Sam Winchester could be accused of being many things. He had been. Azazel's boy king, an abomination, the arrogant asshole who started the apocalypse, Lucifer's fucking vessel. The one thing he'd never been accused of was being stupid. He was far from it. Smart and methodical. For over two weeks after Dean had hung up on him he did nothing but research. After hours of reading, calls, deals, and a lot of things that Dean wouldn't have approved of if he'd cared enough to find out. Sam knew that wasn't fair. Dean had spent over two decades cleaning up Sam's messes, and this one was just the one that Dean just couldn't clean up. It took him over two weeks, but he thought he finally had it. A final Hail Mary to avoid giving Satan, angels, or demons what they wanted. It was time to put his plan into action.
"Sam? Where the hell are you kid?" Bobby answered his phone with a relieved tone. Neither of the Winchester brothers had answered any of his calls for days.
"Sir, I'm calling the last number dialed on this phone, hoping to find someone who knows the owner."
"How in the hell did you get Sam's phone?"
"Well, Sam, if this is him, has had an… incident. I'm calling from a hospital in Lawrence, Kansas. It might be best if you could get here."
"What kind of…" Bobby did NOT want to ask the obvious question. "He alive?"
"Yes. But it would definitely be better if you could get his family here."
The second he'd reached the hospital and discovered exactly what had happened, he immediately tried again to call Dean. Voicemail. Finally, Bobby came to a decision. Sam had Cass's number in his phone. If the angel couldn't get Dean there, no one could.
"No, Bobby. I need Dean. County Hospital, Lawrence Kansas, ICU waiting room. NOW."
Before Bobby could even close the phone, he heard Dean's loud angry voice. "What the fuck, Cass? What did I say about doing that to me? Where the hell am I now? Angels and their fucking-"
"Dean!" Bobby approached him.
Dean's eyes dropped, and Bobby knew something had happened that he didn't know about. "You need to listen to me."
"Where are we?"
"Lawrence. You need to-"
Everything clicked in Dean's mind. Lawrence. A hospital. Sam. "Bobby?" Dean's voice was cracking. "Where's Sam?"
Reaching for Dean's shoulders, Bobby took a deep breath. "You need to keep it together. It's not good, son. He's alive, but-"
"Where the hell is he? Where's Sam? Bobby?"
"Keep your voice down. Come on." With a look that told the hunter and the angel that he'd rather be anywhere else in the world then there, Bobby led them down the corridor to a window.
Turning to the patient behind the glass, Dean shook his head. "That's not him, Bobby." Tears came and Dean began to shake. "That's NOT my brother."
"I'm afraid so."
"Who? Who did this to him? I'll rip their lungs out, Bobby! Who did this to Sammy?"
"You're not going to like the answer, Dean."
Before Bobby could say anything else, a doctor approached them.
Dean nodded. "I want to go in there with him."
"I'll make some arrangements, you can go in with him for a few minutes."
Four days ago
Sam felt the holy oil literally soaking into his skin under his clothes. The combination of holy oil, whiskey, and hydrocodone in his stomach was causing a perpetual nausea, but he fought it. He couldn't afford to screw this up. This was his last chance for escape. Redemption. A last ditch effort to stop the upcoming war to end the world.
As he sat in the center of the carefully constructed devil's trap, he sighed. The parking lot of a deserted warehouse was hardly the last sight he had ever imagined for himself, but at least the sunset was beautiful over the horizon. He sat quietly for a while, until the sun disappeared and the stars were overhead for several reasons. First, he wanted to be sure the holy oil had truly permeated his body, second, he wanted to let the whiskey and pain killers at least try to make this a bit less painful, and third, darkness seems to be the right surrounding. The blood, his blood, flowed freely from the sigils he'd carved into his arms to form a puddle around him. A feeling of light headedness told him he'd better act fast before he passed out from blood loss. With one last thought of everything he'd done, and what he was about to do, Sam hoped Dean and Bobby would understand. Picturing his brother's face in his head one last time, Sam lit the lighter and pressed it to his own chest. As the holy oil caught fire, Sam thought of his mother and Jessica. It seemed fitting that the fire that had consumed them because of him now consumed his own body.
The material of the static suit was grating to Dean, but the doctors had insisted. He stood beside the bed, staring at the figure that no longer resembled his beautiful brother. Gauze almost completely covering Sam's body, dressing that had to be changed every few hours. Tubes in his throat, an IV in his arm, a catheter running out from under the blanket, and the soft beep from numerous monitors.
"Mr Winchester, I can't explain it." The doctor, also in a static suit, held Sam's chart in his hand. "People just don't survive 3rd degree burns over 95% of their bodies. His heart has stopped more times than I can count, but it always starts up again. He's fighting."
Dean knew in his heart Lucifer had something to do with it more than anything Sam could do at this point, but he also knew he couldn't reveal that to the confused doctor.
"We can keep him comfortable. That's all we can do at this point. We're, obviously, treating his burns, fighting infection, but even if there was a chance he could wake from this, he would be blind, the brain damage would be irreparable, whatever flammable liquid was put on him- we can't identify it- was also ingested. His throat, lungs, and stomach are also burned. I'm sorry to have to give you all of this at once, but we just don't have answers. And, if by some event he did survive, frankly I just can't picture him ever being strong enough to withstand the surgeries and skin grafts that burns of this magnitude would require."
