Title: Pomegranate Seeds
Summary: On the eve of Sam Winchester's fourteenth birthday, his older brother disappeared. One the eve of Sam Winchester's twenty fourth birthday, he waits to see if his brother will come back. AU. Series.
Disclaimer: The Winchesters and everything else belongs to Kripke and the CW but I've got my bid on eBay. Other characters mentioned in the story belong (mostly) to Mythology. That'll make more sense at the end.
Notes: Thanks to H. T. Marie who posted guidelines on how to post stuff despite the uncooperative upload. Thanks to TraSan who forwarded those guidelines onto me!
Twenty three year old Sam Winchester hated clocks. The first thing Sam would do when he walked into a motel room was remove every single clock or time-telling device from sight, draping them in cloth or taking them physically off the wall if possible. His father allowed this in bemused silence and would quietly set the alarm on his watch to make sure that the pair would be awake in time for the next gig.
Clocks were thieves. You always thought you had plenty of time, that it wasn't that late until you made the mistake of looking at a clock and found that hours had gone by without your knowledge. Clocks turned minutes into hours, hours into days and days ever so slowly into years. Clocks had stolen ten years off Sam so far and he didn't want to give them a minute more.
Sam Winchester never looked at a calendar, he got his dates from newspapers, from news reports. He remembers a school assignment when he was sixteen, the teacher told them to keep a dream diary. She handed out pristine blue notebooks. Sam wrote his name on the front, his form and the teacher's name and handed it back a month later as pristine as it had been when he received it. The teacher had taken one look at Sam's stony face, marked the lack of grade and never asked about it again.
Today was May the first, 2007. As much as Sam tried to avoid marking time as anything other than a thousand yesterdays, that one day a year was engraved as much in his mind as the second of November was in his father's. Now was ten minutes to midnight on the first of May. Sam didn't need a clock to tell him that, to steal the last ten minutes of hope from him, he could feel the time ticking within his bones like the sound of his heart thudding hollowly within his chest.
His father knew about the first of May and so when the pair had returned from the hunt this evening, battered and bruised, his father had stayed just long enough to patch up the worst of his hurts and then headed out of the door to the nearest bar. Sam knew by now that he would be drowning his sorrows deep within a bottle of whiskey. Sam never drank, not even beer. Alcohol stole time even worse than clocks did.
Five minutes to midnight and Sam stood up from the bed and walked over to the meagre kitchen and reached out two tumblers from the cupboard. He set them down with a clink and carefully wiped each one around with a cloth until the dusty glass gleamed like crystal. He walked back to his bag and pulled out the glass bottle he had kept in there for ten years. It was half-empty now from whiskeys always poured away.
Sam poured a finger's width into each glass, his precision-oriented brain making sure that the portions were exactly equal. He reached a carefully wrapped parcel from his bag and unfolded it, taking out two beermats and placed them on the side table in the kitchen. He pulled the ruler out of his bag and carefully measured the distance before arranging the beermats to their correct positioning and placing the tumblers on top.
One minute to midnight. Sam pulled a chair around to the side table and then another. He took his seat on the second, angling his wrist so it nearly curled about one of the glasses and then he glanced towards the door, waiting as his mind counted the seconds down. Fifty. Forty. Thirty. Sam felt his heart thudding louder and louder until it filled his ears. Twenty. Ten. Sam turned his head away from the door and fixed his eyes on the opposite wall. Zero.
There was a knock at the door.
Sam almost surged to his feet, almost dashed to the door but that might break the charm so he stayed exactly where he was, kept his hand on the glass. He forced his heart to slow and his breath to come in deep, even gulps rather than racing pants. He forced his eyes to look at the opposite wall, used every piece of will that he possessed to keep it there.
There came another knock and then the click of a hand twisted the door knob. Sam's instincts screamed at him to look around. He knew that his father disapproved of this ritual but allowed it, knowing that he had to let his son have this hope. Sam gripped the whiskey glass, squeezing it almost tight enough to make it shattered like himself.
Footsteps crossed the floor. They were halted and uneven and when Sam heard a stumble, he wanted to turn around more than he had ever wanted anything before in his life. The footsteps halted and Sam held his breath for the long moments, terrified that they would never start again. The soft thump of another boot fall was the sweetest that Sam heard.
