disneymagics (disneymagics) wrote,

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Curse You, Red Baron! (1/2)

Written for the spn_bigpretzel 2019 Spring Fic Exchange
Written forcrucis01
Author: disneymagics
Artist: just_ruth
Prompts:  1) A curse or object makes Dean think he is Snoopy and Sam the Red Baron; challenges to a Dog Fight a la WWI.  Also elements of  5) The FBI can't catch them, the police can't catch them.  What happens when the notorious Winchesters are apprehended by a Girl Scout Troop?
Summary: Dean smirks.  "Hey, I'll race you to the top of the lighthouse?  Bet we can see for miles from up there."
Dean is enjoying himself and Sam has to admit this is the closest he's felt to their old dymanim in a long time.  The younger brother in him would actually love to race Dean to the top of the lighthouse, but the more responsible side of him needs to finish the job first.  He compromises.  "How about we check out the museum first.  From what Loretta told us, that's the most likely place to find whatever is causing the deaths.  Then I'll beat you to the top of the lighthouse, old man."  He waits for this dig to sink in,  It only takes a second.
"Pfft," Dean scoffs.  "I'll show you old.  Your face is old."
Word Cound:  8,600
Rating: Gen
Genre:  Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Case!fic, Hurt!Dean, Caring!Sam

Curse You, Red Baron!

For once, the hotel is decent.  It’s right on the Atlantic Ocean, sandy beach within steps of their door, so close they can hear the waves crashing like a constant, soothing lullaby.  They can afford it for one reason and one reason only – it’s January, the off season.  Since it’s not exactly beach weather right now and the Falcon Inn caters to summertime tourists, it’s currently vacant and the manager was willing to give them a room for next to nothing. 

Dean is clearly enjoying the amenities, sprawled out on his bed, a donut from the bakery down the street in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other.

“Beer for breakfast, Dean?  Really?”  Sam feigns annoyance, but truth be told, this is the most relaxed he’s seen his brother since before his bout with ghost sickness, and Sam’s glad for the respite.  Dean still refuses to tell him what he actually saw during the worst of the illness, but it’s not like Sam can’t hazard a few guesses, each more terrifying than the one before.  If Dean’s not talking about it that means it had something to do with his stint down in Hell.  And since Sam has his own secrets to keep about those godawful months, he can’t really blame Dean for being evasive.

“Breakfast of champions, Sam.”  Dean stuffs the entire doughnut into his mouth, chews, swallows and takes a swig from the bottle, all without taking his eyes off the television.

As far as the beer goes, well, at least it’s better than the hard stuff Dean’s been sneaking when he doesn’t think Sam’s looking.

Sam sighs and sits on the edge of the bed, glancing over at the TV screen to see what has his brother so enthralled, expecting and dreading in equal measure an eyeful of porn.  It isn’t porn though, it’s a Peanuts cartoon – Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, and gang.  “What’s with the cartoon?  Aren’t you a bit old to be watching the Peanuts?”

“Never too old for Snoopy. He’s a classic.”  Dean turns a genuine smile his way and, in that moment, his brother looks all of six years old.   “Besides, it’s my birthday and birthday boy gets to watch whatever he wants.”

“Your birthday isn’t until the twenty-fourth.  You’ve got a week to go.  You can’t keep claiming it’s your birthday all month long just so you get your way in everything,” Sam protests.  Seriously, this has been going on all January, with Dean using his birthday as an excuse to claim first shower every night, pick where they eat every meal (hence the doughnuts for breakfast…again), and dodge any of the more tedious aspects of their job like research and manual labor.

“Watch me.”  Dean grabs another powdered-sugar crusted doughnut and takes a bite, giving himself a fluffy, white mustache and smiling delightedly around his mouthful.

“On second thought, kiddo, cartoons seem perfectly age-appropriate for you.”  Sam pats his brother’s leg in a way that’s meant to be condescending and patronizing.  He snickers when Dean huffs and moves his legs out of reach.  Mission accomplished.  Changing gears, he asks, “So, what about this case?  What time do you want to leave for the lighthouse?”

“Soon as this show’s over.”

That works for Sam.  As a change of pace, they aren’t racing against the clock on this job.  Deaths have been sporadic, only occurring once every five to ten years.  It’s definitely their kind of thing though, people dying of puncture wounds that have no source, sort of like bullet holes, but without the bullets.  After a significant amount of research involving newspaper articles that go back half a century, they – meaning Sam – have found one commonality amongst the victims; they each visited the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse right before they died.

On screen, Snoopy climbs atop his doghouse, flying goggles and scarf in place.  Soon, he’s diving and swerving through the air to outrace his arch nemesis, the Red Baron.  Sam can’t help but chuckle along with his brother as Woodstock gets in on the mayhem and ends up tumbling beak over tail feathers and then giving Snoopy what for in his high-pitched twitter.

As the episode ends and the Peanuts’ theme song starts playing, Dean stands and slaps Sam on the back – hard.  “Come on, Sammy.  Whatcha waiting for?  We have a haunted lighthouse to check out.”

