Well, I'd meant for Aftermath to be a one-shot, but then this conversation between Luke and Sam popped into my head this summer. I'd just about abandoned it because the first episode of season three kind of ruined my whole "the boys take some time regrouping at the Sweeds'" premise by having the boys "regrouping" by Dean sleeping with lots and lots of girls. And Sam sitting in the car.
But, this week's episode and Dean's conversation with the demon girl about God and Satan and the Bible kind of brought this one into the fore of my brain again. It's not really a response to that—primarily because I started it months ago—but ultimately it does deal, I think, with some of what was said there.
So, this takes place during the time the Winchesters are at the Sweeds.
Talk of a religious—specifically Christian—nature follows. You've been warned. :)
As Sam approached the kitchen, he was surprised to see the light already on. It was early. The rest of the house was dark, and Sam didn't think that even Jo was up.
He could smell coffee as he stumbled blearily into the room. "Hey."
Luke's head came up as Sam walked in. "Mornin'," he returned.
Sam's eyes went to the book on the table in front of Luke. A Bible. He stopped, took a half-step back. "Sorry. I didn't mean to…."
But Luke was shaking his head. "You're not," he said easily. "Coffee's up." His went back to what he'd been reading.
"Thanks," Sam mumbled. He made his way uncertainly to the counter and poured himself a cup. He bit his lip before he put the carafe back on the burner, then took the two steps to Luke's elbow and refilled the mug there.
Luke grunted his thanks, and Sam put the pot back into the machine before he opened the fridge, pulling out cream. He took his time adding the milk and sugar, not sure what to do next. He was about to put the carton back in the fridge when Luke closed his Bible.
"Hand me that half-and-half, would you, Sam?"
Sam did, shuffling to the table and dropping into a seat while Luke fixed his coffee.
The two men sat in a comfortable silence in the still kitchen. It was dark out yet. Not even a hint of light to gray the sky visible through the curtains of the window.
"You're up early," Luke observed.
Sam shrugged and gave a small smile. His eyes ran over the worn Bible and then out the window. "What are you reading?" Not looking at Luke.
Luke took a breath, and Sam heard the slide of leather across the surface of the table.
"Workin' my way through Matthew," Luke said. There was the sound of pages ruffling as the Bible was opened and then closed again.
"Not Revelation?" Sam turned his head and quirked a smile at Luke's startled expression.
The man blinked and then laughed, full-throated and long. "The thought had occurred to me," he admitted with a last chuckle.
Sam gave him a rueful look. "What? You haven't yet?"
Luke just smiled, sitting back in his chair. "I'm kind of methodical in my scripture reading, Sam," he said. "I like to finish one thing before I move on to the next." He took a swallow of coffee. "I'm thinking I might do a topical study after this," he said with a raised eyebrow in Sam's direction.
Sam huffed out a bitter-sounding breath. "On what? Hell-spawn?" He hunched his shoulders up around his ears, wrapping both hands around his mug, eyes dropping.
That focused Luke's attention on him full-bore.
"No," the man said mildly.
"About what then?" Sam asked, looking up. Made it a challenge, although he wasn't sure why. He was suddenly mad.
Luke shrugged. "I was thinking about looking up people raised from the dead," he said, looking at Sam without expression.
Sam didn't say anything, but he eased out his shoulders, curious now.
"I know there's Lazarus," Luke continued. "But then your brother's not Jesus," he said dryly, and Sam snorted. "And some of the apostles raised folks from the dead – Peter did, I'm almost positive. And maybe Paul."
"Anybody do it by making a deal with a demon?" Sam asked. It was a genuine question, but there was a bite to it, as well.
"Not that I know of," Luke said honestly.
"So, maybe not a lot of help there," Sam said.
Luke didn't say anything for a minute, fiddled with the cover of his Bible while Sam drank his coffee in angry gulps.
"Are you worried you've come back changed, Sam?"
The question startled Sam. It was the anxiety that thrummed just under the surface of every conversation and interaction he'd had – with Dean, with Jo, with Luke. No one had said anything about it, but it was there.
It was almost a relief to have it out in the open.
Even if it scared the hell out of him.
He stared at Luke across the table, swallowing back the fear. "I don't know," he whispered. Then, more honestly, "Yeah."
Luke didn't flinch from Sam's gaze. Nodded his understanding. "Do you feel different?"
"I don't know," Sam whispered again.
"I…" Sam started. Took a breath. "I killed the guy who killed me, Luke. I shot him. And I didn't care. I just…." He trailed off, hands gripping his mug so hard his knuckles were white. Luke was silent.
"It was… I knew something was wrong. I'd felt it. Since I'd woken up. Felt… I thought …" He trailed away, shaking his head. "I don't know what I thought. And then Jake, the way he looked at me, like… and he said … and Dean was standing there, looking guilty as hell, and I …"
Sam knew it was disjointed, that what he was saying probably made no sense to the man sitting with him. But he couldn't stop himself. Couldn't take the time to put his words into a coherent narrative. It just spilled out of him—random, frightened, angry thoughts suddenly given voice. "I hadn't killed him. And he'd killed me. Gone over to the demon's side. Like Ava." Sam fought back a grief-stricken, bewildered rage. They'd tried to find her, to save her.
"And Andy…" Sam's breath caught—helpless, terrified Andy, who'd tried so hard, who'd looked at Sam like he was their only hope. Another failure. One more person he'd let down, had gotten killed. "And suddenly I wanted him dead more than anything else and it… it felt good. Good that he was dead, good to kill him, and I just kept pulling the trigger, and…"
Sam's breath started to hitch. "And what if… what if…." He hunched over, wrapping his arms around himself, horror at the possibility—that he was evil, that he was truly lost, past saving—suddenly making it almost impossible to breathe.
Sam was dimly aware of the scrape of a chair and the weight of a hand on his neck.
"And Dean…" Dean. He was going to lose Dean, too.
And the words left him completely. He could only gasp, working to pull air into lungs that seemed to have stopped functioning. Panic and terror and….
The grip on his neck tightened sharply, Luke's voice in his ear telling him to take it easy, soothing and commanding at the same time. "Shhh, Sammy, shhh. It's OK, kiddo. It's going to be OK. Settle down."
Settle down. Dad's words. Gentle. Firm. Never to be ignored. Sam struggled to obey. Settle down, Sammy. Settle down. And it was Dad next to him, large hand on his head, rough fingers through Sam's hair, calming a bad dream. I've got you. I'm here.
Sam squeezed his eyes closed tight.
But he wasn't. Dad wasn't here. Wasn't here to fix it. Wasn't here to yell at Dean, just by the sheer power of his presence, to make Dean see that he'd been wrong, to somehow undo it.
I can't do this. I can't…
"It's OK, Sam." Not Dad.
Sam let the words and quiet murmur of hushing noises wash over him. He wasn't sure if he was listening to Luke or the long ago comforts of his father.
He drew in a steadying, shuddering breath. Made himself relax the hold around his middle, rested his elbows on his knees, head still bowed under the pressure of Luke's palm against the nape of his neck.
"Sorry," Sam whispered.
Luke's hand shifted, fingertips scratching comfortingly against the scalp on the back of Sam's head.
"Nothin' to be sorry for," Luke said evenly. "You OK?" The fingers stopped their movement, hand coming to rest again on Sam's neck.
"Yeah," Sam said, starting to straighten.
Luke gripped Sam's shoulder briefly before he dropped his hand, rising to go get them both glasses of water. He put one in front of Sam before moving back to his place at the end of the kitchen table.
There was quiet between them for a long moment and Sam wasn't sure if it was comfortable or not.
"Look, Sam." Luke broke the silence and Sam glanced up, uneasy when he saw the troubled look on the other man's face.
"I don't have any idea what to tell you, son." Luke's eyes, when the met Sam's were cloudy with uncertainty. "I'm trying to figure out what do with all this myself. On a bunch of different levels."
Sam nodded, and Luke frowned, thoughtful.
"I… The only thing I know for sure is that God is sovereign over everything that happens in this world; and that the outcome of this war has never been in question, that it was won two thousand years ago."
Luke said it with such conviction that Sam felt a shiver of unexpected hope run down his spine.
"I don't know, though," Luke paused, "that that means Dean won't go to hell." His voice was tight and if Sam felt tears start into his eyes, he saw the same shine in Luke's before he blinked them away. "There are consequences to our choices. And Dean's…." Luke shook his head.
"I understand the temptation to make the decision he did, Sam. I do," Luke said, voice breaking. "And the fact that you're here makes it hard to condemn him for it." He swallowed heavily. "But…" He broke off. "But making a deal… making it with who he did… I…."
"I know," Sam said quietly.
They sat for awhile, each lost in his own thoughts. It was Luke who spoke first.
"God wasn't surprised by the deal Dean made, Sam; it didn't catch God with His pants down. And I don't believe that there's any choice we can make that God can't redeem, that He can't use for His purposes." He met Sam's eyes steadily across the kitchen. "I believe that, Sam. I believe that God can take this deal, this decision your brother made out of grief and desperation, and turn it into something good beyond anything we could ever imagine." He paused for a second, cleared his throat. "And I'm praying that that redemption includes Dean's life. That's what I'm praying for, what I'm trusting God for."
Sam bit his lip, couldn't stop the words that stuttered out of his mouth.
"But. What if …?"
Luke watched him, eyes dark with understanding and the same fear. "If… if the 'what if' happens… I don't… I guess… we'll deal with it then," he said.
Sam blinked at Luke, trying to draw on some of the faith he saw there, even in the midst of the uncertainty. He wanted that faith; he needed it. "OK," he whispered making the decision to trust. If not in his own faith, then Luke's, at least for now. "OK."
In the stillness that followed, Sam wondered vaguely how long he'd be able to maintain this tenuous grasp on belief he had right now.
"And, Sam?" Luke's voice startled Sam out of his thoughts. He looked up at Luke.
"I don't believe you've come back changed. Just for the record," the older man said.
"You… you don't?" Sam asked unsteadily.
"Why not?" Sam was somewhat thrown by Luke's easy response.
Luke gave Sam a long, quizzical kind of look. "I dunno," he said honestly, shaking his head. "I just don't see it."
Sam frowned at Luke, who shrugged.
"That's definite," Sam muttered.
Luke huffed out a laugh as he stood. "Sorry, kiddo. Gut feeling, I guess. Or the Holy Spirit." He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows when Sam looked startled. "Seriously, Sam. I don't know. I just think you're you." He patted Sam on the shoulder when he walked past him on his way out the door to get ready for his day.
"That's my story," came drifting back toward Sam as Luke disappeared back into the family room, "and I'm sticking to it."