Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 940 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: years.
12. Falls the Shadow
"You did what?"
Dean hardly recognized his own voice, cold and dark as it was, and it seemed to be even more of a surprise to Sam. His little brother actually stuttered as he replied, "It—it was me, Dean. I—I'm the one who made it happen, made us know that it would only be four and a half months."
His hands curled into fists at his sides. "Do you have any idea what you've done? Any fucking clue, Sam?"
Sam looked bewildered. "I had to, Dean. It's what kept me from listening to Ruby about getting revenge on Lilith, it's what kept me and Bobby going all summer. I didn't realize it until just now, when I was out there with the coin in my hand, but then I had to do it."
His hands were knotted in Sam's jacket before he was aware of moving, shoving his brother hard up against the wooden railing of the dock. "You stupid, stupid son of a bitch," he ground out. "You don't even know, do you?"
Of course he doesn't know, snapped a voice in Dean's head. You haven't told him shit.
Don't you blame this on me, he barked back, and the voice stayed silent.
He forced himself to loosen his hold on Sam and looked around to make sure no one had noticed them. The townspeople still seemed to be wandering around in a daze, shaking off the vestiges of their wishes, paying no attention to the two strangers exchanging heated words in their midst.
"Dean, what is it?" Sam asked in a low voice. "What haven't you told me?"
He rubbed a hand over his jaw and stepped back. Sam wanted to know? Fine. Like a band-aid, it was probably better just to rip it off. "Time doesn't pass the same way in Hell that it does up here, Sammy." He paused long enough to note the dawning horror in Sam's eyes and went on, "I waited for four and a half months, all right. And then I waited again. And again, and again."
Sam's face had gone pale. "How long were you there?" he whispered.
Dean let this instant, this one moment where he knew the full horror and Sam didn't, stretch out as long as he could. Then he let out a deep sigh. "Forty years."
Any remaining blood rushed from Sam's face, and he reached back to steady himself on the railing. "Forty years?" he breathed out. When Dean gave a short nod, he slowly shook his head. "I had no idea, Dean. I can't even…My God, I'm so sorry."
"Yeah, you should be." Dean looked out across the water, bracing himself for what was coming next. "Because if I hadn't known I was getting out, it might have been a whole lot different when I finally gave in."
He heard a sharp inhale from Sam's direction. "What do you mean, 'gave in'?"
In a few short, sharp sentences, Dean sketched out his time on the rack, the daily offer from a demon named Alastair, and the fourteen years that he'd lasted after realizing his promised reprieve was all a lie. He talked like it had happened to someone else, like he was reciting a history that wasn't his, because it was the only way to keep from screaming out loud at what he now knew.
He was even more brusque in describing the twenty-five years that had come after, almost as long as he'd been alive above ground, during which he'd not only been Alastair's favorite pupil, he'd eventually taken on students of his own. All the time, Sam's face grew more and more drawn, his expression clearly torn between horror at what he was hearing and misery at the thought that he had been responsible for it.
Dean finally finished, and silence fell. Then Sam took a deep breath and started, "Dean, I…I never would have done it if I'd known—"
"What, if I'd already done the sharing and caring thing with you, then you wouldn't have made the wish?" Dean scoffed. His earlier anger was evaporating in the full light of what Sam now knew about who and what he was, leaving blankness in its place. "You had to, since you made it in the first place. Or we'd all disappear into a black hole or something."
"That's not how it works," Sam muttered.
"Whatever." Dean shrugged, still looking away. "The point is, it's done. You can't change it."
"Dean, I—" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam lift a hand as if to put it on his shoulder before lowering it again. "I'm sorry," he said almost inaudibly.
Dean opened his mouth, ready to say something about how he knew that Sam was only trying to help, or that "sorry" wasn't remotely good enough, or that it's not like he would have held out for forty years anyway.
But ever since he remembered everything that had happened—everything—he'd been desperately holding onto the thought that he was going to find the son of a bitch who had done this to him and take out all of his pain and misery on him.
Except now that he knew…there wasn't anything he could do about it.
"It doesn't matter," Dean said instead, turning away.
"Of course it matters—"
"Sam, let's just get out of here." He shrugged deeper into his jacket and strode away, feeling the weight of his brother's eyes on his back, wondering how long it would take before he'd be able to look him in the eye again.
If he ever would.