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The strangest thing woke him up. A smell. Faint, but distinct, and one he recognized.
One he definitely recognized.
His eyes snapped open.
…And he discovered he couldn't see a thing. Everything was as dark as though he'd been blindfolded, and his body felt…weirdly numb. Floaty. Almost non-present. He almost wondered if he was still asleep, passed out—or maybe this was what death was like, as clichéd as that sounded, suspended in some big black empty expanse—but then, there was that smell.
It was light, and disguised by what he now realized was a breeze that smelled like wet stone that he could somewhat feel blowing across his face, but it was definitely there. The smell was citrusy, and heady, but airy somehow.
It smelled like Jess.
And somewhere in the far reaches of his mind, distant and hazy through the sheer, blissful void inside him, a voice was telling him no, that was wrong, that was a bad thing. That Jess should definitely not be here.
But for the life of him, he couldn't think why.
He let his eyes fall shut, inhaled—or at least he thought he was inhaling, though it was hard to tell when he felt practically disembodied—deeply, and relaxed when the smell became stronger, glorious and mesmerizing and all around him, and he felt cool fingers ghosting across his forehead.
—Sam? a voice whispered, somewhere above his right ear. Or, where he thought his right ear must be.
And it was her, it had to be her, he could hear her and freaking smell her and…
Wrongwrongwrongwrong, the other voice, the one in his own mind, hissed right back. He ignored it.
—Wrong? the other voice—Jess— asked, tone placating. –What's wrong? She paused, and fingers brushed his forehead again. –Nothing's wrong, Sam. Everything's okay now. You're safe.
He tried to open his eyes again, the wheedling sense of unease finally overcoming his desire to lie still and to simply be with her.
And when he opened his eyes, the sight that met him—the hem of a skirt, the delicate curve of a neck and shoulders pale in the predawn light, snaky ropes of light hair falling forward to dangle inches above him, a round and smiling face, eyes soft and compassionate—banished all the remaining doubt from his mind.
She was here. He didn't know how, but she was here. And she was real. He smiled.
—Jess, he tried to say, but his lips moved soundlessly. He tried again, but to no avail. This time, though, he felt something warm and wet, with the tang of copper to it, filling up the back of what he now realized was his throat. He gulped. It didn't go away. The warmth spread across his tongue, over his lips, his chin, making him aware for the first time since waking of each particular member as the liquid hit it. He gagged.
—Shhh, she said, one hand moving to cup his cheek, her eyes sad. Baby, you're hurt. Don't try to talk, okay?
He frowned, confused, and choked a bit on what he now realized must be blood flooding into his mouth. He looked up at her, feeling his eyes widen. –Dying? he mouthed.
—No, she said, wiping bloody dribble from his chin with her thumb. –Of course not. You're safe now. I'm going to take care of you.
Unexpectedly, those words brought another, tiny smile to his lips. –You know when you say that you sound like…
—Like who, Sam? she asked, her voice taking on that kind, patient quality one usually adapts when speaking to somebody who is traumatized and making no sense.
He started a little, sure he hadn't actually said that aloud, or even mouthed it. But then again, he couldn't really be sure of anything right now. He shook his head slightly in a "nevermind" gesture.
But that small movement was all it took. Pain exploded in his head and neck, then rolled outward like a sickening shockwave to fill the rest of his body, to the core of his being. He wasn't sure what exactly what was wrong with him or where—everything was wrong, his organs were being ripped out and rearranged, and granite vises had tightened mercilessly around his bones—but this was Hell, this had to be Hell…
His vision blurred and whited out. A strangled cry was torn from him, stifled by the sound of choking and gurgling as more blood rushed into his throat. But Jess must've heard anyway, because even though he couldn't see her anymore, her hands were on the sides of his face, thumbs rubbing gentle circles into his cheekbones, and she was whispering to him again, soft words of comfort he couldn't decipher over the roaring in his ears.
