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Light, all-powerful and obliterating, seared through his mind, the sound of it louder than the battle that had raged for a few hours. He drove in a panic, trying to avoid it, trying to live, Castiel at his side, Sam and Rowena in the back seat.

They made it, just barely. Sickness had overcome him from it, and he was ready to collapse, but he still held himself up once he was out of the Impala. Sam came forward, facing the demons, and Dean watched, unable to do anything. He felt as if he’d seen this play out a thousand times, experiencing it over and over again, and each time he wanted to move, to do something to change it, but he was frozen. Completely frozen.

Sammy’s eyes were black.

I am the new king of Hell!

All the demons kneeled.

“Sam, what are you doing?”

His heart stopped when his brother turned and looked at him with those dark, dark eyes. He waved his hand in his direction, and then Dean could barely breathe, as if someone were strangling him.

“Sam… please,” he forced out, eyes stinging, tears already making their way down his face.

Castiel took a step towards him, and his brother held his other hand out in his direction, a warning. His friend paused, but there was still intent in his eyes.

“Let Dean go. You don’t want to do this.”

“You don’t know what I want,” Sam declared. “None of you do.”

Somehow when Sam said that Dean knew Rowena wasn’t included in that. She was smiling, as if this was what she’d wanted all along.

Maybe it had been.

Dean’s stomach dropped at that realization. It made sense. It made too much sense. Why hadn’t he seen it? Why hadn’t he been able to stop any of this?

Rowena put a hand on Sam’s arm, and he glanced at her, his features softening even as his eyes remained black.

“Sam, the battle’s over. You can let him go. He won’t harm you. Look at him. I wonder how much of that blood is his own.”

Sam tilted his head, contemplating Dean for a second or two, and Dean was seeing black again. He wondered how many times he could put up with getting strangled in a night before he died.

Sam let him go, and his knees started giving out, Castiel bracing him.

Rowena reached up and brushed her fingers against Sam’s chin, the gesture turning his stomach.

Sam turned back to the demons who were still kneeling. He didn’t tell them to get up, seemed to be enjoying this.

“The battle is over!” he declared. He then pointed back at what had been Kenesaw. “The angels may have done that! But we are still here. We won! And the way I see it, we’re going to keep winning no matter how many times they decide to go up against us because our numbers are larger. They can try, they willtry, but for now we’re the ones left still here, and they can’t take that away from us.Now, rise!”

They stood, some still bowing their heads, refusing to look at him. Dean could no longer see his brother’s face, but he knew somehow that he was smiling.

“Spread the word – the angels are defeated, three of them killed by my own hand.” He paused to let that sink in, and now Dean really started to feel like he was going to be sick. “Make sure that when you tell others of what happened here tonight they know who the new king is, that Sam Winchester is taking his rightful place on the throne. You will have no more of fake kings. You have me, the Boy King, Lucifer’s true vessel. Any who do not accept me or come to heel will suffer, and I am more than prepared to dole out punishment.”

The demons took this in, many of them bowing their heads to some degree, all of them seemingly too terrified, or perhaps too respectful, to look Sam in the face.

There was triumph in his voice as he continued, “Now, It’s Halloween, so I’d say it’s the perfect time to celebrate. Go. Wreak as much as havoc as you wish. You have till midnight.”

Cheering broke out amongst the remaining demons and then they started smoking out, probably to find new vessels. Sam pulled Rowena close against him and kissed her. Dean still couldn’t look away from his brother, not even then. He couldn’t breathe even though no one was strangling him and he found himself resting more and more of his weight on Cas.

Then Sam and Rowena were whispering, eyes only for each other, and she was holding his hands. Sam looked back at Dean, his eyes turning back to their natural hazel once more. Part of Dean had expected to see remorse there, but there was none of that, only malice, and darkness so overwhelming more tears began to track their way down his bloodied cheeks.

Sam and Rowena disappeared.

“Cas?” Dean questioned, his desperate voice holding all he was thinking: fear that had yet to be processed, pain, grief, helplessness, disbelief. It held everything, the utterance of his name completely heartbroken.

Castiel wrapped his arms around him and settled him to the ground. Dean’s chest hurt and he ended up looking up into the angel’s dirtied face as he held him.

“I’m here, Dean. I’m here.”

Dean struggled for breath, his head spinning. God, he was having a panic attack, and he felt like it was going to kill him.

His heart hurt, like it was being wrenched in two, and he cried, he sobbed, even as he couldn’t breathe.

That sickness from the blast still remained with him, and it was steadily growing worse. He couldn’t find the air to tell Castiel, but he frowned when he caressed his face, as if he’d felt it.

“I’ll get you out of here.”

Dean lost consciousness as Castiel began to help him up, and he felt himself falling. He knew his friend had him, but the feeling of falling never stopped. Falling, falling, till blackness swallowed him.

 

Dean woke up screaming.

He was thrashing against his sheets, clutching at them and then at his head. Terror ran through him so strongly he was hot and sweating, pain in his chest. It drilled through him, and there wasn’t anything he could do.

Oh god, Sam. He hadn’t been able to stop it, hadn’t been able to stop any of it, hadn’t foreseen it. Dean had been completely helpless, had almost died, had lost nearly everything.

Helpless, helpless, helpless.

His bedroom door opened, the light was switched on, and Castiel rushed to him, climbing on the bed to get behind him and hold him steady.

“Dean, I got you. I got you.”

His screams died down into panicked sobs and he gripped Cas’s arm, face turned into his bicep. His friend kept assuring him that he was there with him, but didn’t say anything else, didn’t say that it was going to be okay, that he was okay. They’d be lies. But he more than appreciated his presence, appreciated hearing his low voice, knowing that he wasn’t alone. It beat back the emptiness he felt inside.

They spent minutes like that till Dean was crying quietly, and then his tears stopped. He didn’t pull out of Castiel’s embrace, just gently ran one hand up and down his arm, and Cas’s thumb was working against his shoulder in soothing circles.

Usually Dean felt stupid for crying, felt weak, but never in front of Cas. With Cas it was easy. He didn’t show judgment, or contempt. When he was with Dean in those moments he was there to help him and nothing else.

Castiel hadn’t cried since Kenesaw, or he hadn’t seen him do so. He wanted him to, wanted his friend to know he could trust Dean and show him what he was feeling. But he bottled it up.

Dean was bottling it up whenever the nightmares allowed, when he didn’t wake up like this, when there was just cold sweat and a start, and then having to be awake and feeling the darkness in him. They didn’t always make him cry, not like tonight. Sometimes they weren’t even about losing Sam. Sometimes they were about getting handcuffed, getting beaten, nearly drowning, getting shot. Other times he was getting kissed, getting touched. He even dreamed about Cas, his friend getting kissed and beaten just as he had. Sometimes there was just random violence: stabbing, punching, kicking, biting, slashing, crushing, blood, screams. In all of them Dean was frozen, could only watch it happen. Each time he knew it was going to happen before it did. And there was never a way to escape it. Because he hadn’t escaped it. He’d lived through it, and though it’d been a little over three weeks he still couldn’t figure out how.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Castiel eventually asked.

Dean pulled away from him then, and wiped his face with his hands.

“No,” he murmured with a shake of his head. “No, I think I’m gonna drink.”

Castiel didn’t stop him from getting up, just stayed on his bed. Maybe he’d even be there when he got back. Sometimes he was. If Dean was going back to sleep usually his friend went over to the couch to watch over him. Dean was always too tired to argue with him about it and ask him to stop. He didn’t entirely hate it either.

He trudged into the kitchen, running a hand through his hair before scratching at his beard.

Dean groaned, but didn’t say anything, when he saw Crowley in the kitchen, sitting at the table, a beer in front of him. He had finally stopped wearing Dean’s pajamas, but only after he’d dragged him to a store to get some clothes. Crowley insisted on wearing a bright, purple onesie with lollipops and taffy on it at night, saying he wanted to be comfortable when he drank himself unconscious. He’d taken to wearing it during the day too, didn’t really get dressed. Dean couldn’t blame him; he didn’t want to get dressed or bother with the day-to-day minutiae of life either. He now tended to just do the bare minimum.

Thankfully there was still plenty of beer in the fridge, so he didn’t have to get mad at Crowley at the moment. Dean had stocked up since the two of them now seemed to be having a contest as to who could drink more, but since the world was now in a panic – seeing a half a mile wide light come out of the sky and obliterate an entire town could do that – alcohol was beginning to be hard to come by. People hardly went out anymore, but when they did it was to buy way too much food as if the apocalypse was coming, and to buy beer, scotch, wine, whatever there was. Everybody wanted to drink now.

He’d left the bunker a few days ago on a case, trying to follow up on a lead about Sam (it’d been a bust), but hadn’t stopped to pick anything up on his way back. He supposed he’d have to go shopping tomorrow though. They were running out of food. Crowley wasn’t helping since he ate, too, even though he didn’t need to – maybe it was a comfort thing.

Dean leaned against the fridge and took a sip of his blessedly cold beer.

“Rough night?” the former king asked him.

“Sure. Whatever.”

“Okay, Mr. Cranky. Sorry for having questions.” The demon gestured at Dean’s beer bottle with his own and added, “You know, you should quit drinking that stuff. It’s not good for you.” Ironically, Crowley then took a sip of his own.”

“What are you, my mother?” Dean grumbled before going over to sit down across from him.

“If your mother were alive we wouldn’t be having these problems.”

“If Sam and I hadn’t been born we wouldn’t be having these problems,” Dean said darkly.

Crowley raised his eyebrows in recognition.

“Guess that’s true. But life without you and Moose would be dull.”

Dean gave a cold laugh. “Dull. I’d take that over this.”

Crowley looked down at the table dejectedly, and murmured “S’pose you’re right.”

Dean continued drinking, and when he finished he went back to bed, finding that Castiel was still there.

His friend got up to move to the couch, and Dean waved his hand tiredly as he settled under the covers.

“Don’t bother,” he told him before yawning. “Stay.”

Castiel sat back down on the bed tentatively.

“Are you sure?”

“Mm…” was all Dean could answer with because then he was falling back to sleep.

 

“You’re sure you want to sign off on this?” the demon before Sam asked for the nth time.

Sam had a clipboard in his lap, the document on it one that would allow demons to whore themselves out for souls if they so chose, or even get humans to do it for them. It’d already been made known to him that Crowley hadn’t liked the idea, but he wasn’t Crowley. Whatever got more souls.

The official death toll from Kenesaw was nine-hundred-forty-seven, and though there were a few million demons, and more and more souls in Hell were being seduced over daily, Sam wanted their numbers up again. The angels were surely few now, but numbers weren’t all it took to win a battle. It took strategy, it took power, and the angels had power, something they’d shown all of humanity on Halloween. That night was still all over the news, and not just in America. It was big throughout the world, and some high up in the American government were pointing fingers at the Middle East, crying wolf about a nuclear attack. Scientists said it didn’t add up, but when had politicians ever understood science?

Humanity was left scared and the demons took advantage of it. Crossroads deals hadn’t been this high since 2009 when the Apocalypse was happening. Humans got scared, they got desperate, Sam sought to take advantage of it. Making Hell stronger was a priority, so really, having this demon question him was grating.

He breathed in deeply, tensing, and Rowena stroked his arm. She was by his side in the throne room they were in. It wasn’t the lair Crowley had had in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was in the mountains in upstate New York, an abandoned factory a mile or two away from a ghost town that’d been abandoned for decades, and with the dead roads that lead to it it would be nearly impossible to find. Sam had found the factory simply by stumbling upon it accidently while practicing teleporting with Rowena a few days after Halloween. He’d taken a liking to it and had ordered his demons to fix it up. The room he’d had set up as the throne room was large, reaching up at least three stories, the walls made of gray stone. There was a platform a foot off the ground that took up a fourth of the floor space, and it was curved. It wasn’t quite in set into the center of the far side of the room, but it was directly across from the door that led out to one of the main hallways. The platform, like the rest of the floor had been made of the same stone as the walls until his demons had redesigned it, covering it in glazed and polished golden tile. The walls were still plain, but he was planning on having massive curtains and tapestries added to bring more color to the room. Even without those decorations Sam particularly liked the throne room, especially when the sun was at its peak and light streamed through the high windows, shining down on the platform and the throne.

The throne. It was the only object he’d taken from Crowley’s lair. He hadn’t changed it, still wanted the symbol of power to remain the same, figuring it’d make the shift in power easier. So far hardly anyone had expressed having any issues with him as the new king and if they did no one ever saw or heard anything from them ever again. Rowena took care of the bodies for him while he cleaned the blood from his lips.

Sam gave – was it Melvin? Melvoron? – a wintry smile, nearly making his eyes turn black. He’d done that a lot the first week, mostly around Rowena, but he’d gotten over the novelty of it now, wanted it to seem as if this was how he’d always been.

“I’m sure.”

He signed off on the document, and then he handed it to Rowena. She passed it off to, yes, it was Melvoron, liked to go by Melv, but still kept one hand on him, now running it through his hair.

Sam leaned into her touch.

She’d been good to him these past few weeks, had stuck by his side. Sam no longer cared to ask why. It was easy to tell. She had feelings for him, and was no longer in this for herself as she’d always been. She was in it for them, together, and Sam was fine with that. If anything, since becoming a demon he’d begun to find her a lot more attractive. Sometimes after he’d finished his duties she’d tease him about wanting to sit in the throne, and she always settled for sitting in his lap. Every once in awhile they’d make out, and Sam was really beginning to like it. The part of him that remembered being human questioned why he was okay with that, but she didn’t hurt him, and she wasn’t going to.

Melv bowed deeply and turned to leave. Once he’d crossed the large room and closed the door behind him, Rowena rested against Sam, two hands on him now, one of them against his chest, careful to avoid the amulet. He faced her as she placed some of his hair behind his ear.

“Have you given Dean and Castiel much thought?” she asked.

“Really, Rowena? This again?”

“Yes, darling,” – she’d taken to calling him that about a week ago, and Sam found he liked it. “They pose a threat, don’t they?”

“They don’t know where we are,” he told her, leaning in, brushing his nose against hers. “It’s fine.”

Really, Sam had been thinking about them. But not because they were a threat. He had other plans for them, ones that would take a lot of time and effort to work, and it was too early to set it into motion.

Rowena’s eyes met his, and he felt a grin turning up the corners of his lips. He took hold of her chin and pulled her mouth towards his.

There was a knock on the door, and Sam pulled away, a growl rumbling in his chest at the interruption. But he knew who this was.

“Enter!” he declared as Rowena straightened and placed her hand at his shoulder for now.

