Daniel asks.
Effriam considers the question briefly. "Naw, they got it covered. Our orders are ta bring them two trouble makers back and that's just what we're gonna do if Gideon would listen ta reason."
Gideon apparently wants to search the previous Blink Bear's cave while Effriam wants to continue up the mountain. Their argument provides the perfect distraction and the thick tree cover allows the hunters to stay concealed until they can reach out and grab the guns clutched haphazardly by the back woodsmen. It's nothing at all to disarm Effriam and Gideon, laughable really. Daniel puts up more of a fight, but in the end they subdue him almost casually by knocking his legs out from under him.
Sam ties the men up and Dean pats them down, taking anything he thinks might prove useful. The key card to the front door, found in Gideon's shirt pocket, makes him crow in delight.
"Dude, this is fucking perfect. I was wondering how we were going to disable the security." Dean purposefully provokes the tied and helpless men.
"You'll be walkin' straight into the claws of our newest watch dog and protector ifn' ya go back now." Gideon rises to the bait and turns red in the face from his struggles against the rope tying his hands and legs together like a hog-tied calf.
"Yeah, I heard you mention that earlier. I thought you had to wait for sundown." Sam speaks as nonchalantly as he can. He's getting sick and tired of this never ending hunt. Another Blink Bear on top of the seven hillbilly dwarfs - big dwarfs, but still there's seven of them, so it fits - seems unfair. It's too much. He hates to use the word 'unfair' when describing his life anymore, but fuck yes, this is getting to be ridiculous.
"What with you two on the loose, Adam chose ta perform the ritual early. Frank was against it, said the ritual was unreliable at any other time, but it weren't his call ta make."
Sam and Dean share an 'oh shit' look and turn as one to retrace their steps to the compound and the site of the ritual which by now could have gone horribly wrong. Cries from the trussed up men behind them are ignored in their haste to put an end to the disaster waiting to happen - if they're lucky - or to clean up a huge fucking mess - if they're not.
Dean's running, or trotting, whatever, in a somewhat straight line, as straight as he can anyway, and Sam is keeping up pretty good using a rolling, hopping gait that only puts pressure on his clawed-up leg for a fraction of a second. When one of them stumbles or falls behind, the other lends a hand or urges him forward. They've always been excellent at working together as a team, a seamless unit, filling in each other's weak spots, one half of a whole.
The pain simmers and sizzles on the back burner of his consciousness, always there, always ready to flare to life if he gives it the opportunity. He keeps it tamped down, like barbeque coals that have been burning for a long time and have reached the point where they're ash white on top, red hot underneath and you can't see how hot they are unless you disturb them with a piece of kindling and the flames jump and spark.
His vision is so cloudy after the exertion of running all the way to the compound that it feels as though he's trying to see through a vast column of smoke. He has to blink a lot and squint. He doesn't even realize he's doing it until Sam asks him if he has something in his eye.
"Smoke gets in my eyes, Sammy." He says and knows it makes no sense, makes him sound a tiny bit delirious.
Leaning a shoulder against the door, he catches his breath for a moment then fits the key card into its slot. An electronic whirring sound and a metallic snick tell them the door is unlocked.
The door to the basement is wide open, inviting them in. Dean thinks of every horror movie he's ever seen, thinks 'don't go into the basement by yourself, dipshit', but he's not alone, Sam's with him, so it's okay. He wonders why his thoughts are all over the place. Oh yeah, concussion.
All the florescent lights are off, a flickering glow comes from the alter room. Multiple voices chant words he can only guess at, the rhythms teasingly familiar even though the meaning escapes him. A cloying mixture of herbs and burning candle wax hangs heavy in the air. Spellwork. Incantations. It's unmistakable. The good news is they appear to have made it in time. No raging Blink Bear…yet. The bad news is they still have four homicidal hillbillies to deal with, a ritual to stop, and a long ass trek back to civilization, or at least back to the car where the pain meds are waiting for him.
