Catch Me When I Fall
It was a simple salt and burn and a welcomeing change to their last hunt.
This bastard here was harmless compared to the werewolf they had been hunting three days ago.
John let his gaze roam over the dark cemetery. A cold wind send a shiver down his spine.
The night was quiet and cold. The only sound was the rustling of leaves from the trees which surrounded the old cemetery.
Pale moonlight illuminated the old, decayed grave stones. Clouds raced over the dark night sky, transforming everything into an ocean of light and shadows.
He tightened his grip around the shotgun in his hands, waiting for the ghost to appear again.
It was Dean’s turn to dig while he was standing guard.
John threw a glance toward his son who heaved another shovel of dirt out of the growing hole that was the grave of Pete McAurley.
Just before John could say anything the wind increased and he felt the temperature drop a few degrees more.
The ghost appeared a few feet afar of him, eyes blazing with pure hatred, head hanging at a weird angle.
John was sure that this was a result of the accident. Okay, maybe not so much an accident but more something like self-defense.
During his lifetime McAurley was an abusing, sadistic bastard, who made life hell on earth for his wife. Though one day the poor woman fought back and the end of the story was that McAurley took a nosedive down the stairs and broke his neck.
Since then he haunted the house he died in.
The ghost stared at John, rage and hatred burning in its eyes.
Without a second thought the older Winchester fired a round of rock salt into the flickering figure and it vanished immediately
“Dean, get your ass moving! Slowly but surely this Son of a bitch gets clingy.”, John ordered harshly.
Dean briefly looked up at his dad, then nodded and silently concentrated back on digging. Ignoring his father staring holes into his back.
John eyed his son for a few heartbeats.
Dean was quieter than usual. Well, maybe that wasn’t so unusual anymore since Sam left, ran away form his family.
Briefly John wondered what his youngest was doing right now – if he was okay. It’s been three months since he checked on Sam while they were on a hunt near Palo Alto.
He felt the familiar mix of concern and fury rising inside his stomach.
John exhaled long and slowly and pushed these thoughts back into a far corner of his mind.
Not now. Not while they were on a hunt. He recalled his own hunting rules – keep your emotions in check or it could endanger the hunt and your life. Same thing applied for injuries. It was just too dangerous when you weren’t fully concentrated on the things at hand. In the end it could get someone killed. His thoughts briefly drifted to Bill Harvelle. He was the best example for these rules.
Slightly shaking his head, John’s gaze travelled back over the dark headstones, searching for signs of a new attack.
Dean tried to breathe slow and even.
Damn, his side felt like it was on fire. His stomach clenched painfully and he swallowed thickly. Dean felt sweat running down his forehead and temples. He wiped it away with a piece of his sleeve.
Fuck, he was tired. The shovel seemed to weight tons and he was definitely looking forward to a hot shower and a bed.
He stopped digging for a moment to catch his breath, glad his father’s gaze was trained elsewhere.
Dean slightly pressed a hand against his side. Even the slight pressure sent liquid fire through his body and he bit back a gasp.
Shitshitshitshit. He seriously thought about telling his dad that he had been hurt on the last hunt. The damn werewolf left some claw marks as a nice reminder.
Dean had cleaned and sutured it but an infection had set in nonetheless.
While staring down at the dirt and battling to catch his breath, he let his mind wander. Bits of pictures flashed before his inner eye though he tried to ignore them, to push them back in a far corner of his mind.
Since yesterday he had some strange and terrifying dreams - dreams of Sam. Something was after his baby brother in these dreams but he didn’t know what or why. And although he knew he wasn’t in great shape; he was positive that they weren’t only some crazy-assed fever-dreams.
The dreams were accompanied with a bad gut feeling. But he couldn’t understand what was wrong exactly, or more interesting, why he should think that something was wrong at all. Sure, he was worried about Sam 24/7 but this was new. Even if there was really something wrong with Sam he couldn’t know it.
The biggest question was how the hell could he know that something was up since he wasn’t at Stanford, not even in the same state. And even if his gut feeling wasn’t all pure imagination, he wouldn’t know because Sam wouldn’t answer his calls, don’t care how often he tried to reach him.
