Swamp, vicinity of Honey Island
fronds of Spanish moss, dangling heavily from the lowest
branches of native cypress trees, stretched their stringy
tendrils across the path of the fleeing hunters as Dean
and Sam tore through the swamp. The heavy, moist air
seemed almost to pour into their straining lungs and
threaten to drown them rather than replenish their oxygen-deprived
grimace of exertion was painted across Dean's face,
mingled with a distinct air of 'I knew it, I just friggin'
knew it.' Sam, the intended benefactor of said disdain,
was in no position to reply as he plunged along behind
his charging brother, long legs tangling in the heavy,
sticky undergrowth. The movement of the vegetation in
their wake was obviously more than just the snapping
back of branches disturbed in their passing. The entire
wetland area seemed to have taken on a life of its own
with the sole intention of hunting the hunters.
the pursuer or pursuers remained hidden in the greenery,
the thundering approach was reminiscent of a scene from
the movie 'Jumanji' and the brothers almost expected
a herd of stampeding rhinoceros to break through the
job dropping the rifle in the water, geek boy,"
Dean grumbled between straining breaths. He was completely
soaked, his dirty blond hair dirtier than usual with
bog mud clinging to his scalp. "Don’t suppose
you got a Plan B worked out in that college educated
head of yours?"
this is so not my fault!" Sam huffed as he ducked
beneath some low hanging vines. "The bugger's got
a low center of gravity, and you're the one always saying
my legs are too long. It was like a linebacker running
down a basketball center back there," he argued,
feeling compelled to defend himself despite his body's
desperate need to conserve the air it took to form the
words. "Besides, you were supposed to have my back!
And thanks, by the way, for jumping in after the gun
while the thing practically ripped my jeans off."
You didn't think I was gonna touch that slimy critter
with my bare hands, did you?" Dean sneered back,
turning his head enough to keep one eye on the path
in front of him while allowing the other to burn a hole
in his little brother. "That's our best rifle.
And holey jeans are so you, baby brother. It's not like
you need every inch of those giraffe legs of yours anyway."
sound of rustling leaves and snapping vines behind them
grew progressively louder. Above them, long dead branches
of the ancient trees began to shower down on them as
the hanging vines were yanked tight around them. The
brothers ran, ducking their heads beneath their curled
arms protectively, and realized they were losing ground
blinded by yet another mass of tangled moss, Sam caught
the toe of one foot beneath a raised tree root and went
careening forward into the back of his older brother.
He hit the ground with a thud and a muffled "Umph!"
as Dean struggled to keep his own footing.
lifted his face out of the soft, muddy earth just in
time to see his brother turn in an effort to come back
to his aid. Before Dean could reach him however, there
was a distinct twanging noise followed by the hiss of
burning rope, and his older brother disappeared from
Sam's line of sight. A second later, Dean's dazed and
startled face appeared once more, completely inverted
as he dangled by one leg from a hog snare knotted in
the canopy above them.
Sam cried, forgetting his own predicament as the thunder
of pounding hooves advanced behind him. He was about
to lurch forward when his feet were knocked out from
beneath him once more. Helpless to stand amongst the
chaos, Sam threw his arms over his head protectively
and waited to be torn to shreds.
anticipated demise proved anticlimactic, however, as
the thunder rolled over him like a fog in the bayou.
He was paid as little heed as a tussock of bog grass
as the pursuers stampeded around him and made a beeline
for the dangling Dean.
was momentarily disoriented from having the world spun
on its axis around him. Shaking his head, he had just
enough time to grimace and draw back futilely as the
herd of wild pigs trampled over his brother and advanced
on him in his helpless predicament. He paid little attention
to the dozen or so average sized swine that found him
first but struggled, eyes wide in panic, as the dreaded
Hogzilla broke from the undergrowth.
was so fixated on the monster hog, a thousand pound
freak of nature with twelve-inch curled tusks, that
he barely noticed the smaller, black-and-white, domestic-looking
pig that had apparently taken a liking to him. He felt
the small snout root under his chin momentarily, and
batted it away. "Hey, hey! Hands off the merchandise!"
He quipped absent-mindedly, never taking his eyes off
the monster that approached.
barely noticed the frantic milling and grunting of the
critters below him as he worked his fingers nimbly over
the handle of the hunting knife at his wrist. He'd never
hunted wild hog before, but he supposed the heart must
be somewhere in the same vicinity as that of a black
dog. At any rate, he knew he'd most likely get one chance
to strike before Hogzilla tore him from the snare and
made lunch of his ass. From the looks of the thing,
it didn't go hungry very often, and Dean must seem a
veritable seven course meal.
drew his razor-sharp dagger, poised to strike like a
cobra, and willed himself to wait for the perfect shot.
The stench of wet, muddy hog was almost overwhelming,
causing his stomach to clench convulsively. His chin
trembled with determination, accentuating the familiar
dimple, as he reached out with his left hand and placed
it squarely on the beast's back, steadying his swinging
body enough to place the killing blow. His right hand
drew back to his shoulder and struck with lightning
speed, sinking the dagger to the hilt in the space behind
the animal's scapula. When the shaft thrummed in his
hand, he knew he'd hit the heart, and Hogzilla dropped
like a ton of hairy, stinking bricks below him with
a stifled shriek that sent the rest of the pigs scattering
to the wind.
with relief, Dean curled upward on himself and climbed
up his own wrenched leg to the rope at his ankle. He
wrapped his fist tightly around the rope several inches
beyond his ensnared foot, and sawed through it quickly.
His head pounded from the blood building behind his
eyes, and he almost slipped and cut his hand several
times before making it through the hefty rope. Finally,
he felt his foot snap free, and he clung momentarily
with his hand until his body righted itself in the air,
and he dropped silently to the ground.
he called weakly, as his lungs strained to fill. "You
Sam assured him, stalking cautiously up to the fallen
monstrosity. "I guess what they say about pigs
being vicious when threatened is true. Good thing for
me, they didn't even seem to notice I was there; they
went for you for a change," he noted contemplatively.
"Wonder what was up with that?" He asked,
toeing the carcass in disgust.
easy," Dean smirked. "While you, little brother,
are a demon magnet, the living, breathing females of
the world, will always prefer me. They can tell actual
testosterone from that watered down sissy crap you got
in your blood."
man," Sam laughed with a shake of his head as he
held out his hand to his squatting brother. "Only
you would find the flirtations of a giant hog to be
helped his brother to his feet, and Dean balanced precariously
on the raw ankle, but found it sturdy enough to walk
on. They headed back to the Impala, eager to collect
their bounty and get cleaned up.
found some old, raggedy towels in the trunk of the car
as he put the hunting rifle away and spread them over
the driver and passenger seats with a grimace before
settling behind the wheel. For once, he didn't mention
the recently repaired damage to the car, a familiar
taunting of his brother that had become habit since
the fiasco in Missouri. He had plenty of other issues
with Sam at the moment.
no way it's a pig, you said," Dean grumbled as
he turned the key in the ignition. "No such thing
as Hogzilla, you said. That myth was proven to be just
some trick photography. College boy, in all his infinite
wisdom, swore to me that this had to be our kinda thing.
A werewolf or a Wendigo, you said." Dean's words
were punctuated by his clicking jaw as he bit off the
raised his hands in exasperation. "Hey! It was
a paying gig, big brother. We don't get those very often.
It was worth checking out. And you gotta admit, that
was not just a pig. That was a freak of nature. If that
thing wasn't supernatural, then I don't know what is."
just trying to make excuses for the fact that it knocked
you on your ass, not once, mind you, but twice. And
then you had the ungodly grace to drop the rifle in
the muck," Dean argued.
least I didn't end up strung from a tree by my ankle,"
because you were already face down in the mud, giraffe
boy. Smooth move, by the way. If you hadn't pushed me,
I 'd have seen that snare a mile away," the older
brother assured. "Then, after you got me snared,
you just left me dangling while you got your girlie
thought you looked like you were having a good time
necking with that little black and white one,"
Sam grinned wryly. "Don't think I didn't see her
plant a kiss on you, Romeo. Come to think of it, I think
that's the most action you've seen in months."
Dude," Dean said more quietly, obviously skirting
really, man. You haven't picked up a girl in one of
these Podunk towns for ages. What's up with that? Downstairs
brain on strike?"
funny, smartass. In case you forgot, it was you who
tried to turn me all girlie with the yoga stretches
and crap. Hard to keep the downstairs brain thinking
at all when kid brother's tossing me pictures of skinny-assed
dudes doing downward facing dog poses." Dean stated,
lowering his eyes in disdain.
what about all your other 'assets'?" Sam asked,
placing unnecessary stress on the first syllable of
the word. "You still got all those hot scars, right?"
He smacked his brother on the shoulder with a sideways
tilt of his head.
finally dropped his rant and shook his own head with
a lopsided grin of amusement. "Yeah, more than
I need," he admitted. "The thing about scars,
Sam, is this. Chicks dig the old ones. The fresh ones.
. .not so much."
bit his lower lip and nodded slowly in agreement. "I
guess." He looked out the window as they pulled
into the parking lot of the Denny's they'd set up as
a meeting place. He didn't want to say anything, but
he hated seeing his brother's scars, too. He knew too
much about the pain that lay beneath them.
our guy," Dean noted, guiding the Impala expertly
into the parking space beside a shiny, silver 350Z.
Burns, the proprietor of Honey Island Bayou Tours and
Wildlife Observatory, stepped out of his car clasping
a leather portfolio in his left hand as he extended
his right in greeting. "Dean," he said courteously.
"Sam. Did you find our swamp monster?" He
asked, eyeing the boys' bedraggled appearance with amusement.
looked down at himself with a grin, extending his hands
out to his sides, and said, "Actually, I think
it found us."
looks that way," Burns agreed laughingly. "So,
what's the verdict? What was it? Can we open the tours
out the locals were right," Dean stated. "It
was a giant hog, after all."
So that means you killed it, right?"
Sir," Dean affirmed. "You should be able to
start your tours back up any time. Sorry we didn't find
something more bizarre to add to your exhibit, but that
was one helluva giant pig. Might be worth your while
to stuff it and put it on display anyway."
just might do that, provided I can get to the carcass
before one of our resident alligators does," Burns
suggested. "I just hope I haven't wasted you boys'
time sending you after what turned out to be something
I could've gotten a local hunter to take care of for
me. There are a lot of superstitions linked to that
swamp, and I didn't want to take any chances. When I
got your number, I thought you'd be just the men for
there's no job too small," Sam dismissed, not letting
Dean get started on his rant about the holes in his
when there's a paycheck at the end of it," Dean
continued. He felt an elbow from Sam for his lack of
tact, but he was covered in stinking mud and itching
for a shower. Tact was officially suspended until further
course," Burns nodded, opening his portfolio. He
pulled out a Mont Blanc pen, the mark of a true businessman,
and held it poised over the sheet of checks. "To
whom do I make it out to?"
Sam Winchester would be fine," Sam said, knowing
that his real name was the only one of their many aliases
that wouldn't draw attention from a bank computer when
they tried to cash the check. Thankfully, Dean didn't
argue the point.
then five thousand dollars as we agreed, plus three
hundred for your accommodations," Daniel said,
filling in the ledger. Both Winchesters stared at the
pen hypnotically as it floated over the page as if they
feared it would disappear before they collected their
reward. Somewhere in the backs of their minds, they
each noted the small tattoo on the man's writing hand,
but neither paid it any real attention as the check
was torn out of the folder with a jerk and handed over
covered in muck, Dean couldn't maintain his guise of
irritation as he grasped the paper. Hell, he'd mud wrestle
twenty Hogzillas if there were paychecks like this involved.
His trademark grin spread wide enough to crack the mud
on his cheekbones, and Sam thrust his hands into his
pockets and looked down at the ground with a reciprocal
grin of his own. It was so good to see Dean smile like
that. He didn't do it nearly enough.
made a mental note to himself to look out for more paying
gigs when he got the chance.
the younger brother's relief, the crinkle of hard-earned
money in Dean's pocket seemed to erase all residual
bitterness linked to the day's unorthodox hunt. His
big brother wore a content smirk all the way back to
their motel room, and he didn't complain once about
the smell of rancid swamp water that permeated the air.
sauntered into the motel room, a slight spring in his
step despite the ache in his ankle. He tossed his keys
onto the nightstand with a satisfying clank that said,
'Dean Winchester has arrived,' and rifled quickly through
his duffel bag for clean clothes.
use all the hot water," Sam teased, knowing full
well that the motel had a water heater the size of Rhode
Island and no other inhabitants but himself and his
brother. As Dean strode past him toward the bathroom,
the younger brother crinkled up his nose and waved his
hand in front of his face with disgust. "On second
thought, knock yourself out before the smell knocks
me out, man."
little brother, you're just jealous that you didn't
get a smooch from Hogzilla's little friend, too,"
Dean quipped, raising his eyebrows suggestively. "I'm
not the only one who hasn't been seeing any action lately,
you know. In fact," he said, patting his wallet
with a satisfying smack, "I think we should definitely
go out tonight and see if we can't break this drought.
I'm suddenly feeling lucky."
lucky if they make an aftershave strong enough to cover
up your last date's funky perfume," Sam dismissed
with a shake of his scruffy head.
