“I cannot rid myself of the feeling that I’m not in the right place.” - Franz Kafka - "Description of A Struggle”
He wasn’t supposed to be alone.
He knew it deep down in his core
He kept this hidden away from her
He knew he had someone who loved him
He knew his smell when it rained
He could feel his touch as the drops hit his face
He heard his voice in the rainstorm’s wake
He dreamed all of this
He kept it hidden away from her
A sudden noise brought him back to the here and now.
He remembered what he really knew for sure.
She was angry today.
She wasn’t talking, or even looking at him.
And that meant she was angry with him for some reason.
He hadn’t done anything wrong that he knew of, but that wasn’t always clear with her. He waited in the crouching servant position she’d instructed him to always use in the mornings. Holding himself as still as the statue of Bast in the corner of the open-air temple room was always a challenge but especially when she was angry. Beating down that fight or flight impulse was still hard no matter how many times he’d succeeded. And the massive chains containing him were inescapable anyway, he’d tried so many times. Or at least he thought he had. It seemed like something he’d do.
If she didn’t see him make any movements, he might get lucky this morning. She might not notice him enough to focus her anger and bring the hurt he expected would come his way. He should be used to the feeling of being her focus, the focus of her attention, the focus of her questions, the focus of her anger, the focus of the pain she inflicted. He shouldn’t rely on hope for the relief when she stopped. It was so all-consuming that he couldn’t think of anything else or even remember that there ever had been anything else other than this room, her and the statue.
It was only in his dreams that he saw him, the one who was supposed to be here with him. The beautiful man who loved him, the man he loved more than his own life. The man he could only remember while in his dreams. As hard as he tried to bring his memories out into the waking world, he was never quite able to, because she took up all the space in his head when he was awake.
The car seemed to practically drive itself these days, for which Sam was immensely grateful. He had enough to worry about, trying to find his brother for a solid month now was more than he could handle, thanks.
He hit the steering wheel a few times, trying to wake himself up. “Sorry, Baby, I shouldn’t take it out on you,” he said to the car as he rubbed his hand over her dashboard in a soothing caress. He was definitely losing it. Talking to the car, calling her ‘Baby’, but without Dean around to give him shit about it, he could express himself. Plus she was his only link to Dean left at this point, everything he still held of his brother was contained right here within this steel frame.
“Thanks for putting up with me, I know you’ll be glad to find him so you don’t have to deal with my driving anymore,” Sam said, wondering if he’d qualify as going crazy, talking out loud to a car as if he was expecting an answer.
The Impala seemed to purr at his comment, the engine revving slightly and then evening itself out, she floated down the dark highway as smooth as usual heading them back in the direction of home.
It was the same dream, the one that he welcomed the most. The one where he almost learned the man’s name, the man who said he loved him, the man who held him close against his massive chest and whispered in his ear, “Stay strong, Dean, I’m coming for you.”
He didn’t know if Dean was really his own name, but it felt right when he heard the nameless man say it to him. It felt like praise and prayer and love all wrapped up in that one syllable. He wished more than anything that he knew the man’s name, that the dream would last long enough for him to ask that question and to hear the answer. But something would always wake him up, just as he looked into those wide expressive eyes ready to ask “Who are you?”
Those many colors in the man’s changeable eyes reminded him of the colors contained in the dark amber and granite statue he’d always been chained to. When the afternoon sunlight hit it, the whole thing changed into something so beautiful it hurt to look at, almost as beautiful as the man in his dream. The statue of the cat goddess with it's gracefully arched back, reminded him of the man’s perpetual and beloved bitch-face, the curled tail recalled the man’s curving smirk and dimples.
Sam had been home alone for weeks now, and he felt himself arrive at a point just a bit beyond stir crazy. The bunker seemed so much larger and it was just so empty without Dean’s presence, taking up all the space and the majority of his attention. He’d managed to find Baby at least and had brought her back home. Unfortunately there had been no sign of where Dean had gone, just a trunk full of groceries and a trace of sulfur left on her trunk in two smeared streaks. Guessing that a demon had kidnapped his brother was freaking him out because he knew what a mess Hell was probably in at the moment. With Lucifer, Crowley and then Asmodeus all taken out in such short order, who knew what was really motivating this particular demon. Sam’s mind was kept busy inventing all sorts of possible power plays meant to involve the Winchesters in the affairs of Hell. He didn’t want to make things worse, but he did want his brother back. Now.
