Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 855 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: winter.
16. In the Bleak Mid-Winter
Dean had thought it would help. Honestly, he had.
Sam had been fluttering around like a mother hen for weeks, driving him absolutely nuts without saying a word, his dewy-eyed looks of concern saying enough all by themselves. Dean knew there was nothing his little brother could do for him, nothing that could take away the pain and the horror and the regret for what he'd done in Hell. But he also knew Sam would be willing to try anything.
Still, when he suggested the crazy idea of harnessing his demon blood—how, Dean was pretty sure he had no frickin' clue—in order to turn himself into some kind of anti-demon weapon, Dean's first impulse was to shake some sense into him. Hard.
As soon as Dean brought up the angels as a counterargument, however, he was reminded that they weren't at all what they appeared to be. They'd manipulated him and Sam, put blind obedience above using their pea brains to the point of killing an innocent woman, and took the concept of "need to know" to a higher level than the CIA probably did.
When it came down to it, he trusted Sam a hell of a lot farther than he trusted them. Maybe there really was a way to make something good out of what had happened to his baby brother, out of the fateful decision their mother had made all those years ago. The fact that Sam trusted his judgment enough to want his blessing before embarking on this course showed that he still cared what Dean thought.
And Dean had thought it would help.
Instead, they'd had a string of typically bad luck, first losing an innocent man to a crazy inbred human and then forcing a worn-out magician to kill his best friend. While both incidents had made Sam even more determined to figure out how to use what was inside of him, Dean had drifted even farther away, lost in self-recrimination not only for his time in Hell, but everything that had happened since. In response, Sam hewed closer to Bobby, talking on the phone late into the night while Dean pretended to sleep, half-afraid of what his little brother was trying to do but unable to take back his approval now that he'd given it.
Sometimes he felt like the January cold had seeped into his very bones
Like now, sitting in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of frickin' Worcester, Massachusetts, listening to the icy tinkle of sleet pounding the exterior of the building, waiting for the demon they'd caught the trail of three days ago to decide if he was good enough bait to swallow.
Dean snorted, huddling his shoulders against the chill of the empty building. He bitterly wondered if he'd even manage to be proper bait, since that was apparently all he was good for. Sam picked the hunts, Sam did the research, Sam figured out what it was and how to kill it. Dean still drove the car, but Sam was in the driver's seat in all other ways. He'd even gotten Dean to tone down his drinking, although he was pretty sure there wasn't anything that was going to get him to stop it entirely. Not when it was the only way he could fall asleep, even if it was to wake from nightmares a few hours later.
It was just as well he'd turned down Castiel. He couldn't even lead the way for his brother anymore, much less the frickin' heavenly host.
There was a scraping sound on the battered concrete floor, and Dean looked up. The shadow stretching out along the far wall wasn't tall enough to be Sam, and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Step one of Sam's plan had apparently worked.
Careful to make enough noise to be tracked but not so much as to appear obvious, Dean wended his way deeper into the building, keeping track of the shadow out of the corner of his eye. When he got close enough to the devil's trap, he waited until the demon was almost upon him and then darted out of the way.
It howled when it realized it was trapped, the face of the middle-aged man it wore snarling and spitting at him. But Dean merely melted back into the shadows and watched as Sam came forward, calm confidence marking his face, and raised a hand, palm out, towards the demon.
It took a few tries, but the demon's initial chortle turned into a gasp and then a choking sound as black smoke lurched out of its throat. Dean watched in astonishment, amazed that the tentative ideas Bobby and Sam had been throwing around had actually been shaped into something workable, amazed that Sam was exorcising a demon with his mind.
The triumph on Sam's face as the last of the dark cloud sank through the floor with a yellow-orange sizzle was a sight to behold.
It made Dean's heart sink.
Now Sam could take on demons all by himself.
Now there was nothing he needed his big brother for.