Title: Bleed Just to Know You're Alive
Word count: 3,200
Spoilers: Up to mid-season 4
Summary: After Dean goes to hell, Sam's on a downward spiral into darkness.
Disclaimer: The characters of Supernatural do not belong to me and no infringement is intended.
That's the only way he can think to describe how he feels right now.
Dean is gone.
His big brother, the one who said he would always be there for him, always protect him no matter what, is gone forever, being tortured in hell. And knowing a year in advance that it was going to happen doesn't help at all; it doesn't make the pain any easier, doesn't make the feeling that he's a failure any less hard to bear.
Because that's what he is: a failure.
He had an entire year to find a way out of the deal, to save his brother's life—after all, Dean saved his by making the stupid deal in the first place, so not reciprocating was out of the question—yet he couldn't even do that right, and now his big brother, the one person he loves more than anything in this world, is paying the price.
It's been five days now since it happened, since he had to watch Dean getting torn apart by Lilith's hellhounds, unable to do anything to stop them, and he's barely moved from this motel room since. He hasn't eaten, save for a few rapidly-softening crackers and a half-eaten packet of M&Ms he found in Dean's duffle bag, he's barely slept; all he can do is stare forlornly down at his brother's belongings, emptied from his bag and scattered across the unoccupied bed beside his.
After the showdown with Lilith, Sam gathered Dean's body in his arms and carried him out to where Bobby was waiting by his truck and the Impala. Wrapping Dean in a blanket from the trunk, Sam placed his brother down on the backseat of the car and they got the hell out of New Harmony, Indiana. Sam drove determinedly for a couple of hours, not really paying attention to where he was going, before Bobby called his cell phone and insisted they stop for the night. Sam followed the truck as it pulled into a cheap motel a few miles outside of Charleston, Illinois, and after securing two rooms, he carried Dean's body into one of them and placed him on the bed closest to the door.
He didn't sleep though; just spent the entire night just staring at his brother's vacant face and lifeless body.
He and Bobby buried Dean the next day, got their hands on a cheap pine box, dug a grave in the middle of a birch wood just outside of Pontiac, Illinois, and buried him. They marked the gravesite with a single wooden cross. Bobby tried to insist on a salt and burn, telling him that it's what Dean would have wanted, but Sam wouldn't hear of it. This wasn't over, he wouldn't accept that; he would find a way to bring his brother back if it killed him, but he couldn't do that without a body. Bobby looked at him as if he was crazy, but Sam was vehement and eventually he backed down.
They cleaned his body and buried him in fresh clothes, and as Sam looked down at him lying in that box, he could have almost believed he was simply sleeping. For a moment, he debated whether Dean's beloved leather jacket and amulet should go in too, but then a tidal wave of emotion crashed over him and he couldn't do it. They meant too much to just be confined in a coffin with a decomposing body. He placed the amulet around his neck and laid the jacket down next to Dean's other things.
Now he's perched on the edge of his bed, just staring at it.
The bed closest to the door, the bed covered with his brother's few remaining possessions, is the twin of the one he's sitting on. It's not the bed itself that draws his attention though; after all, this bed is no different from any of the other hundreds of motel-room beds he's spent his nights sleeping in over the years. Even the things lying on the bed are the same as they've always been—Dean's life in a duffle bag. But it's missing something, it's missing the most important thing of all; it's not what's on the bed that he's staring at, it's what's not there anymore.
He's been staring at the bed for the last three days now.
Just staring, unable to cry, unable to feel anything except emptiness.
It's been two weeks now.
He still hasn't cried yet.
He's drinking though.
He hunts through the days, drinks through the nights, and nurses hangovers in the mornings.
He channels his frustration and the anger he cannot express, cannot relieve, into hunting. He doesn't care particularly whether he lives or dies. Late at night, he slips on his brother's leather jacket and holes himself up in sleazy bars with a bottle of Dean's favourite drink. The blur of the alcohol allows him to shut out his thoughts, to swallow his pain along with the whisky, to become numb and hardened to the grief that still fills him. In the mornings, his head throbbing and fragile, he empties his stomach into the toilet, wiping the foul liquid from his lips, rinsing his mouth repeatedly with cold water until he can stand again.
Bobby's been trying to call him. He's not picking up though; he can't face him right now.
Can't face anything.
Four weeks gone and he's determined now. He's been scouring every book, every piece of information about hell and demon deals he can get his hands on. He's searching for a way—any way—to get Dean back.
He's tried opening the devil's gate. He's tried summoning demons. He's tried to make a deal – hell, he's even searched for rituals to raise someone from hell himself.
So far, nothing has worked.
No demon will deal and no rituals can be found.
And he's still drinking. He's also crying. He drinks, he stumbles home and he cries.
Big wrenching sobs that make his whole body shudder with the force as he curls up on the bed, his brother's old, worn leather jacket wrapped around him, Dean's scent still lingering on it, infiltrating his senses. The pain in his chest is unbearable and it's suffocating him; he's drowning in it and there's no one here to pull him out, no one left to save him from it.
He's never felt this alone before.
Even when he left, cut himself off from his family and started a new life at Stanford, he wasn't ever truly alone. He knew that if he was hurting or in trouble, all he had to do was make one call and Dean would drop everything and run to help him. He's always had Dean, his big brother, ready and willing to protect him at all costs… the one constant in his life.
But now he's gone forever and the thought of what kind of horrific tortures his brother might be experiencing in hell just makes it all that much worse. This is his fault. Dean is dead because of him, because his idiot big brother made a deal to save him and now he's paying the price. It should have been Sam; he's the one cursed with demon blood and psychic powers, he's the one who's the freak of nature, he's the one who deserves to be rotting in hell right now, not Dean.
It's all too much, the pain, the guilt, the grief. It's too much to bear and he's killing himself, slowly but surely.
Then Ruby shows up.
She tells him that she was sent to kill him, but that she's actually here to save him instead, that she wants to help him. He's not sure if he should believe her.
He has no use for her – what does it matter if Lilith destroys the world? Dean is gone.
She shows up in a new body and he is more relieved about that than he cares to admit.
In all the time he's interacted with her before, listened to her before, it hasn't occurred to him that there has been a defenceless, innocent woman trapped inside the body with her. Looking back, how could he not have realised that? He knows what that's like; he once spent an entire week helplessly stuck inside his own body while Meg had free reign over it.
But Ruby has a point about Lilith; he sees a goal to aim for now, a new challenge to overcome, and he grabs onto it, clings to it with everything he has. He's eager to kill the bitch once and for all. Ruby tells him she needs him to use his psychic abilities but he doesn't care about the morality of that, he simply asks what he has to do.
She starts teaching him to hone his 'powers', to exorcise demons with just his mind and send them back to hell without killing the person trapped inside.
Turns out he's a crappy student though. Probably because he's shut down his emotions; he's working on auto-pilot and won't let himself feel anything.
Since Ruby found him and he stopped drowning his sorrows in alcohol, he's focused solely on hunting demons and finding Lilith. He can't let himself care anymore, can't let himself think about the pain of losing the only family he had left… because if he does, he'll destroy himself.
The first time he fucks Ruby, he feels as if he is there, but not at the same time; some part of him stands outside his body, watching them, shocked, even horrified at what he's doing—that he's actually allowing himself to get up close and personal with a demon, yet also strangely aroused and excited by it at the same time.
A tiny voice in the back of his mind—Dean's voice, he realises later—is asking him what the friggin' hell he's doing. Is he crazy? She's a demon for God's sake!
But the rest of him just can't seem to care. It might be wrong, but it doesn't change the fact it's what he needs. It's raw and angry and yet it's actually kinda refreshing to be able to feel something… anything… again. It's the only way he can remind himself that he's still here… that he's not just an empty shell… and it's healthier than doing something stupid like hurting himself just to prove that he still exists, is still breathing.
And if he's honest, he kinda likes the danger of it, he likes being reckless for a change. After all, it's not like he has much to live for anyway, so what does a little danger matter in the grand scheme of things?
Plus, this 'fucking a demon' thing is kinda kinky, and it's so far removed from the preppy, studious college kid he was just a couple of years ago that he wants to embrace it, to explore another side of himself, a dangerous side.
Not to mention the fact that the sex is so good it makes his toes curl and when he's with her he can forget everything and just concentrate on the delicious feelings she's invoking inside of him.
His skin burns as her hands roam across his chest and back, her fingernails scraping over his flesh, her lips sending thrills of lust and danger right through his body. There's a fire burning in the pit of his stomach as she lowers herself onto him, as she moves above him, slowly at first, but then faster and harder… and it's like nothing he's ever experienced before. It's nothing like being with Jess, or Madison, or anyone else.
This is sex with a demon… and he likes it.
The first time he drinks her blood, he gags.
At first, the idea of consuming demon blood revolts him, but then he thinks of Dean, of watching his body being ripped to shreds by the invisible claws of the hellhounds and he sees red, anger rising up inside him once again.
He's blinded by his fury and pure hatred for Lilith, and in those moments, he forgets all the reasons not to do this, all the reasons this is wrong, because she has taken the most important thing in the world from him: his brother.
He knows Dean would be disgusted if he knew what he was doing, would tear him a new one for even contemplating working with Ruby; but then Dean's not here, is he?
For once, he doesn't have to worry about his protective older brother watching him, suffocating him, judging him, looking over his shoulder all the time. He has a chance now to be himself, to make his own decisions, to be strong.
