DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
It's a haze. You sit in the back of your car, and you listen to Sam and your dad talk. And you wish you had the energy to argue with one of them--only you're not sure who you'd pick because you want your dad to tell you something you could agree with, so it could be like old times with you and him against the world and little Sammy tagging along. But your dad is alive because Sam listened to you, and that's why you'd probably have to pick Sam's side--and besides, he's not little Sammy anymore. He's the one who stopped that Thing.
Him and your dad. While you did nothing. Except nearly bleed to death all over your shirt.
You start to close your eyes when you see something. You can't turn your head very easily, but you don't have to. You catch a glint of something very big, coming out of nowhere. You see it, but you know Sam doesn't. And then everything goes to slow motion. You hear the crunching of metal on metal. You hear the sound of the beautiful, powerful car that Dad trusted you with caving in on itself.
In on you.
Goddamn freakin' truck.
And just like that, you're not in the car. Only...you are.
It's your voice. It sounds like your voice. You reach for the car door, and your hand goes right through it--and right through your body leaning up against the inside of the door.
And Sam's not. And Dad's not. Or they'd be out here with you. Not leaving you all alone.
Not leaving you all alone again.
The driver gets out of the truck. His eyes are black and deep like the pit you sent that Thing's kids back to. He walks right by you, stares inside the car.
He can't see you. He doesn't know you're the only one who's dead.
"Leave them alone." Your voice is loud and shrill. You'd hate for Dad to hear you sound like that. Like a little boy again. Scared.
The driver doesn't hear you. Doesn't even flinch when you get right up in his ear and scream at him to leave your family alone.
Suddenly, the driver crumples, and you realize his eyes have gone back to normal. "Holy God, what the hell..." He looks up at his rig, plowed into your car, and then he runs for the cab.
He doesn't stop. He backs the truck up, wheels spinning for a bit as he tries to get it to the highway.
"Hey, you son of a bitch. Get back here!"
That Thing's demon chose well. This guy doesn't hesitate. He's gone. And you know in your heart that he's not going to make any anonymous calls to the law. Or the fire department. Or anywhere.
He's just going to leave your father and brother to die.
And you, too. He doesn't know, after all, that you're already dead.
"It's hard watching something happen without you, isn't it?"
You turn, spin in the wet mud that if you were alive, would catch you up and make you fall, but you don't fall because you aren't real. And Meg is standing in front of you, and she's not real, either.
And you feel something like pain--the first you've felt, even though your body inside the car is busted up bad--at the thought of what you did to her.
All to get that Thing. And for what? For this? To have some gap-toothed trucker leave you in the middle of nowhere?
You shake your head. She shouldn't say your name so soft like that. Not when you killed her. "I'm sorry, Meg."
"Isn't that why you're here? So I'll tell you how sorry I am?"
"If I say no, will you still be sorry?" There's a hint of the demon Meg in her voice. A spark the demon must have found attractive.
You smile, but it only lasts a second because it seems wrong to smile at a time like this.
"I'm not sorry you set me free, Dean." She walks to the car, peers in. "They're hurt bad."
"Not so bad as me."
"You think you're dead?"
"I am dead." You demonstrate the hand-through-door trick.
"Maybe you just think you're dead." Then she looks up at you, pity in her dark brown eyes. "Maybe you just think you deserve to be dead."
"Maybe I'm already dead. Maybe I have been for years." Did you just say that? Why did you say that?
"Do you wish you were?" She straightens up. "I wished I was. Anything to get that thing out of me."
"I'm sorry we hurt you."
"You didn't hurt me. It hurt me and you just helped a little." She shrugs. "I've got to go now."
"Do I come with you?"
"No, Dean. You stay here."
"For how long?"
"As long as you need to." She fades away, her smile a crooked thing that's half amused and half sorry for you.
Great, now you're a ghost? You pace around the crash site, find you can go as far away from the car as you want.
That's odd. You should be bound to stay near it. Not stroll down the highway this way. Dad's always told you ghosts can't wander. They're held by strong emotion, by violence, by pain.
It's all right there behind you in crunched black metal. So why aren't you stuck there? The way Mom was stuck in your house all these years. Is she really gone? Missouri said she burned up, but is she forever gone? Shouldn't she be here to help you find wherever home is now?
It's been twenty-two years since you've had a home.
Sam is your home. Your dad is your home--but less than he was. Not more than Sam. For a year now, Sam's all you've had.
