A hundred miles down the highway, Sucrocorp a smoking ruin in his wake, Sam pulls over and throws up violently onto the gravel shoulder. When he's done, he sits hunched over the steering wheel, trying to get himself together. He tells himself this can't be happening, that Dean and Cas will show up any second, but that hope is dying fast. If angels had any power in Purgatory, Cas would have gotten Dean out of there by now. Wouldn't he?
Sam hasn't hallucinated in weeks, but he's scared to look over at the passenger seat.
He punches the doorframe, the shock of pain like a lightning crack. "Come on," he tells himself fiercely. "You can do this."
He has to.
* * *
Five hundred miles from Chicago, he pulls into a motel. The sight of the two beds gives him a bad moment, but he strips naked and gets into the shower. He's been driving all day with black goo and the smell of gasoline soaked into his clothes. The clerk must have been doped out of his mind on corn syrup to give him a key. How long, Sam wonders, until the supply channel is disrupted and it starts to wear off?
When Sam's retched in the shower a few more times, then finally scrubbed himself free of soot and Leviathan guts, he gets out, drinks two glasses of water, puts on clean clothes, and sits down with his laptop.
He breathes for a moment, eyes closed, clearing his head of everything. Then, as he's done every morning since Cas broke the wall in his head, he visualizes what he has to do.
Get in. Find Dean. Get out.
With that infinitely simple, infinitely difficult goal fixed in his mind, Sam breathes out, opens his eyes, and starts making notes.
Lovecraft (medieval manuscript)
- Portal (ritual, virgin blood, Purgatory blood, eclipse)
- *Moishe Campbell's journal (copy? original?) - storage locker
- Lovecraft letters? - Bootbock, KS?
Dragons (Latinate manual, 14th C.)
- Designed to bring specific monster out
- extant copies?
Kill Leviathan (Dick only?)
- bone, fallen angel, alpha, Crowley
Location spell (my blood? something of Dean's?)
Escape from Purgatory - research Eunoe, Lethe
Corporeality in Purgatory?
That arrests his train of thought. Is it possible that Dean's corporeal body and Castiel's vessel were both destroyed? Is it possible that Dean is actually—
Sam has to lean over for a minute, his arms braced on his knees and his mouth pressed against his folded hands, his breathing ragged. No. That's not what happened. He saw it with his own eyes. Dick imploded like a black hole—and Dean and Cas were sucked in with him, body and soul. He has to believe that. He's read more or less everything there is to know about Purgatory, and he knows there's scholarly support for the idea of Purgatory as a physical place, a dimension unlike Heaven or Hell, more closely associated with Earth. What did Bobby say? It's all blood and bone and darkness. Filled with the bodies and souls of all things hungry, sharp, and nasty. Blood and bone. Sam's counting on that.
He reads over what he's written. It's not much, but it's a start. Then he makes a new heading:
It's more daunting than anything he's written yet, because at first there is absolutely no one he can think of to put on that list. No one he's willing to risk—not who would have any reason to help him. But he forces himself to put emotion aside. His soulless self wouldn't have thought like that, and he can't afford to, not now.
Finally, he starts to type.
Other hunters... Tamara?
He hesitates for a minute, then adds:
Crowley is out. The sonofabitch is laughing his ass off right now, and he's first on Sam's list to waste if he gets half a chance. As to why Crowley didn't simply kill him, Sam has no idea. That parting shot about Sam taking out the rest of the Leviathan had to be a joke.
The fallen angel problem is almost as insurmountable. For all Sam knows, Cas is the only one. Most of the angels are dead, and the ones who are left have no reason to help them. Reluctantly, Sam admits his first instinct—trying to duplicate what happened to Dean and Cas by making another leviathan-killing weapon—may be a dead end.
Sam finally types:
but those seem like such long shots, he rubs his eyes and has to walk away for a minute. He's reaching, and he knows it.
