Reality vs. Fiction
It was Jacob who found the books first.
(Of course it was him, he was Sam’s first - shut up, Jesse - it only made sense that he was the first to come across the books)
His first instinct was to burst out laughing and give it to Sam as a gag gift, because apparently someone thought Sam was a cross between Fabio and a cheap porn star.
And then his brain caught up with him, because someone was writing about Sam.
(And Dean, but Dean never entered Jacob’s thoughts unless absolutely necessary)
He pulled one of the books off the library shelf and plopped down on a nearby couch. Annalise wasn’t coming to pick him up until six, anyway, so he had plenty of time to get through Mystery Spot.
Annalise asked him if he was feeling sick when she came to get him.
Jacob shook his head, but his thousand-yard stare didn’t fade.
Sam watched Dean die 117 times.
At first, it was funny. Creative, all the ways Dean died, and Hell yes did he get a kick out of it. But Sam…
He could see Sam breaking. He could see Sam losing hope, see the life bleed out of him on every page, and then -
and then -
Sam without Dean was terrifying. Because this wasn’t the Sam he knew, the Sam that found him, clever and kind. This was a Sam he’d never seen.
Sam without Dean was like looking in a mirror, all that rage and determination and cold-blooded hate. He still didn’t really know why Sam loved Dean that much, but he understood Sam, and finally knew why Sam always had that gentle understanding in his eyes, in every e-mail he sent.
The fact that Sam was Sam, good and kind and hopeful -
He didn’t know what to do with that.
He still didn’t know what to do with that when he was back in his room, staring at an open message window in his e-mail browser. What was he supposed to say, Hey Sam, I found this book about you, how much of it is real?
Hey Sam, I’m sorry you had to watch your brother die so many times. How do you stand it?
Jacob looked at the picture of him and his Mom that he had as a desktop background. He still woke in cold sweats at night, seeing her murder all over again. He’d have hated if someone, anyone, found out about them without his knowledge.
He set his fingers on the keys.
Thanks for looking out for me since Mom died. Thanks for understanding - I know it ain’t easy, but it means a lot to me.
Jesse found out about them second (shut up, Jake, he knew Sam first, okay, met him before Sam even knew Jacob existed, so there)
He picked up All Hell Breaks Loose in a free book drive outside a library in a town he didn’t even know the name of, on the run from demons (again, always, why couldn’t they just leave him alone)
He had a thing for books with Hell in the title, ever since he found out… what he was. His reading selection when he first got to Australia was limited, but he learned and read and studied until he could pick up books about Hell and demons.
(Christian philosophy books were kind of wishy-washy, but the older theology and lore were kind of cool. Milton could go fuck himself, though.)
So when he saw a beat-up copy of All Hell Breaks Loose, he grabbed it and teleported out. He didn’t expect it to be much, but then he saw the name Winchester.
He’d never forgotten the name, the men who told him what he was, who changed his life forever.
(When he was little, he hated them. But the more he read about demons and Hell and angels, the more the hatred faded away. The world was dark and scary and maybe it was a good thing they told him the truth, because at least now he could fight.)
He read the intro about Sam Winchester, the man who’d told him the truth, who reminded him he could be good, and settled into the bed of the hotel room he’d teleported into and started to read.
Ten pages in, he was completely hooked. He’d read fantasy novels before, but there was something real about this, and even though he didn’t know the backstory that well, Sam was - he liked Sam. He liked clever characters, and Sam knew what he was doing better than anyone else. And Sam had the best exposition, too - whoever wrote this knew their lore well, because the black-smoke demons and salt and Azazel - that was all spot on.
(Though it didn’t look like the writer knew Azazel used to be a fallen angel.)
And then he got to the dream.
Where Sam watch Azazel drip demon blood into his mouth and watched his mother burn.
Holy Hell was that a plot twist. He read that chapter three times, gleaning every detail he could.
Sam had demon blood.
Sam got powers from the demon blood.
Sam knew exactly what it was like, to be tainted so intimately by demons, to have powers he didn’t understand, to feel like a freak.
And Sam died.
His brain sort of stuttered to a halt there, because it didn’t make sense, he’d seen Sam years after this was supposed to take place, and he was alive and whole. But it made sense a few pages later, and Jesse just sort of stared.
And then read the book cover-to-cover again.
