## Beating Hearts And Statistics

### Work Text:

The earth’s population is seven billion.

Give or take.

People keep dying and being born, so it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes lives are recorded in the wrong column.

If you asked a mathematician to calculate the probability of any two people saving the world, they’d mutter about degree of belief and relative frequency of occurrence. The final answer would be a number that starts with zero and has more decimal places than Pi.

It wouldn’t tell you much of anything.

Or maybe it would, if you knew what to look for.

Of course, if one of the two people saving the world is Dean Winchester then the task becomes much simpler, because the conditional probability of the other being Sam isn’t really about probability at all.

*

Nebraska has an average maximum temperature of 87.3 degrees during the month of July.

The summer that Dean returns from Purgatory feels so much warmer.

Damp, sullen air drags against skin and sticks to the walls of his chest, like rancid honey. Coughing won’t shake it free, no matter how hard he tries. The air conditioning offers no relief, either. At least, not the kind that’s on offer at the rundown motel where they’re staying.

When Dean wakes in the night, covered in sweat, he tells Sam that he’s fine and it’s only the weather. He avoids mention of nightmares where the sharp, broken edges of fast-forward and freeze frame are stitched back together with invisible thread spun by bees.

They’ll leave in the morning.

Drive far away to somewhere that’s not here, even if there’s nowhere to go.

It’s long since grown dark when a key turns in the lock and they stumble inside. Thunder rumbles in the distance. It drowns out the whine of mosquitoes drawn to the scent of warm, tacky blood. They sit on metal chairs in a kitchenette so small that elbows brush against each other.

Just sit breathing, not speaking.

If you asked Dean to describe what it was like in the wood with red eyes, he’d grin and say, “Man, it kinda sucked. The women were more Cruella than Cindy, if you know what I mean. No way I was gonna die someplace without hot nurses. And beer.”

His eyes would remain empty and flat, fixed somewhere over your shoulder.

Tonight, when Sam tries to ask the same question, Dean only says, ‘Don’t’ in a voice stretched too thin.

Then he falls silent.

*

Sam has an exercise book filled with two hundred pages.

More than half are still empty.

It’s littered with random telephone numbers and notes, odd thoughts that he wants to remember. Bits and pieces of a life reduced to indecipherable handwriting trapped between faint, blue lines.

After Dean disappeared the entries became longer.

Dog-eared pages reluctantly took the place of friends and family, holding safe his thoughts, dreams and fears. They had to. All of the people he’d once have confided in were dead or missing; beating hearts become nameless statistics.

There was no one else left.

And now that Dean’s back he keeps writing.

If you asked Sam to explain why, he couldn’t tell you.