Note: Here it is. The really grim one. Do I have to warn what happens at the end? I think you know.
Poor Boy, You're Bound to Die
His dreams were always about the end of the world. For anyone else, they'd be exaggerated; Technicolor horrors of blood, fire and death, and the worst thing to come from them would be waking in a cold sweat. But for Sam they were simply the future, integral to who he was and who he was to become. He couldn't remember when he'd begun having the dreams, and he also couldn't remember a time when he hadn't had them. It was like they were a living part of him now, indivisible from the present and coming realities. They filled him with terror and excitement at the same time, the way the craving for demon blood still did no matter how much he tried not to think about it.
The day was almost here. Sam knew it. He could sense it deep within his bones. Even without that vague intuition, he'd long ago realized nothing good could come on the anniversary of his birth. Lucifer had told him when and where, but he'd stupidly clung to the idea that it couldn't be true. But now there were two days left before it would happen, and there was no hope left. The odds were stacked against them.
Sam looked across the room at the sleeping form of his brother. He envied the sleep, though he knew Dean only accomplished it by drinking heavily and it only lasted in one or two hour intervals. It wasn't safe for both of them to sleep at the same time, and as it stood, he didn't much care to anyway. He supposed he should consider himself lucky; he'd have thought Dean and Bobby would have tried to lock him in the panic room by now. He knew Dean also knew it was all about to come to a head, and yet still had or had regained enough trust in him to doze off. Sam frowned and had to look away.
Sam pulled back the drapes a sliver, staring out at the misleadingly peaceful morning for a moment. The sky was dark pink in the east, nearly red, as the sun struggled to break the horizon. In the shadows, Bobby's yard already looked like the apocalypse had hit it. It had looked this way for years. Closing his eyes, he could see him and Dean trolling around the junk, playing hide-and-seek, attacking like hunters when Dad jumped at them from out of nowhere with a monstrous roar. Dean, he thought, had known then they were training rather than playing, but it had taken Sam years for those happy times to be tainted by full understanding. He smiled at the memories anyway, bittersweet as they were, because the times they came here before Dad pissed Bobby off had often been the best, closest thing to happiness Sam had known as a kid. He wanted to remember him and Dean like that, smiling and together.
He shook himself out of the drowsy place his memories let him slip into. He couldn't sleep now. Sam wondered if he'd ever sleep again. It was academic, he reminded himself. He only had a couple days left on this Earth, maybe fewer; all of them did. He rolled his neck, feeling it crack in a small rush of pleasure pain. He let the drapes fall back and stood. He had to do this now, before he chickened out. Before Dean woke up.
There was almost nothing in the world he wanted to do less.
They'd wasted too much time trying to keep themselves untouched and alive, both him and Dean. By trying to buck the "it is foretold" destiny trend, they'd made it all about themselves anyway, and it was. But it wasn't. It was about so much more than them too, and it wasn't fair to think the fate of the world depended on Dean and Sam Winchester living through the war. They'd been pretty damned selfish about it, thinking of it that way. He was almost sure about their selfishness now, just as he was almost sure the fate of the world actually depended on at least one of them dying, horribly. Unspeakably. And he was almost sure he about to do the only thing he could, and that while it was no real choice of his own at all, Dean would never believe otherwise.
Sam had known for a while the who and what and how of what was going to happen to him. All he had to do was recall the decaying husk of the devil's current, sacrificial meat suit and remember Meg riding him hard so long ago, in another life. Lucifer had delighted in telling him the where and when. And as much as it pained him, Sam knew now why he was Lucifer's, and it was this: there weren't any other options left. Every path he and Dean walked was going to lead to the end of the world, no matter their intention and no matter how hard they fought. He knew that now and he supposed he had always known it. Their lives had become a double-edged sword, destined to split them. He was resigned to that, if not okay, as long as he was the only one to bleed.
He'd already decided to take the rusty 1979 pickup. The Impala would get him there faster, and more reliably. With what Sam was about to do to Dean, though, he couldn't add that insult to the injury. He didn't need food or water. He didn't need clothes or fake IDs. Where he was going required only him. He stood for a moment in the middle of the cluttered room, uncertain and scared as much as determined. He hated every single motherfucking second of this. He took a deep breath and scrawled Dean and Bobby a note on the backside of a rite they'd tried against Lucifer, one of the countless things they'd tried since the Cold failed. It seemed inappropriately appropriate. Sam knew what he wrote would only make things worse. He left the paper on the kitchen table, setting a half-full whiskey bottle on one corner to keep it in place and to ensure it was found. He took an unopened bottle with him.
The sky had brightened to a dusky orange, still more shadow than light. He should have gone earlier, right after Dean had fallen asleep. It was too late to correct that or any mistake at this point. He moved to the truck, opening the door and put it in neutral. It was so Sound of Music to push the truck down the drive like this, but he couldn't risk Dean or Bobby waking up until he was far enough away. Climbing in the cab when he deemed it safe, Sam turned the key. The engine failed to turn over. It didn't even pretend to. He knew enough about vehicles and about Dean to know it wasn't going to start. Dean didn't trust him after all. Sam smiled sadly, figuring all the normally-functioning cars in Bobby's yard had been rendered useless.
