In Hell, there's a door. Well, to be fair, there are a lot of doors, one leading into Faerie and another into Destiny and many many doors leading into human hearts, but Hell's a pretty literal place and we're talking about one door in particular. It's the height of the Chrysler Building, or it would be if forced to exist on a purely physical plane, set into the wall of brimstone that lines the labyrinths and levels of Hell. Enochian letters arch over the top while the Tree of Life, with the names of the ten holy sefiroth, burns along its surface. Four rings glow in the light of the hellfire at the four cardinal points.
Most demons avoid this door with a mix of awe and terror. The few who do venture close do so on hands and knees, or what passes for hands and knees on smoky columns of pain and suffering.
Dean looks at the door, blinks, then says, "Speak friend and enter!"
He's rather disappointed when the door goes on being a door and no kraken-looking thing flails out of that pool of blood behind him, but then Gordon Walker puts a spike through his eye, the fucker. No appreciation for seminal fantasy literature or Peter Jackson movies.
Sam had had Ruby pinned to the bed, both of them half-naked and blood streaking their skin and the motel sheets, when Ruby gasped in a way that had nothing to do with carnal sin and everything to do with shock. "Dean – "
Before Sam could sit up, Ruby's knife was suddenly sprouting from between her eyes. Bone crunched, brain squished, and Ruby was flickering out like water dumped on a hissing fire. Only a few seconds had passed until Sam was kneeling astride a long-dead brunette empty of demon.
The voice was wrong but the inflection, the tone was all there. Sam tumbled off the woman's corpse, fell on his ass and scrambled back to his feet. A white guy with short dirty-blond hair and greenish eyes was staring back at him in irritation.
"I swear to the dude upstairs, my dying wish is 'don't go darkside' and here you're sucking blood and fucking demons. Is it that fucking hard to keep the blood fetish to human chicks, I mean, maybe the ones gagging for sparkly vampire dick or whatever would be justified – "
"Dean?" Sam choked, and Dean grinned, ran a hand down his chest.
"I know, not as good as the original, but perfection's hard to copy. Closest I could find."
"How – "
"Aw, did you miss me, Sammy?"
Yes. "Yes, Christ, yes," Sam breathed, and Dean – because it was Dean, wrong body but still Dean – flinched. Flinched. When he blinked, his eyes flashed black, and Sam thought his own heart stopped mid-beat.
"Dude," Dean bitched, shaking his head like a dog trying to get water out of its ears.
"Oh fuck," Sam whispered, pulse hammering in his ears, unable to look away from what Dean had, had become, because of him. Dean, meanwhile, glanced at the dead woman and said with a shrug, "Well, if that's what gets you hot, at least you're not acting like a monk anymore."
And that's how Sam learns Dean isn't just back topside, but also a demon. In some ways, it's like nothing's changed. In others, it takes some getting used to.
"Dean, what're you watching?"
Sam's just come back to the motel from a quick run to McDonald's for dinner (needed to get away and just breathe for a while, pretend that there wasn't a faint sulfurous smell beginning to permeate all their stuff after a mere twenty-four hours) and walks in on Dean sprawled over one of the beds, staring at the television from which a disturbing series of sounds is emanating.
"Look at that," says Dean, jabbing at the television with the remote when a feminine shriek rings out. "Blood doesn't spatter like that from that angle of the blade. If they're gonna fake this shit, they should at least fake it right."
Sam drops the paper bag he's holding and says, "Oh my God are you watching a snuff film?"
"Don't be a dumbass," Dean snorts, "you think they'd have that crap on HBO?"
Okay, so maybe it isn't a snuff film and maybe at least some of it is being faked, but there are whips and chains and some huge-boobed woman in six-inch spike heels doing things with a twelve-inch dildo that would probably null the warranty of the thing. The splash of (fake, please let it be fake) blood across smooth skin makes something suddenly tighten in Sam's belly in a way that he would never ever admit to before he manages to turn it off.
"Let's just eat," he manages around the stone in his throat, pretending that Dean isn't looking at him through the eyes of a dead stranger with a knowing smirk.
