Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,
Kalliel
kalliel

[Fan Fic] Nil sine numine - mindfuck/horror/angst, PTSD!Sam, post-Apocalypse

Title:        
Genre: gen, mindfuck, angst/horror, PTSD!Sam
Character: Sam (and Dean)
Word Count: ~3700
Warnings: Wholesale post-Apocalypse warning. All bets are off. This is NOT a 5x22 tag!
Summary: You don't just drive away from the Apocalypse. But drive the Winchesters do, straight out toward the edge of the world.
Notes: The title of this fic really is the black box itself; it's not a spoiler warning, even though it looks like one. Because wouldn't show up in the subject line, Nil sine numine is a subtitle of sorts; it's certainly easier to pronounce. XD It translates as 'nothing without the Deity,' and is also the state motto of Colorado, where the bulk of this fic takes place.




"We should burn these," he says, flicking blood flakes from his fingertips.

"We should." The jacket is stiff with a dark red mess of blood, and the shirts are iridescent with it. "It looks like something died in them."


And it's pathetic, but this is the best mood Sam has been in in months.






They pull into a Flying J just after six in the morning. "Sidling into Utah," says Dean. He pulls at the twenty that'd been curled inside the cig lighter since Las Vegas. Pushes Sam awake and out toward the gas mart. "Number 12."

Seven minutes and Richfield, Utah is a memory, and so are the pastor and the pastor's children, kids' dreams of the Air Force and a home with home schooling. It is the kind of place and and these are the kind of people that slip in and out of the Winchesters' lives, like time. Put a couple hundred miles between them, and they're gone--or never were.

The Winchesters pass a field of empty cars, stopped and overgrown with weeds.

"When this is all over--" Sam gasps as Dean rolls the window down and Sam gets a faceful of frosted air. "When this is all over... What are we going to do?" The question comes out awkward, the way he knew it would, but theirs is not an empty car, and Sam expects an answer.

"Ain't ever over. We've been over this." Highway curls around the mountain, and the Impala curls, too. "Thought you'd've figured that out for yourself by now."

Second try: "I don't mean it like that. I mean. Heaven and Hell aren't on our asses anymore. Bobby and Ell--other hunters don't live like we do."

Dean mutters something dismissive and noncommittal, and they keep driving. Out into the flat and white.


--


"Then where are we going?"


--


"Where are we going, Dean?"


--


They're headed to Grand Junction, Dean replies, a couple dozen miles and one luminous green highway sign later. Which isn't really that funny, though Dean claims otherwise.

That's not what Sam meant. Where are we going? he persists. What are we going to do?

Dean resigns himself to Sam's inquiries some thirty miles later, with the same grudging disinclination he extends to stranded hitchhikers.

"Maybe I'll be a truck driver," he says. "Drive the late nights. Exorcise some truck stop ghosts. Keep driving. Grapes or something. What do trucks even ship?"

I-70, all hours, all eternity.

Sam laughs. Kind of. It's an Apocalyptic kind of laughter, which he's primed over the past few years and doubts he'll ever really shake. "I dunno, man. Never figured you for anything like that."

Kick up to ninety, even though they're not being chased anymore and they're going nowhere.

"Maybe I'll go to law school."

"Dean, I'm serious. Stop that."

"Well, isn't that where you're going?"

Dean is beginning to get nonplussed by this conversation, however intermittent the words have been--Sam knows. There's a tired, jagged edge to his voice Sam knows from Dad. He wonders if Dean even realizes it's there. Probably not.

"Well what do you want, Sam? You want an apartment in Denver? Just sit down somewhere? Be my guest. Probably hold down the rent for a coupla months. We just aren't built for that kind of shit. You tried." The last is tacked on, maybe a little bit anxious.

Because driving off the edge of the world is such a wonderfully grand enterprise, and Dean would like his brother to be there for that. Of course.

