Bonus Chapter 4

Dean couldn't move. His entire body seemed to have shut down. Dad and Sam were gone. They couldn't have survived that blast.

The last of the Gremlins were hightailing it across the field, frightened off by the explosion.

"On your feet! Help me!" Doc Wal pulled on Dean's arm, hauling him up. The young man went with him compliantly, staggering across the ground. He didn't want to go, was so afraid to see the charred remains, but he had to, had to see for himself and he didn't have any fight left in him to even resist an old country veterinarian anyway.

At the smoldering ruin that moments ago was a barn, Doc Wal lifted a blackened smoking board off a pile of boards and broken walls, but flinched back. "Ow, ow!" Pulling his sleeves down like gloves, the doc tackled the board again and threw it aside. "Gonna help me?"

Something snapped in Dean, primal and possessive. Damn stupid Gremlins weren't taking away what was his. Dean attacked the wreckage with a vengeance, tossing boards aside. If there was any chance . . . Dean held onto that hope, strangled it into a chokehold and braced it steady. He had to believe, had to keep digging even as his brain hammered that it wasn't possible. No one could live through that and all he'd find were their corpses.

"What . . .?" Dean wrenched a sheared beam out, making the entire pile groan and shift. "How did this happen?"

Doc Wal rolled another large beam away from a taller pile of boards. It thumped to the ground, kicking up a cloud of ash. "Kept fertilizer back here." He shook a piece of burning wood off his sleeve, patting it out. "Ammonium nitrate?"

Shit. Same kind of fertilizer wannabe unibombers packed homemade explosives with. Grossly unstable. Just one little spark . . . What was left of Dean's shredded heart dropped straight to his toes.

The next beam Doc rolled off clanked against metal. "Kid. Here."

Dean raced over, pulse pounding. "What? What do ya got?"

"Water trough."

Dean's gaze flew to the pile the vet had been uncovering. Just as he said, underneath the boards was a large upsidedown iron tub—the kind farmers used to fill water for their livestock. It came as high as Dean's waist and was plenty enough wide to fit two men. Dean quickly shoved off the remaining boards and banged on the metal.

They both paused, waiting for an answering tap that never came. Enough waiting, Dean pushed on the trough, ignoring the heat burning through the fabric of his sleeves. Doc pushed beside him, but they couldn't budge it. The solid metal was too heavy.

Dean's hopes sank. "How could my dad lift that?"

"Didn't have to." Doc kicked through the wreckage, looking for something. "Trough was already upside down and I had one side propped up by a concrete block to keep it aired out. All John would've had to do was roll under and kick the block out. It's what I would have done. Here. Help me wrangle this in there."

Doc brought one of the beams over and together, inch by inch, they managed to get the flat end beneath the lip of the trough. Pushing down on the other end, they slowly began to lever one side of the heavy tub off the ground.

"I got this," Dean groaned, muscles bunching. "Wedge something under it."

He felt the beam push back up when the vet let go, but Dean bore down, holding it steady, hearing the doc move things around.

"All right. Got it."

Cautiously, loosening his grip, Dean breathed easy when the pressure on the beam eased and the trough didn't fall. He dropped to his knees, not caring about the hot cinders catching on his jeans. Two other ends of beams propped the tub up. Doc Wal's head nearly touched the ground as he bent over knobby knees, trying to see inside.

Dean got his head right up next to the vet's and sucked in a breath. Dad's boots and Sam's filthy socks. He could see them. They were both whole, not blown to bits. He reached in, grabbed Sam's bare calf, needing something real to ground him. Relief speared through his core, so sudden and powerful Dean felt himself slipping, nearly swayed against the tub. He curled his fingers around Sam's leg and steeled himself. Had to hold it together. Had to get them out.

"Sam! Dad!" He shook Sam's leg. No response.

"Dammit." Dean wriggled underneath, shifting Sam's knees up to make room in the cramped space. It was stifling inside, like a sauna. There was barely enough light to see, but what Dean could make out froze the blood in his veins. His brother and father were both on their sides, John spooning Sam with his arms across the kid, holding Sam's hands to his chest as though his dad had pulled Sam's hands in to keep them from getting crushed under the falling edge of the trough. Droplets of sweat pebbled their skin, soaked their shirts. They looked peaceful, like they were merely sleeping, the close resemblance startling—smooth dark brows, black lashes, hard defiant jaws relaxed and still.

