Summary: Sam's been hurt and laid up with a broken leg, but he can't remember how it happened and he isn't going to rest until Dean tells the story.
Author notes: Big, HUGE thanks to harrigan who not only bid on me for the spn_bigpretzel auction and donated to the Hurrican Sandy relief efforts in exchange for this story, but she also gave me the prompt for this, beta'd it, gave me some awesome advice on how to improve my writing, AND came up with the title for this - She is beyond incredible!
( 28 Hours a DayCollapse )
For harrigan, who requested a crutches-wielding Sam, injured doing something more heroic than falling off a ladder hanging Christmas lights.
28 Hours a Day
Sam woke with a strangled gasp, lying in a bed in a room he didn't recognize. Just as quickly as consciousness came to him, so did pain and confusion.
Though he didn't know the where's, the why's, the who's, or the how's, it was pretty damn clear with his first attempt at lifting his head that he wasn't going anywhere, that he'd been hurt and it was bad… really, really, fucking bad. He wasn't sure which injury his haywire nerves demanded more of his attention; his head that felt like it had an axe driven through it and was leaking brain matter all over the bed, pooling in a sticky mess around his ears, or his right leg, pulsing with a bone-deep, white-hot knot of agony that generated from his toes up to his knee.
He touched his head and pulled away shaky, red-covered fingers.
Okay, not brain matter… just blood, he told himself, a little surprised to find his head was mostly still intact given the amount nausea-inducing spinning the room was doing in front of his eyes.
The jackhammer working away in his head was only marginally less pronounced than the screaming hell-fire in his leg, so he attempted to lift his head from his pillow and get a look at whatever the hell was causing it.
The slight movement caused his vision to darken around the edges while black-and-orange-rimmed spots floated in front of his eyes. He panted heavily until they faded enough for him to view his leg. His pant leg had been cut all the way from the hem up to his thigh, revealing the sickening truth of what a mess his leg was in. There wasn't any blood to be seen, but the obvious deformity that bent his lower leg at an odd angle mid-way between his knee and ankle gave him an immediate idea of what the problem was.
His leg was clearly broken.
The sight of the injury made the pain even worse. Sam squeezed his eyes shut and groaned deeply and then fell back against the bed, renewing the pounding of the anvil inside his skull.
Sam felt something touch his shoulder, and heard a voice speaking soothingly into his ear. He clenched his teeth and pried his eyes open. Dean's face filled his sight.
"Hey, hey, Sammy. Calm down, okay? Deep breaths. Just breathe through it, alright?" Dean coached, gripping Sam's arm tighter and using that tone of voice that Sam thought of as his 'worried, but not gonna show it' voice.
Sam wasn't sure where his brother had come from, but seeing him brought a little bit of relief. Sam still had no idea what happened, but at least Dean appeared to be whole and intact, free from injury. "Dean–" Sam croaked, his voice sounding far away and detached from his body.
"Hold on, kiddo… sorry. I had to call Bobby, but he's on his way, okay? We're gonna get you fixed up. But I need you to do something for me…."
Sam had no idea what Dean was talking about. Sam could hardly move; what was he going to be able to do for his brother?
Dean took hold of Sam's hands and raised them over his head. He guided Sam's fingers around something metal and Sam carefully turned to see Dean take his other hand and wrap it around the brass bars that made up the headboard.
"I need you to hold onto this, can you do that?" Dean asked.
Dean's gaze hardened with determination. Sam knew from that look that Dean had to do something he didn't want to do, but was steeling himself to go through with it anyway. "Look… I need to set your leg."
Realization hit Sam like Mack truck. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…
This wouldn't be the first time he had a bone reset and he knew from experience that doing so without the benefit of some kind of anesthetic was going to hurt like a son of a bitch. But Sam knew Dean didn't really have another choice. Having the FBI on their trail meant that they had to avoid hospitals unless one of them was dying. A broken leg wasn't fatal and Sam would have ripped Dean a new one if he had taken him to a hospital, but all the same… a few painkillers would be nice.
"Here." Dean lifted a bottle to Sam's lips. The smell of cheap whiskey wafted from the lip, making his stomach recoil, and he turned his head away. "It's better than nothing and it'll help," Dean urged him. "Bobby's bringing the good painkillers and he'll be here soon, but if I don't set that leg now, you'll lose the circulation to your foot."
Sam took in a shaky breath, agreeing with Dean's logic, but not liking it. He turned toward the whiskey bottle again and let Dean hold it up for him until he had taken several mouthfuls. The liquor burned on its way down and left Sam on the edge of puking it all back up, but he clenched his jaw tight and refused to let his stomach rebel. After a few moments, the burning in his gut turned into soothing warmth, and he finally felt himself relax a little. That is, until Dean unbuckled his belt, folded it in on itself and then had Sam open his mouth and bite down on it. He moved away from Sam's side then and walked around to the end of the bed, his hands reaching for the Sam's ankle .