Dean chuckled, and he tossed a rolled up pair of holey
socks at his baby brother's head. The ball bounced off
and onto the floor.
Sam reciprocated, scooping up the sock ball and pitching
it back with some heat behind it only to have it connect
with the closed bathroom door.
Dean snickered, opening the door just far enough to
shout the word and slamming it shut instantaneously.
just shook his head, poking the inside of his cheek
with his tongue, mouth agape, as he accepted his defeat
and fell back onto the bed, arms splayed out to his
listened as Dean began his familiar shower ritual, turning
on the hot water to get the steam started while he unpacked
his shaving kit and started to undress. Sam reached
for the television remote, intending to try to catch
the news, when the bathroom door swung open with enough
force to bounce back off the door stop, leaving the
spring twanging in protest.
threw his arms up and crossed them over his face, making
a dive for the far side of the bed as he fully expected
Dean to shower him with silly string or some other secret
weapon he no doubt kept stowed away in his belongings.
When no attack came, the younger brother peeked up over
the edge of the bed warily and watched in surprise as
Dean, shirtless and barefoot, stormed out of the motel
room and into the parking lot without a word.
leapt to his feet and followed in confusion. As he stepped
outside himself, he saw that his brother had the trunk
of the car open and was rifling around inside with a
frantic desperation he couldn't remember having seen
since they'd showed up to a werewolf hunt without their
silver bullets that time. "Dean?" He asked,
Sam stepped up behind his brother, Dean slammed the
trunk closed and stepped back quickly, nearly sending
Sam sprawling for the third time that day. The older
brother rushed over to the driver door and flung it
open. He dove in halfway, tossing out the smelly towels
he'd used to protect the upholstery after shaking them
briskly, and began feeling inside the seat cushions
and bending low enough to look beneath as well.
Sam insisted, his voice tinged with concerned agitation,
"what are you looking for?"
decisively, Dean pretended not to hear his brother's
questions or even acknowledge the younger sibling at
all. He just seemed to think hard momentarily, his hazel
eyes rolling up as though to make a mental list of possibilities
and he turned on his heel, hurrying back into the motel
the time Sam came back into the room, Dean already had
his shirt back on and was pulling his boots on over
his sockless feet. He was beginning to stand, the car
keys jingling in his hand, when Sam stepped in front
of him, forced him back down into a sitting position
and held him there with strong hands on his shoulders.
bent forward at the hip enough to stare into Dean's
panicked eyes, getting almost close enough to draw the
gaze crossed in its focus. "Dean! What the hell
is the matter?" He shouted.
looked away, his chin trembling slightly. "My necklace,"
he whispered in obvious disbelief. "My necklace
Sam slumped back onto the opposite bed with an audible
sigh. "Is that all? Damn, Dean! You scared
the crap outta me!" He chuckled, running his hands
over his forehead and through his thick hair. "I
thought something was really wrong."
looked at him incredulously. "Something is really
wrong!" He snapped, going back to tying his boot
laces. "Didn't you hear me? My necklace is gone!
G-O-N-E, as in, not hanging around my neck where it's
supposed to be. It must have come off when I got caught
in the snare. We gotta go back and look for it."
no way in hell you're dragging my ass back out there
to mosquito central so you can look for your misplaced
jewelry, Deanna." Sam flopped back on the bed and
noticed absently that someone had put glow-in-the-dark
planet stickers all over the ceiling. "And you'll
never find it out there, anyway."
chose not to acknowledge his brother's attempt to downplay
the situation. Dean was an expert at the old bait and
switch ploy, and he knew that Sam was pressing his buttons
to change the subject. "First of all," he
grunted, tightening his second boot with a sharp jerk,
"it is not girlie."
do you know?" Sam asked. "You don't even know
what it is." He tossed the sock ball from their
earlier tussle into the air and caught it again while
he rolled his eyes at his brother's sentimental rant.
"I'll give you ten to one odds that it's a goddess,
though. That so makes it girlie, Dean."
older brother looked slightly taken aback but only glared
at Sam sideways from beneath half-closed eyelids while
he knotted his laces with finality. "Okay, well,
maybe I don't know what it is, but I know it's mine,
and I want it back."
continued to toss the sock ball indifferently. "Then
go buy yourself a box of Cracker Jacks, cuz there's
a better chance of finding another one in there than
you have of finding that one out in the swamp. I mean,
even if you didn't lose it in the water, a shiny thing
like that would get picked up by any one of a number
of animals that live out there. Hell, for all you know,
one of the pigs ate it!"
was tired and dirty, and as much as he hated to see
his brother lose one of the few possessions to which
he'd actually formed an emotional attachment, there
was no way Sam was going back out there. Dean wasn't
the only Winchester brother to inherit their father's
older brother stood abruptly and headed for the door,
but Sam rolled off the bed and beat him to it, blocking
the exit with his body. "Dean, you're being pig-headed
about nothing. If it means that much to you, we can
go out tomorrow and find you some other girlie charm
to hang around your thick skull."
older brother's eyes became desperate and his muscles
tensed up as if he were preparing to physically toss
Sam out of the way. Instead, he put both hands to the
sides of his head, fingering his dirty hair, and began
to pace about nervously.
This is not the end of the world," Sam said, holding
up his hands in an effort to calm the bubbling tension.
"I don't see what the big deal is about that necklace.
We've got a whole trunk full of lucky charms and amulets,
which we both know hold more superstition than function."
got in his brother's face, and the wide-eyed glare that
fixed on Sam reminded the younger Winchester of the
way Dean had stared down Meg while interrogating the
demon within her. At the time, Sam had thought the gaze
was an expression of intense rage, a look at the darkest
part of Dean Winchester that usually remained hidden
along with all the light Sam knew was there. But Sam
had seen the same look cross his brother's features
when the Demon had been in Dean's face, cutting him
to the core with its twisted words, and now he recognized
it for what it was; desperation and fear. Sam wasn't
any less frightened for his newfound understanding.
This glimpse at his brother's barely masked fragility
actually terrified him even more.
chin trembled as he drew close enough for Sam to feel
the heat of his breath hissing out between clenched
teeth. "The deal is that Dad gave that necklace
to me, Sam. He gave it to me and made me promise never
to take it off. Capital 'N', capital 'Ever'; NEVER,
Sam, not even during sex."
Dad said that?" Sam asked incredulously.
scrunched up his chin and shrugged half-heartedly. "Well,
not in so many words," he conceded.
exactly how many words did he use?"
Sam. He said, 'What part of never don't you understand,
son,'" Dean explained, his voice deepening to mimic
course he did, Dean," Sam returned, refusing to
back down. "Of course he gave it to you and told
you never to take it off, because it's the perfect accessory
to go with the angst, dysfunction, and sociopathic tendencies
he gave you."
Sam's lack of intimidation or something the younger
brother said seemed to break down Dean's desperate conviction.
He backed up half a step with a thoughtful wrinkle forming
in his forehead.
I do not have sociopathic tendencies."
Dean," Sam conceded with a roll of his eyes. "If
the world was populated by nothing but hot girls and
kids under the age of twelve, you'd be a regular social
. .well. . .that's beside the point," the older
brother admitted, flustered. His eyes dropped, and he
went back to pacing, fidgeting with his hands as if
contemplating what action to take next.
was as unsettled by Dean's loss of control as Dean was
himself, and after the older brother had made three
laps around the dinky room, Sam could take no more.
He reached out and wrapped a strong hand around his
brother's shoulder and halted the relentless motion.
The tension in Dean's muscles pulsed through Sam's fingers
like an electrical current.
you're a mess," Sam sighed, finally grasping the
gravity of the situation. "You really have to let
this go, though. I mean, sure Dad told you never to
take the necklace off, but I'm sure it was probably
just another one of his little tests. You remember,
like when he used to put those stupid troll dolls in
our pockets and make us swear to protect them while
he put us through some simulated hunt or something.
He used to tell us the mission was failed if we lost
the damned things. That's what this is all about, I'm
sure. He just wants to see how far you'll go to follow
orders, Dean. He's just making sure he can still control
eyes darted away from Sam's intense stare. "No,
Sam. This is nothing like that. Nothing. And I'm gonna
prove it." He reached into his jacket pocket and
pulled out his cell phone, opening it quickly and focusing
his attention on finding the correct button to speed
. .no," Sam protested, reaching for the phone between
exclamations. "You're not going to call him. You
can't be serious."
I'm serious," Dean retorted pressing the talk button
and the speed dial. "Dad trusted me. He trusted
me to keep that necklace. If it's missing, then I have
to tell him."
with the phone in his brother's hand, Sam could hear
the familiar voice mail message kick in. Dean didn't
even try to mask his disappointment that their father
hadn't answered, just waited for the tone as his eyes
darted nervously about the room. "Dad," he
said finally, "it's me, Dean. Something's come
up. . ."