Title: Of Leg Braces and Fairy Lights
Beta: Completely unbetaed; all mistakes and glaring errors are my own.
Fandom/Genre: Supernatural, Gen, hurt/comfort, futurefic
Spoilers: Nothing specific; set sometime in the future with vague references to the apocalypse
Rating: PG-13 for language, and possibly disturbing injury
Word Count: 6,576
Prompt: Written for the Dean-focused hurt/comfort comment-fic meme (#2) at hoodie_time; Prompt by roque_clasique: Permanent injury.
A/N: This is quite possibly crap and completely unbetaed, and rather light on the comfort, but it does have some gratuitous hurt!Sam and protective!Sam.
Disclaimer:Not mine; jus for fun.
Summary: Dean survived the apocalypse only to frak up his leg (and hand) in a 'simple' hunt. But he's managed to get by and make do, and he and Sam are still hunting. Only now he's got to rescue Sam and that means climbing a cliff at night, in the rain...
Dean bent over and slapped at the lock on the side of his knee brace and glared into the night when a gust of wind slapped against him so hard he thought he might fall over. It was raining. The wind was freezing. And he was in pain. A lot of pain. What Dean wanted right now was to lie down in a nice, warm, clean bed with his left leg propped up on a support cushion; pop a few vicodin; and alternate hot and cold compresses until the pain meds kicked in enough to let him get to sleep. Oh, and Sam. He wanted his brother to be safe and comfortable and by his side. That wasn’t too much to ask, right? Right, he didn’t think so. But since when had Dean Winchester ever gotten what he wanted? No. He glared at the ‘trail’ around him, the trees at his back opening into the scrubby slope up ahead. Instead, he was gearing up to climb a freaking goat path on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean on a windy, miserable, September night… in the rain.
It would be a disaster in the making for anyone under normal circumstances. The ‘cliff’ was really a steep, grassy slope surrounded by a dense forest of mostly evergreen trees with outcroppings of bare rock scattered throughout. A narrow goat path—little more than semi–hard-packed dirt where the grass had been scraped away by the feet of an assortment of wild animals—zigzagged up it. It overlooked an actual cliff of ragged sheer rock that dropped off abruptly leading down, down, down to the surf splashing and waves crashing around the jagged lumps of igneous gabbro and diorte that dotted the coastline, promising certain death to anyone unlucky enough to slip on the treacherous hillside above.
Dean shook his head with a half-amused snort, nostrils flaring in the unseasonably cold September air, the scent of wet leaves and chimney smoke filling his head. He’d probably done too much research for this hunt, or at least too much background research. But that was par for the course as of late.
Ever since... Well, ever since he’d gotten hurt two years ago, and much to his surprise, Dean found himself in love with research. Before he did anything he had to know everything about it—every factor, every possibility, every exit, every weather forecast, every possible complication that could conceivably interfere with the hunt—and that was all in addition to the Winchesters’ customarily rigorous investigation into the supernatural cause of any given case. Knowing whether or not it was going to rain or if the terrain might be uneven could be the difference between a successful hunt and death. So, if sometimes Dean went a little overboard and studied the geology of the area and the local flora and fauna on top of everything else? Well, better safe than sorry.
It had happened after they’d ‘won’ the war. The apocalypse was averted and humankind got a chance at running planet Earth, with only the ordinary varieties of non-demonic, non-angelic supernatural pests running around. There were still plenty of spirits and poltergeists and werewolves and vampires and wendigos running around, with a sizeable assortment of sea serpents, nyads, dryads, rusalkas, boggarts, brownies, pixies, rugarus, ghouls, revenants, zombies, and mythological beasts to fill out the paranormal contingent. Sam and Dean had both been looking forward to enjoying a semi-retirement of old-school “saving people, hunting things,” when a run-of-the-mill hunt had turned nasty.
