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30 September 2011 @ 09:46 pm
The way of the warrior Chp 11, (12/14), R, Sam & Dean Winchester.  
The way of the warrior chapter 11.

As Dean approached the tree and the final part of the test, he was going over what Amber had told him the night before. When Great Bear had made his offer, Dean had asked the young shaman to tell him about the Trial. She had told him what to expect and some of her words still rang in his mind. “The first part of the Trial tests a warrior’s physical abilities, but the last part of the Trial tests the heart of the warrior. The warrior has to stand and prove his courage and worth to the tribe.”

Now he was facing the final Trial, Dean wondered if the Tribe would see just how weak he was. His Dad had died for him, he could’ve told him he wasn’t worth that sacrifice. That Sam would’ve been better protected if he’d died and Dad had stayed instead. He knew that Dad would’ve dealt with the whole ‘special kids’ thing better than he ever could, that all he was doing was running blind. Dad would’ve had a plan to take out the yellow-eyed bastard. Instead, all Dean could do was keep moving and try to keep Sam safe. Yeah right, he was doing such a great job of that.

There had been the whole Croatoan disaster. Gordon nearly killing Sam because he had to come and rescue him, then Ava’s disappearance. Shit! The hits just kept on coming and that damn promise Sam had forced him to make about killing him if he went dark side. Jesus, Sam really would be better off without him. Hell, he’d even screwed up his brother’s chances of going back to college, with what had happened in the bank. Everything was spiralling out of his control, and he was struggling with the burden that had been placed on his shoulders by both Dad and Sam. And he wasn’t sure he had the strength to carry it; he knew he was too weak. He wasn’t the man they thought he was; he was just a fuck-up waiting to fail.

Now after his deal with Great Bear he carried the fates of Sam, Amber, Daryl and the others on his already burdened shoulders. He just hoped the ghosts wouldn’t see through the wisecracks and the swagger to see the scared and lost soul he’d become since Dad had gone.

He reached the tree. The warriors turned him around, pushed his back into the trunk and each one grabbed an arm, pulling them out to the sides. Then Dean felt ropes being wound around his arms tying him to the branch, stretching his arms out wide. He took a slow deep breath to centre himself, glad of the ropes in many ways. They would help to keep him upright, his limbs felt as heavy as lead and his skin felt heated and too tight on his body. Also he was so damn thirsty. He licked at dry, cracked lips, and tasted copper on his tongue. After spending the morning being beaten like a damn rug and then being dragged all over the desert, he knew his body was beginning to fail. Everywhere ached and his legs were like jelly. He just hoped they weren’t shaking too obviously, as any sign of weakness would lead to their deaths.

He wasn’t frightened for himself. He didn’t care if he lived or not, but if he failed now then the ghosts would kill Sammy and the others. He had a back-up escape plan in place for them, and he knew that Sam would make sure that Amber and the rest got away. That gave him a measure of comfort. At the very least now, he’d make sure to keep the ghosts distracted if Sam had to run. He closed his eyes and promised himself that he’d do whatever it took to make sure his brother got out of there in one piece.

Sam had followed the warriors who were leading his brother to the final Trial; he could see that Dean was really struggling now. Every injury was taking its toll on his battered brother; he knew it wasn’t just his body that was bruised. Dean’s heart was in a similar state. Ever since they’d lost Dad, Sam had lived in constant fear that Dean would find a way to follow Dad into death. He’d always had a cavalier attitude to his own safety, but now he was like an unstoppable force of nature, going after every ghost, demon or monster with no regards to himself at all. Dean was running headlong from one hunt to the other, in an attempt to outrun whatever was waiting for him and the other ‘special kids’. And all the while Dean tried to live up to what he saw as the family motto, ’Saving people, hunting things - the family business’. Dean needed to save as many people as possible; it was his way of coping with what life had done to him.

Now it had led to Dean offering himself for this whole fucking nightmare of an ordeal. Every blow that had landed, or fall in the desert as he ran, had torn into Sam as much as it had Dean. Because Sam knew this was his brother’s way of serving penance for being alive, and Dad being dead. Dean thought he deserved this pain, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. He hated his father for what he’d made Dean promise. But he understood why Dad had done it. He knew Dean would fight for him; that he would never give up. He’d fight to the last drop of blood in his body; that he’d been Dean’s responsibility since dad had placed him in his big brother’s arms and uttered the ultimate order - ‘look after Sam’.

Whether Dean would admit it or not, Sam knew that if it ever looked as if he was on the path to the dark side, then he was certain Dad wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him. But Dad had known that Dean would do everything in his power to save him, even if it cost Dean everything, including his life. There was no price he wouldn’t pay for Sam.

Sam was angry with his Dad for taking advantage of Dean’s protective nature; Dad had known Dean would never kill his little brother. That when it had come down to it, Dad had taken the easy way out, perhaps unable to live with that same decision. He’d left his bother with a horrendous situation, and very little information on how to deal with it. He relied on Dean’s total loyalty to his family to get the job done, and to keep Sam safe from his destiny.

Then he’d gone and done the exact same thing to Dean. Sam knew deep down when he made Dean promise to kill him, what he’d really been asking his brother to do was save him. And Dean had made that promise, although it must have ripped him apart to do it. Shit, perhaps he and Dad weren’t so different after all. Now he had to stand and watch his wounded brother drag himself through hell to protect him and the others. Just another day at the office for them really, he thought sadly.

