Characters: Sam, Dean, John, Bobby
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort, AU, Wee!chester
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Those of you who think John Winchester was a good father doing the best he could under terrible circumstances may not like my portrayal. He's not deliberately cruel, but he is negligent and he treats his sons as though they are soldiers, not little boys. Just remember this story is AU and Sammy knows what his daddy does at a much younger age than canon Sammy.
Word Count: ~3,200
Summary: This is the third story in the 'Wish 'verse. I recommend reading at least the first story here before you read this one as this is an AU and it may be difficult to follow if you don't get the background. In summary: Young Sammy's wish to be a grown up whenever his big brother, Dean, needs help gets granted by a well-meaning gypsy. The unexpected consequences of the wish cause an unbreakable bond to develop between the brothers. A magical creature, the black imp, attempts to take the wish away from the boys, but is thwarted by John who is then cursed by the imp to forever be in pain when his sons are nearby.
In this installment Dean is 10 and Sammy is 6 until his brother needs his help and the Wish transforms him into a 24 year old. Dad comes home from a hunt and something is…wrong. Once more it's up to adult Sam to protect young Dean from danger and this time he can't count on John for back-up.
Bonded and Broken
Chapter 13 Mind Control vs. Zoning Out
Even after the Lich stops touching him the residual sense memory of icy tendrils invading his body and turning the very blood in his veins into a frozen sludge leaves him feeling wiped out and so very soul-weary that he can't fathom lifting his head off the ground much less standing. If he didn't know better he might think his bones had been pulverized and his internal organs reduced to nothing more than jellied pulp.
Whatever a Lich is, Sam can attest to the fact that it has some powerful mojo. It only had to get one finger on him to unleash one heck of a supernatural whammy smackdown.
The events surrounding the undead creature's intensely disturbing touch are hazy, shrouded in pain and obscured by some kind of sensory dampening effect emitted by the Lich. Sam remembers pushing Dean out of the way even before he knew how horrifying being touched by the Lich was going to be. In hindsight he's glad he acted on his instincts to spare his brother that experience. Very glad. He figures his larger body was better equipped to absorb the mystical attack. Who knows what might have happened to Dean's smaller frame if he'd been the one to be pounded by that level of arcane assault.
Like a fuzzy movie playing on a drive-thru movie screen he thinks he remembers seeing his brother regain his feet and point his shotgun at the moldering creature. The dread he had felt at that moment, at the wheezing sounds of mirth coming from unnaturally ancient lungs, cuts off abruptly in his memory and the next thing he remembers is lying on the ground with Dean's empathic messages cautioning him to remain stationary. At that point, still in the grips of the Lich's thrall, he couldn't have moved if he'd had to anyway.
Watching through slit-open eyes, Sam had inwardly cringed as Dean distracted the horde of monsters long enough for Bobby to pull off the great escape, drawing most of the creatures including the Lich into what will hopefully turn out to be a wild goose chase. As if that hadn't been enough, his brother had then taken out both of the remaining ghouls with two perfectly aimed shots to the head. Lickity split, in an instant the threat had been neutralized. It's actually kind of awe inspiring and Sam would be appropriately awe-struck by his brother's amazing talent if he wasn't so busy being furious at…the world, at the universe in general, at their father specifically, for putting a ten-year-old boy in that position in the first place.
But all that pales into insignificance when he gets Dean in his line of sight because his brother is staring at the dead ghouls, eyes wide, shotgun dangling forgotten from a slack grip and face gone a terrifying shade of milky white. Before Sam can react, the boy begins to shake as though thousands of electrical currents are sending jolt after jolt of shockwaves through his body. The defensive walls the boy has started to use more and more frequently to protect himself with are slamming into place so quickly it makes Sam's head spin and he knows if he doesn't do something immediately it's going to be too late to stop his brother before he has receded into the deepest confines of his mind.
Getting an aching arm underneath his torso, Sam pushes up to his knees, exhales sharply and staggers the rest of the way to his feet. "Come back to me, kiddo. Talk to me here. Please talk to me." Sam is speaking quickly, desperately, his words rushing over one another in his haste to reach the boy. "You need to tell me what you're thinking. I can't read your mind, you know that, and now's not the time to practice your mental blocks or your ability to put yourself into some kind of trance or whatever it is you're getting ready to do."
Despite his cajoling and the attempt at shocking Dean out of his own headspace and back to reality by bringing up Bobby's trance theory, Sam can feel his brother slipping away. The boy's emotional presence, usually vibrant and alive like a homing beacon for Sam, is getting weaker by the second. What that means exactly, Sam can't even begin to guess, but it can't be good.
"Dean?" Urgently, he cups one hand around the boy's exposed neck. The pulse thrumming there against his fingertips reassures him slightly.
Dean blinks slowly. A far away expression steals the light from his moss green eyes. "I killed'em." He murmurs dreamily, looking to Sam for confirmation.
