Title: Absolution 1/1

Author: Nicole (SpuffyLvr3 or GeekGirlNicole )

Summary: Coda to 4x22

Spoilers: Through Season 4 finale

Word Count: approx 1700 (complete)

Author's Note: This wouldn't leave me alone, even though I need to be finishing my 3rd season multi-chap! Anyway, my brain wouldn't let me do anything else until this was written and posted. It's unbetaed, so all mistakes are mine, mine, mine.

Enjoy. Feedback is awesome and appreciated!

**

Turned out the Apocalypse wasn't as … apocalyptic as Dean had imagined.

Lucifer means Light Bringer, and bring light he did. It rose to the ceiling of the old church, spinning a too-bright vortex, deafening howls echoing in the small chamber then bursting through the stone above and raining down rubble.

So hellfire, brimstone and b-movie, horror flick monsters it wasn't. At least not yet.

Just light.

Huh.

Dean pondered how, exactly, 'the chosen one' was supposed to stop a light…

One glance at Sam, though, and the Apocalyptic light of doom was relegated to the back burner. The awe in Sam's eyes, almost reverence, wasn't doing anything to calm Dean's nerves. Their hands were still fisted in each other's shirts, Dean pulling toward the door and Sam holding firm, feet planted as he watched the light swirl and escape through the ceiling. Dean glanced up at the light again as it rose higher, as far as his eyes could see (maybe up to Heaven itself).

The ground quaked and rolled beneath their feet. Pieces of the rock ceiling were coming loose, falling too close for Dean's comfort and he urged his brother to move.

"C'mon Sam, we gotta go. Now."

Through the door, down the tunnel with the dead bodies crumpled along the walls (don't think about them, just keep moving) and then they were outside. Dean pulled at Sam's jacket and his brother followed wordlessly.

It wasn't until he had stared at the orange Mustang for a full twenty seconds that Dean realized the Impala wasn't there. It had been left at Bobby's- was that this morning? He couldn't be sure. The angelic 'green room' had screwed with his concept of time. He pushed Sam to the passenger's side and jogged over to the driver's side to hotwire it. It started quickly and Dean moved to shut the door, but Sam was still standing outside.

Dean reached a hand out, grasped the top of the car and pulled himself up. He followed Sam's gaze to the luminescent pillar. Tendrils of light were arching away from the main source, shooting north, east, south, west. Dean reached a hand out, palm up, to catch what looked like… snow?

"Ash," Sam said, his voice tight.

The ground quaked again, longer this time. The unmistakable stench of sulfur rose in the air.

"Sam. In the car."

They drove in silence. Dean kept Sam in his periphery and Sam did his best statue impression. Except for the trembling in his hands. His brother stared out the passenger side window, watching the pillar of light roll behind eerily translucent clouds. Dean drove on, heading west to Bobby or back to Chuck's. He hadn't decided yet.

The tires of the unfamiliar car ate up the road. The Mustang's headlights cut a swath through the fog and darkness ahead. It was late, after midnight, and few cars were out. Dean found himself drifting somewhere between catatonia and highway hypnosis as the silence in the car threatened to overwhelm his already frayed senses. He wanted to talk to Sam, reach out to his brother. Make it all okay. But it wasn't okay. It might never be again. There weren't words.

"There's a dead girl in the trunk."

Or there were words, apparently. Not words Dean had really wanted to hear, though.

"…Okay," was all he managed through his dry throat. He drove. It was all he could do.

Sam's statue impression ended and he was suddenly bent over at the waist. He put his head in his hands and sobbed. He was muttering, most of it incoherent. The bits and pieces that Dean caught were heart wrenching: I'm sorry… Dean… I didn't know… Lilith… monster… Oh God… I'm so sorry

"Sammy? Please Sam, I need you to not do this. Not right now. Okay? We gotta find help. Castiel or Bobby or someone who knows what the hell to do. Okay? Sam? Sammy?" Dean wiped a hand down his face, not surprised to find his eyes damp. He couldn't make this better. He couldn't protect his brother from this.

Sam sat up straighter, tears still flowing and dripping off his chin, his breath hitching as he fought for control, and he resumed his shaking and staring out the window. Dean couldn't be sure if the shaking was fear, adrenaline or detox.

"Cindy…" he said, taking a shuddering breath. Dean glanced sideways quickly, unsure of what was coming. Not wanting to hear his brother's desperate, tear-filled voice. But Sam didn't stop. His voice was pitched higher than usual, tinged with a bit of hysterics. "Cindy McLellan. She was an R.N. in the N.I.C.U. She was married to Matthew for six years… he'll be worried… she's dead, I killed her… he'll be worried about her… Oh, God, I killed her… for nothing…I…I drained her, Dean…she's in the trunk… I-"

He was crying again, desperate, wrenching sobs.

Dean thought back to the day they'd both sat on the Impala's hood and Dean had poured out his guilt and memories of Hell. Sam had listened then, sitting behind Dean and saying virtually nothing. Dean knew why now. What was there to say? 'Everything will be okay'? A lie. Cindy won't be okay, the world may not be okay. Sam and Dean may never be okay.

So he said the only thing he could, the only words that weren't a lie.

"I am so sorry, Sammy." Dean took his right hand from the steering wheel and placed it on Sam's shoulder, squeezing gently. Knowing it would never be enough. Knowing it was all he had to offer that was real.

Sam flinched at the touch as if he'd forgotten Dean was even there. He turned, sniffing and breathing steadily to compose himself.

"Where are you taking me, Dean? Back to the panic room?"

Dean hadn't expected that question at all. He hadn't really thought about anything beyond 'find help' and 'how do we stop this'.

"No, Sam. We're going to Bobby's, but we have to figure out our next move. I wasn't prepared for Lucifer to be… that," he said, indicating the light out the window. "But the earthquakes, the sulfur and ash… something is brewing. We may not have much time-"

"-we? Dean, I thought you were done with me? Done trying to save me? You said… you said I was a blood-sucking vampire freak and you had to kill me," Sam replied, his voice oddly calm. "I'm not me anymore and I can't go back."

What?

"Sammy, what are you talking about?" Dean asked. "I never said that! Back at the motel room, I never should have said what I said. Didn't you get my message?"

Sam laughed then, hollow and cynical. "Yeah Dean. I got your message loud and clear."

Dean finally pulled over and got out of the car. Fear and uncertainty clawed through his stomach. He sat down heavily on the hood of the car and waited for Sam to join him.

"Dean? What are you doing?" Sam asked, sitting down on the hood a few feet away.

"Gimme your phone." He held out his hand. Dialing the voicemail box, he knew with a sick certainty what he was going to find.

2 unheard messages.

First unheard message: "Listen to me you blood-sucking freak. Dad always said I'd either have to save you or kill you. Well, I'm giving you fair warning. I'm done trying to save you. You're a monster, Sam. A vampire. You're not you anymore, and there's no going back."

"Son of a bitch," he breathed. He choked back the bile that rose in his throat. What had they done? Did the angels do this? Ruby? Dean was furious, but he tried to control his shaking. Throwing the phone at this point would be counterproductive. The next message began playing, but Dean knew this one already:

Next unheard message: "Hey it's m-me…"

He let it play out, making sure it was not tampered with and turned to face his brother. Sam's arms were crossed around his chest and he was looking everywhere but at Dean. Dean put the phone on speaker and hit the replay button for the second (real) message.

"Hey it's m-me. Uh, look I'll just get right to it. I'm still pissed and I owe you a serious beat down, but I shouldn't have said what I said. I'm not Dad. We're brother's, ya know. We're family. And, uh, no matter how bad it gets that doesn't change. Sammy, I'm sorry-"

Sam's eyes widened as he listened, understanding and disbelief playing across his features. As the message ended, he closed his eyes, the tears that had been pooling there spilling down his cheeks.

"This is the message I left you, Sammy. I swear, I never said those other things. Ruby, maybe even the angels, messed with it, gave you a fake message probably to push you into-" Dean grabbed Sam's forearm. "Sam, please believe me."

Sam's eyes opened and locked on to Dean's. They were glassy, tear-filled and red-rimmed, but sincere. "I believe you, Dean."

"We've both been getting played, Sam. The angels were playing me and you both, and Ruby's been yanking your chain for a long time. That's over. I'm done being a pawn in this whole damn angel/demon pissing contest. I broke the first seal, Sam, and you broke the last. We're going to have to deal with that. We're going to fix this, alright? Together, you know. Our way."

Sam nodded resolutely, determination replacing the sadness for a moment.

Dean could see through Sam's front, was probably the only person who could. He knew Sam wasn't okay, wasn't as sure as he was pretending to be. Guilt and fear and hopelessness would drive the nightmares that woke Sam in the dead of night from now on. Dean knew them well.

The earth shook again. Ash had collected on the hood of the Mustang, a thin layer beginning to cover the ground as well. With a nod, they jumped back into the car and took off down the highway.

They drove on toward answers and, hopefully, absolution.

It was all they could do.

End