When Amber had said this was the hardest part of the Trial, he’d nearly laughed at her. If there was anyone here in this canyon with courage, it was his big brother. It was something that he was only just coming to understand. Dean’s whole life had been about courage. A cocky facade that hid deep, deep wounds, he remembered what Dean told Lucas Barr, and he could not imagine the courage it must have taken just for a small child to go through each day with that knowledge, let alone look after his younger brother as he did so. Then at every new school or town, Dean had been there to take care of him, even when he hadn’t wanted it. Fending off child services, even though he was a kid himself, just to make certain their little family stayed together.

He carried on that protection now, throwing himself in front of Sam whenever there was danger, having his back on hunts. And of course, his unending ability to piss off any fugly he could, to ensure they focused on him and not his little brother.

Now once again Dean was being called on to show courage above and beyond any call of duty. Sam knew his brother was tired and hurting but he had faith that he could do this; there was nothing Dean couldn’t do, once he set his mind to it. But there was a part of him that knew deep down, courage wasn’t the problem, but whether Dean himself thought he was too weak do this. All he could do was believe in his big brother, even if he couldn’t believe in himself.

Dean opened his eyes and lifted them to find his brother. When he saw Sam he couldn’t help but smile at him. “You know, if they wanted me to just stand here all they had to do was ask.....son of a bitch.” Dean’s face contorted with discomfort and for a second the group held its breath, wondering what had caused the pained exclamation.

“Dean, are you alright?” Sam asked, fear and worry battling in his voice.

Dean looked at him, “Yeah, but god, my damn nose is itching. Do you think Chuckles will come over here and scratch it for me if I ask nicely?” He nodded towards the warrior, stood with his arms folded, scowling at the comment. The familiar smirk was back. Dean was using his first weapon of choice - humour. He heard a ripple of laughter from Amber’s friends, using it to help bolster his failing strength, but he drew the most strength from Sam’s presence.

Sam stood and shook his head at his brother, “I don’t know, doofus, but he might use that knife of his to give you a new parting. Do you want me to ask him? I think he likes me better than you.” Sam said, giving an encouraging but slightly strained smile as he said that.

As Dean looked into warm, concerned hazel eyes, he felt a sense of calm flow over him. All the doubts and fears from earlier that had nearly overwhelmed him were forced back into the darkness that swirled around his mind, and locked away behind his walls and defences. He didn’t have time to be weak; it was a luxury he couldn’t afford. He’d promised Dad he’d look after Sammy, and if it was the last thing he did, he would keep his brother safe. Now he looked out at the warriors gathering to take part in the final Trial.

Dean watched as the ghosts whipped themselves into a fury, chanting, singing and some were dancing. Dean felt a thrill of fear run through him as he watched the warriors gearing up for the Trial; he took another deep breath to stay calm. He couldn’t afford to show fear; there was too much at stake here. Finally Dean allowed the hunter inside of him to take over. The clamouring in his mind stilled and he assessed the men in front of him dispassionately. They were all young and fit and he knew every single one of them had killed men; for them it had been a case of kill or be killed.

Dean understood that feeling all too well, when a second’s hesitation would kill you. When all that drove you forward was adrenaline and the desire to finish the hunt. Now he was the prey and these men were the hunters, and he appreciated how the sight of heavily armed men, coming at you, could reduce you to a quivering wreck. Dean suddenly smiled at the gathered warriors, forcing tired and aching legs to steady, standing ready to face whatever the Tribe wanted to throw at him. Hell, he’d faced down John and Sam Winchester when they’d been pitching bitch fits - these guys would be a piece of cake in comparison.

Dean lifted his head and looked Chuckles right in the eyes, waiting for the ghost to make his move. Chuckles began to pace back and forth, throwing looks filled with contempt in his direction.

Chuckles finally stopped pacing and looked right at Dean. He sneered once again and started to speak. “Look at him! See how he trembles with fear. He is lower than a woman.” He spoke in English, and his words were translated to the rest of the Tribe. Those words were met with howls of approval, and Chuckles looked around with a smirk.

Dean quirked an eyebrow at the ghost. Well, two could play at that, “Really? Is that the best you can do, Chuckles? Lower than a woman? I thank you for the compliment, dude. After all, your women rode with you into the final battle and stood with you to the end. That’s true courage, and I tell you something, they hit damned hard. By the way, Chuckles, I didn’t see you volunteer to take me on in the fight. Were you scared someone lower than a woman would beat you? Is that why you sent a boy to face a hunter?” Dean’s voice rang out loud and strong; he watched Chuckle's face darken with anger as the insults sank in. Then Chuckles threw his knife. It thudded into the tree right next to his ribs. Dean’s eyes never left the warrior; he just kept smiling at him.

Chuckles turned abruptly on his heel and walked away. Dean called out after him, “Don’t go. I’m missing you already. Ok, guys, who’s next? Want to see if you can get the next knife even closer?” He looked at the assembled warriors as he spoke, and then he yawned in boredom.

Amber was watching the display. She glanced up at Sam. Sam was tense. When Chuckles had thrown the knife, she felt him flinch, “You ok there, Sam? I’d say he is doing well so far. He’s showing no fear, plus he’s a real hit with the ladies of the Tribe.” As Amber said that she motioned to where the women stood, smiling at the compliment Dean had given them. Her words had been steady but she felt sick when the blade had hit the tree. Now she was trying to hold it together. The last thing Dean needed was for any of them to freak out.

