Supernatural: still not mine.
This is a tag for episode 2x14, "Born Under a Bad Sign", and most likely won't make sense unless you at least know the basic premise of the episode (contains spoilers, obviously). There's some violence and gore. I know everyone and their dog's already done a tag for this ep, but I wanted to write something for my friend buffyaddict, because she's one cool lady (and writes awesome fic, you guys should check it out), and I knew she wasn't happy with the end of this episode, so. Unashamedly angsty, so there.
The Devil You Know
It didn't happen straight away.
They didn't tell him what was going on, not really, nothing beyond possessed and, later, when he and Dean were alone, murder. At first, there was nothing, not even a void, just a blink-of-the-eye transition between a burger bar in Texas and the floor in Bobby's cabin, so sudden that it took Sam a moment to adjust his balance, and a hell of a lot longer than that to get his mind working beyond something's happened and I missed something. Even after they told him (not that they told him much), he just couldn't grasp it, because there was nothing, there was nothing there, no dreams, no swirling grey mists obscuring his memory, not even darkness. It was like someone had edited out a week of his life, and all that was left was a stutter in the movie.
That first night, though, the night they spent at Bobby's because Dean was to fucked up to drive (and that must have been me, Sam thought, not that they told him about it), Sam lay in the darkness and tried desperately to remember something, anything. How could it be lost like that, how could something just steal his body without even leaving a trace? Had he fought it, had he tried to communicate with it? Had he even existed for those seven days?
Around three, he closed his eyes, and saw the face of a defiant stranger crumple in death, discovered what it felt like to slit a man's throat, how the knife sounded as it slid through flesh, smooth as butter. He made it all the way to the bathroom before he threw up, and he supposed he ought to be grateful for that, but instead he looked down at his hands, at the bruises that had appeared on the knuckles, and wondered if he would ever remember where they came from (even though he knew they matched the bruises on Dean's face). That was me, he thought, remembering how the blood had looked almost black in the darkened room. I was there.
He remembered Jo half way through the following day, Dean still sleeping upstairs and Bobby out in the scrap yard, and he was hit by the memory so hard that he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath. They hadn't told him about Jo, and even now he didn't know where she fit in, what had happened to her (Jesus Christ, I didn't kill her, did I?), just that he had been with her at some point, that he had held a knife to her throat, had smashed her head against a bar. He remembered other things, too, pressing too close to her, the smell of her hair, her frightened whimpers. Oh God, I didn't, I didn't. But he didn't know if he had. All he knew was that he had been there.
Sam had injuries he didn't remember getting, all of them fresh like they happened yesterday, though he supposed that was a function of the demon only leaving his body then. His ribs were badly bruised, and he thought one of them might be cracked; he had a lump on the back of his head, hidden by his hair, what he suspected was a sprained wrist, and three long scratches down his back that pulled and tore at the slightest provocation.
Dean had a bullet-hole in his shoulder and a face that looked like he'd been on the losing end of an argument with Hulk Hogan. He walked carefully, gingerly, and when he looked at Sam Sam caught the tail end of a week's worth of terror.
Sam didn't say anything about his injuries.
Even once it started happening, it was slow, gradual. After the first day, Sam didn't remember anything for a while, and when he did, it was just more snippets from his encounters with Jo and Steve Wandell. He never remembered enough, never knew enough to be sure he hadn't raped Jo (he didn't ask Dean, because he wasn't sure he could trust him to give an honest answer, even if he knew; the only person who knew for sure was Jo herself, and Sam couldn't ask her), but enough to keep him awake at night, feeling the sweat trickle down his spine and listening to Dean breathing in the next bed. He had two images now, two short sections of film between Texas and South Dakota; between them, they added up to maybe three hours of knowledge.
Seven days. Seven days was a hundred and sixty-eight hours. Sam knew now that he must have existed for those hours. The only question was, what else had he done?
