Type of Submission:
Hell BentAuthor:debbiel66Recipient: keerawaBased on the prompt:
S3 story where Sam does something truly desperate to try to save Dean from Hell.Word Count:
language; set in Season 3 immediately after “Mystery Spot” but contains spoilers through 5X22.Author's Notes:
Enormous thanks to my beloved beta readers, callistosh65
, and geminigrl11
. Thanks to keerawa
for the awesome prompt that broke through my writer’s block. Summary:
Nothing spells defeat more than having to dig up the cigar box you’ve just buried when you’re trying to sell your soul to the devil. If it’s the last thing he does in this life, Sam is going to save his brother. Hell Bent
Sam stuffs his hands in his pockets, but the poor protection of his hoodie doesn’t help much. Like everything else in his life, the jacket is worn through—threadbare in more places than not. Doesn’t really matter. Where Sam’s headed, he won’t be needing to keep warm. But that’s probably just hearsay. The only thing Sam knows for sure about Hell is that it’s not getting a hold of Dean.
It’s all he cares about anymore.
However, Sam is uncomfortably alive at the moment, and the cold seems an inconsequential thing to worry about for a guy who has no future. Nights like this, once the wind picks up and the chill gets in the marrow of your bones, there’s no blocking it.
Sam hopes Dean is okay back in the room where he left him sleeping. He was just wearing an old t-shirt and sweats, and even though Sam had covered him up with the bedspread, the insulation was crap, and the windows were hardly sealed. Sam dosed Dean with enough meds before he left to knock him out for the rest of the night, but even so, Sam doesn’t want the cold to bother him.
Huffing into his hands, Sam orders himself to stop worrying about whether his damned and doomed brother is cold. Dean will be fine. Cold is better than dead.
But he can’t stop turning things over in his mind. Little things, for the most part, but Sam knows full well how little things can turn into great fucking big things. It’s collateral damage left in the Trickster’s wake.
Now, he’s not even sure if he turned the heater off before he left. It’s all he can do not to call Bobby and tell him to drive all night to make sure the place doesn’t burn down. He doesn’t know how he could have forgotten something so basic. Sure, he remembered the salt line at the door, but it’s the heater that’s bugging him.
Ever since the damn rabbit’s foot, Sam hasn’t trusted the window units. It’s not like the places they stay are usually up to code, and fire is a real hazard. Sam has watched his brother die in more ways than he could ever imagine, but burning alive wasn’t one of them. Once upon a time, Sam never worried about unlikely crap like that, but if there is anything the Trickster’s never-ending Tuesdays taught him, it’s that the worst not only can happen, it often does.
Irritated with himself, Sam hunches his shoulders to conserve heat and hopes he didn’t give Dean too many of the sleeping pills they stole from the drugstore in the last town they stayed in. Their supplies had been running low, and they’d needed the basics—antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, gauze and disinfecting crap.
Dean had raised an eyebrow at the sleeping pills Sam had snagged off the pharmacy shelf, but Sam had just shrugged. “Nightmares.”
Dean had shot back, “Wuss!” But if anything, Dean had looked relieved that Sam was doing something about whatever was keeping him up at night.
Even drugged to the gills, Dean will be pissed as hell once figures out what Sam wanted the sleeping pills for. If everything goes the way Sam plans, at least, he’ll never have to hear Dean bitch at him about it. Cup half full. Yeah, right. Sam rolls his eyes miserably. Dean is always telling him to look on the bright side.
Sam tugs his hood over his head. Tries not to think about what will go through Dean’s mind when he wakes up in the morning and finds the note on the table by the bed. He is very much aware that Dean will never, ever forgive him for what he’s going to do, but Sam can live with that.
Sam can live with almost anything—anything but being left in this world without Dean.
Sam picks up the pace. According to the GPS on his phone, he’s got a ways to go before the first crossroad. ***
Sam feels like he’s chasing the moon for all he’s gotten accomplished. Not only that, but it’s well past midnight, even though Sam is beginning to think the timing won’t make a difference. The same sources that claimed midnight was ideal for making a deal also insisted that burying a black cat’s paw was considered a sign of respect in the demonic world. No way Sam’s getting into shit like that. But he’s down two crossroads already, and not a single demon has showed up.
Nothing spells defeat more than having to dig up the cigar box you’ve just buried when you’re trying to sell your soul to the devil.
He doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong. Sam has pored over everything he can find. Bobby’s texts, eyewitness accounts, every website on crossroads he could dig up. He has studied everything there is to be found about demonic contracts and about the kinds of demons who enforce them. But one of the problems is that so many of the most reliable sources contradict each other.
The one thing that all the sources agree on is that a crossroad is the end of the road. Apparently, the death of a soul is something that even demons take seriously. It’s not in their nature to resist that sort of despair, that kind of desperation.
One thing for sure…no one is more desperate than Sam.
So he keeps walking. At least he’s not cold anymore.
He goes over the protocol. As far as he can tell, he’s done everything right. Buried the cigar box. Offered up a prodigal prayer and a shitload of promises to anyone and anything willing to hear him out, but the demon didn’t even bother to show. Probably word got out about the way Sam “dealt” with his first crossroads demon.
And yeah, he can admit that he probably burned his demonic bridges with that one. He shouldn’t have killed her. Should have simply exorcised her and sent her back to hell where she belonged, but he shouldn’t have killed her. There’s nothing he can do about it now, and it won’t be happening again because it’s not like he could kill another demon without the Colt. So he just keeps walking and worrying about things he can’t go back and change. Sam wonders if he’s developed some anxiety disorder, the way he can’t stop rethinking things.
Topping off this failure of a night, Sam’s feet are killing him. It’s been a long time since his shoes were intact enough for serious walking, and he’s about ready to admit he should have taken the Impala. He left it behind at the motel, mostly to spare Dean from what he might find once he tracked his baby down.
Sam knows demons, and he wouldn’t put it past them to leave his body skinned and flayed for Dean to find in the passenger seat. Sam doesn’t want to ruin the Impala for Dean…it’s gonna be the only thing he’s got left.
Sam isn’t sure he’s going to die right away. Who knows—maybe he’ll find a demon willing to give him a full year, but he kind of doubts it. He is figuring it’ll be more like the deal Dad got.
An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Sam has always known that hellfire is at the end of his road. For one thing, all that demon blood has nowhere else to go.
Sam sighs, the weight of the world heavy on his shoulders. This is going to kill Dean—Sam knows that. But it won’t damn him, and that’s what matters.
They’ve had their year, and Sam is grateful, but a year doesn’t go as far as it used to. ***
This is it—the last crossroad that he’s going to be able to get to before dawn.
If this doesn’t work, Sam doesn’t know what he’s going to do. It has to work. He has to save his brother, and Sam doesn’t have anything left to offer up.
Using a stick, he carefully traces devil’s traps in the dirt around the center of the crossroad. Although he’s grateful for the full moon, it’s impossible to ensure he’s getting them perfect, but he’s not all that convinced this is going to work anyway. Devil’s traps are more science than art—they have to be exact or they’re no more effective than any garden-variety sigil. But Bobby’s teaching is too ingrained by now. You don’t invite a demon to play without taking reasonable precautions.
All the same, Sam has no doubt that if Ruby were here, she’d be rolling her eyes by now. It’s been a while since he’s seen her, but that’s just as well. She would be so pissed to find out that they’d lost the gun.
Once he’s done drawing, Sam takes a last, hard look at the crossroads in front of him. Unlike the others, the two roads cross in perfect alignment. The ancient texts described the ideal crossroads as a liminality. Neither here nor there, betwixt and between.
It seems unlikely, but Sam did find a couple scholars on the internet who claimed that the future could be altered at a crossroad—that for one dazzling moment, the future was no longer set in stone. That destiny was a choice and not a given.
For a weak moment, Sam wishes he could catch just a glimpse of what’s to come. He isn’t sure why it matters—he won’t be here, one way or another. If this works, the crossroads demon will snatch his soul in place of Dean’s, and that’s the way it should be. If it doesn’t work, he doesn’t expect to stay alive much longer anyway. Sam knows he is too dangerous without his brother. The Trickster taught him that much. Like he’s done his whole life, Sam will be tagging along after his big brother.
