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This Ain't Madness

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He sat up sharply, sucking a breath into aching lungs, eyes snapping wide, and for a moment it was like waking from a nightmare. Then Dean looked down at his torn shirt and the blood on the remains of it. Walt and Roy were gone, and he wondered how long it had been.

Back off.

It only took a moment for it all to sink in with the surety of truth. The weight of failure. And the sick, dark feeling of betrayal, because Sam-

Hadn’t made a sound.

Dean turned his head and looked, half expecting to see Sam already gone, deserting him again. Or just blinking uselessly at the ceiling. It was neither. Sam was still there, and he wasn’t blinking. His eyes were wide open, limbs sprawled in the position he remembered exactly. Sam had jerked with the force of the shot and then fallen back…

Us, Dean thought, they were returning us.

But who had promised that?

No. It’s not what you think. “Sam,” Dean said harshly. “Come on. Always got to make an entrance, is that it? Come back already.”

There were sirens, Dean realized. Coming closer. His insides froze. They were in a motel, someone might have heard the shot, someone probably had heard the shot and called…

“We need to move, Sam,” Dean said, not bothering to be gentle. What was taking so long? He shook Sam’s shoulder and he flopped limply, not resisting or reacting or-

It’s just taking longer than it should.

“We’re moving,” Dean said. “If you’re going to be like this – fine. Don’t bitch at me later.” He staggered, heaving Sam over his shoulder, and looked outside. It was still dark, but the sirens were very close now. Across the parking lot and into the car, then, stumbling under his heavy (dead weight) burden, and if Sam thought he could just do this, he was wrong (just like Dean had apparently been wrong to think that Sam gave a damn for him).

He tore out of the parking lot, moving on autopilot, and down the road out of town. In the passenger seat, Sam’s head lolled sideways in a familiar way and Dean wanted to scream, scream and never stop screaming.

It was fifteen miles out of town before he stopped. Fifteen minutes of silence. Maybe twenty since he’d returned from Heaven, or what passed for it nowadays. Fifteen minutes and Sam was still

(silent, quiet)


The wounds in his chest weren’t closed. His skin was cool. Sam wasn’t there. And he could deny it and deny it and deny it but things didn’t change. The angels hadn’t sent Sam back. They hadn’t let him go.

(And wasn’t that just like angels. Turning Heaven into a hostage situation.)

“Cas,” Dean yelled, and then again, “Castiel! Get your ass here, we’re-”

“I can hear you if you speak normally,” said Castiel from the backseat, and then glanced sideways and blinked. Dean didn’t bother to point when he said, “Do something about this.”

“Sam is,” Castiel started to say, brows furrowing, and no matter what, he still couldn’t stand to hear it.

“I know,” he said harshly. “Can you get him back here?”

Castiel hesitated for a long time, then shook his head, just once. It was enough.

“Get out,” said Dean, and when Castiel hesitated, repeated it through his teeth. “Get. Out.

“Did you find,” Castiel said hesitantly, and Dean’s hands wrapped around the steering wheel instead of the angel’s neck only by fortune.

“No. Yes. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care, Cas. God doesn’t care and Sam’s dead and I need you to leave.”

Castiel recoiled. “What?”

He doesn’t think it’s his problem,” Dean echoed. “He’s left, Cas. He’s done. We’re all just…done.”

Castiel’s face wavered between an almost pitiful expression of betrayal and the beginnings of anger. Then he was gone. Sam didn’t move. God didn’t care. It was all falling down and all he could wonder was why it didn’t seem to matter anymore.

He wondered what the angels were doing to Sam. Whether they were hurting him (probably). Whether they had any intention of ever returning him to his body (who knew?). Dean sat with the engine idling, wondering where to go from here.

In the end, it was really very simple.

He put Sam’s body in the backseat and drove back the way he’d come. The motel was swarming with police and everything else, but no one was looking across the street, and it was easy to park in the shadows. He watched until the owner retreated into the lobby, away from the officers, and then slid around the back of the reception building and through a back door (unlocked). Dean almost snorted.