The demon who entered was a woman, barely reaching over five feet, and she had her dark hair cut short, almost looking boy-ish. She wore glasses, though Sam knew she didn’t need them, but from what he’d heard of her he wasn’t surprised. Sarah really liked her vessel and had taken on some attributes of her, even her name.

She came to stand before him and bowed.

He knew what she was here for, having sent for her that morning.

Sarah had returned to Kenesaw.

All the demons were under strict orders to not go there. Various scientists, government agents, and news stations had taken over once they’d been able to get close – anyone who had attempted to do so the first few days after Halloween had been left vomiting and some had even passed out. The place wasn’t safe for the demons since it was all locked down, and Sam didn’t want one of his own possibly getting interrogated. A lot of information could get out that way. Still, some demons still decided to go, hoping they’d find the entrance to Hell that had been there, though Sam was sure it was destroyed. He made a mental note to go in himself to search for it, knowing he could avoid capture.

“Is it true you went to Kenesaw?” he asked her.

“My lord, I had just wanted to-”

Sam interrupted her, speaking sharply, “Is it true you went to Kenesaw?”

“Yes, my lord.”

He stood, making his way over to the platform before stepping off. “Good. I just wanted to be sure.”

Sam withdrew the butterfly knife that he kept in his jacket, flicking his wrist to expose the blade. He used his left hand since it was one of the days his right wrist and hand had less sensation in it than usual, signals not making it all the way past the stone in his arm. Sarah heard the sound of metal and looked up, eyes widening when they settled on the weapon. Then she foolishly tried to run.

Sam grinned and threw out his hand, flattening her to the floor with hardly a thought.

Rowena’s heels clicked as she slowly came up behind him, and she followed as he went over to Sarah and straddled her.

“Don’t do this!” she cried.

“I have to do this. This is on you,” he explained, silencing her by simply willing her to stop breathing, as if she were suffering from asphyxiation.

Sarah had known the law he’d set and she’d broken it. He kept the punishment for breaking that law unclear, let rumors about being sent back down to suffer the rack run rampant, instilling fear, but really, his demons probably would’ve preferred that to what he was about to do.

He ran his fingers through her short hair, curled them, and yanked her head back, exposing her neck. He could see her pulse racing, hear her heart beating, even smell her. Sam wasn’t sure he needed demon blood anymore since he was now a demon himself, but he still craved it, still yearned for the rush it gave him. He sliced into her, not deep, wanting her to live through most of this since she’d taste fresh that way.

Sam licked up the trail of blood on her neck before sucking on the wound and beginning to drink. Rowena was by him now, and she ran her fingers through his hair, showing her continued acceptance and understanding of who he was, her care. With her by his side he felt more powerful, and he knew he wasn’t alone. Her touch made him think about what she’d said. Maybe it was time to jumpstart his plans.

Sam had to go after Dean.

His brother would never even know he was coming.

 

Chapter Text

It was late in the afternoon by the time Dean managed to drag himself out to the store. Lebanon didn’t have any big supermarkets, not even one. Aside from a liquor store and a Gas & Sip, there were just a few different family owned stores, some with homemade goods. The others he’d been to had been mostly cleared out, and he was at the last one in town. There was still food on the shelves, thankfully. The news was playing on the TV behind the counter, and for once the destruction of Kenesaw wasn’t getting covered. It was something else it seemed, and he hadn’t been paying much attention to it until he’d heard “Sheriff Jody Mills”.

Dean looked up now, drawn to it. Jody was on the screen, standing across from where the Sioux Falls sheriff’s station had been – that was big on the news too, no matter what state you were in. The conclusion was that the explosion had been a terrorist attack, another thing that plummeted the country into fear.

His friend looked so empty on the screen, as if she had simply turned off her emotions. Maybe she had. He couldn’t believe she was even willing to speak of what had happened.

God, Jody.

 

Dean stumbled into the safehouse just before dawn, one arm around Castiel so he wouldn’t fall. Jody must’ve heard them enter because she rushed over immediately, Claire and Alex soon following.

“Oh my god. Dean?”

“Hey.”

“Where’s Sam?”

Before Dean could think of a good way to answer Alex took charge of the situation, ordering for Castiel to get Dean over onto the bed in the back room. She asked where he was injured, and he didn’t even know how to answer properly. It felt like he was hurt just about everywhere. They cut his clothes off, and he didn’t mind too much seeing as the blood would probably never come out. He was left in his boxers, and his friends were rushing about, probably collecting supplies, water. Castiel was at his side in a manner of seconds again, cleaning him off so Alex could get a better look at him. Jody and Claire stood worriedly in the doorway.

“Dean, where’s Sam?” Jody asked, voice trembling as if she already knew the answer.

Dean looked to Castiel who was now dabbing at his face. He swallowed roughly, throat aching, the corners of his eyes stinging. Cas looked to be hurting just as much.

He brushed Cas’ hand aside, and then lied, “He didn’t make it.”

He didn’t want Jody to think badly of his brother, especially since the two of them were close. He didn’t want her to know what he’d become, thinking maybe that might hurt more, especially since he wasn’t sure there was any chance of ever getting him back.

She put a hand over her mouth, tears in her eyes. Claire wrapped an arm around her, and Alex took in a shuddering breath. Dean could tell the girl wanted to take a moment to process, but she continued trying to take stock of his injuries.

Jody took her hand off her mouth, holding onto Claire.

“What happened?” she whispered, sounding as if a sob would break free if she raised her voice.

“There was a fight.”

Castiel added, “More than a fight. It was a battle. But we got captured first. We were beaten, Sam was…”

His friend had been cleaning Dean’s arm, but then brushed his fingers against his as if seeking comfort. Their eyes met again, the two of them silently asking questions.

Could they tell Jody what Sam had been through? Could they even tell her what they’d been through? Was it fair to give her such traumatizing information? Was it fair to keep it from her? And what about Claire and Alex?

Castiel seemed to come to a decision, and Dean already knew what it was.

They were their friends, and they’d been through traumatic experiences themselves. They deserved to hear about it.

“Sam was tortured,” Castiel went on.

“Is that what…?” Claire asked.

“No,” Dean answered. “No. He… He went down fighting.”

Dean saw it in his head even though it hadn’t happened, a demon stabbing him through the back, blade reaching into him before sticking out through his chest. His brother dropping to his knees, Dean rushing over, fighting his way to him, holding him in his last moments, telling him he forgave him, telling him he was sorry.

Then he saw it as it had really happened, Sam looking at him with black eyes, strangling him.

Alex gently pressed at his neck, drawing him from his dark thoughts, and Dean winced. He turned to her, and she looked horrified, eyes still on his bruised neck.

“Don’t worry,” he forced out with a smile. “Killed the son of a bitch who did that.”

She nodded, and went back to work, pouring hydrogen peroxide over his torso, and it seeped into multiple wounds before bubbling and burning. Dean grit his teeth against a cry.

“What matters is you’re safe now,” he panted once some of the more intense pain had ebbed away. “You can go back home.”

Jody let go of Claire, and the girl just started hugging herself. Castiel beckoned her over and wrapped an arm around her even as Jody came to Dean’s other side, next to Alex. She knelt down, and placed her hand in his.

“You’re gonna see things on the news,” Dean said. “Scary things, things that aren’t gonna make sense. But it’s not the end of the world. You’re gonna be okay.”

“No, Dean,” she told him with a shake of her head. “No, I’m not.”

A tear rolled down his cheek because she was right, and Dean wasn’t going to be okay either.

 

“Sir? Sir.”

“Huh?”

Dean was drawn from his reverie and took his eyes off the screen. Jody was still talking, but the volume was too quiet for him to hear. The clerk, a teenage boy with long, dirty blond hair pulled back into a bun, was eyeing him questioningly.

“Cash or credit?”

“Oh… um… Cash.”

He dug through his wallet, and then a thought came to him. He realized that he probably deserved to treat himself.

“Actually, you got any pie?” he asked.

“Yeah,” he answered, pointing. “Over in that aisle in the back.”

“Thanks. Gimme a sec.”

Dean went to the aisle that’d been pointed out to him, and he was surprised to see that there were still plenty of pies left. He supposed no one really wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with the state the country was in. They were probably too afraid to go out shopping, to think about cooking a massive meal for people who might not even leave their houses to visit. The bell rang behind him, door opening. He really only noticed because he hadn’t been expecting it. No one was around.

Footsteps came closer as Dean picked up a cherry pie, and then a man was standing way too close to him.

“Buddy, you mind?” Dean asked, facing him.

The man was well-built, an inch taller than him, and all dark hair and chiseled features. His brown eyes turned black.

“Oh, come on,” Dean groaned before the demon shoved him and the pie went flying out of his hands.

The pie splattered onto the floor at the same time Dean landed on his back, and part of him was sad to see something that was surely so delicious get ruined.

Before Dean could even think about getting up the demon reached down and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, lifting him and slamming him against the shelves, jars of specially made hot chocolate mix rattling. There was a knife to his throat now.

“Hey, what’s going on back there?” the boy called, voice coming closer.

No, no.

Dean saw him coming down the aisle, and the demon turned. He threw the knife and it lodged itself in the boy’s neck. He died almost instantly.

“No!”

His outburst made him receive a punch in the face, and he grunted, pain throbbing to life in his left cheek.

“Dean Winchester,” he breathed. “I’ve been looking for you. Heard you’ve been going after demons lately.”

“Yeah, it’s my job, assclown.”

The demon chuckled as if he found him amusing. And he got closer, pressing himself against him, pinning him against the shelves more effectively, something hard digging into Dean’s hip, feeling a lot like the barrel of a gun.

“Don’t play games. You’ve been asking questions.”

Dean wasn’t sure how this demon even knew that. Maybe it was an assumption. Dean killed all the demons he met with after he was done so information couldn’t get back to Sam about what he was doing. He was actually surprised Sam hadn’t sent this demon. Maybe his brother was waiting to take him out himself, and his subjects were getting antsy.

Instead of answering him Dean asked, “That a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

The demon slammed his arm against his collarbone, one hand gripping his shoulder till Dean was sure he’d have bruises in the shape of his fingers. He winced, and the demon withdrew the gun, putting it to the side of Dean’s head.

“Oh, I’m happy to see you all right.”

He let go of him and shoved Dean about a foot down the aisle, gun still trained on him.

“Walk,” he ordered.

Dean stilled, preparing himself to fight, but then he heard the door open. Someone else had come in. Thankfully they wouldn’t be able to see what was going on since they were closer to the storage area in the back now.

“Hello?” she called, clearly confused that no one was at the register.

“Make any indication that you’re going to fight and I shoot her,” the demon told him in a near-whisper. “Now walk, out through the back.”

Dean liked to think he was fast enough to take on the demon, to at least take his gun from him, but with someone else’s life at stake he didn’t want to risk it. One person was already dead for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and Dean didn’t want that number to get any higher.

He took a step, and then his phone started ringing.

“Hello?”

The woman was coming closer now; she sounded young, just like the clerk had been.

Dean winced, wishing his phone would stop ringing. The woman came down the aisle, her eyes widening when she saw the scene laid out in front of her. Dean twirled, reaching out for the gun. It went off, hurting his ears, and then the woman started screaming. There was a thud as she fell to the floor, more shots were fired, more screaming, and then it came to an abrupt end. Dean had ahold of the demon, and they were twisting now, the demon holding onto his wrist with one hand. It was a struggle of pure strength, and neither of them seemed to be winning at the moment.

Then Dean was shoved backwards again, and his head knocked against one of the shelves, making him dizzy. His grip weakened.

The demon whacked him in the side of the head with the gun, and he lost consciousness, his phone still ringing.

 

Sam tended to almost always be busy, and though there were still other matters to attend to, he pushed everything back to the next day, wanting a break from it all. As Rowena got rid of Sarah’s body for him he washed himself up and then went to his room, which was on the upper west side of the building. It seemed to have been an office, with wooden floors and walls. He’d had them sanded and repainted a darker color, trying to have it look somewhat appealing. Then he’d had a bed put in it, some mirrors, two dressers, and a desk, everything made of wood that was so dark it was nearly black. The bedspread itself was a deep red that Sam quite liked. He didn’t need to sleep anymore, but sometimes it was just nice to lie down, and Rowena needed sleep. He wasn’t sure why he still thought of it as his room though the two of them shared it; maybe he wasn’t quite used to the idea of being with someone just yet.

Windows lined the wall to the right, showing a view of a forest, looking over the trees. A mountain was a couple of miles away, and through the trees he saw a glisten of water, maybe a small river. He was laying on the king sized bed, staring at the ceiling and enjoying his high when Rowena came into his room, locking it behind her. She always did that, though Sam felt it was unnecessary. His demons knew not to disturb him.

“Why are you in here so much?” she questioned, going over to the bed, but not getting on it. “It’s always cold.”

He frowned. Was it? Sam never seemed to notice the cold anymore.

“But I had heating put in,” he reasoned.

“Yes, but this room is so closed off from the rest of the building it doesn’t get good circulation, you idiot.”

Sam sat up, and reached out his arm, drawing her closer.

“I love when you insult me,” he joked, smiling.

They kissed, not as long as Sam would’ve liked, and then Rowena asked, “How’s your arm today?”

Sam let go of her, and lowered his head to hide his eyes. He didn’t like talking about it, didn’t even like acknowledging that it was a problem. But it was. It was the reason that some days Rowena buttoned his shirt up for him, or even took care of the button and zipper on his jeans. It was the reason he’d take time at night to further train with his left hand, wanting to be able to still fight. Other nights he trained with his right hand, even when it refused to work with him as it had before Vadrach had hurt him. He’d work for hours and then slump to the floor, holding back tears and staring at his arm.

“One of the bad days,” he answered honestly.

Rowena got on the bed and then climbed over his legs to sit next to him. She unbuttoned his shirtsleeve and then rolled it up to the elbow. Some days his arm looked almost normal, his body healing the effects of having the stone in him, but it always fought back. Today it was a pasty white with some yellow, the colors underneath the skin. There was some redness near his elbow today, and the veins were a dark gray, nearly black.

“Does it hurt?” she asked.

“A little.”

Rowena started running her fingers over his arm gently, a sensation that almost tickled, but still felt pleasant.

“How’s this?”

“Feels nice.”

Sam smiled at her, enjoying her touch while power from the demon blood still sang through him.

They sat in silence for a bit, and then Sam said, “I need your help.”

“Oh?”

“I’m going to Kenesaw tonight to search for the entrance.”

Rowena’s fingers stilled, but then she continued running them along him.

“Are you sure? You yourself made it forbidden to go there.”

“I know, but I have to know.”

“You could always try going to Hell and finding it that way,” she told him.

