Three days passed without much incident.
Dean made a shelter for Sam out of the tarp, which worked out well since it poured rain that night, and the hunter knew damn well he'd have never been able to sleep a wink knowing his brother was standing outside getting wet. He still felt bad, but at least Sam was dry and he wasn't alone. Castiel had been keeping the horse company. The angel would disappear during the day, God hunting, but just as it started to get dark, he'd be back and insist he had nowhere else to be.
Dean wasn't so sure but he appreciated it and he knew Sam did as well. If anything he was getting a bit jealous of the time the two were spending together. It seemed wrong to him for his brother and his angel to be hanging out while Dean was somewhere else.
Bobby had called animal control who managed, the second night, to catch the roaming dogs. Dean wasn't sure what would happen to the animals but he was glad that they couldn't harass Sam anymore. He was learning to be thankful for small things…
The bite on Sam's neck was healing, he hadn't had any 'visits' from Lucifer and had developed a particular fondness for Macintosh apples. And once Bobby averted disaster when Dean – in a moment of extreme gastric sympathy – had offered Sam a cheeseburger (talk about a hefty lecture in the dangers of colic in a horse) things settled down nicely.
In fact Dean was finally starting to let his guard down about this and beginning to consider his best options for going forward – there was still an apocalypse to stop and a devil to deal with after all – when the shit hit the fan.
"Hey Sammy," Dean smiled at the horse as he leaned over the fence and watched the stallion – 'cause that was what his little bro was now – prancing around the field. Sam really was quite a magnificent creature and as the sun beat down on an unusually warm spring morning, the horse appeared in a good mood as he tossed his mane, kicked up his heels and high stepped for a few moments before finally coming over to see Dean. "Someone's in a good mood," he grinned as Sam nuzzled at his jacket looking for a treat. Dean had taken to bringing him apples, carrots and even once a sugar cube in the mornings, and didn't disappoint this time as he produced a baggie with apple quarters. He chuckled fondly as Sam whinnied impatiently for him to get them out of the bag. "Geez, dude, give a guy a sec, won't ya?"
Bobby was inside reading the paper and Castiel was gone so it was just the two of them this morning.
Dean watched Sam quietly for a few minutes as the horse munched happily on the apple. "I'm taking off for a few hours today," he finally said after the horse finished his treat. Sam nodded his head playfully then pushed at Dean's shoulder with his nose obviously wanting a bit more information than that. "It's nothing really," Dean started knowing his brother was not going to like this but needing to be honest anyways. "There's been a couple of odd deaths in the county over so I thought I'd take a look."
That got a reaction.
Sam snorted loudly, shook his head and pawed the ground.
"Hey, hey, none of that," Dean scolded recognizing the threat of a smack down if he ever saw one. "I'm not going to do anything stupid. Just poke around a bit. Interview witnesses… Fun crap like that."
The horse actually looked skeptical and Dean lifted an eyebrow in surprise. How did Sam do that? "I mean it, Sam. Nothing else. But I just need to make sure it isn't anything more than a ghost or something… God knows we can't take any more hits on home ground."
Sam whinnied softly and Dean reached up to rub the white star. "I'll only be gone a couple of hours; if it does turn out to be more than that, I'll get Cas to back me up. I promise."
The horse still didn't look happy but Dean recognized the acceptance for what it was and smiled gently. "It'll be okay and hey, I'll pick you up some more apples on the way home."
Small black ears perked up at the mention of apples and then a soft velvety nose was pressing in against his neck. "Okay, okay, enough with the molesting, dude!" He gently pushed the horse away. "I'll be careful and you," he eyed his brother, all mirth gone from his face, "you stay out of trouble."
An indignant snort had Dean outright laughing. Sometimes there was just no translation needed.
Pleased that Sam wasn't freaking out on him about this, Dean slipped his brother the extra treat of carrots he'd snagged on the way out of the kitchen and then left the horse watching him from the fence.
It was going to be a good day – he could just tell.
Sam hated it. Watching Dean leave, listening to him open then close the Impala door, turn on the car engine and then drive away, hurt.
It had been one thing when Dean left on an errand… but on a hunt? The horse dropped his head feeling miserable and useless. A hunt made this all different.
And he hated it.
Waiting until he couldn't hear the car any more, Sam slowly turned away and meandered across the field huffing softly. Grass tickled his hooves but he wasn't hungry. The air smelled sweet but all his good mood and light-heartedness had drained away with the worry of his brother's words. There's been a couple of odd deaths in the county over so I thought I'd take a look…
Reaching dead center in the field, the horse turned back towards the house and stood, ears pricked forward, all attention on the road, and waited. Not like he really had much else to do. All in all being a horse was… boring.