“Yeah, because I’m the one holding us up.”  Sam gives his brother an indignant look.  It’s not that he’s truly aggravated.  Not really.  He’s just trying to get back into the groove of hunting with his brother. The banter is part of their relationship, a part he’d missed like crazy while Dean was…gone.  It doesn’t come as easily as it used to, what with the pressure he’s putting on himself to become more powerful, to find Lilith, and he has to work at it sometimes.  Plus, Dean isn’t the same.  He seems more vulnerable, more like someone Sam needs to protect, and less like his indestructible older brother.  It’s almost like their roles have been reversed.  In a way, he thinks they have, although Dean would never admit it.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located on a small strip of land on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a short five minute drive from the hotel, down a quiet two lane highway.  Sand dunes and wild sea oats flank the road on both sides.  It’s a beautiful, yet also a barren landscape, especially with the lack of other people or cars.

As they pull into the deserted parking lot, the towering, black and white diagonally-striped lighthouse dominates the panorama like a lonely sentinel.  Other than two much smaller flanking buildings, there are no other structures to mar the windswept vista of sand and scrub grass.  According to Sam’s research, the lighthouse has 257 steps which is equivalent to a twelve story building.  Good thing he and Dean are in such good shape.

The passenger and driver’s side car doors creak open and slam shut at exactly the same time like it was choreographed and scripted.  At least in that one way, it feels like no distance has come between them, like they are completely in synch with one another.

A chilly wind whips through his hair, bringing the tang of salty sea spray.  The ocean itself is hidden from view by the surrounding sand dunes, but he can still hear the not-so-distant waves crashing into the shoreline.  Thick clouds obscure the sun, holding moisture like a damp cloth above their heads.  A few isolated seagulls soar nearby, wings outstretched and stationary like miniature airplanes gliding on air currents.

The sand on the dunes shifts and tugs at his shoes as they trudge up to the lighthouse, making Sam feel like he’s in danger of being sucked into a quicksand pit at any moment.  It’s a slog and he’s glad they don’t have far to go. 

Of the three buildings here – the lighthouse, the gift shop, and the tiny attached museum, the gift shop is the only one with a person inside, making it their first stop.  The traditional assortment of beach themed tourist junk litters the shelves and walls of the store.  Seashells adorn knick-knacks of all kinds from lamps to welcome mats to stationary.  Dolphin paraphernalia is very popular as are mermaids.  There are books about lighthouses and maps of the North Carolina coast.

The sales clerk is an elderly lady with kind brown eyes and curly grey hair.  Dean elbows him while using his other hand to cover his mouth, whispering much too loudly, “Grandma over there is all yours.  Go get her, Casanova.”

Embarrassed, Sam pastes on a smile and makes his way over to the lady who is watching them both with an amused expression. 

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Casanova.  What can I get for you today?” she asks, batting her eyelashes at him teasingly.

Heat suffuses his face.  Geez, his brother can be such a jerk.  Pulling out the badge they’d agreed on beforehand, Sam says, “Hi, sorry about my very immature partner.”

Dean looks up from the aisle over where he’s investigating a box of saltwater taffy and waves.

Sam somehow suppresses a nearly overwhelming desire to roll his eyes and continues.  “We’re with the state parks department.  We’d like to ask you some questions about the lighthouse and surrounding area if you don’t mind.  Can you tell me how long you’ve worked here, Ms…?

“You can call me Loretta.  I’ve worked here for a little over three years now.  I’m a retired EMT so the slow pace is a welcome change.  Very little stress involved in selling brick-a-brack, you know.”  She purses her lips and a trace of sadness crosses her features, then her smile reappears.

The last death associated with the lighthouse was six years ago, so Loretta may not be much help.  Sam hazards a look at his brother.  Dean holds up a book titled Ghost Tales from the Outer Banks and mouths ‘Blackbeard’s ghost’ while giving him a thumbs up.  Sam frowns and shakes his head.  Dean is obviously not taking this hunt seriously.  His attitude is almost a throwback to before Hell, before their dad died, even before Sam left for Stanford, like maybe he’s trying to pretend none of it ever happened.

“Have you ever noticed anything strange around the property; flickering lights, unexplained sounds, cold spots, anything like that?” Sam asks, using his most earnest expression, making his eyes go soft and dewy.

Loretta looks at him thoughtfully.  “Weeelllll,” she draws the word out.  “I have noticed something odd in the museum from time to time.”

“Odd in what way?”  Dean chooses that moment to join them at the sales counter, the book of ghost stories in hand.

“Sometimes the door sticks which wouldn’t be strange in and of itself what with the damp conditions and the age of the buildings, but…”

“But…” Sam encourages.

“But, whenever the door sticks, I’d swear I hear a man’s voice coming from inside.  But when I get the door open, there’s no one there.”  She nods at the book Dean’s holding.  “Is the state parks department interested in our local ghost legends?”

“You could say that.”  Dean smiles his most charming smile and Loretta’s face brightens.

So much for Dean’s theory that the older women always go for Sam. 

Dean buys the book and they thank Loretta for her help.

“Ghost pirates, Sammy.”  Dean grins once they get outside.  “Did you know Black Beard’s house isn’t far from here?  We should go check it out after this, see if we can find his head stuffed up the fireplace like it says in this book.”