Reflexively, Sam gripped the brass poles of the bed in a white-knuckle grip as his heart beat wildly in his chest. The pain was going to be bad… he knew that, but waiting for it to come was almost as agonizing.
"Ready?" Dean asked, meeting his little brother's eyes with an unspoken apology, as though dreading the next few moments as much as Sam.
Sam swallowed hard, but nodded quickly, just wanting to get it over with. He clenched his hands harder around the bars and bit down hard on the belt, the taste of leather making him nauseated.
"On three…." Dean warned. "One…"
Suddenly Dean yanked on his leg - hard. Sam's vision exploded into white, his mouth opening, releasing the belt as a scream ripped from his throat. The pulling went on and on, the pain climbing higher and higher until it reached past its zenith and Sam cried out for it all to stop, tears bleeding from his eyes and rolling down his face.
Blessedly, the pulling ended and Dean spoke, breathless and wavering. "You did good, Sammy. You did real good..."
Dean's voice started to fade and soon Sam's awareness did too.
Sam pried open crusty eyelids, blearily focusing on a stream of sunlight slipping between the curtain panels. He watched the dust motes dance their way down the sliver of light, and he blinked slowly, feeling well and truly doped to the gills. Dean must have given him those pain pills he talked about; he just couldn't remember.
Oh well… he didn't care. He couldn't feel much pain – or much of anything else for that matter. Even his face was numb. It was kinda nice and he decided he might as well enjoy it while he could.
Rubbing his eyes, Sam yawned and got a good look around the room. He didn't remember much before this point, just bits and pieces of the pain. The room he was in hadn't registered, but now that he was at least semi-lucid, he took it all in. He didn't recognize the room with its cigarette smoke-stained walls, Brady Bunch décor, or the Bob Ross-inspired landscape painting of trees and a lake that hung crookedly across from his line of sight.
Sam brought his elbows up and made an attempt to raise his head. The upward movement made him dizzy and he blinked away the black spots crowding his vision, fighting the spike of pain driving into his head. Sitting halfway up on his forearms he caught sight of his leg, propped up on a pillow. From his bare toes to his knee, his leg was encased in a cast – a surprisingly professional-looking cast at that. No way had Dean done that himself.
As if to confirm his belief, he could hear two voices speaking in muttered tones just outside the partially open motel room door. He could see the edge of Dean's shirtsleeve and his gesturing hand as he spoke in strained, clipped words, and in return, Bobby's voice came through, equally harsh. Sam couldn't make out what the conversation was about.
Dean suddenly went from gesturing to reaching for the doorknob and half a second later, he was through the door. He stopped short, meeting Sam's gaze, clearly a little surprised to see Sam not only awake, but partially sitting up.
"Hey… what are you doing up?" Dean asked with mild irritation. "Lie back down before you mess up Bobby's handiwork."
Sam shook his head, regretting the back-and-forth movement as it renewed the headache blooming behind his eyes, but afraid that lying down would only make things worse. "I'm okay, Dean," he tried to assure his brother, but he couldn't hide how shaky his arms were becoming under the strain of holding his upper body.
Dean sighed and rolled his eyes as he stomped over to Sam and piled up a stack of pillows behind him. "Lie back before you pass out again."
Sam didn't have the energy to complain and did as he was told, sighing in relief as the strain was taken off his arms and he could sit up a little without supporting himself.
Bobby walked into view and Sam gave the older man a lopsided grin. "I take it you did this?" he asked, pointing to his cast.
"You don't really think this knucklehead could have done it, do you?" Bobby pointed to Dean as he replied, with a hint of affection threaded under his usual grumpy voice.
Sam snorted a little when Dean pulled an offended face. "Hey!"
"I'm just sayin… I've got a lot more experience with broken bones than you."
"Experience? Is that what they call old age now?"
Bobby shot Dean down with a deadly narrowing of his eyes. "Shut it, boy or some of this 'experience' will kick your ass into next Wednesday."
Sam grinned a little at the good-natured ribbing, but his headache flared and he couldn't help the wince that followed. The drugs were probably starting to wear off.
"Hey… you okay?" Dean asked.
"I'm okay…. I just –" Sam rubbed his head, trying to clear some of the fuzziness away, but no matter how hard he tried, he was plagued with confusion. "What happened? I don't remember."
"You don't remember what? The hunt? Getting hurt?"
Sam shook his head. "Not much of anything, really."
Dean looked worried. "Well… you took a pretty good crack to the noggin. I'm sure the details are gonna be fuzzy. What do you remember?"
