Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 762 words
Spoilers: through the end of Season Four
Summary: What if Sam and Dean knew one crucial piece of information about the future before Dean's deal came due? Would it have changed everything, or would the end result have been the same? AU version of Season Four, written for spn_30snapshots .
Master table is here. Prompt for this chapter: sunset.
2. Letting Go
"Sam, I want you to promise me something." Dean turned to look at his brother, sitting on the hood of the Impala next to him, an empty beer bottle clasped in his long fingers as he stared out over the empty dirt road.
Sam's eyes were a little red, but not as bad as Dean would have expected, considering what they were doing here. He'd never been to a wake, but he figured this was what one would be like. Well, except it was just the two of them, and he wasn't actually dead yet, but the idea was the same: getting drunk and reminiscing and figuring out how the living were supposed to go on without the dead.
"What's that?" Sam asked, trying unsuccessfully to hide a sniffle.
Dean looked out towards the setting sun, the last one he would see for a while, memorizing the play of orange and pink over the faded green and gold of the tall prairie grasses. "Promise me you're going to leave those freaky powers of yours alone."
There was silence for a moment. Then Sam cleared his throat. "What if I can go after Lilith with them?"
"No!" Dean turned towards him sharply. "Damn it, what part of 'Sam's intestines on a stick' did you not understand? She wiped out that whole police station and everyone in it, there's no way she can't wipe you out, too."
"But if Bela's right, and she holds your contract—"
"Four and a half months, Sam." Dean paused for a moment until Sam turned towards him and looked him in the eye. "Nothing you can do to change that." He pointed his beer bottle at Sam and added, "We know I'm alive and kicking in September. We don't know that you are. So stay the hell away from Lilith. Ruby too, while you're at it."
Sam looked back at him and then nodded, his head bobbing up and down. "Okay," he said quietly. "No powers. No Lilith."
Dean stared back, head twisted slightly to the side and eyes narrowed suspiciously. "That was too easy."
The corner of Sam's mouth quirked up in a not-quite-smile. "Dude, you're going to—you're giving up an awful lot for me. I'm sure I can find something non-demonic to hunt in the meantime."
"Well, good." Dean bumped his shoulder against Sam's and drained the last of his Leinenkugel.
He'd figured that since it didn't matter where he was when the deal came due, they'd come to South Dakota, the closest thing they had to home, so that Sam would have someone with him…after. They'd explained everything to Bobby, and if Sam had been skeptical about this foreknowledge of Dean's rescue from Hell, Bobby was downright disbelieving. But eventually he'd come around, figuring that if the two of them were crazy enough to believe something so implausible so completely, he might as well do it, too.
"You stick close to Bobby, okay?" Dean went on. "You guys gotta watch out for each other."
"You wanna write down a list for me or something?" Sam asked, the caustic comment weakened somewhat by the wobble in his voice.
"Naw, there's only one more thing." This time when Sam raised his head, his eyes were more than a little red, but Dean went on, "You're going to leave me here and go back to Bobby's before midnight."
Sam was shaking his head before the sentence was out of Dean's mouth. "No way. I'm staying here with you."
"Sam, I don't want—"
"I'm. Not. Leaving." Sam's eyes were hard and bright, the last rays of the setting sun making them flash. "You're not going to be alone, Dean. Not here. Not ever."
On any other occasion, he'd have a snappy comeback ready to take the emotion down a notch or two, but somehow he couldn't manage it this time. "All right," Dean acquiesced, tossing the empty bottle into the weeds at the side of the road, trying to pretend that he wasn't grateful for the company. The way he was half-leaning into Sam probably gave it away, though, but his brother shifted slightly so he was pressed against him just as hard, the closest they ever came to hugging each other.
Hours later, as razor-sharp claws tore into his chest and the sweet, coppery tang of his own blood filled his nostrils, Dean held tight to the image of the prairie sunset and the warmth of Sam's shoulder against his, even as he let go of his own life and sank down into absolute, terrifying blackness.