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

Dec 31, 2013 02:10

Never in all his life had Sam been as cold as this.

Going out in this weather had been a terrible idea. Dean would worry if Sam so much as sneezed; he didn’t want to know what his brother would do if he saw him like this: out in the woods, shivering and close to tears, after dark and on his own.

Dad would only be mad and disappointed- things Sam didn’t like, but could deal with. Dean, on the other hand, would worry and lay the blame upon himself, even if it were clearly a mess of Sam’s own making. Tracking was one of the very few things he usually excelled at, and he even beat Dean sometimes, but now he had to go and get lost. Sam truly felt like crying, had so for quite some time already, but that wasn’t going to happen. He was too old to bawl like a baby just because he couldn’t find his big brother.

Jess gently stroked her fingers through his hair and tried to calm him, but things were all wrong. She wasn’t supposed to be out in the dark with him. Sam needed Dean; that’s why he’d left Dad at the apartment. And wasn’t that his brother calling him from a distance?


It was freezing. The damned flashlight was absolutely useless. The never-ending shower of big, white flakes caged Sam in, almost like a curtain that moved with him. Wherever he turned, there were no clues to follow, no landmarks to steer towards. The world was reduced to blurry grays and white. The low rustling with which snowflakes settled to the ground had seemed so peaceful at the beginning, but now reduced everything to a muted, monochrome version of itself and started to chase shivers down Sam’s spine. It was almost as if he was underwater, but without any bubbles he could follow to the surface. There was no surface. There was nothing but Sam and the snow and the cold.

“Sam, come on,” Dean shouted and Sam wanted to answer, he really did, but he was just as mute as the world around him. Or maybe he was underwater after all. He felt strangely weightless, so that seemed to make sense. But he thought he’d been breathing. How very peculiar, Sam thought, and drifted off again, sideways through the snow that hit his face with enough force to sting. Then he somersaulted upwards and the world tumbled around him, trying to keep up. Dean was Sam’s last thought before he lost track of things again.


Sam must have walked for hours. His feet hurt and he hoped it was from exertion and not because of frostbite or something. He’d been tired for a long time, but he knew that sleeping on the cold ground could turn dangerous very quickly. When they’d arrived in stupid Minnesota, Dean had given him the rundown of local and seasonal dangers as usual. With it being the middle of winter, a reminder about hypothermia had been included, so Sam knew what not to do. But staying alert and moving became more taxing by the minute. Sam was afraid.

What if he never found Dean? He wasn’t even sure where he himself was, so how the hell was he supposed to find another person in the whiteout that raged all around him? He could have walked right by his brother without even knowing it. What if he’d done something stupid like that; what if his chance to tag along with Dean had come and gone already? It had been careless of Sam to leave like this, and now the overestimation of his own capabilities could very well cost him his life. Dad would kill him.

Sam snorted and thought how really not funny the situation was. Then he started laughing and couldn’t stop; he doubled over in the snow and its cold immediately seeped through his clammy clothes. There was probably something seriously wrong with him. Sam felt panic clawing at him and he still couldn’t get a grip. He’d die there in the snow, Sam was sure of it. Not only was that a death unworthy of a hunter’s son, but he’d also never see Dean again and that was much, much worse. His brother wouldn’t even know that stupid little Sammy lay frozen in the middle of some Minnesota forest. Dean would never stop looking for his little brother and Sam’s mistake might just kill him as well. Sam started to cry.

Dean’s voice drifted through the shades of white around him. Sam couldn’t understand what he was saying. But he sounded angry. Or maybe he was scared- sometimes Dean covered that up with anger. Jess was back, too, sitting next to him on the icy ground. Sam wanted to tell her to get up and keep moving, or to go find Dean, but he was still kneeling in the snow, still sobbing, and now he felt sick, too. His head hurt. He just wanted to go home and for Dean to make things better. The snow that had accumulated between his hood and the woolen scarf started to melt and cold water slowly soaked through several layers of snow. Sam didn’t want to die.

“Don’t do this, goddamnit! Sammy? Sam!” That was Dean again. Sam was more confused than ever. Dean didn’t sound like a teenager, he sounded more like Dad: grown up and angry-scared. This wasn’t how the story went. Dean didn’t call for him because he didn’t even know Sam was outside. And later, they’d huddle up under their blankets and Sam would admit how afraid he’d been. That sounded more like it. Why wasn’t Dean sticking to the story?


“Sam? Son of a bitch. Sam! Wake up!” Dean could be so annoying. Sam had just managed to fall asleep. The only house Dad had been able to afford was more of a shack, really, and the walls almost seemed to suck in cold air from the outside; had kept Sam awake most of the night. He despised spending the winter months in the northern states. He never seemed to get warm, not even at school.

“Sammy. Come on, man, work with me here.” Maybe he needed to get up so as not to be late for class, otherwise Dean wouldn’t be this persistent. But Sam was just so tired. For once, he wouldn’t have minded missing a school day. Dean should have been proud. But he sounded worried. That wasn’t right. What’s wrong? Sam thought. Maybe he should ask Dean. Maybe there's news about Dad.

“Who’swher?” Well, that sounded strange. Jess was pinned above Sam’s bed, eyes and mouth wide open, and the heat of the terrible fire that consumed her made Sam’s skin prickle. It was the wrong ceiling, though, and Sam wanted to tell her that it wasn’t her time to burn yet, but he couldn’t talk through his tears. It's wrong, he thought, It's all so wrong. He’d stopped crying the instant Dean had found him wandering in the snow. He was still cold even though Jess was burning and Sam felt terribly guilty about it. About everything.

Dean kept calling him, sounding as if he were right next to him, but Sam still couldn't see him. It was strange. He’d think about what that meant after he’d slept a little longer. Sam just hoped Dad wasn’t home yet. He didn’t feel like training at all.

“No no no, Sam, come on, don’t do this!” Dean didn't dare shake his brother too hard, not without knowing where the blood that caked Sam’s clothes had come from. His brother hadn’t fully reached consciousness, but at least he was breathing, so things were still salvageable. But Sam hadn’t complained about pain, not even with a groan or a sigh, no matter how often Dean had tried to rouse him. Dean had hoped that maybe Sam wouldn’t be hurt too badly, but he was almost certain that one of Sam’s legs was broken and that his shoulder was dislocated, maybe worse. So the lack of any reaction didn’t bode well for his brother’s overall state.

As soon as it became clear that Sam was in no condition to leave or even open his eyes anytime soon, Dean started prioritizing. He’d already done an emergency triage when he’d first tried to wake Sam up and he was almost sure that his brother wouldn’t die of his injuries within the next couple of hours. The advanced hypothermia would prove to be far more dangerous, so first of all, he needed to warm Sam up. Maybe get him out of his frozen clothes, but getting a fire going would be Sam’s best shot. With his immediate goals set, Dean rolled Sam onto one of the blankets he’d brought and covered him up with the second. Then he’d limped off to collect as many armfuls of wood as possible.

Dean worked up a good sweat, and even after the clearing was already illuminated in flickering, yellowish shades, he had continued lugging load after load of dried wood. A nearby tree that had fallen victim to a storm or old age or whatever had proven to be a goldmine in that regard. By the time Dean slumped to the ground next to Sam, panting heavily, they were sheltered on both sides and from behind by stacks of wood that Dean had tried to form into at least knee-high walls to stave off the worst of the wind. In front of them the fire crackled merrily and all around it lay another four or five big piles of wood. Thank god Dean had found the machete not far from Sam, as without the huge blade it would have been almost impossible to carry those huge branches from the dead tree over to the clearing.

Every once in a while, Dean still tried to rouse Sam, but other than opening big, confused eyes that didn’t seem to recognize him, nothing happened. Sam hadn’t talked or acknowledged Dean in any other way yet, and after a few slow blinks, his eyes would slide shut again. Dean decided to inspect Sam more thoroughly as soon as the black spots in his vision had cleared away, and hoped that then he’d have a better idea of what they were dealing with. The blood on his brother’s face was a dead giveaway for a concussion, and hypothermia was just as positive a diagnosis. But everything else remained to be seen.

In the shadows of the nearby trees, the Fury had watched with milky eyes as another human arrived and fussed over the hated one. She’d held herself still and silent and waited. The one that got away, the one that killed the others would be all hers soon enough. The new one came and went and came and went, and she slid a little closer every time he was away. There still was enough energy left in her prey to last the night if she didn’t take too much too soon. She settled between the trees, remained incorporeal, and continued to leech the warmth away from the one on the ground.

Only when a sudden surge of heat caused her to hastily retreat further into the woods did she fully focus on the new human. She’d been so enamored with the rush of feeding that he’d had the chance to start a wretched fire. Fire. In her woods. In theory, that alone would have been enough of a reason to kill him, but she still wanted the hated one dead, and by her own hands, no less. That left her with a bit of a dilemma. She’d only be able to kill one more human that winter. But if she attacked the fire starter, she might not be able to stop feeding until he was dead.

