Disclaimer: I do not own, yadda yadda yadda.
A/N: Big, big thanks to lolaann1 who beta'd this and helped to turn this into something coherent. I also want to warn you all that there are some parts in this that are kinda icky as it talks about decomposition - I'm sorry ...
Death Becomes Him
There was no rational thought process as he fled and he didn't know where to go; only that he was going to get there as fast as possible.
He mashed the accelerator to the floor and steered with reckless abandon down the dark and abandoned road, while pebbles flew up from the gravel road and carelessly pelted the well-polished exterior of the classic, black car.
But he was beyond caring about the car's paint job– it didn't matter – not anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.
The miles passed by in a blur as he tore across the countryside, putting more and more distance between him and the little shack where death held his little brother hostage, and where his thoughts remained firmly entrenched.
His one mission – the only one that mattered – the mission that had literally been placed in his arms at age four, wrapped in a blanket – to protect his little brother -to save him- and he had failed -completely, utterly, and spectacularly.
And now what was left?
Nothing … nothing at all.
Sammy's gone …
The seat beside of him was empty like a vacuum and it threatened to pull all of the air out of the car and his lungs – he needed to breathe, but he couldn't – there was no air – because there was no Sam …
Just gone …
There one moment … and then … he wasn't.
He choked, the weight in his chest crushing him into a fine powder.
Sammy's gone …
No air …
Can't breathe …
The faster he drove, the more he could feel everything slipping away and it wasn't until he suddenly slammed on the brakes to catch his breath that he realized where he was.
A short distance away, illuminated only by the twin beams of the car's headlights, was a crossroads where four roads stretched out in four different directions, and he suddenly knew that he wouldn't travel any of them.
He would go no further - this was where he was supposed to be and he knew what he needed to do.
Killing the engine, he left the lights on as he hurried to the trunk and popped it open. Thankfully, the trunk was always well stocked for any contingency and everything he needed was there. He gathered the supplies hastily, shoving all of it into a small, tin box before he ran to the center of the crossroads and fell to his knees, using his bare hands to dig a hole and bury the box.
When he was done, he sat back on his haunches and held his breath for several moments in anticipation.
The countryside surrounding him stilled and fell silent. The crickets stopped chirping and the wind died, leaving the air heavy and oppressive.
Taking a deep breath to help calm his jackhammering heart, he stood and waited, steeling himself for the confrontation and the negotiation to come, but deep down inside, he knew that whatever bargain was offered, he'd take it – if only it meant that he could undo his failure.
If only it would bring his brother back to him.
Sam's eyes flew open on their own, awakening his mind with a confused, addled jolt.
He sat up automatically, looking around, with eyes darting in all directions as he tried to piece together where he was. He didn't recognize the room he was in, but further inspection of his surroundings showed him that it appeared to be a run-down house or cabin, maybe. He wasn't sure what this place was exactly, but it was certainly not the last place he remembered being. In fact, he had to wrack his brain and dig deep to find his last memory, and when it finally came, he felt a shiver pass over him.
He remembered seeing Dean and the relief he felt as he and Bobby came into view after his fight with Jake, but after that all he could recall was pain – a deep, penetrating, searing pain followed by a shout from his brother. He remembered falling to his knees as a strange wash of numbness came over him and he couldn't feel the ground beneath them or hold himself upright, his limbs rendered as useful as wet noodles. The next moment, Dean was there, holding him up and he was saying something, but his voice sounded like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel. He must have blacked out after that, because that was it – he couldn't recall anything else until he woke up in his new surroundings.
Sam looked down at his body. It appeared intact and he was still wearing the clothes he'd been wearing for the last couple of days. However, taking a closer look revealed that the mattress he sat upon was filthy, but more worryingly, it was stained a rusty brown over the exact spot where he had been lying. He must have been injured – that would explain the blood – but, shouldn't he feel some pain? Instead, he felt nothing.
Something was wrong – something was terribly wrong.
And that's when he realized that he didn't feel much of anything at all – he was kinda numb. He tested his hands and flexed them, bunching them up into tight fists. Though they moved as his brain instructed, he couldn't feel them as he normally should; it was like he had slept on them all night long and pinched his nerves.
He tried his legs next, easily swinging them over the edge of the bed, but again there was a weird lack of sensation in them – like he was disconnected from his body and he was just floating around.
Trying to shake off the strange feeling of disassociation, he stood up fully and noticed the mirror on the wall across from him. Taking a step, he ordered his feet to move him forward until he was standing right in front of it.
He almost fell backward at what he saw; his reflection both confusing and frightening at the same time. He didn't know what it was – the man in the mirror was him – just not in a way he had ever seen himself before.
He stared at his pale grey, mottled, and waxy skin, unable to suppress a mental shudder at his own reflection – damn … he looked awful.
Was he sick?
What the hell was wrong with him?
He shrugged off his jacket, determined to look himself over for injury or anything that might explain what he was seeing in the mirror. There was a hole in the back of his jacket and the blood soaked into it gave him proof that something must have happened to him, though he couldn't remember what. He examined the hole closer and to his eyes it looked uncannily similar to the damage that a knife would leave behind.
But … if he had been stabbed – shouldn't he feel pain?
He was at a loss – he needed more to go on.
He tossed the jacket onto the bed then turned his back to the mirror; turning his head as far it could go so he could get a good look. His white shirt was painted a brownish red in a small spot circling a slit in the fabric – it didn't look like too much blood and certainly not enough to kill him, he thought. There was enough of it dried into the fabric that if he had been injured, he should feel some pain, even if it was just a scratch.
Keeping his back to the mirror, he grabbed the hem of his shirt and started to lift it up. Dried blood made the fabric stick to his skin and he had to yank at it in order to release it and free it from the cloth, so he could raise it enough for him to see.
He was at a loss again as to just what it was that he was seeing – it was more than just a scratch – it was a deep, wide puncture; clearly a knife wound. Surrounding the wound, his skin was purple and bruised, but not inflamed like he would expect nor did the wound leak any blood, even though it wasn't stitched up or bandaged. The rest of his back was mottled with red and blue bruising as well, but that too gave him no pain.
Why didn't Dean or someone patch up the wound?
There were too many questions tossing about in his head for him to focus on just one. How did he get here? What happened? But more important of all: Where was Dean?
Dean wouldn't have left him here, injured and alone, would he?
Unless … something happened to Dean.
Was he hurt too? Or worse …?
Something akin to panic struck him … but not – not in the way he normally experienced fear – no … this was different and he couldn't quite pin it down until he realized that no matter how scared he was, his heart did not pound – it didn't feel like his chest might explode as it galloped in time to his racing thoughts, as it always did when he was this frightened.
There was nothing – nothing at all.
This did little to calm him. Though he was in the throes of one helluva panic attack in his head, he felt none of the physical symptoms that came with one – no sweaty palms, no tingling fingers and toes, no outbreak of sweat on his brow and no hyperventilation. In fact – he had to remind himself to breathe, yet he felt none of the accompanying dizziness he should have experienced – there was nothing.
Something was wrong.
Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Dean slammed on the brakes just before the car could ram into the door of the shack where he left his brother.
Excitement, anxiety, and fear mingled throughout his body and made him almost dizzy in anticipation. Even though he still had the taste of sulfur and death on his tongue from the kiss he gave the demon to seal his deal, he had to know if it worked and he had to see Sam up and around with his own eyes before he could allow himself to breathe again.
He rushed out of the car and towards the dwelling's only door. The demon had given him a year - one year to be with Sam and he wasn't going to waste a second of it.
Dean's hands shook as he pushed open the door and his heart froze in his chest as he looked in the direction of the room where Sam had laid dead for the last two days. It then leaped back into action the moment he saw all six feet and four inches of his little brother standing in front of a mirror with his shirt jacked up around his chest.
Standing meant not dead … Sammy's alive … and that's all that mattered to Dean and for just this moment alone, he knew that his soul had been a fair trade for it.
"Sammy?" Sam was already turning around before Dean had even uttered his name.
Relief, fear, surprise and confusion were evident all over his features as he pulled his shirt down and faced him, "Dean?"
Dean could have wept for joy if not for the fact that it might have freaked his little brother out, but he was just so damned happy to see him that answering all of the questions that were written on Sam's face would have to wait until Dean had gotten his fill of him. He quickly crossed the room and reached for his brother – his brother that had been dead only an hour ago – and wrapped his arms around him tight, never wanting to let him go. Sam was a little puzzled at first at Dean's reaction to seeing him, but hugged him back anyway with equal pressure.
He pulled away almost too soon for Dean, keeping his hands locked on Dean's arms so tight he was almost certain he would leave bruises. Sam locked his sight on Dean, his face pale and bloodless as he started to speak with fear and unrestrained panic clear in his voice.
"Dean … I …"
"It's okay, Sam … you're okay."
"No … no …" Sam shook his head then released his right hand from Dean's arm and laid it across his chest, hand over his heart , "I can't … something's not right."