Dreaming alone in the bunker night after lonely night, Sam’s dreams began to involve elaborate rescue scenarios until he felt like he might actually be seeing Dean somehow. In these dreams, Dean was being kept somewhere that was partially inside but was also outdoors. He could see his brother was chained to a statue and could hear the demon’s voice was constantly asking him about the Trials to close the Gates of Hell. One dream that wasn’t about Dean made him sit straight up in bed, in that dead hour of three am. There was an echo of Ruby’s voice saying, ‘you didn’t need the feather to fly, Dumbo’ on a repeating loop that practically drove him insane.
He got up and made some coffee, and began researching the Trials all over again. The Trials and his powers, was there a connection in there somewhere? And what could it possibly have to do with where Dean was? Why would a demon care about the Trials or closing the Gates?
Sam had researched the possibility of bringing his powers back a few years ago, because he knew his dormant powers were still there, still accessible. He could feel them if he really let himself go inside himself that deeply. It wasn’t something he liked to think about or dwell on, it was just a use-in-case-of-emergency option. All this time he had been keeping them hidden and unused because he didn’t want to become a monster in Dean’s eyes ever again. That would be something unforgivable in Dean’s view, he knew that. But he needed to take that risk to save his brother, if this situation wasn’t that last resort emergency, what ever would be?
When he found words in a transition paragraph between the Demon and the Angel tablet that were clearly referencing him, Coredazodizoda Erm A Canilu Ge Totza Ozien which translated from the Enochian to mean ‘Man With The Blood Not His Own,’ Sam was still surprised. Well, if that wasn’t an apt description of him he didn’t know what was. The paragraph went on a little prophecy bender and then it started to describe his latent powers and provided a spell to bring them to the surface when they were needed once again to ‘set the balance right’.
Sam realized that this was how he was going to find Dean. And maybe have a chance to set the balance right, whatever that really meant. He was certain that the instructions being right there in-between the Demon and Angel tablet was not a coincidence, he was meant to help fix that balance between the two somehow. But first, and most important to everything, he had to get Dean back.
He read further, having to squint at Kevin’s scrawl, it was very hard to make out in some places. Once he got into a sort of reading and comprehension rhythm, the words swam off the page towards him, becoming practically three dimensional. Finally he saw them, the instructions to reactivate his powers written in Metatron’s overly florid prose style included a warning that he should only attempt this spell if his ‘Esiasch Blans Napta Ugear Tranan’, was by his side. The Enochian clearly translated to ‘his brother, his shelter, his sword, his strength and his marrow’ and that could only mean Dean.
As he read the translation he wondered what in the world Kevin had thought about them back then, reading in the tablets about how he and Dean were a soul-mated pair, a hinge-point upon which everything turned must have been very strange. And Kevin had never let on, never treated them any differently when he probably should have run screaming in the other direction. Sam looked over to the pillar in the library where Kevin had died, and saw his own hands doing the deed. He shook his head at himself, it wasn’t something he’d ever get over, he couldn’t think about it now. Getting Dean back from the demon who held him was all he could really think about.
He quickly gathered the spell ingredients from their usual stash and grabbed the last of the holy oil out of the Impala’s trunk. He laid a hand on her for a lingering moment after shutting the lid. “Don’t worry, Baby, I’ve almost found him now.” He would swear the metal warmed beneath his touch, like a thankful blush on a lover. He shook his head at himself and got down to business casting the spell on top of one of the library tables. He lit the holy oil on fire in the brass bowl and carefully spoke the intricate Enochian words. He found them rolling off his tongue much too fluently, and it made him remember all those forced lessons from Michael and Lucifer.
“An eternity is far too long to spend with someone who doesn’t even speak our language.”
The echoes of Lucifer and Michael fighting over his un-educated human ways and how to tear him apart that particular day faded, his vision went grey and then black and he knew no more until a vision began to form, it came back slowly, flickering into view like a television channel being tuned in on an old rabbit-ear antenna.
Whatever it was he was seeing, it was cloudy and very dim, he could barely make out a giant statue of Bast glowing through the dank, swirling air. There were chains holding Dean to the statue, to the floor, around his wrists and ankles, inscribed with demonic symbols that Sam vaguely recognized.
