By Deana W
Summary: (Mystery Spot) Sam wasn't the only one who had a lesson to learn during those 3 months alone, nor is he completely alone. After his death, Dean watches from the sidelines and sees the consequences of his deal and just maybe, a way out. Too bad he won't remember when the Trickster snaps his fingers.
A/N: The central idea for this story is something I wanted to write for some time, but couldn't figure out how. Then "Mystery Spot" came along, and an abandoned idea is given new life. Plus it gives me the opportunity to expand on those three months when Sam was alone, something I wanted to do since the episode aired, but I still wanted Dean to be present, so the two ideas merged. If you stick with me, you'll see what I mean. To be honest, the jury's still out on how I feel about this chapter, but I hope you'll bear with me and enjoy. And please leave a review. I thrive on constructive criticism.
Disclaimer: "Supernatural" and all the characters you recognize are not mine, but you already knew that I'm sure.
He couldn't quite remember what happened, or how he ended up on the ground or why his chest hurt and everything else felt…numb.
He glanced up and saw Sam running frantically down the stairs in obvious worry for his brother. "I'm OK Sam, I must've…. fell or something," he said, slightly unnerved because he couldn't remember falling. He quickly climbed to his feet, embarrassed because he felt the need to use the back of the impala for support, but Sam still looked panicked as he ran towards him. "Seriously dude, I'm OK…" Dean expected Sam to grab him by the shoulders to steady him and ask him if he was hurt, but Sam wasn't even looking at him Dean realized. Instead Sam dropped to the pavement in despair and with a gulp Dean was suddenly hit with a weird feeling of déjà vu.
Following Sam's movements he saw Sam wrap his arms around Dean's body.
"Not today, not today," he lamented, "This wasn't supposed to happen today."
Dean gaped as he watched the scene unfold. He saw the blood pour from the wound on his chest—gunshot wound—he suddenly remembered, and as the memory returned, the dull ache in his chest sharpened into agonizing pain. Dean clutched his chest, doubling over from the pain and saw blood seeping through his fingers. It was his turn to panic now as he wondered what the hell was going on. He gasped, breathing heavily even though he was aware that he didn't need to breathe. He was dead.
As the realization hit and he acknowledged that fact, the pain subsided, and the blood pouring from his non-corporeal chest stopped, leaving only a red stain, though the pool of blood gathering under his body continued to grow.
He knelt beside Sam, who was now crying over his body and he attempted to put a comforting hand on Sam's shoulder, but Sam didn't feel it. In fact, his hand only went through him, sending a shiver through Sam. Seeing Sammy in such despair bothered Dean at that moment more than the knowledge that at any second now he'd probably be dragged into Hell. "Aw man, I don't know what happened, but… it's going to be OK. I don't know how but…"
"He can't hear you, you know," a feminine voice said.
"I know but I was hoping…" Dean turned to the voice and saw a woman who was vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place her. "You can hear me. But then why can you hear me? You a psychic or something?"
She cocked her head to the side and rolled her eyes, but her tone and demeanor remained eerily calm. "Dean. Come on. You know better than that. Don't you remember me?"
He stared at her, studying her large gray eyes, her fair complexion and dark hair. She was beautiful, and her features were so familiar but he couldn't remember her at all, "A spirit?"
"Close," she shrugged, "Guess again."
Dean sighed and mentally kicked himself, because the answer was obvious. He was a dead guy now after all, "A reaper?"
She nodded gently.
"You're prettier than the last reaper I met," Dean commented lightly, but his voice betrayed his growing apprehension, "I thought reapers were old and wrinkly, like those creatures on Buffy who put the mute button on Sunnydale."
She laughed at that, "We can look however we want. Besides, I am actually the last reaper you met."
Dean nodded, "Sam said something about me fighting a reaper when I was in that coma. It was you?"
She nodded again, but her expression was somewhat sour, "You were the one who got away Dean Winchester."
"So I guess," he took a deep, but unnecessary breath, but old habits die hard, "I guess this is it. You're taking me to Hell now."
"You seem a lot more accepting of your fate than the last time I saw you," she said, "Last time you were stubborn, you even begged me not to take you. Ironic since last time you were fated for far better."
"Last time I saw you I was still breathing," Dean pointed out. He looked over at his body lying cold and lifeless. It was surreal and unnerving and sent shivers down his ghostly spine.
"Not on your own," the reaper retorted.
"Touché," Dean replied.
