Disclaimer: Not mine. If they were, they'd be getting therapy, lots and lots of therapy.
Warning: suicide attempt
In what Sam supposed was an attempt to pretend things were not as bad as they seemed, Dean had decided they would take a "break" from the impending end of the world and go on an ordinary, run of the mill hunt. Thus Sam found himself stumbling along through the snow behind Dan, staggering up an icy slope in northern Minnesota, pursuing some pissant malevolent Norse spirit that had been aggravating the nearby small town. Originally little more than a mischief-maker, it had recently branched out from hiding car keys and breaking those stupid garden gazing ball things, to removing bolts and twisting support beams in public buildings. After a roof collapse in the community recreation center had critically injured three people, and the local newspaper had helpfully quoted a nursing home resident's theory as to the cause, Dean had somehow concluded this low-profile hunt would be the perfect way to relax. Just their luck the creature was believed to retreat to the countryside when it felt threatened. Of course, Sam wouldn't have been able to relax even if the hunt were taking place in a five-star hotel.
So here they are. It's unseasonably cold, even for this part of the country. Some of the more perceptive locals are trying to add two and two, but are getting five, blaming the demon for the eccentricity in the weather, too. Neither Dean nor Sam tips them off that they are missing a variable and that it is the Apocalypse.
While Dean strides purposefully through the knee-deep snow, energized by the prospect of saving people and oblivious to the falling wet flakes already sticking to his coat, Sam shuffles behind him, oppressive thoughts amplifying the effect of gravity on his feet. Since Ilchester, he's been tagging along with Dean, and Sam is grateful for being allowed to remain in his orbit as long as he has, although he is afraid to say so, as if bringing attention to his presence will seal his fate on the spot. Dean is doing his job, and Sam can only try to stay out of his way for however long he can.
After the mess in River Pass, when Sam had started to wonder if Dean had somehow changed his mind about . . . things, Sam had (ludicrously, he realizes now) thought that maybe he might still have other options. He had offered to leave. That had never worked before, of course, but things were so very different now. Dean had looked him right in the eye and asked, "Do you remember what I said in the voicemail, Sam?" Sam knew that the demon blood had done terrible things to his body, but his memory was painfully intact. Breaking eye contact, but without rancor, he had answered, "I remember, Dean." Dean had paused a moment, as if he expected Sam to say something else, before tiredly adding, "Then you should understand why I'm not letting you go anywhere without me," and stalking off.
Sam understands that he is living on borrowed time. That's been true his whole life, really, but it is comforting to know that, finally, Dean understands that as well as Sam does. All Sam has to do is wait for Dean to fix it, just like he has always fixed everything else gone wrong in Sam's life. Now that Dean barely speaks to him, Sam is relieved of the opportunity to say anything else that could make things worse, although he does wish he knew what Dean was waiting for. Dean probably has an agenda, one he has justifiably not shared with Sam, and Sam knows he's in no position to ask for anything. His vocabulary has become almost completely attenuated to saying "yes" or "no" to Dean, on the rare occasions that Dean asks him anything. Sometimes, even saying "yes" leaves a bad taste in his mouth, although he has no idea why.
Right now, all Sam can taste is a weird metallic tang in the freezing air. It's an odd sensation, but since withdrawing from the demon blood, and then losing all appetite whatsoever, he's used to nothing tasting right any more. He's not sleeping, either, because he keeps being inexplicably jolted awake by nightmares of giving the wrong answer to the wrong question to the wrong person. He wishes he could have a simple bad dream about showing up naked for class, like everyone else, but he knows he deserves these nightmares that leave him feeling like he is condemning the world all over again. The situation isn't exactly leaving him fighting fit, but that can hardly matter now, anyway.
They have been walking for awhile and Sam has been ruminating for awhile when Dean stops abruptly and, physics being what they are, Sam barely tears himself away from his train of thought in time to not crash into his back. Sam thinks to himself that the snowfall is getting heavier. If Dean thinks the same thing, he doesn't say so. All he says, curtly, is that they're obviously not covering enough ground at the rate they're going. Dean waves his arm to the left and tells Sam to check that area, and to meet him back here in thirty minutes. He turns away, not wasting any time waiting for Sam's response.
So Sam trudges off to the left, a little worried how he's supposed to find tracks of something a quarter of his weight in the falling snow that is now coming down fast enough to obscure his own footprints nearly as quickly as he makes them. But maybe he can be helpful in some small way to Dean, so he tries. Mechanically, he peers behind clumps of bushes, checks behind the larger drifts, scans side to side for evidence of anything that doesn't belong there. Coming up empty, he eyes a line of trees in the distance. He can go back now, and tell Dean he failed, again, or he could keep searching and maybe find what he's looking for by taking things just a little bit further. He's not sure how far away it is, as his vision is blurring a bit. Not wanting to let Dean down -again- he decides to go for it. It's not as if he can make anything worse by trying, can he?
He adjusts his path and heads for the trees. Stumbling a bit, his course is more parabolic than straight, as the wind whips around him, harder than before, and howling. His self-imposed forced march across the meadow is every bit as unpleasant as he'd expected, and more, since he realizes it's taking all his energy and that it's going to be a real struggle for him to come back. Sam is exhausted. His fingers and toes are numb, and the rest of him is bitterly, bitingly cold. He's not sure how much more he can take, or if he wants to. Whatever Dean is waiting for is taking too damn long. What if he just keeps walking until . . . he can't. OK, that doesn't sound like the most pleasant way to go, but Sam of all people knows there are plenty of worse ways. Much, much worse. And spending his last moments of life embracing the cold seems like a perfectly logical prelude to an eternity in the fires of Hell that he is surely headed for.
The creeping numbness in his hands and feet is almost a relief. The invisible icy daggers still stabbing at his forearms and calves, not so much. As Sam nears the trees, though, the other pains recede too, and a calmness comes over him until nearly the only sensation remaining is that of the air scouring him clean on its passage in and out of his lungs.
Sam remembers an anthropology class and reading about mummies - always remarkably well-preserved - found frozen in the glacial ice, undiscovered and undisturbed for centuries or even millennia. He couldn't count on that here, of course, but it's an appealing idea. Breathing, shallower now, doesn't hurt anymore.
He reaches the trees and slides down to a crouch beside one of them, thinking of ghosts and their endless death echoes, forced to repeat their final moments ad infinitum, eternal victims of some kind of spiritual OCD.
He wonders if reliving his own death would really be so bad, if it could be like this one looks to be - warm, peaceful, just slipping away. Better than he deserves. Dean couldn't begrudge him that, could he?
A chill, not from the cold, sends shivers running down Sam's spine. That's not how it would work, not for him. A calm, muffled slide into the dark won't send him back to this world as a shade. With his luck, he'll be trapped reliving his first death, the one at Cold Oak, his last memory muddy, bloody, a knife in the back.
That's what he deserves, what he expects to get, whether it comes sooner or later. Isn't sooner better, while his death can still benefit Dean? And maybe everyone else. Dean has a mission. Whether Dean's drive is fueled by duty, altruism, or something else, he has his limits, and Sam has cost him dearly already. It would be for the greater good if Sam dies right now, before his mere existence dooms even more people. His only regret is not having done this earlier - why hadn't he seen the signs before?
He falters out of his crouched position and slumps against the tree, long legs splaying out in front of him. He can't feel them anymore, can't feel much of anything anymore, and savors the silence in his head, the first time he's felt at peace in forever. Whatever might come next, this is one single, perfect moment.
The moment passes, and something's buzzing in his head. Or maybe it's coming from his hip. Is that his phone? Who would be calling him? Oh, right, Dean. Sam isn't going to pick up. His fingers are too numb now to work the phone even if he wanted to, and he doesn't want to. He doesn't need to hear any more phone messages from Dean.
He can hear Dean calling him anyway. Since he hasn't answered the phone, it must be in his head. That's OK. He'd been wishing Dean would talk to him, just a little, and it's nice to imagine that he is hearing his voice, one last time.
Whatever Sam thinks should happen next, it isn't waking up in the backseat of the Impala, swaddled in stolen motel blankets he'd last seen wadded up in the trunk. Disoriented, he feels as if he's been yanked into wakefulness, by what, he can't tell. His head is pounding and his legs are cramping and his fingers feel prickly down to the bone like they might be broken and none of it hurts nearly enough to be Hell so it means he must be alive. That would also possibly account for the hyperventilating brother plastered to his side, sweltering under the onslaught of all the heat a 1967 Chevy could possibly blast out. More than a little confused, Sam stirs, involuntarily, and Dean's grip on him tightens.
Now Sam is really confused, unable to remember the last time Dean called him that.
"D-Dean," he whispers cautiously, hoping this is an acceptable response.
"What were you thinking?"
"What were you thinking heading across an open field like that with a storm coming up? Didn't you hear the wind blowing it in? Why didn't you answer your damned phone? And why the hell did you have to fold up your huge Sasquatch of a self into the one spot I'd have the worst trouble finding?"
This is the most Dean has said to him at once in the last three weeks put together, and Sam is starting to miss the grunting and yes or no questions. Also, Dean sounds kind of angry, although that's not really a surprise. Sam's head feels like it might have been stuffed with hex bags and he doesn't know what to say, so he says nothing. This tactic does not fly with Dean.
"Well?" Dean prods.
