Master Post - Part 3
Stinging nettles and the slap of twigs whipping past him stung Dean’s skin as he followed after Sam, but the bigger problem was that they didn’t get twenty feet off trail before they had to clamber over giant fallen logs and the forest closed in so tight that they’d needed a machete to pretend to make decent progress.
The crashing sounds coming up fast behind them said that Bigfoot wasn’t having the same problems.
“I’m gonna lead it the other way,” Dean shouted to Sam.
“What?” Sam grabbed Dean’s arm before he could take off. “Why?”
“So you can shoot it in the back, genius.” Dean shoved Sam’s hand off him. “You really are rusty, aren’t you?”
Sam made a show of arming his gun as Dean headed back the way they’d come, making as much noise as possible, not that it was hard. There was no way to move quietly with the snapping of the fallen limbs and sticks shed from the ancient trees above.
He headed up the trail, pushing through carpets of moss and made sure the thing was on his tail before ducking back into the vegetation. With his gun still clutched in his hand, he held his arms over his face and busted through the brush until he crashed into a stand of monster trees. They were spaced far apart, but the canopy was so dense it blocked out the sun and left the ground beneath free of understory.
It would give Sam the clear shot he needed if the kid remembered how to hit a moving target. It was a really good plan except that he’d underestimated how much ground Bigfoot’s giant ass legs could cover.
He should’ve thought about how easy it had been for Sam to lap him when his brother had hit his growth spurt, but before his muscles had filled in. Unlike Sam, having bulky muscles wasn’t slowing this thing down.
“Anytime now, Sam!” Dean shouted.
He shot a look over his shoulder and in the next moment was flying towards the ground when his boot caught on a protruding root. Dean grunted as he hit the dirt hard. He rolled onto his back, curling defensively in preparation for Bigfoot’s attack.
Several shots rang out first, every one hitting their target, but Bigfoot didn’t fall. Instead, it turned around on Sam. Dean grabbed his gun and scrambled to his feet, panic gripping his chest as he saw his brother go down.
Dean hadn’t covered half the distance before Sam cried out. The ground beneath him was already staining red as the thing tore into him.
“Sam!” Dean yelled as he fired every last shot he had just to get the thing off his brother.
He pulled the knife from his boot when Bigfoot left Sam and came back at him. He dodged, swiping with the knife, not caring that the weapon wasn’t large enough to penetrate through the large barrel chest and into the thing’s heart. All Dean could see was that Sam was down and he wasn’t getting back up.
Bigfoot swiped back, dirty claws tearing through the thick layers of fabric to slice into his side. Dean gritted his teeth and got his own strike in. He only managed a shallow cut, but it was enough to tell him everything he needed to know.
The torn skin sizzled where the silver blade had sliced it.
He’d brought silver bullets, but not enough that he’d loaded the gun with them by default. His hand went to his pocket to check that they were still there. He only needed to buy a second to load them.
Dean lunged forward to jam the knife into the mammoth chest as it loomed over him. The thrust cut through the thick layer of musty fur and finally found muscle before the clawed hand dug into Dean's shoulder and threw him back against a tree.
He shook his head and forced his eyes to focus. He remained crouching to feign being more stunned than he was and to buy the time he needed to load his pistol. Once the silver was in, he bound to his feet and ran to lure the thing far enough away from his brother that it couldn’t turn back on him if this didn’t work.
Dean dodged into the brush. The ground there was deceptive, looking flat when it was really piles of forest debris concealing low points. Dean guessed wrong and his right boot went through a pile of limbs to stick in a mucky mess of pooled water and thick mud.
He’d gone far enough anyway. He waited until it was nearly on top of him then fired a shot into its heart. He flinched as the shifter collapsed towards him, compacting the pile that held his foot trapped.
“Damn it!” Dean pushed at the bulk of dead weight before looking back towards his brother. “Sam!”
Dean could only barely see Sam from where he was trapped. All he could make out was the lines of his brother's body. It was enough to see that even as Dean called for him at the top of his lungs, Sam lay still.
Dean pulled his knife out of the shifter then grunted as he used all his remaining strength to roll aside the heavy body. He dug out the debris that blocked him from seeing what he was really caught on.