“First of all, yuck.  Second, every town on the east coast claims to be the home of Black Beard the pirate,” Sam says matter-of-factly.  “He can’t have lived everywhere they say he did.  And third, if Blackbeard’s head was stuffed up a fireplace like it says in a published book, don’t you think someone else would have already found it?”

“Okay, Mr. Killjoy.  You should look into having that stick removed from your ass.  It must hurt like a sonofabitch.”

“Yeah, thanks.  I’ll get right on that.”

Dean smirks.  “Hey, I’ll race you to the top of the lighthouse?  Bet we can see for miles from up there.”

Dean is enjoying himself and Sam has to admit this is the closest he’s felt to their old dynamic in a long time.  The younger brother in him would actually love to race Dean to the top of the lighthouse, but the more responsible side of him needs to finish the job first.  He compromises.  “How about we check out the museum first.  From what Loretta told us, that’s the most likely place to find whatever is causing the deaths.  Then I’ll beat you to the top of the lighthouse, old man.”  He waits for his dig to sink in.  It only takes a second.

“Pfft,” Dean scoffs.  “I’ll show you old.  Your face is old.”

“Great come back, dude.  It’s gonna take me a while to recover from that one.”  Sam staggers and mimes a grievous wound to his heart.

“Your face has to recover from that one.”

This time, Sam gives in to the urge and rolls his eyes as they both turn toward the building with a sign in front of it that says Cape Hatteras Historical Society Museum.  The building is made of weathered wood, giving it a distinctly nautical appearance.  A metal cleat, the kind used on docks to tie up boats, serves as a door handle.

Sam puts his hand on the cleat and pauses, listening for any strange sounds coming from inside the museum.  Instead, he hears vehicles approaching and looks over his shoulder to see two minivans pull into the parking lot.  The sight is an unwelcome one.  The main reason they’re here now, in January, investigating a case that doesn’t have any strict timeline, is because they didn’t want a bunch of tourists around when they potentially stirred up the ghost or the curse or whatever else is causing the weird deaths.

Also, the angels and demons have been quiet lately.  Castiel hasn’t given them any news on seals in danger of being broken for the last week.  And Ruby, well...the less Sam thinks about her, the better.

The doors of the minivans fly open and out stream a bunch of kids, no strike that, it’s a bunch of girls. Two women emerge from the driver’s seats of the minivans.  They’re too far away to hear what’s being said, but from the hand gestures and body language it’s clear the women are attempting to gather all the girls into a group.

“Tourists at a lighthouse in the middle of winter?  What the fuck?” Dean gives voice to Sam’s thoughts.  “Let’s get a move on.  If we’re lucky they only want to buy some touristy crap from the gift shop and  won’t be interested in the museum.”

When are they ever that lucky, Sam thinks.  Nevertheless, he tugs on the door handle.  It swings open on rusty hinges.  No sticking.  No voices coming from within.  The first room they enter is unsurprisingly devoted to lighthouse memorabilia.  In the center, dominating the space, is a lighthouse lens easily five feet tall.  A thick, red velvet rope surrounds the display, restricting access, and a sign reading ‘Please do not Touch’ sits atop it.

“That’s good advice.”  Sam points at the sign.  “Don’t touch anything.  We could be dealing with a cursed object.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Dean says as he pulls his homemade EMF detector out of a jacket pocket. 

He switches it on and it emits a low level hum.  Nothing to get excited about.  A couple arcing sweeps from side to side over the lens produces nothing more than a single flash of light from the device so they continue on, passing a display of black and white photos depicting the lighthouse taken from various angles, most of them brown around the edges, indicating their age.  Plaques on the walls have information on the different technologies used in light sources and lens over the years and the dangerous lives lived by the lighthouse keepers of old.  Sam would like to take the time to read through them, but Dean has already moved on to the next room and, since they could be overrun by young girls at any moment, he probably has the right idea.

“Whoa, cool,” he hears Dean say and hurries to catch up with him.

His brother is standing next to another roped-off display.  This one is a machine gun with a plaque that reads ‘Colt-Browning Mod.1895/1914 used on WWI aircraft’.  There’s another sign attached to the display that asks guests to kindly not touch.  A brief look around the room reveals other paraphernalia from WWI.

“Any EMF?” he asks.

Dean’s expression is both awe-filled and gleeful.  Nothing excites his brother as much as a powerful new weapon.  “Ain’t she a beauty, Sam?”

“It’s wonderful, Dean.  EMF?”  When his brother still doesn’t move to take out the detector, Sam reaches into his pocket to retrieve it himself.

That wakes Dean up from his I-really-want-that-gun trance and he slaps Sam’s hand away, growling, “Hands off, grabby.  I got it.”

The EMF meter wails to life as soon as Dean flicks the switch, all five lights blazing bright red.  He moves the detector away from the gun and the screeching diminishes, closer and it blares all the more loudly.  Thorough in the way their dad taught them to be when dealing with the supernatural, Dean walks around the room, waving the detector at every display, but nothing evokes the same response.  It’s definitely the gun.

“Looks like we’ve found our cursed object.”  Sam stands next to Dean, hands on the rope while staring at the gun, his mind turning over the other facts they know about the case and how this fits in.  Bullet wounds with no bullets.  Could a cursed gun do that?  Seems likely.

