Title: Spill the Blood of the Sky
Category: Gen AU oneshot
Word Count: 4422
Spoilers: S1: "Devil's Trap" and S2: "In My Time of Dying"
Warnings: Post-apocalyptic, darkfic, character death
Author's Notes: Story occurs in the later part of season one before the season finale. However, ideas suggested in the two spoiler episodes appear in this fic.
Disclaimer: The following characters and situations are used without permission of the creators, owners, and further affiliates of the television show, Supernatural, to whom they rightly belong. I claim only what is mine, and I make no money off what is theirs.
The air is dry, and the hot wind lifts the earth into the air and twirls it carelessly. The dirt sits inside Dean's nostrils, and he spits out grainy phlegm into the palm of his hand. He smears it onto his jeans and squints across the barren horizon.
Behind him, Sam is calling his name. Finally, Dean turns to face him, and he wishes he was surprised at how worn his brother's face looks. Only, he's not surprised. They've been like this for longer than Dean can remember.
"Are you coming?" Sam asks. His knuckles are brown with dried blood where they curve around the strap of his backpack, and his lips are white and dry. The sheer act of speaking must bring pain for him.
Dean nods, silently, and wipes his nose on the back of his hand so that he can breathe again. He grabs his own backpack from the ground and hoists it onto his shoulders. The fabric is tearing around the edges, but it is everything that remains of his life before and all that he has with him to prove that once, so long ago, not everything was death and dust.
He turns towards Sam and together they walk. Sam's knife in his back pocket is bloody, dried, but bloody nonetheless, and Dean doesn't have the strength to ask why.
- - - - -
Dean does not remember the exact moment of the end.
He remembers before the end when it rained for days, as if the sky had been ripped apart and had unleashed years' worth of weather on the world. The air was cool, and the ground was moist. In the floods of rain, he and Sam had ran outside through the pounding thunder and the rivers vomiting their contents above their beds.
"Something's coming," Sam had said, looking up at the tumbling gray clouds. His hair was plastered to his forehead and water ran down the back of his neck. They stood beneath an enveloping willow tree and watched the sky through its fleshy branches.
"Nothing's coming," Dean had scoffed, wiping water out of his eyes and spitting it out of his mouth. "Quit over thinking things." Then he had picked up a handful of mud and tossed it at Sam, who had laughed and chased after Dean with wet boots. It was the last time the earth had seen water and the last time Sam had laughed; Dean remembers that much.
After the end began, the car ran out of gasoline, and they had started walking everywhere because all of the gas stations had been ruined in blazing infernos. The motels were flattened to the ground by powerful winds with their boards discarded to the world, and they learned how to sleep outside when they could not find shelter anywhere else. When they ran out of their packaged foods, they turned to their weapons and fire for nourishment. With no bullets for their guns, they hunted with knives and cheaply made arrows for the small creatures that skittered through the night. The food was never good, but it was enough to keep them alive for yet another wretched day.
Dean does not remember the exact moment of the end. It came in broken stages as it ripped away one piece of his reality and then another. Slowly, painstakingly, and precise.
He thinks it's better this way. Easier, even. As he loses everything, at least he has time to adjust to the next phase of the nightmare he knows he cannot escape. All he can do is hold on tighter to the last shreds of his humanity left.
- - - - -
They rest for the night inside a partially collapsed building that used to be a bank. The glass is smashed, and there is graffiti on the walls from the gangs that formed immediately after the fallout and claimed what little was left as their own. The sand gathers in piles around the opened doorways, but they walk to the back of the building into what used to be a private office and sit.
Sam pulls out his knife and spits on the blade. He cleans the blood from it with the corner of his shirt. He says nothing as Dean watches him.
Outside their window, the wind whistles in the empty frame. The silence is a both a blessing and a terror. When the air was filled with screams, Dean feared for his life, but at least he knew they were not alone. Now, the only lives he knows are their own, and somehow, it is not enough.