Sam doesn't know what to say, without passing some broad judgment on his brother's lifestyle choices, or that doesn't sound baldly patronizing. "Look, I didn't mean--this has been my life, too. You can't argue against that." Not if I can't. "I know where you're coming from. And yeah, 'that kind of shit.' You got a taste in Lawrence. I got less than four years at Stanford. We were both just kids. So it's har--"

"You know what's less grating than listening to you talk, Sam? The Apocalypse. Hell, three. I'd take three of the motherfuckers over you."

Radio on.

Static.

Same three cassettes. This side is Pink Floyd; The Wall. Dean doesn't find it funny this time, but he must find it fitting--turns the radio up louder than it's meant to, 'til the scratch and static nearly drown out the words.


--


They pass a dammed-up river. Layered rock against bright sky, like a doctored postcard. No one on the road but them and the traffic cops.

Dean deigns to crawl to eighty and the patrol car speeds on.

The truth is, Sam is just as lost. After the Apocalypse--which has been the last three years, three months, three seconds; no one can really say, except that the clock's stopped ticking--they should have bunked somewhere and slept for a year. They should have laid around drunk and naked, and spent hours making French toast every morning. Or something like that; something crazy. They should have done something kitschy and celebratory, because the last thing they toasted was the end of the world. And even then, Dean says, the world did not have the decency to end.

Instead, they collapsed into the Impala and drove. They are still driving.

Sam directs his attention to the scenery. Mountains far out, black and white, with trees like stubble. It's a broad landscape but a narrow road.


--


Ending the Apocalypse is like losing a lover, and Sam hates that. It's a loosening of that same, steady pressure that's hot when you curl into it at night, is infallibly there the next morning. Giving you purpose. Giving you something to talk about. He and Dean talk about things they will never do and will never be. They go places they have already been. It's always cold. And Sam hates that. After everything he's lost, it should not be winning the Apocalypse that breaks him.

Them.

Sometimes Dean pulls the Impala to the side of the highway, gets out, and stomps around in the snow. He's neither looking for something nor working something off, but Sam never comments, because he thinks he understands.

Dean doesn't leave footprints in the snow, so it must be truly frigid outside. Full ice. Sam grabs himself a hoodie from the backseat, and then Dean's jacket when that isn't enough. He's not sure why Dean isn't wearing it. Maybe it's the smell--like blood and sulfur, still.


--


It's almost eleven. They last ate...Sam isn't sure. A while ago. Sales tax was 3%. Somewhere in Utah, then. No one is hungry, but the Impala's needle wavers like a frenetic red hummingbird between Empty and Well and Truly Gone.

The gas stop is as empty as the highway, snaked by a nest of sleeping Peterbilts. Premium gas, free for the taking if you're sly.

Dean gives a (hollow) whoop as he goes to siphon gas.

(Quickly; it is cold. Sing a song to keep your mouth from freezing shut.)

More Pink Floyd.

Dean struts up to the gas pump like he owns the place. He's so obvious about it, Sam scrunches lower down in his seat reflexively, though secretly he's pleased. It's just a gas station, but at least it's there. The Apocalypse is over, and it's still there. And anyway, at least they'd paid their way through most of Utah.

Sam thinks about how close they'd been to a (three-second, Apocalyptic) lifetime of free gas. About what it would feel like, to be the last person left in the world.

He thinks it would feel a little like this.

At least this gas station is here, he reminds himself. At least Dean is here, butchering a song that wasn't great to begin with. But Dean is far away and the windows are frozen shut, and Sam realizes he's the one singing.


--


They pass a sign that reads, City Limit: Silt. Sam's glad there are still places around called Silt, because he's not sure if he could stand it if everywhere was a Glenwood Springs, or a New Castle.

Silt is a collection of blue roofs perched atop an embankment that overlooks the highway. On the outskirts of town, there's a small, white-tented organic farm for sale, with the fans still whirring but no life inside.

At other end of the mountain pass, there's some kids playing ball on Astroturf, and an infestation of chain stores Sam had largely forgotten.

"You don't just drive away from the Apocalypse," Sam says, though that's exactly what they did. You don't just survive it without noticing it's happened, he thinks, though that is what these people did.


