Haven't written fic in ages, and I'm so rusty, but I do love me some hoodie time.
Word Count: 1500
Rating: R for language
Warnings: General spoilers for season 8. Unbeta'd.
Characters: Sam, Dean
Summary: Written for crowley_gal's prompt of "Takes place early season 8 and Dean's still in shock that Sam didn't try to find him. Dean's been buried alive. He tires to keep from panicing as fears from hell and purgatory bare down on him. Plus he has the added worry of wondering if Sam is even looking for him."
In Purgatory, Dean kept moving because that was what was necessary to stay alive. In Purgatory, he ran for his life pretty much all the time. His feet would pound the earth, and his breathing was hard and would come in gasps and he wouldn’t stop, not even when he thought he’d die from running instead of whatever thing was chasing him.
When he’d come back, there had been an adjustment period. Things were different back home, or so he had thought, but things aren’t different at all.
He’s still trying to stay alive; his entire body is focused on it. He doesn’t move, not a muscle. Moving requires more oxygen, and he’s focused on taking small breaths, as few as he can manage without passing out. He no longer thinks of it as breathing but as oxygen delivery, and he constantly feels lightheaded, but it’s what he needs to do to survive.
All that running and he ended up planted anyway. He’d snort at the irony, but that would waste air.
Sleeping, Dean thinks, probably uses the least amount of oxygen. He tries, and succeeds, for awhile. But eventually sleep becomes impossible. He can’t sleep with his stomach growling every five minutes. He can’t sleep with his bladder constantly bitching about being overly full. He can’t sleep wondering if Sam will find him, or worse, if Sam is even looking—
He just can’t sleep.
So he takes a small, measured breath, and then counts down to the next measured breath. His life quickly becomes a series of slow counts to thirty.
Dean dreams about the sky. It’s wide and open and full of possibilities. The air smells sweet and tastes cool. He fills his lungs as much as he—
He wakes up to the smell of urine and his chest scraping against the top of the line box. He’s utterly horrified to find his lungs expanded that way, and nearly exhales sharply in his panic. But he recovers and he holds the breath in, savors it as long as he can before he lets it out, slowly.
Then he prays to Cas -left him behind- and slowly takes a small, deliberate breath in through his mouth. He’s relieved to discover that there is a breath to take, that he hadn’t squandered his remaining oxygen on a dream about the sky.
At least he doesn’t have to piss any more.
It’s unscientific, but Dean is sure that breathing through his mouth uses less oxygen than breathing through his nose. Initially, when he still possessed some self assurance that he’d figure a way out soon, he’d experimented with both. His findings seemed to indicate that mouth breathing was better, and he’d applauded his Vulcan-like approach to his situation.
He’d lost his Vulcan-inspired Zen less than an hour later when he realized that there was no way possible out of the box, and that he was well and truly fucked. There wasn’t a way to be more fucked, not even if Meg showed up with a dildo the size of the Chrysler building, a bucket of lube, and bent him over his own car to fuck him. And then skipped the lube.
When he came to that realization, he had wasted air on some shouting, cursing, and general useless blustering. He is wiser now, of course, and if he does hear something topside, he’ll try and kick at the box, rather than use up his air. He has three inches between the top of his foot and the lid, so he should be able to make some kind of noise.
If he hears anything topside.
Dean wonders if this is his punishment for being so good at Purgatory.
Then he falls asleep again.
No, it’s punishment for being so good at Hell. He can tell because in Purgatory he had water and in Hell he didn’t.
He’s so thirsty right now, only Hell makes sense.
It’s the beginning of the end. When he takes his timed dose of oxygen now, his lungs just cry out for more. He’s started cutting the time in half, to keep from passing out. He’s going to die. Alone. In the dark. That crazy fuck Doc Benton is going to get away with it.
“You’ll die and no one will ever know what happened to you. Your brother will never know. He’ll just keep expecting to see you show up one day, but you never will. Will he just go on with his life? Forget about you right away, or will it eat at him until the day he dies?”
