I have many comments to reply to, (and a 12-page paper to write for Wednesday...*nervous laugh*), but in the meantime I was inspired for a bit of wish-fulfilling, crazy...stuff. Enjoy?
I am not spoiled for 2x22, not even the promo (so please don't!), thus any similarities to actual future episodes are not only entirely coincidental but rather unlikely as well.
Sam, Dean. Gen. 4,803 words. SPOILERS FOR 2x21 (only). Warnings for, uh, adult language?
Sam wakes up in a supermarket. He blinks.
Actually, Sam's woken up in the cereal aisle, as best as he can tell from his position on the floor. The Count Chocula vampire leers down at Sam as he sits up. His shoulder aches something awful and the back of his shirt peels away from the linoleum like he's been lying in something sticky.
Great. Sam's really pretty tired of waking up in strange new places. Where the hell is he now?
"You didn't think it would be that easy, did you?"
Sam twists around, not really surprised to find the yellow-eyed demon standing behind him. The demon smiles at him. Rather incongruously, it's pushing a shopping cart full of lettuce and frozen pizzas.
"Where's Dean?" Sam blows out hard through his nose, swallows. "What is this, another test? Where's my brother?" He distinctly remembers kicking Jake's ass, then hearing Dean call his name. Andy's trick had worked after all, and Dean had come for him, like Sam knew he would.
Then, of course, the demon must have spirited him away again, and who knows if Dean had been left unscathed this time. Shit. Fear freezes Sam's gut. He should have left Dean out of it until he'd gotten everything figured out, not led Dean right into the line of fire.
The demon cocks its head to the side. "You don't remember? Oh, Sammy. I'm so disappointed. That scene between you and your brother, well, that was just downright touching." He gives the floor a significant look, a pleased sneer spreading across his face.
Sam looks down at the floor, sees a smear of red on the dirty linoleum where he'd been passed out. He recognizes it as blood pretty much immediately, then he realizes it must be his own blood, and thirdly, Sam notices that the stain is shaped kind of like Australia.
Sam's not sure if that last bit is quite as important as the first two, but it's what he chooses to focus on.
"What the hell happened?" he demands, and the demon smiles.
Someone comes tearing around the corner, nearly knocking over a display of Kleenex. It's Andy.
"Sam!" he calls out excitedly. "About time you got here. Come on, man, everyone's here. I tell ya, Ava is pissed."
Sam gapes. "Andy? You're dead."
Andy blinks at him, fidgeting nervously. "Um. Yeah? That's kind of the point."
The demon is outright laughing at Sam now, and Sam turns, slams the motherfucker up against the shelves of brightly-colored cereal boxes. The demon barely flinches, even though Sam's practically strangling him with his own polo shirt. Yellow eyes gleam fiercely at Sam under the florescent lighting.
"What's the last thing you remember, Sammy?" the demon taunts. "You remember your brother? You remember deciding not to kill the soldier, my little Jake? Do you remember turning your back on him?"
Sam lets go of the demon's collar, but when he takes a step back, the demon steps forward, peering into Sam's face.
"I'll remind you," it says. "Give you a play-by-play. Your brother, so relieved to see you that he's practically coming in his pants. You're his everything, Sammy. You're his brother. His conscience. His reason for living. You're the only thing standing between him and a bullet in the head."
Sam shakes his head. No.
"The two of you are running toward each other like you're in some open field of flowers, music building to a swell in the background. So happy to see each other. It almost put a tear in my eye." The demon sighs, casts its eyes up to the ceiling.
"Shut up," says Sam.
"Then Jake - he's my new favorite, did I tell ya? So full of that self-assurance, that knowledge that he's doing the right thing. I love that stuff. He has to take you out, Sam, Sam-the-man. He has just gotta. You wanna hear this next part, or do you get the idea?"
"Please," says Sam. He's on his knees now, and he doesn't quite remember how he got there. Sam can see a worried Andy standing behind the demon, pale and shaky with anxiety, but Andy's just waiting for the scene to play out, he's not interfering, and Sam wants to scream make him stop, please, don't let me remember. There's a blur at the corner of Sam's mind, a fuzzy recollection of what just happened to bring him here. He doesn't want to see it. God. He doesn't want to know.
