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25 February 2015 @ 10:31 pm
j'adoube: Isolated Pawn (chapter 4)  

After zigzagging over three dirt roads, each one progressively more rustic and weather-beaten than the last, the Impala came to a crunchy stop at the end of a red dirt road as the first stars popped through the evening sky.

J'adoube

Chapter Four
Isolated Pawn

****

A/N: Assorted Pai language vocabulary is listed at the end of the chapter.

After zigzagging over three dirt roads, each one progressively more rustic and weather-beaten than the last, the Impala came to a crunchy stop at the end of a red dirt road as the first stars popped through the evening sky.

Sam opened the car door and emerged like a meerkat rising from the Serengeti. "Dad, what is this place?" Between the nebulous dust clotting the air and the onset of twilight, the boy couldn't make out why they'd stopped in the middle of the desert. He coughed and wafted his hand to help improve his view.

"It's home for the next couple of days." John stepped from the car, while Dean, still surly and uncooperative in the front seat, leaned forward, squinting through the filmy windshield. His dad motioned toward an outcropping of Kaibab limestone in front of them. "The hooch is right there."

As the dust settled around the Impala, a crude but sturdy cabin came into view. With the desert tones used in its construction, the shack melded into the strata of the sedimentary rock-wall behind it. From a few hundred feet away, you wouldn't know the shack was there at all.

"Get the lead out, Sam. Start hauling in gear. Night's coming on and we need to get settled. All the water but one jug goes. I'll bring the kid."

"Uh, okay." Sam grabbed a couple of five-gallon water containers and labored toward the door. The buckled, peeling earth around the cabin cracked like thin clay under his laden feet.

Reaching the cabin, Sam noted hunter's protection symbols etched into the doorframe. An iron rod had been bolted across the threshold and an inch beyond that, a piece of PVC pipe had been halved length-wise, cleverly filled with salt and inlaid into the floor like a trough, creating a semi-permanent salt line.

Once inside, Sam set down the water jugs and peered around him. It was too dark to make out much, but he did see a single bed, an old, wooden table, some military footlockers and several ammo canisters. All told the cabin was about the size of a small motel room, minus the bathroom—that was nowhere to be seen, nor a kitchen, nor running water, nor electricity. Not much different than squatting. Sam groaned at the prospect and continued taking stock. One of the two windows had a small air conditioner built into it. It hadn't been used for a while, though, that was for sure. Sam fanned his face, swiping at the sweat beading on his forehead.

Walking to the table, Sam saw a small, oil lamp sitting there with a box of matches next to it. He removed the chimney, pinched the wick and lit it. As he did so, he heard Dean and his Dad struggling in the car.

"Getcher freaky hands off'a me, you giant, smelly perv!" Sam heard one more squawk from Dean, then silence.

A few seconds later the car door slammed and heavy boots stomped across the crusty dirt around the cabin. Sam stepped back to accommodate his father's silhouette as the man entered with the snorting, thrashing teen slung over his shoulder. A line of silvery duct tape covered Dean's mouth and jaw, and the boy's eyes sparked with outrage and contempt in the lamplight.

Depositing Dean onto the bed with little tenderness, John bellowed, "Stay!"

Dean woofed and snorted a litany of mumbled invectives at the man, but his dad merely patted the tape around his mouth, making sure it remained in place. "I said, stay," he reiterated and stood, stretching his back with a satisfied nod.

Sam adjusted the wick, giving them more light and checked out the rest of the room. "What is this place, Dad?" The boy noticed the remnants of an old murder-board, scraps of torn paper and shorn corners of clippings remained pinned to the wall. A few forlorn pieces of yarn hung like cobwebs. "You do that?"

John sighed at Dean who had risen from the bed and was making his slow, waddling way toward the open door. Splaying his hand on Dean's head he pushed him back onto the bed and rolled his eyes. "I said stay, and I meant it!"

"Irllhachuu!" Dean tried to kick him with his bound feet, but his dad was too fast.

John shut the door, locked it, and then stood beside Sam, looking at the wall. "Not my hunt. Martin and Travis were here not long ago." He absently levered a small tack up and then pushed it back down. "They were after a werecat, I think. At least that's what I heard through the grapevine. Haven't seen either of them to get the inside story, yet." He went to one of the old footlockers, flipped it open and rummaged around, searching for something. "Bobby, Travis, Martin and I, a couple other guys built this about five years ago."

"Wow, this is awesome, Dad. I like the built-in salt lines." Sam stomped on the wood floor, ran his hands over the unpainted drywall. Craning his neck, he realized the thatch roof was made from the twisted scrub found everywhere in the desert.

Pulling out a couple of long iron chains from the footlocker, John agreed. "Yep. We build salt lines into the windowsills, too. We hauled in the supplies, used what materials we could find around the area." He pointed to the roof. "This is skinwalker and chupacabra country. We needed a home base. It has a small generator, some provisions, ammo, the works. Also makes a secure place to lay low when need calls."

"Mrrphspirmlfph!" Dean's glance snapped around the room. He nudged his chin toward some spider webs hanging like gauze in the corner.

"Yeah, it could use a dusting, but it'll serve our needs for now." John strode to the gagged boy, dragging the thick chains behind him. He attached each chain to two of the many iron hooks that'd been fastened to the wall to store firearms.

