Three Days Gone
Day 1: Happy Endings
It took three damn days for the mission man
Heard he’s coming straight from hell
With a fast track bleeding and siren screaming
If you don’t listen you could never tell
Three days dead and risen
~ Let Us Prey by Overkill
It’s funny how relief can make you feel weak in the knees. That’s what I feel when I see Dean– weak in the knees. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had the shit beat out of me by a guy I just met less than a day before, a guy who has superhuman strength. And what the fuck is up with that? I get blinding headaches and visions and he gets to be Superman? That hardly seems fair. But then again, I know life’s not fair. I know that probably better than anyone. If it were fair, I would have grown up with Dad showing me how to throw a baseball, instead of a knife. Dad would have been reminding me to clean my room, not my Beretta. Dad would have told me there was nothing in my closet when I had a nightmare, not taught me how to kill it when it came out. Dad would still be alive, not dead with his soul trapped in Hell because he’d been forced to choose between self-damnation and the life of his first-born. And there was nothing fair about a choice like that. So, in comparison, I guess the fact that I’d been tossed around like a rottweiler with a chew toy by a guy with demonic strength ranked pretty low on the list of things that weren’t fair in life.
I had thought Jake was going to be an ally in the fight against the demon but he ended up a pawn… just like Lily and Andy and Ava. Or maybe victim is a better word. Pawns… victims… they’ve pretty much become synonymous in my mind when it comes to those of us the Yellow Eyed Demon has chosen for his playthings. And that’s all we are to him. Pieces on the game board. Contestants in a competition. Wheel of Misfortunate or the Price is Your Soul. Tell them what they’ve won, Charlie. Eternal damnation and moral corruption, Bob. Aren’t they the lucky bastards? I’d laugh if it wasn’t so damn close to the truth and if my shoulder didn’t hurt so fucking much.
But Dean’s here now, and by the looks of it Bobby, and this nightmare is about to end. Andy’s vision projection must have worked. Leave it to him to turn a demon-granted talent into a party trick and practical joke. If only I had the devil-may-care attitude that he has toward these things… had. He’s past tense now. Evidently the devil did care a little too much for him and the others. He cares a little too much for me, too, else I’d be eating pie with Dean right now in some roadside diner instead of staggering my way to him across the darkened streets of an abandoned town in South Dakota.
“Sam?” He seems almost hesitant to believe it’s really me and I can’t help but wonder what he’s been doing trying to find me… pouring over Dad’s journal, asking Bobby for help, maybe Ash or Ellen from the Roadhouse, cursing, kicking, blasting seventies rock and not even considering the speed limit.
“Dean,” I call back in confirmation and relief and thank God he’s really, really here and we can climb back in the Impala and drive as far away from this God forsaken town as possible and hopefully never look back.
I’m not the only one relieved at our reunion. He breaks into a run at the sight of me and a faint smile comes to my face even as I cradle my injured arm and try to do the same. “Sam, look out!” Then there’s another pain, sharp and quick, this one in the middle of my back, and my knees really are giving out beneath me. “Nooo!”
Dean’s expression changes, relief turned to terror, and I can’t seem to figure out why it would do that. Because he’s here and everything’s going to be okay. That’s what Dean does, he watches out for me. Always has, always will. He’s never accepted the fate our dad had told him might befall me, the destiny I’d resigned myself to fulfilling. He’s flat out refused to believe that I can’t be saved from the demon I feared lurked in me. And, you know what? I think he might be right.
All the others fell victim to the Yellow Eyed Demon. Lily to a noose. Andy to the powers of darkness that tore him to shreds. Ava and Jake to the dark powers they possessed. But not me. I resisted the urge. I overcame the temptations. I dropped that metal pipe instead of bashing out Jake’s brains like I really wanted to do. Going demon is a choice. I know that now. And I was able to stay true to myself and did what Dean always believed I could. I beat that bastard, I defied him, and there is no way in his corner of Hell he is going to turn me into something I’m not. And now Dean is here and everything is good.
