Title: go screw yourself
Characters: Atropos, the Trickster, background Sam and Dean
Contains: multiple canon-compliant character deaths, spoilers for most of the series (especially 3.11, 5.08, 5.19 and 6.17)
Word Count: 3,613
Summary: In Broward County, Dean Winchester is dying of a bullet wound. Atropos is not happy.
Notes: I don't actually have much to say here. My love for 6.17 is endless, Atropos is one of my favorite oneshot characters, and it takes me forever to finish fic.
"Look," Sam Winchester is saying, "nobody's robbing you, calm down."
"Don't move!" the owner of the Broward County Mystery Spot is yelling, pointing his gun at Dean Winchester.
Dean isn't stopping, just saying, "Just putting the gun down."
The owner is firing.
Dean is falling to the ground.
"Dean!" Sam is yelling, rushing to his brother. "Hey! -- Call 911."
"I -- I didn't mean to--"
The owner is leaving.
"Hey, hey, oh, no, no, no, not like this..." Sam is saying.
She freezes the scene, surveying everything around her.
Dean is dying, blood loss from a stomach wound.
This is what Atropos has planned for Dean, but under different circumstances. It should be hell hounds, not a bullet. In Indiana, not Florida. Three months into the future, not three seconds.
"I can explain."
Atropos turns to her side. "And?" she prompts. His kind normally doesn't give her the courtesy of an explanation, let alone acknowledgement. She questions how helpful it really will be, but she gives him the politest smile she can.
The Trickster looks hesitant, before shooting her a winning smile. "I'm teaching Sam a lesson."
Atropos stares at him. "And?" she asks again. She's not too fond of Samuel Winchester -- or Dean Winchester, for that matter. She has a job, God gave her a job, and she has never been fond of it when people would go to crossroads demon and interfere with said job.
And the Winchesters, especially, interfere with said job. She's familiar with the spun duration of their lives, knows how important they are, knows that however the prize-fight goes, they're vital. But that doesn't change the fact that whether it's springing a leak in a basement so an electric current triggers a heart attack, or it's having a perfect knife within reach of a seasoned veteran, she works hard at what she does, and she doesn't appreciate plans being changed, or the higher-ups not informing her.
"It's a good lesson?" the Trickster says, still giving her a dazzling smile.
The Trickster's smile dims a bit. He looks like he's trying to figure out the best way to say something without angering her. She's willing to guess it might take some time.
"Listen," Atropos says, advancing on him. "I know who you are."
"A trickster," he says, a touch too quick.
"You're no demi-god trickster," she says, taking a step back to look him up and down. "The man you're wearing? He was supposed to die. The replica you made may have fooled his family during the funeral all those years ago, but you can't fool me, or my sisters. Face transplant or no, I know who you are, but I don't care. I have my orders, and they're from your Father, not from you."
"It's only temporary," the Trickster says.
Atropos' anger flares. "Only temporary? So I've done all today's work for nothing."
"No, no," the Trickster says, raising an appeasing hand. "The work you've done all over the world today -- which was quite nice, some of your best work, really -- that will still be done. This it the only place affected by the time-loop, so don't worry, all the work you did today will be done tomorrow as well. Or rather, the next today."
Atropos stares at him. "So what?"
"So... think of it as a vacation. Instead of having to trot around the world, cutting everyone's string, waiting for a Reaper, it's already happened. You've already done it. You don't need to do anything else."
She frowns. "But it's my job. I like my job."
"And you'll still do it. Dean will still die. Whether he dies of a gunshot wound again depends on the circumstances--"
"I am those 'circumstances.'"
The Trickster looks thrown off at that.
"Listen," she says, taking another cross step towards him. "I am so tired of you, and your brothers and your sisters messing things up for me. I have a job, which none of you seem to care about."
"Atropos," the Trickster says, very seriously, resting placating hands on her shoulders. "I care. Deeply. I honor the work that you do, and am in awe of it. I would never do anything to dishonor it. In the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of everything, this doesn't matter."
She shrugs his hands off. "Then why bother?"
"Sam needs to learn the lesson. Out of everyone, you think you'd appreciate it."
Atropos' good humor is running thin, but she still finds herself asking, "What's the lesson?"
"I'm trying to teach Sam that, no matter what, Dean is going to die. That there's nothing he can do to stop it. You've gotta admit, it's a good lesson, one he needs to learn."
It is. "So what?" she asks again, after a long silence. "Today starts all over again, my job is already done, what am I supposed to do then? Later today?"
