Title: Capstone
Author: morkhan
Warnings: EXTREME DARK!FIC. I really don't know how much longer I can keep this up. Incredibly graphic violence, suicide, torture.
Characters: Sam, Adam, Henriksen, Crossroads Demon, brief Bobby.
Rating: M
Word Count: 6359
Summary: Sam fails spectacularly, but graduates nonetheless. He just wishes his family was around to see him walk. Conclusion to Bump in the Night, won't make sense without it. Dark!Fic
Disclaimer: The Winchesters are not my property, and they definitely aren't making me any money.

Author's Notes: My original ending for this story was so much lighter and happier. I wanted to go with it, I really did, but one of the reviews put this idea into my head, and when I sat down to write, this monster burst out of me instead. This is just absolute fucking pitch-black darkness. I'm not willing to commit to it as the ending to Bump in the Night, but I worked too hard on it not to post it, so for now, just consider it a possible ending.

When Sam comes to his senses, the polar-cold horror that rakes claws through his veins nearly makes him fold in on himself and vomit, puke, spew every ounce of the vile potion from his stomach. There is blood dribbling down his chin, making his neck feel sticky, and the only thing more disgusting than the feeling on his skin is how much he wishes he could tear off his face and lick it clean. Lick it, like he just licked a goddamn motherfucking hotel bathroom floor until every ounce of red that spilled from his precious silver bottle was inside of him. If Adam hadn't flushed the toilet, Sam might well have drank from it like a dog to sate his bloodlust.


Oh. God. Oh God. OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod… He hurt Adam. He hurt his baby brother. Hurt him bad, with the strength only blind, mindless desperation can give. Hit him with hate in his eyes, hurled him from the room with heartless fury. He treated Adam like a thing, ripped him apart and tossed him aside like he was nothing more than wrapping paper standing between Sam and his present. It is… not. Not acceptable, not understandable, not forgivable, not knowing what his little brother went through, had to live through while he was gone. Brothers fight. But that was not a fight—he and Dean used to fight, and he knows what a fight looks like. Fights happen between equals. Adam is not his equal—he's fucking 17. He needs Sam, depends on him, looks up to him, loves him. And Sam attacked him. There are so many words that can apply to the situation, but none that fully encompass it. It was betrayal, it was a knife in the back, a knife in the front, a knife through the heart, it was abuse, and so much more. It was spitefully breaking a bone that had just begun to heal; a bone that had been broken so many times that it would probably never heal right, if it healed at all, and Sam suddenly realizes that this might be it. This might be the thing that ruins Adam forever, breaks him beyond all possibility of repair.

God. He is a monster. Dean should have shot him a long time ago.

Dean was a monster too, his mind whispers, but he cannot grapple with that yet. If it is even possible to fix or apologize for this, it becomes less so with each passing second. Sam gets unsteadily to his feet and lets every ounce of sorrow he feels display on his face. Adam was right. This is crap, and Sam will stop it. He will die before he drinks from that Hellbitch again; he will do whatever it takes to fix this.

He just wonders if it'll be enough. If he can save whatever brotherhood they have left, or if he is once again too little, too late.

He doesn't have to wait long to get his answer.

"My brothers are dead," Adam says, sounding for the world like he is the same. Sam has done it: he has razed what he was supposed to raise. "Go," Adam commands, and Sam cannot help but obey.

This is it: the final failure, the capstone of his senior year, the last step in earning his Bachelor's in Winchester: take someone who loves and depends on you and screw them up forever. He really is just like Dad. It's time to graduate from this world, head to Hell and join his father and brother. Sam hangs his head as he walks to the gallows. His hands are held up in surrender as he kneels on the bathroom floor, crouching on the spot where the demon blood was spilled, where his brother's blood was spilled, and thinks it is only right that his own blood complete the mixture.

He wants to find Ruby, to turn these so-called powers she has been teaching him to use against her, make her scream and shriek and beg for the end. He wants to tear her inside out, rip her to shreds, tie her in knots, burn her to ashes and spit on the pile for introducing him to this poison.

But more than that, he wants to wrap his arms around his little brother and just hold him, tap into whatever is left of his psychic abilities and take from the boy's mind every punch, every kick, every beating, every injury inflicted upon him; to take them all into himself and feel them so Adam doesn't have to, so that Adam can be okay again. He looks up, and tries to communicate with his face: I'm so sorry, none of this is your fault, I love you. Adam is not listening to words at the moment, and expressiveness has always been one of Sam's strong points. It's the last thing he can give to the kid who looked up to him in spite of so much, and he sends up one final prayer with the tiny bit of faith he has left. Please let him heal, let him get past this somehow.

Adam's eyes are those of a corpse. "My brothers are dead," he says again, his voice cracking, and Sam knows the end is coming soon.

Then, he thinks it must have already come; that Adam has killed him and this is his Hell. Because there is nothing. Nothing worse than this, nothing that he could imagine in his darkest, most vile fantasies that could equal what he is witnessing.

Time slows—it wants to drag this out, make Sam feel every second of it. He watches as Adam's stoic façade shatters into a trillion shards of grief, crumpling with a sob that tears through Sam like he's made of tissue. His mind struggles to understand what is happening as his brother's steady hands quake for just a second before jerking the gun, lightning fast, away from Sam. Away from Sam, towards the toilet, towards the mirror, towards the sink, twisting around until it stops at—

No. No. "NO!"

Too little. Too late.

Streaks of red branch from his brother's skull, and in this slow, torturous time-space, the shape they take looks almost like a wing before the illusion shatters, bits of gore splashing against the bathroom door. Adam's lifeless eyes roll unhinged in his head, his face goes slack, his legs twist, his fingers loosen, the gun slips away, his knees crumple as he pitches forward, and his head makes a gruesome, wet slapping sound as it bounces once, horribly, on the cold white tile, then lulls to the side and rests. Blood dribbles out of the crater left by the bullet, blood, blood, so much blood that pools together and begins to seep towards him, silently mocking him. Here you go: all the blood you could ever ask for. Don't you want it? Is my blood not good enough for you, Sammy?

A sound wrenches itself from his throat without his consent. His chest clenches and heaves in ways that defy all control, and he falls onto his hands, landing right in the puddle his brother made for him (it burns). His movements are awkward and stiff, and his brain seems utterly unfit for the task of commanding his limbs as he crawls to his baby brother, his little buddy. More and more sounds barge out of his mouth with no intention of stopping, no matter how Sam might wish they would. He isn't crying, isn't even sobbing—the noise that comes from his chest is like a dying animal, wounded and panicked and unable to even understand what's happening. "A... Adam…" he heaves, takes his careless, stupid, bloody hands and gathers bits of broken boy into his arms. More dark, red slop leaks from Adam's skull as Sam jostles him, refusing to let Sam forget, to slip into delusion, to pretend for even a second that this isn't real. He doesn't. He can't. He can only hold his baby brother close, rocking back and forth, whispering over and over. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, sorry, so sorry, please, I'm sorry, I promise, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Little Sammy Winchester, always apologizing, to everyone, for everything, forever and ever, always, always, always, never, never, never, never meaning anything, never enough, never in time.





He doesn't look at the gun. Won't even consider it. That would be running. Sam Winchester will run no more forever. He will stay here, with his baby brother, and feel until he goes numb.

He looks down into Adam's glassy, DEAD eyes, takes in the blankness on his DEAD face, remembers the boy they found in Windom, so full of life and fire, attacked, arrested, accused of the murder of his mother, having no way to prove that he killed a thing and not a person, face fresh with grief but tempered with hope as his brothers broke him out of lock-up. You're with us now. Remembers that day in the hospital, leaving Dean with Dad, going to get coffee, finding the folded note addressed to him. You have another brother. Keep him safe. Don't tell Dean. (failed on all counts, sorry Dad) An address and a name: Adam. Remembers all the different mental images he conjured up for Adam before they met, and how the real Adam was none of them and all of them at once. Remembers fear and wonder, awe and amazement veiled beneath a thin mask of implacability, a new discovery with every sunrise. Remembers wisecracks and sarcasm, an attitude worthy of a Winchester, an expert at deflection and diversion, grief and sorrow and ache bubbling always just beneath the surface. There is so much. So much to remember. Scrapes and cuts and bruises, fumbles and misfires, shame and self-reproach, but never surrender. Support, encouragement, teaching, trying, trying so hard to be there for Adam the way Dean was for him (because Dean did not seem interested in a repeat performance. How did Dad know Dean would act like this?). Ferocious, roaring pride at Adam's first hunt succeeded, Adam's first life saved, Adam's first monster smoked. Adam's smile, Adam's laugh, Adam's trust, Adam's love, Adam's brains sliding down the wall, Adam's blood soaking into his shirt, his skin, his soul

