One If By Land
Disclaimer: The Winchesters, the car, and the concept belong to Kripke et al. The love belongs to us.
Beta'd: By Phx. Thank you, for being the voice of reason and alternatively when needed, a good, swift kick in the keister.
Dedicated: To Karen for her birthday and Sherry who needed a Sammy pick-me-up.
Time Line: Season One because I needed my Winchesters angst-light.
AN: I wanted to write a fic to Karen for her birthday, but I had an idea of what she wanted and plotting it out in my head I knew it would be several pages. As I'm not always the quickest of writers, I was lamenting to Phx about the prospects of actually writing a story or just giving up before I started.
She interrupted my whine with the following diatribe. "Girl, your problem is someone asks you for something, you think you have to whip up an entire cake when all they really want is frosting."
So, here you are girls, just the frosting. Please rinse the bowl when you're finished.
Sound came first. The wild rush of oceanic winds rushing over the dunes pelted the sensitive skin on his damaged scalp with biting sand. In the distance he could hear waves crashing on the desolate beach, seagulls squawking out protests as they fought for food. The smell of salty air was overpowered by the undeniable metallic scent of blood. He clawed blindly, reaching, searching for something his muddled brain couldn't categorize. Before he slipped under again he put a name to his need. Dean.
February winds whipped the frantic call away almost before it left his mouth. Dean's concern ratcheted up another notch as he searched the sandy hills for any sign of his brother or the dobharchu. Strong breezes created ripple patterns in the tan and gold sand, eradicating any trace of footprints.
Dean had been thrown, easily knocked around by the otter-like creature. The dobharchu was equally at home on land as it was in the sea and its speed had taken them by surprise. Before Dean lost consciousness he'd witnessed his brother's stupid stunt. Sam had shouted at the giant creature to distract it from Dean and then taken off running.
Now Dean was alone with a lingering headache and rising anxiety. No sign of Sam or the enormous mammal, in fact, the only living thing nearby seemed to be a determined seagull. He'd shooed it away twice already, but it kept following him and gazing at him with one beady black eye.
"You aren't getting my jerky, Popeye, so back off!" Dean growled, taking out his frustration on the hapless bird. He shielded his eyes from a fresh wave of airborne granules and searched the surrounding dunes again. "Come on, Sammy, give me a sign," he whispered under his breath.
Popeye tilted his head at Dean's muttering and then, apparently growing tired of waiting for food, cried out once before flying away. Dean watched the scavenger soar westward, dipping over a nearby dune. The shrill answering call of its flock sounded over the sand. He narrowed his eyes, panning the horizon as several birds fluttered above the edge of the hill and resettled out of view.
Oh, God. Dean's legs pumped furiously, feet slipping on the unstable ground. Maybe he'd get lucky and some poor, dead seal had washed up on the beach. Maybe it was someone feeding the insistent birds. He cleared the hill knowing what he'd find based on the black stone in the pit of his stomach.
Sam lay prone on the dry sand, his shirt pushed up by the looks of things, as he had slid down the embankment. He was covered in birds. "Sammy!" Dean shouted, even as he lifted his shotgun and fired.
The gulls cried out with angry shouts as they flew upwards, then dipped for a landing. Dean didn't hesitate, sending another round of rock salt at the flock. This time the birds continued out towards the sea as Dean dropped to his knees beside his brother.
Crimson stained Sam's hair, pockets of red dotted his back where the seagulls had tasted his flesh. The exposed skin around his ankles was covered in sand and blood. "Sam, hey, you with me?"
The younger man's chest lifted and fell in shallow breaths, but otherwise Sam didn't move. Dean took off his coat and arranged his brother's shirt before carefully turning Sam onto his back, pillowing his head with the blue jacket.
Sand was pressed into Sam's face creating a bumpy outer layer of second skin. Dean gently swiped at the salt-sticky granules with one hand, using the other to feel for a pulse. There it was, thready and weak, or it could just have been the way his fingers shook as they pressed on the artery. The only thing that really mattered was the soft pulse meant his brother was alive.
Sam's hand fluttered ineffectually accompanied by a quiet groan. "D'n?"
"Sam, open your eyes," Dean said, brushing away more sand from his brother's face. He gently probed Sam's ribs, doing a quick triage of arms and legs checking for broken bones.
"Nuh," Sam weakly protested. "You, k?"
"I'm fine," Dean said. Long fingers wrapped around his wrist and he paused before leaning closer. "It's you who's hurt thanks to that idiotic move you pulled."
