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Fic: Final Straw (9/9)

Title: Final Straw
Author: Zubeneschamali
Rating: PG-13 (language, violence)
Summary: As hard as he tried, Dean couldn't erase the fact that it was his little brother he was preparing to shoot. Evil!Sam, captive!Dean, and the end of the world as we know it.
Spoilers: Through 4.14, "Sex and Violence".

Disclaimers and beta thanks are in Chapter 1.  Previous chapter is here.

 

So here's my last chance to again thank my betas, ster1 and kasman, for their awesome work. Thanks to R.E.M. for providing the title and epigrams and actually the entire narrative structure. I also want to thank everyone who left a comment; you made the writing worthwhile.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

then I raise my voice up higher
and I look you in the eye
and I offer love with one condition.
with conviction, tell me why
tell me why.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Dean's eyes slowly blinked open as a beam of sunlight poked through the gap in the curtains and splashed across his face. He felt like he'd been asleep for days, though in truth he had no idea how long it had been.

Castiel had told his story late into the night as Sam continued to sleep. About halfway through, a noise from downstairs had startled them both. Castiel had silently gone to check it out, returning a few minutes later with a shotgun-toting Bobby, who'd been taking cover in his panic room after getting the news that the seals were broken. When he saw both Winchesters alive and well, he'd gotten a look of joy on his face like Dean had never seen on the old man. Castiel had to start his tale over to get Bobby up to speed, and by the time he was done, Dean had nearly passed out from exhaustion.

Throughout all of this, Sam hadn't awakened, but Castiel hadn't seemed concerned. He'd promised to keep watch, even when Dean asked if he had other angel things he needed to be doing. Castiel had shaken his head with a warm smile, and Dean had gratefully sunk into sleep, his mind spinning with questions that would have to wait until he was conscious enough to hear the answers.

"Dean?"

Startled by the voice, Dean sat up abruptly, and the room started to spin. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone sitting on the edge of the other bed reach out for him and then draw back. When he looked up and saw that it was Sam, he drew in a sharp breath.

The younger man shrank back further, drawing his arms around himself as if he were cold, looking down at the worn wooden boards of the floor. The space between the two beds was only a couple of feet, but it suddenly felt like a mile.

Dean looked his brother over, noting the tight set of his folded arms and the shadows under his eyes. "You okay?" Dean whispered.

"I'm fine." Sam's voice sounded rusty, and he cleared his throat, eyes glued to the ground. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good," he automatically replied. "Sam, you—you're..."

"It's okay, Dean, it's—" Sam's lips moved as if he was going to say It's me, but he broke off and dropped his head. "It's okay," he quietly repeated as his shoulders hunched a little more. "You're safe."

Dean nodded slowly, drinking in the sight of his brother awake and whole and in front of him. He looked a little pale, but he wasn't showing any signs of injury, aside from the shock of white hair that would serve as a permanent reminder of what he'd been through. Given how he was huddled inwards, Sam looked like a younger version of himself, awaiting a scolding for not running enough laps or hitting enough targets.

It was a far cry from the last time Dean had seen him awake.

Time ticked by, the silence growing thicker all the while. Finally, Sam swallowed and said, "Bobby went into town, but, uh, I can get Castiel if you'd rather talk to him." He started to stand up without lifting his gaze.

"No!" Dean reached out and grabbed Sam's left wrist. The younger man winced, and Dean pulled back. "Sorry," he said, his eyes traveling upwards to Sam's chest, as if he could see the bullet hole through his t-shirt and flannel.

"It's all right," Sam said. He took a deep breath. Then he unbuttoned his outer shirt and pulled it and the t-shirt far enough down to reveal a neat, round scar with the slightest puckering around the edges, on the outer edge of the black flames of his tattoo.

Dean looked at it for a long moment, wondering if there was anyone else walking around out there with a bullet hole centered over their heart. "You, uh, you should ask for your money back," he said tentatively. "Cass brought me back all shiny and new."

The corner of Sam's mouth quirked up, and he slowly lifted his eyes to meet Dean's. "I wasn't clawed apart by hellhounds and buried in a box for four months," he replied just as hesitantly.

