Dean tapped his hand nervously against the steering wheel of the (stolen) delivery truck, eyes glancing up every now and then to see if the men in the prison guard tower had noticed him yet. "Come on Sammy, shake a leg." he said under his breath.
After what seemed like an eternity, Sam emerged from the main entrance, dressed in a police uniform and carrying a stack of folders under one arm.
"You get it?" asked Dean as he put the truck into drive.
"Yeah, I got something," said Sam, looking hesitantly at the prison gate and then at the dashboard, "When was the last time you drove a big rig?"
"Did it enough when I was with Dad," said Dean, pulling his gun out onto his lap, "So you wanna ride shotgun or tell me what Dick Roman's up to?"
"The documents are pretty dense," Sam admitted, "But it looks like they're planning a drop-off at several locations, some time over the next few months."
"What kind of drop-off?" said Dean, as he sped up to collide with the security gate.
"He basically took the entire roster of the Ohio Penitentiary and assigned each man a date and six-digit number. All the dates are coming up soon, and the numbers..."
"Coordinates?" asked Dean, cursing as the truck made contact with steel.
"Has to be," Sam continued, licking his thumb to turn a page, "Five of the numbers show up again, one in Wisconsin, one near Chicago, I think one of these is upstate New York."
"So all near the Great Lakes." said Dean, picking up his gun to aim at a guard tower as he drove past.
"Looks like, they've got about three hundred men signed up for a drop-off today, though the matching coordinates, 28-36-50, are..."
"Are what?" asked Dean, ducking his head as machine gunfire peppered the truck, smashing the driver-side mirror.
"Appear to be in New Dehli."
"Man I an NOT flying to India, I hate musicals." he said, sticking his head out the window just long to fire a shot at a police car whose sirens had begun to wail.
"It might mean something else, for all we know it's a star listing from the Astronomical Catalogue, or a hexadecimal color code..."
"Or the measurements for that chick from the 'Fat-Bottomed Girls' album." said Dean, brushing broken glass out of his seat. When Sam gave him a look, Dean said, "What, you never listened to Queen? Dude, I thought you were educated."
"Whatever. So, head for Lake Erie?"
"That seems to be our best option for now."
"Where's our tail?" Sam asked, realizing how quiet it had become.
"The first one got wedged in the guard rail after I shot his windshield, and I'm guessing the others piled into him."
Sam turned to look outside the window, perplexed. "Still, you'd think they'd have sent out an APB on us when we snuck out earlier today, where's the helicopters? Where's the roadblocks?"
Dean flexed his fingers on the steering wheel. "Must be our lucky day."
Sam sat back against his seat, and started when he saw Lucifer in the rearview mirror. Lucifer, in the driver's seat, in Dean's clothes.
"You wanna talk about what happened back there?" Dean asked awkwardly, though it came out of Lucifer's face.
"I was gonna ask you the same thing."
"You looked kind of twitchy for a minute, before I sprung us out of the meat locker."
The sound of the dead convict came back to Sam, his labored breathing from an old wound, and the sound of Dean asking a question before he brought the cloth down over his face.
"I meant to ask you, I mean, that old con wasn't gonna live much longer," said Sam carefully, "Why kill him?"
"The dude was strung up like Monster Salt Pork in an unlit, unheated room, fifty of his friends shrink-wrapped next to him," Dean said angrily, "No one should die like that."
"But he'd been bleeding for hours, either he was gonna die in another hour or, or if you thought we ought to, we could have gone back for him after the job and-"
"And what, sneak him past the Leviathans? We were lucky to get out in one piece, and neither of us have a hole in our necks."
"Nuh-uh, it wouldn't have happened. I don't care what he did to get into prison, man needs his dignity," said Dean finally, "And I wasn't letting him die alone."
"Why do you care all of a sudden?" asked Sam, as Lucifer's eyes followed his in the reflection.
Dean hesitated. "I had to see if I could do it. If I could...it's a mercy, man, you see someone you care about, someone who's too broken to live..."
Dean was thinking of Bobby. In the mirror, Dean was pointing his gun at Sam's head.
"So you think mercy is the best medicine for some people?" asked Sam darkly.
"I think some people are never gonna get better," said Dean, his voice cracking, "And if they could ask, they'd want it to be over sooner than later."
Sam looked at the sky, not trusting himself to respond. "Storm's coming, though if we keep going east we may avoid it."
"I don't think we have that option." said Dean, pointing ahead of him. There, talking to a policeman on the shore of Lake Erie, was the Leviathan that had taunted them earlier that day, still in his expensive suit and gesticulating angrily.
"You wanna tail him?" asked Sam.
"Let's see what he does," said Dean, "So you're sure none of the coordinates in the file match with this location?"
"Well the old man did say something was 'asleep' in the lake, it wouldn't surprise me if the Leviathans had knowledge of some Big Bad in the area."
"But where are the three hundred guys that are slated for today? What are they gonna do out there, Ice Capades?"
"Hey hey, he's getting back in his car." said Sam. Sure enough, the Leviathan stepped into his white sedan and waved off the policeman, who drove off in the opposite direction.
"Crap, he's driving across the ice." said Dean, wiping sweat on his jeans, nervous about the prospect of driving an eighteen-wheeler with no chains on the tires.
"They must be meeting somewhere in the middle of the lake," said Sam, "It's pretty thick this time of the year, we should be okay so long as we avoid dark patches."
"And don't crash." Dean added, eyeing the snowstorm that hung over the frozen wasteland ahead of them.
Following the man took up the next twenty minutes, which stretched into infinity as they contemplated every crack the ice made in their wake, lost in the white-out with only the Leviathan's brake lights as their compass.
"Crap, I lost him," said Dean, "Did he cut off his lights?"
"He was right there, maybe the snow will thin out." said Sam, wiping condensation off of the inside of the window.
"And we're almost out of gas," said Dean, tapping the meter, "If this guy doesn't turn around soon, we need to head back, I am NOT walking ten miles in this crap, I haven't eaten anything since those burgers we had earlier."
"Dean, that was human flesh, I'm surprised you've even managed to keep it down."
"I THOUGHT it was cow, it's not my fault it turned into something else in my stomach. It's like an instantiation thing, ya know, like with Catholics?"
"That's TRANSsubstantiation, which is completely different, and you're still gross."
"Why ya gotta hate on my cooking?"
A shot rang out, and the truck lurched right a little, and then left a lot, until the whole world seemed to tilt ninety degrees. Sam only remembered the sound of glass cracking as the truck skidded across the lake, and of Lucifer's face in the mirror before it broke off and hit him in the head.
He came too about a minute later, his hand clutching the door handle as he struggled to free himself from the seatbelt. "Dean." he rasped, his left hand patting Dean's shoulder.
"Dean, wake up, I think someone shot the front tire. I don't know how to work the radio on the truck, we gotta send out an SOS."
Snow had blocked the windshield heavily enough that he couldn't see his brother's face, only a dim outline of a man slumped against the door. But he could hear the flow of water.
"Dean, get up," said Sam, clambering across the cabin, "We cracked the ice, we need to get out, now!" And pulling his brother's right arm over the back of his neck, he kicked open his own door, and the hauled the both of them out into the storm.
"I was wondering if you two would make it," said the Leviathan, his car a few hundred feet away, "No matter, you still managed to make it here on time."
"What are you talking about?" said Sam, his body already aching with cold, not liking where this conversation was going.
"What did you think you were driving?"
Sam turned his head, and noticed something for the first time.
"U-283650," he said, miserably, as the truck began to sink into the lake, "The license plate."
"Were you any good at math in school?" asked the Leviathan, his gun twirling at the end of his forefinger, "If a standardized shipping container is eight feet by nine feet by twenty feet, and the human heart weighs three hundred grams, how many human sacrifices does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a sleeping elder god?"
"All those men who were slated for today..." said Sam, flinching as the ice boomed one last time, the trunk slipping beneath the surface.
"Well, we didn't need ALL of them, as you can imagine, just the pink parts." said the Leviathan, grinning, "You didn't think you could break out of a penitentiary THAT easily? In broad daylight, with your mugshots on the back of every cop's bathroom door?"
Sam glowered at him, shivering too hard to come up with an intelligent reply.
"You're not gonna stop this," said the Leviathan, turning to look at the sky as if it had started the mess in the first place, which was true in a way, "We've been planning this since the dawn of man, and your days are numbered."
He turned back to Sam to continue what might have been an empowering speech on man's role in the universe, but stopped short as Sam leveled the handgun at him. "That's make two of us."
"Bullet's not gonna slow me down."
"The water will."
He opened his mouth to speak, too slow on the uptake, when Sam shot out the ice at his feet, and all three men crashed into the water.
Sam grabbed onto Dean's collar with his right hand, keeping his other on the edge of the ice, satisfied to hear that the Leviathan had never troubled himself with swimming lessons. Down in the dark, something shifted, or slithered, and the water asked him something, but he wasn't sure what.
It was a hard climb this time, with the added weight of their sodden clothes and the shock that would set in soon if he didn't move, but he managed to drag them back to firmer ground (as it were) and limp back to the white car.
The snow was a fury now, the wind cutting straight through as Sam stripped himself and his brother down to boxers, and shoved them both in the backseat of the car, turning the car's heater up to full blast, and stealing a black trenchcoat from the front seat as a blanket.
Dean had gone completely blue, so Sam laid leaned against the door, his knees crooked, and sat Dean's back against him, hoping the skin-to-skin contact would raise his core temperature.
"Dean, it's time to wake up," he said, wrapping his arms around his brother's chest and rubbing some circulation into his own hands, "There's enough gas in this car that we can wait out the storm and heat up, but you need to wake up."
The windows were completely frosted over, but through the white, he saw a shadow in the distance, walking toward the car as slowly as a bad dream. He somehow knew it wasn't the Leviathan he had to worry about.
"Dean, wake up." he said, more urgently this time.
He pressed two fingers against Dean's neck, but was too numb to notice whether the pulse was there or not. The shadow moved a little closer, and Sam pressed his cheek against his brother's head, rocking him back and forth.
"Dean, please, he'll be here soon, he's coming for me."
The shape of an arm reached out, and the snow was brushed away from the window, a beautiful smile peering in to look.
"I'm not going back." Sam whispered, as he spied Lucifer in the mirror, seated, once again, in the driver's seat.
"Your brother's not going to get better," said the angel, "You need to let him go."
"He's just...cold." Sam said angrily, clinging to his brother protectively.
"It's out of your control Sam," he said.
Suddenly the car door was torn away, snow stinging him, as he beheld...himself.
"Don't worry," his other self said, the wind tangling the hair on his head like a dark halo, "It's warm where he's going."
The angel stretched out his hand over Dean's chest, and as Sam looked down, a brilliant bead of light rose from his brother, shivering in the air like a sleeping bird, straining towards Lucifer's hand.
"No," said Sam, tears in his eyes, "He's a good man."
"He killed someone today," said the angel, "I'm sorry, I don't make the rules."
"No, please, no." he said, as the tears fell into Dean's hair.
"He's better off with me," he said, the pearl of light settling in his hand, "He's my brother now."
"He's all I have left," Sam said, searching his own face for some shred of empathy, "We don't deserve this."
"Mercy, as a rule, is undeserved," said the angel, as he cradled the light close to his chest, as if afraid to awaken it.
"You call this mercy?"
But Lucifer paid him no mind, turning as if to leave.
"I'll come back for him!" Sam shouted, "I'll find a way!"
The angel looked up, and suddenly Sam realized what it was that Dean had asked the old man right before crushing the life out of him, what it was the dark had asked as he considered going down with his brother into the black waters. "Are you sure?"
Dean's body erupted in flames. The pain was blinding, and Sam could feel his skin blister as he clung to his brother, unwilling to believe that the fire was real. "No no no no..." he said, banging his head against the back of the window in the hope that the pain would clear his head.
The shadow walked away, growing dim in the snowstorm, as the wind carried away Sam's screams. The car quickly filled with the stench of burnt flesh, and swirling in his panic and terror was the single thought, "I can't put his soul back without his body. I have to hold on, if I let go, the storm will scatter his bones and he will be lost."
And so he held on, crying into the heat that seared his hair, his skin, feeling his brother burn down like a candle in his arms.
"Dean," he whispered, though the wind was so loud that he could barely hear himself, "You have to wake up. You have to wake up, or the devil will take you away."
He watched Dean's face crisp and blacken, the cheeks giving way to expose teeth, the nose becoming a chasm between his eye sockets. He thought of Jessica, and his mother, and wondered one one hand if he would see them after all this was over, and on the hand what he would need to do, what awful act against humanity, to get into Hell and bring back the only man who never deserved to go there in the first place.
Sam looked down. The car was whole, the storm still raged, but Dean was still perfectly still. Had he imagined it?
His lips had moved, barely. For a moment, Sam noticed the gun near at hand, and wondered what kind of man would Dean be without his soul, what sort of man would walk out of here with nothing to anchor his actions but the bitterness he felt towards life in general.
"Dean," he said carefully, "How do you feel?"
"Feel like I wanna kill someone." Dean said hoarsely.
Dean's words seemed muffled, stuffed with cotton as the snow piled onto the car, and Sam broke out into a sweat despite the cold.
"The bastards stole my pants." Dean continued.
Sam barked a laugh. "What are you talking about, it's a perfect day for sunbathing."
"Screw you Miss Mary Sunshine, you ever tell anyone. ANYONE. Outside of this car, I'm gonna shave a landing strip down your head while you sleep."
"See if I ever save you from hypothermia again."
"Save me from your aftershave, what's this crap called, 'Fierce'?"
And the wind howled over the little car, the land white and free of shadows.