Gunner has his say
Set early Season 5, post The End.
Part of my 'Gunner 'verse'.
Follows 'And so the little ball of fluff took over'
and 'All it took was a ball of fluff',
Many thanks to Phx and Devon99 for the beta work.
Warning: for language.
"'people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they'll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don't. I may be wrong, but I call it love - the deepest kind of love.'"
- Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows, Ch. 18
Gunner shifted from paw to paw, and back again, worried, anxious, angry.
He snuffled and whined, loudly.
Something was very wrong. He wanted... needed to get to the youngest, his baby... his very own puppy Sammy.
Gunner wasn't so stupid that he didn't know Sam was an adult human, but he'd taken his lead... and love... from Dean, the big brother. He knew what made Sam's heart ache, in the most basic way, the guilt his boy carried. The Angel had shown Gunner that much, and as far as Gunner was concerned... well. Shit happened, right?
And that was how Gunner saw his place in the Winchester family – friend, consoler, protector.
The other big brother.
He could already smell smoke from the old wires, the taint of molten metal, from as far away as the bar. Even for a dog, Gunner's nose was ultra-sensitive, especially when his family was in danger. Unfortunately, it would be some time before humans picked up on it, and that would never be soon enough to save his boy.
Gunner began pulling on his leash again, crying, whining and, eventually, outright bawling.
Let... me... go...
... he howled a final warning, a desperate sound only made by a dog that knows for absolute certain tragedy is about to strike.
Dean was enjoying himself at last. The cards were on his side, as was lady luck, and he was about to hit the jackpot.
The only let down to the evening was the absence of his younger brother. Sam had cried off with a migraine and, in spite of their persistent trust issues, the pale face and blurry, unfocused eyes told Dean the kid genuinely needed to rest. Leastways, Sam wouldn't be collaborating with bitch-demons behind Dean's back, not if the earlier near-fainting episode in the diner was anything to go by. And so, after providing pain relief and tucking Sam up in bed, Dean had left him to sleep it off, taking the dog along for good measure. Gunner had reluctantly gone with him, grumbling quietly and occasionally glancing back at the motel room door with huge, concerned doggy-eyes.
After arriving at the bar, Dean soon discovered the place wasn't exactly dog friendly. It hadn't been subtle either. The guy was like a barn door with arms and legs, easily taller than Sam, definitely wider, and obviously took his job of 'doorman' seriously. When Dean tried to enter the bar with Gunner, the guy had shifted stance, pulled himself up to his full, considerable height, and grumbled "No fucking dogs."
Hmm. Dean tilted his head to the side in consideration. Like doormen everywhere, this one was obviously an intellectual. Giving the dog a quick pat, Dean tried out a winning smile.
"He's friendly, clean, won't piss on the floor..." his voice trailed off. It was like trying to sweet talk a tax accountant.
In spite of the dark sunglasses worn at night, which wasn't at all cliché, Dean could feel the guy's glare burning a hole right through him, and decided it wasn't worth trying to reason with a seven foot tall haystack with more attitude than Mike Tyson. Dean valued his ears, thank you very much.
So he'd swallowed his pride and tried to reassure Gunner that with a good night's sleep and some peace and quiet, Sam would soon be back in fine shape, but in the meantime, someone had to bring home the bacon. Gunner had merely stared at him somewhat indignantly, while Dean secured his leash to the fence outside the bar.
"Won't be long, I promise," he'd muttered in the dog's ear, and immediately flushed with embarrassment when the doorman raised an eyebrow. Dean grinned back, disarmingly, and spoke up. "He understands everything I say, doncha boy?" He ruffled Gunner's fur for good measure, but the doorman grunted something that sounded vaguely insulting and turned his head away, already dismissing the weirdo and his dog.
Dean could have made an issue out of it, and he was certainly tempted. After all, if it were Sam being treated this way Dean would've likely kneecapped the bastard. But he really couldn't afford any trouble, not with archangels on the loose, and Lucifer rampaging the Earth... the Winchester's already had more on their plates than most people could handle. Instead, he shrugged, told Gunner to behave himself or else, and strolled inside the building.
It was time to earn their keep.