Sam blew out a breath. "Uh… bits and pieces…. Was it snowing?" He hated not knowing the full story, but his memory felt like looking into a box of puzzle pieces he had to put together, and he didn't have the picture from the cover to work off.
"Yeah… we're in Michigan in January, of course there's snow."
"God… tell me you at least remember that."
"Actually … yeah... a little." Sam furrowed his brow. Now that he thought hard about it, some things were coming back to him. "The last thing that I remember was stopping for gas in… uh… Holland?"
Dean nodded, encouraging Sam to go on and dig for the memories.
Sam went on. "You were mad about something stupid. Cheetos, I think? I picked the wrong kind or something…."
"What the hell is this?" Dean asked, disgust written on his face.
"I got you Cheetos, like you asked," Sam replied, tossing the snack into his brother's lap while slamming his car door shut.
Dean held up the bag and shook it. "These are puffy Cheetos…."
"So?" Dean huffed, "I asked for crunchy Cheetos. Puffy Cheetos suck."
"What does it matter? They're both made out of the same crap."
Dean sighed as though Sam was a young child he had to explain the world to. "Puffy Cheetos do this weird melting thing in your mouth then stick to your teeth."
Sam thinned his lips into a flat line and then grabbed the offensive snack bag from his brother. "Fine, don't eat 'em."
Dean snatched them back and then opened the bag and shoved a couple into his mouth. "M'nly eatin' 'em 'cos m'ungry."
"Can we just go?" Sam asked, rolling his eyes.
Ten minutes later, they were traveling north along the snowy highway. Sam pulled out the map. "Looks like we keep heading north on this highway till we reach the exit for Pontaluna road, turn left and head west for another five or six miles. The park should be on the left," Sam informed his brother, who only grunted in acknowledgment.
Said park was P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. While it was more crowded in the summer thanks to its beach along the shores of Lake Michigan, its heavily wooded trails made it a popular area for cross-country skiers, hikers, and snowshoers in the winter as well. Unfortunately, it had also recently become known as the site of a recent bloodbath that had law enforcement officials baffled. A man and a woman apparently were torn apart by animals in an area without bears, wildcats, or wolves to account for the attack. The police were officially blaming a pack of wild dogs, but no one had seen or heard any packs of dogs roaming the forest. Sam had a couple of theories already bouncing around in his head, but he'd hold off on judgment until they talked to people and did a little more investigating.
Snow began to fall in earnest as Dean turned onto the exit ramp, heeding Sam's directions. Dean concentrated on the road while Sam watched the snow-covered scenery rush by from the passenger window. The weather report called for a snowstorm that night, but the ground already had to have at least three feet of snow piled on it. They passed by one house with a man shoveling snow from his driveway – the mounds of snow lining his driveway were already practically up past the poor guy's waist and Sam wondered at the futility of the man's work while it was still snowing– he'd only have to dig himself out once again when he finally finished.
Sam let his mind wander until the car turned into the entrance of the park.
"And that's about all I can really remember clearly until waking up here," Sam told Dean and Bobby. "So… what happened after that?"
"Well…." Dean started to explain, "we hunted, killed the fugly, and you got hurt in the process. What more do you need to know?"
"Some details would be nice, Dean," Sam complained. "And it's not like I'm going anywhere. So tell."
Dean huffed an exasperated sigh. "Fine … we pulled into the park and headed for the Nature Center…."
"Whoa… uh. Hold on a sec."
"What? I thought you wanted to hear the story."
"I do… it's just-" Sam made an attempt to sit up fully, grunting with the pain of moving. "I need to pee."
Dean's lips formed an 'O' and he was quickly joined by Bobby in helping Sam get vertical. Sam wavered as he tried to balance on one foot, but Dean's arm wrapped around his waist kept him from falling. In the meantime, Bobby hurried over to a corner of the room, bringing back a pair of crutches for Sam.
"You not gonna topple like a felled tree if you use these?" Bobby asked, handing over the crutches.
Sam grinned weakly, his head a little light now that he was standing. "I'll be fine. Thanks, Bobby."
Sam grabbed the crutches and got them under his arms. They were a little short for his stature, but he was grateful to have them and not have to rely on Dean's arm to keep him upright. A few minutes later, he emerged and Dean helped him maneuver through the door on his crutches until he could get back onto the bed and settled comfortably back against the pillows.
Bobby hovered nearby for a few moments before moving towards the door to leave. "I apparently got a body to take care of," he said with an air of feigned annoyance. He turned his back and walked out the door without bothering to say good-bye.
"Body?" Sam asked Dean.
"I told ya… we killed the baddie, Sam. I was just a little busy hauling your broken ass away to clean up. Bobby's offered to help with that."
Sam nodded, his eyebrows knitted as he worked through the fog in his head, still unable to recall much of what happened. "So… you gonna tell me the rest of the story or what?"
Dean sighed and plopped down on the bed opposite Sam's and started to talk. "Well… it was pretty routine once we got to the nature center…."
"Nice…." Dean pointed out, letting the sarcasm fly as they walked into the park's nature center and eyed the static displays of stuffed squirrels and other small animals that could be found in the park. The most dangerous of the menagerie appeared to be a rather irate-looking blue jay, wired to a plastic tree, posed to make it look like it was squawking at a fat robin near its nest. Other than a small bobcat that was only a little bigger than a housecat, there were no predators on display that could account for the vicious mauling that occurred there days earlier.
A little old lady who reminded Dean of Betty White but with bluer hair came from behind a desk and approached them. She pulled down her reading glasses and let them hang from a beaded chain, catching a little on a name badge attached to her sweater-set that said 'Martha'.
"Hello there." She smiled as she greeted them. "Can I help you gentlemen?"
Dean pulled out a Michigan State Police badge at the same time Sam took out his and flashed the ID for the woman. "I'm Detective Perry," Dean stated before pointing to Sam. "And this is my partner, Detective Page."
Martha took a step forward, placed her glasses on her face again, and inspected their badges with intense concentration. "Oh…." she began, lowering her glasses again. "I thought the police were done with us, but you must be here about those poor people. Such a sad thing… being attacked like that… here in our little town. In all my years, I never knew anything like this was possible…. I mean… people are saying it was a cougar. Can you imagine? A cougar? Here?"
"I take it that you think that it's unlikely" Sam said.
"Of course …. There haven't been any substantiated reports of any cougars in Michigan since …." She leaned in conspiratorially. "I heard you guys weren't convinced it was an animal attack anyway."
"Who told you that?" Dean asked.
"Well… Leah down in the rental shop here has a boyfriend who knows a guy that works in the records department of City Hall in Muskegon, and he overheard two police officers talking about the case. Apparently that poor couple rented some snowshoes that day and went for a hike out in the woods here; then just vanished. Their footprints in the snow just stopped and there were no other footprints near them – no animal tracks, that is… it was like they were just… I dunno… were 'beamed' out of the park."
"Beamed out?" Sam asked, narrowing his eyes while Dean was imagining Scotty at the controls of the Enterprise transporter, saying, 'I'm givin' her all I got!'
That brought a little smile to Dean's face, which in turn created a frown on Sam's.
"Yes… well… no… of course it wasn't UFO's or anything like that, but what else can swoop in without a trace and take off with two people? Those poor people… they seemed so nice, too, when they came in to visit the nature center. It's all very strange, don't you think?"
'Strange' is a relative term, Dean thought to himself. So far, this case seemed pretty 'normal' to him and he was already going through a mental list of all of the monsters out there that could snatch people up and then leave behind only pieces of them afterward. Immediately, his mind went to wendigo and at the same time, he figured Sam must have jumped to the same conclusion based on what he asked next.
"Do you know if there are any caves, underground caverns, or mines around these parts?"
Martha seemed confused by the question, but Dean knew full well why Sam asked. If they were looking for a wendigo, then the thing would need a lair, which was almost always underground.
"Oh no… of course not. This whole park is essentially one giant sand dune. The ground is too unstable and weak to support anything of that sort. Plus it's so close to Lake Michigan that any kind of mining would just be flooded… not that there is much to mine for around here anyway…."
Sam nodded, but Dean could still see the cylinders firing in his brother's brain, even after his theory about a wendigo had just been shot to hell.
There wasn't much else that could help them about the case at the nature center, so they left soon after speaking with Martha and headed into town.
With his arms behind his head, pillowing his neck, and eyes shut, Sam might have looked as though he had fallen asleep, but his voice broke through the quiet.
"Why'd you stop?" he asked.
"Thought you were asleep."
"Keep going," Sam demanded, pulling out one of his hands and pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Maybe you should just rest for a while," Dean suggested, seeing the tight grimace Sam pulled as he shifted his position a little and stirred up the pain in his leg and head.
"I'm fine." Sam said unconvincingly. "Just get on with it already."
Dean shook his head, got up off of the bed and walked over to the bathroom, where the sound of water running almost-but-not-quite covered the sound of his muttering. "Stubborn bastard. Gotta be hurting, but you still have to know what happened. Why can't you just leave well-enough alone? Just take accept that the creature's dead and that how it happened doesn't matter."
Dean came back to his brother's side. "Why do we have to rehash all of this?" , he asked while he shook out a couple of pills, and handed them and the cup of water to him.
"I just do, okay? Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have this blank spot in my head?" Sam replied, doing his best puppy-dog impression which never failed to defeat Dean's resolve.
"Fine. Take these and I'll tell the rest, okay?"
