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Dean sat alone at a booth in a bar close to the motel where he was staying. In the two weeks since he’d left Sam behind, he’d worked a couple of solo hunts, and taken Castiel along on one, mainly for the company. But he felt like he was treading water, marking time until they finally told him what he had to do to stop Lilith. Cas had been positively cagey on the subject. Dean got the feeling he was in the dark too, waiting for Zachariah to give the go ahead on whatever plan he had in mind.
Now there was one heavyweight douche.
After the first couple of days of doing virtually nothing but research possible hunts, Dean had demanded to meet whoever was calling the shots. Uriel had told him where to stick his demands, but Cas had arranged a meeting. It hadn’t exactly been productive.
“Another angel like Cas?” Dean took an instant dislike to Zach the minute he saw him.
“Hardly. I’m Castiel’s superior.”
Dean stared him down, not saying a word.
“Almost time for you to begin fulfilling your destiny, Dean. There’s a bumpy road ahead, but I have faith in you.”
Dean’s eyes flicked to Uriel, impressed that the dour angel didn’t even roll his eyes at the compliment.
“About that. What exactly is it you need me to do?”
“All in good time, all in good time.” Zachariah’s smile shone with insincerity, then he was gone.
Uriel followed, then Cas, but not until he’d given Dean a regretful glance. To Dean it seemed like Cas was as sick as he was of waiting around, in his own restrained, angelic way.
Dean nursed a beer, the table in front of him littered with a handful of shot glasses. The server walked by and he gave her a nod, ordering another beer and chaser. Most times, he would have sat at the bar, got talking to the locals, but he couldn't stomach the idea of empty conversation. Two towns back, he'd dealt with a spirit. A simple salt and burn, easy job for him to do himself, but he'd missed having Sam at his side. He gazed over at the pool table, where a drunken guy was losing badly.
The server brought his order, setting them down on the table in front of him and walking away with a toss of her curly blond hair. Dean was reminded of Jess. Sam had never blamed him for the death of his girlfriend but Dean had felt guilty anyway. He wondered what would have happened if he'd never gone to Stanford to get Sam. Would Jess have died anyway, or would Sam have been able to save her? He could have had that normal life he'd run away to find. Maybe he'd be some hot shot lawyer now, putting that big brain of his to good use, not fucking a demon.
Dean downed the shot in front of him. If he hadn't gone to Stanford to get Sam, if he'd found John on his own, would any of this shit have gone down? Would John's obsession with finding Yellow Eyes have ended in the same way? Would he still be here, missing Sam and cursing heaven and hell? He tried to trace events back, tried to figure out exactly when they'd all become so royally screwed, but there’d been so many decisions that could have gone differently that he only succeeded in tying himself into knots.
Dean sighed and glanced over at the pool table again. The drunk was offering to play the same guy again, wobbling on unsteady legs as he slapped down a pile of notes on the table. The guy who'd just won glanced at his friends and smirked. He accepted the bet, putting his own money down. As Dean watched, the drunk staggered round the table, but when he took the shot, it was straight and true, slamming two spots down on the break. When he straightened up to take another shot, he looked a hell of a lot more sober than he had a minute ago. As he chose his next shot, Dean looked at the other people standing watching, and noticed one guy off to the side who was carefully, but not openly, watching the mark's friends, watching the not-so-drunk-after-all pool player's back.
Dean snorted. He knew a hustle when he saw one and wished them well. Impulsively, he flipped open his new cell, thumb hovering over the key pad. He knew Sam's number by heart and typed in the first five digits before snapping the phone shut again. He'd left for a good reason. Sam was better off without him around, holding him back, and he was better away from his brother. Without him around, he didn't constantly have to keep his game face on. He could relax and really let himself find comfort in the bottom of a bottle. He thought of Rufus, and his prediction that if Dean lived, that was what he had to look forward to. A life where the brightest spark in it was the taste of decent whisky.
Sam was right. Dean was broken inside. He'd lived in hell for longer than he'd lived on earth, and every single second of that existence had been torture. He didn't know how to leave it behind. It was always with him, memories of what he'd endured, memories of what he'd inflicted on other souls. Most days it was a struggle to get out of bed, to face anyone, especially Sam. How could he be Sam’s big brother anymore when he didn't think he could hold it together for a day, never mind try to save the fucking world? Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. And Sam ... Sam wasn't who he'd been. At least he'd admitted that Ruby was more to him than she had been before Dean had gone to hell, but there was so much else going on that even when h was asked, point blank, to stop lying, he denied that he was.
So yeah, Dean wanted Sam back. His Sammy. Everything he'd said under the siren's spell had been the truth, but that meant everything Sam had said was the truth too. Sam didn't need him anymore. He had stronger allies and Dean was a weight around his neck. So he'd stay gone, stay silent, and not let some bout of nostalgia persuade him that calling Sam would be a good idea.
He finished his beer, and left money enough to cover it and a tip. The chill of the north west air hit him as he left, without a backward glance at the hustler taking his winnings. The motel was two blocks away and he walked towards it, steady on his feet despite the amount of alcohol in his bloodstream.
He woke up the next morning to find Uriel and Castiel in his room.
"What do you want?" He slurred, still a little drunk from the night before.
"We need your help." Castiel looked at Dean with concern.
"He's useless to us like this." Uriel's nose wrinkled in distaste.
"My help?" Dean snorted. "’bout time. What can a mud monkey do for ya?" He glared at Uriel.
“A reaper has gone missing. One of the seals is the death of two reapers, and we believe that Alistair intends to break it. We also believe he has been killing angels. Seven from our garrison alone have fallen in the last ten days,” Castiel explained.
"And?" Dean paled at the mention of the torturer's name.
“You’re going to be bait, boy, then you’re going to help us find out what we need to know.”
