Genre: Gen, but if you're wearing slash goggles it can be anything you want
In honor of Mystery Spot being voted the most rewatchable episode of S3, I give you this. There is snuggling. I don't even know who I am any more.
Dean is showered and dressed before Sam even wakes up. He feels good, strangely good. When the alarm goes off, even the crappy 80s music pleases him. "Rise and shine, Sammy!" he says. Because today is not going to be about deals and countdowns and wondering if this will be the last time he ever does X. He can feel it. Today is going to be a good day, an easy job, and...
And Sam. Who sits up, grabs the clock/radio and hurls it across the room to shatter against the wall. And then sits there on the edge of the bed with his face in his hands moaning "Oh, God, Dean, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know, it was stupid. I shouldn't have done it. I'm sorry. Please, Dean. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Okay. So much for the good day.
"Hey." Dean approaches Sam warily, not sure if the correct approach for today is talk-it-out or lighten-the-mood. "Apologize to the hotel manager, not me," he says lightly. "I'm not a big Asia fan anyway." Sam looks up at him and ah, fuck. Wrong answer. He's pale and shaky, tears are running down his face, and his expression is kind of desperately unhinged. Fuck. "Must have been a hell of a nightmare," Dean says carefully, sitting on his own bed. He leans forward, elbows on his knees, close enough to touch Sam if he needs it, if he wants it. "Wanna talk about it?"
Sam draws a long, shuddering breath and examines the carpet. "I don't. I really, really don't. But we have to." Okay. The fact that he's going to Hell in a few months is the last thing Dean wants to talk about. (And for the thousandth time he thinks, what have I done to you? And for the thousandth time, he answers, I saved you, that's what I did. I did one goddamn thing right.) But yeah, it looks like they're going to have that conversation again.
So at first he doesn't get it when Sam looks him in the eye and says "It's a time loop. I'm caught in a time loop. Like Groundhog Day."
"Come again?" Dean blinks. Replays Sam's statement in his head and rejects it. "No, Sam, you just had a nightmare."
Sam sighs and rolls his eyes. "It's not a nightmare. I'm caught in a time loop." He sounds like he's reciting something from memory, like he's already told this story dozens of times. "I'm living the same day over and over again. It's just like Groundhog Day. I'm Bill Murray, you're Andie MacDowell."
Dean starts to protest - as if the most inappropriate thing about this scenario is that he's Andie MacDowell in it, but really, that's all he can process right now - and Sam holds up a hand and says, completely in sync with Dean, "Dude, I am not Andie MacDowell."
"No, sorry, you don't like it when I call you Andie MacDowell," Sam continues, in that same emotionless voice, as if he's speaking by rote. "You're Chris Elliott. But it's the same day, over and over, and it ends when you die," and Sam's voice breaks a little. "And then it starts right back up again. Here. This. This room, this song. And you die again."
Huh. Either Sam has gone completely off the rails. Or. Huh.
"Do you believe me?" Sam asks wearily. "I can prove it if you don't."
Dean rolls it over in his head. On the one hand, this is weird, even for them. On the other hand, Sam is just completely fucked up over something. So, either it's really happening, or Sam believes it's really happening. If it's B, he'll wake up in the morning and remember this conversation. If it's A, he won't. So he'll assume it's A right now. If it turns out to be B tomorrow, he'll deal with that.
"Yeah," he says. I believe you."
"Okay." Sam relaxes a bit.
"So. Groundhog Day. How many days?"
"Seventy something. I think today is... yeah, today is day 74."
And Sam spins a story about waking up to the same song dozens of times, living through the same events, changing one small detail after another, and always failing, always watching Dean die in the end. Christ. Dean imagines seventy-plus days of knowing Sam's going to die, waiting for Sam to die, watching Sam die, and waking up to do it again. No wonder his brother is unravelling. "Shit, Sam," he says. "I'm sorry." But he knows Sam, and Sam wouldn't spend seventy-plus days just freaking out. "So, what do you think? Where are your notes?"
Sam waves weakly in the direction of his laptop. "No point taking notes. They're gone when I wake up. Every day goes back to the beginning."
"Okay, so tell me what you know. What you've tried."
Sam sits up a little straighter and something in his face sharpens as he shifts into hunting mode. (That's my boy. I know you've been working on this.) "I thought it was the Mystery Spot at first," he says, "but I've torn it down to studs, salted and burned it, even did an exorcism. Nothing. I did the same thing to this hotel. No effect." He ticks off the options on his fingers. "It's not psychic visions. I've searched for hex bags or any other evidence of witches. It's possible I'm in a coma and I'm dreaming the whole thing, but I don't know any way to test that. I'm pretty sure it's not a djinn. I know that one's a long shot anyway. If it's a djinn, it's a kind that gives you nightmares, not good dreams. But I tried to test that yesterday." Sam's voice falters at the end, and Dean is immediately suspicious.
"How did you test that? Because the only way I know to get out of a djinn's dream..." (Is to try to kill yourself in the dream.)
