Title: Falling Further
Pairing: Dean/Sam (minor)
Warnings: brief mention of suicide ideation.
Notes: written forthe_green_bird for spnj2xmas. I used your likes for ‘boyking Sam’ and ‘soulmates’ and I hope you enjoy!
Summary: Dean starts hallucinating where this will inevitably end while Sam works to save him. Set post 09x10 so spoilers for the hiatus episode.
There's a string that unfolds from his body and Dean follows it, gathers in handful after handful of the stuff winding it around his wrist for the lack of anywhere else to put it. It's silvery thin, just visible against his fingers if he really squints, and as far as he can tell it stretches into the darkness. If he had any other choice he'd let it fall, but there's no other way out as far as he can tell so he follows it, one foot after the other.
At the end there's hell.
It's almost a relief, because hell at least is familiar. He's sure now he's dead though he can't remember a reaper, can't remember the inevitable meeting with Death, and he walks forward still, follows the string past the endless racks, closes his eyes and mouth and tries not to breath, as still he follows the thread. It's not a test - nothing accosts him or speaks to him, there are no riddles to guess or fights to win. There are souls on the rack though he tries not to look, they're not recognisable as anything human not anymore, but they're still closer to it than he is. The Mark burns on his arm, itches - he has more in common with the demons who bend over their work dutifully than he does their victims now. Really in essentials not much has changed since the last time he was here.
His left arm is silvery now with the thread wound round it, gleaming dully in the red flickering fires, and it burns as sharply as the Mark of Cain, begins to wriggle and bury itself under his skin, red lines opening and closing to absorb it and still it leads onwards to an ante-chamber, a grotesquerie that Dean has seen before, sees still in his nightmares. It's a little different now, there's a throne, and a man sitting on the steps to it, face turned away as though that could ever stop Dean from knowing him. It's always Sam.
Dean continues, gathers up a little more of the thread and gives it a tug. Sam turns slowly towards him and Dean's right, the thread ends in Sam's chest. His brother looks at him across the space left between them. "I did it for you," he says slowly and without hope. The shock is enough to wake Dean up.
The bunker is dark and silent when he wakes and pads out of his room, has been for days. Sam's given up talking about it, mouth pressed in a thin bitter line, and Dean's face still burns from where Sam had touched him, sharp uneasy prickle beneath his skin as though it'd left a Mark of its own. Even if they were on speaking terms that didn't consist of research and all the unsaid horror of what he'd done, Dean would be reluctant to bring up a bad dream. What would he say? I dreamt you walked into hell and took the crown, I dreamt that all things ended in you. Sam would scoff or worse he'd believe it, take refuge in that grim self-hate that dogged him, the endless realisation of sin staining his hands given ammunition by Dean’s words.
Dean doesn't even know if he doesn't believe it himself - Dean has visions now it seems. Saw himself kill and kill until there was blood in his mouth and blood on his hands and the Mark was sated, and it came true. So much for forewarning being forearming.
The thought is ridiculous but not as much as he'd like. When pushed they both do stupid things, dangerous things, and though he can't imagine Sam doing that, doesn't mean that it can't happen. There's limits to the imagination that there aren't it seems to reality. He looks at his arm, smooth and blank and bare of either silver string or red scarred lines, the same tan it always is.
So he lies where he is and stares at the ceiling, counts off the innumerable seconds as they spool away, each one of them a second he's still almost human.
The next time he dreams it, he's still awake. Sam's hunched over a book, retreading the same barren ground when they both suspect the potential truth - that this can't be fixed. His face is turned into the light, glow softening the tired lines around his mouth, his brow furrowed in concentration. The wings that burst from his back are not black as tradition would befit, but a dark grey and they're not so much wings at all, as skeletal bones strung together. They're huge, whatever they are, Dean's forced to the ground by their expansion, they fill the room, tear apart the bookcases, burrow through the stone, and all through it all, Sam reads on, momentarily serene. From where Dean crouches on the floor, half in reverence, half in fear, the same silver thread extends and when Sam turns (the wings turn with him and grind the cracked blocks to dust), it ends in his chest - he breathes out and Dean feels the pull, so close it hurts and Sam doesn't smile, Dean doesn't know if it's in either of them to ever really smile again, but he does lean forward.
This time Dean doesn't wake up, he faints, and if that's not embarrassing he doesn't know what is. He wakes up to Sam's worried voice and face and hands, and a library that hasn't been destroyed by Sam's presence. He wants to be grateful but can't muster it. Whatever this is, it's getting closer. "Is it the Mark?" Sam asks, and this close Dean can see the paper thin skin under his eyes, the weariness of his mouth - this eats at Sam as much as it does Dean.
