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Title: Spring and by Summer Fall (God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise) Part 2b
Author: chartruscan
Characters/Pairings: D/C pre-slash, Dean, Castiel, John, Sam, Rufus, OMC, mention of Jody Mills, Andy Gallagher, Jo Harvelle, Bobby
Rating: PG-13 this part (R for language)
Wordcount: ~2900
Warnings:  WIP, abuse of Google Translator,  Language of the potty mouth variety, fictional river
Genre: AU, H/C, Whump
Summary:   He had never wanted his father's life of ranching. Years after returning as a former POW, Dean can think of nowhere else he'd rather be, and he'll do anything to keep his family and home safe.
Summary (Part 2):   If Cas had stayed for dinner, he might have stood a chance at making it out of town.

The sun hung low over the westernmost prairie, burning pale in a band of cinnamon.  The Oglala River ran black and swift, catching the dying light as it licked along the frozen edges.  From a copse of trees a crow took flight with a caw, wings beating heavy in the still air.  On a high river bank a horse whinnied.

With a powerful surge, Dean broke through the surface of the river, heaving a shocky breath in.  He dragged Cas up out of the water and back against his chest with the frozen grip he had on the neck of his jacket. Looping an arm under Cas' and over his chest, Dean leaned back and let go of his foothold on the submerged window frame.  With his free arm he began breast-stroking towards the bank, angling upstream to fight the drag of the current, Cas' chin bobbing against his wrist.  Dean's feet struck sand and he hauled them both onto the bank, collapsing as shivers coursed through him.  He forced himself onto his knees as Cas stirred sluggishly, and staggered over to where the rope still hung from Sheridan's saddle, his muscles frozen and lethargic.  The horse whickered at him, shaking her ears.   Where the hell was Dad?  he wondered.  With unfeeling fingers he fashioned a large bowline knot, pulling it tight with his teeth, and then dragged his abandoned gloves back on before stumbling back to where Cas had rolled onto his side.  He dropped to his knees next to him and unceremoniously hauled him to sitting upright, then to his feet, shoving a shoulder into his armpit.  Cas tried to help walk, but his right leg dragged, and he managed to pale even more by the time they reached the rope.   

Hugging the doctor's collapsing weight to his chest, Dean slipped the bowline over Cas' shoulders, shimmying it between their bodies and lifting one arm and then the other before securing it high across the doctor's sternum and under his armpits.

"So, look, uh, Doc, I ain't gonna lie.  This is gonna suck.  Just try and hold on, 'kay?"  Cas' only response was to let his forehead sink against Dean's shoulder as Dean wrapped an arm around his back and fisted the rope with the other, giving Sheridan a tug and a whistle.  Dean braced them for when the slack gave out as his good old Paint began to slowly back up.  He tried to walk them up the steep bank as best he could, but his muscles were so frozen it was all he could do to keep a grip on Cas and the rope.  He made do with taking the brunt of the undignified slide up on his back, then left Cas hanging as he swung his legs up onto the grass before easing the other man up over the edge.

Fuck, he was cold.

His thermals were stiffening with frost as he pawed at them clumsily.  Once his jeans and flannel were back on, he worked at Cas's sodden down jacket and fleece sweater, replacing it with his own lined barn coat and wrapping his scarf over Cas' head and around his neck.  He fumbled getting the knife out of his pocket and again trying to open it, and slashed through the laces of Cas' sensible winter boots. When both their feet were socked, Dean began working Sheridan's saddle off to get at the blanket underneath.

"Sorry babe, but you ain't the wet one here," he shivered at her as he wrapped it around Cas.  He wanted to lie down and crawl under that blanket, wanted someone to come and take this off his hands, for someone to-- but the ranch was thirty miles at it's widest, and it could be hours yet before anyone could get to them if they were on horse.    

Dean stood up.

He pressed his face into Sheridan's now bare flank, feeling the heat sink into a nose he'd forgotten he had. Pulling back, he walked up to her left front leg and gave it a tap and murmured gently, "Lay down Sheri, lay down."  Sheridan didn't much like the idea, but Dean only had to nudge her once more before she slowly and gracelessly lowered herself into a heap of long legs.  Dean praised her and quickly went to Cas, who had curled back onto his side and stuffed his face into the saddle blanket.  Dean could barely get a grip under his arms, but when he did he dragged him up against Sheridan's stomach, tucked the blanket under his feet and the legs, and then slipped behind him, cradling Cas between his thighs.  The heat radiating off of the horse was blessedly welcome, and he took Cas's hands and stuffed them into his armpits before pulling the blanket up over his shoulders and wrapping his arms around Cas' chest, burying his nose into the scent of hay and horse sweat and river water.  Nothing for it now but to wait.

A bird trilled out a jangly tune from the grasses, tee-lee-oo, tee-dle.

"Billy Quinn."

Dean hmmmmed into Cas' neck, not wanting to leave the pocket of warmth he'd created, "Who?"

Cas rolled his head back, bumping Dean's ear with his own.  He was silent a moment, and Dean thought he'd passed out again.  Then he said, "Ya videl beluyu loshad."

Dean did raise his head then, "What now?"  He was staring at Cas' cheek, so close he was cross-eyed trying to focus.  He leaned away, shifting his position to put some distance between them.  Cas rolled his head into that space, seeking the missing warmth.

"Belyi konʹ," he murmured. He sounded irritated.  "Yeblya loshadyeĭ, kotorye bezhali menya doroga zdesʹ."

"The fuck, dude?"  Dean was too cold for this.  "Speak English."

Cas shook his head as if to clear it and said apologetically, "Horse."

Dean shivered and tucked back closer, rubbing his hands up and down Cas' arms and stuffing his nose back into the blanket.  Muffled, "Yeah, we're cuddling with a horse, and her hooves are digging into my ass."  His ass covered in wet boxers, and Cas' sopping pants melting icewater into the rest of his jeans.

Cas shook his head again in frustration and then stopped quickly; Dean felt him tense in pain.

"White horse," he tried to explain through gritted teeth, voice a thin tense whisper, ". . . fucking horse . . . " And then the tension bled away, body sagging back into Dean, the back of his head clipping Dean's chin.   

Dean spat out hair and nudged Cas's head over so that his cheek rested against Dean's jaw, eyelashes tickling his cheek, worrying about just how hard the doctor had hit his head.

Dean heard a snuffle and felt Sheridan shifting behind him, and then he heard an answering snort and the clod of hooves approaching, clicking against the frozen ground.  He lifted his head and his eyes widened in awe as Lady in White approached.  She stopped in front of Sheridan and they nosed each other, whickering greetings.  Then Lady turned and reached her long neck down and whuffed at the blanket, at the doctor's frozen hair peeking out from the scarf.  Dean got a blast of warm wet air next.

Then she was gone, disappearing back into the evergreens as the headlights of his dad's pickup came down the road.

John had arrived with Tate and blankets.  They used one as a stretcher to lift Cas into the bed of the pickup; Dean crawled in with the rest of the blankets and wrapped them around himself and the doctor.  Sheridan lurched to her feet and shook the cold ground from her coat, pointedly lipping the saddle blanket abandoned on the ground.  Tate refolded it and draped it over her back and began pulling at the knot on the pommel of the saddle as John climbed back into the truck, both of them silent and efficient.  John drove back slowly, but even still the wind in the open bed was devastatingly cold, and whatever warmth Dean had found was quickly sucked away as he wrapped himself tighter around Cas, cradling the doctor's head away from the hard corrugated bed of the truck.

Sam had a fire going in the living room and the tub full of hot water by the time Cas was carried inside and straight into the downstairs bathroom.  He met Dean in the kitchen, resting on his crutches as Dean half-stumbled in the door.  The expression on Sam's face said he had a million questions and concerns, least of which being the doctor their father and Tate had just carried in, but he bit his tongue for the time being.  

"The water tank should be hot again," was all he said and nodded his head to indicate the bathroom upstairs.

Dean hugged his chest and started for the stairs when the front door swung open again and Jo rushed up from behind him.  She grabbed his elbows and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, Dean!"  He gripped his chest tighter and offered a cocksure smile that came out as more of a grimace, and lost his momentum to move.  She hustled him up the stairs, with little sympathy but just a touch of panic, and into the bathroom, her only concession being to push him against the sink counter before kneeling to take care of his socked feet.
Jo lifted each foot and jerked them off so swiftly he almost toppled, hands skidding against his tenuous grip on the porcelain.  Dean could only shiver as she then stood and viciously tugged at his belt and pulled his pants down so roughly his thighs felt flayed.

"J-jesus, Jo!  Always kn-knew you wanted to g-get me naked."  

She was not amused, trying not to feel how cold his skin was.  "Your lips are blue, asshole.  Got any spare clothes up here?" she asked, business-like, turning on the shower as she made short work of his flannel.


Dean looked at his boxers then at her, quirking an eyebrow.

"As if I want to see your junk, Winchester."  With that she gave him a final shove and stalked out of the room.  Dean placed a burning hand on the tile and stepped under the spray, unable to bring himself to touch the fabric of his underwear just yet, holding his hands up into the spray as if in prayer and just let the water pour over him.

