Disclaimer: The beautiful Winchester boys do not belong to me. No copyright infringement intended.
A/N: A fic that chronicles the last moments of Dean Winchester's life before his time finally ran out. I put my own twist on things and developed this odd structure. It's kind of like snapshots of his last days.
Spoilers for Season three and the finale if you haven't seen it.
It starts exactly two weeks before his expiration date.
Halfway through gulping down a mouthful of hot coffee, he hears it.
A long, hungry howl that makes Dean's stomach plummet straight to the floor. It's heavy with desperation, the savage whine of wanting blooddeathsoul. His skin crawls but he forces down the rest, hands shaking as he sets down the mug, bitter liquid spilling over the rim.
Swearing inwardly, Dean shifts his gaze up to face Sam, whose voice is a mess of panic and worry.
He plasters on a grin that's too wide.
"What? I'm fine Sammy," Dean's actually pretty proud at how firm and collected he sounds, a lot different from the mess he feels inside. "Coffee's just a lil' too hot."
Sam narrows his eyes like he's trying to figure out what makes Dean tick. He tries to shake off the fear that maybe Sam can see how messed up he is inside. How terrified he is.
"Seriously," Another booming snarl rips right through him, makes his voice hitch. "I'm okay."
Dean's smile wavers and Sam stiffens, body taut and jaw set.
"No, you're not."
They're driving to Atlanta for a new hunt, something about a witch cursing people who also conveniently may know how to shield a person from death.
Sam jumps on the case and Dean goes along because there is no way he's leaving his brother alone to do something stupid in order to save him.
Dean almost swerves when hears another bone chilling howl, so close like it's right beside him.
He can feel the scorching sulfur soaked breath curling over the nape of his neck, goosebumps blossoming on his skin.
Dean's glad he has long sleeves on.
"Got a cramp in my arm."
Sam is silent, just staring at him with those piercing eyes.
"You can hear them, can't you?"
It's more of a statement than a question.
Another hiss of snapping jaws, wet with blood and smoke vibrates in his ears.
Dean quickly turns on the radio, Led Zeppelin blasting through the speakers, almost drowning out the hell hounds.
He just rolls his shoulders nervously and keeps on driving.
When Sam walks in the room covered in sweat, smelling of gunpowder with the colt hanging loosely in his hand, Dean's not surprised.
He's not even angry anymore, just tired.
It's pretty obvious there aren't any demons out there willing to take Sam's deal.
"Face it, Sam." Dean scrubs a hand down his face. "There's nothing you can do."
Sam's eyes flash. "Watch me." His voice is like a clap of thunder and Dean flinches. "I'll find a way."
His grip on the colt tightens and he walks back out.
Dean feels sick.
With each day that passes by the less sleep Dean gets. Tomorrow is the mark of his last week.
He'd be a fool and lying through his teeth if he said he wasn't scared. He keeps his fear locked away, nestled somewhere between his bones for now. He can't let Sam know just how terrified he is about leaving. He's not scared of burning down there, of the demons or the pain, just worried about Sam dealing with the aftermath and what he'll become. Sam's gonna need to protect himself once he drags his smoky self out of that pit.
When he walks back in the motel room after a run to the store, he finds Sam in the bathroom, drunk and crying. An empty bottle of Jack Daniel's on the floor near the toilet, cracked at the bottom.
The sound Sam's making is the most terrifying thing Dean's ever heard, worse than the howls. His sobbing sounds like raw grief vocalized, something so animalistic it shakes Dean's foundations. It reminds him of the nights their dad stayed up crying over Mary. Before he knows it, he's cradling an armful of Sam whose holding on to him for dear life.
"It hurts Dean," Sam moans, tears soaking into his brother's shirt. "It fucking hurts so bad."
Dean's chest hollows out with those words.
"You can't leave me." Sam tightens his vice grip around Dean's ribs. "I won't let her have you, not ever."
"I'm so sorry, Sammy." Dean chokes out the words, past the lump in his throat. He's responsible for this; all the pain his little brother is in. "Sorry for-
Forcing you to finish this fight without me.
Making you feel like this.
"Sorry for everything."
He wakes up gasping for air and drenched in sweat.
"Bad dream?" Sam sits in the corner, arms folded against his chest and watching him with dark hooded eyes.
Dean licks his lips, trying to ignore the dissolving pit of fear and the flashes of his nightmare. Blood, hellhounds and burning, just burning.
"It wasn't exactly the most pleasant dream I've had." He rubs his eyes with the heel of his palms, dark circles beneath warm green.
Sam's eyes sharpen. "Lilith." He growls out the word with so much hate, Dean's mouth goes dry. Somehow, he manages to haul his voice up from somewhere on the floor and plaster on a smirk.
"Nope, Tasty Kake went out of business."
As if hearing those damn hounds howling all day wasn't enough, now he sees them.
Flickering images of wispy smoke outside the window, across the street, circling him, careful to keep their distance. They know just as well as he does. He can't outrun them, can't escape.
They're oily globs of darkness that morph into decaying flesh, twisted snouts, curled iron claws and shaggy fur matted with blood. They limp but the exposed muscle of their hind legs suggest an impossible strength. Their eyes are two foggy shards of red rimmed with smoke. Filled with the last moments of their victims and licks of hellfire.
