Most people driving by would consider the cabin a dump-heap. Sodden heaps of pine needles and moldy leaves block the door, two of the windows are nothing but edges of broken glass, and it looks like a family of squirrels has made the kitchen cupboards their home. Sam takes one look, shrugs his shoulders, and limps to the lumpy couch where he stretches out his injured leg and only grimaces slightly at the smell. Dean puts the lock pick set away and dumps his duffel on the floor, shoving the door closed behind him. It looks pretty perfect to him, too.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” he warns.
Sam grunts, eyes already closed. Trekking through an abandoned mine after taking out a nest of kobolds is exhausting, is what Dean figures Sam means to say. He watches Sam dig a hand into his thigh, kneading at the area above the bloodstained bandana, and claps his hands together. Sam jerks up, eyes wide. He looks like he’s about seven, but Dean knows his brother’s limits.
He tips his head to the grimy chimney. “Figure out the fire while I tarp the windows?”
Sam groans but gets up. Dean leaves him cursing at the fireplace while he trudges back to the car and gets the roll of heavy-duty trash bags and the duct tape they keep in the trunk. He tucks it under his arm, gritting his teeth against the shiver that wants to work its way down his spine. It’s freezing outside, snow heaped high on the ground, and the last thing he needs is to have his shoulder acting up even more, nerves still tingling from when it was popped back into place after he was dragged down the mine shaft. Sam hadn’t had time for much patching up: the best first aid he’d been able to offer was a sling made from an old t-shirt and a quick crack ice pack.
Which, Dean realizes, could make sealing up the cabin’s windows a tad difficult.
He stomps back into the cabin, nearly breaking his neck on the ice-covered stairs, only to find that his brother is already ahead of him. Sam has soot streaked over his forearms and halfway up his shirt, but there’s a decent-looking pile of kindling in the fireplace and he’s gamely waiting by the first window, face pretty much clear of pain despite the way he’s favoring his right leg.
Dean hands him the roll of trash bags and hooks his chin to the window frame, now clear of debris. “You knock out all the glass?”
“Hey, just making sure. Last thing we need is tetanus on our lovely cabin-in-the-woods retreat.”
Dean looks up from where he was trying to tear off a piece of duct tape one-handed, the end still clenched in his teeth, and says, “Eshkoosh me?”
“You get tetanus from nails.” Sam rolls his eyes, but takes Dean’s offered piece of tape. “Not glass.”
Dean stares at him.
“Never mind,” Sam huffs, trying to hide his smile in another eye roll. “Give me another piece.”
Dean grips and tears, grips and tears, until they’ve sealed both windows and taped over the worst of the couch’s holes. By the time they’ve finished, the sun is setting and a wind is pushing at the plastic-covered windows. A quick look through the one glass window left reveals that snow is starting to flurry, adding to the drifts outside. Dean grimaces and Sam claps a hand on his uninjured shoulder.
“Light the fire?” Sam says.
“Yeah.” Dean casts a critical eye over the wood in the fireplace. “Did you check the flue?”
“Should be good to go.”
“Hey, check and see if there’s any more wood out there, will you?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sam calls over his shoulder.
“And watch out for the second step!”
Sam twists a hand behind him to flip Dean a finger.
“Merry Christmas to you too,” Dean mutters.
Sam comes back with snow melting in his hair and their emergency kit balanced atop an armful of wood that he found stacked behind the house. He’s tight-lipped, with fine lines bracketing his eyes and mouth, and it doesn’t take long for Dean to suss out that he made it down the steps just fine but slipped on a patch of ice by the woodpile. His leg is bleeding again, dark and ugly, and he doesn’t make a peep when Dean pulls the musty bedspread off the queen-size bed with his good hand and pushes Sam down to sit on its edge.
“I told you to watch out for ice, dumbass,” he gripes, unlatching the emergency kit and pulling out the alcohol wipes and a needle. Sam eases off the bandana, then unbuttons his jeans and does his best to shimmy them down so Dean can work without tightening the muscles in his thigh.
“You told me to watch out for the second step.”
“Yeah, the ice on the second step.” Dean sets the emergency lantern on the bed next to Sam, stupidly grateful for its orange glow, and maneuvers Sam’s leg so the bite is in the best light. “Man, they got you good. Forget alcohol wipes; this needs straight up alcohol.”
Sam gives a shaky laugh. “Other people leave their hearts in San Francisco,” he quips.
The joke is weak but it’s still a joke. They’re in an abandoned cabin in the middle of winter, snow piled outside their tarped windows, both of them bloody and well-used and a little hard-edged, but it’s still a joke. What’s more, it made Sam smile, which in turn makes warmth bloom in Dean’s chest.
“So passé,” Dean remarks casually. He shrugs one-shouldered and shoots Sam a bright grin. “Forget about hearts. Why not leave a chunk of your thigh in an abandoned kobold nest?”
“It’s not really a chunk, is it?”
