Title: I WIsh I was a Growed Up
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
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: ~3,100
Summary: Sammy has just figured out that life isn't fair for his older brother, Dean. He wishes there was some way he could help. When his wish comes true their lives are changed forever. AU hurt/sick!Dean protective!Sam Wee!chester
I Wish I was a Growed Up
Chapter 12 The Hunt
The exercises to strengthen his back and legs are repetitive, tedious, and leave him shaky and out of breath. In other words, they pretty much annoy the living daylights out of Dean. It doesn't matter how annoying they are though, he's going to do them to the best of his ability so he can get back into fighting form. He doesn't want to slow everyone else down.
Sammy and dad haven't said as much, but Dean can tell they're waiting on him and he doesn't like it, not at all.
The tension between John and Sammy always increases exponentially whenever John mentions the upcoming dispelling ritual and Dean gets the distinct impression that his hovering brother has been working diligently behind his back to postpone the family trip to the condo as much as possible. They don't fight overtly in front of him anymore, Sammy seems to have accepted John's ruling on this one, maybe not with good grace, but at least without any more heated words. Every once in a while, Sammy will follow John outside and when they return to the room, plans have been altered, ever so slightly, usually resulting in a delay of one type or another. Apparently, Sammy has a sneaky side to go along with his persistence. The persistence Dean already knows about, the sneakiness is a surprise.
Eventually, Sammy must run out of reasons to wait and they begin discussing the hunt in earnest, going over every possible angle, every eventuality, trying to foresee and plan for any and all tricks the spirit might have up her ghostly white sleeves.
"I've picked the perfect room for the dispelling ritual. It's in one of the new units, so it and all the surrounding ones are empty. No will hear us if this gets noisy." John sits back in his chair, legs stretched out in front of him, arms crossed over his chest. "No furniture to get in the way or be thrown at us either." A smug look sits heavily on his face, more for show than a represensation of his true feelings.
The ritual itself only has two parts, before the spirit joins the party and after. Dean has both parts memorized, his brother and dad have drilled them into his head many, many times. He knows they're worried about him and he resents still being a kid while Sammy gets to be a massive, fully-trained hunter. Talk about a poorly dealt hand. Dean has the worst luck ever.
"How do we keep her from attacking Dean before we get into the right room? We have to assume she can be anywhere in the complex and she's not going to give us the chance to get all set up." Sammy points out, glancing up from a book of local history on his lap. The book is one that John had brought back from his last trip to the library.
"No, I'm sure she won't, that's why I'm going to go in first, prepare the room and start the ritual. You'll stay several blocks away in the car, wait fifteen minutes and then bring Dean. I'll show you the room tonight so you'll know where to go. We should be ready to do this thing tomorrow evening when most of the condo residents are tucked in for the night."
Sammy nods and rubs a hand over his chin, stubble making a scritch scritch sound on every pass.
Dean frowns at the way his dad makes it sound as though Sammy's going to carry him in like a sack of potatoes. How humiliating. He kind of wishes he had a bigger role to play then merely being present to lure the spirit. He has been told in no uncertain terms that he's to stay where they put him and keep out of the way. The order is crystal clear, leaving no wiggle room.
As soon as the street lamps come on, signaling full darkness on the designated night, all three Winchesters drive to a deserted school parking lot three blocks from the condominium.
Dad turns around to look at Dean in the back seat, cups the back of his son's neck in one large hand. "This'll be over in no time, nothing to worry about. Now, tell me again, what are you to do if she comes after you and your brother and I can't stop her?"
Dean answers from rote in a lifeless, put-upon voice any teenager would be proud of, "Run back to the car and wait for you here, you'll come for me as soon as you can." Running away sounds like such a cowardly thing to do and he's said as much to his dad on numerous occasions only to be shot down with a stern look. The man is emphatic and immovable on this point.
"That's right." Dad squeezes his neck once. "But only if the salt circle doesn't hold and Sammy and I are too far away." He refrains from mentioning any of the things that might keep the two hunters from being able to help Dean, but Dean knows.
The seasoned hunter gives his son a final pat and exits the car, grabbing the duffle holding necessary ritual ingredients and hunting equipment from the trunk. The duffle had been packed meticulously during the day and holds four binding charms, one for each wall of the room in the empty unit they'll be using to contain the spirit.
The charms are made of iron, about the size of a quarter, and they each hang from a thin iron chain. John will attach them to the walls as the first part of the ritual. Their job is to hold the spirit inside the room once she appears, making it impossible for her to phase out at any time during the dispelling process.
He also has with him a can of spray paint and five branches from a weeping willow tree which have to be burned inside a pentagram in the presence of the apparition. No one ever said these rites have to make sense, or maybe they did long ago and the meaning has been lost through the ages. John knows better than to fool around with a prescribed ritual though, they'll be following this one to the letter.
