mizpah1931: Latin Exorcism - don't leave home without it (Default)

Title: Ripple Effect
Season: 2 – set between the episodes Simon Says and No Exit
Category: General, Action
Warnings: None
Tagline: ...and the effect spreads outwards, like ripples on a pond when a stone is dropped...
Total Word Count: 43,131
Total Chapters: 7
Chapter 1 Word Count: 6967
Beta:

[personal profile] ziggyuk 
Story Banner: Chasidern

 

This was one of those strange stories where I had the very end scene written months before anything else. I knew sort of how I wanted the story to go, but I had a long way to catch up to my final scene.  At long last the muse came back from her extended cruise to parts unknown and helped me write all the missing bits and get it posted.

Thanks is such a lame word for my awesome team of banner-maker and beta-reader – Chasidern and Ziggy – without whom I just can’t function.

And of course, the usual disclaimer applies – just having fun with Mr Kripke’s creations.

Chapter 1

“Jo, honey? Better break out the whiskey instead.” Ellen Harvelle’s shrewd gaze switched between the two Winchester brothers as her daughter headed back to the storeroom. “So, where do we go from here?”

Dean’s hand tightened around the glass, his anger at what he felt was the woman’s intrusion into their family business simmering just below the surface. It was taking all his energy to be halfway polite, especially after she had slammed him for telling her to mind her own business. He gritted his teeth, dropping his gaze to the remains of his beer while he let Sam answer for them both.

"We don't know. I guess we just keep our ears to the ground - see what comes up. And keep huntin'." Sam shrugged one broad shoulder, glancing swiftly at his brother for confirmation.

The elder hunter kept silent, twisting his half empty glass around and around in his hand before tossing back the beer in one long swallow. He flicked a quick look at his sibling and got to his feet, setting the empty glass down on the bar. “Thanks for the beer – we gotta hit the road.”

Ellen frowned. “You boys can stay…”

“No – got things to do. Come on, Sam.” Dean headed for the door, anger bunching his shoulders. Stepping outside, he let the door bang shut behind him and strode to the waiting Impala, knowing his brother would follow him. He settled behind the wheel, drinking in the calming smell of the leather interior, and inserted a tape into the cassette player with quick snap of his fingers.

The passenger door creaked open, and Dean felt the car settle a little further on its springs as his brother lowered his long frame onto the seat. He gripped the steering wheel tightly with one hand while he reached for the ignition with the other, his gaze on the road ahead of the Impala’s long black hood.

“You all right?” Sam asked softly.

“Fine.”

The young psychic sighed. “Dean – we could have stayed. We don’t have a job going at the moment. We could have –”

“Car needs an overhaul. We’ll go to Bobby’s,” Dean stated flatly, the warning tone in his voice indicating that the discussion was over before it had even started.

But Sam was nothing if not persistent. “The car’s running fine, Dean – you said it yourself just a few days ago. This is about Andy and the other psychics, isn’t it?” Sam saw his brother’s jaw tighten in anger. “Dean, talk to me.”

“You did enough talking for both of us.”

‘What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Dean curled his hand into a fist and pounded it on the steering wheel. “What the hell was that back there? Why did you tell them about your freaky-assed visions? Don’t you remember anything Dad and I taught you?”

“Ellen, and Ash – they could help. That’s what she said to Dad in that message I found. Come on, Dean, they’re part of this, too.”

“Part of what, Sam? Part of the demon’s plans? ‘Cause I’m not seeing the big picture, here. All I’m seeing is you shooting your mouth off to a bunch of strangers about stuff that’s none of their freakin’ business!”

Sam’s lips thinned as he tried to keep a tight rein on his anger. “Ellen and Dad were friends, Dean – she’s not exactly a stranger.”

“Yeah, right. That must be why Dad always told us if we needed help, we should go see Ellen.” Dean narrowed his eyes against the glare bouncing off the asphalt, and pressed harder on the gas pedal. “Of course, that never crossed College Boy’s mind, did it? It never occurred to you just why Dad kept us in the dark about the Roadhouse.”

“Dad kept us in the dark about a lot of things, Dean,” Sam murmured softly.

“Don’t you turn this into another bitching session about Dad! I don’t want to hear it!”

“I’m not –”

“As a matter of fact, why don’t you just shut the hell up for five minutes and do us both a favour?” Leaning slightly forward, Dean flicked the volume knob to the right, effectively silencing any further attempts at conversation.