Still standing sentinel, Sam watched as an hour later a dark colored van pulled up in front of the house; he heard it stop. Expecting this to be just another scrap yard customer, the horse huffed softly and didn't pay much attention until the sound of something breaking inside the house startled him.
What was going on?
Paying more attention now, his heart started to pound in his chest.
"- so it's the hard way then."
A woman's voice.
"Go to hell, you sonnofabitches!"
"Been there, done that," the woman again.
Sam felt ice chill through him. Demons. The customers were demons.
Snorting in agitation, the horse pounded towards the fence, his urgency fueled when he heard Bobby's grunt of pain.
"We want the Winchesters-"
Gracefully clearing the fence, Sam raced towards the front of the house.
"-and you're going to give them to us."
No, no, no, Sam couldn't let Bobby get hurt protecting them.
"I'll die first!"
The horse clattered onto the porch –
And burst through the front door.
It was harder to say who was more shocked. The three demons in the room? Bobby? Or Sam? Honestly the horse hadn't been sure he'd fit in the door and Bobby was probably going to rip him a new one about it after, but for now, it worked as the demons suddenly found themselves dealing with a thousand pounds of furious horse in an enclosed room.
Bobby, smart man that he was, threw himself from the wheelchair as Sam struck out, front hooves lashing at the woman as the two males with her tried to get out of the way.
Meg, he recognized as one of his hooves knocked her across the floor. He kicked out at another demon as the third lifted his hand then quickly realized his powers were useless on the horse.
"Sammy Winchester," Meg spat, suddenly back on her feet. Sam twisted around, putting himself between her and Bobby. "Well isn't this a pleasant surprise."
Sam snorted. Not likely, bitch.
Her eyes were black as she tipped her head towards the ruined door and her cohorts disappeared outside. "Such a pretty pony." She sneered. "I'm going to need a bigger van."
From behind him, Sam heard Bobby start an exorcism. So did Meg. Snarling angrily, she flicked her hand and the older hunter was tossed hard across the room and then she was out the door before Sam could stop her.
Bobby! The horse crossed the short distance between them, immediately alarmed by the smell of blood. It sent panic washing over him and it took everything Sam had to fight his instinct to flee but Bobby was hurt and needed him.
Nudging the older hunter gently, Sam whinnied softly and cursed his inability to help. Without his hands or voice there wasn't much he could do and he knew Meg and her buddies hadn't gone. He could smell them outside the house.
This was bad.
"S-Sam," relief coursed through Sam at the sound of Bobby's voice. The older man was hurting but conscious – the horse could work with that. Carefully kneeling down, Sam butted at Bobby wishing Castiel was here to talk for him. But then again if the angel was here, this wouldn't even be necessary. Groaning softly (Sam had no idea yet how bad the man was hurt), the hunter seemed to understand the animal's intent because he moved his hand towards Sam. The horse flinched as calloused fingers brushed over the healing bite before they gripped tightly to his thick man and held fast. Bobby grunted as he used that as leverage to drag his body closer to the horse. "Okay," he breathed out after a moment, "I'm ready."
Sam slowly and cautiously stood up lifting the paralyzed man with him. As he rose, Bobby used his free hand to move his leg across Sam's back so when the horse finally stood, the hunter was sitting, slouched over on his back. Bobby was breathing hard from the exertion but held tight.
It wasn't ideal but now at least they were mobile.
Sam debated for a moment as he shifted and gave the man a few moments to adjust to the motion. He prayed to an absent God that Bobby knew how to ride.
"Kitchen, Sam," Bobby's voice was gruff with pain. "Phone…"
Bobbing his head that he got it, Sam carefully trod into the kitchen. His hooves clumped loudly on the floor and the sound had him shying away nervously.
Knowing Meg and her demons hadn't left, Sam strained to hear what they were doing outside but they were quiet.
It was unnerving.
Holding tightly to Sam's mane, Bobby leaned over enough to grab the phone breathing out a sigh when they both heard the dial tone. Quickly he dialed – Dean's number Sam recognized – then waited for Dean to pick up.
"Hey, Bobby," Dean's voice sounded on the other end and then the line went dead; the house completely silent.
The demons had cut the power and phone lines.
"Shit," Bobby verbalized for both of them. They were now totally cut off.
The window behind them suddenly blew out and a smoke canister hit the linoleum. Startling, Sam half reared almost upsetting Bobby but while the man's legs were useless his reflexes hadn't slowed, and he managed a solid two fisted grasp on Sam's mane, keeping himself on the broad back.
Sam whinnied softly at the painful yank of hair against his sensitive skin and skittered away, snorting and desperate to get out of the house. He knew the demons were waiting outside but they had no choice as the smoke burned their eyes and Bobby was already coughing.