“Thanks for that, Captain Obvious,” Dean grouses.  “Now all we gotta do is figure out how to destroy it.”  From his gruff tone and the frown on his face, it’s clear that the thought of having to destroy the machine gun he’s just fallen in love with upsets him.  Before Sam can stop him, Dean lifts the restraining rope and ducks underneath.

“Careful, Dean.  We don’t know what sets it off.”  He’s getting tired of hearing himself state the obvious, but his brother’s reckless behavior necessitates it sometimes.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t get your panties in a twist.  I’m not stupid.  I’m not gonna touch it.  I just want a closer look at it.”  Dean makes a show of putting his hands behind his back and bends over, gingerly looking through the scope.  He walks around the gun, viewing it from all angles, but makes a point of staying away from the barrel, always staying behind it or to the side.  “You know how we were wondering why the deaths were so intermittent, with no real pattern?  It makes sense now.”

Sam had just been thinking the same thing.  “Right, the cursed object is out in the open, but not very many people would be as rude and disrespectful as to touch a museum display that has been roped off with signs telling them not to.  Now get out of there before you trigger the curse, you idiot.”

Dean levels an unimpressed glare at him, but then his expression suddenly lights up like it’s the Fourth of July.  “Dude, the flamethrower!”

“The flamethrower?  Dean, what are you talking abo-  Oh.”

“Yeah oh.” Dean looks like he’s going to dance a jig - which Sam would pay money to see - he’s so damn excited.  “We can use the flamethrower to destroy the cursed machine gun!  I’ve been hoping to find a good use for that thing ever since we got it!”  He raises a triumphant fist into the air.

His first pump is interrupted by the pelting of small feet and the sudden entrance of four girls, three of whom are quite small, maybe seven years old if Sam had to guess.  The older girl looks closer to twelve.

One of the younger girls skips forward, asking, “What are you doing in there?  Can I come in too?”

“No, Mandy,” the oldest girl says.  “No one is supposed to be in there.  That’s what the rope is for, to keep people out.”  She narrows her eyes at Dean.  “He’s not supposed to be in there either.”

The authoritative tone sounds oh so familiar to Sam.  It’s the tone used by an older sibling telling a younger sibling what to do.  He’s not surprised by the determined pout that appears on the smaller girl’s face or by her next words.

“You can’t tell me what to do, Marina.”

He is, however, surprised by what happens next.

The little girl - Mandy - darts toward the machine gun display, running straight at the muzzle.  Sam moves to intercept her, but he’s on the other side of the display.  There’s no way he can reach her in time.  Marina lunges and makes a grab for her sister’s arm, but Mandy twists free.  The movement causes her to stumble and her momentum carries her right into and over the rope in an acrobatic tumble.  Dean jumps into action, grabbing the girl up and shielding her with his body as a loud rat-a-tat-tat fills the room.  Dean’s body jerks and four holes appear in the back of his jacket.

“Dean!”  Sam runs to his brother’s side and reaches him at the same time Marina does.

Dean doesn’t respond to his name, nor does he react when Marina pulls Mandy out of his slack hold.  His face is blank.

“Are you hurt?  Let me see.”  Dread at what he’s going to find makes his hands tremble and he fumbles with his brother’s jacket, trying to pull it up so he can get an idea of how much damage there is to Dean’s back.  There’s no blood seeping through all his layers yet and he’s still on his feet so maybe it’s not that bad.

At his touch, Dean startles.  The look he throws over his shoulder at Sam is foreign, hardened.  Sam has never seen his brother look at him like that, like he’s a stranger.  No, worse, like he’s an enemy.

Dean drops and rolls under the rope.  “Come young maidens of the French countryside, we must escape the Red Baron’s clutches.  My Sopwith Camel is just outside.  Quickly!”  He herds the girls in front of him with frequent glances back at Sam.

Thrilled with the game in which they are being included, the young girls squeal and run along in front of Dean, all except the oldest, Marina.  She hangs back until Sam catches up, then jogs along beside him.  “Did that gun shoot him?  It looked like it shot him.”

The gun did shoot Dean, of that he’s sure.  Nothing else is making sense though.  There must be more to this curse than they’d previously believed.  Why is Dean running away from him?  And why is he talking about his Sopwith Camel?  The thought occurs to Sam that if Dean decides to get in the Impala and take off without him, he’s going to be up shit’s creek with no way to help his possibly-mortally-wounded brother.  If that happens, Dean will be found miles from here - dead - having bled out from puncture wounds with no detectable source, just like the other victims. 

He puts on a burst of sped, catching up with Dean and the girls as they scamper out of the museum and into the watery daylight.  He almost manages to grab Dean’s jacket, but as his fingers brush fabric, Dean dodges away. 

“Nyahh, Nyahh, Nyahh!  You can’t catch me!” he yells at Sam.  Then he turns to his little allies and says, “Actually, tough flying aces never say Nyahh, Nyahh, Nyahh!”

It’s such a childish thing to say, so playful, that it makes Sam pause.  It also reminds him of something.  That and the Sopwith Camel comment remind him of Snoopy.

