Title: If A Winchester Falls In The Forest
Word Count: 2165
Warnings: Blood, minor swearing
Disclaimer: I own neither the boys, nor Supernatural. I own this story, though, so no copying, distributing, etc.
A/N: For the lovely and talented Dizzo from her Hoodie_Time Christmas Wish List. "Wish 2: I love any non-slash story where Dean is suffering from any chest/lung/rib related illness/injury. As much or as little medical intervention as you see fit; The more scared/uncomfortable Dean is and the more caring/hands-on Sam is, the better. Once again, the image description is more important than the plot!" (UPDATE: Chapter 2 is currently in the works, by special request. I will post it as soon as it is finished. Thanks for reading!)
Sam could count on one hand the number of times Dean had answered "no" when asked "are you okay?". Unfortunately, this was one of those times.
It couldn't have happened when they were closer to civilization. Oh no. That would have been too easy and when the hell did the Winchesters ever do anything the easy way?
Two days out, both brothers weighed down by the sleepless nights spent shifting boulder-sized rocks out from under their sleeping bags. Two. Days.
The only dubious stroke of luck is that it's still light out when it happens.
A flash of grey fur too fast for his eyes to track and suddenly Dean is lifted off his feet over the creature's head. He does not even have time to cry out before he is slammed to the ground flat on his back a millisecond later. Sam hears the breath punch out of his brother's body, swears he can hear the bones snapping on impact. The creature rears up, ready to slash open Dean's belly to get to his tasty-chewy centre. Sam's ears fill with desperate wheezing rattles as Dean tries to draw air into his battered body.
A red veil descends over Sam's vision as the creature reaches the just-far-enough-away-from-Dean point he hastily calculates in his head. He snaps off two shots so close together it's almost a single report. Head and heart. The furry thing never makes a sound, stiffening for just an instant before falling across Dean's twitching form.
Terror and adrenaline conspire against him, and Sam's mind checks out for just a moment. The next instant he's aware of, he has shoved the cooling corpse off his brother and is watching helplessly as Dean tries to draw a breath.
He's intimately acquainted with the instinctive fear that goes along with having the breath knocked out of your body, your brain screaming suffocating-can't-breathe-gonna-die and ratchets it up every second you can't pull in a solid breath.
Dean's eyes are squeezed shut, his arms are wrapped around his ribs as he writhes weakly in the blood-soaked dirt. Sam desperately hopes none of it is his, but that will have to wait. He lays one huge hand on Dean's stomach, the other on his forehead, grounding the older Hunter and giving him something to focus on besides the pain.
"S'ok Dean, you're gonna be alright man," he soothes, his thumb gently rubbing circles on the trembling belly, "you've gotta try to relax, though. I know that's not the easiest thing right now, but you know struggling will only make it worse." He's rewarded by just a sliver of green peering through moist lashes. "That's it, easy bro. I know it hurts, just listen to my voice okay?"
A shiver passes through Dean's body and a strangled, pained sound breaks free from his throat as his face crumples in agony. A tear squeezes from the corner of one eye. Sam has never heard his brother make such a helpless noise and he hopes with every fibre of his being he never hears it again.
"Come on Dean, don't make me do mouth to mouth. There isn't enough Listerine in the world..." he lets the thought drift off unsaid. His gaze intent on the injured man's face, he can't miss the eyebrow twitch, the almost-smirk lifting one corner of his mouth. He feels the tension dissipate slightly under his hand as Dean's belly rises with a shallow breath.
Relief floods through him, warm and welcome. He takes his first deep breath in what feels like eons.
"Can you talk?" he asks, hesitantly. He doesn't want to cause Dean any more pain, but he needs to know exactly where he's hurt.
Sam feels the shallow breath shiver into his brother's abdomen. Dean opens his mouth and all that comes out is a wheezing squeak. It'd be worth years of torment if it wasn't such a dire situation. He shakes his head, the barest sliver of motion, and clenches his jaw against the starburst of pain it wrings from his ribs.
"Alright, it's okay, just - " He doesn't know what it is he is about to say. Hold on? Don't move? Hang in there? Relax? It all seems so patronizing and obvious. "Fingers and toes?" He watches the ripple of fingers on both sides, slow and jerky but moving. Dean nods, a tiny movement down then back up - his toes are fine too.
He stops his thumb's incessant movement, sure that by now he's worn a track on Dean's stomach with the calloused pad. Taking a deep, steadying breath he exhales slowly as he carefully removes the strong arms wrapped protectively around a blood-soaked torso. Dean drags his lower lip between his teeth and clamps down, determined to stay still and silent.
"I'm just gonna lift your shirt so I can see what we're dealing with, okay?" Sam unconsciously mirrors the action, biting down hard on his bottom lip, positive he's causing the other man pain.
As he peels the sticky material away, baring the pale freckled skin beneath, he is initially relieved to find the skin unbroken. The normal golden tone of his skin is lost to pain and shock but the blood is from the beast, and is that ever a dark blessing. As he lifts the bottom of the shirt up past the bottom of Dean's sternum, though, he can see the perfect outline of the creature's over-sized mitts bruised into his flesh.
