Author's Note: Spoilers for events through 6.12, though the timeline is general for the remainder of season six. Undoubtedly this will go AU, possibly as soon as next episode. Ah well. My first SPN fic was happier, so naturally I needed to delve into the angst! It started as a simple idea and morphed into something much bigger than intended. Leave me a review and let me know how it turned out. Please?
Disclaimer: Supernatural isn't mine and I promise to return the toys to the sandbox when I'm finished.
Dream a Little Dream
"Sam, Sam, Sam," Lucifer tsked softly, a smile playing at his lips. He had taken Nick's form today, knowing that was the form that got the most immediate reaction from Sam. "What am I going to do with you today?"
The angel reached out a hand and Sam instinctively jerked his head away as Lucifer's finger gently traced his jaw line. He was momentarily startled to find his jaw whole. Lucifer had taken his time breaking every bone in his body last he remembered, humming a tune only he could hear while Sam had screamed, all the while never losing the tune. Sam had remembered his screams falling into laughter as he thought of the strange chorus they were making. Lucifer had smiled affectionately and continued to work. Sam didn't remember darkness coming, but that was nothing new.
Now he was chained down to a table, spread eagle and completely vulnerable. His wrists were raw against struggles he didn't remember making, as the only movement his bonds allowed for was his head. Sam closed his eyes as Lucifer's soft touch continued to stroke his head like a pet.
Well, Sam considered in a moment of startling lucidity, he supposed he was Lucifer's favorite pet. It wasn't the first time Sam had considered that. The fallen angel was isolated here in the Cage, left only with his vessel—the upstart human that had dared fight destiny and thwart his betters—his older brother, and his older brother's second choice of a vessel, the one he had taken when he couldn't secure his preferred vessel.
The name had come out of nowhere. But it seemed right. Felt right.
Sam gasped in painful recognition as images flashed across his mind's eye. Confusion reigned for a long moment before he made the connection. Dean. Brother. Home.
Memories of Dean suddenly flowed over those of torture and pain and fear and agony and Hell. Warmth in the cold of Lucifer's presence. Safety when he was at the Devil's mercy. Pure love when Lucifer radiated hatred and twisted affection. Lucifer frowned and his hand tightened into a fist in Sam's hair while Sam grappled to hold onto the images that were slowly falling away from him, crumbling to ashes from the Hellfire that had seeped into Sam's very being.
"So this is why you're defiant today," the angel mused, coolly. "It's been decades since you've thought of Dean." Sam's chest constricted painfully at hearing the name spoken aloud. Confirmation of being right. Somehow that hurt even more than a physical blow. Lucifer spat the name almost like a curse. "By name, anyway."
Sam didn't say anything, just kept his eyes closed, trying to hold onto something. Not sure why, just something inside telling him it was important.
And then he felt Lucifer's grip on his hair tighten. He tensed, waiting for the strike he knew was coming. But it never came.
"What are you doing here?" Lucifer demanded in amazement, an unfamiliar tone.
Sam cracked his eyes open, realizing the Devil wasn't speaking to him. A thin man in a suit, carrying a cane in one hand and a briefcase in the other had suddenly appeared in front of the pair of them. Sam willed his eyes open further. What…?
"How did you get here, Death?" Lucifer repeated when he got no response.
Death? Why did that sound familiar? Somehow seemed important, but he couldn't quite…
"I'm here for Sam," Death replied simply.
Sam inhaled sharply at this, and Lucifer's other hand pressed down on Sam's chest as if to protect him. Sam snorted at the thought. Protect him from Death? He was already dead, had been for… well, he'd lost track of time. Still, funny.
Lucifer chuckled, though Sam recognized the edge in his voice; recognized the danger that came from the tone, the potential for violence and painpainpain. Sam shut his eyes again and couldn't quite stifle the groan of both anticipation and memory.
"For Sam?" Satan echoed, tone light but disbelieving. The pressure on Sam's chest indicated the angel felt otherwise.
"His brother wants him back," Death supplied.
Sam's eyes shot back open at this. The dots suddenly connected in a moment of clarity. "Dean?" he croaked.
Memories of Lucifer telling him how Dean didn't care about him, had abandoned him, was relieved to have him gone from his life flashed through his mind. "I'm all you have left, Sam," Lucifer had told him. "Two halves of one whole."
Memories of Dean parading in front of him, rejecting him, ignoring him, hating him, cursing him… "Older brothers always betray in the end," Lucifer had whispered in his ear. Then why would Dean…?
Lucifer's hand pressed down harder on his chest and Sam suddenly found himself unable to speak, to breathe. He made a weak sound of protest that went unnoticed.
