Body and Soul
Leaning back in his chair, Dean watched Lisa across the kitchen table. Her slender fingers snapped a celery stick in two before dipping it in dressing and bringing it to those perfectly shaped lips. Dean felt his own mouth curving up.
The kiddo was already tucked in upstairs, sound asleep. Lisa glanced over at Dean, apparently thinking along the same lines. Dean stood, walked around the table…
A concussion of air nearly rocked him off his feet. The hanging lamp swung from side to side. Lisa gripped the table. Castiel appeared out of nowhere, slamming hard into the chair Dean just left.
"Cas!" Dean rushed to the angel, rolled him over onto his back. Cas looked as though he'd climbed out of a mud pit. His suit was torn and bloody. "Cas, what happened?"
Castiel's eyes closed. Dean patted his face. "Cas!"
Lisa knelt beside them, clean dish towels in her clenched hands. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah, I think," Dean said. "Something's going on for him to have come here—especially like this. Cas! Come on, buddy, wake up."
"Dean." Cas's eyelids fluttered. "You have to come." He slipped down into unconsciousness.
Frustrated, Dean's jaw clenched. He met Lisa's worried gaze. "I'm not going anywhere. You know that, right?" Though whether he said it for her or for himself, he wasn't sure. "I'm done with that life. We'll patch him up, do what we can, but that's as far as it goes. I'm done."
Lisa pressed her hand on Dean's arm. "I know." She pressed a cloth to Castiel's face, wiping away still wet blood.
Back in Black, Dean's ringtone, screamed from inside the cabinet drawer he tossed his keys in every night. He hadn't used that cell phone in months.
"Sonofabitch," he whispered, flinging the drawer open and fishing inside for the phone. He scowled at the name on the screen before answering. "Bobby."
"Did our little angel friend get there in one piece? I warned him not to go. He was in no condition—"
"Yeah, he's here and blacked out across our kitchen floor. Bobby, what's going on? Nevermind, I don't want to know. Just get out here and take Castiel with you. Whatever it is, I'm out. You know I can't—"
Every muscle in Dean's body clenched tight.
"Dean, did you hear me? I said it's Sam. Castiel found your brother and dragged him back up from hell."
"Sam?" Dean's voice came out in a croak. His muscles were now releasing one by one. Dean felt himself sway. He gripped the table for support and looked slowly down at Lisa. "Is he okay?"
"No, Dean," Bobby said. "He's about as far from okay as you can get. You need to get here as soon as you can."
Dean scrubbed a shaky hand down his face. "Okay, okay. I'm on my way." He looked down again, but Lisa was gone. His heart simply stopped beating and then roared to life when she walked back in, banging his duffle bag down on top of the table. Already filled to brimming with his clothes, she went to the drawer and began gathering his phones and wallets.
He stopped her. "What are you doing?"
She looked down at his hands on her arms. "You have to go. It's your brother. I don't want you to, but I get it. You wouldn't be who you are if you didn't go. So go, Dean. Go to Sam, but you come back. You understand me? You come back."
Dean cupped her cheeks between his hands, lifting her face to look at him. "Yes, ma'am." He kissed her, long and gentle, memorizing the taste and texture before slipping away. Pulling Castiel up over his shoulder, Dean stopped and looked back. "Lisa…" His eyes lifted to the ceiling where Benjamin was sleeping upstairs. Dean hesitated before meeting her gaze again. "I love you." With that, he pushed through the door.
Dean drove like a man possessed to Bobby's. Castiel stirred a few times in the back seat, muttering incoherent sentences about "too many of them", "Sam slipping from his grasp", "quit fighting him". With every jumbled utterance, Dean's hands curled more tightly around the steering wheel.
The Impala flew into Bobby's junkyard. Dean was out of the car and running up the steps in a flash, leaving Castiel in the back seat.
"Bobby!" Dean slammed open the door.
"In here," Bobby called from the parlor room off the kitchen that for years had been used as a dumping ground for the hundreds of books Bobby collected for research. He'd also set up a small bed in there near the couch, left from when he'd been paralyzed and unable to get to the bedrooms upstairs.
Dean raced around the corner and came to an abrupt halt. His pulse thrummed at his temples. All he could do was stare. "Sammy," he gasped out. It was true. It was really true. Sam was on the bed, thrashing so wildly that it took all of Bobby's effort to hold him on the mattress.