"True," Dean replied with quirk of his eyebrows. You were shot. By me. He couldn't get the words past the sudden lump in his throat.

Silence fell again, and it was just as awkward as before. Sam eventually lowered his hands to his sides and sat back down, but his gaze kept flickering to Dean's face and then away again, looking like he was about to bolt at any minute.

Dean gingerly swung his legs over the side of the bed and cleared his throat. "Cass, uh, told me. What he said to you to get you to do this." He licked his lips nervously. "You were amazing, dude."

Sam shook his head sharply. "Don't say that," he hissed. "Dean, I had to—I had to hold you prisoner and pretend to torture Castiel. I had to make you think I was going to kill you and then that I was going to force Lucifer into you. God, I did kill..." His voice broke and he shut his eyes tightly, clearly unable to go on.

"Hey, you listen to me. Lilith wouldn't have picked which seals to break based on keeping the casualties down, and you know it." Dean waited until Sam was looking back at him before going on, "You saved lives playing it the way you did."

"How many people died in California, huh?" Sam shot back.

"A few dozen," Dean replied calmly. "Bobby said it had something to do with how most of the quake's energy was directed away from the surface, and now all the seismologists are totally confused."

"Good for them," Sam muttered, but his features were a little less bleak.

Dean sighed. "I know about the mind-reading thing, too. How you would have trusted me if you could." I don't blame you, his tone said.

"Yeah." Sam drew in a shaky breath. "It had to be you, Dean. You're the only one I knew would hold out until you were absolutely sure I couldn't be saved. But we still figured the only way that you'd actually shoot me was to think that I had—that I really was on the wrong side."

Dean's heart beat faster as he remembered the terror that had gripped him when he saw Castiel in invisible chains and again when Lucifer was being summoned before his eyes, how his own resolve had slowly been strengthened by the unbelievable things his brother was doing until Dean had done what he'd never thought he could do. "You're probably right," he grudgingly admitted.

The gaze that met his was hesitant, but there was relief lurking in the blue-green depths of Sam's haunted eyes.

"So you remember it all?" Dean couldn't help asking.

"Yeah," Sam said hoarsely. "All of it."

Dean looked away across the room. "I'm sorry, Sammy," he replied fervently. He didn't know what kinds of memories were locked up inside his brother's head right now, but he could imagine. Forty years in Hell might well equal fifteen minutes of possession by Lucifer, not to mention the consequences of the seals Sam had broken and having all that power unleashed inside of him.

A look of understanding flitted across Sam's face. "You know that he showed me what happened to you, right?"

Dean gave a tight nod. "If sharing all those damn memories helped, I'm glad. Since they made me totally freak out on you." He huffed out a breath. "I almost blew it and I didn't even know it."

When Sam tilted his head to the side in the move that always made Dean think of a basset hound, Dean went on, "When you were. Um." He waved a hand in the air. "When Luci first showed up."

"Luci?" Sam's eyes bugged out. "Are you kidding me?"

"I do not think it was said in jest."

The voice from the doorway made them both jump. Castiel was standing there, arms folded across his chest, looking faintly amused. "While I do not entirely understand this need of yours to reduce the length of someone's name, it seems to be a defense mechanism against beings you find intimidating."

Dean glared at him. "Good morning to you, too, Castiel," he said deliberately.

He barely heard the soft snort from Sam—but damn, it was good to hear it..

"Your 'freaking out' was not unexpected, Dean," Castiel went on. "Nor was it as harmful as you might think."

Dean frowned, remembering how he had dropped to his knees in front of Lucifer, leaving the angel to face him all alone. "I totally blanked out at a kinda critical moment, so yeah, I'd call that harmful."

"It kept the truth from your mind," Castiel pressed. He took a few steps into the room, coming to stand at the foot of Dean's bed. "If you had been thinking about the availability of a weapon, Lucifer would have seen it in an instant. Your fear inadvertently shielded your true thoughts long enough for Sam to fight him and provide an opening for you."

"Huh." Dean chewed his lower lip, meeting Sam's eyes and reading the same dawning understanding that he felt on his own face. Maybe all those months of torment by his memories of Hell had had a purpose after all. After a moment, he said, "I guess we can file that one under 'mysterious ways', right?"

