Title: The Other Side of the Story
Summary: Dean realized that maybe every story had two sides. That maybe for everything he loved about the hunt, there was something to hate about it. For every time he relished offing a werewolf, there was risk of something worse-something like this. And just because he wanted to focus on the positive didn't mean that Sam was wrong for focusing on the negative. Set during S1.
A/N: I wrote this as thanks to a certain special lurker who was kind enough to listen to me rant. She's read this, which is good, since I wrote it last year! Thanks go geminigrl11 for the beta, sendintheclowns for the hand holding, and my lurker for the inspiration. It takes place in S1 by request. This is the first part of four.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
When Dean was sixteen, he held a gun in his hands and fired. It wasn't the first time he'd fired a gun, but it was the first time he'd shot to kill. His hands were sweaty, his aim shaky, and there was a flush of adrenaline moving up and down his skin, lifting the hairs on the back of his arm and sending his heart jackhammering in his chest.
Safety off. One, two, three.
A screech, an inhuman growl, then a crash and fall, and the night was still and silent once again.
Dean didn't blink, didn't think to blink or even breathe. It was his father who broke the silence. He walked past Dean, his own gun still in his hand. He went to the fallen body, poking at it tentatively with his foot.
His dad looked at him, his face shadowed in the moonlight that seeped through the trees.
"Your first shot was wide," his father said. "Your second low."
Dean swallowed. "Yeah?"
Then his dad grinned. "Third one right through the heart."
And, just like that, Dean felt a rush of pride, of satisfaction, and he didn't even mind the fact that it was freak-ass cold outside or that he hated the dirty work of torching bodies. Because this was his kill, his first kill, and yeah, that was something like pride in his father's voice, and Dean couldn't wait to tell it all to Sam, who was still sitting back in the car, locked up warm and safe with a flashlight and a book.
Sam didn't know what he was missing.
Dean just knew that for him, he'd never miss out on this again. Not if he could help it.
"A werewolf, Sammy," Dean said, hitting Sam with the rolled up paper again. "Freakin' werewolves."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah," he said, glowering at his computer screen. "I heard you the first time."
Dean snorted, flopping on the bed and resting against the headboard. "So, why aren't you a little more excited? I mean, we've been doing ghost after ghost and that's all nice and all, but it's getting a little boring."
The look Sam gave him was a cross between annoyance and weariness. He'd been researching the case for a few hours now, and he'd known a werewolf was one of the more viable options. Dean's verification of the eyewitness reports and the tufts of hair left on one of the scenes had confirmed it. So, it wasn't that Sam didn't agree with Dean that it was, in fact, a werewolf. It just that he didn't see much to get excited about. A werewolf was important to get rid of, sure, but it had only been five months. Since their dad had disappeared and since Jessica had died.
He couldn't dwell, though. Not now. He pursed his lips instead. "I didn't realize we did it because it was fun."
"Not all of us have the pleasure of being a stick in the mud like you," Dean grumbled, turning on the TV and beginning to flip.
Sam sighed. Dean meant well, but sometimes it seemed like he forgot. "I just know what we're supposed to be doing."
"Yeah, saving people. Hunting things."
"The family business, I know," Sam said. It was a line he knew well-too well. And it was true and fine, but the family business was why he'd left. Though it was his means to an end now, his end to avenge Jessica. To end this. "It's just...I don't know."
Dean groaned. "Dude, you know we're going to find Dad."
"Hunting werewolves doesn't feel like finding Dad," Sam said, and it didn't. It felt like wasting time, killing time, just twiddling his thumbs while whatever killed Jessica was free to do whatever it wanted. Sam couldn't forget that. Ever.
"Well, we're here already," Dean pointed out with a shrug, looking back at the TV.
Sam clenched his jaw. "Because you wanted to come here."
