Finish Lines

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The Wanting Comes In Waves

All Sam/Dean, All The Time


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Fic: Hard Row to Hoe (All by Yourself) Chapter 3 of 5


Back to Chapter Two

~!@#~!@#~

Walk out on me, walk out on him
You need no man to do you in
But if the night gets dark, all is still
I'll pray for you, you know I will
Hard row to hoe all by yourself
~!@#~!@#~

Castiel arrives back in the kitchen, clutching two clay jugs of holy oil as well as a basket full of pomegranates.  He sees that Dean is sitting at the kitchen table, cutting a sandwich into many unnecessarily small pieces with a large butcher’s knife on one of the gold embossed Men of Letters china plates.

“What’s all this?” DemonDean asks, pointing with the knife at the red fruit tumbling out of the basket.

“The worshippers at the temple where I obtained the oil insisted I share in their bounty,” Castiel answers.

“I have no idea how to even eat one of these things. I mean, they are edible for humans, right?” DemonDean asks.

“Yes, Dean. These are pomegranates, the fruit that Persephone ate in the underworld, the red seeds inside are sweet, tart and quite full of many nutrients humans require,” Castiel answers, pulling out a small knife and cutting board. He slices into one of the plump fruits and shows Dean the cut half. “See, these seeds are removed from the membranes, try one.” He places one on Dean’s outstretched tongue. His eyes click over to black while he tastes it, some instinctive protective maneuver no doubt.

“That hurt, when you touched me,” DemonDean complains. “But the pomegranate is pretty good.”

“Yes, it hurt you, because I am an angel, and you are a demon,” Castiel says, sounding pretty sad about that fact.

“I didn’t want to end up like this you know. It just seemed like the only way at the time.”

“I have been in your shoes, as has Sam. We both understand,” Castiel says.

“Thanks for not giving up on me; guess you must have a thing for demons,” DemonDean teases.

“Just one in particular, but you are still tolerable as you have not fully become one,” Castiel says.

“Crowley said I was,” Dean retorts.

“I am not surprised that he would lie to you about that, as he has to all of us about so many things,” Castiel says, sounding weary of thinking about all the deceptions that Crowley has pulled on all of them.

“It’s just, it’s hard to tell who I am anymore. I don’t feel like my old self, obviously. And I kind of cut loose there for a while with Crowley. Did a lot of stuff I don’t ever want to talk about. But being back here, with you guys, it’s so familiar, making my skin crawl just being here remembering it all,” Dean says.

“You are not just a demon created out of years of torment. The Mark has been remaking your soul within your own mortal body. This takes some amount of time, and usually there are some precipitous events that are required.”

“Precipa what?”

“Normally, you would need to kill the person closest to you, either a blood relative or a lover,” Castiel says.

“So that’s why Crowley was pushing me towards killing Sam when he first woke me up with the Blade, I was wondering about that. Guess he really did want me to Hulk out all the way. Bet he’s pissed. Good.”

“I am also glad that you did not kill Sam,” Castiel says.

“Oh yeah, that’s right. You guys are buddies now,” DemonDean says.

“Yes, we have become much closer in your absence,” Castiel answers.

“He needed someone, and it couldn’t be me. You got stuck with him this time,” DemonDean says.

“I do not consider myself stuck with him. I consider it a privilege and an honor, as should you. He has redeemed himself many times over, and I regard Sam as an example,” Castiel says.

“So that must make me the warning then, huh?”

“At the moment, yes. Previously, no,” Castiel answers.

“Aww, you miss human me, huh?” DemonDean teases.

“Yes, your presence is missed. By some of us more than others,” Castiel says.

“How bad has he been? Since I’ve been gone,” DemonDean asks.

“It has not gone well with Sam. But he will want to share that with you himself I’m sure,” Castiel says. “You are lucky that Sam is so forgiving. I do not believe most humans would be able to forgive what you’ve done.”

“It’s time guys,” Sam calls from the main room, interrupting DemonDean’s thoughts on Sam’s endless capacity for forgiveness that he’s tested the limits of so many times. Something inside him glows a bit at being reminded of this fact of his life.

“Keep your hair on Frances, we’re comin’,” DemonDean hollers.

“Who is this Frances?” Castiel asks as they walk through the kitchen door together, Dean staying far away from the jars of holy oil.

“No one Cas, just a thing I say sometimes to piss Sam off, it’s a girl’s name,” DemonDean says.

