Road Closed Ahead
Summary: Sam and Dean run into an urban legend that's not quite what the stories say...
So here you have it. Ye olde wrap up...
Sam woke slowly, forcing his mind to focus past the dull throb that seemed to stretch from head to toe, radiating outward from his side, although his head seemed to have a secondary signal of its own it was sending out.
"He's still unconscious."
Sam eyes flew open at the sound of a strange voice. It took him several seconds after the holy-crap-my-eyes-they-burn sensation before he managed to zero in on the owner.
It was the lady who ran the motel. She was sitting in a comfy looking chair that hadn't been in their room before. That, however, begged the question of how they got back to their room in the first place.
"How are you feeling?"
Sam focused on her again. Her chair was positioned against the wall between their two beds where the now-missing television stand had been. She was still wearing her apron, but she wasn't looking nearly as tidy as she had the day before. In fact, she looked exhausted.
"I'm..." He had to clear his throat. "I've been better."
She simply nodded. "I would imagine so."
"My brother?" Sam turned his head to the side, grimacing at what a bad idea that had been. Dean was lying in the next bed, pale and very still.
"He'll be all right eventually. The concussion on top of the spell she used is keeping him from waking. I've given him something to counteract both, but it will take a few more hours."
"What did you give him?" Sam asked suspiciously.
She narrowed her eyes. "The same thing I gave you and you'd better be grateful, young man. That headache of yours that you've been fighting since before you came here? You were only a few days away from dying if my guess is right."
Sam suddenly felt lightheaded. "Dying?"
She tapped her forehead between her eyes. "A bleed in your brain if I had to guess. But as I said, I've given you something to help. You should be right as rain in a day or two."
"You're a witch," Sam said as understanding dawned.
"No," she said very firmly. "I am someone who has been forced to learn a great deal to combat the evil that has been done in this town." Her voice softened. "I've worked for years to free my William, but have been unable. I felt the spell binding him break last night. So thank you for that."
"What's your name?" Sam asked, although he was almost certain he already knew it.
She smiled wearily. "Sarah Maples."
"The horseman's wife."
"I am William's wife," she corrected.
"You've been alive all this time," he said in amazement.
She nodded. "It was part of the spell. I was the person he wanted to protect above all else. If I'd died, she would have lost her hold on him and the spell would have failed."
Sam realized that was why the witch had been intent on holding him instead of just killing him. She would have needed him to keep a leash on Dean. His brother's overprotective nature was one of the few things Sam never had any doubts about. He would do almost anything to keep Sam safe. "How did you get us back here?"
"I didn't." She pointed toward the other bed. "Your brother did."
"Dean did? But how-"
"He took William's horse, put you on the back and rode all the way into town from her house."
The idea was so ridiculous Sam was starting to think he was dreaming, but the pain in his side was too real, and now that he thought about it, he seemed to remember someone talking to him, a low soothing voice as the road seemed to sway back and forth beneath him. Now he realized it hadn't been the road, it had been the horse.
"The horse was real?"
Mrs. Maples smiled sadly. "That was William's favorite mount. He raised him and trained him. Sometimes, I thought he liked that horse better than me."
Sam nodded. He knew someone equally attached to his ride.
"She included the horse in the spell," she continued. "She used anything she could to keep William to his purpose." She sighed. "I have the horse tied up out back at the moment. I suppose I'll have to find somewhere to stable him. One of the boys will know."
For the first time she didn't look heartbroken. "I had three children before William was taken from us. It was only chance that kept them from the witch's hands as well, but they were saved. They had children who had children who had children. They all just call me Nana."
Sam considered the math and decided that given the size of the town, nearly half of them were probably related in some way to this woman. If they all knew about the spell and the witch, then virtually the entire area knew exactly what had been going on for generations.
"We kept hoping someone would figure out how to stop her," she said as if she'd read his mind. "Hunters would come every so often, but none of them could do it. William killed them, or they were forced to give up when they couldn't stop him. A few even figured out who the real problem was, but they couldn't get near the house. It was heavily warded and no one could get in without her say-so. If they made the mistake of just going after her, they were usually never heard from again."
"Is she dead?"
"Oh, yes," Mrs. Maples said emphatically. "Unless she can come back from a snapped neck and the house burnt down around her, then yes. When you two arrived here, I sent my boys to the house. They salted and burnt everything in that root cellar. Everything except William. They took his head to the cemetery. He's at rest now, all together again."
"Your husband broke her neck?"
