A Very Supernatural and SG-1 Christmas
The snow was deep, heavy. The cold wind biting and steady. Dean Winchester pulled his brother closer and tightened his grip around his waist. Thankfully, Sam had insisted they wear their heavy boots and get parkas. No matter how ridiculous they looked.
“Come on, Sam,” he reassured, “I think I see a cabin up ahead.”
Sam’s head lolled on his shoulder, but he continued to move one foot in front of the other. Just barely, though. It had snowed over a foot in the past hour—on top of the foot that was already there, and Dean was slowly dragging both their asses towards what he hoped was a place with medical supplies.
“Are you sure this is a good idea, Jack?” Daniel mumbled miserably from his awkwardly hunched position against the passenger window.
Colonel Jack O’Neill glanced worriedly over at his friend. He had to be uncomfortable, but the wounds on his back didn’t give him much stretching-out options. “What are you talkin’ about, Daniel? This is a great…” he jerked the wheel hard when they nearly slid off the back road, “idea.”
The snow was falling fast, but they were only five miles from the cabin and Operation Christmas/Convalesce and they would make it. They’ve been through worse.
And some of them just recently.
Dean didn’t bother wasting time to pick the lock. Door flying open as he kicked it in, he half carried, half dragged his brother inside. Sam’s blood was coating his hands and it was getting harder to keep a grip on him. They were barely five feet inside when Sam collapsed and took Dean with him. He tried to ease his fall as much as he could, but his own legs felt like jelly and his little brother had three inches and at least twenty more pounds of lean muscle on him.
“Okay, it’s okay, lemme see,” Dean breathed as he unzipped Sam’s coat with shaking hands.
Sam shuddered under his touch. “Th-the door, Dean.”
Dean barely gave it a glance. The door wouldn’t keep what they were running from out, even if he hadn’t kicked it in. “Don’t worry. I know I got a headshot in. We’re the last thing on its mind.” He knew it was a lie. He had hit it, yes, but…it had Sam’s scent now. The scent of his blood. And it wouldn’t stop until it had his brother for dinner, or Dean killed it—which would come first.
He grimaced when he pulled the blood soaked jacket and shirt away. The wound was deep. Really deep. And it was bleedin’ like a bitch. “Damnit, Sammy.”
If the door hanging wide open wasn’t a sign that everything wasn’t kosher to Jack, the blood trail in the snow sure was. He glanced over at Daniel who had an eyebrow raised. “Too early for Santa,” the younger man drawled tiredly.
As low and as quickly as he could in the deep snow, Jack ran to the side of his cabin. He glanced down at the blood trail. Somebody was hurt, and hurt bad. But he also had someone helping him.
He held up two fingers as Daniel appeared behind him and motioned for him to go around back. Before the archaeologist could do so, however, Jack grabbed his coat sleeve, stopping him, and tugged his zipper the rest of the way closed. Nodding approvingly he then patted him on the cheek and jerked his head in a get going manner. Daniel just blinked at him…then wordlessly turned to head around back. Jack didn’t miss the hiss when his friend ducked below a window with Jack’s spare weapon. He winced in sympathy. Daniel didn’t need this. He should be warmly cocooned in copious amounts of blankets while Jack forced a Simpsons marathon on him.
He was supposed to be relaxing.
He was supposed to be healing.
He was supposed to be forgetting.
Making sure the safety on his sidearm was off, the leader of the elite SG-1 team quietly leapt onto the porch. Peering around the doorway he saw a man lying on the floor, but whoever helped him in there wasn’t in sight.
Weapon raised, Jack inched inside and whipped to the right around the refrigerator—to be greeted with a weapon being pointed right back at him. “You’re a little tall for an elf, aren’t you?” he quipped.
Both men stood straight with their weapons raised and steady.
“No, he’s the elf,” Dean replied coolly, canting his head towards Sam, “I’m the one with the gun and the attitude.”
“Really? See, I thought you were the one I was about to shoot for breaking and entering.”
“Oh, trust me, you don’t wanna to do that,” came another smooth reply.
“No?” Jack’s weapon never wavered. “Care to enlighten me?”
“Because despite the face that you’re pissing me off right now, I’m gonna save your life.”
“Jack,” Daniel called before the Air Force colonel could respond. He nudged the sawed-off shot gun that had fallen from Sam’s grip further from his reach. Then crouching down he placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. “This looks pretty bad.”
Dean’s jaw clenched. It took all he had not to glance over at his brother. He knew the second he took his eyes off the man in front of him, he’d be in for a fight, and he’d need to save his energy for later. They all would. “Listen…believe me….don’t, I don’t really give a damn,” though his voice was hard, his eyes showed a weariness that was getting harder to hide the past few weeks, “but we’re all in danger here and the sooner you let me help my brother, the sooner we can save your lives.”
“And what, pray tell,” Jack asked, “are you planning on protecting us from with my salt?”
A look of both annoyance and embarrassment crossed Dean’s face. The hand holding a towel for his brother and a box of salt twitched. “Actually, you’d be surprised what a little salt can do. Now,” he tightened his grip on his weapon, “are you gonna let me help my brother or….”
“Alright, just take it easy, will ya?” Jack warned. He recognized the desperation he saw in the another man’s eyes. He saw the same look in the mirror just last week. The kid was seconds from going through anything and anyone he had to to get to the person who needed him. He motioned with his own weapon. “First, drop it nice and slow.”
