PART 1: NIGHTMARE
He surfaced slowly, unsure of where he was, who he was, what was happening. The world was dark and light, a blur of pain and fear and strange, garbled noise.
Voices, distant and distorted as if he were underwater; and a sudden, panicky feeling unrolling in his guts. He was alone. There was danger, and he had no one to cover his back. That much he remembered.
His muscles tensed, tried to move, his hunter’s instincts, even dulled by pain and confusion, screaming at him to duck, get away, arm himself. But he was pinned, trapped in nightmare, removed from his body.
The muffled sounds grew louder, closer, and his heart speeded up. He tried to open eyes that seemed nailed down; managed to pry up one corner; saw nothing but a glare of brilliant light that shot lightning bolts of pain through his head. Nausea rose, and he gagged and retched weakly, pain making the world go white; and suddenly there were hands all around: grabbing, tugging. He bit back a scream at the agony each move brought. Don’t let them know.
Hurt. Trapped. Danger. Run.
More voices, louder, and something touched his arm; then cold, flowing from his arm down into his chest, slowing his thoughts, his motions, turning him to ice.
The light faded. The sounds became more and more garbled, more distant, and the world went away.
Sounds filtered back slowly. He lay in his semi-glacial state, not understanding the words but recognizing the cadence. Unknown voices behind him. He forced himself to lie absolutely still as he tried desperately to clear his head enough to hear, to remember.
Where was he? What happened?
The fear was still there, and the sense of danger, but dulled, distant; and as he tried to focus, he recognized the feel of drugs coursing through his system.
Drugged. Tied down. Shit. What had he been hunting?
Another memory swam to the surface. Dad! He could feel his heart start to race, and he willed it to slow before the others noticed, knew he was awake, put him under again.
Too late. He heard muffled sounds, felt the cold coursing through him again, and the world faded to black.
He was alone the next time he came to; at least, he thought he was. He still couldn’t move, but he could feel, oh shit, yes; he could feel the tightly-wrapped blindfold covering his eyes, the bindings on his arms and torso. His legs were numb, immobile. He froze, trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind.
It was so hard to think! He knew he was still drugged, could tell by the way his mind lagged and stuck as he tried to remember. Darkness. He remembered that. And…and…
No use. He could only remember darkness, and sudden fear, and pain, and pain, and more pain, and then darkness again.
He counted breaths, trying to keep the panic at bay. What had Dad taught him to do in these situations?
Shit, Dad never got into these situations. And if he were any kind of hunter, he wouldn’t be screwed now himself.
He swallowed hard, feeling an unexpected soreness in his throat—not just dry, but almost scratched, and he bit back panic again. Wrong. This was wrong. He pushed back the tiny, scared little voice that insisted that he was helpless.
He was John Winchester’s son. He would survive.
He cleared his throat, listening intently: no scuffles or rustling, no breathing, no movement. Alone.
He was indoors, he thought: steady temperature, no wind or dampness, no sounds of animals or insects. There was an odd, acrid smell, one that he knew he should recognize, if only his head were clearer! If only…
The pain started in earnest, first behind his eyes and then radiating downward, hitting every nerve and muscle along the way, and he squeezed his eyes tight under the blindfold and gritted his teeth. *I will not scream I will not scream I will not…* A faint whimper escaped, and he felt humiliated. Shit. Whimpering was even worse than screaming in the John Winchester manual.
This time, when the darkness beckoned, he didn’t fight, but sank into it gratefully.
Someone was leaning over him. He could hear soft breaths, could feel the warmth of a body, and felt the hairs on his arm raise slightly as if from a static charge. He kept absolutely still, forcing himself to breathe slowly and regularly through the pain and fear. Something touched his head, turning it ever so slightly to the side. The world turned white and sound faded as his neck muscles seized and agony took over; and how sound could fade to black, he had no idea, but it did, getting farther away, like a train moving down a long, distant tunnel.
Breathe. Just breathe. Steady, even, regular.
Sound returned slowly, and he fought to listen. Whatever it was…was still there. Standing at his bedside and watching in silence. The breathing was faster now, short and choppy.
Breathe. Slowly. In and out.
