A/N: So at great risk of personal injury, I have finally done it: the follow-up to the finale, written this time in Sam's perspective. Since season 4 provided us with very little detail about what exactly Sam did off-screen (and he did a lot of the important things off-screen) I've taken some liberties here and filled in the blanks with my speculation. Likely to be spectacularly Kripke'd once Season 5 starts, but I've only followed a line of reasoning I picked up from the show.
Same warnings and disclaimer from the first part apply, although you might want to ramp up the angst factor considerably. After all this angst I probably need to write half a dozen crack!fics to recover. Also, I aim for Sam to come off as a little unhinged here - as he must be, with all that guilt he must be feeling now.
Sam, especially season 4 Sam, is incredibly tough to capture – such a closed-off character by nature, he made things very difficult for me in this chapter. Not really surprising that I found Dean a whole lot easier to write, even though I'm more of a Samgirl.
A little more feedback would be appreciated greatly, thanks!
Light was everywhere. Blinding, all-encompassing. Nothing else seemed to exist; the world has slipped away in the face of this light, this sheer power he could feel thrumming through his veins, resonating in his bones, and he was lost, drifting with no anchor, nothing to pull him out of this vortex of light and power and blood, except...
Somewhere, in a different universe, he thought he could feel his hand fisted in the coarse fabric of his brother's jacket.
Desperate, Sam Winchester dug in and twisted, when all he wanted was to reach out and revel...
The power coalesced and expanded, and Sam thought, he's here, he's coming, oh god whathaveIdone and there was a crash and broken bits of ceiling rained down upon his white world, yanking him rudely out of the nothing and back into the dark, dusty room, the cracked altar, the blood and the two corpses, coated with a fine layer of dust, and Sam thought, almost maniacally , get me the Salt and the lighter fluid, as if he could just Salt and Burn the last two years (Ruby and Lillith and Dean dying, over and over and over again) and then maybe he needn't be where he was, could be where he needed to be, sliding smoothly into the Impala, exchanging snark and arguments (and love and relief) with his brother, after another job done, another life saved, and the road stretching in front of them, forever into the horizon and beyond –
Dean was looking at him.
And his pull into reality was complete; shame and guilt and fear roiled in his gut. Slowly, painfully, he let go of Dean's jacket (anchor) and he turned his head, not sure of what he was going to say to Dean, or maybe he was afraid of what Dean was going to say to him (I'm done saving you) –
"Sam. Sam, what do we do now?"
– and Sam blinked.
Dean's voice was open, warm, a piece of curiosity soaked in understanding. And trust, so alien that Sam was forced to turn his head, staring at his brother with equal measures of disbelief and wonder (Listen to me, you blood-sucking freak) and breathed, "What?" hating the way his voice trembled, hating the tears pricking at the corners of his eyes.
Dean was smiling (you're evil, Sam). "You know, what next," he said casually, lifting his shoulders in a shrug. "Was that the big bad, or is Lucifer gonna need a little more prodding before the Apocalypse?"
Sam couldn't understand where this was coming from, couldn't understand what was what, his mind grappling at the enormity of what had just happened and failing spectacularly, couldn't understand how he had given so much (of himself) for could be twisted into something like this, a marred, polluted road leading to – "I don't know," he managed to say, unable to meet his brother's eyes again. Tears were flowing down his face now – he could feel the burn in his eyes, the lines of warmth down his cheek, too weak, too weak – and he forced himself to talk again. "God, Dean, I don't – didn't – and now this –" He shook his head. "Man, this is all my fault, and, uh." His eyes closed, throat working, refusing to go further. What else could he say? He and Dean had already said so many things to each other and each and every word seemed so hollow now (I'm just trying to take this curse and make something good out of it) so why add even more (even if they were the truth)?
"Yeah, Sam, it's all your fault," Dean said, and Sam turned again. Dean still had that calm smile on his face (you'll suck down more poison, more evil) and there was a kind of dawning wonder in his eyes, a naked expression of love and reassurance that was rare as it was complete – "Just as it was mine to break the first Seal." He shrugged. "Now I guess we deal. Like we always do."
Sam still felt as if things were in a tailspin – couldn't connect the line between the Dean who had spewed vitriol down the phone, the Dean who had condemned him to evil, to this Dean, the Dean who professed to understand, the Dean who was reaching out, smiling like the past two years hadn't happened, like he hadn't just –
"Together," Sam worked out, suddenly not caring. Maybe he was still hallucinating, maybe this Dean was not the real Dean, maybe he was caught in his own apocalypse, drowning in surrealism, pulled down by the weight of his own guilt, maybe it was the demon blood, maybe it wasn't –
Dean was still looking at him.
"Let's blow this popsicle stand, then," he said, raising his eyebrows and Sam allowed himself to believe.
Maybe Lucifer had risen, maybe he hadn't, but Dean was here, and maybe the beginning of the end of the world might just be the beginning of theirs.
She was looking at him.
It was like he could see it unfolding in slow motion, frame by frame, the shuddering relief as she all but collapsed against Dean, tracing the line of her vision as it shifted stutteringly onto Sam over his brother's shoulder, the widening of her eyes in abject terror, lips and bruised skin stretching and mouth opening to release that awful, all-too-familiar scream, loud and terrified and pitiful (please make her stop please please please) –
She was looking at him, and she knew him for what he really was.
Sam felt frozen, watching almost with a detached fascination (I had to do it, I did; I didn't have to, I did) before noticing Dean waving an impatient hand at him. Get out of her sight.
He quickly slunk away, ankles impacting against the stone steps leading into the convent before his body folded and he settled heavily on the nearest step, still so numb, yet not completely anesthetised from the guilt that was chewing at the bottom of his brain like a malignant worm, a sense that was so physical that dull pain expanded across his brow and down the sides of his neck. Weariness cascaded down his limbs, tightened muscles slowly relaxing, back bending in a soft arc as he slowly sank into himself.
You didn't need the feather to fly –
Sam's ultimate refuge was logic.
It may seem to strange to those who knew the kind of trade he plied, but Sam had always believed in an order, definitive sequences of events leading unto one another; not only did such a mindset help him with what he did best – deducing, analysing, integrating and associating – but it was also a way he could hold his mind above the horrors of his everyday life, entertain views of normality even while he lived an extraordinary childhood in which his only constants were death, blood, loss. His family. His brother.
Logic told him if there was evil there must also be good, that if he could go through this, then there would also be a life without living in darkness. Logic told him there was a world out there where he could be him, where unknown intangibles did not decide what happened to his life; that his decisions unfolded the series of events that decided his destiny, who he was.
Fat lot of good Logic had done him.
In the months after losing Dean, when his list of constants had been reduced to just 'death, blood, loss', logic didn't help him. The world had seemed frighteningly empty and full at the same time, so full of evil co-existing with professed good, dark and light intertwined in an eclipse of such complex uncertainty that nothing made sense any more. Without sense went control, without control went sanity. Despair roiled with alcohol in his gut, wandering and searching for ways to get his brother back (failing, failing, all the time) wrapped in a nonsensical haze, the world around him reduced to a procession of jumbled events. It was then that he had realised a truth.
Sam's ultimate refuge was Dean.
For all that he had resented his brother for trying to control his life (you're siding with Dad again, Dean) it had been his brother's presence, his faith, his need, that had driven Sam in his convictions, the rock-sure certainty that his brother's got his back, that he was something to return to (it's just college, Dean) then later, his brother's unwavering faith in his essential goodness even while the prospect of the dormant evil inside of him manifesting tore apart his dreams and every waking moment (I need to change my destiny, Dean). It was inside of him, outside of him, visions leading unto gory experiences all designed to bring about something that had been decided for him when he was naught but six months old and seen his mother burn on the ceiling above his crib. But Dean was there, and that was enough to give him the power to control this shit. The power to end it (you have to promise to kill me, Dean).
