Genre: gen, hurt/comfort (hurt!Dean and hurt!Sam), angst, horror(ish?), case!fic
Characters: Sam, Dean
Word Count: ~8200
Summary: Presentiment doesn't mean a hunt can't go wrong; in fact, it pretty much ensures that it will. Sam and Dean go wolf-hunting anyway.
Notes: Takes place between 1x12 "Faith" and 1x14 "Nightmare." This is a remix of nwspaprtaxis fic, Clawed, who hoped to see this remix up the ante on the H/C elements of her story. Which means mine is basically SHAMELESS H/C FOREVER for both of them
I know it's late, but I hope this pleases!
Your visions must have dropped the ball, because this has already happened; you are past this. Dean is fine.
You don't need a nightmare to remember dredging Dean's body up from someplace cold and dark. Even in harsh, brief flashes
(you brush fingers just below his jaw, but you can't tell if he's got a pulse or not, you're shaking so badly; you try to roll him into your arms, but your shoulders scream and adrenaline or no, you are exhausted, you can't--)
it's too much, too soon. You can't deal with this right now.
Then Dean wakes up. Or actually, Dean comes to--and you don't wake up. And there's blood, and Dean's babbling, and there's a lot of blood--and this is different. This isn't how it's supposed to go. This is not that rawhead.
(This is the future.)
You wake up with Dean pitched over you, holding you down. Shit, Sam, he rasps. He was afraid you were going to strangle yourself with the sheets. You watch the bronze face of Dean's amulet swing, and try to surface from the dream.
Dean's a lot further gone than when you left him four years ago, you think miserably. You've known this from the jump, but it's unsettling how often he's been proving it to you lately. Not big things, mostly--at burger joints he'll snake handfuls of salt packets and think nothing of it, he still sleeps with that damn knife under his pillow--but this morning you woke up in shambles and never quite recovered. Everything has taken on a morbid hue that fits a little too well with your life at present. So when you watch Dean chug his morning coffee, all you can think is, after that rawhead, he'd been ready to die. Five days ago, he'd been ready to die.
And you hate that. Your heart squirms worm-like in your chest.
That's what's still on your mind when Dean starts talking buckshot and badlands a little too loudly in the library. He flashes his teeth for the librarian when she swivels, stares. You don't think it's grammatically possible to put swagger into a smile, but if it was, you think it'd probably look like that.
Normally you'd be annoyed, a little embarrassed--Christ, Dean. The librarian? Do you have to hit on everything, or is there, like, a quota to fill?--but it's been eight months, and your grasp on reality is starting to go, too. You're apparently psychic, for one, and your subconscious doesn't seem keen on letting you forget that. But ever since Roy LeGrange and the rawhead that precipitated meeting him, you've been all about Dean.
(Will you drop dead
if I touch you?)
Dean stumbles on his way up from his chair to his feet, and you test the theory.
"Whoa--easy, tiger. Personal space." Dean seems perturbed, confused; then you watch him remember (and how did he even forget?). He backs off when you don't, hands lifted in surrender. "My foot's asleep; that's all. I'm fine, dude."
What about you? he doesn't ask. But he quirks his eyebrows at you, lets the pause quicken before he breaks eye contact, and that's almost the same thing.
Because he knows about the nightmare. He knows you haven't told him about the nightmare. And something you can pretty much guarantee is on his mind? The damn nightmare. He's been trying hard to allow you a little more personal agency since the scarecrow in Burkitsville, but you can tell he's on the verge of relapse.
Once more, he remarks on their prospective new case a little too loudly: wolves. Wolves that live in stormclouds.
"What do you think, Sam?" he says aggressively. It's a challenge. You know half the library heard him, and you know they're watching the exchange (because god, who wouldn't?), and you know this is when you're supposed to fold.
But you don't want this hunt. You know how it ends. You can close your eyes and the afterimage of that shattered nightmare is all you'll see. You also know that Dean doesn't care about any vision, or any premonition; he doesn't really believe in them, even now. He's just gonna try to prove it wrong, if you tell him.
So you keep quiet. Fall in line.
Dean drives. Dean does the research, too. (You still have access to Stanford's proxy servers. You don't like dredging up those memories, innocuously wedged between keypad strokes and muscle memory, but you refuse to suffer giving Dean an LC4 tutorial.)
Meanwhile, you do the festering of panic. You refuse to let yourself sleep. As far as a Winchester plan goes, it's effective. Dean won't stop pacing and drumming and scrolling and sharpening and working, so he only slightly minds your reticence: "Sorry Sammy, forgot to get you one; I didn't hear you sitting there. You can have a fry, though." And then he's too wrapped up in multi-tasking seven too many distractions to pay you any more attention.
You do your part by not mentioning the string of red traffic lights Dean seems to have taken as feeble suggestions rather than law. Instead, you tune out the Tichy and let your brain torment you, whether you're asleep or not.