Dean starts making revving noises and takes off in a random zig-zag pattern, his entourage giggling and laughing as they trail along behind him, captivated by their new playmate.  The wind has picked up, stinging and cold.  His brother’s voice reaches him, tossed about by the breeze,  “Here I am, the WWI Flying Ace, zooming through the air searching for the Red Baron.”

Sam recognizes the pattern Dean is weaving and runs ahead to intercept him, aware that to any casual observer and certainly to the children romping around between them, it looks like they are playing an aggressive game of tag.  His efforts to grab his brother are thwarted by the girls who have now begun running interference for Dean.  He almost barrels right into one of them and has to put on the brakes before he accidentally tackles her.

Dean yells, “Who’s that behind me?  It’s the Red Baron!  He has me in his sights!”  He fakes left and then banks right, heading for the lighthouse.

Sam has an idea.  It’s a stupid idea, but what the hell.  It might actually work.  “Rat-a-tat-tat.  Bang, bang bang!”  He matches Dean’s volume, imitating the sound made by the machine gun in the museum.

Dean’s steps stutter.  He makes a sound like a whining engine.  “The Red Baron has hit my Sopwith Camel.  Curse you, Red Baron!”

A gap between the children opens up and Sam charges through it.  He gets an unexpected assist from Marina, who makes a grab for Dean’s arm as he careens past her.  Although she slows him down some, Dean is wily and his evasive maneuvers are too much for the girl.  He gets by her and slips through the lighthouse door, Sam in hot pursuit.

The circular, metal stairs ring with the sound of heavy footfalls.  Looks like they’re going to get their race to the top after all, although Sam hopes it doesn’t come to that.  Once they get to the top, who knows what Dean will do while believing he’s a cartoon character or a real live WWI Flying Ace in an airplane.  Sam will just have to catch his brother before he makes the twelve story leap and winds up a bloody pancake on the sand below.

He concentrates on the stairs under his feet, on pumping his legs and arms to get maximum speed.  It’s because he’s looking down that he sees the fresh blood.  Every other step or so is painted in splotches of bright red.

Despite the holes in his back and the blood loss, Dean is fast.  It’s almost like he can’t even feel the wounds, doesn’t even know he’s injured.  They’re evenly matched, step for step, and the short lead Dean started the climb with holds all the way to the top.  There’s no door at the top and Dean bursts through the opening onto the balcony a fraction of a second before Sam.  He bounces off the railing and ricochets back into Sam, who only just manages to catch him.  They collapse to the balcony floor in a tangle of limbs, breaths heaving.

“Thank fuck for that railing,” Sam pants, “or I’d have two choices right now - watch you plummet to your death or follow you over the edge.”  He has one arm around Dean’s neck and a fistful of Dean’s jacket in the other.  There’s no way he’s letting go any time soon.

Dean looks up at him, eyes wide and confused.  “Rats.  Captured behind enemy lines.  How humiliating...”  He trails off, glances over at the balcony and the vast expanse of sky all around them.  The view from up there really is magnificent.  Too bad they can’t admire it without the possibility of Dean trying to launch himself over the railing.

“Yeah, man.  You’ve been captured.  No more flying, okay?  You’re grounded from here on out.”  Sam takes a moment to catch his breath.  He’s dizzy from all the circles he just ran to get up twelve flights worth of stairs.

Dean must be dizzy too because he hasn’t made any effort to escape.  Sam is torn between trying to patch up Dean’s back here on the balcony or waiting until he can get them both safely down on the ground.  Unfortunately, safely down on the ground involves maneuvering an uncooperative WWI Flying Ace around a very long, spiraling staircase and who knows how much more blood his brother will lose before they reach the bottom.  Triage on the balcony it is then.

Sam removes his arm from around Dean’s neck, only to grab a second handful of his jacket.  He’s not taking any chances.  “Com’on Ace, turn over.  I need to tend to your wounds before we head back to base camp.”  Playing along won’t hurt and Sam figures it might even make Dean a tad less likely to make a run for it.  If this is what he thinks it is and he remembers his Peanuts lore (is that a thing?) correctly, Snoopy rarely got taken prisoner so it’s hard to say how Dean will react to this situation.

Dean glares, but complies, rolling over onto his stomach with his hands over his head, wrists overlapping as though he’s miming being tied up.  “You may have riddled my Sopwith Camel with bullets, but there’s not a scratch on me.”

Dean may be right that, during all his daring exploits as the WWI Flying Ace, Snoopy never got injured.  That’s not the case for Dean, however.  Once Sam gets all his brother’s layers rucked up enough to expose his back, four round puncture wounds, still oozing blood, are clearly visible.  They don’t seem too deep and Sam fervently hopes no vital organs have been punctured.  The biggest problem now is the complete lack of anything he can use to staunch the bleeding.  Sam resigns himself to losing one of his shirts and is just about to extract a layer and tear it into strips when he hears the slow metallic clang of someone laboriously climbing the lighthouse stairs.  Whoever it is, they’re close so they must have been approaching for a while now without Sam noticing.

