fragmentedwhole: (For the End of My Broken Heart)
[personal profile] fragmentedwhole
Title: For the End of my Broken Heart
Chapter: Two
Author: [livejournal.com profile] bloodkisses
Pairing: Dean/Sam
Rating: PG/PG-13 (this chapter) [NC-17/Adult overall]
Warnings: Angst. The usual drill. Slash
Spoilers: Devil's Trap (seriously, is there *anyone* who would be spoiled by this?)
Summary: Dad's disappeared and Sam's left to pick up the pieces of his broken brother.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, sadly, no matter how much I pleaded.
A/N: My first plot!fic. I have sweated blood and tears on this thing. I need to thank *everyone* who supported, cajoled, bullied, hand-held and babied me through this. I especially need to thank my betas, [livejournal.com profile] sosoru and [livejournal.com profile] wenchpixie. Special thanks and much love go to [livejournal.com profile] sosoru, because without her belief in me and her endless patience, this thing would never have got this far. Love you darling.


Dean wakes slowly, not long after Sam has crept back into the room. Sam watches his hand creep under the pillow, looking for the knife before he's even properly awake. His body tenses when he doesn't find it and Sam's throat tightens at the life his brother was forced to lead that leaves him needing to sleep with a weapon under his pillow before he feels safe. The life they both lead, because Sam only stopped sleeping with a knife under his pillow when Jess started staying the night, too afraid of hurting her to risk carrying on that family tradition. Dean snuffles again, then sits up, rumpled and looking almost as tired as when he collapsed into sleep last night.

"Hey." Sam keeps his voice soft, but it still makes Dean start a little, and it disturbs Sam that he's so distracted.

"Hey." Dean has to clear his throat before he can speak, and his voice is rusty and rough. "What time is it?"

"Early."

"Damn." Sam can't help but grin at the disgusted look on Dean's face.

"You want coffee? I can see if I can find somewhere that's open."

There's a moment pause where Sam wonders just what his brother is thinking, then Dean shakes his head.

"Nah. I'd rather go out. You want the shower first?"

Dean heads to the bathroom when Sam shakes his head, leaving Sam to think. It's surreal, the way it feels almost like every other morning they've spent together since the demon turned Sam's world upside down, and yet, it's new territory. Dean's a little quieter, a little more subdued somehow, his body language still wary and closed off. Sam suspects if he hadn't seen Dean snap last night and held him while he sobbed as though his world had ended, he wouldn't have noticed. He finds it hard to believe that he was so wrapped up in his own grief that he didn't see, or didn't want to see that Dean was suffering too.

Sam knows he hasn't got through to Dean yet, that it'll take more than one night to undo all those years Dean's spent trying to be what everyone else wanted, yet never getting what he needed. The problem is that there's no easy way to approach Dean on touchy subjects, even at the best of times, and after last night, Sam's reluctant to push too hard. It nearly broke him to see Dean so vulnerable and tormented, and though he knows it's selfish, Sam doesn't know if he can go through that again, not so soon.

He's certainly not going to tell Dean about Dad's call, because Dean's just going to jump to follow Dad's orders, as always, and neither of them are ready to be hunting yet. Hell, Dean's only just got out of hospital, and even if he's more or less healed physically, mentally he's no where near strong enough. Sam takes a deep breath, fighting the surge of anger at their father for being so incapable of seeing Dean as anything but a soldier in his endless war. Sometimes Sam thinks they're nothing more than cannon fodder, though he knows it's not deliberate, it's just that Dad's never been able to see anything but his crusade. It shames Sam to realize that he was no better; both of them were obsessed, and heedless of anything but their own ruthless need for retribution.