"Um, yeah," Dean said. "This town has a string of six maulings over the last three months. You know, people dying. So, I figured since, you know, we're not exactly making headway with Dad-"
"We're not exactly trying," Sam interrupted. "Joshua said he talked to Dad three months ago. That's something-"
"Dude, three months ago," Dean said. "We followed up, checked out Dad's case and found nothing. Joshua doesn't know where Dad is. Caleb doesn't know where Dad is. Pastor Jim doesn't know where Dad is. The cell phone company doesn't know where Dad is and I tried every alias I could think of that Dad might have registered under. The guy doesn't want to be found."
"I don't care," Sam snapped.
Dean grunted. "Like that's a surprise."
Sam looked down, and willed himself to stay calm. Picking fights with Dean wouldn't get him what he wanted.
Besides, Dean was right. They had tried. They'd tried all the contacts-that Sam knew of, anyway-and they'd tried the cell phone numbers and the credit card aliases-anything they could think of. But their dad was just...gone. Missing. By choice. And it was beginning to grate on Sam's nerves.
How could their dad just be gone? How could he just ignore their phone calls and their attempts to reach him? How could he just not be there? How could he disappear right when Sam was ready to admit that he needed help, that he needed him? Because Sam still saw Jessica every night in his dreams, and he had an ache in his heart that just never went away, and their dad had to know something. Coincidences didn't exist. Their dad going missing, Jessica dying-it all meant something-so, why the hell was their old man bailing on them right when Sam was ready to fall in line?
Dean sighed, flipping the TV off. "Dad has his reasons, Sammy."
"Yeah?" Sam asked, chewing at his lip. "Then why'd you come get me at Stanford?"
Dean pressed his lips together, throwing his legs back over the side of the bed. "I didn't say I had to like them."
"Yeah, but you never question them," Sam said, slumping in his seat and clicking a link idly on his laptop.
"You going to let people die just to be contrary?"
Six maulings, all missing their hearts. Looked like a wolf attack, maybe dogs, only too precise. Too planned. And what kind of wolf just eats the heart?
More than that, what kind of wolf only strikes during one week of every month that just happens to coincide with the lunar cycle?
The full moon was coming. Six people in a morgue and a werewolf still on the loose.
It was a cruel truth. Vengeance could wait.
Sam closed his computer and rallied his resolve. "We have to find where our wolf is holed up," he said.
A smile crept across Dean's face, and he flopped back. "There's my favorite geek," he said.
Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Blind faith or not, Dean loved this kind of stuff. Always had. Always would. If it didn't feel so much like treading water, Sam might not have even begrudged his brother that much.
But this wasn't about Dean. It wasn't even about Sam. It was about six dead people in the morgue and a werewolf on the loose. He'd lost Jess. He didn't have to let other people know what that felt like. Not tonight.
He sighed, shaking his head, picking up his notes again. "You're such an ass," he said.
Dean smirked, turning the TV back on again. "Who cares?" he asked. "A werewolf, Sammy. Do you know how awesome that is? Fur and full moons-"
"Which is starting up again next week, by the way."
Dean shrugged. "Which is why you'd better figure out where our wolf is before he has the chance to strike again."
Sam glared, but Dean wasn't paying any attention to him, which really seemed about typical at this point. That was just Dean, and Sam almost envied his ability to enjoy. To be happy. The contentment his brother took from simple things-it was something so very Dean and, sometimes, Sam wished he could just feel it, too.
But that wasn't hunting for Sam. It never had been. Not since he'd learned the truth when he was eight years old. Hunting was everything dark and wrong in his life. It was lies and scary truths and monsters and death and betrayal. Right now, it was his means to an end. The things that had made him happy, the things he had staked his entire relationship with his family on, were gone. School, friends, Jess, normal, safe-it was all gone now.
Sam shook his head to himself, and opened his laptop once again. Priorities. It was a constant battle. This wasn't bringing Jess back, this wasn't finding their father, but right now, this night, it was all he could do, and Sam could only hope it would be enough to keep his nightmares at bay.
Dean didn't really believe in God or even some greater good. He didn't really buy into karma and he certainly had no time for anything like destiny. But this hunt was making him reconsider it, if only for the next week.
They were hunting a werewolf.