Sam was trying not to react as another warrior stepped up and threw his knife at his brother. This time it was even closer and Sam saw blood well along the blade. Dean never even reacted to the wound. Just kept smiling and chatting to the warriors, throwing insults and congratulating them if they managed to get close. He’d never been so glad of Dean’s smart mouth. With every word he was winding the warriors up further, but he wasn’t showing them the fear he had to be feeling. “I’m happy to hear that, Amber, but I don’t know if I can take much more of this...holy shit!” He exclaimed as something caught his eye.

Several knives had now joined Chuckles’ blade in the tree, and Dean was watching the warriors with interest. Each throw was designed to make him break and beg them to stop. Well, as far as he was concerned they could use him for target practice all day. Then one of the warriors took off towards him in a dead run. The ghost was screaming a blood-curdling war cry, his knife held high above his head. He came to a halt, inches from Dean and the war cry continued; Dean never looked away or flinched.

Finally the screaming stopped, and Dean smirked, “Dude, is that it? You done? I admit that was impressive, but Ozzy’s got a better range. And I gotta say I bet your breath could’ve dropped a buffalo at twenty paces. Did never you hear of a dentist?” Dean delivered his comments in a slightly bored tone of voice. His words made Amber and her friends laugh; he knew that what he was saying would be lost in translation, but judging by the look on the warrior’s face his tone of voice more than made up for it.

The warrior looked furious, and then he swung the knife down with force, level with Dean’s eyes, pushing it deep into the wood of the tree beside his face. Dean never blinked as he did that. The warrior’s face changed; the anger was gone, and in its’ place was a look of respect. The warrior turned away and went to join the rest of his tribe.

The remaining warriors moved back and forth, muttering angrily, and Dean shifted slightly. He was trying to ease the pressure on his aching shoulders, and now the rope was biting harshly into his outstretched arms. Then he tested the damage inflicted by some of the blades that had come too close. He could feel fresh blood dripping down from new injuries. He had to speed this up as his strength was failing rapidly now, and he didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up.

Dean forced his exhausted body to stand straighter once again, smirking at the warriors. Over with the spectators Sam saw that look and felt a thrill of apprehension, “Oh God, what’s he going to do now?” He said out loud as Amber looked over at Dean and she too felt a sense of foreboding.

“I take it, that look doesn’t bode too well then.” Amber licked her lips nervously, clutching at the leather of Dean’s jacket, her fingers edging close to where the flare was.

Sam never took his eyes off his brother, “No, not really. The last time I saw that look was just before he told a biker that his girlfriend was hot and he bet they would look good on his bitch seat.” Sam gnawed at his lip in worry.

Amber’s eyes widened, “I see. I bet that made life interesting. I take it we should hold onto our hats, so to speak.” She flicked a glance at Dean who was getting ready to speak.

Sam grinned ruefully, “I should say so. The girlfriend in question happened to be the biker’s six-foot-tall lieutenant, covered in tattoos and muscles, and he really didn’t like being called sweetheart. It worked though, because in the fight after that I managed to grab the cursed skull we were after, and get out of the bar.” Sam took a deep breath in an attempt to calm frayed nerves.

Amber and her friends gasped at that, “And did Dean make it out of the bar in one piece after that?” She sounded awed at the prospect of Dean saying that to a bar full of bikers.

Sam sighed, “Oh, he got out all right. Right through the plate glass window. That particular ‘don’t worry, Sam, I got this covered’, only cost him some stitches and an overnight in hospital, while he had a blood transfusion. I can’t look.” Sam lifted his eyes heavenward and began to pray softly.

Dean smirked and called out, “As much as I enjoy being a dartboard, are we nearly done? Or have I gotta wait while you guys have another tea dance? I’ll let you into a secret. My brother, Sammy does a mean waltz. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to dance with you.” As soon as the words were translated, cries of anger filled the air, and Dean braced himself for the reaction of the angry ghosts.

Dean didn’t have to wait too long; knives flew at him from every angle. He just stood there calmly, letting them thud into the tree with hardly a flinch, even when one of the blades landed perilously close to his throat. He just stared the warriors down. Finally the deadly rain of steel ceased. Dean took a shaky breath. He’d made it! There were no more warriors stood, waiting to either throw a knife at him or charge in, screaming.

When the sound of blades hitting the tree finally stopped, Sam finally managed to draw breath. He’d stopped breathing when Dean had thrown his last insult. Now he was feeling light headed from lack of oxygen and the fact his brother was still in one piece. Dean was surrounded by blades, running from his neck to down by his thighs. Sam was pleased; there didn’t seem to be too many more new cuts. Some of the knives had nicked Dean but most of them had missed.

Dean grinned in triumph. He’d made it! They were all getting out of here. He was looking over at Sam when he spotted Amber. She’d been smiling and cheering with the others when they realized that he was in one piece, and then her expression changed. Suddenly she looked scared. Dean followed that frightened gaze and his heart raced in fear.

Striding out to the centre of the canyon was Great Bear himself. Dean remembered what the War Chief had told him - that in the end he was the one who decided whether Dean had passed the Trial. Now he stood there, holding a large hunting knife. Chuckles came to stand by his chief, ready to act as translator for the chief’s words.

Dean met the Chief’s eyes, licking at his lips. So the test still wasn’t over. Right then they were going to do this on his terms. Taking a deep breath Dean addressed the chief. “It looks like it’s down to you and me, Chief Great Bear. I’d much prefer we talk this over man-to-man. You don’t need Chuckles there to translate for you. Now just what do I have to do to finally pass the Trial? Or was I never meant to pass it?” Dean looked right at the chief as he spoke, never breaking eye contact. All around him he could hear exclamations from the tribe at his words.

Amber looked shocked, “What the hell does Dean mean by that? Of course Great Bear needs a translator; he’s never shown any sign he understands English.” She sounded dumbfounded at what Dean was implying.

Sam narrowed his eyes and looked closely at the War Chief. There was no sign he had understood Dean’s words. He looked back at Amber and said, “Dean is worried that he was just being set up to fail, and now the chief is going to deliver the killing blow. Well, is he right, Amber?” Sam’s words were soft and urgent. He needed to be ready to run and it all depended on Amber’s answer.

She shook her head furiously, “No way, Sam! Great Bear gave his word that we would go free if Dean passed the Trial. I have no idea what’s going to happen now. I really wish I could help you.” Amber’s words were full of fear and uncertainty.

Sam was tensing and he was just about to make a move when he looked over at Great Bear. The Chief was smiling. Sam froze in place. No, it wasn’t possible; there was no way Dean could’ve known that.

The smile grew on the chief’s face and with a gesture of his hand, Chuckles was dismissed from his side. He looked right at Dean and nodded, “I’m impressed with you, Dean Winchester. How did you know I speak the white man’s tongue? You are the very first white man to ever realize that.” The chief sounded impressed with the hunter.

Dean grinned in return, “I have to admit you’re good. Your face gives nothing away. I’d hate to play you at poker, but you do have a tell. It’s in your eyes. For the most part even they didn’t let anything slip, but every so often something crossed them. I could see you weighing up your options. It’s a great trick, getting Chuckles to translate for you. It gives you time to consider your answers; it must’ve come in handy when dealing with the likes of Captain Stoneman. Also if people don’t think you can understand them, it’s amazing what they’ll let slip, isn’t it?” Dean asked the question, and was rewarded with another warm smile.

Sam was still stunned by this turn of events, but it made a lot of sense. It was exactly as Dean said with Captain Stoneman’s attitude toward the Native American people. He could imagine him being so arrogant that he wouldn’t care what he said in front of the ignorant savage. His admiration for the warrior grew, but he was still waiting to hear the chief’s response to Dean’s question on whether the Trial was impossible to pass. Sam was still ready to give the signal to start the escape.

The Chief looked around the canyon, and finally his eyes came to rest on the small group, huddled together. After a few seconds staring at them, he turned back to Dean. “It is wonderful what we will do to protect our family and those we love, is it not, Dean? I led my men against a force they could not possibly defeat and yet they came willingly for their families. I know you are devoted to your brother, Dean Winchester. I can see it in your every action. You asked me what you would need to do to pass the Trial. It is simple. But before I tell you, what if I made you an offer? That I will let these people go right now.” The chief stopped speaking, waiting for Dean’s response.

Dean reeled at those words. What the hell? Great Bear was just prepared to let everyone go, just like that? Dean watched the ghost for any signs of deception. He was pretty good at reading people, and he couldn’t see any sign of trickery in the chief’s eyes. “Ok. Say I agree to your offer of letting everyone go. What’s the catch?” Dean blinked as he spoke, trying to clear his head. He was starting to drift. Exhaustion and thirst were taking their toll, and it was getting harder to concentrate. He was feeling every injury more keenly than before. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up.

“There is no catch. As you say, they are all free to go. Let me ask you this, hunter? If I was to tell you that your brother could gain his freedom by enduring this Trial again, what would your answer be? Great Bear’s brown eyes seemed to bore right through Dean, and he felt as if he was falling into the serene gaze.

Dean took a steadying deep breath. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sam, standing ramrod straight, his fists clenching and unclenching with worry, knowing exactly what his answer was going to be. Dean tried to speak, but his throat was so dry, he licked desperately at his lips. Finally he managed to croak out his answer, “Then I’d say what are you waiting for? But you already knew that I’d say that. So why ask the question?” Dean knew he sounded tired; it was getting increasingly difficult to keep his ‘game face’ on. He looked over at the chief who seemed to be pondering his answer.

“It is the answer I expected. Then I say this to you. Your brother, the Shaman and her friends may all leave this sacred place now, along with yourself. Do you accept my offer?” The chief stood with his arms folded, his face once again blank.

Suddenly wild cheering broke out from where the others stood; Dean never took his eyes from the chief. It sounded simple enough. They could all walk out of here, no strings attached. But could they? The chief had been very careful who he’d mentioned. When this all began the one who summoned them from their rest had been mentioned a lot, and yet Daryl had not been spoken of at all.

Dean rolled his shoulders as best as he could and bit down on his lip to prevent the moan of pain escaping, as fire rippled along his outstretched arms, “I’d say, yes please, but what about Daryl? I know that Amber doesn’t consider him a friend, and he sure as hell ain’t my brother. So what about him, then? Does he get to leave with the rest of us?” The softly spoken words put an end to the wild celebrations.

