Winter Fury - Part 1/2 [Story&Art]

Dec 31, 2013 02:09

“I don’t like it,” Dean said for the 23rd time that morning and stared at the grey skies outside the window; willing the sun to break through, his brother to stop being so maddeningly rational, and the goddamned pain to go away. And I could use some pie while you’re at it, he thought with a snort and another glance at the low, heavy clouds.

“What’s not to like?” Sam retorted for the 23rd time, without looking up, and Dean quelled the urge to smack him - but only because he wouldn't have reached him. Sam sat exactly out of smacking distance at the foot of the bed. Granted, Dean could have thrown his pillow or something, but he didn’t, because he was an awesome big brother. Not that Sam cared right now. Sam was too busy being annoying with the med kit.

“I’m serious, Sammy,” Dean said and the pain must have had him slip up because this time, Sam did look up at him with his brow furrowed, burn cream and sterile gauze packages forgotten for a moment.

“Dean,” Sam sad in that tone of his and god, Dean hated it when his brother got all righteous. “You know we can’t wait any longer. And you said it yourself, nothing indicates that this will be difficult. Drive out, track the thing, gank it, burn it, done. You don’t have to worry. It’ll be fine.”

“I’m not worrying,” Dean hissed, staring at his legs, and tried not to sound pissed. “It’s just- I mean, come on. It’s a damned Winter Fury. This is a once in a lifetime chance.”

Sam didn’t look convinced. Dean scoffed. It wasn’t a complete lie. He really wouldn’t mind seeing this particular creature in person, especially since it was truly rare. And if that meant that Sam wouldn’t be facing it alone, well, that was just the way things turned out. But no, not this time. This time Dean had to be a frickin’ invalid because the caves of their last hunt hadn't been as structurally sound as they’d been supposed to be.

The explosives they’d used on the enormous wooden nest built by some kind of mole monster hadn’t just killed the creepy crawly and destroyed its lair, it had brought down half a mountain on top of them, effectively smashing Dean’s right shin to pieces. And as if that hadn’t been enough, some of the burning debris had set Dean’s right side on fire and burned his other leg enough to bench him for at least a month, if the doctors were to be believed.

They had thought that it was going to be an easy hunt, what with the half-mole-half-human creature too sensitive to flashlights to be of danger to them. And look how well that turned out, Dean thought bitterly. He tried wriggling his toes and grunted when one leg lost some of its numbness to new waves of pain and the other one felt as if it was still on fire. He wordlessly took the painkillers Sam held out to him and secretly wished for some whiskey instead of water to chase them down with. Or at least a cold beer. But he’d already asked Sam, and wasn’t keen on another do-you-know-what-kind-of-side-effects-that-could-cause lecture, not when the sickening smell of burning flesh and fabric and the mindless babble of a concussed little brother trying to lift a boulder the size of a small car off of him filled Dean's mind whenever he closed his eyes.

“You said they were supposed to be extinct, not me,” he said accusingly. “So the way I figure, this Winter Fury could be the very last one. Which means I should be the one to kill it. Big brother privileges.” Sam shook his head and sighed exasperatedly while he continued to bandage Dean’s left leg from toes to knee.

“Actually, Bobby said that. But it’s not gonna happen, Dean. The doctors said you can’t walk yet.” This time, Sam ignored the grumbled choice words Dean had to add to that. “Besides, it’s already the 14th. All the lore says Winter Furies vanish in midwinter, which gives us a week at most. If it doesn’t kill another hiker first.” Dean groaned and thumped his head back against his pillows.

“I’ve spoken to three rangers instead of our usual one,” Sam continued, “I brought you all the books from the library to double check, and you talked to Bobby exactly as much as I did about this case. You know that this is as simple as it gets. Honestly, if there were ever a hunt when I’d chose not to have you backing me, this would be it.” The almost undetectable flicker of Sam’s eyes betrayed his otherwise calm demeanor. To any other person, it would have meant nothing. But Dean knew his brother better than Sam knew himself sometimes, and the message was just as clear as if he’d said it out loud. Sam hated this exactly as much as Dean did. Not that that would change anything.

“Sammy,” Dean tried again, but Sam just shook his head and directed the full force of those damned eyes on him.

“No, Dean. We can’t wait. People are dying out there.” And wasn’t that just great, that all of a sudden Sam was quoting to Dean what he and Dad had been trying to teach little, stubborn Sammy all his life?

In the end there was nothing Dean could do other than stare daggers at the stupid green door cutting his little brother off from the safety of the motel room and the reach of the one who should have been at his side for what was to come.

This is ridiculous, Sam thought, and not for the first time that day. The landmarks he’d asked the rangers about were all but buried underneath several foot of snow and basically, everything looked alike. Only because there was no one else around did he know that he wasn’t going in circles - he hadn’t crossed his own tracks in the pristine white layer covering every inch of the land. Even though he’d tried to stick to the advised paths, sometimes he’d waded through snow that was more than knee-high and his progress was tedious and slow. If he didn't find signs of the fury within the next couple of hours, he’d have to trudge back to the car and try again tomorrow. Light wouldn’t hold too long this time of year.

Sam sent another glance to the low, heavy clouds and thanked his lucky stars that it hadn’t started snowing yet. Winter, he thought with contempt, goddamned winter. Hunting wasn’t one of his favorite activities, and doing it without Dean was even worse. He’d never say it, because that wasn’t how Winchester men dealt with things, but without his brother Sam didn't feel safe, and there was no one to distract him from the discomforts of his task, either. Sam sighed and checked the map and his compass again. They’d divided the hunting grounds of the fury into seven squares, one for each day they still had left in this town. Sam would have to step up his game if he wanted to finish the first square before nightfall.

He sighed again and thought of his brother, who was probably going stir-crazy. But at least he’s warm while he’s at it, Sam thought. This time, there was no way to sugarcoat things - Dean was out of commission, for as long as he’d let Sam get away with it. Sam hoped for maybe three weeks, but he'd count it a miracle if Dean stayed put for two.

Sam made his way into a clearing, stopping by a big tree that stood a little to the left of it. He brushed the snow off one of the stones strewn about the tree’s trunk and sat down with a grunt, leaning back and balancing the machete needed to kill the fury on his knees. Sam smacked his dry lips and calculated how much water he still had left. He didn’t plan to spend more than another couple of hours in the woods before turning back. Right now, he’d try to get a better grip on his current location, have a few sips of water, and then continue the search. He took off his backpack and the thick gloves, ignoring the way his hands stung when he got hit by the fierce wind. His face had gone numb hours ago and he didn’t want to know how thick the layer of frozen tears and snot undoubtedly caking his skin had gotten.

He looked around and bowed low over the map to figure out how far he’d come exactly, and the machete started sliding to the right. He quickly let go of his gloves to catch it before it could sink into the snow and to grab the backpack that was sliding into the other direction. Bending down to pick up his gloves again saved his life a second later as a thick icicle smacked into the trunk instead of Sam's head with a sickening thud, and another icicle that would have hit him square in the chest grazed his cheek instead, leaving a bloody scratch in its wake.

Sam immediately let his instincts take over, threw himself first to the left and then behind the tree for cover while holding on to the machete with both hands. His fingers were starting to lose feeling but the lore said a fury had to be decapitated, so losing the weapon wasn’t an option. Sam tried to slow his breathing and listened for any telltale sounds, but the woods were just as deadly silent as before.

The icicle trick might have been a bit of a surprise, but at least he’d found the fury now. The end of this wretched hunt was palpable. In his mind, Sam quickly went through some of the information they’d gathered through their research. Furies were known to stalk lost travelers, their sneak attacks leaving their victims disoriented and exposed to the elements. Causes of death were injuries sustained in those attacks or exposure in almost equal parts. The last known occurrence of Winter Furies had been in the late 1940s, though, so information was secondhand at best. What most records agreed on was the fact that this rare, seasonal subcategory of deity fed off their victims’ energy and warmth. He’d have to be careful not to let that happen. Other than that, these furies were neither extraordinarily clever nor strong, and Sam was positive that killing one wouldn’t prove to be too difficult. He smiled, checked once more that his grip on the machete was steady, and stepped around the tree. The clearing was empty.