He could feel it turn away from his bed, and listened intently as footsteps tapped away, then turned, paused, and withdrew: quick, muffled, a light stride on a level floor. Two feet. Shoes. He tracked it for a few feet, then heard the quiet whoosh of a door opening and closing. He listened, but couldn’t hear a lock click, and felt a sudden surge of hope. Maybe they hadn’t bothered to lock him in. Maybe they thought the drugs were enough. And the ties.
If only he could get his head clear.
If only he could remember…
Cold. He remembered cold. And rocky cliffs, and a river.
Northern New Mexico. Something was killing sheep, and an occasional sheepherder. Dad had sent him coordinates, his new thing now that it appeared he was old enough to hunt on his own.
He’d studied the reports, checked the corpses, and done some reading. Chupacabras, he figured. A little far north, but close enough to their usual hunting grounds; and even though they usually went more for goats, they weren’t averse to a little variety. And besides, he could handle them with his eyes closed. He’d been a little insulted that dad was giving him such an easy job; after all, he’d cleaned out a whole nest of chupas by himself just last year.
And so maybe he’d been a little sloppy, a little lazy. He tried to shift, felt pain sizzling through insulted nerves and snorted sourly. *A little*?
He’d been tracking, he remembered. Chupacabras have very distinctive tracks, and these weren’t…quite…right, and he remembered prickles running up his back—instinct or training—it didn’t really matter, as long as the result was the same. Something was off; he knew it, could feel it, and *still*…
Later. He’d lost all sense of time, caught between nightmare and reality, unsure which was which. But this time, he was pretty sure he was awake.
He heard the door click open and froze, trying to keep himself still, pretending sleep. He could hear it…them…whatever… standing quietly and watching; followed the soft footsteps till he could feel the body heat as…it…leaned over him again. Suspicious? Impatient? The visits seemed to be getting more frequent. Or were they just part of his nightmares?
His head was throbbing in time with his heart, and the rest of his body joined in the chorus: legs, stretched taut and tied in place, immobile; arms tied down at the wrists. He could feel wires and tubes snaking alongside him. Shit. Whoever this was, they meant business.
He understood the psychology behind it: keep your prisoner helpless and dependent; and furthermore, ready access to an IV meant it was easy to slip in nice, calming drugs unnoticed; but that meant that these were humans: or, at least, humanoids: shapeshifters, vampires, maybe even demons…
He felt his heart start to race again, consciously slowed his breathing. He didn’t want to give the game away, not yet; not till he knew what the game was.
Who would want him? And why? What would they gain?
His head was hurting abominably, and the world was fading again. No, don’t…..
“I think you can hear me, Dean.” The voice was steady, firm, and right in his ear. A woman’s voice, not young; a little husky. It took all his training not to jump, not even twitch at the sudden awakening. Shit. They knew his name.
“I just wanted to let you know, we called your dad. Found his number in your cellphone, and left a message where you are, so he should be coming soon.”
God, no. Dad. It’s a trap. That must be what they’re after. They’re demons, dad. They’re after you.
“Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of you till he gets here.” There was a soft shuffling sound, a heavy hand on his arm, sending fiery tendrils of pain everywhere. Don’t. Please, don’t. He forced his breathing to remain even, his eyes not to flutter.
He heard a soft sigh. “You can wake up now, you know.” The voice was gentle, non-threatening. Right. Give up his only advantage? “We don’t want to have to…” And that was a threat, left dangling. No, he didn’t want them to, but he’d be damned if he’d let them get dad.
Time to start thinking. Time to get the hell out of here.
The only problem was, he still couldn’t move. Could barely feel his arms, couldn’t feel his legs at all—just a heavy numbness that bespoke heavy-duty drugs. So why bother to tie him down if he was already drugged to the gills?
There was something wrong here…something bigger than he’d thought. Was he going to be bait…or a sacrifice?
His mind lost focus, and he drifted, seeing the image in his mind, something he’d seen a long, long time ago; one of those long nights when they didn’t have enough money even for a cheap motel, and he was relegated to the back seat of the car, watching his baby brother while Dad hunted alone…
He was 7 or 8, maybe. Sammy was asleep in the back seat, thumb stuck firmly in his mouth and snoring adenoidally around it. They’d been stuck in the car for forever, while the sky shaded and darkened and turned to pitch, while the stars winked on and the moon rose. And still Dad didn’t come back.