He drops to his knees in front of me, and that’s the first time I realize I’m on the ground myself. Relief. Like I said, it’s a funny thing. It weakens your knees and makes the adrenaline bleed out of you, bleed out of you so goddamn fast you feel like you could sleep for a week. Just close your eyes and never wake up again.
But Dean has other ideas. Fisting my jacket, he calls my name, trying to keep me awake. “Sam, Sam, Sam. Hey, hey…” But I’m tired. So damn tired. It’s been one hell of a day, literally, and I’m just glad it’s finally coming to an end.
“Come here, come here, let me look at you.” He pulls me in for a hug, pats at my back, and I realize he must have been scared shitless over my disappearance. Dean’s not much for the chick flick moments, as he likes to call them, so to have him hugging me means he freaked big time when I didn’t come back with his burger. But evidently the moment is over because he’s pushing me back again.
“Oh, hey look, hey look at me.” I’m trying to do what he asks, but I’m beat. He’s here and that means this whole ordeal is over and I can finally relax. “It’s not even that bad. It’s not even that bad, alright? Sammy. Sam! Hey, listen to me; we are going to patch you up, okay.”
I’m not worried. It’s really no big deal. My shoulder barely even hurts anymore. I’ll be one big bruise tomorrow but that’s pretty much the norm for us.
“You’ll be as good as new. Huh?” Dark eyes are looking into mine, promising me what I already know. “I’m going to take care of you.”
Of course you will, I think. You always do. Which is why it’s okay if I just close my eyes.
“I’m going to take care of you. I gotcha. It’s my job, right? Watch out for my pain-in-the-ass little brother.”
Yeah, Dean’s got my back. It’s safe now. Nothing to be concerned about. I can just drift off to sleep and not have to worry about a thing.
“Sam… Sam… Sam! Sammy!”
Dean doesn’t have to worry anymore, either. All that fear that he was going to have to shoot me, that he was going to have to put me down when I lost control and became worse than what we’ve been hunting all these years, he can just let it go. Because that’s not going to be a problem now. I beat that Yellow Eyed son of a bitch. I beat him. And if I did it once, I can do it again tomorrow… and the day after that. Easy as pie. Easy as fucking pie.
But for now, I just want to sleep.
“No... no… n.n.n.n.no.” He’s hugging me again. Relief, I’m sure. All those worries, gone. All that dread, no more. “Oh God…” All that anxiety at an end. “Oh God…”
It’s a good way to end such a shitty day. Dean’s here. There’s nothing to worry about now. For me. For him. The Winchesters triumph once again.
Yeah, there’s happy endings all around.
* * * *
Day 2: The Middle Ground
Where you going now? I wish you well
Three days dead and risen
With a half head full of dreams I could never sell
Let us prey
~ Let Us Prey by Overkill
Hunters, as a rule, are loners. You learn that when you’ve been hunting as long as I have, which is longer than I care to recollect, longer than Sam and Dean Winchester have even been alive. The women don’t tend to hang around long when you pay more attention to signs and portents than them. Friends tend to drift away when you spend your weekends making holy water and salt shot in your garage. And family… well, most of us have either run them off for their own good or lost them, which was what pushed us to hunting in the first place.
It’s a lonely business, hunting. But after a while, you learn that’s for the best. Sure you meet other hunters. Some of them become friends, but you always know in the back of your mind that one day they may not show up at the Roadhouse for a beer, one day you might call and find their phone disconnected, one day they’ll come up in conversation with another hunter and you’ll hear they bought it to a vengeful spirit or got jumped by a werewolf they were tracking or just decided this life was more than they could take so they took the easy way out instead. So you mourn them, raise a flask in memory, and go back to the trail. Because the demons don’t stop, the ghosts, the creatures, just because a good man goes down. That’s just the God’s honest truth of the matter, and as shitty as it is to say, that’s just the goddamn way it is. And if you can’t accept that, can’t find that middle ground between the way you want it to be and the way it is, then hunting ain’t for you. Every hunter knows that and that’s how we all live our lives.