After studying the older man for a moment—torn between wanting to trust him and having no choice but to, Dean removed his finger from the trigger and lowered it to the floor. Raising his hands slightly upwards—one still holding the salt and towel—he then slowly walked backwards until he was at his brother’s side. Then practically falling to his knees, “Hey buddy,” he quickly put the salt aside and pulled a small flask out of his pocket, “how you holdin’ up?”
“Just…peachy…” Sam panted through the pain.
“That good, huh?” Dean replied grimly, uncapping the flask.
“Umm…I’m not sure that’s exactly what he needs right now,” Daniel said, eyeing the flask, hand still resting on Sam’s shoulder.
It made Jack nervous. He still had no idea who the hell these guys were. “Daniel, give ‘em some space will ya,” he motioned for him to move back. For cryin’ out loud he had already put his gun away, too.
“It’s not us he needs to worry about,” Dean commented distractedly while checking his brother’s wound.
“Yeah, well, if you don’t mind, I’ll be the judge of that,” Jack replied, tucking Dean’s 9mil against the small of his back.
“And it’s only holy water.” Dean answered Daniel.
“So…what? You’re blessing him now?” But Jack actually looked worried as he stepped closer, gun still out but resting now at his hip. With his other hand he dug into his pocket for his phone. He immediately lowered it again when he saw there were no bars. “Storm’s blocking what little reception we have up here. Can he be moved?”
In reply, Sam grunted and gripped Dean’s sleeve when the holy water was poured over his wound. “Easy, Sammy,” Dean held him down.
“Uuuh…” Jack and Daniel uttered simultaneously.
“Is that supposed to be…doing…that?” Jack waved his hand down at the sizzling wound, walking backwards towards the door. He shoved an end table in front of it, closing it the best he could. Then he glanced around outside between the curtains before turning back to the intrepid intruders who were looking at each other with worry.
“What is it?” Daniel asked, noticing the tension.
“Not…” Sam’s breath hitched, “not a biloko?”
Dean swallowed hard, worry dark in his eyes.
“What’s a biloko?” Daniel asked, pronouncing it correctly, unlike Jack. He took a closer look at Sam’s side. “Something with claws I’m guessing.” His hand clenched and unclenched subconsciously.
“Yeah,” Dean rasped. “Good guess.”
“Daniel? A word?” Jack walked over and after picking up the saw-off, he carefully pulled his friend up with a hand under his armpit. Walking down the hallway, “You okay?” he asked, opening the closet door and placing the gun inside.
“Well, let’s just say I’m doing better than him.” Arms crossed self-consciously, Daniel pointed a finger in Sam’s direction as Jack got an arm full of blankets out and handed them to him.
“Uh huh,” he responded unconvinced as he grabbed the first aid kit. Closing the closet door, he tucked the large kit under his armpit and with his empty hand—one was still holding his gun—he felt Daniel’s forehead.
Daniel looked up at it owlishly until Jack removed it. “Satisfied?”
“So, how are we going to get them help?” he asked wearily. “Carter and Teal’c won’t even be headed this way for hours yet…assuming they’re even still able to come.”
“To be honest, I’m more concerned about getting us help, Daniel. Who the hell knows who or what this biloko guy…thing is, or if they have more friends out there. And whether you want to admit it or not, DannyBoy, you’re running out of steam.”
Daniel looked indignant. “I have plenty of steam.”
Jack raised an eyebrow and Daniel shook his head dismissing the conversation all together. “Listen…Jack, I don’t think they’re a danger to us. He clearly just wants to help his brother.”
“Yeah, well, last I checked, Daniel your “judging of character” seems to be on the fritz.” Jack regretted it the moment it left his mouth. His shoulders fell under the weight of his words, “Daniel….”
Smiling self-deprecatingly, Daniel looked down. “Yeah,” he replied solemnly, “I guess you’re right.” Nodding to himself, he then jerked a thumb back at the boys. “I’m just gonna…”
“Daniel…” But his friend had turned and walked away.
“Sam?” Dean’s heart skipped a beat. Palming his brother’s cheek he rubbed his thumb against it. “Sammy?”
Sam’s gaze remained distant, lost…scared.
Fear washing over him, “Saaam,” Dean got up in his face and grabbed at his collar. “Sam, don’t do this,” he begged.
“Is he…” Daniel asked worriedly after walking back into the room.
“He’s fine,” Dean snapped, then, “Come on, Sam. Stone number one, remember?” He searched his brother face. Nothing. “Sam!” He jostled him slightly, desperately.
His little brother finally blinked and took an unsteady breath. Moving his feet restlessly, he looked up at Dean with wet, confused eyes.
“Okay?” Dean asked, hopeful, breathless. “You with me?”
Nodding, Sam swallowed thickly.
Bowing his head, Dean let out a sigh of relief. “Good,” he met his brother’s eyes again, “because in case you haven’t noticed, there’s no room at the Inn.”
“Yeah,” Sam breathed shakily. “Thanks.”
Unsure of what he just witnessed, but suddenly feeling breathless himself, Daniel furrowed his brow and cleared his throat quietly, trying to shake off the unbidden memories washing over him. When that didn’t work, he closed his eyes and scratched at his temple, “Uh…” he forced himself into the now, “Uh…may I?” he opened his eyes and gestured his intention of tucking a folded blanket under Sam’s head.
Finally prying his eyes from Sam’s, Dean looked up and nodded.
“By the way,” Daniel said, carefully slipping a blanket under Sam’s head, “as I’m sure you’ve heard, I’m Daniel.”
