Warning: very slight spoilers for 3x16, a bit more spoilery for 4x09.
x x x x x
Impermanent: not permanent or enduring; transitory.
Synonyms - fleeting, temporary, ephemeral, evanescent, Sam Winchester.
"Remember that it's all in your head." --Gorillaz
"Everything's in the mind. That's where it all starts. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it." --Mae West
The motel door slammed violently shut behind him, doing nothing to ease the ache of rage that settle heavily against his chest. Sam whipped his weapons bag across the room, barely hearing the crack of padded metal against the thin wall of the motel. He'd be gone before they could bill him for the damage, anyway – because that's what his life was now: it was impermanent.
He numbly observed his new room through his ever present haze of pain that had followed him for months. It distorted everything, casting darkness over even the lightest of times. It revealed threats everywhere, and it hid meaning and purpose in its deepest corners. Sam's whole world was gray because of the haze, and as hard as he tried, he couldn't find black or white in anything anymore. And now he wasn't sure he cared.
His eyes caught on the black book lying open on the bedside table. A verse was highlighted by some previous reader, the words jumping out at Sam. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." A horrible cackle bubbled behind his ribs only to come out as a moan. Anyone who died for his friend was an idiot and a coward; the hard part was living when everyone else was gone.
The worst part of life without Dean was the pain – it never stopped. Ever. It replaced his skin, blanketing him in thick folds of agony. So he used the one thing he was thankful his father had given him: rage. It was the only thing that could anesthetize the torment of helplessness, of being inutile. Dean had never had it, never wanted it. Now, Sam was only functioning because of it. Better than food, water, or even the power he got from Ruby's blood. It filled him and strengthened him, even as it burned away anything that made him Sammy. That was fine – Sammy had died with his brother.
Sam held his breath as the walls began to lean in on him, pushing the air out of the room and out of his lungs. He struggled to breathe, fisting his hands to keep them from seeking something to destroy. Unbidden, his mind slid back to his recent hunt. He'd failed again – he hadn't saved the victim, he hadn't killed the monster fast enough, and he was still alive. For the love of all things sacred, why could he just die?
He'd been the walking wounded, a body without a spirit since… since New Harmony, Indiana. And the perpetual, damnable 'life" he'd been living since then simply refused to let him go, greedily gnawing on his bones until he was ready to end it himself. It would be so easy to swallow the barrel of his gun and just get out, but he couldn't do that – when his brother died, he took not only Sam's reason for living but also his means of escape. Death by his own hand was spit in his brother's face, and that he couldn't do. But he wouldn't save himself – he could let himself go.
But every hunt, ever damn one, he came out breathing, with most of his blood left in his veins, and he was sick of it. He'd been so close so many times, but something always came between him and the dark veil he longed to rip back. But the veil was iron, and it wouldn't let him pass.
And now that hole – the one that had been dug to his core the day Dean brought him back – had opened up and swallowed him whole. But there wasn't death inside, there was just more life, and he hated it. The very existence of the hole told him what he'd never said to Dean; when he'd been brought back, it was wrong. What was dead should stay dead.
"Dude, I told you already – the world needs you, bro. It's a better place with you in it."
Sam's head began to pound. He didn't want this now, not now. "Get out," he snarled, refusing to look up. He knew what he'd see.
"Can't. I mean, not like I actually want to be in this crap hole of a motel, but I go where you go, man. You want me out, you have to go, too."
Finally unable to stop himself, Sam looked up. As he knew he'd find it, the image of his brother was leaning casually against the wall, head tilted forward slightly, hands slid into the pockets of his leather jacket.
"Some fight tonight, Sammy." His eye glinted and the words were tight.
"Back off." Sam walked farther into the room, averting his eyes from the extra bed, not thinking about the fact that he should just get a single bed room. He dropped onto the one closest to the door and felt his heart lurch painfully – he had nothing to protect now, nothing to stand in front of to shield from harm.
"You should protect you. I'm getting sick of watching you go down and stay down," Dean said sharply.
A dark laugh climbed out of Sam's throat. "Yeah, I wish." He just kept getting back up, willing or not.
"It's because you're a Winchester," Dean said with not a little pride, "We don't break so easy."
Sam frowned; he didn't like that Dean's image could read his mind. It made denial a hard thing to come by. His shoulders clenched; why couldn't his subconscious let well enough alone?
"You really believe that?" His tone was darkly dubious.
Dean shrugged, leaning his head back against the green paisley wallpaper. "Maybe. You and Dad aren't so easy to take down, you know." He shook his head, a sadly fond smile playing across his mouth. "Two most stubborn SOBs I've ever known. And Dude, I've known a lot of really fu—"
"Just shut UP!" Sam barked, clutching his head with his hands. The pounding reverberated down his spine.
Suddenly frowning, Dean pushed off the wall and strode quickly across the room, coming to rest near Sam. He balanced his weight on the balls of his feet as he crouched down in front of his brother, concern showing clearly. "Sammy? Hey, talk to me, man." He swatted Sam on the arm with one hand. "You know you get all broody when you keep stuff to yourself. Not healthy."
"Why do you talk to me?" Sam whispered harshly.