As Dean hauled himself out of bed, yelling obscenities at Uriel, the angel touched him on the forehead and they both vanished. Castiel lingered, looking round the room that held Dean’s few possessions. He packed them all back into Dean’s bag, including the knife he slept with under his pillow, and took it with him, hoping that the sleek, black car parked outside would be safe until Dean got back. Castiel made a vow to himself that Dean would be coming back, then he disappeared, following Uriel and their reluctant charge.
“You said you’d show me how to access my power.” Pamela and Sam were sitting across the kitchen table from each other. They’d talked some over the first few days she’d been staying at Bobby’s, talked about him and what he could and couldn’t do. And he’d told her about Azazel bleeding into his mouth when he was six months old.
So far, she’d given him meditation exercises to do to focus his mind, which was all well and good, but Sam was getting antsy to be doing something, anything, other than sitting cross legged on the floor being told to clear his mind of all thoughts. Given the situation they were in, that wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. When he wasn’t meditating, he was helping Bobby and Chuck researching, which was at least doing something, but it took all Sam had to concentrate, and not go charging off looking for Dean.
Pamela could hear frustration in Sam’s voice, could feel it pulsing in the air around him, but there wasn’t the hint of arrogance in it any more that had been there while the demon blood was still lingering in his body. Now it was a cleaner feeling, a need to be doing whatever he could to help sort out the mess they were all in, and get Dean back.
“You’ve tried to tap into it before?”
“I’ve tried, I can’t.”
"Lots of people have more inside them than meets the eye. In some, it never manifests, it's latent, dormant. All those stories about people having random bursts of strength in stressful situations? It's bursts of that latent power. In others, like me, it waits until puberty before laying the whammy on. It's not fun, I can tell you, dealing with all those hormones and seeing random spirits, picking up on what other people are thinking. I was pretty messed up for a while until my Gran sorted me out. Turns out that the gift always skips a generation in our family. But enough about me. I'm thinking that the power you have inside might have shown itself eventually, even if Azazel hadn't come back into your life when he did."
“So tell me what to do!” Sam was getting exasperated.
Pamela grinned. “You can’t just use it like a weapon, not at first. It’s not like picking up a knife or a gun, you have to find out how to access it first, then work on it so when you do need it, it can be there for you. It can be hard to find, the first time.” She took his hands across the table.
“Close your eyes and empty your mind.”
He closed his eyes, but his brow furrowed as he tried to think of nothing.
“Listen to my voice, Sam, concentrate on it, don’t think of anything else.”
He let out a long breath and relaxed at little.
“Think of a safe place, somewhere you can go and know that you’ll be safe, protected.”
Sam sighed, but relaxed a little more. The feeling that Pamela got from him was being wrapped in a blanket, tucked into a warm bed. The image that flashed into her mind was one of a younger Dean, taking care of Sam when he was small.
Pamela smiled softly. So despite being estranged from his brother, his one safe place was Dean.
“Dean’s going to keep you safe while you do this. Nothing bad can happen to you while he’s there with you.” Pamela kept her voice calm and steady.
“Now, think of the feeling you get when you exorcise a demon. Think of the way the power flows through you.“
Sam whimpered, and she rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand.
“It’s okay, Sam, you’re still safe, still with Dean. He’s going to keep you safe while you do this.”
In Sam’s mind, Dean’s arms tightened around him, and he relaxed back against his brother.
“You’ve got all that power inside you, Sam, feel it flowing through your veins. It’s part of you, yours to command.” She talked to him until his breathing was completely even again, coaxed him to see what he’d always thought of as freaky and unnatural as something that was part of him. “Show Dean what you can do, Sam, let him see.”
Now Sam could feel the power crackling around them like fireworks on the 4th July. He remembered the year he and Dean had lit up a field with rockets. He smiled and lit the sky up with brightly colored sparks, flying everywhere.
“Tell me what you see.”
“Fireworks, all different colors.”
“Can you make them all one color, Sam?”
Sam concentrated, and slowly, they all turned into red sparkles. He could feel Dean’s awe as he sat safe in his arms.
“They’re all red!”
Pamela could hear small crackles all around her, and wished she could see what her pupil had managed to create.
“Can you make them gold?”
This time, it was easier, and in his mind, he and Dean were surrounded by golden lights.
Pamela grinned as Bobby barreled into the kitchen, drawn by the sound of small explosions.
“That’ll come in real handy on 4th July.” He commented, watching the sparks as they faded away.
“Hey Sam, come on back.”
Sam opened his eyes and let out a long breath. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet, we’ve got a way to go before you’ll be able to use it on command.” She hoped that they had time to build his strength before the last seal broke.
While Sam and Pamela had been working together, Chuck and Bobby had spent all their time following the leads on Chuck’s wall, researching and trying to make sense out of what they knew. Right now, Bobby was looking for references to the slaughter of nuns. Was it a random slaying of innocents, or did it mean something more? If so, what? Did it have any significance to the breaking of seals, was it yet another step on the road to setting Lucifer free? Putting all the clues together, they’d been able to pinpoint where the convent was that Chuck kept seeing, and that had led to the discovery that nuns had been massacred there. Now they had to find out why. Given that it was now a recurring element of Chuck’s nightmares, they were making it a priority.
But that was about to change.
Chuck thrashed, whimpering and reaching out for an escape from the images that assaulted him.
He could see inside Dean's head, felt the hate as Dean sliced into Alistair, twisting the knife in the muscle of his arm, looking him in the eye. His memories of hell were bright, stark and bloody. Chuck cried out at the onslaught of pain and torment and darkness.
"No, NO!!" He shot awake, chest heaving as he struggled for breath.
Sam hunkered down beside the couch, putting a steadying hand on Chuck's shoulder.
"Sam! I saw Dean with Alistair. Dean was ... torturing him."
“In hell, Dean was Alistair’s star pupil. They want Dean to break him, find out what’s killing the angels.”
"He can't do it!" Sam paled.
"Yes he can."
"No, I mean he's not strong enough. Something broke inside him in hell, and now ..."
"Sam, listen to me. Dean can do this. It's what he did for ten years and he was very good at it. He sliced and carved and pulled souls apart with his bare hands so he wouldn't have to go back on the rack himself. He hates himself for what he did, for giving up after thirty years." Chuck's hand shook as he reached for the bottle of Jack, and drank a swig straight from it. "When I was writing it, I thought it was fiction, some twisted story I'd pulled out of nowhere, but when I found out you and Dean were real?" He shuddered. "Sam, what he went through, no-one is strong enough to endure, no-one. But he did. So yeah, he's broken, he's got fucking PTSD, but there's a strength in him that kept him going through forty years of hell."
"You saw it all?"
"Yeah. I was out of it for two days on a bad trip. I spent the next week as wasted as I could get just to try and shut out the images and the screams and ..." He paused to take another drink.
Sam took the bottle from chuck, wiped the neck, and drank deeply.
“But that’s not the point, Sam. Alistair was restrained in a devils trap.” He paused, reluctant to tell Sam the worst of it.
“It breaks. Alistair gets loose.”
“No, no, no … “
"Are you strong enough without the demon blood?"
"To take on Alistair? I don't know."
"You have to be, but I don’t know where they are.”
Sam turned to Bobby for help.
“There has to be a way to find him!” Sam yelled, all his frustration pouring out. “He can’t just disappear!”
“We’re working on it, Sam.” Bobby tried to reassure him.
“No, I need to know now.” He’d screamed himself hoarse, trying to contact Castiel or Anna, but neither of them showed. If angels couldn’t help, he knew a demon that could. He grabbed the keys to the car he was using and picked up his jacket.
“Sam, where are you going?” Chuck ran after him as he slammed out of the house.
“To find him.”
“How?” Realization dawned and Chuck paled. “No, you can’t go back to her, you don’t need her.”
“Can you tell me where he is?” Sam turned back, waiting for an answer.
“I … I can’t.” Chuck sagged.
“Then I need her. One more time.” He muttered the last part under his breath as he climbed into the car and drove off.
Chuck sat down on the porch steps as the car pulled away. It had been tough enough to go through all the angst and pain with Sam and Dean when they’d been the fictional characters he’d come to care about, but this was so much worse. Now, he got to see real people that he knew probably better than they did themselves, drive off into danger and the worst part was, he couldn’t see clearly anymore what was going to happen to them, if they’d be okay, if they’d make it back in one piece. If they’d make it back at all.
Hours later, with a belly full of blood and a location, Sam drove like a man possessed towards the place that Alistair was being held. Towards Dean. His hands gripped the wheel and as he put his foot on the gas, his pupils turned black.
He wasn’t in time to save Dean from the beating Alistair gave him, but he took great satisfaction in killing the demon. He barely glanced in Castiel’s direction as he ran forward and felt for a pulse on his fallen brother’s neck. It was faint, but it was there. Sam picked him up and bundled him into the car, leaving Castiel behind. By the time they got to the nearest hospital, his strength had begun to fade.
“Bobby, it’s Sam. Dean’s in hospital. He’s on a ventilator, it’s bad.”
Bobby left Chuck and Pamela behind with instructions to keep working and not to let anyone in the damned house. It took Bobby ten hours to get to the hospital, driving straight through with only one short refueling break for him and the truck.
Bobby hated hospitals. He’d seen too many friends carried into them and not come out again. Not breathing, anyway. He asked a pretty nurse on the main reception desk how to get to the room Sam had given him the number of, and walked up two flights of stairs wondering what he was going to find when he got there.
His thoughts kept wandering back to how Sam had sounded. Scared, young and scared, not like the over confident Sam he’d seen on and off since Dean got out of hell.
The door was open when he got to the room, and there were voices coming from inside, so Bobby held back, not wanting to intrude. Dean’s voice was cracked and broken, but it wasn’t Sam he was talking to.
“Is it true? Did I break the first seal? Did I start all this?”
“Yes. When we discovered Lilith's plan for you, we laid siege to hell and we fought our way to get to you before you …”
“Jump-started the apocalypse?”
“And we were too late.”
Bobby closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the wall, blinking back tears. He’d watched Dean grow up from the first time John had arrived in his yard with two kids in tow, who by rights should have been growing up in some leafy suburb somewhere. He’d seen the way Dean followed John’s orders, looked after Sam and when he was older, saved everyone he could. The boy carried too much weight on his shoulders, always had, and now he had to deal with this?
He stayed to listen to the rest of the conversation, not feeling in the least bit guilty about eavesdropping, right until Dean broke down.
“Then you guys are screwed. I can't do it, Cas. It's too big. Alastair was right. I'm not all here. I'm not strong enough. I guess I'm not the man either of our Dads wanted me to be. Find someone else. It's not me.”
Bobby wandered down the hall and stood gazing out of a window for a while, until he was sure he could go into the room and not show how much he’d heard on his face.
This time, he knocked softly on the door and pushed it open.
Dean was sleeping, his bruised body lay hooked up to a mess of machines and Bobby swallowed as he approached the bed. Dean’s face was a testament to the beating he’d taken and Bobby let out a heavy sigh.
“Aw Dean, what have you got yourself into this time, son?”
“It was not his doing, it was mine.” Castiel looked up at Bobby, and Bobby stared back at him.
The angel was just as Bobby remembered, down to the raincoat and pained expression, although he looked weary, weight of the world on his shoulders weary. Well good, Bobby thought. He’d just laid the fate of mankind on Dean’s already battered shoulders, so it was right he at least looked stricken.
“He went to get coffee and food. He sat here all night waiting for Dean to wake up.”
“I overheard what you told him.” Bobby looked accusingly at the angel. “You couldn’t at least have waited until he was off the ventilator before you laid that on him?”
“He wanted the truth.”
