Well, hello again. It's Friday - so I'm playing again.
This one will be a short one - only a few chapters, I think. Some stories lend themselves to a lot of chapters, and sometimes the subject matter is such that it doesn't require a long time to tell the tale.
Thanks to the usual suspects, Ziggy and Chasidern - Sarah and Chris, for beta-ing and banner-ing, respectively.
Sarah is my safety net, among other things, and she catches what I miss. She also does a fair bit of hand-holding when I'm fretting over a story or a scene that just won't go down on paper the way I can see it play out in my head.
Chris makes all my pretty banners, and she also very kindly will pop out a banner by request for anyone who wants one. Just PM her or me, and let us know what your preference is - Sam, Dean, or both brothers, and she will quite happily create a pretty for you.
And special thanks to the awesome SupernaturalGeek, and a lady called Carolyn, one of my faithful lurkers who keeps in touch with me via email. They very kindly looked over the rough draft of the story, as I was worried about the final chapter, and their opinions and help has been very much appreciated. Thank you, ladies.
Anyway, time's marching on, so I'm shutting up now and getting on with it. Ooh - and guess what? I have admirably restrained myself with this story, and have not written one cliffie. Nope, not even a little one. Aren't I good?
Bless you all,
JulesFallout – by Mizpah
A hunt gone wrong brings back a painful memory
Set in Season 2, after the episode What Is And What Should Never BeChapter 1 - Explosion
“You with me, dude?”
Dean’s softly murmured query sounded unusually loud in the hushed stillness of the tiny cemetery. Sam jumped, blinking rapidly to re-focus his eyes as he glanced over his shoulder at his smirking big brother. “What? Where the hell else would I be,” he hissed back.
“I don’t know – but you weren’t here, that’s for sure. So, where were you – off having hot sex with Angelina Jolie?”
“Bite me. I was just thinking, that’s all.” Sam waved his shotgun-filled hand toward a small headstone. “There he is.”
“Thinking, huh?” Dean appraised his taller sibling for a long moment. “What about?”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, stuff. Like how much I love the smell of freshly turned earth and burning bones. Better than pancakes and coffee any day.”
Dean shook his head as he stripped off his jacket. “You’re a real smart-ass, you know that?”
“So sue me.” Tossing his own jacket over a nearby headstone, Sam laid the shotgun down within easy reach and grabbed the second shovel from Dean’s hand. He drove the blade into the ground, slamming his booted foot hard against the edge to force it deeper.
“Dude – what did that shovel ever do to you?”
“Can we just get on with it?”
Shrugging, Dean held up a placating hand and joined his sibling in excavating the grave. The brothers soon fell into a familiar rhythm, focussing their energy on digging, and within an hour had uncovered the varnished lid of the coffin. Sam climbed from the hole while Dean smashed the cedar lid with the blade of his shovel.
Stretching up a hand to his sibling, Dean passed Sam the shovel before hoisting himself free of the grave. “Sure this is her?”
“Little late to be fact-checking, wouldn’t you say?” Sam replied testily. “And it’s him, not her.”
“Well, it was
a her. Technically, it’s a her.” Dean pursed his lips, staring down at the rotting corpse. “Or an it.”
“You want to piss off the ghost?”
“I’m just sayin’…”
“Well, don’t, all right? Let’s just burn her bones and get the hell out of here.” Sam shook his head sharply. “His
bones.” He snorted in disgust when he heard his sibling’s sarcastic chuckle. Kicking aside one of the discarded shovels, he perched on a nearby gravestone and stared out across the dark landscape, a scowl on his tanned face.
“What’s wrong with you, anyway? Why are you on the malevolent spirit’s side all of a sudden?”
Sam shrugged, keeping his gaze averted.
“Talk to me. What’s goin’ on in that freaky head of yours this time?” Dean grabbed the container of salt from the weapons bag on the ground and began to sprinkle the tiny white crystals on the bones, keeping one eye on his brooding sibling.
“I don’t know. I guess – I just know how he feels, that’s all.”
Dean froze, his fingers gripping the canister tightly, his green eyes widening in disbelief. “You – you want to become a chick?”
“No, smart-ass!” Sam picked up a clump of dirt and threw it at his brother, who ducked just in time to avoid being hit in the forehead. He resumed his study of the surrounding trees as Dean straightened up, and continued his explanation, his voice dropping to just above a whisper. “I know what it’s like – to be called a freak.”
