Title: Never Look Back
Author: mummyluvr (Michelle Shavlik)
Summary: Dean's back, but there's not much time to celebrate. Within three months, a sulfuric version of the flu has spread, killing off all but those with a "special" bloodline. With the world gone to Hell and a deadly adversary rising in the East, the brothers have no choice but to march off to war. The question is, will they come back? And if so, will they ever be the same?
A/N: I'm really excited about this story. I first got the idea my sophomore year of high school (I graduated this year), and it's been knocking around in my head ever since. It started when I read The Stand by Stephen King., and came full-circle when I saw The Happening. I'm uber into this one, guys, so reviews are, as always, very welcome!
Rating: T (possibly +) for language and some graphic scenes
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural and its characters. Kripke is the master, and it's his baby. Not mine.
Never Look Back
Hell And Back
Long fingers pulled thread deftly through cold skin, green eyes narrowed in concentration, tongue slicking along rapidly drying lips as the hunter worked. He had to be precise, had to do this justice, had to make things right.
The final stitch went in. The thread was tied and cut. Sam Winchester leaned back in the hard chair, distanced himself from the table, wiped a large hand over his sweating brow. He stared at what he had done, the work of his hands, the product of his refusal to become what he was meant to be.
Dean looked better. He was still too pale, too cold, too lifeless to actually be Dean Winchester, but at least he was whole again. At least he wasn't hanging open, wasn't tattered and torn and ripped and shredded. At least he looked like Dean. Maybe. A little.
Sam sighed. He closed his eyes, blocking out all sights, the little Hellhole he'd hunkered down in after the disaster in New Harmony. He'd taken his brother away from that damned house as soon as he'd fully realized what had happened. He'd killed his brother. He'd needed to fix that.
He'd taken Dean, carried him in his arms back to the Impala and laid him out in the back seat. He'd closed his brother's eyes. He'd driven through the night and into the day, cracking the windows as the car filled up with the smell of ripe death and regret. He'd sped into Pennsylvania, not caring about the police, about anything but getting Dean to safety, getting Dean away from any other demonic threats, getting Dean back together again.
He wasn't entirely sure how he'd wound up at Benton's old haunt, and he didn't really care. He'd cleaned the table, disinfected it, and stretched his brother out. He'd considered grabbing a shovel from the trunk and digging up the good doc, asking for help, but decided against it. Dean hadn't wanted that, and it was too late, anyway.
Besides, Sammy needed his eyes.
One close look at Dean was all he'd needed to realize that the damage wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was fixable, at least. The body was fixable. The body could be made whole. All it would need after that was a soul.
The hunter opened his eyes, rubbed at them, willing the bleariness away. He picked up the sheet he'd draped across the older man and covered him with it. It would only be a matter of time before he didn't need the sheet anymore, only a matter of time before Dean would pull it off himself and smile and chide Sam about turning the decaying cabin into a warm morgue.
And Sam would laugh. And he would cry. And he wouldn't feel so empty and alone and unwanted anymore. And he would have Dean, and Dean would have him, and they would go someplace safe and they would hide. They would spend the rest of their lives hiding and being safe and together and a family because now Sam saw that Dean hadn't been wrong to want that. Family was nice. He'd only had to lose his before he could realize it. He supposed Dean had, too.
Sam stood up, pushing all thoughts of a bright future out of his mind. The soul. He needed the soul. He needed the soul to go back into the body, and then he could think about the rest of his life. Right now, he just needed a soul.
He cleared a spot on the dusty floor before going back out to the car. He hated to leave Dean alone, as if he thought the older man might get up and walk off, might abandon him, might blame him for his death.
He grabbed chalk and candles and the other supplies that he'd gotten before New Harmony. He was happy to see that Dean was still there, still waiting for him, still trusting him.
