The fic itself stems an idea I've had notes for since the end of S9 (those notes contained a LOT more Meg and Walt and Roy, but the bulk of that didn't really fit into this fic or its style--and the notes were all for a Dean POV fic, which clearly this one was not, haha). I hadn't ever gotten around to writing it, though, because like, nothing terrible enough happens for it to be interesting to the hardcore crowd, but it's also too icky to be of interest to most of the rest of fandom. So I was like, WELL. AUDIENCE OF ONE, THEN. NO RUSH. But then I read finchandsparrow's "Dear Summergen Creator" letter and I was like, hmmmm. Perhaps audience of two?!! Thanks so much for the opportunity, love! ♥
Title: 2081 [AO3]
Genre: gen, darkfic/drama, S3/S9/S10
Characters: Sam (POV), demon!Dean, Jacob Pond, Castiel, Meg, Walt and Roy
Warnings: Author chooses not to warn.
Word Count: ~5200
Notes: Takes place after an alternate 9x23/10x03, where demon!Dean doesn't join Crowley, but is never cured of being, well, demon!Dean. Written for finchandsparrow! <3
Summary: Sam Winchester, a roadtrip, and an old man who is not his brother.
He has sharper teeth, for one. If only just.
He is older than Sam realized. Sam dresses the man's arms with new gauze where his bruises have welled up under crêpe skin, and are seeping.
"Here's your cane," he says, and they head out to the car.
Sam drives, and the man dozes.
"You know, you were asleep when I first met you," Sam says to no one. "Asleep and sick, just like now."
The man was young, then.
For all its added years, the world around them is not so different now, least of all this road. Sam suspects it has something to do with apocalypse. People think apocalypse--Apocalypse, even, because how could there ever be more than one?--and think coastline falling into ocean, volcanic ash in the sky, razed earth and blind fisherman. But Earth has always been good at change and bad at stillness, and these past few years have been very still. Perhaps apocalypse doesn't destroy time to much as bend it, like the world is this car and time is a rotor, wobbling, wobbling.
"This ain't the end of the world," says Dean. His eyes flick black. Sam knows they wouldn't have, if Dean could control it. Dean has to know that'd damage Sam's trust.
It means Dean can't control any of it.
But Dean doesn't react to the slip, doesn't try to cover, or apologize. He adds only, "For once, this ain't the end of the world."
And what is Sam supposed to do? End the world to save his brother?
If the world was really gonna end, Sam would rather Dean had already departed it. He wouldn't want Dean to die knowing they'd failed that badly.
When Dean's black eyes and beating heart rise from the bed, Sam steps back, swinging outward like he's a door on a hinge. You walk out that door-- he thinks.
Then he thinks, It's okay, if you do. It's time for us to be okay with that.
But the next morning, Dean's still around, elbow-deep in his own foamy blood as it mixes with their dish soap. He's scrubbing at his flannel in the kitchen sink, still wearing the tee Metatron had pierced through.
"What?" says Dean. "I like this shirt."
"You were supposed to exit onto 191," says the old man, as though roused from his slumber by the volume of Sam's daydreams.
"He liked dish soap, you know," Sam says, voice catching in time to his blinker as he exits the freeway to enter it again, turn around. "He'd always buy a different kind. You know, so he didn't miss out on any of its novelty."
"Quaint," says the old man. "I don't care."
"Did you take your calcium pill?" Sam asks.
The old man raises a bristly, balding eyebrow. "It's not my bones you'll be needing," he replies.
Cas is less than pleased to see Dean up and about. Probably because he can see what Dean really is, true face smeared over whatever aura Dean had held before. Cas makes the same face he did that first night he touched Dean's arm and felt the Mark of Cain.
Part of Sam wants to insist: Can't you see? He's eating the sandwich I made for him. It's fine. It's going to be fine. But Sam's not an idiot, and he knows it's not, and he knows Cas doesn't give a shit about sandwiches. Not anymore.
They're only molecules.
