AN: This idea's been floating around in my head for a while now. I've tried writing it a couple of times but I've been in a real rut these last few weeks when it comes to writing. Still I think I accomplished what I was going for, so I hope you enjoy this Coda for Mystery Spot.

Thanks to Shuffles for the edit!

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from Supernatural

The Countdown Continues

"What happened?" Dean asked, leaning against the hood of the Impala; beer held loosely in his hand.

"Dean…" Sam said with a sigh, looking up from his own untouched bottle.

"Sammy," his brother returned in the exact same overly patient tone. "It's been more than a week; you're still not acting like yourself."

Dean had pulled them off the back country road they'd been driving for most of the day. The silence in the Impala had been particularly heavy but Sam didn't care; Dean was alive that was all that mattered to him. Clearly though, that wasn't enough for the older Winchester. He wanted answers about what happened in Broward County; he wanted to understand.

Sam didn't believe there was a way he could make his brother understand what he'd gone through, what he'd been forced to live at the mercy of the Trickster. He'd watched Dean die more than a hundred times, over and over again with nothing Sam could do to prevent it. And if that hadn't been bad enough, he'd lived three long hard months with his brother dead and buried.

At the same time Sam needed Dean to understand, to finally see this deal through Sam's eyes. He needed Dean to understand and accept what his deal was going to do to Sam. Dean seemed convinced that Sam would be able to simply carry on in his wake, to continue the work their dad started so many years ago. Sam didn't know if that would be possible; he wouldn't have the driving focus of killing the Trickster when Dean's deal finally came due.

"Hey," Dean's voice broke through the cloud of dark thoughts, his fingers snapping in front of Sam's face. "You still with me?"

"Yeah," Sam slapped his brother's hand away and cracked open his beer. Taking a long pull the hunter shuddered, wishing it was a lot stronger.

"What's going on in that freaky head of yours?" Dean pressed, nudging Sam's shoulder with his fist.

"Nothing," Sam growled, glaring all the harder at the smirk which crept across his brother's face at his poor word choice. "Look, can't you just leave it alone?" He didn't like the pleading tone he heard in his own voice

"No, I don't think so," Dean told him firmly, taking a sip from his beer. "What did you see?"

"I saw you die," Sam barked the response. "I thought that was obvious, I watched you die more than a hundred times!"

Dean was silent for a moment watching Sam intently before pushing himself up from the Impala. "Yeah, but that's not all," he said standing in front of Sam. "There's something else, isn't there?"

Of course there was, but Sam struggled to find the words to explain it. He'd lived those three months, each moment as clear to him as the day before and yet they hadn't happened. Or had they, and the Trickster had simply taken pity on him and erased it?

It felt like a dream, except for the fact that the details were all too sharp. Even the most vivid nightmare begins to fade after waking, but for Sam the memories of those three months stood out sharply. His left hand moved absently to his chest, feeling a phantom pain from where he'd dug a bullet out of his rib. It had all been so real; he'd had to check in a mirror just to convince himself that it hadn't actually happened.

"Seriously Sam, what happened?" Dean pressed, clearly unwilling to let this go.

Sam pulled his eyes away from Dean's scrutiny, looking down at his beer bottle. "You died," he began fiddling with the label on the bottle, "in the motel's parking lot. I think it was a mugging gone bad." He couldn't believe he was trying to explain this but now that he'd started Sam couldn't seem to stop the words tumbling out.

"You were shot and there wasn't anything I could do…you died in my arms and I…" Sam choked on his words and forced himself to look up at his brother, proving to himself that Dean was still alive. "I didn't wake up."

Dean's expression was hard to read as he returned to sitting on the hood of the Impala, his shoulder brushing lightly against Sam's.

"I always woke up, right after," he continued, swallowing hard. The fact that it was undone almost as quick as it happened didn't make watching Dean's death any easier. "I held you in my arms…until you'd gone cold," he cleared his throat sharply, "and I didn't wake up."

"How long?" Dean asked again, voice barely above a whisper.

Sam forced himself to swallow a mouthful of beer in a desperate attempt to dislodge the lump holding fast in his throat. "Three months."

"It wasn't real," his brother attempted to offer some solace.

"Dean. It felt real." Sam told him bluntly. "I buried you," his voice broke on the admission and he quickly looked away

It was Dean's turn to clear his throat. "How much do you remember?"

"Of the three months?" Sam asked, receiving a nod in reply. "All of it."

"You know it was just the Trickster screwing with your head," his brother tried.

Sam wasn't so easily convinced. "You know damn well he could make it real," Sam fumed pulling a hand sharply through his hair.

"But he undid it," Dean was quick to point out.

"Only to have me live it again for real!" his anger flared as Sam suddenly came to his feet, pacing across the dirt shoulder of the road. The hunter drained the last of his beer, clenching the amber bottle tightly in his hand. "I can't do that again…"

Dean drained the last of his own beer and got to his feet. "Then I suggest we get back to work," he said simply, moving to slip his empty bottle back into the open case concealed in the back of the Impala.

Sam stared at his brother in disbelief, unable to understand how Dean could just shrug it all aside so easily. He knew damn well that his brother wasn't nearly as 'okay' with this as he let on. They'd talked about it already, more than once but it always went back to the same; Dean Winchester laughed in the face of death

Pulling a hand through his hair, Sam released a frustrated breath. He guessed he shouldn't be surprised that this was how Dean would react, how else could his brother deal with this but to shrug it aside? The younger Winchester had been right; there wasn't a way he could explain this to Dean to make his brother understand. But maybe there was also no way Dean could show just how much he did.

They weren't about to give up without a fight, but in Sam's heart he knew their chances were slim. With each passing day and each dead end, their options for rescuing Dean's soul shrunk at an alarming rate. He tried to see the approaching end through Dean's eyes, and wondered if it could possibly hurt Dean as much as it was going to hurt him.

"C'mon Sammy," Dean called; he was standing one leg inside the Impala leaning casually against the opened driver's side door.

Sam swallowed hard forcing himself to meet Dean's green eyes as he slowly walked back over to the car. His brother was still with him, alive and breathing; he had to focus on that.

"Bella's trail's still hot," Dean commented, settling behind the wheel and turning the key in the ignition. The Impala rumbled to life a moment before AC/DC began blasting over the speakers.

The younger hunter settled on the passenger's side of the bench, pulling his creaking door closed. He leaned his head back, letting his eyes fall closed for a long minute as he listened to the classic rock and the sound of Dean's fingers strumming against the wheel. Sam savored the feeling of home and for a moment the impending date three months in their future felt miles away and possible to avoid.

Three months…The countdown was back on.

Thanks for Reading

Morganeth Taren'drel