He realized he probably looked terrified—he certainly fucking felt terrified, half certain he was going to be choked to death on his own blood even as he fought to gulp it back down—and blinked vigorously until he could see Jess again. She was smiling gently down at him, a tinge of sadness in her pretty eyes, one hand moving to tangle itself gently in his hair. He turned his face into the hand still cupped around his cheek, was startled by the cool, tingling sensation that seemed to be emanating from her fingertips, and closed his eyes. Her other hand moved from his hair to trail its fingertips over his neck, his chest. Wherever she touched, he seemed to go numb, cold but wonderfully numb, freed from the agony that shot through the rest of his body, that was tearing him apart from the inside out. His entire world seemed to have narrowed to that feeling— the bliss of a reprieve, however small— and God, the smell of her, and even that little knowing smile on her lips….
Maybe this wasn't Hell after all.
—T-thank you, he managed, his voice thin and halting and still fighting its way through pooling blood. He coughed. –G-god…thank you…
Her eyes crinkled in amusement, her fingers moving to hover just below his ribcage. –God doesn't have much to do with this, babe, she said, shaking her head.
When her fingers touched down lightly above his stomach, Sam spluttered a little and gasped at the sudden sensation of something very heavy being lifted off of his midriff, and realized, when he cleared his throat and coughed once more, that the blood had stopped pooling in his throat, and that he could breathe again.
But at those words—God doesn't have much to do with this—there was that niggling voice again, telling him that things were off somehow, that he shouldn't be here, much less Jess, but for the life of him he couldn't think how or why when there she was, solid and real and sitting right next to him, her touch soothing and healing and damn if she wasn't the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen…
Didn't mean he shouldn't at least try to figure out how he'd gotten here. It was…troubling…that he didn't know how he'd wound up here, or at least would be troubling if he could think right now through the haze of pain that demanded all his attention and then some, but right about now he could hardly remember his own name, what year it was, let alone the sequence of events that had led up to this moment. –H-hey, he whispered, his voice barely audible even to his own ears. –How… he trailed off and blinked a few times, feeling like an idiot, but suddenly finding himself unable to form a simple question.
She seemed to understand. –It doesn't matter. She twisted a strand of his hair in two fingers.
—B-but…I can't…I don't know— He was losing the words as quickly as they formed in his mind, coherency eluding him. He wasn't even sure if he was speaking out loud anymore.
She shushed him again, her finger cool on his lips, but her mouth was twisted in sympathy. She shrugged. –You fell.
—Fell? He frowned. He couldn't remember falling. He tried to look past Jess into the dark that surrounded them to see where he actually was, get his bearings, but it was like the night had swallowed them both and he couldn't make out a damn thing, and his eyes were swimming. –Fell…from what? His gaze settled on Jess again, beseeching.
—From the top of a fifty-foot ravine. The answer was weirdly matter-of-fact. –Right onto a boulder. You rolled off. This is a creek bed, she said, bending over him, eyes now earnest. Do you remember?
He just looked at her. No, he didn't remember. A ravine? What the hell…
—And you broke just about every bone in your body doing it, too, she continued, frowning down at him. Sam must've looked horrified at that, because she traced a finger along his jawline and she quirked a smile.— Kidding, she placated. –Well, not exactly. The grin faded a bit. –You did a number on yourself, though. Neck, skull, spinal column, ribcage, both legs and an arm, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs…you name it, you screwed it up.
As if to prove her right, a fresh surge of pain tore through him like a wrecking ball at her words. Sam was pretty sure that whatever horror had been present in his face before ratcheted up about ten notches.—Then…h-how… What he meant was something vaguely to the effect of How the fuck am I not dead, but he couldn't quite manage it. His ears were full of his own stuttering heartbeat.
She leaned down further, her face hovering inches above his, and planted a hand on his chest. He felt his pulse even out. –Because I won't let you die, Sam, she whispered, her breath tickling his nose. –Because you're mine. That's why. She straightened back up, tossed her hair out of her face, smiled. –And it's a good thing, too. Because I'm the only thing keeping you alive right now.
An involuntary shudder wracked his body at her words. And a piece of the puzzle suddenly clicked into place, a fact so simple and so painfully obvious that had simply eluded him like a puff of smoke until this moment. –But… He hesitated, afraid that if he voiced it, it'd suddenly become true and she'd go away, vanish. –But you're dead.