"Yeah." Sam's examining the carpet again, refusing to meet Dean's eyes.
Sam sighs, still not looking at Dean. "Okay. I know, it was stupid. I thought, maybe if I died, that would, I don't know, end the dream. Or break the loop if it's something other than a djinn." He gives Dean a quick guilt-tinged glance. "But you caught me and you tried to get the gun away from me and... anyway. That was yesterday. That's how you... that's what happened yesterday." Sam puts his head in his hands again. Yesterday must have been a really bad day. And yesterday, for Sam, just ended. Dean thinks about what his brother just went through, minutes ago, and his stomach lurches.
"So you're saying that ten minutes ago in Sam time, you tried to kill yourself and you and I fought over the gun and I got shot. And I died. And you woke up." How is Sam even sane? How is he living through this? And then Dean thinks about what Dean just went through, minutes ago. "Fuck, Sam. Don't do that again. Promise me you won't do that again. Do not try to kill yourself. You understand?"
"I don't think it matters," Sam mumbles.
"It matters to me, dammit!" Dean imagines finding Sam, trying to pry the gun out of his fingers, and just thinking about it makes panic rise in his throat. "Don't do that to me. Even if it's like, djinn me or alternate reality me or dream me. Don't do that to me." (I saved you. I saved you from this.) His gut twists in sympathy for that other Dean, the Dean who found Sam with a gun pointing at his own head and tried to stop him. "Did you even tell me why? Did I know what you were trying to do?"
"I wrote you a note." Sam pats at his chest, where a pocket would be, except he's only wearing a T-shirt now. "In case it didn't work."
Christ. Dean pictures how that would have unfolded - hearing the gunshot, finding his dead brother, note tucked into his pocket (probably with part of it sticking out, with Dean's name on it, so he'd be sure to find it, because the little shit would be a stickler for details like that), explaining that he had to kill himself to attempt to stop a time loop that didn't even matter because Dean would be rotting in Hell soon anyway, and he thinks of Sam's blood on his hands again, and Sam's last stuttering breath again, and Sam's cold still body again, and he's so angry he can't even speak for a moment. "Fuck, Sam," he finally snaps. "A note? A fucking note?"
"I'm sorry, Dean." Sam lies back on the bed and covers his head with his arms. "I just, I didn't know what else to do. I can't think straight any more." His breath hitches and he stops, trying to compose himself. "I can't," he finally says. "I'm out of ideas. I just. God, Dean, I'm so tired. I don't think I can do this any more. I've watched you die seventy-three times now and I just. I can't."
The fear and anger pounding away in Dean's chest softens when he thinks about Sam cycling through this same nightmare over and over, without stopping, and then something clicks. "Of course you're tired. You haven't slept in more than seventy days."
"I don't think I need to sleep," Sam mutters through his arms. "I think I must get reset every time."
"Well, your body might not need sleep, but damn. You need a break. Your head needs a break. You need a day off. You need a fucking nap, Sam."
Sam huffs. "A nap. Right. That'll fix it."
"No, really." Dean stands. "You need to sit here and watch TV with me like we used to do and then you need to take a nap and just have one day where you don't think about any of this."
Sam lowers his arms and eyes Dean narrowly. "You serious?"
"As a heart attack. Scoot over."
"God, Dean," Sam mutters. "I'm not five any more." But he scoots over, and Dean sits next to him, leaning against the headboard, arm raised. And without a word Sam curls up next to him and leans his head on his shoulder. Dean wraps his arm around his huge baby brother and yeah, he's not five any more, but he still makes that contented little sigh. And the fact that he's willing to do this, that he seems to need this, shows Dean that he really is falling apart. (And the fact that Dean is willing to do this? Is really kind of enjoying it? Is fighting back the urge to push Sam's hair out of his eyes? Doesn't really require further consideration.)
Dean picks up the remote and begins flipping through the channels. "Hey, Gilligan's on." They watch in silence for a few minutes.
"You know," Sam says, "I used to be jealous of them. I used to wish we were stranded on an island. Just us. No monsters to kill, no people to save, no weapons to clean, no laps to run." He pauses, and adds quietly, "no Dad."
Dean swallows the lump in his throat. "I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry your childhood sucked that much."
"Don't be," Sam replies quickly. "It wasn't your fault. You're the one who didn't have a childhood because you were too busy taking care of me. You were the one who made it tolerable. Anything good that happened to me was because of you."
Since Sam can't see his face, Dean indulges in a pleased grin. "Don't get chick flicky on me, Sam."
"Actually," says Sam, "I can get as chick flicky as I want. Cause you won't remember any of it. I can say whatever I want and I don't have to worry about being embarrassed, or you getting mad, because tomorrow you won't have a clue what I said."
Dean laughs. "You think so? Well, maybe I will have a clue. Maybe I won't die today, just to spite you, and I'll always remember whatever stupid things you told me. So go for it. Be as sappy as you want, you big girl. Tell me I'm your hero, and I'm awesome, and you've always wanted to be just like me."