--


The next time they stop for gas, it's dark. The people are gone from the shops and streets, and here, life has been put on hold for the night.

It's not too late to join in. Warm bed, clean sheets, French toast.

Dean is still living on another plane of existence. The gas mart's glass panes shriek, loud enough to cause an echo in the canyon, and Sam is sure his brother has sworn off subtlety for life. Not that it would matter if they were caught. The consequences would be lax, or else too easy to escape.

Sam thinks of a seminar he took once. It was a once-a-week kind of thing, the spontaneous outcrop that came from being pre-law in California at the beginning of the Iraq War. He hasn't thought about class for years--has come to terms with the idea that they ceased to be his when his transcripts burned with the rest of his apartment--but the thought sticks. It was about legislation for veterans' courts, how there was a crime spike in veteran populations, how consequences need be tailored to their circumstances.

It makes Sam sick thinking about it.

He is not a veteran, the way people think about such things. He's just not sure what he is.

But he picks the cash register's lock, because that is what he's good at, and he can't help but think his seminar might be relevant. He doesn't trust his judgment; if there's one thing he's learned, it's that he shouldn't trust his judgment. He grabs a pack of Good N' Plenty--jumbo-size--and leaves a five on the counter, before he realizes he's using the money he just stole from the cash register.

Sam stares, muddled and indecisive, at the five. It's dark against the snowy glow of the Formica.

It seems like a simple decision, but he doesn't know what to do. He's caught in a stalemate against his own (stolen) five dollar bill.

He doesn't know what to do.

It's like the bill is staring him down.

He doesn't know what to do.

Sam abandons the project in a rush, because Dean is done with the gas, and for some reason, he feels like he's going to be left behind.

He wants to cry.


--


The road follows a suicide river, deceptively shallow without the springmelt, but just swift and deep enough to drag you under. It's flinty under the illumination of the Impala's headlights.

Hanging Lake, 3/4 mi., proclaims a sign, which validates Sam's assessment.

"Does it ever feel like we're the only... That it's just me and you?" Sam asks.

Dean's gaze flicks from the road to the river, and back again. He never looks at Sam. "No."


--


Dean spins out around 4am.

Sam must have been asleep, because all of a sudden, he's sprawled in Dean's lap, and his head is throbbing from where it hits the door handle. His whole body lurches with an incredible sense of vertigo.

"Shit, shit," says Dean, somewhere above him. Uneven, shuddering breaths. "Shit."

"You hurt?" They stopped asking each other Are you okay? a long time ago.

Dean's response is not immediately forthcoming. "Shit," he repeats.

Again, more insistently: "You hurt?"

He just smashed the Impala's left side into a tree and put her breaks and tires through the grindhouse, but no, he's not hurt. His girl survived the frontlines of the Apocalypse and he probably just totaled her (again) on I-70, but no, he's not hurt. As much as Sam can discern, in any case. Dean hasn't given him anything but a long string of expletives.

"What happened?" Sam asks.

"I dunno." Dean grimaces. "Fell asleep, I guess. Shit."

Which isn't something Sam's ever known Dean to do, though it's not physically improbable. He can count the collective hours of sleep they've gotten on his fingers.

"Just--shit." He leans into the steering wheel, and Sam gets a face full of shirt, which smells none too fresh. It's then Sam realizes he's still strewn across his brother's lap. Dean chuckles, jostles Sam's head with the anxious leg jitter that accompanies the sound. "I just thought, God, you're going to kill me for fucking up the car," he says. He winces as he sits back up and lifts his left hand to the steering wheel, sucks in air between his teeth.

"You're the one who cares about the car."

And Dean says, "I know." Is just as perplexed. Then, slowly, "You should call Bobby."

It's 4am. They shouldn't call Bobby.

Dean persists. "I think he might make an exception, considering the narrowly averted Apocalypse. You know."

They don't have anything to say to Bobby. Not anything that's going to help anyone. "You should get some sleep." Though Sam's beginning to think that the only fix is to go to sleep and not wake up.

"She's not going anywhere. Not like this."

"Then we can both sleep. I'll drive in the morning, after you fix her. Move over."

A shuffle in the dark, sluggish and imprecise. It ends with Dean huddled under an explosion of laundry in the back seat, and Sam curled against the inside of the Impala's crushed frame. It bulges in just enough to make leaning against it uncomfortable.

"We should throw out everything with blood on it," says Dean, from the back.

"We'd be throwing out everything." Every time Sam suggested the same, Dean shut him down. So what--

"Yeah, well, maybe we should." Start fresh. "You can go back to wearing sweater vests."

Sam has never worn a sweater vest in his life, but his neuroses override his indignance, because it sounds like saying goodbye, which sounds like What the hell are you talking about, Dean.

Sam's breath catches. The driver's seat is cold beneath him.


--


Dean doesn't want a beer.

He's not wearing his jacket--Sam still is--but he says he doesn't want that either (snow is fine; rain's the bitch). Sam can see the dark bruise spun around Dean's arm like a second sleeve, and from the way he bends to survey the Impala, he's betting it runs all down his side, too.

Not hurt, huh? Sam wants to say, but Dean is still vocally upset about the car, so instead, he says, "It's been worse."

"Is that supposed to be reassuring?"

Not really, but Sam's not so bad at telling lies. They're still here; that's all that matters. He can figure out the rest later. "We got through it in once piece."

"Speak for yourself."

"You can fix it," Sam says, numb. He can't believe Dean isn't cold.

"I think you should call Bobby."

"I don't think Bobby'd drive all the way out here just because we--"

"Are you kidding? Right now, Bobby's the one person in the world who would." Sam opens his mouth to question, but Dean continues, "We beat it. We won." He smiles.

"And now we're going to die of hypothermia. Fuck."

Sam insists Dean put a coat on. Dean insists that Sam looks like something that came out of a penguin's ass, and that Sam should keep the jacket. He'll find something else.


--


Dean finds two dark shirts and a denim jacket that's seen some action. He also finds that he cannot actually maneuver his left shoulder enough to put them on unassisted.

Sam cuts the shirts down the front with his knife and helps Dean slide into them that way. "We should burn these," he says, flicking blood flakes from his fingertips.

"We should." The jacket is stiff with a dark red mess of blood, and the shirts are iridescent with it. "It looks like something died in them."

And it's pathetic, but this is the best mood Sam has been in in months.


--


They sit all morning, eating Good N' Plentys, sleeping in shifts. At some point early on, Dean starts substituting Tylenol for his share of the Good N' Plenty. No one comes.

When the Tylenol comes up empty, Sam tries to divert Dean's attentions to conversation. "I'm glad you didn't kill us last night. Because, uh, it would have really sucked if we died the second The Powers That Be stopped breathing down our necks."

"Thank you, Sam." Mirthless. Dean grunts, jaw tense. Then low, to himself, he mutters "--can't believe you crashed her."

"Jeez, I'm sorry, I didn't-- I was just--"

"Yeah, I know. Well, you're hilarious."

More silence. The snow stops, lets blinding sunlight reflect off the road and into Sam's eyes.

"I wonder if they'd actually let us die, now--Heaven and Hell, I mean. 'Stead of bringing us back," Dean says.

That's not the kind of conversation Sam wants to have.


--


"So, last night," Dean starts, again. It's noon, which means it's time to talk about a new game plan, outside of sitting, hoping, and freezing. Which means it's not time to talk about any part of last night.

"You crashed the car. You're pissed. You want me to call Bobby. I get it. But the cell reception's shot up here, so I legitimately can't, Dean."

"That's not what I meant." Dean wants that beer now. He drinks greedily when Sam offers it. "I think you're right."

"About what?"

"It's time to move on. Just burn everything. You should go make yourself a normal life--finish up the college thing, I don't know. Can't just drive around forever."

It's not that simple. This is what he knows. This is what he's good at, now. Everything else is gone.


--


"What about you?"


--


"What about you, Dean?"


--


Dean's not going anywhere. Not with the pace or mobility required.