That night, Sam's too keyed up to even pretend to sleep. Instead he stares and stares while Dean goes on and on about stupid shit, like, Good to know that no matter how long a guy's in Hell he can always rely on Lindsey Lohan to fuck up again, or, Forty years in the Pit and they don't even have the fucking courtesy to play a Stars Wars marathon when I get back. Sam feels too small for his skin and not far from shaking his way out of it, like scratching under the surface long enough will make his body peel off in layers of muscle and sinew and show his terrified, naked little soul to the glaring light of day.
The next night he sits on the edge of his bed and watches the slow rise and fall of Dean's chest. He nearly drops Ruby's knife when Dean asks at 3:06 AM, "If you're gonna use that thing, Sammy, then grow a pair and use it."
"Dean, I – I wasn't – "
"Don't worry, kiddo, I'd be thinking the same thing if I were you." The light of a car passing on the highway outside cuts through the dark of the motel room like a knife, but where it should reflect off Dean's eyes instead there's nothing, like the light's been swallowed up by a tangible blackness. "So what's it gonna be?"
If the old Dean had known that one day he'd become one of the things they hunted – one of the things that had killed Mom – then he'd have put a gun to his own head and saved everyone the moral dilemma. Sam puts the knife on the table between them and lies down. After a few hours he falls asleep to the sound of Dean humming "The Imperial March."
Sam's driving the Impala down I-10, ignoring the way Dean is watching him like a creeper from the passenger side, when Dean says, "I think you should take over Hell."
The Impala screeches a bit as she jerks to one side, Dean yelping Sam if you fuck her up I'll kill you. Straightening the wheel, Sam clenches his hands around it and says calmly, "What happened to 'don't go darkside or I'll have to kill you'?"
"Okay, that might be a little hypocritical now," Dean admits, "but seriously, Hell sucks ass. And brains. And bone marrow. So I was thinking, hey, my little bro is more like a little emo pussy and he could totally understand your pain so much that the demons would be begging for death after ten minutes on the sympathy couch, and then I wouldn't have to worry about blood gumming up my gun."
Sam isn't really sure what to say to that, so he doesn't say anything.
"Plus, the paperwork. You thought the crossroads demon made airtight deals? Hell invented the corporate tax loopholes in extreme economic recession. If anyone can deal with all that bureaucracy, my wannabe-lawyer bitch can."
"Jerk," replies Sam, because that's the one part of this conversation that he can handle right now, because he's not quite sure how to handle the offhand insults that come a little more vicious these days. Dean shoots him the kind of broad smile that Sam hasn't seen since months before Dean's deal came due and he has trouble breathing for a few heartbeats.
"Come on, Sam. You can be all self-righteous and empowered and whatever else those self-help books tell you, I can go on killing evil shit, and we both raise a little literal Hell. Whaddya say?"
"I say that I want whatever you're smoking because it sounds like some high-quality shit."
Sam glances over and, inexplicably, Dean looks hurt. Shifting his sweating palms on the wheel, Sam continues, "You want me to give in to the Yellow-Eyed Demon's plans and, and lead a demon army?"
"You make it sound like I'm asking you to drop babies in boiling water."
"Aren't you?" he mutters. Christ. "Give me a good reason."
Dean chews on his lower lip thoughtfully. "I know how much you hate the cold, California Boy. Wouldn't ever have to worry about that again."
"It's not like Northern California never gets cold," Sam mutters childishly.
"You'd probably get a crown to go with that pretty hair."
"A crown of thorns?" Sam asks softly, but Dean just rolls his eyes. "Boy king of Hell, Samantha, I think if you don't like the way it matches your dress you can make another one out of some poor bastard."
Sam's starting to feel sick.
"People are in Hell for a reason, Sam." For the first time since showing up two days ago, Dean sounds serious. "They're evil sons of bitches. We've been killing evil sons of bitches almost every day of our lives."
"And what about the martyrs?" Sam snaps. "What about the sons of bitches who couldn't let go of someone?"
Dean stretches in the seat, slouching low with his thighs spread and black shirt riding up on his belly. "They knew exactly what they were in for when they signed that bottom line."