Seconds later, Marina pokes her head outside.  She takes one look at Dean’s prone form, the holes and the blood that has now pooled into the dip at his lower back, and says, “I knew it.  Here, you’re going to need this.”  Lugging a large, white plastic box in front of her, she steps onto the balcony.  “It’s our troop’s first aid kit,” she announces.

“Troop’s?” Sam repeats.  This whole thing feels more and more like a dream every moment.  When was the last time a civilian stepped in the help them?  And a little girl much less, barely into double digits.  He thinks about pinching himself to see if he wakes up, but abandons the idea in favor of accepting the object of his wish-fulfillment. 

“Girl Scout Troop 800.  We’re here for a field trip,” Marina supplies.  “I can help.  I have my first aid badge.” 

Sam doesn’t have much experience with young girls, but he doesn’t think they’re usually so calmly accepting of freaky, bloody, grisly stuff.  The last little girl he and Dean dealt with was Lilith in her chosen meat suit.  Luckily, Marina looks nothing like Lilith.  She has curly, short black hair and almond-shaped brown eyes.  Just to be on the safe side though, he mutters, “christo” under his breath.

Nothing happens other than Marina tilting her head in a questioning manner.  “What?” she asks.

“Um, nothing, never mind.”  Sam opens the kit and removes the items he needs - gauze, antiseptic, bandages and tape.

Dean shifts so he can turn his head and look up at the young girl.  “It’s kind of you to provide help to a WWI Flying Ace who has been shot down behind enemy lines, but do not fear, WWI Flying Aces never get injured.”

A confused crease forms on Marina’s forehead and she seems at a loss for how to respond. 

“It’s okay,” Sam smiles at her.  “You don’t have to stay.  I’ve got it from here.”  He pulls his handy flask of holy water from a jacket pocket and unscrews the cap.  Dean’s wounds were inflicted by a curse, making them possible breeding grounds for supernatural infections.  Holy water will burn off any such nastiness while also cleaning out normal dirt and grime.  He pours some into each hole.  It fizzes and bubbles a little, tuning the blood a watery pink color as it dribbles down Dean’s sides.  Thankfully, the reaction is minimal - no great gouts of steam - since Marina is still watching.

Dean just lies there, breathing deeply, still worn out from all his exertions, but strangely unconcerned about...anything.  It’s like he really can’t feel his injuries.  That might be a good thing or a bad thing.  Sam’s not sure which yet.

Seemingly making a decision, Marina sits down cross-legged on Dean’s other side and places her small hand in one of his.  “You saved my sister.  I want to help.”

Dean’s hand closes hesitantly around hers.  “Thank you, sweet maiden,” he whispers.

“You’ve helped tremendously by bringing the first aid kit.”  Sam uses a piece of gauze to wipe up the holy water and blood.  “By the way, where is your sister?” he asks as a distraction.  Marina may be taking all of this remarkably well, but she’s still just a child who has probably never seen a bullet wound before.

“I left her and the other girls with Miss Christina, our troop leader, in the gift shop.  She was really excited about buying a mermaid pendant with the money Momma gave her.”  She strokes Dean’s hair.  “You did such a great job of pretending to play with her and her friends, I don’t even think they realized anything was wrong.”  Her wide eyes are laser focused on Dean’s back and the blood still welling from all four holes.  “I could tell though.”  She bites down on her bottom lip.

As Marina continues talking to Dean, his tight muscles relax and his eyes become heavy-lidded.  Occasionally, he murmurs something back to her.  She’s good with him in a way that Sam can’t be right now, especially since the curse makes him think Sam is his enemy and captor.

All Sam can do is tend his wounds, make sure he’s stable enough to make the climb down 257 steps.  So that’s what he does.  He sprays antiseptic over Dean’s entire back, packs each hole with gauze, and tapes the bandages in place.  The holes don’t appear to be deep enough to have punctured any internal organs although they will need stitches once they’re back at the hotel.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking about what comes next.  He’ll need to find someplace to stash his cursed and confused brother once they’re back on the ground so he can destroy the machine gun and, hopefully, the curse along with it.  Maybe he can leave Dean with Loretta.  She’s a retired EMT after all.  Maybe she can be enlisted to help.  Then again, short of tying Dean up, there’s little chance he’ll agree to sit there obediently, waiting for his captor to return.  He’ll probably take the opportunity to make an escape attempt no matter where Sam leaves him.  Crap.  He really, really doesn’t want to tie Dean up.

Finished with his patch up job for now, Sam pulls Dean’s shirts down over the bandages and pats his shoulder.  “Okay Ace, I’m done.  Let’s get going.”

Dean rolls over and sits up without even a wince.  The only concession he makes to his injuries and blood loss is the pale hue his face has taken on.  His body recognizes that there’s a problem even though his mind is fooled by the curse.  “I sure hope you got your jollies, ‘cause I sure didn’t.” 

The quip is very Dean-like and not at all something that would come from Snoopy.  Maybe the curse is wearing off on its own.  On the other hand, there’s absolutely no recognition in his brother’s expressive eyes.

Wrists still pressed firmly together in front of him, Dean looks over at Marina.  “You should probably be getting home now, Mademoiselle.  Is your village far from here?  Do you need an escort?  Even the beautiful French countryside can be a dangerous place during a war.”

