Disclaimer: Supernatural is owned by a bunch of heartless network suits who won't promote the show.
Summary: What if the best way to save your brother was to leave him?
Acknowledgements: To everybody I splooged on about this fic, thanks for putting up with me. Er, so much for my hiatus.
Notes: If demons really are the way demonologists paint them, they're kind of incredibly lame.
He thought “There must be some mistake, this can’t be right.” Because there was only Ruby. Nobody yet had come to stand behind his tattered and half-heartedly raised banner. But the weeks passed, the layer of sand at the top of the hour glass grew thin, and they came.
Dean’s eyes darkened, and he was prone to prolonged silence, but they came.
“Mere peons,” Ruby tossed out, lips written in disdain, and Sam sighed and felt the earth shift beneath his feet.
It started when they were trying to find a girl who’d gone missing. Ruby said they needed her, that she was descent from a long line of wardmakers, and Sam who wasn't ready needed any edge she could provide. When they tracked her down a fire had destroyed all of her house, but for the kitchen. At least seven different spells were working to keep it standing, maybe something was still there, something they needed.
Sam accidentally brushed the wall with his shoulder as he walked down the burnt husk of a hallway, and suddenly the floor dropped out and a vision in Imax was playing before his eyes. A blonde girl doused her own house in gas, hands shaking and tears running down her face. She didn’t have enough time to take down the wards, hopefully just enough would burn. She took off for her car, if she just went fast enough, she could get away.
The girl, Olivia Booker, was dead, speared through by the grape stake of her own garden fence. Sam knew without looking the exact place in the yard.
“Sam?” Dean called, footsteps echoing and creaking off the charred floorboards.
“We can leave,” Sam said, pulling out of his slump against the wall. “She’s no use now.”
Dean went to argue, lips tight, but Sam shook his head, palm over his roiling stomach. They didn’t have time to waste on her. He could see the road opening up before him, the first few steps he would have to take. She, dead or alive, was not on it. This battle made monsters of them all.
They walked back to the Impala in silence, and for everything that Sam touched, he saw. When Ruby came to them next, she knew, and she laughed. “Finally, finally you can be of some use!”
Sam winced and didn't look when Dean went out to wash the car for the fourth time in a week.
He remembered reading Johannes Weir when he’d just gotten out of fourth grade. Dad had dumped them off in Blue Earth for the summer, and Sam was looking through every creepy-looking book Pastor Jim had. He’d skipped past the Malleus Maleficarum and Goetia, before settling on Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. It was a heavy book, old even if it wasn’t an original pressing, and Sam hefted it over to sit beside Pastor Jim. He’d gone through the list of demons, and looked up at Jim. “This guy was making it up.”
“How do you know that, Sam?” Jim replied, distracted, paging through notes like he’d lost something. Sam sighed.
“He just found their names like playing Bingo.” He pushed the book forward at Jim. "Didn't even have the imagination for good lies."
"Sam, tone,” Jim warned automatically.
“Head of a lion, body of a donkey, this one has thirty legions, that one has six and twenty--six and twenty what does that even mean?—he was just coming up with stuff. It's lame.”
“What do you expect demons to be like?” the faint air of humoring somebody had colored Jim’s tone.
“More than a pale sum of attributes,” Sam’s voice had grown hard, older, not quite himself. “This is not who they are.”
Finally, Pastor Jim looked up.
The day that Ascaroth walked into the middle of a hunt, blasted two spirits to nothingness, and settled on the hood of the Impala, was the day that Sam understood inevitability.
“Who are you?” he asked, weapon reflexively leveled upon the small demon.
“I think you already know,” he replied, eyes shining with unnatural light.
“No we don’t, motherfucker, now get off my car!” Dean snarled and shot a consecrated round above its head.
Ascaroth didn’t flinch, but he levered himself off the hood and shot Dean a bland look. “You aren’t going to win this without me.”
“There is nothing to win,” Sam turned away, gun arm dropping to his side.
“Always an isolationist,” Ascaroth laughed bitterly. “How does that work for you? It’s like the Allies begging help us, we can’t do it alone, and you, almighty youthful America saying, how can I? I don’t even see a problem.”
Sam swallowed. Dean raised an outraged brow at him, but he wouldn’t step forward, he wouldn’t cast his vote without Sam telling him how, not after Ruby.
“I was there then, you know, in Normandy?” Ascaroth kicked at the gravel, eyes far away. “I will wait, until you need me, and you will need me, for the just cannot resist the siren call of a righteous war.”
There was a question in Dean’s eyes when Ascaroth vanished, but how could Sam tell him that now when they appeared before him, he knew them by name, like they were the long lost playmates of a distant youth.
Ascaroth, demon and seducer of spies and informers.
He dreamed of terrible things when he slept, legions marching against each other, burning everything in their path. He dreamt of a choice he couldn’t make, torn asunder, a war within himself.
They begged him, both sides, to make his choice, to end it. And he said no, over and over again. Until she came. Snakes twined around her arms and she was naked but for the ginger fall of her hair.
Do you love me? she asked, standing before him. And he nodded, tears burning out of his eyes. Then you will do this.
But he couldn’t.
Sam awoke breathing hard, sweat pouring down his skin. Dean was still asleep in the bed next to him, breathing deep and steady. Sam took a few steadying gulps of air and then found his running shoes.
It was easy to forget a world bathed in ash when all he could think of was the burn of his thighs and the pounding of his heart.
They were in Pennsylvania, looking at a map marked with cattle mutilations that Ascaroth had provided. Dean sat at his left hand, his proud fearless dying Gabriel, and Ruby prowled around the table. She talked of plans, plans, plans, nothing but plans. Dean would have none of it.
“I can’t listen to this, Sam,” Dean said, shoving his half-eaten plate of food away.
Dean couldn’t say it, he couldn’t breathe it, but he thought it. You are sleeping with the enemy.
“Forget what you know about hell,” a voice said from the doorway. They turned. Ash leaned against the doorjam, dressed unexpectedly in an expensive leather jacket, his hair cut neat. The lights flickered and the shadows grew longer. There was an oily black film over Ash’s formerly bloodshot eyes.
Dean looked down at his palms, and then back to Ash, quick enough that Sam almost missed it. “Did you sell your soul for the computer, Ash?” It was a feeble joke and Ruby scoffed with derision.
“That’s not Ash,” Sam said, getting to his feet.
Not-Ash grinned, sharp eye-teeth gleaming as he drawled sarcastically, “My my, you are sharp.”
“How did you get that body?” Sam paused, “Tenebrion.”
Tenebrion inclined his head, ceding Sam the point. “I walked it out of the burning building I was sent to destroy.”
Dean jerked, stood so fast, his chair hit the floor with a bang. “He’s still alive,” and he reached for the rosary beads Sam knew he now kept in his pocket. Sam reached out and gripped his forearm.
“No, Dean,” he said, softly, and felt the last cogs whirr into place, the world suddenly become clearer. Tenebrion, Ash, Not-Ash bowed his head, and Dean backed away from him.
He had lost him.
The ranks came together like a gathering storm. Always staying close. They weren’t deterred by Sam’s refusal to spearhead their fight. Somewhere, while Sam wasn't watching, Dean had become resigned. Sam felt sick with it every day, losing weight and sleep to stress and fear that never left. There was nothing to be done. The demons were patient, but only up to a point.
And then Gusion appeared. His name was scrawled across Sam’s brain, and on his tongue. More of a force than any who had come before. “Will you come with us?” he asked, but it was not really a question.
And maybe Dean had the energy to resist, but the only thing Sam wanted anymore was to break him free of the contract, and he knew they had the answer. They followed Gusion’s stolen car to a rickety mansion at the side of town like they were following a friend back to his place.
They found Ruby already waiting on the steps with the windows blazing with light.
Sam felt part of a well-oiled machine. There were so many helping hands, books, computers—everything at his beck and call. Slowly, even as he resisted, he found himself sliding into his position at the head of it all. It was easy, perilously so. All this, he could direct, exert some measure of control.
So he took his place in the dining room, head of the table, stiff-backed chair a throne from which he could watch the world. Dean stayed with him, a few chairs down, pretended to research, but always he watched the other demons as they walked in and out of the room, marking coordinates down on maps and delivering Sam much-needed information.
Dean startled when Tenebrion pulled out Ash’s behemoth laptop and set up next to Sam.
Sam watched the exchange out of the corner of his eye, pretending to focus on the list of ancient texts that Ruby insisted he needed to know.
Tenebrion tapped his temple. “He is still here.”
Dean shuddered. “Why would you do that to him?”
Tenebrion started typing. “It was the only way I could save him.”
Sam looked up, but he was unable to meet Dean's gaze. “You fell in love.”
He asked them all, “Who holds his contract?”
And every one, eyes flashing over to blackness, shook their heads.
Finally, it was Bifrons that stepped forward, an all to human blown-out breath accompanying her question. "How is it you still don't know?"
The other demons shifted and looked afraid at her audacity.
"Know what?" Sam asked, bitter and exhausted and ready for some answers that didn't come at the end of a barb.
"The contingency plan," she said, face severe.
"I don't understand."
“Yes, you do,” Bifrons put her hands on her hips, faced him down. “You would not pull the sword from the stone, and Azazel was running out of ideas. Dean was his leverage.”
Sam was taken aback.
Azazel could’ve stopped the Crossroad’s Demon from going to Dean. It would’ve been in his best interest, he had to know that Dean wouldn’t stop until Azazel was destroyed. It was a gamble, a costly one, but he had played the board well. He’d had to kill Sam to set the skewer in motion, but it was Dean who put him in check.
“Take your place, Sam,” she said, “and he will be spared.”
“There must be some other way, if what you say is true than whoever holds the contract must be on our side.”
The assembled demons shook their heads.
“We are glad to help you in your hunts, to follow as you direct,” Bifrons said softly, approaching him slowly, her motherly tone so improbable with her dirty sneakers and smudged t-shirt. “After all, we are not asking you to take on God,” her voice was tight around the word, spat out of her mouth like it did not want to go.
“He won't forgive me,” Sam said, sinking to the floor, head bowed.
Dantalion, one of the latest demons to join their ranks, shoved through the crowd, bowing to Sam almost mockingly. “You see us for who we are, and yet you do not see yourself, Samael, holy once, but fallen just like us, for love of your brother.”
He’d been naming them, each of them as they stepped through his door, but he had never named himself.
He packed his stuff up, went by Dean’s attic room. He'd chosen it to be as far away from the rest of them. He was sleeping, snoring softly. Even in sleep he looked troubled. They would have to clear out quietly, because Dean would notice the sudden emptiness of the house and Sam knew he’d sooner go to hell than let his baby brother leave him behind.
Now Ruby stood at his left hand. The other demons looked at her and shook their heads. “Who are you, little human?” they asked, shoving her around. “You were not of the host.”
She fought back, knife blade singing free, until they had to step away and leave their rancor aside.
“I was first—I believed in him first," she said fiercely, eyes darting from person to person, daring them to test her.
And Sam looked away, listless. He felt less and less like himself every day.
“Is he looking for me?” he asked Gusion, ignoring the fight happening beside him. The demons all paused in their work, expressions freezing. They didn’t have to ask who he meant.
Gusion waited before saying, “No.”
It was harder than walking off into the night and leaving him behind. But on some level he’d known. This had been too much to ask.
The fighting finally began on the dried up inland sea of Death Valley. Lilith’s army was silent, efficient, deadly, but Lilith was not there.
They lost Ruby that day, completely destroyed by the scourge of Aim. The body she’d inhabited was torn to shreds while Aim laughed at the expression on Sam’s face. She'd been the first, as she was so oft to remind everybody, if not the greatest.
Before he knew what was happening, the ground started thundering under his feet and rocks fell down the dead mountains. His anger was enormous. The air was thick with dust and unholy screaming. When it cleared his own force was assembled around him, kneeling, faces rapt in wonder.
Lilith’s army was gone, swept away.
In the second year after Sam left Dean a second time, he was caught out alone going to the convenience store for milk. Bifrons didn’t like to let him go anywhere without at least two demons for bodyguards, but he’d escaped her. He needed whatever solitude he could tear away for himself.
Now he regretted it. He had not been able to make the earth move since that first battle, and for all that he capable of, he could not stand alone against five Princes of Hell who wanted to rip his intestines out through his throat.
It was only with the timely arrival of two neutral players, Oriax and Decarabia that he escaped.
“So, this is how you clothe yourself these days, Samael?” Oriax said, stepping carefully over the spilled guts of the demon Allocer’s dead human form. There was blood coated thick and crimson up and down her arms.
Sam sighed. “Not by choice.”
Decarabia watched the sky, a hawk was circling tightly overhead, avoiding the spires of the tall buildings. “We know.”
Oriax stepped closer, hoping to make him flinch. But Sam had spent almost two years solely in the company of demons, there was little left to be squeamish about. “Let me tell you a story," she said.
"Don't bother," he replied, weary.
"Oh you'll like this one. Everybody likes a story about themselves. Elohim did not like your loyalty to Lucifer and to Lilith, he desired everyone’s love above all else. But he was always fair and he could not cast you down, because you had not raised against him. Instead he condemned you to earth, to live out a million lives without rest.”
“Yes, I know this story too." Decarabia added. "Real fucking bore. But then you never do change. Azazel must've spent centuries looking for you, and he probably didn’t even know he had you until you refused to fight. I bet the the lights went on then, same old Samael."
The hawk plummeted out of the sky to land on his arm, and Decarabia stared at him in challenge.
Sam crossed his arms. “Why are you here?”
“I thought they were fools when they sought you out, pledged their names to yours,” Oriax licked a blood-slick fingertip. “Why should we fight for you, when you wouldn’t fight for us?”
Sam shrugged. They didn't know his reasons. They wouldn’t understand that Dean was enough of one. That being human, not just wearing one like an outfit, had made this entire concept difficult to stomach.
So he turned and walked away from them. He didn’t expect anything of them, but they were hard on his heels when he made it to the mouth of the alley.
Lilith came to him in the guise of a child, her eyes bleached eerily white. Sam inclined his head to her. He could see the woman with ginger hair hiding behind the mask of her young face.
“I hate you,” she growled, nearly giving in to the child’s instincts to stamp.
Sam pursed his lips. “I suspected as much.”
Her forces were depleted, more and more demons rallied to him, losing heart after her continuous crushing defeat. Lilith wanted to win, but Sam had to win.
“Will you challenge me then, Lilith?”
They fought for two days, an open contest of will and power. Both sides circled around them watching, waiting for the final victor. She blew up half of Detroit, the city going up in smoke in an unearthly reminder of the race riots that had set the streets aflame decades ago. The demons had been there then, Sam was sure of it and he was dimly aware of breathing in the ashes of the incinerated flesh of innocents.
He'd had a reason, he remembered, for his pacifism, those many millenia ago. It was funny that he could know this, even if he didn't know who exactly he'd been.
“Oops, mistake,” Lilith said, bringing him back to the present. A three story building started to crumble in on itself, and the siren of the ambulances made the air dense with noise. Sam sighed, and even though it wasted precious effort, he had Mathim transport them all to the barren wasteland of the inhospitable Antarctic circle.
Lilith was vicious. She fought so hard that she destroyed the demons that stood too close, even her own. Sam found himself fighting two battles, one to protect himself, and one to protect the people who had claimed him for their own.
Had they come to that? Did he care for them now? He imagined he always had. He remembered the way Oriax had smiled and danced up in heaven before she chose the wrong side, the losing side, and Hell made her black and twisted. He remembered Gusion who always had a story for the little ones—and now couldn’t bear the sight of children.
Finally, finally just when Sam thought he couldn’t continue it any longer, Lilith collapsed, sobbing in anger. “How could you do this to me, Samael,” Sam looked down at her and didn’t know what to say. She gasped out, “I loved you, and I begged you, but always you said no, and what were you to God? Nothing!”
Sam bent over her, started, “Lilith—”
She thrust him back with the last of her strength. “I loved you, and you betrayed me for that boy! That human boy with the green eyes! I said I’d have my vengeance on you for that, but I forgot—ah, I forgot your brilliance.”
Her eyes closed, and she coughed twice before crumbling to dust. Sam sank to his feet, exhausted. Now that it was over, he wanted only to sleep and never wake up.
For another two years Sam wandered the States, remembering who he’d been. The severity of god. He’d been the Angel of Death once, before he’d set his eyes on Lilith and pitied her for her poor treatment at the hands of Adam. He’d been so full of love for God then that pity for all who did not know how he felt was all he had room for. He remembered how lost he'd become when he didn’t have that love to fuel him anymore, when he held back the arm of Abraham as he was about to butcher his own son and realized that he was little more than a plaything to his master. They all were.
But he felt that away again, after a millennia of lifetimes—for his brother. God had gotten his revenge.
Gusion gave him his ability to see all things in trade for Sam's prescience, but Sam always stopped short of looking in on Dean. He always thought he might go travel, go see Paris or London, and though Mathim offered to take him, he never went. He continued to nurse a desperate hope Dean would catch up with him.
He stood on the roof of a Skyscraper, staring down at the world passing by. He found he liked the artificiality of cities the best these days. Made him remember that man too, could build and create as well as God above.
“Stole that act from Batman didn’t you?” A voice called from behind him, almost tossed away on the wind. He’d heard the door creak open, but he’d merely thought it was Bifrons who’d caught up with him, come to beg him to go home and remember the fragility of his human body and how unlikely he was to get another one.
Sam turned his head, stepped down from the railing he was standing on. He'd know that voice anywhere, but it was still a punch to the gut to see the face that went with it again. “Hello, Dean.”
Dean leaned against the door, like he could stop Sam from leaving. The amulet was still there, prominent on his chest. “Detroit explodes, 250,000 people die, nobody knows why--nobody except me. Can you imagine how that feels?" he asks. Before Sam can answer he continues, "and then suddenly a series of corrupt politicians finally have their downfalls, in increasingly frightening and gristly fashion. I had no idea that was you at first and then laws started being passed against fossil fuels, but only after the entire oil and gas reserves of Qatar mysteriously dried up, crippling the economy and plunging nearly 2 million people into abject poverty. Pharmaceutical companies start making cheaper AIDS drugs after a series of fortune 500 executives find out they're HIV+ and it's leaked to the press. Universal healthcare legislation finally makes its way through, the trucking industry collapses, but the government starts this massive infrastructure project to make maglev trains go through every major city in every state, the US agrees to destroy its nuclear program, and prominent members of the Christian Right keep turning up dead in embarrassing situations.”
Sam laughed. “You couldn’t ask me to play nice all the time.”
Dean raised his brows. “Still, not very satanic, Sammy.”
“I suppose not.” Sam came to stand in front of him, but it was Dean who closed the space, sliding his arm around Sam’s waist. They kissed with the faint edge of blood and ash, smoke curling through their bodies. Sam drew Dean to the ground, twined his body around Dean’s. He felt full again.
Azazel had known them so well, because Samael, who would not compromise himself for anyone or anything--not even after his love of Elohim had been called into question--had thrown everything away the first time his eyes connected with Dean’s in a little crib in Lawrence, Kansas.