1st Chapter - 6.11 Appointment in Samarra tag – Death and Dean further discuss…
This is a reimagining of Dean's talk with Death, not that I didn't love what Show gave us, I absolutely did. I just made it longer and more involved, not better. I wanted to work on my Death voice and try to get a handle on how he interacts with Dean. I love Death, how he challenges Dean and how, despite it all, I think he admires him…as much as an omnipotent being could admire a mere human. Dean is worthy of admiration and I love seeing him interact with something that truly frightens him. That is so rare considering our bold and courageous hunter.
I hope you enjoy, such as it is…
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born and a time to die." – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Chapter One – The Conversation
"So, Dean…it's not as easy as you thought, is it?"
"I never said it was easy," Dean rasped out, still bearing the pain of being Death, of being the one to end a life. He'd ended many lives in his time, but this wasn't fighting evil, this wasn't killing people who deserved to die. This was a twelve year old girl with her whole life before her. A life cut short, ended before she had a chance to live.
"No, it's not easy…but it is necessary," Death responded, cold eyes burrowing in, analyzing the hunter and his failings, scrutinizing his faults.
"Necessary?" Dean scoffed, his voice bitter and brutal, his gut still trembling from the weight of what he'd done. He gained strength in his defiance, finding an uneasy calm from the deadly truth, almost like death had finally succeeded in numbing him to the realities of his life. Still, he felt for the girl…and her father. He shuddered at the injustice of a childhood cut short. And he ached for the one left behind. "What did that little girl do to deserve this?" He choked back his surging concern, struggling within his guilt. "What would it hurt to give her a few measly years? What harm could come from her growing up? Having the chance to actually live?" Against all reason his eyes pleaded, soft and misting, damaged but not quite emotionally bankrupt from the toll being Death imposed. It would take more than blame and recriminations to separate Dean from his feelings. How he felt was as integral to who he was as his beliefs, and as necessary as the breath that drew in and out of his lungs.
Death's response was cold and distant, like the man himself. "It was her time."
"Her time?" Dean grimaced, his heart constricting from the horror even as his mind pushed him forward into the fray. Every instinct was honed and ready for assault, bracing for the impact a battle with Death would invariably bring. "Get a new clock!" he barked out.
"You're emotional," Death coldly replied. "It helps to lock that down."
"What? Like you, you impersonal machine?"
"Rudeness won't be tolerated, Dean." The words were softly spoken, deliberate and even more chilling within the restraint Death exhibited as he withheld his full wrath. And yet, Dean flinched from the force they wielded, the disapproving gaze proving even more threatening.
Dean leaned back, imperceptible except for a subtle gasp and a fleeting look, one of despair tinged in fear, respect for the power before him unavoidable. He'd gone toe-to-toe with many formidable creatures throughout his years of hunting and yet he'd never felt so outgunned. He sucked down a breath of courage, closing his eyes in a rare moment of need, tunneling deep to find the grit to fight back. It took mere seconds for his eyes to open and then he glared at Death, challenging him, taunting, his raspy voice regaining that hint of condemnation. "You hold all this power and yet…this is what you do with it?"
"Power is responsibility, Dean." Death pushed the bacon-wrapped hot dog towards him, his eyes ghosting over the human, demanding and then, in the breath of a heartbeat, somehow turning conciliatory. "Eat," he commanded, "You'll feel better."
It took a moment for the directive to register, then another for the hunter to warily respond. Sliding out the chair in a slow grate along the worn floor and then sitting down, Dean's hands trembled as he clumsily unwrapped the dog. The unease of being in the presence of Death haunted his psyche, pulling forth the remembrance of each and every death he'd experienced throughout his life: of others, of himself…of his family. That feeling of someone walking across your grave flittered within, chilling him to the bone as his mind tried to shake off the shroud of death and focus. He regained his footing and firmly responded, his eyes respectful while maintaining that edge, never descending into submissive. "And you have the ultimate power, don't you? The power of life and death."
That voice was so calm, so measured and precise. "I don't choose who dies. It's all part of the natural order." Death paused, as if he had all the time in the world, time to ponder, time to explain as he saw fit, time to savor his indulgence for cheap greasy food. He took a bite of his hot dog, a hint of pleasure rising up as he chewed the delicacy, his lips smacking in satisfaction before he swallowed and dabbed at the corners of his mouth with his napkin. His voice was low but forceful, steady in his certainty as he explained. "I'm just the facilitator. I keep structure in the universe…" His eyes burrowed deep, his voice eerily cutting through Dean's protective walls, tunneling down to bedrock where all his fears congregated. "And you've seen what happens when the axis shifts, haven't you, Dean? When destiny is taken off course…"
Frigid cold swept through the hunter, snaking through his gut as ice cold fingers reached up to wrap around his heart. He froze, death's grip immobilizing, stealing all life for an instant. He shuddered through the intense chill, struggling to retain the warmth of his humanity. He instinctively braced for more, his heart beating faster, trying to warm up as he again found his voice, his breath soft and tremulous as he responded, his eyes suspicious, ever wary. "Why are you here?"
