A/N: Written for the hoodietime winter challenge over on lj.
The name comes up and Death squints at it, rubbing tiredly at his nose. Dean Winchester. Again. Death sighs heavily as one of the Reapers prepares to go collect Dean.
"No," he says, "I'll take this one."
The Reaper nods and Death sighs again before going after the wayward Winchester.
Dean is leaning up against a tree on the border of an iced over lake. There is snow on the ground around him, and his breath shows with every exhalation. There is a wound in his side and he's leaking red all over the snow. All in all, Death thinks, it's not a bad place to die, surrounded by nature's beauty. Of course, dying is still dying, no matter where it happens.
"Dean Winchester," he says, standing in front of the broken man.
"Hey," Dean grunts, looking up at Death with heavy lidded eyes. He manages a painful half-smile that has Death shaking his head. He's seen a lot in his time, but sometimes the sheer tenacity of Dean Winchester still manages to throw him off balance.
"How's it- going?" Dean pants. Death sighs heavily and settles next to him in the snow.
"It is going well," he says, looking critically at Dean, "though I preferred eating pizza with you at Rinascita to this."
"Me too," Dean says. He laughs bitterly and coughs more scarlet onto his chin. For all that Death doesn't care about people, about one insignificant being, he finds himself feeling distressingly close to concerned.
Dean shivers and Death knows that it is cold, though he cannot feel it. Dean's breathing is ragged and his pulse is slowing.
"Why am I here, Dean?" Death asks quietly. "This is not your appointed time."
Dean exhales heavily with the exhaustion that only comes after a lifetime of heartbreaks and tragedies.
"You- you took him," Dean whispers, a breathy sob. "You took Bobby."
Death nods slowly as understanding dawns.
"Robert Singer," he says. Dean nods shakily. "It was his time, Dean."
"No," Dean sobs. "I need him."
"Dean," Death says, "this is the way of the world. It has always been so."
"It isn't fair," Dean says. "I-I've given so much, and I'm- I'm tired."
Death can see the truth in his words, can see in Dean's eyes how weary he is. Death can feel the exhaustion leaking from Dean's soul as steadily as the blood that trickles from his side.
"Please," he whispers, his voice raspy. "I don't want to be alone."
Death frowns. "You still have Sam," he says.
"He's-he's different," Dean says, then coughs again, hissing in pain. "Doesn't always see me."
Death cocks his head slightly.
"What do you mean?" He asks. He is surprised to find that he is rather curious to hear the answer.
"He looks at me," Dean says, then takes a sharp breath as if even speaking is tiring him out. Death can feel his heart struggling to beat. "But he doesn't see me. He doesn't un-understand."
"Bobby did," Death says. "He understood."
"Y-yeah," Dean says. It sounds like a whimper. "Don' wanna be alone. Please."
"I cannot bring him back, Dean," Death says. He finds that he is actually sorry.
"Fuck you," Dean spits, then heaves in a desperate breath. "Could if you wanted to."
Death inclines his head.
"Yes," he says, "I could." He pauses for a moment, takes in the natural beauty that surrounds them. It is just starting to snow again, tiny flakes drifting down onto them.
"But do you think that a man whose time has come would really want to stay tied to this earth?" He asks. "Do you think your Bobby would want to stay here knowing that he does not belong here?"
Dean chokes out a sob. More blood splatters and he looks so very tired.
"No," he gasps finally. "There is no hell w- worse than that."
Death feels something close to sadness for the first time in many millennia.
"I'm scared," Dean whispers. "Don't want t' be alone."
Death isn't certain what to say, though he figures it should probably be comforting.
"It's alright to be frightened," he says finally. "And you are not alone."
As he says the words, the sound of someone—Sam—yelling Dean's name is audible and his form becomes visible, a tiny speck across the lake from where Dean sits.
"You see?" Death says. He wonders if he is being at all soothing or if he is just frustrating the young human. "Sam is coming for you already."
Dean's eyes have slipped closed, but he rouses slightly at Death's words. A half smile graces his features.
"See you-later," Dean says. "Places to-go, huh?"
"Yes," Death says, "I am busy."
Dean's eyes close again. Sam is nearly upon them.
"Dean Winchester," Death says abruptly. Dean's eyes snap open. "I will come for you."
"Huh?" Dean says, the word a mere whisper of air.
"When your time has come, I will come for you. You will not go alone."
"Oh," Dean whispers, then smiles slightly. "Thanks."
"You are welcome," Death murmurs. He watches as Sam collapses to his knees at Dean's side, massive hands cupping Dean's pale cheeks, murmuring painfully sincere reassurances as he gathers his brother's broken form to his chest. He still doesn't understand how a single human managed to make him care, but he finds that he does not resent the sentiment, and maybe even looks forward to the day when he can collect Dean Winchester's remarkable soul.