"I think it was only fair," she replied. "So many were hanged because of her. She accused them of witchcraft and the idiots believed her instead of looking at the source. My William," tears began to fall silently, "he saved as many as he could, but he couldn't save them all. When she accused me, William was livid. He went to the house determined to kill her, but she knew what she was doing. She'd accused me just to get him to walk into her trap. William was lost to me after that." She roughly wiped the tears from her cheeks and straightened her shoulders. "But now he's at rest. And now, I suppose, I will finally grow old, and then I, too, will have my rest beside William."
Mrs. Maples stood and walked toward the bed where Dean was lying. She leaned over, whispered something Sam couldn't hear and then placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. She straightened and headed for the door. "Thank you again," she said to Sam. "Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you."
The door closed behind her, and Sam heard shuffling coming from the other bed. She'd said Dean was supposed to sleep for a while longer, but neither of them had ever really met people's expectations.
"She gone?" Dean's voice was rough and still sleep-filled.
"Good. I's afraid she was gonna make us drink more of that gunk she brewed up. Tasted like tree bark and crap. Smelled even worse."
"Mmm," Sam said noncommittally. Now that he thought about it, there was a distinct aftertaste of something rancid in his mouth.
"Eye of newt, hair of dog, and a little pixie dust for taste," Dean muttered. "And I don't mean shake the pixie 'til she sparkles. I mean grind Tink up and stick her in the pot."
Now Sam knew how badly Dean was concussed. He was rambling about Tinkerbell. Normally, he would urge his brother to shut up, but Sam was curious.
"You really ride all the way back from her house?"
"Yup," Dean answered simply. "Just call me Robert Redford."
Sam frowned. "Huh?"
"Horse whisperer, dude."
"Where did you learn to ride a horse?" Sam asked.
"Not like it's hard," his brother mumbled offhandedly. "Horse does all the work."
Sam could tell Dean was nodding off again. "Did you work with horses somewhere?"
"Ranch," Dean said. "Hippie types. Horse rescue. Had a poltergeist. Me and Dad."
"You helped with a horse rescue operation?" Sam asked. That didn't sound like Dad. He was more the walk in, kick some ass, walk out type.
"Got hurt. Dad got a lead and left me there. They took care of me 'til he came back. Helped out when I could."
Sam's jaw tightened in anger, guessing everything that Dean wasn't saying. The action abruptly made his headache spike, and he must have made some sort of noise because Dean abruptly stopped talking. "You ok?" he asked.
"I'll be fine." It was the truth. Whatever she'd given them was obviously working. His headache was getting better. His side and ribs would take a bit longer, but it wasn't the first time for something like this.
"Then go back to sleep," Dean ordered. "Horseman's gone." Under his breath he added, "Always hated Lit Class."
Sam closed his eyes, no energy left to argue. He would ask his brother for more details later.
Dean tried to follow his own advice. His head hurt so badly, he was afraid he was going to be sick. He held very, very still, and thankfully, the urge passed. It was a good thing, too, because Dean doubted he'd have made it to the bathroom. In addition to the headache, he still felt... wrong. Whatever the witch had done to him was wearing off slowly, but his body wasn't quite his own just yet. Until it was, he'd better not have to make any quick movements, because they weren't going to happen.
It had been sheer luck that had gotten them back to the motel the night before. He'd managed to rouse himself in the basement just in time to see the horseman plunk his own head back on his body as he came through the doorway. Dead eyes had suddenly focused, and he had been very grateful they weren't focused on him. The horseman had headed straight for the witch and while she was muttering, trying to set up some spell to stop him, Maples had reached up and snapped her neck like a twig. She fallen to the floor, making gurgling noises that Dean wished he didn't remember. Maples had taken a step back, and then, like a small explosion, a burst of energy had thrown Dean off the table he'd been lying on.
When he'd opened his eyes again, the horseman's body was gone, just a pile of dust with a pickled human head sitting in the middle of it. Dean had decided that taking care of it and the witch would have to wait. He knew Sam was there somewhere. He'd heard the witch talking to him.
Dean had dragged himself to his feet, wavering in and out of consciousness, always holding on to a table or wall or shelf, anything to keep him upright. He'd quickly found Sam and it had taken far too long to get him up the cellar stairs. Dean had been forced to sit on a step with Sam's back to his chest. Dean had scooted up one step at a time, then pulled Sam up, over and over until they'd made it to the top.
Dean had stumbled past the horse toward the witch's car. He'd sworn viciously when there was no key, and he hadn't been able to hotwire the car. His vision had been graying out, and his hands were numb along with the rest of him. Even if he could've stayed awake long enough to go back down in the basement and get the keys from the witch, he doubted he would make it back into town without wrecking.