Castiel gave a slight nod. "I believe so, yes."

Dean looked back and forth between the angel and his brother for a moment, taking in the surprisingly similar looks on their faces—wary but resolute, uncomfortable yet hopeful—and he suddenly understood that right now, they would answer any question he asked. "So you can't really..." He lifted both arms as if someone had told him to stick-'em-up and flickered his eyes to Castiel and back to Sam. "To him?"

"Oh, God, no," Sam assured him with a faint look of horror. "Castiel was doing that all on his own."

"Really." Dean cocked his head as he looked at the angel. "Didn't know you could fake it like that."

Castiel lightly shrugged one shoulder. "I was not truly confined, but I doubt the demons would have allowed me to leave had I wished." He flicked his gaze to Sam. "I also doubt it was outside the realm of possibility had you tried to overpower me."

Sam flinched. "Guess we'll never know, will we?"

"You mean you're not the psychic wonder boy anymore?" Dean asked with eyebrows raised.

Sam shook his head, the first hint of a smile playing around his lips. "It's gone, Dean. It's all gone."

Dean drew his head back. "Really?"

"Sam's abilities came from a demonic source," Castiel interjected. "Without that source to draw on, he is no longer marked or special in any way."

"Aw, Sammy'll always be special," Dean jibed, but the affection in his voice overrode the teasing. It still got him an eye roll in response.

He mulled things over for a while, thinking of everything that had happened in the old asylum and how a lot of things suddenly made a lot more sense. These two had put their lives and more into each other's hands, and somehow, it had all worked out as planned. "You guys really knew you could pull this off, huh?" he finally said.

Castiel and Sam exchanged a slightly hesitant look. Dean unfolded his arms and sat up straighter, watching them warily. Then Castiel turned to him and said with only the slightest pause, "We were...pretty sure."

He blinked, too stunned to move. "Damn, you really were hanging out with Sam for a while, weren't you?"

Sam let out a huff of breath. "It was a risk, yeah," he said quietly. "But there wasn't much choice. Lucifer was coming, one way or another."

When Dean met his brother's eyes that time, the memory of the evil that had shone out from them made him shudder before he could stop himself. Sam gave a sad half-smile and looked away. Dean couldn't imagine what it must have been like to have the Prince of Darkness possessing him, and he wasn't about to ask.

Instead he simply said, "I'm sorry, Sam."

Sam looked up, his brow knotted in a puzzled furrow. "What for?"

"I believed you." He sighed. "I should have known you'd never actually go dark side. Man, I am so sorry." It felt like the worst kind of betrayal to realize that he'd actually thought his brother had given it all up and thrown in his lot with the evil they'd been fighting their whole lives. Truth be told, he wasn't even sure how Sam was looking him in the eye at this point.

"No, Dean." Sam leaned forward and put a hand on his knee. "You had every right to think that. You were supposed to think that, and I'm glad you did."

"Well, yeah, it turned out all right in the end, but still—"

"No, you don't get it." Sam's voice was growing firmer. "I've been counting on you to do what had to be done for two years now, and there were plenty of times I thought you wouldn't be able to do it. So I'm glad that you believed it, Dean. I'm glad you went through with it."

He quirked up an eyebrow. "Dude, you're glad that I shot you?"

"Under the circumstances, yeah." Sam's eyes were shining.

Dean cleared his throat, determined to head this off before the sap could rise to a toxic level. "Yeah, but you couldn't have turned, Sammy. You're too damn goody-two-shoes to really lose it."

"You have no idea." The younger man's voice was deadly serious. "It was harder than I thought it would be to keep it under control. If you hadn't shown up when you did, if you hadn't been there with me at the end..." Sam's voice trailed off as a shiver swept his body. Then he looked over to Castiel. "You knew what you were doing," he said, clapping a hand to Dean's shoulder in an unmistakable reference.

In case there was any doubt remaining, Castiel confirmed that he was a heavenly being and not a human by missing the opportunity for the world's biggest "I told you so." Instead he inclined his head at Sam and let a small smile grace his features.

Dean straightened up and let Sam's hand fall away from his shoulder. "So, what work do you have for us?"

Castiel looked confused. "Work?"

"Well, you told me you had work for me to do after you—" Dean made an upwards scooping motion with one hand. "So I figure the same must be true for Sam now."

Slowly, the light dawned in Castiel's blue eyes, and then spread to a grin that overtook his entire face. "You misunderstand, Dean. There is no debt for either of you to pay, nothing to be earned. Sam took a tremendous risk and showed steadfastness and faith throughout. I have only done the same."

"And he wanted to make sure you wouldn't do anything stupid if I really was dead," Sam interjected. Then the corner of his mouth quirked up. "Not that there's anyone to bargain your soul to at the moment, anyway."

"Wait, you're telling me if we went and planted a box at the nearest crossroads, no one would show up?" When Castiel shook his head, Dean's eyebrows shot up as high as they could go. "Huh." That explained the confused-looking demons who'd faded away after being exorcised back at the asylum. But how could there really be nowhere for them to go?

Castiel must have seen the question in his eyes, for he said, "You have not eliminated all of demonkind, Dean. That is not possible, not as long as humans sin and attempt to thwart the will of the Lord. But for now, with Lucifer and everyone who followed him gone, a generation or more will pass before demons trouble the Earth again."

"Wow," Dean said, not quite able to grasp the concept of having killed a lifetime's worth of demons in one fell swoop. Talk about crossing things off the to-do list. After a moment, he turned to his brother. "Sammy, you're gonna have to write a book, you know. A couple of books. Otherwise hunters won't know anything about how to get rid of demons when they come back."

"Guess I need something to keep me busy," Sam said quietly, his gaze going distant. Then he shook his head as if chasing something away. "I'll be fine," he said in answer to the question Dean hadn't yet asked. Then he looked up at his big brother, his eyes filled with emotion he didn't usually display. "As long as you're here, Dean."

Dean felt a warm smile spread across his face in response, and he replied, "Right back atcha, kiddo."

Then he paused, the grin freezing on his face. This is weird.

"All right, what's going on here?" he asked Castiel. "I should be wanting to kick both of your asses into next week for putting one over on me like you did." He pointed at Sam. "And now you're talking like a total girl and I'm not complaining about it when I should be so pissed off I can't see straight. But instead..." He trailed off and furrowed his forehead, trying to put a name to the emotion coursing through him. "I'm...happy?"

Sam broke into a grin and lunged toward him, wrapping his arms around Dean before he could stop him. More than that, he found himself returning the hug, barely to remember a time when a brotherly embrace hadn't come at the heels of one or the other of them nearly or actually biting it.

Happy. Now that he had put a word to the feeling, it was suddenly overwhelming him, seeping in through the cracks in his battered soul, warming him like a friendly campfire when he hadn't realized he was cold.

"I know what you mean. There's all these things I should be thinking about, all this horrible stuff that should be overwhelming me. But it's like it's getting pushed aside right now by this joy that I haven't felt in..." Sam shook his head, a disbelieving grin on his face as he drew back and draped an arm over Dean's shoulders. "In I don't know how long."

Castiel's beaming expression was nothing short of angelic. "It is not surprising. You and your brethren have been living under a shadow for millennia," he explained. "The shadow of Lucifer and his desire to rule the Earth. Yes, there will be mourning and grieving and rebuilding to do. But today, thanks to you—" He held out an arm, gesturing at them both. "Today, the sun has finally come out."

"Talk about killing the Big Bad," Dean said, smirking at his brother and maybe leaning a tiny bit into him. Just to make the kid feel better. Sam tightened his grip on Dean's shoulders and pressed back.

Dean had just closed his eyes for a second when something occurred to him. "Oh, no," he said sharply, straightening up and pulling back from Sam, his eyes going wide.

"Dean, what is it?" Sam asked, instantly alarmed.

"My car!" Dean explained. "She's been in Rockford for like a week. Who knows what could have happened to her?"

"Oh, my God," Sam muttered, flopping back onto the bed and putting a hand to his forehead. "You scared the crap out of me, Dean."

"Your vehicle is fine, as are your belongings." Castiel sounded more than a little amused. "As soon as you feel up to it, I can take you there."

Dean bounded to his feet. "I'm up to it," he said instantly. "Sam?"

"I could use some fresh air," Sam agreed, coming to his feet. "We'll just leave a note for Bobby and tell him we'll be back. Can you take us both, Cass?"

Dean's throat tightened, and he looked away from Castiel at the reminder of the despair-filled trip to Bobby's. But all the angel said was, "Yes, I can."

"You ready?" Dean asked. "Hey, Sam, remember that diner in Dixon with the awesome pie? That's gonna be our first stop."

"And then where?" Sam asked, turning to face him with that patient but affectionate grin that he'd given Dean so many times over the years.

Dean looked at his brother for a moment, taking in the white hair over his forehead and thinking of everything they'd gone through in the past few years, everything he and Sam had suffered for each other here on Earth and below. He thought about the terror of the past few weeks, how Sam knew him well enough to trick him into believing the worst and how Dean had given into fear and kept his promise. He thought about watching Sam die and Lucifer along with him, and what that meant for the whole world, now and into the future.

And he thought that maybe, just maybe, it was all worth it.

"Where we always go, Sam," he said, clapping a hand to his brother's arm and returning the grin. "Wherever the road takes us."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
apieceofcake
Mar. 10th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Have enjoyed, thank you! :-)
zubeneschamali
Mar. 10th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
And thank you! Love your icon. :)
(Deleted comment)
zubeneschamali
Mar. 11th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Yep, nothing like a happy ending. :) Glad you liked it!
aleo_70
Mar. 14th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
Supernatural
As stated elsewhere, I enjoyed this series of yours.

I have now bitten the bullet, so to speak, and am the proud owner of Supernatural-Season One on DVD. Now to find the time to watch...
zubeneschamali
Mar. 14th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Supernatural
I have now bitten the bullet, so to speak, and am the proud owner of Supernatural-Season One on DVD.

Woo-hoo! My first recruit! ;) I suppose that's fitting, since my intro to the fandom came though SPN fanfic from a NUMB3RS writer. Glad to hear you're going to give the series a try, and I hope you enjoy it.
metralha
Mar. 31st, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
I loved this fic! The plot was well done and unexpected. Very cool. :)
zubeneschamali
Apr. 2nd, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you didn't see the plot twist coming. :) Thanks for commenting!
(Deleted comment)
zubeneschamali
May. 7th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for all of your comments!
muiting
May. 20th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
Wow! That was a great read! I really did think Sam went darkside! Loved how you pulled out a great ending out of a story that can easily turn into a tragedy! Thank you!
zubeneschamali
May. 20th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad I tricked you. ;) I'm a happy-ending kind of girl, so I had to make it all okay in the end.
adrenalineshots
Jul. 19th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
You know, I had actually read this one before and, lazy-pup that I am, didn't leave a comment. Stumbling a second time on this wonderful story, now that you posted it in the SPN writer's lounge, I figured it was fate *g*
I loved this story! The initial angst of Dean figuring that he would have to finally oblige to the promises that he's made, the despair of finding out that the one being that could help him was also Sam's prisoner and the final twist... all awesome! Very well done :D
zubeneschamali
Aug. 6th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it! Comments are always welcome no matter when they come in, and yay for the lounge!

P.S. That "flower power" icon never fails to make me crack up.

Edited at 2009-08-07 02:18 am (UTC)
harrigan
Sep. 30th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Finally got the time to wallow in this excellent fic!

It's so clear to me that the show is about two brothers with equally heroic roles to play in the myth arc, and it's so rare to find a fanfic author who recognizes that and writes the brothers with equal respect and compassion.

But I can always count on you! And this doesn't disappoint!

zubeneschamali
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you very much! That means a lot to me; I really do love both of the boys and think they're equally important to the overall story, and I'm so happy that comes through in my writing. Thank you!
amothea
Jun. 6th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
I loved your story and once I started reading I could not put it down. I was left guessing up until the big reveal as to whether or not Sam had truly gone evil or not. Wonderful storytelling! :)
zubeneschamali
Jun. 6th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
Yay for maintaining the suspense! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks so much for commenting.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )