Sam was pacing; he was agitated, angry and afraid. Not a good combination on top of the exhaustion he was feeling after so many hours without any sleep. He could feel Bobby's concerned gaze but chose to ignore it.
"So do you know where they are holding Dean then? Because if you do, you have to take me there, right now." Sam loomed threateningly over the angel's shorter vessel, who looked back at him with a fraction less than his usual serene unconcern. Bobby wheeled up behind Sam and grasped his hand as if he feared the young hunter might take a swing at the trench-coated messenger of God. Sam ruefully admitted to himself that Bobby might have been right to be worried, he was that close to the edge.
"Sam, when was the last time you slept, kid? You are running on fumes, and that's not gonna help Dean any." Sam pulled away from the older man's grip and his affectionate concern alike, and bit back a rude retort with an effort as the old hunter continued. "We need to have clear heads now, if we are gonna get out of this in one piece, and get your brother back."
Sam ran a hand through his long hair, sighed deeply. Bobby was right, going off half-cocked would likely doom them all, and they couldn't afford to lose anybody else. He closed his eyes at the image of the hardware store exploding into the night, and the heartache at seeing the burning photograph in Bobby's hearth.
Castiel seemed unmoved by this display of erratic human behaviour, but was looking thoughtful. Sam sat down heavily on the edge of the bed as Castiel walked over and stood in front of him.
"I have an idea." The angel said, and before Sam could react, Cas had gently placed two fingers on his forehead and the young man folded into unconsciousness, slumping backwards onto the flowery pink bedspread.
Lucifer found him, seemingly only an instant after Castiel knocked him out. The First Among Fallen Angels had probably been impatiently waiting to pounce, hitherto frustrated by the long hours Sam had managed without sleep since Dean disappeared.
"Hello, Sam. It's been a while."
Echoes of Victor Hendrickson played briefly in Sam's head. He shuddered at the silky smooth tones, and even more so when he noticed the sloughing skin on Lucifer's vessel's face. Even in a dream, Nick's bodily corruption and imminent collapse was clear. It would seem that the healing powers wielded by a fallen angel were insufficient to maintain a weak vessel for long, even an angel as powerful as Lucifer had been.
Sam did not respond to Lucifer's greeting – what was there to say, after all? What was Cas playing at, sending him here, knowing Lucifer would be looking for him, just waiting to persuade him to give up, give in, give himself over to the end of the world. So much for having at least a few more months grace before the showdown in Detroit that Lucifer had promised him that terrible night in Carthage.
"You know why I am here, Sam. We have Dean," Sam clenched his fists, saw Lucifer note the gesture, hating how that made the Prince of Darkness smile in sycophantic sympathy. "Don't worry, he's alive – for now. You have proved to be very stubborn, Sam. Persuasion wasn't working, so I thought I might try a little bargaining instead."
"Blackmail more like," Sam growled. He took a step towards Lucifer, fury filling his soul, banishing the fear. "You let my brother go, right now, you evil son of a bitch!"
Lucifer's smile never wavered. "Sam, Sam, you have been spending far to much time with Dean, you are starting to sound like him."
"I could have worse role models," Sam retorted, the sudden ache in his heart telling him how true that was.
There was a stirring in the air behind him, and Lucifer's expression for a brief moment showed his mask slipping into bitter rage. Sam blinked and the Devil's smarmy smile was back; then he felt a warm hand clasp his shoulder. Castiel was standing beside him; somehow the lesser of the fallen angels had joined his dream, and it was apparent that Lucifer was not pleased by this development. Sam almost unconsciously pressed up against the short angel, taking comfort from his solid presence.
"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, brother, knowing your inexplicable devotion to that sad pathetic excuse for a human and his lost cause. Well, you are here now, so can bear witness to Sam's momentous decision. That's….nice."
Castiel stayed silent, waiting. Sam looked across at the Winchester angel's calm profile, wondering what Cas had in mind, hoping that he did have some trick up his angelically crumpled trench-coat's sleeve to magic them out of there and save Dean. Because he was racking his brain and coming up empty.
"I can send Dean back to Hell, you know, Sammy." Lucifer continued into the silence. Sam felt his stomach plummet at the words, as if he's just stepped off a cliff. No.
"But...but Michael..needs Dean…"
"He would have to find another vessel."
Castiel interrupted his brother, his voice calm but firm. A promise. "I would come and drag him out, just as I did before."
Lucifer just eyed the dark haired angel and smiled again.
"Yes, I suppose you would. However, it took you a long time to find him last time, and you were more powerful then. You hadn't fallen." Lucifer rubbed at Nick's blonde beard thoughtfully. "I wonder if you could reach him before we had broken him again? I think he would break quicker this time, don't you?" Then he laughed at the stricken look of doubt on Castiel's face.
Sam thought he had forgotten how to breathe as he struggled against the pain in his heart at the thought of Dean trapped and tortured again. Of his brother being broken and turning torturer, ripping other souls apart. Even if he were to be rescued, could any man, even Dean, survive that a second time?
Sam took a deep breath. Perhaps there really was only one way to end all of this. One way to save his brother, even if it meant damning the rest of creation.
Perhaps the Prince of Lies was actually telling the truth.
As the door closed behind Meg, Dean turned his head away and squeezed his eyes shut against the wave of despair that threatened to sweep him away. He had entirely forgotten about the Japanese demon-spirit who hovered silently against the wall, watching him. Yuki-onna drifted closer to the tormented human, and Dean opened his eyes as he felt the air chilling further round his body as she drew near.
