A/N: In honor of my best friend's birthday I've come up with…a one-shot. A pathetic effort to get something down on "paper" because my crazy life isn't allowing my muse to be a good little creature and pass reams of paper through the bars of her cage. So anyway, Blue Peanut, this is for you. I hope you enjoy it anyway. I think, since I also didn't have time to do any research, that the monster is made up. Pronounced Boo-she , just because I thought it sounded cool.
A second note. This is my last story until my life settles down. See you all in a few months with a renewed desire to write. Hopefully.
Swamped in Darkness
Dean pulled the Impala off onto the shoulder of the dirt road, staring through the windshield at the vast expanse of water and low hanging cypress trees and willows that suddenly seemed to swallow everything man-made in sight, including the road, which rapidly dwindled into a foot or ATV path, nothing more. Water hung low on the atmosphere, a slow, misting rain fell, just enough to distort the images on the other side of the glass Dean looked through. He glanced at his brother.
"You know, walkin' into the Bayou in the rain really sucks."
"No kidding." Sam deadpanned, staring down at the folder of research Bobby had forwarded their way before Sam lost all semblance of WIFI.
"So what the hell did he send us here for again?"
"A Bouhjii. According to Bobby's friend it normally sticks to lost dogs, wild boar, and small alligators for it's usual prey, but some idiot got the bright idea to film some sort of reality show in here somewhere and the thing stepped up it's game and is taking out the camera crew, ransacking equipment, and eating the stars of the show. Bobby says it's like the perfect swamp thing. Solitary. Looks like a giant frog with a gator's head and poisonous talons. 'Bout the size of a two year old bear."
"Great." Dean shook his head. "Why can't Bobby's friend handle this?"
"Broken leg. Hunting a banshee and it tossed him down a flight of stairs same way it was killing it's victims. Turned out the guy was related to the family it was hunting and he didn't know it."
Dean snorted. "Southerners."
"Dean, dude's from Maine."
"Oh." Dean slid from the seat and headed for the rear of the vehicle, noticing the mud clinging to the tires and the rear quarter panels of the car as he went. "Man, that mud's got sand in it!"
"And?" Sam questioned, joining him and waiting for his brother to open the trunk.
"That crap'll be just like takin' a brillo pad to her paint!"
"Dean, it's a car."
"Heathen." Dean said, finally pulling horrified green eyes from his brother and opening the trunk. Sam lifted the map of the area from the partition and unrolled it. Dean leaned in as Sam showed him the area of the attacks.
Pointing to one area deep in the bayou, in the center of the attacks, Sam spoke. "Only cave or shelter in the area. Gotta be the thing's lair." Sam rolled up the map and lifted the partition, revealing their weapons cache. They both reached in, retrieving two high powered hunting rifles with shoulder straps, Dean's Colt, and Sam's .45. They stuffed extra ammunition for each into the pockets of their jackets and put some in waterproof cases into a duffle bag. They worked quickly, in comfortable silence, finally back in the swing of hunting together after so long apart. Sam's shaggy head already had water droplets clinging to the quickly frizzing wave, sliding down to land on his eyelashes and making him blink. By the time they were ready to begin their hike into the swamp, Dean's own golden spikes were beginning to flatten slightly.
"Have I mentioned how much this is gonna suck?" Dean said, shaking his head like a dog and dislodging chilly water drops that hit Sam on the neck, making him flinch.
Sam shouldered a canvas bag and his hunting rifle. "Let's just kill the sucker and get this over with."
Dean closed the trunk lid and fell in step with his brother as they walked in companionable, but alert, silence beneath the leaning, weeping trees of the Bayou.
"So what's this show they're filming?" Dean asked Sam sometime later as they made their way over the spongy track of ground beneath a copse of low hanging, moss laden trees. Sam looked at the large trees with their roots tangling in the soft ground.
"Dunno. Something goofy about a bunch of guys who cut logs and fight with gators to haul them out of the swamp hooked to boats." Behind them the last rays of the dying day painted the sky crimson, like cosmic splashes of blood across the clouds.
"Now that's riveting TV." Dean said, rolling his eyes as he sank ankle deep in the muck, the only thing stopping him from going deeper was the snarl of tree roots that formed a solid web beneath the mud.
