characters: Dean, Jo, Ellen, Ash, Sam
written by request for nwspaprtaxis, amberdreams and quickreaver
time-stamp to Burdens, Doublefold - set a few months later.
It looked like rain outside. The sky had grown light gray and thick with clouds. The smell of coffee still permeated the room, even though they'd finished the last pot Jo had made nearly an hour ago.
Ellen was behind the bar cleaning, as she always seemed to do when she was deep in thought. Jo and Ash were sitting at the table with Dean. They were all exhausted, and the confusing events of the morning had settled around them in a weird stifling silence.
"It had to be Sam," Jo said finally, rolling her coffee spoon between thumb and forefinger. "Nobody else could've done that."
Dean met her eyes but kept his mouth shut. She was right, as much as he didn't want to think about what that meant.
"Gave me the heebie-jeebies though," Ash said. He leaned back in his chair, balancing on the two back legs. "And I don't think I'm gonna get the stink of burning were-hyenas out of my hair for like a week."
"Whoever it was saved our hides," Ellen said. "I counted sixteen corpses on the way out of those woods."
"Eighteen," Dean said. "Two of them were up in the trees. Melted into the branches."
Jo dropped her spoon back into her mug. "But how'd he even know?"
That was the part that was bugging Dean, too. He had two explanations and couldn't decide which one he hated more. One was that Sam had them under surveillance and stepped in if he decided he had to. The other, possibly worse, was that Sam himself was watching them.
"He's got eyes on us," Ash said. "Gotta be."
"But we haven't seen a demon in months," Ellen said. "Not since he pushed them all back through the gate and threw us the key. No omens, no reports of possessions, nothing."
"Then he's watching us," Jo said, shrugging. "Maybe he's got a periscope."
"Hell of a periscope," Ash said, underlining his pun by drumming his hands on the table.
Dean ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. "Doesn't change anything. We stick with the plan. Find whatever did this and get it to put it all back the way it was," Dean said finally. "Undo my wish."
There was a soft, amused laugh from the bar, so familiar it made Dean's skin prickle with goose-bumps. He turned around and his eyes locked instantly on the tall figure sitting there. "Sam—" Dean tried to stand up, but his legs weren't quite working.
"You're assuming it can be undone," said Sam.
Ellen stood rooted to the floor behind the bar, face deathly pale.
"Hey, Ellen," Sam said. "What's on tap?"
She swallowed in response, but didn't say a word
"Sam," Dean started again. "What do you mean, assuming it can be undone. You think it can't be?"
Sam shrugged noncommittally. "If I thought your wish-giver was the slightest threat, I'd have destroyed him already."
There were so many things wrong with that sentence, Dean didn't know where to start. "You know who did this?"
"I'm the King of Hell, Dean. There's very little I don't know." Sam held out his hand and a bottle of Ellen's favorite dark beer floated out of the little fridge she kept under the bar, and into Sam's hand. "Hope you don't mind," he said to Ellen, whose skin was slowly returning to its normal color.
"Help yourself," she said warily, her eyes flicking to Jo. Worry was written all over her face.
Jo looked scared, even though she was trying to hide it. Chin tilted up, eyes narrowed, but Dean could see the slight trembling in her shoulders, the way she was clicking her nails, a nervous habit.
Even Ash looked unsettled, fingers tapping against his knee.
They were all terrified of his little brother, Dean thought. And they were right to be.
Sam popped the cap off of the beer bottle with his thumb and took a long drink.
"So if you know who did this, why don't you help me find him—put things back the way they were?" Dean asked.
Sam turned to him, amusement dancing in the pale yellow of his eyes. "Why would I want to do that?"
Dean felt his jaw clench angrily. "Why wouldn't you? After what happened to you, and to Dad…we could go back! Back before Cold Oak, maybe even back to Stanford—find a way to keep all this from happening."
The laugh that followed was Sam's, only colder. "You don't get how this works, do you? You asked the universe to give you one more try. One chance at a do-over. It didn't turn out the way you thought it would, and now you think you can just shove all the pieces back?"
"When you made your wish, Dad was dead and I was dying, but we were still us. One human soul a piece."
Dean stared at Sam as he spoke, a sense of dread settling deep in his stomach.
"Dad doesn't exist anymore, Dean. Azazel ripped him to shreds when I swallowed him down. There's nothing left of either of them."
"But there's still you. You still have your soul," Dean said carefully. "Don't you?"
"Yup. I still have my soul. But it's not exactly what you'd call human anymore."
Dean swallowed. His tongue felt heavy. "So?"
Sam's smile was empty, and the white of his teeth made Dean think of wolves. "So, you can't fit the sun through a pin-hole, Dean. You can't push me back to the beginning. Not anymore."
Dean snorted. "The sun, huh?"
"King of Hell, and suddenly the world revolves around you?" Jo asked, the steadiness of her voice hiding the terror in her eyes.
Sam set his bottle down on the counter, stood and crossed the room in a few, slow strides stopping right in front of her.
Jo swallowed and looked up at him, unflinching.
"No, the world doesn't revolve around me." His eyes narrowed as he leaned down to her, and the pale afternoon outside suddenly went pitch-black, like someone had flipped off all the lights. "But it bends."
"Cut the crap," Ellen said coming out from behind the bar. "Why even bother with the parlor tricks? We know you're not gonna hurt us. Not after you saved our asses earlier."
As Sam straightened and turned towards Ellen, the darkness outside faded back into bleak grey. "Not very smart, splitting up like that."
"How'd you know where we were?" Dean asked, suddenly desperate to know.
"I always know where you are," Sam said. "You're my blood."
That word brought memories with it, ones Dean didn't want to think about—Sam's teeth around his father's arm, both of their eyes burning like sickly suns. "Well thanks, I guess," Dean said.
Sam's expression softened. "Don't mention it."
And for just that second he sounded like Sam—Dean's little brother who he'd do anything for, and deep in Dean's chest his heart clenched as it tried to reconcile that Sam with the one standing across from him. He knew what this Sam had done, what he'd become and why.
"Stop trying to undo your wish," Sam said, looking at Dean with something like sorrow in his eerie amber gaze. "It's not going to work, and it's distracting you from more important things."
"Like what?" Dean asked.
Sam's mouth curved. "That pack you were tracking. You were right. There were only six of them two days ago."
"What does that mean?" Jo asked.
"Find out," Sam said and then he was gone. Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance and the clouds began to clear.