You're fully clothed, sitting at the edge of the bed. You can feel Dean's gaze at your back. You hear him check his gun, loosen his knife in its sheath before he disappears it beneath the pillow. You know his arms are folded, and you know he's waiting for you to come clean--and contrary to whatever he'd like the world to think, Dean's pretty good at waiting. It's so quiet you can almost hear the goosebumps on his arms.
As you turn reluctantly to face him, you catch the clock, fluorescent green and blinking. It's 4am, which means you've had just over twenty-four hours to puzzle out the dream. You have nothing to show for them.
And maybe Dean's patience isn't that great, after all. When you don't spill, he talks for you. He offers you a snarky platitude, the same one he gives you about needing to stay sharp, how his ass is on the line, but he must realize the rib is in poor taste today, because he frowns at your sticken expression and immediately launches into a description of the case instead.
Wolves--fucking badass. You're already in Nebraska; it's perfect. Pawnee legends ("or something," says Dean). Corporeal. And standard-issue soft points, which are even more badass than the badass wolf-monsters. See, people've been seeing wolves like they haven't in over sixty years. Which, fine, who gives a shit, but get this--more'n one dude said he saw the motherfuckers come down from the clouds, out of some storm they didn't know they were in the middle of. Obviously, most of these guys were written off as shell-shocked drunkards. Drunks because, well, they probably are; shell-shocked because they all had a partner--partner they brought home in a bag: rounds, loins, and ribs. Crazy, maybe, but it's our kind of crazy. After all, it fits the lore. See--
He lost you at the loins and ribs. Your stomach lurches, and you can taste rust.
This is the part where Dean calls you out, and you sit down, and you talk. Or maybe that's your job; you've lost track of who's falling apart today. You're pretty sure it's Dean--given your vision, given his present caffeinated temperament. (He checks his gun again; then, the knife. Then he slides out of bed again, checks a dozen other insignificant things, and starts pacing figure eights around their small room.)
But it's also you, given your vision, given that it's been an entire day and you don't know where any of it went. You need help, too. Instead, you stare at the tracks Dean's making in the sickly green carpet.
This is it.
"Let's just go. We can go now. We ice this now, we won't have to wait 'til tomorrow night."
This isn't it. This is the exact opposite of 'it.' "What?"
"Let's just go."
"You don't think"--your breath hitches--"you should get some sleep?"
Dean shrugs. "You weren't gonna be getting any, right?" He grabs his only-recently-discarded button-up from the foot of the bed and slides it over black. "Sleep, I mean. But other things, too."
Knife, gun, jacket. Wallet and keys already in the pockets. Boots next. He's seriously going.
"I know you had some kind of--creepy pre-sentiment dream movie trailer thing, dude. I dunno what you saw, but since we're not rushing across a couple timezones, I take it the public isn't in any sort of distress. Either that or you're Carl Boehm, and you get off on--oh, fuck it. Sam?"
You nod lethargically.
"You have something to share with the class, you got about seven seconds. Then we're both going to be armed. And I don't really wanna mix sharing and caring with firearms."
Dean's driving past shambled mouthfuls of flat buttes and craggy teeth of rock. If the clouds came down low enough on one of those cliffs, it'd seem like whatever was standing on it--a wolf, for instance--was coming down from the sky. Nothing supernatural about that.
"Yeah, I know," says Dean. "That's why I'm thinking corporeal. Legend says the first one got made into a warrior pelt. So unless they had a massive case of 'Warrior's New Clothes' there must have been a body."
You've been at this about eight months--and your lifetime before that, yes, but as easy is it is to recall salt lines and EMF and consecrated rounds, the sheer arbitrary 'logic' that comes with the territory is a difficult mindset to tolerate. There's no proof, because you can't get proof. No game plan, because the rules are in constant flux. It drives you insane.
But maybe that's just today; because today, you want nothing more than to hole up with the bedbugs and the mildew. All you can think about is your nightmare vision, and that's driving you insane, too.
"It could just be a normal wolf," you suggest.
Dean scoffs. So now you're a skeptic, he seems to say. "What if it's a faith healing wolf?"
And maybe Sam's tired, and it's not mixing well with the worm's nest in the pit of his stomach, or Dean's tired--whichever it is, Dean's tongue is starting to freestyle without his brain. And that's also driving you insane. You tell him so.
"What part of 'drawn and quartered' don't you understand? Normal wolves don't have table manners like that."
Dean takes a sharp turn off-road and the Impala crunches through shale shrapnel, beer glass, and sage. Dean grimaces when you hear a resounding snap; all you can think about is splintering bone. But it's just rocks, and more rocks. ("Worse'n potholes.")
When the Impala is sufficiently distanced from the highway, you find yourself crunching through shale and sage on foot, with a 220 Swift at your side, and Dean behind you. The bluffs are white under the moon, everything else the still black-grey of early mornings in March. Two hours of dark left at best; chances are you won't find anything, and nothing will find you.