The fire starter was hurt, too. She’d known it the minute he slid down the hill towards them. And he kept feeding the excruciating flames more and more wood, completely oblivious to her agony. She backed off further and immediately felt a strain on her connection to the hated one. Any more distance between her and her prey, and it wouldn’t be possible to continue feeding. This was a turn of events she hadn’t foreseen.

Dean huddled with Sam between the blankets, and since Dean still didn’t know how badly his brother was injured, he’d decided against getting Sam out of his current clothes and into new ones. Instead, he’d opened both their jackets and slid hoodies and shirts up their chests to gain as much skin-on-skin contact as possible. Sam going into cardiac arrest because his heart couldn’t deal with the warmed up blood from his limbs wasn’t something Dean wanted to experience.

Sam still hadn’t complained about the cold or any pain, but his eyes had stayed open for a few minutes each time, and once, he’d garbled something intelligible into Dean’s neck. Things were looking up. Dean still had no idea how to get the both of them back to the motel, though, especially if Sam’s leg really was broken. And there was always the chance that the Winter Fury might still try to kill one of them. Dean would have to collect more wood soon, but he hoped Sam might be able to talk to him before that. Dean slid back a little and gently shook his brother again.

“Sam? Can you hear me?” Sam’s eyes opened again, and this time, they weren’t completely blank. Dean held his breath and crossed his fingers that this was the break they needed. Sam frowned.

“Hnn?” Sam cleared his throat and tried again. “D’nn?”

“Yeah, Sammy, it’s me. You with me this time?”

“Mmm.” Sam blinked drowsily but he seemed to be getting more alert by the second. Dean started rubbing his hands up and down Sam’s arms to generate a little more heat.

“Why’re we outside?” Sam finally rasped and grunted when he tried to turn his head. “Hunt?”

“Yeah. Do you remember the Winter Fury? You were supposed to kill it, not take a hike with it.” Sam tried to raise his head and let it fall back with a groan. Dean felt something icy sliver down his spine. If Sam had a back injury, they were even more screwed than he’d thought.

“Try not to move too much! What’s wrong with your neck, Sammy? Did you hurt it in the fall?” But Sam only kept blinking at him, clearly trying to make sense of things. “Can you still feel your legs?” More blinking.

“’S cold.” Sam finally said, confused and accusingly. Dean swiped his fingers through his brother’s hair, as out of it as Sam still was, he’d never remember it.

“Sam. I need you to really concentrate now. Can you tell me what happened with the fury? Do you know where it went?” It took a little, but then Sam offered a slight grin.


“You killed the thing? Here?” Dean looked around. “Or on the hill?” There hadn’t been any tracks other than Deans so he’d guessed that Sam had tumbled down the hill and hadn’t gotten up again.

“Nuh-uh,” Sam protested weakly, “Killed it, uh. Before?”

“Before what?” Sam shook his head which caused another low groan and Dean quickly stopped the movement with the hands still tangled in his brother’s hair. Finally, finally, Sam looked straight at him, recognition replacing the confusion for now.

“Stupid thing was clearing my tracks, but I finished it, easy peasy.” Sam’s hesitant smile turned into a huge, proud grin until he was distracted by the flickering fire and his face fell slack again. It was almost comical how he tried to look at it without turning his head. But Dean didn’t feel much like laughing.

“T’was so cold,” Sam whispered.

“Yeah, it still kinda is, Sammy.” What Sam had told him didn’t add up; the fury’s tracks had clearly led him this far as Dean had followed two sets of prints. At one point, his brother must have hallucinated killing the thing. Sam tried shaking his head again, though.

“’S not like before, Dean. There was... fire in my blood. Cold burn, real cold. Uhm. Icy fire. Hurt real bad.” Dean started to calm Sam down, maybe it was still a bit too early to expect him to be coherent. But Sam grabbed Dean’s hand with his good arm.

“No, Dean, listen! It’s the touch. You need to watch out for the claws.” Sam giggled. “But they’re easy to kill. Pretty, too. A thousand - no, a million crystals. Poof.” Sam’s hand let go of his brother and made a jerky, spreading motion like an alcoholic magician.

“Uh-huh, good job, Sammy. Poof.” Dean had to admit, the first part made a bit more sense. If the fury could somehow influence its victims by touching them, confuse or even incapacitate them by doing so, that would explain why Sam hadn’t been able to kill it. But why hadn’t the fury finished Sam while he was unprotected after his fall? Dean was missing something there, that was for sure.

