You Were in Hell
I started this after "Monster Movie," which I really enjoyed, but which also contained another Sam throwaway line about Dean being gone. "You were in hell" he said when Dean was giving him a hard time about seeing the latest Indiana Jones movie without him (you didn't miss much, Dean, honey, don't worry).
Sam has since met Castiel and after this week I think they'll have told us what actually happened while Dean was gone. But, this kind of… spilled out the rest of the way this afternoon.
Joss'd and Kripke'd and all those other things.
"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words, and blameless in Your judgment." Psalm 51:3-4
"Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul." Acts 7:58
Sam turned his head to the bed next to him and for a second watched his brother sleep. In a strange way Dean slept differently since he'd returned. The first few weeks he'd slept a lot—drifted in the car, nodded off over books or the computer or in front of the television. And while Sam had often taken advantage of those times to slip out to meet Ruby, he'd been aware of what seemed like a depth of sleep that Dean had rarely been able – or allowed – to indulge. It had given Sam the chance he'd needed to leave without being noticed, but it had been oddly disturbing, as well. Because though Sam had snuck out at night more than a few times over the years, the level of stealth required had been significantly higher.
Tonight Sam was considering getting out again. Not to hook up with Ruby. But just to escape the stifling warmth of the room, the even, controlled (controlling) breaths of his brother in the other bed.
On a sigh, Sam angled his head away from Dean, and yelped when he saw the rumpled figure of a man standing at the end of his bed. Scrambling away toward the headboard, Sam reached blindly for the gun under his pillow, darting a quick glance at Dean, who continued to sleep undisturbed.
"Sam Winchester." The angel's voice was as steady as its gaze, and the combination stilled Sam as effectively as restraining hands would have.
"Castiel," Sam breathed. Instead of slowing with the realization of the identity of the visitor, the skipping beat of Sam's heart actually sped up. Without thinking about it, Sam's eyes went to Dean again.
"He won't wake," the Being said quietly, eyes following Sam's. "This is a conversation for you, Sam. What you choose to do with it is up to you."
I'm not afraid of angels.
But he was. He could barely breathe around the slamming of his heart in his chest. The angel's calm demeanor was anything but soothing, and the eyes that returned to Sam were full of a knowledge that Sam had to turn away from.
"We had hoped that your brother's return would have a more immediate effect on you than it has. And we worked on the assumption that your natural compassion for what he had suffered would touch your heart in ways we have not been able to over the months he was gone. We were wrong."
The angel's expressionless face softened momentarily when he glanced at Dean. And suddenly he was next to Sam, hand extended, slight pressure against Sam's forehead.
The cacophony of screams and moans would have buckled Sam's knees if that had been possible, and even as he reflexively tried to bring his hands up to cover his ears—wanting, needing, desperate—to block out the wails of despair and hopelessness, there was no responsive movement in his arms. He was there. Somewhere, but not. Senses open, unbearable heat searing across his skin, indescribable stench up his nose and in his mouth, seeping down his throat.
And in the riot of voices assaulting his ears, making his head and nerves throb, one he recognized, long and drawn out, screaming his name.
There was a stutter of his awareness, and Sam was somewhere else, Dean below him stretched spread-eagle over a chasm, meathooks and chains and blood and agony and terror and Sam!
Sam's own answering scream was silent as he struggled against the nothing that held him where he was not, helpless to respond to his brother's cries and pain.
Sam didn't know how long he fought, uselessly and violently, only that at some point he stopped, sagging figuratively into the bonds that held him captive, away from his brother. There was no response to his pleas for help, for release, for Dean, for himself; and he could only watch helplessly while his brother suffered.
It came in flashes, jumps in whatever counted for time in this place—glimpses of what Dean had endured, unrelenting and unimaginable—until the reel slowed, pausing for a particular moment, and Sam felt his dread deepen as he watched a wisp of black smoke undulate its way toward his brother, growing and coalescing, closing in on Dean. Slowly, like a vaporous slime, it covered Dean curling around an ankle and moving inexorably up his legs until settled over his chest.
"Sam says 'hi.'" It was no more than a whisper, emanating somehow from the demon's form, snaking into the air around Dean, barely heard by Sam.
Dean didn't seem to hear, the keening pitch of his moans not changing in response to the demon's taunt. The mumble of SamSamSam unbroken.
"He's gotten reacquainted with an old friend."
No, please no.
"Working with her."
There was a hitch in Dean's mantra. A pause. "You lie. Demons lie," he rasped, weak.
"When we need to." It was almost like it shrugged. "But the truth is so much more effective." The oily-smoke curled around Dean's chest. "She's picked a sweet little piece of ass this time. Teaching him all sorts of things. Sam can't keep his hands off her."