Sam narrowed his eyes at the meds. "They'll just make me sleepy."
"Tough. You want to hear the story or what?"
Sam sighed, but relented and grabbed the pills. He popped them into his mouth and swallowed with a petulant glare at Dean before chasing them down with the water.
"There… that wasn't so bad, was it?" Dean said, taking a seat next to Sam on the edge of his bed.
"So… I kinda remember some of this," Sam admitted, the bitter aftertaste of the pills he just took still sitting on his tongue and stirring his stomach into an unhappy rumble. He felt nauseated, but there was still so much he was trying to piece together in his head, and that frustration was far worse than the pain he was in. He felt like the memories were right there, in the corner of his mind, but he just couldn't reach them. "Some of it's still really unclear and I just…. I just... can't stand not knowing all of it."
Dean didn't seem to be very enthused to keep telling the story, so Sam decided to prompt him. "I went to the library after we went to the park, didn't I?"
"Yeah… you went to do some research while I went to the police station to get the police records and coroner's report."
"You mean, stole them."
Dean shrugged. "Procured them, actually."
"What did the reports say?"
Dean pulled the car up to the curb next to the library where Sam was already waiting for him. Opening the car door, Sam climbed into the car and settled into his seat. "So... you get them?"
"Yeah… took some major flirting, but I got 'em."
"Let me guess… you got her number too?"
Dean frowned at the memory. Unfortunately, the woman at the records desk had indeed given him her number, but she was old enough to be his grandmother, and he had to use every ounce of his concentration to not stare at the hairy mole on her chin that bobbed up and down as she talked. Man… the things he did for this job….
Dean shivered a little but covered it by tossing the files into Sam's lap before driving off again. Sam dug right into the records and started pouring over them, pursing his lips from time to time as he read and digested the information.
"Huh…." Sam mumbled under his breath.
"Well… the lady at the nature center was right. There weren't any tracks except for the couple's and with at least two feet of snow… there should have been something. Even werewolves and wendigos leave tracks."
"Unless something flew in and swept them away, like a UFO?"
"No, don't be stupid. Whatever this thing was, it could fly and it had to be strong enough to carry off two people in one go."
"Maybe…." Sam didn't sound convinced. "But how many ghosts have we encountered that partially eat their victims?"
"Maybe it's Jeffery Dahmer's ghost," Dean kidded. Sam just rolled his eyes in response and then went back to flipping through the pages of the report.
"Whoa… wait." Sam spoke up after a few minutes of reading though the coroner's report.
"The wife… according to the medical examiner, her medical records indicated that she was pregnant… about 12 weeks along actually, but at autopsy, he couldn't find any sign of the fetus."
Dean screwed up his face in disgust. "So… this thing… whatever it is –"
"Ate the baby," Sam finished for him.
"No kidding. But I think I know now what this thing is."
"A mananangaal?" Sam asked even though he knew already what it was. He had flashes of it now, coming back to him in broken pieces, but of this conclusion he was certain.
"Yeah… that thing. You remember?"
"Kinda, but not completely. I mostly just put two and two together."
"Makes sense… not too many flying, baby-eaters out there."
Sam shifted, trying to get comfortable. His leg throbbed, but thankfully, the painkiller Dean had given him was starting to kick in. Unfortunately, that also meant that he was starting to feel a little dopey and sleepy.
He chuckled to himself…. Two out of seven dwarves….
At this rate, he wasn't going to stay lucid for long, so he needed Dean to pick up the story before he drifted off into never-never land.
"What happened after that?"
Back at the motel, Sam sat on his bed surrounded by papers, books, and his open laptop. The guy was in full-on geek mode and so completely in his element that Dean was hard-pressed to keep his grin in check as Sam started talking a mile a minute.
"Mananangaals are attracted to pregnant women and can sense when one is near them, but they'll also eat the flesh of anyone that gets in the way, which is probably why she took off with both the husband and the wife at the same time. Apparently this lust for baby flesh is so great that even though they usually only come out at night, it's still possible for them to come out during the day if the opportunity to feed on a pregnant woman presents itself. But here's the really weird thing about them – they detach themselves from their lower body when they go out to hunt, leaving their legs behind as their torso flies off." Sam pulled out a book and opened it to a page with a picture of an old hag with wings and no legs. "It's said that if you salt and burn the legs while she's detached from them, it leaves her vulnerable and you can kill it with just about anything."
Dean grimaced. "Gross."
"Understatement," Sam agreed. "It also says that the mananangaal has the appearance of a kindly old woman during the day – a grandmother type that people might mistakenly trust."
"Perfect cover…. No one's gonna think that little old granny is actually a psycho baby muncher."
Sam nodded. "Yeah… and there's one person we've met so far that fits that description and who was there the day the couple was killed."