“Huh,” Sam said, and scrutinized his surroundings. He hadn’t seen the fury during its first attack but it had left clear tracks in the clearing. It had come from the east and fled to the south when its icicle attack failed, and it couldn’t have gotten far yet. He quickly dug what had fallen to the ground out of the snow, and stuffed it back into his backpack before putting his gloves back on. They might limit the mobility of his fingers, but without them he’d be even worse off. Sam briefly considered calling Dean, but the fury already had a head start and the weather was getting worse. He’d check on his brother as soon as the job was done. He shouldered his pack and silently followed the tracks to the south. If he was quick enough, he might still make the kill and get back to the motel before dusk. As soon as the trees around Sam grew thicker again, it started to snow.

Dean periodically checked his cell phone, which he knew Sam wouldn’t use because there’d be no service in the woods - and counted the grey ceiling tiles (180 whole and 15 half ones), cigarette burns on the nightstand (11), and water marks on the far left wall (47 if you counted all the little spots). The TV was on, but it was more for background noise. Dean didn't have time for entertainment, not with Sam on the hunt and Dean so far away from him.

He checked the time on his phone again and groaned when he realized it was another hour before he could take the next dose of painkillers. Sam had been gone for most of the day, the soothing effect of the burn cream had long since vanished, and his leg had turned into one big lump of throbbing fire. Resigned, he snatched up the remote and started channel hopping until he stumbled over the local news. The news anchor was hot, so he forgave her for the lack of interesting reports in this backwater part of Idaho.

He snickered when the news switched to the weather girl, another hottie that visibly shivered in a cute little winter coat. She gave the forecast in front of a spectacular view of a mountainside panorama and the winds were strong enough for the fluffy microphone to look alive. All the fun was sucked out of Dean, though, the moment she mentioned some typical regional phenomenon of quickly changing conditions. Apparently, all the locals were aware of it and simply were advised to stay indoors and wait out what would turn into a full-blown blizzard within the next couple of hours. Anyone still outside was supposed to immediately look for shelter and keep warm. Storms like the one coming had apparently cost lives in the past.

Dean groaned again, not due to pain this time. Sam should be back at the car long before the worst of the storm hit, and they’d agreed that he’d be out of the woods and within cell phone range by early afternoon. So Dean would simply call him as soon as he was back on the grid and tell him to haul ass and everything would just be fine. But a nagging voice of doubt kept coming up with all the things that could go wrong before Sam was back safe and sound. It would be just their shitty luck to get one of them caught outside with the mother of all snowstorms about to hit. Sam hunting on his own was bad enough. Sam caught alone in weather like that was even worse.

It was nothing they ever spoke about, but Dean saw the way Sam still stiffened with the first few snowfalls every year. The kid was good at hiding things, enough so that civilians never noticed anything. Who in his right mind would even consider being afraid of snow, anyway? But Dean still remembered when that irrational fear had taken hold of Sam for the very first time. Of course he did, it had been Dean’s own damned fault to begin with.

It had been late January already and Sam couldn’t have been older than 9 or 10. It had been their first winter after his stay at Sonny’s Home for Boys. Dean had left the place behind, left the other boys - his friends - and walked out on his girl. He’d turned his back to a whole life he’d never known he could want, and dove right back into the family business. Of course, there hadn’t even been a real choice, because Sammy was with Dad and Dean went where Sam went. But that was the way Dean wanted it, and he was happy with it.

Still, in the long, dark hours of that winter, he sometimes allowed himself to wonder what could have been. He never told Sam about it and Dad ignored the issue as usual, but he simply couldn’t help it. Thoughts of a life that was warm and stable and safe all the time invaded his mind and made him irritable. He sometimes dreamt of Sam living like that. Of being able to offer that kind of life to his little brother and of both of them enjoying all the comfort that came with it. It was distracting, to say the least. So much so that Dean almost got himself killed on a hunt.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but whatever it is, you better get a grip,” Dad had told him when they’d gotten back to the car afterwards, “That wraith could have seriously hurt you tonight, Dean, or worse. What the hell where you thinking?” Dean heard both worry and disappointment in Dad’s accusing tone, but he could imagine all too well what Dad would do if he knew the answer to that question, so he stayed quiet. There was nothing he could have said that wouldn’t have angered Dad even more anyway, so the whole drive home was spent in silence.