—Mmm. She considered this for a second. –Nothing gets by you, does it, Sam, she said wryly. Sam's unease grew, even as he felt what must be his ribs knitting themselves back together under her palm.
She rolled her eyes, and clamped a hand over his mouth. –Shhhh. She shook her head, looking suddenly annoyed. –You'd think that balancing on the precipice of life and death would be enough to shut a person up for a minute or two. She shrugged. Silly me.
Then another piece clicked into place, realization dawning and sudden revulsion coiling in the pit of his stomach. –You're not Jess.
Again, he hadn't said it aloud, but she laughed, the sound was just as he'd remembered it, light and free and like wind chimes. The sound made his heart rise to his throat despite himself. –I am if you say I am.
He gulped painfully when she uncovered his mouth. –No, he gritted out. –Can't be. Who are you?
—Like I said. She plucked a curl off her shoulder and held it up before her eyes, twisting it slowly as though observing it. –That's really up to you. She tapped his forehead. –You're the one running this show, Sam. The audiovisual portion, anyways. You're seeing exactly what you want to see.
—What are you? he thought at it. –Show me.
The Jess-thing looked dubious, an eyebrow raised. –I doubt my current form would bring you much solace.
She looked at him steadily. –You already know who I am, Sam. Think. Think really hard.
And then the final piece snapped into place. And he remembered.
Anger and disgust flared up white-hot in his chest, and he tried to scrabble backwards, away from her—him, rather—only to be held fast by hands gripping his shoulders, nails digging in, pinning him down. –Don't try to move, she—he—warned. –You'll just injure yourself further.
—Look, Lucifer said, throwing up Jess's hands. –I'm only trying to help you. I never meant for this to happen.
—Like hell you didn't. But Sam didn't try to move away again, the pain from last attempt having left him nauseous and watery-eyed. –Change back, you bastard.
He raised an eyebrow. –Fine. And suddenly, in the space of a heartbeat, Jess was gone, replaced by a man, blond, thirty-something, and smirking at him. –Better?
Sam just glared.
—I see, Lucifer said icily. –Listen, he continued. –I've told you already I will never lie to you. I mean it when I say this wasn't supposed to happen. He gestured above them, at what Sam presumed, had he been able to see it, was the wall of the ravine. For that I am sorry. He touched Sam's arm, and Sam couldn't help an involuntary sigh of relief as the skin went cold, the bones painlessly shifting and reforming themselves under Lucifer's broad hand.
—But that demon…Sam started.
—Is an insolent, presumptuous coward, Lucifer finished, words sharp.
—Under YOUR orders, Sam practically spat.
Lucifer shook his head. –This was a pretty far cry from my orders, Sam. Was he under my command? Yes. Did he obey me? No. I never meant to hurt you.
—Yeah, good job with that, Sam said tightly as Lucifer wedged a few fingers between the back of Sam's head and the ground, eyes narrowing when he held the fingers back up in front of him and found they were wet with blood.
—Let me explain.
—Not interested. His stomach turned at the sight of Lucifer's stained fingers, knowing what that must mean, the realization finally hitting him hard that Lucifer really was the only thing holding his body together and keeping it alive right now.
—My orders, Lucifer said evenly, once I had a vague idea of where I might find you based on your hunter friends, were merely to have you observed, watched from a discreet distance, in the event that you did anything…rash.
—Like kill myself, Sam supplied, anger simmering at this discovery of yet another unwelcome intrusion.
Lucifer nodded. –Like kill yourself, he agreed. –Because I know you, and I know that after I left you, you were inclined to try.
—Obviously you don't know me, Sam said, eyes shuttering a bit as he felt coolness at the back of his skull. –Because I wasn't going to, he said. –Not tonight.
—I know that, too, Lucifer said, looking irritated. –But Marlowe, as I have said, is grossly presumptuous. He truly believes he knows the desires of my heart better than I do. He laughed. It was a chilling sound.
—The demon that did this to you, Lucifer clarified. –A servant of mine, I confess, for some time. You might know him for his stage tragedies.
—Wait… Sam blinked in surprise. –Marlowe as in Christopher Marlowe?
