Word Count: 4600
Summary: With the Winchesters relationship at an all time low, Sam is suddenly faced with some uncomfortable truths about Dean. Is he too late to save his brother from a fate worse than death?
Disclaimer: With a heavy heart (and a great deal of relief for Dean) I have to say I do not own Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this. I just hope I make a few fan girls happy with this demented little scribble.
Warnings: Serious spoilers for season 9.
Notes: As I watched this season unfold I started to muse about where certain plot lines might go. That was back in March before episode sixteen aired, and I was inspired to write this. So some of what is here has already been Kripke’d, but I decided to finish it as I intended. Many thanks go to milly_gal who has beta’d this in the absence of bigj52 (she’s on holiday), as I needed to get this posted before the last few episodes air. Milly, you are a hero *Hugs*. This has now been beta’d by bigj52, who in an act of devotion above and beyond all expectations, did this for me while on holiday. I’m just clearing the ground for that statue now!
As Sam sat in the war room of the Bunker researching his latest hunt, he paused and glanced over to the table Dean usually occupied these days. The table was unoccupied as Dean was off on a hunt of his own. He’d been gone without any form of contact for far too long this time, and now even Sam was becoming concerned.
The two of them had slowly slipped into a routine of taking simple solo hunts. It was a routine Sam was more than happy with, considering the state of his and Dean’s relationship these days. He’d become accustomed to Dean’s absences from the Bunker, enjoying the silence and lack of pleading stares from his hunting partner. But recent events played on his mind, and for the first time in several months, he felt his resolve to keep Dean at bay waver.
He’d noticed Dean had become increasingly withdrawn as he pursued his goal of hunting Abaddon down and killing her. To this end he’d become Sam’s perfect hunting partner, which meant Dean had stopped making feeble attempts to gain his little brother’s forgiveness. Instead, he went about the defunct family business of saving people, hunting things, with a single-minded purpose.
Sam watched as Dean’s attitude to the business changed subtly, as once again his view of the world faded to black and white. Dean had no room for shades of grey now; you were either a monster or a victim. And he despatched monsters with ruthless efficiency, no second chances granted.
Sam was ready to call Dean on his actions, and remind him again they were hunters, not just killers. Then he’d noticed Dean rubbing absently at his arm where the Mark of Cain was, and he’d seen pain, emotional and physical in his brother’s expressive green eyes, and the reprimand died on his lips.
Lately Sam had seen less and less emotion in his brother’s eyes. He was fast becoming the perfect little solider dad had always wanted, and now it was beginning to unsettle him. Also Sam had noticed no matter what time of night he passed Dean’s bedroom, the light was always on. And he was pretty certain Dean was drinking his meals, not eating them. A familiar niggling brotherly concern stirred in Sam, as he watched these changes. Then he reminded himself why Dean had taken on the mark.
Dean had taken the mark on in a desperate attempt to gain forgiveness, for letting that bastard Gadreel ride shotgun in his body. The ride that had culminated in Kevin’s untimely death. Instead, Sam let stubborn anger burn his concern away, choosing to pour his energies into finding fresh hunts, and trying to find leads on Metatron and his feathery assassin.
The last time they’d crossed paths with Cas, the angel had known straight away there was something wrong with Dean. He took Sam to one side and began firing questions at him. “Dean looks exhausted. Is he having trouble sleeping?” Cas fixed Sam with a perceptive stare, knowing the brothers were no longer in synch with one another and asked, “Are you two are still fighting? When are you going to forgive him, Sam?”
Sam had shrugged and muttered something about Dean being his own man. Cas tilted his head to one side, a frown on his face, as he tried to make Sam see there was something very wrong. “If you are still fighting, it would explain why Dean seems to be in such pain. I haven’t seen him this burdened, since he interrogated Alistair under heaven’s orders.” Cas’s blue eyes never left Dean as he spoke.
