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: ~4,500
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 18 Not a Miracle in Sight
Midnight is only three hours away – three short hours. Dean checks his watch again impatiently.
Ever since he, Dad and Stan had gotten back to the rendezvous spot at the entrance to the nature preserve and met the other hunters, who had totally failed to put out the bonfire - something about an invisible shield surrounding the clearing - one hunter after another had been glued to his side. First it had been Steve and after that had come Brian and then Gage. It's like they suspect…but no, that's impossible. How would they know what he was planning to do? So they must be taking turns babysitting him which is freaking annoying. He doesn't need a babysitter, much less an entire herd of them.
Acting is hard work and Dean really just wants everyone to leave him alone so he can stop pretending to be okay with all this waiting and get on with what he knows he needs to do. Right now it's Dustin sitting beside him in the backseat of Bobby's car. Dean makes his eyelids grow heavy and pretends to stifle a yawn as he listens to Dustin drone on. It's way too early and he's too keyed up to actually be tired, but Dustin is too dumb to be able to figure that out.
"So…you know, Bobby thinks he's figured out how to get through that force field thingy, right? Once he brings it down we'll be able to get your uncle out of there, no problem." Dustin squirms in his seat uncomfortably and his eyes dart over to Dean before shifting back down to his hands in his lap. "I guess you two are pretty tight, huh?"
Dean doesn't say anything, just nods and looks out the window, watching his dad draw lines and circles all over a map by the light of the cars' headlights while Kevin uses the tip of his knife to point and comment on whatever it is Dad is explaining. Bobby may have come up with a way to get into the clearing, but that doesn't mean it's going to work and it doesn't mean they'll get there in time. It doesn't change Dean's mind about what he has to do. He just needs to stay cool until no one's watching so he can duck out of the car and disappear into the forest, taking the path that leads to where the Lich is most likely holding his brother.
"Hey look…kid…Dean…" Dustin hesitates. "Gage says I was a… an idiot. Well, that's not the word he used, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, I guess he's probably right."
Not caring in the slightest about what Dustin is trying to tell him, Dean faces the rangy hunter, tips his head to the side until it touches the chilly glass window, and blinks slowly, feigning sleepiness.
Dustin huffs, cracks the knuckles on his left hand and then the right as though he has too much nervous energy to sit still. "You aren't gonna make this easy on me, are you? Maybe I don't deserve for you to. I'm just…look, I'm sorry about what went down with the ghoul test the other day. You and your uncle are close; I get that now. I just jumped to the wrong conclusion, you know?" He pauses to take a breath, shaking his head. "We'll get Sam back. He's going to be okay, kiddo."
Breath catching in his throat at that word, Dean forgets his 'I'm so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open' act and sits up ramrod straight, hands clenched into fists. "Don't call me that! You don't get to call me that!"
Even with the windows of the car rolled up against the freezing cold outside, Dean can tell his shout has caught his father's attention because Dustin is making frantic calming gestures and his gaze is riveted on a spot over Dean's shoulder where he knows his dad is standing. "Okay, okay, I can tell you're wiped out. I'll just go now so you get some rest." Opening the car door, the normally callous man beats a hasty retreat.
The door slams shut and Dean is alone for the first time since promising his brother he would come help him. Never mind that Sam doesn't want his help. His brother is in trouble and Dean's going to get him out of it and that's really all there is to it. It's what big brothers do and yeah, he is the big brother despite the fact that Sam currently towers over him and calls him 'kiddo' and sticks up for him and gives him piggy back rides which he definitely does NOT enjoy. Not that he's going to admit anyway.
Relaxing his fists, he shakes the stiffness out of his hands and sits back in his seat, closing his eyes. He thinks about a blackboard. On the blackboard is a chalk drawing of Dustin Porter. Slowly and carefully, he erases Dustin away until the blackboard is completely blank. The trances come more easily if he can see the pictures in his mind and 'erasing' whatever is bothering him at the time seems to work really well. He's been practicing, mostly at night when everyone else is asleep, and he's getting better at controlling them, only sinking down a little bit, not letting them turn him into a zombie. He figures the trances are like a skill, something he can learn to use to make him a better hunter, and like all useful skills he needs to practice long enough to get it perfect.
When he slips into a trance it feels a little like daydreaming, like he's not quite there. He's already found a couple of ways they can be helpful. One he had found by accident while he was practicing moving around under trance and he bumped into the corner of the dresser in the dark. It should have hurt; the corner was sharp and he'd hit it hard. But it didn't. Since then he's tried going into a trance when he had a killer headache and when he cut his hand while sharpening his knife. The headache had gone away immediately and the cut had stopped hurting even though the bleeding hadn't let up. Of course, the pain had come back as soon as he surfaced. That's how he thinks of the process he uses to come out of the trance because it's like swimming up to the surface of a lake.