“And you picked today to give it to him?” Bobby couldn’t help being hard on Castiel.
The angel didn’t reply. He looked down at Dean and contemplated sharing more truths with a man he knew Dean trusted.
“Not all of it.”
Bobby opened his mouth to ask what he meant, but Castiel was already gone. When Sam got back, Bobby debated with himself whether to tell Sam what he’d heard or leave well alone, but it wasn’t personal anymore, wasn’t some family quarrel. They were talking about the apocalypse.
Sam listened, no emotion showing on his face. When Bobby had finished, Sam reached out and took Dean’s hand, holding it for a second before he left the room without a word. Bobby sat down in the vacant chair next to the bed, and waited for Dean to wake up again.
Sam walked straight to the hospital chapel where his instincts told him he would find Castiel. He sat down next to him, thankful they were the only ones around.
“I know he broke the first seal, I know what you told him. But you can’t ask any more of him. You and Uriel, you put him in that hospital bed. This whole thing was pointless.” Sam reined in his anger with a long sigh. “Tell me what I need to do Cas. All this power inside of me? It’s yours. Let me be your weapon, let me do what needs to be done to end this. Please. I’ll do whatever you command me, whatever He commands me to do in this fight, just don’t ...”
Sam looked down at his hands, clasped together in front of him almost as if in prayer.
“Don’t take him away from me again, don’t hurt him anymore, please? He’s been through enough already. He’s all I’ve got, so take me, use me. Please, Cas, I’m begging you. I was a righteous man once, the man he raised me to be, before it all went to hell.” Sam steeled himself. “I didn’t ask for it, didn’t ask for any of this but I’m asking now, for him.”
The outpouring of emotion touched Castiel. He wished he could accept his offer, wished he could reassure Sam that Dean wouldn’t get hurt again, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t a prophet, he was a soldier.
“You have a good heart, Sam.”
“I can’t lose him again.” Sam whispered.
There was a moment’s silence before Castiel spoke again.
“The demon, Ruby, does she support your plan to kill Lilith?”
“Yes, she does.”
“Then the plan is flawed. I am learning that deception is not just a human trait, and you must keep that in mind.”
Sam frowned, but nodded.
“You are right, it was pointless to have Dean torture Alistair. Uriel is dead.”
“Who killed him?”
“Anna. He is dead and I?” Castiel shook his head. “I don’t know who I am anymore.” He stood up and Sam got to his feet.
“Where are you going?”
“To seek the truth. Be careful, Sam, and listen to the prophet.” He was about to leave, but turned back. “I will see that Dean’s car is returned to him at Bobby’s. If I can do nothing else for him, I can do that.”
Then he was gone.
Sam left the chapel, hands deep in his pockets. He’d expended a lot of energy killing Alistair and it had worn him down. Already need for more blood was sizzling along his nerve endings and he knew this time the withdrawal would be the worst yet. Slowly, he walked back to Dean’s room to keep a vigil with Bobby until his brother woke up again.
“What do you want, Castiel?” Anna appeared under the trees where Castiel waited. He’d hoped she would sense he wanted to talk to her and she hadn’t disappointed him. The moonlight slanting through the branches dappled her skin until she walked towards him, out of the shadows.
“I can’t … I can’t stand by and watch Dean being used as a pawn by Zachariah. Not anymore.”
“This goes higher than him, you understand that?”
“When they find out, you’ll be cut off from Heaven’s power.”
“Only if what we do is wrong in the eyes of God.” Castiel insisted.
“I hope your faith is rewarded, Cas, I really do.” She slipped her hand into his and squeezed his fingers. She could feel him trembling and held on tight, not forgetting the terror that she’d felt when she took the decision to fall. If that was what he wanted, she’d make sure he wasn’t alone and until then, she’d stay by his side.
“What happens now?”
“Now you have to face up to the hardest thing you’ve ever done. You have to go back to Zachariah, find out what you can about his plans.”
Castiel nodded. “What will you do?”
“What I can.”
She moved closer and kissed him softly on the cheek. “Stay safe.” She whispered in his ear, then she was gone.
Castiel steeled himself, knowing what had to be done, and walked back into the lion’s den.
After he was sure Dean was out of danger, Sam drove back to Bobby’s. It had taken a lot to walk back in to face Pamela and Chuck, but Pamela had hugged him first, then punched him in the arm for his stupidity. Chuck had patted his shoulder awkwardly, very pleased to see Sam back.
“You’re not doing so well.” Pamela’s brow creased as she felt the disrupted energy rolling off Sam.
“No, not really.” His hands were shaking and he wrapped his arms around himself. “I need your help.” He looked at Chuck.
“I know. It’s all ready for you.”
Sam let out a shaky laugh. “Course you know.”
He walked down to the panic room, leaving his jacket upstairs. Chuck followed him down.
“If you need anything …”
“No. If I ask you to let me out, don’t do it, no matter how bad I sound, okay? I’m this close to taking off, and I need to get this out of my system. For real this time, no matter what happens.” Sam sat down on the cot, his head in his hands.
Chuck closed the door on him and stood for a long time in the near dark, feeling like he’d just betrayed a friend, even though he knew Sam needed to do this. When he finally dragged himself back upstairs, Pamela was waiting for him with open arms.
“C’mere. You’re not the only one who needs a hug.” She wrapped her arms around him, and Chuck returned the favor, holding her tight.
Bobby hefted Dean's bag out of the truck as Dean walked up the steps to the porch. He took each step slowly, almost reluctantly and Bobby steeled himself for a tough time ahead. Dean hadn't wanted to go back with Bobby, but the older hunter had insisted, and had been glued to Dean's side until he was safely in the truck and they were on their way.
Sam hadn't visited the hospital much since Dean had been able to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, and Castiel had been conspicuous by his absence.
As Dean walked up to the door, it was pulled open and he took a step back, surprised by the small man who was looking at him with wide eyes.
