Episode One: Guardian

By Kittsbud & BurstynOut

Part One

 

The Impala tore through the black void of night, its tires screeching as Sam took a turn far too fast and then yanked back on the wheel. He straightened out the roaring classic just in time and then poured on more gas until the car could take no more. He was angry, angry at himself for not saving his brother from torment at the invisible hands of the demon, angry at his father for not showing compassion, and most of all, angry at the world for letting such evil creatures as demons ever exist.

Sam swerved again, realizing he was driving far too fast, but knowing he needed to make every second count. Music blared from the Chevy’s ancient cassette deck, but he never even noticed as ‘Bad Moon Rising’ reached its crescendo.

John Winchester sat at his son’s side and winced as the car leaned heavily with Sam’s almost reckless driving.

Sam noticed, glancing over with a hint of urgency in his voice as he clutched the wheel just a little too tightly. “Look, just hold on, alright? The hospital’s only ten minutes away.”

John ignored his son’s concern, ignored his own seeping wounds, ignored his oldest son bleeding to death in the backseat. The demon had escaped. The object of his obsession, the one thing he'd vowed to take down with him before going home to Mary, had slipped through his grasp, and that was the only thing for which he held any concern.

He inhaled, his breathing slightly elevated from the pain of the bullet wound to his leg. “I’m surprised at you, Sammy. Why didn’t you kill it? I thought we saw eye-to-eye on this? Killing the demon comes first, before me, before everything.” He glanced over to Sam almost angrily, never once checking on Dean in the back- despite the severity of his injuries.

Sam took the time, even if his father didn’t. He checked in the rear view to see his brother huddled behind him. His superhero brother, whose strong hands were as sure with a gun as with healing first aid, had his bloody fingers fisted in his shirt, clenched tightly against his ravaged chest in a futile attempt to dull the pain. He was pale and still bleeding from his mouth. A thin, crimson trickle ran all the way down Dean’s chin and joined the pool already on his shirt. There was red painted everywhere, and Sam knew there was much more that he couldn't see.

The worst visible injury by far, from a baby brother's perspective, was the blank, sunken stare that had replaced his brother's laughing hazel eyes. That injury was most likely mortal, and it had been inflicted by words. When the only kind words to come from John's mouth had belied the presence of the demon, how was Dean supposed to believe that the hateful diatribe that followed was anything less than truth? If the demon spoke kindness, then the hurt must have been John, or so it must have seemed. If Dean believed those words, believed that his family didn't need him, then Sam knew his brother was already dead. Dean was broken, possibly beyond repair, and their father was pissed about the friggin' demon.

Sam put his eyes back on the road, shaking his head. “No, sir, not before everything. Look, we’ve still got the Colt. We still have one bullet left. We just have to start over, alright? I mean, we already found the demon…”

The rest of his words suddenly became buried- buried by the cacophonous sound of metal pounding into metal. No time to see the headlights of the attacking truck, no time to evade its relentless onslaught.

The Peterbilt hit the Chevy at full throttle, impacting with its midsection in an explosion of glass, paint and Detroit steel. Black smoke belched from the semi’s twin exhausts as it revved hard, its wheels juddering as it ploughed the Impala forward, twisting its frame as it almost gouged the car into the ground.

Eventually, the truck eased off, allowing the car to settle. Fragments of once proud, glimmering chrome groaned as they established a resting place in the dry earth.

And then, silence. The night belonged to the dead except for the timeless lyrics from Credence Clearwater Revival still echoing from the Impala’s speakers.

The scene remained that way for a time, neither the car nor truck moving. A breeze whipped a spine-chilling, dust-filled zephyr across the Impala, giving the illusion it was already time for a burial.

Then, without warning, the semi groaned as its demonic driver rammed the shift into reverse gear all-too quickly. The gearbox made a mechanical grinding wail, and the truck lurched backwards, its trailer skewing wildly as the driver paid it no heed.

Ultimately, the truck shuddered to a halt once more, water pouring from a rupture to its radiator caused by the ambush. Steam hissed as the liquid dripped onto hot metal and evaporated into the air, perfuming the night with the sickening sweet stench of antifreeze. The engine idled a moment, and then revved harder and harder, building to a climax of raw power.

The driver didn’t hesitate once. He was sure he could ask no more from his beast. He released the brake pedal, dumped the clutch, and let that mechanical pony run.

The Peterbilt surged forward one last time, its huge front end bearing down on the already crumpled Impala like a behemoth from hell. The car stood no chance of evasion, no hope of escape…



Kyle Williams felt his whole body convulse in shock as he saw the truck impact with the car. Even though he was already waking when the moment came, the nightmare still felt all too real. He pulled his body up, flicking the flimsy sheet that covered him onto the bottom of his bed, still shaking with fear. He was sweating, as he always did after one of his dreams.

Kyle swallowed hard, feeling the dryness of his throat and suddenly needing water. He didn’t move. He couldn't, not until his quivering body regained some composure.

It was always like this, had been for months now, and yet this time Kyle sensed something different. The nightmare, or whatever they could be called, had come again and again. He hadn’t dreamed of the black Impala just once, but every night for a whole week.

Kyle inhaled hard and then tugged his body up to face the nearby mirror. He looked white, his pallid complexion contrasting starkly against his dark beard and shoulder length hair. “Get a grip, brother.” He shook his head, trying desperately to push the horrific images he repeatedly saw to the back of his mind. It didn’t work.

Kyle grabbed a shirt that hung at the base of his bed and paused to look at what sat beside it. His dog collar looked back at him innocently, taunting that a man of his vocation shouldn’t be having such malevolent nightmares. He dismissed the idea. Perhaps such nightmares warranted such a vocation.

The dreams had to have a purpose. Each and every vision he'd had thus far had come true- painfully so for most of the people he had seen in them. The trainee priest put his shirt on and pulled out a chair, placing his head in his hands as despair washed over him.

If he ever let the bishop know about his ‘ability,’ it would probably cost him his chances of being ordained. It was not necessarily wrong to have visions- even the darker ones, but in the church’s eyes he could be perceived as a rogue or worse. And still, that was of little consequence if he could save a life, just one life after all the deaths he had foreseen and been powerless to prevent.

The Chevy hadn’t been destroyed yet, of that he was certain, or the dreams would have stopped. There was still a chance to save the people in this vision, possibly even the young driver Sam who Kyle could sense was such a strong willed, loving brother and son.

Kyle shivered even though he’d been perspiring only moments earlier. He had seen the crash through Sam’s eyes, felt what the young man had felt and seen. “I can change this…”

Kyle reached over to his desk and rummaged through various books until he found what he was looking for. An atlas. The book’s edges were creased and faded and it was years out of date, but he suspected what he was searching for would still be listed.

Plucking a pair of over-large glasses from their case, he slipped them on to flick through the maps. The glasses and beard together made him look much older than his twenty-two years, but Kyle liked it that way. People tended to respect elder priests more.

He rubbed at the thick stubble on his chin in contemplation and then turned the page, still searching for his elusive highway. In his dream he had seen the road over and over again until every last detail had been implanted on his subconscious. He knew where to look, just not when.

After twenty minutes more, he tapped the book triumphantly with his forefinger. Now he would need to make an excuse to leave the seminary and pray to the Lord that he found the car before the truck did.

Kyle gulped. Was it a sin to tell his superiors someone he knew had been in an accident? Even though it was against all he stood for, Kyle didn’t care if it was. He could ask for forgiveness later, once the Winchesters were safe.

The would-be priest grabbed his car keys from the aging desk and an overcoat from a hook on the back of the door. It was time to find out if his ‘gift’ had any real use.


Two Weeks Later…

The Peterbilt hit the Chevy at full throttle, impacting with its midsection in an explosion of glass, paint and Detroit steel. Black smoke belched from the semi’s twin exhausts as it revved hard, its wheels juddering as it ploughed the Impala forward, twisting its frame as it almost gouged the car into the ground.

Eventually, the truck eased off, allowing the car to settle. Fragments of once proud, glimmering chrome groaned as they established a resting place in the dry earth.

And then, silence. The night belonged to the dead except for the timeless lyrics from Credence Clearwater Revival still echoing from the Impala’s speakers.

The scene remained that way for a time, neither the car nor truck moving. A breeze whipped a spine-chilling, dust-filled zephyr across the Impala, giving the illusion it was already time for a burial.

Then, without warning, the semi groaned as its demonic driver rammed the shift into reverse gear all-too quickly. The gearbox made a mechanical grinding wail, and the truck lurched backwards, its trailer skewing wildly as the driver paid it no heed.

In the Impala, all three Winchesters lay unconscious- each one sprayed with varying amounts of his own precious blood. John’s head rested oddly against what was left of the shattered passenger window, his neck surely broken. Behind the wheel, Sam appeared to have faired no better. Luckily, appearances, in this case, were deceiving.

Sam swore he could hear Credence Clearwater Revival playing, but it sounded far away and muffled. Dean(broken), I think one of your speakers is going, man. The words formed in his throat, but he was still so tired and so heavy that they wouldn't come out. He felt like he'd been sleeping for hours. Probably why I can't remember where we're going.

His neck was throbbing and he could feel his sinuses draining thickly down his throat. He knew he should change positions. The last time he'd slept in this particular pose, he'd awakened with a plastic spoon in his mouth and his brother(bleeding) laughing at him from behind his camera phone.

The familiar rumble of a diesel engine seemed fairly close, but that didn't surprise him. His brother(brokenbleeding) often followed eighteen wheelers on long stretches of highway. Their father(possessed) had taught them that big trucks cut the wind resistance and saved gas mileage. The truck drivers were also connected by CB radio. They knew where all the cops and speed traps were so they knew where it was safe to put the pedal to the metal and when it was best to stay below the limit.

Sam was tempted to just lie there, wrapped in the heavy darkness that had settled thickly over him like perfume(antifreeze). Grinding gears and the crashing together of a tractor and trailer shook him, however. An engine revved well beyond the point where it should have blown, and Sam felt the seat jar beneath him.

Dean(dying), what the hell?

The truck extricated itself from the Impala's heavy frame and. . .truck! Hospital! Car! Truck!

And Sam remembered. Dean(brokenbleedingdying)!

As the truck revved in the distance, Sam began to stir. He blinked, free-flowing blood masking his vision on the right side. “Dad, Dean?” When no response came, the younger Winchester dared to turn his neck enough to see his father’s crumpled form.

“Dad…” The words were wasted, falling on already long-dead ears. John had never really stood a chance in the passenger seat. Sam knew it and wanted to scream, to grab his father by the shoulders and shake life back into him, but something rang in his ears telling him no. It was the sound of the semi, snarling, waiting to pounce.

Sam tried not to shake as he twisted his aching body to check on his brother. Every sinew and muscle felt like it had been torn into shreds, but he moved anyway.

Dean still lay up against the rear window where he’d been before the collision. He didn’t move, but Sam could at least see painfully shallow breaths as his lungs struggled to work.

“I’m coming, Dean! Just hold on!” Sam punched at the Impala door with his already bruised fist, but it refused to budge. The car’s frame had twisted to the extent where the door hinges no longer had free space to move. “No!” Sam refused to accept his fate and kicked at the interior panel harder and harder until the dying Chevy gave in.

The door swung laboriously open with a metallic screech, and Sam almost fell out as his body carried forward with his momentum. He caught the remains of the door in time to avoid the ground and used it to gain some balance. His ears were still ringing from the impact, and his legs felt like Jello, but he kept moving.

With his good hand, he grabbed at the rear door handle, ignoring the glimmering headlights of the truck as it made ready for its final charge.

The rear door gave way more easily than the front, and Dean slumped outwards into Sam’s awaiting arms. The harsh red stain of blood covered his entire chest and had leeched down on to the top sections of his jeans. Even as Sam watched, more of the salty red liquid oozed from his brother’s lips, dribbling onto Sam’s shirt. “Dean, we have to move!”

Sam put his hands under his brother’s shoulders and tried to pull his legs free from the Impala, but Dean resisted with what little strength he had left.

“Sammy, get the hell out of…here…” With every word, a gasp for breath followed. “I’m dying…damn it…leave me…” Dean looked up, what little glimmer of life remained in his eyes beseeching his sibling to let go, to save himself.

Sam shook his head. He hadn’t killed John, and he wouldn’t leave Dean here, not like this. “No!” He tried again tugging at his brother until Dean could take no more. He lay in Sam’s arms, cold, unmoving.

“Sam, just kill that sonofabitch…just promise me you’ll kill …it.” Dean’s eyes were dark, cold, and resolved, something Sam had never seen before, not like this. Even when they’d faced the demon he hadn’t backed down, not even under torture. Now he looked broken and lost.

“Don’t talk like that. You’ve been through worse.” Sam shook his brother lightly, trying to get a response, but Dean didn’t have anything left to give.

“Sorry, Sammy, not this time…” Dean’s eyelids gently closed as if he were about to drift off into slumber. “Dad…where’s Dad, Sammy..?”

Sam opened his mouth, but found he couldn’t tell the truth, couldn't tell his brother that the demon had still escaped and that their father had died anyways. And he never had to say it, because Dean could no longer hear it. The older brother's eyes were half-closed, and what light reflected out was just that, reflected. Nothing of Dean shone out of those hazel eyes at all. Death had come for him as well. Dean was dead. “No!” Sam screamed, the sound somewhere between a battle cry and a keening wail. "God, no!" Sam rocked his brother's body gently back and forth as his mind struggled to right itself in the gale of emotion that descended.

Mom was dead. Jess was dead. At least for them there had been years of light and love punctuated by only a few brief minutes of pain and anguish in the end. In that, there was some consolation.

John had known both love and suffering. If, in the end, the darkness had consumed him, at least there'd once been love, the peace before war, the promise of peace after.

But Dean. Dean had never had anything but the war, Dad, Sam, and too, too many things lost, too, too many never found. All there was left of Dean now was Sam. Sam without Dean. And Sam without Dean knew all too well that his brother had deserved better. Sam without Dean knew there was no one left to correct that injustice but himself, and Sam without Dean would be damned if he let his brother's killer walk away. Hell, he was probably damned anyway, but if ever he had wanted something to die a painful, slow death it was now. Could a demon die that way?

Sam didn’t know. All the rage and grief he had bottled after Jess’s death came boiling to the surface in one surge of anger fuelled adrenalin that told him he needed to find out.

Diving for the Impala’s trunk, Sam just had enough time to pop the release button before he saw the semi come barreling towards him. Still, he didn’t balk or try to run. The demon died tonight. Mom and Jess had forced the quest, and for Dean, the quest would end.

Sam picked up the Colt as if it were made of solid gold- something so precious it had to be handled swiftly, but with utmost care. Clicking the barrel open he slipped in the one last silver slug and flicked the weapon closed.

The truck’s air horns sounded, marking its imminent and deadly arrival. Sam welcomed it. He slammed the trunk lid back down and took the classic stance his father had taught him when aiming and firing a sidearm.

The Colt was old, less accurate than a modern weapon, and the demon would have to be close to insure a kill shot, so close in fact, that Sam would not even have the time to escape its onslaught. He didn’t care. What did it matter if the Winchester bloodline ended here tonight? There was nothing left to live for. Nothing left to fight for.

The Peterbilt’s air horns howled again like a banshee, and Sam found he had to wipe sweat and more blood from his eyes with his forearm. He blinked, losing focus, and for a second, the truck was gone.

Sam blinked again, expecting the illusion to right itself, but it didn’t. The semi and the destructive path it had cut into the countryside had mysteriously vanished. He began to breathe heavily with confusion and displaced rage.

A pathetically ordinary horn sounded on the road in front of him- a road that had not existed only seconds earlier before the world and reality itself had shifted.

Sam shook his pounding head. There was a car, a car where the truck had been only seconds ago. The demon, it’s playing tricks with me. Sam slid the Colt behind his back, wary of what may or may not happen next.

The car drew closer. It was a white Ford sedan, and from what Sam could tell a late eighties model in a reasonable state of disrepair. Even from here, he could see a rosary dangling from the rear view mirror, and it was probably the only intact item on the whole of the car. Still, that meant nothing. Demons just lately weren’t what they used to be. They tended to be impervious to both holy water and holy ground. A rosary was like a toy to them.

He waited, his breathing becoming quicker as he became more anxious for answers. A thought struck him as he waited, precious seconds ticking by, and he dared to check the ground by the car.

Dean’s body was gone, and the rear door was closed. Sam began to shake. What the hell?

Now, the approaching car meant nothing. Sam took two bounds back to the Chevy’s side and stooped to gain entry via the driver’s door he’d kicked open.

John stirred, looking at his son through bleary, concussed eyes. “Son, what the hell happe..?”

Sam’s heart almost exploded in his chest. Was this real, or was it some demonic delusion? He ignored his father’s question, daring to glance into the back to see Dean still sitting to one side. He still looked pale, dying. No matter which version of events was real, Dean’s fate didn't appear to have changed.

Sam reversed his position and backed out of the Chevy in time to see the incoming car screech to a halt. It had been traveling fast for such a wreck, and the owner obviously wasn’t used to driving so frantically.

As he watched, a man in dark clothes emerged. He wore a dog collar, although that again meant nothing. Sam tried to gather his thoughts. He needed to get Dean help- John too- and he couldn’t take the Colt far. He needed the Devil’s Trap and it was now immobile, right along with the Impala.

Taking a risk, Sam backed up further until he was level with the trunk, opened it, and tossed the Colt under a blanket. He closed the lid and then moved back towards the stranger. It was no time to be shy. If the new guy was a demon, then they were all out of luck anyway.

“I um…saw you needed help…” The priest seemed flustered, panicked even as he gestured towards the Impala.

Sam glanced back reflexively and only then realized the true extent of what may or may not be going on. The Impala was just off the main highway, and instead of ever taking any damage to its side from a truck, its front end was now clearly embedded into a tree. It was impossible, improbable, but it was fact- or was it? The radiator and front grille were crushed. The front windshield shattered into a myriad of glistening pieces, but the side that had taken the truck’s impact was virtually unmarked. It was as if there had never been a truck.

Sam rubbed at his brow, feeling a throbbing pain from the wound to his head. That, at least, appeared to still be real. “My dad, my brother,” he managed to keep his voice level. “They need a hospital…”

Father Williams stutter stepped to a degree as he met Sam's desperate, plaintive gaze. It was the first time he'd seen Sam face to face when the image consisted of more than just what could be seen in a rearview mirror. And though the young man's eyes glistened with teary, raw emotion, Kyle couldn't shake the feeling that he should be looking at a dead man. Absently, he began fumbling in his pants for his cell phone, intending to call for help.

"No!" Sam insisted. "That'll take too long. Please. Can you drive us to the hospital?"

The young priest approached the wreckage skeptically. "Sir, I'm no EMT. These men need first aid. I can't be responsible if. . ."

"I'm not asking you to be responsible for anything," Sam beseeched as he began tugging at the rear driver side door. "Just help us. My brother and my father are bleeding. We don't have time to wait for dispatch to get someone here. If we go now, we'll already be at the hospital in the time it would take for a medical crew to get out here."

Sam didn't wait for the stranger to respond. If he had to take the car by force, he would. There wasn't time for argument. "Help my Dad," he instructed. "I'll get Dean."

Kyle, whose understanding of reality up to that point had hinged on the fact that his vision showed three men dying, stumbled in shocked disbelief toward the passenger door, more than willing to accept Sam's authority. As for himself, he knew not which way was up and which way down. Sam seemed to have a plan, and a plan of any kind was better than inaction. After all, he'd come this far to do something, and do something he would, though it be not the something he'd planned. He'd carry live weight over dead, and he wouldn't lament his own inaccuracy. Apparently God had more ways of intervening than even Kyle knew.

Satisfied that the priest was willing to cooperate, Sam watched the stranger work the front door handle in his peripheral vision as he leaned forward and grasped the rear handle himself. Seconds later, he heard his father groan in protest as the Good Samaritan eased the door away from his broken body.

Dean, however, made no such vocalization as the rear driver door came away from the frame with a whining creak. He only slid in agonizing slow motion into Sam's waiting embrace. The older brother's skin was cold and wet against his sibling's neck as Sam folded him up, mimicking the hunched, defensive posture that Dean had assumed himself while he'd still been conscious.

Ordinarily, Sam would have been ill-pressed to even consider carrying his smaller, but more solidly built brother. Now there was no consideration involved. He was not Sammy, cowering second man, peering uncertainly from behind protective big brother pant legs. He was Sam, point man, last man standing, and he'd be damned if he wasted one more minute of his brother's or his father's lives waiting for his body to decide if it was willing to comply with what his mind knew must be done.

He lifted Dean with a groan, praying that he wasn't aggravating any injuries by doing so and began walking stiltedly toward the headlights of the waiting car. Halfway between their first mode of transportation and their second, Sam heard his brother force a strangled inhalation through what sounded like gallons of bubble solution and noticed a faint reflection of light between the shuttered eyelids. "That's it, Dean," he panted. "Wake up for me, big brother. We're gonna fix this, okay?"

Dean's throat worked convulsively as he tried to swallow the thick, half-congealed strings of blood that had pooled behind his tonsils. A gurgling noise that reminded Sam of bubbles blown in milk through a straw rumbled deep in Dean's chest, and it made the younger brother quicken his footsteps despite the pounding in his own head.

He reached the Ford sedan to find the back door already open and his father watching him approach from the shotgun position in the front. A large package was in the middle of the backseat, and the priest hurried to move it out of the way. As the clergyman placed it on the floor, Sam noted that it was a bag of diapers.

"Sorry," Kyle whispered, a slight tremble in his otherwise pleasant voice. "I had to pick up some things for the church day care center," he explained.

Sam didn't pay much attention as he slid inside the vehicle and laid Dean with his feet toward the passenger side of the car and his head against the younger brother's chest. With a nod of his head that moved his blood-streaked hair in sticky clumps, Sam gestured for the priest to close the door. As it slammed shut with a thud, Dean snapped farther into consciousness. "Dean. Hey, Dean, look at me," the young hunter instructed calmly. "Let me see your eyes, big brother."

Dean seemed unable to comply, however. His hazel eyes were all pupil, blown and unfocused, and they pulled to the right, fixing the older brother's gaze somewhere over Sam's shoulder. His breathing continued to be shallow and ragged as fresh blood trickled at the corners of his full lips. Sam could feel Dean's breath hitch in his battered chest, threatening to burst into convulsive, tearing coughs. He guessed the only thing keeping his brother from hacking up the clotted blood in his lungs was his shocked system shutting down the reflex to do so. The ghastly pallor of the elder's clammy complexion was more than enough evidence to suggest that Dean was going into shock.

"C'mon, man," Sam choked, his voice barely a whimper as he grasped Dean's chin and tried to turn the older brother's gaze upon himself. Even with Dean's head fixed firmly in Sam's line of sight, however, the elder's eyes strained off to the side as if searching the darkness for something only Dean could see.

"How's he doing back there?" It was John who asked, and his voice was gravelly and barely audible over the sound of the 4-cylinder engine revving probably farther than it had since its date of manufacture.

Sam almost didn't recognize the voice of his father, thick with pain and emotion, but Dean did. Sam knew his brother recognized the voice because of the way he flinched and drew in upon himself the second the words were spoken. In his broken condition, the older brother's walls had crumbled to rubble, and the terror of that night's brutal assault elicited a visceral response that Dean was powerless to mask. The fear was apparently great enough to pump a fresh dose of adrenaline into his shocky system, and a coughing fit began to gurgle up from his chest.

Sam just shot his father a glance that said, Like you care, and tightened his arms around his brother protectively, willing the fear and panic to dissipate. The coughing fit continued for several long moments until blood had sprayed across Sam's face and the upholstery of the car. As it raged on, the younger brother felt a fresh flood of warmth spreading beneath his fingertips.

"Oh, God," the younger brother choked, looking with horror at his sticky, red hand. "I gotta do something about this bleeding." He tried to feel out the source of the blood flow, but Dean's arms were wrapped so tightly around himself, that Sam couldn't palpate the origin. "Dean. . ." He slapped his brother's cheeks lightly and willed him to focus.

Dean wanted to see Sammy, wanted to comply, but he knew it was no use. In the fog of half-consciousness and blood loss, Dean saw two faces. One he knew was Sam, because its eyes glistened the way only his baby brother's could. The other's eyes did not glisten. They were dark and black, and sunken into a face older than time. It was the face of Death. Can you feel the reaper? And Dean couldn't look at Sammy when he knew Death was there in the car with them, because he didn't know how to say goodbye. Instead, he just looked at the reaper, who was silent in his vigil, and wondered what it was waiting for."Dean!" Sam said louder this time. He had his hands around his older brother's wrists and was trying to pull the elder's arms away from his wounded chest so that he could examine it more closely. "I gotta see it, big brother. C'mon. You gotta trust me, okay?"