Suddenly your boots slide back purchaseless on the rocky sand, and you feel Dean's hand at your back to steady you. You hope that tonight that's all the action you're both going to get, because right now? You're living the nightmare. To the letter. And you're not even fighting back.
You don't know why it's so hard to spit out, "I saw you dying." You're used to seeing your brother in tatters; chances are he thrives on the state. So what's a little--a lot--of blood, in the wider scheme of eye-bleeding, head trauma, mindrape, and bondage?
Except you know that's just bravado talking. You know the adrenaline panic that laces every hunt, know it exhaustively. Of course, you've also learned the utility that keeps you operating on the proper side of sane in spite of that. But if there's anything that shakes the world order, it's, "Hey, I just had a dream. You were dying. Your blood was all over my hands." (And adding, "It was also all over you, and the ground" doesn't seem like it'd soften the news.)
"I saw you dying," you say anyway. There's no good way to preface the statement, so you don't bother trying.
Dean plays along. "Didn't snap any pictures, I noticed. You didn't dig the hoodie?"
"No. Not that. Last night, I dreamed you dying."
Nothing. You turn around, and Dean pushes past you, rifle first.
You sigh. You tell him you're not exactly thrilled about the Shining, either. You say it in his words. But it saved that woman and her children back in Lawrence; he can't tell you that doesn't count for something.
"Yeah? So why didn't you push the dirty details a little sooner? Call off the hunt, or whatever. You tired of saving me?" He sounds tired of you saving him.
You take a deep breath and try to skirt the verbal barbs. "Because whatever I'd have done, you'd be out here anyway. Only difference is, you'd be alone."
"We went to Kansas."
"Yeah, well that was then, and this is now. A lot's happened. You may have noticed."
"So you're saying this is my fault."
"No, what--how the hell do you even make that jump? I'm just-- You--" You don't know. You try to know and the knowledge falls away, slippery with the black oil of fear. (You brush fingers just below his jaw, but you can't tell if he's got a pulse or not, you're shaking so badly; you try to roll him into your arms, but your shoulders scream--)
You knock Dean's shoulder when you keep walking and Dean doesn't. Then you hear it: a high, keening howl. It's metallic, steel screaming against steel. It's not a wolf.
Are you happy now? you hiss, with more vehemence than you feel. You don't know whether you should be upset, or guilty.
You watch the moonlight skate across Dean's profile just before the clouds hit and everything goes dark. He is sweat-bright, and you see him swallow thickly.
"Fucking finally." Dean flips the safety, mounts the rifle, breathes out. You can hear his exhalation waver, and this surprises you.
You can see movement in the dark, far off. You're both hugging the edge of the rock wall, but the clouds settle in deep on the flatlands. Something cuts knife-like through the sagebrush, straight at you. And Dean's afraid.
Dean shoots. Misses.
Neither he nor the wolf gives you time to ponder the revelation.
"Run," Dean orders. You propel from the wall tangent to each other. The sky's pitch, and the rain comes in from nowhere, like Dean said it would, and it's not until this moment you truly realize how suicidal this is. Shale, under your feet. Brush clawing at your jacket as you crash blindly into the nowhere. And a wolf behind you--maybe. You're making too much noise to know, but you can't look back. How you're supposed to get a shot off is a mystery you haven't puzzled out.
Your world tapers down to a hasty inventory of Plan Bs and Cs, pumping muscle and burning lungs, until you hear Dean shouting.
You don't know what he's saying, but it sounds cocky and prematurely triumphant and you hope English isn't a language the wolf understands. You turn.
(you brush fingers just below his jaw, but you can't tell if he's got a pulse or not, you're shaking so badly; you try to roll him into your arms, but your shoulders scream and adrenaline or no, you are exhausted, you can't--)
There's no wolf at your back, but the vision pulses behind your eyeballs, and you see it again. You know it's not really--not yet, it can't be real--but you're not sleeping. How can it--
You panic. Black floods all white, your head splits into neat chunks, and suddenly you have a faceful of thorny brush and sage, you can feel wet sand between your teeth, and there's bile at the back of your throat. The molten pain ebbs into simple throbbing agony after a moment, stretched and tight, and you settle enough to hear the keening howl again.
It's followed by a sonic crack--Dean and the 220.
Then more shots, in rapid succession. Different gun.
You wait for the injured squeal that doesn't come.
(Another gun. More shots.)
You're wrenched up violently and you feel claws. Then the claws become fingernails, vicegrips at your shoulders.
Dean shakes you none too gently. You'd almost trade him for the wolf. At least she wouldn't expect you to do anything but surrender.
"Dude, what the hell just--"
Words, words. A lot of words happening at once, on both your parts. If they fall out of your mouth in the right order, you tell your brother that, oh hey, it's not just nightmares anymore. He doesn't hear you, or doesn't want to; he inspects your pupils, though you're positive he has no idea what he thinks he's looking for, and checks you over--two second brush down. "You good?"
