Title: Ripple Effect
Season: 2 – set between the episodes Simon Says and No Exit
Category: General, Action
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 2 Word Count: 5272
Story Banner: Chasidern
Forgot to add....this story has one of my favourite banners, thanks to my auntie Chris, better known as Chasidern. Banner is posted on LJ because I have no idea whether this site will allow me to post pics. And I'm not technically-minded enough to work it out for myself....
“Sammy…” Dean reached for the seatbelt with trembling hands. It wouldn’t release, and the thoroughly shaken hunter pounded at the buckle in frustration. “Son of a bitch – you stupid heap of junk…” Finally the buckle clicked, releasing the belt, and Dean began an uncontrolled slide across the seat to the passenger side, flinging out a hand to stop himself from falling through the open door. His head spun dizzily, the darkened landscape blurring before his eyes. He leaned his forehead against his outflung arm, holding onto the steering wheel until the worst of the dizziness passed.
“Son of a bitch.” Slowly, Dean raised his head and looked around. The truck had come to rest against the thick trunk of the tree, with the passenger side pointing toward the downward slope. Letting go of the steering wheel, he braced himself against the mangled doorframe and twisted around as he swung his legs out of the truck. “Sammy? Sammy!” He let go of the doorframe and slid to the ground.
Dean's world exploded in a bright flare of pain as his legs crumpled beneath him, spilling him onto the damp ground. He gasped, his breath catching in his throat, and moaned softly. Closing his eyes, he pressed his face into the cool grass, trying to push the pain down so he could assess the damage. A dull ache in one knee faded into insignificance compared to the sharp, breath-stealing pain across his ribcage and he moved his hand, pressing lightly over his chest and side. There was nothing sticking ominously out of his skin, and for that he was grateful, but his ribs felt as though they were on fire and he suspected that at least two of them were fractured.
Moving his arms slowly, he pushed himself up onto his hands and left knee, gulping back the nausea that roiled in his gut. Dean shifted his right leg to take some of his weight, and the dull ache in his knee erupted into blinding agony. Collapsing onto his side as his knee gave way, Dean almost screamed when he landed on his damaged ribs. The nausea bubbled up his throat and he heaved, wrapping both arms around his ribcage as he fought for breath. Luckily there wasn’t that much in his stomach to bring up, and the bout of vomiting was mercifully short. He lay on the ground gasping and shaking, the fingers of his left hand digging into the soft, loamy soil as he fought against the pain threatening to make him black out.
Slowly, the agony was beaten back and Dean opened his eyes, staring up at the night sky while he caught his breath. He raised a trembling hand and wiped his forehead, grimacing when his hand came away wet with a mixture of blood and sweat. Pushing himself carefully up on one elbow, he glanced at the truck.
“Holy crap…” Dean bit his lip as he surveyed the mangled wreck. The truck was definitely not going anywhere ever again, except back to Bobby’s salvage yard for scrap metal. The cabin was twisted out of shape, the windscreen shattered, the buckled passenger door hanging almost to the ground. There was a huge dent running right across the roofline from the impact with the tree. The front passenger side wheel had collapsed, and Dean suspected that a tie rod must have snapped when he’d tried to avoid hitting the deer up on the road, causing him to lose control and sending them into that deadly rollover. He struggled to sit up, searching his pockets for a lighter as he peered into the darkness surrounding the weak illumination from the one working headlight. To Dean’s dismay the headlight blinked, sputtered and went out, leaving him in almost total darkness just as his search for another light source came up empty. “Shit!”
Cursing breathlessly, Dean struggled to his feet and staggered across to the truck, easing his battered body down onto the running board while he caught his breath again. His head throbbed in time to his racing pulse, and from the size of the headache, he assumed he had a concussion along with everything else. That was going to make things fun. Drawing in as much air as he could, he raised his head and shouted, “SAMMY!”
No answer came out of the dark, and Dean felt the icy tingle of fear ghost along his spine. Pushing himself to his feet, he hung onto the side of the truck as he stumbled along its length. “Sam!” His only thought now was to find his brother – to make sure Sam wasn’t hurt. Dean refused to let his mind go any further along that track, steadfastly clinging to the hope that Sam was somewhere along the gouged out path of the rolling truck, dazed but still in one piece. “Sam! Sammy! Answer me!”
