Title: The Reason I Live
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort
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.
Chapter warning: This is a warning for general squickiness. Although there is no real violence, the monster has Dean and its not pleasant for him at all.
Word Count: ~4,000
Summary: Sequel to I Wish I was a Growed Up and second story in the Wish 'verse. Something is lurking near Sammy and Dean's new school and John thinks this is the perfect opportunity for Dean to research his first hunt, but when things go wrong Sammy has to grow up fast to rescue his brother. AU hurt!!Dean protective!Sam Wee!chester Ages Dean 9 Sam 5 and 24
A/N: Please leave me some feedback. Comments are cherished.
The Reason I Live
Chapter 5 Don't Touch Me
"It's a Bunyip." John states matter-of-factly, folding a newspaper article neatly and sticking it between the pages of his journal. "I'd stake my life on it."
The man is so calm it's infuriating.
"That's great, but would you stake Dean's?" Sammy's scathing tone does little to hide his true feelings. His anger at his father is on a slow simmer, has been all night, and he's having some difficulty keeping it contained. If the man had bothered to spend more than a few seconds listening to Dean when he'd voiced his concerns about a monster, really listening to him, none of this would have happened. It may not be fair of him to blame his father for Dean's disappearance, but he's not feeling very charitable right now.
"Sam…" John says, rubbing a weary hand across his face. "Cut me a little slack here, will ya?"
They are both worn thin, neither one of them willing to rest while Dean is still missing and neither one of them willing to give up on him even if it has been twenty four hours since anyone has seen the boy and they have almost nothing to go on.
Leaving the school without his brother yesterday had just about killed him. After prowling around the building and coming up empty handed, he'd finally thrown in the towel and bolted home to call in the cavalry, their dad. It was pretty clear that Dean was no longer anywhere near the school; not only was he missing but he could be anywhere really, spirited away by god only knows what. Faced with an unidentified search parameter and limited time in which his brother might reasonably be expected to be found unharmed, bringing John into the loop had been the only rational choice he could make. Feeling as though he was conceding defeat and abandoning the most important part of his life, Sam's heart had broken a little bit on his swift jog back to the house.
They had spent the previous day canvassing the area around the school, desperate to find something, some clue as to Dean's whereabouts, looking for anything at all to aid their search. They'd spent the night reading and rereading the five pages of notes from Dean's notebook which Sam found in his backpack, scanning newspaper articles, and in John's case, reading his journal for anything that might fit the scanty fact pattern they'd managed to put together.
The morning finds them gritty-eyed and slugging down coffee by the pot. It's hard not to get depressed by how very little information they have.
Sam can't help but feel as though he's already failed, failed Dean, failed to protect him, failed to get to him in time.
The absence of any sensation from their bond is like a stinging betrayal and it's just so wrong, so disturbing, that Sam wants to get in bed, pull the covers over his head and pretend the world doesn't exist anymore. Maybe he'll wake up and the whole thing will have been a bad dream.
But he can't, he won't, he's never going to give up, not as long as he's still breathing. They're going to find Dean and Dean's going to be all right. He is.
Worry frequently gets processed as anger, Sam knows this better than most people, and he's worried about his brother, terrified for him actually. Because he still can't sense anything along their bond, no emotion, no empathy, nothing. The anger is a natural reaction to the despair he can't let himself feel.
Reining in the sarcastic retort on the tip of his tongue, he stops pacing the length of their small living room, sighs heavily and gives his father his undivided attention. "Alright, assuming you're right, what exactly is a Bunyip and what does this mean for Dean?"
"Bunyips are water dwellers. Spend most of their time in secluded stagnant water. They love a good swamp, but they'll settle for a pond or any place that's wet and isolated." John says and he jumps up to rummage through a stack of papers, quickly finding what he's looking for and holding up a map as if he holds the Holy Grail in his hand.
Tattered and dog-eared, the map doesn't inspire much confidence. Sam's not quite sold yet, needs something more before he's ready to get on board.
"Okay…that explains the algae covered twig I found on the stairs leading out of the basement." Sam grudgingly admits. The smallish stick had looked completely out of place on the concrete school grounds and so he had taken it with him as the only piece of evidence anywhere nearby and shared his find with his dad as soon as he'd been able to.