Dean's hands twitch slightly at the sensation of the wet shirt peeling away from hyper-sensitized skin. He's resisting the urge to wrap his arms back around himself with everything he has left. Sam can see his body practically vibrating with pain and for a moment he lays his palm back on Dean's forehead. He knows he should start talking again, give his brother something to focus on, but there's a lump that's settled in his throat. He's afraid if he speaks he'll let loose the torrent of emotion that's trapped behind the lump and that won't do anyone any good.
So he sits for a moment until Dean's breathing evens out slightly and he releases his bottom lip from its prison, leaving perfect impressions of his top teeth in the tender flesh. Green eyes peer out again from beneath heavy lids in time to see Sam release his own lower lip and try for a comforting smile.
"Good?" he asks gently.
"'kay." A small breath, a word, the first one he's spoken and Sam feels something loosen in his chest.
"'kay." He echoes and lets his hands carefully drift over tender flesh and bone.
He feels the jagged ends of broken ribs grind together in not one, not two, but four different places and of course they can't even all be on the same side. As he passes over the fourth and final one, Dean finally loses his composure and whimpers.
And that's as bad as that other I-hope-I-never-hear-that-again sound, and guilt slicks through Sam's chest like a cold shiv. He made that sound pass his brother's lips, and that hurts worst of all.
"You okay?" He could kick himself for asking such a stupid question, but the little brother in him just reared his head up and desperately needs his big brother to tell him he's fine, it's all fine, they'll both be fine.
"No." It's almost a sob and Sam can't help but wonder what kind of damage his back is hiding pressed against the unforgiving ground. He can feel the pained tremors passing through the prone form and he's suddenly swallowing past the lump again.
Sam's hands move like they have minds of their own, before he can stop himself he has one of Dean's hands clamped in his and pressed to his chest tight enough that he's sure his brother can feel his heart hammering against his ribs. His other hand returns to the older man's forehead and he finds himself almost wishing his injured sibling would bat his hands away like he always does. Instead, Dean rolls his face into Sam's huge paw and tries to breathe through the worst of it. He gives it a moment.
"Alright," he breathes, terror stomped down for the moment, decision made, "I've got to sit you up, Dean. I have to check your back, okay?"
A moment passes with no response and the fear starts to claw its way back up his throat again.
"'kay Sammy." comes the breathy response just as he's about to lose it.
There is no way he can be careful enough, not with someone who is so broken, so he does the best that he can. He leans way over and wraps his arm around Dean's chest, bracing the broken ribs as well as he can against his palm on one side and bicep on the other. Firm pressure to hold them immobile but not tight enough to shift the broken ends he hopes. He carefully maneuvers his other arm behind the shoulders, bracing neck and head with his hand as he levers Dean carefully upright.
He's almost all the way up when it gets to be too much. Sam is startled by the sudden hoarse cry of pain. Dean drags in a wheezing breath and manages to whisper 'Sammy' before slipping his grip on consciousness.
Working quickly and carefully, he rucks up the bloody t-shirt in the back to examine the extent of damage to Dean's back.
It's not good.
The severity of the bruising over his left shoulder-blade already begs a closer look. Sam gently palpates the area and, while there's no grinding of bone edges, he suspects there may still be at least a fracture there. His entire back looks as though it will blossom into colourful bruising before too long, but that's not the worst of it.
An area over Dean's left kidney, larger than Sam can span with his hand and stretching around his flank to his stomach, is an angry red-purple and too warm to the touch. He suspects at the very least a bruised kidney, at worst a lacerated one. Either way, he's got to get Dean out of there. Now.
Before he lays the still-unconscious man back down, Sam reaches over and snags one of their sleeping bags from the pack it's lashed to. Turning it inside out he spreads the upper portion behind where Dean's head and shoulders will fall. He carefully lays his brother down on top of the soft material and with minimal shifting and rearranging, manages to slide the rest of the sleeping bag fully under from head to toe.
Casting his glance around the forest floor he spots three lengths of wood that look as though they might be up to the task. Testing their durability and satisfied with their weight-bearing potential, he quickly ties them together with the sleeping bag using a rope from Dean's pack. He remembers for a moment that he teased Dean for wanting to bring it, and now he couldn't be more grateful for his brother's forethought.
Dad would be so proud. He's fashioned his very first field litter. Using his own sleeping bag, he secures Dean to the frame just as he's beginning to come to again.
"Hey bro - gonna get you outta here, okay? You've got some broken ribs and I think you may have bruised a kidney. Just stay awake if you can, 'kay? I don't know what else may be banged up inside there. Does anything else hurt?" That earned him an are-you-out-of-your-mind stare and he felt the frustration rise once again when he thought about how far they were from help. "What else hurts?"
He couldn't help it, he huffed out a chuckle. "Not helpful, man. Think you can keep some Advil down?"
There was a momentary pause, and then, "Yeah."
Moving quickly, Sam dug out the first aid kit and one of the water bottles, dosing Dean up with painkillers and repacking everything into a single pack.
"Okay, let's get you back to your baby, alright?"
Two days in to where they were at. Sam was betting he could make it out in half that time if he didn't stop for the night. No matter what he did, the trek was going to be excruciating for Dean and he wanted it over and done with as fast as he could manage.
Dean took a breath and gave a small nod. It was time to go.