Horrifyingly still.

Dean placed his palms over both their chests, waiting for the lift he knew wasn't coming. "They're not breathing!"

"Pass them out to me." Doc's hands reached inside.

Sam was closest so Dean dragged the kid's upper body to the tub's edge, helping the vet scoot Sam beneath the lip until his sibling's boxers, then legs and feet disappeared. Without waiting for Doc Wal to come back, Dean began rolling and wrangling his dad out the same way. By the time he had him out the doctor was back and they carried him out of the wreckage together, laying him down in the flattened grass next to Sam.

"They're not breathing!" Dean cried, kneeling next to Sam. Oh God, how long had they gone without air? How long had it taken them to find them?

"I'd expect as much." Doc was checking John's wrist for a pulse. "Explosion like that burns hot, but flashes out quick. Would have sucked up all the oxygen."

He was saying they suffocated. Dean started shaking, his shoulders slumping over Sammy. Doc Wal grabbed his arms, shook him as hard as a slap. "CPR now!"

He didn't even ask if Dean knew how, just assumed he did. And thank God that was something their dad had taught them both. Without questioning, Dean positioned Sam and pressed his mouth over the kid's, knowing the vet was doing the same for his dad.

They worked in tandem, neither speaking between breaths, neither giving up. All the while Dean's brain screamed an increasing litany: breathe breathe breathe BREATHE!

Sam's arm suddenly flopped. Dean jerked back. Sam's chest rose. Stilled. Dean waited. Sam's chest rose again. Stunned, Dean stared, not grasping the significance, still steeped in the urge to breathe for his brother.

He leaned close, whispered, "Sammy?"

Dark lashes swept up, revealing pearly eyes. Now Dean couldn't breathe.

Sam's lips twitched. He hiccupped a small cough.

Dean froze. That was it? No hacking or gagging? "S-s-sam?" He didn't mean to stutter, also didn't mean for tears to start running down his face, but he'd thought Sam was dead, that he'd never see his eyes open again, and now he was okay, coughing out the prissiest little hiccup Dean had ever heard after suffocating. His brother had freakin suffocated! He was okay he was okay oh God. Without realizing he was doing it, Dean scooped Sam up into a crushing hug, burying his face in the kid's gritty hair, losing all his composure when he felt long fingers curl into the fabric of the back of his T-shirt, then still.

"Dean?" Sam's muffled voice carried up from beneath Dean's chin. "Where's Dad?" And Dean's world crashed around him again. He felt Sam's head turn away from his chest, felt the kid flinch as he saw their father stretched out, the veterinarian performing rescue breathing.

"Dad?" Sam leaned forward, but Dean held him back.

"Let him work, Sammy."

Sam's breathing that Dean had worked so hard to just get going was now ramping up, pulling shallowly. Dean's was right there with him.

Doc Wal lifted his head, sorrow-filled eyes latching onto the Winchesters. "I'm sorry, boys."

"What?" Sam lurched forward. "What? No! Dad!"

Dean sank back, shaking his head. No, no. Nononono. This wasn't happening. Not to their dad. Their dad was invincible.

Sam scrambled on his knees to get near the top of John's head, his fingers searching for a pulse, moving their father's head back and forth. "Come on, Dad, wake up. Wake up!" Tears dripped down his young face, shattering Dean's heart.

And John gasped, his body arching upward, muscles coiled just before he sagged and started hacking. Doc rolled him on his side toward Dean where Dean grasped his shoulder, tried to steady him while the veins in John's neck bulged with the effort. As soon as he sucked in enough air, John let it out in a strangled scream. "Sammmmy!"

"It's okay, Dad. Just breathe. Relax. Okay?"

John's eyes flicked up to Dean, filled with instant relief. "Dean. You're okay?"

"Yeah, Dad."

His gaze started tracking around. "Where's Sam? Your brother . . . oh God, Dean. . ."

Dean squeezed John's shoulder. "He's right here. He's okay."

"Dad?" Sam's voice was soft, scared.

John's head wrenched up. "Sammy? Oh thank God." With uncharacteristic emotion, John shot up and hauled both his kids to him. "Thank God."

