Where the Sun is Silent (part 1)

The motel is small, dirty, and smells like blood.

Dean thought about getting separate rooms. He more than thought about it, he very nearly asked the receptionist with the unfortunate haircut and flaking make-up for iTwo, please/i.

It was Sam's looming presence behind him that made Dean stop and force the time-worn One, two queens from his mouth. Dean knew then it wouldn't matter if they stayed in separate rooms, or separate motels, or even separate fucking states. He would still feel that aching pressure of not-Sam like an icicle stabbed straight through his chest, no matter what.

They don't talk as they distribute their stuff about the room, Dean barely even flinching when Sam's bag lands on the bed closest to the door. He wishes their silence was due to anger snapping between them like lightning, Sam's tinged with alternating apology and self-righteousness, Dean's nearly drowning in guilt.

But Sam doesn't get angry anymore, apparently, and Dean is too damn exhausted to pick up the slack. He thinks about the blood on Sam's face, the way his nose crunched and split under Dean's knuckles, and waits for the guilt to come flooding in and fill the empty spaces left by anger and so many other things.

The guilt doesn't come.

Dean isn't surprised.

He lays down on his bed with the crunchy sheets and copper-scented mattress, waiting for the memories of Lisa's down pillows and matching duvet to fill him with longing. They don't. Dean rolls over on his stomach and breathes in the musty scent of the bed. There's a strange comfort in the squalor, a feeling of rightness that is less about the years of his history built from rooms like these, and more about the state of his life at this current moment. If there was any time that suited to him laying on a lumpy mattress and inhaling the rotting scents shed from other people's bodies, this was it.

Sam doesn't sleep. Dean had long since guessed this was the case, but now he knows it for sure. Sam doesn't sleep. He sets up his computer at the dilapidated table, and the clicking of the keys is just on the other side of familiar. Like with everything Sam does these days, it's slightly out of rhythm, a little too fast, a little too hard, and it makes Dean sick to his stomach.

He rolls over, blotting out the faint blue glow of the computer screen, curling in on himself, missing his brother so fiercely he can hardly draw breath. It feels like the first months after Stull Cemetery, except this time there's no opposite life he can run to, no alternate world he can disappear in and keep Sam safe in his head and in his dreams.

Now Dean's nightmares have ripped free, he's hunting again, only everything is wrong, and Sam is even further out of reach.

Dean thought about Hell a lot in those first months after Sam jumped into the pit with Lucifer and Michael. He thought about the feeling of havinghisskin and muscles pulled from his bones, inch by inch. He thought about what it was like to taste his own organs. He thought about the way Sam's eyes have always scrunched up when he was in pain, and wondered if they'd still do that once Sam's eyeballs have been boiled into soup that runs down his cheeks and pools in the corners of his mouth, leaving blisters in its wake. Dean thought about Hell so much in those first few months he wasn't sure who was actually there, Sam or him.

Dean thinks about Hell now. Sam's body may be sitting at a table six feet away, but Sam's soul is still in the pit, trapped with the Devil and one undoubtedly pissed off archangel.

He's been there for nearly one hundred and fifty years.

The typing stops and Dean realizes he must have made some sort of sound. He imagines if it were really Sam here, he'd say something, refuse to give up until Dean answered him, probably get up from the table and come over to the bed, maybe put his hand on Dean's shoulder or even try to hug him depending on how much he'd had to drink and how scared he was feeling.

But Sam isn't here, he's in Hell, and after a minute the typing resumes, every bit as inexorable and mechanical as before. Dean stays on his side, eyes shut tight, feeling his ribs crack and his lungs shred and hearing Sam say It's okay, Dean. It's okay. I've got him.

It's not okay, Sammy, Dean thinks. It's really fucking not okay.

The look in Sam's eyes at that time said he believed it. He was jumping into a cage in Hell to spend all eternity locked with the Devil, and at that moment he truly believed everything was going to be all right.

Dean hated him for that, sometimes. His hands would shake and he'd drop coffee cups or burn burgers or yell inappropriately at grocery store cashiers, and Lisa would look at him like she understood. But in those moments Dean wasn't missing his brother, he was despising him for thinking he could solve everything, thinking he was making things better. Thinking that was what Dean wanted.

There had been a moment, a torturously glorious second when Sam returned to Dean's life when Dean actually bought into it as well. He believed Sam's stubbornness had won out in the end, the world had finally cut them some slack, his baby brother had walked through Hell and the Devil and come out the other side.

It hit even harder the second time, knowing it wasn't true. Sam wasn't back. Sam wasn't safe. They hadn't won. Dean lost the fantasy world and other person's life that made Sam's absence the slightest fraction of bearable, and was given a reanimated corpse of his brother instead. At worst, Dean is never going to be able to save him. At best…

It had taken Dean thirty years to give in and begin torturing souls. Sam is stronger, he always has been, so Dean knows he'll hold out longer, but he's had more than a century locked with the Devil and no one can hold out forever. Dean remembers the threats and promises that an extended stay in Hell is what turns humans into demons, and though the thought is like buckshot to his brain, part of Dean wonders if there is anything left of Sammy's soul to save.

Maybe this is where he gives up. After everything he's faced since he was four, after all the demons and the angels and the blood and the pain and the death, maybe this is the point where Dean Winchester stops fighting back and just fucking quits.

The thought entered his mind the moment the ground opened up at Stull Cemetery and Sam headed towards it. If Dean hadn't had several broken bones, a concussion, and internal bleeding at the time he probably would have followed Michael's lead, grabbed a hold of Sam, and joined him for the ride. In the year that followed, the thought lingered, vivid and beautiful in his dreams, desperate and despairing in his waking hours.

When Lisa finally started leaving Dean alone for significant lengths of time he would sometimes take out his gun and touch the cold metal, feeling the weight of the possibility. It was thoughts of Lisa and Ben, and Sam that always stopped him. He had sworn to himself his real life— the life where demons murdered parents and little brothers gave themselves up to fates worse than death— would never touch the shiny, picture-framed world where Lisa and Ben lived. And he had sworn to Sam— when Sam fell asleep in the passenger seat for the last time before that day— that he wasn't going to leave him alone in Hell, no matter the cost.

The thought of surrender still clings to Dean, and it winds itself tighter every time he talks to an increasingly bewildered and anxious Bobby on the phone, or he deals with a frantic and harried Cas who, if angels could cry, surely would be sobbing. Surrender practically throbs through Dean's veins every time he looks up into hazel eyes and doesn't see his brother looking back at him.

It's moments like these when Dean knows he should give up. Fighting makes no sense anymore, it hasn't for a long time. There's got to be a limit to how much he can take and how much he can give and this has to be it. Dean can't save Sam this time, he can't keep sacrificing for him, he can't keep loving him like Sam's the whole world. He can barely muster up the desire to try.

It's moments like these when Dean knows he's going to carry on.

A bullet to the brain might be easy, even painless, and with the current turmoil Upstairs and his new position as Crowley's bitch Dean guesses it might even get him closer to Sam by putting them on the same astral plane. But he won't do it. Looking into the soulless eyes of the empty bag of bones and flesh masquerading as his brother, Dean knows he'll fight to his last breath and probably even after. He's never given up on Sammy their whole lives, and as tempting as it might be he is incapable of starting now.

He will restore Sam's soul to his body. And if he comes back wrong, or damaged beyond all repair, then Dean will do them both a favor. For once they'll go out on their choice, their own way, and they'll go out together.

It's not okay, Sammy, Dean thinks as he slides into blood-soaked sleep and Sam's defective doppleganger shifts papers around at the table. It's not okay, but it's gonna be.

You can count on it.