FOUR-SECOND

RULE

By Karen B.

Summary : Season one. Pilot tag. Missing scene. Time frame: Dean dragging Sam from the burning room -- up until Sam is standing at the trunk of the Impala.

Disclaimer: Just me…crashing Kripke's party.

Rated: Sad. Sam angst. Protective, emotionally hurting Dean.

Thank you for your time, always,

Sunshine,

Karen

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The danger instinct -- it's an acute, powerful sense we are all born with. I guess living with an ex-marine has its advantages. All humans have the instinct, but if not used -- that instinct gets lost in the shuffle. Dad taught us how to sense a threat, watch for changes. To smell danger, before danger could smell us. Detect the smallest vibration, the enemies heartbeat, a shift in the wind. We lived by the four-second rule. Wait four seconds, don't panic, weight your options, listen to what your gut is telling you -- then act on that impulse.

That impulse, right now, was full on nelson.

I slammed the Impala into park, leaving her on the street, away from Sam's building. If my instinct was wrong -- which it harldy ever was. But if it was; I didn't want Sam knowing I'd come back to check on him only minutes after leaving. I jumped out of the car, having flung the door open so hard it bounced back, shutting itself. At first I moved slowly, but my gut told me to run. So I did -- at top speed -- back into Sam's apartment building. Taking the steps two at a time, I hit the third floor racing down along the narrow corridor; which only seemed to grow in length. Huffing and puffing, I finally reached Sam's apartment. Right off the bat, I heard him yelling behind the door. I knew that tone -- my brother was in complete panic mode -- that's when the adrenalin took over. I kicked the door and it swung inwards with a loud bang.

"Sam!" I burst in, not seeing him, but hearing him.

I didn't need to check the house, just followed the smoke and shouts.

When I finally got to the back room of the small apartment, I stood in the doorway in shock, like I'd hit a concrete barricade head on. My eyes were seeing, but my brain wasn't comprehending the images fast enough.

"Sam!" The entire bedroom was blindingly bright orange, and really hot.

Sam was on the bed, staring up at the ceiling -- helplessly kicking at shooting flames, and screaming for Jess.

"Sam!"

My eyes automatically went to what Sam was looking at. I couldn't believe what I saw. It was happening again. How could this be happening again? Twenty-two years -- happening again. I began to shake hard. Dizziness threatening to bring me to my knees, but forced my feet to stay glued to the floor. My brain finally came up to speed with my vision -- mentally tabulating -- there was no saving Jessica. All I could do was get my brother the hell out. I went straight to Sam, and grabbed him. At first he wouldn't budge.

"No! No!" He fought, shaking.

"We gotta get out!"

I dug my fingers deeper into his arms and pulled him upward. Sam struggled -- and I knew he wasn't caring if I left him there to burn.

Not an option, baby brother.

I spun him around, my boots digging in, pushing hard, backing Sam up and out of the room.

"No!" Sam violently clawed to be released. "Jess!" His crazed screams sending bolts of lightning jagging through me.

"Sam!" My anger rose, then dwindled, concentrating on evacuating.

I was having a hard time staring into Sam's terror-stricken eyes. They sent me back in time. Like I was dreaming that nightmare -- the nightmare that never, ever would go away. I was four-years-old, carrying my baby brother out of our burning home, the one woman I loved most, glued to a nursery room ceiling, left to burn. Only this time I was dreaming the nightmare awake, and Sam was no baby -- the woman glued to the ceiling -- the one woman my brother loved most.

The thing that had destroyed my family, made my father live every day full of sorrow, full of pain -- to the point of unbearable -- was back.

I shook away the flashback, staring into Sam's pale face. His hands were trembling, clutching my jacket, teeth grit together in a savage, animalistic growl.

"We have to save, Jess!" He tugged away from me.

"It's too late!" I tugged in return, kept us moving, kept pushing him backward until we were both out the front door, and in the hallway.

The corridor was already full of smoke and other college kids were scrambling to get out. The supernatural fire was spreading fast. The living area we'd just come from already blazing orange and nuclear reactor hot.

"No!" Sam went wild.. "J…Jess! …Jess!" Arms waving, lashing out.

Crack!

His fist smashed into my jaw, jerking my head back.

"Ahh." I took the pain. "Stop, man! She's gone!" I shoved Sam harder, holding him securely as he stumbled in reverse, dodging people, heading down the staircase. "Sam! Jess is gone! Understand? Gone!" I choked on the words, shoving, taking one step at a time, holding Sam up, keeping him moving.

"Nonononono!" Sam gagged, the smoke nearly cutting off his air supply.

We hit the bottom of the staircase, and I made sure to stay in front of Sam, blocking him from going back in. He was fading, going limp. I kept us backpedaling, pushing, forcing my distraught brother out the entrance, away from the building, and across the lawn until we reached the edge of the street curb. I held my post in front of him, never releasing my hold, afraid if I did -- he'd face plant -- or worse.

"Sammy," I whispered.

Sam wasn't fighting anymore, he was scary quiet. He wasn't shaking, crying, or screaming. He wasn't doing anything, but staring vacantly past me at the burning building, trying to form words, trying to scream for Jessica, but only able to force air in and out of his mouth.

My brother's pain was so intense, even I could hardly breathe watching his agony.

"Let… me… go," Sam finally was able to say in a slow, strained voice.

"Dude…"

"Pl…please." Sam's eyes went wide -- alone, dazed and lost.

"Okay." I drew back.

Sam staggered blindly forward, his back to me, facing the terror of the blazing aparment building. He froze, didn't budge, just stood there. Shoulders stiff, hunched up to his ears, hands dug deep inside his jacket pockets.

