Finally! I'm done. I'm not going to say too much about the end of this story except that I envisioned an ending when I first started writing the story isn't here, and I'm so happy with what I do with it, because it's a little different and utterly me. I will also say that I'm nervous about the response. Please be honest and speak up, let me know what you think. They're might be a little epilogue coming later, but consider this complete.
Reviews are love.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed and favorited and alerted this story. It was a challenge and blast to write!
They were on the move again, aimlessly heading north.
Sam had only submitted himself to the backseat when it was absolutely necessary, aftermath of a vision, a horrifically bloody injury, a pathetic way to distance himself from Dean when he was mad at him. But Elliyah had climbed in the back, and looked at him expectantly and he found himself, folding the seat forward and following her. Now, they sat in silence, feet apart, unsure of what to say, both acting as if the blurring construction road cones were more fascinating than their undeniably surreal reunion.
Sam couldn't think of anything to say, which was funny, because he remembered a time when they'd talk for hours.
Restlessness tugged at his skin and the lids of his eyes, and Sam found himself once again staring at the over-painted popcorn ceiling of their bedroom. He shifted with a whimper of defeat before sitting up and easing out of bed. Jess was asleep next to him. He nuzzled her neck, pressed kisses to the warm skin there. He threw on a sweatshirt, his battered sneakers and stretched in the shadows in the lobby. The road was wet from fresh rain, the air was cooler than he expected. He jogged easily over the streets, knowing them well, thanks to his insomnia. Physical exhaustion was Sam's only cure, because when he slept, it was hard, deep, dreamless. Sleep aides just nurtured the disturbing dreams he'd been having when he managed to doze.
Adrenaline was beginning to tingle through his veins, a healthy chevron of sweat on his arms, neck and back by the time he ambled by Elliyah's apartment. He checked her windows as he always did, and noticed she was up. His legs were burning and his chest was tight with stress, more than strain, so he took the steps to the porch two-by-two and used his key to get into the lobby. It didn't take long for Sam to deduce from the smells in the hallway that Elliyah was midnight baking. Cinnamon rolls judging by the sweet, yeasty smell in the hallway. He turned the knob, knowing it was going to be unlocked.
"What have I told you about this, Elli?" Sam bellowed, peering around the wall into the kitchen where he knew Elliyah was. "You have to lock the damn door."
Elliyah was in the kitchen in sweats, bare feet and a too-big Stanford tee-shirt. She barely startled when Sam suddenly appeared in her kitchen. "I just left to take the trash out, like ten minutes ago, I forgot, Sam."
"Anyone could have walked in."
Elliyah rolled her silvery eyes at her friend. "Why are you here at one in the morning stinking up my kitchen, Smelly McGoo?"
"Can't sleep. Again."
Elliyah sighed, and handed him a bottle of water. "I'd give you some of these, but they're for paying customers."
Sam chuckled as he guzzled the bottle of water and leaned against the wall of her painfully small kitchen. "Can't believe you managed to put yourself through school baking with that rickety stove."
Elliyah liberally frosted three pans of cinnamon rolls, and smiled. "Beats stripping."
"What's going on, Sam?"
"What do you mean?"
"You called me two nights ago at midnight, and kept me on the phone for three hours. You were over here installing a deadbolt—"
"…which you don't use…"
"…last week, and now this," she finished with a glare. "You can tell me anything. Even the things you can't tell Jess," she added quietly.
Sam scratched at the label of the water bottle with his thumbnail. He'd been struggling the past week since he'd gotten his amazing LSAT scores. He'd wanted to believe that it was the open-ended possibility of his future, the inherit and deeply engrained pessimism that came from growing up with a dead mother and a revenge-crazed father that made him feel so anxious and downright scared about the future, about the things in the darkness. He was mere months away from everything he'd ever wanted, and it was terrifying. Sam's life at Stanford was built on a foundation of lies and half-truths and he could lose it all. Elliyah knew more about his childhood and his life since they'd been friends those first overwhelming weeks at Stanford. He'd told her more than he'd intended, more than he'd told Jess. It was necessary deceit.
"I know you wouldn't. I just…it's right there, ya know? And it's hard to believe that I'll be able to get it."
"My brass ring." Sam smiled wistfully.
Elliyah said just as softly. "If anyone deserves it, it's you, Sam."
He shrugged off the compliment, and shot to his feet, adrenaline and anxiety making him restless. "You done here? Let's go out."
"Don't you have a girlfriend? It's her job to keep you entertained."
"She's sleeping, and I'm boooored. Elli, let's go. Come on."
