DISCLAIMER: I don't own Supernatural. I haven't even seen most of the eighth season, to be honest. But that's neither here nor there. ;)
A/N: Sorry for the wait, guys! I've been so super-duper busy lately. I actually graduated from college with a BA in English (Art Minor) on Saturday, so I've been busy finishing up papers and finals, packing, and all that fun stuff. But oh well. I'll stop complaining and yammering and get on to the story. I'm really thinking that this one will be wrapped up within the next few chapters. Thank you so much for your reviews; please keep it up and read, review, and enjoy! J
I'd Follow You Anywhere
"D-Dad?" Dean stammered, his eyes wide. He could feel his heart pounding wildly in his chest. The rising marsh and the icy, stinging raindrops on his skin were reduced to mere background annoyances. Even Sam had become less of a worry – more of a passing concern, really – now that Dean was staring at John Winchester once more.
"I t-t-told you D-Dad was h-h-here," Sam stuttered through the cold, and it was his brother's weakened voice that brought Dean out of his shocked stupor.
Dammit! He cursed himself mentally. He had gone into this thing with every intention not to get caught up in the specter's lies and not to be taken in by any tricks the monster might play, and he had already failed. He'd taken one look at his father's face and he'd turned into a dumb, dazed… idgit. Bobby's normally unconventional vocabulary seemed oddly fitting in this situation.
Blinking slowly, Dean raised his voice so that Sam could hear him over the rain splashing into the flooded marsh water. He kept eye contact with his father – no, with the specter – the entire time that he spoke to his brother. "No, Sam," Dean said in the most convincing voice he could muster. "It's not Dad. Dad is. . . He's . . ."
"S-standing right in f-f-front of you," Sam countered.
"No, Sam, he's dead!" Dean bellowed, his voice cracking slightly as he said aloud the phrase that he had been vehemently avoiding ever since John had died. He finally broke eye contact with the unmoving, unblinking image of his father. He faced his younger brother, about waist deep in rising water, and looking perfectly content in his situation. Dean wanted to reach out and pull him onto slightly higher ground, but he honestly didn't know how Sam would react at this point. Right now, he just needed to get through to his brother. No matter how painful that would be – for both of them.
"You hear that, Sammy? You catch that?" Dean screamed over the horrendous weather. He felt a warm drop of water slide down his face, mixing with the cold rain, but he didn't wipe his eyes. There was no point. "Dad is dead. He was a freaking selfish idiot, and he traded his life for mine! He died. He's dead. You wanted me to talk about my feelings, didn't you? To own up to the truth that we're now orphans? Fine. I'm pissed. I'm so angry that Dad was so freaking selfish that he didn't care to live if I died. He didn't for one second consider what it would do to me, to us, if he went through with his ridiculous deal! He was a coward, he couldn't face life after losing someone else, so he forced us to!" Sam was staring at him, eyes wide and slightly unfocused. Dean wasn't even sure that Sam had actually heard or comprehended a single word he'd said. But he really didn't care at this point. He'd waited a long time to say this, and it was going to take more than the lack of a listening ear to shut him up now. "I know that's not Dad because Dad isn't alive. We needed him, and he deserted us, and I still. . . I still need him, and there's no way that my luck is good enough for Dad's being back to actually be real, so I know that this is a trick. And so should you!" Dean repressed a shudder. "He's dead, Jess is dead, and Mom is dead, Sam. They're not coming."
Dean could barely make out his brother's face through the torrential rain, but he could hear the hurt and confusion in Sam's voice. "Why would you say that, Dean? We're getting a second chance with them."
"John" took the opportunity to speak up again. The specter had been standing back, watching the brothers' interaction with a look of mild interest on its face, but now it re-entered the conversation, looking and sounding every bit like the father Sam and Dean had grown up with and missed so much. "Dean, you're brother's right. This is something that doesn't happen often, but in our line of work, you know that anything is possible. You boys have been through hell, and you're finally getting a reward for all of the good you've done and the bad you've suffered. Come on, Dean. You've always trusted me and backed me more than anyone. I can't tell you how much it hurts me to see you betray that trust now, son."
Dean felt like a dagger had been shoved into his heart and then twisted brutally. His breath caught in his throat. His father was right, wasn't he? What was he thinking? He'd been torn apart inside about his father's death for weeks, and now he refused to be happy now that he had returned?
Dean might have very well bought in to the specter's ruse for good if he hadn't seen the slight tug of his father's lip at Dean's apparent surrender. It was a minute smirk, and if lightning hadn't lit up the area at that moment, Dean would have never caught sight of the tiny but chilling smile. And he knew.
He couldn't talk Sam out of this. He could tell that Sam had totally fallen for the trick, and as inconvenient as that was, he couldn't actually blame him. Dean himself had almost succumbed to the specter several times already, and he wasn't concussed and waist-deep in water, either. His understanding Sam's vulnerability didn't necessarily mean that he wouldn't give his brother some flack about it later, if they survived this, but he couldn't worry about that right now.
He struggled to keep his expression the same, wanting the specter to think that he was still under its influence as he tried to think of a way to snap Sam out of his stupor. It finally hit him. If he couldn't talk Sam into believing him, he'd have to show him what they were dealing with. After all, that's what had jerked Dean out of it – the proof of the smirk. One dark, evil tug of the mouth. And if Dean executed this right, he could do way better than one little facial expression, and judging by how far gone Sam seemed to be right now, he'd need a bigger jolt.
In one lightning-quick move, Dean had reached into his long jacket and pulled out a small but still powerful gun that was loaded with rock salt. Even if it wouldn't harm the specter in the long run, it would at least give it a shock. And if Dean was lucky. . .
He fired three rapid shots right at the specter, and for one time in his life, luck, or fate, or karma, or whatever the heck it was, was actually on Dean's side. The specter let out an unearthly screech as the rock salt hit it, and its form sputtered – it was John, then it was Jessica, and then it was a little girl with caramel skin, and then it was the woman whose bones they'd burned at the graveyard the other day. At last, it regained its stability and became John Winchester again, but thankfully, the damage had already been done.
Sam stood, shivering wildly, like the cold, rain, wind, and the fact that he was standing in a pool of muck and water almost up to his chest had just become apparent. "D-d-dean?" he stammered, his voice almost inaudible. "W-what. . .?"
"I told you, Sam, it's a frickin' specter!"
"Oh," Sam said mildly, as if he'd just been informed that they were going to lunch at McDonalds. After so many years of hunting monsters, fighting ghosts, and exorcising demons, there really wasn't anything too surprising anymore. Even the craziest of revelations were generally mundane. Of course, the fact that Sam's body was almost certainly going into shock at this point probably didn't help matters, either. He was a trooper, though; Dean had to give him that. "H-h-how do w-w-we kill it?"
"Peat," said Dean, praying to whoever was listening that Sam would understand without further explanations, because the specter was recovering its senses now, and it looked ticked. Thankfully, Sam's geekiness wasn't too terribly affected by his state, and after just a moment, his eyes widened in understanding.
"I've g-got it," he said. "W-we have t-to make it f-follow us inst-stead."
"What?" Dean asked, but the time for talking was over. John Winchester was back, and he was angry.
"Sam, Dean!" he roared. "I've never been so disappointed in you in all of my life! You must be punished."
"Newsflash," Dean said. "Our Dad is dead. He gave up his life for mine. He's a. . ." Dean's voice caught in his throat, but he pushed forward in his vocalizing the realization that he had just come to. "He's a hero."
"But I'm right here," not-John said in what might have been a placating tone, but Dean wasn't fooled any longer. In fact, he was coming up with a plan. He didn't know for sure what Sam had in mind, but seeing as his brother didn't seem to be up to much physically at the moment, though he was sluggishly trying to walk-crawl-swim to join the confrontation, but he wasn't making much progress. Dean tried not to be distracted by his brother's efforts. The kid so needed a hospital.
"Sam, stay there," Dean ordered, and he turned away from his slowly moving brother without waiting to see if he actually listened. He faced the specter. What he was planning was risky, but if peat was this thing's weakness, and if he timed this right. . . He didn't let his gaze stray toward the murky, boggy pond that surrounded the tiny bit of high ground he'd been fortunate enough to find, lest he clue the specter in to what his plan was. Instead, he kept his eyes locked on his father's face, and despite how hard it was for him to deny himself the hope that it actually was John, he focused on his father's death and what it had done for him, for Sam, for their family. Yes, his father was dead. Yes, it hurt like heck. But no, he hadn't died a coward. He'd died a hero. And Dean was going to make sure he didn't die just so that his sons could be conned into taking their own lives by his undead doppleganger weeks later.
He reached out his hand. "Okay," he said to the specter. "Okay, Dad." He forced himself not to choke as he called the imposter 'Dad.' "I think I understand. And I'd. . ." He took a deep breath. "I'd follow you anywhere."
He feared that the specter wasn't going to buy it. It was going to see right through his ruse, and then it was going to realize that luring to their deaths probably wasn't going to work at this point, so it was going to resort to ripping them apart, limb from limb. The specter did look dubious for a fraction of a second – but then it reached out John Winchester's hand and placed it in Dean's own hand.
Dean was surprised at how warm and real the hand was. He replayed how his father had died over and over in his head to remind him of the truth, because it was becoming a little harder to think again.
"Dean!" Sam's voice was strained, reminding Dean of just what he was fighting for.
He tightened his grip on the hand in his and launched himself off of his solid purchase and into the peat-filled, waterlogged, boggy mire that surrounded him, dragging the unsuspecting specter right behind him.
His momentum propelled him deeply into the muck, and he found himself far under the surface, but the specter's hand was still in his.
He couldn't see anything; he couldn't breathe. He could barely feel the thrashing of the monster as it tried desperately to get away, but it was trapped. It couldn't leave. Just like a ghost couldn't cross salt, this guy couldn't cross peat, and it was surrounded. It was confined, and Dean knew that if they were to take some gas and a match to this section of the swamp, it would be dead.
But there was a problem. Dean was stuck, too, and as hard as he tried to kick and thrash his way to the surface, finally letting go of the defeated specter's hand, he couldn't move. His air was rapidly running out. Sam was in a daze on the surface, in shock, and probably had no idea what was going on anymore. Dean had thought he might be able to swim to the top. Apparently, bogs and quicksand were pretty much synonymous.
Heh, synonymous. That was a big, impressive word. He'd love to see Sammy's face when he found out that Dean not only could pronounce it, but knew what it meant. College boy wasn't the only one with a brain.
Dean's thoughts were drifting now. There was a steady ache in his chest. He struggled not to open his mouth, because once he did, it was all over.
Splotches danced in front of his closed eyelids, a rainbow of pretty colors. His limbs lost all feeling, and he went limp.
Everything went black.
A/N: I guess I'm a little bit evil, aren't I? Haha. But seriously, this chapter started out as really difficult to write, but once I got into it, it kind of flowed. I hope you liked it. :) Please review, and I'll update with probably the last chapter as soon as I can!