Bad Moon Rising
By CS WhiteWolf
[ main | part one | part two | the artwork | notes ]
Dean hissed as a splash of cold water landed on the back of his neck, running in an icy-cold trail down beneath the collar of his jacket and shirt both as he ducked his head enough to slip under the reaching branches of the trees surrounding him. Finally clearing the trees, he found himself stepping into a relatively small clearing. He scanned the area, seeing his dad, John, crouched down on the ground examining a clump of autumn leaves.
Without the trees for cover, Dean quickly grabbed at the lapels of his coat and hitched it closer, trying to stop the spitting drops of rainwater from slipping beneath the leather once more. He stared sourly at the back of his dad’s head. He was cold and wet and tired of hiking in circles through the same goddamned forest for the better part of a day, but he knew better than to say anything. John’s moods of late swung between surly and angry so fast that Dean couldn’t be sure if he’d be ducking spiteful words or a cuff aimed at the back of his head by the end of the day.
He pursed his lips and tore his eyes away, scanning his surroundings as he’d been taught for signs of anything untoward; bent blades of grass, crushed leaves, broken branches, and so on and so forth. Dean shifted his weight and tried not to sigh too loudly as the rain seemed to turn it up a notch, pouring itself down upon them with a renewed force. He saw his dad’s shoulders tense and wondered if the rain or his huffing had brought about the reaction. He adjusted his posture, a fighting stance, and turned his eyes this way and that in a continuous sweep of the area as John finally straightened, turning to him.
Dean avoided his dad’s gaze, even as he felt the intensity of John’s eyes on him in the moment before he barked out something that sounded appropriately commanding and disappeared into the thick foliage surrounding them. Biting back a curse, Dean hefted his rucksack and followed. He desperately hoped they would be heading back to their motel now, preferably with a quick pit-stop at the burger joint he’d spotted in the drive up to the Sheyenne State Forest in which they’d been trudging around for the better part of a day.
This was their first hunt together, his and John’s, that is. At least, this was their first hunt together in a of couple months. They’d hunted together before, of course, the older his younger brother, Sam- Sammy- grew, the less he’d wanted to be a part of what they did and so they’d had to leave him behind a couple hunts in the past.
This one was different though. This hunt was the first since Sam had left them. Gone off to collage or some bullshit and left his family behind with nary a backwards glance. It hurt, not having his brother around. He’d practically raised the kid himself and it had felt very much the same as a stab in the back when Sam had suddenly announced to John and himself that he’d applied and been accepted into Stanford, he was going away to school to study law (of all goddamned things), and then dad had gone absolutely ballistic.
Words had been thrown like punches with Dean sitting in the middle, trying to play devils advocate and getting nothing but curses and word-punches thrown at him for his troubles. Tempers had been at an all time high and then, when Dean had thought real fists were going be brought into play, everything went deathly silent and John had said the words that had ripped the three of them apart (a tear that certainly felt irreparable). He’d told Sammy to go. He’d told his youngest son (Dean’s baby brother) to pack his bags and leave right then. He’d told Sam that if he walked out that door, if he left them, that he wasn’t welcome back. Ever.
Dean had intervened then, one hand on Sammy’s arm to stop him (the guy was stubborn like that and Dean knew he’d go just to spite John) and got right up in his father’s space trying make him take it back. He got smacked then, a sucker-punch right across the jaw. It wasn’t a hard punch, by any means. In fact it was relatively soft and restrained, particularly when considered in hindsight and just how enraged his dad was at the time.
He’d stumbled back from it all the same, his eyes wide, mouth slack with the shock of John having raised a hand to him at all (out with training and the odd smack to the back of the head for his lip of course). Sam had shifted beside him, muscles bunched and ready but Dean simply squeezed the arm he held before dropping his hand altogether. He never took his eyes off John. John who wasn’t even looking at him anymore but at Sam, who, in the calmest voice he could muster told John that his bag was already packed and his bus left in a half hour.
