A/N: A drabble spawned off a weird little idea of mine, hitched up on Dean's poignant challenge to Sam way back in the Pilot: "If I'd'a called, would you have picked up?"

So, a 'what if' glimpse of that 'voodoo thing' in New Orleans, Dean mentioned, gone wrong. Set pre-Pilot. Warning: major character death. AU, for an obvious reason.

Disclaimer: None of the characters, plot-points, inherent to the show, belong to me.

Closed twice*

His palms were bleeding. Dark smears, barely discernible over the ebony of the steering wheel. If not for the sudden, lacerating pain, he wouldn't have noticed any time soon. His teeth gritted at the extra grip it took to veer his baby off the road to a halt.

Dean knew that was probably it. That voodoo wench proved not quite the sympathetic type and got to him after all. His vision hazier around the edges by the moment, Dean knew he didn't have long. The idea didn't bother him nearly as much as it should. Twenty-six was not that bad of a score for a hunter. He could do worse. He knew of those who actually did.

Dad would be pissed as hell Dean bought it on his full-time solo gig. Which was a shame, really, since Dean was sure he did good. Research A to Z, interviews, a tricky counter-spell - the works. But she still got to him... There was no word from Dad for about three weeks by then. His number disconnected all of a sudden. No notice or any semblance of a trace left at Pastor Jim's or Caleb's. Or Bobby's. Dad vanished off the surface of the Earth. Just like that.

Dean furrowed in concentration, digging a phone out of his pocket with a wince. It hurt to move already. Hurt to breathe. Hurt to think. The tiny screen and dials were coated with blood oozing from his hands, but he spared no effort to squint – he'd be soon out of it as is.

Dad on speed-dial first. Just in case. A wild hope, as ever. No joy. Sammy's number next. Of all the times he considered calling Sammy through the past couple of years, of all the times he actually gave in and did – counting the hollow rings to nine, before hanging up – he'd never imagined it would be like this. Okay, he had. Only made sense in their… in his line of work. But a grand hunt gone great enough to brag about to his nerd of a little brother was, somehow, a top ranking scenario over this. Not that Sam would be thrilled, or even bother to feign interest, but it didn't hurt to pretend, did it?

He'll have to ask Sam to come over and pick the Impala up, before any cops got whiff of trouble and dug their noses into the trunk. Dean loathed saddling Sam with having to dispose of his own very much decaying body, but there was no way around it at the point. Not that he could think of. Sammy was a tough kid. He'd seen worse.

Foremost, Dean needed Sammy to go on and search for Dad. Something was wrong. Dad was in trouble. More in trouble than they were usually prone to get themselves into, that is. Customized Winchester calibrated 'Dean-radar', Sammy would scoff back in the day. Hell yeah! And the radar was bleeping friggin' red.

He made it twelve rings. Then fifteen more, before the phone slipped out of his limp fingers.

His palms were bleeding. Tissue bursting into uneven cuts, delineated by trails of thick red. He knew the same was happening to most of his internal organs at that very moment. Dean motioned to ball his seeping hands into fists, sucking up a piercing breath in a last-ditch effort to concentrate on staying alert, in case Sammy called back.

There were so many reasons his brother couldn't have picked up the cell right away. All good, plausible ones. A late class. A shower. A job. A girl. Dean knew none of them to be true. Not really. He's been holding onto this family so tight for so long – his palms were bleeding. Jagged shards slicing through.

An hour passed before his phone buzzed into life, voice-mail gearing up promptly. Committing his father's gruff, clipped words to ether. Dad spoke of danger for them all, but Dean heard no more. Feared no more. Bled no more. Was no more.

*My life closed twice before its close-

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.

(by Emily Dickinson)