But he’s still tempted.
It would make all the difference if his sacrifice actually makes the world a slightly better place—at least for Dean, anyway. Sam would love to see Dean with a wife and kids, working some boring-ass job, drinking beer on Sundays. Sam snorts at himself, at his own idiotic sentimentality. Dean would never let him hear the end of it, if he knew. Happily normal Dean is about as likely as world peace.
But he can hope, can’t he? Maybe even pray. Sam should know better—it’s kid’s stuff, thinking someone up there cares what the hell happens to the two of them. Sam prayed plenty in Broward County and look where it got him…just another Tuesday of waiting for a new and improved way for Dean to die, no thanks to divine intervention.
Sam sighs and rifles through the cigar box again, which is stuffed with relics from a life half-lived. It’s all there though—Sam always did pack light.
There’s a fourth grade ribbon for being Citizen of the Year…his acceptance letter from Stanford…. his LSAT results. His student ID. A note from Jess the week before she died—said that she was working late and that she loved him and that he shouldn’t wait up…there was still leftover lasagna in the fridge.
Sam spends the most time staring down at the lone photograph. It’s him and Dean as kids—they’re sitting on the hood of the Impala, Dean’s arm slung nice and easy over Sam’s shoulders. It makes Sam feel sort of achy, looking at Dean with his grin wide-open like that. Sam can remember a time when Dean used to smile all the time.
It’s kind of like grace. It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to him—that he got to be Dean Winchester’s little brother his whole life.
Sam crouches down and places the box in the hole he’s dug. It’s not much, but it’s all Sam has to offer. He only hopes it’ll be enough. Chewing on his lower lip until he tastes blood, Sam buries what’s left of his life in the middle of the crossroad.
And he waits. But he doesn’t wait for long.
Sam feels her before he sees her. It’s a stirring in his blood, almost organic, like something feral is just rousing itself from hibernation. Slowly, he turns around. And there she is, standing behind him, dead center in the middle of the crossroads.
The vessel the demon has chosen is pretty and predatory and staring him down with something akin to desire. But Sam can easily see the ugly visage beneath the lovely face. In his gut, he knows this is not what he has been planning for. This is no ordinary crossroads demon. He doesn’t know what
Her eyes flash white, as she steps across his pitiful devil’s trap. She smiles.
“Little Sammy Winchester in the flesh. Azazel’s chosen one. Funny…you’re not as tall as they said you would be.”
Sam can’t help but recoil, and he trips a little in trying to get away from her. His voice hitches as he asks, “Who are you? What do you want?”
“Call me Lilith,” she says. “Maybe you’ve heard of me.”
Her name is like an itch under his skin. It’s like meeting a blood relative for the first time and realizing you share the same smile. Not that Sam’s met any blood relatives besides Dean and Dad. But it’s what he imagines it would be.
This is the demon Ruby has told him about—the up-and-comer who holds Dean’s contract. “You hold Dean’s contract,” he blurts out.
She tilts her head, and for a moment, her eyes look almost human. “You do know me, don’t you? You would have, even if no one told you. It doesn’t surprise me. Like knows like.”
Sam swallows back bile. The instinct to run is stronger than anything he’s ever felt, and he’s someone who has been going up against evil all his life. But he can’t do it. He can’t try and get out of this. Lilith is the only one who can keep his brother out of Hell. There is no way that Sam is going to back down now.
So he holds his ground. “I’m nothing like you,” he retorts, shoving his hair out of his eyes.
Lilith sighs dramatically. “Ah, vanity. Humans always believe that they’re so special.” She gestures expansively at the night sky. “Tell me this. What is man that we’re all so fucking mindful of him?”
Since she’s appeared, Sam can hear screeching and trilling, howling in the distance like something is been ripped apart and eaten alive. He wonders if nature is coming apart from this evil he’s let loose in the world.
She is staring at him, eyebrow cocked. “So tell me, Sam. What are we doing here?”
Sam shudders. He can’t indulge in foolish thinking, needs to focus on Dean. “I want you to let Dean out of his deal.”