That it takes effort for Sam to move his eyes from that strip of skin back to the road only makes his stomach twist harder.
At first, Sam's pissed about Ruby. She saved me, Dean. You died and I was just about doing my damnedest to follow until she yanked me back. Dean just rolls his eyes. Yeah, 'cause getting addicted to demon blood like a fucking crack whore is totally saving you. It's like the guy that lets you get the shit kicked out of you in prison before stepping in and offering to take care of you if you be his bitch. Sam tries to point out that he'd been dead for two or three days and look what happened with Dean. You were gone for four months in Hell, so don't you fucking talk to me like that.
Like you didn't try the crossroads thing first chance you got, Dean shoots back, but he grudgingly lets that particular point go because Sam's got a legitimate point.
The fact remains, however, that Ruby's gone, and Sam's starting to feel the craving again. He could summon a demon, trap it, suck it dry, then kill it with the knife – one less demon in the world, right, and if he got a little perk on the side, who could begrudge him that?
"If you were head honcho in Hell you'd have legions," Dean points out reasonably. It's like he can read Sam's mind, though whether it's a demon power or just because he's been wiping Sam's ass since he was six months old is up to debate. "Of course, then I'd have to kick your ass for being a junkie."
"I'm not a goddamn junkie," Sam snarls, falling into pretty much every synonym of 'bitchy' in the English language. Except when he drinks his Coke he tastes metallic warmth instead of sickeningly-sweet sugar, when he eats his McSalad Shaker the chicken pieces are little too much like the salt and sweat of human flesh, and when he's within thirty feet of Dean he can hearsmelltaste his pulse. Sam's always been a little bit wrong when it comes to his brother but now there's an extra layer to it, something that pulls at the dark quiet voice at the back of his head that he's spent his whole life pretending isn't there.
"Except that you're going into withdrawals because you haven't gotten a hit lately. Like a junkie."
Sam gets out of the Impala with a door slam that rocks the whole car. He's heading towards the motel office and considering getting two rooms so he can get away from Dean for a while just to goddamn breathe.
"Y'know, Sam, it's not like you'd have to go far to get it."
Sam freezes, mentally rewinds Dean's casual words and thinks that maybe he's actually going more insane than usual for hearing things that he couldn't possibly, is maybe just a little sleep-deprived for the way his eyes automatically trace Dean's shoulder and how it curves up to his neck under the harsh light of a streetlamp. It isn't until Dean's grabbing their duffels from the car and barking, "Dude, that room key isn't gonna find us on its own," that he's able to make himself move again.
The protocol for handling the return of a brother from Hell with somewhat infernal tendencies and in non-consensual possession of a body was never explained in Dad's notebook, so Sam's winging the whole thing as best he can. When he finds a hunt that includes demonic omens, well, it's not like sitting and staring at Dean's every movement because he thought he'd never have the chance again every night is really accomplishing anything. Or getting him closer to Lilith's head on a plate (because this is her fault, her fault and John's for turning them into this and John's already dead).
And if Dean had been a good hunter before, it's nothing compared to what he is now. The body he's wearing may not be his own, but he wields it with dangerous and loose-limbed skill, moving like he knows he can seduce anyone in a half-mile radius and is already halfway there. It's a little like how Ruby was and yet it makes something inside Sam hiss in a way that Ruby had never quite been able to achieve.
Trapping the demon is almost pathetically easy. They knock its host unconscious and tie it down to a chair in an empty warehouse. They could've exorcised it back in the alley behind the club, but Sam's not done with it.
"Where's Lilith?" he asks calmly.
The demon smiles. "Didn't your mama teach you how to say 'please'? Oh, wait."
There's a short pause in which Sam realizes he's waiting for Dean to snarl and throw holy water like he would have done before, but Dean's just standing to one side, lips quirked and eyes sharp on Sam, and Sam remembers that things are different now. Getting his fingers wet with holy water, Sam flicks it at the demon's face with casual cruelty, watching it flinch and growl at the pinpricks of agony.
"That the best you can do? Don't worry, Winchester, I hear it's a common problem for hunters. Maybe there's a pill for it."
"Thought I'd give you a chance to change your mind," Sam says.
"Don't know why you've still got such a hard-on for Lilith." It jerks its head in Dean's direction. "Got your brother back, didn't you?"
Sam glances sidelong at Dean, or rather, the body that Dean's possessing. Briefly reflects on the last three days. Thinks about a time when Dean would've preferred not to exist at all than to be the same species of monster of the one that killed their mother and fucked up their lives.
Seeing Sam's strange expression, Dean groans, "C'mon, Sam, I'm right here!" and spreads his arms wide. His heart's thumping steadily, loud in Sam's ears and smelling like sin and power.
"Yeah," he says, "Yeah," and he looks at the demon with the shit-eating grin on its face. "You want to do the honors, Dean?"
A beat, and then Dean smiles, a syrup-slow curl of lips over white teeth, and it's fucked up that this should be what makes Sam really, truly realize that this is his brother, Jesus, his brother and so much than that, and how did Sam not put a bullet in his own head the first night after Dean died in his arms.
Dean takes the water bottle, being careful not to touch any stray drops, and steps forward so that he's standing over the demon, a leg on either side of the demon's bent knees. He grips the demon's chin.
"Kinky," it purrs, "someone must've taught you well."
"You've got no idea, sweetheart," and forcing its jaw wide, Dean pours the holy water straight down its throat with a thin, steady stream like he's pouring a fine wine. Smoke billows up and the demon's choking on the holy water, can't even draw breath to scream; it's writhing in the ropes between Dean's legs, head forced back helplessly, and oh. Oh. Sam shivers and feels fucking hungry.
"I swear, I swear I don't know anything, oh fuck stop," it sobs. Dean just waits for the smoke to dissipate a bit before splashing down another round and starting the cycle all over again. "I'll tell your brother what you've done, I'll tell your precious fucking Sammy how you sliced and fucked and ripped your way through – "
"I'm thinking this guy ain't gonna be much use, Sam," Dean says as he forces the last of the holy water into the demon's mouth and gags it with the bottle.
Sam's desperately curious to know what went on in Hell, actual details beyond just, "It was Hell," but he's barely managing to bite back the craving as it is. He reaches for that slick darkness in his heart and pulls, lets it flood his veins even though it's weakened, and lifts a hand towards the demon. He can feel the demon, and also Dean, a starving man at a buffet, their twisted inhumanity pulling at something fundamental in his body. Tangling mental fingers around that pull, he yanks, forces the demon to spill out of the body in thick sulfurous waves and pool on the floor under the chair until it disappears in a crackle of hellfire.
"I know that I would've been upset over this before," Dean says, looking at the now-inanimate corpse, "but I can't be bothered now. It's not like this poor asshole would've gotten anything other than a sentence for the murders and a Bubba to call his own. What's that bleeding heart of yours got to say, Sammy?"
This bleeding heart should be horrified by Dean's words but, honestly, he's breathless and exhausted from pushing at his weakly flailing powers and thrumming with so much adrenaline he can barely hear his brother talking. It's not like he's been a model citizen himself for the last four months, one week, and three days (not that he's been counting, no sir, God as my witness) and Dean's looking at him with this half-lidded gaze, like he's seeing something he hadn't noticed before but really, really likes it. Sam can hear Dean's heart speeding up, and it matters less and less that Dean's body isn't quite the same – a little shorter, lips thinner and eyes more blue than green – but it's what inside that's making Sam's pulse jumpstart and try to catch up.
Then Sam's striding towards Dean and this really can't end well. He isn't sure exactly when Dean moves off the now-inanimate corpse but doesn't particularly care when he's suddenly got a hand around the nape of Dean's neck and his tongue between those lips, spit-slick, their teeth white-sharp. Dean's lower lip splits under the pressure and, holy shit, Sam's legs nearly buckle at the taste of blood exploding over his tongue. His blunt nails are digging into the flesh near Dean's jugular, but Dean's groan slams him back to earth.
"Oh, God," Sam breathes, tearing himself away and stumbling back a few steps. "Dean – "
Dean rolls his eyes and says, "Let's go, Sammy," entirely unperturbed as though incest is just an extension of the Winchester family business and Sam's an idiot. "Nothing else to do here and we've got more shit to kill."