Every step a new experience in searing agony, the hunter struggled along the steep slope, clinging to the side of the wreck as if it were a lifeline. He came to the rear of the truck and stared off into the darkness. “Sammy, where – are you?” Taking a shuddery breath, Dean let go of the truck and took a single tottering step forward. This time he did scream as his leg collapsed beneath him, tumbling him to the ground. The agonising pain was mercifully cut short as unconsciousness crashed over the injured hunter. His body shuddered once, and laid still, his ragged breathing and the ever-present crickets the only sounds to break the stillness of the cool night air.
* * * * *
Bobby Singer frowned at his watch as he paced up and down the kitchen. He’d worked on the Impala until it got too dark to see. Dean had neglected to mention that as well as the oil pan; he’d also stripped off the valve cover, air cleaner and carburettor. Bobby had gotten the parts back on the top of the engine after replacing the gaskets, leaving just the oil pan to clean and re-attach. He’d come inside to start dinner, expecting a call from Dean at any minute letting him know how Sam was. That had been a few hours ago, and there’d been no word from either of them since the ambulance had left that afternoon. Bobby didn’t want to admit it, but he was beginning to worry.
The bearded hunter’s frown turned into a full-blown scowl, and he flipped his cell phone from his pocket. Calling up Dean’s number from his contacts, he quickly pressed the button.
The call went straight to voicemail. “This is Dean – leave a message.”
Bobby shook his head – that was so typically Dean. “Dean – it’s me. When you get this, give me a call – let me know how Sam’s doing. If you’re gonna spend the night at the hospital, I’ll set out the demon traps and call you in the morning.”
Tapping the phone against his hand, Bobby stared out into the night for a moment before punching up Sam’s number. That call, too, went right to voicemail. “Hey, it’s Sam – I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave your name and number, and I’ll get back to you.”
“Sam – it’s me – I just wanted to find out how you’re doin’. Get that pig-headed brother of yours to give me a call and tell me what’s happening, okay?” Bobby ended the call, sighing heavily as he put the cell back in his pocket. He pushed his cap back on his head, glanced at his watch again, and turned to the stove to make a pot of coffee. Bobby couldn’t explain why, but he was beginning to get a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Bobby shook his head as the water gurgled in the coffee maker, turning to rest one hip against the table while he watched the dark brown fluid trickle into the pot. Those boys had become like the sons he’d never had, especially since John Winchester had died. Bobby knew both boys were hurting from the loss of their father, Dean more so than Sam as he’d always been closer to his dad than his younger brother had. Bobby knew that Sam loved his dad and was grieving too, but the young man had always been closer to his big brother than his father. Dean had always been more of a father figure in Sam’s life than John had been.
The demon hunter poured out a cup of the steaming brew, and held it in his hands as he recalled the events of that afternoon. The accident had happened so fast – one second Sam had been standing beside the truck, his head canted back, his gaze on the chain lift as it had pulled the engine slowly from its mounts. The next second there had been a sound like a gunshot, followed immediately by a startled grunt and a crash as the engine had listed to one side, the broken chain whipping out to crash against the fender of the truck. Within seconds the young psychic had fallen to the ground, twisting in agony as he’d tried to breathe.
Seeing the broken chain and fearing the worst, Bobby had sprinted around the front of the truck, calling Sam’s name. As soon as he had caught sight of the distressed young hunter, he had yelled for Dean. Dropping to his knees beside the boy, Bobby had vainly tried to hold Sam still while he assessed the extent of the damage, but six feet four of panicked Winchester was a little too much for the grizzled hunter to handle. He’d been so relieved when Dean had skidded to a stop beside him.
Of course, Dean had immediately been able to calm his brother enough to let Bobby look at his injury. It never ceased to amaze the elder hunter at how those boys could be at each other’s throats one moment, and inseparable the next if one of them got hurt.
Bobby swallowed a mouthful of coffee, surprised to find it had gone cold whilst he’d been standing at the window lost in thought. He checked his watch, and his brows arched as he saw that an hour had passed since he’d made the calls to the boys. Bobby chewed on his lower lip for a moment, and then squared his shoulders and grabbed the phone book.
