Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 628 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: future.
It wasn't like there was a calendar on the wall, or even a clock. It wasn't like there was a wall. Time was measured in the slow peel of skin from bloody flesh, or the breaking of two hundred and six bones, one by one.
Dean had long ago lost track of all of the different forms of pain he'd been subjected to, all of the ways he'd been torn apart and blacked out in agony only to find himself whole and unbroken when he lurched back to whatever passed for consciousness when you were dead. He repeated in his head, over and over, four and a half months, four and a half months, as a mantra against the horrors around him. When the terror and torture were too much to keep at bay, he settled for September, September, September. The promise of being reunited with Sam and delivered from the Pit was the faintest, tiniest light at the end of the hellishly dark tunnel that stretched out before him.
After a while, he forgot what the mantra meant. But sometimes when he whispered the words to himself, he remembered their meaning, and he began to wonder. Surely it had been long enough already. Surely he'd been here for eighteen weeks, twenty, even. Surely he was getting out of here any day now.
But the days passed, and the stench of his own blood no longer bothered him, and the demons had to get more and more creative to wring a scream out of him, and he knew that even if four and a half months ended tomorrow, his mind and soul were never going to be the same.
Then one day, a new demon appeared, brandishing a slender blade like it was an extension of his body. "Hello, Dean," he purred. "My name is Alastair. I've been looking forward to meeting you."
"Yeah?" Dean lifted his eyebrows. "Hope you haven't had to stand in line too long."
"Oh, it's only heightened the anticipation." The demon's voice was high-pitched but still male, deeper than nails on a chalkboard but with the same piercing quality. "Besides, I wanted to be the one to commemorate this…special occasion." He paused and then said, "It's your birthday, Dean. I hope you don't mind the lack of a cake, but I have something special for you instead." He held up the knife and slowly licked his lips.
Fear twisted inside of Dean, sharp and urgent in a way he hadn't felt in…a long time. "My birthday?" he asked sharply. January was way, way past September. He was supposed to be out of here by now.
"Not the one you're used to celebrating. More like an anniversary. You see, it's been one year since you arrived, and I've been waiting to meet you all this time."
Dean stared back, horrified. "A year?"
"Mmm, time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it?" Alastair brought the knife forward, setting the tip just under Dean's left eye. "Let's have some fun together, you and I."
He hardly noticed the physical pain, lost in the torment of having the one thing he had counted on—the surety that this was going to end, that he could endure for just a little while longer—ripped away as fiercely as any of his flesh and bones had been over the last twelve fucking months. The future loomed before him, no longer a feeble beacon of hope, but a darker-than-black promise that the joke had been on him, that this was his eternity.
The next time the knife sank in, Dean let out a scream that was as full of bleak despair as any that had ever resounded in that chamber.
Every demon who heard it smiled.