—In life, that was his name, yes, Lucifer said. –A fan, are you? Well. He wasn't writing about scholars-turned-sorcerers who had offered up their souls to me in exchange for fame and intellectual superiority without a degree of personal experience in the matter. He looked disgusted. –He has been my devoted servant for many years. Though tonight….tonight I fear his true colors came through.
—What's that supposed to mean? Sam asked, making a vague mental note that if he made it through tonight in one piece to promptly burn the old copy of Dr. Faustus he had buried somewhere in his duffle,useful bit of literature for hunters or no.
—It means, Lucifer continued, voice tight with what Sam thought was suppressed rage, —His orders were to follow you, merely follow you, and not to make himself known unless you were about to try to dispose of yourself. In that case, he was to do it for you, in a manner less...messy, or painful, than whatever average human means you had planned. So that I could come to you and bring you back, and perhaps reason with you in the process.
—And here you are, Sam said, turning his face away now that he could move his head and neck again.
—Yes, Lucifer said, a bit sadly. –Here I am. Though not because I relish seeing you broken down to this state.
—It's true, Lucifer continued. –Earlier tonight we parted on less than affable terms, I'll admit.
Gee, I wonder why, Sam thought bitterly.
If Lucifer heard his thoughts, he didn't respond. –I was…bothered by it. Angry, I'll admit. Because you refused to see reason. And furthermore, that you had hidden yourself from me. I stated in my anger, regrettably before Marlowe, that you had wholly underestimated me, that I would find you in a heartbeat the second you tried to dispose of yourself.
Sam must've looked surprised at that, because Lucifer grinned, smug. –A soul preparing to cross the veil between life and death is like a homing beacon, Sam. And yours is especially brilliant.
—Fuck you, Sam repeated, but an icy dread had gripped his chest. Lucifer really was here, as in, physically here, bending over him, healing him, even…
—I am not the one who did this to you, Sam, Lucifer said, eyes narrowing. –I regret having put any degree of confidence in Marlowe now, but believe me, he will be punished for his insolence. His gaze bored into Sam. –I am aware of what happened, I can see it in your memories. Marlowe couldn't help but declare himself boldly to my Chosen One, or to inflict some degree of what he saw as punishment for your…resisting me. Set up a second meeting for us as an added bonus. And he took your mere contemplation of suicide as excuse enough to make himself known to you, and to wound you for your opposition. And I'm guessing, he added with a crooked grin, that a healthy dose of fear for his life when he faced you helped him make up his mind, as well. And why shouldn't it. He gently grasped Sam's chin, turned his head so he was looking at him. The things you're capable of? Pride shone in his eyes. They're beyond his wildest dreams.
Sam jerked his head away.—Don't touch me.
Lucifer ignored that. –Now that I have you here, though, Lucifer said, —And not in any shape to ruin the courtesy of the conversation by trying to damage Nick here, he gestured at himself, —or to run away, I would speak to you again.
—You can't keep me here, Sam hissed, shaking his head minutely. –Can't force me to say yes this way. It's compulsion.
—Oh, I don't plan on keeping you here long, Lucifer said, gesturing up at the sky. –The night's no longer young. Sam looked up, and finally realized he could now somewhat see around him now. It was still too dark in the mouth of the ravine to see what he knew would be a nearby stream, though he could hear it, or the scattered boulders that he had hit on the way down. The sky, though, which he could see through the dark masses of high-above treetops, had paled to a dustier blue, and only a few stars remained.
—And it's not compulsion, Lucifer said. –It's far from compulsion. I'm keeping you from death.
—And life, apparently, Sam said, trying and failing to move his legs.
—No, Sam. I know you're in no frame of mind to be won over by me now. And I'm willing to bide my time. I'm merely demanding your attention for a few moments, for you to hear me out. Besides, he said, with a sudden, rueful smile, even if I could compel you to accept me, I'm not so foolish as to try to torture you into doing it. All that would accomplish is demonstrating exactly how stubborn you are. For example…
He lifted one hand from where it had settled over Sam's heart, held it up, and balled it into a fist.