And though his gaze didn't shift, Dean's resistance slackened enough for Sam to push his arms down to his sides. He pulled the blood-soaked tee up as far as he could get it and stifled a sob that clenched in his throat as he got his first glimpse of the bloody carnage beneath.

Sam's stomach flipped convulsively, and he felt his jaw tremble enough to shake the tears loose from his aching eyes. His brother's entire upper torso was painted in shades of red and black like a possessed kindergartener had been finger painting in blood. Pinching his lips together in determination, Sam focused on the brightest, wettest spot and put his hand over the wound. Dean groaned convulsively, the first real sound he'd made since leaving the cabin, and Sam couldn't help but think he was hurting him as much as the demon had. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he breathed through his gritted teeth. He could feel blood bubbling out of the wound and knew it was sucking air into Dean's chest. "Oh God!"

Sam leaned forward, getting close to the back of the driver's seat. "How much farther?" He asked of the priest.

"I don't know," Kyle ventured. "About five minutes, I'd say. Is he gonna make it?"

"Not if I don't do something," Sam stated. "Damn! We should've brought the first aid kit. Everything we had is back in the Impala."

Kyle could sense the urgency of the situation, and a glance in the rearview mirror sent shivers down his spine. The accident he'd foreseen may have been averted, somehow, but the emotional turmoil he saw on Sam's face told him that the crisis was far from over. He wracked his brain for any consolation he could offer, but finding none, happened upon a suggestion instead. "Can you use the diapers?"

"Diapers?" Sam asked incredulously, the fear in his voice bubbling up in a near hysterical laugh. Then the hysteria stilled momentarily, and something clicked in his own mind. "Yeah. Yeah, I can!"

Sam found himself explaining what he was doing aloud, as if the authoritative sound of his own voice would convince everyone, including himself, that he actually knew what he was doing. He rifled around on the floor by his seat, trying to jostle his brother as little as possible as he pulled the bag of diapers up and across Dean's legs.

"I saw this show one time where a woman happened upon a man who'd been shot in a carjacking. All she had to cover the wound was a garbage bag she found in the street. When the paramedics arrived, they discovered that the plastic had formed a seal over the wound so that air couldn't suck into the chest. She actually saved his life."

Sam pulled out one of the disposable diapers, and placed it so that the plastic outer layer was closest to the largest wound. "Dean," he said, calmly but deliberately. "Dean, I gotta press this down. It's gonna hurt like hell."

Somehow the words reached the older brother, and though he still felt compelled to look into the black eyes of the waiting reaper, he knew that Sam needed him to give the permission to go ahead. The events of that night, hell, of the last several months, had given Sam a much clearer understanding of how much pain his brother already endured under all that snarky charm and sarcasm. He was more than a little reluctant to cause more, even when it was necessary. With a concerted effort, Dean rolled his eyes to lock on Sam's and nodded slowly.

Sam pressed, and even his large hands couldn't disperse the pressure and make the pain tolerable enough to stifle the scream of agony that crossed his brother's lips. They were both shaking as the vocalization disappeared into the darkness, Dean with his ragged, tortured breath, and Sam with sobs of guilt and empathy.

For long, intolerable seconds, they waited for the tremors to pass. When they did, Sam's chest began to hitch anew. Dean thought at first, that it was more of his brother's nervous, hysterical laughter, but searching the younger hunter's face, the elder thought he saw genuine amusement.

Sam caught Dean's questioning scowl. "I'm sorry," he breathed through a tired grin. He let his head fall forward in exasperation, shaking it back and forth in disbelief. "It's just. . . Well, I was thinking the plastic on the backs of these diapers would work like the plastic trash bag to seal the wound. Only now I can kinda see the bag, and I can read what it says." He laughed again tiredly. "Well, these new diapers are all breathable nowadays, big brother. You know what that means?"

When Dean only looked at him blankly, Sam continued,"It means you might suffocate on your own blood between here and the hospital, but at least you won't get a diaper rash."

For a second, Sam thought he'd gone insane, but when those hazel eyes flickered up at him, sparking back to some semblance of their treasured gleam, he knew he'd finally broken through the fog that had threatened to steal his brother away.

"Bitch," Dean spat weakly. And he didn't look at the reaper again. Should've taken me when he had the chance.

 

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