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There Should Be Light

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The world outside the window was not the one he left 6 months before in the search for his brother.

The sky was dark midnight blue though he was certain it was nearing seven in the morning. There should be light. Sun. There should be warmth.

There should be children waiting for school buses and people bustling to work. There should be sirens and horns and shouting. Instead there was dark. There was cold. There was silence.

Smoke climbed in towers out of the smoldering debris of what had once been Oakland, California. High rise buildings were empty shells, and anything below ten stories was hollowed out by fire and looters and god only knew what else.

They’ve been there too long and he knows they need to take advantage of the day to move on. If they were lucky they might find a vehicle that still ran, enough gas to get them over the stretch of nothing between here and the next city. Small towns and wild spaces weren’t safe.

Not that the cities were either. But at least they could get high enough to see…to have a warning. They’ve been camped in this room for days, letting his brother rest, heal…letting Dean figure out what to do next…try to figure out what happened…anything to avoid the desolation.

“Dean?” The voice was soft, filled with…something that made Dean cringe as he turned.

Sam was sitting up, a good sign, his hands clawing at the gauze around his eyes. “Hey, Sam. Leave it.” Dean crossed to the bed and grabbed his hands. “Leave it. I promise you’re safe.”

“Can’t see.” Sam’s hands grab at his and Dean can see the panic pulling at the thin line of his mouth.

Some days he didn’t remember…some days that was more merciful.

He let go with one hand and pressed it to Sam’s cheek. “I know Sammy, I know…please…just trust me. Please.” He didn’t mean to sound so desperate, but he couldn’t face what was hidden by the bandages, not again…not now…and truth was, desperate was a pretty accurate description of his state of mind.

The Sam he’d found wasn’t the one taken from him, any more than this was the world he had left behind. Dean could still picture him, like he was when he’d found him…his face slack and unresponsive, dirty, bloody and hanging in restraints…and when he did turn his face toward Dean…when Dean had seen what they had done…He’d retched and cried, screamed and killed…he’d ripped apart anything and everything that came near him with little more than his bare hands.

Sammy…my beautiful Sammy…

“Dean?”

Dean cussed himself and turned his attention back to his brother. This was one of his better moments, and Dean didn’t know how long it would last before his face would pale and he’d go inside himself seeing things Dean couldn’t imagine.

It was obvious Sam wasn’t seeing Dean, or the world around them either.

Sam settled under his touch as Dean soothed his thumbs over Sam’s cheekbones, making sounds that made little sense, but calmed him. “Where are we?” Sam asked after a few minutes and Dean sighed in relief. His voice was tight, clipped. He remembered, at least for the moment. That meant Dean wouldn’t have to explain, wouldn’t have to watch him react to it all over again.

“Oakland.” Dean replied. “Hungry? I found some stuff.”

Sam shook his head and groped for Dean’s hand. “I remember. You came for me.”

Dean smiled. “Yes. I did. I always will.”

“I’m…sorry.” Sam whispered, pulling Dean’s hand to his lips and pressing a quick kiss to it.

Dean didn’t need to ask what for. The wounds in his face and shoulder would heal, but he’d never be pretty again…not that it mattered…not when the choice was leaving Sam behind in that hell. “Don’t be.” Sam’s hand rose to his face, skimming over the scabbed marks of his fight to free Sam and Dean let him feel them for a minute, his own hand mimicking the movements over Sam’s face.

Sam’s injuries seemed to be mostly internal, metaphysical…emotional. Aside from the eyes and the bruises. He’d put up one hell of a fight when they grabbed him. “You feeling up to moving? We shouldn’t stay put.”

Sam nodded, moving toward Dean’s voice, sliding his legs to the floor. He seemed so…young and frail and Dean had to look away to find his own ability to stand. “I thought we’d head north…see if…” He didn’t finish, on some level he knew they wouldn’t find much, no matter where they went.

It was the same in San Francisco, where they’d crawled their way back into the world. Everything had just stopped. No newspapers to tell them what happened. No people…not live ones anyway. Empty towns and cities. Empty like Sam’s eyes.

Dean shook off the thought and got to his feet, helping Sam up and into his jeans. “I’ve got our stuff.”

Empty…but they weren’t alone. The nights were alive with things…evil things. Day wasn’t much better, with the lack of light and the cold…but somehow it offered the illusion of safety. So he moved them during the day and prayed he wouldn’t need to fight anything off during one of Sam’s relapses.

“Is there…anything? Sam asked as he waited near the door for Dean to shoulder their two bags, everything they’d collected in the weeks they’d been running…some clothes, weapons…a little bit of food.

Dean shook his head before he realized Sam wouldn’t see him. “No, Sam. Just like San Francisco. Just like San Jose. Nothing.”

 

Nothing. It was worse not knowing. Worse because he wondered if it was his fault. Dean didn’t sleep much, and when he did, he saw it all…heard Sam scream his name as something pulled him into that vortex and his father fought to keep him from following, yelling words that Dean was only beginning to understand.

He’d known the whole mess was bigger than them…had tried to talk Sam and his father out of it…tried to hold on to Sam as itfolded him in half and sucked him out of this world…tried so damn hard to keep it together...and chose to follow Sam, consequences be damned.

Sometimes at night when Sam was asleep and Dean felt most alone, he wondered if he had done this…somehow. And maybe that was an inflation of his own importance…and maybe…

Sam’s hand was on his shoulder, following him, trusting. “Lift up…we’re going over some debris.” Dean murmured. His hand closed over Sam’s as he guided him around a pile of crumbled concrete. He’d seen a car up ahead that seemed more or less intact.