The chief was no longer smiling; instead he stood there. The great and powerful war chief shook his head. “No, the one who summoned us from our rest must remain here and be punished. You and the others are free. You have shown great resolve and courage, Dean Winchester. You need do no more. But Daryl Gray Bear, my descendant, must remain and face the justice of those he betrayed.” As he spoke, his words were translated and the Tribe screamed out in agreement.

Dean’s head was swimming. He was vaguely aware of Amber and the others yelling and pleading for Daryl’s life. Several warriors stepped forward and took hold of Daryl, ready to drag him away. Dean shook his head desperately, trying to find his voice. At first he couldn’t make himself heard above the commotion. Finally he roared out one word, “NO!” Everyone stopped and stared at Dean. His chest was heaving as he tried to draw a deep breath. He spoke, “I said no. You ain’t gonna take Daryl. Do you hear me? Listen, I’ll go through the fucking Trial again if it saves that dumbass’s life. Now let him go!” Dean’s voice was worn and ragged.

All eyes were focused on the chief when Dean said that. The air was filled with cries of horror, and Sam’s voice could be heard, “Dean, for God’s sake, no. I’ll do it. Please, Dean, you’ve done more than enough.” Sam’s anguished words tore into Dean, but he had to finish this.

The warriors looked at their chief, waiting for his decision. Great Bear walked forward slowly until he stood right in front of the wounded man. He looked into pain-filled green eyes; a look of compassion crossed his face. “Tell me why you would do that for this man. He is not your family, or your blood, and it was his greed and stupidity that led you to endure this suffering. Not only have you suffered, but your brother has suffered also, watching you endure this. And yet you are willing to go through it again? Why not let your brother take your place and fight for Daryl’s life?” Once again deep brown eyes searched Dean’s bruised and scratched features.

Dean managed a weak smirk, “It’s like you said, Great Bear, I would do anything for my family, and there is no way in hell I’d let Sam do this. As for Daryl, he might be a dick but this is what I do. I save people, and I wouldn’t be much of a hunter if I only decided to save the ones I liked, and wanted to be buddies with. So I’m good to go whenever you’re ready. Hey ladies, you ready to go another round with me?” Dean looked over to the women of the tribe and winked at them.

There was silence in the canyon and everyone looked at the War Chief as he remained facing Dean. Then he lifted his eyes to the women and there appeared to be a silent communication between them. He nodded gravely and looked again at Dean.

Great Bear stood quietly for a moment and then he turned to face the rest of the Tribe. He began to address them in English. “My friends, this man has more than proved his worth to me. He has shown a true warrior’s spirit by his readiness to endure the Trial again for one who has brought shame upon himself. I say to all of you, he has more than paid the debt of honour owed by Daryl Grey Bear. His strength, courage, and sacrifice should in turn be honoured by us. I ask you now; shall we show that we can be merciful, as well as vengeful? I say we should give them their freedom to live their lives and learn from this man’s example. If we do not, all that we have shown is our hearts have darkened, and then we are the ones who are shamed.” Great Bear stopped speaking, waiting for his words to be translated for the tribe. As he did he looked around at the assembled faces in the canyon.

Sam looked over at his brother, a look of helplessness on his face, knowing there was nothing he could do to help him. Dean returned that look; he gave Sam a weary and comforting smile. He’d done everything he could, even offering to go through the shitty ordeal again. And now it was all out of his control, and in the hands of the tribe and Great Bear. He just hoped that Sam was ready to run, if things didn’t go their way

Great Bear walked over to Chuckles and looked at him, “I will ask you first, Black Eagle, my brother, as the greatest warrior amongst us. Shall I grant these people their freedom? Yes or No?” The chief looked into his brother’s dark eyes.

Sam and the others started in shock at those words. Sam looked wild-eyed at Amber, “Oh shit, Chuckles is Black Eagle? I should’ve known Dean would be able to find the biggest hothead, and piss him off completely. How do you think Chuck....Black Eagle will vote, Amber?” Sam sounded nervous.

She looked up at him and shrugged, “I don’t know, Sam; maybe he’ll be impressed by Dean’s courage, or just really angry at Dean’s lack of respect for him. I just don’t know. What do we do now?” Amber looked around to see if she could make it to Dean’s bag. Her heart was beating wildly.

Dean groaned softly to himself. Great! He’d spent the morning pissing off the Chief’s brother and basically told him he was a coward. Perhaps Sam was right, and he should keep his big mouth shut from time to time. Shit! They were so screwed. He took a deep breath; he wasn’t done yet. If needs be, he’d drag his bruised ass through this time and time again to get them out of there. He squared his shoulders, and looked over at the brothers with a determined expression on his face.

Black Eagle looked over his brother’s shoulder at Dean, remaining silent for several long seconds. Then he gave a smile. “You chose your champion well, my brother. He has reminded me of why we stood, fought and died here. We did that not only for our families, but for the good of all our people on that cursed march. I, too, have learned a lesson from this. The vow we made to protect our people is as sacred now as it was when we made it. We do not get to choose who we should or should not protect. I say yes, we allow them to live and go free.” Black Eagle placed his hand on Great Bear’s shoulder and smiled.

