Summary: On day 327 Dean doesn't feel the slightest bit guilty about punching a kid in the face, but only after he has used an EpiPen on his brother and made sure he is still breathing. AU as soon as season three starts.
Author's notes: As always, many heartfelt thanks to my awesome beta team, Faye and Kaly, who made this such a better story.
Dedication: To my fellow members over at the limp!Sam-board, who are friendly and loveable and generally just awesome. You're making it the best board I've ever been on.
Disclaimer: I don't want to own them, since that would mean they wouldn't have time to make Supernatural and I love this show too much to take it away from anybody.
Forever is tomorrow is today
It's the first day of the rest of his life, and all Dean can think about is that he wants to put as many miles as possible between them and the beginning of the apocalypse.
Eighteen hours later, and they're in Lincoln Beach, a nice little town in Oregon with white houses and long stretches of beaches, and he thinks they deserve a little vacation. Sam doesn't seem to think the same, but Dean can't really tell since his little brother hasn't uttered more words than necessary since their conversation at the graveyard the night before. They, or better, he, because Sam is just awake enough to follow, rent a house at the beach. It's spacy and bright with big window fronts to the ocean. It even has two bedrooms. And although he dreads the idea of letting Sam out of his sight, this time-out was his idea, so he puts on a brave front and lets Sam chose which room he wants before throwing a cover over his little brother when he falls on the bed and is immediately asleep.
Dean has three days almost to himself. Three days spent with flipping through TV channels and reading The DaVinci Code. Sam only resurfaces for meals, which Dean has to wake him for. Not that Sam has much appetite these days. Dean feels thrown back to the days right after the fire which had killed Jess. Only this time it's him who put Sam in this state. Him and his deal. But even if Sam stays shell-shocked for a whole month, Dean wouldn't change what he'd done and he won't feel guilty.
Sam starts to do more than sleeping and eating on the sixth day. Actually, Sam starts to do more than Dean thinks is healthy for him. Apparently coming back from the dead – he tries not to cringe too much when he thinks about it – doesn't mean Sam came back unscathed. Dean tries not to get too worried when he sees him wince while moving his shoulder or bending his back. Yet Sam decides to ignore his body's signals and Dean's protests and picks up jogging at the beach. The weather is crappy, an endless grey sky shielding them from any warming sunlight, and all Dean can do is to sit on the dunes, mesmerized, and watch his little brother run. Only now the thought occurs to him that Sam is a natural at running. He wants to ask him if he ran at Stanford, won any trophies, but then Sam comes back from the run, sweaty and smelly, and Dean sends him to the shower immediately instead.
It's the second week and Dean still enjoys the house and somehow Bobby has sneaked enough money in his duffel bag that they can afford a longer stay and actually pay for it. Sam doesn't quite agree with this idea because apparently the internet connection here sucks, the library is closed due to renovation, and Dean only has 358 days left.
The next day the library is still closed and Sam threatens to go off on his own if they don't leave this place right now. Dean can tell when Sam means business and the thought of Sam being on his own, out there, with an army of demons wreaking havoc, is simply not acceptable.
Day eighty three finds Dean throwing up in some hospital toilet after a white-haired doctor explains to him that Sam has a severe peanut allergy – how did they not know that till know? – and after they had to cut a freaking hole in his little brother's throat so they could slide a tube down to get him oxygen. Sam will have a scar and the only thing Dean had done was accidentally looking at some research papers on the deal when he got their clothes for the laundry.
On day eighty four, Dean cleans the Impala to the last corner and throws away every Peanut M&M he finds and everything else which looks remotely like a peanut or might have come in contact with peanuts. Then he goes to buy EpiPens.
The next day Sam can breathe on his own and looks puzzled at him, searching for an explanation how he ended up with a tube down his throat. At first Dean thinks that maybe he can avoid the truth, but lying to his brother hasn't proven very successful – or even safe – in the past so he opts for the truth and tells Sam about the part of the deal in which his little brother drops dead if Dean helps undoing the deal. Moments later he wishes he hadn't, because now everything sounds even more like 'Sam or Dean' and that isn't even a contest in his mind.
Day ninety, and Dean starts to miss his geek, who spends too much time away from him, submerged in yet another library. He refuses to come to their motel room to read through copies for his research on the deal, since Dean might actually look at them again and then Sam would get some other allergy or whatever the demon thinks entertaining and life-threatening enough and Dean wouldn't allow him to continue his research. Dean's head is swimming with this argument, but he humors his little brother.
It's day one-hundred, and Dean think it's time for a little celebration. Sam seems to guess how he wants to celebrate since he's off 'to do something' when Dean leans closer over the counter to hear what Sheila has to say about the weather forecast for the region. Turns out her sister is the forecaster for the local TV station and Dean never would have guessed that weather could be that entertaining.
Day 132 brings the shattering of an illusion when Dean hears the sound of splintering glass in the bathroom, followed by something which sounds remarkably like a body hitting tiles. It only takes mere seconds for him to find Sam's trembling body on the floor, head in his hands and a distant look in his eyes. He whispers nonsense in his brother's ear when he cradles him in his arms while he waits for the vision to end. When it does, he doesn't notice at first since Sam is so out of it he doesn't utter a word. Dean gets him on the bed, trying not to notice how easy it had become to lift his brother.
January comes and with it Dean's birthday. Sam is all 'smiling and happy faces' this day and gives him a new whetstone for his knives as a present. It's really good quality, and Dean thinks it will takes years before he needs another one. He suddenly smiles when he gets the meaning behind the gift.
It's pouring, and they're long soaked to the bone. Dean is in a foul mood since they have followed this animal spirit in the woods of Idaho for days and still are no nearer to catching it than they were when they started. Angrily he mutters that this is definitely the last time he will go camping in the woods. Sam hears him and when Dean sees the haunted look in his eyes he wants to kick himself. It's day two hundred.
It's day 247 when they send two demons, who behaved a bit too much like Bonnie and Clyde, back to hell and Dean thinks that it should be forbidden for demons to pair up. One is bad enough, two make Sam and him sit beat on the floor of their motel room, leaning against the beds, while they drink beer to celebrate the successful exorcism.
The sun shines warm and brightly on day 298 when Dean enters the library to pick up his brother. He finally finds him in a secluded aisle, and is greeted by a flying book, which barely misses him. Sam looks angry as hell, and when Deans asks what has happened, he mutters something about needing Dean's blood and that he can't help before disappearing in another aisle. Dean makes a point of staying as far away as he can from the book laying innocently on the ground.
On day 327 Dean doesn't feel the slightest bit guilty about punching a kid in the face, but only after he has used an EpiPen on his brother and made sure he is still breathing. Freaking kid had to throw freaking peanuts of all things at them.
Dean has exactly one month and one day left, but it's Sam who looks like he's ready to drop dead.
It's the dawn of his last month on earth when Dean slips sleeping pills in Sam's coffee and for two straight days does nothing but try to write a letter to his brother, who's oblivious to the world in the bed next to him.
Sam awakens on the third day and for some blissful minutes, his foggy brain can't pull together what Dean has done. Sadly, it doesn't last long and soon Dean gets to experience the whole 6'4'' and has to admit that his kid brother can be downright scary and intimidating when he wants to be.
Twenty six days to go, and Dean finds his plan from earlier backfiring when Sam refuses to take anything to drink or eat from him, which makes getting Sam to ingest anything at all nearly impossible.
His descent into hell is fifteen days away and they're in some shabby motel in New Orleans, having put to rest the spirit of a victim of Katrina, when it happens. Dean's looking once again at the letter for his brother when he hears a thud from the bathroom. At first he thinks it's another vision – as if they can use one right now – and with a few strides is at the bathroom door, which won't budge.