"Yeah." John confirms. "The twig you found obviously came from someplace where there's some standing water. We just need to find the closest body of water and we can teach a certain Bunyip a lesson and have Dean back before nightfall." The steely glint in John's eyes says all that needs to be said about what kind of lesson the Bunyip will be learning. He wastes no time spreading the local map out on the kitchen counter, finger running over the wrinkled surface as he looks for the most likely den for their quarry.
The hunter seems positive that he's on the right track, but Sam needs more proof before they squander valuable hours on a guess. Who knows how many hours Dean has left. "Pretty flimsy as far as proof goes, don't you think? I mean we've been pouring over information all night, how does the answer come to you just now? Why not earlier?"
"You remember that gas you told me you smelled when you were down in the basement and the fear you felt?" John waits for Sam's nod. "Well, here's the thing Sam, what you were smelling was the Bunyip. It might have been gone by the time you got there, but its smell was still lingering. They can cause fear in their victims by emitting a spore. It's the spore that stinks so badly." Jutting his chin out defiantly, John continues. "I wish I'd thought of it earlier, but sometimes it just works that way, the pieces of the puzzle don't line up right immediately."
John never did accept blame easily.
In any case, this is both good news and bad news, Sam thinks. The good news is that it sounds like they have a legitimate suspect, the bad news is that Dean is being held captive somewhere remote and is probably scared out of his mind.
Sam begins moving around their small living space gathering supplies for a hunt and calls over his shoulder. "Alright, but that doesn't explain why a Bunyip was hanging out at an elementary school."
"They feed off emotions, the more unpleasant the emotions the happier the Bunyip becomes. What better place to find your common variety of jealousy, hurt feelings, sadness, you name it, than at a school? It probably splits its time between the local grade schools and the high school. All you can eat buffets for a Bunyip."
The band around Sam's heart loosens marginally and he grabs his father's shoulder, forcefully turning the man away from his perusal of the map and looking at him dead on. "You said it feeds off emotions. Could that be why I'm not sensing anything from him-from Dean? The Bunyip is intercepting his emotions before they can be transmitted?" The words are pouring out so fast that Sam isn't sure his dad can understand what he's asking. He forces himself to take a deep breath while he waits for an answer.
"Yeah." John smiles and lays a hand on the back of Sam's neck, squeezing roughly. "That's why. I'm sure of it."
Sam exhales and the relief that washes over him is so intense he feels giddy and lightheaded. This explanation for why he can't sense his brother anymore gives him renewed hope and purpose. He doesn't want to admit how close he had come to losing faith. The lack of emotion coming across his bond with Dean had been a huge, depressing weight on his spirit, but now he knows there's an explanation for it that doesn't include severe injury for Dean and he knows nothing's going to stop him from bringing his brother home safely.
John resumes pouring over the map, but another question occurs to Sam. "Why take Dean then? If it has all the emotions from the school kids at its disposal, why take Dean?"
"Opportunity it just couldn't pass up I imagine." John answers without looking up from the map. "Think about it, Dean basically falls right into its lap by walking into that basement alone. Why wouldn't it take him?"
"You don't think it'll hurt him, do you?" Sam adds their extensive first aid kit to his growing pile of supplies.
Instead of replying, John slams his fist into the counter near the map with a resounding crack and grinds his teeth together so hard that Sam can see his jaw muscles ripple. It's not hard to recognize John's violence for the worry he's trying to hide. "It's here." He announces once he's got himself under control and points to a spot on the map shaded blue to designate water.
There's no shelter from the crisp autumn wind and although the day isn't unbearable cold it isn't exactly pleasant either. He is completely exposed to the elements. Not a single tree dots the landscape as far as Dean can see. Admittedly he can't see very far from his position mostly submerged in the pond and surrounded by tall grass, but still.
After spending the night awake and marinating in fear, Dean feels drained to the point where he's in a listless stupor. Not only that, but the water seems to have seeped into his skin so that he's waterlogged and heavy. Even the parts of his body not constantly under water are damp and when the wind blows he gets goose bumps from the chill.
The honking sound of geese makes Dean look up and he sees the familiar V formation straight overhead. They sound lonely, but Dean doesn't think they're as lonely as him.
