A/n: I consider the Levee/Lucifer Rising/Sympathy for the Devil trilogy to be one single story, so even though I wrote a separate fic for each one, they are also interconnected, especially the Rising/Sympathy pair. I'm therefore posting them "together," one each on consecutive mornings, God willing, starting with today. Be warned: these first two are pretty bleak as befitting the events of the episodes. But things are darkest before the dawn, and the last fic offers hope. It is my hope, however, that they all offer entertainment and, maybe, even some insight. -KHK
When the Winchesters Break
K Hanna Korossy
Alastair made another cut in his stomach, just one more pain in the sea of agony Sam already floated in. His voice was raw from screaming, so he only puffed and groaned against the leather chin strap that held his head in place.
It didn't let him look down when he felt a strange pull. He only saw the loop of intestine when Alastair held it up, grinning.
"I always wanted to see what you were made of, Sam," the demon said with a gleeful smirk.
Sam found his voice and started to scream again.
"Let's see what you're made of, Dean." The memory of the voice was so fresh, Dean could feel the hot breath on his face. He clenched his jaw sickly and turned away from the cupboard he'd gone to in search of more booze.
Most of Sam's muffled shouts were incoherent, expressions of anguish that Dean felt like stabs to his own gut. But he could make out a few words and among them had been "help" and "please"…and "Alastair." Sammy's fried brain was dragging him through Hell.
Another sharp cry, and Dean squeezed his eyes shut, leaning with both hands on the counter.
"Oh, I'm not so bad once you get to know me. After we've had a few heart-to-hearts…" The demon had held up the organ, carved from Dean's own chest. "Spilled your guts to me?" Dean couldn't even see through the haze of suffering what prize Alastair offered him this time. "You'll find I've gotten…under your skin." That was when the peeling began.
Dean's fingernails bent backward as he dug them into the laminate countertop, his teeth grinding together so hard that they creaked.
Sam shrieked from below his feet, in his own too-literal Lake of Fire.
"So you want to sing? We can do that. 'Down in the depths of my fiery home…'"
He'd never been able to listen to "Jump in the Fire" since he'd returned. Dean slammed a hand down on the counter and spun around, breath gasping out of a chest that was so tight, he was starting to see black spots.
Bobby stood a foot away from him, eyes equal parts sorrowful and determined. "You can't, Dean."
"He's being tortured down there," Dean grated.
"Inside his head. Nothing you can do to save him from that. But you go in there, and you're at the mercy of his hallucinations too, only they'll have Sam's out-of-control powers to back them up. I'm not ready to explain to your brother that he made it through detox okay but got you killed in the process."
"I don't care," Dean said tightly.
"Yeah? Well, I do," Bobby shot back. Then softened. "It won't help him, son. He's locked up in his own little Perdition right now, tighter'n those iron walls. He won't even know you're there."
Sam was breaking now on every yell, as if he were losing his voice. Or his fight. Dean's eyes burned as he looked away from Bobby's knowing gaze. "I'm gonna rip that witch-bitch's head off when I see her."
"I'll join you," Bobby said dryly, leaning past Dean to fish out an unopened bottle of whiskey. He'd been dry ever since Dean had come back from the pit, but neither of them were getting through this without some serious self-medication.
"You want a drink?" Alastair purred next to Dean's ear. Sam brokenly pleaded for mercy one insurmountable floor away. "Have some plasma, fresh from the tap. Still warm…"
Dean lurched over the sink and threw up. At least it drowned out Sam's cries for a minute.
"Maybe there's no escape. After all, how can you run from what's inside you?" And Sam's younger self's eyes glowed yellow.
It hurt in a whole different way than Alastair's blade had, and Sam felt his overwhelmed emotions swamp him, prickling his eyes and wrinkling his nose. How could you do this to me? young Sam had asked him, and Sam didn't think he'd accept I never had a chance as an answer. "I may not be normal," he insisted, desperate to make…himself believe it. "But I'm not that. I'm not evil."
"Right," his teenage self snarked, his eyes fading back to normal hazel. "'Cause drinking blood is so righteous. Maybe Dean was right: you're just a strung-out junkie."
"No!" Sam barked, cringing as even the sound of his own voice made his head ache. "No," he said more weakly. "It's not like that. I'm doing this to save Dean. I've given up…everything…"
"You think he wanted that at this cost?" the little devil's advocate replied, circling him.