"D'we get it?"
"Don't know, don't care at the moment, bro," Dean said, brushing too long bangs off his brother's forehead. Sam eyes opened, sticking at half-mast and he mumbled something unintelligible. "Don't worry about the dobharchu right now. We need to get you back to the motel. Think you can walk?"
Sam blinked in confusion.
Hating to move his brother while he was hurting so much but not seeing another alternative, Dean wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulders and eased him to a sitting position. "Gah," Sam puffed.
"Sorry, kiddo," Dean apologized.
In response, Sam turned his head to the side, retching until he vomited on the sand.
After Dean used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe his brother's mouth, he cradled Sam's head in the crook of his neck. "Just breathe, Sam. I think you've got a concussion." Sifting through the blood and sand matted in his brother's hair, Dean found a large goose egg and multiple abrasions. It wasn't going to be fun for either of them cleaning out the wounds. A hand pawed weakly at his shirt, hooking into the cotton fabric. "Easy, I got ya."
"Dizzy," came the muffled response.
"You gonna be sick again?"
Sam shook his head against Dean's shoulder. He shivered violently and that's when Dean noticed his brother was minus one ugly brown coat. "Good, that's good." Dean snagged his jacket from the ground and pulled Sam's arms through the heavy material. The back was smeared with the blood, but at least it was warm. "We'll go slow, okay?"
Hauling Sam to his feet, Dean nearly fell down the treacherous slope as he staggered under the weight of his brother. "Sorry," Sam mumbled, head lolling towards his chest.
"It's okay, I got ya," Dean reassured. "Easy."
Sam nodded or at least controlled the head bobbing and Dean took it as a sign his brother was ready. The laborious trip was in direct contrast with Dean's adrenaline fueled race from his spot near the car over the sandy hill to Sam.
Luckily, the wind worked in their favor, had it buffeted them from the front Dean wondered if they would have been able to manage it. Twice Sam landed on his knees in spite of Dean's best efforts and strong support. Each time taking just a little more out of his younger brother. By the time they made it to the Impala, Sam was barely conscious, moving forward simply on sheer faith and stubborn determination.
Dean braced Sam against the car, letting the taller man's top half crumple against him in a limp embrace. With one hand he opened the passenger door, fighting to keep it open against the howling gusts. Man-handling Sam into the car, he patted his brother on the shoulder. "You made it, Sam."
Sam raised his head, offering Dean a small half-smile before wearily closing his eyes. Dean carefully shut the door and heaved a sigh of relief. He was one step closer to the motel. He wiped the fresh blood from Sam's back off his hands onto his jeans. Making the way around the car, he placed the shotgun into the backseat before sliding in behind the wheel. Sparing a glance at his brother, Dean started the engine and turned the vehicle towards town.
His head felt like it had been invaded by fire ants, both inside and out. Sam blinked his eyes open and found himself staring at boring white stucco with some kind of yellowish, unidentifiable stain on it. He heard the low, guttural moan leave his throat, powerless to stop it. "Dean?"
Sam started to roll over, hot pain flaring up his neck and over his head. He gripped the sheet tightly in his fist as he rode it out. "Sammy, you awake?" Dean asked, his voice low and rough from exhaustion. A hand on his shoulder grounded him even as his stomach flipped.
"Sick," Sam moaned, gripping the sheet tighter. Sweat ran down his face, dripping off his nose. The motel ice bucket appeared in his line of vision.
"Try to breathe through it," Dean said, concern etching his words. His hand never moved from Sam's shoulder. "You've been sick too many times already; you're going to get dehydrated."
Sam frowned, his forehead curling. He realized with some dismay that even that tiny movement made his head throb harder. His stomach roiled angrily and he dry-heaved. Something cool and wet was placed on his neck and Dean's hand lingered to keep it there. "Can't," Sam said, an apology ringing through in one simple word.
"You can, just breathe."
There were times Dean could make Sam believe anything was true just by saying it. So, he did the only thing he could do under the circumstances, he breathed, willing down the nausea. Sam's vision swam and he closed his eyes. Time stretched and lost meaning, awareness flitting just outside his personal space. A pounding ache brought him back and he reached up to touch his head.
"Stop," Dean's voice was soft, his hand tugging at Sam's wrist. "You'll mess up my handiwork."
"Hurts," Sam replied, or at least that's what he tried to say. He wasn't sure what actually came out.
