Well, here we are, at the end of the week from hell.....
Sorry the replies are a wee bit short, but I'm feeling a little queasy tonight, so I'm not really with it at the moment.
And this is the end of another story. Next week sees the start of a new one, and it's quite a departure for me. I'm tackling an apocalypse story. Hell, everybody else seems to be doing one, so I thought - why not have a go as well?
So there will be a lot of angst...no, strike that - there will be a LOT of angst. And tension, and swearing, and......
It's also a departure because this one's being co-written, and I can count on one finger the amount of times I've had a co-author. Yep, that's right - once. Lorrie - the awesome Charmed1of2 - partnered with me for the missing scene What Am I Supposed To Do. She wrote two beautiful flashbacks for me to weave into the tale of how Dean spent the day and a half with Sam's dead body after AHBL1.
Anyway, this joint venture is being co-written with Cookie6, and will be in Futures on this site, but when the first chapter goes up next week, I'll put the link in this thread when I reply to your reviews.
Oh, and it's called Here At The End Of All Things. Ominous, eh?
Anyway, let's get on with the second part of Chain Reaction - let's see how the boys fared in the collision, shall we?
JulesAmijek – welcome! And thank you! I hope that I never do disappoint.
Ilaria – I do, don’t I? It’s such fun. So happy that you love this one.
Sarah – thanks for that. Yes, the boys had a bit of a bumpy road in the first season, but they soon found their rhythm – and I’m hoping that they will again in S4 or S5…
Trace – oh, me too. I quite often suffer from foot in mouth disease. I think that Dean got both feet in there with the crack about Jess…
Cindy – no, it wasn’t Dean with Paige Chambers – but I couldn’t resist a little messing with your heads there – lol!
Jules – yes, he does, doesn’t he? And yes, the boys are a wee bit testy with each other, but they’re about to get a sudden jolt…..
Loz – glad I can make your Friday special, hon. Whoa!!! I love your new Jensen banner! …*drool*…what do the words say? And as for will they or won’t they crash – well, Dean’s driving…..
Sharon – thanks hon. Yes, I was hoping for that little misdirection…*grins wickedly*…so glad you love it.
Steffs – yes, it does, doesn’t it? S1 seems so carefree now, when we go back and watch it. Days of youthful innocence….
Lisa – lol, that was the plan. But no, it wasn’t Dean with Paige. Hope you enjoy the next bit.
Oceane – I got you? Awesome!! Yep, there was a wee bit of tension, wasn’t there? It was just as stormy inside the Impala as it was outside – let’s see what happens when the thunder stops rolling…
Michelle – LOL! And no, I think Dean has a certain standard – and he wouldn’t want to tangle with an irate husband… Um – did I? Oh, yes, I did. Well, it wasn’t me, it was Don….*grins*….
Jensen&Danneel<3 – a very warm welcome to you. Pull up a chair – I hope you enjoy the ride. Ahh, yes – a word of warning – I love cliffies. Well, I love writing them, lol. Hope you like the next instalment.
Tori – no, no deathfics. I’ll bash ‘em, but I try not to kill ‘em. Not unless I have a very good backup plan… Ah, glad you liked that. I try to get a tiny bit of humour into the stories, even the angsty ones. Chapter 2“One shot in the revolution
One drop from a poison pen
One fruit too small and bitter
One tree too proud to bend
One man to start the trouble
One kiss to seal your fate
One kid that needs some action
One link in a chain reaction”
Dean cursed, frantically pumping the brakes and hauling on the steering wheel, sending the Impala towards the wrong side of the road in a desperate attempt to avoid the truck that was hurtling towards them at breakneck speed. The Chevy responded instantly, her back end sliding a little on the slippery road. Dean’s eyes flicked rapidly back and forth, his mind racing faster than the Chevy’s wheels were turning, calculating distances and angles. It would be close – real close.
Suddenly the other vehicle went into a skid as its driver slammed on the brakes. Stupid son of a bitch
, Dean thought fleetingly. The truck’s front fender was now aimed squarely at the passenger side of the Impala – at Sammy, Dean realised with a jolt. Reacting instinctively, he flung out his right arm, grabbed a handful of his brother’s hoodie and hung on with all his strength.
Both brothers felt the sickening crunch as the pickup slammed into the rear door and spun them around, the Chevy’s tyres squealing as they scrabbled for purchase. Dean fought the pull of the steering wheel, keeping an eye on the rapidly approaching guardrail as he alternated between the brake and the gas pedal. Too much brake and the big black classic would aquaplane like the truck – skate along the rain-slicked surface with no traction. Too little, and they risked slamming through the rail and careening down the mountain.
Skimming the rail on the wrong side of the road with inches to spare, the Chevy finally came to a halt, giving one last jerk as the inertia bled off. His chest heaving, Dean stared out at the wet stretch of highway, fighting to get his rattled nerves back under control.
Finally he turned towards his brother, swallowing rapidly. “S-sammy?”
Sam’s face was stark white, his eyes blown wide in shock. He stared wordlessly back at Dean, his breath coming in tiny, ragged gasps, one arm pressed hard against the door. Finally he blinked, glancing down at his brother’s hand tangled in his clothes. “You – you c-can let g-go, now,” he stammered softly, his voice barely above a whisper.
Dean became aware of a slight twinge of pain in his arm as the adrenaline rush began to fade, and looked down in curiosity. “So can you,” he replied gently, staring at Sam’s bloodless fingers locked around his right bicep in a death grip.
Carefully prying his brother’s hand free after untangling his own, Dean searched Sam’s wan face for any sign of injury. “You okay?”
“Y-yeah,” Sam murmured huskily. “Just a – little sh-shaken up…”
“Yeah.” The elder Winchester rubbed a hand across his face before switching off the Chevy’s engine. He exchanged another glance with his brother. “We better go check on the other guy.”
* * * * *“I’ve got trouble, trouble in my life
And I’ve been livin’
On the edge of a knife”
Don gasped, struggling to drag air into his compressed lungs. Slowly, he opened his eyes and tried to take stock of the situation.
He was sitting tipped forward at a twenty degree angle, his arms draped across the top of the steering wheel, hands trailing onto the glass-dotted dashboard. Rain poured in through the shattered windshield, stinging his face like a thousand icy needles pricking his skin. The lanky mill worker blinked the water from his eyes and looked down at his chest, wondering why it was so hard to breathe.
Fighting back a sudden bout of nausea, Don stared in dismay at the broken branch protruding from the right side of his chest. Frothy blood bubbled around the wet bark at the point of entry, flowing along the branch and disappearing into the rain-lashed night.
The injured man forced his head back, squinting against the fury of the storm as he gazed out at the huge tree towering over the front of the battered pickup. He remembered the hard jolt of the pickup smashing through the guardrail followed by a rending crash and a terrific pressure against his chest.
“God…” Tears of agony welled in his eyes, mingling with the rainwater as they coursed down his cheeks. Pushing against the steering wheel, he tried to move, but it was a futile gesture. He was completely pinned, impaled on the broken branch like an insect. Already he could feel the warm flood of his life fluid pooling under his shirt and spilling across his lap.
Thunder cracked overhead, almost drowning out a shout from the nearby road. Don tried to answer, but found he couldn’t draw a full breath. Footsteps thudded on the wet asphalt, drawing close to the rear of the wrecked pickup.
“Hey, buddy? You okay?”
Don heard a muttered curse, followed by a muted rustling, and then a dark figure appeared at the driver’s side window.
The mill worker blinked exhaustedly, trying to focus his blurring eyes on the face of the stranger.
“Oh, God…just hold still, buddy, okay? We’re here to help.” The man’s head turned. “Sammy, call nine-one-one, then go get the first aid kit and a spare blanket from the trunk.”
Don hadn’t even spotted the second man standing behind the first. He groaned, trying to see through the driving rain as the stranger scrambled back up the slope to the road. “My – my…”
A sinewy hand came through the window to clasp his shoulder in a firm grip. “Easy, dude. Don’t try to move, okay?” Two fingers rested against the side of his neck. “Just take it slow. Concentrate on breathing. Can you do that for me?”
Nodding, the jilted man leaned his head against the back of the seat and closed his eyes, feeling the hand return to his shoulder. He found it oddly comforting. Swallowing, he tried to draw in as much air as he could. “Th-anks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Don suddenly realised that the stranger must have been in the car that he’d hit. “Oh – God – m’sor-rry…”
“Hey, hey, hey! It’s okay. Just breathe for me, dude. Don’t worry about it. I’m fine, my brother’s fine – and you’re gonna be okay. But you gotta keep still for me. Help’s on its way. Just hang in there.”
There was a sudden commotion at the side of the Dodge, and Don blinked sluggishly at the sight of the second head looming a couple of inches above the first. He heard a satisfied murmur before something pressed against his chest, and couldn’t help a breathy cry of pain.
A warm blanket enveloped him, and he raised one arm to grasp the forearm of the stranger, holding on with rapidly fading strength. “Don’ leave m-me…”
“I won’t. I’m stayin’ right here until the ambulance comes, okay?”
“Got – tell y-you – Paige…”
* * * * *“But I don’t intend to let you down
I’m gonna give you love
Before I hit the ground”
Dean pushed the door open and stepped out into the full force of the storm, catching his balance against the Chevy’s solid frame for a moment. The shock of the accident had left him feeling shaky – he had been so scared the truck was going to hit and seriously injure Sammy that the flood of relief almost sent him to his knees.
