A/N I just want to mention, although I know a lot of other people already have, the auction that K Hanna Korossy has arranged in which 28 SN fans (myself included!) are offering to either write an SN story or make an SN video to the specifications of the highest bidder. The money raised will go to a fellow SN author in need of a new wheelchair, so it is for a good cause. If you are interested, the website is thefreeauction(dot)com and it is under Miscellaneous-General. The deadline is 12th July.
Sam finally gave up trying to concentrate on the newspaper article he was attempting to read for the third time and looked up, exasperated.
"Dude – seriously?" he said and Dean stopped singing and glanced across.
"That's not country, Sam. Man's singing about wanting a car, you can't argue with that."
"Maybe, but it's Brad Paisley and it's still country, Dean."
Silence followed his statement and Sam looked up again from the paper to see his brother watching him with the kind of expression he'd have expected if he'd just announced he wanted to dress in women's clothes.
"You know the guy's name? Could you at least do me a favour and not admit this stuff out loud?"
Sam shook his head.
"You were the one who was singing to it, not me. And I can't help it if you don't know the name of anything released after 1989."
Dean turned his attention to the radio, abruptly switching off the song he had – until that moment – been quite enjoying and instead trying to pick up another station. The sound of static made Sam wince and he watched as Dean turned the dial one way then another in a vain search for a signal.
"Dean, would you let me do that? You're supposed to be driving." he said, as they strayed a little too near to the edge of the road.
"Peripheral vision, Sam, I can still see what I'm doing. Besides, you see any other cars on the road except us?"
"No, but what I do see is one hell of a drop off on your side so could you please just stay a little nearer the middle line?"
Dean didn't dignify that with an answer, instead glaring at the radio when he still couldn't get anything.
"Are you sure you can't reach the tape box?"
"Oh yeah. It musta slid right into the back somewhere." said Sam, a little too innocently to be totally convincing.
Dean was about to respond when Sam suddenly tensed.
"Dean, look out!"
Having spotted something out of the corner of his eye at exactly the same moment Dean was already turning the wheel. The Impala slid slightly on the wet road as he slammed on the brakes and the back swung round a little as he fought to straighten her out. Cursing under his breath Dean tightened his grip and expertly brought the car to a standstill at the side of the road. Letting out the breath he'd been holding he looked over at Sam in time to see his brother peel his hands off of the dash.
Sam nodded, waiting for his heart to stop pounding quite so loudly in his ears. He heard the door open and realised Dean was getting out, so he fumbled with the catch on his own door and did the same. Walking round the back of the Impala he took the flashlight Dean held out to him and waited as his brother closed the trunk. Switching them on they both started walking back the way they'd just come, looking for any sign of the woman who'd been standing in the middle of the road.
"See anything?" Dean called, after a minute, and Sam shook his head.
"No, nothing. You?"
"No. She's gotta be around here somewhere though, we definitely didn't hit her."
Sam frowned and walked across to join Dean on the right hand side of the road.
"What was she doing standing there anyway? She didn't even try and move."
"More importantly why would she be out here in the ass end of nowhere at this time of night?" said Dean and Sam had to admit he had a point. They hadn't passed any cars for miles nor had there been any sign of civilisation since the last town they'd driven through forty miles previously.
"You don't think," he stopped and after a second Dean turned to face him.
"I don't think what?"
"Well, it's just we were having trouble with the radio signal and like you pointed out, there's nothing around here for miles. Add to that the fact that she didn't even try to avoid the car," he tailed off but Dean finished the sentence this time.
"You're wondering if maybe she's not a regular chick after all."
Dean considered this and then without saying anything jogged back to the car. Sam saw him open the trunk and a few seconds later he was back, this time carrying the EMF. He handed his flashlight to Sam and switched the meter on. They waited while it powered up and sure enough, after a minute, there was a high pitched squeal and the needle bobbed about wildly.
"Oh yeah. Looks like we got ourselves a ghostly hitchhiker, Sammy." said Dean and before Sam could say anything he saw something behind his brother.