He raised his eyebrows and Dean grinned. "I guess this means we're gonna be paying good ol' Martha at the nature center a little visit."
Sam called ahead, reaching a young woman working there named Leah who informed him that Martha was indeed there until closing that night. It had been a race to make it to the center before she decided to leave. By the time Dean pulled the car into a space by the nature center, it was already dark. With only a few minutes left before closing time, he grabbed his bag of supplies ,and he and Sam hurried to the doors and inside.
As usual, Sam was quick to point out that while Martha fit the profile of their creature, they couldn't just go in and waste her without some kind of proof. The first thing they did upon entering the center was search for the lady, but she wasn't sitting at the reception desk. The place was devoid of visitors on the first floor, but the sound of voices from the bottom of the stairs attracted their attention.
Hanging back, Dean and Sam found a corner to hide where they could listen in on the conversation without being noticed.
"I just don't know what to do, Martha." A young woman spoke in hushed tones, with a slight hitch to her voice as though she had been crying. She sounded to Sam like the Leah he had spoken with over the phone. "My boyfriend is a great guy and he says he wants to marry me, but I'm not sure if I love him, and I don't want to marry him just because he knocked me up, ya know?"
"Oh, honey…." the older woman consoled her. Dean peeked around the corner and could just make out Martha drawing Leah into a supportive embrace. "Don't worry…. Everything will work out, you'll see."
"I hope so. I really don't want to be a single mother, but… I'm going to have this baby either way."
"Of course." Martha held the young woman out at arm's length while still rubbing her shoulders. "Why don't you go home and get some rest. I'll close up and stop by your place later for dinner and we can talk some more. How does that sound?"
"You're so sweet. Thanks. That sounds really nice."
"Okay, my dear… you go on and I'll see you in a little while."
Leah nodded and smiled through her tears, giving Martha one last hug before she headed up the stairs and left the building without seeing Sam and Dean lurking in the shadows.
"Crap," Dean whispered. "I think we know who's on the menu next."
"We don't know that for sure yet," Sam countered.
"You kidding me?"
"We can't just gank her without hard proof, Dean. We need to follow her – see what she does."
"And what if she decides to do that whole freaky detachment thing here and fly over to that girl's house for a midnight snack? You said yourself that she can't be killed unless you burn the legs…. We need to split up. One of us stays on granny and takes care of the bottom half while the other heads to Leah's house to kill the rest of this bitch."
Sam sighed, clearly opposed to splitting up, but there really wasn't much of a choice. "Okay… I'll go to Leah's. You watch Martha. Give me your keys."
Dean pulled the keys from his pocket and dangled them at Sam before quickly pulling them back. "Hey… careful on those roads, remember to turn into the skid, and whatever you do… don't mess with my radio."
Sam shook his head and grumbled something under his breath while grabbing the keys, and hurried from the building before he Leah could get too far ahead of him to follow.
Shouldering his bag, Dean quietly descended the stairs, making as little noise as possible. The bottom of the stairs opened up to another display area with a large floor-to-ceiling window that showed an outside garden filled with bird and squirrel feeders so people could watch some of the animals that inhabited the area. A reflection in the window caught his eye and he flattened his back against the wall, holding his breath. It was Martha, humming a tune to herself as she began turning off lights around the building.
Dean watched as she slipped through a door marked 'storage 'and shut it behind her. Carefully, he came out of his hiding place, pulling his gun out from his waistband. He approached the door and reached for the knob, turned it quietly, and slowly pushed it open.
Raising his gun, he swept into the room and was suddenly assaulted by a high-pitched wail so loud that it made him see stars, and he instinctively covered his ears, feeling as though they might start bleeding from the terrible noise. In the next second, something barreled into him and sent him flying backward from the room and careening into the wall, his head connecting with hard brick. Just before it all went black, Dean caught sight of the thing- unsure if what he was seeing was real, but it sure was one ugly, flying mother… and legless….
"She knocked you out?" Sam asked.
"Yeah… I don't know how long I was under, but the next thing I know, my phone is ringing…."
Dean groaned, his head aching miserably while an annoying sound kept repeating in his ears. At least it wasn't that wailing noise, but whatever it was, it was only making his headache worse. He realized at the same moment that his butt was vibrating and the noise was growing louder – sounding an awful lot like… what is that?
Metallica… Ride the Lightning?
Oh… phone… duh.
Opening his eyes and groaning again, he pushed himself up to his elbows and reached into his back pocket to retrieve his phone. With fumbling fingers, he pressed the button to answer and raised it to his ears only to be assaulted by a loud voice on the other end.
"Dean?! You there? Answer me!"
"Guhhhh…. Not so loud."
"What happened? I've been trying to call you, but you wouldn't answer."
