Title: Bonded and Broken
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: ~2,500
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 17 A Willing Sacrifice
Sam hears his brother scream his name and sees the boy struggling to escape their father's tight grip before his vision greys out and he gets the strangest sensation of being jerked forward while his ears pop from a sudden pressure change.
When his vision clears, he's no longer standing in the cabin. Instead of a wooden floor, there's hard packed dirt under his feet and about ten yards in front of him is a blazing bonfire. It's a simple process to figure out where he is and who's responsible. Apparently, the Blue Team had been unable to extinguish the fire and Sam wonders what happened to the two teams of hunters who were supposed to be here right now. Had they even made it to the clearing at all or had they been ambushed on the way? The Lich seems to be two steps ahead of the hunters at every turn.
He's still encased in a net of shimmering blue light and every time it pulses he feels as though a fiery brand is being etched into his skin. Trying to reach into his jacket pocket for the bottle of holy water he knows is stashed there proves futile as he can move very little of his body below the neck. It's like being paralyzed from the neck down inside a furnace.
In order to distract himself from the pain, he surveys the portion of the clearing he can see given the restraint of his gleaming bonds. There are at least two dozen people tied to wooden beams driven into the ground, exactly like in his second dream only there are even more people and none of them are his dad. The placement of the beams seems to be random, however, in no case are the captives close enough to talk to one another, as if the ghouls want to increase their misery by isolating them, giving them no hope of human contact or comfort.
Some of them are tied with their hands above their heads and others have their hands tied behind them or out to the sides in a crucifixion type pose. Many of them appear to be unconscious…or dead. Sam does a little math in his head and calculates that some of these people have probably been here for a week, seven or eight days of exposure to the bitter cold, subsisting on water and whatever meager rations the ghouls have seen fit to feed them. It's no wonder they haven't got the energy to lift their heads or take notice of a new captive, even when that captive is bound in glowing blue, laser beams of light.
The ratio of ghouls to prisoners looks to be about even, one ghoul for every prisoner. Ghouls wander around the clearing, stopping to check a captive or tend to the bonfire sporadically. None of them approach Sam.
Even with his brother a mile away at the cabin, Sam can feel Dean's frantic desperation to get him back just as strongly as if the boy was right there next to him. If Sam closes his eyes, he can imagine his brother leaning against him, telling him that everything is going to be okay, and it's so much more than any of the other captives have that he almost feels guilty. The other captives are alone and without encouragement and Sam is awed to realize that will never happen to him. He hasn't really had the chance to think about his Wish in that way, but it's true. No matter what the ghouls do to him, no matter what the Lich has planned for him, he will never, EVER, be alone.
Movement to his right catches his attention and he turns his head as far as he is able. The Lich glides into view, the hem of its robe skimming just above the surface of the ground. "Sammy Winchester…" It scoffs thoughtfully. "Son of John Winchester, my trap wasn't meant for you. I was expecting…someone else. Never mind, all is not lost. You have your uses, especially since your father managed to slip through our fingers. This may actually work out for the best."
"John isn't my father, you dusty heap of bones." Sam glares at the Lich defiantly.
"Please, spare me the lies." The monster dismisses Sam's claim with the lofty wave of its grisly hand. "I know everything about you that your father knows and it's an interesting story, very interesting I must say. Unlike anything I have come across before. There must be some way for me to use it to my advantage. Some way…"
Sam gets the impression the Lich is talking mostly to itself as it hums and murmurs softly without asking or waiting for any response. It cocks its head and drifts around him, surveying him from all angles, bloodshot eyeballs protruding from the cracked, leathery skin of its face. After a brief moment, it reaches a claw-like hand into the folds of its robe and pulls out a black cube, as shiny and smooth as obsidian and small enough to fit easily on its palm. The scarlet light from the bonfire reflects off the cube's surface and seems to imbue the shape with a life of its own.
Holding the cube up to its mouth as though using a telephone, the Lich begins to talk, boasting about having captured Sam, making threats on Sam's life and generally being a pompous jackass. Although he can only hear one side of the conversation, it becomes clear to Sam immediately who the Lich is talking to when he feels the shock, fear, distress and anger coming from his brother ratchet up exponentially.
The Lich's parting shot at his father and brother is to offer a sinister trade – Dean's life for Sam's. It's the most repulsive thing Sam has ever heard. And also the most absurd.
"They'll never agree to your bargain." Sam spits out. "They'll never give you Dean."
"Oh, I'm counting on that." The Lich sneers, replacing the enchanted cube inside its moldy robe. "I don't need anyone to give me the boy. Nor do I actually want them to."
Sam stares at the Lich with a disbelieving look, willing the monster to continue. Bad guys love to monologue and the more information he can get out of the Lich, the more prepared he'll be to ruin its plans.
"I need a sacrifice, you see. Now, any old run-of-the-mill sacrifice will do. I could use any one of these louts and the spell would work just fine." Waving toward the scattered captives, the Lich obliges Sam's silent request for a longer explanation. "However…should I find a willing sacrifice, my spell will be amplified ten-fold. You see, the notion of laying down one's life for another gets bandied about frequently. It's rather ridiculous how often you humans declare your desire to offer up your lives for your loved ones. There are books and songs aplenty extolling such great love. But to find someone who would truly be willing to forfeit their life…to walk of their own accord into a raging bonfire to be consumed by the flames in order to save another person, for example…well, that kind of love is very rare indeed."