“Dean,” the green-eyed man replied, “and the sasquatch bleeding all over your floor is Sam.”
Looking up at Daniel, Sam offered him a weak smile.
“So, you gonna tell me what happened to your brother?” Jack walked back into the living room and handed Dean the kit. “I’m assuming you weren’t out hunting for reindeer considering your choice of firearms.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna need those back, by the way,” Dean replied, opening the kit.
“Yeaaaahsuuure,” Jack drawled. “That’s not likely to happen.”
“Dean…go,” Sam urged tiredly. “I got this.”
“Sam, you can barely stay conscious,” Dean admonished, “and this is gonna need stitches now. It’s bleedin’ too damn much.”
As if proving his point, Sam’s hazel eyes slipped closed briefly before he forced them open again. “It can wait. Get ‘em safe.”
“Help me up.”
“Obviously he’s taken a good hit to the head, too.” Jack commented before he even noticed the blood smeared across his temple, hiding under long brown bangs that reminded him of Daniel’s once upon a time. “What he get hit with?”
“A tree,” Dean replied in a grim, matter-of-fact way, grabbing items out of the medical kit. “Listen, while I’m stitching him up, I need you two to do a few things.”
“Like?” Daniel immediately offered, but Jack wasn’t as accommodating. “Rather demanding for someone not holding a weapon, aren’t you?” He bounced his own off his thigh.
“That’s just part of my charm,” Dean grinned cockily up at him. Then turning back to Sam, “Ready?” After a nod, he poured alcohol from the kit over the tear in his brother’s side. Sam hissed. “Easy…”
Watching them, Jack grimaced. “Oh, that’s what they’re calling it these days?” he finally responded to Dean’s comment. Then taking a breath, “Look, as exciting as all of this is….”
“Okay, I get it. You want answers…” Dean said, threading his brother’s skin back together as if he’s been doing it his entire life.
Daniel watched with morbid fascination as Sam merely gripped his older brother’s jacket as the needle was pulled through his flesh. “Uh…don’t…aren’t you gonna numb that?” he mumbled more to himself than to anyone else.
“…but I don’t have time to explain right now,” Dean continued. “You’re just gonna have to trust me.”
“You broke my door,” Jack exclaimed.
Dean glanced up at him and did a double take. Face falling and hardening, “Hate to break it to ya, buddy, but the day is young.”
Jack spun around to find a pale woman wearing what looked like animal hide standing behind him. “Hell…oo. How’d…?” Her body flickered in and out like a bad hologram…then she charged at him screaming. “Woah,” Jack stepped back and aimed his weapon just as Dean came up from behind him and…threw salt straight from the box at her. The salt slashed through her like a sword and she disappeared.
“Dean,” Sam panted, trying to sit up. “It must be close.”
“It?” Daniel asked, eyes wide, eyebrows raised. “Oh, and by the way…what was that?”
“That was a spirit.”
“Fireplace.” Sam finally made it into a sitting position, but he was leaning heavily to the side.
Dean went straight to the fireplace and grabbed two fire irons. He handed one to Daniel. “Iron works just as well as salt.”
Daniel took it like it was a rare artifact.
“That is what you’re running from?” Jack yelled.
“Uh, no actually,” Dean knelt down in front of his brother to finish the last few stitches, “that was a victim of what we’re running from.” He cut the needle from the thread and placed a sterile dressing over the stitches.
Daniel was still holding up the fire iron—which was actually a small shovel, like he just learned that it held the secrets of The Nile, “I’m, I’m sorry, we are talking about an actual spirit? A ghost?”
“Yeah,” Dean tossed the rest of the medical supplies out of the way and stood with the other fire iron. “Sorry. Sammy’s a little tired or he’d do his Whoopi impersonation.” He received an annoyed “Will you stop it” look from his brother on the floor.
“Okay, alright,” Jack held up a hand and slashed it through the air as Dean walked over to the window and pushed the curtains aside, “assuming I believe you…”
“Saw it with your own eyes, dude.”
“…and I’m not suffering some kind of…extremely elaborate…stroke, what does the thing want and how did you kill it with my salt?”
“It didn’t kill her, it just bought us some time. Actually, which begs the question; salt. Do you have anymore?” He half turned to look at Jack.
“Kosher, rock, or sea?”
Looking back out the window, Dean’s body stiffened. “…and about my gun.”
“It’s here, isn’t it?” Sam said, forcing himself to his feet. He swayed dangerously but somehow managed to stay upright.
“What’s here?” Jack and Daniel asked in chorus.
“Yeah, but it’s on our territory now.” Dean walked back over to Sam and with a hand under his elbow guided him to the couch. “It won’t attack until after dark. And,” he answered the other two, “we’re not exactly sure what it is now.”
Sam sunk onto the cushions with a pain-filled sigh. “Alright, well, we lost our flamethrower...but, of course, if it’s not a biloko…”
“There’s that word again.” Jack.
“…can we still kill it with fire?”
“Good question. And I dunno, man, it could still be a biloko. I mean, no one that we know of has survived an attack to clean any wounds with holy water, and I was just being thorough, so…”
“We wouldn’t know if it would react that way…” Sam thought aloud, finishing his sentence.
“Right,” Dean pointed a finger at him.
“Okay, so great, it’s a bilbo,” Jack remarked. “How do we kill it?”
“Fire is the best way,” Dean answered, not even bothering to correct him, “regular rounds only seem to slow it down, but that’s something at least.”