Dean starts a fire in the corner of their room, and he turns his hands over the meager flame to warm them. The days are so hot, but the nights are so cold, and he can never find comfort in either. His hands are raw, peeling, skin flaking away to reveal bright pink flesh beneath. The calluses are a darker shade of brownish yellow than the rest of his body.
Silently, Sam hands him a skinned carcass of an animal that is really too thin to be eaten. But Dean cuts the muscle from its body anyway and rests the meat on the tip of his blade over the fire. When the first piece is cooked, he passes it to Sam, who eats it slowly. They are always hungry and know now to savor what food they can find. After all, it may be days before they eat again.
Once they have finished, Sam rises to his feet and wipes his hands on his pants.
"I've got to take care of something," he says. His body appears exhausted and weak, but there is something fierce in his eyes Dean knows he will never be able to recognize.
Instead of answering, Dean nods his head. Speaking hurts his throat, lips and tongue. To simply exist is painful.
Sam grabs his knives, his clean and sharp blades, and disappears out of the room. Dean counts his footsteps before Sam reaches the sand outside and is lost to that desolate world.
Dean is certain that Sam is killing, but he doesn't argue and he doesn't try to stop him. He knows that Sam has no reason not to.
- - - - -
Sam returns the next morning. Dean is already awake, but he is still drained. His knees are drawn to his chest and his head rests against the wall as Sam enters the room.
"Find what you were looking for?" Dean asks. He hasn't heard his own voice in days. Something in its graveled tone is unfamiliar.
Sam turns to face him. There is blood on his face and on his neck. A large patch rests on the scooped protrusion of his collarbone. "Yeah," he finally says. "Yeah, I did."
"But you didn't finish it."
"It's not ever going to be finished," Sam replies mechanically. He turns away and reaches into his backpack for another shirt. There is still blood and filth on its fabric, but it is dry enough to be ignored now. He strips off his bloodied shirt, and Dean tries not to stare at the way his ribs jut out from his sides. His stomach is caved in and his muscles shrunken. Only flesh and bone and fire hold him together.
When he has dressed, Sam picks his backpack up. "Let's go," he says to Dean. "I hear there's water not too far from here."
And Dean follows him. He wants to believe that he chooses to do it, but having a choice is merely just another lie he tells himself for comfort when he has nothing else.
- - - - -
Time passes. Dean doesn't keep track of the days or months anymore; he merely allows them to come, and he lives them accordingly.
Sam grows restless and distant, developing a dangerous edge to his personality. He spits his words with venom on his tongue, and when he kills animals for their food, his gestures are slow and brutal. It is too easy to see that he relishes in their deaths.
He disappears every night and returns every morning. At night, Dean becomes curious, and he opens Sam's backpack. Mingled in with the sticky blood on his shirts are long, human hairs. They're too bloodstained for him to know what color they once were. That much doesn't matter. The knowledge that Sam is murdering humans does.
But when Sam returns again, Dean never asks him where he went. Part of him remains terrified of the answer he may receive and another part knows what he would be forced to do with such an answer.
- - - - -
They reach the ocean. Dean saw it when it was blue, but now its waters are green with flecks of brown skimming the surface. His skin stings when he cups it in his hands.
The ground is covered in fish skeletons and rocks, and the sound of crunching bones prickles the hair on the back of Dean's neck. Thousands of dead souls all beneath his feet and not one of them could even try to save itself.
Sam runs his tongue along the inside of his gums. "I remember it differently," he says. The water slurps around his boots and clings to the bottom of his jeans.
"I remember a lot of things differently," Dean replies, and he glances over at his brother. Their eyes meet, and he knows Sam hears his question unspoken between them.
"I can't tell you that," Sam whispers to Dean's thoughts. "You know that."
And Dean does know. He wishes he didn't.
- - - - -
They never see another human. Dean doesn't remember the last time they encountered people, and he thinks it was in the days when the earth was still wet from the rains. Men are rare now, and he often wonders if he is the last of his kind. But, Sam continues to leave him at night, and he knows that there must be more humans or else Sam would not leave. Sometimes, Dean talks to himself in the cold, barren nights just so he does not feel so utterly, so deathly, alone.