Sam chuckled, his breath coming a little harder as mud sucked at his own boots, like walking barefoot across a beach with the tide just gone out. He stopped when something cracked the underbrush, making tree branches wave wildly just off the footpath ahead of them. Dean stepped just ahead of his brother, hunting rifle coming up at the ready, safety flicked off and ready to fire in one smooth motion. A dog broke through the underbrush, running towards them. The animal, short fur, long ears and long, muscular legs, was covered in mud and scale-like cypress leaves and ran past them, limping, bloody, panting wildly and whining as if something was chasing it. Sam turned, eyes following the dog's headlong flight into the woods behind them. Before the dog disappeared it dropped, howling in pain. Sam watched as it's spine went rigid and curled, making the dog throw it's head back. It panted harshly and stilled, breath stopping.
Sam turned back to Dean, eyes widening. "Dog's dead. That thing's around here somewhere!"
"Yeah. Kinda figured that!" Dean said, panning the high powered rifle over the low hanging tree branches, waiting for another disturbance signaling them of the arrival of the Bouhjii. Sam panned his own gun over their back path, the way the dog had gone…and fallen. The hunters fell into silent awareness, wary of their surroundings, watching out for each other. They studied their surroundings, listened intently to the swamp that was too quiet, no birds, not even insects.
"I don't get it. It killed the dog. It should be crashing through here like a bat out of hell lookin' for its meal." Sam said quietly.
"I think it knows we're here." Dean said, scanning the surrounding forest in the gathering darkness.
"Well, that's comforting." Sam said, turning and placing his back tight to his brother's, lowering the bag to the ground between them where they could both easily reach to reload.
"Y'think?" Dean responded, taking comfort in the solid feel of his brother's shoulder blades digging into his own.
The Bouhjii growled, a cross between a reptilian hiss and the croak of a bullfrog. The sound resonated in the beast's throat and through the trees. The creature darted out of the low hanging trees faster than Dean could track with the rifle. It charged him and he fired, the shot going astray as the Bouhjii dodged it.
"Damn thing moves like a Wendigo!" Sam cried, taking his shot over his brother's shoulder while his brother ejected the spent shell and chambered another round with the flick of a lever on the side of the gun. Sam's bullet winged the creature as it closed in on them, near enough for Sam to smell something like wet peat moss. It gave a roar like an enraged bull, rows of sharp pointed teeth filled the mouth, the bases of each stained with rings of rust colored blood. Bits of tissue and hair were embedded in the spaces between and Sam smelled rot on the beast's putrid breath.
The Bouhjii disappeared silently into the canopy of wispy willow and cypress branches, its green leathery skin blending seamlessly with the foliage. Dean and Sam both fired into the leaves where the creature had disappeared.
"Damnit!" Dean said, after hearing nothing but the reverb of the gunshots. They shouldered their hunting rifles, but still kept the weapons close, Dean grabbing the pack.
Tree branches cracked behind Sam and the brothers spun just fast enough to see the Bouhjii pull the dog's body from the footpath. Another, seemingly satisfied sounding, reptilian hiss echoed through the night.
"Man! You're tellin' me we gotta track this mother through the bayou?"
"At night." Dean made it a statement.
"Sun's down." Sam made a statement of his own.
"Man!" Dean spun, shooting his arms up in the air as he cursed. "Damnit!" His shout reverberated off the trees finally to be sucked greedily into the deep bayou mud. Dean faced the interior of the swamp, game face sliding back on. He led the way cautiously into the soft underbelly of the swamp, eyes picking out sturdy footholds, all the while scanning the already impenetrable darkness for signs of the Bouhjii. Sam followed, eyes ahead and ears covering the rear.
They walked without hearing anything. No birds, reptiles, boars. Even the insects were silent, and it made the short hairs on the back of Sam's neck prickle and stand on end. "I don't like this."
"Neither do I." Dean acquiesced, his eyes scanning the darkness beyond the reach of his flashlight, never more thankful than now for his father instilling in him the need to protect his night vision.
The hissing noise sounded out in the night, reverberating through the trees. Both brothers raised their rifles, unable to tell exactly where it was coming from. Sam heard the alligator like bark from directly behind him. He spun and talons ripped the rifle from his arms.