The third memory hit him two months after the possession, when he was standing halfway up a flight of stairs, levelling a shotgun at a rapidly-approaching spirit. It took the breath from his lungs and the strength from his arms, and the shotgun clattered to the ground moments before the spirit used whatever power it had to push him down the steps. Sam didn't feel it when he hit the ground, though, because he was too busy finding out how it feels to have your arm buried up to the elbow in the guts of someone who's still alive. The memory wasn't even long enough for him to see whether the person whose final heart-beats had played out against his skin was male or female, but it was long enough for Sam to want to rip out the section of his brain that held it, long enough that he didn't sleep or eat for three days, until Dean started to look so scared that Sam forced himself to pretend everything was normal. He had a sprained ankle and a concussion from the fall; he wished it had been worse.
Sometimes, Sam would get memories that weren't so bad, flashes of driving or walking or looking at himself in the mirror, snippets that were indistinguishable from his real life, except that in the memories he wasn't in control of what his body was doing. Sometimes, he thought those memories were even worse; they would creep up on him at unguarded moments, and he would be driving, or walking, or looking at himself in the mirror and suddenly he wouldn't know any more whether he was real or just a spectator. Wouldn't know whether if he tried to lift his hand it would obey his orders. Wouldn't know if the next time he opened his eyes he would be somewhere else again, with new stains on his hands, maybe worse ones this time. He clenched his hand around the charm Bobby had given them until it bled, but he didn't have faith in it. He didn't have faith in anything any more.
One minute, Sam was driving down the Interstate with Dean dozing beside him, and the next he was picking up a child – a little girl – by the hair and flinging her against a wall. The crack her head made as it impacted the plaster was louder than Dean's frantic cries, louder than the screech of tyres and the blaring of car horns. The broken body slid down the wall, leaving a trail of blood in its wake, and hit the floor at the same moment that the memory cut off, leaving Sam panting and retching, his arms and legs hopelessly tangled up in Dean, who was lying half on top of him, his hands on the steering wheel, cursing like it was going out of style.
"Jesus Christ, Sam," Dean yelled, and Sam saw that the car was tilted; they were on the verge, but they hadn't crashed, and Sam had to be grateful for that if only because it meant that Dean wasn't hurt.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," he gasped, and he wasn't talking about the car, not really.
Dean didn't know, not about the memories, but he was Dean, and he could always tell when something was up, so now he looked at Sam and grimaced.
"Yeah, well," he said, "you're not driving any more, you got me?"
He didn't ask, and Sam didn't tell.
It turned out that a really determined demon could manage to make a hell of a mess in a hundred and sixty-eight hours. Sam searched the internet for names and dates; he hoarded the snippets of memory, piecing them together, putting names to faces (Sarah Jessop, died of blunt-force trauma, killer still at large; Jonathan Eccles, murdered in his bed, police are baffled) putting events in order. He didn't want to remember any more, but he had a duty; somebody had to remember this.
Sometimes, they would come close to a town he knew he'd been to then, usually because he'd found a clipping which told him so (and wasn't it ironic that he, who'd spent so many hours relishing the power he had over printed words, was now at their mercy for knowledge of his own past), and at those times Sam would find some way to take them around, to change direction entirely if he could. Dean would frown at him, puzzled, sometimes make a smartass remark, but he didn't refuse. He never refused Sam anything, never except that once.
The Demon came for Sam one balmy night in May, three years after the possession. It took them two months, two months of running and hiding and frantically searching for answers, before they were able to finally confront it. As it burned to nothingness in front of them, Dean cried out in triumph. "I told you, you bastard," he screamed, like he'd lost his mind, like he was happier than he'd ever been in his life. "I said you'd never get Sammy."
Sam lay on the floor where the last shock-wave had flung him, looking up at the ceiling, and for a moment he was standing on a dark pier watching as he shot his own brother, listening to the splash as Dean's body hit the water. The film jumped, and he was standing at the edge, looking down, and he could feel from the way his muscles stretched that he was smiling.
When he came back to the present, Dean had dragged himself over and was grinning like an idiot. "Thank Christ that's over," he said.
Sam smiled and looked down at his hands, at the knuckles that had long since healed over, leaving no trace of the bruises that he still didn't remember receiving.
It'll never be over, he thought.