It'd been an hour of whining chain saws as the rescue crew cleared limbs and branches from the oak tree, preparing for what they called "the lift." Bobby and Sam had been relegated to a safe distance during the process, the rescue team allowing only the medic to stay by Dean. Sam paced back and forth, chewing on a hangnail, constantly positioning himself to keep as clear a view of his brother as he could.
Dean didn't react as the IV was inserted and he was layered in cool packs. When the last chain saw was pulled away and silenced, the medic circled the trunk and came up on Dean's left side, getting down on his knees to inspect the bleeding leg. Finally, he stood and circled back to their position on the sidelines.
He introduced himself as Tad. "Your brother?"
Sam nodded. "Dean. This is our uncle, Bobby. How is he? How much longer before you get the tree off him? Shouldn't the equipment be here by now?"
"Whoa." Tad chuckled and held his hands up in front of him. "Let me see if I can take this in order. He's as stable as I can make him until the tree is removed. About ten minutes. That's because the equipment is almost here. You said he had a seizure before we arrived?"
Sam nodded. "He'd been talking a little before but he wasn't making any sense."
"His temperature's down a little from sky high and I'm pumping fluids into him, but he's not going to be out of danger until we get him to a hospital. Heatstroke is serious business. The sooner we have him out of here, the better chance he has."
Sam's mouth went bone dry. He ran a hasty hand through his hair, pushing his bangs away from his face. "Is there any good news?"
Bobby interrupted. "What about his leg? Looks like something might be sticking in it."
"You've got to remember, Dean is incredibly lucky to be in as good a shape as he is. He wasn't immediately crushed. He's disoriented, but he didn't slip into a coma. He could have been run through by branches and bled out before you found him." Tad put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "He's alive against a lot of odds."
Bobby cleared his throat and looked away, wiping at his eyes.
Sam let out a huge breath, feeling some of the tension drain out of his back and shoulders. "Thanks for letting us know. But," Sam said, starting to frown, "his leg?"
Tad lifted his ball cap and scratched his head, looking back at Dean, reminding Sam suddenly of Bobby. "I'm worried about that. Normally, we're able to see an impalement, and we make sure not to remove it. The doctors do that in surgery. If there is a branch in his leg…we can't get to it and cut it from the tree until the trunk is lifted. And lifting the trunk is going to remove the branch."
The medic's radio crackled into life. "The chopper's almost here. I've got to keep him as still as possible while the trunk is being lifted." He nodded to them both and walked back to Dean.
Sam looked at Bobby. "I hate it when anyone talks about our 'luck.' Knowing Dean, he'll wake up in time to have a panic attack about flying."
Bobby nodded. "Let's hope he stays unconscious."
Craning his neck, Sam saw Tad moving to put a hand on Dean's shoulder, pressing him back to the ground. "What'd I tell you about our luck? He's awake." Anxiously, he took a few steps forward, stopping when Bobby gripped his arm.
"Sam, leave them to it for now."
"He's never going to hold still." Sam fidgeted in place, splitting his attention between the approaching helicopter and his brother, watching Dean thrash as the chuffing noise grew louder and louder. Sam finally shook off Bobby's hand and sprinted to the tree.
Dropping to his knees next to Tad, he held Dean's face between his hands, trying not to dislodge the oxygen mask. Dean's eyes were wide, panic-stricken, darting back and forth, seeing only things locked in his imagination. The mask fogged with the staccato rhythm of his breathing. "Dean! Look at me. I'm right here!"
Tad pulled at his arm until Sam, exasperated, looked away from Dean. Sam shouted, "Can you give him anything? A sedative, painkiller?"
Tad shook his head and shouted back, "Compromised breathing. Coma."
All Sam could do was nod, the chopper now overhead. The noise was mindboggling, wind from the blades whipping hair into his eyes. Focused back on his brother, Sam leaned forward, trying to catch his brother's eyes, shouting into his ear. "Dean! It's me, Sam. You have to calm down."
Dean stilled, glassy eyes locked on Sam with a manic intensity. His lips were moving. Sam lifted the mask and put his ear right to Dean's mouth, cupping his hands to block out the noise of the machine overhead. What he could make out was a litany of denials, huffed out in painful gasps.
"No, God, not you, not Sam, not him, no, no, no…"
Sam grabbed Dean's biceps and squeezed, rubbing his thumb back and forth, using the other hand to keep Dean's face pointed right at him. He got his mouth by Dean's ear and shouted. "Can you hear me, man? Everything's going to be fine. I'm right here. I'm fine. You have to calm down, Dean, right now."
Dean's muscles were still taut, his jaw clenching and unclenching, but Sam was sure he saw a barely perceptible nod. "Good. Good. Look. I'm going to put the oxygen mask back on, okay? Hold still. You have to hold still. Understand? You have to hold still or we won't be able to get you out of here."
Another nod, Dean's breath fogging the mask again.
Sam hunched a shoulder and did his best to protect his brother from the noise, the shouting, and the frantic activity all around them. He bent forward again to shout in Dean's ear. "That's it. That's it. I'm going to be right here, Dean. You keep looking at me, right here," he leaned back, pointing at his eyes, "look right here and try to relax." Dean's eyes swung upward, and Sam leaned forward to block the view of the helicopter. He patted Dean's cheek, bringing his brother's erratic attention back to him.
Tad shook his shoulder. "They've got the trunk secured. We're going to lift in another minute. We've got to move!"
Sam knew he had to move but the thought of leaving Dean trapped, pinned, delirious, alone with this…mayhem all around him? It made him stop breathing. Despite hands on his shoulders and arms, he grabbed Dean's duffel and rooted through it, looking for something, anything, that might help. His fingers closed on a piece of cloth just as a calloused hand dragged his chin up and Bobby dropped into his field of vision.
Shouting "Okay, okay, I'm coming!" to Bobby, he bent forward one last time, his hands frantically rolling the cloth, a t-shirt probably, into a blindfold, and shouted in his brother's ear, "Close your eyes and don't move!" He tied the cloth over Dean's eyes in a rough knot and allowed Bobby to pull him and the duffel up and away, until he spun and ran with Bobby to the edge of the clearing. They both turned to watch.
The clearing was transformed, had transformed while he'd been focused on Dean. It was larger, cleared of brush and trees. The tree crossing over Dean was stripped of branches and trussed for lifting, a neat web of lines leading back up to the chopper. Holding his breath, Sam watched Tad gesture and yell, then locked his eyes on Dean. The lines tightened, and the tree appeared to shudder.
Dean's head jerked up, mouth open, straining against the tree, the noise, the blindfold, and only Bobby's strong arm kept Sam from running back to his brother. His attention was drawn to the single remaining crewman running a chain saw through the last pieces of tree trunk still attached to the stump. An involuntary gasp was forced from his throat as the crewman threw himself to the ground just as the trunk, slowly rising, swung in a lazy arc, passing a few feet over Dean and the crewman before lifting out of sight.
Sam shouldn't have been with him in Hell, Dean was sure of that. But he was in Hell, and there was Sam… He didn't remember. He didn't remember how this worked, and what they were doing to him… Had done to him? It was so damn hot. Hellfire. Must be hellfire making him feel like the sun had gone nova
And there was Sam, all emo and concerned, telling him to calm down and hold still, and there was a big piece of wood on his shoulder that reminded him of something, but he couldn't think straight. But Sam was right there. Or something that looked like Sam, and even if his eyes turned black right that moment, Dean wouldn't give a damn because it meant he wasn't alone anymore.
Then Sam was putting something over his eyes and yelling at him, and it was so damn loud all of a sudden he lost track of everything until his leg lit up like fireworks and his fingers were digging into leaves and dirt, and he couldn't bring in enough air to scream.
Tad bent at the waist and raced forward as soon as the trunk was above five feet, bellowing orders to his team, to Bobby, and to Sam. Sam could see Dean moving now, one hand scrabbling at the oxygen mask.
Sam fell on his knees by Dean's head, his right hand on the mask, his left pressing down on a bleeding wound in Dean's chest. "No, no, leave that on. It's all right. It's all right. The tree is gone."
Bobby dropped heavily next to them, his grunt audible now that the helicopter had moved off, and pressed both hands down on a puncture wound about halfway between Dean's hip and knee. Sam held on as Dean's back arched, muscles and tendons standing out in high relief up his neck and shoulders. "Hang on, Dean! Hang on."
Things were moving impossibly fast. Tad was yelling into the mike on his shoulder while he unwrapped field dressings. He signaled Bobby to pull his hands up, and quickly applied pressure bandages in their place, wrapping Dean's leg with neat precision.
Dean's muscles relaxed, but his eyes were rolling under his lids, breath sharp and fast. He didn't react when Sam covertly tugged the Colt free and tucked it into the back of his jeans with his own weapon. Dean was probably going to have a gun-sized bruise for a while.
Tad immobilized the leg and bandaged the other smaller puncture wounds, then came up on the right and wrapped Dean's neck in a cervical collar. He stood, shouting to the rest of the rescue team. Two men ran up with a metal framework, straps dangling. It was a rescue basket from the helicopter. Sam hadn't even seen them drop it off.
He picked up Dean's left hand—the one that had been under the tree—in his own, and pulled at a handful of long blonde hair, unwrapping it carefully from around Dean's fingers. "Her hair. You got the Wila, didn't you?" Dean's hand flexed around the hair, holding tight, his head rolling against the collar. Sam leaned forward, talking loudly over the shouted directions and the slow whump-whump of the approaching helicopter. "Hey. I got you. You're almost out of here."
The hand Sam was holding started to jerk erratically. "Dean, it's okay. Calm down."
The chopper came in lower this time, its engine and backwash drowning out every sound, and throwing leaves and branches up in a cyclone around them. The basket was maneuvered next to his brother. Sam couldn't believe how practiced this looked, like they'd rehearsed this scenario dozens of times, everyone moving like clockwork, steady, precise, controlled.
Dean's hand pulled from his grip. Looking down, he discovered Dean staring wide-eyed at the approaching helicopter. Sam put a hand out to block the view, but he was too late. Dean began to struggle weakly, pulling at the mask again.
Sam grabbed Tad's arm, roaring over the noise, "Tell me you can give him something! He's scared of flying!"
Instead of answering, Tad shouted back, "Help me roll him on his side!" The EMTs pushed Dean up and over almost into Sam's lap.
Sam's stomach dropped. Muscle spasms were rolling up and down Dean's arm. Another seizure. His mouth went dry when Dean's eyes rolled up, body trembling and shaking. Sam counted, his brain saying thirty seconds would be okay, acceptable, but screw it, thirty seconds was too goddamn long as he counted twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two…thirty-three, thirty-four. It wasn't until he was up to forty that Dean's body went limp, his head again rolling in Sam's cupped palm. Frantic fingers pressed into Dean's neck, Sam felt his stomach lurch again. There was no pulse.
He reached out a long arm and dragged Tad closer, screaming, "He's not breathing!"
Tad shouted again and one of the EMTs swarming around scrambled to bring a portable defibrillator. Despite the chaos of noise and wind, Tad set up the equipment calmly and unerringly. Sam was suddenly yanked backward and dragged from his brother's side. Bobby didn't stop until they were halfway to the edge of the clearing, then stood, both hands clamped down on Sam's shoulders.
Ted applied the paddles, and Dean's back arched, electricity coursing through him once, twice… Sam had to turn away for a moment, the almost overwhelming reminder of watching this happen before making him nauseated. Seeing movement, he looked back. Tad and the EMTs all moved at once, and Sam could only watch as Dean was rolled onto a backboard, lifted, and strapped into the basket.
The basket started to lift.
Bobby's strong arms were the only reason Sam didn't go right up with it, dangling from the basket by his fingertips. It seemed to take forever, but it was probably no more than five minutes until the basket was winched up and safely brought inside the copter. Sam's eyes remained glued on the huge machine as it banked and climbed, not looking away until it disappeared over the trees and into the slanting light of the setting sun.
Tad clapped him on the shoulder, then started to pack up.
Eyes tearing up, Sam blinked them clear, rolling his aching neck and shoulders even as his abdomen cramped. It took a minute to realize Bobby was talking to him.
"We'll drop off Boadicea on the way to the hospital, okay, Sam? Sam?"
He dragged his eyes back and down to Bobby's concerned face. "What?"
"The Peterson dog. Her name is Boadicea. We'll drop her off on the way to the hospital."
"It's Boudica. No one says Boadicea anymore."
"It's just a dog, Sam."
Sam pulled out the hank of blonde hair and held it up. "He got the Wila. Found this in his hand. Dean killed it."
Bobby reached out and touched the flaxen hair. His hands looked rusty and flaking. They were covered in dried blood. Dean's blood.
Sam's stomach roiled. Doubling over, he puked right on Bobby's boots.
"I killed her though, didn't I?"
"Yes. I already told you. You killed her."
Sam was starting to look worried. Dean would have to remember not to ask that again. Still, it was hard not to when most of the last couple of days were blurry. "Oh. And then a tree fell on me." He rubbed his face, shifting uncomfortably under the starchy sheets. "I don't remember."
"Good." Sam scooted the chair a little closer. "You were hallucinating at the end. Looked pretty rough."
Dean lifted the sheet off his leg and rubbed around the bandage. "What's rough is that I do remember chasing your naked ass around the parking lot. That's an image I could do without. Should've let Bobby knock you out."
"Yeah, you should have."
Dean gave up and tossed the sheet off him, letting it puddle at the end of the bed.
"What's wrong with your leg?"
"I don't know. They shaved it. Feels funny."
"Probably time for your pain meds."
"Thank you, Doctor Winchester."
As if on cue, a nurse and doctor came in, the nurse checking Dean's temperature and blood pressure while the doctor scanned the chart.
"I'm going to check your leg," the doc said.
Thankfully, Sam excused himself to get some coffee, making this visit slightly less demeaning.
The exam was the usual frustrating blend of the impersonal, treating Dean's wound as if it were attached to a mannequin, and the intensely personal, asking question after question about evacuations and urine production, how he felt, and did his ears ring, and crap like that.
"So, when can I check out of here? Going to recoup at a friend's house as soon as you release me."
"I would normally be tempted to keep you another day, but with reasonable care, immobilization, and pain management, you'll probably do better out than in." The doctor tapped a few things on his PDA, then looked up. "We're waiting on the results of a culture and the last blood workup. If those are clear, we'll send you home with antibiotics this afternoon."
The doctor breezed out, leaving the nurse to clean and rebandage his leg. By the time she was done, sweat was beading on Dean's forehead. She smiled, gave him a tiny paper cup with two painkillers in it, and held out a glass of water. If she noticed his hand shook a little bit, she was kind enough not to say anything.
The pills were starting to give a hazy glow to the room when Sam ambled back with two cups of coffee. "Doing okay?"
"Yeah. Doc said I could leave this afternoon."
"Good. Bobby will probably kill the fatted calf."
"Cook great big steaks, you idiot." Sam set Dean's coffee on the rolling table and swung it up to the bed, then sat on the edge of the mattress, one leg swinging. "Who's Rocky?"
"You talked about him. I can't figure it out."
Dean looked up at the ceiling for a minute, culling his brain for a clue. Two words came to him. "Brunswick stew."
"Rocky what? Makes your favorite Brunswick stew?"
Dean grinned. "No, no. He goes in the stew." Sam's look of horrified consternation was so classic little brother, Dean started to laugh, and that made Sam more horrified, which set him off again. Wiping at his streaming eyes, he choked out, "Rocky was a squirrel." Still laughing, "We were close, Sam. Close."
"I guess he had a nest in the tree. Maybe… Could you…?"
"Go rescue a squirrel nest? No, Dean, I won't. Even if I could find it, the parents have certainly carried the babies to a new nest by now. Squirrels always do."
"Are you bullshitting me?"
"No." Sam blinked and looked down. Definitely bullshitting.
Dean cleared his throat. "Uh, I have a question for you, okay, and it's, it's embarrassing."
"Why do I keep thinking about Bambi?"
Sam hesitated for a moment. "Because you're insane?"
"Real funny, Poindexter."
Sam dropped his head a little, frowning. "It was worse than I thought under that tree, wasn't it?"
"I guess." Taking a breath, Dean pulled up a smile. "I can't remember shit about what happened and now I can't get that stupid deer out of my head."
Sam shook his head slowly, smiling. "I might have the cure for that. Did you ever see Bambi versus Godzilla?" Sam pulled up his laptop and flipped it open. "One of my favorites."
Dean choked a little bit. "Bambi and Godzilla? This day is looking better and better."
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