Sam can't get the taste out of his mouth for hours and a part of him doesn't want to. That night in the motel room, when Dean changes clothes, he digs his nails into his palms and stares fixedly at the little drops of blood that well up so he can't see a flex of muscle or hear a heartbeat so clearly.
They don't talk about getting to first base of incestuous intercourse. It's the most normal they've ever been, which really says a lot.
"How about now?"
"…Five minutes from now?"
"Goddamnit," Sam snaps, ignoring the slight flinch. "Dean, I'm not going to be the king of Hell."
"Not with that attitude, princess."
Dean's driving. Sam's trying not to stare at the way the sun picks out highlights in his dirty-blond hair or shines dully off the ChapStick on his lips. Christ, the tremors in his hands are getting worse.
"Really, you'd be good at it. Put all that law training to good use."
The reminder of his lost degree is less painful than Sam might've expected. Stanford is a memory a million miles away, and Jess – yeah, not thinking about her or what she'd think of him now.
"Don't make me go get a spray bottle," Sam threatens. "I'll do it."
"And I'll bless it, and the next time you watch porn with more than a liter of blood, I don't care if it's fake, or torture someone – "
"It was a demon!"
" – or try to make me king of Hell I'm going to spritz you in the face and laugh."
Dean grins. "Kinky, baby bro. See, you're already halfway there. Especially with your new Soylent Green diet, and don't think I haven't forgotten that you totally betrayed my last living memory."
Sam seethes and thinks that the sunshine highlights are probably just a salon job anyway.
"I mean, you do know you don't need that shitty-ass blood, right?"
"…What?" says Sam.
"It's just training wheels for what you've already got, stupid. A Supersized Number One that only looks good but is seriously fucking you over. Don't make me go Eric Schlosser on your ass with this."
"God, you've forgotten your humanity but you remember the name of the guy who wrote Fast Food Nation?"
"Whatever, man, I can fucking read," says Dean uncomfortably. "Seriously, you just need the right motivation, not a fuckin' Bloody Mary."
"Stop the car," says Sam.
"Dude," Dean replies, and Sam snarls, "Dean, stop the fucking car."
Dean stops the car. Sam unfolds himself from the passenger seat, leaving the door gaping as he strides around the front of the Impala, yanks open the driver's side door, and drags Dean out. Slamming Dean against the car, he says softly, "Tell me what's going on."
Dean tells him. Says, "You hear things in the Pit, y'know. Demons are as bad as high school chicks, I swear, if it's not the hooks and chains that get you it's Belial bitching about Beelzebub's taste in flesh-eating insects. But you hear shit that's gonna go down serious, and Sam, we're smack in the middle of it."
"What do you mean?"
"These powers aren't going to go poof. You're stuck with them. And I think you should take charge of them before the shit hits the fan." He shifts, caught between Sam's weight and the unmoving side of the Impala with his ass hanging in the open window, but it's like a mouse trying to wiggle its way out from under a cat's paw. Sam presses down harder unthinkingly, looms over him with his greater height and bulk.
"And you don't think that's what I'm doing? What, you think I'm going after Lilith because I want to thank her for fucking us over?"
"Fuck you," says Dean, and for the first time since he's been back there's no smirk or leer or creepy watchfulness, just honest anger. "At least in Hell I can try to keep you safe."
"Do you realize how messed up that is?"
Dean grins tightly. "Isn't that par for the course, Sammy?"
"Well, maybe for once in your life you can stop trying to protect me," Sam says in the coldest voice he's ever managed. "You can see where that's gotten us."
Which is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull while rubbing salt into old wounds that not even Hell had been able to cauterize. Dean is making this guttural roar of fury as he shoves Sam away, and Sam can sense the unnatural power that's trying to throw him on the ground before he's able to mentally resist it and shove back. The power snaps back to Dean and makes him stumble against the Impala, makes his eyes flash black and stay that way.
"So," Dean says calmly, "forty years in Hell and a sudden need for contact lenses isn't enough for you, little brother? Didn't quite figure it into your Lisa Frank planner? I wonder if it was me or Azazel that made you into such an entitled little shit."
