Title: Don't Be There
Summary: It ends in a warehouse in southern Louisville.
A/N: I wrote this in one sitting and it was beta'ed by geminigrl11 twice after that within a 12 hour period. I think this comes from my general disappointment with the season and my frustration with the show (and so much fic) always making Sam wrong and needing to be saved in the end, and I just wanted to give him the best shot at redemption I could. The ending COULD be interpreted as very, very, VERY sad, or you can choose to envision a more hopeful option. My intent was to make this a standalone so I could finish it, but in my mind, there is truly a lot more to come after this :) That said, I make no promises about a follow up fic. There are vague spoilers for most of S4.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
And I can't recall myself
How I went down
Did I get shot
Or shoot myself
-from "Don't Be There" by Switchfoot
It ends in a warehouse in southern Louisville. It seems like an odd place to choose, being the apocalypse and all, but who is Sam to say what's normal--the boy with demon blood, the Boy King, for whatever that is worth. So, when Ruby tells him that this is the place and that this is the night, he steels himself, lets her lips dance across his face, her fingers in his hair. It hasn't been sexual for months, but she likes it like that, she enjoys it, and Sam doesn't care what she does as long as she runs that blade across the soft white skin of her wrist and lets Sam have his way.
She thinks he doesn't see her smirks. She thinks he doesn't know that she's using him.
She's also dead, now, not just sent back to Hell, but dead dead, as dead as the human body she was inhabiting that lies broken on the floor.
For a second, Sam feels guilty. He knew, the moment Ruby showed up on his doorstep with that borrowed body that wasn't hers, that it was someone else's, someone innocent. Whether the previous owner had left the building or not, it still wasn't hers, and that was still wrong. It was wrong that he let it happen, wrong that he let her come onto him, wrong that his body responded to her the way it did.
But Sam's spent his entire life being wrong, so another sin upon his head didn't seem like all that much. And since then, he's pretty sure he's done a whole lot worse.
Still, if he could change anything, he might change that. Seeing that girl's body, graying and cold and oh so dead, he wonders where her family is, and what she would think of the man who used her body when it was so convenient to do so.
He should bury her, he thinks. Give her a proper burial. Someplace nice, some kind of grave marker.
He would, too, if he could move.
But his body has given out, collapsed to that same gray concrete, his arms sprawled out from his sides and his legs splayed limply, his head turned toward the scene he both created and ended.
Ruby's host is just the start of it. The body looks mostly intact, save for a trickle of blood from her nose and the wide-eyed look of terror on her face from dying a second time. Sam doesn't know if that's Ruby's doing or just basic human biology, but it's creepy and it's condemning. Another soul Sam didn't save. No matter how hard he tries, he never saves them all.
But he has to remember, he thinks, he has to remember the big picture. The rest of the warehouse.
It was empty to start with, empty when Ruby led him here with promises of finding Lilith. She'd helped him chalk sigils into the walls, a large devil's trap, for what it was worth, which Sam knew wouldn't be much. But the knife--he had the knife, and Ruby's promise that Lilith would be here, and Sam was supercharged on enough blood to make it count.
Lilith's host is beyond Ruby's, but that body has not fared as well. It's the same woman from before, a young blonde, a dental hygienist if Sam remembers correctly, and he knows he does. He never forgets the names and the faces, the details of the people he's failed.
He killed Ruby, but he didn't lay a hand on Lilith. He'd known he couldn't. But that wasn't why he'd come here tonight, no matter what Ruby believed. Vengeance was one thing; saving the world was another.
Still, the blonde woman is in pieces, ripped and bloody, and Sam almost regrets wishing for her head on a platter after all.
Still, he thinks that should mean more. To know Lilith's dead. To know Dean's contract has to be null and void by default. To know that she's gone, forever and always. That Dean is safe, forever and always.
Funny, it doesn't make the pain feel less. It doesn't make the memory of Dean being ripped apart in front of him any less horrific. It doesn't make that empty feeling that has gnawed away at everything inside of Sam for so long go away.
It just doesn't.
It's just a dead dental hygienist Sam should have saved.
But she was a pawn, just like Lilith. Lilith had figured it out, months ago, just like Sam had. That they were pieces of some cosmic chess game, and, sometimes, the queen needed to be sacrificed to free the king.
Hell on earth.
That's what the demons had wanted all along. Misery loves company, and hell was getting crowded, and Azazel, Meg, Ruby, Lilith--they all wanted a prime spot, a piece of the action, a worthy place in the chain of command.
Well, screw that. Sam Winchester had watched enough people be pushed around by the forces of Hell and someone had to stop it. The angels wanted to sit and twiddle their thumbs and Dean's nightmares kept coming back and Bobby couldn't look him in the eye anymore and there were so many people, so many damn people in this world, and Sam was trying to save them all, one by one by one, and it didn't get him anywhere and it didn't save the one person that mattered.
A sob chokes in his throat, rattling painfully through his body. Everything hurts, a low, dull ache that seems to emanate from his soul. He can't move--he isn't sure if he's broken or just spent, but he feels a little of both. His mind has reached the brink, his soul has found its breaking point, and his body is just fragile in comparison.
He can't say for sure if he passed or failed or if God would approve or not, but Sam doesn't care.
He can't care.
He can't even care about Ruby's host or Lilith's host, because beyond both of them, through his fading vision, Sam can see the scorched cement, blazed with the fires of hell themselves.
Ruby had lied until the end. The symbols, while some were protective, were mainly a summoning ritual.
Lilith had shown up on the promise of Sam's head on a stick, his body locked to the floor to do with as she pleased.
Sam had shown up with the promise that enough blood would do the trick, that he was strong enough to at least stop Lilith.
To Sam's credit, he'd tried.
But, same as usual, their powers balanced each other out. Lilith's negative to his positive made a neutral reaction that had never been a problem before, not until Ruby had filled the room with her own incantations to set off.
The equivalent of a supernatural atom bomb.
Of all the lies she'd told, Ruby told the truth about that.
Sam hadn't meant to, but he'd just helped open a Hell's Gate.
He'd suspected all along that Ruby was up to something like this, that her master plan wasn't so much about helping Sam as helping herself, that Sam had something she wanted and was doing what it took to get it. It was a risk he'd been willing to take, not just to kill Lilith, but stop whatever endgame Ruby had in mind.
Some people would see it as arrogance, but Sam just knew it was fact. He could stop whatever was coming. Azazel had given him these powers for a reason, Ruby had stoked them carefully with due cause, the angels had told him to stop with wary eyes, and Lilith had offered him ways out because, yeah, he was that powerful.
Still, seeing the barrier between one world and the next rip open, feeling the vibrations shake the ground hard enough to shake the building, Sam had wondered if he'd misjudged.
Lilith had been more shocked than he was, and it had taken only minutes before she was dead and on the ground, felled by a force so strong that Sam had been flung hard into a wall and seeing stars.
When he'd come to, Lilith had been flayed and Ruby had been trembling as she bowed before her king.
Sam could still feel it. The terror, the realization of what he'd done. Of what he'd allowed to happen.
It was less than two seconds, though, before Sam realized that this wasn't the end. This was the beginning. His chance. His chance.
He couldn't really remember what happened next. There had been so much in so short of time. Violence and pain and so much noise; the clash of evil against a power willing to do whatever it took to stop it. Now, his mind drifts hazily, taking in the eerily silent warehouse, so surreally quiet and alone that he can hardly believe that the world had nearly ended right there.
Dispatching Ruby had been easy. He'd crushed her with the blood she'd given him, and it seemed like bittersweet justice, but there was no time to relish or regret that.
Lucifer had come with minions, demons and ghosts, and Sam had never seen so many in their true form but he took them out by the dozens, destroying them easily before they even had a chance to flee.
They're gone now, and, he feels like he is, too. Prostrate on the floor, he is a fading shadow of the person he was before. All that power, all that ability, all his logic and all his efforts--they're gone now, and he's as helpless as he was when he was six months old and Azazel took the only chance for safety he ever had.
He sucks in a haggard breath, trying to quell the doubt. It's over now, he remind himself. It's over.
He should have been afraid, and looking back on it, he is. But there was no fear in the moment; there was no doubt. His entire life had been building to this. Ever since Dean died, ever since their father died, ever since Jessica, ever since his mother, ever since Lucifer fell from heaven to become the ruler of Hell.
