This began as a tag to Dark Side of the Moon, and a reaction to the now infamous amulet scene, but, as a friend told me, writing a tag in Season 5 is like hitting a moving target. Long story short, by the time I finished, the show had already largely resolved Dean's faith issues. But, geminigrl11 convinced me not to shelf it, so here it is!
Thanks to the aforementioned geminigrl11 for the extremely helpful beta, and as usual, I own nothing
"Heavyweight showdown in Detroit. From what I understand, Sam didn't make it."
--Dean from 2014 in 'The End.'
"Found some omens. Looks like the demons are heading north."
Sam glanced over the top of the laptop, waiting to see how his news would be received. The past few months had been hard. Dean had lost faith in everything after their little jaunt through Heaven and the big snub by God. He was giving up, and no matter what Sam tried to do to rekindle his faith, it only seemed to make things worse. They'd hunted for a while, mostly out of habit than any real desire to keep fighting, and every day, Dean seemed to spiral down a little further into an abyss.
Dean didn't look up from his spot by Bobby's library window. He grunted with obvious disinterest, and just took another swig from the whiskey bottle. That was all he had done--- drink and stare---since they'd decided to set up shop long-term at Bobby's after the most recent hunt. Sam had watched helplessly as his big brother drank himself into a stupor. Every day was the same. Dean spent most of the daylight hours sleeping off his hangovers. Bobby had given up trying to talk sense into him.
Sam surreptitiously touched the amulet in his jacket pocket. He'd retrieved it from the motel trash can where his brother had discarded it. It was still a symbol of their brotherhood to Sam, even though Dean had seemed to renounce that right along with everything else.
He'd tossed his amulet in the garbage like it was nothing. That had hurt. Sam hadn't wanted to believe his eyes, but there was no denying the way Dean had dangled the amulet over the trash, slowly, deliberately, before dropping it. It hadn't been a spur of the moment decision. He'd wanted Sam to see it. Wanted Sam to be hurt by it.
It had worked.
"Dad lied to me. I want you to have it."
"Thank you Sammy, I ... I love it."
For eighteen years, that simple piece of jewelry had signified something. It had been a symbol of their brotherhood. Of a younger sibling's love for his older sibling, and all that chick-flick crap that they never---ever---talked about. After the fight, after Ruby and Lucifer, seeing that Dean still wore it had given Sam hope. Maybe they could rebuild what they'd lost---what Sam had torn down. Maybe Sam could work his way back to his brother despite all the pain and distance. But, events seemed to be pushing them in a different direction.
Castiel had declared it worthless as a God-detector. And then Dean had basically declared it worthless, period. Sam understood that Dean was angry that the Sam's memories in Heaven seemed to not value Dean or family at all. It wasn't true—not remotely—but it wasn't like Sam could get his brother to listen to him when he tried to explain.
It wasn't fair. Sam hadn't been able to control what he'd seen in Heaven any more than Dean had. And even so, none of it justified Dean symbolically severing their bond so callously.
Part of Sam wanted to rail against his brother, demand that Dean see his point of view. But, a bigger part knew that he'd lost that right long before. Dean had taken him back the previous year when he'd had no reason to, and plenty of reasons not to. While most others condemned him, Dean had, reluctantly, given him a chance to atone for his mistakes---if starting the End of the World can be described as a mere "mistake."
Despite his efforts, though, the gulf between them seemed bigger than ever. Sam wanted to make things right, he did, but it was up to Dean to let him. If Sam tried to force the issue, it would only make things worse.
Besides, Dean could be correct. Had Sam put his family first the way Dean had? Had Sam forgone his own dreams and desires the way his sibling had? No, he'd left Dean behind at every step. Pursued his own dreams and desires no matter how much pain it caused his family. He was selfish, single-minded.
So, when Dean tossed the amulet into the trash, slowly started treating him like a stranger, just grunted and kept drinking when they found a lead…it was what Sam deserved. He got it.
He just didn't know how to get past it.
After a while, Sam had stopped trying to get through to his sibling. There was nothing he could say to change things. Nothing had changed Dean's mind so far, and all trying had done was earn Sam a few bruises. The message was loud and clear: they were partners, not brothers, back off.
