Dean’s droning on about Sam’s mission after Dean’s gone to hell, about staying out of trouble and avoiding too many run-ins with demons. Sam responds with half-hearted grunts at what he thinks are appropriate intervals, but he’s too distracted to really care.
It’s been ten months and thirteen days since Dean made a deal to bring Sam back to life. It’s been ten months and thirteen days since Sam made a deal with himself that he’d blacken his own soul before he’d let Dean die. Sam couldn’t have possibly imagined how very much he had meant that until he met Ruby – the girl with golden hair and onyx eyes, like she’s the crown he’s supposed to wear.
“Hail to the king,” he murmurs under his breath as he stares out the window, fields whipping by in a haze of dewy green and amber waves.
“What was that?”
Sam breaks his gaze and turns towards Dean. “Hmm? What?”
Dean’s eyes are on the road, the setting sun coming through the window and catching on flecks of silver in his hair Sam’s never seen before. “Have you even heard a word I’ve said?”
“Sorry,” he replies automatically. He’s been saying that a lot these days.
Dean slams his palm against the steering wheel. “Damn it, Sam, listen to me, you can’t keep working with Ruby. Even if she saves me, it’s not worth it!”
Sam’s eyes go wide. “I’m not working with Ru-”
“Quit lying to me, Sam! I am done fucking around about this. I will shoot myself in the god damn head before I’ll let you throw everything Dad and I have worked for away. You’re not turning into Damien at the last hour just to save my sorry ass. It’s not worth it. No one is worth that.”
Sam crosses his arms, jaw clenching and unclenching. “But I’m worth languishing in hell for all eternity? I’ll quit lying when you’ll start treating me like your brother and not some fucking mission that Dad had no right to give you in the first place!”
“You! You just… you-” Dean’s holding the steering wheel so tight, he’s practically shaking. He takes several deep breaths, in though the nose, out through the mouth, but it doesn’t seem to help. “You’ve got no idea! Every day of your life, I’ve looked out for you. Every day! Even when you were off trying to live that apple pie life without me, when you didn’t want me there, I was looking out for you. And then you expect me to just let you die on my watch? To not do everything in my power to bring you back, to keep you whole and unchanged by the evil that hangs over our heads?”
Something hot and tingly is twisting inside of Sam, rising at the back of his throat. He blinks several times, struggles to breathe right. “It’s not fair.”
“I don’t care. I didn’t save you from being consumed by fire after fire just to watch you walk right into the flames like they can’t hurt you. You’re not fireproof!”
Sam slams a fist down on the dash. “Neither are you, Dean! You act like going to hell is all unicorns and ass-rainbows. Do you have any idea what they’re going to do to you down there?”
Dean rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah… torture for my sins, burning and beating and what-the-fuck-ever.”
Sam can’t help himself, he sneers, his voice going vindictive as he says, “Are you that stupid, Dean? You think burning and beating is the kind of torture they’ll use on you? They will twist you and break you and use you against me.”
“And you’re going to ignore it if they do,” he replies, his words clipped and hard.
“Even if they don’t get to me, they’ll tell you they did anyway. They’ll show you an illusion of your worst nightmares. I’ll be whatever it is you’re afraid I’ll become and you’ll believe every painful second of it. So what the fuck is the difference, Dean? Why can’t I just do what needs to be done now? If you wanted to keep me unchanged by this evil, you should have left me dead. It’s too late, now.”
“Son of a bitch! It is not! I don’t matter. I never mattered. It’s about you, Sam. It’s always been about you. What you decide, the path you take from here on out – it’s going to change what happens to the rest of the world.” Dean’s beyond angry now. He’s desperate and driving too fast and Sam doesn’t care. If they die now, they’ll both be headed to hell and Sam’ll make whatever deal he has to in order to keep them safe. Let them die. It would be easier.
“And what if I don’t care about the rest of the world?”
“Don’t be an idiot. Of course you care.”
“No, I really don’t. I only care about getting you out of this deal, Dean, and the sooner you come to terms with the fact that someone in this world gives a shit about you, the happier we’ll both be.”
Dean gives him a look of disgust and leans over to flick on the stereo, cranking up the volume as Bad Company comes pouring through the speakers.
“That’s real mature, Dean. Don’t like what I have to say so you just drown me out with bad rock music. Perfect,” Sam shouts over the noise.
Dean ignores him.
“You can’t avoid this forever.”
He smiles. “Don’t have to avoid it forever. Just a month and a half, Sammy.”
Sighing, Sam turns to look out the window again. He doesn’t need Dean’s approval to save his soul, anyway. His mind is made up and the wheel is already set in motion.
Eleven months and thirteen days after he made a deal to bring Sam back to life, two hours go missing in Dean’s memory. They’re two hours Sam could never forget, even if he would let himself.