*     *      *     *     *

The requested five minutes stretched to a couple of hours. By the time Bobby’s salvage yard came into view, Sam was nearly climbing the walls. Dean had kept the music to an almost ear-splitting level, making it clear he didn’t want to talk about anything. The sudden silence when the motor and the music were finally switched off hurt the young hunter’s ears.

Keeping his gaze averted, Sam opened the door and stretched as he got out, easing the kinks in his back. He waited for his big brother to lead the way, and he took up his usual position at Dean’s shoulder as his sibling strode toward the run-down house that had become their surrogate home after their dad’s death.

Sam kicked his feet against the dusty yard as they walked, his gaze flicking to Dean’s tense back and shoulders. The psychic had seen the slow decline in his big brother from the moment their dad had died. Dean had closed in on himself, pushing Sam – and everyone else who tried to help – away, cradling his pain and loss like a miser cradling his gold. Sam thought there had been a major breakthrough a few weeks ago, when Dean had finally had what was for him a pretty heavy meltdown, and told Sam what he’d been feeling. But then he’d shorn up his defences once more, hiding behind a wall of sarcasm and bluster.

He’d glimpsed his brother’s true self again over the past few days, when he’d started getting visions of people being driven to their deaths by another of the psychic kids. Dean had been more like himself – more like the brother Sam had grown up with. The brother who had come to get him from school in the dead of night. The brother who had wordlessly held him while he shattered into a million pieces after Jessica’s funeral, and who had helped him through the days and weeks that followed. But now Dean’s walls were firmly in place once more; a quick, burning anger the mortar that held the bricks together.

Dean’s boot was on the bottom step when a gruff shout caused him to stop. He threw a glance at his brother before looking over his shoulder at the bearded man who approached from the other side of the wrecking yard.

“Dean – Sam. What brings ya?” Bobby’s faded blue eyes missed nothing as they flicked over the two tall boys in a lightning glance. “Everything all right?”

Dean jerked a thumb in the direction of the gleaming black Impala. “Car needs some work.”

Bobby pushed the baseball cap off his forehead, leaving a greasy smear on the brim. He glanced at the Chevy as he wiped his oily hands on an equally oily rag. “What happened? Last time I spoke to you, you said she was running like a dream.”

The elder Winchester’s lips tightened in annoyance and he drew in a deep, calming breath before replying. “Yeah, well, she’s not. So – okay if we stay awhile?”

“Sure, you boys can stay here any time, you know that.” The demon hunter glanced at the taller Winchester as he ushered his guests inside, catching the fleeting expression of concern that flashed across Sam’s face. “Let’s get inside – it’s time I had a beer anyway.”

Bobby set three chilled bottles of beer on the kitchen table along with a small leg of ham, a jar of mustard, bread, butter and cheese. “Help yourselves.” He settled onto the chair closest to the sink, nodding his thanks at Sam’s silent offer to make the sandwiches. Bobby’s shrewd gaze turned to the elder boy as the younger one pulled three plates from the cupboard. “So, whatcha been doin’?”

Dean grunted softly as he twisted the top from his beer, taking a long swig before meeting the burly hunter’s gaze. “Just got back from a gig over in Guthrie, Oklahoma.”

“And?”

“And nothin’. We’re between jobs, so I thought I’d give the Impala an overhaul while we had the time.” Dean shrugged, his gaze dropping to the plate his brother slid in front of him. Without even a silent nod of thanks, he picked up his sandwich and took a huge bite, his eyes glued to the table while he ate.

Bobby caught Sam’s brief, warning headshake and backed off, a frown creasing his brow. “Okay, well, you know where the tools are. Help yourself.” He glanced again at the young psychic as Sam placed a filled plate in front of him. “Thanks, Sam.”

“No problem.” Sam kept his eyes on his own plate, feeling his brother’s gaze on him for a brief second or two.

Lunch continued in tense silence for a few minutes, until Bobby decided he’d had enough. He pushed his empty plate aside and pinned the boys with a stern gaze. “What’s goin’ on with you two?”

“Bobby…” Sam began, before the demon hunter’s raised hand silenced him.

“I’m not gonna walk around on eggshells in my own house. What’s goin’ on?”

Dean shoved his plate to one side as he got to his feet. He waved a hand at his sibling. “Why don’t you tell him, Sam? You’re into all that caring and sharing crap, and wanting to spill your guts to everyone you meet.”

