Author's Notes: Big thanks to may7fic for the assistance – for "laying down the law," so to speak.
Back in the Waiting Room, all things were quiet, with the seven members of the McFadden family taking up half the room. Sprawled on the couches, leaning up against one another, feet and legs tangled as they tried to get comfortable, six of them asleep, it made the seventh smile sadly.
Adam, the only one awake, watching over his family, waiting for his chance to see Brian, and just unable to fall asleep anyway, tried to keep himself still. He was unable to make sense of the being, what had now been given the name, wendigo. He knew what he felt when he was in the woods – but that truly wasn't anything new, he reasoned. They'd all been out in the woods at night, have all had fear of something or other take over their emotions… but what he saw running across the road… he knew it was not right. It was not just some naked guy running around; some crazed or drugged streaker. There was something about this thing that truly was not, or was no longer, human.
Adam rubbed his hands up and down his face, frustrated. This thing, whatever it was, had no business on his land. It had no right to disrupt his family, to make them afraid. Adam sat forward and put his elbows on his knees. Unable to sit any longer, he stood and moved out of the Waiting Room, not wanting to wake the rest of the family. He paced the hallway slowly, trying to come up with a plan. He figured he and Daniel and Crane could try to track this thing – he had a good idea of where it had been on the road, and where that intersected with the McFadden property all the way to where Brian had gotten hurt last night. They'd follow that line in search of this thing and…
And that's where Adam stalled, stopping in his tracks, leaning on the wall and banging his head lightly against it. If this wendigo was once or is human – and how was he even believing this whole story?! – then how could he just hunt it? Technically speaking, this thing hadn't really hurt anyone – the horses got spooked and one of them came down on Brian. Hell, that's happened to all of them in some way. How many times has he or the others gotten head butted or thrown from a skittish horse? They're big animals and you take the risk of injury any time you deal with an animal of that size.
Adam shook his head. It wasn't a monster. It was a man. A crazy man, but that's it. They were all stressed out, worried about Brian. It was dark. Adam shook his head, berating himself inside. He walked down the hall and toward the pay phone. Taking a quarter out, he phoned the sheriff's department.
"Hey, Jeannie," he greeted the dispatcher. "Adam McFadden. Who's working this morning?"
"Ed Sykes is working in your area right now, Adam," she replied easily. "Whatcha need? And how's Brian doing?"
"Brian's doing okay," Adam replied. "He's got a broken back – "
"Oh no!" Jeannie replied, interrupting. "How bad?"
Adam smiled at the concern. Jeannie was one of Brian's many past girlfriends. "He's gonna be fine. Lots of rest and pain medication and he'll be up in no time," he told her, calming her fears. He also knew that Jeannie would be spreading this word to the rest of the town and Brian would likely have no shortage of people, especially women, coming to visit him. Adam quickly realized that that may not be a good thing and told her, "Rest is the important thing. So keep the visits down to a minimum for a bit, okay?"
"Oh, sure, Adam," she replied. "So what do you need Ed for?" she asked, getting back to the first order of business.
Adam paused, not sure how to say what he wanted to say at first, but then just blurted out, "On our way to the hospital tonight, on Route Five, some naked guy ran in front of us across the road. Came from the woods on our side of the road and went south."
Adam heard the chuckle in her voice as Jeannie replied, "A naked guy?"
"Yeah. Don't know who he was or what the heck he was doing out there, but I figure if Ed's got any other reports of a naked guy running around, or if there're any missing person reports or something…" Adam shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what else to say.
"I'll let Ed know, Adam," Jeannie replied. "You all still at the hospital in case he wants to talk to you?"
"Yeah, we'll be here until early morning light, at least. Thanks, Jeannie," he replied and hung up the phone.
Feeling a little better, feeling a little more grounded in reality, Adam bypassed the Waiting Room and headed for the Admissions Desk.
"Any chance I can get up to see Brian McFadden now?" he asked the woman at the desk. "Dr. Wagner said I could probably go up," he said, looking at his watch.
The woman made a quick phone call and then nodded to Adam, saying, "Room four thirty-four."