"You're in Hell for me, Dean. You should be kicking my ass."
"Whoa, just back up a second there, tiger. It was my deal, remember? Or did that flying leap you just took across the warehouse scramble that huge brain of yours?"
Sam slid his fingers over his ears, hoping in vain that Dean's voice would be blocked out. But when Dean spoke again, it was as clear as day, like always. And Dean had told him why, once; because it was all in his freaky head.
"None of this is your fault, Sam. You know that." Dean spoke with firm conviction; the same conviction he had used every time he told Sam things would be okay in the end.
He'd been lying then, too.
Sam laughed again, loud in the broken silence. "You're full of it, Dean. Mom died to save me, Dad went to Hell because I couldn't pull the damn trigger, and you…you made that deal because I didn't have the guts to end that sonuvabitch. And then you died because I didn't have the stones to do whatever the hell Ruby wanted me to do to save you. You're in Hell because of me, Mom and Dad are dead because of me – so how are you going to sit there and tell that this isn't my fault." He dropped his hands from his head and let them hang over the carpet, elbows on his knees.
"It's just me, Dean. You're all gone and for what? So me and my demon blood can stay in this crappy world and live to watch everything I've ever loved die around me? I'm like a freaking firestorm." He chuckled grimly, aware of just how appropriate that comparison was.
His chin was suddenly caught between a thumb and forefinger, his head lifted roughly to meet the green gaze of his big brother. "Don't you ever let me hear you say that again. You got me? Because then I will kick your ass. We didn't die because of you – we died because of our own stupid choices, okay?"
Sam roughly jerked out of his brother's hold, fixing him with steely glare. "Choices you all had to make because of me."
"You're giving yourself a little too much credit, there, Geek," Dean said with a half grin.
Jaw working, Sam turned away. None of it was to his credit – just like the freaking cursed rabbit's foot wasn't personally at fault for the deadly luck it gave, but it sure as hell was the tool of destruction. That was Sam – he was an evil, cursed rabbit's foot in the world of the supernatural, killing whoever touched him. A pained snort escaped him; Dean would just love to hear that comparison.
"I so can hear it, Dude. Cut it out."
"You're in my head, you jerk."
"Hey, gotta exist somewhere, bitch," Dean threw back nonchalantly.
"Then go haunt someone else."
"Aw, come on, Sammy, you know you're the only one for me. Lighten up." A hand comfortingly ruffled his shaggy hair.
Sam flew away from it, burned even by the touch. It was too casual, too Dean…and he couldn't take that, not with knowing what he'd done to his brother; what he hadn't been able to stop.
"You are in Hell, Dean! I can't 'lighten up,' okay?" he shouted.
Dean bristled. "And you're still here, Sam. You need to start acting like it and not trying to take your life at every damn turn."
"I'm not trying to kill myself, Dean!"
"Well, you're sure as hell not trying to stop it!"
Lurching to his feet, Sam stood toe to toe with Dean, fury rolling off of him in waves. "Why should I? That's the patented Winchester Way, isn't it? Who gives a crap about your own life when you can give it to save someone else's? Oh, unless it's Sammy, because then it's just unacceptable, right, Dean?" He said the nickname mockingly.
Hurt flashed across his face before he shielded it. Dean looked him over. "What are you talking about?"
Fighting twin urges to laugh or punch his brother's image, Sam just sneered. "You know exactly. 'What's dead should stay dead,' right? Except for Sammy. 'It's our job to kill anything supernatural.' Except Sammy and his freaking demon blood. 'We stop spreading it for these demons – no deals.' Except to save Sammy. Who cares what he wants?" He spat the words out like the bitter pits they were.
Dean recoiled as if he had been struck. A storm roiled behind his eyes. "Is that what you think?"
"That's what I lived, Dean. My whole life I've been protected, but guess what? No one's left; just me and this disease pumping through my body. And Ruby," he finished with a snarl.
Dean frowned. "You stay away from her. She's pulling your chain, man."
"You think I don't know that? She's a demon. I'm not an idiot."
"Then why are you letting her near you? Send her back to Hell, Sam!" Dean shouted.
"Because she's helping me hunt Lilith, and you're not here to—"
"Why do you think I didn't want you to listen to her, huh? Because I knew she'd push you to use your powers." Dean's jaw muscles jumped. "You weren't supposed to do this, Sam. God... It's the only thing I asked you not to do."
"No," Sam growled, "No, you don't get to ask me for anything. Not after you saddled me with all the crap you couldn't deal with."
"If you can't handle with what I'm doing, tough. You wanted me back; this is what you get, Dean." Sam lifted his arms away from his sides, as if displaying just what he was becoming.
"Sam," Dean said, his voice angry, urgent, "You know what those powers cost and you know where they'll take you."
Sam quirked his mouth and let his arms fall back. "To Hell? Isn't that where demons belong, Dean?"
Strong fingers wrapped themselves in his jacket and shoved hard, sending him off balance and slamming him into the wall. "This isn't a game! It will cost you everything! I swear to God I'll stop you."
Snapping his hands up, Sam broke Dean's hold on him and pushed him back a foot. "I've already lost everything! I have nothing, Dean!"