"I'm trying to level him out," Sam mumbles as he goes in to embrace Cas, as though Cas doesn't look like he wants to kill them both. The hug is as awkward as they always are.
Dean hears anyway, because of course he does. "Wasn't doing this shit when I was human," he says. "Don't know why you'd think the food pyramid and staying hydrated're gonna help now."
This morning, Sam found Dean clinging to the ceiling in his bedroom. Why, Dean did not deign to explain, but he had plaster under his nails, the small muscles in his fingers working in ways that they shouldn't, toes articulated at angles Sam's only ever seen in rigor.
Nice view, Dean says, looking down at the bed.
This evening, Cas says, You will lose him. Cas says, "The Mark of Cain did not bring your brother back to life. It made him a demon."
"Yeah," Sam snaps. Obviously. "I got that."
Cas regards him with stony pity. "Your brother is still dying. The demonic energy is merely retarding the process. His brain is shutting down. His chemicals, hormones--they're running amok. You may see some strange things. Every piece of humanity has its own half-life. That's all I meant, Sam."
"Well, can't we cure him?" Sam asks, impatient. He'd called Cas because he'd wanted a friend. What he'd got was a coward. Because Cas is retreating, he can tell: He's retreating back to the arcane habits of any old angel because he can't handle what is happening before him. He can't handle losing Dean Winchester.
You can't, can you! Sam wants to shout. And you don't wanna stick around with those of us who don't have the choice.
Cas ignores--or has forgotten how to read--Sam's body language. He says, "If we can, it will need to be soon. Otherwise we'll cleanse the demon and find nothing left."
"You might need this," Sam says. They're stopped again. The old man tore his hand adjusting his seat belt, abraded skin sloughing off and giving way to blood beneath.
Sam gently lifts an oxygen tank from the trunk.
"I don't," says the old man. He pokes at his new bandage.
"Vail Pass," says Sam, and shoves the cannula at him. "That's over ten thousand feet."
The old man smiles toothily. "You're so careful with my body, Sam Winchester."
Sam shrugs. "I'm human. That's kind of our thing."
"Au contraire," says the old man. "You remind me of my mother. That is, of course, before your brother killed her."
"Hey! Hey. We're on the same team," Sam shouts, over the bullets ricocheting off the bunker's plaster walls. Not their bunker, but this one--this one in Colorado, high up and built into a mountain. Sam's got the altitude headache to prove it.
"By now you know what this is," he says, brandishing Ruby's knife. He slits his forearm.
"And this, obviously." Silver this time, and another runnel of blood into his palm.
"Stories we've heard're worth more than two knives," Walt barks, unmoved from their cover across the room.
"Oh, please," Dean scoffs, and Sam's surprised he offers anything at all. (It's not that Dean doesn't enjoy talking. He just always hates what Sam has to say in response.)
"Walt, don't tell me you're so small-time a little resurrection's got your panties in a twist. And what about you, Roy? Gimme a break."
Somehow, this proves Dean's humanity better than Sam's blood-letting has ever proved his. A little sass, and him and Dean are working a case with Walt and Roy.
It feels almost too easy. So Sam plays up their camaraderie.
"You'll need these," Sam says, handing Roy a box of ammo etched with devil's traps. Dean shoots him a look of searing betrayal.
"I mean, we're demon-hunting, aren't we?" Sam asks all three of them. He does his best not to give Dean any pointed attention. "Just watch where you're shooting, will you?"
"Triple caramel iced macchiato!" shouts the barista as she slams a cup marked JACOB on the counter.
When Sam goes to retrieve it, her demeanor warms. "You here for the skiing?" she asks. "You're a little early."
"Just passing through."
She looks disappointed. "Where to, then? Breckenridge?"
Sam shrugs. "I'm not actually sure. He hasn't told me."
Back at the car, Sam tells the old man, "This right here? Is a heart attack waiting to happen."
Probably what depresses Sam most is that in this day and age, you can still buy a triple caramel macchiato. In the last decade or so society as Sam knows it has lost Proust, and Said, and even Sedgwick, but Starbucks remains. According to the cups, it's their 110th anniversary.
The old man slurps his macchiato. "When you get to be my age, Sam, you can drink whatever you want. You know I only want it for the flavor."
Sam sighs. "When I was your age, I still wasn't getting anything I wanted."
There's a cooler in the backseat, from which Sam extracts a bottle of smoothied viscera. He hands it to the old man, who raises his straw from his macchiato and transfers it to his frothy soup of pituitaries.
"That's not true," says the old man. "I've been giving you everything you've needed for years."
There's a devil's trap on the ceiling. It was stupid, to think Walt and Roy would be so quick to trust. But if Sam's being perfectly honest, it'd been easy to assume that they were that stupid.
"Walt," Dean says, as his knees lock up and his body freezes in place. He doesn't need to look up to know what's happened. "Walt, how many times you gonna screw me?"
"Only meant for it to be the once," says Walt, who once again has a gun trained on Dean's heart.
Roy's been talking all this time, in that surprisingly high-strung, apologetic way of his. He's background noise Sam's not listening to, because the loudest thing in the room is Walt's gun and Dean's heart. No matter what Dean is, that will never change. It's like an animal instinct.
Dean says, "Roy, we got history, don't we? You know me. I'm a professional."
His eyes flick black. This time, Sam's not sure if it's intentional or not.
"I mean, ask yourself some questions. Why am I hunting demons? Why is Sam still with me? You're smart guys. Come on."
He reminds Sam of Ruby. He reminds Sam of Sam trying to justify Ruby.
The mouth of Roy's rifle lowers, though Walt's doesn't.
"We have history," Dean repeats. "I'd never go all demon mojo on you."
Roy puts his hand atop the receiver of Walt's rifle, like he's cupping its head. Quelling its growl.
Then Dean smiles. "Guys, obviously the only thing I'd ever want do is fucking shoot you."
One, flick. Two.
And just like that, it's over. A devil's trap does not protect against a demon with a .45.
"Close call," says Dean, nonchalant.
"Yeah," Sam agrees. He looks at Dean, and he looks at the devil's trap.
And here's what he does that night, in the mountains, in Colorado. He walks away.
"Don't tell me about the dish soap again, Sam. I'm old, not senile. Your sentimental crap makes me gag."
"Towards the end, he couldn't hurt me," says Sam, because they're in Nebraska and the end of the road is all Sam can think about. Dean is all Sam can think about. His stomach churns. It's been giving him trouble, lately; ulcers on ulcers. Cancer, probably.
Sam ignores it. He's familiar with worse pain.
"The thing about Dean--he always knew what to say. Like, the exact thing that'd really fuck you up. People thought he'd say whatever shit crossed his mind, no filter--but believe me, he held back. You'd know if he wanted to hurt you." Sam smiles the way you do when you're at the dentist taking X-rays. "He kinda lost that as a demon, though."
As Cas promised, pieces of Dean went missing. Things that had darkened under the Mark blinked out entirely. Edges dulled. And irony of ironies, the more Dean faded, the less dangerous he felt.
You can't hurt me, Sam would think, as Dean's insults misfired and their precision waned. You're not my brother. You're only a demon.
At the time, he'd been trying to reassure himself. In retrospect, all Sam can hear is the B-side: I'm not afraid, because it's over. It's done. There is no one left to save.
That's the part that clamors now, like tinnitus.
"You don't know me," Sam told his brother once, half-aboard a Greyhound bound for California. "You can't hurt me," he told a demon once, a demon dessicated and screeching after three weeks in a devil's trap in Colorado and no power from Hell to sustain him. He said, "That part of you is gone. I know that now. I buried the bodies that told me."
"Oh, trust me, pal," the demon spits. "No part of Dean Winchester has ever fucking known you."
And maybe Sam underestimated that demon. The words rain down like shattered glass.
He'd let Dean out, that night. After three weeks of trying to think of a better solution. He'd meant to exorcise him--because he was only a demon, right? He is only a demon.
But Sam can't do it.
Never to Dean.
Does it loop back around to hope? Sam wonders. If Dean could hurt him then, can Sam save Dean now?
It sounds stupid, but in Sam's experience, most magic is.
"You're not going to save him," the old man points out. "You're going to kill him. You promised me."
In 2021, Dean is gunned down in the street by Tracy Bell. Tracy is eight months pregnant and Dean is playing with his food.
When Dean turns around--because Sam is there, Sam is always there, one step behind--he has the decency to look apologetic.
Now, it's been almost a decade, and Sam's sure that any window Cas might have predicted for curing Dean is long well past. But he'd kept hoping. Because Sam, in his self-estimation, is extremely, extremely stupid, he'd always kept hoping.
Tracy ends that.
Because "Make sure he's careful with that body," said Cas, all those years ago. "A vessel can be healed, but death is a stressor the body doesn't respond well to. Even if we can cleanse your brother's soul--" Yes, Sam's brother, not Cas's friend--"He will need that flesh. And historically, resurrection has always had its downsides."
"What do you mean?"
"Historically," Castiel repeats, with greater emphasis.
I gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition.
Well, most of you.
In 2021, Jacob Pond is a first-year medical student. He wants to be an endocrinologist. Sam has completely forgotten about him. He's here at Rocky Vista to see Meg.
"I thought Crowley killed you," Sam tells her.
Meg clicks her tongue. "And look how long I didn't have to see you."
She hands Sam back his "X-ray"--less a medical document than a scrawl Cas had drawn for him before departing, ever-ambiguously, for Heaven.
"Your brother is a terrible demon," she says. "You'd think he'd have learned a thing or two, what with the training wheels under Alistair."
"What does that even mean?" Sam asks. If Meg's being alive were going to surprise him, her resurrection would have had to have happened well before Dean Winchester's. "And why're you still playing nurse?"
Meg's eyes narrow. But she's clearly been working on her bedside manner, because she swallows her vitriol. "I actually do work here, you know. Why wouldn't demons enjoy anatomy class? Besides, we're allowed to have hobbies."
"That's nice," says Sam.
"Whatever, Dimples. Look." She puts a hand to her chest. "Dean exists here," she says. "But the rest of that body? Empty. He hasn't honed any powers. He wouldn't know how to smoke out. He's probably never even been to Hell."
She pauses. "Well, recently."
"Okay. How does that help me?" Sam asks.
Meg arches an eyebrow. "Really, Sam? After all these years, you're still thinking that anything will?"
Imagine a pyre. Keep the coals together, and keep them hot, and you will burn that body.
Spread them when you're done. Or if you need to cook.
Some things you don't want burning too quickly.
In Alliance, there's a knife over the city, rain pulling gray clouds into a cleaver's edge.
"We came here once, as kids. You know Carhenge?" Sam says, as they pull into one more gas station.
"My mother and I couldn't vacation much," says the old man. "And the foster care after her did not improve the situation. But it must be nice to have that kind of memory."
Sam's not sure if it is. It's been so long it feels like it belongs to someone else. Even if Dean were--
Sam's left a lot of himself behind, over the years. Most days, he feels like he left his heart in his other heart.
"You know, I wake up every day wondering if I made a mistake with all this," says Sam.
"I hope that's not supposed to be a revelation," the old man snips. "I mean, if I woke up with someone else's knee in my body, I'd wonder that, too. Never mind my spleen. You still got your kidneys?"
"One," says Sam.
"That's right," says the old man. "I remember now."
His hands, his knives, know Sam's body well.
If Sam's self-doubt is no revelation, the fact that they are friends--after a fashion--and the facts of their relationship, evidently are. The old man stares at his mottled hands--one bandaged, the other trembling--with a dissociative bemusement.
