A/N: This is just a little series of scenes that came to me while contemplating a memory of my own (no worries, the original memory actually has nothing to do with the events in the story, and is actually a rather pleasant reccollection!). It was written in about an hour, and is completely un-beta'd, so please forgive any glaring errors. Reviews are gratefully accepted and much loved, should you feel inclined to do so.
Warnings: Swearing, very minor description of physical injury.
Me: "Listen, Kripke, you've done a shit job of taking care of the Winchesters lately. Look how unhappy they are! I think you should give them to me."
Kripke: "Are you kidding? You do more bodily harm to Sam in three pages than I do in a season. If I hand them over, you'll whump Sam incessantly and Dean will lose it and burst a capilary or something."
Me: "Touche... Fine, you win this time, Kripke. They're yours."
There's a coyote in the reeds, watching Sam with eyes that glint pewter in the moonlight. It's settled back on its haunches, an indistinct black shape among the whispering switchgrass, and hasn't moved at all as Sam drags himself out of the water and over river-smoothed stones and organic smelling mud.
It seems to know that Sam is no threat, is nothing more than a bleeding teenager struggling to see in the dark, and this (more than the head wound, more than the unbearable cold, more than the memory of his right femur snapping like a dry branch) is what tells Sam that he's probably going to die here under this bridge, by this stinking river.
At sixteen, Sam can already list decapitation, evisceration, immolation, and exorcism on his hunter's resume. He's seen things that crawled from hell itself, things that could make men twice his age piss themselves with fear.
And he's fallen off a damn bridge.
It's stupid, and asinine, and so damn his luck, to survive encounters with the undead only to end his life muddy and cold and thirty feet from salvation, taken down by gravity and a careless driver.
Dean might call this situation ironic. But Sam's pretty sure he'll be too distracted by the fact that his brother is dead to care about such incongruities.
Sam thinks about all of the movies he's seen where the daring hero leaps from a great height into a roaring river to escape certain death, and thinks: Bullshit.
Movies don't show how your body flails helplessly in the air into awkward positions, or the terrible shock of hitting icy water that feels like hitting pavement. The hero never lands on barely-submerged rocks, never gulps in a lungful of silt and river when the agony of a fractured leg makes him scream underwater. The hero never sobs as he pulls himself to shore like a dying animal, gasping and gagging up the taste of polluted run-off.
Sam doesn't suppose a lot of people would watch movies where the hero fails so spectacularly. Still, he can't help but feel some resentment about the fact that he's been so terribly mislead by these fictional feats of daring.
Then again, maybe it's just him. Maybe this is just one more thing in a long, colorful line of things that he's botched. Dean probably would have managed a head-first, Olympic-style dive, somehow kept his gun dry, and emerged from the water looking rakish and smug.
See, Sammy? He'd say, grinning lopsidedly. Just keep your toes pointed. Nothin' to it.
God, Sam wishes Dean were there. He'd gladly put up with the ribbing, the "drowned rat" comments, the affirmation that, clearly, Dean can't leave him alone for more than five minutes without catastrophe occurring. Because with the eyerolls and dramatic complaints comes the steadying touch, the concerned eyes, the reassurance that Dean will do anything (anything) to make it better no matter how terrible Sam has been to him.
Right now, Sam would sacrifice every last shred of his pride and dignity to have his brother there with him.
But all he has are wind-rustled grass and the amused stare of Coyote, and it's not nearly enough.
Above him, cars cross the river.
Their tires rattle over the steel surface of the bridge, unnaturally loud from where Sam lies shuddering against the hard ground.
He wonders who's inside them, where they're going. Maybe it's families, laughing and singing along to stupid top-forty hits as they speed towards a warm house full of warm memories. They'll go home, kiss each other goodnight, and dream about things like tropical beaches and making love to a celebrity.
Sam hates them a little.
Still, he wishes one of them would stop.
Then he could live to tell Dean how sorry he is, how he never meant to say those things, never even meant to think them.
He thinks about his brother's face when Sam growled I hate you, how Dean's eyes narrowed in that way that meant he was hurting but would be damned if he'd admit it.
It all seemed so god damned stupid now. All he'd wanted was a ride to Stacy Morino's house so they could work on their calculus project.
It hadn't surprised him that John had dismissed his request without consideration, but he hadn't been prepared for Dean to say No, I've got somewhere else to be.
