thanks again to ladytiferet for the lovely art!
Please read the warnings!
characters: Sam, Dean, Death, OCs
[warnings]grotesque imagery, gore, animal death, death of many background OCs, biblical imagery, blood-drinking
summary: (season 5 AU) Sam and Dean knew they only had one chance to trap Lucifer and Michael, and they had to make sure the archangels never escaped again. They needed backup from the only beings powerful enough to go toe to toe with Heaven's strongest—the Four Horsemen.
They fell together, Michael in Dean and Lucifer in Sam—both archangels pushed back for the moment. Dean knew they wouldn't be able to hold them long, but they didn't have to. All they had to do was fall, and slam the cage-door shut behind them. Dean fell first, holding onto Sam's coat to make sure they'd both go down together. If either of the angels took over before the portal was closed, they'd be screwed. Sam reached up, fingers clawing at the earth above and for a moment, Dean thought he'd lost control—but when he let go again a split-second later, Sam was holding the four rings in his hand. The Horsemen's rings. His face contorted, Lucifer trying to push his way out again, but Sam started to chant, through clenched teeth as they fell and fell.
"Bal zodah rah geh peh coh meh—" Sam cried out as energy flickered through him. "Ven ee geh lah geh—"
Inside of his own body Dean had to do everything he could to keep his own archangel from exploding out of his skin. He could feel him pushing. He grabbed the small bit of Sam's jacket he was holding even tighter, spurring him on.
"—deh zodee zodoh pah!" Sam finished.
They crashed to the bottom of the cage with force and the impact was enough to make them both lose hold. Light poured out of them, searing Dean inside and out as the furious angels broke free. The cage filled with sound and a brightness so terrible he couldn't open his eyes. He wasn't sure how he could still have a body in a place like this, but he sure felt like he did, and if the pain pulsing through him was any indication, he wasn't going to survive.
Sam screamed—an agonized sound, and when Dean forced himself to look through the fiery light he could see why. It wasn't Lucifer, as he'd expected. It was the rings. Sam was still holding them and they were red hot—they were melting into his skin, Sam's hand rigid, like he couldn't let go, even if he wanted to.
Terrified, Dean crawled closer to his brother, and closed his hand around Sam's, trying to see if he could pull the rings off.
The noise and light around them doubled and Dean could feel himself starting to come apart—molecules losing cohesion as even more power entered the cage. Sam's chant had been a summoning. A desperate stupid shot in the dark. But it had worked. The Horsemen were here. Dean could feel them, could feel War's violence seeping into his back as his ring melted deeper into his palm. His eyes bled red and he could feel an all-encompassing bloodlust settle deep into his bones.
Famine's terrible hunger and the buzzing sound of Pestilence brushed past him as they rushed towards Sam, flowed into him—two streams of light, one pale green, one black. Sam's back arched and he gasped for air as the energy filled him.
"What have you done?" asked a familiar voice. An ancient one. Dean pushed himself to his knees to find Death glaring down at him.
"What we had to," Sam said as he sat up. Shaking only slightly, he looked down at his palm. Two of the rings were embedded deep in his skin, and they sank further into the flesh as Dean watched. His own palm pinched and he looked down just in time to see War's sleek gold band melt completely into him.
"You fools." Death looked upwards at the light above them, then back down at Sam. "You trapped the two little brats in their time-out box. What more do you want?"
"We want them dead," Sam said. "Gone. They're gonna get out again, it's just a matter of time, and we figured—if we couldn't take each other out while they were inside of us—" he swallowed. "Then you and your brothers could."
Death cocked his head to the side. "Your arrogance is truly staggering. It's no wonder Lucifer chose you."
"Lay off," Dean snarled.
Death turned his ice-cold gaze on Dean. "Yours is even more staggering."
Dean took a step closer to Death. "That why Michael chose me?"
Death smirked. "Of course." His face turned deadly again. "Now, let my brothers go."
"What?" Dean asked.
"Don't play dumb, Dean." Death narrowed his eyes. "You know exactly what just happened. You can feel his power inside of you."
"We just wanted some back-up. He can get out if he wants to," Dean said, tilting his chin up.
"No, he can't. You—both of you…" Death turns to level his gaze at Sam. "You wounded my brothers. They cannot be killed, they will exist as long as humanity does, but you maimed them. Their minds are…asleep, so to speak."
Sam's eyebrows pulled together. "Huh. Wasn't expecting that. Does that mean they—" His voice cut off with a hiss, and he doubled over, his arms clutching his stomach.
"Sammy?" Dean asked, moving to his brother's side. Sam was in rough shape—sweat beading on his brow, his breath coming fast and uneven. His muscles were clenched tight and there was a fine tremor running through him.
"What did you do to him?" Dean growled, spinning back towards Death.