Sam's reply is telekinetically forcing Dean to his knees. He's so angry and so fucking hungry and this demon of his brother who is the only thing keeping him from burning the whole fucking world is flicking so many goddamn switches in his head it's insane. Putting a hand on top of Dean's head, easily ignoring Dean's attempt to bite him, he says, "You left me again, Dean."
"What – dude, that wasn't – "
A quick thought and Dean's mouth seals itself shut. "I know it was the Trickster that took you away from me first, and I don't. I don't think Tuesday ever really got past me. But then you left me, Dean, and this is what I became. This is what you became. So can you look me in the fucking eye like I'm a fucking adult and tell me that this isn't worse than if you'd just kept your fucking mouth shut at the crossroads?"
Sam barely remembers to loosen his hold on Dean's voice. Dean looks him in the eye, black to hazel-green, and slaps him with, "Yep."
For a moment the only sound is a warm Kentucky breeze rustling lazily through the autumn-painted trees on the side of the road. Sam's fingers tighten in Dean's hair, the implications that all this is better than just Sam being a sad desiccated corpse by now all too big to take in at once, and Dean takes advantage of Sam's stunned distraction to knock him back a few steps against the Impala and unbuckle his belt.
"Dean," Sam hisses with less shock and disgust than he should probably admit to, but Dean just tilts his head back under the broad span of Sam's palm, says, "Shut the fuck up, bitch," and shoves his hand past the zipper of Sam's jeans.
"Dean," Sam hisses again, but it's really more of a breathless whine this time as Dean manages to get the elastic of Sam's boxers hooked down and Sam's dick in his mouth. This is a logical turn of events, observes the wry part of Sam's brain that never ever shuts up, but then Dean does something with his tongue against the underside of his cock that does the impossible and manages to drive language right out of Sam's skull. Shifting to plant his feet more firmly against the ground, Sam lets the Impala take his weight, tightens his grip in Dean's hair, and groans a heartfelt, "Jesus."
Dean shudders and oh, shit, Dean isn't the only one – it feels like a few nerves in Sam's spine got scraped raw in a weirdly delicious way, and he says it again, feels his skin prickle with hot little needle-pokes, watches the way Dean's lips make the most goddamn amazing suction as he pulls his head back, the way Dean's ink-black eyes watch him. It doesn't take long for him to come, and when he does, it's with a faint yellow tinting his vision and the thought that the earth might have literally trembled a bit.
Dean presses his nose against the sweat-damp skin of Sam's lower belly, looks up at him with green-blue eyes over the plane of his heaving torso. "Told you that you just need the right motivation."
Three weeks after Dean clawed his way out of Hell to harass and disturb his little brother, and which apparently turned into harassing and fucking his little brother, they run into other hunters. Or Dean does, anyway; Sam's at the library poking around when Dean gets surprised with rock salt, a devil's trap, and a judiciously-applied exorcism. Sam's flipping through The Idiot's Guide to Sex and wondering if it'd be worth the trouble to steal it and slip it into Dean's duffel when he gets slammed with a vision.
He wakes up looking at the ceiling and the librarian's worried face. Scrambling to his feet, he ignores the calls of, "Sir! Sir, you should wait until the ambulance gets here!" and takes off down the street, following the sense of Dean, Dean, he was here and now he's fucking gone like Sam's a goddamn bloodhound. So to speak.
He's not really sure how he gets there so quickly, but it doesn't matter when he sees Dean's body – or the body he was wearing, anyway, which has become oddly familiar – sprawled lifeless in the middle of a trap usually designed for the higher level demons. Sam thinks Dean would've been flattered by that if he hadn't been, y'know, burning in Hell. As it is, Sam's too busy reducing the three hunters to piles of blood, bone, tissue, and excrement to fully appreciate it himself.
Fine, so maybe Dean was right.
"When I asked for a good reason," Sam muttered to himself, "this wasn't what I had in mind."
In Wyoming, Sam opens the Hell Gate.
