The Accidental Tourist
This story appeared in the Mystery Spot inspired zine, Every Possible Way.
Sam Winchester lay in bed, listening to the song playing on the radio. At first, he'd been surprised to see his brother lip synching and almost dancing to it. Normally Dean listened to pre-80's rock; Sam didn't even know he'd heard of Asia, let alone knew the words to one of their songs. But after waking up the same way – the exact same way – almost 30 times, Sam was long-passed the surprise.
It wasn't that the same song happened to be playing on the radio every morning for the past month. That would have been irritating enough, but instead, Sam and Dean had lived the same Tuesday nearly 30 times.
It hadn't taken Sam long to realize that they were in some kind of a time loop and, at first, he thought they could get out of it simply by varying their activities. That hadn't worked though, and every day ended the same way: with Dean's death. It didn't always happen the same way, but it always happened. No matter what they did, Dean died and the day reset.
Sam had explained the time loop to Dean every new Tuesday, but this time had something else in mind.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam called as his brother danced his way back to the bathroom.
"How about we take the day off?"
Dean stuck his head into the room. "Huh? What about the job? The whole Mystery Spot thing?"
"Tomorrow's soon enough for that. Come on; I feel like playing hooky."
Dean looked at him, a curious expression on his face. "Hooky? You? You never even missed a day of school, what –"
"Just humor me, okay?" Sam tossed the covers aside and got out of bed. "It's Florida, man, let's do something fun. I was reading about places that have airboat rides, or there's a planetarium, beach cafes, a state of the art arcade with all kinds of games and even go-karts, all kinds of stuff we never get to do. It's just one day."
Sam pushed past his brother, ignoring the disbelieving look on his face, and reached into the shower to turn on the water. He slipped his t-shirt over his head and looked back at Dean. "We can go back to work on Wednesday."
Sam was surprised by Dean's agreement to take the day off. It wasn't beyond them to see a movie or find some other entertainment in between jobs, but once they'd found something to investigate, that was their focus until the end. Sam couldn't remember them ever taking a day off during a job before.
But now that Dean had acquiesced, Sam wasn't sure about his idea. What had he been thinking to suggest an airboat ride, of all things? Of everything Sam had mentioned, the boat ride and going to a beachside café had been what Dean remembered. On the other hand, what difference did it make? No matter what they did, there was going to be some freak accident that would take his brother's life. Why not have a little fun and do something they'd never done before?
"What's gotten into you?" Dean asked as he drove toward the air safari theme park. "Before breakfast you were all gung-ho to do something touristy and now you're brooding."
"I'm not brooding," Sam protested. "I was just thinking."
"That's never good. You want to go to work after all?"
"No; tomorrow is soon enough. I wasn't thinking about the job, anyway."
"What were you thinking about then?"
Sam saw his brother's concerned glance, but chose to ignore it. Instead, he turned toward the passenger side window and pretended to be interested in the scenery for a few minutes.
"We've done a lot of good," Sam said as he stared through the windshield. "We've helped a lot of people."
"Yeah," Dean sounded wary.
"We've done things and seen things that most people never will. And some of it has been pretty cool. But….but we missed a lot, too. I know what you said about wanting to kill as many evil things as you can before your –"
"Is that what this is about?" Dean asked suddenly. "The deal? Come on, Sam."
"Look, if you want to hunt, I'm right there with you. I know a lot of demons got out of Hell when the Gate opened and there's a lot of work to do, but…."
"But what?" Dean asked after a moment of awkward silence.
"I want to take some time off, too. Go places we've never been; see things we've never seen. You said you wanted to go to the Grand Canyon and I think we should do it."
Sam didn't know what would happen if he tried to get Dean out of town; he hadn't even thought about that possibility until just now. More than likely, Dean would die in some odd way and the day would start all over again. But there was no reason Sam had to tell his brother that.
It occurred to Sam that Dean didn't have to know they were reliving the same day over and over. There wasn't even a real good reason to find a way out of the time loop; every Tuesday they lived over was one more day Sam could have with his brother. If Wednesday never came, Dean's year would never end. It would be hard to watch Dean die over and over, but knowing that he would be alive again would make it all worthwhile. And Sam thought it might even give him some extra time for research so he could find a way out of the deal.
"Hey," Sam heard Dean's voice almost as if it was coming from far away. He hadn't noticed they'd gotten to the park and were sitting in the car with the engine off. "Where'd you go?"
"Sorry," Sam tried to recover. "I guess I just got lost in thought."
He saw the look of concern on Dean's face and smiled more brightly than he felt. "Come on; let's go ride an airboat."
Sam fully expected that Dean would somehow fall out of the boat and get eaten by an alligator, but instead, they had an enjoyable tour of the Everglades. The guide was knowledgeable about the area history and even Dean was impressed with all of the animals and plants he pointed out.
Sam spent as much time watching Dean as he did looking at the scenery and he saw how relaxed his brother was and how much fun he seemed to be having. The younger man decided that if he did find a way out of the time loop, he was going to insist that they spend more time doing things like this. Especially if they couldn't find a way out of the crossroads deal.
After their tour was over, the brothers spent a few minutes wandering through the gift shop before heading back out to the Impala. Dean enjoyed driving and decided they would go back to their motel the long way; not that there was a particularly short way. With classic rock playing, they didn't talk much. It was a comfortable silence that further convinced Sam that he was doing the right thing. If anyone deserved some fun and downtime, it was his brother and the look of contentment on Dean's face wasn't something Sam saw very often.
After a little lounging in their motel room, Sam and Dean cleaned up and then headed off to one of the beachside restaurants that Sam had read about. He'd chosen more of a bar and grill place where he knew Dean would feel most comfortable. They were seated on the deck outside and after drink orders were placed, Dean settled back in the large wooden chair to enjoy the beach.
Sam hid a smile and shook his head when he realized a few minutes later that Dean was engrossed in a volleyball game. It didn't surprise him that all of the players were females in skimpy swimsuits.
"So, you wanna tell me what's really going on with you?" Dean asked after the waitress brought the beers they'd ordered and they'd made their dinner decisions.
Sam pretended to be extremely interested in his beer and said nothing.
"Come on, dude," Dean coaxed after a moment.
Sam leaned forward, his big hands wrapped around the beer bottle. "I….I still want to find a way out of the deal, but if we can't….I just want some good memories, okay? I don't want everything I remember about you to be attached to some hunt."
Dean matched his brother's posture, but he didn't say anything. Sam chanced a glance at him, not sure what he'd see on Dean's face.
"You're not going to make fun of me for being a girl?" Sam joked.
Dean shook his head, but said nothing.
"Dean, I –"
"Come on, Sam. We had fun today, so let's just leave it at that. You said we'd go back to work on Wednesday and that will be soon enough to talk about me going to Hell."
"What do you want to do after we eat?" Sam asked. "Hang out on the beach?"
Dean nodded toward the sand. "Looks like a bar down there."
"And girls in bikinis."
Dean held up his beer bottle and Sam clinked his against it.
After finishing their dinner and a couple more beers, Sam and Dean went to the bar that Dean had spotted. They walked inside the building, but after a few minutes headed back outside where they could still order drinks and hear the music, but where they could also watch the bikini-clad girls. Sam could appreciate the view like any red-blooded male, but he was more interested in making sure his brother had fun.
They'd been there for about an hour, which gave Dean plenty of time to flirt and collect phone numbers when the sky started to cloud up. The lightning started a few minutes later.
"Well, it looks like the show's over," Dean said, joining Sam at the table as the crowd started to disburse. "You ready to go?"
"We could go inside if you want; hang out a while longer."
Dean shook his head. "Nah, it's getting late. Besides, the storm's coming in pretty fast and it looks like it's gonna be bad."
"Let's go," Sam said. He looked at his watch; it was early by Dean's usual standards, but he was alive later than the last few Tuesdays they'd been through. Sam slipped off the stool and led the way through the quickly disappearing crowd. As they reached the parking lot, he was distracted by a loud boom of thunder and when he paused to look at the sky, Sam was horrified by the sight of Dean being hit by a bolt of lightning.
Before he'd even had a chance to process what he'd seen, Sam woke up in the motel room bed with Asia's Heat of the Moment playing on the radio. Dean came bopping out of the bathroom like he had every other Tuesday before and Sam closed his eyes, trying to control his breathing. He didn't want Dean to suspect that there was something wrong; he wanted another day like the one before.
This particular Tuesday didn't work out quite as well, however. Dean agreed to take the day off and spend some time exploring the Florida coast, but a stray spark at the gas station caused an explosion while Dean was pumping gas. Sam, who had gone to the coffee shop next door, was unharmed and he woke up to the sound of Asia.
Sam wasn't able to convince Dean to take the next Tuesday off. He seemed very focused on getting the job done and moving on, but Sam made an excuse about needing to do research and Dean went off on his own. Sam stayed in the motel room with his laptop and worked on finding a way to get Dean out of his deal. He never actually told Dean he needed to find more information on the Mystery Spot case, so he rationalized that he hadn't lied to his brother. Not that he was above doing so f it became necessary.
No closer to finding the answer a few hours later, Sam met up with Dean for lunch. Over burgers, Sam was successful in talking Dean into seeing a movie that afternoon. They picked a comedy that Dean seemed to enjoy, but back in the car after it was over, his expression turned serious.
