Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,
Kalliel
kalliel

BE FRI / ST ENDS

S3, second person POV (Sam). Unreliable narrator. tw: Suicide imagery. Plastic killer friendship necklace.


You're relieved but you're not, in the same way that you're too sensitive, but you're really not. There's a version of you out there that is those things, and you're pretty sure you'd recognize him if you saw him. You're just not sure if you'd see him in a mirror, or somewhere else.

That sounds crazy. But you're not convinced it doesn't make sense. You live a particular kind of life.

Yeah, that sounds crazy, says Dean, but he doesn't press the issue so you're probably still right.






It's one of those cases--the ones where some cursed object has already killed six people so you're going to feel like shit about it whether you solve it without more casualties or not. One of the ones where part of you is glad you can still feel like shit about that because the way things have been going you're afraid nothing will hurt unless it concerns you directly, because you've finally been weathered into that old and leathery kind of numb.

Dean's argued with you about that before. He says there's nothing (fucking) wrong with feeling numb, which sounds exactly like the kind of thing someone who's never felt it would say. And you don't think he ever has, no matter what he claims, or what he drinks. You can see it in his eyes. If Dean's ever felt really, truly uncomfortably numb, he's been lucky enough to never remember shit about it. He lives a very precise existence in that way--always knows exactly where his guilt is, how to cut it open.

You're too sensitive, Dean tells you, even though you're not doing anything or saying anything. You're just standing, just like Dean is, at the back of a wake for a child you never met. You've already ascertained the cursed object isn't in the casket, won't be buried with the body. You're not sure where it is. But if it's strange to be here, at the wake of an unknown child, it's stranger to leave early. You're Jonah's high school hockey coach's uncles, here to support.

Such a sensitive school, nods the woman you're lying to.

She says, It's why we don't trust public. You just don't get that level of commitment.

"You know, I always wanted to fit in in high school," you comment, once it's suitable to leave and you're not letting social nicety get in the way of hunting evil anymore.

Dean makes a show of pretending not to listen, like he'd hit fast-forward on you if he could, because he's already lived that episode a thousand times. He'd managed to fit a slice of Texas sheet cake into his suit pocket, is now trying to extract it.

"I still would've thought it was creepy if my high school hockey coach's uncles had shown up to my funeral. Not committed."

Dean says, "Good thing they never had to, then," and you realize he actually wasn't listening. He hadn't been pretending. Because this is definitely the kind of case where you wheel and deal in subtext, carry on full days' worth of conversation without ever talking about what it sounds like you're talking about. Instead, Dean breaks with tradition.

You're relieved but you're not, in the same way that you're too sensitive, but you're really not. There's a version of you out there that is those things, and you're pretty sure you'd recognize him if you saw him. You're just not sure if you'd see him in a mirror, or somewhere else.

That sounds crazy. But you're not convinced it doesn't make sense. You live a particular kind of life.

Yeah, that sounds crazy, says Dean, but he doesn't press the issue so you're probably still right.


--


It's one of those plastic friendship necklaces. From Plucky Pennywhistle's--the kind you could just nearly afford after a solid evening of Ski Ball or Whack-A-Mole. 150 tickets for the purple pieces of heart under the glass, BE FRI on one half and ST ENDS on the other. They'd been alluring enough in the Plucky haze of neon and sound to turn Sam covetous.

Definitely a girl prize. At least, that's Dean's conviction and he's sticking to it.

You point out that Dean's the one wearing jewelry now.

He says, You made us get matching tattoos.

Six children are dead, but there's always time for barbs at the expense of each other's masculinity. That's what's really important.

Or maybe it's not, and that's why it's funny.

Dean says, If you say "masculinity" one more time I'm gonna drop your ass off at private school.

Bring it on, you tell him. That's probably where the necklace is, anyway.

Not that you think Dean knows or cares about the difference between public and private schools, but you note that it's been almost two years since you left Stanford and here Dean's making jokes about school without subtext. It's like he knows you're never going back. Either that or he's decided he'll be dead and it won't matter.

Six children are dead in Arkansas. But a BE FRI necklace is not a contract, is not a crossroads demon, is not Lilith. So you're afraid you might not care.


--


That's what you think, until there's a seven-year old raking a knife up his arm, and how did he do that, how did he know that, how could he possibly know how to die like that?

He's seven.

Dean yanks the necklace off the kid so hard the kid goes down with it, faceplants into the blacktop like a spiked football. There's blood everywhere, running from the kid's arm, his chin, between his teeth and tongue. Things get loud.

You end up with one hand tight against the boy's wrist and the other slammed against his mouth, and it is awful, awful. You can feel his lips suction against your palm, small lungs trying to open fire. There is no making this better.


--


It's better. The boy is bandaged and avidly coloring in a poorly-rendered Aquaman. He tells the nurse that it was the voices that told him about the knife.

What voices? asks the nurse.

The boy looks up at her. There aren't any, he says. Goes back to coloring.

He'll be fine. Probably. That's the thing about cursed objects; they seem messy but they're really not. When does life ever work that clean? One necklace and all that boy's pain, all the voices, all the terror--it all just vanished.

You watch Dean as he twirls the plastic heart on its purple string, strangles his index finger. Then he lets it unspool in the other direction. Then back again. That heart killed six children, but it also made it easy to save one.

"Are there voices?" you ask Dean. You watch him strangle his finger again.

"What?"


--


There were voices.


--


You don't ask if Dean's okay, and he doesn't insist that he is. You don't understand right away why neither of these things happen.

"I guess the really weird part about this is six kids died in one town and no one's flipping their lid about it," Dean comments around his lunch. "What're they hiding?"

"It's sort of a big town," you say. And it's not as though each death was an obvious suicide. They didn't even all go to the same school. (This ruled out Dean's "school is a cult" theory.) There also isn't a Plucky Pennywhistle in town.

"Knife kid, train kid, quarry kid…"

"Shellfish kid."

"Right, shellfish kid. Then car-bicycle kid and shotgun kid."

The only reason they seem related is that you know they are. To anyone else, death is random. It's not a tragedy that can be solved. Maybe that's a silver lining.

This is something that can be fixed.

"Okay, we burned that thing like five hours ago," Dean says suddenly. "This shit still hasn't worn off."

And oh, that's it. You didn't ask because you didn't want to have to. Dean didn't insist because he's tired of trying and failing to prove himself to you. "Okay" people don't choose Hell.


--


It's just so infuriatingly stupid. That's all you really have to say about it.

Dean actually had the gall to suggest one time that maybe it wasn't about Dean's self-worth, but yours, and did you ever think about that, Sam?

Because I don't think I'm worth someone's--literally anyone's--eternal damnation?! you'd wanted to shout, because that is the stupidest thing you've ever heard. But John already gave himself for Dean, so maybe that's only making Dean's argument for him except that it's not, except it is, except this is actually a much more complicated chess match than "stupid" gives it credit for. Except it is stupid.

So you just say "You fucking idiot." Maybe that's all you'll ever say about it.


--


You probably need to find ST ENDS, is what you've decided. Burn the whole necklace, because naturally.

"Patron saint of mercy," Dean agrees, or thinks that's what he's doing. "ST ENDS? Like St. Ends? Like some kind of patron saint of-- Oh, never mind."

Something in you's soured. Somehow the worst part about this case wasn't smothering the screams of a seven-year old as he bled to death. (But he didn't die, remember?)

The knife kid is fine--you checked on him. You checked on him three times before his mother ever did. It's not that she doesn't care. But if you miss a shift at her third job, her afternoon job, they let you go. And with the ER visit, she really can't afford that. She has Constanza, the neighbor, check in around as often as you.) But the kid is fine. Hardly remembers what happened. Has said so little about the voices again that the baby shrink--Dean's term--isn't worried. Just a freak accident. Boys will be boys.

But you don't get to forget, because here's the necklace wrapping itself around all your shit, dredging up all sorts of problems that don't concern it. Wrapping itself around your head, just like it did Dean's finger.

Dean is fine, if that's the word for it. He said it was like a migraine, but if that's supposed to mean something specific, it's not what you thought, because you end up in a bar, floor to ceiling with noise so loud you run yourself hoarse just trying to talk to him. You'll wake up feeling hungover tomorrow, even though you don't drink anything.

"Fire with fire," Dean explains, sort of.

"Is that also how you treat migraines?"

You're not going to ask him if he's okay. You told yourself you wouldn't. Just focus on ST ENDS, get in, get out, and try not to think about it too much. Focus on the future. Focus on Lilith.

Dean's just sitting there, anyway, looking vaguely uncomfortable like he had during that tight pants case, right after the tattoos and before the djinn thing. He'd squirmed then, tossed up a dozen different oddly specific references to sausages and abattoirs. He'd hated his douchey tattoo and his douchey pants and had absolutely refused your suggestion of douchey eyeliner. You don't rank cases the way Dean does, but if you did, that one easily would've made your Top 5.

Right now, Dean's got a choir of BE FRI or ST ENDS voices in his head, insisting that he kill himself, and he acts like it's only as bad as a bad pair of pants. Part of it's he knows what it is, isn't one of the kids caught unawares. Dean has logic on his side. But mostly--and this you know--it's only because the sound is familiar. Sometimes, you gather, one of the voices will say something particularly pointed, and Dean gets this look on his face. You've seen it before. It's older and deeper than a stupid cursed necklace.


--


You tell yourself that if you can just find Lilith and destroy Dean's contract, that's all you need.

You know that you are lying.


--


"All we have to do is find the necklace and destroy it," you say the next morning, hoarse like you knew you'd be, a little cross-eyed feeling.

"Who do you think's on the other end?" Dean asks, still in bed, starfished against the sheets. "Like a witch, or is it in a Dumpster with someone's retainer, or what."

You hadn't thought about that. You sort of figured there'd be more dead kids on the other end, though on further consideration that doesn't make sense. There's no body trail. Maybe there's a Lilith on the other end, an evil mastermind. Maybe the other end is just lying in a sock drawer somewhere, and you will never find it.

For a moment your prospects feel so immediately, precisely hopeless that you do the math on it, the way you always do: If this case can't get solved, can you live with the consequences? Maybe you can. You've already made it this far. The consequences are familiar.

You watch Dean wake up, get dressed, pack. It's all very slow. You remember John yelling at him when he used to get like this. Because that's helpful.

But that's all you want to do now too, you realize. Remind him time's a-wasting, you're on the clock, you're trying to save his life, goddamn it. You think if Dean could get his shit together and lace his boots a little faster, maybe it'd be all right. Maybe you'll make it.

You hate that your father is dead but it doesn't feel like he's the one he sent to Hell. He's dragging both of you there with him, and you know it.

So maybe you can't live with the consequences, and maybe you never could. To make a deal, you have to end up at a crossroads first. Your own two legs have to carry you there.


--


A shouting match isn't what you need, but it's what you get. You couldn't really explain about what, and you're damn sure Dean can't either. Later, Dean apologizes, blames the curse.

You're not cursed, though, and the shouting had felt like finally being able to breathe.


--


You solve this case the way you solve most cases, which is a combination of stupid luck and poor life choices.You're in Harper Drug, looking for meds for your actual migraine, fresh from another shouting match. This one had been about whether you should just split town or not. Waste time on extracting Dean from a different mess instead. Maybe call Bela, because surely there's another charm that can simply counteract the effects of ST ENDS instead. That'd be the smart way to fix this.

The stupid part was neither of you actually having strong opinions one way or the other. You'd been shouting for and against both, trading off just to keep the fires going. And you'd had a migraine. And Dean was hearing voices, or whatever. You don't care anymore.

You tell him you're going out, so don't get bored and kill yourself. Dean says, Why bother? Already checked that box. Going to Hell. You're welcome.

You're in Harper Drug, in the Exedrin aisle, when you see a girl with her mother, and a necklace. Blue dress, yellow hair, purple plastic necklace. You're evaluating how good your sleight of hand is when out of nowhere, she starts screaming. She's writhing on the floor, all forty pounds of her kicking and fighting and the first words out of her mother's mouth are "I'm sorry, she keeps doing this."

The first words out of yours are "Don't let this strangle her" as you snap the purple thread and pocket the heart.

There's someone's baby girl screaming pain on the floor in front of you and you're just thinking about your brother.


--


You feel it, just for a moment. When you take the necklace for a split second you become her. You know her pain exactly.

She'd been hurting. She'd wanted help, support--something. She'd given half the necklace to a friend. And you know the rest of that story. You know that taking the necklace isn't going to save her. Not like last time, with the boy and the knife and the Aquaman coloring book. You don't get to burn a necklace and save a child.

We are trying everything, her mother sobs, still cradling her daughter, still on the floor in Harper Drug. And maybe she is "trying everything," maybe she isn't. I can't help her, I can't save her, I'm so afraid that I can't--

You don't ask her if she's buried a portrait at South and Main yet--if she's been collecting yarrow and bones. The impulse is there, though, and you feel dirty. You look down at the necklace in your hand and decide that that explains it.

You don't burn it right away. Some part of you believes Dean needs to see it burn. Dean needs to see it burn or he won't believe the voices are allowed to go away.

On the drive back, the only voice you hear is your own.

You didn't save her. You can't. There is pain that magic can't touch. There is pain that nothing can touch.


--


It's not until your hand's on the doorknob to your hotel room you realize Dean might not be waiting for you. You told him to kill himself. (You didn't. But you did. You told him you didn't care anymore.) As the door opens, you realize you already know what you'll do with the body.

You've thought about it before, because you think about it all the time, because your brother is going to Hell.

Dean's alive, though, at least for today--and maybe more than you, because he takes one look at you and instantly goes for your hand, the one with the heart in it, the one you pull away, the one you'll never give him because you are in this together, you are in this together. You do care.


--


"You looked a little Broward County," Dean says, after the necklace is burned and absolutely no one is better for it.

You know that didn't help that little girl. It's just one of those cases.

You feel rotted out.


--


All you need to do is track down Lilith.

 
Tags: fic: spn, infamati et obliterati
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  • Oh, don't mind me. I have a tag for this. *points*

    I've been trying to distract myself from my feelings by trying to get ANYTHING done today, but: - Grading response papers, which are about... a…

  • sigh

    I'm really, deeply sad about lost professional opportunities and lost income and fucking angry at the used golf balls that stormed our state capital…

  • <3

    I dunno what it is about mid-February, but I've gotten like three comments on fics in the last 24 hours and that is super exciting. <333333333 I…