Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 884 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: sunrise.
6. Break of Day
It was dark. Dark and quiet, and Dean didn't know whether to be afraid of the former or grateful for the latter.
A moment later, when he had dug his lighter out of his pocket and a tiny, flickering light was illuminating rough-hewn walls tight around him, he decided on the former. "What the hell," he muttered, or tried to mutter. His voice was dry and raspy as if he'd been screaming for days.
Since the last thing he remembered was hellhounds rending his flesh, that might not be too far from the truth.
Figuring there was no way to go but up, he tore experimentally at the wooden boards above him. When a shower of dirt rained down, he started clawing faster, trying to override the primitive part of his brain that was panicking at dark tight trapped by digging upward, aiming for light sky free instead.
When he felt cool air blowing across his outstretched hand, he almost wept in relief.
A moment later, Dean was standing beside his grave, brushing dirt off himself, looking around in bewilderment at the trees leveled in a neat circle all around him. They were familiar pine trees, like the ones behind Bobby's place, although since they looked like a pile of toothpicks, he couldn't recognize the exact spot.
The early morning sunlight on his face nearly blinded him as it peeked over the remaining treetops, but he closed his eyes and soaked it up like rain on cracked earth. The faint warmth was delicious against his cold skin, the wind too brisk for a May morning, and his stomach sank a little when he realized he had no idea when he was, much less where he was.
When Dean turned in a slow circle and saw the two figures crumpled at the edge of the circle of blown-out trees, his stomach dropped all the way down.
He was beside them in seconds, kneeling over the tall, shaggy-haired man first, pressing two fingers to his throat and letting out a gusty sigh of relief when he felt a pulse. "Sammy," he forced out through his croaking throat. "Sam, come on, wake up."
It took a few minutes and a rough shake to the shoulder, but soon Sam was blinking up at him, dazed for a moment until recognition set in. Then he was sitting up fast enough that Dean had to duck out of the way or risk being head-butted. "Dean!" Sam exclaimed, octopus arms instantly wrapping tightly around him as Sam buried his face in Dean's t-shirted chest. "Oh, my God. Dean."
"Yeah," Dean replied, returning the embrace and breathing in the scents of dirt and grass and Sam and wondering if he'd ever felt so grateful in his entire life. They stayed that way for a few heartbeats, and then he asked roughly, "So were we right?"
"What?" Sam sniffled and pulled back slightly, keeping his face turned away as he brought the back of his hand up to his face and gave it a quick swipe. "Uh, yeah. It's the middle of September. We didn't know when you were coming back exactly, so we've been keeping an eye out, and then last night there was this burst of light and a sound like a bomb going off, but—" He broke off and turned away. "Shit! Bobby!"
The older man was out cold, but it only took a moment of shaking to rouse him. When he saw Dean, he reacted the same way as Sam, although the hug was thankfully briefer. "God, it's good to see you, boy," Bobby murmured against Dean's shoulder.
"You too," Dean said with a pat to his back. "You, uh, mind telling me what I've missed?"
"In a minute, son." Bobby released him. "Gotta check some things out first."
After he passed all of the necessary tests, including walking into a very impressive iron-lined panic room and drinking multiple shots of holy water, they filled him in on the Witnesses and their implications. When they were done, Dean rubbed a hand over his face. "Besides that, the big question is, what got me out?"
Bobby shrugged. "You don't remember anything?"
"I remember being a hellhound's chew toy." He shrugged one shoulder. "Then, lights out."
Sam shuddered, and Dean quickly looked over at him. "You didn't have anything to do with this, did you?" he asked.
"What? No!" Sam looked him in the eye. "I told Ruby where to shove it and never looked back."
"Good to hear," Dean replied. "Doesn't answer the question, though."
"Maybe we shouldn't question it," Sam said in a small voice. "I mean, if it's the same thing as whatever told us it was for four and a half months, maybe we shouldn't look into it, you know?"
"What, in case it changes its mind?" Dean asked. When Sam shrugged, he went on, "Yeah, maybe we got bigger fish to fry. Or keep from being fried."
Later that night, when Dean undressed and saw the angry red handprint on his shoulder, it almost freaked him out enough to go storming back downstairs and demand that they figure out what the hell had put it there right the hell now. But maybe Sam was right.
Maybe they shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.