Title: Nothing Left But Ashes of Doubt

Pairings/Characters: (one-sided) Sam/Castiel

Rating: R

Genre: SPN, Angst, AU after 5.18, Apocalypse fic

Word Count: 9,800
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Eric Kripke, the CW and a bunch of other people I don't know or have anything to do with.
Warnings: Angst – lots of it, Major canon character death
Summary: After Dean says yes to Michael, Sam and Castiel go in search of him, but following his path of destruction only leads to tragedy. Alone and trapped between Heaven and Hell, Sam is forced to finally make a choice.

Author Notes: This was written for the spn_reversebang challenge on Live Journal.


Once the fire burned itself down to smoldering embers, Sam got back into the Impala and drove away. Part of him wanted to sink into the ground with Castiel, to just take out his pistol and pull the trigger, but the futility of it made doing it pointless.

So instead he drove. He paid little attention to what direction he drove; he just kept driving, stopping only for gas. That is until he saw the smoke rising over the horizon.

Soon he found himself in Detroit.

After it had taken hours of avoiding the main highways and maneuvering countless back roads that were overcrowded with panicked people, Sam finally found himself on a strip of road that was fairly deserted. It looked like an old industrial park and was still pretty far outside the city proper. Everything looked run down and abandoned.

Sam thought it looked like a more likely hiding place for the Devil than anything that Michael was burning closer to the center of the city.

He felt another surge of anger at the Archangel's complete disregard for human life. He was no better than Lucifer. In fact, Sam was beginning to think that the great warrior of God was far worse than the Devil.

He picked a spot to park the Impala. Sam knew that this was the closest that he'd be able to get to the city without having to run down any roadblocks. He didn't bother taking anything out of the trunk; all he had was his pistol and the knife. He knew better than to expect that any amount of fire power would help him win any sort of fight now.

He pried away a loose piece of plywood from the door of the closest building and picked the lock effortlessly, locking it again unconsciously after he had closed it behind him. He didn't bother with salt lines or demon traps. He didn't bother with any holy oil or sigils either.

He simply found his way up to the top floor, found himself a chair and waited. It hadn't taken very long for him to be found.

Michael stood there, smile still plastered to his face regardless of the gun being pointed at it. He stepped forward but stopped when he heard Sam pulled the handle back on his gun. "Really, Sam? Do you think shooting me is going to do anything?"

Sam answered by pulling the trigger. Dean's head snapped back in a sickening manner and Sam was certain he heard the snapping of bones.

It took Michael several seconds to mend his neck and as he brought his head forward he fixed Sam with the deadliest glare Sam had ever seen grace the contours of Dean's face.

Sam shrugged and lowered the gun. "No, but it makes me feel better." He tossed the gun to the side, making the mistake of taking his eyes off the angel.

Michael grabbed him by the neck and Sam felt the world rush around him as Michael flew them across the room and slammed him into the wall. The air was knocked from his lungs as he felt the plaster crack and dig into his back and arms. He watched with a sort of perverse pleasure as the hole in Dean's forehead began to heal, pushing the bullet out as it did so.

Michael decided to wipe the smile from Sam's face by nearly crushing his windpipe. "I promised Dean that I would keep you alive," he said. "But nothing was said about you needing to be whole for me to do it."

"Why bother?" Sam's voice came out as more of a hoarse whisper; hardly intimidating. "You don't really plan on giving Dean back his body do you?"

"Well I certainly don't plan on having any need of it after all this is over and done with," Michael said. "Besides, I'll be looking forward to your reunion with him." Giving him a knowing smile, Michael let go of Sam's neck.

Falling to the floor, Sam felt his throat burn as air forced its way down his battered windpipe. Michael ignored his hacking cough though, instead walking back across the room to inspect the still unconscious Meg.

Sam managed to calm his coughing enough to speak. "What do you plan on doing with her?"

"This one is going to tell me where to find my brother," Michael said, turning to look at Sam. "And you are going to lure him right to me."

Sam couldn't help but let out a choked laugh. "So I'm bait now? That's your idea of keeping me safe?"

"Well I could always keep you locked up in the highest tower of Heaven." Michael laughed and slowly walked back towards Sam. "Then you could just sit around and wait for Dean to come to your rescue. I could even give him a horse if you'd like." He stopped. "Oh that's right. Dean wouldn't really be your first choice as your knight in shining armor anymore now would he?"

A cry of rage tore its way out of Sam as he pushed himself from the floor and launched himself at Michael. Not the smartest thing for him to do since Michael merely moved out of the way. Sam was able to keep from throwing himself onto the floor, but when he turned Michael was right there.