The space on the floor was small, but it didn't matter. Sam was a better artist than he'd ever let on, and there was no specific size listed for the summoning ritual he was using. He just hoped that "far away" wasn't Hell, just hoped that she would hear him, would tell him what to do. He didn't care what it might do to him. He was ready to listen.
Once the ritual was complete, Sam stood. He waited. He stared straight ahead, and he waited, and he hoped, and he prayed, even though he was sure now that Dean had been right. There was no Higher Power. There was nothing watching over them. They were alone.
Sam was alone.
Something rustled behind him. Startled, Sam spun around, readying himself for attack. What he saw nearly stopped his heart.
Dean was sitting up straight on the table, staring at the wall. He turned his head slowly to look at Sam and smile before glancing down at his own chest, the criss-cross of stitches and now-broken tattoo, Sam's sad attempt to fix his own handiwork. The dead man shrugged. "Not perfect, but it's workable, at least." His eyes turned black.
Sam felt his stomach flip, felt bile rise in his throat. He should have known, should have anticipated the violation of the most sacred thing he'd ever held, ever carried, ever fixed. "Get out of him."
"Make me," Ruby challenged, crossing Dean's arms over Dean's chest as his eyes turned back to their usual hazel.
Sam glared at her, hatred rising steadily within him, bubbling up through him, boiling in his brain. His head hurt. His head hurt so bad, but he didn't care. He needed her out.
He stepped forward, his stance threatening, face contorted in rage. He felt it in every fiber of his being, seeping from every pore. And his head hurt so bad. It pounded out a rhythm, a steady beat, like Dean's heart had before Sam had died, before he'd come back, before he'd screwed everything up so royally that it couldn't be fixed. He felt it inside him, rushing through his veins, the surety that he could get her out, all he needed to do was leave himself open.
Open for what?
It didn't matter. Dean mattered. Dean mattered, and Sam felt it, like a switch being flipped, like raw emotion being brought to the surface, like a white light heading toward him and over him and around him and in him but doing no harm, like a hand flung toward him, a feeble command, and the realization that he had… that he could… that he was…
Every wall, every floor board, every instrument, jar, picture, book, shelf, thing shook at the sound of his voice, the force of his command, the pure energy sent rolling toward the intruder in his brother's skin.
He felt it hit her. He felt it in his head, saw her eyes go wide and black as Dean's lips parted and released a cloud of dark smoke into the air.
Ruby sailed past him as Dean slumped forward, nearly toppling off the table. Sam ran to catch him, to right him, to close his mouth and eyes, to cover him. The man deserved respect.
He turned away from the table, wondering how he could have been so stupid, wondering why his head no longer hurt, why he suddenly felt dizzy, why his nose was running. He put a hand to his face and drew it away bloody. His nose was bleeding. He didn't care.
Above him, a door banged open. Ruby, no doubt, making her stunning reappearance. Another bang and footsteps. She was heading down the stairs, heading right toward him.
It was the same blonde as before, the same boring, bland, colorless bitch she'd picked as her own. Ruby stopped, glaring daggers, and assumed what Sam was starting to think of as her trademark pose: arms crossed over the chest, hip jutted out to one side.
"Sheesh," she remarked, "some people can't take a joke."
"But I'm glad you finally got the hang of it." She looked back at the covered table and smirked. "Little too late if you ask me, though."
"Tell me what to do."
"I want him back. I'm willing to listen now."
"Oh, now you'll listen to me? Didn't you hear what I just said? Too little, too late."
He stepped forward, stepped right up to her, towered over her, his fists clenching at his sides. He knew what she was doing, could read her well. She wanted him to use it, wanted him to tap back in. If it meant saving Dean, he was more than happy to oblige.
He tried to focus, tried to call it without the anger, and found that it worked. It came easily. Almost too easily, as if it had been waiting for a release, the day when he accepted what he was.
Only for a while, he told himself, willing himself to believe it, only until I do it. Only until Dean's back. Then never again.
