Characters: Dean, Sam
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort (exhaustion/fever/pain/Hell - Dean; Hell - Sam), horror(?), 6x22 coda
Spoilers: 6x22 coda
Warnings: Gratuitous weirdness, incoherent narrators.
Summary: The Winchesters dig a hole.
Notes: For sistabro's prompt for hoodie_time's Writing Between the Lines challenge!
Dean handles the shovel loosely, hands turned wooden with the cold, inch-thick numbness putting distance between body and tool. His knuckles ache with a sourceless, stretched feeling, like if he grips the shovel any harder they'll fall from his hands like scabs. He's losing track of his body parts and he's only down four feet.
Pressure. His hands find their way back to the shovel by pressure only. It's too dark to see, the last bit of sun snuffed out by the horizon seven feet ago (two feet ago). The shovel cuts through the first layer easy, loose soil from all previous attempts that's dribbled its way down Dean's shirt and his jeans and ended up back in his damn hole, then hits hard clay. Push. Push. His shoulder twinges, then erupts, pain slow and viscous and seeping. He keeps pushing. The shovel sinks lower and lower, slanted like a knife between ribs until Dean stops, presses down on the handle with all his weight. He'd name this the slowest grave dig ever, but it's not. Not that skating above his personal worst is anything to write home about.
As he brings the shovel up to ground-level, the pain in his shoulder finally bleeds out; and his whole shoulder dies with the pain and the dirt comes tumbling back into the hole. The shovel nails him on the way down, and he cups his arm loosely with his cold hands, because now he's not even sure if he can feel pressure any more.
"Dean, I'm okay. I can dig the rest," Sam says, somewhere above him.
"I'm fine." It's not until cold wet starts seeping through his pants that he realizes he's on his ass, and Sam, somewhere above him, is suddenly a hell of a lot further above him. "I'll be fine," he amends.
His shoulder is not the problem. Bang-up scapegoat that it is, it's not the problem. It's pretty hot, at the bottom of the hole. In between being really fucking cold. It's so hot his legs have melted, gone the way of his shoulder and just kind of boiled over and out. Sam is pretty loud.
"Dean!" Sam shouts, finally. "Answer me!"
Dean nods to the dark and tries to speak with his nose (his mouth is breathing) and waits for the question. Sure, he'll answer. He always answers Sam. The question doesn't come, and then Sam's scraping Dean's forehead with iceblock hands, running rakes through his hair, until he finds Dean's shoulder. The one that still exists.
"Hey, I think we're done."
"Six feet," Dean reminds him. Exactly where Sam is in this picture has proven elusive. But this much is very clear. "Has to be six feet."
"You're done," Sam repeats. "Here, I can do the rest. Just let me--"
Sam is trying to dislocate his shoulder. Dean hooks his fingers into the dirt, pressure under his nails as he forces him into the clay, and twists out of Sam's reach.
"I can do the rest."
Dean shakes his head, and some part of the world falls back into place. The you're-at-the-bottom-of-a-hole part of the world falls back into place. He toes the shovel with his boot. It makes a sandy, thick scratching sound against the dirt there's no way in hell they're gonna beat. Six feet my ass, he means to say, but apparently he doesn't, because Sam doesn't answer. He tries again: "Done." He tries again: "We're done. Dick doesn't even need a grave, anyway. Get him out of the car will you?"
The last part might have sounded more like --waygethimoutcar car fuck go get him Sam? but that's what happens when you try to stand without legs. Whatever works; and Dean hears Sam swish away through the grass towards the car that is not the Impala, so it works.
Sam's back in what feels like record time, since Dean's still sitting at the bottom of the hole. Sam says, "It's not for Raphael. Her name was Raelle Lewis. She was a paralegal from Scranton."
Dean knows. He's read the obit. He knows more than the family, for that matter; since they don't know their Raelle is in bits and pieces, organ potpourri, barely enough to fill a sack but chunky enough--recognizably Raelle enough--she couldn't be left.
Right. Grave. Gasoline, kerosene. Getting the hell out of dodge.
"Dean," says Sam.
And Dean says, "Help me."
Sam takes this as his cue to dislocate Dean's shoulder again. Which, again. Dean doesn't think it's his shoulder that's the problem--either shoulder. It's everything else. He takes a deep breath, which turns into a shuddering breath, which turns into having dirt in his mouth when he looks up, sees the outline of Sam's boots swing over the edge of the grave.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna give you a boost." So matter-of-fact.
"From where? From down here?"
"Yes, Dean. From down there."
"No." And this is one of those things that's very certain. He cuts over Sam's exasperated, what are you talking about, Dean and says, "You're not getting in any more holes."
Which made sense.
It made sense, right?
"I'm tired," Dean says, which for once meant exactly what it was supposed to mean.
Sam doesn't seem to find the news all that groundbreaking, because he grabs Dean's hair again, finds his way to Dean's shoulder with one hand, and Dean's jacket on the other, and starts counting up. He gets to "THREE!" and all of the sudden Dean's plunging downwards.
Upwards. He's plunging upwards and there's grass in his mouth and between his teeth and between his fingers and he makes a grab with the wrong arm and stops registering spatiality after that.
Sam's patting him on the back. The sound is wet and sticky. Dean would tell him it felt good, and thank you, and I'm glad you're here, but if there's another thing that's very certain, it really doesn't feel that good. Sam's hands are still iceblocks and the rocking back-and-forth is starting to make Dean feel like he's on the wrong end of a Tilt-a-Whirl ride. Dean's pretty sure he'd tell Sam so, but if he opens his mouth he's pretty sure there's a ham sandwich and some Ibuprofen that'd come up first. So he radiates thank you as best he can and leaves it at that.
Sam brushes his iceblocks against Dean's forehead.
