SYNOPSIS: A hunt is successful, but bad luck still screws with the brothers – and Dean blames it all on Rock-Paper-Scissors.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Sam or Dean Winchester; they belong to Eric Kripke and Co. As always, I'm simply (and happily) playing in their sandbox.
RATED: T for minor swearing
A/N: Mid-season 2 H/C, with a healthy dose of brotherly schmoop. Written as a birthday gift for my friend and beta Harrigan. Enjoy!
Always With The Scissors
"Son of a bitch." Dean shifted impatiently as he peered into the dark tunnel on the far side of the cave. There was no sign of movement, no sign of Sam. "I should've done this," he muttered. "I should've been the bait."
Letting Sam put himself into the line of fire went against every fiber of big-brotherly instinct he possessed but Sam had insisted they rock-paper-scissors for the job. Stupidly, he'd agreed; predictably, he'd lost.
Sam had just grinned. "Always with the scissors." He'd playfully punched Dean in the shoulder, grabbed his flashlight and the can of spray-paint, and disappeared into the tunnel.
Dean clicked on his Maglite, directing the beam at his watch. That was thirty minutes ago: more than enough time for Sam to get the creature's attention and force it to chase him right into their trap. They knew it was in the cave network somewhere; they'd found fresh tracks and heard it moving around, but neither had actually laid eyes on it. And they were on a finite schedule; if they didn't spring the trap within the next hour, their window of opportunity would close.
Dean shook his head at the thought of their prey as he cracked open a chemical heat pack and slipped it into his glove to warm cold-numbed fingers. He'd seen, and killed, plenty of unbelievable things in his lifetime but this was a first: they were hunting a troll.
Local legend said it had hitched a ride from Scandinavia with immigrants who settled the area shortly before Independence. There had been sporadic, unexplained attacks over the years, all at night, feeding the legend and leading the settlers to nickname the mountain range Trollheimen, Norwegian for Home of the Trolls.
Survivor accounts were scarce, but those on record described a creature ranging in size from an adult human to a grizzly bear. Some said it shuffled rather than walked and used a cane; others recalled something that muttered in a strange language, one many believed was an ancient form of Norse. But all agreed it had a large nose or snout, was notoriously vicious in its attacks and could move deceptively fast when necessary.
It was that last description that worried Dean. Sam could haul ass, no question, but what if the troll was faster? Lore could only fill in so many blanks, and they were dealing with a crapload of unknowns.
Hell, what if it wasn't a troll? All their research made it the most likely suspect, and their plan and their trap were both based on that assumption. But neither had seen the damn thing. If they were wrong…
Noise from the tunnel opposite yanked Dean from his internal debate. His breath clouded with each rapid exhale as he listened intently. Someone was running, the footsteps faint but quickly growing louder as the runner drew closer.
As Sam drew closer.
Dean snapped off his flashlight, crouched out of sight behind a boulder and picked up the triggering mechanism. Wires connected it to the explosives they'd placed strategically in crevices in the cave wall. He flipped up the cover on the trigger's switch; once Sam was clear, he'd spring the trap.
Dean's heart was pounding now, slamming against his ribs in sync with Sam's footsteps as they echoed out of the ice-covered tunnel. He hated being in the dark, literally and figuratively; he couldn't see what was happening or how close the troll was to Sam; couldn't call out either, not without giving away his position.
Dean closed his eyes and held his breath, honing in on the sound of Sam's footsteps. His brother was moving fast – a good sign. His steps stuttered occasionally but that wasn't surprising given the rocks and ice that covered the floor of the tunnels.
The footsteps were louder now. Dean's eyes snapped open, searching frantically for any sign of movement in the darkness. His breath hitched as he caught sight of a light bobbing at the far end of the tunnel. As it bounced upward with each step, the beam caught the icy stalactites lining the roof of the tunnel, the spikes glistening dangerously in the unaccustomed light.
"Come on, come on, come on…" Dean willed his brother to run faster, his thumb brushing impatiently across the trigger. He could hear Sam breathing hard, meaning he'd been running for some time. Damn troll must have been hiding well inside the mountain.
