Supernatural: still not mine.
So some of you may remember me mentioning a deathficathon challenge a couple of weeks back -- this is my entry, and my attempt to write a non-angsty deathfic (which my awesome beta estei tells me I didn't do too badly at). The rules and prompts for the challenge can be found at marishna dot livejournal dot com slash 306009 dot html, and I know it's a pain to type it out, but you may find it sheds a little light on this tale. My prompt was number five, though I may have included one or two others as well.
Warnings: character death like whoa. Sailor talk. Gruesome -- but not graphic -- events. Reference to a sexual act. RPS if you squint. Gratuitous cow-tipping. May also contain traces of crack.
Because I Could Not Stop for Death (He Kindly Stopped For Me)
The first time, they put it down to weird luck. Well, you would, wouldn't you? You survive falling off a cliff, you don't exactly stand around going actually, that's ridiculous, there's no way we could've lived through that, I want a recount. Plus, it hurt like hell, which probably lulled them into a false sense of security, because it pretty much seemed like that was what it ought to do, and if, upon inspection, their injuries turned out to be a lot more superficial than they would have expected given the amount of pain they were in (had been in was probably more appropriate), well, maybe that was fate's way of giving the Winchesters a freebie for once. The main thing was, they weren't dead.
Except they kind of were.
The second time, it was harder to dismiss, because Sam had definitely been shot in the head and Dean had definitely watched him die pretty much instantly, and although Sam tried to explain it away afterwards as a hallucination brought on by shock, Dean knew that the grinding emptiness in his guts was anything but an illusion. Also, there was the little matter of the rapidly-healing bullet hole in the centre of Sam's forehead, which made him look like an Indian princess for a couple of days, although Dean wasn't really in any fit state to enjoy teasing him about that because every time he looked at the damn thing he saw Sam's brains splattering over the wall. In all, Sam dying really had more of a permanent effect on Dean than it did on Sam, which was at once perfectly understandable and deeply, deeply strange.
They didn't talk about it much, though. It was too weird.
The third time, Dean decided it was something to do with Sam. Sam was all psychic and special, right? So it stood to reason he might have some bizarre power of self-healing or something as well (and if he did, well, that would really set Dean's mind to rest). In any case, the bullet to the brain might be dismissible as Dean's paranoia (except he knew what he'd seen), but stabbed right through a lung followed by a fall from a twentieth-floor window wasn't something you could just pretend never happened, especially given the number of witnesses (several of whom fainted when Sam suddenly sat up and said fucking ow). Sam, of course, was pretty loath to discuss Dean's idea (especially because Dean kept calling him MacLeod and singing Queen songs at him), but in the end he admitted that he didn't have any better ones. It was still weird, but Dean thought he could probably live with it. And more importantly, Sam could live with it.
20, 26, 13
The fourth time, Dean had to admit that it wasn't just Sam, and Sam had to admit that there was definitely something odd going on. It wasn't just that Dean had, quite literally, lost his head and somehow, somehow lived to tell the tale, though that was bizarre enough in itself; in fact, the whole incident was weird from start to finish, because it wasn't really like they'd had any reason to be hanging out in LA in the first place, and then to run into this skinny guy by the side of the road who turned out to have met Meg a year or two before – well, Sam said later, it was totally creepy and definitely would have been worth looking into, if the skinny guy – Chad Michael something or other – hadn't also copped it in the accident and, unlike Dean, actually stayed dead. Of course, the fact that the two guys driving the car (who were also apparently famous or something, but Sam and Dean didn't recognise them, though since Dean was having a little decapitation problem at the time and Sam didn't really watch TV that wasn't too surprising) were engaged in some kind of sexual act (come on, Sam, the short one was totally sucking the tall one's cock Dean would always say at this point, and Sam would flush and repeat the words some kind of sexual act) just added to the bizarre, but then, that was Hollywood for you.
The whole blow-job thing meant that Sam generally wasn't too keen on talking about the incident afterwards (the fact that the tall guy on the receiving end had kind of looked like Sam didn't help matters). Dean would totally have loved to tease him about that one, too, except that decapitation apparently messes up your throat for a few days after (who knew?), and the shorter of the two guys in the car had maybe kind of looked like Dean. Yeah, definitely something weird going on.
31, 10, 6
After that, things just got weirder. It made sense that in Sam and Dean's line of work they would risk their lives fairly often, but up until the falling off a cliff incident (which, after an argument that lasted about three days, they decided was the first one they could both agree was definitely a manifestation of this... thing, whatever it was) they'd managed to keep themselves together pretty well. Now, though, it seemed like they were dying every other day (and Dean could never resist making a James Bond reference here, which Sam would snort at with a muttered remark about delusions of grandeur), and it wasn't always the way they might expect to, either. For example, having your neck broken by a zombie was all in a day's work (well, it was now), and not to be sniffed at as a way to go (although when Dean actually did go that way, Sam sniffed a bit, and then claimed he had something in his eye), but being crushed by a falling piano was just... well, it was just cartoonish, and highly undignified, and better yet, it gave Dean mocking material for weeks, until Dean managed to give himself Viagra poisoning (seriously, how does that happen? Dean didn't even own a bottle of Viagra, not that he was able to convince Sam of that) and had to endure Sam's smirks every time a hot girl walked past. Sam had a theory that whatever had happened to them (he thought it was a curse or a spell, while Dean refused to speculate, saying it was tempting fate) included a clause which meant they had to die frequently, painfully, and often ridiculously. Dean said that was stupid. At least, that's what he said at first.
For a while after the Viagra incident, things were pretty quiet (well, you know, there was still the whole hunting thing, but without the associated regular shufflings off of this mortal coil), which kind of pissed Dean off because it meant the Viagra thing was totally done to death (no freakin pun intended). Every now and then, though, Sam would go all thoughtful and suggest they actually do some research into what had gone on. Dean invariably crossed his arms and said something about gift horses and mouths, and if Sam went on any further, he brought up the Chad Michael thing and the cocksucking incident, which usually shut him up.
Once the deaths started to be themed, though, even Dean had to admit that the whole thing was a bit of a drag.
38, 22, 21, 28, 24
It was a weird pattern. They would go for months and be fine, and then suddenly in one week they'd kick it four or five times. Like, this one time it was animal-themed: on Monday, Sam was bitten by a rattlesnake when they were miles from anywhere hunting a Mountain Man, and after he came back to life he spent the whole limping, painfully slow trip back to the Impala analysing how the poison was affecting him and theorising on the mechanisms of the spell or curse or whatever it was. That was an interesting contrast to how, when Dean was stung by killer bees on Wednesday in Hidalgo, Texas, he just came up with every single curse he could think of (and some that he couldn't) until it stopped freakin hurting, which took a fair few hours. Then on Thursday both of them were mowed down by a herd of elephants (well, OK, it was only two really, but two elephants is plenty when they're pissed off and running at freakin ninety miles an hour or whatever) that had escaped from a local zoo, and they were pretty much in no condition to go anywhere for the next few days and decided that holing up in a motel room somewhere would be a good bet. Of course, Dean was dumb enough to decide that Pamplona, New Mexico was low-key enough for their recovery, and Sam afterwards said that he should have guessed that they wouldn't last long before being trampled again, this time by the local bovine population (what? said Dean. Cows, said Sam, inspecting his rapidly healing ribs. I hate animals, said Dean. Let's go to a freakin city. So yeah, it was kind of Dean's fault when Sam was crushed (crushed again, Sam pointed out ruefully) by the giant fibreglass shark at Universal Studios in Orlando the following week).
So after the whole shark thing, (and the elephant thing, and the killer bee thing, and so on), Dean kind of agreed with Sam that maybe they should try and do some research into what the hell had happened to them. Well, actually, he really agreed with him after he managed to go into anaphylactic shock shortly after being bitten by a platypus (who knew you could be allergic to platypus...es? Sam said, and spent about ten minutes pondering what the plural of platypus was until he finally settled on platypodes. Dean ignored him. We're never going anywhere near a freakin zoo again was all he would volunteer with respect to the incident). They tried to retrace their steps, but they realised pretty quickly that whatever had happened could have happened at any time before the falling-off-the-cliff incident (it was too long a name, Sam pointed out, and Dean suggested they call it day zero, which Sam, after some complaints about bad action movies, agreed). They tried to work out exactly how soon after day zero (you don't have to say it in that stupid movie-trailer-guy voice, said Sam, but Dean just grinned) they had started dying all the time, because, as Sam pointed out, if it was immediately afterwards then they could assume the curse-or-whatever had happened pretty much immediately before.
17, 18, 34
Once they'd worked it out, they decided it hadn't started immediately after day zero, which was a drag, because it meant they had no real way of working out just when they might have been cursed (or whatever). (What was really a drag, though, was when Dean got kidnapped by some freakish Hannibal Lecter wannabe who actually ate his liver. It turned out that growing a new liver was fucking painful, and Dean griped about it for a full week (actually, it stopped hurting after five days, but he wanted to see how long he could go before Sam would snap and tell him to suck it up; on the seventh day, Sam bought a bottle of Chianti and Dean shut up)). They argued about the timing of the curse all the way from Vermont to Colorado, where the cliff in question was located, but when they were standing at the bottom looking up and trying to remember details about day zero (seriously, Dean, stop saying it like that) they were no closer to an answer than they had been before. More importantly, they were no closer to any kind of way to get an answer.
44, 46, 43, 45
Later on, Sam insisted it was their own recklessness that caused the next rash of deaths. He argued – and to be fair, he was pretty convincing – that really, people didn't get leprosy any more in the United States, and even the ones that did (he actually had facts and figures to back him up, the bastard) didn't die of it in three weeks, so the fact that Sam just happened to have contracted it in the same week that Dean came down with a similarly fast-acting and apparently incurable case of tuberculosis meant that it pretty much had to be a side-effect of the spells they'd been using to try and reverse the curse-or-whatever. Seriously, Sam said through chattering teeth (because obviously, two days after he'd bounced back – or whatever – from the leprosy thing he'd come down with malaria), we shouldn't be messing with all this magic shit when we don't even know what it is that's affecting us. Catching malaria in the US is not normal. Right, Dean replied from the bathroom, because rising from the dead a couple of times a month is totally mundane. Sam shut up after that, at least until Dean asked him what the symptoms of syphilis were, and Sam laughed so hard he went into convulsions.
1, 42, 35, 11
Sam didn't laugh so hard when it turned out Dean had AIDS, though. The main reason was that, pretty much as soon as he got the news, Dean went out back of the motel they were staying in and shot himself in the head, leaving Sam to find him. When Dean's body jerked and he sucked in a lungful of air, Sam was sitting in the pool of blood and brain matter, staring at nothing. Dude, said Dean, you OK? You look kind of freaked. Sam just stared for long enough to totally freak Dean out, and then he started yelling. It was kind of fair enough, because they really didn't know if self-inflicted death counted as something you could come back from, but Dean was definitely up for experimentation if it meant he didn't have to die a lingering death from fucking AIDS, and hey, they'd learned something new, right? Not that Sam saw it that way, of course, but he got his own back a month or so later when he got buried in an avalanche that started with a freak cow-tipping incident (seriously, who tips cows on top of a mountain? Who?) and Dean had to spend eight hours digging him out (and they never did work out if the cow-tipping-avalanche thing was a straggler from the animal-related deaths or the harbinger of the string of natural disasters they got involved in six months afterwards, which culminated in both of them getting buried when a mine caved in – not that Dean cared which set of deaths it belonged to, but it seemed to bother Sam for some reason).
Eventually, they called Bobby. Sam had been saying they should for months, but Dean was still in the whole "gift-horse" mindset, and it took something fairly drastic to make him change his mind. Ultimately, though, drastic was not a problem. (God, this is lame, said Sam. You're telling me. Call Bobby, Dean replied. I'm trying, Sam said. I can't reach my phone. Move your leg. Dean shifted slightly. Jesus, he said, I had no idea coffins were this cramped.) It turned out that they could come back to life even when the ambient conditions weren't conducive to human survival (Jesus, translation to English please? said Dean), which meant, basically, that they suffocated more times than either of them could count before Bobby managed to dig them up. Which, as Dean might have mentioned a couple of times, sucked out loud. Unfortunately, Bobby didn't have a clue about what might have happened to them or who or what might be behind it. He said he would ask around, but they were pretty much giving up hope at that point. They had nothing to go on, but at least they weren't dead (except that they kind of were).
33, 15, 32, 48, 19
Sam had always had a little problem with being choked (as in, every goddamn supernatural freak from here to Timbuktu wanted to do it to him), so it shouldn't really have come as a surprise a few months down the line when there was a month when everything wanted a piece of the Sammy-neck action. Common-or-garden strangled was one thing (and that's bad enough, muttered Sam, rubbing his neck where the bruises from the shape-shifter's fingers were rapidly healing), but turned out there was also hanging (fucking poltergeist), biting (vampires suck, Dean grinned, and Sam growled), and, Dean's favourite, garrotting (which was actually only Dean's favourite because it had happened in a public place and caused enough damage to Sam's system that the doctors had had time to declare him brain-dead before he came round. Brain-dead, grinned Dean. I always suspected it, but now I've got proof. Jesus, said Sam, why the hell aren't you dying at all this month? And Dean laughed and said guess your lily-white neck is just too damn tempting, eggplant-boy.)
Of course, there were a few perks to the situation, despite the continued run of increasingly bizarre (and unconvincing) life-or-death (well, mainly death) situations. For example, when Sam woke up to find Dean burning on the ceiling above him and thought no, no this can't be real, Dean can't die, he can'tit turned out he was right. Not only that, but the Demon was kind of surprised, too, when Dean opened his blackened eyelids and coughed, and even more surprised when Dean said a word that Sam had never heard before, couldn't really even understand how Dean could pronounce it, but which turned out to be the Demon's true name and the only way to destroy it entirely. Pretty dumb loophole, Dean said. All it takes is for someone to actually survive being burned to death by the damn thing and remember the stuff that goes through their head just before they die, and poof! Sam just stared at him like he thought he might disappear any minute. Dude, said Dean, take a picture, but Sam didn't stop staring for two days.
27, 12, 7
After the Demon died, Sam thought about going back to his old life. He was nearing thirty, though, and picking up where he left off, years of law school and training, didn't appeal to him so much any more. Then there was the minor issue that he managed to die in a freakish and unnatural way on average twice a month, and it was difficult enough to explain to bystanders when they were just two drifters passing through, let alone if Sam had friends who weren't Dean and who might think that, say, a man electrocuting himself when a TV accidentally wound up in the bathtub with him and then sitting up and cursing like a sailor a few minutes later was kind of odd. (Seriously, dude, Dean said, how the hell did the TV get in the bathtub? and Sam rolled his eyes and said I'll tell you if you tell me how you managed to get struck by lightning while you were sitting in a diner) In the end, Sam concluded that it would be safer all round if he just kept on hunting, and he didn't miss how Dean grinned behind his hand when he told him his decision. It kind of made him feel better when he accidentally shot Dean in the back the following week, though (which was weird, because Dean hadn't been anywhere near him a second before), because maybe he had decided that his dreams were never going to come true, but that didn't mean he wanted Dean to be happy about it.
The Demon was gone, and the impending war apparently averted for now, but there was still plenty of work for a pair of dedicated hunters, and Sam and Dean kept going for years, until both of them were too tired and stiff to go on the road any more (the curse-or-whatever seemed to grant them a little more health than might be expected for two men who'd led lives like theirs, but it certainly didn't solve all their problems). The day that Dean died of hypothermia because the heater in the Impala had finally given up the ghost, they decided to settle down (well, actually the day after, because Dean spent the day itself – or the part of it following his miraculous recovery from being dead – bitching about being cold and stealing Sam's blankets). They chose a little town in Montana, a house not too close to any others, and before long they found kids coming to their door, asking them for advice, and Dean heard one of them referring to the brothers Winchester as legends. (It's fair enough, Sammy, he commented. I am pretty fucking cool. Sam just snorted and brushed the hair out of his eyes.) By the time they'd lived in Montana for five years, they had a training program fully operational, and hunters came to them from all over. It was probably useful, because they were good, they were really good, but of course they never could explain to anyone's satisfaction the secret of their staying alive so long.