He tried it since he had the exact same dream twice at one day but all he got on the other end of the phone was the damn voicemail.
Dean sighed softly. It was months ago since he had heard anything from his brother.
And their one and only phone call was more than six months ago.
The hunt back there was messed up from the get go and Dean had enjoyed the company of a whole bottle of whiskey in some crappy bar in the middle of nowhere while his dad had probably done the same at their motel room.
After his fifth or sixth shot he had finally grabbed his cell and called his brother. And, wow, he had actually picked up after the fourth ring.
But it had been a short talk which was not really that good. After Sam’s first wave of panic concerning Dean’s and their dad’s health vanished the call was almost over.
With a few well chosen words Sam told him not to call him again. And yeah, it still hurts to think about that.
Dean really hoped that Sammy was okay. That he was happy now.
His thoughts were interrupted by another wave of pain that ripped through him.
Damn, but it was just a stupid infection. He could deal with it on his own. No need to worry. It would pass.
No need to concern his dad. To hold him back because of some stupid scratches that were a little infected.
No, he wouldn’t give his dad any reason to leave him behind.
Sammy left. He couldn’t afford his dad to leave too.
And this would surely happen sooner or later.
John had sent him more and more on solo hunts. A part of Dean was flattered by the trust the man had in him to handle things on his own, but it also meant that his dad was on the edge to leave him, too.
More than once he came back from a hunt to find the motel room abandoned. His dad gone for several days without any signs of life or traces where he went.
His family was slowly falling apart and there was nothing Dean could do to stop that.
“You fell asleep while digging? Hell boy, my granny could dig faster than you. Hurry, before this SOB shows up again.” John ordered with his typical drill sergeant voice.
“Almost done.”, Dean muttered and started to heave new dirt out of the grave. Gritting his teeth against the pain.
Finally, a few agonizing minutes later the shovel bumped with a loud ‘thud’ against the wooden coffin.
To smash the old and rotten lid of the coffin was easy and Dean could see the last remains of McAurley through shattered and splintered wood.
He heard a new gunshot. Adrenaline came back to him and coursed through his system.
With his last remains of strength Dean climbed back out of the grave.
He felt a sudden, sharp sting, then wetness that slowly started to seep into the bandage.
Fuck. He must have pulled some stitches.
Dean stumbled to the duffel which lay not far away form the gravesite. With trembling hands he searched for the things he needed to burn the corps.
From the corner of his eyes the younger Winchester saw his dad aim the gun again, quickly followed by another shot of rock salt.
The pain on Dean’s side intensified by the minute. He felt bile rise in the back of his throat. Dizziness washed over him while he staggered back to the open grave.
“Dean, damnit, hurry!” John shouted, while another shot echoed in the cold night air.
Ignoring the pain and dizziness Dean poured salt and gas into the grave.
His shaking hands needed a few tries before he could dump the burning matches into the hole.
Bright hot flames licked on the bones and rotten wood, devoured everything quickly. A shrill, feral scream echoed through the chilled night air.
Dean stumbled a few feet away from the flames, his legs feeling like jelly.
His vision blurred and the whole world started to shift to the left.
Pain still coursed through his side and he suddenly felt like he was on fire.
I’m still too close to the flames, he thought sluggishly. Mind getting fuzzier with every passing second.
He wanted to move, wanted to call his dad, but the black spots ate away his vision rapidly. His knees started to buckle, then everything dimmed and finally faded to nothing.
Dean never felt the impact on the damp, hard ground.
John turned in time to see his oldest collapsing to the ground.
What the hell…? He sprinted to Dean and dropped to his knees next to him.
From the corner of his eyes he saw the flames dance inside the open grave. At least the damn spirit was dead.
John’s attention turned back to his son, lying motionless on the ground. Thoughts rushed through his head. He tried to remember a moment where the ghost could have possibly hurt Dean, but John was pretty sure that this bastard hadn’t had a chance to attack him.
But something must have happened!
He gently turned Dean onto his back, his head pillowed in John’s lap. The lack of response worried him.
John shook Dean’s shoulder not too gentle. He felt the heat radiating off of his oldest.