Jo returned seven minutes later with a bundle of warm socks, sweats and sweaters and left half of them on the toilet seat.  After she left, Dean let himself sink onto the floor of the shower, hugging his knees until the water began to cool.

Dean was bundled in front of the fireplace in a nest of sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows; half-drowsing when John and Rufus emerged from the downstairs bathroom and laid Cas down on the couch, bandaged and dressed in warm dry clothes.  Gallagher and Tate had put dinner on the stove and gone quietly home, Jo only relinquishing her worried watch when Dr. Stevens arrived.

Dean fell asleep somewhere in between snatches of "should be taken to the hospital" and Cas drunkenly telling John that he didn't want to miss Christmas.  It took Dean a moment to remember that it was already January.  If he had clung to wakefulness a moment longer, he would have remembered that the line about Christmas was Sam's excuse when he broke his leg in what was not a horse riding accident, and a hospital visit risked revealing too much that was better left secret.

Cas drifted awake hours later.  It was quiet save for the popping of wood burning in the fireplace.   He opened his eyes and stared at the exposed beams of the ceiling as he orientated himself.  He was no stranger to concussions and waking up in strange places, quickly piecing together his fragmented memory and determining his location, knew he was at the Winchester homestead.

He turned his head to stare at the only source of light in the room and found Dean crouching on the hearth, split log on one hand, firelight limning his profile.  Cas let his gaze rest there, ignoring for the moment all the ways his body was protesting it's very existence.  He could feel the constriction of bandaging around his ribs and knee, the pounding in his head, but the image before him was restful in so many ways.

Maybe he sighed, because Dean shifted and looked at him.  Cas couldn't see his eyes, silhouetted as he was by the fire, but didn't stop looking.  The fire crackled and the house settled; Dean shivered.  He put the log on the fire and stood, brushing hands on his sweats.

"Need to use the can?"  His voice was soft and jolting all at the same time. Cas stared up at his shadow and nodded.

Strong hands lifted him up when he failed to do more than raise his head from the pillow.  A shoulder under his arm kept him from settling his weight too heavily on his right leg, and an arm around his waist kept the room from tilting.   Once in the bathroom, Dean let him steady himself on the pedestal sink and closed the door.

Cas let the dizzy wave wash over him before hobbling over to the toilet and relieving himself, one steadying hand on the handicap rail mounted on the rough-hewn wall.  Probably installed after Sam's accident.  The pants he dragged back up weren't his own, nor was the slightly oversized button-down winter flannel whose sleeves fell uncuffed around his hands.  He hop-skipped back to the sink and stared closely into the mirror.

He looked like a ghost, washed out with flattened hair and uneven pupils.  He ran a hand through his hair, wincing as his fingers dragged over his left temple; wiped down over his face.   Cas looked down, inspecting the hem of the loaned shirt as if it held the answers to the universe, then began unbuttoning it.  His torso was wrapped tightly from naval to sternum.  He traced the wide red line from the seatbelt where it disappeared diagonally under the bandaging.

He was fucked, he was so fucked.  He'd had to push his luck, had to indulge in one moment of selfish whimsy, and because of that he could feel, tickling at the back of his mind, the slow avalanche that would upend his existence beginning to slide.

Cas shrugged.  

Nothing to do but lie down and wait for the overwhelming forces to pass over; whatever happened next was meant to happen.  He was a fatalist.  

Fifteen minutes later Dean knocked, more as an announcement of intention than a request for permission, and he found Cas slumped on the lid of the toilet, shirt unbuttoned and one pant leg rucked up.  It was a rather striking image that Dean chose to ignore.

"I have a concussion," Cas slurred, head rolling loosely on his neck.

Dean smirked, not unkindly, as he leaned down to button his shirt back up, remembering when he used to do this for Sammy.  "That you do, buddy."

Cas was exhausted by the short trip back to the couch, everything aching all the more from his self-inspection and his brief excursion into the land of being upright, and Dean had to practically hug him to lay him down as painlessly as possibly.  Cas' head swam, but there were two steady arms behind his back, then one hand cupping his head, then finally all that heat slipping away.

All that heat.

Cas caught Dean's arm before he could stand back upright.  Dean froze.

His grip was like iron as he dragged Dean back down to him.   Dean was too shocked and confused to resist, wide bright eyes locked on Cas'.  He placed his other hand on the side of Dean's face, thumb resting below his eye, palm cupping his cheek.  

Cas frowned.

Dean shivered.  He reached up abortively, hesitated  --gripped the offending hand and pulled it away.  Dean put a pillow back under Cas' injured knee, pulled the blanket back over Cas and quickly left the room.


Continue on to Part 3a

A/N:  Cas says "White horse", "I saw a white horse" and "The fucking horse that ran me off the road is here."

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