This was the first time he’d read about someone who was honestly good, despite the terrible evil inside him. (He’d read about Gandhi and Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr., but they were all old and dead and remote. Sam wasn’t.)
Two weeks later, he teleported into Sam’s motel room, and felt like he was coming home.
Ben’s Aunt foisted Bugs on him before dropping him off at the airport. It was his birthday present - a round-trip ticket to Kansas so he could visit Jacob for a week. He was looking forward to it; Jake was pretty cool (not that he was ever going to admit it to the kitsune’s face) and it meant a week not around his Aunt.
Though why she thought a book on insects would interest him was beyond him.
Except it wasn’t really about insects, it was about Sam. (And Dean, but fuck him.)
That… appeared nowhere on the list of things he’d expected.
There were actual books about Sam and Dean? For real?
It was set, what, nearly a decade ago, and Sam and Dean were young. Like, the Sam he read about was more like an older brother than a -
Never mind, not going there.
(He resolutely ignored the fact that Dean and Sam bickered the way he and Jake did.)
This Sam was just so way different than the Sam he knew, the one who made him run laps and taught him to fight and be safe and the one he and Jake jokingly called ‘Sir.’ (Or, y’know, when they were in trouble. Which totally didn’t happen. Ever. Shut up, Claire. Not everyone was perfect, okay?)
This was a Sam who didn’t want to stay a hunter, who wanted a better life - college, law school, the whole thing. This was a Sam who believed that college was a ticket out of a shitty family (and wasn’t it just peachy that Dean was the favoured son). Sam riding them about their grades suddenly made sense.
It was… It was like his Mom. Pay attention in school, Ben. You can do better, I know you can. You’re going to be so much more than a yoga instructor, okay? You’re going to be a rocket scientist.
Okay, so the last one was a joke from when he went through his astronomy phase, the point stood. This was what Sam wanted for them, what he could never have.
Ben leaned back in his seat, yawning to keep his ears from popping again. He knew Claire wasn’t going to hunt forever, she was too busy planning to take over the world (US Attorney General totally counted, because Claire was terrifying.) Jake was happy using his abilities and hunting, but he was just as happy sitting beside Claire and studying. Where Claire went, Jacob would follow like a puppy. Jesse was… well, the Antichrist. He could literally do whatever the fuck he wanted.
And Ben? What did he want?
What was he going to do after he made Dean pay, after his Mom woke up? He was sixteen and a wrestler, Coach thought he could go pretty far. College felt like an eternity away, but some of his classmates had already started planning. What if he stayed a hunter, like Tracy or Krissy?
The seatbelt sign turned on, and the captain spoke over the intercom. Ben looked out the window to see buildings break up the monotony of the Kansas landscape as the plane started to descend. He could ask Sam, the bunker wasn’t far from Jake’s house. He could imagine Sam’s wry smile, coaxing him to slow down and think, figure out what he wanted.
He could imagine Sam’s hand on his shoulder his voice gentle - he had all the time in the world.
Claire was the last to find out about the books, which Jake insisted was to her benefit. He was of the opinion that the Supernatural books were trash, and after listening to him and Ben arguing over it for a week, Claire was as exasperated as she was curious.
She pulled a book called Faith from the shelf, smacking Jake on the arm with it when he kept complaining. The librarian looked at her curiously - what was a good Christian girl like her doing, reading those books? - but Claire just smiled politely and mentally cursed the Bible Belt. (Home sweet not home, she was going back to Illinois the moment she got the chance.)
It wasn't anything like Jake had described, or really much like Ben had talked about. It was... sweet. It was a Sam and Dean she'd never known, Sam young and hopeful, Dean sympathetic and willing to listen. It wasn't the Sam with a steel core, enduring like a mountain, that trained her, it wasn't the Dean full of bloodlust and arrogance and self-righteousness that beat Sam down and tried to shoot her boyfriend.
She had to wonder how they got from the brothers in this book to the men she knew now. Was what they had ever real? Or was it always a bad seed waiting to sprout thorns?
And above all, the book was nostalgic. That was what she remembered the most when she was done. She loved seeing Sam's cleverness in action, his relentless compassion and courage, but that hadn't changed over the years.
No, what caught her attention was Layla Rourke. Jesse had a thing for reading about Hell, she had a thing for reading about Christians. She'd loved Christian fiction before she lost her Dad, and she hadn't kicked the habit, even if half the books she read made her cry and throw them against the wall.