Sam's heart jumps up into his throat and he has to close his eyes, concentrate only on taking his next breath for a moment. The Lich's words have shaken him deeply because he knows exactly what kind of love the monster is talking about. He's experienced it from both sides. Speaking past the lump in his throat, his voice rough with too many emotions to register, Sam grates out, "What do you know about love? You're nothing but a heartless monster."
The Lich's eyes flash angrily. "I knew as soon as I first laid eyes on your father that he had the qualities I needed. All I had to do was provide the right kind of incentive. That's why I originally wanted you or your brother. I didn't need you both so I sent the ghoul disguised as John Winchester to your motel room to select the best candidate for my purposes."
Understanding hits him hard. Sam remembers the race between himself and his brother and how Dean had tried to protect him from receiving a punishment by deliberately losing. It's no wonder the ghouls had focused most of their attention on Dean after that. "And it picked Dean." He says flatly.
"Yes, it picked Dean. A fine choice I think, having met the boy myself. I'm quite looking forward to having his self-sacrificing nature at my disposal. Although, you seem to have many of the right qualities also. How fortunate am I to have come across an entire family of martyrs?" The Lich's thin lips stretch into a wide, humorless grin. "And now there's something I must do while we wait for the dear lad to dodge his vigilant guard of imbecile hunters and race to your rescue. The force field I erected to shield this clearing from trespassers will need to be altered to let the boy through. Otherwise, his valiant efforts on your behalf will be in vain and we can't have that, now can we?" The last taunt is delivered over its shoulder as the Lich turns and glides away, leaving Sam with a lot to think about and some plans of his own to make.
He has to keep his brother from coming here. Of course, that's much easier said than done. Dean is resourceful and stubborn – a loaded combination and one Sam is usually happy to have working on his side. Now he has to find a way to thwart his brother's natural tendencies and he has to do it without words, using only their ability to communicate empathically.
A shift in his brother's emotions from scared and distraught to determined and resigned alerts Sam to the dangerous, but not unpredictable, turn the boy's thoughts have already taken.
Sam begins his offensive with the tried and true, pushing the standard emotions for stay where you are and I'll find a way to come to you along the indestructible thread of their bond. Dean is far too clever to fall for it, but Sam has to give it a shot.
The response he gets back is instantaneous and adamant. Don't worry, Sammy. I'm coming!
So, in Dean's mind he's reverted to thinking of Sam as Sammy, his six year old little brother in need of help. That's going to be detrimental to Sam convincing the boy to stay away. Sam's going to have to try a different tactic. This one's a bit trickier because it requires some deceit. Taking a few deep breaths, Sam projects feelings of safety, calm and peace. He even tries to muster a kernel of happiness to send along and that's not easy considering the amount of discomfort he's in. I'm okay. Everything is fine. I've got it covered.
A curious mixture of hope and doubt filter through their connection. For a couple of seconds it feels as though Dean might be buying it and then the doubt grows stronger, turning into skepticism and finally full-out incredulity tempered with hurt. I don't believe you. Why are you lying to me?
The only strategy Sam has left in his arsenal is one he hates to use against his brother, it's extreme and somewhat cruel, but nothing else is working and he's beginning to get desperate. He pushes anger and resentment at his brother, all the while feeling like the worst kind of heel. Don't you dare come, Dean. I mean it! I don't need you.
His declaration is met with dejection, sadness and an answering anger that breaks Sam's heart. And then comes the crushing blow. He can tell Dean is smothering his emotions, trying to hide them even though they both know that's impossible. Through their link, Sam can sense the boy's reluctant affection despite the mental blocks he's putting between them. There's no hiding the intensity of the devotion Dean feels for him or the extent of his hurt feelings. I'm coming whether you want me to or not.
Sam can imagine the look of betrayal on the boy's face and he knows he's responsible for putting it there. He can't do this anymore. It's time to give up on trying to convince his brother to stay away and focus on getting himself free so Dean doesn't walk straight into the Lich's greedy clutches.
Brian had said something about seeing the other hunter, Bill, here among the captives. If he can neutralize the magical bonds holding him and find that hunter among the prisoners, he'll have an ally here on the inside.
But before he loses himself in strategies and schemes, there's something he needs to do. He can't leave things the way they are between him and his brother. Using fondness and remorse, he sends another message. I'm sorry for being such a jerk. I love you too, kiddo.
On to ( Chapter 18 )
A/N: If you're interested in an amusing and comical representation of a Lich, you can find one at the Giant in the Playground website. They have a clever and charming comic strip called The Order of the Stick which (for you fellow geeks out there) is about a little group of Dungeons & Dragons adventurers who are stick people. The main bad guy in the comic strip is a Lich. Now he doesn't look like my Lich because he really is just a walking, talking skeleton wearing a blue and red robe and my Lich is much more gruesome looking, but they do share some characteristics. The comic strip is free to read and there are over 800 pages of it.
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