"Guh!" Sam cried, staggering under the force of the beast. Dean vied for a clear shot but the Bouhjii knocked the gun from his hands and backhanded him, knocking him off his feet, stunning him. It yanked his brother off balance. Sam groaned as he hit the dirt hard and the beast turned, hissing in satisfaction as it grabbed Sam's ankle and hauled him quickly into the darkness under the trees. He felt the foliage burning and abrading his skin, felt a sharp blow to his head and slid into oblivion.
Dean's head rolled, eyes scrunched tight in pain before he sat up on his elbows, searching around him. "Sam." Dean cried, his voice hoarse with having the wind knocked from his lungs. He pulled in a breath and tried again "SAAMMM!"
Sam gasped, head coming off the damp floor beneath him. He groaned as nausea assaulted him, tying his stomach in knots. He laid his head back and groaned again, before finally opening his eyes and taking in his surroundings. He was in a cave, nearly pitch black. The walls were dripping water, the sound loud as it ricocheted around in his pounding head. His leg burned just above his boot, feeling heavy and slightly numb. Sam's mind began to clear and another sound registered. It was a hiss, sounding like a large cat purring contentedly. Sam pushed himself up on his elbows, scooting away from the sound of the Bouhjii. He pushed himself into the wall of the cave, bruises from being dragged through the bayou making themselves known when his back bumped into the hard rock surface of the cave. His leg buckled and burned and he grabbed at it, feeling the tatters of his jeans and the stickiness of drying blood. Sam leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes. He felt it now, the start of the fever that signified he'd been poisoned.
Dean found the rifles, checking them both. They were muddy and Sam's had claw marks on the barrel, but appeared to be in working condition. He slung the straps over his shoulder and took off in the direction of the drag marks that smeared the ground's soft surface. The bayou canopy got thicker, obscuring even the brightest of light. Dean pulled his flashlight from the muck several feet to his left, not liking the rattling noise that it made. The lens was cracked and the bulb inside smashed.
"Sonuvabitch!" Dean said, tucking it into his pocket. He started walking into the darkness, wary of any sound that may be his brother, or the Bouhjii.
"You hurt m'brother I'm gonna turn you into a belt." Dean muttered to the bayou, thinking of Sam at the mercy of the Bouhjii.
Sam watched the dim red glow that he knew to be the Bouhjii's eyes for signs of the monster's intent in the cunning depths, watching to make sure that it didn't come closer. Sam's vision blurred, a wave of heat building and searing its way through his blood. He blinked to clear his eyes and jumped when the Bouhjii appeared in front of him, it's hot, fetid breath making his stomach churn. It purred contentedly, sounding vaguely like a rattlesnake.
The Bouhjii grabbed his torn leg causing Sam to cry out hoarsely when it pulled him away from the wall, it's rough scales abrading the scabbed over wounds on Sam's ankle, making it bleed again. It pinned him to the floor, talons playing over his arms, flexing but not digging in. It leaned close, inhaling and puffing stinking breath into his face as it seemed to growl in appreciation. It's sniffing me to see how long I have left. Sam thought, mortified. Oh, god! Dean, help me!
The Bouhjii growled low in it's throat, long teeth gleaming wickedly, even in the near pitch. It tore Sam's shirts with one swipe of it's venomous, three inch long talons, raking his flesh to the left of his navel with two long gashes. "GAHHH!" Sam's cry scared the Bouhjii and it reared back before lunging and snapping powerful jaws right in Sam's face. It growled, echoing in the cave and in Sam's ears before retreating into the darkness. Sam curled in on himself, waiting for the pain and chemical burning in his side to subside. His shaking hand went to the sticky wetness seeping into his clothing, trying to stem the flow of blood. Sam hissed in pain, his vision darkening around the edges. He heard claws on stone and rolled his head to see the Bouhjii scaling the hard stone wall as if it were a cat climbing a tree. He watched it stick it's alligator like head out of a ventilation hole in the ceiling. The last thing he heard before giving into the black was a satisfied reptilian rattle from deep in the beast's throat. The Bouhjii jumped down from it's perch on the wall and left the lair, willing to wait for it's prey to die.
Dean stopped short of his next step when he heard Sam's cry followed closely by the Bouhjii's barking growl. Fear for his brother streaked through him and he raised his rifle, concentrating on the direction the faraway sound had come from. It had a hollow, echoing quality to it and Dean realized that his brother was in a cave. In the thing's lair. Please, Sammy, be in one piece.