Sam pulled away from her at that, fear sparking through him.

“No. No.”

He wasn’t prepared to go to Hell yet. Rowena had suggested it to him a few times, saying he needed to see the realm he ruled over, but he was reluctant to. His soul still remembered that Hell hurt. He knew it wouldn’t this time, that he would go and be fine, that no one would touch him, but he just couldn’t. He was down there, and even with all his power, Sam didn’t want to get closer to him.

“I’m going to Kenesaw.”

Rowena took his chin in her hand and tilted his head towards her, their eyes meeting.

“Samuel, you do know you have to go to Hell at some point.”

“I know.”

“I’ll even go with you.”

He sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“No, we are going to talk about it now. It’s been three weeks. The demons are probably already beginning to wonder what’s wrong. I’m wondering. What is it that scares you?”

“Nothing,” Sam responded, hoping she didn’t know much about his time down there. Most demons and people who dealt with demons did, so she probably knew some of it, but it wasn’t something he ever wanted to talk to her about. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.

“You’re not trying very hard to lie right now,” she pointed out.

She was no longer holding his face, her hand having gone down to his chest, pressing lightly. Sam took hold of that hand and brought it to his lips, planting a kiss on her pale skin.

When he lowered her hand he leaned down and kissed her, hoping it’d last longer this time. She returned it, but then pulled back.

“Don’t think this will get you out of it,” she told him.

“I know. So will you help me?”

He nudged his head closer to hers, nose brushing against her face.

“I think I’ll need some convincing.”

Her voice was quiet now, almost breathy, and Sam felt something in him that he hadn’t felt in years: desire. It was pure, untainted, something he didn’t hate, and he acted on it, reaching up to cradle Rowena’s head in his hand. He kissed her, roughly. Her hand stilled on his arm and then went into his hair, thumb against his cheekbone. Sam went after her lips with his, trying to be abrasive, needing to be. Oh god, he’d forgotten that having someone’s lips against his could feel this good. Before, he had really only been making out with her to please her and to test how he felt about it, and he’d always found himself thinking way too much, but now he just wanted her.

He sucked on her bottom lip, felt her exhale against him, and then he ran his hand up her arm, before caressing her back, which was exposed because of the dress she was wearing. He placed his hand flat against the small of her back, enjoying that he could touch a good deal of her this way, that she was so small compared to him.

They broke apart, their eyes meeting.

“How about now?” he asked, voice rough.

Rowena bit her bottom lip, something he greatly desired to do.

“Hmm… Not quite there yet.”

Sam grinned, and then they were kissing again. He pulled her into his lap, her dress riding up as she straddled him. Sam growled from how good it felt to have her hips against his, and Rowena purposefully shifted in his lap. He opened his mouth a fraction of a second before she did, and then their tongues were exploring. Sam let her have her fun with it for a bit, but then he took control. He knew he was good with his tongue, and maybe this would be enough to convince her. She pressed her body up against him as he set to work on her mouth. She stilled, lips parted, just letting him go at her.

Sam pulled back, breathing heavily, pressing his forehead to hers.

“Now?”

“Maybe if you put your hands somewhere useful I’d consider it,” she murmured.

Sam liked that idea, but part of him raged against it. He beat that part down, wanting to only feel his high, feel his desire, not wanting to care about how he hurt inside.

He ran his hand over her bare leg, eyes on hers as he did so, and then he was reaching up under her dress. Rowena’s eyes were bright, letting him know she was more than enjoying this. His hand was on her ass now, pulling her even tighter against him.

“How’s this?”

“Not perfect, but it’ll do.”

“So you’ll help me?”

“I didn’t say that, now did I?”

Sam breathed a laugh, and then they were kissing again, and he tugged her head back to deepen the kiss. Rowena made a pleased sound, and then he was biting on her bottom lip, working it between his teeth. Maybe he was being a bit too rough with it, but she didn’t say anything. In fact she was undoing the top button on his shirt.

Sam suddenly felt cold, and like a hand was running up his back. He went at her with more vigor, trying to combat it, to tell himself that he was with her and only her. No one else.

Sam didn’t know what came over him, but he rolled, pinning her beneath him. He felt much more in control of the situation this way, and he liked how her fiery hair fanned out on the pillow.

She gasped in surprise, and he was busy feeling over one of her legs.

“How far do I have to go before you’ll say yes?” he asked her.

Rowena studied him, maybe saw something dark in his eyes, not directed at her, but still there. There was hesitation from her, maybe contemplating if she was going to address it. It was nearly enough to make Sam get up and leave.

“I think that’s enough for now,” she told him. “I’ll help you.”

“Good.”

His fear faded when Rowena pat his chest, a signal for him to get off of her.

Then she was behind him, draping herself over him and kissing his cheek. She told him, lips against his ear, “I’m not doing this out of the goodness of my heart, Sam, so I expect you to help me with the spells.”

He turned to her, surprised. She’d kept telling him she wanted him to learn “proper magic” instead of just killing people with his mind, but he kept putting it off, saying he was too busy. Really, Sam was greatly curious, but he truly didn’t have time. Now she wanted to teach him?

“Are you sure?” he asked. “What if I mess up?”

“Oh, I’m sure we can make something work.”

They kissed again and this time Sam didn’t feel good about doing so.

Chapter Text

“That’s odd,” Castiel observed, eyes on his phone. “Dean always answers when I call.”

He’d tried calling because Crowley had somehow managed to drink through their entire supply of alcohol overnight and he wanted to ask Dean to pick up some more. Castiel felt stupid for it, but the former king had impressed upon him that Dean wouldn’t pick up if he saw his name on the caller ID.

They were in a guest bedroom that had been repurposed as Crowley’s bedroom, and it was strewn with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes, and the trashcan was filled with tissues that Castiel hoped were there because Crowley had been crying. It was emptier than Dean’s room, didn’t have nearly as much personality to it, but it was still eerily similar to what it looked like when Dean was going through a hard time.

“He’s probably busy,” Crowley muttered indifferently from where he sat at his desk. “Try calling again.”

Castiel paced as he did so once more. No answer. Then one more time. Still no answer.

“Something’s wrong.”

Crowley was now staring at the last bottle of beer he’d finished as he said, “Don’t go jumping to conclusions.”

“Jumping to conclusions?” Castiel asked in an outrage. “That’s three times he didn’t pick up. Three!”

“Oi!” Crowley exclaimed, turning to him. “Sweetie, don’t go raising your voice at me.”

Castiel was already way too aggravated, and now nervous, to roll his eyes. Dean. Something was wrong with Dean.

“We have to go. Dean’s in trouble.”

“Squirrel can take care of himself,” Crowley said, gaze still locked onto the bottle as if his sheer force of will would make more alcohol appear.

He was probably used to snapping his fingers and a servant would come running with whatever he wanted. Now all he had was them, and he would have to deal with it.

“Three times. I called him three times and he wouldn’t answer. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“Unless he’s been rendered physically incapable of getting my scotch through maiming and mutilation then quite frankly, no.”

“Crowley, don’t you care about anything anymore?” Castiel cried.

“I don’t know what it is with you, Feathers, if you’re blind, or a complete wanker, but this,” – he tapped on the empty beer bottle – “this I care about.” Then he drank from it as if trying to get the last few drops that he must’ve finished off maybe ten minutes ago (it usually took that long without alcohol for him to start getting really cranky).

Castiel let out a huge sigh, making sure the former king heard it.

Just to be sure he wasn’t overreacting he tried calling Dean one more time, and even texted him, adding in a worried looking emoticon.

He stared at his phone, waiting to see that Dean read his message.

Nothing.

“Come on,” Castiel said, already turning to go.

He was out the door by the time he realized Crowley wasn’t following him. He went back into the room just a few steps, pressing, “Crowley.”

The demon picked up the beer bottle and pretended to take a sip, this time clearly to annoy him.

“I’m busy. Drinking.”

At that Castiel went over to him and slammed the bottle down on the table. There wasn’t time for this! Dean could be hurt.

“It’s empty!”

Crowley suddenly scraped his chair back against the floor and stood, bristling with rage. The bottle was in his hand and then it was flying across the room, smashing into the wall before the shattered pieces fell to the floor. Castiel already had his angel blade out by the time Crowley rounded on him.

“So it is!” he roared, face red and a few inches from his own, breath reeking of alcohol. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start caring for you, or Dean, or any of this! I just. Want. To drink!”

Castiel had been chewing on his bottom lip as Crowley blew up at him, desperately trying to hold in the anger and frustration he’d felt building for weeks.

He decided it was finally time to let it loose.

“We have been sheltering you for over a month now! We saved you! We’re- we’re trying to take care of you as best as an angel and a hunter can take care of a demon. But you have to give something back and help us, not just sit there all day, useless!”

Crowley shoved Castiel against the wall next to the doorway, and he’d apparently noticed the angel blade because he had a death grip on his right wrist.

“I did help you! That’s what got me here! It’s what cost me my throne, and destroyed Kenesaw, and plunged the world into a state of near chaos! I lost everything, Castiel. Everything! That throne… it made me something. It took a filthy, pathetic drunk and made him a king. It made nothing into royalty. But now I’m nothing again!”

He stepped back and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, a tear running down his reddened face. “I won’t help you, Feathers. I can’t and I won’t.”

Castiel relaxed some, knowing he was no longer in danger of suddenly being beaten or possibly stabbed with shards of broken glass. Tension still crackled in the air once he put his angel blade away, Crowley’s shame in the wake of his vulnerability laying thick about the room. He wished he knew what to say to the former king who was now turning his back on him, but he knew there was nothing. Some part of him pitied Crowley, yet that frustration still lingered, sitting tight in his stomach, as if he’d never let it out.

He pushed it down just as he pushed down everything, all the pain from Kenesaw, from losing Sam to darkness, from watching Dean suffer. It’d blow up. He knew it would, but he didn’t have time to feel. He’d bury himself in helping Dean, and right now he was in trouble. Castiel was going to find him.

 

“I like the beard.”

The familiar voice of the demon instantly shot irritation through Dean, who was now coming to. He lifted his aching head up, wincing.

“Thanks, I grew it myself,” he groaned.

His first instinct was to take stock of where he was, but even with his eyes open he saw black; there was clearly a cloth over his eyes.

Dean grinned, hiding the terror that was beginning to sink in. He could feel that he was sitting in a wooden chair, wrists secured to the arm rests, ankles to the legs. The material restraining him was a hard plastic – zip ties. Thank god he knew how to get out of those.

When he’d spoken his voice had echoed, so he figured he was in a large room of some sort, and he smelled something earthy. Was it hay? It was musty, too, so old hay.

Great, I love abandoned barns, Dean thought when he realized where he probably was.

“Kinky,” he commented, referring to the blindfold.

“I thought so,” the demon said.

He tensed at the fact that his voice was coming from behind him now and it was closer.

“You mind taking this stupid blindfold off? I have a thing for seeing the face of my torturer. Really gets me off that way.”

“Then you’ll know where you are.”

Dean scoffed, “Buddy, I know I’m in an abandoned barn, so just quit this BDSM shit.”

The blindfold was thankfully taken off and he blinked in the weak light that poured through the moldy wooden panels of the barn. Dean was facing the giant doors in the front, one of them hanging ajar due to some broken hinges. The wood itself was unpolished, some areas poorly sanded.

“Wow. Nice place you got here. Did you find it off of eBay? Craigslist? I’m-an-asshole-dot-com? Get it from a guy who looks shadier than you?”

The demon walked around to face him, his features showing amusement – Dean wanted to punch his stupid, chiseled face.

“You think you’re funny.”

“No. I think I’m pissed off!” Dean snapped. “Get the fucking game over with and just torture me, okay?”

“Dean, Dean, Dean,” he mused, shaking his head. “I’m only gonna torture you if you don’t cooperate.”

“Well, I don’t know what the word downstairs is, but I’m sure you know I’m the exact opposite of cooperative, Statue Face.”

Statue Face – a name Dean decided he’d call him until he knew his actual name – rolled his eyes.

“I just want to ask you some questions.”

“So ask,” Dean responded.

Hopefully they were questions he had answers to, though he wasn’t really planning on saying anything. He didn’t want another repeat of his time with Asha a month ago. He couldn’t even believe it’d already been that long.

Three weeks since Sam…

Time flies when you’re in intense emotional pain.

“I’ll ask, but first I want to show you something.” He pulled something out of his pocket, and Dean soon realized it was his phone. He pressed the button, showing Dean the screen with a text from Cas and five missed calls. “Castiel keeps calling you. He likes to keep you close, doesn’t he? Doesn’t want to lose his pet.”

Dean rolled his eyes at that, anger at Cas beginning to burn in him since it was his phone ringing that had gotten someone killed. He knew the demon was trying to redirect his attention, but he took a deep breath, and looked him in the eye. Castiel could wait.

Right now he was in danger.

Statue Face seemed pleased when Dean clenched his jaw, and he put his phone away before crossing his arms. “So why are you going after demons?” he questioned.

“‘Cause you’re all a bunch of douchebags. Next question.”

“You don’t think that about Crowley.”

“Yeah, I do!” Dean retorted. “Next. Question.”

“Last I heard you guys took him, and he hasn’t been seen since.” He leered at Dean. “You keeping him around for something?”

“Ew, no,” Dean instantly responded. Sure, he and Crowley had um… gotten together before, but that was when Dean had been a demon. It didn’t count. “I thought you had more important things to ask about than who I’m sharing a bed with.”

“I do, but I thought I’d get you a little rattled first.” He cracked his knuckles, trying to intimidate Dean. He didn’t care too much. He’d been beaten before. He could take it. “Why are you going after demons?”

“Look, I’m not gonna talk to you. You might as well just kill me.”

The demon’s eyes glinted, but he didn’t move. There was hesitation there.

“Or does Sam not want you to?” Dean asked, realizing he’d caught on to something.

“You…” He swallowed roughly. “You have to use his title.”

Dean laughed. “Yeah, sure. My baby brother wants everyone to call him king hoping it’ll make him feel better about himself. How’s he doing by the way? Did he send you?”

The demon grabbed him, lifting him and the chair off the ground. Heat rushed through Dean when he realized he really was in danger. He let out a deep exhale, trying to stay calm, even as everything in his body sped up.

“Why are you killing demons?! What are you asking them?”

He shook Dean and then dropped the chair back to the floor. It landed at an angle on one of the chair legs, and it tipped and fell to the left, Dean letting out a groan as his face smacked against the floor.

The demon grabbed him and then righted the chair before punching him in the face. The force of it pushed his lips back against his teeth, and his teeth cut into him, stinging. Dean was left dazed and the demon let him be for now.

“Don’t make me ask again.”