"Follow Dean around. Mess with the circumstances. C'mon," he adds, at her dubious look, "don't you want to get back at him? No one should be able to restitch their string together, and you know he's going to. I heard your sisters are very upset about that."
"Samuel and Dean are both quite upsetting," Atropos agrees, turning and looking at them.
Sam's face is carved into a look of horror and misery, and Dean's gaze is upcast.
She is a Fate, and she is eternal -- she has trained herself to block out any emotional response to those under her charge. And yet, she finds herself disliking them.
"So I just... follow him around, thinking up ways for him to die?"
"Not so much think up ways, not now at least -- they need a few rounds to sort things out, get into the grove of things, and I've already planned those out. But after that, it's all you."
"A few rounds?" Atropos looks at him suspiciously. "How long is this going to last?"
He makes a face, like he doesn't know, but Atropos doesn't buy it. "A dozen... a few dozen... hey, your work is already done."
Atropos knows this isn't going to end well. "You better not make me regret this," she tells him, as she unfreezes the scene.
"Dean," Sam is saying.
Dean is dead.
+ + +
Atropos is a Fate, a Moirai, she has a job and she does it. It's almost bureaucratic -- she has a job, she does it, she doesn't have any particular relish for what she's doing, but she doesn't quite abhor it. But it's her job, she's had it for a millennia now, day-in, day-out, taking pride in her work.
And now... this is something different.
"See, Dean has already died once," the Trickster is staying, as they follow behind Sam and Dean, on a different plane. "And Sam is wondering if he's going crazy, if this was all just a psychic dream of his or not. And so things are going to be mostly the same. We need to make sure they say mostly the same, but just different enough."
"Wait, what?" Sam is saying, a note of panic in his voice. "No."
"Why not?" Dean is asking.
"Uh. Let's just go now. right now. Business hours, nice and crowded."
"My god, you're a freak."
"If you want my opinion," the Trickster says, voice too innocent, "Mr. Pickett is just down the upcoming intersection."
"So you think he should run over Dean?" Atropos asks.
"What a brilliant idea!" he says, clapping his hands together.
Atropos may know the lesson the Trickster is trying to teach Sam, but she doesn't know what the lesson will entail, and she hasn't quite decided if she cares or not. So she freezes the scene, places herself in the passenger seat of the car, and adjusts a few mirrors so that the light will shine directly into Mr. Pickett's already-feeble eyes.
From her vantage point back on the sidewalk, her and the Trickster flanking Sam, she unfreezes the scene and watches as Mr. Pickett hits the accelerator and hits Dean.
Sam is rushing towards his brother, and the Trickster chuckles.
+ + +
"C'mon," the Trickster says, the next morning. "You have to hate them, just a little bit."
Atropos is a Fate, she has removed herself from most emotion, lest she go insane from the stress of the job. But Sam and Dean do frustrate her.
"So then what do you want to do?"
"I just manipulate the needed--"
"I know that," the Trickster interrupts. "But what do you want to do?"
"I think..." she starts, frowning slightly, slowing down time. "That I want to drop something on them."
"Dropping things on them, great slapstick humor, you've always had an eye for it."
Already Atropos is tiring of the Trickster's constant brown nosing, so she ignores him as she moves herself up to the window with the desk being lifted. She reaches out and touches the main rope, which starts fraying under her fingertips.
Back on the ground, she resumes time, and the rope frays and frays and frays and when Dean Winchester is walking under it, it breaks, and it falls on him.
The Trickster cackles, and Atropos admittedly gets a small smile on her face.
+ + +
"So what now?" Atropos asks, as Sam wakes up to Heat of the Moment for the fourth time in a row.
"Whatever you want," the Trickster says, with a wicked smile.
"Except dropping something else on his head," he amends after a moment. "Don't want to be accused of being uncreative."
"I'm the one actually doing it, though," she says, unable to tamper down the faint stir of annoyance.
The Trickster shrugs. "You know that, and I know that, but they won't."
"Are they ever going to find out?"
"Eventually, maybe," he says, vaguely, with a vague hand motion. It makes Atropos suspicious, and she spends the trip to the diner watching him.
"Excuse me, sweetheart," Dean is calling to the waitress. "Could I get a side of sausage instead of bacon?"
"Sure thing, hon."
Atropos puts herself into the kitchen, and takes the two biggest sausages and puts them on Dean's plate.
"See, different day already," Dean is boasting. He is leaning in, telling Sam, "See, if you and I decide that I'm not going to die... I'm not going to die."
The Trickster snorts.
