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Fic: Final Straw (8/9)

Title: Final Straw
Author: Zubeneschamali
Rating: PG-13 (language, violence)
Summary: As hard as he tried, Dean couldn't erase the fact that it was his little brother he was preparing to shoot. Evil!Sam, captive!Dean, and the end of the world as we know it.
Spoilers: Through 4.14, "Sex and Violence".

Disclaimers and beta thanks are in Chapter 1.  Previous chapter is here.




This chapter is an interlude of sorts.  Writing it is how I originally worked out the plot and what it would take from Sam and Castiel to make it happen. Then it seemed like Sam deserved a chapter from his POV, so I decided to make it part of the story. Hope it answers your questions.


Seventeen days earlier

Sam awoke, staring at the unfamiliar surroundings in confusion. He'd gone to sleep in a motel room decorated completely in black and white, his and Dean's clothing and duffel bags the only spots of color in the place. He knew he hadn't been drinking; their latest hunt had been too critical and too tough for that. The soreness in his shoulder matched what he remembered from the demon slamming him into a tree trunk before he could splash it with holy water, which meant he wasn't dreaming.

So instead of a lumpy motel mattress, why was he lying down on a hard wooden bench with an arching stone ceiling above him?

"Do not be afraid."

The voice was familiar, but it didn't reassure him any. He bolted upright, vision blurring for a moment before recognizing Castiel sitting in the church pew in front of him, turned to face him. "Where are we?" Sam asked, and in the same breath, "where's Dean?"

Castiel apparently understood the priority of those questions, because he answered, "Dean is safe in your motel room. Uriel is watching over him."

Sam's eyebrows lifted. Those two statements seemed to contradict rather than confirm each other. "And where are we?" he repeated.

"A place we can talk." Castiel gestured at the simple altar at the front of the room and the stained-glass windows behind it. The chapel was dark except for a few candles in wall sconces, but Sam wasn't having any trouble seeing thanks to a soft light that seemed to come from the pew in front of him.

He cocked his head to the side. "Castiel, are you glowing?"

The angel shifted further in his seat, resting a knee sideways on the bench next to him so he could face Sam straight-on. "I have more power in a consecrated location. Here, I can ensure that no one else will enter and no one will hear the words that we speak."

That sounded ominous. Sam bit his lip. They'd used Latin and holy water on the demon today, not his powers, although he had to admit he'd been tempted. Still, he couldn't help the slightly childish quaver to his voice as he asked, "Am I in trouble?"

"No." The answer was swift and curt. Before Sam could draw a relieved breath, however, Castiel went on, "We all are."

Sam drew back slightly. "What does that mean?" he asked, rubbing his hands up and down his bare arms. Sleeping in a thin t-shirt and boxers had worked fine in the overheated motel room, but a stone chapel in the middle of an early April night was not exactly toasty.

Castiel leaned on his forearm draped across the back of the pew. "I have a proposal for you," he said. "A plan by which you might be of assistance in the battle against Lucifer."

"Sure," Sam replied, half eager and half wary. "What do you need?" he asked.

The bright blue gaze momentarily dropped to the floor before reluctantly coming back to meet Sam's eyes. When the angel spoke, it was with a trace of hesitancy Sam had never heard from him. "It requires your death."

Sam blanched. His hands tightened around his arms as his heart skipped a beat. "Wh-what?" he somehow managed to stammer out as terror swiftly rose within him.

With a surprisingly gentle expression, Castiel reached out and laid a hand on Sam's bicep. He felt the warmth of it through his shirt, and the panic flaring within him abruptly leveled off. "You would have to place your trust in me," Castiel said. "You would have to trust me to restore you as your brother was restored." He paused to let that sink in, and then looked away again. "It also means that I would have to place my trust in you to an even greater extent. In perfect honesty, that is the most difficult part."

Heart pounding, Sam watched Castiel's profile. His face was as calm as it always was—except for the thinned lips and the slight tic pulsing under one eye. Sam stared at it for a moment, fascinated by this evidence that even angels got too exhausted to control their vessels' bodily motions. Then the implications of that sank in, and he sat back against the back of the pew, Castiel's hand falling away from him as he did so. "I think you'd better elaborate on that," he said sharply.

Castiel slowly nodded. Then he rose to his feet. "Come."

Sam followed him down the aisle past the rows of pews until they were standing in front of the altar. The angel was definitely putting out some kind of radiance now, throwing shadows across the walls in his wake. Being closer to the altar must offer some kind of extra power, he thought. Maybe it was like increasing the volume of white noise to muffle listening devices.