Someone is talking to him. Yelling at him. Step away from the body. The body… the body. He has to. Salt and burn. Salt and burn his little brother. He can't go yet. He's dead, son. Put him down and step back, nice and slow now. He identifies the voices—police officers. Two of them. Bad cop, good cop. He can't put him down. He can't give Adam to the police. They won't know what to do, they won't salt and burn, and Adam deserves that much, deserves to be laid to rest like a hunter, deserves for someone, somewhere to give him some fucking peace

Sam doesn't see the needle enter his arm. Barely even feels it, and by the time he understands what has happened, it is too late, and the last thing he sees is his arms growing slack, dropping Adam's head with a sickening thunk.

Little Sammy Winchester, always dropping the ball, never holding on when it really matters.

Sam wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed. He realizes almost immediately that he could easily escape, with little more than sheer brute force if it comes to that, but he first needs to deal with the room's other occupant; a man in a dark suit reading a magazine at the foot of his bed. African-American, middle-aged, average height, mildly athletic build, good posture. The suit tells Sam that he is a Fed, which means he probably has decent training, but Sam has no doubts in his mind about whether or not he can take the man. The question is whether or not he will need to.

"Where's my brother?" Sam asks, cutting to the chase. Introductions are for people who expect to see more of each other.

"Ah, Sam… you're awake," the Fed says, rising from his seat, and Sam wants to throttle him. He doesn't have time for this garbage. Not while his baby brother is putrefying in a morgue somewhere. "Special Agent Victor Henriksen. I've been on your brother's trail for a while now, and I was hoping you could tell me."

Sam stares at him, baffled for a couple of seconds before he realizes Henriksen is talking about Dean. "Not Dean. Dean's dead. My…" he falters, and curses himself for it. No one has time for his weakness right now. "…my little brother. The one they found me with. Where is he?"

Now, Henriksen is confused. "ID on the kid turned up Adam Milligan, wanted for the murder of his own mother up in Minnesota. You're telling me he's your brother, too?"

"Half-brother," Sam says. "Doesn't matter. Where is he?"

Henriksen quirks an eyebrow. "You don't remember, Sammy?"

"Sam." Only family gets to call him Sammy. And Sam has none of that left.

"Fine. He's dead, Sam. Caught a bad case of Hole-in-the-Head from his own gun, last I checked," Henriksen shrugs, seemingly without a care in the world. Sam has never wished another human being dead so badly. "You should be worrying about yourself right now, because—"

"I need to make a phone call," Sam says, cutting him off.

"Yeah, and I need a week in Boca Raton with about a half-dozen Playboy Bunnies, but that ain't happenin' either," Henriksen quips, and Sam almost smiles at the Near-Dean-quality humor.

"You're not getting a goddamn word out of me until you get me a phone and some privacy, and if you won't get it for me, I'll get it myself," Sam says, giving Henriksen his best fuck-with-me-and-die glare. "You know I can do it, too, don't you?"

"I know that you and your brother… brothers… were slippery bastards, no doubt about it, but I don't know much about your solo work, Sam. See, Dean I've got pinned down with all sorts of goodies. Murders in St. Louis, the Milwaukee job, all manner of grave desecration and credit card fraud. And that Milligan kid… the way you picked him up after he iced his mom, I figured you guys were pulling some kind of Charles Manson shit and starting a cult. Didn't realize it was the blood that was bad… but I digress. You, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to pin down. I figured you'd escaped your—"

"Does this end with you getting me a phone call?" God, what is it with Feds and talking? It's like they think they're actually in an episode of Law and Order or something.

Henriksen eyes Sam carefully. "It ends with your ass locked in jail. How long and which wing depend on how much you're willing to cooperate with me. You got that?"

Sam gets an idea, and figures why the Hell not. "I just… I need to make arrangements for my brother," he says, turning his best puppy-dog eyes on the Federal Agent.

"The suicidal mommy-murderer?" Oh, hey, there's that Death Wish again. Sam was wondering where it went. The red in his vision almost causes him to miss the cell phone being tossed at him. "You've got five minutes," he says, walking out of the room.

Sam wastes no time. He has the number memorized.

He calls. Lets it ring twice, hangs up. Calls again, and there is an answer. "Whoever you are, this better be important."

