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The Art of Life After (Part One)

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"We'll get him back. I promise." Jody reassures Dean as he paces back and forth across the floor. This wasn't supposed to happen this way.

Sam had found them a case. It was the first one since they had defeated Chuck. Dean was going a little stir crazy being stuck in the bunker, and Sam could tell immediately. The case was supposed to be simple. Just a quick in and out, but of course, when did that ever actually happen?

While researching, Sam had determined it to be a Hiisi, which doesn't make sense now, because why would the Hiisi want Sam? They normally just stole from houses and travelers and went on about their business, only killing when necessary. This, of course, made Sam not want to go after it, saying 'it's only killing in self defense, Dean' as if that would change anything. Especially now. Sam was missing, Dean was pissed, and that Hiisi was a dead man walking.

...

Sam stumbled through the forest out of breath. It was completely dark now, and his voice came out strangled and hoarse from calling for Dean. His idiot brother thought it would be a grand idea if they split up, and although Sam had thought otherwise, he didn't wanna argue with his ecstatic brother, and ruin his hunting high. Sam only got like that sometimes, but Dean... if he was on a hunt, he was much happier in general.

Spinning in place, Sam tried to make out his surroundings. Honestly it would probably be smarter if he just sat down and waited for Dean. Although, something was off. It should be about six pm right now, but the forest was pitch black and foggy. He could hardly see two feet in front of him and the moon was pretty much nonexistent, although if it still was day, then Sam supposed he wouldn't see it anyways. He was sure that he was still on the trail, and really didn't feel like losing it, so he sighed and leaned against a tree.

It would probably be better to wait anyway. On the other hand... Sam's taking skills were incredible. Even in the dark. He pondered just going backwards, and finding his way out. After all, if Dean was lost in the forest, Sam would be better to him alive then also lost. He sighed again and rubbed his sleeveless arms against the biting cold that he had only just realized settled over him.

He swore quietly, thinking about how bad it would be to get hypothermia out here, and started walking back the way he came. It was tough, but he kept his eyes glued to the ground for his footprints, and his ears alert to any odd noises.

After what felt like hours of walking (in reality, Sam thought, it was probably less than an hour. The forest can do that) the scenery was finally starting to brighten a little. The fog slowly started to dissipate, letting moonlight shine through, and Sam smiled, satisfied with his forest navigation abilities.

...

Dean and Jody went back into the forest. Prepared this time. They were loaded up with flashlights and flares and fire starters and food. Just in case. Miracle whines as they leave him in the motel. Dean hadn’t wanted to leave him alone in the bunker to starve, but he was being more of a hindrance on their hunt then he thought. Dean led the way, trying to visualize the way Sam would have gone. Dean had just barreled into the forest, not too concerned. He always was better at taking through the forest. Sam was good too, but he tended to stick to paths.

Dean was also fast. He darted through trees and hopped over logs, keeping a quick pace. Jody had to yell at him to stop about five times before Dean stopped abruptly. Jody almost smacked into him.

"What?" She whispers under her breath.

"There," Dean points ahead of them, and sure enough, a huge creature stands in their path. It doesn't look like it noticed them, but you can never really tell. It stood what Dean thought was at least fifteen feet tall, and looked to be entirely made of bones.

“What the fuck is that?” Jody hisses. Dean shrugs.

“Not a Hiisi, lemme tell ya.”

There wasn't really any lore on how to kill the creature, but Dean decided one of the usual ways would work. Bullet, beheading, or burning. One of the three B's Dean lived by. He raised his gun stocked with silver bullets and took aim. Out of his periphery, he saw Jody do the same. Dean shot, hitting the creature directly in the skull, followed milliseconds by Jody. The creature wailed and took off.

"Shit," Dean mumbled, "guess bullets didn't really do the trick."

"Hold on," Jody replied, "sometimes it takes a while for them to drop."

"Right," Dean said, shaking off his disappointment. He began to move through the trees again, the moon rising in the sky.

....

Sam flinched at the double gunshot. So there were two people out here. He desperately hoped one of them was Dean. Alive. His blood ran cold at the thought and he hurried his pace. He knew he was more likely to get lost, as he wasn't paying enough attention to where he was going. But he just followed the sound of the gunshot. They weren't in a valley, so it should be exactly where the sound came from, but there was still a lot of echo. But it sounded close.

He decided to take a chance.

"DEAN!" He yelled, his voice straining. "Where are you? Dean!"

"Sammy?" He heard a voice, still far away, call back to him.

"Dean," He panted, voice almost completely gone, as he dashed towards his brother.

...

"Sammy?" Dean called back. Jody smiled and started in the direction of Sam's voice. Dean winced as he heard Sam croak back. It sounded like he had been screaming for him for a while.

Dean pushed away the guilt and told himself that Sam just needed to find him. He dashed into the direction of Sam's voice, ignoring the fact that he was leaving Jody behind. She would catch up.

"Sammy!"

"Dean!"

Their all too familiar call and response. Dean finally heard Sam barreling through the forest and changed his direction accordingly.

"Sammy!" He called again.

"De-- AAAGGHH!"

Sam's scream stopped Dean dead in his tracks. He broke out in a cold sweat and forced himself to keep moving.

"Sammy! SAM!" He called desperately.

...

"D-De- agh, fuck!" Sam called back, pain lacing his voice. He tried to keep his breathing steady as the metal teeth of something bit into his leg, creating a horrific crunching sound.

Sam glanced down to see what was left of his mangled calf crunched in a rusted bear trap. He started shaking and even though pain ripped through his entire leg, he could seem to do much else but choke out his brother's name.

"D-Dean..." He whispered as he heard Dean barreling towards him at breakneck speeds. He couldn't help but chuckle to himself, although it came out as a strangled moan.

"SAMMY!" Dean shouted as he came into view. He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees beside Sam, gently running his fingers over Sam's arms. His eyes dropped to Sam's left calf and his face went pale. He grabbed Sam's face, caressing his cheeks between his palms.

"It's okay," Dean forced out, clearly trying to disguise the panic embedded in his voice. "Jody's here. You're gonna be just fine, okay? I got you little brother."

"I know De, I k-know," Sam forced a smile and tried to move. He ended up pulling his leg and couldn't stop a low scream escaping his throat. Dean bit his lip and looked away, searching the woods for Jody. She was making good time, but wasn't as fast as Dean. She made it into eyesight and dropped down beside Dean.

"His leg-- I don't--"

"Calm down," Jody said, voice shaking. "I'll deal with it. Hold him still."

Dean nodded and shuffled up to Sam's head. He knew Sam could keep himself still, so he pulled Sam's down from him sitting position and created a pillow with his thighs for Sam to put his head. He ran his shaking fingers through Sam's hair and whispered reassurances.

"De--"

"Sammy, look at me okay? Look at me."

Sam tilted his head up, so he was looking up and Dean. His older brother supported his chin as Jody released the bear trap, making Sam let loose another low moan of pain. He wasn't loud enough to disguise the sound of something moving towards them through the forest.

"We gotta move," Jody said sternly. Dean nodded and stood up, trying to lift Sam along with him. Sam clenched his jaw and moved against the pain, trusting Dean to do most of the work.

"How bad is it?" Sam grates out, not trusting himself to look at his injury.

"Bad. I only say that because I know you'll be fine. But we need to get to the hospital, okay? I don't care how good you boys are at patching up shit. You gotta get to a hospital if you wanna walk again."

"Right," Sam croaks. Dean stays silent, helping Sam through the trees as quietly as possible.

“What about the Hiisi?” Sam pants.

“Yeah, not so much,” Dean chuckles breathlessly.

“What do you mean? You didn’t kill it?”

“No we didn’t. And it’s not a Hiisi. It a fuckin’ bone creature. I don't know.”

Sam kinda figured as much. There were about a thousand things it could be, if he was being honest. All the victims had been just passing through, travelers in the sense of the word, which did match Hiisi lore, but also several other things. He had married it down to Hiisi specifically because there were only two victims, most people got out of the woods just fine. Although, with the victims heads being bitten clean off, he supposed Hiisi didn't tend to do that.

“Sorry,” Sam whispers as Dean continues to half-drag him through the underbrush.

“Jesus Sammy, s’ not your fault,” Dean huffs back. “Now shut up. You’re heavy as hell.”

Sam shuts up and tries his best to help Dean move through the forest. Jody was leading them. She had left little marker flags along the path her and Dean had taken, every hundred paces or so, but it was hard to find them, as their surroundings were becoming darker and darker by the second. As the group trekked through the forest, they tried to ignore the rattling and cracking sounds coming from behind them.

“DEAN!” Sam screams as he gets yanked away from his brother. A huge boney hand circles his thigh and pulls him into the air.

“Sam!” Dean pulls out his gun and shoots the creature where he assumes the head would be. It’s too dark to really see and he dropped the flashlight as Sam was taken from him. He hears Jody scream out something from behind him, but keeps unloading the clip into any part of the creature he can.