The demon continues. "Little Jakey, he stabs you in the back. Quite literally. Guts you like a fish. Just drives that knife in you and twists, cuts you up inside real good. You shoulda heard the sound it made, Sammy. Shhnnccck. It was delicious. Your brother, now, he heard that sound real well, knew what it meant right away."
Sam closes his eyes. Dean.
"You fell into his arms, Sammy-boy. He started telling you everything was gonna be okay, lying to you, just like the good big brother he is. Lies to you all the time, don't he? He's telling you you're going to be fine, while your blood is covering his hands, your eyes are going dim, your lungs are filling up with blood. You're not going to be okay, Sammy. And Dean-o, well, he can smell it when you die. That stink of urine, he smells it, he smells your shit. You've seen what happens when someone dies, Sammy. You lose control of all those muscles and sphincters and your filth just comes pouring out. Disgusting."
Sam has his face in his hands. He can feel the knife embedded in his back, just a lingering phantom splitting his ribs. Nothing but blood on the back of his jacket, now, like it happened to someone else.
"Dean knows what it means, knows you're gone, but he won't let go of you even then. Covered in his dead brother's blood and waste, and he keeps clutching your empty carcass, sobbing like he's a boy of four again. Ain't that just ironic, Sammy?"
Sam's voice is a croak, unwilling. "Is he okay?"
"No," says the demon. "And you don't need me to tell you that. I'm counting on the boy for one last favor, though, any second now. Just as soon as he stops whimpering and clutching at your body. He can feel you getting cold, Sam, and he knows that it's no use. He'll put your corpse down, Sam, and he'll pick himself up like a good soldier. Any second -"
The air shimmers on Sam's left, and Jake appears, gasping and retching. His eyes are wide and his throat gapes open like a hideous smile, slashed open all the way to the bone. Blood covers the front of his fatigues. As Sam watches, the flesh of Jake's neck knits and heals, leaving only a faint red line.
"There." The demon stabs the air with a finger and grins at Sam triumphantly. "I knew I could count on your brother. Now, we're ready to begin."
Jake casts Sam a frightened look, and Sam can't make his face work. This man killed him. Now, Jake is dead, too, and Dean is...
Sam wonders if death even means anything if nothing ends. All it means is that he's left Dean alone, and that knowledge lays heavy in Sam's gut. He doesn't pretend to think that Dean will be okay. Not like this.
"I'm not playing," says Sam.
The demon tut-tuts. "That's not an option," he says. "This is the next layer of the competition, Sammy-dear. The gang's all here. Don't you want to hear what the real test is?"
Sam turns from the demon and starts walking toward Andy.
"Uh, Sam?" says Andy. Sam doesn't know what his face looks like, but from Andy's expression, it isn't good.
"Andy," says Sam. "We're going." He holds out his hand. Andy gives him a nervous glance, but takes it. His fingers are sweaty. "You said Ava was pissed?"
Andy's mouth twists. "Pissed as hell. She thought she was winning. Turns out she was just doing the big guy's dirty work."
"Where is she?"
"Freaking out over in the produce section." Andy stares at Sam. "What are you doing?"
"She had some good advice for me," says Sam. "I think I might take it."
"I think we're suffering from a breakdown in communication," the demon says. He's sounding annoyed. Good. "There's no way out of here. If you don't play, you lose."
Sam ignores him. "Who else is here, Andy?"
Andy blinks. "Uh. Lily. A couple of other guys. Max? And someone else. I don't know!"
"Perfect," says Sam. He stares back at the demon, doesn't take his eyes off of that slimy yellow-eyed son of a bitch even as he says, "Jake. You coming?"
Without waiting for an answer, Sam grips Andy's wrist tightly and steers him down the aisle. Andy casts anxious glances over their shoulder, but Sam looks back only once, to meet Jake's eyes.
Jake looks at Sam, looks at the demon, and follows.