Suddenly, Sam doesn't know what to say to him. The magnitude of his failure slams into him full force, wraps cold fingers around his throat and squeezes. His voice quits on him.

"You got five seconds 'til I hang up."

"Bobby," Sam says, pushing through the shame because his feelings don't matter. Adam matters. Bobby can hate him if he needs to.

"Sam? Oh, Lord. If you're calling on this line, you must really be up a creek."

"You have no idea," Sam sighs. "Listen, Bobby… thank you. For everything you've done."

"Aw, Jesus H, Sam, don't start this maudlin crap with me."

"I just need to ask one more thing from you, and I'll be out of your hair forever."

"Sam… damn it, boy. One of these days, you boys are gonna give me a heart attack, and if I die, I swear to God, no amount of salt is gonna keep me from yelling your sorry asses right into the afterlife." A beat. "What'd you do this time?"

"Adam's dead."

Silence follows. Silence so thick it practically sucks the sound right out of the air and into the phone.

"He's at the McCreedy Memorial Hospital, just outside of Michigan. I need you to come get him and give him the funeral he deserves. I'd do it myself if I could."

"Good God. Sam… you can't just… what happened, son?"

Son. God, that smarts. "It doesn't matter, Bobby. Just… please. Do it for Adam. Don't worry about me. Oh, and disconnect this number, I'm calling you from a Fed's cell. Goodbye, Bobby."

The sound that comes from the other end sounds strangely like a phone violently smashed to pieces. The line goes dead, and Sam takes a moment to think. He has decisions to make. There is a next for him, and he needs to figure out what it's going to look like.

If you just quit your hand-wringing and open yourself up, you have no idea what you can do. The learning curve is so fast, it's crazy, the switches that just flip in your brain…

Sam isn't 100% clear on all that went down during his extended dirt nap, but he knows that Yellow Eyes rather appropriately bit a bullet from the Colt at the hands of Dean, and he hasn't had a single vision since he woke up. Ruby teaching him to use his powers took on a very different form, but Sam can't help but wonder if Ava's words still hold true. If he just surrenders to the dark side, lets his brain flip the right switch, maybe he won't even need the blood. Maybe his powers will start to affect humans too… maybe he really will become a monster. He has no family left, no one to protect from himself, and he's already so far down this road... if Yellow Eyes is no longer alive to control him, maybe there is some possibility that he can control himself.

Like you controlled yourself when you smacked Adam around your hotel room? Like Ava controlled herself? Like Jake?

Jake received a rather poetic knife to the spine, courtesy of his baby brother. Adam was always surprisingly good with blades, even if he couldn't shoot for shit. Adam… Fucking Hell. Sam was doing well holding off his grief up until this point, but this thought disturbs the still waters, and suddenly, he is in the midst of a storm again. When he woke up underground, had to dig his way out of the (admittedly shallow) grave they dug for him, and showed up covered in dirt and grime and looking for all the world like a zombie… anyone else would have had him at gunpoint. Dean would've attacked him, Bobby would've had him unconscious within seconds. Adam took one look at him and started squeezing him like an enormous, depleted tube of toothpaste. And even as he told his little brother how dangerous it was in their line of work to trust your eyes alone, he could not help but smile at how plainly and openly the kid loved. Of course, in retrospect, maybe it was less love and more desperation that drove Adam to cling to Sam like a monkey on his mother's back. In the brave new Post-Resurrection world, Adam was at once ten times harder and twenty times more breakable than Sam had ever seen him. He'd known within a day that something truly horrific had happened to his baby brother while he was gone, but thoughts of Dean and what he'd done in exchange for Sam's life convinced him that he could put that on hold, worry about Adam later. Even with pieces grinding against each other and frayed edges on full display, Adam held himself together for Sam through everything. It took Sam himself to break him, and when it finally happened, Adam fell to figurative and literal pieces right in front of him.

And Sam has no one to blame but himself. Ruby might have opened her veins to him, but he was the one who took the first sip. He ignored the signs; overlooked Adam's fading will to continue. He used to think he was the sensitive one, all tuned in to people's emotions like a radio picking up every frequency at once. But he let his quest for Dean, for answers, for revenge, for power take precedence over everything.

Sam suddenly flashes back to a conversation he had with Adam a few weeks after he became a semi-permanent fixture in the Impala's back seat…

"So, is magic real, too?" Adam asks suddenly. The drive to the next down is a couple hours down, a couple to go, and the silence is suffocating and thick.

