Dean woke up achy and disoriented. He tried to focus and remember where the hell he was. Michael was out of him, so that must mean things worked out. How long had he been out of it? He wasn't sure how long Michael had ridden him. He just hoped the fact that he was himself again meant the apocalypse was over, or averted, or fixed or what-the-hell-ever. He sat up, looked around. Bobby's guest room. Okay. I can deal with that.
He stood, and his legs were unsteady. He grabbed at the window frame next to the bed. At least the angel kept his promise and didn't leave me a friggin' vegetable. His head was pounding. He rode through a wave of dizziness. He needed water. And to see Sam. After that, he could figure the rest out. As he moved down the hall, he wondered how things stood between him and Sam. To say that Sam was unhappy with Dean's decision to say 'yes' to Michael was like saying lava was tepid. The last they had spoken Sam had begged him to change his mind.
"Team Free Will, Dean. Remember that? We aren't going to let angels use us for their family feud? Any of this ringing a bell?"
"Sam, Lucifer is on a world-destroying rampage. Michael is the only one who can kill him, and only if he has me as his vessel. Full power, or whatever."
Sam nodded. "So, you sacrifice everything. Again. And, I stand on the sideline, again, and just watch you give yourself up? Well, that is one hell of a plan, Dean."
And, what could Dean say to that? Sam was right. Dean was being a first class hypocrite, no mistake. But, he didn't see a lot of choices, here. "Listen, Sam, I am not thrilled about this. But, Michael promised he would split as soon as it was done. All you have to do is stay away from Lucifer until it's over."
Sam had looked at him for what felt like an hour, but had probably been more like 10 seconds. "Yeah. That's all I have to do. Stay hidden, while you surrender for the good of the world. That's awesome."
Dean had felt anger flash through him. "Oh, I'm sorry. Are you pissed that you don't have a bigger role to play? You want to be a hero, is that it?"
Sam had shaken his head slowly. "No, Dean. I don't want to be a hero. I just don't want to lose you to some big, save-the-world sacrifice again. And, there's nothing I can do to help you, except watch it happen. So, yeah, excuse me for not dancing a god damn jig."
Frankly, Dean didn't have time to deal with Sam and his emo bullshit. Time was short. Lucifer was breathing down earth's neck, and Dean had to go.
"This is gonna work, Sam. Just, stay out of the way, would you?"
Sam looked at him, didn't say anything for a long time. "Yeah, Dean. I'll stay out of the way. Don't worry."
And then, Sam shocked the hell out him by walking across the motel room and wrapping his long ass arms around Dean. "You are a reckless son of a bitch."
Dean let himself feel it for just a moment. Sam's love, his own fear, the hugeness of what was about to happen. He put his head against Sam's shoulder and tightened his arms. "I prefer 'maverick adventurer.'" Dean let it go on about two more seconds, then stepped back. "Now, get the hell out of here."
Sam had turned and left.
That was that last time Dean had seen him.
Wait. Was it? No…there was something else…Something was tickling at Dean's brain. Sam and…something big. But he couldn't quite grasp what it was. Maybe Bobby or Sam would know.
Downstairs, Bobby was sitting at his kitchen table, writing in a notebook. He heard Dean's footsteps and stood up. "Hey, boy. How are you feelin'?"
Dean just stared.
Bobby looked at him, and then, down at his legs. His functioning legs. "Ah, yeah, a little gift from Castiel. After…well, after."
Dean tried to shake his head loose from the lethargy and fog he'd been floating in for the last little while. "How long has it been?"
"About three days since you got free of Michael, about a week since Lucifer was put down."
Dean raised a brow. "Wow. A lot has happened, huh?"
Bobby rolled his eyes. "Yes, Dean. A lot has happened." He pulled out a chair. "Sit. I'll get you some coffee."
Bobby put a steaming cup of coffee in front of him. Dean looked up at Bobby. "So, you're feelin' okay?"
Bobby put a hand on his shoulder, squeezed gently. "I'm good, Dean."
Dean nodded, took a sip of coffee. "Where's Sam?"
Expecting a casual, 'he'll be back soon,' or 'out getting supplies,' or something, Dean's heart kicked up at the silence that met his question.
Bobby released a long sigh and sat back down at the table. "What do you remember?"
Dean spread his hands. "It's a simple question, Bobby. Where is Sam?"
Bobby rubbed a hand down his face. He looked older. Spent and tired. Dean's tension meter rose to Defcon 3. Something was off, here. Bobby took a sip of his coffee. "Sam took off just after you agreed to host Michael. Haven't seen him since. I heard some things, but…"
"You heard what? Sam didn't say 'yes' to Lucifer, right?"
Castiel's voice came from just behind Dean. "He did not say 'yes.'"
Dean spun around. The angel looked rested, healthier. There was a power to his presence again. He seemed more like an 'angel of the Lord' now, and less like the rumpled accountant they'd been working with the last couple of months. "Cas. What happened?"
Castiel gave one of his penetrating stares. It lasted about ten seconds longer than Dean's patience. Dean slammed his hand down on Bobby's table, making the cups and random items strewn on it jump. "I'd like some god damned answers, and I'd like 'em right the hell now!"
Castiel tilted his head. "Do you remember anything after Michael entered?"
Dean's brows went up. "What? No. Nothing. He…" But, there was something. Something that he'd seen or felt, even through the angel's overwhelming presence. In a disjointed flash, he saw something, tried to remember.
Sam, strung up in chains, facing away from him. His brother's arms and back were a bloody mess. Lucifer, in a ghoulish, practically decomposing version of that poor guy Nick, was dragging a red-tipped, smoking bar of iron over Sam's back and laughing. Sam was screaming?
Dean's head was pounding. He looked up at Castiel, then Bobby. "Did Lucifer find Sam?"
Bobby looked away, closed his eyes.
Castiel met his eyes. "Yes. But, that ended up being how Michael was able to track him down. Lucifer had Sam for a couple of days. Some other angels found him and summoned Michael. He shouldn't have stayed in one place so long, but he was determined to have Sam as his vessel for the final battle. It was a decision that cost him his time on earth."
Dean tried to focus on the images he'd seen through Michael's presence. It was all pretty disjointed. But, he remembered hearing Michael, using Dean's voice, addressing Lucifer. He didn't remember specifics. Just, angry words flying back and forth and then a surge of power that shut him out completely. What Dean remembered before things went black, was seeing Sam. He hanging by chains, slowly spinning…until Dean had seen his face. Lucifer was holding a bloody bowie knife, and most of Sam's stomach was ripped open behind him.
Sam wasn't moving, or screaming, or making any noises.
Sitting at Bobby's kitchen table, Dean closed his eyes. He tried to reach past the sight of Sam hanging, bloody, in chains as Michael and Lucifer jawed at each other. There was nothing. He couldn't remember anything else.
He put his hands over his face, felt a wave of fear and grief, made himself push it back. He dropped his hands to the table, looked back to Castiel's placid gaze. "Tell me what happened. Please."
Castiel nodded. He walked over and pulled himself up to sit on the kitchen counter. Any other time, Dean would have found it funny that an angel was perched on Bobby's countertop, but right now, it was all he could do to not grab him by his damned lapels and shake the answers out of him.
"After you said 'yes,' Sam did as you asked. He let Zachariah put him in a safe house, I suppose you'd call it. He was going to wait it out, because he said that's what you had wanted, and if he couldn't be useful, at least he'd stay out of the way. Unfortunately, one of Zachariah's brothers had been turned by Lucifer, and gave Sam up. Took him right to Lucifer's feet. I don't think you need me to tell you what occurred after that."
Dean felt his stomach move up his throat. "Torture."
Castiel nodded. "Yes."
Dean swallowed down the rising nausea. He cleared his throat. When he was relatively certain he wouldn't hurl, he cleared his dry throat. "How long?"
Castiel looked down at his hands. Bobby was sitting with his chin in his hand and his gaze on the floor. Neither one answered. Dean's question came out more like a sob. "Fuckin' how long?!"
Castiel's voice came softly. "57 hours."
Dean closed his eyes, felt a wave of black reaching for him. Screw that. I am not going to swoon. He grabbed the edge of the table and dug his nails into the surface, grounding himself in the slight sting. "My brother was tortured by Lucifer for 57 hours…"
He would have stood up to pace, but his legs were jelly. His head pounded and his stomach rebelled. He just tried to keep breathing.
Bobby cleared his throat. "Dean, he didn't let him in. Sam didn't break."
Dean didn't open his eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, I know he didn't."
Silence filled the small kitchen while Dean tried to keep from either passing out or throwing up. Finally, he felt like he could talk. "So, did you bury him?"
Castiel's voice, as calm as ever. "Sam isn't dead, Dean."
Dean's eyes popped open. "What? What!? Couldn't we have started with that? Jesus Christ…" He sat back in his chair, felt like he could breath again. "So, where is he?"
Bobby sighed. "We don't know."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on! What do you mean, 'you don't know.' The kid must have needed a hospital. Who took him?"
Castiel finally looked away, down at the floor. "Many things were happening, Dean. When Michael smote Lucifer, the angels and demons went after each other for a few days. Michael took you to Zachariah, departed from your body. You were not in good shape. Zachariah was mostly concerned with rounding up the angels and celebrating his victory. He summoned me to come get you, and I took you here. When I was finally told where to find Sam, almost a week had passed. Sam was no longer where Lucifer had left him."
Dean felt his tenuous hold on hope slipping. "So, how do you know he's not dead?"
Bobby stood up, refilled his coffee. "He called me three days ago, wanted to know if I knew where you were. I told him you were here, and to get his ass here pronto." He gave a glare to Castiel. "I didn't know about the torture. I had assumed he was with your pal Zach all this time." He looked back over to Dean. "He asked if you were okay. I told him I thought you were intact, just wrung out. He said that was good, he was glad Michael had kept his word. I told him to get here as soon as he could. He said he didn't thing that was a good idea. Told me to take care and hung up."
Dean looked between them, didn't really know what to say. "That's it? And neither one of you tried to find him?"
Bobby sighed. "Don't think he wants to be found, Dean. After everything he's been through, kind felt like he's earned making his own choices."
Dean couldn't quite fathom what he was learning here. Sam wanted to stay away? Was this another bid for independence? Another way to tell Dean that he just wasn't important to him anymore?
Jesus, Dean, stop with the drama. Sam isn't punishing you. He's hurt and hiding. But, why?
Dean drained his water glass, and stood up. "Well, Sam can say whatever he wants. I'm gonna find him."
Castiel sild off the counter. "There's something else you should probably know."
Dean rolled his eyes. "You know, you suck at exposition. Just say everything at once, will ya?"
Cas shrugged. "It's possible that an angel healed Sam of his injuries."
Dean's brows went north. "It's possible? What does that mean?"
"It's been hard to get reliable information in the past week. Angels are going back to heaven, some are staying behind. Things are scattered. But, I did hear from Gabriel. He said that 'Sam got a do-over, and you're welcome.'"
Dean waited. "That's it? That's the message?"
Castiel just looked at him.
Dean sighed. He walked out of the kitchen, forming a plan in his mind. Sam would probably go someplace familiar to hole up. Someplace he thought Dean wouldn't know. Has to be near Stanford, right? He'd think Dean didn't know anything about his life there. Except that Dean had spied on him enough to know his favorite places. Even knew about the cabin Jessica's family had in the mountains near Sebastopol. It was as good a place as any to start.
Castiel followed him into the living room. "Dean. Perhaps this time you should let Sam alone."
Dean turned to look at him. "Cas, I need to see that he's okay. After everything, after…hell, just everything I can't just leave him to deal with everything by himself." He heard Bobby's phone ring in the kitchen. He opened his mouth to tell Castiel why he was going to go regardless of what Sam said he wanted. But, there was something about the silence after Bobby said 'hello,' that made him rush into the kitchen.
Bobby looked up at Dean while he listened to whatever was being said to him on the phone, and Dean knew. He just knew. He marched over to Bobby, took the phone out of his hand. "Sam?"