“We’ll increase training, for the both of you,” Dad said once the apartment door snapped shut behind them, “Sam could use the practice, too. It’s like you’ve forgotten everything you know. How the hell-” Dad stopped and leaned against the kitchen counter with a sigh. He started the coffee maker and frowned at his torn jacket and the blood spatter all over his sleeve. Then he sat down at the kitchen table and rubbed his hand over his eyes.

“I know that I’m hard on you sometimes.” That wasn’t what Dean had expected next and he glanced up from where he’d studied the cracks in the floor tiles. Dad wasn’t looking at him, he’d gotten his gun out of its holster and had started taking it apart in quick, sure movements.

“Sometimes, I wish that our lives were different, too. I never imagined for both of you to grow up in a world like this, the constant darkness and danger. But that’s just it. You know what’s out there, Dean.” Dad started cleaning all the neatly lined up parts and still he wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes. “You know what’s out there and how easily a fight can spill from the shadows into people’s lives.” Of course Dean knew, but he didn’t think Dad was expecting him to say so.

“It’s our duty to fight this, Dean,” the oldest Winchester continued, “This is the only way you and Sam can survive whatever’s coming your way. You need to be ready; you need to be at your best. At all times. How will you protect your brother from the things that are out there if you’re not giving it your best shot?”

Dean silently agreed; protecting Sammy was the one thing he’d never forgive himself for should he fail at it. In fact, he had to agree with all of Dad’s little speech. He was just about to apologize for his distractedness when Dad added, “This is what we do. It’s what you’re good at. And Sam will be as well, once he gets the hang of it. I heard of a ghost hunt up in Oregon. Clean and simple. I was thinking it could be Sammy’s first.”

Dean didn’t remember what he’d said after, but he knew things had gotten ugly fast. There’d been shouting and at one point Dad had thrown his coffee mug into the sink hard enough to shatter. All thoughts of pledging to do better had been forgotten the instant Dean had imagined little Sammy hunting with them. His brother had still been a little kid then, after all. How in the world did Dad expect Dean to keep him safe out there? It was as if the man hadn’t heard a single word of his own monologue.

Towards the end of it, Dean had stormed off before he could do something he’d regret later, nearly bowling over a surprised Sam who was coming home from school. Dean spent hours walking through the nearby woods to clear his head and that evening he’d realized three things. First, Sam was where he drew the line, even with Dad. Second, Dad was still right. Hunting was their life, and it was time to finally let go any hopes of a civilian life he still might have harbored. The third realization didn’t come until later that night, after he’d picked his scared and disoriented brother up in the middle of the woods, already more popsicle than human, and gotten him home, fed, and warmed up again.

Apparently Dad had only grunted ominous monosyllables to answer Sam’s questions about where Dean was going. So he’d feared that Dean would leave again, that time for good, and little Sammy hadn’t hesitated to grab a few of their clothes, some water, and his knife. He’d snatched Dean’s gun from the nightstand and a second knife from under Dean’s pillow before appropriating half the med kit. And then he’d walked into the woods himself, tracking his brother. Later that day a fierce snowstorm had hit and it had been by pure luck that on his way home, Dean had stumbled over a snot-nosed, red-eyed little Sammy who’d completely lost his way.

With all three Winchesters in bed that night and Dad snoring loudly enough to mask any whispered conversations two brothers might have had, Dean hugged Sam closely to his chest; the boy still not quite warm enough for his liking.

“Don’t ever do that again, Sammy,” Dean scolded, and didn’t even try to mask his concern. The possible consequences of Sam’s little stunt had shaken both of them deeply. “You can’t just walk away like that. It’s too dangerous out there all on your own. Especially in weather like this.” Dean shook his head. The winds were still howling low around the building and moaning through the crack in the kitchen window. As an answer, Sam only snuffled a little closer and hid his eyes from view.

“Sammy. Promise me you won’t just up and leave like that again.” Dean grabbed his brother's chin to gently turn his face towards himself. “Promise me, Sammy.”

“But you were leaving,” Sam argued, and he sounded so small and devastated that Dean hugged him even tighter. “You were leaving, again, and I didn’t know if you were coming back this time. What if you got lost on a stupid hunt again? Even at Bobby’s it’s no fun without you. I didn’t want to be alone again.”