Then he died, and then Dean died for him, and he didn't die again (although he ought to have).
No faith, no control, only evil, within and without... and Ruby.
– you had it in you the whole time.
There was a cruelty about freedom – it was worthless without purpose; purpose was worthless without a plan. Ruby seemed to have come into his life with both in the nick of time, when he was crazed and drunk and suicidal, had given him a purpose, a goal, and more than anything else, the tools to reach it. An ability to use the things he feared within him, to take it and become stronger, to employ it in a mission for justice that was a giant Fuck you to all those forces that had looked to manipulate him, use him for his abilities.
It had been intoxicating.
"Who are you?" he'd asked one night, spent from another bout of mind-exorcisms trying to eke out information from uncooperative demons.
She had looked at him, confused, a small flask of whiskey half raised to her lips. "Ruby," she said, quirking her eyebrows. "I thought we'd gotten past that by now."
"No, that's not what I meant." He had shaken his head. "I mean, what are you? Whose side are you on? Good or evil?"
The confusion vanished, and a smile had curved her lips – not an unkind one, and she set aside her flask. "You know better than anyone that there's no clear demarcation between good and evil, Sammy." She had reached out with one hand, lightly stroking a strand of his sweat-soaked bangs before tucking it behind his ear. "I'm on your side."
He had frowned. "Mine?"
She had nodded, leaning into him and straddling his thighs with hers as he sat on the bed. "Yours and yours alone," she had whispered, lips brushing his ear, the reek of sulphur strong on her breath. It didn't repulse him, not anymore. "Why should there be sides, Sam? This story's about you. What you want. What you need to do." She had pulled her face back, smiling into his eyes, long dark hair framing a delicate face that seemed to hold genuine affection. "You're calling the shots, Sam. Isn't that what you always wanted?"
He had turned his head away at that point, grief rising like bile at the back of his throat as painful memories of Dean began to resurface. "I don't –"
A hand on his cheek had gently forced his gaze back onto hers. "I'm here to give you the power you need, Sam. Because you're the only person in the world who can do this." Her eyes flashed pitch black for a microsecond. "A fallen angel on your shoulder, your guide through the lands of the dead." Her lips had met his then, and he had given himself to the kiss, the moment rapidly ramping up in passion as he gathered her forcefully and the kiss deepened. He had bit her lip and felt the blood flood in his mouth, its coppery tang with its sulphurous undertones bursting supernovas behind his eyes, pushing all his doubts and fears and moralistic meanderings into a sharp singularity point for the void he'd become, buried deep within his chest.
If only he had had any idea...
He ought to have known, oughtn't he? He should never have trusted her so blindly – pushed by ideals that now seemed so selfish in the light of the disaster he had unleashed. He ought to have considered, used that scientific bent of thought he had always prided himself so much upon, should have wondered about how convenient it was that a dose of any random demon blood was enough to activate his demonic abilities, but no. He had been too relieved at having been given the decision to control his powers, to trace its source to something that need not necessarily be in him, but to something which intake and use he could regulate.
Turns out he had misjudged on both counts.
The power was his, and he was now saddled with a demon blood addiction to boot.
Ruby had used his every little weakness and manipulated them expertly, a plan so carefully constructed with such deep insight and cunning that Sam couldn't help but feel a grudging admiration burgeon in his chest.
Just as he had settled into a definitive rhythm, Dean had come back, and torn his carefully reconstructed world apart again.
Startled and confused and filled with a blessed relief so profound that all he could seem to make himself do was fall back into his usual rhythm with his brother, he had chosen not to tell his brother what exactly he had been up to. For all of Dean's faith in him, he knew the knowledge that Sam had given in to using his powers voluntarily would startle and upset his brother (remember what I taught you, Sam). He had had no idea how his brother would react, and as the days went by he only grew more entrenched in his conviction to shield his brother from the truth, as Dean appeared brittle and unsteady from his time in Hell, and not at all like the big brother he had once trusted could fix anything in the world.
The angels entering the picture and warning him about his powers stoked a slow simmering fear burning in his gut and there had been times – so many of them, too many – when he had considered just dropping his own mission and enjoying a literally God-given second chance at a life with his brother. But in the end it was Dean, as always, who had him go ahead with his convictions. He could see the change, couldn't he? He could feel it. Dean just wasn't Dean anymore. Hell had changed him – he was not the blustering, smirking umbrella of protection made of forged steel that he had been to Sam all his life (I wish I couldn't feel anything anymore, Sammy).
It was Sam's turn to protect his brother.
It was just as intoxicating as the demon blood.
He hadn't really expected Dean to understand, should've expected his brother stumbling onto his dirty, dark truth sooner than later, should've known how he would react (if I didn't know you, I'd want to hunt you), should've anticipated things going sour between them, almost to the point of no return (you're not the Sam I knew), but Dean was being was asked for too much by the angels, things he was no longer ready or equipped to do, but Sam was. Sam was stronger now, stronger than even Dean, and he would protect his brother no matter how bad things got between them. Maybe Dean would understand one day.
After he had ended their desperate fight once and for all and given Dean the life he deserved.
It had all made so much sense then.
... hadn't it?
Sam huddled miserably on the stone slab, pulling his jacket closer around him as the night's chill seemed to encroach upon him, seeping into every pore and starting little shivers that seemed to emanate from his very core. The dull pain had intensified and dropped to his abdomen where he could feel his gut twisting painfully. Fantastic, he thought, almost bitterly. Can't wait for the hallucinations to start.
... Where had it all gone so wrong?
The addiction, the confused mesh of pain and fear and guilt that was his time locked up – by his brother – in the Panic room, the subsequent escape and the fight (you're a monster, Sam) and the nurse and the kidnapping and the blood (burst through his consciousness like nothing had ever before, sweet and intoxicating and lifting him into everything he had ever wanted to be) and the final confrontation with Lillith and his eyes turning black and learning the truth and Dean and Ruby and Lucifer –
Not now, Sam.
He couldn't –
The dust dancing in the moonlight in front of him seemed to be resolving into a silhouette now – he could vaguely make out the stature to be that of his brother's, and some sort of inexplicable relief rushed through his veins. He needed to –
-- it wasn't Dean.
Adam stood there, smiling benignly at Sam. "Hey big bro," he said, even as a strip of flesh quietly tore itself from the side of his face. "brooding as usual?" A sudden chunk of flesh disappeared from his shoulder, as if bitten off. Even as Sam watched, long gashes opened themselves on the arms of his younger brother's apparition, dripping blood that ran in long rivulets that finally pooled near Sam's shoes (he was a screamer).
"No," Sam whimpered, dipping his head into his hands. When he dared to raise his eyes again, it was Jessica – in her bloodstained nightgown, her hair catching fire even as she leered with disgust (Why, Sam?). Then it was Dad. Dean. Madison. Every person he had ever tried to reach out to, every person he had ever loved, every person he had lost.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, fighting back tears. "I'm so sorry."
It was all he had against a burgeoning guilt that rode his side-effects from the addiction like a monster, all he had for a brother who couldn't trust him anymore, all he had in answer to a world he had condemned to evil with his actions.
For then, it would have to do.
He wasn't entirely sure how he knew the Dean approaching him in a tired, loping gait was not another hallucination, but he figured the second Dean standing in front of him reminding him rather explicitly why exactly Sam didn't deserve to be his brother was something of a clue in that regard. With a great deal of effort, he tore his attention away from the notDean (it was not, it couldn't be, that was all he had to tell himself) to his brother, raising his eyebrows in askance.