"No. This is my domain and he is mine." The possessive edge the angel's voice reminded Sam of something…
"You don't have a say in this, Lucifer," Death told him. The cold in his tone matched even the cold Lucifer claimed to run at—the cold Sam was intimately familiar with. Sam shivered, leaning into the hand on his chest without thinking, seeking safety.
And then Sam's world went white and the last thing he heard was Lucifer's furious shriek.
Sam's screams echoed loudly through the panic room as Death returned his soul, a ball of light so bright that it hurt Dean's eyes. Sam sounded like he was detoxing again, and Dean's chest tightened at the memories—of being helpless to do anything, no matter how much his instincts had screamed for him to do something for Sammy. And as the glowing ball slowly dropped into Sam's chest from Death's fist, his brother's violent, agonized yells rang through his ears, the metallic clanging of the cuffs against the cot from Sam's struggles joining in a sick symphony of Hell…
Death gave Dean a knowing look that sent a shiver up his spine. A year and a half in the Cage, Dean, the look said. Flayed to the raw nerve.
Dean wasn't an expert on returning souls to their bodies despite having died himself a fair number of times, but he somehow doubted the agony Sam was experiencing was whatever could be considered normal. Not even when Dean had come back from Hell had it been like this. Sam's body was reacting to the restoration of a damaged soul…
And that's when it hit Dean—how broken his brother was coming back. He'd been so concerned about getting Sam's soul back because he couldn't stand riding around with the hollow shell pretending to be Sam that he hadn't taken much time to consider what it would do to his brother—his real brother, the one who had been suffering in the deepest depths of the Pit all this time. His pseudo-brother had remembered Hell all along, and he'd known…
"No! You don't know! You don't know what'll happen to me!"
Dean had heard all the warnings, from angels and demons and Death alike, but it hadn't hit him until Sam screamed like he was on the rack. That was a not a physical sound, but one that came from the soul itself.
"Nasty, those memories. You don't want to know what they'll do to him. Believe me."
Dean swallowed as the ball of light finally disappeared into Sam's chest. With an agonized howl, his brother's back arched off the cot, the restraints keeping him from toppling over.
And then he went still.
Sam had stilled after that final wail, one that haunted Dean waking and sleeping like the wail of the hellhounds. And Sam had stayed deathly still for ten days, setting both Dean and Bobby on the edge as they waited to see if their Sam was ever coming back.
"Let me tell you what his soul felt like when I touched it—like it had been skinned alive, Dean."
Cas' words had scared Dean more than he wanted to admit. He'd tried to justify bringing Sam's soul back by playing the T1000 card, but the angel had struck a nerve; Sam's soul, the very essence that made him Sam, didn't deserve to be stuck in the Cage for anything he'd done, much less as the price of saving the freaking world. But was Dean simply being selfish by bringing his brother back to Earth? Should he have just asked Death to help Sam move on properly?
Bobby had shaken off Dean's concerns, reminding him that Sam's soul was here, now. And they would just have to deal with whatever came. And they would, because that's what family did.
"Dean, he's been through how much? Somehow he always bounces back."
And when Sam had finally walked into the living room, Dean's name on his lips and his strong, warm, familiar arms wrapping around his big brother, every concern had fled Dean. He had his baby brother back.
Their first hunt in Portland was a rousing success by any hunter's standards. Neither Sam nor Dean had been hurt, they'd saved the kidnapped girls they'd found in the sewer, and Dean had left with his pockets full of dragon-horded gold. The news that the dragons were grabbing virgins to open the door to Purgatory to bring Mommy dearest here, well, that hadn't been such good news. One apocalypse wasn't enough, apparently.
But without any leads on that—Bobby promised to continue working on translating the Da Vinci Code Latin in the skin book they'd brought him—Dean and turned his attention to Sam.
Sam, who had wrangled the truth about his soulless body being topside for the year and a half he was in Hell from Cas. Bobby was right when he said Sam wasn't stupid and would figure the truth out eventually. What none of them had expected was Sam's calm response.
"And look, I appreciate you trying to protect me. I really do. But I gotta fix what I gotta fix."
And dammit, if that hadn't been such a freaking Sammy response to the whole situation. Dean was equal parts grateful and scared out of his mind to hear it, and was left trying to keep the balance of sharing the truth with his brother and hoping that whatever he told him wouldn't trigger the foundations of the Great Wall of Sam coming down.
Sam's earlier déjà vu moment about the skinwalker had scared Dean down to his core—Call it seventy-five percent, Death's voice had rung through his mind—so he had tried to deflect it. But he couldn't do that. He owed it to Sam to be straightforward and just help his brother deal the best he could. Because no matter what Sam said, Dean knew that T1000 hadn't been his brother, and now that the dynamic duo was back, they'd figure it out.
