It looks like it's actually turning out to be a nice day for once -the sun's shining properly for the first time in ages, for one thing. Sam has taken off his jacket to feel the warmth on his back and Dean is leaning on the Impala, humming Black Sabbath and watching the clouds. This is the sort of day where they don't think about tomorrow much, because tomorrow, as things go, generally has a decent chance of dumping yet another truckload of awful crap on them. It's probably best not to ruin the mood before something ruins it for them.
Sam's looking through the trunk of the Impala, searching for a book he can't quite remember the name of, when he looks around at Dean, who's tearing open a packet of salt to shake on his fries. Sam sees Dean spill salt on his hands and frown, brushing it off. The grains leave little red marks on his skin. The hair stands up on the back of Sam's neck and he thinks – hang on - what did I just see?
The moment's passed, leaving him wondering if he'd imagined it, and Dean's still chomping away at his fries. Sam hasn't forgotten it, though, and it's sitting there in his head like – doubt. Did I imagine it, he wonders, or am I in deep trouble here? Book forgotten, Sam flips up the weapons compartment.
He shouldn't be thinking like this - suspicious of his own brother when it's Sam with a track record for this kind of thing. But he's a hunter too, not just a guilt-tripping wreck. Paranoia has been one of the only things keeping his family alive for a long time. Sam bites his lip and decides that looking like an idiot is, on the whole, a lot better than possibly riding shotgun with a monster. Bent double over the trunk, he watches his brother out of the corner of his eye. When Dean looks away for a moment, Sam grabs a flask of holy water.
"How're the fries," he says, looking up and surreptitiously unscrewing the flask. "Christo."
Dean flinches and blinks. "Sam - what -?"
There's an incredulous smile on Dean's face and it says dude, what the hell, what'd I do. Sam ignores it. No time, and oh Christ he shouldn't have done that - now it knows he knows, all because he wanted a little peace of mind. But there's no time for thinking. Sam knows what he has to do, even though the world's shifted sideways and left him reeling because Dean's eyes have turned beetle-black.
Sam rips off the cap and flings the water at Dean. There. It hisses and curls into a halo of steam where it touches his skin, and that gets rid of any vague hope Sam might have had that the eyes were a hallucination or trick of the light. His blood runs cold.
He thinks, shit, I really, really didn't want to be right this time. But it doesn't matter what he wants. A demon's found its way past the tattoo and into his brother, and he'd thought they were safe from this and this does kind of scare him, but plenty of things have been doing that lately if he's honest (which he tries to be, really, but no accounting for circumstances). He grabs Ruby's knife from the trunk. The demon's probably not expecting him to use it, and it'd be right about that (thank god), but it's all he's got, and he has to make it believe he would. No choice.
"What the fuck, Sam?" he yells, breathing heavily, wiping the sizzling water off his face and looking like he can't decide between confused or pissed.
Sam adjusts his grip on the knife. "You're not my brother," he says.
"Dude, what," the demon says, and he just sounds incredulous. Sam makes a lunge for it, but the demon dodges back neatly, holding Dean's hands out. "Wait! Sam, hang on –"
Sam notices the demon's hand creeping around to the back of his pants. He knows there's a loaded gun there because he saw Dean put it there back when he was Dean – if he was. He moves to intercept it but it's too late. Dean's pretty damn fast and the gun's pointed at his head in a matter of seconds. Sam stops.
"Sam," the demon says, "chill."
Sam licks his lips and thinks about the twinge in his blood, just out of reach. This demon could be gone in a matter of seconds. If only he could. There's no time to push down the idea properly like he normally does so he just lets it flicker out of reach. It'll be back.
"I don't know – " The demon swallows, passes its free hand over its mouth. "I don't know what's going on, but I promise I'm Dean. Okay? It's me. There has to be something else going on here. Calm down."
"Yeah, okay," Sam says. He thinks about the first rule in the book, the easiest to remember and hardest to master. He's failed before. He's notgoing to fail again. Demons lie.
"Sam, it's me," Dean says. "Please, just…okay. Look, I get this looks…uh, suspicious. But you've gotta give me a chance, alright? Just. Listen."
Sam squares his jaw. "Are you gonna shoot?" he says. The demons don't want him dead. "Put the gun down and we'll talk." Not really, but.
The thing quirks Dean's lips, and he wants it to be him, so badly. "And if you're the Sam I know, you're too damn good a hunter to keep your word on that," he says. "Sorry, man." His eyes flick nervously from Sam to the car. "Sam, I know you don't wanna listen but I need you to hear me out. Please."
"You're going to get out of him," Sam says, thumb running up and down the knife handle. "Or, well, you know this can kill you dead. What's it gonna be?"
The demon snorts, shifting its grip on the gun. "You wouldn't use that, Sammy, just like I'm not gonna shoot." Sam tightens his grip on the knife reflexively. "You're not about to kill me. Put it down." It sounds uncertain - good. Sam has to take all the uncertainty he can get.
"Don't be so sure about that," Sam says. "Answer the question."
"Just trust me, Sam," it says.
"I don't trust monsters," Sam says.
He starts forward, quick movements, reaches up to twist the demon's gun arm behind his back, but he's pretty damn fast too. There's a brief tussle and Sam manages to disarm him. The gun goes spinning away. Then the demon surges forward, gets his arm free and brings it swinging around to smash his fist into Sam's solar plexus. Sam falls backwards, gasping for breath, clutching at the knife handle for dear life. The demon swings again and Sam blocks the punch, but a sweep to the legs has him on his back. They're rolling on the ground, punching and kicking and scrabbling for the knife, when Sam feels a sharp pain in his side. He's high on adrenaline, blood pumping through his ears, and it doesn't register at first. Then he realizes the demon's pulled Dean's own knife on him. There's a deep cut curving across his side to his belly, his clothes torn and blood seeping out. I'll need to sew that up, he thinks.
"Shit!" the demon says, drawing back, and the blood's roaring through Sam and he lashes out on instinct. The serrated edge skates along Dean's collarbone, drawing a dark line of blood. He scrambles back.
"You wouldn't," he pants out, wild-eyed. "You wouldn't kill me, Sam-"
Sam catches him with a blow to the chin.
The demon folds. Lying there on the ground, it could be Dean if Sam doesn't look too closely at his wet skin, still sizzling.
He can't tear his eyes away from the blood soaking Dean's shirt.
"So, uh. Is begging or pleading gonna help at all?" the demon says, tilting his head, ignoring the drops of holy water currently hissing their way down his nose. He's kind of smirking in a disbelieving way, like it's just so hard to comprehend why Sam would want to tie him to a chair.
"No," Sam says, because he's not completely incompetent.
"Good, 'cause I wasn't planning on trying." The demon starts to jiggle his knee, eyes flicking restlessly over the room. Sam's pushed the beds into the corners to make room for the hasty devil's trap – he'd have preferred to find an abandoned house or something, but he'd figured it was safer to freak out room service when the demon could wake up any minute. "C'mon, let's get this over with. Unless you've changed your mind and decided to just listen to me. I'm your brother, Sam. It's seriously actually me."
"That's going to work about as well as the last couple hundred times you said it," he says, even though it is exactly Dean, it's so Dean that he wants to look away cause it hurts so bad. If Dean were here, Sam thinks, he would say – think. Don't be an idiot. Don't trust a demon.
Sam's not gonna make that mistake again, not gonna do that to Dean again. No. He's just not. He can't let that happen. He – he won't.
"Okay, Sam," the demon sighs. "Go on, get this show on the road."
That just makes him want to deck it, but he resists, unscrewing the lid on the fresh salt canister. This, this issomething Dean won't mind when he's back in the picture.
"That's right, read the fucking exorcism again," the demon growls. "And I promise you, it's gonna work about as well as the last hundred times you said it. Oh but no, it has to do something this time, you just need a little more salt –"
Sam empties half the canister into the demon's face. He's going to fix this. This is just another case. This time, this is how he saves his brother.
Don't listen, don't trust – and yes, it's a little easier now, now that something's snapped in Dean's eyes, all the humanity drained out until it's like there are two dark holes carved into his head.
"Dude," the demon gasps. "That kills."
Sam rolls his shoulders, stifling a wince as the movement pulls at his new stitches, and steps forward, careful not to scuff the devil's trap chalked on the floor. He leans in close.
"Tell me," Sam says, "just tell me what you've done. Tell me how you've locked yourself in."