Then the waitress is bringing his plate, and Dean is taking a bite that is a bit too big, as always, though worse now for the fact the sausage is bigger as well.
And then Dean is choking.
"Dean?" Sam is saying, looking slightly worried. "Dean!"
+ + +
"I am getting tired of this song," Atropos says, expecting the Trickster to be there.
She frowns. If she has to go through this dog and pony show, so does he.
She takes the soap and puts it on the ground, right under where Dean is about to step.
It's only another moment before he is slipping and falling and breaking his neck.
+ + +
"I am getting tired of this song," Atropos says.
"Sorry," the Trickster says, with a shrug. "I can't change it."
She sighs, then goes to switch the ground meat in the taco stand for some with a years past its expiration date.
+ + +
And then she spends a few minutes tampering with the wiring of the electric shaver Dean has.
+ + +
"Hey now," the Trickster says, "it won't be as fun if he always dies so early."
Sam is invigorated by the fact that Dean was able to make it out of the motel alive, and he is determined to get to the root of it.
Which he is under the impression is the Mystery Spot.
Gabriel laughs delightedly to himself.
Sam is buying an axe from the hardware store, but he is keeping it on his being the entire time.
It's not until Dean is trying to wrestle the axe away from him that Atropos freezes the scene, tilts the axe just a bit more so that way, and unfreezes the frame.
"Well played," Gabriel says, when they hear the wet slick of broken skin.
+ + +
"I mean it," she says, as Heat of the Moment starts up yet again.
"Really?" the Trickster asks. "I thought you might appreciate it, Aisa."
She rolls her eyes, but settles into the routine. The Trickster suggests some causes of death, but Atropos comes up with most of them herself. Some of them are funny, some of them are sad, some of them are gory, some of them are not.
The only constants are Dean's death, Sam's grief, and Heat of the Moment.
+ + +
"Kill him now," the Trickster says.
She raises an eyebrow at his tone; they're a hundred Tuesdays in, and while he still suggests ideas on causes for death, he's never ordered her to do anything.
But Sam and Dean are catching onto Dexter Hasselback's death -- which had a cause that she remembers quite clearly -- and she is not inclined to go against the being keeping up the time loop.
While Sam is running, the dog is barking and Dean is dying.
+ + +
The next day, the Trickster snaps Ed Coleman into the path of a bus three states over, and takes his place at the diner.
"I would really prefer it if you would let me in on what you're planning," Atropos informs him, as he slathers his pancakes with strawberry syrup.
Sam and Dean are looking into Hasselback's death, and the Trickster doesn't answer, just slides off his seat and pays Coleman's tab. Atropos follows him as he leaves the diner, and a block later, he turns to her and says, "The plan is simple; now that Sam and Dean are onto me, I get to reveal myself and teach Sam his lesson."
Before she can ask how he plans on doing that, he snaps the day over.
+ + +
The Trickster again resumes the role of Ed Coleman, leaving Atropos to hover around him, knowing he won't reply to anything she asks. There is no doubt he could find some way to answer without it looking like Ed Coleman is talking to thin air, which means that he doesn't want to answer any possible questions, which makes Atropos more than a little suspicious.
But there's nothing she can do, other than tag along as he leaves the diner, and is confronted by Sam.
"I know who you are. Or should I say what," Sam is saying.
Atropos snorts to herself, and watches the conversation unfold.
It's mostly petty arguing, until the Trickster makes his point: "How long will it take you to realize? You can't save your brother... no matter what."
And then he's saying the loop is over, but after over a hundred Tuesdays, a few sentences doesn't seem like much of a lesson.
Before she can say anything, though, the Trickster snaps the day over.
+ + +
And then it's Wednesday.
As the Trickster said, all of her work from Tuesday was already done, which meant that things were up to date, and she could continue on with her job.
But something doesn't feel right. She summons and browses her book, and she's only skimmed the first page of names and circumstances before she hears the gunshot.
She's immediately outside and standing over Dean's body, watching as the shooter is running away, watching as the blood is spilling out of Dean.
Sam is out and running to Dean, dropping to his knees, cradling his brother's dying body. "Not today, this isn't supposed to happen today."
Atropos freezes the scene -- not to adjust anything, just out of sheer panic.
For all the millennia she's lived, Atropos has never felt anything similar to this before.
She places a hand on the wound. Her powers are useless here, but she gets a reading, and knows that the wound is fatal.
She straightens herself back up, and takes a calming breath. Perhaps the Trickster had been lying. About what? a part of her wants to know, but she pushes it down. She pushes it down, resumes the scene, removes Dean's string, waits for the Trickster.