A short while later saw Dean grinning from ear to ear in smug triumph, a Full House laid out on the poker table much to the consternation of his opponents.
His victory was buggered when the bartender yelled out:
"I don't care what you fucking do, stop your hound from making that damn racket or I swear to God I'll shoot the bastard!"
He backed up his threat with a loud clunk and click, pump action shot gun in hand. And that just might have been a bad move on his part, because Dean crossed the room faster than a gold medal sprinter, pinning the bartender up against the wall, fist raised, ready to strike.
The bartender, eyes wide, shocked and scared, dropped the weapon and began mumbling apologies at the same time as a particularly loud, anxious and mournful howl echoed around the now silent bar. Several heads turned in the direction of the bar entrance, but no one said a word.
Dean's left eye twitched just once before he gave the bar tender a hard shove and backed away.
"Saved by the dog, dude," he growled, before he span round and slammed out the bar.
When he emerged, it was to an overly-skittish and pissed off golden retriever.
"Alright, furball, what's got you so damned spooked huh?" Dean whispered, fondly, rubbing the dog's muzzle and ears gently.
Gunner stared at Dean, as though he expected him to know... and promptly went berserk, whimpering, barking, and pulling desperately on the leash.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Dean exclaimed, clamping one hand round Gunner's muzzle, as the other slipped the leash clear. "Pipe down ok? What the hell's wrong with you?
Gunner recognized his opportunity and yanked hard enough to slip free. He high-tailed it away into the night, leash trailing along, barking at Dean, demanding he follow.
Gunner was just a dog. A very special one, created by an angel, admittedly, but he was just a dog. And he had his very own doggy language.
And somehow, just somehow, Dean understood.
The motel was a mass of flames, thick, black, inky smoke pouring from windows and underneath doorframes. Dean stared in horror. Pyjama-clad people converged outside, gawping in fear, but Gunner just kept right on running into the flames and smoke, and disappeared from sight.
Dean's feet didn't falter even when the fire fighter tried to stop his progress, just swept right along into the fiery building, following the golden tail of Gunner.
He could barely see where he was going, the world was so governed by smoke, but then suddenly he was at Sam's bedside... and Sammy wasn't fucking there!
A husky, choked out woof! made Dean glance over to the left. He could just make out the shape of a dog, pulling at something... which turned out to be a someone.
Gunner heaved and growled around a mouthful of brown hoodie, tugging hard, paws planted stubbornly, hind quarters strong and firm.
And that someone turned out to be an unconscious little brother.
Dean was already darting forward and dropping to his knees. Without a word, but with a grunt of exertion, he hefted Sam over his shoulder and carried the kid towards the door, smoke billowing around him.
Gunner followed on, whining softly, tail at half mast and golden fur now marred with soot.
Damn, but it was hard to breathe. Every time Dean tried, his lungs filled with hot, acrid smoke that threatened to take him down. He had to get out, to get Sammy out, before it was too late, and judging by the black spots dancing across his vision he was already leaving it just a little on the late side.
Dean stumbled the final few feet under Sam's weight but finally cleared the doorway. Adjusting his hold, strengthening his resolve, he strode forth, eyes watering from the smoke and fumes, and coughing around the nasty, metallic taste in his mouth.
Reaching the grassy bank some distance from the motel, Dean fell to his knees once again, and off loaded his little brother, letting his body fall backwards. Kid was frighteningly limp and Dean's eyes began watering again, this time not because of the smoke.
"C'mon, Sammy, please..." catching Sam, cradling his head and lowering him gently, Dean's fingers desperately felt along Sam's sooty neck. "Don't you do this to me, Sam... Sam? Sammy, wake the hell up!"
Dean couldn't find a pulse.
"Hey, c'mon, man, let us help you..."
A gentle hand touched Dean's shoulder but he shrugged it off, just kept up the CPR, eyes trained on Sam's slack features. It bothered him that he had no idea how long Sam had been gone, but he also couldn't bring himself to check the time. He didn't dare stop. If he stopped, Sam didn't stand a chance...
Someone was pulling him away from his little brother, and Dean couldn't deal, couldn't leave, and couldn't let Sam down. He swung round with a snarl at the ready, only to be faced with one coming the other way.