"Oh great, come to get your jollies too, have you? Join the queue, Snow Queen." His bravado fell flat, even on his own ears. Besides she is so frigid even I would have trouble performing to my usual standards…
Disturbingly, Yuki-onna responded to the unspoken thoughts entirely without rancour, and Dean found himself blushing hotly in spite of the constant cold.
"My boys never have any trouble satisfying my desires, believe me."
The snow spirit leaned over his body as she had before, except this time she seemed somehow suspended so that her entire length was floating above him as if she had been suspended by wires from the ceiling. Her long black hair hung down around them both in a dark smoky curtain, and her lips almost, but not quite touched his. Her breath swirled around his head in a cold cloud, scented like pine forests, juniper, snow and ice, and he felt dizzy and afraid. This time when she kissed him, it was different - strange. Instead of winter enveloping him, he felt the freezing arctic chill that had been binding him being sucked out and a subtle heat creeping slowly back into his body. He closed his eyes again as a blissfully warm darkness chased the chill away. The last thing he heard was Yuki's soft voice whispering in his ear.
"When all this is over, I will return for payment. You will give me whatever I ask in return for this favour, my pretty boy…."
Yes. Yes, I guess I will. I owe you.
You owe me your fire, Dean Winchester.
He woke, still aching and cold, thought he had been dreaming and for a moment, despair almost claimed him again.
Then he heard something he couldn't place, a sound that hadn't been there in that featureless prison cell. He felt a breeze on his cheek and then realised the noise he couldn't place was the sound of wind whistling through the rigging of a boat.
He was lying on his back and was clearly out of doors from the noises, but the surface he was lying on was surprisingly soft, if still damp and cold. He could smell earth and grass. He opened his eyes cautiously to a pitch dark sky, turned his head, frowning as the small movement set it pounding worse than the first time Yuki-onna had taken him on a little trip. His side ached like crazy where Meg had been playing with her knife, but the terrible paralysis had gone, and he could move his arms and legs.
Yuki-onna, Meg – Lucifer. Shit, Sammy!
Dean tried to stand up, failed miserably, falling back and rolling painfully to end up on his hands and knees, gasping with pain and shaking with weakness. He put a trembling hand to his throbbing side and it came away black with blood under the dim street lighting. It would seem Lucifer was no angel when it came to the healing mojo, any more than Cas was, and sheesh, that hurts like fuck.
Phone. Have to phone Sam, make sure he's ok. Make sure he doesn't get pressured into saying yes…
He silently thanked the Snow Queen once again for having brought him here (wherever the hell here was) fully equipped with his leather jacket and its many pockets, and the all important cell phone. He flipped it open and dialled hastily with bloody fingers – Oh god oh god don't let me be too late… - it rang and rang, then Bobby answered. A moment of panic that it wasn't Sam, then he was too busy screaming instructions down the phone to wonder what their old friend was doing there.
"I don't know where I am, somewhere near some boats I think, but never mind me – look you need to wake Sam up, Lucifer is with him….what do you mean you know? What the fuck, Bobby?"
"Dean, calm down. Cas went in with Sam, he's in there with him now."
"Cas is in Sam's head – that's, that's weird, man…" Dean found himself swaying, even though he was kneeling down and he nearly dropped the phone. He lifted the cell to his ear again with an effort, his arm felt so heavy.
"Sorry, I lost you for a second there…yeah, m'alright…" his speech was getting slurred and he was having trouble focussing.
"Yes, I said boats…yacht thingies with sails and shit…"
"Ok Dean, hang on, I think I know where you are, I'll get…"
Dean couldn't stay awake to hear what Bobby was going to get; he slid very slowly and quite gracefully sideways, found his cheek pressed against the frosty grass, staring uncomprehendingly at a pair of black accountant-type shoes.
Then Cas had gently scooped him up in his arms, deceptively strong for his short stature, and in an instant they were back in the beautiful warm pink cocoon of the Traveller's Rest Motel. In a daze, Dean saw Sam stretched out on one of the beds, and tried protest as Cas carefully deposited him onto the other. He wanted desperately to rouse himself enough to reach out to the kid, but he just didn't have any strength left.
After checking that Bobby was attending to Dean, Castiel wasted no time in returning to Sam's dream, hoping against hope that he was not too late.
The younger Winchester brother was on his knees, tears streaming down his face. Nick/Lucifer stood over the boy, a fatherly hand placed gently on his tousled head.
Castiel strode over to the tableau, and ignoring his brother entirely, knelt down to face Sam. He placed a hand either side of the young man's face, forcing those reddened anguished hazel eyes to meet his piercing blue ones.
"Sam. Listen to me. Dean is safe, we have your brother safe."
He didn't raise his gaze to see Lucifer's reaction, kept Sam fixed on him, so the boy could see the truth in his eyes, hear it in the timbre of his voice.
"Safe. Hidden." For now.
Sam looked up at Lucifer, and smiled – a genuine, happy full-on grin that made him look ten years younger.
Sam deliberately woke himself up, breaking Lucifer's connection. Castiel did the same, leaving the dream-state never looking back, hearing without sound the rage and frustration of his older, more powerful brother with no small sense of satisfaction. For now.
Dean managed to retain a grip on his consciousness long enough to register that Sam was awake. More than that, his giant little brother was perched on the edge of his bed looking happy to hold tightly onto his hand just like they had when they were kids. He stayed awake long enough to grunt something about allowing a chick flick moment in the circumstances….before swimming off into a deep contented sleep.
He didn't hear the whisper on the chilly north-easterly wind. Remember you owe me your fire, Dean Winchester…
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