Dean spit blood out of his mouth, and was happy when he managed to get some on the demon’s shoes.

“I’m asking them why they all suck,” Dean growled out with fury. He wanted out of this chair, wanted out of this barn, wanted to get back to doing something as mundane as shopping.

But then his mind came up with another image, one of him beating the demon into a bloody pulp.

That image stayed in his mind as he looked up at Statue Face. He was getting angry now, too, a more controlled anger than Dean’s. He was the one in power in this situation, and Dean wanted to change that.

“By the way, when you’re landing a right hook you might want to put your shoulder into it,” he added. “And keep your feet apart. You want to stay grounded.”

“Are you asking to get hit again?”

“Only if it’ll make you shut up,” he retorted.

Then he was hit again, and again. He was bleeding from a cut on his brow bone now, and the blood was dripping down his face, narrowly missing his eye.

“You done yet?” Dean asked as his face was now close to his. His voice was loud, outraged. Dean really didn’t like getting hit, and he was using all the adrenaline he felt in him to cover up his fear.

He wasn’t afraid that he was tied to a chair and with a demon. Not at all. Fear hurt, and he wouldn’t let it. His heart was beating quickly because he was angry. That was it. Or, that’s what he tried telling himself.

Statue Face wiped some blood off Dean’s face and then pressed his thumb into the cut on his brow bone, making Dean scream.

Then he forced out, “This is… this is a little intimate… Can I at least… know… know your name? Agh!

Statue Face pulled back and answered, “Ben.”

For a second an image of a boy that Dean could never forget entered his mind, a boy he saw as his son, a boy who couldn’t remember him.

Grief punched him in the stomach, but he hid it, muttering, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. All beefy and mean and you’re called Ben? Ben. Sounds like you’d be asking people if they want paper or plastic at Wal-Mart. Now, come on, Ben, why do you want me? I’m obviously not gonna talk. I’m killing demons, so what? That’s what I do. So unless my baby bro sent you you might as well just walk away.”

“He didn’t send me.”

“Great, then you can let me go.”

“But maybe he’d want to see you.”

Oh god.

Dean didn’t want to be taken to Sam. Not at all. He wanted to find Sam of his own accord, wanted to face his brother when he was ready, wanted to find a way to bring him back.

Other hunters would suggest killing him, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t. It was Sam.

Hazel eyes turned black in his mind, there was a force against his throat, strangling, fire raging behind him.

Sam.

Sam had hurt him.

Dean let out a yell, and Ben just watched with a smile. He figured it was about time to make his escape. He’d been waiting for Ben to leave, to try and make him leave, but now he didn’t have a chance to wait for that. Dean had to act now.

Before Ben could understand what was going on, Dean leaned down and pulled at the zip tie on his left wrist with his teeth, doing so till his jaw ached, and the plastic was even tighter around his wrist.

“What are you doing?” Ben cried.

Dean got the other one in his teeth as Ben rushed over to him and forced his head back. He held on, and the zip tie tightened.

Dean pulled his arms against the chair and broke his wrists free. He grabbed Ben and now the two of them were wrestling for the upper hand, pushing back against each other, fingers pressed against each other’s skin. This pushed Dean back, and it hadn’t been a sturdy chair since it apparently only took two falls to break. He risked letting go, which made a hand wrap around his throat. He reached down, and pulled himself free of the remains of the chair, and then whacked Ben over the side of the head with a chair leg. He nearly went down on top of Dean, and Dean wrapped his legs around him, still beating him with the broken piece of wood.

Ben’s gun was in the waistband of his pants – it was pressing against his calf. He wasn’t using it now, which meant that he really didn’t want to kill him. Dean felt stupid for letting himself get captured earlier. So stupid. His life hadn’t even been in danger.

There was pain. Always pain, and his enemies knew how to use it, but he couldn’t die. Not without Sam by his side.

The hand that had been prying at Ben’s wrist he now used to reach behind him, lifting up his jacket to grab his gun.

Ben released his throat and grabbed at his arm. Dean hit him one more time, the chair leg splintering over his head, and he forced them to roll over. Ben was Dean’s size so he was able to take the momentum from that and roll them over again, Dean crying out.

Exorcizamus te, omnis immu-”

Ben put his hand over Dean’s mouth, pressing painfully. He screamed at him, voice muffled, and the demon screamed right back, eyes going from deep brown to horrifying black.

Black eyes. Black eyes.

Sam had those eyes.

Dean felt a tightness in his stomach, felt something burst through him, and he started pulling his hand away from his mouth.

“...immundus spiritus!

The hand was over his mouth again, and now his nose. He was trying to knock him out.

Ben became so preoccupied with that that Dean was able to grab his gun. He flicked the safety off in less than a second, put it to his head, and pulled the trigger.

His ears were ringing from blasting it so close to his own head, and Ben fell off of him, voice leaving him in pure agony.

Dean stood, gun trained on him as he quickly finished up the exorcism.

The barn doors rattled open as black smoke fled into the air.

He recognized the figure rushing over to him, long coat fluttering, and he dropped the gun, relieved.

“Cas.”

His friend was instantly holding his face in his hands, examining his injuries.

“Dean, what happened? How badly are you hurt?”

He gingerly brushed his fingers against the cut on his brow, and the worry in his eyes was overwhelming. Still, he put a hand over his, and forced himself to take a deep breath. Castiel was anxious, and rightfully so.

“I’m okay,” he told him. “Still alive. How’d you find me?”

“GPS on your phone.”

“Smart.”

Dean started pulling away, and Cas grabbed him to pull him back. “No, let me heal you.”

Dean shoved him off of him, being gentle but firm about it.

“I’m fine.”

He went over to the poor vessel that had been possessed by Ben, and rolled his body over to grab his phone from his pocket.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. “The demon lived. He might be back, could decide to bring some friends with him.”

 

Castiel drove Dean back to the store where the Impala still was. Dean called the police, weaving some lie about being an FBI agent in the area and happening upon the crime scene and that he’d had to use lethal force to take down the suspect. The area just needed to be taped off and cleaned up.

After he hung up, he went inside to grab his food. Castiel was still there when he came back out, and thought maybe his friend was giving him a judgmental look.

“What? We were running out.”

“You’re sure you’re okay?”

“Are you?” Dean asked, opening up the trunk and putting the food in. “Why’d you call so many friggin’ times?”

“I was worried, and um…” Castiel’s cheeks colored and he looked away. “Crowley drank through the rest of the alcohol. He wants more.”

Dean heaved out a sigh and closed the trunk.

He wanted to cut Crowley off. He was draining his money that way, money that wasn’t exactly his, and he could always get more, but still! However, Dean needed the alcohol too, and if it was around the demon would find a way to get it.

“All right. All right, um… I’ll go to the liquor store, see what’s left. You head back to the bunker.”

“I should go with you,” Castiel told him.

“No. I… I want to be alone.”

Dean didn’t know why he wanted to be alone. Maybe this was all too much for him. Maybe he should call it quits. He wasn’t sure what that even meant for him. He wanted to pull a Thelma and Louise, but there wasn’t a Louise by his side since he was sending Cas home and Sam was… Sam was probably in Hell.

That was odd to him.

Sam had been in Hell before, getting tortured and god knew what. Now he was probably in Hell again, but this time as a ruler.

How had it all turned around?

He didn’t understand it.

Dean didn’t understand any of it and he just wanted to drink, so that was what he was going to do.

Chapter Text

Rowena was going to make Sam help her with the spell at nightfall, so he went to his office, which was on the floor beneath the bedroom and also overlooked the mountain. There was a ravine beside it, and one way to access the office was to cross a metal bridge over the ravine. Sam liked being able to simply walk outside when he wished it, which was why he’d decided upon using that room. He’d called upon Gaizal, knowing he was one of his oldest demons serving him at the moment. Hell, he was the demon that Vadrach had sold his soul to. Funny to think that that used to bother him. It didn’t matter to him now. It didn’t hurt, and Gaizal was useful. Sam figured it was time for another lesson on the structure of Hell and who better to ask? He’d been having these lessons, learning how Hell worked, the hierarchy of demons, how Sam had to build some of it back up again, and how souls, virgins, and babies worked as various forms of currency. Souls were especially sought after.

That day Sam learned of the princes of Hell. Azazel had been one of them, which explained the yellow eyes, and there were three others: Ramiel – who liked to keep to himself, Dagon – who was essentially missing at the moment, and Asmodeus – who was rumored to be deep in Hell with creatures called the Shedim.

Sam worried about what would happen if any of the princes decided he wasn’t fit to rule, and he knew he’d have to seek them out at some point to discuss things with them, including where they fell in the hierarchy in regards to his reign. But having an audience with them could surely wait.

The lesson took a few hours. After Sam dismissed Gaizal another demon entered, one Sam didn’t recognize. He immediately stood.

“How dare you enter without announcing yourself,” he told him.

He was in the vessel of a young man with dirty blond hair and immaculate features.

The demon immediately threw himself to the floor.

“I’m sorry, my lord. I have news of Dean Winchester.”

Sam waited for him to say something more and when nothing seemed forthcoming, he prompted, “And?”

“He’s in Lebanon.”

“I know that,” Sam sneered. “Did you go after him?”

“Y-yes,” the demon admitted. “I kidnapped him. I wanted to learn why he’s been hunting demons.”

Sam grabbed the demon before him with his powers, and slammed him back against the far wall. He came out from behind his desk, and slowly walked over to him.

“Last I checked, that’s his job. And use your brain, would you? He’s trying to find me.”

“I tried to take him to you. He fought back.”

“Is he hurt?”

The demon nodded.

Sam felt anger boil inside of him, and he closed his eyes, imagining striking pain into the demon before him. His dark essence began to shriek, just as he used his vessel’s voice to do so.

Don’t look for, or harm, him again!” Sam shouted over his screams. “I will retrieve my brother in my own time!”

He released him, and he fell to the floor, panting.

“Go tell others to stay away before I decide to make you a public example.”

The demon just gaped up at him.

“Go! Get out of my sight!”

The demon left his office, and then Sam stood in the doorway, watching him go. He was really going to have to get guards.

He went back in and sat down on his desk once he was out of sight. Dean. Dean was going after demons. That didn’t surprise him. He was a Winchester after all.

He wondered if Dean was going to try and kill him when he found him. Well, if Sam didn’t get to him first.

He decided he’d let Dean flounder for a bit before he went after him himself. Let him try, and let him fail.

Sam wanted Dean broken by the time he made him his prisoner.

 

Night had fallen, and Rowena had put on a cloak and grabbed her purse before taking Sam out of his fortress. Then she’d dragged him into the abandoned town. The ground was littered with leaves, and more fell through the cold air, and they crunched beneath their feet.

“Why are you taking me here?” Sam asked, as she yanked on his hand, pulling him further past dilapidated buildings, some of which looked to be sagging inwards, the wood all dark and water-logged.

“So we won’t be disturbed,” she told him. “Now, I need you to get something for me. I need virgin blood.”

Sam stopped dead in his tracks, Rowena coming to a halt, and turning to face him.

“Why don’t you just take from me?”

“You’re not serious,” she told him.

He nodded.

She gave him a sly smile, and rubbed his chest. “So that’s why I’ve been hearing your demons call you the Virgin King behind your back. I thought it was because we haven’t… but no. All this time and no one’s fucked you?”

Sam rolled his eyes at her suggestive tone, and then asked, “They really call me that?”

“Yes. Plenty of them do.”

“I’m a born-again virgin,” he explained after a sigh. “I guess it actually means something if the demons can tell.”

“You want me to fix that?”

Sam growled at her, and she actually giggled, a sound that he liked.

“Fine, but your blood won’t do,” she told him, taking his arm in hers. “I need human blood. Last I checked, darling, you’re not human.”

“Fine. What town?” he asked.

“Doesn’t matter, but I’ll be setting up here,” she told him, pointing at one of the houses that looked like it’d held together much better than the others. “And get me a boy. Alive. They’re more fun that way.”

“Of course.”

They kissed, and then Sam teleported to the nearest town to retrieve the boy.

 

Rowena already had plenty of virgin blood, but she liked to see how far Sam would go with doing things for her. She wanted to see how dark he’d become. It was always exhilarating watching him commit an atrocity that he previously would’ve been appalled by, and especially for her.

Part of this was her doing.

She’d wanted him to become the King of Hell, had worked towards it, and all her manipulations had paid off. Now she was in power.

She went inside the house, did a quick spell that blew a space clear of leaves from the floor, and then began to set up. She started by dragging a table in from the other room, placing her things down there. She was going to make a version of the spell where Sam would go by unnoticed, but this one was more complicated since there were cameras and sensors to take into consideration. She’d have to make Sam completely undetectable. To make a spell that powerful she was going to need to make a circle, but she had to wait for the blood for that. She still took out her supplies, candles, matches, a golden knife, a bowl, a bronze chalice, and a few different types of crushed up plants and animal bones, and then finally, rope for the boy Sam was fetching her.

He was back in about fifteen minutes, dragging a whimpering pre-teen into the building.

“Sorry I took so long,” Sam told her. “Hardly anyone goes outside anymore. Had to drag him out of his house. His mom was home, but I took care of her.”

The boy, who looked to be about twelve, had tears running down his reddened cheeks, his bottom lip trembling.

He didn’t seem to care how old he was at the moment, and just wailed, “Mommy!”

Sam held onto him as he struggled, his eyes black. “You have anything for him?” he asked.

Rowena held up the rope and Sam smiled.

In under a minute they had the boy tied up, hands behind his back, ankles together, so he wouldn’t be able to stand up and run. They’d gagged him too – Sam had said he was sick of hearing him cry. Now his voice was muffled, terrified tears streaming down his face.

Rowena kissed Sam for a few seconds to thank him for the boy, pulling him close with a hand at his jacket.

“Nice work,” she told him. “He’s perfect.”

She then retrieved the knife and the chalice, handing them to Sam. “Fill this up with his blood,” she told him. “I need enough to make a circle on the table, and then some.”

The boy’s muffled cries grew louder, and then louder still as Sam cut into his forearm. Part of Rowena expected Sam to talk to the boy, to try and soothe him, even if it was false, but he did none of that, was completely cold in his actions.

Rowena took the blood, making a circle on the table.

“Now, if you break this,” she explained. “We’ll have to start the spell over again. Light the candles for me.”

As Sam lit the black candles she explained the different plants and animal bones to him that she was using: coyote, fox, opossum, and owl for deception, to make him go unnoticed, rhododendron to make others shy away from where he stood so they wouldn’t bang into him, and begonia to aid with that, hydrangea to mask his heat signature, lemon blossom to add to the effect of the animal bones, and wormwood to finish hiding him completely and to make sure he would not stick in the minds of those who did happen to see him. Rowena could effectively hide him just short of making him invisible.