Dean went numb then, hearing those words. This wasn’t something Sam could be talked out of, this wasn’t even something he’d wanted to talk to them about, this was goodbye- a right proper fuck you and so long- and Dean couldn’t even look at him. The silence stretched out for seconds that ticked along like hours before Sam moved, snatched up a duffle and shoulder-bag and left what was passing for their home this week without another word.
John found a bottle of Jack soon after. Dean locked himself in the bathroom.
Sometimes he wondered if he shouldn’t have gone after Sam. Talked to him. Talked him out of going. He hadn’t spoken to his brother in months now. He’d dialled his number a couple of times, thumb hesitant over the call button, but always he’d ended it before it could start. A part of him was terrified the number wouldn’t connect, that Sam had purged even that last connection to them from his life. Another part of him knew he’d just shit his brother out for leaving and he hated himself for it.
He hated Sam for it all the same; for what he’d done and how he’d done it, for how John had taken it and reacted to it, for the way it felt like he was being punished by both of them for it and he didn’t know how to make it better. He resented them both for splitting the family. It was never peaches and cream between the three of them, even before Sammy left, but they’d at least been together. They’d still been a family. Dean didn’t know what they were anymore.
He heard the sound of the impala’s engine purring to life before he saw her. John was already sitting behind the wheel by the time Dean trudged his way out of the trees. He didn’t mean to slam the door closed behind him as he slipped into the passenger seat (except, he kind of did).
John’s head snapped round at the sound, his gaze a glare which Dean met for the first time in a long while. He felt a thrum rush through him and realised he was sporting for a fight, for a right proper blood and bruised up fight. John realised it too, his jaw tensing as he, with deliberate effort, turned away. His knuckles were white in their grip upon the steering wheel. Dean turned his gaze to look out the side window, his body trembling with unspent adrenaline. He closed his eyes as John put the car into gear and reversed them out of the forest.
- - -
They were staying in a small motel just outside of Fort Ransom and the Sheyenne State Forest where the primary focus of their hunt was located. As with most of the motels Dean had stayed in all his life, it left much to be desired: peeling wallpaper lined the walls, the edges curling and yellowing with age; two rickety beds were pushed up against the far wall, and though they’d been made up with fresh enough bedding (apparently), the sheets upon them were still stained and grubby enough to appear as though they’d sooner walk off themselves to be washed than wait for the management to get to them; and to kick things off the toilet was broken and the hot water only seemed to run in cold and extra cold.
Still, it wasn’t the worst place he’d ever stayed in. That thought in itself was depressing enough for Dean to turn his attention back upon his father, who’d seated himself at the large window-facing table. John was bent over his journal and some accompanying local maps, noting down whatever nuggets of information he’d picked up today whilst Dean had been freezing his balls off.
Dean dumped his rucksack onto his bed and shrugged out of his jacket before moving to sit opposite his father. He reached for some of the paperwork they’d been looking through that had led them to trek up into North Dakota; newspaper articles, obituaries, local police reports- all of which depicted in words and images the horrific mutilation of five locals. All of the bodies had been ravished almost beyond recognition and autopsies preformed on what was left of the bodies suggested animal attacks, in particular a wolf.
Or in their world, the attacks had all the implications of these having been werewolf attacks. The attacks all happened around the time of the full moon, the shape and indentation of the bite marks, though reminiscent of a wolf or wild dog, too suggested a werewolf (or so his father claimed, though to be fair, Dean knew he didn’t have nearly the same level of experience his dad did when it came to hunting), and all five bodies had been found in roughly the same area of woodland.
They’d arrived in Fort Ransom just three days prior and spent the first and second of those days speaking to the locals, the county sheriffs department and the families of the bereaved in an attempt to arm themselves with as much information as to the whereabouts and linking factors between each of the victims.