No, you want to shout. But that would require opening your mouth and if you do, you know you're going to be sick all over Dean's front. The vision's not going away, and you can't stop it, and your head's still throbbing, and the hands-on approach Dean's affected isn't helping. You nod anyway.
"Hey." Dean brushes your hair back. The rain's letting up, which is good. It's a light sprinkle on your forehead. The sun's rising, which is bad; it feels like pins through your iris. You flinch away, screw your eyes shut.
"Hey. Deep breath." Dean pulls you forward, and you bend, until you're splayed awkwardly across his thighs. You smell wet denim and sage, but it's darker. Dean's hand scrambles for something near your face and makes the ground cough up wet sand into your nostrils, so you hold off on the deep breath. Somewhere high above you, you hear a safety click.
"Is it happening now?"
You don't understand.
"The psychic thing. Is it happening right now?"
No. You moan. If he'll give you a minute, you'll be okay. In a relative sense, you'll be okay. Dean's knee is digging into your ribs. You'll be okay after you're done being violently ill.
"That's good," he says. "Because track practice just started."
Then you hear the growl, low, guttural; almost a purr. It's a stormcloud kind of sound, deeply reverberating, louder as--you open your eyes to shuddering shale and sage and sand--she grows inexorably nearer. Your questing fingers close on wood and metal, rain-slick, and you find the trigger just as Dean pulls his. Three shots, point blank: The purring thunder doesn't so much as hiccup.
Dean taps your shoulder.
He throws himself left and you roll right, and a great mass of slick grey fur crashes between you with a sound like shattering bones, as rock shrapnel bursts underfoot. She's far too close for comfort and definitely too close to shoot her, so you break into a shambling run. Hundred yard sprint.
It's been two seconds, seven, and you know she is faster than you. Your legs are jelly and you feel like you're swimming more than running. You imagine sharp teeth at your back, at your spine. You imagine this morning going in a very bad way. So you give up and swing around. You're just in time to clip the great wolf in the snout with your rifle.
She whimpers, which is actually more than you'd hoped. But she shakes her head--the motion travels all down her body in watery undulations--and recovers.
She fixes her sight on you, and time retards. You're still reeling from the crash of images and sounds and vivid, vivid sensations that spilled in from your vision-nightmares-fuck-all whatever's happening to you, but you feel like each second is stretched long enough for you to process it in full. You can almost see the swirling tracks of motion--afterimages, illusions, who cares--hanging in the air.
And you've never paid all that much attention to eyes, even in your storied career as x evil something's potential chew toy. But she fixes herself on you, and she stares you down, and you see hers.
Yellow. Citrine, if you want to go the paint chip way (which your brain does, under stress. Of course it does). And deep, dark-flecked and glassy. You can see the sun in them, and you can see your shadow where her pupil should be. That's when you realize she's all too close again.
Your hands prickle with the same needles as your temple, and you brandish the muzzle of your rifle like it's going to be any use at all.
One paw forward. The crack of bone rock. The whisper of sage, as you parrot her motion, step back. Time resumes breakneck speed.
And it's stupid, but you'd almost forgotten about Dean. The interjection doesn't draw her attention, but the well-aimed rock that follows it does. Sharp and thin like an arrowhead, it avulses the skin of her ear, pink and now red in the sunrise. Your stomach turns.
You can't quite make out Dean's face when the wolf abandons you, skulks toward him (and you can't help it--for that first second, you're relieved), but you can read his body. He draws his hunting knife and edges slowly backward. Right now, Dean is one hundred percent power, aggression, and fight. There is no longer room for fear.
You are a different story. You have one hundred empty yards to fill with the dread of crushing presentiment. Because you're pretty sure you know how this part ends. (And there's that sick feeling again, because you know. You know. And you know that no matter what you do--)
One hundred yards out, it takes .08 seconds for your bullet to nail the great she-wolf in the flank. It takes less than that for her claws to find Dean.
The fight and preamble is over in heartbeats. She topples onto him, Dean's knife in her breast and your second bullet through the back of her neck.
Then time and space fold together and you lose track. Now you sprint.
You shove the wolf carcass off of him, and you concentrate on this: You brush fingers just below his jaw. You can't tell if he's got a pulse or not, you're shaking so badly. You try to roll him into your arms, but your shoulders scream. Adrenaline or no, you are exhausted, and you can't. It's all mechanical; you've seen it twice before now. You don't notice Dean's eyelids flutter, but he coughs, groans, and his gaze is fixed on you once you stop working on autopilot and actually react. He's letting you know that hey, it's okay. He's still here.
He grabs your forearm and tries to pull himself to sitting. With the storm gone and the sun up, it doesn't matter what he's letting you know. All you can see is red on your hands and sticky red fingerprints decorating your arm, and the glistening spill of blood across Dean's ravaged black shirt. Red and more red replaces the wolf's yellow eyes in prominent visual memory.
"Some of it's hers," Dean offers. Quick, strained grin. "Nice shot. And dude, no." This last he adds when you try to sort through skin and fabric, wipe away enough blood to see the wound. "I'm fine."
With a white-knuckle grip on your jacket, he twists in toward you, tries to get his feet under him. He ends up on all fours, clutching his middle. "Oh, wow."
'Wow' is not the appropriate response. "We need to get out of here," you say. Which isn't helpful, but between you and Dean, you're getting there. Your voice expels the last of your tremors, before you settle into hollow dread. You finally take that deep breath.
"Yeah," Dean responds, after a while. He's uncomfortable in your silence. He also seems cognizant of the small puddle that's collecting under him, and fists his T-shirt, applies more pressure. Fills the silence with white noise: "Any plans for Virginia? Can't just leave her corpse. Gotta--I dunno. Get your college friends to cut you some wolfskin boots, or... Oh, come on. Virginia. You know. Who's Afraid of...? That one shitty--
'Fuck' sounds about right. "Fuck the wolf, Dean. We need to get you out of here, now."
He tries to find his feet again, and slips. You catch his shoulder, but he shoves you off. "And have her come back as some superpowered spirit? Yeah, that'll be fun. Be a professional for a minute, Sam."
He's right. You know he's right. "You want professional?" you snap anyway. You take off your jacket, and your flannel shirt. The wind bites, freezes sweat, but you force Dean to lie back down and you drape your jacket over him. Your shirt, you press to his abdomen. You try not to watch the blood soak through like some kind of awful morning glory.
"Just keep the pressure on that. And don't move. That's professional."
Dean grimaces. "A decent hospital, some stitches, I'll be fine. We just need to get back to the car, and I'll be fine."
So long as there's no poison (because really, who knows?), no rupture of or bruising to those all-important organs, sitting pretty under the disturbed mess of muscle and fat. So long as he doesn't bleed out before they find 'a decent hospital.' So long as there's a decent hospital to find. So long as they can find some way to fake the funding to pay for it. So long as Dean's assessment, in his complete lack of any sort of medical training, is right. But you don't have time for thought--only action. Thoughts come later. So all you say is, "You better be."
Time to deal with Virginia. Blearily, you grab her at the nape and drag. You're not that far out--all that running actually got you closer the Impala's hiding space--but Virginia's not light.
You hate the way her body ripples over protruding rocks, the way the sage flattens behind you as you drag her.
You hate the way dead weight feels in your hands.
Outside that old farmhouse, with the rawhead, you had two small children locked in the backseat of the Impala when you ran back to find Dean. You don't remember dragging him up from the basement, packstrapping him to the car; it might as well have been some other person. You do remember hitting 130 in order to meet the ambulance at the nearest paved road.
This time, you're dragging the body a supersized she-wolf across the backseat leather, and thinking about how the hell you're even supposed to get the car back on the cleared dirt track, much less a paved road. And after twenty minutes of hauling something vaguely you-sized, you're too exhausted to sprint back to Dean. You try your best.
It's definitively morning now, the sage and the smiles of white rock deceptively refreshed in the sunlight and the post-storm moisture. Your head's still swimming, keeping a beat in your temples that doesn't quite match the rhythm of your plodding feet. You're not even sure what you're doing at this point--some kind of automated post-hunt checklist that's kicked in without your realizing it. And you feel helpless, because you realize something.
You've spent all this time agonized by your vision. Digesting its imminence, rolling your tongue over the sour idea that there was probably nothing you could do about it. (And there wasn't, not really. Just like so many times, there wasn't.)
Now it's gone and past, and you're killing yourself, because you don't know what happens next.
Your mind swings back to the finer points of post-hunt clean-up. Another hospital? Not for miles. You don't know how much blood Dean's lost. You don't know the complications that might arise. And to be perfectly fucking honest? You don't know how you're going to swing credibility with a hospital. You need another paper trail, new identities. That insurance was on emergency already; you can't just pull it up again. Not so soon after the--
You pinch the bridge of your nose and try to step your pace up to a jog. Everything aches.
It's not a vision anymore, or a nightmare, but if left unattended your mind wanders back to the same flashbulb images--Dean, and wet, and stillness.
So you could weep--you could; you feel the knot at the back of your throat and hotness around your eyes--when you edge around the bluff and you see Dean palming the rockside, staggering toward you. Because yes, your brother is an idiot; and your jacket is nowhere to be seen; and your shirt is now a soggy red, instead of its original patterned blue; and the strain of hiking it back this far is coloring Dean a greenish-white.
But if he hadn't come you probably wouldn't have made it all the way to him and back.
Even though you're doing most of the work, Dean collapses against the Impala the moment she's close enough to fall on. He seems content enough, resting his forehead against cool metal, bracing his shoulder against her back tire. "Future consideration--VIP parking. Worth it," he wheezes.
