brosedshield: (tea then larceny)
[personal profile] brosedshield
Title: A Man, a Rope, a Tree
Disclaimer: If anyone owns anything in this relationship, Supernatural owns my heart.
Sam, Dean
hanging, strangulation, mention of OC mutilation
Word count:
set S6ish? No particular spoilers
Sam remembers a lot, actually. He just doesn’t remember how he got on the tree.
Author notes:
I actually have a lot to say, but that's why there are footnotes at the end. :) Yay, thank you to [ profile] lavinialavender for beta-ing! And then I went and changed things. All mistakes remain my own.


Sam isn’t sure how he got here. Nor is he quite sure why he’s still alive.

Well, not exactly true. He remembers him and Dean investigating in New England some disappearances linked to an Odin cult. They figured it could be connected to some kind of demonic activity or they might even get to kill an old god, but either way it was a hunt, and they are, essentially, hunters. They’d hit town, found a bar, chatted up the kindly old townspeople—since the whole Christmas-god fingernail incident, Sam has found those the most suspicious—and met some shady characters. They were generally getting closer to an answer when they decided to split up, Dean to intimidate a couple more of the suspects he’d dragged up in the bar and Sam back to one of their earliest contacts—a sweet, middle-aged man who had come off as a little daft the first time the Winchesters came knocking.

This time, after Sam found the bodies of the missing persons in his basement—respectfully laid out on several wooden altar-tables, fine clothes and gaudy gold jewelry doing nothing to disguise the throat lacerations and empty eye sockets—the man’s bright blue eyes were no less kind, but also some of the craziest Sam had ever seen.

“Of course we can’t just kill him,” the leader had said reasonably to one of his younger followers—the one who had sucker punched Sam the second he opened the basement door, and had managed to pin his arms in the ensuing struggle. “We will dedicate him to the One-Eyed.”

The younger man, Chad—Sam didn’t know why he remembered his name of all things, when the name of the cult’s leader slipped in and out of his head like salmon through a net—had made a low, frustrated noise and twisted Sam’s arm to the breaking point. “You mean we’re going to pray while we slit his throat, right?”

For the first time, the leader’s voice got hard and cutting. “Don’t be willfully ignorant.” He crouched and pulled Sam’s head up by the hair, almost gently. That was the first time Sam had really stared into the man’s eyes. One had seemed to cloud as he watched, like the leader was becoming a one-eyed demon, half-Lilith and half-mortal. “This is a great honor,” he told Sam. The words were wistful, kind, and disturbing down to his bones.

Sam remembers a lot, actually, now that he thinks about it. He just doesn’t remember how he got on the tree.

Sam forces his mouth open, gasping against the pressure from the rope wrapped around his throat. It snakes around his chest and hands, too, but it’s his throat he feels, where the rough cord is much too tight. It hurts to breathe while his own weight strangles him.

He’s lost track of time, either from passing out—oxygen deprivation and blood loss will do that, even to a Winchester—or because he’s still under the leader’s spell. The sky is an even gray, the wind is cold on his bare arms, and the world hangs in a sort of in-between time. He has to think about breathing, and sometimes he forgets.

Sam’s been dead before, at least twice, maybe a dozen times depending on whether or not he was aware of it at the time, but it’s never been like this.

Then again, Sam and Dean—and most people they know—have never died slow. It’s just not the way hunters go.

Hunters don’t die splayed out against the universe, waiting for life to seep out over the brown winter grass like an old woman waiting with her tea or a cow licking down a glacier to form a man. Hunters die fast and bloody, guts spread over Impala seats, brothers crying over them in devil’s traps and cheap hotels.

It’s kind of nice actually, Sam thinks, that he’s not worrying or fighting or having Lucifer in his head. Just him and a tree and a rope and the universe slowly warping around the sound of his blood dripping to the ground from his toes.

Oh shit. Nice is not good. Nice is not what Sam has ever wanted or expected.

Dean is looking for him, and when he finds Sam he’ll need his brother, not some victim-god-sacrifice. He bucks against the rope hanging him, supporting him, binding him. The movement sends lightning pain through his chest, makes his numbing limbs scream, and tightens the rope, but it also proves he’s alive. Pain makes him a hunter again.