He can also use the trances to calm himself down and focus.
Once his breath is coming slow and shallow, Dean surfaces, opens his eyes and quietly gets out of the car on the side furthest away from the other hunters. Dustin has gone to talk to his dad and Kevin, standing in between them and Bobby's car, effectively blocking him from his father's sight. Hopefully, he's telling them that Dean is resting so no one else will feel the need to come talk to him.
Crouching next to the car, Dean begins backing out of the circle of light cast by the headlights from the hunters' cars. A twig snaps under his foot and he freezes, waiting to see if anyone will come investigate. The noise must not have been as loud as it seemed to him. None of the other hunters even look in his direction. Ten more stealthy, creeping steps and the forest swallows him up, completely hiding him from view.
As soon as he gets out of hearing range, he turns on his flashlight and breaks into a sprint. At least he tries to sprint. He only makes it a few strides though before his knee gives a warning pop. After that the sprint turns into a clumsy lope, but he's still covering pretty good ground.
The beam of his flashlight bounces ahead of him, illuminating the leaf-strewn path and the trees on either side. Occasionally, a startled pair of eyes will reflect the light back at him. Each time, Dean's heart slams rapidly in his ribcage for a beat or two as he anticipates meeting a ghoul or even the Lich before a deer or raccoon or some other harmless creature scurries away.
Running doesn't tire him out; he's used to running long distances. Dad's training sessions can be brutal and the man puts a lot of emphasis on endurance. Dean can run for miles without breaking a sweat or having to think about what he's doing so he uses the time it takes to get to the clearing to consider his plan.
Brian and Bobby had said their teams couldn't get into the clearing to extinguish the bonfire or take on the Lich because there was some kind of force field going all the way around. They'd tried coming at it from every angle and they couldn't find an opening. Dean isn't too worried about that though because the Lich wants him to come. It had said it would let Sam go if he came. The monster seems smart enough to know that it needs to give him a way in if it wants him so badly.
The ruddy glow of the bonfire is visible well before he gets to the clearing. The blaze is massive; flames and sparks shoot high into the night sky. A faint shimmering at the edge of the tree line extends in both directions and far over his head. Coming to a stop in front of what must be the force field, Dean studies the way the air appears to ripple. Like looking into a funhouse mirror, everything on the other side is recognizable yet distorted.
The clearing is large and he can't see every part of it, but he can easily make out the ghouls, both men and women, standing together in a strange formation at the back end of the open space. They aren't difficult to spot. They're the ones who aren't tied up. And there's the Lich, drifting back and forth among its followers, holding some small object high above its head. Dean wonders if the Lich has legs under its grungy robes or if it's simply able to hover at will.
Amidst all the captives, Sam stands out. His brother is still entirely wrapped in that eerily pulsing, blue webbing with only his head free of the stuff and he's the one closest to the gigantic pyre. The rest of the prisoners are tied to poles and arranged around the clearing as though they're all spectators to the main event. A flat-topped rock, about the size of a large dog, is also set center stage. A dark, pillar candle burns on the oddly shaped stone, surrounded by several smaller items he can't quite make out from this distance. Dean has been around long enough to recognize a altar when he sees one, crude though this one may be.
Sam's head is hanging forward with his chin against his chest, his crazy-long bangs hiding his eyes. He looks terrible, so sad and lost. Dean wants his brother to know he's close, that help is near, so he focuses on that bright strand within him, their bond, and pushes feelings of hope, relief, warmth and support along the empathic connection toward the familiar figure in the middle of the forest glade. I'm here. I'll save you.
Cautiously lifting his head, Sam's gaze travels the edge of the tree line and Dean knows exactly when his brother sees him standing in the shadows because he gets a rush of negative emotions. No no no no no no! The feelings are so strong they make him momentarily dizzy.
He knows his brother doesn't want him here and he can guess why, but that's just too bad. He's here and he's not leaving unless Sam leaves with him. The chances of them both walking out of this clearing are long, but Dean's not going down without a fight.
Walking up to the Lich and handing himself over with a ribbon and a bow like some sort of present isn't a part of his plan. He'd rather not get within a hundred yards of the Lich if at all possible. There has to be a way to get to his brother and avoid the monsters, although from what he can see so far, that may be asking for a miracle. Dean doesn't believe in miracles. He hasn't believed in miracles since he was four years old.
Superhero powers would come in handy right about now – invisibility would be pretty cool. If he could fly he could just swoop in, free Sam, and swoop back out again. Super strength might be nice or teleportation. Yeah, teleportation would be awesome, especially if he could take things and people with him. He doesn't have any sweet super powers like that though so he's going to have to do this the hard way.
Reaching out with one hand, he deliberately brushes his fingertips along the shimmering curtain of air in front of him. The other hunters had described it as an 'impenetrable shield' yet his fingers go right through it. As he had expected, the Lich wants to make sure Dean is able to get there to make the trade, to give himself up for his brother. He wiggles his fingers experimentally and, when nothing happens, he slides the rest of his body through.
The grass and scrub in the clearing only comes to mid-shin, even in the densest areas, and in some places, especially closer to the fire, nothing grows at all. None-the-less, he may be able to avoid detection for the amount of time it will take to sneak up to his brother and somehow free him of the mystical net. The ghouls aren't paying any attention to Sam and the Lich seems to be focused on whatever is happening on the opposite side of the glade.
Monsters aren't trustworthy and Dean doesn't believe the Lich will honor its promise to release Sam once the trade has been made. Better to make sure his brother is free before the monster realizes he has come.
Progress is slow, but by inching along only when he's sure no one is watching, he reaches Sam's side without the ghouls or the Lich being any the wiser. Sam shakes his head and whispers, "You shouldn't have come, Dean. They aren't going to let either one of us go."
Frowning, Dean whispers back, "Hush, I'm rescuing you." Without waiting for the arguments he's sure Sam is ready to unleash, he twines his fingers into the filaments of pulsing blue light attached to his brother's wrist and begins to pull as hard as he can.
The net immediately starts unraveling and Dean feels a momentary rush of excitement as the webbing appears to dissolve from around his brother's hand. Sam makes a noise that sounds like a hiccupping exhale and makes a fist with his newly freed hand, straining against his rapidly loosening bindings. Hoping the noise is one of happiness and not one of distress, Dean watches in amazement as the blue light contracts, shrinking into itself like cotton candy meeting water.
It only gets so far though before the light sparks and one long string of it arcs away from his brother's arm to curl around Dean's. In a matter of seconds the one string turns into thousands, all branching apart and chasing each other in every direction. As it wraps around him and pulls his arms and legs tightly together, it continues to detach from Sam.
Everywhere the blue light touches him feels like it's slicing through his flesh. Whether the net is touching his bare skin directly or lying on top of his heavy winter coat makes no difference to the intensity of the pain. It takes every ounce of his self control not to cry out in agony.
"No! No way!" Sam's voice comes out as a menacing rumble, low and gravely. He grabs a double handful of the enchanted mesh, which has already reached Dean's collarbone, and yanks it apart, the muscles in his arms bunching and cording with the effort.
There's no time to prepare for it. No time to find that peaceful inner core, to sink down and block the pain out, and all Dean can do is gasp while his brother struggles to rip the pulsing blue tangles of light off him.
How Sam lasted for hours trapped in this miserable stuff Dean has no idea because he's positive he's being flayed alive. Sam gives a final yank and the web slides right through him before evaporating away. Dean is surprised to look down at his hands and not find them laced by a crosshatching of searing red lacerations. His hands don't have a mark on them. His jeans aren't a tattered ruin of denim. Given the way every inch of his skin feels like it's going to peel from his body at any moment, his unscarred appearance doesn't make any sense.
Before he can give this much thought or even feel relief that he and his brother are both rid of the painful web, he hears a dry snicker. Looking up, he sees the Lich floating behind his brother, one long, crusty finger inches from Sam's exposed throat. "Ah Dean, I see you've arrived. How wonderful. We're almost ready for you." The monster's voice is so gritty it sounds like a desert wind blowing through a hollowed-out reed, brittle and raspy.
Glaring at the monster and its threatening pose way too close to his brother, Dean snarls, "You said you'd let Sam go if I came. A fair trade – me for him."
"I did say that and I shall keep my word, but there's something you need to do for me first."
The Lich's amused tone sends a shiver of revulsion down Dean's spine. A part of him wants to run, grab a hold of his brother and make a mad dash for the edge of the clearing, the path beyond, and the hunters making preparations at the cars. He wonders briefly if anyone has noticed he's missing yet, if Bobby has figured out how to get through the shield, if his dad is coming to get them.
The Lich must not like his hesitation because it presses its finger against Sam's neck. His brother screams and begins jerking as though he's being electrocuted.
All thoughts of fleeing vanish. "Stop! I'll do it. Whatever you want, I'll do it."
Dean isn't surprised at the way this is all playing out. Not really. The Lich holds all the cards; it has from the moment it captured Sam. His pitiful attempt to free Sam without making the trade was doomed to fail before he even stepped foot into the clearing. It was always going to end like this. Dean had known it all along, but he'd had to try.
Sam's screams echo around the clearing, making Dean's eardrums feel like they're about to burst, making it impossible for him to think. He'll do anything to stop the torture. He wasn't lying about that. He can't stand to hear his brother suffering.