"We need to get you lying down." But he smacks you away, tries unsuccessfully to curl into himself without disturbing his abdomen. "Come on, don't start this with me right now." Your lips form a hard line.
For a moment, something slips, and he looks up at you pathetically. His expression terrifies you, at some base level of awareness, and it must scare him, too, because it's gone in an instant. Jaw clenched, he meets your insistent stare: "My heart--is beating out of my freaking chest, here." A tremor of pain runs ragged through his features, but not the helplessness. "Give a second. All right?"
Nevertheless, you can feel your resolve crumbling at its feet. You don't want to hear about his heart. You don't want to hear about his heart the same way he doesn't want to hear about your visions. You don't want to hear anything. You just want to push every thing under the rug and give up, because this is too much.
And then you don't care.
You don't care that it's too much, and you don't care about the big picture, because you're short on time and you're in charge, and you can do this. You can do something. You're not done yet.
Second wind (or maybe third or fourth). You don't give a damn how far to hell this day has gone; you decide that you're just too tired to wallow.
You can fix this. You can try.
"Come on." You grip his shoulder around his collarbone hard enough to bruise, and start peeling off his wet jackets. He's too surprised to offer significant resistance in time. You try to ignore the agonized whistle he makes when, sharply, he sucks in air between his teeth.
When he's stripped down to nothing but that shredded black T-shirt, you all but headbutt your way under his arm and drape it over your shoulder; and he sags into you involuntarily, the string of profanity he spits out muffled by your T-shirt. "You are the worst fucking"--he grabs the Impala for support when you disentangle yourself from him and make a haphazard grab for the door handle, before you push him into the passenger seat--"nurse," he finishes.
"Right back at you." You're panting--you're finding new colors to exhaustion every moment--but that was probably the best use of two minutes all day. You can feel that second kick of adrenaline taking effect.
Finally, you work up the nerve to assess Dean.
His skin is clammy, breath cutting out at more and more shallow depths; he's lost the singular focus he fixed you with at the very beginning, just after your vision ended and reality set back in. His gaze skitters across the dashboard and to the steering wheel, like he's ascertaining exactly where he is. Once satisfied, he closes his eyes.
(you can't tell is he has a pulse, you're shaking so much, you--) Don't think about it. You just need to keep him here. "So, I changed my mind. This really is all your fault."
Dean ignores you.
You rap your knuckles against his collarbone with both hands, hard. Look at me when I'm talking to you."
"Fuck you, Sam." But he opens his eyes.
"I know why you were so set on this stupid hunt."
"You really don't." He fights you when you try to recline the seat. You win.
"Because you were afraid. After that rawhead, and the faith healer, and the reapers--you were afraid. Of dying, of the job, of me--everything, whatever. And you were driving yourself crazy, I saw you. Mr. Gung Ho no-sleep, one-hunt-a-day mania. I saw you. So your solution was to jump right back in, kill the biggest thing you could find within state lines, and keep burning." You're breathless when you finish. Dean looks perplexed, but definitely more focused. You're willing to take small victories where you can get them. "Tell me that's not true. Go ahead and try."
"You're fucking insane."
All you can find under the seat is a grave shroud, the mere prospect of which kicks your heartrate up to match Dean's, but you throw it over him like a blanket, try to keep him warm. Don't think about it.
Dean closes his eyes again.
"Really?" you pant, when you remember to speak. You try to remember where to pick up the conversation. You left it seconds ago at most, but you can barely remember the thread. "So explain it to me, then." You throw his wet clothes in the back, over the body of the wolf. "Go ahead--try," you say again. You need to keep him talking.
Though you're feeling kind of lightheaded, too; and wasting all that air on words isn't helping you at all. Every time you blink, everything around you takes on a darker shade of surreal. You round the front of the Impala and collapse into the driver's seat. Deep, slow breath. Air, air. More air. (You can't even smell the blood; you don't remember what clear air is like any more.)
You don't know if the heater actually works, but you run it on high anyway. You need to keep Dean warm.
"She-wolf's gonna start getting--really ripe in a coupla hours, y'know. You run the heat like that."
She's not going to be in the car in a couple of hours. She's going to be burned and buried somewhere, Dean's going to be in the hospital, and you're going to take enough Ibuprofen to put down an elephant. That's how the plan's going, anyway. You grimace as you back the Impala out over the rocky shrapnel. You'd rather not blow out a tire right now.
"Turn it down."
"Turn the heat down. Don't want the car to smell like roadkill."
Unbelievable. "Are you cold?"
"No." He shivers. You can see the gooseprickle on his neck.
You punch the steering wheel half-heartedly. If you jolt your body too much, your vision skews. "Dean, you're going into shock. You're going into shock, okay? You've lost a lot of blood, and you're going into shock. So unless the roadkill smell is coming from you, I really don't care what the car ends up smelling like."
"I know," he says, indignant. The ire seems misplaced, like he hasn't actually finished processing your words. He's worries at his middle under your soaked shirt, like he's trying to assess the depth and breadth of the claw marks. You keep your eyes on the road; you don't want to look at that quite yet. "Shock part, I mean," he finally continues. "The--other thing's just. You being an ass."