Dean shimmied away from John and huddled in the corner of the bed.

John bent in to inspect the handcuffs. "We're gonna have to find a better rig than this for you. Sorry, kiddo." Dean's eyes raked over him, frightened and mad as hell. Unlocking the handcuffs, John readjusted them. He cuffed one of Dean's wrists and ankles to the chains that he'd attached to the iron hooks on the wall. This bought him more range of motion while boxing him into a six-foot diameter cell, which included the bed.

Sam hated seeing Dean penned like that, but he knew there would be no arguing with his dad. Besides, Sam knew if Dean were given any slack, he'd run away as soon as he could, even if it meant dying of thirst on the open desert. So, he said nothing. He swung around, tried to busy himself, attempting to take his mind off of it.

Looking out the window, he asked, "How did you guys build this with no one knowing? Won't other people find it?"

"Well, we're about 30 klicks from anywhere. Flagstaff is southeast. We're at the ass-end of the Havasupai Reservation. This is their land. But they know we're here. I did some work with them five years ago and their medicine man gave me permission to build here. He knows what we do. But the Havasupai people don't live this far south. They stay in the canyons to the north of us. This is pure, untamed desert out here. Loaded with supplies, you boys should be okay alone for a few days."

"Alone?" Sam said and Dean mumbled the equivalent at the same time.

"Dad, why? Where are you going?"

"I have to go see a friend, get some help with this."

"Who, dad? Why can't we go with you?"

"Because it's a ten-mile hike to get to him. He lives in the canyon north of here, in a town so remote they still send out their mail via pack-mule."

"I don't understand, Dad. We can hike that easy, and if it's so remote, won't it be the perfect spot to hide?"

"Yes, well, isolated or not, it's also a tourist destination. The Havasu Canyon sits next door to the western edge of the Grand Canyon, so you have a lot of tourist overflow into the reservation. It's not secure. I can't take the risk of anyone making us. I'm sorry. You two'll be fine here. No one comes out this way. It's not a tourist-friendly area, so you're staying here. There's enough water, food and fuel to keep you going for a week, but I should only be gone a day—two at most. I hope by then I'll have this mess sorted out."

John strode around the hut, pointing out various amenities. "You have food, water. Propane tank and generator are around back. Leave them alone. You've got over 50 gallons of fuel, Freon for the air conditioner, but don't overuse it. Keep it low, just enough it to take the edge off the heat. You shouldn't need it at night at all. We'll replenish everything before we go, once Dean's better…"

At that, Dean snorted under his gag but John paid no attention. "We haven't had time to rig a better lighting system, but trust me, the generator will be needed solely for the AC, anyway. There's the oil lamp." He pointed to the table. "Be careful with it. Stay in the hooch, no going outdoors unless it's to use the can. And, sorry, but you brother's gonna have to make due with a bucket. He doesn't come off those chains until I get back."

Dean's eyes bugged and the vein in his forehead throbbed as he fought against the gag and chains.

"Sorry, kiddo. It's just for a couple of days at most, then all of this will be over." He tried to approach Dean, maybe give him a comforting pat, but the kid flinched away from him. John pinched the bridge of his nose and gave up with a tired groan. He moved toward Sam, bent down to him. "This is a lot of responsibility, sport. I know I can count on you to look after things for me, right?"

Sam's chin quivered, but he gave his father a firm nod. "Yeah, Dad. I'm on it. I got it."

"Good man." He mussed his son's hair. "Now, help me get the rest of the stuff in, then I need to leave. It's almost dark, and I have a long drive and an even longer hike ahead of me."





****




"Don't pull, it'll hurt worse. Here, lemme me just…gently…" Sam pressed his tongue against his upper lip as he peeled the duct tape away from Dean's mouth.

"Puhhh," Dean spit out air, working his jaw, licking his lips.

"Sorry about that. Let me get this, now…" Sam toweled the blood away from Dean's upper lip. His dad shouldn't have taped his raw skin like that, and it pissed Sam off to no end. Sometimes his dad just didn't think.

"Get your hands off'a me." The iron chains rattled as Dean snatched the towel from Sam and daubed his lip, examining the bloody smudges on the cloth. "Ah, you freaks. And he promised he wasn't gonna hurt me. Liar!"

"Sorry D—Will. Sorry. He wasn't trying to hurt you. Calm down."

"Calm down? Calm down! How would YOU feel if someone told you everything you knew, everyone you loved wasn't real, huh? How'd you feel if someone kidnapped you, drugged you and tied you up? Huh? Could you calm down? It's all crazy. You're both crazy, and I ain't listenin' to another thing you say. Go away, Pugsley." He rolled over, face to the wall.

"I'd feel the same way, I guess." Sam lingered a moment, hovering, but Dean refused to say or do anything other than brood and smolder to himself. Sighing, Sam clicked his tongue, decided to leave him alone. He went about getting them settled in, organizing the duffels, unpacking the food stores: peanut butter and bread, trail mix and granola bars. He'd also bought as much Dean-food as he could carry: Funyuns, assorted Hostess fruit pies, beef jerky, pepperoni sticks and candy bars. He'd also bought his brother a couple of car magazines, thought it might help him pass the time.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Dean peek his way, staring at the food. The teen instinctively moved to the foot of the bed when he saw the pepperoni. Sam watched him through his peripheral vision, but Dean must have noticed because he canted his head and crabbed away, huddling back into the crook of the wall.