She made Sam help her with measuring the ingredients and putting them in the bowl in a certain order. When all was as it should be she stepped back from the table and gestured for Sam to take her place.

“Pour the remaining blood in the bowl,” Rowena instructed.

Sam did so.

“Now repeat after me, and feel the strength in the words, even if you don’t know what they mean. Imago tuam odore vestigans.

Imago tuam odore vestigans.”

Imago tuam æstus.

Imago tuam æstus.”

Imago tuam vestigia fecit.

Imago tuam vestigia-

“Your focus is wavering,” she told him, noticing his tone changing. Sam was paying more attention on getting the words right than on putting power into them. The right words did matter, but he had to have the focus for both at once.

He cut off, and glanced back at her, but didn’t say anything. Rowena raised her eyebrows at him.

“...fecit,” he finished.

Imago tuos illorum qui spectant ad.

Imago tuos illorum qui spectant ad.”

“Focus!” she snapped.

“I’m trying,” he growled out.

“Ah-ah-ah! Spell. Picture it in your mind. Picture what we’re trying to accomplish. Start over. Repeat after me.”

They started the incantation over again, Rowena feeling Sam find focus through his anger at her for snapping at him. Really, she wanted him to do something else with that anger, but now wasn’t the time.

Unum in memoriam ejus non apparebit. Umbra, nusquam est,” he finished.

Rowena felt the energy that had been building in the circle fully bind, and she could almost see it swirling within the bowl when she approached.

“How do we know it worked?” he asked.

She took his wrist, holding his hand out over the bowl.

“Close your eyes. Do you feel that?”

Sam did as she said, and then took in a deep breath. After a few seconds he nodded his head.

Rowena released his hand and then told him, “Now you have to drink it.”

“What? Ew.”

“Dear, you drink demon blood. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Sam picked up the bowl, swallowing roughly. “Yeah, but that actually tastes good,” he admitted quietly.

Rowena expected Sam to argue more, but he said nothing, just began to drink, face scrunching up in disgust as he did so. After he’d had a good amount he placed the bowl back down. If he were human she figured his face would be turning a bit green at the moment.

Then her eyes traveled away from him, and his scent, which was always strong in his presence, dissipated. It didn’t bother her, and Rowena forgot he was even there at that moment. She smiled, knowing the spell had worked.

“It’s working, Sam,” she told him. “Have fun with your little adventure in Kenesaw. Don’t you die on me.”

“Funny.”

As soon as she heard the voice and recognized what he said it left her mind. Then she felt an emptiness, a loneliness, and she knew Sam was gone.

Chapter Text

Sam didn’t feel much different from the spell, though there was a slight tingle at the base of his skull. At first he had thought it didn’t work, but then Rowena’s eyes lost their focus on him, going right through him, so he teleported to the remains of Kenesaw, a feat that was now easy due to him being a demon.

The giant crater that had been all that remained of the town was different from when he’d last been there. That had been Halloween, the night of his ascension to the throne. Instead of clattering rubble and collapsing buildings, the edges of the town had been swept clear, making for flat ground. Sam was outside the crater, and there were buildings of metal and hard white plastic. They’d been erected in a hurry and were squat little units that formed a perimeter all around the crater. Behind him was an electrified chain link fence that stood a good forty feet from the buildings. There were guard towers towering at twenty-five feet with trained men standing watch in them, lights covering every inch of the area to keep out the night. Outside the fence, news vans and different kinds of reporters – some even from different countries – were permanently camped out, waiting for something new to report, constantly hounding government-hired scientists as they came to and from the facility.

Then there were the tourists, the ones who weren’t frightened of the destroying light that had come from the sky. They made up about two percent of the population, if Sam had to guess, but it was enough to make things crowded. These people were the conspiracy theorists, the people who said it was aliens. Other theories abounded – it was a solar flare, God (they weren’t far off with that), the American government, a nuclear bomb from the Middle East or Russia, some new weapon that had undergone unsanctioned testing. No one could quite figure it out, so the ones who weren’t afraid came, trying to see what they could. The crowds hadn’t trickled away yet, and some would probably only disperse if a weapon was fired at them.

Still, no one but the government officials who had visited, scientists, and reporters had seen the crater with their own eyes. They’d only seen it when it had been broadcast on TV, the cameramen being flown in in helicopters, before the place had been locked down.

Some businesses, despite the fear of the employees, had taken advantage of the event and a hotel was being built along with a few restaurants, and a café. A few food trucks were parked somewhere along the road that used to lead to Kenesaw.

These people watched in awe while the rest of the world hid away in fear.

Sam liked that fear. It made everything feel wild, freer. If he wanted to take control of the Earth now would be the opportune time to do so, and it was all thanks to the angels.

He smiled thinking about it and approached the facility; he hadn’t teleported right into the center of town near where the portal had been for fear of landing on uneven ground and falling, or for teleporting and getting part of himself caught in some rubble or something. He was immortal and the King of Hell, but this was safer.

Guards dressed in black walked along the inner and outer parts of the fences, Tasers in their belts, government issued-Glocks at the ready. Sam could see the scopes on the long-range rifles the guards in the towers had, and they had a three-sixty-degree view of the surrounding area. There were cameras on the towers, on the fences, on the buildings, and sensors that blinked with a red light. So far, he had yet to be noticed.

This was Sam’s first time back, so he didn’t really have a plan. But he had to act before the spell wore off. He cursed himself for forgetting to ask Rowena how long he had.

He decided to give himself a half hour. In and out.

I won’t even find anything.

Though Sam knew the sounds he made would be masked he wanted to try his luck with making a sound purposefully – he was going to knock on the front door.

Knocking produced a noise, a deep rattle that reverberated through the door and into the wall of the facility. Guards turned his way and his heart leapt up into his throat. Sam expected for guns to be trained on him, orders to be shouted, maybe even for bullets to fly, hitting home in his flesh.

There was none of that.

The guards focused their attention on the door, trying to figure out what was going on. Some came closer.

Sam knocked again.

Guns were raised.

One guard said into her walkie-talkie, “We have a disturbance in quadrant one. Over.”

A grainy voice came from the walkie-talkie.

Sam knocked one more time, and the guards that had converged on the spot were visibly tense.

Sam took a few steps back as they went to where he’d been standing

Then the door was opening, and a small man popped his head out. He jumped back, startled, at seeing the guards.

They tried to usher him inside while one asked, “Rogers, we got anything on the cameras? Over.”

“Nothing. Over.”

The guards were having some difficulty with the man who seemed talkative now that he’d gotten over his shock, and the door was left open in the confusion.

Sam lunged in and opened the door wider when the man pushed on it. He brushed against him, lab coat shifting to the side. For a second he took notice, looking behind him, but then he faced forward again, fixed his glasses, and seemed to forget anything had happened.

The different buildings in the compound were connected by one long, thin hallway that Sam had to sprint across, lest he get crammed in there with someone else. He should’ve heard his footsteps, but there was only silence, as if he was walking on a soundproof floor. He could hear his own breaths, but faintly, like something was creating a barrier.

He was looking for a platform of some sort, or maybe even a way down to the crater, a staircase, or a ladder.

A platform was on the north side of the facility, and it was crowded with all different kinds of equipment, probably for testing the site. The platform was lit by three glaring lights attached to the side of the building, the hum of electricity loud in the biting air.

Sam was all alone out there, which surprised him. Despite being nighttime the buildings had been very busy, scientists too caught up in their work to go home. He figured some of them were so engrossed in their work they forgot they even had nice, warm beds waiting for them at home.

He went to the edge of the platform and looked down into the black pit of the crater. It lay yawning below him, an awe-inspiring, breathtaking chasm of ultimate destruction. The lights of the facility did little to light it up lower down.

On the edges of the metal platform was a ladder that descended down into those depths.

Sam took in a deep breath and then made his way into the crater.

Fear was creeping up his spine and sitting hot in his stomach, stealing the air from his lungs.

Hell. He might be getting closer to Hell.

No, no. There’s nothing here. It was destroyed.

But shouldn’t he want to find Hell? He was the king after all.

Sam ignored that thought, instead paid attention to a tingle of power he felt in the air. In the weeks he’d been a demon he’d grown more in tune with sensing the different energies around people and things, even places. Now, a human felt different from a demon, smelled different, even, and he could see their true faces if he chose to. Angels he could feel, monsters…

Energy pulsing through the ground.

No, you’re imagining it, Sam. It’s not here.

He carefully picked his way through the rubble, climbing over rocks, or jumping down when the ground began to shift beneath his feet.

That darkness.

Growing, growing, beckoning to him.

No.

Sam didn’t want that darkness.

This is stupid! he chastised himself. You’re the King of Hell. Just get over it.

Deeper and deeper, lower and lower till he felt like the air was sucking at him, begging, pleading, yearning.

Without thinking he began to heft pieces of building and slabs of concrete out of the way. He supposed he could use some of the telekinesis he’d been practicing, but he still really only had that down with living beings. Still, his strength as a demon was surely close to that of an angel’s – he wasn’t the average run of the mill demon.

He was the king.

King.

Sam wondered why he had to keep telling himself that.

It struck him that he didn’t look kingly; perhaps it was that. He’d deal with that issue later.

Sam worked till the tingle in the base of his skull started fading. An alarm went up, just one, a faint wail through the night, and one red light had flared to life. He wondered what had picked him up, whether it was a camera, an infrared sensor, or something else he wasn’t aware of.

More sirens, more lights, spotlights now scanning the crater.

Sam looked around at the facility, swore he could now see guards rushing around, frantic. Then he looked at the blackness before him. Hell, or capture.

Sam didn’t want to go to Hell, hadn’t wanted the entrance to be here, had thought it had been destroyed.

But still it persisted. Hell persisted.

The darkness within Sam reached out to that evil that lay before him, and the two welcomed each other, even as some part of him tried to fight it. That part ended up being chained up by the darkness, and he walked forward, the horrors in his mind held at bay for now. Sam was swallowed up. It was time. Hell was waiting.

 

Dean was drinking. That wasn’t anything new. Except now he was drinking at a bar, alone, instead of in the bunker with Crowley.

Still, he thought of Crowley.

He thought of Castiel.

He thought of Sam.

Sam. God, he wondered what the hell he was up to. Must be nice for his brother to not have to sleep anymore – the two of them hated sleeping, or at least trying to, Sam more than him. What was it like to not have to go to sleep, to not worry about nightmares?

Dean blocked out much of his time as a demon so he didn’t quite remember.

What was any of it like? How was his brother as a ruler?

Dean was morbidly curious to find out. Part of him had wanted to get captured by Ben earlier that day, which was one of the many reasons he was drinking.

Sam was probably a good ruler, had always been smart enough. Maybe being able to control everything suited him better.

What was Sam like now?

He was a man who would use his powers to strangle his own brother, that much he knew.

He was a man-

No, he wasn’t even that.

He was a demon.

From what Dean remembered, he understood how amazing that must feel. The power was fucking incredible. Sam was probably having the time of his life.

And Dean was drinking.

 

Hell was different as a demon. Not as scary, more of a place that he felt he could call his own. And he wasn’t walking into its depths to be tortured. This was his choice, he would leave unharmed, and he could leave when he chose.

Hell.

Sam was surprised that when he left the Earth behind he liked the dark, the heat, the rock, the fire, the twists and turns of the ancient hallways, the tiny rivulets of lava cracking the floor, the void yawning above him in some places, lightning flashing, screaming, hands reaching out to him, black smoke billowing about him in greeting. The heat was its own physical force down where he was, like trying to walk through something solid. The amulet glowed brighter, and it was as if Sam began to slice through that heat. There were cells on either side of him, blood covering the ground, dried and fresh, hands reaching out.

He ignored it, ignored all of it.

In his head that blood, those reaching hands, were his own.

No. No, no, no.

You’re fine.

You’re in Hell, but you’re fine.

More demons coalesced around him, becoming thick and choking.

At first it had seemed welcoming, now it was tinged with curious energy that could easily turn dangerous.

“Enough!” Sam commanded, feeling as though he couldn’t breathe, like he needed his own space.

The demons dissipated, leaving him alone in the hallway with the tortured souls.

Funny to think he was one of those tortured souls; he just wasn’t in a cell.

As he continued to walk, finding structures, fortresses, cut into dark rock within the great depths of this realm, another part of him was fighting to come lose, the part he kept at bay with the demon blood. The part he had wanted to get rid of during the battle on Halloween. It was him. The weak part of him. The human part that was utterly broken and still sometimes thought was back in the Cage.

Even now it scraped at his awareness, aching, throbbing, willing to be let out.

No, no.

“Can’t let it out,” he found himself muttering. “Can’t let it out.”

He walked the hallways, not worrying about getting lost, until he found an empty room in a fortress that overlooked a courtyard that had space for training. He wondered if it’d been used to train demons in hand to hand combat, maybe the Knights of Hell, or maybe he wasn’t down low enough for that. Sam knew what was lower, and for now, he wouldn’t go that low.

He stood at the window, arms resting on the windowsill, making his eyes black.

So this damned place was his kingdom.

It was vast, filled with cruelty, seething with pain and want. The energies, the agonies of the tormented minds vibrated in the air, and he breathed it in, taking it into his lungs, enjoying the poison of it.

No.

His head had to stop doing that. Had to stop disapproving of what he was doing. Perhaps he could drink more demon blood.

But no, Sam didn’t want anyone with him, and he had yet to set up a system of servants, wasn’t even sure he wanted servants. Being a king was busy work, lots of meetings, lots of people to appease, lots of sides (even in Hell), business, economics… Some demons seemed to even think the core values of Hell rested upon his shoulders instead of with the monster locked down below who had first damned everyone.

The name came to him, unbidden, slithering into his mind like sickening oil, suffocating him:

Lucifer.

Sam started, shivering at having thought his name. Then his face appeared, not his true face, not yet. Just his former vessel: Nick’s. Blue eyes, blond hair, soft features that he hoped had appeared kind during Nick’s life. Under Lucifer’s control they were cruel, filled with malice and predatory darkness.

He closed his eyes, shutting out the realm of evil before him, shutting out the old, worn stone, the empty, barren courtyard he’d been gazing upon, the window he rested against, the lightning flashing through the sky.

Thunder sounded, loud in his head.

I’m not here, he told himself. I’m not here.

No, that wasn’t true.

He was there. He was in Hell. Of his own volition.

But still he found himself having to brace himself on the windowsill, breaths coming in heaving pants. Of all things he felt nauseous. Odd. He hadn’t thought as a demon he’d be able to have these feelings.