There's no cloud of a hundred demons pouring out; just a blast of superheated air that ruffles Sam's hair and plaid shirt like a light breeze, the blinding cracks of hellfire that make Sam idly wonder if he should've gotten a pair of sunglasses at the last gas station. The steps leading down are made of something slick and smooth like obsidian, stretching out to either side forever, but Sam walks down them like they're a minor road block. The air burns with sulfur and methane and carbon monoxide but it just makes Sam's nose itch, and, fine, maybe this kind of proves the whole point of this venture.
Meg hadn't been fucking with them when she described Hell as a prison of blood and flesh and bone. Sam could swear that the ground under his feet, the color of split flesh and broken up every so often by rocky outcroppings that look more like the curve of bones, pulses like a heartbeat, and the never-ending horizon sometimes seems to bleed, like too much water poured over paint so the colors run together. Chains with no discernible beginnings or endings crisscross the entire landscape like a system of veins and arteries. Sam wonders if he should feel disappointed that he doesn't get a native guide, maybe not a Roman poet but, like, Gandhi or someone. Abe Lincoln.
Shoving his hands into his front jean pockets, Sam starts walking in Dean's direction. He can't see him but he knows where to go, which isn't so surprising when someone takes into account how much Dean has wrapped himself up in Sam and vice versa, the fact that it didn't take long for Dean as a demon to get more entangled in Sam's power than he ever was in those chains and hooks and knives and, hey, why be modest: Dean's been through every instrument of the Spanish Inquisition times a gazillion, but Dean lost his humanity before he ever lost Sam and that makes an impression on a guy.
So Sam goes walking in the boots that're falling apart from all the walking they were made to do and finds himself standing in front of a pile of writhing bodies. Souls. Whatever. Dean's sitting on the wriggling pile panting for breath, eyes black, covered in blood and holding his insides in with a hand. To be fair Dean is in reality as much a pillar of smoke as any other demon, but Sam decides that Dean should have his stupid hair and stupid eyes and stupid bowlegs again, so he does.
"Oh, hey, Sammy," he says. "Took you long enough."
"You're a jerk."
"Bitch. Hey look, got a present for you."
Dean jumps down from the pile, nearly tripping over a coil of large intestine that slips free. Sam's about to unleash Hell on Hell itself when he realizes that Dean's guts are suddenly back where they should be, the skin knitting together again, and of course, it's not like Hell would actually allow its denizens the escape of death. With his free hand Dean lifts up a head that Sam recognizes as having once sat on Jake Tully's shoulders. It's still screaming. "Merry 'X'-mas."
Dean's smile is so wide and weirdly happy like a kid who'd been handed everything he ever wanted and Sam realizes it's because of him, being here, and the thought is just – it just crashes over Sam like a tidal wave, sends him rolling under the weight of love and exasperation and fury and a no small bit of lust. Demons snarl and snap in Dean's direction but cringe away when Sam turns his attention to them.
"So, since you're here anyway," starts Dean, and Sam, vaguely wondering when this started seeming like a totally good idea, rolls his eyes and mutters, "Fine, whatever, dude."
Turns out Sam doesn't have to wear a crown. What he does instead, as his first act in office, is fuck Dean in the big throne that he does have to use, lets Dean ride him until they're both sore and come-sloppy and half of Pandemonium has turned to molten glass because not even Sam's powers can stand up to that thing Dean does.
The second thing he does is let Dean have free rein with Alistair and Alistair's collection of sharp pointy things for as long as he wants while Sam puts out Hell's equivalent of an APB on Lilith. If he also pins down Gordon Walker's mutilated soul until Dean has the time to get to him, it's because his brother deserves his own perks of the job.
The third thing he does is stand in front of a door the height of the Chrysler Building with the carving of the Tree of Life and the four rings. Unlike the demons Sam knows exactly what's inside, knows that it isn't the legendary Morning Star itself but rather just an angel – powerful, one of the oldest, but still just one as twisted up in his rage and despair and loneliness as any other creature. You hear things in the Pit, y'know, Dean had said, and this is why Sam can stand in front of Lucifer's cage with his hands in his pockets, Hell's metaphorical crown on his head, earth still in one piece and say, "Well, that didn't turn out as planned, did it?"