"Not a thing." Death watched Sam calmly and Dean had to fight down the urge to lunge at him, because that would just get him killed. Maybe they'd weakened the other three Horsemen, but Death was still at full strength and there was no way he could take him on.
Above them, the angels finally took notice and came streaming back down towards them. Their voices were like shattering glass and broken bells and Dean knew which was which—he could hear them—hear Michael's war cry and Lucifer's threat as they rushed back down to their vessels.
Sam's head jerked upwards and instead of trying to get out of the path of Lucifer's nosedive, he stood, reached his arms up into the air and opened his mouth wide.
Michael collided with Dean, and the archangel streamed into him, crashing into War's power.
The maelstrom of power continued for an eternity or two, long enough that Dean lost all sense of time. When he was finally fully aware again, everything had changed. They were still in the Cage, but they were the only ones left. The shimmering, giant forms of Lucifer and Michael were gone, and Dean could see the archangel's power flowing through Sam's veins as he slept, burning bright white and blue—a mirror of his own newly infused circulatory system.
The Horsemen were nowhere to be seen either, but Dean didn't have to wonder what had happened to them, he could feel it. Inside of Sam, Lucifer's grace mixed with endless hunger, the conquest of disease over life and the inevitability of death.
Death's scythe lay bloodied by Dean's side. He couldn't fully recall what had happened at the very end. He remembered Sam, frenzied, lunging for Death's throat and he remembered Death raising his weapon high, but Dean had...Dean had stopped him. Somehow, impossibly, he'd taken hold of the scythe and used it on Death himself.
Death wasn't gone. He couldn't be. A good chunk of his power was inside of Dean though, and whether that was from the battle itself, or from him wielding the scythe he wasn't sure. All he knew was that the End of All Things had fled. Sam and Dean had fought Lucifer, Michael, and the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they were the two left standing. Well, sitting and sleeping, at the moment. But they were still alive. They were stronger than anything they'd ever encountered. They were gods.
And they were stuck in a damn Cage.
"Sam," Dean said, watching with mild curiosity as his words flowed out of him like light. "Wake up."
Sam turned over in his sleep, and thrust his arm under his forehead before settling back down on his stomach.
"Come on," Dean said and smacked his brother on the shoulder. The light inside of him shimmered, traveling down his broad shoulders and into his hands, where it pooled, and then jumped out of his fingertips as Sam woke with a start. He turned to Dean, eyes far too bright to look at. Even for Dean.
"Dude, turn it down," Dean said, holding his hand up like a visor.
Sam blinked at him, and his eyes dimmed marginally until Dean could see tiny little dots of black pupils inside of the irises—one white and one yellow.
"What the hell?"
Sam frowned and clutched at his stomach.
"You forget how to speak?"
"No," Sam said. The Cage walls rippled with the sound, even though he'd barely done more than whisper. His brow furrowed and he gave Dean an 'I told you so,' look.
"Yeah," Dean stood, held his hand out and pulled Sam to his feet. "We pack more of a punch than we used to. But you know what?" He looked up into the endless void above them. "That'll make it easier to get the hell out of here."
Sam followed Dean's gaze and stared up. There was an odd pulling sensation as Sam tried to lift them up and the magic of the Cage held them down. "Let us out," Sam said, the walls quivering around them again. Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again they were as bright as suns. "Out," he thundered, and this time the walls didn't just shake, they started to come apart.
With a grin, Dean added his will to Sam's and pushed, until the Cage dissolved around them, falling away into ash. After that all he had to do was reach up, and dig his fingers into the edge of the world above.
The Cage had opened in Stull, and Stull was where they came back into the world. Destroying the Cage had left its mark—a crater, easily a mile wide—still flickering with broken magics. They'd attracted some attention, too. It was hard not to with that kind of a power display. There were all kinds of things gathered around the crater—animals, monsters and a few dozen demons.
When Sam walked out of the crater the demons instantly fixated on him. They walked, ran and stumbled towards him, pulled inevitably closer . As the first one got within arms-length, Sam reached out and pulled him in, biting down on the possessed man's throat until blood gushed, sulfurous and red, from the wound. The other demons didn't seem to notice or care, still staring at Sam like he was the unholy grail and the aurora borealis all wrapped into one. Sam pulled back, mouth stained red and smiling, looked into the demon's eyes and tore its soul out of its body. Then Sam opened wide and swallowed the black smoke down. He made a satisfied little sound and grabbed for the next demon, waiting patiently by his feet.
Dean chuckled and turned away, walking further out into what was left of the area surrounding Stull, as Sam drank his fill. Every few minutes another demon would run past Dean, towards his own death, with rapture on its face. Dean could feel every kill, the second the demon's souls snuffed out of existence. One more drop in the bucket of power for Sam, and one less demon in the world. He considered for a moment that a few days ago the idea of him letting Sam eat demon souls would have made him angry and then shrugged it off. Things had changed. They had changed.