"That's true," Sam says. "All of it's true." He tenses under Dean's arm. "But I'm also pissed as hell at you. You shouldn't have made that deal. You should have just let me go."
Dean doesn't think he knows the words to make Sam understand why this is so untrue. (Sam doesn't need to understand. All Sam needs to do is stay alive.) He can't explain that if he dies, Sam loses a brother and moves on. But if Sam dies, Dean loses a brother and he also fails at his most important job, lets down the one person he isn't allowed to let down, and he doesn't think he can ever move on from that. So instead he says "I'm just putting things back the way they were meant to be, Sammy. I'm not even supposed to be here. I should have died a long time ago. This was, like, bonus time. We should just enjoy it."
"Fuck you," says Sam. "Even if you were supposed to be dead, which is bullshit by the way, you're not supposed to go to Hell." He stifles a yawn. "And that's why I've got to save you."
"You do that," says Dean. Then he squeezes Sam just a little bit, because, why the hell not. "You know, you could just leave me in this time loop. I might never die. Not permanently, anyway."
"I thought of that a long time ago, but I didn't want to risk it." Sam sighs. "I'm worried. I don't know if this is happening in real time. What if it really has been seventy-four days? What if I've wasted seventy-four of your days because I can't fix this?"
"Stop it," says Dean. "I said not to think about it, and I mean it. It's break time. I know you're gonna figure this out, Sam. If anyone can do it, it's you. But not today." Sam relaxes against Dean and yawns again. "You ready for that nap?" Dean asks.
"Once again, I'm not five," says Sam, who promptly yawns again. "Okay. Maybe. Try not to die while I'm asleep?"
"Dude," Dean laughs. "I'm in bed watching Gilligan's Island. What's going to happen to me?"
"Um, you've died in bed several times."
"Really? Were any of them, like, while banging a really hot chick?"
Sam chuckles. "No. None of them."
"Then I don't want to know." Dean pauses. "Actually, I kinda do want to know."
"Well... one time a semi truck lost its brakes and crashed into our room. And there was an earthquake that made the building collapse on you. And there were times you were sick. I think you had Ebola once."
"Ebola? That's messed up."
"No kidding. Your intestines were, like, liquified." Sam yawns again. They watch Gilligan's Island together quietly for a while. And Dean can't give him any answers, can't fix it for him, can't even promise to be there with him after Sam finally does fix it. But at least he can give him this. He rubs small circles on Sam's arm with his thumb, the way he did a million years ago when a nap and an episode of Gilligan's Island were all it took to solve Sammy's problems, and he feels the tension slowly slip out of Sam as he falls asleep. Dean turns the television off and thinks about an island with no monsters, and wonders if that's what Stanford felt like. (But it's no good, Sammy. The monsters still found you. They always do.) Dean refuses to let himself wonder who's going to protect Sam from the monsters when he's gone.
(And for the thousand-and-first time, he thinks what have I done to you?)
And he reminds himself that Sam can do this. Sam can survive as the lone Winchester. He did it for years. Dean can't do it. He tried. He didn't last a day.
(I saved you, that's what I did. I did one goddamn thing right.)
Dean doesn't even realize he has dozed off until he is awakened by a sharp pain right behind his left eye and immediately he knows, he knows this isn't right. He gently shakes Sam awake. Sam rouses slowly at first, then quickly sits up. "Dean?" he says. "Is it... it's not Wednesday, is it?"
Dean sees the hope on his brother's face and realizes this must be the first time in seventy-four days he's woken up to something other than Asia. He shakes his head and oh, God, that ratchets up the pain, and he's hit with a wave of nausea. "No, man, I'm sorry. It's still Tuesday." He knows Sam is crushed and he's kind of glad he can't see his disappointment, but also kind of terrified, because suddenly he can't see anything at all; it's all fuzzy and he feels like he's going to puke but he's afraid to move and fuck, it hurts so bad. "Sammy?" he whispers. "Have I ever died of an aneurysm?" Then there's a white hot explosion behind his eyes and fuck, he can't, and he thinks Sam's holding him and someone is saying "it's okay, it's okay" but it's not okay, fuck, it hurts so much, he just needs it to stop, someone make it stop, please, God, stop.
Dean is showered and dressed before Sam even wakes up. He feels good, strangely good. When the alarm goes off, even the crappy 80s music pleases him. "Rise and shine, Sammy!" he says. Because today is not going to be about deals and countdowns and wondering if this will be the last time he ever does X. He can feel it. Today is going to be a good day.
Sam sits up and stares at him with an unreadable expression. Dean smiles. Even emo boy Sam isn't going to ruin his good mood today. "Dude. Asia." Sam continues to stare. "Oh, come on," Dean says. "You love this song and you know it."
Sam finally gives him a weak smile. "It's okay," he says.
Yeah, it's okay. Everything is going to be okay today.