“They’re not real,” he told himself, and then he was repeating it over and over again. It was difficult to breathe, so he ended up gasping, “Not real, not real, not real.”

Sam nearly collapsed, and he ended up leaning his head down, muscles shaking as he held himself up. Were he human he’d be sweating.

The Cage was beneath his feet, was all around him. Nothing but the void lay beyond that, lightning striking, making his hair stand on end, ozone thick in the air. Blood was heavy in his mouth and nose, the taste and smell metallic and sickening. It was his blood.

Lucifer’s lips were against his ear, cold hand around his throat.

Sam grasped at the amulet till the iron dug into his skin, wishing to shield himself from the cold. It remained, biting him.

There was no escape.

He was closer to him now. Closer, closer…

Sam feared that he was going to show up right behind him, that even thinking of him while he was in Hell would summon him, would somehow free him.

Lucifer exercised power over him even now, even if he didn’t know it.

Sam stood amongst his kingdom, alone, and frightened.

He fell onto his knees, head in his hands, his right one reacting slower than his left.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.

Even as Sam told himself that his throat began to ache, the corners of his eyes stinging.

He couldn’t hold it in.

He was back.

He’d always been tethered to it.

There was no escape.

Running had only brought him closer to the evil in his past.

Sam stared at that evil in his mind, red eyes swimming in his vision as if they were really there.

Black, sickening and oily, surrounded those red eyes, until it became something incomprehensible, something beyond what his mind could handle, even now.

It stabbed him straight through the chest, down into his scarred soul, and it stayed, like a spear struck through him.

Sam did cry then.

The King of Hell.

It meant nothing.

Sam was nothing, and no one.

Just Lucifer’s vessel. Just his puppet, his toy, his plaything, his bitch.

Hell surrounded him, as it lived within his soul.

Sam threw his head back and screamed, voice echoing in the emptiness around him.

Chapter Text

While Rowena waited for Sam to get back she had cleaned up the spellwork, and had killed the boy. She just decided to leave his body there. A demon would probably find it and decide to have some fun with it.

She didn’t want to admit that she was worried about Sam as she now waited in their bedroom, but she was. He was capable, immortal, a king, but he still seemed so unsure of himself, still seemed like he was trying to get used to everything. What if something happened and he couldn’t handle it? Sam would be fine physically, but emotionally, sometimes it was like walking on eggshells with him. Rowena didn’t know why, but she didn’t need to know why to see it and manipulate him, use it to her advantage. She’d been doing it for weeks, since Ivan had them trapped in the bunker. If something went wrong for Sam and she wasn’t there all her painstaking, delicate work could be unraveled.

She told herself all this mattered because she wanted to remain in power. It was true, she did. Sam hadn’t invested in servants yet, but Rowena had found a few demons who were willing to do some things for her. She needed that, needed it or else she’d drown in what her life truly was, despair and loss and hate.

But with Sam there wasn’t hate. She didn’t hate him. She might’ve at one point, but now… Now she was fond of him, and wanted him in bed with her.

Rowena laughed to herself as she lay on the bed, still waiting, waiting. This wasn’t love, was it? It couldn’t be. Rowena had sworn off love.

Love hurt.

That’s what it did. It took and it took and it dug and scraped until she was scarred from it, until hatred filled it up.

So no, not love.

But what was the opposite of love? Indifference? She didn’t feel indifference towards her king. It was impossible to at this point. She’d been spending so much time with him, and he was intelligent, quick-thinking, ambitious, merciless, and sometimes even snarky. It was everything Rowena wanted in a lover, in someone whom she shared a partnership with.

Twenty minutes passed, meaning the potion must’ve worn off by then. Sam better not have gotten himself captured or else she was going to go down to that bloody crater and find a way to kill him.

She wondered what he was going to do if the entrance was still there. Rowena liked to think she knew Sam, but, really, when it came to this, she didn’t. She had no idea why, as the king he was so terrified of his own realm, his own dimension, his own . Was it all because of some Bible stories he’d heard growing up? Sam struck Rowena as someone who had used to be religious before the world had given up on him, so maybe that was why he was so afraid. But as a demon he shouldn’t be. He fed off of demons, he was one of them.

He was in power.

She just wanted him to learn that.

 

Sam wasn’t sure how long he was in Hell for. Maybe a few hours. He had wandered, he had seen the tortured souls, the demons, the ruined halls, and he had knelt on the floor, screaming out his pain.

It was gone, for now.

Sam was nothing.

And he teleported back to his fortress like that, as nothing.

A demon in the body of a little boy was in front of him in the hallway to his bedroom he shared with Rowena. He bowed to Sam, and Sam waved his hand and tossed him aside. He didn’t have time for him, didn’t have time…

No, no. He had time. He had all the time. He was immortal now.

But if Sam was nothing then what was he supposed to do? Continue to be king? Continue to pretend?

Pretending…

Yes, that he was doing. He was just pretending.

None of this was real, the demons flocking to him, listening to every order, having this massive place to do with as he wished, Hell.

Rowena.

No, no. Not Rowena. She’d been there before he’d become nothing.

Funny to think that a crown on his head had made him drop so low. He’d gone from terrified human to pathetic, lowly demon. Maybe his powers didn’t matter, none of it. It didn’t matter.

Sam felt as if he’d be seething with emotions by the time he got to Rowena’s room, despair, something , but he was just empty. An empty vessel.

She was lying on the bed, in her small, lacy nightgown now, the cream and black designs playing with his eyes so it almost looked like he could see more of her than was being shown. It filled something in him, and he knew what he needed.

The part of him that he’d screamed out wasn’t there to stop him as he sat on the bed with her and took one of her hands in both of his. She was sitting up now, staring intently at him, trying to gauge what he’d found, what he was feeling. Sam met her gaze, letting the intimacy happen, letting it live and breathe between them.

“So?” she questioned, voice quiet, making him lean in closer to hear her.

He shook his head, and broke their eye contact, looking down. He wanted to tell her, but… but he couldn’t. Why couldn’t he? He’d been to Hell. No big deal, right?

Maybe it was. Maybe it had taken something from him like it had the last time.

“The entrance isn’t there?”

Clearly she misunderstood what he was trying to convey, that he didn’t want to talk about it. Sam decided to let her think he hadn’t found the entrance; wasn’t in the mood for talking.

He kissed her hand and then tried leaning down to press a kiss to her lips, but she put a finger against his own lips as she tilted back and away from him. Sam immediately froze.

“Sam, we have to talk. You’ve been avoiding Hell, which is your duty , your claim to it is the source of your power. Without it… Without it you’re nothing.”

A snarl started making its way onto his face before he could control it, and Rowena went on, “You have power , Samuel!” she insisted. “Why don’t you see it?”

He let go of her, and went to go stand by the window, staring out into the darkness, as if it would give him the answers he so desperately sought, the answers to questions he couldn’t even possibly began to ask or understand.

“I went to Hell,” he told her, tone dark, cold.

He heard her rise, and approach, but he could sense her presence just a few feet from him. She was giving him his space until she knew just what this ordeal had done to him.

Sam didn’t mind her being wary of him. It didn’t make him feel broken in the way it had with his family. She didn’t do it because he was weak. She did it because she accepted him, because she knew him, knew that he might not always be okay.

Now Sam wasn’t sure if he was, if he ever really had been.

Hell. It existed down there, beneath him.

Fire, heat, torment, suffering, screams, blood, utter darkness.

It belonged to him.

Yet he was nothing.

“You’re wrong,” he continued. “I’m not powerful. Do you know what I saw down there? I saw more souls than I can possibly count, I saw evil.”

“But it’s your evil. It’s yours .”

“Evil…” Sam began, but then trailed off. Thoughts of Lucifer filled his head once more. Part of him thought of telling Rowena, of explaining that ruined part of him, that he could never be whole again, that he could never be right, not even as an immortal king, not even as a demon. He laughed it off. And instead of looking into the dark beyond the window, he met his own reflection, looked into his eyes.

Rowena was by his side now, caressing his arm, and Sam looked down at her.

“You fought to get here, Sam. And you did get here. You survived Kenesaw, you killed three angels, you became more than human , you subjugated Hell. If that’s not power, then what is ?”

They were just words. He knew what he’d done, and often thought about it while he watched Rowena sleep, thought of the torture, Vadrach, the battle, the angels who had tried to kill him, the demons who had knelt before him as he held his arms up, victorious, strangling Dean, Rowena kissing him, making him feel like he had someone even when his own family stared in horror.

Perhaps they were right to.

But still what Rowena said was just words. He was too far gone for words to save him.

“I don’t know,” he murmured. “But whatever it is, I don’t have it.”

He had begun to turn away from her, no longer sure of what he wanted, and Rowena reached up on her tiptoes, grabbing his face and making him look down at her. Her thumbs caressed his cheek bones, her eyes dark with want.

“Let me show you, Samuel,” she begged, voice breathy and pleasing. “You have power.”

“I…”

One hand ran down his body, grabbing his belt, and he found he couldn’t speak, his mouth open.

“Please, darling. I can show you.”

“And if I say no you’ll be okay with that?”

She frowned, as if wondering where the question had come from.

“Of course.”

“And we can stop anytime?”

Rowena pulled him down to her, and bit his ear, before whispering in it, “ You can make us stop anytime. You can make me do anything to you, you can do anything to me. I want you, Sam. I just want you to want me, too.”

It felt so good hearing that someone wanted him, but not just for themselves. They wanted him to want them. They respected him. It was enough to make Sam stop feeling like he was nothing, enough to make him feel like he mattered.

Sam couldn’t find that power Rowena spoke of, but he was going to take it.

Rowena had started drawing away from him, but he leaned down, pulling her small body close to his, and then he hoisted her legs up around his hips. Their lips brushed together, mouths open, both of them breathing heavily. And then his tongue came out to explore, and their mouths met. Even through his clothes her bare legs felt warm around him. His hands were on her ass to hold her to him, and with the way she was holding onto his face, her legs gripping him, he knew she was enjoying it too. Her lips went after his eagerly, and he pressed her up against the window, hips unintentionally rolling against her. He felt a part of him stirring that he hadn’t dared to enjoy in ages, but he wanted Rowena, wanted to try and see if she was right, that he had power.

Power.

The idea that he could possess it was thrilling.

He could see why Rowena always wanted it. Just the simple taste he was getting from being with her like this was tantalizing, and he wanted more.

They pulled apart, and their noses brushed together, Sam’s lips feverishly searching for hers once more.

He slowly opened his eyes, pressing harder against her. Their gazes locked together, and then Sam was looking past her, at his reflection again, even able to see her legs as they were wrapped around his waist. He liked the sight. He tried to kiss her again, and she tilted her head up and away. Sam didn’t mind. He wanted to have someone as much as it was possible to have another being. He wanted to take her, to own her, to have power of her.

And this was all because she wanted him to, because she wanted him to want it.

Sam realized he’d been craving to be with someone who accepted him, been craving it for years, and now he was finally getting it. Sam had thought he was done with sex, but apparently as a demon his feelings about it had changed.

Yes, it could hurt, it could be used to hurt, and that part of him feared the touch of another being, the touch of skin.

But he could use it to hurt if he chose to.

He could use it to pleasure.

He wasn’t the only one who could fall victim to it, to be its prey.

Sam relished in that fact as he sucked on her ivory skin, as she let him, as he wanted to. Rowena was running her hands through his hair, alighting tingles in his scalp, and she pressed herself against him more tightly. He could feel warmth in between her legs, heat that he wanted.

Even with the amulet Sam was tired of the cold, he was tired of Lucifer.

Though Sam could hold Rowena for a very long time since he was twice the size of her, could probably hold her for hours with his new abilities, even with his arm the way it was, he carefully got her onto the bed, knowing it’d be much more comfortable for her there than against the hard window.

Sam missed their reflection, and it was more distorted now when he looked at it. Maybe he should get a mirror, see himself, see the truth, that he had power when he was with Rowena.

Rowena noticed he had stopped sucking at her skin so fervently, and she lifted his chin up with a hand.

“What is it, darling?”

He smiled at her as he shifted his hips against her, the movement making her legs open wider, something that filled him with a deep hunger he was beginning to feel in his gut, in his pelvis.

“Was thinking we should have a mirror in here,” he told her, noticing that his voice had gotten rather gravelly. Rowena practically purred at hearing him.

She caressed his face, and then kissed his nose before saying, “Yes, I’d like that.”

Sam was going to kiss her again, hips moving lower as his mouth did, and Rowena purposefully ground against him as she held her head back.

“Ah-ah-ah,” she told him gently. “Remember, Samuel, you can make me do anything .”

An idea came to him, a wonderful idea that made heat rush down in between his legs, and he felt the fullness of himself thickening. Rowena grinned.

“Someone likes the implications of that.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, knowing it was often difficult for women to enjoy him in that way.

“This is about you, darling. Of course.”

Sam found himself growling his pleasure when she called him darling , which made her laugh, body curling around him even more, legs traveling up his sides to wrap around his back. Perhaps she did it on purpose, to show him how flexible she was. God, she was really flexible.

Sam held her to him with one arm, as he rolled so that he was on the bottom. Their lips met in a sloppy kiss, Rowena letting out a sound of surprise that Sam couldn’t help but find adorable. It’d been much too long since he’d heard a sound of pleasure from anyone that he genuinely wanted to hear.

He was more used to hearing sounds of pleasure from how his body was being abused, but now he was being touched, and it wasn’t to hurt.

Sam’s heart was pounding fiercely, breaths racing, from arousal, and from the fact that in the back of his mind he feared what his head would do with these oh so familiar sensations, if it would take Rowena from him and place him with someone much more terrifying, if he would no longer be in their bedroom, if he’d get stolen from their bed.

Sam’s hands went to the bottom of Rowena’s nightgown, and she let him take it off of her, leaving her only in her underwear. He needed this. Maybe seeing a woman’s body would make him forget.

But women had used him too, had bitten him and licked him and kissed him and grinded themselves against him, had touched his thighs, had made his body want them even when he had said no.

Ruby came to mind, and he tugged on Rowena’s hair, needing to feel that it was thick curls, and not the soft dark waves that had been the hair of the woman who had betrayed him, who had taken him when he was drunk. He stared at that glorious, fiery red, unable to believe that he was with her, that he was okay . Sam couldn’t possibly be nothing while he was with her feeling like this.

She lifted herself up, hands on his chest, letting him look at her body with a grin. Sam was panting from just looking at her. So small and perfect, petite breasts firm, nipples hard, and she was absolutely glowing with confidence.

“Like what you see?” she asked.

Sam wanted to say something that perhaps sounded romantic, something that would make him seem like a thoughtful lover, but he was unable to think clearly, and he ended up growling out, “Fuck yes.”

Rowena frowned at him in an overdramatic way, making Sam smile as he caressed her bare back. “Language,” she jokingly scolded.

“What?” he tilted his lips up to her. “You don’t like it when I say fuck ?” He put emphasis on the last word. Rowena said nothing, so he repeated, “Fuck.”

“Clever, you know one word of the English language.”

Rowena had started laughing at that, but her teasing always stoked a heat in him, and he felt it growing now. He pulled her down to him, teeth searching for her bottom lip. And god, he just wanted his clothes off, but the thought of being that vulnerable frightened him.

Sam thought it was ridiculous. He was going to be vulnerable anyway.

No, no. Not vulnerable. Powerful.

He was struggling with his internal thoughts about his clothing so much that he couldn’t do anything as Rowena began unbuttoning his shirt.

They pulled apart, spit connecting them for a few seconds, and then he watched her hands, no longer mesmerized with her movements, but wondering why he was helpless.

Wasn’t he supposed to be powerful?

Why was he just lying there, completely frozen?

Why did he feel his desire leaving him, the nothingness eating him up before the part of himself he’d screamed out in Hell began to trickle back in?

Why?

Rowena got his shirt unbuttoned, and Sam still lay frozen beneath her.

Frozen, even with the amulet glowing against his bare skin.

She noticed and ran her hands over his torso, rubbing herself against him, trying to coax him back into it, to breathe life into the flames that had been devouring him.

The flames died, cold wind sweeping in, stabbing into his spine, pooling in his stomach.

“Rowena.”

“Yes, Samuel?” she asked, clearly enamored with his body and not noticing his tone of voice.

Or maybe she’d elected to ignore it…

No, no, no. That wasn’t like her. She wouldn’t do that.

“Rowena, stop.”

To his utmost relief she did so immediately, and even climbed off of him. Sam sat up and turned away from her, cheeks now flushed with shame instead of arousal, as he buttoned his shirt up, having difficulty because of his arm. He uncomfortably rearranged himself in his pants, which no longer felt so tight.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know…”

He heard a whisper of fabric; Rowena was putting her nightgown back on.

“No, you have nothing to be sorry about. I’ll admit, I don’t understand this part of you, Sam, but I’m not going to resent you for it. I’ve wasted enough time hating you.”

He turned to her, half-smiling as he joked, “I thought you still hated me.”

“Do you want me to hate you?” she asked, tone not as light-hearted as he’d wished.

“Do you want to hate me?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

Then they were kissing again, Sam accepting Rowena for her cruel nature, and hopefully Rowena was doing the same for him.

She had always been a wicked person, hurt by the world, and now Sam was the same.

He supposed they could be that together, even while Sam felt the nothingness creep upon him again.

Chapter Text

Sam pulled away from Rowena and lowered his head, unable to meet her eyes.

“I have to go,” he told her. “Get some sleep.”

Sam didn’t bother to wait for her response, to even gauge her facial expression, and he left.

The basement of his facility was massive, the ceiling reaching up forty feet, and the area itself was probably somewhere just under five-thousand square feet - about the size of a gymnasium or basketball court. The floor was a hard gray stone, and the walls were a dingy, metallic yellow. Sam was thinking of having them painted to a warm brown verging on red, but that wasn’t as important as the other projects going on. As he approached from the hall he heard drilling and banging.

His cages were being set up.

Sam knew he’d have enemies, knew they’d come after him, and he knew he wouldn’t want to kill all of them, so he needed somewhere to keep prisoners. He had considered cells, knew that’s what most people had, but cells seemed too good. He’d been in a cage, more than once, so why shouldn’t his enemies suffer the same way?

Demons stopped working, heads turning as he walked into the room. Some still had yet to notice his presence and continued working. There were three cages being erected along the far wall. Sam didn’t think he needed too many, but he felt like something had to fill some of the vast, empty space. He stopped just beside a big yellow machine to his right. After some experimentation he’d figured out the machine was meant to crush styrofoam, but he figured he could use it to torture if need be. Just put a hand, arm, foot, or leg under the mechanism, pull the lever, and the victim would be in a world of agony.

The idea sent a thrill through him, and part of him thought of going back to Rowena, of trying again with her, of taking that power.

But she was most likely taking care of herself now.

For a moment Sam pictured it, Rowena on her back, legs spread, hand working fervently between her thighs, her head tilted back, mouth open, hair fanned out on the pillow. A low growl left him, and he really did start to consider going to her, putting his mouth on her, making her body fall prey to his will.

But no, he couldn’t do that.

“Continue working,” he ordered, and he strode through the room.

There was an adjacent room to the basement, one lined with metal columns, and he made his way there. There was a door off to the right that screeched when he opened it, and then he slammed it shut. Sam knew he probably didn’t have to lock the door, but he did so anyway. He wanted his privacy right now.

This was the room Sam came to to train. It was disappointing not having a sparring partner, thought he should find a demon or two to help him out with that, and then he’d reward them by not drinking their blood.

But at the moment he wanted to be alone.

In a few days Sam was going to have this room set up as his own personal torture chamber. He knew he had a place down in Hell that he could call his own, a palace to rule from, but he needed to keep an eye on Earth. Hell and Earth were easy to keep track of from here when demons were almost constantly coming to him with reports, so it seemed only right to stay here, here in this abandoned, forgotten place. Here in this nothingness.

Though Sam didn’t sweat anymore, he took his shirt off - old habits die hard - and he began to practice on his own. The moves came to him naturally, body moving with precision, with purpose, with the memory of all those nights training with his dad and sparring with Dean. Hell, he’d even sparred with Castiel a few times. He yearned for such a strong opponent now, yearned to hurt, to overcome, to subjugate.

In a burst of poor judgment, in anger, the wall became that for him, and he was punching it over and over again, stone splintering, cutting into his fists, right hand slow and almost numb to the pain. Then he was just punching with his right hand, staring at his discolored arm, and yelling, fury breathing into him with each slowed movement.

Tired out mentally, rather than physically, Sam stopped, breathing heavily just because he was used to it, because in that moment he remembered being human.

Sam looked upon his arm, watched the odd colors fade and the black recede, and he felt the cuts on his hands healing.

He grinned. Sam didn’t miss being human at all.

As he went to collect his shirt, an idea came to him. Sam had had urges since becoming a demon, urges he hadn’t truly acted on. Though he had duties he’d have to attend to by morning, he decided it was finally time to have a little fun.

Sam went to Rowena first, found her just falling asleep, breathing peacefully, and once he pulled the comforter and sheet off of her he settled in between her legs to do what he’d thought of an hour ago. He wouldn’t be vulnerable this way. Rowena would be at his command, his mercy.

A deep part of him knew this was wrong to do without asking, without gaining permission first, and he realized he didn’t care. When it came to him it mattered, but he wanted this. He wanted power.

Rowena let out a surprised sound when he began to pull her underwear off of her, but she didn’t say anything, just stared down at him in shock. He took ahold of her soft thighs and widened her legs, exposing her to him. Sam kept his eyes on her face, feeling them turn black, as he brought his mouth to her. In a matter of seconds she was arching into him, hands in his hair, and her breaths came in heavy gasps and pants.

Sam was sure he wasn’t ready to penetrate someone, but this, this he was ready for.

Rowena’s chest heaved, her eyes locked onto his, her mouth opening, as he explored with his tongue and lips.

Feeling the way her hips kept arching up into him more and more, her body growing wet and heated from him, made Sam growl. She whimpered in response, and he held her legs back even more, hands under her knees.

God, she was so small beneath him, his for the taking.

His queen.

Yes, she was his queen, and she was helping him feel powerful.

It wasn’t long before Sam had Rowena come undone, wetness coating his lips, the taste heady and so her . She was trembling, crying out softly, his mouth sucking now. Her back was arched at a near-impossible angle, her nipples hard and showing through her nightgown, her cheeks flushed. Her legs tried to close around his head, but he easily held them open.

Sam would be done with her when he wanted to be done with her.

He pleasured her through her climax, enjoyed the way she now tried arching away from him, petite body undulating, pelvis trying to escape his mouth.

Then he pulled away from her, hands running over her legs. Sam made his way up her body, curious, watching what he’d done to her. Her eyes slowly opened to meet his, and there was awe there, satisfaction, and something else. Maybe it was fear, or regret. Guilt. Shame. He couldn’t precisely tell, but it didn’t worry him.

“Thought I’d make up for earlier,” he lied.

Rowena smiled without it reaching her eyes and clasped his face in her hands while murmuring, “You most certainly did, you giant.”

Then she kissed him on the forehead, and he left her, licking his lips, ready to fulfill more of his urges, not caring if she’d wanted what he’d done to her.

 

Sam started with a city far to the north, by the Canadian border. He wanted to cause a little chaos, strike fear into people, so he had a plan.

A plan that made him picture Dean. Anger burned in his chest at imagining his brother: tall, handsome, green eyes that were kind and deceiving.

Dean had hurt him.

As a human Sam had been too weak to do anything about it.

He’d forgiven him. For everything. For the punches, the yelling, Gadreel.

Now he saw that was wrong.

It was why he wanted Dean.

But for now he had to wait to get him, so he supposed he’d just kill men he found who looked slightly like him - were muscular, over six feet tall, who had green eyes, and brown hair.

The idea pleased him. Sam had always been morbidly fascinated with serial killers, and now in a single night he would surely become one of the most feared ones in awhile. His body count would make sure of that.

Causing chaos on such a scale in an already fearful world would fill up the part of himself he’d screamed out.

As Sam killed, he did scream. He did so carefully, going from house to house, finding men who had similar features to Dean. None of them could ever be his brother. They didn’t have that stupidly symmetrical face that he wanted to beat into a pulp, didn’t have that deep, grating voice that made him picture cutting his tongue out.

His brother had hurt him with his hands, had hurt him with his words.

So Sam took those from each of his victims, took their hands, one finger at a time, one bone at a time, while they were still awake and screaming, while their families watched in horror from where he had them tied up. And then he took their tongue, after listening to a sufficient amount of cries and begging.

Sam found that in his glee his eyes had turned black, and he could feel satisfaction pumping through his blood.

He killed ten men.

Ten, all in the same night.

By the time he was done with the last man, who had lived alone on the outskirts of the city, Sam was covered in blood, the metallic scent thick in his nostrils, the sticky heat on him and his clothes. It was magnificent. He was now so high from it he could barely stand, was on his knees, facing a large bay window that had been draped with white curtains. Lightning flashed through the windows, illuminating the bloodied room in a brilliant flash of yellow.

Sam breathed heavily in the thunderous night air, and he turned, looking at the mutilated body beside him.

Oh, if only that could be Dean.

But no, he wouldn’t kill Dean.

Death was too good for his brother.

Death could be tricky, filled with twists and turns, and once he killed Dean he’d want to get him back.

He’d want to do to his brother what he’d done to him. Help an angel rape him.

But he didn’t know someone who would do that. Castiel came to mind, but not all the torture in the world could make his friend hurt someone like that, especially if that someone was Dean. He was too devoted to him.

Sam wasn’t sure why, but when he found he could get to his feet again, he wiped his hands on the white curtains, mesmerized at the bloodied handprints and smears he left. It felt like he was tarnishing something pure.

And he had. He’d ruined families that night, ruined men, ruined himself.

The sun was just rising as he made his way back to his base, the sky a gray that faded into crimson hues. A red sunrise over a pale, gray morning.

Sam didn’t bother to clean himself before taking his seat on the throne, and he sat, and he waited, planning.

He would get Dean.

But what would he do about Castiel?

 

Dean woke up with cold air biting at his skin, and concrete making the whole right side of his body sore. His phone was ringing, and it hurt his head. The light from the sun that was shining over him did nothing to help his headache, and he couldn’t seem to properly get his eyes open without them watering. He reached for his phone, and answered it without checking the caller ID just so he get the ringing to stop.

“Hello?” he asked, voice gruff, once he put the phone to his ear.

He grunted as he forced himself to sit up, head pounding even more. Dean put a hand to his head.

“Where are you?” It was Castiel.

Dean blinked, and did his best to force his eyes to stay open, to get used to the sunlight. He recognized where he was. He was behind the bar, near one of the dumpsters. Things started coming back to him, fuzzy, giving him that feeling he got when he couldn’t figure out a word, but it was just on the tip of his tongue. But then the memories grew more substantial. He’d gotten into a fight with someone over god knew what, and he’d stumbled back there and passed out. It was a wonder he wasn’t freezing to death, but he could barely feel his hands and feet as it was, and his nose was as good as numb. Dean rubbed it to see if it was still there.

Great. Half-frozen behind a bar. He was really pathetic now, and he could even smell himself. At least Dean hadn’t pissed himself, so that was one good thing. But a sour taste in his mouth let him know that he’d thrown up.

Still, none of this was enough to get him to stop drinking.

Because even while he felt like crap, there was one thing the drinks had done for him that night.

He hadn’t suffered through any nightmares.

“Uh… behind the bar,” he answered his friend quietly, not wanting to make his headache even worse.

“Well you have to get back,” Castiel began.

Dean winced, and interrupted. “Sh, sh, sh… My head’s killing me.”

Castiel went on, voice softer, soothing, almost, “There have been signs of demon activity in New York, and the police up there are working on a strange case.”

“I’m guessing you want me back at the bunker?”

Dean looked pitifully up at the bar, wondering if he could just hang around there until it opened again, but he didn’t even know what time it was.

No, he couldn’t do that. He had to go back home.

He had responsibilities.

“That would be preferable, yes.”

Dean heaved himself to his feet, groaning and complaining the whole way, stomach sloshing uncomfortably.

“Are you alright?” Castiel asked him.

“Cas, buddy,” he began, “never get drunk. It’s just a bunch of crap.”

“Then why do you drink?”

“Never mind,” he responded, not wanting to talk about this, now or ever.

He hung up on Castiel, and pocketed his phone, before making his way around the bar to where he’d parked the Impala.

 

Castiel was in the war room when he got back to the bunker. He gave Dean a disapproving look when he saw him stumble, but he still got up and helped him down the stairs anyway.

“You smell atrocious,” Castiel told him honestly, tone kind despite his words.

“Thanks. Cultivated this lovely smell by sleeping by a dumpster all night.”

Dean shoved Cas away when he got down the stairs, and then he went to his room to get his things together for a shower.