Dean walked across one empty road and then another until he came to a perfectly manicured lawn. Suburban Lawrence. With only a handful of humans nearby. Many of them had probably fled after the explosion. Dean was halfway across the yard before he noticed the color of the grass changing beneath his feet. Every step he took left another patch withered and brown. When he crouched down low and ran his fingers across the still-green blades a half foot in front of him they died instantly, the life and color sucked right out. By the time he stood up again, the whole lawn was dead.
It was idle curiosity, more than anything else that made him enter one of the few occupied houses. He heard the voices inside arguing, clear as bell, before he even opened the door. It was a couple, the wife demanding they should leave 'just to be safe,' and the husband insisting that everything was fine. 'They didn't even find anything there—just a big hole in the ground…'
When Dean stepped inside they didn't notice him, because he didn't want them to. He sat down on one of the barstools at the kitchen counter and watched as their fighting escalated, voices raised higher and higher until finally the husband grabbed a conveniently close plate and slammed it onto the tiled floor in a satisfying crash. Splinters of it slid across the tiles and broke under their feet as the two picked up anything they could get their hands on and wielded them as weapons. A rolling pin left a good sized dent in the husband's head, especially after the wife had struck him for the third time, and she didn't seem to care that her leg was sliced open where he'd taken the butcher's knife to it. They attacked each other until their last breaths, and when they died, their souls hovered above their bodies, unsure of where to go.
Sam appeared next to Dean, face and shirt smeared with blood, eyes solid black. His left eye flickered to yellow as he turned towards the two mangled corpses.
"Want 'em?" Dean asked, gesturing.
"Yes," Sam said, and the souls flowed into his open mouth.
"Better?" Dean asked.
"There's other houses."
A week later, give or take a day, Sam was sated enough for them to get back into the car. The Impala's seat felt just as good as it always did underneath Dean and he couldn't help but smile as his fingers wrapped around the steering wheel. She purred happily under him as they headed out onto the road, and Sam settled back with his head against the window, just like always.
They didn't need a car technically, able to go anywhere with a thought, but there wasn't any rush. They had all the time in the world.
They drove for miles, through the endless farmlands of Kansas and didn't pull over until a lone dog by the side of the road caught Sam's attention. He sat up with interest and for a second Dean wondered if Famine's hunger extended to animals.
But when Sam climbed out of the car and walked slowly towards the dog, Dean knew it was something else. Sam stopped a few feet away, went into a crouch and held out his hand, calling the dog to him with a soft whistle. It was a German Shepherd—Retriever mix. Big and brown with dusty fur and a healthy build—he'd been someone's pet not too long ago. The dog turned and ran to Sam fearlessly, tail wagging as he got near. The big, doofy grin on Sam's face as he scratched the dog behind his ears made Dean feel happier than he had in years. The world might have dicked them over more times than he could count, but it still had some good in it.
The dog barked once sharply and then began to whimper. Sam stopped scratching its ears and jerked his hand away. When Dean got closer he could see why. The dog's fur had started to fall off in big bloody clumps. The dog's legs gave way and he staggered to the ground, as boils started to form all over his skin. His pained noises came softer and then stopped all together as his breathing grew labored and weak.
"No," Sam said, voice shaky. He turned to Dean, eyes wide and young. "Help him!"
Dean kneeled down next to his brother and looked at the dog. Logically they should be able to heal the dog. Somewhere amongst all the power they'd absorbed was the grace of two archangels. The two most powerful archangels. Dean reached for that power, but couldn't quite distinguish it from War's eternal malice and Death's cold indifference. He pulled on what he thought felt the most like pure angel and touched the dog, who lit up with bright white fire and turned to ash.
"Sorry," Dean said quietly.
Sam's breath hitched and he started to cry. He didn't look at Dean, he didn't say another word, but he didn't have to. As he wept, images—flashes of memory from their life before unspooled out of Sam's mind and flowed into Dean's. A wave of crushing emotion large enough to drown them both exploded out of Sam and over Dean.
The sky above them darkened and thick drops of foul smelling rain fell onto the ground, sizzling where they struck the earth. A flock of birds passed overhead and began to fall out of the air one by one. They crashed down all around them, wings riddled with sores and green oozing out of their beaks. Sam had quieted, leaning against Dean's shoulders and watched them drop with barely more than a slight hitch of his shoulders. This wasn't mourning. It was the last of his humanity being expunged.
Dean remembered the faces of the people that had died over the last few days just because he'd been near them. It hadn't bothered him then, and now the emotions covering them like a low-laying fog—guilt and fear and horror—felt foreign and strange. They were theirs, but from a previous life. Whatever part of him those emotions had belonged to was gone. It had died the moment he and Sam had shared that last look before they'd decided to take the archangels and Horsemen out all at once. They'd had a choice then—risk the beings they'd trapped in the cage getting out again, or make sure they never had a chance to, at the cost of their own mortality. It had been an easy decision.
