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Frozen Fears

May 20th, 2006 (03:11 pm)
mischievous

feeling: mischievous

Summary: While trying to stay alive and warm after a hunt leaves them stranded, 18-year-old Sam and 22-year-old Dean discover something about each other.

Author:  faye_dartmouth

A/N: I posted this at ff.net awhile ago and figured I might as well post it here, too.

Rating: PG, gen

Disclaimer: These characters are clearly not mine.

 

Frozen Fears 

Consciousness returned slowly, settling upon him in pieces, as if his mind was being reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle. The first thing he realized was that he was cold. Not just zip-your-coat-up-higher cold or jump-up-and-down cold, but bone-chilling, numbing cold.

The cold nearly hindered his second discovery: he was sore. The pain ached deep within him, although he figured it would hurt worse if were someplace warm and he still had full sensation in his extremities.

Then he developed the presence of mind of where he was. Even though his brain was foggy, he recalled they were on a job. It was less recall, though, than logical conjecture. They were hardly ever any place else.

His reasoning gave way to memory as he remembered the haunted barn. Their father had learned of the case from an old friend, who had just lost a son. The son was apparently an idealist, who had bought the 40 acre spread in hopes of bringing it back to its true agrarian roots. When the son reported mysterious happenings then turned up dead, the distraught father had contact his old friend and rumored ghost hunter, John Winchester.

They would have come for nothing, but the old man offered them cash before they told him that. And when payment was involved, the Winchesters rarely said no.

Dean groaned, trying to lift himself off the ground. Maybe they should learn to say no every now and then. Especially in the winter. In the Midwest.

Or maybe he should try not to blow up barns while getting rid of malevolent spirits.

He blinked, seeing white. The ground had already been blanketed with snow when they arrived, and his eyes slowly discerned that a new coat was falling quickly about him.

He became fully aware of himself when he remembered his brother, who had been running right behind him as the barn went up in what was surely a spectacular display. "Sam?" he called, trying to shake the remaining cobwebs from his mind.

There was no reply. Sitting up, he saw his brother’s still form, lying amid a pile of rather large debris.

His haziness evaporated instantly. He stumbled through the snow, moving quickly to his fallen brother.

Sam was on his stomach, and Dean strove to control the fear that was beginning to gnaw at him. Composure under duress was a Winchester value. Gently, he turned his brother to his back, so he could better assess his condition.

"Sammy? You with me?"

He was relieved to hear a small moan.

"Come on, Sammy. Wake up for me," he said, reaching a gloved hand to Sam’s face.

Sam blinked, struggling to open his eyes and focus on his brother’s face. "Dean?"

"Hey there, little brother. Looks like another Winchester first. Surviving an exploding barn."

Sam’s face contorted as Dean helped him sit up. "What?"

"Don’t you remember?"

"Remember what?"

"The fireworks."

"Fireworks?"

"Yeah."

"I remember you lighting the bones on fire—"

"Yeah, I guess we should have taken into account the amount of flammable material nearby. We’re getting a little sloppy in our fire lighting techniques."

Sam still appeared to be having trouble orienting himself. "I remember running."

"Yeah—that was your idea. You’re the one who saw the tanks of gasoline."

"I always was the observant one," Sam quipped.

"Yeah, if you were so observant why didn’t you see them before I lit the bones on fire?"
"Not my fault you like to burn first and ask questions later."

Dean grinned. "But we got him, didn’t we?"

Sam grimaced, trying to gain control of his senses. All he managed was a grunted, "Yeah."

Dean’s grin faded and he looked at his brother with new concern. He himself was sore, but otherwise uninjured. Sam was not recovering from the blast nearly as quickly. "You okay, Sammy?"

He closed his eyes. "I’m not sure."

"What hurts?" he asked as he began probing Sam from the feet up. Making sure his legs seemed in tact, he unzipped his brother coat.

Sam had no sooner hissed, "Side," when Dean felt the suspicious wetness on Sam’s shirt.

Working through the layers of Sam’s somewhat tattered clothes, Dean found a nasty gash along Sam’s right side. There were large chucks of wood and glass strewn about, so Dean could only guess what had caused the wound.

"How bad?" Sam’s voice broke him from his examination.

Dean had seen worse and he knew Sam had survived much worse. "Looks like a flesh wound—but still pretty deep. You’re going to need some stitches."

"Man." The whining in Sam’s voice could not be missed.

"Sorry, little brother. Maybe if you’re lucky Dad will let you go to the hospital to get something to numb this. We could probably swing it in the motel but it looks pretty painful."

Sam offered his brother a wary grin. "You’re telling me."

Dean went about removing his scarf and started wrapping it tightly around Sam’s abdomen. He heard Sam inhale sharply, but he said nothing. "Sorry, bro. We’ve got to control the bleeding. We’re stuck here until Dad gets here."

Although Sam appeared mostly fine, Dean still would rather get his little brother out of the cold and cleaned up. Unfortunately, that was not currently an option. Their father had gone to town to do some more research. Dean and Sam had accompanied the old man to the farm to do a preliminary exam. However, when the old man got there, he was so overcome, he asked to leave. Dean was not altogether ready to have someone cry on his shoulder, so he readily agreed, knowing their father had planned to join them shortly anyway.

They had only intended to feel out the place. The spirit, however, had other plans.

"Dad’s not going to be thrilled to know we did this without him," Sam said, hoping to distract himself from Dean’s ministrations.

"Not like we had much choice. That thing was the most aggressive spirit I’ve ever seen. We’d barely stepped foot in that barn before it freaked out on us."

"Probably wasn’t too happy considering the way its remains were treated. And who knows what Dad’ll find out about the history."

"Not that it matters now," Dean grumbled, giving the scarf one last tug to ensure it was securely in place. "There. That ought to do it."

Sam looked down, trying to inspect Dean’s work. "It’s probably a good thing it’s so cold so I can’t feel how much that hurts."

Dean smiled, zipping his own coat up a little more. "We probably should find some shelter around here—keep us warm until Dad gets here."

Sam nodded, but Dean noticed the growing intensity in Sam’s shivers.

Dean looked around, taking in the setting. The barn was a pile of quickly cooling rubble. The original home was nothing more than a heap of boards on a crumbling foundation. He’d have to ask his Dad if he knew why. The only structure still standing was a dilapidated shed on the other side of the house. It wouldn’t offer much shelter, but with the snow coming down at such an extreme rate and the cold sapping all the feeling from his body, he figured it was better than nothing.

He tried to stand, finding his own legs already rubbery from the icy temperatures. "Let’s get you up," he said, reaching down to help Sam up.

Although Sam tried, he wasn’t much help as he brother hoisted him to his feet. His brow furrowed but he said nothing of the pain and cold.

"It’s a bit of a hike, but that shed’s about the only thing around to keep us from becoming snowmen," Dean explained, helping Sam take a tentative step forward.

The trip was slow and arduous. Sam was moving of his own volition, but Dean doubted he would have remained upright without his support. The snow was nearly thigh deep in some parts, which made forward movement difficult, and in no way helped improve either of their physical conditions.

When they finally reached the shed, Dean found that the door was missing, so he and Sam eased in. There were a few random tools, something that looked like an old transistor radio, and discarded blanket in the corner. He was relieve that the structure was mostly in tact—a decent defense from the snow. There was a crusty looking window that let in light.

He helped Sam to the floor. Riffling through the junk in the corner, he retrieved the one blanket and draped it over his brother. In the filtered light, he could see that his brother was pale and shivering, his eyes closed.

"Hey, Sammy, this is no time for a nap," he said, plopping down stiffly across from his brother. He could feel the cold seeping through the walls and floor of the shed.

Sam opened his eyes with a frustrated glare. "I know."

"That’s what classes are for—naps. That’s about the only thing I miss about school—structure sleep time. I remember in my history class my senior year—the teacher put me in the back behind this monster of a kid who played for the defensive line. I slept every day."

"Sounds like you. How’d you manage to pass?"

"It’s history, Sam. And she loved essay tests. All I had to do was talk about the historical ramifications of whatever we were studying and I was golden."

Sam snorted. "Some of us actually think learning in and of itself is beneficial."

"Yeah, well, how is knowing the dates of the American Civil War going to help you conquer an angry spirit? Exactly. It’s not."

Sam rolled his eyes. A moment of silence passed. "How long do you think it’ll take Dad to get here?"

Dean looked closely at his brother, noticing how uncomfortable he looked. It wasn’t like Sam to hope for Dad to come bail them out. In fact, recently Sam had done everything possible to get as from away from their father’s reach as possible. He could see a trace of fear in his brother, which made him wary of their situation.

"Dad said he’d be here. He’s not exactly the in-depth type, so I expect he left town quickly. But in this weather, it could take him awhile," Dean reasoned.

Sam squinted at him. "So?"

"So we wait," Dean said decisively. "It’ll give us some time to have some great brotherly moments, just like you like."

Sam managed a small smile as he closed his eyes, letting his head rest against the wall.