And Sam screamed, as every bone Lucifer had just knit back together shattered anew, every organ he had saved from the brink of rupture tore itself within him. He found he couldn't breathe again, and spluttered through the blood welling up in his mouth.
—I could leave you like this, Lucifer said, shaking his head, looking amused and a little sad. –All day long. Lucifer twisted his fist, and the pain only intensified. Sam writhed, tried to cry out, but couldn't. Blood bubbled over his lips, poured from his nose.
—But I won't. And you know why? Lucifer leaned down close, whispered in his ear. –Because you would lie here all week if you thought it would spite me.
—But enough is enough, Lucifer said after a long, tortuous moment, tone turning sympathetic. His hand opened, shrank, and became thinner, more delicate. And suddenly Sam was looking up at Jessica again.
—Stop, he thought, eyes welling up despite himself. His brain was becoming hazy again, vision tunneling, whether from lack of oxygen or a bashed-in skull he didn't know. –Don't…don't use her.
—If you're seeing Jessica, that's not my fault, or my doing, he said in her voice. You've projected her onto me. I've told you. The mind produces fantastic delusions when it is mere inches from death. I was merely playing along, and pulling the details out of your mind to do it, because I thought it would put you at ease. And I'm not doing it to mess with your head, which I know is what you're thinking, he said, tucking a strand of Jessica's hair behind her ear. When I came to you in your dreams in this form, it was merely to prove a point. I meant no disrespect.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut as he felt Jessica's fingers light somewhere near his sternum, healing him anew. –Leave me alone.
—I merely spoke the truth, Jessica's tone was light, frank. –You got her killed.
—LEAVE, Sam repeated, biting back a sob as his body traitorously relaxed into Jess's familiar touch.
—I can't do that, Sam, Lucifer said, making Jess's voice sound so goddamn gentle that Sam wanted to wring his neck. –You're dying. I have to help you. Because I don't see anybody else coming to your rescue, do you? A caress to his hair. –Certainly not Dean.
—I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. He paused, looking thoughtful. –Where is Dean, anyway?
Sam tried to spit a mouthful of blood at him, but only succeeded in making it burble out down his chin and neck.
Ever so tenderly, Lucifer lifted the hem of Jessica's skirt—one of her favorites, soft yellow with eyelet lace—and dabbed at Sam's mouth and throat with it, mopping up the blood. –Dean isn't here, Lucifer said simply. –You're alone.
The certainty of the statement was chilling.
—And you know what I find ironic about that? he asked as he swiped a hand over Sam's abdomen, and Sam could've sworn he felt his guts realigning themselves. –This is Dean we're talking about. Dean, who always swore to your father he wouldn't so much as let you stub a toe. Dean, who faced down Hell for you. But the second I show up? He drops you like a wet blanket.
Sam said nothing. There was really nothing to say. He turned his face away again.
—Now I know what people say about me, Sam, Lucifer continued, and I know them to be wrong, but I've heard the hype. And based on the opinions of every being in the universe excepting myself, I'd conclude that I'm the one thing you need protecting from the most. Dean has to know that. So I have to ask, Sam...where is he? Sam ignored him, and Lucifer smirked. –I'm astounded by your brother's loyalty to you. He's weak, he hissed, —And he fears you. And though he may think he's got an ounce of hope to combat all of this with the help of pathetic, bumbling fool of a fallen angel whose own loyalties are obscure and tenuous at best, let me tell you, he will fold to my brother.
—Am I? he asked, eyebrows raised. Loyalty is a frail thing, Sam. I was loyal to my Father, and look where it got me. Human loyalty? Even more so. Humans, Sam, are transient, mindless louts who are incapable of seeing past the tips of their own noses. And what they call "love"? He sneered, curling Jessica's lips. –It might hold for awhile, hardly the space of a breath, really, until one day it crumbles at the slightest pressure and buries you in the wreckage. You know this. Dean showed you this tonight. You needed him. He abandoned you. He felt Jessica's hand slide under one of his own, grasp his fingers. –I will never abandon you.
Sam tried to withdraw his hand, and stifled a cry as a sharp pain ricocheted from his wrist all the way up his arm. He let it fall limp. Lucifer didn't relinquish his grip. —If you hate humans so much, Sam asked through gritted teeth, —How do I know you aren't just going to abandon me once you've gotten what you wanted?
Lucifer laughed, as though genuinely startled Sam had even asked. —That you're human is an unfortunate consequence of your destiny, Sam. But you are so much more than that. So much better than that. And not a soul on earth seems to be able to appreciate exactly what you're worth. The things you can do...the things you WILL do…. You're superior to them, Sam. To all of them. You're the one who will do great things. Things that truly matter, far beyond the scope of this dust mote you call a planet. And they hate you for it, condemn you. Your own brother reviles you. You know this. And you've tolerated it all for so long. He bent over him until their foreheads were nearly touching, and all he could see were Jessica's eyes, soft and loving. –So why do you waste your time with them? Lucifer breathed.
—Get off me, Sam said, gaze unfaltering.
Lucifer sighed heavily, but complied, straightening gracefully. –Have it your way.
—Let me go. Sam's voice was low, mutinous.
—Fine, Lucifer said coldly, but peered down at Sam as though disappointed. Neither of them said anything for a long moment. Then, —I'm going to end them, you know.
—Every person in this world who professes to love you. He made a face at the word "love" as though it were some filthy obscenity. –I will take them away from you, Sam. One by one. They're not worthy of you. And I will keep taking them away until you finally realize that you, he reached over to take Sam's other hand, —are alone. That you have always been alone. That there has never been, and will never be, anybody but me.
—I'll kill you first, he snarled, but fear dropped like a lead sinker into the pit of his stomach. If anybody else died because of him…
—Good luck with that, he said, unlacing Jess's hands from Sam's. –In the meantime, I'll wait for you. He leaned down, pressed a kiss to Sam's forehead. Sam could see Jess's white throat above him, her hair falling in curtains around his face. It infuriated him. –You will come to me, of your own volition. I know you will.
—Go to Hell.
—Not anytime soon, Lucifer drawled. –Never again, in fact. But I will leave you. And suddenly he was reaching for Sam's temple with two fingers, wearing a secretive smile on Jess's lips. –Sleep now, Lucifer whispered.
His cell phone woke him, vibrating and ringing from inside his pocket. He blinked dully up at the sky—bordered by the silhouettes of trees, it was inky black and mostly clear, except for a few scattered gray tufts of cloud among the stars. He yawned, wishing his stupid phone would leave him alone because he was so damn sleepy…and then he gasped, as with a sick swooping sensation somewhere near his heart, he remembered where he was. And why. And before he knew it, he was sitting bolt upright, breathing hard, his switchblade in hand.
And he was fine. Completely unhurt, as far as he could tell. Not even sore.
He stood up, stretched, walked in a little circle to confirm it, but yeah, he was fine. Great, in fact. Like he'd just woken up from a week-long nap.
He looked around. Even now that he was apparently whole and on his feet, it still wasn't easy to see much of where he was. The thin creek twisted and turned somewhere off to his right. Rocks crunched under his feet. A few sharp large rocks and more than one boulder were strewn haphazardly around him, as well as a few bedraggled plants. Everything was thrown into sharp, shadowed relief by the glare of what must've been the headlights of his rental, stories above him.
And he was alone.
He scrubbed a hand over his face, pausing when he felt something flake off on his fingers. Blood, dried. He felt sick.
Hardly aware that his phone was still ringing persistently, he reached up, felt the back of his head. His hair was matted with it—it was still tacky in places. Oh God, it DID happen… He closed his eyes, willed himself to calm down before he checked the rest of himself. His shirt and sweatpants were stiff, caked with creek mud or more dried blood or both, and torn up in places.
His nerves shot, he wheeled around, and in the wan light of the headlights he could make out a big dark patch, coating the river pebbles where his head had been lying, and scattered smears and blotches surrounding the rest of the area. It was a ways up from the creek itself, and though he vaguely remembered having first landed halfway in the creek, and could almost feel the shock of the ice-cold water soaking his arm and leg, he realized with an awful jolt that Lucifer must've moved him, laid him out on the bank. And—he gulped—there was a set of footprints in the crumbling, gravelly dirt, barely visible except to his trained eyes, that meandered all the way around the area, from the creek to this spot. A man's, by the looks of them.
