Title: Maybe

Author: Still Waters

Fandom: Supernatural

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. Just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.

Summary: Maybe, just maybe, if he had shouted, "Sam, drop!"…..he would still have his little brother. 2x21 coda.

Notes: This piece stems from writing an outside POV on Sam's ingrained response to Dean's "Sam, drop!" during 1x07 (Hook Man) in my story "It Wasn't Them." I began to think about AHBL1, and how Sam had just kept walking when Dean shouted, "Sam, look out!" before Jake stabbed him. Looking back over several other first and second season episodes, I found examples of Dean shouting Sam to safety with very specific phrases, ones that Sam naturally responded to. Putting all that together, this story was born, a look at the brothers' training, relationship, and responses to danger. Episodes referenced include: 1x07, 1x10 (Asylum), 2x02 (Everybody Loves A Clown), and 2x21. As always, I hope I did the characters justice. Thank you for reading and thank you to those reviewers I am unable to respond to personally via private message. I truly appreciate your support.

"Sam, look out!"

He knew better than that.

Had been trained better than that.

And it happened anyway.

Dean was far from the idolizing son who had once believed that John Winchester could do no wrong. He understood now that the man wasn't perfect, and that he had pulled some serious crap while raising them. But there were a lot of those drill sergeant lessons that he and Sam still used without conscious thought – lessons that had kept them alive, kept them together.

Like the first rule of emergencies: be specific.

Dad had always stressed the importance of being clear, concise, and unfailingly specific in their instructions to each other when things went to hell, so that there was absolutely no room for misinterpretation. He taught them about hand signals, code words, military jargon, the way using someone's name naturally focused a person and forced them to listen. About practicing those orders until the responses were as involuntary and natural as breathing. Sam and Dean had developed their own system of emergency communication over the years, using some of Dad's hand signals and military terminology, and supplementing it with their own code words, looks, and gut feelings. Most of the time, all Sam had to do was shout Dean's name, and Dean knew exactly what he had to do by the minute variations in Sam's tone. Dean could catch Sam's eyes from across the room, and Sam would immediately read every detail of the plan. As brothers, particularly ones on the constant edge of innumerable threats to their togetherness, they naturally fell into that kind of sibling communication. But they were also raised as warriors, two brothers at war before they even understood what the war was, and so they also fell just as naturally into their father's militaristic training.

Be specific.

Save a life.

Save your brother's life.

And it had worked.

When Dean came around the corner at the church in Iowa to find a relentlessly protective Sam between him and a clear shot at the Hook Man, he had yelled, "Sam, drop!" And Sam had instinctively turned his head slightly toward Dean's position as he immediately dropped to the ground in a practiced, ingrained response. Sam had known that tone, that order, and there was no room to even think about it – Dean told him to drop, and so Sam had dropped. Simple as that.

When Sam shouted to Dean for the rock salt rounds in the Roosevelt Asylum as the spirit reached for him, Dean grabbed the shotgun and yelled, "Sam, get down!" And Sam had already been in motion, throwing himself down and to the side before Dean was even finished with the order; moved beyond the rock salt's spread without a conscious thought because that's what Dean needed him to do.

When the rakshasa went invisible in the funhouse in Wisconsin and Dean saw its shadow through the smoky room, he had shouted, "Sam, behind you, behind you!" And Sam, without even turning around, had instinctively thrust the jagged pipe behind him, right into the thing's abdomen. Because Dean had told him where it was, so Sam hadn't needed to look – just respond. It was only once he heard the weapon reach its mark that Sam had turned around to finish the job with his own eyes.

Then came South Dakota.

When Dean came around the corner in Cold Oak and saw Sam heading towards them, he was relieved. Freaked, because Sam was clutching his arm in some creepy haunted ghost town and Dean still didn't know what the hell was going on, but relieved all the same, because he was supposed to look out for Sam, and by looking down at the radio for a moment at the diner, he had not only lost sight of his brother, he had then lost him. So, maybe he was so focused on the fact that he was looking at Sam again, after having failed to look out for him earlier, that those thoughts transformed into the words that came out of his mouth when he saw the soldier grabbing the knife.

Maybe that's why he shouted, "Sam, look out!"

Because there had to be an explanation for it; for shouting something so nonspecific, so open to misinterpretation. Something that Sam hadn't known how to respond to, wasn't practiced in responding to, even with their connection, and so had kept walking toward Dean. Because Dean wasn't specific, didn't use Dad's number one emergency rule, and was too far away for Sam to read the seriousness of the situation in his eyes and make up the difference. And Dean knew that if he had shouted for him to "drop!", that Sam would have dropped without question; to "get down!", that he would have thrown himself to the ground; had warned "behind you!", that Sam would have moved aside or whirled around to block an attack. But Dean had shouted "look out!" and had watched his brother get stabbed in the back. Had gotten his brother stabbed in the back. Because he had failed to use the natural orders and responses that had kept them alive for years.

And so Dean was left on his knees in an agonizing, wordless prayer, cold mud seeping through his jeans, earthy hands rooting him to this rainy nightmare, desperately clutching Sam's limp, lifeless form closer with each unmatched breath from the still torso. The grief, despair, disbelief, and half a dozen other emotions he couldn't even name slowly began sinking into inaccessibility, even as the tears rolled down his face, his own sobs rocking Sam's loose arms in a cruel parody of life.

His last thought, as shock's fog overtook him, was that maybe, just maybe, if he had shouted, "Sam, drop!"…..

...…he would still have his little brother.