“Nah, it’s fine. Hold on.” Dean unscrews the bottle of vodka they keep for cleaning wounds and shuffles on his knees so Sam has his good shoulder to grip when he pours the alcohol over the bites. As expected, Sam groans and digs his fingers into Dean’s shoulder, long fingers curling to press bruises under Dean’s collarbone. He winces. “Easy, dude, don’t need another gimp shoulder.”
“Sorry,” Sam says, voice gone tight.
When the wound is as clean as it’s going to get, Dean hands Sam the suturing set, then trades him the vodka once Sam has the needle threaded. “Ready?” Dean waits for Sam’s nod, then gets down to business. It’s hard to do a decent job with only one hand but he makes it work, leaning forward so the hand curled against his chest can press the wounded flesh back together while his other hand stitches Sam up. He finishes with a surgeon’s knot, then pushes to his feet, gritting his teeth against the pins-and-needles feeling. “Sit tight. I’ll bring in the rest of the gear.”
“Hey, no, I’ll come with you.”
Dean raises a skeptical brow. “Dude, I’m not putting those stitches in again.”
Sam lifts his hand insistently until finally Dean rolls his eyes and fits his palm against Sam’s to lever his brother up. He waits until Sam is steady on his feet before letting go and leading the way outside in the growing dark to get the rest of their stuff with Sam limping behind. The air is thick with swirling bits of snow, and even though Dean knew it’d be tough to get out in the morning, it’s still a blow to see how high the drifts have grown. By morning the Impala’s tires will be buried in the stuff, which will make their trip down the mountain more adrenaline-inducing than Dean’s comfortable with. He’s grown up on mountain-hugging roads, was bred on caffeine-fueled stretches of highway, but he knows the Impala’s limits, few as they are, and her tires are nearly bald. He wouldn’t risk driving the road down in the rain, much less after the blizzard they’re sure to get tonight.
He turns to look for Sam and curses when he sees Sam in the Impala, fiddling with the radio and running the battery down. Dean pulls the rest of their gear from the trunk and slams it a little harder than necessary, striding over to loom over Sam where he’s sitting on the passenger side, door open and snowflakes spinning to coat both him and the seat.
“Are you insane?” Dean starts, but stops when Sam holds up a hand for silence. He adjusts the tuner, static coming in loud and clear, then elbows at Dean’s stomach.
“Move, you’re blocking the signal.”
“Am not,” Dean retorts, but moves anyway. Sure enough, for whatever reason, the channel clears up and Sam leans forward to hear. Dean shivers, waiting a few feet away, biting his tongue as the muscles around his shoulder tighten and spasm. Then Sam shakes his head, pulling himself to his feet with the car door and then closing it. He takes one of the bags when he gets close enough. “Well?” Dean asks.
“We’re snowed in. Apparently there was an accident further down the mountain. It’s gonna take a while for it to get cleared.”
Dean sighs and rubs a hand over the nape of his neck. “Yeah, figured. Sucks.”
Sam tips his head in a so-so motion, ignoring the way Dean is spotting him as he makes his way up the icy (and now snow-covered) steps. Sam opens the cabin door and they slip inside, the snow gathered on their shoulders and boots quickly melting into slush. “I dunno. Could be worse.”
Dean pauses in the middle of toeing off his boots. “How?” he demands.
Sam turns a mischievous grin on Dean and draws his hand out from under his coat. “I found marshmallows.”
Dean finds an answering grin cross his own face. “Dude. Do you know how old those things are? When’s the last time we even thought about making s’mores?”
Sam shrugs. “Who cares? They’re marshmallows, Dean, nobody even knows what they’re actually made of.”
“I hope you have the same confidence about the can of beans I pulled from the trunk.”
Sam grimaces. “If you’re eating beans, you get the couch, man. No way am I sharing the bed with that.”
“Like you ever share the bed anyway,” Dean retorts. “Okay, fine. New deal: I take the bed, you get the couch.”
That surprises a laugh out of Sam, bright and warm. The stupid grin on Dean’s face hasn’t gone away. In fact, he suspects it’s getting worse.
“No deal,” Sam says. He finds a couple of coat hangers in the decrepit closet and, after bending them a little, fits a row of fluffy white marshmallows on the end of each one. The wind is howling outside when the two of them settle in front of the popping fire and start toasting the marshmallows, but the trash bags do their job. So long as they layer up and keep the fire going, there’s no reason they shouldn’t stay relatively warm.
Sam’s marshmallows light on fire with a whomp, and Sam, competent hunter of demons and beasties alike, nearly takes out his own eye trying to blow them out. Once the crisis is averted and Sam’s hanger is fitted with another row of marshmallows, Dean plucks one of his own off the end, blows on it, and shoves the whole thing in his mouth. The outside is thin and crispy, the inside hot and gooey, and the noises Dean is making are probably obscene judging by the long-suffering look on Sam’s face.
Ignoring Sam’s put-upon sigh, Dean shifts so his good arm is pressed against Sam’s and lets the warmth of the fire sink in. Yeah. Maybe being snowed in isn’t so bad after all.