The elder Winchester chewed on the inside of his cheek while he contemplated his brother’s statement. He swapped the salt for the gasoline, and poured it carefully into the grave.
“He just wanted to be left alone,” Sam added softly, his gaze unfocussed, his hands dangling loosely between his knees. “Just wanted to live out his life the way he wanted to. He didn’t deserve to be murdered just because he used to be a her.”
“Look, it sucks that he got beaten to death by that bunch of guys. I get that, I do. But now his spirit’s killing people, Sam. Innocent people – not just the guys who beat the crap out of him. We gotta burn him.”
“I know, it’s just…” Sighing gently, the young psychic looked at the ground. “It isn’t fair, that’s all. He wasn’t hurting anyone. According to his best friend, he’d saved up for fifteen years for that sex change operation. It was his choice, you know? His wish – his dream of a normal life. And he never got to enjoy it.”
Dean stepped back from the excavated grave and twisted the cap back on the gasoline can. He patted his pockets, searching for a lighter or a box of matches, scowling when he found nothing. “Yeah, okay, it’s sad and it sucks. But we can’t do anything about what happened. What we can do is torch his corpse so he doesn’t kill any more innocent people. You got a lighter?”
Sam patted his pockets, and then reached for his jacket. Finally he shook his head. “No, I haven’t. Check the weapons bag.”
Crouching beside the duffle, Dean made short work of checking the contents. “Son of a bitch. Nice work there, Sammy. How are we supposed to burn the corpse with no lighter?” Dean shook his head in frustration before heading to the Impala.
“And how is this my fault?” Sam snapped, turning to watch his brother stomp away.
“Whose turn was it to pack the weapons bag, genius?” Dean shot back. He waved a hand at the deserted cemetery. “Keep a look out for ghost bitch. Or ghost whatever.”
Sam huffed in annoyance and scanned the area, giving careful attention to the deep shadows under the nearby trees. Nothing moved, and he soon found his thoughts again turning to the tragic life of the man whose remains they were about to burn. Sam sympathised with the man because he, too, felt like a freak of nature due to his visions and his connection to the yellow-eyed demon, but he could also see the parallels between the dead man and his own brother.
Not that Dean would see it that way, he mused wryly. But Dean, too, had had his dreams of a normal life crushed into the dust. Not only because of their mother’s death at the hands of the demon, but recently Dean had been put through the ringer by a Djinn, who had seemed to hand the elder hunter his wishes on a plate – except for the part where Dean’s relationship with the dream Sam was jacked. Oh, and there was also the little matter of Dean dying as the wish was played out in his mind while the Djinn fed on his blood and life force.
The psychic couldn’t understand where that dream version of Dean had come from. Did his brother have such a low opinion of himself that he thought he’d be nothing but a drunk and a waster in the real world? Or that he and Sam would have nothing in common except for hunting? They were different, sure, but they were still brothers.
As usual, Dean had refused to talk about it after his brief slide into chick-flick territory back at the motel in Joliette, Illinois. Sam rubbed at his temple, thinking of his brother’s life-long sacrifice for the job. Dean deserved better. It just wasn’t fair.
* * * * *
Dean muttered under his breath about pain in the ass little brothers while he rummaged through the trunk, finally finding a matchbook wedged between the false lid of the weapons cache and the wheel arch. He bounced the matchbook against his palm and slammed the trunk closed, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets as he headed back towards the grave. Dean could see his sibling still sitting on the headstone with his shoulders bowed. “Thinking again,” he muttered. “Kid does way too much thinking, if you ask me.”
Opening his mouth to pull his brother’s attention back to the hunt, Dean raised his brows when his breath curled from his lips in a faint fog. The hunter shivered, feeling a chill flow over his arms and chest, and stepped back warily. A wispy shape grew out of the darkness two feet away and Dean swore, his gaze on the shotgun lying between his brother and the coalescing spirit. Just freakin’ perfect
. “Sam,” he began cautiously.
Hearing his brother’s softly spoken warning, Sam jerked back to the present, spinning around on the headstone. He gaped at the spirit and lunged for the nearby shotgun, just as Dean was swept off his feet and thrown towards the open grave. The elder Winchester disappeared inside the excavated hole with a wild yell, followed by a splintering crash. Sam scooped up the salt gun as he landed on the ground, swiftly bringing the weapon to bear on the misty shape of the spirit.