He'd only had one option left. He would have to let the horse do the driving.
Once the decision had been made, Dean had used up the last of his strength getting him and Sam up on the horse. He'd made use of the stairs leading up to the home to give them some height to get on. They wouldn't have managed otherwise. Everything after that had been hazy. He'd held on to Sam to keep him from falling off and they'd moseyed their way back to town.
Mrs. Maples had been sitting on a bench in front of the motel when they got there. He was pretty sure she'd been as happy to see the horse as she'd been to see them. She'd helped him off the horse, or he'd fallen off. He couldn't remember. He did remember helping her ease Sam down to the ground and into the room.
Next thing he remembered was her forcing that sludge of a potion down his throat. The stuff was helping though, so Dean would just have to sleep it off. Except Sam had brought up Auggie and his horses again. His brother just didn't know how to leave well enough alone.
Dean had been so pissed during that hunt. It was after Sam had left and, for a stretch in there, everything his dad did, no matter how insignificant, just rubbed him the wrong way. Maybe being alone with his dad with no one else to act as a buffer had finally gotten to him, or not having anyone to joke around with, or to talk about anything non-hunting related had made him nuts, but during that hunt at the ranch, his dad couldn't so much as eat his dinner without it pissing Dean off somehow. Everything he did was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Their dad hadn't said a word at the time, just kept working on the hunt doggedly, like always, which had pissed Dean off even more that his dad couldn't even be bothered to notice how pissed he was.
Of course, in retrospect, Dean knew that his dad had been well aware of the situation. It was probably why he'd ditched him as soon as Dean got hurt. The poltergeist had knocked him out of a hayloft, and he'd broken about everything one would expect to break falling out of a hayloft.
As soon as Dean had been released from the hospital, Dad had told him he'd found a new lead and headed out, leaving a barely mobile Dean at near Vesuvius levels of pissed off, coupled with a heaping pile of embarrassment that Dad had left Auggie and his wife, Sadie, virtual strangers, to take care of him.
Auggie and Sadie had been quiet, gentle, and generous people. In short, nothing he knew anything about. They'd simply taken care of him as best they could. After spending the next two months at the ranch, it had dawned on Dean that Sadie in particular treated him just like she did all of her skittish, injured or abused animals that needed looking after. And after being treated with patience and kindness for a couple of months, his anger had eased away and instead of being an angry, useless lump taking up a bunk, he'd started trying to help out, not much at first, then more and more as he'd healed up.
Lying next to Sam now, Dean realized he wasn't the only skittish, abused horse in this outfit. Nor was he the only one with a temper, unfortunately. Being knocked through a wall with a chest full of rock salt had quickly driven that point home.
At Auggie's, Dean had been forced to calm down and swallow his pride. He'd been forced to admit how useless his anger was given his place in Sam and his dad's life. He'd been forced to let people help him.
The witch had been right about one thing. Sam was still angry, still a mess after Jessica's death. Dean hadn't thought of it before, but Sam didn't have an Auggie and Sadie to help him through, so Dean was going to have to do. While he'd been hunting the scarecrow thing, he and Sam had come to a pseudo-peace, but it would go a long way if Dean could once again swallow his pride and put a lid on the snide comments.
Dean heard his brother shift in his bed, still awake, which was surprising since Sam looked like road pizza.
"You ok?" he asked, his skull turning it up a notch just at the vibrations from talking.
"Yeah." Sam didn't say anything else, but Dean could tell he wasn't asleep.
"It's just... What she said..."
"Who?" he asked, although Dean was pretty sure he knew.
"The witch. What she said about wanting revenge.,,"
Dean remained silent. Obviously Sam's thoughts had turned in the same direction his had.
"'Bout what?" Dean frowned. They'd already worked through a few things when they had their chat on the phone. Maybe things weren't perfect, but they were doing all right.
"Ahh... Don't worry about it. My fault. I pissed you off."
"I stayed in the library for twenty minutes just to annoy you. I wanted to get back at you."
"Dude, if that's the worst thing you ever do to piss me off, then we're A-okay."
"S'fine, Sammy. Just get some rest."
They both fell silent and Dean almost thought his brother had finally followed an order without question when Sam turned toward him.
"What did she say to you?" he asked.
"Mrs. Maples. She said something before she left."
Dean couldn't help a smile. He did like a lady with moxie. "She said she'd think about the deposit."
Dean fell asleep to the sound of his brother's laughter.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this. Been a pleasure.