"Look, over there!" he said, aiming the flashlight, and Dean turned in time to see the woman they'd almost run over standing just in front of the tree line. She watched them for a moment then turned and headed into the forest.
"I think she wants us to follow her." said Sam and Dean looked at him.
"Oh great, now you wanna play Lassie with the suicidal ghost? Do you not see the creepy ass forest she just disappeared into?"
Sam tried not to grin.
"I'm sorry, I forget trees scare you."
Dean glared at him.
"Trees do not scare me, I just don't feel like going on a hike in the pitch black at this time of night!"
"Ok then, we'll just drive on and wait for the newspaper reports when she runs the next car off the road, shall we?"
Dean cursed and spun round, stalking back towards the Impala.
"Fine, but when we're never heard from again I'm gonna remind you this was your idea."
Sam smirked but wisely said nothing.
Having grabbed some of the essentials from the trunk and moved the car so it was safely off the road, they headed to where they'd seen the spirit disappear. Dean regarded the trees with a narrowed gaze, taking in the fact that they were closely bunched together and there was no visible path. Shining his flashlight down he saw the bank dropped steeply below them, the darkness making it impossible to see how far down it went.
"You wanna go first?"
He looked at Sam over his shoulder.
"No, I think you can take the lead on this one." he said, looking smug.
Sam sighed but moved past him, regarding the slope apprehensively. Although the road was still wet the ground appeared little more than damp and he found himself hoping that was the case further down. They'd both slid down enough muddy banks not to want to repeat the experience anytime soon. Taking a deep breath he moved forward, aware of Dean following close behind him.
To Sam's relief the ground was indeed pretty hard still and although there were one or two hairy moments, they made it down with a minimum amount of fuss.
And cursing, on Dean's part.
The ground levelled out suddenly and Sam stopped, stumbling a little when Dean walked right into him.
"Dude, a little warning?" came the disgruntled comment and Sam turned round to glare a little.
"Or you could, you know, watch where you're going."
"I would, if it wasn't pitch black."
Biting his tongue Sam shone his flashlight at the tree they were standing next to and frowned.
"Hey, you see that?" he said and Dean turned his own beam the same way. He walked forward, putting his hand out and feeling the torn bark.
"Looks like something hit it, and pretty hard. I saw some other marks like this on the way down." he said and Sam looked surprised.
"Yeah? I didn't see anything."
"Well maybe you weren't watching where you were going."
Rolling his eyes Sam walked a little further, pushing aside the foliage and shining the flashlight in all directions.
"There's more marks over here." he called and followed them, not even needing to check that Dean was behind him.
They went on like this for a while, until suddenly the marks stopped. Sam looked around, turning his head as Dean came to stand next to him.
"I can't see anymore." he said. Dean opened his mouth to reply then looked past Sam and nudged him quickly with his elbow.
"Our friend's back." he said, quietly, and Sam glanced over his shoulder to see the same women standing a few feet away.
Cautiously they moved towards her. Sam was so intent on keeping her in sight that he was taken totally by surprise when the ground suddenly disappeared beneath his feet. He would have fallen were it not for the strong grip on his jacket that yanked him backwards at the last second. He stumbled into Dean and then righted himself, feeling his heart pounding again. He looked at his brother a little sheepishly.
"What was that you were saying about watching where you were going?" said Dean, dryly, and Sam had the good grace to look embarrassed.
Letting him off the hook, Dean shone his flashlight where Sam had almost gone over the edge.
"Holy crap." he exclaimed and Sam turned round again to see what had grabbed Dean's attention.
"Oh my god – Dean, that's a car down there!"
Dean shook his head, pushing past Sam to stand at the edge so he could a better look.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious. It's nice to see your education wasn't totally wasted."
Sam ignored the jibe, instead leaning as far forward as he could to try and get a better view.
"You think anyone is still inside?" he said.
"I'm thinking we'd better find out."
Dean calculated the steepness of the slope the car was at the bottom of and wished they'd brought a rope with them. Deciding there was nothing else for it, he put the flashlight between his teeth and started heading down, using the nearest branches to try and slow his descent. Sam followed behind him, trying not to slip and send both of them tumbling to the bottom. In the end they made it safely, Dean using the trunk of the car to stop himself as he gained speed towards the end. He was surprised to see the lights were still on and although the engine wasn't running, it was clear it hadn't been there all that long.
"Dean." Sam said quietly and Dean looked up, following his brother's gaze and seeing the ghostly figure standing just yards away, watching them.
"You know that's really starting to creep me out." he said, so only Sam could hear him.
Keeping one eye on the ghost he moved slowly round the car until he came to the driver's door. The windows were steamed up and the entire front of the car was buckled up against a tree. Glancing at Sam and getting a nod in return that he was ready, Dean rested his flashlight on the roof and grabbed the handle with both hands. Putting one foot against the side of the car he pulled on it, grunting with the effort. Finally, with a loud metallic groan, the door opened. Picking up his flashlight again Dean leaned in, drawing a sharp breath.
"What is it?" said Sam and Dean swallowed slightly.
"There's two women in here. Driver's dead, a branch musta gone through the windshield on the way down." he said, leaving out the more gruesome details. "Actually it looks like the driver is our friendly ghost." he said, recognising the face behind the dried blood.
"What about the passenger?"
Dean had to climb over the twisted remains of the hood to get to the passenger side and once again he struggled to get the door open. The woman in the passenger seat slumped sideways when he did and Dean caught her gently, putting his fingers to her neck. For a long moment there was nothing then he felt it – a faint pulse.
"She's alive!" he shouted and Sam's eyes widened.
"Can you get her out?"
Dean shone his light into the car, noting that she didn't appear trapped by anything.
"I think so. But you'll need to give me a hand getting her over that hood."
Very carefully he undid the seatbelt that had no doubt saved her life and managed to get his arm underneath her knees and one round her back. Lifting her as gently as he could he staggered backwards, kicking the ruined door shut so he could get past it, and leant over the hood as far as he could. Sam leaned across from his side and replaced Dean's grip with his own, nodding to show he had her. Dean let go and Sam backed up, laying her on the ground as soon as he was clear of the car. He heard Dean climbing back over but his full attention was on the girl. She looked to be in her twenties, with short red hair and a deep gash across her forehead. It was impossible to tell with just a flashlight if she had any other injuries but her skin was definitely cold to the touch. He looked up as Dean joined him.
"We need to get her to a hospital."
Dean nodded, not bothering with comments about how far away they were from any chance of that right now.
"I'll take her, you come up behind and make sure we don't fall."
Giving Sam his flashlight, since he'd need both hands, Dean picked her up again. Sam put a hand on his back to steady him as he adjusted her weight, only moving it when Dean said he had her. With Sam shining the light ahead as much as he could, and keeping one hand on Dean's shoulder to try and help with balance, they slowly made their way back up the hill.
By the time they reached the road Dean's shoulders and leg muscles were on fire and he was too out of breath to talk.
It had definitely seemed further on the way back.
Sam stumbled onto the road behind him and Dean was kind of glad to hear he sounded just as breathless. Moving quickly towards the car Sam dug the keys out of Dean's pocket and unlocked it, taking a blanket from the trunk and laying it on the back seat. Dean carefully laid the girl on top of the blanket and jumped into the driver's seat, starting the engine even as Sam was still getting in.
"I saw a sign for a town about six miles ahead – they should have a hospital there." Sam said, steadying himself on the dash as Dean pulled away quickly.
"We'll have to send the cops back for the other one." he added quietly, twisting round in his seat so he could keep his gaze on their silent passenger.
"Yeah, we will." said Dean, still trying to get rid of the gruesome image stuck in his head.
Sam was right about the hospital and barely ten minutes later they were carrying their precious load through the doors, yelling for some help. The young girl was whisked away on a gurney and they were left to give as much information as they could to the nurse at the front desk. Having been asked to wait, they did so, Sam tensing slightly when the sheriff walked in moments later. Dean put a hand on his arm briefly then stepped forward, taking charge. He explained everything again and described exactly where the car was, minus the part about the ghostly apparition. The cops wrote it all down, including the fake ID's, and headed back out without a second glance.
Sam let out the breath he'd been holding and sat down on one of the hard chairs, knowing they'd be staying to find out if the girl was ok.
An hour later they were still waiting. Dean swallowed the last of a cup of coffee and grimaced.
"Man, I really hate hospital coffee." he said and Sam just nodded, having his own reasons for hating it himself. If he closed his eyes he could still smell the cup he'd been holding, still see it falling as if in slow motion as he'd stared horrified at John's body on the floor. Shaking off the thoughts he sat back and rubbed his neck.
"You think they've found the car by now?" he said and Dean shrugged.
"Should have, we gave them pretty clear directions. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to head out once we know if she's ok though. When they take a look in daylight they're gonna realise no way we saw any sign of the accident from the road."
Sam sighed. Even when they were doing a good turn they still ended up having to run from the cops.
Just then the doors at the end of the corridor opened and a doctor came out. Spotting them he came over.
"Are you with the young lady?" he said and Dean stood up.
"Yeah, we're the ones who found her. How's she doing?"
The doctor smiled.
"Remarkably well, considering. She has a concussion and some cracked ribs, not to mention a touch of hypothermia, but other than that she's absolutely fine. It's lucky you found her when you did, the temperature around here drops to freezing in a few hours. She would almost certainly have died of exposure if she'd been out there all night."
Sam found himself grinning ridiculously, seeing the same relief on his brother's face.
"Can we see her?" he asked and the doctor nodded.
"I don't see why not. She's awake, although still a little groggy. I'm sure she'd like to see her two rescuers though."
They followed him down the corridor, stopping outside a dimly lit room. There was a lamp on, beside the bed, but other than that the room was in darkness. As they walked in the girl in the bed turned her head and looked at them, frowning slightly.
They stepped forward, Dean giving her a friendly smile.
"Hi." he said and she gave a small nod, her expression still cautious.
"Hello. You're not doctors, are you?" she said and Sam smiled.
"No, we're not. We found your car, where it went off the road. We're the ones who brought you here."
Her eyes widened.
"Oh, right. In that case it's you I need to thank – according to the doctor you saved my life." she said, managing a slightly watery smile.
Dean shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed.
"We were just in the right place at the right time, that's all. No big deal." he said and she shook her head, wincing slightly.
"I beg to differ. My names Caroline, by the way. And you are?"
"I'm Dean, this is Sam." he said, deliberately keeping it casual. If Caroline noticed the lack of last names or an explanation of who they were she said nothing. Instead she bit her lip as her eyes filled with tears again.
"I'd say nice to meet you, but under the circumstances." she said, trying to sound normal but aware how shaky her voice sounded.
"It's ok." said Sam, gently, and Dean gave him a helpless look, never that comfortable with upset females.
"I'm sorry," said Caroline, wiping her eyes, "It's just been a lot to take in. Last thing I remember is being asleep in the car and then I wake up here and,"
She stopped and Sam looked at her sympathetically.
"Did they tell you, about the driver?" he asked, softly, and she nodded.
"Yes." she whispered, feeling fresh tears gather.
They gave her a moment, feeling awkwardly like they were intruding. After a second she looked back up at them, and attempted a smile.
"It was my sister, Rebecca. We were supposed to be going camping this weekend. Last thing she said to me was to get some sleep and that she'd be fine driving. I just wish I knew what happened."
Sam felt his stomach flip and when he looked at Dean he saw his brother clench his jaw slightly. He looked back to Caroline, his expression compassionate.
"I'm so sorry." he said.
"Me too." said Dean, his voice sounding slightly rough.
Caroline nodded, wiping her eyes again.
"Thank you. The doctor couldn't tell me much, except that she was dead. Do you – I mean, do you think it was quick?" she asked and Dean swallowed once before answering.
"It looked like it, yeah. Probably never even knew what happened." he said and Caroline bit her lip but gave him a grateful look.
"I guess that's something."
