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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]


May 20th, 2006 (12:00 am)
Tags: ,

feeling: chipper

Summary: They almost talk about a lot of things. But the sound of the road is almost deafening, and the radio is turned up again, leaving them to their almost-thoughts in the dwindling afternoon.

A/N:  Written Post-Shadow.  I'm not entirely sure how this story came into being, but after doodling down a bunch of what-ifs for almost every episode, they sort of came together and this is the result. The poor Winchester boys come so close to dying so many times, I just wonder if they think about that and how they make it parse. Much thanks to my beta geminigrl11, for making me want to write so much and for offering such great support and suggestions (and how can I repay you for the visual image of Sam dancing around a maypole? with ribbons? shirtless? ....).

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Wheee....none of these are mine, but I'm having fun, and this time they're really all okay in the end. 


 They ride together almost in silence. It doesn't matter where they're going or where they're coming from. It's just the road that matters now; it's just the path they're traveling.

They're almost united, almost of one mind. But there is something inside of them each that stands in opposition to the other. They almost talk about it, but never let themselves.

They almost talk about a lot of things, a lot of memories that need to be understood. But the sound of the road is almost deafening, and the radio is turned up again, leaving them to their almost-thoughts in the dwindling afternoon.


She's on him now, asking to be held. When her hair tickles his neck, he is reminded suddenly of Jessica and her blonde, curly locks, how he loves the way they fall all over him when they are together. But this is not Jessica, he thinks as her breath brushes against him, cold as death.

His body betrays him as she leans over. He almost spares a moment to marvel at the physics of being raped by a ghost. But he reaches for the keys instead, looking for a distraction.

It's fidelity and it's survival. To him, perhaps, they're the same thing.

A blink and she's gone but back again before he knows what happened.

The pain erupts and he remembers with shocking clarity how dangerous this is. He knows he shouldn't, that two years ago he wouldn't have, but he screams.

Dean finds nothing, just the splatter of blood on the inside of the Impala and the realization that he needs to call his father and a girl in an apartment back at Stanford and try to explain his brother's life away.

But Dean steals a car and speeds toward him and arrives in time. And suddenly their rhythm is back as the window explodes and the pressure is released.

For Sam, it's all instinct now, a reversion to a life he tried to leave behind. "I'm taking you home." He revs the engine, and he goes home.


Sam wants to kill this thing because he knows it deserves to die. But when he's standing in front of a different image of himself, it's not the pain that makes him freeze. Staring at himself, he wants to let it kill him because he believes it when it says he's the one who should die.

The crowbar clatters to the floor and the pain begins to overpower him. He can't take his eyes away, can't turn from his own features spewing condemnation that he has always felt. In some ways, it feels so good to hear it, to hear someone say it, to let his sin be revealed.

He grimaces from the pain, but lets it take him to his knees, lets it take him all the way down. It won't bring Jessica back, but it almost avenges her in a way he can't explain.

Dean stays for one lie too many. He finds Sam on the ground and when he moves to check on him, there are only indentations where his eyes should be. His brother's face is red, and the redness pools on the ground. Dean can't think, can't move, until he's screaming, screaming and heaving. He stands in front of the mirror and calls to her, waits for her, waits until he sees his own image staring back at him and lets it take him too.

But he is tired of trying to charm his way out of this one and opts for force instead. Three punches later and he is back to Sam.

He can see Sam in front of the mirror, standing in front of his own worst enemy, and Dean knows he has to save him, save him from himself. He shatters the mirror and it rains glass and he kneels despite it all, holding his brother's face, trying to see beyond the streaks of blood.

"It's Sam," and everything is okay, even when she's comes back, because they're together again.


It's a battle he can't win, no matter what move he makes. This thing is Dean and more and he is Sam with two head wounds and counting. His defiance is rote; he is simply desperate to survive, just to survive long enough.

But not-Dean is inventive. Apparently the knife is not a MO he's married to.

He knows it's over when the hands are on his throat. His struggles are for show, for his father maybe, to prove he didn't go down without a fight.

Because he did fight. But he also went down.

He sees his brother as he dies and wonders what happens next.

Dean arrives, guns blazing. But all his bravado is for naught because there's no one around he needs to impress. Just that thing, that almost version of himself.

