Sam is sitting in the kitchen when it happens. The table is covered with open books, papers and pencils, Maths, English AP and Chemistry. And then there's suddenly a dull thump on the glass door leading out on the porch.
Sam looks up from his homework, eyes wandering to the clock hanging lopsidedly on the wall. Three in the afternoon. Too soon for Dean to be home yet, no sound of the car and Dad's two states away right now.
Curious now he abandons his chem book, opens the door and almost step on it. There, on the front porch, is a tiny bird, lying on its back, spindly legs tucked close to its body. Sam carefully steps over it and crouches down. It's a sparrow. The feathers grey brown, sharp, narrow beak open as if in shock. It must have crashed against the glass door.
Just as Sam stretches out his hand to pick up the dead bird, it stirs to life, flapping its wings madly against the ground. It stares up at Sam with wide horrified eyes, the tiny body quaking with the mad beating of its heart.
Sam picks it up carefully, cradling the little head and tucking the ruffled wings close to its body. He can feel the sharp toes clawing at the palm of his hand and his fingers as the bird sways in his palm, not even managing to sit on its own. The little head sags forward, wings twitching weakly and that's when Sam realizes the bird must have broken something serious when it crashed against the glass. He can feel the tiny heart thundering against his palm.
Suddenly his stomach feels as if it's sitting right under his tongue. He knows what he should do. Put the thing out of its misery, make it quick and painless.
The tiny creature in his hand stares up at him with big, black eyes and he just can't.
He is still sitting on the porch, the little broken bird cradled in his hands when Dean comes home at half past four.
Sam tried turning its neck, breaking it but he couldn't do it. The tiny head fit neatly between his thumb and two fingers, so light Sam could hardly feel it, all feathers and fluff. The bird didn't even struggle but Sam couldn't do it. He tried closing the eternally gaping beak, putting his fingers over the little holes, so the bird would suffocate. He had pushed down hard, closing off all the air and then he could see the pulse in the bird's neck underneath those flimsy feathers, still going strong, thumping like mad and he couldn't bring himself to it.
He knows Dad would snap the bird's neck in an instant. It's the humane thing to do. And then he would look at Sam in that mixture of disbelief and disappointment. Can't even put a bird out of its misery.
Dean's gentle with the bird, he picks it up so carefully but by now the the little guy hardly stirs anymore. Just gapes at them in that mixture of subdued horror and vague trust.
“It's okay, Sammy, I got this.” Dean is crouched down on front of him, trying for a reassuring smile and ruffling Sam's hair with his free hand but Sam can't seem to swallow past the lump in his throat.
Dean sends him back into the kitchen to get him a beer and Sam goes willingly, thankful for the way out his brother is offering him.
When he comes back outside the sparrow is gone.