And if he wants to be strong enough to defeat the little bitch, then he needs to drink.
It's hard the first couple of times and he actually throws up afterwards, his mind protesting at doing something so inherently wrong, but when he experiences the effects of the blood, feels the powerful rush of what he can do with it in his system, suddenly he doesn't feel so disgusted anymore. He can use these skills to kill demons, to save innocent humans.
Dean's words ring in his ears: saving people, hunting things. The family business.
He justifies his actions by convincing himself that he's doing just that. That he's honouring his brother and his father by being the strongest he can be and exacting his revenge on the creatures that killed them. After all, John spent over twenty years hell-bent on getting revenge on Yellow-Eyes for his wife's death, surely he would approve of Sam doing the same thing for his brother? And surely Dean would expect him to gank the demon who killed him… isn't that what he would have done had Sam been the one to make the deal and go to hell?
Every now and then, there's this nagging feeling in the back of his mind, something that's telling him that this is wrong, but what's he gonna do, huh? There's no one here who can help him, no one to talk him back from the edge. Dean's gone, his dad is gone and Bobby can't exactly help him with this. Sure, there's Ruby, but she's really just a means to an end. If it wasn't for the fact that he needed her, he would kill her himself, with her own knife, no less, but she can make him strong, help him train… help him get Lilith, so he's keeping her around.
Ultimately though, he knows he's alone in this. He is all he has now.
He can't be 'Sam Winchester: Dean's helpless little brother' anymore.
He has to be 'Sam Winchester: seasoned hunter and demon killing machine' now.
It's the only way to survive this.
The first time he sees Dean again, after four months of being alone, of mourning him, everything comes flooding back.
For a single moment, he's a little boy again and his big brother is here to protect him. The mere sight of him is such a monumental relief that for a second everything that's happened fades away and he's normal again. It's just him and his brother and nothing else matters.
The moment passes and he's slammed back to the present. This can't be Dean in front of him. Dean's dead, he's rotting in hell. This has to be a demon… or a shapeshifter… or something. So, he rushes him, shoves him against the wall, tries to hold a knife to his throat; unwilling to accept that this person in front of him could be anything other than a demon or the result of a cruel trick somebody is playing on him.
It's only when the truth is revealed and he realises his brother is really here—in the flesh—that a multitude of long-forgotten emotions slam into him with the force of a freight train, almost knocking him to the ground.
First comes disbelief, not wanting to accept that it's really Dean standing right in front of him right now, looking at him with so much love that he wants to cry; then when it sinks in that he's not dreaming, that this is real, all he feels is relief again, overwhelming, dizzying relief. His brother is here, right in front of him. He can actually reach out and touch him… and it's incredible.
But as he strides towards his brother and wraps his arms around him in a suffocating hug, he feels tears forming in his eyes and his chest feels tight, his heart suddenly heavy as realisation dawns.
What has he done? What is he still doing even now?
He can't tell Dean about Ruby, or the blood, or that he's killing demons with his mind. His brother would freak… or kill him… or possibly both. There is no way he will understand why he has to do this, why he needs to kill Lilith even if it means losing himself in demon blood, and he definitely won't approve, not by a long shot.
But the thing is, he's in too deep now—he's taken the plunge, he has the blood in his system, he needs it to be strong and there's no going back—he has to make Dean understand that. He doesn't know how, but he has to.
The first night after Dean shows up, they end up in yet another dingy motel room, but he can't sleep. He spends the night just watching his brother, seemingly peaceful in slumber, save for a few moans as he tosses and turns every now and then. He wonders if Dean was telling the truth about not remembering hell, wonders if his brother could truly be all right, still be sane, after all those months down under. He might not know what horrors Dean must have seen there, but he can make a pretty good guess.
A part of him regrets everything he's done since that fateful night; it's just a small part, but it's the part that just wants to turn back time and go back to when things were simple, before Lilith, before Ruby, before hell and deals with crossroads demons, before they found out the true motives of Yellow-Eyes… back when it was just him and Dean on the road, looking for their father.
The problem is that they can't go back, not now. It's never gonna happen. There are bigger things to worry about now.
Bigger like hunting down Lilith; bigger like the fact that he's cursed with demon blood…which there's nothing he or anyone else can do about; bigger like figuring how the fuck Dean got out of hell and what kind of demon managed to do it… and what exactly they want from him.
No, he can't return to the past, he can only move forward… and to do that, he needs to accept what he really is and the fact that he can utilise this curse of his, these abilities, for the greater good.
But right now, watching Dean sleep, being able to feast his eyes on his overly-protective, hero big brother again for the first time in months, he kinda just wants to be little Sammy again.
Hope you enjoyed - as always, thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated