Sam feels dirty, even if days restart and he's always clean when Tuesday loops. 139 days without a shower. Shoulders hanging low, he dips his head under the water and stays there until the water is cold; plants his hands on the wall and wonders if he just stands here, what could possibly kill his brother next? He's already died once, right where Sam's standing. Shower-time was officially off limits. He runs his hand over face and groans, feeling the heaviness of his body hit him like a hammer; how the hell did Dean even die in the shower? He's a damn Winchester, one of the best hunters out there, period. How the hell did he...
The soap next to his foot catches his eye before he can finish that thought.
... You're kidding me.
He stands there in a daze for a moment, the gears spinning in his head -- contemplates reaching down and putting it back on the small white ledge.
Instead he puts his foot on it and lets his body slide out from under him.
He's not sure what he's thinking anymore.
One sympathetic Dean and fifteen stitches later, Sam's big brother slips on the wayward bar of soap when he goes to throw a bloody rag in the trash bin.
Day 200. Sammy runs beneath the lifting piano, despite knowing the movers will drop it, despite knowing there will be a swift and very cruel death beneath the crunch of expensive old wood and ivory keys. He expects something will change; anything at all, and maybe it'll be enough. Is something trying to punish him? Is it the blood? With him it's always the blood -- Mom died because of it, Jess burned to the point where there was no body to bury, nothing for her parents to mourn over at her funeral, and something that turns his gut into lead, because deep down knows that Dean would have to go to Hell, all because Azazel wouldn't let him go even in death. All because he wasn't strong enough when he needed to be. And now Dean was closing in on yet another doomed afternoon Sam couldn't prevent.
No. No. Fuck that. Fuck all of this, fuck this little game.
When he looks up at the piano, already hearing a grunt of surprise from one of the men hoisting it -- hearing the snap of rope -- he knows this could maybe work. If he paid in full and threw himself down, let death take him, maybe it would cancel it all out. How can they torture him with his failings if he were dead? They'd just have to give up. Or at least, that's what Sammy hoped for. That's what he prayed for, even if he still wasn't sure angels listened. If God listened.
Something hits him in the back hard, and he knows the panicked cry just before it happens.
Dean's body weight throws Sam forward mercilessly and he slams into the cement. He can't see them when his gaze whips around over his shoulder, but he knows his brother's feet are poking out the back of the wooden wreckage. It's like the Wizard of Oz; he'd laugh, he'd fucking laugh, but he's too busy clawing a hand through his hair and trying not to scream.
Day 236. Sam tries to bolt in front of a car. The piano didn't work; he tried for days with that one, in other ways. It didn't work. This had to work. Is it wrong that he's not afraid of death? He hasn't been afraid of it since Jess died; he remembers Dean holding him back not so long ago from that burning building -- before 10:41 a.m., when the colt was relevant and his father still had a heartbeat. He remembers being fully prepared to rush into that house and burn alive, as long as he got to kill that yellow-eyed bastard; Dean's not always the reckless, stupid one. Dean's pretty damn smart, actually. Which is why Dean is already kicking into gear when he sees that car speeding towards his brother -- his unmoving, resigned brother.
Sam's so bitter, so royally screwed over by the last 236 days, he almost smiles at his victory. He can see Dean's shadow pulling long in his peripheral, but he's too far away. He won't make it to Sam in time; this'll work. It has to work. Brakes squeal and people on the street are too dumbstruck by the sudden scene to even so much as warn him with a shriek.
Another car runs a red, hits the one speeding toward Sam, and it never reaches him.
The suddenly swerving vehicles do take out Dean and a dog, though.
Day 257. Dean's looking over the table, brow furrowed at the lifeless expression Sam has when he takes a coffee at the diner. Earlier this day, Sam had tried to electrocute himself; the shock frizzled his hair, had sent him flying backward flat on his ass. He remembered opening his eyes to his big brother crouched over him, hands hovering in fear, and then clutching confusion when Sam growls, "Dammit, not again." Dean had probably said something about Sam attracting bad luck, but the younger Winchester was already rising up from his feet, looking bleakly around the room for something else to murder himself with.