Adam thanked her and headed for the elevator.
A few minutes later, Adam entered the quiet room and sat down in a chair next to the bed. There was a dim light on to the right of the bed, illuminating the room enough for Adam to see that it was, indeed, his younger brother in the bed.
Brian looked horrible. The bruise on his cheek was showing in living color red and purple. Oddly enough, that wasn't what bothered Adam. They'd both had worse from bar fights, or even worse, from brother fights… He lifted a hand and brushed some hair off of Brian's forehead, then left his hand there a moment longer. What bothered Adam so much was how, even in sleep, Brian looked completely exhausted. He knew how long Brian and Daniel had been in the woods, waiting for rescue. He couldn't imagine how Brian could have lasted those hours, kept immobile on cold hard ground, in pain from a broken back and injured leg. Add to it the fear…
Adam sighed and shook his head. He thought about the phone call to the sheriff's office. Did he just send Ed out alone to look for that thing?
The hoarse whisper of his name brought Adam out of his thoughts and looking at Brian.
"Hey. Hey there," he quietly greeted his brother with a gentle smile, and a pat on his hand.
Adam heard the worry in Brian's voice and quickly allayed his fear, saying, "They're fine. They're downstairs, asleep." Turning the conversation, he asked, "How about you? How are you feeling?"
"I… I don't know. My back?"
Sensing what Brian was getting at, Adam told him what the family had been told of his condition. "You're gonna be here for a week or so, resting."
"I feel like crap," Brian whispered. "Hate sleeping on my back."
Adam nodded his head. "Yeah, I know. Always got that bar in the way," he said of the uncomfortable sofa bed Brian and Guthrie had been forced to share. He looked at Brian again. Under the light sheet covering Brian, Adam saw the outline of a brace of some sort wrapped around Brian's torso. It didn't look too comfortable, either. "We'll have to figure out a new place for you to sleep at home," he added with a sad smile, but Brian was asleep before he had finished the sentence.
Adam stood and patted Brian's hand again before leaving the room. He found another payphone and told Jeannie to have Ed come talk to him first, and not to look for the crazy naked guy just yet.
Joining his family back in the Waiting Room, Adam sat quietly in the chair he'd vacated earlier. Before long, he was asleep, too.
Crane was the first to wake up when Ed Sykes showed up. Despite trying not to wake the others, having to move Evan's and then Daniel's bodies off of his shoulders and their resultant movements, causing more movement on the couches, Crane was unsuccessful.
"What time is it?" Hannah asked with a yawn.
"Almost four," Ed replied.
Adam nodded his head. It hadn't been all that long since he'd fallen asleep. "You all go back to sleep," he said, looking at Hannah. "Just gonna talk to Ed about what we saw on the road."
Hannah nodded, but then asked, "Did you get to see Brian?"
"Yeah," Adam replied. "He's doing just fine."
Ed, seeing and hearing that Adam wanted to keep Hannah and the two younger McFadden's out of the conversation, moved to the other side of the Waiting Room. He was soon followed by Adam, Crane, Daniel and Evan.
"So what's going on, Adam?" Ed asked. "I'd heard all about Brian's accident from Mike and Marlene. Heck, I listened to all the radio transmissions on the scanner. But now Jeannie says you called about some crazy naked guy? Hell of a night for you!"
Adam couldn't help but smile at the remark.
"Wasn't no crazy naked guy, Mr. Sykes," Daniel said, no humor in his voice at all.
Evan pulled Adam back from the group, whispering, "I thought we talked about this, Adam. I thought we agreed that this wasn't something for the sheriff's department."
Adam squeezed Evan's arm, silently asking him to hear him out, and moved back to the deputy's side. "Ed, I don't know how to explain this," he began. "Something out in the woods… something spooked us. All of us. Brian… when he was being airlifted, well, he saw something out there. In the trees."
"Did any of you see anything?" Ed asked, looking at the group.
"Not then," Daniel replied, looking at Adam and Evan.
"When we were driving here," Adam said. "The naked guy. He ran across the road in front of us."
Evan and Daniel both looked wide eyed at Adam. "It wasn't no naked guy!" Daniel exclaimed again. "Adam! You saw it. You know it!"