"You got to stay awake, Sammy," Dean said again, sitting up and shaking Sam roughly.

Sam’s eyes fluttered and he scrunched up his face. "I know, I know," he mumbled in annoyance.

It was going to be an uphill battle. The blood loss and the cold were a volatile combination, and Dean knew that their father may be long in coming with this weather. "So, talk to me, little brother. You’ve been awfully distracted lately."

Sam shifted under the blanket, trying to bring feeling back to his bottom. "Sorry."

Dean waited, trying to gauge if Sam would continue. When it was clear his brother was being non-communicative, he persisted. "So what’s been on your mind?"

Sam looked at his brother, eyeing him critically. "You know. The typical stuff."

"Such as?"

Sam shrugged.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Come on, Sammy. You’ve got to give me something to work with."

"What do you want me to say?"

"I’m just trying to have a conversation here."

Small puffs of air circled around Sam’s mouth as he gave a short laugh.

Dean glared. "What’s so funny?"

"Nothing," Sam said, shaking his head imperceptibly.

"No, clearly something is quite amusing."

"Just that you said you wanted to have a conversation," Sam explained. "I wasn’t aware that we were capable of having those in our family."

Sensing the veiled bitterness in Sam’s voice, Dean bristled. "You got something to say or what?"

Shaking his head, Sam gave a sad laugh. "Nothing you’re going to understand."

"Try me."

Sam studied Dean. "You really want to know?"

"I said I did."

"I mean, you really want me to talk to you, honestly, and you want to listen."

"If you don’t start talking I swear I’m going to smother you with that blanket."

"Ah, yes, that would be more the Winchester way that I am familiar with."

"Sam, stop being a baby."

"Yeah, okay. See, I know how this is."

"Well, you’re acting stupid."

"It’s always me."

"I’m not the one trying to insult people here."

"No, Dean, you’re just the one who would rather gloss over everything with humor than get at the heart of the issue. You say you want a conversation, Dean, but we haven’t had a conversation in five years, not since I decided that maybe there was something more to life than hunting."

Sam’s sudden outburst left Dean momentarily silent. Nothing moved in the abandoned house except small puffs of air as each brother try to control his breathing.

Dean shifted, rubbing his legs. "I know."

Sam looked down, examining a stray thread on the blanket.

Another moment of silence passed. Dean had tried to overlook the growing distance between himself and his baby brother. He had felt Sam’s attentions stray from the family. He had seen Sam grow up, change into a young man that he didn’t know. He tried to remember when Sam had stopped turning to him for everything, when Sam had started to form his own identity. When Sam had started to break away. "What changed, Sammy?"

Sam licked his lips, looking away. "I don’t know for sure. It’s just like one day I finally realized how much I didn’t want this anymore. I didn’t want to hunt, I didn’t want to kill, I didn’t want to live this life."

"What else are you going to do, Sammy?"

Sam turned his eyes back to Dean. "Something. Anything. Come on, Dean, there’s a world of possibilities out there. I go to school and I hear about all the dreams that other kids have, all the plans they’ve made. My teachers tell me how much I can accomplish. My English teacher thinks I could make it into an Ivy League school, any school I wanted."

"College isn’t for us," Dean interjected.

Sighing, Sam looked upwards. "Why not? I mean, why do we believe that? Because Dad tells us that? Because that’s how we’ve been raised? I don’t want to limit myself."

"What we do is more important than anything you could do out there."

"Who are you to decide what’s important for me?"

"I’m your brother. I’m the one who’s taken care of you since you were a baby. I’m the one who kept you safe, who pulled you out of every sticky situation, whether it be a nasty spirit or a bully, that was me. I was the one who helped you with your homework or made you laugh."

Sam looked crestfallen. "So that gives you the right to tell me how I should live my life? You get to decide everything? Just like that?"

"I’ve gotten you to this point, you can trust me to get through the rest, Sam. I know how to get you through this."

By now, Sam was shivering violently. "But I don’t want to go through this. I know all the reasons we do this. I know about Mom, I know about the evil, I know about the people we save. But I can’t live my life for everyone else. I can’t live it for them, I can’t live it for Dad, and I can’t live it for you. I spent my childhood doing that, Dean, and I need—I need something more."

Dean felt himself growing hot despite the numbness in his extremities. "So you need more than the family. Like we’re not good enough."

"It’s not about getting away from the family. You know I love you Dean, I love you more than I’ll ever be able to tell you because you did all those things for me. I don’t want to leave you, I want to leave hunting."