The demon grits Dean's teeth. "Does it being my actual body count? Sam, just…" It exhales loudly. "Trust me. Okay? Please, trust me. I'm me, not a demon. I don't know what happened – it must've been Crowley, or Zachariah, we must've got busted, passed by one of their mooks – but listen, you've gotta listen, it's -"
So this is the game the demon's playing. He's not going to win, anyway.
"Is it something to do with the tattoo?" Sam interrupts. "A spell? You know you're going to tell me." He tests the edge of Ruby's knife with his finger.
"You wanna take off my shirt again?" says the demon. "Kinky, Sammy, but I don't do that shit for free."
Sam says, "Shut your mouth, you black-eyed son of a bitch, or I will make you."
He shuts its mouth, but he doesn't look pissed. Just raises an appreciative eyebrow.
Sam's jaw tenses and he turns away. Okay. Okay. He stifles the urge to run his hands through his hair. Don't show any weakness, don't let him know you're out of your depth. None of the exorcisms are working and he hasn't found a binding mark in any of the usual places. He walks out of Dean's line of sight and sits on the bed. He needs to calm down, think of this as any other hunt. This isn't the worst thing that could happen by a long shot, isn't the worst thing that could be possessing him, either - so think and you can fix this. There's always a way, there has to be.
The demon must be binding itself in somehow, maybe using a spell of some sort that isn't burned into the skin. Sam had checked the tattoo and it was intact, so even though it's just got plain black eyes, nothing special, probably has something powerful backing it up enough to get past.
Sam looks back at Dean and decides he needs help.
Flipping open his cell, he hits contacts and calls. "Hey, Cas," he says, fiddling with a hole in the bedspread.
"Sam? What is it?"
"Um, it's…" He looks over at the chair. "It's about Dean."
The demon will be listening for sure. Goddamn but he hates this. Even though it's someone else looking out of his eyes, it's still Dean's face, Dean's voice, and every time Sam looks at it no matter how hard he tries he sees Dean there. He supposes it's time for the tables to be turned, given what happened with the Meg demon a couple years back. Thinking about what it must have been like for Dean, knowing what it's like now with the situation flipped, makes the bile rise in his throat.
There's silence on the other end.
"Cas? You there?"
"Yes," Castiel says. "I was waiting for you to continue." He clears his throat. "Uh, was that wrong?"
"Oh, uh," Sam says. "No, it's fine. Um. About Dean." He stops again.
"Yes?" Cas prods.
"Right," Sam says, and then the words come out in a rush. "He's been possessed by a demon and I can't get it out."
"That's 'cause there is no demon, jackass!" the demon yells over its shoulder.
"Dean is possessed?" Cas says sharply, then he pauses. "Was that him?"
"Yeah, no, uh –"
"He said there is no demon," Cas says. "Are you -"
"I'm not kidding around," Sam says, giving in and fisting a hand in his hair, pushing his forehead into the heel of his palm. "Look, I don't know what game it's playing, but christo affects it. Salt and holy water too. So all signs point to demon. I got it restrained but exorcisms aren't working and I couldn't find a binding mark –"
"Where are you?" Cas cuts in, and Sam rattles off their location. There's more silence.
"Cas?" he says tentatively.
"Yes?" says the angel in his ear.
Sam jumps up and flails away, tripping over a trailing sheet and falling back onto the bed. "Jesus christ!"
"Cas!" the demon says joyfully. "Thank god. Get over here, man."
Castiel stands up stiffly and goes over to peer at Dean closely, Sam trailing behind him. The angel's eyes narrow and his mouth tightens.
"Sam, you were right," he says. "That's not Dean."
The demon slumps like all the strength's been drained out of him. "Cas," it says pleadingly, "can't you see-?" And Sam fights down the urge to go to him, because he can't go along with this game it's playing, as if it can convince him it's Dean just by refusing to give in.
Cas stretches out a hand and grips Dean's forehead. Then his brow furrows. He looks over his shoulder at Sam.
"I can't think why the exorcism didn't work," he says. "Either there's no binding spell on this demon, or it's invisible to me."
The demon snorts. "No shit."
Sam swallows. "So…there's some serious mojo behind this, then."
"The requisite mojo is probably serious indeed," Cas says gravely.
"Can you exorcise it? Or kill it?"
"No," says Castiel, arms dangling awkwardly by his sides. He stares at Dean helplessly. "I…I can't. I can't even read its mind."