Dean shifted his weight, the cold and damp of the cave making his bones ache. "That's it, Sammy. Push it. Not much further."
Then Sam stumbled, stalagmite icicles snapping loudly under his weight as he crashed to the ground. The Maglite flew from his grasp, skittering across the icy cave floor before coming to a stop at the mouth of the tunnel, shining back toward Sam. Its beam caught Sam struggling to push himself up and regain his footing. It also caught a large, lumbering form moving quickly toward him from the depths of the tunnel, its strange shuffle-step gait far different from Sam's long strides but just as effective. It was closing fast.
Dean instinctively reached for his gun. The lore said bullets were useless against a troll but he just needed to slow it down, give Sam time to…
But Sam was up and moving again, picking up speed with each stride in his last desperate dash for the cave. He was just ten feet away now, his wide-shouldered silhouette visible in the dropped flashlight's beam. Dean's eyes darted between his brother and the creature quickly closing on him.
Sam was five feet away. Then three feet. Then he was in the cave, diving behind the boulders on the opposite side of the cave and yelling, "Now, Dean. Now!" as he disappeared from view.
Dean flicked the switch, and ducked for cover.
The explosion was deafening. The charges they'd planted throughout the cave shattered the rock, creating a hole the size of a garage door in the side of the mountain, blowing shrapnel high into the air outside and launching a rockslide of stone and ice in the process. The blast also sent a backwash of dust and debris crashing through cave and over the brothers.
Dean curled in on himself, throwing his arms around his head and wincing as the rubble rained down on him. And then it was over, the hailstorm of rock and ice fading to a shower before giving way to eerie silence.
Dean peeled open his eyes and glanced around, squinting against the bright light that now filled the cave. He sat up with a groan, muscles pummeled by falling debris loudly protesting, and stared at the hole in the cave wall the explosion had created. The sky beyond was a brilliant, cloudless blue and the late afternoon sun sat low on the horizon. Dust particles floated lazily in the sun's long rays as they poked their way into the cave to set alight the ice that painted its walls.
Dizzy, his vision sliding in and out of focus, Dean steadied himself by leaning on the rock in front of him. Still blinking hard as he scanned the cave, he froze as his gaze landed on the entrance to the tunnel his brother had run through just seconds earlier. The opening was now blocked with one very large, new boulder. "Damn. It worked." Dean coughed, spitting out a mouthful of the dust. "Guess the son of a bitch was a troll, Sammy. Sunlight turned it into stone."
He frowned at the sound of his own voice; it was muffled, distant, his ears still ringing from the explosion. The frown quickly deepened at the lack of response from his brother. Dean's gaze snapped to the far side of the cave. "Sam?"
Silence broken by the occasional trickle of falling rock was the only retort.
"Sam?" Dean pulled himself out from behind the boulder and stumbled across the debris-strewn floor toward his brother's hiding place. "Dude, if you're playing possum, you're in for one serious beat-down. I-"
His throat closed, choking off the words, as he stepped around the boulder and stared down at his brother's hiding place. Instead of Sam, huddled safely behind the giant rock, catching his breath after his sprint from the troll, there was only a gaping hole in the cave floor.
"Son of a…" Dean swallowed as he dropped to the ground at the side of the hole, scrabbing in his pocket for his flashlight and then shining the beam into the chasm. "Sam!"
There was still no response. He swung the beam in wide arcs, leaning as far over the edge as he dared without tumbling in himself. "Sammy!"
His lungs felt like they'd suddenly been filled with cement when the light found Sam. His brother lay twisted amidst the debris on the floor of another cavern, about twenty-five feet down, and he wasn't moving. His head was turned away from Dean, long hair obscuring his face. "Sam? Come on, man, gimme something."
Sam still didn't move. Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, mentally sorting through his options - and there weren't many. "Okay, Sammy, listen up: You just hang in there, you hear me? You're gonna be fine. You and me, we've got places to be. Remember that date you made with the ski instructor back at the lodge? Dude, she is one rise-in-your-Levi's kinda chick."
Dean pushed himself to his feet, scanning the rubble-filled cave in search of his duffel. "Now, why she fell for you is one of life's great mysteries but no damn troll is gonna screw up your first shot at some real action in…months. Come happy hour, you'll be in that bar, reading bad poetry to each other, or whatever it is you Ivy League types do when you hope to get laid. That, my brother, is a promise."