Despite the obvious display of power he was emitting, when Castiel folded his arms across his chest it looked more like a self-protective gesture than an attempt to look stern. Still, as Castiel drew himself up to his full height, Sam automatically slouched like he'd been doing around authority figures since he was sixteen. The tiniest of smiles quirked the corner of the angel's mouth before he spoke.

"There are no more than a dozen seals left," he began. "Lilith will have them broken in a matter of weeks. When she does, Lucifer will come forward onto the Earth. He will in turn bring forth any and all demons of his choosing and turn this place into a living Hell."

Sam pressed his lips together to keep back the Dean-like comment that sprang to mind: Thanks for the recap, Cass, but we've seen the previous episodes. Instead he said, "I understand that."

"There is no point in attempting further defense," Castiel went on. "There are too many demons roaming the Earth, too many opportunities for them to succeed. It is only a matter of time before they do."

You mean you're giving up? Sam opened his mouth to shout, but then held himself back. No, he's telling you why things suck so hard that you should even be considering whatever this stupid plan is, he could hear Dean say, and so he clamped his jaw shut and nodded for Castiel to continue.

"So we must take the offensive." Castiel's shoulders shifted back slightly. "We must control the time and the place where battle is joined and use the weapons we have to our advantage."

This time he couldn't control the sarcasm. "Could you maybe be a little more vague?" Sam snapped. "Because right now, I don't have a clue what you're talking about."

He got a warning glare in response. "If we summon Lucifer ourselves and destroy him, the battle is won. Is that specific enough for you?"

There was silence for a moment. Then Sam said slowly, "Why do I get the feeling that this isn't as straightforward as you make it sound?"

"There are some...complexities," Castiel admitted. "Lilith's goal is to bring Lucifer forth in his own form, not possessing a human in the manner that she does. If that happens, there is no power on Earth that can stop him."

Sam licked his dry lips. "But if he's summoned into a human vessel, he can be killed?"

Castiel gave a single nod.

"How?" Sam demanded.

"The same way any demon can be killed," the angel replied. "There are weapons you have encountered that will suffice if wielded properly, such as the gun or the knife."

Sam cocked his head to the side, slightly confused. "But not by..." He reached up and tapped two fingers to his temple.

"No." Castiel shook his head firmly. "No demon has the power to overcome the Prince of Darkness, and therefore no one with demon-derived abilities would fare any better."

Sam frowned. "Then what do you want from me?" Besides my death, he managed not to say.

Castiel drew in a deep breath, watching Sam closely as he spoke. "It is my belief that you have access to power within you that is strong enough to allow Lucifer to possess you without losing total control."

Sam drew his head back sharply. At first he was sure he must have misheard Castiel's words, but the grave expression on the other's face told him he had heard loud and clear. And as the angel's meaning sank in, he realized he'd never been so frightened of his supernatural powers in his entire life.

He swallowed hard and said the first thing that came to mind. "I, uh, I've been possessed before, and I didn't exactly have control of anything then."

"You were not then in full command of your abilities." Castiel shifted his weight from one foot to another. "If you open yourself up to them fully as you have never done—and you have been correct not to do so—this should be within the realm of possibility."

Sam let out a bark of a laugh. "It better be a hell of a lot more than 'within the realm of possibility', Cass. We're talking fucking Lucifer..." He trailed off, slightly shaking his head, barely able to comprehend what was being asked of him.

"I know it is a lot to ask of you." Castiel tilted his head slightly forward. "I would not if I thought there was another choice."

Sam looked back at him for a moment, reading the honesty that was practically coming off the angel in waves. "So I summon this demon, allow him to possess me, let you kill me and him, and then you bring me back to life?" He was proud that his voice cracked only once in that entire surreal sentence.

It occurred to him to wonder if anyone had ever been resurrected by both an angel and a demon. Bet there's not an entry for that in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Without waiting for a reply, he went on, "Well, I guess I can understand why you didn't want Dean here," as he gestured to the rest of the empty chapel with one arm. "Given what he's done in the past when I died."

Castiel lifted his head, and the power of his gaze was almost too much for Sam to look upon. "Dean has his own role to play," he said, and Sam's stomach dropped further with the dread of what could come next. The breath that Castiel heaved in didn't ease his worry. "The nature of the embodiment of Lucifer's soul within a human vessel means that he can only be killed by another human." His eyes spoke the rest of the answer.

"No!" Sam shook his head so hard that he felt his hair flying back and forth, a chill running down his spine that had nothing to do with the temperature in the chapel. "No, Dean would never do that. I don't care how much I told him to do it, even if he knew it would save the world, I don't think he could—could kill me."

"I know," the angel responded heavily. "And the demons that will likely be around you would be able to read his mind and therefore know his attack on you was part of a plan. Which is why he has to think you have succumbed to your powers and, as he would say, gone 'dark side'."

Sam staggered back a step as if Castiel's words had been a blow. When he opened his mouth, it was barely a whisper that issued forth. "And how am I supposed to make him think that?"

"I will guide you," Castiel replied swiftly. "You will have my assistance the entire time. You will not be alone, Sam." The reassurance of his steady gaze was lessened somewhat when he bit his lip, unfolding his arms to let his hands fall to his sides. "However, there are additional complications."

Briefly closing his eyes, Sam wished that this was all a bad dream induced by too much pizza and that he'd wake up in the motel room to hear Dean snoring softly in the other bed. He briefly wondered what would happen if he said no: would Castiel bring him back and wipe his mind clean? Bring him back and let him think about the consequences of his refusal when the seals were inevitably broken and Lucifer walked free?

He wasn't yet ready to admit to himself that there was no way he was going to say no.

"What else?" he asked quietly, straightening his shoulders as if to take another hit.

"It is a matter of timing," Castiel replied. "Lucifer can not be summoned until the sixty-six seals have been broken. Once that happens, there is a narrow window of time before he can appear on his own. It is in that window that we must act."

"You said that was likely to happen soon, right?" Sam asked. The way the angel's gaze flickered away from his made the knot in his stomach grow tighter. "No, wait," he said. "You said something about choosing the time and place of battle."

"That is correct," Castiel said with a nod.

Sam pressed his lips together. "So the best way to do that would be to break the remaining seals ourselves."

Another nod in response, and Sam started to feel queasy. "But—the demons are still out there too. What if they break the final one and we don't know about it?"

"We have to act quickly," Castiel replied. "And...openly."

He really didn't like the sound of that. And then it meshed with the earlier part of the plan, the part about Dean thinking he'd turned traitor, and he really did think he was going to throw up.

Then something else clicked into place, and he leaned slightly forward. "A moment ago, you said you would have to trust me." Sam nodded sideways at the empty pews where they had been sitting. "Did you mean to keep control of things when...?" Somehow he couldn't bring himself to say when Lucifer is possessing me, because that phrase was beyond ludicrous.

Down at his sides, Castiel's fingers momentarily flexed. He cleared his throat and said, "It is my expectation that when you take on all of the power that is in your blood, it will...attract others. They will expect you to be in command, and they will want an indication thereof." His hands curled into fists. "It should suffice for this purpose for you to be holding me as your prisoner."

Sam's sharp intake of breath collided with the lump in the back of his throat, sending him into a coughing fit that had him doubling over, pressing his hand to his chest. Dimly, he heard Castiel step forward and place a hand on his back, and the pain of the coughing eased somewhat. But the pain of the nerves in his gut didn't diminish at all.

"You want what?" he gasped out, his breaths coming irregularly as the coughing ceased.

"I told that I would be with you," Castiel replied, the weight of his hand warm and reassuring. "Unfortunately, the only way that can happen is if I appear to be under your power."

Sam stood up abruptly, throwing off the angel's hand and whirling to look him in the eye. "Let me get this straight," he said, forcing his voice to sound angry instead of scared. "You've been threatening me for seven months not to use these powers of mine. You brought my brother back from Hell to keep me from using them. And now you're telling me to go ahead and give in to them because I might be strong enough to overpower Lucifer in my own body while keeping you prisoner?"

Castiel cocked his head to the side. "I would not be asking if I had doubts as to your strength."

Sam stared at him, his heart pounding loudly enough that he could hear it, his breaths uneven and harsh. When he spoke, it was so quiet it was almost a whisper, but it still echoed off the stone walls around them. "But if I fail, it's the end of the world," he said, his voice trembling. "Castiel, how—how can you ask me to do that?"

"Because of what is at stake," came the grim reply. Before Sam could step back, the angel's hand was moving upwards, two fingers extended.

When they reach Sam's forehead, the world shuts off.

At first, all he sees is darkness. It's the sounds that register first: a rustling noise at the edge of his hearing that instantly raises his hackles, followed by a far-off shriek. Then the shrieks grow louder and the light gets a little brighter, or maybe his eyes are getting used to the garnet-red darkness.

And then the pain hits, and he can't believe he didn't notice that first, given how all-encompassing it suddenly is. He looks down and sees hooks embedded in his skin, connected to chains that stretch his body taut above an endless yawning chasm. Something's not right (no shit, really? he thinks), but it takes a moment to recognize that the body he's looking at isn't his. It's shorter, more compact, with freckles in places that Sam doesn't have—

But that Dean does.

And then the void below him is gone, but he's strapped to a metal rack, limbs stretched to their fullest extent, and terror is beating in his chest instead of the heart he no longer has. There are knives coming at him from multiple sides, and it occurs to him to wonder how he can be feeling the sharp slice of a blade from so many directions at once when he has to be lying on something, but then he realizes where he is and that the laws of physics probably don't apply here the same way they do on the surface.

He feels the tiniest moment of triumph at telling off Alastair at the end of the day, but as he experiences each day, all of them in fast-forward, blurred together into one long nightmare, that triumph grows smaller. And eventually, even though Sam knows it's coming—because he knows how this story ends—he still can't hold back tears at the whispered "Yes" that leads to the cessation of thirty years of pain and the breaking of a spirit that goes along with it.

Then he tries to close his eyes, but the rules of the vision don't change just because he's the one wielding the knife now. Thirty years of torture give a soul a lot of ideas, and it takes five fast-forwarded years before he sees the hands in front of him try something new. Sam is not yet past the horror of that when there's a blinding light, a burning pain in his shoulder that's somehow different from the fires of the pit, and then there's darkness and the scents of pine wood and earth all around him.

He jerked back violently, and the images shut off like a switch.

Instead of fire, he saw the cool stone walls and the soft colors of the stained glass lit by the first rays of dawn. All he heard was the wind rustling the trees outside, and the sweet scent of early lilacs in a white vase on the altar was almost enough to chase away the remembered stench of burning flesh and blood.

In front of him, Castiel was lowering his hand to his side, watching him carefully.

Sam cleared his throat, surprised not to find it raw from screaming. "You had no right to do that," was the first thing out of his mouth, the words slightly unsteady. "Dean wouldn't—he doesn't want me to know the details."

Castiel bobbed his head slightly. "I know," he replied, regret coloring his voice. "But you wanted to know how I can ask you to take on this burden. I am sure you have a vivid imagination, Sam, but what you saw is real. What you saw will happen not only to Dean and yourself, but to everyone you know and everyone you've ever met, and there will be no escape for them, even in death, if we do not do this."

Only the very strong desire not to desecrate the altar kept Sam from dropping to his knees and puking. How could he possibly refuse to do everything he could to keep that from happening? As abhorrent as the thought was of making Dean think he had gone dark side, as dangerous as this whole plan was, he could do it if it meant keeping his brother's nightmare from coming to pass for all humankind.

Sam bit his lip. "I've wanted so badly to be able to make something good out of this," he said softly, running his thumb over his upturned wrist and the blue-purple veins visible beneath his skin. He raised his head to look at Castiel. "You really think I can do this?"

"I do." Castiel reached out and laid a hand on the altar, which flared to life with the same gentle glow that the angel was giving off. "And I am not the only one."

Sam followed his gaze upwards to see the first rays of the sunrise shining through the windows, illuminating the image of God watching over the Madonna and newborn Jesus. It might have been a trick of the light, but the eyes of the bearded figure seemed to be looking straight at him with an approving expression.

And then the image gave a single nod.

Sam drew in a sharp breath and looked at Castiel. "Did you do that?" he asked cautiously.

The angel shook his head. "I am not the only one," he repeated, his gaze intense.

Sam stared at him for a moment before warily looking back at the window. It looked perfectly normal now, but he knew what he'd seen.

Dude, talk about a sign from God, he could hear Dean say.

He had a million questions to ask, a million terrified what-ifs to address and a million ways that it could go wrong. But the miracle before his eyes and the voice of his brother in his ear were weaving themselves together around his heart like an impregnable suit of armor, lending him confidence and urgency and strength.

So Sam stood tall with his shoulders back and his head high, little knowing that in the days ahead, it was only by holding onto that image of armor around him that he would be able to keep his sanity intact.

"Okay," he said to Castiel, drawing in a deep breath. "Let's do this."


The next chapter is here.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 7th, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: talk about a sign
to hell and back again

Yeah, pretty much. Both in the vision and in the story, you could say. Glad you liked it!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 7th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Go Sammy! Knew you haven't gone darkside.

Absolutely. Though it was darn hard figuring out how to have him fake it.

Love your icon!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )