First appeared in Blood Brothers 4, Golden Lily Press. My thanks as always to Jeanne Gold, who's deft editing always makes me try to be a better writer. Also thanks to Mad Server who carped and complained and pointed and made this a better story.
A/N: My friend Sensue and I will be at the Vancouver SPN convention August 25 – 28th, 2011. We are hoping to host an old fashioned convention room party for fan fic readers and writers. Please PM me if you are interested or know someone who might be. Thanks!
"Rocky, you're dropping," he took a shallow breath, "crap on me again." His voice was rough. "What did I tell you?" Breath. "Two words." Breath. Blinking bark out of his eyes, he scowled upward. "Brunswick stew."
His phone rang, muffled notes reaching his ears after working through the fabric of his jeans and a couple of cubic feet of tree. He tried again to work his hand to it, but only managed to bring on muscle spasms in his biceps and fingers.
Sweat dripped into his ears, soaked through his t-shirt, pooled under his back. New York State in July was a freakin' sauna. Squinting at the sun's position through layered branches, he figured he'd been trapped about six hours.
All he needed was for his brother to wake up from his trip to Never Never Land so he and Bobby could come get him. And bring him some water. He really needed some water. And an aspirin. Maybe a Vicodin. Something he could take with a lot of water. And he was sure he could feel a bottle in the duffel trapped underneath his shoulder, but he couldn't twist enough to reach it.
Finish the hunt and get trapped under an oak tree. Sam was gonna bitch and lecture and laugh himself stupid, and Dean was fine with that if Sam would just get the goddamn vegetation off him so Dean could drink some water.
The squirrel chattered and dropped more bark on his face. "Yeah, yeah. Right back at you, you little shit." Shallow breaths. "When Sammy gets me loose, I'm going to…blow your fuzzy ass to kingdom come."
If only he could take one good breath. It wouldn't feel so much like he was suffocating. But he was, little by little, the tree was gradually crushing him to pulp. And thinking like that made his skin prickle and his stomach burn, and he was panicking again and panting and the tree…
Sam blinked awake, and wasn't quite sure where he was. Lifting his head to inspect his surroundings, he found himself in a motel room. Not that surprising. After all, he'd been in thousands of them, but nothing about this one looked familiar. Groaning, he sat up and stretched his arms over his head, working his back and shoulders. A flyer on the nightstand confirmed he was somewhere in upstate New York.
Oh. Linden trees. The nursery. That's why they were there. But why didn't he remember checking in to the motel? He set the flyer down, and picked up a note tucked under his cell phone: 'Back in a few hours. D.' Dean must have gone off to research something or interview someone because there was no way Dean would be stupid enough to hunt…whatever it was they were hunting by himself.
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course Dean was stupid enough to do that. But Sam had made his increasingly reckless brother promise to never hunt alone again. Not this year, not with the Deal over their heads, not ever. Sam thumbed speed dial one on his cell, teeth worrying at his lip as his brother's phone went straight to voice mail. Impatiently listening to "This is Dean…" Sam considered and discarded a dozen increasingly rude messages, and simply said "Call me" after the beep.
His stomach growled loudly. Man, he was starving. And thirsty. He stood and waited a minute for his head to stop spinning, took a hasty step toward the bathroom, and ended up face down on the carpet, sage green fibers up his nose and in his teeth. He spit out rug and God knew how much dirt before cranking his head around to see what had happened.
There was a rope knotted around his ankle. What the hell? Dean tied him to the bed? He was going to kill the bastard…once he used the john. After he saved Dean from the Deal, his brother would be fair game. Sam couldn't wait.
He ripped a nail down to the quick getting the knot loose, cursing the whole time, and it was all he could do not to moan in relief when he reached the toilet. A good whiff of his underarms got him in the shower. A shave to remove a lot of stubble, a floss and brush, and he started to feel human again.
Human or not, Sam still didn't know where his brother was. He felt skittish; a noise from the next room made him jump.
Dean's cell went right to voice mail again. "Dean. Really. Call me. And bring food. I'm starving."
He drank two bottles of water as he dressed, anxiety pricking at him. A car engine outside brought him to the door. There was no sign of the Impala when he swung it open, and he got a blast of humid, furnace-hot air for his trouble.
He sat on the bed and put on socks and shoes. Why was he worried about someone who had tied him to a bed, anyway? The smug turning-off-his-phone-and-tying-little-brother-to-the-bed jerk better not be hunting, and had better bring back something to eat or he was going to get a fist in his nose, Deal or no Deal.
Still, Sam kept looking at the door, willing it to open. After ten minutes, he left a third message for his brother. Something was wrong.
Dean woke up, cheek pressed into bark, relieved to be free of lurid dreams of sweltering heat and a searing sun baking everything to ash and dust. "Sam?" He cleared his throat, and tried again. "Sam?" Nothing. The lingering sunlight of the summer dusk was totally screwing with his time sense. It could have been anywhere between seven and nine p.m. Ten hours, maybe twelve now, squished by a tree.
Rocky was sitting almost directly overhead. "What are you…still doing here? Don't you…have a little tree bed…you should be in?" Squinting up, he considered. "Maybe you don't…want to leave…'cause you're a Rockette. Hadn't thought…about that. Chicks can't resist me."
But when the squirrel crossed from one branch to another, Dean's eyes widened. "Holy shit. Thanks for that image." Definitely a male. More shallow breaths. "Why do…rodents get balls…as big as their heads?" His stomach cramped, and he rolled his head to one side, dry heaving.
When he finally stopped, Rocky was a little closer. "Well, fuck, if this…isn't one of the…most stupid and disgusting…things that's ever happened to me." Movement caught his eye, and the squirrel reappeared on another branch. "And some…really stupid…and disgusting things…have happened to me."
Breathing was a lot harder than it should have been. Less talk. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift until a series of sneezes jolted him, gasping, back to awareness. Pain spiked everywhere. He worked his lids open to find black, beady eyes staring at him from a few inches away.
"Damn…upholstered rat!" The squirrel skittered a few branches away. Dean panted, trying to catch his breath. "Wait, wait. 'Fore you go…how 'bout getting me some water, huh? Bottle in my pack," he twitched a finger, "right there." A breathy chuckle hurt his chest. "Have to teach…you to work a zipper." God, he was tired.
Something brushed his cheek and startled him awake. Blinking his eyes clear, he watched the squirrel put a tentative paw on his nose. The little hand came out again, aiming for his mouth, but Dean was able to angle his head away. "At least buy me…dinner first. Hell…I'm easy. Bottle of water."
His nose itched. Well, if that wasn't fanfuckingtastic. He must be allergic to his little woodland friend. He sneezed, scaring the squirrel back up the tree and out of sight, and setting off a fire in his chest as broken ribs grated against each other. He sneezed again, and this time it was so was so explosive, he jostled his leg and, oh, sweet Jesus, he didn't know what was wrong with his leg, but it was too much. His vision tunneled to a single bright spot. Now would be a real good time to find me, Sam.
It had only been an hour. Not enough time to panic or call the cab company, even though he'd left the phone book open to their advertisement. Chewing his lip, Sam checked the parking lot for the twelfth time. In disgust, he started a pot of coffee, then plunked down in front of the laptop.
From what he remembered, on the way into town, his brother had decided to make an impromptu visit to the site despite Sam having reminded him—well honestly, telling him—they should research and prepare first, not go in blind. But Dean had turned the wheel and the Impala had left a cloud of dust behind them as they drove to the Adirondack Tree Farm and Nursery. "A quick recon," his brother had said with a grin. "Middle of the day. What could happen?"
Apparently something had happened. He tapped the touch pad to close the screen saver—now set predictably to porn—and waited until the monitor resolved to a page on the Wila. Scanning through the information quickly, Sam tabbed through the other open pages. Dean had figured it out.
A key rattled in the lock and he blew out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding. Jerking the door open, he growled, "What were you thinking tying—?"
Bobby Singer was looking back at him.
"Bobby?" Sam looked past him into the parking lot. "What are you doing here? Where's Dean? Is he parking the car?"
Bobby snorted. "Real nice to see you, too, Sam. I was out getting food since I was damn sure I'd broken the spell. Had to get enough for an army." He held up a couple of bags. "You gonna let me in?"
Sam stepped aside but didn't close the door until he took a last look around the parking lot for a glimpse of his brother. Sam watched their old friend drop the bags, shiny with grease, on the room table. Bobby didn't stop, instead he made his way to the coffee machine and poured two cups of coffee. Raising his eyebrows in a question, he held one out to Sam, gesturing to him to sit down.
Sam shifted from one foot to the other. "Where's Dean?" he repeated.
Frowning, Bobby gestured again, more forcefully.
Sam, well trained from childhood, reluctantly did what his "uncle" asked. He took the coffee cup as moved to the table and sat, but nerves set one knee bouncing. "Bobby, please. Where's my brother?"
"Boy, that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question." A callused hand dropped on Sam's shoulder. "He's all right, I'm sure of it." Dropping onto the chair next to Sam, Bobby took a large gulp of his coffee. "Here." Pushing two of the three bags to Sam's side of the table, his expression gentled, brows up, a small smile on his lips. "It'll be fine, Sam. I'm going to talk while you eat, and then we're going to retrieve your brother."
"Retrieve him? Damn it, I knew something was wrong. C'mon. You can tell me in the car." Sam pushed up from the table, but a firm hand on his shoulder kept him in place.
"Not going anywhere until you eat. Bet you're feeling a bit weak in the knees, too."
"How long's he been…? I can't sit here—"
"Sam. Listen to me. You haven't had anything to eat or drink that Dean and I didn't force in you for almost three days. We'll go find him, but not until you eat." Bobby upended one of the bags, and pointed at the wrapped burgers that spilled out onto the table. "All of these, at least."
Sam gaped at him, but his attention was drawn inexorably to the table. The smell was making his mouth water. He fiddled with the wrapping paper, lips quirking up. He was getting as bad as Dean.
"Close your mouth around one of those burgers before the flies get in. A few minutes ain't going to matter. The Wila isn't going to kill him and she's not dangerous with the right protection. All he had to do to kill her was pull out some of that long yellow hair. Worst case, he's been running around buck naked in the woods, singing and dancing..."
Sam looked up, raising his eyebrows, the better part of a cheeseburger in his mouth.
Bobby continued, "Just like Dean found you."
The burger went down the wrong way. Bobby was pounding on his back, ground beef was trying to force its way into his lungs, his eyes were watering, and crumbs were going everywhere. "I what?" Coughing, "I was what?"
"Naked as a jaybird. Trying to follow that blonde bimbo like a horny puppy." Bobby pulled his cap lower. "Leastwise, that's what Dean said."
"I…I don't remember."
"We couldn't take our eyes off you for two days, Sam, or you'd be out the door." Bobby's concerned expression dissolved into a full out shit-eating grin. "Keeping you in skivvies was hard enough, but it was nigh on impossible to keep you in the room." Piercing eyes met his over the rim of a coffee cup. "Dean could always catch your nudist ass before you got out of the parking lot. Me, I voted to hit you over the head. We compromised. Tied you to the bed just before he left."
Sam's cheeks were burning. Running around naked? A horny puppy? He was never going to hear the end of this. Rubbing his hands over his face, feeling the blush work down his neck, he opened his eyes on a long breath. "Um, I'm, ah, glad you compromised."
Bobby barked out a laugh.
Sam glared at him, but couldn't help laughing along when Bobby, eyes tearing up, choked out a story about Sam scaring a vacationing family in the parking lot.
He cleared his throat. "When did he leave? And why didn't he wait for me?" Focusing all of his anxiety into a single determined look, he demanded, "Where the hell is he, Bobby?"
His first thought was that his head was killing him. Second…he wasn't sure what the second one was. There was a noise, a shrill, raspy, screech that was starting to make his teeth itch. "Sam?" He breathed out harshly. His mouth felt like it was full of sand. "Rocky, if that's you… I'm so going to have Sam…make you into…something." The repetitive noise exacerbated the pounding in his head, making him wince.
It was full dark and a breeze brushed across his cheek, making him shiver. It had been so hot that afternoon he'd probably roasted a little bit. Licking his chapped lips with an even dryer tongue, he wondered what was taking Bobby so long to break the Wila's hold on Sam. It'd been…he didn't know how long it had been. They had to come soon. Another day of this heat… His right hand pushed uselessly toward his pocket. If he could reach his phone, he'd tell Bobby he'd been wrong about tying Sam to the bed. He'd tell him to go ahead and hit Sam over the head, or lock him in a shed, or the trunk of the Chevelle, anything, so someone could get there with some water. And a chain saw.
Knowing Bobby, and he knew Bobby really well, no way was he going to worry. It was only a Wila. Dean needed to tell Bobby— Another breeze felt like ice against his skin, but the relief was short-lived. He was burning up inside. He needed to tell Bobby it had nothing to do with a buxom blonde or linden blooms or anything supernatural. It had everything to do with one of those violent but brief summer storms. Lightning struck so close, he was momentarily blinded, and the resulting clap of thunder so loud, he didn't hear the tree start to groan and topple. He needed Bobby to worry.
At least when the tree came down, it had smashed him into the ground face up. He could see a sliver of sky and light from the sun, talk to a squirrel… Stars were barely visible through the mass of branches over him. That had to be better than staring at leaf litter and centipedes. He couldn't raise his head enough to see, but it felt like the trunk came up on the left, crossed his torso compressing his left arm to his chest, and continued over his right shoulder. Branches pinned down everything else.
A scrambling sound, and Rocky was back, still screeching, lashing his tail around like a whip. "What the hell…is the matter with you? Don't you sleep?" The squirrel clambered a few branches away, still calling. There was something he should be remembering about that noise.
Squirrel alarm noise. That was it. Rocky was scared of something, but what would be after a squirrel in the middle of the night? A snake? No, snakes were asleep, and so should little tree rats. Maybe an owl. He'd heard them calling plenty of times while he was hunting, and seen them, too, gliding silently on immense wings… He hoped Rocky wasn't on the menu. "Rocky, buddy, you'd…better shut up."
Something was moving on his right. Dean hoped it was something friendly because there was squat he could do. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe right, and he was so damn hot, he couldn't think straight. A deer would be okay, or a little groundhog maybe, just please not a bear, or a cougar, or a wendigo coming to eat him or Rocky. Whatever it was, it was nosing around the tree.