Sam bit his lip, picked up a couple of plump pepperoni sticks and made his way to the bed. Nudging onto the edge, he held one out for him. "Have it."

Dean regarded him with dead eyes. "Get bent, Pugsley. I ain't hungry."

"Well, I know that's a lie." Sam fingered the plastic wrap, peeling it, letting the savory scent fill the air between them. "I know you love these." He pivoted toward his brother, posturing, big goofy smile on his face, doing his best Dean impersonation. "C'mon, it's good for you, Sammy! I mean, it says so right on the package—made with 100% certified, beef-like products!"

"What the hell are you goin' on about, you freak?"

Sam's face fell. He shrugged. "My brother. He always says stuff like that. Here, c'mon…take it. It's good, see?" Sam bit into his. He thought it tasted like shoe leather, but he knew Dean loved it, so he raised his brows in feigned delight. "Mmmm! It's good, Will."

Dean blinked when Sam called him Will. He didn't accept the food, but he softened. "Thanks for that."

"For what?" Sam wiggled the beef stick. "You haven't taken it yet."

"For, you know, calling me by my name—not starting in with that you-are-my-brother crap."

Sam took another bite and chewed thoughtfully. "Yeah, well…let's not worry about all that stuff. Let's just get through the night. It'll go a lot better if you eat and drink something. Please?" He let his eyes turn moist and deep. And this time it wasn't exactly a put-on, it honestly did hurt him that Dean wouldn't eat despite being so hungry.

Dean's forehead creased. Snuffing in, he swallowed the saliva overflow in his mouth and grabbed the pepperoni as casually as he could. But Sam noticed his hand trembling in hungry anticipation as he unwrapped the meat. His brother bit into it, swallowed cautiously, testing his sore throat. It must have passed the test, because he took another bite, eyelashes fluttering, low growl in his throat before he wolfed the rest in a matter of seconds. It didn't appear he'd noticed his own famished reaction until after he'd eaten the whole thing.

He looked at Sam, startled…then sour. "Quit it."

"Quit what?" Sam said, mystified.

"Quit watching me. Quit smiling at me like I'm a toddler who took his first dump in the crapper."

Dropping his head, Sam apologized, "Sorry." He got up, brought two more meat sticks and a plastic bag with him. Sitting, he dug into the bag, fumbling around for the right item. "I got you something else." He peeked into the bag. "Yeah, here it is, see? Surprise!" Sam held up a bottle of Crystal Pepsi.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Crystal Pepsi's for pussies, you know." Still, he reached for it. Wow, Dean must have been, really, really thirsty.

Sam laughed. "Yeah, I know, but I was just testin' ya. It's good to know some things don't change. This one's mine. Here, this is yours." He pulled out a bottle of Mountain Dew.

"Whoa, now we're talkin'. Hello beautiful!" Dean greeted the bottle of soda. He twisted off the cap and drank long and deep. It so amazed Sam, seeing Dean be so…Dean…even if his brother didn't realize it himself.

"Here, eat this one, too. We got tons more." Sam handed Dean another long beef stick. His brother eyed it for a moment, fighting the urge to refuse, but hunger won out, and he took it, peeled back the wrapper.

Dean stretched out on the bed, shackled arm beneath his head, munching while he studied the thatch-scrub roof above him, surfing through his thoughts. "Wouldn't take more than a few huffs and puffs to blow this dump down."

Sam glanced up at the ceiling. "I bet it's sturdier than you think. I know my dad. He and his friends wouldn't build a crap place."

Dean shrugged, continued chewing. "If you say so. He's a jerk, a kidnapping, pervy jerk." Sam laughed. "What's so funny?"

Sam hesitated, then, "N—nothing. Well, it's just that you—I mean Dean, he's always on Dad's side about everything. He worships Dad, never has a bad word to say about him."

"Then I guess it's proof that I'm not Dean."

"I think it just means that Dad seems like a jerk from the outside, sometimes."

"Whatever." Dean elbowed himself up, cast his eyes about, noticing the jugs of water on the floor, the supplies—his backpack. "Hey, that's my backpack!"

Looking over his shoulder, Sam popped the last of the pepperoni into his mouth. "Yeah, want it?" He ran and brought the pack to Dean. "Here."

Dean gripped it in his hands, brought it to his nose, smelling it. He cleared his throat and unzipped the pouch, fingering the items inside, a bunch of green army-men, a half-filled water bottle, a couple other things. He plucked out a girly bobby-pin with angel wings attached to it, spun it in his fingers, his eyes going soft and sad. He clenched the hairpin in his fist, seeing Sam watching him. "What? It's my sister's. It's Macy's."

Nervous, Sam didn't say anything, but he knew Dean could handily pick his locks with it. In fact, Dean had been so skilled at lock-picking his dad relied on him to pick the locks wherever they went. Of the two of them, Dean was far and away the quickest. Dean had offered to show Sam how to do it, but he'd put him off, always telling him he had homework to do, anything to get out of it. Then all of this happened. Now, Sam regretted never having learned. It would have given him quality time with his brother. Once they fixed this mess, he promised himself he'd beg Dean to show him how to pick locks.