The fog dissipated after a while, and by the time the sun was high in the sky, Sam's yellow-white eyes were dry, and his heart was as hollow as Dean's.
They drove for a long time after that, Sam sleeping peacefully as Dean followed highways and local roads chosen at random. When
When Sam woke, his eyes were muted, power banked more than it had been since they'd changed. The glass didn't even wobble when he asked where they were going.
"I could use a bacon cheeseburger," Dean said. "Keep yours eyes peeled for a good diner."
"We don't need to eat anymore." Sam cocked his head to the side. "Well, not food, anyway."
"You can stay on your blood and smoke diet all you want, but I need some red meat. And cheese."
"Least we know it can't kill you," Sam said, rolling down the window. It smelled like rain outside, and the sky darkened instantly when Sam stuck his hand out into the air. The black clouds sunk down and moved like they were alive. It wasn't until he heard their sound that Dean understood what he was seeing.
Sam nodded as the cloud became a funnel and descended onto a huge field of wheat alongside the highway. By the tune they'd reached the end of the field the wheat had been decimated.
"Was that you?" Dean asked.
"What—was the field looking at you funny?"
"It was toxic. Too much pesticide in the kernels."
"Would it have killed people?"
"No, but it raises infertility rates."
"So...you still want to help people?"
"More people, more souls. More souls, more demons." He shrugged. "Eventually."
Dean scoffed. "Look at you, strategizing."
"We're gonna be here…a long time. Might as well make sure we're both comfortable.
Dean couldn't argue with that.
The diner was a small, converted trailer off a dusty road in Nebraska. There were five other customers: an elderly man by himself in the corner booth, a mother and daughter and a middle-aged couple, both engrossed in their phones. The waitress sloshed a bit of water on the table when she set down their glasses and muttered an apology, wiping it up quickly. She accidentally brushed Dean's hand in the process, but nothing happened, earning him an arched eyebrow from Sam.
"Totally under control." Dean said with a pleased smile. "You?"
Sam shrugged. "Mostly. I think." He studied the menu like it was written in Cuneiform but finally settled on a Cobb Salad.
Dean got his bacon cheeseburger, a side of spicy fries and a Coke, and because he was feeling generous, dropped half of his fries on top of Sam's salad.
Sam placed them neatly on a small bread plate that appeared out of nowhere and Dean glared at him when a fly landed on his cheeseburger and just wouldn't leave no matter how many times he shooed it away.
"That's got to be the most disgusting power you could've possibly gotten."
Sam's smile faded and he shook his head. "Not by a long shot."
"You boys okay over here?" Their waitress asked as she passed by.
"Doing just fine, Charlene." Dean said, grinning up at her. "But you know what, I could use some pie."
"We've got apple, peach and blueberry."
"Apple, and two coffees. Bring milk for this one," he said, nodding at Sam.
Charlene smiled, but her brow was furrowed in confusion. "You been here before or something?"
"Not that I recall." Dean leaned back against the booth seat and looked at her.
"How'd you know my name?" She tapped her pen against her name tag, which said Mabel.
"You introduced yourself when we came in," Dean said, giving her his most disarming smile. "Now how about you get us that pie?"
"Sure thing," Charlene said, the confusion completely gone.
"Smooth," Sam said.
The parking lot of the diner held only four cars. An old station wagon in desperate need of repair, a small blue Ford truck, a white sedan, and the Impala. By the time Sam and Dean had finished their coffee, there were five demons standing around it.
When their eyes fell on Sam they all fell to their knees, a look of doped-up euphoria spreading rapidly across their features.
"You call them?" Dean asked Sam.
"No," he said, annoyance coloring his voice.
"Got room for dessert?"
"I didn't have any pie."
Dean smiled as he reached into the layers between dimensions and grabbed his favorite new weapon. The scythe. It didn't look like much, small, thin and old, but power thrummed through its handle and it whispered to him of times long ago and times yet to come—all of them with souls to harvest.
"Get away from my car," Dean said as stopped less than a foot away from the kneeling demons.
They ignored him, eyes still trained on Sam.
"You heard him," Sam said, looking down at the demons curiously. It was clear by his expression, though, that he didn't want them to leave. His eyes had bled black and his mouth was parted. His hunger lay heavy in the air.
The demons didn't budge. Dean knew they weren't going anywhere. They reeked of submission. There was plenty of fear too, but their compulsion to stay at Sam's feet, to do his will was stronger. Dean scoffed as he drew his scythe up and gave Sam one last look over his shoulder before bringing it down in a wide arc across the demons' throats.