"Yes," he says, no dissembling required, just careful omission. What's one more lie on a mountain of them. The confession, half a one that it is, catches Sam off guard, he rocks back on his heels, lets Dean drag himself until he's sitting up against a wall.
"We'll fix it," Sam says, and he's lying as well, Dean can tell it, can smell it like some heightened sixth sense for sniffing out truth. He's not sure though if Sam knows that he's lying because he looks sincere and he's still there, still next to Dean as though he doesn't want to leave him alone with this.
Dean closes his eyes, and for the first time in a long time, unprompted by fear or death or despair, Sam touches him, brief brush over his forehead, and Dean wonders in some deep dark part of himself, if Sam can love him more like this, if in some part of that huge brain that weighs and finds himself wanting, he and Dean are brothers in this, stupid choices and innocent blood. He craves that thought more than he should, doesn't want Sam to move from this unexpected sudden closeness. Sam stays there for a moment longer, a hand span away and Dean feels an imaginary tug in his chest, a fading echo from the living dream.
"You're here," he doesn't mean to say it - it sounds like an accusation, like he thought Sam would run.
Sam stands and the way his shadow falls, reminds Dean of wings. "I rarely leave," he says, and doesn't defend himself against past failures or mitigate his statement with excuses. It sits between them and this time Dean smells truth.
He can't examine that too closely, so he touches where angels fear to tread - and never was there a truer word said. They mourn the innocent, briefly, fleetingly, as sincerely as they know how, but family comes first, always has for Dean, and he's starting to think for Sam. It's taken dying and killing to let Dean begin to believe that, the first moment of hope he's had in a long time. Sam's lies of fixing this, of finding a way must be sour on his tongue, but the thought of company on the way down is sweet on Dean's. He's always thought he would fall alone.
A better man would leave, bare his throat for Cas's blade as in despair he'd thought to do, and he wonders if it was the blood that changed his mind, the sweet ache of sick fulfilment, becoming the monster he'd been born to hunt. Wonders if its the blood that makes that thought no more than a sharp flare of something he's been convinced of for years.
He stays where he is and watches Sam work before he closes his eyes again.
They follow their routine and Dean doesn't share the things he sees, the way the floor of the Bunker cracks at Sam's approach and weeds crawl their way forth, green and living, vibrant against the gray, beginning to live as Dean suspects he's beginning to die. How in Sam's hands, even the simplest smallest of things can take on a lustre, or the way when Sam bends his head to hide his own secret despair at failure, once again the wings emerge. There's a glow around Sam's head at these times and always the silver thread that vibrates between them with the rhythm of Sam's heartbeat or perhaps Dean's own. It's beautiful and Sam sees none of it, though Dean thinks with the intimate knowledge of Cain now in his veins that perhaps he would if he wanted to.
Dean's tired of fighting. Tired to his bones, it's stubbornness that drives him on - he's been running on the fumes of it for years, only ever three steps ahead of lethargy. It’s been a long time since he’s seen anything beautiful other than his brother, who has always been dear to his eyes. He believes in Sam now, as he never has before as he watches him work towards an end Dean can’t begin to protest. He believes in Sam’s goodness, the fragileness of the faith Sam clings to of hoping for the best even as he expects the worst. He trusts in them to shield them both, but as the Mark crawls through his body again and burns through his mind and his soul, he’s not sure he’ll mind if Sam fails. It’s Dean final manipulation, an unintentional one, less set in motion and more simply observed - there’s no way he can stop it now and he watches with altered eyes.
In the kitchen one time, Dean’s vision of Sam, presses him against a counter and kisses him, deep and tender. Pressed together chest to chest and hip to hip, the silver thread that connects them vanishes, and Dean shivers in bone deep recognition as Sam takes infinite care of them both. When they break apart, real-Sam’s standing there holding a cup of coffee and inhaling the smell, but when he looks at Dean, for a moment he can’t tell the difference.
In the end, Sam holds a book and says with infinite care that he thinks he’s found something, and the look on his face is bright enough to burn, fear written deep and overlaid with certainty. and Dean knows there’s no forgiveness in his future, that he’s gambling things too precious for words, on the strength of Sam’s will, on the strength of his own love. He’s not sure what they’ll become, how this time it ends, but he’s ready to find out.
Feedback always appreciated (