The switches were flipping, the same ones Ava had told him about an eternity ago, back in Cold Oak, back when life as he'd known it had truly ended. He felt it, and he sent it out at her, and he loved the sudden spark of fear in her stolen eyes.
"Tell me how."
"Fine," she said, smiling, "I will." She turned her face up toward his and he had to fight the urge to back away. He could still feel her lips on his, her hot breath against his face as he stood pinned and helpless, waiting for is brother's end.
She ran a finger down his cheek, under his nose, and gazed at the fresh blood there. "You really need to practice." She stuck the bloody finger in her mouth, savored it, still smiling. "Mm. My favorite. Demon flavored."
"I gave you an order, bitch."
"I'm getting to it. Hold your four horsemen." She stepped back. "Get it?"
Sam glared at her, his anger rising. "Now." He felt it jump out of him, felt another switch flipping up, and grinned at the way she flinched back, cut by an invisible knife.
"You want your brother back so bad?" Ruby said, "fine. You have to go in and get him."
"You heard me, AC. You have to go in and pull him out."
"Wish I was," she sighed, "but I'm not. Get yourself comfy and close your eyes. Concentrate. You should head right on into a trance-like state. From there, you just gotta go down, down, down till the flames get higher. You grab him, you pull him back. If you can find him. Good luck." She turned to leave.
Ruby stopped, her form going suddenly rigid, her lips pulling back to reveal her teeth in a canine growl. "What?"
"You're not leaving," Sam said, finding that he liked this, the control, finally being the one to boss her around, to hold her fate, to make her dance for him, bend her to his will. "Not until I get my brother back."
She glared at him, her eyes turning oily black, but was compelled to obey. She had no choice. She sat down on the dusty ground and stared at him. "Better get to meditating, then. I don't have all night."
He glared right back, taking a seat on the dirty floor of the cellar. He let his eyes close, tried to make himself relax. He tried not to think about what he was doing, where he was thinking of going, the things he might see there. He only thought about Dean, about saving Dean, about making things right.
Sam sighed, telling himself to stop thinking. As much as he hated whatever that damned yellow-eyed bastard had done to him, he didn't have a choice but to trust it. He remembered Andy talking about meditating, Lily talking about killing her girlfriend, Ava controlling demons, Jake stabbing cool steel through his back. He thought about what Dean must have thought about, a lifetime alone, burying his brother. He thought about how that demon must have felt when her lips met Dean's.
He thought about Hell, about a prison made of bone and flesh and blood and fear. He thought about being alone for eternity, being in pain, having everything that made a person human stripped and boiled and carved away over the millennia. He thought about Dean walking willingly into the fire if it meant saving his charge, his brother, his Sammy. He thought about the repercussions of tapping into what he'd once deemed untappable, of becoming something that he wasn't, of losing Dean's Sammy.
He thought about all of these things as the temperature in the room rose steadily, as flames that he couldn't see licked at his face, as sweat poured down his body, washing the blood from beneath his nose even as it continued to spill.
He thought about Dean. He thought about saving his brother, of taking him out of his torturous eternal home, of taking him someplace better and safer and cooler and happier. He could feel his brother, smell the familiar mix of leather and blood and sweat, could hear the older man's hoarse voice calling out to him, begging, pleading, needing release.
Sam opened his eyes and nearly fell into the abyss. Lightning flashed around him, screams rose from the unending depths, and he balanced precariously on a single, rusted chain.
Slowly, shaking, he raised a hand to his face, rubbing the sweat away. It was dark. Dark and hot and hopeless. He wanted to leave, wanted to go back to the cellar in Benton's cabin, to make Ruby do this, to risk her everlasting soul.
And then he heard Dean's voice, barely a whisper, calling for him, for Sammy, for safety and hope and love and trust and life and salvation. One word held everything that he needed, and from the sound of things, he'd been screaming for a while.
Sam pulled himself from his fears and forced his head to turn, his eyes to focus. There were more chains around him, suspended, hanging. He could see something stuck in the web of chains, something dripping sweat and blood and tears, crying out weakly for someone that should have never come.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was barely a whisper over the screams, the roar of the inferno, but it seemed that Dean had heard him. The figure in the chains stilled, quieted, as if listening.
It was dangerous, he knew, but Sam began to slide across the chains, wobbling as he attempted to keep his balance, desperate to get to his brother. He nearly slipped once, decided that standing upright was too dangerous, and dropped down onto his stomach, wrapping his arms and legs around the warm metal and inching along like a caterpillar on a twig.
"Dean," he said, pulling his weight toward his brother at an agonizing pace, "Dean, hold on."
The figure suspended in the chains tried to turn, screaming out in pain with the action. As he drew closer, Sam could see why.
The chains holding his brother aloft were connected to him, digging into his wrists and ankles, his shoulder and side, held in place by large hooks that pulled the flesh from his body, sending cascades of blood down into the pit.
"Don't move," Sam ordered, "please, Dean, just don't move."
It was slow going, too slow for Sam, who felt sicker the closer he got to his brother. The older man's clothes were stained with blood and sweat, ripped by the hooks that tore into his skin and bones. The necklace Sam had given him all those years ago glinted weakly in the flashes of lightning, a beacon for the younger man to follow.
He finally reached Dean, his eyes brimming with tears over his brother's condition. His body had been relatively easy to repair, but the damage that appeared to have been done to his soul wouldn't go the same way. It was deep, it was strong, and it was wrong.
"Sammy?" Dean asked, his eyes dull, speech slurred as blood poured from his mouth.
"It's ok," Sam said, wrapping a hand around his brother's arm, careful to avoid his raw and bleeding wrist, "it's ok, I'm here now."
"I'm gonna get you out." But he had no idea how to do that, no idea how to save his brother, to get them both back. He realized with a sudden, sickening force that he didn't even know what he was doing.
Gulping back uncertainty, Sam began to inspect the chains that held his brother in place. The hooks cut through his skin, his bone, pulling his body taught in every direction at once. Getting the older man out wouldn't be easy.
"Ok," Sam said, his breath coming in short, rasping breaths as he assessed his options, "ok, um. This is gonna hurt like-" he stopped, a small smile forming on his lips as he caught sight of the look on Dean's face, "like here, I guess, but, um-"
"You gotta pull 'em out?"
"Don't talk. And, yeah. I'm sorry."
Dean tried to smile. "Don't be, long as you can get me out."
Sammy nodded, trying to decide where to start. He settled on the large hook embedded in his brother's shoulder. The only problem was the pull on the chains. They were too tight to simply slip out. "Dean?"
The older man gritted his teeth, his eyes closed tightly. "Just do it."
Sam nodded again, clenching his own teeth as he found his balance on the chain he was laying on and grabbed onto the large hook. He wrapped his legs more tightly around his perch, steadied himself, and pulled. Dean moaned as skin and muscle ripped, his blood running down and slicking the hook and chain.
It didn't take long for Sam to realize that he couldn't possibly pull the steel from his brother's body, not alone. He let his hold on it slacken as he closed his eyes and concentrated on what he had to do. He could feel something reaching out, an extra limb snaking toward the hook, grabbing hold, clinging tightly. He adjusted his grip and pulled again, this time willing the invisible limb to help.
Dean screamed through clenched teeth and the hook pulled free of his shoulder, ripping through his flesh and sending his broken collar bone splintering out into the open air.
Sam paid no attention to his brother's cries, the sickening squelch of tearing flesh, oozing wounds, breaking bones. He moved onto the older man's side, yanking steel out of his ribcage, through his skin.
He scooted himself farther back on his chain and finally opened his eyes, looking at his brother. Broken bones poked through his shredded flesh and blood flowed like two tiny waterfalls from the wounds. "I'm sorry."
Dean didn't say anything, just kept his eyes closed and panted, his tongue darting out of his mouth to wet parched, bloody lips.