“Okay, Sam. We’re stopping.”

“What is it?”

“There’s a car. I’m going to see if I can start it.”

Dean left Sam standing a few feet from the mustang with a chunk of concrete on its trunk. Dean started as he opened the driver’s side door. The driver was still there…his rotting corpse still holding to the steering wheel. Beside him was a woman, clutching a child. He gagged as the smell hit him and had to turn away.

“Dean? What is it?”

“Stay there, Sam. Just…more bodies.”

Sam’s jaw tightened. Dean reached around the dead man and turned the ignition, relieved when it turned over immediately. “Looks like we’ve got a ride, Sam. Give me a few minutes to clean it up.”

Dean covered his mouth with his t-shirt and set about pulling the bodies from the car and cleaning out the mess. The smell would linger and they’d have to drive with the windows open for a while.

“Okay, come on.” Dean guided Sam around to the passenger side of the car and settled him into the seat.

“Stinks.”

“Yeah…they’d been here a while.”

“There was a kid.”

Dean swallowed and shook off the feeling that came whenever Sam did that. “Yeah, there was.”

“What happened, Dean?” Sam curled in, with his back to his door, reaching for the warmth of Dean beside him.

“Wish I knew Sam. I’ve been gone almost as long as you.” Took him almost a month to find a way in…a month his baby brother had been at the mercy of filthy demonic forces. And another two before Dean was able to figure out how to get to him…and all that talk about time being relative was shit, because he’d felt every single minute of every single day. Then had come the fight. Nearly a month was lost in pointless challenges…a month where Dean battled himself and the demon put him through paces with promises of giving him Sam back.

Dean shook off the memory and squeezed Sam’s hand where it rested on the seat between them. “We did this.” Sam said suddenly in the silence as Dean set the car onto the freeway, headed north on the I-80.

“What do you mean Sam?”

The look on his face was chilling, even without seeing his eyes. “Don’t know. Just…we did this. You, me…Dad.”

Dad. Dean had left him in Minnesota, where it had happened, where the eldest Winchester had led them into a trap because of his stubborn pride and Sam had paid the price. Dean drove away and never looked back.

“I don’t think we did.” Dean lied. Part of him did believe just that.

“We aren’t alone.” Sam’s face turned toward the window, as if he could see. Dean looked, squinting into the dark.

There was a dark cloud moving their way. “Shit. Hold on Sam.”

Dean increased their speed, maneuvering the car around abandoned vehicles and holes ripped in the concrete. For a minute it looked like it would catch them, then Dean started to pull away. “Shit!” He hit the steering wheel and bit back his frustration. It wouldn’t help them.

Though, he had to wonder if anything would, at this point.

 

 

The clock in the dash of the car said it was nearly 2 in the afternoon. The sky was just as dark as it had been when they’d left Oakland. Dean circled the downtown section of Sacramento. He’d been there years before, hunting a witch with a taste for young boys. Finally he settled on a high rise hotel, figuring it would be more likely to have usable supplies. He drove into its lobby, through blown out windows, parking it near the stairs.

An hour later, he and Sam settled into a room on the 20th floor. He got Sam into bed and set about securing them for the night, salt and incantations, sigils and prayers he wasn’t even sure would protect them any more. He let the routine carry him. It was easier. There were guns to clean and knives to sharpen; there was dinner to be found, his brother to care for. Everything else…

Dean looked up from the table where he was cleaning their stolen handgun by the light of a single flashlight. He’d gotten so accustomed to the dark. Sam was looking at him. He could feel Sam looking at him. He shook his head, finished reassembling the gun.

“You eat?” Dean asked as he stood.

Sam shook his head, holding up the package of crackers Dean had given him. “Sam, you have to eat.”

“I know.” Sam said. “Come eat with me?”

Dean nodded, though Sam wouldn’t know it. He turned off the flashlight and paused by the bed. “Let me wash my hands.”

He stepped into the bathroom, thankful the place still had running water. It was cold, but it was better than nothing. As he crawled into bed beside Sam, his brother took his hand, pressing it to the gauze that circled his head. “Take it off.” He said it softly, but it cut through Dean.

“No…you need to heal.”

“I…need to…please, Dean?”

Dean licked his lips. “Sam…”

He pulled Dean’s hand down to his lips, kissing it fervently. “I know what happened, Dean. I know…but I…need to…see…feel…so I can…”

Dean could hear the words, the laughter. He’d had to fight, work his way through trials, and his every failure had cost Sam. Dean hadn’t known…not until he’d finally reached his brother at the end, not until he’d finally won…finally killed the fucking bastard…and Sam had turned that vacant face to his.

The guilt of it gnawed at him…so that even if he wasn’t somehow responsible for the world at large, he was for this. “Okay…Just, relax.”

His hands shook as he unwound the gauze. His stomach churned. As the last of it fell away, he looked at his hands, at the bedspread…anywhere but Sam’s face. Sam’s hands slid over his face, up to his eyes. There was the tiniest hitch of his breath, as if he expected something else.

Dean couldn’t stop the sob that escaped him, couldn’t keep from doubling over as the pain hit him in the stomach. Sam’s hands soothed over him, drawing Dean’s head to rest against his brother’s chest. “It’s okay, Dean. I’m okay…you came for me…you came for me.”

But it would never be okay again. It was dark and getting darker. They were alone and everything was wrong. There should be light…but the light was gone…and in its place was nothing but empty sockets where the light of his world once sparkled.