Title: Death in an Alley
Beta: Annie B.
Warnings: blood and guts
"Sam, bird-dog him! I'll cut him off on the other side!"
Sam Winchester absorbed his brother's push and continued straight, running after the recently-turned-corporeal demon. The sound of his sneakers pounding the concrete echoed through the quiet city streets. They were lucky; the demon inhabited one of the not-so-populated sides of town. After their face-off with the demon earlier, an innocent bystander was the last thing the hunters needed tonight.
He and Dean had cornered the demon just a half hour ago- Dean holding the thing at bay while Sam read the verses that would solidify it. Killing the demon was a two-step process, and unfortunately for them, the demon valued its life very highly. It managed to overpower Dean, slip past Sam, and escape out into the night before the ritual could be completed. The brothers had taken up a foot pursuit, just barely keeping up with the demon as it fled on a panicked course through the dark streets and alleys.
Sam saw the slight movement of shadow on shadow as the demon turned down an alley. Sam followed, reaching out and grabbing hold of the building's brick wall to catch himself as momentum forced his turn too wide. The brick was gritty and crumbled under his touch, but then he was gone and sprinting down the pavement once more.
He bounced off the chain link before he knew it was there. It clattered loudly in the silence and Sam stumbled back a few steps, pin wheeling his arms in an effort to keep his balance, then he spun, withdrawing the gun from the small of his back and leveling it out before him. Where was it? He'd seen it come down this street. Sam squinted in the dim light from the street lamp, searching his surroundings. The sides of the alley were littered with fast food wrappers and worn, crumpled newspaper. Puddles of water had collected under the eaves of the old four-story buildings. A single rusty fire escape snaked its way down the side of the building to his left.
Dean came trotting to a halt on the other side of the 8-foot tall chain link fence. His gun was out and pointed to the ground, and he was panting heavily. The demon was making them work. "Where is it?" Dean asked, his eyes sweeping over the alley.
Sam kept his back to his brother and his gun out in front of himself. "I saw it come down here," he said. "I don't see it now."
"Well it couldn't have just disappeared. I need-"
Sam's world exploded in a sensation of pain so severe it became numbness. He crashed into the building on his right and dropped to the pavement in a heap of tangled limbs and trash. His ears rung, black spots pulsed in his vision. He tasted blood.
The gun lay in a puddle fifteen feet away.
"Sam!" Dean was shouting, "Get up! It's coming-"
He couldn't move- his head throbbed and his shoulder felt dislocated. And his hip… his pelvis felt like it had split in two. Sam barely had time to lift his chin from the gravely pavement before he was hit again. Something collided with his midsection and actually pushed him backwards, driving the air from his lungs and threatening to expel the contents of his stomach. Sam curled in on himself, hugging his knees to his chest in a protective ball, and gasped for air. His mind was screaming for help, for surrender, and his thoughts drowned out all other noise. A single hot tear slipped from the corner of his eye and dropped onto the damp street below.
No mercy would come to him that night. Sam's biceps were squeezed in a tight grip and he was being lifted, he felt a warmth against his face, then he was slammed back against the brick wall. His shoulder jarred and bone ground over bone, tearing a whimper from him before he could stop it. Dizziness fogged his brain and the shadows blurred together. He was helpless.
The bony, claw-like grip left his arms, only to be replaced around his neck, just under his jaw and above his Adam's apple. The pressure immediately collapsed his trachea and Sam panicked. He flailed with all his strength, his feet kicking uselessly against the bricks and his arms coming up to wrap around the cold hard arms of the demon. He pulled- instantly regretting the action as hot pain ripped through his shoulder- but the demon didn't budge. If anything, the pressure increased.
His lungs burned. His arms and legs tingled. His fingers and toes were numb. His vision wavered and grew dark. His chest expanded, trying desperately to pull in oxygen. It wasn't working. He was running out of time.
Sam stared into the demon's glowing red eyes, feeling his body go slack. It couldn't end like this. Where was Dean?
"Hey!" A voice cut through his haze and Sam looked to the alley's opening. The voice wasn't his brother's, as he had expected. It was a woman's. "What are you doing? Stop!"
The demon shrieked and lunged for her. Sam fell to the ground, collapsing in a coughing, gagging heap of broken-bodied hunter. His life had been spared… for the moment.
But then the woman's screams filled the air and Sam tried to straighten himself out, tried to get his arms and legs underneath him. He locked his elbows, pushing his torso up and staggering to his feet, bulldozing his way through the black-spotted vertigo that still clung to him. His right leg buckled and he fell into a limping stride, moving as fast as he could towards the woman and the demon.
Suddenly, belatedly, Sam realized he was unarmed.
He shook his head in self-disgust, in an effort to drive away the thick, cottony confusion. The move made him list and collide with the wall and he pushed off it, hurrying towards the gun. He must look ridiculous, he thought, limping and staggering around while a woman was being attacked by a corporeal demon in an alley. Sam spotted the gun and went for it.
By the time his fingers wrapped around the cold, wet hand grip, the woman stopped screaming.
By the time Sam had the gun steady and aimed, a shot rang out- the muzzle flash like the bulb of a photographer's camera, burning the scene forever into Sam's mind.
The demon caught Dean's bullet square in the chest and it shrieked, staggered back, then obliterated into tiny, smoldering ashes that blew away on the breeze. The woman lay in a motionless heap on the ground. Dean stood still, panting and with his gun still aimed at where the demon had been, as if he were wishing for the chance to kill it again.
Sam blinked. "Dean?"
Dean turned his head and slowly, the gun lowered. "Sam. You okay?"
"Yeah," he lied, and started forwards, thumbing on the gun's safety and shoving it in the waistband of his pants. His right arm hung limply at his side and his right leg wouldn't support his weight. Dean raised a skeptical eyebrow, so Sam redirected him. "The girl- is she okay?"
Dean spared Sam one last look before dropping to kneel before the still figure. He reached out and touched her neck as Sam came to a stop beside him.
The woman was young- not more than 30. Her blonde hair was fanned out around her head, strands of it laying limply across her face, obscuring her facial features. Blood was pooling around her in a dark, smooth circle. It came from a deep belly wound, and if Sam looked hard enough, he could see smooth pink intestines poking though the rips in her red sweater. She lay there unmoving, deathly still. The silence was unnerving.
Sam drew in a breath, ignoring the rawness in his throat. "Is she…"
"Yeah," Dean replied, letting his hand drop. "She's gone."
Somehow, that piece of news hurt the most. "Are you sure?" he asked, taking a small step backwards. It couldn't be- she'd come out of nowhere, wasn't supposed to be here, had no idea what she'd interrupted. People shouldn't be allowed to die this easily. Sam ran a trembling hand through his hair. "Check it again- we need to do CPR. We need to call the police- the ambulance."
He stepped forwards again, kneeling on the other side of the dead woman. His knees hit the pavement and he flinched at the jarring in his hip. "Help me," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder and rolling her onto her back. Pale lips and open, unblinking eyes stared up at the stars. "Dean, help. Do something." Sam had one hand on her chest before he realized performing chest compressions with a dislocated shoulder was impossible. "We can't let her die- she didn't know…"
"Sam," Dean said, more insistently. He reached over the body and grabbed Sam's forearm. "She's gone."
"We can save her!" What good was it all- the hunting and the fighting and the bloodshed- if they couldn't save one innocent girl? Blood was seeping through his jeans, warming his kneecaps and shins. He drew in a shaky breath, feeling stronger now that he wasn't on his feet. "You do the compressions, I'll breathe."
Dean grabbed his jaw. "Sam, look at her! She's not coming back!"
And Sam did look. He saw the sparkle of a diamond engagement ring, the glint of golden hoop earrings, the tint of red lipstick and the sheen of manicured nails. This had been someone's best friend, someone's daughter, someone's lover. And it had all been sacrificed tonight, in his name.
Sam felt a lump of leaden guilt drop into his stomach and settle there.
The pain of his heart ripping forced him to his feet, and Sam stumbled backwards, away from the body. "It's not fair!" he said, crashing into the brick wall behind him. He ignored the beating his already broken body was taking. Hell, he deserved it. "She didn't know… she wasn't supposed to be here, Dean!" He looked up and saw Dean, saw who should have saved him, and before he could stop it, he lashed out. "Where were you? Why didn't you save her?"
Dean rose to his feet, his shoulder's tense. "You don't think I got here as quick as I could? You think I stopped off at the gas station for a hot dog and a Slurpie?" Dean advanced on him, his breath vaporizing in the cool night air. "Do you not see the 8-foot tall, barbed-wire topped fence back there?"
Sam followed Dean's jerking thumb, risking a glance.
"I ran, Sam. I ran as fast as I could around the block to get here as soon as I did. I'm sorry if I couldn't be the hero you seem to think I am. I'm sorry if I had no idea that someone else would get involved! And I'm sorry she died." Dean leaned in closer, jabbing his finger in Sam's chest. "But I am not sorry you're still standing here."
Dean's breath was warm and moist against his face and Sam leaned back. He looked at Dean, realizing that the blame lay solely upon himself, not his brother. He was wrong in blaming Dean, but it felt so right- Sam wanted to blame Dean for not getting here sooner, the woman for her act of chivalry, the demon for being evil- even John Winchester for putting them on this path in the first place, the one that would see the brothers standing over a gutted dead girl in the middle of a dark alley. Sam's rage was ebbing, leaving in its place an aching, hollow hurt. His throat was tight. "I just… it's not fair," he said at last.
Dean's face softened too, and he dropped a hand onto Sam's good shoulder. "I know, Sammy. I hear you."
Silence filled the space between them. Dean didn't offer any condolences, and Sam didn't expect any. For Dean to tell Sam that everything would be alright would be a lie, and they knew it. Things like this could happen again. This was their fault.
Sam's strength was draining out through his feet and he found himself sliding down the wall, his shoulders knocking painfully over the uneven bricks. Dean came down with him, running triaging hands over his limbs. Unable to let the matter drop so quickly, Sam looked into Dean's eyes and waited until Dean was looking back. "We're supposed to protect people," he said softly, for that was all the energy he had left. "If anyone dies, it should be us."
Dean was still for a moment, his eyes narrowing quickly in a flash of pain. "You're not going to die, Sam."
"Not tonight. But one day."
"Not for a long time," Dean said, using the tone he reserved for closing subjects. "Come on, let's get you up. You're delirious."
Sam's eyes fell back to the girl. The blood had spread farther, almost reaching them where they sat. "We need to call someone," Sam murmured, grabbing Dean's outstretched hand. "We can't just leave her." Even as he spoke, a large sewer rat scurried across the street.
Dean patted his pocket. "I got my phone. We'll call from the road. Right now let's just get you back to the car, okay?"
Before Sam could stop him, Dean was raising his dislocated arm, trying to duck under it. The pain nearly drove Sam back to the ground and he cried out, "Don't!"
Dean released him immediately, fear coloring his voice. "What?"
"My shoulder-" Sam gasped, gritting his teeth against the wave of agony rippling though him. "Dislocated."
"Why the hell didn't you say anything?" Dean growled, easing Sam to the ground.
"You didn't ask."
Dean huffed. "I'm not Dad. I expect you to tell me these things." There was a pause as Dean grabbed his wrist and placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. "You ready?"
Sam took a deep breath and let his gaze settle on the dead girl. He memorized her features- the dull, blank eyes, the slack face, the way her body was frozen in a contorted pile, even the blood and the slimy pink intestines. "I'm ready."
Dean jerked and Sam felt a pop, then a wall of fiery pain washed over him. Sam kept his eyes on the girl, knowing that this could only be the start of a suitable punishment for what he did. He deserved a lot worse- it should be him laying there on the cold hard pavement. He felt guilty, he felt sorrow, regret… he felt cheated.
He lifted his gaze and found Dean staring at him expectantly. Sam nodded and sniffed. "It's in."
"I know it's in," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "I know how to put a shoulder back into joint. I'm not an amateur. Now get up."
As they made their way past the body, Sam said a prayer. After that, he was silent.
Sometimes, there were no happy endings. Sometimes you were shown something you didn't want to see, taught a lesson you already knew. Sometimes, life sucked. No amount of kind words or sympathy could make Sam feel better about what had happened tonight. Nothing he could do would make the pain go away. Time would fade it, dull it, bury it- but it would never go away.
Exhausted, Sam rested his head against the Impala's window and closed his eyes, waiting for the nightmares to come.