A woman’s face swam into view as he peered through his brother’s eyes, her eyes flicking to black and back again. She was very pretty, definitely Dean’s type. But she wasn’t treating Dean like women or demons usually did, there was no flirting or fawning. Sam could feel that she had an intense power and she was using it over Dean differently than any demon ever had.
Sam dug around in Dean’s head a little and found a whole lot of blankness, a cloudy wall between where Dean was—where the active brain was working and where Dean’s memories should have been.
Dean didn’t know himself.
As Sam went further inside his brother’s consciousness he began to get flashes of the dream that Dean was having. He saw himself holding Dean in his arms, they were both surprisingly naked, bodies entwined, and he was holding Dean so tightly he could see the whiteness of his own knuckles as they clutched against Dean’s shoulders. Sam could hear himself whispering over and over again in Dean’s ear, “Stay strong, Dean, I’m coming for you.”
The blankness on his brother’s face was terrifying, he didn’t know himself or anything else, all he knew was this demon. He heard Dean call her name, Raya, when Dean’s dream ended. Sam heard her talking to Dean about her sister, Sakina. That pair of names triggered something in Sam, there was something he had read somewhere, ages ago. Suddenly it came to him, Raya and Sakina Ali Hammam, were the Sisters Without Mercy, one of the most famous pairs of female serial killers in history. Of course they would have both become demons at some point.
“See, Dean, even though you’ve always mocked my serial killer hobby, now it’s going to come in handy,” Sam muttered, shutting his mouth abruptly when he realized the words were coming out of Dean’s mouth. He could see Raya reacting, the puzzlement on her face, she hadn’t been expecting Dean to speak. The last thing he saw was her fist coming towards Dean’s chin and they were both knocked out.
Sam came back to himself, sprawled out on the floor of the bunker’s main library room, drenched in sweat from the effort of projecting himself and whatever the spell had done. He immediately wanted to see more, to go back inside Dean’s mind and figure out what those dreams he was having meant. But he didn’t want to do any more harm to his brother by digging even further inside his head. At least now he had enough of an idea of where she was holding him. Raya, one of the horrifying Sisters Without Mercy, was now a demon holding his brother’s body and mind hostage. He needed to hurry.
“Stay strong, Dean, I’m coming for you,” Sam said out loud into the empty room, repeating what he'd heard himself say in Dean’s dream. His hands clenched tightly in memory of how hard they’d been wrapped around his brother’s bare shoulders. He closed his eyes and pictured the scene again, how closely their bodies had been wrapped together, how desperately they’d been clinging together, how much Dean was counting on him.
He packed up and was out in the Impala in a flash heading towards where he knew Dean was being held captive. The car seemed to surge forward, going even faster than he meant it to, she needed him back too.
As a bonus part of his newly reactivated powers, Sam could now feel something like a locator beam lighting up an area of his chest near his heart. There seemed to be a very thin line of light stretched near to the breaking point between them. Sam realized it was likely tugging him back towards Dean. The Impala jumped and surged with that strange Detroit-metal joy and they were off. It was almost like she knew that they were on their way to retrieve Dean and get him back in her driver’s seat where he belonged.
“You will tell me the three steps of the Trials to close the Gates of Hell, Dean Winchester, and you will tell me now!” she shouted, arms raising up above her head, her jet-black hair waving about in the wind like a live thing.
He cowered, crouching down further so that his face was just above the slick black tile floor of the open-air temple. But all he felt on the bare skin of his back was the afternoon wind. He peeked open one eye and looked for her, she stood beside him, rocking up and down on her toes, eyes unfocused, her mouth gone slack. Her eyes met his and flicked over to a solid shiny black. He didn’t like when that happened, it always meant more pain.
But this time, he could feel a pressure inside his skull, a thing separating itself from his brain. Like something with many tentacles untangling itself from his memories. His missing memories flooded back into his consciousness; first of course came everything having to with his Sammy; then he remembered who he was—fucking Dean Winchester that’s who; what she was—not human, no not a human at all, but a demon; but back to the first and only thing that ever mattered, Sammy. Where was his brother? She better not have done anything to him. He had to get out of these chains immediately and go find out for himself. Never trust a demon, how well he knew that after having been one himself for a while.
“I thought Asmodeus was keeping y’all on lockdown these days,” Dean said with a sneer that felt like an old friend caressing his face. “Playing hooky up here in the real?”
“I’m the one that will be asking any questions here, Dean, not you,” she said, trying to look haughty and in-charge, but he could sense a weakness, maybe an opportunity when she’d flinched at hearing Asmodeus’ name.
“And you are?” Dean asked in a similar haughty tone, which was damn hard to pull off when you were practically naked and chained to a freaking marble cat statue. He shivered as the wind blew the afternoon’s rain inside the temple.
“Oh yes, you would have forgotten our initial introduction, my name is Raya, and I need the details about the Trials and I need them immediately. Start talking, Dean, we don’t have much time left.”
“I don’t know what you mean, what trials? Like trials and tribulations, the OJ trial, trial sized samples of toothpaste?” Dean asked, stalling for time since she mentioned not having much of it left. ‘Sammy where the hell are you?’ he thought to himself, struggling not to let his worry show on his face. Hopefully Sam coming to rescue him was the time crunch she was worrying about.
“Don’t waste my time with your lame attempts at humor, I have it on good authority that you and your darling brother almost completed the three Trials to close the Gates of Hell.”
“Lemme guess, when Crowley was in his cups, he got a little over-share-y? Been there done that when I was briefly a demon myself. The guy was so damn needy all the time, I was a little embarrassed for him, honestly,” Dean shrugged as nonchalantly as possible, but it was hard what with the chains and cuffs restraining him.
“Crowley, yes, and a few other sources as well, so start talking so I can get going on getting them done. I will debate you no further.”
“Wait, you want me to close the Gates of Hell for you? Hell to the no, lady. Not happening.”
“I wouldn’t bother to ask that of you, as I know you would only fail again. No, my plan is to perform the Trials myself.”
“I only know the basic outline, like the steps you follow, but I don’t know the words, there were these Enochian chant things for each Trial,” Dean said.
“Where are they? Are they written down?” Raya asked, throwing the questions at him in a breathless, rapid-fire voice, she was obviously excited about finally getting somewhere with her quest.
“They’re at home, I can get them for you, if you bring me there,” Dean answered. “But you gotta let me go and you have to leave Sam out of it.”
“I will, I swear it, no harm shall befall him,” Raya promised, looking at him curiously, tipping her head to the side slightly. “So it is true, you love him,” she stated, with a sly smile appearing on her face.
“Of course I do, he’s my brother,” Dean said, dreading what would no doubt come next. Demons always knew where his softest spot was, they could always find it at some point. Some of them took longer than others, but Raya seemed pretty sharp.
“Not love just as a brother should though, you are more like my sister and I than I’d thought,” Raya said.
“Well then let’s leave them both out of it, okay?” Dean asked, hoping this line of questioning would end.
“This explains so much of what Abaddon, Bela and Meg told me. I thought they’d been exaggerating. Crowley left a lot of it out, I think he wanted to put himself in Sam’s place in your heart. But that’s pointless for you two, isn’t it?”
Dean shivered at the mention of Abaddon’s name, he’d thought she was gone for good. And honestly he hadn’t thought about either Meg or Bela in a very long time. “Whatever, let’s just get out of here and I’ll take you to the bunker, okay?”
Raya began to unshackle him, beginning with his ankles, she had to pass her outstretched hands over the demonic symbols on the heavy cuffs and chains before they’d respond to the key she turned in the locks. They fell to the floor with a clang and Dean had to hold himself in check to not wildly scratch at his irritated skin where the cuffs had been on his ankles. He couldn’t let her see any weakness, none at all, he knew all too well that’s how demons got to you. Finding a weakness, no matter how small and pressing on it with all their dark power until you gave in to them.
“We are closer to your bunker than you might realize,” she said, standing up and stretching her arms wide. She stalked across the room quickly and disappeared through the archway. He tried to get the locks on his wrist cuffs to respond to the sharp shard of marble he’d managed to chip off the base of the statue, but they obviously needed the same magic demon hand-wave the ankle cuffs had required. He stretched his legs though and tried to stand, the chains rattling against the statue.
“Stop, you will damage Her,” Raya commanded from across the room.