Didn't mean it hurt any less. Sam squeezed the amulet in his pocket, silently begging Dean to turn and say something. Anything. A spark of interest. But there was nothing.
The only thing Dean still seemed to believe was that they couldn't say yes. Couldn't let Michael and Lucifer fight head to head. That would burn the world down. But even that conviction was slipping. Fast. Sam could sense it.
Sam watched as Dean stood silently, took another drink, then staggered into the next room. Sam deflated, and went back to work tracking the omens. One of them had to keep going, and Sam was the only one left who was capable.
Sam rubbed his eyes, trying to get them to focus. He'd been on the laptop all evening, slept a few hours, then got up and started again. He wondered idly how his dad had never needed glasses.
The door to the library opened, and Bobby rolled in, a---recently---typical scowl in place as he came to a stop near the desk.
"You even sleep last night?"
Sam suppressed a smirk. No, 'good morning, Sam.' Just down to business. Even Bobby was starting to treat him like---
He stopped that thought. Bobby still accepted him, or he wouldn't have been in the man's house. Sam was just letting his flagging spirits influence his thinking too much. Instead, he shook his head. "Slept on the couch. Got up early."
"Why didn't you go upstairs?"
Casting a glance at the ceiling, Sam smiled faintly, then returned his eyes to the laptop screen. "Didn't want to climb all those steps."
Bobby stared for a moment, then frowned. "He's not gonna bite, Sam."
He might…. "He doesn't want me around him. I can see it, Bobby."
The older man sighed. "Dean's just going through a rough patch, Sam."
"He needs to be alone, so he can work himself out," Sam said quietly, keeping his eyes on the screen, but not seeing it.
"What he needs," Bobby growled softly. "Is for you to go up there and knock some sense into him. You're the only one who can."
Sam shook his head. He'd fought with Dean enough for one lifetime. He could still remember what it felt like when he beat Dean down in that hotel room in Cold Spring. What Dean had looked like when he was strangling the life out of him. Sam would cut his hands off before he let that happen again. "Not anymore."
Even without looking, he could tell Bobby wanted to argue. Fortunately, the man seemed willing to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. "You still working on those omens?"
Sam couldn't help but feel relieved at the change in subject, even if the alternative was almost as frustrating. "Yeah. There's a pattern, they're heading north...but I can't tell how many demons or what they're after."
"Hmm," the older hunter grunted, turning in his chair to flip through one of the books Sam had open. "Could be anything. Hell, with our luck, it's probably another Horseman."
Sam blinked. He hadn't considered that. It had been a while since Lucifer had raised one. He ran down the list in his head. War, Death, Famine...Pestilence. He looked back at the map where he was plotting the tracks of the omens. Could be anywhere, though....
"Listen, I gotta leave for a day or so," Bobby interrupted his thoughts. "Rufus wants to meet, but he can only come halfway."
Sam looked up at him, eyes lingering on the wheelchair as his head rose. "Do you need me--- Um, do you...need any help?"
"I'm not a complete invalid, boy," Bobby bit out, though he finished with a smile. "Look after your lunkhead brother. I'll be back tomorrow night, and then we can work on those omens."
Bobby rolled out of the room, leaving Sam to ponder what he'd said. With our luck, it's probably another Horseman.
The last Horseman. Pestilence.
That might help him to try and determine what the demons might be looking for, but it didn't help much with a location. The omens were spread out in a line, heading north toward the Great Lakes and Canada. Search pattern, he realized. The demons weren't sure where their objective might be, either. They were spread out in a line two hundred miles wide, moving together.
But to where?
Sam let his mind and his gaze wander. Sometimes, the details would fall together on their own if he let them. He just needed to stop thinking about it. Only trouble was, when he stopped concentrating on his research, all he could think about was Dean.
His eyes settled on a classic car calendar hanging on the wall near the desk. The only classic car he'd ever worried about was the Impala. Cars were Dean's thing. His gaze dropped past the dates to the blown-up, black and white photo of Ellen and Jo that Bobby had pinned up.
Sometimes, it was hard for Sam to accept that it had been six whole months---
"Oh, I don't know, Sam. I think it will. I think it'll happen soon. Within six months. And I think it'll happen in Detroit."