“Sam,” Dean said as calmly as he could, “You have to try and concentrate. No one was clearing your tracks. I followed them here. You have to tell me how the fury fought you! How did you end up down here?”

“You’re mad.” Sam sounded surprised and a bit hurt and Dean doubled back. “I thought you were worried, when you were calling, um. Earlier? But you’re mad.” The grip on Dean’s hand was back, soft and almost shy. Sam’s eyes were wide and earnest.

“I tried, Dean, honest,” Sam pleaded, “But the fury, it pushed me. Damn wind does its bidding. I didn’t even see anything.” Then Sam pouted. “Pushed me into the snow, too. The first time - no, the second. Or third? The first was the tracker!”

Dean sighed, “Ok, Sammy.” He needed to get more wood and then he’d try again a little later. He only hoped all the confusion was due to the snow. He had no idea what to do if that concussion turned into serious head trauma. They were hours from the next hospital, not to mention a tiny bit stranded at the moment. But at least Sam was talking now, and halfway to coherency.

“With the wind,” Sam repeated, “pushed me deep into the snow. I don’t like snow at all, Dean.” The last sentence was hushed, as if Sam had been five and had just shared his latest secret with his big brother.

“I know, Sammy, I know.” And Dean did, if only there’d be something he could do about it. He shook his head, let out another sigh, and slid out of their nest of blankets. He immediately started shivering in the cold morning air. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but the deep blue of the sky had started to pale a bit at one corner. He still grabbed the flashlight; he’d be glad for every second he wasn’t spending stumbling around in the snow. Before he got to his feet, he dug out the painkillers and took another dose. Not as much as last night, though. He still hoped he could offer some to Sam if the head injury turned out to be a minor one.

A bit of snow had somehow made it through the layers of blue plastic and the cast was a little wobbly at the top. It would still hold, but Dean had to be careful not to let any more in. With one hand on a crutch and the other holding the machete, he started staggering towards the fallen tree.

A short distance away, the fury watched carefully. All night long, the fire had been burning too hot for her to come close. She’d tried to fight it, had hit it with both the fiercest winds and the softest touches of air, but the fire had refused to obey. Unfortunately, the skies hadn’t sent any more snow, either. So she’d circled the humans, plotting and waiting. The only good thing about that was that the hated one had had time to gather a little more strength, which amounted into more energy for her. All she needed to do was stop the second one from gathering wood, wait for the flames to die, and then she’d be able to finish the first one off.

The fire-starter hadn’t moved all night except to feed the flames, always protected by their scorching heat. Now, he got up shakily and she sensed her chance. He was making his way towards the trees in a slow, halting pace and as he passed the first tree, he also stepped into the area where the fire’s presence was bearable to her. Without a second thought, she struck.

One moment, Dean was limping towards another armful of wood; the next, he had been forced into a nearby tree, both his crutch and the machete missing from his hands. At first, there was nothing there, just a strong wind blowing straight at him, but then a shape blurred into existence.

The fury, he thought and tried to reach the gun that was still tucked into his waistband. It probably wouldn’t be any help, but facing the thing completely unarmed made Dean feel even more helpless. He couldn’t get it lose, though - his damned fingers weren’t nimble enough. Then, it was too late anyway, and the Winter Fury stood before him in all its glory. The patterns underneath its skin were mesmerizing, as if tiny snowstorms were chasing all through it. Dean wasn’t even sure there was any skin covering them. Its eyes were white, and lidless, and really frickin' creepy.

“Boy, you’re one ugly son of a bitch,” Dean sneered. “No wonder no one likes you. Can you even see with eyes like that?” He hadn’t expected an answer, had just wanted to distract it a bit while he tried to be stealthy enough to get a handle on his gun. But its voice drifted over him like the crunch of frozen grass underneath his boots, and Dean suppressed another shiver.

“I can see you just fine, fire-starter,” it spat. “Tell me, human, how safe do you feel without your fire?”

“I'm feeling like I’d gladly roast you over the flames. You'll burn for what you did to my brother, you creep!” Dean still had a clear view of its claws, and they looked nasty. No way would he let the fury touch him with those. He wriggled a bit until his back wasn’t pressed flat against the bark anymore. There. He could feel the handle of his Colt at the tips of his fingers. He needed to stretch just a little further.

The fury seemed to have frozen. Dean might have said that aloud had Sam been there, pun fully intended. But whatever reason it had for stopping, he had no intention to draw its attention back to him a second earlier than necessary. He squirmed, twisting around himself and he almost had the gun, almost -

Then the fury spoke again.

“Brother,” it said, and Dean didn’t like the change in its voice at all. It sounded voracious. “You two are brothers.”

She felt heavy waves of emotion coming off the older one. There was anger, worry, love, and hope. Each of them was being thrown her way with almost effortless, natural fierceness.

Brother, she repeated in her mind. She was old and her heart was ice, but that single word brought back memories that had been buried for ages. Faces flashed before her eyes, laughter rang in her ears, and deep inside her, she felt the pain of a loss long forgotten. Home, she thought. Brother. Sister. Family. No wonder the power of this human’s emotions was almost overwhelming. He was the hated one’s family.

“You will do,” the fury hissed at last, “You can die instead of him. I will kill what’s his just like he killed what was mine. It is just.”

If she took the life of the brother, the hated one might not survive, but either way she’d have her revenge. If he lived, she’d have taken his family and doomed him to a life as lonely as hers. If he died, that was just as well.

“Yes,” she nodded, “You will do fine.”

But Dean hadn’t stopped his wriggling, and the time it had taken the fury to change its plans had given him the precious seconds he'd needed to finally free his gun.

“Eat this, bitch!” Dean emptied the clip into the creature in front of him, two shots to the chest, two more to the head, and the last two into the chest again. The fury unceremoniously dissipated into thousands of tiny snowflakes and Dean fell to the ground. He silently apologized to Sam. Now that he’d seen it in person, all of his gibberish made a lot more sense.

That reminded him. He still needed to get more wood for the fire. Half-hopping, half-falling, he looked around in search of machete and crutch and was completely unprepared for the pain in his chest. It was like being hit by boiling acid, like the one that swamp monster in Louisiana had spewed, only this felt like a living, breathing thing that crawled all over his chest and into him to spread underneath his skin. Fire in my blood, he thought with a new wave of guilt, god, Sammy. He didn’t know how his brother had been able to move again if this was what those things had done to him.

Dean’s heart galloped. He already had lost all sense of direction, and only the shock of having his breath knocked out of him clued him in to the fact that he’d been slammed into yet another tree. The crazy eyes of the fury were hovering an inch in front of him and Dean’s limbs were leaden. Just holding his head high was a strain he wouldn’t be able to take much longer. Fuck, Dean thought when the thing remained completely unfazed by his rapidly weakening attempts to buck it off.

His eyes started rolling and he wanted to shout for Sam, even though he knew Sam was still battling hypothermia and probably not even able to walk right now. But he shouldn’t have worried because he wasn’t able to let loose much more than a pitiful whimper. When his chin finally fell to his chest, he saw that the fury’s hand had vanished halfway through his clothes and probably through his skin, too. The white noise in Dean’s ears turned into a buzzing silence, and his flailing limbs grew still. He wasn’t sure he was still breathing. If this was the way he died, he was only glad that the thing hadn’t gotten Sam. Sammy, Dean thought, and the nagging doubt as to whether his brother might be too hurt to make it out of this alive had him raising his head again in a Herculean effort. The fury’s eyes gleamed a light blue, and then the thing choked and raised one of its hands towards its own neck. Something grey was sticking out of it. The fury screamed.

All around Dean, the icicles that hung from the branches rained into the snow with silent thwacks, and he felt the tree behind him vibrate. The fury lifted its other hand to its throat, too, letting go from where it had been holding Dean in place by the scruff of his jacket. As he fell to the ground, Dean saw the blue gleam in her eyes flicker and die, eyes wide open with surprise. There was a shadow behind the thing, but before Dean could make out who it was, his body suddenly realized that breathing was an option again, and his world faded into spastic coughs and tears.

The fury garbled and let go a long, terrible note of agony before it abruptly cut off. Dean felt tired and heavy and he briefly considered just resting for a bit, but then he heard Sam cough and wheeze and throw up. He’d recognize those sounds anywhere.

“S-s’mie,” Dean croaked, and got to all fours, blindly crawling into the direction of the puking. He was still coughing himself and the never-ending stream of tears was starting to seriously piss him off. He had a brother to get to; he didn’t need this crap right now.

“Dean?” Sam asked, and it sounded much weaker than when Dean had left him before. It was hard to believe that that had only been minutes ago. “Ugh, are - ” More coughing, more puking. “Are you okay?” Sam finally wheezed.

But Dean wasn’t wasting any effort on speech, and when he finally reached his brother, he just slumped to the ground next to him. The sounds of puking made Dean want to gag, but thankfully his muscles were too exhausted for any further reaction. They were far from the fire. It was too cold where they lay.

