Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 949 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: present.
11. Present Tense
Sam walked down the sidewalk of Concrete, WA, absently rubbing at a sore spot on his lower back and noticing the sharp tang of ozone lingering in the air. The coin had been retrieved, the wishing well un-enchanted, and everything was being set back to rights. A quick call to Dean had assured him that everything was okay, and Dean's instructions to "melt down that fucking coin, now," were on their way to being carried out.
It took about twenty minutes of driving, but Sam found a turnoff in the Cascades National Forest leading to a secluded trailhead, and ten more minutes of walking down an overgrown path assured him that no one would be coming out this way to see the fire he was building. It would take a while for the heat to build up enough to melt metal, but the fallen needles and resin-filled branches from the proliferation of conifers would help with that.
Sam cleared a space within spitting distance of a stream, stacked his kindling, and flicked on his lighter. A cheery little blaze was soon burning, throwing off welcome heat in the dark interior of the forest, and Sam pulled the coin out of his pocket and studied it while he waited.
Such a little thing, he thought. So much trouble from such a little thing.
He wondered for a moment why Dean had insisted he be the one to melt the coin down. His big brother rarely missed the opportunity to be part of anything involving fire, but he'd expressed no interest at all. Sam wondered idly if he thought the coin was too much of a temptation, that if he had it in hand he'd use it to make a wish for something more serious than a sandwich.
Earlier in the day, Sam's retort had been to wish for Lilith's head on a plate—bloody—and the thought crossed his mind that he could do it, right here and now. There was a small pool where the rushing stream curled back on itself, a quiet space in the bubbling water. He could drop the coin in, make one last wish, and then melt it down.
Sam was actually kneeling by the stream bank before he mentally slapped himself and stood up. "No," he said out loud. How many examples had he just seen of wishes gone bad, of people getting exactly what they asked for but in a strange and twisted way? If he wished for Lilith's head, he'd probably get the rest of her along with it, or something bigger and badder than her delivering it, or something else he couldn't imagine. No, he couldn't risk it.
Dean's face flashed through his mind, confusion and astonishment written in equal measure as he heard Sam's wish. Sam knew that Dean expected him to say he wished for a normal, demon-free life with Jessica, but that wasn't him anymore. The thought that Sam's deepest desire had something to do with making things okay for Dean was apparently more than the older man could comprehend. Especially now that it was clear that he did remember what had happened to him in the Pit, given the way he wasn't sleeping and was drinking.
For a moment, Sam wished fiercely that he could take it all away, that he could make it so Dean had never gone to Hell.
The edge of the coin cut sharply into his hand, and he almost dropped it. "No," he said out loud. "That wasn't a wish." Even though the cursed object hadn't been in the water, he didn't want to risk it.
Then something struck him. Everyone who'd had their wish come true—badly—had wished for something for themselves. What if he wished for something for Dean instead?
Sam's mind raced. Wishing for Dean to never have gone to Hell could easily backfire—Sam could wind up dead in a heartbeat. Likewise, asking for Dean to forget his memories of Hell might well erase more from his mind than the four and a half months between May and September, which was not—
And then it hit him like the lightning bolt had earlier in the day. "Four and a half months," Sam said aloud, hearing the wonder in his voice.
That was it. All this time, he'd been wondering how he knew Dean's damnation was only temporary, and the answer had been in him this whole time. It wasn't a taunting demon, it wasn't a manipulative angel or Trickster. Sam was the one who made it so he and his brother knew there would be an end to the torment, that they just had to hold on for a little while longer. All he had to do was bend down and put the coin in the pool of water beside the stream, make his wish, and then toss the coin into the fire.
For once, it really was that simple.
Five minutes later, Sam watched the worn design on the surface of the coin shimmer and fade as the heat of the flames began to melt it. Something felt right in his head, like he had closed a loop that had been hanging open for months, the past and present finally joining together into something that made sense and answered the question that had been nagging him for months.
He let out a deep breath and watched the fire burn. When he got back to town, he'd tell Dean what he'd done and that the mystery was solved. Maybe that would get Dean to open up to him, at least a little.
His brother was obviously hurting, and there was nothing Sam wouldn't do to help him.