First appeared in You'll Thank Me When It's Wednesday! (2008), from Agent With Style
You Slay Me
K Hanna Korossy
Sam had killed his brother three different times already.
He should've known better with the axe. It was a stupid thing to fight over, an accident waiting to happen even when Dean wasn't dying in stupid accidents every day. Sam had just been so gone by then, slipping over into insanity, that by the time he realized what they were doing, the axe was buried in Dean's chest.
The car hadn't been his fault. Really. He'd been adamant that he be the one to go out for food that day and Dean stay safely inside. Sitting in a chair, not even rubbing his nose, because turnabout was fair play even when little else was those days. It had been a good plan, except for the part where Dean had stubbornly come out after him, anyway, and managed to stand exactly in Sam's blind spot as he'd pulled the car out. Seriously, how was he supposed to have known?
And, okay, he was sort of to blame for the gun. They'd been taught gun safety since Sam could remember, and there was no way he should have missed the round in the chamber when he was checking their weapons. He'd insisted on handling that task himself to keep Dean safe, too, but it had backfired on him again, literally. He hadn't been pointing the gun at Dean—he hadn't forgotten all his training—but the ricochet had made it a moot point.
He'd gone a little catatonic after that one. Something about shooting his brother for the third time in his life, finally with fatal results. He'd already sobbed through one morning, taken off down the road another, spent one in bed refusing to interact with Dean. This time he just sorta…shut down. Aware of Dean's panicked voice but not responding to it until his brother called for help and managed to slip and fall when directing the paramedics inside.
Sam managed to get up the next morning by pretending it had all never happened, a skill he'd probably picked up from his brother. He had to, because killing your brother? Nothing carved your soul out like that. He'd meant it when he'd told that Little Pig-victim in the fairytale case that he could imagine nothing worse than losing his brother, and being the instrument of his death, seeing the disbelief and betrayal in his eyes before he died, that was about as bad as it got.
Or so he'd thought.
Because in a loop full of the unexpected, he'd still never expected it to happen like this.
Every day, the list grew: places to avoid, people to avoid, things to avoid. Every day he got Dean a little further, or on a different path, and noted the trap that caught Dean—them—that time, determined to avoid it again and finally reach the prize of midnight. Like the cheese at the end of the maze.
Dean would love the rat analogy.
Today, Sam was trying something new, which was always risky but still gave him hope. People were unpredictable, objects smashed and collapsed and shocked, but way out in the middle of nowhere? Or at least a nearby field, with a completely un-food-poisonable lunch? That seemed fairly safe. No clouds above portended a lightning strike; there were no trees in the distance to hide any dangerous animals. It was still a little cool to be eating outside, but the peace made up for it. Sam turned his face up into the sunshine and breathed.
"Enjoying yourself, Princess?" came Dean's amused voice from beside him.
He'd been amused by the whole picnic idea, actually, but Sam was fine with that. He'd given up worrying dozens of loops before about what Dean thought of his urgent, odd demands. Dean would thank him when it was Wednesday. As long as Dean agreed—and it only took showing him a fraction of the simmering desperation Sam felt for him to do so—Sam didn't care if his brother was convinced he'd flipped out for the day.
So, picnic. No dangers anywhere.
Yeah, he should've known better by now.
Sam smiled at his brother's question, tilting his head just enough to see Dean stretched flat on his back on the blanket from the Impala's trunk, looking lazy and content and very much alive. "Yeah," he said, taking another deep breath. "I am."
"Hey, you could've asked me to take you on a picnic a long time ago if you wanted to go that badly."
Sam's mouth curled sleepily. The sun was warm, and he'd literally gotten barely any sleep in the equivalent of months. His body also seemed to reset with the date, but he still felt exhausted, wrung-out by the search to save Dean, and failing, enduring Dean's death, every day.
An elbow nudged him in the thigh. "So, you gonna tell me what's going on with you?"
Sam sighed. "I will tomorrow, all right?"