Sam became almost too quiet to understand. “I’m sorry I went out and got lost. The stupid snow was everywhere and first I tracked you, but then your trail was gone and everything looked the same, it was all white, I couldn’t even see where I was going. I- I thought I’d never find you.” This kid, Dean thought, equal parts fond and astonished, this crazy, wonderful kid.

“Sammy, listen to me,” Dean whispered into his brother’s ear, “You don’t need to worry about that. I won’t ever leave you for good, understand?” He put as much conviction as possible into his words because this was the most real, most important thing. And Dean needed his brother to understand it, too, because the weight of that truth was too heavy on one heart alone.

“You’re the reason I’m here, kiddo.” If he choked a little on his words, neither of them mentioned it. “I’ll always find you, there’s nothing that can keep me away from you,” Dean said and breathed a small kiss into that stupid floppy hair, “And I’ll never leave you again. Never.”

Thus came the third revelation he’d had that day - that for Dean, being a big brother meant sometimes loving Sammy so much it hurt.

Packs. Furies lived in goddamned packs or prides or whatever the hell they were called. There were at least four of them still left, Sam guessed, and they were hunting. Unfortunately, Sam Winchester was what was on the menu that day. As soon as he’d realized that the fury he’d been following wasn’t on her own, he’d tried to backtrack, but another one of them had already cleared whatever traces he had left. Led astray like a bloody first time hunter, he thought bitterly.

The fury that had been busy cleaning Sam’s and the other fury’s tracks had been too surprised to offer much resistance when he’d encountered her. Chopping off her head had been a matter of seconds; she hadn’t even had the time to alert the rest of them. And Sam had discovered yet another thing that hadn’t been in the books: after decapitation, Winter Furies turned to snow. As soon as the machete had sliced cleanly through the creature’s neck, the fury’s form had silently disintegrated into the snowstorm that raged around them.

They didn’t look all too corporeal to begin with, more as if swirls of ice and snow and wind were held together by an unseen force to create a humanoid figure. The most disconcerting thing about them was probably their eyes, though; lidless white orbs with a faint blue glow - they looked more dead than alive.

But as incompetent a fighter as that fury had been, they were obviously skilled hunters. Sam assumed that they’d only left tracks to lure him in - the one he’d killed hadn’t left any; rather, it seemed to hover a little over the ground. Or maybe some of them walked, others didn't. There was no damned way for him to tell. He didn’t know when they’d started watching him but he was certain that this wasn’t a usual hunt anymore. He had no idea where he was, he was tired and goddamned frozen to his very core, and frankly, he was afraid. His irrational fear of snowstorms had made an unwelcome appearance hours ago and all he wanted was to hide under the warm covers of his bed and wait for spring. He knew he was being childish and usually, he was quite apt at fighting his embarrassing phobia, but being stuck alone in the middle of a freaking snowstorm tends to scare people.

He’d tried to find his way to the main path again, or at least to the clearing where the first attack had happened, but he must have taken a wrong turn or two- mistaken one stupid, bleak tree for another. It wasn’t as if he could tell. Every damned direction looked the same: snow, snow, and more snow swirling through the air, and behind the barrage of flakes lay blurry shadows of a forest and the occasional splatter of rocks, covered by an ever growing layer of white. At one point, visibility had been so bad that he’d walked straight into a tree.

Thankfully, the worst of the blizzard seemed to be over by now. Sam stopped when he reached another small clearing and fumbled water and his phone out of the backpack. He wasn’t looking forward to this particular conversation, but nevertheless hoped he might have at least one bar by now. He’d have to let Dean know that not only were there more than one of these things on the loose, but also that they were organized and probably watching him right that moment. But one look at the display showed him that there still was no cell coverage, and he realized that he must have veered off even farther than he’d feared. He’d just have to keep going north and hope to hit the road at some point.

He looked with disdain at the small chunks of ice that had started crystallizing within his water, but took a sip anyway before stashing it again and putting his pack back on. One last look at his compass had him turn a little to the left and out of the corner of his eye he saw a vague movement before he was hit by something with enough force to throw him face first into the snow. The next second, his neck exploded into something that felt like a burn, so intense that he couldn’t say whether it was hot or cold. It hurt, that was all his brain could process. It hurt and he was going to throw up from the pain any second, but moving proved to be difficult and he wondered how his head could still be attached to the rest of him now that his neck had turned into living fire.

