Okay so this isn't the humour fic I was going to write but I've had this stuck on my computer for awhile now and after watching the finale, I've finally put the finishing touches to it.

Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or the Winchester brothers ā€“ worse luck.

A/N:Many huge thanks to THEvampireninja for being an awesome beta with the patience of a saint. Any and all remaining mistakes are my own. Warning - this story contains spoilers for the season finale.

Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

"It's like I'm cursed or something, death just seems to follow me around."

Sam Winchester ā€“ "Provenance."

-I-

When Sam is six-years-old Dean wins him a goldfish at a funfair. Dean thinks the thing is boss-eyed, more muddy coloured than golden and glaringly undersized, easily the runt of the litter. Do goldfish even have litters? Whatever, never mind. Sam still loves it. He names it Fred which Dean states is the lamest name for a fish he's ever heard ("yeah and exactly how many fish do you know personally Dean?") and hasn't it been cursed enough already with comical boggle eyes. Dean suggests calling it Optimus Prime but Sam simply shakes his head and Fred remains Fred, Sam's geek fish.

The boys aren't allowed to keep pets but dad isn't around to get angry about Fred; he's been away on a hunt for almost a week. Dean was hoping Sam would take a little simple pleasure out of looking after a goldfish for awhile but now, now Dean feels guilty. He wasn't expecting Sam to become so...attached and Dean's left counting down the days until dad returns and Fred gets sent on a voyage down the porcelain bowl of the toilet. It's not that Fred would demand a lot of looking after. Right now he seems content enough to swim tiny circles in the empty plastic ice cream tub which he calls home but any type of pet is a commitment and a distraction and something dad doesn't want them to have. Not when there are survival skills to be learnt, hand to hand combat moves to be mastered and the relentless call of the hunt, hunt, hunt to dominate their lives. Sammy loves Fred but dad wouldn't understand.

When dad phones Dean saying he'll be back before the weekend, Dean decides it's time to tell Sam he can't keep Fred any longer and maybe he could give the fish to one of the kids at school. He plans to drop the bombshell at suppertime, right in-between mouthfuls of mac and cheese, like he's merely passing comment on the weather or how mind numbingly boring fifth period History was at school. Trying to delay the moment, Dean takes a long drawn out sip of his milk as though he thinks he can disappear behind the glass he's holding but as he lowers it ready to speak, he catches sight of the blatant misery fixed on Sam's face and with Dean left sitting baffled at the table, his little brother gets up from his chair and runs, disappearing into the refuge of their motel room's minuscule bathroom.

Sam doesn't come out for over an hour. Dean seats himself Indian style on the floor, his back leaning against the bathroom door, waiting. Eventually he hears the toilet flush and when Sam finally unlocks the door; a pair of red rimmed bloodshot eyes peer down at Dean. Dean doesn't say anything but instead reaches up a hand and tugs at Sam's shirt until Sam allows himself be pulled onto his brother's lap. Dean rests his chin on the top of Sam's head, strands of tousled chestnut hair tickling at his nose and holds his breath as he waits for Sam to spill the beans.

"Fred's gone Dean; he was dead when I went to feed him this morning, Iā€”I was going to tell you earlier. Guess he was real old huh?"

"Awww crap, I'm sorry Sammy. It was a cheap ass funfair; makes sense they were giving away geriatric goldfish as hoopla prizes. I never should have given you Fred in the first place especially when I knew dad would never let you keep him."

Sam sniffs loudly and tries hard not to make a big wet patch on Dean's t-shirt.

A month later and they're in Texas, Dean's on laundry duty and that more than sucks. While sorting through the huge pile of dirty clothes, he lifts up a pair of Sam's jeans and notices the back pocket has a lump in it. He sticks his hand inside and...great, there's Fred, wrapped in an old piece of rag. Not floating down a sewer drain somewhere but wedged in Sam's pocket like a pack of gum or a treasured keepsake.

By the time the sun is setting marking the end of another day, Dean and Sam place Fred inside an old tobacco tin and bury him in the bone-dry soil behind their motel. It's not exactly a rose garden, not a pleasant resting place in amongst the litter, used syringes and old tyres but it'll have to do. Sam mumbles something in Latin over a cross made from two ice-lolly sticks tied with a shoelace. Too young at present for anything other than the studious side of hunting and clearly wanting to give his dad something to be proud of him for, Sam took to learning Latin almost as soon as he could talk. Dean doesn't hear everything Sam says but he does make out the words "quiescat in pace." Dean smiles sadly and slings an arm around Sam's shoulders as he leads his brother back towards the motel. Yeah, 'rest in peace' Fred.

-II-

Sam's mother dies when he is six months old. He doesn't remember her of course, doesn't have one single solitary memory of her; all he does have is a handful of dog-eared photographs and Dean's stories. When Sam lays it on thick, really thick, Dean will surrender to the indisputable power Sam's piteous puppy dog eyes have on him and agree to tell his brother something new about their mom but only late at night and only when dad is asleep or away on a hunt. Sam listens to Dean's stories with rapt attention, clinging to each and every word. Trying to imagine there ever really was a time which existed before the endless stream of motel rooms (same room, different State) and inedible TV dinners. A time when the Winchesters were just an ordinary family, when his regimented father would flitter away the weekends on hobbies like golf and mom indulged her passion for art by painting huge canvases in a workshop space dad cleared for her in the attic.

When the stories are over and Dean's sleeping like a baby, Sam lays awake concentrating with fierce determination on trying to recall what it must have been like to have been held in his mother's arms. What her laugh sounded like and how soft her hair must have felt as it caressed his face when she lent down to give him a kiss. Try as he might, he can't remember, not a goddamn thing.

Sam only discovers that it was the Yellow Eyed Demon who was the cause of his mother's death when he reads about it in his dad's journal; he's eight-years-old. It's the same night Dean tells him the truth about the existence of monsters and demons and the ongoing battle between darkness and light. Suddenly everything makes sense. All the moving from town to town, the Latin and religious symbology lessons, the way dad preaches about self defence and self reliance until he's bordering on the fanatical side... it's no longer merely some left over crap from dad's Marine days (dad's not crazy) but rather the difference between living or dying. A whole new world opens up for Sam on that Christmas Eve night but he just wants to close the door and lock it out. The season rapidly ceases to be jolly, the door is wide open and Sam is terrified.

Sam doesn't find out that mom died in his nursery, above his crib, until he's fourteen. And it's dad who lets that little beauty slip, right in the middle of a huge argument over "self-centred", "pig-headed" Sam's refusal to spend the night helping to complete a banishing ritual on a water wraith at a lake in Louisiana because he wants to spend the night completing his English assignment on wartime poets. The hunt wins in the end and the ritual works like a charm too but not before Sam receives a nasty blow to the head after being thrown by the wraith who doesn't want to be banished from the lake, thank you very much. "Too distracted by daydreams about damn Wilfred Owen" his dad bellows while Dean, white faced and shaken up badly enough to neglect trying to conceal the worry brimming in his eyes, removes his shirt and uses it to try and soak up the blood trickling in a crimson stream from the gash on the back of Sam's head. 'Too distracted by nightmares about mom on fire with her blood dripping down onto my baby blanket' thinks Sam...just before his eyes begin to roll up in their sockets and he passes out.

-III-

Four months before Sam loses the love of his life to the Yellow Eyed Demon, he loses his buddy Luke in an armed robbery at a local convenience store. Luke and Sam had gone on foot to a nearby 7-Eleven to fetch some snacks to eat while watching a movie. A kung-fu movie marathon to be exact which Luke has talked Sam into watching with him. Five hours of impressive fight moves and God awful dubbing is more Dean's style and not particularly appealing to Sam but he agrees when he remembers how much he'd enjoyed watching "The Legend of Drunken Master" with Dean years ago and the way Dean had roared with laughter when Sam tried to mimic Jackie Chan and broke the coffee table...as well as his own ankle. Dean stopped laughing then, abruptly, as if his vocal cords had snapped.

The guy robbing the store is wearing a mask which hides his face well. He doesn't need to shoot Luke who is unarmed and beginning to wonder if his love for Herr's Corn Chips is going to end up costing him more than just a few dollars. Luke is shot in the chest at point-blank range right in the center of the aisle where his favourite potato chips are stacked. Luke locks eyes with the man who pulls a gun from his jacket pocket but no words are exchanged just a look, a cold detached stare from the guy pulling the trigger and one of outright terror from Luke as he blinks at the sudden flash caused when the bullet explodes from the barrel.

Sam is browsing near the back of the store, checking out what is on offer in the way of microwavable popcorn. He hears the gunshot and his deeply embedded hunter instincts (thanks dad) send him reaching for the small knife tucked in the waistband of his jeans. Sam kills the gunman, a clean single stab wound to the carotid sheath in the man's neck; the blade severs the internal carotid artery as well as the jugular vein. Sam takes a bullet to the shoulder before he delivers the killing blow. He is familiar with injuries like a regular army field medic (yes, thanks dad) and recognizes a flesh wound when he feels one, probably won't even need that many stitches either. But Luke is another story, a horror story. He's wheezing out his last breaths when Sam lowers himself to the floor and hauls Luke onto his lap. Sam clamps both hands down on Luke's chest but he can't stop the bleeding, he can't stop Luke's life from leaking away one pint at a time. Luke doesn't take long to die but it's no small mercy. He reaches out shaking blood smeared fingers and scrabbles feebly at Sam's t-shirt, silently pleading for help as his ruined chest heaves with broken sobs until his face is smeared with tears and snot. And Sam can't do anything apart from watch, clutch Luke's hand and wait for death to come take his friend away.

After the incident, Sam's classmates look at him differently, stealing cautious glances or whispering behind cupped hands ("I heard he stabbed that dude ten times. What if he goes psycho in the cafeteria or something? Hey don't laugh man! Shit like that can happen.") He quickly becomes the talk of the college campus when all he wanted was to stay under the radar and get through his studies quietly and unnoticed (a ghost) but even Jess can't stop herself from staring at him likes she thinks he's the second coming.