"No one will ever find you." His captor and jailor cackles. "You're mine now, you belong to me." Long strings of drool slither past its lips, ignored. Eyes as brown as mud look at Dean with greedy intent.
The monster is even more chatty this morning if that's possible and the longer it has Dean the more possessive it seems to become.
"No I don't." Dean risks a mouthful of pond scum and slimy fingers caressing his gums to deny that horrible possibility. The disgusting creature (he wishes he had a name for it) still doesn't like it when he talks and punishes him every time in the same manner.
The ever-present fear, caustic and burning, fills his stomach with acid as he smells the monster's noxious odor getting stronger.
He knows what's going to happen next and he's had enough, can't stand any more, isn't going to put up with it without a fight. When the grimy fingers invade his mouth he's ready for them and fights back the only way he can. He bites down using every ounce of force he can muster and tries not to think about the wiggling digits frantically sliding over his tongue like giant slugs. Bearing down and grinding his teeth together results in a howl from the creature as he breaks skin and his mouth fills with a thick paste. Its blood, Dean guesses.
In retaliation the monster grabs a fistful of his hair in its other hand and pushes his face under the nasty pond water, holding it there until he has to relent and open his mouth to release the fingers from between his clamped teeth. Thankfully, he feels the hold on his head withdraw immediately and the dog-faced monster pulls away slightly to nurse its damaged hand. As soon as his head breaks the surface he gasps in a huge lungful of air, coughing and spluttering and spitting until he gets most of the purplish goop out of his mouth. Despite his best effort some of it trickles down his throat and he gags on the taste of rotten fish.
"You're mine and I'm never letting you go." The monster insists and presses its dripping nose against his cheek, inhaling deeply. "You're too tasty for words, my pet. Too sweet," it says and licks him from his neck all the way up the side of his face to his temple as if he were a lollipop then clacks malicious looking teeth together. Dean can feel its breath moist on his face and the sound of those teeth is so close to his head he's surprised he still has an ear left on that side.
Dean doesn't take kindly to being called 'my pet'. It just seems like one insult too many and he decides he hates nicknames. "Don't touch me, stinky." Two can play at the name calling game and Dean tacks on the only derogative nickname he can come up with in the spur of the moment.
"I doubt anyone's even looking for you anymore. They've probably forgotten all about you." The snicker accompanying these words is cruel, way too confident for Dean's peace of mind.
Even so, he's not fooled. "They'll come." He whispers, mostly for his own sake.
He believes his brother and father will come, but he's still scared and he just wants to go home, he wants to go home so badly that he starts to make deals with the angels his mom used to say were watching over him. If you let me go home I'll do anything you want, anything at all. When that doesn't work, he closes his eyes and pretends. He imagines Sammy is there with him, talking to him in the deep soothing voice he uses when he's a grown up. He imagines being warm and dry and safe. It's so real he smiles the private smile he shares only with his brother, as if Sammy were actually here with him.
The sensations of home and love and a wistful yearning flow across their bond and into him as if his brother is thinking about him and missing him just as much as Dean misses Sam. It's there in his heart, gentle as a feather, and then it's gone just as fast as it came and Dean is left breathless. He cries out at the loss and chases the feeling along the strand of their connection, trying to reach its source.
The clammy hand prying his eyes open forces him from his quest for his brother's contact with a suddenness that feels like a stinging slap. He thinks that if the monster touches him one more time he's going to go right over the deep end because his skin is hypersensitive, his nerves flayed, and one more caress might just strip the flesh from his bones.
His muscles seize up, clenching and cramping painfully from lack of use over so many hours. The urge to get away, fight back, escape or just move is powerful, but the vines…plants…whatever is wrapped around him won't give an inch. Dean moans and shakes his head furiously from side to side. It's the only relief he gets from his forced immobility.
He doesn't feel like a Jedi knight anymore, invincible and mighty. He feels small and vulnerable. And maybe he isn't quite ready to hunt all by himself yet.
The creature moves closer again and begins chanting into his ear, "Fear is best served cold, anger goes down hot, jealousy tastes fine at night, so give me all you got."
Just as he thinks the monster is going to begin singing him love ballads it draws away from him abruptly. "Coming...someone's coming." It mutters and stands alertly on its hind legs. Its erect ears swivel and twitch, indecision stark in its body posture like its weighing possible courses of action. Flee or fight.
Then Dean hears a stomping sound as if someone were running towards them at full tilt, making no effort at stealth whatsoever. This sound is followed by a bellowing shout which sounds a lot like a battle cry his dad might use except that Dean has never heard his dad shout like that before.
Swiftly coming to a conclusion as to what to do, the monster grabs Dean and yanks. The vines ensnaring his body pull taut for an instant and then the base of the plant snaps leaving him tied up and helpless, but freed from the bottom of the pond where he had been anchored. He comes out of the water yelping at the added pressure of tightened bands over already abused skin and muscle. As if he weighed nothing at all, his persistent captor starts running with Dean in his arms in the opposite direction from the noise.
The world bounces around him and he can't see a thing, jerked up and down the way he is by the uncoordinated running. This monster is obviously not meant to move swiftly while carrying a child. It's built all wrong, its legs are too short and its arms are too long. So Dean doesn't see Sammy until his all-grown-up brother is right in front of them and they come skidding to a halt.
In a panic, his captor, who had been so insistent on keeping him for ever and ever only moments ago, throws Dean to the right while it dodges to the left. Dean wonders if the creature is trying to use him as a diversion so it can escape. When push comes to shove apparently its favorite toy isn't worth fighting for after all. Easily tossed away.
Dean lands in a trussed up heap. The air gets knocked from his lungs when his body slams to the ground and things go kind of hazy and blurry around the edges. His eyelids get heavy and he struggles to keep them open. He blinks once and his dad materializes out of thin air. He blinks again and the monster is cradling the stump of one of its arms, purple-red blood oozing from the severed end. The next time he manages to pry his eyes open Sammy is kneeling next to him and the monster is dead at his father's feet. His brother has a knife out and is gently cutting the knotted and twisted vine from around his arms and legs.
Every section of vine removed feels heavenly and torturous at the same time. Circulation returns to oxygen starved extremities and each careful brush of Sammy's fingertips over his skin causes a burst of painful needle pricks. All he can do is lie there in agony and try not to whimper out loud.
"Dean? Can you hear me? Can you talk to me?" Sam whispers when the last of the vines have been cut away.
It all seems dreamlike and surreal. Dean begins to wonder if maybe he's fantasizing again and suddenly he needs Sammy to tell him it's real. "You found me, right Sammy? It said you wouldn't come, but you came. Sammy?" His voice sounds squeaky and young, so very young.
"Of course we came. We'll always come for you, don't you ever doubt it, no matter what." Sammy says, voice as tender and soothing as a lullaby.
"Is he okay, Sam? Do we need the first aid kit?" Dad sounds terrible and he hasn't moved from his ominous position over the monster where he seems to have stationed himself like an avenging deity, his vengeance swift and just.
Dean cranes his neck to get a better view and his gaze is undeniably drawn to his father's defeated foe.
Looking at the creature's body, Dean is overcome by a hatred so intense every other thought flies from his mind, he can't stand the sight of it, can't help remembering how it made him feel, dirty and violated. The knife Sammy just used to cut his bindings lies on the ground where his brother had dropped it as soon as he'd cut the last constricting vine. Despite his trembling, kitten-weak limbs, Dean grabs the knife and crawls through the muddy grass to plunge the blade into the lifeless grey flesh over and over again. "Not yours…leave me alone…don't touch me…" Every thrust of his blade is punctuated with a hoarse demand.
Gooey ichor leaks from the gapping wounds, coating his hands and clothes.
Sam and their dad stand wordlessly watching, eyes filling with tears until Sam seems to decide that enough is enough. He takes a step forward and scoops Dean up, gently pressing Dean's head into his shoulder and shielding his face so the monster is no longer in his line of sight. "It's over, it can't hurt you anymore."
His body stiffens as though he's made out of wood. "Don't touch me." He begs, reliving the monster's clinginess.
But Sam must sense that what he's saying and what he needs are two totally different things, light years apart, because instead of letting him go his brother clutches him closer, hugging him with furious intent, arms warm and comforting around him. "You're safe now, kiddo. It's going to be okay, I promise. You're safe."
He wants to resist, but the last of the adrenaline seeps from his body leaving him limp with fatigue. Dean's rigid body trembles and then he melts into his brother's embrace. He's home.
On to ( Chapter 6 )