Of course, this was Will, now though, not Dean, so Sam said nothing about the hairpin other than, "It's cute. You must love her a lot."

Dean shifted on the bed, clenched his jaw and dropped the hairpin into his backpack's front pouch, zipped it. Rubbing his sweaty palms on his jeans, he snapped, "She's my kid sister. What do you expect?" He scooched to the edge of the bed, leaning on his elbows, feet on the floor. "Sam…" Dean called him by his real name. "You know there's enough water and food. We could walk right out'a here. It'd be easy. 20-30k is nothing, man. We could get to the road and get someone to stop." He held up his handcuffs. "Unlock these and let's get out'a here. I know you don't like what your Dad's doing. I can see it in your face. Come on, man…let me go."

Sam shook his head, took a moment to organize his thoughts. "I couldn't unlock them even if I wanted to. Dad took the key with him. I can't pick them, you're the one who—I mean, I don't know how. I haven't learned yet. But even still, I can't let you go. I know you don't understand any of this. But Dad's not crazy. You are Dean. You're my brother."

"No I'm not! C'mon, please just let me go!" He yanked the chains several times until he exhausted himself and planed into the wall, growling in his anger and frustration. "Please! I just want my family back, dammit!"

"So do I." Sam sighed. "So do I."





****




The soft edge of dawn had crept into the Havasu Canyon by the time John completed his slow, bleary descent. He'd driven for hours, forced to loop all the way to the neighboring Hualapai Nation to connect to Indian Rd 18 and double back to the trailhead. Then, traversing the Havasu Falls Trail in the middle of the night had cost him several more hours, as well as the last of his reserved strength.

He'd passed the forty-eight hour mark without sleep, and he clomped along the path, clumsy, stumbling on rocks he should have seen coming. Still, he walked onward, legs stiff and sore, weaving his way into the misty, verdant canyon.

Lush plant life sprung up around him, sprawling away from the Havasu Creek that wound through the canyon floor like a sapphire snake. Stopping to fill his water bottle, John doused his head, working to revive himself for the final leg of his journey.

"There you are. Don't drown, Johnny."

Hearing the familiar voice, John sprang up, dragged a pearly rope of water with him that arced over his head and lashed his back in a wet line. He ran his hand across his face, rubbed his eyes as the Havasupai man approached him on horseback, leading another horse behind him. John moved away from the water, holding up his hand in greeting.

"Chickapanagie? What the hell?"

"John Winchester, I dreamed you'd be arriving today. Thought I'd come meet you, make sure you didn't fall into the creek." Jumping off his horse, the medicine-man grasped John by the hand. "Gam'yu, nya nuwa." He lifted his palm to his mouth then pressed it over his heart. Opening his arms wide, he tugged John into a crushing bear hug.

John latched on, returning the fierce embrace. "Gam'yu, Chickapanagie. Goddamn it's good to see you. Fuck, things are bad right now. Real bad. I need your help. I really need your help."

Chickapanagie nodded, his sundried face alight. "So I see and feel. Big movements in the Game." He swiped his hand through his gray hair, stood tall and sniffed the morning breeze. Turning to John, he quirked an eyebrow, "Well, you look like shit, Johnny. Come on, now that you've found me, you can fill me in as we ride. Then we can make plans to help your young white pawn."

"Young white what?"

Chickapanagie chuckled. "Oh Johnny, you haven't changed." He cocked his head at the hunter, considering. "But you need sleep. You're about to drop. The Game will wait a few hours while we smoke and talk. I'll help in whatever way I can."

"You're not making a lick a'sense."

"Yes I am. You're just too tired, too…you…to get it. C'mon, man, let me help you on the horse."

The hunter stared at him blankly, too numb to understand. The Havasupai man threaded his fingers into a makeshift stirrup, wiggling them playfully. "That's it, be a big boy, now, climb up on the horsy."

John pursed his lips bitchily. "You're hysterical. Move, old man, I got this." With a grunt, he clutched the reins and mounted the horse without Chickapanagie's help.

"Good for you, Johnny-boy." The older man looked him up and down. "But we must call you Wobbles-in-the-Saddle from now on, though, I think. Now don't fall off." Chickapanagie mounted his own horse, eased alongside John, watching him with amused concern. "There now, let's hear this story of yours. Tell me what's happening and how The People can help."





****




Will rolled onto his stomach, the too soft mattress sucking him into its depths. His hands curled around his pillow, drawing it close and snuggling into its familiarity. A groggy, half-smile quirked his lips as he breathed deep, inhaling the scent of leather, sweat and whiskey—of family and home. His eyelashes fluttered open.

He lay there for some time, blinking and breathing but not thinking. And as his brain began to recognize the shapes and forms around him, his eyes went wide with horror and he pitched up on his elbows, pawing at The Perv's leather jacket he'd been cuddling.

"Huhghh!" Will flung the jacket off the bed with a gasp of disgust. He sat up, rubbing and pinching his lids until he saw blobs like photoflashes in front of his eyes. Once his vision cleared he realized he was still trapped in a nightmare. Noticing his backpack lying at the bottom of the mattress, Will drew it to him, smelling his sister and mom on it. He whimpered into the nylon, wishing with all his might he was home with them.

