SUMMARY: A vengeful spirit's attack leaves Dean hypothermic and fighting for life, while a concussed Sam, lost and alone, battles to get back to his brother.
DISCLAIMER: Nope. Don't own Supernatural. Still playing in Kripke's sandbox. Will happily vacate premises when strike is over and Kripke & Co. are allowed to play here again.
BRIDGING TWO SOLITUDES
A/N: This story is set late in Season 2, but before the events of All Hell Breaks Loose, I and II. Story features some swearing but nothing too bad. This story is finished, although I'll be happily tweaking later chapters as I post each one. Enjoy.
Sam ran, heart hammering against his chest, long strides pounding on the wooden planks beneath his feet, but he couldn't get there in time. He could only watch helplessly as his brother fell.
Thrown by some unseen force, Dean sailed backwards. His body crashed through the railings that framed the decaying wooden bridge, the weather-worn timbers shattering on impact. He had no chance to save himself. Unconscious, he tumbled over the side and into the fast-moving current 30 feet below.
Sam skidded to a stop at the side of the bridge where his brother had fallen, feet slipping on the icy deck. As he fought to regain his footing, he kicked the shotgun that had flown from his brother's grasp. In a taunting echo of the man who had held it moments earlier, the gun fell off the bridge and disappeared into the raging water.
Sam grabbed the broken railing to steady himself, frantically scanning the turbulent waters of the river beneath him. His chest tightened as Dean's seemingly lifeless body surfaced and was carried downstream by the swift current.
Breath clouding as his respiration rate quickened, Sam tore off his heavy coat. Eyes locked on Dean, the thumping of his heart pounding in his ears, the world seemed to move in slow motion around him. He knew the three-storey drop into icy water would likely knock him out. He knew hypothermia would quickly rob him of motor control and the ability to think clearly. He knew that jumping in after Dean meant drowning was the likely outcome – for both of them. He didn't care. He was Dean's only chance.
He inhaled deeply and before the coat he had shrugged from his shoulders even hit the bridge deck, Sam launched himself toward the water.
But the spirit that had tossed Dean so effortlessly into the river now set its sights on Sam.
Instead of falling into the river below, Sam was yanked roughly backwards, landing heavily on the far side of the bridge. The impact drove the air from his lungs and smashed his head against the stone base of a thick bridge support pillar.
Groggy, he blinked to clear his vision. He scanned the bridge around him but there was no sign of whatever is was that had just grabbed him. Coughing as the cold air he sucked in greedily hit his lungs, Sam pushed himself unsteadily to his feet. He had barely regained his balance when a blast of icy pressure slammed into his chest and smashed him against the pillar a second time, this time pinning him in place.
Sam shivered as a biting wind enveloped him, then gasped at the feel of invisible icy fingers grabbing his arms and holding them tightly. His sweatshirt offered little protection; beneath the fleece he could feel his skin crack and burn from the intense cold of the touch.
His shivering intensified as the wind picked up again, the gust sending the coat he'd dropped tumbling toward the opening Dean's fall had created. The down jacket snagged briefly on the shattered timber railing before falling off the bridge and out of sight.
Sam, still struggling to free himself, cast a desperate glance down river, frantically searching for any sign of Dean in the fast-flowing water.
"DEAN!" Sam screamed his brother's name, frustration blending equally with anger at his inability to help him. He struggled harder against the invisible hands that held him, his face reddening with exertion.
He toppled forward when the hands suddenly let go. But before he could fall, he was slammed backwards again. This time the icy fingers grabbed his face, twisting his head away from the river. He inhaled sharply as the cold burned his cheek and jaw. Angrily, he tried to pull the hand away but there was nothing tangible to grab onto.
Sam's eyes widened as a face began to materialize in front of him. He blinked rapidly, fighting to bring his vision back into focus.
Then he saw her. The woman's form remained translucent but she was now visible. She was tall, almost able to look him in the eye. She wore a high-necked white blouse, buttoned primly from chin to waist where it was tucked neatly into a long black skirt. The wind played with tendrils of greying hair pulled loose from the bun at the nape of her neck.
Sam shivered as his eyes met hers. He'd seen angry spirits before, and this one was pissed, no question there, but there was something else too.
The bony fingers of her hand held his face tightly as she stared at him, her eyes cold, her gaze unflinching. She leaned closer, then closer still until he could feel her icy breath. Then she smiled. Sam didn't scare easily but her smile scared him.
The apparition's face was inches away from Sam's. Locked in her grip, he was unable to move or speak. Her hold on his face tightened as she slowly raised her free hand before jabbing an arthritic finger suddenly through his forehead.
Pain exploded inside Sam's head setting off an avalanche of images and sounds; a woman screaming, then crying… men shouting…gunfire….the thunder of horses' hooves….more gunfire….more screaming…… Fear and anger fuelled the kaleidoscope of images as they played out through his mind, tilting and warping crazily until he felt sick.
Sam coughed and retched as the pain subsided. Chest heaving, he swallowed hard to push back the nausea. He forced his eyes open to find the spirit still staring at him intently. Her cold smile returned as she traced her finger slowly from his forehead, down his face and along his jawline.
Her grip on his face tightened again as she twisted Sam's head to the side, leaning in to whisper in his ear. "He had to pay, now so must you. Ask the Lord to forgive you, for I cannot."
Sam stared at the spirit, his breathing rapid and shallow as her words echoed painfully inside his skull. Her hold on his face relaxed slightly and, for one brief moment, Sam thought she was about to let go. Instead, her cruel smile returned as she once again slammed his head into the pillar behind him. He never felt her hand release him as the world around him suddenly turned black.
As the turbulent river waters, swollen by the spring thaw, twisted and turned their way toward the Atlantic, an unconscious Dean was pushed underwater and up again by the current, a human counterpart to the chunks of ice freed from upstream by the slowly rising temperatures.
The current drove his body into one of two large boulders jutting out from the centre of the river, before spinning him around and slamming him into the second rock, his shoulder striking first. The eddy pulled him away from the rock before shoving him back into the boulder a second time. This time his head struck first, blood flowing down his temple from the wound just under his hairline, as the current flipped him onto his back.
A large chunk of river ice, following the current behind Dean, slammed into his torso before the river pulled it to the side where it lodged between the two rocks.
The jammed ice also pinned Dean in place, trapping him between the ice and the rock at his back. Only luck, of the warped kind the Winchesters were used to, kept his head above the water.
"Oh God. There's a body down there."
Jason Tait turned quickly and looked in the direction his girlfriend Penny was pointing.
The two were experienced hikers, enjoying a morning ramble in the state park. The route was far from challenging but, given Ol' Man Winter had yet to move out to make way for Spring, was close to civilization if the weather turned nasty or they found themselves in trouble and needed to call for help.
But this sure as hell wasn't the kind of trouble they'd been thinking of.
The guy in the water was young, about his age Jason guessed, and he was pinned against some rocks mid-river. His close-cropped sandy hair and eyebrows were frosted over with ice, his skin bluish-grey in colour. His body bobbed slightly each time the current collided with the rocks, but otherwise he made no movement.
"Is he dead?"
Jason shrugged, staring intently at the body, trying to pick up any sign of life. There was nothing. "I don't….I can't tell from here. Looks like it though."
He moved closer to the riverbank which, from where they stood, was a good 10 feet above the water. "Hey," he yelled. "Can you hear me?"
Predictably, there was no response.
He turned to see that Penny had already pulled out her cellphone and was dialing 911.
The first ring had barely finished when the operator answered.
"I'm hiking on the riverfront trail in Plymouth State Park. There's a guy in the Crooked Arm River….He's…he's not moving." Penny swallowed and her voice dropped noticeably in volume. "I think he's dead.
"What? Oh, yes, yes," Penny nodded, a reflex , and stayed on the line, providing a few additional details until the emergency operator verified he had a lock on the GPS in her phone. "Yes, of course. I'll keep the phone on and we'll stay right here."
She looked at Jason and shivered involuntarily, more from shock than cold. He reached out and pulled her into a hug. Penny wrapped her arms around him, drawing herself in tighter and resting her head on his chest. Without thinking, she stole another glance at the body in the river, and froze.
"Oh my God, he's alive."
Jason turned quickly to look incredulously at the body, the man, in the river.
The movement was almost imperceptible. At first he thought he was mistaken, a trick of light or the current playing with the body, but then it happened again. The man's eyes blinked slowly and his head moved sluggishly, as if he was fighting to find the strength to hold it upright.
"No shit, Einstein," Jason admonished himself silently. The guy had been in freezing water for God knows how long. Of course he was fighting. To live.
"Hey." He released his hold on Penny to cup his hands around his mouth to help his voice carry further. "Hey, can you hear me? Give me something dude. Help is on the way."
As he tried desperately to get a response from the guy, Penny was back on the phone, redialing 911.
She spoke quickly, breathlessly, amazed at how the situation had changed from just a few moments earlier. "I called about a body in the river…..Yes, uh, no. No, it's not a body. I mean he's alive. The man's alive. Please, hurry."
Dean thought he heard his brother's voice.
Aw, come on Sam. The silent treatment? What the hell am I supposed to have done this time?
Still no answer.
Dude, please. I'm too tired to fight.
Dean struggled to open his eyes. His head was pounding and he felt sick. To feel this crappy he should at least be able to remember the party that caused it, right? But if a Winchester bender was behind this hangover, he was drawing a complete blank.
He fought again to open his eyes. Shit, this was way harder than it should be.
He jumped as he felt a smack on his cheek. What the hell? Who slapped him?
In shock, Dean's eyes snapped open. He blinked trying to clear his vision but it remained as fuzzy as his thinking.
Another slap. Sonovabitch.
Dean's eyesight cleared a bit more. Then, in a brief moment of lucidity, he realized what had happened. Water. He'd been slapped by water. For the first time since he battled his way to semi-consciousness, he realized he was in water. Up to his neck in it.
How the hell did that happen?
He was also stuck, a steady pressure on his chest holding him in place. Dean tried moving, but his body showed no interest in co-operating. The arm his brain had just ordered to move remained floating limply at his side.
Come on Winchester, he chided himself. Quit playing dude in distress and get your ass in gear. Since when did you sit around waiting to be rescued?
Dean's internal dialogue stalled when it suddenly hit him how cold he was. It was hard to breathe, each breath he managed to suck in chilling him further from the inside out.
It struck him odd that he wasn't shivering more. It was also hard to think, his mind as sluggish as his unco-operative body.
The hand he'd tried to move what seemed like minutes ago suddenly jerked and scraped against the large chunk of ice in front of him. Nice reflexes, dude, he admonished himself silently.
Dean groggily lifted his head, his attention drawn by two blurry shapes moving on the shore a short distance away.
Dean's head jerked at the shouted voice, squinting and blinking to try and bring its owner into focus.
"Hey, can you hear me?"
Sammy? That you? Dean tried to clear his throat. Great. Add his voice to the list of things that didn't work.
The voice from the shore called out to him again. "Give me something, dude. Help is on the way."
He frowned. Was it Sam? If so, he sounded funny.
Focusing what little energy he had, he managed to wave his arm to acknowledge the voice calling to him, but the effort emptied his gas tank. His vision greyed at the edges, grey quickly turning to black.
Dean frowned again, trying to remember what he'd just been doing.
Right. Talking to Sam. But he was just too damn tired. Sorry Sammy, gotta sleep this off. Wait 'til morning, then you can tell me what you're so pissed about.
His head dropped to his chest. As he slid into unconsciousness, his body relaxed and he slipped slightly between the boulder at his back and the chunk of river ice holding him against it. While the ice kept Dean pinned in place, his head lolled forward and under the water.
To Be Continued……..
A/N: Does that constitute an 'evil cliffie'? Thanks so much for reading. Please leave a review – I'd love to hear from you.