Bonded and Broken 19/20
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: ~3,600
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 19 Boy Gone Deep
Consciousness returns in fragmented pieces; a brittle voice singing, the grit of dirt and pebbles under his cheek, the frigid wind blowing against his face, the acrid smell of wood smoke clogging his nose.
His muscles spasm continuously, making it impossible to move. Even his eyelids refuse to open. Can teeth hurt?
He searches his memory for some clue as to what's happening. Everything is a jumble of shifting, churning images. Ghouls take center stage along with a Lich and a bonfire and a ritual that has to be stopped. Among the confusing flashbacks is the nightmarish memory of a horrifying trade or a deal that never should have been made. It's disturbing enough to have Sam actively seeking out the empathic connection with his brother; something that is normally as automatic as breathing.
But what he gets from his brother is a muted, distorted fear combined with worry and a strange underlying mixture of impatient anticipation, like Dean is waiting for something. Waiting for what?
He recognizes the quality of his brother's emotions if not the exact meaning and it's enough to make him pry his uncooperative eyes open. The only time Dean's emotions feel muted is when his brother is trying to block him for some reason. Either that or he's zoned out, to use Dean's own description for his unreliable and unpredictable trances.
Sam's not sure which is worse. So many times Dean's trances leave him completely out of it, so far gone that he can do nothing at all to defend himself.
His eyes open grudgingly and at first he's relieved to see his brother nearby and on his feet.
Then Sam gets a better look at him.
Dean, the short hair at the back of his neck made spiky with sweat, is facing the blazing bonfire, his back to Sam. Only a couple feet separate him from the base of the pyre where flames writhe and twist together like a nest of agitated vipers fighting for dominance. Scorching heat reaches Sam even though he's a yard or two from the fire and sheltered by Dean's legs.
On one side of his brother is the flat-topped stone. On the other side the Lich hovers, clasping its hands together as if in prayer, chanting in blended harmony with the snapping and hissing of the fire.
Sam tests the binding link he shares with Dean for the barriers and defensive walls his brother occasionally tries to put up between them. Finding none, he sends an all-encompassing, inquisitive probe. What are you doing? Are you okay? What's happening?
He gets no real reply in response, only a dreamy fluttering of emotions as though Dean is trying to mentally swat away a bothersome pest, as though he needs every bit of his energy and control to complete the task he's working on and can't spare a drop for anything else.
Sam doesn't need to see the expression on his brother's face to know Dean is sporting the same slack features and dull eyes that characterize his trances.
Dean is way too close to the fire and the Lich is a menacing specter hovering within striking distance and now Sam remembers what the Lich wants Dean to do. His mouth goes completely dry as the Lich's words from earlier replay in his head. 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 needs to stop his brother before he does something monumentally stupid and rash and irreversible and horrifying. And insanely brave. And so…so Dean.
The ghouls are clustered together on the opposite side of the fire, smearing some kind of goo on their faces in what must be part of the ritual and the Lich seems to be too busy with its spell and his brother to worry about what Sam is doing. They probably all think he's about as threatening as a newborn kitten since the Lich zapped him with its full power.
His arms and legs feel like they're made out of water. He can barely move them. It's no use. Any kind of physical act of heroism is out of the question. No matter how much he wants to jump up and start throwing punches, there's simply no way he's going to be able to get Dean away from the Lich.
Every protective impulse he has is screaming at him to 'do something!' Sam considers yelling at the Lich to 'back off' and 'get away from my brother, you moldering corpse,' but bringing attention to himself before he's ready to follow it up with anything real is just plain dumb. So he's going to have to come up with something else, something that doesn't rely on physical strength.
Mentally grasping the invisible yet impervious strand of their connection, Sam tries to guide and pull Dean out of the trance much like he did the last time they were in the forest together. Sam needs to get his brother to stop this ridiculous act of self-sacrifice or whatever else he thinks he's doing and to do that Sam needs to get Dean to acknowledge him. But his brother's gone too deep and every time Sam believes he's close enough to get Dean back, he slips further away.