The supermarket shudders in its foundations. Sam finds Ava, who says nothing, just stares at Sam with her mouth twisted into a grotesque smile. Her head sits crookedly on her neck, like she's got it cocked at an angle.
"I can get us out of this," says Sam.
"Why should I care?" says Ava.
"Your fiance is dead," Sam tells her. "And you've turned into a monster. Don't you want revenge?"
Ava's face twists. "You asshole," she says. "Are you mentally challenged? Of course I want revenge."
"Then stop working against us and work with us." Sam points toward the front of the store, where the glass windows show nothing but black. The check-out lines are empty. "I say we go that way. What do you say?"
Ava hesitates, then nods.
They find Max next, standing next to the cans of soup. His eyes are haunted and his blond hair is streaked with blood. He jumps when he sees Sam, like he's just had an electric shock.
"Hey," Sam says. He's not sure he can make his voice sound gentle when every fiber of him is filled with rage, but he tries his best. He tells Max that everything's going to be okay.
Sam's a good liar. Learned from the best.
Max joins them, hugging his arms to himself. He's silent.
Lily is hiding in the walk-in refrigerator with a guy that Sam recognizes as Scott, the kid that Gordon killed. They don't ask questions, they just fall into step with Sam and the rest, careful not to touch anyone. Lily's neck is bruised and there's blood caked at the edge of Scott's mouth.
"Is there anyone else here?" Sam asks.
"No," says Scott. He swallows convulsively. "This is everyone."
"This isn't everyone," says Ava.
Sam nods. Five months killing her own kind, Ava would know. "Well, it's everyone that's here now. We'll worry about the others later. Right now? We leave."
"That's really not a good idea," the demon says, stepping up by Sam's shoulder.
They all ignore it, except for Scott and Max, who stare at it with frightened eyes before dragging their gazes back to Sam's face.
"There's nothing out there," says the demon. His eyes flash. He's looking less and less human with every word. "If you leave this place, you're gone forever into the depths of fire and torment. It's not lollipops and sunshine, kids. If you stay, you serve by my side. Power and wealth beyond your imagination."
"Nice," Sam says mockingly. "Offering power and wealth, that's not clichéd at all."
"Where are we, anyway?" Lily asks Sam. Her voice trembles.
"Hell," says Sam.
The demon blinks at Sam. "Very astute, Sammy. And now you're going to lead everyone into eternal damnation. You want them to trust you? Why should they trust someone who wants to destroy them?"
"No," Sam says. "You see, I know how to get all of us out of here." Or at least Sam has a pretty good idea.
The demon presses his mouth into a thin line, narrows his eyes.
"Hell?" Ava squeaks. "How are you going to get us out of hell?"
Sam smiles. It's not a nice smile. He doesn't have any of those left. "You'll see."
The demon can't stop them. As soon as it realizes that, it disappears. Sam wonders idly if it's going for reinforcements or just trying to come up with another scheme.
They reach the doors to the outside-that-isn't-there. Sam tries the sliding doors, finds them locked, but Jake reaches out and yanks the deadbolt from the doors like it's a stick of butter. Max narrows his eyes at the doors and they come open with a whoosh.
"Good work," says Sam. They nod warily.
The blackness beyond the doorway, though, is more of a problem. The demon wasn't lying when he said there was nothing out there - when Sam sticks his hand into the black, it disappears up to the wrist. He pulls it back quickly, gives his fingers a quick, paranoid count, and wiggles his hand until the feeling starts to tingle back into his nerves.
Sam turns away and kicks a nearby shelf. He leans against it, head bowed, and takes deep breaths until he can think. They're counting on him. They all are. They're all counting on him to figure this out.
The bad part is, not only does Sam have no idea what he's doing, he's not really sure if he'd care if he got them killed.
Sam does care about Dean, though. Dean, who's still alive. Who might be a target for the demon that Sam's just royally pissed off. Dean, who Sam misses like hell, and Sam can't even imagine what Dean's going through right now.
He breathes, and thinks, and when Sam turns back, they're all circled around, waiting.
"Some people say that we make our own hell," Sam says. "Why don't we put that to the test. Andy?"