Except for the Winchesters.
John Winchester had been a man possessed as surely as if a demon had worn his flesh and bones like a Sunday suit. Like so many of us, he was driven by vengeance, driven by pain, driven by love. He wanted to destroy what had destroyed what mattered most to him, while fighting like a cornered bobcat to preserve what was left of it… his family. I don’t doubt for a second that he loved his boys with a fierceness that bordered on madness and tipped all the way over into recklessness. In the end, that’s what brought him down. He had raised his boys to be hunters and he’d done one hell of a job. But he couldn’t accept that by doing it he’d put them in the position of every other hunter out there, a position where one of them might end up dead, killed by what John had taught them to hunt.
It happened to Dean– a good kid, a good hunter, his father’s son through and through, but with a wicked humor that he must have gotten from his mother. And as dedicated to the hunt and his family as his dad ever was. But was he worth selling his father’s soul to keep him alive? John thought so, that’s for damn sure. Then again, nobody ever accused John Winchester of being a smart man. Eternal damnation for himself so his son could have another thirty years if he was one right lucky son of a bitch? There ain’t many hunters in the old folk’s home, that’s for sure. And there are fewer still that would do what John Winchester did for Dean.
“You stupid ass! What did you do? What did you do?” I don’t even have to ask, because it’s written all over his face. Has been ever since I watched a dead man walk through my front door an hour before. “You made a deal… for Sam, didn’t you?” He doesn’t try to answer, can’t even meet my eyes. “How long did they give you?”
“How long?” I demand. Stupid ass doesn’t quite seem to cut it and it sure the hell doesn’t when he tells me the terms of his contract.
“Dammit, Dean…” He’s worse than a damned sixteen year old that comes on my lot and buys an old carburetor for a hundred and fifty bucks, taking my word that he won’t get a better deal in three counties.
“Which is why we have to find this yellow eyed son of a bitch. It’s why I’m going to kill him myself. I’ve got nothing to lose now. Right?”
That goddamn demon. They can’t think of nothing else. All John did for over twenty years was track that monster. Everything else he happened to kill along the way was just practice or a dead end or a lead that didn’t pan out. It drove him on and drove him down and finally drove him into a deal that cost him more than his life. And now Dean, who has always followed in his daddy’s footsteps, has followed them straight into Hell.
“I could throttle you!”
“What? And send me downstairs ahead of schedule?”
There it is, that smartass mouth of his. I always thought that it would get him killed faster than any creature could. Maybe I was right. I’m sure that’s what he used to seal the deal.
“What is it with you Winchesters? Huh? You, your dad… you’re both just itching to throw yourselves down the pit.”
“That’s my point. Dad brought me back, Bobby. I’m not even supposed to be here. At least this way something good can come out of it, you know. My life can mean something.”
“What? And it didn’t before? Have you got that low of an opinion of yourself? Are you that screwed in the head?” I fist his shirt and shake him, as if I could shake some sense into his thick skull.
“I couldn’t let him die, Bobby. I couldn’t. He’s my brother.”
Lord knows Sam’s death hit him hard. I had chased after the kid that had stabbed Sam, but when I lost him in the dark, I came back to where I had left Dean and Sam. I dreaded what I’d find, no doubt. And seeing Dean with his brother in his arms, I felt my blood run cold. He just kept holding Sammy tighter and tighter, as if he could hold Sam together if he just squeezed a little harder, maybe hold himself together, too. When he finally saw that he’d failed at both… well, it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a grown man break. And if I hadn’t already been broken in the past, I would have been tempted to do it myself. The middle ground is full of broken men, but we’ve managed to piece ourselves back together using bull-headed determination as the glue and hardened it by understanding that none of us are getting out of here alive. It ain’t easy to shatter that type of grit. But watching that boy sob against his brother’s shoulder gave it a run for its money, no lie.
He wouldn’t let me help carry the body, wouldn’t even talk about burying it, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep, hell, he wouldn’t even come out of the room where he’d laid Sam out on an old mattress.