"No," Sam whispered. "But he didn't give me a choice, either."
Young Sam gave him a pointed look. "You're the one who let it get this bad."
And Sam didn't have an answer for himself.
"How could you let it get this bad? Why didn't you look after him?"
The voice of his conscience sounded a lot like himself when he was a teen. Dean didn't look up from the porch step he was staring at to see if there was a figure to go with the voice. He was drunk enough for there to be. "I couldn' stop him," he murmured, then took a swig from the bottle of beer—they'd finally run out of the hard stuff—he had clenched in one hand. "I tried, but…"
"You let him die, Screw-up. And then you left him on his own, for more than four months. What did you expect him to do?"
Dean's face twisted and he growled, "I was in Hell. For him. I saved him."
"Yeah. Bang-up job you did there. You think he wanted that at this cost?"
"Screw you," Dean said bitterly.
His younger self snorted. "You wish. You didn't even give him a choice, dude. You're the failure here, Dean. All those promises we made Sam growing up, about how we'd always be there for him, look out for him? You didn't keep 'em. You can't even stand to be inside listening to his screams."
Dean started to raise the bottle to his mouth, hesitated, then drew back and hurled the half-empty beer instead at the nearest wreck in the junkyard. It shattered far less spectacularly than Dean wanted.
"You son of a bitch—how could you do this to him?" his younger, more naïve self asked with such pained disgust, Dean couldn't stand it anymore. He stumbled to his feet and went back in.
At least Sam, for all his suffering, was real.
The voice shut up then. But the occasional sob that drifted up from downstairs was plenty self-flagellation by itself.
"Dean is weak… He's terrified, he's in over his head… You have to go on without him."
His mother's words gave him a jolt of equal parts pain and solace.
On the one hand, she was talking about her son, Sam's big brother. The guy who'd gone to Hell for him, who had spent his whole life looking after Sam.
On the other, Dean was different now. He watched Sam with more suspicion than love these days. He was too scared, too weak to go after Lilith himself, and refused to even consider Sam doing so. And he'd locked Sam in the panic room to make sure he didn't.
Mom was right. Dean could never know how strong Sam was. He never gave him a chance, always holding him back out of fear…
Sam shook his head. Dean loved him. He did. There was never any question of that. Even Mom hadn't said he didn't.
But Hell had made Dean skittish, untrusting. Not willing to do what had to be done to win. What Sam was willing to do. Even if it meant losing Dean for good.
But Dean had died for him…
Your brother doesn't understand, Mom had said, her face wrung with sympathy. Because Dean meant well, but he was wrong, confused.
And mother knew best, right?
Cas had confirmed Dean was doing the right thing, forcing Sam to dry out from his blood jones. There was some comfort in that. But the alternative—most likely, he would become the next creature that you would feel compelled to kill—came a little too close to home.
"You have to look out for Sammy, son. He's special, and it won't be easy to keep him safe. If you fail, you might even have to kill him. But you'll save him, Dean. I have faith in you. Both of you."
He could remember his dad's final words verbatim, replaying them at least a dozen times a day since. He'd just never let himself believe how true they'd be. "You'd be so disappointed in me, Dad," Dean murmured to the quiet junkyard.
"I've never been disappointed in you, son. I'm proud of you."
His mouth quirked; he could almost hear their father. "Yeah? Well, I didn't do such a great job of looking after Sam. He…he died, Dad. I couldn't stop it. And when I got him back the only way I could…" His chin wobbled, and Dean pressed a hand over his mouth. After a moment, he shook his head and let his hand drop. "Maybe I should've let him go. He'd be safe then. Not…" Well, he wasn't screaming downstairs anymore, but the broken mutters Dean heard the last time he'd gone down and pressed his ear against the door hadn't been much better.
"I've been training you all your life for this. When it comes down to it, dude, you'll make the right decision."
"You sure about that?" Dean looked up with a tiny, wet laugh and could almost swear he saw his dad's eyes shining in the darkness. "Well, I'm not. If…if this doesn't save him, I don't… I mean, I can't…"
"You've got your orders, soldier."
Right, so much for empathetic John. Dean snorted and looked around, but of course he was alone in the yard. It had always been up to Dean and Dean alone.
And whatever Bobby argued, Dean's gut said this was the best way to help Sam, to look after him, just as Dad had always told him to do.
Father knew best and all that crap, right?
"You're a monster," Dean crooned. "Oh, yes. A monster. And you only feel right when you're sucking down more poison. And more evil."
They were brothers; Dean had known him all his life. He knew what Sam's deepest fears were and where his buttons hid. He knew how devastating those words were now.
"Sam, you're a monster. I tried so hard to pretend that we were brothers. But you were one of the filthy things that we hunt. We're not even the same species. You're nothing to me."
Sam couldn't hold back the sob, heart more broken than he thought possible. He'd been bracing himself for it ever since he'd started training with Ruby again, knowing that choosing to save the world might also mean losing Dean for good. But how could you prepare for that? How could you be ready for the person you valued more than anything to tell you they despised you? Because as revolted as he was by the idea that he was inhuman, the consequences, the changing of sides from standing beside Dean to becoming what he hated: that was what had always terrified Sam the most.
He sucked in a breath, tear-mingled sweat burning his eyes as he forced them open, determined to hear all Dean had to throw at him.
But Dean was gone.
Maybe he'd…never been there? A hallucination just like the rest?
The relief died stillborn. Even if Dean hadn't actually said it, he'd surely thought as much. He'd been on the verge of accusing Sam of being a monster, a thing to hunt, for months now. And here Sam was, caged by his brother's hand.
"I have to do this," he muttered to himself, rattling the padded cuffs that held him down. Humane to the end, his Dean, even when dealing with the fiend his little brother had become. "I have to. Have to do what needs to be done. Have to…" He trailed off, exhausted, energy dimming to the point of graying out. "…have…to…"
Even if it cost him what he loved the most.
At least Sam was quiet now. He'd almost looked like he was sleeping when Dean peered in through the barred window. He had argued there for a little while with another invisible guest, but now he was resting. Maybe, God help them, the worst was even over.
"I not tired. Read me book, Dean."
Dean looked over his shoulder at the soft, young voice, smiling bitterly at the sweet memory. Sammy stood there in his mind's eye, holding up a book to him, wide eyes pleading under that mop of hair. He'd loved books since he was a toddler.
"The thunder's really loud, Dean. Can…can I sleep with you?"
Sammy was older now. But unfamiliar rooms, Dad often gone: it wasn't a surprise the kid was so fearful even as he got bigger. As soon as he would curl up into Dean's side, however, sleepy and warm and smelling of baby shampoo, he'd relax, sheltered and safe.
"What if the thing that killed Mom comes back for me? I don't want my own room, Dean."
Pre-teen Sam, with his half-defiant, half-scared expression. Even once he discovered what was out there, what Dad really did, he'd still looked to Dean for his sense of security. During the day, he was Mr. Independent, wanting to walk to school alone, to hang out with friends without a chaperone, to go on class trips. But when it was dark and just the two of them, he usually made sure he kept Dean in sight. And Dean had always felt as proud of that as he had stifled by it.
"I'll be fine, dude. It's just California, not the end of the world. And, uh, if I call, you'll answer, right?"
He could just see gawky eighteen-year-old Sam, shifting from foot to foot with his duffel in hand. Dean hadn't been there while Sam had been at school, and the kid had done just fine. Better than, even. That world had only shattered after Dean had come back into his life.
"I just…I have these dreams."
Little Sammy all grown up, with fears and burdens not even an adult should have to face. Jessica. Dad. Cold Oak. Dean and his deal. Azazel and Lilith and Alastair and Uriel. Dean had tried his hardest, but even big brother couldn't fight all that.
"It's so damn hard to do this, what we do…There's so much evil out there in the world, Dean, I feel like I could drown in it. And when I think about my destiny, when I think about how I could end up…"
Dean closed his eyes and leaned against the cold iron door. Sam was quiet, but he was still hurting. And probably felt utterly alone, even though Dean was right there, suffering with him.
His eyes burned, wetness seeping out from under the lids, but Dean made no move to wipe it away. Who was there to see, anyway?
He was doing the right thing, what needed to be done, Dean was sure of it. Sammy wasn't thinking straight or he'd agree. Had begged Dean more than once to stop him, in fact, if he ever changed. Dean wasn't sure his brother would see it that way even once he was clean, though. Or if Sam would ever forgive him. Or if he'd even survive detox at all. But Dean wasn't giving up this one last chance to look after his little brother. He had to save Sam's soul.
Even, he thought bleakly as he pushed away from the door and trudged up the stairs, if it cost him what he loved the most.
The End, for the moment