Death Declines

S s S s S

A/N: Oh Mr. Kripke, you rascal. Your toys not mine. Not related to my story "Threefold".

S s S s S

Four days after Dean was dead and buried, Sam told Bobby to go home, got into the Impala and drove away.

He had no particular destination in mind, yielding to the need to be somewhere else, but there was nowhere else. Every where he went, Dean was still dead, still in hell and Sam was alone. He tried to tell himself that he preferred it that way, tried not to remember the time when there had been someone. Jess, college buddies, his father, his brother and once in another life, his mother. They were gone.

Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes.

He eventually stopped after twenty four hours or so of non stop driving, pulling abruptly to the side of the road. He couldn't breathe, the crushing mass of his grief squeezing into every cell of his body, asphyxiating him. He fell out of the car, onto his knees and hunched over on the wet grass gasping for air that would not come. His lungs burned in shame, his throat blocked by the bitter remnants of his failure.

He had loved them all and each and every one of them had died because of him, there were no mitigating circumstances, no excuses to hide behind. Four wasted years of studying the law and he was more than capable of recognizing his culpability. Four lives paid forfeit so that Sam Winchester could live.

No more tears flowed and he punched the side of the car, the pain bit into his knuckles, a fleeting chastisement. He hated the car, it would never be his. Dean had barely allowed him drive the damn thing and he had felt its disapproval traveling along the metal frame and rising up from the growling engine. Sam wasn't the only thing that Dean had pulled back from the grave.

Sam dragged his hand over the shiny surface, smearing the paintwork with fingerprints. An impassive judge, its interior steeped in the scent and presence of its former owner, its black, cold exterior reflecting his self-condemnation of his inadequacies. He wanted to die, to lie by the last fragment of his brother that was touched by the sun and rot into the ground.

He should have stayed dead, should have died a hundred times over, instead Death never followed through and another soul took his place, leaving his to wither in the barren hinterland of existence. Sam gasped and air trickled into his listless lungs, he tasted the earth on his tongue.

Dust to dust.

Bobby had told him to salt and burn his brother's body. Sam had refused, promising himself to bring Dean back. Back to what? Hunting, a war as threatened by the demons that crossed their path? Sam had found hell on earth. What difference would it make in the long run?

He's there because of you. You owe him, the treacherous voices in his head whispered.

He found a lonely crossroads and waited. The creature that emerged from the darkness laughed at him, a misshapen form of twisted bone and burnt flesh that stared at him with empty sockets and cackled through jagged blackened teeth before he had even spoken a word. It vanished into the night as quickly as it appeared. After that they never came.

Sam performed ritual after ritual, mostly to summon demons or spirits and command them to retrieve his brother. The entities he brought forth, if any, were insubstantial and would fade away almost immediately, the faint echo of ghostly voices mocking his efforts. There were charms and spells to bind Dean's soul to his own, none of them worked. The magic was there, he could smell the ozone creeping up from the ground but the power slipped deftly through his fingers and drifted away, evading his control and ignoring the words he chanted to harness it to his will.

Two weeks had passed, Dean was further away than ever, nothing more that an unbearable memory and some bones in a wooden box.

The note book was stuffed in a corner of the trunk, hidden by a battered box of shotgun shells, a couple of the pages had come loose and were caught in the cold breeze that blew Sam's hair into his eyes and sent the tattered paper fluttering across the overgrown yard.

Sam ran after them, snatching them from the air as the wind lifted them above his head. The small book had once belonged to Roy Le Grange or at least, his wife.

A reaper. A reaper called to take one life over another and if one was already dead, would it matter? The means to control the reaper had been destroyed along with the woman who had wielded it but the principle was much the same, and if it didn't work, Sam had only one thing to lose and it was getting harder and harder to care about keeping it.

He made the preparations in the living room of the abandoned house where he had spent the previous week, the discarded paraphernalia of useless rituals scattered across the dusty floorboards.

At first he was sure that his careful incantations had failed, the empty rooms around him quiet and undisturbed. He closed his eyes and sighed, sitting cross legged on the floor, a picture of Dean clutched to his heart. A door banged behind him. He opened his eyes; a young woman stood in the corner of the room, illuminated by a shaft of sunlight, dust motes dancing around her. She wore a long grey dress, modestly revealing her shoulders, gathering at the waist and flowing softly down to her ankles. Her dark hair was pulled back and secured with a white silken ribbon. She smiled shyly and moved towards him, gliding across the floor, her long skirts swishing in a gentle rhythm. Sam rose to his feet and she offered him a delicate hand. He took it, fingertips curling in on each other and her smile faltered.

"Please," Sam started and she pressed a finger to his lips and shook her head.

"I'm sorry, but I can't help you," her voice was light and musical and she softly pushed Sam's hand to his chest, withdrawing her own and stepping back.

"But you can't leave empty handed, can you?" Sam whispered, begging for her final touch, the photograph of his brother dropping to the ground.

She leaned forward, standing on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, a cool brush of butterfly wings that faded away to nothing and Sam was alone again.

He stood unmoving, listening to the murmurs and creaks of the house and the wind in the trees outside. Life carried on, people lived and died and Sam Winchester was always left behind. Dean was dead and was never coming back and Sam was never going to see him again.

He went back to the car and as he slammed the trunk shut he told it, "Don't worry; you won't have to put up with me any more." The smooth lines of the gun pressing into his palm.

He returned to the house and sat back down on the floor, checking the cylinder of the colt peacemaker. A full six rounds, he would only need one. He cocked the hammer and pressed the barrel against his temple, no need for a note or any last goodbyes. Bobby might hear about it one day and then the world could forget that the Winchesters had ever existed. Maybe he would see Dean.

He pulled the trigger, a dull click sounded in his ear and after a second the hammer snapped forward. The gun did not fire.

He cocked the gun again, his finger tight around the trigger, the same thing happened. Third time lucky, he rechecked the cylinder and mechanism. Everything was in order. The gun still did not fire.

He flung it onto the floor and it spun across the room, tangling in the cobwebs in the shadowed corners. He ran from the house, the door banging behind him. He had other weapons but the trunk catch jammed and he pounded on the metal, his strength draining. There were other ways, fast roads and careless drivers. The Impala did not start; the engine unresponsive and immune to Sam's screams of frustration.

He was confined to a life he did not want, as surely as his brother was confined to the crude coffin that Sam had buried in a lonely wood.

He went back into the house, curled up on the makeshift bed he had set up in one of the upstairs rooms, went to sleep and dreamt that he had a reason to live.

The End.