"Keep your voice down," Crane hushed him, glancing back at Hannah, Ford and Guthrie.
"You know it wasn't, Adam," Evan put in mindful to be quiet. "You saw exactly what we saw. You were with us when we told Crane – hell, he believed because you believed!"
Adam dropped his head and blew out a breath. "I know. And I do know…"
"Crazy naked guy – but not human. Muscles but skinny at the same time."
The four brothers looked at Sykes in awe; he'd described the wendigo just as they'd seen. "How?" "Did you see it?" "You know?" "What?" all came from their mouths.
"Been hearing it from Scotty Carruthers for the past two weeks," Ed explained simply, knowing that the brothers would understand.
Scotty Carruthers was a local resident. One that everyone knew, everyone liked, and had been living and working in the area all his life. But Scotty was not like everyone else. Scotty had severe learning disabilities and mentally, was a ten year old boy in a forty year old body. He lived with his grandmother on a small farm not too far from the McFaddens. It was very easy to understand why Ed Sykes didn't do any follow up on Scotty's story.
"See! It's not just us!" Daniel cried.
"So what do we do about this…thing, Ed?" Adam asked.
"Well, I'll ask Hal Toomey to head out your way come daylight," Sykes replied. "He can check around, if you show him where you all saw him."
Thinking of his earlier thoughts, Adam quickly said, "Don't send him alone."
"Oh, he'll have King with him," Ed retorted, smiling. "That dog'll find what you're looking for." He nodded his head, adding to his assurance.
"Marcia Singer's uncle is coming," Evan said. "Wait for him. They can hunt it down together."
"Marcia Singer?" Ed questioned.
"She's a nurse here," Daniel explained.
"I know who she is. I know her uncle, too," Ed replied. He looked away from the group for a second or two, and blew out a breath. "Her uncle Bobby's coming? You're sure?"
"Yeah," Evan replied, his tone somewhat questioning.
"Something wrong with him coming here, Ed?" Adam asked, worry in voice.
"Nah. Nothing wrong," Sykes replied. "I guess if Singer's coming, then it's something we'll stay out of. He's an okay guy, though, Adam. Talk to him . Tell him what you saw and where. Then stay out of his way."
With that said Sykes turned away and started walking toward the exit. He stopped and looked back at the stunned McFadden brothers, then, and said, "Tell Brian I hope he gets better real soon," and continued on out.
"What the hell was that?" Crane asked, confused by Sykes' attitude.
Adam took a step away from his brothers, as if to follow Sykes, and then stopped. He turned around and faced them. "I don't know what to make of it. What to make of any of what happened last night," he told them, shrugging his shoulders. "All I know is that we've got a brother and a ranch to take care of. We'll cooperate with this Bobby Singer guy if he asks, but I get the feeling I'm going to agree with Ed, that we're not the ones to hunt down anything. This man, or this wendigo thing… all it's done is scare people. No harm in that. Not worth hunting it down."
"So we're just gonna wait for it to hurt someone then?" Daniel asked, upset. "What about Brian?!"
"It didn't hurt Brian," Crane said. "And from what you told me, you and Brian were alone, vulnerable, even, and it didn't come after you. Didn't try to hurt you…"
Daniel and Evan both wanted to argue with Crane's statement. They knew how scared they'd been; how they'd been affected by the happenings of the night in the woods; by what they saw in the road. But they also saw the twin looks in Adam's and Crane's eyes. They knew that no matter how much they argued at this point, it would be on deaf and determined ears.
"Head on back over there," Crane told them, pointing to the couches where Hannah, Ford and Guthrie were sprawled out. "Come daylight most of us need to head home and get to work."
"I thought Vic Foley's guys were gonna be there?" Evan asked.
"They have their own work to do. No need for all of us to sit around here all day doing nothing while someone else is working our place," Adam said firmly.
The younger brothers nodded their head in agreement to this reasoning, but still managed to show their displeasure at the prior conversation's ending.
Crane touched Adam's arm holding him back from following Daniel and Evan. "You sure on this?" he asked.