"That's not true," Dean breathed in pain, "You can go back to school, finish up your degree, start a firm. Have kids and a dog and a useless fence around your house."
Sam snarled at him. "When Hell freezes over, Dean."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because you're dead and I'm still here! And I'll do whatever I need to do to fix that."
"You can't fix it, Sam! You can't pull me out of the Pit! Just let it go!" Dean roared.
Sam felt like he'd been kicked. God, Dean, I tried so hard to save you. "Dean, I'm sor…" He couldn't finish. "Sorry" was so inadequate that it almost hurt to think the word. Sam had failed his brother, and nothing could fix that. A dark little voice whispered doubts in Sam's ear; had he really tried that hard? He hadn't done everything, had he?
"Sam?" Dean's voice broke through Sam's black thoughts.
He would never forgive himself for what he'd done to Dean.
"Hey, talk to me." Dean sounded worried.
He should be.
"This isn't how things are supposed to be. I'm going to change it."
"No, you won't. You leave those powers alone, I mean it." Dean's hard features softened, and his voice was almost pleading. "If you go down this road, you won't like where it ends. I'm begging you… please, just… don't, Sammy."
The nickname seared as fiercely as glowing coal against Sam's ears. Growling, he shoved Dean back another step, invading his space. "I'm going to keep going with this, and you know why? Because whenever I listen to you, I get saved and you get hurt. I'm done with that crap. And Ruby? She might be leading me straight to Hell, but she wants Lilith dead, and that's worth a whole lot more to me than my soul."
Dean snapped. "This isn't why I made that deal!"
"Then you should have let me die! Because this is how I'm going to end my life, Dean. It's my choice this time, and this is what I choose."
"What? Death and hellfire? Some choice," Dean said, livid.
"It's the family tradition," Sam sneered.
"You're not doing this. I won't let you."
"You're three feet under, Dean. Not a lot of force behind that threat, I'd say." Sam's heart fractured in his chest – burying Dean had nearly killed him. God, he wished he had a grave of his own. Or a funeral pyre might be more appropriate.
"So that's it, then? You throw away your chance at a normal life to slut around with some demon?"
Sam's face burned – he ignored it. "I'm using it to end this whole mess, Dean." He tensed his shoulders, trying desperately not to scream. The muscles in his arms corded with the effort to stay still. He watched his brother through mournful, burning eyes. "I want to die, Dean. I want my heart to stop and my body to shut down. I want to be buried or burned or chopped into pieces, but I want to die. I hate every time I have to take a breath, every second I still have blood in my veins, every damn thought I have to think because I'm still here."
Terror split Dean's façade like a sun-roasted corpse. "You don't mean that."
Sam kept going as if he couldn't hear his brother. "So I figured I should do something with this life. Because you died for me, and that means something to me." Even when I almost hate you for it. "I'll die killing Lilith for what she did to you, and that's how I want it." And if he died before then, so be it. Same end.
Rage flushed through Dean's features. "I would have given anything for you to have a chance, Sam. I would do anything to save you. And I'm begging you not to do this. Just…" He reached out to Sam, who jerked away with a frown. "You can't come here with me. You have to live, Sam. Please… you have to live."
The words lanced painfully into Sam's chest, and he bled out anger and remorse.
"Just… remember what I taught you, okay? And for God's sake remember what Dad taught you."
Sam turned his head away, his bangs falling over his eyes.
"No freaky power stuff, okay?"
He didn't answer.
Slowly, Sam looked up and past Dean, out onto the street where a lamp flickered sporadically on the side of the road. The head was curved over, leaning toward the earth in a eerie silhouette. With a strong flash, the bulb finally popped and went out. He looked back at Dean. "No."
Dean blinked uncomprehendingly. "What?"
"I'm not stopping. But I'll remember; I remember everything. You taught me that family comes before everything. Dad taught me to hunt until I finish whatever evil bastard hurt someone – Lilith took you from me, Dean, and I'll kill her for it."
"Dude, no, that is totally not what I meant," Dean bit out, "And what about what I taught you, huh? You just said it; family first? This ain't putting family first, bro."
A bitter smile pulled painfully at Sam's lips, dulling his eyes. "What family, Dean? It's just me. That's it. And this comes first for me."
"I'm your brother, and I'm still here whether you wanna believe it or not," Dean said forcefully, gripping Sam's shoulder tightly.
A sob pushed its way up through Sam's chest and along his tongue, but he swallowed hard and sent it back down. "No, you're not."
The pressure on his shoulder vanished, taking with it his only defense against the agony of being the last. But pain let him know he was alive, even as it tore his heart to shreds – and if he was alive, he could kill Lilith. He would. Her end was coming.
Raising his head, Sam surveyed the empty motel room. He caught sight of himself in the mirror, a dark figure haunting the edge of the wooden frame. "It's just me."
His life, this torture, was impermanent. He would make sure of it.
I hope this wasn't too confusing - sometimes Dean responds to something Sam says, other times he responds to something Sam is thinking. If it is to confusing, tell me and I'll fix it.
Feedback is awesome to get. That's a hint, people. :)
By the way, this is me being bored and avoiding work.