Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
"I am," Paytah menacingly vowed as he instantly materialized in front of Dean, his knife pressing hard enough into the flesh of the hunter's throat to draw blood.
Dean was set to retaliate, to unload a round of rocksalt into Paytah but the idea turned to ash when the Indian caught his gun holding hand in his glacier cold grip and squeezed. With every bone in his hand in jeopardy of being crushed, Dean grudgingly surrendered his hold on the shotgun with a grunt of pain. The clatter of his gun hitting the cave floor echoed in the cavern and he wondered if that was the equivalent to the fat lady singing, was the beginning note to the end credits of his life. Because standing there, defenseless, trying to stare down Paytah's ancient gaze was no way to win a war, stall for time… or stay alive.
For a split second, all Sam could do was panic, fear the worst. But a beat later, rationale returned, had him ruthlessly squashing his burning desire to charge for Paytah, commanded him to act like a hunter, use his instincts, think things through. But even those standbys were being stonewalled because, from his present position, unloading a barrage of rocksalt would only guarantee Dean took the brunt of the shotgun shell.
Tightening his purposeful grip on his shotgun, he took a slow step to the right, calculated that he needed to take two more before he could gain a clear shot at Paytah. But the ghost wasn't going to let him gain that tactical advantage, had sensed his intent and countered by wrapping his hand around the back of Dean's neck and brutally dragging the hunter so close they were practically breathing the same air.
At Paytah's deliberate maneuver to use his friggin' brother as a shield, Sam clenched his jaw hard enough to chip enamel and his eyes conveyed a silent promise of retribution to Paytah for using his love for his brother against him.
Dean's struggle to resist Paytah's rough manhandling was put down so easily, Dean doubted Sam even knew he had tried to jerk out of the hold. Now he flinched physically as the Indian's rancid smell of death plummeted his face, consoled himself with the lie that he was bidding his time, that he had enough sense and experience to know that putting up a fight wouldn't achieve him any gain, not now, not yet.
Course he would have done the next best thing to physically lashing out at Paytah by offering up some smart aleck taunt to goad his antagonist, if the friggin' knife pressed against his throat didn't make swallowing precarious and speaking suicidal. Nor was there any joy in silence because Paytah's glower said plenty: all on the topic of how much he was going to relish scalping him. There was a silent spiteful promise to do it nice and slow, to make sure he didn't die with dignity, would go out screaming, begging for mercy.
Railing against giving the Indian that satisfaction, Dean vowed to fight with the last meager grain of strength he had left. And to save Sam, he would climb off his deathbed or die, had done both before and was willing do each again, regardless of his pact with Sam to not do anything reckless. Because if either of them wanted to walk out of there alive, reckless might be the only game in town.
So his mind made up, Dean defiantly lowered his chin to meet Paytah's hate filled glower, didn't wince as the knife blade sank deeper into his throat. "Do it," he gruffly incited, hoped that Sam would put the distraction of Paytah scalping him to good use.
Hurling silent curses at Dean for provoking the ghost to kill him, Sam turned his attention to Paytah, grimly knew that the Indian held his brother's life in his hands and making empty threats wouldn't do a bit of good. "You want Wanikiya, I can get him here. Just let Dean go," he bargained, though he knew he was showing their hand a little early in the game.
Paytah, however, didn't even acknowledge his proposition, gave no reaction at all to the teasing notion of Wanikiya coming to the cave, coming to him. And that indifference sent Sam into a tail spin of doubt, made him fear that all their planning was in vain, that, when it came down to it, Paytah cared more about killing Dean than punishing Wanikiya. It left Sam on the verge of abandoning the pretense of strength and simply making a plea for Dean's life.
Refusing to let the younger's false offer sway his intentions, Paytah repulsively demanded as his eyes bore into the elder brother's green depths, "You think he deserves your forgiveness." He jerked his head toward Sam as he continued. "He has betrayed you and abandoned you, has brought shame to your family." Seeing the stubborn denial in the elder's eyes, he lowly snarled, "He will decimate your soul again. He can not change who he is!"
Sam couldn't suppress the shudder Patyah's grim prediction engendered. And as much as he wanted to deny it, part of him feared that it was true. That he would hurt Dean all over again, like he had so many times before.
Refusing to let the charges against Sam go unchallenged, Dean uncompromisingly held Paytah's gaze. "You're wrong. He saved my soul. Managed to salvage whatever good is still left in me. And no matter how many times he's left, what matters more is that he came back."