Someone out there certainly liked Dean to give him a werewolf. He had his car on the road in the middle of the night, his little brother riding shotgun, the arsenal full and prepped in the trunk, and a werewolf to kill.
Which, seriously, he needed right about then. Ever since his dad had up and disappeared on him, life had been nothing but one blow after the next. Sure, Sam was back with him, but the circumstances weren't exactly ideal. Seeing Sam's girlfriend on the ceiling had been hard on both of them, and seeing Sam willing to die in that fire right alongside her?
Well, that certainly hadn't been a picnic either.
And Dad was still missing-by choice, no less-and no matter what he told Sam, that wore on Dean. A lot. He'd given his entire life to that man, he'd trusted him more than he'd trusted anything, and to have him leave? To have him ditch by choice? Was more than a little stressful and more than a lot insulting.
Not that he could tell Sam that. The kid was one step away from insubordination on the best of days, and considering Sam's almost obsessive mode of grief since they'd blown out of Stanford, Dean couldn't take the risk of venting his frustrations on Sam.
So, yeah, he needed a werewolf right about then. Something big, hairy, and freaky that he could plug full of silver. The best damn therapy he could think of.
For that, Dean could spare a moment to be a little grateful to whatever cosmic force had smiled benevolently on him.
"You're glowing," Sam said, sounding a little incredulous.
Dean blinked, glancing over at his brother. "Dude, I've heard that, but usually just from chicks after-"
Sam made a face. "I don't want to know."
Dean shrugged. "You said it."
"I meant, you're excited," Sam said. "I mean, giddy. I haven't seen you this giddy since, well-"
Since before Sam went to Stanford, probably. His baby brother had missed a hell of a lot in the last four years, and their time together had had its moments, but hunting down their father and the thing that had killed their mom and Jessica didn't exactly make for a lighthearted road trip.
Dean shifted a little, turning his eyes back to the road. "I told you, man-"
"Werewolves," Sam concluded, rolling his eyes. "I know."
But Sam didn't know. Sam didn't know what a relief it was to hunt something clear and straightforward. To know exactly what to expect and to understand just what needed to be done. Simple and freaky-assed and he'd done it before and he'd do it again. Hunting a werewolf was the epitome of what Dean did. It had been his first hunt, and it would always be the one he was comparing everything else to. A true test of his mettle, one that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he could handle.
Saving people, killing things, getting an ego boost and a high all at once.
"Werewolves," Dean agreed. "You sure about the location?"
Sam looked down at his map again. "All the victims have been found in this general vicinity. Around the edges of these woods. At least three of the victims were reported going into the woods around dusk. Apparently there's a nice walking trail."
"Why would people go walking in the woods at night?"
"It's not far from a campground," Sam said. "The walking trails there are very popular and even have well lit check points."
Dean nodded, shifted his hands on the wheel. "Which makes it like a buffet for our wolf."
"I guess," Sam said. "But it's weird, you know?"
"As if you expect a man wolfing out in the moonlight to be normal."
Sam shook his head. "No, I mean, it just seems kind of sudden."
"Maybe our wolf just moved to town," Dean said. "And who knows, these things have to get started somewhere."
Sam didn't disagree, but it didn't take college boy training to know that Sam wasn't convinced.
"Besides, these things have to stay on the run a little bit," Dean pointed out. "Just because they're supernatural killers doesn't mean that they don't know a thing or two about not getting caught. Survival instincts."
"I know, I know," Sam relented. Then he sighed. "It just feels, I don't know. Weird."
"It's a werewolf, Sammy," Dean said. "Is it supposed to feel normal?"
"So, the fact that these killings come out of nowhere, no prior history, no other trail, doesn't bother you?"
A lot of things bothered him. His brother's refusal to just listen and take an order bothered him. His dad's inability to answer a phone bothered him. The alarming prevalence of STDs bothered him. But a werewolf coming out of the woodwork for the first time? Did not bother him.
Well, it bothered him, but at least that had a quick fix. Unlike the rest of his all-too-screwed up life.
He flashed Sam a winning grin, wide and purposeful and un-freakin-questionable. "No," he said. "It doesn't."