“Did you get it?” Dean asked, and he was glad that his head had started to clear a little.

“Mmh,” Sam hummed noncommittally, and the simple task of Dean lifting his arm to poke Sam had the fire in his chest springing back to life. These frickin’ furies had really done a number on them.

“Use your words,” Dean chided, and tried not to cry from the pain. Enough with the damned tears already. “How's the monster?”

“Dead,” Sam wheezed and damnit, he sounded even worse than before. “It got you?”

“Chest,” Dean said and suppressed another coughing fit. “You?”

“Throat,” Sam whispered hoarsely and added, almost like an afterthought, “S'cold.”

Dean had come to the same conclusion. They needed to get back to the fire. He wasn’t sure how long the fury’s touch would linger with them, but even without the frost that had settled into his bones they needed the shelter to survive another night. No way was Dean able to carry Sam out of this.

“Sam,” Dean poked his brother’s side again and noticed that while the pain was still insistent, his limbs weren’t as heavy anymore. “Sam, we need to get back to the fire. Can you stand?”

There was no answer and underneath the hand he’d rested on his brother’s jacket, Dean felt Sam shiver.

“Can you crawl?” Dean tried again, not caring to hide his desperation. But Sam was out. “Just great,” Dean muttered, “this is frickin’ perfect.” Then he grabbed onto Sam’s jacket with one arm, dragged him onto his chest, and started their arduous crawl back to their fire. Dean had to pause every few minutes, panting and cursing. His brother’s dead weight seemed to increase with every move of his arm, and Dean wasn’t sure they’d make it. He was fading fast, mostly-if not all-due to the fact that Sam hadn’t understood the concept of little brothers. Freak of nature had to grow into a goddamned tree.

"You know what the problem is? It's that you only eat rabbit food," he finally grumbled into his brother’s hair. But without Sam’s retort, insulting him wasn’t much fun. Dean didn’t know how long it took them to reach the fire, but he was on the verge of passing out. With the last of his energy, he shoved one of the piles of wood over into the flames, flinching when the snow he’d dragged along hissed as it hit the flames; but by an unexpected bout of luck, the fire didn’t go out. Dean pulled a blanket over them, slid one arm back over Sam’s chest, and was out before his head hit the snow.

Sam opened his eyes to a familiar ceiling and a deep snore to his left. He wasn’t sure how they’d made it to Bobby’s, but he was more than thankful that they had. The snore was definitely Dean’s, but Sam wanted to see his brother with his own eyes. The gap in his memories didn’t bode well for them, and he’d feel better knowing exactly how bad off they were.
Pretty bad, he thought, even before he set eyes on Dean. The simple act of turning his head had him breaking into a sweat and muttering curses when his muscles collectively informed him that they weren’t quite ready to be used yet. Or ever again. It felt as if someone had taken the time to flatten every single inch of him with a sledgehammer. Maybe he’d been hit by an anvil like in those old roadrunner cartoons.

The worst were his neck, shoulder, leg, throat, and arm. At least it’s evenly spread, Sam thought with a detachment that spoke of heavy pain medication. He wondered why he hurt so bad despite the drugs, but all his thoughts were fleeting. He couldn’t have been awake for more than a couple of minutes when he felt his eyes drooping again. He groggily decided to postpone any further inquiries as to what had happened. Dean’s snore was deep and steady. They were safe and alive and being watched over. Sam sank back into his pillow with a sigh.

The next time Sam woke, Dean's snoring was still there, and he didn’t feel quite as smashed to pieces as before. Swinging his legs over the side of his bed still had him groaning and seeing black spots and he noticed a cast and a sling on his left arm. He felt better the moment he looked at his big brother, although Dean would never stop calling him a girl if he knew. The thought brought a loopy smile to Sam's face. He was most definitely still on heavy-duty pain meds. Thankfully, Dean didn’t look too bad. A little beaten up; bruises over his face and a scrape here and there, but both arms looked unharmed. The blankets were bulging around a big, blue cast, and of Dean’s other leg only the bandaged toes peeked out.

Sam could have sworn they’d picked a white cast in the hospital.

But Dean's breaths were still steady, and the lack of a disgruntled old hunter in flannel and baseball cap sleeping in a chair told Sam that the both of them probably were out of immediate danger. His next course of action? Hobbling to the bathroom.

