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What You Feel (R)

      

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An Arrangement…Not a Deal…More Like a Bet

 

Dean Winchester sat on a rickety wooden chair next to an even more rickety wooden table watching the crowd pass by.  A glance to his right, Sam was still in line, waiting for funnel cakes.  It was part of Dean’s master plan.  Funnel cakes, soggy fries and beer.  First he’d load Sam up with sugar, for some reason the kid loved funnel cakes and Dean thought they were disgusting, but whatever.  Then he’d fill him with beer, maybe a shot or two of something stronger if he had to.  Afterwards he’d move in for the kill and get Sam to spill his guts.  He’d probably get a literal spilling along with a verbal one, but oh well, it wouldn’t be the first time.  Dean was tough, he could take a little of vomiting Sam.

 

Fingers of one hand drumming softly against the table, the other hand supporting his chin, Dean considered his known facts.

 

Eight days.  It’d been eight days since he was supposed to have gone to Hell, sold his soul and all.  And here he was, ass planted on a rickety old chair waiting on his brother to get enough grease, sugar and beer in his system to make his mouth disconnect from his brain and tell all.  Ok, well maybe this fair was Hell, the arguing of the teens not twenty feet from him were annoying to say the least.  Small children Dean loved, these things however were surely demonic.

 

Eight days and he still hadn’t figured out how Sam had done it, even though Sam had told him.  Well sort of told him.  Actually told him between sobs and wiping the snot off on Dean’s shirt.  Dean threw the shirt out later that day.  Most of it was unintelligible.  All of it had been blubbered into Dean’s flannel, along with the tears and snot, and Dean hadn’t caught much of what Sam said.

 

Ten days ago they’d gone to Bobby’s because there was no way Dean was trusting Sam by himself when Dean had to leave.  There was really no way Dean was going to let Sam see him being torn up by Hell Hounds, Sam would have done something stupid like try to get in the way Dean was sure.  So they’d gone to Bobby’s and Dean did the most selfish thing he’d ever done, he’d snuck off in the middle of the night after eliciting from Bobby a promise that Sam wouldn’t see any ripped up body or sell anything important like his soul, or the Impala.

 

Hoping to avoid the whole ripping up part Dean went willingly to meet the Crossroads Demon. The silly bitch seemed surprised to see him.  Happy, but surprised.  She agreed to forgo the whole ripping up by Hell Hounds part, which made Dean as happy as one could be under the circumstances, and then she surprised him.  A request she announced, he had one final request coming to him.

 

Dean didn’t actually recall that part of the deal, but he’d been pretty upset the night he made it, with Sam being dead and all.  So he’d missed a detail, whatever. He would have thought getting to avoid the whole ripping apart ordeal was a request, but apparently not so.  He wasn’t going to argue.

 

The request Dean made was a pretty simple one, but he couldn’t make it without tears brimming his eyes.  This appeared to make the silly bitch even happier.  Glad he could lighten her day.  By the time he was done, he’d wiped the smile off her face.  Actually she was scowling.  Then she flipped him off.  Honestly Dean thought a being thousands of years old, who spoke every language known to man would be a bit more eloquent, but whatever.  She announced the deal was broken and he was free to go.  Sam would continue to breathe.  So would Dean.  He was actually happy enough to be alive he didn’t think about exorcising her until he was a few miles away.

 

Oh well.

 

It took most the night and into the morning to get back to Bobby’s after telling the Crossroads demon bitch his final request was that Sam forgive him someday, live happy and smile.  If he’d known it would be that easy he’d have done it a year ago and saved them both a lot of aggravation….not to mention a few split lips, his not Sam’s. 

 

Whatever.

 

The last five or so miles he’d been lucky enough to hitch a ride with a dude by the name of Melvin.  Melvin had no teeth and as far as Dean could tell hadn’t actually ever had soap meet his skin.  Dean rode most those final five miles scrunched against the passenger door of Melvin’s semi with the window rolled down and his head stuck out like…well like a Hell Hound.  Actually Dean fancied himself more of a Great Dane.

                                                                                                                                                                

He could see Bobby and Sam through the window of Bobby’s house, hear their words.  Bobby had hold of Sam’s arm, keeping him in the house, telling him that every car pulling up was not Dean.  Dean was gone, not coming back.  Sam, in typical stubborn Sam fashion refused to listen.  So Dean shouted, “Sammy!”  from the yard more because he feared Sam might haul off and hit Bobby to make Bobby let go than to alert them to his return.  It was truly disappointing to not be able to see the looks on either of their faces just then.

 

Sam had been through the door, off the porch and literally wrapped around Dean in less than five seconds or steps.  That was when the sobbing, snotting, shirt ruining thing happened.  Eighteen and a half minutes of it to be precise.  Dean didn’t mind, not one little bit.

 

During those eighteen and a half minutes Dean managed to get a few important bullet points from Sam.  No, Sam hadn’t made any deal with a demon.  Yes, Dean had gotten himself out of the deal.  No, there would be no life threatening payments.  At least Dean was pretty sure that’s what Sam said, since a good part of what Sam told him was mingled with the incoherent sobbing, snotting, shirt ruining eighteen and a half minutes.

 

So, they’d hung around Bobby’s for a few days.  Sam re-plastered ceiling ruined when he’d been possessed.  Dean replaced Bobby’s screen door, since Sam had forgotten going through a door was a two step process involving actually opening the door.  He’d simply blasted through it, ripping it off the hinges, in his haste to ruin Dean’s shirt.  Their casualty count on this one, Dean’s shirt and Bobby’s door.  Not bad.

 

The best part was for eight days, eight blissful wondrous days Sam had been happy.  Happy!  Dean had never seen the kid so freaking happy before.  The second best part was Sam was happy because Dean was alive.  Even after more than a week it still made Dean dizzy when he realized he was the cause of Sam being happy.  Just him, there, living, breathing, doing all the obnoxious things he’d always done thrilled Sam to a point Dean didn’t know was possible from a person.  Dean mattered, he really and truly mattered.  A lot.  Sam needed him, and didn’t mind saying so over and over.  Dean was actually starting to believe it, needed him, Sam needed him.

 

Four days ago they’d left Bobby’s because there was still a rather large flock of demons to round up and send back to Hell.  Sam was even happy about hunting demons down.  Three days ago some of what Sam said filtered to the forefront of Dean’s mind.  Didn’t make a deal with a demon.  No life threatening payments.

 

This was why Dean was sitting eight days later on a rickety wooden chair, waiting for his little brother to get filled up with enough sugar and booze to be sick enough to think he had to make a death bed confession.  Sam, Dean figured out, had made a deal with something.  Some payment would be required.  Dean was determined to find out what the deal/payment was.  Then he’d seriously contemplated killing Sam, except Sam dead was sort of what got him into this mess to begin with, so killing Sam wasn’t actually an option.

 

However, getting the complete truth out of Sam was.  Would be tricky, but Dean could do it.

 

Which was how he’d come to be at this fair.  For some reason, Dean would never understand why, Sam loved fairs.  Sam hated fun houses and rides, was still terrified of clowns, didn’t like crowds much and didn’t like to gamble.  Fairs however had funnel cakes, shooting games and cute animals.  So, when they’d driven past a sign announcing a county fair Dean saw his chance, formed a plan and put it into action. 

 

Yep, Sam Winchester was going to spill his guts one way or another, probably several ways.

 

A pile of food appeared on the table, Sam set a plastic cup full of something fizzy and not beer in front of him.  Sam plunked himself down in the other rickety wooden chair, immediately grabbing its sides when it wobbled, threatening to buck him off.  He’d also scored burgers, the expected soggy fries as well as funnel cakes, and something Dean decided might be chicken wings.  The kid was apparently hungry and making up for nearly a year of forgetting to eat in his search for Dean’s deal breaking maneuver. 

 

“They’ve got poker and bingo games over that way.”  Sam’s thumb jerked over his shoulder in the vague direction of north-east.  “If you want to check it out.  They only sell beer over there if we want one later.”

 

“Would that be before or after we clean out the target shooting games?”

 

Sam grinned like a little kid.  Ever since they could see over the counter top they’d pretty much won every prize in those booths.  Having an obsessed, deranged demon hunting father who made them target practice for hours every day paid off.  Sam was too busy chewing to do much more than nod enthusiastically.

 

“So, Sammy, explain this deal to me again.”

 

Eyes popping up at him, a split second of guilt covered quickly, Sam stopped chewing.  “Wuh ‘eal?”  He asked around a mouth full of burger, swallowed that and chased it with a big enough bite of funnel cake he should have choked on it.  “I told you everything.”

 

“Tell me again.”

 

“No deal with a demon.”  Sam plastered a smile on his face, looking up at Dean from under shaggy bangs.

 

“That innocent crap isn’t going to work Sammy.  I want the truth.  See you keep saying no deal with a demon.  So what did you do?”

 

“Nuthin’.”  Sam gulped some pop from his cup.  “You had to get yourself out, that was the…”  He stopped.  Sam stared down at the ground, obviously some small, terribly interesting civilization had sprouted at his feet.  “…arrangement.”  He mumbled the last word.

 

“Just another name for a deal.”  Dean reached across the table, grasping Sam’s face and forced him to look at Dean.  “What did you do?”

 

“I ayd a et.”  Sam said through fish lips.

 

Shaking Sam’s head side to side, “You did what?”

 

Sam pulled Dean’s hand away and mumbled, “I made a bet.”

 

“Sammy, say that again, I don’t think I heard right.  You did what?!  I heard bet, and I know I didn’t hear bet, ‘cause you can’t bet on anything and bluff your way through.”

 

“You’re still here.”  Sam said flatly. 

 

Nope, not working on Dean this time.  “That’s not the point.”

 

“It is to me.” 

 

Ok, so Dean really had no argument for that one.  “Sam,” He sighed deeply, ran his tongue around the inside of his cheek and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “What was the bet?”  He shoved another funnel cake in Sam’s direction, in case he needed to implement plan B, the guts spilling.

 

“Basically I was counting on the fact that I knew you better than any demon did.”

 

“What was the bet?”

 

“And I was right.”  Sam’s face lit up with dimples and sheer joy.

 

“Sam.”  Dean snarled. 

 

“You had to get yourself out of it Dean. That was part of it.”

 

“Which I couldn’t do.”

 

“Right.  But you did.”  Sam wolfed down more funnel cake somehow managing to look like a guilty seven year old in the process.

 

“Start from the beginning.  And Sam, you’d better tell me everything or I’m going right back to that demon.”

 

Sam scrunched his nose, and glared for a minute.  “The demon said you had to get yourself out, that if you could do that she’d let you go.  But you couldn’t do anything or the deal would be void.”

 

“I know that part.”  This was starting to grate on Dean’s nerves and give him a headache.  The two teen age girls behind him were enlightening him and everyone else within earshot of the woes of their menstrual cycles.   Sam rubbed at his middle.  “Eat too much?”

 

“Naaa, don’t think so, just a cramp.”

 

“So tell me about this bet you made with the demon.”

 

“I had to do something that would make it so you did it yourself.”  Surveying the table Sam made a face, “I didn’t get any chocolate.”

 

“Sam.”  Dean’s fist hit the table making Sam jump.

 

“But I had to get someone else to make the bet or it would cancel the first deal.”

 

“Sweet mother of god you would have made an excellent lawyer.  You’ve been talking for five minutes and still haven’t said anything.”

 

“Igotatrickstertobetthedemonyouwouldntaskforanythingforyourself.”  It tumbled out of Sam’s mouth in one long word.  

 

Dean needed a few minutes to decipher the sound Sam spit out at him.  Oddly there was the word trickster added to demon.   “You did what?”

 

“Oh, come on Dean.  You’ve never in your whole life asked for anything for yourself, why would I think you’d start five minutes before you go to Hell?  I figured it was a safe bet, and I was right.”

 

“Samuel.”

 

“Well, see, tricksters are demi-gods and demons are, well, demonic, so they’re sort of on opposite sides and as it turns out always willing to screw one another over.  So the trickster made a bet with the Crossroads Demon that you could get yourself out of your deal by making a selfless request.”

 

“Selfless?”   

 

“Yeah, it basically means…”

“I know what it goddamn means!”  Dean’s attention was diverted for a few seconds to the small child being held over a trash can to puke.

 

Sam looked a bit green himself.  “Maybe I did eat too much.”

 

Dean rolled his eyes, “Not working Sammy, you’re going to sit here until you tell me everything.”

 

“You know Dean maybe just once you could try to understand me.”  Sam shot back, now he was being whiny. 

 

Eyes sliding first to the teen age girls, cramps, whining, then to the puking small child, ate too much, whining, trickster, oh gee.  Dean asked, “And just exactly what did the trickster want for all this?”  His stomach had that going down too fast in an elevator feeling.

 

“Uh, not hunt her.”  Sam suddenly brightened, like Dean was going to fall for that one.

 

Reaching over, taking Sam’s chin in his hand again, clamping as hard as he could and shaking Sam’s head until his hair flapped around Dean snapped, “What did you give the damn trickster?”

 

“Un eek.” 

 

“Huh?”

 

“Ean, face urts.”  Sam pried Dean’s hand off, and rubbed his cheek.  “One week.”

 

“One week for what?”

 

Sam was busy studying that miniature civilization at his feet again. 

 

“Sam.”

 

Sam shrugged.  SHRUGGED!

 

SAM!”

 

“Idontknowwhatdifferencedoesitmakeitsjustaweek?”

 

“You don’t….”  Dean couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “You didn’t ask…you DON’T KNOW?”  Sam, Dean decided must have fallen out of the stupid tree.  Not only did he fall from the stupid tree, he hit every single branch on the way down…three or four times.

 

“No, and I don’t care either.  It got you out, that’s all that matters!”

 

“No it’s not.” 

 

“Yes!  IT IS!”

 

Somewhere behind Sam, Dean heard the little boy who’d been puking in the trash can start to cry.  Dean could tell by the sound the poor little guy was tired.  He quirked an eyebrow and stared at his brother when Sam suddenly burst into tears. 

 

Oh golly.

 

“I mean, it’s a trickster…” sniff, sob, “Practical jokes,”  hiccup, “How bad can it be?”

 

Well shit.

 

Standing so fast he knocked over the rickety wooden chair, Dean gathered up their garbage and tossed it into a nearby can.  The uneaten food he stuffed into a bag to take with them.  Grabbing Sam’s jacket sleeve he yanked his brother to his feet.  “Time to go.”  Dean was getting the idea, and getting it fast.  Maybe he could just stuff Sam in a motel room and keep him away from anyone else for a week.  Dean could live with whiny Sam, puking Sam, crying Sam might be pushing it, but if he had to live with PMS Sam for a week that was going to lead right back to dead Sam. 

 

Which was what got him into this mess in the first place.

 

They were almost to the parking lot when some old woman abruptly blocked Dean’s path as he hauled Sam behind him.  Before either could dodge around her she reached out with knurled fingers and gripped Sam’s wrist.  He stopped dead in his tracks shooting Dean a horrified look.  Dean’s sides almost split from holding his laughter in.  Sam was probably seventy-five years younger, a hundred pounds heavier, a foot and a half taller and could have certainly tossed her to the next county one handed, yet there was his goofy, geek little brother scared witless by the woman.

 

When the woman cackled something resembling a laugh Dean lost the urge to laugh.  It sent shivers up and down his spine.  The sound made the hair on the back of his neck quiver and raise.  The three of them stood there for a few seconds, Dean and the old woman each with a hand on Sam, as if they were about to play some sort of tug-o-war with him.  She peered up at Sam with odd, smoky eyes.  He leaned toward Dean, swallowed convulsively.  Dean felt a shiver ripple through his kid brother.  Dean’s eyes narrowed, focusing on the woman before him.  Old, roundish, had once been beautiful, with long, thin bits of white hair falling over her face, across her shoulders.  She glared back at him.  His grip on Sam’s arm tightened to the point his fingers ached.  You hurt him and you’ll die.  The viciousness and suddenness of his own thoughts startled Dean.  One side of her mouth twitched and curled up a fraction, almost like a mountain lion barring its teeth.  Damn didn’t he get the impression she’d heard those thoughts.

 

Maybe they were going to start that tug-o-war game after all.

 

“Read your fortune boy?”  Her voice was raspy, she coughed at the end.

 

Sam’s head shook so hard Dean was actually amazed he didn’t knock himself out.  He had to have given himself whiplash.  Sam took a step back toward Dean, needing to let his arm extend, being far too polite to rip free of her grip.  Dean had apparently instilled a few too many manners in Sam while growing up.

 

Dean wasn’t nearly as polite, not when Sam was concerned.  In fact he didn’t give a damn who he pissed off, hurt, killed, insulted or offended to protect the kid.  Dropping the bag Dean’s free hand wound around the woman’s wrist, gripping her hard enough she would know he meant business.  He was surprised to find not old lady softness, but hardness, like steel.  It didn’t deter him.

 

“Let my brother go.”  Dean kept his voice low. He didn’t want to attract attention of the security kind.  “Now.”  He added a cold stare to the last softly voiced command.

 

“Dean.”  His name was barely an exhale from Sam, but the tone was a warning.  Dean resisted the urge to look at Sam, keeping his eyes locked with the hag holding his brother captive.

 

His fingers wrapped around the woman’s arm tingled, uncomfortable at first, turning painful in seconds.  She could try gnawing his hand off for all he cared, he wasn’t budging until she let go of Sam.  Period.  He tightened his grip on both of them, warning the woman, reassuring Sam.

 

“Very well.”

 

The instant her fingers slid from Sam’s wrist Dean let go of her.  He pulled Sam behind him and bent down to scoop up the bag in his now free hand all in the same motion.  Giving Sam a gentle nudge to get him moving they continued on to their car.  Sam twice stopped and looked back before hurrying after Dean again.

 

“You make the oddest friends Sammy.”  Dean tried for a smirk, but his mouth was too dry, the old woman had rattled them both.  He fired up the Impala, steering out onto the main road.

 

“I’m sorry.”  Sam’s voice was so soft, Dean wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly.

 

“For what?”

 

“You shouldn’t have touched her.”

 

“Well, dude, if you hadn’t looked like you were about to faint I wouldn’t have.  She was just an old lady, sheesh, Sam, what got into you?”

 

“I’m sorry.”  Sam was picking at a small hole along the knee of his jeans.

 

Trickster.  Wouldn’t hunt HER.  Crap!  Dean hit the brakes, the tires squealed, the chassis groaned as he did a one-eighty in the middle of the road.

 

Sam looked up at him.  “What are you doing?”

 

“We’re going back.”  Dean hit the accelerator. 

 

“We can’t.” 

 

“The hell we can’t that was the trickster, wasn’t it?”

 

No answer from the passenger seat.

 

“Sam?!”

 

“Ummm….yeah.  We can’t do anything to her Dean, I promised no hunting her.”

 

Taking his eyes from the road to gaze at his brother for a few seconds Dean’s lips curled.  “Semantics Sammy.  You can’t hunt her.  Nothing says I can’t waste her ass.”

 

“Yes, Dean something does.”  Sam’s voice rose.  “I promised WE wouldn’t hunt her.  She helped me get you out of that deal and we’re not breaking our part.”

 

“What the hell are you doing dragging me in on YOUR deals?”

 

“Arrangement.”  Sam corrected.

 

Dean growled.  It was a moot point anyway.  When he pulled back into what had been the parking lot of the fairgrounds it was empty.  Turning off the engine he and Sam sat there starting at an empty field.  No rides, no cute animals, no scary clowns, no freaky old women, just an empty field. 

 

Holding the steering wheel tightly Dean sat back and sighed.  Perfect, this is just perfect.  “One week huh?”

 

Sam nodded.

 

“No death, no soul going to hell, just a joke for one week?”

 

Sam nodded, looking scared and happy and guilty all at once.  Dean sighed again, reached over and ruffled his brother’s hair for a beat.  Somewhere in the past year Sam had stopped finding the gesture offensive.  He’d stopped finding a lot of things offensive.

 

“Well it’s only a week.  Did you notice the girls with cramps and the sick kid sitting near us?”

 

“No.”

 

“Yeah, well I did.  You had a cramp, wanted chocolate, felt sick, I didn’t understand you, and then started to cry like a tired toddler.”  Dean leveled a stare at Sam, making his brother squirm and rub his forehead.

 

“Ohhh.”  Sam groaned, getting what Dean was driving at.

 

“Look, Sammy, it could be worse.  We’ll stay close to the motel, stay away from people, it’s just a week.  Then we’re both free and clear, right?”

 

Sam brightened a bit.  “Right.”

 

They found an out of the way motel, nothing special, but these places never were.  It was, however clean and cheap.  Dean would have preferred something with individual cabins, or a room not attached to another room, but maybe it wouldn’t be an issue.  He was beginning to believe Sam’s idea of how bad could it be?  So they hauled their gear inside, deciding they could do some laundry and buy some provisions the next day.  Dean flopped on the bed, Sam settled at a corner table, laptop propped in front of him.

 

“I think you’re addicted to that thing.”  Dean grumbled.

 

Sam grinned, shrugging out of his jacket, then flannel.  “Got you out of trouble.” 

 

Dean watched him, curious.  “You sick or something?”

 

Sam was fanning himself with his shirt collar. “It’s warm in here.”

 

“Not really, but want the A/C on?”

 

“Naa, I’m…um….”  Sam shifted in his chair, then squirmed.  His face looked flushed.

 

“What is your problem?”

 

They both heard the soft banging on the wall between their room and the next at the same time.  Sam rubbed the back of his head, looking odd, squirmed some more then gulped.  Moans came from the next room, the banging louder, quicker.  Dean burst out laughing.

 

“This isn’t funny!”  Sam’s voice raised a few octaves.

 

“Yes.  Sam it is.”  Dean fell to one side, arms clutched around his middle, wheezing laughter through his nose.

 

“Go to hell.”  Sam spat.  “Oh, wait, I stopped you from doing that.”  Jerking to his feet, he bolted for the bathroom.

 

“Don’t forget to use cold water Sammy.”  Dean had to wipe the tears from his eyes.  His sides hurt.

 

Forty-five minutes later Sam emerged from the bathroom, damp from his shower and looking relaxed even with the scowl and frown.  Dean chuckled and thumped his elbow against the wall in a rhythmic pattern a few times.  Sam threw a pillow at him before flopping down on his bed.  “Shut up, just shut up.”

 

Dean was still chortling a while later when he drifted off to sleep.  His final thought was this had potential for a lot of fun.

 

 


 

 

 

A dragon is fervent in his ambition, fearless in his principles, firm in his purposes and faithful in his promises…John Scevola

 

Dean was still giggling to himself when he woke up the next morning.  He rolled to his side, facing Sam’s bed to see if the kid was awake.  Thinking he should tell Sam they could go find a camp ground or some really remote motel to wait this out Dean brushed a few scales away from his face with his talons.

 

Talons??  Scales?? 

 

SCALES?!?!?!?!

 

Dean’s slow, leisurely push upwards evolved into him bolting straight up in bed.  What the…?  Just what the freaking HELL?

 

Sam, you little creep, what did you do?  Except it didn’t come out as his voice it came out as some odd clicking, escalating to a true growl.

 

Sam mumbled something from the other bed, Dean caught the words, minutes…few more…Dean…A strong, mushy lump formed in Dean’s throat when it came to him with such crystal clarity, and maybe altered hearing, Sam always uttered Dean’s name when he was waking up, as if asking where his brother was, reassuring himself Dean was somewhere close.  The rustling of something soft, paper thin and light against his back startled him. 

 

Out of the bed, spinning to see what was climbing his back Dean caught a glimpse of shimmering golden scales….SCALES!!!!!...covering rippling hard packed muscle of an obscenely large shoulder above biceps he’d only dreamt of having, biceps far too large and defined to be human and covered with SCALES!  Extending one arm, opening and flexing his fist….ending in TALONS!!!!...the iridescent gold gave off sparkles and shimmers of various shades of green.  If it hadn’t been his arm he would have thought it very pretty.  Eyes slipping back over his shoulder he rolled them forward and dark green wings streaked with gold and brown fluttered then rested comfortably against his back once again.  Wings?  Freaking WINGS!!!  He’d kill Sam for this, but Sam dead was what got him into this mess to begin with.

 

Instead he opted for shouting.  SAAAUUMM!!”  Only it wasn’t his voice coming out of his throat, it was some kind of growling roar.  He’d have smirked and chuckled at how fast that sound got little brother Sammy moving, except this really wasn’t funny.

 

Sam’s head whipped around, he gasped, and sort of shrieked, arms and legs wheeling in an effort to get off the bed.  Getting tangled in sheets and blankets Sam ended in an unorganized heap between the beds.  Up and moving backwards, sheets and blankets going with him, Sam ran one hand through his hair, “Wha…?  Shit.  No.  DEAN?  You’re a….”  He stood slowly, legs shaking like a new born colt.

 

WHAT?  Dean’s snarl came out an actual snarl, punctuated with a blast of flames from his nose, which was now apparently a blow torch.  

 

Sam vaulted across the bed and body slammed the floor covering his head with both arms.

 

Sucking in his breath, he’d nearly incinerated Sam, Dean was knocked back a step and off balance when the flames retreated, vacuum sucked into his nostrils.  Sam clambered back to his feet on those freakishly long new born colt legs, eyes wide enough Dean thought they were going to burst right out of the boy’s head.  Sam’s mouth dropped open.  Eyes trailing from Dean’s feet, clawed feet, up to his face. Sam’s mouth snapped shut with a pop.  Crossing the room in a few steps to the mirror over the dresser Dean stared at the reflection starring back at him.  That was him.

 

A dragon.  DRAGON!  He was a freaking dragon. 

 

What the hell Sammy!  What the freaking hell?!  Turning to look at his brother, remembering not to exhale sharply, he watched as Sam was suddenly and rather forcefully clipped behind the knees and sent sprawling to the ground with a pained ‘aarrruummmfffff.”  The very odd sensation of connecting with Sam’s legs from across the room slithered up to register in Dean’s brain. 

 

He had a new appendage.

 

Tail.  Now I’ve got a godamn TAIL!  That came out as more clicking, punctuated with some small flames, a bit of smoke and a few grunts.  Closing the distance between himself and his rather freaked little brother Dean reached out and grabbed Sam’s arms to pull him up, careful not to shred muscle off bones with his talons.

 

“Dean.”  Sam spoke slowly, softly.  “You’re a….um….man….you’re a dragon.”   Reaching out Sam lightly poked one of Dean’s wings with one finger.  Twisting away, Dean tried to laugh, which sounded more like clucking.  “Tickles?”  Sam leaned behind him, taking in more of the wings.  “They’re soft, velvety.”

 

Well wasn’t that just nice?  Turning back to the mirror, Dean forgot about his tail which swung wildly at Sam’s knees again.   This time Sam’s reflexes were better. He threw himself in the air, knees nearly to his chest and jumped it in one leap, landing almost where he’d launched from.

 

“Will you curl that thing up or something before you kill me.”  Sam snapped.

 

What was he getting snappy for, wasn’t like he was some mythical, non-existent creature.  Dean snarled, and Sam jerked one shoulder to the side to keep from being singed. 

 

“Deeeaaannn.”

 

Not really paying attention to Sam’s whining, Dean had more important issues.  Horrified he stared at the mirror, then swung the upper half of his body down to look at the lower half.  HIS BOY PARTS WERE GONE!!  This was going too far, way the hell too far.

 

Sam’s eyes followed Dean’s, realization spreading over his face with first a smirk, then a giggle……freaking giggle…Sam rubbed at the back of his neck.  “Uh, Dean…ya know, iguanas, reptiles all their stuff is inside.  It’s ok, it’s probably still there, somewhere.  Some have two.”

 

Head lifting quickly to meet Sam’s gaze…two?  TWO??...and there wasn’t a lady dragon to be found.  Probably?  Sam blushed and looked sympathetic.  Oh golly.  His brother could feel what he felt.  Perfect Sammy, that’s just goddamn perfect!  Dragging in a few deep breaths, one week it was only one week.  He could deal.  He was hungry.

 

“You’re hungry?”  Sam flattened one palm over his own stomach.  “I..uh…don’t have to go out and get you live vermin or anything do I?  Cause you know, that would be kinda gross.”

 

Oh and splaying open graves and burning bones isn’t?

 

“What are you angry with me for?  I didn’t do anything.”  Sam threw both hands in the air, letting them drop to his sides in the next instant.  “I’m starving.  Maybe some eggs, bacon, donuts?”  Sam grabbed the car keys, backing toward the door.  “I’ll go to the store.”

 

Dean nodded.

 

He paced the room while Sam was gone.  Finding he could use his talons, carefully, to type on the computer, he pulled up a document and typed the word camping.  He and Sam definitely had to get out of here.  Already feeling a bit claustrophobic, Dean couldn’t spend an entire week cooped up in this room.  He and Sam would slaughter one another.  This sucked, being trapped in here, sending Sam out…alone…to take care of everything for them.  He wished Sam would put a move on, and not only because Dean was hungry.

 

Sidling up to the window, Dean pulled the curtains back far enough to peek out, looking for his brother.  There was a lot of activity, several families with small children were unloading cars.  One little girl, maybe three or four years old, stood clutching a doll, wailing.  A woman tried consoling her as well as lifting a smaller baby from the car seat in the back.  Two cars over three small boys poked and jabbed at one another.  Harried parents herded them along to a room a few doors down from Dean and Sam’s.  Dean caught snatches of their conversations, his hearing was much sharper than it had been yesterday.  Sick kids, hungry kids, and oh goody….one seemed to have chicken pox…all under the age of ten.

 

What the hell?  Had they stumbled into some sort of sick kid convention?  This wouldn’t do, not at all.  Sam was a walking receiver and Dean couldn’t really run much interference stuck in this room.   Perfect, just goddamn perfect!  He’d raised a toddler, Dean knew what they were like when they were sick, hungry and had chicken pox.  His toddler was six and a half feet tall, and Dean really didn’t feel the inclination to raise him again.  Once had been great, and more than enough, thank you very much.

 

Dean’s eyes continued to scan the parking lot, and the road, waiting for the Impala’s return.  He saw a kid, at first almost mistaking him for Sam from this distance, slinking around near the corner of the building, the opposite direction from the motel office.  The boy was pale, sort of thin and scraggly.  Were he and Sam the only two healthy people in the state?  His attention was drawn from the young man to the parking lot when the Impala’s familiar rumble approached.  Sam found a parking space in front of their room.  Climbing slowly from the car, Dean watched his brother absently scratch at his arms, then neck.  Sam pulled some bags from the front seat, giving the scraggly looking boy, now walking hunched head down in the general direction of their room, an odd sidelong glance then he outright stared.

 

Suddenly, as if jolted, Sam’s head and shoulders twisted around, Dean saw him look along the row of rooms on the other side of the lot.  Finally…finally….Sam headed to their room, the last few yards his stride lengthening until he was almost running.  Once safely in their room, Sam set the bags of food on the table, and sank in the chair, one arm on the table he laid his head against it.  The other hand he used to scratch at his leg through his jeans.  Dean swatted Sam’s fingers with his tail.  Turning his head to one side, but not lifting it Sam watched him, obviously miserable.

 

The boy looked like hell, plain and simple.

 

Dean had no idea what sort of sensations battered his brother while among groups of people, but he’d been drained completely.  What all had he felt?  Sam blinked slowly, and shrugged one shoulder, scratching at his neck again.  “I dunno, can’t even separate most of them.”

 

Ok, that was sort of creepy.  Dean wormed his tail under Sam’s wrist, wound it around and pulled his hand away so he’d stop scratching.  Sam sighed and closed his eyes for a few minutes before pushing himself straighter in the chair.  When he ran fingers up and down his arm Dean swatted at him again.

 

“Stop that.”  Sam grumbled, but there was no heat behind his words, started to rub at his face, and must have thought better of it, he let his hand drop to the table, offering Dean a lopsided grin.  Sam’s expression turned to a scowl without warning.  “I suppose you think this is my fault?”  He snapped.  “Well I’m not sorry for doing it anymore than you and I’m not sorry I saved your ass either.”