There was a finality to it that even Sam couldn't argue with. Sometimes, Dean thought, if he just believed his own damn lies, that was all he needed.
The fact that Sam shut up for the rest of the car ride-well, chalk another one up to the great divine being that Dean was pretty sure didn't exist, because tonight? Miracles sure as hell happened with a quiet little brother, some good tunes, and a werewolf to plug full of holes.
No matter how hard Dean tried, something just didn't feel right. They'd prepped for the hunt with their usual luster, cleaned the guns, sharpened a knife or two, looked over the map another five times. They'd laid out the plan of attack, a couple of contingencies, and did a brief rundown of their cover and even an emergency check over hospital routes and the quickest way out of town. By the time Dean had pulled the Impala to the woods they'd honed in upon, everything was in order.
So why didn't it feel right?
Dean thought it was so damn simple. And, okay, maybe it was. All the evidence did point to a werewolf, after all. The lunar cycle was a dead giveaway. Maybe old habits died hard-Sam just didn't know how to quiet that questioning in his head, how to make himself believe inherently in things that depended on what other people told him and what other people believed.
It was just his default setting. Sam figured it had started out early enough, that kid-like quality of just wanting to know why, why, why?
But when all his whys were deferred, when the few answers he got all felt like lies, then Sam had started asking in earnest. Why did they move so much? Why was Dad gone so often? Why did they live in motels? Why didn't they use their real names sometimes? Why didn't they have a mommy?
Sam knew something was wrong. He was pretty sure he always had, and, yet, they hadn't told him. His dad, Dean: they had just lied. Told him one lie after another until Sam found out for himself.
That Christmas was the last day Sam had really trusted in anything other than what he could confirm with his own mind.
Until Jess. Jess had made him change. Forced him to by the very fact that she was so good and so pure and so honest. Living with her, being with her, Sam was more vulnerable than he'd ever been in his life, but he'd felt so safe.
But that had gone up in flames, along with the rest of Sam's trust.
Sometimes Sam wished he could turn it off, but asking questions was the only way he'd ever gained anything of value, any truth of substance.
So, it all seemed right-Dean had all his reasons and all his facts lined up, but, standing behind the Impala's open trunk, watching his brother dole out the weaponry, Sam couldn't shake that feeling that something was just wrong.
The night was cool, only a few stars winking in the blackness above. The woods loomed in front of them, deep and dark. The Impala was alone in the small parking lot, which was what Sam had hoped for. The moon was peaking through the trees, which meant their wolf was already in full form, and Sam could only hope that people were heeding the warning signs he and Dean had planted at the last parking lot.
Dean pocketed one last gun before rolling his shoulders. "You ready for this?"
Sam's mind flashed to Jessica on the ceiling, his father's angry voice telling him to get out, Dean standing in front of his apartment saying he didn't want to do this alone, and Sam had no choice, had maybe never had a choice, not since Christmas when he was eight when he discovered that truth and volition were fledgling childhood fantasies.
"Yeah," Sam said, feeling the weight of his own gun heavy in his hand. "Let's do this."
Dean closed the trunk, and Sam swallowed back his doubts as he followed his brother.
Dean's flashlight sent a ray of light bobbing along the trail, and Sam pointed his to the opposite side, providing a good sheath of light to lead them deeper. It was tense between them, forced silence, mouths shut and fingers tightened on the triggers. Werewolves were fast, Sam remembered. Fast and cunning. Natural born killers, though there was nothing natural about them at all.
But a bullet through the heart. One shot was all it took to end the killing spree. Easier than a ghost. Even easier than finding Dad.
Dean's pace was careful but quick, and Sam could see the set of his brother's shoulders in anticipation. Dean had coached him on this, with almost a gleeful attention to detail. That werewolves didn't really care about stealth. They didn't care about the element of surprise. They had five days, a week at most, to do their killing, before they had to wait another lunar cycle for the chance. It was about gore and blood, violence through and through. Werewolves didn't need to plot and plan. They just needed a running head start on their claws.
Which was why they had planned meticulously.