“Regular rounds to the…?” Jack asked.
Dean pointed to his head.
“Of coourse,” the colonel drawled. He then reached behind him and pulled out Dean’s pearl handled 9mil.
“Finally,” Dean took it gratefully.
The fire iron Daniel had been holding suddenly fell to the floor with a loud clang. All eyes turned to him.
“Daniel?” Jack walked closer.
“Sorry.” Closing his eye, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m just…” His legs gave out.
Jack and Dean caught him under the arms. When Dean put a hand on his back to help guide him onto the couch, the archaeologist tensed and cried out. Dean immediately let go and raised his hands.
“Talk to me, Daniel,” Jack crouched down next to him.
“I’m…I’m fine. Really. Just got a little dizzy.” He was pinching the bridge of his nose again, eyes squeezed shut. “Not as much steam as I had thought, I guess.”
“Well aren’t we just the All Star Team here,” Dean commented, but not unkindly. The bandages on the other man’s wrists hadn’t gone unnoticed to him, though they were hidden under long sleeves. A person only had bandages like that…well, not for any good reason.
“You should be resting, damnit,” Jack cursed worriedly.
Daniel laughed humorlessly. “Yeah, we’ll, we’ll just put a sign up at the door telling all the spirits and claw wielding monsters to come back after half of us take a nap.”
Dean cocked his head to the side, “Sounds good to me,” he said as he checked the rounds in his weapon.
Jack sighed. Lowering his head, he scratched at the back of it. “Your meds are in the truck.”
“I don’t need them now, anyway, Jack,” Daniel said tiredly.
“What happened to your back?” There was genuine concern in Sam’s voice.
“Let’s just say that not all monsters have claws,” the archaeologist replied, taking off his glasses to rub at his eyes.
Dean regarded him sadly. “I agree with you there.”
“Okay,” Jack stood, anxious to get his friend safe and on the mend, “we have about,” he looked at his watch, “an hour before it gets dark.”
“Salt is so going on my grocery list,” Jack announced, annoyed as he walked back into the living room. All they had was one measly box of salt that was apparently one of their best protections against Casper the not-so-friendly ghost that kept popping in uninvited. He had already gotten thrown into the wall once by the damn thing. His finger tentatively prodded the small laceration on his brow. It wasn’t something he wished to repeat.
“We don’t have enough for a protective ring,” Sam said from his slouched position on the couch. Daniel sat across from him. They were both turned sideways, their shoulders pressed into the back of the sofa as they tried to find the most bearable positions to work with their wounds.
“Why’d you guys have to go and piss off this loco Bill thing, anyway?”
“Biloko,” Daniel and Sam corrected, though they both knew he did it on purpose.
“We didn’t piss it off. We think drilling on the mountain did, however,” Dean said. “It left its normal hunting grounds and…”
“…ended up in my back yard,” Jack finished. “So, what? You guys track down ghost-totting monsters by day and…?”
“Actually, it’s a full time gig. We hunt down the supernatural, the evil and we kill it.”
“That’s what you do for a living?” Daniel raised his eyebrows at Dean. “Okay, I’m just going to try and ignore the fact that there’s enough out there for you to, uh…hunt full time, but doesn’t that get…I dunno…”
“It’s what we do,” Dean replied, throat tight with the losses they’ve suffered. “We protect people from the things they’re nightmares couldn’t even dream of. You’re military, right?” He had noticed the way the older man had moved, at least. “You get that.”
“Actually, I’m…technically a civilian, but…yeah,” Daniel’s blue eyes softened through the pain, “I do.”
The room grew silent with the sacrifices they’ve all made. The battles they fought may be on different fronts, but they were all in the same seemingly never ending war.
Forcing himself out of his head, Sam cleared his throat. “I, uh, I think we’re done.”
“Yeah, here too,” Dean said, holding up the flamethrower he MacGyvered with a small portable propane tank.
“Nice,” Jack admired the one Sam was holding. “So, I should probably get the fire extinguishers ready, eh?”
Daniel started dropping the tools he had been handing to Sam back into the toolbox next to the couch. He froze when the ghost appeared a few feet in front of him. Grabbing the closest thing, he launched a screwdriver at her. She barely flickered as it went through her.
Mouth forming an O, “I guess that didn’t have any iron in it,” Daniel said dryly. The ghost rushed at him screaming, but was quickly dissipated by a shot of rock-salt from the sawed-off Dean held.
“Okay, so seriously, what are we gonna do about that thing?” the SG1 leader yelled, getting pissed that it was now going after his friend.
“There’s nothing we can do. Not right now, anyway,” Sam said.
“Usually we’d salt and burn the bones that belonged to her, but in this snow and considering she was eaten,” Dean added, “well, let’s just say we’ll have about as much luck finding all the pieces of her right now as, well, Sammy will have meeting Snooki.”
“What’s a snooki?” Daniel asked, eyebrows raised.
Clueless as well, Sam shrugged his shoulders at him.
“Alright, well there’s got to be some way of…” Jack started, determined.
“Wait,” Sam cut in, “Dean, the spirit has to be pretty damn far from the biloko’s normal hunting grounds…”
Dean nodded, “You’re thinking it’s attached to the bastard.” He face turned unsure, though. “I dunno, man, for her to be as angry as she is, she’s had to be hanging around for a long time. Wouldn’t it have…” he gestured in a downward motion over his stomach, “…by now?”