"Dude," says Sam. And Dean's glad Sam's returned to the realm of convenient Winchester shorthand--Hey bro, you look like warmed-over shit but what else is new and you're gonna be fine--and stopped using too many words.
"I'm gonna kill him," Dean mouths into the dirt. "For the car, and the stairwell, and the table--fucking Crowley--"
Sam says something Dean pretends is "Of course you will," and slaps Dean on the back one last time. Cue to get his ass in gear.
Dean ends up sitting sprawl-legged in the grass, feeling down his ribs and checking for anomalies, as per Sam's instructions. Anomalies. Sam drops salt, and kerosene, and fire, into the four-foot grave, and Raelle Lewis coils up thick and black and pungent.
The smell is awful, gasoline and corpse, but their hands are cold enough after hours spent digging through the tough prairie sod that they stay a moment, hold callused palms out to the flames.
"Don't close your eyes," Dean says, as they both stare into red heat and smoke. In these Dean sees several hundred salt-and-burns, a couple loved ones, and a lot of Hell. "Don't even blink."
What you see in the dark is worse.
"I know," says Sam.
And Dean's grossly sure he does.
Later, after the shovels and salt have been packed away, Dean is another ham sandwich fuller and, more importantly, another round of painkillers more conscious. He takes them northeast on the endless grid of county gravel roads until they eventually run into I-94 somewhere west of Bismark. For once they take it, resign themselves to the boring monotony of the interstate, the beige blur of dead grass overlaid with the rhythmic staccato of barbwire fence posts.
It still smells like Raelle Lewis.
"What was Hell like?" Sam asks, without preamble, without taking his eyes from the bleak asphalt snake before them. "For you. What was it like?"
Almost four years coming and Dean finally has to answer him. Dean draws in a breath that's too deep for the state of his intercostal muscles. He coughs.
He has to answer.
Four years, and he says: "Social."
And he feels like he's failed something. One grave dig, and it's seeping pain topped by fever fantasy after fever fantasy, roiling fire and excruciating anatomization of every body part he owns (and some he maybe doesn't). Forty years of Hell, and all he can say is, "It was very social."
"Lotta black, lotta nothing, and whole lot of creepy hanging around," he offers in consolation. "What was it like for you? --Is. What is--"
Sam leans back in his seat, stretches over everything like he's about to melt. He flicks his thigh in time with the fence posts that jerk along the roadside. He wets his lips. He bites his tongue. Finally, he speaks:
And Dean knows that he can't ask. Loosely, he clasps Sam's shoulder.
"Dean, I'm okay, I can dig the rest," Sam says twelve years old Sam helping his brother on their first salt and burn. The novelty's worn off hours ago now, but not the fear. Give me the shovel, Sam thinks. Give me the shovel and let me dig. Sam buries his fear that night. Like so much else, it doesn't stay dead. One look at Dean, and Sam knows Dean could have told him that.
"Dean, seriously. You've been digging for hours. You're going to kill yourself. We shouldn't even
We shouldn't Dean
combing through fire
to find (Jess?)
Sam doesn't hear what Dean says. He finds the body in the back seat of what is not the Impala and recites its story. Beginning, middle, end. Beginning, middle, end. Raelle Lewis. Paralegal. (She can keep the world--she can keep his world--from bloating splitting falling to shreds and bits and pieces. Beginning, middle, end. And Dean.
"Dean," says Sam.
h e l p m e
says Dean says the memory of Dean says Dean in his mind because Sam can see Sam can hear he can hear and hear and hear because some part of him can see Dean strung up wires through his shoulder through his spleen Dean strung up with wires reverberating thunder screaming making lightning and he screams Sam help me Sam Sam Sam help me help me Sammy
all he needs to do is
"I'm gonna give you a boost." So matter-of-fact. (His calm surprises even him.)
all he needs to do is
Dean is tired is not allowed to be tired. Sam is twenty-two and his brother is newly twenty-seven and newly dying. He is pale and strained and shaking, which is nothing new (it should be new but it's not, it's really really not) but for one moment Sam rushes to support him--hand to shoulder, hand to hair--and he curls his fingers into Dean's hair slippery with sweat Dean's hair and Dean doesn't slap him away immediately he doesn't.
Dean is hot, he's really hot, and he is not here, not right now. Rainbows of pain and shock make the veins stand out at his hairline on his neck and he's not here.
Sam pats him on the back and tries to be there as best he can be there as best he can (beginning middle end beginning middle end beginning middle end). He tries to be here, out of seventeen billion different heres, because Dean is here this is there here and this is where Sam wants to be.
Sam loses track of time, pocked and avulsed by Hell and ticking clocks and crickets crickets crickets.
Sam keeps a hand on Dean and tries to forget about the thousand crickets all around him. Dean is hot, he's really hot, and Sam comes home.
Flat horizon, stars above him. Dean. Dean.
"Dude," says Sam, before he jumps time completely, starts to free fall.
jess hello i love you
dean hello i love you
"I could have gone to school," Sam says, lost in 2005 or 1995 or sometime else entirely. Then his timeline straightens out and it's 2011 in northwest Kansas and Sam wakes up enough to put Dean to order.
Beginning. kerosene glug glugging
Middle. salt, chunked and heavy
"I know," says Sam.
a/n: 23:59! FIC BORN OF DESPERATION AND DEADLINES.
I hope you enjoy this. I've actually read it now, but I'm not yet sure what to think about it! You would not believe the number of completely unrelated would-be fics this spawned prior to this incarnation. *____*
Many thanks to vie_dangerouse for the hand-holding and the brainstorming, and dayadhvam_triad for the same, and also for making sure Dean did not turn into a ham sandwich midway through this fic! edit 28 May That, uh, came later. >.>