Dean saw a spongy game trail, realizing sickly that he was walking the same path as the Bouhjii when he saw drag marks again. He was walking over the ground where Sam had been yanked along to be the beast's next meal.
Dean froze when he heard a hissing sound down next to the water that lay just off the footpath. The same water that turned this several hundred square mile area into a marshy nightmare. Catching the dim outline of a shape on the bank he stared hard, realizing he was looking at about a twelve foot long alligator. "A regular, pull-you-into-the-water-and-stuff-you-under-a-rock alligator." Dean backed further away from the gator and along the trail, glancing down when his foot slipped off a moss covered rock. The lichen was scuffed off by his heal and in another area that looked older. He bent down, one eye on the edge of the swamp where the gator rested, the other on the smudge on the rock that looked like rust. Dean's finger touched the substance and came away sticky and smelling of iron.
Dean's head and the rifle came up when he heard a reptilian growl from behind him on the trail. He spun, seeing the red glow of eyes about six feet off the ground. He knew that wasn't any ordinary alligator.
Sam pushed himself up against the wall, wincing at the pull of drying blood on his side. His leg buckled again, feeling heavy, useless. Muscles in his extremities were beginning to twitch and cramp, a sign that the toxin was spreading. His chest was feeling tight and heat blasted through him as if someone had lit a blowtorch inside his ribs. His hand crept along the wall, searching for a handhold that he could use to leverage himself to his feet. Finally finding one, he tugged, searing pain moving through him as it stretched his abdomen viciously. He made it to his feet and waited for the dancing black spots to pass, laying his hot forehead against the cool, damp stone. Sam hauled his failing body along the wall, one hand covering the wound on his side, the other- the only thing keeping him upright as he dragged his injured, cramping leg along. His breath sounded loud in his ears, and he chuckled, wondering if he should be counting them to see how many he had left before they stopped coming and his chest and lungs turned into one giant charley horse.
Finally making it along the wall to the door of the cave, Sam hesitated, wondering if he could remain on his feet without his handhold. Dizziness swamped him as another wave of heat pounded through him and his vision darkened briefly. Breathing as deeply as he could, he waited for it to pass before he stepped through the cave entrance and into the dark, chilly night.
One step…two…stop for a breath and wait for the pain to pass… another halting, dragging step…the thought of Dean…"I'm leaving Dean behind" …another two steps…drag a useless foot while breathing through a cramp shooting up his back from that leg clear into his brain. "Oh God, what if there's no antivenin?" Another slow step and Sam's head whipped up when he heard a gun shot followed quickly by an enraged roar. "D-Dean." Sam breathed, his hand going from his wounded side to his tightening chest, fear for his brother making his heart slam painfully into his ribs. He pushed himself over the swampy ground, fear riding him hard, forcing himself to get to his brother.
Another shot rang out and a cry overshadowed it. Sam's legs threatened to buckle. He staggered, gripping a nearby cypress tree as he stumbled. "Dean!" He cried, his voice not as loud as he wanted it to be…needed it to be. He was silent except for his harsh breathing and finally he heard what sounded like a muffled voice. A voice he recognized as Dean sounding annoyed.
"Get off'a me, you fugly bastard."
Sam staggered around a slight bend in the trail, collapsing against the base of a tree. "D-dean?"
Dean eased the creature off his legs, careful not to come into contact with the talons. The Bouhjii had a hole centered in the soft spot right beneath it's wicked lower jaw. Dean stood and rushed to Sam's side, crouching beside his brother. "Sammy." Dean breathed, pulling Sam's form to his chest. "Thank god. How bad you hurt?"
"'s'not good." Sam slurred, pulling a bloody hand away from his wounded abdomen and showing shaking, bloody fingers to his brother. "Poisoned." Sam whispered, pain crossing his features as he relaxed in Dean's arms.
Dean paled, arms tightening around his brother at the word he didn't want to hear. "Okay. Gonna get you help." Dean said softly. "Let's getcha up." Dean moved to his feet, staying in a crouch as he gripped Sam beneath the arms. "Keep your side straight." He heaved Sam and himself to their feet, quickly compensating when Sam's legs buckled again. He threw Sam's arm on his good side over his own shoulders and tangled his fingers in Sam's belt. "C'mon, jus' let me do the work."