"What's going on with you, Sammy?"
"What do you mean?" the younger man feigned innocence.
"You never want to take time off, but twice today –"
"I just wanted to spend some time with my brother that didn't have anything to do with a case, okay?" Sam's tone was more harsh than he'd intended. While he was already tired of the question, Sam had to remind himself that as far as Dean was concerned, this was his first time asking it. Sam looked at him apologetically and Dean backed out of the parking spot. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Dean said and Sam knew he was willing to let it go. "So, what now?"
"What do you mean?"
"You still want to do something with me that doesn't have anything to do with the job?"
"Why? Do you have something in mind?"
Dean glanced at him. "Well…."
"What?" Sam prompted.
"There's a beach right over there," Dean nodded. "And it's a pretty warm day. There might be some –"
"Girls in bikinis," Sam grinned.
Dean shrugged. "I'm just sayin'…."
"Sure, man, let's go to the beach."
Dean had always gravitated to water. Any time he needed to think and there was a lake or pond nearby, he was there. Within walking distance of Pastor Jim's house, there was a quiet tree-lined pond. Dean had found a large rock perfect for sitting on and for years, the place was referred to as Dean's spot.
They'd not spent much time on either coast and the water captivated Dean. Sam couldn't help but notice that he seemed to barely see the few girls who were sunning themselves on blankets. Rather, he was mesmerized by the waves rolling onto the sand. Sam walked a few steps behind him as they moved along the water's edge and several minutes later the serene moment was interrupted by a scream off in the distance. Dean spotted the woman first; she was struggling out in the surf. There was no one else around and Dean had his light jacket off and was headed toward her before Sam could even react.
Sam didn't even flinch when he saw the shark fin; he realized the sight of it was what had caused the woman to scream. He half-heartedly called out to his brother, but he knew that nothing he did would make a difference.
Tuesday after Tuesday, Sam resisted telling Dean about the time loop. They visited tourist attractions or saw movies. They took a long drive up the coast and had one of the best conversations they'd had in a long time. They spent almost no time on the case that brought them to town and Sam did enough research to rule out more possibilities he thought might end Dean's deal. But every Tuesday brought a new way for Dean to die; some of them came quickly, others later in the day, but it was starting to get to Sam.
Every morning it was harder to get out of bed and when Sam couldn't garner the energy to act like nothing was wrong, it didn't take long for Dean to notice.
"What's going on, Sammy?" Dean asked as he and Sam walked out of the diner. Dean had noticed that Sam seemed nervous, like he was expecting something to happen at any moment, but they hadn't gotten far enough in the case yet for that kind of reaction.
"Nothing,' the younger man insisted. His hands were stuffed in his jacket pocket and he stared at the sidewalk as they made their way to the Impala.
"Then why do you look like you just dropped your ice cream cone?"
Dean saw Sam glance at him, but he said nothing.
"Come on, man. You barely said a word during breakfast. You were rude to the waitress for no reason. So what if she dropped the hot sauce? It happens. And you didn't eat a whole lot, even for you. Are you sick?"
"No," Sam muttered.
"Well, something's going on."
"It's nothing. I just didn't sleep well last night."
Dean turned toward Sam. He did look tired, but something just seemed off about the way he was acting. He was used to Sam's moods; Sam often brooded in silence or lashed out for what appeared to be no reason. In the end, though, there was always something behind it.
"So, what do you want to do?" Dean asked as they started walking again. "Check out this Mystery Spot place, so we can find out it's a big pile of crap?"
"Dude," Dean complained. "This job was your idea, so –"
"Can't what?" Dean asked, confused. He watched as Sam turned into an alley and when he caught up, Sam was leaning against a wall, looking miserable.
"We're stuck in a time loop," Sam said, sounding bored.
"A time loop," Sam said again. "I'm not even sure how long it's been going on. I was keeping pretty close track for a while, then got the idea that we should blow off the gig and just have some fun. I mean, we keep reliving Tuesday and your year is never up, right? So, for the past, I don't know, few Tuesdays, I've talked you into taking the day off. We've ridden an airboat, seen some movies, hung out on the beach, taken a drive up the coast –"
"Can we go back to time loop, please? What the hell are you talking about?"
"We've relived this day at least 40 or 50 times. There are variations within the day, but it always starts out and ends the same way."
"Are you talking like Gr—"
"Groundhog Day," Sam confirmed.
"And it starts out just like it did this morning?"
Sam nodded. "We don't always go to the diner for breakfast, but the motel room is pretty much the same; right down to Asia on the radio."
Dean looked at him closely and he knew that Sam was telling the truth. "So, how does it end?"
Sam turned away for a few minutes and when he looked back, there were tears in his eyes.
"You die," he said and shrugged. "Every day you die and most of the time, I'm there to see it."
Dean didn't know what to say.
"It happens in different ways," Sam said. "But you die and then I wake up in the motel room. Varying our activities doesn't change the outcome. You've been hit by a car, choked on food, had food poisoning, been mauled by a dog and a shark. You've –"
"I don't know how to stop it, Dean, and I can't keep watching you die. I thought I could. I thought if Wednesday never happened, you'd never have to go to Hell. We could spend time just hanging out and having some fun. Being brothers, you know? I thought I'd get used to watching you die because I'd wake up and we could relive the whole day over again. But it's not getting easier and –"
Sam was becoming hysterical and Dean grabbed him by the shoulders. "Breathe, Sammy. You realize none of this makes sense, right?"
"I know that."
"But you're sure?"
"Of course I'm sure!"
Dean nodded and took a few steps away from Sam. He rubbed a hand over his face and paced for a few moments. "There's got to be a way to stop the, what did you call it?"
"Time loop; right."
Sam slid down the wall and sat on the ground. He looked exhausted and miserable. It suddenly occurred to Dean how hard this whole thing had to be on his brother. He knew how he'd feel if he was forced to watch Sam die over and over and the younger man was already having a difficult time with Dean's upcoming trip to Hell.
Dean watched his brother for a moment, then sat on the ground next to him.
"You realize we can't keep reliving this day, right?" Dean asked gently.
"Why not? If we do, you won't go to Hell."
"Sammy, you've got to stop thinking about that."
Sam looked at him, incredulous. "How am I supposed to do that, Dean? Huh? You tell me how I'm supposed to stop thinking about you dying and going to Hell!"
"Yeah, okay, that was kind of stupid, but Sammy….Look, man, you said it yourself. You can't keep watching me die. So, we've got to find a way out of the time loop. And then we'll deal with, well, the deal."
"Some of the Tuesdays we've lived I spent researching; looking for a way out of it. I just don't know if there is one. I don't know if I can save you.'
"One problem at a time, okay?"
Sam leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"One problem at a time, Sammy," Dean said again, a warmth spreading through him.
He had always known that Sam loved him. Even when they were separated while Sam was attending Stanford, Dean knew that if he'd needed Sam and asked him for help, Sam would be there. Despite the difficulties they had during that time and their lack of communication, Dean never doubted how Sam felt about him. At least not really.
When he'd decided to make the deal with the Crossroads Demon to get Sam back, Dean hadn't considered how Sam would feel about it. All he could think about was getting his brother back. He didn't want to die and he didn't want to go to Hell, but Dean never regretted making the deal. He just wished it wasn't so hard on Sam.
"How about we go back to the room and talk about this?" Dean suggested. "Try to figure a few things out."
He watched as Sam hesitated, seemingly weighing the options. After a moment he nodded. Dean stood up and held out his hand. Sam took it and once he was on his feet, the brothers headed back to the Impala and then to the motel.
Sam had already lived through a similar Tuesday; one in which he broke down and told Dean everything. He knew how it would end and he knew he couldn't avoid it. He said nothing as Dean pulled into the parking spot that Sam knew he would. He was quiet while they walked across the parking lot. There were small things he could affect, but never Dean's ultimate death. It might not happen in exactly the same way, even in a day with similar activities, but it always happened.
Sam didn't want to see it again. Even though he'd seen it time and time again, even though he knew it wasn't final, he hadn't seen his brother die enough times to desensitize him to it. Every death was real and hurt him as much as Jessica dying or of their father dying.
He'd thought that he could handle Dean's dying over and over it if meant he'd never go to Hell, but Sam had been wrong. He was tired and he was losing his ability to do anything, even have fun with Dean. He had to find a way out of the time loop and then he had to find a way out of the Crossroads deal.
Sam heard the footsteps of the man he knew who had just robbed a liquor store. He heard the police officer yelling as he chased the man across the street. He knew he'd turned to see them before, but he didn't have to this time. He knew what was going to happen. He'd tried to warn Dean before, and once he'd been successful, though Dean had still died later.
Dean must have heard the commotion behind them because he turned around. As he did, the robber ran into Sam and they both fell to the ground. Sam couldn't help himself and he called to Dean, but it was too late. The police officer had already fired his gun and the bullet hit Dean in the heart.
Sam sat up in bed as the radio alarm went off; once again playing Asia's Heat of the Moment. He slammed his hand down on the off button and looked toward the bathroom, knowing his brother would be coming through a moment later.
He sighed and threw the covers aside. Damn, he hated that song.