Great Bear nodded his thanks to his younger brother, turned away from him and looked at the assembled tribe. Great Bear spoke to them, “You have heard my brother’s choice. What do you now say? Yes or no?” The chief stood in the centre of the canyon with his back to Dean, waiting for his answer.

There was silence and then a lone voice called out “Vv.” Then other voices joined, and the canyon rang with cries of the same word over and over.

Sam looked around, wondering what was being said. He turned to Amber and the look of joy on her face answered him long before her happy words, “They’re all saying yes, Sam. He did it, Dean did it! We’re gonna be freed.” She laughed and then threw herself into the young hunter’s arms, squealing with relief.

Sam smiled and looked over at Dean. He was going to joke about getting the girl after Dean had done all the work. The joke died on his lips and he felt a rush of concern. His brother was looking decidedly unsteady now. He was breathing heavily and Sam could see he was having trouble keeping the tremors in his limbs under control. Dean lowered his head once more, and took a slow deep breath, managing to pull himself together again. He lifted his head and saw Sam looking at him. A roguish smile appeared on his face and he winked at Sam, “Sammy, you sly dog, and I thought I was the chick magnet. That’s my boy.” Dean’s voice was weaker now, and the effort The Trial had cost him was becoming obvious.

Great Bear held up his hand for quiet. The voices died away and once again he turned to face Dean. The chief stood there with his arms folded and studied the man tied to the tree. A thoughtful look crossed his face.

Dean licked his cracked lips and spoke, “It’s still your decision, Chief Great Bear. I’m ready whenever you are.....”Dean nodded towards the hunting knife, still in the warrior’s hand, and he smiled, waiting for him to throw the knife.

The chief shook his head slightly and smiled, “Yes, it is my decision, Dean Winchester. You asked what you had to do to pass the Trial. You passed when you said you would go through the Trial again to save Daryl. And as always I will abide by the will of my people and set you free. Sam Winchester, come here please.” The chief looked over at Sam, and he started to walk towards the chief.

Sam stood by the chief, wondering what the warrior wanted from him. Great Bear gave the young man a friendly smile, “Your brother wonders what I will do with my knife. Where should I place it?” He looked over at the tree as is if he was deciding where to throw it. “Hmmm, I have a much better idea....” Great Bear held the hunting knife out, hilt first to Sam. “Take it, young warrior and release your brother, and then all of you are free to leave this canyon. Now if you will forgive me, I must speak with Amber Moon Haven, our young Shaman.”

Sam looked wide eyed at the offered knife. He took it and nodded his thanks. Then he ran to where Dean was tied, grinning as he reached his brother. He heard the sounds of footsteps and saw Jim and Chris appear beside him; he started to saw at the ropes holding Dean in place, “Are you ok, Dean?” Sam asked breathlessly.

Dean moaned softly and shook his head, making Sam feel sick, “Of course I’m not alright, dude. I’m mortally wounded here.” His tone was aggrieved.

Sam stopped cutting and panicked. Shit! Was Dean worse than he thought? He looked into his brother’s face to try to discern how bad it was. Then he saw the smirk, rolled his eyes and waited.

“I mean, come on, Sam, where the hell are my damn pants? It’s kinda draughty out here. Now can someone please get me some clothes? My dignity is dying here!” Dean laughed, and he heard mutters of jerk and you scared the damn crap out of me from Jim and Chris.

Sam shook his head. Despite the jokes he knew Dean had reached his limits and gone beyond them. Now all he had to do was figure out how to get the stubborn idiot dressed, without it dissolving into all-out warfare. Sam grunted in triumph when the rope parted, and Dean’s arms came free. He dropped the knife as Dean staggered forward, unable to stop himself from falling against his brother. “It’s ok, I got you. Just relax and let me help you.” Sam felt Dean struggling to stand.

Finally Dean managed to push away from Sam. He looked a little put out and still held onto Sam’s jacket. He gave his brother a grateful smile, “Do I look like Lois Lane, dude? Amber, thank God! Someone with compassion. Thank you.” Those words of gratitude were spoken due to the arrival of Amber with Dean’s clothes. He reached out to take them from her with a smile.

Everyone stood watching Dean. He rolled his eyes, “Ok, show’s over. All I’m gonna do is get dressed. Trust me, you saw the best bit earlier when I stripped. Sam, you need to go and get our shit together now.” Sam stood with a stubborn expression on his face. Dean gave a weary sigh. “Look, I promise I won’t keel over. But I’ll feel a lot happier knowing that once I’m dressed, we can get the hell out of here ASAP, if that’s alright with you, Sammy?” He sounded tired and stressed as he spoke. Sam gave him a knowing smile and turned away to see to the bags.

Amber gave Sam a smile, the look on her face telling him no matter what Dean did she would be staying right there. She saw a look of relief on his features, knowing that Dean would have help if he wanted it. Then she motioned with her head to Jim and Chris and they too went to help Sam. Amber turned her back to Dean and looked around the canyon; she felt he needed a little privacy after the way he’d been on display all morning. She heard the sound of him moving around behind her. She knew why he’d sent Sam away. He didn’t want Sam to see him as he struggled to get dressed.

Then she heard a soft, ’Son of a bitch’. She couldn’t help herself; she spun around. Dean had managed to pull on his jeans, and by the look on his face it hadn’t been that pleasant an experience. She could see him biting his lip, and he’d managed to go pale beneath the fiery red of sunburn and bruised skin. She stepped a little closer and thought ‘screw the whole macho, everything is fine’ crap. “Do you need any help, Dean?” She asked gently.