At a flick of Dean's wrist, Sam nods, points his gun up at the ceiling, and darts to the opposite side of the alter room doorframe, surprisingly agile for someone with a torn up shin. From his position concealed next to the partially open door, Dean catches a glimpse inside the alter room. Only Frank is within his field of vision, but he can hear all four of the remaining back country hicks chanting, the foreign words sound weird spoken in a hillbilly twang. Frank's expression is…disturbing. It's the best description Dean can think of. The man's eyes are red rimmed and staring, his mouth forms the strange words precisely, artificially exaggerating the pronunciation, robotically. It's as if Frank isn't in control of his own body.
In the middle of the room, nestled on top of a pile of pine needles, is a large copper bowl. Small balls of sparkling light float above the bowl, about a dozen of them. They each move independently of the others, forming intricate patterns as they swirl and dip in the air. Dean can't take his eyes off them, because instantly he knows what they are.
"Twinkly lights. Dude, it's your twinkly lights." Dean mouths at Sam and points inside the room.
Since Sam can't see into the room without being seen himself, he frowns at Dean, clearly indicating that he has no idea what his brother could possibly be referring to. 'Twinkly lights? Why bring that up now? So not the time, man.'
Sam must think he's kidding, teasing him about his stint with the venom, but this isn't a joking matter. Those god damn things are real, not something imagined in Sam's venom induced daze and more than that, they're living, cognizant beings, he's almost sure of it.
It's time to put a stop to this ritual before it goes any further. Dean cocks his head and holds up three fingers, pantomiming 'on three…one…two…three'. The young hunters spring into the alter room.
"Hey!" Dean shouts, attempting to break the concentration of the chanting men.
Instead of stopping the chanters speed up. More twinkly lights rise from the copper bowl and soon they're erupting out of it like a volcano, thousands of them, tens of thousands. They move together then apart forming one shape only to break formation moments later. It's mesmerizing. Dean watches as they coalesce and take the form of a Blink Bear. They hold the shape for mere seconds and then are off again, careening in all directions. They're beautiful and horrifying at the same time.
"Oh my god." Sam intones.
The words jar Dean out of his trance. "We have to stop the spell! Move, Sam!"
Spells can usually be stopped in one of three ways; destroy the alter, stop the spellcaster from speaking the words of the incantation, in this case the chanting, or destroy the item of power being used to give the spell its potency.
Of those three options, destroying the alter seems like the easiest and the fastest. Sam reaches the alter first and sweeps his arm along the top of it, dislodging an array of herbs, animal bones, and ceremonial implements. Everything clatters to the cement floor. Dean squats down, shoves his shoulder under the alter and heaves. The mahogany table is fucking heavy, but it topples onto its side when Sam joins in the effort.
Unfortunately, the twinkly lights are unaffected other than that they appear much angrier than before. Their sedate dance becomes a frenzied churning like a hive of hornets after being poked with a stick. The four men chanting the spell are still rooted in place, eyes wide and unseeing.
Sam sprints to the closest man, Benjamin. Grabbing the man by both arms, he starts shaking him and yelling in his face. Dean uses a slightly different approach with Adam, bulldozing into the man, knocking him to the ground.
The angry buzzing gets louder. At a signal Dean can neither hear nor see, the entire swarm of twinkly lights dive bomb Frank. Why they pick Frank to attack first is beyond him. Maybe because Frank started the spell or maybe it's just random coincidence, whatever their reason, the twinkly lights attach themselves in clumps to his legs, face, torso, until he's covered from head to foot in a seething mass of sparkling bits of light.
Frank collapses in a heap, extremities twitching. He stops chanting to cry out a mindless babble of 'no, stop, please'. Even though his face is hidden in the swarm, Dean can imagine the paroxysm of pain and he can't just stand by and watch the suffering no matter how much he hates the man and how much Frank might deserve this fate, does deserve this fate.
Guns and knives are useless weapons against these flashing specks. Dean remembers trying to protect the family in Oasis Plains, Oklahoma from the horde of bugs invading the new housing division. They had been trapped in the attic while bees and every other manner of insect attacked. He remembers shielding the family with his own body, his jacket, and this is kind of the same scenario, so he removes his jacket, advancing on Frank and the twinkly lights cautiously, wary of being stung or worse.
The stream of pleas stops and Frank is still moving, but the twitching has subsided to the occasional jerk of a limb here and there. Holding the jacket in front of him, like a matador baiting a bull, Dean steps into Frank's space and flaps the jacket into the swarm of twinkly lights. "Shoo." He commands, as though he's talking to an errant bumble bee.