 

Outside Dean heard angry voices, a couple was arguing.  Oh gee.  Ignoring the suddenly fowl mood Dean tapped the computer screen with one talon.

 

“Be careful.”  Sam smacked Dean’s clawed hand.  “Those things will go right through the screen, and I’m sure it’ll be MY fault you have to find the money for a new one.”

 

Whatever.

 

Using the tip of his tail, Dean tapped Sam’s shoulder pointing to the computer screen.  Realization, and maybe guilt and definitely relief washed over Sam’s face in rapid succession.  He read the single word Dean managed to type out.  Scratching the back of his neck, the end of Dean’s tail poked his hand away again. Sam looked up at him, nodded.  “You hate camping.”

 

Dean hated being cooped up in here more.

 

“Yeah, you’re right.  At least we can be outside in the sunshine.  Not around all these…”  Sam’s voice trailed off, he gave the door a vile glare.  “People.”

 

Sitting on one bed, Dean curled his tail around and rested his chin on it, watched Sam.  The kid looked like he was on a never ending roller coaster ride, having no control over emotions or reactions.

 

“I’ll look online, find some campground.  We can’t leave till it’s dark.  Check out is in a few hours, so I’ll go over and pay for another night, we can leave late.”

 

The thought of poor Sam having to go to the motel office, get the car packed, be out THERE all alone like this twisted Dean’s stomach.

 

“You’re just hungry.”  Sam mumbled.

 

Yeah, that is really sort of creepy.

 

“Oh, so I’m some sort of creep as well as a freak now?”  Sam barked.

 

Dean shook his head, a small billow of dark smoke puffed from his nose.  Sam’s eyes trailed it up to the ceiling.

 

“Sorry.  ‘m tired.”  Rubbing the space between his eyes Sam laid his head back down on the table.  “And I don’t feel so good Dean.”

 

No shit Sammy.  Dean sighed. Small, thin, bright lines of flame flashed out then flickered away.  He’d have to be careful not to ignite the room.

 

Sam smiled.  “Ya know that fire breathing thing will come in real handy the next time we have to burn something.”

 

Winding his tail around Sam’s middle then up under one arm, he tugged gently.  Sam gave him a confused, curious look before watching the tail encircle his torso.   It didn’t take much effort for Dean to nudge Sam to the other bed, get him to lie down.  Unwinding his tail, he snagged the blanket off the floor with his talons…carefully so as not to rip it to pieces….and draped it over his brother.  Sam’s fingers curled around the blanket’s edge, pulling it up to his chin.

 

“Thanks.”  Sam yawned, his voice thick and sleepy.  Heavy, slow blinking eyes followed Dean’s movements.

 

Warmth spread from Dean’s chest to tingle in his belly, circle his neck, work its way up his spine, and settled comfortably in his brain.  His little brother might have grown larger than him, but most days to Dean he was still the small boy Dean cared for and protected.  Rustling of blanket against the bed drew Dean’s attention back to Sam. 

 

His brother’s eyes followed him, a half smile on his face.  Sam’s eyes softened, lines on his forehead smoothed out.  He blinked lazily, yawned again.   “You’ll always be bigger.”  He murmured, then drifted off to sleep.

 

Dean stared at his brother’s sleeping form, stunned.  Sam felt what he felt.  Maybe for the first time ever Sam understood what went on inside Dean.  Understood his motivations.  He’d seen it on Sam’s face, heard it in his voice.  Oh Christ.

 

Moving quietly to the table, Dean rooted through the bags, checking to see what food Sam brought back.

 

An hour later Sam sat up, rubbed one hand over the top of his head and peered at Dean with blurry eyes.  “You’re still a dragon.”  It was more an observation than question.  “I was hoping I was dreaming.”

 

Dean shook his head before shoving three more marshmallows onto one long, slender, slightly curved talon.  A quick, short exhale produced a thin flame and three blackened marshmallows.  Using his tail he pointed proudly.  Sam arched one eyebrow before reaching across the space between the two beds, taking one of the offered confections.

 

“Hmm….that’s not bad.”  He licked the remaining goo off his fingers.  Dean roasted him a few more.  “Thanks.”  Arms above his head, Sam stretched, twisting his torso side to side making his back snap and pop.  “I’ll go pay us up for another night or two, and then find somewhere we can go.”

 

Thankfully it only took Sam fifteen minutes this time.  When he returned Dean had moved on to roasting hot dogs.  He was quite happy to see Sam back, fairly normal looking and in such a short time. 

 

“Think you could do shish kabobs?”  Sam asked between bites of hot dog.

 

Rolling his eyes, Dean otherwise ignored the question.  He hummed, which came out more like a deep rumbling purr.  Since Dean couldn’t really talk back, Sam had fallen mostly silent. 

 

Sam glanced sideways at him for a second.   “Ya know it’s not like I like talking to myself.  I saw this really cool show on Discovery Channel once, they did a whole documentary on what dragons would really be like.  How they make their fire, and that they could breathe ice too from another chamber in their….”  Sam’s voice trailed off when he looked over at Dean who was tapping his talons on the night stand, hoping to appear irritated.  “Right.  Campground.  One that allows,” Sam’s lips twitched, then curled to a smile.  Even with his hand over his mouth Dean heard him say, “Pets.”

 

Dean growled.  Tiny clouds of smoke blew from his nostrils, dissipating within seconds. Sam laughed in earnest when that produced enough flame to totally cremate a hot dog.  Dean started to hum again.

 

“Dude!  One more rendition of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ and I get a fire extinguisher.”  Sam jerked to his feet, stormed around the room, gathering up their belongings, packing things up.  Dean pretty much ignored him, concentrating on unfolding and opening first one wing, then the other, he had a good twelve foot span on each wing.  A grunt, soft swearing then what sounded suspiciously like a body connecting with a wall turned Dean’s attention back to his brother.

 

Now what?

 

Sam pushed away from the wall next to the bathroom, which made Dean remember he hadn’t had a shower and wondered how he’d get one now.  Maybe he could sneak out when it was dark and dip in the pool.  Sam staggered between the wall and the bed, reached for a chair there, hit the side of it with his arm before he and the chair crashed, loudly and with much swearing from Sam, to the floor.  Dean looked on rather stupidly for another minute as Sam’s head appeared over the bed, he tried using it to stand up against, only managing to stagger sideways a few feet then tumble to the floor again.

 

“Dean…Dean!  I’m gonna….”  Sam’s hand clapped over his mouth.  He was pale, sweating. His eyes didn’t seem able to focus on one point.

 

Suddenly realizing what Sam wanted, Dean got moving, much faster than he anticipated being able to, and nearly hurt himself in the process of ramming a trash can under Sam in time for the kid to vomit into it.  Winding his tail around Sam’s chest he pressed its flat tip against his brother’s forehead, holding him up until the spasms ripping through Sam quieted.  Shaky hands gripped Dean’s arms with far less strength than they should have.  Dean hunkered down next to Sam, settling back against the base of his tail and heavily muscled haunches.

 

“Dean I can’t…shit…the room…spinning.”

 

This just sucked out loud.  He couldn’t drive Sam to a doctor, or even go out and get him medicine, if Dean could figure out what sort of medicine to get.  He could probably help Sam get an ambulance, but Dean certainly couldn’t go with him.  If Sam needed medical help Dean would have to send him alone.  Alone.  It was not a word they preferred in their vocabulary.  He had no other choice, it would be impossible for him to go into a hospital.  Impossible for him to watch over Sam, be sure no cops found him.  Sam scratched at his neck, Dean hooked one talon around his wrist and pulled it away mindful he didn’t slice open a vein.

 

Sam grabbed his long neck, making Dean start.  Sam’s fingers dug into the side of his neck, pushing him to meet Sam’s eyes.  “No.  No.  I don’t wanna…not by myself.  Dean, please.  They won’t be able to do anything for me anyway.  It’ll go away.  No, please, I want ’o stay here.” 

 

He was no more impervious to his little brother’s ‘you’re my big brother and can do everything’ look as a dragon than he was as a human.  Dean grumbled, which came out sounding like the deep, rumbling purr.  The sound seemed soothing to Sam, placating him.  Sam leaned back against the bed, drawing deep breaths in and exhaling slowly, steadily.  His fingers dropped from Dean’s neck, flattening on the floor beside him.  Sam’s head rolled to the side, tired, soft, confused eyes met his.  “I’ll be ok, stay here with you.”  He added a pout to the doe eyes for good measure Dean supposed.

 

Not better in an hour and you go to a hospital, like it or not.

 

“I’ll be ok.”  Sam pointed to the table with the laptop.  “Over there?  Please, I’ll look for a camp ground.”  Sam dropped one arm over Dean’s shoulders, between his wings and his back while Dean hauled him up.  The newborn colt legs were working overtime.  “Don’t want to leave you.”  Sam let himself be steered, half carried as he half walked leaning most his weight against Dean to the table.

 

Once free of Sam, Dean paced around the room a bit, glancing out the window every few minutes.  Sam’s eyes were still doing some seriously weird jumping back and forth shit.  Holding his head up with one hand, Sam typed with the other, obviously taking all his concentration to read the computer screen.  Dean didn’t miss the very unstealthy glances aimed at him every few minutes.  He caught sight of the scraggly kid lurking around near the corner of the building.  The boy glanced around, then ducked into a room.

 

“You need outa here.  Feels like you’ll bust apart or something.”  Sam grumbled, scratching at his leg until Dean’s tail found its mark and slapped the back of Sam’s hand.

 

The sound of sirens cracking the air, getting closer drew Dean’s attention to the window again.  It was ear shattering, Dean had to put both hands, carefully so as not to skewer his brain with the talons, over his ears, well where his ears would have been.  Sam rubbed his forehead, chin dropping until it bumped his chest.  He used rubbing against his right ear as a chance to scratch his neck and jaw again.

 

“I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry you got dragged in on this.”

 

Dean merely half turned away from the window, gave him a second’s glance then turned his gaze outside once more, shrugging.  As if I wouldn’t be.

 

“I guess you’d be dragged in anyway this happened, huh?”  Sam said softly, eyes focused on his knees.

 

Dean nodded and watched an ambulance pull up to the motel office.  Someone came out, spoke to someone in the ambulance briefly before it pulled along the row of rooms, stopping three doors from them.  Paramedics with a stretcher disappeared in the room.  Back out a few minutes later, an elderly woman on the stretcher, a man following along looking plenty worried.  They all piled into the ambulance.  Behind him Sam inhaled deeply, Dean heard him shifting in the chair.  When he leaned forward his wings fluttered out in an unconscious effort to maintain balance.  They brushed something warm and feeling like material.  Another glimpse over his shoulder and his nose nearly bumped Sam’s.  The kid was looking better, his color returning.  He leaned over Dean’s shoulder to look out the window too.

 

Sam straightened as the ambulance pulled away.  “Feel better now.”  He padded across the room to continue his search for nearby campgrounds, or maybe porn, Dean wasn’t sure which.

 

Dean roasted them corn on the cob and sausage for dinner.  S’mores and cinnamon coated apples were flamed for dessert.

 

Sam leaned back against the head board, scratched at his arm, then knee and pulled his hand protectively to his lap before Dean could swipe at it with his tail.  “That’s better food than we normally get.  This isn’t so bad.”  He turned the laptop to face Dean.  “I found a few places.  There’s one about twenty minutes from here that looks the best.  Lots of wooded areas, a few ponds, doesn’t seem as nice as the others, so maybe won’t be as crowded.”

 

Dean nodded.

 

“We can leave around 1 A.M., think you can keep out of sight in the back seat?”

 

Another nod.

 

Sam reached over, setting the alarm for midnight.  He clicked on the TV, thumbing through the remote until Dean snorted billows of smoke.

 

“Watch this?”  Sam gestured at the TV with the remote.  He dropped it next to his leg, plumping the pillows, squirmed a bit and resettled.  “Not a bad movie.  Not like we have much choice anyway.” 

 

An hour later Sam slid even further down on his bed.  Dean’s tail swatted at Sam’s fingers scratching at his chest before pulling the blanket over Sam’s shoulders.  Rolling on his side Sam smiled, “Thanks.”  He yawned and blink sleepily at Dean.  “Hey Dean?”

 

Dean knew those words and that tone.  That was Sam wanting to ask a question he didn’t want the answer to.  But needed it just the same.  Dean met Sam’s eyes, waiting patiently for the words.

 

“What if at the end of the week this doesn’t change.  What if you’re…”

 

Cutting off Sam’s words with a small flame and blast of smoke Dean extended one wing.  It settled over Sam’s shoulders, blanketing him.  Sam looked at him for another minute before dipping his chin up and down.  A few minutes later Dean heard his brother’s soft snores, and light easy breathing.  Even if he could talk Dean had no ready answer for that one.

 

 


 

 

Fly not with dragons…for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup…

 

 

Waking up to screaming was almost never good.  Waking up to Sam screaming was never, ever good. 

 

Dean was out of bed so fast he forgot about the wings, automatically they flapped around helping him regain his balance.  They also knocked over the lamp, a chair and missed Sam’s laptop by a fraction of an inch.  Sam would hurt him if the laptop was injured in the fray.  

 

Having no clue what the screaming, blood curdling, scared into the middle of next week type screaming was for Dean made a quick scan of the room.  He thought he caught the words…Dean…them…make away…but he wasn’t exactly sure.  Dean wasn’t so surprised he could see well in the dark, though everything appeared as if he was looking through night-vision goggles.  Flipping on the overhead light on his way to his brother’s bed, he knew one thing, he had to make Sam stop screaming or the noise would make Dean’s brain explode out of his head.

 

Blowing a short flame to get Sam’s attention, Dean spread his arms wide, trying to question the kid.  Sam spent all of a second or two focused on him before he shrieked something, pointing at the floor, scrambling around the bed winding his legs up in the sheets.  Granted the carpeting was really ugly, but this was a bit extreme, even for Sam.  He very much needed to quiet his brother down. 

 

Crossing the remaining distance, or starting to, Dean was stopped after a few steps by louder, more panicked shouts.

 

“Dean!  Don’t move.  They’ll get you.”

 

Get me?  What?  Nothing here.

 

“You don’t see them?  God, Dean they’re right there.  Get away.”  Sam scrambled to the other end of the bed.  He was stark white, sweating and shaking so badly his teeth rattled.

 

Dean lunged at him, feeling his own heart beat faster. Dread grasped his chest, made his insides flutter.

 

“Dean please.  Please!  Make them stop, go away, make them go away.”  Sam backpedaled across the bed, away from Dean, slipping off the bed just as Dean’s talons were about to close on his arms.  Having to think about how much pressure to use, and exactly how to take hold of him, Dean was slower than he might have been.

 

Bouncing over the bed Dean followed Sam to the floor.  Wedging himself in the corner, between a chair and a table there, Sam bent his legs, pulling himself into a ball, knees under his chin, arms wrapped around his shins.  Hair hanging in damp strings across his face, Sam was shaking, rocking back and forth, sobbing between stammering out pleas for Dean to stop some invasion, punctuated by gasps and outright screams.  It was amazing how someone so big could look so small, helpless.

 

Sam yelped again, his voice getting raw and hoarse.  This time he clawed at his arms with his hands, flattening to the wall behind him as if he was trying to push on through.  “Get them off me!” 

 

Dean’s heart pounded in his mouth, filling his airway until he struggled desperately to breathe normally.  Having no idea really what Sam was feeling or from who, what Sam thought he saw, or maybe actually saw, he could only guess, offer himself conjecture.  Sam was no help. He didn’t know any more than Dean did, was simply reacting to the feelings, physical and mental assaulting him.

 

Shoving into the small spot with his brother, Dean wrapped both arms around Sam’s pinning them to his sides, preventing Sam from hurting himself.  Sam felt what he felt, fed off not only Dean, but others around him.  Using arms, legs, tail and wings to keep Sam still Dean wrapped around his brother, trying to shield him from the world with his own body.

 

Dean concentrated on nothing but his own breathing.  Pinching his eyes tightly shut, Dean remembered how his humming….purring…calmed his young brother earlier.  Not picking any tune, Dean let the deep, smooth sound rumble up from his chest in time with his own breathing.  He had to concentrate to slow his hammering heart, keep his breathing even, normal, steady.  In…out…in….out…slow, calm, steady.  Eventually Sam responded.  Relaxing in Dean’s grasp, it took a few minutes, but Sam’s breathing began matching his own.

 

Sam felt what Dean felt.  If Dean remained calm it was reasonable to believe that might somewhat offset anything Sam’s receiver picked up from others.  Dean was closest to Sam, and not just in the geographical sense.  It made sense Sam might be more sensitive to Dean’s emotions, physical sensations than he was to strangers.

 

Sam felt what he felt.  Breath in, breath out.  Calm, relax, deep breath in, slow exhale out.  Sam rested more weight against him.  Dean felt his brother relax, the tension radiate off him, dissipating harmlessly into the atmosphere.  Sam settled more, seeming content, if not totally consoled; his breathing matched Dean’s now.  Dean exhaled a deep breath; a small puff of smoke rose in a lazy path toward the ceiling.  It was mesmerizing.  Both brothers turned their heads to watch.  Sam smiled a bit, extracting one arm he poked at the billow, swirling it with one finger.  Dean chuckled, sending another small cloud up, this time he scrunched his nostrils just as it billowed away making a smoke ring.

 

“Show off.”  Sam’s voice was more its normal timbre, still shaky, not panicked, affectionate. It was disturbing how fast Sam changed gears.  Dean wondered if the kid would survive a week of this, if Dean would.  He was beginning to seriously worry Sam would burn out, or simply snap before this stopped.

 

Dean’s tail dropped away from his brother’s legs, his grip loosened.  Sam didn’t move, other than to lift his head, watching the smoke curl up, lengthen and fan out before disappearing all together.  Twenty-four and Sam could still be entertained with smoke rings…who knew.  Emotions plowed into Dean, threatening to pull him under like an unseen riptide.  They weren’t his emotions, but radiated out from his brother in waves.  Sam, Dean could tell, was oblivious to what was happening.  Was it possible Sam was projecting, transmitting as well as receiving?  Strong and powerful enough, had Dean not been sitting he would have been knocked off his feet.  He was flooded with feelings of accepted…wanted…home…Safe. 

 

This was what Sam felt?  Truly felt?  He’d said it, in one way or another most his life, but only in the last year had Dean even begun to think he could believe it.  There was a difference in this, whatever this was, he had the sudden ability to comprehend, feel, experience.  Now Dean knew, knew his value to Sam.  Overwhelming and immeasurable were the sentiments washing over him, straight through him.  Dean was the absolute center of Sam’s universe.  Sam would not ‘be fine’ without him, would never be the same without Dean.

 

When the alarm clock chimed they both jumped.  Levering Sam up, stepping away for only the few seconds it took to see he was still shaking, and not balancing well, Dean’s tail wound around Sam’s middle, guiding him to the bed and dumping him there.  Sam may have calmed, but he was still deathly pale, sweating, shivering and not standing on his own.  Reaching for the alarm it took Sam two tries to shut it off, but if Dean tried his talons would slice it to pieces.  Dean’s hopes of leaving tonight sank.  Sam would never be able to drive in this state.

 

“Dean what is this?  What’s happening to me?”  Sam’s eyes were liquid, pleading for understanding, an answer from Dean.

 

Good question Sammy.

 

Realizing so far Sam only reacted to people in fairly close proximity he was willing to bet whoever this was coming from was here in the motel somewhere.  Problem was Dean couldn’t exactly go busting into rooms searching for someone with the same symptoms.  He could, he reasoned take a look around, see what he could find out.  Laying one hand on Sam’s shoulder Dean pointed to the door with the other hand.

 

Sam shook his head, no doubts from Dean his brother understood his intent, he simply didn’t like it.  Dean nodded, again pointing to the door, then motioning to where Sam sat.  Sam understood perfectly.  So did Dean.  Sam didn’t like it and didn’t want to agree to it.  Nodding again, with more conviction this time, and holding up both hands Dean backed to the door.

 

“Fifteen minutes.”  Sam said.  “I’m coming to look for you in sixteen minutes, and I don’t care if I have to crawl.  If you get caught out there…”

 

When Sam’s voice trailed off Dean stopped, his tail rested on top of Sam’s head briefly before skimming down the back of his head.  He gave Sam one final glance before slipping out of the door.

 

Soundlessly he paced down the row of rooms.  It was late, there was no activity and plenty of shadows for him to hide in.  He had no problem at all seeing in the dim light and his hearing was far better than it had been before waking up a dragon.  Pausing every few doors, he strained to hear any clues of someone suffering the same ailment as Sam.  At the end of the row was the entrance to the pool.  Across the way was another row of rooms, the motel office at the end.  A parking lot filled the space in between.

 

Reaching the pool area, Dean prowled around, seeing no one, before ducking around the back of the row of rooms.  To the side of the pool area, and behind the motel was an empty field.  At the corner of the building was a pay phone.  He moved cautiously down the back of the motel building, there were storage rooms and supply areas for the housekeeping staff along with a room marked Pool Room.  A second sign announced it was for employees only. Dean leaned closer to those rooms too, listening for anything.

 

A dark shape caught his attention.  Lying on the grass, about halfway along the row of rooms was a dark jacketed mound, slumped at awkward angles.  A few items were strewn in a haphazard line to one side of the lump.  Dean crept closer to investigate.  A long, thin dirty yellow piece of rubber brushed fingertips that lay still in the short grass.  A few syringes were scattered near the boy’s hip, he reeked of vomit, urine and filth.  Long, dark hair covered his face.  If he didn’t know better Dean would have thought this was Sam.

 

Moaning, the lump moved, pulling arms under chest preparing to push up.  It groaned.  Dean didn’t do anything, just stood there, watching.  Normally he would have helped the kid up, but doing so now might just cause heart attacks, so Dean remained motionless.  He’d seen the same boy earlier from a distance, the scraggly kid lurking around the motel buildings.  Leaning back on his haunches Dean watched the kid climb to consciousness.  Not wanting to frighten him too badly, accepting it was going to be inevitable, and wanting it minimized Dean stayed perfectly still.  He was constantly mindful of the fact, Sam felt what he felt, what this kid felt, what everyone in this motel felt.  Frightening this kid meant frightening Sam, which could lead to Sam out wandering around looking for him.  At the very least it would culminate in Sam sitting in their room, alone, not knowing where the fear came from or why.

 

The kid got his upper body off the ground, elbows under his chest holding him up.  He lifted his head, looked straight ahead, groaned then slowly turned to face Dean’s glare.  Dean’s heart did a flip and nearly stopped this kid looked so much like Sam.  He looked more like Sam’s brother than Dean ever did.  It sent shivers he couldn’t control or stop coursing the length of his spine, then oddly his tail right to the tip.

 

Keep it together, stay focused, Sam feels what I feel.

 

Not sure what disturbed him more, this kid, his reactions, his obvious problem, or Sam alone in their room living the exact same thing this instant, alone.  Dean hedged closer to the boy who looked shocked, sick and uncertain, but didn’t move.

 

“What are you?”  The boy’s voice was harsh and thick.  Christ he even sounds like Sam.

 

Dean cocked his head to one side and snorted a short burst of flame.  He reached out with one taloned hand and flicked the syringes and tourniquet away.  Then thinking better of it, he scooped them up, stood, covered the short distance between himself and the nearest trash can and deposited the items in there.  Turning back he blew out another flame and fluttered his wings for effect.

 

“That was some damn good shit.  You my conscience or something?”

 

Not exactly.   He’d go with it though.  Dean was nothing if not adaptable.  Nodding he snarled, more flames blasted out.  The kid cringed away, rolling so he could sit up.  Dean saw he’d been covering other things with his body.  Scattered on the ground were a few pictures, a wallet and some sort of child’s toy, the kind you got in fast food places.   Settling on the ground again, nearer to the boy, Dean poked the pictures with a talon.  The kid’s reaction was immediate, and somewhat startling.  He snatched the pictures and the toy in one hand, clutching them to his chest.  Panting, he looked nervously around them, scooted away from Dean a bit.

 

Did Sam feel that?  Stay calm.  How much time passed?

 

Dean used his tail, it seemed less threatening than the rest of him, to tap at the boy’s clenched fist.  The boy’s eyes trailed down.  The expression told Dean these were precious treasures.  His fingers loosened a fraction, his hand moved so Dean could see, but not touch, the pictures.  There was one of the boy, a younger version, a man and woman and a girl.

 

“That’s my mom and dad, my sister Erin.  She collects these things,” he thumbed the toy.  “She gave me this one when I had my tonsils out.  She’s almost done with school, gonna be an architect.  She’s getting married this winter.  Probably doesn’t want me there now.” 

 

It was impossible for Dean not to notice the boy’s mother hand long, wavy blonde hair.  His sister had the same wavy hair, but it was deep red.  His tail tapped at the second picture.  It was a snapshot, not a professional picture as the first one was.  The boy was seated on a bench, his sister, Erin, behind him, one arm around his neck, smiling over the top of his head.

 

“That’s me and Erin last summer at something for her school she wanted me to come see.” 

 

Dean felt like he’d been punched in the gut.  This kid’s family was probably worried sick about him.  His sister obviously, at least in that snapshot, loved her brother very much.  Not knowing how to convey to this boy he simply needed to go home, or even find out where the kid lived Dean’s eyes wandered the area.  He let out a frustrated huff.  The pay phone came back into view, but it wasn’t like he had a pocket full of change.  Whatever, semantics.

 

Ok, kid, I’m pushing a deadline here, so just cooperate with me.

 

Tail winding tightly around the boy’s middle Dean stood, forcing the kid to his feet.  Dragging the boy along behind him, ignoring the indignant squawks and wet, gurgly protests, and even the bit of spitting and gagging Dean shoved him at the pay phone, stopping just short of slamming him into it.

 

The kid leaned against the phone, but didn’t make any move to dial or anything useful like that.  Dean jabbed at the number keys.

 

“Figures my subconscious on drugs would be a pushy version of Puff the Magic Dragon.”

 

Dean resisted the urge to incinerate him and just be done with it.  Instead he poked the kid’s shoulder with his tail, pointing at the phone.  I’ll show you pushy if you don’t hurry the hell up.

 

“Think I should call them…maybe call Erin?”

 

Now he was getting the idea.  Dean nodded enthusiastically.

 

“They probably don’t want to talk to me, care what happens to me.”

 

Oh for the love of….Your FAMILY you stupid ass of course they do!  They’re probably worried about you.  They’ll take care of you, get you help.  He gave the kid’s shoulder another poke, more insisting this time.

 

The boy looked long and hard at the phone.  Tears welling up in his eyes, the toy and pictures still held tightly.  He dug in his pockets with his other hand, pulled out some change.  Leaning heavily against the phone, hunched around, but not so much Dean couldn’t see him feeding coins into the slot.

 

Dean turned, heading back to his room, certain his fifteen minute curfew had gone long by.  A glance back at the boy, he was still hunched over the phone.  If Dean saw him again, he’d get Sam to place a call to the local police.  Getting the kid arrested wasn’t what Dean wanted, but it would get him help.  More importantly it would get him away from Sam.  Rounding the corner to the front of the building in time for him to see Sam slide along the wall to the pavement, it was only the quick flapping of wings that kept Dean from falling over his brother.  The wings really were sort of handy to have.

 

Sam looked up at him with tired, red, puffy eyes that had dark circles underneath.  Scratched at his neck until Dean’s tail stopped him and offered Dean a small smile.  “You didn’t come back in time.  I was worried someone called animal control or something.  You didn’t come back.”  Sam’s voice was thick with exhaustion, verging on frantic and very much lost.

 

Dean sighed, blew out a smoke ring, which got enough of a smile from Sam the dimples were engaged…yeah Dean was definitely going to have some teasing material with this reaction.  Reaching down, he grabbed Sam under the arms, hoisting him up on his long new born colt legs before sliding both arms around Sam’s chest and back.  Sam draped one arm loosely across Dean’s shoulders, not hesitating to let Dean take most his weight.  What he did next surprised Dean for a moment, then sent a happy warmth spreading through him.  Sam reached up with his free arm, wrapping it around Dean’s neck in a way he hadn’t since he’d gotten to big for Dean to cart to bed when Sam fell asleep on the floor or in the car.  Another smoke ring snuck out.  Sam laughed softly, watching it float up, branch out to nothingness, carried off by the slight breeze.  Dean remembered entertaining a much younger and smaller younger brother with bubbles.  Apparently it was something one never out grew.  He made a mental note that once he was a man again to buy some bubbles.

 

Wrestling Sam back to their room Dean wished, not for the first time, that Sam was still much younger and smaller.  He was easier to move around back then.

 

“Good thing I paid for two nights, just in case.”  Sam mumbled when Dean dropped him on his bed.  “We got any snacks, something to munch on?”  Sam bounced a bit on the bed.  “Wanna watch TV?  Maybe play a game?”

 

Great, he couldn’t have had this burst of energy and been wound up five minutes ago when Dean was struggling to get him back to their room?  Dean spent the next five or six exhausting hours watching his brother go from damn near giddy, to an itchy toddler with chicken pox (really those people couldn’t take their sick kid home?), to sobbing inconsolably because some asshole named Bill left some bimbo named Star.  Bill came back a few hours later, but the make up sex wasn’t nearly as funny as it had been the first time Sam lived through it.  Apparently Star had a few freakish fetishes too.  Then someone else reduced Sam to a desperate, emotionless shell capable of doing nothing more than huddling in a ball, rocking.  The pointing and panicking over unseen things crawling around their room, over them started up around dawn, but Sam was too drained, too completely fatigued to do more than drop his head against Dean’s shoulder, shuddering.  Through it all the kid never once complained.  Twice he simply looked at Dean with dark moist eyes and stated he’d do it again, and more if he had to.  Sam passed out not too long after that, Dean’s thigh being confiscated and used as a pillow.

 

They had to get out of here.  Another day of this would kill Sam.

 

Thankfully Sam slept until early evening.  Dean watched the harried parents of the chicken pox kid pack him and his wailing brothers into their car and drive off.  He’d have whooped in celebration, but the noise would have rousted Sam from sleep, so he cheered them on silently.  Bill and Star headed off to find a sex shop, the sharper hearing wasn’t such a blessing just then and seemingly healthy, nice normal people was all he saw.  By the time Sam was awake, Dean had finished packing their things, and had them all piled by the door waiting to be taken to the car.

 

“I’m going to grab a shower first, if it’s ok.”  Sam blinked at him, groggy, looking like he could sleep another month, but otherwise ok.  Dean nodded, unable to resist the soft snort that produced a smoke ring.  Sam grinned stupidly, “Man, that is so cool.”

 

Back out a few minutes later, water dripping from his hair, Sam hopped into his jeans as he crossed the room.  Sitting on his bed he pulled his shoes on, tying them, started to stand, but fell back shoving his forehead against his hands and leaning into his knees.  At first Dean thought it was a vision, never mind Sam hadn’t had one since the demon was gone.  Then realized Sam was gulping in air, crying and trying to stop.  When Dean’s tail touched his brother’s shoulder Sam’s face turned up, tortured, sad eyes meeting Dean’s.

 

“All alone, he’s all alone.  Scared.” 

 

It was interesting Sam was able to know the gender of whose feelings he picked up.  Whoever was alone was in bad shape, but it was too light out for Dean to track another person down and he’d knock Sam out cold if he tried.  Pulling Sam up, Dean flung his shirt at him.  Nodding, a sniff, Sam finished dressing, gathered up their bags and headed out the door.  Dean watched closely from the window.  The lid of the trunk popped up, partially concealing Sam.  All of him in Dean’s line of vision was one arm, shoulder and leg.  He could tell Sam was packing the trunk, arranging things to fit well, just like he always did.  One hand on the trunk lid, about to close it, and they’d be out of here.

 

Dean froze when that hand gripped with enough force Sam’s knuckles went white.  Dean saw his shoulders jerk.  He didn’t hear anything, no voices, and only the slightest movement.  Alarm bells went off in Dean’s head.  

 

Get out of there Sammy, get back in here.  Now!

 

What was it?  Dean couldn’t see.  As if answering Dean’s silent plea for unobstructed line of sight the trunk slowly closed.  Sam backed away hands held out, but he was blocking Dean’s view of whoever was there with Sam.

 

Dean heard a voice, it took only a second or two before he recognized it.

 

“They told me not to come back….”  The boy he’d found strung out in the field. 

 

Sam stopped backing away when his fingers ran across the Impala’s door handle.  Dean saw a ripple go through Sam’s shoulders, then a full out shudder run down his back.

 

“And when that guy finds out I stole his stuff, he’ll kill me.”

 

Sam twisted enough for Dean to see the gun inches from his brother’s nose.  Shit, shit, shit.  Shit!!  Not caring if anyone saw and did call animal control, Dean nearly ripped the door from the door jam yanking it open.  Sam shot a wild rabbit look at Dean.  The scraggly, now armed kid grabbed Sam by the shirt, slipped past him into the car and yanked Sam after him, still holding the gun on him.  Sam’s eyes roamed all around him, one hand ran through his hair, he opened his mouth, said nothing and shut it when the gun jammed into his temple.

 

The Impala’s engine roared to life.  The car peeled away at almost the same instant.  Sam careened out of the parking lot and down the road, missing slamming into oncoming traffic by inches.

 

Dean was out the door a half second too late.  Sam was trapped in a car with some strung out, desperate kid with a stolen gun.  Sam who was a walking antenna for everything the scared, desperate strung out kid with a stolen gun was feeling, physically as well as emotionally.

 

Not good, this was not good.

 

Three strides had Dean clear of the room and the overhang.  He didn’t even give it much thought, other than it was the fastest way to keep up with their car which had become Sam’s prison.  Two powerful flaps from fully extended wings and Dean was airborne. 

 

 

                           

 


 

 

 

 Dragons see the invisible, feel the intangible, and achieve the impossible…..by John Scevola

 

 Dean might not have liked airplanes or flying in them, but this….this wasn’t so bad.  A few more beats and he was high enough hopefully no one would notice him, or more importantly be able to shoot him.  A minute or two experimentation and he found he needed to pump his long wings only a few times. He could glide for miles before needing to propel himself along farther.  More beats and less gliding produced more speed.

 

He caught up to the Impala in no time.  It was easy to spot the large black car from such a high altitude.  Wishing he could pick up on Sam’s feelings as he’d done the night before so he could know more exactly what was going on inside the car. Though he had a pretty fair idea how Sam must be feeling about now, probably not much different than Dean.  Reminding himself to stay calm, Sam felt what he felt, he didn’t need his own emotions making things worse for his kid brother.  Knowing their destination would’ve been nice, but then again neither of the car’s occupants likely knew either.

 

Sam was driving awfully fast, fortunately there were few cars on the road, and the ones there were the Impala easily bypassed.  Sam didn’t drive as much as Dean, he never had, it had lessened even more after being plowed over by a semi, and that worried Dean some.  As long as the road stayed this clear the danger of hitting other cars was lessened.  He didn’t want the junkie’s panic to influence Sam’s ability to drive.

 

Dean followed along, trying to figure a way to stop the car.  Coming up with only one plan, one simple, foolhardy, reckless plan Dean spent another minute trying for another one.  Nope, nothing else came to mind.   Sam was going to just plain hurt him for this, if Sam didn’t actually hurt him for real.  The plan was simple. Most the better ones were Dean consoled himself.  If he landed in the middle of the road and stayed planted there, the car would have to stop, or go into the corn fields lining the road, either way it was bound to stop.

 

Sam was going to hurt him.

 

Dean wasn’t worried Sam would actually hit him with the car.  First off it would risk denting the car, more importantly Dean knew it would risk denting Dean.  Sam didn’t like it when Dean got dented, and avoided it at all costs.  There were few absolutes in Dean’s life, but the most important was, and always had been, his brother loved him.  It was something Dean had come to know as unquestionable fact.  He’d have to spend at least a month listening to Sam bitch and whine about Dean dropping out of the sky to land in front of an oncoming half ton of car, but eh, it wasn’t like Sam wouldn’t find something to bitch and whine about anyway.  And really, after all the bitching and whining about selling his soul, this paled in comparison.

 

Sam was going to hurt him, but Sam wouldn’t hit him with the car.  He’d take a bullet from that gun pointed at his head first.  Dean wanted to avoid that at all costs, because it would lead right back to dead Sam, which was what got Dean into this mess in the first place.

 

Hopefully the strung out, desperate kid holding his brother at gunpoint would be shocked enough by his ‘conscience’ making another appearance Sam could get away from him.

 

Another few beats and he was directly above the speeding car.  His mind whirled, trying to work out landing.  Flight had been easy, he hadn’t thought too much of it other than he needed a way to follow Sam.  Landing he realized all of a sudden might be a bit trickier.  Extending his legs, he arched his upper body more skyward, the drag of air against his wings slowed his speed. He dropped back behind the Impala.  Landing behind it wouldn’t have the same effect.  Straightening and flapping until he was a few car lengths in front of the Impala, Dean worked out in his mind how to do this.

 

He didn’t have a chance at a second try, an SUV (really how do people drive those things?) pulled up behind his car, his car with his brother trapped inside with a desperate, strung out kid with a gun…and rammed the back bumper!  What the…???  Shit.  Shitshitshit.  SHIT!

 

The Impala swerved, pulling ahead of the SUV.  Atta boy, Sammy.  Keep your cool kiddo, I’m coming, just stay cool.

 

Dean dropped to a lower level, that part wasn’t so difficult.  Thinking about what he wanted to do seemed to make it happen.  Hovering over the attacking SUV for nothing more than a second or two, Dean got low enough his feet ran across the vehicle’s roof.  It jerked, swerving wilding over the road, running an oncoming pickup off to the shoulder.

 

He saw Sam’s head snap around, taking a quick look behind him.  Dean caught a quick flash of a grin on his brother’s face.  The gun next to Sam’s head jerked and waved making Sam face forward again.  The SUV barreled past the Impala, doing Dean’s job for him, it swung around and skidded to a halt.  Sam had to spin the car sideways to stop fast enough and avoid smashing into the SUV’s side.  It appeared Sam had a soft spot about denting anything, because Dean would have driven straight through that cheap tin can and not so much as scraped the Impala’s paint.

 

The driver’s side door of the Impala flung open wide and Sam was thrown out, landing on hands and knees.  The junkie kid followed, gun still waving around, and the brat did NOT just kick his brother’s shoulders keeping him on the ground.  Sam rolled away, lifting up as far as his knees, fingers laced together behind his head.  His eyes shifted from the boy holding him hostage to Dean’s approaching form and back again.

 

Two men got out of the SUV.  “Can’t stop stealing things can you?”  One snapped at the junkie kid.  Dean was beyond relieved they were ignoring Sam, for now.

 

The kid looked from them to Sam.  He fired the gun, missing everyone, knocking himself backwards he bounced off the car.  Sam scooted farther from him, farther from the other men.  The gun swung in Sam’s direction again.

 

Dean dropped out of the sky, landing almost not awkwardly between Sam and the gun.  Wings spread he roared, which had the men and the kid covering their ears.  Turning his head he blew a wave of flame at the SUV, those things needed burning anyway, then left a fiery trail ten feet long or so, just daring someone to try and cross.

 

Puff the Magic Dragon my scaly gold and green ass!

 

From behind him Sam barked a short laugh.

 

Really Sammy, a bit too creepy.

 

The scraggly big pain in Dean’s ass junkie shrieked, turned and ran, slipping across the graveled brim of the road and fell into one of the corn fields.   The men from the SUV were distracted enough by a dragon igniting their car the kid disappeared among the stalks of corn a minute later.

 

One of the SUV guys sported an automatic machine gun, recovered his wits a bit more quickly than his buddy and turned towards Dean, weapon up and aimed at Dean’s chest.  He wondered if his scales might be bullet proof, but decided this was not the time, or the way to find out.

 

We gotta go Sammy.

 

Flipping around so fast his vision blurred briefly Dean beat his wings, lunged at his somewhat startled brother, snatching the waist band of Sam’s jeans with the talons of his hands Dean launched up.

 

Flying by himself had been easy.  Flying with an extra couple hundred pounds of Sam turned out to be a bit more of a challenge.  Sam made some odd gulping sound, twisted enough so he could grab onto Dean with arms and legs.

 

“Dean!  Shit…ground…ground…trees…trees…no, ground…no trees…”  Letting go with one hand Sam reached up and smacked the side of Dean’s head.  Moron, open your eyes!  Crap the ground, the trees.  DEAN!!!  Ground!”

 

Every time Sam moved, or yelled or pointed to the approaching ground, trees, whatever else he was lamenting about, Dean was thrown off balance, dropping down then two flaps of his wings and he’d go up again, thrown to the side by Sam’s extra weight….one too many funnel cakes there Sammy…And really all the shouting directions was distracting.  Twice he tipped completely sideways, nearly losing Sam in the process of righting himself.

 

They made it look so easy in the movies.

 

“Trees…trees…TREES!”

 

He cleared the trees, sort of.  Sam wheezed out some newly discovered swear words, clutched himself closer to Dean’s chest, arms around his neck now and arched away from the tree tops.  Dean deftly picked leaves out of his brother’s hair, letting them sail away on the wind.  Sam crossed his ankles over the base of Dean’s tail.

 

Great, here he was a proud and mighty dragon, flying along looking like an overgrown kangaroo with a six foot four loud, irritable, demanding joey attached to his side.  Might have been easier to have gone to Hell, would have definitely been quieter and more dignified.  The things he did for this kid.

 

Sam twisted again, letting his arms drop away from Dean’s neck, pointing to something in the distance he must’ve thought interesting, “Wow, Dean look at….” His words were swallowed when he lost his grip with his legs, slipping completely away from Dean.  Wonderful, now he was going to have to see who would reach the ground first, him or Sam.

 

Dean lurched forward, reversed the direction of his beating wings and plunged after Sam.  Surprisingly it took him nothing more than seconds to catch up and grab a hold of his brother again.  This time Sam’s arms and legs wound around him tightly, staying put.  He did twist his head and shoulders side to side, scanning the ground below, probably looking for more damn trees.

 

Carrying Sam along with him was getting tiring, and Dean was back to the issue of landing.  He couldn’t belly flop on the ground, he’d smoosh Sam.  He could try landing on his feet as he had earlier, but again Sam was in the way.  He’d have to find a spot to drop his brother without hurting him.  The area was littered with camp grounds, farms and small ponds.  Finding an out of the way pond, surrounded by brush and trees and looking fairly desolate Dean swooped low enough, wondering if Sam would get the idea.

 

When Sam’s back skimmed the water, he let go.  Splash down.  Dean righted his torso, feet touching the ground he took a few steps before coming to a full stop.  Pulling out of the water, standing to his full height and shaking droplets from his hands and hair Sam bound in long strides over to Dean.

 

“WOW…that was…wow!”  He grabbed Dean’s shoulders, shaking him a few times.  “Can we do it again?  Can we?”

 

No.  Dean started walking in the direction they’d come.

 

“Aww c’mon Dean, that was too cool, the coolest thing ever!”  Sam was bouncing on his toes, hopping along beside Dean like an overgrown nine year old.  He pulled car keys from his pocket.  “It’ll get you back to your car faster.”

 

No.

 

“Deeaaan.  Please.  I’ll wash the car every day for a month, two months.”

 

Ummm…well…nope.  He should smack Sam for taking the risk of grabbing the keys on the way out of the car.  Really what was the boy thinking, doing something like that?  As much as he loved his car, it was replaceable.  His brother wasn’t.

 

“I didn’t want that kid taking it.”

 

Yeah, well don’t do it again.  Dean blew a few smoke rings.  Not hearing any soft chuckle from Sam he turned to face his brother and looked at thin air.  Now what?

 

Sam was sitting on the ground, staring at that miniature civilization which apparently followed him around, picking at the grass.  Dean crossed his arms over his chest, fluttered his wings a bit.  “Sam, what the hell you doing?”  Which came out a series of clicks, a grunt and more smoke.  

 

Sam was ignoring the smoke rings.  Oh gee.  “It’s a really long walk Dean.”  He picked at more grass, pulling it up, letting it slide through his fingers to flutter back to the ground.  His other hand rubbed against his knee.  Lifting his eyes, Sam peered at him from under his bangs.

 

Sam.  No.  Not working this time Sammy, just not, nope, no way, not working.  Dean turned, started walking away.  Sam sniffed.  Crap.  Don’t look, don’t look, just don’t….too late.  Aw damn.  Shouldn’t have looked.

 

“It’s been a rough couple of days ya know?  I’m beat.”  Another sniff.  More grass pulled away.  There it was, the pout added to the sad, moist doe eyes.

 

Dean was doomed.  He prided himself on being the absolute best, most awesome big brother ever.  Chin dropping to rest against his chest for a minute Dean met his brother’s moist, sad, completely manipulative eyes.  Snorting a quick burst of flame he sighed. 

 

Sam let his forehead rest against bent knees, turned his head sideways just a tad to watch Dean.  One corner of his mouth turned up the slightest, “Maybe just rest a bit I guess?”  He stopped the quivering of his lower lip by pulling it in between his teeth.

 

Low blow Sammy.  Dean straightened, waggled two talons in a ‘come here’ motion.

 

Sam’s grin nearly split his face in two.  Oh he was bursting with energy now, up and running at Dean in one motion.  Arms around Dean’s shoulders Sam nodded he was ready.  A few flaps and up they went, Sam swung his legs up so he could hook his ankles over Dean’s back.  It was easier this time, Dean only tipped sideways once.

 

They managed to make it back to the Impala without further incident.  Their car was just where they’d left it.    The mostly incinerated SUV had been moved down the road, and into an empty field.  Abandoned no doubt to burn and cover the tracks of the two men in it.  More dark than light now, long shadows cast across the corn fields and over the road.  It was a clear evening, bright with pinks and golds of the setting sun lighting the sky.

 

Dean stuffed into the back seat, Sam tossed a light blanket over him to conceal him further.  They made a quick trip back to the motel, collected the rest of their belongings and checked out.  Finally they were able to head off to the camp ground they’d decided to wait out the rest of the week in.  Sam gave up poking and nudging at Dean to take him flying again around midnight.  Thumping on the top of Sam’s head with his tail every time the subject came up might have been a small incentive to the subject being laid to rest for the night.

 

Early morning brought a glorious sunrise, pleasant temperatures and an abrupt shattering of their peace. 

 

Ten year olds.  A freaking pack of ten year olds!  Some school group, or scouts, or who knew or cared, but they were surrounded by freaking, noisy, overly excited ten year olds.

 

Sam jabbed at one of his wings, making Dean squirm away, tickles Sammy.  Giggling….freaking giggling like a...well a ten year old, Sam poked the wing again.  Sam, not nice to molest a man’s wings!

 

“C’mon Dean, let’s go do something.  There’s hardly anyone around, we can go swimming, or flying.”

 

Oh lord.  He’d created a monster.

 

Cracking one eye open, slamming it shut just as fast, Dean curled his tail around his body, tucking his snout underneath.  It was barely daylight and the kid was bouncing around like, well….an overgrown kid.  Dean thought better of trying to communicate his need for coffee to his brother.  Maybe the less caffeine in Sam’s system right now the better.

 

“Dean,” Sam tugged on Dean’s arm, lifting up one wing to get at it.  “Come on Dean.  I’m bored.  We can go hiking, or fishing.  I don’t wanna just sit around here all day.”  Another insistent tug.  “Deeaann.”

 

Rolling over and glaring at Sam, he blew enough flame to get his brother to back up.  He could do this, he really could.  Hoping he didn’t have to relive Sam Winchester the teen years, because if he did…well, saying the boy had been angry and unhappy was a major understatement, he’d find a nice quiet corner in Hell.  He knew people there, bet they had a great poker night.   The first time Sam was ten Dean had been fourteen, now he was too old for this crap.

 

“Deeeaaannnnn.”

 

Ok, ok…keep your shorts on.

 

Standing, stretching his wings Dean shook off the last vestiges of sleep, he’d miss them too, could have let them hang around for a few more hours.

 

“You’re hungry.”  Sam wasn’t asking.  The upper half of him was bent into the back of the car.  Dean saw things being shoved around, a few bags looked into then discarded. 

 

They’d pitched their tent alongside the Impala.  Opposite the car was a cliff wall effectively blocking anyone’s view unless they walked around between the car and the cliff, giving Dean plenty of space to move around unseen. 

 

Casting a glance back at Dean, then to the car, Sam scrunched his nose.  “We need food.  I should go get food.”  He looked toward the road, back at Dean, deciding to settle on staring down at his feet.

 

Sam’s previous expedition out into the big, wide world hadn’t been what Dean called a resounding success.  Who knew what he’d pick up on this time, out there…alone…assaulted by every stray emotion and physical sensation floating by him.  It was scary to Dean, he could only imagine what it felt like, the anticipation of it, to Sam.  The other fact remained right now he’d be sending a ten year old in a car for breakfast.  It was likely Dean would end up eating Ho Ho’s and candy bars, a bit much even for him.

 

Shimmying into the back seat of the Impala, Dean pulled the blanket over himself.  Come on Sammy, I can go too.  That seemed to bolster Sam into folding into the driver’s seat.  As they left the campground and the squalling pack of kids Sam reverted more to his normal self.  Dean’s heart did a small flutter when his brother flicked on the radio, finding a classic rock station.  Grinning over his shoulder at Dean, Sam’s fingers tapped a relaxed beat to the music.  The kid literally beamed when Dean started to hum…purr…whatever.  He might not be able to go into the store with Sam, but Sam would know he was out waiting in the car, a safe haven.

 

Dean was pleased to see Sam appear from the depths of the store not too long after going in.  Though he didn’t look as happy or relaxed as he had going in.  Shopping was stressful. 

 

Tossing the bags in ahead of him, Sam shut the car door with far more gusto than necessary, gunned the engine and pulled out onto the road like he was being chased, growling out a terse, “Shut up.” 

 

Dean hadn’t actually said anything, or made a noise.  He let it slide and left Sam be, hummed (Ok, purred) to the radio.  Digging through a bag with one hand, driving with the other Sam reached over the seat, a cup with steam curling from its top in his hand.  “Sorry.”  Dean knew a peace offering when he was offered one.  He silently took the cup, blew a few smoke rings, making his brother smile. 

 

By the time they’d returned to the campground Sam was more relaxed, though far from cheerful.  He’d fallen quiet.  The morning went smoothly. The pack of ten year olds had moved off to do something.  Dean played solitaire while Sam stretched out propped against the car reading.  Dean’s afternoon was a bit more adventurous.  The ten year olds came back, it was bound to happen, bringing with them all their ten year old bumps and bruises, snotty antagonism and boredom.  It was going to be a long second half to this day.  Twice Dean fished Sam out of a tree, suspecting Sam was using this for some stealth flying.  Sam was pretty quick to point out what was the point of having a dragon for a big brother if he didn’t take advantage of it?  The third time Dean realized he’d never actually seen a human skeleton in a tree, so he left Sam up there, bitching and moaning.  He ignored Sam stomping back to their section of the campground, deciding when it was dark he’d give the kid another flight.

 

“Really?”  Sam looked up, brightened.

 

Having Sam practically able to read his mind was starting to grate on his last nerve.  Dean nodded and roasted some corn and hot dogs Sam pushed a stick through.  Dean moved on to marshmallows, all the while making smoke rings.  Sam jumping up, acting like a nervous groom, one hand running through his hair, breath sucked in too fast grabbed Dean’s attention.

 

“Hi.  Need something?”

 

Dean froze.

 

“Kid, back up slowly.  Just stay calm.”  An older man, he’d come with the deranged pack of ten year olds, stood not two feet from Sam.

 

“Um…why?”  Sam smiled innocently.

 

“That monster.  God, we have to call….somebody.”

 

Sam made a big show of looking around, turning in a circle and shrugging before facing the man again.  “What monster?  My car?  That’s not nice.”

 

“You don’t see that, that, so help me it looks like a dragon, holding a marshmallow.”

 

Dean saw Sam visibly have to choke down his laugh.  Holding his breath and nearly biting his tongue into pieces to keep quiet and still Dean fought away the panic.

 

“You’re here with all those kids, aren’t you?”  Sam’s eyes narrowed, he took on an accusatory tone.

 

“Yeah, but—“

 

“Well don’t you think, sir,”  Sam stepped forward, hand dropping onto the man’s shoulder, “You shouldn’t be drinking or doing drugs or whatever it is you’re doing that’s making you hallucinate?”  Sam laughed.  “I mean, come on, a dragon?  Not real!”

 

“It’s right there!”

 

Sam turned again, shook his head.  “I’m sorry, the only thing there is woods.  Now, I’m up here to meditate, maybe you could leave me alone or I’ll have to call the park security.”

 

“You honestly don’t see anything?”

 

Another shake of Sam’s head, a small smile, he looked the picture of innocence and honesty.  “No sir, I’m sorry, I don’t.  Maybe you should go lay down, or can I call someone for you?”  Sam’s arm snaked around the man’s shoulders, turning him and ushering him away from their camp. 

 

“N-no.  I…I’m ok…I guess.”  The guy glanced back, Dean couldn’t resist waggling his fingers at the man in a wave.   “It waved at me.”

 

“There’s nothing there.  Will you be all right?”

 

“I, um…yeah…I’m just going back—“ The man motioned in the direction of the pack of children.  He stumbled a few times, nearly walked into a tree at one point turning to look at them.  Sam waved him on. 

 

“Dude!”  Sam snapped once they were safely alone again.

 

Me?!  Two of Dean’s talons thumped his chest, smoke coiled away from his nostrils.  He lashed his tail for effect.  You’re the one who wanted to gohikinggoswimingclimbatreeplaycatch…oh and don’t forget let’s fly!

 

Sam stormed over to the car, dropped beside it with a huff and a serious pout, pulled a magazine out and proceeded to ignore Dean.  Which was fine by Dean.

 

Twenty minutes later Sam was complaining he was bored…AGAIN.  He was hungry and there was nothing to eat…there was plenty!  He had nothing to wear, and no one shared with him or liked him.  Seriously, Dean was too old for this crap.

 

Tomorrow would be day four, they were almost half way there. It couldn’t happen fast enough.  Dean could only imagine what these sudden swings and mood changes were doing to Sam, who remembered every bit of them, felt them physically and struggled to deal with them.  He knew what they were doing to him, and he merely had to watch, not experience.  Figuring after it was dark they could go for a late night flight, and that might cheer Sam up.  At the least it would get him away from other people and offer some respite, even if it was a short one.  Being here wasn’t nearly as bad as the motel, they were farther away from others.  If this still wasn’t far enough away Dean reasoned they could pack up in the car and drive to the most desolate area they found, and wait out the rest there.

 

For the time being Dean decided leaving Sam alone was the best course of action.  As long as he could keep an eye on the kid, which was easy since Sam seemed reluctant to leave Dean right now.

 

He’d dozed off in the late afternoon sun waking to a shuffling noise and sniffing from the general direction of his brother.  Glancing at the sky, Dean decided he’d been asleep maybe an hour.  Gaze shifting to Sam he immediately recognized the actions.  Huddled in a tight ball with his back to the Impala, knees pulled to his chest Sam’s eyes were tightly shut, eyelashes damp.  He rocked back and forth in jerky, unsteady motions.  Dean moved toward him, slowly so as not to startle his brother, start the screaming and shouting over unseen invaders.  That might attract some very unwanted attention.

 

As soon as Dean moved Sam’s eyes snapped open, taking a few seconds to focus on him.  Scrambling closer to Dean, Sam tucked under one of his wings, shaking and Dean thought he felt a bit chilled.

 

Sammy?  Come on, talk to me, what’s wrong?

 

“They don’t want him.  Dean, they don’t want him.  He’s got no one, no where to go.  Scared.  Alone, he’s alone.  Wants to die.”  Sam hiccupped down more tears, pressing his face against his knees.

 

His last statement scared Dean, more than a small amount.  He had no idea how Sam would be affected, if he could separate someone else’s suicidal feelings from his own emotions.  He didn’t think Sam was so susceptible to this, so much out of control he’d harm himself even if it was against his own will, but he had no way of knowing for sure.  Repeating his earlier actions, using his wings and tail wrapped around Sam, his purring to help calm and distract him, Dean strained to hear any clues to who was nearby.  Emotions boiled off Sam like great waves from a reflecting pool. Despair, loneliness, depression mixed with a desire to help, a need to ease the hurt, sadness and confusion.  As with the night before Dean’s presence brought with it feelings of being safe and wanted.

 

He had a good idea it was his new worst nemesis, the junkie. When Sam abruptly passed out cold Dean wondered if the junkie had achieved his death goal.  Scooping Sam up and gently piling him into the tent Dean had only a short time to wait before it was dark enough he felt comfortable he could move around the area freely.  Slinking through the woods, keeping their campsite in his sight at all times, Dean prowled the area.  If he found that kid again he’d not be so nice.  He wanted him away from Sam.  Dean might have to forget his no killing humans rule and literally fry the junkie’s ass.

 

Twice more he checked the area that night, twice more he came up empty.  Sam stayed out, and Dean didn’t bother with him, he was safer that way.  The gibbous moon was high in the sky when Dean felt a weariness he’d rarely experienced drape over him.  In an instant he could barely keep his eyes open long enough to settle at the tent’s entrance.  He crashed into a deep, dreamless sleep.

 

 


 

 

You will never know if you are quick, until you poke a mountain lion with a stick…..Red Green (Steve Smith)

 

Dean wasn’t sure what woke him. Some noise tickled the back part of his brain lurking between asleep and awake.  He rolled on his back, stretched.  It must be the country air, everything smelled wonderful.  The vibrant intensity of aromas was astounding. He hadn’t noticed this change before.  Grass, mixed with the delightful odor of cooking bacon mingled with sweet flowers.  Cracking open his eyes, the sun shone down brightly, blinding him for a few seconds.  When he took a better look around he flipped over off his back, standing.

 

On four legs??

 

Add to that the world had transformed from deep and varied colors to black, white, shades of gray.  Looking down at his feet…paws….FREAKING PAWS….the size of dinner plates thank you very much, Dean didn’t have any longer to contemplate this turn of events when he heard the noise he was sure was responsible for rousting him from sleep.  Not sure if it was a groan, a whisper, but what he was sure of his name was in there somewhere.

 

Sam?”  Which sounded more like a deep rumble, Dean slowly peeled back the flap of the tent, not wanting to scare the stuffing out of his sibling if he wasn’t already awake.  Not knowing exactly what he was now, Dean was sure he might just scare them both anyway.

 

Peering inside the tent, blinking until his eyes adjusted to the lower lighting he and Sam sort of stared at each other for a few seconds.  In the next instant Sam was a bundle of frantic motion going back wards.  He flipped the sleeping bag up, searching for something underneath it.

 

“D-dean...”  Sam hissed.  “Dean!”  This time a hoarse whisper.  “Dean.”  His voice was what Dean could only describe as a shouted whisper.  Tossing a jacket to the side after rifling through the pockets Sam muttered, “Where’s guns and knives when you need one?  Christ, DEAN!”  This time he shouted, then froze, turning a weary eye on Dean.

 

Dean sat back on his haunches, wrapped a long, elegant tail (and sheesh even it was muscled up) around his feet, patiently watching his brother.

 

Sam.”

 

Sam was yanking on the pegs to the back of the tent, seeking an escape probably.

 

SAM!”

 

Stopping, Sam turned and looked at him again.  Leaning closer he took a good look.  Dean lifted one paw, and didn’t resist the urge to run sand paper tongue over the pads then brush that same paw over his face a few times.

 

“What the—“  Sam scooted fractionally closer.  “Man, the wings are gone.”  Sitting back, one leg bent, an arm slung over his knee Sam stared at him.  Dean stared back, twitched his tail a bit.  Sam was bitching because his wings were gone.  Perfect, just damn perfect.  “You’re a…”  Reaching out Sam ran a finger along Dean’s shoulder, across his back.  “Really big.  Dean?”

 

Dean nodded.  Sam was slow in the mornings.  Twitching his lips, Dean caught movement from his face out of the corner of his eye.  Whiskers?  Whiskers!  Even the slightest twitch brought to him a myriad of sensations from the air around him, even the steady movements of Sam’s chest as he breathed.  Kinda cool.

 

“Lemme out.”  Sam nudged Dean’s side with his knuckles, grumbling, “The wings are gone.”

 

Heaving a sigh, Dean stood and backed away from the tent.  When Sam finally unfolded his colt legs, standing completely, Dean’s back came nearly to Sam’s hip.  Looking down at his legs, Dean watched heavy, sinewy muscle rippled beneath sleek fur.  Holding one hand….PAW… in front of his face he produced, one at a time, five slightly curved claws by flexing his fingers…TOES... ever so slightly.  These were some impressive carry on weapons.

 

Sam circled him, mouth dropped open, eyebrows hovering someplace under his bangs.  “Wow.”  He sat abruptly.  Dean pushed his forehead gently against Sam’s chest, flattening his brother completely, air forcing from his lungs with a “hhharrruuummmpppffff.”

 

Ooppsss….Sorry Sammy.

 

Propping on his elbows, “Whatever.  Will you be careful?  Damn, Dean, you’re gonna kill me before this week is up.”

 

Great Sam was being bitchy again.  Maybe he could scare off the ten year olds, or have them for lunch.

 

“I am not being bitchy.  My brother is a freaking cougar, what do you expect?”

 

Cougar?  As in mountain lion?  Well…Ok.  Dean swung his head between his forelegs and….HIS BOY PARTS WERE BACK!!!  And, my weren’t they just impressive too!  Oh yeah! 

 

Sam snickered.  “I told you nothing was gone.”

 

Flopping on his side, Dean did a further inspection of himself.  He could twist and turn, one half of his body going one way, the other half the opposite direction.  And HIS BOY PARTS WERE BACK!!  Happy day.  Rolling completely in a ball, could he?  No…yes!  He could…there wasn’t a single part of him he couldn’t lick at.  This had potential.

 

Sam poked his side with a toe.  “Stop that.”

 

Dean ignored him, Sam was just jealous he couldn’t do this too.  Sam squirmed, Dean really wished he’d learn to sit still.  A second later Sam’s entire foot pushed his shoulder.

 

“Will you quit?!  Do you have any idea how that feels?”

 

He barely had the chance to process Sam’s last statement when both of Sam’s feet rammed against his side.  Dean was sort of glad Sam hadn’t put shoes on yet.

 

“Dean!  STOP!”

 

Heaving a deep sigh, Dean rolled on his back, stretched and wiggled in the grass, scratching everywhere at once.  Maybe this wouldn’t be so offensive to Sam.  What kind of guy was he anyway?  Just jealous he couldn’t do it too.  Dean took in the upside down world, car, tent, brother, trees and…..BUTTERFLIES!!!

 

Flipping over he was running full speed by the time his feet hit the ground.  Sprinting around the car, into the open field Dean took one leap, slapping both paws together, catching a butterfly.  Whooppss….need to be more gentle next time.  Now he had butterfly innards spread across the bottom of his foot.  One swipe of his tongue took care of that….eeeuuuwwwwww…..

 

“Christ Dean, you’re disgusting.”  Sam complained, lunged at their cooler, pulled out a bottle of water and downed it in a few seconds. 

 

Yeah, sort of sour tasting.  Who would have thought? 

 

“Will you get back here before you someone shoots you?”

 

Sam sure was snappy in the mornings lately.  Dean padded back to their camp site, smacking Sam in the back with his tail on his way by.  Stumbling sideways, Sam grabbed the car for balance, gave Dean a sour look, opened his mouth….probably to complain about something else (damn ten year olds)….and without warning dropped to the ground.

 

Arms wrapped around one leg, Sam rolled to his side, face contorted in pain, excruciating pain, wheezing out a barely audible, “Dean.”  Swallowing a sniffle Sam curled in on himself.

 

One bound had him next to Sam.  Dean nudged his brother’s arm with a massive paw, careful to keep the claws tucked inside where they couldn’t harm.  Bracing against him Sam rolled so he was sitting, leaning against the car.  Head down until his forehead pressed against his knee, Sam hiccupped another painful, “Dean.”

 

Cats purred, so did mountain lions Dean remembered, not knowing exactly where that memory sprouted from, and not caring.  He leaned against Sam’s side, being able to smell pain and anxiety clouding around Sam in billows.  When his whiskers brushed Sam’s neck, Dean was given the sensation of quick pulse and muscles tense from pain.

 

Mountain lion purr didn’t sound much different from dragon purr, it was deep, rumbling up from somewhere deep inside him, making his entire body vibrate.  It was soothing, brought him immediate inner peace.  More importantly it had a steadying affect on Sam.  Fingers gripped the looser skin over Dean’s shoulder tightly, but Sam’s breathing evened out, his eyes squeezed shut, but his face started to relax.  Sam was a total enigma to Dean.  One minute he was all about personal space and Dean being gross in some manner, but the slightest bit of anxiety or pain and whatever part of Dean was closest was grabbed and held securely.

 

Dean sat, pressing Sam between himself and the car, waiting for whatever this was to pass.  Neck craning he tried to look around for the source of this latest assault on his brother.  It wasn’t the junkie, Dean was pretty sure, Sam was acting more like a hurt child.  He was able to still maintain contact with Sam and pull his front feet off the ground, sitting up higher.  Sam’s arm stretched out, keeping his grip on Dean.  Scanning the area, finding he could reach out better with his nose and ears, Dean picked up from the direction of the camp of ten year olds the distinct odor of blood, pain, fear.  The sound of an engine approaching faster than normal hit him at the same time.

 

It’ll be gone soon Sammy.  Deep breaths, try to relax.”  That came out more a series of reroowws intermingled with the purring.

 

Sam nodded without opening his eyes, his breathing calmed further.  He jerked and shifted a bit, looking for a more comfortable position Dean realized.  The camp of ten year olds was in total chaos.  Dean wished the adults would calm those kids down.  If he’d been more himself he would have gone and done it himself.

 

“I don’t think a cougar prowling around their campsite is going to inspire calm.”  Sam tried for a chuckle, but it was cut off with a sharp choke. 

 

Dean got his tail between Sam’s arm and side, winding up and rubbing the back of his neck.  The gesture eased more tension from his brother; Sam leaned against their car, let his head drop back and took a few more deep breaths.  The approaching car stopped, but the engine didn’t shut off.  Another minute and it was pulling away.

 

“I think someone broke a leg.”  Sam mumbled.  His fingers eased off, hand dropped to his side.  He was pale, shaking and a fine sheen of sweat covered his face, arms and legs.  Dean stretched along the ground until he could snag one of the blankets from the tent between his teeth and dragged it closer.  “Thanks.” Sam smiled weakly, pulled the blanket up and across his chest and shoulders, letting it drape loosely over his bare legs.

 

Satisfied Sam was all right for the moment, Dean stood, paced to the end of the car, he wanted a better look at what was going on.  A sharp yank on his tail, “Hey!  Dude, really not cool yanking on a man’s tail.”  His words sounded like a hiss, followed by a few deep, husky meows.  He swatted Sam’s hand away, remembering to leave the claws pulled up and inside his paw.

 

“Dean!  You can’t go out there, someone is liable to shoot you.  People freak when they see mountain lions so close to little kids.”  Sam had to stretch on his side to grab at Dean again, this time getting a hind leg in his firm hold.  “Just stay back here, behind the car.  Please.” 

 

Knowing better, but doing it anyway, Dean looked back at Sam.  The moist doe eyes were working overtime.  Damn manipulative kid, someday Dean might actually develop an immunity to those eyes, but not today.  Dean dropped himself to the ground with a loud “ggrrummmfffff” and sprawled out.

 

“Hey Dean?”  Sam stood, hobbled around, gathering some food, piling wood on their fire pit.  He shucked the blanket in favor of his jeans, t-shirt and a flannel.

 

“What?”  A burly meow. 

 

Sam turned his head partially to look over his shoulder, arched one eye brow at Dean and smiled.  “That’s a cool sound.  I liked the wings and fire breath.  The fire breath was handy.”  Sam struck a match, getting a fire going for them to cook on.  Dean scratched his back in the grass some more, entertained by how Sam stretched and arched one way, then the other without much apparent conscious thought to his actions.  Sam reached one arm behind his back, absently rubbing his thumb along his spine.   Stopping suddenly Sam stared at his feet, hands hanging at his sides.

 

Ok, something was up, Dean could tell, Sam was far too easy for him to read for him not to know.  Pressing his forehead against Sam’s leg a few times before swinging his shoulders against the kid, knocking Sam a bit off balance, forcing him to take a few steps back.  What is it Sammy?”

 

Settling beside the small fire he’d started, “Hungry?  I’m hungry.”  Sam plopped a pan with eggs and sausage in it on the small cooking stand.

 

“Sam.”  Dean reached out with a paw, patted Sam’s leg.  His brother’s name came out a thick ‘rerow.”

 

“Do you think he died?  Killed himself?”  Sam’s voice was soft, he stumbled a bit over the last few words.

 

Dean had been wondering that himself.  One part of him hoped not, another part, as wrong as it was, hoped so.  It would put an end to the kid’s anguish, more importantly it would keep that boy away from his boy.  Sam seemed too susceptible to the junkie, picked up on him more than other people with longer lasting effects.  It was creepy the speed Sam had lost consciousness the night before, too abrupt, disturbing Dean still.  At least if he wasn’t a man again, this form gave him more freedom than a dragon.  People accepted cougars existed, and mostly left them alone.  He could check the area with more safety later.

 

Filling a plate, Sam laid it in front of Dean.  “Think we could go somewhere no one else is around?  That wouldn’t break the de…arrangement, would it, do you think?”

 

Looking up from his plate of food, Dean took a good, long look at Sam.  He didn’t like what he saw, didn’t like it at all.  Realizing all of a sudden what the noises were that had woken him.  Dark smudges underscored Sam’s too round, too wide eyes missing their normal spark.  He was lacking in any sort of color, his hair hung in limp strands without its normal luster.  His features were drawn, tired.  He was even moving more slowly, as if he had to concentrate on making his arms and legs follow directions. Sam was too sensitive as it was, too much tuned into other people normally. This was depleting him, sucking him dry.  Dean feared he had no real defense against all these physical, emotional sensations bombarding him.

 

It came to Dean in a bolt of clarity, Sam might have passed out the night before, but he’d not gotten much rest.  Surrounded for the past day by preadolescent, over active, over stimulated children took more of a toll on Sam than Dean might have thought.  A group of children, probably not used to camping or the woods, scattered around them in tents, doing what kids that age do at night in the woods.   Work on scaring each other.  Anxious ten year olds up half the night, getting overtired and having nightmares, picking on each other, seeing things that weren’t there, the list was endless. 

 

The noises Dean heard earlier came from Sam.  Sam asleep and dreaming, experiencing what those kids did last night.  A cold chill ran through Dean, followed by a huge helping of deep guilt.  Poor Sam, spending the night, alone while Dean had slept…morphed…on the ground outside the tent.  Sam with no one to turn to, no one to offer the comfort Dean normally did when nightmares intruded.  Dean felt like a complete and utter failure.  He’d abandoned his kid brother when Sam needed him, not done the one thing he’d always promised, be there for Sam.

 

Sam’s forkful of food stopped halfway to his mouth, his eyes riveted on Dean.  “Dean,” He started in that insistent tone Sam was so good at.  “That’s not true.  You’ve always been there for me, always, no matter what or when or where either of us was.  I’ve always known I can count on you no matter what.  I knew you were right outside.  It’s more than enough, just knowing you’re here is always enough.”

 

It was a good thing Dean couldn’t talk, because right then he wouldn’t have been able to say a word.  Sam sat placidly watching Dean as if he were some sort of wonder of nature.  Well, right now considering he was a mountain lion who yesterday was a dragon, who two days before that was a man, maybe he was.

 

“Ok?”  Sam’s insistent tone deepened, became more insistent, more demanding.

 

Dean nodded.  Sam nodded back before spearing another sausage off his plate.

 

Dropping his plate, Sam jerked around, pulling in too quick breath.

 

“Mister, that’s a mountain lion!”

 

Great, now the ten year olds were invading.  Dean froze, moving nothing but his eyes, looking up at the kid.  His eyes shifted to Sam, who was looking a bit green.  Sam didn’t care for children on a good day. This was going to be interesting.

 

“Um…yeah…he is.”

 

“He yours?”  The kid wandered closer, pulled a sling shot out from behind his back, aiming at Dean.

 

Straightening Dean glared with the most annoyance he could muster at the boy.  His whiskers twitched.  Sam, at about the same age had once done the same thing, pointed a sling shot at Dean who at fourteen was far less patient than he was at twenty-eight about these things.  Judging by the changes on Sam’s face in rapid succession, the same memory must have filtered into his brain too.  He audibly gulped.  Lunging at the kid, Sam snatched the sling shot.

 

“Don’t ever point a weapon at something unless you plan to kill it.”  Sam snapped, took the kid’s hand and slapped the sling shot into it.  “Put that thing away.”

 

Dean rolled his eyes and used one huge paw to wipe his face off, licking the pads of his feet, then wiping them over his cheeks.  Somehow hearing Sam give someone a lecture on weapons, even a sling shot, was not what he’d ever expected to do.

 

“Yes, he’s with me.”

 

“How long you had him?”

 

Stretching on the grass, Dean’s tail flipped up and down in lazy circles.  This was sort of fun.

 

Sam huffed an irritated noise.  “All my life.  Happy now?  Maybe you should go back to your camp.”

 

“Nuthin’ to do over there.  Mickey Johnson broke his leg. He’s such a cry baby.”  The boy’s chin jerked at Dean, “He must be really old.”

 

“It hurts to break your leg.”  Sam gave Dean a look pleading for help.  Dean laid his chin on his paws, closed his eyes.  “They live a long time.”

 

“Naaa….he’s always a cry baby.”  The boy turned, headed for the Impala, looking inside.  “Cool car.”

 

“Umhum.”  Sam sidled closer to Dean, poking him with his foot. 

 

“What’s his name?  How much does he eat?”  The kid pointed at Dean.

 

Dean cracked open an eye, watching Sam.  A smile spread over Sam’s face, making him look young, innocent, sweet.  Dean sat straight up.  He knew from many years experience the younger, sweeter, more innocent Sam looked the more evil the thoughts rambling around in his brain were. 

 

“How much do you weigh?  His name is…”  Sam’s eyes slid to Dean.  “Buttercup.”

 

Lifting one lip to expose his teeth Dean growled low and deep at Sam.

 

The boy’s eyes widened, he backed up.  “What’s wrong with him?”

 

“Hungry.” Sam said simply.

 

Yeah, nice Sammy, really nice.  Traumatize the poor kid.  Dean rolled on his back and swatted at some flies buzzing over head.

 

“You’d better go now.”  Sam took the boy’s shoulders, turning him away from their camp.  “I have to finish feeding him and he’s easily confused between his food and children.” 

 

Oh for the love of—shut up Sam.  Rolling on his side Dean’s tail whipped out, catching Sam behind the knees. For some reason Dean would never understand, Sam thought all children were demons in disguise.

 

Sam stumbled sideways.  “He’s really getting hungry.”

 

The boy backed away, then pointed at the plate beside Dean.  “What was that?”

 

“Snacks until I get it all ready.  He’s really cranky when he’s hungry.”

 

“Can I watch him eat?”

 

“No, but if you promise not to tell anyone about him, I’ll let you throw him some raw meat tomorrow.  But you have to go back to your own camp now.  It’s just not safe here.”  Sam gave the boy’s shoulders a slight shove.

 

No wonder Sam didn’t have many friends as a child.  Sam’s eyes blazed at him for a few seconds before he turned back to the boy.  “Bye.”

 

“See ya tomorrow!”  The kid called cheerfully over his shoulder, waving.

 

“Yeah, can’t wait.”  Sam dropped to the ground beside the Impala as soon as the kid was safely out of sight.

 

“Sam?”  Dean laid a large paw against Sam’s leg, pushed against his side with the flat of his forehead.

 

“Yyya knoww, it’s not ssso m-much when it happens.  I dddon’t know w-when, or wwhat….”

 

Instantly on alert when Sam’s words trailed off, the slurring was frightening.  When Sam started rocking ever so slightly Dean’s stomach twisted.  He didn’t have a chance to do much more than inch closer when the rocking turned more violent.  Sam rubbed his arms with his palms, looking at Dean through water filled eyes.

 

Hey, Sam, it’s ok.  It’s ok.  It’s not real.  Except it was to Sam.  Dean knew that.  When the little remaining color dropped off Sam’s face completely Dean’s throat constricted.  Without warning Sam lurched away from him, leaning to the side on one trembling arm, his sides and back heaved as though he were trying to vomit and couldn’t.  Choking and gagging Sam dropped to the ground completely, laying half on his side, bent around his middle.  Dean didn’t have time to move when Sam shoved away from the ground, giggling uncontrollably, pointing at something that wasn’t there.

 

Dean was going to rip that junkie into tiny bite-sized pieces, filet him and feed him to the local wildlife.  Either that or he was going to get the kid hauled in somewhere he could get cleaned up, preferably about a thousand miles from Sam.  

 

Scrambling away from the car Sam’s giggles turned to grotesque laughs intermingled with “Dean?”  Sam pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, laughing and sobbing all at once.  Dean pounced on him, flattening Sam to the ground, holding him still, muffling the sounds his brother made so no one came to see what the crazy kid with the dragon and mountain lion was doing now.  Fighting away his own panic, Dean reminded himself yet again, what he felt Sam felt.  He forced himself calm, purring with his chest pressed against Sam’s.  Curling one arm around Dean’s neck, Sam shoved his face into Dean’s shoulder, gulping in big ragged drags of air.

 

Finally after what seemed like hours, but in reality Dean knew it was only minutes, Sam relaxed, got enough control he pushed up, sitting with ankles crossed next to Dean. 

 

“I’m ok-kay.”  Sam mumbled, wiping moisture from his eyes and face.  He rubbed at his forearms again.  “They hurt, like been cut.”  His eyes wandered from Dean to his arms, back to Dean again.  “Do you think I’ll feel it, if he dies, what it’s like?”

 

Oh God, Dean’s entire chest constricted; there suddenly wasn’t enough room in the whole world for him and everyone else to breathe at once.  Dean hadn’t thought of that.  Something else niggled at the back of Dean’s mind.  Something he felt through his whiskers, a general tenseness, tingling to the air.  It made him feel nervous, jumpy, which wasn’t going to help either of them any.

 

“Maybe we could help him?”  Sam asked, soft voice startling Dean.  He’d been so overwhelmed by the influx of his new senses he’d forgotten about Sam for a moment.  “Dean?”  Sam tapped his back.  “What’s wrong?”

 

Well, let’s just count them up? You have about a hundred and ten extra personalities at any given moment, and oh, yeah, I’m an overgrown version of Garfield.  How’s that for starters?”

 

He jumped when Sam flattened his hand along Dean’s shoulder.  Move, he had to move, get moving, go somewhere.  But Dean didn’t know where.

 

“Dean?  What’s wrong, why are you so jumpy?” Sam looked genuinely concerned, maybe a little scared.  “Danger from what?”

 

Swinging his head around to look at Sam, he hadn’t thought of anything specific, but that’s what he felt he knew as soon as Sam said the words.  Danger, there was some danger, something big and all encompassing.  Something not supernatural, not human…..something that made the air tingle and flare.  Hissing his agitation, Dean began to pace.  Out, they had to get out, get away…from what he had no idea.

 

“Animals sense things sometimes, or maybe smell them.”  Sam offered, bracing against the car to stand up.  “We have to help him if we can.”  Sam looked down, Dean stopped pacing and paid closer attention.  “Please Dean?  Maybe we could look around for a few minutes before we leave?  He might die if we don’t.”

 

Dean glanced from Sam to the cliff face behind them, then out at the open fields and surrounding woods.  Maybe the kid was out there, close.  Maybe what he was feeling was a repeat of Sam projecting what he felt.   Dean nodded, poking at their supplies with his nose, “Packing first Sammy.”

 

Sam nodded, it was a jerky motion, he was back to looking like he had to work at making his body understand his brain.  “Thank you.”  He whispered.

 


 

 

A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man….Turkish Proverb

 

Dean fixed Sam with a stare, lashing his tail back and forth when Sam packed a bedroll and supplies into one of the frame packs.  “Sleeping bag Sammy?”  Low rumble and a short hiss.

 

Sam looked down at him long enough to ask, “You want me to bring one for you too?”

 

Dean didn’t want him to bring one at all.  Too much stuff on that thing to carry.

 

“It’ll be ok, I can carry it.”

 

Why do we need any of it at all?  Not spending the night out there.  Dean growled, slapping at Sam’s legs with one paw when he wouldn’t stop loading up extra ammo, food, water, clothing (Dean noticed Sam put one of his shirts and a pair if his jeans in too) and blankets, filling the pack with as much as he could.

 

Sam huffed a sigh, “Aren’t you the one always telling me to never be caught unprepared?”  He sat on the ground, leaning back against the car, looking exhausted.   Reaching out, Sam’s finger tips brushed Dean’s leg before coming to rest on his knee.  “He’s alone, tried to get help and they turned him away.  He’s scared Dean, and so lonely.  He might be dying.  If it was me, lost, alone like that wouldn’t you want someone to look for me if you couldn’t?”

 

Really, did Sam stay up nights PRACTICING that damn look of his?  Pacing back and forth…out, have to get out…out…He’d told that kid to call his family.  What sort of stupid family did he have anyway?  Dean’s whiskers twitched, he’d stopped feeling movement of air from birds, but the air had taken on a life all its own, ominous and heavy.

 

Dean had serious doubts Sam could carry that pack three steps.  The kid needed rest, and wouldn’t accept it until he’d done this.  With sudden self-consciousness he realized Sam’s eyes tracked back and forth, following Dean’s movements.

 

“We’re outside Dean.  Where do you want to go?”  Sam climbed to his feet, shaky colt legs at it again.  “It’s not your fault. You only wanted him to get help.  How could you know?”

 

Very creeping freaky Sam!”

 

Sam smiled, looking even more worn out.  “You really hate I know exactly what you feel, instead guessing and mostly knowing, don’t you?”

 

Sitting, Dean wiped his tongue over the pads of one foot, wiped it across his head between his ears, then down over his face.  Sam rolled his eyes and tossed the pack into the trunk.  Opening the driver’s side door to the Impala he stepped back, leaning against it.

 

“You coming along or you gonna sit here licking yourself?”

 

Dean stopped long enough to turn one eye on Sam, rumbled a deep ‘reoow’ and stalked to the car, jumping in and across to the passenger side.  Sam slid in behind him, pulling the door shut.  Chuckling soft and low, Sam reached across Dean’s chest and rolled down the window. Dean managed to wedge himself into the front seat, chin resting on the window frame.  He thought about getting into the back seat, there’d be more room for him, but preferred to ride up front with his brother, where he belonged.

 

“You know,” Sam said quietly, eyes drifting from the road to Dean and back again.  “Flying isn’t what I miss most about the wings.”

 

Oh boy.

 

Twisting his head away from the window, Dean studied Sam’s profile.  Glancing over as he pulled the car into the main lot of the camp ground, Sam smiled shyly, eyes dropping to his lap as he parked.  It hit Dean again, the waves of emotion as Sam pushed the door open and climbed out, saying he’d be right back.  Wanted…accepted…home…safe.

 

“There’s a car park across the road.  I got a map too.”  Sam was back a few minutes later, leaning in the window.  He jerked straight, hitting his head on the door jam in the process, Dean winced.  Spinning around, Sam appeared to try blocking the inside of the Impala by leaning against it.  “Am I parked in the wrong place, I was going to take my car to the car park.”  Sam’s words tumbled out in a rush.  “I…ah…was just going to move, go over there now.”

 

“You got a permit for that thing?” 

 

Dean’s head snapped around at the sound of a gruff voice.  Immediately he caught the odor of distrust, anxiety.  His whiskers vibrated from the sheer panic emanating from Sam.

 

“My car?  I have the registration, my brother rebuilt it, I think it’s in his name.” 

 

Dean felt a swell of pride, and a warm glow spread through his chest not from Sam saying he’d rebuilt the Impala, but the tone the words were spoken.

 

“That cat.”

 

“Cat?”

 

The stiffening of Sam’s shoulders, how his stance shifted told Dean the intruder was walking around the car.

 

“Oh.”  Sam laughed, nodded.  “Ye-yes of course I do.  But, I’m just an idiot some days, packed too fast for my trip.  I think I forgot it at home.”  Sam darted around the front of the car.  Dean guessed trying to head off the man moving behind the car.  Following the stranger’s movements with just his eyes Dean had to concentrate to keep the rest of him still.

 

The stranger, a man in a sheriff’s uniform, stopped beside Dean’s window, glared down at him before turning his gaze on Sam, one hand held up in a ‘stop’ gesture.  Dean started to smile, thought better of it that would look too much like a snarl from a cougar.  Instead he settled on the purr.  It worked on Sam every time, maybe it would work on others too.

 

“Could I fax it to you, the permit, when I get home?”  Sam drew the sheriff’s attention from Dean back onto himself, turning on the innocent fourteen year old expression full force.  “I was going to do some hiking.  He’s never hurt anyone, ever.  Sir.”

 

Call me Buttercup again and my reputation might just be severely tarnished.”

 

Sam’s eyes flitted to Dean and back to the sheriff again. 

 

“He declawed?”

 

Dean curled his front paws under his legs.  It’s the teeth, not the claws you should worry about asshole.  Letting his eyelids droop, Dean pretended to snooze.  Yeah, see Sammy, I can look all cute and harmless too.

 

Sam coughed, smiling nervously when the sheriff’s eyes popped to him, “Allergies.”  Sliding along the car until he was between Dean and the sheriff Sam said, “No, he’s not.  But it’s never been a problem.  I’ve had him my whole life.”

 

“Doesn’t look very old to me.”

 

“They live a long time.”  Reaching through the windows Sam scratched at Dean’s ears.

 

Want to actually keep that hand?  If he asks how much I eat, you might not want to ask how much he weighs.

 

Sam pulled his hand out and shoved both fists in his pockets. Looking at the ground he bit his lip.  The sheriff gave Dean one more annoyed look before turning away. 

 

“Be sure you keep that thing properly leashed, and he should have a collar on, so no one shoots him thinking he’s wild.”

 

“Y-yes sir.  Thank you.  You won’t even know we’re here.  Sir.  Thank you.”

 

Smooth Sammy, smooth.”

 

Sam was back around and behind the wheel in seconds, grinning at Dean.  “Leash and collar.  Can’t be breaking the leash laws.”

 

Dean pinned his brother to the car door with one long look.  Sam actually squirmed, smiled dropping off his face.  “Well, maybe not.”  Sam sort of giggled….GIGGLED…for christssake. 

 

Dean grumbled, then growled sharply, which translated to, “Just drive.”

 

They managed to make it all the way across the road to the car park without incident.  Dean wasn’t thrilled leaving the car, but the place had a security fence, required a daily rate to stay there.  It was better than leaving it on the roadside he supposed.  Much to Dean’s annoyance Sam took the pack from the trunk, hefting it on his shoulders, mumbling something about why couldn’t Dean have turned into a horse or something.  Dean was sure he heard wrong.

 

“He can’t be too far, I haven’t picked up on anyone any huge distance from me.”  Sam said after they’d gotten back to the campgrounds. He started to the hiking trails leading into the woods surrounding the camp grounds.  Dean nudged him to a branch in the trail leading left.  “What? The camp grounds it that way.”  Sam pointed right.

 

Something’s not right.  I can smell smoke.

 

“Dean, campers, camp fires, that’s all.”  Sam’s smile and tone were placating.  “It’s barely noticeable.”

 

To you.  Giving Sam a harder thump with his head, Dean grumbled, hissing softly.  Humor me.  Let’s go this way.”

 

Sam, to his utter surprise, merely shrugged and agreed.  Plodding along behind Sam, Dean realized after a short distance his brother was drifting in the original direction he’d tried going to begin with.  Bumping his head, then shoulders against Sam’s legs Dean nudged him in the other direction.

 

“Dean!  We need to look that way.”

 

“No Sam.”  Dean sat, glaring stubbornly at Sam. 

 

“Fine,” Sam stepped around him, “I’ll go by myself.  I have to find—“   Dean twisted around when Sam’s words stopped, caught in his throat with an odd gurgle.  Color dropped from Sam’s face, he froze.

 

Standing, Dean moved in front of Sam, staring, awestruck at the sight.  It was big, beyond big, massive.  Vibrant yellow eyes bored straight into him.  Was this, he wondered, what he looked like?  That freaking…BIG?

 

“Uh huh.”  Sam whispered.  “You’re that big.  That one is scarier.”

 

The cinnamon colored face raised slightly, lips pulled up showing off possibly the largest teeth Dean had ever seen.  A loud hiss accompanied the snarl and baring of teeth.

 

Dean took a few steps forward, paced slowly in front of Sam.  CRAP…crapcrapcrap…”Don’t move Sammy”.  He wondered, could he bluff his way out of a fight with a mountain lion as he had with many men?

 

The other cougar snarled again, roared, moved closer.  Massive, well defined muscles rippled under smooth, sleek fur, every movement was easy and fluid.  Dean took a step towards him.  K...dude, just me and my little brother here taking a walk, no one is horning in on your territory.

 

He felt Sam’s fingers close in on the skin over his shoulder, pulling back urgently.  “Dean,” Sam whispered, “Come on, man, if we don’t challenge him, maybe we can get away.  Out run him.”

 

Sammy, I can probably outrun him, you will be cougar snacks.  You can’t outrun that thing, or climb higher in a tree.  For chrissake, stand still.

 

“Dean…”  Whatever else Sam said was drown out by another roar from the cougar.

 

Dean rumbled, rerowed in response…chill, you’re the king of this jungle, I’m just passing through…but it seemed to do no good.  Shit, Sammy, doesn’t seem I can speak cougar.  Whiskers trembling from the sense of aggression emanating from the other lion Dean felt every bit of hair stand, puffing him to an even larger size.  He starred down the big cat facing him, standing his ground, hoping the other cougar would be intimidated enough to back off and leave.  Trying out more of the range of noises he was able to produce did no good.  Hey, big fella, we can work this out, no need for violence.  Definitely Dean couldn’t speak mountain lion, even if he was one at the moment.  He didn’t need to speak anything to recognize an aggressive threat when he saw one.  Dean backed away from the other cougar, pushing Sam as he went. 

 

Sam tugged on him again, “Maybe if we just back away.”  He whispered to Dean. 

 

It was worth a try, but Dean didn’t really think that was going to work.  The currents of air around him jumped and tingled with more than just two mountain lions staring each other down.  Something farther off snapped, popped, made the air crack with heat and smell of destruction.

 

Can you reach a gun Sam?

 

Hearing Sam slide the pack to the ground, Dean ventured a glance back at his brother.  Sam had the pack at his feet, moving slowly, opening it.  He wondered if Sam could actually shoot the animal.  The other cougar hissed.  Dean hissed louder, tail lashing for emphasis.  No overgrown house cat was going to make a meal of his kid brother.

 

“If it’s between you and it, you’re damn right I’ll shoot it.”  Sam’s voice was a low, rough whisper.  “Maybe I can scare it off?”

 

Dean felt the slight change in the other cougar’s stance thanks to whiskers, smelled the shift in the other cat’s odor, and was in motion before his brain had a chance to tell him to move.  It was as if some cosmic force flipped a switch, sending the two cougars into action.  The other cougar launched at Dean from his vantage point.  He caught a glimpse of Sam bending at the middle, one hand braced against his thigh, coughing.

 

What the hell Sammy, not a good time.”  Pushing off his hind legs Dean met the advancing cougar head on, thinking he really didn’t know how to fight like a cougar either.

 

Slamming into the other cat Dean was vaguely aware of Sam behind him making some pained grunting noise, stumbling backwards.  Claws raking across the other cougar’s shoulders, he felt his own pelt grabbed, claws digging in.  Enormous feline head reached his neck, teeth sinking into his flesh.  Dean returned the favor, teeth connecting solidly with the cougar’s shoulder.

 

Sam’s screams nearly undid him.  Flipping the monster cat around, pinning him to the ground for a second Dean saw Sam drop to the earth like a stone, one hand against his neck.  Shouting…screaming…through clenched teeth Sam gripped his shoulder, rolled as if trying to avoid some blow.  Eyes squeezed shut didn’t stop the tears from oozing out, down his cheeks.  Every muscle in the kid’s neck and arms were taunt, strained to their limits.  The handgun he’d pulled from the pack fell to the ground, useless.

 

Damn…DAMN!  It hit Dean.  He was a mountain lion, being attacked by another mountain lion.  He had mountain lion strength, speed, defenses.  His coat, he discovered, offered a great deal of protection from the teeth, claws of the other cougar.  The heavy muscles along his neck and shoulders were padded with a layer of fat, covered by thick hide.

 

Sam however was a man.  A man who was for all practical purposes now being mauled by not one, but two cougars since it was reasonable to think he felt not just what Dean felt, but what Dean’s attacker felt too.  Dean couldn’t defend himself without hurting Sam.  He couldn’t actively fight his opponent without hurting Sam.  If he didn’t beat this other cat it was quite likely Sam could be mauled for real.

 

Sorry Sammy, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorrysorrysorry…  Dean took a swipe, roaring and snarling, at the other cougar, knocking him back and down.  Guess cats didn’t expect to be punched by their opponents.  The lion backed up a pace, maybe Sam could be spared some if Dean could get the other cat farther away.  It sprang at him again, dashing his hopes.  Claws gripped his shoulders, piercing the tough skin.

 

Rolling to his knees Sam doubled over, collapsing on the ground, panting and yelling, shaking hand trying to reach the gun.  The air around Dean snapped and crackled as if it’d taken on a voice, closing in on him as he flipped the enraged cougar over again, the air growing darker, heavier.  He tried to fight off the other animal without using teeth or claws, but it was impossible, he’d lose.  If that happened it was simple fact, Sam could be experiencing the attack for real.  For now there was pain and fear, but no slashed skin, no crushed bones, ripped muscle, no blood or wounds.  Sam might be sore for a day or so, but that was likely the most lasting effect unless the cougar got to him.

 

Dean grabbed ahold of the cougar’s neck, biting down as hard as he could.   The big cat screeched.  So did Sam.  A single gunshot reverberated around him.  Dean heard the bullet whiz overhead, slam into a tree.  The gun clattered to the ground.  That startled the cougar enough it darted away, only to spin around, running full tilt at Dean again.  Again Dean met it head on. 

 

Everything around him erupted in a flash of red, roaring reached his ears, and it registered, this wasn’t from the other cougar.  It was all around him, coming from everywhere at once.  Sam’s shrieks were drown out by the sound of a tree crashing at them, embers flying from all directions, raining down on them.  Dean barely felt them when they hit his pelt.  His brother had no such protective covering.  Now there were tiny burns on the bare skin of his arms.  A second, smaller tree crashed in flames to the ground. 

 

The attacking cougar roared then hissed at the flames, sprinting away.  Dean figured that was the best advice he’d gotten all week.  Jumping to Sam, who was still writhing and gasping in pain on the ground, Dean nudged at his side with his head.  Come on Sammy, you gotta get up kid…c’mon, help a guy out here…You can do it, for me, come on Sam.

 

Pushing his chest up on one very shaky arm, head down, bangs flopping in greasy strands Sam nodded, saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth, his breath ragged gasps, tears fell from his eyes.  Dean shoved the gun within Sam’s reach with his paw.  Come on buddy, get up, you can.  Sam you’ve got to get up.  We’ve got to move.  NOW!”

 

Sam nodded again, gripping Dean’s skin with one hand, bracing against him to get to his knees.  He turned slowly to look over Dean’s shoulder, “What’s that noise?”  Voice trailing off, Sam paled completely, eyes absolutely round, entire body trembling violently.  “Dean?”

 

Yeah, Sam I see it, smell it, hear it.  Kiddo, we gotta go!”  Dean pushed against Sam’s shoulder with one paw.  He needed to keep Sam’s attention as much for Sam’s sake as for his own.

 

Neither brother may have actually remembered the fire that took their mother, but it had lasting affects on both men just the same.  Sam was terrified of fire, Dean wasn’t so thrilled with it himself.  Building a campfire, sitting near a lit fireplace was sometimes a challenge.  This…this was impossible.  Dean’s heightened senses, and what he presumed was a cougar’s natural fear of fire increased his anxiety a thousand fold. 

 

Sam’s grip on the scruff of Dean’s neck turned painful.

 

Sammy…Sam!”  Dean snarled, then roared and batted at Sam’s leg with his foot.  Sam jumped, jerking his gaze from the advancing wall of flames to Dean.

 

Giving him another nudge, nearly shoving his brother back down, Dean got his shoulders under Sam’s chest.  Arching his back and pushing his legs as straight as he was able forcing Sam to staggered to his feet, swaying precariously, staring at the wall of red coming at them.  He’d grabbed the gun as he stood, and tucked it into his waistband.

 

“We should go.  It’s getting hot.”

 

Good thing there was the fire and all otherwise Dean might have just knocked Sam back down.  Instead he gave his brother a solid push.  Stumbling, Sam grabbed the pack, moving ahead of him on unsteady legs that bent too much.

 

Dean couldn’t take it anymore.  Out, he—they had to get out.  Now.  Run Sam!”

 

Sam stumbled, slipping onto his knees.  Dean carefully grabbed Sam’s shirt between his teeth, pulling up, urging his brother along.  Sam slung one arm over Dean’s shoulders, using him as a brace to get up and going again. 

 

I know you hurt Sammy, but we gotta get moving.

 

Biting his lip, Sam nodded, struggling to stay upright, he finally seemed to get his legs to cooperate and work.  Stride still more stagger than his normal fluid gait Sam finally was running.  The heat was oppressive, it closed in on Dean, squeezing his chest, making his eyes water.  Going quickly in the dense woods was easier for him than Sam and it was all he could do to slow down and stay with his brother.  The urge to flee was nearly overwhelming.  This form gave him spectacular power and speed.  It also gave him an incredible sense of smell. 

 

He could smell the fresher, cool air of safety.

 

Bumping Sam’s legs as the two of them crashed through the woods, wanting him to veer left some more he sent Sam tumbling to the ground, down a small drop.  Up and moving faster than the first time Sam grumbled, “Could have just said turn here.”

 

Opening in front of them like some sort of promised land was a field.  They sprinted across, the fire chewing up the forest behind them.  The air was thick with smoke, it was hard to see.  The only thing Dean could hear was the din of falling trees, igniting brush.  They both knew the fire would travel quickly across the open field, but they could too, especially Sam who was hindered being a human.  Reaching the opposite side as the fire line hit the drier grass of the field and exploded across, filling half the field in seconds.

 

Catching a whiff of wet and damp, Dean charged ahead, confident Sam would follow even if he didn’t understand Dean’s motivation for the direction change.  Sam slowed, stopped for a second, looking around.  Dean paced back and forth in front of the tree line.  He’d cut a right angle to the fire.  Roaring, “Come on Sammy!”  Trust me…please just trust me on this… “Sammy!”

 

“We’ll be too close to it.”  Sam shouted, but was backing away from the fire, moving in hesitant steps toward Dean.  When sparks flew, picked up on the wind created from the heat, at him, Sam turned and ran for Dean.  Wheeling around Dean crashed through the woods, clearing a path as best he could for Sam who was now just a few steps behind.  His nose and some deeper rooted instinct pulled at Dean.  He decided not to fight it, and was happy in the next minute he hadn’t.

 

They hit a muddy slope.  Sam slipped, half running half sliding down.  Dean sat back on his haunches and let himself glide down the hillside, turning sideways in the thick, slimy goo, rolling on his side a few time, straightening out only when he’d reached the bottom and the small patch of flat, rocky land.  Sam rolled the final distance, popping to his feet, he slung the pack around and tossed it ahead of him.  The two of them ran full tilt across the rocks.

 

The stream wasn’t exceptionally deep or wide, but it was enough.  Sam splashed in, dropping and covering his head when he reached the middle.  Dean followed a split second later.  Pouncing on his brother, taking a deep breath and holding it, feeling Sam do the same, the two of them flattened in the water.

 

The fire wall had become enough of a fire storm to cross the stream, igniting the woods on the far side.  As patches of flames passed over head Dean felt heat singe his fur, try to suck the air from his lungs.  It was so hot he wondered if the water would start to boil around them.

 

They were in the middle, fire on both sides, their only escape route the stream they’d sought refuge in.  If the blaze didn’t lessen behind them, it, added to the increased blaze in front of them, would pull the oxygen from the air and they’d suffocate not burn.

 

Out…they had to get out.

 

 


 

 

 Death was afraid of him because he had the heart of a lion…Arabian Proverb

 

 Using teeth Dean gently, very gently pulled up at Sam’s arm, then took a firmer hold of his shirt collar.  Pushing up slowly, hands under his chest for leverage Sam got to his knees, swaying, pale, shivering.  They were in the middle of a damn fire, and Sam was shaking as if he were freezing.  Not good, not good at all.

 

Come on Sammy, we gotta keep moving.

 

Sam simply stared at him wide-eyed and dazed.  He nodded, stretched until his fingers wound around the straps of the pack.  His other hand fell on Dean’s back, shoving to his feet on unsteady legs, fingers curled in the heavy, loose fur over Dean’s shoulder.  Moving away a few steps he managed to help Sam get his balance, get him moving.

 

They were wet, offering them some protection against the flames lapping both sides of the stream.  Dean watched Sam struggle to breathe in the thick, hot, smoky air.  It took his mind off the fact he struggled just as hard to pull in oxygen.  He nudged at Sam carefully, not wanting to topple him down into the water again.  Every few yards Sam stopped, turned back to gape at the inferno.  He didn’t say anything, just looked back at Dean with a mixture of shock and awe on his face. 

 

It was annoying. 

 

They had to move, get out, get away from the fire.  The more it intensified, the slower Sam seemed to go.  Fortunately Sam also appeared intent on hanging onto Dean’s scruff, allowing Dean to pull him along when he stalled.  Twice Dean accidentally pulled Sam down, sending him splashing in the cold water.  The second time Sam rolled to his knees, for the first time letting go of Dean’s back.  Palms pressed flat against his thighs, chin nearly to his chest, breathing quick and harsh.  The kid was spent.  Dean knew it, saw it, but it wasn’t like he could carry his young brother.

 

Get up Sam.  We can’t stop yet.

 

“I…can’t.”  He sagged, his shoulders slumping forward.  Sam looked up, but didn’t meet Dean’s eyes.  That was never good.  The dark smudges under Sam’s eyes had turned to deep circles.  His eyes were dark holes against his too pale face, breathing noticeably erratic, every few minutes a dry, hacking cough rattled out.   

 

Keeping an eye on the fire, Dean paced around his brother.  When Sam’s eyes slipped shut Dean swiped his tongue over Sam’s forearm.

 

“Ooouuuwww…Dean!  That hurts!”  Sam slapped his hand over his arm, gripping it.  “Dude, stop trying to cheer me up.”

 

Sam we’ve GOT to keep moving.”

 

“Dean.”  Sam’s voice was soft, barely more than a whisper.  “I can’t.”

 

Taking a swipe at the back of Sam’s neck with his tongue Dean snarled, “Yes you can!”

 

Hand slapping against the back of his neck, then taking a swing at Dean’s head Sam shouted, “Stop it!  Are you purposely trying to hurt me?  I’m done, I can’t go on.”  He leaned over, doubling until his chest rested on his thighs.

 

Sam had to get up, he had to keep moving or he’d burn, or become cougar crunchies or bear yummies or who knew what.  Dean had to get him moving, and he had to be convincing or it wouldn’t work.

 

Snarling, then snapping and roaring he made sure he had Sam’s complete attention and that little brother Sammy knew Dean was royally pissed off.  You know what, that’s bullshit!  You’re nothing but a goddamn sniveling, spoiled little brat.  Now get your ass up and MOVE!”

 

Looking up at him, paling even more Dean saw tears immediately well up in Sam’s eyes.  Dean had never said anything so harsh, purposely tried to hurt his brother’s feelings.  It went against every fiber of his being, but he was out of time and options.  Nostrils flaring without warning, Sam’s eyebrows pulled together, and he glared at Dean.  Turning away in the next instant Sam splashed at the water, shoved Dean away from him and clamored to his feet.

 

Mission accomplished, one pissed off…moving…brother.

 

We’ll stop and find somewhere to rest as soon as we can.

 

Sam didn’t answer, just plodded downstream, following Dean.  Every time he glanced back Sam made sure to look elsewhere, anywhere, everywhere but at Dean.  It wasn’t the best of situations, but at least Sam was still following along, but then again it wasn’t like either one of them had somewhere else to be.  Sam stumbled over the slippery rocks, but Dean’s attempts to help were shoved viciously away.  Dean ignored it for now, once they stopped, and Sam cooled off, had a bit of rest things would be different.  They might ignite each other’s fuses, but neither ever tended to remain angry with the other for too long.

 

The smell of smoke receded; the air lost some of its oppressive heaviness calming Dean’s somewhat frazzled nerves. They needed to find shelter.  Sam was doing nothing more than trailing behind Dean, putting no effort into anything other than keeping his feet moving.  Inhaling deeply Dean had to concentrate to differentiate the various smells, he could pick out distinct differences but they all came at once.

 

Hoping they were far enough from the main blaze to leave the protection of the stream, Dean prodded Sam to the shore.  He was wet enough to feel the water’s chill.  Sam had no fur coat, and Dean didn’t know if it was his imagination or not, but Sam seemed to be shaking more each minute.  Warm and dry was what they needed.   Stopping briefly to allow them to both catch their breath, Dean didn’t want to linger too long.  If Sam collapsed again Dean was afraid he’d not get the kid moving again.  Sam gave him a few quizzical looks, but stayed silent, and looked away if Dean made it obvious he noticed or tried making eye contact.  Pissed off had been replaced by something else.  Something Dean heartily hated, and would have to figure a way to deal with, he’d created the problem after all.  Sam’s face was covered with betrayal and as much as he was trying to hide it Dean still saw.  It weighed heavily in Dean’s chest, pressed mercilessly against the spot between his shoulder blades.

 

Trying to circle around the fire and get closer to the camp ground they were forced into taking to the woods once again.  This section was denser than where they’d been before.  The dank odor of woods mixed with the acrid smell of smoke and the hurt he’d caused Sam turned Dean’s stomach angrily.  Survive first, hurt feelings couldn’t mend if they didn’t survive.

 

The distinct odor of people mixed with the scent of older ash, something burnt and cooled tinged with pine, paint and some other wood.  Dean swung in that direction, “Hey, let’s try this way.”

 

Sam grunted a response, Dean couldn’t tell if it was positive or not.  Either way Sam trudged after him.  The woods opened to a small trail, barely more than a foot path.  The trees were taller, older, plunging them into more shade, bits of sunlight dropping between heavy leaves to hit them every few feet.  The sounds of the fire all but disappeared, the forest completely insulating them from the rest of the world.

 

Dean followed his nose, hoping they could find somewhere to spend the next three days.  It was quiet here, peaceful and most importantly desolate.  The trail led to a small clearing.  Dean blinked, being sure he was seeing correctly, a tiny cabin was at its center.  It was a hunting cabin, more like a shack actually.  Since they were months from hunting season, official hunting season, Dean was hoping it would be empty.

 

Sam stumbled up to the door, pounding on it weakly.  “Hey.  Anyone here?”  Leaning one arm against it Sam looked down at Dean and shook his head. 

 

Prowling around the shack, Dean saw the windows had shutters.  Jumping against one it rattled, but held.  He backed up, tail flipping side to side.  If he had a running start…he was pretty heavy…if he hit it just right….

 

“Dean.”  Sam hacked up half a lung, calling his name a second time.   Dean looked at his brother.  Sam was holding up lock picks.  “I put them in the pack, essentials.”  He took deep breaths between the words, sounding as if he’d just run a marathon.  What sort of lives did they have that Sam thought lock picks might be essential in the middle of the woods?

 

Whatever.

 

The door opened, Sam followed Dean inside, tripping over his own feet.  The pack was dropped to the floor, Sam beside it.  It was one room, a sink and ice cooler at the far end, a bathroom with a curtain one could pull around it for privacy.  The opposite side had a small fire place, a few logs stacked neatly to one side.  There was an arm chair, and a cot for furniture.  Dean was relieved to see a few blankets folded on the cot.  A plaque on the wall next to the door welcomed all visitors and asked that whatever was used be replaced.

 

Dean discovered his pelt was an amazing thing.  He was soaked still, but barely felt any chill.  The wounds from his tussle with the other cougar pulled and stretched, itched a bit, but if he’d been more himself he’d have been in serious trouble by now from them.  Using one paw Dean pushed a few of the logs from the stack, rolling them with his nose at the fireplace.

 

He looked over at Sam who sat on the floor, legs folded against his chest, arms wrapped around his shins.  The shuddering was now a steady tremble coursing through his limbs, up and down his back.  Crossing the room, Dean pressed his face against Sam’s shoulder.  Sam turned his head slowly, his eyes following along too slowly before settling for a few seconds on Dean.  He coughed and shifted his gaze to the floor between his feet.

 

You need to start a fire Sammy.  I’ll help you with the logs.”

 

Sam shook his head, coughing.  Small water droplets sprayed out from his hair, landing on his knees, Dean’s head and the floor.

 

Dean sat beside him, he knew what the problem was, and it wasn’t the kid was tired.  Yes, Sam.  Come on, I’m cold, I know you have to be.  Dean gave Sam’s arm another poke with his nose.  It’s over there…we’ll be on the other side.

 

“You’re not cold.” 

 

You are.  Come on Sammy, for me…please.

 

Huffing a breath, which evolved to another coughing fit, Sam shoved across the floor to the fireplace.  Dean rolled the logs and carried a small bag of kindling to Sam, waiting patiently as Sam slowly piled them all together.  Standing on hind legs, front paws on the mantle Dean knocked a box of matches down, bouncing it off Sam’s head in the process.

 

Sorry.

 

Sam ducked and winced, shook his head a bit and rubbed at the spot.  A minute later they had a cheerful little blaze going.  Sam moved to the opposite side of the small cabin, near their pack.  Digging in it, he pulled a few things out.

 

“C’mere.  Let me see those.”  Waggling two fingers at Dean, eyes narrowing, “And don’t even TRY to tell me they don’t hurt.” 

 

Dean settled on the floor in front of Sam.  Using two fingers Sam probed gently through the fur over Dean’s neck and shoulders.  There was some bruising to go along with the wounds.

 

“It could have been a lot worse.”  Sam coughed again and voiced Dean’s thoughts.  Taking a bottle of saline rinse Sam carefully flushed the wounds.  Dean had to admit they felt better after Sam was done.  Rooting some more in the pack Sam pulled out a bottle of ibuprofen, holding it in one palm he looked from it to Dean.

 

I could just chew through it if you don’t want to open it for me.

 

“Huh?”  Sluggishly Sam’s gaze turned to Dean’s face.  “I was thinking.  When I was at Stanford, one of my professors, her cat got into a bottle of this stuff.  Killed it in like a day.  Maybe you shouldn’t take any, might hurt you.”

 

Dean nodded.  He was willing to risk it, his shoulder had a constant dull throb he’d like to be rid of.  However, the look on Sam’s face stopped any thoughts of taking medications, putting anything in him that wasn’t food.  With a short nod Sam dropped the bottle back into the pack.

 

Pulling one of the blankets off the cot, it dragged over the floor behind Dean.  He dropped it next to Sam, shoving his paw against Sam’s knee until the kid’s fingers curled around the blanket, pulling it over his shoulders.  He leaned against the wall, letting his head thump back and stretched his legs out in front of him.

 

Sam, why don’t you get on the cot, or the chair?

 

It took nearly a full minute for Sam to turn to look at the furniture.  Scrunching his nose he sighed, “I think the floor is cleaner.  I like it better over here.”

 

Dean decided not to argue, if Sam wanted to sleep on the floor then so be it.  He knew the problem. Both the chair and cot were right next to the fireplace, right where Sam didn’t want to be.  He was obviously too drained to move either to the other side of the cabin.  The room was small, it wouldn’t take long for the fire’s heat to permeate everywhere.   From the looks of the cot it probably wasn’t much more comfortable or softer than the floor anyway.  At every inhale Dean heard rattling from Sam’s chest, a few short coughs burst out.  Stretching out on the floor a few feet from Sam, positioned between his brother and the fire place Dean was finally able to relax.  He knew he had to say something, find a way to apologize to Sam, smooth over the hurt feelings from earlier.

 

“Dean?”  Sam saved him having to figure out how to start or what to say.  Dean recognized Sam’s tone, it was the we’re-going-to-talk tone.  Well this time Dean figured he owed it to Sam.  Even if Sam should know better, Dean decided his need to know for sure was reasonable.  Turning to face Sam, Dean sat up, giving the kid his full attention.

 

Wanted...accepted…home…safe…The thoughts and emotions accompanying them pummeled Dean, making him draw in his breath deeply, slowly to steady himself.

 

“Did you mean it, what you said?”

 

Shaking his head, “No, of course not.

 

“Then why did you say those things, call me that?”

 

Watching Sam, Dean considered how to answer.  The kid deserved the truth, and Dean vowed long ago no more secrets kept, no more half truths told to his brother.  Yet it was something Dean not only didn’t want to admit to Sam, it was something he didn’t want to admit to himself.  Sam should know better, even without this new ability he could read Dean like a book.  Saying he’d been afraid was difficult for Dean, saying it to Sam was damn near impossible.

 

Figured if you were pissed off you’d get moving.  Was worried you wouldn’t get up.

 

“You were really scared I wouldn’t?”

 

No more secrets, no more lies, Dean kept his promises to himself as much as to others.  He nodded.

 

Rubbing at his forearms Sam glanced around the room, coughed again.  “I’m sorry I scared you, I--” Sam grimaced, bit his lip, “I…won’t…try…”  Moving one palm over the wrist and forearm of his other hand, Sam’s face screwed up in pain.  A quick gasp was replaced by a rough cough.  He gripped his forearm until his knuckles were white, breath catching and jerking.

 

“Sam?”  A low rumble.

 

Breathing deep and heavy now, Sam squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head ever so slightly.  “Hurts, arms hurt.  Something is wrong, he’s dying.  The ground is crawling.”

 

Crap!  Dean recognized it immediately.  The idiot who couldn’t control his drug habit, was he purposely following them, or was he part of this?  Pacing closer, Dean began to purr, it was the only thing he’d managed to do that truly calmed the kid the past few days.  Sammy?”

 

Bending down, moisture oozing from between his eyelashes Sam choked in more breaths.  “I had to…part of…it…” His words were cut off by his doubling over even more, arms now wrapped around his middle.

 

What Sam?  Come on, you can do it, tell me.  Had to what kiddo?”

 

Trying to speak, choking on his words, Sam’s voice came out strangled and too soft, frightened.  “To remember…didn’t remember…it hurts….”  Sam’s eyes lifted to meet Dean’s, shaking him to his core.  They were full of pain, uncertainty, fear.  “Dean…I don’t want to…part of it…”  The final words came out in a sob.

 

Part of what?  Sammy, what did you do, agree to?  The blood in Dean’s veins burned ice cold, he felt its frigid claws rake across his limbs, inhabiting his skin, every pore, every break with raw unforgiving cold.

 

Straightening, or trying to Sam swayed a bit, Dean saw his eyes trying to focus and failing miserably.  “I had to…it hurts…the leaves look funny, like monsters...Dean, don’t leave me, please?”

 

Pacing in front of Sam, he’d seen this one too many times before, he knew what this was.  Rage boiled away the chill, this wasn’t fair.  Neither of them should be forced to relive this for the enjoyment of some creature.  It sickened Dean, he hadn’t seen this coming, had no way to protect Sam from this.  Mostly what tore at him was the lengths his brother was willing to go to for him.  Now he had no arms to wrap around his brother, hold him close, no voice to offer any words of comfort. 

 

Sam still felt what he felt.  He was still him, hidden in the body of a cougar.    They still had the ability to communicate.  Sam look at me.  Dean pressed his forehead to Sam’s shoulder, then chest, trying to hold him up.  Sammy.”  Claws retracted he rested one massive paw against the side of Sam’s neck. 

 

Another sob escaped Sam.  Glazed over eyes skimmed back and forth, stopping when they found Dean.  He saw the desperation, the sheer need to focus, and saw them slip away again just as quickly.  “Dean…I’m scared.”  The admission nothing more than a breathless exhale.  Weak arms circled Dean’s neck and shoulders.  He felt Sam’s ribs expand, some sound rumble out of his chest, his lips move, but no words came out.  In the next breath Sam was still and silent.  Dean moved slowly, easing Sam to the ground.  It was then he saw the slight rise and fall of Sam’s chest.

 

Nudging gently at first then with desperate urgency against Sam with his nose and paws Dean couldn’t wake him, elicited no response at all.  Sammy.”  Nothing but small, shallow breaths taken too far apart.  Almost nothing, Dean felt it again, it calmed him only fractionally.

 

Wanted…accepted…safe…home.

 

 


 

 

“The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.” …William Blake

                    

Pacing a circle around Sam, Dean tapped at his back with a gentleness that betrayed paws the size of dinner plates.  Nothing elicited a response from his brother.  Dean had to watch closely to be sure the kid was breathing.  He was, but not very well, it wasn’t right, the rhythm, time between breaths.  Dean stopped and stared down at Sam.  What if?  What would happen to Sam if…?

 

If that junkie died, and he was close enough to Sam…

 

Dean’s thoughts trailed away, refusing to take form, substance.  He couldn’t leave Sam.  He couldn’t help him just sitting here either.  Removing whatever or whoever Sam was picking up on removed his reactions.  At least so far it had, and Dean had no reason to think it still wouldn’t be so.  Sam wasn’t really dying, he was reliving it, feeling it through someone else.

 

Then why couldn’t Dean rouse him?  Why was his breathing so many versions of wrong, why wouldn’t his eyes focus, his brain work?  Why did Sam say he didn’t want to, and was scared?

 

Why was Sam scared?  The answer to that was simple, he was experiencing dying, feel it all, through someone else.  Living through something he’d mercifully been spared remembering.

 

Dean had to remove the junkie, one way or another.  Problem was he had to leave to go find the kid.  Swallowing back the uncertainty of leaving Sam, Dean headed to the door.  There he faced another whole other set of problems when it came to leaving.  Sitting up on his haunches he tried using first one paw, then two to open the door.  His paw pads slid around, but didn’t grip, wouldn’t open.  Damn opposable thumbs or lack thereof.  He smacked the door knob, no luck.

 

Next he tried teeth.  If paws wouldn’t work maybe the teeth would.  That clever idea got him a sour taste in his mouth, but no closer to the outside.

 

Dean turned his attention to the windows.  They didn’t have screens, or glass.  What they did have was wooden shutters held closed with heavy iron latches.  Carefully sliding one claw under the bar of the latch, Dean was able to flip it up.  Backing away until the backs of his hind legs bumped Sam, Dean sprang forward, sprinting across the small room.  Gathering powerful hindquarters under him, Dean launched forward.

 

Hitting the shutters with first feet then the flat part of his head they opened, slamming against the outer wall of the cabin with a bang and a crack.  He hit the ground running, using the incredible sense of smell he had, following the familiar scent of the boy mingled with filth, urine and blood.  Crashing through the woods and underbrush Dean found the boy just out of sight of the cabin.

 

Skidding to a halt a few feet from the kid, Dean never even knew his name.  It was doubtful he would now. Lying on the ground, forearms sliced apart, shredded beyond repair Dean saw why Sam’s arms had been so painful.  A rubber tourniquet was on the ground just beyond his reach, syringes were strewn about, along with a Swiss Army Knife, the blade and corkscrew covered in blood. 

 

There was life still.  Dean could smell his body heat, fading as it was.  Stepping forward he nosed the boy’s shoulder, much as he’d done to Sam’s just moments ago.  He got even less a response.  It was this kid or Sam.  Even if he could do something Dean doubted there was time left for this boy.  There was plenty left for Sam.  Gently as was possible Dean first nudged and pushed, then grasping the boy’s jacket in his teeth moving him as quickly as possible without causing him discomfort.  He didn’t think the kid felt much at this point, but Dean still treated him as if he did. 

 

Wanted…accepted…safe…home…

 

Those feelings had been boiling off Sam for the past four days, probably most his life, just Dean hadn’t been able to tune into them with such detail.  Or maybe he hadn’t been paying so close attention before.  Stopping after maybe a half mile they were still in the cover of woods, but Dean smelled concrete, gasoline and oil mingled with smoke, burning vegetation and death.  A road was nearby.  Had this boy, he wondered as he tried making the kid comfortable felt those things?  The sad part was Dean knew the answer, and it was no.  If he had he wouldn’t be here now, dying lost and alone.

 

Not alone.

 

Dean settled beside him, began to purr. 

 

The boy’s back arched every few minutes, his body mimicked inhaling.  Dean had seen this before too, he’d seen people die.  He knew agonal breaths.  The warmth left the boy’s body, seeping into the air.  His final gasp cut short by a spasm, half flipping to the side, arms and legs at odd angles, eyes open it ended.  Dean detected a distinct change in his odor, with the ceasing of brain function and heart beat, so did his unique scent.

 

Head on his paws, Dean waited until he felt chill take over the body, muscles and tendons become stiff and rigid.  Standing slowly Dean shook himself, tried ridding himself of the desolate feelings washing over him, through him.  He looked down at the body of the boy.  If it hadn’t been for each other he and Sam could have very easily met with the same fate.

 

Glancing around, Dean realized their path back to the car park would take them right by here.  Sam didn’t need to see this.  No one did.  Teeth closing around one of the arms Dean started to pull the body away, then stopped.

 

Someone did indeed need to see this.  Someone out there should know what price rejection demanded.  Someone certainly very much needed to see this.  Dean knew who too.  Not their names, but he knew all the same.

 

Changing direction he moved the body to the road, leaving it where it wouldn’t be hit, but would be easily seen by anyone driving by.  As if to punctuate that thought a semi rounded the bend, brakes squealing it ground to a stop, a man got out, ran at the body.  Dean sprinted into the woods, shouts from the man fading fast as he galloped flat out back the way he’d come.  The truck driver thought Dean had been responsible for the body’s condition.

 

Great he even as a cougar he was on the wanted list.

 

Stopping only when he reached the spot he’d first found the boy, Dean used one giant paw to swipe a small hole in the dirt.  He shoved the knife, tourniquet and syringes into it and covered them, patting it down.

 

He ran the rest of the way back to the cabin, leapt in the window in one smooth, fluid movement.  Padding silently across the floor Dean inhaled deeply, taking in Sam’s scent.  His vibrant, living, warm scent. 

 

Sammy?”  A gentle nudge to Sam’s shoulder garnered no response but a slight shift of his position.  His brother still refused to wake, but the etching of pain was gone from his face.

 

He was probably exhausted.  Dean knew his kid brother needed the sleep, but he still wanted…needed…desperately to hear Sam’s voice, see something in his eyes.  He stretched beside Sam, close enough his side brushed against Sam’s arm if he drew in a deep enough breath.

 

Wanted…accepted...home…safe…

 

It hit Dean again, like a full force, high impact blow. 

 

When he began to purr Sam half rolled over in his sleep, towards Dean.  Resting his chin on his paws Dean relaxed, staying awake, keeping watch.

 

The light from outside was fading, casting long shadows into the cabin.  Their fire had died down to nothing but a small flickering flame and a pile of glowing embers on the grate.  The smell of smoke and destruction weaken each passing hour.  He must have dozed off a few times, each time he dragged his eyelids open the shadows were longer, the air taking on a damp coolness.  Rain would come soon. Dean could smell that too, in the quiet air.  The too still forest of earlier was beginning to liven up.  Dean easily picked up the scent of other animals, the sounds of insects and birds, movement of leaves by the breeze.

 

He heard another sound too, one that made his heart literally leap.  Among Sam’s now soft, quiet breathing was a quicker intake of breath, Dean’s name blown out as he exhaled.  Sam’s voice, mostly asleep was tentative and hushed, nothing more than a murmur.  Dean flipped is tail so it landed across Sam’s calves and rumbled a deep rerooow in response.

 

Not sure how much more time went by, but he didn’t think it was long judging by the shadows outside, Sam stirred, then again.  Moving stiffly he pushed onto his elbows, looking around, blinking owlishly at Dean.  A few minutes more and Sam was completely awake, looking coherent and pretty much like Sam.  Eyes making a swift circuit of the cabin they came back to rest on the floor beside Dean’s middle, one hand brushing through his hair, Sam drew in a deep breath.

 

“I should have told you.”  Eyes wandered up the wall to the open window, then the fireplace.  “I couldn’t, I mean it I could…I just couldn’t.”  Eyes lifted to meet Dean’s, held his for a few seconds then dropped away again.  “Don’t be angry at me.  Please.”

 

Nothing you can’t tell me, ever Sammy.  Ever.

 

Sam’s eyes stopped skimming the room and met Dean’s.  A small smile and nod, but Dean understood.  Sam stood, stretched, wandered to the window.  Leaning out, he swung the ruined shutter with his fingertips before turning back to Dean.  Sammy’s smiles, even the smallest ones were Dean’s most favorite thing in the world he decided.

 

Had to take a leak.  Dean gazed at the ceiling, it was a great ceiling, fascinating.

 

“Hmmm….me too.”  Sam disappeared behind the curtain, back a few minutes later.  The sink had a pump, no faucets.  A few hearty pumps and a meager, dingy stream of water appeared.  Sam splashed it over his hands and face.  “We shouldn’t drink this.”  Crossing the small room Sam tossed more logs on the fire, stoked it up a bit before backing away, settling on the floor beside Dean.

 

He silently rummaged in their pack, pulling out bottles of water and first aid supplies.  As he had earlier, Sam flushed out Dean’s wounds, twisting his own shoulder and body with discomfort during the process.  He spread more antibiotic ointment over the wounds.

 

“Did he die?”  Sam’s soft tone broke through the heavy silence in the room.

 

Dean nodded, casting a look back at Sam, searching his face which was uncharacteristically closed off.

 

“Not right now.  Ok?  I can’t right now.”

 

Sam was quiet as he cracked open the bottles of water, holding one so Dean could, somewhat sloppily, gulp it empty.  That at least got a very thin, quick smile.  Sam drank his more slowly.

 

“We’ve only got enough water and food for a day.”  Sam wasn’t really talking to Dean, he was talking at the floor.

 

It wasn’t like Dean couldn’t go out and bring down a damn moose if he wanted to.  They could stay here a long time with all the groceries a moose would provide.

 

Sam picked at the fringe of his jeans for a minute before pulling two sandwiches from the pack, which looked pretty insignificant to Dean.  They’d need more than that to sustain them for the next three days.  “I’m not skinning a moose.  There probably aren’t any around here anyway.”  Sam unwrapped one sandwich, handing it over to Dean.  He held the other, but didn’t eat.

 

Maybe he could start smaller, a rabbit or some fish?

 

“No.”

 

Sammy, I don’t think most mountain lions have people following them around skinning their meals.”

 

“Can’t we go back and get more stuff?”  Sam took a bite of his sandwich, swallowing slowly.  “You want to finish this, I’m not really hungry.  There’s beef jerky too, if you want.”

 

Dean shook his head, not doing any more to force the issue.  When Sam was hungry he’d eat, he’d yet to see the kid go more than half a day without a meal.  Dean wanted to point out he’d probably feel better if he got something in his stomach, but knew it would be a useless effort.

 

“Maybe we could come back here?  I know you don’t like leaving the car, but…it wouldn’t be for too long.” 

 

Studying Sam, who was busy studying the floor and unraveling the hem of his jeans, Dean didn’t like what he was hearing, seeing.  His voice was still raspy, harsh and soft all at once.  Part of it was from the smoke Dean realized, but only part of it.  What bothered him the most was Sam wouldn’t look at him.  The kid seemed unable to lie to Dean, even keeping something from him was an effort and Sam definitely looked out of effort right then.

 

 The car would be fine; Dean was more concerned for Sam.  The stupid idea Sam had their car came before him was…well stupid.  Sam’s eyes shifted to Dean and away again, another of those tight, fragile smiles lasted as long as the eye contact.  Dean didn’t like Sam’s silence.  It wasn’t as before a simple lack of someone…Dean…to talk to.  With others, to the world in general Sam was a fairly quiet guy. Even their father hadn’t often seen Sam’s chatty side.  Dean did, it was mostly to him Sam talked, some days Dean wondered where his young brother came up with so much to ramble on about.  When Sam fell silent Dean always knew there was something up inside his head, something serious.

 

The last bit of sunlight made its way through the window.  Sam had pulled it closed as best he could, they’d get some supplies and fix it before leaving the area.  There was a pile of fire wood outside, Dean padded amiably behind Sam while he carried more inside.  They settled in for the night.  Not too long after the fire was built up, warmth soaking into every corner of the room, they spread the pillows, other blankets and Sam’s jacket on the floor.  Dean pulled one of the blankets over Sam’s shoulder.  A few minutes later Sam was sleeping again, Dean sprawled between him and the door.

 

Jolted awake by a sharp bang, a loud crack, Dean was instantly on his feet.  Meager moonlight and their small fire was plenty to see in the room.  He detected no strange smells.  The air outside, flowing in the opened window (Sam had closed it Dean was sure), tingled, but in a whole different way than from the fire.

 

“What was that?”  Sam’s voice in his ear made him start, jerk to the side.  “I don’t see anything.”

 

Wind gusted through the window, a flash illuminated the trees outside.  Almost immediately the cabin rocked from the thunder.  The brothers jumped.  Sam rubbed his eyes, smiled softly.  “Yeah, we’re a couple of bad asses.”

 

Dude you made me jump.

 

Sam rolled his eyes, unfolded his colt legs and crossed the room.  Dean was at once in motion, skirting around him and jumping up to put his front paws on the window jam as Sam reached out for the shutters.

 

“I don’t think anything is out there that will bother us.”

 

Dean sniffed the air.  Would he really smell something supernatural?  Sam leaned in the window, gazing out at the night.  A second crash of thunder, streak of lightening sent shivers through Dean, they both started. 

 

“Look.  It’s pretty.”  Sam pointed to the storm clouds darker against the sky than the night.  The wind picked up, rain pounded the trees, ground.  They watched until the wind shifted the rain started coming in the window.  Sam closed the shutter, fastening it as best he could.  “I hope that holds.”  Resettling on the bedding, he reached for the pack.  “Thirsty?”  Two more water bottles appeared.

 

Dean tried sitting back on his hind legs and holding his water bottle between his paws, which was clumsy at best.  Sam gave him a soft chuckle, “Lemme help you.  Think the rain will help put out the fire?”

 

Dean shrugged.  Silence reigned again, other than the thunder, and patter of rain on the roof, the trees. 

 

“Did you kill him?”

 

Dean pulled his gaze up to Sam fast.  You think that?”

 

Sam’s eyes focused on the ground between his knees.  His expression a mixture of troubled and maybe a bit frightened.  “You wanted to.  I didn’t need this...” he waved one hand near his head, “To know.  I saw it on your face, in your eyes every time he’d be close enough to…”  Sam’s voice trailed off.

 

Sammy, no.  I wanted him away from you.  That’s all.”

 

“Did you…was there anything we…”

 

Nothing.  I stayed until—until he was gone.  Dean wondered how to explain to Sam he’d been seen with the body.  It was too late when I found him.

 

“We’ll have to be careful when we go back, watch for trigger happy lion hunters.”

 

Silence fell again, but this time it wasn’t a heavy oppressive blanket.  The air inside the small cabin smelled clean and fragrant with fresh rain and washed forest.  It wasn’t only the rain leaving a cleansed feeling to Dean’s world.  Stretching on the blanket Sam spread out for him, head resting on his paws Dean’s body relaxed, seemed to want to automatically purr.  Letting the deep vibrations rumble from his chest made him feel at peace.  Sam sighed contentedly, within minutes his breathing was light and even punctuated by the occasional soft snore. Dean stayed awake for a while watching his brother sleep.  Hearing his steady breathing, smelling Sam’s warm, unique living scent, mingled with their fire made him drowsy.

 

Eyelids drifting shut, Dean purred until he was sleeping.

 

 


 

 

 It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for all your life….Elizabeth Kenny

 

“Dean….get in….the car!”

 

Swatting another stone away from his paws then jumping forward to pounce on it, Dean looked up, turned in the direction of Sam’s voice.  “Huh?”  A deep rumble from his throat.  His shoulder pulled and hitched as he stretched his neck to see over the top of the car.  Sam had unlocked the car and rolled down the windows to cool off the inside before heading into the parking lot office to pay their bill, but Dean opted to wait beside it for him.  The air was still tinged with the smell of smoke, fire, but it was far off and diluted with the scents of vehicles, people and pine.  The fire had missed this area, but just barely.

 

“Car…now…Dean!

 

Sam came running full tilt out of the office door, shouting at him to get in the car.  This was curious, since Dean saw no reason to run, or get in the car.  Now what?  He sighed deeply, trotted closer to the car, not hurried.  Sam was such a drama king sometimes, this week more so than normal.

 

DEEEAANNN!!”

 

Ok, Sam didn’t normally scream Dean’s name at the top of his lungs without reason.  It wasn’t always a scream-worthy reason, but there was always a reason.  Dean watched, pretty amused, as Sam hit the gravel, slipping and sliding, he rounded the side of the car feet actually going faster than the rest of him.  He slipped in the gravel, nearly going all the way down, grabbing the car to stop his fall.  Half running, freakish colt legs pushing more than carrying him forward, half scrambling over the ground on hands and feet Sam threw himself on top of Dean.

 

“Hey…Sam!  What the…?”  That noise was a distinct, perturbed growl. 

 

Ignoring him, Sam flipped around so his back was against Dean’s side, arms spread wide across Dean’s body, fingers gripping Dean’s pelt at his shoulder and hip.  Feet pumping in the gravel, slipping as he attempted pushing Dean back against the car.  Dean tried standing, shaking Sam off, but it didn’t work.  Why did he even bother trying?  He should know by now when Sam decided to hang on, Dean was going to be held captive until Sam decided he was damn good and ready to let go.  It had been that way since the first time Sam’s tiny infant fingers had wound around Dean’s larger toddler fingers and hung on.  He might weigh close to five hundred pounds as a cougar, but loosening Sam was impossible.

 

“NO!”  Sam shouted. Dean realized not at him.  Taking a better look around, Dean didn’t see anything.  He heard approaching footsteps, smelled someone who needed a shower, and reeked of anger.  “No…he’s a pet…no…it wasn’t him.”

 

The sheer panic in Sam’s voice, with no effort to hide it set off a dozen of Dean’s inner alarm bells.  Finally managing to wriggle out from under Sam enough to take a good look around Dean found himself nose to nose with the barrel of a shotgun.  The smell of the man was worse making his nose twitch. The footsteps stopped.  Dean’s whiskers vibrated from the combined sensations of hate, rage, horror and uncertainty.

 

“Get out of the way.”  Mr. Fat and Smelly demanded.  Dean smirked, guess this guy was about to find out how successful ordering Sam around could be.

 

“No.  He’s my…”   

 

Sam’s mouth clamped shut when Dean’s tail whapped the top of his head.   Don’t say it Sammy, they’ll lock us both up and shoot us.

 

“NO!”  Sam barked.

 

“Look, kid, I understand you’re attached to him and all but once they taste blood it’s just best to put them down.”  Fat and Smelly was waving his rifle around.  When he kicked Sam’s leg, hard, oh you did NOT just do that!  Dean was completely surprised when Sam simply curled his legs closer to his body.  The rifle poked first at Sam’s chest then wavered around near his forehead somewhere.

 

This was quite enough.  Pushing against the car trying to shove Sam away from him, get out from behind him what Dean really succeeded in doing was helping Sam push to his feet.  Mr. Fat and Smelly backed up a step, Sam towered over him.  Dean got the sense the guy wasn’t expecting that, nor was he probably expecting what came next.  Sam advanced on the guy, not really acting as if he noticed the rifle that was now digging into his solar plexus.  That couldn’t feel good.

 

“I said NO!”  Sam’s arms waved at the air.  He’d never actually seen Sam quite this angry.

 

Eh, Sammy, the gun, watch the gun.”  Sitting on his haunches Dean wrapped his tail around his legs and plastered what he hoped was a smug expression on his face, watching the intruder closely.  His finger so much as thought about twitching near that trigger and he’d certainly find out how Dean felt about the taste of blood.

 

“And ya shouldn’t put your rifle…”  Sam grabbed the weapon with one hand, yanking hard, “Right against someone…”  His other hand, in the form of a fist came up, connecting audibly with Fat and Smelly’s face, “…’Cause they can take it from you too easily.”

 

Fat and Smelly disconnected from his rifle, knocked back a good foot, stumbling backwards trying to regain his footing and failing miserably.  He hit the ground with a thud, a loud exhale of breath and the crunch of gravel.

 

That had to hurt.”

 

In one smooth motion Sam sent the rifle sailing through the air.  Dean watched fascinated as it wheeled around, flying into the woods.  He wondered if it would spin back at them like a boomerang.  Niiiice arm.”

 

Jerking around to face Dean, arm out, pointing at the car Sam bellowed, voice rising on each word.  “Get…in…the goddamn…CAR!”

 

Huffing out a long, slow breath Dean jumped through the window and onto the front seat.  Oh gee.  No need to get all pissy.”

 

Sam was in the car, had it going faster than necessary in seconds, peeling out of the car park.  Dean was flung against the dash one minute, in the next as Sam took a turn on what had to be two wheels he crashed into the door.

 

Sammy…go to your happy place.”  Dean slid across the seat, nearly ending up in Sam’s lap when he took another turn too fast and too tight.  “Stop!” He roared out.

 

Sam jumped, the car swerved, he turned wide eyes on Dean for a second before pulling off to the side of the road, skidding to a stop.  Gravel from the shoulder flew out, spraying the car, road and nearby trees.  Sam gripped the steering wheel with enough force Dean was sure he’d rip it clean off the car.  His mental checklist of what he’d need to repair the car once Sam got done tearing it apart was interrupted with Sam hitting the steering wheel…with his forehead.

 

“Sam.  Stop that.”  Dean growled out, ending in a sharp hiss.

 

“They’re going to shoot you, put you down like some rabid wild animal.”  Sam was swallowing air, not breathing it.  “They think you did it.  That boy, he was all bloody, they think it was a wild animal, a cougar…you.”  He stopped, turning red-rimmed doe eyes on Dean.

 

He cut his arms open.  Was a mess.  I didn’t do anything but move him to the road so he’d be found.  Pressing one paw against Sam’s shoulder he kept up the pressure until his brother’s breathing quieted.

 

Rubbing at his own neck and back, Sam reached out, moving the skin near Dean’s wounds.  “And these are getting infected.  They hurt. Don’t try telling me they don’t.”

 

Not so bad.”

 

“W-while I was in t-the office they said the f-fire was contained.”  Sam’s words rushed out too fast.  He’d been in the office maybe ten minutes and this was what he was reduced to?  Angry, belligerent, scared, all at once.  Gone was the happier, though still quieter than normal, kid from this morning whose biggest complaint had been he needed to shave.  Dean glancing at his legs then up at Sam with the thought of tell me about it elicited a quick grin and a laugh from Sam.

 

Sammy, we’ve got the rest of today, then two more days to go.  That’s it.  Hang in there kiddo.  Dean added a purr to his last statement, which did what he hoped it would do, relax his brother a bit. 

 

Leaning back, releasing the wheel, Sam slipped down in the seat a bit, head against the back.  “One of those yahoos is going to shoot you.  Kill you.”  He choked over the last two words.

 

No they’re not.  We’re better than them.  Besides it’ll take Mr. Fat and Smelly a month to find his rifle.”

 

Sam grinned, “Did you see that sucker fly?”

 

Did you see his face when you walked into the rifle?  Which if you ever do again I’ll shoot you myself.”

 

Ducking his head, Sam gave him a sheepish look.  “Should have seen the look on your face.”  His hand immediately swatted at Dean’s face when his tongue dragged over Sam’s arm.  “Asshole!  Stop that, it hurts.”

 

Dean got another lick along Sam’s bicep, and quick swipe at his neck before Sam clobbered him.  But fun.”  Dean wiped his tongue over his paws, then his back legs.

 

“Lick your balls again and I’ll take you back and hold you down while that guy shoots you.”  Sam threatened, but there was no malice in his voice, his lips seemed to take on a mind of their own and curled upwards.  Sam stared out the driver side window, scratched the back of his head.  “We need a plan.  If we go back to that cabin, we have to take the car back to the car park, or hide it along the road somewhere.”

 

You’re way over thinking this.

 

“Huh?”

 

Dean sighed, licked the bottoms of his front paws and wiped one behind his ears, over his face.  Disconnect the logic brain and engage the driving brain.

 

“Huh?”

 

Drive Sammy!  We don’t have to stick around here, pick a direction and drive.

 

“Oh.”  Sam sat straighter, gazing at the steering wheel, car dash as if they were aliens.  Dean nodded when Sam looked over at him.  Face cracking a huge smile, “Yeah.”  Sam agreed.   “Ok then.”  He started the car, pulled it back onto the road, back the way they’d come.

 

Uh Sammy, that’s the way back.”  Sam spent too many years depending on Dean’s driving and sense of direction.

 

“My sense of direction is fine.  We need more gas.”

 

Still creepy Sam.”

 

“So, we can just take off, leave?” 

 

This idea truly seemed to brighten Sam.  Dean watched the tension drop away from his brother’s shoulders, off his face, replaced by a slow smile.  Relaxing into the seat further Dean felt good.  You betcha kiddo, not like we got a lawn to mow and a mortgage to pay.”

 

“Where should we go?”  Sam pulled the big car into the gas station, stopping at the farthest pump from the store.  “Want anything?”  He asked over his shoulder as he pushed out of the car.

 

Dean shook his head, hopped into the back seat to stretch out further.  His shoulder was a dull throb.

 

“I’ll flush that again before we go, and get some warm water for a compress inside.”

 

Nodding his thanks Dean let his chin drop to his paws, drifting to someplace not really awake, not exactly asleep either.  Hearing voices around the car, he didn’t pay much attention, though there were familiar scents of people, people not Sam.  People he knew, or at least had sniffed before. 

 

“You can’t take him.  He’s been with me.  He didn’t do anything.”  The pleading lost little boy quality to Sam’s voice made Dean’s eyes open, his head pop up.  Sam was planted between the car (and Dean) and the sheriff again.  Pointing back at him Sam tried reason, “He’s got cuts and bites on his shoulder, look, from another cougar.  He didn’t hurt anyone.  He’s always with me.”

 

That last part was one hundred percent truth too.

 

“Son, I’m sorry, the law is quite clear.”  The sheriff peered around Sam into the car.  “Someone saw a cougar with that kid’s body, it was all bloody, I have no choice.”

 

“No.”  Sam snapped.

 

Ah gee…Sammy maybe don’t hit the sheriff.

 

“How do you know that’s how he died?  How do you know for sure it was an attack and not something else?  Please, can’t you wait a day, check it out?  He’s all I have.  Please.”  The last few words were spoken so softly, and Dean knew were accompanied by that look Sam stayed up nights practicing. 

 

Loud sigh from the sheriff, a glance over the top of the car, hands on hips.  A minute later there was a visible deflation, dropping of the shoulders….and Yeah!  Sammy doe-eye-little-boy-help-me-look one…sheriff zero.  Dean had to admit, the kid had a talent.  It gave him a not very small pleasure to know the rest of the world was not immune either, it wasn’t only him.

 

The sheriff gave one curt dip of his chin.  “The autopsy will be done tomorrow, he’ll have to stay confined until then.  I’m sorry, if he died because he was mauled…”  The man’s voice trailed off.  Dean saw quite plainly by his expression he believed Sam, felt badly for him.  The next words sent chills skating through Dean.  “Then I have no choice and he has to be put down.”

 

Dean had no room inside his chest to pull in air.  The world spun out of focus for a minute before slamming back at him.  Afraid to move so much as a muscle, Dean’s eyes shifted to Sam.  His brother bit his lip, could see his hands shake as he reached for the car to steady himself.  All color dropped from Sam’s face.  He didn’t do anything, say anything, just stood looking at the sheriff.

 

“We can keep him over at the campground until then.”  The sheriff reached out with one hand, presumably to pat Sam’s shoulder.  When Sam jerked away from him, glaring daggers at the man, to his credit the sheriff let it drop with his hand.  “You follow me over there.  Don’t give me a reason to toss you in a cell.  Understand me boy?”

 

Sam flinched, but didn’t back away from the sheriff, didn’t move from his spot in front of Dean.

 

Do what he says Sam.  Go along for now.”

 

“Yes.”  Sam swallowed whatever else he was going to say convulsively.  The man nodded, walked away, heading to his cruiser, casting a glance over his shoulder every few steps.

 

Reaching behind him, Sam opened the driver’s side door, crumpled into the seat.  Feet still on the ground, elbows on his knees, head down between both hands.    “Dean…he…” 

 

Dean’s heart seized, he recognized the tears, despair, plain fear in Sam’s voice.

 

Sammy, the kid was loaded up with heroin.  There’s no way they will think it was an animal attack.

 

Turning tear-filled eyes on him for a few seconds before swinging completely into the car and driving behind the sheriff, Sam wiped one hand over his face.  He was totally silent as they pulled into the campgrounds.  Dean knew he wanted to bolt out of there, but the simple fact was the sheriff would chase them down.  They’d have a better chance on foot.  The sheriff produced from somewhere a length of tow chain and a few padlocks.  One end was wrapped around Dean’s neck, locked in place.  The other end fastened around a tree and securely locked.  He paced back and forth, which he realized probably wasn’t helping his cause any while the sheriff talked with Sam.  More to the point the sheriff talked at Sam.  His brother didn’t appear to be paying much attention, and never once took his eyes from Dean.

 

Settling against the tree, Sam pulled his knees up, rested his chin on them.

 

“You can’t sit out here all night.”  The sheriff said.

 

“Am I breaking some law?”  Sam’s voice was bitter, mean.

 

Sighing heavily the sheriff shook his head.  Dean had a hard time holding anything against him. The man’s expression was truly one of concern for his brother.

 

“If you need anything, they can get a hold of me over at the office, just ask.”

 

Sam stared definitely at the ground, ignored the man.  A final, defeated, shrug of his shoulders and the sheriff turned, left them.  Dean backed up, testing the strength of the chain.  There was no way to pull loose, but these locks would take Sam all of three seconds to crack.  They were simple, store bought locks.

 

Hide the car Sammy.”

 

Sam shook his head.  He refused to look at Dean, so Dean pushed against his brother’s shoulder with the wide, flat part of his head.  

 

Sammy, listen to me…

 

“What Dean? What?!  I’m not leaving you, what if that guy comes back and…and…” He turned away.  “Or these other people here, they’re not too thrilled  having you around, one of them might not want to wait.”

 

Part of the problem, Dean recognized was the people around them.  They’d all decided to be afraid of the cougar in their midst.  He’d seen the looks, heard some comments, smelled their fear in the air.  All that fear had to be assaulting Sam like a sledge hammer.  It was easy to see the kid was nearly paralyzed with his fear.  This wasn’t Sam.  He didn’t freeze up this way, especially when it came to what Dean asked.  It was getting worse. Sam’s resistance was practically nonexistent.  After only a short time around people again he was reduced back to nearly defenseless to the onslaught of sensations.  Sam was right about one thing, if someone decided to take matters into their own hands, Dean was a sitting duck. 

 

Sam.

 

“I’m not leaving you, so shut up.  If someone decides to drug you, it’s not like I can carry you.  If someone decides to…I’m not leaving.”  Sam ground the words out, blinked back more tears, his face set, determined and stubborn.  “It’ll be dark in a few hours, after I’ll get you loose.”

 

We’ll have to make a run for it.

 

Finally Sam met his eyes, face softening he nodded.  Dean thought the boy looked drained.  He was back to the dark smudges under dull eyes.  The entire transformation had taken nothing more than a few hours.  The length of time it took him to recoop was getting longer with each assault.   That scared Dean.  Scared him a lot.

 

Stretching on the ground beside Sam, Dean tried working his shoulder, keep it from stiffening up.  The chain dragged against it with each movement, it hurt like…well…like he’d been mauled by a lion.  Sam leaned his head back against the tree.  His eyelashes were moist, he trembled slightly.  Every now and then someone would walk by, cast curious glances at them.  Dean decided it wasn’t him keeping the onlookers at bay, it was vicious glares Sam gave them, when he bothered to acknowledge a presence at all.  Letting his tail drop across Sam’s feet Dean rolled close enough to his brother their sides touched.  He purred.  What he really wished he could do, besides get the damn chain off his neck, was make some smoke rings.

 

He must have dozed off, when he felt Sam’s hand gripping his neck, shaking slightly, Dean lifted his head up.  It was dark, the air cool and damp.  The fire must have been put out or moved very far away, now the air smelled sweet and clean.

 

“Hold still.”  Sam whispered in his ear. 

 

Dean heard the soft chink of chain being moved, the click from the lock tumblers so quiet no one but them knew it opened.  They had to cross an open expanse to where the Impala was parked.  The sheriff made Sam park it next to the office.  The moon, not full but big enough to provide some light watched them happily.  Long shadows from trees, the few buildings and closer tents slithered across the ground covered with short grass.

 

That way.”  Dean’s chin pointed out a direction, the opposite side of the campground they’d set up camp in a few days ago.

 

Sam nodded, moving for the first time away from the tree, turning a complete circle before he motioned with two fingers to Dean.  “Go.  Go.”  An urgent whisper.

 

Up and moving, Dean galloped across the expanse between him and their car.  A few seconds later he heard Sam behind him, crunch of gravel barely noticeable in the night.  When they reached the car Sam unlocked the door, biting his lip as it creaked open.  Leaning in he turned the crank, shifted the car to neutral, and began to push.  Standing on his hind legs, front paws against the rear bumper, Dean shoved against the car, they had it moving along in seconds.  Sam ran alongside for a fifty yards or so, before hopping in, starting the engine he turned the car down one of the dirt access roads.  Dean ran beside the car, easily keeping pace with it. 

 

Stopping at the far boundary of the campground Sam pulled the car into the woods as far as he was able.  They covered it with branches before melting into the woods.

 

It took a few hours to reach the deserted cabin, Dean was limping by the time they were inside.  As before Sam stretched out on the floor, refused to sleep on the cot near the fire.  Exhausted, Dean figured Sam was a big boy, if he wanted to sleep on the floor yet again, so be it.  Barely making it to the blankets spread on the floor and dropping down beside his brother before he was covered in deep, dark black nothingness.

 

Rolling over and scratching his back against the rough material of the old blanket, damn that felt good, Dean cracked an eye open.  Sunlight streamed through the broken window.  They still had to fix that, maybe later today after a romp in the woods and a bit of ball tossing…ROMP?  TOSS??  Dean Winchester did NOT romp.  Not under any circumstances.

 

Sam grumbled something, sat up, rubbed one hand through his hair which made it stand up in all sorts of odd and unnatural directions.  He looked over at Dean, blinked sleep away and scratched his chest.

 

“Man, you’re a—“  Sam’s bleary voice was cut short by a crash from outside.

 

Now what!??

 

 


 

 

 A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself…Josh Billings

 

 “I’m a WHAT?!”  Dean shouted.  That came out of his mouth a deep, husky, hearty roo roo arrooff, which pretty much answered his question. Looking down he had long, dark tan legs, broad chest and wide, muscled shoulders, all covered with the same dark honey colored sleek fur.

 

“Man, you’re a dog.  A BIG dog.”

 

A second crash from outside and both their heads turned to the window.  Now what?  Now just what the hell WHAT?!

 

“Now whose being pissy and snappy?  Not me.”  Sam rolled to one side, snatched a pistol from their pack before getting his feet under him and pushing off the floor.  Dean’s nose easily reached the spot on Sam’s middle just above his belt buckle.  Sam bounced a bit on his toes, shook his hands at his sides, rolled his shoulders.  Dean was immediately on guard. Sam was too anxious, too hyped up.  Which probably meant whoever or whatever caused the sounds outside their cabin was feeling that way too.    

 

Another crash.  “Come on kid, I know you’re in there.  Get your ass out here.”

 

Looking down at Dean, frowning, Sam held both hands out, shook his head.  Dean knew that voice, Sam nodded the merest fraction.  Problem was neither could place it.  Sam mouthed the words ‘who is that?’  Dean had no ready answer.

 

NOW!”  The voice demanded.

 

Sidling up to the door, Sam cracked it open enough to peer out.  Dean managed to get his head between Sam and the door, looking out.  He didn’t like it at all how quick Sam was to put himself in harm’s way.  Damn opposable thumbs and doors.

 

“Now you know how I feel.”  Sam whispered, a bit harshly.

 

Dean watched intently, Sam had flipped personality traits so quickly. This was affecting his brother on a much deeper level.  It was no longer reaction to emotions, physical sensations, the last two days Sam was taking on characteristics of those around him.  That was disturbing.  Dean could tell by the way Sam moved, the set of his jaw, the look in his eyes, he was waging some internal battle and losing.  The anger from the trucker, now the reckless aggression of whomever this intruder was. It wasn’t Sam.  Yet Sam, in the blink of an eye, became what these people were.  So far that didn’t seem such a great thing.

 

He missed his little brother and desperately wanted Sam back.

 

Sam’s eyes dipped to him again, a curious expression on his face…had Sam felt that too?  Well gee.

 

“What do you want?”  Sam shouted out the door, despite Dean’s tugging on his jeans to move back.  “Stop that.”  Sam hissed, swatting at Dean’s head.

 

Sammy get back.

 

“He’s only got a club.”  Sam bent a bit, keeping his voice low.  There was a definite edge to it, some quality not normally in there, something Dean didn’t like at all.

 

“Gotta admit kid, you got style, using a big cat to get rid of that punk thief.  But I’ve come to collect what’s mine.”

 

They exchanged looks.  Dean knew that voice, a shake of his head “Can’t place the voice,” got him smacked in the eye with the tip of a long, broad floppy ear. Sam gave him a one shoulder shrug, another small shake of his head and a lopsided grin. 

 

“I don’t have anything of yours.  I didn’t get rid of anyone.”  Sam toed the door open farther. 

 

Dean got his shoulders between Sam and the door, shoving against his brother’s legs, forcing him back a step.  He was able to see outside.  The man, with the club, the really big club, was pacing back and forth, swinging the really big club in a circle at his side.  The club connected with a metal trough outside the cabin, splitting the air with another resounding crash.

 

Stepping around Dean, throwing the door open, Sam was outside, stalking toward the man.  He gripped his pistol, knuckles white around it, but kept his hand firmly against his side.  Dean bolted out the door behind him, crossed the small porch and leapt off the steps, hitting the ground a few seconds before Sam.

 

“What the hell do you want?  Get away from me and leave me alone!”

 

“I want what you and your buddy stole from me.  And I want to know what you two did to us after torching my car, making me think it was a dragon.

 

What the?  Oh...ohhh”…Well damn.  A quick glance back at Sam who stood staring at the man for a minute before the realization spread across his face.  One of the two men who’d chased Sam and the junkie, saw Dean drop from the sky, grab Sam and fly away.  Which meant guy number two was around somewhere Dean was sure.

 

“I didn’t know him, I don’t know what he took, I don’t have anything that’s yours.  He car jacked me, it was the first we met.”  Sam ground out, chest heaving, mouth twitching, the fingers of his free hand clenched and unclenched.  Vicious, snarling anger boiled just beneath the surface, Dean saw it clearly.  Sam was struggling to contain it, swallow it away, and it wasn’t working.  He was going to erupt, and probably get himself hurt.  Irrational anger skated across the kid’s face darkening even more.  The simple fact was the emotions Sam reacted to were in direct conflict with the person Sam was, and it was tearing him into pieces.

 

Dean wondered if this man in front of them saw the wild-rabbit panicked glint in Sam’s eyes.  Hoping he was the only one who could, Dean had to do something.  Sam had a gun he wasn’t completely willing to use on this guy. This guy had a club he was completely willing to use on Sam.  Without much forethought to the club Dean darted forward, snarling and barking…loudly.

 

Both Sam and the intruder flinched, the strange man outright jumped, backing up a few paces.  Dean advanced, ignoring Sam’s demand to “Get back here.”

 

“Gotta a killer mutt now too?”  The man snapped, recovering quickly he was moving at Dean, club swinging.  Oh hell ya, killer mutt!”

 

Flattening to the ground, feeling the whoosh of air across his shoulders and back from the club, he’d a little too well accomplished his goal of getting the man’s attention off Sam and onto himself.  His brilliant plan lasted all of three seconds.  Sam was drawing attention back onto himself, that wasn’t how it was supposed to work.

 

Charging the guy, this time gun up Sam shouted, “Touch that dog and I’ll blow your frigging head off!”  Sam fired, hitting the guy in the hand.  The club clattered to the ground.

 

Howling, doubling over the man grabbed his wounded hand with his other hand.  Dean watch blood ooze between the man’s fingers, that had to hurt.  He tried to feel sorry for the guy, almost got there for a second or two.

 

Teeth clenched tight, Sam’s fingers gripped his own ‘wounded’ wrist, sucking in air.  He half turned from the man.  Dean saw his eyes brighten, become fluid from the pain.  Sam was trying to cover his reaction from the guy, that much was obvious.  He’d turned partially from Dean too, probably an attempt to keep it from him as well.  It didn’t work, Dean saw the way Sam’s shoulders tensed, his entire body stiffened.  Dean was more attuned to Sam. He saw rage battle fear and desperation all over the kid’s face, in every movement he made.  Even the slight change of inflection of his voice, the subtle change of his body scent registered somewhere in Dean.

 

“You goddamn bastard!”  The man shouted, staggering at Sam, his face set and determined, grabbing up his club as he went. 

 

Dean was up again, tail high, lips curled up, snarling as loudly as was humanly…errrr dogly possible…ending each snarl with a deep, burly bark.  Sam feels what I feel Dean recited for the countless time.  Staring down the man, Dean concentrated on calming down, rising up his own confidence.

 

Backing up a step, Sam raised his weapon, aim deadly accurate pointed at the guy’s head.  Conflicting emotions chased one another across Sam’s face so quickly it was hard to keep up.  Dean finally won out he knew, when Sam’s shoulders relaxed by the smallest degree, his breathing evened out a fraction.  “Get out of here before I kill you.”

 

The guy probably thought Sam was nuts, on drugs or both.  That was the impression Dean got from the man’s expression.  He looked completely unsure what to do, faced with a very unpredictable kid holding a gun trained on his forehead.

Dean took the opportunity to take control of the situation.  Lunging at the guy, barking and snarling, closely watching the club, he sank teeth into the man’s shin.  The guy screamed. Some odd garbled noise came from Sam.  Pulling away from him the man staggered back.  Dean advanced on the guy, who was paying more attention to Sam than to the large, vicious dog coming at him.

 

Sam was bent at his middle, one hand still holding the pistol, the other his leg.  Biting his lip, face scrunched in pain, Sam wheezed out, “Get the hell out of here.  Next thing I say he tears you apart.”

 

That’ll definitely hurt.”

 

“You’re crazy.  Don’t think I won’t be back, and next time, I’m not going to be such a nice guy and I won’t be alone.”  Hobbling badly the guy backed away, turned and fled.  Dean chased him for a hundred yards or so, going through the woods as a cougar was easier than as a dog, but he still cleared obstacles with minimal effort.

 

He stopped after a minute, panting long ropey lines of drool from his tongue…Ok, that was just gross.  The guy was gone, but only for now.  Dean wasn’t kidding himself, these creeps thought Sam had their drugs or money or whatever and they weren’t going to stop until they got their stuff back.  Loping easily back the way he’d come it took him nothing more than a few minutes to get back to Sam.

 

The kid was looking like hell again.  He stumbled back toward the cabin, pale, sweating and shaking.  As soon as the back of his feet hit the step he dropped down, carefully putting the pistol down beside him.  He ran both hands through his hair, bracing his elbows on his knees, then let his gaze drop to the ground between his feet, head cupped in his palms. 

 

Barely glancing up when Dean trotted up to the cabin, Sam’s words came out pinched, soft, painfully young.  “I nearly killed that guy.  I-I wwa-anted to.  I wanted to make him suffer.”  The words scarcely got out between the choked breathing. 

 

Drug dealer, or works for one, would have deserved it.  Dean stopped in front of his brother, poked Sam’s arm with his nose.

 

“He’s a p-person…we don’t kill people.”  Sam rubbed his shoulder, turned his attention to Dean.  Reaching out with one very shaky hand Sam lightly touched Dean’s shoulder near the wounds.  “I can’t take care of these.  They’re getting worse.  You were limping last night.”

 

Is ok SammyI’m…

 

“No you’re not.”  Sam snapped out harshly, voice rising.  “Just quit that shit Dean, I know, I can feel it, so just quit.”  More tears, brushed hastily away.  Sam dropped his gaze to the ground, ducked away from Dean’s scrutiny, looking angry and embarrassed and eight all at once.  “Dean please, they’re more than I can take care of.  You need help, real medical help or you’ll get sick from them.  Dean.  Please.

 

Head dropping a fraction, Dean’s tail wagged, brushing the backs of his legs, he should just tuck it between his legs.  Damn kid and that damn look of his.  Really was the quivering lip all that necessary?  Low blow Sammy.”  Dean may consent the fact he needed medical attention, but the last place he needed to have Sam was in a hospital.  The idea sent a fairly significant shiver through him.  Sick people, hurt people, dying people, recovering people, all surrounded by upset, ecstatic, consoling friends, relatives, whatever.  Dean figured Sam would last maybe ten seconds after going through the front door before having a complete meltdown, or blow apart.

 

“You can’t go to a hospital, I can’t take you into one.  Not as a great dane.”  Sam stood slowly, bracing his hand against Dean’s back as he did so.  Toe scuffing along the splintered wood of the small porch he fidgeted with the hem of his shirt, before stuffing his hands into his pockets.  “I really wanted to kill that guy, make him hurt and suffer, die scared.”

 

But you didn’t.  Let’s get out of here before he comes back.”

 

“I didn’t only because you stopped me.”

 

Dean studied him for a minute, not knowing what to do, say, think.  He poked at Sam’s stomach with his nose, “Go get our stuff.”  Which sounded like a few short woofs and a roo roo.  Sam smiled at him, nodded before trudging back to the cabin door.  Dean sat, waiting patiently, “Good thing you’ve got yourself a totally awesome big brother to watch out for stuff like that and take care of you.

 

Hesitating before stepping into the cabin, Sam half turned, “Yeah.”

 

Oh lord.

 

He heard Sam rummaging around, gathering their few possessions.  He was back through the door in minutes.

 

We’re outa here Sammy, way far away out of here.

 

“You’re shoulder.”  Sam stooped and picked up the pistol, stowing it in the pack before hefting the thing onto his back.

 

You figure out a way, I’ll go along.

 

The grin Sam gave him, with those dings…dents…dimples…whatever… in his face gave Dean a warm, lumpy feeling in his throat.  Waving one arm in front of him Sam laughed, “Lead on Hamlet.”

 

By the time they were back to where they’d hidden their car Dean was nauseous, limping and exhausted.  Sliding in the car after Dean, Sam rubbed his own shoulder, winced, scratched at it.  Dean’s nose pushed against Sam’s arm…”Stop that.”

 

“It hurts.”  Sam complained.

 

I know Einstein, it’s MY shoulder.”  Stretching as best he could in the seat Dean let his head rest against the rolled down window.  “Drive Sam.”  That sounded more like a few moos and a soft rumbling woof.

 

Sam drove as far as the store they’d gone to a few days earlier.  Again Dean waited anxiously, Sam was in there alone…alone, thank you very much…surrounded by who knew what.  Dean stared at the store front, barking at the few people who wandered too close to the car.  He stood fully, tail hanging out the passenger window, whipping back and forth when he saw Sam emerge from the place.

 

Sam wore a bit of an odd expression, carried a bag, but otherwise seemed himself.  Elbowing Dean over as he pushed along into the driver’s seat Sam started the car, glancing at him.

 

“You said if I found a way you’d go along.  See someone about those wounds, right?  Dean you promised, and you need those looked at, need something for the pain.”  Sam was doing that lip-biting-looking-six thing again.

 

Oh oh.  Dean nodded.  He settled into the seat, glaring out the side window, as Sam pulled back onto the road.  Didn’t like this, nope, didn’t like this at all, little brother Sammy was up to no good, he was sure.  At least they were going in the opposite direction as the campgrounds.

 

“Why don’t you sit in the back, you’d be more comfortable?”

 

A glance over his shoulder before returning to the stunningly interesting country side.  You’re up here.”

 

“Thanks.”  Fingers tapped the steering wheel, “A lot.  Thanks.”

 

Dean thumped his tail against the upholstery, letting it fall across Sam’s knee.

 

He must have dozed off, his eyes snapped open when he realized the car had stopped, the engine cut off.  Sam was ripping the bag open he’d come out of the store with.  Dean barely had time to consider what his brother held before it was fastened around his neck.  It itched, the line…leash…FRIGGIN’ LEASH…attached to it sparkled suspiciously.

 

“SAUUM!”  Dean snarled, a real honest to goodness snarl.  What the hell is this?”

 

“Dean just listen to me, please.”  Sam’s words rushed out of the front of his face, his guilty, annoyingly desperate, your little brother would do anything for you face.  “It’s the only way and they didn’t have a lot of choices in your size, and I had to and you promised.”  Getting out of the car, Sam tugged gently on the leash.  “It’s just for a little while.”

 

Hopping to the ground Dean slammed to a halt when he read the sign on the building Sam parked behind.  Animal Hospital?  ANIMAL HOSPITAL….VETERINARIAN?!?!?!  Oh no…OH Hell NO!

 

Sam’s tugging got more insistent, “Dean yes.”

 

“No, Sam, it’s a vet!”  A few short barks.

 

“You’re a dog Dean.  And they’ll have medicine for you and stuff for the pain and the infection.”  Another half hearted tug.  “Dean please.  You could get really sick from those,” Sam stood looking at him, doe eyes at it full strength, combined with little lost boy expression.  And really was the quivering lip totally needed?  Don’t say it Sammy, don’t say it, don’t you dare say…“You could die.”…Damn kid.  The things he did for this boy, honesty he deserved some sort of an award.

 

Huffing out a longer than necessary breath, head and tail drooping, Dean trotted along beside Sam into the building.  There was a horseshoe shaped counter, Sam leaned against it, both hands (one with the leash…LEASH…wrapped around it) flat on the surface.  A pretty petite blond girl flashed him a dazzling smile.

 

“H-hi.  I called a little while ago, my dog, we were hiking and there was a mountain lion.”  Sam flashed an equally dazzling smile.  Oh Christ. 

 

Dean glanced around, read the board near the door with the names of the veterinarians and other employees.  Women, all women…please don’t have PMS…please don’t have PMS.

 

“Oh my gosh, how terrible.  The poor guy, how’s he doing?”  The cute blond ignored Sam and rushed around the counter to Dean.  “What a handsome boy you are!”  She rubbed his neck, then under his chin.  Hooo ya!  Flopping on the floor, rolling to his back, “Oh yeah, that’s the spot sweetheart.” 

 

Sam rolled his eyes.

 

What Sammy, acting the part here.  Nothing wrong with a little tummy scratching.”  Wriggling side to side a bit…”Maybe just a bit lower there sweetie.”

 

“Um…miss, I think those are infected, it’s been a few days.  I’m really worried.” 

 

The scratching stopped.  Kill joy.” The girl stood up, turning her attention back to Sam.  “Sorry, silly me.”  She giggled and flushed.  So did Sam, then coughed.  “Want this boy neutered while you’re here?”  She asked.

 

So much as think about it and someone will be picking up pieces of you across the next seven states.”

 

Sam visibly flinched, jerking his head side to side spasmodically.  “Um…no…thanks…n-nuh-no.”

 

“Ok, well if you change your mind, let us know, the doctors here are real big on that sort of stuff.  Come on this way.”  She headed down a short hall.

 

Dean sat and glared at his brother. 

 

“Come on.”  Sam hissed out under his breath, another tug on the leash…FRIGGIN LEASH… “You promised.”

 

Thanks Sammy, you brought me to the freaking house of doggie horrors.”

 

“Stop bitching.”  Sam coughed again, covering his words, when the pretty blond turned back to him.  “Allergies.”

 

“Oh.”  She smiled.  Sam smiled.  Dean sulked in a corner.  “The doctor will be right in.  Love the cotton candy leash and collar, pink’s my favorite color.”

 

“I—uh—thanks.”  Sam looked from her to Dean and back again, running a nervous hand up and down his thigh.  “His other one, the black one with the spikes, lost it when the cougar…it’s all they had at the store.”

 

She nodded, “What’s his name?”

 

Sam got that positively young, innocent and sweet smile Dean hated (ok, feared) so much.  “Tinkerbell.”

 

Eight states.” 

 

The blond patted the top of Dean’s head.  “What an absolute doll.  If you’re a very good boy there’ll be doggie bones for you.”

 

Bitch.”  He watched her retreating back as she left the room.

 

They waited maybe another minute before a second woman entered.  “Hi, I’m Dr. Phillips.”  She stood on one side of a wide examining table, Sam and Dean the opposite.

 

“Sam.”  He blushed again.  “Thank you so much for seeing us.”

 

“Mountain lion got to him huh?”

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

“We’d better take a look.  You’re awfully lucky that cat didn’t kill him. Let’s get him on the table.”

 

“Oh, sure I can get him.” 

 

Sam! I can do it… 

 

He was cut short when his brother grabbed him behind his hind legs and around his chest, lifting him in the air, depositing him on the table.  “Myself.”  He grumbled the last word aloud, which sounded like a huffed growl.

 

“Oh now, none of that big guy.  I know this is scary and you hurt.”  The woman, turned, opened a drawer and produced what looked for all the world like a muzzle.  Quick as a flash the thing was fitted snuggly over his snout and clipped behind his ears.

 

“Thank you so very much for seeing us.  I was so afraid I wouldn’t get him back to help in time.”  Sam was purposely avoiding the foul glare Dean aimed at him.

 

“Let’s make sure he doesn’t have a fever.”  She pulled out a thermometer. 

 

Sam so help me if she puts that where I think—“  She already had a muzzle on his face and now a thermometer up his ass…Dean snarled, lips puffing out around the soft material encircling his snout.  Absolutely no one seemed impressed.  With an annoyed puff he sat on her hand.

 

“Not much of one, that’s good.  When did this happen?”  She extracted her hand from under Dean’s legs and gently fingered the swollen skin around the wounds.

 

“A few days ago.  It took us this long to get back.  I flushed them out, put on some antiseptic cream, but didn’t know what else to do.  Is he going to be ok?”

 

Dean’s anger and frustration drained away hearing Sam’s tone when he asked the last question.  The kid really was worried about him.

 

“I think so.  But we should knock him out, get these cleaned up, maybe a few stitches.  Can you get pills down him?”

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

“Good.  We’ll send you home with some antibiotics for him…”

 

“Something for the pain too?”  Sam cut in.  The rawness of Sam’s voice made Dean’s chest squeeze tight.

 

“Oh absolutely.”  She patted Dean’s head.  What was with his head that everyone seemed to want to hit it?  “He should be good as new in a few days.  Can you come back in a few hours for him?”

 

Sam’s fingers dug into the loose skin over Dean’s neck.  “I have to leave him?”

 

“Just for a few hours.”

 

“He’s all I have. He saved me from that cougar.  I can’t leave him alone.  I won’t get in the way.”

 

And another hapless victim fell hard and fast to Sam’s sad, sappy, totally manipulative look.  Dean would have thought people who work around sad eyed animals on a daily basis would be immune.  Not so.

 

The vet smiled kindly.  “You can wait in here.  It’ll take the drugs a few minutes to work, you can stay with him.  When he’s out we’ll take him in the back.”

 

Sam nodded, eyes round and wide, fixed on Dean.  “Thanks.”  He rasped out.

 

Saying she had to gather some supplies the vet left, back in a few minutes carrying a syringe.  A syringe she aimed at Dean.

 

Whoa, lady, what you sticking in me?”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Sedative.  It’ll help the anesthesia work better.  We’ll give him a reversal agent when we’re done.  You boys should be on your way in a few hours.”  That needle went in his butt.  Dean flinched, Sam grimaced, sucked in a quick breath.

 

“Be right back.”  She was gone again. But thankfully not before removing Dean’s face guard.

 

“How you feeling?”  Sam asked meekly.

 

Just perfect.

 

Sam yawned, rubbed the back of his neck.  “You’ll be ok.”  This time Dean recognized the edge to Sam’s voice, the small bit of apprehension creeping in.

 

Course I will Sammy, don’t be silly.”  Dean stretched out fully on the table, front legs dangling over the end.  He let his head drop between his legs, ears flopping across them like warm mini-blankets.

 

Sam sort of slouched against the wall, arms crossed over his chest.  His eyelids drooped.  Dean had to get him secluded when they left here.

 

The vet was back, yet another syringe in hand.  She pulled one of his hind legs away from his body, Dean thought about protesting but it seemed too much like work.  A second woman was with her this time, she held his leg…maybe she’d give him a tummy scratch too… “She’s purty Sammy.”  He felt the tiniest pinch on his leg, just under the spot the new girl was holding.  The world slid into and out of focus, he wished Sam would stand still.

 

Crapcrapcrap…feels what I feel…shit! 

 

Trying to lift his head to warn them, but it was too heavy; his eyes didn’t want to focus.  He rolled on his side; it was easier to see Sam that way.  Dean watched, helpless as Sam staggered back.  He’d feel the affects of the drugs they gave Dean and he’d…the last thing he saw before the world faded away was his brother swaying precariously.  The last thing he heard was one of the women gasping out, “Grab him quick, he’s going to faint.”

 

 


 

 

Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane…Smiley Blanton

 

Dean’s vision cleared, blinking slowly the world, room, his brother came into focus.  Sideways.  Blinking a few more times Dean ventured as far as to raise his head, he was a bit foggy, but that seemed to be clearing away.  On his side, he stretched across a good bit of the exam room floor.  Rolling so his head and shoulders lifted off the cool tiles, Dean gave a hearty shake, starting at his nose and rumbling clear down to the tip of his tail.  He tried licking his lips, but his mouth was pasty and dry. 

 

Sam was sprawled haphazardly on a bench seat mounted in the corner of the room blinking back at Dean.  Arms draped across his thighs, hanging listlessly between his legs, an ice pack perched in one hand, held by loose fingers.  His eyes looked as hazy and fuzzy and Dean’s brain felt.  But at least the boy didn’t look like he’d been assaulted by ten types of sensations.  At least he looked fairly Sam-like.  It gave Dean something of a start, he could tell just by looking at his brother if he was himself, all right, or if there was something off.  Warm comfort filtered into his hazed out brain.

 

Blinking slowly again, Sam’s free hand bobbed up and dropped back down once, he offered Dean a lopsided half a grin.  Guess they’d both neglected to think about what would happen to Sam when Dean was drugged until it was too late.  The kid sported a small bruise across one cheek ending at his temple.  What hit Dean the hardest, slammed into him and as before if he’d not been already sitting down he’d have been knocked over by what rolled off Sam in tsunami sized waves.  Wanted…accepted…home…safe.

 

Dean shoved to his feet…paws…whatever…shaking his entire body again, it felt good, no wonder dogs did it so much.  That ice pack’s not doing a lot of good in your hand.”

 

Shrugging, Sam pushed off the wall he held up and dipped his head side to side, rubbing the side of his face he moved his jaw back and forth a few times.  “We’d better go before they stick you with something else.”  He yawned, massaging the back of his neck with his free hand.  Standing, using the wall for support Sam carefully set the ice pack on the exam table.

 

They headed back to the main desk, after Sam snapped on Dean’s leash and collar.  Dean barely contained his growl, he’d get Sam for this, he didn’t know how yet, but sometime, somewhere he’d get Sam for this.  Shaking again…”Ya got to try this sometime Sammy, it feels great!”  Dean waited while Sam paid. 

 

The cute blonde handed Sam a few bottles of pills, one was antibiotics, one for pain…oh and goody beef flavored and chewable.  “This is such a great dog you have.”  She gushed.  Leaving the desk she bent down, scratching at Dean’s chest. 

 

His hind leg took on a life and mind of its own, thumping happily against the floor.  Ooohhh.  Sammy she’s flirting with you jackass, she likes you, get her number. 

 

Patting the top of his head…ok really what was with the head thing?  She reminded Sam, “Stitches out in two weeks.”

 

“Thank you, very much.  I’m sorry to be a bother.”  Sam gave her a shy smile.  Dean poked his brother’s leg with his nose, promptly got Sam’s knee nudged against his side.

 

Jumping up so his front paws were on the counter Dean huffed a few times, “Sweetheart give him your number, he’s too shy or too stupid to ask himself.  She’s hot Sammy, go for it.”  That earned him a scratch under his chin, another pat on the head…what was with the head?

 

“He’s too cute.”

 

I know.  Thanks.  You’re not so bad yourself.”

 

“Thanks again.”  Sam yanked on the leash, jerking Dean after him.

 

And yet again I’m reminded why you never get laid.” 

 

“Shut up,” Sam hissed, unsnapping Dean’s collar before unlocking and opening the car door so he could jump in, “Or I’ll take you back in and tell them I changed my mind about the neutering thing.”

 

Curling one lip Dean glared at him.  You’d feel it too buddy boy.”

 

Sam’s barely suppressed shudder made Dean chuckle, which sounded more like roow roow.  Sliding down until his head rested against the back of the seat, Sam’s eyes dropped closed, his hand, palm flattened against the seat beside his leg.

 

Sammy.  Dean gave his shoulder a poke.  Sam, come on, let’s get out of here kiddo.  Turn on the car.  I know you can do it.”

 

“Um hummm.”  Sam slurred, nodding a fraction.  “Juusss gimmee minute.  ‘Kaay?”

 

No, come on Sam, drive, it’ll go away when we get away from here.  I promise.

 

“Don’ thi’k I can drive this way.”

 

Well I sure as hell can’t and we can’t sit here we’ll end up arrested for loitering or something dumb.  He tried licking the side of Sam’s neck, then his arm at the ticklish spot behind his elbow. 

 

Swatting at Dean, Sam snickered and twisted away from him.  “Don’t.”  He pouted, looking seven years old again.

 

Dean sat straighter, leaned his head out the window and took a fast look around.  He didn’t see anything obvious, no other people were in the parking lot except them.  Assuming what Sam was experiencing came from inside the animal hospital Dean turned back to Sam, barked and snapped against the kid’s ear.  Sam!  Drive, right now!

 

“Ass.”  Sam huffed, but at least he stuck the key in the ignition, it was a start.  A few deep breaths, a yawn, head shake and Sam finally got it together enough to turn the key.  Another poke to his side from Dean’s nose got the car put into gear.  Yeeehhaaaa!

 

The rest of today and tomorrow and their week was up.  It couldn’t happen too soon for Dean.  The car swerved slightly, Sam ran one hand over his face, through his hair.  Another minute went by before Sam straightened in his seat a bit more.  Dean relaxed, his brother’s eyes cleared, his face more alert.  If they could just get away from this area, Dean felt they’d be fine for the remainder of the time.

 

Problem was they didn’t seem to be able to get more than a few miles before being dragged back.  Leaving Sam to mutter and grumble to himself Dean rested his chin on the open window, watching the scenery fly by.  Everything smelled sweet and clean.  The warm breeze pushed against his ears, making them flap gently.  His eyes drifted closed, he relaxed more.  It was a nice day, he had his little brother safe and sound with him and they were headed away.  Dean didn’t care where as long as it was far away.

 

Feeling, as well as hearing, the subtle change in the engine as the car sped up.  The wind against his face hardened, became uncomfortable.  From the driver’s side came a growl any grizzly bear would be jealous of.

 

Now what?

 

Without warning Dean was squished into the passenger door, “Sam—eeeee!”  In the next instant he was sliding across the seat toward Sam.

 

Sam leaned forward over the steering wheel. Eyebrows pulled together, lips pulled up in a grimace, snarl, fingers gripping hard.  This couldn’t be good.

 

“Freaking assholes.”  Sam muttered, then shouted it, hitting the steering wheel with one hand.  The car swerved, sending Dean sliding into the dash board with a loud grunt. 

 

The upholstery was too slippery. He found no purchase, nothing to hang onto with paws and no grip.  The car jerked again.  He slid back toward Sam, who put an elbow and forearm out to stop Dean from ramming against him.  A loud ‘gaarrruuffff’ slipped from between Dean’s considerably floppy lips.  Scrambling to the back seat with less coordination than he was capable, hind limbs moving fast to keep him from getting stuck halfway over.  Ignoring Sam’s complaints when his tail smacked against his brother’s ear, Dean took a look out the rear window.  His head whipped around tracking the car coming alongside them.  He saw, heard, smelled the men who’d chased Sam before, the man who’d appeared at the cabin.

 

The car swerved at them, Sam’s reflexes were lightening fast. He yanked on the steering wheel, pulling the Impala just out of the way before the two vehicles collided.  When Sam hit the breaks Dean flew face first into the back of the front seat, his entire body momentarily trapped on the floor between the two seats.  Climbing free, he was sent rolling into the door as the car did a one eighty and was speeding back the way they’d come.

 

“Will you goddamn sit still?!”  Sam shouted over his shoulder.  Slamming to a stop again, spinning the wheel frantically, sent Dean crashing to the other door.

 

If he was lucky one of the doors would open and he’d fall out. 

 

He got himself to his feet, able to look over Sam’s shoulder in time to see that the other car was aimed at them.  Snarling some incoherent noise from the back of his throat again, Sam bent forward more, stomped on the accelerator. 

 

Crapcrapcrapcrap…Sam…stop!”

 

Dean watched anger consume his brother’s features, rage, deep down hate clouded everything else from Sam.  The change in his scent was undeniable. He’d gone from Dean’s little brother Sam, to some violent, horrible stranger Dean didn’t know in a matter of seconds. 

 

One with a V-8 engine and a half ton of solid built car as a weapon.

 

Not good, this was not good.  Dean’s insides twisted, tying into cold knots and pulling taunt.  Out of all the occupants of the two vehicles the only one with a rational thought was THE DOG…definitely not good.

 

SAM!”  Dean leaned over and literally barked in his brother’s ear…repeatedly.

 

Sam barely noticed he was so intent on speeding down the road and ramming the car speeding up the road at them.  Head on collisions at high speeds almost never ended well.  Both of them and their car were definitely going to be dented.  Dean knew Sam was too angry to care about himself, but he knew how to make his obstinate little brother listen.

 

Right up next to Sam’s ear, Dean barked, loud and aggressive.  Sam!  Sammy you’re going to kill me.  Stop this!”

 

Eyes slipping to Dean, then his whole head turning that way, Sam’s face paled, warped into some horrified expression, eyes wide and round.  Mouth dropping open Sam looked as though he’d just woken up, came to realize where he was and what he was doing.

 

Road…Sam…ROAD…watch the road…CARSAMROADCAR!”  Dean barked furiously, paws raking Sam’s shoulder.  Sam you moron, we’re going to hit that CAR!  TURN!”

 

Leaning forward more, one hand leaving the wheel to run through his hair, Sam looked more himself, more like himself at age ten caught doing something really, terribly, awfully bad.  The way he looked when he thought Dean would be angry.

 

Gulping in big bursts of air, swallowing them down and puffing them back out Sam gagged, “Shit.  SHIT!”  Hands moving frantically, nearly twisting the steering wheel off the column, Sam hit the brakes, the car spun.  Grass and dirt and who knew what else flew out in all directions.  Dean skidded over the car seat, first slamming to the back of the seat, then against the left side door.

 

“Are you Ok?”  Sam’s hand reached back, grabbed Dean’s ear, pulling frantically on it.  “God, Dean I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry.”

 

Clambering to the front seat, Dean shook his body side to side starting with his head.  Yeah, that felt great!  Sammy, ear, let go of the ear.”  Dean leaned away, Sam’s fingers opened letting Dean’s ear slide free.

 

The other car bore down on them far too quickly.  Sammy, drive…SHUT UP and DRIVE!”

 

“Huh?”  Turning to look back the way they’d come, Sam’s horrified look multiplied tenfold.  He slouched, then gasped, then straightened, pressing down on the gas pedal, yanking hard on the wheel to bring the car back to the pavement.

 

The other car roared up behind them, slamming into the rear bumper of the Impala, sending Dean crashing into the dash again.  Faster Sammy, drive faster.  We can outrun them.”

 

Sam pushed the Impala to a faster speed, backing off a few seconds later.  High speed car chases were Dean’s job, not Sam’s.

 

This thing has more power than the freaking Space Shuttle, Sam punch it…we can out run them.

 

Head snapping around, meeting Dean’s eyes, Sam gulped again and nodded curtly.  Biting his lip, leaning over the wheel again, Dean felt the car’s speed amp up as Sam applied steady pressure to the accelerator.

 

That’s it keep going.  Truck, Sam truck coming, watch the truck, right, move over right….don’t hit the brake, just ease off the gas for a second…don’t yank the wheel, turn slow…Sam MOVE!  Dean closed his eyes and ducked, cracking them open a second later, in time to see the semi they’d barely avoided hitting sail on by.

 

Crap Sam…watch the ditch, get back over…potholes…POTHOLES!”

 

“Will you SHUT UP!”  Sam shouted, avoiding another oncoming car. 

 

When they hit the back access road to the campground, Dean groaned.  They were never going to leave this stupid campground, ever, never, ever.  The car fishtailed around the first turn, Dean held his breath until Sam brought it under control again, making a mental note to make Sam practice his high speed driving more often.  In case Dean was a dog again anytime soon.

 

The car was still behind them, keeping them in sight, but not able to close the distance between the two cars.  Dean’s keen hearing picked up another sound, another engine.  Great, now who?

 

A few seconds later at the sound of sirens Sam’s head whipped around to the left, “Damn, Dean now what?”

 

Following Sam’s line of sight, Dean saw it too, the sheriff’s cruiser bearing down on them fast.  Dean looked from one car to the other.  The dealers chasing them weren’t showing signs of dropping back, though they had to have seen the sheriff’s car, and heard the siren.  The sheriff was closing in from the left.  It hit Dean then, the men chasing them didn’t care if the sheriff got in the way or not what was one more dead man?  Great two dead men, one dead dog, and a wrecked classic car.

 

Turn…go at the sheriff!”

 

“Huh?”

 

Sam you go at him, he’ll figure it out…trust me.”

 

Spinning the car around so it aimed at the cruiser, flying by it, then Sam spun around again so he was behind the sheriff.  The man’s head jerked around, watching the Impala’s movements, no doubt recognizing the car and Sam.  Dean ducked out of sight, Sam would have a hard enough time explaining where his ‘pet’ cougar went to, let alone why he now had a dog.

 

When the sheriff’s car slammed to a stop, Sam hit the brakes, barely avoiding a rear end collision with the cop car.  Dean flew off the seat, smooshed between it and the dash.  With a grumble and a grunt he climbed…more slowly this time…to the seat.  Reaching over he nudged Sam’s arm.  Do exactly what he tells you.  Before Sam could comment, or even react Dean jumped from the car to the ground.

 

The sheriff was occupied with the two men in the chasing vehicle.  Out in a flash, Dean had to give the man credit, he was good.  He’d figured it out right away.  Armed with a pistol he had it up, and was ordering them to stop and get out, via loud speaker.  They really hadn’t paid too much attention to him until he shot out two of their tires.  That made their car stop.

 

“Dean.”  Sam leaned to the passenger side, his voice a rough whisper through the window.

 

Stay in the car, do what he says, it’ll be ok.  He’s going to look for a mountain lion, not a great dane.  I’m here.  Dean flattened on the ground beside the car.

 

Waving in the direction of the sheriff, “But Dean he…”

 

Doesn’t need your help.  Stay…in…the…car.”

 

The sheriff had the two guys out of their car and in cuffs in record time.  After shoving them into his cruiser he turned to Sam.  “I’ve been looking for you.”  He snapped. His former good graces somewhat gone.

 

“That kid, the one who died, he car jacked me a few days ago, they chased us.  They think I knew him.”

 

“Did you?”

 

Sam shook his head, looking all of an eight year old, a very innocent eight year old.  “No sir, never met him before he held me up at gunpoint.”

 

The sheriff started pacing around the car.  Dean belly crawled to the rear, watching under the car as the sheriff’s boots moved, stopped, moved again.  “Where’s that cat?  You let him loose.”

 

“No sir.  They did.”  Sam pointed to the sheriff’s cruiser.

 

The man’s eyes slid from Sam back to his car.  He continued his pacing around the Impala.  Dean inched away, stopping under Sam’s window.  Sam barely glanced down, but it was enough their eyes met.  Dean tipped his head a bit…Wanted…accepted…home…safe.  It hit Dean, rolled over him, flattening him to the ground.

 

“You got proof of that?”

 

“You got proof otherwise?”  Sam countered, suddenly sporting a cocky grin.  Bad move, worse choice of words.

 

The sheriff’s eyes narrowed, he stalked back to Sam’s side of the car.   Dean had to wiggle along quick to keep from sight.  Pointing at Sam, the sheriff’s voice was low, authoritative, pissed off.  “You WILL follow me back.  If not when I catch up to you, and I will, you will sit in a jail cell for a long time.  Got it kid?”

 

Go along with him Sammy.”

 

Sam swallowed and nodded.  As soon as the sheriff turned back to his car, Dean jumped back through the window, this time bouncing to the back seat.  Sam dropped one of the blankets they kept back there over him.  Scrunched on the floor between the two seats Dean could only hope the car wasn’t searched before he could sneak out.

 

Once back to the small building serving as the campground’s office the sheriff called for someone to collect the two men he’d taken prisoner.  This gave Dean enough time to slip from the Impala again, and disappear to the side of the building.  Sam sat waiting, as instructed.  After he’d finished, the sheriff escorted Sam into the building.  Dean saw them moving through, followed along from the outside.  Sam was locked in a small room toward the back of the building, one the sheriff explained was used to contain trouble makers at the campground until they could be transported to the county lock up if need be.  Seems the sheriff’s family owned the campground.  Just their luck.

 

The last thing they needed was for Sam to be arrested.

 

Worse yet, Sam was in there alone…alone…at the mercy of whatever emotions, sensations he might encounter.  Dean was happy to find the room had a window, it was barred, Sam wouldn’t be escaping that way, but it was open with a screen.  The door to the room equally barred.  Left alone Sam leaned against the wall next to the window, looking out. 

 

Dean jumped up, paws on the outer sill.  Sam twisted, trying to rub at his own shoulder.  “Hurts huh?”  Digging in his pocket Sam produced the two bottles of pills from the vet.  Working the corner of the screen loose he tossed one out to Dean, who caught and swallowed it before thinking about what he was doing.

 

Ya know, not really beefy flavor.”

 

Sam smiled.  “What if he takes my fingerprints, or runs my record or something?”

 

You got the car keys?”

 

“Yeah, he didn’t take them.”

 

Then I doubt he’s going to run anything on you.”

 

More cars and voices had both them looking.  “I can’t see anything.”  Sam sighed.

 

Be right back.”

 

Dean trotted to the corner of the building, cautiously peeked around.  There were now three more sheriff cruisers and a van.  He watched as the two men were loaded into the van.  The sheriff exchanged a few words with the others before they left and he headed back into the building.  Shimmying up so he could press against the building directly under Sam’s window Dean waited and listened.

 

“You never saw that boy before a few days ago?”  The sheriff asked.

 

“No sir.”

 

“They said you used your cat to kill the boy.”

 

When Sam said nothing the sheriff sighed, crossed both arms over his chest and continued.  “However I got the autopsy back, he was loaded with enough heroin to kill three people and bled out from self inflicted wounds.  No evidence of any animal attack.  And they also tried convincing me you were flown away by a dragon, right before it torched their car.”

 

“Oh.”  Sam looked down, not trying very hard to hide his smile.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So I can go?”

 

“Yes and no.  I’ll let you out of here, but I need you to hang around until I get this all straightened out.  There was a lot of confusion with the fire, and some very odd sightings, and they all seem to revolve around you.”

 

Sam shrugged, all young and innocent, “A dragon?  Come on, no such thing.”

 

“You’ve got a point there kid.  That boy’s family will be here in a day or so, you need to be here until I’ve got everything wrapped up with them.  As far as I know you’re the only one who had contact with him.”

 

“Do I have to stay in here?”

 

The sheriff seemed to consider letting Sam out.  He opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by his radio, then a shout from somewhere else in the building.  The two men Dean presumed were drug dealers hadn’t been alone.  The van never made it to their county jail, not with its two prisoners at any rate.  The sheriff left Sam, locked up and alone in the room. 

 

Sam was a sitting duck, locked in there.  Some very pissed off men who wanted whatever the dead kid stole, that they think Sam had, knew just where Sam was.  Dean had to get his brother out and do it now.  Damn opposable thumbs, this wasn’t going to be easy.

 

As soon as the sheriff’s cruiser sped off, Dean started working a way into the building.

 

 


 

 

 Wanted…Accepted…Home…Safe

 

 “Dean!”  Sam was pressed against the bars, both hands gripping it, calling as loudly as he probably dared to his brother.

 

Barking in response, Dean jumped up, tail wagging, shoving at Sam’s hands through the screen with his wet nose.  ’S ok Sammy, no one is around, I’m gonna get you out.

 

“You heard?”

 

Dean nodded, one final short, woof he sprinted around the building, looking for a way inside.  Stopping at the door he glanced around.  No one had noticed him yet, but it was late at night, most people checking into the campgrounds had done so already.  Dean was a three foot tall dog, not something easily missed. It wasn’t like he could slip in unnoticed when the door was opened.

 

He darted back to Sam’s window.  Scrunching of boots on the gravel behind him drew his attention away from Sam.  Stay back from the window.

 

Sam nodded, backing up a few steps.  Dean sprinted around the corner of the building, taking cover in the darker shadows there.  The trees above blocked most the light from the moon, but there were large lights near the front of the building, and motion detector lights.  Panic surged through Dean; he had to get into that building, to Sam.  Stay calm, he feels it too.  Dean’s lips blew out and flapped back softly with each deep breath he took in, gusted back out.

 

Wanted…accepted…home…safe…It rolled right out of the building, slamming into him.  Dean shook himself to clear his head, focused on the steps closing in on the building.

 

Stay back from the window Sammy.”  He hoped he was still close enough Sam understood.  Seeing the movement inside the room, Sam’s shadow receding farther quieted his hammering heart by a fraction.

 

A crouched figure, pistol in hand, moved along the building coming to a stop a foot from Sam’s window.  The man kept his back firmly to the wall, slid up it until he was standing, able to see at least partially inside Dean was sure.

 

Darting forward, barking roughly, loudly Dean had the advantage of surprise.  The guy spun around, it was the same one who’d come to the small cabin after Sam.  He faltered.  Dean launched at him, ignoring the panicked shouts from his brother.  The guy still held a gun, Dean was frighteningly aware of it.  For a second it pressed to his chest, he wasn’t even sure which end of the pistol it was, not sure he wanted to know.  The man tried shoving him off, giving Dean the opening he needed.  Teeth sinking into the man’s forearm, Dean yanked.

 

It was the mountain lion attack all over again, but Dean figured Sam would hurt a whole lot worse if he was shot.  He caught a glimpse of Sam spinning away from the window, holding his arm tight with his other hand, heard a muffled cry.  Dean nearly gave up, he was causing pain to the one person he’d never wanted to hurt, in any way.

 

The gun fell away, discharging.  Sam shrieked Dean’s name from the window. A quick look back he could tell Sam wasn’t at the right angle to see clearly.  He felt terrible, Sam not knowing if Dean had been hit or not.  Dean could only hope Sam’s ability for empathy let him know Dean was holding his own. 

 

Pouncing on the guy again, Dean pinned him to the ground, standing on his chest snarling.  The man struggled, bucked up and nearly tossed Dean off.  Using the momentum created, Dean reared back and slammed his entire weight into the man’s shoulders.  Sam made an odd sound, as if it came from between clenched teeth.  The guy’s head hit the ground with a loud CRACK.  The man stilled.  Dean sniffed at him, a quick glance, the man was unconscious, not dead.  Oh well, too bad.

 

“Nuuggghhh…”  He heard the distinct sound of a body hitting the floor inside the building.

 

Crap!

 

Grabbing the gun in his teeth, Dean was at the window in a few long, powerful strides.  Sammy.”

 

Sam was on his knees in the middle of the room, holding the upper half of his body up on one trembling arm.  His other hand clasped the back of his head.

 

Sam, get up.

 

Nodding, Sam got one foot under him, managed to get halfway to his feet before staggering sideways.  He caught a chair, pulled himself straight on it.  Groaning, his eyes scanned the room, resting on the window.  He looked dazed. 

 

“Deeean?”  Sam’s voice was barely above a whisper, wreaked of confusion.  Sam’s scent reflected the uncertainty mingled with pain and anger; blind trust and devotion.

 

Here.  Can you get this screen loose?   Make a hole?

 

Sam turned slowly to the window, eyebrows scrunching together he stood, swaying slightly, staring at Dean and the window.  Dean watched the gears turn, the realization creep into Sam’s eyes as they cleared, focused.  It finally got through his brother’s foggy head, Dean held the gun.

 

Staggering across the room, Sam leaned heavily on the window frame.  He picked at the corner he’d worked away earlier, finally able to peel the screen back completely.  A minute later Dean laid the gun in Sam’s outstretched hand.

 

You got anything in there to cover your head?

 

Sam shook his head.  Backing up to the wall, he took careful aim at the door.  One arm over his face, Sam fired.  The sound reverberated around the small room, it hurt Dean’s ears and he was outside.

 

Sammy?”

 

A hard swallow, Sam nodded at him, stuffed the pistol behind his back.  One solid, well placed kick to the door had it popping open.  Fortunately they weren’t dealing with maximum security here.

 

Dean was back to the door of the building in seconds.  He heard Sam moving through the small building, finally the click of the door knob turning.  Rubbing the back of his head, Sam emerged, still looking stunned.  His eyes took a minute to focus on Dean.

 

“Where is he?”

 

Over there.  We gotta find something to tie him up with.”

 

Sam blinked at him.  Dean hopped up and down a few times on his hind legs, woofing.  Not like I can tie him up Sammy.”

 

It took Sam a few strides of staggering before he regained his normal, easy gait.  A short time spent rifling through the Impala’s trunk produced some rope, and not a moment too soon.  Moaning when Sam turned him over, bound his hands behind his back, the man came to completely as Sam hauled him to his feet.  “Come on.”  Sam ground out, shoving the guy ahead of him, back into the building. 

 

Going only as far as the office, Sam roughly sat the guy in a chair, tied him to it.  Drawing back his fist to strike he was stopped by Dean’s barking.  “What?!”  Sam barely cast a glance over his shoulder.

 

You might knock yourself out Sam.”

 

That made Sam’s hand drop to his side. He twisted around, looking Dean full in the eye.  Scrunching his nose, making a face, then a sudden grin Sam nodded.  “Yeah.”

 

Sammy, the other two are probably around here somewhere.”

 

Nodding, Sam pressed one hand to the man’s shoulder, leaned his weight against it.  “Where’s the other two?”

 

The guy laughed, “You actually think I’m going to tell you?  And here I thought you were a clever kid.”

 

“Fine,” Sam shrugged.  “Tell him.”  Turning enough to wink at Dean, Sam stepped away, leaned casually against the door jam.

 

Oh yeah!  Dean surged forward in one leap, landing with his front paws on the man’s knees, thrusting his snout right up to the guy’s nose, nearly touching him.  Pulling his lips back, Dean snarled, low and deep. 

 

The man cringed away from him.  Behind him he heard Sam suck in a breath, the rustle of his clothes as he pressed closer to the wall.  Dean switched to barking for a minute before settling on low, rumbling growls.  Sammy?”

 

“W-woorkking.” Sam’s voice sounded like it was pushed between his teeth.

 

Dean hated that quality to Sam’s voice.  The man tied to the chair was afraid, terrified of Dean.  So was Sam.  Other guys Sam.  It’s not real, not you, it’s him.  Ask where the other guys are?”

 

“Where are they?”  Sam snapped out.  Dean barked in the guy’s face for effect.  The stupid man shook his head, shut his eyes and turned away.  Dean leaned in close enough he could land some slobber on the man’s neck.  NOW!”  Sam’s voice dropped to a low and threatening timber.  Dean heard the twinge of panic in it, hoped this man couldn’t.

 

“Ab-b-bout a m-mile up the ro-road.  Innn a b-blue v-vaan-n.”

 

Ha!  Good job Sammy!”  Snarling at the man one final time, Dean hopped down, trotted out the door, whacking Sam’s legs with his tail on the way by.  Sam jerked sideways a bit, away from Dean, then turned hurt, confused eyes on him.  Dean pretended not to notice, waited patiently by the door until Sam stumbled after him half a minute later.

 

Sam stopped beside the Impala, slid down the side, resting on his heels, eyes on the ground. 

 

Sam.”  Dean nudged Sam’s arm with his nose.

 

“Gimme a minute.”  Sam rasped out, pulling in deep breaths, sighing them out slowly.  Holding one hand out, he pushed against Dean’s chest, moving him back, moving him away.  Pulling his hand away Sam closed his eyes and wrapped his arms closer to his body.

 

Sam.”  Dean sat in front of his brother, inched closer and nudged him again, a low, even woof got Sam’s attention focused on Dean.  He’d never wanted Sam to fear him, even if it wasn’t really Sam’s emotions.  Sam still felt them, experienced them, and fearing Dean was the one emotion Dean never wanted his brother to live through.  Sammy, look at me.”  He dropped one paw on Sam’s forearm.  Sam flinched, but didn’t pull away.  He patted Sam’s arm a few times until he finally looked at him.

 

Not your feelings.  Nudging again at Sam’s arm with his nose, Dean then gave him a poke in the ribs.

 

Sam’s lips turned up a fraction. He rested one hand on Dean’s back for a few beats.  “I know…but still, hard to ignore.  I’m not…it’s ok.”  Drawing in a few more deep breaths, letting them out slowly, Sam’s eyes met his, nodding once Sam finally shoved to his feet.  He shook himself, rolled his shoulders a few times and wiped his hands on his jeans before opening the car door.

 

That’s my boy.”  Dean bounced across the seat.  Once Sam reached across and opened the window for him, Dean rested his chin on its frame.  Let’s go get ‘em.”

 

That got him an earnest, for real laugh from Sam.

 

They found the van, hidden off the road just as dawn was brightening into full day.  Dean waited near it while Sam hid the Impala farther along.  Sam jogged up, hopped into the small ditch Dean crouched in, shotgun in one hand.  “See anything?”

 

Dean shook his head.

 

“I don’t think anyone is in there right now.”

 

They looked at one another.  Dean scrambled to the road, Sam on his heels.  Silently the pair approached the van, keeping low and out of sight they circled it.  Sam stretched a bit, peering into the passenger side window.  Glancing down at Dean, a quick shake of his head, they moved to the back of the van.  A few deft turns with his lock pick and Sam had the back open.

 

It was obvious someone had been here.  Food wrappers were strewn among blankets and pillows.  There were places for weapons along the sides of the van.  A cooler was tucked behind the driver’s seat. 

 

Poking Sam’s side with his nose, “Come on Sammy.  Dean was out of the van, around to the front, standing on hind legs by the hood.  Pop this sucker and we’ll disable it.”  Sam blinked at him, sighed a bit.  I’ll talk you through it, not that difficult.”

 

“Ok.”  Sam shrugged.

 

Ten minutes, and a string of cussing from Sam later, the van was rigged so it wouldn’t start.  Returning to the ditch, they waited.  Sometime in the late morning Sam squirmed around so his back was against the ditch and dozed off.  It was late afternoon when Dean smelled them, it was another few minutes before he saw them.  Head butting Sam’s shoulder to wake him up, Dean motioned to the van with his nose.  Sam nodded.

 

Two men climbed into the van, and predictably tried starting it.  It made odd noises, but the engine wouldn’t turn over.  One guy got out, lifted the hood of the van, blocking his view of the driver.  Just as he reached into the engine, he froze.  Dean would have smirked if he could have, but instead he silently bared his teeth as they closed around the man’s leg.  Sucking in a breath the guy was about to move when Sam cleared his throat.

 

Turning ever so slightly the man was met with smiling little brother and his shotgun.  Sam twirled one finger in the air, cocking his head to one side when at first the man glared at him.  Dean’s teeth pressing a bit closer changed his mind, he decided, apparently, to comply.  Sam cinched him up good and tight before leading him to the back of the van, tying him securely to the fender.  Crouched down, inching along the side, Dean belly crawling after him, they made their way to the driver’s door.

 

Sam reached up and rapped knuckles on the window, keeping out of the man’s sight when he looked out.  As expected the fool opened the door, leaned out to look, getting Sam’s arm around his neck.  The minute the guy was on the ground, Dean pounced.  Teeth around this man’s neck, keeping him from fidgeting while Sam tied him up too.  Retrieving the first man, they left them both in the back of the van.  Sam reopened the hood of the vehicle, yanked the battery cables loose and flung them as far away as he could.  Wiping his hands together, smiling down at Dean, he placed a call and the two of them slipped away to their car to keep watch until the sheriff arrived to retrieve his prisoners.

 

It was dark by the time all the cops cleared away enough for them to pull the Impala from its hiding spot.  Sam drove to the back access road of the campgrounds, found an out of the way spot and parked.  Dean could barely keep his eyes open as the moon rose high.  The last thoughts, feelings washing over him were from Sam…wanted…accepted…home…safe.

 

“Dean.”  Sam’s voice barely got through the haze that was his brain.  “Dean!”  More insistent this time.  Now what?

 

“Whaaa…Sammy…few more minutes.”  Dean scratched his chest, ran one hand over the back of his head.  His hair…HIS HAND…HIS HAIR…HIS VOICE!  SAM!”

 

“Geezz man,”  Sam reached over the back of the seat, pulling something out and dropping it on Dean’s lap.  “Put some damn clothes on.”  Arms above his head, Sam arched and stretched, then grinned stupidly at Dean, right before slugging his shoulder.

 

Looking down, Dean was himself.  Naked, but himself.  His eyes wandered up to meet Sam’s.  “You feel that?”

 

Sam shook his head, bangs and stray hair flapping around.

 

“How about this?”  Dean pinched his own thigh.

 

“Noope!”  Sam grinned even more, looking sheepish, eyes dropping to some point between his feet.  “I missed you.”

 

Wriggling into his clothes, Dean stilled for a minute, he hadn’t actually gone anywhere.  It hit him again, hard and powerful…wanted…accepted…home…safe.  He didn’t mind a little residual.  “Not going anywhere Sammy.”  Swinging around and giving Sam’s leg a shove with his toe, “Now go find my shoes.”

 

An hour later they pulled back into the campground, after finding a diner to have some breakfast in.

 

“Why are we back here?  Can’t we just go?”  Sam asked, his voice soft as he scanned the area, probably looking for the sheriff.

 

“Yeah, in a bit.  There’s something I have to do first.”  Leaning over the steering wheel he took a good look around, seeing who he thought he wanted to see.  To the side and a bit behind the office building, alongside some picnic tables were two cars, and an ambulance.  “Give me a minute?” 

 

Sam nodded, his eyes trailing to where Dean’s focused.  “Yeah, sure.”

 

Dean smiled, patted Sam’s shoulder and climbed out of the car.  He was halfway across the bit of ground between them and the ambulance when he caught a glimpse of Sam unfolding out of the car, stretching again, and settling on one of the tables near the two parked cars.

 

Stopping next to the middle age couple watching the ambulance being loaded Dean nodded to the sheriff who gave him an odd look.

 

“I know you from somewhere?”

 

Dean shook his head, “No, don’t think so.”  He turned to the couple, “I knew your son.” 

 

“Mitchell knew you?”  The man, Dean presumed it was the boy’s father, asked.

 

“He called you a few nights ago, strung out, in the middle of the night.”  Dean said without preamble, barely able to reign in the hate he was sure oozed through his voice.

 

The couple stared at him, made no comment, but at least the kid’s mother had the decency to drop her eyes.  The sheriff shifted from one foot to the other, obviously curious as to what would come next.

 

“I convinced him to call you.  Told him you’d understand, get him help.  Great family you turned out to be, guess you’re not exactly the Huxtables, now are you?”  Dean graced them with his most piercing stare before turning on his heels, went in search of his brother, his family, his loving family.

 

“Hey.”  The sheriff jogged at him, catching up in a few strides.   “You look familiar, your eyes do.   Sure we’ve never met?”

 

Dean shook his head ‘no’.

 

“Hey.”  He grabbed Dean’s arm, stopping him.  Dean gave the man credit, he didn’t let go when Dean turned his icy stare on him.  “Thanks for saying what I can’t while I’m wearing this uniform.”

 

That caught Dean off guard.  “Sure thing.”  He mumbled out.  “I left my kid brother, best I go find him before he gets lost or something.”

 

“Tall kid, classic black car?”

 

“Yeah.  How’d you know?”

 

The sheriff shrugged, and grinned.  “I think it’s the eyes.”  Jerking one thumb over his shoulder, “He’s over there, that’s the boy’s sister with him.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Dean settled on the picnic table next to Sam’s, hearing his brother talking to the girl, but not wanting to interfere.  Sam’s voice had that soft, quiet quality he took on when he was talking about things near and dear to him.  Dean had come to realize in the last year, he was at the top of that near and dear list.  Sam held the small toy Dean had seen the junky, Mitchell, holding.  He turned it over in his fingers, watching it before looking up, meeting the girl’s eyes.

 

“That car,” Sam’s chin jerked in the direction of the Impala.

 

“You live there?”  She seemed shocked.  “You don’t have a home; you and your brother are homeless?”

 

Dean winced at the look Sam gave her.  The next words out of Sam’s mouth totally floored him.

 

“I have a home.  A very nice one actually, a lot better than yours.  It’s got all the great things nice homes have.  I’m safe, and I live with my brother who loves me for who and what I am.  My brother would do anything for me.”

 

“Well that sounds great, but you never know about people, even your family, what they’ll do if you have trouble, what they’ll turn into.”

 

Sam studied her for a minute, Dean wondered what was wandering around in her brain, but he knew for certain by the expression Sam wore he was about to put her in her place.  “Actually, I do.”  Sam stood, dropping the toy beside her.  “I know exactly what my brother and I would do for each other.  I feel sorry for you, must suck not having any idea what a family or a home, really is.  My brother would have never, ever let that happen to me.”

 

Sam left her to stare after him, totally unaware her gaze followed him to where Dean sat he was sure.  Settling next to Dean, Sam leaned back on his elbows.  “She’s a bitch.” 

 

Wanted…accepted…home….safe...it wasn’t as strong this time, Dean didn’t need to grip the table to stay upright.  He fished around in his pocket, pulled out the small bottle he’d purchased on a whim at the diner.  Cracking it open, he watched Sam out of the corner of his eye.  Dean blew bubbles out of the small ring he’d pulled from the bottle.  Sam’s eyes trailed up as they wafted away on the slight breeze.  His gaze slipped to Dean.

 

Offering Sam the bubble wand and jostling his arm with one elbow, “What you say we blow this popsicle stand Sammy?”

 

Sam’s face split in a huge grin, dimples and all.  “Oh yeah!”  He blew some more bubbles.  “I’m still going to miss the wings. They were cool, in a warm way.”

 

Wanted…accepted…home…safe…that’s what Dean gave Sam, always had.   He realized with a sudden clarity, it didn’t just come from Sam, it came from him too.  Sam gave it back just as well and always had.

 

 


 

 

Not a hunt…More like a chance encounter

 

Dean Winchester sat on a rickety wooden chair next to an even more rickety wooden table watching the crowd pass by.  He’d have to figure a way to ditch Sam for an hour or so.  It shouldn’t be such a chore in the crowded fair, but Sam, it turned out, had some bizarre kind of bloodhound capabilities and managed to find Dean no matter where he went.  His plan was simple, the best ones always were.  Fill Sam with enough booze and sugar to make him want to puke his guts out, hoping it might distract the kid for a few minutes.  Though, Dean felt guilty even thinking about abandoning puking Sam at a fairground, but…whatever. 

 

Sam plunked some drinks, burgers, fries and the predictable funnel cakes down on the table.  He plunked himself in the chair opposite Dean, grabbing the sides to keep from being bucked off.  Someday the kid might learn to stop dropping his 6’4” frame onto wobbly wooden chairs.  Dean wondered when one of those chairs would just collapse under Sam?  That would teach him.

 

Dabbing his fries in ketchup squirted from a plastic packet, swirled one around as he glanced out at the fairgrounds.  He was vaguely aware of Sam watching him.

 

“I’m sorry.”  Sam blurted out around his burger.

 

“Huh?  Why? What did you do now?”

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t warn you.  What would happen, but I wasn’t sure myself.  She said I had to relive something I didn’t remember, but I didn’t know exactly what that would be at first.”  Sam paused, eyes skimming the ground, the miniature civilization must be back.  Finally he raised his eyes to peer at Dean from under his bangs.  “I don’t remember what it felt like, to die, when it happened.”  He stopped, taking a few deep breaths.  Dean played with another fry and waited.  “I remember pain, then not much else. It went away after a little bit.  I remember you being there, and I wanted to talk to you, but I couldn’t.  What I do remember,” Sam brushed one hand over his face, “Really well actually was I didn’t know what was happening to me.  But I knew you were there.  I wasn’t scared, not at all.”

 

Dean struggled to speak around the soft spot in his throat.  “I’ve seen that way too much, no more, okay?”

 

A small smile that reached Sam’s warm eyes, when he spoke, his voice was soft.  “He hurt Dean, that kid, Mitchell, he hurt and he was so afraid.  I remember every second of his dying, every little thing he felt, thought.  He was in pain, alone and so scared.”  A small tremor ran through Sam.  “I don’t mean just at the end, those final minutes, at least then he wasn’t alone.  But his whole life.  No one wanted him, really cared what happened to him.  You know what I realized?”

 

Shaking his head side to side, Dean was incapable of speech right then.

 

“I don’t even have a concept of what that must feel like. Not once did I ever feel all alone, not like that.”

 

“Good.”  Dean managed to get the one word out his mouth.

 

“Can I ask you something?”

 

Nodding, it occurred to him that his kid brother would ask whether Dean wanted him to or not.  He mostly did want Sam’s questions, to hear him talk. He’d never admit it, but he would horribly miss Sam’s rattling on at him.  The fact Sam knew this, always had, chased his other thoughts, bringing him comfort.

 

“You told me once you couldn’t live with me dead. What ever made you think I’d be any different, that I could live with you dead?”

 

“Sam…”  Dean had no idea what to say.

 

“Don’t forget that again, okay?”

 

Dean nodded. 

 

“Good.”  Sam looked around for a few seconds…wanted…accepted…home…safe…before his eyes settled on Dean once again.  “There’s a band.”

 

It took Dean a few deep inhales, slow exhales to collect himself enough to focus on what Sam was saying.  Sam pretended to ignore it, but watched him even as he twisted around to point out the direction.  The rickety chair squirmed under Sam in protest, making him grumble and grab at the sides again.  “Damn thing.”

 

“Let’s go listen to some music.”  Dean stood, gathering his uneaten food, and tossing it in the nearest garbage.

 

“You didn’t eat.”

 

Shrugging, smiling easily, “Not hungry.”

 

Sam arched an eyebrow, gave him an odd look, searched his face for a second, almost too knowing.  A ribbon of panic wormed through Dean, Sam knew what he was up to; he’d been busted for sure.  He couldn’t do this if Sam knew.  Damn kid always knew.

 

“I’ll get something later, when we leave if it’ll make you feel better.  Sheesh the food here sucks.”

 

“M’K.”  Sam lifted one shoulder, let it drop, snatched up his funnel cake, chewing on it as he trailed behind Dean, looking young and innocent.  Dean wondered what Sam was up to.  He knew things too, he knew that look.  It scared him more than any demon or werewolf ever could.

 

They neared the band, the music filtered into Dean’s brain, the words mingled with the sounds of the crowd…magic dragon lived by the sea…some small child clapped and squealed on a ride…and frolicked in the mist in a…two girls argued over who was hotter, Eric or the new kid Billy…land called Hona-Lee…Dean stopped so fast Sam collided with his back.

 

“Dude, signal.” His kid brother complained.

 

Merely turning a sharp gaze on his sibling, quirking an eyebrow at him until Sam squirmed and blushed…BLUSHED…stuffed the remains of his funnel cake in his mouth, grinning out of the other side, and shrugged.

 

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail…

 

“It was too much to resist.”  Sam offered meekly.

 

Dean rolled his eyes, and swallowed the silly grin fighting to be let out.  “I’m going to take a leak, you…you…stay out of trouble for five minutes.”  He waved Sam away when he turned to follow.  “I can pee by myself Sammy.”  Ignoring the slightly hurt look, which turned to curiosity a second later Dean strode off, pretended to stand in line.  The second Sam’s back turned Dean vanished into the crowd.

 

He wasn’t exactly sure what he’d find or who he was even looking for, but he knew it was here and he’d know it when he saw it.  Wandering through the tents and small groups of people, skirting around the livestock area Dean’s path was one he was drawn along.  This was nothing random and he knew it.  He reached behind him, fingered what he’d managed to keep hidden in his back pocket, under his jacket since he and Sam arrived here.

 

“Tell your fortune, boy?”

 

Yep, that was it.

 

Dean veered to his right, stopping in front of a tent. An old woman cackled a laugh at him from just inside.  Lifting the flap far enough to duck through Dean had to let his eyes adjust to the lower light for a few seconds.  “I’m here.”

 

“So you are.”

 

“You called, I came.”  Dean clarified.

 

“How is little brother Sammy?  I don’t see him.”

 

“He’s fine.  Keeping him as far away from you as I can.”  Dean’s eyes followed her as she moved about the small tent.  He forced his arms to stay loose and relaxed at his sides, his voice even, emotionless.  “We’re free and clear, both of us?”

 

“You are.  One week, and I do say it was a delightful week, from both of you.”  She smirked.  The bitch.

 

“You hurt him.”

 

She shrugged.  “I never laid a finger on him.  It was his choice. No one forced it on him.”

 

“You tricked him into it.  No one and I do mean no one hurts my brother.”

 

The trickster smiled, crooked and smug.  “Well not like you can do anything about it.  Part of the deal was neither of you can hunt me.”  She turned both palms up in mock innocence.

 

Dean’s eyes dropped to the floor, perfect picture of stupid, defeated yet again human.  His right hand shifted ever so slightly behind his hip.  “Yeah, well that’s the beauty of these deals, gotta follow everything down to the exact wording.  We’ve just had a chance encounter.”

 

“Yes.”  She agreed, apparently missing the not so subtle sarcasm in his voice.

 

Half turning, grabbing the wooden stake from his back pocket, Dean whirled at her.  “The thing is…BITCH…You called me!” 

 

The startled look in her eyes gave him maybe too much satisfaction.  He plunged the stake down with all he had, driving it straight into her heart.  She was dead before she hit the floor.

 

Dean gave the dirt near her a scuff with his toe, though he dearly wanted to kick that body until he wasn’t able to move.  He had to collect Sam and leave before she—IT—was discovered. 

 

He stopped at the tent flap, one glance back, “Nobody hurts my brother and gets away with it.”  Dean securely tied the tent flap closed behind him.

 

Moving swiftly through the crowd he made his way back to the general area he’d left Sam. 

 

“Hey, there you are.  Where’d you go, I was looking all over for you.”  Sam loped up, a bag held between his elbow and side.

 

“There was a line.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Whatcha got there kiddo?”

 

Sam pulled the bag out of Dean’s reach.  “Nothing.”  His eyes dropped to the miniature civilization bubbling around his feet.

 

“Hmm.  Let’s hit it, I’m…”  Dean’s words faded away, he turned an evil eye on Sam, who giggled…GIGGLED… for crap’s sake!  The music, more exactly the words to the music floated through him, settled in his brain to register…If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages, think of all the things we could discuss, if we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals…”Dr Doolittle?”

 

“I-I can’t help what they play.”  Sam backed away, doing a piss poor job of keeping his lips from curling into a grin when the band then swung into a very jaunty rendition of ‘How Much Is That Puppy in the Window’.  Sam turned and sprinted to the parking lot, Dean right behind him. 

 

“Funny Sammy, real funny.”  Dean panted when they’d reached the car.  Sliding into the driver’s seat, he tossed a curious look at the bag Sam still clutched.  Sam stuffed it between the seat and door.

 

“Look Dean.” 

 

A grocery store tabloid was shoved under his nose.

 

“You’re famous.”  Sam had that Cheshire cat look to him.  It sent shivers through Dean.

 

“Of course I am.”  Dean glanced down. On the cover was a picture of a dragon, the caption reading ‘MYTHICAL CREATURE FLYS AWAY WITH GROWN MAN TO SLAUGHTER HIM!’   “Oh geez.”  Groaning, he thumbed through the paper, found a few more pictures of him and Sam, from a distance, during their flight.

 

The slight rustle of the bag, Sam’s arm moving grabbed his attention. 

 

“You don’t even realize you do that, do you?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“The humming.  You do it a lot. It sounds different depending on the situation, or your mood.”

 

Dean’s eyes slid from Sam to the rear view mirror, the one sporting a stuffed dragon.  He reached for it, pulling it off the mirror, “No stuffed toys on the mirror, you want to sleep with it fine, but not on my car.”  Dean dropped the toy into his lap.

 

“It always made me feel better.”

“What did?”

 

“When you’d hum.  When we were kids and we’d move somewhere new, it was always creepy, strange sleeping in a new place, being in a new place.  You’d sit and hum when you were bored, or just before you went to sleep.  I always felt like I was home, somewhere safe, ‘cause you’d be humming.   I used to think maybe that’s what dragons sounded like.”

 

Dean turned to stare at Sam, “I never knew.” He started the engine.  

 

Sam immediately broke off eye contact, jerking his head around to look out the opposite window, roaring with laughter.  Music poured out of the Impala’s speakers…Ted Nugent…They gave me cat scratch fever, Cat scratch fever, I got it bad scratch fever, cat scratch fever, It’s nothin’ dangerous, I feel no pain, I got to cha-change, You know you got it…

 

Dean flicked off the radio, gunned the engine, leaning back against the seat, humming and watched out of the corner of his eye how his brother relaxed into the seat, content.  He put the toy dragon back over the rear view mirror as he pulled onto the road. 

 

However, not before he beat Sam over the head with it a few times.

 

 

Wanted…Accepted…Home…Safe…

 

 

 

The End

 

 

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