I did what I could… brought food, watched the doors, salted the windows, and I won’t deny I shed more than a few tears myself. I’d watched these boys grow up over the years. Dean, cocky as a rooster even as a kid, with a mouth that had his dad threatening the belt more than once, and fearless in everything he did. I can’t tell you how many times John had to yell at him to stop climbing in the junk cars the first time he brought them by my place. Even after Dean came across a rattler in one, it didn’t stop him from looking in the others. And he wouldn’t let Sam so much as open the door until he’d checked it out for himself.
Sam was quieter– in that way he was like John. He had a shy smile that he carried into manhood but he followed after Dean every step he took. And after a time, I noticed that Dean was always looking back to make sure he was there. Dean may have seemed to take the lead, but if Sammy ever got bored with a game, Dean stopped playing a few minutes later. If Sam said he was thirsty, Dean was suddenly thirsty, too. If Sammy fell and hurt himself, Dean was the first to check out the scratch. And nearly twenty years later, when Sam ended up killed, Dean did what he thought was right.
But just like Dean couldn’t do anything without Sammy following along, Sam wouldn’t be any better off if he didn’t have Dean to lead the way. And Dean… I don’t think he quite realized that. He saw the black and white; Sam dead or Sam alive. He didn’t think about that gray territory that would come with his choice; Sam alive and Dean in Hell… and Sam in his own hell on Earth.
“How’s your brother going to feel when he knows you’re going to Hell? How’d you feel when you knew your dad went for you?”
But he’s thought about it since. It’s why he’s steered wide around the topic, won’t say anything in front of Sam. It’s why I had to bring him out here to talk about it.
“You can’t tell him. You can take a shot at me, whatever you got to do, but please don’t tell him.”
Sam’s no fool, I want to yell back. He’ll figure it out. Maybe already has. But Dean’s pleading with me to help him protect his brother, even when he’s already made a deal with the Devil to do just that. So all I can do is take his face in my hands as I struggle to decide if I want to choke him or hug him. Unable to choose, I simply shake my head in frustration, in anger, in worry and hope for the impossible... a way out from a fate worse than death.
I watched these boys grow up. Watched them go from rowdy kids to lanky teenagers to full-grown men. I watched one die a few days ago and I’ll watch another die in a year. And I’ve done it all from the middle ground. It’s a lonely life as a hunter, I know that. And I know it’s about to get lonelier still.
Standing in the middle ground… it ain’t no walk in the park, that’s for damn sure.
* * * *
Day 3: You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere
Three days gone for the mission man
Three days gone and risen
Three days gone hear the mission man say
Time to get down to business
~ Let Us Prey by Overkill
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step…
Or some shit like that. Whoever it was that said that… Gandhi, Frodo, Master Po, whoever… knew what they were talking about. Because no matter what you’re facing, no matter how long the trip and dangerous the road, you’ve gotta start somewhere, you’ve gotta take that first step.
I don’t know how many miles Sammy and me will cover in a year, but we’ll probably pass a thousand within the first week. Sometimes it seems like we spend more time in the Impala than out. But the distance doesn’t really matter now; it’s more about the time. For me, a journey of a single year starts with closing the Chevy’s trunk.
A year. A goddamn year. Fuck, I’m surprised the demon didn’t try to throw in a bridge in Brooklyn, to boot. Three hundred and sixty-five days. Wait, three hundred and sixty-six. Let’s hear it for February twenty-ninth. Sammy was at least considerate enough to die in a leap year so I could get an extra twenty-four hours. And I’ll take them. You might not think you could do much in twenty-four hours, but you’d be wrong. You can send the only family you have on this planet into a roadside diner to buy you a burger and pie, only to have him seem to disappear off of that same damn planet. Or you can find him against all odds only to have him die in your arms. Or you can sell your soul for three-hundred and sixty-six more days so you don’t have to go one more looking at his corpse cooling before your eyes and know you fucked up royally and your baby brother paid the price.