“Break Dean’s contract?” she echoes, amusement in her voice. “I was thinking more along the lines of sucking the marrow out of your bones. But maybe we can meet each other halfway.”
Sam takes a step forward. “I’ll do anything.”
Her eyes narrow. “Anything
Sam swallows thickly. “Just save my brother.”
She is circling him now, the perfect predator. Feeling like an idiot, he mocks himself for believing what Ruby has been telling him, that he is the only one who can stop Lilith. Sam deserves every “told you so” Dean has doled out for the past year. Sam must outweigh her vessel by a good hundred pounds, but that doesn’t matter. He is nothing but a rodent to her—a nice, tasty snack.
“Sam,” she says softly, “it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be on opposing sides. We don’t have to be enemies.”
“Keep back,” he warns her, and she just smiles pleasantly.
This “let’s be friends” tactic is a helluva lot scarier than bone-marrow-sucking threats. It was fucking stupid to go into this unarmed, but ever since they lost the Colt to Bela, it’s not like they have a whole lot of other options when it comes to fighting demons. Holy water didn’t affect Azazel, and Sam is pretty sure it won’t even turn lukewarm if it splashes on Lilith, but it’s all he’s got. Even though his hand is shaking, Sam reaches for the flask in his back pocket.
With an eye roll and the flick of her wrist, Lilith drawls, “Oh, please
Sam feels his hand fall to his side. It isn’t that he can’t
reach for the flask. It’s more like he doesn’t want to anymore.
Sam huffs a terrified breath, his hands at his sides. “I didn’t summon you. You’re not a crossroads demon. Why the hell are you here?”
Sam tries to break out of her power, but he can’t, and suddenly she is all over him. She’s touching him. He feels sluggish and warm, and her fingernails are scritching and scratching up underneath his jacket, as she licks up the side his neck.
She whispers in his ear, “I’ve seen the future, Sam, and it sucks.”
Sam can almost hear Dean hissing—what the fuck did I tell you about trusting demons?
But he can’t help but ask, “What did you see?”
She smiles, leans in even closer, her lips almost touching his. “Let’s just say that you and I aren’t really dealt a fair hand.”
Sam swallows bile from the warmth of her mouth against his skin, tries to remind himself what matters. Dean matters. Dean a couple weeks out from Hell is what matters. “So you’ll let Dean go? Just like that, no strings attached?”
Her smile is reptilian-slick. “That’s not how this kind of thing works. You know that, Sam. There’s always a cost. Somebody’s gotta fund this party.”
“I…I don’t understand. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Hell. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the two of us taking the honeymoon suite and waiting for all this end-of-times bullshit to settle down. I figure a couple millenniums ought to cover it.”
Sam feels his own lip curl defiantly. “You want me to go to Hell with you?”
She is licking the underside of his jaw. “Fast learner. Azazel always said you were top of the class.”
“My soul for Dean’s.” Sam knows demons. If you don’t spell everything out, you’ll end up screwed. He tries not to flinch from the press of her body up against his side, and tries not to think of all the ways he’s going to get screwed for at least a couple millenniums.
“Without you in the game, Dean’s harmless. He can’t play his part.”
Sam has no idea what she’s talking about, but he wills his heart to slow down. It feels like it’s going to burst out of his chest. He has no choice, not really. Lilith has made him an offer that he can’t refuse.
The feeling that comes over him is almost heady. If this is all it takes—his own wretched soul—then he can do this.
“Fine. Break Dean’s contract, and I’m all yours.”
Lilith arches an eyebrow. “Do you even know what you’re giving up?”
Sam doesn’t even have to think about that one. “Nothing that’s not mine to give.”
She shakes her head, all amused. “Azazel would be so pissed. Decades of time and planning, all for nothing.”
He’s done with this. All these demons screwing with their lives. Sam is ready to end this here and now.
So he tells her, “Just shut the hell up and get on with it.”
She looks like she’s studying him, and then she nods, all business-like. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
The demon’s eyes are colorless and void. There is nothing there, just the abyss that’s waiting for him. Sam can feel the night around him, blurry around the edges like fog creeping over dark waters. This is it. This is all there will ever be.