Dean sat up the rest of the way, holding his head as if to keep it from exploding from his neck. "It's her, Sam. She's the manana-thing. She took off – don't know where she went, but she's probably heading your way."
"There hasn't been any sign of her yet."
"Where are you?"
"1345 Chestnut – about a ten minute drive east on Pontaluna. The street is on the right and the house is on the left hand side."
Dean moaned as he struggled to his feet. "Hang on…. I'm on my way. I'll have to steal the old lady's car, but I'll get there as soon as I can."
"Wait, Dean. The legs… did she leave them behind?"
For a moment, Dean's mind didn't register why that was important, but Sam was quick to let him know again. "You got to salt and burn them otherwise she can't be killed."
Dean nodded, even though Sam couldn't see him and it only made his head want to cave in on itself. "Hold on…. I'll find 'em. You just be careful."
Dean heard Sam swear under his breath and the sound of the car door opening and quickly closing.
"Sam… what's going on?"
"She's here, Dean. Burn the legs! Quick!"
The phone cut off. The fog in Dean's brain suddenly lifted and his heart started to pound.
Legs. …. He had to find the legs….
Stumbling over his own feet, Dean ran to the bag he had dropped and barreled into the storage room. It was nearly pitch black in there, but Dean didn't need to hit the lights in order to make out the pair of legs and hips cut off from the waist lying grotesquely on the floor.
He just about gagged at the sight, but he had a job to do and a little brother that needed back-up. Pushing aside his disgust, Dean dropped the bag to the floor and hurried to unzip it. He pulled out lighter fluid, salt, and doused the detached lower half of the creature with liberal amounts of both.
His fingers still had a hard time functioning right, but he managed to get his lighter lit and the legs on fire.
The smell was incredible, searing his nose with the odor of charring skin and bone. Dean coughed as the flames grew bright and hot for several seconds before they exploded in a bright flash of light and then disappeared as quickly as they had come, leaving only ashes smoldering on the tile floor.
He gagged and his stomach wrenched tight thanks to the lingering stench, but somehow he managed to stagger from the room, grateful that he didn't have to stick around to make sure the fire didn't burn the whole place to the ground.
Dean ran for the only remaining vehicle in the parking lot – Martha's car, which she really didn't need since she was currently a flying torso heading right for his brother's position. That thought spurred him on to greater speed and when he found the car locked, he didn't waste a second whipping out his gun and using the butt of it to smash open the window. Hotwiring the car took far longer than he would have liked, but soon he was flooring the accelerator and barreling down the road as fast as the old sedan could go.
"And that's just about it. By the time I got to Leah's house, the bitch was ventilated and you were at the bottom of that girl's staircase with that thing lying dead on top of you, a busted leg, and giant lump on your head.
"What about the girl…. She okay?"
"Yeah… she was pretty spooked…. I mean it can't be everyday that someone you work with tries to attack you or eat your unborn baby, ya know? She wanted to call an ambulance for you, but you woke up and begged her not to."
"I'm sure I didn't beg."
"You so begged. You were worse than a puppy looking at a piece of bacon," Dean retorted with a little grin brightening his face. "You remember anything about what happened?"
"Actually… yeah. I dunno…. " Sam's voice drifted off a little as the pieces started to fall together, the picture coming to life in his head, and he was able to hold onto the memory coming back to him. "I remember the house, sitting outside of it. I tried to call you, but you wouldn't answer. I was getting worried…."
Sam lowered the phone, frustrated and ready to throw it out the window. Dean wasn't picking up and that was never a good sign. Gripping the phone again he punched in Dean's number one more time and begged to the heavens for him to answer. Finally, he heard the phone pick up and breathing on the other end.
Relief flooded his body. "Dean! You there? Answer me!" he demanded.
He heard his brother groan loudly, "Guhhh … not so loud."
Sam let the breath he had been holding release. "What happened? I've been trying to call you, but you wouldn't answer."
Sam felt his stomach continue to churn uneasily as Dean took his time responding, and from the pain in his voice, he knew that his brother had taken a pretty hard hit. "It's her, Sam. She's the manana-thing. She took off – don't know where she went, but she's probably heading your way."
Sam told Dean that he hadn't seen any sign of the mananangaal yet and related his position to his brother, reminding Dean to find the legs and make sure they were toasted so Sam could kill the thing if and when it showed up.
Sam didn't have to wait long for the thing to make itself known however, as he saw a dark shape fly over the house and land on the roof.
"Shit." Sam swore under his breath. He was out of time.
"Sam… what's going on?" Dean asked over the phone, sounding much more coherent.
"She's here, Dean. Burn the legs! Quick!"
Sam ended the call and pushed the car door open, running across the slick, snow-and-ice-covered path for the front door of the house. He paused, trying the knob to the door only to find it had been locked. He banged on the door, hoping for a response from inside, but instead, he heard a shrill scream emanating from the other side.