Sam flinched at the thought of what Dean had suffered at Alistair’s hands, both in hell and on earth. Then he stopped himself from carrying on down that path, once again burying his concern for Dean. “We’re managing just fine, Cas. No fighting, I promise. Dean’s just got a lot on his mind, with trying to find Abaddon.” He didn’t mention the mark Dean now carried.
Cas walked over to his friend, tentatively reaching out, and patting him awkwardly on the shoulder in an attempt at comradely comfort. The second he touched Dean, the angel recoiled violently with a look of horror on his face. He stammered his excuses, rushing pass Sam, muttering something under his breath.
Sam dismissed the incident and life went back to normal for the Winchesters, still hunting together but leading separate lives in the bunker. Only now Cas was checking in more frequently. He rang almost every day, demanding regular updates on Dean’s condition. After their latest conversation Sam decided to research Cain and the mark, and now he began to realize Dean was carrying a greater burden than he’d ever imagined.
Dean was gone again after he’d received a mysterious call from Crowley; he’d taken off with a smile on his face. That was three days ago, and he’d heard nothing from him. Even though their relationship was strained, they still kept in contact just to ensure everything was alright. Sam tried calling Dean, but his phone went straight to voice mail.
Finally he’d contacted Cas and told him Dean was gone. Cas promised he’d look for him, and now Sam was waiting to hear from him. His phone rang, and Sam saw Cas’s name flash up. “Hey, Cas, any news on Dean?”
“Hello, Sam, I’ve found him.” Cas’s familiar baritone calmed Sam, and relief flooded through him.
His relief was short lived. “Sam, you need to come quickly. Crowley has the first blade and Dean is going to engage Abaddon with it.” Cas’s almost emotionless report brought Sam to his feet with his pulse racing.
“Cas, I’m on my way. Just send me the co ordinates. Is there any way you can slow Dean down?” Sam ran through the Bunker towards the garage, got behind the wheel of his Camero and gunned the engine.
“I think the large number of demons surrounding Abaddon will aid you in that, Sam. There is going to be a battle between Crowley’s and Abaddon’s forces. But it seems Crowley is keeping Dean back from the fray at the moment,” Cas said casually.
Sam gripped the steering wheel tighter. “You don’t think you could’ve have mentioned Dean was in the middle of a war before?” he asked, panic rising in his chest, squeezing at his heart.
“I’m sorry, Sam; I didn’t realize you were that concerned for his wellbeing, what with everything that’s happened between the two of you.” Cas said softly.
“Of course I’m concerned for his wellbeing, he’s my friggin’ brother.” Sam roared down the phone, stamping down harder on the gas pedal.
Cas was silent for a few seconds. “Perhaps if you’d mentioned that to Dean, he wouldn’t be here now. He feels there is nothing for him to hold onto, and all he has left is his mission to kill Abaddon. I fear he will not try to survive the encounter.”
Sam gritted his teeth, silently accepting the angel’s rebuke, “Look, just keep an eye on him, and if you can, try and grab him. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Sam ended the call and concentrated on driving. He had to get to Dean, before he did something even more stupid than letting an angel possess him.
Thirty minutes later Sam arrived at his destination, an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Lawrence. As he got out of the car and ran towards the building, he prayed he wasn’t too late and he and Cas could pull Dean out of there. He wasn’t concerned with stealth, he was pretty sure the two factions of demons wouldn’t notice his arrival, above the blood-curdling screams and explosions.
Sam reached the warehouse as Cas appeared around the corner of the building. “Thank goodness you’re here, Sam. Dean is making his way towards Abaddon. We don’t have much time.”
Cas led him inside and as Sam’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, he was horrified by the devastation around him. As Sam made his way through the bodies of torn apart meat suits, he slipped on the blood-slicked concrete floor, choking on the heavy cloying stench of sulphur and death that filled the air. As Sam tried to contain his nausea he spotted Dean, hacking a path through the ring of demons surrounding Abaddon.