Thinking, Sam bit the corner of his bottom lip. “Yeah, I guess.”
Daniel’s brow furrowed. “Wait, you’re saying that the…the spirit attached itself to the biloko, but that what was left of her should have…” he mimicked Dean’s earlier motion, “…by now?”
“I…think that’s pretty clear, yes, Daniel,” Jack responded sarcastically.
“Okay,” Daniel shook his head, in the middle of a thought, “what if it has nothing to do with her physically being attached to it, but more…spiritually.”
“Well, it. is. a. spirit.” Jack again.
“No, I mean…uh, some cannibalistic tribes believe that by eating each other, their spirits live on.”
“Uuuh, ew.” The colonel remarked. “And a cannibalistic tribe, Daniel? Here in Minnesota?”
“Well, I dunno, maybe she’s been attached to it for a really long time.”
“Her clothes do look a little outdated,” Jack mused.
“Okay, so, by smokin’ the biloko we gank the bitch, too?”
“Worth a try.” Sam met his brother’s eyes.
“Great,” Jack piped back in, “two birds with one stone. That’s the kind of math I can get behind.”
After checking the parameter of the house from the inside, Jack and Dean met back in the kitchen. The sun was beginning to set and Sam and Daniel were taking a little forced downtime to preserve what little energy they had left.
“How long?” Jack asked gently, leaning back against the counter.
“How long what?” Dean was reloading the sawed-off with the last of the rock-salt shells. He had given Sam his 9mil because it would be easier for him to fire with his wound, but it wouldn’t be much help against the ghost. Speaking of…that bitch was really getting on Dean’s nerves. He knew it was just toying with them until the biloko attacked, then, he had a feeling, she wouldn’t be as easy to….
“How long has your brother been back from whatever hell he was kept in?”
Dean froze. Instinctively, he glanced back at his brother on the couch. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it, not knowing what. The guy didn’t know just how dead on he was.
“Look,” the colonel continued just as gently, “I saw what happened back there. PTSDs?”
Dean didn’t know what it was about the guy. Maybe it was because he was military and in that single and simple way he reminded him of his father. Maybe because since Bobby had…had….
Maybe Dean was desperate to unload.
Swallowing, he finally replied, “Just over a year.” Since he had gotten all of him back, at least…well, what was left of him. “…and yeah, you could say that.” Understatement of the century, but yeah.
Head down, sliding a shell into the barrel, images from that day in the graveyard flashed before Dean’s mind. “He saved my life,” he said, voice proud, but eyes sad as he watched him fall again. “He saved all of our lives.” He absently rubbed his thumb over the top of the shell. “Then the idiot went and sacrificed what little sanity he had left to save me again.”
Jack watched him sympathetically. “Kids.”
“Yeah,” Dean whispered hoarsely. When the memory and the gun he was holding started to blur, he shook his head and straightened from where he was leaning against the counter. He turned his back to Jack, and his eyes onto Sam.
The Air Force colonel took in the rigid shoulders. He recognized shoulders like that. They were shoulders that carried a lot of weight on them.
After a long moment, “He still sees him,” Dean spoke again, softer this time, watching his brother talk tiredly to his new friend on the couch.
“Yeah,” the younger man’s throat was tight, painfully so. “The torture…he, uh…sometimes he’s…he’s not sure what’s real and what’s not,” he confided helplessly. “And I…” more tears rushed to the surface and his voice and resolve started to waiver, “I, uh….”
“Hey,” Jack interrupted sternly, “you. got. him. back,” he reminded him. “And it seems to me that he trusts you enough to keep him here. And from what I’ve seen,” he added, “you do.”
Chest tight and eyes dangerously close to embarrassing himself, ducking his head, Dean smiled self-deprecatingly. “Yeah, well,” he rasped, not so convinced. Often he wondered if he was enough for Sam, especially when most of the time he felt like he could barely get himself through the day. And now that Bobby… Dean just wasn’t sure…he just wasn’t sure of anything.
“What, ah…” Clearing his throat, trying to shake loose the emotions building and threatening to overwhelm him, he asked lightly, “What about yours?” he gestured with his head over at the archaeologist.
Jack raised an eyebrow as Dean turned to lean against the counter again.
“I noticed a few things, too.”
“Ah,” Looking down at the floor, Jack, too, found himself unusually willing to divulge information on his team and himself. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he felt compelled to confide in a man with a shared self-professed responsibility. “We, uh, we got him back barely a week ago,” he started slowly, easing his heart back into the memory.
“How long was he gone?” Dean prodded just as gently as the colonel had.
Head still down, Jack took a steadying breath and forced himself to continue. “He was held behind enemy lines for five days before we got the correct Intel to perform a rescue,” he said, grimacing at his own words. It had taken too long…too damn long. “He’d been strung up…and whipped…” he paused, still rocked by the truth, still rocked by the fact that he wasn’t there to stop it, that he wasn’t there to…to…“…he was then thrown into a sweatbox.” Subconsciously, the hand holding his weapon tightened and his gaze and voice grew distant. “That’s how we found him.”
God, the way they had found him…
When he finally looked up and met Dean’s eyes they were hard and full of an understanding one could only achieve by experience. “You kill ‘em?”
Jack didn’t blink and his eyes were just as hard. “Every last one of them.”
The sound of a fire iron hitting and sliding across the floor, and Daniel’s, “You’re right, a bungee would come in handy,” brought Jack and Dean back to the present.
“Let’s go check on the kids, shall we?” Jack pushed off the counter, and snapping the shotgun closed Dean followed.
Walking back into the room, both their names were called excitedly.
“Jack, they’ve met real angels.”
“Dean, there’s an artifact, a mirror that can transport you to other dimensions with just a touch.”
“Daniel,” Jack admonished for telling confidential secrets.
“Sam,” Dean admonished for, well, being a geek. And, to be honest, the last thing he needed or wanted to think about right now were angels.
“Aren’t you too supposed to be resting?” Dean and Jack then chided at the same time. After looking at each with surprise they turned back to the other two.
“We were Dean,” Sam replied, sounding almost like an annoyed teenager.
“…but then Gilda popped back in,” Daniel continued.
“Gilda?” Jack and Dean.
“Yeah,” Daniel’s hand waved animatedly, “the ghost.”
A loud crash in the back cut off any sarcastic remark that would have been made.
“Show time,” Jack walked over to fetch the tossed fire iron.
Dean went to his brother and helped him off the couch. Sam’s knees were weak and buckled momentarily, “Easy, Sammy,” but Dean held him up until he could regain his footing.
“Daniel?” Jack took his friend’s hand and helped him up, too. “You ready for this?”
“To slay a monster?” he asked, then grinned softly, “Just another day’s work, right?”
Jack offered him a smile back and patted his cheek proudly, “Yeah.”
Just as Dean had suspected, the ghost…or Gilda was done playing games. She cut the lights and threw Jack and Daniel across the room as the biloko charged inside with an animalist cry. At least seven feet tall, its skin was hard, almost bark-like and it had a snout like a crocodile that glistened in the moonlit room.
It went right for Sam.
Dean raised the flamethrower he had in one hand, but Gilda flickered in behind him and tossed him against the wall. He crashed to the floor to the sound of his clip being emptied by his brother.
Jack came up behind it and emptied a fifth round right into its skull. Finally, it fell to its knees with a growl. Wheezing, saliva and blood ran down its long snout. For a moment they thought they had won, survived, but it was a short moment. Out of nowhere, with one of its long arms it backhanded Jack across the shoulder.
“Jack!” Struggling to his feet, Daniel watched him fly across the room.
The creature turned back to Sam, who was out of ammo and swaying on his feet. Spotting the sawed-off that had fallen from Dean’s grip, Sam dove for it. Sliding across the floor, he grabbed it and fired just as the biloko was upon him. It stumbled back to full height with an ear piercing shriek. Then shoulders heaving and skin sizzling, it lunged at Sam again. This time, it and the would-be-intercepting Gilda got a face full of fire iron swung by Dean. The ghost disappeared and the biloko staggered back. Dean stepped between it and his brother. Blood was running down his temple from where he hit the wall, but his feet were steady and his face determined. It wasn’t touching his brother. Not again.
As if reading his mind, it snarled at Dean. In response, Dean’s hand tightened on the fire iron. The creature sniffed the air with contempt…and charged.
It didn’t get far. Back arching, it screamed as Daniel opened the homemade flamethrower on it. Dark orange eyes full of rage turned on him.
Body burning, it leapt at the archeologist—who was tackled out of the way by Jack. Dean grabbed the other flamethrower and doused it again. Screaming and withering, it staggered away and jumped through the front door window.
Jack and Dean turned to their charges. “Go!” they were ordered simultaneously by them.
Holding his shoulder, Jack grunted as he got to his feet and took the flamethrower from Daniel. “Stay here.”
“No argument from me,” Daniel said in a voice filled with pain as he pushed himself into a sitting position and pulled a fallen fire iron closer. Jack and Dean ran out the door and Daniel looked to Sam who was propped up on one elbow, holding his side. “They’ll get it,” the archaeologist said confidently.
Sam nodded. “I know,” his own voice was thick with pain. And then he passed out.
“Take it easy, will ya?” Jack griped, moving his shoulder away from Dean’s prodding fingers.
“Wow, are you a baby,” Dean commented, finishing up. “Daniel didn’t fuss this much when I cleaned up his back.”
“Yes, thank you for that by the way.” Jack couldn’t do it so easily himself due to his injury.
“No problem,” Dean handed him an ice pack. “It’s bruised good, but it’s not dislocated.”
The colonel placed the cool pack against his shoulder. “How’d you learn how to do all of this anyway? Even Carter doesn’t administer field stitches.”
“I dunno,” Dean walked over to the couch. “Out of necessity, I guess,” he answered, watching his brother sleep. “Our job doesn’t exactly have health insurance.”
The colonel couldn’t help but wonder how exactly they did get by and if they had more than just themselves to depend on. There was a look about them. A look that screamed, Recently Orphaned.
Moving to wipe the blood off his face from his own head wound, “Who’s Carter,” Dean asked.
“Another member of my team, who, by the way, should be headed this way shortly. Storm allowing,” Jack added. He looked around at the mess. They had taped a garbage bag over what was left of the door window, lamps and pictures were shattered all over the floor and salt and blood was everywhere. “Oy.”
When Sam opened his eyes, he was on the couch under at least three blankets.
“Hey,” Dean knelt down next to him, “how you feelin’?” He pressed the back of his hand against Sam’s brow. Apparently satisfied, he pulled away.
“Okay,” Sam blinked hard, trying to get his bearings, “what happened?”
“Jack and I finished the bastard off and came back to find you passed out and Daniel damn near.”