Aiming his booted foot for the door, he kicked with all of his strength, ignoring the jarring shock to his leg as he kept at it, tearing the lock from the door frame and splintering the wood until the door was finally open.
Sam found himself in a foyer with a staircase leading to the second floor, while another doorway opened up into a living room. Another scream echoed through the house from upstairs, sending an electric wave of adrenaline through Sam's system. He charged up the steps, taking two at a time until he was at the landing where a long hall led towards several rooms.
He pulled his gun from his waistband, running towards the sounds of distress coming from the farthest room on his right. He charged in without a thought and stopped just long enough to see the mananangaal lying on top of Leah, its claws extended and mouth salivating.
Leah screamed just as Sam raised his weapon and aimed, but at the same time the creature lifted its head and screeched at him with an ear-splitting wail so loud that he almost lowered his gun to cover his ears. He took a shot, aiming high so as to not hit Leah, but it went a little too high and hit the wall behind it. Incensed by Sam's actions, the creature abandoned Leah and came straight for him.
There was little time to think before the thing was pouncing on him with incredible speed, driving Sam back into the hallway wall with a crash. Sam reacted on instinct alone and with his hand still wrapped tight around his gun, he brought it up and fired as round directly into the creature's forehead.
Its head jerked back with the bullet's impact, but within a second it recovered the red fire in its eyes, and the anger in its wail reignited the pain in Sam's ears.
Clawed hands grabbed Sam by the collar, digging into his flesh as it hauled him up from the floor. He yelped in shock as he felt himself being flown down the hallway towards the banister of the staircase. Gripping Sam even tighter, the creature allowed Sam to struggle helplessly for several moments as it dangled him over the stairs, letting him know just what was to come with wicked glee on its ugly face.
Then-it simply let him go.
The sensation of falling took Sam's breath away. Time slowed-and then sped up again as he saw the stairs rushing up to greet his face. Disjointedly, he felt them impact with his head and body as he tumbled like an unstoppable snowball rolling down a mountainside
Landing at the bottom was almost a relief. He was no longer falling at least, the world no longer turning over and over on its axis, but the relief that he wasn't dead just yet was short-lived with the realization that if he wanted to stay that way, he needed to take action.
It was hard to move – hard to think – hard to know what it was he needed to do as the pain caused by his far-too-fast descent down the stairs suddenly came upon him in a tidal wave that stole all reason away from him. How long he lay there, stunned and immobile, he would never know, but the moment another scream filled the air, his hand gripped the gun he had somehow managed to not let go and his arm raised itself automatically.
There was no time to aim, only time enough to squeeze the trigger over and over again at the dark shape rushing upon him from above until his clip was empty and the acrid scent of cordite and blood filled the air.
A heavy weight fell upon him, landing on his legs. His head fell hard against a stair as blinding, white- hot, stabbing agony raced up his leg. He opened his mouth to scream, but he had no air left in his lungs to make a sound before everything went completely black and empty.
"And that's it for me too. Don't remember anything else except for waking up here to your ever-so-wonderful bedside manner," Sam stated, turning his head towards Dean with somewhat glassy eyes and a lopsided grin.
"So anyway…" Sam continued sleepily, blowing out a breath as though he were relieved, "thanks for filling in some of the blanks. I think most of it is coming back to me now." He had a vague notion that there was something more Dean wasn't saying. But the drugs were pulling him toward a blessed, pain-free darkness.
"I still don't know why you would want to remember all of that crap, but… whatever..." Dean paused for a second and Sam forced himself to resist the call of sleep. He blinked to keep his eyes open and saw Dean wipe a weary hand over his face.
"I uh… I just wanted to say… I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner. Sorry I didn't have your back."
That was what was bothering Dean? Sam reached between the beds, his hand falling weakly on Dean's knee. "What? Why would you be sorry about that? You did have my back, and I couldn't have killed the damn thing if you hadn't torched its legs."
Dean frowned, and Sam knew he still felt guilty. Sam's injuries and that cast on his leg were going to be a visible reminder of just how close a call this whole mess had been, and he knew that didn't settle well with his brother. "Look - this isn't the first time we've needed to split up. One of us protects the family; the other salts and burns the bones. It happens. We can't do what we do, and have each other's back twenty-eight hours a day."
"It's twenty-eight on Krypton. Look… I know you want to be Superman, but you're only human. And that's good enough. You saved my life, Dean."
The tension around Dean's eyes eased a bit, and a corner of his mouth curled upward. "So, I think I'm Superman, huh? I guess that makes you Lois Lane, right?" He picked up Sam's hand and placed it back on Sam's chest with an absent-minded pat.
"Shut up," Sam murmured.
He was asleep before Dean let go.