Dean lifted his eyes and managed a lopsided grin, “No, I’m fine. I’ve just decided I’ll spend a little more on the fabric conditioner next time I do the laundry. In fact I’ll actually buy some next time. Amber, it’s nothing. Just a little muscle strain and sunburn. I just need to get my act together. Can you hand me my T-shirt please? I could get used to this kind of personal service.” As he said that he smirked, and Amber picked up the shirt and handed it to him. Then he rolled the material up and pulled it over his head, easing it over his aching body.

Dean gritted his teeth as he got dressed. He knew it was going to hurt, but shit, his clothes felt like sandpaper against his bruised and raw skin. As he pulled the shirt down, all the muscles across his shoulders screamed in protest and the pain took his breath away. He knew Amber was watching him closely, so he gave a smile and a wink. This was nothing compared to some of the hunts he had come back from. So what if he was a little sore and tired? He needed to suck it up, and get everybody’s asses out of there, in case the ghosts changed their minds.

Amber watched Dean battling silently through the discomfort, managing for the most part to disguise just how much pain he was in. When he knelt down to put his boots back on, she’d almost got down with him and told him he was being a moron. To let her do it instead. Once again he’d lost all colour and this time, as he pulled on the footwear, she thought he was going to pass out when he’d swayed and his eyes closed. Then she saw him breathe through it, managing to stand up slowly, a look of relief crossing his face.

She tilted her head to one side, “You know they say the Trial has four parts to it. I just witnessed the fifth part. I never knew getting dressed took that much effort.” She smiled tenderly at Dean.

He just grinned at her, “What? I think you’ve been amazingly brave. It must’ve been hard watching me cover up my manly physique. Sorry, Amber, but all good things come to an end. Although if you like, I’ll happily give you a private view later if you want.” Dean waggled his eyebrows and gave a suggestive wink.

She laughed at him; God knew how he managed that. She’d been there to offer sympathetic support, and instead he’d been supporting her all along. It was then she noticed that Sam had come back, and was looking closely at his brother.

Sam was frowning, his forehead wrinkled, and he looked ready to pitch a fit about Dean getting dressed without his help. Dean recognized all the signs. He rolled his eyes and answered the unspoken monologue, “Sam, can it! I’ve been getting dressed on my own since I was four. Now can I have my stuff back please?” There was a fond irritation in his voice as he spoke, and held out his hand to Sam.

Sam shook his head - some things would never change, and Dean downplaying injury was one of them. He put his hand in his pocket and retrieved the jewellery, holding it out for Dean to take from him.

First of all Dean took his watch and fastened it on his left wrist then came the skull bracelet and ever-present silver ring. Finally Dean took the amulet back. As he put over his head he finally felt dressed again, and he let his hand linger on its comforting shape. He let go of it and smiled happily at Sam, “Now I’m ready. Are we ready to blow this joint? Because I don’t know about you guys, but I’d kill for a cold one about now.” There was a chorus of agreement and Dean cheerfully ignored the dirty look Sam was shooting him, along with the ‘you’re dehydrated, you’re drinking nothing but Gatorade and water until I say so’...that was written in large neon letters above his brother’s head.

He looked at Amber and held out his hand. He should really have put his over shirt back on but he couldn’t face the thought of it; instead he looked at his leather jacket, “Now as hot as you look in that, I think I should have my jacket back now, Amber.” She laughed and handed him the worn leather jacket.

As Dean slipped it onto his battered frame, even he couldn’t hide the grimace of pain as stiffening and torn muscles complained at the weight of the jacket settling on injured shoulders. The look appeared fleetingly, but it was enough to sober the mood of everyone there. In the euphoria of being free, they’d almost forgotten the price one of them had paid to gain that freedom.

Dean shook himself and grinned, “Ok kiddies, now I want you to make sure you’ve gotten everything packed, and then pair up with your buddy and we will all walk quietly and sensibly out of the canyon, after thanking our gracious hosts for their hospitality.” Dean’s school teacher tone lightened the mood once more, and he started to walk slowly to where the bags sat.

As they reached the bags, he went to put his shirt in his bag, only to find Sam putting his hand gently on his shoulder, taking the shirt off him and putting it in Dean’s bag. Dean couldn’t help the grateful smile he gave his little brother. If he bent over to pack the shirt, there was every chance he’d end up on his ass and would ruin the whole warrior image. As Sam stood up he looked over Dean’s shoulder, and Dean followed his brother’s gaze.

Great Bear was stood waiting for them. The brothers stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Amber and the rest of the group, in a protective gesture. The chief smiled at that movement; he looked at Dean, “You have shown true courage, Dean Winchester. You told me last night that there were no warriors left in this world. I think you are wrong. You and your brother have shown me that spirit of the warrior lives on, and there are still those ready to protect those in need. I will return to my rest happy in that knowledge. May the blessing of the Great Spirit go with you on your journey through Life.” The chief then nodded to the group, and stepped out of their way.

As Dean moved towards his bag to pick it up, Sam knocked his hand away, “Do me a favour and let me worry about this. You just get your ass out of here, alright?” Sam looked at Dean with an expression that said he would lose any argument he might try and put forward.

