THE CASCADE

CHAPTER 1

The afternoon sun beat down on a highway that was wedged between twin fields of semi-green grass. Trees lined the horizon, and mountains hedged one side in the distance, while the cloudless sky remained undecided on whether it should remain blue or succumb to a more orange hue. The otherwise quiet day was interrupted pleasantly by a building rumble that grew as the source sped down the road. A black Chevy breached the distance, and the driver pushed the car happily down the asphalt as it approached a hill and proceeded to climb.

The conversation was casual and teasing as they sped down the empty highway.

"Face it, Sammy, the ladies just like green eyes better. Brown is too common, too boring. Green is attractive and exciting – you just can't beat the jade green eyes, dude."

"Shutup, Dean."

The laughter echoed out of the open passenger window as the hill came to a crest and they cruised down the other side, only to find another hill a mile further.

"Well at least I've got the hair. Women always like long hair. And the darker it is, the better. You've had the same haircut since seventh grade."

"Shutup, Sam."

Dean sat comfortably with his left arm resting on the steering wheel, his right hand digging into a bag of peanut M&Ms. Sam's long legs were tucked as comfortably as it was possible to be in the passenger seat, resting against the worn leather seat, obviously enjoying the breeze from the window, grinning to match Dean's expression, then letting out another chuckle as they continued to banter.

The afternoon sun inched just the slightest bit further towards the horizon, but the day was still bright as the brothers traveled along, glad that, for once, a day was passing in peace.

Sam turned in his seat and began to shuffle through the backseat's contents, looking for something.

"Whatcha need?" Dean asked, noticing Sam's search. The younger Winchester didn't look up at him, but answered with his arms still reaching.

"Don't we have a water bottle somewhere back here?"

"Um, yeah I think so. Probably on the floor." Dean glanced behind once, but couldn't see the plastic bottle of Dasani he remembered tossing in the back the last time they'd stopped.

"Huh…" was all Sam replied, before giving a small huff and facing forward again rather quickly. He undid his seat belt, and moved without restraint to scour the floor of the Impala's back half for the elusive water bottle. Dean grinned at his brother's determination, and pressed the Chevy's accelerator as they climbed another hill. They'd just about reached the hill's crest, and Sam sat back down after only a minute of rifling, empty handed. Dean cast his gaze over at his brother as he settled himself into his seat again, about to grab his seatbelt and refasten it. He met Sam's gaze as they were coming over the top of the hill's other side.

"Couldn't find it? I thought it-"

"DEAN! WATCH OU-"

The older hunter's foot flew to the brake, both hands suddenly gripping the steering wheel, and his eyes didn't even have time to fully register the massive fallen tree trunk that had lain hidden behind the hilltop, obstructing the road before them. He couldn't react fast enough to evade the impact, and he didn't even comprehend the meaning of the sounds and shapes of twisting metal, creaking wood, or shattering glass. He was unconscious before he could hear the thump of a body hitting pavement twenty feet in front of the car, and as the afternoon sun blazed down on the empty highway, a bleeding Dean remained slumped over the steering wheel of his slightly smoking car while the birds in the far off trees chirped happily and the day returned to its former quiet once more.

* * *

The first thing he was aware of was incredible pain. Every inch of him felt pummeled, and he couldn't remember why. He couldn't tell if he was bleeding, or if anything was broken, but he knew something was wrong.

The familiar smell of smoke from a tired engine met him, mingling with the scent of wood and dirt. Aside from how much he was hurting, he felt hot, almost sweaty, and he could hear slight popping and groaning sounds of something large and metallic settling.

"Sammy…" to his own ears his whispering voice sounded weak, pained. He struggled, moaning, to open his eyes, only managing to get his lids to flutter uselessly. He tried to move his head, but it was heavier than lead, and it ached like he'd been hit with a sledgehammer. He realized then that he was panting, and he noticed how much it was hurting to breathe.

"Sammy?" he said it a bit stronger this time, worried when no answer met his ears. He tried again to get his eyes to open, and this time he managed to blink them open fully.

He was staring at the bottom half of the steering wheel, his face pressed up against it with his left arm hanging over it. He could see his lap, and part of his right boot, and he remembered that he was in the Impala, driving down a highway with Sam. He comprehended the fact that they must have crashed.

And suddenly, it was terribly important that Sam answer him, and answer him now, because Dean needed to make sure he was okay right this second.

"Sam…" he called it louder, concern coating his tone even as he hissed from the pain that speaking so loudly caused, "Sammaaaaay!"

He cringed when even the slightest movement hurt so much he wanted to be sick, but he forced himself to push his head up so that he could look over at the seat beside him. He felt pieces of broken glass slide out of his hair, and something slightly warm and sticky was trickling down his face.

He looked at the passenger seat, and for a moment he didn't understand why it was empty. Then his gaze found the huge hole in the windshield, explaining the shattered glass everywhere. He saw the ridiculously large log that his precious Impala's front was crunched up against, crumpled and broken. He saw the empty highway that stretched for miles ahead of them.