Grimly the young hunter straightened up. There would be time for that later. For now, he had to see to the occupants of other car. Falling back on his training, he quickly assessed the position of the two vehicles, and decided that the Impala, although on the wrong side of the road, was a safe enough distance from the hairpin bend that she could be seen by traffic approaching from either direction. Nodding in satisfaction, Dean walked around to the passenger side and waited for his brother.
Sam clambered shakily from the car, blinking rapidly as the freezing rain stung his face. He turned to survey the Impala, wincing at the dent and scrape along her side. Swallowing nervously, Sam closed the door and took a few wobbly steps towards the middle of the road, unsure what his next move should be.
Rotating on his heel, the youngest Winchester stared at his brother in befuddlement.
Dean recognised the symptoms of shock. Striding quickly to his sibling’s side, he nudged Sam’s arm. “Hey, focus. Come on, dude, I need you with me.”
“I – I’m with you.”
“Good. Then get to your fallback position.”
Sam frowned, confused. His fallback position – what was his fallback position? If only he could remember...He turned, searching the wet expanse of highway.
Dean grasped his little brother’s forearms, turning the younger man around to face him. “Hey – hey – it’s me, remember? Your fallback position’s me. You keep on me, Sammy.”
Relief flooded Sam’s shocked system. Of course it was Dean. It had always been Dean. It was stupid of him not to have remembered that. “Stay behind Dean...stick with your brother...keep behind me, Sammy...don’t lose sight of Dean.”
Dean would fix it – Dean would always fix it. As the elder hunter turned back towards the wrecked truck, Sam tucked himself behind Dean’s left shoulder and stayed close, as if he was glued there.
“Okay, come on, kiddo.” With one last glance to make sure his brother was in his usual position at his wing, Dean headed across the road to where the battered Dodge pickup had come to rest.
Studying the wreck as he drew closer, Dean shook his head in concern. The truck had slammed through the guardrail and begun to slide down the slope before hitting a huge oak tree. From where he stood, he could see a few broken branches, obviously shattered from the impact. “Hey! Everyone okay in there?”
No answer came from the dark cabin, and Dean edged closer, resting a hand on the pickup’s tailgate as he stepped over the mangled rail. He could feel the warm press of Sam’s chest against his shoulder blade as the younger hunter studied the wreck. “Hey, buddy? You okay?”
“Dean – oh, God.” Raising a shaking hand, Sam pointed to the front of the truck, and the splintered branch that had speared through the windshield.
“Son of a freakin’ bitch!” With one hand pressed against the side of the pickup to steady himself, Dean descended the few feet to the driver’s side door. “Hey.”
Inside the truck, the driver stirred, blinking sluggishly as he turned his ghost-white face towards the window. Dean’s gaze dropped to the man’s chest, and the branch that impaled him like a bug on a board. In the faint glow from the truck’s dashboard lights, he could see the dark spreading stain on the man’s shirt and jeans.
“Oh, God…just hold still, buddy, okay? We’re here to help.” Dean threw a glance over his shoulder at his hovering sibling. “Sammy, call nine-one-one, then go get the first aid kit and a spare blanket from the trunk.”
Listening to the sounds of his brother making his way up the slope to the road, Dean turned back to the injured man trapped in the wreck. He saw the stranger’s lips move, and leaned closer to hear the breathless whisper.
“My – my…”
Dean reached in to grab the man’s shoulder. “Easy, dude. Don’t try to move, okay?” Checking the mill worker’s pulse, he grimaced when he finally found the weak, erratic flutter beneath the chilled flesh of the stranger’s neck. “Just take it slow. Concentrate on breathing. Can you do that for me?”
Waiting for a tiny nod of confirmation, Dean rested his hand back on Don’s shoulder.
“Don’t mention it.”
“Oh – God – m’sor-rry…”
Dean felt the stranger shift in agitation, and hastened to restrain him from moving too much. “Hey, hey, hey! It’s okay. Just breathe for me, dude. Don’t worry about it. I’m fine, my brother’s fine – and you’re gonna be okay. But you gotta keep still for me. Help’s on its way. Just hang in there.”
Sam suddenly appeared from out of the rain-lashed gloom. “Paramedics are on their way.”
Taking the first aid kit from his brother’s hands, Dean flipped it open and rummaged around inside. He heard a click, and the beam of a flashlight illuminated the contents of the kit. “Ahh – gotcha.”
Dean plucked a thick field dressing from the metal box, tore the top of the sealed bag off with his teeth and pressed the gauze padding against the wound, eliciting a pain-filled cry from the injured man. “Easy, dude.”
Unfolding the blanket that his brother passed to him, Dean carefully draped it around Don’s shoulders and chest and tucked it in as best he could. As he positioned his hand to exert pressure on the man’s punctured chest and try to slow the bleeding, he felt a weak grasp on his forearm.
“Don’ leave m-me…”
“I won’t. I’m stayin’ right here until the ambulance comes, okay?”
“Got – tell y-you – Paige…”
The elder hunter frowned. “Paige?”
Drawing in a deep breath, Dean resettled his feet against the slippery slope and leaned on the door. He shot a look at his brother before concentrating on the stranger, realising that the man needed to talk. “Okay.”
“Che-cheated – on – me,” Don gasped, holding back a sob. “Guy – red Pon-tiac G – T – O. Found them – bar – Fifth Wheel – confronted…”
“Okay, so the guy was driving a red Pontiac GTO, right? And you found him with your wife at this bar called the Fifth Wheel and called them out on it?”
Don nodded, squeezing Dean’s arm. “Buddy – got me – behind – bottle – ran – shotgun – shot their – rear window – chased – lost them – on road – hit you…”
Sam shifted his stance, leaning more firmly against his brother.
“The guy had a buddy, and he hit you from behind with a bottle so they could book. You took out their rear window with your shotgun, chased them up this road, but you lost them and hit us instead. That right?”
“Y-yeah.” The shaggy-haired mill worker tasted copper on his tongue, and swallowed painfully. “Don – Cham-bers.”
“Dean Winchester. And my brother, Sam.”
“I’m – die…”
“No, you’re not gonna die. You just hold on, Don. Help’s comin’, you hear me?” Dean reached in with his free arm and grabbed the lanky man’s hand. “You stay with me, Don.”
Don’s eyes slid closed, his breathing becoming erratic as his hand slowly loosened its grip on Dean’s. “G-glad…y-you ...here…”
“Easy, dude. Don’t talk any more, okay? Just rest, and keep breathin’ for me. You’re doing good, man. You’re doing good.”
Dean watched the man’s head tip back. Don’s eyes glistening in the faint light as he stared at something beyond the darkness. His shattered chest hitched, his broken body gave a faint shudder, and the breath left his slightly parted lips in a long, soft susurration.
The cold hand relaxed in Dean’s grasp and fell to the bloodstained seat.
Sam’s soft, “oh, no” was like thunder to Dean’s ears. Pressing his lips together, he checked Don’s pulse in the futile hope that the man had merely passed out. Reason won out, and he cursed bitterly before pulling the blanket up over the pale, lax face.
A siren wailed faintly in the distance, growing steadily louder as it approached their position. The brothers moved in tandem up the slope to stand at the rear of the Dodge as the ambulance jerked to a stop, its flashing lights bathing the area in lurid red, like spilled blood.
Stepping back as the paramedics alighted from the vehicle, Dean watched them for a moment before walking back across the road. He perched on the hood of the Impala, staring into the rain. Feeling a warmth at his shoulder as the Chevy’s frame creaked and dipped, he gave a deep sigh.
“You tried, man,” Sam murmured gently.
“Yeah, I know.”
The brothers fell silent, listening to the faint voices of the emergency personnel. Thunder continued to rumble overhead, briefly drowning out the drumming of rain against the asphalt. Almost ten minutes passed before they heard the faint thud and splash of approaching footsteps, and Dean slid from the Impala to talk to the grim-faced paramedic.
Casting a quick glance at the dent in the side of the Chevy, the EMT turned his attention to the two young men. “I’m sorry – there was nothing we could do. The branch crushed his chest, went straight through a lung, and just missed his backbone at the exit point. Even without the punctured lung, he would have bled out before we could have cut him free.”
Nodding tiredly, Dean scrubbed a hand across his damp face, gathered his brother to his side with a look, and thanked the man.
“The cops will be here shortly – they’re gonna need to take your statements.” The paramedic looked the brothers over with a careful eye. “You two okay? You need us to check you out?”
“We’re all right,” Sam affirmed softly. “Just got a little shaken, that’s all.”
“Okay – if you’re sure.”
“We’re sure. Thanks.” The younger hunter waited for the emergency worker to return to the ambulance before turning to glance at his brother. “Dean?”
“You all right?”
“Yeah.” Dean settled back against the Chevy, his jaw tightening as he stared into the rain-swept night.
* * * * *
The rain had eased to a drizzle by the time the cops arrived, and the grim-faced elder Winchester waited with ill-concealed impatience while they examined the scene before taking his statement.
Finally the formalities were done, and the brothers thanked for their co-operation. Sam gave the officers a tight smile, staying by his brother’s side as the cops walked away. He glanced at his sibling in concern. “Sure you’re all right?”
Dean drew in a deep breath, shooting a speculative look at his blood-smeared hand. “Get in the car,” he ordered suddenly, his face settling into a mask of grim determination.
Sam obeyed without question, a worried frown creasing his brow. He pushed his wet bangs from his eyes as his brother slid behind the wheel. “Where are we going?”