Surprisingly, the tiny bits of light flicker away, revealing what's left of Frank. The man's clothes cover a desiccated husk. Frank has been reduced to an empty shell in a matter of seconds.
Then Sam is standing beside him, having given up on reaching the hillbillies through their spell induced catatonia. Indicating the twinkly lights, Sam says, "I'll try to ward them off. You look for the hex bag or whatever they're using to fuel the spell."
The item of power would be a hex bag if these were witches. What would these lords of the marijuana field use to focus their energy? Dean surveys the room, catalogs the symbols drawn on the walls, the scattered assortment of spell ingredients on the floor near the overturned alter, the copper bowl in the middle of it all.
He decides to start with the spell ingredients, retrieves the water-proof matches from his pocket, scoops it all into a pile, and lights one of the matches. Most of the ingredients are highly flammable, dried branches and even some of the smaller bones make good kindling. Soon there's a crackling blaze burning away. Dean adds the larger bones, a silver ring, a packet of powder. Surely one of the items will do the trick.
The cry draws his attention back to Sam. His brother has his jacket off, waving it at the twinkly lights now attached to Caleb. He's having no affect on them at all and every once in a while one of the malignant lights separates from the horde to latch onto Sam's arms or face. When this happens, Sam swats at the light and it disappears, leaving a welt where it had been affixed.
Dean jumps over the already decimated body of Benjamin to stand shoulder to shoulder next to Sam. The twinkly lights finish up with Caleb and hover over Adam, unfazed by the two hunter's efforts to deter them.
There are two lights attached to the back of Sam's leg where the jeans are cut away and the skin exposed. Dean doesn't know how long they've been there or whether Sam can feel them, but his stomach lurches uneasily at the sight. He brushes them off with his bandaged hand. The small patch of skin underneath is black and dry, devoid of any moisture.
"Sam, back up, get out of here!"
"No, you have to find their source and destroy it." Sam grits, obstinate as ever, and wipes his sweat streaked face on a shirt sleeve. "I'm not giving up."
He could argue the point that Adam's not worth risking their lives for. He could knock his brother out and physically drag his stubborn ass from the building. It's much easier to simply comply and that's what Dean ends up doing.
Upon closer inspection, the copper bowl holds a collection of marijuana buds, of course, a couple of vanilla beans, and a spice that smells like cinnamon. Dean can only imagine what a college student might concoct given these ingredients. He gathers the bowl and the pine needles under it into his arms, carries the lot over to the fire he'd set earlier, and dumps it all in. The only thing left in the room to burn is the alter. Hopefully it won't come to that.
As the copper begins to soften from the heat, Sam grunts, falling to his knees. The dry, brittle husk next to him is all that remains of Adam. There are at least five twinkly lights on Sam's face, another ten or so on each hand. Dean expects his brother to swat them away, crush them into nothing as he has been doing. Instead, Sam moans something inarticulate and crumples forward, quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of lights attempting to drain the moisture from his body.
"Sam!" Dean throws himself on top of Sam, shielding him as best he can and flicking away the sparkly little shits whenever possible. One of the twinkly lights lands on Dean's neck and he feels the sharp needle prick under his hair line, feels the skin become tight and hard. He continues to squash the balls of light flat each time the leaches attach themselves to his brother until he notices that there are fewer of them flying nearby. He watches as several of them wink out like fireflies dousing their light, then more and more of them disappear. Finally none are left. Dean looks into the dying fire and sees a misshapen lump among the ashes where the copper bowl used to be.
Relief wells up inside him only to be chased away immediately by stark, cold fear. Sam's not moving.
"Come on, Sam. Don't you do this to me." Dean rolls his brother onto his back, presses two fingers into his neck at the pulse point, finds a weak thrumming, and for a moment he's so grateful all he can do is sit there, clutching Sam's shirt in his unwrapped hand.
The room is doing a slow waltz, spinning and sliding. Any performance enhancing boost he achieved from the adrenalin coursing through him is now fading and he feels as though he's moving in slow motion, his body on a five second delay.
He needs to get Sam some help, but there's no way they can make the two plus day trek through the forest to their car. If Sam was awake he could tell Dean what to do and he really needs Sam to be awake because thinking is out of the question right now.