"Yeah, I'm the ass." You squint, trying to squeeze the road back into the straight line it's supposed to be. "And do you really. Know, I mean. Because you're not being very helpful."
You're weighing the cost-benefit of just letting Dean slip, because the effort involved in keeping the words going and the car driving at the same time is killing you. How long 'til you find help? Would Dean actually need to be conscious for that?
Dean pitches his head forward and glares at you sideways. "You need to pull over."
"If you need to puke, you're gonna have to get over it and aim for the floor."
"Sam, pull the fuck over," he snaps, voice cracking in the middle. And you do. Because what else can you do? He looks like he's about to jump you. Or try to. Whatever your condition, you can't imagine that ending well for him.
You ease the Impala into park and try to collect yourself, too.
But instead of nudging the door open and spilling bile onto gravel, Dean keeps his gaze on you. "You're not off the hook, either," he says.
You're not sure you're following the logic of this conversation anymore; meager though it was. "We don't have time for this, Dean."
He doesn't believe you. "Dude, you dropped like a stone. Full-on visions. Not just--creepy-ass dreams. What the hell."
"I don't know." You don't want to think about that. And right now, it seems a little beside the point. "We don't have time for this," you repeat.
Dean seems to have stumbled into some pocket of delirious energy, because he keeps babbling. "And what's with the silent treatment? The whole--'my head's so far up my own ass"--he wets his lips--"the...no. That. 'That I'm inside out.' Fuck it--not a fan, Sammy. And I didn' buy season tickets, so... Explanation, now. Pony up."
It's your turn to close your eyes. "Look in the rearview mirror. No really--look in the mirror. Silent treatment? Do you even listen to yourself talk?"
He doesn't understand you. "No metaphors." He wets his lips again. "I can't-- Right now, I can't--"
Great--because you're done here, too. You turn the key in the ignition and jackknife back onto the road.
As suddenly, Dean lunges toward you, spills himself over the center console as he wrenches the steering wheel back toward the side of the road. You only wish that weren't literal.
"What the hell, Dean!" You scrape the top of your vocal register.
He's not in a position to listen. There's nothing but the rapid, syncopated huff of Dean's breaths as he wavers between finishing out his suicide mission and just passing out. No really, he rasps. Flicks his gaze to the steering wheel, and shakes his head. When you jerk the wheel out of his grip belligerently, he says, "That yellow line? You need to pick a side and stay on it."
You squeeze your eyes shut once, twice, and try to keep Dean's face from swimming while you stare him down.
"I don't wanna get nailed by a goddamn--Nebraska trucker"--Dean swims back into his seat--"because you decided to go Euro Grand Prix on me." Jesus fucking bitch, he adds, when his hand comes away from his abdomen, freshly red all over again.
"Not driving, Sam. You're not. Not when you--" He searches for the words, frustrated. "You're not okay, either."
Which means, because your luck is like it is, you're fucked. Dean is fucked. You're both fucked. You punch the steering wheel with more vigor this time, and let the horn do the screaming for you.
After a few minutes, Dean asks for his jacket.
He knows it's wet. It has his phone in in it. "Oh," you say.
You hand it to him, and he fumbles scrolling through the numbers, squints at the small, blocky screen. He hisses fuck and tries to lean towards the glove compartment; now it's your turn to spill yourself across the center console. "What am I looking for?"
"605....589...No--587? Fuck. I dunno. Slip of paper somewhere. Or another phone. Dad's journal, maybe. I dunno." You're losing him again.
"Dean, who am I calling? Focus."
"Bobby Singer," Dean clarifies unhelpfully.
You're really losing him. "No, I know. I mean-- Didn't he say--"
Dean attempts to shrug. "He wants us hurting, he don't need to come. But he's close--closest. Our best option and you know it."
"I know who you are, boy. You think I wouldn't recognize your voice? This about Dean?" says Bobby, when you tell him who you are. He sounds no different than he did when you were eighteen, and using him to stave off Dad.
But you're confused. About Dean? How could he-- And your silence must impart your confusion, because Bobby says, "I heard from Caleb you were poking around some. Not sure what you thought you were gonna find, though. Miracles ain't exactly in the YellowPages."
You try to remember the last two weeks as a continuous whole, and not a disjointed scramble of Here and Nows. And you feel pretty idiotic, telling him that no, that's past you. You did find something for that. This is different.
"Stitches--would be nice," Dean adds.
Bobby either doesn't hear, or doesn't react. "John ever call you back? After the...heart thing."
You're not sure how to respond to that, so you don't.
After an abortive pause: "Got a flatbed running the other day. Tell me where you are--and not goddamn coordinates; avoid being John's son. Just give me the name of the road."