It was okay. He'd grown used to the idea that neither Dean nor Bobby could ever give him complete trust again. He hated that more than they'd ever know, but, after all, he was on the fast track to become the devil incarnate. Someone with that legacy couldn't be trusted, not in a world like theirs. Sam fumbled to open the whiskey, downing a few rapid swallows. He needed the fuel. His stomach protested, almost immediately threatening to purge its contents. His tolerance wasn't what it had been once upon a time, but it was still high. The need to puke had less to do with alcohol and more to do with where he was going.
After a glance back at the house, Sam began walking. Just on the other side of Bobby's decrepit mailbox, the whiskey bottle was half gone. Fifty steps after that, it was empty. It was the end of the world as Sam knew it, and he'd already been condemned to hell for every sin but littering, so he felt no remorse at chucking the bottle into a plowed-under field. It landed with a thunk and a hollow-sounding roll. There was no more satisfaction in that than there had been in draining it dry. His gut burned with the heat of alcohol.
"Sam," a gruff, perpetually earnest voice said.
Sam jerked, though he shouldn't have been caught off guard. He'd expected Castiel. Castiel was very important. His vision was slightly blurry, from the booze or maybe there were tears in his eyes – he didn't know. Didn't matter, he could still see Castiel's ever-serious face staring up at him, and the rumpled, war-weary mess of his clothes and hair. Who needed a truck, when there were angels?
"Cas," Sam said, his throat sticking with how real this was becoming. He bobbed his head and tried again. "Castiel. I wasn't sure you'd actually show up."
"I gave you my word." Castiel tilted his head.
"Yeah, you did." Sam wasn't sure why. He didn't think Castiel approved of his plan any more than Dean would, if Dean knew. When Dean found out. "Is it ready?"
"To your exact specifications."
"Do you have it?"
Castiel pulled the blade out, staring down at it in his hand like he had never seen it before, like he hadn't killed a heavenly host or two with it himself. "Yes, I have it," he said, redundant and Castiel-like.
"Then we should go. Dean or Bobby could wake up any time," Sam said, braving past the whiskey-driven butterflies in his stomach. He couldn't stand around another minute.
"You are certain this is the course of action you would like to pursue," Castiel said, the question framed as a statement.
Sam sneaked a look at Bobby's house, the graveyard of cars surrounding it. Part of him thought, no, no I'm not certain. I just want to go hide there among the cars like I used to. A big part. He couldn't hide from this, though. He was as sure as he was ever going to be.
"I don't like any of this," he snapped, still trying to be strong. He stood up straight. "Let's go."
Nodding, Castiel stepped toward Sam with a hand outstretched.
There was a bright, disorienting moment and then they were miles away. The sight of the abandoned buildings made him want to hunch over, his certainty crumbling. Sam had thought it fitting, coming back here, but now he knew it was a bad idea. Morbid. There wasn't time to correct himself, and it wasn't … it wasn't like there was going to be anything left for Dean to find, no way for his brother to relive events. He looked over the pile of wood, perfectly arranged, and the accelerant. Jesus, he didn't want to do this. His palms began to itch, his tongue felt thick. He looked at Castiel, who was at once impassive and filled with emotion.
"You don't think this is going to work," Sam said hoarsely. "You don't think this is what I should do. But what else is there?"
"I can't answer that. If I could, then we would not be here." The expression in Castiel's eyes was pity. It was unexpected sorrow. "I know that if I were in your position, I would find this decision … difficult."
The words, meant to be comforting, made Sam feel even sicker. Choosing the lesser of two evils was still choosing evil. There was nothing else he could do that wouldn't hurt so many others. He picked up the can and began dousing the wood. The timing of this had to be perfect. He shuddered, quelling thoughts about it going wrong.
"I brought you this far, Sam Winchester. I cannot bear witness as you finish it," Castiel said. His lips, dry and cracked, pursed.
It was no more than he expected, but Sam felt a pang of dread. He had to fight the urge to tell Castiel to take him away from this place of death, where he should have stayed dead years ago.
"Hey, it's okay," he said. "I figured I'd be alone at the end."
"If Dean knew of my part in this…" Castiel said, like some sort of last-ditch guilt trip to get him to change his mind.
"Don't worry. I never told him you let me out of the panic room – yeah, I know about that. I won't tell him you were here."
Sam tried to laugh at his own terrible, inappropriate joke and ended up letting a sob escape instead. Dean would know about this, anyway, and he almost felt bad for Castiel. He snuffed out his tears before they got out of control, reaching for his lighter.
"Tell him … when he's ready, tell him I meant what I said in the note," Sam said. He stood near the pile. "I have one last favor to ask."
Castiel nodded, moving close again.
A cool, rough hand on the side of his neck, then sharp, ripping pain in his belly. Mortal wound, but not immediate. Everything came in bright flashes, or that was Castiel leaving him. Sam gasped, the blood escaping from his body both hot and cold, fast and slow. He clambered awkwardly onto the pyre, nostrils searing from the stench of fuel. He shook all over, fingers numbing fast, as he flipped onto his back. Staring up at the sky, still the hazy orange of dawn, the clouds looked like flames to him. He heard a sound, and he turned his head, listening past the dull roar in his ears.
"SAM!" he heard Dean shouting, and he was so glad to hear his brother's voice his knees went momentarily weak. The rain poured down and he was bone tired, but Dean was here now.
For a second he thought it wasn't memory, that Dean really was there, and it was okay. His breaths came shallow and erratic, he felt as if he were floating. Sam smiled toward the imagined voice, an echo of his first death.
He flicked the lighter, and prayed this would be his last.