There was the scrape of a chair being drawn back and the scrape of cloth against chair as someone sat. Sam's imagination made it denim: worn jeans, faded at the knees and at the back. He could almost hear breathing, a slightly laboured movement of air in and out. Just one look, his brain whispered in a sibilant tone, just to be sure, what harm?
Sam closed his eyes, not trusting his body not to follow his brain's whisper while his soul screamed. There was a scratching of glass against wood as the other glass was taken, so close to Sam's hand that he could almost reach out and his fingers twitched, twitched to find out if there truly was another beside him. Sam bent his fingers back to the glass, feeling the coolness of the glass.
Sam heard a dry crackling concluded with a wet pop and then a clink of glass against teeth. Sam forced his arm to move once more, lifting his own glass up to his mouth and taking a tiny sip, the whiskey burnt his mouth, scouring away the seconds and minutes and hours and days and months and years. He still didn't dare look to his left until he felt a hand on his arm.
"Sammy," A voice long-missed crackled, the sour burn of whiskey thick in his voice, whiskey and years.
Sam felt like his neck was frozen in place and he turned it so slowly that he could feel every single one of his muscles push and pull. He opened his eyes, watching as the motel room passed gradually until he was facing the newcomer. "Dean?" He said almost disbelieving, "How?"
His brother crooked a smile, pale and cracked lips curving upwards. "Here I thought you had it all figured out. You look old."
"It's been ten years," Sam said, feeling a sob force itself up his constricted throat, "Ten damn years."
Dean raised a hand up to his own face and then brought it across to cup his brother's chin, hazel eyes staring intently as if there is some secret hidden that he could devise if he looks hard enough.
The skin to skin contact shatters the last reserve that Sam possessed and he flings himself off the chair, seizing his brother tightly in his arms and gripping him as a drowning man would to a plank.
"Easy, Sammy," Dean's voice soothes, just like Sam recalls from nightmares when he was younger. "Everything is alright."
Sam almost has to laugh. He would laugh if his throat and chest would unclench enough. "How can everything be alright?" He tilts his head back to stare into his brother's eyes, "You're eighteen."
"I noticed." Dean says, looking down at himself, "I haven't got that long, Sammy."
"No!" Sam's eyes widen, "You can't leave me again, you can't. The legend says…"
"The daughter of the gods got to spend four months underground and eight months on the surface, Sammy. I'm no god. Two hours every ten years." Dean cocked his head to the side, thinking for a moment, "How did you know?"
"I didn't at first." Sam said and he shifted backwards to sit on the chair, "I spent a year just following Dad's leads. I swear we visited every dive inhabited by hunters to try and see if anyone had heard of you. Dad had to bring out photos of you to show so often that they all fell apart. They had heard nothing." Sam swirled his glass, letting the amber liquid distract him for moments, "And then there was a rumour."
Dean rested his gaze on his brother and Sam was struck by how much older he seemed from his eyes. The rest of him seemed as young as the day that Sam had last seem him but his eyes had a bizarre ageless wisdom to them which was disconcerting to say the least. Dean didn't speak, just tilted his glass in Sam's direction to say 'Go on'.
"A woman, styling herself a seer, had been taken down just south of Utah. She'd been kidnapping young girls and killing them, claimed it was blood sacrifice to welcome back the old Gods. Most people assumed that meant pagan." Sam dipped the tip of his finger in the finger and sketched out a couple of symbols on the dirt-smeared table surface. "But I saw those tattooed on the back of each hand. Alpha and Omega. Greek." Sam clarified unnecessarily.
"What connected that to me?" Dean asked, neither confirming nor denying the story Sam related.
"Nothing at first, I just wrote it off as weird. But then the murmurs grew amongst the hunting community that something had demons, all demons, on edge. I followed the lead, I was hoping.." Sam left it hanging, somewhat ashamed of the truth.
"You were hoping it was me? Well, I won't deny I'm a bad-ass, Sammy, but compared to her..."