Spotting his duffel half hidden under a pile of rock, Dean scrambled over the debris, unearthed it, then moved quickly back to the hole. "Okay, Sammy: let's get you out."
Sam came to with a loud yell, sharp pain jolting him back to consciousness. He screwed his eyes closed, huffing out sharp breaths as he waited for the spasm to fade, his churning stomach to still.
Sam frowned; his brother's voice sounded distant. "Where-?"
Up? Sam glanced upwards, his hand reflexively jumping up to shield his eyes as a flashlight beam hit him in the face. "Dude…" He groaned at the new jolt of pain the slight movement ignited. The beam quickly shifted to the side, allowing him to see a dull grey light in the ceiling that framed his brother's silhouette. "What-"
"Stay still. I'm coming down to you." The soft whir of falling rope punctuated Dean's statement, then the light disappeared briefly, replaced by metallic clinking. "In the meantime, talk to me: how bad is it?"
"I…gah!" Sam tried sitting up but pain quickly knocked him flat again. He screwed his eyes closed as he caught his breath, his head muzzy. Where the hell was he? Memories of a climb through crisp snow under brilliant blue skies mixed with those of a frantic dash in total darkness. "What…happened?"
'You fell." As Sam looked up, Dean's silhouette reappeared in the hole in the ceiling. "Floor gave way in the explosion."
"Explosion?" Sam frowned, sifting through the kaleidoscope of images now spinning through his head: riding snowmobiles through tall pines heavy with snow; hiking up to a cavern in the side of the mountain; ice-covered walls glistening under their flashlight beams as the two of them explored cave after cave, tunnel after tunnel; the frantic run in the dark – but there was nothing about an explosion. "I don't-"
"Looks like ice had filled in a hole in the cave floor." Dean's calm tone couldn't hide his worry. "It shattered when the explosives went off; dropped out from under you and… down you went." Dean was sitting at the edge of the hole now, his legs dangling into space. He exhaled loudly as he took in the drop beneath him. "The things I do for you, Sammy. It's a long freaking way down."
Sam shifted with a groan. "You're telling me?"
"Right." Guilt tinged Dean's worry. "Okay, heads up. Here, I come." He leaned forward until he was suspended on the rope, then began slowly rappelling down toward Sam.
Sam watched his descent, his brother silhouetted in the gray light above for the first ten feet or so before being enveloped by the pitch black of the cave. "Dean?"
Sam listened to the rope creaking under Dean's weight, the click of the metal clasps of the climbing gear as Dean belayed the rope through them and his brother's steady breathing. He smiled tiredly. "If I could see you, I'd almost think you know what you're doing."
"Yeah, well that asshat Jonah who showed us how to use this stuff didn't think much of city boys playing in his mountains with his toys. Had to prove the dude wrong, didn't I?" Dean snorted. "Wonder what he'd think if he knew we were using his gear to hunt down a troll?"
The troll. That's why they were in the cave. Sam inhaled sharply. "Is it still in here?"
"Chill, Sammy." Dean landed with a soft thud a few feet from his brother. Warm, yellow light flooded the cavern as he turned on the camping lantern he unclipped from his belt and set on the floor just in front of him. "We got it."
Sam blinked as his eyes adjusted to the light. "So it's-"
"Yeah." Dean slid the small duffel from his shoulder, dropping it beside Sam, then unfastened the climbing harness from around his waist and stepped out of it. "Sunlight hit that sucker straight in the face when he barged into the cave after you; turned him to stone, just like the lore said."
"So, we were in time?" Sam shivered involuntarily, the frigid air in the cave suddenly harder to ignore now he could see his breath was frosting in the lantern light. "We were in danger of losing the light, right?"
"Yeah. Another half hour or so, and the sun would've been too low in the sky for the rays to poke into the cave. But, as always, the Winchesters came through." Dean pulled off his down vest as he knelt down and bundled it under Sam's head as a pillow. "But forget the troll: I need a little 411 about you. How bad is it?"
