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Penance

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Dean was in Purgatory, and he was running for his life.

Well, as much as he could run. True to form, the shitty woods he was running through was the worst example of a North American forest, and the space on the ground that was not taken up by massive gnarled tree trunks was a tangle of horrendously thick underbrush. So really, Dean was sort of jogging in a way that moved as fast as a fast walk, because he had already tripped twice and he was pretty sure he was already sporting some extremely nasty scratches, but that was the least of his concerns because he was being hunted.

Whatever it was screeched behind him again. Yipping noises eerily reminiscent of laughter floated through the dead space between trunks moments later. There was a pack of them, red-eyed and creepy, and Dean had no idea what they were except that they were monsters. Cas had cut and run, which was both infuriating and terrifying, and all Dean had by the way of weapons were the Bowie and Beretta he had marched into SucroCorp with. He still had all fifteen rounds in the gun but it was hardly any use when he could not see to aim, and going up against a pack with a knife was just plain stupid. So Dean moved as quickly as he could manage through the undergrowth without falling and hoped desperately for some sort of miracle.

He was starting to get seriously tired—he must have gotten about a mile and a half from the clearing he had been dumped in, although he really could not tell—when the forest abruptly ended and Dean found himself teetering on the edge of a cliff of sorts. Something like fifteen feet below was a huge river, moving fast off to his left around a trio of tiny rocky islands. The full moon suddenly overhead told him absolutely nothing in terms of direction, considering the complete lack of stars in the sky.

The monsters behind him sounded off again; they were right on his tail. Dean made a split-second decision and jumped, hoping in the breathless moment he was airborne that the river was deep enough that he was not going to land badly.

He got lucky. The water was deep, and bitterly cold. He came back up wheezing for air driven out of his lungs by impact and frigidity and swore when he shot past the first of the islands—the current was much faster than he had thought. Blindly he struck out, aiming for the next, cursing the cold that numbed muscles and slowed him down. The second island swept by.

Dean really did not want to think about spending the night stuck in the river and made a last-ditch effort for the third island, and was rewarded when he slammed into some boulders under the waterline a yard out. Dean held on and hauled himself closer to the small outcropping just barely above the current.

The island was hardly worth the title. Maybe twenty feet long and narrow as all hell—seven feet at the widest, Dean guessed, mentally laying out a Sam on the ground and finding only a few inches to spare. One massive tree—it smelled like pine—erupted out of the center of it, casting a shadow in the bright moon light. If Dean remembered correctly, almost nothing monstrous enjoyed living in or crossing over running water, and that alone made the place marginally safer than where he had been half an hour ago. Furious screeching up the river and glowing eyes that were mere pinpricks from this distance confirmed it as the pack of things that had been chasing him clustered on the rocky ledge he had just vacated, all of which were completely disinterested in hopping in after him.

Soaking wet and chilled to the bone, he dragged himself over to the tree and huddled between some of the roots. Five more minutes confirmed that nothing else was coming after him, or at least not immediately. Dean took a gamble and started pulling off his sodden clothing. The night at least was warm even if the water was cold, cutting the threat of hypothermia down significantly; a good thing when he did not appear to have any of the necessary materials to start a good fire.

His situation was terrible. He was stuck in friggin’ Purgatory with two weapons, one of which was extremely limited—Dean had an idea that finding replacement ammunition for the Beretta would be difficult. His knife was not a terrible weapon, being good clean steel, but was a lot more hazardous to use considering the close range it demanded. Anyway, he had no silver on him, no blood except his own, no salt, and every single monster he had ever hunted housed in the forest waiting for him to walk past.

“Probably can’t even kill anything here,” Dean told the tree. “These monsters are just souls anyway, right?”

A howl from the opposite river bank than the forest floated overhead and Dean couldn’t stop the sudden shiver it provoked.