"Met up with a hunter named Gordon, he's a nasty piece of work, not exactly known for his high moral fibre but he's good at doing what he feels needs to be done. Bastard boasted about a possession, demon inside a little girl who'd started talking, spilling the story out of fear of being exorcised back down there. The Queen of the Underworld is back and she's pissed."
"Understatement, Sammy." Dean replied, a shadow of humour on his pale face.
"So I investigate. Not because I thought it had anything to do with your disappearing but because I needed something to do, something to focus on." Sam's face closed off in a way that it never had when Dean had still been around, "Dad gave up. Said he'd find the thing that killed you some day, same way he swore to find the thing that killed Mum."
"It's not Dad's fault." Dean stated.
Sam shot his brother an aggravated look, "Either way, I tracked down a priestess who still adhered to the old ways. She told me that she had the gift of prophecy: that the Queen of the underworld had awoken, taken a new consort and was looking to take back control. That the seer had been wrong, the old gods weren't awakening, the new ones were. Then she described the consort, described him like he was standing right in front of her."
"Did she do me justice?" Dean asked with a lopsided smile.
"So does Hades know you are sneaky around with his missus?"
Dean laughed, a strong laugh that reminded Sam of the brother he knew, "I forget how little you know, Sam." At his brother's balk, Dean held up a hand, "Not like that. It's just the way I live now, it can be hard to adjust to, you know…"
"Mortality?" Sam prompted, feeling more than a little stung.
"That's one way to put it." Dean replied, giving his brother's shoulder a squeeze, "Hades is gone, imprisoned in the next door vault to all the titans. There was an uprising, younger Gods sought to take their place. Most of the Gods you read about in school are gone now. Hermes is still around but that's 'cos no-one can best the tricksy bugger. He pretends not to be involved much but there's a few things going-on that I'm sure he has a hand in." The matter of fact way in which Dean spoke chilled Sam a little though he kept his expression plain. Dean seemed to notice anyway and just answered with a single shoulder shrug, "The current ruling group are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Gods you knew. They seemed to share much of their predecessors' traits though, slightly less incest but only slightly. The family tree still resembles a spaghetti bush."
"You got a little demi-god of your own yet?" Sam asked, a little jestingly. When Dean just smirked and arched a brow, Sam paled, "You do? You have a kid?"
"Her name is Calisa. I'd bring her to meet you but she's still in that difficult stage where she tends to remove things from sight that annoy her and I'd really rather keep my brother and, you know, America." Dean deadpanned. "I'd show you a picture but, well, Seffy isn't really up on the whole modern thing. Busts are way too heavy to carry around in your pocket."
"Seffy?" Sam choked.
"Yeah, she really hates it when I call her that."
"So you call her that as often as possible?"
"You got it, Sammy." Dean replied. "Cally looks practically the spit of her grandmother on her mother's side. Same nose, same dark brown hair. She's got my eyes though. Her mother's temper. When you and Dad finally send that yellow-eyed bastard down to me, I think I'll let my daughter loose on him."
"Can't you, you know," Sam clicked his fingers twice, "And get the yellow-eyed demon down yourself?"
Dean shook his head, "Seffy's province is the Underworld, even the Queen can't risk pissing off the fates, not seeing as I'm trying to keep the Fates sweet in case you and Dad need an extra bit of luck."
"Same old fates. Same old muses. Some things are timeless."
"For everything else, there's Mastercard." Sam could help the quip but Dean just looked at his strangely pale forehead creasing as he thought. "From the advert." Sam prompted.
A look of recognition stole across Dean's face, "Oh yes. I remember. Sorry, don't tend to watch a lot of TV these days."
"What's it like being married to a goddess?" Sam prompted after the silence between them grew, curiosity outweighing common sense.
"I'm not her husband, I'm her consort. I'm pretty sure that's ancient Greek for plaything. I know she'll get tired of me one day," Dean said in the self-deprecating manner that Sam remembered, "And will probably toss me back up to the surface where I'll be the kick-ass demon hunter once more. Plus I'll get to use cool lines like 'You don't scare me, you should meet my ex. Oh wait, you will'"
"Are you happy?" Sam blurted out, meeting his brother's gaze with worry.
Dean smiled a little sadly at his brother, "I am. It's hard to explain, things are just so different there. Everything is larger than here. I don't mean size, just in general. You laugh louder, you hate stronger, you love.. well, let's just say better and leave it at that." There was a sparkle in his old eyes which was so like the old Dean that Sam felt his chest tighten.
"Do you miss me and Dad?"
"I don't have to, Sammy. One of the perks of being a God's toyboy is I can always be with you, even when I'm not. Saw your graduation from Stanford." Dean held up a hand, "Please don't ask me to explain that, my own brain can't understand it like this."
Dean rolled his eyes and took another long sip of the whiskey, "The realm of the Gods, for lack of a better name, isn't like here. Time, space, everything we cling to has no meaning there. It's… I… You see…" Dean sagged back then abruptly leaned forward, cupping his brother's face between long hands and pressing his own face against it, forehead to forehead, nose to nose, chin to chin.
Sam felt a sensation like the universe exploding in his mind, stronger than any of the psychic visions he had started having. It felt like everything: everything Sam had ever known, everything Sam would ever know, all compressed into an instant. Sam wasn't sure why his body wasn't exploding outwards, shattered into pieces from the force of everything.
Abruptly the sensation and the contact with his brother was gone and there was just Dean, pale faced in front of him, watching him with the same green-hazel eyes framed by dark lashes, "Like that." Dean answered.
"It's like that all the time?" Sam asked, breathless until his body remembered the rising and falling motion required to supply himself with oxygen.
"Yes," Dean answered before amending it to, "No. It is and it isn't. It's like that but it isn't like that. It's not overwhelming, it's just the way it is."
Sam took a moment to try and centre himself, to re-align what was Sam with everything Dean's touch had brought, the tactile memory faded swiftly and leaving only the traces of remembrance behind. "Wow." Sam had always been the smart one but all his words had been taken away.
Dean just laughed and ruffled Sam's hair, "Wow, little brother." A look of infinite sadness crossed over Dean's face and his eyes turned towards the door, "Time to go, little brother."
Sam glanced absently to where his father's watch had been left on the bedside table and instantly regretted it as he lost two hours. Maybe he could pretend he hadn't looked, that the time hadn't passed and that Dean could stay forever. He looked to his brother to plead his case but Dean just shook his head.
"Time for me to go, Sam."
Sam moved to stand in front of the motel door room, "No, Dean. This isn't happening, I'm not letting you leave like this."
Dean shook his head, "It's not that easy, Sammy." Sam's ears picked up the faint noise of thundering hooves, seeming to come from all around and his brother's face turned towards something Sam couldn't see and he grinned and in that moment, Sam could see two Dean's: the pale waxen one in front of him and its shadow, a bronze-toned man with an aura of power, "See you in ten years, little brother." Both echoes said, "Sleep well." There was a resonance to his brother's voice and Sam found himself sinking into sleep, slumping gently down to the floor. The last sounds he heard were the retreated beat of hooves.
At three am, John Winchester walked back into the motel room he shared with the only remainder of his family. Seeing his son slumped on the floor, he rushed to his side, checking for a pulse and then relaxed as the odour of alcohol assailed his nose. He shook his head and placed his hands to support and lift Sam's lanky frame, carrying him over the bed.
He glanced to the debris of his son's bender and fastened the lid tightly onto the empty whiskey bottle and placed the two glasses into the sink to be washed up. Finally John Winchester puts himself to bed, never noticing the soft imprint of lips on the rim of one of the glasses or the lone pomegranate seed resting in the bottom.
A/N: Seffy is, of course, Persephone, daughter of Demeter and possibly Zeus depending on what version of mythology you read. While she is portrayed as an innocent maiden at the time of her abduction, she becomes somewhat of a hard-ass and a true queen of the underworld, perfect gal for Dean, eh? She is the one however who gives Orpheus the chance to rescue Eurydice from the underworld (which is what inspired the opening sequence) though Orpheus screws it up unlike Sammy.
This was a bit of a WTF plot bunny. Started in one place, meandered to something else and finally coagulated to something different altogether. It will be a series, each set ten years apart but probably slowly updated and each one will pretty much stand-alone.
Feedback is always appreciated.