"Dean Winchester!" Chuck could hardly contain his glee at seeing the man he'd written so much about, alive and in the flesh.
"And you are?" Dean glowered at him, and it was Chuck's turn to take a step back.
"Dean, this is Chuck. He's a ... writer. Chuck, meet Dean." Bobby kept the introductions short.
Chuck pulled the door wider to let them inside.
"You collecting strays, Bobby?"
"That he is." Pamela said with a smile.
Dean turned to stare at her. “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” Dean gathered her into a gentle hug, given how much his ribs still hurt, then realized what he’d said. “I, um, I’m sorry.”
Pamela snorted and squeezed his ass.
“Forget it, you can make it up to me later.”
Turning, Dean let go of Pamela and walked towards Chuck’s wall.
"What the hell?"
"It's a timeline. This is the past." Chuck motioned to the left side of the wall. "This is the break point." Chuck ran his fingers down the heavy black line that dissected the wall, leaving three quarters of it covered in notes. "And this is where we're going."
Dean examined the notes and pictures. He recognized Bobby's handwriting, and Sam's was there too.
"Where is he?"
"He's downstairs." There was an edge in Pamela's voice that Dean didn't like.
"In the panic room?"
"Locked in the panic room. Voluntarily." Bobby added quickly.
"Did Castiel tell you what happened after Alistair got free?" Bobby asked.
"He was vague." In fact, the angel had been downright evasive on that score.
"Sam killed Alistair."
"You mean he sent him back to hell? Exorcised him?"
"No. He killed him."
Dean sat down heavily on the couch.
"How did he do that?" He almost whispered. He was still weak from the blood loss and beating, and felt as if he’d been punched in the chest. Again.
"Chuck?" Bobby looked at him expectantly.
"Me?" Chuck blanched.
"Why him? And who the hell is this guy anyway?" Trying to keep a clear head while he was stuffed full of pain meds was making him testy.
"He's a prophet. Poor guy has been dreaming your life and writing it down." Bobby put a dog-eared copy of the first of the Supernatural books into Dean's hands.
He frowned at the cover, and turned it over, his knuckles whitening as he gripped the book hard.
"How do you know all this?" Dean growled
Chuck took a step back. "I dreamed it! I thought I was making it up, thought I was writing fiction, but it turns out you’re all real. Either that or I’ve had an epic breakdown." The idea that he might be going through some elaborate hallucination while he was really sitting in a padded room somewhere didn’t sound all that bad compared to the alternative.
"Tell him about Sam, son. He needs to know." Bobby encouraged.
"Okay, fine, but the rest of you don't. Need to know. Not everything."
Bobby's eyes widened, but before he could object, Pamela put her hand on his arm.
"I could do with some fresh air anyway. Care to give me a tour round the yard, old man?" She slipped her hand into Bobby's and tugged on it, waiting for him to get a clue that she couldn't exactly do it alone, and that Chuck and Dean needed privacy.
Once they were gone, Chuck fetched the bottle of Jack and one glass.
"Pour me one." Dean insisted.
"No. You're dosed up to the eyeballs with painkillers."
Dean's eyebrows raised that the small man would stand up to him, even though he looked terrified to be left alone in the same room as Dean.
"So tell me."
“I write everything down, so it’s best if I read it to you.” Chuck opened his laptop, found the document he needed, and began to read.
Grief consumed Sam, tore at his insides and filled his head with fatal thoughts.
Now he understood. Understood why Dean had made the deal.
He screamed his frustration to the sky when, one by one, he was refused by every red eyed son of a bitch he summoned. They smiled smugly, spouting words that he couldn't put together to make sense.
Why would they want Dean more than him when he was the one bound to them by blood? So Sam jumped to conclusions. It was because of him, because of him that Dean was suffering, because he had pissed Lilith off and now she wanted to torture him by torturing Dean.
He couldn't take it, the grief and the guilt and the pain in his heart that made every breath hurt. He wanted it to end, to be over and done with. If he couldn't rescue Dean, what was the point of it all anyway?
He wasn't John. That thought was a savage one, ripping through him like a bullet, tearing and rending. He wasn't his Dad because revenge wasn't enough, wasn't nearly enough. It would never fill the gap Dean had left behind. He could kill every goddamn evil thing on the face of the planet and it still wouldn't be enough.
He didn't care that Dean wanted him to go on without him, fight the good fight on his own, be noble and accepting in the face of such devastating loss. Fuck that. Fuck Dean. His brother had lasted a handful of hours before selling his soul so Sam could live, and he expected that Sam would feel differently? Be able to bury him and go on without him?
Sam hated Dean, hated his self-sacrificing brother so much that if he'd been standing there in front of him right then, he would have smited his ass all the way to hell himself.
If he'd been standing there ...
If he'd been standing there ...
Sam wanted that so badly, wanted to wake up and find out that the past year had been a bad dream. Wanted Dean to shake him awake with a sleepy grin or a hand trailed down his spine.
A dry sob tore painfully from Sam's throat.
His body ached from the lack of touch. Dean's touch, Dean's hands. Gentle and demanding. Dean taking him, claiming him, holding him down as he fucked him slowly until Sam couldn't take any more ...
“You … you know about …” If the bottle of Jack had been in reach, Dean would have knocked half of it back despite the pain meds.
“Yeah. Look, you were fictional up until recently, so what did it matter who my characters were screwing, even if it was each other. I didn’t put in the books cause you’re brothers.”
“Now it comes under ‘none of my business’. You’re both adults.” Chuck shrugged. “And I’m not getting everything the way I used to, but you’d be doing me a big favor if you didn’t … you know … just in case? At least while I have to work with you?”
Dean snorted. “Don’t see that being a problem.”
“He did what he did for you this time, Dean. Go easy on him.”
“Yeah.” Dean nodded. What Chuck had told him already had given him an insight into how Sam had felt after he’d gone to hell. Dean hated that Sam had gone through that because of him.