Panic slowly rose inside his stomach. This couldn’t be good at all!
“Dean, can you hear me? Wake up - now!” His voice firm but also gentle.
John shook him harder. Dean moaned softly but didn’t wake.
He tried again, voice harsher this time. He really didn’t want to do this but he needed his son to wake up.
A new moan escaped Dean’s throat and his eyelids started to flutter.
John placed a calloused hand on his son’s forehead. God, it felt like he was touching a hot stove. How could this happening? And what the hell was wrong with Dean?
He felt Dean slightly lean into the touch.
Alarm bells started to scream inside the older hunter’s head. If he hadn’t been sure before that something was wrong, now would be the point he would really start worrying. He couldn’t remember a time since Dean was around ten that he would actually accept so much physical contact even while he was hurt or sick.
“Hey, kiddo, you with me?” John’s voice was soothing and even. God, when was the last time he did that – offering comfort? It was always Sammy who needed this and it was always Dean’s job to take care of him.
Dean blinked tiredly. Tried to blink away the haze that blurred his vision.
It took him a few moments to realize that his head was resting on his father’s lap, one hand pressed lightly against his forehead. He turned his head slightly away from the hand.
“You with me now?” John’s gaze was still trained on Dean’s face.
“Wha’ happn’ed?” Dean asked weakly and tried to move but white hot pain ripped through his side and immediately stopped every thought about moving around.
“What happened?” John repeated his son’s question. The barely audible note of anger got more pronounced with every new word. “Why didn’t you tell me you were sick? Do you even have the slightest idea how dangerous and stupid this stunt here was?”
Dean flinched at his dad’s angry words.
“’S okay. ‘m not sick.” He mumbled faintly, but knew he couldn’t fool his dad any longer. He was so tired. And he would give almost everything for a couple of Tylenol right now.
“My ass! Spill it, Dean!”, he demanded.
Before Dean could even think about an answer he felt his dad change his position, fingers gently running over his body, searching for any possible injuries.
The younger hunter winced when John’s hands eventually brushed over the bandage on his side. He battled to suppress a gasp but succeeded only partly.
John threw a quick side glance to Dean before carefully easing up the shirt.
In the beam of the flashlight the older Winchester could easily make out the blood soaked bandage on Dean’s left side.
Slowly he peeled back the drenched gauze.
John exhaled long and softly. Damn, this was so not good!
Blood and pus oozed sluggishly out of the five deep gashes. The skin around the claw marks was bright red and puffy.
A bad feeling crept up inside his stomach.
“Damnit, Dean! How long?!”, John asked angrily, his gaze sternly trained on his son. Worry and anger fought for the upper hand inside of him. “Is this from the werewolf hunt? Did this thing hurt you?”
“’m fine. Jus’ a scratch. ‘s okay.”, Dean slurred softly and tried to sit up to prove his point, but after a few inches he had to give up. Searing pain coursed through his midsection and everything started to spin. He knew he couldn’t fool his dad anymore.
John put a restraining hand on his son’s chest to keep him still.
“Well, great job here.”, he said sarcastically and put the bandage and shirt back in place. He would clean and suture the wound when they were back at the motel. There was nothing he could do out here.
“Okay, come on, let’s get you outta here.” John helped Dean first into a sitting than into a standing position. Though without his steadying arm around his son’s waist, Dean would have face plant once again.
He saw Dean’s teeth tightly clenched against the pain, could see the effort it cost him to bite back a groan.
The knot in John’s gut got more pronounced. Fuck, how could this have happened in the first place?
Okay, stupid question, because he already knew the answer.
The way back to the Impala was slow going.
John half dragged, half carried a semi-conscious Dean back to the car. With every new step he felt Dean lean more and more into him.
Dean couldn’t think straight in his fevered state. His mind refused to understand what was happening.
Hunt… right, they were on a hunt. … Werewolf…. No, ghost. Yeah, some nasty son of a bitch. But... something, something must have happened. He got hurt? Why else would his dad help him walk? His side was on fire. No scratch that, his whole body seemed to burn. He wondered if his dad felt the heat that surrounded them, too. And where was Sammy? Why wasn’t he with them?
The bad gut feeling was back again. Something wasn’t right. He just couldn’t put the finger on it.
The pain that radiated through him in waves made him nauseous and he swallowed thickly.
God, he was so tired. He battled to keep his heavy-lidded eyes open but they slipped shut on their own accord.
John felt Dean’s head come to a rest on his shoulder. He cringed at the heat that radiated off of him. That he could feel it through the layers of fabric couldn’t be good at all.
Without warning Dean’s knees started to buckle.
“Whoa, Dean!”, John fought to remain upright, grip tightening around his son’s waist. “Wake up, damnit. You hear me? That’s an order!”, he added sternly.
Dean moaned softly but John felt him straightening a bit, though his head still rested on his shoulder.
“Come on, buddy, it’s not that far anymore. We’re almost at the car.” John coaxed while Dean stumbled beside him.
He wasn’t sure if Dean actually heard him but he kept walking.
John sent a silent thanks to whoever was listening as he finally reached the Impala, carrying almost all of his son’s weight.
Exhausted and at the end of his strength Dean slumped with a soft groan into the passenger seat.
John eyed him solicitously.
For now anger had turned into real concern. Though he would kick Dean’s ass for sure, but that had to wait until he was okay again.
He fought with himself for a few moments but finally he decided reluctantly to finish the job first. They couldn’t afford to leave tracks, especially with Dean down for the count now. John was fairly sure that leaving town wasn’t an option any time soon and the danger to be caught was just too high.
John leaned over Dean and lightly tapped his clammy cheek.
“Dean. Hey, wake up!” He tapped a little harder. “You hear me, son?”
Dean shifted slightly. His eyelids started to flutter.
“Hey, you with me now?” John asked when a pair of green fever bright eyes eventually focused on him.
“Dad?”, it was barely above a hoarse whisper.
“Yes, listen, I have to go clean the place before we can drive back to the motel, okay? You wait here until I’m back, you understand me?” John eyed him carefully. Even with his voice kind of gentle it was an unmistakable order.
Dean eventually nodded slightly and closed his eyes again.
John threw a last long glance over his shoulder to his son, before going back to close the open grave and destroy every evidence that they ever had been there.
Dean moved restlessly inside his seat, unsuccessfully trying to find a more comfortable position. The pain made him nauseous and it was so damn hot.
He tried to breathe slow and even.
He shifted again but the movement startled his side and a new wave of white-hot pain ran through his body.
Dean felt bile burn in the back of his throat.
He clumsily pushed the door open and fell on all fours next to the car.
He only brought up bile and dry air, but it still hurt like hell. Every new muscle spasm sent an agonizing wave of pain through his body.
Dean’s vision tunnelled and he swayed.
Eventually the dry heaving stopped and he sagged boneless against the cool metal of the Impala.
Okay, maybe hiding the injury hadn’t been one of his best ideas…
He didn’t know how long he sat like this but finally the spinning lessened a bit, just like the ringing in his ears.
A cold wind brushed over his sweaty face.
Dean closed his eyes. It felt good. The cool sensation soothed the feeling of being on fire.
He must have fallen asleep for a while, though he couldn’t tell how long ‘a while’ was exactly.
Opening heavy lids, Dean tried to comprehend where he was. Everything was hazy and didn’t make any sense.
It was still dark. The wind had picked up and icy fingers ran over his body, making him shiver heavily.
He was alone, still leaning against the car.
The only sound was the howling of the cold wind.
His bleary eyes searched the darkness but he couldn’t see anything.
His foggy mind refused to offer him a clear thought, something that would explain why he was here out in the dark and alone.
He shivered violently. A new wave of pain coursed through him and he gasped softly, eyes clenched shut again. A head-splitting headache had settled in behind his eyes.
“Dad?”, he whispered hoarsely into the dark.
“Sam?” His voice a little louder this time. The pain had vanished back to the burning throb and Dean opened his eyes again. He slowly turned his head and the spinning was back full force.
Dean shut his eyes against the crazy merry-go-round that was his vision.
They’ve finally left him behind. They were gone, leaving him alone. His family was gone…
“What the hell…?”
Dean almost missed the words above the ringing in his ears.
But all of the sudden there were hands on his shoulders. Digging almost painfully into his flesh.
“Dean, open your eyes! Come on, I’m here, it’s okay.” John eyed his son’s shivering form, slumped against the car frame. Concern was written all over his face.
It had been a bad idea to leave Dean behind, but the last thing they needed now were some stupid cops hot on their heels.
“Dean!” John gave him a new, hard shake.
Slowly the younger Winchester’s eyes fluttered open and focused on his dad after what seemed like a small eternity.
“Dad?”, Dean breathed weakly.
“Yeah, I’m here.” He never broke the contact between his hand and Dean’s shoulder.
“What are you doing out here on the cold ground?” John’s anger was now fully replaced by concern. He couldn’t remember a time where he had seen his son like this.
Well, maybe the reason for that could be that you were never there when he was hurt or sick. Some hunt was always more important than one of your boys. It was always Sammy who was with him, a little voice in his head said accusingly.
“Was… sick.”, Dean mumbled, his eyelids dropping slowly.
John nodded knowingly. “Okay, buddy, let’s get you back inside the car and then back to the motel.” He stood up from his crouched position next to Dean, knees popping in protest.
During the short distance between the damp floor and the passenger seat Dean was more or less a dead weight in John’s arms.
“Dad?” Dean’s head turned slightly into John’s direction who had slipped behind the steering-wheel and now gunned the engine of the black muscle car.
“Yeah? You gonna be sick again?” John looked at him.
John frowned quizzically. “Sorry for what?” He drove the Impala back on the street.
“Shouldn’t disobey your orders. I… could’ve… Sammy could be hurt ‘cause of me… I…” Dean’s mumbled voice breathy and soft.
John threw a quick side glance at Dean, brow furrowed in concern. He pressed a hand lightly against his son’s forehead, guiding the Impala one-handed over the dark road.
He felt Dean flinch a little, but the younger Winchester didn’t have the strength to turn away from the touch.
Fuck! This wasn’t good at all!
John wasn’t entirely sure whether Dean was really with him or lost in some fever induced thoughts.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. Sammy’s fine.” John assured and gently smoothed back Dean’s spiky hair. “Hang in there, okay! We’re almost back at the motel.”
Dean mumbled something incoherently and relaxed slightly under his touch.
John floored the accelerator even more.
The only sound inside the car was Dean’s shallow breathing and the low, pained whimpers John heard every time the car tires found another pothole on the street.
He fought to keep his eyes on the road, but his gaze travelled ever so often back to his son.
Dean was slumped against the passenger door, his head resting against the side window, his laboured breathing fogging the cool glass.
For one moment John seriously thought about driving straight to the next hospital but the risk to get spotted by some authorities was just too damn high. Hell, he could deal with a stupid infection on his own. Had done it so many times before.
Though he would have a serious talk with Dean after all this here was over.
John’s jaw clenched tightly.
What the heck was wrong with Dean? His son wasn’t stupid, so why didn’t he just tell him about the injury the werewolf had left in the first place?
Because you sure as hell wouldn’t have spared him from this hunt, he answered the question by his own. ‘Suck it up’ would probably have been his only answer.
John’s grip around the steering-wheel tightened even more.
Right now he would have welcomed the feeling of anger inside of him. Anger about Dean’s stupidity, to endanger a hunt, and the life of the both of them. Not to mention the fact that he had let some scratches turn into something more serious. All of this could have been avoided!
But the only thing John felt right now was concern and guilt.
There was more than one indication that showed him that Dean was seriously feeling under the weather. But another question gnawed at him – why didn’t his son tell him that he was hurt? Why hiding something like that? And why still hiding it after it had become clear that this weren’t some simple cuts he was dealing with any longer?
The low moan next to him pulled John out of his brooding.
He threw a quick glance over to Dean, who shifted lightly but didn’t awake. In the faint dashboard light the older Winchester noticed the small tremors which ran through Dean’s body.
“Hang in there, buddy.” John’s voice was loud in the silence of the car.
He spotted the faint glow of the motel on the dark, murky horizon.
Minutes later they reached the almost empty parking lot. John drove the car as close as possible to their room.
Despite the short distance John rather carried than dragged a semi-conscious Dean into the room and to the bed farthest from the door.
The amount of heat and Dean’s slow reactions worried him.
“Okay, kiddo, let’s see what we’re dealing with.” The older Winchester’s voice was soothing.
He carefully eased up Dean’s shirt and pulled the red soaked gauze back.
Two of the five gashes still bled sluggishly because of the ripped stitches. The rest of them oozed pus which mixed with the blood.
His eyes rested on the stitches in his son’s side.
The gnawing guilt was back. Okay, Winchester, sixty-thousand-dollar-question – who had actually sutured the gashes? Because this looks damn close to Dean’s own handiwork and John knew from his own experience how fucking painful that had to be!
But why? What was he afraid of?
Shaking his head to free his mind from those damn thoughts he gently pulled on one of the cuts.
A new wave of pus oozed out of it accompanied by the harsh smell of infection.
John tried to ignore that fact that his heart beat painfully against his ribcage.
Him being freaked was the last thing his oldest needed right now.
Dean shifted slightly, head turning weakly from one side to the other.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, I know it hurts. But you have to calm down, okay. Everything’s okay.” John soothed while searching the duffel for the kit.
“Sammy?!” Dean shifted restlessly.
The faint mumbling caught John’s attention and let him freeze in place. He winced at the raw emotions in his son’s voice.
Armed with the first-aid kit John walked back to Dean who was still tossing and turning on the bed.
The older Winchester sat down next to him and placed a hand on Dean’s hot forehead. The touch seemed to calm him a bit.
He really hoped that cleaning the gashes would be enough to beat this infection.
Exhaling long and slow, John withdrew his hand and started cleaning the wounds with Peroxide.
Dean tried to turn away from the burning agony that was pressed on his side but John held him in place.
“Dean, it’s okay. Relax, everything’s gonna be okay.” He assured, not sure if his son could even hear him in his fevered state.
This was one of these moments, where he really wished Sam would be here.
His boys always had a special connection to each other and this connection would come in handy right now. At least John was positive that Sam would have been able to calm his big brother.
While cleaning the infected gashes John ran a list in his mind of things he would need in the next days. On top of that list were clearly antibiotics. They had used up the last couple of pills months ago after a hunt had gone south.
He sighed and grabbed for the things he needed to re-suture the gashes.
He felt Dean shift slightly next to him, still deeply lost in some fevered dreams.
A small, sad smile twitched around the older man’s mouth. Asleep Dean looked so much younger.
Memories of Mary, of another, different time crept up in John’s mind. A time where they used to be a happy and normal family.
He closed his eyes for a short moment.
But times had changed and he had to deal with the here and now instead of wishing for the past to come back.
Life was fucked but he had to make the best of it – at least for his boys.
Carefully he started to re-suture Dean’s wounds. This was going to be a long night.
A/N: Hey folks!Don’t shoot! I’m working on the next chap for ‘Swallow The Knife’ and ‘Somewhere in Between’ while posting this but free time is something I have to fight for right now. (and this sucks out loud with all the ideas in my head) This one-shot poked me since I wrote the line “It was only as Dean collapsed a few hours ago, that John knew that something was definitely not right.” in the story ‘Somewhere in Between’.
A/N: I can’t say how much I’m sorry for not replying to all your wonderful reviews yet. You guys are so awesome! And I feel so bad for not answering you but I will reply to every one of you – promise!! I’m a soon-to-be physiotherapist and two weeks ago I’ve got my own patients to take care of. So time is a little rare right now. Okay, think I’m starting to ramble. Sorry for that. ^^° Anyways, have fun reading and please let me know what you think of it. ^^ (Reviews are always making my day and I promise I WILL reply even if it’ll take a little while.)
A/N: Like always an unbelievable huge thank you to my wonderful friend and beta-girl JeanyAlicia. And also a special thanks to Helle! ;)
Disclaimer: Sadly I don’t own anything except my crazy fantasy. Everything belongs to Kripke and the CW. Wish it was the other way around…. *grins*
Like it? Don’t like it? Totally waste in time? Please let me know. *puppy dog eyes*