It took Sam over half an hour to figure out how to pee, and then another half an hour to make it down the stairs where he found Bobby puttering around in the kitchen. He seemed surprised when Sam slumped into a kitchen chair, but he kept quiet and placed a pot of steaming hot coffee in front of Sam, who gave him a thankful nod and slowly sipped from the mug until he didn’t feel like fainting in the middle of the kitchen anymore.

When Sam finally asked what had happened, he was surprised at the gravelly croak his voice had turned into. Bobby raised his eyes in the typical post-hunt you-don’t-remember? glance and Sam gently shook his head, trying not to aggravate his neck too much. So Bobby told him the side of things he knew, Sam’s brain supplied a few helpful flashes of memory, and in the end they puzzled together a could-be version of the Winchester boys’ last hunt.

The fury that had attacked Dean seemed to have been the last of a group of four, and it had been Bobby’s quick thinking that had saved both their lives. He'd sent Mountain Rescue after them the instant he realized Dean had gone after Sam, and they’d been found in a bad way almost a day later - both of them dangerously hypothermic and Dean with his legs worse off than before, his white cast reduced to a mushy gray glop. He also had a new burn on his chest that had baffled doctors and nurses alike with its clean edges and hand-like shape.

Sam had been even worse off, and there’d been talk about a medically induced coma to give him time to rest properly. But he’d rallied quicker than the doctors had expected, and they’d forgone that idea, much to Sam’s relief. The youngest Winchester had strange burns marks that matched Dean's: one on his neck, another one on his arm, and two more around his throat. The arm that was in a cast and a sling had been broken in three places, and the furies had decided to throw in a dislocated shoulder just for kicks.

Sam had also collected a severe concussion, a badly sprained ankle and knee, two cuts needing 17 stitches total, and some internal injuries that had to be fixed with a surgery spanning approximately six hours. Add numerous scrapes and bruises into the mix, and Sam had a pretty good idea why he felt as crappy as he did. In the end, ironically, it had been the hated cold that had saved his life, slowing down any bleeding that would have otherwise proven fatal. Sam didn’t know what to make of that. He remembered the terrible, all-encompassing chill that had raged through him. It seemed strange that it had been a good thing, even in hindsight.

Since Bobby’s recounting of Dean’s injuries, Sam had started to glance longingly look at the kitchen ceiling, as if he’d be able to see his brother through it if he tried hard enough. But he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it back up again already, so he had to settle for Bobby’s reassurances that there was no need to worry. Dean hadn’t needed surgery or stitches, just treatment for his leg and the burn on his chest and a new cast, Bobby reported with a twinkle in his eyes. Apparently, the doctors had picked blue for it in honor of the protective gear Dean had rigged up for the last one.

For Sam, it was hard to believe Dean had escaped any further injury. The memories of the gunshots that had alerted him to Dean’s plight had been among the first to return. In his mind, Sam could still picture Dean pinned to the tree by the fury, its hand half-buried in his brother’s chest, and the way Dean’s head had dropped as his body went limp. The instant adrenaline that shot through his veins had been enough for Sam to sink his hunting knife deep into the fury’s neck, but as the creature grabbed at its own throat, the last thing Sam had seen was how Dean had slumped to the ground, unmoving.

Then the wind had catapulted the both of them in opposite directions. Thankfully, the last remaining fury hadn’t been overly clever, either, and as it turned around to throttle Sam, it kind of decapitated itself with the knife Sam still had held onto. For a few terrible seconds, Sam had thought it wouldn’t take, but as the ice spread from his throat through his lungs, the last of the Winter Furies turned into a soft shower of tiny flakes. Sam had no recollection of what had happened afterwards and he guessed it would take a couple of months-maybe a few lifetimes-before the image of his lifeless brother in the snow lost its terror.

“They were only really worried about the burn marks,” Bobby concluded, startling Sam from his thoughts, “Apparently, there’s been a lot of unusual deep tissue damage. I didn’t think either of you would be allowed here anytime soon, to be honest. They said you’d feel pretty bad for a good long while, but the doctors are positive that you should both make a full recovery.”

Sam only nodded, and wearily closed his eyes.

After they’d been cleared to leave, Bobby had gotten them home with the help of Rufus, one of his hunting buddies, and the brothers had been in and out of consciousness for the whole journey. Bobby said they’d surfaced a few times in the days they’d spent at the salvage yard since, but Sam had no recollection of any of that. Bobby wasn’t too worried about it.

