Sam thinks it must have hurt a lot, dying like that. It looked like it must've hurt a lot. Dean screamed like it must've hurt a lot.
Dean screamed.It hurt a lot. Hurt like Hell, Sam thinks but he doesn't know. He's never been to Hell but... when he gets Dean back he'll ask him if dying like that felt as bad as where he's going to wind...where he... Hell. Sam will ask him if dying like that felt like Hell feels. However Hell feels. Sam wonders if it's anything like the hollow emptiness he feels just now. He hopes so but he knows it isn't, and Sam feels like he should say something, so he takes a breath and says-
After Lilith leaves, Sam cradles Dean's head in his lap and smoothes back his hair and cries and whispers things he couldn't say before. Things Dean wouldn't let him say before, but doesn't object to now. Can't object to now. He says things like "I love you" and "I'm sorry" and "Dean". DeanDeanDeanDeanDean, until it all blurs together so that his words become nonsensical shattered things. Things that even God could not pretend to comprehend.
And when it's over Sam is calm and numb and Dean's body is pale and cool to the touch. Not cold, but cool.
When Bobby finally manages to fight his way past the remaining demons, he finds Sam on the floor next to the lifeless body of a girl whose name none of them even knows.
Normally, Bobby would feel sorry for her but his whole attention is on Dean who is laid out on the floor, eyes open wide and blank and empty. Dead. Sam is hovering over him, though, and there's a bucket of water on the floor and a rag in his hand.
He's cleaning the blood from his body and his hands don't shake the way Bobby's do when he tosses him a rag and says "give me a hand would you?" like it's not a body. Not Dean's body. Bobby cries and Sam's eyes are misty red as he runs the wet, blood-stained rag methodically over Dean's skin and says "Don't worry Bobby, it's okay." Then he stops cleaning and leans down to rest his forehead against Dean's. Sam closes his eyes against the empty mirror-green of his brother's and just breathes. "Don't worry." he repeats. "it's okay. It's all okay."
"Sam, we should... we need to..." Bobby's voice is choked and quiet as he speaks. "Sam. The body..."
Sam looks up from where he's sitting on the floor at Bobby who is standing anxiously in the doorway. He stares at him for a long moment, then stares at Dean and he doesn't look back up. "Oh." He says after a long moment, so that Bobby knows he gets it. So that Bobby knows he understands what they have to do next. What they always do next. A routine salt-and-burn.
Salt and Burn.
"Okay." He says and Bobby breathes in relief.
It is another fifteen minutes before he asks if they can move Dean. Another ten minutes before Sam says "okay." and an hour before either of them attempts it.
Bobby drives them out into the woods, some place secluded and away from prying eyes. Sam holds Dean steady in the backseat and doesn't say a word the entire drive. Dean's skin feels like ice now and the numb feeling is starting to leave Sam. He feels sick and weary and just so tired. He wants to sleep, wants to sleep the way Dean is sleeping and thinks about telling Bobby this. Instead, he keeps quiet and helps Bobby prepare the body, the same way he helped Dean prepare Dad's body.
As he looks at Dean he thinks about how he had never wanted to do that. He thinks about how he had told Dean that they should at least try to find a way to save Dad before- but no. "No." Dean said. "Salt and burn." Salt and burn. Salt and Burn...
"No." He says, and it's the first sane thing he's said in a while. "Bobby, no." The body is on the pyre and there's a thin crystalline layer of salt coating Dean's skin and a match in Sam's hand and just... "No."
"Sam?" Bobby's voice is confused as he stands beside him. Sam doesn't look at the older man, he just shakes his head and says: "I can't."
"Bobby, I can't." And there is no mistaking his meaning, still Bobby persists.
"Sam we have to-"
"No." He says again, and this time he turns to him. "We're not doing this Bobby. Not here. Not now. Not ever. He's my brother- He's my- Dean. Not Dean."
"Bobby, I'm going to find a way to bring him back. I will. I'll find a way to bring him back no matter what it takes." And he looks Bobby in the eye, and he crushes the matchbook in his hands, and takes Dean's body off the pyre. Bobby doesn't try to stop him.
"I'll save him Bobby. I'll save him, I promise." Sam repeats and Bobby just nods and says: "Alright, Sam. Alright." And Bobby lets Sam take his truck.
Sam takes Dean to Illinois and pays a man in a lumber yard to build him a casket and have it ready for him by sun down. The man looks at Sam suspiciously when he requests this but nods, and later that night he has the box ready for Sam when he returns in Bobby's old beat-up truck. Sam inspects the box and is pleased to find that it's just wide enough, just long enough to hold Dean. Dean whose lifeless form is lying in the back seat of the truck, covered in a thin white sheet.
The man hesitates, eyeing the form in the backseat warily when Sam asks him to help him haul the casket on to the truck bed. After a moment, though, he does and together they lift it up and tie it down. Sam slams the back gate shut and thanks the man. The man nods wordlessly and looks like he wants to ask Sam about it. About all of it. He doesn't, though, because it's really none of his business.
And Sam pays the man a lot.
Sam drives then.
He drives in circles and straight lines and zigzags across the state looking for a place to bury the body. To bury Dean.
Finally he comes across a deeply forested area, and drives as far in as he can get. When he can't go any farther, he gets out and starts digging.
The grave isn't as good as it could be and Sam thinks the casket might have cracked a little when he finally managed to set it down. Still, it's intact and out of the way and he doesn't think anyone will find this place. Maybe that's why he feels comfortable enough to string together a spare board and an old chunk of dead tree and set a cross. Or maybe he just wants to mark the grave.
Either way, it's not important, doesn't matter. Dean's not going to be here long enough for it to matter.
That's what Sam tells himself. That's what he tells Dean. That and more, and then he leaves and he doesn't come back. Not for anything.
A month goes by, then another and another. Sam can't save Dean.
He's stopped trying.
In September Dean wakes in a wooden box, coughing and gasping for air, barely able to breathe but still breathing and alive.
He screams for help and it's hoarse and painful. No one is around to hear him. That's what he finds when he manages to force his way through splintered wood and several feet of earth, out into the brilliant mercy of the sun. That's what he finds. That and a grave (his grave) surrounded by a forest of flattened trees.
Dean looks out, confused and disoriented and wonders about the grave, where the only thing left standing is a crudely made cross. He wonders about it and the distinct salt-taste in his mouth, and thinks of how only a moment ago everything was burning and dying and screaming (everywhere screaming) and now there is just this massive destruction and silence. A ringing silence.
It sounds a lot like church bells.
"Don't worry Dean. Angels are watching over you."