He knelt beside the grieving Sam and felt a pang in his heart. Sam looked the way Dean had felt those few months ago when Sam was the one lying dead.
"I guess it's easier to accept when you know it's coming," Dean mused, "but I thought I'd have more time."
Unless it involved a beautiful woman, Dean was not into the touchy-feely hugging thing. In fact Dean could count on one hand the number of times he hugged Sam since he was thirteen. Every time it was in the aftermath of a life and death situation. The most recent being when Sam had returned from the dead. The Winchester men had their own ways of expressing their love, but Dean had an uncontrollable urge to wrap his arms around Sam and pull him into a tight bear hug in comfort and tell him everything was going to be all right, even though they both knew it wasn't. Dean was Hell-bound. How could that be all right?
Even though he already knew it was impossible, he tried anyway. His arms went through Sam, and Sam shivered suddenly and violently and Dean quickly moved away. Sam gently released Dean's body and straightened, he cupped his hands to his mouth and blew, rubbed them together and then wrapped his arms around himself, shivering, completely unaware that it was more than the chilly morning that made him cold. Sam sniffed, absently rubbed his eyes and said, "I'm going to fix this Dean, I promise. I don't know how but…somehow I'll fix this.
"I'm so sorry Sammy," Dean whispered, a part of him hoping his message somehow got through to him, "but um… it's going to be OK. I mean, dad got out, right? I'll find a way out too. Just promise you'll be safe and try to be happy OK?"
"How is he supposed to be happy?" the reaper asked, "You left him alone in the world."
"Not my fault."
"Not your fault you left early," she corrected him, "You were still going to leave him."
He sighed in acquiescence, "Not much we can do about that now is there?"
She tilted her head and shrugged slightly with an expression of ambiguity. She gave him a small, unreadable smile. "You should've never made that deal Dean."
"What was I supposed to do? Let him die? I was supposed to save him, he's my brother, it was my job to protect him, save him!" Dean was on the defense, and he raised his voice, letting the reaper feel his anger and despair as the memories of that night washed over him.
"Or kill him," she added.
"I would never do that," Dean spat, "I'd die first."
"And that's the problem," she sighed. "Dean, you know that expression about the road to Hell?"
Dean knew, but he didn't answer, instead he watched as Sam covered Dean's face with his jacket. Sam's lips twitched as he worked to erase the emotion from his face. To fight back the hurt and rage that was threatening to seep from his eyes and mouth. It was a look that frightened Dean, because there was an eerie coldness in his blank expression reminiscing of the look he had when he killed Jake.
"It's paved with good intentions," she continued.
"I know that," Dean snapped, turning his attention back to her, "but he's my brother."
"And you're not the only one traveling that road," she added.
Dean's eyes narrowed, "What do you mean?"
She sighed, "You think dying for Sam is going to save him?" Her tone was calm, but Dean could sense she was getting irritated.
Dean nodded, "He's alive isn't he? I mean, yeah, I didn't want to die, but it looks like I would've died anyway seeing as I'm having a conversation with a reaper. I saved Sam, nothing else matters. At least I can die knowing that."
The reapers large, soft gray eyes closed and she murmured wearily, "You just don't get it, do you Dean?"
"I know," was his resigned reply, "I know where I'm going. There's no need to rub it in, I know what I'm in store for. I know what I'll become."
"Denial," she huffed, "No wonder you're so calm, you're in denial. You have no idea what's in store…"
"Yes, I do!" Dean snapped. "Fire, brimstone, torture, loss of humanity the works… I get it!"
"Not just for you, but for what you're leaving behind," she remained calm despite his outburst, "or have you already forgotten there's a war going on?"
"So I made the deal!" Dean hissed, "So what? Turns out it wasn't even the deal that did me in anyway, so it's all a moot point, right? At least one of us is still standing to fight so spare me the lecture lady and let's get this over with all right?"
"And you're OK with leaving Sam to fight on his own? You sure weren't last time we met," the reaper stated, "and the war had barely even begun then."
"No, I'm not OK with leaving Sam on his own. But…what difference does it make? Besides, I trust him. He might have a hard time for now, but he'll be OK," Dean didn't sound very sure. He looked at Sam again, who was sitting on the trunk of the Impala, his skin was white, his face was hard and his eyes were narrowed, but glistening with the moisture of unshed tears, tears he was trying to hold back. He was staring blankly at Dean's motionless form on the pavement, his chin trembled slightly and his throat bobbed as he fought hard to emulate Dean's stoicism and keep from crying. The only deliberate move he made was to turn his head towards the sound of oncoming sirens.
