Genre: drama, angst (more of the first)
Disclaimer: I don't own Sam, Dean, or anything related to Supernatural (if only) – Kripke and others do.
Spoilers: through "All Hell Breaks Loose, part 2"
Summary: Ficlet, 1800 words. Coda to "All Hell Breaks Loose, part 2." Sam found out about his brother's deal 3 hours ago, and now he can't sleep as numbers take on a whole new meaning for him.
AN: I came up with one idea for a post-AHBLp2 story last night, and then I realized something important and came up with an even better one, and that's what this is – a short coda to "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2." This is just how I think Sam might deal with what he found out at the end of the episode. On a side note, this is probably the least angsty story I have ever written, especially considering the subject matter, so it's kind of a milestone for me; there's actually more mushy stuff in here than there is angst. Yay me:P
"When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings."
- W.E.B. DuBois
Sam had it all figured out. He had always been good with numbers.
1 year. Dean had 1 year left. 525,600 minutes. 8,760 hours. 365 days. 12 months. 1 year. The numbers just got smaller and smaller, and no matter how Sam looked at it, it was still just 1 year.
Only it wasn't really 1 year anymore, was it? Dean had brought him back last night. That meant that 1 day was gone. 1 precious day gone and Sam hadn't even known about it. 524,160 minutes. 8,736 hours. 364 days. 1 year minus 1 day. That was what Sam had left to save his brother…what Dean had left.
It didn't seem like enough.
Sam tried to sleep, but the number 364 kept repeating itself over and over in his head, until Sam couldn't think of anything else except that number; until Sam almost wished the next night would come so that he could think of something else.
But that wouldn't solve a damn thing. Tomorrow night Sam would just be plagued with the number 363, and it was 1 day less that what he was plagued with now.
He would take 364 over 363 any day, thank you very much.
He would take 364 every day if he could.
Sam sighed, trying not to think about what lay ahead of them in the coming year. What frustrations would plague them every day, and what nightmares each new night would bring. He could picture the year in his head like one of those day-to-day calendars in the cartoons, the pages falling off in a quick, constant stream, tearing themselves off faster and faster as the end approached, until the final, dreaded day arrived, big and bold and circled in blood red permanent marker.
He had never fully appreciated those calendar effects until now.
Sam turned on his side to face Dean, trying to focus on anything but the number burned into his retina. He watched his brother's back rise and fall gently in sleep, and he tried hard not to imagine him 1 year from now, his body shredded and bloody, his soul burning forever in Hell.
Sam felt tears spring into his eyes, and he turned away, unable to look at Dean. He stared at the ceiling and tried to count sheep before he realized that counting sheep would not help because no matter how many sheep jumped over that stupid fence there would still be 364, 364, always 364.
Sam turned and faced the opposite wall and decided to try counting the polka dots on the retro style wallpaper, and he almost punched his fist through it in frustration when he realized that he wouldn't be able to count any number other than 364.
Finally, Sam buried his face in his pillow, closing his eyes tightly, until all he could see was darkness. But even there the number taunted him. It was burned into his brain, and he couldn't see or think of anything else.
Sam always counted things when he couldn't fall asleep. He counted tiles in the ceiling, flowers on the wallpaper, weird stains on the bedspread. Sam almost laughed at how ironic it was that the one thing which usually helped him go to sleep was now the thing keeping him from doing it.
Sam felt the tears welling up again, and he fought back, not wanting to wake Dean for something as stupid as not being able to sleep.
But of course there was far more to it than that, and Sam knew it. He was tired, exhausted, and sure he wanted so badly to just sleep, but how could he sleep when there were only 364 days left?
364 days left to pull pranks on Dean, to call him names, to give him his bitch face or his puppy dog eyes.
364 days to watch crappy movies with Dean, to sleep safely in the same room with him, to watch him stuff his face like the human garbage disposal he was.
364 days to ride next to Dean in the car, to argue with him about his choice of music, to fall asleep while he sang Metallica off-key.
364 days to fight beside Dean, to watch his back…to know that his brother needed him just as much as Sam needed his brother.
364 days left to save Dean.
364 days left to-
Suddenly, a thought hit Sam hard, and he bolted up in bed, eyes open wide, a small smile on his face as he did the math. He thought he was right, but he just needed to be sure.
He got out of bed quickly and quietly, grabbed his laptop out of his bag, and brought it back to the bed. He tapped his fingers impatiently, waiting for it to load. Finally, his desktop loaded and he quickly pulled up the calendar.
He changed the month to February.
He changed the year to 2008.
A leap year.
Next February had 29 days.
Sam continued to smile in the dark of the room as he closed down the laptop.
One year. One leap year. 366 days. Which meant he still had 365 days left to save Dean.
He wasn't entirely sure if the demon would see it that way. He didn't think that human measurements of time would really have an impact on a demonic deal. But Sam didn't care. It was something to hope for, something to grasp at, a different number that was one number higher than 364.
It was one extra day. One extra day to find answers, to find a way to save his brother.
Sam crawled under the covers and ignored the niggling thought that he should know that the demon wouldn't care about the extra day. He ignored Dean's voice in his head – the voice he always heard when he knew he was merely holding on to false hope – telling him that trivial things like the Gregorian calendar system didn't matter to demons. He ignored the fact that he should know the demon would not count that day as part of Dean's last year. He ignored all the voices in his head, focusing instead on that extra 1440 minutes. That extra 24 hours. That extra day.
Sam held onto that day like a lifeline, and as he drifted off to sleep, he couldn't stop himself from thinking, 365 days left. Not 364. 365.
He didn't need to count sheep or polka dots or weird stains on his pillow. He knew that the number, at least for right now, would add up to 365.
And it was enough.
February 29th, 2008
Sam leaned over the railing slightly, gazing down into the massive depths of the Grand Canyon. He looked over toward Dean and smiled at the look of awe on his brother's face as he gazed down with him. Dean looked like he was 5 years old again, discovering the world for the very first time.
When Sam had found out about a haunting in Phoenix, Arizona, one week before February 29th, he had insisted they check it out. Dean had been a bit surprised. Sam was usually the one to argue that they didn't have time for hunting; that they had to spend what little time they had researching a way to save him. But Dean had been too surprised to argue. When they had disposed of the ghost on the 27th, Sam had insisted they stick around for awhile and relax before moving on, and Dean hadn't questioned him then, either.
But that morning, when Sam had given Dean the puppy dog eyes and practically begged him for the keys, he knew Dean suspected something. It wasn't until they were about 100 miles away, when the numbers on the giant signs for THE GRAND CANYON got noticeably smaller and smaller, that Dean had called him out. Sam hadn't known what kind of reaction to expect, but when Dean had congratulated him on being able to keep the secret for so long, Sam had looked over to find his brother staring out the window, a goofy grin on his face, his eyes lit up childish delight, and Sam had smiled to himself, thinking that there was no better way to spend Dean's extra day.
Sam laughed softly as he looked over at Dean now, gazing down into the canyon with his mouth gaping open, and Dean turned to look at him.
"What?" he asked, his eyes still holding the twinkle they had adopted as soon as he had realized where Sam was taking him.
Sam just smiled at his brother and shook his head. "Close your mouth, man, or you'll let the flies in," he replied.
Dean shook his head, reaching over and rubbing his hand through Sam's hair quickly, messing it up, just like he used to do when they were younger.
"Bitch," Dean replied, a genuine laugh escaping him as his gaze drifted off across the wide expanse of the canyon.
Sam called his brother "jerk" in return, then followed Dean's eyes across the gulf, his mind drifting off as he began to wonder at how it had taken 6 million years for the Colorado River to carve out the canyon before them.
Thousands of generations of people had lived and died, and yet the canyon still continued to grow.
Suddenly, Sam was pulled from his thoughts by a light thump on his shoulder. He turned to look at Dean, but his brother had already removed his arm and was looking away from him at the far off horizon and, Sam thought, the unknown future that lay ahead of them.
"Thanks, Sammy," he said, continuing to stare off into the distance.
Sam just smiled at his brother.
Sam had fallen asleep the same way every night since he'd found out about Dean's deal: with a number repeating itself over and over in his mind. Every night he found himself counting down the days, realizing that every time he went to sleep, one more day was lost.
As February 29th came to a close, instead of counting down one number, Sam counted the same number he had counted the night before. And instead of falling asleep with that number burned into his mind's eye, he fell asleep to the image of his brother gazing out over the Grand Canyon, smiling widely, eyes twinkling in childish delight.
And for the first time since Dean had sold his soul for him, Sam fell into a dreamless, numberless sleep.