"Did you know that I could smell him in you?" he asks. "When you came to my school to meet with the demon girl. We'd never met before--not while I was conscious, anyway. But of course I remembered him."
Of course he remembered Dean Winchester, his mother's murderer.
"And you didn't want to kill me? Even knowing?" Sam asks.
The old man scoffs. "I wanted to go to medical school. You don't graduate if bodies show up in your lab. And how was I supposed to know how to clean something like that up? I wasn't you."
The old man draws a frail hand down Sam's chest, where he'd cracked him open. Just once or twice--you know. New heart. A bit of lung. Sam's scar tissue tingles.
"You don't smell that way anymore," he notes. "How's your stomach?"
Slowly dissolving itself.
"Fine," says Sam.
It's Dr. Jacob Pond Sam seeks out, when Sam is fifty-four years old and he is dying and he knows that's not his right yet. He'd forgotten the name, but now he remembers. It's a long shot, but he's dying. Right now. And he's out of options.
"Look, I know--" he starts.
"You're right," says Dr. Pond. "Why would I help you?"
Because my brother's a demon. Because I'm the only one who can stop him--if I could just find him. Because I can't leave him alone out there. Because--
Dr. Pond sighs.
"Because I took the Hippocratic Oath," he says. "We monsters are simple like that, Sam Winchester. We live by rules. And we believe in oaths."
Sam purses his lips. He knows an accusation when he hears one. But again, he's out of options. He proffers an old, handwritten notebook. It's old world alchemy, from a last-ditch attempt it turned out wouldn't be anywhere near Sam's last ditch. "I don't think this is what Hippocrates had in mind."
Dr. Pond bares his fangs. "Try me."
They pass Broken Bow.
"One Christmas--" Sam breathes, still stirred by the memory, made too long ago.
But the old man says, "Please. Don't," and it's not Jacob Pond, ever-bitter Jacob Pond. It's just an old man begging. "I want you to kill him, not remember him. We're getting close now."
He rolls down the window and samples the air.
"It's like he wants you to find him." The old man motions for a tissue, sneezes into his sleeve when Sam isn't quick enough. He hacks up the rest of the smell.
"I wouldn't try if he didn't," says Sam.
"So what have you been doing all this time? Twiddling your thumbs, waiting for an invitation? Aren't you supposed to be a hunter?"
"He hasn't hurt anyone. No one's even seen him in decades. Believe me, I'd know."
"Was it boring? All that waiting."
"Gee, I dunno. My brother's a demon. Does that sound boring?"
The old man regards Sam sourly. "Immortality was wasted on you."
They're in Ankeny, Iowa. Sam kissed a girl in this town once.
"Fifty years, and you spent it with an old man," says the old man. "What kind of life is that?"
"You weren't an old man for all fifty," Sam points out.
"I didn't spend my life with you," points out the old man. "Surely you haven't forgotten Clara. Or my little girl, Cecile. She's living in Cairo now, you know. But you--" He struggles to rise from his seat. He says, "You've spent all this time waiting, haven't you. Waiting for this one last roadtrip."
The old man's fingers tremble as they struggle to grasp his cane. "It's sad, Sam Winchester."
"It's not so bad," says Sam.
"It makes me sad," the old man amends. He sniffs the air.
"Sam, it's time."
"Y'know, when I was a freshman, I'd have this dream sometimes," says Sam, one night. Dean's not a demon. He hasn't even been to Hell. Nor has Sam. They have no idea what's coming for them.
"Please don't tell me you kept a dream diary," says Dean, because that's right--it's not so early, then. Sam's not psychic anymore. His dreams don't put fear in Dean the way they did back then.
This is the year Dean dies the first time.
"Fuck you," says Sam. They've been drinking. "It was like, I was gonna be this lawyer and one day there'd be some case and I'd take it pro bono, and--"
"I hate Law and Order marathons." Dean tosses the remote at the TV and, like the pro that he is, successfully manages to nail the Off switch with it. The TV blinks quiet.