"Please be safe Sammy. Be OK," Dean pleaded. "I hope you'll retire from the family business. I hope you'll find you a nice, sweet girl and live happily ever after. But don't forget me dude, please. Whatever you choose to do, don't forget me or I swear, if I ever find my way out of Hell I will haunt your ass. We're talking demon Nair in your shampoo man. Same thing goes for if you hurt my car." He stepped up beside Sam and put his hand on Sam's shoulder, or at least went through the motion of putting his hand on his brother's shoulder. He stopped his palm just before his hand could go through him, his fingers barely went through the collar of Sam's jacket, "Anyway, promise me Sam you will take care, OK? Bye Sammy."
Dean pretended to give Sam a pat on the back and then shifted his eyes towards the reaper. He took a deep, unnecessary breath and said, "I'm ready. Just make it quick." He closed his eyes and waited.
"Make what quick?"
"You're a reaper right? Well hurry and reap my soul to Hell, get it over with," Dean pressed.
"No," she murmured softly.
"No?" he was incredulous.
"And why not?"
"For starters, do I look like a Hellhound to you?"
"No, but you're a reaper, so dragging my ass to Hell is part of your job, right? And to be quite honest, I'd rather have you take me there than Hellhounds so…"
"Secondly," she continued as though he said nothing, "it's not your time yet."
Dean snorted, and tilted his chin to the body on the pavement, "Tell that to my corpse."
"I mean your contract entitles you to one whole year before going to Hell."
"Meaning you still have a few months left. I could take you there now, but wouldn't you rather stay away for as long as you can?"
"So what? You're letting me hang out in Heaven for a while first?"
"No," she said, "You stay here, on Earth, as a spirit. Purgatory."
"I thought Purgatory was where souls hung out until they atoned for their sins so they could go to Heaven."
She nodded, "Yeah, something like that."
"But no matter what, I'm Hell bound."
Dean perked up, "Are you saying…"
She lifted a shoulder ambiguously and gave a look that said, "Maybe."
"I thought you said that if I stayed here, then I might become an angry spirit," Dean mused.
"So you are starting to remember me," she smiled. "And there's always that risk, yes, but it would take time for that to happen, time you don't have."
"Can I ask you why?"
"Why you seem to be helping me?" Dean frowned.
She lifted her eyes to meet his, "What makes you think I'm helping you? I just figure since your fate is sealed…for now…there's no need to take you to Hell so soon."
"Why do I get the feeling there's an ulterior motive though?" Dean asked, trying to still the quiet panic that was slowly creeping through him, threatening to reach the surface.
"I guess I can understand why you'd want to get it over with Dean. But if I take you now, there's no going back. If you stay here, there's still a chance for you. Maybe it's too late to save you in body, but not in spirit. So I am helping you, but really you need to help yourself," she replied.
"What are my odds?" Dean asked, "What's the likelihood I'll be saved? Ruby said there was no way to save me from the pit."
"Demons lie," she shrugged.
"And I thought reapers were neutral," Dean added, "So why help me?"
"I have my reasons," was her calm reply.
"And they are…?"
She paused, and sighed heavily, and wearily. Her large gray eyes were unreadable, but Dean had a feeling that behind her own stoic expression there was something eating away at her, a burden that Dean couldn't quite figure out. She closed her eyes and said softly, "Dean, there's a lesson to be learned before you go."
"OK, I'm listening," Dean held his hands out to his side, palms towards her, open, defeated, ready to hear what she had to say. He didn't know what else was so important to learn, especially now that he was dead. "Teach me oh, Death. What is this valuable lesson I have to learn?"
"I'm afraid you're going to have to figure that out on your own. There are rules to follow and I'm a busy reaper, you do understand," she didn't sound sarcastic, or annoyed, rather her tone was gentle and sympathetic.
"And if I learn this lesson? Will that save me?" Dean's frustration was growing.
"Then what's the point?"
"You're going to have to trust me," she put her hand on his cheek, her expression soft and genuine.
Dean momentarily turned away from her as Sam banged his fist on the trunk of the Impala. His face was red, his eyes moist and his expression filled with hurt anger. Dean wanted to reach out to him, and the fact he couldn't made him regret all the times he pushed Sammy away and only added to the growing frustration and fear inside him. When he turned back towards the reaper, she was gone.
A/N Thank you for reading. Please, leave a review and tell me what you think!