Lucifer seemed certain something would go down in Detroit. Something big---terrible---enough to make Sam agree to be his vessel. All right…maybe I know the where….
Now, Sam just needed to figure out the what.
It took a few hours, but Sam was almost sure he had something. Once he'd narrowed his search area to Detroit and its immediate surroundings, he'd started looking for anything that might point to a Horseman or a Horseman's influence.
Finding evidence of pestilence in a decaying major city like Detroit wasn't difficult. It was sorting through all the websites, reports, and rumors that was hard. Finally, though, Sam thought he'd hit paydirt.
The Lee Plaza Hotel in southeastern Detroit, a few miles from the Canadian border, fit the parameters of Sam's search. The high-rise apartment/hotel had been built in the late 1920s, switched owners many times, and finally closed in the 1990s. That was consistent with many urban buildings, but it was the circumstances of the various changes in ownership that caught his attention.
Officially, "economic contraction" was listed as the reasons for the building's troubles. But, Sam found mention of multiple events in the building's history that signaled something darker. In the 1930s, it had been shut down because of a Typhus epidemic. In the 1950s, it was a polio outbreak that affected 300 people. The 1970s saw an influenza pandemic.
All centered or originating around the Lee Plaza Hotel.
It was unusual, but the anecdotal evidence was mounting, and Sam knew that such stories were often based on fact. With the demonic signs moving steadily toward that area of Detroit---
Dean had told him about Zachariah's impromptu tour of the future. Lucifer---with Sam himself as his vessel---had unleashed the Croatoan virus on a massive scale. The world's population had begun tearing itself apart. Raising Pestilence seemed a likely first step to that kind of global assault. That couldn't be allowed to happen. Lucifer had gained too much ground, already, with Death roaming North America.
Sam gathered his notes and marched upstairs. He had to show his research to Dean. Maybe a definite target they could hit would bring Dean out of his drunken shell.
He reached the upstairs bedroom and knocked lightly. "Dean?"
No answer. Sam turned the door knob, finding it unlocked. A hopeful sign. Maybe. When he stepped inside, he found Dean staggering slowly from the bathroom toward the window. Another all-nighter. His brother would sleep the rest of the day...whenever he finally passed out.
"What?" Dean slurred, not looking his way. He'd obviously been up all night.
"Are--- Are you okay?"
"Peachy," Dean murmured drunkenly as he perched on the window sill with another liquor bottle. Sam frowned. This had to stop. Hell, if alcohol poisoning didn't get Dean, falling out a second floor window would.
"Dean…this is crazy. You can't just drink yourself unconscious every day!" Sam declared, momentarily forgetting his bigger reasons for coming upstairs.
His brother didn't take his opinion well. "Heh. You going to lecture me on addiction, Blood Boy?"
The words cut deep, but Sam tried to ignore them. "Dean, I know you've been---"
"What? What have I 'been,' Sam? Have I been tired of fighting other people's wars? Have I been worn out cleaning up your messes all my life? Hmm? What have I been?"
"What do you want?"
Sam swallowed his next attempt to get through to Dean and focused. They had bigger problems. "I was looking at those omens. I think the demons are headed to Detroit. Another Horseman."
"And?" Sam stared incredulously. "That's all you have to say?"
"What do you wan' me to say?" Dean slurred.
"Dean...we need to at least try and stop them. This Horseman is Pestilence. I think that means the Croatoan virus will be Lucifer's next move. We can't let that happen."
"We can't stop it, Sham. Sam," Dean muttered tiredly. Any other time, it might be funny to watch him like that. "'s no point in trying."
Dean growled, finally turning to face Sam, anger clouding his features and seeming to give him focus. "Sam! Give it up! It's over. We didn't have a chance. We never had a chance."
Sam just stood there, unable to form a response. How could Dean say that? His brother couldn't just roll over and let the world end. "Dean---"
"Just…get out, Sam."
"I said get out! I'm sick of pretending, Sam. I don't wanna hear how we have a chance and we'll find a way to stop it. It's all crap! I'm done."
Sam opened his mouth to argue, but when he saw the look on his brother's face, all that came out was one weak, stammered word. "O-Okay."