Sam left Dean no choice in filling in the blanks past the rushing wind and darkness of his fall into the Pit. The Great Wall of Sam, Dean had called it, blocking off Sam's memories of Hell. Somehow, Sam knew that when Dean said what he couldn't remember could kill him, he was right. He'd known what he was getting into when he'd decided to say yes to Lucifer, intellectually knew what awaited him once the door had shut behind them, but he'd never thought he'd get away and have to deal with it like Dean had. That was supposed to be it, his swan song.
Sam had been at peace with the decision when he'd fallen, and waking up in the panic room when his last memory had been the fall only to find Dean and Bobby both whole and alive—and that Cas was as well—after what he had seen, felt while the Devil had been in control of his body… It had been unbelievably freeing. Not only had Lucifer been locked back up in Hell and the Apocalypse averted, but the loved ones he'd feared lost and broken were whole and well. He could hug and have a beer with his brother. The world continued on.
How could a Winchester be that lucky?
And then the other shoe dropped. The things Dean told him about what he had done in the six months his soulless body had been reunited with his brother, while breaking Sam's heart all over again as the facts had coincided with what he'd been able to get from Cas, had rang true. Like how seeing the picture in Dad's journal of the skinwalker had triggered some weird déjà vu. Like he had been so sure they had hunted the skinwalker despite Dean's deflection, he just knew with an unexplainable certainty that they were true.
And Sam knew Dean was looking for any signs of cracking as the truth came out. He was afraid that the next straw of truth would be the one to break the wall in Sam's mind. Sam wasn't really sure how to react to that. He was touched by his brother's concern, yeah, because damn did it feel good to just be with Dean after so long of being at odds for some reason or another. He couldn't find it in himself to be angry with Dean for trying to protect him from the truth, especially with the potential danger it posed. So he did his best to accept the truth and figure out how he could fix it.
At least now Bobby's distance and unease around him made some sense, no matter how much it hurt Sam to know what he had almost done to the man who had become a second father to him. Dean, on the other hand, held no grudge for what he had done, but the thought of watching, letting, Dean be turned into a vampire burned deep inside Sam. He was vaguely reminded of Gordon and had to shove the memory aside before it made him sick whenever he thought of it.
But that still didn't fill in any of the blanks of the year before his soulless self had reunited with Dean. The only ones who knew what Sam had been up to then were the Campbells—Grandpa Samuel, Sam's namesake, alive hunting, Sam couldn't help but marvel—but the Winchesters and Campbells weren't on speaking terms, according to Dean's story, and that wasn't likely to change.
Well fine. Sam would just do his best to fix what he could. And that started with what Dean could tell him. They'd take the time and figure it out.
Sam blinked a few times before looking around the dark room. He was lying on the couch in Bobby's living room, a blanket having been tossed on top of him. He frowned in confusion before remembering he'd stayed up late trying to help Bobby translate the book they'd taken from the dragon's sewer lair. As Sam swung his legs over the edge of the couch, he noticed the notes he'd been working on about this Mother of All were stacked neatly on the floor next to his socked feet.
And Dean was sleeping across the room on the floor, turned toward Sam. A smile tugged at the corners of Sam's lips at the sight as the pieces of what must have happened fell into place: Sam must have fallen asleep, Dean had recovered his notes and covered him with a blanket, Bobby had apparently retired at some point as well, leaving Dean to watch over his newly-returned brother.
"Well isn't this touching."
Sam turned his head so quickly to the kitchen that his neck cracked. He winced before his eyes widened in shock. Lucifer, in Nick's decaying form, was leaning against the doorway, his arms crossed against his chest and a condescending smile on his lips. Sam's gaze immediately went to Dean, but his brother slept on, blissfully unaware of the dark presence in the room. Sam made to rise, but a twitch of Lucifer's fingers shoved him back down onto the couch.
"He won't wake," Lucifer told him, glancing at Sam's sleeping brother.
"You can't be here," Sam said, fighting the fear rising in his chest. "You're still locked in Hell." Lucifer merely raised an eyebrow at him and realization dawned. "I'm dreaming."
"Naturally. You do still have those Enochian sigils on your ribs, after all, Sam."
"This isn't real, then."
Lucifer pushed himself upright and took a step toward Sam, who slunk further back into the couch cushions. "Just because you're dreaming doesn't make this any less real. You, of all people, should know that, Sammy."
"It's Sam," Sam snapped out of habit more than anything.
Lucifer's smile widened and he sat down next to Sam on the couch. Sam gripped the edge of the sofa, his knuckles turning white. "Being topside agrees with you, Sam," the Devil commented. A gentle hand rested on the back of Sam's neck, a sick replication of one of Dean's calming gestures when Sam was afraid. "I haven't seen this defiant side of you in decades."