Chuck cleared his throat and continued.
He was Dean's, always had been, and now he belonged to no-one. Dean was gone, Dean who was the one who couldn't exist alone, who thought Sam could. Sam slammed his fist into the nearest wall, startled at feeling something, anything other than heartache, in the way his knuckles throbbed.
What gave Dean the right to condemn Sam to a life alone? A life lived knowing his brother was suffering eternal damnation, eternal torment, for him.
"I don't want this!" Sam screamed, punching the wall again.
"Fuck you, Dean!" Another blow and the blood ran freely from his skinned knuckles.
"How could you do this to me?" Sam screamed and fell to his knees, cradling his injured hand, sobbing uncontrollably and wishing that he had the power to end to world, blast it all to pieces around him just to make the pain stop.
In the darkness, she watched and waited. He was almost there, almost ready. Not quite at the point she wanted him at yet, but so very close.
She waited until he was ready to fall, waited until the lowest of low ebbs dashed him onto the rocks and left him bruised and battered and lost and lonely.
Even when he pulled away, she knew she had him. There was no innocent soul to rape, no need for a conscience but Sam's need to lose himself in some way, any way, had gone so far beyond getting wasted.
One minute he was pushing her away, the next he was slamming his mouth against hers and ripping away her clothes in an effort to climb into her skin.
“Chuck! Don’t need the full frontal scenes, man, really! Sam’s already given me more details than I ever needed to know.”
“Oh, yes, sorry.” He skipped ahead a couple of paragraphs.
The demons her mistress sent to kill Sam thought they were doing her work, would be rewarded when they dismembered him, but Ruby knew different. They were sent there to die, sent there so Ruby could save Sam. It went even better than planned with Sam's loyalty to those that were loyal to him working in their favor. He exorcised the demon, saving her.
They fucked again, Sam slamming her up against the wall as soon as they got back to his hideout. He kept his eyes from hers and she wondered how hard it was for him to pretend she was someone else, someone else with hard muscles and eyes as green as freshly mown grass.
After the first time, he never slept in the same bed as her again. It only took one morning of waking up to a warm body lying next to him that wasn't Dean.
He'd moaned and wrapped himself around her but then his eyes shot open and he pushed himself away violently, blinking with incomprehension for a heartbeat, maybe two, before loss hit him again like a punch to the gut.
He bought her French fries as an apology and she knew she had him.
A week later, Sam stood back amongst the trees as he watched it rain. North of Seattle, just inside the Canadian border, it did that a lot. Rain. It left the air fresh and clean once it was done, but Sam didn't want it to stop, not yet.
It was three months to the day since he'd watched Dean get ripped apart by hellhounds. Three months without him, and it was a demon who'd given him a purpose, a reason to carry on. If he couldn't get Dean back, he could have the next best thing.
Sam curled his fingers around the amulet he'd worn since the day he'd buried his brother. Dean had been his one safe place, and now Sam had nowhere to go. All his life, Dean had been the one he knew he could trust. Growing up the way they did, no-one could know him like Dean did, not even Jess, not even Bobby.
He would kill Lilith and then ... he didn’t care what came next.
Soaked to the skin, Sam trudged back to the empty house he was squatting in. Ruby was waiting for him.
“You’re soaked through!” She chided and pulled off his wet clothes. “Gotta keep your strength up, Sammy.”
Sam cringed at the use of a name that was reserved for Dean, but didn’t bother correcting her. She toweled him dry and insisted he get into bed. For once he didn’t object when she curled up beside him. Slowly, she caressed him until his skin warmed from the chill of the rain. He turned over to lie on his back and she straddled his hips, bending down to kiss him.
“Dude, we’ve been over this.” Dean growled, not wanting to hear more about how the demon skank had screwed with his brother. Literally.
“Usually, I’d agree but you need to hear this.” Chuck insisted.
“Okay.” Dean sighed and looked out of the window while Chuck went on, jealousy flaring in his heart at the thought of Ruby touching Sam.
As she ground down against him, Ruby arched back, biting her lip as if in passion. When he pulled her down to kiss him again, blood seeped from the small wound on her lip. He frowned at the taste but she moaned and thrust her tongue further into his mouth, driving him to the point where he didn’t care about the coppery taste.
Tainted blood seeped into his system, energizing him, driving away the cloud of despair that he’d been mired in.
“Ruby.” He panted as he flipped her onto her back and took her hard and fast.
Later as they lay together, she apologized.
“I’m sorry, Sam. I shouldn’t have kissed you like that. The blood ... I didn’t know it would affect you.”
Sam rolled over to face her. “It was the blood that made me feel stronger?”
“Demon blood.” She ducked her head, eyes not meeting his. “I shouldn’t have let you taste it. It can be addictive.”
“But it makes me stronger?”
“Well, yeah, but Sam, you don’t want to ...”
“Strong enough to kill Lilith?” There was a hard edge to his voice.
Sam thought of little else for the next two days. He fought with his conscience, warred against knowing what Dean would want him to do and wanting, no needing, Lilith dead. He’d made promises to Dean that he knew now he couldn’t keep, and with a heavy heart full of determination, the next time Ruby appeared, he made his choice.
Ruby bent down and took a small knife from her boot. She nicked the soft skin of her inner arm just below her elbow and held her arm out to him.
He only hesitated for a moment before his lips sealed around the wound and he was drinking it down. Ruby petted his hair as he did, her eyes turning black and a look of triumph on her face. Now she had all of him.
“There’s a lot more, but that’s how it started. He didn’t go looking for it, Dean. She manipulated him, took advantage of his grief.”
“He’s been drinking her blood?” Dean stared ahead. He’d thought nothing could shock him anymore, but he’d been wrong. His fists were so tightly clenched, his short nails were digging into his palms.