There hadn’t been much connecting them save for the location, moon phase and the manner in which they’d been mauled. Two of the victims, a Sam and Derek Jones had been out camping off-track, aside from them however all of the victims were unknown to one another.
The Sheriff’s department had already closed off the campsite and trails to locals and called in Animal Control. Having intercepted the call early on, John and Dean had arrived, ready to pass themselves off as rangers prepared to catch and kill the wolf that had been terrorizing the locals for three months now.
Dean shifted the papers into a semblance of order and spied amongst them a chart of moon phases. Circled in red was the date of the next full moon; tomorrow night.
“Do we have a plan?” Dean asked, his voice gruff from disuse. He realised he hadn’t actually spoken to his father (or anyone come to think of it) since their first day in Fort Ransom. He kept his eyes trained on the printout he held as his father paused in his writing and looked up at him.
John said nothing. Dean felt the pricking of his dad’s stare and reluctantly dragged his eyes up. He lifted the printout and indicated the full moon. John put his pen down.
“We have a plan,” he agreed.
The plan, if it could be called one at all, apparently involved the pair of them returning to the last clearing they’d passed through that day, around midday the next day, where they would prepare to lie in wait of the creature returning. Dean kept his face deliberately blank, his teeth biting at his cheek against the quipped remark of just how great an idea that was.
“Why that clearing?” Dean asked instead.
John’s eyes narrowed fractionally, “It’s where the nest is.”
Dean bit even harder at the inside of his cheek and tasted blood. The way his father said it implied that Dean should have known the answer without asking. Which he maybe should have, he realised, his mouth souring. That or he should have been smart enough not to ask in the first place and just have let his dad assume he knew.
“It’ll know we’ve been there,” Dean said, trying to deflect from his previous question, or at least imply that it hadn’t been nearly as stupid a question as it appeared to be. He’d seen his father crouched down in the damp earth, his head moving almost imperceptibly back and forth whilst his hands searched through the moist foliage and topsoil for prints and signs of recent activity. He should have spotted whatever his father had found to make him believe the werewolf would return to that same place. He would have, he supposed, if he hadn’t been so put out by the whole goddamned day and his father to boot.
“Let it know,” John answered, eyes flicking back down to his journal to make a notation on a page already brimming with his scrawlings. “These creatures aren’t smart, Dean. If they smell a human, they’ll want to hunt and kill it. They’re not going to stop and worry about their dinner fighting back.”
It was the most John had said to him in a week. Dean sighed inwardly and scrubbed a hand over his face. He wanted to ask his dad more about this plan of his, how they were going to cover all their bases, predict the direction the creature would come from, how they were going to overpower and kill it before it killed them, and so on and so forth. But John’s head was bent once more over his journal and Dean knew another interruption wouldn’t be taken well at all.
He pushed to his feet, walking over towards his bed and the rucksack he’d dropped upon it. Inside there lay a variety of knives and guns, all silver in one way or another. He pulled out the weapons, laying them out by type and size along his mattress before beginning to check them for any nicks or scratches. He cleaned each weapon one at a time too; oiling, sharpening, and ensuring that each one would perform as predicted in any given situation. His dad’s plan (or lack thereof) sounded far too much like a suicide mission to him and there was no way he was going back into that damned clearing without being armed to the teeth and prepared as much as he could be to deal with a friggen werewolf.
- - -
The only thing Dean could think about, crouched down as he was in the damp undergrowth surrounding the werewolf’s suspected lair with his legs cramping with cold and fatigue and his stomach threatening to give away his position through its hungry grumbling, was that at least it wasn’t raining. The clouds above them were thick and heavy looking as they passed across the sky, obscuring and revealing in turn the glare of the full moon, but they had thankfully refrained from emptying their load down upon them.
They’d been out in the forest since midday, checking the lay of the land and assuming the best places for each of them to sit in wait of the creature returning. Dean had assumed that once they’d sorted their positioning out, that they’d return to the motel and finalise this ‘plan’ of theirs. It was not to be. John had settled down in the clump of bushes he’d claimed as his own soon after and with no other choice but to follow suit, Dean had done the same with his area of the clearing.
He had momentarily considered leaving his father to it, just heading back to the impala and the motel and getting some shut eye or another weapons check or just anything that would keep him occupied enough that he wouldn’t be spending every second of the rest of the day thinking about the creature they were after and how just the thought of coming face-to-face with a real life werewolf was enough to make his stomach roll and bile creep up his throat in uncharacteristic fear.
John didn’t take well to shows of weakness (or desertion) however and despite his feelings towards his father at the moment, he was and knew that he would always be, his father’s soldier. He wasn’t a blind one, however, following John’s word without question or challenge (no matter how much Sammy had liked to tell him otherwise), but he was an obedient one.
And so here they were. It was nearly midnight now and Dean was sure that if nothing happened soon he’d end up dying where he crouched through the exposure alone. He’d long ago lost all feeling his feet, and he was sure that his fingers were not far behind them. He dared not shift to relieve the cramps creeping up his thighs either, knowing that their hiding places were precarious at best and that even the softest pressure of boot to wet leaf could alert a creature with hearing as sharp as any wild animals was.
Dean was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he very nearly missed the first signs of activity since they’d taken their places in the surrounding shrubbery; the shuddering leaves of a bush directly opposite him on the other side of the clearing. He held his breath, fingers becoming sweaty now as he cautiously altered his hold on the gun cradled against his chest, turning and aiming it towards the bushes.
Next there came a flash of black-grey against dark-green as the moon peaked out from beneath a cloud and highlighted the area with a disquieting brightness. Dean blinked against the suddenness of the light, momentarily startled, and lost sight of the creature. He cursed inwardly, eyes flickering left and right and left again, his ears prickled for the softest of sounds as he held his breath and tried to ignore the loudening thumping of his heart as it beat its staccato rhythm against his ribs.
Movement to his immediate right had Dean turning quickly, the leaves around him rustling with the sharp jerk his body made as he twisted in his position; wet leaves from the upper branches dropping spots of rainwater in a steady drip-drip-drop against the leather of his jacket. He brought his gun up as he moved and…
The sight of a brownish-grey wolf standing before him briefly stilled his finger on the trigger. He had a mere second to realise that the wolf was just that, a wolf and not the werewolf they were after, before it dropped itself into a sudden crouch and snarled a teeth-baring growl towards him. Before Dean could reconsider shooting it however he heard an echoing growl emitted just inches behind him and he felt himself grow instantly cold.
A million and one thoughts flashed across his mind in the split second before instinct and training kicked in and Dean launched himself forward into a shoddy dive and twist that cleared him from the undergrowth, throwing him out into the clearing in a move that knocked the air from his lungs as he landed heavily upon his back.
He thought of how he should have kept his legs from cramping so badly he botched his landing, his body awkwardly twisted and his arms too slow in raising his gun to get off the shot he’d been hoping to aim back into the bushes.
He heard his dad yell out his name, branches rustling, boots stamping across the clearing and thought of how he wished he’d had a chance to tell his dad that he loved him and how he wished he could love him back as much as he seemed to love Sammy.
He raised his shotgun, holding it up like a barrier, just as the werewolf launched itself out into the clearing after him, its weight crushing the breath from Dean as it landed heavily upon his chest.
The creature’s jaws snapped down upon the barrel of the gun, right over Dean’s hand and suddenly the whole world seemed to slow itself down. Seconds turned to minutes and Dean watched in horrified fascination as the werewolf’s teeth sank themselves inch by inch into the soft flesh of his wrist; blood welled up and over, running down his forearm in a warm gush before the crunch of bone breaking sounded and pain spiked its way furiously throughout his arm.
Everything sped up again then and Dean screamed. He screamed through the pain of the bite, at the feel of sharp claws raking at his body, at the fear that this was it for him, this was the end.
He thought then of Sammy. In the moments before the creature dragged him easily up and threw him across the clearing like some kind of ragdoll, before the blackness of unconsciousness claimed him, he thought of his brother. And he thought of how he should have just called Sammy, even if it was just hear his voice, just to tell him he didn’t hate him for leaving.
- - -
“Dean!” John’s cry went unheard as he launched his way through the undergrowth towards his son, watching in alarm as the werewolf they’d been hunting launched itself at Dean, snarling and growling, its teeth snapping at the futile barrier Dean’s gun created between them. Dean screamed suddenly and the sound sent a chill of fear as he’d seldom felt before sliding up his spine.
John aimed his gun as quickly as possible, finger squeezing at the trigger just as the werewolf lifted Dean and threw him bodily into the trunk of a nearby tree; his body thumping heavily against both it and then the ground. His shot went wide and John cursed himself. The werewolf turned to him with an angry snarl and John lifted the gun again, taking aim and firing.
The shot took the werewolf in the shoulder but did nothing to deter the creature as it let out an unearthly howl of anger and crouched itself down low, preparing to attack. John aimed again but just as he made to take his next shot, the wolf he’d seen circling them moments before the attack suddenly reappeared, leaping at the werewolf with its own angry roar and a snap of jaws.
A fight broke out between both animals then, sounds of ripping flesh and yelping cries echoing around the clearing as John quickly circled round towards where Dean lay in an unmoving heap. John was torn between the want to continue fighting in the hunt they’d started, to reload and empty the barrel of his gun into the motherfucking creature that dared attack his flesh and blood, but perhaps more than that he wanted to get to his son, he wanted to get them both the hell out of the way whilst the two creatures before them fought it out.
Upon reaching Dean, John found his mind quickly made up. Dean was covered in blood. John’s hand shook as he reached down to press his fingers to his son’s neck, his own heart stuttering at the quick fluttering heartbeat he felt.
“Alarte ascendare!” A voice suddenly roared out from the shadows. John twisted at the sound, gun raised and pointed into the shadows even as he made sure never to turn his gaze completely from the fight. A stream of light shot out of the darkness, rushing towards the fighting animals where, upon striking them, it exploded outwards, throwing both of them bodily into the air. They landed with yelps of pain, the werewolf turning and fleeing into the shadows with the wolf not far behind it.
“Moony!” The voice shouted out again and John watched as a man in a long black cloak ran into the clearing. The man stopped abruptly, his gaze falling onto John and then onto Dean and John saw him hesitate, his gaze flickering in the direction the animals went before cursing and hurrying over towards them.
“Is he alive?” The words were brisk and to the point, the accent familiarly British. John jerked his head in a nod, his hand tightening on his gun.
“Are you hurt?” The man asked then.
John shook his head. “I’m fine.” His free hand snapped out, grabbing at the stranger’s arm as he reached out to touch at Dean’s neck.
“I’m a physician,” the man said. “He needs to be treated as quickly as possible.”
“There’s a hospital not far out from here.” John returned, eyeing the physician sceptically. The man wore what appeared to be, upon further inspection, a long black dress beneath the black cloak John had initially noticed. His hair was long, creeping past shoulder-length, and fell forward into his face, throwing what John could see of it into shadow.
“It’s a half hours drive,” the man countered, “and that’s after you’ve made it to your vehicle. I have a cabin not far from here. I can treat your son more adequately than any hospital.”
“Why should I trust you?” John pressed, distrustful. He watched as the stranger jerked back at the comment, as if physically offended by the question.
“Don’t then.” He pushed back to his feet and stepped away, making as if he were about to head out into the forest once again.
“Wait!” John stood just as swiftly, “I… just… look this is my son, he’s all I’ve got right now and I…” John gritted his teeth together, loosening the grip on his gun enough to slide the safety on and slip it into the back of his jeans. “I’m John Winchester, this is Dean.”
The stranger nodded stiffly. “My name is Severus Snape.”
He dropped back to his knees, reaching for something from inside his cloak. He lifted a vile of clear liquid up, scrutinized it a moment before pulling the stopper and reaching out quick as a snake and pouring its contents into Dean’s mouth, the fingers of his left hand moving from Dean’s jaw to his throat and massaging the muscles into a swallow.
“What the fuck are you doing?” John all but roared, snatching the vial from Severus’ hand. The man turned dark eyes upon him and John tensed, ready for a fight.
“Either you trust me to help your son, Mr Winchester, or you don’t. Do not for one moment think that I care which option you choose.” The words were an angry hiss, but John did not for one moment doubt their sincerity. He nodded his head in a tight gesture.
“Good,” Severus said, “I’ve given him a sedative to keep him unconscious and help ease the pain. Help he lift him.”
John bit at the insides of his mouth and with obvious reluctance placed his trust in the stranger enough to obey his command.
- - -
There was a cabin towards the edge of the forest on the opposite side from which John and Dean had entered. They’d noticed it during their initial scouting of the area, even spoken with one of its occupants to see whether, living as close to the area of the attacks as he did, he’d noticed anything that could aid them in their investigation. The man they’d spoken to had introduced himself as a Remus Lupin, a man John was quick to notice despite the current circumstances who appeared not to be at home. He recalled being in this selfsame kitchen a few days prior, invited in by Remus himself and served tea and chocolate as the man recalled a few titbits of information he felt might be of use to them.
Severus made quick work of clearing the workbench laid out in the middle of the kitchen before gesturing for John to lay Dean upon it. He quickly turned his thoughts to the moment and placed his son as gently as possible upon the stained wood, and set about removing Dean’s clothing without prompting. He stripped Dean to his boxers and accepted the washcloth Severus handed him.
It took him a while to notice that his hands were shaking. A sick feeling of dread settled itself in the pit of his stomach as he wiped the blood from Dean, a feeling that mixed itself with anxiety and fear at the sight of the gorging scratches the werewolf had left behind and… his hands stilled, fingers curling deathly tight upon the fingers of Dean’s right hand as he saw, clear as day, the imprints left behind on his wrist from a bite, a werewolf bite.
John prided himself on not being an emotional man. Not since Mary’s death had he truly been able to convey himself in any manner that could be seen and understood as an expression of weakness. He’d hardened himself and in doing so had ensured his survival and that of his sons during their many years of hunting.
Now though, now he felt weakness rush through his veins at the sight of Dean’s wrist all bitten and bloodied, his stomach lurching at the knowledge that his son had been bitten and infected by the very creature they’d been hunting. Worst of all, perhaps, was the realisation that it was his fault Dean was in this state. He turned away, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth against a gag. The pungent scent of blood and antiseptic assaulted him instantly as his fingers unconsciously clenched around the washcloth he held.
John pushed away, moving to brace himself against the kitchen sink instead as he felt the meagre contents of his stomach rise up and out of him, splattering against the sides of the sink as he choked out his fear and guilt.
Behind him, he could hear Severus shuffling around the table, muttering a string of whispered words John could not decipher through the ringing in his ears. He shook his head and reached out, pressing at the tap and using the stinging chill of cold water to rinse the blood from his hands and the sick from his mouth. His hands were still shaking. John clenched them around the edge of the sink and took a few deep breaths before turning back.
Wordlessly, Severus pointed him towards a dishtowel with which to dry himself with before turning back to Dean. He had a jar of what appeared to be a purplish ointment out, which he applied liberally to the wounds raking Dean’s body. John blinked as the wounds began to smoke where the ointment came into contact with them and he took an instinctive step forward, preparing to intervene.
“It is a wound cleansing potion,” Severus said without looking up, his voice low but pointed as he focussed on rubbing the ointment into Dean’s wounded flesh. John also noticed that where the ointment was applied, the bleeding stopped. “If he were awake it would merely sting.”