"I'd give you something for it, but I'm half afraid it'll make you puke again and talk about something you don't need." The bed dipped as Dean sat down. "Maybe if you could eat a little?"
"Agh," Sam groaned. He stretched gingerly testing his body's willingness to cooperate this go around. "Not."
"At least let me help you sit up and you can drink," Dean offered. Sam grunted out a negative as his brother stacked pillows behind him. "You have to replenish fluids, Sam, I'm not really offering you a choice here."
Sam glared with as much heat as he could muster which, as it turned out, was not much. "Not sure it's a good idea," he grated out.
Dean smiled, patting Sam on the shoulder as if he'd just finished first in a spelling bee. "Wow, seven whole words. You must be feeling better."
"It's six, with a contraction," Sam contradicted. He smiled, inhaling the distinctive scent of ocean air as a soft breeze rustled the blue curtains. He lifted a shaky hand to take the can of warm 7-Up from Dean. "Thanks."
Dean nodded. "You keep that down and maybe some of the crackers I snagged from the vending machine and we'll try the painkillers."
Sam wasn't convinced he could keep anything down, but he was definitely tired of feeling sick. His back alternately itched and ached. He shifted against the pillows trying to ease the discomfort.
"Back or ribs?" Dean asked simply.
"Back," Sam said with some surprise. "It itches."
"It's the sutures," Dean said, his face relaxing in relief. "Stop it. You'll be lucky if you don't wind up with an infection as it is."
"Sutures?" Sam frowned, wracking his brain as he tried to remember hurting his back.
"You don't want to know yet," Dean said with a grimace. He tapped Sam on the knee. "I'll tell you later."
Sam nodded, but his frown deepened as his brother snagged the ice bucket. "Where're you going with that?"
"You won't need it," Dean said, matter-of-factly. He tossed a packet of crackers at Sam and they landed in his lap. "Go slow."
"Dean," Sam called out, protesting half-heartedly as his brother walked into the bathroom to rinse out the bucket.
"Sam, you won't need it," Dean said, poking his head out the door. "Just eat so you can have the painkillers and go back to sleep for awhile." He beat a rhythm on the doorjamb with his thumb. "You need rest and I need my trusty sidekick back on his feet."
"Me?" Sam tapped the can of pop to his chest for emphasis. "I'm not the sidekick." He paused, wincing as the pounding in his head flared. Taking a shaky breath he continued, "You're obviously the smart-assed comic relief."
"Not in your wildest dreams, bro," Dean said, emerging from the bathroom with a wet washcloth and a towel. "I'm the handsome knight with his powerful, black stead."
Sam smirked before closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose, his head hurt way too much for a verbal duel. That didn't mean he was going to let it side-line him. "Then who am I?" He knew he was setting himself up for court jester or damsel in distress, but frankly, he lacked the brain capacity for a witty retort at the moment.
"My brother," Dean said with such sincerity that Sam opened his eyes, blinking as he processed it. Dean handed him the washcloth and towel and then, apparently having had enough of the near chick-flick moment added, "Don't you remember me? Jeez, Sammy, how hard did you hit your head?"
Dean placed two pain pills on the nightstand and with a smirk, flopped down on the opposite bed. He flicked on the television, turning the volume on low. Sam caught him surreptitiously glancing over in his direction. "Jerk," Sam said in a teasing tone reserved for his brother.
The familiar comeback didn't echo back. Instead, Dean's mouth curled into a fond smile. "Aw, you do remember me." The grin faded from his face. "I was worried about you for a minute there."
Sam nodded, message received. "Sorry." He turned his concentration to the crackers, nibbling on the saltines. He washed down the pills with flat soda, and cleaned his face before his eyes started drooping closed. Curling onto his side and wrapping himself around the fluffy pillows, he closed his eyes and drifted towards sleep.
The springs on Dean's bed squeaked when he stood and the quiet brush of bare feet on shag carpeting preceded a warm blanket tucked over Sam. He exhaled a sigh as his body sank deeper into the mattress. He was so close to sleep he almost missed the hushed whisper. "Don't be sorry, Sammy, just stay safe."
"You too," he mumbled, sleepily. As the blue light from the television flickered against closed eyelids and the far off lonely blast of a fog horn sounded, Sam slipped under the veil of consciousness with a smile tugging his lips.
AN2: Again, happy (albeit belated) birthday, Karen! Sherry, many warm thoughts your way!
And to all my other Supernaturally cool e-friends, a virtual hug for ya'all!