“Yes. It’s addictive. Every time he’s taken a hit, it’s made him feel stronger. When you walked away, he came here to dry out, but when he found out the angels were using you to torture Alistair, he took off to find Ruby, to make sure he was strong enough to save you.”
“Save me? How did he even know I needed saving? One minute Alistair was trussed up like a prize turkey, the next he was free and using me as a punch bag. I didn’t know I needed saving until he got free,”
“I saw it happen, hours before it actually happened, but we didn’t know where you were. Sam went charging off to find Ruby, and well, you know most of the rest.”
Dean nodded slowly. “Now I have even more reason to kill that bitch.”
He had a strong urge to go to Sam, make sure he was okay, but when he saw his brother again, he didn’t want any secrets between them, not any more.
“I want to read the rest. Everything since I went to hell.”
“You sure? What if Sam doesn’t want you to know?”
“If you’d kept publishing, anyone could have pulled a book off the shelf and read it. He wouldn’t have had any control over that. When he’s up to it, he can read it too, save me spilling my guts.”
“Save you talking to him?”
“Wiseass. You gonna let me read it or not?”
Chuck sighed, conflicted about letting Dean read about everything Sam had been through. But his life was in there too. Reluctantly, he handed the laptop to Dean.
“Everything since you went to hell is in that folder. I’m not sure this is a good idea so read what you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He left Dean alone, hoping he hadn’t done the wrong thing.
Dean read each document in the folder in order. He read more about how grief stricken Sam had been after the hellhounds had dragged Dean to hell, how elated he’d been to have Dean back, even if he had been upset that he couldn’t save Dean himself. Then came the guilt. Sam knew Dean wouldn’t approve of what he was doing, but he didn’t want to stop, he genuinely thought he was doing the right thing with the curse that had been laid on him as a baby. Dean read about his concern, and how he felt so distanced from Dean, even when they were riding around in the Impala together, side by side.
The next document he opened was based on the case they’d worked with the wishing well. Dean read right up until the coin had been removed from the fountain and the town had gone back to normal. He was about to close the document, when he realized there was more written down, pages more and then he remembered what had happened after the case was solved. He almost shut it down, but instead took a deep breath and began to read.
"You can never know what it's like."
Sam watched Dean walk away, leaving him to follow a few paces behind. So they were even. He'd thought he was unique. He was going through something that no-one could possibly understand and that left him on his own, alone even when Dean was so close, but Dean had done his best to show Sam that yeah, he could never get into Sam's head and know what he knew, feel how he felt, but Sam wasn't alone.
Now it was time for Sam to return the favor.
The next motel was so similar to the last one, Sam found it hard to tell the difference.
Dean dropped his pack at the end of one of the beds and sat down on it. He ran a weary hand over his face and took a bottle out of his jacket pocket, welcoming the burn of liquor slipping down his throat.
Sam climbed on the bed behind him and wrapped his body around Dean's. Dean started at the first touch and sat stiff in Sam's arms as Sam pried the bottle out of his fingers.
"Sammy." Dean warned.
"You don't need it, Dean."
Dean squirmed, trying to move out of Sam's grasp.
"Let me go."
Dean stilled, knowing that Sam wasn't just talking about that particular moment.
"Sammy. I can't ..."
"I'm not asking you too and I won't ask again. Just ..." Sam kissed the back of Dean's neck as Dean relaxed back into his arms. "I'll listen, anytime, if you ever need to tell me."
Dean nodded and sighed. "Guess we're both freaks."
"And freaks gotta stick together."
Sam peeled Dean's shirt off and ran his hands over his brother's smooth, scar free torso. His fingers traced a line over Dean's ribs on his left side.
Before he'd been pulled from hell, there'd been a four inch scar there. It was from the first time Sam had stitched Dean up. Sam had been fourteen. John had brought his eldest back to the motel room where Sam waited, heart in his mouth at the sound of the Impala pulling up outside. Sam had been waiting, gun and knife ready, but he ended up stitching Dean up.
"I miss it." Sam murmured in Dean's ear. "Miss them all."
"Yeah, me too." Sam didn't need to explain which scar he was talking about. Dean knew.
His scars had been a map of his life, a twisting, turning path marked out on his skin. Reminders of times he'd come close to losing, times he'd come close to dying in some cases. He could remember their hands on his skin, his Dad's and Sam's, as they patched him up, sewed his wounds and made him whole again. He'd returned the favour too, and could still trace the line of puckered skin where Sam had been marked by a fight, where Dean had slipped a needle through his skin and eased the wound back together.
"I want it back."
Sam's hands, busy working Dean's fly open, stilled.
"The scar. I want it back." His voice fell to no more than a whisper. "Don't make me beg, Sammy."
Sam's arms went around Dean's chest, and he swallowed and buried his face in Dean's neck. Dean could feel Sam's heart hammering, and wondered if he'd overstepped the mark this time. Maybe there were things they couldn't do for each other after all. But then Sam drew back and kissed his bare shoulder.
Dean sat still and resisted the urge to pick up the bottle again and drink it down. He could hear Sam rummaging through their bags and then he was back. Before he touched Dean, the smell of antiseptic filled the air.
“I want it to scar.” Dean stated, almost petulantly.
“It’ll scar. I don’t want to have to deal with a septic wound later.”
He sat behind Dean again, his thighs on either side of Dean’s hips. He pulled Dean back against his chest.
“Keep still.” Sam warned against Dean’s neck and Dean reached back, holding onto Sam.
Sam scraped the flat of the blade across Dean’s torso and with the fingers of his other hand traced the invisible line of the missing scar on Dean’s side. He pressed the knife to his brother’s skin.
Sam pressed, feeling the exact moment the razor sharp blade bit into soft skin, and pulling it up in an imitation of the cut that had been there originally.
Dean keened, a low fractured noise as Sam wounded him. His hand dug into Sam’s skin and as soon as Sam moved the blade away, he panted through the pain.