"Right," Sam says. He looks at the wall for a moment. "Okay. Cas, can you go to Bobby's and hit the books for me? I'll stay here and see if I can get anything else out of it."
"I'm still here, dude," the demon says, and Sam clenches his jaw so hard it aches.
"Yeah, unfortunately," he says tightly.
Cas stays standing there for a moment, looking around awkwardly.
"Spit it out."
"I assume you do not want me to actually… strike Bobby's books."
"No," Sam says. "No, that was an expression."
"Just making sure. I'll be back soon," Cas says, and vanishes.
Sam pulls up a chair in front of the demon and looks at it. "Christo," he says, just to remind himself that's not his brother. It snorts.
"Okay. Fine. What do you want me to do, Sam," he says. His black eyes glitter. Sam's skin is crawling but he keeps his face very hard and still. He drums the knife against his leg. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap.
"You can make a start by not trying to sound like Dean," he says.
The demon raises an eyebrow. "Uh, no can do. Got another request?"
"Tell me," says Sam, "what you did."
"Or what?" says Dean, and he smirks lazily. "What are you gonna do, Sammy? Are you gonna kill me?
Sam keeps his breathing even. This is the hard part. He's got to sell it, though – it's the only weapon he's got.
"Don't think I won't," he says.
The demon sniggers. "Oh, that's a scary face. Yeah, right."
"Okay," Sam says, "here's the deal. I don't want you in my brother. I want to hunt with him and I need him to help me stop the apocalypse."
The demon's face is blankly insolent as he looks up at Sam through narrowed eyes.
"But I can't get you out," Sam says. "So either you're going to leave, or I'm going to kill you. Dean would understand." And there's a third option there, too. It's itching underneath his skin with every beat of his heart. Except it's not really an option at all.
"Oh, he wouldn't," the demon says. "Believe me."
"Haven't you been checking the demonic noticeboard in hell or whatever?" Sam says. "Dean and I, we're not like we were. I don't want to kill him but I bet he doesn't want a demon in him forever either, so I'll do what I have to do and that's the truth. And sooner or later, I'm gonna be done trying to save him." As if he has the right to say that. He leans forward. "So get out of him, now. Don't make me say it again."
"You think you could kill your own brother? No, Sam. You wouldn't kill me," the demon says, but he's not meeting his gaze this time. Sam feels like he shouldn't be this good at lying to Dean's face.
"How do you know," he says coolly.
"You and me, we – just – you won't, okay? How am I even having this conversation. Look, Sam, quit playin' around and listen."
"Don't think I'm letting a demon stay alive for any longer than I have to," Sam says. "I can learn from my mistakes."
Dean meets his gaze with a shit-eating grin. "Fine," he says. "I'm gonna call that bluff. Go ahead, Sam. I'm not getting out of this. If this is gonna happen, then do it." He laughs as Sam clenches his jaw. "I'm ready, man. I've been ready for a while."
Sam hisses out a breath and massages his temples. Okay. Maybe it'll chicken out at the last second. He gets to his feet.
"C'mon, Sammy," the demon says, taunting, jiggling Dean's leg. "You can do it." He grins disarmingly. "I believe in you –"
Sam forgets about scaring it. He forgets about pretending to kill it, forgets about keeping his cool. He spins around and smashes his fist into its cheekbone, the impact jarring up his arm, and Dean's head snaps back sickeningly. He flexes his fists, heaving in deep breaths, rapidly backing away.
God damn it.
"Fuck, Sam, that hurt," the demon says. "Well. Don't stop now. Knife's right there." He's just goading him now.
Sam ignores it. Paces a tight circle around it until the phone rings and he picks up.
"There is nothing," Cas says. "I have found nothing."
"That was quick, are you sure?" Sam says tersely. He's the angel. Shouldn't he have found something-
"I have found nothing," he repeats.
"And by nothing you mean…?"
"I mean I have searched Bobby's library, examined every page of every relevant book and found nothing. I will continue to search for a solution."
"There will be something," Sam says, his mouth dry.
"What if there isn't," Cas says.
"There will be," Sam repeats.
"Yes," Cas says. "Yes, Sam. There will be."
Sam flips the phone shut. Demon's called his bluff, the angel's come up with zilch. Okay. Okay. He paces a tight circle around the chair Dean's tied in.
"So what're you going to do now?" the demon says restlessly. "Gonna let me go already?"
"If Cas doesn't find anything," says Sam, "you know you're gonna die."
"We've been through this, Sam," the demon says, "we both know you're not going to stab me with that –"
Then he stops, and goes deathly still.
"You wouldn't," he says.
"Wouldn't what?" Sam says like he's playing dumb. Honestly, he hadn't even let that be a real option. Now it's crowding into his head like a clingy ex-girlfriend.
"Don't start that shit again, Sammy, no, just don't. Please. Not for me," the demon says. "Don't. If you want to save me you won't do it. Please."
Sam feels a sudden rush of energy. A weak point. This is the demon scared, out of control. It doesn't want him on demon blood because – maybe because that'll work.
"You're in luck," Sam says, "'cause I'm not sucking down Dean's blood. You've got time to change your mind."
"I don't give a shit, Sam, don't drink any! You are done with that, don't you dare, don't you do that!"
"You really don't wanna be exorcised, huh?" says Sam.
"No, look – I've got this figured out, at least – kind of, okay?" the demon says. "War. It's like War, remember that? He made us see demons where there weren't any. It's like that. I'm cursed, or this is one of Zachariah's bullshit plans to make me say yes to Michael or something. C'mon, Sam, I'm telling the truth!"
Sam licks his lips. But – it's just like a demon. Reacts to salt, holy water, and Cas took one look and knew, just like that.
So one way it's a demon with something powerful backing it up. The other way it's Dean - cursed by something powerful. Sam doesn't like either of those. He stares at his brother's body in the chair. But he'd know, right? If it was Dean? Those black eyes – and demons lie -
He doesn't know. He runs his hands through his hair again. He's a hunter, not stupid. It's just that he can't stop the tempting doubt in the back of his head, whispering at him, chipping away at his training. This demon is either Dean or Oscar-winning material. But those black eyes, the sizzling skin. He shouldn't be listening to it at all. He needs to know.
He can't do this.
"Sorry," he says. He goes to pack his stuff.
"No!" Dean shouts. The demon. "Sammy, NO!"
Sam picks up his jacket and duffel.
"Don't leave, Sam, don't you –" The demon presses against the bindings. "Just stay, stay here -"
It knows exactly what to say, he thinks dazedly. "Wait for me," he says and turns to go.
"Come back!" Dean calls out.
He walks out the door, watching the demon the whole way, careful not to disturb the salt line. All the feigned emotion drains out of its face and it just slumps.
He gets in the car and hits the gas. He needs to think, figure this out. He has to.
This is how he saves his brother, this time.
By the time Castiel returns to the motel room, Sam is gone. The demon's head is lolling back bonelessly and it's staring at the ceiling. He can see its real face under Dean's when he looks, and the way it shifts under the light makes him feel nauseous in the pit of his body's gut.
"You came," the demon says, sounding surprised, head rolling forward again.
"I shouldn't have," Cas says.
"I'm glad you did, anyway," the demon says. "Look. I know I'm a big bad demon and all, I'm using that badass motherfucker Dean Winchester as a meatsuit, you can't exorcise me and all that crap. I don't care. You have to let me go, or Sam is going to do something drastic. You listen to me, Cas, if you can't exorcise me he's gonna do it himself. He's gonna drink demon blood, you know he is, and I can't let him. Not for me. So you let me go."
Cas watches him.
"He will drink it anyway, if I let you go," he says. "He will hunt you. And that way you will be on the loose and we will lose Dean."
"At least this way I have a chance of stopping him," the demon says in a low voice. "Let me go, Cas, you know you can trust me, it's me."
Castiel thinks about Sam – thinks about how he screamed. He thinks about opening the door to Bobby Singer's panic room. He let him go. That, as Dean would say, is on him. He keeps his face blank, turns away from the demon. Can't let it see his weakness. He feels helpless, stripped of his power, unable to reach out a hand and simply burn it out of Dean. Would Sam drink demon blood even after everything to do that? Sam isn't there so he can't ask him, but Cas can ask himself.
"I will be watching," Cas says. "If you are lying, if you hurt anyone – if you hurt Dean, or Sam –"
"I'm gonna do as little hurting as I can manage, dude, don't worry. Trust me."
"I can't," Cas says.
"Can't," the demon says, "or won't?"
Castiel clenches his body's hands, which hang like awkward weights at his sides, and looks at the demon. It shifts uncomfortably as he watches it for some reason but he keeps looking anyway, not really bothering to blink. He's not sure what he's looking for.
After a minute, he steps forward. His shoes tread over the devil's trap, scuffing it, and he leans forward to loosen the bindings.
Neither, I suppose, he thinks.
"You can find him?" he asks.
"Always," the demon says.
Sam drives with his foot to the floor and his hands clenched to the wheel so hard his knuckles are white, because that way he can pretend even to himself that he has a single fucking clue what he's doing. Find a demon, maybe. Lock it in the trunk of the Impala, open it up at the pulse points and suck it dry. He fights down the urge to retch.
He has to save Dean but he doesn't know how. Tracking down a demon alone, no Dean at his back – it would take too long, days maybe. He feels jittery, spiked on adrenaline. He wants to lock down into calm icy focus but he can't. He thinks he knows where that will lead him.
Sam doesn't know what to do. So he takes out his cell phone, letting off the gas a bit, and scrolls through the contacts. He calls Cas again.
"Hey, Cas. Look –"
"You called," says Cas, sounding surprised.
"I intended to call you but I didn't. I didn't think that you would answer."
Why? "Ah, yeah. Sorry about bailing," Sam says. "Look, I need some time to think. Can you watch Dean?"
"Don't," Cas says, sharp fear tinging his voice. "Sam, whatever you're thinking, don't do it."
"I'm not thinking anything," Sam protests.
"Where are you?"
"On the road."
Cas lets out a breath into the speaker.
"Cas," Sam says. "Did something happen."
"Sam, the demon escaped."
Sam loses control for a second and the car lurches off the road. Heart pounding, he drops the cell and spins the wheel hard, angling the car into a better position. He takes a deep breath and turns off the gas. Then he picks up the cell.
"Okay," he says. "Okay." He pulls a hand through his hair. "Any idea where –"
"No," Cas says. "Where are you?"
"We need to find him," Sam says tightly. "Get your feathered ass out of that room and start looking."
He hangs up and leans back in the driver's seat for a moment, inhaling the familiar scent of the car. His phone rings again and he checks the caller ID. Dean. He picks up.
"Where the fuck are you," the demon says.
"Looking for a demon," Sam says. Ha. Less truthfully, he adds, "You know what's gonna happen then. I'm gonna find you, and then I'm going to choke the life out of you like that. It'll be easy."
The demon makes a strangled noise over the line. Selfish, Sam thinks, demons are selfish, it doesn't want to die.
"It doesn't have to be that way, not if you smoke out. Just get out of Dean."
"I can't get out," it says. "because – whatever. Look, don't drink any goddamn blood, okay? Just, please. Don't do that for me."
"'Course you don't want to die," Sam says.
"Hey, what if you strangle my actual soul or something while you're trying to exorcise me? Not worth it, man." It chuckles weakly.
"I'm going to find you," Sam says, "I'm coming for you."
Dean's breath hisses out and Sam can practically see him dragging a hand over his mouth.
"Then I guess I'll just have to stop you," the demon says, and hangs up.
Sam drops the phone again and sits back, staring out the window. He doesn't realise he's drifted off to sleep until he rolls his head sideways to find Lucifer sitting in shotgun. He turns back to the front, too tired to curse. He never wakes up refreshed after these dreams.
"Long time, no see," says the devil. Even though Sam's eyes are shut he can see Lucifer smiling, oh so fondly. He doesn't bother to answer.
"I can't see Dean, so I don't know where he is or how to get the filth out of him," Lucifer says gently. "But you know I can help you, Sam."
"Did you do this?" says Sam. He feels exhausted. "There has to be a reason we can't get it out."
"I had nothing to do with this," says Lucifer. His face is always so relentlessly kind. "You know I'm telling you the truth, don't you?"
"It doesn't matter what you tell me."
He ignores him. "I always do, after all. But whoever it is – we can stop them, together, and change Dean back."
"If I say yes, of course," Sam says. Lucifer smiles benevolently.
"That's always been the sole condition," he says. "But to save your brother, isn't anything worth it? Every single time."
When he wakes up his temples are throbbing and that smile is imprinted on his mind's eye.
You're going to find something, he tells himself, you're going to save him. And you're going to do it the right way. The way he would want. You're not making the same mistakes again, you're not just a freaking broken record with a destiny.
He wishes he could believe that.