He wouldn't bury him. He couldn't. Not after what had happened. Not when he'd had to see his brother torn to pieces, screaming and fighting against ravenous hounds. Not when he'd been left alone in the room with two corpses.
He wasn't burying Ruby's body either, because...because. He owed it to her, he felt, even though the body hadn't been hers, had been some girl she'd found after she'd dug her way out of Hell.
He started bandaging the wounds on Dean using his own jacket, then his button up, then his t-shirt. There was so much blood, the cloth sometimes dripped and sagged like paper towel too well used. There was muscle and bone on some parts, and he bound those tighter just to not look at them, even as his tears blurred his vision and his hitching breaths caused his fingers to tremble.
Pounding on the door, and there were still demons to fight. They wouldn't have left because Lilith had. Not all of them, anyways. Some would, obviously, to be her loyal bodyguards. To protect her.
Sam hadn't been able to protect Dean, in the end. Dean had used his life to save Sam's, and Sam had been able to do nothing.
"I'm not gonna let you go to Hell!"
"Yes you ARE!"
Guess Dean had been right after all.
The thought made his stomach churn, and he turned away in time to hurl away from Dean's body. He was still sobbing, still crying, and he nearly choked because of it. Finally his stomach emptied, and still he kept crying. He couldn't stop, because this, this there was no way out of. Dean was gone. Hell bound forever.
"What do I do?"
"You keep fighting. Remember what Dad taught you."
Dad had taught him to fight through the pain, to keep going even when it hurt so badly he couldn't see, to never let them see your weakness even as you bled out for the world to know. Dad had taught him to accept that the past was the past, and the future was what he could change. Nothing behind him could be changed; he just had to soldier the hurt and keep going.
"Remember what I taught you."
Dean had taught him to never give up. Let the pain exist, but to not let it swallow you. To push it down when you had to, let it swell up when the time was right and it was safe to do it. To help others, to laugh in the face of danger, to put family first and sacrifice everything for love, because of love.
The pounding continued, and Sam finally rose, dagger in his hands again. Even as he fought through them, even as he called the family out of hiding, even as he went back for Dean's body, he couldn't stop crying.
But he wasn't giving up. If Dean could get into Hell, then so could he.
And he already had an idea how.
He screamed until the echo started to hurt his ears, and then he sobbed. He could feel the blood coating his teeth, welling up in his mouth until he choked on it. He couldn't choke, though, because this was it, the big "Never Die Again" ticket, this was forever. Hell bound, forever.
He screamed for anyone to get him out, for someone to help him please. The hooks were digging, pulling away, and with each scream and sob they pulled even harder.
The worst part of it was, he was alone.
There was vastness all around him, black lines in a colorless space that snapped and crackled and moved out from beyond wherever he was. They were the hooks that bound him, bouncing off of a wall he couldn't see where he was. There was no one there, no one else screaming to tell him he wasn't alone. No one to hear him, no one to help-
Dean wasn't going to make it.
He began to sob again, feeling the hooks dig even harder and pull away that much more of his body. "Please help me," he begged, before he screamed one last time.
"SAM, HELP ME!"
Sam wanted to wait a day to try, with his grief as strong and disabling as it was. It had been that grief, though, that had brought out whatever it had been that had shielded him from Lilith's powers, so now was the time to do it.
And he wasn't leaving Dean down there a moment longer than he had to.
He started small, in the small abandoned house they'd stayed at only forty hours before. Ruby had told him that the visions weren't the only trick up his sleeve, and he'd read up on enough things that people could apparently do with their mind. He remembered what Andy and Ava and Jake had been able to do. What Max and Lily and Scott had been able to do.
He forced himself to remember the look on Dean's face when Lilith had opened the door and let the hounds in. Remembered the blood and the screams and...and...
The mirror on the wall flew across to his left, smashing into thousands of shards. He stared at it, the tears rolling down his face unheeded.
Then he did it again, and focused this time on the chair.
By the end of the day, he could move and manipulate everything in the room. The migraine wasn't unexpected, but the suddenness of it brought him to his knees and heaving again. He passed out a little while after that, and when he came to, it was nearly three in the morning.
He pushed himself off, cleaned up his mess, and started again.
It crackled above him, electric movements dancing down the lines, disappearing and taunting him. I can leave and you can't.
He'd tried undoing the hooks, but his fingers were too slick with blood to manage it. He'd need someone else to do it. Like Sam.
Dean needed Sam period.
The pain was excruciating now, swallowing all of him, and he screamed just to hear something besides the crackle that was always so close yet so far. Screamed for Sam, because it was what he needed. To remember Sam, because that he wouldn't forget. He wouldn't turn into a black eyed demon, but honestly, he could see it being easy. He understood now why they fought to escape.
He would've thought twice about the exorcisms he'd performed if he'd known.
Yet they'd threatened him, threatened to peel the skin off his bones, and they weren't here. Were they coming to do it?
It hit him in his gut, deep inside, that this was why he was spread out amongst the black wires. So they could do just that, and he'd be helpless to stop them.
"Sammy, please, help me," he whispered, tears rolling off his face and below him to where he couldn't feel. He was floating, flying, falling, and it sent panic through his overtaxed system again and again. The sensation was too much, and he screamed sometimes because of it.
He focused on Sam. Sam singing in the car to Bon Jovi, cracking himself up with his voice, trying so hard not to cry when Dean said his goodbyes, determined throughout the year, screaming for Lilith to stop as Dean was torn apart.
By day four after Dean's death, Sam had it all down. At least, he thought he did.
Ruby had been wrong and right: it had been like throwing a switch, but there'd been thousands of them to flip. Now that all the lights were on, though, Sam wasn't going back to the darkness he'd been in.
Maybe if he'd done it sooner-
He shut the thought off. Wouldn't go there. No going back; only going forward.
The regular demon summoning spell wouldn't work, because she'd been cast somewhere by Lilith. He'd need to use his powers. He'd already tried summoning Dean with them, but it hadn't worked.
When he summoned Ruby, though, one of the bodies in the other room began to gasp again.
Before she'd even fully gotten re-situated in her body, he had her hauled off the table he'd laid her on and pressed against the wall, her own blade against her throat. When she noted that his hands were still at his side, she raised her eyebrow. "So you did learn something," she said, before glancing down at her own body. "I appreciate you pulling me out of there, though seriously, it feels like something died in here."
"Deal with it," he said. "Lilith was in there for a brief time. You're going to be leaving it again."
"Why should I?" she asked, and the blade pushed tighter against her unmarred skin.
"Don't ask stupid questions," Sam said. "I summoned you, and I'm going to cast you out again."
"I don't know if I can do what you want me to," Ruby warned, but there was sympathy in her gaze. "But I'll try."
Summoning had been easy, Ava had shown him as much. Casting them was a different matter, but if Ruby was a willing subject, it worked a hell of a lot better. He closed his eyes and focused hard, pressing at his temples to will his thoughts into submission. He pressed harder, harder, and when the pulsing stopped, he glanced up and found her lifeless on the ground again, knife clattering away.
He placed her back on the table and headed for the door. He stopped by the bed which he'd set Dean in, and bit his lip to stop the tears. "I'm coming, big brother," he whispered. "Wait for me."
Time for his own assault.
Screams echoed in the space, and he didn't understand why, because there were no walls. Just emptiness, a kaleidescope that didn't end, no matter how hard he thought or looked. He had to get out. Anything to get out, anything. No one else understood what he was going through, the sobs that pulled from his chest and took the hooks with them, the free fall feeling, any of it, and they should. They should find out-
Dean closed his eyes and breathed harshly, moisture pooling and cascading down his blood stained cheeks. He just had to focus on Sam, that was all. Sammy, Sammy, Sammy help me-
A large crackle on the black vein line above him, and it jumped suddenly to his line, speeding down towards him, and Dean screamed, trying to pull away but the hooks held him fast, tearing again and again. They'd pull the meat from his bones, force him to remain here without his own clothes and skin to feel and see, force him to see the muscles and bones he knew lay underneath-
The crackle spoke, whispered static, but it wasn't attacking him. "Dean," it said again, urgently this time. "Trust me."
He was breathing too hard, going to give himself a heart attack, except he couldn't, he'd already tried. Nothing but a painful chest and more tearing, with the muscles never giving completely to let him fall, and he'd already tried looking beneath him to see how far it went, but he didn't really want to know.
"Hey! Pay attention, shortbus!"
Shortbus. Horrible nickname he'd gotten from a blonde girl, petite girl, cute girl, ugly demon who was-
"Ruby," he breathed, and then couldn't stop the sob. He wasn't alone. Even if it was her, he wasn't alone forever. "Ruby," he choked out.
"Easy, easy. I'm the calvary, but we have to hurry. You have to trust me."
They hadn't before, and look where it had wound them up at. They'd all paid for it.
Sam. Was he paying for it still? Dean had seen Lilith raise her hand as the hound had gone for his throat, had seen the white light just as all light had faded out once and for all. Was he alive?
"Sam's coming, Dean. I don't know how long I can be here before Lilith finds me, but I'm gonna try something, okay?"
The crackle – Ruby – jumped, jumped, and jumped again, and the hooks all gave at once.
Then Dean found out how far he could fall, and it was just as forever as he'd been afraid of.
No Colt to open the gate, but Sam didn't need it. He pried it open himself, then bolted it fast behind him, no demons escaping. He flexed his fingers as he strode inside, the fire sparks blazing at his feet.
This was what Hell should look like, but there was no one around. This was the lobby, then.
Sam just had to find the floor where they put their most valuable guests.
Two demons surged forward out of nowhere, and Sam finally saw them for what they were, what Dean had seen them as. They were ugly and brutal, grotesque and disfigured, and he only put out his hand. The electric surge knocked them away, spasming out of control.
The extra jolt of death he'd given them, in memory of Lily who had told him about the power, came afterwards. It worked just as well on demons as she'd told him it had worked on humans. They fell to the ground, charred and immediately decaying.
He pressed on. He had a brother to find, and he wasn't giving up. That wasn't what he'd learned how to do.
He fell forever and ever, and seconds after he'd been released a black vein caught him. "Almost there," a voice told him. It sounded familiar, sounded feminine and almost soothing, and he had visions of light colored hair briefly.
He clung for dear life, closing his eyes and trying not to look ahead, where the emptiness went on forever, or below him, above him, or behind him. The emptiness was limitless, and there was no space on the Earth that could physically hold it.
No. He tightened his grip, and felt a surge through the vein.
"Dean, they're going to come, I can feel them now. Just let go, all right? Trust me."
Petite girl, fantastic liar, dark eyes-
"It's me, Ruby, Dean. Focus and let go! If you want to get to Sam, you have to let go!"
Dean gathered up his memories and let go and fell again. This time, he knew he could feel something different below him as he fell, gaining speed almost in that sickening illusionist type of way.
He could feel fire, hot beneath him.
With a twist in his brain the fire shut down, and Sam didn't intend to pun, but all of Hell broke loose. All came out to see the commotion, and all found him a ready target.
More than ready to kick their asses.
He fought through the swarms, knocking them over easily. No one could touch him, for he stayed standing in a straight line, arms by his side, eyes shut as he concentrated.
When he opened them again, he was left with little black lines that were seared into the stones beneath him.
Sam looked up and saw an empty sky, a colorless void full of spiderwebs. That was Hell? But-
When he blinked again, he was in the void, standing in the middle of nothing, and something was falling towards him. Even as his brain tried to tell him it wasn't real, his arms were extending, and they caught the body in his hands.
He didn't dare to open his eyes when he stopped, feeling arms tighten around him, and he sobbed again, because this was it. The demon had led him here, led him to this-
"Shhh, shhh, shhh. I've got you."
horrible death that would rip him apart, pull the skin from...from...
He opened his eyes.
Long dark hair. A body that was shaking, sobbing just as much as he was.
"Sammy," he choked out, blood bubbling up from his lips. Sam didn't seem to care, though, and simply pulled him as close as he dared, smiling and laughing through his tears.
"It's me, big bro," Sam told him. Sam looked perfect and clean and completely out of place, and if this was some sort of mind trick, Dean didn't think he could live through it.
Not that he had a choice; dying to escape it wasn't an option anymore.
But the arms that cradled him were familiar and too real, and in an instant they were suddenly out of the void and in a stone cavern. "Ruby, if you're coming out with me, you're coming now," Sam said, voice cold and authoritative, and Dean couldn't stop the shiver that shuddered through him at the tone.
Then Sam was turning down to him, the coldness replaced with the warmth of love that Dean had only ever seen aimed at him. "It's gonna be okay," Sam soothed, tears falling unnoticed down his cheeks. "We're leaving, Dean."
Dean clutched his bloody fingers into Sam's pristine shirt, and when Sam didn't complain, Dean finally closed his eyes and let Sam carry him out of Hell.
As soon as Sam stepped out of Hell, Dean vanished from his arms. Sam turned to the doors, rage on his face, but stopped at the gasp of breath behind him. Oh, right. Soul going back into the body. He hurried over to Dean, helping prop him up as he pulled in huge lungfuls of air. On the other side of him, Ruby stirred once more, gasping herself.
"I'm right here," Sam murmured to Dean, even as fear filled eyes focused on him. "It's gonna be okay, Dean. It's over, okay? It's over, Lilith can't take you back, no one can take you back."
He'd have a time to deal with her, but it wasn't now. Now was Dean, who was flexing his fingers and trying to breathe. "I've got you, okay? I've got you, Dean."
"What'd you do?" Dean managed to rasp out, and Sam stared at him for a moment, finally recognizing the fear for what it was. Dean knew he was out, and immediately his thoughts had turned to what Sam might've done.
"I didn't make a deal, Dean," Sam said quietly, taking his brother's trembling hand in his. "I promise, okay? No more deals."
"What did you do?"
"What I had to," Sam said simply, before giving a small smile. "What you taught me to do, remember?"
Dean stared at him long and hard, and he straightened his lips but let the moisture pool in his eyes. "No martyrs?"
"No martyrs here, Dean, I swear. Just the family business."
Saving people. Hunting things. Looking out for your brother. Dean had taught him all that, too.
A voice cleared from Sam's right. "Lilith isn't going to leave this alone, and she's probably on her way now, so if you want to avoid her..." Ruby trailed off, raising her eyebrows.
"Then we're gone," Sam said, reaching down to help Dean up. He was unsteady on his feet, unsteadier still when the wounds kicked in, but Sam had done what he could with his powers of persuasion over a doctor at the local hospital. Skin grafting had just been one of the things done so Dean could come back to a body that held.
The Impala's doors were open, and Dean slid in with Sam's help. Ruby slid in without any help, and Sam went to close the door, only for Dean to catch his arm and hold it fast. "I had nothing to hold on to, down there," he whispered. "But I held onto you."
Funny; Sam had felt the same way. He smiled, knowing he'd start crying again but didn't care, because Dean was out, Dean was alive, and they were okay.
He headed over to the driver's side, sliding in with practiced ease. Only for now, until Dean was back up to full strength. Sam didn't like taking the driver's seat, and he'd forgo the music choice that came with it any day. Just so long as Dean had the wheel.
He wiped away tears before they could fall, and with his brother beside him, Sam drove them away.