"I'm gonna get your feet now, ok?" Sam said slowly, waiting for a nod. When he got it, he moved down, again closing his eyes and willing that invisible, telekinetic limb to help him. Again, Dean screamed, and Sam had time to marvel at the fact that he was still conscious. Then again, they were in Hell, and it wouldn't do to have someone pass out from the pain, become oblivious before the real torture started.
His brother was suspended by three limbs, and that only meant that the worst pain was yet to come. "Dean," Sam said, trying to get his brother's attention before ripping him completely free of his bonds, "one left. You know what that means?"
Dean nodded weakly. "How much weight you think they'll hold?"
"Honestly? I dunno. They look pretty rusted and weak."
"I think," Dean muttered, "even Kate Moss wouldn't stand a chance."
Sammy grinned. He'd missed that humor in the two weeks since his brother's death, had missed having someone to talk to, someone to keep him sane. He'd missed Dean.
"Don't let me fall," the older man whispered as his head lolled back.
"Never," Sam said, closing his eyes, readying to rip his brother from the prison that he'd willingly walked into. "Not again." Before he gave himself into the darkness of his mind again, he saw Dean smile.
He hated what he as about to do, what it meant. Taking the hook from Dean's foot would leave him suspended by his arms only, turning him down to hang vertically instead of horizontally. Either the chains would break, sending Dean falling into the abyss that spiraled beneath them, or something else would happen, something that neither brother wanted to consider.
Unfortunately, that was exactly what did happen. Sam broke the hook through his brother's foot, snapping tendons and bones and sending the other man swinging downward before the psychic could even attempt to grab him. There was a sickening sound as the hooks embedded in Dean's wrists pulled taut, ripping through the flesh and bone of his hands as they broke through.
Without thinking, Sam reached out to grab his brother, trying to keep his promise, and lost his balance as his hand connected with the torn fabric of Dean's shirt. The siblings tumbled through the air, Sam getting a firmer hold on his brother's broken body as they fell, wrapping strong arms around him, his stomach twisting into knots as the older man responded by leaning heavily into him, thankful to finally have some human contact.
They twisted in the air, tangled together, as they fell into the dark abyss. Through his fear, Sam tried again to clear his mind, to summon whatever had been activated the night his brother had died.
Slowly, the wind on Sam's face died down, the heat melting away, the sickening turning of his falling body slowing until he was sitting again on the floor of the cellar.
His eyes snapped open, his breathing hard as he took in his surroundings. Ruby was still there, staring at him. "Took you long enough," she said.
"Dean," Sam said, turning wildly, wincing as the room spun around him and two small droplets of blood fell from his nose to stain his pants, "where's Dean?"
She looked over his shoulder, back at the table where Dean's body lay motionless. Sam followed her gaze, watching with wonder as the sheet moved slowly up, then down. He was breathing. Dean was breathing.
Ignoring the spin of the room and the pounding of his head, Sam jumped to his feet and staggered toward the table. Dean sat up, pulling the sheet off of himself and looking at Sam with wide eyes. "It wasn't a dream?" he asked, his voice rough with lack of use. "You? How did you? I mean, Sammy, how the He-" his question was cut off by a sudden scream of pain as his hands shot to his stitched up chest. "Son of a-" he managed to gasp. "Geez, Sammy, butcher much?"
Sam just stood there and smiled. He'd done it. He'd faced his fears, headed into unfamiliar territory, and saved his brother's soul. Now all there was left to do was get Dean a shirt, wait for the cuts that marred his body to heal, get him to a tattoo parlor, and hit the road. They would put the whole ordeal behind them, and Sam would make sure to lock up the doors that he'd opened in his mind since Dean's death. Lock 'em up tight, and never look back.
Never look back.
Well, there it is, the first chapter of many. I'd be ever so glad if you'd review and tell me what you think... I need the esteem boost :)