When Death Has Your Number
A/N: Hello, everyone! This is just a little something I wrote based on a tumblr post I saw. It's my very first attempt at Supernatural fanfiction, so please let me know what you think and how I can improve, because I intend to write another, much longer fic in the future, so any constructive criticism would be appreciated! Thank you so much, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the show Supernatural, I own only my own original work and characters, this is written purely for fun! Thanks!
"Tiffany Marshall, twenty-eight, lived alone, waitress at a diner downtown…"
The man's voice echoed weirdly in the dark, a narration of my life told underwater.
"Three weeks ago, suffered a stroke, admitted to St. Mary's hospital, and was declared legally dead. Until she woke up, perfectly fine, two hours later."
I was cold and stiff and my nose itched. Then I was floating, pulled through the chilly air and jerked to a sudden stop. The voices were clearer now.
"Well that's… unusual."
"Everyone called it a miracle. I call it a malpractice suit waiting to happen."
"Too bad it didn't last long."
Three voices, three men. I was conscious of being awake, but I was having trouble gaining control of my motor functions. The men kept talking.
"Yep. Day before yesterday, dropped in the grocery aisle like a sack of potatoes. No explanation. Weirdest damn thing I've ever seen."
"Anything else that stands out to you? Was she acting strangely after her stroke?"
"Nope, perfectly normal. What's the FBI want with it anyway?"
"We're just investigating the possibility of…"
I finally managed to get my eyes open and I blinked. The florescent lights above me were blinding, but after the second blink three faces came into focus, a Ken doll, human Simba, and a nerd who seemed ever so slightly familiar. They were all staring down at me. No one was talking now. My nose still itched, but I resisted the urge to scratch it.
My voice came out as a painful croak. I swallowed and tried again.
"Could I have some water?"
The color drained completely out of the nerd's face. The other two stared down at me like predators. What the hell…
And then I realized why I was so cold. I was lying on bare metal, covered by a thin sheet. Completely naked.
My scream and the jerk I made were completely involuntary, but you would have thought I'd performed an act of terrorism. Before I knew it I was staring down two gun barrels.
"Who are you?" Ken Doll asked.
I tried to get a grip, but I was shivering uncontrollably.
"Tif…, Tiffany M…, Marshall, I'm Tiffany Marshall!" I managed to stutter, clinging desperately to the thin white sheet, "Jesus, what the hell is going on? Where am I?"
The two men exchanged a glance, but didn't lower their guns. I could feel the beginnings of hysteria and I tried to take deep breaths.
"Oh god, oh god…"
The nerd had crouched down on the floor next to another metal table and was staring at me, just muttering to himself over and over. I knew where I was now. I had seen enough cop shows to recognize an autopsy table when I saw one.
"Son of a bitch, I'm in the morgue."
My voice was surprisingly steady. I could feel myself detaching from my emotions and I knew I was probably going into shock. I felt numb and it wasn't because of the open cooler they had wheeled me out of.
After a few seconds of the muttering, the man with the golden mane turned and brought the butt of his gun down sharply on the back of the nerd's head. He dropped like a rock and lay still on the tile. Ken Doll kept his gun pointed at my head, jaw set and eyes blank. He was going to kill me. I was going to die on a slab in the morgue. I felt a giggle bubble up in my throat and I choked it down.
The lion cub had his gun on me again, but at least he was talking.
"Dean, we don't even know what it is."
"No, but I bet a silver bullet in its brain'll slow it down."
"She hasn't shown any of the signs."
Signs? I thought. What signs?
"No, but it will." Dean's eyes fixed me with an icy stare, "Bastards always wait 'til you're least expecting it."
He pulled back the hammer on the gun. The click echoed in my head and I felt the sudden urge to speak.
"If you're gonna kill me, at least tell me why."
Again, I was surprisingly calm. The two men stared at me for a minute, and for the first time the one called Dean seemed to waver. They didn't answer me, but the other man started talking again.
"Dean, think about it. Three weeks. She would be showing signs by now, fever at least, noticeable changes in behavior."
I saw Dean's gun wobble. Finally he rolled his eyes in frustration.
"What do you wanna do, Sam?" he snapped, "We can't just leave it here!"
There was a pause, and the two men exchanged a long look. Then, Dean's face morphed from mildly annoyed, into furious.