“I have never understood that. Why calling him a girl, or a girl’s name is a bad thing. I was under the impression that you liked women just as much as men, Dean,” Castiel says.

“That didn’t come through loud and clear when Metajerk downloaded all the pop culture for you huh? It’s too hard to explain, I don’t really mean anything by it, just a thing for trying to get Sam mad,” Dean says.

“Why would you want to make Sam mad though? Isn’t harmony something you strive for in your relationship?” Castiel asks.

“Uh, no. Harmony’s never been on our to-do list. Breaking the bed from awesome sex, yes. But harmony, nah, boring,” DemonDean answers.

Castiel blushes at the demon version of Dean’s more direct than usual answers and shuts up until they find Sam in the dungeon, arranging nine candles around the edge of the Devil’s Trap painted on the floor.

“This dungeon sure has come in handy huh? Glad the place came with it; should have been highlighted in the real estate ads,” DemonDean jokes.

“Dean, I know you’re nervous, but you need to start getting serious here; we’re about to start,” Sam says, a pinched look on his face. Dean can see how worried his brother is, so he just nods.

“You go stand in the middle, Dean,” Sam says, pointing at a spot right in the center of the Devil’s Trap.

“Wait a second, I have to get into the trap? You never said this was part of it, Sam,” DemonDean protests. “How do I know you’re gonna let me out?”

“You only have my word on it,” Sam says, looking Dean straight in the eyes, even though they’ve gone disconcertingly black again.

Dean doesn’t say anything, just growls under his breath and stalks into the center of the trap with his arms crossed.

“We’re ready. You start, Cas,” Sam says.

Castiel pours the holy oil around the edge of the Devil’s Trap in a careful circle, and then lights it, the flames leaping up in an even, unbroken circle. He nods at Sam and steps back into the gloom.

Sam steps closer to the ring of fire and begins a prayer and invocation that makes Dean hiss, the words hitting his skin like Holy Water.

“What’re you doin’ to me, Sam? That shit hurts!” DemonDean complains, rubbing at the skin on his arms frantically.

“Almost done, get ready for what you’re going to answer,” Sam whispers as he begins a chant while walking clockwise around the burning circle of flames.

Sam reaches into his belt behind his shirt and pulls out a wickedly sharp and gleaming silver knife. Slicing into both palms, he squeezes his blood out onto the circle of flame, as he continues his clockwise circling. “The demon within this circle that I wish to sanctify, his true name is Dean Winchester. I, Sam Winchester, pledge my life for the return of his unsullied soul. My life will be forfeit if he does not succeed at his mitzvah. I swear it by the offering of my blood.”

“Sam! You didn’t tell me!” DemonDean protests, shaking his fists in anger.

“I knew you wouldn’t have done this. You’ve got to now, Dean, it’s binding me to your actions from here on out. Your turn now, go,” Sam says.

Dean grumbles and curses for a few moments, looking at both Sam’s encouraging eyes and Castiel’s more wary ones. “Fine. Whatever. I, Dean Winchester, being a demon, and a Knight of Hell. I do hereby swear and affirm that I wish to….” He stops, mouth opening and closing in silence. He shakes his head, like he’s trying to clear out the cobwebs. He mouths I can’t at Sam, his eyes turning green for just a moment.

“You can do it, Dean, I’m here for you. Not going anywhere,” Sam says.

DemonDean nods at Sam, impressed at his brother’s strength and stubbornness. He tries to start again, “I wish to give up the…” And his words fail him again, his eyes go black and he puts his hands around his own throat, choking himself until the skin goes white on his fingertips. The Mark of Cain glows an alarming red on his forearm.

“Dean! Stop! Please stop,” Sam yells.  “Listen to me. You can do this, you’re stronger than it is, I know you are, you have to do this. You have to come back to me. Look, look at us, remember us, please,” Sam begs, holding the two pictures up that he’d taken from Dean’s room. One is of them as small children, Dean holding a tiny baby Sam proudly on his lap, the other a more recent one in the garden at Jody’s house in North Dakota. She’d taken it of them when they were helping her prune her apple trees. Dean is on the ladder so that he’s at the same height as Sam and they’re looking at each other over the bare branches of the apple tree like they’re the only things they can ever see in the whole world.

DemonDean looks between his brother’s face and the two pictures, at his friend the angel, still in the room even though he’s a demon and forces himself to try to speak one more time. Dean has to fight against his demon nature every second, it feels like it’s something else separate and alive within him. But he locks eyes with Sam and thinks of everything they’ve ever shared, what they have together, and it brings him back, just like it always does.  This is what he wants, the only thing he’s ever wanted.

