October 10th, 2019

fanfic

fic: By the Side of the Road [spn]

For the prompt: Sam and Dean trying to do something mundane and it goes wrong.



At least it's daylight and not raining, and Sam manages to sleep through almost the whole thing, but it's just one more thing going wrong on top of a whole crapload of other things, and there's a moment just after it happens--brief, less than a breath or heartbeat--when Dean considers twisting the wheel so that they're aimed at one of the large boulders scattered along the winding forest road. But Sam's actually asleep for once and he can't bear to ruin that, so instead he eases them off the road and onto the dirt strip pretending to be a shoulder, and gets out to see what the damage is.

Left rear tire's completely flat, just as he'd thought--just as he'd half expected when they snagged this particular piece of anonymous crap. All the tires are balding and long past their use-by date, so really it was just a question of which one would go first.

He looks through the trunk carefully, quietly as he can; twice when there's nothing except the bags and equipment they'd transferred over from their previous crap car. Nobody's stupid enough to drive without at least a doughnut, so it's got to be here somewhere.

Three times and he goes over to the boulder he'd contemplated having a rendevous with and leans back against it, takes a hit from his flask, stares up at the flat blue autumnal sky while the whiskey burns its way down to his stomach. They're in the middle of Nowhere, PA, nothing for miles but empty forest and no cell reception, and the last time they were somewhere like this, Bobby--

He takes another hit, screws the flask top back on and goes back to the car because there has to be something in there he can use to get them rolling again.

Wedged under the back seat is a jack, a bicycle patch kit, and a hand pump and it's probably pointless, but he might as well try. Nothing else to do, really, except get drunk, and he's not quite that far gone yet. Better to do the lug nuts while still sober, anyway--and they come loose, one, two, three, four--

Four sticks, no matter how he shoves and leans and braces. Four refuses to budget a fraction of an inch, and when he stops to take a breather and get a better look at it, he finds that it's salt-corroded and probably fused somehow, because this piece of crap car is even more crap than usual, and this is the last time he lets Sam pick, no matter how he rattles off stats about the most likely models to get overlooked by the cops.

It's no good, though--if he's going to even attempt a patch, he's going to have to get the nut loose, and that's looking to be a two man job at least. He's got to get Sam out here, no matter that he's currently snoozing peacefully for the first time in a week.

Takes a minute or two of watching like a creeper before he can force himself to reach across the driver's seat and bump at Sam's knee; has to do it twice before Sam's eyes flick open and he gasps awake like a drowning man breaching water. "Where are we?" he asks after a moment, eyes flicking around as he tries to assess the situation.

"Nowhere forest, PA," Dean says. "Tire gave out, like I said it would."

"Did not," Sam says, like they're still twelve and sixteen, but the tension drops out of his shoulders and he scrubs his hands across his face before focusing on Dean. "Why'd you wake me?"

"Lug nut's corroded into place," Dean says, like an apology, and Sam sighs before unfolding himself out of the car.

With two of them the nut starts to give way, a hairs-breadth at a time, each jerk rocking the car until it seems like something's bound to just break loose and fall off. Everything holds, though, and eventually it does give way, spooling off smooth as butter--never mind that Sam's face has gone bright red and Dean's having to force himself not to gasp for air like some lunatic runner.

"Go back to sleep," he carefully doesn't wheeze. "I can take care of the rest of it from here."

"Not sure there's any point in trying," Sam says, rueful and weary, but he climbs back into the car anyway while Dean sets up the jack and starts cranking. And he's done this many, many times over the years. He knows how to do this, knows what it should feel like, but there's a weird, almost blurry sense to it, like the force as he pulls on the handle isn't getting transferred through the jackscrew properly, and the longer he does it the worse it gets, until there's an awful frozen moment where something goes *snap*, and then there's an awful crash and Dean's tumbling out into the middle of the road, handle still in his hand, lug nuts bouncing past him and disappearing into the ditch on the other side.

"Dean!" There's Sam, and suddenly there are arms around him, dragging him back to theoretical safety beside the boulder, though it's been well over any hour since Dean's seen another car along here. "You okay?" Big hands pat him down, coax him into letting go of the now-useless jack handle. It feels like he might have cracked some of the little bones in his own hands as he cautiously opens and closes them. The skin on his left cheek and arm feels like it's been torn away, though when Sam pulls his hands away there's only a few smears of blood on them. "Got a case of road burn there," Sam says. "Hold on, I'll get something to clean it with."

Dean leans back against the boulder again. Sky's still a flat blue, though darkening a bit as the sun edges deeper into the afternoon.

"Jack's broken," Sam reports as he starts dabbing at Dean's cheek with a damp bandanna. "Wheel's come off and rolled down the road somewhere. Think we're going to have to ditch the car and walk until the phones start working again."

Two duffels, the gun bag, Sam's laptop, all the inevitable odds and ends that accumulate, car to car... Dean wishes Sam would leave him alone so he could toss back the remainder of his whiskey.

"Burning daylight here," Sam says, heaves Dean upright, and they strip the car, wipe it down, start putting one foot in front of the other. Not the first time they've done this. Dean fingers his flask and thinks wistfully of his beautiful, reliable Baby, and hopes it's the last.