I watched Sam closely, ready to nab him should he try darting back inside. We were several yards away, but I could still feel the heat of the fire, the evil blowing through my heart, reaching, touching, destroying another Winchester's life.

Police, Fire and Rescue arrived, everyone jumping from their vehicles. Colors swirled, everything taking on a cartoonish look. Sirens, lights, radio dispatchers, screaming residents. The noise was frantic, relentless -- crazy. I hated crazy, was sick of crazy, wanted to kill crazy. I took a breath, if anyone should be loosing it, it should be Sam. He continued to just stand -- still and quiet. With so much dizzying chaos going on I couldn't understand how he hadn't collapsed. He was waiting for something, and I wished I could just turn the volume down, shut the whole thing off -- take him away from here.

It was painful to watch Sam so subdued, in shock, suffering, but watch is what I did, never taking my sights off of him.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The moment came -- the moment I finally figured Sam was waiting for. The smoke parted and two firemen came out of the smoldering complex, one on each end of a black body-bag -- carrying Jessica to a waiting ambulance.

Sam pulled his hands out of his pockets, something falling from his grasp, fluttering down to the lawn.

"Jess." Sam slowly turned to look at me. "She's gone. Dean, she's… guh…" He lost his breath and fell to his knees.

I dashed forward, dropped down in front of him and pulled him to my chest -- held him as hard as I could -- his face burrowing into the crook of my neck.

I cursed under my breath, feeling the truth, the reality, my nightmare shift from my hell -- to his. I waited for Sam to break down, to cry uncontrollably, puke, blackout, take another shot at my jaw, but he did none of those things. He just let me hold him, every now and again shivering.

I wanted to say something, but what could I say. Sorry... was just so lame. Sorry... didn't make things better. Sorry... never would make the pain stop or bring Jessica back. Sorry -- sucked. I hated -- sorry, worse than I hated crazy. I said nothing, cradling my baby brother there in the damp grass, hanging on the edge of a nightmare we both now shared.

I glanced over Sam's shoulder, the chaos and mayhem that had been unleashed was slowing, the fire under control. A uniformed police officer was heading our way. He approached slowly, arms tucked at his sides -- non threatening. I reflexively pulled Sam closer knowing he was coming over to deliver more bad news. Sam and Jess had a lot of friends. It was a small complex, everyone knew everyone, but someone would be asked to do the unpleasant task of trying to identify the body. Chances were they'd need to use dental records to be sure, but an initial ID. was protocol. I sure didn't want that someone being Sam.

"Sam Winchester?" The officer questioned, looming over in military-fashion, looking down at me.

"This is him," I answered for Sam, who never so much as flinched at the sound of his name.

"I'm Officer Collins," the officer continued in a very professional and sympathetic tone. "I'm very sorry…" I cringed. "… For your lose, Sam. Several of the other students living in your building have been able to give us pertinent information about the victim…"

"Jessica," Sam mumbled, his breath hot against my neck.

"Yes, Jessica." The officer spoke her name respectfully. "Sam," he continued. "I just wanted you to know we will be taking her to the morgue, confirming identity and notifying her family," he explained. "If you want you can…"

"It's her." Sam let out a shaky breath. "I'll call them." He pushed away from me, battling to stand.

"Sam?" I stayed close, prepared to catch him but he made it to his feet. "You sure you want to do that, pal?"

Sam nodded. "I have my cell." He swallowed down hard. "Just…just give me some time, Dean. Meet me at the car later." I kept my eyes on Sam as he retreated in a daze.

"Again, I am so sorry," Officer Collins mumbled behind me. "Never gets any easier." I heard him say, listening to his footsteps in the damp grass as he walked away

Sam's shoulders were hunched with the weight of what he just witnessed -- brutal misery evident in every trudging step. It was only when I saw him reach the car and open the passenger door that I lowered my gaze.

"Little brother, I'm so sorr…" I bit my lip hard enough to break skin, not wanting to say the word.

Catching sight of what had fallen from my brother's hand, I bent down, picked up the pink piece of paper and unfolded the square, drawing in a breath to quell the nausea.

"Son of a bitch!" I glared at the paper. A receipt for a very fancy, and overly priced heart-shaped diamond engagement ring. "Damn friggin' bastard," I mumbled, not sure who I was damning.

Stuffing the paper into my pocket, I moved to stand among the crowd that still was gathered behind the yellow police tape. I watched, waiting, hoping to get a glimpse of the thing that did this. Streaks of blue and red flashed across the blackened building. The crowd around me talking in hushed tones -- words floated to me in splintered shards. Words like tragic, terrible loss, poor girl, too pretty, too young, her poor boyfriend, what about her family. I glanced toward the Impala. Sam had the trunk open, fumbling around inside the weapon's store. I could only assume he'd made the call, could only touch on what that must have been like, or what was going through his head. Probably the same things that had gone on in dad's head after mom died.

Revenge.

Hunt.

Kill.

Find and destroy every single evil thing in his path until he found the thing that killed his love, his life. This was so screwed up.

Finally deciding nothing more was going to happen, and that I'd given Sam enough time, I headed for the car. My danger-instinct was kicking in full on again, my brain screaming. Every fiber in me telling me Sam should stay here. Be normal. Be a real boy. Go back to college. I'd move on, take care of killing whatever this bitch was -- alone.

I stood next to him a moment, just staring. Waiting. Not sure what to say or do.

Sam looked up at me, and that's when I saw it. The four-second rule glinting in the one lone tear that fell from my brother's eye.

One. Two. Three. Four.

"We have work to do." Sam tossed the rifle into the trunk, slammed the lid shut, and slid into the passenger seat.

Why'd dad have to teach us so fucking good?

The end.