When he walks, he has to stifle the urge to run.
"Why won't you let me?" The tremble in Sam's voice cuts through him like a rusted blade, straight to the core. "I gotta at least try -fuck- just let me do something."
Sam's eyes are too open and wet. Right now, he's made of messy edges that Dean doesn't know how to smooth out, doesn't want to know how.
"Sammy," His lips quirk up, it's not a smile but not exactly a frown either. "I'm sorry."
He's beginning to sound like a broken record but he really is sorry. The raw pain in Sam's eyes is unbearable, like trying to breathe in water. It makes him nauseous to see his little brother so utterly wrecked but at least he's alive. Solid and concrete, brimming with the sullen warmth of life, nothing like the corpse he refused to bury.
When he heaves out the words, he's not surprised when Sam snaps into a pillar of fury and slams him against the wall of their room. Dean keeps his body pliable, wincing when his head bangs against the cracked plaster. The pain of huge hands digging into his shoulders is a decent distraction from the blanket of guilt draped over him.
"Don't you dare apologize to me."
Sam's eyes are wild and black with anger. His choked off whisper is a lot louder than any kind booming shout. His words are stringed together, heavy like lead weights and saturated with too much emotion.
"You knew," Sam curls his fingers deeper into Dean's shoulder, almost enjoying the hiss of discomfort. "what you were doing, so don't give me that bullshit. You must have know what making that deal was gonna do to me-
"Yeah," Dean just has to interject because the kid just doesn't get it. "Bring you back to life. That was kinda the whole point, genius."
"It was gonna destroy me." Sam's breath hitches, "like it's slowly destroying me now. What am I supposed to do with you dead?"
Dean keeps silent. He doesn't have an answer.
"How you holding up, boy?" Bobby folds his arms across his chest, leaning back so they're staring eye to eye.
Dean fidgets slightly but otherwise keeps his cool and shovels in a mouthful of scrambled eggs. "Not too bad considering..." He swallows, letting the rest of his sentence hang in the air to be finished. Something neither of them wants to do.
"I'm scared Bobby." He admits. "I really am."
"It'll be alright." Bobby tightens his grip on the table, murmuring the words like he's trying to reassure himself, not Dean. "You're gonna be okay."
It's such a blatant lie, Dean kind of wants to laugh. He's not gonna be okay, not by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly not where he's going.
"Yeah," He tips his chair back and watches the clock tick. "Maybe."
It's nearing close to the wire; he's got only three days left. They've been spending the last week here at Bobby's, Sam working in vain to try and figure something out and Dean just relaxing. He's got nothing better to do.
"Hey Bobby," Dean smiles, wiping his brow with the back of his hand under the sweltering sun. "Glad to be working on some cars with you again. Just like the good old days."
Bobby adjusts his cap and continues to tinker with the engine, hands covered in grease. "I remember when you were just a lil' kid, wandering out here, looking for something to do. So damn curious about everything."
He rolls his eyes and Dean barks out a laugh.
"But you were a great worker. Really bright too, almost too smart for your average ten year old." He continued with a fond smile. "You could of been an engineer or something if...."
Dean tries to ignore the tremble in his voice and changes the subject.
"Thanks for letting us stay here with you."
Bobby clears his throat. "No problem kiddo. I wouldn't want you two anywhere else."
The silence is oddly comforting as they work but something bubbles up in his chest. He needs a favor to ask.
"Can I ask you something?"
Bobby tenses but rolls his shoulders nonchalantly. "Shoot."
"If I get out of the pit and return as a...," Dean licks his lips. "demon and I come after anybody, you have to stop me."
It's all he's been thinking about lately. Whenever he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror all he sees are black eyes and blood stained teeth.
He hears the wrench Bobby was holding clatter to the ground but it doesn't stop him. "Sammy's not gonna be able to do it but I know you can. So, promise me okay? It's important."
Bobby's staring at him with a look that makes his heart clench.
"Okay." He says after a while. Dean feels his shoulders sag with relief. If Bobby was one thing, he was a man of his word. "Okay."
It's the second time he's ever seen Bobby cry.
"Hears to my last night," Dean tips his beer up toward the sky. "I had a good run."
He turns to glance at Sam, whose leaning beside him on the hood of the Impala, jaw clenched.
"Yeah, yeah okay never mind party pooper."
"Goddamn it. This is not some kind of celebration, Dean. Try and at least act like you give shit about yourself." Sam snarls, pushing himself up. "Don't you understand? We're running out of time."
His voice breaks on the last word, edged with something hysterical. Dean shakes his head and stares at the stars, careful to keep his voice low.
"There's not enough time in the world to save me. You know that."
Sam bites his tongue.
It's the truth after all.
That night Sam sleeps in the bed next to him, arms curled around him like if he just holds on tight enough, he won't slip away.
Dean closes his eyes and sees fire.
There's blood everywhere. Dean's blood on the floor and in the air.
Sam says his name like a prayer.
"No, no, Dean. Dean." He breathes, cradling the broken body of his brother close to his heart. Tears burn like acid on his cheeks. "Please."
Green eyes are sightless and something just snaps inside his chest.
His hands shake as fingertips trace the still warm skin of Dean's cheekbones, down his neck, across his shoulder and above his heart, looking for something that still beats.
He can't find anything.