"--and it'd be you."
"And I'd save you."
When Dean doesn't say anything Sam adds, "It was fucking stupid. Like, it's embarrassing just saying it, you know? Some kind of weird hero fantasy. But I just--
"I wanted to save you."
It sounds unbelievably young and stupid, and Sam hates how drunk he is, and he hates that he said anything. He hates that Dean is going to Hell.
Dean just shrugs. "So you had a dream," he says.
The last time Sam saw Dean, he was hardly human. Or, Sam supposes--he wasn't at all. But he was hardly a demon either. He was Hell itself, just fragments of a mind and a body contorted, like a marionette uncontrolled. The only thing Dean remembered was his throat. He screamed and screamed.
It was like that night Sam had left him in that devil's trap, if he'd left him thirty years and not three weeks. This time, Sam hadn't tried to bind him at all. And it's Dean who'd left, and hadn't let him follow. It had taken Sam a long time to track him down again.
He remembered what Meg had said--that Dean existed here (he mimes his heart). Dean had never learned to smoke and spread, as a demon should.
You burn too hot like that.
Not even Crowley dared touch him. Dean was Hell and Void. It'd be like trying to mother a nuclear reactor.
This time, Sam's not sure what he'll find.
If it'll be his brother outside Ankeny, or a black hole.
"Sorry about the macchiato," says the old man. He's lying on his back, in a field outside Ankeny. He nods at the scalpel in Sam's hand and pats his belly. "I forgot this was going to be yours."
Sam wants to say no, no that's not it. But it's silly to defend your kindness--your genuine regard for others--when you have a scalpel in your hand and you're about to harvest a vital organ.
"Kill him," says the old man. "That's the deal, remember?"
"Really?" says Sam. "Is it that simple for you? After all this time, you'd die for a shot at my brother."
"Animal instinct," says the old man. (His name is Jacob Pond, Sam.)
He reminds Sam to double-check his runes. Then he beckons Sam's knife.
Twenty minutes later, Jacob is burning (he burns sweet) and Sam has a stomach in a bowl. His own skin smells antiseptic but is unbroken.
He doesn't want to make the cut. It disgusts him that he's not sure if he's hung up because Jacob was a friend or because Jacob was a monster.
It's the former, of course. But Sam doesn't trust himself anymore. He knows what he's done.
Administering your own organ transplant feels stupid, anyway. Like it shouldn't be a thing. But magic has stupid rules, and in that regard, alchemy tops the pile.
In the end, Sam uses Jacob's intestines to scry. His own feel like teeth in his gut. But if his stomach doesn't last the week, it's okay.
He's finding Dean tonight.
Burn your skillset over medium heat. We're beyond what your Daddy taught you, Sammy.
In the month after Sam's death and Dean's deal, Dean empties out. It's infuriating, because they've only got eleven months now, and if Sam's gonna save his brother, his goddamn brother needs to be on board.
Dean's already got a clock on his neck. Sam won't live with a ghost before then.
Sam starts looking for tells. You know--signs that Dean gives a damn about his life. That he's scared. That he feels like he matters enough to be scared.
One day, while brushing his teeth, Dean grins at him. "Tournament of champions, brother. Tells ain't worth shit. You know how the game works."
Sam rolls his eyes, because everything is poker and Vegas these days. But Dean must know he's breaking Sam's heart, because he also says, "It's not like I--"
Then he falls pensively silent, which is the most of Dean Sam's seen in weeks. "You just have to win more than you lose," he says finally. "That's all you can do."
But the comparison doesn't apply, Sam wants to scream. This game he and Dean are playing--if Sam loses once he loses everything. He's already lost everything.
Dean shakes his head. "You just gotta win more than you lose," he repeats.
Sam, you were worth it.
It's like a ghost rips through him.
He's standing in a field in Iowa, and Dean is lying amongst the corn. He's not a screaming void, or a gate, but a body.
