I've been a writing fool this week! I had this idea the second I finished "The Many Faces of Sam," so I decided to make this a companion piece. You don't have to read the other story to understand this one. I seem to enjoy being in Dean's head at the moment.
And as always, please let me know what you think! Reviews are like little presents and I love presents.
The Many Lives of Sam
Curses adulterated the grimy lake, giving the water a nefarious gleam of green. Dean caught flashes of scales and tentacles as he sank. Jagged bolts of lightning strobed through the sky above.
Dean Winchester flailed in the water. He fought to snag the sinking weapons bag from their capsized boat, to spot Sam who had been flung too, and finally, to locate the teenagers who'd been snatched from the docks by angry mermen.
Sam torpedoed beneath him in the water, swimming as if he had fins. Dean rescued the weapons bag and kicked for the surface. The lake that had lazily lapped the shore when they had canvassed the area earlier now raged and swelled into a fantastical gale. Monstrous bands of serpentine thunderclouds amassed instantaneously in the skies above. He breathed in blessed air as he treaded water with lethargic limbs that tingled hotly with pain.
The water was freezing.
"SAMMY!" He hollered over the rush of elements.
Dean swam one-handed to the capsized boat that they'd commandeered for this disaster of a hunt.
Sam popped up a second later, out of breath and thoroughly soaked. "Ritual didn't work…think it just pissed them off," he yelled with a humorless laugh.
Dean lifted an arm out of the water to gesture to at the supernatural hurricane that had appeared mere minutes after they performed the failed ritual that should have negated the mermen's powers. "Ya think?"
"The crossbows'll still work."
The older Winchester dove beneath the water to retrieve the crossbows from the bag. He let it drop, knowing it would just slow them down.
Somewhat armed, Sam and Dean plunged through the powerful gale and the desensitizing darkness as the ivory light of the full moon had been snuffed out by the storm. Sam jerked beside him, his stroke breaking as he scanned the depths below. "I can feel them down there."
"Soon they'll be sleepin' with the fishes." Dean snarked. "Get it!"
Sam's face twisted into a soggy bitchface. "You need newer one-liners, Mugsy."
The cry was faint, smothered by the wind, but they both heard it. They swam fast, kicking and stroking until they discovered the missing teens clinging to a rotten log. Sam reached them first and fought off the terrified teenage boy who pawed at him, frantic for rescue, face twisted in a pale rictus of horror. "They're in the water…they're inside my head…playing games with us…I wanna go home…" He stammered through chattering teeth.
The girl was silent and faintly blue as she succumbed to hypothermia.
Sam reassured the boy with gruff impatience.
Dean glared at the water and tried unsuccessfully to tamp down the undeniable foreboding. This was too easy. It was a trap.
Thunderless lightning set the sky aflame and illuminated the water and the predatory shadows beneath it—the mermen had them surrounded, heads and torsos of men with octopus-like lower halves, complete with a three, six-foot long tentacles.
"I see them, Dean."
Dean stared at his brother as he held a protective arm around the nearly catatonic girl. After hunting together for nearly fifteen years, and raising the kid from a baby, Sam and Dean could communicate more in a single expression than most people could in an hour of candid conversation. With a subtle flicker of Sam's eyes, Dean heard him loud and abundantly clear. I'm not afraid to die.
Sam held his eyes a moment longer.
If I'm gonna go, man, I want to go as me. I feel…better than I have in years… I know you're okay.
Dean shook his head as a tentacle wrapped softly around his ankle, a warm grip in a sea of cold. It prodded along his foot, pulling off his boot with a fatal curiosity like a little boy pulling the wings off a fly.
Sam winked with Winchester-patented bravado. I love you.
And without ceremony or a second of hesitation, Sam readied his crossbow and dove into the water. The tentacle encircling Dean's leg vanished with a snap. He snagged the bedraggled girl around the chest and leveled the boy with a sharp stare. "Can you swim?"
He hesitated and but nodded. "Just get my girlfriend. I-I'll be f-fine."
"You better make like freakin' Michael Phelps and get your ass to shore. Don't look back and don't stop."
True to his word, the kid took off like a bullet.
"Hang on, sweetheart. It's almost over." And Dean Winchester did what he never would have done five years ago, he turned his back on his brother and swam away. He put Sam's wishes above his own.
The girl with a water-logged french braid and a delicate cross around her neck choked out a few words, "blood…there's b-blood in…the…w-water…"
Dean thought she was delirious, but lightning pulsed again and he glanced back, unable not to. Through the unrelenting waves, Sam thrashed to the surface, bloody and tangled in silver tentacles. His mouth was open, chest working for air, which was probably impossible due to the trident skewering it. But he was still fighting, one hand clutching the blade, another firing the crossbow. He sunk beneath the water slashing and shooting.