Water would be good. There must be water around here someplace. After all, the compound should be stocked with everything that seven men need to survive for however long they go in between supply runs. Along those same lines, there should be food and medical supplies here too. All he has to do is find them.
"Stay here. I'll be right back." Dean lurches to his feet, nearly loses his balance then steadies himself with a hand on the wall.
He finds a storage room down one of the halls on the ground level. It's all there, bottled water, dry goods, pain killers – some of the good stuff too, and antibiotics. He has to make several trips to bring down everything he thinks they'll need. By the time he's done, the muscle tremors are back with a vengeance and he only just makes it to Sam's side towing a carton of peanut butter crackers and a fully stocked first aid kit before his legs give out.
The way he figures it, Sam's biggest problem right now has got to be dehydration. Dark patches of dry skin mar his face, arms and legs, everywhere not protected by clothing. There are even some spots under his shirt where ambitious twinkly lights must have wriggled underneath. The loss of fluids is particularly evident in the skin around his eyes which is bruised and sunken.
"You have to drink this. Open up, Sammy." Dean unscrews the cap on one of the water bottles with his teeth. Patiently, he dribbles small amounts into Sam's open mouth, pausing for each swallow. A lot of the water ends up running down Sam's chin and neck, soaking into the collar of his shirt from a combination of Dean's shaking hand and Sam's annoying habit of allowing the water to leak from the corners of his mouth. However, enough goes down his throat to alleviate some of the bruising under his eyes. "Atta boy, you're doing good."
Dean even thinks the scaly, dry patches of skin may have shrunk. He's willing to admit that might just be his imagination or wishful thinking though. A little creativity with the medication pays off when he manages to get Sam to swallow a capful of water with pulverized antibiotic and Vicodin tablets dissolved in it.
As soon as Sam's taken care of, everything catches up to Dean. He's tired, really fucking tired, can't keep his eyes open another second tired. It's no use trying to fight it any longer. Resting a hand on Sam's chest so he'll know if his brother wakes up, at least that's the idea, Dean sinks into oblivion.
When he comes to there's a gentle hand on his shoulder. His eyes flutter open to find Sam gazing worriedly down at him. There's a weightless, floating thing going on, the kind that usually happens when he's on strong pain medication.
"Dude, did you give me some of the Vicodin?" He attempts a stern look, but he's pretty sure it comes off more confused.
"Yeah, I did." Sam answers in the tone that always means, 'what are you going to do about it?' like he's expecting an argument.
"Thanks." Dean sighs, taking the wind right out of his little brother's sails. "You, okay?"
"Yup, I'm okay. You did good." A genuine smile lights Sam's face before he gets a mischievous glint in his eye. "I'm just sorry I didn't get my hug when you passed out this time."
"Sam, believe me, you do not want to go there." Dean warns. "Or I'm gonna start calling you My Little Pony and telling everyone you're my pet."
Sam snorts. "You know about My Little Pony? Dude, that's even more embarrassing."
They spend two more days recuperating at the ranch with all the comforts of home. As soon as they're mobile they graduate from the basement to a couple of rooms on the ground floor. It takes them another two days hike through the forest to reach the Impala.
When they pass the area where they had left the three bound woodsmen, the men are gone. They aren't particularly surprised, with enough motivation, those ropes wouldn't have been all that hard to get out of.
The symptoms from Dean's concussion subside to a dull ache once he gets some rest. He has his fingers properly splinted at a clinic in Cosby.
Sam needs a little more recovery time. The infection from the gashes on his leg responds nicely to the antibiotics, but he still runs a low grade fever for days afterwards. Eventually all the marks on his skin where the twinkly lights sucked his juices out of him rehydrate and the dead skin flakes off, leaving pink, new skin underneath.
When they leave Cosby, Tennessee it's on a sunny day after days and days of rain.
A/N: As Chuck the Prophet of the 'Lord' (LOL) so eloquently put it: Endings are hard. I have found that to be true for both of the multi chapter fics! I have completed (this one being the second). Beginnings are so much easier. I hope you enjoyed my story which has now come to its end. Please leave a review before you exit. They brighten my days and keep me going until the next time. Thank you dear readers!