Sam shot to his feet so suddenly that the chair he’d been sitting on tipped over and hit the floor with a sharp crack. Anger vibrated through his tall frame, and his hands curled into fists as he took a half step toward his brother. Pulling himself together as Dean’s eyes widened in surprise, Sam straightened to his full height and glared at his sibling. “I’ll get our stuff,” he growled through tightly clenched teeth before striding toward the front door, his back ramrod straight and his shoulders bunched.

Dean blew out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding as the front door banged shut behind his pissed off sibling. Shit – this day just gets better and better. He dropped his gaze to the table, and then raised his head as he felt a stare drilling into him. Dean encountered Bobby’s disgusted glare and spread his hands helplessly. “What?”

Bobby shook his head. “Boy, one day you’re gonna shoot that smart mouth off once too often, and your brother’s gonna up and leave your ass.” Righting the fallen chair as he got to his feet, the demon hunter left the room, oblivious to the effect his statement had on the elder Winchester.

Dean sat back down at the now empty table, his hands clasped tightly together, his face draining of all colour as Bobby’s words echoed inside his head. The secret his dad had entrusted to him thrummed through his brain, and he felt his breath catch in his chest. God, Bobby – if you only knew – if I tell Sammy what Dad said, he’ll leave my ass all right… He glanced up as the front door banged again, admitting his still pissed brother.

Sam shot a sizzling glare in his brother’s general direction before he stomped up to the spare room, dumping the bags onto their beds and sitting on the one furthest from the door. He didn’t look up as he heard his sibling’s boot heels thudding on the worn boards. Lacing his hands together, Sam hunched his shoulders and rested his elbows on his knees, waiting in brittle silence as Dean stepped into the room and shrugged out of his jacket.

Dean glanced at his tense sibling, deciding it was best for both of them if he kept his mouth shut for now. He draped his jacket over his duffle and threw his shirt on top, leaving him clad in his black tee shirt and jeans. Dean dug the car keys out of his pocket, glanced at his brother once more, pursed his lips and left the room without a backward glance.

The young psychic sighed heavily as his brother walked away. He knew he should have said something to diffuse the tension, but he was having a hard time keeping a lid on his own temper after Dean’s outbursts since leaving the Roadhouse. Rolling his shoulders to ease the stiffness in his taut muscles, Sam headed to the kitchen to clean up the lunch things.

*     *     *     *     *

Bobby heard the door slam for the third time since the arrival of his guests, and shot a dark look at the elder Winchester stalking down the steps. He turned back to his truck, and was stretching out a hand to grab a wrench from the toolbox balanced on the fender when the throaty rumble of the Impala made him look up again. The burly hunter watched the shining black Chevy glide around to the back of the house, his ears straining to detect a wrong note in the perfectly tuned engine. He shook his head, turning his gaze toward the house as the door slammed once more.

“Gonna have to get me a self-closing door, so those two don’t bang the friggin’ thing off its hinges,” Bobby muttered, wiping his hands on a rag hanging from his pocket as the youngest Winchester walked across the yard.

Sam ambled over to where the middle-aged hunter was wrapping chains around the truck engine, thrusting his left hand into his jeans pocket as he drew closer. “Hey, Bobby.” Raising his right arm, he leaned his elbow on the fender and stared into the engine bay, his eyes alight with curiosity. “What are you doing?”

“Got to take the engine out – give it an overhaul. A real overhaul, not the kind of one your brother’s gonna give the Impala.” Bobby noticed the guilty twitch from the younger man, and nodded in satisfaction as his suspicions were confirmed. “There’s nothin’ wrong with the Impala, is there, Sam?”

“Uh – well, it’s – it kinda – there was this noise…” Sam chewed on his lower lip, trying frantically to think of a reasonable excuse.

“Sam, your brother can spin a tale full of crap as natural as breathin’. But you – you never could lie worth a damn. So how about you cut the bull, and tell me what the hell’s goin’ on.”

“Uh – it’s this whole thing.” Sam raked one hand through his hair, pulled off his jacket and tossed it over the door of the truck. “Dean – he really took it hard when Dad died, you know? And this last gig…”

“What was it you were huntin’?”

“We weren’t sure, exactly, when we took it on. I had a vision of this older guy – he got a call on his cell and then he went into a gun store, picked out a rifle and blew the gunsmith’s head off, and then he turned the gun on himself. It turned out to be one of the special kids – like me – using the power of his mind to get people to kill themselves.”

Bobby’s jaw dropped. “What happened? Did you guys…?”

