Title: Wait Without Warmth
Category: AU gen oneshot
Word Count: 2338
Spoilers: "In My Time of Dying"
Summary: AU piece pulled from the episode "In My Time of Dying" in which, after talking to the reaper, Dean chooses to stay behind.
Warnings: Character death
Author's Note: Crossposted around.
Disclaimer: The following characters and situations are used without permission of the creators, owners, and further affiliates of the television show, Supernatural, to whom they rightly belong. I claim only what is mine, and I make no money off what is theirs.
He looks out the window into the night, into the world so quiet and still, and he watches the cars slide by slowly after he makes his decision. His words sound fake and weak—even to him—and she doesn't say anything for a moment, only bows her head, and her pretty black hair tumbles forward. There is a long moment, and he turns, staring at her, expecting more than her silence, expecting a flash of light, a something, an anything. Finally, she lifts her head and stares at him, evenly, unemotional, but somehow pitying despite everything. "Are you sure this is what you want?" she asks.
He nods, though he's really not sure. He never will be sure, but at least…At least this is better than what it could be, he tries to believe.
"Now what?" he says. His voice is raw and hoarse with tears, with truth, with the need to know that it will be okay in the end.
"Come with me."
There's the screaming of alarms bursting from his room, and Sam's curses are louder than them all. Sam, who the doctors push out of the way with their medical kits and their filled syringes. Sam, who claws the doorway with his shaking and pale hands and gasps with every breath seeming to be his last.
Dean stands behind his brother, and he watches his death and how Sammy cries, his face crumbling, wilting like his world is crashing down around him and will never be rebuilt. Dean wants to go to him as he did when they were young and lay a bandage across his pain. But, all he can do is stand back and whisper, throat tight and pinched, "I'm not going anywhere, bud, you'll see. Don't you worry, I'm right here."
But Sam doesn't hear him as the monitors flash and wail, and the medical staff runs frantically around his fading form. His body leaps off the bed, electricity shooting through his flesh and needles jabbing into his arms.
"I don't want to watch this," he tells her. "I can't…I can't look at this."
Sam is sagging, weak and powerless, as Dean's body bleeds and jumps.
"But, you must," she says, never taking her eyes off his body to look at the real him. "This is the choice you've made. You have to see it to the end, no matter what happens."
"I—" he begins, and the screens' lines fall flat and lie still forever. The doctors look at each other, knowing what they must now do with their necessary medical sterility.
The beautiful girl turns to him and touches the side of his face, her hands cold and smooth. "This is not the end, Dean. Not for you. This is your beginning of forever."
They call his death, call his end, and Sam falls to his knees, unable to stand without his brother. Dean watches the light from his own body dim, and he swallows, wanting to be feeling something different, but nothing changes, so he must wait.
- - - - -
II. And he waits through the battle where his father and Sam find the demon.
When the demon is killed, its screams fly through the air like a crack of lightning in the heavens. John, holding the gun—now empty and useless—topples to the ground. Sam leaps forward as Dean jumps with him, and together, they kneel over their dying father. John's broken fingers twist into the mud beneath him, pull at grass and rocks, as Sam cradles him. "Dad," Sam says, "Dad, it's going to be okay."
John tries to shake his head, but he is already too far gone, and the blood seeps through his clothing and sticks onto Sam's hands. "You did good, Sammy, you did real good," he chokes around a split lip and battered tongue.
Sam's face tightens, fighting back the tears and pain, and he whispers, "Say hi to Dean for me, okay, Dad?"
And Dean lays his fingers on his father's face, wanting to touch his warm skin one last time, and when he lifts his head, he sees the pretty girl standing in the distance. She does not acknowledge him and keeps her eyes on John's fading form.
Dean watches him go, watches his dad's spirit rise up, but he barely has a chance to call out to him before the pretty girl takes his hand, and John is gone. While Sam's hands close and unclose on his father's coat, Dean looks over at his younger brother, and he knows that they are both still alone, and so he waits.
- - - - -
III. And he waits in the passenger seat of the Impala.
Sam drives the car like it's a sin, like he's slapping Dean with every turn of the steering wheel, and killing him all over again with the start of the engine. In the seat next to his younger brother, Dean smiles weakly. He wants to tell Sam that it's okay, he's here, he's really here, if only Sam would look at him. But, Sam can't see him, can't hear or sense him.
Dean reaches over when they stop outside a cheap motel room, and he touches the sleeve of Sam's coat. Sam recoils instantly, feeling a harsh chill sweep through him, and when Dean reaches for him again, Sam falls from the car with bruised limbs and shattered spirits. He sobs to the stars in painful, hacking chokes of agony. Dean has never seen him so broken before, and he can do nothing but watch as Sam sends his wishes and pleas, his pain and his need to the sky. Unable to even try to comfort his younger brother who draws away from his presence, Dean turns away and disappears into the darkness to wait.
- - - - -
IV. And he waits while Sam sleeps.
Dean hates himself for not being able to help his brother, the only person who ever mattered more than everything, more than this. He screams and calls to her—the girl, the beautiful reaper—but she does not come. In Sam's motel room, he pounds his fists against the walls while the people sleep. Sometimes, he makes noises that they can hear, and other times, he goes unnoticed like a shadow in the night. But he yells and kicks, swears and punches all the same, trying to get her attention. He stayed behind for Sam, he stayed behind for the person who cannot sense him.
He curses her and the demon, he curses life and death, and anything that he can. But she does not ever come, she does not ever take him away, and Sam continues to cry fitfully in his sleep. She does not come, and Dean, unable to see his younger brother suffer any longer, chooses to go elsewhere and wait.
- - - - -
V. And he waits in a house on the outskirts of town.
The house sags into the ground like a lazy old man, its roof caved in and its basement filled with sewage and plump rats that feed on cats that become trapped down there and die. Dean wanders the hallways, tearing rotted picture frames from the walls and hurling them down the stairs, ripping up termite-infested floorboards and throwing them out the windows. The house is in the middle of nowhere, sitting alone in an overgrown yard of poison ivy and thorn bushes, but the people begin to talk. Soon, the hunters come to destroy him, the hunters like he used to be when he was a man and not a nothing. When they arrive, he breaks their guns with his hands that they cannot see, and he throws the cat corpses at their heads just to see how they shudder at the smell of pure death.
They try to fight him, but they don't know the dead like he did—like he does now—and he sends the men running down the stairs, clutching broken arms and sprained wrists. They leave the house, and no one comes again. Rumor spreads across the town about the haunted house, and even after the realization hits him so blindly hot that he is the one haunting the building, he does not stop. He continues, and he waits.
- - - - -
VI. And he waits as the years pass, and the world changes.
The people die, Bobby, Missouri, and the others whose names he knew and faces he recognized. He tries to catch their hands as they rush past him on warmth that he had almost forgotten, but he is always too late, just always a little too late. So, Dean goes to Sammy, to his younger brother, thinking that maybe now, maybe after all this time, Sam can finally see him.
Sam, though, has a wife. A woman with auburn curls cascading down her back, who bakes banana bread from scratch and who goes to bed whispering and asking if Sam can feel the same cold breeze she does. "Just the wind, honey, just the wind," Sam tells her, stepping past Dean and checking to see if the windows are locked. He slides back into bed next to her and kisses her forehead.
"But, your hands, they're like ice…"
Dean pulls his hands, his dead, immortal hands, away from his brother's and disappears on his own again. He does not plan on ever returning. Sam has moved on without him, and Dean has nowhere to go and no one to see, so he waits.
- - - - -
VII. And he waits after he kills.
He has never killed for pleasure before, but he does so freely and casually now. Sometimes, he kills them—the people who come to the house he calls home—slowly, just to taste their blood in the air and feel their screams of pain on his cold skin. Occasionally, their death is quick and brutal, a crack of the neck or a garrote through the doorway. If he must be alone, he reasons, then so must they. Let these fools suffer as he has, let them try to reach the ones they love only to be denied as he has.
So, he kills and he kills, and there's no joy in the murders, no release, just that they simply are. There is no more to the deaths than the simple fact. Like that pretty reaper told him all those years ago, he's angry and wild, and he doesn't even give a damn anymore.
After the deaths, he curls himself onto a moth-eaten mattress and looks up at the stars through a hole in his house's roof. It has been too long, and there nothing left for him, not Sammy, not his father, not anybody. All he has left is the end of the world, and he waits.
- - - - -
VIII. And he waits as the decades roll over one another.
He forgets his name, he forgets who he was or even who he is. All he knows is the bloodshed and the madness. The insanity is his only companion, wrapping its wispy fingers around his throat, and he allows it to feast openly on what is left of his pitiful excuse for a soul now.
Then one day, he hears a voice calling to him. It's saying a name he doesn't know, and he curls up inside himself. Leave me alone, he thinks, just leave me alone.
But, a girl sits down across from him on the couch in the living room where he lies on the slimy wooden floors. "Dean?" she says. "Dean, can you hear me?"
She looks right at him, and he doesn't know who she is, but she is the first person that has looked at him in so long, too long. But, he doesn't lift his head; he only flicks his eyes in her direction and then darts them away again.
"Dean, do you even know who I am?"
That name, he wants to say, why are you calling me that name? The words do not come to his lips, but she hears him anyway.
She crosses the room, bends down, and cups the side of his face. "Dean, please, look at me. Dean."
So, he looks at her, really looks at her, focuses and stares at her. Her eyes are dark and large, soft and quiet, and then he remembers. He slowly pushes himself to a seated position. "You came back."
She smiles faintly, a small curve at the corners of her lips, and she takes his hands in his own. She's warm, so warm, and he hasn't felt warmth in so long; all he has known is the cold and the dark. "There's someone who's been asking about you," she says. "Someone who's been wanting me to give you a second chance."
Dean's face falls in confusion, and he shakes his head. "You said I…second chance? I thought?"
The air splits behind her, and a figure of his brother appears, glowing and as young as the day Dean left. Sam smiles and says something that Dean can't hear, and then he fades away. Suddenly, there are voices. Voices everywhere, and Dean hears his mother and father, he hears them all, and he hears Sam. Sam above everything.
"They're waiting, Dean," she says, so prettily and calm, releasing his hands and stepping away. "They're all waiting, you know, just for you. They've been waiting just as long as you have."
He looks out the window, beyond the house, beyond the trees and the sunset and the brittle, brown earth. Slowly, he turns back to her, and she watches him ever so carefully and then she holds out her hand to him. When he grabs her hand, she pulls him to his feet, and he says, "Let's go."
"Are you afraid?" she asks.
And he shakes his head. "No," he whispers, hearing their voices again, knowing they're waiting. "No, I've been waiting for a lifetime to see them. I'm not afraid. Not now."
She smiles, and after that, there is light and warmth, and he waits no more.