Sam still wants the demon sent back to whatever hell it came from, but he knows that it's not going to bring Jess back, and that he's still going to be left, heart sore and mourning, and how long can he keep that up? How long before he drives away the one person he's always relied on to be there for him? It speaks volumes about Dean's loyalty and love that despite the way Sam's treated Dean at times, he's stuck by Sam, showed nothing but concern, tried to do whatever he could to help, in his uniquely Dean way. Sam's always known that Dean would die for him; in the cabin, he learned that Dean would kill for him too, and somehow, that seems so much more profound that Sam still doesn't quite know how to deal with it.

When Dean emerges from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, the first thing Sam notices is that his skin is bright pink, as if he's run the shower almost hot enough to scald. The second are the scars left by the demon. It's the first time Sam's really seen them and he knows he's staring, but the sight catches him by surprise. They start at Dean's shoulder blade, running over his shoulder and down his chest, stopping a couple of inches above his heart. They stand out, red and jagged, ugly against Dean's otherwise remarkably unmarked skin.

It's a shockingly visible reminder of everything Dean's been through and for just a second, Sam has the urge to reach out and touch the scars, to feel the outwards signs of his brother's inner wounds, to somehow absorb some of the pain. He wants to be able to wrap his arms around Dean, to hold his brother as he did last night, without the tears and confusion, and offer some of the comfort and sense of being loved that Dean has offered him over the years. Instead, he takes a steadying breath, and heads for the bathroom Dean has vacated.

When the door is safely shut he leans against it, suddenly tired and unsure. He wants this to be over; he wants Dean to be well; he wants Dad here; he wants things to be the way they were before, only he doesn't know before what.

*****

Sam showers quickly, and it's no time at all before he's back, trailing steam and worry. It's as if he doesn't dare leave Dean alone for too long, in case he does something stupid. Considering the way last night went, Dean can't say he entirely blames his brother, but Sam's obvious concern just makes Dean twitchier, makes the unease caused by the length of time he's had to stay in this godforsaken town ten times worse. It's like an itch under his skin, gnawing away at him. He wants to be as far away from this place, and all the memories it holds as soon he can get, and the sooner the better, frankly.

He wants to be back in the swing, back hunting; he wants, needs, something to drown out the words in his head, the sounds and sights and smells, and the constant, awful fear that this isn't over, not by a long shot, and that it's never going to be over. He wants something that will dim the constant pain of the scars over his shoulder; they throb with a cold ache that sometimes seems to spread through Dean's whole body until he doesn't think he'll ever get warm again.

Last night was not one of the absolute worst nights of Dean's life, but it was pretty high on the list. He knew Sam had only been trying to help, it wasn't his fault that Dean's traitorous memories had decided that was an ideal time to make themselves known. For a moment, nausea threatens again, but Dean clamps his mouth shut, swallows hard, and wills it to subside. He thinks about the gesture, about Sam going out and finding another Impala; takes deep, steady breaths; about his almost childlike excitement at showing it off to Dean. Dean feels bad that he spoiled Sammy's surprise, and he hates the fact he broke down, that Sam had to be the one to comfort Dean. He remembers being wrapped in those stupidly long arms, remembers hearing soft words that he couldn't make out. Over the years, Dean's held Sam in the same sort of hug for all kinds of reasons, from scraped knees to broken hearts. There was a familiarity and a uniqueness to having Sam hold him like that, but the solid comfort of his brother soothed Dean, and even helped to drive out the cold, at least for a while.

But the comfort he found in Sam's arms is a double edged sword. Dean's not ready to leave himself vulnerable again, not if Sam's just going to up and leave again. And if Sam goes this time, he goes for good; Dean's not going to keep giving him his heart on a plate. He's damned if he'll beg Sam to stay, no matter how much the thought of being on his own scares him, no matter how much it'll hurt to watch Sam walk away again. Bad enough Dad didn't stick around, but Dean doesn't think he'll survive losing Sammy, not this time, not if he allows himself to start hoping.

He shakes himself when he realizes that Sam is dressed, and watching him with a concerned expression. Time to stop navel gazing and get out of here before Sam gets any more bright ideas about talking. He's out of the door and halfway down the corridor before Sam even gets past "Dean...".

