Genre: gen, horror, psychological
Characters: Dean, Death
Word Count: ~1700
Warnings: Spoilers 6x11, metaphysical bullshit
Notes: Written for the spnquotefic prompt, "You ever git struck by lightnin'? It ain't fun." Graciously group-beta'd by dayadhvam_triad, viridian_magpie, jaimeykay, moragmacpherson, callowyn, and autumn_lilacs! XD
It's a cotton boll, jammed into the spokes of an old barbed wire fence. Dean tries to coax it out, but instead it catches on the scutt arrow and shreds long and wispy. Dean rubs the feeling away like he's shaking off spiderweb, shrugs his coil of rope back up his shoulder.
He squints upward to acknowledge the sky. Gonna be dusk soon. (So there are daytimes, even here.)
Dean's been a lot of places, but he's never actually seen the rolling golden fields, calendar-style cotton ball clouds against blue-now-purple before. Sure, the cotton balls've got some steel wool busting out their asses, heavy with storm, and that fence is ugly as shit, but other than that, scenery's pretty nice. He's not sure when he turned off the highway, where he left the car, when he last passed a building, or a cell tower, or a wind turbine, but he's here on business and he's not actually sure how to leave.
The temperature drops with clunking steps, and he feels it in his elbows first, then his neck.
He scratches at his elbows when the rush starts to scrape and catch more than caress.
Soon all he can see are the waves the wind makes in the barley, black to matte grey under the storm clouds. If he squints hard enough, he can just make out the outline of the barbed wire fence, which he takes in hand, uses as a leading line. Because it'd be really fucking stupid if he started wandering in circles like some poor drunk bastard, instead of getting where he needs to go. Every so often, he comes across another cotton boll, snagged in the fence, and pulls absently.
He winces as his palm catches on one of the scutt arrows like the cotton has and likewise tears, but he doesn't slow his pace. He can feel the blood-warmth through his shirt when he wipes his palm--which is pretty damn impressive for barbed wire--but it's all right. He'll need the blood anyway.
Now all he needs is the storm. He can already hear the thunder, count lightning in the distance. (The pounding of blood, firing of synapses. Sam must have found him.)
He wipes his ragged palm down the spine of the rope, tries to gauge the rope's blood saturation by feel when he realizes it's too dark to see. What’s on his palm is tacky and mostly congealed already; he's probably going to need more.
Well, that's what the knife's for. Dean strips his jacket and sits, back against one of the fence posts, and flips his hunting knife open, gives it an extra snap so the blade locks like it's supposed to (like it hasn't since he was twelve, the piece of shit). He slices as wide and deep as he can stand and sucks in electric air as he presses his nails against the cut, so he can fingerpaint himself across the rope. Rope's longer than he thought. He flexes, keeps up a steady swell of blood.
What he doesn't mop up with the rope trickles down his arm; he remembers the sensation more fondly than it feels now.
Not surprising--Hell is like that. It's all one big Stockholm Syndrome after a while. (Some days he closes his eyes and he still sees the blood between Alistair's teeth. Alistair doesn't scare him, because Alistair is fucking dead, but when he wakes up panged with yearning for the scrape of those teeth down his small intestine, that might scare him. Maybe. A little.)
That's why he needs to save Sam.
Time to stand up again. He clamps his good hand around his bleeding arm, using his shirtsleeve as a blotter, and swings his entire body upward. The world spins black for a moment, dancing with flecks of rainbow. So maybe making lunch out of a bottle of whiskey hadn't been such a hot idea. He squeezes harder and tries not to hear the squelch of his sleeve. Makes him think of pink spittle, breath hissing between teeth.
Rope's easy enough. He tosses one end into the barley, snakes the other end so that it forms a sigil, or at least vaguely resembles one. Definitely easier than making a damn crop circle. When the rain blows in, he sits again, back against the fence post once more. His arm streaks a watery red that's not quite pink, and Dean finds his jacket, tries to stop the bleed with that.
There's a little battery-controlled helicopter in the pocket--Ben's. It had been a birthday present from Lisa, but Lisa's sister--what was her name? Barb? The Canadian--had one-upped the ill-fated copter and bought him one with gyroscopes, when the first one broke. Dean fixed it, but in Bens’ mind it was permanently retired from active duty. The end. Still, Dean feels like Ben's douchey older brother, ‘borrowing’ his helicopter, bleeding all over it, and then launching it into a lightning storm. Then he remembers that he's Sam's douchey older brother. And this is for Sam.
It's hours later, 36 AAA batteries later, when he sees the lightning bend, arch down the fishing line from the little toasted copter, slam toward him through dark space. Then it's over.
It's still dark when he wakes, so he can't have been out for long. More importantly, it's still raining, and he is not alone.
"You have an interesting way of courting Death."
Exactly who he wanted to hear.
I didn't make up the damn spell, says Dean. Next time make it so you can summon Death with a headshot; probably woulda made it here a lot sooner.
Death ignores the retort and picks up the scorched helicopter; it's just a heap of plastic and naked metal gears. It smells faintly of chemical fire. "You are lucky that it worked at all. Don't cut corners when it comes to matters of gravity, Dean."
Dean grapples at a mass at the back of his throat with this tongue. The mass feels uncomfortably like clotted blood and bone fragment. That doesn't feel like he remembers it from Hell, either.
"Need I remind you that you've just been struck by lightning," says Death. "And shattered quite a few of your teeth."
"Lightning strikes don't always kill you. I reiterate: You are lucky that I came at all. Now, do you remember why you came all this way for me? Memory loss tends to come with...this particular extracurricular."
Make you fix Sam, says Dean. For good.
"The hubris is, as always, quite your own."
I want to see the wall. Take me there.
"Always so literal. What makes you think Sam's wall is a fixture that can be seen?" Death is sitting above Dean, cradled by the barbed wire. Storm's still coming strong, but he doesn't look wet. Fucking figures. Dean opens his mouth in an effort to breathe and gets a mouthful of rain.
I've been wandering around in Sam's head all day. I've been trampling through his barley and buying his booze and getting struck by his lightning. Hell, I brought some damn rope and a damn toy and worked a damn spell. Don't try to sell me that intangibility bullshit.
Death runs a bony finger along the length of the barbed wire. He is bright white, even in the pitch night. "How did you get here, Dean? It's not every day a human is possessed by his brother."
I phoned a friend.
"Ah, her. I see her queenship in Hell becomes her. You are fraternizing with every marginally celestial being in this galaxy--should it make me jealous?"
Only if you don't show me the wall. 'Cause otherwise this date's not going to make it past second.
Death stares down at Dean, impassive. He taps this finger on the barbed wire fence. "This is the wall, Dean."
It's not a wall; it's a barbed wire fence. And besides, Dean's pretty sure he could recognize Hell if it was corralled on the other side of a damn fence. That's not Hell. Both sides are exactly the fucking same. It's not Hell, and this isn't Sam.
C'mon, give me more credit than that.
"Believe what you will. This is the wall. And yes, it is the same on both sides. I wonder what that could mean," he says, in his condescendingly smooth storyteller's timbre. Dean knows Death doesn't wonder at all.
And Dean must look exceedingly pathetic, lying there on the ground, choking on his own teeth and breathing what tastes like battery acid, because Death allows him his verbal indiscretions and continues, unprovoked.
"I leave you to puzzle that out on your own. Please focus your attentions elsewhere for the nonce. Surely you remember that bit of cotton you found hung on the scutt arrow." Death plucks another boll from the fence. It shines ghost white just like his hands. "Where do you suppose it came from? There are barley fields, not cotton. Did you even stop to think?"
When Dean does not reply: "Some of your cultures, your American ones in particular, believe that cotton bolls house the soul."
Death pulls, and the boll comes undone, long and wispy. It melts like cotton candy in the rain.
"I admit, I don't know how you got here, but I wouldn't touch things that don't belong to you. You never know what your sticky little fingers might be destroying." He smears the last of the cotton across Dean's cheek and stands erect, as though preparing to leave. "And I'd get out of my brother's head. I trust you'll be able to move eventually. Though, of course, it's difficult to say. Life is a difficult, complicated mechanism.
"Unfortunately for the both of us, Dean, you are not dead."
Dean watches the sagging bob of the cotton boll, hanged on the scutt arrow above him.