"Yeah, you did. You did good." When his words cause a filmy veil to fall across the boy's eyes and a clenching despair to settle over him instead of providing the pride he expects them to, Sam begins to understand. The realization sickens him, makes his throat close up and ties his stomach in knots. There's little to nothing he can do to stem the desolation he can feel creeping over the young boy who has just been forced to kill in order to save the life of someone he loves.
Dean needs time to digest what has happened and come to terms with it, but he's not going to get that time. As is par for the course they can't stay here to heal or for any other reason. The Lich will be back and they have to go warn the other hunters. Not only can they not stay, but they have to make a run for it and Dean's brace isn't going to allow him much speed.
With one arm around his brother's trembling shoulders and the other under his legs, Sam grinds his teeth and lifts. The effort causes black and red spots to dim his vision, the effects of the Lich's attack still sapping much of his strength. Instead of giving in to his body's demands to slump to the ground, he steadies his legs and takes off at a sprint, weaving his way back to the trail that will lead to the hunter's rendezvous spot. He's not sure how long he's going to be able to keep up this pace, but as long as they can get out of the general vicinity of the cabin before he collapses Sam figures they'll at least have a chance at escaping.
Dean continues to emotionally detach himself from his surroundings. As Sam runs with his brother physically in his arms, he can feel their bond stretching and lengthening until it seems as though it might snap at any moment. Physical distance doesn't usually affect the bond at all. It doesn't matter whether they're in the same room or across town from one another, Sam can mentally access his brother's emotions without having to think about it. This is different. Now, even though they're touching, it feels as though they're light years apart.
The growing separation is scaring the snot out of Sam. He tries again to talk the boy back off the ledge he seems ready to jump from. "How you feelin' Dean?" Sam splits his attention between his brother and the quickly passing scenery, breathing heavily through his mouth as he pushes through his fatigue.
Dean tries to answer the question, his mouth opens and his tongue moves to form the words, but all that comes out is a garbled exhale. "Uggghhh."
"What's that, kiddo? Try again for me." Sam pants, his words breaking against the pounding of his feet on the trail.
There's no answer this time, not even an attempt at an answer and Sam's fear expands exponentially. The muscles in Dean's face have all relaxed, his eyes are closed and his mouth is parted softly.
There are only two options here as far as Sam can tell: he can either allow his brother to detach and drift away completely, hoping he comes back by himself or he can somehow follow the bright spark of vitality that is Dean's essence by grabbing hold of their empathic link and using the unbreakable tether to chase the boy into the strange nether space inside his head.
It feels completely natural to follow Dean; he's been doing it ever since he first learned how to crawl. So between those two choices, Sam doesn't have to deliberate for long. He isn't going to let Dean do this alone.
By visualizing their bond, he is able to latch onto his connection with his brother, hitching a ride into the recesses of Dean's psyche, a place that Sam quickly begins to associate with a maze of dark emotions. The walls of the maze close in around them, walls made of regret and deep despair. As though Dean is punishing himself, condemning himself to do mental penance, he winds his way further into the murky shadows.
Unable to continue running in the real world and concentrate on Dean's mental battle at the same time, Sam allows his knees to buckle, cushioning his brother's slim body with his own when they roll into the underbrush at the side of the trail.
Once he's sure they're far enough off the path and concealed by the large fronds of an overgrown fern, Sam puts both his large hands on Dean's face, framing his head in his palms. "Why are you doing this to yourself, huh? You didn't do anything wrong." He whispers into the fine hairs at his brother's temple.
The landscape inside Dean's mind is foreboding and this is all new territory for Sam because although he has been privy to Dean's emotional state for several years now and they've been using their abilities to project emotions as a mode of silent communication for about one year, he's never actually traced their connective link, their bond, all the way into his brother's mind before. Yeah, this is a new one and it's frightening and a little bit daunting. The last thing he wants to do is take a misstep, cause more harm than good.
Delicately, he begins to nudge a little bit here, prod a little bit there, trying to guide the boy's internal journey along a lighter course and replace the negative emotions inside Dean's treacherous maze with more positive ones. It's slow going and his brother shows no signs that he's aware that Sam is with him, exerting as much benevolent influence as he can.
Dean lets out a keening mewl, heartbreaking in its quiet intensity. Sam shushes him and swipes a thumb under the fall of the boy's eyelashes on his cheek while pushing the pride he had hoped his brother would feel earlier in the place of a particularly nasty patch of dismay. They seem to be making progress as Dean works his way past the emotions associated with the hideous act of murder and into safer territory. Maybe this trance state is meant to help Dean cope with the disaster of their lives faster and better than he normally would be capable of. That makes a certain kind of sense.