He was scared—the feeling of mingled fear and despair and determination. Who needed him more—Sammy, asleep and locked in safely, or Dad, out in the dark by himself? But that was breaking the rules…that was going against everything he’d been taught, everything he’d been *told*. Going against Dad.
But if something happened to Dad….
He wouldn’t let it. It didn’t matter if dad was mad, not as long as he was still around to yell. And so he wrapped Sammy snugly in his blanket, moved him onto the floor, into the shadow of the bench seat where he couldn’t be seen by any curious eyes; and he eased the door open, watching and listening for danger.
Nothing but night sounds of owls and mice and the far-off swish of traffic on the interstate. He pushed the door lock down firmly, purposely not thinking how he was going to get back in if he couldn’t find Dad. It wasn’t an option.
He tiptoed into the darkness, hand clenched on the silver gun in his pocket—his birthday present. He remembered how proud he’d been, like it proved that dad thought he really *was* a hunter.
Well, he wasn’t a hunter now, just a scared boy looking for his father, going after monsters in the dark because he had to. Because it was his job to watch out for his family, even when they didn’t want him to.
He remembered the lessons he’d had drilled into him. He moved silently, listening for the night sounds, and for anything that didn’t belong. The susurration of distant chanting was a beacon to follow in the dark.
He saw the firelight in a clearing ahead and stopped, listening for alarm, a break in the voices; then eased forward, being careful to stay in the shadows.
There was a group of men, all in long black robes, standing in a circle around something…
He heard a whimper, a cut-off cry, and he shivered. Pain. Someone was in pain. And those men were causing it. His fingers tightened on the gun, and he drew it silently from his pocket…
And suddenly his dad was there, standing at the edge of the clearing, shotgun in his hand. “Everybody freeze!” he called.
It should have worked. That voice made *Dean* freeze, and he stood in the darkness and watched as the men stopped and straightened, then started edging away into the trees. “Hold it!” dad shouted, as one man bent over; and Dean could see now, could see the large flat rock in the center of the group, could see the girl tied in place, eyes wild and pleading, mouth straining to scream through the gag. And he could see the fierce grin on the man’s face, and the firelight flashing off the knife in his hand; and he remembered that dad was expecting a ghost, that his shotgun was loaded with rock salt.
His shaking hand pulled his gun from his pocket and he took careful aim at the ground at the man’s feet, held his breath and pulled the trigger.
The man jerked his hand, the gun roared and the world tilted all at the same time; and then dad was there in the clearing, shotgun jammed against the man’s chest while the others raised shaking hands to the sky. He could see Dad glance over at the stone slab, just once; then he turned a face like chiseled granite back to the man in front of him.
The man stared challengingly, eyes wide with madness, glittering in the firelight. Blue eyes, sclera bright in the reflected light.
His dad inhaled sharply, and Dean knew he’d seen it too. His hands rock-still, shotgun still aimed dead center at the leader. “On the ground,” Dad growled, the voice Dean knew to obey instantly and without question. The others seemed to recognize it too, and they looked over fearfully and lowered themselves to the ground, hands splayed and shaking visibly.
“Dean?” Dad didn’t look around, and Dean didn’t question how his dad knew he was there. He was Dad, after all. He moved silently alongside his father to await his orders. “Check ‘em,” Dad said; and so Dean moved carefully between the prone figures, checking for weapons and flinging away the small knife the leader had secreted in his boot. He stood up, nodded, and his father tossed him the plastic ties. “Hands behind your backs,” he barked, and the men obediently moved them into place, so Dean could wrap the plastic cuffs around them.
Only after they were all trussed, wrists and ankles, did Dad relax his hold on the shotgun, though his eyes were in constant motion, watching for danger. Dean moved, shadow-like, at his side as they checked the girl tied on the altar in the center.
They were too late. Dean could see that, could see the raw gaping slice under her chin, like a grotesquely smiling mouth, and he gulped and swallowed bile. Dad threw him a fast look, as if checking that he was all right, wasn’t going to puke or cry, and then nodded grimly.