It is defiling Sam's body, making Sam his. Sam is limp now, and blue--so blue. It hovers over Sam, almost surprised that he was stupid enough to get caught. Dean looks himself in the eyes, and then Dean shoots him and then shoots himself again, because he's already dead.

But Dean runs the red light and takes Becky's directions. He comes to a screeching halt in front of her house and is out of the car before she has even has a chance to move. He opts for stealth, but abandons it when he sees himself strangling his brother.

It's a disturbing image--Sam falling limp beneath his hands--but he can't say it's an unfamiliar one. He wonders how many times he's killed something inside of Sam by taking him from normalcy.

He stops though, thinking, and fires instead. Killing himself is much easier when there's two of him to pick from.


He thinks the print is hideous, but wallpapering can't be cheap and Sam doesn't want to ruin this house for anyone else. 

Before he can make the hole, he feels himself falling backwards, feels the tightness on his throat. His mind is racing and he sees the ceiling, feels the cord pull harder. His fingers are digging, grasping, and he is straining, trying.
It's a fruitless venture. The tightness is supernatural and he is merely mortal. 

But he has to kill this thing, follow through with the plan, do his part.
He finds the satchel and reaches for the wall. He knows it's a long shot, that he is too far away to reach, but he has to try anyway, he has to try. He doesn't want to die here, not in this house, not two rooms down from where his mother was plastered to the ceiling. He doesn't want Dean to find him here like this, strangled again, always strangled, and make him hate this place more than Sam knows he already does. 

But his efforts aren't enough. His willpower is not sufficient. He is failing.
He gives up his quest and turns his attention back to his throat, but he doesn't have the strength to really try. 

This place has beaten him, this place has conquered him. He almost thinks he should have known, that he should have seen this part of the nightmare instead, because it can't change things if he's dead.

Or, he thinks, maybe it was always a trap, maybe it was just a way to lure him home, to bring him home to die.
That almost seems right to him and he almost feels his mother but then she seems to fade and so does he.


Dean finds him sprawled out on the floor, a lamp cord tight around his neck. The color of Sam's face tells him everything he needs to know, everything that the sinking feeling in his stomach can't quite articulate.

He fumbles at Sam's neck, trying to undo everything wrong that has ever happened to them. He thinks it hasn't been so long, it couldn't have been so long, and he starts to breathe for his brother, beat his brother's heart for him.

But he can't live for Sam and he almost realizes that he never could.But Dean takes the stairs two at a time and moves through the house on memories he's tried to forget. When he finds Sam, he isn't surprised, but he's desperate, desperate to relive his four-year-old heroics.

Sam isn't a baby anymore, though, and there's no fire. When he realizes that saving his brother means saving this house, he kicks a hole in the wall and it's gone in a flash.

It's not quite over, and Dean returns to Sam, and removes the cord and pulls him into his arms. Normally that wouldn't seem quite right, but here, in this house, it's the only thing he lets himself remember.


He feels crazy before he knows what crazy is. He can't believe it, doesn't believe it, doesn't want to believe that his baby brother just pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. Once, twice, three times, four. He knows he should believe it, knows that's why he emptied the bullets out upstairs, knows that's what he wanted to happen, what he made Sam do.

But he can save Sam now, save him from that monster, save him from himself.

He finds the body and sprinkles it with salt, glad to finally end this thing, but almost knowing it will never be over.

Before he can flick his lighter, he feels the pain, feels the intensity, and realizes just how badly he's screwed up by believing in his own invincibility.

He wonders how Sam handled this, if it hurt him as much as it is hurting him, how long Sam held out before he gave in to the blinding agony.

He can still see the bones out of the corner of his eye and he makes a flailing attempt to save them both. But the throw is short and the flame finds no purchase. He hates himself for a moment before a new clarity is settling over him, one he cannot fight, one he cannot deny.

Then the doctor is gone and he is free again and feels freer than he ever has before. He wonders only a second more before the rage overtakes him and he only acts.

It’s Sam's fault, he can see that now, Sam's fault for everything. Sam's fault for leaving, Sam's fault for dreaming, Sam's fault for ever being born and giving him one more thing to lose.

So when he sees the body stirring, it is too much. After 22 years of caring for him, the kid has the gall to fire the gun at him.

Sam is barely up before another punch lands across his cheek. This one brings him to full wakefulness and the war begins.