He wishes he could tell Dean that he’s sorry.
Lilith reaches for the back of his neck, tugging him down for the covenant kiss, and he can smell her breath, fire and brimstone. Sam closes his eyes and shuts them tight. God, he’s so screwed and terrified—
But then, just like that, everything changes.
There is a grip on Sam’s shoulder that practically hauls him off his feet, and it forces Sam backward, out of Lilith’s grasp, before her lips can brush against his.
Sam’s shoulder hurts like hell, but he can’t shake it off, and whatever’s attacked him, it’s a strong sonofabitch. He can’t even look over his shoulder to see what it is.
But the entire crossroad is lit up like floodlights at a stadium, and the demon’s eyes are opaque and glowing in absolute fury. The desire to cover his eyes from the light and her rage is overwhelming.
Lilith’s rage is palpable, a wild, savage thing. She is screaming, “You can’t do this! He’s not one of yours—he’s ours
! You have no right to stop this!”
Behind him, Sam can hear chanting like a Latin benediction, but he doesn’t recognize any of the words. Then, Lilith starts howling, not so pretty anymore. She is dropping to her knees, screaming and writhing, and Sam remembers that this is what evil looks like, underneath its skin. He wants nothing more than to cover his eyes, but he’s held in place by more than just the grip on his shoulder.
Another awful scream, and Sam sees the demon disappearing like a black cloud into the darker sky. In the unforgiving light, he wants nothing more than to disappear with her. He wants to fall to his knees, so the demon blood inside can cry out, don’t touch me. I’m unclean.
But a small voice whispers in his ear, “Close your eyes, Sam. I won’t let you fall.”
The words are kind, and Sam wants to believe them. So he closes his eyes and waits to die. There’s a touch on his forehead, and then he doesn’t have to worry about anything anymore.
Falling or flying…he doesn’t know the difference. He never has. ***
When Sam opens his eyes, there’s a dark-haired man sitting on the ground next to him. It’s daylight, and they’re in the middle of a copse of redwoods. Something is fussing and chittering from a branch overhead, and little twigs and pieces of bark are falling onto his face. A squirrel stares down at him, and it’s so cute, it’s actually a little ridiculous. He wonders if it’s possible to dream about squirrels in Hell.
The man is staring into the distance with a frown on his face, and Sam turns his head to look at a half-empty pond, a dead fish washed up on the shore. Then the man flicks a finger, and the fish’s tail twitches. What the hell?
But Sam isn’t in Hell. He’s also not at the crossroad anymore.
Then he remembers. Sam remembers Lilith and the kiss and how close he came to saving his brother before some freakin’ powerful sonofabitch kicked his ass out of there. Sam doesn’t think he’s ever been more furious or more grateful about anything in his entire life.
“Who the hell are you?” he rasps through dry lips, pushing up onto his elbows.
The man, who is inexplicably wearing a trench coat, looks over at him impassively and states, “I am an angel of the Lord.”
Sam sits all the way up. The fish is flopping on the shore, trying to get back in the water. Sam shakes his head, trying to clear it. “I don’t understand.”
The man stands up and turns to face him. “I am an angel of the Lord, and you were about to do something very unwise.” Angel of the Lord. Unwise?
None of it is making sense, except for the fact that he was so close. After all this time, all his efforts, he was this close to saving Dean, and now it’s over. Sam has allowed his brother’s life to slip through his fingers once again.
Sam’s jaw tightens. “Tell me who the hell you are.”
The man doesn’t blink. “My name is Castiel. I’m an angel of the Lord.”
Sam is ready to lose it completely, when he catches a glimpse of that impossible light behind the man’s dark eyes. He remembers what he saw, what he felt…
And it’s too much. Sam Winchester has been saved by an angel—a possibility he has always believed in, always desperately yearned for—at the exact moment he was doing his friggin’ best to damn himself to Hell.
With a thud, Sam lets his head drop back onto the duff of redwood needles and dirt. Blinks a couple times to see if the angel goes away. He doesn’t.
“I understand this may come as a shock.”
Sam sits up and shakes the debris out of his hair. “Why are you here? Why would you come to me
Because Sam knows what kind of unholy evil runs through his veins. He isn’t the kind of man that angels do back flips trying to save.
“I couldn’t let you go ahead with what you intended to do.”
Sam forces himself up and studies the man in front of him. No matter how unsteady he is, he can’t confront an angel while lying flat on his back.
The angel looks like a normal guy. A little weird, with the trench coat and all, but he doesn’t look especially sanctified
On the other hand, Sam has read up on the lore about angels and knows that angels have often come to Earth taking on a human form. The accounts are numerous—plenty of people have encountered and hung out with angels without ever knowing it.
And Sam knows what he saw. That light…it was so white and perfect and shocking. He felt exposed, like everything he’d ever done, every single thing inside him was right there for anyone to see. Demon blood and all.
Light like that isn’t human.
Knowing that this angel saw him fully, Sam doesn’t want to look him in the eye, but he has no choice because the angel isn’t looking away. “Can you save Dean?”
“That’s not why I’m here—”
Forgetting about the sanctity of angels, Sam grabs a hold of the stupid trench coat and pleads, “Please…you’ve gotta save my brother. I’ve believed all my life that there’s good out there, and Dean…he doesn’t deserve to go to Hell. He did it for me, you gotta understand. You can’t let him die. Just please…”
Castiel’s head tilts, looking almost bemused. “You believe so much more easily than Dean. I wouldn’t have expected that.”
Sam stares. He’s just begged for his brother’s life, and if anything, this…angel…seems entertained. Sam feels something besides desperation start to rise up. Because he was this close to closing the deal with Lilith and saving Dean, and a friggin’ angel had to screw everything up.
“You had no right to stop me.”
“I had every right.” Castiel might be shorter than Sam, but it feels like he’s looking down at him, disapproval obvious in his glare. “And you had no right to make a deal with Lilith.”
Sam shakes his head, not wanting to hear it. He knows he should be relieved that there is something—someone
—else on their side for once. Angels against demons would be a battle he would sign up for. But if this angel is unwilling to save Dean, then Sam doesn’t give a crap that angels are real. He just doesn’t.
“Can you save my brother or can’t you?”
Castiel shakes his head. “Sam, it’s not that simple.”
Sam stands up, ignoring the wave of shakiness. He can still feel Lilith’s raw power inside of him. He wonders if it’s the demon blood. Like knowing like.
That’s what she had said.
“You had no right,” Sam says again, feeling despair like he hasn’t felt since the Trickster. He’s going to lose Dean. He’s going to lose him, and the entire universe is conspiring to make it damn clear that there is nothing he will ever be able to do to stop it from happening.
The angel steps close to him, so close that Sam can feel his breath against his neck. “Sam, listen to me. There’s a reason why events have to unfold the way they do. Everything happens for a reason. You could not make that deal with Lilith. I couldn’t allow you to do that.”
“Why not? Who could it possibly affect but me?” And Dean.
Sam doesn’t say that out loud. But he knows full well what his deal would have done to his brother. The glare the angel is aiming at him shows that he knows it too.
“You have to trust me when I tell you that all humanity depends on events unfolding exactly as they do.”
And Sam has had enough. Something inside him gives way and he launches himself at the angel. It’s a little like kicking a concrete bunker barefoot—the slightly-built man doesn’t budge, not even a little, and Sam’s entire body aches from the impact.
But Sam snarls, “Then kill me! Go on. I know you can do it. Smite me or do whatever you arrogant sons of bitches do. You seem to know everything already, so you’ve got to know that I can’t live without him. Do you have any freakin’ idea what I become when Dean isn’t around?”
The angel simply stares, and Sam’s anger is muted a little by what looks to be a deep sadness. After a long pause, Castiel says, “I’m sorry, Sam.”
It turns out that an angel’s apology is worse than the Trickster’s games, worse than Ruby’s rabbit trails and innuendo and even worse than Lilith’s kiss. There is nothing Sam can do with it. “I’ll just go back. I’ll find Lilith again, I’ll find another crossroads—”
Castiel places his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “That’s not going to happen. You know that. It’s already too late.”