Dean rolled his eyes. Gilda? Really? “Haven’t seen her,” he answered, pulling back the blankets to get a look at Sam’s wound. “Theory must have been right. And the lights were on when we got back, so….”
“Two birds with one stone,” Sam mused quietly, acquiesced to Dean’s prodding. “How’s Daniel?” his eyes drifted over to the other man.
“Completely out of steam,” Jack answered walking in. He checked his sleeping friend for fever, too. Finding none, “But he’ll be just fine,” he said, moving to sit at the end of the couch Daniel was curled up on. He laid a hand over the younger man’s ankle as if it were second nature to him.
Dean grinned as he pulled the blankets back up over his brother’s chest. He had sat with Sam the same way more times than he could count growing up.
Daniel’s body suddenly tensed. “Jack?” his eyes remained closed, but his brow was pinched.
The older man squeezed his ankle gently. “Right here, Danny.”
“’kay,” he mumbled as he fell right back to sleep, face relaxing.
Noticing the boys watching them, “Cuddle bug,” Jack canted his head down at Daniel.
“Yeah, this one, too,” Dean jerked his thumb back at Sam who made a face. “So,” Dean sat on the floor next to his brother’s head, “dimension hopping mirrors, and you guys barely flinched when you found out there was a flesh eating monster on our tail.”
“Yes, well,” the colonel drawled, “you’ve never met some of Daniel’s friends.”
“Uh, huh,” Dean uttered sardonically, meeting his eyes. “That the official company line you’re towin’?”
The corner of Jack’s mouth turned up. “Pretty close.”
Having already fallen back to sleep, Sam curled up on his good side and pressed his forehead into his big brother’s back. Ducking his head, Dean smirked fondly, then looking back up at Jack they announced in unison. “Cuddle bug.”
“Hey, jerk face, that was my last one,” Sam made an unsuccessful attempt to grab for the stuffed mushroom Dean had stolen from his plate.
“What’d I tell ya about sharing, Sammy?” his older brother teased, popping it into his mouth as he sat back on the couch in front of Sam’s bent knees.
Sam’s face scrunched up in thought, “Not to?”
Sam rolled his eyes and recited dully, “Unless it’s with you.”
Dean licked his fingers. “Exactly.”
“Simmer down, children there’s plenty more where that came from,” Jack said, walking into the living room with an entire tray filled with them.
All three immediately reached out for more.
Sam and Daniel were still couch bound, but they were both sitting up and under less blankets than earlier that night. Sam wore one of Jack’s oversized hockey jerseys, which he was thankful for…not as much for himself, as he was for Dean. Nobody wanted to see their brother wearing a blood-soaked shirt all night—especially considering what they’ve been through over the past few years.
“Mmmmm,” Dean groaned appreciatively. “Sammy, get the recipe so you can make these for me.”
“You make these for me.”
“I make mac n’ cheese.”
“That’s all you make, Dean.”
“Shuudduup, you love my mac n’ cheese.”
“I love these more.”
“You should try his steaks,” Daniel mumbled around a mouthful of mushroom.
“Granny O’Neill would be proud,” Jack sauntered another empty tray back into the kitchen. The place was cleaned up…mostly, the fire was roaring in the fireplace, the coffee was on, the boys were fed and Carter and Teal’c should be arriving…
The sound of an Asgard beam had Jack stopping in his tracks and grimacing. “Hi, guys!” Daniel greeted, nonplussed by their outing-of-alien technology.
Jack turned around to find Carter and Teal’c standing in the living room holding presents and cookies. There was now also a lit and decorated Christmas tree in the corner. Carter looked like she had been caught with her hands in the cookie jar. “Uh, sir, I…we didn’t know you had company,” she said, looking abashed. “Otherwise, we would have…”
“Taken another form of transportation?” Jack finished.
“Uh, yes, sir.”
Dean’s eyes were wide with excitement. He stood. “Dude,”
Sam turned to Daniel, “Here we go.”
“Was that…? Did you just...beam down here?” Dean asked excitedly. He then proceeded to full on geek-out and quote every other line from Star Trek.
“Sir, again, I am so sorry,” Carter apologized, following Jack back into the kitchen. “Thor needed some help with a few things and we thought with the weather…”
“Major,” Jack held up a hand, “you didn’t know. Don’t worry about it. I have a feeling these guys understand discretion.”
His 2IC looked relieved…and intrigued. “Sir, who are these guys, anyway? What happened here?” She gestured to the mess and the protective way he was holding his arm.
“Uuuh…” Jack took the cookies she had brought with his good hand and set it on the counter, “hunting accident?”
Raising her eyebrows dubiously, Carter tilted her head. “A hunting accident?”
“Uh, yeah, listen, Carter,” Jack stopped what he was doing and scratched at the side of his nose, “I’ll tell you everything, I swear,” he waved a scout’s honor hand, “…just,” he canted his head to the side, “not right now.” He went back to fixing another tray.
“Oookay,” But her eyes were narrowed with curiosity.
“Trust me. You are gonna love it,” He walked passed her with cookies and…
“Are those stuffed mushrooms?” she followed after him.
“Grab Danny’s pills!”
Automatically pivoting at his over-the-shoulder call, she detoured back to the counter. Grabbing a pill bottle, she paused and sniffed the air. “Did you guys burn something?”
“Nice tat,” Dean nodded up at Teal’c’s First Prime tattoo.
“Is that the symbol for the Egyptian god Apophis?” Sam squinted, trying to see it better from the couch.