“No – no. His twin brother Andy – he shot him before Anson could force Dean to shoot himself.” Sam shrugged and blew out a sigh. “But this whole thing, you know? The demon’s grand plan – it’s kinda – it’s hard to keep goin’, not knowing what the demon wants with all of us – with me. I guess it just – we told Ellen – well, I told Ellen, and I guess Dean’s pissed at me ‘cause I told her who – or what – I am.”

The bearded hunter’s grunt was non-committal as he went back to hooking up the chains around the engine. “Don’t see that you did anything wrong, boy. Ellen’s a good person to have on your side.”

“Well, you know Dean.”

“Yeah.” Bobby grinned faintly, his gaze flicking up to meet the concerned eyes of the young hunter before dropping back to focus on the task at hand.

Sam leaned closer, peering into the engine bay. “Need a hand?”

Bobby glanced up in amusement. He knew that Sam didn’t know a thing about cars. “Thought you’d be over helping your brother.”

“Dean – doesn’t need my help.” Sam shrugged, hating the blush that coloured his cheeks as he met the older hunter’s knowing look.

“Okay, well, if you really want to, I could use the help.” Bobby glanced at the cast on Sam’s right arm. “What about your hand?”

The shaggy haired psychic flexed his long fingers. “Ahh, it’s okay – it doesn’t hurt much now.”

“What did you do?”

“Zombie – I was the bait, and she kinda – threw me to the ground and broke my hand.”

“Uh-huh. Tryin’ to nail her to her grave bed?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me guess – Dean was waiting at the grave with the stake, right?”

“Well – I can run faster.” Sam wasn’t about to repeat Dean’s smart-ass comment about the zombie going for him because she had crappy taste in men.

“Hmm.” Bobby shook his head. “Okay, well – we’ll just let him be for now – let him get that bug out of his ass by himself.”

Sam grimaced at the mental picture Bobby’s statement evoked, shook his head and reached for one of the chains dangling from the hoist. “All right – what do you want me to do?”

“Well, we gotta get these chains fastened around the engine before I can undo the mounts. Then the real work starts.”

Snorting softly in amused disbelief, Sam bent over the engine.

*      *     *     *      *

Dean could hear the faint clank and rattle of the chain lift being wound up as he crawled out from under the Impala, wiping his hands on the rag hanging from his pocket. He’d managed to get the oil pan off without help – not that he would expect his brother to come out and give him a hand after the way he’d pissed Sam off. Giving vent to an aggrieved sigh, Dean turned to the workbench. He was reaching for a wrench when a sharp crack echoed across the yard like a gunshot, followed by a rending crash. He froze, his eyes scanning for potential danger as he tried to identify the noise.

“Sam!” Bobby’s sudden shout sent a chill down Dean’s spine. “DEAN!”

The young hunter was already moving, spurred by the panic in the older man’s voice. Sprinting across the yard, he swung around the corner, and his heart leapt into his mouth at the sight that greeted his eyes.

His brother was down. Not just down but writhing on the ground, clearly in agony, his long fingered hands clawing at his throat as he emitted strangled choking noises. Bobby knelt beside him, his hands on Sam’s shoulders, trying vainly to hold him still.

“Sam – let me look! Let me see, dammit!” Frustrated, Bobby glanced up, relief palpable on his face as he saw Dean slide to a halt beside him.

“What the hell happened?”

“One of the damned chains snapped – the end of it must have got him across the throat.”

“Jeez!” Dean dropped to his knees and grabbed his brother’s wrists, biting his lip as he heard Sam struggling for air, the young man’s breath wheezing hideously. “Sammy! Come on, calm down, calm down!”

Bobby glanced at the elder Winchester. “We gotta get him up. Ease the pressure on his airway.”

“Okay. Okay, little brother – we’re gonna sit you up. Don’t try to move your head.” Dean slid one hand under his brother’s neck, supporting the dark shaggy head as Bobby grasped Sam’s shoulders. Between the two older hunters, they slowly pulled the young psychic into a sitting position. Dean knelt behind his brother, carefully easing Sam back to rest against his chest. “Okay, easy now, Sammy – easy. I gotcha.”

Sam’s breathing eased a little. He kept his eyes tightly closed while the bearded demon hunter crouched down to examine his throat. Already an angry red welt had formed and the skin was abraded in places, pinpricks of blood welling slowly from the vivid mark.

Finally Bobby straightened, frowning as he studied the younger Winchester’s pale face. “Sam? Can you talk?”

“…hhhurts…” The word came out in a breathy whisper.