Dean looked tired, the moonlight throwing the exhaustion etched into every line of his face into sharp relief. Another stab of guilt pierced at Sam. "She's okay," Dean said, lifting his shoulders. "I mean, she probably remembers you, and you've probably got your ass on the wrong side of the law now, but hey. What's new, right?" He tossed him a weak smile.
"Nothing new," notDean said from beside him. "You're used to being on the wrong side of pretty much everything these days, aren't you, Sam?"
Sam closed his eyes briefly, taking in a shuddering breath (not real) and nodding.
He heard Dean sigh and eventually settle himself on the step beside him, and for a wildly beautiful moment it was like old times, when they seemed to know each other so well words weren't always necessary, where they could just be, side by side, in companionable silence. Sam tried to lose himself in the memory, but the pain in his gut felt like somebody was twisting a knife in his intestines and it was all he could do to clench his teeth against crying out, against the cold now drawing stronger and stronger shudders from his frame.
But he could get through this. He needn't be locked up anymore. He didn't have to bother Dean, didn't have to cause his brother any more suffering. He would get through the withdrawal on his own.
All he had to do was remind himself...
"It's not going to stop, you know," Jessica said, bending near his ear, and god help him, he thought he could feel the heat of her breath tickle his earlobe, just like – "You've already gone too far."
-- It's already gone too far, Sam –
He nearly jumped when Dean began talking again. "I'm thinking we need to get back to Bobby's," he said. "We're going to need to figure out our next move, and that's not counting getting some word from Cas."
Sam frowned. "Cas...?"
His brother huffed out a laugh. "Dude, the angels. Just –" He shook his head. "Things are more messed up than we could've imagined."
You have no idea, Sam thought, nodding even as a transformed Madison leered at him with blood dripping from her claws, a perfectly round bullet hole seeping blood from the middle of her forehead (notrealnotrealnotreal).
And, oh god, it was so cold...
Suddenly Dean was in front of him, grabbing at his forearms, eyes green and wide and Jesus, Sammy, what's wrong with you?
Except he didn't say it. Dean knew.
The shivering got more violent, Dean's grip stronger and the pain more excruciating, before Sam finally forced out, "Dean," barely holding in a scream. He couldn't – shouldn't – let his brother know, had to deal with it on his own, because his own was all he had had for what seemed like so long...
"C'mon Sammy," Dean muttered, gazing earnestly at him. "Fight this. This... blood. You know this, you can do this."
It always had to be you, Sammy. "It's not the blood, Dean," he whispered, "Dean, Dean – " The pain was sharp now, and the world seemed to be blurring and tilting to one side, though that could be because of the moisture wetting his eyelashes... "—it's me, me, but I don't –" He struggled restlessly, but Dean's grip was unwavering. "But I still need it."
There. He had said it.
Dean's eyes darkened, he could see the hardening of the jaw-line even through his impaired vision, could feel the pain as his grip tightened and twisted on his forearms – "It was my fault, I get it now, Dean, I'm sorry, Dean –" And now he was pretty much blathering, feeling like the past dozen years had never happened and he was just the scared young boy – a stranger both within and without his family – seeking his older brother was comfort and consolation and the unspoken promise to set things right and make everything better (I've gotcha, Sammy).
There was a brief hesitation that he could almost feel physically (Yeah, Sam, I think you'll go darkside) before his brother's arms moved around his shoulders, and no, everything was not better, but it was probably the closest it had come to that in many dark, lonely months. Sam figured he would always feel a little disgusted with himself for letting go so completely, that the feel of his tears soaking the front of his brother's jacket was another sign of his failure, and he knew, bedrock knew, that there was so much he still had to do to regain Dean's trust, to atone for what he had done, but at least they were now on the same page, working toward the same goal, together.
At least they were willing to try.
For this was Sam, and that was Dean, and the only side that mattered was theirs.