The owner turned around as he closed the door and his eyes bugged out of his head. “Call the police,” Dean said nonchalantly, “And I will personally smash your head in. I just want to ask what kind of car the guys who asked about us drove.”

He would have felt sorry about the nervous little spasm toward the door a couple weeks ago. Maybe even a couple hours ago. He thought of Sam’s corpse in the back seat of the Impala.

He’d made a promise. True, he’d made a lot of promises, but this one he even meant to keep.

“I thought for sure you were,” the guy started to say, and Dean heard himself laugh, a grating sound, still watching the flashing lights out the glass door.

“Yeah, funny story, that. What kind of car?”

A pickup, the owner said. A pickup, blue or black. In pretty bad shape. Covered back. Dean strolled across the lawn and waved at a police officer who looked up, the grin stretching his face until he slid into the Impala and let it fade.

“So, Sam,” he said, looking in the rearview mirror, angled to see Sam’s face. His lips were blue, but his eyes were closed now. “What do you think. Still in town, or did they know enough to run?” Sam didn’t answer. Sam was probably having his arms twisted by angels. And it shouldn’t have mattered, because Sam…

It was no use lying, though.

“Either way,” Dean said, lowly, “They’re still dead.”

The pickup wasn’t theirs. It had been dumped behind a bar just on the edge of town. A week ago, Dean would have cursed and maybe even thrown something. Now he just smiled. So they were running. Just as well.

He called Bobby and got their phone numbers before Bobby thought to ask why. He didn’t mention Sam or God or the fact that his hand kept finding its way back to run through Sam’s too-long hair.

“Dean?” Bobby asked, “Are you sure you’re…”

“Just fine,” Dean said, fingering the piece of paper with the numbers. “Just fine.” He disconnected the call and dialed the first number.

“Hey.” Slurred, slightly, could have been sleep or booze. It didn’t matter. Roy’s voice was still recognizable.

Killin’ Sam was right, but Dean…

Dean kept the phone at his ear, waiting. “Hey?” said Roy again, sounding slightly more uncertain. “Who’s this?”

Dean hung up. He glanced back at his free hand carding through Sam’s hair and extricated it, laying it palm down on his cool brow instead. “It’s okay,” Dean murmured. “I’ve got this.” Sam didn’t answer. Sam wasn’t ever going to answer.

This time Sam really had left him for good, and that thought struck Dean as funny. He laughed for a while. The phone was ringing, and he didn’t check to see who was calling.

He drove west, hunting traces of two hunters who hadn’t been John Winchester’s boys and didn’t seem to know how to hide. Didn’t seem to know they were running, either. Dean waited two days before calling again. The car windows were rolled down, because there was a faintly foul, musty smell that Dean refused to believe was what it was.

Decomposition was so final.

He called the other number this time, and Walt picked up with a wary, “Hello, who’s this?”

Dean didn’t answer. We just snuffed his brother, you idiot. You want to spend the rest of your life knowing Dean Winchester’s on your ass? There was a deep breath on the end of the line, and he heard a mumbling, and then, “Whoever the hell this is-”

Dean hung up. He waited five minutes before calling again. Roy this time. He could hear Walt cursing in the background, the touch of uneasiness in Roy’s voice. He didn’t know yet, but he knew. Knew something was coming.

There were three messages when he hung up on Roy, all from Bobby. Dean ignored them, glanced back at Sam, whose eyes were starting to sink back in his head. For now, though, he just looked dead. Nothing more, not just yet.

Dean kept driving. He called Walt again in the middle of the night. The other hunter picked up the phone, cursing. “Look,” he yelled, “Whoever the fuck this is, go and –”

“Hello, Walt,” said Dean. Calmly. Quietly. His hand was back in Sam’s hair. A few strands came out between his fingers. Sam didn’t wince.

The silence was complete. He heard Roy in the background say, “What? Who is it?”

This time it was Walt who hung up. Dean let him, and hummed Metallica under his breath as the road slid by. They were really going to be running now. Everything was going beautifully. Just for fun, he listened to the messages from Bobby.

Look, I don’t know what you think you’re…

…heard something strange from some hunters…

You want to call and talk, idjit?