But, even after Sam returns with blood on his fingers, Dean still feels as alone as before. While they rip burnt flesh with worn teeth over a primitive fire, he looks into his brother's eyes, and he cannot see him there. He never will again. Such things are only fool's hopes.
- - - - -
Even though he knows that he shouldn't, Dean follows his brother one night to a destroyed hotel. By the time Dean arrives and crouches behind a collapsed support beam, Sam is standing in the middle of the room with another man beside him. Dean cannot see the man's face, but he knows that the shadowed figure is not human.
On the floor in front of Sam and the man, a woman lies on the ground with her wrists and ankles bound together with rotted, dirty rope. Her eyes are large and round, and she is emaciated and brittle. There is a large bruise swelling on the right side of her face, and she whimpers as she looks up at the two men. As she gasps for air, her flat chest heaves, and her collarbone ripples under the surface of her skin. But she is human, no matter how ruined and dying, and she is the first true one Dean has seen since the days following the end.
"Do it," the man hisses to Sam, and Sam does.
As the woman screams, Dean buries his head into his hands. Something acidic rises in the back of his throat, and he fears he will vomit onto the ground below him as he watches her blood cover Sam. Only once she has been stripped of her flesh does Sam burn her body. He never touches a match; his fire is instant and sharp.
Dean does not stay. He turns and runs. His lungs burn, and he tastes his own fear on his tongue. Its taste is bitter and welcomed.
- - - - -
"You saw," Sam says to Dean the next morning.
"I—" Dean begins, but he stops, not knowing exactly what to say. As Sam stares at him, eagerly awaiting his answer, Dean swallows the harsh lump in his throat. "I had to know."
"You knew when the end came."
Dean says nothing to Sam's reply. He only turns his head away from his brother where the smell of smoke is overpowering on his breath.
"Don't follow me again," Sam spits, and after he packs, they are off again.
- - - - -
Sam kills in the day now. Sometimes, when he's feeling especially vicious, he'll bring the few wandering people back to where they are staying and kill them in front of Dean. "You wanted to know about me? Let me show you," he'll say before he rips them apart.
Dean covers his ears and closes his eyes, but their souls still creep inside him anyway. The burnt scent of their flesh seeps into Dean's clothes and doesn't leave him for days. He hears their screams when he sleeps.
"When is it my turn?" Dean asks as Sam and he lie beside a fire outside. Its flames separate them, but Dean is not foolish enough to believe that it is strong enough to stop Sam if he wanted to crawl through it to get to him.
Sam moves his head to stare at Dean. He doesn't understand what his brother says out loud, but once he slips into his thoughts, he sees Dean's meaning clearly.
"I'm not going to kill you," Sam replies, lacing his fingers together over his stomach. Dean wonders if it's a trick of the light that he sees Sam smiling.
"You remember the curse. I'd be a fool to kill you."
"At least someone was looking out for me."
Something bright flashes in Sam's eyes. It is the first time Dean has alluded to what was when the rains came before the end and caressed the earth with their gentle tongues. But, Sam lets Dean's comment go and plays with the sand beside his head.
"The curse wasn't for you, of course. Just had to make sure you wouldn't try anything stupid against me. But still, I think it keeps us both safe, don't you agree?" Sam snaps his fingers playfully and fire darts upward with a crack. He laughs, and Dean rolls over onto his other side and stares into the darkness that never ends.
- - - - -
Dean teases Sam again. A more fearful part whispers that he should not tempt him, but he has grown tired, and he knows that Sam cannot touch him.
"You've killed so many. Why am I any different?"
Sam looks up from the piece of flesh he is slicing into long strips. "You really think I would kill my own brother?" His smirk is vicious, and his lips part on the side to reveal white teeth.
"You're not my brother. That ended a long time ago."
Dean does not remember the exact moment of the end of the world, but he remembers the exact moment he knew his brother—the man—was gone. That was the end of the world for Dean and all he ever needs to know.
"If it's any consolation," Sam says, "I would have killed you a long time ago. Like all of the others before and after I came here. Simply because you are still human. But you know why you still breathe. Your brother's curse."