As pain went, it wasn’t bad but the wound hadn’t been inflicted in the heat of battle or to skin heated by a rush of endorphins. The cut was raw, cold and precise, just what Dean needed.
Sam put the knife down and kissed Dean’s neck.
“Lie down.” Sam instructed.
Dean obeyed while Sam opened the kit. His stitches were neat and he kept his eyes on his work, glancing up at Dean as he finished. He picked up the bottle from the nightstand and poured the last of the Jack over the wound.
Dean hissed and cursed.
“Can’t replace them all, you’d bleed out.” Sam said regretfully. “But I know where they all are.”
His fingers traced invisible lines on Dean’s torso, murmuring the names of the monsters or weapons that had caused them. Dates, places, all that he remembered about the wounds his brother had suffered over the years. He mapped Dean’s history with his hands and his words, reminding Dean of who he was, where he had come from, who he belonged to.
Sam’s touch became more possessive. He eased Dean’s jeans down over his hips, and Dean finished the job, kicking them into a heap on the floor. Now Sam’s hands traced Dean’s legs. He shed his own clothes and moved to lie behind him.
Sam’s voice was rough on Dean’s neck, his litany making the hairs on it prickle. Sam’s hands moved higher again, touching Dean’s skin in a different way, scraping a nail over a tender spot at the top of Dean’s thigh.
“Remember that dive outside of Ely? I kissed you there, bit you hard, left my marks behind and you came on my face.”
Dean groaned as Sam pushed his erection against the cleft of Dean’s ass, moving his hips rhythmically. Finally, he closed his fist around Dean’s cock.
“The Christmas we were stuck in that cabin in the middle of fucking nowhere in the snow. I sucked you off in the middle of a blizzard.” Sam’s thumb grazed the crown and Dean arched back against him. “Thought I was gonna choke when you came but you tasted so good.”
Sam splayed his free hand over Dean’s stomach as he fisted him faster in time with the thrusts against his brother’s ass and Dean trembled with tension in his arms.
“The summer I was eighteen, we made it to California, stayed in that weird hotel and you kept singing that damned Eagles song.” Sam paused and nipped at Dean’s neck. “Bent you over the back of that beat up old couch, licked you open and fucked you until you begged me to touch you, make you come.”
“Sammy!” Dean almost sobbed out as he came, pulsing heavily over his stomach and Sam’s hand. Sam shuddered and bit down on Dean’s shoulder as he spurted over Dean’s back.
They lay there until the chill of the room began to cool their skin. Sam pulled off his t-shirt and cleaned Dean up then pulled the bedclothes over him.
“Stay here?” Dean looked up at him, and Sam was struck by the almost vulnerable openness on his face.
“Not going anywhere.” He slipped into bed behind Dean and wrapped himself around his big brother. He wasn’t going to lose him again. He didn’t care what it took and he didn’t care if Dean didn’t approve. Dean was his, and no-one was going to take him away. Sam would see to that.
Dean closed the document, then the laptop and sat for a while looking out of the window. Sam had done what he’d done with the best of intentions. Yes, he was after revenge for what Lilith had taken from him, but Dean could understand that. Revenge was a family trait he’d lived with since he was four.
He got off the couch and slowly stretched out the kinks in his back from sitting still for too long. Slowly, he made his way downstairs to the panic room. Before he got there, he could hear Sam talking, pleading with someone, it sounded like. Dean peered in through the small opening in the door.
“No Dean, please, don’t say that, don’t …” Sam choked back a sob.
Dean let himself into the room, stricken at the sight of Sam tied down to the cot he was lying on. He was talking to someone and it didn’t take much to work out who he thought it was.
“I’m sorry.” Sam whispered, staring intently at something that Dean couldn’t see. “I’m still your brother.”
Dean walked into Sam’s field of vision. Sam blinked up at him, then at the empty spot then back again.
“Yeah, the real one.” Dean perched on the edge of the cot.
He picked up a wash cloth Bobby had left on a small table and dipped it into the bowl of water also sitting there. He wrung it out and ran it gently over Sam’s face. Sam let out a shaky breath and relaxed a little.
“I know, I’m sorry too. You needed me and I was too wrapped up in my own problems to see that.” He dampened the washcloth again and wiped it over Sam’s neck.
“Will you stay with me?”
“Yeah Sammy, I’ll stay.” He hoped his brother knew he wasn’t just talking about that moment. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Dean watched over Sam while he slept. His body objected strongly to not being allowed to relax, but Dean stayed where he was until Sam woke up again.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was hoarse. A cool cloth was pressed to his forehead again and moved over the fevered skin of his face. He whimpered gratefully and cracked open his eyes.
"I'm here, Sammy. Drink a little water, just a sip or two, okay?"
The lip of a glass was pressed to his cracked lips and he swallowed a few cooling mouthfuls of water before the glass was taken away, and cool fingers ran through his hair, rubbing over his scalp.
"You feel strong enough to eat something?"
“No, I need to sleep. In a real bed.”
Dean smiled. “Me too. “Come on, man, let’s get you upstairs to bed.”
Sam nodded and made an attempt to sit up, forgetting about the restraints that held him to the narrow bed.
Dean pushed him gently back down, and undid the cuffs around his brother's wrists first, then his ankles.
As they bypassed the rest of the crew who were camped out in the living room, Dean gave Bobby a nod of thanks.
Upstairs, he settled Sam into bed. He was already asleep by the time Dean joined him, leaving the second bed empty.
The next morning, Dean woke slowly, his still healing body demanding pain meds. He wasn’t alone and didn’t need to open his eyes to know it was Sam laid out beside him, almost but not quite touching.
Dean cracked his eyelids open to find Sam watching him, his face filled with uncertainty. Dean reached out and petted Sam’s hair, threading his fingers into the long strands and gently pulling him closer.
Sam’s lips met his, tentatively touching until Dean tilted his head up and kissed him back.
On to Shattered