Andy steps forward, swallowing thickly.
"You can make people see things, right? So who's to say you can't make other things, too? Make us a hole."
"A hole to where?"
Sam shrugs. "Wherever. Just outside. The demon said that we were all in a new layer of the competition, right? Well, what if hell is made of layers, too?"
"What, like in Dante's Inferno?" says Lily.
"Something like that," Sam nods. "We can find our way through every layer, if we have to. Then we can get out."
They're all silent for a moment, like they can't decide if Sam is just making shit up or not.
"So, say we get out," Jake says finally. "Then what? I don't know if anyone's noticed, but everyone here is dead. How are we going to exist out there?"
Sam shakes his head. "I don't know. As ghosts, maybe? Zombies? Maybe we'll come back normal. Does it really matter, Jake? We're dead anyway. Better to be dead than be the demon's playthings."
"Great. You're just full of warm, fuzzy answers, aren't you," Ava says.
Andy glares at her. "He's gotten us this far."
"How is this far?" Ava yelps. "We're standing in front of a big pit of nothingness in, oh, did I mention it? Hell! How is this any better than where we were?"
"It's better," says Lily quietly. She reaches out and takes Scott's hand, interlacing their fingers. "Or at least, no worse. Being dead? At least I can touch people, now. Everybody's heart is already stopped."
Scott just nods, his eyes dark.
Jake gives Sam a considering look, then holds out his hand.
"I'm sorry, man," Jake says. He sounds sincere. "I shouldn't have done it."
"I can't forgive you," Sam tells him. But he takes Jake's hand, gives it a firm shake. If Jake notices that Sam practically yanks his hand back after a few seconds, he doesn't say anything.
"So are we doing this?" Andy asks. Andy's teeth are chattering a little from nervousness. Max steps in close behind him, stares at Sam with his sad eyes, doesn't say a word.
"We're doing this," says Sam.
Andy shakes his head. "Man, I need to be stoned right now." He closes his eyes.
Minutes pass. Nothing happens. A light in the back of the supermarket flickers, but otherwise there's no change.
"Um," Andy says sheepishly. "Help?"
Sam doesn't know how he knows to do it. He just thinks out, feels something click in his mind. He steps forward, puts a hand on Andy's shoulder.
"Try it now," Sam says, and he feels Andy reaching out, poking at the space in front of them. He weaves his mind around Andy's, and Sam opens.
A beam of light spills across the floor in front of them.
"Ha!" Andy crows. "There we go! Yes!"
Sam looks, and the darkness outside the sliding doors just peels back. It shows a parking lot at first, with a row of grocery carts, then the parking lot flickers and is replaced by an empty road. Then the empty road flickers and becomes a desert, with sand shifting in through the open doors.
A moment later, it becomes a garage, a filthy concrete floor. Then a bedroom, stained with smoke and fire. Then another bedroom, stained with blood. Sam takes a step back.
"Stop," Max says. His voice is quiet. "It's trying to listen to all of us. That won't work."
They all glance at each other, and Sam thinks hard at the outside: Stop. Show us what's really here.
In the blink of an eye, they're looking over a vast cavern filled with grotesquely bent bodies, the glint of metal and roiling clouds of smoke. Sam hears Lily gasp, hears Andy swear under his breath.
It takes a moment of staring at the scene - god, people everywhere are screaming and crying, there must be thousands of them - for Sam to realize what's going on.
"They're fighting," says Jake. "I'll be damned."
"Hell's at war," says Sam. "No wonder the demon needs us."
Ava leans out over the edge, holding on to the warped edge of the supermarket doors to steady herself. It's a long way down, and she peers at the distant battle. "But which side is which?" she asks. "What are we supposed to do?"
"It's not our problem," says Sam. "If hell's fighting amongst itself, all the better for us."
"He's right," says Jake. "Evil killing evil? I don't exactly have a problem with that."
"Well, that's easy for you to say." Ava gives him a look. "Hello? Evil, here! And like it or not, you guys are just like me."
"I'm nothing like you." Sam clenches his jaw. "If you're not going to help us -"
"Can we throw her over?" says Andy. "I vote we throw her over."