"Oh, HELL no!"
"Do you have a better idea?"
And that's how I found myself wrapped in a sheet in the back seat of a black Chevy Impala, zip-tied, gagged, and listening to Metallica. I had never been happier to hear "Enter Sandman" in my life.
"This is a bad idea, Sammy." Dean said. He seemed much more relaxed behind the wheel, but he was still clearly unhappy with the situation. If I hadn't been gagged I would have agreed with him. Kidnapping was never a good idea.
"Well, we can't just let her wander around," Sam said, "And until we can figure out her particular brand of weird…"
I managed to make a muffled noise of indignation, which was ignored.
"We can't know that any of our normal kill shots will work."
The way these two talked about killing made me very uncomfortable. FBI they were not, but who were they? Extremely specific serial killers, preying on the already-assumed deceased? And speaking of that, what the hell?! I had been in the MORGUE! For TWO DAYS! How was that even possible?
We pulled into a motel parking lot and I was led, with undue force, into one of the rooms. It was decorated cheaply and I shuddered to think what might have transpired in those beds. After being forcibly "offered" a chair and securely tied down, and the boys set to work. A strange pentagram was taped onto the carpet and salt was poured across the door and on the window sills.
After being dragged to sit in the middle of the Satanic ritual circle, my gag was finally removed.
"Who exactly do you guys think I am?" I asked. Probably not my best choice of words considering my circumstances, but I blame shock. Dean, the scary one, stared down at me from outside the circle.
"It's not who." Sam said, his voice coming from somewhere behind me, "It's what."
My breath caught in my throat. I wanted so badly to tell them that they were crazy. But I had been in a morgue… for two days… My understanding of the word "crazy" was currently being redefined.
"You said you were thirsty." Dean said. He unscrewed the top off a jug of water. There was a rosary floating inside. He pressed the jug to my lips, "Drink this."
The words sounded more like a threat than an offer, but I didn't care. My throat felt like sand paper. I gulped the water down. It was lukewarm and tasted stale, but in that moment it was the nectar of the gods. I could have drank the whole gallon if they'd let me, but after only half, Dean took the jug away. He glanced behind me and nodded, then stepped aside. Sam came into view, a knife gleaming in his hand. He looked at me apologetically.
"This is gonna hurt."
Then he sliced my arm. It wasn't deep, but it was enough to make me scream.
"Son of a bitch!" I felt a moment of blinding rage. "Crazy or not, you don't just cut people!"
Sam was already working again, binding the cut with a clean white bandage.
"Sorry, we needed to see your reaction to silver."
"Well, it hurts, okay?" I snapped, "It hurts like a mother! Satisfied, you little psychos?"
Sam and Dean exchanged glances. That silent communication, partner ESP crap, was starting to get really old, really fast.
"Is anyone going to at least attempt to explain to me what the hell is going on?!"
"You wouldn't understand." Sam said.
"I'm willing to bet I'll understand a lot better if you start talking, Sunshine."
There was a long pause, in which time I was able to cool down and realize again what a dangerous situation I was in. But my captors didn't seem as keen on killing me now. I guess I'd passed whatever tests they'd done. Now they just looked confused.
"We thought you might be a zombie."
Dean crossed his arms and stared down at me, like he was daring me to laugh. I didn't.
"Or a demon." Sam added.
"Still could be a ghoul, actually…" Dean mused.
"Not likely, seeing as she's never actually made it as far as a cemetery."
I was starting to feel dizzy, like I might be sick.
"Eh, you're probably right, she would have fed on another corpse by now, taken a new form…"
That was it. I was definitely going to throw up. I gagged and they stopped talking. A bottle was pressed to my lips and cool, fresh water poured over my tongue. I drank a little, but my stomach was still rolling. The bottle was pulled away and I took a deep breath, in through my nose, out through my mouth.
"Jesus, just… just tell me I'm not gonna eat… dead things."
Sam's voice was soothing, "Like we said, it's very unlikely."
"So, what is it?" I asked, staring up at them, "What the hell is going on with me?"
They exchanged another look.
"We're not sure yet," Sam said, "And until we figure it out, you're gonna have to stay with us."
"Fantastic." I muttered weakly.
The good news was, after a heated battle of wits, it was decided that it would be impractical to keep me tied to a chair, wrapped in a sheet, for the duration of my stay. After checking the bathroom to make sure I couldn't escape, I was untied and Sam loaned me some clothes. Everything was far too big, but the plaid shirt was comfy, and it was better than a sheet. When I emerged I was told to sit on the bed and not move. That was fairly easy with Dean sitting on the other bed, cleaning his gun and looking imposing. He was pretty good at it. I felt not the slightest inclination to attempt any sudden movements.
Dinner was take-out burgers and fries. It was the best cheeseburger, no onion, to ever pass my lips. I swear, I think I moaned at one point. I guess not eating for two days does that to you, with or without a pulse.
Then, after a rousing game of Rock Paper Scissors, Sam settled in for a four hour nap and Dean settled back in a chair and stared at me. Trust me, it was just as awkward as it sounds. I tried to lie down and close my eyes, but even if sleep had been a remote possibility, I could feel Dean's eyes burning into me from across the room. It was the longest four hours of my life.
Finally, Dean woke Sam and they switched places. Sam didn't feel the need to stare at me, or pay me any attention at all. Instead he opened his laptop and began pecking away. I finally felt a knot in my shoulders relax. I lay there, staring at the ceiling, unable to think about my situation, because honestly, I wasn't sure what situation I was in. Everything was turned upside down and inside out and I didn't know which way was up anymore.
I felt a presence off to my right. Lazily I turned my head. I felt lethargic and slow. A nondescript man stood at my bedside. He was dressed in a crisp black suit, his hands folded carefully in front of him, staring down at me. He looked vaguely familiar, like I had seen him in a dream. Then he softly spoke my name.
That voice… It was soft and kind, but somehow, it still made my blood run cold.
He smiled at me, a sympathetic smile that made my heart race with fear.
"You can't run forever."
I jerked awake violently, gasping for air and twisting away from where the man had stood.
Sam caught me before I fell off the edge of the bed. Dean was up and awake, a gun in his hand, eyes alert despite his disheveled appearance.
"What happened?" He demanded, his voice level and calm, but his eyes flicking all over the room.
I couldn't get the words out. I didn't know what had happened.
"I saw a man." I managed to say.
Sam had a gun in his hand now too and he quickly checked the bathroom while Dean peered out the curtained windows.
"He was…" I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat, "He was there, by the bed."
"Did you know him?" Dean asked. He didn't even question the existence of the man, which was nice considering I was beginning to question it.
"No… Yes… I don't know, I thought so." I wasn't making much sense and I knew it. "It's really hard to explain."
"Try." Sam said, coming to sit on the edge of the bed with me.
I described the man as best I could and I told them what he'd said to me.
"It terrified me." I said, "And I don't know why. I don't even know what it means."
Dean and Sam exchanged another of their looks.
"What do you think?" Dean said.
Sam shrugged, "I don't know. Reaper, maybe?"
"A reaper that missed his mark? Twice?" Dean said, sounding incredulous.
I decided to try acting like a coherent, intelligent human being for once.
"Is a reaper… what I think it is?"
"If you think they're the one's who take on your last trip through the looking glass, then yes, Alice, they are exactly what you think they are."
While I didn't particularly appreciate Dean's sarcasm, it felt better to know that my fear had a name. Reaper.
"So what do we do now?"
Sam and Dean just stared at me and I shifted uncomfortably.
"I mean, what does it want? Can you make it leave me alone?"
"You mean kill it?" Dean asked, his eyes narrowing.
"You can't kill a reaper, Tiffany." Sam said, a little more gently, "Their only purpose is to escort the souls of the dead to the afterlife."
"And believe me, if one is after you, there's no shaking it." Dean said.
I did believe him. He looked very much like he spoke from experience.
"But what I don't get," Sam said, his brow furrowed, "Is how you're getting back to your body."
I must have looked as confused as I felt, because Sam began to elaborate.
"When you die, your soul separates from your body. That's it. There's no going back, short of divine intervention or…"
His eyes flicked to Dean.
"Or a demon deal." Dean finished flatly, "Make any deals with a red-eyed bitch lately?"
I shook my head vehemently, "No, no of course not."
"You think this might be an angel thing?" Sam asked.
"Why?" Dean said, clearly skeptical, "And even if it were, why would the reaper still be creeping around?"