It's only when he hits the parking lot that he realizes. The only transport they've got is the new car. His gut clenches, and cold sweat trickles down the back of his neck. There's just no way he's going to drive that car. He can just about stomach the thought of getting in it, but it isn't his car, and he doesn't want anything to do with it beyond it getting him from one place to another. He slows, and despite himself, he can't help but be reassured and comforted by the sudden presence of Sam at his side, and the warm hand that lightly, if tentatively, touches his shoulder.

"Uh, you ok about taking the car?" Dean tries hard not to let the concern in Sam's voice get to him, but he can't help but feel a little warmed by it, and he catches himself as he leans closer to his brother, hating himself for needing that support, but totally unable to resist.

"Yeah. You're driving."

As he turns to head around the car to the passenger door, he catches sight of Sam's face, lined with tiredness and worry. It makes him look older than his years, and it makes Dean hurt with wanting to erase that pain, to make it better for Sam, somehow. Dean knows that no matter what his head thinks, his heart is always going to be Sam's. Telling himself he's not going to let Sam tear it out and stomp on it when he leaves is as futile as trying to carry water in a sieve. Sam's always been the most important thing in Dean's world, and damn him, he always will be.

The drive to the nearest diner is silent, though Dean can feel Sam sneaking sideways glances at him from time to time. He keep his face carefully turned towards the window, pretending to watch the scenery, such as it is. By the time they pull into the parking lot of the greasy looking restaurant, Dean almost feels as though nothing's changed, as though he's waking from a nightmare. If he doesn't look at the car, doesn't think about the aches and pains he's still fighting, doesn't dwell on the cold burn of the scars, he can damned near make himself believe it's fine.

He deliberately doesn't look at Sam as he gets out of the car and heads towards the diner. Then Sam's shoulder brushes his as his brother uses those stupidly long legs to catch up, and Dean again wants to just lean into Sam, to bury himself in his brother's arms and let someone else be the strong one for a change. But he ignores the urge, and speeds up, sliding into the first booth he comes across.

The diner is empty, which isn't surprising given the early hour. The waitress that comes over looks bored already, and Dean can't be bothered to flirt with her. He catches Sam giving him a worried look and rolls his eyes and shrugs. Contrary to what Sam obviously thinks, he doesn't flirt with every woman he meets and even if he did, right now he's feeling too beat up in too many ways to be able to pull off his usual charm.

They're both nursing coffee when Dean's cell goes off, making them both jump. He pulls the phone from his pocket and doesn't bother checking the caller ID before he flips it open. When he sees the text, he knows instantly who it's from, and the wave of emotion that swamps him is so tangled, he couldn't say what he was feeling. Anger, disbelief, relief, confusion.

"Who is it?" There's an edge to Sam's voice that Dean can't quite place.

"Dad. He's sent co-ordinates."

*****

Sam's furious. He can't believe after everything he told Dad, that Dean wasn't ready; that they weren't ready, he still goes and sends them a hunt. He'd love to be angry at Dean, but all he can feel is a weary resignation that when Dad says jump, Dean jumps, no questions asked. His rage is entirely reserved for Dad, for pushing Dean too hard, too soon; for not understanding; for not damned well being here to see how broken Dean is.

On the way back from the diner, when Dean pointedly made Sam drive, again, Sam tried asking reasonably; insisting; ordering, and finally pleading with Dean not to go. Every entreaty was met with the patented Dean glare that's meant to imply that the conversation is over. Sam's learnt the hard way that there's no shifting Dean when he's set his mind to something, but damnit, they're not ready for this.

He'd even, in desperation, hinted that if Dean went he'd be going alone. He knew the second the words left his lips that it was the worst possible thing he could have said. The way hurt flickered across Dean's face, just before his expression closed and he turned away had Sam cursing his stupidity and reaching out, wincing at Dean's flinch and the way he tries to shrug Sam off.

"Dean. I'm sorry, man. I shouldn't have said that. We're in this together, ok?"

"Yeah. Fine Sam, whatever."

The hurt is obvious, no matter how hard Dean tries to hide it, and Sam wants to offer reassurance, but he knows Dean won't want to hear it. Given his past record, Sam's not entirely sure he won't just make things worse, but he has to try.

"Dean, I'm not leaving, and you're not going on your own. I meant it, we're in this together, whatever this is. I'm not going to walk out this time, I promise." He reaches out to grasp his brother's shoulder again, and this time, Dean doesn't shrug him off, though Sam can see he's not entirely convinced by Sam's promise yet. Sam's determined to change that, however long it takes. Dean finally nods, and turns to start getting their gear together and check the weapons.

While Dean packs their stuff, Sam resigns himself to his usual role; hunting down information, trying to give his brother whatever he needs to get the job done.

Turns out this gig is a haunted stagecoach, re-enacting its last, fatal run, and picking up unsuspecting hitchhikers on the way. He's fairly certain that if he weren't so mad, he'd be amused. Dean just looks slightly disgusted when he tells him, but Sam notices the slight hint of nervousness that ripples across his face before he turns back to the guns. Sam watches him for a while; the sight of Dean cleaning and loading the weapons is so familiar, so much a part of their life that Sam never really takes much notice normally, but there's something calming, something reassuring about watching it now. Dean's hands are so sure, so comfortable, and the look of concentration on his face makes Sam smile. It's moments like this that somehow seem to typify the way Sam thinks of, and feels about his brother, and despite his worry, and his anger at Dad, Sam feels strangely hopeful. Maybe they can make this work, maybe they can find some peace this time.

Later, when they're finishing packing up and getting ready to leave, they accidentally bump shoulders, trying to get around each other in the small room. Dean flashes Sam a look, then grins, a genuine, open smile and bumps Sam back, like they were kids again. Sam doesn't remember when he felt so honestly happy and so glad to be with Dean, because there is no-one who has ever known Sam in the way Dean does, and even though Sam hated the hunting, hated the life they lead, the one thing he'd never change is Dean. His older brother can be infuriating, sarcastic, condescending, obnoxious, overbearing and downright frustrating, but he's been the constant in Sam's life, and he's never, ever really let Sam down. He just hopes that when the time comes, he can do the same for Dean, and with a faint shiver of foreboding, he wonders if that time is closer than he thinks.

*****

Dean's glad to be back on the road again. He's always gotten restless when he's had to stay in one place too long, and the town that's no longer even a speck in the rear window holds memories that Dean would just as soon forget.

He's not sure how he feels yet about Dad sending them on a hunt. It still hurts that Dad isn't here, that he can't even make the effort to call, but Dean knows that he'll do what he thinks best, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Dean's never really understood why Sam has such a problem with that, it's not like Dad's ever been any different.

Sam's driving, and Dean's slumped down in the passenger seat, trying to get comfortable in a car that's both familiar and unknown. It looks like his car, but it feels so totally different. The Impala was Dean's most prized possession. He'd loved that car since the day Dad bought it, and the day Dad gave it to him was one of the happiest memories Dean has. Despite what Dad thinks, Dean'd always taken good care of it; he'd loved the creak of the doors, the throaty roar of the engine; he'd even loved the old fashioned tape deck. Unlike the weapons, the Impala was more than a tool of his trade; more than just a symbol of Dean's independence. He felt safe in that car, secure, powerful, confident.

The new car offers him none of that, and though he wanted to like it, to feel at least comfortable in it, for Sam's sake, he just couldn't feel the same way about it as he had the Impala. The thought of driving this car leaves him feeling shaking, terrified, fighting ghosts and memories he can never quite escape. It's stupid and it pisses Dean off because how the hell can he be scared of a fucking car for god's sake? But no amount of telling himself that is helping.