Dean pulled off the road and got out of the car. It was late, and the stars were clear overhead. He called Bobby. “What do you think you’re doing?” Bobby demanded, and Dean laughed, though it sounded more like a cough.

“What Winchesters do best,” he said, and Bobby made a noise like a groan.

“I don’t know what happened, but you and Sam had best get your asses-”

“It’s just me, Bobby,” Dean said. He waited for that to sink in. Bobby sucked in a breath.

“Dean, do you mean he-”

“Is dead. Yep.” Dean rolled his shoulders back. “I’m not coming to your place, Bobby. At least not yet.”

The note in Bobby’s voice was one of sudden dread, after his long silence. “So what do Winchesters do best? Sacrifice? Idjit, you’d better not-”

“Not sacrifice,” Dean said. “Revenge.”

He hung up the phone.

He called Roy. “I told you I’d be pissed,” he said.

“Dean?” Roy sounded scared. Good. Dean let his smile widen, let it inch into his voice.

“You know the funny thing? If Sam were around, he’d probably tell me not to go after you. Something like that. That you were just doing what you thought was right. If Sam were around. Isn’t that funny?”

“Fuck,” said Roy, and then, “Walt? Walt!”

“I don’t care how long it takes,” Dean said. “I’m going to find you. And then I’m going to kill you. How does that sound? Maybe I’ll blow out your kneecaps first, Roy. Make you crawl.”

“It wasn’t,” Roy started, and then Walt was yelling down the line.

“Listen here,” he said, and Dean hung up. He imagined the two of them staring at the phone and looked over his shoulder at Sam. Sooner or later you’re going to have to bury him, said a sensible voice in his head, but it was quiet.

“It’s okay,” Dean said, turning his eyes forward and starting the car. They were only about a day behind, according to the people who’d seen his quarry. “Everything’s okay.”

He followed their descriptions to a bar where he stood in the doorway until Walt glanced over his shoulder and saw him. Then he ducked out and watched them scramble for their car. A burgundy Volvo. Walt had a hand on the handgun in the back of his jeans, and Roy was looking all around himself. The Impala was safely far away.

He watched them go, the car pulling out of the lot with a touch of desperation.

He stayed a couple cars behind, and called once they both hit highway. No one answered, so he left a message of silence. Dean glanced back at Sam and nearly choked on the smell.

“Soon,” he said thickly. “Soon, okay, Sam?”

But he didn’t promise. Not this time.

“He couldn’t have followed us here,” Roy said, with a touch of desperation. Walt tried to look at him scornfully, but Roy could see the worry on his partner’s face. Whatever Dean had risen as…whatever it was hunting them… (Not Dean, Walt insisted, not even Winchesters could manage that. Roy wasn’t so sure.)

“We ditched the car at the other motel. There’s no way. None.”

Roy nodded shakily, and opened the door.

Dean Winchester was sitting on the bed, handgun tapping against his leg. There was something in his face, something in his eyes. Across the room on the other bed-

Roy gagged. Walt was faster. He reached for his gun. Dean moved too fast, though, and Walt screamed, the gun dropping in a spray of blood.

“He’s lost it,” Roy said, “Shit, Winchester, you’ve gone crazy-” Almost three weeks of rot had taken their toll, but he still knew, still knew exactly…

“Crazy?” Dean said, and stood up, unfolding slow and graceful, and then he smiled. “No, boys. I’ll show you crazy. This ain’t crazy. This ain’t even anything close.” He squatted and leaned forward, reaching out to pick up Walt’s gun. “Didn’t I promise you?”

Just think nice thoughts, Roy’s brain supplied unhelpfully, and his eyes went to the corpse on the other bed, what was left of Sam Winchester, and knew it wouldn’t help.

He didn’t bother to bathe. If Michael wanted him, he could take him like this. As he was.

He glanced over at the bed, the only thing in the room still untouched by blood, it seemed. “I’m sorry, Sammy,” Dean said. “I never meant for it to be this way.”

He turned toward the door, opened his mouth, and yelled, “Michael!

In bright light he was gone. On the bed furthest from the door, flesh filled in and rot gave way, and Sam Winchester woke with a gasp of air.