Dean takes a faltering half-step closer to the blaze, shoulders tensing on an inhale and shuddering on a smoke-choked exhale.
"Yesssss." Drawing the word out in apparent ecstasy, the Lich stops chanting long enough to voice its approval of the boy's progress closer to his destination and his death.
It's not working. Inside his head, Sam screams STOP and hurls a barrage of every negative and angry emotion he can at his brother.
Instead of responding to Sam's mental assault, Dean shuffles forward another inch or two and Sam can smell singed hair. His brother is so close to the fire now that the updraft of hot air is fanning his bangs away from his face.
Heart hammering a staccato beat in his chest, Sam abruptly changes tactics, feeding his brother a steady stream of affection while desperately clinging to their binding connection.
Dean shudders and Sam can feel the trance lifting; he can feel Dean's emotions get stronger, closer to the surface. He can feel his brother's fear and his sadness and his overwhelming determination like a sharp slap to the face.
And then Dean takes another stumbling step forward.
Sam braces himself for a superhuman effort. Mind over matter, the force of his will over the reality of his physical limitations. He won't let Dean do this.
Fueled by devoted willpower, Sam surges up and grabs the collar of his brother's coat, tugging him away from the fire.
A shot rings out and one of the ghouls drops face down in a heap.
Timing is everything in a hunter's world and his dad has always had impeccable timing.
The unholy chanting stops as the Lich reaches out for his escaping sacrifice but is temporarily distracted by the sounds of gunfire. "No, they can't get through my shield," it mutters in frustrated disbelief.
Dean lurches to the side toward the stone table and snatches the clunky goblet, dumping the contents, a dark blue crystal, onto the table. He dodges the Lich's attempt to grab him and then slams the heavy base of the goblet down on the crystal.
The crystal shatters and the Lich shrieks.
The shards of broken gem lying on the stone altar are all that's left of the Lich's sapphire. The mystical crystal giving the Lich its power and keeping it alive has been destroyed. And now the Lich is vulnerable.
While the monster wails, clutching the sides of its cadaverous head with both hands, thick claw-like nails digging into its leathery skin, Sam launches a clumsy tackle, colliding into the Lich's midsection with one broad shoulder.
Mouth open wide in a grotesque rictus, the Lich rebounds into the bonfire where its dusty shroud immediately catches fire. The unmistakable sound of a shotgun blast drowns out all other noise and the impact of the shells fling the Lich further into the blaze, its chest riddled with a spray of shrapnel, rock salt if Sam has to take a guess.
The entire clearing explodes into simultaneous action. Hunters emerge from the tree line on all sides, guns blasting, and the ghouls fall one by one, many of them missing huge chunks of their skulls. The chaos continues until the last ghoul is dead. It's over within minutes and when Sam turns back to look into the bonfire, there's nothing left of the Lich but a grimy ash floating away on the night air.
It's ten minutes after midnight.
Dean is still standing next to the rock. He has his hands out in front of him and he's staring at the backs of them with an expression of detached amazement. The bright red color of his face is worrisome and Sam suspects that even without touching the fire directly, his brother has some nasty burns on any exposed skin.
"Hey kiddo, you all right?" Sam asks softly, not wanting to spook his brother more than he already appears to be.
Dean's eyes are wide as he turns his gaze slowly to Sam. "Hurts," he whispers, blinks once, and topples heavily to the ground.
Sam curses and does the only thing he can to get to his brother, he crawls.
Dad gets there first, rolls Dean onto his back, and freezes, hands motionless mere inches from the boy's body as though he's afraid to touch.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Sam asks, an unwanted quiver in his voice, and when his dad doesn't answer right away, "Is he all right?" A little more forcefully.
Their dad's lips thin as he presses them together. Gingerly picking up one of Dean's hands by the cuff of his coat, he angles it so Sam can see the back. The skin there is just as red as the skin on his face, but there are also streaks of black ash and angry, puffy welts covering the entire surface; his fingers, his knuckles…everywhere. "Heat blisters." John growls and for some reason Sam feels like it's an accusation.
Dean whimpers and makes a feeble attempt to bat his father's hand away, inhaling sharply when their fingers accidentally brush together.
"Easy Dean, easy." Sam murmurs.
Gage, his dreadlocks flapping around his shoulders and back, comes running up to where Sam and John are huddled over Dean. Taking one look at the boy, he asks, "What can I do to help?"
"First aid kit, one with burn ointment and bandages. Pain meds." John's words are clipped and gruff. "Bobby probably has one in his car. Or maybe Brian. Hurry."
Nodding quickly, Gage takes off at a dead run back toward the trail that leads to the cars.
Despite his heavy coat, Dean shivers and John removes his own coat to wrap it around his son's legs.
Dean looks up at their dad with pain-filled eyes. "Are you mad at me?"
John sighs. "I'm not mad at you Dean, but what you did was stupid and reckless. I don't even know how-"
Their father is working up to a full-on drill sergeant type rant and Dean doesn't need that right now so Sam interrupts him, cautioning, "John, save it."
Surprisingly, the hunter raises an eyebrow at the warning, but when he looks down at his injured son, his eyes soften. "No, I'm not mad."
Sam knows Dean has got to be in agony and his own muscles are still spasming painfully. What they need is something to take their minds off everything until Gage gets back with the first aid kit. Flopping onto his back next to his brother, he says, "Hey Dean, how about next Halloween we skip the bonfire and go trick or treating instead?"
John huffs a quiet laugh and Sam feels his brother scoot a little closer to him until their shoulders are touching. He takes that as an invitation to go on. "So here's how it'll go – I'll be Batman and you can dress up as Robin. Sound good?"
"I'm Batman." Dean disagrees in a soft, breathy voice.
"Fine, you can be Batman. But I'm not gonna be Robin either 'cause a robin is a bird and it's not even a cool bird. It's a lame bird. I'll be Hawkman. Hawkman is totally cool."
"Yeah, he is."
Sam keeps up the light banter until Gage returns, a large white box in his arms.
John takes control of the box, quickly locating an analgesic cream that says it can be used on burns.
Sam sits up, gets the boy to dry swallow an adult dose of extra-strength pain relievers, swallows a small handful of the pills himself and tries to ignore the moans that escape Dean's clenched teeth as their dad slathers the ointment over his hands and face. Once each hand has been completely coated, they wrap it in so many bandages that the poor kid could pass as the lead in a B-grade horror movie.
As soon as they're done, Bobby approaches the three Winchesters, an apologetic look on his face, "John, I'm sorry, but we've got to be ready to move out in fifteen minutes. Stan has gone to call for medical help for those people. Some of them are way beyond any help I can give'em and I don't think any of us wants to be hereabouts when the authorities show."
John grunts at Bobby and then turns an assessing look on Sam. "I can carry Dean out of here, no problem. You're a different story though, sasquatch."
Sam climbs stiffly to his feet in response which earns him the 'that's the way to suck it up, son' smile from his father.
"We'll be ready." John tells Bobby.
The seasoned hunter starts pocketing the strange items still sitting on the makeshift altar where the Lich had left them. "These need to be catalogued and disposed of. Make sure they can't hurt anyone," Bobby mutters, mostly to himself. Once all the possibly harmful, magical relics including the chalice have been stashed away, he puts a gentle hand on Sam's shoulder. "You okay, son?"
The lump that suddenly appears in his throat makes it hard to swallow, but Sam tries to smile at his surrogate uncle anyway, nodding jerkily.
Bobby gives him one last pat before jogging off to see what else needs to be done.
Glancing around, Sam realizes that while he and John had been tending to Dean, the other hunters had been busy. Clean up is well under way. The dead ghouls, many of whom would have raised unanswerable questions from local law enforcement by virtue of being exact copies of the captured townspeople, have all been carted off somewhere. The captives have all been untied and are being taken care of by Brian and Kevin.
Although most of the former captives are in no shape to do much moving around, one of the men walks unsteadily over to Brian, who clasps him warmly on the shoulder as if they're old friends. They're too far away for Sam to hear their conversation, but he sees Brian point in his general direction and then the man is shuffling toward them, his gaze firmly anchored on John.
Extending his hand, the man shakes first John's hand, then Sam's, and tips an imaginary hat at Dean before turning again to face John squarely. The man is haggard looking with deep bruising on his cheekbones, especially under his eyes, and the tell-tale rusty-red of dried blood matted in his dark blond hair. His grip is surprisingly strong considering his appearance. "I'm Bill…Bill Harvelle."
"The other captured hunter." John inclines his head. "Glad to see you made it, Bill. We were hoping to get to you in time. I'm John and this is my brother, Sam, and my son, Dean." He gestures to each of them in turn.
"I saw what that boy of yours did. I saw the whole thing." Bill studies Dean intently for a moment, shakes his head and whispers solemnly, "Remarkable."
Sam has to agree, although sometimes he fervently wishes Dean wasn't so 'remarkable'.
Giving a final shake of his head, Bill turns his attention back to John. "You saved my life, you and yours. I'm in your debt. If there's ever anything I can do, anything at all, a case you need help working or a hunting partner for a job, I'm your man. You just give me a shout and I'll be there. I usually work alone, but I'd be willing to make an exception here and there."
John shrugs. "It never hurts to have another contact in our business."
"Well, you should probably get going. I'm going to stick around here at least until the EMT's show up. Getting everything straightened out and making sure none of these people get thrown into the loony bin for telling the police what they saw happen here is going to be a full time job for a while." Bill sighs wistfully.
"You say that like a man who has somewhere he'd rather be." John cocks his head, a slight grin visible through the course hairs of his beard.
Bill laughs, but it sounds thin and worn. "Yeah, I got a wife and a munchkin of my own waiting for me back home. I suspect they might be wondering where I am right about now."
"Your wife's been in contact with Pastor Jim. That's how we knew you were probably out here." Sam pipes up. "You'll want to give her a call as soon as you get to a phone. She's been worried." He knows he's stating the obvious. Still, it seems important enough to say out loud.
"I'll walk you back to the others and then we'll be on our way." John offers, getting an arm under Bill's shoulder because it's pretty obvious the man is at the end of his strength. "Be right back." He says as the two hunters walk off together, leaving Sam alone with his brother.
Dean's eyes are already starting to slip shut and Sam can't help but smile down at him fondly. "Hey kiddo, before you fall asleep there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
"Hmmm." The boy hums and his eyes return to half-mast, the pain meds hitting him good and strong.
Taking a deep breath, Sam lowers his voice. "You were just stalling, right? Waiting for dad? You wouldn't really have walked into that bonfire…would you?" The real question is right on the tip of his tongue. You weren't really going to die for me, were you?
Dean just quirks the ghost of his cocky one-sided smile and tilts his head before closing his eyes.
On to ( Chapter 20 )
A/N: There is a fair bit about hypnotic trances in this story. I read a book about hypnosis and watched a LOT of videos about hypnosis prior to writing the last couple of chapters. Hypnosis intrigues me; I've learned that there are classes designed to teach medical professionals, nurses mostly, to use hypnotic trances to help their patients manage pain. I even looked into taking some self-hypnosis classes myself but they were too expensive at $100 per session. If you are at all interested, there is a great YouTube video showing an instructor hypnotizing one of his students at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o--EPYFiMs&feature=relmfu. The title of this chapter comes from that video.
Back to ( Chapter 18 )
Back to ( Chapter 1 )