Paytah's bitter laugh echoed in the cave, made the temperature drop until Dean and Sam's breaths were evidenced by puffs of white in the air. "You will never have peace…not until you rip him from your heart," he bleakly prophesied.
Knowing that he was most likely sentencing himself to a death, Dean nevertheless said what he meant with every fiber of his being. "Never. Going. To. Happen."
At Dean's refusal to disown him, Sam saw rage wash over Paytah. Fearing that Dean's loyalty, love for him would get his brother murdered right before his eyes, he started to make a run for Dean, was all set to make some desperate, last minute ditch effort to save his brother's life. But again Paytah preempted his reflexes, flung Dean half way across the cave, hopelessly out of his reach.
Helplessly watching Dean collide with the far wall of the cave before dropping heavily to the ground, Sam felt his heart lurch when Dean didn't move, didn't even seem to be breathing. Anxious to get to Dean, he had taken two running steps before Paytah was suddenly in front of him, blocking his path.
"If he won't banish you from his side…I will," Paytah decreed, his eyes holding the savagery of his tribe's raw beginnings.
Fear should have washed over Sam, instead relief did. Relief that Paytah's rage was shifting to the right brother, to him, to the one who had left…betrayed his brother, like Wanikiya had Paytah. Submissively lowering his shotgun, he stood taller, waited for the judgment to be meted out, to know Dean's safety would no longer be in jeopardy. But at the Indian's mirthless smile, he knew he had misinterpreted the Indian's intentions. That death would be too swift a punishment for him, for his betrayal. He was still guesstimating what Paytah's true plan was when the Indian vanished and the cave started to shake, sent shale and stalactites raining down from the cave ceiling a few feet in front of him…and effectively beginning to form a wall between him and Dean.
Sam was running before he could process his logic, just knew in his gut that if he let Paytah separate him from Dean, they were lost. To each other…maybe to life itself.
Diving through the cascade of rock, Sam grunted as his body was plummeted with falling shale and then he was colliding with something made of flesh, blood and bone: Dean. Felt the air go out of his lungs as his momentum came to a jarring halt, heard a matching grunt erupt by his ear.
Though he knew it was impossible to protect Dean if the entire roof collapsed, that didn't stop Sam from curling over his brother, trying to shield Dean's body with his own, to take the brunt of the shale still coming lose all around them. He grunted as some pieces smacked his back like a primitive dodge ball game.
It seemed an eternity before the earth stilled and the cave seemed to settle back on its foundation. Finally the shale rainfall petered out completely.
Blinking away the dust that gritted in his eyes and coughing on the polluted air, Sam found that it didn't make any difference if he had his eyes open or closed, all he saw either way was unmitigated darkness. Blindly grasping onto Dean's cotton shirt under his hands, he raspingly called out, "Dean?! You alright?!"
Between having the breath knocked out of him at Sam's tackle, the earth rocking and rolling under him and his injured side on fire with agony, Dean mutely nodded his lie before it registered that Sam couldn't see that. It took more effort than it should have for him to marshal breath into his lungs and then, what should have been a belligerent comeback came out as a weak, breathless croak of "Yeah."
Sam let the lie pass. It was enough that Dean was breathing, was speaking, sort of. Shifting slightly so he could reach his pocket, he pulled out his lighter and sparked the flame to life. But he didn't do the smart thing, didn't do what every good hunter would do and take in his surroundings, try to see if his shotgun had made it to this side of the wall, not to mention determine the threat level. Instead his entire focus was drawn down to his brother, who he was effectively pinning to the ground.
Though a heavy coating of dust covered Dean's features, Sam didn't miss the bleeding gash on his brother's forehead or the fact that Dean had yet to order him off him, was lying limply under his considerable weight. "Can you move?" he worriedly inquired, eyes holding Dean's in the dim light, his hand possessively fisting in Dean's jacket, even as he ignored his own body's pain receptors that were going wild, made him uncertain if he could move.
'Maybe,' Dean thought even as he nodded in the affirmative, would find the strength, for Sam.
Firmly stowing away his own pain, Sam managed to push himself off Dean and instantly felt a head rush that had him slumping a little. Throwing out a hand, he braced himself against the cave wall. Then he sat his lighter down in the corner, could see that Paytah had cordoned them off into their very own triangle of the cave, that all around them were walls of rocks, two formed ten thousand years ago and one hastily formed two seconds ago. His attention was drawn back to Dean when he sensed his brother was trying to sit up without his help.