Patience Placid was neither patient nor placid… at least not in death. She’d been tragically murdered—stabbed, or rather, slashedto death—in her own home and blamed everyone for failing to save her. Her heirs hadn’t even been able to sort through her estate, because she took a knife to anyone who crossed the threshold of her home. Problem was, a salt and burn wouldn’t work because Patience had tons of unfinished business and due to her violent antics, the cleaning service that had been sent in after the criminal investigation closed hadn’t been able to clean up all the blood. Patience was so disruptive and violent even the sheriff believed her house was haunted.
Sam and Dean had volunteered to do the job. They’d salt and burn her body then go to the house, perform a binding ritual to keep her stationary where they found and destroyed the remaining blood, and then either talk her through her unfinished business or use a banishing ritual to force the issue. Patience’s family was so grateful for Sam and Dean’s help, they offered to pay. It was too good pass up—the opportunity to put a tortured spirit to rest while helping an anxious family and getting paid? What more could they ask for? Well, a spirit that didn’t wield a ten-inch chef’s knife for one. And a house with stronger basement doors for another. Oh, and maybe a ghost who hadn’t been a physical therapist in life, so maybe she wouldn’t inflict so much damage? Turned out there were a lot of things that could have gone better.
Despite the Winchesters’ attempts to camouflage their presence and defend themselves with iron weapons, salt soaked clothes, salt guns, and protective sigils, Patience had still managed to get the drop on Dean. She’d taken him out of the fight with gut-twisting speed and precision, slicing through muscle, nerve, and tendon in his right forearm before delivering a deep cut to his left thigh, cutting down to the bone and just narrowly missing Dean’s femoral artery. As if that wasn’t enough, she’d decided to kick Dean through the door to the basement stairs, sending him careening and tumbling ass over tea kettle down the steep flight to land in a messy heap at the bottom, his bleeding left leg, caught in the banister at the foot of the stairs, cracking, wrenching, and shredding his knee.
Dean didn’t remember much of anything from that time except for agony as Patience’s knife had torn through first his arm, then leg, and a split-second of heart-stopping terror as he realized he had been kicked through the door to the basement, but nothing after that. Sam had been so furious he’d banished Patience on the spot, giving up on any hope of helping her achieve peace. Of course, Dean only knew that from what Sam had admitted months after the fact. Sam could have danced and sang Broadway show tunes to torture Patience into leaving, and Dean would never know. He didn’t remember anything else until coming out of his second (or was it third) surgery at a Level 1 Trauma Center two states away almost three weeks later.
The doctors had been able to repair most of the damage in Dean’s arm, but the nerve damage meant he had “decreased grip strength” and partial numbness in his hand, and even after repairing the severed tendon, Dean had lost significant range of motion in his thumb. Both of which were annoying, but relatively easy to live with. He could still manage to write and work on the Impala, even if his handwriting was a little—iffy—at times, and he could still handle a gun and shoot straight.
His leg was a different story. The velocity and force of the fall and the trajectory of his tumble—combined with the wrenching motion achieved when his leg had gotten stuck in the banister—had shredded the soft tissues in Dean’s knee. ACL, MCL, medial and lateral menisci were toast. His patella was shattered, his tibia was fractured, and he’d managed to rupture his patellar tendon. And there was more nerve damage. But before the surgeons could even dream of playing humpty dumpty with his knee, there had been the not-so-small issue of his thigh to address.
In typical Winchester fashion, Dean had had really shitty luck and developed an infection in the wound from Patience’s knife. The infection had damaged muscle and nerve and infected the bone. The doctors had administered IV antibiotics and strung together so many blood transfusions Dean wouldn’t be surprised if his entire blood volume had been replaced by the time he woke up. But eventually they’d had to remove necrotized muscle and diseased bone. It worked—they stopped the infection—and with the aid of a titanium rod, it was pretty certain Dean’s femur would be able to bear his weight again. But he’d never get the muscle strength (or flexibility) back, and all the drama meant addressing Dean’s knee had been postponed in favor of dealing with the more urgent problems. So then it was more surgeries and more waiting and endless sessions of PT and OT that had made him cry like a baby.
Dean had been stuck in hospitals and rehab centers, feeling guilty as hell (Patience’s family had insisted on paying for his care) for the better part of a year. In the end, Dean had a new patella, a lot of reconstructed ligaments, and dreaded “bone-on-bone” contact in his knee. Through all the exhaustion of surgery after surgery and the agony of PT, one—and only one—doctor had started babbling about amputation—and Sam had fired that douche bag faster than Dean could blink. And now?
Now, Dean could walk. He could even hunt, and hop or limp quickly if he needed to make a speedy get away. Sam had annoyingly taken to calling Dean ‘Dr. House’ or just ‘House,’ especially when Dean was acting particularly stubborn. (Dean was still gloating over Sam’s dismay that he understood the reference.) Dean was a candidate for a total knee replacement, which might eventually restore some of the range of motion and stability to his knee (although it wouldn’t do anything for the nerve damage or the lost muscle), but he was trying to delay that surgery for as long as possible.
“You’re young, Dean,” the orthopedic surgeon had pointed out, “very young, and I would strongly suggest you delay TKR for as long as possible. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll need another knee replacement at some time in the future, and the technology keeps improving by leaps and bounds. If you can wait ten years—or even five—you’ll get a better knee, enjoy a more streamlined procedure, have a better recovery time, and maybe not need to go through it all again twenty or thirty years down the road.”
Well, that was advice Dean was willing to take. He wasn’t too keen on having surgeons cut open his leg, saw out his knee, and replace it with metal and plastic and cement. The idea made his stomach turn. For the time being, he was tethered to a leg brace he could either lock straight or allow to flex slightly, and he was content with that. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing and gave him much more freedom than using a walker or wheelchair.
In the past year, Dean had learned to be a very efficient and effective hunter even with the quirks and pitfalls of his new body. But there were some things that still sucked. Climbing was bad twice over. His limited grip strength and limited knee-bending. Rain, cold, and low air pressure made his leg and arm ache, and precipitation also made things dangerously slippery. But tonight he had no choice.
This hunt had gone bad, and Sam was stuck at the top of the cliff and he needed Dean, now. How had Dean, for all his new-found planning skills, found himself in this situation?
They were on Monhegan Island, a small, hilly blob of igneous rock with and even tinier population situated about twelve miles off the coast of Maine. The island had a thriving artists’ colony and a booming trade in tourism—with people flocking to the island every summer to explore the ‘quaint’ village and hike, climb, and bike in the island’s unspoiled wilderness areas. It was a fun, quaint, scenic place to come and ‘get away from it all.’
Somewhere along the way, the tourists had started the tradition of making little ‘fairy villages’ just off the forest hiking paths. These were actually glorified sand castles (on a very small scale) made out of twigs and pebbles and leaves and mud tucked in between boulders and at the bases of trees along the sides of the trails.
They were supposed to be cute, whimsical fun. People had been building them each summer for years and years, and nothing bad had ever happened. So they were harmless, right? Sweet, innocent things to spark vacationing school children’s imaginations.
At least that’s what the lady at the tourism office had said. But ‘harmless’ didn’t exactly explain fifteen tourists suffering an escalating array of misfortunes—from slipping and breaking an ankle to being forced off the path and getting stuck on the cliff face and requiring rescue to plummeting to their deaths—in the same part of the island and all in the vicinity of one particularly elaborate fairy castle over the last two months.
It wasn’t fairies. But the fairy villages were involved. Someone—probably a slightly older child with an overactive imagination and a little too much knowledge of Google and Wikipedia—had thought it funny or exciting to try inviting the fae... only they’d badly botched the ritual and had succeeded instead in summoning the ghost of a long-deceased tourist who’d gotten lost in the woods and fallen to his death off the cliff. The spirit was now furious and determined to lead others to a similar fate.
Their research had pinpointed the spirit’s location and determined it was now tied to an elaborate ‘fairy castle’ nestled at the base of an ancient white pine atop one of the island’s hills, right where the hiking trail took a sharp turn and intersected with the steep, scuffed, poorly defined path wild animals took up and down the cliff. Since the castle was the only thing tying the ghost to the trail, demolishing it should get rid of the ghost.