Sam and his nightmares. Sam and his poor lost girlfriend. Sam and--
Why did you drag him away from Stanford? Would the demon have attacked Jess if Sam hadn't taken up hunting again? If you hadn't insisted he take it up again?
But the demon said this was all about Sam. Sam and the kids like him. Psychic kids. Special kids.
You're not special. You've spent your whole life protecting Sam, knowing that he was the special one, even if you didn't know why.
You used to think it was only because he got to make choices. Because he got to leave.
Now you see it's so much more.
And you're so much less.
"You're not, you know?" A soft voice. A sweet voice. A voice you left behind.
"Layla." You don't want to turn. Don't want to see how the tumor changed her.
"It's okay. I'm not a monster. You made sure of that."
You feel her hands on your arms. Meg couldn't touch you--or didn't touch you. Maybe didn't want to touch you?
She laughs softly. "I've been dead longer than she has. We learn how to do things."
"You're a ghost?"
"Not like you're used to. I'm just dead and here now. Because you need to make peace with some things before..."
She smiles again. Beautiful, she is still so damn beautiful.
"I couldn't let Reverend Le Grange--"
"I know. I wouldn't have wanted it that way." She takes your hand. "You've done a lot of hard things, Dean. Violent things. And they don't haunt you. Not even Meg will haunt you. But I do, don't I?"
You look away because you don't want her to see how she's right. You've thought about her nearly every day you weren't fighting for your life. And sometimes even on those days.
"I think I could have loved you." You don't say things like that. Not easily. But you say it so easily to Layla now. She's got a way of getting inside your defenses.
"Did you ever pray for me?"
You did. At first. Until one day you tried and it just wouldn't come. And maybe that was the day she died, only you didn't know it then. "Yes. No." It's the easiest answer. She can just pick one.
"You never needed to pray for me, Dean. But it was kind of you to offer." She smiles again and leans in to you, her voice leaving no passing of breath despite the feel of her hands on your arms. "This is going to hurt."
You feel fire flashing through your head, your chest, your groin, your legs, and the tips of your fingers. And you realize when you open your eyes that Sam is doing it to you, that he's crying as he beats again on your chest, and you feel some weird kind of power fly out of him as his fist makes contact.
"Sam, he's awake. He's awake, Sam." Your dad stops the next blow, and you want to say thanks, but you can barely keep your eyes open.
Sammy saved you again. Maybe he'll always save you.
"It's okay, Dean. Just hang on." Sam is doing something to your hair, and it sort of hurts, and you want to tell him to stop, but it's too much work. Besides he looks so relieved that you don't want to hurt his feelings.
You hear your dad calling 911. You hear him say his boy's hurt. And he means you, and then he looks back at you, and there is love and concern and all the things you sometimes worry he really only feels for Sam.
"Dean, you hold on, son." His eyes are wet just like Sam's, and he reaches over and takes your hand real gentle, in a way he's never done before. Like you're fragile and something precious.
Something worth saving.
And just beyond him, past the wreck of the car you love more than anything except him and Sam, you see Layla. She walks over and through the car door, and she leans down, not putting any weight on you. And you think Sam can't see her because he doesn't get out of the way.
"I could have loved you, too, Dean." And then she kisses you, and you feel something good go through you. Something that feels just the opposite of what that reverend did when he healed you. "Keep fighting."
"I'll keep fighting," you say, and Sam tells you to shush.
You watch her wink out, and you know it's possible she was never there. You've seen enough in life to know that the mind can tell you things in ways you'd never think.
Only you don't hurt as bad as you did, and you know that you should hurt even more. So you think she was real. Or unreal but real. Really there.
She was there for you.
She wants you to fight.
She doesn't mind that you didn't save her.
"Can't save 'em all," you murmur.
"We'll save you," Sam says, not getting what you mean. But that's okay. You like the concern in his voice. You like how warm you feel with both him and your dad caring so much about you right now.
And you close your eyes and wait for help to come. And it will come because your dad called for it, and no one would dare disobey him except for Sam. And maybe you, if you were having a really bad day.
"Stay with us, Dean." Sam sounds terrified.
Somehow you find the strength to bat his hand off your hair. "Don't...get all...girly on me."
You hear him laugh. That choked-up laugh he does that charms you every time. Your baby brother. The little boy you've spent your life protecting.
His hand is back on your hair. You don't hit at him again.
For just a little while, you'll let him watch out for you.