Sam was rooted to the spot as he watched; he’d never seen Dean fight with such lethal skill. Even after he’d returned from Purgatory, his brother hadn’t been this proficient at killing. Dean waded though the blood and guts spilled from the demons he’d ruthlessly cut down. Dean’s pace never slowed, all his concentration fixed on Abaddon, as she stood waiting for him like a long-lost lover.
Dean shouted in triumph as he hacked apart the final demon that stood between him and Abaddon. From where Sam stood, he could see the feral grin on Dean’s face. Without thinking Sam started to run towards the two combatants. Before he’d even managed three steps, Castiel restrained him, pulling him away to safety. “Sam, there is nothing we can do now. If Abaddon realizes you’re here she will use you against Dean. All we can do is pray your brother is strong enough to defeat her.”
Sam saw the red-headed demon smile seductively at Dean, and a shiver ran down his spine. “Hello, Dean, why are we fighting? With this much fire you’d make a wonderful knight. Why don’t you put down that bone, and come and sit at my left hand in hell. Better yet, sit on my left hand. I’m sure we could have so much fun together.” She reached out and stroked Dean’s face, then grabbed his blood soaked jacket and pulled him close. Her tongue flicked out from between scarlet lips, and she licked along Dean’s jaw, shuddering with delight at the tang of blood on his skin.
Dean pulled free of her grip. “No dice, bitch. I’m ending you right here and now. I really should thank Cain for giving me the juice to do this.” Dean smirked as he rolled up his sleeve, and Abandon saw the mark. Her confident demeanour slipped slightly.
“So daddy gave you a boost I see, but I bet he didn’t show you all his tricks, though,” she snarled, as she raked razor sharp nails viciously across Dean’s belly.
Sam winced as Dean stumbled back, hissing in pain. Abaddon lifted her hand to her lips, and sucked on a finger, licking Dean’s blood off it. “Damn, still human, that’s good. I’m gonna look forward to peeling the skin off your bones, and drinking the rest of you down.” She slowly advanced on the wounded hunter with a smile.
Dean staggered back, his arm wrapped round his stomach. He waved the first blade in front of him, in a weak attempt to keep the Knight of hell back.
Abaddon grinned maliciously as she closed the distance between them. She sneered, “Really? Is that all you’ve got, Dean? Where’s the famous Winchester fighting spirit, I’m sick and tired of hearing about.”
Suddenly Dean stopped moving, straightened up and struck out. The jaw bone sliced deeply into the Knight’s shoulder, and she screamed with rage. Abandon’s eyes flashed black, and she back-handed Dean hard across the face, snapping his head back. Dean shook his head and grinned bloodily at her. His expression was wild, unsettling, his face a gore-flecked mask painted in the blood of others.
The two combatants stood and stared at one another, assessing each other for weakness. Then Abaddon lunged forward with a scream, and the two of them traded blows. The fight was savage, no quarter given. Dean blocked and punched, as he desperately tried to find his opening to stab Abaddon through the heart.
Sam could see each strike was hurting Dean. No matter what the mark and blade had done to Dean, he was still human. Engaging in hand-to-hand combat with something as powerful as Abaddon, was going to cause Dean serious injury.
Every instinct of Sam’s was screaming at him to go and fight beside Dean, but Cas was right. If he intervened now, there was every chance he would get Dean killed. He was forced to watch helplessly, as Abaddon rained down her wrath on his brother. Blow after blow landed, driving Dean further back, until Abaddon stepped in close and swept his legs from under him. Abaddon followed him down, straddling him as she continued to pummel him. From his hiding place Sam heard bones breaking, and the ragged rasp of Dean’s breathing.
Sam stood up. To hell with doing nothing; he was done with watching that red-haired bitch beat his big brother to death. Enough was enough. He was going to something about it and he pulled out his gun. He knew what he was about to do was next to useless, but if it gave Dean even a slim chance of defeating her, then he’d take it.
Sam stepped out into the midst of the carnage, raised his gun and emptied the clip into the Knight. Abaddon whipped round and grinned at him. “Hey, that tickled! Why, Sam, how lovely of you to join us. When I’ve finished putting Dean in his place, I’ll be over to take you for a spin. I’ve always wanted to do brothers.” She winked salaciously at the younger Winchester.
Then Abaddon turned away, dismissing Sam as a minor irritation. “Now, Dean, what were we doing before we was so rudely interrupted?” She bent forward and sucked a bruise onto Dean’s neck, moaning as the hunter squirmed under her. She savoured the way Dean’s breath hitched, as she cupped his dick and squeezed it roughly.
“When you’re house broken, I think I’ll start on Sammy. I’ve seen the rumours about you two, on the bathroom walls in hell. Tell me, Dean, what kind of sounds does Sammy make when you ride him? I’d like to know if he’s the animal in bed all the girls talk about.” She sat back laughing, as Dean snarled at the insult.
Dean dug his heels into the floor and pushed up hard, the sharp movement threw Abaddon off balance. As Abaddon flailed, Dean freed his hands and grabbed her by the throat, and began to choke her.
Abaddon smiled as she took hold of Dean’s wrist, and easily yanked his hand away. “That’s it, sweetheart, I like it rough. You might be worth keeping as a pet after all,” she cooed as she casually twisted his wrist and broke it.
Dean fell back and howled with pain; Sam took a step forward and shouted, “Dean!”
The sound of Sam’s voice jolted Dean out of the haze the first blade had plunged him into. When Crowley put the blade in his hand, there’d been a rush of power so all consuming it nearly drove him to his knees. From then all he’d seen was enemies to defeat, and he charged into the fight, focused on Abaddon. Sam’s voice snapped him out of the killing frenzy, and he struggled to free himself from the blade’s effect.
“Sammy?” Dean said his brother’s name, like it was the answer to all his prayers. A desperate plea for forgiveness, and understanding from the little brother he’d let down one too many times, to ever be forgiven.
Sam’s heart broke when he heard Dean say his name; he sounded so desperately young and in pain. Now he finally understood he should’ve reached out to him sooner. Yes, he’d been within his rights to be mad as hell with Dean after his stunt with Gadreel. When Dean had interfered like that, he’d taken away his right to choose whether he lived or died. Even now, he wasn’t sure he could ever come to terms with it.
When he told Dean they were no longer brothers, just hunting partners, he ripped everything from him. Then he’d compounded things by saying he wouldn’t have done the same to save Dean’s life. What he’d meant was he would’ve respected Dean’s choice to die, to let him finally rest and put an end to all the pain.
But when Dean heard they were no longer brothers, and he’d stand by and let him die, Sam understood he’d inadvertently set Dean on this path. His big brother’s lack of self-worth meant he’d seen a way to atone for his sins. He was atoning by going on a mission to kill Abaddon, and maybe if he survived that, then Dean would probably try to take down Gadreel as well. Sam’s thoughts were disturbed by laughter from Abaddon.
“Ahh, ain’t that sweet? The famous Sam Winchester puppy eyes. Don’t worry, Sam. I’ll let you hold Dean’s hand while I play with him. If he’s a good boy, I might even leave you alone.” Abaddon sneered as she looked down at the beaten, bloodied man she straddled. She smirked triumphantly as Dean coughed weakly. “Poor Crowley, he had such high hopes for you. But you’re just a screw-up, Dean. Always were. He’d have been better putting the mark on Sammy, that boy’s going places. My bed for a start.”
Dean lay gathering what was left of his strength as the red-haired bitch taunted him; while she crowed he’d managed to get hold of the blade. Now he gripped the hilt tightly and with a scream of agony, he reared up and plunged the blade right into Abandon’s heart. “That’s Sam to you, you fuckin’ bitch.”
Abaddon arched back as if she was trying to pull free of the blade, but Dean pushed it deeper. A flare of orange light flickered in her eyes as she sagged against his chest, a grotesque parody of a romantic embrace. With a monumental effort, Dean shoved the lifeless body away from him, watching as it landed in a crumpled heap beside him. Dean sat there, utterly spent but relieved his mission was complete; he slumped forward, gasping for air, unable to ignore the damage Abaddon had inflicted on him any longer.
Sam ran to his brother and dropped to his knees beside him, wrapping his arms round Dean’s trembling body. He had no idea where to even begin trying to tend Dean’s visible injuries, and he knew there was worse internal damage. “Hold on, Dean. Cas is here, he’ll heal you. It’s gonna be alright.” He babbled as he looked round for the angel; when he saw Cas surrounded by demons, his hope drained away. He knew Cas could fight his way free, but he didn’t know if he would he be in time to save Dean.
A harsh, hacking cough caught his attention, and Sam turned back to Dean as blood sprayed from between his lips. Sam slipped behind Dean, leaning him against his chest in a desperate attempt to alleviate the strain on his body. He lifted a shaking hand to Dean’s face to wipe the blood away. He was shocked at how cold his brother’s skin was.
Dean grabbed his wrist tightly and managed a weak smile. “Don’ bother, Sam. It’s over, and I’m done. I finally get why you were so mad at me. I should’ve let you go, and then none of this shit would’ve gone down and Kevin would still be alive. I’m sorry I let you down.” Dean coughed again, a tearing, rattling sound, his face contorted with pain as he closed his eyes. Dean’s breathing stuttered and the pain faded from his face. He opened his eyes and looked up at Sam; his lips curled into a fond smile, “Bitch.”
Sam returned the smile, “Jerk.” He managed to respond despite the lump in his throat, and then Dean went limp in his arms.
Sam shook his head furiously. Dean couldn’t die, not now. “Come on, Dean, you gotta hang on for me, please?” Sam gripped Dean’s blood-stained jacket tightly in his fist. But it was no use, Dean was gone, his injuries had been too severe. Sam pulled his brother closer and knew there’d be no coming back this time. This time Dean’s death would be permanent. A bitter laugh bubbled out of Sam; he’d tried so hard to ensure he wouldn’t come back. He’d never imagined it would be Dean who would be the one to leave.
Sam tightened his hold on Dean. Not again. He couldn’t believe he was doing this again. As he cradled his brother in his arms, he understood why Dean had been unable to let him go. Sam shuddered at the prospect of a life without his pain-in-the-ass big brother, and tears welled in his eyes.
Suddenly a pair of shiny black shoes appeared by Dean’s leg. Sam lifted his head and saw Crowley standing there. “You got what you wanted, Crowley. The throne’s yours. Now fuck off, and leave me to take care of Dean.” Sam spat venomously at the new king of hell.
Crowley gave Sam an indulgent smile, as he brushed what appeared to be a piece of intestine off his shoulder. “You know, Moose, you really should’ve paid more attention to the lore on the mark of Cain. The bearer is cursed to wander alone forever; it’s the forever part you should’ve spotted. Now, Sam, if you’ll step back. This could get messy.” Crowley clicked his fingers, and two demons wearing meat suits of two very large, muscular men stepped forward. They grabbed Sam by the arms, and dragged him away from Dean.
As he was being unceremoniously hauled away, Sam kicked and fought but he was no match for the demons holding him. They nonchalantly dumped him beside Cas, and turned back to watch Dean’s body with interest.
Sam looked at Cas rubbing his arms where the demons had gripped them, trying to get the feeling back. “What the hell is Crowley talking about?” Sam demanded.
Cas gave a slight shrug; the very human gesture looked natural on him now. “I don’t know, Sam; all we can do is wait.”
Suddenly Sam heard a gasp, and he turned to the sound, shocked by who’d made it. He saw Dean arch up off the floor, his body spasaming as if he was lying on high-voltage cable. It was a sight that brought back memories of a taser, and a Rawhead. It was something Sam wanted to stay forgotten.
He was brought back to the present by Dean screaming in agony as his bones mended and his flesh knitted back together, twitching uncontrollably as his body repaired itself. Sam felt sick as Dean healed; this was nothing like the gentle brush of power when Cas healed. This was brutal and painful, possibly worse than suffering the original injury.
Finally Dean stopped thrashing as the last of his wounds healed, leaving him a quivering wreck on the concrete floor. Crowley crouched beside Dean, a look of wonder on his face, as he took in the rapid rise and fall of his chest. He looked up at his followers. “The Queen is dead, long live the king.” Crowley stood up and smiled. “And we all know how a king needs his knight.” He beckoned to the two hulking demons who’d dragged Sam away.
They walked over to the where Dean lay moaning softly; he tried to lift his head and look for Sam. As they went to haul him up off the floor, Crowley held out his hand. “Gently, lads; Dean’s the most precious thing you clodhoppers will ever handle. He’s the first of the new knights of hell, my personal weapon. You break him, and I’ll smear your entrails all over Kansas.”
Sam watched as the Hulk and Thor, as he’d christened them, lifted Dean as if he was made of glass. Sam went to try to stop them taking Dean, but with a wave of Crowley’s hand, Sam found himself hurtling backwards, and slamming hard against the back wall. “Now, now, Sam, you be a good boy, and I might let you and Dean have a conjugal visit. Or perhaps that’s more Cas’s speed.” He smiled at the enraged Winchester and Angel.
“Crowley, release Dean at once, he has done what you asked of him.” Castiel stepped up to Crowley, the angel blade sliding into his hand.
“Oh he did everything I wanted, and more, my feathery friend. But I think I’ll hang onto him for a bit, very useful tool to have around.” Crowley winked at Sam.
“What do you mean it’s all thanks to me?” Sam asked.
“Oh, Moose, the minute you broke your poor brother’s heart, by telling him you were dissolving the family business, he was mine. Dean’s got nothing to fight the mark’s effect with. No Sammy to fight his way back to. No brother, only a hunting partner. He was so desperate for someone he could protect and care for, I just offered him a new family.” Crowley looked over at the demons holding their precious burden. “I’m sure he’ll love looking after all his new brothers and sisters in hell. Dean’s such a nurturer.”
Crowley turned back to Sam and smirked at him. “Now, Sam, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get Dean home. Being around you seems to confuse him, and I can’t have that now, can I? Not to mention, I’ve got hearts and minds to win over in hell. And if they don’t see things my way, I’ll just set Dean on them.” Crowley winked, and clicked his fingers and he, Dean and his demons vanished.
Sam slid to the floor, falling to his knees, staring at nothing. Crowley was right, he’d turned his back on Dean. He’d allowed his anger to consume the bond between them, refusing to even bend a little. God, when had he become dad? Unbending and unforgiving, the John Winchester way or the highway, and he’d done the same to Dean. Now he realized he could lose Dean forever, and the thought scared him.
Crowley was going to make Dean his Knight of Hell, use the mark’s affect to strip him of his humanity. If that happened before Sam could rescue Dean, there would be no way back for him. He knew Dean would never forgive himself for any atrocities committed in Crowley’s name.
If that happened he knew what Dean would do. He’d beg Sam to kill him, just like he’d begged Dean to do if he went dark side. Now if he was honest with himself, Sam knew he could no more kill his brother, than Dean could’ve killed him. After everything Dean had sacrificed to keep him alive, no matter how misguided, was done simply because Dean needed him here, and Sam finally understood how his brother felt.
Castiel looked down at Sam, as he knelt on the gore-covered warehouse floor; the hunter lifted his blood-covered hands and stared at them uncomprehendingly. “Sam, what do we do now? We have to stop Crowley using Dean as a knight. If Dean comes into the full powers of a Knight, while he has the mark, he will be unstoppable.” Cas urged Sam to say something; he had to know what he could do to help his friend.
Sam let his hands drop to his side, he wouldn’t let Dean down. He’d find a way to save his brother and bring him home. He stood and looked at the angel beside him, his face set with determination. “Cas, we’ve got work to do.”