Dean's insides clenched as the realization dawned that he had just witnessed Sam's death. They didn't have an endless supply of lives anymore. He was as mortal as the two teenagers who'd been yanked off the docks and plunged into the most traumatizing night of their lives.
It was a demise that any hunter would be proud of and that once upon a time Dean had welcomed—going down fighting. Leaving a handsome corpse. Kicking the bucket before liver failure and the horrors of hunting drove him batty. Except it wasn't heroic or romantic; it was ugly and painful; violent and surreal.
The water surged again by a wave that crested over their heads. Dean was drowning in a supernatural whirlpool. His mouth filled and his eyes burned as his equilibrium was obliterated. He tumbled end over end, sinking in the murk of the lake. He could barely keep a hold of the girl, who struggled feebly, too weak to swim. As his precious oxygen dwindled, Dean was bolstered by unfettered rage. Sam had given his life save a pair of horny teenagers so they could go to sock-hops and get trashed at college keg parties. He was going to see it through.
With half a breath left, Dean opened his eyes to the disorienting black. When lightning flashed again, he kicked feverishly up, his hands locked on the girl's collar. Coughing water and gunk out of his lungs, he swam for shore fueled by burgeoning grief and defiant spite.
He climbed up the shore, awkwardly manhandling his wet burden. He was grateful for the sparse lights of the nearby docks. He collapsed to his knees in a heap and braced himself as his body worked for air.
There was splash and stumbling footsteps behind him and he turned, hope fluttering in his heart. "Sammy?"
It was just the kid darting towards his fallen girlfriend. Dean barreled towards the lake, prepared to go back in and rip those scaly bitches apart with his hands. But the boy tugged on his arm and pulled him back. "K-Katie's n-not breathing. Y-you gotta h-help!" He was frantic and crying.
"S-she's blue. Man…please…" He pointed at his friend with a shivering sob.
Damn if the kid didn't have Sam's soulful eyes and a shock of dark blond hair slicked down to his forehead nearly covering his eyes. Dean marched back to her with a growl, tipping her head back and listening for breath, but she was still. Lifeless. Dean breathed for her, watching her chest rise and then he began compressions. "Bieber, c'mere." He said as Katie's body rocked with the unforgiving force.
The boy was at his side, looking at him anxiously. "Need you to help me, all right? Puff two breaths into her mouth when I tell you too." Dean was lightheaded and weak himself. "Make sure her chest rises. Breathe now, hard. Two puffs."
The kid obeyed, covering his mouth with hers and filling her with life. Dean compressed her chest. It was a maddening cycle that seemed to last hours. With great effort, he focused on saving the life in front of him and didn't think about the epic loss out in the lake.
In a gas station under the stars, after Sam had collapsed from the crumbling wall, the brothers had made a promise: there would be no more deals with the supernatural. Sam and Dean were finally in charge of their own destinies.
Sam had chosen this one. And it wasn't fair and it had been far too soon, but Dean wouldn't take that away from him.
Dean pumped Katie's heart as if it was his brother's.
But Katie wasn't coming back. The kid was flagging too, growing grey as he continued rescue breaths.
"This isn't working," he barked when the kid slumped over in the muddy grass, winded.
Rain still pelted them, but the storm had lost its nastiness. "I can keep breathing for her, but you need to find a phone. We need paramedics. Go now!"
The kid didn't need to be told twice. He disappeared into the ambling mists.
Dean regarded Katie again, and was emboldened by the things he hadn't seen before. Her hair was bright red, even wet. Her nails were painted black and studded with rhinestones. Both arms were cluttered with bracelets. Dark eyeliner belied her baby face, all rounded cheeks and full lips. She was so heartbreakingly young…too young to be making out on the docks with a boy and far too young to die. "Listen up, Katie," Dean panted as he switched back to compressions. "I need to you work with me here. I'm going to give you a fighting chance, but you gotta help me out, okay? I can't leave here with n-nothing."
He continued CPR even though his arms ached, his vision wilted at the edges. "Come on, Katie. Please."
He was running out of air, drowning on dry land, but Dean was spurred on by the gruesome last image of Sam, bleeding and bound by tentacles, as fierce in death as he was in life.
As hard as he fought, Dean wasn't prepared for victory. He froze when Katie jerked, tiny body arching upward as her body spasmed to rid itself of the dirty lake water. She flopped over on the muddy grass, retching. Static crackled in Dean's ears as red and blue lights flickered in his eyes.
The boy was there, rubbing Katie's back and grinning madly. "I'm totally putting this on my blog."
The shell-shocked acceptance of Sam's demise crumbled away once the lives were saved. His head snapped to the water and with a throat-shredding scream, he pushed off the ground and tore towards it. "SAM!"