The problem was, the ghost was defending the small structure, and no one had been able to get near it... not from the trail anyway. The Winchesters hoped that approaching from the goat path armed with a salt gun, might give them the advantage the needed to surprise (and vanquish) the ghost.
Sam and Dean were working with limited resources since the tiny island was only accessible by mail boats and chartered tour boats, neither of which transported cars. They’d been forced to leave the Impala in Port Clyde along with their backup stash of weapons. The hunt had gotten trickier when the weather took a turn for the cold and wet, with a winter-like Nor’easter bearing down on the island and unleashing salvo after salvo of icy, stabbing rain. The rain made everything slippery, which meant Dean would have a very difficult time on the hiking trail, let alone scrabbling up the grassy, rocky slope. So Sam had gone alone. Armed to the teeth, and approaching just before dusk—the least lethal time of say based on the spirit’s behavior.
Only now Sam was stuck—wedged under a fallen tree and hanging on for dear life as the ghost tried to knock him free to go tumbling down the steep bluff and over the edge of the rock face to plummet to the jagged polders below. Sam’s gun had been knocked away, so he couldn’t shoot himself free—or at least that was what Dean surmised from Sam’s static-y, choppy phone call... another disadvantage to being on an ‘unspoiled’ island was the limited availability of common modern conveniences.
And now Dean was stuck climbing up the cliff in the rain, with his decreased grip strength and his bum leg aching and throbbing with the storm to help him along.
He took a deep breath and looked down, running one last checklist before he began his assent. Brace locked? Check. Climbing gloves (so at least his hands wouldn’t be extra slippery)? Check. Backup salt gun, Colt 1911 with consecrated iron rounds, and climbing rope? Check, check, check. He had waterproof matches, two lighters, a bottle of vicodin, and a folded-tiny emergency blanket in his pocket, headlamp strapped to his head, and a Maglite on a carabiner hooked into a belt loop on his jeans. He wasn’t prepared, but that was as good as it was gonna get.
Sammy’s phone call had come more than an hour ago now—it had taken Dean that long just to get from the B&B that was their temporary home to the trailhead and then up the actual hiking trail to the deceptive junction where the ‘real’ trail continued on a gentle, meandering course up the hillside protected and isolated from the wind and the dangerous cliffs by the forest, while the false trail branched off and slightly down hill weaving its way through the trees, growing fainter and narrower until finally it burst forth into the open hillside, which was treeless because it was so steep and the soil was too thin to hold tree roots. The goat path reconnected with the true trail at the top of the cliff some thirty-ish yards above. That was where the fairy castle and the ghost were lurking and where Sam was supposed to be… hopefully, if he was still hanging on.
Dean had to call Sam back twice—once right after the connection cut out and again when he reached the trailhead—but received no answer. He wasn’t going to read much into that. The phone reception was shitty at best and the storm was playing havoc with it even more. Besides, if Sam was hanging on for dear life, Dean didn’t want to distract him with phone calls, and it was even possible Sam had dropped his phone.
Resolutely with careful, wary steps, Dean began the climb. At first he was able to stand as the narrow rut of dirt and mud cut across the hill running roughly parallel to the shoreline far, far below. He didn’t want to look down, and he was terrified of slipping, inching forward, right leg first, trying to avoid putting weight on his bad leg for any longer than necessary and flat out avoiding leading with it. Thanks to the nerve damage and general weakness and instability, Dean had learned not to trust the placement of his left foot on uneven ground. Even with his knee stabilized by the brace, he could easily slip—or worse, wrench his ankle or hip—and lose his footing.
It was slow going, and between the howling wind, the crashing waves below, and the constant splashing of the raindrops on the trees and rock and ground, Dean couldn’t even hear his own heavy breathing as it made puffy clouds of steam in the frigid night air. Even with a goretex enhanced, hooded rain jacket (he still cringed at the uncoolness) he was getting soaked as water blew in side the hood, soaked through his climbing gloves, drenched his pants, and did its best to splash over the tops of his boots. He could smell the saltwater from the sea spray a couple hundred feet below, and he tried to push it out of his mind. Dean didn’t like heights, but this was just ridiculous! The path was worn into the side of the hill-cliff and was so narrow in places he couldn’t put both feet side-by-side. It was angled upwards at a very shallow angle at this point, so at least it wasn’t as steep as it could be.
The sun had set hours ago, and the darkness was approaching a pure, impenetrable black. There was a diffuse glow from moon and starlight through the heavy cloud cover, and if it wasn’t the night after the full moon, there would be no light at all. The village was on the other side of the rocky hills and it didn’t have streetlights or any other source of nighttime illumination. Hence the necessity of the headlamp strapped to his head with a trusty elastic band.
It looked dorky as hell, but it was functional and would stay pointed where he wanted it to leaving his hands free for things like climbing or— Shit! he cursed inwardly as the slope gave way beneath his good right foot. He teetered precariously, unable to bend his bad leg because of the locked brace, but finally managing to shift his weight into the slope as he lost his balance and slid, landing hard on his bad hip, and catching himself against the scrubby grass with both hands, feeling the waterlogged grass squish beneath the fingers of his left hand and sensing dampness through the tingling in his right as he stopped himself from slipping any further. Yep. That was why he put up with the dorky headlamp. Dean needed all the help he could get, and taking up one of his hands—good or bad—with a bulky flashlight was not going to cut it.
He shook his head slightly, feeling some of the rain shake off his hood and into his face. This wasn’t even the steep part. Although he couldn’t see much with the limited range of his headlamp, he knew from studying countless maps and photos, the hill on either side of the path here was at about a twenty-five degree angle, but about ten feet down it turned into a sheer drop-off. Dean took two deep breaths to steady himself, carefully placing his good leg on the path and rolling himself so he could lever back to a stand, sticking his left leg out and pushing up with his right. He resumed inching along, trying not to dwell on what had almost happened focusing on the path at his feet and the hillside to his left.
After another ten yards, the path seemed to come to an abrupt stop. Dean’s headlamp cast an eerie glow on jagged rock that jutted in the way seeming to rise out of no where. If he was here then that meant… he dared glance to his right, and sure enough, he was standing on a narrow ledge of rock that just disappeared. Holy shit! Even he thought this was crazy. Why had they thought hunting the ghost at night was a good idea again?
“Because it hadn’t attacked anyone at night,” Dean muttered to himself in a nervous sing-song. Yeah, but there were only two confirmed accounts of people actually being on the haunted section of trail after dark. Dean thought hollowly. They’d hoped it showed a period of inactivity for the ghost, since hikers had been attacked at every hour during the day. Considering Sam’s predicament, though, it seemed those night-time hikers had just been lucky. And of course, they hadn’t been attempting this.
Dean sidled forwards, reaching out with his hands to touch the rock in front of him. He knew what he had to do. Brace himself, climb to the top of this boulder, turn left, climb up and over another outcropping, and then pull himself up the steep part of the hill hand over fist.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered, as the wind snatched his voice from his own ears. His fingers felt along the rock until his left hand found a good handhold. He dug his fingers in and shifted his weight to his bad leg, picking up his right foot and planting it in a little crevice he found (thanks to the beam of his headlamp) about half way up the rock. He pushed like he was climbing a giant step, while hanging on with his left hand, pulling his body flush to the rock, and holding his breath. He flung his right arm over the top of the boulder, gripping as much with his elbow as his less-than-nimble fingers. When he was confident enough he wouldn’t fall, he pulled with his right arm and let go with his left, grabbing onto the top of the rock with his good hand. Dean pulled using his arms and good leg, to haul his body up on top of the rock, his bad leg trailing after him. He sat, curled up in an awkward position, left leg still dangling over the edge of the boulder, and panted, just trying to take a minute to catch his breath, determinedly not thinking about the nothingness behind him.
One more time. He just had to do this one more time, and then he could crawl/haul himself up the rest of the hill. Dean twisted, turning into the next hump of the rock, and grabbing on with both hands. He shifted his right foot, so his leg was tucked up underneath him. For a moment, he was at a loss. He could see the rock in front of him, drop offs on three sides, and a little crevice down the middle of the rock, where animal feet probably safely scurried. But Dean wasn’t a mountain goat or even a chipmunk. He could always unlock the brace, give himself a little flexibility, but his knee was so swollen right now thanks to the rotten weather and low air pressure and the climbing he’d already done. That would just be inviting disaster. But what could he do?
Dean spied another crack in the rock about half way up. If he pushed with his right leg he could just… just barely. There! he’d grabbed on and was pulling himself to his feet. Now he could repeat the process he’d used to get on top of the first rock—grab, brace, step, grab, push-pull, and haul. He felt the Maglite scraping along the rock by his right hip, and felt a tug as the drawstring at the bottom of his rain jacket caught and then released with a painful snap, but finally, breathlessly, he was up. Over the jumble of rocks and pressed against the steep, grassy bluff, with his right knee pressed into the muddy dirt groove.
Twenty-five yards to the top. He was gonna crawl. Or rather crawl with his right knee and both hands while bracing himself with his left leg, using it to grip the hillside, and pushing occasionally with his left foot wherever he found a good foothold. It hurt and pressing into the slope with his bad leg and putting so much strain on his damaged thigh muscles caused a weird tension he knew he’d be feeling for days, but he was moving up wards. Climbing. In the wind, and the rain, at night.
After what felt like hours, but was really probably about fifteen minutes, the slope gentled a little, so Dean would almost consider pushing himself to his feet. He could also see the tree line in the beam of his headlamp. He was still on the goat path, the hands and knee in the now-muddy dirt as his bad leg was scuffing along the grass and bushes that lined the path.
“Sammy!” he cried, knowing he should be close, and hoping Sam could hear him over the roar of the wind.
No answer. He stilled, waiting, not wanting to make a sound lest it mask Sam’s reply. He glanced around, eyes straining in the darkness for something, anything that would let him know Sam was there. That Sam was alright.
There! Dean’s headlamp drifted over something dark and shiny that was undoubtedly not found in nature. He crawled another few feet up the trail to get a better look. Sure enough, it was Sam’s shotgun, caught in a bush of some sort. Well, that would explain why Sam hadn’t been able to fend off the ghost. Had it tossed the gun here? Dean shuddered, hoping the gun wasn’t left from say Sam tumbling down the hill… and over the cliff.
Dean shook the thought from his mind, inching over, towards the bush and groping in it with his numb right hand until he felt the telltale cool-hard of metal. He tugged it out carefully, squeezing as best he could to maintain his grip. At last it was free. He twisted, crawling up another foot or two so he could brace himself against the shrub and dared pull both hands off the hillside, checking to see if the gun was loaded. Yup, looks like Sam hadn’t even gotten a shot off. He shivered, pushing images of Sam hurt. Sam falling. Sam drowning, from his mind.
“Saaaaaaaam! Sammy!” Dean shouted again, listening as the wind carried his voice away.
“—an?” came a broken cry from somewhere up the hill and to his right.
“Sam?” he tried again. “Sam, are you there?”
“Dean!” Sam’s voice was clearer, louder now, and filled with relief. “Oh, thank god, you made it.” A brief pause. “I’m stuck.”
Sam sounded petulant, almost whining, which was a very good sign. It probably meant Sam was uncomfortable and miserable and wet, and quite possibly going to come down with a bitch of a cold, but unhurt.
Dean crawled with a little more enthusiasm and urgency and a little less fear as the goat path broadened a little. The path was still steep, shallow enough small trees and scrubby bushes were growing, and Dean no longer felt like he was going to fall off the side of the hill and plummet to his death. “What happened?” he panted, as Sam finally came into view.
Sam was—as he had said—stuck, wedged in between two glorified saplings and half under a third tree that had fallen into the y-shaped space between the saplings. Dean could see now that Sam was gripping the fallen tree with one hand, and his right foot was wedged in the base of the “y.” “I shot him once and reloaded,” Sam panted, vigorously wiggling his stuck foot. “He vanished and I stepped towards the damn fairy castle to try to knock it apart. Only he rematerialized and came out of no where and—head butted me backwards.” Sam grimaced. “Can you help me get my foot out?” he whined.
“Shit, sure, sorry,” Dean muttered, crawling closer. “Here, can I give you this?” he asked, holding out the shotgun to Sam, who grabbed it, his other hand still clinging to the fallen tree.
“Thanks, I couldn’t see where that had fallen. The ghost he…” Sam swallowed. “I’ve never seen a recharge time like that, Dean. By the time I realized he was back, I’d already bounced off and was about to tumble down the side of the hill. I reached out and… my foot got stuck. I kind of landed here, grabbed on to this,” he pulled against the tree, “but I couldn’t get my foot out. Think my ankle might be broken,” he cringed.
“Just hang on,” Dean murmured, dropping to his belly so he could use both hands to wiggle Sam’s foot free without fear of falling down the hill. Sam’s foot was wedged in there really tightly, and his ankle had swollen a little, so Dean had to twist and push, until finally Sam’s foot popped free.
Sam let out a pained gasp, as Dean arched back, Sam’s foot almost hitting him in the face. It missed, but Dean still slid backwards for a handful of heart-stopping seconds until he regained his purchase on the ground. He looked back at Sam, who was wiggling his ankle.
“’S’not broken, just sprained… oooow!” Sam answered.
“Well stop wiggling it, genius!” Dean said with mock annoyance. He was just relieved Sam was okay, although between his leg and Sam’s sprained ankle, the trek down the hill was sure gonna be full of shits and giggles.
“I was just testing it!” Sam shot back, but he was smiling, so Dean knew he was ok. “It’s actually not that bad. Think I’ll be able to walk on it,” he nodded at Dean, “’s long as I’m careful.”
Dean nodded, the light from his headlamp bobbing in front of him. “What happened to your flashlight? And your cell phone?” he wondered aloud.
“Flashlight’s somewhere down the bottom of the cliff by now. Cell phone’s right here,” he gestured towards his jeans pocket, “but when it cut out, I totally lost the signal; tried three times, but couldn’t get a call to connect again.”
Dean nodded again, assimilating the information and formulating a plan as he hauled himself to a seated position. “Can you get up?” he asked.
“Yeah, now that I’m free,” Sam replied, carefully tucking his legs towards him, and using his uninjured ankle and the fallen tree to draw himself into a crouch. “What are you thinking?”
Dean looked up the goat path, the way Sam had come—or fallen. He could see the break in the trees where the animal trail joined the real trail. “The fairy castle’s right through there, right?”
“Yeah,” Sam acknowledged, “but Dean,” he shook his head. “That ghost’s fast. And powerful. The castle’s about ten feet in; I didn’t even get within five feet of it.”
“Well I just need you to shoot. I’m thinking, we just need to destroy the castle, right? Well, how ‘bout plugging it full of salt? We don’t even have to get close. And if that’s not good enough,” he patted the holster at the small of his back, where his Colt was stashed, “a few consecrated iron rounds should do enough damage to break the spell and send him on his way.”
Sam cocked his head. “Could work. Just…” he hesitated, his eyes getting that pained look Dean knew meant Sam was worried about him… worried for him.
Dean hated it, but he understood where it came from, and to be honest, he was a little scared for himself these days. He couldn’t just pick himself up and dust himself off the way he used to. “I’ll be careful. Just shoot the damn ghost… and don’t worry if you hit me with rock salt!” Dean added. “It stings like a sonofabitch, but it won’t do any lasting damage.
Sam grunted in acknowledgement, and pulled himself to his feet, holding out his now-free hand, to help Dean up, and the two brothers limped their way the last few feet up the slope to the trail, holding onto trees for support.
The ghost was on them in a flash, just like Sam had said. Dean ducked, Sam shot, and Dean fired—first a double-barreled blast of rock salt that nearly knocked him over backwards, and then three quick shots from the Colt. The rounds all hit, splat, bam, bam, bam. In the beam from his headlamp, Dean could see the admittedly elaborate assortment of twigs and braided grass bridges and little stone mounds shake, crumble, and fall apart. If the ghost hadn’t been screaming in anger, Dean might have felt bad about destroying what probably was a work of art.
He heard another blast from Sam’s salt gun, and then everything was quiet. Even the roar of the wind seemed to have dropped a dozen or so decibels, and with a thin line of trees now between them and the cliff, the sounds of the rain and the ocean were considerably muted.
Sam offered him a hand, and Dean wobbled to his feet, dragging his bad leg after him. Damn it hurt! He limped over to the remains of the fairy castle and kicked at it for good measure until there was nothing but a scattered pile of twigs and wet grass and pebbles at the foot of a very big pine tree. When the ghost didn’t show and attack them again, Dean knew it was over. “Stupid fucking tourists,” he muttered.
“I’m with you there,” Sam echoed. “Now how ‘bout we get the hell out of here on something that wasn’t designed for mountain goats?”
“Lead the way,” Dean said with a chuckle.
The trip back down the hill had taken a good two hours, with Dean and Sam supporting each other the whole way, with Sam wrapped in the emergency blanket at Dean’s insistence (he’d been shivering and Dean wasn’t taking any chances). By the time they got to the bottom and the rented golf cart Dean had parked there, Sam’s ankle was the size of a grapefruit and Dean was getting a headache from gritting his teeth against the pain. But, the rain was letting up and the golf cart started without so much as a splutter. The drive back to their B&B took only another fifteen minutes.
Monhegan didn’t really have much in the way of the Winchester’s usual fare, but at least the B&B they were staying at did have an accessible room on the ground floor, and for once, accessible was actual fact instead of a fantasy. Their room even had its own private entrance with a little ramp outside it. There was a decent-sized shower bench in the shower and everything, and Dean just wanted to get inside, strip off his clothes and sit down under a stream of hot water and wash all the miserable sticky, smelly mud off of him. Then he wanted to get dry and go to bed.
As soon as Dean stopped the cart, Sam was up, hobbling over to their door and fumbling with his key, by the time Dean had stiffly made his way up the ramp, Sam was holding the door open and had flipped the light on inside. Dean smiled at his brother in thanks. “Let me take a look at that ankle,” he yawned once Sam had shut the door behind him.
“My ankle’s fine, just a little swollen. I’ll ice it,” Sam tipped his head towards the mini-fridge, “while you go get cleaned off and warmed up.”
“Nah, I’m ok,” Dean said, at the same time he shivered, and his bad leg wobbled a little, seriously undermining the resilient exterior he was trying to display.
Sam just chuckled and shot him a smile, limping over and leading Dean by the arm toward the bathroom. “Dude, I know you’re hurting. Just… sit down in the shower for a while. I promise I’ll clean myself up and let you poke at my ankle all you want—after you’re cleaned up and in less pain.” Sam deposited Dean unceremoniously on the toilet seat, and fished the bottle of vicodin out of his pocket. “Here, I know you’re way past due on these, your leg must be killing you.”
“Sam,” Dean protested, when Sam returned with a glass of water and three pills. “I’m ok, sit down.”
“Dean,” Sam said matter-of-factly, “You just saved my life. I had trouble—a lot of trouble—climbing that hill, and I don’t have a bad leg. You took care of me, now let me return the favor, please?” he begged, putting on the puppy eyes.
Dean caved. He even let Sam help him out of his rain jacket and over clothes and leg brace and start the shower, although Dean kicked Sam out before he could touch his socks or boxers.
And as Dean sat on the comfortable shower bench with the warm water sluicing all the mud and dirt and grime off of him, and the vicodin finally starting to take the edge off the pain, he realized…
He’d done it. He’d climbed the cliff and rescued Sam, bad leg and rain and wind and all, and they were going to be okay.