He backed out of the room as Dean rose unsteadily and plopped down onto the bed, tossing Sam a final glare before the door closed. Sam didn't need to be told twice, and retreated downstairs to the library.
For almost an hour, Sam alternated between pacing and staring morosely at the laptop. All sound had stopped upstairs, indicating that Dean had finally passed out. Sam didn't know what to do. They needed to at least try and keep Lucifer from reaching and freeing Pestilence. It was too important a goal to just let the enemy reach unopposed.
The trouble was Dean wanted nothing to do with it. And perhaps, with Sam. Bobby was unable to hunt in his condition. Sam didn't even know where Castiel was. He didn't know any other hunters who were nearby that either could be trusted, or knew he was still alive after Roy and Walt's hit.
That left Sam very few options.
He couldn't just let Lucifer release the last Horseman. The future was already bleak enough with Death marching across the land. They could do without a host of diseases and plagues.
Sam shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. The only option was staring him in the face. He just didn't want to acknowledge it. But, with the demons getting closer to Detroit with each passing minute, Sam knew he was running out of time.
They all were.
"Damn it." Sam closed the computer and rose, marching across the room to his duffel. He stuffed the directions and scant information he'd been able to gather into the bag and zipped it up. He dropped it by the front door and reluctantly headed upstairs, to what he knew would be a chilly reception.
He hesitated in front of Dean's door, having to take a few deep breaths before he had enough courage to open it and step inside. What he saw brought him up short.
Dean was stretched out on the bed, passed out, as Sam had expected. What he hadn't expected was for Dean's face to be smooth and relaxed. No dreams. No signs of stress. Dean looked peaceful, and Sam realized that lately, sleep was the only time his brother was at peace. He was far too drunk to have nightmares, and for a few hours, didn't feel the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Sam knew he'd placed a lot of that weight there. It was something he could never fix. Redemption didn't cover that. He also knew, at that moment, that he couldn't wake Dean up. Sinking against the wall, all he could do was stare.
It was too much. The Apocalypse, the angels demands, Lucifer…Sam's addiction. Sam's need for help. No one could carry all that. Not even his childhood hero.
Throughout all the hunts and battles, all the fear and loss of the last ten months, Sam's one goal had been to redeem himself. It took a while, but he had come to understand that he hadn't been all that concerned with redeeming himself in Heaven's eyes—partly because after meeting some of the angels, he had figured that to be impossible. Instead, he'd had a more realistic objective. He had wanted to earn Dean's forgiveness. His trust. He wanted to have his brother's love again.
Maybe even that had been too much to hope for. Dean had forgiven him, it seemed, honestly asserting that releasing Lucifer hadn't been Sam's fault. Acknowledging that Sam had tried to do the right things, had had good reasons, even if they'd all ended up being lies and misconceptions.
But, the trip to Heaven had proved just how fleeting Dean's remaining trust had been. Sam couldn't regain it. He'd made his choices and couldn't unmake them. He'd burned his bridges too well.
Now, he was in Dean's bedroom, wanting to ask his brother to extend that trust again, wanting him to fight by his side, when he knew Dean was on the brink of giving out.
And in that moment, Sam knew he couldn't be the one who pushed Dean over the edge. There was only one thing left for him to do.
Sam had to do it himself. Not because he was better or stronger or more powerful. Simply because he was the last man standing. The last name in the hat. He sure as hell didn't want to; he just didn't have a choice. And he was pretty sure he knew how it was going to end. Death, if he was lucky. Capture, more probable.
He stepped toward the bed, wanting to tell Dean…everything. A whole list of things. None of them came.
Instead, Sam reached into his pocket, and pulled out Dean's amulet. He looked at it for a long moment, remembering the first time he'd given it to his brother, and hoped this time might work out better. Carefully, silently, he reached down and placed it in Dean's lax hand, closing his fingers gently around it.
Sam left the room quietly, descended the stairs, grabbed his bag and walked out of the house.
The motel outside Gary, Indiana wasn't one of the nicer places Sam had ever stayed. He hadn't wanted to stop at all, but fatigue had caught up with him, and he finally relented and grabbed a few hours sleep.