Crushed against John's shoulder, his side quashed into Sam's and not in any hurry to wriggle away, Dean met Doc Wal's gaze. The vet tipped his head in an understanding nod. They still had work to do.

#

Two days later, the Winchesters stood side by side at the spine of the slope above where they'd first tracked the Gremlins to the cave. They'd found another entrance where the colony escaped from after the blast. All they had to do was wait for the Gremlins to come out to forage.

The Winchesters stood ready to finish the job.

This time they weren't standing alone.

Doc Wal put the word out and every farmer and rancher that lived on the outskirts of town came.

Dean held the crossbow, giddy to start the show and shoot flaming arrows into the little suckers. He'd teach them never to mess with his family. 'Course they wouldn't be alive to actually learn the lesson, but that was a moot point, he decided.

He glanced at Sam. He and John both tried to talk the teen into staying out of this one because it was going to be loud, but Sam had been adamant in seeing this through. Stubborn ass. Even though Sam's headaches had already lessened, Dean still spied his sibling grimacing now and again. He'd made certain he had the doc's pills in the Impala for when this was through. Dean smiled, enjoying giving Sam crap about taking animal medicine at every opportunity.

"First one's out of the cave," John whispered, holding up a hand to signal the ranchers to wait, let more Gremlins come out before Doc Wal detonated the cave mouth. There were at least twenty good ol boys watching for John to give them the okay to start firing. A second Gremlin skittered from the entrance, sniffing the breeze.

"Aim your stream high, Sammy, so it will arc into them." This time Sam's propane torch was equipped with a larger tank. He was actually their best shot with the crossbow, but couldn't work it right now with his wrist in a cast.

"I know, Dean." Exasperation oozed through his quiet tone.

Dean grinned, grateful beyond measure that he still had Sam to tease. Sam nearly died. Dad nearly died.

Lost in his thoughts, his palm tightened around the stock of the crossbow and he missed his father's signal. Fire erupted around him, flames arcing downslope, streaming into dozens of Gremlins. Bullets whined through the air. An abrupt explosion punched through the ground, blowing the cave entrance, swallowing it flat as the hill above crumpled on top of the cave, cutting off any of the nastie's retreat back inside.

It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Only taking the time to light them up, Dean shot burning arrow after arrow, wholly satisfied every time he hit the mark and a Gremlin exploded. He felt like a kid at an arcade, screaming joyously beneath the noise, "Die you suckers, die! Burn, babies, burn!" His only regret was that it all went down too quickly.

When all was still and smoky, burning husks of Gremlins were strewn across the little gulley.

Dean found Sam sitting on a rock, forehead wrinkled tight."How's your head?"

Sam attempted to smooth out his features, but it didn't work. "It's fine." Which was Sammy code for hurts like a mother. But the kid was grinning like a loon, pleased at finally chalking this up to a successful hunt so Dean let him be.

John and Doc Wal walked over, trailed by another guy. Had to be a farmer because no rancher would wear that funky straw hat.

John pulled some pills out of his pocket and handed Sam a water bottle. "You okay?"

"Fine," Sam huffed, all teenage petulance, but took the pills anyway.

John extended his hand to Doc Wal, clasping it tightly. "I can't thank you enough." He glanced at Sam. "For everything."

"My pleasure. If you folks hadn't come along, we'd still have a nasty infestation on our hands." Doc patted Dean's arm. "If you ever need anything . . . anything-" He cocked his head meaningfully. "You know where to find me."

Dean nodded. It was always handy to have a medical professional willing to help without raising eyebrows.

John handed a slip of paper to the farmer next. "My number. If it turns out this isn't the last of the creatures, call. I'll come right away."

The farmer took the paper, nodding, and patted his shotgun. "Appreciate it, but I think we'll be able to handle ourselves."

John grinned. "That I don't doubt. This county's in good hands."

The farmer pulled his own slip of paper out and handed it to John. "Can't speak for the folks in town, but if you and yours are ever in need, come round to any of our outlying farmsteads. Winchester is a name we won't soon forget."

John thanked him and handed the slip of paper to Dean. "You are freakin kidding me," Dean said when he saw the name. McDonald. "Well then, E-I-E-I-O."

The End (right?)