Bobby exchanged a worried glance with the green-eyed young man. “There could be damage to his larynx. I’ll call 911. We can’t take him to the hospital ourselves – it’s too risky. He needs an ambulance.”

Dean nodded, brushing his brother’s long bangs away from his face as the elder hunter hurried toward the house. “Okay, it’s okay, little brother. I gotcha.” He kept his other hand pressed against the back of Sam’s head, holding him still and trying to take as much strain off the younger man’s neck as he possibly could. “Take it easy, kiddo. Ambulance’ll be here soon, okay?”

“Dean…” Sam wheezed breathlessly.

“No, no, no – don’t try to talk. Just breathe. Can you do that? Just breathe for me.” Dean chewed on his lower lip as he stared fixedly down the drive, willing the ambulance to magically appear. His brother’s tortured wheezing breaths tore at his heart and he cursed silently, sending a savage glare toward the nearby truck with its engine suspended drunkenly from one chain. As Dean watched, the final chain gave way with a loud crack, sending the engine crashing down inside the bay and taking out the driver’s side fender as it fell.

Sam flinched at the sudden noise, and arched his back in agony as the movement jarred his neck.

Dean pressed his free hand against the side of Sam’s face. “Easy, easy, Sammy. Don’t move – just breathe. I gotcha, I gotcha.” He held his brother’s head perfectly still, his fingers twined in the wavy chestnut locks, feeling every flinch and shudder as Sam tried to drag in each painful breath. “That’s it, Sammy, just breathe. You’ll be fine, you’ll see. Help’s on its way.”

The green-eyed hunter almost sagged in relief as Sam’s breathing eased a fraction. It was still laboured, but he could feel a little of the tenseness seep out of his brother’s body. Dean heard a door slam, and he glanced up as Bobby hurried across the yard. The bearded hunter carried an ice pack in one hand and a bag of frozen corn wrapped in a dishcloth in the other.

Bobby dropped to the ground in front of Sam and gently placed the cold packs against his throat, meeting Dean’s worried gaze as he held the packs in place. “Paramedics are on their way – they’re just picking up a little boy a couple of miles away. They’ll be here in a few minutes.”

Dean nodded, keeping a firm grip on his brother’s head. “How far to the nearest hospital?”

“Hour and a half – maybe a little more.” Bobby peered into Sam’s pale, sweaty face. “It’s okay, Sam, help’s comin’.”

It seemed like years to Dean, but in actual fact it was only ten minutes before he finally heard the faint wail of a siren in the distance. The sound grew rapidly louder, and he sighed in relief as the vehicle made its appearance, lights flashing as it negotiated the long drive. His hands were beginning to cramp from holding Sam’s head, and he glanced up gratefully as one of the paramedics took his place. Getting to his feet, he reluctantly moved a few paces back out of the way, sharing a worried glance with Bobby as the elder hunter stood up. Dean shook his hands, trying to rid his fingers of the resultant pins and needles while he watched the paramedics tend to his brother.

Quickly, the medical personnel examined the young psychic and loaded him onto a gurney for transport, elevating the back of it so he was almost sitting up. The paramedics carefully guided the gurney inside the ambulance, trying not to jar their patient too much while they got him settled. One of the men held a hand up to forestall Dean as he moved toward the back of the ambulance. “Sorry, man – we’ve already got another patient in the back – you’ll have to follow us.”

“But – my brother…” Dean’s gaze was locked on his sibling’s pale face. He saw Sam’s eyes slowly open, searching for him, and he shoved past the medic to stand in the doorway. “Sammy – I’m here, dude. I’ll be right behind you, okay? I’ll see you at the hospital.” Dean glanced swiftly at the little boy on the next gurney; his face streaked with tears as he nursed what Dean guessed was a broken arm. His mother was beside him, her arm curled protectively around his shoulders. Dean nodded at the woman as she gave him a watery smile, and he curled his hands into fists when the doors closed, blocking his view of his little brother. “Damn it!”

Bobby watched the ambulance speed down the drive, its siren wailing, its lights splashing lurid red against the surrounding trees like spilled blood. He turned to the anxious young man fidgeting next to him. “Dean – how’s the Impala?”

“Crap, crap, crap! She’s in freakin’ pieces! I dropped the oil pan out – and a few other things.” Dean ran a shaking hand across his mouth, turning to face the demon hunter. He gestured helplessly toward Bobby’s truck, and the engine stuck on its side in the engine bay. “How am I…”

“I got another truck – it needs work, but it runs.” Bobby hesitated, gripping Dean’s shoulder. “Just – be careful on the bends, okay? Steering feels a little sloppy. But it should get you to the hospital and back, if you take it easy.”

“Great. Where is it?” Chewing on a thumbnail, Dean trailed Bobby to the shed, where he stared in dismay at the rusted relic sitting on four near new tyres. “It runs?” he asked doubtfully.

“It runs.” The elder hunter dug into his pocket, cursed, and sprinted for the house. He returned moments later with the keys. “Go on, get moving. I’ll start putting the Impala back together while you’re gone. You call and let me know what’s happening with Sam as soon as you find out, okay?”

“Thanks, Bobby.” Dean drew in a deep breath, squared his shoulders and climbed in behind the wheel, amazed to find that while the outside looked like a rust bucket, the interior had been worked on, with new dashboard, seats, and even seatbelts. He clipped himself in, tightened the belt and fired up the engine.

*     *     *     *     *

Sam curled his left hand into a fist as the ambulance doors closed, blocking his view of his big brother’s worried face. His breathing sped up a little and he closed his eyes, willing himself to calm down. The vehicle hit a bump in the drive and Sam gasped, agonising pain lancing through his throat as his neck was jostled. He lay still, his eyes squeezed tightly closed, and concentrated on getting enough air into his lungs to keep him conscious. A firm hand clasped his shoulder and he opened his eyes, staring up at the seamed face of the middle-aged paramedic.

“Hey, buddy – you doin’ all right? Just blink once for yes, two for no – don’t move your head or try to talk.”

Sam blinked once, hesitated, and blinked again. The paramedic squeezed his shoulder in reassurance.

“We’ll have you at the hospital soon, buddy. Don’t worry.” The man stripped the protective wrapping off a syringe, and waited till the ambulance hit the asphalt before pulling up the sleeve of Sam’s shirt. “This’ll help with the pain, okay?”

The young hunter blinked again and shifted his gaze to the right, where he could just make out the boy and his mother in his peripheral vision. He tried to smile at the boy, and the mother smiled back.

“Mommy – that man – his arm’s broke too,” the boy whispered loudly.

Sam’s smile grew a little wider as he raised his right arm, showing the boy his cast.

The young boy leaned forward, careful not to move his arm. “Does it hurt?”

Sam wriggled his fingers and blinked twice. The woman smiled and nodded.

“No, honey, the man says it doesn’t hurt. See, once the plaster goes on, it won’t hurt any more.” She hugged the boy tightly and looked over at Sam, mouthing a silent thank you.

The young hunter smiled back and closed his eyes, letting his arm drop onto the gurney by his side as the pain medication kicked in.

*     *     *     *     *

Two hours later Dean pulled into the hospital parking lot, cursing the slowness of the battered old truck. His beloved Impala would have gotten him there in half the time – hell, he would have given the ambulance a run for its money. Striding through the doors, he narrowed his eyes, searching the light crowd before heading to the front desk. Dean dredged up a smile for the pretty nurse on duty. “Hi, uh – my brother Sam was brought in by ambulance.”

The nurse ran an appreciative eye over the tall, well-built hunter, and blushed as she saw him grin. “Um – what’s the surname?”

Dean froze, wondering what name was on the latest credit card. Finally the fog cleared. “Mahogoff. Sam Mahogoff. And I’m Dean.” Breathing a small sigh of relief as his hesitation went unnoticed; Dean glanced around the waiting room. He turned back to the desk as the nurse spoke his name.

“I’m sorry – there’s no one here by that name.”

“There’s gotta be.” The hunter scowled. “Freakishly tall, needs a haircut, came in with a – with a little boy who broke his arm – they were in the same ambulance. He can’t talk – he got hit in the throat by a chain while he was helping our – uncle – fix his truck.”

“Oh, yes, I remember now. The paramedics said his brother was following the ambulance, and would give us the details when he got here. Okay, Mister Mahogoff, just fill out these forms, and take a seat. I’ll let the doctor know you’re here.”

“Thanks.” This time, Dean didn’t hold back on the sigh as he faced the row of hard plastic chairs. Picking one as close to the desk as he could get, he settled down to wait.

*     *     *     *     *

“Mister Mahogoff?”

Dean stopped his endless pacing, and strode across the room toward the front desk and the waiting doctor. “Yes. That’s me.”

The doctor eyed him disparagingly, taking in the grease-smeared tee shirt and grubby hands. “Come with me, please.”

The tall hunter kept pace easily with the shorter doctor. “So, doc, my brother – how is he?”

“He got off lucky,” the man replied bluntly, stopping before an examination room and pushing against the door.

Dean grinned in relief at the sight of his brother sitting on the side of the bed with an ice pack held to his throat. Sam glanced up as the door opened, rolled his eyes at the doctor and gave a tiny smile in return. The elder hunter jerked his thumb at his brother as he faced the doctor. “So, doc, is he ready to go?”

“I guess so – if he really wants to go, that is.” Folding his arms, the doctor stared coldly at the elder brother. “I just need to clarify a few things first.”

“Okay.” Dean spread his hands, and cast a swift glance at his sibling. Sam frowned, his eyes shifting sideways toward the doctor; his look clearly saying the man was going to be trouble.

“I want to know exactly how this happened. I got his version, but now I want to hear yours.”

Alarm bells began to ring in Dean’s head as he glanced again at his brother. “Uh – like I told the nurse, he was helping our uncle fix his truck. One of the chains on the engine lift snapped, and the end of it hit him in the throat. We got him up, called the paramedics, and here he is.”

“And that’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

Tapping his finger against his chin, the doctor shifted his gaze to the younger brother. “And his wrist? How did that happen?”

Dean’s gaze flicked to his brother. Sam was watching the doctor, his expression wary, his lips pressed together in a thin line. The alarm bells were definitely ringing louder. “He had a fall a few weeks ago – broke his hand. Why? What’s that got to do with his throat?”

“He’s in a lot of pain right now. But there’s no damage to the larynx that we can see. Like I said, he got lucky – this time.”

Dean definitely didn’t like the sound of that. “So, he’s okay?”

“Yes, this time he is.”

“So, just give him something for the pain, and we’ll get out of here.”

“I don’t think so.” The doctor lifted the corner of his lip in a slight sneer. “I’m obliged to report this.”

Dean flung out a hand, a scowl forming on his face. “Report what? The kid had an accident. What’s there to report – engine lift abuse?”

“How about sibling abuse?”

Dean went white to the lips, the light smattering of freckles standing out starkly against his fair skin. He stepped closer to the doctor, looming over the smaller man, his eyes narrowed to green slits. “What the hell are you saying?”

Sam stared at the two men; his eyes widening in alarm as he saw the look of fury pass over his brother’s face. Swallowing painfully, he slid off the bed, his muscles tensing as he moved closer to his brother’s side.

“He’s got a fractured wrist, some recent bruising on the right side of his neck, a contusion to back of his head, and I noticed some faint scarring from older injuries. And he seems pretty reluctant to talk about how he got them.”

The elder Winchester’s hands curled into fists as he stepped right into the medico’s personal space, forcing the smaller man to step back a pace. “I don’t abuse my brother,” he gritted through clenched teeth. “Just give him some meds, and then I’m taking him home.”

“I think we need to keep him –”

“I’ll take care of him myself. I’ve been doing it all his life.”

“Lucky he’s not dead already, if that’s how you take care of him.”

Dean saw red. His right hand snapped out to grab the arrogant doctor by the front of his white coat, and his left arm drew back, his fist cocked.

“Dean…” Sam whispered breathily, lunging forward to grasp his brother’s wrist. His head spun dizzily and he hung onto his sibling, leaning heavily on Dean’s arm as he tried to keep his balance.

Grimacing, Dean shoved the shocked medico backward and grabbed his swaying brother by the upper arms, forcing him back down onto the bed. “Take it easy, Sammy.” He turned back to the cowering doctor. “Get his meds, and then we’re out of here. And if I see you, or anyone, come snooping around after my brother, I’ll personally come hunting your ass. And then we’ll see what kind of abuse I can inflict on you.”

The door closed behind the doctor, and Dean scrubbed a hand across his face as he turned to his sibling. “What the hell was that all about? What the hell did you tell them?”

“The same thing you did,” Sam whispered painfully. “He was an ass, Dean. The other ER doc called in sick so they pulled him away from a date to treat that kid and me, and he just took it out on the nearest person. He was just pissed, that’s all.” He fell silent as the nurse from the front desk slipped inside the room, a small parcel in her hands.

Dean slipped the meds into his jeans pocket, listening half-heartedly to the pretty nurse’s instructions. Anger bubbled in his gut at the doctor’s accusations. He’d been beating himself up enough over Sam’s accident without someone accusing him of beating up on his brother. That was the final sour note to a perfectly crappy day. Nodding absently to the nurse, he grasped his brother’s arm and helped him to his feet. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

*     *    *     *    *

Night had fallen by the time the hunters got to the truck. Dean helped Sam inside, and flung the seatbelt across his brother’s lap. “Put it on – it’s about the only thing that works in this rust bucket.”