Standing beside the room's small table, he looked over his assortment of supplies: a hexbag to hide his presence from demons, cartons of salt, salt rounds for the shotgun, several canteens of holy water, the Colt, Palo Santo stakes. The only weapon he'd left at Bobby's was Ruby's knife.
The Colt had been a hard choice. On the one hand, Sam definitely might need it. On the other, like Ruby's knife, it was irreplaceable. Ultimately, he had taken it. Dean hadn't shown much interest in the gun since their failure to kill the Devil with it in Carthage.
Sam just needed one more thing, and he hated himself for what he had to do to get it. But, he'd already placed the call, and soon, he'd be committed.
The faint flutter of wings was surprisingly loud in the nearly silent room. Sam turned, and found Castiel leaning against the wall by the television. He looked terrible.
"You rang?" Cas barked harshly.
Sam could tell without asking what was wrong with him. Castiel had taken to drinking since the revelation that God wasn't going to help them. "Drinking" was a decidedly inadequate description for the way Cas had been binging. He had helped them on a few occasions, but was mostly drowning in his disillusionment, and hadn't been much help to anyone in weeks.
Which was why Sam wasn't going to bother asking for his help now.
"You really should take it easy on the booze, Cas," Sam said quietly, his mind involuntarily returning to Dean. He could just have easily been saying that to his brother. The angel could hold amazing amounts of liquor, more so than any human, and he seemed to recover given enough time, but it couldn't be good for Jimmy.
"Did you call to lecture me about the evils of fermented beverages?" the angel snarked as he staggered slowly toward the table. Sam held his ground, hating himself even more now that the moment was upon him. Cas stopped a few feet in front of him, wobbling slightly on his unsteady feet. "Where's Dean?"
"Sleeping. In another room." Sam replied smoothly. Technically true. The angel seemed to accept that, though he looked curious. Sam didn't linger on the subject. "I think Lucifer is about to raise the last Horseman."
Cas just blinked at him for a moment, before nodding. "Do you know when? Or where?"
"I don't know for sure. Soon. Close by. We can't let that happen."
"There seems to be little we can do about it," Cas replied bluntly. He frowned, looking around slowly. "This room is spinning unusually fast."
It seemed almost too easy with Cas so trashed. "Well, I think maybe there is something we can do. But…I need to see the Enochian inscriptions on that angel-killing sword you carry."
The angel narrowed his eyes. "You think it would useful in this situation?"
Sam shrugged. "Well…I don't know that it will, but I need to check."
Castiel seemed confused, maybe a little wary, but finally sighed. The sword slid out of the sleeve of his trench coat into his hand. He offered it to Sam.
"Thank you, Cas." Sam said, taking the sword. He held it in his hands, turned and stepped back to the table.
"I fail to see how they could help stop Lucifer from raising a Horseman," Castiel stated blandly.
Sam nodded. "You're right." In one motion, he grabbed a lighter from his pocket, flicked it open and dropped it to the floor where he'd just been standing. The Jerusalem oil he'd laid out instantly caught fire, forming a ring around Castiel. "It won't."
"Sam! What are you doing?" Cas looked appalled. And betrayed. Sam couldn't meet his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Cas. Really. I wish--- There's no other way." He placed the sword in his bag with the other weapons and started for the door.
"Sam…you're planning something foolish."
He huffed a laugh, and finally turned back to look at the one angel who had chosen to be his friend. It made him feel a hundred times worse for having to lie to him. "Wouldn't be the first time."
"You can't stop Lucifer by yourself, no one can," Cas objected, apparently putting pieces together faster than Sam would have thought possible in his inebriated state.
Sam nodded. He knew that. There were no preconceptions of victory running through his mind. "I know. But, it's the only chance we've got."
"Look after Dean for me," Sam said quietly. "He needs you."
Without waiting for an answer, he stepped outside into the motel's parking lot.
As he climbed into the car he'd borrowed from Bobby's lot, he sighed. Cas deserved better. But, then, so did a lot of people in Sam's life.
He pulled out his cell as he guided the car onto the street, and dialed 911. "Yeah, I just pulled up to the Pioneer Motel off I-94…I can see a big fire in Room 401. No, I don't know if anyone's inside. Yeah. Yeah, I'll wait for them."
