A/N: Abni—Sorry for being so late with this chapter, the fault is all mine. My muse is fickle at the moment, and work keeps interrupting my attempts to write. A huge thank you to Muffy who finally told me to 'sit-stay-write' – and made things start to happen.
A/N: Muffy—We've backed this up a little, so we know what happened with Sam just before Tony's murder and what's going on with Hilda. And please remember—Dean doesn't remember who Sam is…
Cold Wind to Valhalla
Night angels serve
with ice-bound majesty—Jethro Tull
Sam strode away from the two hunters, hurrying to get away before Tony could start talking to Dean. Who knows what he might say? I can't even keep track of half the things people – and demons – are saying about me anymore. I hope he doesn't turn Dean against me. For some reason the thought that Dean might think he was evil caused a fear in him that had nothing to do with fearing for his life. What's going on? Why do I feel such a connection with that guy? I don't even know him, why should I care what he thinks about me?
He was pulled from his thoughts when a stab of pain pierced through his brain. No, no, please, no, please stay away. Please wait until I'm farther away. If they come after me… I get the feeling Dean doesn't care much for demons, and if he thought… I need to get away… Another stab of pain blinded him, making him stumble, hitting the wall of the building sharply with his shoulder. He tried to focus his energy on suppressing the images that he knew were trying to force their way into his brain.
His mind cleared again, the control slipping back into place. He released the breath he had been holding and once more set out for the other end of town where he hoped he could catch a ride. I better get away from here pretty fast. He frowned again as a wave of regret rolled over him. Somehow, the feeling seemed strangely familiar. Why does it feel this way? I should be happy to be leaving, so why do I feel like I want to stay? Suddenly an image broke through his defences, a memory of a day years before.
He was fighting with his father again, but this time he was determined not to back down. He picked up his already-packed bag, slinging it over his shoulder, then picked up his acceptance letter from where his father had thrown it on the floor, holding it close to his chest like a shield. "I'm leaving, and you can't stop me. This is the life I want." Then he turned and walked out the door, his steps heavy and growing heavier when he heard his father's final words. "If you walk away now, you don't come back, you hear me? You go, you stay gone!" The tears rolled down his face as he clenched his teeth and kept walking, ignoring the hole growing inside him.
He came back to reality with a gasp, finding himself slumped against a trashcan, the icy metal burning his hands, sticking to his skin as he tore them away. He breathed heavily a few times, trying to calm the emotions welling up in him, the hurt and regret of leaving, the pain of turning his back on his father and the life he wanted him to live. And here I am, back in it with no hope of ever leaving it. I once thought I could, but now… After what I've seen, after what the demon showed me… There's no going back for me, ever. I'm stuck with this life. Alone.
He started when a car came tearing down the road a bit too fast, sliding a little on the icy road. He tried to look past the blinding headlights coming towards him, realising as he did so that he was hoping it was the black Impala. He felt a renewed pang of regret when he realised it wasn't, and he couldn't help following the car with his eyes until the taillights disappeared in the distance.
A lonely road in the middle of nowhere. A car door slamming, an engine rumbling, the lights disappearing in the distance as he stood there, once again having exiled himself from the company of others. Then he turned and started walking the lonely road to a destination only he knew.
He blinked, then shook his head, trying to chase the images and the pain away. What the hell is going on? Why am I getting these images? They feel like memories, I know some of them are, but are they all? He felt fear welling up in him, a fear like the one he had felt when he had first realised he had special 'powers' and might be more closely connected to the world of the supernatural than he would like to be. I guess I always knew that would lead to this life in solitude. I just wish they'd stop with what I've already got, I don't need anything more, I thought they would have stopped when the demon died… Get a grip, focus, stop thinking about this, there's nothing you can do about it anyway. Accept it and move on.
He continued his walk down the road, his head bowed against the bone-chilling wind that kept blowing tiny snowflakes like needles into his face. He stopped abruptly, thinking he heard a distant scream, but then dismissed it as being the howling wind. Hell of a night to be out in. I'd rather just find somewhere to hole up for the night, but I'd better get out of town before they start talking. I have a better chance of disappearing that way, and something tell me that I'll have to do that if Tony tells Dean what people are saying about me. Although I don't think the chances of getting a ride are that big, only crazy people would go out in this weather, let alone drive… Maybe I should just squat somewhere, an abandoned warehouse or just a shed would be preferable to this. Wouldn't be the first time, either… These last months, since dad…
He pulled his thoughts away from the memory of the bleakness and loneliness of the last months, instead trying to focus on his next course of action – which at the moment only consisted of getting out of town and away from Dean and Tony. He shuddered violently as he passed a gap between two houses where the wind blew straight at him, swirling snow and icy air into every single aperture in his clothes. He felt chilled to the bone and longed for the earlier warmth of the car. He could feel his battered muscles starting to stiffen up, too; his movements unable to compete with the force of the weather.
If I had known I was going to be out in a freaking blizzard, I would have bought the appropriate equipment. Maybe even a dog sled. He grinned, imagining Dean's face if he suggested exchanging the Impala for one. What the… Where did that thought come from? What the hell is happening to me, why do I keep thinking about that guy? Somehow I feel that I know him, but how can I? I'd never even seen him until yesterday, yet…
This time there was no warning, no stab of pain, no flash of light to let him know what was coming, just a myriad of images pounding their way into – or rather out of – his mind with a force that brought him instantly to his knees, forcing a groan from his lips.
A woman burning on the ceiling, his name the last word on her lips as the flames consumed her. Then a pair of hands around him, pulling him from the flames, from the woman he loved, from his own death.
He's fighting with a man – Dean? – who's threatening to kill him. The man rushes him, the movement throws them both onto a coffee table that shatters beneath them. Sam is winded, unable to move, and the man take the opportunity and starts strangling him, pleasure in his eyes as he sees Sam's panicked movements grow weaker. Then someone else – Dean?? – barges in and shoots the man. Soon after a gentle pair of female hands support his head, but what's making him feel safe is the presence of Dean in the room.
He's being strangled again – man, how he hates that feeling – this time by a lamp cord, a freaking possessed lamp cord, that is slowly tightening around his neck. His last thought – or so he thinks – is that he has failed. Then Dean arrives, he's barely conscious but he knows his brother's there, and soon after everything is alright, he's able to breathe again and his brother is there, he is safe.
"He's my brother!" Sam's conscious mind screamed to him, but he was unable to fight the memories that kept pounding him, rushing into his consciousness now that the door had been opened and he was starting to remember. They kept coming, faster and faster, as if he was about to remember his entire life in a matter of minutes. Then they changed, visions finding their way in too, blending with the memories to become a swirling blizzard of images as past, present and future started assaulting him all at once.
His brother's eyes upon him, gentle, compassionate, reassuring, telling him that everything's going to be alright. "As long as I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to you," he says.
"I want us to be together again. I want us to be a family again." His brother's voice is sincere, more vulnerable than he has ever heard it before. Still he speaks the words that he knows are going to break his heart. "Dean, we ARE a family. I'd do anything for you. But things will never be the way they were before." "Could be," his brother says wistfully. Then he delivers the final blow. "I don't want them to be. I'm not going to live this life forever. Dean, when this is all over, you're going to have to let me go my own way."
Flames, white-hot flames surrounding a body, an anguished scream resounding in his mind. Smoke swirling around the figure, sometimes thickening and moving closer, causing the figure to cry out in pain, sometimes hovering in front of the figure as if communicating with it, causing the figure to draw back, shaking its head in denial of what it is hearing. Sam recognises the figure's voice, he'd know his brother anywhere. The thought of him in hell is unbearable.
Swirling snow, a figure attacking him from above, throwing him to the ground. Then the image changes, and he sees the figure tearing into the hunter – Tony – drawing the life from him, revelling in his pain, his screams, his death.
The significance of what he saw finally broke through to his conscious mind, and he struggled towards the surface, back towards consciousness. He felt a pair of hands on his face, and for a moment felt safe. Dean is here, he's found me, everything is alright now. It's here, the thing, it's here…We have to stop it, Dean, we have to find it before… Then alarm bells went off in his mind as he realised the hands were icy-cold, far from the warm, gentle touch of his brother. He forced his eyes to focus on what was before him instead of on the images that still tried to claim his attention and felt a stab of fear when he found himself faced with a woman with nearly-white hair, whose mere presence was enough to freeze him both physically and mentally.
He tried to pull back, sensing how she was trying to force her way into his mind, but she wouldn't let him go. She took a firm grip on his face, forcing him to face her again, and when she whispered "No, let me look," he felt her break through his last defences and enter his muddled mind as he slipped back into the grip of the visions and memories that swirled there, now uncontrollably holding him captive with her as an avid spectator to the torture he was suffering in his own mind.
His brother's lifeless body lying in a pool of water, taser gun still in his limp hand. His relief when his CPR worked and his brother was still alive when the paramedics arrived. Then the image changed and instead of paramedics, huge black dogs came bounding down the stairs, tearing Dean from his grasp and disappearing in the blink of an eye, a red pool of blood on one of the stairs the last evidence of him.
Standing next to a hole in the ground where a casket he knew was empty was slowly being lowered. All thought had gone, all life in him disappeared as surely as the last trace of his beloved Jess had been burned away. Exactly the same way that his mother had been torn from their lives so many years before.
A funeral pyre in the dark, in a lonely clearing in the woods. His brother beside him, his father before him in the flames. Then suddenly no one beside him, and a different body in the flames.
And soon after, she was more than just a spectator as she went in deeper and opened the door further, forcing the past to dominate his mind, forcing the memories of his brother to come back to him. He moaned as the pain of her intrusion was added to the emotional pain the memories brought him.
"If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to save you!"
A terrible pain in his head, a warm liquid sliding down his cheeks as the pain increased, making his brain feel as if it were about to explode, the mirror image of him saying scathing words that pierced his heart and made him feel he deserved what was coming to him. Then a figure beside him, glass shattering around him, a gentle pair of hands on his head and a worried voice calling his name.
"Sammy, I've got this. I'll do it." "No, she asked me to." His heart is breaking as he says the words, knowing what he's about to do. "Sammy, you don't have to." "Yes, I do." He's having trouble breathing, the tears are falling unhindered down his face. His voice is barely more than a whisper as he holds out his hand to get the gun. "Please…" He can't say another word, but his brother understands and hands him the gun, nodding his comprehension, showing his support. "Just wait here," he manages to say, then walks towards the room where a dark-haired woman is waiting.
Waiting for him to kill her.
"He said that I might have to kill you, Sammy!" Desperation, grief, pain in his brother's eyes at the terrible confession of their father's last words.
He's alone in a ghost town, or no, not alone, there's a man on the ground, he's about to kill him when something stops him from delivering the final blow. Then he hears the voice that makes everything alright, and he turns towards it, calling his brother's name, relieved that he's alive, wanting to tell him that things are ok, he didn't do it, he didn't fulfil the demon's plan, he turned away from his destiny, he's finally free. Then a white-hot pain in his back, the next thing he knows he's kneeling on the ground, Dean's anguished face and voice swimming in and out of his consciousness – or is it he who is swimming? Then there's only a dark void.
An emptiness inside him that not even the demon's death can fill as he realises what his brother has done for him. And at the same time a love and grief so intense that it's threatening to overwhelm him, but he forces it down and makes a promise that he intends to keep no matter what it will cost him. "You're my big brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you. And I don't care what it takes, I'm going to get you out of this. Guess I've got to save your ass for a change."
He struggled to escape the memories, his instincts screaming to him, telling him of the danger he was in. "No," he moaned, barely above a whisper. "My brother…" He tried to focus on the thought of Dean, to use it as an anchor in the whirlpool of images that kept pulling at him. Then all hope was torn from him as she moved deeper into his mind. The pain of the intrusion become almost unbearable as she grasped at the roots of his memories and started shaping them to her will. No, please don't, please, Dean, I have to get to…He's my brother, NO! With a final effort, his conscious mind fought to expel her from his mind, but he only managed to whisper a desperate "no," before his mind succumbed to her ancient powers and he was lost.
The snow swirled around her as she left the hunter. His body steaming in the snow, the wisps of moisture carried away like spirits to the afterworld. He'd come as she requested, eager for pleasure. And there had been pleasure. She sighed, nearly perfect, his screams had been particularly satisfying. He'd accomplished his part of the game before he came to her. It is good, hunter. You will be rewarded. She walked away into the night, still tasting his blood. She'd been hungry, it had been days since her last feast and she'd been feeling the hunger. Soon the brothers… The cold was all-encompassing, she sighed, letting it flow into her, letting the wind catch her hair. It was a near perfect night.
A sound caught her attention. She walked along the edge of a building. It had been human. Someone in pain. She was curious. Humans are weak, most of them. The building was on the far end of town from the hotel and restaurant where she'd left the body of Tony Kramer. Running her hand along the ice-cold windows, she rounded the corner.
"Thank you, beloved one," she whispered, reverently. Sam Winchester was crouched against the wall, hands grabbing his head. Hilda walked forward and lifted his face, looking in his eyes. "Visions?" She recognized the unfocused look in his eyes. She'd known many seers and visionaries through the ages. Some were a lovely treat. They once offered me…The boy tried to pull from her grasp. "No, let me look." She crouched down beside him and put her hands on either side of his head. He couldn't resist. She slid easily into his mind.
Nightmare images assaulted her, she sighed as the pain and anguish washed over her. Memories and visions blended into an intricate knot. He didn't seem to know when memories ended and vision began. An idea suddenly blossomed, pleasure running through her body as the thought of another trial before the final moments.
She forced her way in further. He moaned, the invasion creating physical pain. Her breath came faster. No, no, let me show you. She let his memories rise to the surface, slowly, tantalizing him with fragments of his life. Yes, right. He moaned again, "no" whispering into the cold night. "My brother…" His voice was agonized as he grated the words out. Yes, brother, but not for long. This time it will last. As slowly as she had let him remember, she began tearing those chunks of his life away again. A nagging doubt raised its head, only briefly. The spell shouldn't have slipped like this…Something about these two…I need to be careful.
Now, my hunter, look what you've done. She layered in memories, some her own, some her imaginings. His hand, his knife, killing the hunter. Sam moaned again, a whispered "no" escaping his lips. She let go of him, he leaned against the wall, tears tracking down his face. She opened his bag, found a knife, a very distinctive knife, and pulled it out.
"Come, my hunter," she said, pulling him up. He took her hand and like a child let himself be led back through town. She stopped by the body of the hunter and handed Sam the knife. He took it, looking at it with a stunned expression. She smiled at him and grabbed his hand, knife and all, in a savage grasp and drove him down, pushing the knife into the body, letting the blood, now cold, splash on him. Sam could feel the icy drops as they splattered his face and dripped slowly down his cheeks.
When she was done she looked at him. He stayed on his knees, the stunned look still in his eyes. "Good, stay." She put her hand on his head again, he screamed in pain and dropped against the wall. "He'll find you soon," she sighed. "The game goes on." With a gentle kiss on the top of his head she walked away, aware of his blood on her hands, warming her where it touched her skin. Soon, soon, soon.
Burning a body in a snowstorm proved to be quite a challenge. The wind blew the fire out three times, the snow made the flames fizzle and burn weakly. Dean kept adding gasoline, hoping he wouldn't blow himself up, but wanting to honor his friend. Eventually the blaze caught and the body burned slowly away. Dean stood watching, another funeral pyre coming to mind, the tears on his face not for Tony, but for the man he'd burned a year before. Damn it, dad. He sighed. The pain of that night was suddenly fresh, open, like a new wound. What? Somewhere lost in that memory was another, an awareness of a comforting presence beside him. What the hell? My guardian angel? Yeah, right. Would be nice. If angels were real, and if any of them would look out for me. Right.
He picked up his empty gas can and headed back towards the hotel and bar. He'd dragged Tony far enough away so the blaze would be partially hidden in the dark, stormy night. Like many small towns in the West, this one just fronted the main street, beyond that there was nothing. Endless miles of nothing. Dean looked into the dark, trying to see in the swirling snow. Endless miles of nothing that can hide anything.
What Tony had told him played in his mind again and again. Sam, the man who'd saved his life, had somehow been responsible for opening the gate, for his father's death. I still find that hard to believe, but face it, genius, he murdered Tony. Well, he butchered Tony. That wasn't simple murder. Dean had seen many bodies over the years, but the violence with which Tony had met his end would haunt him for many years to come. Been a long time since a body made me want to barf.
As he walked back, he planned out the next days. He'd head out of town in the direction Sam had taken. The storm was easing a little, but Dean figured his prey couldn't get too far, no matter how determined he was. I'll head out tonight. I might be able to catch him on the road. Then what? That's easy. We talk, I kill. Dean thought he saw something moving in the night, flitting on the edge of his vision. What the hell? He sped up his pace a little, not wanting to be ambushed.
The back of the hotel was finally in view. Dean walked around the corner and headed towards the Impala. When he saw the car he stopped. The back driver's side door was not closed tight. I know I left her locked. He jogged to the car and pulled the backdoor open. "What the hell?" he said out loud. "I had a nightmare," a sleepy, frightened child's voice played in his head. "I knew it was safe here." "What the hell?" he said again.
Sam was sprawled, unmoving, face down, across the backseat. Saves me hunting the son of a bitch. Although the hunt…Are you demon or human? Doesn't matter, this ends now. Dean grabbed Sam's feet and dragged him out of the car before turning him over. He pulled out his gun and aimed it carefully, his finger slowly easing the trigger down. No, no, I need to find out what he knows first. Then he pays for Tony. Could he also be the one that killed Jack? Might fit. I need to know.
Sam moaned, Dean took a closer look at him. What happened to him? Tony must have fought him. The man had blood on his face and hands, there was a bruise on the side of his head and a small trickle of blood from a cut on his cheek. "That one's my fault," Dean said to the unconscious form. "Not sorry, though." Dean dragged him to his feet and tossed him over his shoulder, carrying him to the room, Dean dropped him onto the bed before going back to the car and getting rope out of the trunk.
By the time Sam groaned with returning consciousness, Dean had him tied securely to a chair. "Wakey, wakey," Dean said.
"I don't feel good, Dean," Sam said, his voice confused, trusting.
"It's okay, Sammy," The words were reflexive, Dean had a bottle of water in his hand and was walking towards Sam before he realized what he was doing. He stopped himself.
Sam lifted his head and met Dean's eyes, the confusion was there for another moment, then it was gone, replaced by something hard. "What am I doing here?"
"I thought we should talk," Dean said. "About my friend Tony." And how you butchered him.
Something flared in Sam's eyes, then it was gone. "That the guy that wanted to shoot me?"
"Yep. He's dead."
"He is?" Sam asked conversationally, the light tone covering horror in his eyes.
"But you already know that," Dean growled.
"What do you mean? What's it got to do with me?"
"You killed him."
Anger rose like a flame in Sam's eyes. "Not me."
"Found your knife in him."
"Wasn't my knife," Sam said.
Dean backhanded him, the blow stinging his knuckles. "It's a pretty damned distinctive knife. I saw it in your bag."
"You're covered in his blood."
"Not sure how that got on me," Sam said, the horror still in his eyes.
Dean hit him again. "Not good enough. My friends are dying. You appear and another dies. Someone who was going to help hunt that thing we met on the road."
"Did you know Jack?"
Brief recognition flashed. "Jack?" Sam raised innocent eyebrows. That is so your lying-to-Dean face, Sammy. Dean paused. Where did that come from? "I don't know a Jack." Sam insisted.
Dean struck again. "Yeah, you knew him, before you killed him. He was hunting that thing too. You're working with it."
"I saved your life back there," Sam said, blood running from his lip.
"Nice show." Dean snapped. "Tony told me about you, and now he's dead."
"Got nothing to do with me," Sam said, his face calm, his eyes wild.
Dean's hand lashed out again. "I think it does."
"Your hand hurt yet?"
"Nope." Dean smiled. "I took an aspirin before we started."
"It'll be a long night."
"Probably." Dean hit him again and pulled out his gun. "Maybe I can speed it up a bit. I'd rather get this over with and get some sleep."
"You can beat me, kill me and sleep? Just like that?" Sam looked at him, blood running over his face. "You're no better than the things we hunt."
"Yeah I am," Dean said, suddenly uncomfortable, hearing almost the same thing in his mind, in the same voice. He blinked. "Desperate times."
"I don't think so, Dean," Sam said. "It's not who you are," his voice softened, his eyes unfocused.
"What?" Dean snapped. He turned away and walked into the bathroom. The interrogation was beginning to get to him—something about Sam, something about what was happening. He splashed cold water on his face. Since when do I do things like this? This hunt is getting to me, first Jack, then Tony and…A ghostly image floated before his eyes, someone shouting his name, blood on hands and face. Dean concentrated, trying to get a better "look" at his memory. There was pain attached to the memory as well. I was hurt, it was when I was in the hospital in Oregon. Wasn't that Jack? No…No, it was…A knock on the door broke his train of thought.
"Go away," he shouted. "No sound," he growled at Sam.
"Housekeeping," a male voice called through the door.
"Don't need any, go away," Dean said, walking towards the door. His inner alarm had started jangling.
"Housekeeping," the voice repeated.
"They want to give you towels," Sam said.
"Shut up," Dean said as he walked past Sam. "We don't need anything." Dean reached the door and snapped the deadbolt into place.
The door exploded open. Dean was thrown back, over Sam, they both crashed to the floor. Dean saw the man come through the door, black eyes glittering in the lamplight.
"Friend of yours?" Dean said, pushing himself away from Sam.
"No," Sam said. "Cut me loose."
"Right." Dean looked at him. "Not." The demon grabbed Dean and tossed him against the wall. Before Dean hit the floor, the demon had him again, picking him up and slamming him into the other wall.
"Having fun yet?" Sam said from where he lay on the floor.
"Oh, yeah," Dean grunted as he slid down the wall and hit the floor. The man grabbed him again. Dean was lifted and tossed again, slamming into the bedside lamp. He felt the bulb shatter, bits of glass spraying his face. He pushed himself up, the demon was heading towards him. "Most fun I can have without shooting myself."
"Cut me loose, I can help."
"Help him?" Dean asked as the man picked him up and held him against the wall, hands slowly tightening on Dean's throat.
"Too late." Dean managed to get the words out, even through dark spots were dancing in front of his eyes and he couldn't draw a breath back in.
"No, Dean!" There was a desperate note in Sam's voice that Dean recognized, he wasn't sure what he was even recognizing, but the note resonated in him for a moment before the black spots started to combine into one large darkness. "Hang on," Sam said desperately. "Exorcizo te, immundíssime spíritus, omnis incúrsio adversárii, omne phantasma…" Darkness closed in as Dean felt himself drop to the floor. Consciousness flickered for a moment. He could hear the demon hissing in pain and Sam's determined voice. "Praecipio tibi, quicúmque es, spíritus immúnde, et ómnibus sóciis tuis hunc dei…" The demon lashed out again, Dean felt the blow connect with his head. The last shred of consciousness brought the sound of Sam's voice, hard, cold as steel, still reciting the prayer, before Dean plunged into darkness.
To Be Continued