He yells for his little brother and that's when he hears it. Sobbing. He can't say he didn't anticipate it. The moment Sam would break down and realize there was no way he could save his brother. Dean had known it would come, but it didn't make it any easier to hear his little brother's heart shattering into little pieces at the other side of the door. He slides down to the ground and lays his hand at the door. In a low voice, he starts to tell some old memories, back from when Sam hadn't turned six months yet and everything had been lollipops and candy canes and the world hadn't included demons and fire and deals to bring back the dead. The sun is long gone and Dean's voice raw when Sam opens the door, eyes puffy and hair tousled, and announces that they're driving to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon.
Two days later Dean thinks there should be some kind of law to forbid anyone to die before he's seen the Grand Canyon. It's fantastic. They stand at Lipan Point and he feels like he can touch the sky. With a big grin he turns to Sam and his little brother smiles back at him, but Dean recognizes the defeat in his eyes.
They stay four days before they leave the Grand Canyon behind and Sam suggests that they drive to Bobby's. Dean is a surprised since he was about to suggest they drive to Missouri's.
They're halfway to South Dakota when he has to gas up the car. Sam is in the shop buying soda, while Dean calls Missouri. Apparently she's only two hours away from Bobby and the only thing he can say is 'thanks'.
One week suddenly sounds like too little time for all the things Dean has wanted to do before he goes to the crossroad, so he makes a list.
First thing he scratches off his list is writing down everything he knows about creatures of the dark side into a book for Sam. It's a good idea, but maybe he should have started earlier, he thinks, when he gets a cramp in his hand on the second day they're at Bobby's. Sam's calling for dinner when Dean finishes and he puts the book next to the letter for his brother.
On the third day he talks to Missouri endlessy about everything and nothing and is surprised by how good it feels.
Four days left, and Bobby gets a call about a ghost haunting an old chapel near the salvage yard. Dean offers to do the job and in the evening, he and Sam stand together at a grave and watch bones burn for the last time. Dean wonders if there will be something left of him to be burned.
Another thing he scratches off his list is to clean the Impala. He spends nearly a whole day with it, sorting his cassette tape collection, waxing the car and, when he's done, he puts the key in the envelope for his brother.
Two days and Sam tries his best to act normal, but Dean can see right through it. He has no way to really ease Sam's anguish – apart from not dying and going to hell, but that's kinda out of question – and so he talks to him like he did through the door of the bathroom in New Orleans. They even laugh when they recall the countless pranks they pulled on each other, and when the sun sets down they sit outside on the porch and silently enjoy each other's company.
It's only one day now, and Sam's brave facade from the last weeks shatters. He tries to apologize to Dean, but his older brother won't hear any of it. Instead he makes him promise not to do anything stupid. Sam promises and Dean is so happy about it he doesn't hear the weird way his brother pronounces 'stupid'.
It's nearly midnight and Sam is too wrung out to stay awake any longer. He thinks he has one last day with his brother, but Dean takes off his amulet and puts it into the envelope with the letter and the key. He lays it and the book on the nightstand next to Sam's bed and says a silent goodbye.
The sun is rising in a velvet sky and Dean walked enough so that when he's at the crossroads, Sam won't be able to find him. He sits on a stone and hopes his brother forgives him for sneaking out on him. He just couldn't let Sam see him torn apart by hellhounds. Sam would probably do something really stupid and get killed right along with Dean. No way Dean would let that happen.
The sun now touches the treetops of the poplars surrounding the crossroad at one side and he wonders when the demon will come to collect his soul. He has never been good at waiting, but waiting for his own death is a whole other level of torture. Maybe that is it why the demon hasn't appeared yet. The sun crosses the zenith and still there is no sign of any hellhounds. Slowly Dean begins to feel ridiculous. Here he is, waiting like lamb for the slaughter and they couldn't be bothered to appear.
He spends the afternoon humming every Metallica song he knows and starts on AC/DC when the stars begin appearing in the sky. He doesn't want to admit it, but his heart beats faster and faster with midnight drawing nearer. He should have known that the demon would come back by the time they had made the deal one year ago.
Midnight comes and goes and suddenly Dean has one year and one day to live. He stares at his watch and tries to figure out what has happened. Did the demon use another calendar? Wasn't the one year over? No, that could not be, they had made a binding deal. Dean's soul in exchange for Sam's life. Sam had come back so Dean's soul had to be due. Unless, he realizes, Sam had done something really stupid. Dean turns to the direction he has come from and starts to run.
It takes him two hours of straight running before Bobby's house comes into sight and he hasn't even any thought left to wish for Sam's longer legs which would make this whole marathon thing a lot easier. The only thought echoing in his mind is what his little brother had done to reserve the deal.
Bobby stands outside the porch, his face turned away from Dean, but he sees enough to know that the last time he had seen him so shaken was when Sam had died.
Dean stops dead in his tracks a few meters away. He dares not to come any closer because if he does, Bobby will tell him that his little brother is dead, having sacrificed himself to save Dean, and Dean can't bear the idea of losing Sam again.
Dean feels like no time has passed and he's back in the ghost town and his soul is taken away from him even before he sells it.
Then Bobby turns around and notices him. He's coming down the steps of the porch as fast as he can and grabs Dean in a hug. Bobby talks without stopping to take a breath, one sentence flooding into another and it's so uncommon for him that Dean needs a second to register what he's hearing.
'Poison.' 'I'm so glad you're okay.' 'No heartbeat.' 'Stupid boy.' 'We didn't know.' 'He should be fine.' 'I'm so glad you're okay.' 'You've got a hell of a brother.' 'Really stupid'.
Dean blinks. Once. Twice. Tries to fit 'No heartbeat.' and 'Should be fine.' in one sentence and comes up with nothing. Finally, Bobby lets him go and it's the first time Dean actually sees the man cry, but it looks like he's happy so it can't be bad, can it?
"Where?" he asks and Bobby points upstairs.
In no time Dean stands at the door to the room he and Sam share. Missouri sits on a chair next to Sam's bed, blocking Dean's view of it. She looks at Dean with the same strange relieved and torn face Bobby had.
"What happened?" He steps into the room, unsure if he really wants to know if it involves a dead Sam, but he has to know. One step closer, he can see his brother and when he sees Sam breathing, unconscious or sleeping or whatever, but breathing he can't take it any more.
For a woman of her build, Missouri is surprisingly fast and she grabs him before he can land on the floor, hard. She sits him down on the chair and he takes Sam's hand – it's warm – in his own and has no intention of ever letting it go again.
"What happened?" he asks again and Missouri explains it to him.
Explains about how Sam had found Dean's book and letter and refused to open it. She tells him that Sam took one of Bobby's cars to search every crossroad he could find, and that he got back having found nothing and just sat at the porch, doing nothing, staring of into the distance.
She tells him that Sam finally went upstairs and that somehow in his research months earlier he had come across the theory, that a deal is undone if the subject of the deal is no longer in existence when it comes the time to pay the debts, and that it had been his last resort and how she hadn't gotten any vibes at all from him about his plan until he had come down the stairs and showed them the poison and the antidote. Sam told them to wait until he really was dead before reviving him and then he lost consciousness.
She sounds apolegetic when she says that they didn't wait for Sam to die to try to save him, and Dean wouldn't have acted differently, but Sam died anyway and that's the point where Dean's grip on Sam's hand tightens.
"So he really died?" She nods. "But he's alive now?" She nods again and says something about the antidote working, but he's not really paying attention anymore. Sam is alive, that's what counts. She silently leaves the room while he strokes through Sam's hair.
Sam now looks more at peace than any other time during the last year and Dean doesn't know if he wants to laugh, cry or both at the insanity of all the things that happened the last 365 days. Sam hand moves in his, and Dean edges closer to his face, while keeping stroking his hair.
"It's me, Sammy," he whispers and his brother's eyes open a little bit.
"You're back … alive." He sounds exhausted, but his face lifts into a small smile and it's the most sincere smile Dean has seen all year.
"Yeah … thanks to you. Didn't you promise not to do anything stupid?"
Sam sheepishly looks at him. "Wasn't stupid … was the right thing to do," he says slowly, and then he's asleep again.
Dean stares at him and finally he understands it.
"Love you, too, little brother … love you, too."