Lifting his hand, Michael effortlessly threw Sam across the room and with a twist of his wrist, Sam began to feel everything in his chest constrict.

White hot pain seared through his body as he lay on the ground writhing. He couldn't breathe, and through it all he could hear Michael laughing. He began wishing that the Archangel really would just kill him – for him to just stop toying with him and let him die, contract with Dean be damned.

It wasn't until Sam swore he could taste blood again when Michael finally stopped. "I wasn't kidding about you not having to be whole, Sam."

"Why not just kill me then?" Sam asked. "Why does it matter if I'm actually alive when you get your Paradise? Isn't being reunited with people in Heaven part of the package?"

"Except you seem to be forgetting that you're bait now." Michael smiled. "Hide you away like that and more people are just going to die."

"So what?" Sam spat. "You don't care; you're the one killing them. What the hell kind of angel are you?"

"The kind who will do anything to fulfill his father's wishes," Michael said, his smile now gone.

Sam forced himself up, using the wall for support. "Well then you and your Father can just blow me."

Sam watched as Michael's lips curled into an angry smile. "Goodnight, Sam."

The last thing Sam remembered was Michael snapping his fingers and then darkness.

Once Sam became aware again, he knew immediately that he was dreaming. It wasn't just the feeling but his impossible surroundings.

He was back in Bobby's study. It looked as it had before he'd even left with Castiel nearly one month ago. The desk, shelves and every book were still in the same places.

It was almost as if everything after Dean had said yes never happened. In fact, Sam had to resist the urge to go down into the basement to see if he would find Dean still locked up in Bobby's panic room with Castiel still standing guard.

He looked around the room, taking special care to not let his gaze drift down to look at that one particular spot on the floor. He knew that even if they are not there, he'd still see them – they were burned forever into his memory.

"Sam?"

He turned when he heard that now familiar, and oh so missed, voice.

Castiel was standing in the kitchen doorway and even though Sam knew that it was a dream, and that the angel standing in front of him wasn't the real thing, he couldn't help himself. It only took a second for him to cross the room and pull this ghost of his lost angel into an embrace.

Dream-Castiel, in true Castiel fashion, sort of stood there, confused, before he hesitantly lifted his arms and returned the hug. "Um, yes Sam, I am very happy to see you too."

Sam can felt the tears build up and didn't do a thing to stop them. It was his dream after all.

He found himself almost wishing that the battle over Earth had somehow reached a conclusion and that Heaven, or God, had decided to repay him by bringing his angel back from the beyond. It was a foolish hope, but one he wouldn't be able to quell.

He drew in a shuddering breath and laughed. "Castiel, you have no idea how happy I am to see you right now."

"Is that so?"

Sam felt one of Castiel's hands move up his back to his neck while the other worked its way under his shirt to press into the small of his back, the skin on skin contact sending sparks through his body.

Castiel pulled Sam closer to him, brushing his lips up the hunter's neck to that he could whisper in his ear, "And just how happy are you to see me, Sam?"

Sam wasn't sure what it was, but something clicked in his brain, something that told him that, even in a dream, this wasn't right – this wasn't Castiel.

He untangled himself from the angel and pushed him away, needing to get some distance between him and this imposter. "Who are you?"

The fake Castiel's lips twisted into a cruel smile. "You're getting smarter Sam. Should have known I wouldn't be able to pull the wool over your eyes – again."

Realization hit him. "Lucifer?"

"That's right." The way he smiled didn't look right on Castiel's face. "I thought I'd try giving you a gift. You know, to get in your good graces – but I guess only the real thing is good enough for you."

Watching the Devil walk around the room looking like Castiel was starting to make Sam angry. "This really isn't funny." Sam's voice sounded almost as tense as he was.

Lucifer sighed. "You know, I suppose you're right." He snapped his fingers and suddenly the room changed.

It was still Bobby's study, only now it looked as it had when Sam last seen it. He quickly glanced at the floor, couldn't stop himself, and right where he knew they'd be were the burned impressions of Castiel's wing.

Sam could almost swear he felt his heart crumble in his chest.

"There now, isn't that better?"

When Sam turned, he saw Lucifer, looking like he usually did within his vessel, leaning against the wall and looking at the wings on the floor.

"Yeah," Sam said, fuming. "Just perfect."

Lucifer looked him with sympathy. Sam wasn't going to buy it though.

"Sam," he started. "I know you're…"

"The answer is no," Sam said, cutting him off.

Lucifer glared at him, obviously angry that Sam would dare to interrupt him. It was replaced quickly though as the Devil sighed and held up his hands. "You see Sam; I'm sort of in a bind here."

"Then you might as well save it for someone who cares," Sam said.

Lucifer, not missing a beat, continued, "But for you, I'm willing to make a deal."

"Not interested."

They stared each other down for a moment before Lucifer just started laughing. "How is it that, even after everything that's happened, you can remain so stubborn."

"Yeah well, humans are funny like that," Sam said.

"You don't actually think you still have a chance of winning do you?" Lucifer asked.

Much to Lucifer's delight, Sam remained silent.

"Or are you still hoping that God will jump in and put a stop to all of this?" Lucifer held up his hand, letting Dean's old amulet drop and dangle in front of him. He held it up so that he could look at it. "You know, you're still holding onto this thing. I can't possibly think of what it could mean for you now though."

Lucifer tossed it to him but Sam just let it fall to the floor.

"Ah I see," Lucifer said, smiling. "I can see that you're angry Sam. You're angry with God. You're angry with Dean. And you're angry with Michael."

Lucifer took his first steps towards Sam, who remained right where he was. He didn't finch, move or even breathe.

Lucifer began to slowly circle him. "Yes, Michael. You hate him. You want to see Michael dead, more than any other angel – more than me." Lucifer stopped when he was behind Sam, inches away. Leaning over Sam's shoulder he said, "I can make that happen Sam. But I need you to do it."

Sam felt the pull of the Devil's words – words that only spoke the truth. Squeezing his eyes shut, Sam turned and stepped away from Lucifer. "I don't care," he lied. "None of that's important to me."

"Okay then," Lucifer said, his voice loosing that edge of patience. "How about this – and let me say now that this is the only time I'm going to offer you this – when everything is all said and done, and I no longer need your body, I can give you back the one you want most of all."

Sam's breath caught in his throat. He opened his eyes to see nothing but seriousness written all over the Devil's face. The air in his lungs escaped as an almost strangled sob.

He shook his head, trying to shake the words out of it, wishing that he'd never heard them. "There's no way you can do that."

"I can do anything, Sam," Lucifer said. "I can make sure that you're aware of everything detail as I kill my brother Michael. I can make his death is quick and easy, or slow and painful so that you can watch every second of his suffering.

"And after I'm done with that, I can lock you away. Give you the most perfect dream you could ever ask for where it's just you and Castiel. Then, when it's all over, I can give you the real thing."

Sam told himself that there was no way Lucifer could do what he was saying, or if he could, there was some sort of twisted catch to it all. But the thought of what he was promising was so tempting that Sam could almost feel the answer already on his lips.

Lucifer must have somehow seen this because he smiled a truly pleased and wicked smile. "You don't have to answer me right this second," he said. "I'm very close to you now. I'll let it sink in a bit." He lifted his hand again. "See you real soon, Sam." And with a snap of his fingers he was gone.

Sam was jolted awake by the sound of battle.

His first coherent thought was that he had no idea where he was, only that one of his wrists were handcuffed to a bed and that it was too dark for him to see. It was after he had established that, when he remembered the dream.

His chest ached, and whether it was from the memories or the abuse he had received from Michael earlier didn't matter to him. The tears still came anyway.

He sat up on the bed and just started waiting. It was all he could do.

He listened to the battle that raged on; it seemed, all around him. He started to wonder who was winning. He also started to wonder what his answer was going to be. He felt sick just thinking about how much he was starting to really want to say yes.

He couldn't deny it any longer. Everything that the devil had said was the truth – and Sam knew it.

Sam didn't want Michael to win, even wearing Dean like he was. Did he really want Lucifer to win instead?

His time for thinking was over though as the door to the room he was locked in was thrown open – and there stood Lucifer.

"Hello, Sam," he smiled and stepped into the room.

Sam felt the handcuff on his wrist break away and he was able to stand up.

Lucifer stopped and stood waiting. "Well, Sam? Do you have an answer for me?"

Everything inside him churned as he stood there, still undecided. Would he be able to live with himself, knowing that he gave into the Devil? Or if he knew that he'd had the chance for eternity with Cas but instead chose to give it up?

Across the hall from the room that they were standing in, Sam could see another doorway, and sitting just inside, where it was almost too dark to see, was Michael – waiting. Lucifer was only a few steps away, and he was just sitting there waiting.

Sam felt the rage inside him flare again. All his talk about promising Dean to keep people safe and there he was waiting for Sam to say yes.

Sam squared his shoulders and focused back on Lucifer. He could tell from the look on the Devil's face that he knew, and he knew just how angry it made Sam.

Sam felt his nostrils flare as he filled his lungs for, probably, the last time. "Yes," he said and blinding white light was the last thing he saw.