"I don't know, maybe with Death running loose the reapers are getting moody? We should call Cas, see what he thinks."
My mind was whirling. Reapers, angels, red-eyed demons, Death? Were Santa Claus and the tooth fairy real too?
One phone call and a mysterious fluttering later, a new face appeared. Out of thin air. The man in the crooked tie and trench coat tilted his head and stared at me quizzically. Dean cleared his throat.
"Tiffany, this is Castiel. Cas, this is…"
"You have a reaper following you."
I jerked and turned around, expecting to see the bland faced man standing over my shoulder. But there was nothing there.
"Tiffany, Cas is an angel." Sam explained, "He can see things we can't."
That did not make me feel better. It gave me the creeps.
Castiel stared intently at the space behind me for a moment, and then turned back to me.
"Why are you running?"
His gravelly voice was void of judgment or emotion of any kind. It was a simple, direct question, and I answered it as such.
"I don't want to die."
I laughed and spread my hands dramatically.
"Well apparently, not me!"
His head tilted to the side again. He looked like a confused puppy.
"Everyone dies, Tiffany Marshall." He said, "You have been granted only the strength to delay your fate, not change it."
"Well then I'm gonna delay it for as long as I can." I said, crossing my arms over my chest. I was feeling pretty good about it actually.
"That is your choice." Castiel said, "But know this. Your reaper will never stop fighting for you. Each time you struggle against him will be more taxing than the last. And one day, very soon, you will escape his grasp only to find yourself trapped in a box under six feet of earth, with no one to hear your screams."
"Woah, Cas!" Dean said, jumping up and putting a hand on the angel's shoulder, "Calm down there, Giggles, I think she gets it."
I didn't get it. I didn't get it at all. Why was this happening to me? I didn't want to die. But I didn't want to live with a reaper constantly looking over my shoulder either. What had I done so wrong to deserve this? Maybe I wasn't really alive after all. Maybe I was dead. And this was my hell.
The boys were all arguing amongst themselves now. Surprisingly, Dean seemed the most adamant about keeping me alive.
"There's got to be a way to get this reaper off her back!"
"Dean, you know the lore as well as I do." Sam said, "Once a reaper has your number, that's it. There's no going back."
Dean turned to the angel, "But she got back. How did she do that? Is it something to do with the apocalypse?"
Castiel shook his head, "It is simply a matter of her soul."
He looked at me, his face neutral, "You have a very rare soul, Tiffany Marshall. Only a handful of people on the planet have a soul strong enough to resist a reaper and regain access to their physical form. And only a fraction of those souls ever find cause to use that strength."
"Well, if I'm so special," I said, irritated and a little frightened, "Then why won't this reaper just leave me alone? I mean, it sounds like a lot of work for just one soul."
"It is his duty to bring your soul safely into the afterlife. It is the reason for his existence. He knows nothing else. And he will continue with his task until it is completed."
I felt faint again, and I must have looked as crappy as I felt, because Sam took my arm and led me to one of the beds. I sank onto the mattress and I felt a crushing fear press down on me.
"But…" My voice came out raspy and I cleared my throat, "But where is he taking me? What's out there? I mean," I looked up at Castiel, "You're an angel, right? So, I'm assuming there's a heaven."
All three of them nodded.
"So then, if there's a heaven, there must be a hell too."
An awkward silence fell between Sam and Castiel. Only Dean still met my eyes, but he looked much older now, haggard and haunted.
"Yeah, there's a hell." he said.
I swallowed the lump in my throat, my eyes jumping to each of their faces.
"So, how do I know where I'll end up? I mean, I'm not a bad person, but I'm not exactly a saint. I don't want to go to hell."
Without warning, Castiel put his hand on my head. Nothing happened, but when he removed his hand, I felt bare and open, like a piece of luggage that's just been searched by the TSA.
"You have no need to fear." he said, "Your soul is not bound for Hell."
I tried to feel better, but somehow it just wasn't working.
"So, heaven," I smiled up at Castiel, even though I certainly didn't feel like it, "What's that like?"
The angel glanced at Sam and Dean, "I think it might be best if I let them explain."
Confused, I looked at Sam and Dean, who both seemed very uncomfortable.
"We, uh…" Sam started, but he seemed unable to finish his thought.
"We took a day trip to the Great Beyond." Dean said, finally.
"A day trip?" I asked, "How the hell do you take a day trip to heaven?"
Awkward glances around the room. I was beginning to get the feeling that I wasn't the craziest thing to ever happen to these guys, and quite frankly, I wasn't sure I felt good about that.
"It's a long story," Sam said, "But the point is, we've been there and it's great."
Dean snorted. Sam gave him a frustrated look, but Dean seemed completely unapologetic.
"Look, here's the deal," he said, clasping his hands and resting his elbows on his knees to look me in the eye, "Heaven is… It's the Greatest Hits album of your life. You relive all of your best memories for the rest of eternity."
I glanced at Sam, then back at Dean.
"So… That's it? I just relive what I've already done over and over again?" I looked back at Sam, "What about family? Like my grandmother, will she be there with me?"
"She'll be in your memories." Sam said.
"But she won't really be there." I said, starting to feel like I was listening to a timeshare scam, "She'll just be a copy, a cheap imitation."
"She'll be however you remember her to be…"
"I don't care about how I remember her! What's the point if it's not real? Why would I want to spend eternity stuck alone in a replay of my crappy life?"
"It is better than the alternative." Dean said with a shrug.
I was scared and confused and his apathy toward this whole fiasco was really pissing me off.
"Oh, you mean living?" I snapped, "Because I don't have to put up with this bull shit. I don't HAVE to die!"
"And live forever with a reaper over your shoulder?" Sam said, softly, gently.
I hated him for saying it. I had almost been able to forget about the bland faced man, but now I could feel his eyes on the back of my head, and cold chills slithered down my spine. He was there. He would always be there, waiting for me to slip up, to step wrong, to breathe wrong. I couldn't do that. I wanted to live, but I didn't want to live in fear.
I looked at Castiel, who had backed into a corner and was just staring at me.
"But you're an angel," I pleaded, "Isn't there something you can do?"
He at least had the decency to drop his eyes and look a little bit sorry.
"The reaper has laid claim to you." he said, "His claim is valid. I cannot refute it."
I wanted to cry, but no tears would come. I just sat on the bed, staring at the wall where Castiel had last seen the reaper. I closed my eyes and I could see his face.
You can't run forever…
I didn't want to. I didn't want to run forever.
"I'm scared." I whispered.
The bed squeaked under me and someone took my hand.
"We're right here, Tiffany." Sam said, "We're not going anywhere."
I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
"I can see him." I whispered.
He was standing against the wall, just where Castiel had seen him. He didn't seem as frightening as he had before. He looked almost pleasant, like an old friend, happy to see me at last.
Someone snatched my other hand.
"Tiffany, listen to me."
It was Dean, but I was afraid to look at him, afraid to look away from the reaper. My reaper.
"Tiffany listen, when you get there, to heaven, there's a guy we know who can get into other people's heavens. His name is Ash. When you get there, you call his name, you scream it as loud as you can, and you tell him the Winchesters sent you. Got it?"
I nodded, but I felt a little disconnected, so I repeated what he'd said, just to be sure.
"Ash, Winchesters, got it."
Dean squeezed my hand.
"You don't have to be alone, okay? Just try to remember."
I smiled. In spite of the bravado and the tough guy attitude, it was a very kind thing for Dean to do. I finally risked one last look at the three men in the room. They looked as frightened as I felt. I squeezed the hands of the men who sat beside me.
It wasn't much of anything, but I never had been too good with words. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up. My reaper stood over me, waiting patiently. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to memorize the sensation of breathing.
"Okay," I said, "What do I do?"
He smiled, "It is already done."
I turned toward Sam's voice, but I was no longer on the bed. I was standing against the wall with my reaper, watching as Dean and Sam bent over my body lying limp on the baby blue comforter, checking to see if I was breathing, looking for a pulse. Castiel was still in the corner, staring straight at me. I smiled and waved. He smiled back. It was strange, knowing only he could see me. And soon even that would be gone. I turned to the reaper and put my hands on my hips.
"Well, I guess you're probably tired of waiting on me. Let's get this over with."
He inclined his head in a very gentleman like manner, and offered me his arm. Feeling a little silly, and a lot nervous, I took it. And then we were gone.