Dean’s delusions aside, he brings up a very important point.  “When will your troop be leaving?”  Sam would rather they were long gone before he has to physically restrain Dean and strut around, toting an enormous flamethrower.  Talk about ways to draw a ton of unwanted attention.  That’s got to be right up there amongst the best.

“We’ll probably be here for another couple hours.  Miss Christina says this is a great time to find seashells washed up on the beach from winter storms.”  Marina stands and offers her hand to help Dean up.

He smiles at her and takes it even though Sam can see he’s careful not to actually pull on her as he stands.

If the girls are going to be around the lighthouse for that long, he and Dean are going to have to wait them out in the Impala.  Sam reaches into Dean’s pocket and plucks out the car keys. 

Dean scowls at him.  “You can confiscate my possessions, but you cannot take away my spirit.”

It’s hard to see Dean looking at him that way, like he’s the scum of the earth.  These days he’s used to seeing Dean look at him in disappointment and in anger, but there’s always love there too.  Utter devotion.  A willingness to do anything it takes to keep him on the path Dean believes is the right one.  Now, it’s like Dean is looking at a hateful stranger.  The loss of his brother’s presence so soon after he got him back makes Sam feel like he’s being crushed by a boulder.  The sooner he torches that fucking gun, the better.

“Your face can’t take away my spirit,” he mutters to himself as he quickly throws the remaining gauze and tape back into the kit and latches it.  Strangely, the stupid comeback makes him feel better.  Hefting the first aid box in one hand, he grabs a fistful of Dean’s jacket in the other and leads him to the tightly-spiraled staircase inside the lighthouse.  There isn’t room for all three of them to walk side by side so Marina walks behind them.

Although Dean seems subdued on the way down, Sam can tell by the way he’s holding himself, by the coil of muscle beneath his hand, that his brother is far from defeated.  He’s just biding his time, waiting for an opportunity.  Because of that, Sam is careful to stay out of head-butt range.  He expects Dean to make a run for it as soon as they reach the bottom and he isn’t disappointed.  It just doesn’t happen exactly as he would have thought.

They emerge from the lighthouse and a middle-aged woman immediately runs up to them.  “Marina, is Renee with you?”  She looks on the verge of panic, dyed-blond hair whipping around in the strong wind coming off the nearby ocean.

Marina shakes her head.  “She wasn’t in the lighthouse with us.  Is she missing?”

The woman takes an aborted step toward the lighthouse and then turns, looking back at the sand dunes that hide the ocean from view.  “She was with us on the beach, and then she was gone.  I thought...I mean, I hoped...”  Her words trail off as she gazes fearfully at the mounds of white sand that make it impossible to see long distances. 

“Where’s Mandy?” Marina asks.

“She’s with Miss Sheila and the others.  They’re still searching down at the beach.

“Is Renee a child?” Dean asks, eyes alert.

“Yes, she’s only seven.  She’s Mandy’s best friend.  She’s one of the little girls who was with us in the museum.”  The wind gusts and Marina pulls her coat tighter around her slender body.

“Seven years old.  She can’t have gotten far.”  Dean levels a look at Sam, his expression beseeching.  “By my honor, I’ll find her.  I swear it.”

Sam knows what Dean is asking.  He’s asking to be set free.  Sam releases his hold on Dean’s jacket.  “Go then.”  Sam has every faith in his brother.  If anyone can find the girl before serious harm can befall her, it’s Dean.

Dean takes off, over the dunes.  Marina watches him go, a look of hero worship on her face.  A second later, her mouth forms an O and she turns to face the lighthouse, head craned back to see the top.  “I’ll go back up to the balcony.”  She points.  “I bet I’ll see her from there.”

The pinched corners of Miss Christina’s mouth turn up hopefully.  “Oh, that’s a good idea.  I’ll come with you.”

As they hurry off, Sam finds himself alone.  Everyone except for him is intent on finding little Renee.  The search, however unfortunate, gives him the opportunity he needs.  For a hot second he feels bad about not pitching in to find her, but it passes quickly.  His priority is his brother, always has been and always will be.  Even cursed, Dean puts everyone else’s safety and well being above his own.  Someone has to look out for him and that someone is Sam.

Without giving Renee another thought, he runs to the car, pops the trunk, raises the hidden compartment, and grabs the flamethrower.  The thing is big and heavy.  The trigger and barrel are a bit like a regular shotgun, although the barrel is larger with a nozzle at the end.  There’s a handle at the back for directing the flame and a canister on top that holds the accelerant.  It’s definitely badass.  Dean is going to be so bummed he missed this part.

Sam jogs back to the museum, flamethrower held as nonchalantly as it’s possible to hold a weapon of that size.  He grasps the cleat on the front door and yanks it hard, intending to fling the door open and duck inside before Loretta peers out of the gift shop window and sees him.  His shoulder nearly comes out of its socket because the door doesn’t budge.  From within he hears an eerie rat-a-tat-tat sound, like machine gun fire played through poor-quality speakers.  It’s almost as if the gun can sense him coming to destroy it and is trying to warn him off.

Sam waits and eventually the gunfire stops.  He tries the door again.  It opens easily. 