Dean forced him to sit down, eat something; Sam can see it in his eyes: clearly Sasquatch fried his brain. Sam refuses to go to the hospital because it's an unknown place and there's no telling how many danger spots a hospital has, and settles for the diner's nauseating setting instead. He reaches for the knife on the table and considers just jamming it in his face, but Dean picks it up alongside his fork with a cautious glance; Sam doesn't let him order the meal that kills him anymore (ten of the thirty-seven choices are safe), but Dean doesn't know that, just like he doesn't realize that Sam's already attempted to die more times than he can count. And he'd counted. Man, had he'd counted.
"Sam... You're really starting to freak me out, man. Ever since you got electric chair'd -- hey, are you sure --"
"I'm okay, I'm fine. I just." He pinches the bridge of his nose, suddenly tired. The routine is usual: catch the shaker, pig and a poke, Sam Winchester cries his way through sex, but after a while he'd started to just forget it altogether. No point in repeating himself until he's blue in the face; no, Sammy was determined to bite the bullet, if anything. Which was weird, because as suicidally reckless as he could be, Sam never sought death out like a big game hunter.
"Dude, I'm just saying..." Dean's worried, but Sam can't care right now. He can only order a meal. They sit in silence for several minutes despite Dean's light jabs and attempt at conversation, while little brother shoves food around his plate and waits for the other to finish... so they can finish the day and start it again and finish it and start it.
And then suddenly to Dean's absolute awe, Sam starts shoving food into his mouth like he'd been starving out in a desert for a good year straight. Pathetic? Sam thinks definitely, but he's also desperate to stop the loop, and if this is what it takes, forcing breakfast down his throat until he chokes to death? He'll do it. Jesus, what is wrong with him? He's snapped, he's mindless he's -- ... tired. That's honestly his thought as he feels something catch in his windpipe. The reflexive panic is immediate, but he doesn't move from the booth even as Dean's rising from his seat. No, Sam just sits there, hands clasped on each side of the table, and squeezes his eyes shut. And waits to choke to death.
He almost passes out; almost fucking passes out, but there's one thing more reliant than Sam's blind dedication to this task: Dean's ability to keep him from dying. He's done it enough as it is, hasn't he? What's the scoreboard now? Dean: 32, Sam: 0. His body lifts against his will, and he's too light-headed to struggle against a Heimlich maneuver. Fingers pry their way into his mouth and force the obstructions away. When his vision sharpens again he's spread long on the floor, the lights are too bright, and Dean's clenching his shirt tightly in one hand, his green eyes burning with anger and disbelief (and relief), because --
"Are you fucking stupid, Sam?! What is wrong with you?! What is going on?!"
Anger, yeah, but it'll subside. He flops wretchedly to the side, coughing. With tears stinging his vision, gagging for air, he thinks 'maybe if he just holds his breath anyway; could bite my tongue'... What is he thinking? What the fuck? This isn't going to work, and Dean's going to die again, maybe in a more colorful way than the last. Maybe by his own hand. Again. He feels a palm rubbing his back a little harshly (still angry-concerned, fuck you, Dean) and Sam struggles to find anything decent to say. "Oh, hey, sorry, you keep dying and it's really throwing me off lately." Not exactly the reply to throw out there, but Sam's so delusional from maxing out his death-quota, he kind of appreciates the sass of it. But he doesn't tell him the low down. Not today. He's already ashamed and the red creeps up in his face once the uglier colors of suffocation fade out.
"Dude, please, talk to me here. What's with you? I'm taking you to a doctor."
There it is. The gradual tide shift from biting to achy, like Sam was a sad sopping wet creature left on Dean's porch.What am I gonna do with you, Sammy? Sam wants to latch onto his brother's jacket lapels and never let ago. Just sit here in the middle of upturned plates and concerned waitresses and forget that the world is their oyster, because it's not anymore. Just a few steps, a trip to the Impala, an attempt to get away, and it'll end the way it has for far too many days: dead brother, old song on the radio, Dean oblivious to the torture of time and how it likes to just start the hell over.
"No, no hospital," he gasps, eyes burning as he lays his head back. He must look completely insane. He's completely insane.
"Like hell, you're not the boss now. We're getting you a fucking brain scan, kid."
Dean helps him up, starts to lead him down the street. Sam stops him from getting killed five times on the way back and changes his route for the 50th time before Dean disappears into an open manhole Sam hadn't noticed yet. Blankly, he thinks he'll have to remember that's there for next time. It takes longer for the day to restart, so he just stands there, looking down the hole. But he doesn't step in, too. Because Dean is dead, and if Sam dies and the cycle breaks, Dean might stay dead. That can't happen.
Day 258 starts.
The song blares, burned in his head: Heaaat of the moment, heaaaat of the moooment --
He laughs, loud and hysterical. It's a new record for how quickly he freaks Dean out.
"No more!!" he roars, pacing through the motel, gesturing wildly to the walls that have never once talked back yet. His face is beat red and his neck tendons are corded from the strain. He's got that fucking song playing in his head, stuck on repeat. He knows that song intimately, just about. He could probably sing it backwards, could definitely sing it backwards. Hummed it a few times, when they were walking outside; that's about when Sam knew he was reaching a limit -- one he wasn't allowed to die from. Funny, he'd forced Dean to stay conjoined to his hip so much for the last 360 days, he didn't actually ever send him away. Never split up from him. Now his brother's at the diner, probably dying so the whole movie can rewind. Maybe it's selfish -- no, it's definitely selfish, but Sam doesn't want to deal with it. Not again. Seeing him die is bad enough, but how many goddamn times can fate kill a man? How many times does Sam have to watch? How many times does his brother have to suffer through the motions of death while he struggles like a dying fish against some second-hand fate?
"I get it, alright?!" His hands fan out, pleading. "I can't protect anything, I can't save anyone I care about." He knows. He knows. He gets it. So why can't this just stop already? What is it all trying to prove? "I couldn't save Jess, I couldn't protect dad and Dean -- I couldn't do anything to help anybody, and now he's gonna die because of me!"
They always said he had his father's temper. His hair is a tortured mess on his head as he slams his palms into the wall, unraveling at the seams. Are they trying to make him go crazy? They're trying to make him cuckoo. He screams and screams, hits the door with a fist, and people knock to see if he's okay; he answers and tells him his brother died, and his face is enough to send them away. Beneath the unnerved expressions, they look sympathetic. He doesn't care, not like usual. Isn't he supposed to be the sympathetic one? He's starting to feel like maybe he is dead, in all the ways but the most important one.
He doesn't remember retrieving his gun. He'd already shot Dean twice with it. Three times, the bullet jammed. Once, Dean nearly dislocated his shoulder wrenching it out of his hands. He checks the chamber, makes sure it's loaded properly; maybe it'll work this time. God, he hopes Dean's still alive; the music hasn't started, so it's okay. His hands are numb and quivering, but he's not scared of shooting himself in the face.
His breath catches in his chest. A moment later, it's a sob cut short as he turns.
Dean's standing in the doorway, the knob clutched in his hand; he brought to-go boxes. Alive and whole, but for how long? Sometimes it's minutes, sometimes it's hours, sometimes it's nearly the end of the day before it all cycles back around. Dean's eyes are trained on his despite the gun held up in his hand, moving slow.
"Sam... What's going on? The manager said you were freaking out. It took me 200 bucks to get us off the hook."
"I have to do this," Sam replies in a low voice, barely above a whisper. Something flashes through Dean's eyes like a strike of lightning as he takes another step forward and drops the bag on the bed; Sam can already picture what Dean's mind is doing: accessing the situation, deciphering if it's a spirit possessing Sam, a demon who's a damn good theater actor, a curse -- but it's just Sam. All Sammy. Their silhouettes are harsh in the dimly lit room, morning light streaming through the curtained window. Crosshatched shadows play on Sam's face.
"Whatever the hell this is about, we can talk through it; is this about the Hell thing? Because man, we can figure it out together. You said you're not giving up on me, right? How can I possibly keep going if you don't?"
"No, no. Don't you pull that soft-voice thing on me." His voice grows more commanding. Stay with me, Sammy."You were fine yesterday; we were okay. What happened?"
Sam hesitates and puts the gun to his forehead, and Dean damn near lunges, but they both stop. They're stuck on pause for each other's sake, a deadly game of limbo. One always dies. One never dies. Put it to the test, Sam, see what happens.
"Please," Dean says more softly, "I'm not gonna do this alone."
"We're stuck, Dean. It's been the same day for almost a year; it's almost been a year, and you die and it all starts over. You wake up and go out there and I watch you get killed, and I have no idea what is doing it or how to make it all stop. Sometimes you don't even die quick; sometimes you, and then I -- And I can't do this anymore. I tried, I swear I tried, but I can't -- " Treacherous tears leak from his glossy eyes. Dean looks torn by the confusing admission, while his voice is cracking under the pressure of months and months of failure, heavy on his spine. "Maybe if I do this, I can break the cycle, y'know? We might be okay. Maybe if I kill myself, we can have a Wednesday."
"And what if blowing your brains out kills you and leaves me? Huh?" What then, genius? It goes unspoken. Sam goes undaunted.
"Then you'll get a Wednesday."
It's quiet, suddenly.
"... Sammy... no. You pull that trigger, man, I'm following you. That's all there is to it."
Sam squeezes his eyes shut, cool metal pressed against his head -- but his finger twitches at the trigger. "You can't do that."
That's not fair. That's not fair; you can't give him that ultimatum.
"Life's not fair." Reads his mind so well. He opens his eyes when he feels a hand touching the gun, lowering it slowly to remove it from his grip. Dean's in his vision, front and center, when he opens raw, red eyes. He's a goddamn mess, but Dean just looks... relieved. He's looked relieved way too much this last year, for someone doomed to hellfire. "Life's not fair and it's given me more shit than I can stand sometimes, but you know what? I got you still. As long as I got my little brother here, I don't care what life throws at us. I say we keep fighting, no matter what. Right, Sammy?"
Dean's not one for chick flick moments, Sam's been told over and over again. Even as Dean coils his arms around Sam's broad shoulders and pulls him into his jacket, he'll probably play it off later (there's no later, because he won't remember, but Sam pretends he will anyway). It's a cue given to just let it all go, and Sam resists at first. Chokes back a sob. But the gun's gone now and all he can do is sag against his big brother and make broken, strangled noises that keeps Dean tense as he ruffles his hair. Suddenly Sam remembers when they're five and nine and he's waking up from a horribly lucid nightmare, crying and snotting as the older boy pets his head. And then again, when Sam's 22 and missing his girlfriend, reaching over to tug on Dean's arm after a vision, trying to mask the uncertainty in his face.
Now he's here again, seeking comfort in someone who he can't do a damn thing for. He grips Dean's jacket tight in his hands but it's not enough, so he catches him in a hug instead that nearly tears the breath from Dean's lungs. His brother doesn't understand the entirety of the situation, and Sam isn't in the mood to discuss yet, so both of them just stand like this -- because at least it's better than dying and waking up again.
"We'll give 'em hell, Sammy," Dean says after a long pause, "Don't you give up, not you, little brother. Whatever's going on, don't give up. You're a smart little shit and you can do anything you put your head to, so don't blow the damn thing off."
He nods, because it's all he can think to do. Just nods against his brother's jacket like he's five.
In ten minutes, Dean's going to have a sudden, inexplicable aneurysm. Until then, Sam just stands here and hangs on every word his brother tells him. It's a lifeline.
Day 365. When the music starts again and Dean's getting up for the day, Sam lays in his bed. His eyes just follow his brother's shadow, how lively it is when he moves. There are at least 28 ways for Dean to die in the motel. Maybe 10 outside of the motel. 39 on the way to the diner. Guesstimated 8 on the corner street. As Dean travels toward the bathroom, Sam speaks up.
"Hey, Dean," he mumbles, voice a bit hoarse. Not sure why, it's not like his throat is torn up anymore from yesterday. "How about we just -- y'know. Watch something on TV for a while, huh? Job's not going anywhere."
"What? Is Sam Winchester slacking on the job?" Dean's buttoning up his shirt as he talks. Sam just looks expectantly at Dean, Dean looks Sam's face up and down. "... Alright, sure. Where's the clicker?"
For the next few hours, they just watch bad Spanish soaps; Dean knows exactly what happened the last three seasons.
"Por que, Lupe?" Dean whispers tragically, and Sam's lips twitch tiredly.