In desperation, he launches himself at the Lich but it merely chortles, glides effortlessly backwards just enough that Dean stumbles and his hands slide harmlessly through the fabric of its robe. But finally drops its hand from Sam's neck.
With one last jerk, Sam crumples to the ground like a discarded toy.
"Now, now, none of that," The monster chides gleefully, shaking its head so that wispy, straw-colored hair falls onto gaunt cheekbones. "I only want you to be fully aware of the consequences of your actions. That was a sample…a sample of what's going to happen to poor Sam if you make the wrong choice."
Pitching to the side, Dean folds himself protectively over his brother's prone body, reassured by a soft moan and the steady rise and fall of the young man's chest. "What are you talking about? What choice?"
"Let me be blunt; you're going to die no matter what. The choice I am giving you is to either die a pointless, obscure death or to make the greatest sacrifice of all, to die so that your brother can go on to live a full and happy life." The Lich's protruding eyes gleam fanatically. "It won't be easy. Nothing truly worthwhile ever is. You'll have to be brave and strong, but I think if anyone can do it, it's you."
Dean licks his bottom lip and, looking down at Sam, he asks, "What do I have to do?"
Pointing into the blazing bonfire, the Lich answers, "At precisely midnight, you have to step into the conflagration and let yourself be consumed."
The mental picture he gets of standing in flames while his skin melts from his bones makes him gag. Spitting a mouthful of bile and saliva onto the ground, Dean whispers, "You want me to walk into the bonfire and let myself burn?"
"That is what I want, yes." Unfazed, the Lich blinks at him calmly.
"What if I won't do it? What if I can't?" Dean's breath hitches and his words crack as he wonders if it's even possible to do what the Lich is demanding.
"Then I'll have to make do with an unwilling sacrifice. I suppose I'll have Sam tied up and thrown onto the bonfire in your place."
Running a hand over his brother's mess of shaggy, brown hair, Dean watches as the young man twitches and groans softly. "But if I step into the fire myself you'll let Sam go?"
The Lich nods. "I will."
Dean looks at the Lich through stinging, watering eyes, weighing the truth in its expression against what he knows of monsters and their tendencies to lie.
The thing is – none of this comes as a huge shock to Dean. He's always been meant to give himself up for his brother and this is his opportunity to prove he has the guts to do it. He's…satisfied, yeah that's a good word for it, satisfied, like he's doing his job really well, like he's fulfilling his main purpose. The only part of this whole deal that really bugs him is that the Lich hasn't let Sam go yet and by the looks of things Dean may never know if the Lich is going to keep its end of the bargain.
All of that's not to say he isn't scared, 'cause he is, he's really scared. He's terrified. Burning to death has to be one of the worst possible ways to die. For a while now, he's wondered what it would feel like to have flames licking his arms, his legs, his face. He's wondered about that for six years, ever since his mom...but watching his brother get burned alive, listening to him scream and beg for help - that would be infinitely worse.
Wiping a shaking hand across his eyes, he stands up and takes a deep, shuddering breath. "I'll do it."
The Lich rubs its emaciated hands together, looking beyond pleased. "That's…good." At a summoning gesture from the monster, four ghouls break away from the group and jog over. "Have you prepared the chalice?"
One of the ghouls produces a sturdy, metal goblet with a thick base and rough edges. There are chunks of uncut gems sticking out from its sides. It looks heavy and the ghoul holds it awkwardly in both hands.
Taking the chalice reverently, the Lich sets it on the stone table beside the candle, removes the sapphire amulet from around its neck, and carefully places the crystal inside the chalice. Once this is done, the Lich begins to chant in a language Dean doesn't recognize.
Fifteen minutes until midnight according to his watch. There's a chance, no matter how small, that he can stall long enough for his dad and Bobby to get here. In the meantime, Dean thinks about a blackboard. On the blackboard is a chalk drawing of the Lich. Slowly and carefully, he erases the monster away until the blackboard is completely blank. As he sinks into the trance, he lets his entire body go numb.
On to ( Chapter 19 )
A/N: I have a question for you all. There are two paragraphs in this chapter that my writing classmates tell me should be deleted because they take away from the action of the scene, but I really want to know what avid watches of the show and, more importantly, my readers think. The two paragraphs I'm talking about are the ones that start offThe thing is – none of this comes as a huge shock to Dean. And end with but watching his brother get burned alive, listening to him scream and beg for help - that would be infinitely worse. They are near the end of the chapter. You would be doing me a huge favor if you would weigh in on this issue.
I appreciate hearing from you so if you can spare the time, please give me some feedback and let me know how I'm doing.
Back to ( Chapter 17 )
Back to ( Chapter 1 )