"I'm supposed to wake up..." Sam is saying, shocked.
Atropos is too busy wondering where the Trickster is to agree.
+ + +
Dean goes to Hell, and with it, everything else.
In both Heaven above and the Earth below, everything is in complete chaos.
When she tries to go to Heaven, asks questions, she's bounced around from angel to angel, until she comes across a pompous schmuck who tells her to cool her jets, Dean was sent to Hell a few months early, it's no big deal, the prize fight is still on.
And there's a part of her that's relieved, that the endgame they've all been working to for millennia is still on, but that doesn't change the fact that people are dying who shouldn't be and some are living when they shouldn't be, and it's a mess.
And no one seems to care.
Atropos returns to Sam Winchester, when she can. He is tracking the progress of the Trickster, something Atropos would do if she had the time.
But she doesn't.
There is a human saying -- if a butterfly flaps its wings in Texas, does it lead to a hurricane in Brazil? If one person lives when they should have died, does it drastically alter history?
If Winchester dies in Florida, does it lead to a demonic flurry of death and destruction down the western seaboard?
The answer is yes. The situation should not have come up, the situation should never come up, no one is allowed to change the course of destiny like that, but apparently not everyone got the memo.
If Sam doesn't kill the Trickster when he finds him, Atropos will.
Until then, except for the scant few she can spare to check Sam's progress, every moment Atropos has is spent winging it on her job. Her book of deaths that are supposed to come, the end of the threads her sister measured, it's all obsolete now. Sam turns into a serial hunter, seeking out jobs with reckless abandon, and the job that Carl Bates was supposed to take and get gravely injured on (which would prevent him from taking a job that would kill him) is taken by Sam, so Carl Bates does take that job and dies.
Civilians, victims, hunters, the rare human monster.
Those who are supposed to live die, and those who are supposed to die live.
Atropos would be furious, if she weren't too busy sorting out the threads and cleaning up the mess.
And as time goes on -- one month since the Mystery Spot, then two, then three -- the worse it gets. Sam goes from Florida to North Carolina, then cuts west to Missouri, south to Texas, north to Wyoming, Fate's plans unraveling as he saves someone who ends up causing the death of three others, one of whom should have saved another.
Each changed destiny seems to cause two more to change, and Atropos can't stop despairing. All her hard work, all her sisters' hard work, reduced to nothing. She freezes time more and more often, so she can stop by, see where Sam's hunt is going.
Six months after the Mystery Spot, she overhears his conversation with Bobby, with Bobby saying he's found the Trickster.
+ + +
Bobby turns out to be an illusion of the Trickster's.
Atropos has gotten very good at repressing all emotion, and she continues to do so.
The Trickster is talking about the lesson, and if all of this was done for this stupid lesson, then she is going to let him teach it, before she rains all the fury she has.
"Please. Just -- please," Sam is begging.
The Trickster is rolling his eyes. "I swear," he's saying, "it's like talking to a brick wall. Okay, look. This all stopped being fun months ago. You're Travis Bickle in a skirt, pal. I'm over it."
"Meaning that's for me to know and you to find out."
There's a snap.
Then a shift, and a tug.
Atropos realizes what's going on, what he's doing.
And she is furious.
He stiffens. He turns, body tense, to look at her. "Atropos," he says, something in his eyes, something in his voice.
Atropos doesn't care. "You're going to make it Wednesday again, aren't you," she bites out, livid.
"Listen, I can--"
"Do you have any idea what you just did? You just changed the past--"
"Not really," he says, "since I'm just putting back in the path it's supposed to be."
"I've worked so hard the past few months," she's saying, advancing on him, "trying to make up for what happened -- Dean Winchester dies, before he was supposed to, Sam goes hunting in a way he wouldn't've, people who shouldn't've died died, people who should've lived didn't, I had to go around all of America trying to fix this mess, and what, you're just going to erase it? After all the hard work I did?"
Gabriel looks contrite.
"I have a job, Gabriel," she says, softly, "and I don't like it when people mess with it."
"C'mon..." he says, with a tight grin. "No harm, no foul, right?"
It surprises her, how much that hurts.
"No," she tells him, after a long moment.
He stares at her. He opens his mouth, about to question her, but she really doesn't want to hear it.
"If you ever need my help again," she says, advancing on him, voice deathly low, "don't bother asking."
And then she leaves him.
And then it's Wednesday again.
- [Supernatural] go screw yourself