Elliyah chanced a glance at Sam's epic pout and relented almost immediately. She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and stepped into her flip-flops. "All right. You want to stock up on some tools in case you gotta take someone out?"
Sam chuckled as he held the door open for her, and she slipped under his arm, "I have a screwdriver in my pocket."
They drifted, venturing towards the beach and away from the campus, as they talked like the old friends they were. The night was cool and bright. The sand was heavy and wet underfoot. Elliyah plopped down in the sand and Sam followed. He stared out at the glittering black of the ocean—a sight he'd never taken for granted. It was beautiful and breathtaking. Sam felt free by the water, like he could escape his nightmares or the pressures he put on himself to be everything his father thought he couldn't.
"How's Jess?" Elliyah asked, breaking the rare silence between them.
"She's fine." He scratched his cheek. "We had a thing, ya know, a tense few days. We…thought she was pregnant."
She gasped beside him. "Really?"
"Yeah, we took the tests. And they all came back positive. But, she wasn't."
"You almost sound disappointed. Most guys would be heading for the border."
Sam shrugged. The idea of that baby was still a precious, golden thing, and he felt a little empty now that it was just a figment of his imagination.
There was a small hand on his shoulder, offering support and understanding. "It's okay to be disappointed, Sam."
"I am," he admitted with a lilt of sadness. "I think Jess is more relieved than anything. She wants babies, but she also wants travel and her career and a house first."
"Considering she has to carry it, I can see why she feels that way."
"Yeah, it does. It's just…that was all I ever wanted, and it was right there."
Elliyah nudged him with a laugh. "It's still right there, Sam. Just because it's not happening right this second, doesn't mean it won't happen later. Why are you rushing everything?"
Sam drew circles in the sand, sigils and wards that shouldn't have been so easily remembered. "I feel like…something's coming or like it's never going to happen or that it's all going to unravel." He'd been coiled and sickened with dread since he'd dreamt of hellfire and stalking monsters.
"You're not going to lose, Jess," Elliyah said softly. "That woman loves you. She loves you insanely, anyone can see it. You two aren't like most of the couples we know. They're in it for a good time, convenient sex. You and Jess…are the real thing."
He never doubted how much he was loved, because it colored everything she did, from the bagels she bought him on Tuesday mornings to her learning how to cook to give him the home-cooked meals he'd never had as a child. "Things fall apart. People break up all the time. Like you and what's-his-name."
"His name was Marcus, and I'm like, 99 percent sure he was gay. We're still friends."
Sam fell back in the sand, feeling it smush into his hair and dampen the back of his sweatshirt. Elliyah turned towards him, chocolate soft curls rustling in the breeze like black silk. Parts of her face were bathed in the ivory light of the moon, and she looked ethereal, beautiful in a way Sam had never noticed before. She winked at him before falling back in the sand beside him, her fingers brushing his. "We should make one of those pacts." She announced.
"Those 'if we're not married by forty, we marry each other' pacts? Like in the movies?"
"Yeah, why not? If it all falls apart, if Jess runs away to India to join a cult or realizes that she's a lesbian, and I'm not married to Justin Timberlake, we should marry each other."
He laughed, shoulders divotting the sand. The starts were infinite and breath-taking. Something unfurled inside of him, and he could draw in a full breath, let his guard down. "I'd be honored," Sam grinned. "Only if Jess is a lesbian though. If she's not, I still have a chance."
Sam was pelted with sand. "Such a hopeless romantic."
"Thanks for listening, Elli."
"Maybe you should look at rings. For Jess."
Sam smiled, knowingly. "Already have."
Sam smiled a bit at the memory. He shifted, sliding his hand across the smooth vinyl until he found Elliyah's. She squeezed back. Hard.
"I missed you," he whispered.
"I missed you," she agreed. "You know you're built like a tank, right?"
Sam snorted with laughter. "Yep."
They stopped about an hour of from Vegas in a motel that thankfully wasn't as disgusting as some of the dives they'd been staying in, but it wasn't that great. Sam tried not to be embarrassed at the way he lived his life as they entered the room. Dean was taken aback at how oddly quiet were, stealing glimpses of each other like two kids at a sixth grade dance. It wasn't exactly the heartfelt reunion he had expected.
Sam and Dean began their nightly rituals of readying the room: wards, salt, weapons, while Elliyah was washed up in the bathroom.
"What'd you tell her…about the…ya know?" Sam whispered as he turned down the bed, pulling up the sheets searching for bedbugs.
Dean scratched the side of his face. He was clearly as exhausted as Sam was, but somehow he kept going, probably powered by some fraternal duty and copious amounts of caffeine. "Um, I said the mob was after us, like 'Godfather' mob—not the demon mob."
Sam barked a laugh, "And she believed you?"
"I'm a damn good liar."
Elliyah poked her head through the door, wavy hair spilling over her shoulder. "Sam, you have something I can wear?"
"Hang on." Sam dug through his duffel, passed a few blood-stained garments, and tossed her a clean flannel.
She ducked back in the bathroom and returned a few minutes later swathed in flannel that brushed her knees.
Dean toed his boots off. "Sam…and I can double up on his bed if you want to…" He trailed off as Elliyah crawled over the bed Sam was sitting on and under the covers. "Or there's fine."
Sam fell back on the bed, and locked eyes with his friend. Dean watched as she lifted a hand and carded it through his hair, caressing his face. Sam closed his eyes, smiling in a sleepy, soft way he hadn't in years, turning into the contact. Elliyah sighed, dropping a kiss on his forehead.
Dean's stomach hurt as he watched the display. Dean had only been in love once—and even that he was sure it was borne out of palpable loneliness—but he knew it when he saw it.
And he definitely knew when he was a third wheel.
He closed his eyes and willed his body to move. It had been almost fifty hours without any real sleep and even walking a few feet to the Impala seemed running a marathon. He pushed himself up as Elliyah laid back on the pillow. She frowned, reach her hand beneath it to pull out one of Sam's 45s. She held it like it was a disgusting thing, with a mere two fingers on the butt. "What the hell? Sam?"
Sam narrowed his eyes, and took the gun with ease. He thumbed the safety on and set it on the nightstand. "Sorry."
"Liberals," Dean scoffed. Dean finally regained control of his body and shoved up from the bed. "The night's young…I'm gonna go…um, outside. Good night, Elliyah." He slipped out of the door before Sam could protest. "Sam, use protection." He dodged the pillow Sam lobbed at the door.
"Since when do you sleep with guns under your pillow?"
"Since the mob's after me," Sam said, cracking one eye to look at her face.
Elliyah nodded but he still saw the disbelief. "Not buyin' it, huh?"
"Not really, no. You'd have to do a lot to piss off organized crime, and even then they'd get bored after a few decades. What's going on, Sam? Why are you running? Why are you faking your own death?"
Sam sighed. "A lot of it is too complicated to explain."
"What's after me has somehow taken my whole family. It's worse than you can possibly imagine, Elliyah. I can't live the life I wanted, so I fight."
Sam closed his eyes. He didn't remember anymore. He didn't trust people. He didn't trust himself around kids. He'd spent so long traversing the borders of society, hiding from the law, staying out of sight, that he sometimes thought he was invisible. "I'm…I'm not the happy, go-lucky kid I was at Stanford, I never was. It was just lies."
"I don't believe that," Elliyah countered with shades of the stubbornness Sam had remembered.
He opened his eyes again, and saw her through sleep-wavering vision. Elliyah in a seedy motel room with peeling wallpaper and stained carpet, with guns and demonic booby-traps was the culmination of fears, but he didn't have the energy to be angry anymore, and he had run out of heartache.
"I got Jess killed." He blurted out, imagining a possessed Brady entered his house while Jess was baking cookies. "The…monsters that killed my mother killed Jess. I didn't even tell her about that part of my life."
Elliyah stared at him, mouth agape. Sam hadn't asked what happened to the rest of his friends. He just knew they'd been eradicated like all of his mother's family. For some reason, Elliyah was here, but now, there were shadows of grief in her eyes. It was a darkness he knew too well.
He pushed up on his elbows. "What happened to you?"
Elliyah's face twitched and her body felt rigid, fingers cold. "My…fiancé killed himself, two years ago. Slit his throat while I was at the grocery store."
Sam gulped. Humans didn't slit their own throats. Demons did. It was effective, disturbing and unforgettably dramatic.
"And I felt like…it was my fault. I lived with him and I didn't see it. I didn't see that he was hurting or that he needed more than I could give him…"
"I felt like m-my world died too…like I'd never have anything normal or safe or good." Elliyah's voice was clogged with tears.
Sam's throat tightened with the urge to cry for her and with her. She articulated how Sam had felt in mounting degrees for years. His eyes were wet when he sat up and grabbed her, pulling her to him. She pressed her face into his chest, and shook silently as she cried.
He'd done this a million times in college, through break-ups or breakdowns, and one terrifying night after she'd been mugged. He hummed softly, pulled the blanket over them both.
They didn't speak for hours. They didn't need to.
"I loved you, you know that, right?"
Sam smiled wistfully. "Yeah, I knew. Why didn't you say anything?"
"Because you loved Jess more. You loved her so fiercely…"
"That's the only way Winchesters know how to do it," Sam whispered. "Did he…love you like that?"
"Milo? Yeah, he did."
Sam smiled. "Good."
He twisted his fingers around the curls in her hair. "I have to do something…something important and I don't think I can do it." Sam had had an insane idea about letting the devil in, overpowering him, and jumping into the pit himself. It was the foolhardy kind of Hail-Mary they needed. It would right his wrongs, put him where he deserved to be, and, most importantly, save Dean from Michael.
But Dean didn't believe in him, and Sam didn't know if he believed in himself.
"You seem different, Sam, but I see you…you're in there," Elliyah said easily, tilting her head up to look at him. Her silver eyes shone in the light. "Under all the muscles, I'm assuming. But whatever you have to do, you can do it."
"I just…I don't think I'm that person anymore. I feel…I feel like I'm tainted or poison."
Elliyah draped an arm around his waist. "After Milo, I felt like that…I still do."
"You do understand." He replied, a little awed. A traffic hummed on the nearby interstate and the room was dark save for the yellow gleam from the parking lot. It reminded him of that night lifetimes ago on a beach in California when he was inches away from everything he ever wanted.
Elliyah sat up, the flannel of Sam's shirt sliding off her shoulder to reveal a soft brown shoulder. "Marry me," she breathed.
"Remember that pact we made? At the beach."
"Of course." He'd just been thinking about it.
"We're both damaged goods. Let's do it."
"You have to go back to your life, Elli. I…I probably won't see you much after this, it's not safe."
Elliyah wiped her eyes and push up onto her folded up on her knees. "Then I'll go back as your wife."
"Sam, I'm not going to beg you—that's not how this works. I want…some good, I need some good. I know I probably won't see you again. I just…I want…"
Sam's head was spinning and his stomach curled with something aglow and decidedly good. Elliyah was chattering away, but Sam didn't hear it. He didn't need to. "Stand up."
Elliyah climbed off the bed and stood awkwardly in front of the window. Sam stood up too, in dirt-smudged jeans and a tee shirt that covered old scars, new wounds and a dirtied soul. He took Elliyah's hand, and knelt on one knee to propose marriage.
Dean was finally asleep, doing very naughty things to Halle Berry, when her screams of earth-shattering passion suddenly sounded like knocking. "You gotta be kidding me," he groaned as he opened his eyes, pulled down the blanket and uncoiled himself from cramped position he'd taken in the back seat of the Impala.
He leaned forward to roll down the window. He saw Sam, all glittering eyes and awed smile. "Whoa…what's going on?"
And then his little brother grinned in that blessed-out way he did when he was thrilled. It was an expression Dean hadn't seen in years. "Because I'm getting married."
"I must be hallucinating from lack of sleep, but come again."
"I'm getting married." Sam pounded the hood with his fist. "Up and at 'em. Call Bobby. Tell him to meet us in Vegas."
Sam had wanted so much out of life, and he hadn't gotten it. He'd treaded the murky waters of darkness. He'd buried his father and then his brother; his surrogate mother and her daughter. But somehow, he managed to grab a bit of good and a hint of normal.
In a suite in Las Vegas, there was an intimate wedding. The groom and best man wore cheap black suits—the only ones they had. The bride wore a distinctly untraditional dress made of silk awash with kaleidoscoping colors and no veil. They were married by a curmudgeonly old man in a trucker hat, who'd been ordained on the internet mere hours before. The bride and groom exchanged rings of blessed silver.
The reception was an endless buffet and blackjack and poker and dancing. The first dance was on the balcony of their beautiful hotel room—a gift from the brother and best man—as the lights of Vegas sparkled and dazzled behind them. Elliyah laughed as Sam twirled her, the skirts of her dress fluttered in the breeze. He laughed too, a little tipsy, but intoxicated by the beauty around him, the ring on his finger and his wife in his arms. Sam felt powerful, and it wasn't champagne or poisoned blood or vengeful anger, it was love and humanity and reassurance that there was something worth fighting for, worth sacrificing for, that people were decent and kind and innocent.
It wasn't the life he wanted or even what he deserved, but it was his and in the end, Sam got his family. Something bigger than him had made sure of it. And as Elliyah led him into the room and their wedding bed, Sam was dizzy and tingling and empowered by the past few days. He could climb a mountain. He could do what needed to be done.
He could save the world.