It hits Sam that he's pushing emotions into Dean again, making changes and altering his thought processes to a degree. Even though he hates the idea of emotionally manipulating someone and forcing them to feel things they aren't ready to feel, this is different. This is using his most recently acquired ability in tandem with Dean's new talent for going into an emotional trance seemingly at will. Both he and Dean have developed these interlocking abilities, unique yet co-dependent. That can't be a coincidence. It must have something to do with their bond and it must have a purpose. They just have to figure out what that purpose is. Everything having to do with the Wish including their bond and the emotional attachment associated with it has benefited them thus far, has been a blessing in some way. They have no reason to believe these new abilities won't also prove to be helpful. There's a lot to think about.
The sun dips below the tree line, hurrying dusk along and sending the long shadows of barren branches slinking over the ground. A rock is digging into his shoulder blade, but he ignores it, focusing solely on his brother. Eventually, Dean gasps and his eyes flutter open. The trembling has stopped, Dean's cheeks have regained some of their color, and the emotions traveling along their bond have resolved into resignation and acceptance.
"You're back." Sam notes in a hushed tone, smiling gently.
"Yeah." Dean looks down, shy for a moment, then he licks his lips, meets Sam's gaze and says, "We're back. You were there with me, helping me." The gratitude tinged with bewilderment is so out of place that Sam has a moment of confusion until it occurs to him that Dean doesn't expect anyone, not even his own family, to put any effort into helping him. It's disheartening after everything Sam has tried to instill in the boy during his brief bouts of adulthood. He guesses he'll just have to try harder.
"Hey, you think you can get rid of me that easy? Not likely, kiddo. Where you go, I go. End of story." Pulling his brother into a one-armed hug, Sam wipes the back of his other hand quickly across his eyes, hiding the evidence of his combined relief and sadness.
Dean nods, leans into Sam like he needs to feel his solidity and takes a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry I…it's just that...they looked like people. They looked like regular people." His voice trickles away at the end and he lowers his gaze, ashamed.
Ducking down until he can see Dean's eyes, Sam puts a wealth of conviction in his tone. "I know they did. But they weren't. Dean, look at me. They weren't people. You only did what you had to do. You did the right thing."
The boy looks up then, clearly still shaken by recent events. "They were gonna slice you open, Sammy. I couldn't let them hurt you. You're mine to protect. My brother." This last sentence is said possessively.
"Yeah, and you're mine too. Don't forget that part." Sam knows Dean has a tendency to view his devotion to his family as though it's a one-way mirror, he can see everyone while no one can see him.
Shifting gears, Dean says, "How did you make me…I could sense you with me, but why did everything…what did you do, Sam?" Curiosity and confusion, not accusation, tinge his words and it's immediately obvious to Sam what he's talking about.
"You mean when you zoned out?" He asks lightly, avoiding the term 'trance' for now.
"I guess, yeah. I mean, it felt like I had made up my mind and then you changed it for me, made me see things differently. It was kinda weird."
Sam closes his eyes for a moment then sighs. "It's the Wish – our bond. I think it's developing new traits. Up until now we've been able to do the same things; we can both read each other's emotions and transmit emotions to each other like signals." He pauses while he chooses his next words. "When we were at Steve's, that night when your leg muscles cramped up? Well, I wanted you to relax so I could loosen the knot. I wanted it really, really badly and then…you did it. You relaxed. The Wish seems to have given me a way to shape your emotions while at the same time giving you the means to process your emotions on a truly deep level, so deep that it's almost on another plane."
Dean frowns. "Can you make other people feel things or is it just me?"
"Honestly? I have no clue. I haven't tried it on anyone else. I never meant to do it to you. I won't do it anymore if you don't want me to." Sam rubs his neck self-consciously.
"You get something cool like mind control and I get zoning out like a zombie? Figures. What kind of super power is zoning out anyway?" Dean huffs.
"It's not mind control." Sam defends his new ability. "It's just…I don't know what it is." He admits with another sigh. Trust Dean to think in terms of super powers and comic book heros.
They're still sitting there, Dean chewing his lip in deep thought and Sam simply trying to psych himself up before continuing their trek to the prearranged meeting place at the cars, when a rustling sound breaks the silence. Someone or something is coming down the trail, heading in the same direction they were going.
Dean tenses, becomes as motionless as a statue and Sam gets a precautionary arm around his brother's middle, ready to lift him up and make a run for it if circumstances so warrant. The Glock is within easy reach tucked in his waistband, but he can't pull it out for fear that the resulting noise of shifting leaves will give away their location.
The rustling stops, starts, stops again. Whatever is coming doesn't appear to be very fast or agile. Could be it's wounded or possibly it has a perfectly good reason for taking its time – like maybe it's tracking someone. Maybe it's tracking them.
Sam holds his breath and holds a hand over Dean's mouth as well for good measure.
Of all the things it could be, Sam is totally unprepared for the person who comes stumbling down the trail, haggard and bloody. A chill races up Sam's spine and Dean noticeably flinches, pressing into Sam's side.
On to ( Chapter 14 )
Back to ( Chapter 12 )
Back to ( Chapter 1 )