He'd just gotten him back. His Sam with the soul and the dimples and the abs and the brilliance. Hunting was fun again, all adrenaline rush and none of the pesky anxiety that came with the end of the world and fraternal betrayal. They'd done it. They'd given their lives and blood so these kids could make out on the docks, so the police of this sleepy village could roust them and feel like a job well done. They'd died and fought and hated each other so the sun could rise and set in an explosion of beauty that everyone took for granted because they hadn't known that the world was ending and hadn't confronted Satan himself wearing their loved ones like the wickedest of Halloween costumes and hadn't made pacts at truck-stops about dying brutally before the age of thirty-five.
He marched into the water that only swirled with halfhearted annoyance, yelling for his brother. Even if he didn't answer, Dean wasn't coming back. It ended here.
The frigid water soaked the thighs of his muddy jeans and Dean welcomed it. He never wanted a grave or a coffin so being swept away by the water of this glorious lake sounded pretty good. Strong arms seized him, dragging him back. He fought them with the rabidness of a junkyard dog. He threw elbows and expertly extracted himself from restraining hands. "My brother's out there! SAMMY! SAM!"
More hands joined the fray and he was hauled back to the shore. He choked on the air Sam couldn't breathe and cried as the firefighters let him exhaust himself. "M'brother." He panted. "He's still in the water."
The firefighters exchanged grim looks over his head. One stepped away from the group to radio in. Dean still heard them call for a recovery team instead of rescue.
The storm rained itself out and the menacing rim of clouds gave way to another spectacular sunrise. Swaddled in blankets, Dean sat in the police car and watched as teams and scuba divers systematically searched the lake. They returned empty-handed.
The officers let him out with apologies Dean didn't hear. He handed them the blanket and trudged to his car, Sam's voice blocking out all others.
I'm not afraid to die. If I'm gonna go, man, I want to go as me, soul in place. I'm not stopping until we find them.
Dean walked to Impala where not twelve hours ago, he and Sam had discussed taking a vacation in a few months, maybe hitting up some barbecue competitions down south. Sam had been excited to kill the mermen with the new, badass crossbows.
"Excuse me, are you Dean?"
He lifted his pounding head to find a slight, round woman with vibrant scarlet hair standing next to his car. "You saved my Katie's life…I just wanted to thank you."
A selfish meanness blossomed inside of him and he stepped back, breaking the grip she had on his damp shirt. "My brother saved Katie."
She seemed confused, but her eyes sparkled with unshed tears of gratitude as she looked around. "Um, where is he? I'd like to thank him too."
Dean pointed to the lake that now seemed innocuous in the bluish hum of morning. "He's out there."
He got into his car and drove away as Katie's mom began to cry.
The motel room was just as he'd left it—pristine salt lines at every door and window, Sam's laptop on the table, his bedclothes rumpled like he'd gotten up to go to the bathroom. Dean barely made it through the threshold before he was overtaken with ugly, erupting sobs. He bawled out of grief and that malignant hole of loss. Because there was no one left to reassure with unwavering big brother wisdom or mercilessly tease about their music or shaggy hair.
Dean crawled over to Sam's bed and into it. He wept so hard the headboard rattled and the springs squeaked. It smelled like his aftershave and toothpaste.
There was no one to call, Dean thought, hours later when he was too exhausted to do anything more than stare and leak. Sam should've had a girlfriend or maybe even a wife to call, but Jess was ashes and Madison was worm food (and Ruby didn't count) and Sam had never let himself love anyone else. Maybe Katie would marry the kid and they'd have a baby and name it Sam. That's what would happen in those sappy-squishy Lifetime movies as if a baby could up for the loss of the hero.
Dean felt more ill than he ever had in his life, riddled with pain no drug would ever cure and with a hollowness food would never fill. Dean stared at the wallpaper. It was strange—faded mint green background patterned with ripe bananas. Upon arrival, Sam had impressed him with a string of dirty, banana-related jokes. "That's my boy!" He had snorted and followed it up with his arsenal of cherry-centric comedy.
He slept, dreaming of water and tentacles and Sam's last stand.
The tingling heat of fever ripped him from freeform nightmares. His throat stung tortuously. His body throbbed with pain. He was probably dehydrated, but he didn't have the energy to care. He could waste away and die here and it would be awesome. In fact that was his new and only gameplan. If only he'd kept the horseman's ring, he could have done it himself.
The light had dulled when Dean heard the door click. Hours had passed. It was the maid entering to clean the room. He tried to call out to make her leave, but his voice was shot. Despairingly, he summoned the strength to push up on an elbow as the maid's footsteps were muffled on the stained carpet.
"Dude, lil' help."
The voice was tight with pain, but sunny and healing and Sam.
With energy borne from adrenaline and disbelief, Dean's gaze fixed on the door. And there Sam stood, haloed in the golden hum of the sunset, muddy, bloody but extraordinarily alive. He limped further into the room, nudging the door shut.
Dean merely stared at the watery mirage of his brother. "I left you there." He said, wincing as his tonsils scraped together. Somehow he was in front of him, slamming his freaking giant of a brother against the wall. "I left you there." The anger piggybacked on relief.
Sam's throat worked and he hugged him, hard and long. "I wanted you to." He eased onto the bed with a hiss and peeled off his ruined jacket. "You forget we have angels in our back pockets. I wanted you to save the kids, Dean, but I had a back-up plan. Balthazar says we owe him. And the bastard wouldn't heal me." Sam's tone dripped with false confidence.
He remembered Sam's chest impaled with the trident, Sam's blood in the water, and he slapped Sam's hands away, tearing open Sam's filthy, tattered shirt. Blood slicked his hands from three dime-sized puncture wounds, shallower than they should have been, but still weeping. His skin was peppered with deep, angry welts in the telltale shape of tentacles. His leg was a mess of congealed crimson and ripped flesh. He was missing one shoe. Dean snagged the bedsheet and applied pressure to the punctures. "Who would have thought mermen had shoe fetishes?" he chuckled, giddy with relief.
Sam huffed a hoarse laugh that was wet and a little crazed. "They have a lot of feet." The delirious laughter died quickly. Spent and in pain, Sam took in Dean's puffy eyes and the dirty clothes. "You thought…"
"Dean, I'm sorry…"
"We are not talking about this." Dean said through clenched teeth.
He obliged. "Kids okay?"
"Katie and Bieber will live happily ever after. And I friggin' hate you."
Sam's eyes were glassy, his speech slurred, but he grinned anyway. "I owe you pie, huh?"
"There is no amount of pie in the world, Sam." Dean replied as Sam swayed, forever fighting, but fading fast. "You can pass out, bitch. I'm right here."
Never one to disappoint Dean when he was mad, Sam obeyed.
They took care of each other. Dean was miserable with the flu and a hacking cough that rattled in his lungs. Sam was in pain and nearly bedridden with a relentless fever and cough of his own. But he had summoned the strength to hobble over to Dean's bed when his older brother suffered nightmares of Sam's death that wasn't and calmly reassured him with a big hand on his back and wordless understanding.
It was Dean's turn to sit by Sam's bedside, mopping him down with a cool cloth. His fever had spiked, putting down roots as it usually did during the night. Sam feigned sleep, leaving Dean to his ministrations and humming. Metallica, of course.
"I was terrified," Sam confessed in the security of the dark. "I said I wasn't...or I thought I wouldn't be after everything I've done...but I..."
Dean passed the cloth over Sam's bandaged chest and blotted the angry welts. "It wasn't a picnic from my end either."
"They pulled me under the water, and they were laughing as they squeezed the life out of me. I could hear them in my head. The tentacles burned and…I was drowning. So I prayed. I was too freaked out to pray specifically to Castiel. But Balthazar heard me. He showed up and set off this…like angel-bomb in the water. Everything went white…and then I woke up on the shore…" Sam explained, shaking from more than the fever.
Dean swallowed back tears. The grief was still too close. All he could think was that he'd left him there, afraid and dying.
"I'm not mad at you. You did what I wanted, but it felt like before…when I fell."
That was all Dean needed to hear. "Let's not hunt for a while." He blurted out. He busied himself with the cloth, draping it over Sam's steaming forehead. "You need to heal up. Baseball season starts soon. We could hit the new Yankee stadium. Then swing down south for all the beer and barbeque we could ever want."
Sam deflated with relief. "Sounds good."
"It's okay to be freaked, Sam. I've tried the whole laughing-in-the-face-own-your-mortality thing, remember? It's pretty effin' stupid. The truth is you're twenty-nine-years-old and you have a right to want more and longer. We'll panic when you don't, okay?"
"I'm not leaving you again, Sam." He said it calmly and quietly, but the words were riddled with unbreakable certainty.
His hand slid into Dean's. "I don't intend on making you."
The quiet stretched between them, but Dean still swore he could hear Sam's echoing I'm not afraid to die and the raging of water.
"Maybe we'll swing by South by Southwest, find you a girl."
Smiling, Sam closed his eyes, angled his battered body towards Dean, who was content to stay up and watch his brother sleep in a shabby motel room with banana wallpaper. He never had dreams of his own or ambition to do anything but hunt, but he had a whole life mapped out for Sam and he was determined to get him there.
Until then, he'd enjoy the ride with Sam steadfastly in the passenger seat.