"Dude, Apocalypse. This is nothing," Dean argues. Because he wasn't ingesting Tylenol like candy just hours ago.

"Yeah, that's what you said about the car, but here we are. Look, the road's gotta lead somewhere. I'll find someone to help us--and call Bobby. We don't have that many options right now." Sam climbs out of the Impala and comes around to the driver's side. Brushes gloved hands along her ruined parts.

Dean gets out of the back seat. Eventually. "Just stiff. It's cold. It'd be fine after a while," he insists.

"Dude, you look like the pedestrian I mowed over with my car, or something. Even if you're game, you can't just walk into town like that, and we don't have anything else."

Dean bobs his head a few times, in something like acquiescence. He chews his lip. "I just don't want you to be alone." He pokes at some of the snow that's piled up against the back tire with the toe of his boot. "It could start again."

Sam doesn't want to go alone, either, but: "I have to. And it won't." At least, it had better not. It's time for Sam's endgame. "I can go it alone, I promise. You trust me, don't you?"

Yes. Dean doesn't have a choice. Yes, he does. "Yeah, you'll be okay." More bobbing-nodding. Still nervous. "You always are. You make sure you call Bobby, though. All right? You call him first thing."

"I will."

"Good. That's good." Dean crumples back into the Impala and sits, restive, even as Sam waves at him before he turns the bend in the highway.


--


Dean's relentless preoccupation with checking in with Bobby, Sam doesn't understand. But when he finds his first cell tower, he honors it.


--


Bobby's just as jazzed about the phone call as Dean was. Immediately, he's making plans to fly into Denver, come get Sam from wherever he is. His tone betrays relief breaking over horror.

Sam's stunned by the response, but he says thank you. He says he's in some town called Keystone; he left Dean and the Impala somewhere off I-70.


--


Then Bobby tells him a story.


--


On May 13th, they're in Detroit, Michigan. (Dean played Pink Floyd all the way there, because he's determined that if it's the last music the Earth is going to hear, it's going to be a rock epic.)

It's cold, for spring. Like something's thrown the world off its game.

The Apocalypse will do that.

Bobby's not there for the actual Apocalyptic part, but he drives in for the aftermath. By then, there's no sign of any Devil--or any angels, for that matter. He spends a week trying to rescue everyone at ground zero, set things to order. He meets up with Sam on the the third day, underneath the Comerica Tower.


--


"So where was Dean?"

"He was there, too."

And Sam cries, he's so happy. Sobs into the phone, much to the distress of the Keystone innkeep. It didn't make any sense, he knew it was impossible, but Bobby just made it sound like--


--


They cut through his shirts--both of them--but it doesn't help. They're burning with a fire that doesn't go out (the way blood burns in Hell). There's a binding seal branded into his bare skin. The brand is livid, red flesh pulsing. They can see the rivers of gold under his skin, his whole body a regular Heavenly lightshow.

Michael doesn't hold back. And he doesn't relent.

Sam just screams.


--


Compared to that fire, everything is cold. Will always be cold.

The day it rains in Hell, the fires go out. The Apocalypse is over.


--


It could start again. It could start again, and I don't want you to be alone.


--


Bobby cradles what's left of        .

And Sam disappears.


--


You'll be okay. Yeah, you'll be okay. You always are. Make sure you call Bobby. Call him first thing. He'll come and find you.

You're gonna be okay.


--


(Speak for yourself.)


--


When Sam staggers back to the Impala, it's dark again, and cold.

The car is empty.

Good N' Plentys and Tylenol dust the seats, and Sam can feel it, now. The long bruise down his side.

Everything is cold and empty, but Sam is exhausted of crying.

Instead, he sings Pink Floyd.






end.


a/n: As I finished writing this, I realized the one thing I wanted most was for them to lie around drunk and naked, making French toast. </3

PSA: Congratulations Show, for five seasons, one Apocalypse, and two brothers. You give it your all, and regardless of what that 'all' entails, we will always love you for that. Here's to your sixth--kick it in the ass!
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