"You lie." There was no energy behind Dean's denial. But there was no doubt either.
"Really?" There was amusement in the demon's tone, satisfaction. "Wanna see?" It moved up Dean's chest, roiling over his face, into his mouth and nose and eyes and ears, soft laughter as Dean bucked and cried out at the violation.
In rage and shame, Sam watched Dean's whole body arch in response to what the demon was showing him, the cries changing in pitch and intensity, until they trailed into whimpering sobs that were somehow worse than the screams had been.
"You lie," Dean gasped, "Demons lie." It was sheer desperation now, no belief, just unthinking denial. "Sam wouldn't. Sam wouldn't."
The smoke trickled out of Dean's mouth, trailing obscenely past lips parted with grief, babbling words without meaning, without truth. Lies.
But Sam had. And he watched in horror as his broken brother's destruction was completed.
He came to with a start, in his bed like he'd never left, Castiel gone, or never there, the steady breathing of Dean in the next bed like a metronome beginning even now to calm Sam's gasping gulps of air, instinct and habit regulating his breathing to his brother's.
Dean snuffled noisily and flipped toward Sam, leaving his face in the slim rectangle of moonlight that had snuck between the curtains.
Sam blinked at the contrast between the smoothed out innocence of his brother's face in this moment and the shattered agony of what seemed like only a second before.
Sam choked, suddenly crushed under the weight of what Dean had suffered, of what Dean had known.
I can't, he thought desperately. I can't.
He tried to get to his feet, staggering as he rose, missing a step and careening into Dean's bed before his legs gave out from under him, and he ended up on the floor.
"Sammy?" Dean's mumbled voice drove Sam further into the carpet, hunched against the question and the concern.
"You OK, man?" Dean went on sleepily, starting to rouse.
Gasping for breath, unable to move, Sam didn't respond, and Dean's head came off the pillow, blinking around the darkness of the room. "Sammy?" he asked again, seeming to notice the empty bed beside him, legs swinging off his mattress, pausing when one chilly foot made contact with his brother's shoulder.
No. Sam couldn't control the start away from Dean's out-stretched hands, the sharp bark of fear in his brother's voice.
"'m OK," Sam mumbled even as he tried to shuffle clumsily out of reach. Don't touch me please don't touch me I can't…
It was too much. Too much to have seen what his brother had endured, to know what he himself had done and been doing while Dean was in the Pit. The façade of denial and the lie of "I have to go on" were crumbling, shattering in the echoes of Dean's screams, the blinding after-images of blood and pain.
"Yeah?" Dean asked, disbelievingly. His fingers brushed Sam's elbow and Sam jerked back, funny bone cracking loudly against the table between the beds.
Sam yelped again. "Don't!" he almost sobbed, on his feet suddenly and staggering, one hand clutching his electrified elbow, falling over backward onto his bed, scrambling to the other side as Dean looked on wide-eyed.
"Sammy, what the hell?" he demanded, surprise and annoyance coloring his tone.
Sam sank into a crouch against the far wall, panting heavily, arms wrapped tightly around his stomach. He didn't even realize he'd started to rock, a rhythmic back and forth to the sound of the words that were pulsing through Sam's head in time to the beat of his heart.
"Sam?" Dean's voice was different now, unbearably soft. He'd stayed on the other side of the bed, but had hunkered down on his heels, eyes at Sam's level, face creased with worry.
"Sam, tell me what's going on," he urged. "Tell me so I can help, dude."
Sam shook his head. "'s OK. I'm OK. I'm OK."
But he'd started to cry and the mantra of "I'm OK I'm OK I'm OK," mutated seamlessly into "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry."
When he felt Dean's hand on his shoulder Sam tried again to avoid the contact, not wanting the touch, not deserving the comfort, but Dean wouldn't let himself be shaken off this time, moving inexorably into Sam's space.
"It's OK, Sam, it's OK," Dean repeated, confusion and resolve. "It's OK. You don't have anything to be sorry for, Sam. It's OK." Warm arms and a solid chest. The steady beat of a heart and the low thrum of Dean's reassurances in his hair. "It's OK."
But Sam wouldn't hear, wouldn't accept. "No," he moaned, face moving erratically against the soft fabric of his brother's t-shirt. "No. I'm sorry. Dean, I'm so sorry."
And for a minute Dean was quiet, only the murmur of Sam's broken, unending apologies between them.
Dean drew in a shaken breath and let it out slowly.
Then Sam felt the brush of dry lips against the heated skin of his forehead. Absolution. And grace.
"I forgive you," Dean said softly. "It's OK, Sammy. I forgive you."
"Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:14-17
"But the Lord said to [Ananias], 'Go, for [Saul] is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.'" Acts 9:13-16