Sam gritted his teeth. "Not bad. I-"
"Bull." Dean flashed Sam a glare as he ran his hands over his brother's head, limbs and torso, searching for injuries. "Exhibit A: you've got a goose egg on the back of your head the size of my fist. Exhibit B: you've barely moved since you came to. The only time you're still for this long is if you have a book or a computer in front of you, and I don't see either. So, let's just stow the brave little soldier B.S. and-"
"Gah!" Sam cried out as his brother's hands brushed over his right hip.
"Yahtzee." Dean's jaw clenched, but he was gentle and efficient as he assessed the damage. He shook his head as he sat back on his heels. "Big problem, Sammy: I think it's dislocated." He tilted his head to look up at the hole in the ceiling way above them. "Bottom line: no way in hell you're getting out of here same way I came in."
Sam's fingers curled into fists. "You go for help." He shrugged at Dean's scowl. "I'll be fine 'til you get back."
"Right." Dean pulled a space blanket from his duffel, quickly ripping open the cellophane packet. "But I'm one step ahead of you; help's already on the way." He smiled at Sam's puzzled expression. "That hole we blew in the cave wall got me a signal on my phone. Called 911 while you were out. Thanks to GPS, they got a bead on us right away; Search & Rescue should be here inside of an hour."
"Oh." Sam watched as Dean unfolded the space blanket and laid it along his right side. His brother was in full-on take-charge mode. Sometimes it pissed him off, like Dean was still treating him like a little kid. But other times, like now, it gave him the strength to get through whatever crap life had thrown at him. "Thanks. You know… for-"
"Hold your thanks. You may not think I'm such hot stuff in a minute or two." Dean grinned. 'You'd be wrong, of course, but I've gotta roll you on your side so we can get this under you, stop your ass from freezing to the floor. And with your hip out of joint, it's gonna suck out loud. You up for it?"
Sam nodded tightly. "Don't have much a choice, do I?"
"Nope." Dean placed one hand under Sam's shoulder, the other on his calf. "Okay then. On three…One… two… three."
Sam couldn't quite stifle a yell as he rolled onto his left, needles of pain shooting from his hip through his abdomen and down his leg, even with Dean tightening his grip on his calf to keep the injured limb as stable as possible. Sam focused on his breathing and on the crinkle of the blanket being unfolded behind him, and then braced himself as Dean's hands returned to roll him again onto his back. Despite being chilled to the bone, he was sweating when they finished.
Dean's expression was grim as he grabbed a handful of chemical heat packs from his duffel. "Good thing these were on sale, right?" He cracked them, one by one, inserting one each into Sam's gloves, and placing others between his shirt and his jacket under his armpits and behind his knees. Dean shook his head as he looked down at Sam. "I know the light in here's not flattering but, dude, you look like crap."
Now it was Sam's turn to snort. "Checked a mirror lately?" Dean was pale beneath the dirt that smeared his face and dried blood stained his skin from his right ear to his neck. Sam nodded toward the injury. "You okay?"
"What?" Dean lifted a hand to the side of his face, scowling when his fingers touched the dried blood. "This? It's nothing." He grinned down at Sam as he wrapped the space blanket over him, tucking it under his left side. "Concussion from the explosion rang my bell, that's all. I'll be fine."
Sam's eyes slid closed. "What the hell were we thinking, Dean? Playing with explosives? Not exactly our field of expertise. We could've brought the whole damn mountain down on top of us."
"But we didn't." Dean's grin widened. "And we got rid of the troll; made it safe for adrenaline junkies to risk their necks and break their legs all winter long. We are a credit to society."
Sam frowned as his brother reached into the duffel and pulled out a Thermos. "You're talking kind of loud. Just how deaf are you?"
Dean waved his hand dismissively. "Dude, I'm fine. My head hurt more after that Metallica show in Philly. Now those boys will make your ears bleed." He poured the contents of the Thermos into the cup. "Search & Rescue didn't want me to give you any drugs 'til they know what's what, but this soup should at least take the chill off from the inside out. Here." He lifted Sam's head while his brother drank, then lowered him gently back onto the jacket pillow when he was done.