"I thought you wanted my assistance?"
"I thought…" Dean gasped from the threat surrounding him while his heart surged at the possibility for hope. His eyes studied the image before him, unsure and hesitant.
"Don't think, Dean. It doesn't become you."
Dean bristled, the arrogance of Death becoming ever more annoying. It seemed they both rubbed each other the wrong way…thing is, Death had the power to win any battle of wits or intentions. Dean was out of his element…aside from the fight. He was used to fighting, even if he stood no chance of winning. That had never deterred him before so he barreled forth, unwilling or unable to stop himself. "Why? Why would you even consider helping us?" The warmth of the hot dog pulled at his senses, the aroma of little interest, but the dichotomy of Death eating, finding sustenance when he was so void of any human needs such as hunger tugged at his reasoning. Just like Death appearing now when he'd lost their wager, showing up in Bobby's kitchen, sitting here as if he'd simply come for tea. It was unnerving how little Dean knew about this creature, how outmanned he truly was if he were to face off against Death himself. He was a toy to Death, an insect, a thing of no import. His voice held a certain reverence, lingering amongst his willful disregard. "I lost. But then you knew that I would, didn't you? This whole thing was a set-up from the jump."
Death was cold, teetering on frigid, unwavering as he casually responded. "It was a wager. You have free will…as you've so clearly demonstrated." His voice turned menacing, leaning in to emphasis his point. "You failed, Dean. Don't try to justify that by blaming me."
Shuddering through a temporary wave of doubt, Dean locked down any fear and barreled forward, as defiant as ever. "I'm not…but you're not off the hook here. You knew what wearing that ring would do to me. You knew I'd balk at killing a twelve year old girl. Just admit it."
"What? Admit you're not the man I am?" He grinned, or offered up the closest he could possibly come to a grin. "That's obvious, Dean. As I said before, I've worn that ring for a very long time." He looked up, straight into Dean's eyes and the hunter thought he saw something there, a flash of concern or possibly even empathy. "I remember, you know…what it was like in the beginning. I was once like you…back at the start."
"You? Like me?"
"What, you think you're the only one who ever cared, the only one who thought to question?"
"But you're Death," Dean whispered in awe, almost rendered speechless.
Death spoke in a deliberate droll cadence, emotionless, acerbic even as he offered up a reverence. "As were you…for a time."
"I don't get it."
"Obviously." Taking a heavy sigh, speaking with restrained practicality, Death lamented, "Dean, you think my job is hard? You did it for one day…one. Try doing it for a hundred years, a thousand…an eternity." He wiped at the corners of his stern lips, purposely folding the napkin and laying it beside the crumpled up tin foil that had held his hot dog. "At some point you accept the inevitable, the undeniable. It's life and death, the grand plan, the natural order." He studied the hunter, his eyes tunneling in. "You came to see that after just one day. Well done."
Dean shuddered, not knowing how to respond, knowing less what was expected and where this conversation was headed. Death was wrong about him only needing one day to understand the concept of life and death…he'd lived his entire life within that knowledge. Acting as Death had only confirmed the frailty of our existence and the inevitability of the injustice. He waited, hoping Death would continue on. He wasn't left waiting for long.
"I like you, Dean."
That was quite possibly more disturbing than when a demon had told him that. He still didn't know how to respond. He offered a slight, "Ah…thanks?"
Continuing on with the same methodical deliberation and intense tone, Death's gaze burrowed deep, digging in. "No one escapes me, Dean."
His heart stuttered, a chill entombing him as the truth snaked through every sense, every thought. He'd cheated death so many times…too many. Coming face to face with Death under these circumstances put him in a perilous position…front and center for corrective action.
Before he could respond Death again spoke. "I find you challenging."
"In a good way?" Dean asked, the slightest rise of his voice in hopeful anticipation of a favorable response.
"That depends." Death stopped and took a long drink of his lager, again compulsively wiping his mouth with his napkin when he finished. "You're strong-willed…but also extremely lucky."
Nervously chuckling Dean almost choked on the words. "Lucky? You kidding me?"
"What? You think life is easy? Convenient?"
"Don't stammer, Dean. You don't think cheating death, living past your time would be considered fortunate?"
