Disclaimer: I don't own them.


Sam's muscles hung lax against his bones as he kept his frame still, refusing to move. The bed beneath him cushioned his spine gently, but the soft, synthetic embrace gave him no comfort. The phantom warmth of Dean's blood hovered over the sensitive nerves dotting his skin, the sensation ghost-like and fleeting. Dean, kickass hunter and self-proclaimed Batman, had his life snuffed out by none other than the not-so-impressive problem solving skills of two ill-equipped, fumbling delivery men. Time had yet again folded in on itself and tossed Sam back into another Tuesday. But Tuesday was no longer just Tuesday. Tuesday had died and Deathday—Dean's, to be exact— had risen, ominous and looming, in the former's place.

"Dude, get outta bed already. You stay in there any longer and your bedhead's gonna be the next thing we hunt."

Dean's voice somehow managed to topple over the disturbing and twisted shrill of Asia, the song now nothing more than a death omen. Sam's palms sank frantically over his ears, the large appendages forming a barrier against the music clawing its way through the small, mocking clock on the nightstand.

A quiet click preceded silence, and Sam suddenly became aware that his eyelids were shut tight, blocking out the world he hoped beyond hope was nothing more than a nightmare. Reality had never been so kind, especially not on a Winchester's account.

A familiar shadow moved behind his curtained vision, and he knew without seeing his brother's gaze had locked onto him.

"Sam?"

Sam's lips mimicked his eyes and stayed closed, unresponsive, as his heart slammed harder and harder against his breastplate. Dean's voice held a strong timber, but the strength echoing from his big brother's vocal cords masked the fragile state of his life. Sam's fingernails dug behind his ears, morphing the protective cover of his palms into a grip born of desperation and foreboding. To Sam, Dean epitomized the most fragile being in existence. His own mind the second.

"Sam? What the hell?"

Air rushed by the side of Sam's head as his hands were whipped to the side and away from his ears. A stinging pulse tingled around the nail dents embedded in the tender flesh around his temples, but the pain of the tiny, self-inflicted marks paled in comparison to the agony of anticipating Dean's next death.

"What are you—trying to one up Van Gogh by taking both your ears out? News flash, Sam: the guy's dead. Not much to compete with."

"No, Gauguin's not around. Don't need 'em. Not with the time loop."

"What? Dude, don't mumble. I can't make out what you're yappin' 'bout.'"

"Paul Gauguin. He was a Post Impressionist painter. He painted with Van Gogh for a while. It didn't work out. It's said he drove Gogh to slice off his ear."

"Yeah, okay. Random. Thanks for the art history class I couldn't give a rat's ass about, Professor." The pads of Dean's rough fingers poked at the ends of Sam's nails, looking for any sign of blood. "Geez, Sam, what the hell's gotten into you? You hate Asia that much?"

"You have no idea," Sam deadpanned, swiping his hands from Dean's clutches and fastening them to his forehead, as if physically cradling his cranium would ward against the emotional trauma and pain that, so far, each recurring Deathday promised to deliver him.

"Hey, come on." Dean's fingers anchored over Sam's wrists, uprooting them. "Can't risk messin' with your brain. Who'd do the research?"

Sam opened his eyes as soon as he heard his older brother's forced chuckled chase his equally forced joke. Dean stood above him, brow raised and eyes wide, yet somehow pinched. Taking in his brother's somewhat concerned, somewhat confused face, a wave of insecurity and helplessness flushed over his sympathetic nervous system.

"Oh God. How long's Dean gonna make it today?"

A pressure suddenly bundled into the front of the younger man's shirt, and he found himself upright on the bed. Dean sat next to him, his fist still bunched in the soft fabric of his kid brother's shirt.

"Get up, would ya? S'creepy, you just lying' there, not movin' like that," Dean muttered, and with a pat to Sam's chest, brought his hand to rest on his knee, the other massaging the skin just below his spiked hair. "What's gotten you lookin' so," Dean's speech broke off, the word "dead" catching in his throat. "So—out of it? Dreams of clowns dancin' in that head o'yours?"

"No." Not again, he did not want to do this again.

"What, then? Midgets?"

Today Death planned to snatch Dean from him. Again.

"No. Oh God. No." Sam's hair tickled his forehead as he leant into his knee, covering his brows with his hand. He wanted to hide. Maybe if he hid well enough for the both of them, Death would overlook Dean.

"Sam?"

"You're gonna die."

The words volumed barely above a whisper, but held the same impact as a piercing cry. The motel room housed no noise. Sam could hear his heart struggling in his chest, could hear his brother's rigid breath move in and out of his lungs. Time stretched and expanded lazily, and as the minutes wandered by, Sam wondered if time purposely meant to pass the seconds slowly, lulling him into a false sense of temporal security before Dean was ripped from him.

"What I wouldn't give for it'a been clowns. I'da settled for midgets, even."

Humor, one of Dean's trademark strategies for dealing with emotional wounds. Usually this particular coping strategy left Sam feeling loved. Now his brother's lighthearted, but emotionally strained words left him feeling abandoned and helpless. Soon, his support system would be blotted out from existence, and so far, he was powerless to break the cycle.

"Dean, don't."

"You sure there wasn't even a bearded lady in there?"

"Not funny."

"Sam, come on, would ya?" Dean's hand suddenly plopped down hard on his shoulder and gave him a quick jostle. "M' not dyin' today, dude."

A sad chuckle escaped between Sam's teeth and his bangs mussed between his forehead and knee as he shook his head at his brother's words. "Oh God. How many times am I gonna have to tell him?"