“They still have you on some strong stuff,” he said, “For the burns, mostly. The doctors said you could experience some confusion at first, or temporary amnesia, that kind of thing. But it should all clear up with time.” Bobby cleared his throat awkwardly. “You really shouldn’t be out of bed yet, though.”

Sam didn’t argue.

It took them about another week to shake the bone-deep exhaustion and it wasn’t until Bobby mentioned driving to town to buy supplies for the upcoming New Year’s dinner that Sam realized they had missed Christmas. In the Winchester household, no one had been big on celebrating birthdays or holidays, but the brothers had always tried to get each other a little something, and this year had been no exception for Sam. So the next time Dean was in the bathroom, Sam snuck out of the house and retrieved an envelope he'd stashed between some papers in the Impala’s glove compartment.

That evening, after an early dinner, Sam sat down on his bed instead of instantly crawling underneath the blankets and stifled a yawn. When Dean emerged from the bathroom, he frowned and Sam smiled to wipe the worry off of his brother’s face.

“We kinda missed Christmas,” Sam said sheepishly, and held out the envelope. Dean’s eyebrows shot up and he barked out a little laugh. Instead of taking the gift, he bent down and dug through his duffel, precariously balancing on his crutches. He snatched out a similar envelope, pressed it between his cheek and his shoulder, and limped the last few steps to the bed. He sat down with a groan, and ducked his head at Sam’s intense stare.

“I’m just tired, Sammy. The meds are wearing me out.”

“Sure,” Sam said. He didn't believe him - Sam knew how much his own burns hurt. But he also knew how much Dean hated to admit he was in pain. So Sam simply waved the envelope in front of his brother again. “Here.”

Dean smiled and passed over the other one. “You better not have gotten me the same thing,” he joked as he tore into the paper.

“Dude!” Dean stared at the laminated card with the red and yellow logo before turning it around to his brother. “Is this for real?” Sam smiled and nodded.

“Yep. Free pie at all their fine dining establishments. But don’t come whining to me when you don’t fit behind the wheel anymore.”

Dean snorted, but let the comment slide. “Awesome! Thanks, Sammy.” Then he eyed the envelope in Sam’s hands a little anxiously. “You wanna open that?”

Sam neatly tore the side of it open and pulled out a piece of folded cardstock. “Dude, did you draw the Impala on this?” There was a black car underneath a writing in bright blue that read “Gift Certificate”.

“Uhm, yes?” Dean said, nervously. Sam didn’t look happy. “It’s kinda from the both of us. But if you don’t like-”

“Dean,” Sam interrupted, looking close to tears, “You can’t give me the car! It’s ours, but Dad gave it to you, and I don’t want it. You’re not dying, are you?”

Dean sputtered and started laughing. “I’m not giving you the car, man! Are you nuts? Read the damned card already!” He was still snickering when Sam finally obliged.

“‘Merry Christmas, from Dean to Sammy’,” Sam read aloud, and Dean laughed again.

“I already know what it says,” Dean reminded him, but his brother was not to be deterred.

“‘The recipient of this card’,” Sam continued, “‘May pick a location of his choice to spend two weeks in. Parenthesis. Several locations along the road are fine, too. Close parenthesis. The recipient may also pick food and music during these two weeks, hereby declared a hunting-free period.’ Man!” Sam gaped, staring first at the card and then at his brother. "Are you serious?"

“Of course I'm serious," Dean scoffed. When Sam did nothing but continued to stare, Dean started fidgeting. "Erm. Do you like it?” He asked, alarmed by Sam’s lack of response

Sam broke into a huge grin. “Like it? I love it, Dean. It’s perfect.”

“Yeah, well. Don’t let it get to your head. When it's over, you keep your sticky fingers away from my tape deck,” Dean smirked and added, “Oh, and you don’t need to decide right away. I figure we’ll be stranded here for a little while.” Sam looked up at Dean and saw his brother’s face fall when he stared at his legs, but Sam had already made up his mind the second he’d realized they were going on a real road trip.

“I heard the Biggersons’ in Arizona make a mean key lime pie. Especially the ones in Flagstaff. If you can think of anything worth seeing around there, that is.”

“Dude, seriously?” Now it was Dean’s turn to stare at his brother.

“Sure. I heard it’s worth a visit.” Sam tried to sound unfazed, but Dean’s open delight was intoxicating, and they grinned at each other over the map as they planned their trip. Best Christmas ever, Sam thought that night, falling asleep to Dean’s excited whispers about all the stops they were going to make.


go back (part 1/2) || continue (notes & acknowledgments)

@ spn_j2_xmas, art:winter_fury, fic:winter_fury

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