"I . . . um." Sam coughs, partly because he is probably kind of dehydrated but mostly to buy himself some time. "I th-thought it'd be easiest on both of us." Sam hopes his explanation isn't going to come out too selfish. That's one of his problems, he knows, because Dean has told him so.
"Thought what would be easiest on both of us? 'Cause hauling your ass across half of Minnesota in a snowstorm wasn't easy."
"I didn't think you were gonna . . ." Sam's words trail off into a mumble, but Dean's face is only inches from his so Dean hears them anyway.
"You got a fever? Because it sounds like you just said you didn't think I'd come looking for you. While you were lost in a freaking blizzard."
And maybe Sam is running a fever, because of all the conversations he wishes he might have with Dean, this one in particular would be last on the list, but he responds anyway.
"Y-you said you were done . . . done trying to save me . . . a-and you, you . . . Dean, I'm so tired." Sam blurts.
Checking for that fever, Dean draws back a little and places a hand on Sam's forehead.
"Sam, I will always come looking for you, I never said I was done trying to save you, and where are you getting these weird ideas?"
"You said," Sam emphasizes. "You said, in the v-voicemail."
"I said that I owed you a beatdown, and I get that you're probably pissed about that, but . . . "
Dean hesitates, and Sam guesses that Dean is remembering what he really said, and is probably going to shove him out of the car right about now.
"Sam . . . gimme your phone."
Sam is already using all his energy just to talk, so he just sits there while Dean shifts so he can root through Sam's pockets himself for the phone. Finding it, he retrieves the saved message - there's just the one - and, somewhat improbably, it suddenly gets even warmer in the close space of the car.
"Sam. . . Sam, this is not what I said. I would never say something like that. I don't know how . . . fucking angels!" Dean splutters.
Dazed, Sam tries to process Dean's outburst, and fails.
"Did you really think I was gonna . . . Jesus . . . is that why you just . . . just wandered off in the snow?"
"Well, yeah. Pretty much."
"Pretty much?! What does that even mean?"
"Dean, the voicemail just, just brought me to the edge, but I'm the one who stepped over the line. I released Lucifer and started the Apocalypse . . . every decision I made was wrong, and I can't fix any of it. You're the only one who can, and," Sam gulps for air, because this breathing thing is getting difficult again, "and your best chance of winning is if I'm gone, and there's no point putting it off." Breathless, Sam stops talking.
Dean takes a deep breath of his own, and starts.
"That's what you figure, huh?"
"Dude, if you were gone - and we are not even going to talk about what's wrong with that sentence - my chance of winning would be zero."
Again Sam tries to process what Dean is saying, again with dismal results, but this time Dean continues.
"What exactly do you think I'd be fighting for?"
This question, Sam is sure he knows the answer to.
"To save people, Dean. To save the world."
Dean pulls back just far enough for Sam to see that Dean thinks this is the dumbest thing he has ever heard.
"The world, huh? One without you in it? Because that worked so awesome for me the last time."
Bewildered, Sam understands all the words - he did, after all, go to Stanford - but is having a little trouble processing the idea.
"But, you won't talk to me," Sam whispered.
Dean grumbles. "Well, you haven't listened to a damned thing I've said for months. And after all that's happened, I thought if I stopped pushing you, you'd talk to me when you were ready. If you'd gotten my real message . . .fucking angels."
"Your real message?" Sam hates to start asking things now, but he has to know.
"I did leave you a message, just not the one you got. Fucking Zachariah I said we were still brothers, Sam. I thought I could just say that and when the shit hit the fan it would be all I needed to say. I thought, you know, when the air cleared a little. . ." It was Dean's turn to trail off.
Something dawns on Sam, not the way the first rays of morning wash over someone newly in love, but more like the way harsh 10 a.m. sunlight crashes over somebody with a hangover.
"Dean, is that what you were waiting for, for me to talk to you, and to agree we were still brothers?"
Dean shifts uncomfortably, and Sam realizes that while there is a lot riding on this, it is still quite the chick-flick moment.
Sam moves ever so slightly - only slightly, because his limbs still feel kind of heavy and useless - curling into Dean.
"We're still brothers." he says softly, but clearly enough for Dean to hear. "And if you want me to talk to you, I could . . . I should tell you some things."
"Bring it on," his brother offers gamely.
Sam doesn't, just then, not because he doesn't recognize the invitation for what it is, but because he falls asleep in Dean's arms.
"I've been having bad dreams . . ."
-My first fanfic
-Concrit is welcome, emphasis on the "con."
-Apologies to the original story "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin. I couldn't resist the title, and I originally wanted to parallel the too-great-a-weight/making-a-decision-for-the greater-good/cold-hard-facts theme. I had to back off of that, as it was getting heavy-handed.