A slightly uncomfortable silence descended, Dean and Sam knowing nothing they could say would really help right now.
"We, uh, we should really be going." said Dean, eventually, and Caroline nodded.
"Of course, I'm sorry. Thank you, again, for what you did. I owe you my life." she said, softly, and Dean rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
"Like we said, it was nothing really. I'm just sorry we couldn't help your sister."
Caroline nodded again, but couldn't trust her voice to say anything. Sam stepped forward, squeezing her hand briefly where it lay on the bed.
"Take care of yourself." he said.
"You too." Caroline replied, with a final grateful look. Dean nodded and they left, quietly closing the door behind them. They heard the first sob even as it clicked shut.
Dean let out a long sigh, rubbing his face.
"Well that sucked."
Sam glanced back at the door sadly as they walked down the corridor.
"I know, but at least she's gonna be ok. There really was nothing we could have done for Rebecca, she was probably dead from the moment the car hit that first tree."
Rationally that made sense, but Dean couldn't get rid of the tight feeling in his throat or the cold feeling that had settled in his stomach.
"I know. Doesn't make it any better though. Especially for her."
Sam said nothing, not sure he'd be able to get any words past the lump in his own throat right now. He'd come far too close to being in Caroline's position after their own car crash and knew only too well that while she would physically recover, mentally it would be another matter entirely.
"Do you think we should have told her?" he said and Dean looked at him.
"About Rebecca. About what she did. She's the only reason we found Caroline after all."
Dean shook his head.
"No. She's been through enough tonight and I don't think learning her dead sister was wandering the road looking for help is going to do her much good right now."
"She'd know that her sister's last thought was to make sure she was safe." Sam said, softly.
"It's too much. Besides I'm sure she already knew how much her sister cared about her. That kinda stuff doesn't need saying." Dean said, and Sam could hardly argue with that.
The front desk was empty so they quickly slipped out unseen. Walking back to the Impala Sam shivered, realising the doctor had been right. The temperature really was dropping.
"Do you think we need to wait around, take care of – you know." said Dean, as he unlocked the door. Sam frowned then grimaced as he realised what his brother was talking about.
"Honestly, I don't think it's gonna be a problem. I think Rebecca did what she needed to do." he said and Dean looked at him quizzically.
"She saved her sister." Sam elaborated, simply, and Dean felt his eyes sting in a way that had nothing to do with the cold.
They got in, Dean starting the engine and turning the heaters full on. They drove in silence for a while, both thinking of the two girls.
"You know that's the third time you've had me doing my damn Jennifer Love Hewitt impersonation." Dean accused, eventually, and Sam looked at him in disbelief then shook his head.
"I'm not even gonna go there. Although if you want, I'm sure we could find you a tee shirt or something, since you're such a fan."
"Shut up, psychic wonder. It was your idea to follow the ghost in the first place."
"Yeah, and it's a good job we did or Caroline would have died."
Dean had to admit, Sam had a point.
"Fine, you did good on this one, ok? I just wish we could have saved her sister too." he said, his voice becoming serious.
"I know. Me too."
They were silent again briefly and when Dean spoke finally, he sounded thoughtful.
"You really think Rebecca will move on now?"
"She did what she had to do. I'd have done the same, in her position."
Dean looked up sharply.
"Don't even go there, Sam." he said and Sam gave him a look that was part affectionate and part exasperated.
"I mean it. And I know you would too, Dean. That's what families do."
Dean knew Sam was right. He couldn't argue that he wouldn't have done exactly the same, if it had been Sam in that ruined car, and even though they never talked about this stuff he really did know that went for his brother too.
Glancing across he gave Sam a quick smile, one that let him know he appreciated the thought but also that the subject was officially closed. Turning his attention back to the road he found himself hoping that Rebecca really was at peace now.
It was definitely something that was going to stay with him, not least because it proved – once again – that when it came down to it, maybe family really was the one thing that even death couldn't destroy.
A/N For anyone geeky enough to want to know, the song Dean was happily enjoying at the beginning was All I Wanted Was A Car, by Brad Paisley. It's brilliant..