Dean looks down at his hand where a long, white scar splits his palm in half. Sam did it, only days before he died and left this creature in his wake. It was during the rains, and their father had disappeared on his eternal quest with the belief that the demon was drawing closer. Together, as brothers, they had stood outside under the pounding rain.
"This will keep you safe," Sam had said, cutting open Dean's palm with the switchblade Dean had given him for his sixteenth birthday. As Dean held his bleeding hand, Sam sliced a deep mark through his own. "It will bind us to each other. If you die, I die. If I die, you die. At least…" He stopped and looked up at Dean through his dark hair twisted skinny with the rain. There might have been tears in his eyes, but his face was too wet to discern where the rain stopped and his tears began. "I don't know what's going to happen to me, Dean. I just know that at least I won't kill you with this. No one will."
Then, he pressed their hands together so that the open wounds touched on their palms, and the blood passed between them freely. Red droplets fell from their skin and swirled in the muddy rainwater around their feet.
"Nothing's going to happen to you," Dean said, as he looked down at their clasped hands. "Don't talk like this, okay? You're stronger than this, Sammy. You can beat it. I know you can."
Sam smiled faintly, sadly, and he shook his head. "You can't say that. I can feel it...at night…when I sleep. It's coming, Dean. They're all coming. I don't want you to die because of me."
As they had stood together in the rain, blood flowing from their connected palms down their arms, the sky rumbled and cracked. It was the last conversation with his brother that Dean can remember.
Now, he looks down at the white scar on his palm and runs his fingers across it. He wonders if his brother's hand still has the same one.
Dean knows why he still breathes, and why this demon in the form of his brother does not have the ability to kill him. But, Dean begins to pray for death anyway.
- - - - -
Finally, Dean has waited long enough. He has never forgotten the curse that binds him to his brother, but he had continued to wait through the days following the demons' attack on the world. As one was born and then another, by possessing bodies or rising from the muddy earth, they had ransacked anything they could find. They had raped the women and murdered the men and then burned both in the end anyway.
They had been the end. They in all their numbers and power had destroyed it all.
His father had come to him while the demons pillaged the land and spewed fire from their lips. John had said that he had seen the demon and he would die the next day. John's death, Dean was told, was part of a deal he made with the monster because it had wanted something John had. Even though Dean had asked, his father would not tell him what the demon had desired. John had only told his son what he had received in exchange for his death.
After John was dead, the demon in Sam's form had taken Dean by the shoulder and led him away from the cities that were burning on the horizon. He handed Dean the keys to the Impala and said, "Here. Drive." With the black smoke of thousands in his rearview mirror, Dean had driven, and in the passenger seat next to him, the demon had smirked in pleasure.
But through it all, Dean had waited. Just in case. Just in case Sam would come back to him despite the odds stacked against it. But, Sam never returned, and after watching the killings multiply, Dean is certain that his brother will never live again. So, he sharpens his blade at night while Sam is out, prowling the earth for human flesh, and he waits.
When Sam comes back the next morning, Dean stabs him through the chest and backs away with hot blood dripping from his hands. There is a hissing sound flying through the air as Sam's flesh around the wound begins to curl and burn. Dumbly, they both stare at the knife until Sam pulls it from his chest and tosses it to the ground. The blade hits the sandy ground soundlessly.
"You're not going to kill me," Sam growls. He turns his head to the side and spits black foam onto the ground. The hole in his chest slowly begins to close itself, and the hissing intensifies as the flesh turns from bloody red to human pink.
"I thought…the curse…?" Dean sputters.
"Guess it doesn't work like you thought. Turns out your brother wasn't quite as smart as he believed." He looks down at the place where he was stabbed and presses his finger to the area gingerly. There is no trace of the knife's tear in his chest. "I have friends who know a few tricks too, Dean. They heard about what you and your little brother did before we came, and they, well, they wanted to make sure I was safe from you. Nothing can stop me now. Not even you."