Dean grumbled but subsided. A few seconds later came the sound of munching as he dug back into the bag of carrot sticks.
Visions of the mayor in his furry bunny costume invaded, and Sam pushed them away impatiently. Just…not right now. He needed this. A little vacation from death, and hyper-vigilance.
A breeze blew across his skin, and there was the soft buzz of early spring insects in the air. In the distance, some kind of bird shrilled, and Sam wondered fleetingly if a bird could kill someone, then discarded the idea. In a Hitchcock movie, maybe. Although their lives were scarily cinematic these—
The closeness of the buzzing only registered when the prick on his exposed neck did. Sam swatted at it, then glanced down at the flattened black-and-yellow-striped body in his palm.
It was supposed to be Dean, not him. Not him, he hadn't planned for him…
Dean must've picked up on Sam's sudden shift of mood. Mouth opening speechlessly, Sam just offered his hand, showing Dean what he was holding.
A tingle started at the back of his throat.
Dean cursed sharply, scrambling upright. "You have your EpiPen with you?"
Sam shook his head dumbly. He'd prepared for Dean, not for him. It wasn't supposed to be him.
More cursing, Dean digging into his pocket. He didn't know he was the target of the day, every day, and even if he did, he still probably would've prepared for Sam. He had the shot in his hand in seconds, even as the tingling spread down Sam's throat and up his tongue. His breath was starting to wheeze.
"Hold on," Dean barked, and jabbed the pen against Sam's thigh.
He didn't feel a thing. "Don't think—" wheeze "—it worked." His tongue felt thick, his throat tight, and it would only get worse. God, was the loop switching, Sam now instead of Dean? The thought should have been terrifying, but it only brought an odd relief.
At least until he looked into Dean's panicked eyes.
Dean tried the pen again, slapped it against his palm, then pulled Sam's shirt up and stabbed it into a fold of skin. The shot wasn't depressing, jammed or something.
Spots were appearing in his vision, and Sam gave up trying to remain upright, curling forward to try to suck some air in. But it felt like there were bricks in his chest, and the tingle had become a fire in his throat. Sam grabbed at his brother's sleeve, instinctively seeking help.
Dimly, he heard Dean calling for help, but they were in the middle of nowhere by design. Sam would've laughed at the irony if he'd had air to do it. There would be no help in time. Nor would his brother's skillful fingers be able to fix the pen, Sam knew already, even as he heard Dean fumble and curse with it. As Sam's body arched with the need for air.
Then Dean's fingers were digging into his biceps, his large eyes filling Sam's narrowed vision. "Breathe with me, Sammy, you hear me? Breathe with me. I'm not letting you go."
"…try'n…" He really was. Mimicking Dean's motions, but where his brother's lungs expanded, Sam's refused to budge.
"C'mon, man, breathe."
He clawed his way up his brother's shirtfront, scared, thankful, so sorry to have put that fear in Dean's eyes because Sam knew it too well.
"Breathe, damn it!"
His body jackknifed, fighting instinctively for survival. And then even that was fading, bones turning to water, vision almost grey now.
Hands turned him, pulled him up and back so he was leaning against Dean. "God, Sammy, don't do this to me again." Dean's voice sounded distant, but its pain was right there. "Please, I can't do this again. Please, Sammy, please. Stay here."
He wanted to; God, he wanted to. And there was an odd moment of fading déjà vu, of having been here before, hearing those tears in Dean's voice, those hands on his face, that desperate cajoling.
Then, as Sam was sinking, the calm, which was new.
"Okay. It's okay. I'm here—it'll be over soon. You're not doing this alone, Sammy. I'm not losing you again."
That was when he got it, like the epiphanous flash before the eyes just before death. The loop hadn't reversed.
Don't you dare!
This was Dean's death, too.
No, Dean, nononono…
Everything was black and quiet, and there was warm liquid on his face, and Sam didn't know if it was tears or blood, but it was the last thing he felt before the arms around him, then the rest of the world, went away for good.