A cursed gun that can possibly sense his intent gives Sam pause.  He’s not Dean, who uses bravado and swagger to get through almost any situation.  Sam’s hunting style tends toward a more cautious approach.  So, instead of walking boldly through the doorway to the WWI display room as if he were invincible, Sam sidles along the wall and peeks around the threshold. 

His instincts serve him well.  Shots fire and he feels the brush of air graze his cheek. 

Ducking and rolling into the room and away from the cursed artillery muzzle, he toggles the accelerant switch on the flamethrower to open and squeezes the trigger.  A blaze ignites, sending a targeted stream of flame toward the old machine gun.  Heat baths his arms and face.  Sweat trickles down his forehead into his eyes.  Undeterred by the sting, Sam refuses to avert his gaze.  He watches as fire engulfs the cursed gun.  The tarnished metal grows black and then begins to glow orange.  Smoke billows upwards.

Amidst the hazy smoke and fire, the distinct form of a man materializes.  He’s dressed in a brown uniform and knee-high military boots.  It’s hard to tell through the flames, but he seems young, maybe in his late twenties.  The man regards Sam for a long minute, then transfers his attention to the melting gun.  A sad smile makes a brief appearance.  It disappears as the soldier glances back at Sam, honors him with a curt salute, and flickers out of existence. 

Wanting to be sure, Sam continues spraying fire until the gun is a twisted hunk of charred metal the color of lava, incapable of firing its imaginary, cursed bullets ever again.  The curse was an old one and they’ll probably never know how it came about.  If it was the work of a witch or a warlock, he or she would have died long ago.  Sam just hopes destroying the thing is all that’s necessary to break the curse and restore his brother, preferably without the Flying Ace delusions.

With that thought, Sam releases the trigger and flicks off the accelerant.  He swipes an arm over his sweaty face as he leaves the museum.  Cold air greets him and it feels amazingly good against his flushed skin.  He sweeps the area furtively, unsure how to explain the heavy weapon he’s carrying to any observers.  For that reason, it’s a good thing no one is around.  Just as he’s stashing it back in the trunk, he hears a distant voice.

“There they are!”

Marina’s excited shout comes from the lighthouse balcony.  She’s waving and pointing at someone on the other side, hidden from Sam’s sight by tall mounds of sand.

Sam slams the trunk closed and starts running in that direction, slipping and sliding in sand that shifts under his feet.  He crests one of the higher dunes and Dean comes into view, trudging along slowly with a young girl in his arms.  She’s clinging to his neck, tears streaking her young face.  Closing the distance between them at a gallop, Sam takes in his brother’s appearance.  Dean is haggard looking, face pale and drenched in sweat despite the cold temperature.  He’s walking in that careful hunched way he always adopts when he’s hurt and trying not to show it.

“Hey, you found her.”  Sam attempts to take the girl, but she gloms onto Dean like a little leach.

“Yeah, she says she was playing hide and seek in the dunes and fell.  Twisted her ankle, I think.  She’ll be okay.”  He gives the girl a tired smile.

The Girl Scout leader and about half a dozen girls spot them from further down the beach and begin waving their arms and running toward them.  Happy high-pitched shrieks rend the damp, chill air.

Dean winces.

“How you doing, Ace?” Sam asks.

Dean’s brows wrinkle in the middle and he gives Sam his patented what-the-hell glower.  “Ace?  What do you mean by that, Sam?  ‘Cause if you think you’re gonna start giving me stupid nick-names, I’ve got a few I’ve been saving up for you.”

Sam grins, glad that Dean is back to his normal snarky, non-Snoopy self.  “Uh huh, you’ve got nick-names for me that you haven’t used yet?  Nick-names other than Geek Boy, Princess, Sasquatch...let’s see, what else?  Oh yeah, my favorite, Samantha.  You’ve got more?  Okay, hit me.  What are they?”

Dean opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again.  He’s saved from a response by the woman and girls who have made their way over the dunes.  “Renee, are you hurt?” the woman asks, holding out her arms for the child.

“Careful, she twisted her ankle,” Dean cautions as he relinquishes Renee to her.

“Oh dear, we’ll take a look at your ankle when we get back to the car, okay?  Come on girls, let’s go.”  They start off in a herd, but the woman stops suddenly and turns around.  “Oh, I’m sorry.  I was so flustered I forgot to thank you for finding Renee and bringing her back.  You’re a lifesaver.  Really, thank you.”

Unaccustomed to that kind of attention, Dean brushes off her gratitude with a shake of his head and a mumbled, “No problem.  Just glad I could help.”

They bustle off and Dean visible sags.  He takes a step and stumbles in the treacherous sand.  “Why’s my back hurt so damn much?  Feels like it’s on fire.”

Sam props him up with a shoulder under his armpit and is more than a little scared when Dean allows it.  He must feel as bad as he looks.  “You don’t remember then?”

“Remember what Sam?  Could you maybe stop talking in riddles and tell me what happened?”

Sam doesn’t take Dean’s harsh tone personally.  He knows his brother far too well for that.  When Dean is hurt and confused, his go-to defensive strategy has always been a veneer of rough anger.

“Sure.  I’ll tell you all about it on the way back to the motel.”

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Tags: h/c, humor, hurt!dean, protective!sam

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