The fingers resting on Sam's shoulder migrated to the back of his neck. The digits applied pressure, pulling Sam from his curled-in stance.

"C'mon, Sam, get up. You're runnin' on empty."

"Huh?"

"We need to get some food in ya. Get some energy pumpin' in that gigantic body of yours. You'll feel better. C'mon. There's a diner not far from here." Dean's free hand disappeared under the comforter and latched onto Sam's ankle, tossing his feet toward the floor.

"What—no!" Sam's hand collided with Dean's, shoving his brother's hand away from his leg. Tucking his legs back under the covers and against his body, he shook his head back and forth. "No. I'm not going." He did not want to go to the diner, didn't want to leave the motel room, let alone his own bed. The less he did to acknowledge the day, perhaps the more sanity he'd preserve. Maybe Dean would be safer. "You're not leaving, either."

"I'm not?"

"No. You can't."

"And what? You just woke up and you already look like a sack of wet paper. Seriously. A friggan doornail's got more life than you right now. How you gonna stop me from leavin'?"

"No, not gonna stop you. I'm gonna save you."

"Oh, for—Sam, don't start. C'mon, get up."

Dean's hand was back on his shoulder, but Sam's fingers clamped around his wrist, stopping his brother from trying to uproot him from the bed. Warmth from Dean's flesh slipped into his finger tips. Sam's hold automatically strengthened, soaking in as much life from the other man as possible before Death came calling.

"No, Dean. I can't do this anymore." A shaky breath shuddered from his lungs as the scared words spilled from his dry tongue. "I won't. Not again." Sam's face fell resigned into Dean's forearm, blinding his sight with the appendage. All he wanted to do was save his brother, but at the moment, he only seemed capable of avoidance. Hiding. Stalling.

"Again? The hell are you talking about?"

Sam's quiet and shallow breath puffed against Dean's arm, no answer gracing his brother's ears.

The weight of Dean's free hand clamped down on the back of his neck, seeking to nudge a response out of him. "Dude, you're a foot from me, don't act like you can't hear me."

"Can hear you fine."

"Well, then say something, would ya? Don't leave me hanging, man."

"Don't want to. Told you before."

"Told me what? About the deal?"

"No, about you dying.'"

"You just about chew my ear off about me dyin, pal."

Sam's fingers wound further around his big brother, squeezing the wrist like a stress ball. Sam could hear the blast of the buckshot fire, the spray of ammunition slicing into his big brother's chest. The choked garbles of his brother's dying gasps still haunted his ears. The specter of Dean's body, shredded and scarred from rough gravel and pavement, poked and gnawed relentlessly at his brain. Dean's bones crushed, his organs slopped into soup under some random yuppie's desk. The weight of Dean's blood hung continuously over his legs.

"No, Dean, that's not what I—God—that's not what I mean. Dammit, why don't you ever remember?"

Sam's nerves tickled as Dean's fingers instinctively pushed up and into the baby hair curled at the back of his neck. "Whoa, hey. Hey. Calm down, dude."

"No—I don't wanna watch you die again," Sam whispered against Dean's arm, forcing his brow further into the safe depths of Dean's skin.

"And there you go again with the 'again.'"

Sam's head suddenly pivoted to the side, the hand on his neck dictating his movements. Eyes forced to lock with his brother's, Sam stilled under the scrutiny of Dean's gaze. Dean wasn't looking at him. He was looking through him, peeling the layers of solid muscle and brute force away from his being and finding at his core the child he had once been but had outgrown. Outward coating stripped away, he could not stop his mouth from opening.

"Dean. I can't—"

"C'mon, Sam. Spit it out."

"But, I—"

"Out, Sam."

Sam's shoulders slumped instantly at Dean's staple relentlessness. Defeated, Sam let out all he could muster. "You won't believe me."

"Ha! With our lives? Try me, kid. Now c'mon. You're tellin' me in the car."

Panic tore through Sam's constricted and already taxed veins. "What? Where?"

"Car, genius."

"The car?"

"Yeah. What, you wanna walk? Like you are now?" Dean wiggled his trapped hand, easing the tender appendage from his brother's grasp. Freed, the hand reached up and tousled the locks fanned atop his kid brother's confused head. "No way. I'm starvin,' man, and we gotta get something in ya fast 'fore ya waste away, there, Sammy." The sheets softly rustled as Dean's hand slipped under the bedding. The cool metal of Dean's ring bit into Sam's ankle.

"No!" Body tensed, Sam shot out, "Wait, Dean—" but the fingers buried in the depths of his hair tightened, strong and supportive, cutting off his squeaked protest.

"Hey," the scarred digits ran a slow, reassuring lap behind Sam's neck. "Chill, dude. I gotcha. Whatever's got you so freaked, we can handle it."

Sam didn't have time to respond. With the flick of Dean's wrist, Sam's feet flung from the bed and tumbled toward the floor. Toes hitting the carpet, Sam stood face to face with another Tuesday.

Dean was as good as dead.

End


A/N

(Spoilerish of the current season?) While I was watching Mystery Spot, I couldn't help but miss Sam's puppy self. :( I want him back.

Also, I did mean to capitalize Death.

The Paul Gauguin comment came from an Art History course I took back in the day. The professor told the class that Gauguin and Van Gogh painted together for a while, until Gauguin pissed Gogh off so bad the dude ended up cutting his own earlobe off in the process. Intense. (Also, I have nothing against Gauguin or Gogh.)

I appreciate constructive reviews :)