“I wish to give up the Mark of Cain and return to being a human. I pledge it by the offering of my blood,” DemonDean says all in a rush before his demon self can stop him, savagely biting into his wrist with sharp teeth and dripping blood to join Sam’s in the circle of flame. As soon as he’s made it around the entire circuit, the flame goes out and the room is dark except for the candles.

DemonDean asks quietly, “So, did it work?”

“Yes. The flame would not have gone out unless you were truthful in your statement,” Castiel answers, stepping closer to both of them, his face lit strangely by the flickering candlelight.

“Thank you, Dean, for not giving up,” Sam says, scratching at the paint of the Devil’s Trap to let him out. DemonDean steps over the circle and into Sam’s open arms. He can’t say anything, not now after that embarrassing display, he almost couldn’t do it, he almost failed Sam.

Sam holds on to his brother tightly, trying not to breathe him in too deeply to preserve the illusion that it’s really just his brother, but the stench of sulfur breaks through. Finally he lets go when he feels Dean’s shoulders tighten up again.

“Guess I better get on downstairs, huh?” DemonDean asks.

“You are not traveling alone, Dean. I am accompanying you,” Castiel says, reaching out for Dean’s arm to wrap a clean white handkerchief around his still bleeding wrist.

“The hell you are!” DemonDean retorts, pulling his arm out of Castiel’s grip.

“I insist, I must go with you. I’ve been to Hell, Dean. Twice already for the two of you. I think this third trip is a necessary one for me,” Castiel replies.

“It won’t count if you help me, ya doofus,” DemonDean says. “Sam said it had to be big and worthwhile and meaningful. It ain’t gonna mean much if you go with me and do most of the work.”

“You will be doing something I cannot, Dean,” Castiel says, lifting his hands outstretched towards Dean. “I cannot carry Meg out, it would kill her.”

“You carried me out, before,” Dean counters.

“That was different, you were Heaven’s Protected, even when you were in Hell. But Meg is not, she will burn up if I hold her for too long there in that plane. You must be the one to carry her, as I cannot.”

“So you’re only going to what, protect us?” DemonDean asks.

“Yes, that is my plan,” Castiel says.

“Fine. Let’s go before I change my mind,” DemonDean says.

“You two better both make it back,” Sam says.

“We’ll be home soon, honey,” DemonDean says, patting Sam on the back.

“Shut up and get out of here already,” Sam says, holding Dean’s hand briefly for one last touch.

“See ya, Sammy,” DemonDean says with an almost sad looking smirk. “Don’t miss us too much. You better get a bed ready for Meg and Cas.”

Castiel coughs, sounding almost embarrassed, and Sam just shakes his head. Even as a demon, Dean’s jokes are still pretty damn lame.

“Goodbye, Sam, I promise you; we will return,” Castiel says with a solemn nod.  He grasps Dean’s elbow and they vanish together.  Sam snuffs out the candles and leaves the dungeon, slowly walking upstairs. He feels more alone than he has in his whole life. He collapses into the overstuffed chair behind him, automatically reaching for the bottle of whisky and the crystal tumbler on the lamp table next to him. He fills it half full and slings most of it back, coughing as it burns its way down his throat.  He knows they’ll be gone for a while, and when they get back, he’s going to have to start drawing his blood to inject into Dean. Might as well up the alcohol content for him, give him what he likes, Sam snarks to himself.

~!@#~!@#~

Castiel lands them in an unfamiliar part of Hell that even DemonDean’s never seen.

“Where are we?” DemonDean asks.

“This is one of the deeper places, where Crowley hides those he wishes to not be found,” Castiel says, peering into the red gloom ahead.

Even with his demon eyes, DemonDean can only see about five feet in front of them. “Cas, can you see better than me in here?”

“I am unable to see much past the point at which you stand,” Castiel admits.

DemonDean whistles. “Guess I’m your eyes then. What’re we looking for?” He looks around through the shifting darkness, vague shapes move suddenly against impossibly high, smooth walls. The silence presses down upon them like a lowering ceiling.

“There will be a symbol, the one that Crowley uses to sign his orders. It is the Seal of Hell. It will be upon the door, which may not look like a door,” Castiel says.

“Yeah, I’ve seen that thing, it’s like a messed-up star with horns, right? And I’m not seeing any openings in these walls, door or other-wise,” DemonDean answers, startling at the touch of Castiel’s hand on his shoulder, the angel’s grip is tight and stings even through his layers of shirts and leather jacket.

“I do not wish to become separated,” Castiel says in answer to the silent question.

“Yeah, this sure ain’t Purgatory, where you ditch me immediately,” DemonDean snarks.  They both stop walking when they hear screaming, it sounds inhuman, and impossibly loud. “You smell that?” he asks quietly, referring to the sudden overwhelming stench of an un-cleaned zoo, animal and fetid.

The footsteps they hear approaching are a hairy shuffle, then two hooved clops, slowly and heavily repeated as whatever it is passes them by, thankfully not slowing to investigate their presence.  The dim red light that reaches them from above is completely blotted out as it pauses near them. After a few moments where they don’t breathe for fear of discovery, the footsteps retreat and the smell slowly fades.

“Whatever that was, I’m glad it didn’t introduce itself,” DemonDean says with relief. He hadn’t encountered many of the creatures of Hell during his last time here, Alastair had mostly kept him away from anyone except those he was meant to torture, and Crowley only took him to a few specific places he chose to show him off.

“As am I. Do you see any way in?” Castiel asks, beginning to sound worried.

DemonDean’s eyes scan the smooth walls, they gleam like the exposed white of human bone when the flesh has been boiled off. He searches for any imperfections or marks and finally spies some in a vaguely ovoid shape.  He points it out and Castiel’s fingers trace the shape on the wall, the light of his grace overwhelming in the gloom.  The door opens with a hiss and a groan, the space beyond the wall appearing to be without any limit. Endless rows of cells, the bars on the front of each made of a shining metal, solidly impenetrable. Thousands of eyes are on them as they enter the hallway between the cells. A roar of noise begins as all the souls contained start voicing their excitement at the possibility of release. As they walk down this horrible path the begging, cajoling and cursing exceeds what even Dean’s demon ears can process.

DemonDean hopes that Castiel has some idea how the hell to find Meg in all of this mass of former humanity and whatever else is contained down here. It seems impossible that she’ll still be here, but his demon senses tell him that she is still what passes for alive for their kind.  Slowly he realizes that as he thinks of her more precisely he can sense a slight pull inside him leading him forward. She’s drawing him in somehow.

He grabs onto Castiel’s elbow and drags him along more quickly, feeling the urgency that Crowley will have been alerted from all the noise and carrying-on the inmates are creating. Surely someone in the upper reaches of Hell will have heard this racket by now. They race down the corridor until Dean feels Meg more strongly and clearly. He slows their progress and then stops in front of one cell.

Silently he points into the dark corner of the cell where there is a huddled figure.  Castiel nods and places both hands on the bars, his grace flares up again and the bars fall to the floor with a loud metallic clang that echoes off the non-existent ceiling.  The noise of all the inmates increases when they realize that someone is actually getting out.  Castiel steps into the cell and touches the head of the figure that hasn’t moved in their presence yet.  Meg’s ruined face looks up, her eyes focusing on Castiel’s face briefly. She drops her head back down and pulls herself into a tight ball of misery.

DemonDean pushes past Castiel and lifts Meg up roughly into a fireman’s carry. She doesn’t weigh anything, all her solid strength used up in surviving the rigors of her confinement in Hell’s dungeon. Castiel touches her face again and the brokenness disappears, her face righting itself into its former loveliness. DemonDean starts walking as quickly as he can manage down the hallway, past all the hands reaching out towards them. The inmates getting more and more frantic the closer they come to the opening at the end. He can feel Castiel right behind him until he’s not. Then he hears Crowley’s voice booming out from everywhere all at once, all the other voices going instantly silent. “Castiel, how do you even dare?”

Dean turns to look back and sees Castiel’s body being pulled back down the hallway as if being tugged back on a bungee cord. He lunges to reach his outstretched hand and barely clasps his fingers. DemonDean plants his feet wide and pulls his friend back towards him, against the enormous weight of Crowley’s will. Crowley materializes holding Castiel’s other hand, he’s being stretched between the two of them and will soon pull apart.

“Dean let him go; you can have the bitch, I’m done with her,” Crowley says.

“No, I won’t,” DemonDean says, pulling harder on Castiel’s hand, working his grip up to hold his forearm, drawing him closer. “You can’t have him, Crowley!” He can feel the First Blade glowing white hot at the excitement of being close enough to kill something as powerful as Crowley. DemonDean lowers Meg down until she crumples at his feet on the floor. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out the First Blade, brandishing it at Crowley’s face.  “It wants you, Crowley, it really wants you. I’d let him go if I were you,” DemonDean taunts.