Then, he brings his hand up and in a flash too fast to follow, he hits Dean so hard across the face that he falls to the ground. Dean's legs crumble beneath him like a discarded puppet, and he looks up through watery eyes and holds his bleeding nose. You monsters destroyed everything, Dean thinks, unable to speak through the burning pain in his face.
And Sam hisses, "Yes. You got something right after all, big brother."
- - - - -
Sam comes to their sleeping area one night with two dead animals in his hands for their dinner. "It's over," Dean says, coming out of the shadows in the corner of the cave. He brings one of Sam's knives to his own throat, and the blade presses dangerously against his jugular. It is not the first time he has felt metal beneath his chin, yet it is the first time it has been his fist on the handle. "I have to stop this…you. You all need to go back to Hell."
"You wouldn't," Sam whispers, dropping the animals on the ground where their slit bellies spill pale intestines on the ground. He glances from the knife to Dean's face. His own eyes are fire yellow and black emptiness. Nothing remains of a man inside him anymore, and everything he shows the world is a lie.
"I will. To give them a world back. To stop you."
"You'd kill yourself just to kill me?"
"Not just you," Dean growls. "I know the deal, too."
"And what's that?"
"I know that my father found the Demon—your father—and I know that he made a deal with him. Beyond the curse that Sam made, that is. I know that my dad had to die because the demon needed blood. I never knew why, but I know what he got in return for his death. See," Dean sneers, "it all makes sense now. Your father saw the curse that Sam and I made, and he wanted to make it so you would be completely immortal just in case I tried to kill you. But, he wasn't able to do that without blood from one of us. Well, he couldn't kill you, and he sure as hell couldn't kill me either, so he killed my dad. But, Dad knew what he was doing and added a little bit of something to sweeten the deal for him. My dad bargained so that if I die, all of the demons on earth die. My brother was a smart man, but my father—when it came to you monsters—was fucking brilliant."
"No one would ever agree that."
"He would," Dean replies, forcing the blade onto his throat just hard enough to draw blood. A thin, small line runs down the curve of his neck and disappears beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. "He would if he was desperate to keep you alive, and he needed the blood from someone close to us to seal the deal. He got the blood from my dad's death, and he was able to make it so that you could not be killed by—almost—anything and that my death would bring the end to you all. What he believed, though, was that I'd never have the stomach to kill myself. Thought I wouldn't do it just so I didn't have to see you die."
"I'm your brother, dammit."
"No," Dean snaps, and he's never felt more powerful than this moment right now when he is looking into the eyes of the devil himself. "Sam died," he hisses and spittle flies from his lips when he speaks. "A long time ago. He died, but he didn't leave me completely alone. Not with the likes of you."
"You bastard—" the demon begins, moving toward him to pull Dean's hand away, but Dean, in all of his mortal flesh, is faster. He has been dreaming of this very moment for months through all of the demon's tortures and assaults, and he will not be stopped now. His cut is strong and precise, beautifully deep and blessedly painless.
He falls to the ground and the knife tumbles from his fingers. As he chokes and wheezes, he watches the demon collapse on its human knees. From outside the cave, he hears the screams rolling over the land, and he knows that at long last the monsters are dying. Every last one of them that prowls the earth for human flesh and destroys all of mankind will cease to exist. Their death screams are a beautiful sound.
Beside him on the ground, the demon is gasping for air through Sam's lips. Blood gushes from his mouth and ears and pushes itself through his chest, pooling on the rocky floor around them and mixing with Dean's own. He is saying Dean's name over and over, like a curse then as a blessing.
Finally, he whispers, "Thank you," and Dean know it's really him. Sam.
Sam reaches for his hand, and Dean lets him take it. Their scars split open, and the blood flows from the wounds again as it did when they first made their promise together.
Dean, as he dies, closes his eyes and lets the blackness come freely for him. This is not the end. Even as he tastes the crisp salt of his own blood and the acidic tang of death, he knows that he has already seen the end of the world and lived through the aftermath. This is not the end, he thinks as a soft mist of rain sweeps across his face and carries him to peace. No, not the end.
He has brought the beginning.