"Yup," Dean says simply. When it becomes plain that he has no intention of continuing (come on, Dean, the kid is trying, you could at least do the same), Sam decides to clarify.

"Kind of. Magic is definitely real, but it's not like what you might be thinking. No Harry Potter, wave-your-wand-and-things-just-happen magic. It's hard… complicated, intricate, dangerous, and 99% of the time, pure evil."

"Really? But… I mean, it's just magic. Isn't it just… like… a tool? I mean…" He pauses for a second, thinking. "If one guy uses a hammer to bash somebody's skull in, that doesn't mean hammers are evil, does it?"

Sam smiles, turning around in his seat to look at Adam directly. Kid's pretty sharp, but there's a lot he needs to learn. No time like the present to teach him… "Well, two things. One: in our line of work, that hammer you mentioned? It might actually be evil, through a curse or a spirit attached to it. And two: in this case, it's not the hammer itself that's evil, but what you have to do to get the hammer. There's all kinds of power out there waiting in the dark, but it's got a cost attached, usually measured in blood, souls, or lives. Nothing is free, Adam, and that kind of power usually carries a pretty hefty fee."

"Don't forget about inflation," Dean adds.

Sam gives him a sidelong glance.

"What? I'm just going along with the metaphor, here. The price goes up. Takes a little more every time you use it, and one day, it'll be more than you can pay. When that happens…" Dean makes a slashing motion across his throat, complete with sound effects. "…the Repo Men come."

Sam rolls his eyes. Leave it to Dean to ruin a perfectly good metaphor. "The point is," he tries to finish; "everything has a price. Nothing is free, and if you don't pay yourself, someone else pays for you."

He is such a fool, the kind of idiot that people tell fables about: he chased down power, claimed it for his own, and Adam paid for it with his life. He wants to give it back, all of it, a hundred times over, but that's not how it works. No exchanges, no refunds, no—

Of course. He is such an idiot. How could he forget? There is one more step in his degree program. One last thing to do before he graduates, and when Henriksen comes back and starts talking about negotiations and cutting a deal, Sam can't help but smile.

"There are a few items I need you to get for me," he says. "Simple stuff. After that, I'll tell you whatever you want."

Henriksen quirks an eyebrow. "Oh, really? And what might those be?"

Sam's smile grows wider. "Well, to start with, I want a copy of my mugshot…"

He is in chains and under armed guard during his extradition from the hospital. Fat lot of good it does—Sam is free and in the driver's seat less than twenty miles into the trip. The nearest dirt crossroads is so easy to find that it almost seems like a set-up.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," the Crossroads Demon says from behind him (her standard place of entrance). "This is just too rich. Three out of four Winchesters in the pit—that must be a record. I deserve a plaque for this."

Sam turns to face the bitch, who is wearing a tall, sinewy red-head as her meatsuit. "I'll call Bed, Bath, and Beyond, see if I can get a frame for you."

She slinks towards him, drinking in the triumph of the moment. "You know, I've been avoiding you for a while. Figured you might be a little cross about what went down with Dashing El Deano. But when I heard about what happened to your poor, precious widdle bastard brother… I just couldn't resist a little gloat."

Sam grinds his teeth. "Fuck you," he says. "I want to make—"

"A deal, I know, I know. You Winchesters are like clockwork, I swear."

The fury is almost blinding, but something itches in his brain, and he must scratch it. "…wait a second. How the Hell did you know about Adam? That happened half a day ago."

Her eyes flash red as her lips twist into a serpentine smirk. She practically smolders with the power of Hell. "Oh, Sam. Sammy, Sammy, Sammy… news travels fast among demons. Even if we aren't in Hell, we have our lines of communication. Another Winchester dropping in, for a surprise visit, no less… that's the kind of thing that makes headlines."

Sam's heart freezes; his blood flows backwards. "No. If you're trying to tell me Adam's in Hell, you can go fuck yourself. He did nothing wrong, and he sure as Hell didn't make any deals."

"He didn't need to, Sammy-boy," she says, encroaching upon his personal space. "And I thought you were the religious one. Weren't you paying attention in Sunday School?" She leans into his face as she breathes words that crush Sam's frozen heart into snow. "Suicide's a sin, Sammy. A mortal sin… that bullet bought him a one-way trip downstairs. Sweet Little Adam couldn't take the heat, so he hopped out of the frying pan, and landed right in the fire."