John swallowed heavily and stepped in. He wanted to know how Dean was, wanted to ask just how bad a doctor thought his son was because from a father’s perspective Dean was looking pretty damn bad. He wanted to know if Dean was infected, if Dean’s being bitten meant that he’d become one of those creatures, one of the monsters they’d both spent their lives hunting down. But who could he ask? John knew the lore as well as any hunter did. The bite was how the infection spread. He’d have to wait until the next full moon to be sure, but…
“There is a room down the hall, second door on the right. You’ll find clean linen in the cupboard adjacent. If you’ll make up a bed for him I’ll finish up and we can transfer him there for the night.”
“He’ll be okay?” John asked before he could help himself.
Severus eyed him intently, his eyes were dark and intent and John felt his spine tingle as the stare lasted for longer than was usually deemed polite.
“He is stable.” Severus answered. “I will be administering potions throughout the night to replace the blood and fluid he has lost through the attack.” He paused, keeping his eyes locked with John’s, “I would appreciate if you could refrain from shooting me if you find me entering the room.”
Severus turned away and John twitched, feeling as though he’d just been released from some kind of spell. He blinked his eyes, a sudden fatigue seeming to wash over him. He watched as Severus went back to working on his son, there were a selection of bandages beside the jar of ointment now and John vaguely wondered where they’d come from. He shook his head and, placing a hesitant trust in Severus, left the room to sort out the bed for Dean.
The room Severus had directed him to was obviously a guest room, and though it was clean and tidy, it had an air of disuse which suggested that there hadn’t been all that many guests staying in it. There were two single beds pressed up against opposite walls with a small side table between them upon which sat an ornate pitcher and bowel. He opened the top drawer (two face cloths, one unopened bar of soap) and the cupboard beneath it (empty) before checking beneath the beds (nothing) and then in the large cupboard which took up the wall behind the door (some empty coat hangers, a few of the dresses and a cloak much in likeness to the ones Severus wore and a dressing gown which looked to be well worn in that tatty, comfortably way dressing gowns seemed to get after years of wear).
Satisfied, John made up the beds before returning to the kitchen. He approached with caution, hearing Severus whispering once more. He strained his ears and frowned, thinking that the whispering sounded more like a chanting. He thought he saw a flicker of colour light up the room too and stepped into the room with searching eyes, a hand resting on the butt of the gun sticking out the back of his jeans.
Nothing appeared to be amiss. Severus looked up, raised an eyebrow in his direction and John moved into the room. Dean was all bandaged up. He looked pale and sickly lying limply upon the kitchen table, his chest rising and sinking with shallow puffs of air. He reached out, pressing a hand to Dean’s crown and running his fingers in a quick scrape through the fuzz of Dean’s hair.
“You may put him to bed.” Severus said, drawing his attention back towards the other man. “I will check on him throughout the night, as I said.”
“I will endeavour not to shoot you,” John muttered. Neither of them smiled at John’s words, both of them knowing they were not said in jest.
“I would appreciate that.” Severus remarked dryly.
John slipped his arms beneath Dean’s neck and legs, lifting him up and against his chest.
“Thank you.” He met Severus’ unblinking stare. Severus nodded once and then began to tidy away a collection of empty vials John never saw him use as well as the jar of ointment and some bloodied towels and bandages. John tightened his hold on Dean, his heart lurching as he dropped his gaze down to Dean’s face and thought that he couldn’t bear to lose him. Not Dean. Not his eldest. Not like this.
- - -
John woke with a start the next morning to find Severus standing beside the bed upon which Dean lay. He appeared to be redressing the lacerations on Dean’s chest and arms. John pushed himself upwards and scrubbed his hands over his face. He felt weary and stiff; he’d slept in his clothes atop the covers, and though his dreams had been a disarray of nightmarish images he appeared to have slept throughout the night. He frowned, knowing himself to usually be a pretty light sleeper, especially in the company of strangers.
