Dean Winchester knows a lot of things. He knows that Ben tends to lag in the morning unless Dean wakes him 10 minutes early. He knows Lisa likes Earl Grey tea with a drizzle of honey before she takes a shower and gets ready for the day. He knows more about construction than he ever did. Pressure hammers, cordless drills and drywall clamps are all familiar to him now.
He knows all that, and it gives him a focus and a purpose.
But, what he really wants to know, what freakin' tortures him and keeps him from sleeping, is what is happening with Sam? What does it mean to be Lucifer's agent of demise in hell? Is he enduring the same ripping and tearing and breaking that Dean did? Or, is he in a whole different world of pain and agony because he was the one who brought Lucifer back to the pit?
There's no way to get any answers, of course. Dean's tried. He's been to libraries and websites. He's had Bobby read and call and pester other hunters. He's called Castiel, who hasn't answered, the little ungrateful shit. And, so. Dean is left alone with his wondering.
Yeah, he knows there is no point. He knows there's no way to find out what he wants to know. He even knows that Sam wanted him to move on. Even begged. "Dean, please, promise me!" But, when you've looked after someone since you were four, it's tough to just turn it off, say, 'Oh, well, that's the way the cooking crumbles,' and let it go.
In desperation, he actually tried to summon Sam. He wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, but he'd tried a psychic. He and Lisa had been in Vegas a couple of months back. Lisa had gone to have her nails done, or somesuch girly activity, so Dean had walked the strip. He'd seen a glass door that just said 'Psychic' in gold letters. Checking over his shoulder, like someone would have noticed or cared, Dean had ducked in.
The room was small, dark, red lightbulbs, flickering candles. It was so staged and cheesy that he'd almost left. But, then, an older woman, dressed in black pants and swirly blouse had come in. He had been prepared to raise an eyebrow and be gently condescending as he asked her to contact his brother. But, her eyes had lazered into his and stayed quiet. She'd studied him. After a long moment, while he stood frozen by her intense gaze, she'd smiled, tilted her head, gestured him to come closer.
He'd been proud of himself, that he hadn't backed up or flinched. When he was close enough, she'd stepped in, put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Her eyes had gone from intensely focused and calm, to crestfallen and sad. She inhaled a slow breath, and Dean was dismayed to see tears fill her eyes. Finally, she'd let go of his shoulder, stepped back. Her eyes had cleared, and she'd beckoned him to the small table for two in the middle of the room. "Please, sit."
Her voice was low and soothing, and Dean had sat down across from her.
She closed her eyes, took in and released two long, slow breaths. Finally, she looked up at him, "You have a question. Ask."
Dean had thought he would have to go into some sort of bullshit explanation, that he'd lost his brother in the war, that he just wanted to see how he was doing on the 'other side,' or something of that sort. Instead, he gazed into her clear eyes, simply said, "Can I talk to him?"
She put her hand lightly on his wrist. Waited a moment. "Your brother?"
The woman nodded in return. "We will call him. His name?"
It had been so long since he'd said it aloud, that Dean had to speak past a sudden lump in his throat. "Sam. His name is Sam."
She nodded, closed her eyes, withdrew her hand. She didn't speak, just sat quiet and still. Dean had thought there'd be a bit more theatrics, to be honest. But, no smoke or flickering lights. Just the breathing and the waiting. He thought about what he wanted to say to Sam, if, by some unbelievable long shot, he showed up. I'm sorry? I wish there'd been some other way? I'm so proud of you? What do you say to your brother, your best friend, if you get one minute of time to last the rest of your life? Is it beyond enduring, what's happening to you? Are you still Sam, inside all the suffering? Is there any way for me to get you out? Is there anything I can do to make it better?
I really fuckin' miss you.
And, suddenly, he wanted it so badly it hurt. To talk to Sam. To have even a moment to connect with him. For a fraction of time to feel Sam with him. He had Lisa and Ben, and they were great. They really were. But, he felt so damn alone. When Sam had fallen into that gaping pit, he'd left a similar hole in the center of Dean's chest. It was just there. All the time. Dean could cover it up, get busy, chat up the neighbors or the guys at work, but, still. He could feel this hollowness, just along the edges of everything he did. And, if he could just be with Sam for a moment, maybe that would help. Maybe.