"You just going to stand there?" Bobby growled. "Get over here and help me."
That propelled Dean into action. Rushing to them, Dean knelt next to the bed and pushed down on Sam's shoulders. Sam had cuts all over him. His face and body was bruised, his clothing in tatters. One hand looked broken. "What's wrong with my brother?"
"We're not sure. From what I can figure, something went wrong when Castiel pulled Sam out."
"What do you mean 'went wrong'?" Sam flung forward, but Dean kept him firmly on the mattress.
"The demons were determined to keep Sam. Apparently, there was a bit of a tug and war—Damn it!" A fresh line of blood suddenly sprouted across Sam's shirt. Bobby lifted the material away to reveal a nasty gash across Sam's abdomen that was still growing as though an unseen knife was still carving him up. Screaming, Sam arched off of the bed.
Horrified, Dean pressed him back. "It's okay. Sammy, it's okay. "
Sam halted as though Dean's voice was able to penetrate through the pain. Sam resumed moaning, but the screaming and thrashing had stopped.
" What the hell is happening?" Dean shouted at Bobby.
Bobby's lips were pressed into a harsh line. He held a cloth to Sam's stomach. "Castiel couldn't bring all of Sam back. His body's here, but the other part of him, Sam's soul, that's still in hell. And the bastards are still torturing him."
Every ounce of energy Dean possessed slid down to his toes. He knew exactly what his brother was going through and as horrific as being in hell was, Dean would trade places with Sam in a second.
Castiel was suddenly in the archway between rooms, leaning on the jamb for support. "Sam's wounds are manifesting on his body."
"You mean whatever is happening to his soul is showing up here?" Dean swallowed. The world seemed to be spinning off its axis.
"Then get your lily white ass over here and heal him."
"I would if I could. Getting Sam out took everything I had."
"Well bang up job on that."
"Maybe in a few days… when my reserves are restored…"
"If you chuckleheads haven't noticed…" Bobby replaced the soaked cloth with a fresh one. "…Sam ain't gonna last a few days. These wounds are piling up faster than I can stop the bleeding."
Dean squeezed his eyes shut. "In hell, the wounds heal. Just soon enough to make room for more." His eyes slid open, focusing on Sam, seeing only agony on the tightened features.
"Out here, his body won't heal." Bobby stated what they were all thinking.
"Cas," Dean said. "You got to get one of your angel friends over here. They can heal Sam."
Cas looked away.
"I acted alone. If any of the angels knew Sam was out, they'd toss him right back in the pit. I've never seen Michael so angry."
Dean started. "Michael's out?"
"Tucked safely away as the vessel should Michael have need of him."
Dean nodded, a sliver of relief spiraling through his gut. It wasn't perfect, but at least Adam wasn't suffering.
Sam screamed again. His leg twisted and they all flinched at the crunch of bone grinding on bone.
"Damn it to hell!" Bobby threw down the cloth. "They're breaking him limb by limb!"
Tremors rolled through Dean. He could barely speak. "This ends now. Why the hell did you use any of your mojo, Cas, to come get me? You should have used everything you had on Sam!"
"I tried, Dean. It didn't work. We hoped—" Cas tilted his head, cracking his neck. "We hoped that maybe you—your presence—could somehow coax him back. "
Dean's eyes narrowed. "Coax him back? We can get him back? We can get his soul here?"
"A body and soul are always connected," Castiel said in that irritating way of sounding like a professor. "If Sam's body dies here, it will be ripped back to hell."
Dean stood up, hope finally prickling his senses. "So if we can somehow reach Sam, we can get him—all of him—here."
"That's the idea."
"How?" Dean started to pace. "By me talking to him? Whispering sweet nothings in his ear?" He'd do it. He'd do anything to get Sam back. "Cuz I got to tell ya, I don't think that's enough. I got to get in his head."
Both Bobby and Dean swung around to look at each other. Simultaneously, they said, "Dream root."
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Castiel stood over Dean who sat on the couch, holding a glass of liquid.
"No, Cas, I don't know if this is going to work, but it's the only shot we have."
Castiel nodded. "For what it's worth, I believe if anyone can bring back Sam, it will be you."
Dean nodded. "Thanks. And Cas, thanks for going in after him. I…I owe you."
Cas inclined his head.
Bobby brought over a strand of Sam's hair. "I guess I don't have to tell you to be careful. Son, you're walking straight back into hell. Literally. I can't imagine they're going to roll out the red carpet."
Dean shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. I'd think a few people might be happy to see me."
"Happy to get their hooks back in you more like."
Dean's Adam's apple bobbed. "You know I got to do this. He's my brother."
Bobby placed a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Yeah, I know. Just, watch your back." He dropped the hair into the glass.
Dean lifted it to his lips. "Hey, watch over our bodies, huh?"
"Nothing's getting past us," Cas assured him.
Nodding, Dean gulped the dream root down.
And was immediately in the kitchen of the apartment Sam lived in while he attended Stanford.
"Sam?" Instantly alert, Dean scanned the area. This wasn't the same hell he'd endured. Sure, he'd sometimes been forced to relive moments of his worst nightmares, but mostly he'd been strapped to the table, enduring Alastair's warped creativity.
Wait. Reliving nightmares. Of course.
Dean rushed into the bedroom. As expected, Jessica burned on the ceiling. Just like before when Dean had to drag Sam out of the burning apartment. Dean had been just as terrified then. Terrified he couldn't get Sam out. The same emotions nearly swamped him. Apparently this was a piece of hell that held terror for both of them.
But there was a difference. Sam was on the floor, staring up at Jessica, but there were also demons. Ten or more of them, punching, kicking, slicing Sam with serrated-edged knives .
"Get off him!" Dean pulled one demon back, and another, slamming them together, enjoying the crunch as they dropped. He twisted another's arm, stopping the blade meant for Sam that Dean instead cleaved into the woman's stomach while he kicked at a heavy -set man.
"Sammy! Get up! Fight them!" With the knife, Dean was making more of a dent in the group. More than half were already on the ground and the others weren't that skilled. Why the hell wasn't Sam doing anything? He could take on this caliber of demon easy. "Get back!" Dean grabbed a woman who got too close by her shirt and yanked her onto his blade. Screeching, she fell away. He didn't understand it, but he was thrilled the demons were dying, or at least were incapacitated for a while. He couldn't count on anything dying for certain in hell.
"Come on!" He tried to haul Sam up.
"Get away from me! Not wearing him!"
Now Sam was fighting? And with him?
"Sam, come on! It's me! I'm getting you out of here. Why aren't you fighting them?"
"What's the point? The same thing happens every day. I've died here and every day I come back to do it again."
"Except this time you won't be healed," Dean snarled. "Don't you remember Castiel coming for you? He got you out—your body is out."
Sam shook his head before resting it on the floor. "That wasn't real. It was just another false hope ripped away, like coming here, letting me try and save Jess over and over. I never can. None of it matters. Why fight against it? I'm so tired."
Dean twisted his fist inside Sam's collar. "You get up. Right now. You get up because you're coming with me."
"No! I've taken everything. I know I deserve it. But not from him. I won't go anywhere with something wearing my brother's face. No, no way." Sam dropped back to the floor. "Just go away. Send the others back to do their business. I'll take whatever they do, but not from you. Not from you." The heat from the fire blasted over them. The remaining demons edged around them, hissing, whispering.
So that was it. Sam didn't believe it was really Dean. Dean leaned down close, stabbing out at a demon who was getting braver. "Sammy, you listen to me. I'm your brother and I am not leaving you down here. You get up and you fight. You fight, Sammy! You fight your way out of here!"
Sam finally turned toward him, studying Dean's features. "Dean? It can't—how?"
"Dream root. Are you ready to get out of here now?"
Eyes wet, Sam nodded. "I can't believe it. It's not possible…"
"Oh, it's me all right and if you don't start helping me I'm gonna be the one to kick your ass."
Sam half grunted, half laughed at that, but nodded. That was progress.
Remembering the awful crunch of Sam's leg earlier, Dean looked down. "Can you get up?"
Sam shrugged. "We'll see. I think my leg's broken."
"How could you possibly…?"
"Later. Let's just go." Dean pulled Sam up.
Sam bit back a moan.
"Okay, I got you. Just lean on me. That's right." Dean pulled Sam's arm over his shoulder, wincing at the way Sam's broken hand just dangled. "You good?"