Fighting tears, Dean nodded.
"You can stay with him for a few more minutes, but we would like to keep the visits to a minimum."
'Why if there's nothing you can do for him' went through Dean's mind, but he couldn't get words past his throat. For a few more minutes, he simply stared at Sam, running through their lives together in his head up until their last conversation. At the time he'd meant it to be their last conversation, but deep down he'd never imagined it really had been. Making a decision, Dean left the room and approached the men waiting in the hallway for him.
"Fix him, Cass. You can do something, right?"
Bobby never knew the angel could actually look sad, but now, standing in front of Dean, he looked almost heartbroken.
"I cannot. I cannot get close to him."
"Why? Lucifer? Because he's that bastards fucking vessel? Or do you just not want to? I know he's made bad choices, and you think he's an abomination. But he's my god damn brother, Cass."
"I know. And for that reason alone I would heal him if I could."
"Holy oil, Dean. Cass can't touch him because he's soaked in holy oil."
"Listen up, son. Everything I'm seeing here is methodical. Planned."
"Torture, Bobby! Look at him."
"I'm not sure, Dean."
"Listen up, I spoke to the doctors. They can't identify the holy oil, but that's what it is. According to what they said, he took a bath in it. Ingested it. His body is literally soaked in it. Sigils cut into his skin that were so deep they went below the third layer. He KNEW what he was doing, Dean."
Nodding quietly, Cass studied them for a moment. "Ancient. Enochian. Wards against angels and demons."
"He has a tattoo against demons, remember? Why would he-"
"The tattoo is gone, Dean." Bobby's voice was just as quiet. "He knew it would be."
Awareness crossed Dean's face. "You are not about to say that my brother did this to himself!"
"I believe he did as well, Dean." Cass touched the glass. "I can't touch him, but neither can Lucifer. The wards prevent demons from touching him as well."
"And a medically induced coma, so nothing can get to him in his dreams." Bobby sighed.
"No. NO! I don't believe Sam did this."
"So let's go where they found him. See if we can figure out what happened." Bobby suggested. "Nurse gave me the address."
"Let's go." Dean was determined to find out that something, someone OTHER than Sam, had put his brother in this hospital.
It took less than fifteen minutes to reach the spot where Sam's burning body had been found. Dean was desperate, searching for some sign that Sam had not been a willing participant to this. But nothing. The devils trap was still intact, EMTs had not been able to disturb the paint used. Scattered salt showed the men that there had been a circle over the trap. The car Sam had driven had been impounded, but there was enough there to tell them what they'd needed to know.
Bobby finally approached Dean and broke the silence. "I'll get in to see the car, get anything of his out of it for you. See if I can figure out where he was staying and get his things there, too."
"I think we need to decide what we're going to do, son."
"I'm NOT leaving him here alone, Bobby." Dean's voice cracked and he turned away from the older hunter.
"I know that. I wouldn't leave him here, either. Just because they can't get to him now doesn't mean they won't keep trying. I'm thinking we should find a place in South Dakota. Near to me as possible. We're not anywhere near capable of taking care of him at my place. That way we can keep an eye on him."
"Keep him safe?" Dean's sarcastic laugh was cut off by tears. "Like I kept him so fucking safe he had to try to kill himself by setting himself on fire?"
"I don't believe suicide was his goal, Dean." Cass's voice was quiet. "He knew Lucifer would never allow him to die."
"Yeah, I figured he had something to do with why he was still alive."
"He won't allow Sam to die, but he cannot get to him. He cannot touch him anymore then I can. He cannot get to his dreams. He is powerless against what Sam has done. Sam found a way to win this, Dean."
"Win?" Dean began to scream at the angel. "You call this winning? He's in a medically induced coma, his body completely burned beyond what anybody that didn't have a fucking fallen angel hovering could stand." Losing what little bit of control he'd managed to maintain, Dean turned from the other two men and began to scream. "You stupid son of a bitch! You really thought this was the only way? Now what? You just lie in some fucking hospital bed for the next 50 years? THAT was your grand plan to beat the devil? Who the fuck won, here, Sammy?" Dean fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face. His voice down to a whisper. "Who the fuck won?"
Two months later
In a quiet hospital room near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sam's body continued to take oxygen from the machine, his heart continued to stop and start apparently on its own. His brain function was at a bare minimum due to the continuous influx of morphine to the IV in his arm. Bandages were changed, antiseptic applied, and the carvings in the flesh began to form scars. The substance that the doctors couldn't identify continued to seep from his internal organs and infect the surrounding tissue, not quite allowing the burns to begin to heal.
Bobby and Dean were the only regular visitors to the room. Cass made appearances now and then to see if there were any changes to the situation.
Late at night, when the night shift was slow, and the passes by Sam's room were at their lowest, a man would appear. He said nothing, did nothing but watch the young hunter quietly. Later, only miles away from the nearest living creature, did he let his anger out. The nerve of that human. He was special, he was the only one worthy of being the true vessel. Lucifer had underestimated Sam Winchester, but he wasn't giving up.