The Impala roared to life at the turn of the ignition key. Dean listened for a moment to the V8 engine’s deep song before putting the car into gear. “We’re gonna go find that red Pontiac GTO.”
* * * * *“One cruel and callous lover
One blow below the belt
One chance without another
One heart too cool to melt”
Bo Matheson swiped the worn dishrag through a wet patch on the bar, pretending to take no notice of the little scene going on in one of the rear booths. He hadn’t quite believed his eyes when the two young strangers had returned to the almost deserted bar barely an hour after they had left with an irate Don Chambers chasing their tails. The shorter of the two had gone straight to where Paige Chambers sat dejectedly in the corner, hauled her to her feet, and proceeded to engage in a quiet but heated discussion.
Snatches of the would-be lovers’ conversation drifted to his ears as he went about his tasks – “…crazy husband of yours…..I didn’t start……pay for a new window…..not pinning that on me…..make you…..try something…”
The soft creak of the front door drew the bartender’s attention, and he looked up in curiosity. A frown creased his craggy face as two more young strangers walked in. They could have been cousins of the two who had started the trouble earlier in the evening. Straightening up, he opened his mouth, intending to tell them to take a hike, when something about the newcomers sent a warning tingle down his spine.
Moving with lethal grace, the shorter of the two stepped slowly into the room, his booted feet making almost no sound on the rough wooden floor. He paused just outside a bright patch of light to scan the scattered occupants. Spotting the two arguing lovers almost immediately, he nudged his taller companion’s arm and indicated the pair with a slight nod of his head.
The taller, younger man gave a tiny twitch of his lips in acknowledgement, and searched the deeper shadows of the almost deserted bar. He stiffened slightly when his gaze skated over the tall lanky stranger huddled on a stool at the end of the bar, and bent his head to whisper something to his buddy.
Nodding, the spiky-haired one raised his hand in a signal indecipherable to the increasingly puzzled bartender. The new arrivals separated, the shorter one rapidly making his way over to Paige Chambers and her companion, the taller one fading back into the shadows without a sound.
Intrigued, Bo put down his dishrag and concentrated on the older man as he came to a halt a few feet from the arguing couple.
Paige frowned, her face flushed with anger at the intrusion. She turned to check out the stranger who had dared to interrupt, and her eyes gleamed with interest, despite the fact that the new arrival was soaked to the skin and had what looked suspiciously like a bloodstain on his hand. Paige swiftly compared him to her earlier conquest, finding her previous lover coming up far short of the mark as she took in the newcomer’s wide shoulders, lean muscled frame, and handsome face dominated by gorgeous green eyes and sinfully long lashes.
Her erstwhile lover wasn’t so easily impressed. Giving what he fondly thought of as a subtle signal to his buddy, he placed his hands on his narrow hips and shot a challenging glare at the new arrival. “What the hell do you want?”
Dean fought down a grin. He couldn’t believe it was going to be this easy. They had found the red GTO in the parking lot of the Fifth Wheel the moment they hit town, and had made their plans on the way to the door. He didn’t have to glance behind him to know that Sam was already moving into position – they were too well-trained for that. “You and me, asshat. Outside, now.”
“Who the hell are you?” The Pontiac driver scowled in confusion. “Do I know you?”
“Nope.” A cocky grin flitted across Dean’s full lips, and was gone as quickly as it had formed. “But I know Don Chambers.”
Holding up a placating hand, the stranger flicked another glance over Dean’s shoulder. “Now, just a minute, buddy – I don’t know what your stake is in this…”
The elder Winchester rolled his shoulders and curled his hands into fists. “Oh, I got a stake in this as big as Texas, you slimy son of a bitch. I just want to know one thing before I break every bone in your body.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“How’d you ditch him, up on that mountain road?”
Smirking, the stranger took a few steps closer to his soaking wet antagonist. “Found a driveway. We swung into it and turned off the lights. Stupid bastard didn’t see us in all that rain – he went right by us.”
At the bar, Bo frowned as he watched the altercation unfold. He recognised the danger to the cocky young stranger as the lanky man slid from the barstool and headed in his direction, an empty beer bottle clutched in one hand. The bartender drew in a quick breath to shout a warning, when he caught a hint of movement from the corner of his eye. Turning his head, he spotted the second shaggy-haired young man gliding across the floor on soundless feet.
Sam came to a halt behind the bottle-wielding stranger, flexing his arms before reaching up to grasp the wrist holding the bottle.
At the sound of the startled expletive behind him, Dean exploded into swift and deadly action. Leaping forward, he snapped out a short, savage uppercut that impacted on his target’s chin and lifted the man to his toes. Giving the brown-haired stranger no time to react, Dean sent his left fist in a pile-driving slam to the man’s midsection, doubling him over. A stamping side kick to the ribs toppled him to the floor, and the hunter bent down to grab a handful of hair.