And he saw the still form of Sam's unmoving body lying facedown twenty feet away in an obvious puddle of blood on the paved road.

"Oh god…"

He tried to push himself up, but a white hot sharpness seared along his body, out of his ribs and up his left knee, through his right shoulder and into his left elbow. His head was spinning, and he wanted to vomit. He lifted his eyes to see Sam outside on the road again.

"Sam-Sammy, oh my god…" his voice cracked on the last word, and he knew he had to do something.

Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself up agonizingly slow, crying out and feeling new places where the warm, sticky substance was dripping or pooling. He continued to cry out as he reached for the door's handle, even though the door opened easily, and he had to stop for a minute when the door was opened before trying to move his legs.

And Dean knew in that moment that he needed help, that he wouldn't be able to make it all the way to his brother to see if he was ok, that even if he did he had no way of helping him here. He groaned as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and dialed 911, hoping desperately that he had service.

The phone chirped happily against his ear, and the ringer thrummed, making his head hurt more as he tried not to scream while he extracted himself from the wreck that was once his beautiful car.

"911 Emergency response, what's your emergency?"

"I-I, my brother, we-we crashed…" Dean was finding it very hard to keep the panic and pain from his voice, and he shook tremendously as he struggled to edge along the side of the car in Sam's direction.

"Can you tell me where you are?"

"I think a-about thirty miles down highway...agh...fifty-seven." The length of the car ended, and he resorted to crawling inch by inch, his body screaming at him to collapse, leaving a trail of red on the ground beneath him, stemming from who-knew-where.

"East or West?"

"Um, West? Gaah…man..." he willed himself not to pass out, praying to any god who would hear to let him reach his brother, who seemed to be getting no closer. He needed Sam to be okay…

" What's your name, sir?"

"Dean," he was maybe close to halfway there now…

"Okay Dean? I'm gonna need you to try to stay as still as possible alright? Can you tell me if you're injured? What hurts?"

Dean cursed, not sure if it was out of anger at the situation or anger at the lady for bothering him about his meager injuries. He didn't care what was wrong with him, he just wanted Sam to be okay-

"Sir? Dean? Can you hear me?"

Dean dropped the phone, unable to keep his arm raised any longer, dragging himself along the hot asphalt amidst agony, feeling broken ribs scrape along the inside of his skin, sensing swelling in his dislocated shoulder, feeling the lightheadedness that came from loss of blood. Sam was only feet away, but it was so far

"Sammy…please…" his eyes watered, and he didn't know if it was from the pain or from the fear, "Sam, answer me…" he had reached the puddle, and it was so much, Sam had lost so much blood, "oh god, Sammy…"

Dean pulled his unwilling body up alongside his brother's, until he was lying beside him in much the same position. He stared wide-eyed and uncomprehending at the sight of Sam's open eyes, glazed and unseeing, his open mouth, jaw obviously shattered, and the right side of his head bashed in so that it caved like a popped basketball, revealing the source of the flow that poured out and made the puddle around him.

"Sam," Dean forgot that his arm was burning, that his everything was piercing, he reached out and shook Sam's shoulder, not understanding why Sam wouldn't answer him, why he wasn't saying anything, or gasping, or crying, or groaning. He couldn't figure out why his brother's head looked so odd, why the massive amounts of red and gray that were splashed everywhere didn't make sense, though he knew they should mean something. He didn't get why his eyes looked so dull, or why his mouth wasn't moving, or why his arm was bent at an odd angle and it didn't seem to bother him at all.

And then it cascaded on Dean in a rush, and he found that he couldn't breath, couldn't scream, couldn't think, couldn't even keep his heart beating, because his world was slitting apart, and his life was surely over, and he wanted nothing more than to wake up from this horrible nightmare and be in a smelly motel with no air conditioning with his brother snoring or typing away on the laptop. He wanted to pass out and never wake up, for his car to start up again and run him over, anything to keep from seeing those sightless eyes one second more, anything to remove the image of Sam's broken body beside him, anything to wipe his brother's blood from his hands and wash it from his clothes, anything to erase this day, this highway, this crash.

Sammy was dead, and Dean could do nothing but sit and stare.

And Dean didn't know why, but he was sitting up all of a sudden, and he was holding the body in his arms and across his lap, and he couldn't remember when he had started to, but he was screaming, screaming like he'd never screamed in his life, and he didn't recall anything attacking him, but he swore he had new injuries, because he could feel a stabbing and a ripping inside of his very core, and surely his soul was bleeding to death, and he was certain he didn't have a heart anymore, because it must have imploded upon itself, and he knew nothing and heard nothing and saw nothing, because Sam was his everything, and without Sam there was nothing, and Dean was nothing, and nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing nothing nothing nothingnothingnothingnothingnothingnothing…