They fight each other with everything they have. They think of everything hurtful thing, every moment they could ever resent, and throw it at each other. The words fly with fists and legs until they are bloodied and even angrier.

Their words are almost true and they almost see how they are false. But hitting is easier than talking even when they're sane, so they just don't stop.

Dean's punch is lucky and Sam doesn't get up. He wraps his hands around Sam's neck and squeezes until Sam's flailing stops, until his eyes slide shut, until his face turns blue and he stills.

There is a sudden rush of joy and accomplishment but, like Sam's life, it doesn't last.

He sits back, still straddling his brother, and almost understands how this happened. He reaches for his gun and holds it to his head and pulls the trigger but nothing happens. Then he almost remembers why the gun doesn't have any bullets, and wishes like hell it still did.

He can't stay here, not with Sam, not with himself. He runs recklessly but can't find any way out. So when he sees a rusted scalpel on the floor, he knows it's good enough, and runs it through himself as many times as he can trying to feel the pain, trying to remember why it is he's here.

But Dean's aim is accurate and the lighter hits its mark. He is drained when the spirit dies, too broken to face the truth when Sam comes to.

They both know it's okay, though, since they both walked out of there alive. They could always talk another day, and they checked another evil thing off their list.


Dean promises her he has a plan, that it's all coming to him, that they just have to wait, but she doesn't believe him.

And she shouldn't believe him. The bindings are too tight and he is weaponless and night is falling much faster than he thinks it should.

He's always pulled miracles from nowhere before and he isn't sure if he should start doubting now. But when he hears her scream, he realizes his magic has run out, that he is nothing more than a man, nothing more than flesh and bone and blood. When the scarecrow rips into his skin, he understands just what that means.

Sam finds nothing, an empty orchard. He searches frantically, terrified, crying. He falls asleep in the Impala and asks around the next morning. They are evasive, nervous, and Sam snaps, throws the old man against a wall and demands answers.

His reply is a gunshot to the back and the claim that he is resisting arrest. He stares up as he dies and searches their sad faces for answers, begging for absolution, and finding none. 

But Sam drives faster, breaks a few more laws and finds the Impala parked on the road. He doesn't know why he is so nervous, but he runs anyway, looking for his brother, looking for the only person in his life that would do anything for him and figuring he owes him this much.


Dean sees him coming, sees him moving toward him steadily, and he does not try to run. He's run from enough things, and this is one he just has to face. He's not sure why this is the thing he chooses to succumb to, but he accepts it anyway. He can only think of a pretty blonde girl who he might want to sleep with any other time but for now he just wants to save.

It is so cold when the reaper touches him and it hurts more than he thought it would and for a moment he remembers Sam and thinks he should fight this. He thinks about the devastated look on Sam's face in the hospital and the swell of pride when his brother promised, "Watch me."

Dean watched and Sam succeeded. But Sam would forgive him for this, for squandering his second chance, because that's the way Sam is.

If it were the other way around, Dean knows he would hate Sam, curse bitterly as he wept over his brother, but in so many ways Sam is the stronger one and Dean almost sees that.

It almost makes this easier as he feels his life fade away.

Sam can't find Sue Ann but he searches everywhere. He circles the tent, hoping, praying, but he hears the gasping, the cheers, the applause, and he feels his heart wrenching in his chest.

He finds her then, bent over and muttering, a necklace in his hand. He almost thinks it is too late, but he knocks it away and it shatters in a bloody mess.

He didn’t ask for it, or plan it that way, but she dies quickly, more quickly than Sam expects. He cannot stop himself from watching, wondering if she thought it was worth it in the end.

Dean should be here, but he's not, and Sam doesn't know where to look because he doesn't know what he'll find. But he looks anyway, desperate and lost.

He sees him from a distance and this time Sam knows there is no miracle to fix it.

When he falls beside his brother, the numbness has almost overtaken him, and he is almost not surprised. Dean's face is gray and lifeless and Sam wants to be angry, he wants to be betrayed, but he can't, not quite. All he feels is loss and emptiness and the understanding that he is alone.

But Sam finds Sue Ann on the first try and hears nothing from the tent. Then Dean is there and he is alive and the girl in the tent is still dying for reasons no one can explain. Sam almost regrets it, but can't bring himself to, because he has what he needs, and part of him agrees with Dean, that he really is the selfish one.


Sam knows what's happening, knows this is bad, but has no way to stop it. He clings to the bracket as his life preserver, trying to forget that it’s just a strip of metal.

He doesn't quite expect that man with the gun, but when he opens the cage, Sam is flying at him.

It is a noble effort, but the gunshot is too fast, and Sam is too much like a fish in a barrel.

Dean feels the gunshot too. He feels the bullet, feels it enter his chest, near his heart, nicking the artery. He sees the blood and knows Sam barely knew he was dying before he bled out.

He can see the smirk on the face as the gunman moves forward and kicks the unmoving heap that was his brother, just to be sure.

He knows his brother is crumpled in he corner when he hears the second shot. He doesn't feel this one, but it echoes with finality.

He thrashes, screams, curses, but the girl just looks at him, half-curious, half-giddy.

They make him watch when they drag Sam in, leaving a smeared trail in his wake. They drop him just in front of Dean, laughing all the while. They don't let him look away as they play with Sam, manipulating his brother's prostrate body for poses, snapping pictures. Hoisting Sam up, raising his head as they smile over him. Flailing his arms out, standing over his body proudly.

They take him to the kitchen and Dean watches through tears he doesn’t feel as they gut his baby brother. Dean doesn't remember screaming but his voice is broken, his throat is raw as they make a trophy of his head.

When they finally hunt him, Dean overpowers them before they finish untying him. One, two, three, four, and they were gone. Dean considers gutting them, taking pictures, but there is no one left to revel in their death. He calls his dad, leaves a message he can't remember, and wonders if he'll come to bury them all.

But Sam is quicker than the gunman thinks, just quick enough to avoid the shot. One good blow and it's all reversed, and they all walk out of there alive, laughing and joking, denying what almost was.


It's like a nightmare, one worse than the ones they're used to living. They're all screaming, all bloody, all in trouble this time.

It can't end like this, they all think it, but they don't know how to stop it. Something triggers in Sam's mind and he reaches for the bag, but his moves are preempted with an angry slash that cuts across his stomach and lays him out on the floor.

His plan is totally forgotten when another rips down his chest. And he is suddenly glad that he can't see the shadows, that he can't see his death coming, because he doesn't think he can face it like a man and he doesn't want them to see him crying.

And he wants to cry. He wants to mourn the family he almost had, the chance they almost had to make it right. But he knows before the end that it will never happen, that maybe it was never meant to be.

Dean doesn't see the slash that ends his brother's life, doesn't see that it cut so deeply through his neck that his head was almost severed. He is too busy with his own demons, his own fears, his own last minute wishes to say the things he should have said all along.

He almost relishes the slices as they cut through him, reminding him that feelings are not as bad as he used to think they were. He hears his father scream, but can't hear Sam, and he finally cries because he's failed them both.

When he feels the burning in his chest, he realizes it's hit his heart and he is dead before he can think anything else.

John watches both his sons die, one right after the other. Their blood covers the room, drenches the walls. He doesn't feel his own pain anymore, but he has felt theirs, and wonders if he could have spared them by not showing up at all.

But he doesn't regret coming, he doesn't regret seeing them. He had to know, he had to be sure that this lead was empty. He never let them know, but he was hoping it was real, hoping it would be what they had all been searching for.

It cost him, though, everything. The shadows advance on him, and he can't feel his legs, his arms, and he's pretty sure his hand is lying by his feet. His sons died for him, died for his quest, and he almost wishes he could take it all back. But as the shadows dig deep within him and his blood is nearly spent, his one regret is that he didn't win in the end

But Sam moves fast enough and he lights the flare and proves himself a Winchester after all. They all stumble out, leaning in on one another. By the car they almost make it right, they almost put their feelings above their vengeance. But John gets into his truck and the boys slide into the Impala and they all leave Chicago one way or another.


They're always driving, always between one place and the next. Road after road, town after town, sometimes it seems like they're almost happy, but never quite.

Almost is a word they know so well, and they almost think about what that means.

Sam knows it's too coincidental to be chance. He keeps a mental list of all the ways and times they almost died and ponders what went right.

Dean refuses to remember, although somewhere inside of him he almost does. Dean doesn't care if it's fate or chance or something darker. He'll just take what he can get for as long as he can get it.




Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: May 20th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)

I'll post a comment, because I loved it so much when I first read it on ffn :D

Posted by: Dancing_stars (mmarinov)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 03:58 am (UTC)

Wow - this blew me away. I can't describe to you how powerful this was! Amazing! *bookmarks*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)

Thanks! I'm flattered! And I can't help but wonder what-if because they're always coming so close to disaster.

Posted by: kaly (kalyw)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:04 am (UTC)

Cool idea, this one. :) I liked the "what if" take on so many of the episodes. And golly, so many of them involve limp Sam. I'm stunned, I tell you, stunned! ;) But I think the Asylum one was my favorite. Some of the fan reaction to that episode almost ruined the ep for me but I like this take of what if *Dean* had also fallen prey to the Ellicott.

Great story! :)

Pssst. In this part? He fumbles at Sam's next, I think you meant neck, not next. Ignore me if otherwise. :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
baby brother

*looks innocent* What? Sam was limp? Now how did *that* happen?

And I'm with you on Asylum. I think it's a fascinating ep and one of my faves in and of itself, but the fan reactions drives me CRAZY. So writing that part was very gratifying (it's also why I've written more post-Asylum fics than anything else).

And thanks for the heads up on the typo--I caught that once before but kept forgetting to change it. This is one way in which LJ is MUCH easier than ff.net--making corrections is not NEARLY as hard.

Posted by: kaly (kalyw)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:32 am (UTC)

Innocent? Riiiiiiight. :D

I wrote my one and only Asylum fic purely because the fan reaction drove me so crazy the muse kicked up a bunny to defend Sam. When in my mind he didn't even need defending. Go figure, eh?

Up until recently it was bloody impossible to fix a mistake on ff.n without completely reuploading the fic. Which sucked out loud.

Ahhh, it's not a day without quoting one of the boys. Yesterday a friend of mine made some crack that he implied was surprising but so wasn't and I snarked back "ooh, call the Coast Guard". I'm so corrupted by this show. ;)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)

I SO get your reasoning! My most recent Asylum fic came from reading other Asylum fics and just LOSING it because they made me SO ANGRY. I ALWAYS feel like I need to defend Sam not because he's done anything wrong but because people seem to think he's done something horribly wrong all the time.

LOL! We're all corrupted by this show, I think. I'd be concerned if I wasn't enjoying it so much :)

Posted by: i want to cause a ruckus (geminigrl11)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)

Truly, one of my absolute most favorite of your fics, and you KNOW that that says SO MUCH. So many great scenes, so many great lines . . . "Bloody Mary," "Asylum," and "Scarecrow" are standouts (in a totally standout piece). And this: "They're always driving, always between one place and the next. Road after road, town after town, sometimes it seems like they're almost happy, but never quite" just sums them up so heartbreakingly perfectly.

So. Much. Love. For you and this.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)

Aww...you flatter me. Everything good I write comes from you, without a doubt :)

I keep thinking now that the season's over I should write a companion piece for the last part of the season, but I'm not sure I could find my groove again.

And the love--you know it goes both ways :)

Posted by: i want to cause a ruckus (geminigrl11)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:32 am (UTC)

I keep thinking now that the season's over I should write a companion piece for the last part of the season, but I'm not sure I could find my groove again.

Now that you have brought it up, I find it to be ESSENTIAL!!! HH! Prov! DMB! Salvation! So many possibilities! And the whole summer in which to re-find the groove . . . . ;) It's a must!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 04:42 am (UTC)

ACK! And to think I just LISTED my plot bunnies to you and you're giving me ANOTHER ONE!! This is your plot to keep me from writing about carnivorous sunflowers, isn't it? :)

Posted by: Don't shoot the pianist (northface11)
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)

Oh, I liked that a lot. I think the Home one was my favourite--all the parallels between Dean saving Sam now and as a baby. Also the Scarecrow one, because your what-if could so easily have happened. That bit at the end: "Sam knows it's too coincidental to be chance. He keeps a mental list of all the ways and times they almost died and ponders what went right." I never thought about that before, what went right. Thought-provoking.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 11th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)

Thanks! I'm glad you found it interesting!

Posted by: belleimani (belleimani)
Posted at: June 16th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)

This is an utterly creepy and upsetting look at what could've been. Nice.

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