More importantly, it was why they were armed and ready to fire.
Sam licked his lips, a chill shivering up his spine.
He'd never hunted one before. Dean had. Their dad had. Sam had read enough, researched enough. It was straightforward. It was-
Sam's breath seemed to freeze in his mouth, puffing out in front of him with a clarity that surprised him. When had it gotten so cold? Was he really just losing his touch?
Dean was moving forward, flashlight skimming across the path, when Sam felt the hairs on his neck rise. Something was coming, something was-
"Dude," Dean hissed, glancing at him. "I can hear you breathing all the way up here. Just chill or you're going to scare the wolf away with your Darth Vader breathing techniques."
Sam glared, even though it was dark. "Shut up," he muttered.
"That's what I'm saying," Dean whispered. "With all your breathing back there, it's damned distracting."
"Gee, fine," Sam shot back. "I'll try not breathing for awhile then, and see if that improves our odds of a successful hunt."
Dean grunted. "Best thing you've said all night."
"Nice, Dean," he muttered. "Real nice."
"Oh, don't be a baby," Dean chided, keeping his eyes focused on the foliage ahead. "And just fall back and cover my six a little better."
Sam fought the urge to sigh or to snap back a reply. It wasn't worth it.
He let his pace slow marginally, falling behind Dean slightly to gain a better vantage point of his brother's progress. The woods were still around them, swathed with the faint glow of the moon and the harsh glare of their flashlights.
Dean was right. He was being stupid. He just needed to focus.
Resolved, Sam pulled at his coat zipper, inching up toward his chin.
It wasn't supposed to be this cold.
But a lot of things weren't supposed to be, and Sam was consoling himself with that thought when the temperature dropped another ten degrees.
And hell, there was cold and then there was freaky, and no matter how he looked at this, this was too far out there to be normal. Didn't Dean say there was no such thing as coincidence? On a hunt for something supernatural and the temperature went down, so maybe it was time for Sam to speak the hell up.
Sam opened his mouth to call out, to say something, but there was a flash of light and a blur of motion-too fast, too soundless-and pain lanced through his chest with a white-hot intensity that brought him to his knees before he could even get a word out.
Instead, his voice dwindled, and a soft grunt of pain escaped his lips and a sob caught roughly in his throat, almost threatening to choke him.
He looked down first, because he couldn't help it, and his coat was shredded and heavy. Heavy because it was wet and even in the moonlight, Sam could tell what it was.
He turned his eyes up in shock and saw Dean still walking down the trail, moving on like he hadn't heard anything.
Which, Sam realized, there had been nothing to hear.
No howling, no scuffle. Not even the sound of claws on flesh to disturb the night. This werewolf excelled at the art of stealth on scary levels. Impossible levels. This was very, very wrong.
It was standing above him now, as if it had materialized out of nowhere, which Sam thought maybe it had. There was fur and fangs, of course, and a tattered patchwork shirt over a looming frame. Just like a werewolf.
But glowing, translucent and hazy and flickering in and out. And okay, he had never seen a werewolf, but were they really supposed to look like that?
Dean was walking away, fading into the night, and Sam couldn't move, could barely breathe, and the cold was leeching at him now, pulling him away from himself and he couldn't fight it. If he could just call out, just make a sound, just let his brother know something was wrong...
His mind was fumbling for an answer, but coming up blank, and the figure curled its lips and raised a clawed paw. Sam could only sit and stare, mouth open, eyes dimming, and he waited for what had to be the killing to blow.
It felt wrong, to give up, to die so close to Dean and not even have his brother know, but the cold was too pervasive and the blood loss was too real.
But the paw came at him higher than expected, fist and claws raking across his vulnerable cheek. He saw stars and the canopy of the forest flash above his head before he hit the ground and knew no more.
Only Sam could make werewolves less fun. His brother, the perpetual stick in the mud with a perpetual stick up his ass knew how to make anything seem less fun.
But this was a werewolf, damn it. Dean's godsend of a hunt and not even Sam's brooding and questioning could screw that up.
At least the kid had toned back the breathing. Maybe Sam was getting that stealth thing down, after all.
In fact, ridiculously well, Dean realized. He couldn't even hear the sound of Sam's feet on the beaten trail of the forest floor.
Which there was stealthy and there was just plain wrong and crap, how could Sam be screwing this up even more?
Stopping, Dean looked over his shoulder. Just as he suspected, he was alone.
Sweeping his flashlight across the trail, he looked for any sign of movement. The trees were still and the underbrush was quiet. There was no sign of Sam.
Dean swallowed reflexively, not sure if he was annoyed or worried. Freakishly tall little brothers didn't just disappear, no matter how much he sometimes wanted them to and they were on a hunt, which was an especially bad time to disappear.
But werewolves weren't quiet. They were growly and ravenous, and even if they could stalk their prey with the necessary stealth of a predator, they didn't kill silently. Dean knew that. Hell, he'd seen the damn things try first hand more than once.
"Sam!" he called out. "Dude, I know I said to quiet down, but I think this is a little much."
His snark echoed through the woods, and the sound of some stupid insect answered him.
No bitchy glare, no petulant sigh. Not even a bark.
"A simple werewolf hunt," he muttered, digging through his pockets. "An in and out job, fangs and silver bullets, but no, that's too much to ask."
He swept his flashlight around the path again, turning in a slow circle, searching again for any sign of his brother.
His voice reverberated through the trees, and Dean swore again.
How the hell had Sam gotten lost? Was that even possible? Just how freaked out should Dean be right then?
Because if he told his brother to shut up and Sammy got himself nabbed by some furry fugly-well, that was still on Dean, and that was a layer of guilt Dean did not need right now.
Maybe the little brat had found a lead? And looked for it without him?
He had to stop and think. Be clear about this. There was no sense panicking until he'd tried all his options.
Option one had been calling his little brother's name.
While yelling in the middle of the woods at night might alert Sam's attention, wherever the wayward bitch might be, it might also alert the attention of things less friendly than Sam. Not that Sam was friendly, at least not these days, but at least the kid wasn't trying to kill him.
So, option one wasn't really the best plan and he'd tried it and gotten no results.
On to option two.
Of course. The cell phone.
Fumbling now, Dean pocketed his gun, looking instead for his cell phone. Unfortunately, he had lugged a lot of stuff out here, and Sam had been carrying the backpack, so that left him with all his weapons and his phone and...
The EMF tumbled to the ground.
Cursing, Dean leaned over to pick it up, when it whirred to life.
Normally the thing was pretty quiet, but not tonight. The lights were flickering wildly, and the entire device whined in anticipation. A surefire sign of ghost activity.
Except they weren't hunting a ghost.
They were hunting a werewolf.
Frowning, Dean flicked his light up to the trees, looking for any possible sign of power lines or something that could create this level of interference.
Unless those trees were radioactive, Dean was thinking that was a no.
Which-hell, there was a ghost? On his clean and simple, sent-from-heaven werewolf hunt?
He needed to find Sam. Now.
Swallowing his nerves, he found his phone, dialing Sam's number and hearing it ring over the pounding of his heart.
One ring, two rings...Dean closed his eyes as it went to voicemail.
Sam was gone, not answering his phone, and Dean was alone in the woods hunting a werewolf with an EMF meter that was off the charts. Dean wasn't sure quite what it meant, but he knew that it wasn't good.
Coincidence? Not likely.
If he couldn't find Sam, he could at least track the source of the EMF, which, at this point, was his best bet to figuring any of this out.
Pocking his cell phone, Dean directed his flashlight down the path, holding the EMF in front of him. It wasn't designed for tracking, of course, but it could roughly do the trick. If he went in the wrong direction, the signal would fade. The right direction, and the thing would buzz more than a drunk on New Year's.
This was all Sam's fault, Dean was certain. Sam and his whining and his questioning and his breathing and his disappearing, and Dean just hoped he could find his brother to kick his ass.
First things first, though: he had to find him, and hope that the werewolf and the ghost and whatever else was lurking in these woods didn't beat him to it.