Dean practically scalped the stranger as he hauled the groaning man to his feet. Gritting his teeth, he proceeded to deal out justice Dean Winchester-style, throwing punch after punch at the other man’s head, his mind on a bleeding wreck of a man dying on a lonely, storm-swept stretch of road. Cartilage pulped, bone cracked and blood spurted under his punishing fists as he concentrated his blows on the guy’s face. Finally, he shot out a deadly right hook, the force of the punch flinging the bloody body onto a nearby table. The flimsy piece of furniture tipped over, dumping the almost comatose man onto the floor.
The green-eyed hunter bent down and quickly frisked his groaning opponent, grinning in satisfaction when he found the stranger’s wallet. He withdrew a small wad of bills from inside, tucking the money into his jacket pocket before dropping the almost empty leather case onto the man’s battered face. “This’ll help pay for the repairs to my baby – since it was your fault she got dented.” Stepping back, Dean blew on his skinned knuckles before turning to see how his little brother had fared.
* * * * *
Sam grabbed the second stranger’s wrist in an iron grip. Ignoring the startled curse that fell from the man’s lips, the young hunter spun him around, hauling the trapped limb behind his back. His other hand clamped onto his victim’s shoulder, his forearm pressing against the back of the lanky man’s neck. Bending the stranger almost double, Sam twisted savagely on the trapped arm.
“Drop the bottle, or I’ll pop it,” Sam growled, giving the man’s shoulder a warning wrench.
The empty beer bottle clunked to the floor, and Sam relaxed his grip slightly. Taking advantage, the stranger slipped from the young hunter’s grasp and spun on his heel, launching a straight left that snapped Sam’s head to the side.
Staggering back a few steps, the shaggy-haired Winchester raised his arms to shoulder level, his right hand curled into a fist, his left open and ready to block. Whipping up his right leg, Sam drove his booted foot at his assailant’s midsection. The breath rushed from the man’s lungs in a startled ‘whuff’
as he stumbled backwards, wrapping his arms across his belly.
Gliding forward a pace, Sam shot out his fist, catching the other man just above the ear. He flung his head back to avoid a return blow, swinging his left forearm in a tight arc to knock the stranger’s arm up. Sam’s right fist drove out in a short, savage punch to the centre of the man’s face, pulping his nose and sending him reeling back.
The bloody-faced assailant gave a wild yell and dove for the tall young hunter, his wildly swinging fist slipping through Sam’s guard to smash into his mouth. Sam grunted, seeing stars flash briefly before his eyes. Ducking under the next blow, the younger Winchester inclined his body to the right as he swivelled at the hips. He raised his left leg, curling it towards his belly before lashing out with the full power of his lean, muscular frame. Sam’s boot smashed into the lanky man’s ribs with sickening force, breaking three ribs and sending the man flying backwards to collide with the bar.
His breath spilling from blood-smeared lips in a sobbing moan, the stranger slid to the floor, one shaking hand raised in a gesture of surrender.
Breathing hard, Sam shook out his fist as his grinning big brother came to a halt at his side.
“You okay, Sammy?”
“It’s – Sam,” the younger Winchester huffed, wincing as he tried to grin back. He raised a hand to his throbbing mouth and wiped away a trickle of blood.
“Whatever.” Dean glanced from one supine body to the other in satisfaction. “Job well done, dude. Let’s get out of here, huh? We need a hot shower and dry clothes.”
“Not so fast, kid.”
The growled order sent the elder hunter spinning around in a lightning fast move, raising his hands in defence as he stepped in front of his little brother. He looked into the granite face of the bartender, then his gaze dropped to take in the baseball bat in Bo’s hand before rising to study the hulking, black haired man looming at the bartender’s side.
“Easy, son,” the taller local advised, holding up one huge hand. “We just wanna know what your connection is to Don Chambers.”
Bo nodded in agreement. “Ain’t seen either of you in these parts before, so don’t try telling us you work with Don.”
Dean balanced easily on the balls of his feet, his eyes on the faces of the men before him. “Guess you won’t believe me if I told you we only just met, but we kinda hit it off right away, huh?”
“Why don’t you try us, son?” The huge man gestured towards the bar. He led the way, sinking onto a stool and inviting Dean to do the same.
The green-eyed hunter sat down, his gaze never wavering from the two local men. His brother stood at his side, tense and ready for trouble.
Bo slid two beers along the polished surface of the bar and passed a shot of whiskey to his friend. Indicating the beers with a nod of his head, he looked at the shorter of the two young strangers. “It’s on the house – if we like your story.”
Pursing his lips, Dean glanced at the bottles. “Trust me – you won’t.” He sighed, chewing on his lower lip for a moment as he cast an enquiring look at his sibling.
Sam gave an almost imperceptible nod.
Turning back to face the locals, Dean leant an elbow on the bar. “We were coming in over the mountain road from the next town. There was an accident on a hairpin bend near the top of the mountain – a pickup coming the other way sideswiped us before running off the road.”
The bigger man paled, shooting his friend an anxious look. “And the driver?”
Dean dropped his head to stare at the bar top. “The truck hit a tree a few feet from the top of the road. One of the branches – went through his chest. He was in a bad way when we got to him. We called nine-one-one, but…”
“Son of a bitch!” Bo slammed a fist against the bar. “Son of a bitch!”
“Before he died, he told us what happened,” Sam took up the tale, his soft, deep voice laced with sympathy. “About Paige, and those two guys. So, when we saw the Pontiac parked in your lot, we thought…”
“You thought it was payback time?” The hulk leaned closer, a frown between his shaggy black brows. “Why?”
“Because he didn’t deserve to go out like that,” Dean growled hoarsely. “He didn’t deserve to die out there all alone in the rain, because some bitch couldn’t keep her hands to herself, and some son of a bitch didn’t give a damn that she was married!” He shot a heated glare at the silent wife-turned-widow cowering in the corner.
Bo saw the younger man lean towards his brother, pressing an arm against his older sibling’s shoulder. The spiky-haired stranger relaxed as he let the tension melt away, leaving him looking tired and drawn. Pushing the bottles closer to the two bedraggled young men, Bo poured out two whiskey chasers and placed them on the bar next to the beer. “On the house, boys. Right, Moe?”
“Yeah.” The huge black-haired man cleared his throat. “Damn, how the hell am I gonna break the news to Emmie?”
“Emmie?” Dean frowned.
“My wife,” Moe explained. “Don’s best friend. They’ve known each other since school.” Shaking his head, the big man levered himself to his feet, shook hands with the Winchesters and left the bar, his shoulders bowed with grief.
Dean watched him go, his wide green eyes solemn. Meeting his brother’s worried gaze, he shook his head, downed the whiskey in one shot and got to his feet, indicating the unopened beers. “We gotta hit the road. Thanks for the beer, but we’ll pass.”
Bo nodded, picking up the bottles. “If you boys come through this way again, these’ll be waitin’. And they’ll still be on the house.”
“Thanks.” Waiting for Sam to reluctantly finish his whiskey, Dean shook the bartender’s hand and strode to the door, his brother on his wing. He left without a backward glance at the quietly weeping widow.
* * * * *“One link in a chain reaction
One link in a chain reaction”
Dean emerged from his shower and donned a clean pair of boxers before walking into the main room. Pulling a tee shirt from his duffle, he tugged it on and perched on the end of his bed, running a critical eye over his sibling.
Sensing the scrutiny, Sam glanced up; his still damp bangs shielding his eyes. “What?”
The elder Winchester’s attention dropped to Sam’s skinned knuckles, and he tutted in mock annoyance as he got to his feet. Fetching the first aid kit from the table on the other side of the room, he sat back down and flipped the case open. “Let me see those.”
Giving a tiny sigh, the hazel-eyed hunter submitted to his big brother’s fussing. He drew in a sharp breath as Dean applied antiseptic to the broken skin. “Ow!”
“Don’t be such a chick.” Dean grinned as he wrapped bandaids over the worst of the grazes. “Saw some of your moves, dude,” he went on; transferring his attention to Sam’s split lip. He gently dabbed the cut with an antiseptic-soaked pad. “You haven’t forgotten much of what I taught you.”
“Ha’hen’ horgo’hen anyhin’”, Sam mumbled, trying not to move his mouth too much.
“Good to hear. I’d hate to have to retrain you. Although…” The green-eyed hunter pursed his lips as he tossed the bloodstained gauze pad into the nearby trashcan. “Left hand up a little higher next time, okay? Come under with the right a little faster.”
Giving his little brother a good-natured cuff across the back of the head, Dean closed the first aid kit, placed it back on the table and switched on the kettle. He grabbed a couple of sachets of instant coffee from the courtesy tray, and pulled two mugs from the cupboard under the sink.
Sam pushed back on the bed until his spine rested on the pillows piled against the headboard. “What you said to those local guys in the bar – was it true?”
“About Don. And why you went after those two guys.”
Dean rested one hip against the counter top and folded his arms. “Yeah,” he replied quietly. “It was true.”
The younger hunter dropped his head as he fiddled with a loose thread on his tee shirt. “Hey, Dean?”
“For what?” Dean arched his eyebrows in curiosity as he studied his sibling’s bowed head.
“What I said earlier – I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean…”
“Jeez, I’m really gonna hafta retrain you, dude. No chick flick moments, okay?”
An uneasy silence fell across the room. The kettle boiled and clicked off, and Dean made two mugs of coffee, adding a little milk to Sam’s from the small jug he found in the bar fridge. Carrying the brimming mugs to the beds, he passed his brother the milky coffee and settled cross-legged on the end of Sam’s bed as he cradled his own brew.
The younger Winchester looked up.
“Even I have standards, dude,” Dean explained softly. “One rule is – no married women.”
Sam’s expressive face flushed in embarrassment. “Dean, I didn’t mean…”
“Yeah, I know. But I just wanted to make things clear.” Pausing to gather his thoughts and take a sip of coffee, Dean focussed on a spot on the wall. “That guy up on the mountain – he didn’t deserve to be treated like that. Did you see his hands?”
“Uh – no.”
“Rough – callused. Hard work hands.” The elder man turned one hand palm up, exposing the calluses built up over years of digging graves, handling weapons and other hard physical activity associated with the hunting life. “Didn’t smell any alcohol on him, either, or see any evidence of that kind of hard living in his face. He seemed like a straight-up kinda guy, you know?”
Sam nodded. “Yeah.”
“Those two yahoos – the way they ambushed him when he found out that his wife was cheating on him. It wasn’t right, Sammy.”
This time Sam let the affectionate childhood nickname slide. “And that’s why you went after them. And why you concentrated most of your hits on his face. ‘Cos he used his looks to hook women in.”
Dean wagged a finger in his brother’s face. “See? That right there? That’s how the skinny dude got past your guard. You should have been watching him, not me.”
Grinning a little, the younger hunter accepted the quiet rebuke and sipped his coffee.
“Sam – I’m sorry, too, kiddo. About…” Dean shrugged in embarrassment. “Jessica. That was a cheap shot, and I shouldn’t have taken it.”
“I know you are.” Sam stretched out his leg and nudged his big brother’s knee with his toe. “No chick flick moments, huh?”
“Ah, bite me.”
Uncurling his legs, Dean stood up and moved to his own bed, flicking on the bedside lamp. He placed his coffee on the nightstand beside the lamp, checked the salt lines and switched off the overhead lights. Returning to his bed, he was about to pull back the covers when he noticed his brother watching him with fixed intensity. “Dude, take a photograph.”
Sam shook his head, his gaze never wavering. “Dean,” he ventured quietly.
“Ah, jeez, what now? Don’t your batteries ever go flat?”
“I just – I wanted…” The younger man drew in a deep breath. “Up there, on that mountain road – you – you saved our lives, Dean. And you did it with only one hand on the wheel. Man, that was – that was pretty amazing.”
Dean hesitated, his thoughts dragged back to the moment of impact. All he had been worried about was protecting Sam – it came as naturally as breathing to him. He hadn’t given much thought to anything else but had merely reacted on instinct, throwing all his experience into play to pull the Impala up safely and make sure his brother wasn’t hurt. Feeling Sam’s gaze drilling into him, he looked up, almost groaning aloud at the gleam of hero-worship in his brother’s expressive hazel orbs. “Jeez…”
Sam got to his feet, setting his cup down beside his brother’s.
The elder Winchester backed up a pace, raising a hand in a prohibitive gesture. “You try to hug me and I swear to God, I will lock you in the trunk.”
Trying to stifle a grin, Sam pulled back the covers and slid into bed, rolling onto his side to face his wary sibling.
Dean crawled under the blankets, flipping onto his stomach and sliding one hand under the pillow, his fingers resting lightly on the hilt of the bowie knife concealed there. He turned towards his brother and groaned aloud as he encountered the shining puppy dog orbs still regarding him sappily. “And stop hugging me with your eyes,” he groused.
Sam huffed out a soft laugh, letting his eyelids drift closed as he settled down to sleep. “Hey, Dean?”
“Jeez, what freakin’ now? Glass of water? Want to be tucked in?”
“Tell me a story?”
One sinewy arm reached out to flick the switch on the lamp, plunging the room into darkness. “Once upon a time, there was an awesome, handsome, extremely talented big brother, who had a bitchy, whiny, freakishly tall, pain in the ass little brother…”
“Dude, I’ve heard this one.”
“Suck it up, College Boy. Anyway, one day the awesome, handsome, talented big brother took his whiny, pain in the ass little brother to the local barber for a long overdue haircut…”
“I don’t like this story, Dean.”
“Trust me, you’ll love it. Especially the ending.”
“I’m gonna have nightmares involving huge pairs of clippers chasing me around the motel room.”
“Don’t be such a chick, Sammy. Anyway, where was I…”“One shot in the revolution
One drop from a poison pen
One fruit too small and bitter
One tree too proud to bend
One man to start the trouble
One kiss to seal your fate
One link in a chain reaction
One link in a chain reaction”End.Song: Chain Reaction – by John Farnhamhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bP7OVS2ZDGI