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Supernatural, gen, ~1K words, set during "Mystery Spot."

Warning: Dean dies. Also contains brief descriptions of Dean's previous deaths.

After watching Dean die seventy-eight times, Sam would have thought he'd be used to it.

Instead, it feels like he's getting harder. The first few times were such a shock, but now he's spending the day bracing for it, wondering what it will be. How long it will take Dean to die. How much it will hurt him.

The desk falling on him had at least been quick. He'd been dead before he'd known what was happening.

When they'd been burning the Mystery Spot and the wall had come down on top of Dean --

He dug his fingernails into his palms.

Dean is chattering about pig-in-a-poke, now, and soon the subject will switch to Bela and Sam has a decision to make. Does he tell Dean, or does he keep quiet.

If he tells Dean (once he gets through the rigamarole of explaining ... again ... that no it's not deja vu and yes like Groundhog Day) then maybe Dean will at least be a little more careful. Or maybe he won't, either because he doesn't quite believe Sam deep down, or maybe because he does and he's willing to play fast and loose because he won't have to live with the consequences.

But either way, it doesn't matter. He's going to watch Dean die today, for the seventy-ninth Tuesday in a row. And all he can hope is that it won't be as slow as vomiting himself to death from food poisoning or as painful as being eviscerated by a circular saw or impaled by a pipe falling out of the back of a truck.

He can't do this again. He can't. But he can't think of a single thing that he hasn't tried. Keeping Dean in the motel room, even trying to tie him to the bed (and gotten laughed at for his trouble, at least until Dean had tried to shove him off, overbalanced, and fallen against the bedstand hard enough to break his neck...) They'd tried every route out of town, but they'd never made it past the county line. Dean had been crushed behind the wheel of the Impala, thrown out and into the path of an oncoming semi, or been trapped inside on the train tracks while Sam had been miraculously thrown clear, without a scratch.

This curse, or whatever it was, was malevolent. Though Dean had died over and over again, Sam was always unscathed, for the seconds or minutes or hours it took for him to watch Dean die.

On days fifty through fifty-two, he'd tried to short-circuit it by killing himself, because even if he didn't wake up, it was better than watching Dean die again and again. But each time, Dean managed to stop him, and get himself killed in the process.

He needs a drink.

And maybe that's it. Maybe the only way to win is not to play. Not to figure out a way around it.

It's the only thing he can think of that he hasn't tried.

So when they're done with breakfast, and he's maneuvered Dean past the obstacles that have killed him before (and that's one thing, he's noticed; Dean has never, that he can recall, died the same way twice. So maybe it's a matter of exploring all the options.

There's a bar, and when he heads in, Dean follows. "Sammy, you okay? You look stressed, and drinking before noon's not usually your style."

"I thought we could take some time. You know, relax."

"Ocean's just a few miles thattaway. We could do a little sightseeing ..." He waggles his eyebrows to make it absolutely clear that he means bikini-clad women. "We've never been to the beach before. Which when you think about it, is a little odd. How come there are never ghosts that haunt beaches? It's always some dusty old house full of cobwebs and yucch."

This isn't the first time they've had that conversation, either. They'd had it when they tried to escape by motorboat (and only after Sam had sworn that he would come back for the Impala after midnight.)

Now that Dean's here, though, the objection to being in a bar evaporates. He signals the bartender, a man so fishbelly-pale that Sam wonders if he ever leaves the bar during daylight hours.

Three rounds later, and his mind starts to wander. As always, it returns to how he can keep Dean alive: today, and when his deal comes due.

If the curse -- or whatever it is -- is making Dean die a different way every time, maybe the way to break it is to make Dean die the same way again?

If he'd been sober, he would have shied away from that. But drunk, there's enough of the edge off that he can contemplate it. Make sure it's one of the quick, painless ones -- the desk, maybe -- and let nature take its course?

But then he has second thoughts. What if that breaks the curse, but leaves Dean permanently dead?

Maybe he should switch to whiskey.

Dean polishes off the last of his third beer. "Grab us another round, I'm gonna go shake the dew off the lily."

"Right."

When the bartender comes back, though, he orders them both whiskey.

Movement catches his eyes, and a man with a loaded spearfishing gun walks through the door. He sets his backpack down, but keeps the spear in his hand as he walks to the men's room.

With a sense of inevitability, Sam turns back to the bar, does the shots, one after another.

Dean's scream rips through the air, and the fisherman comes racing out yelling for someone to call 9-1-1, and Sam has just enough time to put his head down on the bar before "In the Heat of the Moment" wakes him for the eightieth Tuesday in a row.

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