Sam leans against the door, forehead resting on his wrists. He feels ridiculous, and completely inadequate. It's insane to think he can do anything to save Dean. Even with Ruby's help, with Bobby alive and his powers fully activated, he hadn't been able to do a damn thing to get Dean out of Hell. Four months of single-minded obsession hadn't gotten him one step closer, and that was with all his marbles intact and a dozen resources that are either dead now, or otherwise out of his reach.
Don't think about what you can't do. It's Dean. He wouldn't give up on you, so don't give up on him.
It rings more hollow than he'd like. Sam knows what Dean went through to get his soul back, but things haven't been right between them in a long time, and they've both known it. They've kept going through the motions because the alternative is too miserable to contemplate.
"Not helping," he grits out under his breath. He squeezes his eyes shut and knuckles hard into his sinuses. "Get over yourself, and fix this."
Sam scrubs at his face and straightens, taking a deep breath. It's not the same, he tells himself. Dean sold his soul. Hell had a legitimate claim. A living, breathing human and an angel have no place in Purgatory—that has to count for something.
Work the case, Dad would say. What do you know?
"Assume it's a physical place." He forces himself to sit back down at the computer and focus. "Start there."
Sam hasn't slept much in days. He won't sleep tonight, either, not while he can still put two thoughts together. He may be rusty and slow and exhausted, his brain held together with Scotch tape and wishful thinking, but he's all Dean's got.
When morning comes, his list is shorter. He reaches for his phone.
* * *
The knock startles him out of an exhausted sleep so deep that he's on his feet, his gun in his hand before he remembers where he is.
A glance at his watch tells him it's not yet morning; he worked through the day, and passed out after midnight. Dean's been missing for almost forty-eight hours. Coffee cups and Power Bar wrappers litter the table, and he wipes what he suspects is drool off the side of his mouth.
The knock comes again, louder this time. "Sam, it's Jody Mills. Open up."
He half-believes he's dreaming when he opens the door, but she pushes past him, lugging a heavy box of three-ring binders. "Things are getting scary out there. It's like an episode of the Walking Dead." She puts the box down and surveys the wreckage, then turns her keen gaze on him. "Not much different in here, I see. You do know humans have to sleep some time, right?"
"I was," Sam says, mired in cobwebs. "What are you doing here?"
Jody shrugs. "You said you needed that manuscript."
"Yeah, but—you were supposed to FedEx it. I didn't want to get you involved."
She rolls her eyes. "Like I'm gonna trust Bobby's books to FedEx? In case you hadn't noticed, half the country's gone brain-dead. Think that makes me involved. Besides, you sounded like you could use some help."
The way she's looking at him forces Sam to clear his throat hard to keep from embarrassing himself. He realizes he's still holding his gun, and tucks it into the back of his jeans.
"Thanks," he manages. "Thank you. I'm sorry, you, uh—" He starts cleaning up some of the mess. "Can I make you some coffee? I think there's one packet left."
"Had plenty on the way here. I think I'm wired into next week. You look like you could use some, though."
"Yeah, I, uh. Haven't been sleeping much." He gestures toward the bathroom. "Let me splash some water on my face."
He brushes his teeth and combs wet fingers through his hair while he's at it, and feels marginally more human. When he comes back, Jody's standing in front of his wall of printouts. He realizes what she's looking at, and an uncomfortable flush rises. Why did he have to put her name at the top?
"Not much of a list," she comments.
"Why do you think I said you should stay away?" At her look, he explains, "Bad for your health, being friends with us."
"Worked for me so far," she counters, her gaze steady on his. Before he can react, she turns back to the printouts. "So, what kind of trouble's Dean gotten himself into this time?"
Sam knows he should insist that she leave. He can count the people he cares about on one hand, and she's already done more than he can ever repay. But she wasn't wrong; he does need help. Dean's been gone forty-eight hours, and she might be the one person left in this world he can call a friend.
He sits on the bed, and tells her everything.
Halfway through, she goes to the box she brought without a word and pulls out a bottle of good whiskey. She pours him a healthy glass, and hands it to him. When he's done, he takes a good swallow, letting the burn serve as a substitute for tears. "I'm sorry," he says, fighting against the despair that threatens to eat him alive. "It's just, I've let him down so many times. But this time, I'm all he's got."
"Yeah," she agrees. "Which is why I'm pretty sure he's as good as outta there."
"How do you figure?"
Jody pours herself a drink and refills his glass. "To hear Bobby tell it, you saved the whole world all by yourself. And seems to me I've seen you save your brother from impossible situations before, so why's this time gonna be any different?"
"Yeah, but that was—"
Sam breaks off. Maybe it's the whiskey, or the reminder of the last time she held him together when Dean was missing. All at once, he's remembering the warning Chronos gave him, feeling it in his bones.
I know your future. It's covered in thick, black ooze.
"I'm such an idiot." Sam looks at Jody, and everything crystallizes like a thunder crash. Before she can react, he's on his feet, whiskey sloshing as he sweeps her up and kisses her—a long, solid kiss of soul-deep relief. "I am such a fucking idiot."
"Wow. Okay. What?"
Sam lets her go, energized and pacing. "Chronos! He knew! He knew the whole time!"
"And," he tells her, alight with it, "Chronos can change history. And we know how to summon him."
"But what good does that do? Chronos is dead."
"No! He's not! I mean, he is, but not now." Sam's thoughts rush ahead of him. "He saw the future, which means he's seen the future. We can fix this. We can fix this." Belatedly, it registers that he just kissed Sheriff Mills on the mouth, and he flushes red. "Oh, crap. I'm sorry I— That was out of line."
Jody's color is high, but she says only, "Don't apologize. Just tell me if you decide you meant it. But seriously, won't we, I don't know, destroy the time-space continuum or something?" At his look, she says, "My kid used to watch Star Trek."
Sam remembers how they met, that she'd lost her little boy and her husband. But he can't help himself. His mind's still racing, thinking it through. "I don't think it works like that. At least, not if we're careful. Don't worry, we've done this before—Dean and me, I mean. Well, kind of."
"But I think it'll work. I was standing right there. All I have to do is wait until they kill Dick, then grab Dean and pull him back. I can warn Cas, too." He's thinking, and if I get sucked in, at least I'll be with him, but he tucks that away unsaid. "I just have to warn myself."
"Warn yourself." Jody looks impressed. "You make it sound easy."
He huffs a laugh. "Sure. Now all I need is a spell to compel a god."
"Piece of cake." They exchange a wry look. "So, where do we start?"
Sam scrubs a hand through his hair. "I might know someone who can help. But this will work, I know it will."
Jody clinks her glass against his, and Sam drinks, elation making him giddy. Relief and exhaustion have begun to catch up with him when Jody's expression turns speculative. She's standing close enough that he feels like he should take a step back. For no reason he can explain, he doesn't.
"So, if it works... will we remember this?" She draws closer, her face tilted up toward his.
Sam's mouth goes dry. "I don't know. Probably not."
"So it's like it never happened, right?"
His face warms, his heart beating fast. It's been so long since anyone's looked at him like that. He shouldn't, he knows. But he likes her so damn much. She's strong, and kind, and real, and he knows now that she's right: he can save Dean.
"Jody—" he warns. His voice betrays him.
She lays a hand over his heart. He knows she can feel the way it's racing. "It'll be okay," she says. "We'll get him back."
She sounds so sure. Sam doesn't deserve her—none of them do.
The first light of dawn is at the window, and it catches the auburn in her hair. It makes her freckles stand out, turns her wide, dark eyes a beautiful deep chestnut. But it's not the way she looks that gets him. It's the way she looks at him like she really believes he can do this. Like he's someone she can count on.
Before he means to, he's leaning into her. Her small, strong hands are at his waist. He kisses her once, a bare brush of his lips against hers, and the warmth of her makes him shiver and turn his face into her neck, shaky with sudden need.
"Promise me," he begins.
But, "Shh," she says, before he can finish. Her hand finds his neck and pulls him down, and she kisses him without fear.