It lets out a wail and drops Sam on the ground. He yelps, but goes silent as his body crumples on the ground. Dean growls as Jody lights up a flame thrower. He grabs his matchette and starts hacking away at one of the creature’s legs, unaware of his screams and howls. The leg finally buckles and the creature falls as Jody pulls Dean away. He watches as the thing catches fire under the spray of the flame-thrower. It screeches and starts to fall to the ground.

“Dean! Dean, get Sam! We need to move!” Jody’s demands finally register and Dean is on his feet, scooping up Sam and running after Jody.

Dean has a hard time remembering exactly what happened after that. He knows they made it out of the forest, and that there were all kinds of first responders waiting for them. The fire department, ambulances, and police. Someone had called about the fire, he supposes. One thing he does remember is that no one tried to take Sam away from him. Dean sent death glares at anyone who even suggested the thought, and at one point threatened a EMT at gunpoint, which he only knew happened because Jody told him later.

Nothing from that night really rings true in Dean’s memory, other than Sam getting hurt, and the sickening sound of his body hitting the ground. In fact, nothing really registers until the doctor comes out, telling him that Sam is awake. Dean realizes that he’s in a waiting room and he wonders how they got him out of Sam’s room in the first place. Jody comes into view with the doctor, and Dean jumps to his feet.

“So,” The doctor clears his throat, “Are you ready to hear the damage?”

“Yeah,” Jody says as Dean just swallows.

“Well, good news, Sam will live,” the doctor smiles warmly, but Dean knows that’s just a tactic to brace people for what’s to come. “He’s got a couple broken ribs and a broken arm, but they should heal nicely with the proper care. He did have a nasty concussion, but that should clear up soon as well.”

“That’s the good news?” Dean snaps. Jody gives him a look, but he ignores it.

“Unfortunately, yes, that is the good news. The bad news… We were not able to fix his leg. There was already considerable damage from the bear trap, but after his…” THe doctor clears his throat again, “Fall, well the damage became irreversible. We’ve done pretty much everything we can. The tendon and nerve damage was too extreme--”

“Okay we get it,” Dean sighs, “Just give it to me straight. No sugar coating.”

“Oh. Okay then.” The doctor shifts uncomfortably, “This may upset you.”

“You’re upsetting me,” Dean snaps, despite the worry twisting his stomach into knots.

“Well… Sam’s leg was crushed beyond his body's ability to heal it. It would have become infected and rotted off, so we had to amputate. Right above the knee.”

Everything spun to a stop. Jody fell silent, sucking in a deep breath and looking at the floor. Dean stared slack-jawed at the doctor, who was already taking a few steps back from Dean, who was now known at the hospital for his violent behavior when it came to his brother.

“Where is he?” Dean croaks.

“Room 406. He should be awake, but remember that he still has a concussion. Don’t do anything that might make it worse. That includes upsetting him.”

“Does he know?”

“We haven’t told him, but he’s going to figure it out the second he wakes up,” the doctor hesitates, “He’ll probably want his family’s support. Losing a limb is a difficult thing to come to terms with.”

Dean nods sharply and takes off down the hall. 416, 415, 414. He tries to think of what to tell Sam when he wakes up. 413, 412, 411. Sam will be out of commission. Only Dean will be able to hunt. 410, 409, 408. He can’t hunt alone. Maybe they’ll just stop hunting. 407, 406. Dean stops dead in his tracks as he stands at the door, trying to think of the right words, but his mind goes blank. He just needs to see Sam.

He opens the door and is met with Sam’s wide, scared eyes. Dean scans him until his eyes land on Sam’s left leg. Or what’s left of it. His gaze snaps back up to Sam’s face, which is already crumpling with tears.

“Dean-- I-I’m so sorry,” Sam chokes out. Dean just shakes his head and strides across the room. He tries to be as gentle as possible as he reaches for Sam, wrapping his arms around his little brother’s shoulders.

“Don’t. This is not your fault Sammy. We’ll figure it out, okay? Everything will be fine.” Dean whispers. He feels Sam nod against his chest, but he doesn't let go. He doesn’t turn around as Jody steps into the room, only to leave seconds later.

“Okay, kinda suffocating me,” Sam mumbles against Dean’s tee and flannel that he’s been wearing for three days.

“Sorry, sorry,” Dean sniffs, trying to disguise the evidence of his teary relief to see Sam alive. He pulls back, but the view doesn’t do much to quell his emotions. Sam looks fine. A little banged up, same as Dean, but you wouldn’t think just had an amputation.

“I, uh, I don’t really know-- I mean-- are we gonna--” Sam clears his throat, “What’s next?”

“What do you mean? We get you all healed up and we get back to the bunker.”

“No, Dean, I mean after that. I can’t-- you know this is permanent, right? You’re gonna hate me for saying this but… No more hunting. I’m out of commision.” Sam smiles sadly, “I know what you’re thinking, and no, prosthetics aren’t really an option for us, neither will they make me able to hunt again.”

“Oh.” Dean sits on the edge of Sam’s bed. He kind of figured as much. Of course, Sam wouldn’t be able to hunt. Even if they did rig a janky prosthetic Dean wouldn’t let his little brother go hunting like that. Of course, that meant that Dean would have to stop hunting too. There’s no way Sam would let Dean go hunting without back-up, and Dean didn’t really trust anyone but Sam to consistently back him up.

“You’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would,” Sam chuckles, snapping Dean out of his daydream state.

“Yeah,” Dean laughs back, “Well maybe it’s time.”

“Wish you would have thought of that before I lost a limb.”

“Sam…” Dean turns and grabs Sam’s hand between his own, “I am so sorry. Sammy, this is my fault I wasn’t there when you needed me and I--”

“Dean. No.” Sam huffed and shifted until he could take Dean’s face in his hands. “This was gonna happen. Or, something was. I could’ve died, and you saved me. There’s probably a universe where I did die. Maybe one where you died. You never know. But it doesn’t matter, because we’re both still here, and we learned our lesson. Time to put down the sword, yeah?”

“Yeah. Yeah I know,” Dean blinked quickly, stubborn to not let any tears fall, even though Sam looks like he just went twelve rounds with a waterfall and lost. “Are you, uh, gonna be okay?”

“Me?” Sam points to himself, pretending to be offended, “What, a guy loses a limb and suddenly he’s not sympatico?”

“Well I--”

“I’m okay Dean. I mean, it’s gonna take a while for me to, come to terms, you know? But I’ll be okay. I promise. And if I’m not, well, I always have you, right?”

“Of course,” Dean says firmly.

Sam nods and smiles before finally wiping his face of tears. The thing was, Sam was already freaking out. Of course he wasn’t going to tell Dean, his brother already had enough to come to terms with. Quitting hunting was a huge move, for both of then, but Sam knew it would affect Dean a lot more. And they had already been through so much that they were still working through. All the people they lost, for one. The constant fear that everything was still being manipulated by Chuck. Dean was still greatly struggling with the loss of Cas, the only real friend (maybe more than a friend, Sam suspected) that he ever truly had. Sam didn’t wanna pile his shit on top of all that.

“Hey, you in there?” Dean taps Sam’s shoulder, jerking him out of his thoughts.

“Yeah. Sorry, just tired. I guess I’m still healing.”

“And probably will be for a while,” Jody says from the doorway. Dean and Sam jump a little before turning around to face Jody. “You took a beating there kiddo. How are you holding up?”

“I’m alright,” Sam lies, already feeling a bone deep ache spreading through his body again, “Are you okay?”

“Yep! Nothing a little neosporin can’t fix. You on the other hand--”

“I’m fine,” Sam laughs, a little forced.

“Sure,” Jody scoffs, “Dean, why don’t you get something to eat? I’ll sit with Sam.”

“Yeah,” Dean reluctantly agrees when Jody gives him her patented mom look that she has pretty much mastered. She pats Dean on the shoulder as he leaves, and sits on Sam’s bed where Dean was before. Sam tries to muster a smile, against the pain that is quickly worsening.

“So,” Sam grates out, “Did you kill the Hiisi that was terrorizing the neighborhood?”

“Kind of. Wasn’t a Hiisi, that’s for sure. I think it was something called a Gashadokuro. They are usually only native to Japan, so what one was doing in Ames, Iowa is beyond me. I went back to the fire, I think it’s dead.”

“I’m sorry-- Fire?” Sam raises an eyebrow in question. Jody raises one of her own in retaliation.

“Sam, hun, how much of last night do you remember?” Jody scoots herself closer and holds Sam’s hand.

“Not much,” Sam concedes after a short hesitation. “I, uh, it’s pretty blurry. I remember finding you and Dean, and the-- the bear trap. Nothing after that. I don’t-- Uh…”

Jody rubs her hand in circles over his back as he pinches the bridge of his nose between his pointer finger and thumb. The pain Sam feels all over is quickly overwhelming him, and he feels his body scream in protest of his trying to stay awake.

“Why don’t you try to get some rest? I’ll get the doctor and we’ll get you all dosed up, okay?” Jody whispers. Sam nods and lets his conscious mind fall away a little. He trusts Jody with his life, so he feels okay with letting her take the reins for a little bit. His natural hunter instincts snap in when Dean comes back with the doctor, but Sam is out again as soon as they start talking.