The ghost leered at the young psychic, its hands crooked into talons. The gun boomed, and the spirit screeched in rage as it lost cohesion, swirling into nothingness. Sam grabbed one of the flashlights, scrambled to the side of the grave and peered over the edge, directing the beam into the hole. “Dean!”
The elder Winchester lay on his side on top of the coffin, his legs tangled together and one arm bent beneath him at an awkward angle. Slowly he opened his eyes, gasping in agony, and rolled his head to face his worried sibling. “Sa….mmy…” Dean whispered, beads of sweat breaking out on his brow.
Sam’s eyes widened in alarm when he saw a dark wet patch slowly spreading across his brother’ side. “Dean – don’t move, all right? I’m coming down!” He wedged the flashlight into the mound of dirt so that the light fell onto the injured hunter, and slid into the hole.
Dean moaned in pain, moving feebly as Sam landed on the shattered coffin beside him. His breath caught in his throat and he jerked, his head snapping back in agony.
Quickly dropping to his knees, Sam slipped a hand under his brother’s body. He felt a warm wetness and grimaced, his mind racing frantically while he gently probed Dean’s wound. A spear of wood from the shattered coffin lid had gone into Dean’s side, skewering him just above his left hip. Blood flowed sluggishly from the injury, seeping into the hunter’s tee shirt and the top of his jeans.
“That – bad – huh?” Dean gasped, trying not to breathe too much as the pain ripped into his side. “Can – you pull – it out?”
Sam swallowed; wiping a hand across his mouth. He reached for the knife sheathed inside Dean’s sock and carefully slid it free. “I don’t know how deep it’s gone in, man. You could bleed out. I’ll just have to bind it up the best I can till I can get a better look at it. Just hold still, all right?”
Sitting back on his heels, the hazel-eyed psychic stripped off his button up shirt and tee shirt. He used Dean’s knife to cut the shirt into strips. Making a pad from the tee shirt, Sam gently rolled Dean partway onto his back and packed the folded cotton material around the protruding shaft of cedar, binding it in place with the strips of shirt. The rough first aid done, Sam gently unstrapped the leather sheath from his brother’s leg, slid the knife back inside and fastened it around his own ankle.
Shivering in the cold night air, Sam shuffled forward to slip his hands underneath his brother’s shoulders and knees. “Easy, big brother – I’m just gonna get you out of here.”
Dean gasped as white-hot agony shot through his side. He clutched his sibling’s shoulder, his fingers digging painfully into Sam’s flesh as he was lifted off the ground. “Oh, Jeez…” Panting, Dean squeezed his eyes closed and rolled his head against the crook of Sam’s arm.
Sam studied the top of the hole before glancing down at Dean’s pale face. “Hey – it’s all right. I’ve gotcha. I’m just gonna lift you out of here, okay, big brother? Stay with me, man.”
Hoisting Dean’s body as high as he could, Sam shifted his grip so that his hands rested between Dean’s shoulder blades and against the base of his spine. His arms trembling a little from the effort, Sam slowly and carefully shoved Dean towards the top of the grave.
Dean reached out, grabbing a handful of grass to pull himself onto the cold damp ground. He gasped, curling into a foetal position around the stake protruding from his side. His movements drove it deeper, causing a fresh well of blood from the puncture. Vaguely through the waves of pain he could hear his little brother’s worried voice begging him to hold on. Arms lifted him, cradling him gently against a muscular chest, and for a moment he was a kid again, being swept up into his father’s arms. Dean opened his eyes, expecting to see his dad smiling down at him, blinking in momentary confusion when he met his brother’s concerned gaze.
“I gotcha. Just hold on, all right?”
Each jolt a searing agony through his body, Dean held on, his teeth clenched tightly to stifle any outcry as he was carried to the car and laid carefully across the back seat. He gripped his brother’s forearm with a trembling hand before Sam could shut the door. “Bones,” he gasped. “Finish – job.”
“Sam-my – finish – job.”
“To hell with the job!”
“Dean, no. You’re hurt – I gotta get you –”
Fisting his hands in his hair, the psychic groaned aloud. His brother rarely asked for anything. How could he refuse – especially since it was his fault that Dean had been hurt in the first place. “All right – I’ll go burn him. But I’m not filling in the hole.” Sam held up a hand as his brother opened his mouth to protest. “No, Dean. I’m not gonna risk you bleeding to death while I fill in a friggin’ grave!”
Dean subsided, knowing just how far he could push his little brother. Judging by the stubborn set of his jaw and the warning glitter in his eyes, Sam had just reached his limit. “Matchbook – pocket.”