Dean had smirked and said What the hell do you need calculus for anyhow, Sammy? You gonna take out spirits with quadratic equations or something? in that infuriating way he had of revealing his intelligence in the same breath as declaring it useless. Sam hated that John had convinced Dean his potential as a student was irrelevant – hated that their father was trying the same shit with him.
So Sam had dragged them both back into the same tired arguments about school and hope and their astounding family dysfunction.
It had ended in Sam telling his brother (his best friend) that he hated him and storming out, book bag in hand, determined to walk to Stacy's.
Sam thinks maybe he deserves this, deserves to have had to make the call between hit by a car load of stoned college kids and jump off a fucking bridge.
Problem is, he's sure Dean doesn't deserve thinking his brother died hating him.
Sam isn't shivering as much, and that's good, because every involuntary quake feels like knives in his thigh. But then again, it's bad, because their father the Marine has drilled enough wilderness survival training into their heads for Sam to know what it means – he's getting dangerously close to deadly hypothermia.
It's getting harder to think, and when he tries to pull his arms inside his flannel shirt they don't seem to want to move.
Coyote stands and bows, front legs stretched out before him and his flanks raised. He gives a little breathy huff, and trots off down the river bank.
Sam watches him go and thinks show's over.
He's far enough out from under the bridge that he has a full view of the sky. It makes him feel small and comforted at the same time. He stares up at the moon, half-hidden behind snowy clouds, and stops fighting the slow droop of his eyelids. There are stars behind his lids, too, and he feels mesmerized. He forgets where he is, what's happening, and what he's about to lose.
He forgets the pain, the cold, the ugly words he said in anger.
But he doesn't forget Dean.
And for his brother, he keeps holding on.
He's been drifting in a half-sleep, far enough away not to feel the rocks and rotting reeds under his back.
But he's not so far away that he doesn't hear the familiar deep rumble of his brother's car, the thrum of AC/DC audible even through closed windows and thirty feet down.
Hope so sudden and strong it hurts flares within him, and he finds the will to open his eyes in time to see the Impala's headlights wash over the trees on the other side of the river; in time to hear the tires thump over onto the bridge and then thump back to normal pavement.
He's just in time to see the bloody red glow of taillights on the bridge trusses as his brother keeps on driving.
Then the sound of the classic engine fades.
Sam does, too.
Sam hadn't expected to wake up again, but he does.
There is something warm and heavy draped over him, a calloused and familiar hand on his cheek. At first he thinks maybe he's dreaming, but then he realizes he can hear someone saying his name.
No, not someone…. Dean.
Sam can't understand what Dean's saying, but he can recognize his name and please and a tone of panic and fear and fierce protection.
Dean almost never says 'please,' and he's suave enough to able to get away with it most of the time. But he's saying it now, saying it like he really fucking means it, and it's that that gives Sam the will to open eyes he thought he'd never have to open again.
He sees the moon, he sees the bridge, and he sees his brother leaning close and looking desperate. Dean's leather jacket is covering his chest, and Sam can't quite believe that his brother is there, somehow came back for him.
"Jesus," Dean breathes, both hands on Sam's face. "Sammy, you with me?"
Sam blinks at him slow, thinks I opened my eyes, you want me to talk too?
"Sam, come on, stay awake. Help's coming. You're gonna be okay, buddy. Stay with me, okay?"
"Uh huh," Sam manages, hoping that a reply will erase some of the terror in Dean's eyes. And then, because even though he's half-way to dead, he's curious and he wants to know: "How?"
It's not very precise, but Dean understands, like he always has before.
"Didn't want you to have to walk," he says roughly. "I drove a couple miles up the road, but I couldn't find you. Knew you couldn't have walked further than that, so I turned around to try another route. Then I saw your backpack by the railing on the bridge."
Dean's voice breaks, and he swipes a shaky hand over Sam's forehead.
"I looked down, saw you. God, Sammy, I thought-"
He stops, and then there are sirens and flashing lights, and Dean is yelling Down here! In a voice that sounds far too scared to really be Dean.
Soon there are strangers touching him, asking questions he can't answer, and Dean is being pushed aside.
Sam doesn't want him to go, and he manages to throw an arm out and grasp his brother's sleeve. Hard fingers close over his own, and he finds Dean's eyes in between the hurried activity around him.
Sam wants to say I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it, but someone's fixing a mask over his face and his mouth won't seem to work.
He doesn't look away from Dean, though, and Dean is staring right back.
Whole conversations pass between them, lifetimes of meaning in one look.
Apology is given.
Forgiveness is granted.
And finally, Sam feels warm.