Sam's anxiety transferred neatly over to Dean and he felt his heart flutter in response, "What, Sammy? What's wrong?"
"I'm scared, Dean … But my heart …" Sam swallowed hard, "I can't feel it."
"What?" Dean asked, confused by Sam's panic-ridden statement, "No. You're fine, okay? You wouldn't be standing here if your heart wasn't beating, it wouldn't make any sense."
"No, Dean –"Sam grabbed Dean's hand this time and pulled it to his chest, "Feel …"
Sam's fingers were cold against his as he pressed Dean's hand to his chest. Dean felt his insides shift as his stomach plunged to the floor and twisted into a knot – he didn't feel anything, just as Sam had tried to tell him, but his mind was having a hard time believing that it was even possible.
He lifted his hand from Sam's chest and placed his fingertips to his brother's neck, feeling for a pulse; he couldn't feel anything except Sam's frozen skin.
How could he be so cold?
Dean looked up into Sam's face, taking in his pale, grey features and blue tinted lips. A sinking realization forced its way into his head that he did not want to accept.
"No … this can't be happening." Dean muttered, "This is not happening."
Sam sank down and sat heavily on the bed behind him, "My God, Dean … am I dead?"
"God … how did this happen?" Sam asked. The strangeness of feeling so much anxiety and fear coursing through him without any corresponding physical reaction was almost unbearable, "What happened to me?"
Dean turned his back on Sam and he knew just from his posture that his big brother was keeping something from him. Running a hand through his short, mussed-up hair, Dean sighed heavily, "What do you remember?"
"Uh … I dunno … I felt this pain – like white-hot, ya know? And then you were running at me … and that's it."
"Yeah … that kid … he stabbed you in the back. Who was he?
"His name's Jake, did you get him?" For a moment Sam almost forgot his present predicament as he thought of Jake and what he had done and who he might have run to afterwards.
Dean shook his head, "Nah … he ran off into the woods."
Sam closed his eyes, "He … he killed me, didn't he?"
Dean froze. Turning around, Dean's dark-shadowed eyes held a wounded expression that went beyond misery. Sam had his answer.
"Then how am I …?" Sam felt another pang of fear grip him, "What did you do?"
"Sam … "Dean shook his head, casting his gaze away from him guiltily.
"What was it?" Sam asked, anger starting to take over some of the fear, "Some kind of re-animation spell like that Angela chick or what? God … please don't tell me I'm a zombie like she was."
"No … dammit, Sam. You're not a zombie – it's not that …" Dean started to pace back and forth in front of Sam, "this wasn't supposed to happen. You were supposed to be –"
"What? Alive? Well, news flash, Dean … something didn't go as planned." Sam's fear and anger married and had babies, causing his voice to rise. Whatever Dean had done, it hadn't been good and was more than likely something involving some kind of black magic or evil, and that never worked out well for them, "My heart isn't fucking beating! So just tell me – WHAT DID YOU DO?!" he shouted, demanding an answer.
"I went to the crossroads, okay?" Dean yelled back.
If he had been in his normal state, Sam would have felt a chill course through him, instead it was a mental iceberg that slammed into him and left him scrabbling for purchase, "You what?" He could hardly believe it – Dean went to a demon for help? After all of the emotional turmoil Dean had been through when they found out Dad had made a deal for his life?
"You … "Sam tried to swallow, but his throat was dry, "You made a deal? You sold your soul for me? This means you're going to Hell, doesn't it?"
Dean didn't answer, he just looked away.
"God, Dean … what were you thinking?"
Dean looked at his feet, a clear sign that he was trying to corral his emotions, but even then, Sam could see the turmoil and grief on his brother's face and he felt his anger ebb a little.
"We'll find a way to get you out of the deal."
Dean looked up sharply, "No … there's no way out of the deal. I try anything hinky and you'll drop dead."
Sam snorted, almost hysterically, "I'm already dead."
"You know what I mean, Sam."
"We've got time though, right? We got ten years to figure this out – there's gotta be a way –" Sam stopped short as Dean had that look about him again – that look of guilt, "What … what is it? What aren't you telling me?"
Dean hesitated then sighed, "I don't get ten years, Sam … it's one year."
It was amazing to Sam how things had gone from bad, to worse, to oh-my-god-fucking-horrible in the space of just a few minutes, "One? … Jesus Christ, Dean!" Sam shook his head, his mind still reeling and having trouble processing the shit storm that had brewed over their heads.
"Why would you do that?" Sam continued to rant, "You shouldn't have done it."
"I did what I had to do!" Dean came back hotly, but beyond the surface, Sam clearly saw the pain and despair that lingered in his brother's eyes. Had their roles been reversed, he wasn't sure what he would have done – he may have done the exact same thing if Dean had died, but all the same – Dean was going to Hell and that was worse than waking up to find out he was a walking corpse. Much worse.
Dean suddenly turned again and began heading for the door like a man on a mission. Sam jumped up from the bed and chased him down before he could turn the doorknob, "Where are you going?"
"Back to the crossroads. I'm gonna fix this, Sammy. That bitch is gonna make you the way you're supposed to be."
"And how are you going to do that? You already sold your soul, you don't have anything left to bargain."
"I'll think of something."
"No! Don't be stupid, Dean."
"What? You want to stay like this forever?"
"Of course not, but we got bigger problems and having a heart-to-heart with the crossroads demon isn't one of them."
"Like what? What could possibly be more important than this?"
"Yellow Eyes. He was there – in Cold Oak …" Dean seemed to back down a little at the mention of the demon that killed their mother," Look … he came to me in a dream – he only wanted one of us to get out and now he's got Jake and who knows what he's planning next, but we gotta stop him. We don't have time to fix my … issue. Not yet."
"Frogs aren't raining from the sky, Sam. We got time to fix you first." Dean insisted.
Sam shook his head, "No we don't. I'm sorry, but this is more important. Bobby's place is only a couple of hours away and he can help us."
Dean glared at him, but Sam saw the shift in his eyes that showed he had given in to Sam's reasoning, "Fine …" He sighed, " We go to Bobby's – maybe he can figure out a way to turn you back into a real boy."
Dean was going to rip that demon bitch apart with his bare hands.
He had sold his soul so that Sam could live again, not be revived as a re-animated corpse, and when he got his hands on her, she was going to wish she could go back to Hell just to get away from him. Everything in him itched to go back to that crossroads, but Sam had been right – they had bigger fish to fry and the sooner they found Yellow Eyes and ended him, the sooner he could figure out how to fix his brother.
Dean didn't regret making the deal – not even a little, but in hindsight, he hated that he hadn't thought to be more specific when dealing with the crossroads demon. Instead of saying 'bring Sam back' he should have said, 'bring Sam back to life.' He should have known that nasty-assed skank would screw them over like this.
Even though Sam's heart didn't beat in his chest and he was starting to look like an extra from a Romero movie, Dean was still relieved to have Sam sitting in the passenger seat of the Impala with him again. It was a far from perfect situation, but Sam was there – he was walking and talking and that was far better than the alternative where Sam's body lay as an empty husk in that damn shack. And while Sam's body might still be dead, it was better than having him dead dead and Dean had to take what he could get.
Most of the drive to Bobby's was filled with silence, especially after Dean explained to Sam that the Roadhouse had burned to the ground and that Ash was dead and Ellen had most likely perished right along with him.
Every now and then, Dean would chance a glance over a Sam. His brother looked like death itself – grey skin, mottled and it had a shiny quality that he didn't want to think about. He knew Sam was uncomfortable with him looking at him, but he couldn't help but make sure he was still there – still with him. Eventually, Sam grew sick of the scrutiny and spoke up, "You think … uh … what if I start rotting?"
"God, Sam …" Dean groaned, not wanting to have that conversation.
"I'm serious … corpses decay, Dean. It's a fact. How are we going to explain this to Bobby when we show up?"
Dean shrugged, "He'll just have to accept it." As if Dean hadn't been thinking about that eventual confrontation already – Bobby was going to be pissed and he knew he was going to get the ass reaming of his life the moment they both showed up at his door.
"What if I start to smell?" Sam asked, making a grimace, "Or … ya know – bloat or something."
"Jesus … can we focus on one crisis at a time?" Dean shuddered at the thought, not willing his mind to even go in that direction, "If you smell, Bobby's got a whole cabinet full of Old Spice you can pour on, okay? And if you bloat, well … then you'll just be a little extra gassy – probably not much different than you already are after a bean burrito from Chipotle."
"Well … sorry … I've never been dead before," Sam shot back testily then dropped his voice as he looked at his drying hands, "I just don't know what to expect, ya know?"
"I don't exactly have a handbook for the recently deceased either, but you're going to be fine, okay? And we're gonna fix this – I promise."
That seemed to calm Sam a little, at least marginally, so Dean turned his attention back to the road and tried to pretend that Sam's questions hadn't shook him to his core.
More in Part 2