Gunner growled, snorted and shook his head violently, teeth threatening to tear a hole in Dean's leather jacket. Canine eyes glowed in the distant light of the fire, staring up at Dean, lips curled angrily around his forearm.
It didn't hurt, but Dean felt the pressure of sharp teeth through the leather, and guessed it held the potential. Gunner wouldn't want to harm him, but he would if Dean didn't let Sam go.
It was a moot point. The paramedics spotted an opening and grabbed at their patient, pulling him away while Dean faced off with the dog. The older brother had been as immovable as a stone fort, despite the two burly medics trying to push him away, but now they had their prize thanks to an anxious golden retriever with a long streak of common sense and a pissy attitude.
Seriously, one of the medics pondered quietly while he worked, it's a damn shame they don't allow dogs in the service.
Dean, still staring at Gunner in shock, came to his senses quickly when he heard the sharp, high pitched whine of electricity and a loud thump. He just caught sight of Sam from the corner of his eye, the kid's body arching helplessly, sucked upwards by the defib paddles. Gunner finally let go of Dean and padded forwards, prodding him with his snout, forcing his master's arm around him. His soft whine coincided with the repeated whine of the paddles, and Dean blinked.
And that's when the terror smacked him right in the face.
He's not coming back! Sammy's not coming back...
He felt Gunner press closer to his side, heard the young dog crying his heart out as though he also knew what the outcome would be. But after the first wave of emotion, Dean shut down, the terror and pain just too much for his fragile mind, and knew no more.
"Dean? You awake?"
The words were softly spoken but Dean heard the turmoil behind them. Sammy had been crying, he could tell, and that just wasn't good enough. Someone had hurt his little brother, and God have mercy on their soul, 'cos Dean was gonna hunt them down, pull off their love spuds and use them to play catch with Gunner.
"Dean, please wake up!" Sam sounded positively broken, voice rough and croaky, like his vocal cords had been attacked by a blast furnace or something...
Dean's eyes snapped open.
"Sammy, what is it? What happened?"
Sam wasn't sitting on the lumpy motel bed next to his, eyes looking all soft, moist and guilty, his usual haunted expression since ol'Lucy showed up from downstairs. There were no grungy curtains, with mismatching sick coloured carpet, and no nicotine stained walls. Instead, Dean was met with sterile white and chrome everywhere he looked, and it was starting to freak him out.
"Dean?" Sam's voice came from his left and Dean rolled his head across a clean smelling, white pillow, noting the chrome bedrails.
Sam was on the bed next to his, but the oxygen mask over the kid's pale face, and the bandages round his arms and torso, had Dean going from horizontal to vertical in a split second.
"Sammy?" Dean eyed the boy even as he climbed out of his own bed, and scrambled across to Sam's. "You ok?"
Sam stared up at him wearily and blinked slowly. "There was a fire..." he coughed and gasped, the noise muffled by the mask, and now Dean remembered everything. Now he knew why Sam's voice was sounding strange.
"Yeah..." Dean scrubbed a hand down the side of his face, feeling sharp stubble grating his palm. "So, you're, uh, gonna be ok, right?"
Though said casually, Sam could see the concern on his brother's face, the lingering shadow of fear in his eyes, and he nodded.
"Uhuh. Just a few burns from when..." Sam swallowed hard, calling upon every scrap of will power at his disposal to keep his eyes trained on Dean's. "A few minor burns from when I tried to get out of the bathroom."
Sam shrugged as though it didn't matter, but Dean spotted the way he hid a painful wince.
"What happened, Sammy?" he asked again, quietly.
This time Sam couldn't meet his gaze and he chose, instead, to stare down at his hands. "Faulty wiring blew the TV set. I was in the bathroom taking a leak. Heard a snapping and popping noise coming from the bedroom, but the fire must've spread real fast, 'cos when I opened the bathroom door..." another small shrug, and Sam fell silent.
Dean nodded. The brothers had both seen Backdraft, like, a hundred times or something when they were kids. They'd been staying in some pretty hinky motel rooms with some equally hinky wiring, so Sam made Dean promise not to mess around with any potential fire hazards, to stay safe and alive and unburnt and his brother.