Retrieving the matchbook, Sam hurried back to the grave and lit it, dropping it onto the prepared corpse. As the flames rose high and consumed the remains, he gathered the equipment together, sprinting for the trunk to dump the stuff inside. A final trip netted their discarded jackets and he shrugged into Dean’s while wadding up his own to make a pillow. Sam knelt on the front seat to reach into the back, drawing Dean’s head forward and sliding the jacket under his neck. “All right, big brother – I’m just gonna check your side.”
Blood soaked the folded tee shirt and the strips of shirt binding the wound. Sam chewed worriedly on his lower lip as he examined the makeshift bandage. The wound looked deep and dangerous, and Sam could only guess at how much rubbish had gone into his brother’s body along with the cedar spear. Probably a little dirt, and definitely some of the gasoline. God only knew what kind of internal damage had been done. Sam seriously doubted his ability to fix it. Returning to the trunk, Sam found a blanket and tucked it around his shivering sibling, murmuring an assurance he was far from feeling to calm Dean’s restless movements.
Sam ran a shaking hand across his face while his mind raced. Dean needed a doctor, but the hospital was out of the question. Someone was bound to recognise the two fugitives, and the cops would be on them in the blink of an eye, followed by the ever-vigilant Agent Henricksen. After their little vanishing act from Green River Detention Centre, the obsessed FBI agent would be practically foaming at the mouth in his eagerness to get his hands on the Winchesters again. Sam retrieved their dad’s journal, thumbing quickly through the pages to see if there were any contacts he could call that might be able to help.
A groan from the back seat had him twisting around, reaching out to place his hand against Deans’ chest. “Easy, bro – I’ve gotcha. I’m gonna get help, okay?”
“No – hospital,” Dean gasped, tremors wracking his body as he went into shock. Cold sweat beaded on his pale face, trickling down to drip onto his tee shirt. “Cops…”
“I got it covered, man. Don’t worry, all right? You just hold on, Dean.” Sam could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he studied his brother’s wan face. He pulled out his cell phone and called up Bobby Singer’s number, tapping his fingers restlessly against his knee while he waited for the bearded demon hunter to answer. The phone rang out, going to voicemail, and Sam swore softly. “Bobby, it’s Sam – call me back as soon as you get this, all right? It’s urgent.”
The young psychic pressed his free hand against his forehead and briefly closed his eyes before searching his list of contacts again. Mentally crossing his fingers, he rapidly dialled another number. The phone rang twelve times before a cheerful female voice picked up the call at the other end.“Harvelle’s.”
“Ellen?”“Sam? That you?”
“Uh – yeah. Look, uh – I’m sorry to bother you so late…”“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Uh…” Sam glanced at his brother; worry clouding his eyes. “It’s Dean – he’s hurt – it’s pretty bad – we can’t go to a hospital…”“Where are you?”
“Um – just outside of Lancaster, Wisconsin. On a job.” “What do you need, sweetie?”
Sam felt a little of the tension leech from his body. “I need a doctor who won’t turn us over to the cops as soon as he recognises us.”“Hold on.”
Gripping the phone tightly, Sam tugged the blanket a little higher on Dean’s shoulders. He fidgeted, listening to a faint murmur of voices in the background before Ellen’s rich tone sounded over the speaker.“Sam? I know someone, and he’s only about a half hour north of Lancaster – he won’t turn you in, but…”
The tense knot grew once more in the young hunter’s stomach. “But what?”“He’ll need money – to buy his silence. He knows about hunters and what’s really out there. But he won’t get involved. And for that, you have to pay.”
“No problem.” Pulling an old gas receipt from the glove compartment, Sam scribbled down the address and phone number that Ellen supplied. “Hey, Ellen – thanks.”“I’ll give him a call and let him know to expect you. You let me know when Dean’s okay, Sam, you hear?”
“I will.” Sam squared his shoulders as he ended the call and fed the address into the nav programme in his phone. Settling himself behind the wheel, he clenched his jaw in grim determination. “I’ll fix this, Dean. Just hold on.”
* * * * *
The grizzled doctor barely raised an eyebrow when he pulled open the door in answer to the insistent knocking. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder and stepped aside, allowing the tall young man to edge past him. Sparing hardly a glance at the blood-soaked hunter cradled protectively in the stranger’s arms, he led the way into the kitchen and swept the remains of his dinner into the nearby sink. “Put him on the table.”
Sam grimaced at the faint smell of alcohol emanating from the man and gently laid Dean down on the kitchen table. He hovered at his sibling’s side, his face settling into grim lines when the doctor cut away the makeshift bandage and Dean’s blood-encrusted shirt to reveal the sharp dagger of wood piercing his side.
“He’s lost a lot of blood. When did this happen?”
“About a half hour ago.” Sam curled his hands into fists. “We were on a…”
The doctor raised a hand. “Don’t want to know. Don’t need to know. Just need two things – well, three. His blood type, allergies…” The man licked his lips, and eyed the tall hunter speculatively. “And money. I know you – you’re Winchester. You and him – you’re wanted men.”
Sam pulled out his money clip and removed the small wad of bills. It represented almost every cent he and Dean had – he’d stripped his brother’s wallet clean before carrying Dean from the Impala. He tossed the money onto the table near Dean’s shoulder. “Will that cover it?”
Riffling a thumb across the folded notes, the doc tallied up the amount. He pursed his lips. “Three hundred more.”
The tall young hunter’s eyes narrowed in anger and he took a step closer, towering threateningly over the much shorter man.
“I meant two hundred,” the medico hastily amended, deciding not to push his luck. He breathed a tiny sigh of relief when Sam backed off a pace.
Sam gripped his brother’s arm. “I’ll be sure to let Ellen Harvelle know how helpful
you’ve been,” he muttered, a hint of warning in his deep tone.
“No need for that.” Nervously clearing his throat, the doc turned his attention to his patient. He confirmed Dean’s blood type and lack of allergies before heading into the tiny living room to retrieve his black bag. Setting the bag up on the nearby counter, he withdrew a set of surgical instruments and set some water in a pot on the stove to boil. “What’s your blood type?”
“Same as his.”
“Sit down and give me your arm.”
Sam stripped off Dean’s jacket and sat on a chair, resting his left arm on the table by his brother’s side. He shivered a little in the cool air as the doctor siphoned off some of his blood into an IV bag. Glancing down at his bare torso and then up to Dean’s blood-smeared side, he made a note to stop at the next town to pick up some replacements for their ruined shirts. Sam turned his attention back to the doctor as the man removed the syringe from his arm and pressed a gauze pad to the needle mark. He held his thumb against the gauze while the doc put a small strip of surgical tape across it to hold it in place. Slipping Dean’s jacket back on, Sam zipped up the front and rolled his shoulders.
The doctor glanced up as the hunter got to his feet. “What about the rest of the money?”
“You want it now?” Sam shot the man an incredulous look. “What about my brother? What about your Hippocratic Oath?”
Folding his arms, the man took a cautious step away from the tall hunter. “I’m just tryin’ to make a livin’. How do I know you won’t stiff me? Cash first, then the treatment. That’s my rules.”
Sam felt a tiny flutter of fear in his belly. There was only one reasonably safe way he knew of to get hold of some quick cash – and that meant leaving his brother alone and unprotected with a total stranger. Despite Ellen Harvelle’s recommendation, Sam didn’t entirely trust the man. But he couldn’t patch up his brother himself, and he didn’t know where else to turn. Forcing the fear to the back of his mind, he prepared to negotiate. “All right – I’ll go get the rest of the money – on one condition.”
“And what’s that?”
“That you fix up my brother while I’m gone.”
“And what if you don’t come back?”
“I’ll come back. You have my word. And if that’s not enough, then ring the Roadhouse and talk to Ellen. She’ll vouch for me.”
A dubious frown creased the man’s leathery countenance as he craned his neck to make eye contact with his visitor. Finally he nodded reluctantly. “Fine – I’ll patch him up. You just get that money.”
The young psychic stared for a long moment at his unconscious sibling. Finally he looked up, meeting the elder man’s wary gaze. “Fine. Where’s the nearest bar with a pool table?”
“Bar? You want a drink, I got whiskey here.”
Sam’s lips curled in a faint sneer. “Just tell me where the nearest bar is.” Wishing for the first time in his life that he had the same uncanny knack for finding such bars as his brother did, he waited with ill-concealed impatience while the puzzled doctor gave him directions. Giving a terse nod of thanks, he strode toward the door.
“Hey! You sure you’re not ditchin’ him?”
Turning at the door, Sam drew in a deep, calming breath. “I’d never ditch my brother. If he wakes up, just tell him I won’t be gone long. I’ll bring you back the money – you make sure you do a good job of patching him up.”
The door closed behind the tall hunter and the doc blew out a sigh. He glanced down at his silent patient as he began to prep Dean for surgery. “If he does ditch you, boy, I’m callin’ the cops to come pick you up. You may be friends of the Harvelles, but there’s a nice fat reward out for your ass, and I could use that money.”
* * * * *
Sam turned the beer bottle idly between his fingers while he watched the current game progressing at the pool table in the corner. He’d already picked his mark, and like a true hunter was now waiting patiently to spring his trap. A faint feeling of unease pervaded his body, but cold resolve hardened his heart. This was what he had to do. They needed money to buy the doctor’s services for Dean, and hustling pool was the only way to get it, unless he wanted to do something crazy and utterly stupid like try to rob the nearest gas station. Sam had to fix things for his brother – he had to make it right. After all, he was the one who’d screwed up. If he hadn’t had his head in the clouds during the salt and burn…
“Yeah! We have a winner!” The stocky guy with a military style buzz cut pumped his fist in the air as the eight ball sank into a corner pocket. Grinning in triumph, he accepted a wad of bills from his dejected opponent and looked around the bar. “Come on, who’s got the guts to take me on next? I gotta tell you, though – it’s my lucky night!”
Clearing his throat, the young psychic put on his best innocent expression and hesitantly raised a hand. “Um – I guess I’ll give it a try.”
Buzz-cut eyed the tall hunter up and down, and his grin grew wider. The young stranger looked as green as grass – he would be an easy mark. “Show me the colour of your money, kid.”
Sam hauled out their last fifty dollars and laid it on the table. Moving with less than his usual fluid grace, he plucked a cue from the rack on the wall and clumsily chalked the tip.
* * * * *
The doctor swabbed at the dribble of blood leaking from the hole in the hunter’s side and peered into the wound. He checked that his patient was still under the anaesthetic before reaching for another instrument from the sterile tray set up on the nearby kitchen bench. Swallowing determinedly, the doc glanced at the clock on the wall before he bent to his task once more. “That brother of yours has been gone over an hour, son. Maybe he did ditch you, huh? Guess I might just have to get myself that reward after all.”
Dean moaned softly, rolling his head to one side. “Sam,” he murmured groggily, his eyelids fluttering. “Sammy…”
Quickly stripping off his bloodstained gloves, the doctor reached out to restrain the weakly moving hunter. “Rest easy, son. Don’t move.”
“He’s – he’s g… he’s just outside, okay? Your brother’s right outside. Now, just you keep still.” Slipping the cap off a syringe, the doc administered another shot of anaesthetic and waited for it to take effect.
Slowly, Dean’s feverish green eyes closed, and his pale face relaxed as he slipped back into a drug-induced oblivion.
“Now, why the hell did I tell the kid that?” Something about the way his patient had called for his brother had gotten to the hardened medico. Maybe the young man hadn’t ditched his sibling after all, he mused. He couldn’t imagine ‘Sammy’ just taking off and leaving his brother hurt and in the hands of a stranger. Could he? Shaking his head in disgust, the doctor washed his hands, pulled on a fresh pair of gloves and set to work. “Must be getting soft in my old age.”
* * * * *
Sam glanced surreptitiously at his watch. He’d been away from his brother for over an hour. Time to wind this up and get back to Dean. He didn’t fully trust the doctor, which wasn’t helping the mounting tension in his gut. Sam leaned the pool cue on the toe of his boot while he studied the table, allowing a worried frown to crease his brow.
He’d won the first game, orchestrating his moves so it looked like the victory was hard-won. Then he’d deliberately lost the second one, setting up his mark for the third and final game. Sam had played the man like a fish on a hook, pretending to be crestfallen when he revealed that he had no more money to bet with. When the man had pressured him, he’d hesitantly admitted the only thing he had of value was the Impala. Squashing a momentary flutter of panic at daring to wager his brother’s pride and joy, Sam had kept his focus on his end goal – he needed the money. Dean needed the money. With a reluctance that wasn’t entirely feigned, Sam put up the Chevy.
The elder man had practically salivated as he took the bet. A thick wad of cash rested on a corner of the table, representing his entire winnings for the night plus what money he had in his wallet. Running a hand over his close-cropped hair, he allowed a triumphant smirk to crease his rugged face while he waited for the young hunter to take his shot.