Layla, though - Layla reminded her what things had been like, faith through the hard times, even when there were no miracles around. It was hard to have faith anymore, when angels were cruel and uncaring, when they were just as bad as the monsters hiding in the dark. It was hard to believe, hard to find hope.
What was that quote her Mom used to like - 'In the case for faith, I can think of no greater proof than this: courage exists.'
Claire let the book fall into her lap and stared up at the ceiling, old words and phrases coming to her mind clunky and unused.
I don't know anymore if you're out there, or who you are or what you are. Or if I'm just howling into the void. But I... I have to believe in something better. Something bigger. So if you're out there, keep an eye on us. On Mom, and Sam and Jake and Ben and Jesse. And Dad, wherever he is.
It turned out there was a huge entire series, and Sam actively loathed it. He didn't stop them from reading them, but warned them to take everything with a giant bad of salt. They wound up reading summaries of the books more than the books themselves, checking with Sam on what was true and what wasn't.
(Most of it was true, to Sam's eternal frustration)
Ben, Claire, and Jesse point-blank refused to read the books introducing them (suck it, Jake, they'd all met Sam before him) and Claire got through half of Castiel's introduction before throwing the book away and refusing to read anything else with him in it.
Ben and Jake bitched and skimmed over anything involving Dean, reading mostly for Sam. Jesse read online summaries first and picked the ones that had the most focus on monsters in them.
(It's not what you are, it's what you do that counts!)
And one day, when Sam told them to take a break from melting out their eyeballs on ancient lore about binding rituals to trap his douchebag demon brother while he did... something in town, Jake pulled up the last book on his laptop.
It had never been published, but the manuscript had been disseminated to everyone on the Internet and was pretty much completed.
They were pretty sure their hearts stop. Multiple times.
(Great idea, Jake, this was exactly what they all needed on a Wednesday afternoon.)
This was so much worse watching Sam lose hope as Dean died, over and over again.
This was so much worse watching Azazel drip demon blood into the mouth of one of the best men they knew.
This was so much worse than listening to Dean's fractured, skeletal version of the truth from behind the bannister of the stairs.
This was Sam giving up everything he'd ever hoped for.
This was Sam sacrificing everything so that others could have hope.
Jesse curled up into a ball when Lucifer possessed Sam, refusing to read anymore, because he knew how that ended, could see the scars left on Sam's soul.
Claire started crying soon after, when they read about him struggling against Lucifer, trapped within himself.
Ben and Jake tried to pull away, because good Christ this was awful, but it was like watching a trainwreck, a nuclear explosion, and they couldn't stop.
The door to the bunker opened, and Claire bolted out of her seat.
"Claire?! What the - okay, okay, calm down, Claire - breathe, tell me what happened, where are the others?"
Jesse's faint voice finally, finally got Ben and Jake to look up from Jake's laptop, to see that Jesse'd left to meet Sam as well.
Sam returned to the common area with Claire and Jesse clinging to him, his shirt dampening with Claire's tears and snot. "Guys?"
"... We, uh, we read the last one," Ben forced out wanly, because Jake just looked lost, so lost. "That book series."
Sam frowned. "Come on, guys, I told you those weren't that accurate."
Ben pushed Jake's laptop around and the way Sam's expression dropped as he read told them everything they needed to know.
It was true.
Jake made a wounded noise, still looking lost and confused. "But - you were in Hell. With Lucifer. And you didn't think you'd get out -"
Sam gestured Jake over, letting the teen nestle himself behind Claire and grip his shirt tightly. "It was a long time ago Jake. I did what I had to, and I'm out now."
Ben found himself mimicking Jake's position without realising it, his arms tight around Jesse and Sam. He buried his head in Sam's shoulder and felt more than heard him say, "It's over."
It wasn't over. Not really. Sam was still here, still fighting, after everything he'd already done for the world. He could have said 'fuck everyone, I beat Lucifer, I'm going move to the Bahamas,' but he didn't, he stayed and buckled down and kept saving people.
Sam murmured soothingly over their heads, and the four of them only clung tighter.
Fuck the books. Sam was right there, Sam was theirs, he was warm and steady and loving and no paper and ink could ever cover that. Literally. No books could ever capture Sam.
Reality was way better than fiction.