"…heat of the moment…"
It wasn't like a regular waking. There was no limbo between sleep and consciousness. One minute he'd be holding his dying brother, the next, he'd be opening his eyes in bed.
Except this time, when his last memory was being held. Dying. And Dean…
Sam's eyes shot open, having just enough time to register Dean's startled face before Sam rolled over and threw up on the carpet on the far side of the bed.
He didn't hear Dean move, just felt one hand settle flat on his back, the other cupping his sagging head as Sam threatened to slide off the bed. It let Sam devote himself fully to emptying his stomach, which he did with enthusiasm until he was empty and aching.
Well, at least the mess would be gone with the next loop.
Dean rolled him back on the bed, then left without a word, returning with a wet towel and a cup of water. Sam drank and spit, let Dean blot the sweat off his face without protest. He couldn't seem to mind any contact with his brother those days. Not after feeling his loss over and over. Except, this time it had been Sam, and then Dean…
His stomach contracted again, and Dean muttered something and flipped him just in time to let the little water he'd ingested also soak the floor instead of the bedsheets.
Dean finally eased him back, face angled with worry. "Better?"
Sam nodded wordlessly, his throat sore from the gagging.
"Good. 'Cause that's not exactly the way I would've picked to start the morning."
Sam tried to laugh, but it came out kind of strangled.
Dean's hand was warm against his abdomen. "Were you sick during the night? I didn't hear you."
Which night? Sam wanted to ask, but he just shook his head tiredly.
"So it's probably some bug you picked up then, not dinner. Awesome." Dean sighed. "All right, well, maybe you should stay in bed for a while, huh? Get some rest. The case can wait a day."
"Turn the radio off," Sam mumbled, curling onto his side. It still felt a little like he couldn't breathe, but it was memory as much as physiology.
The room fell into sudden silence, only their respirations filling the quiet. Dean's hands had retracted, but he still sat close.
Sam breathed out shakily. "You okay?" he finally asked, squinting up at Dean.
Dean eyed him skeptically. "Dude, I'm not the one barfing all over the floor. Which, by the way, is gonna be fun to explain at checkout."
"No, I mean…" He wasn't sure what he meant, actually. Or even what had happened. Except, the loop had reset and Sam was pretty sure it wasn't because he had died.
Dean's brow creased. "Sam? Something going on you're not telling me?"
Sam almost laughed at that one, but just shook his head dumbly instead. "Just…don't go anywhere, all right?"
"Hey, I'm right here. TV is, too." Dean nodded toward the set. "Maybe we can find a monster movie marathon on or something."
Sam's insides slowly began to unclench. "Yeah. Yeah, okay, that sounds good."
Dean snorted. "Now I know you're sick." But he kicked off the boots he'd just been putting on, shoved lightly at Sam to move over. A pillow from Dean's bed was tossed over the puddle on the floor, and he grabbed the remote. He didn't comment when Sam dropped a hand onto his knee as Dean got settled and leaned his forehead against Dean's hip, just patted his shoulder and turned the TV on.
Sam tried not to think, mind shell-shocked and numb. Death for Dean now meant Hell. Dean hadn't known about the reset, not…yesterday. That was how much he…
Sam squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his clammy face into Dean's side, refusing to believe it. Selling your soul to bring your brother back was one thing, but Dean just giving up? No, it had to have been lightning, or the ambulance hitting him, or a wild boar attack or something. Just another loop.
He dozed, exhausted. Barely roused when Dean whispered he was just going out for a minute to get Sam some ginger ale from the vending machine in front of the main office. Just flinched his eyes tighter shut and his hands into fists when he heard the crash outside.
The next day—months later—Dean died in his arms and stayed dead.
Sam sat for a long time after he buried his brother, staring at his blade. Remembering what Dean had done. Remembering his own despair and grief at the realization.
And couldn't do it.