Dean had solemnly sworn his oath, earning him a winning smile and a tight hug from a greatly relieved Sammy.
"Guess I should've made you say it too, huh?" the corner of Dean's mouth turned up, wryly.
Sam grinned right back at him. He knew exactly what his brother was talking about, could practically finish his sentences, a sign their relationship, while not yet completely fixed, was definitely on the right track.
Still smiling, Sam's gaze wandered over Dean's face, as though reassuring himself that Dean really was alive and well and here. Not some cruel figment of his imagination.
"How you feeling, Dean?" he asked, tentatively. "Doc said you'd been out of it since you pulled me from the motel two days ago. Told me you went into some kind of shock, and... and they couldn't wake you up..."
Sam's voice trailed off at the look of surprise on Dean's face.
"W-what?" Dean finally spluttered out, indignantly. "I did not go into shock! I-I passed out... from the smoke, that's all, I did not go into some girly swoon, you got me, Sam? Passed out!"
Sam's answering chuckle turned into a coughing fit, and he held out a hand in surrender. "W-whatever y-you say, dude, but we're both stuck here 'cos of smoke inhalation, so don't think either of us'll be going anywhere, anytime soon." The coughing might have ceased but the obnoxious little brother grin was carefully and eagerly maintained.
Dean refused to admit that seeing it again was a breath of fresh air and, instead, glared at him, about to hammer the point home further...
"You're awake! Good, now you can get your idgit brother to eat somethin' at last!"
The brothers had jumped when the door burst open revealing a pissed off Bobby Singer, rolling his way into their hospital room. The wheelchair glided silently across the floor, bringing with it a fearsome scowl that could easily sour a whole herd of cows.
Dean's face pretty soon matched up and he turned to Sam, one eyebrow raised. "Not eating?" he enquired, almost menacingly. "You know better than that, Sam!"
Sam risked a shaky smile. "I just wasn't hungry," he croaked out, slowly lifting one hand to remove the oxygen mask, but a swift growl from Bobby stopped him. Sam blinked, lowered the offending hand, and frowned. The older hunter appeared to have developed a bushy golden tail, sprouting from his wheelchair, and he suddenly realized that growl hadn't been from Bobby. "Bobby? Is that..."
Gunner's furry face appeared round the back of Bobby's chair, a big, stupid happy grin stretching his wide mouth from corner to corner, tongue hanging out the side and salivating all over Bobby's arm.
"Shush ya noise, kid," Bobby glanced around then leaned forward, conspiratorially. "Ya nurse helped me smuggle the mutt inside, but it's only for a quick visit to put his mind at rest." The older hunter rolled his eyes, fondly. "Damn dog was goin' crazy not knowing where you two were."
Gunner took that as his cue and bounded over to the boys, leaping up on Sam's bed and frantically sniffing at each brother alternately, as though not knowing which one to check over first.
A wet tongue swiped up Dean's face elicited a disgusted "Ewwww!" before Gunner turned to Sam, carefully sniffed over the oxygen mask, and buried his tail in Dean's face.
Sam was still grinning but it was a little more forced by now. He was tiring quickly with all the excitement, and though he wanted to stay awake a little longer, his peepers had other ideas.
It didn't go unnoticed by the others, the slight droop of his eyelids and the way his head wobbled a little on his neck when he tried to sit up.
"C'mon, kiddo," Dean, who was still standing by Sam's bed, and brushing the dog's tail out of his face, reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "Get some sleep, then we're eatin', ya hear me?"
Sam nodded, made a noise of agreement, and briefly covered Dean's hand with his.
"You too, fur face," Bobby called out, softly. "C'mon, let's go." He wheeled back over to the door, and waited, face mock stern. "Get some rest, both of ya!"
Gunner pressed his nose to Sam's neck and wuffled affectionately, then pulled away, gazing at him with bright puppy dog eyes that seem to say I'll be back. Don't go anywhere without me, huh?
Sam nodded, and with another swift lick at Dean's face, the dog jumped gracefully from the bed and trotted over to Bobby Singer.
Sam's eyes widened when Dean turned a little to watch their family leave. In spite of feeling exhausted, and the pain meds beginning to wear off, he still found it hard to suppress the guffaw building up inside.
As for Dean?
Well, it was an odd moment to realize he was wearing a backless gown, but the cold draft around certain bits was suddenly a little distracting. Dean thumped down in the chair between the beds, scowling deeply, mouth twitching with embarrassment, just as Sam let rip with laughter.
"Dude, put that away, you're blinding me!"
"Seriously, we ain't due a full moon for, like, another week!" snorted Sam, groaning a little when movement pulled on his bandages.
"I said, shaddup Sam!"
"Ya gonna screw up the spring tides..."
"I'm warnin' ya, kid!"
"Nocturnal animals will commit suicide from all the confusion..."
Dean glowered at his little brother fiercely, until an idea formed. His smile was slow and cunning.
"Yeah, you're right. You go to sleep, Sammy, and I'll go get some scrubs or whatever they're called..."
Sam abruptly stopped laughing and watched Dean with deep suspicion. His brother sounded a little too kind, his voice a little too soft, but more importantly, his brother had caved just a little too soon.
He soon found out why when he awoke the next morning.
Dean grinned and snapped away with his camera-phone. "Dude, this is a great look for you..." click "Seriously, you should wear that all the time..." click.
Sam sat up in bed and glared down at his nose, wondering about the bright shade of red. It didn't take him long to figure it out, though Dean also obliged him by showing off the photos.
Sam's oxygen mask had been painted clown nose red, but to add insult to injury, Dean had used a sharpie to draw on a little smile complete with dimples and a tongue.
"Dean!" Sam tried to rip off the mask, but it tugged painfully on his skin. He spluttered in disbelief. "Did you glue the damn thing to my face?"
"Yyyyep!" Dean grinned smugly. "Had to make sure my little brother gets plenty of oxygen. Can't have you taking that off before you're ready, huh, Sammy?"
Sam stared at him with wide angry eyes, making him look even more puppy-like, what with the big red 'nose', floppy tongue and teeth... Dean nearly wet himself all over again.
Except, when he blinked and looked up, he realized that he hadn't wet himself. Sam had, in fact, upended a pitcher of water over Dean's crotch, just as a very cute, very sweet and very sexy little nurse poked her head round the door.
Both brothers instinctively turned to face her.
"Sorry to interrupt. I was just gonna ask what you guys want for breakfast, cereal or eggs...?" she trailed off when she saw Dean and her mouth dropped into an 'O' very briefly, then turned up into a kind smile, and she proceeded to talk at Dean as though he was four. "Aw, don't you worry sweetie. These things happen, especially with what you went through with the fire, and all. I'll just fetch some fresh clothes and get you dried off..."
Dean was still staring in shock when the nurse hurried off, Sam's peals of laughter from behind the 'dog-mask' barely registering in his near-catatonic state.
By the time Bobby and Gunner arrived to take their boys home, Sam's mask had been removed by one of the doctors, and Dean was getting a stern dressing down from the nurse for ruining medical equipment. Didn't matter that Sam's mask would have been disposed of anyway, sterility issues and all that, and Dean didn't see the point in mentioning it. He was having too much fun being chastised by a female nurse a quarter of his size. Yeah, so she'd seen his little accident in a distorted light, but hey! He was seeing her in a different light, too, right down her size-too-big uniform, and boy, was he ever a grateful six foot one.
Man, that cleavage's a work of art...
"You boys ready to go?" Bobby eyed Sam's face, wondering at the red mark surrounding his nose and mouth, but wisely remained quiet when the boy levelled a warning glare on him.
Dean nodded, smiled bashfully at the cute nurse and murmured an apology he certainly didn't mean, then headed over to his little brother.
"C'mon, Sam," Dean waved a brown paper bag under Sam's nose. "Got your worming pills and flea powder..."
"Dean..." Sam growled a warning.
"Just kidding!" Dean held out his hands in surrender. "It's antibiotics and burn cream. Now, let's get the hell outta here. We gotta dog to go thank."
Sam glared a while longer then nodded, shooting Bobby another warning look. "Don't ask, ok?" he told the older hunter when he spotted the question once again rising to his mouth. "And Dean?"
Dean glanced up at Sam, eyebrows raised in part amusement. "Yeah, I know. We never talk about this again. Gotcha!"
Gunner bounced excitedly from paw to paw on the rear seat, whining and barking when the salvage yard came into view. Behind those rusty old gates lay a world of doggy treasures, new smells and adventures, and the pup couldn't wait to explore once again.
He knew home when he saw it. Knew what belonged to him.
The Impala was his, the boys were his, Bobby Singer was his, but the yard was just another addition to Gunner's little world of things to chew.
And boy was he in for a surprise.
As soon as the men alighted, Gunner launched into his 'mad half hour' and tore around the yard, paws kicking up dust, and pebbles pinging off rusting motor relics. He kept it up, this game of imaginary chase, until someone called to him.
"Gunner? Here boy!"
Gunner skidded to a halt, nearly colliding hard with a beaten up old Buick. He raised his head, eyes bright, nose twitching.
The little brother was calling. Gunner took off, going from stop to full speed without so much as changing gear. He bounded through the old cars and trucks, ignoring the excitement of fresh rabbit trails, where the little puff-tailed blighters had encroached on his territory, and headed straight for the tall figure of his very own human puppy. Gunner slowed and trotted over, sniffing gently, careful not to be too rough. After all, Sam was still hurting, covered in bandages, and Gunner's nose could still pick up the scent of burnt flesh... and he didn't like it...
"Hey, buddy," Sam smiled and scratched behind Gunner's ears. "We got somethin' for ya..."
Bobby watched from the veranda while Dean climbed down the steps, carrying a huge box.
"At least this might keep the little shit from stealing my morning donuts, huh, Sam?" But Dean's eyes twinkled with amusement. Gunner reared up on his hind legs, grunting and snuffling at the box, nearly knocking Dean over.
"I wouldn't bet on that, dude," Sam replied, gently stroking the dog's back. "You've seen how he eats," he patted the box, "this'll be gone by morning, I promise you."
Dean quirked an eyebrow. "No way. He'll be sick before he gets even half way through."
Sam shook his head. "Nope. In fact, I'd give him an hour. Tops. Dog's even faster than you on a bad day."
"Twenty dollars says he honks it all up before he's finished."
"Will you two damn digits just give it to 'im, already?" Bobby bellowed his disapproval across the yard. "Stop teasin' the poor mutt!"
But when the brothers looked down, Gunner had managed to nose his way into the box, was currently licking Bobby's own recipe special-made doggy cream frosting from his snout, and incidentally looking rather smug about it.
Sam sighed. "Aw, man. Took me ages to pipe that on just right!"
"Dude!" Dean set down the box, and stared up at his little brother in amazement. "He's a dog! Ya know?" he raised a hand and waved it in a vague gesture. "A dog. Dog's can't read."
"I'll bet this one can," Sam muttered quietly, all joking gone. "He saved my life, Dean. But..." he sighed again. "How did he know?"
The two brothers gazed at their dog, but Gunner carried on licking away at the dog cake, unconcerned with such silly questions, but he paused for just a moment to take in the small, neat, frosted cream writing...
Gunner: our dog, friend and hero.
There's no other quite like you.
... before his huge tongue descended, obliterating the message from the cake, but never, never, from his heart.
Sam won the bet. The cake was gone in under an hour, and the following morning Gunner was cheerfully licking his lips, soft eyes trained on Dean's breakfast donuts, waiting for the right moment, a lapse in concentration, a weak point...
Dean sighed, while Sam and Bobby sniggered quietly over the kitchen table.
Gunner's tail started wagging when he saw the moment his master caved, saw it in Dean's eyes, and gratefully accepted the sugary treat with a lick, a swallow, and barely a chew. The tail thumped faster, catching Dean's legs hard enough to make him wince. It was like being hit by a bag of lead shot... and the puppy eyes persisted.
"Damn!" Dean's voice was full of admiration, and he cast beseeching eyes on his little brother. "Dude, why can't I have a steel gut like his?" he whined.
Sam smiled, and shook his head, fondly. "Dean, you already have."
I had to give a sappy ending, cos there just aren't enough of those on the show!
Hope you all enjoyed that little one shot. I do plan on writing more for this 'verse if people like it enough.
Hugs and puppy cuddles,