Charging back the way he'd come, Sam stormed out the broken door and jumped from the porch to the ground, Bobby clinging hard to his back.
He had no plan except to get them away for the house as fast he could.
Dean's foot was pressed hard on the accelerator. He had no idea what was going on but he just knew something was wrong – why else would Bobby have called, and why couldn't Dean get hold of the man when he tried to call back?
He toyed with the idea of calling Castiel but without knowing for sure, he didn't want to raise a false alarm. It was possible there was an innocuous explanation…
The demons were waiting for the horse and rider. They had rope and tried to lasso Sam as he thundered across the yard. Sam side-stepped then almost slipped on the gravel when one of the demons suddenly appeared in front of him yelling loudly and waving his coat over his head.
Neighing in fright, Sam spun around but Meg was right there with a lariat. She threw it and the horse narrowly avoided the noose as he dodged to the side, almost losing Bobby in the process.
"Look out!" Bobby cried as the third demon swung something – a bat – at Sam's front legs.
The horse feinted left and caught the blow across his girth. It hurt but didn't take him down like it would have if it had cracked across his more vulnerable legs. Kicking out with his back legs, he caught one of the males and sent him into the side of the house. The impact would have killed him if he wasn't a demon.
"Bring him down!" Meg screamed as they worked to pen Sam in and push him back towards the house. The demon the horse had kicked was back into the fray, but the way his chest was caved in on one side foretold the damage.
The demons closed in on the horse and this time when Meg threw the rope it went cleanly over Sam's head and settled tightly around his neck.
He felt Bobby scrabbling to try and loosen it but with Meg's demon strength pulling it taut and dragging Sam towards her, there was nothing he could do.
Squealing, Sam tried to pull back but then a second cord settled over his head. He felt pain shoot through the bite as the rope rubbed against the injury and knew they were screwed.
Bobby started in Latin again as Sam was jerked back and forth by the ropes. He tried to pull back but they were too strong.
"Shut him up!" Meg screamed and Sam watched in horror as the bat wielding demon closed in on Bobby –
And that was when the Impala shot into view.
Dean floored the gas and aimed four thousand pounds of Detroit steel at the guy with the bat.
Anger coursed through him as the demon – and the black eyes of the guy as he turned towards Dean just before the car hit him – flew over the hood and hit the gravel behind them.
Slamming the brakes on, Dean was out of the car, demon-killing knife firmly grasped in his fist, and slicing through the closest demon before they could react.
The horse jerked free as the remaining demon turned to face Dean. It was Meg. And just why wasn't Dean surprised?
"Leave my brother alone, bitch," he snarled, his eyes firmly fixed on her as Bobby's voice rose, the words of an exorcism rolling off his lips.
Meg actually hissed at him but before he could dive in for the kill, she was gone in a swirl of black smoke leaving her worn out meat suit in a mess behind her.
The exorcism finished off the one Dean had hit with the car before it could escape, and then the two men and horse just stood there looking at each other and breathing hard. Then Dean moved towards them, his fingers quickly moving to take the ropes off his brother and angrily flinging them across the yard.
"You okay?" he asked them both, his eyes taking in Bobby's blood and the re-opened stitches on Sam's neck.
"We'll live," Bobby's voice was pain-pinched but strong.
The horse exhaled softly through his nose and pushed his nose against Dean's shoulder. No translation was needed.
Dean rubbed the velvety nose and chuckled softly. He shook his head. "We really have to work on your definition of the word 'fine', Sam. This," he gave a significant look at his brother's once again bleeding neck, "is not fine." His voice softened, "I'm going to have to re-stitch it, bro."
Sam huffed miserably and shook his head. Dean patted his neck in consolation not looking forward to this anymore than his brother was.
"So, uh," Dean glanced up at Bobby, "You get your dollars worth?" his lips twisted slightly to tease. "Or you want to go around for another ride?"
Bobby glared but refused to release his death grip on Sam's mane. "Ha, ha, funnyman, get me the hell down from here before people start to talk!"
And then, as if on cue, Castiel showed up.
"You know," Dean was sitting outside the house with his brother and the angel. The front door had been boarded up and Bobby was inside sleeping, his run in with the demons leaving him mildly concussed and with fractured ribs. Sam's neck had been re-stitched and his bruised chest and muscles rubbed down with a strong smelling liniment. "I've been thinking…"
"That's never a good thing," Castiel dead-panned. "What?" he added when Dean shot him a look. "That's coming from Sam."