Crowley’s eyes widen in fear, and then narrow in anger as he lets go of Castiel’s hand. Castiel falls into DemonDean almost knocking them over on top of Meg.  Never taking his eyes off of Crowley, Dean leans down to scoop her up in one arm, throwing her over his left shoulder. He holds the Blade in his right hand where Crowley can see it. “Let’s get outta here, Cas.”

“This isn’t over, Dean! You owe me!” They hear Crowley scream as they disappear from Hell’s depths in a deafening sound of flapping angel wings. The bunker dungeon has never looked so good to Dean.  Through closed eyes he hears Sam come bursting into the room. He’s dimly aware that they’re all piled in a heap, two demons and an angel, smoking of the sulfurous remnants of Hell.

“You made it back to me,” Sam says, wiping away whatever is covering Dean’s face. He kisses Dean to welcome him back, his strong arms wrapping around Dean and holding him close. Dean forgets himself for a moment and kisses Sam back, accepting the welcome without remembering he’s a demon. They separate and Sam wipes the all-too familiar taste of a demon’s kiss from his mouth. He pulls Dean up into a seated position and turns to see to Castiel.

Castiel is wrapped around Meg’s still form, he’s whispering to her, and stroking her hair gently.

“Cas, is she okay?” Sam asks in a quiet voice.

Meg groans and pushes her face into Castiel’s chest further. “Yes, Sam, I think she will be.”

“Thank god. You were gone for so long,” Sam says, sounding desperate even to himself.

“How long, Sammy?” DemonDean asks, leaning against Sam’s shoulder because he’s too tired to sit up by himself any longer.

“It’s been four days,” Sam says in a forlorn, lost voice.

“No wonder I’m starved,” DemonDean says.

“See, this is why I say you’re not actually a demon yet, they don’t have to eat,” Sam points out, standing up and reaching down to hoist Dean up against him.

“Who’s a demon?” Meg asks, her voice strange and hoarse sounding from un-use, or overuse from screaming.

“That’d be me,” DemonDean says over his shoulder as Sam is forcing him to walk out towards their room.  They hear Meg’s broken laughter float down the hallway and Castiel’s urgent voice quieting her. Sam gets them to Dean’s room and closes the door.

“So it worked, you gonna start injecting me now Sammy?” Dean asks

“I thought you might want to rest first,” Sam answers, settling Dean down on his bed.

“Naw, I’m a demon remember? But if you want to lay down with me for a while, I wouldn’t say no,” DemonDean answers.

“What was it like, Dean?” Sam asks, once he’s got himself wrapped around his brother’s body. The one he missed like breathing for these long four days. He buries his hands in Dean’s hair, scritching at his scalp in a long familiar pattern.

“What? Hell’s Dungeon? ‘Bout what you’d imagine; Crowley tried to stop us, all I had to do was threaten him with the Blade and he backed off. Took us a while to find her though,” DemonDean answers, forcing himself not to purr at the awesome head treatment Sam’s giving him. He can feel how tense Sam is, how tired from the days of waiting and worrying, so he makes himself soft and pliable. He lets Sam move him where he needs him to be. Doing the reconnecting hands-on thing they’ve always done. It isn’t something Dean would admit to needing at this point, but he knows Sam needs it.

“After a few days, I thought you wouldn’t come back,” Sam says.

“Sammy, I always come back to you, eventually,” DemonDean answers.

“I know, but it was Hell, and Crowley,” Sam continues, starting to sound agitated.

“We’re back, you feel me here, right? Do I need to say this is real?” DemonDean asks, sounding very tender even to his demon ears.

Sam can feel his brother’s body in his arms, the long length of it, the familiar arms and legs wrapped around him, even the breathing pattern is the same. Not the smell, but almost everything else. “Yeah, I know, thanks,” Sam finally says, breathing out in relief.

Dean’s hands start moving like he’s trying to arouse Sam. “Not gonna happen, Dean, not yet,” Sam says.

“Can’t blame a guy for tryin’ right?” DemonDean says, grinning up at his brother.

“No I really can’t. Can you just stay here with me, I think I need to sleep before we start the whole blood thing,” Sam asks.

“Course, Sammy, I gotcha,” DemonDean says with a smile that doesn’t look quite right to Sam.

Sam falls asleep quickly, all those days and nights he’d spent awake, drowsing off at the library table over cups of stale coffee and empty bottles of whisky.

Chapter Four



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