Dean felt better under the hot water and the forceful pressure of one of the bunker showers. The showers weren’t closed off in separate rooms. Nope, the Men of Letters had preferred dorm life, where there was one giant bathroom with all the necessary facilities. Of course, Sam and Dean had found a few private bathrooms while searching the place, while trying to claim it as their home, but the water was colder there, so Dean didn’t like it as much. Besides, it was fun the times he and Sam would shower in separate stalls and converse as they did so. Though, privacy was nice too, and that was when Dean tended to use one of the separate rooms.

Now he showered in the larger bathroom in the small hopes that Castiel would come and talk to him as he did so.

Over the spray of the water, he heard the door open, and then footsteps that drew closer.

Dean tilted his head back, wetting his hair, as whoever it was came over. He hoped it was Cas.

Suddenly the door was opening and Dean was letting out a yelp as he backed into the corner and covered himself. Crowley poked his head around the corner.

“What the hell?” Dean cried. “Go away.”

“Come on, Dean,” he teased, “I’ve seen it all before.”

“Doesn’t mean I want you to see anything now,” he growled at him, looking down to make sure he was actually covering himself. “Get out.”

Crowley didn’t listen, and just leaned against the shower door. He and Dean were left staring at each for a few seconds, wondering who was going to cave, and Crowley tilted his head in the direction of the shower head. Dean clenched his jaw, glaring daggers at him, and the former king just rolled his eyes.

Dean sighed and gave in - he had bigger problems on his hands than Crowley invading his privacy. He knew it was a problem, but really, Dean wasn’t sure he mattered enough at this point for it to be that big of a problem. So he ignored the way his skin crawled and he went back to showering; putting shampoo in his hand and then lathering up his hair.

“Feathers and I got into a fight.”

“And I care… why ?”

“Isn’t he your boyfriend?”

“No,” Dean shot back.

“Oh, well he’s always in your room at night, so I just assumed.”

Dean side-eyed Crowley, who was now shrugging.

“Dude, let’s get one thing straight, I don’t know what you’re after, or what you think Cas is after, but no one’s sleeping with me, okay?”

Crowley just gave him a smile at that, and Dean growled, which made the former king proudly saunter away.

Dean yelled a curse after him and then closed the stall door again.

He showered peacefully for a few minutes before he heard someone entering the bathroom.

“Great, back for another look? Buddy, this time you better have some cash on you. I’ll admit, I’m not as good as I used to be with the whole pro-”

Dean had been going to continue his joke, fighting back the awful memories from being a teenager, when he heard Castiel’s voice, “Dean, it’s okay. It’s me.”

Dean let out a breath, and felt tension release from his muscles. He hadn’t even realized he’d been tense.

“Hey, Cas,” he said, noticing his tone was much more calm now that he was with his friend. “Sorry. Thought you were Crowley. What’s up?”

“Thought I’d go over the details of the case with you. So there are ten dead bodies in Buffalo, New York. All men, all six feet tall or over, all muscular, and they had green eyes.

Dean stopped running his face under the water at that, and then he went to tentatively open the stall door. He just barely poked his head out, and Castiel was standing there, holding a tablet.

“Uh… what?” he questioned.

“Dean, dead bodies. Buffalo, New York.”

“Yeah, yeah. I got that part. But what the hell? Why do they all match my description?”

“Do you think it’s Sam?”

Dean closed the shower door again, and went back under the water.

“If it is, that boy has seriously taken his serial killer fetish way too far.”

Chapter Text

Castiel was still there when Dean got out of the shower stall with a towel wrapped around his waist. He didn’t see it as his friend invading his privacy, because really, Castiel didn’t seem to understand much about that despite their conversations. Dean went up to the sink that had a mirror hanging above it, and he ran his hand over his beard, feeling its scratchiness against his skin.

“Do I even look good like this?” he asked Cas.

The angel came up by his side, rested his tablet down on the counter, and studied him. Dean ended up turning his head to face him, and after Castiel’s eyes traveled over his face, their gazes locked.

“I’m not used to it,” he admitted. “And I know it’s from you not taking care of yourself, so it’s difficult to like.”

For some reason he found that words didn’t want to come to him, so he avoided his gaze, studying his reflection again.

“Maybe I should just trim it,” he mused. “That way I look less scruffy, more… like I’m taking care of myself.”

“I can do it,” Castiel offered.

“Come on, you’re telling me you know how to trim a beard?”

“I can read up on it while you get dressed. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

Dean rolled his eyes, but let out a sigh that let him know he agreed with him.

He waved him away, a smile on his lips, “All right, go do your research.”

Castiel leaned in for a second, but then pulled back, and he was leaving the room.

Odd. What had that been? Really, Dean was now thinking about what Crowley had insinuated. What was he to Castiel? What was Castiel to him?

It was difficult to figure out, especially since they each harbored so much pain.

And Crowley…

Part of Dean wanted to find him and let him have his way with him just so he’d leave him alone. But no, Dean wasn’t nearly angry or drunk enough to do that just yet. Besides, he didn’t actually want to like men in the way he did.

Maybe he needed to find a girl to sleep with. It had been awhile.

No, no. All he could think of was Asha.

Dean sighed and went to get dressed. He supposed he wouldn’t be sleeping with anyone just yet, not until he felt less dirty for sleeping with a demon, less dirty for all that had happened in Kenesaw.

A thought came to him of Castiel helping him with that, of his friend making him feel clean, but even that seemed like too much.

Besides, Cas probably wasn’t interested.

Dean was just being human, something neither of the men he was with understood. Quite frankly, it was lonely. Very lonely.

Not for the first time since Kenesaw, Dean realized how much he missed Sam, like his heart was being pierced, like something was tugging at his chest, telling him to go to his brother.

Strangely, he wondered what Sam would think of the beard.

 

Gaizal was the first demon to go to Sam that day. As always, he kept his head low as he knelt before him, and Sam smiled, pleased by the sight.

“Rise, Gaizal,” Sam told him, once he felt he’d shown enough reverence by being on the ground like a dog.

“Permission to speak freely, your highness?” Gaizal inquired.

Sam didn’t bother looking at him now, was rather intrigued with the pattern the blood splatter had made on his left hand.

“Permission granted.”

“I saw you in Hell last night. Will we be relocating there?”

“No. I like it here. So much chaos, so many to kill and have fun with.”

“If it please my lord, he can have fun with the souls under his charge.”

“Gaizal,” Sam addressed him, “I said we’ll be staying here. If that’s all, you may leave.”

It was too bad Rowena wasn’t by his side. He licked his lips just thinking of her, feeling power in him finally . After so long. He had to take to feel it, take and scrape and claw. But it was his. In this moment, it was his. He was truly the King of Hell.

Though, he was speaking to Gaizal in a way he didn’t usually speak. Sam hated to admit it, but he was drawing from Game of Thrones for that, trying to make it seem like he fit in. But Sam was good at molding himself into a role. That was the way it was with hunters, always lying, cheating, pretending, acting. So Sam would act until he was indistinguishable from the part, and he would beat himself into shape as many times as he fell out of line, when power fell out of his grasp. Right now Sam was that shape he’d yearned to be.

“That’s not all, your highness. I… I would just like to say that I wandered with you for some time last night. It was magnificent. You truly are our king.”

“Thank you, Gaizal, but if you’re trying to sweet talk me into something, it’s not working.”

“No, simply expressing my admiration.”

Sam didn’t buy it.

“What happened?”

Gaizal opened his mouth to say something, but Sam glared at him, and he lowered his gaze, mouth closing.

“It has been brought to my attention that the princes of Hell are aware of your current position. A few take anger.”

“And? I’m their king. I’m above them. If they want someone to fight with, send word to them that they are more than welcome to take their pathetic emotions out on some of the damned.”

“But my liege, those souls do not belong to them.”

“Then make them belong to them.”

“That’s… Your Highness, remember how I instructed you. Each demon has their own share of souls, and many had to be redistributed after the death toll from Kenesaw. The rates of people being condemned to your realm are steadily climbing, but the princes do not have a share in it. They cut off from Hell long ago.”

“Then why are they bothered by me?”

“I think it has something to do with your brother being Azazel’s murderer.”

“Azazel had me killed. Had my brother not taken care of him, I wouldn’t be here to rule you now.”

Sam knew in a way that was flawed. If he had listened to Azazel, if he had killed, he would still be sitting upon a throne, would’ve been sitting upon it sooner. Though the other demon surely saw the truth, he didn’t brave questioning him. Still, Sam was upon the throne now, the world in near-chaos. It was at the tipping point, and Sam was waiting eagerly for the scale to fall either way. If he wished he could cause an avalanche that would destroy the world, unleash a force upon the Earth never seen before.

But that wasn’t his goal as king. It wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted the power, and he wanted Dean.

This wasn’t getting him that

Though his advisor was silent, Sam knew he wasn’t going to stop pressing his point, so he relented, “Fine. Damn more souls and offer them to the princes as recompense.”

Gaizal bowed, showing his understanding and his willingness to follow through. Sam dismissed him.

It was then that Rowena entered the room from Sam’s private door in the back. She leaned over and wrapped herself around him despite all the blood, and she kissed his ear.

“I love watching you work.”

“Why?”

“It’s silly. You change how you talk, your stance… everything. But darling, really, you don’t look like a king in that plaid.” Then she grabbed at his chin, tilting his head up to her. “Or with that scruff. You need to grow a beard.”

Sam laughed. “Do I?”

“Yes. And you need a new wardrobe. Blood doesn’t suit you.”

“Oh? And I thought you liked blood.”

Rowena tilted her head at him and replied, “Sometimes, but it looks unbecoming on you when you’re in those clothes. Once you finish your duties for this morning, get washed up. I’m taking you out.”

Sam laughed at the idea, but gave in anyway. He’d give Rowena what she wanted. After all, it was with her acceptance that he’d gotten what he wanted. She did kiss him now, lips parted, and she pulled away too soon, leaving Sam wanting.

The door to the main entrance opened, admitting another demon, and Sam had to push Rowena away. Back to business.

 

Castiel wasn’t nervous taking care of Dean’s beard. He’d read up on it quickly, and figured he knew what to do. If he messed up, his friend would tell him. He was in Dean’s room with him, Dean standing by the sink, Castiel with a razor to shape it correctly.

“Cas, I know you keep checking up on me, and you stay with me every night, but… how are you doing?”

He quieted as Castiel used his hand to tilt his chin up, thumb brushing against his jaw.

Castiel did want to answer. He thought of Kenesaw often, thought of his brethren betraying people they were supposed to protect, the loss of hope, the sheer, bloody violence and death, losing Sam, watching Dean be hurt and touched. It was all too much. So Castiel took care of Dean. It was what he knew how to do. Dean was no longer his charge since the Apocalypse had been averted, and he’d fallen from the angels’ favor, but he still saw him as his to look after. How could he not be? He was family.

Sam was family too, and they had to go after him.

Perhaps what had happened in New York was because of Sam, but they would have to wait to find out.

“I’m fine.”

Dean rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything, letting Castiel work.

“Fine. I’m… I don’t know, Dean. It feels like the world fell apart, and we watched it happen. I feel like we let it happen. Like if we did something differently, Kenesaw wouldn’t be gone, Sam wouldn’t be gone. If we could just go back and do it over again, we might see something we missed. Did we not give Sam enough kind words? Did we not give him enough space? Were we supposed to lock him up?

“It all goes back to Crowley and the amulet. Those are the two factors we’d really need to change. But Ivan’s dead, Sam’s immortal, and Crowley is here with us. I see that there’s nothing we can do.”

“We can work the case,” Dean said, once Cas pulled the razor away.

“Yes, we can do that. But what good will it do?” Castiel didn’t mean to be speaking all these insecurities to Dean, but now it was like he couldn’t stop. “We lost. There’s no winning . We’re not even fighting anymore. We’re just the soldiers who survived.”

“Survival’s a bitch,” Dean muttered.

Castiel set to using the clippers on his beard, trimming it short and neat. His mind wandered as he studied him, and he thought about him. How was Dean still standing? How was he still standing? How were any of them?

But they were. That was a fact they couldn’t argue. Yes, there were the nightmares, the despairing thoughts, the fear, the hopelessness, but they had each other. It was more than Castiel thought he deserved.

Dean. He didn’t deserve Dean. Not with his bravery, his care, his resilience, his humanity. He was everything Castiel could never understand and everything he yearned to know. So utterly human, and perfect, made in his father’s image.

His friend winced, and Castiel instantly pulled away from him, hand sliding down to his shoulder.

“Dean, are you okay?”

“Yeah… Just… I don’t know, I ache sometimes.”

Castiel did one last snip, and then placed the clippers down on the edge of the sink.

Without questioning, he ran his hand over Dean’s body, palm glowing with his Grace, looking for his friend’s source of pain.

There was nothing.

“Dean, aside from your hangover there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Dean’s jaw was clenched, letting Cas know that even though he seemed fine, he didn’t feel that way.

“I know. I… It’s been happening since Kenesaw. It’s like… It’s like I’m being hurt all over again, you know?”

Castiel didn’t understand, thought Dean’s ailment was surely of the mind, so he did what he could, and stepped closer, grip on his shoulder firm.

“Dean, you’re going to be okay. I’ll make sure of it.”

The hunter’s eyes grew watery as he looked upon him.

“How do you know?” he asked forlornly, sounding much like a lost child. “I lost my brother, Cas. My baby brother. How can I be okay after that?”

“We’ll get him back.”

“Cas, we almost died on Halloween! Sam almost killed me! I… What if we can’t do anything? What if the world is just stuck like this, and we’re supposed to live with it? What if we can’t fix it?”

Castiel had no answer for that.

“How many times, Cas? How many times are we gonna have to save the friggin’ world? How many times are we gonna make it out alive? How many times do we have to let ourselves get hurt ? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of all of it. I don’t want this. I don’t want any of it. I just want my brother back.”

“Dean, I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry? You had nothin’ to do with it.”

Castiel lowered away from him, a pang of guilt shooting through his Grace, spearing him.

He’d hurt Sam. He knew it had been an accident, that it had been his tampering with the amulet, but he knew it had sparked something in him, had breathed into the flames of the emotions that had set them on this dark path.

Castiel was to blame.

He couldn’t bear to be with Dean any longer, so he told him to get ready for New York and left.

Castiel would have to work this case with Dean, and he’d have to stare at it, face the consequences of his choice, of what he’d done to Sam. And he’d be doing it while Dean had no idea. Castiel wondered what he’d do to him if the truth came out. No, he knew. He knew it’d be awful. Dean would be left alone. Sure, there was Crowley, but he wasn’t good company for a depressed and traumatized Winchester. Dean would be completely alone, would send him away.

He’d be wise to do so. Castiel was full of mistakes.

But for now, he’d just have to keep pretending.

For Dean. He’d do it for Dean.