Dean dialed Sam's number a few miles down the road from the Weathers' farm. He might as well call and let his brother know the Spriggan had vacated the premises and that the hunt was still on. It would at least allow Sam to get a good night's rest if he knew Dean was alright.
It was one of those nights where everyone would always make the comment "It sure is dark out tonight". The desolate road from the country into town was nearly pitch black, even at this hour; the fields to both sides of the car were lost in the darkness. Dean put the high beams on to get a better view of the road ahead as he waited for Sam to pick up the phone.
"Dean?" Sam answered.
"Yeah, Sam. It's me."
Sam could hear the sounds of the Impala in the background. He sighed a breath of relief. "You got him?"
"Ah, well, no."
"No? What happened, Dean? Are you okay?" His brother didn't sound injured, but Dean was good at covering things up. Not that Sam was so sure the elder Winchester would tell him the truth.
"It was gone. It either didn't come back or it just up and left. There's no way to know for sure." Dean slowed the Impala down. There were some tight turns out here and he didn't need to kill himself by going off into a ditch. "I did a thorough search of the woods, too. There was nothing. I just left the place. It sucks having to tell someone we couldn't finish the job."
"Well, I shouldn't say this, but I'm happy he wasn't around. Going after that thing alone wasn't a good idea."
"What the hell else was I supposed to do, Sam? We don't hide from shit like this, we hunt it." Dean swerved the car to avoid a pot hole. He was trying to keep himself in check. "Look, I'm heading back to the motel for the rest of the night. I'll-"
Something suddenly jumped out into the road in front of the car and Dean stomped on the brakes. "Holy shit!" The phone fell from his hand to the floor. The thing was heading his way. Dean had a bad feeling he knew what it was.
"Dean?" Sam's voice came from the phone, but Dean didn't hear it. "Dean, what's going on? Are you alight? Dean!" Sam's concerned calls went unanswered.
Sam didn't hang up. He'd give Dean a chance to get back on the line. It could've been something as simple as a tire blowout and his brother needed both hands on the wheel. Sam could hear the screeching of tires locking up on the asphalt.
He could also hear Dean saying something, but couldn't make it out. His brother sounded angry though. All he could do was listen.
Suddenly, there was the sound of glass shattering and his brother yelled out, causing Sam to instantly panic.
Dean stared at the Spriggan (at least that's what he assumed it was) as it approached the car. As Bobby had said, it looked nothing like its former self. This creature wasn't just ugly anymore; it was a thing from nightmares.
He threw the car into park and reached around for his Colt. It still had several more iron rounds in it. But before he was able to bring the weapon around and take aim, the creature jumped onto the hood of the car. It pressed its horrid face up against the windshield and sneered. Its beady, green eyes stared at Dean; they were full of hostile intent.
Dean's eyes widened as the Elemental grew from its new height of a couple of feet to man-sized. The hood of the car groaned in protest from the heavier weight and Dean could hear the paint being scratched from its sharp, wooden limbs.
"Dude, you're scratching the fucking paint!" Dean's jaw clenched. If he survived this, Baby was gonna need some new paint…and wasn't that just great.
He barely finished shouting at the Spriggan when it broke through the glass with its fist and, in the blink of an eye, grabbed Dean around the neck. It yanked hard, pulling Dean out of the driver's seat and through the broken windshield. He gasped, dropping his gun, and tore at the wooden digits squeezing at his throat.
The Spriggan giggled. In Dean's mind, he knew he was going to die hearing that god-awful sound. His body dangled from the tight grip. The Elemental leapt off the hood of the car and landed several feet away, still keeping his hold on the hunter. Dean's mind started to fog up from lack of oxygen and he was beginning to see spots.
And then Dean was harshly thrown down to the ground. He pushed himself up on all fours and took several long ragged breaths, and then he looked over his shoulder at the monster. It just stood there with a sharp-fanged smile on its face. It was toying with Dean, like a cat and its mouse. After a minute of composing himself, Dean stood up on shaky legs; he didn't think anything was broken. The hunter stared defiantly at the Spriggan. It only stared back and tilted its head to the side, almost as if it was studying him.