Dean scowled but continued anyway, his gaze firmly fixed on his brother as Sam grazed loudly a few feet away. "I don't think this is going to work." The horse lifted his head, stopped chewing and stared at him. The hunter found himself shaking slightly. "I –uh – I want my brother back. I need Sam back. Human Sam. This horse thing… I can't. No, won't do this by myself. I was stupid for ever thinking this was a good idea."
Sam crossed the distance between them and nudged at Dean's shoulder. Dean automatically reached up to scratch between the wide-set eyes.
"He wants to know if you're sure," Castiel spoke up.
Dean searched the dark brown eyes watching him so closely. He saw the flecks of green but missed their usual hazel. In all honesty, he missed Sam; his brother's quirky sense of humor, bad taste in music, scowl whenever Dean forgot to put sugar in his coffee… Sam.
And he wanted him back.
"Yeah," he smiled fondly at the horse. "I'm sure."
"What about Lucifer?" Castiel's voice held curiosity and Dean wasn't sure who the question was coming from. But it really didn't matter, the answer was the same.
"Lucifer," Dean spit the name out like the curse it was, "can get in line," Dean straightened where he stood. "Sam was my brother first. He wants him? He has to go through me."
"Your logic is flawed," the angel started to tell him. "Your kinship was pre-"
"If you finish that thought, Cas, I swear on my baby's paintjob, I will pluck every feather and shove them up your-"
"I get the picture," Castiel conceded, cutting Dean off abruptly. The angel looked distinctly uncomfortable and the hunter was pleased. He didn't care who was spouting off what crap about pre-destinies and such, when it came to him and Sam, they were going to make up their own damn game plan. And rule number one? Where there was one, there was two.
Sam nickered softly and shoved at him again.
"I don't have any more answers now than I did then," Dean admitted, "but we suck ass by ourselves… so I figure as long as we stick together and we're watching each other's backs, we'll take it one step at a time. Hell, one demon at a time, if that's what it takes. So what do you say, Sammy? You ready to peel your own apples again?"
At the word 'apple' Sam's ears pricked up and then the horse was nodding enthusiastically.
"Yes," Castiel put in, "Sam says yes."
Dean rolled his eyes and turned to go inside. They'd need Bobby to break the spell. The angel's voice stopped him. "Wait, Dean."
"What?" Dean looked at Castiel.
The angel was smiling at him. It weirded him out actually.
"Sam says not yet."
"What?" Dean repeated, confused. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Cas rushed to assure him even as Sam bobbed his head and whinnied softly. The smile widened into something too much like a grin for Dean's liking. "There's just something that needs to be done first."
"Oh for the love of… what?" Dean's impatience was getting the better of him. Now that it had been decided, he was anxious to get his brother back.
Castiel looked at Sam, shrugged, then held out his hand to Dean. When the man just glared at him, the angel huffed, "oh all right," then added. "I need a dollar."
"A dollar?" Dean's face puckered in confusion. "For what?"
"For a ride of course."
Dean froze. Then his gaze whipped to his brother. The horse was looking distinctively uncomfortable as he shifted from one hoof to the other.
"Sam says that when you were boys you wanted to ride the horses at a fair but you didn't have a dollar," Dean quirked an eyebrow at his brother, surprised but appreciative of how Sam had 'amended' the story. "So he wants to give you a ride now."
"Oh no," Dean's hands flew up in objection. "I am not riding my brother. Dude! Do you know how… gross… that sounds?"
Sam snorted loudly.
"He says…" Castiel frowned. "Consider it a piggy back ride."
Dean was still ready to protest. As much as the boy in him really, really wanted to ride the horse, the man in him backpedaled furiously. It was just… wrong.
But then Castiel added, "Please?"
And Dean knew he was owned…
"Okay. Fine." He grit out then pointed his finger at Sam. He hissed. "But you don't breathe a word of this to anyone."
The horse flattened his ears and huffed. As if I'd want anyone to know, came across without plain and clear.
The hunter turned towards the angel.
"One word," he warned. "Not even one word."
The angel jingled his hand indicating he was still waiting for his dollar. Growling under his breath, Dean paid up and then Castiel was gone, leaving the brothers alone.
Dean looked at Sam. "You sure?" he asked suddenly nervous.
Sam moved to stand by the porch where the stairs would make it easier for Dean to get on. He looked at Dean, his eyes warm.
Yes, the look said. For you. Yes.
And as Dean grasped a thick handful of mane and deftly mounted his brother, he couldn't help it if his face turned beet red. This felt so wrong… but then as he got settled on the powerful back and Sam started to walk, slow and steady, towards the field, he realized it also felt right.
When it was just him and Sam. It was always right.
Bobby could turn Sam back after his nap, but for now, the brothers would just enjoy the beautiful spring afternoon together in a way that would be just between them…
The apocalypse could wait a couple of hours.