50, 40, 16, 36
They still went on hunts from time to time, but the curse-or-whatever seemed to have adapted itself quite happily to their domestic circumstances, and the freak accidents they got involved in became a little more... banal. (This is never, ever going to get old, Sam sniggered, and Dean glowered. Shut up, Sammy, you're the one who managed to stab himself in the throat with a fucking ballpoint pen last week. Plus, remember the whole thing two months ago when you choked on ectoplasm? Because that was definitely funnier than this. Sam didn't stop laughing, though. No way, man, drowning in the toilet? Seriously, nothing is ever going to beat that, ever. Dean curled his lip. It was a haunted toilet. And I didn't drown, I bled out from toilet-seat-related injuries. Sam grinned, because they never really got bored of trying to decide exactly what it was that had killed them in these circumstances.) They never let any of the kids stay in the house with them (and some of them were grown men, older than Dean and Sam had been when Dad disappeared and the whole thing had started (well, started for Sam, because it had never stopped for Dean), but Dean insisted on calling everyone kid, and after a while Sam started doing it too), because over the years it had got to the point where they averaged about one death each every couple of weeks, and they knew better than anyone how hunters tend to see in black and white. Sam had been pretty worried about the whole thing, in fact (Jesus, Dean, he said when they first started training, what if one of them shoots us by mistake or something?), but Dean pointed out that he would go freakin crazy if he just had to sit around being Johnny Hometown for the rest of his life (which, for all they knew, could be forever), and eventually Sam agreed. The kids stayed in town, and they would pull up to the front of Dean and Sam's house in their pick-ups and their jeeps, and Dean would be waiting in the back yard with the weapons, and Sam would be sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by books. Life was pretty good (death still sucked, but they could live with that.)
23, 49, 2
Of course, it wasn't all puppies and ice-cream. They were getting older, and their bodies were deteriorating, in the way that older bodies do. Sam found his memory becoming less and less reliable; Dean held out like a man for over a year, but eventually conceded he needed glasses (and barely anyone wore those things any more, what with contacts and laser eye surgery, but they weren't exactly rolling in money since credit-cards started carrying biometric data, so Dean just had to put up with it). The things that killed them stopped being vampires and demons (and cows and toilet seats) and started to be cirrhosis (I fucking told you you should stop drinking so much, Sam said, and Dean just grinned and said you only live once, Sammy) and heart failure (Dude, I cannot believe you died of fright, Dean gloated, and Sam scowled. I had a heart attack, he said. It's perfectly natural for a man of my age. Yeah, Dean said, you had a heart attack because you were fucking terrified, you pussy. Sam didn't really have much to say to that, because clowns were scary, but he would never be able to convince Dean of that fact, so he just glared). It was natural, of course. The only thing that wasn't natural was that they kept coming back, and back, and back.
One summer night they were sitting out on the front porch and Sam wondered if it would ever be over, or if they would keep going until their bodies shut down entirely. Dude, said Dean, you're so morbid, and Sam couldn't help laughing, because if there was one word that could describe the pair of them, old men sitting out together, men who'd seen a century of life and more than a century of death, then morbid would be it. It wasn't that he was depressed or in any way unhappy; he was just ready to move on.
Three weeks later, Sam went into Dean's room to find him dead. At first he thought he was just sleeping, but after a while when it became clear that there was more to it than that, and after a while longer when Dean didn't come back to life, Sam called the doctor.
An hour or two later, the doctor came down the stairs and said, I'm sorry, your brother's dead. Sam felt like laughing, because he knew that much. What did he die of? he asked. He just passed away in his sleep, the doctor said. Natural causes.
Later on, Sam stood by Dean's bed, looking down at him. He looked peaceful. Happy. Sam smiled. Natural causes, huh, Dean? he said. I think I'll try that one next.