Finding the number for the hospital, Bobby drew in a deep breath and cleared his throat as he dialled. He had no idea what names the boys were using, so he figured he’d just have to bluff his way through. Lucky it was only a small hospital – he might be able to pull it off. Bobby mentally crossed his fingers as the call was picked up. “Uh – hey,” he began, slurring his words as if he was slightly drunk. “My – my nephews – my nephew was hurt today – hit in the throat by a broken chain – uh – he came in by ambulance…”
“Oh, you mean Sam Mahogoff?”
Mahogoff? Bobby wondered. How the hell does that kid come up with these whacked out names? “Uh – yeah, that’s him. I tried calling his brother, but – he’s not answering his cell.”
“Well, let me see…” The nurse’s cheery voice tapered into silence, and Bobby could hear the tapping of computer keys in the background. “Ah, yes – he was discharged about two hours ago. His brother took him home.”
“Right – well, they’ll be here any minute, then. That boy – he was supposed to call me when they left the hospital – kids today, huh?”
The nurse laughed politely. “I understand, Mister Mahogoff. If that’s all I can help you with?”
“Oh – yeah – hey, thanks.”
“Good night, sir.”
“’Night, miss.” Bobby flipped the phone closed and set about making a fresh pot of coffee, trying to ignore his growing feeling of unease. He glanced at his watch again, calculating the time it would take Dean to get back from the hospital. The borrowed truck was slow, so the trip wouldn’t be anywhere near as fast as he’d make it in the Impala.
“I’ll give them another hour.”
* * * * *
The biting cold finally penetrated the cloak of velvet darkness that surrounded him. Dean blinked up at the starry sky, shivering in the chilly night air. He slowly reached up and rubbed his bare arms, cursing the fact that he’d left for the hospital without grabbing his long sleeved shirt or a jacket. His only thought had been for his brother, and wanting to get to where they had taken Sam as quickly as possible. But then, he mused wryly, in his defence he wasn’t expecting to drive off the side of a freakin’ mountain and get them both stranded in the wilderness for the night.
Thoughts of his brother spurred him on, and he grunted in agony as he struggled to push himself up on one elbow. His ribs burned, stealing his breath away, and the pain in his knee throbbed in a sickening accompaniment. A monster headache threatened to pound its way out through his skull, and Dean gingerly touched a fingertip to the gash just above his temple. Hissing in pain, he snatched his hand away and groaned as a whole new set of aches clamoured for attention.
“Sam,” Dean called softly. “Sammy?” He gritted his teeth as he forced himself to his knees. Swaying drunkenly, Dean shuffled back to the mangled truck and grasped the tailgate with shaking hands, pulling himself to his feet. The effort left him trembling and gasping for breath, and he pressed his forehead against his outstretched arms as the horizon lurched sickeningly. “Ahh, that – that sucks…”
Turning around slowly, Dean squinted into the darkness as he stood with his back against the rear of the truck. Trying to ignore the increasing dizziness and the jackhammers pounding away inside his head, he concentrated on one thought only – finding his brother. Sam was out there somewhere, cold, alone – possibly hurt. Briefly, a vivid image of his brother’s lanky body, crushed and broken, flashed before Dean’s eyes, and he cursed as he shook his head sharply to get rid of the thought. The resultant head spin threatened to dump him on his ass and he gasped, slumping back against the truck until the world righted itself again.
“O – okay.” Wiping one hand across his sweat-soaked brow, Dean dug into his jeans pocket with the other, retrieving his cell phone. He flipped it open, and squinted at the screen. His face fell – there was no signal on the phone. “Crap! Gotta do – this – the hard – way.”
Dean drew in a shaky breath and pressed his lips into a thin, determined line as he shoved the useless phone back into his pocket. He figured if he followed the path of destruction caused by the rolling, sliding vehicle, he would be bound to come upon his brother, even if Sam were out cold. He had to be back along the path of gouged earth and crushed undergrowth. Knowing Sam, he probably had figured out the same thing in reverse – that by following the trail of ripped up earth, he would eventually find Dean. Dean planned to make it easier on Sammy by meeting him halfway.
Taking his bearings from the truck, he assumed that by walking in a straight line from its rear, he would eventually reach the road, picking up his brother along the way. Then they could flag down a passing motorist and get to a doctor, or back to Bobby’s, to be patched up. With that thought firmly embedded in his mind, he slowly pushed off from the tailgate of the truck and staggered off into the dark.
It didn’t register in Dean’s addled, concussed brain that the truck had flipped sideways during its roll, its tailgate pointing not toward the road but parallel with it, along the side of the slope. He was heading in the wrong direction.
* * * * *
“This is Dean – leave a message.”
“Damn it, Dean – where the hell are you boys? You call me the minute you get this!” Bobby gripped the phone tightly as he ended the call, shoving it deep into the pocket of his jeans. An hour and a half had passed since he had rung the hospital, and the boys still hadn’t turned up. And both their cells were still going straight to voicemail. That cold feeling in the pit of his stomach was growing by the second, spreading outward until he thought it would freeze him from the inside out. Something was wrong – something was very wrong. He just knew it.
Bobby headed outside, letting the door slam shut behind him as he strode quickly around the back of the house. The Impala gleamed in the soft starlight, and the bearded hunter surveyed the restored classic with a critical eye as he hauled a portable floodlight out of the nearby tool shed. Plugging it in, he directed the beam as low as he could, illuminating the ground underneath the car. “Okay, old girl, let’s put you back together and go find the boys.”
Grabbing a wrench from the nearby workbench, Bobby got down on the ground and slid under the raised front of the Impala. He made short work of replacing the gasket and re-attaching the oil pan, and dragged a barrel of oil from the shed to top up the engine. Within an hour he was back inside the house, washing the oil off his hands.
The grizzled demon hunter changed into a warmer shirt and jacket, grabbed his shotgun and set the demon traps inside the front door in case of any unexpected visitors while he was gone. Patting his pocket to make sure his cell was securely nestled inside; he slid behind the wheel of the black classic, bringing her roaring to life. Bobby listened for a moment to the perfectly tuned engine. “Needs work, my ass.” Shaking his head, he steered the big car around to the front of the house.
Bobby pulled up beside his truck, and quickly hurried over to the driver’s door. Reaching in, he grabbed a powerful flashlight from the seat, jumped back into the Impala and sped down the drive.
* * * * *
Pain. It dragged him from the comfortable pit of unconsciousness and onto a desolate plain of screaming, tearing agony. Sam gasped, pressing his face into the cool earth as he tried to make sense of the frantic messages his body was sending to his brain. Slowly, the flood of demands slowed down to a trickle, and he was able to start sifting through the information.
His neck and his right wrist were vying for first place in the pain stakes, followed by his head, lower back, right shoulder, and left thigh, in that order. Gingerly moving his head, the young hunter peeled open his eyes and tried to focus on the dark, blurry landscape. Grass tickled his cheek, bringing back the memories of the last few horrendous moments of consciousness.
Sam closed his eyes, sorting through the images. He had been concerned that Dean was driving too fast and had tried to get him to slow down, and then something had been in the road – Dean had swerved, there was a loud bang and the truck lurched violently, tossing him hard into the passenger door – which explained why his shoulder hurt. He remembered his sense of the world becoming skewed, and he had a sensation of falling, which he guessed was the truck rolling over. The passenger door had sprung open, and he’d been flung out of the careening vehicle. The door had caught him sharply across his back as he’d fallen to the ground, and he vaguely recalled landing on a large rock, which explained the pain in his thigh.
Slowly, Sam opened his eyes again and tried to move his right arm. Sharp, burning agony erupted along his hand and wrist, and a soundless cry escaped his lips as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut. For a long moment he lay perfectly still on the cold, damp ground, hardly daring to breathe until the worst of the pain subsided. Finally he lifted his head, swallowing rapidly as he fought down the rising bout of nausea. Turning his head slightly, he wiped the sheen of cold sweat from his forehead onto his shirtsleeve and focussed on his arm.
Sighing in dismay, Sam surveyed the mangled remains of his cast. He must have landed on his right arm when he’d fallen from the truck, breaking the plaster – and going by the level of pain that he’d just felt, probably re-breaking his hand as well. Vaguely he remembered rolling along the ground out of control, and feeling a searing pain in his wrist before he’d mercifully blacked out. Dean would have to help him put a temporary splint on it until they got to a doctor.
Suddenly Sam froze; panic roaring through his battered frame. Dean – where was Dean? Ignoring the fiery agony of his damaged throat, he raised his head and peered into the darkness. “Dean!”
The shout came out as a breathy whisper, and Sam cursed bitterly. His brother would only be able to hear him if he was right next to him, which kind of took care of the need to yell. The young psychic took a deep, steadying breath and tensed his muscles, preparing as best he could for the onslaught of pain he knew he was going to get as soon as he moved. He got his left hand flat on the ground, slid it partly under his chest and pushed.
The pain tore at him, coming from four different points at the same time. His arm and neck were by far the worst, flooding his senses with a searing agony until he could take no more. A wave of darkness roared over him, dumping him limply back onto the damp grass.
In the branches overhead, a night bird called softly and angled its head toward the ground, its bright eyes on the unconscious man lying in the deep shadows near the base of the tree.
* * * * *
“Sammy!” Dean limped along the slope, wincing with every step, one hand pressed to his ribcage. His breath rasped in his throat – shallow, uneven puffs of air barely inflating his chest as he staggered across the uneven ground. “Sam – answer me!”
A tree loomed out of the darkness and Dean flung out a hand, wrapping his arm around its sturdy trunk while he leaned against the slightly damp bark. He gasped for breath, his head spinning, and closed his eyes as he pressed his forehead against the tree. Slowly, the hunter fought down the wave of dizziness and raised his head, squinting into the night. “Sam? Where the – hell are you? Answer me!”
Something – some stray thought, tried to push through the fog of pain and anxiety clouding his mind. It teased at his memory, hovering just out of reach. It was something to do with Sammy – something about him not answering. Memory returned in a rush and Dean drew in a sharp, panicked breath. Sam had been hurt – taken to the hospital – he couldn’t talk, couldn’t call out.
“He could be – hurt – he could be – no…” Shaking his head to snap out of the direction that thought was taking him, he groaned as the world suddenly tilted on its axis. Dean grabbed the tree with both arms, hanging on for dear life until his sense of direction righted itself again.
Gradually the spinning subsided, leaving him weak and shaking. Dean rested his aching head against the tree trunk, breathing in the earthy scent of its bark as he fought down yet another bout of nausea. With a soft moan, he placed his hands against the tree and pushed himself away from its solid trunk. Staggering like a drunk, he got to the next tree and snaked his arm around its trunk as he caught his breath. Digging a hand into his pocket, he frowned when his fingers came in contact with a small paper-wrapped packet.
Dean pulled the mysterious package from his jeans pocket and held it up close to his face, squinting in the gloom. His heart sank as he recognised the packet of antibiotics and painkillers given to him by the nurse at the hospital. “Crap.” The injured hunter checked his watch; trying to remember what time they had left the Emergency Room. Sam would need the painkillers after a few hours. Dean cursed softly – it had been just over four hours since Sam had been discharged. He had to find his brother, and fast.
The hunter glanced around, trying to get his bearings, and a frown grew on his pale, pain-lined face as he searched the ground immediately in front of him. The low growth was unmarked by the passage of the truck, and his foggy mind blanked for a few moments while it tried to come up with an explanation. “Crap – I lost the path.” Dean turned – too quickly, and the landscape tilted on its axis as his head whirled dizzily. He stumbled, losing his balance, the side of his head grazing the trunk of the nearby tree as he fell.
Stars arced across Dean’s vision, going nova as he landed on the ground. The sharp agony of his cracked ribs ripped through his bruised frame, washing away all coherent thought in a blinding wave of pain. “Sammy…” he whispered desperately as unconsciousness claimed him once more.
* * * * *
The bright lights of the hospital came into view and the Impala slowed down, pulling onto the side of the road. Bobby pushed at the brim of his cap and rubbed his forehead as he pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. The demon hunter tried both Winchester brothers again, cursing a blue streak when the calls went straight to voice mail.
“Damn it, Dean, where are you boys?” Bobby stared out at the well-lit emergency entrance for a few moments, his mind racing. Leaning over toward the glove compartment, he flipped the door open and rummaged around inside, pulling out a set of maps. He quickly found the one for the area and spread it across the steering wheel, flicking on the interior light so he could study the small network of roads between his salvage yard and the hospital.
Bobby quickly found the hospital marked on the map, and his thick index finger traced the path of the major highway back to his place. “Now, they would have had to go back along the highway to get through the foothills, but once they got back to flat ground…” Frowning, the bearded hunter traced a sparse network of roads. “I’ll just have to search every one.”
Checking the fuel gauge on the dashboard, Bobby rubbed a hand across his chin and pulled thoughtfully at his short beard as he folded the map and laid it on the seat beside him. He checked over his shoulder for traffic before pulling back onto the road and heading for the gas station he’d passed on his way into the small town. Bobby filled the tank, and on impulse grabbed a couple of bottles of water from the drinks fridge as he walked up to the counter to pay. Stuffing the bottles into the deep pockets of his jacket, he strode quickly back to the waiting Chevy. He patted the hood before opening the driver’s side door. “Come on, old girl – let’s hit the road.”
It wasn’t long before the big black classic left the small town behind and began to climb into the nearby foothills, her engine growling hungrily as she leaned into the first bend. Bobby held the steering wheel in a light grip, guiding the perfectly tuned Chevy expertly along the twisting stretch of highway. The traffic at that time of night was minimal, allowing the hunter to drop his speed as he searched the side of the road.
Bobby got to the other side of the small range of hills without seeing either the truck or the boys, and he scowled as he pulled over by the side of the highway. He grabbed his cell out of his pocket again, frowning at the screen when he saw that he had no signal. The cold feeling that had been building in his gut all evening was forming into a solid lump of fear. The seasoned hunter fixed his gaze in the rear view mirror, staring out at the dark road stretching away behind the Chevy. A disturbing thought began to take shape in his mind.
He’d warned Dean about taking it easy on the bends. But what if he’d had to swerve to avoid some hazard on the road, like an animal or another car? The steering in the truck was feeling a little sloppy, and with a lesser driver than Dean, Bobby would never have even considered letting the vehicle out of his yard. Still – the unexpected happened every day, especially to the Winchester family. If Dean had had to swerve, and something had snapped – like a tie rod… Bobby eyed the sides of the road in the rear view mirror.
“Whoever up there’s listenin’ – don’t let me be right…” Swinging the wheel hard over, Bobby stepped on the gas, and the Impala’s tyres screeched as she was pulled into a tight U-turn. He reached out, switching on the powerful spotlights mounted next to the side mirrors. Directing them to illuminate the sides of the road, Bobby headed back into the hills, keeping his speed down to a crawl as he examined every inch of the road.
Just near the top of the range, the driver’s side spotlight picked up a faint skid mark near the edge of the asphalt, and the faint gleam of a handful of tiny objects scattered in the grass near the guardrail. Bobby tapped the brakes, bringing the Chevy to a halt as he swivelled the spotlight down toward the ground. Exiting the car, he walked over to the grass verge, identifying the shiny substance as broken glass. Bobby turned his gaze to the slope, his face scrunching in concern as he surveyed the recently torn up ground. It looked like a vehicle had skidded off the road, sliding onto the grass and down the slope.
The freezing lump in his gut spread throughout his body. Bobby ran back to the Impala, grabbed the hand held spotlight from the front seat and switched it on. Sprinting back to the edge of the road where the vehicle had gone over, Bobby shone the powerful beam down the tree-covered slope, his eyes growing wide as he followed the path of destruction. Gouged earth and splintered saplings clearly marked the passage of the vehicle. Bobby had a sinking feeling that at the end of that trail of smashed shrubbery and torn up earth, he would find the boys. He hoped like hell they were still in one piece.
The bearded demon hunter spun on his heel and hurried back to the Chevy, sliding behind the wheel to steer her safely off to the grass verge opposite the accident site. He switched off the engine and the lights, and carefully locked the doors before hurrying back to the other side of the road. Drawing a deep breath, Bobby worked his way down the slope, the powerful spotlight beam cutting a bright path through the cold night air.
* * * *