"Dean, hold up," Sam cautioned as he shifted into a position to help lever Dean upright. Wrapping a hand around Dean's bicep, he eased his brother up, cringed when Dean let out a gasp of pain as his wounded side protested the movement. Settling Dean back to rest against one of the stable, semi-smooth walls, he didn't remove his grip on his brother's shoulder, feared that if he did, Dean would topple to the left. And Dean's eyes meaningfully drifting to his supportive hold with disdain, giving a silent protest at the touchy feely moment going on, didn't sway him to let Dean go either.
Crouching in front of his brother, Sam sallied, "Guess we were wrong, Paytah actually likes you," hoping to bring some levity into the situation, couldn't think about how close Paytah had come to separating them. Of breaking them. Of breaking him. Because if he lost Dean….nope, couldn't go through that again. Wouldn't.
Realizing that Sam wasn't letting go of him any time soon, Dean gave up his disapproving campaign of pointed glares and wearily let his head drop back against the wall. Examining his brother, he noted that Sam looked as bad as he felt, that he was moving stiffly, if he managed to move at all and his thick head of hair looked grey, covered as it was in dust. Tapping the ground beside him, Dean commanded, "Take a load off."
Sam fell more than sat down onto the proffered piece of ground beside his brother. Dean didn't even gripe that he nearly ended up in his lap, that he had to steer him to his rightful spot at his side. But he made it, was leaning on the wall and his brother but was staying upright, they both were. And it was equivalent to suicide, them just sitting there, not preparing for Paytah's appearance. Course it wasn't like they had many weapons left at their disposal and sitting down felt good, really good. Too good.
"I think we have him on the ropes," Dean wisecracked and Sam snorted, "Yeah, he's probably out there getting the peace pipe right now."
It took them both less than a second to put it together: Pipe, Nathan….Paytah's whereabouts unknown.
Cursing in synch at the high probability that Paytah was off channeling his hatred toward Nathan, especially if the deputy was performing his assigned task, namely stealing said peace pipe, Sam and Dean started to clamor to their feet, used the wall at their backs and each other's assistance to achieve that goal.
Though it was a victory of sorts, being upright, Dean couldn't help but think it would be short lived. As soon as they did their friggin' jobs and evoked Paytah's attention back to them, were the distraction they were supposed to be so Nathan didn't get his heart ripped out, it was more than likely he would end up on the ground again. Because he had enough humility and candor to recognize that he had felt only a taste of Paytah's strength, and his own meager human muscle, it wasn't going to cut it this time.
Sam bellowed for Paytah and Dean couldn't help speculating, "If you're right, if he likes me…." The hunter shook his head in disbelief at that twisted turn of events. "If this is how he treats his pals, I hate to see how rough Wanikiya's welcome home party gets." And it had Dean seriously wondering just how long the reunion would last, if they would have time to bind Wanikiya's soul to his big bro's and melt his 'soul pebbles' into the cave wall before Paytah added his brother's scalp to his collection. Because, chances were, Wanikiya wasn't going to survive being a distraction…any more than they were.
Nathan was becoming very certain of one thing: Ghostbusting as a spectator sport sucked.
When Paytah had made his showing, had put the knife to Dean's neck, Nathan had ached to intervene, to do something to help, to do his job and protect those in danger. And he must have telegraphed his longing to act because Strongeagle, without halting his silent chanting as he knelt on the ground surrounded by a circle of his strange concoction of ingredients, had reached out and snagged his wrist, wordlessly told him to hold his position.
And knowing that he had his own task to complete, it didn't make it any easier for Nathan to watch Paytah yank Dean closer, press the knife harder into the hunter's neck, use Dean's vulnerability to hold off Sam's countermove. 'Yeah, if I want to jump in and rip Paytah's throat out for threating Dean, Sam's rage must be going off the Richter scale.' Shooting the younger Winchester a glance, he didn't need the last few days association to know that Sam was a tightly coiled bundle of nerves, was gripping the shotgun hard enough to bend metal, that whatever Paytah said a moment later, Sam understood every word of it, his face draining of color said as much.
But if the Indian thought he had a chance in a million years of breaking up the Winchesters' brotherhood, Dean proved him wrong, defended Sam to his last breath. Well, Nathan hoped it wasn't going to literally be Dean's last breath. But a beat later, he thought it might be when Paytah showed his displeasure of Dean's loyalty by throwing the hunter across the room to slam unmercifully hard against the wall.
It took every ounce of Nathan's conviction in their plan's chances for success to stop him from going to the downed Dean or joining Sam's stance against Paytah. But holding back on acting defensively or offensively left him standing there, idly watching Paytah face off with Sam, fearing that the ghost would out right kill the hunter. What he never saw coming was Sam lowering his shotgun, seemingly surrendering! He nearly shouted out in protest…when Paytah unpredictably disappeared.
Taught to never look a gift horse in the mouth, Nathan didn't hesitate, started for the altar like a man on a mission….and nearly ended up face first in the dirt when the earthquake rattled the cave. 'Earthquake?! You gotta be kidding me?" he thought with disparaging disbelief as he tried to keep his balance. His head snapped to the right as a crack heralded the ceiling beginning to collapse, only a few feet in front of where Dean was lying.
Pretty certain that the entire ceiling would go any second, he gritted his teeth and stumbled toward the altar, knew that he couldn't falter now, that his friends' lives, his town's survival was at stake, rested in his hands. But he couldn't help sardonically wonder what his obit would say: Buried alive. Not exactly as heroic as: 'Killed in the line of duty.' But maybe, if Chief Fox was feeling merciful, he might posthumously grant his death that distinction and leave off the qualifier of 'killed in the line of duty… while ghostbusting.'
Nathan was practically at his destination when the ground underfoot gave a last pitiless lurch, sending him sprawling into the altar. Though his chest painfully slammed into the granite rock and his elbow smashed through a clay jar, in his grip was one mystical pipe and Paytah's one way ticket to united brotherhood forever.
Not wanting the altar to have any more power, with or without its center piece, he smashed and scattered the rest of the collection on the ledge with his flashlight. Then he was in motion, running like the devil himself was after him. He spared only a glance at Strongeagle, who was still kneeling on the ground, eyes closed and lips moving in a chant, before shouldering through the tight corridor of rock.
Coming to a skidding halt under the ragged cave opening above and looking up, he saw Wade's anxious face illuminated by the moonlight. "Catch," he said, tossing the pipe up to his best friend, who deftly caught it.
Pipe in hand, Wade knew he had to go, that he didn't have time to waste but he couldn't move, not without asking, "Do I want to know how things are going down there?"
"Remember our last touch football game against Wakefield's medics and police?" Nathan wryly answered Wade's question with a question.
"Crap. That bad?" Wade tested, needed to make sure that was the comparison Nathan wanted to stick with because, that game, it had been a blood bath…for them.
"Worse," Nathan grimly reported, knew Wade didn't require a blow by blow description when the medic's face hardened into a mask of stubborn determination to not lose a life in his care.
Without another word to Nathan, Wade pushed to his feet and burst into a full out run. Dodging trees, jumping over underbrush, he cut through the moonlit woods. And he tried to only focus on not losing his way back to his car, to not overanalyze Nathan's progress report. 'Calm down. He didn't say anyone was dead. And he would tell me that. He would.' Because he and Nathan had made a pact years ago: they didn't lie to each other, didn't try to sugar coat things and they didn't omit the bad stuff. So, no. No deaths.
'So far,' he bitterly qualified before he scoffed at himself for being surprised things were going sideways. 'And how did I think things would be going?! We're poking the bear…in his friggin' cave.' But the bear reference suddenly made his eyes dart around the woods surrounding him with a shiver. 'Good, yeah, get yourself worried about a bear attack on top of a ghost encounter. Smart.'
And it was cold comfort to know that getting mauled by a pissed off bear would probably be a merciful death compared to how Paytah dispatched his enemies. Was really no comfort at all considering Wade happened to like Paytah's enemies.
'Chill yourself. Dean and Sam are still kicking, still fighting, still together and that says something. ' "Yeah, that they're stubborn idiots" he said aloud. But he couldn't fight down the searing dread that his friends' stubbornness just might learn its limitation, that lives he held dear could be taken from him that night. Hadn't he already faced the grim reality of how precious life was, how easily it could be taken away, with Oliver's death?! He didn't need to learn that lesson again!