At that, Pugsley's head staggered up from the table with a snort, and he bobbled there a moment, blinking torpidly, puffy-eyed and unaware of the ridiculous imprint the book he'd fallen asleep against had made on his face.

"Aw crap." The boy noticed the lamp burning low, most of its oil having been wasted during the long night. Shielding the chimney with his palm, Pugsley blew it out, then smiled at Will. "Good morning."

Will made no return gesture. There was nothing good about this. He tangled his fists into his backpack, holding it close.

Pugsley nodded as though he'd known or guessed everything going through Will's mind. "Sorry. Didn't mean it that way." He wiped his cheeks and ran his fingers down the corners of his mouth, pinching his lips. Giving the room a muzzy once-over, he swallowed, whistled, "Whew, s'hot in here, already."

"Wow, you should get a job with the Weather Channel. You're a regular barometer." Will knew he was being unfair. After all, the kid was stuck here, too. But he couldn't help letting his anger get the best of him. He had to vent at someone, and Pugley was the only person within 20 miles.

Pugsley's glance slid to his hands, studying his fingers. "Yeah, I guess so, huh?" He heaved a sigh. Will didn't know what the kid was yammering about, doubted the kid knew either. It was just something to fill the awkward silence.

Climbing down from the chair, Pugsley stretched, made his way to the window. "Dad must've found his friend by now. One more day and we'll be able to get out'a here. But for today, we'll just hang. That sound good? Huh?" He craned his neck toward Will.

"Oh wow, fun." Will snapped, then winced, shifting on the bed, drawing up his legs. The two Mountain Dews he'd consumed the night before had made their way south and were urgently pleading for release.

Pugsley gave him a knowing nod. "Don't worry," he said, as if responding to Will's thoughts. "One sec, okay?" He rooted around, grabbed the bucket and a ratty roll of toilet paper. Bringing it over, he set it in front of Will. "I'm gonna go outside, make sure everything's secure. I'll let you be alone. I'll be back in a couple of minutes."

Without another word, the kid left, closing the door behind him. Will was grateful, but his humiliation ran deep when he had to both urinate and defecate in the bucket. He sniffled, his diaphragm hitching as he inched away from the bucket like it was filled with snakes. Noticing the discarded leather jacket a few feet away, he pinched it in his fingers and draped it over the bucket, trapping the odors inside. Will smiled. It wasn't much, but this small act of revenge provided him some measure of satisfaction.

When Pugsley returned, he noticed the covered bucket and arched his eyebrow. "Done?" was all he said.

Will gave him a panicked, jerky nod. "Don't' look inside." His chest hitched again, more snuffling. "Please don't look inside."

"I won't, I promise." Pugsley said, full of empathy. "I'll just dump it and run, okay?"

He wasn't gone but a matter of seconds, and when he returned he carried only the jacket with him. He must have left the bucket outside the door. Saying nothing about what had happened, Pugsley put his hands on his hips and began tidying the room. "It's really, really hot now. I'm gonna start the air conditioner, let it run low for a while. Cool things off." He rubbed a smudge of sweat off his neck. "You hungry? Thirsty?"

Yeah, he was, both in fact, but Will sure as hell wasn't going to go through pissing and crapping in a bucket a second time. He'd wait until The Perv came back to get them. He shooed the kid away. "No. Leave me alone."

"You should drink, you know. It's too hot. You'll make yourself sick."

"Thank you, Florence Nightingale. How's about you just let me go, instead. Give me a bottle of water and I'll be on my way."

"You know I can't do that."

Will crawled into his corner with an angry huff, fiddled with the zipper on his backpack. "Why? I'm not your dumbass brother. I keep telling you."

"But what if you are? Have you ever thought of that?"

"I'm not, though."

"Well…" Pugsley walked to the bed, sat down, "You asked me how it would feel if someone kidnapped me, and I said I'd feel like you. But let's just pretend for a minute. What would you do if suddenly one day Macy disappeared? She was right there one moment and then gone the next. Let's say you looked and looked and looked for months and then when you finally found her, she didn't know you, didn't care about you. What if none of your past together that you remember so well meant anything to her, and she just wanted to get as far away from you as she could, even though you love her so much it kills you inside? How would you feel? What would you do? Wouldn't you try and convince her who she really was, even if she didn't want to know?"

Pugsley rose, snagged two bottles of water, then crawled back onto the bed, keeping his distance but still close enough that Will couldn't avoid him. Pugsley opened his bottle and drank his fill, then wiped his lips, offering the other to Will. Will shook him off, refusing.

"Well?" Pugsley prompted him.

"Well what? It'd suck. I'd try and talk some sense into her. But all you people have done is tie me up and shove me way the hell out in the boonies and spout a bunch'a nonsense about ghosts and goblins. It's insane. You don't know me, pal. You think you do, but you don't. You don't know jack-all about who I am."

The kid stared at him for a few agonizing moments then, "You like cars and music."

"Nice try. They said that much on the news."

"Yeah, but they didn't say how you'll sit and read car magazines for hours, and I mean for, like, hours and hours, while listening to music. And your favorite music is whatever your dad likes, right?"

"Well, duh. Music of the 60's and 70's rocks. Anyone would like it."