He turns down the counselling sessions he's offered to help 'deal with the trauma of being shot', it's not like it's his first bullet wound and he never needed counselling before. Then again, he's always had Dean before. Brother, father, best friend and councillor extraordinaire or in Sam's mind, just plain old 'jerk'. But Sam doesn't have Dean to fall back on anymore and if he looks at Dean's number on his cell phone's display screen and sits quiet and unmoving for an hour or two with his thumb hovering uselessly over the 'call' button, well, nobody needs to know about it. Or the way that during those moments it's not just his healing shoulder that throbs with a dull ache.

A week before Luke's funeral The Stanford Daily features an article on the shooting which makes Sam out to be a regular small town hero but Luke is dead and Sam doesn't feel like a hero. He feels like he's on the Grim Reaper's payroll and wonders how many showers it'll take to wash the scent of death from his body.

When Jessica dies, Sam takes nine showers in a row, interspersed with periods of kneeling on the cool tile of the motel bathroom floor unable to do anything other than cry as he begins to really believe that death truly is his shadow. He feels like Pig Pen, with his trailing dust cloud. If it wasn't so painfully unfunny, he'd laugh.

-IV-

When the Impala is totalled by a semi driven by a possessed trucker, all three Winchester men are airlifted to hospital. Sam escapes lightest with cuts, bruises and a minor concussion which is all just fine and dandy for Sam except that Dean is dying, his dad is badly injured and all Sam can think about is that he's fucking cursed. He wants to bolt from the hospital and run, run until he's miles away from his family. Perhaps head for another state or another country, anywhere just as long as it's far away because maybe then they'll be safe (from him). However Sam doesn't leave because he can't bear to abandon Dean (to die) but he sure as hell can't bear to lose Dean either, he simply cannot bear it.

In between hospital bedside vigils Sam visits the hospital chapel and prays for the first time in a long time. He's not been on the best terms with God since Jessica but he's not too shameless to swallow his pride and pray, not when it's for his brother. The chapel is peaceful and the lighting dim. Sam takes a seat near the back and lets his fingers run over the soft leather bound bible resting on the chair beside him. Eventually he picks it up and leafs through the pages, occasionally stopping to pause on a particular verse. The words are achingly familiar; tugging at distant memories of times spent studying at Pastor Jims as well as long sleepless nights whenever Sam had been left questioning his own actions on a particular hunt and had sought comfort in the one book guaranteed to be found in every motel room they ever stayed in.

In the end Sam is astonished that God might actually have heard him and paid heed to his desperate whispered prayers because low and behold Dean surprises everyone by making a complete recovery. Death follows Sam but maybe, just maybe, he's finally starting to shake it off his tail. In any case he's thankful, so thankful.

Sam finds his dad dead on the floor of his hospital room that same day (not possible, can't be happening, dad is...was getting better). Death has picked up Sam's trail again and instead it's faith that Sam loses as he watches the flames from his fathers funeral pire lick at the night sky.

-V-

Death finally catches up with Sam in Cold Oak, South Dakota.

When Sam's legs crumple, knees smacking into the cold wet mud on the edge of a decaying ghost town, Dean is there to catch him. Dean holds tight to his brother's limp body and pulling Sam's head to rest against his shoulder he runs a trembling hand through thick chestnut hair. The last thing Sam 

sees before closing his eyes is Dean fighting to twist his bloodless lips into a smile even though the crushing weight of grief is unmistakable on Dean's face, raging behind his false mask of strained calm. Sam dies from a stab wound to his back which cuts Dean's heart from his chest at the same minute it cuts through Sam's spine.

Brought back from the dead on his twenty-fourth birthday Sam feels different, distorted, wrong. He's still Sam but it's as if Jake severed more than just his spinal cord. Sam cheated death at its own game but he didn't win, for him there is no victory. Because although Sam's alive he knows death will ultimately come to take back what it is owed.

Death comes to collect on Sam's twenty-fifth birthday. "Keep fighting." Dean begs, emotions normally kept guarded instead burn boldly in his moist eyes. Live for me.

The hellhounds arrive with the final chimes of midnight still ringing in Sam's ears and they succeed in ripping away the only family Sam has left.

Dean had been clear, he had grabbed every moment alone with Sam as an opportunity to reiterate his wish that Sam carry on the fight but Sam can't imagine continuing to exist in this craphole of a world when all he wants to do is to take death's hand and embrace it like an old friend and not the enemy he has tried to outrun for so long. To carry out Dean's wish will be Sam's greatest battle yet but for Dean, for Dean, he'll live.

-Fin-

Phew! Does the longest one-shot I've ever done happy dance aka the dance of the demented SN fic writer. I've rewritten parts of this story so many times; I hope you liked the end result. I had a really hard job writing the last section after watching the finale.

A/N ā€“ In case you don't know your cartoons - Optimus Prime is one of the Transformers and Pig Pen is a character from 'Peanuts'.