It was a small, fallen tree that lay over the deep, thick mud that hugged his boot like quicksand. The log was trapped under heavier debris that was out of his reach and he couldn’t push his foot back against the suction of the mud that only gripped harder when he struggled.
He plunged his hands into the cold muck that smelled strongly of decay, feeling for his bootlaces and untying them. The spot of mud was small enough that he was able to sit on the edge of solid ground. Dean gritted his teeth as he jerked his aching ankle free of the stuck boot with a wet slurp.
His wool sock came out coated in the nearly black mud. He cursed beneath his breath as he reached back in for his boot, which he was able to wiggle free without his weight pressing it down. He didn’t bother to put it back on before moving as quickly as he could back to Sam, ignoring his ankle’s screaming protests.
The heavy boot slipped from his muck covered fingers as he stood over his brother, whose shredded jeans were soaked in dark crimson. Dean dropped to the dirt at Sam’s side futilely trying to scrub the sticky mud from his hands onto his wet jeans.
He pulled Sam up against him, finally letting himself breathe as Sam groaned into his shoulder. Dean gripped tightly before laying him back down so he could get a look at the damage.
There was a nasty lump forming at the side of his head that had blood seeping down his temple. Dean grimaced before moving his attention to Sam’s mangled leg. He flicked out his knife and cut away the shredded denim, revealing deep gashes torn into the skin.
Dean fought to focus though the panic that crept up in the back of his mind. This was it. This was exactly how Dad had known he would screw up. It was Dean, not the memories of Jess, that was going to get Sam killed.
He only considered it a second before he shrugged out of his jacket and stripped off his overshirt. He shifted Sam’s position so that his brother’s wounded leg was elevated on a large tree root.
Sam’s eyes fluttered open. They were glassy as he looked up at him. “Dean?”
“I got you, Sammy, just hold on.”
Dean pressed his shirt against the lacerations. Sam moaned and Dean mumbled an apology for far more than the immediate pain.
“What’re doing?” Sam asked.
“What’s it look I’m doing? Saving your ass.”
“Dean, you gotta get out of here.”
A laugh sputtered from Dean’s lips. “Yeah, sure. I’ve been looking for an excuse to dump your sorry ass.”
“I’m serious. I’m not walking out of here and if that thing come back...”
“I took care of it.” Dean repositioned his hands to make the pressure over the worst of the gashes more even. “You walked in. You’re walking out.”
“You gotta go for help. It’s going to get dark...”
“And you’re not gonna be out here alone.”
Dean clenched his jaw as he watched the war of pain and concern in his brother’s eyes. Sam was putting on a damn good show, but he was scared and there was nothing that could make Dean walk away from him now.
“Dean, you can’t carry me out.”
“I can do whatever the hell I want. Will you just shut up already?”
“The cuts are too deep. You’re not even gonna be able to stop the bleeding.”
“It’s already slowing down, you big baby. Now quit your damn bitching and let me take car of this.”
Dean gritted his teeth when Sam looked away and shivered. His brother’s blood had already soaked through the shirt to coat Dean’s grungy hands. There was no way Sam was walking out of here.
Jessica’s hand brushed over his cheek, pushing his wet bangs aside. Sam leaned into the warmth of her lingering touch. Her soft lips ghosted his forehead with a kiss. He wanted to pull her closer, but his arms felt too heavy.
“Where’d you go?” he asked.
“I didn’t go anywhere. I told you, Sammy, I’m not leaving you.”
Sam jerked awake. His eyes flashed open to see Dean crouched beside him. His brother’s hand rested on his forehead, only pulling away when Sam sent him a confused look. He furrowed his brow, trying to remember where he was. The answer came in a sharp wave of pain when he tried to shift his leg. He shivered at the cool air that had settled over him.
“I’m working on the fire,” Dean said. “It would just help if there was anything here with less than a hundred percent moisture content.”
Dean squeezed Sam’s shoulder before standing. He grumbled and tossed aside a moss-coated branch that in another climate would have made perfect tinder. Sam’s eyes focused enough through the haze of pain to see that his brother was stalking around the brush trying to gather material to burn.
“Why’re we still here?” Sam asked, not entirely sure where here was.
“’Cause you need to go on a diet.”
Sam slowly realized they weren’t in the same patch of forest he’d lost consciousness in. The creek was louder and he could see the sky above.
“You carried me.”
Dean rubbed his shoulder. “Not far. I would’ve had better luck hauling around the real Sasquatch’s ass. You’re too damn heavy.”
But Sam knew that wasn’t true. Dean had carried him before. He’d even seen Dean carry Dad. He watched Dean move, noting the heavy limp and the way he clutched his side as he paced.
“You okay?” Sam asked.
Dean looked surprised by the question and brushed it off. “Fine. How’s the leg?”
“Fine,” Sam mimicked.
Dean glared before returning to his firewood hunt. Sam watched as he leaned back against the tree Dean had propped him up against. He should help, but even slight movements left him lightheaded. His limbs felt like lead weights and his leg felt as if it was on fire.
He glanced down at his leg. It looked like it was wrapped in bandages, but they hadn’t brought any supplies with them. It took a moment for his eyes to focus well enough to see that it was Dean’s shredded overshirt meticulously wrapped around the wounds.
His gaze drifted to the area around them. They were out of the trees, or at least at the forest’s edge with a stream, probably the one they’d found Bigfoot at flowing less than twenty feet away. Their backs were to the woods, but there was no cover on the other sides. It didn’t fit Dean’s requirement of a defensible position. Dean was betting on a rescue, which violated Dean’s number one rule of never counting on anyone else.
“We got no flashlights and no damn clue where we are,” Dean said. “We’re not gonna make it out in the dark.”
Sam hadn’t even realized it was getting dark. The large trees and the mountains brought the shade of night before it was really there. Of course, he was also struggling to keep his eyes open.
“Hey.” Dean snapped his fingers, pulling Sam back. “How about you try staying with me for a bit here?” Dean asked. He pulled out his lighter and tried to set his starter pile on fire. “First rule of shelter building.”
“Don’t get your ass stuck out in a place you need to build a shelter,” Sam mumbled.
Dean shrugged at that. “Well, yeah...that’s my rule, but what’s Dad’s?”
“I don’t care, Dean.”
“It was a dude.”
“What?” Sam pried his eyes open to glance at his brother, who was still holding his lighter in the pile of pine needles.
“In Reno. That thing I was playing bait for.”
Sam’s addled brain rolled around the words for a minute. “That succubus prostitute?”
When Dean gave an indignant nod, Sam sputtered a laugh despite himself.
“Turned out to be incubus. And, yeah, it’s freakin’ hilarious until some dude monster in a miniskirt whips it out on you. And damn, she was even hot. That kind of false advertising oughtta be illegal. Come on, bitch, burn,” Dean coaxed his barely smoldering pile. “Yatzee! Check me out.”
Sam scoffed at the tiny flicker of flames. “That’s pathetic and you used a lighter. What would Dad say about that?”
“You try setting water on fire.”
Dean hustled to fan and feed the precarious flames. Sam’s frown deepened as he saw that the simple actions left Dean winded. He was clutching his side again by the time the fire began to crackle.
“You really up to building a shelter?” Sam asked.
“I’m sure as hell not gonna just sit around.”
Even as Dean said the words, he lowered himself to the ground and leaned back against the tree, his shoulder settling tight against Sam’s. He let out a weary sigh, wrapping his arms around himself until Sam shivered again.
Sam’s eyes had fallen shut, but pulled open as he felt Dean lean away. His brother shrugged off his jacket to lay it over him. It blocked the cold of the evening breeze that rustled the brush around them, but left Dean only in his t-shirt.
“What’re you doing?” Sam asked. “You’re gonna get hypothermia.”
“The fire’s making me hot,” Dean said.
“Then why are you shaking?”
Dean abruptly stood so that Sam could no longer feel his shivering. Sam glared in disapproval, but couldn’t exactly get up to knock some sense into his brother.
Dean returned to collecting wood, but the limbs he was hauling were too big to burn in the fire. Sam's worry deepened as he watched Dean’s face contort in pain with the effort it took to drag the logs.
“Will you please just sit down?” Sam asked.
Dean shook his head. “It’s gonna rain.”
“How do you know?”
“Because we’re in a freakin’ rainforest. That and I just got smacked in the head with a giant raindrop.”
When Dean raised his arms to heave one of the logs into position against the tree, Sam saw the blood smeared on the inside of his arm. The left side of his shirt hung in tattered shreds and the skin beneath was coated in scarlet.
“Is covered in your blood,” Dean cut off. “Now shut up and stop worrying.”
Sam knew Dean was lying, but it took all his energy to focus on just keeping his eyes open. He could only lie still as Dean constructed a debris hut around him. His brother positioned the logs to build the frame with the same ease he’d slapped together the stupid tent.
“So these camping trips with Dad?” Sam asked.
“Weren’t anything. Aren’t you tired?”
“I thought you wanted me to talk.”
“New rule. The least injured brother gets to tell the mortally injured one when to shut his cakehole.” Dean paused in his shelter building to really look at Sam. “You wanna talk? Fine. I gave you one with Reno. Your turn.”
Sam groaned and shook his head. He was only barely able to follow Dean’s words and wasn’t sure what would leave his own mouth if he started rambling. While he was intent on staying quiet, Dean’s silently pleading eyes remained fixed on his until he broke.
Sam’s gaze shifted to become lost in the fire’s smoky flames. “She’s dead because of me.”
Dean’s words startled Sam back to the moment. He sat rigidly staring up at his brother, the ache in his heart growing deeper at the thought that Dean could see right through him.
Even Dean knew it had been his fault. Dean had warned him. He’d said he was putting Jessica in danger by not telling her the truth and he’d been right.
“I know you think so,” Dean continued a moment later. “You know...I still have nightmares about Mom.”
Dean nodded. He stopped gathering branches and leaned against a tree as he also looked into the flames. “I know that if I’d snuck into your room that night...maybe if I’d asked for a glass of water. Hell, if I’d just wet the goddamn bed then maybe...”
“Dean, that’s ridiculous.”
Dean’s eyes snapped up. “Is it?”
“Of course it is. There’s no way you could’ve saved her.”
“What would you have done?” Dean asked. “If you’d been there with Jess and it came, what could you have done?”
“It would’ve taken me instead.”
“No, it wouldn’t!” Dean pushed off the tree, limping back towards Sam. “You’d just both be dead.”
“At least I could’ve tried. She needed me.”
“I need you!”
Sam stiffened at Dean’s shout, staring up at his brother. He couldn’t begin to find the words to reply, his addled brain unable to process the raw desperation in Dean’s voice.
“Sam, I need you.” Dean brought his hand up to rub the back of his neck. “I...man, I can’t do this alone and Dad...I can’t. I won’t.”
Sam pulled Dean’s jacket tighter around him as he stared up at the darkening sky. “I wanted you to come.”
Dean had gone back to distracting himself with the tree branches before Sam had spoken. He laid another on the roof he was making over Sam before he looked down at him through the opening that remained.
Dean laughed. “Dude, you really did hit your head. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly college material here.”
“You could be. You don’t even see it, do you?”
“See what?” Dean asked.
“You’re not just a hunter, Dean. I had to leave because, with Dad, that’s all I could be. It’s all he’s ever let you be and I hate it so much. You’re so worried about making him happy, you don’t even care what makes you happy. This isn’t all there is and he had no right—”
“You don't get it,” Dean interrupted. "You never could."
"Then explain it to me, Dean."
Dean put the last pieces on the roof of the shelter, more wood on the fire and then settled down in the doorway of the shelter. He still sat outside and stared out into the encroaching blackness as the light of the flames flickered over his face. He was close enough that Sam could almost make out his eyes.
“It was after Mom,” Dean said. “I mean not right after. We were okay for a little while until Dad quit his job, but it was before he’d met other hunters. We didn’t have any friends and we didn’t know who the enemy was. Dad couldn’t just get another job and hadn’t figured out how else to get money. We didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Sam remained silent. Straining to focus on Dean’s quiet words nearly made him forget the pain in his leg and pushed back the exhaustion trying to claim him.
“We stayed in the car, it was all we had, but it was still winter and it was so damn cold. You were just a baby and Dad was so scared.”
Sam swallowed. He lost himself in Dean’s distant gaze, but didn’t miss the fact that Dean’s story was focusing on everyone but himself. He’d rather talk about Dad’s fears and struggles than tell his own.