His gaze inexplicably drifted upwards, towards the steel railings, the car, and the road, and he vaguely wondered if anybody who drove past this anonymous little creek in the middle of nowhere would ever guess what had transpired here.
That the devil had walked the earth on this very spot.
But no, it all looked innocent enough. The crickets were out, the air was cool.
Except for those dark stains, that seemed to draw his attention back to them like some dead thing. He walked over to that largest one, where his broken head had been, and kicked at it, scattering and upturning the pebbles, scrabbling at it with his toe until it was gone. To destroy the evidence, as it were.
To banish the memories from his mind of Lucifer's fist twisting, of his bones shattering, his insides exploding…
His stomach revolted. He clamped a hand over his mouth, barely made it to the creek before he was on his knees, heaving.
When he was done puking up what felt like an entire week's worth of meals, he swiped the back of a badly shaking hand across his mouth, waited until the current had swept the mess he'd made away, and then cupped his hands in the water to take a drink. But when he brought it to his face, his stomach took another nosedive that almost had him gagging again as he realized, when the headlight beam caught the water, that it was tinted an odd color. That was when he remembered he'd had blood on his hands. Swallowing convulsively, he let it run out of his hands and turned away from the creek.
And then his phone was ringing again.
He ignored it for a second time, letting it go to voicemail as he sat down on the bank with his head in his hands, figuring whoever was on the other line wouldn't want to deal with him in near-hysterics.
But he'd be okay, he would, he just needed a few minutes.
Curious, though, he picked up his phone just to check the time through its now-cracked screen, noting he had 2 voicemails but not checking who they were from.
10:30 PM, October 2, 2009.
Last time he checked, it'd been October 1. Which meant he'd been lying here, passed out at the bottom of the ravine, all day long.
He let out a shaky breath. This place really was in the middle of nowhere, if nobody had found him, with the empty car and headlights and all.
Speaking of headlights, he hoped to God the car battery hadn't run itself dead by now.
And he sincerely hoped could even get out of this damn ravine.
Looking up at the rock face, the chill of the night soaking into his bones, he suddenly felt very much alone.
And he was so damn sick of being alone.
He shivered, flipped open the phone and feeling slightly comforted by its cheery little digital glow, and didn't even bother to listen to the voicemails before hitting the "redial" option. How he even had cell reception out here was beyond him, but he wasn't going to question the benevolence of the cell phone gods at the moment.
The line only rung once before a voice answered on the other end with a slightly hesitant, "Sam?"
And damn if the sound of that voice didn't leave him nearly dizzy with relief. "Dean." It came out as a near sob. He listened for a moment, and then quickly assured, "Yeah. Uh, yeah. I'm okay. Sorry. I, uh…" He laughed, the sound slightly high-pitched and somewhere between happy and manic. "I had kind of a shitty day." His voice cracked a bit, and he cleared his throat. "'M good now."
Sam had gotten up and started pacing a bit, kicking nervously at the stones, but he stopped dead at the next words Dean said, his mouth falling open a bit.
"So, uh, listen, man. Earlier, I, uh…I made a pretty big friggin' mistake, and…uh, I think we should meet up." There was no anger in his tone. No bitterness. Just the slightly awkward, sheepish, hopeful tone Dean usually reserved for when he was trying to spit out some sort of apology.
Sam held the phone out in front of him and just looked at it for a long moment. It wasn't until he heard Dean's voice on the other end saying, "Uh, Sam?" that he realized he'd been grinning like an idiot. And that his cheeks were wet.
He held the phone back up to his ear, trying—and probably failing—to regain some form of composure. He wasn't sure if he wanted to break down and cry like he was all of five years old, or run and jump and whoop and laugh…well, also like he was all of five years old. His heart felt like it was ready to burst right out of his chest.
"Uh, yeah. Sorry. Yeah." He cleared his throat for the umpteenth time. "That'd be great," he said. "Where do you wanna meet?"