Author's Note: Here goes another multi-chapter story! I haven't done one since November, but this has been stewing in my mind for a while and finally felt ready to be written. FYI: This story is a gift for my fellow SFTCOL(AR)S member, Maygin. (I know you didn't ask for it sweetie, but I promised to return the favor, so here is the beginning of the story as promised! I hope you and everyone who reads enjoys.)
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Summary: Stanford AU. For decades, scientists have been saying it is a matter of when, not if, the San Andreas Fault will falter again. When it does, it is thought that not only would the entire coast of California lie in ruins, but millions of lives would be lost, and mass chaos would prevail. In 2004, their predictions came true.
Faults by Starliteyes17
Sam wiped at his eyes, trying once more to decide if he could call it quits. He'd been studying his Common Law textbook for hours in preparation for his mid-terms. But the last thirty minutes had only been spent staring at the same page, trying fruitlessly to sponge the sentences beneath his eyes from the text into his brain.
Yawning, Sam rose from his desk and stretched, spinning on his restless legs to face the window of the apartment. Looking down upon the street, Sam watched as a young girl in a Stanford jacket whizzed by on her bicycle, a shoulder pack resting against her hip. Probably on her way home from the library, Sam guessed, checking his watch. It was nearing two in the morning, but for some people that was still early, as far as preparing for finals went.
At least he'd gotten some studying in, he supposed. Usually, he had trouble doing any homework or class preparation at home. Jess had a tendency to do that to him. Unlike Sam, she had an uncanny ability to never study at all and still ace her exams. This made her not quite so patient in the days before major tests, when Sam would practically dig an early grave trying to ready himself. Like Dean, she just didn't understand what all the fuss was about.
"You know all this already, Sam," she'd say to him. "You never skip class, you take the most tedious notes of any boy I've ever met, hell, you even study just in case there's a pop quiz the next day. So, tell me: why can't you just let go a little and come see a movie with me instead? I promise your textbooks won't run away while we're gone."
To say the least, Jess could be distracting. Not that Sam usually minded, not really. Looking away from the window and over at the desk where a framed photo of a smiling thirteen year-old Jess had her arms around her older sister Jamie, Sam realized that he didn't actually mind at all, at least not right now.
In fact, right now he missed it. Because at this moment Jess was back home in Maryland, visiting the same sister she was hugging in the picture.
Sam didn't just miss her bugging him; rubbing at his eyes again, he realized he needed it. Sam couldn't remember a time when he'd lived without an affectionate annoyance in his life. Not having someone there to pull his head from a book was weird, and as much as he claimed it bothered him, he'd also come to rely on that presence. It was comforting, and created in him a familiar feeling he'd known since childhood.
Sam shook his head and sat back down at the desk, trying to gather his thoughts and focus again. He had to get back to studying, if he wanted to pass that test tomorrow. Just because Jess had finished her mid-terms already and had gone on vacation, leaving Sam alone to fend for himself without her cajoling, didn't mean he could slack off now that he was on his own for a while. But then why did his eyes keep straying away from his book and back up to that picture? As much as Sam had Jess on his mind, there were many other pictures of Jess he was far fonder of that surrounded him. Looking between Jess and her sister, Sam couldn't help but notice that Jamie's eyes weren't on the camera lens. Her eyes were on Jess, and her gaze seemed to be both affectionate and watchful in nature.
Taking a deep breath and leaning his head against the palms of his hand, Sam wondered if it wasn't Jess he was really missing, after all.
Without thinking too hard about it, Sam abruptly stood up and made his way to the small front room of the apartment. Grabbing only the extra key that lay on the wooden border around the door, he pulled on his jogging shoes and entered the hallway. Before long he found himself prowling the sidewalk.
The October night was quiet and beautiful, the calm but clean air exactly what Sam needed to clear his aching head. Sighing in appreciation, Sam set on a roundabout path towards the Stanford campus, weaving his way up and down the now familiar streets. As he walked, he did his best to think only of how nice the solitude was, and how Jess would be back in only a week, and how his exams would conclude with tomorrow's Common Law final and then he'd be free from worry for a while.
Though his feet were leading him away from the apartment, Sam found his mind wandering back to it. In particular, Sam was thinking of the picture again, and who it had reminded him of. At the moment, he was feeling so unusually optimistic that he even began to pull his cell phone out, intending to call Dean. It'd been over a year since they'd spoken one another, as the last time they'd seen each other in person hadn't exactly been a pleasant experience. But Sam had a feeling that if he contacted Dean now, this very second, Dean would somehow understand and they could find a way to patch things up.
He was looking through his contacts, had just scrolled past Alexis Valdez and Greg Webb, and was about to click on Dean's name when he felt a jolt pass through him. Instinctively, he dropped to a crouch, surveying the area around him, looking for predators, human or other. But when the second jolt hit him, Sam realized the predator wasn't above ground, it was below.
Without warning, the mere jolts from before morphed into a solid shaking. Sam felt the unsteadiness beneath him growing with every tremor, and was barely able to think earthquake before he was lifted off his feet and hurled to the pavement.
Dazed but still coherent, Sam covered his head as best he could. Daring to peek through his arms, Sam watched in horror as the place he called home began to crumble to pieces all around him. He barely had time to roll out of the way and towards the yellow middle lines of the street as a large section of concrete and debris from the nearest building broke apart and crashed onto the concrete below. Sam felt he was floating upwards, not sitting on the ground as the brick and steel structures surrounding him began to collapse in on themselves, the roofs that had stood tens of feet above the streets minutes before now resting mere inches from the ground. Though Sam couldn't actually hear them for all the shaking, he thought in his uncomprehending mind that he could feel the screams of the people of Palo Alto crying out as they were woken up by the shaking.
In his terror, Sam could even imagine the utter silence that would follow as their cries were cut short when their homes fell on top of them, crushing and trapping them.
Entombing them, like giant coffins.
Even through the tremors, Sam could feel his own body trembling as it involuntarily curled into a fetal position in an effort to protect itself from the horrors both outside and within. In all his years, through all of his hunts, Sam had never known the true meaning of absolute terror until now.
The shaking was only getting worse, the noise of it deepening, but when sometime later Sam heard the sharp crack, everything around him seemed to fall silent. He knew the earthquake hadn't stopped; he knew it because he could still feel it. But it was like someone had muted the sound, turned down the volume on everything except for a sharp snapping sound steadily gaining in both intensity and degree. Through his shock, Sam glanced up towards where he thought it was coming from, and watched as the pavement of the road he lay on seemed to break down the middle. Like ice on a frozen lake slowly cracking with the promise to shatter, a giant crevice that split the road was coming towards Sam, an omen of doom and destruction. In shock and unable to move, Sam crazily wondered if it was somehow targeting him; perhaps this was not an earthquake at all, but Hell and all it's demons coming to claim earth for themselves instead.
In his unhinged state, Sam found himself desperately hoping this was just an earthquake, because if Hell had broken through to reach the surface of the earth, anybody with the last name Winchester was sure to be at the top of their hit list. Any other time, the idea would be ludicrous, but right now? Like a mad man, Sam detachedly began to giggle.
As the crevice finally reached him, the ground beneath his body greedily opening to devour him whole, Sam idly mused he was going to be the Winchester the vengeful demons got to first.
Then he wondered nothing at all.
Dean felt himself being shook awake, but not in the usual way. Despite his six beers consumed mere hours ago, Dean was on his feet, knife in hand and ready to attack before he even knew what he was supposed to be gunning for.
As the slight tremors racketed up through his body, hardly noticeable except to someone trained to notice such oddities, Dean walked over to the window and glanced out, expecting to see some large truck passing by. When nothing but darkness greeted him from the street outside his motel, Dean shook his aching head and walked back to the bed, intent on getting some rest again. He did have a hangover to sleep through, after all, and if he was sick enough to be trembling, then the sooner he rested the better.
But just as he was about to lie down, he happened to glance at the glass of water on the table, and noticed the water inside of it was trembling as well. So it wasn't just his him, unless he was hallucinating.
A fear began to consume Dean that he hadn't felt in a long time. Not fear for himself (he hardly knew such a thing), but fear for someone he cared about. He tried to shake it off, but the feeling seemed to grow, just as the small tremors did. They were still little, probably hadn't woken most others up yet, but they were getting worse and Dean was scared.
Not knowing what else to do, Dean sat on the bed and turned on the television. It was nearly three in the morning, and most channels weren't airing anything but static now, but Dean had a feeling if he waited long enough someone would come on-air and explain what the hell was happening.
At a little past three fifteen, nearly twenty minutes since the shaking had subsided, Dean wasn't disappointed.
He only had to hear the words earthquake and California before he was packing and running to the car, keys in hand.
It was on the radio as he passed the large billboard that read "Thanks for visiting Santa Fe!" that he began to hear more words that only increased his worry. Words like aftershocks and incomprehensible damage and warning signals, like eight point two and catastrophe and death toll unknown and worst natural disaster in recent history.
And though he heard it all, only one word echoed over and over in his head. It was the most important word he knew, a name more cherished than his own.
As he drove on, still unable to fully comprehend where he was going or why he was heading there, Dean knew only one thing for sure: he was going to find Sammy. But he couldn't help wondering if a name, was all that he would have left to hold on to when he did.