Refusing to suffer that abyss of grief and abject failure all over again, he channeled his fear and pushed himself harder, tapped into his adrenaline, didn't slow down even when branches snagged onto his clothing and scratched up his face and hands. Calmly he recognized that he didn't care what price it would cost him to save his friends' lives, he just knew that he would pay it gladly.
Strongeagle clamped his eyes shut tighter, fought to distance his spirit from his body, to go on the journey between this plane of existence and the next. But to do that, he knew he had to abandon his link to the physical world around him, to the cave, to the men there who were in mortal jeopardy, men he had begrudgingly started to like. Had to surrender the last tendrils of resistance he harbored against fully embracing his heritage, of finally taking his destined place in his tribe as a man of vision, a waayatan.
Exhaling, he released his old self, sought to be the man his grandfather would be proud of. Accepting that his friends' path, his friends' physical confrontation with Paytah, that it was not his path, that his journey was separate, that their trails would not converge again until Wanikiya was there, until he knew success.
Resting his hands above the flames of the fire he had started a moment ago, he tossed in some of the sweet grass from his aunt's basket to attract good spirits. Then, breaking from his silent chanting, he began to sing aloud, as his forefathers had in that very cave over two hundred years before. He beckoned Wanikiya to come, to heed his appeal, to obey his command, to be where he once was and was needed again.
Feeling the temperature suddenly plummet in their cut off sector of the cave, Dean muttered, "Visitor coming in." And as probable as it was that it was Paytah answering Sam's shouted taunts to face off with them again, Dean couldn't help but hold out hope that Strongeagle had succeeded, that it was Wanikiya finally showing up. Heck, even Jessica or Bobby popping up to curse him and Sam for getting them killed would be welcome about then.
Paytah materialized inches from Sam, brutal proof of the adage of watch what you wish for. Even as Sam started a hasty retreat, Paytah swung out with his tomahawk and Sam knew he couldn't get out of the way, not in time, that the ancient weapon would sever his throat before his next breath.
Grabbing ahold of the back of Sam's jacket, Dean roughly yanked his brother backwards. He was too thankful to have a living breathing brother in his hold to care that Sam couldn't retain his usual athletic equilibrium, ended up slamming into him, hard, the collision nearly toppling them both to the ground. But the next second, Sam slipped to his side, was starting to pull him backwards as Paytah advanced toward them.
In the end, it didn't matter who was pulling who back, because, either way, their retreat was short-lived, lasted only two more steps, until their backs were literally up against a wall.
Yanking open his car door and jumping into the driver's seat, Wade fired up the engine and sprayed gravel as he stomped on the gas. Wondered if Judge Preston would arrest him or just shoot him on sight when he drove through his yard because there was no way he was going to waste time navigating the elegant twist and turns of a brick driveway. Not when every second counted, when putting the pipe into Chief Fox's hands could make the difference between Nathan, Dean, Sam and Strongeagle living or dying.
Reentering the main section of the cave, Nathan wasn't sure if the unchanged view was the good news or the bad. Strongeagle was still doing his thing, now with a little fire going and audible chanting, the altar adornments were still smashed and Paytah was nowhere in sight. Course, neither were Sam or Dean. His eyes drifted to the makeshift wall Paytah had created from the cave ceiling, knew the brothers were behind it, hopefully not hurt, just trapped. 'Yeah, like that's not bad enough, because, chances are, they aren't alone.'
Paytah's quarry was hopelessly trapped, wholly defenseless. It was, not only in his power to strike the two brothers down, but his judicial right. He had passed judgment and found them guilty. All that remained was to extort the price of their sins. And yet…he stilled his hand from the killing blow, could not snuff out their lives until he understood how their brotherhood had withstood what he and Wanikiya's could not.
He had thought he had truthfully read the heart of each man before him: the younger selfish, so like Wanikya, the elder blind to his brother's faults, so like he once was. But that belief, it made the actions of the younger, of risking death to go to his brother when the earth shook, contradictory. Nor was it the first time such risks were made, seemingly without calculation. The elder for the younger, that was as it should be. But the younger…had done the same, time and time again.
In his long existence, Paytah had met many brothers but none had been knitted together like the two men now defiantly standing before him, side by side. He had done all in his power to sever their brotherhood, to punish the younger for his betrayal of his brother, to ruthlessly open the elder's eyes to his brother's false loyalty, to prove that putting trust in such a bond was foolishness. And when all his machinations had failed, he decreed to kill them, to end their brotherhood in death.
But now he understood that not even death had the power to destroy their bond, that nature had conspired against the elder, even in the next life. So his words were for him, for the elder, for the one who should have understood his pain better than any had before. "Fate has cursed you to forever be linked," his words spoken with astonishment and sorrow.
Ready to physically defend his and Sam's life to his last breath, Dean wasn't prepared for Paytah's hesitation to attack…or the ghost's sudden chattiness. Wanting to prolong the dialoguing, he didn't argue the Indian's statement, instead sallied back with a smirk, "Someone once called us soulmates but I'm still holding out for a busty blond bombshell." At his side, he caught Sam's scowl, didn't have the time right then to wonder if it was at his flippancy or his jest about hoping for a replacement for him.
By Paytah's comeback, Dean's humor was lost on the Indian too.
"You do not grasp the cruelty of that destiny!" Paytah angrily warned the unsuspecting elder, could not imagine being bound to Wanikiya's cowardice spirit for all of eternity. It was bitter enough sharing a blood line with Wanikiya, of bearing some of the shame of his chikalya ciye, little brother's, abandonment of their tribe. The disgrace would have been wholly unbearable if he had no way to forge his own path separate from his brother's dishonor. Knew it was a blessing of his forefathers that he could still save his own soul if he found a way to switch places with Wanikiya, could make his brother's soul walk the earth in agony as he had all these years. Yes, when his purification was done, when his revenge was sated, he would know peace one day and Wanikiya never would again.
There was a time when Dean would have agreed with Paytah's cynicism about him and Sam being tied to each other for all of eternity. When Ash had called them soulmates, he had nearly scoffed in the mullet wearing genius' face. Soulmates were supposed to be happy about being together, would fight all odds to stay together. Their fondest memories of their lives weren't of the times they successfully ditched their "soulmate", seemingly hoping the separation would be forever.
He knew that it was his hurt, his repulsive at having, for a split second, been relieved to have that reassurance that he and Sam would stay together, that had made him feel like such a fool for treasuring some castoff gift Sam had given him at Christmas years ago. That loyalty, that belief in Sam's love for him, it suddenly had felt like the height of gullibility, all wrapped up into that laughing face of the amulet. And the joke was on him. Laughable that he thought the necklace was anything more than a regifted piece of junk jewelry that Sam probably didn't even remember giving to him.
And by throwing it out, he had renounced the myth he had fabricated of the indelible strength of their brotherhood. He had let that naivety die… not to be resurrected again.
'Not even now.'
As that revelation washed over Dean, his eyes shot to Sam. He hadn't known until that moment that he hadn't dared to believe in their brotherhood again, not like he had. That whatever forgiveness he had offered Sam in the wake of everything they had been through…it didn't include access to his whole heart. He had kept some of it guarded, against his own brother, had not given Sam the chance to make full amends, had not been willing to pick that amulet up again, to fervently treasure what it once represented, to trust that blindly for a second time.
But Sam had dug the amulet out of the trashcan, had understood, after all, what it represented to Dean. And now Dean knew that Sam had been biding his time to offer it to him again, all in the hopes of reforging what was broken between them. 'Crap, Sam. I'm sorry I almost took a swing at you for hanging onto the charm, for hanging onto us.'
Fearing that Dean's silence and consequent look to him signaled that Paytah was wrong, that Dean did know just how heartless destiny was for condemning him to be stuck with his little brother even in death, Sam ignored Paytah, turned instead to his brother. "Dean, I know we've had…."
"Awkward," Dean cut in, eyes on Sam before he turned to his true audience of Paytah and smirked. "Sure. Being a soulmate with my brother, not something I bring up on dates." Then he started to step toward Paytah, to draw the ghost's undivided attention to himself as he unwaveringly declared, "But it's not a curse."
Abruptly intervening the showdown Dean was orchestrating, Sam held his brother back from going toe to toe with Paytah with a grip that threatened to break his brother's arm. Was willing to hurt Dean if it prevented his brother from diving into a no win situation. Knew Dean was pissed at him when their eyes clashed in a battle of wills but he wasn't backing down, not about this.
Oblivious to the motivation behind Sam's strong armed tactics, Paytah sneered at the brotherly strife. "He seeks to displace your rightful domination over him," he taunted Dean, jerking his chin toward Sam. "He does not know his place. He is second born, inconsequential, weaker, will never matter like the first."
Face twisted in angry disbelief, Dean growled, "Big brothers take care of little brothers. We don't make them our slaves…or our scape goats when we screw up." Because that's what Paytah was doing, laying all the blame on Wanikiya when the village was his to protect. 'Just like Sam has always been mine to protect, like Bobby was.'
"Still you do not see what he has done to you, what he will do to you. He will lay ten, a hundred, a thousand more stripes upon your soul. You will never know peace, not with him at your side. Just as I will know no peace until Wanikiya's soul pays the prince for shaming our family, for abandoning me…our village…our tribe when we had need of him," Paytah hissed, coming to accept that the elder was too foolish to see reason, deserved no more mercy than the younger.
"Wanikiya didn't abandon you! He came back… was coming back," Dean corrected with conviction. "He died because he was returning to you, chose to return to you. I don't know how you define loyalty but that's certainly how I do."
Paytah shook his head, would not let the white man's lies seep into his soul. "No. You tell untruths to save your soul."
"One more warrior in that battle, it wouldn't have mattered," Sam disputed, had stood there in the midst of the carnage and known that the village was lost before the last man fell. That it would have taken ten more warriors to hold their own, twenty to win the war. "Your village was outnumbered, your warriors…your people unprepared to defend themselves." It was a massacre, as if the attack was never prophesied. Suddenly, Sam understood, better than he wanted to. "You didn't think it would happen, the attack, the war…because you never thought Wanikiya would leave you."
"He should not have!" Paytah shouted, his rage and hurt contorting his features. "He was my brother, the one I trusted most, with my life, the life of my village, of our tribe. He betrayed me!"
"He left you….he didn't betray you," Dean quietly refuted, waited until Paytah's furious gaze settled squarely upon him and not Sam before he taunted, "That's what you can't bear, isn't it? He. Left. You."
"He left the tribe!" Paytah angrily contested.
But Dean shook his head. "You don't care about the tribe, you only care about your hurt feelings. Well, someone a heck of a lot smarter than me once said that family isn't supposed to make you feel good, they are supposed to make you miserable, that's why they're family. And that only a coward pushes away the ones he loves because he can't stand to be hurt."
Dislodging Sam's grip on his arm, Dean stepped forward could feel Sam hastily matching his stride until they both stood toe to toe with Paytah. "Wanikiya hurt you when he chose a life separate from you, I get that. You know that I get that," Dean imparted, could see the clench in the Indian's jawline, trusted that Paytah knew enough about him to know that they had that much in common. "And I carried that hurt, let it burn me up from the inside out…and you know the only thing, the only thing that took that away? Forgiving Sam, not just letting him back into my life but asking him back, admitting that…being betrayed, yeah, that ripped me up, but not having him in my life, that was worse, was all on me, was about my bad choices, not his."
"The rest of your family, your people, your way of life were not slaughtered because of him!" Paytah countered, knew the elder brother could not know that weight of that horror.
"Yes, they were," Sam remorsefully admitted. "Our parents, our friends, our family, countless lives were lost because of my decisions."
"Our decisions, our failures," Dean sternly amended, didn't lay any of it at Sam's feet alone, knew that together they had done a bang up job of enacting their own private scorched earth policy. Had nearly consumed each other before they put the fire out, abated the hatred, divided the blame.
Paytah gave a grim smile and shook his head. "He has fooled you into sharing in his dishonor."
"He didn't fool me, it's mine, free and clear. I have done more than my fair share to dishonor my family, my very name has made it a curse," Dean desolately confessed before he gave a sad smirk. "So Sam and I, we deserve each other."
Sensing that Paytah wasn't swayed by Dean's words, was maybe going to strike out at Dean, Sam took another step closer to Paytah, drawing the ghost's attention. "And how we deal with our guilt, and each other, that's on us. It's not something you decide, that anyone else gets to decide for us," he menacingly laid down the law, was done letting the ghost dictate how he was supposed to feel about his own brother.
But Paytah raised his hands, not to land a blow but to indicate their surroundings. "You forget, you stand in hallowed ground. That I am judge here, that I will decide your fate as I have hundreds of souls before you."
Guessing this was the part of the story where Paytah went all Old Testament executioner on them, Dean yanked his brother back from Paytah. But they backed up only a few steps before they came up against the wall again and Payath was still coming.