“Did you sell your soul for me like Dad did for you?”
Here it comes. Bobby had figured it out pretty damn fast; of course, Bobby had seen Sam dead. But I had gotten him to promise me he wouldn’t say anything to Sam and I’d pretty much hoped Sammy wouldn’t figure it out on his own. But you know what they say, hope springs eternal… and then it flips you off for being such a fucking numb nut to believe that bullshit in the first place.
“Oh, come on. No!” I argue futilely, just waiting for that middle-finger salute.
And here it comes.
“Tell me the truth,” Sam requests gently, with almost a questioning tone, afraid to hear the answer. He wants the truth? Well, the truth is, I’m afraid to tell him. Not so much afraid of what he’ll say, but what it’ll say about me and the fact that the thought of going on alone was one I just couldn’t accept, one I couldn’t fucking wrap my brain around. But he’s persistent, I’ll give him that, and when he asks again, it’s a demand. “Dean, tell me the truth.”
How? How do I tell him? How do I explain that watching out for him is all I know? That my earliest memory is of Dad handing me a screaming baby, a wall of flames growing out of the room behind him, and him telling me to take my brother outside and don’t look back? I remember standing in the yard, my bare feet wet with the dew in the grass, my face warm from the heat of the fire, and Sam wiggling so hard I could barely hold onto him. I stood there staring up at the window to Sammy’s bedroom, waiting for Mom and Dad to come out of the house, because when you’re four, that’s the only thing that can happen. Your Mom and Dad are indestructible, invulnerable, a permanent fixture and death is nothing more than a word without teeth. But I learned pretty damn quick that it does have teeth… and claws and sometimes fur. And I learned that it can rip you to shreds without ever laying a physical finger on you.
But that night, standing in my front yard in the dark with Sammy crying in my arms, I still had a few more minutes to believe that Mom and Dad would live forever. But then Dad was scooping us up, running from the house before the window exploded outward, and Mom… let’s just say that the nursery wasn’t the only thing that was blown away that night. My false sense of security pretty much went up in flames, as well.
Dad put us down on the curb, and then he just stared up at the house. Just stared like I had been doing a minute before, as if he was waiting for Mom to come out, too. The neighbors had started showing up by then, the lady from next door trying to take Sammy away from me. I guess she thought I was going to drop him. I mean, who in their right mind puts a four year old in charge of a baby, right? But I learned something else that night; sometimes you don’t have a choice in the matter. Not really. So, I refused to give him up, not until Dad finally came out of his daze at the sound of my protests and took him from me himself. Because Dad had made me responsible for Sammy, and by God, that’s what I was going to be. And nothing and no one was going to take him from me. How do I explain that twenty-four years hasn’t changed that fact one damn bit?
He sees it– maybe not the reasons why, but the confirmation of what I’ve done for him. And all cause for celebrating the demon’s death and Dad’s escape from Hell go out the fucking door… like the horde of demons that made it out through the gate tonight.
Fighting for control, he asks, “How long do you get?”
“One year… I got one year.” But I’d take it, it was worth it, I had no doubts about that. I did what Dad asked me to do. I took care of Sammy, and not even the fact that he’s getting pissed off will convince me otherwise.
“You shouldn’t have done that. How could you do that?”
“Don’t get mad at me. Don’t do that. No, I had to. I had to look out for you. That’s my job.”
I’d seen a glimpse of what could have been, what would have happened if the Demon had never set his sights on our family. A dijinn had showed me what he thought I wanted to see. In that reality, my job was fixing cars. It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t exciting, but for a while, it seemed like the perfect occupation. Because if I could do something as mundane as work in a garage, that meant there was no need to look out for my brother. Sam was safe, he was successful, he was happy… he didn’t really like me that much, but, hey, nothing’s perfect, not even a fantasy. The chick I was sleeping with was smoking hot, though. But the fact of the matter was, even with me and Sammy not speaking, I was tempted to stay because he was safe. He was safe and that’s all that mattered.
