Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: 26,915 total; this chapter, 808 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, and the previous chapter is here. Prompt for this chapter: tomorrow.
A/N: After an unfortunately-long hiatus, I finally finished this puppy off. It is no longer a WIP: all 30 pieces are done, plus an epilogue, and I'll be posting them every few days. Thanks again to kasman for the beta reading, and thanks to witchcrow01 and everyone else who nudged me to provide an ending.
Then: Sam and Dean knew before Dean went to Hell that he would only be there for four months, but of course they didn't know that Hell time =/= Earth time. Dean (and the first seal) broke faster because he thought it was only temporary. Sam was responsible for them knowing about the four months because he used the coin in "Wishful Thinking", but in his case it gave him the optimism he needed to ditch Ruby over the summer. The angels killed Anna because Ruby wasn't there, and Dean went into an even worse tailspin mid-season, but Sam falling prey to the siren actually got them back on track. Castiel sided with the Winchesters against the angels, and he told them that Sam is destined to be Lucifer's vessel as they deal with Chuck's vision of Sam and Lilith together.
Dean burst into the motel room and stared, horrified, at the sticky red splatter all over the walls. "Sam!" he called, fear twisting his gut.
"'M fine," came a weary voice from the bathroom.
He strode over and yanked the door open. Sam was scrubbing his face and hands, his shirts in a pile on the floor, his jeans spattered with…something. "What the hell happened?" Dean demanded.
He'd been reluctantly watching the motel parking lot, devil's trap chalked onto the ground in front of their room, ready to head off Lilith if she tried to sneak out. Sam was supposed to be stalling Lilith, waiting for Castiel to arrive with Chuck, who was supposed to serve as the magnet for the archangel they expected would take out Lilith.
Then about sixty seconds ago, there'd been a light like the sun coming from inside the room. The painfully bright light had been followed by a sickly wet exploding sound that had Dean running for the door while shielding his eyes, heart in his throat.
Inside, Chuck was gone, Castiel was gone, and there was a pale, still form on the bed that looked like the dead version of the woman who had been Lilith's host. That last one should be good news, Dean thought, but instead it felt like something had gone seriously wrong.
And God, did it reek in here.
"It was the archangel," Sam was saying hoarsely. "I couldn't really see, because it was so bright, but he took one look at Castiel and just...exploded him."
"Exploded him?" Dean asked, eyebrows shooting up.
Sam raised his head, and now Dean could see bits of...something...in his hair, and his stomach churned. "Aw, no," Dean groaned.
Sam grimaced and went back to washing his face and neck. "By that time, Lilith had left the building." He made a swirling upward gesture to indicate how she had managed to evade Dean.
Dean groaned and leaned back against the doorjamb. "And what about Chuck?"
Sam shrugged. "I guess the archangel took him off somewhere to protect him. That part worked just fine."
"Shit." Dean rubbed his hand over his face. "So the angels are so pissed at Cas that they would blow up his host to get him out of the way? Man, poor Jimmy."
"I don't think it was just his host, Dean." Sam turned to face him, his face pink from scrubbing. "There was some kind of light coming out of him before he...you know. It was like what Uriel did to Anna."
Dean straightened up, fists clenching at his sides. "You mean they killed him?"
"I know, right?" Sam jerked a worn towel off the rack and haphazardly dried his face. "And why do that and leave me alone, if I'm such an abomination?"
"Don't say that," Dean muttered, but Sam's words were striking a chord of worry in him. He straightened up and started moving towards their bags, lifting a hand to his mouth to try and filter out some of the harsh, coppery scent that was filling the room. "We gotta get out of here in case it comes back."
"Dean, I don't think it would have had any problem taking me out along with Cas," Sam called after him. "But yeah, considering the state the room is in, leaving would probably be a good idea."
"No shit," Dean muttered. They'd pretty much been packed already, but he had their bags in the car and the weapons locked down, steadfastly not looking around the room, before Sam had wrapped a towel around his torso and grabbed another one to protect the Impala's seat from his jeans.
They were on the road four minutes later.
Half an hour passed in grim silence. Dean finally let out a gusty sigh and demanded of Sam, of the world, "So now what?"
They were supposed to be done. They were supposed to have eliminated the threat to the seals, gotten revenge on Lilith for dragging Dean into Hell, and cemented Castiel's place on the side of humanity. Instead, every one of their allies was gone. Chuck was probably on angel lockdown, Castiel was toast, and at the rate things were going, Dean couldn't contact Bobby anymore because he didn't want to be responsible for anyone else getting killed.
"I guess it's just you and me," Sam said, one knee shoved up against the glove compartment, the other canted towards the center seat. He looked exhausted, slumping back against the door, and Dean realized he hadn't even asked about Lilith yet.
"Like it's always been," Dean replied. He blew out another breath and flipped on the radio. "We'll come up with a plan tomorrow," he said, turning the volume lower so Sam could sleep.
And like so many other nights over the years, Dean drove on in silence until tomorrow came.