“C’mon.” His heavy hand was on Dean’s shoulder, urging him back towards the car. Dean hesitated, looked back at the tied men, still on the ground, robes absorbing the moonlight. “What about…” he swallowed.
Dad shook his head grimly and pushed him on…gently, much more gently than the boy expected, especially knowing that he’d disobeyed, that he’d interfered. “Humans.” The word was like a curse, muttered under his breath. “Not our problem.”
Dean was on his knees on the rocky ground outside the car, throwing up what seemed like every meal he’d ever eaten, with his dad’s gentle hand rubbing circles on his back as he called the police station with his anonymous tip. As he hung up, Dean gasped and wiped his mouth, waiting for the blow to fall, for the punishment he knew he deserved…but, instead, his father was studying him in the moonlight. “You all right?” he said, in a voice that sounded…worried.
He shivered, managed to nod. Dad saw the shiver, took off his leather jacket and draped it over his son’s skinny shoulders. “Better get inside before you freeze,” he said, opening the passenger door before heading around to the driver’s side. Dean watched, wide-eyed, as his father climbed in and sank into the seat with a deep sigh.
Front seat. Riding shotgun. And fear warred with triumph, nausea with joy; because he knew that he was a hunter.
Warmth. The feeling of sunlight on his face, though he still couldn’t see anything through his blindfold. How long had it been, he wondered.
It was night when he…when he remembered. When he’d been following the chupacabras. Then…his head started to pound, and he breathed through it, forcing his mind through it.
Days. He’d been here for days, no idea how many, where Dad was, how soon he’d get here. Or maybe he’d recognized that the call was a trap; maybe he was outside somewhere, studying the layout, trying to find a way in.
Or maybe he wasn’t coming at all. Maybe he’d never gotten the message.
Maybe he didn’t care.
He pushed the thought away. It didn’t matter. He was a *hunter*. Hunters were solitary. All of them, everyone he’d met, everyone he’d heard of, they all hunted alone. They didn’t need anyone.
He thought of his dad, of Sam, and felt weakness and a sudden, overwhelming longing to see them wash over him.
He was a fraud. He was weak. He was a fool. He was useless.
His dad was just trying to toughen him up, make him strong.
He deserved to be alone.
No. He was a *hunter*. He had no one to rely on but himself. He had to figure this out; had to find his own way back. Maybe this was a test?
OK. Try to focus. What did he know?
He was on his back, lying on something…not hard. He shifted his arm as much as possible past the restraints, felt the give and crackle. A bed with a thin mattress, covered with something like plastic, but still, nice of them. He frowned, wondered through his foggy brain what the hell they were getting out of it. Lure him in, maybe? Make him relax, trust them? He tried to shake his head, stopped abruptly and breathed through the stabbing pain that followed. Comfort was useless if they thought he was unconscious. Maybe they knew.
Maybe they were just…nice.
He snorted. Right.
So, someone had clobbered him a good one. Probably out on the trail; that was why he couldn’t remember. Concussion, at least, maybe even a fracture. Maybe that was why the extra care: they didn’t want him to kick off before the show started—whether he was the main attraction or just bait, he was still a part of it. They were taking care of him, at least for now. He didn’t know if that would change if they knew he was awake, and decided to withhold that information as long as possible, just in case.
So…chupacabra. New Mexico. Cliffs at night. Something wrong with the tracks. What was it?
He squeezed his eyes tight, ignored the multicolored flashes of light and feeling of vertigo it induced. *Think!*
Tracks…too big. Blurred, unclear even in the deep river mud. Strides too long for the bandy-legged little creatures.
Something bigger. Something that…changed? Because, yes, the tracks had changed. Scaly paws had elongated, gotten softer, wider. Spread into…
…feet. Human feet? Cloven human feet?
He felt sweat break out along his brow. What the fuck?
Demons didn’t have cloven feet, no matter what the bible said. So this was something in between chupacabra and human? Something…
…something changing. Caught in between shapes.
Shit. Shapeshifter, werecreature, spirit animal. Something that could be human or animal.
Something that could pass as human. Something that could have a house, a room, access to drugs.
His head started pounding in earnest; he almost whimpered, almost gave away the game—because he heard the door open again, heard the footsteps come up to his bed, felt the same heavy hand on his head. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” the voice half-whispered in his ear. “Well, we can take care of that, honey.” He heard rustlings and scratching, felt the line in his arm tugged, and then felt the coldness seeping down through his arm, through his body, making him fade again…
No! Christ, no. He had to think, had to figure this out.
He had to…..
Nighttime, back in the car. Sammy sulking this time, mad because dad had dragged them off on a hunt when he still had homework to do. He was curled up in the far corner of the back seat, deliberately ignoring his big brother, trying to read his schoolbooks by flashlight.
Dean had his orders: stay with Sammy. Don’t leave him alone. But it was hard this time. Sammy was 10 now, old enough now to join the hunt; but because he was being pissy and making a fuss, Dean was being punished. Being kept from the hunt. Being left behind. Between his dad not wanting him and Sammy not needing him, he was stuck in the car, staring out into the darkness with nothing to do.
Shit. Dad was after a werewolf, and he needed backup. He *did.* Those things were fast, and smart, and weren’t always alone.
He’d only seen one werewolf before, years ago when he was just a kid, and had been fascinated by it: by its long loping gait, its grace, its ferocity when cornered. He’d barely escaped that time, dad managing to down the creature just as its jaws were reaching for him; and he always felt that there was something owing him, or maybe owed to the wolf. But there was some sort of connection, some recognition of a creature that could pass for normal, day after day, and then turn into a primitive, bloodthirsty…monster…graceful and predatory, at night. There was some part of him that recognized, and refused to acknowledge, that that description could fit him, as well.
Hot. It was too freaking hot. This wasn’t the desert; he was in the foothills, for chrissake…6,000, 7,000 feet: scrubby pinon and huge pines. No way it should be this fucking hot. Not unless…
He could feel himself twitch, trying to twist away from the furnace that *had* to be here somewhere…
His brain felt floaty, disconnected, more so than the drugs warranted; and he knew there was something familiar about the feeling, knew he should recognize it. But all he could think of was *danger*. Different drugs? Stronger?
He felt his muscles seize, and the world whited out.
When he could hear again, there was activity all around him: he could hear muffled voices, feel hands on him. *Hah, scared you* the thought broke through the fog in his brain, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t think as the bustle went on around and over and behind him. By the frantic sounds, he figured they must be pissed at losing their prize, and for one brief moment he considered letting go, letting his brain float off into the ether and just leaving his useless body behind, leaving his captors with nothing but an empty shell. But then Dad’s voice sounded in his ear, snapping at his soldier, “don’t you give up, boy! Winchesters never give up!” and he knew he wouldn’t, couldn’t. And so he clung to the feeling of hands moving him around, the sounds of clatter and beeps and hushed voices, and the faint siren call of oblivion, growing stronger...
He recognized this place…Michigan, or was it Illinois? Someplace where the night air was heavy and damp, with the feel of a soggy blanket draped over his body. Sammy was at his heels, following along sullenly but quiet, for a change. He’d gotten all his complaining done early, at the car when Dad was there. After all, there was no point in complaining to his big brother, was there?
The woods were alive with sound: grasshoppers, crickets, frogs; the solid breath of muffled wings, the squeaks and rustlings of mice and shrews and who-knew-what else underfoot. Dean knew that as long as the sounds went on, they were safe. Dad was up ahead scouting out the trail, and his job was to keep Sammy safe and listen for danger.
He wasn’t real sure what they were hunting this time; the traitorous thought that maybe Dad didn’t know either surfaced and was ruthlessly squashed.
Dad knew. Just because he didn’t tell them everything didn’t mean he didn’t know…it just meant they didn’t *need* to know. But his fingers tightened on his 9-mil and his muscles tensed as they walked.
Even so, he wasn’t prepared for the attack. The feel of air stirred around his head, the rustle of wings…*giant wings, brushing his face* and then the scream, half-bird, half-human, echoing through the night air, stilling the insects and the mice and the nightbirds *and they hadn’t been scared before, hadn’t stopped, hadn’t warned me, Dad, I was listening, really*
And then Sammy’s cry of fear, of pain, and Dean’s head cleared of everything except fury.
Night vision settled, the stars shining through a cloud of haze, and Dean could see the huge winged creature draw back as Sammy swung his walking stick like a cudgel, striking unerringly at the monster’s midsection, and Dean could see as it connected, could hear the thud and angered scream as the creature drew back, getting ready to strike again.
Dean’s gun was in his hands, rock-steady and aimed, but he couldn’t shoot: Sammy was too close, the bird-thing was hovering between them, taloned feet outstretched and reaching, and Dean stepped forward, pushing his little brother out of the way and launching himself at the creature.
They were rolling on the ground, and Dean had a mouthful of feathers as he grappled with something that was as hard to hold as a tiger wrapped in a down comforter—except for the sharp beak above furious, human eyes that bore holes into him; the four-inch talons that raked his body, shredding his jeans and jacket and tearing into the soft skin underneath; and he could hear Sammy’s desperate cries and heavy footsteps, running, frantic; and then the thing was pulled off him, claws ripped from his flesh as they went. He lay, panting, on the damp ground and heard gunshots: two, almost simultaneous, very close; and he dropped his head to the ground and closed his eyes. The insects were still buzzing, but the frogs had stilled. “Fucking harpy,” he heard his dad mutter, and then a small, cold hand crept into his and squeezed, tight; and he took a deep breath that hurt, but not unbearably, and let himself sink into the darkness.
“It’s all right, Dean. You can wake up now.”
Shit. He could swear that was Dad’s voice.
“Time to wake up.”
Dad never used that tone with him…that soft, coaxing, *worried* tone of voice. No, that was for Sammy, when he woke screaming from a nightmare, or when the adlet had taken a chunk out of his leg. That was the voice when someone was badly hurt, and Dad was out of options. When he’d done all he could, and all that was left was to try to comfort en route to the hospital.
Not Dad, then. Dean felt his muscles relax, just slightly. Dad wasn’t really here. He was still safe.
Hands again, insistent, prying hands, and coldcoldcold against the blazing heat. What the fuck were they trying to do, steam him like a clam until his eyes popped open on their own?
His head was swimming, and painpainpain and oh god, it did sound like dad, it sounded like dad was *crying* for fuck’s sake; so he knew it couldn’t be him, and goddamn it if these pricks would just stop fucking with his mind, stop trying to make him wake up, stop trying…
…he stopped trying and let the swirling darkness take him.
Vampires. That was funny as hell. Because there weren’t any vampires; Dad had told him they were practically extinct; but practically meant that they weren’t *completely* extinct, not yet, which meant that yes, there were some still around, which meant…
…Which meant he was screwed, because the guy in front of him was opening a mouth that suddenly seemed twice as wide as it should be, and it was lined with rows of tiny serrated teeth, like a piranha. And knowing that that wasn’t the way a vampire worked, which meant it wasn’t *really* a vampire, didn’t count, because there were other things, other vampire-like things, that sucked blood and could still do a hell of a lot of damage. He could still remember the fucking shtriga that nearly got Sammy when they were just kids, only that one sucked life force, not blood, but it was the same thing, after all…
So what did you do with a non-vampire vampire? Silver bullets? Stake through the heart? Decapitation?
Considering that all he had was his brand-new Colt and his hunting knife, he knew He. Was. So. Screwed.
“Dean. You’re OK. You’re going to be OK.”
No, that wasn’t the way it ended. Dad hadn’t shown up like some freaking superhero in the nick of time. Dean had turned and run, as far and as fast as he could, and he managed to outdistance the thing. And the next night he and Dad and Sammy went back and cleaned out the nest together. Silver and fire.
“Dean. Wake up. Now.”
*That* sounded more like dad. Orders, not requests. And sure enough: “That’s an order!” Barked. And like a good soldier, Dean straightened. And kicked himself for giving himself away, hoped that whoever the hell it was hadn’t noticed. Dad would notice, but maybe this imposter wouldn’t.
“Dean.” The voice sounded…relieved. Softer. And through the fog in his brain, the strange numbness in his body, he could feel a hand settle on his. And it was instinctive; he couldn’t stop it, even if he tried. His hand turned slightly, as if it had a will of its own. He felt warm, rough skin, a thick-calloused palm, for just a second before the hand squeezed his tightly.
He tried to blink. Shit. Dad. It *was* Dad. And that meant…
“You’re safe,” he heard Dad whisper in his ear.
And he knew it wasn’t true, knew that Dad or whoever the fuck this was was lying; he *had* to be lying, because why else was he stuck here? Why couldn’t he move? Why did everything hurt?
“hhurrrrts…” Shit. No. Don’t say that. Don’t tell.
He felt the hand on his forehead, rubbing, soothing, the way he had…
…the way he had when Dean was little, when he was sick and his head hurt and he wanted his mommy so bad that he whimpered out loud, and shit, Dad heard, but he didn’t mind, did he? Because he put a big hand on his head and stroked his hair back the way mommy used to and he sang, very soft, very quiet…
…the soft voice sounded in his ears, and he didn’t know if he was really hearing it or just remembering; didn’t know if he was here or somewhere else, some anonymous motel room in the middle of nowhere, if he was five years old or twenty-five. “Smmmyyy…” he mumbled, unable to stop himself. Where was Sammy? Was he safe? Was he sick, too?
He stiffened, tried to pull himself up, tried to go, find Sammy, make sure…but he couldn’t move. Something was sitting on his chest…something big and fierce with giant claws that dug deeper and deeper into his chest, and it hurt, it hurt so bad that he could barely breathe…
“Lie still,” he heard, thought it was Dad. But Dad wouldn’t tie him down. Dad would want him to go to Sammy. “Not…” he panted.
The thing on his chest tightened its claws, squeezed, and his lungs constricted, flattened, refused to expand.
“Don’t fight,” he heard, and he couldn’t place the voice, couldn’t tell if it was familiar or not, because the world was closing down, contracting into a pinprick, and then….
The shtriga was hovering over Sammy’s bed, over the tiny, pajama-clad figure. Dean stood in the doorway, struggling to lift the heavy shotgun. His arms were trembling so much that he could barely raise them.
The monster heard him and turned, glancing over his shoulder at the terrified boy in the doorway…and laughed.
Sammy lay as still as death. Dean could see a line of scarlet drops lining the pajama neck, and his breath caught.
Too late. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe.
The monster stood slowly, rising up and up until he towered over the boy—8 feet, 10 feet, as tall as a house—and his mouth opened, wide, showing row after row of dagger-like teeth. And as Dean stared, unable to move, the face changed, elongated, became…something else. Something feral, furred and fanged; and the body compacted into an almost feline form.
Dean was face-to-face with an 8-foot-tall tiger with ten-inch fangs. And then, it morphed again, melting into…
…a giant, winged creature, with taloned feet coming for him and a giant, razor-sharp beak opened in a heart-piercing scream…
…and he screamed wordlessly, tried to pull himself upright, fighting the restraints, the hands that held him down, the voices that made loud and meaningless noises around him.
Panic. He could feel it in him, hear it all around him. Voices, ebbing and flowing with the pounding in his ears, hands tugging and pushing him, and the painfearpainfear sharp and bitter in his mouth. Dad. Where was Dad? What the fuck were they doing to him?
“Dad…” he screamed in his mind, wasn’t sure if it made it to his mouth.
No comfort. No deep, rumbling voice, or even a loud, shouting one; just terse commands and quick movements that he couldn’t follow, couldn’t keep track of, and he fought down the trembling that threatened to throw him off his bed and tried to bring himself back.
Weak. He was so fucking weak, in every way.
The woman’s voice was in his ears again. “You’re going to have to lie still,” she said, squeezing his hand in a painful hold. “I know you don’t like being restrained, but it’s for your own good.”
He grunted, tried desperately to pull away, to move, but her grip tightened and he bit back a gasp. “We’re going to give you something to relax you,” she said. Dean could feel her tugging at his IV and jerked his arm away with a wordless cry, but she gripped his hand in talon-like fingers. “If you keep pulling out your IV, we’re going to have to use full restraints,” she said; and that stopped him, made him relax his arm so suddenly it threw her off balance. No. No more, please. And maybe capitulation was better than begging, but it sure felt like shit.
He felt the cold in his arm again, and stopped fighting.
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