"Actually…" He took a moment, eyes glimmering with recognition before he forcefully responded, "No." Every hurt barreled forth in an instant, every loss and failure. The other side of death beckoned, safe in heaven's embrace, offering the promise of peace and the release of all suffering; an end if only he would lay down his weapons and accept that his job was done. He wasn't ready to do that, not with all the evil still left in the world, not with Sam needing him now more than ever. Still, having the chance to push back death didn't make him fortunate…more like cursed. His eyes turned combative, while his lips pursed, holding back simmering contempt as he warred between conflicting needs. "All that means is I'm still here…in the fight, still suffering…still struggling."
"Well, then…life is a struggle, isn't it? From the fight to leave the womb until that last breath."
The familiar cocky smirk appeared, the smart comeback slipping free as he reverted to his safe zone. "My…aren't you a ray of sunshine?"
"I'm a realist, Dean. I've seen it all. I've been here since the dawn of time and I'll be here 'til the end. Do you imagine that is better than what you get?" He again sighed. "It's tiring."
Dean paused, offering his consideration, not needing any time to reach his answer. "Yeah…I guess it would be." The thought of never being released from this life, never moving past the pain, never being free settled in his gut. The very idea of an eternity alone, while everything around you died and turned to dust and all you had to look forward to was greasy food from sidewalk vendors was less appealing than his own life, his own constant struggles. He knew that back when Sam had desperately presented Doc Benton and his twisted cure for dying. Immortality was an affront against humanity, he was certain of it then and he was still sure of it now. His eyes narrowed as he observed Death, his mind searching out his purpose. "So…what's with the philosophy?"
"I don't get much chance for conversation." Death's full attention was again focused on the hunter, beady eyes burrowing in. "I've enjoyed out little chats."
Dean shifted uneasy. He tried a more confident smirk, another mask slipping into place. "Good…I…ah, suppose." He was getting increasingly twitchy, undecided if a threatening Death was more intimidating than this surprisingly cordial Death. If he were to be honest, any conversation with Death was unsettling…against the natural order. "So…just what do you want to discuss?"
"I'm curious. You've seen heaven, know there's a place of peace…so why do you choose to stay?"
"Stay?" He quirked his brow along with the question.
"Alive. Why not simply end it and move on, bigger and better, as they say."
"I don't know…the job?"
"The job. Yes, of course. Is it worth it?"
Dean stopped to consider, every failure screaming out while the successes, the innocents saved, softly whispered. Every logic dictated he end it, move on to another plane, leave the fight to someone else. And yet, he couldn't…didn't even want to. He didn't hesitate, simply blurting out the truth. "Yes…yeah, it's worth it."
"Well, then…shall we get back to the business of your brother?"
Dean startled, the sharp turns Death took catching him off guard. His heart raced as he dared asked the question. "You're going to help?"
"Okay, then…let's get started."
"Not so fast, Dean. There are conditions…costs."
"What?" he gasped out. His face opened up, hope blossoming across his features, within his soulful eyes; the muscle along his jaw line twitching as he grabbed hold of their only chance. "Anything."
"Anything?" Death repeated, the word taking on a tainted twist. "Dean, I thought you'd learned. Isn't this what got you in this mess in the first place?"
"But…Sam needs this." He swallowed down any doubts or the coming regrets…any concern other than Sam and his soul. "He needs his soul," he reiterated, that truth trumping all else.
"Yes, he does…if you want your brother back." Death leaned in, his voice going softer, causing the hunter to lean in too in order to hear. "And you do, don't you? Everything always comes down to Sam…always comes back to that first duty of yours."
The past year flashed through his mind, losing Sam, trying to move on, being unable to let go…not when he knew how Sam was suffering in Lucifer's cage. Then reuniting with his brother, being offered that second chance, only to have it all come crashing down. That Sam a replicant, unable to feel, nothing more than a hollowed out shell of who he had once been. Dean couldn't decide which was worse, losing Sam or finding him again. His eyes rose, solemn, misting slightly, his need throbbing from the possibility, the chance that this could be set right. "What do you want from me?"
"Well…a little respect couldn't hurt."
"Yeah…okay. You're Death," he replied, that persistent tick in his jaw throbbing. "What's not to respect?" His lips trembled as a smile tried to draw up, easy and accommodating.
"Don't grovel…it's unbecoming," Death snarked back.
That chill again raced through him. He trembled from the uncertainty but pressed on. "So, what's the cost? Why are you doing this?"
"You're important, Dean. You and your brother."
His voice was low, hesitant and yet forceful, taking that risk. "Why?"
"Do you really think you cheated death that many times? That I conveniently 'let' you get away?"
"I…" His eyes widened, his mind scrambling for answers to a hundred possible questions. He settled on one. "Why? Why am I still alive?"
"You're still here because your work isn't done."
Shifting uncomfortably within his skin, Dean contained his thoughts, maintaining a calm exterior as his gut clenched. "My work?"