Gearing himself up to make a last stand, Dean slowed down his breathing, knew he had to do this at the right time, had to hold off, knew too that it was just a stopgap. But when Paytah raised his knife over his head, intended to deliver a killing blow, he knew buying them any small amount of time was worth it.
Pulling a handful of salt from his pocket, Dean threw it into Paytah's face, read the fury in the Indian's tan features before he vanished.
Letting out a relieved exhale, Sam drily remarked, "You know that's only going to piss him off, he'll came back …
"And what? Want to kill us?" Dean sarcastically drawled. "That's already on his to-do list, Sammy." Then he tilted his head up to the ceiling, to the skies and shouted, "Wanikiya, I'm going to start believing you are a coward if you don't get down here! This is partly your fault."
But it wasn't Wanikiya who materialized inches from them, who let out a blood curdling Indian war cry and whose hatchet's arch sought to decapitate them. Instinctively ducking before diving forward, the brothers tackled Paytah to the ground and each pinned one of the Indian's hands to the cave floor.
Paytah was almost amused by their efforts. Let the hunters believe that they could achieve the unachievable before he easily overrode their strength, turned the tables on them and twisted their arms behind their backs, until their limbs were near the breaking point.
Not willing to give up, Dean delivered a punch to Paytah's face with his free hand, hated that the Indian didn't even have the good grace to pretend he felt the blow. Beside him, Sam dug an iron knife out of his pocket and sank it into Paytah's chest.
The brothers collapsed face first onto the ground as the ghost they had pinned under them a second ago disappeared. Their ascent to their feet wasn't fast or pretty, was more about staggering and leaning on each other but they made it upright. But it was a toss-up which brother was swaying more.
"He took my knife with him," Sam miserably reported, shared a cheerless look with his brother at the news.
With bitter lucidity, Dean knew they were out of tricks, that the next time their not-so-friendly ghost made a house call, he would finish them off. "Wanikiya! How many more people ….brothers have to die because you hurt your brother's friggin' feelings?!" Dean snarled to the confines of the cave.
"None," came a voice from behind them.
With his sense that Wanikiya was there growing stronger and stronger, Strongeagle opened his eyes, knew a sliver of doubt when only Nathan was in his line of sight. But when he reverently touched the pebbles scattered around him, he looked up to the deputy and whispered, "He's here."
"What? Wanikiya?! Can you see him?" Nathan cross examined as he crouched down by the Indian. His eyes followed Strongeagle's jerk of his chin to the new wall, the one that the Winchesters were trapped behind. "Cozy," he sarcastically drawled before he slung the backpack off his shoulder, got out his trusty blowtorch and started gathering the pebbles to his side. "Call Chief Fox, tell him to start his big magic," he ordered.
"No one calls it "big magic", that's only in the movies and…" Strongeagle protested, couldn't let his heritage continue to be maligned by the media.
Shoving the phone in the Indian's face, Nathan menacingly commanded, "Call him now!"
Leaping out of his car as if it were on fire, Wade practically did a baseline slide to Chief Fox, who had a nice campfire blazing right in Judge Preston's front lawn. "Pipe," he announced unnecessarily.
But the Chief was still stunned at the medic's high profile entrance onto the scene. "Holy crap! How am I supposed to explain a skid mark and donut in Judge Preston's front lawn?!"
"Same way you'll explain a bonfire and a ritual that involves cat bones," Wade tersely shot back. "Now don't you have some big magic to perform?"
From the cellphone on the ground, Strongeagle gritted out between his teeth, "It's not called big magic!"
"Forget the semantics!" Nathan interrupted from the cellphone speakers. "Torch the pipe and say the spell, Chief. Now!"
"Lord forgive me but here goes…" Chief Fox mumbled before he tossed the pipe into the hungry flames and began to read the Latin on the blood stained pages.
Swiveling around, Dean and Sam saw that Wanikiya had come, stood there wearing soft leather pants and his long black hair loose, just as he had appeared in Dean's vision. "About friggin' time!" Dean groused, but before he could warn the Indian that his brother wasn't really in the caring sharing kind of mood, Paytah was there, was standing face to face with his brother for the first time in two hundred and seventy seven years.
"Brother, I have missed you," Wanikiya greeted in earnest, knew that whatever bad blood there was between he and Paytah, it could not truly tarnish the irrevocable bond of their brotherhood.
His belief in that falsehood almost had him reacting too late to block his brother's knife point from piercing his heart.
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