The local man thought he had the game in the bag. He’d managed to manoeuvre the white ball into a seemingly impossible position. A skilled player could get out of the block, but so far the tall shaggy haired kid hadn’t shown much of that. He’d bet all of his cash against the kid’s Impala standing in the parking lot. Over eight hundred dollars sat on the table – a bargain compared to the beautifully restored classic sitting outside. He could already imagine himself sitting behind the wheel, gunning the engine as he raced down the highway. Stifling a chuckle, he eyed the worried young man at the other end of the table. “It’s your shot, kid.”
Sam pretended to startle at the prompt. His eyes flicked up, widening a little before dropping to study the table once more. He had two balls left on the green baize surface, along with two of his opponent’s, and the eight ball. Sam could see the man’s smirk almost splitting his face in two as he leaned over the table. Bridging his fingers, Sam slid the cue back and forth twice before stabbing it toward the white ball.
A sharp click punctured the stillness. The white ball shot to the cushion and bounced off, spinning at an angle across the table. It clipped the side of one of Sam’s remaining balls in passing, dropping it neatly into the side pocket. Caroming off the side cushion, it arrowed for the last of Sam’s balls and knocked it into the corner pocket before brushing the eight ball. The black ball rolled slowly toward a corner pocket, teetered on the edge for a breathless moment before falling into the hole with a soft thunk. Sam straightened up and rested the pool cue over one shoulder. “Guess I win,” he murmured softly, meeting the shocked gaze of his opponent.
Buzz-cut’s jaw dropped as he stared at the table. He blinked, closing his mouth with a snap, annoyance spiking in his gut while he watched the young hunter gather up the cash and shove it in his pocket. Ignoring the hand held out to him, he snarled in wordless anger and dropped his gaze to study the table once more. He had a feeling he’d just been suckered, and his annoyance boiled over into anger.
Sam shrugged one broad shoulder, and put the cue on the rack before leaving the bar. Casting a cautious glance around out of habit, he headed over to the gleaming Chevy parked near the end of the lot. He heard the bar door open and the crunch of rapidly approaching feet on the gravel surface, and his hunter’s instincts screamed a warning. Sam swung around, ducking just in time to avoid a punch to the head from the man he’d just fleeced.
Giving a wild yell, buzz-cut launched a savage blow that would have split the hunter’s head open had it landed. Brass knuckles flashed in the glow of the nearby streetlamp as his fist brushed Sam’s hair in a near miss. Sam’s elbow cracked against his jaw and he grunted, his head snapping back.
Staggering back a few paces, the elder man quickly caught his balance and stopped the young hunter in his tracks with a looping left that split Sam’s cheek and jolted his head to one side. Shaking his head to clear the ringing in his ears, Sam fell back against the Impala and raised his right leg, catching the man in the stomach and shoving him back. Gliding forward, he shot out a rock hard fist that caught buzz-cut on the point of his jaw and dropped him to the ground.
The man snarled, spitting blood, and rolled onto his side. Pulling a knife from a sheath tucked into his boot, he sprang to his feet and dropped into a crouch, one hand splayed to the side for balance. “You son of a bitch!”
Sam’s eyes narrowed when he spotted the wicked blade gleaming in the man’s hand. His own hand moved, darting to his waistband to grasp the butt of his pistol. Bringing up the weapon, he bent his knees slightly, turned his body to the side and wrapped his left hand under his right to support the gun. “Don’t do it!” he barked, doing his best John Winchester imitation. He didn’t have time for this crap – he had to get back to Dean.
Buzz-cut froze, staring into the yawning bore of the handgun that had seemed to appear out of thin air. He swallowed nervously, his wide eyes flicking from the muzzle of the gun to the grimly determined face above it. There was no doubt in his mind that the stranger would shoot if he made a wrong move. He held his breath as he noted the coiled readiness in the young man’s stance, wondering how the hell he’d ever mistaken the man for a wet-behind-the-ears kid.
“Drop the knife.”
Obeying the menacing voice, the man let the knife slip from his suddenly numb fingers. He slowly raised his hands, unable to tear his gaze away from the deadly young man standing before him.
“Walk away,” Sam instructed coldly, staring the man down. He moved forward as the man turned to stumble back to the bar, and kicked the knife under a nearby SUV. Waiting until his would-be assailant disappeared inside, he let out a relieved sigh and slid behind the wheel of the Chevy, licking suddenly dry lips as he shoved the key into the ignition. The V8 engine rumbled to life, and Sam patted the steering wheel before putting the Impala into gear. “That was close, girl. Way too close.”