Sam can't remember exactly what Lucifer looked like. He can't remember what Lucifer had said. But the being had breathed fire and its eyes had burned with pure white and Sam can still feel the flap of its monstrous, beautiful wings as they stretched out before him. Lucifer had come with the power and the glory of the angels and the dark intent of the deepest reaches of Hell--a powerful, apocalyptic combination.
Sam's headache flares, just remembering. The focus, the concentration--not even Ruby's blood had been much help. This had been a battle of wills, of evil against evil, of control and surrender. Sam's brain had strained, every nerve in his body had vibrated with it until Sam was sure he was burning from the inside out.
And then he was--burning--and Sam can feel the charred skin on his hands.
Burning, with blood pouring from his nose, his eyes, his ears, still caked thickly on his orifices.
But he didn't need his hands. He didn't need his senses. He didn't need any of it.
The power surged from him then, fighting against the forces that came at him, and he can still see it, see the essence of what he was fighting--and it wasn't dark, like he'd expected. It wasn't fire, but ice, cold and sterile and dead.
And that was why Sam would win. Why he'd always win. No matter how dark he became, no matter how far from human, the spark of life, of goodness was still there, burning through his veins more powerful than the blood of a demon could ever be.
Fire had taken so much that mattered. It burned and left nothing but ash in its wake. It burned Sam all the way through, scorching his clothes and singeing his hair and taking out everything else that moved in that warehouse.
And then it was over.
Sam's alone in a warehouse with two corpses and a battle of good and evil burned onto the floor, and Sam thinks that this will be the only testament to what happened here, because there will be no one left to tell the story.
He wonders if Chuck has seen this. He wonders if Dean is coming. He wonders if the angels will clean up all the evidence, make it nice and neat so no one has to know. He wonders if Dean will understand, if he'll understand why Sam left, why Sam hadn't told him. If Dean will forgive him, if Dean will miss him at all.
There are some things Sam regrets, of course. He wishes he could tell Dean the truth, could tell Dean about it all. But Dean couldn't be here. Dean shouldn't be here. Dean had already faced Hell and come out on the other side, and Sam doesn't care what the angels say. Dean deserves to rest.
And now he can.
The angels were right about one thing. Dean did stop the apocalypse. Because Dean's the only reason Sam's here, the reason Sam won. Dean's been the reason for everything since it all began, and Sam can only mean that in a good way.
And Sam can't remember, he just can't, how it all ended up like this. He can't remember the argument that had him walking out the door. He can't remember the last lie he told Dean. He can't remember when this all became his fault, if he should have killed Jake in Cold Oak, if he should have shot his father in that cabin, if he should have never gone to college, if he should have never been born at all.
A tremor shakes Sam's body hard, and he tastes blood in his throat. The warehouse is fuzzy now, growing distant and hazy, and Sam can be glad for one last thing.
That Dean's not here.
Dean doesn't have to see what Sam was willing to sacrifice. Dean doesn't have to see Sam become the epitome of what they fought against. Dean doesn't have to see how used Sam was, how close Sam came to making the biggest mistake of his life. Dean doesn't have to see any of it. Ever.
It's Sam's only solace.
It's his only disappointment.
Sam can hardly see now, and his limbs have lost all feeling. The blood has stopped flowing, but Sam knows, somehow, that's not a good thing. His heart feels sluggish in his chest, measuring out the last minutes of his life, and he realizes that, for the second time in his life, he's going to die.
The first time had been too soon.
The second is far too late.
His eyes drift closed and his breath catches in his throat, and Sam wonders idly if his father could be proud of him now, if he's finally lived up to his brother's last wishes. To do what Dean taught him. To save the world, to save the people who matter most--at any cost.
Awareness is fleeting and Sam lets out a breath, and with it goes all his doubts and all his fears and all his shortcomings.
When he breathes in, his eyes open, all on their own. He wonders if they'll ever close again. All he knows, all that matters, is that Dean's not here, and it doesn't quite hurt but it stings to be alone, but he knows it's more than he's ever deserved.
There is one last exhale, long and final, and Sam lets go of his doubts, he lets go of his pain and his failure and all the things he never made right. And then, Sam is empty and free, and there is nothing more for him to think about at all.