“Indeed it is,” Teal’c bowed slightly, impressed by his knowledge.
“Geek,” Dean mumbled at his brother, popping another mushroom into his mouth.
“Is that…gold?” Sam then asked, surprised.
“Ouch,” Dean commented sympathetically, “I bet that hurt.”
“Immensely,” the Jaffa replied casually, hijacking a mushroom as Jack passed by.
“Oo,” Dean grabbed for a cookie.
Carter sat next to Daniel on the couch and handed him his pills.
“Thank you,” he said, taking the bottle in his hand.
“No problem. How do you feel?” She automatically reached over and checked him for fever.
“Like I have a large sticker on my forehead that says, “Feel here.”
Wincing apologetically, she pulled back her hand. “Sorry.”
He smiled shyly. “S’kay, I’m getting used to it…I think.”
“Daniel,” Jack sing-songed on his way back to the kitchen, “pills are for swallowing, not for holding in one’s palm.”
Daniel canted his head to the side. “On the other hand…”
Carter smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “He was worried about you,” she said softly, reaching out to squeeze his bicep. “We are were.”
Daniel met her tear-filled eyes with his own. “I know.”
From his slouched position on the couch, Sam grinned tiredly as he watched his brother casually peruse Jack’s dvd collection. He hadn’t seen him this relaxed in a… really, really long time. Dean carried so much on his shoulders. He always had, really.
He always had.
And now… now…
Tears rushing to meet Sam’s eyes, his grin faded. He knew he could be a handful with Lucifer tramping around in his mind, and since Bobby…
“Sammy, you okay?”
“Uh, yeah,” he cleared his throat, blinking the tears way and cursing himself for causing his brother to worry about him again.
Dean didn’t believe him. He immediately put down the drink he was holding. “Hey, uh…it’s probably time we get going,” he wiped his hands on his jeans. “Should probably get CindyLu to bed before he turns into a pumpkin.”
Teal’c made a puzzled face, but when he turned to Daniel for explanation the archaeologist waved him off. He wasn’t even sure he could figure that one out.
“Uh, listen,” Jack pulled Dean off to the side, “Aside from the fact that you’re out of your mind if you think I’m gonna let you trek, how many miles? to your car in the middle of the night in this weather…”
Dean made a, Dude, I’m a big boy, face.
“…we have plenty of food and space,” Jack continued, “you’re exhausted…ah!” he held up a hand forestalling the inevitable denial, “and your brother really shouldn’t be jostled around right now—which is exactly what will happen if you take him out in this.”
When Dean tilted his head in thought and opened his mouth to argue, Jack squeezed his shoulder, “Stand down, soldier,” he ordered gently, finally realizing how he could get through to him. Whether he was military or not, the moment Jack had met him, he recognized the soldier in him. He palmed the back of his neck and squeezed again. “Stand down.”
Ducking his head, Dean’s throat was too tight to speak and for the second time that night he found himself dangerously close to tears. He was so, so tired, but…
“He’s safe here,” Jack looked back at Sam, who was watching them with worry. “And I’m thinking you getting some rest will do him as much good as it will you.”
“Listen to him, ya idjit,” Dean could practically hear Bobby say in his own affectionate way. “Rest when you can, son. Then come up swingin’.”
Head still down, tears still too close to the surface, Dean nodded. “Yeah,” he rasped thickly, “Yeah, okay.”
The room was silent, but for the crackling of the fire. Sam, Dean and Teal’c took up one couch, Carter and Daniel another and Jack sat in the single cushion seat by the Christmas tree. With full stomachs and soft chatter they admired the lights and decorations.
Something dawned on Jack. “Carter, this is my Christmas tree…from. my. house.”
Carter smiled. “Yes, sir. Seemed a shame for it to go to waste, and Thor was more than happy to.”
A fondness shone in Jack’s eyes. “Gotta love that little guy.”
“Is there anymore hot chocolate, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked gravely, regarding his empty cup.
“Sorry, big guy,” Jack said, concentration on one of the ornaments he was tapping on the tree, “gonna have to cut you off.”
The Jaffa’s face fell.
“How many is that, anyway,” Jack asked, turning to him. “Four?”
“Five,” Teal’c corrected, looking back down at his empty cup.
Carter laughed softly. Her eyes then shifted over to the boys. Shoulders brushing, Sam and Dean had stared at the tree for about an hour, their eyes full of more sorrow than wonder before finally falling asleep. Dean had been the first to nod off, and head also leaning against the back of the couch, it was only after Sam had turned to his brother and saw that his eyes were closed, that he had closed his own.
“They’re close,” Carter commented softly, still watching them. “My brothers and I were never that close.”
“They’re a team,” Jack responded just as softly. “Family.”
Carter smiled over at him, then down at Daniel who was curled over her lap fast asleep. She gently ran her fingers through his hair. “Lucky to have each other.”
Watching his friend sleep, the memory of just how close they had come to losing him still fresh in his mind…in all of their minds, Teal’c replied thickly, “Lucky, indeed.”
The clock striking midnight brought everyone’s thoughts back from that unbearable week of grasping at false leads and waning hope. “Merry Christmas, Major Carter,” Teal’c said warmly. “Merry Christmas, O’Neill.”
“Merry Christmas,” Carter smiled just as warmly.
Looking around the room at his team, all so lucky to be home and safe, and at the two young men suddenly brought into their lives—taking a rare refuge from what he imagined to be a merciless front, Jack added quietly, “…and to all a good night.”