The car doesn't even sound like the Impala, though Dean doubts anyone else would notice it. It doesn't lull him in the way the Impala did, the steady thrum of the engine doesn't seep into his bones and calm him like the old car. It's wrong, off and it makes Dean jumpy and tense. He just wants to be hunting, wants something he can shoot, or even better, beat to a pulp; something he can take his frustration and anxiety out on.

There's no music playing; all of Dean's tapes were lost in the crash and he's had no time to replace them, isn't even sure if he wants to; they're just another reminder of what's gone and frankly, Dean's sick of the past; sick of the hold it seems to have over his family.

He sneaks a look at Sam. Sam had been obviously mad as hell at Dad sending them co-ordinates, and while he's never liked the way Dad does things, this time it seemed to be something more, but whatever it is, Sam's not saying, and Dean's damned if he's going to ask him and get shot down. Sam's threat to leave makes the cold inside Dean burn worse, like an icy fist around his guts, and he hates that Sam can do that to him, even now, even as he knows that it's always going to be this way. There is nothing Dean won't do for Sam, nothing, and as much as it frustrates him, he wouldn't have it any other way. The clash of shoulders in the hotel room and the way Sam looked so happy, so carefree, just for a moment, make everything that Dean has to go through for his brother seem worthwhile. It's as sappy as hell, and Dean would certainly deny it if ever asked, but that doesn't make it any less true.

At least he's got Sam here with him. Dean isn't entirely convinced that Sam meant what he said about not leaving, but it's something to cling to, something to help warm him, even if it doesn't last.

He tries to make himself comfortable, knowing they've got a hundred miles or so to go yet, trusting Sam to get them there in one piece. He ignores the vague sense of unease, of fear that maybe he isn't ready for this yet. He has to be ready; they have a job to do, and he can't afford to screw up something so simple over a bout of nerves.

Dean shivers, and Sam looks over, concern obvious on his face. Dean shrugs, and turns to look out the window, swallowing down his sudden sense of apprehension.

*****

The crappy motel they check into in the crappy, middle-of-nowhere town is exactly like the crappy motel in the middle-of-nowhere town they just left. They're the latest in a long line of crappy motels and middle-of-nowhere towns, stretching back as far as Sam can remember. He's hated them all, and this one's no exception.

It's always the same lumpy beds, 70's wallpaper, ancient, noisy coffee machines, chipped cups and the smell of cooking and stale sweat. But when he looks at Dean, remembers the gut-wrenching fear of losing his brother, of never seeing Dean smirk, or laugh, or hearing him make smart-assed remarks again, suddenly the surroundings don't seem to matter quite so much anymore.

During the time he was waiting for Dean to regain consciousness after the crash, Sam came to the realisation that his world was never going to be normal again. That understanding doesn't make him angry anymore, it just leaves him a little sad, and maybe a little wistful. This isn't the life Sam wants, but right now it's Dean's life, and Sam thinks maybe he can deal with it, for Dean's sake, because he meant what he said; he's not leaving this time. The demon was wrong, he does need Dean, just as much as Dean needs him, and he's going to try not to screw things up this time.

It's nearly dark when they check in, and they're both tired and hungry. The information Sam managed to dig up on this hunt indicates that the stagecoach only appears once a year, on the anniversary of the fatal crash, and that's not until tomorrow night, so they've got time to kill. Neither of them seem keen on going to check out the site tonight, so when Dean suggests they get something to eat and call it a night, Sam's only too happy to agree.

The diner is depressingly familiar too, but Sam keeps his mouth shut about it for once, and scans the menu, hoping against hope that there's going to be something original on there. He's disappointed, of course.

When the sour faced waitress has taken their order, Sam watches Dean. Seeing the tiredness in Dean's face reminds Sam how mad he is at Dad. He bites back angry words though, knowing Dean won't listen anyway, and not wanting to start another fight. But Dean's always been able to read him far too well.

"What's eating you now, Sammy?"