Sam struggled for control of his limbs and slashed aimlessly the air behind him with the knife from his belt. The machete had been lost upon impact with the ground and he couldn’t see it through all the snow. Something heavy was on top of him, but the knife hit nothing but air. It got harder by the second to hold onto the long, gleaming blade, much less move it around, and the burning feeling slowly spread to his head, shoulders, and chest. Sam was heaving with the effort it took to keep breathing. He was almost convinced that closing his eyes and maybe taking a little nap was the best idea he’d ever had, but a nagging voice kept telling him to get up and get the hell moving again.

The voice sounded suspiciously like Dean. Sam wondered if he was delusional, or dying, or both. White edges had started to creep into his vision. It still hurt to breathe. His skin prickled, or maybe it was falling off of him - he was too disoriented to tell. He felt his blood slowing down and spreading like liquid ice through his veins. The Dean-voice in his mind told him to pull it together and with one last, desperate jolt, Sam yanked the knife up and aimed it roughly at the air above his neck, and the weight lifted instantly. He turned to his side and coughed and breathed and coughed some more as he tried to keep his surroundings in check through the tears obscuring his vision.

His whole body felt as if it had been smashed to pieces. Sam stared at his hand, still holding the knife, and frowned as he inspected the blade more closely: there was no blood on it. He shook his head, trying to clear away the lethargy and to put together the new insights he’d gathered.

Furies didn’t like blades of any kind, it seemed. They could move soundlessly and they were strong enough to overpower a human. One must have hit me or touched me or something, Sam thought when turning his head reawakened the pain in his neck. It wasn’t as bad as before and it didn’t spread any further, but he still felt its burn through skin, muscle, and bone. If that was the furies’ hunting routine, no wonder so many of their victims seemed to have just lain down to die.

To his left, Sam heard a hiss that could have been the wind or worse. He tried to get to his feet, but moving that much was still too big of a challenge. He crouched on all fours instead and hoped his shaking limbs would support him. At least thinking got easier by the second. A little further to the side, the handle of his machete was sticking out of the snow. The storm around him was just weather for now, no blue glimmer of dead ice or humanoid shapes within. Sam wondered briefly if the furies had noticed that he’d already killed one of them. Maybe this had been a test to see how big a threat he posed.

Suddenly, another hiss came, followed by something like a bark, and Sam summoned all his energy and flung himself into the direction of the half-buried weapon. In one fluid motion, he snatched it and swung it around but he lost his footing in the snow and fell. Suddenly there were two of them right next to him. The closest grabbed his arm and yanked at it, and the immediate pain had him shouting a curse that would have made Dean proud. Thankfully, the arm with the machete was still free and in quick succession, he sliced through the creature’s upper arm and then its neck. The fury’s initial screech reminded Sam of breaking ice, and it cut off the instant Sam lopped its head off. One second, the alien, gaze-less eyes were wide open. The next, a million tiny crystals drifted apart and mingled with the dancing snow. It looked surreal.

But Sam couldn’t reflect on that very long, because a gust of wind from behind warned him of the other fury’s approach. He barely stayed on his feet while swinging the blade in a wide arc around his axis. He fleetingly saw two hands with fierce claws make a grabbing motion towards him before he chopped right through both elbows. This one’s scream was more like wind in a hollow tree, but Sam couldn’t say whether it was incited by anger or pain. The dead, white eyes gave nothing away and he didn’t want to wait to find out. He couldn’t risk being touched again, his neck was still throbbing and the second touch to his arm had rendered it all but useless.

So Sam kept jerking the blade around, movements erratic and clumsy, to hold the creature at bay. If the first hit he’d gotten in had been painful, it didn’t slow the fury down for long. The creature's arms seemed to just grow back again, and soon it had all its claws back at its command. But as talented as they might have been hunting and tracking him from the distance, in a fight one on one the furies still didn’t seem to possess many skills apart from their deathly touch. Sam’s uncoordinated movements were enough to keep the fury busy as it dodged and blurred around the blade with fluid effortlessness. Sam knew he couldn’t keep up his defense forever so he feinted right and swung left and the third fury of the day dissipated into a shower of crystalline sparkle. It was kind of anticlimactic.

He stumbled to the nearest tree and leaned against it for a moment as he tried to figure out his next move. With the sky obscured by heavy, grey clouds and snow still impairing his view, there was no way for him to get a more exact idea of his location. He’d just have to trust the compass and continue north, hoping that he wasn’t getting any deeper into the woods. His whole body hurt but he felt okay enough on his feet to trudge on. His left shoulder throbbed and his arm was still without feeling; maybe the fury had dislocated it when she’d grabbed him. The pain throbbing through it was dim in comparison to the one at his neck, though. He’d have to try to avoid any sudden movements or he might need to puke after all. With a fierce longing, Sam thought about Dean. He was glad his brother was safe, but a small, selfish part of him wished that Dean had been able to come with him, if only to distract him from the unrelenting cold with some snappy remarks about Sam’s nonexistent fighting skills. He sighed and pushed away from the tree, not caring to silence his whimper as pain sliced through his neck and upper back. He’d have to get it together if he wanted to make it home in one piece.

In the shadows of the nearby trees, the last of the furies hovered without taking form. She’d been the oldest of them and now she was the only one left. It made her angry, but she’d kept her distance and observed this human since she’d felt the first of them die. She still wouldn’t risk exposing herself. He was different from their usual victims - whether by luck or by knowledge, she didn’t know. She didn’t care, either. He’d felt their touch twice already and the cold had taken hold of him. She heard it singing in his blood. There was no shelter for a long way in every direction and the slowing storm would help exhaust him further. There was only one way this hunt was going to end. She would be patient, and soon enough, this one would be hers.

Sam made it more than halfway down another slope before the next attack came. He was hit by a wind so strong that it threw him against a nearby tree and he almost lost his balance. He’d half-hoped that he’d gotten all the furies by now, but apparently not; he’d have to kill at least one more of them. And even worse, they seemed to have the elements at their disposal as well. Another gust of wind suddenly pushed him forwards and he noticed too late that the hill fell away in front of him. The drop wasn’t too bad, maybe seven or eight feet, but he hit the ground hard enough to stun him. Next thing he knew, he was rolling down the rest of the slope, hitting trees and icy rocks as they came.

He finally crumbled to the ground at the bottom of the hill, close to the edge of a clearing similar to the one he’d rested in earlier. He lay twisted, sprawled between two of the bigger rocks, one shoulder at an angle that couldn’t be natural. The pale skin of his face was covered in a sheen of sweat despite the cold, and just out of the corner of his eye, he could see part of the snow turning crimson before darkness took him.

On top of the hill, the last fury stared down at this human that had been more resilient than any other before him. But his fall would prove fatal, exposed to the elements like this. She wouldn’t make it quick, either. This one was the last sacrifice of the year, and the loss of her companions had weakened her. No, this one would go slow; she’d savor him as long as possible. He was of strong energy, she’d felt it through the other’s touch, and now she molded the wind to her needs, leading it on a gentle weave through the trees, only separating herself from it when she was almost on top of her prey. This close, she could feel him humming with life force even without physical contact. He was still strong despite his injuries, and she was pleased. His death would ensure her survival during the long, warm months to come.

Sam wasn’t answering his phone. He might be on his way back, might just be delayed by the terrible weather, but the skies had darkened and the temperatures had dropped and Dean couldn’t reach his little brother. It was torture. An hour ago, he’d spoken to Bobby again and that call hadn’t alleviated Dean’s worries one bit. The older hunter hadn’t found any more useful information, and the last hit they’d gotten from the GPS on Sam’s phone was just as deep into the woods as Dean had feared.

“Don’t do anything stupid, kid,” Bobby had said before grumbling that he’d pulled over for their call and that he'd already been on his way to Idaho.

“Bad enough to go on a solo hunt in this weather,” he’d said, “how the hell will you take care of him when you can’t even walk? I'm not saying anything happened,” Bobby had been quick to add, “But just, you know, in case?”

Dean had stayed silent because yeah, what if Sammy were hurt, what then? What if he couldn’t drive back? Staying out there wouldn’t be fun in these conditions, even in the Impala. And if Sam were hurt badly enough, a night in the car could be exactly what would seal his fate.

“Stay put, you hear me?” Bobby ordered, and hung up. But Dean had already decided to give Sam until nightfall, and not a moment longer. If he wasn’t back within cell phone range then, Dean would just have to improvise. The only good thing was that the frickin’ blizzard had seemed to lessen again - with any luck, visibility wouldn’t be too bad if Dean had to look for Sam in the woods.

The upside was that by taking about double of an already healthy dose of their strongest painkillers, Dean could walk. It was more of a wobbling stumble, really, but as long as he got to Sam, Dean wouldn’t care if he had to hop the whole way. The downside was that he looked like a goddamned fool with his bulky cast wrapped in huge blue plastic bags to keep it dry. But he’d need all the stability he could get if he was to navigate the uneven terrain, and wet plaster wasn’t much of a support, as all Winchester men knew from experience.

At half past four Dean checked his phone again (still no Sam) and the sky (dark as night already, but at least no more snow). That was it. He snatched up a duffel he’d stuffed with all the essentials he could think of and one of the motel’s big blankets, folded the second blanket on top of the zipper and tied it to the bag, then slung the whole thing on his back and grabbed the crutches. He had a car to hot-wire.

All in all, things turned out to be laughably easy. The locals knew better than to be up and about and if walking hadn’t been as much of a production as it was, Dean could have picked whatever vehicle he’d liked. But even with his limited mobility, he found an old truck that was perfect: big enough for him to drive with his huge, now bright blue leg and reliable enough not to end him in a ditch on the icy roads. He drove as close to the spot where they’d lost Sam’s phone as possible and made his way on foot from there. It wasn’t even all that bad. Soon enough he’d figured out a way to swing both legs forward and he made good time. Only crawling up and down the many hills proved difficult, but that’s what he’d packed the additional painkillers for. The amount of pills his nightly trek afforded would have elicited at least Bitchface No. 12 from Sammy, but since the lack of little brother was what had Dean out there in the first place, he tried to ignore that fact.

Shortly after he arrived at Sam’s last known location, Dean found tracks in the snow. Freshly fallen snow had already begun to cover them up again, and by the amount of it, it must have been quite a while since Sam had come through. They were still easy enough to follow, though. It looked like more than one pair of tracks, too, so Dean was on the alert. Apparently, the fury had come the same way as Sam had. He only hoped that Sam had done the following and not the other way around.

At one place, Dean saw signs of a scuffle and his flashlight illuminated a few dark red spots, long frozen to ice, leading away from it. So Sam ran into difficulties, Dean thought, but whatever had happened, both the fury and his brother had been in good enough shape to continue on foot. Dean didn’t linger; the tracks led on, so he followed. But he wondered how a single fury had survived hand-to-hand fighting as well as the machete Sam had brought with him.

It took Dean about another half hour to arrive at a steep slope. He thought about going around it and finding an easier way down, but Sam’s trail led straight ahead and Dean wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find it again at the bottom - for all he knew, his brother might have cut parallel to the ridge halfway through. So Dean made sure his duffel was secured tightly to his back, then grabbed the crutches in both hands and aimed them straight ahead before he tried for a series of controlled drops from tree to tree, using the crutches to stop one potentially bad fall or eight.

After a few minutes, Dean had to rest for a moment. The pain wasn’t too bad with the numbing cold and the drugs, but he was getting dizzy and he’d be of no use to Sam if he ended up tumbling down the hill and breaking the other leg, too. Without his huffing and cursing, the night was eerily silent and through the leafless branches Dean saw a few stars twinkling between the clouds. He took the time to scan his surroundings and was heartened to see that the slope wasn’t as steep anymore and that it merged almost gently with the forest ground towards the bottom. A small clearing lay a little to his right, and he picked one of the big trees surrounding it as his next rest stop. As he got closer, Dean frowned - something strange peeked out between two of the boulders, almost like a pair of shoes. He later blamed his medicated brain for the good thirty seconds it took him to make the connection.

“Shit! Shit shit shit.” Dean unceremoniously slid down the rest of the hill on his back, legs and crutches flailing all over the place, and he fell twice in his haste to get to the brother-shaped lump that lay half buried under freshly fallen snow.

Sam wasn’t moving.

continue (part 2/2) || fast forward (notes & acknowledgments)

@ spn_j2_xmas, art:winter_fury, fic:winter_fury

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