“Would you care for some coffee?” Severus’ voice penetrated his thoughts and John looked up as the other man turned towards him.
“Thanks,” he agreed, slipping his boots on and pushing to his feet. He followed Severus from the room and into the kitchen where a haggard looking man sat hunched over the workbench Dean had been laid out on the night before. The man looked up and smiled softly. John found himself recognising the man.
“Mr Lupin,” John greeted, hiding his shock at the man’s haggard appearance. When Dean and himself had met with the man only days prior he’d appeared fit and healthy, if a little rough around the edges. He recalled thinking of the man as handsome with his thick greying brown hair and his bright golden-brown eyes. Now though his hair was in disarray and he had circles etched so deeply beneath his eyes that they appeared sunken and dim. He wondered if the man were sick.
“Please, Remus is just fine.” He took a sip from the mug he held clasped between his hands and grimaced. John watched as Severus placed a quick squeeze to Remus’ shoulder before moving towards a kettle and preparing two cups of coffee.
“How is your son?” Remus asked after another sip of whatever it was he was drinking.
“He’ll be fine,” Severus answered for him. “He’s healing quite nicely. After a few days rest he’ll be alright to move about and I am certain the scarring will fade to a bearable level.”
Severus moved towards the workbench, leaning over to hand John his cup of coffee. John nodded his thanks both for the update and the drink before taking a sip. Severus was watching him intently. John found himself watching him back, feeling that same prickling sensation crawling itself along his spine.
“Something to add?” He dared. John wasn’t entirely sure where the words came from but they felt right and judging from the look Remus shared with Severus there was indeed something to be added.
“There is the small matter of the bite he sustained however,” Severus said, lifting his coffee and sipping at it almost nonchalantly. He watched John intently from over the rim, his dark eyes seeming to glint.
“The bite?” John asked. Though he showed no outward change, he felt as though his insides had just been doused in ice.
“Let us not beat around the bush, as you say, we all know that your son was bitten by a werewolf, Mr Winchester, and though we cannot tell until the next full moon for sure it is more than likely that he has been infected and will become one also.”
“And what, Mr Snape, would you know about werewolves?” John asked as calmly as he could muster. His heart had taken up a staccato rhythm against his chest, a beat he could hear pounding against his ears and dulling out all other sound. It couldn’t be true, he thought to himself, repeating the words like a mantra. Dean would be fine, he told himself. He wasn’t infected, contaminated, cursed. He would be okay.
“You’re a hunter,” Severus said as if by way of answer, “that much is obvious. We… have had dealings with what you like to call the supernatural before now. You could even say we’re experts on the subject.”
“But you’re not hunters?” John asked, sceptically.
“Not everything that isn’t human needs to be hunted,” Remus answered, his voice rough but certain.
“Not in my experience.” John bit back.
“Which is why we tend not to associate ourselves with many hunters,” Severus responded, his gaze a glare now across the workbench, as he pressed his hand to Remus’ back as if in consolation.
John bit his tongue. He wasn’t normally one to hold back when he thought something needed saying, but he knew he owed this man, perhaps even both of them, for the aid they had given Dean.
“I need to return to the clearing, pack up what was left.” He said instead, changing the subject.
“We will watch over Dean whilst you are gone,” Remus said, smiling again as he answered the unspoken question in his words. John paused, hesitating only an instant, before nodding towards the pair of them and leaving the cabin.
The morning was cold but dry as John stepped out onto the porch and sucked in a deep lungful of fresh morning air. He stood there for a long moment, simply breathing in and out, as he tried to control the turbulent emotions vying within himself for attention. He needed to think. He needed time to process everything that had just happened. He needed to not think about Dean turning into a monster before his very eyes. With a conscious effort, John pulled himself together and stepped out into the forest.
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