A rock salt loaded shotgun completes the contents of the duffle. A second shotgun lies across Sammy's lap. They won't do any permanent damage, but the salt rounds will sure hurt a whole heck of a lot since she won't be able to disperse and reform.
All three Winchesters carry a flashlight, holy water, rock salt, matches, and a simple iron dagger stashed in various pockets and pouches. The first four items are standard equipment, the last item is special. A cursory glance doesn't reveal anything out of the ordinary, a short triangular blade and nondescript handle. The etchings on the blade aren't visible until held at an angle and only another hunter would recognize the symbols for what they are, ancient banishing runes. It will only take one dagger piercing her dead insubstantial heart to end her once and for all. Three daggers might be considered overkill to some, to a Winchester it's just good business practice.
Fifteen minutes on the dot after John set out for the condo building, Sammy and Dean follow. For now, Dean is being allowed to trot along on his own, although, Sammy is keeping pace so close to him that it's a wonder their feet haven't tangled to send them sprawling on the pavement. The rigorous physical therapy is paying off and his stamina hasn't started flagging even once they reach the first set of condo units.
Security lighting illuminates the main complex, so Sammy nudges Dean wordlessly toward a patch of shadow and flowering shrubs decorating the beautifully landscaped property. They bypass the wrought iron fencing around the outdoor pool and Dean marvels at the way moonlight reflects on the stillness of the water, making it glow softly. The newer, unoccupied apartments are festooned in darkness, security lighting not considered a necessity by management until residents move in.
Sammy holds his shotgun in one hand and his flashlight in the other. Both are pointed harmlessly at the ground. They slow to a walk, Dean in front, Sammy directly behind him. Dean can feel his brother's vigilance searing into his shoulder blades. The lanky young man moves with a confident grace, hyper alert, eyes constantly moving. He guides Dean with quiet murmurs, turn left, around that corner, straight ahead.
It looks as though they've eluded the phantasm, circumvented any child-sensing radar she may have. The door to the preselected condo where dad is busily preparing for the dispelling ritual is no more than twenty feet in front of them. Crickets chirping their evening serenade and traffic moving ceaselessly on the boulevard next to the condo are the only sounds carried on the warm breeze.
Dean's first clue that something's wrong is the way Sammy goes rigid behind him. He hears the muffled clank of Sammy's flashlight hitting the grass and then he's being hefted up one handed, his brother's long muscular arm digging painfully into his side and stomach, as Sammy barrels them both forward and through the partially open front door.
"She's here." Sammy warns, kicking the door shut behind him.
Dean still hasn't seen her, but he trusts Sammy to know what he's talking about and his heart speeds up like a motor boat engine's rapid thrumming.
"Get in here, quick!" Dad snaps from the first room to the left of the entryway.
From his vantage point against his brother's chest, Dean scans the room for signs of the spirit. A fire burns inside a spray painted pentagram in the middle of the room, casting a flickering, swaying light over everything and reflecting orange in his father's eyes. John is standing over the fire, feeding it pieces of kindling. The five weeping willow branches are within easy reach next to dad's legs.
Once he's had a good look and nothing immediately threatening appears, Dean presses his cast into the arm Sammy has strapped tightly around his middle. "Put me down."
Before he complies, Sammy jogs to one of the corners, lowers Dean to the floor, draws his iron dagger, and spins around to face the room at large. Dean finds himself in the salt circle John had drawn as part of his fifteen minutes of preparations and he has an awesome view of his gigantic brother's backside. In other words, he's got a defensive mound guarding him from, well…everything and he can't see what's happening unless he ducks and leans past his brother's hip.
"You saw her?" Dad takes a break from tending the flames to look up at Sammy.
"Yeah, she was watching us from the next unit over."
"Why isn't she here then?"
"Don't know. Maybe she's onto us. We know she's pretty old, she's had plenty of time to build up a truckload of hate and maybe she's figured out how these kinds of rituals work." Sam reasons.
No one speaks for a while and the descending quiet feels like a tomb. It's smothering and Dean's lungs don't want to expand properly, he struggles to take a full breath. He fumbles for a moment until he gets a grip on the handle of his rune-etched dagger, pulls it from its leather pouch. The dagger feels good in his hand like its weight alone can steady him, balance him.
An angry howl announces the phantasm's sudden presence in their midst and Dean almost jumps out of his skin. It's not because he's afraid, he just wasn't expecting the loud noise after so much silence. At least that's what he plans to tell anyone who asks.
She looks exactly the same as she did last time he saw her, shoulder length dark hair framing a chalk white face, lips pulled back in a feral grimace revealing black gums, kohl-like smudges under her eyes. Seeing her again makes Dean's spine twinge in phantom pain, makes him dizzy as he relives his flight through the air and his collision into the wall.
The ghost wastes no time on Sammy, instead her eyes lock instantly on Dean as if the formidable Sammy barrier doesn't exist at all. "How could you do this?" She screeches.
"Can you hold her off, Sam?" John calls over to them. He's arranging the dry willow branches in the fire, moving so quickly his hands are almost a blur. The familiar shape of a five pronged star made of five long wispy willow branches takes form and the tongues of flame begin to lick at them hungrily.
"Yeah, I got her." Sam's voice holds deadly intent. His body moves in tandem with hers as she dodges one way and then the other, trying to circumvent him to reach her prey.
Dean holds his knife close to his chest like a talisman, a ward against evil.
"Don't use the knife yet. The willow has to be ash first." Dad reminds when Sam jabs his dagger at the spirit to dissuade her from her sideways lunge.
Dean glances at the fire, sees the flames engulfing the central portion of the star formation and making their way down the length of the branches to the tips. About half of each branch still remain.
Sam must have hazarded a look as well because his focus waivers for a split second and the cunning ghost uses this opening to her best advantage. She yanks him up and flings him over her shoulder in one effortless movement. He lands on top of the fire, scattering embers and smoldering branches with flailing limbs.
Everything's happening so fast, Dean doesn't know what to do. The fire isn't big enough to do Sam any real harm, still Dean wants to rush to his brother, pat out any curling flames from his clothes.
"Dean, get down." Dad's aiming his shotgun with both hands directly at the spirit and the spirit is reaching a pale hand toward Dean's throat.
She gnashes her teeth together and wails her displeasure when her hand meets the line of salt and will go no further.
Dean's body folds to the ground automatically as though a button had been pushed at his father's command. He hears the blast from the shotgun and the ghost's wail of disappointment turns into one of anguish. Her face registers shock the moment it's evident she can't flicker away to regenerate. The salt round wounds don't bleed ectoplasm, but neither do they fade away.
Sam climbs out of the ruins of the fire. Although there are scorch marks on his jeans in a couple of places, Dean is relieved to see no major damage to his brother's skin. The willow formation is another story altogether. Pieces of the star are strewn haphazardly on the tile floor and most of the fire has sputtered out.
Abandoning her previous 'children only' rule, the spirit changes course and wraps thin merciless fingers around John's throat. Otherwise fragile looking digits dig ruthlessly into the hunter's neck.
Dean remembers the strength in those hands, gasps in empathy, and steps across the salt line. He can't stand there and watch his dad choking on the last dregs of air in his lungs.
"Stay in the circle, Dean." Sam yells, alarmed. Apparently deciding to take a chance on the dagger, despite the unfinished ritual, Sam plunges his blade up to the hilt in the ghost woman's back. It meets no resistance, no ribs, no muscle, just sinks into the spongy semi-tangible flesh. The hilt of the knife quivers slighly and, despite appearances, holds firmly in the diaphanous substance making up the spirit's body.
Instead of disappearing once and for all like she's supposed to, the spirit tosses John aside and makes a grab for Sam.
That's it, that's all Dean can handle. "I'm sorry." He shouts. "Please, I'm sorry. I didn't do anything to you and I don't know who did, but I'm sorry they hurt you. They shouldn't have done it. Please stop hurting my family."
The ghost woman drops her hands to her sides, cocks her head, and looks at Dean as though she's seriously considering his request. The dark smudges around her eyes disappear, the wild fury in her face is replaced with an ageless sorrow. She dips her head down and for a moment it looks like she wants nothing more than to oblige them all by floating away or dispersing. The binding charms are still doing their jobs however, so she's stuck. When her head comes up, her face is filled with a horrible look of betrayal and renewed anger. She glides closer to Dean where he stands outside of his protective salt circle, too startled to move.
"Leave him alone." Sammy warns menacingly as he leaps toward the woman and attempts to body check her away from a mesmerized Dean.
A flash of light in the middle of the room draws everyone's attention to John who has apparently been busy. The remaining willow branches have been swept into a much smaller pile and are now buring merrily as John rubs a hand across his abused neck and watches the spirit expectantly.
In one last act of defiance, she tosses Sammy to the side and then erupts into flame herself. She disapears with a howl that leaves the room preternaturally silent once she's gone.
Sammy gets up and stumbles over to Dean. By the time Dean can wrap his one undamaged arm around his brother he's clutching a sobbing four year old.
"It's okay, squirt, it's all over now. Shhh." Dean soothes, sitting on the floor and pulling the tiny boy into his lap. He continues to rock his little brother back and forth until his dad collects them both, Dean in one arm, Sammy in the other, and carries them all the way to the Impala, the duffle slung over his shoulder.
Once they're snuggled up in the backseat of the car, Dad says, "All right, tell me everything you can remember about the gypsy woman and the wish. I need to know more about this thing. It could be dangerous."
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