The adrenaline rush had all but died down by the time he pulled up outside the doctor’s run-down home on the edge of town. With hands that shook slightly, Sam split two hundred dollars from his winnings and stuffed the rest of the money in the glove compartment. Sucking in a deep breath, he exited the car, strode quickly up the rickety steps to the front door and hammered on the door.
The door opened a few minutes later, revealing the grizzled medico. “Huh – you came back,” he observed, eying the tall hunter in surprise.
Sam ignored the man, pushing past him to head for the kitchen, drawn to his brother like iron filings to a magnet. He examined the neat bandages covering Dean’s side before resting the back of his hand against his brother’s cheek. Not bothering to look up as the doctor came to a halt at the other side of the table, Sam kept his gaze on his sibling’s pale face. “How is he?”
“Lucky,” the doc grunted. “Nothing major punctured – some muscle damage. Nothing that won’t heal in a few days.” He glanced up at the shaggy haired young hunter, one eyebrow lifting in surprise when he saw the reddened mark and trickle of blood on the side of Sam’s face. “Got in a fight?”
The young psychic raised a hand and swiped it across his cheek, glancing distractedly at the smear of blood. “It’s nothing. Walked into a door.” He pulled the wad of bills from his pocket and handed it to the doctor. “Here’s your money.”
Chewing on his lip in speculation, the elder man counted the bills, greed over-riding any compassion he might have felt for the injured hunter. “Did I say two hundred?”
Sam stiffened, his eyes narrowing in wariness. “Yes, you did,” he stated flatly.
The man nodded slowly, turning his gaze from the money to the unconscious boy lying on the table. “Know what he’s worth to the cops?”
“No. And I don’t care.”
“My silence…” The doctor broke off, stumbling back a pace in shock as the young hunter suddenly loomed over him.
“Is already paid for,” Sam snarled, fury at the man and fear for his brother shaking his tall frame. “Give me some antibiotics and painkillers, and then I’m taking my brother out of here. And if you set the cops on our trail, I swear to God you won’t live long enough to collect one penny of that reward.”
His chest heaving, Sam followed the doc from the room to a small dispensary at the back of the house. He snatched the packets of pills from the man’s hand and examined the labels before nodding jerkily. Motioning for the doctor to return to the kitchen, he slid Dean’s knife from his boot and cut the phone cord on his way through the living room. “Cell phone,” Sam demanded bluntly as he stepped into the kitchen, startling the doctor.
Worry creasing his brow; the doc handed over the cell phone. He watched in astonishment as the long fingers opened the case to extract the SIM card and battery. “What are you doing?”
Sam flicked the items out the nearest window into the darkness, and tossed the useless cell phone back to the elder man. “Leading you not into temptation,” he growled softly. Stuffing the packets of pills into his jeans pocket, he slid his arms beneath his brother’s body and carefully lifted Dean from the table. “I’d thank you, but I guess you wouldn’t appreciate it.”
Cradling Dean’s lax frame to his chest, Sam stared coldly at the doctor until the man got the hint and opened the front door. Crowding after the older man, Sam inclined his head meaningfully at the rear door of the Impala, turning a deaf ear to the muttered cursing as the doctor complied with his unspoken request. He carefully manoeuvred his brother onto the back seat and settled him as comfortably as possible, covering Dean with the blanket he’d used before. Without looking back, he slid behind the wheel and gunned the engine, steering the Chevy down the short drive and onto the road.
Sam blew out his breath in a rush, his shoulders slumping as the anger drained from his body. “Oh, God,” he muttered shakily, wiping a hand across his face. Ignoring the sting of his cut cheek, he headed for the motel they’d booked into the night before to pick up the rest of their stuff.
Checking the parking lot warily as he exited the room, Sam slung the bags into the trunk and climbed back into the driver’s seat, two pillows and an extra blanket tucked under his arm. He knelt on the seat, leaned over the back and pulled Dean gently forward, stuffing the pillows behind his brother’s head and shoulders. “Hold on, big brother. Just a little further, all right?”
Pressing the back of his hand against his brother’s forehead, Sam checked Dean’s temperature, smiling faintly as he imagined his sibling’s reaction to such a girly gesture. Dean’s skin felt reasonably cool to the touch, and Sam nodded in satisfaction as he spread the second blanket over him. Settling back behind the wheel, he checked the map for the shortest route to the interstate.
* * * * *
Well, there you go. We're off and running with another one. Next week: Chapter 2 - Shockwave. :evil