Pugsley continued, "Okay, so some of this might not be one-hundred percent because you're—you're a little different this way. But I bet a lot of it still works because, well, because you're also mostly the same, too. So when you were young, you used to suck your thumb. Dad says you did it until you were, like six or seven years old. No one knows why. You just did. And then one day you stopped—out'a the blue, you just…stopped. You love your bacon extra, extra crispy. You love pie and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off…even now. Every time you eat one, you still cut the crusts off. You love cheeseburgers with as much bacon as your parents will allow you to put on it. Your favorite cereal is Lucky Charms and you hate peas—I mean, you really hate them. You pick them out of anything that has ‘em: pot-pies, stew, soups, doesn't matter, if there's a pea in your bowl, you pick ‘em out. You call it pea-patrol, and you won't rest until every pea is gone. And only then will you eat."

Okay, now this was getting creepy. Will went to say something but the kid cut him off.

"You want to be a mechanic like your dad. Part of that is because you love cars, but part…part is because you know it'd make your dad proud of you. You love it because you love him and want to be close to him. You love your little sister, but you try not to show it too much—don't want the twerp thinking she can run all over you. You call her ‘dork', ‘princess', ‘twerp', ‘freakazoid' more often then you call her by her name. And when you do call her by her name, I bet you change it, make a nickname out of it that's close but not quite right, and I bet she hates it, too."

"Stop." Will sat up, getting uncomfortable now.

"When you go to the movies you don't throw popcorn at your little sister, you strategically place kernels in her hair and on her shoulders throughout the movie, making sure she doesn't notice, giggling to yourself. Then by the time the movie's over she's got a crown of popcorn, and you laugh like it's the funniest thing in the whole freakin' world. And the madder she gets about it, the funnier you think it is. You do this every single time you go to the movies. It's really annoying, by the way."

"I said stop! How do you know all that? You and your freaky dad been following me everywhere?"

"N—no," he hesitated, "no, I know it because I know you. You are Dean, even if you don't believe you are. Even if you don't remember."

Will shook his head, obstinate and scared. "I would remember if I didn't remember!"

"So much is the same," the kid went on, not allowing Will to shut him down. "It's hard to explain. You're you, all right, in all the ways that count the most, but you're different in some ways, too. I guess this must be you—this must you if Mom hadn't died."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I can't explain it. You're like…Dean with two parents and no hunting. You're…you're like—you're like Crystal Pepsi."

"Huh?"

"Yeah, just like Crystal Pepsi…it's Pepsi…but, you know…lighter. You're Dean-lite."

"You're such a dweeb."

Pugsley smiled. "It's the closest analogy as I can find."

"Analogy? Really? God, you must be one of them bookworm eggheads."

The kid shrugged. "What? I like words."

"What a dork." Will held out his hand for the water bottle, opened it, took the tiniest sip to wet his mouth, then handed it back. "If I was your brother, and I'm not saying I am, but if I was, I sure as hell would've made you cut your hair. The ‘70's are long gone, doof, you might want to leave the geek-do back where it belongs."

The Sam-kid laughed long and loud. "Yeah," he said, at last. "Like I said…Dean-lite."

They both fell silent, each lost in thought. Will turned to Pugs—Sam. "Okay, Sam. But we have to come to an agreement. I get it now. I do. You think I'm your brother and he and I have a lot in common. But I don't want you to call me that name, okay?"

"I—I'm sorry."

"I know you mean well and all. I also know you miss him, but it's not gonna help anything if we keep arguing about this anymore. I can't convince you I'm not him, and you're never gonna convince me that I am. So, could we just stop with all that? It really messes with my head. Please."

"Sorry, Will. I'm…I'm sorry. Yeah. Okay. I won't do that anymore. Let's talk about other stuff. Here, tell me about your family—tell me what it's like living and going to school in one place."

"What do you mean?"

"My—my family moves around a lot," he explained, "So, I was wondering what it was like to, you know, not have to do that. Tell me about it. What're they like, your parents?"

"It's great. They're great. They're strict as hell, yeah, but mostly they're great." Will snickered. "They like to think they're real grown-up and mature, but they can both get real silly. Embarrassing. There've been a couple of times when—" he paused, "—well, let's just say I got a hundred stories..."





****





Chickapanagie's jaw worked as he chewed on John's story, digesting it, wagging his head and snorting as John described Dean's sudden absence and subsequent reality-break.

"My friend, a powerful psychic, told me it's White Magic, not Black, doing this. I don't even know what the hell that means to be honest, but either way, I need your help. You're the strongest medicine man I know."

The Havasupai man's eyebrow shot up. "How many medicine men do you know? I hope its thousands, man. That'd be pretty cool."

"You know what I mean," John said. "I've never seen anyone hold a demon without a devil's trap. You did that. Kept it inside Tlootha's body, pushed it away so he could communicate with us, give us information on where the demon had hidden the children. I've never seen that done before or since—not by anyone."

Chickapanagie nodded. "Well, Tlootha's my son. I fought the demon for him. A father does what must be done to protect his own. And you're the one who got that thing out of him. I owe you my life for that. You did the exorcism." He shrugged. "Why the Pai language isn't good enough for a demon, I'll never know." He rolled his shoulders. "Had to be Latin." He said it with a hoity-toity huff. "Christian demons, man, I tell you. Snobs. Every one of them."

John smiled, but his mirth soon evaporated. He shifted in the saddle. "Probably shouldn't have built that church on the reservation. That's where it came through."

"Maybe," Chickapanagie agreed, "but we didn't build it. Spanish missionaries forced that on us a hundred and fifty years ago. Still, I learned something from the whole experience."

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

Chickapanagie grinned. "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis statanica potestas…"

"Well look at you…"

"I'll be ready next time." Chickapanagie sat high in his saddle.

John quieted, then, "So, can you help him? Can you help my son?"

The sun crawled down the western wall of the canyon, flooding the chiseled travertine terraces with peach-colored sunshine. Chickapanagie smiled up at the sight.

"Did I ever tell you the Havasupai legend of Tochopa and Hokomata?"

"Um…no," John said impatiently. "Is this going somewhere?"

"Do I ever speak without reason, Johnny?"

The hunter took a deep breath, gripped the reins tighter. "No."

"Good, then shut up, man." Chickapanagie grinned and pointed to the canyon walls. "The Great Father had two sons, Tochopa and Hokomata. Twin gods. One day Tochopa, the god of Light began playing a game of strategy against his brother, Hokomata, the god of Darkness. When things did not go well for Hokomata, he raged and decided he would drown the world. Tochopa swore an oath to stop him. They waged war against one another, breaking the land around them. That war created the canyons. Both the war and the Game have been going on ever since, and like the Havasupai against the Apache—their animosity runs deep. They are brothers who war without end."

The old Havasupai man made a large gesture, taking in the canyon around him. "The Game goes on about us all the time. Many light and dark spirits have joined in, aiding the brothers, siding with whomever they feel the most kinship. Most humans do not know the Game exists. They go about their lives, blaming the wind or the shifting earth when one or another brother makes a move. Some of us know the Game goes on. We see it. We strive to prevent people from getting hurt by the shifts in the Game, but we ourselves do not take sides. It is not our war, after all. The brothers must settle this between themselves. I was named after my great grandfather, the mighty hunter Chickapanagie. But," he winked at John, "he hunted many things, not just elk and deer. Many have fought against the spirits who wage war when they forget to care about the humans who get caught in their crossfire."

He sighed. "And sometimes humans don't only get caught in the crossfire, they become tools, they get used as pieces in the Game by spirits and gods, forcing them to carry out their will." He looked at John expectantly. "Do you understand?"

John blinked. "Not a fuckin' clue, chief. Get to your point."

"Just a medicine man, here, Johnny." Chickapanagie joked, his eyes rolling heavenward. "Your son, small but mighty, is being used in the Game. Tochopa's magic surrounds him, making him believe he is who he is not. Those using Tochopa's power do not know—do not care—about the inconvenience this causes him or his family. These doers are vigilantes. They care for nothing but the outcome. They care for nothing but the Game."

"I don't give a shit about any of that. I just want my son. Can you fix it? Can you remove the magic?"

"Remember when my son, Tlootha, was taken by the demon? Remember how we trapped and expelled it?"

"How could I ever forget?"

"We must do much the same thing here. The entity controlling your son is not within his body, but we must dispel the power corrupting him, much like blowing sand off slate to reveal the true color of the rock beneath."

John stretched in his saddle, washed his face with his hand as they entered Supai. The village was waking up, a few hikers passed them by on their trek to the falls. Hearing the whirl of a helicopter, John looked above him as it landed just a thousand feet from them.

"You serious? You people don't have cars or roads or electricity, but you have a fuckin' helicopter?"

Chickapanagie laughed. "Hey, tourists want what they want—or don't want. And some of them don't want a ten-mile hike. Tlootha got his pilot's license a few years ago. The People have to eat more than peaches, you know. The charter business helps pay for our school.

John raised his eyebrows. "All righty, then." He shook off the thought. "So, can we do this now—help Dean? What'll it take?"

"We must first prepare our souls as well as our bodies for the fight, Johnny. First things first." He pointed ahead of him to a small stone church with a ceremonial, coned wickiup in front.

As they approached, John noticed a woman standing outside the wickiup, smiling and waving to them. She wore western garb, jeans and a cotton t-shirt. Yet, strapped to her back was a very traditional cradleboard with a small, brown-haired head peeking out the top.

She called to him. "John Winchester! Gam'yu!"

The hunter rubbed his eyes, squinting. Recognizing her, he jumped off his horse and greeted her warmly. "Yunosi!"

She leaned in for a warm hug. "Chickapanagie told us you were coming today." She bowed to the shaman. "Refreshment is ready. Tlootha has a few more flights today. He will be back later to help prepare for the Sweat Ceremony."

Smiling, John pointed to the baby. "That's new. You and Tlootha have been busy, huh?"

Yunosi laughed. "Very busy. This is Chickapanagie's second grandson since you visited."

The hunter released the hug, but still held her arm. "How's Tlootha?"

Her young face hinted at the devastation of five years ago, but her smile wiped the pain away. "He's good, John. He's strong and well. We'll never forget what you did for us. He'll be so happy to see you." She turned to Chickapanagie. "Come inside, Dála. Drink and smoke are ready for you."