"You think you can go off, have a perfect little life, where you live in the suburbs and barbeque on the weekends? Is that what you think you can have? A wife, two kids, and a dog? It doesn’t work that way, Sam. You should know that. After what happened to us—"

Rolling his eyes, Sam struggle to find his breath. "That was 18 years ago! I don’t even remember it!"

"Doesn’t make it any less real."

Sam blinked, trying to focus on Dean’s features. "It also doesn’t make it something that has to control the rest of our lives. Evil stalks people to ruin their lives in one way or another. Evil killed Mom, and it’s managed to ruin the rest of us by committing us to this vendetta." Sam panted with the exertion. "And someday, who’s to say, that it won’t manage to finish the job, whether we’re hunting or whether we’re doing other things."

"I’d rather be ready when I face it, not caught off guard with a family of innocents that I won’t be able to protect."

Sam’s latest speech had drained him. He heard Dean’s words distantly in defeat. He leaned his head back against the wall, letting his eyes close. As Sam’s struggle to keep away the tears, his energy left him. It was an argument he knew he could never win. He felt a tear slip down his cheek. He wanted to wipe it away, but suddenly found his limbs heavy and his head cloudy.

"Sam?" Dean asked, suddenly cognizant again of the situation. He willed his numbed legs to move as he approached his brother. He pulled back the blanket covering Sam, trying to inspect the quickly bound wound. He took off his gloves in order to better gauge how the slice in Sam’s side was faring. He hissed a curse when he saw that blood was soaking Sam’s shirt, and his pants as it ran down and pooled at his side.

Sam’s trembling had dissipated to a muted shake. He turned glassy eyes up to Dean. "I thought you’d understand."

"Sammy, you got to stay awake," he heard himself repeating. Sam’s face was devoid of color, and Dean knew that Sam was dangerously close to hypothermia

"I don’t want to leave you, Dean," Sam said, tears now freely flowing down his face. "B-b-but why do I have—have to choose between my dreams—and-and my family?"

Dean ceased fumbling with the bandage, sparing a moment to meet Sam’s gaze. "Shh, Sammy. Don’t. You don’t have to choose. You know I’ll always be there for you, no matter what you choose."

He was never sure if his brother heard him. A second later Sam’s eyes slipped shut and he went limp.

"Sam," Dean called, shaking him. "Come on, Sam."

He gripped his brother face, trying desperately to garner some response. When his efforts failed, he turned his attention back to the seeping wound, trying to rack his brain to find some way to contain the bleeding. But with no supplies and no way out, Dean realized there was little he could do except keep Sam warm and wait.

He could barely feel his legs as he shifted to be behind Sam. Body heat was the only source of heat they had left. Gently, he arranged himself so Sam leaned back against his chest, adjusting the blanket to cover his brother the best it could. With his right hand, he pressed down hard on the scarf, hoping the added pressure would control the bleeding.

"It’s going to be okay, Sammy, I promise you. I said you can trust me, and I’ll pull you through this," he murmured, hugging his other arm around his brother.

His words were meant to be confident and reassuring, but fear ebbed away within him, churning his stomach uneasily. The cut hadn’t been that deep, but Dean feared it had hit an artery or a vein. And he knew the lack of movement from his brother suggested that his body was too cold to shiver, and with his own body heat quickly diminishing, he didn’t know how much longer he could keep Sam alive.

But the real fear, he knew, was in what Sam had said. He had always known Sam was different than him, that Sam had a different outlook on life. After all, his brother craved all things academic, all things normal, all things not related to hunting. Dean had figured it was rebellion, a passing phase, but he finally acknowledged the terrible truth that it may be something more.

After all the times they had nearly been killed, now he was scared he would lose his brother to a foe he couldn’t fight: Sam himself.

He was surprised when he realized that he was crying, the tears a distant impression to his wooden senses. "Don’t leave me, Sammy, please don’t leave me."

Dean didn’t remember falling asleep. The next thing he was vaguely aware of was his father’s voice, asking him what happened. Dean didn’t know what he told him, just the twinge of loss as his father gently scooped Sam into his arms and whisked him back toward the car.

And Dean felt alone. That sensation was colder than the wind-chill, icier than the snow. Those things could freeze his body, but without Sam he knew the risk was a frozen soul.

He didn’t know how got to the car, only that he was laid in the backseat next to Sam. Although he couldn’t do much, he managed to pull his brother into his arms, holding him close, feeling the slow but steady rhythm of his heart. He didn’t know how long he could hold onto him, but it felt so peaceful there, so complete. So Dean clung to Sam, just to know he was still there, just to hang on to the hope that his brother hadn’t left him yet.