"No… NO. You lying BITCH." Sam thrusts his hands at her, but nothing happens.

"Awwww, what's the matter, Sammy? Out of gas?" she shakes her head, walking away from him. Turning her back to him like she doesn't have a care in the world. "Besides, you know I'm right. You know your doctrine. The law is very clear. You check out early, you check in at Perdition." She pauses and turns back, making sure to look right at him as she delivers the rest of the news. "Tell you what. I'll give you a little update on how everybody's doing, free of charge. Your daddy? He was proud. Barely gave us a grunt while we worked him. Your big brother? He's a screamer. Shouts and yells and curses like nobody's business. Good thing he didn't get a chance to kiss his mother with that mouth. And last but not least… Adam? Adam just cries. He cries and cries and begs us to let him go. Like it's up to us to just open the gates and let him walk out." She sighs, staring at her nails like they are trading fashion tips. "It's so disappointing when they come pre-broken. It's like buying jeans with the holes already in them—it's just not the same, you know?"

It takes everything Sam has to stay upright and on his feet. Of anyone, of everyone, Adam does not deserve this shit. "Let him go. You hear me? Get. Him. OUT. Bring him back to life right now. You can take me here and now, I don't care. Just bring him back!" He is losing it, he knows, desperation is the last thing anyone should display when cutting a deal, but god damn it.

"Not happening, Sammy. Dean is downstairs singing for us, and now we've got Adam strung up right beside him on harmony. And you're stuck up here, all alone and forlorn, pining for them like a lovesick puppy dog… it's all just too delicious. Everything is exactly where we want it. Wouldn't change it for the world."

"NO. You… don't…" He is floundering, flailing, flopping around like a fish. He is drowning on dry land. Why? Why won't they take him? Why won't they let him do this? If they enjoy tormenting Winchesters so much, why won't they take another one? Why can't he be the sacrifice, why can't he save someone for a change? Why won't the universe let him fix this?

"Sorry, Sam, but we don't do charity. There's no dealing left to be done when we hold all the cards. Thanks for the summons, though, this was loads of fun. We should do it again some time," she says, giving him a little wave as she turns and walks away.

Sam is powerless to follow her. What would be the point? He falls on his hands and knees, overcome by the taste of fresh grief, cooked lovingly in the fires of Hell and shoved down his throat by this whore of a demon. He vomits, heaves, spits and cries. His baby brother is burning. Adam is cooking in the Devil's Oven and there is nothing, nothing he can do to stop it. Fix it. Change it. He has well and truly and ultimately and finally failed. This is just how the story ends. Daddy dead, Dean dead, Adam dead, all of them burning, burning, burning while Little Sammy sits alone in the world above and wishes he was there. Oh, irony, fucking bitch, he spent the first 18 years of his life trying to run away from his family, and now all he wants to do is claw his way into Hell to sit with them and roast for the rest of time. Fuck, fuck, fuck, BULLSHIT. He wants to tear his hair out, rip open his skull and plunge his fingers into his brain until he finds the FUCKING PSYCHIC parts and just squeeze them until they do something. He has never felt so much hate and still he is useless, completely fucking unable to use any of it. He's trying so goddamn hard, because he wants this now, he wants to rip the world a hundred thousand new assholes, this stupid fucking unfair world that takes him and his family and just shits on them over and over no matter how much good they do, no matter how much they sacrifice, no matter how much they give up…

It hits him then.

If you just quit your hand-wringing and open yourself up

He's trying too hard. That's the problem. It's so fucking simple he wants to kick himself for not realizing it sooner. All that pushing and straining and mental exertion, and the whole time, the only thing he really needed to do was just… give up. Stop the fighting and let it flow. He understands now, clear as day, clear as a bell, the path he has to walk. It isn't a path at all—it's a slide. His fingernails are digging into the plastic and his hands are bleeding. All he needs to do is let go, throw up his hands and go wheeeeeeee, all the way down. Take me home, gravity.