The three entered the wickiup and sat on the dirt floor. Chickapanagie picked up a long pipe, tapping the dried peyote and tobacco mixture into the bowl.

"Whoa! What are you doing, chief? We need to help Dean."

"We are. We must prepare ourselves for the journey ahead. One does not talk to The Great Father sober. He will not listen. But if you'd rather, you can have some cleansing tea for now."

He passed a steaming clay cup to John. "What's in it?"

"Water, herbs…it won't get you high, man. Drink."

John swirled the cup, giving it a suspicious sniff and a small test-sip. It tasted like warm rain with a vague, mossy aftertaste. "Fine, but I left my kids in that cabin at the southern tip of the reservation. I can't leave them alone for long."

"Do not worry, Johnny." Chickapanagie settled, lit his pipe and took a long toke. "I am not a seer of the future, but I smell, taste, and feel that the young pawns are well. They are…" he closed his eyes, breathing deep. "They are reacquainting. Their souls are speaking to one another again, unwedging the distance between them. I hear laughter on the wind."

John took a few gulps of the wet tea, placated by Chickapanagie's assurance. "That's fine, but I need this thing fixed. This has been going on for months. It's been—" he ran his hands through his sweaty hair, "it's been a nightmare. This is my kid. My boy."

"Yes, Johnny. And we will not abandon you to fight alone. You brought Tlootha back to us, and we will find your son and bring him back to you. But you cannot rush communion with The Great Father. I will need to gather my strength and the strength of my tribe, for we cannot dispel the magic without them. We have many preparations to make."

Chickapanagie's words drizzled over John like rain on a glass window, warping and twisting as they descended. John fingered his ringing ear, blinked at the mug seeping tea into his lap, his other hand lying limp next to it. "Whassa?" He reached for the mug and missed, reached again and missed again. "Whassa cup…thing…huh?" He bobbed his head at Chickapanagie. "Chief?"

"Still just a medicine man, Johnny." Yunosi and Chickapanagie caught him as he fell, easing him onto the dirt floor. Their brown faces smiled at him, their soft voices hummed in his head. "No worries, there we go. We gotcha."

"Th'fuck ja'do?"

The medicine man snorted with mirth and arched an eyebrow skyward. "Nothing, much, man." He pointed to the upturned cup wetting John's crotch. "Herbal remedy for exhaustion. Had to do it. You're a hot mess, Johnny. We wouldn't be able to get you to rest without it. Go to sleep. We'll make preparations. Best not to have you underfoot anyway. We think the world of you, John Winchester, but you're a pain in the ass. Let us watch over you while your body and spirit recharge." The Havasupai man's brown eyes sparkled with mischief and tender concern.

Yunosi waved. "Sleep tight, John Winchester!"

"Basssards," was John's final word on the matter before sleep claimed him.

Continue to Chapter 5





****




Assorted Pai Vocabulary:

Gam'yu, nya nuwa ("Hello, my friend.")

Dála ("Father")

 
 
 
The Long and Winding Roadamypond45 on February 26th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC)
I love the native american mythology! Such a relief to see Sam reconnecting with his brother -- he must've missed him something awful. Also thank you for portraying John with such complexity while still being the obsessive bastard we love to hate (and I don't hate him, he just comes across so unsympathetically so much of the time!)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 27th, 2015 02:36 am (UTC)
John is a challenge to write...that's for sure. He is so complex. He's a hero or a villain depending upon who writes him. For myself...he's a little bit of both, I think. He's a lot like the rest of us, in may ways...so flawed, but trying their best.

Thanks so much for the comment. :)

Kat
lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on February 26th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)


Loving,loving this story, you're a very talented writer! :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 27th, 2015 02:36 am (UTC)
lidia, you never fail to put a huge smile on my face. Thank you so much for this. I'm so happy you like this one.

Kat
jpgr: SPN Dean shrug anijpgr on February 27th, 2015 12:49 am (UTC)
You weave your stories so well and each one has a different basis. The only constant (aside from damn fine writing) is the Dean whump!

Another wonderful installment!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 27th, 2015 02:37 am (UTC)
Haha! I do like my whump...and I'm only just getting started with Dean in this story. ;) Oh come on...you knew it was coming. :P

/hugs

Kat
taylorariel on February 27th, 2015 03:36 am (UTC)
Once again I appreciate all the work that goes into each chapter. Glad that Dean/Will is being more reasonable to Sam. And Glad that John has gotten help. I look forward to what comes ahead. Thank You.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 27th, 2015 05:04 am (UTC)
You're so sweet, taylorariel. I agree with you. I really am glad that Dean/Will is bonding with Sam...and I'm so happy Sam is so present for him.

I'm thrilled you're enjoying the story. Thanks again! :)

Kat
tifachingtifaching on March 2nd, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
Love, love, love half asleep Dean connecting the smells of John's jacket with home and security. And Sam knowing his brother inside and out and letting Will know it. And, as always, much love for your John. Hard assed and mistake making but loving and doing his best.

And your outside characters. So brilliantly drawn.

On to the next chapter!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on March 2nd, 2015 03:25 am (UTC)
Dean is definitely in there some where, isn't he?

Oh yeah...John is so...*snort*..."John". God love him, but dayamn...

Thanks so, so much. :)

Kat