"What you do."
"Yes, there is that…but also the other," Death drolly replied.
"The other?" Dean questioned, his eyes growing increasingly wide, his mind racing at what possible cost Death might impose. "What the hell does that mean?"
"Dean, why did you take off the ring?"
"Yes, Dean, the ring," Death impatiently echoed.
"That guy…he was out of his mind with grief."
"So?" Dean gasped. Indignant and righteous anger exploded out of him as he relived that moment, that impossible choice. "He was going to blow through an intersection. There was a bus…who knows how many people would have gotten hurt. How many would have died."
"What?" Dean gasped, the enormity of the situation even worse than he'd imagined.
With no visible emotion Death calmly repeated himself. "Twenty-eight people would have died if you hadn't stopped him." The hunter remained silent, but the knowledge seemed to adversely affect him, his face scrunching up, eyes flickering amidst dampness, flinching back from the horror. "You saved those people…but at the cost of your own brother." Death tilted his head to the side, pensive and still, letting the severity of the moment settle on the hunter. "Why would you do that? Sam is everything and yet…"
Raising his head and locking eyes with Death, a tremulous smile breached Dean's solemn face. His voice was curt, sure and steady, even as his eyes registered the full cost of his sacrifice. "It was the right thing to do."
Death smiled. "Precisely. And that's why I'm going to help you."
"Yes, Dean. I'm going to help you because you deserve a second chance." The register of his voice went lower, his eyes tunneling through as he leaned in. "Perhaps your sacrifice will reap some good for once." Death finished straightening up the table where he was sitting, pushing his trash to the side and finishing his drink. Studying the human before him there was an intensity within his gaze that made the hairs on the back of Dean's neck stand up, followed by what might be considered a flash of compassion within his eyes. "You're the conscience of humanity, Dean…the voice of man. That's important."
The weight of that comment pressed down, the responsibility, the expectations. Not that he was averse to any of it; pressure having been a constant in his life since he was four, but this was unknown and again felt global in scale. After saving the whole friggen planet from the Apocalypse Dean couldn't fathom what more God or Death could expect from him. "What's that mean?" he insistently whispered.
"I need you to keep doing what you do." Death was typically cryptic with his comment, causing more unrest as he offered a murky directive, "Intrepid detective…keep digging."
"Digging for what?"
Death demanded all focus, forging an intense connection with the human struggling to comprehend, succeeding in drawing out an involuntary gasp and a shiver of doubt. His gaze was piercing, as if he could reach inside and caress Dean's very soul, wielding infinite power capable of crushing him with the flick of his mind. Slowly rising, adjusting his coat and tie he pushed in his chair. "The truth, Dean. I want you to keep searching out the truth. It's about the souls." He started to leave, turning back to casually offer one final comment. "Now, I need to go to Hell to retrieve your brother's soul."
Then he was gone.
It only took a moment for Dean to catch up, for the panic to hit as he raced down the stairs to the basement where Sam was restrained in Bobby's panic room. "Bobby, open up. Now!" He barely got there in time to see Death approach his brother. Sam's eyes were wild with fear, self-preservation driving his responses as he frantically pulled at his restraints. His shouts were desperate as his eyes connected with his brother and his ragged voice begged him to save him.
All Dean could do was watch and pray that this would work, that Death's drywall would hold, that Sam would thank him for saving him…that he would be saved. Sam's scream tore through Dean's gut as if he were the one being tortured and impaled as Death's clenched fist pressed into Sam's chest and the glow of his soul flared out and then vanished, placed back within the shell of his thrashing body. One agonizing yell bellowed out, reverberating within the iron hull of the panic room and then Sam slumped back to the cot, his body limp and lifeless, his eyes vacant before they slipped into oblivion.
The room turned deathly still. As quickly as Death had appeared, he was gone. Only the sound of the heavy iron door being pushed aside as Dean entered and rushed to his brother's side disturbed the unnatural calm. His hands were cold and clammy as he reached out a shaky hand and gently laid it over Sam's heart. He closed his eyes and waited, the gentle rise and fall of the chest beneath offering him a glimmer of hope as every emotion collided. The faint heartbeat was steady, a sharp contrast to his own frantic heart that was violently thumping against his ribs and trying to burst free.
Every hope and wish hinged on the outcome and after all they'd been through, this had to work. Dean settled beside his brother, holding vigil, anxiously awaiting the final verdict, waiting to see if his brother had at last escaped Lucifer's cage…ready to welcome him home.
Second and final chapter will deal with the ten days before Sam wakes up and then the long-awaited reunion when he does. Yep, I love what the real writers gave us, but I always want more. I'm just greedy that way.
Thanks for reading, B.J.