“Then we just drove. We left the cities and Kansas and just kept driving until we hit the forests. I don’t know where we were. I just remember pulling off some abandoned logging road at sunset and Dad saying it’ll be okay. No one will find us there. It was so dark. I just wanted...” Dean shook his head. “But we set up camp and we finally had a fire to keep you warm. We kept moving of course and...it was okay.”
Dean fell silent as he absently drew sigils in the dirt between them. Given how adamant Dean was against camping, Sam knew it had been far from okay.
“But?” Sam asked.
"But...we found out the monsters were everywhere. Black dog. We’d probably set up camp at an old crossroads and didn’t even know it. The thing tore into the tent while we were sleeping. It dragged Dad out.”
“It doesn’t matter where you go, Sam. They’re out there. Everywhere. Running off to college. Running away from Dad. It doesn’t change that.” Dean rubbed his hand over his face before turning to look into the shelter at Sam. “We’re in this whether we like it or not. And, some days, you get lucky enough to shoot a Bigfoot.”
“I know you've been worried about me...and Dad,” Sam said. “Bigfoot sounded like your kind of thing. I just thought it would go better.”
“I don’t know. It was pretty awesome.” Dean forced a smile and patted his good leg. “I need to work on the fire. Try to get some sleep, Sammy.”
Dean shifted stiffly, moaning softly. A spot of filtered sunlight cut through the trees to warm his still-closed eyelids. It was the first he’d felt the sun since they’d gotten here and it was about damn time. Last night had been one of the longest nights of his life.
He’d never heard of shifters traveling in packs, but with their kind of luck, anything was possible. Every snap of a branch, hoot of an owl or groan from Sam had left him jumping at his own shadow. He still had the pistol in his grip, laid over his chest.
Nothing else was touching his brother.
That fire Sam had needed to stay warm hadn’t helped anything. He wasn’t sure what kind of freaks found the crackle of a fire and sting of smoke to be relaxing. It only grated his nerves. Fires were for burning corpses.
Besides, campfires were needy sons of bitches, especially when it was raining and the whole damn woods were full of nothing but rotting, wet wood. He’d had to build a shelter for the stupid campfire, but at least keeping the thing going had given him something to do. He’d let it go to embers around dawn only because he’d finally passed out.
Dean’s eyes blinked open and he turned his head to check on his sleeping brother. Sam was lying on a moss bed beneath the makeshift shelter. If he’d had to, Dean could’ve squeezed in with him. He’d told Sam he wasn’t going to because they’d already cuddled enough to last a lifetime in that damn tent.
In reality, he would’ve felt better being able to feel where Sam was, but his brother didn’t need anymore jostling. Dean had thought about crouching down inside for the worst of the rain, but it would’ve left him with too many blind spots in the blackest hours of the night.
He sat up, groaning as the movement tore at the gashes in his side. His gaze remained on Sam, watching the steady rise and fall of his brother’s chest. Sam's skin was pale where the sun caught it, but he was still alive. Now Dean just had to figure out how to get them the hell out of here.
First, he was going to have to get cleaned up before Sam came to. The tears in his side were caked with dried blood and clogged with dirt. In the light, Sam would be able to see the damage. His brother had nearly gotten his leg ripped up, but he’d see a few little cuts on Dean and throw a damn bitch fest.
Dean stood, or tried. As soon as he rested weight on is right ankle, pain shot up through his leg and he was back staring at the ground. He waited a moment for the wave of pain to pass, before adjusting his boot.
His toes were chilled since he’d ditched the muddy sock. He’d put the boot back on, but hadn’t been able to tie it with the swelling and the leather was still damp with muck that the fire hadn’t been enough to dry.
He stood again, this time care to keep the weight on his other leg, before shuffling to the stream. It was far enough off that his splashing shouldn’t bother Sam, but he could still keep his brother in sight.
Dean carefully surveyed the surrounding forest before he was convinced that he could momentarily let his guard down. He peeled off the damp, bloody t-shirt that clung to him, struggling to pull it past his bloody shoulder that he’d at least partially thrown out.
He kneeled down beside the stream to get the weight off his foot. He soaked the shirt in the frigid water, scrubbing out the blood that swirled pink in the clear stream before wiping the rung-out shirt over his side. He gasped at the icy cold trickle that dripped down his skin.
Dean leaned down to rinse the shirt out again when he heard the snapping of twigs and then voices in the near distance. His hand automatically hovered over his weapon, but the voices were clearly female and he was pretty damn sure they were human. The last thing he wanted to do was scare them off.
“I would’ve gone backpacking with you a long time ago if you’d told me this was the kind of view I could expect,” one of the girls said.
“Jenny! You are unbelievable. Stop staring.”
The second voice sounded vaguely familiar and let him pinpoint the location of the hikers. Several girls were walking down the trail on the other side of the creek, partially hidden in the bushes.
Dean carefully got back to his feet and waved towards them. “Hey, we could use some help over here!”
They stayed back until one of them nudged the other. “Heather, isn’t that the Fish and Wildlife guy?”
Dean’s exhausted mind finally caught on that they looked familiar because they were the girls from the general store. They also seemed satisfied that they recognized him because they moved out of the bushes to stand on the other side of the creek.
Mindy took one look at him and shrugged the large backpack from her shoulders. She hopped over the larger rocks to cross the creek, her eyes wide with panic.
“Oh my God,” she gasped. “Are you okay?”
“Who? Me?” Dean glanced behind him before following her gaze to his still bloody shoulder and the slashes that had again started to seep fresh blood down his side. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He rung out his shirt again before jerking the cold, soggy thing back on. “It’s my brother who needs help.”
“What happened?” she asked as she followed Dean over to the shelter.
“We got attacked by a...” He couldn’t remember if Sam had said there weren’t mountain lions or bears here, but whatever. “A bear last night. How far are we from...anything?”
“There's a campground ten miles back.”
Dean crouched down beside the shelter, reaching in to shake Sam’s shoulder. “Hey, Sammy? Charlie’s Angels are here, get your ass up.” He looked back at Mindy with a grimace as his brother slowly stirred. “Ten miles? Son of a bitch.”
“Can you even walk?” she asked him.
“Well, yeah.” She looked skeptical and Dean glared back at her. “I could run a damn marathon, but his leg's shot and cell phones are crap out here.”
“Dean?” Sam asked drowsily. “What’s going on?”
“We’re figuring how to get you out of here.” Dean eased Sam back down when he tried to sit. “Slow down, we’re still working on it. I just need you with me here.”
Dean pulled off the mass of fir branches and moss that he’d used to cover the shelter and fully exposed his brother. Sam shivered and Dean tucked his jacket tighter around his shoulders.
He glanced anxiously to Mindy and the other two girls who had come across the stream to join her. Heather took one look between them and was already dialing on her satellite phone.
“Jenny’s pre-med,” Mindy said, before nudging the other girl. “Maybe you could take a look at them? I’m going to go grab a blanket out of my pack.”
Jenny brushed her hair aside and smiled through the worry on her face. “Sure, I’d love to take a look,” she said with a wink.
Dean smirked back, letting the tentative relief ease his coiled muscles as he pushed aside the frame of the shelter and settled down beside his brother. He leaned back against the tree and pulled Sam tight against his chest to give him something softer and warmer than tree bark to lay on as Jenny started looking his leg over.
“I’m gonna be fine, Dean.”
“Yeah, I know.”
But he realized that Sam had said the words because he was holding his brother tight enough to suffocate him. Dean eased his grip and Sam clumsily reached over to grasp his arm.
“No,” Sam said as he turned his head to meet Dean’s worried gaze. “I mean everything's gonna be okay.”
Dean considered the words and the sincerity in Sam’s eyes. He nodded and clasped his hand over his brother’s. With his next breath, Dean released tension and uncertainty that he’d been holding for month, maybe years.
He didn’t remember they were being watched until Jenny sighed. “So much for my dreams of the world’s hottest double date.” She carefully adjusted Sam’s leg before a smile returned to her lips. “How do you two feel about threesomes?”
“Love ‘em,” Dean said with a grin as Mindy returned to tuck a blanket over both him and Sam.
Sam weakly jabbed Dean in the side the same moment Mindy nudged Jenny. As Mindy complained to her friend, Dean shrugged at his brother. It wasn’t like Sam could honestly be surprised he wanted to hit that.
“What? I do.”
Sam rolled his eyes. "Do you even listen to yourself?"
“Shut up.” Dean leaned his head back against the tree. “And Sam? Next time you suggest a camping trip, I’m gonna do us both a favor and shoot you.”