"Bouhjii…dead?" Sam asked, trying and failing to walk under his own power. His legs buckled.
"Yeah. Toast." Dean said, stiffening his own legs to keep them both from falling. "Sammy, hang in there. Gonna get us the hell outta here an' get you fixed up."
"I know." Dean answered him, gripping him tighter. "Jus' breathe. I gotcha, kiddo." Dean was practically dragging Sam along the marshy ground. Sam was leaning all his weight against Dean and getting heavier quickly. They walked, breath loud in the night. Dean listened to the sounds around them and Sam's ragged breathing, finally realizing that he could hear insects and birds, something he didn't hear at all before he killed the Bouhjii.
"Ya hear that Sammy?"
"Bugs and birds. Haven't heard them since we walked into this hell hole."
Sam gave a halfhearted smile, huffing a laugh. It cut off into a groan when a vicious cramp shot though Sam's body. His back arched against it.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Dean cried, easing Sam down to the ground to sit against a small tree, dropping the rifles and his pack nearby. "Easy, easy Sam."
"Alright. Gonna figure this out." Dean said. "Just relax." Dean pulled his cell phone from his pocket and opened it, the familiar beepbeepbeep of no signal pissing him off. He held it high and noticed one signal indicator bar pop into existence on the screen before disappearing in the next second. Dean walked around in a circle with the phone held as high as he could, watching the screen. He glanced past the phone, seeing the gnarled trunk of a huge tree. The tree was split into forks low enough that Dean could pull himself easily into the canopy. He looked at Sam, still hunched against the tree, chin against his chest and face pale except for spots of crimson high on his cheeks. His lips were waxen, slightly blue tinged and parted as his chest rose and fell rapidly with the need to inhale. Dean hoisted himself into the tree and scaled the twisted branches with ease. He got as close as he could to the top, the branches now small enough that they bent beneath his weight. He held his cell phone up and got one steady bar to appear. "Come on…please be enough." He hit number two on his speed dial.
"Bobby! Bobby, can ya hear me?"
"Need the antidote for the Bouhjii venom Bobby! Sammy got tagged. It's bad!"
"Okay, son. Where ya at?"
"Still in the damn swamp! Sam's havin' trouble breathin' and the car's still a mile out." Dean said, running a hand down over his face in exasperation.
"Ya can get everythin' ya need where ya are. There's a lily that grows at the edges of the water. 'S got small, white flowers that look like straight pins stuck into a ball. Dig up the roots, mash 'em an' drain the juice. Mix the mash with some of the Bouhjii's scales. Burn that and cypress bark to ash, mix it with water an' git Sam t'drink it. He's gonna fight 'coz it tastes like skunked beer, but ya gotta get him to drink at least half. It'll make him sick, like charcoal does, but it stops the poison."
"Okay. I'm in a tree now. Lose the signal if I get down." Dean looked down when movement caught his eye, seeing his brother slump onto his side on the marshy ground. "Sam!" Dean cried, seeing his brother's body stiffen, just as the dog's had, spine curling. Dean could hear Sam's wheezing, halting breaths from where he was. Dean slammed his phone shut and jumped out of the tree, rolling on the muddy ground to soften his fall. He rushed to Sam's side, turning him slightly. Dean felt the rigidity of Sam's muscles in his back, the tightness his chest. Dean rubbed his hand down Sam's spine, trying to soothe the cramping. Sam had white lines of pain around his mouth and eyes that terrified Dean.
"Sammy?" Dean said, brushing Sam's hair away from his dry, too warm forehead. Sam's eyes cracked open to slits, the teal washed out, looking gray. "Hey. Bobby told me what to do. Can ya hang on?"
"Try." Sam's cyanotic lips moved but no sound emerged, his eyes blinking lethargically. Dean gripped Sam's twitching arm reassuringly for a second before moving towards the edge of the water, still wary of the big alligator, which he didn't immediately see. Dean looked down and found the lilies he needed. Pulling his pocket knife, he quickly dug the small bulbous roots. Taking them back to Sam's side, he used the knife to shave some cypress bark from the first tree he passed. Dean dropped the items and ran back the short distance to where the Bouhjii still lay, pulling his knife again. He stripped some smaller, more pliable, scales from the creatures arm and gripped the greenish flakes tight in his fist, sprinting back to his brother. He quickly pulled some sphagnum moss from the tree Sam lay beneath. Sam's eyes opened and rolled lethargically before sliding closed, his chest barely rising and lips a deepening blue.
"You hold on." Dean said as he yanked his lighter from his pocket, praying he could get a fire going with the damp moss and whatever he could scavenge that would burn hot enough to destroy the scales.
Dean got the moss to catch, digging beneath cypress leaf litter until he found some dry leaves and small twigs. He added the tinder and soon had a small fire burning. Dean smashed the lily tubers and used the flat of his knife to squeeze out the juice, drying the mash. He laid the mash and scales on a flat piece of thick cypress bark, knowing that it would burn hot. Soon Dean noticed the mash drying out and the pliable scales beginning to curl. Dean moved closer to Sam when he pulled in a painful sounding half-breath.
"Just a little longer, Sammy, please." Dean muttered soothingly. Sam's entire body was twitching, stiff looking, muscles cording. Sam's chest was not visibly moving. Dean picked him up and moved them both within easy reach of the fire and the beginnings of the ash Sam would need to save his life. Touching Sam's skin rattled Dean. His brother, although muscular, was normally relaxed. This time, it felt like Dean was hugging cement wrapped in skin. "Hey, you listen to me." Dean whispered, mouth tucked tight to Sam's ear, praying he was getting through. "You're gonna be okay. I promise. You give me five more minutes, y'hear me?" Please, Sammy. I just got ya back. It was painful watching Sam be so still such a short time after he'd spent nearly a day cold and still on a bare, filthy mattress.
Dean picked up the knife he discarded next to the small fire, the metal warm, but not hot. He dipped the blade into the fire, scooping ash onto the flat before pulling it gently out, making sure that it didn't slide off or blow away. It cooled slightly and Dean dumped it into a bottle of water he pulled from his pack, shifting so that Sam lolled against him. Dean felt Sam's back trembling as the muscles corded and spasmed, not allowing his lungs to expand. Sam was suffocating. Slowly.
Dean turned Sam's head and opened his mouth, tipping the bottle to Sam's lips. Sam grimaced at the taste as the ashy water coated his lips and tongue, choking on it as his constricted throat wouldn't let him swallow. "Easy. Easy, kid. You gotta take this. It'll make ya better." Dean pulled more ash from the fire with his knife, not even bothering to let it cool as he dumped it in the bottle, again giving it to Sam. Sam's head rolled against Dean as he sluggishly tried to fight, to pull away. Dean put his knife down beside him, locked his arms around Sam and force fed the water to him, feeling the fight leave him by the third mouthful. and held tight, listening to him fight to breathe.
Sam's breathing slowly began to change as Dean held him, tension leaving him as the antidote slowly began to circulate through his system. Sam's eyelids lifted listlessly, and he looked up at his brother. "De-" Sam whispered, weakly wrapping a hand around Dean's forearm where it looped across his chest.
"You're alright. Just take it easy."
Sam's eyes scrunched tight, white lines visible around his nose and mouth and a wrinkle between his eyes as pain registered. "Hur's…" Sam slurred, eyes remaining closed.
"Okay. You're gonna be alright." Dean said. He closed Sam's jacket over the tatters of his shirts, laid a hand reassuringly on his rifle. Dean's head leaned back against the cypress tree at his back, the rough bark pulling at his short hair. He contented himself with listening to his brother's breathing ease as his muscles relaxed and finally loosened.
Time passed and Dean listened to the sounds of the bayou, one ear alert for alligators, and the other attuned to his brother. Believing Sam to be resting as comfortable as possible, Dean pulled away, grabbed his pack, and walked the short distance to where the Bouhjii still lay, body cold. He salted the creature out of spite, doused it with lighter fluid and lit a pack of matches from his pocket, tossing the whole thing onto the leathery skin. He watched the animal burn, glad it was dead and Sam was okay. Dean turned and walked back to his brother, finding him struggling to get to his knees. Sam managed to half crawl away from the tree before he collapsed into Dean's arms, still feebly struggling. "Sick," Sam ground out.
Knowing what Sam needed, Dean crouched and helped him shift to his side, wrapping a supportive, strong arm around Sam's midsection. He felt Sam's abdominal muscles clench and twitch as Sam vomited repeatedly, the abuse to Sam's already overtaxed body showing in the tears that trickled down his face unheeded to drip from his nose into the mess. Stomach now empty of the foul concoction that had saved his life he slumped, allowing Dean to ease him back against the cypress tree. His nose crinkled and eyes closed in disgust. Dean searched for another bottle of water and came up empty.
"Sorry Sammy, can ya wait 'til we get back to the car?
"Yeah." He responded, slightly breathless.
"How ya feelin'?"
"Like I was tied between two busses and stretched. I think every muscle in my body feels like it ran a separate marathon….and then some. My chest…" Sam trailed off.
"What?" Dean asked quietly, green eyes boring into Sam's face as he carefully kept his own teal gaze averted. Sam inclined his head and squirmed, suddenly very interested in the black band that circled his right wrist. "What, Sam?" Dean asked again.
"You remember a few years back…when the water sprite tried to drown me?"
"You caught pneumonia. It was December."
"All I could do was cough. Couldn't stop…to even catch my breath."
"Uh-huh." Dean said, mouth turning down into a worried frown.
"Feels about the same way now." Sam finished, head tipping back against the tree as he looked at Dean with a hooded gaze.
Dean stood and turned away from Sam, running a hand over his mouth, thumb and forefinger pulling down the corners of his mouth.
"I wanna get you checked out. We need to get the hell outta this freakin' swamp."
"'M alright, Dean. Just sore as hell and tired."
Dean sighed and looked at his little brother. "Can you walk out?"
"Gladly." Sam said, struggling to stand.
"Hey! Whoa, damnit!" Dean said, bracing Sam and helping him to his feet. He glared at his brother. "Now, I almost lost you to this hellhole and that goddamn monster and we're gonna do this my freakin' way or…"
"Okay Dean. Okay." Sam said, leaning on his brother, too weak and sore to argue. Sam let Dean grab the pack and the rifles, slinging them over a shoulder. Dean took Sam's arm and pull it over his shoulders. They began the long, slow trek back to the car.
Seeing the rising sun gleaming off black paint and chrome in the distance, Dean felt relief course through him. "'K Sammy, let's getcha in the car." Dean said, easing his brother's lolling head off his shoulder and looking him over. Rings of exhaustion looked like bruises under Sam's eyes. Dean helped him lean against the car until the door was opened and lowered Sam inside, tucking him safely into her confines. He closed the door and circled the car. He was just about to open his door when he heard his phone go off, signaling a voice mail message. It beeped three more times before he opened the information on the caller.
"Bobby…Bobby…Bobby." Dean read. He dialed his voice mail box and listened to the agitated hunter.
"Dean, you boys okay? Call me."
"Boy, you call me as soon as you get this message, 'fore I tan yer backside."
"Damnit, Dean, you call me and let me know that kid's alright! Don't make me come track yer ass down!"
Dean chuckled and called Bobby. The hunter answered before the end of the first ring. "Dean!"
"It worked Bobby. He's okay. We're both okay."
"I could kick yer ass for not callin' me!"
"'M sorry, Bobby. He's okay. It worked. We just made it to the car."
"Where ya gonna go?"
"We'll hole up at a local motel for a few days. Let him heal up. Then we thought about headin'…"
"Get your asses out to me as soon as he's feelin' up to it."
"Will do, Bobby."
Dean closed his phone and slid behind the wheel to see an exhausted Sam sleeping against the window of the car. He fired the engine and finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Sam stopped jogging when his brother did, leaning both hands on his knees and trying to catch his breath. Dean tapped him on the shoulder with a water bottle. Sam took the bottle and drained it. He stood up and stretched his arm, hand at his shoulder blade and the other hand pushing at his bent elbow to stretch his triceps until it burned. He switched arms and repeated the process, shaking out his hands.
"You feel alright?"
"Yeah." Sam said, smiling at his brother. "You up for the three miles back, old man?"
Dean spluttered. "I'm so gonna kick your ass. Bitch."
"Jerk." Sam turned and kicked into a brisk jog, letting his brother easily match his stride.
The End. Thanks so much for reading.