Sam has never just rolled over and died when the universe—parents, monsters, demons, angels—told him he was fucked, and he’s not going to start now. Even if that option feels better, more right, than it ever has before.

Sam writhes. The agony cuts his fogged mind, and Sam can hear Dean shouting his name like big brother can echolocate by the syllables of Sam’s name.

“Dammit, Sammy, answer me!

Sam can hear and Sam can try. But he can’t manage much more than a rough groan. “Deeeean.”

It’s enough.

Dean finds him and somehow cuts him down, which hurts all over again. Sam falls, and Dean only kind of catches him, but the impact makes him feel like Sam again. Yes, an aching, beaten, ex-sanguinated, half-dead version of himself—sometimes Sam thinks that’s the only normal state, and everything else is the anomaly—but definitely Sam. He hadn’t even realized that big parts of himself were sliding away until they jumped back into place again.

“Shit, fuck, hell, Sammy, tell me you’re breathing. Dammit, Sam!” Dean is warm and loud and human, and Sam is profoundly glad to be back in his arms.

“You’re early,” he rasps. “I almost had the last charm.”

Dean’s eyes close, the relief so visible in his face that Sam doubts he even heard the words. “Dammit, Sam. I’m going to kill every one of those bastards. After I get you to a hospital.”

When Dean pulls him to his feet, Sam can’t stand, exactly, but Dean manages for both of them.

“What…not a single line…about me hanging around? All…tied up at the moment?” Sam snickers at himself, and that hurts, fuck, but he’s alive.

Dean looks like he can’t decide whether to laugh or smack him across the head. “Yeah, sure, you’re well hung, whatever. Come on, Sam, walk with me.”

“Hanged,” Sam says while they start limping out of the gray woods, presumably toward the Impala. “Well hanged.”

“Tomorrow, Sam,” Dean says. “Right now you just shut up and keep breathing, okay?”

Sam can live with that. He still isn’t quite sure how he got on the tree or how he deserves the best big brother in the world. But now, with that same big brother muttering under his breath about what he’ll do to Odin if he ever runs into the deity, or how fucking heavy you are, Sammy, yeah, just keep walking with me, Sam remembers why he’s still breathing, himself and alive.

* * *
FOOTNOTES (and general notes)

*Gold jewelry—Vikings were big into gold jewelry. It was convenient to carry a small fortune about one’s person (much like Mr. T) in case of an accidental murder and the resultant weregild.

*The One-Eyed—one of many epithets for Odin;

* Salmon through a net—when trying to escape the gods after slaying Baldr, the god Loki was eventually caught in the form of a salmon with a net he had designed himself

*Old woman and her tea—I want this to be an Arsenic and Old Lace reference, but I’m not convinced I pulled it off. It’s been too long since I've seen that delightful movie.

*Cow licking a glacier—In Norse myth the first god/man/non-evil being is born/formed when a primordial cow licks him out of the primordial ice (because the ice is salty, yum!) For serious.

*I almost had the last charm—Odin hung (hanged? Probably he was hanged, but he hung…) himself on the tree to gain knowledge, part of which was the knowledge of several charms and runes. I’m pretty that in the Eddas he never reveals what the last charm is, but I’m sadly far from my research books and can't look up the details any more...

General Note #1: This fic was inspired by the tag "strangulation/hanging" at [ profile] ohsam , which seemed intriguing and then, when I checked it, not used to its full potential. I actually wrote this story the same week as In His Sleevies (my very first Wincest fic) and Surcease from Pain (inspired by the tag "touch starvation" which hadn't been used at all). It was a very hurt!Sam weekend. I think that this was the fic that I had been wanting to write the whole time, because after the rough draft was done I could stop writing. Which may or may not be a good thing :P

General Note #2: Posting this on Easter seems ironic, but it's really more because I'm in a "let's edit and post WIPs!" mood than because I'm want to indulge in Christ parallels.

General note #3: This fic has at least as much to do with American Gods by Neil Gaiman as it does with Supernatural. If you haven’t, you should totally read that book. I’ll apologize in advance for any spoileryness.
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