Memories suddenly assaulted him, as if they were free flowing from Lucifer's touch. Memories of fire and ice, knives and razors, of bloodpainfearagony... Deanhelphurtshurtshurts… soalonenevergettingout…
"Shhh," Lucifer was saying, stroking the back of Sam's neck as if to be comforting, pulling him from his reverie. Suddenly the memories were no more, unreachable, simply a stimulus that had left Sam shaking. He felt tears sliding down his cheeks and he clamped down on the whimper felt forming in his throat as hard as he could.
"What are you doing here?" Sam demanded once he trusted his voice to speak.
"To remind you that I'm waiting," Lucifer told him. "That I'll always be waiting for you, Sam. MFEO, remember?"
Sam swallowed. "No. I'm out. I'm back."
"And I'm waiting beyond the clever little wall Death put up in your grapefruit," Lucifer replied, tone deceptively gentle.
Sam couldn't stop the shudder that racked his frame. The words felt true, just as all of Lucifer's honey-coated words had…
Lucifer looked back over at Dean. "He might have you now, but it won't last." His voice turned hard. "Older brothers always betray in the end." Lucifer looked back at Sam, sympathy coating his tone now. "That's why you'll end up with me no matter what. Just like I promised."
With one final pat to the back of Sam's neck, Lucifer rose. "See you soon, Sammy," he said before disappearing, leaving only the sound of Dean's breathing in the room.
Sam jerked upright, eyes darting around the room. Bobby's living room. Couch. Blanket. Notes on the floor. Dean asleep. Sam realized his heart was racing, and he couldn't stop his eyes from going to the kitchen doorway. There was something…
Sam jolted before recognizing Dean's concerned voice.
"Yeah?" he managed, still trying to collect himself.
"You OK?" Dean had pushed himself into a sitting position and was watching him through the darkness, as though he could see exactly what was playing on his brother's face. It wouldn't have surprised Sam if he could.
Sam swallowed, trying to remember what had jolted him awake. "Bad dream," he replied, the words already out before he had considered them. That was right, though. There had been something… He frowned, trying to recall the dream but couldn't.
Dean made his way across the room and sat down next to Sam, worry etched on his features. He looked tired but alert, attuned to Sam. "What about?" he asked tightly.
Sam shook his head. Dean frowned, about to say something but Sam cut him off. "I really don't remember, Dean." He shrugged, aware of his brother's intense gaze on him. "It's like an itch in the back of my mind. There but not."
Dean had gone pale. Sam frowned at him. "Dude, what?"
"Don't itch it, Sam."
Sam blinked. "What?"
"The itch, in your mind," Dean replied haltingly. "Please, Sammy, just don't scratch it." He sounded tired all of a sudden, the lightness that had been there since Sam had gotten back squashed down.
Sam blinked when it hit him. Oh. Oh. "The wall."
Dean rubbed his face through his hands. "Death said the wall would be itchy, Sam. But you can't scratch it. No matter what."
"Sam, Death didn't just shove your soul back in, OK? He put up the Great Wall of Sam between you and the things that you don't remember. And trust me when I say that the things you don't know could kill you. That's not a joke."
Sam swallowed tightly against the knot growing in his stomach. "Yeah, I got it, Dean."
"I won't scratch it, I promise."
Dean watched Sam carefully, and Sam looked evenly back at him. As much as he felt sure he needed to know what he'd had done for the year and a half he'd been topside soulless, he didn't want the memories of Hell coming back, too, and ruining what he and Dean had finally found these last few days since he'd been back. There was an ease and comfort between them that had been long-absent, that he had missed and could tell Dean had missed just as much, if not more.
Knowing that he'd been in the Pit for a year and a half was enough to terrify him, the prospect of what had happened to him in that time… No, Sam wasn't going to tempt fate. He was going to be thankful to Death for getting him out and bringing him back to his brother with a way to keep the memories at bay. It was more than he could have ever hoped for when he'd decided to say yes to Lucifer in the first place, and he wasn't going to let that gift go to waste.
"I mean it," Sam told him.
Dean watched him another beat before nodding. "Yeah, alright."
As Dean got off the couch to settle back into the spot he'd been sleeping, Sam bit his lip. He couldn't remember his dream, but some gut instinct was telling him that the wall was more vulnerable while he slept. Lying back down on the couch and pulling the blanket over himself, Sam sighed and glanced over at Dean. His brother's eyes were shut, but Sam could tell he was still awake; waiting for Sam to get back to sleep, undoubtedly.
With a shrug, Sam closed his eyes, suddenly feeling exhausted. As sleep claimed him, the last thing he heard was a faint "See you soon, Sammy," echoing in his ears.