There are so many possible answers to that, that Sam doesn't even know where to start, but that's fine, because it seems his mouth does, when it starts talking without checking with his brain first.

"Look, I meant what I said earlier, ok? About not leaving. Dean... things have changed. I know I used to think that all that mattered was finding Dad and the demon." He has to pause, remembering the blood and the pain on Dean's face, and his desperate pleas for Dad not to let the demon kill him. "But I realized that finding the demon isn't worth it if I'm going to end up losing more important things on the way. It...it scared me Dean, when you wouldn't wake up. I...I didn't know what I was going to do if you didn't come 'round."

Sam watches his brother carefully, aware that he's probably said far too much, but he's relieved to have told Dean this, to have cleared the air.

Dean looks a little sad, a little hopeful, and more than a little scared and Sam wonders again how he and Dad could have done this much damage without realising.

"Sam..." There's so much emotion in the way Dean says his name that Sam's breath catches, shocked and thrilled at the same time.

When Dean suddenly reaches over and squeezes his shoulder, Sam lets out the breath he's been holding, only to catch it again when Dean's hand shifts, gently cupping Sam's face, and running a thumb over his cheekbone, so lightly it's barely touching the skin. Sam's just starting to lean into that entirely unexpected and uncharacteristic touch, when Dean pulls his hand away, leans back in his seat and smirks. Sam misses the touch, but he's also relieved to see the old Dean back at last, even if he still irritates the fuck out of him.

"...you're such a girl."

Classic Dean, but Sam can still feel the gentle touch on his face, so he lets it ride for now, just grinning back at Dean, and feeling a small surge of triumph when Dean's smirk slips a little, presumably in disappointment at not getting a rise out of Sam.

He has the feeling that something important just happened, but he can't quite grasp what it means. But if it makes Dean happy, he can go with it.

Sam has strange dreams that night. He's sure that Dean was there, and maybe Dad too. He can't remember anything specific when he wakes, just a lot of jumbled and indistinct impressions that grow hazier and more vague as he struggles to remember them.

Breakfast is subdued. Dean's never been a morning person, and today he's once again withdrawn and quiet. Sam misses the banter and the closeness of the previous evening, but he's more concerned about the hunt. Usually Dean is eager, excited even, by the prospect of hunting, and his apparent indifference makes Sam uneasy. He's more sure than ever that this is a really bad idea, but when he mentions it to Dean, all he gets is an eye roll and a sigh.

The site of the haunting is straight out of some half-assed ghost story. Narrow road, surrounded by woods, old fashioned stone bridge where the coach crashed into the now dried up river. Sam didn't think this kind of set up existed outside of a film set.

The plan's simple enough; stake out the bridge tonight, make sure no unsuspecting victim gets a ride he didn't bargain for, see if they can figure out why this particular example of middle-of-nowhere is playing host to a haunted stagecoach, then make sure this is it's last journey. Easy, or so Dean reckons. Sam can see the apprehension that Dean's trying to hide, and it's not helping his sense of disquiet.

They spend the rest of the day in the library.

"So, the coach driver went psycho and drove off the bridge on purpose?"

"Yeah, and it looks like they never found the body of one of the passengers. I'm guessing he's the one who's behind the haunting."

"Great. So we're going to have to make sure nobody hitches a last ride tonight, then go hunting for the bones to salt and burn?"

Dean perks up when he talks about burning, and sometimes, Sam worries about his brother's unhealthy fascination with fire. At least on this hunt, they'll be able to take their time finding the bones, rather than their usual rush.

Dinner is early, while the sun is low in the sky. By the time they're gathering their stuff, ready to head out to the bridge, dusk is falling, staining the sky red. Sam watches the dying light, trying to ignore the symbolism of blood red fading into black.

The late November night is cold and unnaturally quiet as they drive out towards the bridge. Sam is driving, again. He tried to persuade Dean to drive, but his suggestion was met with a flat out 'no'. It wasn't the cold, emotionless tone of Dean's voice that made him drop the subject though, but the sudden flare of panic, then distress in Dean's eyes. Sam knows the car brought back a whole heap of memories for Dean, and he can only imagine how bad they must be for Dean to give up control of the driving, but running away from the whole issue isn't going to help. He knows that pushing Dean over this isn't going to get him anywhere though. Dean can be a stubborn bastard when he wants and Sam just doesn't want to get into a battle of wills over a car. He can only hope that Dean will deal with whatever he needs to and get over this irrational fear in his own time. Sam snorts to himself. Deal with it? Dean? More likely he'll just bury it away, with everything else he doesn't want to face. Sam can only hope this is one thing that won't come back and bite them in the ass.

Though, the way their luck goes, he's not counting on it.

****

In a shining example of why fate hates them, just before the bridge, they see the inevitable, unsuspecting victim apparently required in virtually every haunting. Dean has always thought that their lives would be so much easier if people actually paid attention to the golden rules of horror films; don't enter haunted houses (and stay away from haunted asylums); don't wander off alone; and if your car runs out of gas, or stalls unexpectedly, stay in the damned vehicle, particularly when it's on a haunted stretch of road.

"Dean..."

"Yeah, I see him. Man, why do we always have to rescue the idiots as well?"

"Luck, I guess."

"Figures."

Sam leaves the engine running, but gets out of the car, shivering in the chill wind, a light mist swirling around his legs as he heads for the guy walking along the road towards them.

Dean watches Sam, wishing he'd hurry up and just get the damned kid out of the way, because the coach is due any minute now, if the old reports are correct. He sticks his head out of the window.

"Sam. Move it!"

Both Sam and the idiot look over at him, and then they all spot the vague and shimmering ghost coach. Which is around the time the shit really hits the fan.

Dean really hates it when the people they're trying to help freak out on them and the kid's having a fairly impressive fit about now, arms flailing and eyes wide. It'd be amusing, if he and Sam weren't still in the path of the coach, which was now way too close for Dean's liking.

"Sam, damnit, move your ass!"

Dean's getting that tickle, the one that usually means that everything is about to go wrong again.

The coach is picking up speed, and starting to look less ghostly and more like the real thing as it heads towards Sam and the kid, and the tickle shifts into the beginning of a full blown panic.

The coach is only a few yards away from the car now and without thinking, Dean dives into the driver's seat, desperate to get to Sam before the coach does. Sam shoves the kid, sending him tumbling to the side of the road and the coach is almost on top of Sam. Dean throws the car into drive, but as he grips the wheel too tightly, all he can hear is the sound of buckling metal, the iron tainted tang of blood, and the gut-wrenching fear of dying, of losing Sammy.

He snaps back to the present, his fingers wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel they're aching, full blown shakes wracking his body, horrified as he sees the coach heading for Sam. He's shaking so bad he can barely control the car, but he slams the accelerator to the floor, despite knowing he's going to be too late, that his hesitation may just have cost Sam his life, but he has to try, because if Sam's not with him, he's got nothing left to live for. If Sam dies because of Dean's fuck up, he doesn't want to go on.

He's barely aware of the kid, hightailing it away from them as fast as he can; Dean's got eyes for nothing but the coach as it reaches Sam. He sees a skeletal hand reach out, grab Sam, and drag him into the now solid coach.

Dean's hands are slipping on the wheel, slick with cold sweat, and he feels as though he's going to be sick. He's still far too far from the coach, and the coach is too near the bridge for him to reach it, even if he knew how to stop it.

The moment the coach swerves towards the bridge wall is worse than the moment Dean realized that mom was gone. The sick sense of despair, of loss, of desperate, stomach churning fear is unlike anything Dean's ever felt before. There's a long, endless moment as the coach flickers between being solid and transparent, as it passes through the wall of the bridge, then tumbles, eerily silent, over the edge and down towards the dried river bed, fifty feet below.

Chapter Three
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