Sam tried to nod, giving it up as a bad joke when pain spiked through his neck. He winced, raising a hand to the light gauze dressing across his throat as his brother slid behind the wheel and slammed the door. Knowing that conversation would be pointless, especially since he could hardly get his voice above a whisper, Sam contented himself with gazing out at the dark countryside while Dean headed the truck toward the highway.

Soon, the truck was leaving the outskirts of the small town in its rear view mirror, the engine labouring a little as it began to climb into the foothills of a small range. Sam braced his hand against the dashboard as his brother took the first corner at speed, and glanced at Dean in concern. “Dean – you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Dean growled irritably at his sibling, and flicked the radio on. His eyes narrowed, and the anger that had been building since they left the Roadhouse finally bubbled over, like a pot left too long on the stove. Anger at himself, anger at Sam and Ellen, anger at the demon, and his dad, and the ass of a doctor back at the hospital, all roared through him, their voices beating at his brain until he felt like screaming. “Lucky he’s not dead already.” “You mind your tongue with me, boy.” Dean’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “These people out there – these psychics – they dangerous?” “If you can’t save him, you’re gonna have to kill him, son.” His lips trembled. “The demon said he had plans for people like us.” “How about sibling abuse?”  His boot pressed down harder on the gas pedal.

Sam turned his worried gaze from the dark road to his sibling. “Dean, slow down,” he begged, wincing as pain stabbed through his throat. The elder hunter didn’t hear – the radio was more than enough to drown out his breathy whisper. Desperately, Sam wrapped his hand around his brother’s forearm. “Dean…”

Snapping his arm up, Dean dislodged Sam’s grip and glared at his sibling. “Get off me!”

“Dean – please slow down.” Sam tried to make himself heard over the blaring radio and the straining whine of the engine.

Turning to face the road once again, Dean flattened the pedal almost to the floor, his tall frame shaking with rage. I should have beaten the crap out of that smug son of a bitch… Sam grasped his wrist and he growled low in his throat, whipping his arm up once again as he glared daggers at his brother. “Sam – you do that again, and I swear –”

Sam glanced at the road, and then he flung up his hands as his mouth opened in a soundless yell.

Dean snapped his gaze back to the road ahead, cursing vehemently at the deer that had suddenly shown up in the headlights. He slammed the brake pedal to the floor and wrenched the wheel hard over to the right, missing the startled animal by inches as the truck skidded for the verge. Dean heard a loud crunch before a sickening lurch tore the steering wheel from his hands, and he gasped in horror as the truck tipped over the edge of the road, out of control.

Metal screamed as the truck rolled over, hitting on the passenger side first. Dean fought desperately to grab hold of the steering wheel as he was thrown against his restraints, vaguely aware of his brother slamming into the dashboard and rebounding toward the passenger door as they rolled completely over. The elder hunter flung out a hand, his fingers brushing his brother’s wrist as the younger man hit the door. Gathering momentum, the vehicle rolled again, careening down the slope in a shower of shattering glass and crumpling metal.

The horizon spun, shards of glass shot through the cabin in a deadly shower, and Dean yelled, flinging a hand across his eyes. He was tossed repeatedly against the steering wheel, his chest feeling as if it was caving in under the impact. Thrown about like a rag doll, he gritted his teeth and prayed for it to end.

The sickening ride came to an abrupt halt when the huge trunk of a tree loomed out of the darkness. Dean’s breath was driven from his lungs by his final collision with the steering wheel as the truck slammed into the side of the tree. He hung suspended, trapped in the seatbelt while the truck bounced onto its side and slowly settled back onto its mangled wheels with a final rending screech. A red haze obscured the hunter’s vision and he closed his eyes, slumping in the seat while he waited for the worst of the dizziness to subside.

“S-son of – a bitch…” Finally prying his eyes open, he wiped the blood from his forehead and turned his head to the side. “S-Sam – you – okay…” Dean’s blood froze in his veins as his gaze came to rest on the empty seat beside him. The passenger door hung drunkenly on one hinge, buckled almost in half. The seatbelt lay in two pieces across the seat, snapped by the force of the crash. Of his brother, there was no sign at all.

Sam was gone.

*     *     *     *     *


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