Then again, maybe it would make it all that much more unbearable, to have him for a second, and then lose him again. Dean didn't know anymore. He just wanted...well, he wanted to see his brother.
The longer the woman had stayed silent, her eyes closed, her breathing calm, the faster Dean's heart had pumped. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon...
After what felt like a long, suspended time of waiting, she'd opened her eyes. "He's not coming."
"What!" Leave it to Sam, to make this difficult. "Well, keep trying."
She smiled a sad, pitying smile. "No, I mean, there's no trail of light for him. There's nothing for me or the guides to follow."
Dean, who'd begun this with a healthy dose of embarrassment and skepticism, was now fully invested in somehow talking to Sam. "So, look harder. Talk to other guides. Cause, believe me, lady, he ain't topside."
She'd tilted her head and given him another long, considering gaze. "You believe he isn't in the light?"
Dean gave a cold smile. "He's as far from the light as it's possible to get."
Her brow furrowed and she looked confused. "But, from the impressions on your psyche, I read him as a good, strong soul. Even, a noble soul. Why would you think he's consigned to the darkness?"
Dean sighed, suddenly feeling the ridiculousness of this whole situation. He wasn't going to see Sam. Not this night, not ever. Why he had let himself think differently, well, it was a momentary lapse into fantasy land. He'd sighed, rubbed his tired, stinging eyes. "Never mind. Just, this was stupid. Sorry I wasted your time. How much do I owe you?"
She continued to look at him. Then, she nodded. "I will ask the guides of the dark. If he lives below, they will find him."
Back to the waiting, while her eyes closed and she breathed deeply. But, by now, Dean had let go of the asinine hope that Sam would somehow magically appear and reassure him that all was well. As if. From hell. Right, Dean. You're a goddamned idiot.
But, he didn't leave. He'd waited, just not with the anticipation of before. Because Dean knew that things just didn't work out like that for the Winchesters.
Sure enough, the woman opened her eyes, shook her head. "He is not in the underworld, either."
Dean nodded. "Right. He's just floating around in a black hole somewhere." He rolled his eyes. "But, thanks." He stood up, turned to go.
The woman at the table spoke quietly. "People are skeptical of my gifts. And, that's fine. I know what I have and what I'm capable of. And, I am telling you in all honesty, I have never failed to find a lost soul. Especially, as I can feel your loss was not that long ago. For whatever reason, your Sam is not on the other side."
Dean had wanted to punch her. He'd wanted to tear this little red-bulbed, scarf-bedecked sham of a business apart. How dare she? How dare this con artist tell him his brother didn't exist.
Instead, he'd grit his teeth and stepped away. Went out the door and found an off-shoot alley to get a grip in. Stupid. Sam is dead. Just, leave it. Every time you poke at it, it rears up to slam you again. He had to find a way to leave it be. Had to. Or else, he'd just have to drive into a fucking tree and put himself out of his misery. Sam didn't want this from him, Dean knew. What had he said, that last drive they'd taken? "Hope Lisa is dumb enough to take you in and go live some apple pie life." That's what Sam wanted from him.
So, Dean would stop trying to find him, or a way to get him out. Because that's what Sam told him to do. Even if Sam had come for a chat that night, that's what he would've told Dean. Live. Be happy.
But, it doesn't keep him from wanting to know.
Are you hanging on? Is Lucifer tearing at you all the time? Do you get any reprieve? Is it fiery and full of screaming or freezing and desolate? Do you know that I'm both furious and proud? That I'd trade places if I could?
The questions come without his volition. They will always come, Dean thinks. But, they won't stop him from doing what Sam asked him to do.
He gets in the car to go pick up Ben from soccer practice. He notices the house across the street is still for sale as he drives past. He hopes any new neighbors have a kid for Ben to pal around with. Thinks he sees the blinds in the front room move. Maybe someone is looking at the place, be good to have it full, not sitting empty.
He fights to stay in the now. And, he will keep fighting. Because, Dean knows what his brother wants. And, so, he will keep living.