Sam nodded his thanks. The soup, the heat packs, the blanket had all helped boost his body temperature, lessening the shivers which tormented his injured hip. And as his body temperature rose, the pull of sleep grew stronger.
Dean's shout startled him. "What?"
"No sleeping till the EMTs get here, not with that dent in your noggin. Let's you and me have a chat." Dean checked Sam's temperature then, satisfied, settled at his brother's side, tucking his gloveless hands under his armpits. "Did you see it?"
Sam frowned. "See what?"
"The troll. Before you shagged ass out of there, did you get a good look at it?"
"A good look? No." Sam closed his eyes, trying to remember what he saw when he turned a corner in one of the seemingly endless tunnels and the beam of his flashlight fell on the troll. "Its back was to me at first… looked like a big-ass grizzly, at least 'til it turned around. I got a quick glimpse of its face but the son of a bitch was fast; sure as hell doesn't look like it's built for speed but I had to go full tilt just to stay ahead of it."
Dean grinned. "I don't think it's that fast; you're just slowing down in your old age. You were breathing kind of hard when you ran back into the cave." His grin widened at the look Sam shot him. "You get lost at all?"
Sam shook his head. "That glow-in-the-dark spray paint worked great to mark the trail, just didn't pick out all the rubble and ice on the tunnel floor. I face-planted more than once hightailing it out of there."
Dean pursed his lips. "Know what we need? Night-vision goggles."
Sam snorted. "Sure, Dean. We'll pick up a couple of pairs next time we swing by the army surplus store. That won't raise any red flags."
Dean looked non-plussed. "We just scammed a shipment of construction explosives and you're worried about night-vision goggles? Just think; if we'd had them on this hunt, we could've got a really good look at that troll."
Sam swallowed against a wave of nausea, then glanced up at his brother. "I'm still a little fuzzy on everything around the explosion. The sunlight turned it…the troll… to stone, right?"
"So you tell me, what's it look like?"
"Like a big boulder." Dean shrugged in response to Sam's puzzled expression. "The sunlight didn't turn it into a statue, Sammy; it literally turned it to stone." He shook his head. "Makes you wonder about all those other boulders scattered about the cave entrance."
Sam's eyes widened. "You think they were once trolls?"
Dean shrugged. "Makes sense, doesn't it? Maybe the Sams and Deans of generations past drew one after the other into light, gradually turning them all to stone."
Sam nodded slowly. "You think our guy was the last one?"
Dean wrapped his arms around his bent knees. "Dunno. The tracks we found all seemed to have that curled up toe on the right foot which suggests it's the same dude."
Sam winced as an involuntary shiver jarred his hip. "As long as it's a deformity, and not some trait common to all trolls."
Dean scowled. "Thank you, Mr. Glass-Half-Empty. You-"
"Hello. We're Search & Rescue." Both brothers squinted up at the bright light that accompanied the new voice from above. "You two need a hand?"
"You could say that." Dean gave his brother's shoulder a squeeze before pushing himself to his feet. "Cavalry's here, Sammy. We're going home."
Dean flipped a page in his magazine, then glanced up when he sensed Sam shift in the hospital bed in front of him. Heavy-lidded eyes over a doped-up grin stared back at him. "You're awake."
Sam licked his lips, his grin widening. "Mostly."
Dean tossed the magazine on the lower shelf of the hospital nightstand and stood up, stretching out the kinks in his back as he visually assessed his brother.
Sam had slept through the night, thanks to heavy medication his doctors prescribed after ruling his concussion minor. His color was better and his temperature back to normal. The hip injury, however, was serious and, while doctors believed there was no permanent damage, it would be a while before Sam was back on his feet.
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, guilt again ripping through him for letting Sam be the bait in their troll hunt. "How're you feeling?"
Sam frowned as he pondered the question. "I'm not. Everything's kinda numb."
Dean glanced at the IV in the back of Sam's hand. "Yeah. They've got you on some good drugs." And for that, Dean said a silent thanks. After Search & Rescue had delivered the brothers to the hospital and Dean had filled out the requisite thousand forms, he'd slipped past the No Admittance doors and stood outside the ER bay, watching while doctors popped a sedated Sam's hip joint back into its socket. The force needed had turned his stomach and he knew his brother was in for a rough ride when the drugs started to wear off. "Enjoy the trip, Sammy. And don't worry: I'll scam some of the good stuff for when we get you outta here."