It isn’t his impending death that makes his eyes burn and his throat tight, he’s had that coming for awhile now.
It’s that Benton hit a nerve during his Dr. Evil speech: Sam is probably not even looking.
It’s weird that he can’t smell things any more. He used to be able to smell the dirt, and piss and sweat. Now he can’t smell anything.
He wonders if he’s dead and just doesn’t know it.
His lungs quit burning. Finally. Now they just hurt; a long, hard aching that’s never going to stop until he wrings the last bit of oxygen out of the dead air. He should just get it over with.
Scream until he’s surrounded by death, inside and out.
Dean wonders if Death will come himself. He felt like they had a moment, an understanding. It makes him want to laugh, he had a moment with Death, but he can’t because his lungs feel like they are folding in on themselves.
It’s taking forever, death is. Or Death. Whichever.
Sam’s not coming.
He used to be terrified of planes.
He starts to laugh, but all that comes out is a hoarse barking noise. He uses up the rest of his oxygen on a broken, bark of a laugh about his fear of falling out of the sky.
The sky. Where all the air is.
Dean Winchester dies laughing.
Dean comes to with his brother’s mouth on his. It takes a split second to realize that Sam’s pushing air into him, and Dean doesn’t have to think about anything because his body takes over and sucks. Sam pulls his head back, and Dean exhales quickly and takes another breath. It feels greedy and decadent to be using all this air. He’ll never take it for granted again, he vows.
Sam’s hand is on his shoulder, and is squeezing gently. He doesn’t pull it away, not even when Dean rolls to his side and coughs and sputters until he retches. It hurts; all this air. He tries to stop breathing, to hold it and let his lungs adjust, but they refuse to obey. His body just shudders and shakes and sucks it in over and over until he’s dizzy from it all.
“Can you hear me, Dean?” Sam is saying from a distance. Actually, Dean realizes he isn’t. He’s right there, so Dean’s ears are apparently fucked. Dean nods, though, because the question isn’t how well he can hear, just if he can. Being determined to not have your little brother fuss over you isn’t something that goes away just because you died in a shallow grave of oxygen deprivation.
“He’s gone,” Sam says. “I couldn’t go after him and you at the same time.”
Dean nods once more; but this nod says they’ll catch up to good ole Doc Benton soon enough.
Sam gives him a half-smile; revenge is clearly at the bottom of his priority list, and starts to rub at Dean’s face with the sleeve of his coat.
“You found me,” Dean says. It’s hard to talk, but he has to try.
Sam stops assaulting Dean’s face with his sleeve. “Of course.”
You looked, Dean wants to say, but Sam’s eyes are blood shot; thin bloody lines from iris to the corners, the rims of his eyelids are red-tinged and puffed up. His eyelashes are wet and heavy.
Sam’s hands grabs Dean’s dirt-crusted shirt, and he bunches up the fabric in his fists so tightly that it becomes uncomfortable. Dean is tempted to shrug him off out of habit, but he doesn’t.
“I heard you—I think you were laughing. I dug as fast as I could but—you weren’t breathing. I couldn’t find your pulse,” Sam says. His voice sounds as cracked as Dean’s ribs feel.
“I was dead, I think,” Dean says.
They stare at each other for awhile. Until finally, Sam breaks the silence.
“Will you please. Please. Stop doing that,” Sam says.
Sam looked for him. Sam looked for him and Sam found him, and he didn’t quit. Dean has at least three cracked ribs that prove it; Sam was always a little over-exuberant at CPR.
Dean swallows around the lump that forms in his throat, “Well, I’ll do my best. How’s that?”
Sam lets Dean’s shirt go; he smooths it down all neat-like, and helps Dean to his feet. “Good enough,” he says. Sam takes Dean home, which is a mercifully short trip.
He hadn’t parked her very far.