Bobby's imminent rescue does little to calm your nerves. (Those yellow eyes, you think. And blood and pain and stillness. Wet and sand and unbearable silence.) But the news eases Dean into complicity, and he does his best to cooperate with your ministrations. His best is not that great, as is typical, but you appreciate the effort. At least it's something.
If you think too hard, he looks considerably worse than he did an hour earlier. Energy, flatlined; focus and coherence, in phases. You want to think you haven't ever seen him quite this bad, but you remember last month, and you remember the rawhead, and you remember worse things than now.
...You'll work on turning that into some reassurance for yourself. Right now, the thought really doesn't help. You can't get over how completely ludicrous your lives are getting.
At least the bleeding's stopped, even after Dean's brief career in intra-Impala gymnastics. He probably won't exsanguinate.
You're trying not to make your own nightmares. Some other force will do that for you.
"Dean," you answer.
"You're funny." Dean waves you off. "You never explained the whole... silent treatment creepy-child Shining deal."
Not this again. "I tried."
"It's important. You were-- And I didn't know if--"
You don't let him finish. Now that he can draw the focus off him and put it onto you, it's important. Of course. "If you can get through that conversation without passing out, maybe I'll believe you. But you know? I'd rather not test that."
Dean attempts another angle. "You got me all figured out. Nicely summarized. Pithy. Somethin' about..."
He's bottoming out again. He must sense it, because he drops a hand over his eyes and gives up. "Fuck."
"It's okay, Dean."
You hear a shut up in his exhalation. Figures Dean'd hang just barely at the cusp of consciousness and be pissed about it, because it meant he wouldn't be winning any arguments. You almost smile.
You hope Bobby drives like Dean does. Like you do.
"So was I right? About you." You try to lead him on. "'Cause I need to know this kind of thing. I just wanna be on the same page sometimes. I need to know where you're at, too."
A beat. Then: "If it works, it works."
Maybe you're at an unfair advantage, but you've sidestepped his curiosities for now. Dean doesn't try to counter with a question of his own. "And this--that's called working?" you ask.
Dean smiles, though it comes out like a grimace. You glance at the probably-decomposing wolf in the mirror. (Her eyes are closed; you see no yellow.)
Yeah, that's probably what it's called. More than you could ever know, you think. More than you could ever know.
Three days later, your hair still smells like singed wolf's pelt. Dean is sipping Gatorade out of a straw, which is a rare freedom. After the first two attempted jailbreaks, Bobby won't settle for anything shy of profoundly sedated--"Hell with drug dependence. You boys can figure that one out later."
You leave Dean to his "Extremo Mango Electrico" and brave the deluge of paper obstacles framing the doorway to Bobby's study. Bobby looks up, like he's been waiting for you, and asks after your pyrrhic victory. (The most recent one, he adds.)
You tell him all you can bear to vocalize. You've had a little too much time to think about it, now, and it's all acid in your mouth.
When you finish, Bobby tells you this: "If you believe the lore, she ain't supposed to be killed, you know. Your she-wolf. It's a pretty well known story around these parts."
You realize you don't know anything about the case; you hadn't been paying enough attention for that--or Dean had shorthanded out most of the nitty gritty. Absolutely fantastic.
Wolf brought humans to the world in a big sack, or so they say, says Bobby. Humans climbed out of the sack and, fearing the wolf, killed her, put her in the big sack. "Brought death into the world."
You hear Dean's straw gurgle, when he scrapes the bottom of his paper cup.
"Not that I think you have anything to worry about. You swallow a lot of shit in this line; don't mean you have to swallow everything."
You agree. (But you wish Dean would stop making that awful sucking, gurgling noise, because you can't-- You don't like it.)
You follow Bobby back to the living room where Dean is set up. You're caught in a daze of yellow eyes and sharp claws, storm standing on pinpoints of bristled grey fur.
"Bedbugs?" Dean asks, when he sees you. Because it's 4am again, and here you are again, awake and dressed and anxious.
"Hell no," snaps Bobby, oblivious to the underhanded cue. "Drink up," he says, and adjusts the contents of Dean's IV (the existence of which still holds you somewhat in awe of Bobby's inventory of possessions, you gotta admit).
"Prude Sammy, still not getting any," Dean slurs. Winks droopily, like he knows your secrets.
Bobby rolls his eyes. "You headin' to sleep soon?"
You can feel the worms where your heart should be, and you're back at square one again.
"I don't think so."
a/n 1: Man. I don't know what it was with this, but I absolutely could not stop writing ludicrous lines into this story. Apologies if too many made it into this final draft. And yes, the title is an Eliot reference, albeit an unplanned one.
a/n 2: Thank you, nwspaprtaxis, for letting me remix your fic! It was a lot of fun, especially writing in the S1 timeline. Also, if any of you reading this haven't read the original, you definitely should! It's beautifully succinct; I've read it at least five times now and will probably GO READ IT AGAIN RIGHT NOW. :)
As always, constructive criticism is adored and will be utilized in future projects!