He clicked the phone off and turned toward the Interstate. Detroit was waiting.
Castiel's harsh voice momentarily drowned out the classic rock that the three lovely women were dancing to. Dean groaned. The angel was such a buzz kill. He opened his eyes to say just that...and had to take a moment to adjust the change.
The tasteful black leather was gone, as was the music and the smell of--- "Cas?"
"Dean, wake up. We have a problem."
Rubbing his eyes, Dean scooted further up on the bed so he could lean against the headboard. When he put pressure on his hand, something hard bit into his palm. "What the---?"
He opened his fingers…finding his amulet tucked into his fist. The amulet he'd thrown away months before, that had become a symbol of everything that had been taken from him. Dean looked up at Castiel in confusion. "How---? What's going on?"
Castiel glowered. "Sam has gone to confront Lucifer. He's going to try and stop him from raising the last Horseman."
Dean blinked. Had he heard something about that? Sam had been mumbling about signs and omens the day before. What day is it, anyway?
Then the angel's words sank in. Sam has gone to confront Lucifer.
"Lucifer?" Dean sat up straight in the bed. "Alone?"
Cas just nodded. Dean rolled onto his feet, fully awake. He felt the beginnings of a killer hangover building behind his eyes. "Where is he?"
Damn it, Sam! What the hell are you thinking?
"Bobby is working on that," Castiel replied. Dean brushed past him, heading for the door and the stairs. The liquor had dulled his senses quite a bit, but he still managed to take the steps two at a time as he raced down to the library.
Castiel beat him there. Predictably. Dean should have just asked for a lift. Bobby was sitting at the desk, tapping at the keyboard of Sam's laptop. "Bobby?"
"'Bout time you woke up."
"When did you get back?"
The older man huffed, not taking his eyes off the computer. "Castiel zapped me here after he got out."
"Got out of what?"
"Sam trapped me in Gary, Indiana." Castiel helpfully supplied from the doorway.
Dean turned to him, eyebrow quirking. "Gary? Wow. That's…horrible. I'm sorry. I mean that. How did Sam get the drop on you?"
Cas glared at him, then looked away. Dean thought he saw the faintest touch of embarrassment on his face. "Either he had a very good teacher, or I was drunk. I haven't determined which, yet."
The angel didn't meet his gaze. Dean was lost. "Well…okay, one, thank you, two…wow, and three, will someone please start making sense?"
"Sam trapped Castiel and took the sword," Bobby explained. "From what I can tell, he dug up the location of the last Horseman, and he's headed to stop the demons from finding him."
Dean ran through the Horsemen on his fingers to come up with which one it was. "Pestilence? Where is he? It. Whatever."
"From Sam's notes, the Lee Plaza Hotel. In Detroit."
That got Dean's attention. "Detroit?"
Heavyweight showdown in Detroit. His own words from his future self floated through his mind. From what I understand, Sam didn't make it.
"No," Dean shook his head. "He knows what's supposed to happen in Detroit. I told him. No, Sam's not this stupid."
"Apparently, he is." Castiel intoned bitterly.
"Why would he go alone?"
"Apparently," Bobby interjected. "No one would go with him."
The not-so-subtle accusation was loud and clear. Dean glanced at him, wanting to defend himself, but knowing he couldn't. He'd been in the bottom of a bottle when Sam came to him. Bits and pieces of the previous day's events were beginning to come back to him. He'd pushed Sam away.
There wasn't time to dwell on it. Seeing Ruby's knife lying on the desk, Dean grabbed it and turned to Castiel. "We've got to get to that hotel. Now."
It was pure carnage. Dean couldn't think of another word to describe it. He and Cas had appeared at the blown open entrance to the Lee Plaza Hotel and found absolute carnage.
Three demons were dead at the doorway, all impaled with Palo Santo stakes. Two more on the first floor bore the distinctive gunshot wounds of the Colt. Four were trapped and apparently exorcised in various places on the third and fourth floors. Another staked on the fifth. Six shot between the seventh and eighth floors. Sam had left a trail of bloody breadcrumbs behind him. He'd gone on a literal warpath, right into the lion's den.
Dean couldn't help but be amazed. Impressed. His little brother had somehow become a warrior, rivaling even their father. When did that happen?
"The roof," Cas murmured, gazing up toward the ceiling. "We have to get to the roof."
Without another word, he touched Dean's shoulder and they teleported in a flash of light. They appeared just inside a door. The interior was decayed and cluttered, just like the floors they'd seen below. Paint peeled off the walls, windows just gaping holes in the wall, floorboards missing or broken. Cardboard, wood and glass were all over the floor. It was like that apartment building at the end of Ghostbusters…the day after the explosion.
They stepped out onto the windswept roof. The design was odd: large triangular attics ran the length of the building, forming long canyon-like spaces. Dean could see stored furniture and assorted items inside them through rusted out holes in the metal walls. The canyons channeled the wind, making the roof into a wind tunnel that practically blew him forward as he moved.
A few more demons lay dead about ten feet from the door. Farther out, Dean spied a charred, smoking body, and for a moment, his heart leapt into his throat. But, as he and Castiel got closer, he saw that part of the corpse's hand was missing. A scorched finger lay a foot or so away, a silver ring adorning it.
Sam had stopped the last Horseman.
"My God, Cas…." Dean muttered as he took in the scene with growing dread. The rest of the roof was clear. "Where is he?"
The wind shifted directions, and when it did, he heard a sound carrying from somewhere close by. A scream. Sam's scream.
It was then that Dean's eyes landed on a trail of blood. It was pooled near the fallen Horseman, but led away, and appeared to travel up the side of one of the attics and over it.
Dean took off, scrambling up the slanted side along the bloody path. Castiel steadied him as they neared the top of the slick structure.
When they reached the peak, they found the source of the sound. On the other side of the roof, in another of the artificial canyons, Lucifer stood. At his feet, Sam lay on his side, crying out in pain. From where he was perched, Dean could see that Sam's right arm was broken---badly---and his shoulder was hideously dislocated. His face was bloodied and bruised. His left ankle was twisted at an unnatural angle. His brother's warpath had obviously been costly. Castiel's sword lay just a few feet from Sam's busted arm, tauntingly out of reach.
Lucifer raised his hand, and Sam screamed like he was on fire. Dean could just make out the words coming from the Fallen angel's mouth.
"It doesn't have to be this way, Sam."
Sam raised his eyes, and Dean could see the blaze of defiance there. For a moment, he felt a pride in his brother that he hadn't felt in…forever.
"Screw you!" Sam spat, before the pain seemed to ratchet up again and he could no longer speak in coherent sentences.
"He's not coming, Sam. You're alone. You're mine. Stop doing this to yourself." Lucifer twisted his hand, and Sam shrieked, curling in on himself.
Then all Hell broke loose. Castiel appeared out of nowhere, catching Satan in a flying tackle that sent both angels sprawling. Lucifer was caught by surprise as Cas pressed home his attack.
Dean rushed down the inclined roof, taking the last five feet on his butt as he lost his balance. He slid to a stop beside Sam, who for the moment had stopped screaming, free of the Devil's torture. "Sammy?"
His brother raised his head slowly, eyes taking too long to focus on Dean's face. Then he smiled, surprising Dean. "S-so close…." His words were cut off by a hacking cough that produced blood.
Shouts drew Dean's gaze up, where he saw Cas and Lucifer trading bone-shattering blows and telekinetic blasts. For a moment, Cas seemed to have the upper hand, but the moment passed quickly.
Lucifer knocked him back into the slanted roof, standing over him. "You can't beat me, brother…."
Dean didn't even think. As Lucifer raised his hands for the killing blow, Dean grabbed the dropped sword and launched himself forward.
He drove the blade deep into the Devil's vessel's back, hearing the spinal cord snap. A blast of energy ripped out of the meatsuit, flinging Dean back the way he came. He landed in a heap next to Sam, and watched as Lucifer staggered and turned to face him. Energy crackled along his arms and legs, and lit his eyes like fireworks. The glowing orbs settled on Dean.
With the force of a volcano, Lucifer's vessel exploded, showering the rooftop with the light of unspeakable energy being released. Reflexively, Dean rolled and tried to shield Sam from the blast, covering both their eyes as the Fallen angel erupted into Hellfire and vanished into the howling winds.