Dean glanced over at the car. He couldn't help but cringe when he saw the scratched and dented hood, as well as the broken windshield. His Colt was there somewhere. If he could get to the vehicle and find it… Dean looked back at the creature. It had yet to move. It was waiting. God, he hated it when they did that. He always preferred when they moved first. At least then he'd have an idea as to what they were going to do. It was the whole hunter/prey thing. Dean knew he was the prey tonight. He swallowed, took a breath, and made a run for it.
About halfway there, Dean dove, hitting the ground in a roll. He reached for the door handle. Just as his fingers tightened around it, he felt sharp claws digging into his left calf. It was a blinding, white hot pain and he cried out in sheer agony. Dean held onto the door handle as if it could save his life. If only he could get the door open and find his gun.
The Spriggan continued to pull at Dean until the man's grip slipped from the car. No. Nononono… Dean didn't want to go down this way. He briefly pictured his tombstone: 'Dean Winchester, 1979 – 2009, Beloved Brother, Killed by a Pissed Off and Angry Tree'.
"Let me go you friggin' piece of crap!" Dean kicked at the thing's hand with his right foot, trying to dislodge the nails from his leg; his left leg was starting to grow numb. There was no getting it to let go. It lifted Dean and dangled him upside down over the road…and grew. The ground below Dean got farther and farther away. The searing pain in his leg got worse as the nails widened in proportion to the creature's growth.
Finally, the Spriggan stopped his magical growth spurt. Dean's vision was blurring from the pain he was in, but he got the idea that he was some five to ten feet from the earth below. Yeah, Dean was starting to agree with Sam. This job really needed two people.
"So help me when this is over, I'm never going in the woods again. No more nature shit, not even a granola bar," Dean mumbled to himself as he bent at the waist and tried to reach up into his boot. He had his small knife sheathed there for emergencies. It was silver and wouldn't do much, but maybe if he was lucky, it would get the thing to let go. In the back of Dean's mind, he knew it was going to hurt when he hit the ground, but it would be better than being just plain dead.
Sam yanked the I.V. from his hand and pulled the nasal cannula from his nose. He needed to get to Dean. His brother had brought in a fresh set of clothes for him yesterday and Sam changed into them as quickly as he could. He would steal a car and get to Dean. The man would more than likely be on the country road near the Weathers' farm from what he had gathered from their earlier conversation.
He was just leaning over to pull his second shoe on when he suddenly felt something was wrong. A sharp, stabbing pain started to develop in his chest, making its way to his shoulder and back. It jolted Sam straight up. The ache became worse as he breathed. Oh, no, he thought to himself. Not now. He tried to take a breath, but it hurt. Dammit! As the seconds went by, his breath became too short. Sam must have aggravated the hole in his lung from moving around too much. His lung was collapsing again.
Sam dropped down onto his back on the bed and tried to breathe. The oxygen wasn't fully making it in and he was starting to feel a little light-headed. He closed his eyes. Dean was going to die out there and here he was, dying from a fucking collapsed lung. Good ol' Winchester luck. That's what this was.
The Spriggan was enjoying this. He watched as Dean struggled futilely in his grasp. There was time before he tore the hunter to pieces. He liked to watch the fear in the man's eyes. Dean knew he was going to die. There was nothing the human could do.
He kept himself from growing overly large, for it would help to conserve his strength. There was no reason to overdo it. It would allow him to play with his toy all that much longer. The Elemental had already drawn blood and he liked the smell of it.
Dean was yelling and trying to pull his nails from his leg, but the creature ignored him. He only squeezed harder and gave the man another small shake, giggling when the hunter cried out again. Yes, this was so much fun. Maybe in the future he would start hunting humans instead of dumb animals. They were so much more interesting when they tried to resist.
He swiped a sharp nail across Dean's stomach and smiled when the man yelled and tried to curl up from the pain. Another slash along the human's side resulted in another blood-curdling cry being released from between the man's lips.
The Spriggan giggled. Yes, this was rather enjoyable.
Sam was nearly unconscious. The nurses on the floor were small in number this late in the evening and he knew they weren't due to make their rounds again for a while. His eyes remained closed as he struggled to breathe in what little air he could. The call button was too far up on the bed for him to gain access to. This was it. The remaining two Winchesters were going to be but a memory after tonight.
It felt like hours had passed when Sam heard a soft fluttering noise in the room. At this point, he figured he was imagining things. Weird things happened to you when you were suffocating to death.
But then Sam felt a soft touch to his forehead and suddenly he felt…okay? He opened his eyes and standing at the foot of the bed next to him was Castiel…in trench coat, crooked tie, and all. "Cas?" He blinked. Then his brow creased. "But how-"
"There is no time," the angel said in his low, gravelly voice. Castiel glanced at Sam's shoeless foot. "Finish clothing yourself. We must leave…now." The man looked up and tilted his head as if he was listening for something.
"I need to get to Dean. He's in trouble," Sam said as he quickly pulled his other shoe on and grabbed his jacket as he stood up from the bed.
"I know. That's why I'm here." Castiel looked up to the ceiling again, and then back down to Sam. "If they find out I've come..." He left the sentence hanging. "I can take you to him, but that is all."
Before Sam could protest, Castiel pressed two fingers to his forehead. He blinked his eyes and then he was standing in the middle of a dark road. Roughly thirty feet in front of Sam was the Impala. In front of the car, lit up in the headlights of the vehicle, was a sight that stirred him into immediate action. Sam didn't even look to see if Cas had come with him or not.
The Spriggan was what Sam guestimated to be about fifteen feet tall and was dangling Dean upside down over the road. Thankfully, the creature hadn't noticed his sudden appearance.
Sam stooped low and moved quickly over to the car. The trunk was closed so he couldn't access the weapons compartment and Sam didn't have his Taurus on him. Dean had probably taken it back when the younger Winchester was first attacked by the Elemental. Sam hoped that maybe the keys were still in the ignition since the fact that the headlights were still on led him to believe Dean didn't have much time to do anything before the Spriggan had attacked.
He sidled alongside the car and immediately saw the source of the sound of shattering glass that he had heard earlier. Shit. The windshield was completely busted out. And then Sam saw the weapons duffel sitting on the backseat. "Oh, thank god," he whispered as he did his best to open the car door with as little noise as possible. Times like these were when he really wished Dean would oil the hinges on the doors, but his brother had always refused saying it was part of "Baby's charm".
Unzipping the bag, Sam pulled it open. He dug around looking for the best weapon to use against the creature. Apparently, Dean was looking to burn the sucker because the bag was loaded with everything they had that could light something up. Sam saw the two flare guns. They would allow him to attack from a distance which is what he needed. He grabbed them and pulled himself from the car.
Dean must've been in pain because in between the low growls and excruciating giggles, Sam could hear his brother moan. But, in between the moans, and this made Sam smile, Dean was still there enough to verbally continue to rip the Spriggan apart. Good ol' Dean.
Sam stepped up from around the car, aiming one of the flare guns high. "Hey!" he called out. Both the Elemental and Dean stopped their taunting of each other and looked down at Sam. Sam squeezed the trigger and watched as the flare shot out and hit the Spriggan directly in the chest.
For a second, the creature just looked down at Sam, eyes wide in surprise at seeing him, and then it looked at Dean again. He glared in hatred at the human. Suddenly, the Spriggan let out a howl that probably could have awoken the whole countryside. Its body trembled and its back arched as the flare did its work. The creature's grip on Dean released and the hunter started falling to the ground. Dean yelled and tucked into himself, bracing for impact.
Sam saw the creature let go of Dean and ran forward. If he could break his brother's fall, he might be okay. Sam got there just in time for Dean to crash into him and they both fell into a heap on the ground with grunts and groans.
The wail above became louder. Sam took a chance and glanced up through the tangle of limbs and saw a bright glow emanating from deep within the Spriggan. "Dean, we gotta get away from it!" He stood, hauling Dean up with him and lugged his limping brother back toward the Impala.
What sounded like a freight train roared through the air and suddenly there was an explosion so intense it blew the brothers from their feet as they made to round the corner behind the car. They both stumbled to the ground amidst splinters and shards of wood flying through the air.
Sam was lying flat on his stomach when all had quieted. He turned his head to look back over his shoulder and the Spriggan was gone. The road looked like a lumber truck had tipped over. Wood was everywhere. He glanced back at Dean. The man was out.
Getting up to his knees, Sam looked down at his brother. Dean's face had an eerie, red glow to it from the tail lights of the car. Sam's eyes traveled down over Dean's body and all he could see were dark stains…blood. Dean's left pant leg was covered in it, all the way up to his thigh, and his shirt was soaked. Sam shook his head. He hoped Cas had gotten him there in time. "Hey, Dean." He lightly shook the man. There was a quiet moan before Dean's eyes slowly blinked open.
Dean heard someone calling to him. It took a minute for him to focus, but…was that Sam? He thought he remembered seeing a flash of his brother standing below the Spriggan. "Sammy? How'd you get here?"
Sam lifted the darkened material of Dean's shirt to see what the damage was. "Cas sent me here." The cut on Dean's abdomen didn't look too bad, but there were several more long and mean-looking wounds on his brother's chest and sides. He would have to check them out back at the room to see how deep they were. You couldn't judge a book by its cover when it came to injuries. Many times, the damage wasn't as bad as the amount of blood seemed to call for. But Dean's leg on the other hand… Well, Sam had seen how the creature had been holding his brother. He knew that was going to be a mess.
Dean managed to lift an eyebrow. "Cas was here? Well, hell." He closed his eyes and smiled. He would owe the angel one.
"You think you can get up?" Sam got up to his feet and reached a hand out to help Dean.
"Um…" Dean tried to push himself up, but it didn't work out too well. "Nope." His head thumped back down to the asphalt. Dean winced having forgotten about the hard surface he was currently laying on. He hurt. His whole leg was numb by now and the cuts on his upper body protested at any movement. He was also light-headed. Whether it was from all the blood rushing to his head from being held upside down for so long or the loss of blood, he wasn't sure…and his mind wasn't quite there enough to figure it out.
Sam frowned before getting down to help Dean to his feet. That wasn't a good sign. Sam could probably count on one hand how many times his brother actually admitted he was down for the count. But there was nothing he could do in the middle of the road in the dark. "Come on, I got you. It's just a couple of feet to the car."
He must have passed out because Dean woke up to find himself in a bed surrounded by the familiar sights of the motel room. The lamp beside the bed was turned on and he could see Sam sleeping in the other bed.
Dean looked down at himself and saw that he was stripped down to nothing except for a fresh pair of boxer briefs. The wounds on his chest and stomach were covered in fresh, white gauze. Sam obviously had fixed him up while he was out, and for that, he was very appreciative. He wasn't feeling too bad either which meant that somehow his brother had to have gotten some kind of pain meds into him.
Dean looked down at his leg. He knew the limb had received the worst of the damage.
"You may need to go to the hospital for that." Dean jumped when he heard Sam start talking and looked over to the other bed. "I did the best I could, but the Spriggan's claws went right down to the bone. There's a risk of infection."
The elder Winchester groaned at the thought. "Awesome." Dean shifted to sit up a little on the pillows behind him, but winced at the pull of stitches in his torso. He decided to stay put.
"Things could be a lot worse, you know," Sam said from across the three feet of space between the two beds.
"Is it dead?" That's all Dean wanted to know right now…that this hunt was over.
"Yeah, it's dead."
"Good, otherwise I was gonna turn Pinocchio into chopsticks for fucking up my car. Did you see what he did to Baby?"
Sam laughed as he reached over to turn off the light. "Goodnight, Dean."