Chapter 9: Waking Nightmares

They were in a motel … as usual. That was all the thirteen your old Dean could think as he watched his father check over his provisions, extra holy water and bullets hidden here and there over the older man's body. He was like a living hid-a-way, something new and usually to be found in each and every pocket.

Not surprisingly, their father was going out again leaving them in yet another hotel just like any other day.

"But I want to come. I can help dad," said Dean, wishing to prove himself, to be strong like his father. He was thirteen! He could certainly handle a little haunting.

John stalled, his eyes glinting a warning before he turned around and frowned down at his young son that was slowly becoming a man. He would be a great man one day. He would survive this world.

"Dean," said the man carefully, like he knew his words would last with his son forever, "You remember a few months ago, right? The shtriga? I know you want to help me, but right now I need you to be with your brother. You two will need to take care of each other … because one day, I won't be here."

Dean swallowed thickly, hating the thought that his father would not be there one day, and yet he solemnly nodded, guilt still deep in his chest as he murmured, "Yes … I remember. I will stay here. I will take care of Sam and he will take care of me."

Then, offering an almost defiant glare, Dean whispered, "And anything that tries to hurt or separate me from my little brother will burn."

Then, his eyes a blazing gold color, Dean smiled at his father … hands erupting in flames.

Dean exhaled sharply as he was pulled from his dream. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, breathing deeply because a part of himself was telling him to keep his inner fire well stoked. He swallowed for a moment, shakily raising his hands to stare at them. They weren't on fire. They weren't scarred or burned or stubs. It had been a dream.

Dropping his hands to his sides the hunter moaned and slapped a hand over his face … Why had he moved? He had just realized how much pain he was in and how hot he felt with what felt like thirty pounds of blankets on his chest. His side was also throbbing and yet there was this numbness to it that was highly concerning… And his big toe itched.

Why was he even awake?

Well, at least he wasn't in the hospital he supposed.

Staring at the ceiling for a moment, a part of him not even noting it was different from the shack ceiling he was used to, he automatically called out, "Sammy?! Did you get the number to that bus that hit me, because I doubt it was the herd of college girls I've always dreamed of."

There was a moment of silence, no baby brother crossly coming in and grumbling about whatever stupid thing he did to lay himself up to begin with.

Rubbing his eyes, wondering if it was safe to sit up given the numb feeling on his side, the hunter looked around. What kind of rundown hotel where they in? Yes, it had a very oriental feel to it, but the paper looking doors were a bit concerning especially since there wasn't even a light bulb or lamp in the room. What kind of place did Sam have him laid up in?

Moaning, not really wanting to remember what had gotten him stuck in this strange room, Dean yelled louder this time despite how dry his mouth felt, "Sammy!"

After another moment of lying there, Dean had had enough. His mind was foggy and there was this bitter taste in the back of his throat and he felt too hot and confined. And his big toe still itched. Sunday Christmas! He didn't care if it was the king of hell himself that had thrown him about, he was getting up. He'd check his injuries himself … and then maybe remember what the hell happened to begin with. His mind was just so foggy like he had been drugged.

Perhaps he had, but he had had a lot of pain killers in his time. If this was one of them, it was one his body wasn't used to.

Throwing one blanket off at a time to the floor, the man noting the bed wasn't very high off the floor and their certainly wasn't a box spring to this thing, he winced when he got the last sheet off. He had really put himself through the ringer, hadn't he? His leg was wrapped up and bound, his hip and lower midsection was wrapped up like a mummy with red dots seeping through and he was covered in bruises.

Holy Hooters, now he remembered … the Ash Forest. The Unmother, dead witch she was, had tried eating him so he burned the witch for it while Sam was getting dragged under that black lake! A-and he just passed out like a teenage girl! Fuck. Where was Sam! Jet had been screaming for help and what did Dean do? A little bit of blood loss took him out.

Okay, maybe it wasn't just a little blood loss and it wasn't like Sam and him had been eating well, but still. He had been beaten worse than that before.

Cursing how tired he felt just from struggle to sit up, Dean found himself trying not to panic as he called out, "Sam! Sammy where are you! SAM!"

There was suddenly the sound of someone stumbling to the room, the paper door being slid to the side as two people dressed in browns and reds stared at him for a moment. One was dressed plainly and given how her hair was tied back with a white cloth he took that she had been cleaning or cooking or something and the man was covered in a light film of dirt like he had been outside moments ago. The two gave each other a dark look as the man whispered something in Chinese to the woman that quickly shuffled off.

Dean twitched in pain as the man wearily walked into the room, picking up one of the many red blankets off the floor and placing it over his shoulders, murmuring softly, "Please lie back down. Your wounds are being aggravated. I didn't help drag you half way from the Ash forest just to bleed to death now."

Breathing heavily as his midsection started to ache, Dean grabbed the lanky man's shirt and almost begged, "Where is my brother?! He was in the lake? Where is he? Why isn't he here? Where is here?!"

The lanky man placed a hand on his forehead as if checking his temperature and then murmured something to himself that sounded vaguely like, "He's rambling. He's not even speaking real words. That isn't good."

Cursing himself for forgetting that they were in China's version of the Land of Oz, Dean spoke again in shivering Chinese, "Please, my brother? Where is he?"

The man, looking taken aback that Dean was actually coherent, frowned deeply as he stopped fussing over the wound on his side. He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before the murmured, "I'm sure your brother is fine. Please lie back down, you need to rest. You shouldn't even be sitting up."

"I've had bug bites worse than this," gritted Dean out in rough Chinese as he ground his teeth together. "And what do you mean, 'You're sure he's fine'? Is he not here? Where is he then?"

The man, still trying to gently persuade him to lie back down, suddenly gave up as a man in white hurried into the room followed by what looked like a bloody Play Girl model. The guy didn't have a shirt on, a thin film of sweat on his body. He must have been training or something.

"He's already awake? I will go tell the General," said the man. "Can you deal with him on your own?"

"I doubt he's going anywhere in his condition," murmured the healer as he knelt before Dean, placing a box with his supplies next to him. "I will deal with the half-breed."

Dean wasn't quite sure why the doctor had called him a half breed (if he had translated that right), but he didn't much care. All he knew was that this man was a healer given his clothing (he hadn't spent much time in the villages they passed but he knew a doctor when he saw one) and his mustache was creepy. Ugh, a pretty nurse with a needle or, hell, a hand saw would have been preferable.

The healer offered a faint bow and immediately spoke in a stern tone, "Please lay back down, Master Raijo did not have you dragged back here just to reopen your wounds and bleed to death. Please lie back down spirit banisher."

Dean, pushing his first handler away, immediately barked, "No, not until you tell me where my brother is? Where is he?" Dean's throat immediately went dry, his mouth struggling to say what was on his mind, "Did he drown? D-did my brother drown?!"

The healer, frowning deeply, sighed and murmured to the other man in the room, "Give me the brown jar and a cloth. He is in no condition to be upset for that matter awake."

Dean, feeling a slight panic rising in the back of his throat, the room feeling even hotter, wasn't even allowed to panic about his missing sibling when suddenly the healer was in front of him, a cloth being placed over his mouth and nose. He knew the smell all too well, even though it had a particular ting to it that Chloroform generally did. He tried to pull away, tried to keep unconsciousness at bay, but his body would have none of it. And before he knew it, he was being laid back onto the bed, the world fading into a black inkiness, the healer murmuring, "Good, I was sure he was going to start something on fire. The room is sweltering hot, but at least we know he's going to live."

"But what of his brother?" asked Ling, carefully, cooling the room. It really was a surprise nothing had started on fire. This man, who apparently didn't know how to bend at all, would indeed be a powerful bender. He almost started the sheets on fire just because he was upset.

Natural skill, like himself; the Fire Nation wouldn't be letting this one get away.

"And what of his brother? Jet won't talk about it and no one has found a body."

Meanwhile, while one brother fell into a drug induced sleep, another brother was woken by soft sobbing in his ear.

Slowly opening his eyes, wondering if it would be one of those waking dreams where Jessica would be on the ceiling, looking down at him while she wept tears of blood, the hunter was almost thankful when he saw nothing but misty tree tops. He stared for a moment, wondering how high those trees were until a particularly loud sob caught his attention.

Slowly turning his head, wondering if this would be another nightmare, Sam stared at the figure for a moment as his eyes struggled to focus. For a moment it looked like a jumble of too many limbs and lumps, but slowly it formed into an older looking girl, maybe twelve, holding two small children to her chest. One of the children, a little girl in a green dress with little ruined braided loops in her hair, couldn't be shushed. Her cries were echoing over the expanse.

Slowly sitting up and finally noting he was lying in a warm pool of water about three inches deep, Sam turned his attention to the three forms, his words sluggish, "Hello … what, where are we? Are you okay?"

The older girl, pulling the smaller figures closer, merely sank back, whispering, "It matters what you consider okay?"

Sam, not liking the frightened look on her face, felt the distinctive urge to reach for one of his hidden knives as he asked wearily, "What do you mean by that?"

"She means we are stuck here. We will never get to leave," said another voice, Sam turning his head to see that there were a lot more than three children. There had to be a whole orphanage worth of children in green and red and a few blue huddled about in the strange swamp-like trees. It was then that Sam realized that he had found the missing children and then some from the camp … and he didn't know if that was a good or bad thing especially when one angry looking teenager added:

"After all, this is the Spirit Realm."


Paw07: Apologies, this isn't one of my top tier fics and work has been beating my brain silly with how shorthanded we have been. We had a slow Friday though … so here you go.