Sam suddenly knows that it’s the truth. He’s lost his chance. “Why did you stop me?” he asks, brokenly, swiping at his eyes. He can’t even care that he’s crying.
Castiel doesn’t look away. “You’re my friend. And Dean is my friend. No matter what’s to come, what you were about to do was worse.”
Sam can’t make sense of this. “We don’t even know you.”
“I wish I could spare you from what’s to come, but I simply can’t.”
And Sam believes that somehow. “So you’re just going to let my brother die? You say you’re our friend, and you’re not going to try and save him?”
Castiel seems to be trying to come to a decision. Sam can actually see different emotions come and go on his face, before he nods a little and then looks back at him.
Quietly, Castiel says, “Dean lives.”
Sam stares for a minute, trying to reconcile the two simple words with everything else he’s been told by just about everyone. “I don’t understand…everyone I’ve talked to says there’s no way out. Are you saying that Dean doesn’t go to hell?”
“Your brother lives,” Castiel repeats. He’s scuffing his shoe, like he’s trying to make snow angels in the redwood needles and dirt.
“But what about the contract?” Sam persists, wanting to believe, but Castiel holds up his hand.
“That’s all I can tell you. Your brother lives. In the future, he has a home and a life. I’ve already said more than I should. You need to go back. Dean has already woken up, and he’s not very happy with you.”
Sam wants to believe. It sounds amazing. Hell, it sounds freakin’ awesome, and Sam wants to ask more questions about Dean’s life and future and home. But then Castiel reaches for him again.
“What are you doing?” he asks warily, stepping back.
“Sending you to Dean. I don’t believe you want to walk. It’s a long distance back to the motel, and it will only cause him more distress if you’re gone any longer.”
“Wait—I need to know. I can tell Dean that it’s going to be okay…right?”
Castiel’s lips flatten into a solemn little line. “Sam…you’ll remember none of this.”
What the hell? Sam knows his mouth is hanging open, but he doesn’t care. “You can’t do that. I need to tell him that he’s not going to die. This changes everything.”
“It changes nothing. Which is the point.” Castiel touches his fingers to Sam’s forehead again, and the last thing Sam hears are the words, “I am
Sam doesn’t have a chance to ask for what. ***
There are hands bunched up in his jacket hauling him up, and they are shaking the hell out of him. Even so, Sam is pretty sure he isn’t in Hell because demons aren’t usually this pissed.
By the time Sam manages to open his eyes, Dean has stopped shaking him, but only because he’s got his fist cocked back, and Sam only manages to wince before that fist connects soundly with his jaw, and he’s face-down on the floor again.
“What did you do, you sonofabitch? What did you do?”
Sam has managed to push up from the filthy orange and red shag carpet, but he’s only up for a second before Dean is beating him down again. This time, he manages to block a couple of the blows and uses his size to throw Dean off and hold him, until they both get their breathing under control again.
But Dean isn’t finished with him. He throws Sam off and hauls him up the scruff of his neck and shakes him like some kind of recalcitrant puppy. “What the hell did you do? Tell me, Sam! What the fuck did you do?”
Sam can see now that Dean’s pupils are still dilated from the drugs, and he looks like hell. Eyes bruised and bloodshot, t-shirt sweat-stained and now bloody, Dean is so freaked and furious, he’s shaking. Sam lifts a hand to his mouth and tastes blood.
“Tell me what you did, Sam, or I swear I’ll rip you a new one.”
And honestly, Sam can’t tell him because he doesn’t know. He knows what he intended to do. He remembers grinding the pills and sprinkling them on Dean’s taco. He remembers filling the cigar box with his favorite things and writing the note, intending to leave the Impala behind in the parking lot. He remembers telling his sleeping brother goodbye, before walking out that door.
Everything else is just bright, white nothing. He has no clue. It’s not like he’s forgotten. It’s more like it wasn’t there in the first place.
“Tell me, goddamnit!”
And Dean is looking like he’s gonna take another swing, so Sam grabs hold of his arm before he has a chance to. His head is killing him, and he really doesn’t want a beat-down when he doesn’t even know if he deserves it.
Most likely, he deserves it and more. He just can’t remember.
But Dean isn’t hitting him any more. He shakes of Sam’s hold, and starts patting him down, checking pockets, pulling off Sam’s jacket and feeling him up underneath his shirt. Sam tries pushing him away, but Dean doesn’t back off. Instead, he gets right in Sam’s face and starts checking Sam’s eyes, pulling back his eyelids.
“Open your mouth.”
This is getting ridiculous.
“C’mon, Dean,” Sam manages to protest, but Dean glares him down.
Sam opens his mouth and lets Dean probe around, looking for God knows what.
Finally, Dean finishes poking at him, and he sits down with a dagger-glaring huff on the other bed. “Okay, spill it.”
“Dean, I don’t know what happened.”
“You drugged me.”
“I know that part, and I’m sorry but I had to. You would have stopped me.”
“You’re damn right I would’ve stopped you!” Dean is already yelling again, gesturing furiously. “You were gone when I woke up, you left your fucking note, now you’re covered in dirt—“ Sam looks down and realizes that he’s filthy. “Now, you’re gonna tell me what the hell you did, so I can see if we can undo it.”
“I don’t know what I did,” Sam says quietly, sitting down on the other bed. It’s true. He doesn’t know what he did, doesn’t know where he’s been, but something happened while he was gone, and it feels irreversible in a way he doesn’t understand.
“Bullshit!” Dean explodes, and Sam knows his brother is terrified, and he knows why. It’s all about the fine print of Dean’s contract. If either of them try to break the deal, then Sam dies. Demons aren’t big on contingencies.
So Sam leans forward and places his hand on his brother’s leg. “Dean, I’m here. I’m all right. It’s okay.”
Dean spits out, “Yeah, genius, I can see you’re here. And that’s another thing. How the hell did you get here because I was just about to track your ass down when you just appeared out of nowhere—“
“Yeah, you fucking appeared
. Like on Star Trek or something.”
“You’re telling me.” But Dean seems to be calming down a little. “You landed flat on your ass. It would’ve been awesome if you weren’t such a freakin’ idiot
.” He leans over and smacks Sam upside the head. “I swear to God, Sammy…”
He lets his words drift off, and Sam sucks in a deep breath, trying to figure out what happened.
He doesn’t think he was successful in breaking Dean’s deal. He’d be dead if he were, something he was very much aware of when he left, but he figures it would be best not to point that out to Dean. But there’s something inside that feels different. Easier, maybe. There’s a weight off his shoulders, and Sam doesn’t know how or why. He only knows that something happened to make it that way.
And for the first time in a long time, Sam is wondering if maybe things will be okay after all. There’s no way that’s a coincidence. Sam hasn’t had hope in the future in a long, long time. Something happened, something big. He just has to remember…
“Sam? Sammy?” Startled, Sam looks up because Dean’s voice has gentled. “C’mon, you gotta tell me what you did. I swear I won’t be mad. It might not be too late… Please, man, I’m begging you. You gotta tell me so I can fix this.”
There’s nothing to fix, nothing to say, so Sam glances away and toward the window. But the light coming from the window is so bright, it’s almost blinding. It reminds him of something.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s the good kind of light, not like hellfire. Sam squints but keeps trying to stare into it. The memory is so close, he can almost see it. But then it recedes and pops out of existence, like foam on the beach after a retreating wave. Sam sits back and sorrowfully watches it go.
Sam looks back at Dean, who looks so exhausted and scared that all Sam wants is to make him feel better. The only thing he can think of is stupid and girly enough that Dean will harass him for the rest of their lives, but Sam leans forward across the narrow space between the two beds and then sort of tucks his forehead against Dean’s shoulder.
Dean stiffens a little but doesn’t push him away. “Um…Sam?”
Sam wishes he had more to offer than, “It’s going to be okay, Dean. I couldn’t have made a deal because I’m here. I’m still alive.” But that’s all he’s got.
“Dude, you’re really starting to freak me out,” Dean mumbles thickly into his hair.
But Sam doesn’t budge because Dean’s not going anywhere—ever. Let heaven and hell try and stop him. No matter what he can or can’t remember, if it’s the last thing he does in this life, Sam is going to save his brother.
“Sammy?” The End