"It's kinda like uh--a children of the corn thing," he says, and fuck, he sounds like Dean. Sam hasn't heard that in so long.
Dean struggles to sit up. He looks like he's been lying in a corn field for a few weeks, but it's more than that. It's like his body is larger than the power animating it. His edges droop and his limbs float. They no longer have the dexterity to move as they should--much less suspend him from ceilings.
"You look good," Sam says anyway. "You know. Anthropomorphic."
"Ha. Funny, Sammy."
Sam would almost rather he'd found a sinkhole, or a fiery crevasse. To find something so much Dean, after all this time, is almost unbearable.
Some inkling of this must register on Sam's face, because Dean expends the energy to look self-conscious. "I had to work for this, you know," he says. "To be--this. I mean, be me again."
"I'll bet," says Sam. He was there. He was there for Hell and he was there for Purgatory and he was there for the Mark and he was there for his brother, the demon. He's not sure why Dean thinks it would be helpful to know that this is what it took for Dean to finally believe he was worth saving.
All of this.
"What year is it?" Dean asks, peering at Sam as if through haze. His eyes are black.
"2081," says Sam.
Dean whistles. "I was gonna say you look like shit, but I guess you look good, too. For a hundred."
"Yeah, well. Good's always been kind of relative for us, hasn't it?" says Sam.
"Sam, this body--" Dean starts.
"Yeah, I know," says Sam. "This one, too."
Now it's Sam's turn to break Dean's heart. Sam supposes he should be honored he still can. Dean's eyes follow Jacob's neat stitches, skin grafts here and there, scars where muscle, organs, fatty deposits have been replaced. Alchemy may have saved him, but that kind of magic has a tendency toward mosaic; it hurts as much as it helps. If Dean weren't Dean, he likely couldn't have known it was Sam.
Dean's eyes ask why? but his jaw clenches I'm sorry and there's no question Dean doesn't already know the answer to.
"You're my loose end," Sam answers anyway. "I couldn't just die and leave you wreaking havoc down here."
"But I wasn't. I was a shitty fucking demon."
I couldn't leave you alone out there.
"I killed more people as a human." He means, as the brother you miss. As the brother you love.
He was the murderer.
Dean tries to stand, but he can't. Demons weren't meant to own bodies, and Dean's spirit will outlast this one, as Dean's spirit tends to do. (Sam closes his eyes. Meg with her hand at her heart. Dean lives here, she says. You're not supposed to. It's stupid. But Dean always has, hasn't he.)
"I would have needed your blood," Dean says. "Y'know--the whole Cain and Abel thing. Coulda kept this body going, at least for a while."
Sam ignores the past tense. Part of Sam can't stop wanting to save him. "Are you going to rip my heart out?" he asks.
Dean laughs. "Probably would have. Dreamed about it a lot. Did you know demons can dream?"
"So you had a dream," says Sam. "Whatever."
He pauses. Then he says, "Why'd you let me find you now? After all this time."
"Don't want your heart anymore; I mean, can't imagine it'd work now. Patches," Dean snorts.
"I didn't kill anyone for this," Sam feels the need to explain, for the sake of it. Well, no one but Dr. Jacob Pond, and Dr. Pond had asked politely. "They were already dead. I just--"
"Not making it less creepy, Sam."
Sam laughs at the absurdity. Of him, of this, of the last too many years. But mostly at the absurdity of Dean, again, before him.
It's belated, but Dean must smell the blood on Sam. He asks, "Is that-- It's that kid, isn't it."
"He okay? I mean, before you--"
Sam nods again. "I promised him I'd kill you."
Dean considers this. The only thing he asks is, "Will you be okay? If I--"
"Oh, I'm ready," Sam assures him. "What about you?"
"Just wanted to see you again," Dean says. His voice creaks. "Maybe talk or something, I dunno."
"Okay," says Sam.
They lie in the corn.
They don’t talk. For hours, they don’t talk. Because at last, at last, Sam realizes.
There's nothing left to say.