"You got my vote," Jake says. He flexes his fists.
Lily shifts uncomfortably, and Scott squeezes her hand and moves closer to her side. Max just watches, pale as a ghost.
"We're not throwing her over," says Sam. He has to admit the thought is tempting.
Ava rolls her eyes at all of them. "Uh. It doesn't matter, does it? There's no other way out. We have to jump."
Sam swallows. "Oh." He hadn't really thought that far.
Ava heaves a sigh. "Screw this, you guys."
She takes a step backward and topples from sight. Sam leans over just in time to see her tumbling toward the battle below, watches until her body disappears into the crowd. From up here, Sam can't distinguish one body from another, just sees a mass of metal and flesh and fire, hears the constant screams and the clash of swords and chains.
"Is she dead?" asks Lily, her voice quavering.
"No more than the rest of us," Sam says. He stares for a moment longer at where he lost sight of Ava, then he moves onto the ledge made by the doors. "I'm going in."
There's no way out but through. And Sam needs out.
"Wait, what do the rest of us do?" blurts Scott. "We just jump and hope for the best?"
Sam points across the cavern at one of the small firelit tunnels poked into the cavern walls. "Meet me there. Then we'll figure out what we're doing next."
"You're crazy," says Lily.
Sam gives her a wan smile, then turns to Andy.
"Andy, can you do one last thing for me?"
Andy nods. "Sure. What do you need?"
"Can you put another image in my brother's head?" Sam asks. He doesn't know if Andy's powers will work from the afterlife, but maybe they will. It's worth a shot. "Just so he knows what's going on. So he knows I'm okay."
Andy gives him a careful look. "Are you okay?"
No, thinks Sam, but he says: "Hell's not so bad. You know? It's just the humidity that gets you. And the big crowds of angry demons with swords."
Andy huffs a little laugh, then offers Sam his hand. Sam clasps Andy's forearm, pulls him in and gives him a tight hug.
"Thanks, Andy," Sam says. He nods at the others, wonders how many of them will actually make it across the battlefield to meet him on the other side. Then again, he wonders if he will.
"Good luck," says Jake, and Sam feels the ache of the knife in his back, hears Dean's desperate yell, and wants to laugh.
Instead, Sam steps off the edge.
Sam hits the ground with a thump. He just fell hundreds of feet, but he doesn't die. It doesn't even hurt.
The big muddy boot headed at his face, though, that might hurt. He twists to the side, barely managing to avoid getting his head stomped. There are feet all around him, and other bodies lying still and lifeless underfoot, both those that look human and those that definitely aren't. They're all demons.
Sam struggles to his feet just in time to almost get disemboweled by someone flinging a mace. He jumps to the side, avoids a sword headed straight for his neck, and thinks that maybe this wasn't such a great idea, after all.
Most of the fighters are ignoring him, Sam realizes. He's just in the way of their weapons. For a moment, he wonders if it would just be easier to crawl on the ground - that way he'd only have to avoid stomping feet.
Just then, a fighter grabs Sam's arms and twists them behind his back. Sam lets out a hiss and slams his head back, catching the guy in the face. The fighter lets out a grunt of pain but doesn't let go of him, and Sam's just about to stomp the guy's instep when he realizes that the grunt of pain sounded familiar.
Sam stops struggling. "Dad?"
No way. No fucking way.
The arms let go of him, and Sam turns around and flings himself at his father. He breathes in the smell of his father's sweat. His hands scrabble at the slick leather of his dad's... armor?
John hugs him back fiercely for a moment, then draws away, grabbing Sam's hand and drawing him behind cover. There's a big covered wagon nearby that's laden with weapons, and John shoves Sam into it.
The battle is somewhat muted by the canvas sides of the wagon, and Sam takes the opportunity to look at his father. John's face is worn and scarred, and one side of his face is covered in blood. He's dressed in armor made of black leather and iron plates, making his shoulders seem even wider than they always were, like he's some fierce medieval knight. It suits him.
John's brow is furrowed in anger, but he's smiling despite his words: "Sammy? What the hell are you doing here?"
Sam grins, can't help himself. His father is yelling at him. Next to Dean, this is home. Home, in the middle of Hell.
"Got stabbed in the back, Dad. Died."
"You were stabbed?" John's eyes crinkle at the corners. "You turned your back on an opponent? Did I teach you nothing?"
"You taught me a lot," says Sam softly. And then, he has to add: "You also have a lot of explaining to do. I need answers."
John nods, his face serious. "I know, son. You'll get them."
Sam leans forward. "And Dean - Dean's still out there, Dad. I have to get back. The demon -"
"Is a cowardly son of a bitch," John finishes. "Don't worry about the demon. I've got a few words to say to the bastard, myself. We'll get this figured out."
He pauses. "But maybe we should clean up this lil' barfight first, what do you say?" And with that, John presses a sword into Sam's hands and closes Sam's fingers around the handle.
Sam stares at the blade, long and wickedly curved. There are nicks in the edge, like it's been used to hack through bone.
"You'll have the hang of it in no time," says John.
"Which side are we on?" Sam hefts the sword, looks at his father again, finding it hard to believe he's really there.
John laughs deep in his throat. "Any side, kiddo. Let's kick some demon ass."
Sam nods. Sounds like a plan.
Dean's hands are covered in blood. Bobby is a silent presence at his side, helping Dean drag the corpses from the ramshackle buildings and lay them in the middle of the abandoned street.
Dean recognizes a couple of them. A surprised-looking Andy with his guts torn out. A girl he recognizes as Ava with a snapped neck. There's another girl, too, a pretty girl with blonde hair and her head lolling at a weird angle.
And then, the guy Dean killed. Dean doesn't even know his name. Probably won't ever know why, except that the whole town reeks of the demon. No other reason for all the psychic kids to be in one place. No other reason for all of them to be dead.
"You want me to do this?" Bobby asks. It sounds like he may've been asking for a while.
Dean shakes his head. He tosses the match on the pile of bodies, watches the flames go up. There are no answers here. Just the end of everything.
Dean turns away, goes over to Sam's body, stretched out cold and still and silent. Dean didn't want to burn him with the others. He and Bobby will carry the body back to the Impala, build a pyre for Sam somewhere scenic. Dean will take his ashes back to Lawrence. Sam would have liked that.
Sam's eyes are closed. His skin is grey. His lips are stained brown with dried blood. Dean's never seen Sam so still.
Dean keeps looking, keeps looking, starts thinking about his gun, his gun that Bobby took from him, saying, Don't you dare do anything stupid on my watch, boy. Dean feels like being stupid. Dean feels like not feeling anything anymore.
Dean drops to his knees, reaches out to touch Sam's face.
He expects the cold, dead feel of Sam's skin. He expects the feeling to send a shudder of pain through him, the pain of loss and disbelief and fucking up and being alone, god, he got Sammy killed.
What Dean doesn't expect is for the pain to shoot up his arm like a bolt of electricity, zap into his brain and send him crumpling onto the dirt road in agony. His head --
He hears Bobby calling after him, but Dean recognizes this feeling, recognizes it from earlier that day, and that's impossible, there's no way -
White fades in flashes behind his eyelids. Dean sees one image after another, like some demented View-Master - yellow eyes, pale white linoleum, a splash of blood, a pit full of darkness and fire - Sam's face, Sam's face -- and, what, a grocery store? -
Then it's all gone, and Dean's left coughing up tears and bile, trying not to die from the feeling of his brain melting and coming out his ears. Bobby's hands are steady on Dean's shoulders, and Bobby's saying, You're gonna be okay, Dean, just breathe.
Liar. Dean's not gonna be okay.
But he breathes, and he thinks, and the images slowly trickle back into his mind. Dean turns them over, tries to make sense of them.
Sam is dead. Dean only has to open his eyes and look to see that Sam is dead.
"Bobby," Dean says, and the word burns his throat. Dean's hands are covered in blood, and he rubs them against his jeans, smearing rusty stains all over the denim.
"Bobby, what do you know about hell?"