"Yeah." Sam's voice was breathless, reminding Dean of the wound across Sam's abdomen. "What now?"
Good question. When they'd used dream root before, they'd been yanked out of sleep. This time, Sam wasn't on dream root. There had to be an exit point somewhere. Back door? "This way." Dean practically carried Sam out of the bedroom. Sam stared up at the ceiling, up at Jessica.
"That's not her," Dean said.
The back door was glowing. This was it. This had to be it. Dean's instincts had been right. The remaining demons followed them, hissing. "Why aren't they attacking?"
White hot pain suddenly burst against Dean's back, shoving him into the door. Buckling at the sudden weight on his leg, Sam groaned, crashing to the floor.
"Please. Stay." Satan stood on the far side of the room, a handsome man with black hair and baby smooth features. "I didn't know you had a sac big enough to come down here, Dean." His lips puckered. "I am impressed. This will be enjoyable." He cracked his knuckles. "Now how will we spend the time? The two Winchester brothers all mine to play with for eternity. I'm sure we can come up with something."
"Yeah? Actually, we've made other plans." Dean lifted his chin and then looked at Sam. Reaching up, Dean opened the door. "Cas!" he shouted as he fell backwards, dragging Sam with him through the doorway.
"Not so easy, boys!" Satan hurled something small and dark. Sam's breath hitched as it hit him in the back just before the door slammed shut behind them.
Gasping, Dean lunged up from the couch.
"Easy, now," Castiel said. "You're back. You made it."
He could barely hear Castiel because his ears were ringing from… someone in horrible agony. "Sam!" Dean was off the couch and over to the bed in a flash where Bobby was struggling with Sam. Sitting up, Sam was screaming, twisting, trying to get at something behind him.
"I don't know what's wrong with him!" Bobby shouted.
"Right when we were leaving, the devil hit him with…with…I don't know, some kind of energy ball or something." Dean grabbed Sam by the shoulders. "Sammy, stop. We'll get it. Stop!"
"Get it out! Get it out!" Sam's body was strained so tight, he'd tear muscles if he kept moving.
"Was it small and black?" Castiel asked.
"Binding dart. Luficer can pull Sam back any second. Where did it hit?"
Dean tapped the side of Sam's lower back. There wasn't a mark there to show anything had pierced him.
Castiel nodded. "Hold him still. Both of you."
"You have the strength to heal him now?" Bobby shouted.
"No. I'm going to rip the dart out."
"What?" Bobby flinched. "Are you out of your friggin head? This should be done under anesthesia. At least let me get some whiskey down him."
"No time for that." Castiel thrust his hand straight through Sam's skin.
Sam bucked, gasping. Dean pulled him against his chest, holding him tight. "I got you, I got you." Sam wheezed, his breath rattled in his chest as though he couldn't pull enough oxygen in. His body was locked tight. Every vein beneath his skin stood out blue, near to bursting. Dean was just as rigid, holding his brother with everything he had in him.
Castiel's jaw clenched while he fished around inside Sam's back. Finally his wrist slid out, then his palm and fingers. Sam sagged against Dean, nearly slipping through his grasp.
Dean pulled him closer. "I got you."
Castiel opened his hand to reveal what looked like a small black pebble. His forehead lined in concentration, Castiel stared at the rock until it sparked and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"That's it?" Dean asked. "He's safe? Sam's going to be okay, now?"
Castiel nodded. "He's safe. As long as the angels don't find him. Or demons. And if Sam can heal on his own. Of course there's always risk of infection. Also, his bones may be shattered, irreparable."
"Enough," Bobby growled. "Ain't you just a steaming pile of sunshine. Sam's going to be fine. Right, Dean? Sam's a strong kid."
"Right." Dean's voice was thick. He held him tighter. He could hardly believe Sam was here. Safe. Out of hell.
"Dean." Sam's voice was barely a rasp.
"Yeah?" Dean eased Sam back, helped him settle against the pillows.
"Is this real?"
"Yeah, this is real. You're really here. You're safe, Sammy. You're safe. But, you should rest for a while. We're going to have to re-set some bones and stitch you up some. So… so, you should rest."
Sam nodded, his eyes already drooping. "Hey, Dean. Don't go anywhere, okay?"
Dean swallowed down a lump. "I'm not going anywhere."