Sam nodded, studying Dean for a moment, then raised his voice. "What about you? Are you okay?"
"Sam, shut up," Dean scowled. "The whole floor can hear you."
"No, seriously, Dean." Sam was still shouting. "Your ears, your hearing…you sure they're fine after the explosion?"
"Dude, put a sock in it." Dean crossed the room quickly and closed the door. "One, I've got 5-0 convinced we got caught in a natural cave-in; last thing we need is you yelling about an explosion. Two, docs checked me out, gave me a couple of painkillers and I'm golden. So chill."
"Chill? No, I'm not cold anymore." Sam was speaking in a hoarse stage whisper now.
"Oh, for f-" Dean was pacing at the side of Sam's bed. "Just…sleep. We are not having a conversation 'til you come down."
Sam frowned. "Down where?"
"Sleep, Sam. Now."
Sam's eyes slid closed briefly before popping open again. "Wait, I can't. I have a date. Raquel, the ski instructor, she's waiting for me." He pushed aside the blanket, starting to sit up.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Dean grabbed Sam's shoulders, gently pushing him back down. "You're not going anywhere, Romeo."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Her name's not Romeo, Dean. It's Raquel."
"No, actually, it's Rachel. You're not helping your case if you can't get her name right."
Sam grinned. "Don't worry, I'll just do what you do: I'll call her sweetheart."
"Just…relax." Dean exhaled loudly. "Turns out Rachel is good friends with the guys on the Search & Rescue team so she knows what happened."
Sam's eyes widened. "She knows about the troll?"
"No, Einstein, she knows what happened to you, that you're stuck in here. She's gonna drop by, see you tomorrow. Hopefully your spaceship will have landed by then and you two can reschedule your date."
Dean sank down into the chair. "Go to sleep, Sammy."
Sam frowned at Dean for a moment, then nodded slowly, his eyes sliding shut.
Dean held his head in his hands. "Rock-paper-scissors," he muttered. "This whole damn thing could have been avoided if we hadn't played that stupid game."
"But it's our game."
Dean looked up to see Sam again blinking sleepily at him.
Sam smiled. "It's what we do, right?"
Dean leaned back in the chair. "It should've been me. I should've been the bait."
Sam held his gaze. "And if you'd got hurt, you think that would've been better?"
Dean's jaw clenched. "Yeah."
"Not for me it wouldn't." Sam glanced down at his injured leg. "Shit happens, Dean. Sometimes to you, sometimes to me." He shrugged. "It's nobody's fault. It's just part of what we do."
"Too big a part, if you ask me." Dean rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Go to sleep, Sammy."
Sam shook his head. "No, we should talk. You've got that 'I'm-gonna-beat-myself-up' look on your face."
"Sam-" Dean's eyes widened when his brother placed a fist on top of his open palm. "Seriously? You wanna rock-paper-scissors to decide this?"
"Fine." Dean leaned forward. "Here's the deal: you win, you sleep; I win, we talk."
Sam nodded happily.
Dean held up his hands. "Okay. On three: one…two…three.
Dean had two fingers extended as scissors; Sam a fist curled up as a rock.
Sam snorted. "I win. Always with the scissors, Dean."
Dean sat back and smiled. "Yeah, Sammy: you win. So go to sleep."
Sam frowned. "Wait a minute; that's not what I-"
"Deal's a deal, dude." Dean reached for his magazine. "Hit the hay."
Sam stared at Dean suspiciously, his eyes growing heavy. "You cheated. We were supposed…I was going…" He was asleep before he could finish the thought.
Dean sank back into the chair, eyes still glued to his brother, and smiled softly. "It's not cheating if it keeps you safe, Sammy. It's just what I do."
A/N: I realized when thinking about the brothers doing rock-paper-scissors on the show that while Dean always 'loses,' the loss keeps Sam safe and puts Dean in the line-of-fire. I don't think that's entirely a coincidence. *g* Hope you enjoyed, and I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers!