A/N Instead of boring you with the usual lengthy author's note, I'm just going to say that "Supernatural" is not mine. Now on with the story!
Into The Woods
Sam breathed in the cool fresh air with a smile and a blissful sigh.
"What are you so happy about?" Dean griped as he trudged forward.
"Hey, I've spent the last two days locked in a cage," Sam said, stretching his arms high above him and rubbing out a kink in his neck, "it's nice to be able to stretch and breathe in the fresh air instead of being cooped up in a friggin' cage. Don't you think?"
Dean just grunted and kept moving.
"What's the matter Dean? You OK?" Sam frowned, picking up the pace to match his. "Slow down."
"I just want to get back, Sam," Dean frowned, squinting in the waning light.
"I know how you feel," Sam agreed, "I'm dying for a cheeseburger and a shower. In that order."
"Shower first, you reek dude," Dean huffed as he kept going. "Man I wish Kathleen just gave us the damn ride."
Sam frowned, "It can't be that far, can it?"
"Far enough," Dean spared him a glance. "A couple of hours if we don't stop."
"That's not too bad," Sam shrugged, "besides, I think her giving us a ride would be pushing our luck. Let's just be glad she didn't arrest you for that stunt you pulled. By the way, thanks for that."
"Anytime little brother, anytime, just stop going missing OK?" Dean said, panting a bit, there was a small pause as he caught his breath, "Besides, I am grateful. She helped me get you back, I'm grateful I just…" His foot hit a root that was sticking out and the only thing that kept him from falling face first in the Minnesota mud was Sam's hand reaching out to grab his shoulder.
"Hey," Sam said gently, "slow down man, this isn't a race." He tightened his grip when Dean started to march onwards again. Dean was oddly pliant when Sam turned him to face him, "Hey, you OK? Look at me," Sam studied his eyes to check for concussion. Knowing Dean he wouldn't share any other symptoms unless they were so bad he had no choice. "How's your head?"
Dean batted him away, "It's fine Sam. I wasn't the one who spent two days in a cage."
"Well I'm fine," Sam insisted, "They didn't even hurt me. Not a mark on me. When they nabbed me I think they just used a sedative to knock me out. Didn't even feel any side effects."
"Yeah, what's up with that? You're the one getting kidnapped and the only one who got out of this mess unscathed," Dean groused.
"Got lucky I guess," Sam shrugged.
Dean's eyes glazed over a moment, as though recalling a memory he wanted to forget, "Yeah. Well, anyway, I'm fine. Looks worse than it is."
"Sure I'm sure," Dean insisted and to prove his point he started to sway. He took one step forward and his knee buckled. Sam grabbed him to hold him steady as Dean groaned softly.
"Right," Sam deadpanned as Dean's crankiness suddenly made perfect sense, "you're right as rain at the moment."
Dean rolled his eyes and then paled and for a moment Sam thought he might puke.
"Maybe we should take a break," Sam suggested, "We're far enough from the…"
"No," Dean stated firmly, releasing a shaky breath, "we keep moving."
"Why?" Sam demanded, "Dean, you look like you're about to fall over, rest a minute."
"I can't," Dean shook his head and pushed forward.
"OK fine, if not for you then for me, I'm tired of walking," Sam pushed, knowing Dean would probably stop for him.
"Come on, Sammy," Dean called after him, "pick up the pace were wasting daylight here."
Sam frowned and jogged until he was in front of him and gently shoved at his shoulders to halt his movement. Sam's left hand was met with something warm and sticky as Dean let out an involuntary cry, turning sheet white as both knees buckled but he managed to remain standing as he stumbled aside, grasping at his shoulder with one hand as the other shakily grabbed a tree for balance as he leaned forward and heaved.
"Dean!" Sam gasped in alarm, rushing to his side, regarding how his hand was sticky but not as bloody as he expected based on Dean's reaction, "Shit, I'm sorry. I had no idea…"
"It's…OK," Dean muttered between heaves. Sam rested his hand on Dean's back, alarmed at how much Dean was trembling. When he stopped he started to stand upright but suddenly tilted and Sam caught him, pulled him away from the mess and eased him into a sitting position. "Fuck that hurt," Dean muttered, lowering his head into his hands.
Sam grasped Dean's chin, urging Dean to move his hands from his face and look at him. Dean's eyes were glassy with pain and there was a cool sweat lining his brow. He looked down at Dean's left shoulder, where he accidentally hit it. There was a mark on his jacket that he hadn't noticed before, a burn mark, "Dean, what did they do to you?" Sam asked as he peeled the jacket away, and then the long sleeved outer shirt. The burn tore through three layers of clothing and his t-shirt clung to his burnt flesh, and when Sam started to pull the fabric away Dean jerked away with a hiss.
"Don't touch it."
"Dean, what did they…?"
"Hot poker," Dean grunted, "now I know what a branded cow feels like."
"Shit," Sam murmured in sympathy. Then his face hardened, "What did they want?"
"They tortured you Dean," Sam said angrily, hand clenching into fists, "tortured you!"
Dean closed his eyes tiredly, "Sam, relax OK? It wasn't that bad."
"Dean, they branded you with a hot poker! Do you know how close that is to your heart how…"
"Sam," Dean whispered, "I know. OK? But I'm fine. It could've been a lot worse. They almost jammed that thing into my eye." He shuddered, the lines of pain on his forehead deepening.
"They what?" Sam snapped, Dean's attempt at calming him backfiring spectacularly at that revelation.
"But they didn't," Dean reminded him, sarcastically gesturing to his bruised but otherwise unmarred face, "See?" He inhaled sharply as the pain in his shoulder flared and that turned out to be what calmed Sam down as he drew a deep breath and focused on the wound again.
"That looks bad," Sam commented, "you should've said something so we could've taken care of it right away."
"Oh yeah? When?" Dean asked, "And with what? Why do you think I tried to push my luck with Kathleen? For shits and giggles? Laziness? It's fine Sam, just leave it alone right now. Don't worry about it, we'll take care of it when we get back to the motel." Dean leaned back and closed his eyes, visibly trembling.
"You're in shock."
"No I'm not," Dean insisted, though he did feel a little shocky, but compared to injuries he had in the past, it wasn't that bad, "quit worrying about me. I wasn't the one who got kidnapped by a family of whackjobs and spent two days in a cage."
"I thought we established that I'm fine. You're the one who's hurt."
"What's up with that anyway? How is it that you get kidnapped and are the only one who gets out unscathed?" Dean groused with a sigh.
Sam narrowed his eyes with concern, "Dean, we've been over that already."
"You got that right."
"Well, it's not as bad as it looks."
"Dean, you've got a hole burnt into your shoulder!"
"Now you're exaggerating," Dean mused with a small grin.
"And a concussion," Sam continued, "anything else I should know about?"
"Other than bruises, which I assume is a given? Not really."
"What's that supposed to mean? 'Not really'?"
"I might've been stabbed once or twice?"
"Not deep," Dean amended, he lifted his shirt slightly, "see? That girl was fast with that thing but I moved out of the way before it could go deep."
Sam looked at the wound and was relieved to see that it was comparatively superficial, but it was still bleeding sluggishly and needed to be taken care of just like his other wounds. "No wonder you were in a hurry."
Dean shrugged but hissed when the burn pulled, "That and focusing on getting back to the motel was a nice distraction. I knew that if I stopped I'd start to notice how much it hurts," Dean confessed, "and that it would be that much harder to get going again."
"That how you feel now?"
Dean nodded tightly.
"I see your point," Sam sighed, glancing around at the forest surrounding them and the greying sky, "Well, give it another minute, maybe you'll feel better after resting a bit."
Dean shook his head, "No. Now. The longer I sit here the less likely I'll be up to moving, I'm feeling stiff as it is. Besides, want to get back before dark."
"Or before it rains," Sam added with a frown because the clouds were starting to form rather quickly.
"That too," Dean's voice was strained. He held out a shaky hand, "Help me up?"
Sam bounced on his heels in indecision for a moment before he nodded, rising to his feet and bending over to help his brother to his feet. Dean swayed and nearly collapsed once he was vertical, but Sam kept him upright, giving him a second to gain his equilibrium. "You up to this?"
"Don't really have much of a choice, do I?" Dean huffed, "At least my legs are fine."
"Don't jinx it," Sam warned lightly.
"Yeah, yeah," Dean waved him off and took a few uneasy steps, blinking back the dizziness that was making the dirt path rock from side to side. Sam hovered a few minutes until they found their stride, then he backed off, knowing Dean hated it when he hovered too long but still kept a close watch on his brother.
They walked for about ten minutes before it started to lightly rain and Dean started to struggle to maintain his balance. Sam sidled up beside him and wrapped his arm around his brother to steady him and it bothered him when Dean didn't really complain. But then again Dean seemed too focused on putting one foot in front of the other to really notice. He really wasn't paying attention to anything but moving forward along the path.
It was getting a little chilly, but not bad but Dean was shivering, his body trembling enough to worry Sam. When Dean tripped again his knees folded and his head lolled onto Sam's shoulder. Sam moved with him, letting Dean fall gently to the damp ground as he crouched beside him, "We should rest."
Dean nodded, leaning into Sam, breathless and shaking. Sam checked his pupils with a frown as Dean struggled to focus and opted to let his eyes slide shut.
"Maybe I should go ahead and come get you," Sam mused thoughtfully, checking his brother's pulse, biting his lip in worry at how rapid and thready his pulse was, how clammy his brother's skin felt.
"I'm fine," Dean shivered. "Jus' gimme a minute."
Sam nodded, "OK Dean." He glanced around, "We're not far from the main road, maybe we should try and flag a car down."
"With all the cops goin' back and forth?" Dean exclaimed, "Bad idea."
"Then what else can we do?" Sam asked, "You don't look like you're in any shape to keep walking and I don't want to leave you here."
Dean rubbed his eyes and drew a deep shaky breath, "I'm OK. Help me up and let's go."
Sam blushed, hesitating, "Actually, give me a minute. I gotta go."
Dean chuckled, "OK princess."
"I'll be right back," Sam promised, jogging down into the ditch to move behind the wall of trees.
Dean put his hand on the wound on his shoulder and shuddered as pain shot through him, worrying at how hot the skin surrounding the burn was starting to get. He could feel a fever coming on and that wasn't a good sign. They really needed to get back to civilization to take care of it before infection could settle in.
The cool temperature suddenly dropped and Dean shivered violently. He felt a whisper on his neck that gave him a sudden chill that had nothing to do with his injuries. Suddenly on alert Dean tensed, felt for his gun but realized he was unarmed. Sam too. "Sam!" Dean called out, "You might wanna hurry."
I gave them a weapon, a head start, gave 'em a fighting chance…
The words shuddered through him, settling in his gut with dread. Dean slowly rose to his feet, closing his eyes to combat the dizziness. Once he was vertical and the feeling of nausea subsided Dean opened his eyes and saw nothing was there.
"Sam!" Dean called again, "Hurry up, I think we've got company!"
There was no answer and the dread in his gut solidified, nearly sending him crashing to the damp ground once again. He held his left arm close and breathed through the pain as he trudged towards where Sam was.
Sam was no where to be seen.
Dean stumbled, grabbing a tree for balance. Not again, this couldn't be happening again. He had no way of fighting back, he could barely stay on his feet, how was he to find Sam?
You, the voice hissed through the trees, we had a good thing going and then you had to come along and screw it all up.
Suddenly the ghost of Pa Bender materialized in front of him and pressed his ghostly hand against the wound on his shoulder. It burned with the same intensity it had when the hot poker was first jammed against his flesh. Dean gasped, sliding down the tree grunting in agony. He could hear Pa Bender laughing, that same sadistic laugh he had when he was explaining their messed up set up but it was a distant echo as Dean fought to stay focused, stay conscious, stay breathing.
The ghost of Pa Bender grabbed his temples and Dean howled in pain as the fire that burned into his shoulder seemed to burn into his brain.
When he let go Dean collapsed face first into the ground, already deep in a painless unconsciousness.
A/N Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think! I'll be updating hopefully next week.