When the lightshow subsided, Dean dared to look over his shoulder. Castiel was pushing himself to his feet. Lucifer was gone. Dead.
Dean swallowed thickly as his eyes met Castiel's. The angel looked as shell-shocked as Dean felt. It took a moment for Dean to find his voice.
"Holy shit. We won!"
Listening to the steady beep of the heart monitor was the only thing keeping Dean grounded. Sam had been out since Cas zapped them to the ER. At first, the stress of being teleported had knocked him out, then the doctors had sedated him while they worked on his injuries.
Besides Sam's arm and shoulder, which were mangled enough, he also had internal injuries, a few busted ribs, a concussion and a broken nose. The kid had gone down fighting.
That was twenty-four hours earlier. Sam hadn't been awake since. Bobby had stopped in around lunch to get Dean to eat before leaving to arrange a motel for them. Cas had gone back to Detroit to mop up any straggling demons.
Dean had never felt lonelier in his life.
He stayed by the bedside, watching doctors and nurses come and go, and rolling his amulet around in his hand. Sam had given that to him when he was eight, and Dean hadn't taken it off for eighteen years, Ruby, Hell, and demon blood notwithstanding.
Their trip to Heaven had changed all that. When he'd lost faith in Sam in the aftermath, Dean had discarded it. Dropped it in the trash. Worse, he'd made sure Sam had seen it. At the time, he'd felt that since Sam obviously didn't care much about him---Dean hadn't even made Sam's top three memories in Heaven---then the old gift was meaningless.
Or so he'd thought. It apparently still meant something to Sam, since his brother had stopped to leave it with Dean before taking off on his kamikaze run.
They were going to have a little chat about that stunt when Sam got back on his feet.
But, Sam had left the amulet with him. Sam had asked him for help, Dean had said no. And his brother had ended up being right. Dean couldn't help but wonder how things might have been different on that rooftop if he had gone with him.
Yes, they had a lot to talk about when Sam woke up.
For the moment, Dean just squeezed the necklace in his hand and waited.
The sound of tennis shoes on the linoleum floor drew his attention to the door. A brunette nurse walked into the room with a clipboard. She had been with the crowd that took Sam down for his scans and tests earlier. "Hello!"
"Hi," he muttered, turning back toward Sam. She was attractive, but he found he had little interest in her looks.
She grunted. "Mm. I've seen that look before."
He looked back at her. "What look?"
"Unfinished business. Something happened between you two, and you didn't have a chance to talk it over before the accident."
Heh, accident. Yeah, I wish that was all that could happen to us.
"Let's see now," the nurse said cheerfully, flipping pages on the clipboard. When she didn't say anything else, Dean looked back at her.
"How were Sam's tests?"
She didn't look up. "Oh, it was touch and go there, for a while, but I'd say you both passed your test."
Dean blinked. "What did you say?"
She finally looked up, an odd twinkle in her eyes. "You didn't really think I didn't care, did you?"
Before Dean could process what she was saying, she tucked the clipboard into the slot at the end of Sam's bed and started out the door. "Don't worry, Dean. He'll be awake soon."
"H-how did you know my---?" She was gone before he could finish. Dean frowned. "What was that all about?"
He jumped when he felt something like a joy buzzer in his hand. He looked down...at his glowing amulet. Dean leapt to his feet and raced to the door, nearly colliding with a blonde nurse who was passing. "Sorry! I'm sorry...do you know who that was? The other nurse that just left."
She smiled wearily. "I'm sorry, sir, I wish there was another nurse. I'm the only nurse on duty tonight, Betty called in sick. Are you sure you saw a nurse?"
Dean stared down the otherwise empty hallway, then shook his head. "No. No, I guess I'm not. I'm sorry."
"That's okay," the blonde smiled. "I'll be in to check on your brother in about fifteen minutes. All right?"
"Yeah. Sure." Dean stepped back, retreating into the room. He settled back at Sam's side, turning the now dormant amulet over in his hands.
You didn't really think I didn't care, did you?
I'd say you both passed your test.
"No way." Dean shook his head. Maybe he needed to talk to Cas, too. Dean turned and patted Sam's arm. "You're never gonna believe this, Sammy...."