He goes limp, tilting over to one side and flopping into the dirt. Years and years of tension bleed from his body and drip into the dust, releasing aches and pains he didn't realize existed until they left. He can't even describe the sheer amount of relief that floods through him, dozens of dams breaking at once and sweeping him away into the ocean. A laugh bubbles up from his lungs, completely unbidden, and the giddy sound is almost completely foreign to him. How long has it been since he actually just fucking laughed at something? Laughed, free and easy and unburdened? Since the last prank war with Dean? Since Stanford? Since childhood? Since never? He wants to sprawl out on the ground and make a dirt angel, roll in the mud like a pig, laugh like this until he passes out. God, this is what he's been missing? This is what he's been fighting this whole time? It's fantastic. He can't imagine why anyone would fight this. He barely remembers why he thought he was supposed to.

"…wow. It finally happened. You are fucking cracked, aren't you?" That voice… oh, good. The bitch is still here. "Oh, this is so sweet. I want to cry; I want to cry, and I am a demon—"

"Shut up," Sam commands, sitting up.

She does. She doesn't look like she wants to, but she does. She doesn't have a choice, because Sam won't give her one. He gets to his feet and staggers a bit, feeling a bit woozy—it's literally dizzying to have so much power over another being. He approaches her. Her eyes bug out as she backs away, but Sam isn't letting her leave.

"Stop," he commands again, and she freezes.

"H-how… this shouldn't be possible! You don't have…"

"I have everything that I will ever need," he grins at her as he taps his temple, "right here."

She looks like she can't choose between trying to take a bite out of his throat and just running for her life. She snarls at him, growling like the cornered animal she is. "So what? So you've tapped into a little extra juice. If you think you have what it takes to break me—"

"Bleed," Sam says, noting for the first time that there is something… special about his voice when giving commands now. He's simply irresistible.

The bitch is powerless before him as her skin dries and cracks open, blood pouring from every pore. She tries to scream, but chokes on blood dripping into her mouth and just winds up having a coughing fit.

Even though he no longer needs it, Sam lets his curiosity take over and swipes a finger across her ruined flesh, gathering a nice dollop of demonic ichor and bringing it into his mouth. She tastes different than Ruby… carries more of a tangy flavor, less spice and hotness and more tingling and sour-sweet. It's nice. He could get used to it. He wonders if all demons taste different. If the higher ups on the chain of command are better than the grunts. He wonders how Lilith tastes…

He'll find out, sooner or later. If he can't get his brothers out of Hell, he will get Hell away from his brothers. He will walk the earth, annihilating every demon he can find, open every devil's gate and summon every demon he can name, and he will kill them all. He will singlehandedly empty Hell of its keepers if that is what it takes to ease his brothers' suffering. And he fully intends to wring as much enjoyment out of the task as possible. What's life if you can't have a little fun while you're here?

The bitch manages to cough out a painful, wet "STOP" in the midst of her agony. Sam circles her, fully in control. He is predator, she is prey.

"Oh, what was that?" he grins. "You want something from me?" It's just too sweet. Poetic justice, reversal of fortune. The hunted is once again the hunter. He leans into her ear, close enough for his breath to tickle as he purrs. "Nothing is free, sweetheart. But if you're willing to negotiate price… boy, have I got a deal for you…"

Her screams carry far into the distance, and echo long into the night.

Little Sammy Winchester, ever the overachiever, double-majored in Winchester and Demonology, and graduates with honors.

He only wishes his family could be here to see him walk.

A few weeks later…

Adam Milligan breaks in no time at all. It has nothing to do with his tolerance for pain or his will to fight. Alistair is a wily bastard, and it does not take him long to divine an offer Adam can't refuse.

He comes up behind Adam at the end of a particularly riveting session on the rack, and whispers in his ear. "There's somebody you know down here. Somebody who is just dying to see you." He moves around to the front, so he can see the boy's face as he speaks. "Now, from what I hear, you two didn't part on the best of terms. Bad blood, and all that. But I'm a big believer in family values… " He presses a knife into Adam's open palm. "…and I think you two could work out your issues with the right tools. What do say we go pay him a visit, so you two can spend some quality time together?"

Alistair watches, thrums with anticipation as Adam's tear-streaked face goes from horror, to defiance, to shame… and finally, to cold, cold fury. He gives a little chuckle as he feels Adam's fingers close around the knife. "That's my boy."

Somewhere on earth, a little girl with milk-white eyes grins like Christmas has come early. She really must remember to write a thank-you note for the sweet little boy who finally opened up her toy box.

And it is written that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell. As he breaks, so shall it break.

With a beatific smile on her chubby little face, Lilith skips out to greet the world. Playtime has come at last.