Dean smiled and patted him on the shoulder, “Thank you, Samantha, and thank you for volunteering to carry the bags in the future. Ladies and gentlemen, after you. We don’t want to outstay our welcome now, do we?” Dean smiled, gave a slight bow and gestured to the canyon entrance.

Amber slung her bag over her shoulder and led the way. She fluttered her eyelashes at Dean as she walked by, “Why thank you, kind sir.” Laughing, she walked to the entrance.

Dean and Sam let the others pass them. Sam leaned into his brother, “Are you sure you’re gonna make it? I can go and get the Impala while you wait by the rock.” Sam hefted his own bag up on his shoulder.

Dean looked horrified at the suggestion, “Sam Winchester, have you lost your mind? Do you know how rough the terrain is? You’re not wrecking my baby’s suspension. Now, come on, Sasquatch, we gotta make sure Amber doesn’t kill Daryl on the way back.” Dean started to walk away with an indignant look on his face; Sam sighed and followed his mule-headed brother out of the canyon.
As they caught up with the group, Amber was waiting for them; she looked at Dean and then at Sam. Sam was watching his brother closely once again so she decided to walk with them, to help Sam if Dean struggled.

Dean found himself walking between them. He sighed to himself. Great! Now he had two mother hens! It really was his lucky day.

As they walked out into the desert they heard the tribeswomen singing. Amber stopped, listened and smiled as she started to walk again. The brothers looked around at the group and shared Amber’s expression. Dean looked puzzled, “What are they singing about?” He asked as Amber started to walk beside him once more.

Amber answered, keeping a watch on Dean as she did, “They’re singing about a green-eyed warrior with the heart and soul of a shaman. It’s quite an honour.” She watched Dean duck his head and rub his hand over the back of his neck. When he looked up and saw everyone looking at him, Amber was certain he was blushing.

Dean coughed and picked up his pace, making the others walk faster to keep up. He called out over his shoulder, “Come on, we need to get our shotguns and then back to the cars. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen enough of the wide open spaces to last me for a while.” At that he walked away, looking for the weapons.

Amber looked at Sam, “He doesn’t take praise too well, does he?” She asked softly.

Sam shook his head, “No, he doesn’t. By the way Amber, what did Great Bear say to you?” Sam asked as they caught up with Dean. Dean stood by the guns, waiting for Sam to pick them up.

Amber looked back into the canyon, “He asked me to make sure all the medicine bags were returned to the canyon, and then the Tribe could be at rest again. I promised him that I would do that as soon as possible. So Daryl, it looks like you’ll have a new work buddy on site until we find all your little bags. Won’t that be fun?” She said with a sweet smile on her face.

Daryl rolled his eyes, “I can’t wait for you to join me on site....although it might be a good idea. You can help with the hotel designs. I have some wonderful ideas for the foyer.” Daryl’s voice was drowned out by the others as they shepherded him away from Amber, just in case she wanted to strangle him for that suggestion.

Dean grinned at him as he walked on, “You have to admire him. He never gives up, does he?” Dean said in admiration.

Amber gave a smile, “No, and I suppose Albert and you were right. I need to be the bigger woman here, and make certain he behaves. Are you ok, Dean?” As they talked, Amber noticed Dean was slowing down, weaving a little as he walked.

Dean managed a weak smile, “Yeah, I’m fine. Nothing to worry about...shit.” Dean stumbled slightly and nearly fell; he was saved by Sam grabbing his arm. Dean knew he’d been getting slower; he’d watched the others moving away from them. But he just couldn’t push his exhausted frame any faster, and now he’d nearly fallen over a goddamn pebble. Some damn warrior he was.

Dean looked back at the canyon, and in the distance he could still see figures watching them. He managed to straighten himself up and walked on. Although his legs were heavy, and his feet felt like they were on fire. There was no way he’d show weakness even out here.

Amber watched him look back over his shoulder and she knew the tribe was still watching them. She wondered just how much more Dean could take before his legs gave out on him. She’d seen Sam had subtly slowed them down, and Dean had matched his little brother’s pace. Again she marvelled at the closeness of their bond. Just then she saw a sight that made her day. In the distance she could see their cars.

She looked up at Sam who was hovering close to Dean. He used his impressive build to keep Dean moving, as once or twice Dean had drifted into him, and he’d leant against Sam until he realized what he was doing. Then he’d managed to push himself away and walk unaided again.

Dean felt relief wash over him as he saw the Impala. He managed to walk a few more feet, and then the desert floor began to waver and his vision swam. He felt dizzy and his legs shook. He lifted his head and croaked out, “Baby, are you a sight for sore eyes....Amber, have the Tribe vanished?” Dean’s voice was barely a whisper when he said that.

Amber looked over her shoulder and it looked as if the canyon mouth was clear. As she turned back to answer, she noticed Sam dropping the bags, “They’ve gone, Dean.” She looked at Sam and then she saw the others had come back to join them.

Dean managed a few more steps. Finally he had to admit defeat...he staggered to a halt, “Good....” His eyes rolled back and his knees buckled.

Sam leapt forwards and caught Dean, lowering them both carefully to the ground. He gently patted his brother’s face, and was shocked by the heated dry skin he felt beneath his fingers. Sam called out one word, “Dean!”

Chapter 12.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: nervousnervous