But I came back. I came back and left that sweet piece of ass and Mom’s sandwiches and a snobby, secure Sam, because in the back of my mind I knew that Sammy wasn’t really safe and he wouldn’t be unless I was there to watch over him.
“What do you think my job is?”
His demand has me furrowing my brow in confusion. “What?”
“You’ve saved my life… over and over. I mean, you sacrifice everything for me. Don’t you think I’d do the same for you? You’re my big brother, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I nod in understanding and agreement, because I know exactly what he means. I guess I should have known that from the start and part of me already did, which is why I did exactly what I did. “And I don’t care what it takes; I’m going to get you out of this. I guess I’ve gotta save your ass for a change.”
But the truth is, he’s already done it. He found the faith healer, he found me in the wendigo’s cave and when the dijinn had me strung up like a side of beef, and countless other times. And just seeing him here, breathing, talking, giving me shit…
I manage to keep it together, smile faintly, answer hoarsely, “Yeah.”
That dijinn was way the fuck off. I’ll take this over the picture-perfect world where we only saw each other on holidays. Because that picture never made me feel like I was part of something that mattered, it never made me feel like it was worth selling my soul for, it never made my chest tighten up in a way that made me happy to see Ellen and Bobby walking up so I don’t have a total Terms of Endearment episode on the back of the Impala.
“Well,” Ellen observes as she and Bobby reach us, “the Yellow Eyed Demon might be dead but a lot more got through that gate.”
“How many you think?” I ask, my mind thankfully back on business.
“A hundred,” Sammy considers. “Maybe two hundred. It’s an army. He’s unleashed an army.”
Yeah, but it’s an army without a leader, I think with satisfaction. Although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one. Only time will tell. Now I just need to have enough time to put a stop to it before I have to pay my debts.
“I hope to hell you boys are ready,” Bobby tells us. “Because the war’s just begun.”
That’s the thing about endings; they’re really just beginnings in disguise.
I open the trunk to reveal all the tools of our trade. It’s in sharp contrast to the trunk I had when I was living the dijinn-created fantasy life. In a lot of ways, that life would have been simpler, but it would have been a hell of a lot emptier, just like that make-believe trunk. The one I have now is full of clutter, full of danger, full of death waiting to happen. But it’s mine… ours. A true Winchester legacy, just like Sammy and me. The Colt I hold in my hand is another. Cold and heavy and used up, just like I could be if I let myself think of it that way. Dead man walking, that’s me. But at least I’m still walking, and I’ve got a year to keep doing it. Well, almost a year. I’m three days gone already. Three days gone with thousands of miles and two hundred demons to go. I guess it’s time to take that first step.
I toss the Colt in the trunk, fill it up a little more before I close the door and close the chapter on John Winchester and his hunt for the Yellow Eyed Demon. It’s funny, the Winchester story started with the death of our Mom, chapter one ended with the death of our Dad, chapter two with the death of the demon and now…
On to chapter three, this one to be written by the Winchester boys on our own, and this one seems to be heading toward yet another dead end. The Winchester story is one filled with death, just like the trunk of the Impala. But just like the trunk, there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s also hope for a better world, and confidence that we have the tools we need to fight for one, and trust that my brother will be there to watch my back while we do it.
No, I don’t regret my decision. Sammy’s determined to find a way out for me, and if anyone can, it’ll be him. He’ll do the computer geek thing and research and look for clues while we keep doing our job, keep the family business up and running. I’m not fooling myself that it’ll be easy or that he’ll even succeed. If I was into self-delusion, the trunk would be empty instead of one gun heavier. But it’s a hell of a gun and I’ve got myself one hell of a brother.
“We got work to do,” I tell them all with finality.
And a hard road to travel. But, hey, if it was going to be easy they’d call it happy fun time instead of work, right? So I take the step, shut the trunk, and don’t look back. Why bother? What lies behind us is the same shit that lies ahead– death, demons, and all the good intentions that have paved a road straight to Hell.
You’ve gotta start somewhere, and the gates of Hell seem as good a place as any.