“When we were talking about it, Jack said something, and I wished so hard you could have been there to hear him say it, but you weren’t there,” Dean said, wishing he could smile about it, get across what he meant without having to say it out loud.
“I wish I was too, I want to see everyone, to be with everyone together again, it’s not the same when you’re not there too,” Sam said. “Can you remember what Jack said?”
“It was something like, ‘I can feel it, but I don’t know if it’s good or not. I mean…this place feels very different to me than anywhere else I’ve been. I thought it was just because it was ‘home,'” Dean said, watching Sam’s face to see his reaction to his relaying of Jack’s words.
Sam smiled, and then grimaced, ducked his head and messed with his hair. Maybe dabbed at his eyes, Dean wasn’t exactly sure.
“He really is something,” Sam said in a voice that gave away how much it had affected him.
“So we also figured out that there’s three other deities protecting the bunker’s land, it was a Men of Letters protection thing,” Dean said.
“Any idea who, yet?” Sam asked through a mouthful of salad.
“The Scooby gang is working on it, or eating the rest of the lasagna,” Dean said.
“Let me guess, were they each placed at the four directions, six miles from the bunker?” Sam asked.
Dean thought about the map Mom had spread out on the table.
“Yeah, this place is at the twelve mile marker on the road and it counts the mileage from the paved road. We know the bunker is six miles from that,” Dean answered. “So, this is six miles east exactly.”
“Where I disappeared from the first time, right here,” Sam said pointing out the window at the twelve mile marker, “this was at the outermost edge of the protection as well as the furthest east.”
“So that’ll make the other statues pretty easy to find,” Dean said, finally understanding what Sam was talking about.
“Hope they’re on roads so we don’t have to bushwhack through the weeds, or into the cornfields,” Sam said.
“Wonder what they’ll be wanting, since we’ve neglected them also,” Dean said.
"Hopefully they’re not pain in the asses like you know who over here,” Dean pointed out the window to where he’d dug up Mater Matuta’s statue all those days ago.
“It depends on what they were promised by the Men of Letters way back when, hopefully there’s some records on that in the files,” Sam said.
“Does the idea of the bunker being built to accumulate power surprise you at all?” Dean asked, realizing that he wanted Sam’s opinion on this since he hadn’t been there when they’d figured it out.
“No, not really, we knew it was heavily fortified against all kinds of supernatural stuff. But we’ve never had a lot of down time to think a lot about the place we’ve been living. Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. And it makes me wonder if we need to get that plan back on track so that it becomes an even safer place like it was supposed to,” Sam said.
“It’s been a lot of years of neglect, it’s going to be hard to make up, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, more than sixty, and who knows what the other three deities have been expecting all this time.”
“We still haven’t figured out how to pay Mater Matuta what she wants,“ Dean said.
“We just need to ask the deities to stick around, and promise they’ll get what they have coming to them. We might have to get Jack and Cas to promise to keep up the tributes since they’ll be living a whole lot longer than we will. Maybe the gods and goddesses would believe an angel and a nephilim’s word over that of two mortal human brothers who have a tendency to die a lot.”
Dean noticed Sam still wasn’t talking about the human sacrifice thing. “And here we’ve never figured out why the power and water stays on even though we don’t pay a bill. Now we gotta pay off random deities all over the place,” Dean complained.
“You know this means we’re going to have to dig up three more statues, after we research what the gods or goddesses might expect as a make-up tribute. And then figure out how to actually follow through on paying. But at least we’ll have hot showers and electricity to do it by, right?” Sam asked with a grin.
Sam found the information about the first statue that had been buried, it had been in the North direction. He didn’t recognize the deity’s name at first, so he had to do a little googling: Ullr (Auler, Holler, Oller, Ollerus, Uller, Ullerus, Ullr, Wuldor) Norse God of the Aesir, of justice and winter. ‘In Lilla Ullevi, Sweden, an actual shrine to Ullr was unearthed. In the earth around it were found 65 rings; old references to swearing on Ullr's ring indicate that he was one of the Gods who watched over a vow. The rings were apparently used for swearing oaths and then buried at his shrine.’
Sam called up the new guy who’d taken over the pawnshop in town and asked if he had any men’s rings and if they could be engraved by tomorrow. Luckily he was still there after closing time, he was still working on getting his stock rearranged. He promised Sam there were two rings that’d be perfect, and he’d get the words engraved first thing tomorrow. Sam’s next call was to the plant nursery two towns over, they’d been in there a few times to buy herb plants, sometimes spells required fresh plant material. He left a message asking if they had yew trees in stock. After his quick research, he thought that offering trees as well as sworn oaths would make Ullr more amenable to their requests.
Mary and Jack came back from town the next evening with two large yew saplings, both with many strong branches and green needles bound up in the back of Cas’ truck.
“Sam, we got you the yew trees. Do you want me to put them in the Impala or should we leave them in the truck?” Jack asked.
“Thanks, Jack, that’s good, just leave them there. I’m sure Dean wouldn’t be into a big mess of dirt and needles in the Impala. Can you stick a shovel and a pair of gloves in there for me? They’re with the gardening stuff in the garage.”
“I’m pretty sure I know where they are, no problem,” Jack said with a grin, striding away down the hall. He was always so much happier to have something concrete and useful to do. It was kind of exhausting really. Sam briefly wondered if he’d been like that when Dean had had to deal with him.
Mary came in from the kitchen with a worried look on her face. She held a blue box from the pawn shop. “Picked up the rings you ordered,” she said, voice flat and strange.
“Is there something wrong, Mom?” Sam asked.
“The whole thing is just weird, my boys making vows over engraved rings, to a Norse god,” Mary said.
“Well, it’s not like we’re making wedding vows or anything,” Sam said, hoping like hell that his disappointment wasn’t showing that they weren’t doing exactly that.
Mary made a face at him that said he probably hadn’t been successful at hiding it completely from her.
“I know you need to do this, Sam. I get it, but I hate that it’s going to tie you together for the rest of your lives.”
Sam struggled with not rolling his eyes at her, she knew their story, she’d read all the damn books even, how did she not know this about them yet?
“It has to be a big, life-long vow, Mom, otherwise it won’t work. Cas said we shouldn’t even bother.”
“Well, I hope it’s worth it, never being able to go out and be your own person, live your own life. I guess I just hate that’s what you have to sacrifice,” Mary said.
“Getting our lives back to the same plane of existence is definitely worth it. Neither of us can live our own lives like this anyway, not with only half a day, and not being stuck within the six mile perimeter.” Sam thought about the other sacrifices they’d both made over the years, didn’t she count those as important either?
“Yeah, I know, this has been really hard on you both, I can see it,” Mary said.
“That’s why we’re doing it, that, and so the bunker can still reach its potential.”
“I’m glad you’re planning for the future like this, Sam.”
“It’s kind of what I do,” Sam said, wishing Dean were here to back him up with a joke to break the tension. Instead, Mary left, mumbling something about heating up the dinner she’d brought back from town so Sam could eat something.
Early the next morning well before dawn, Sam drove the truck to the northern-most edge of the bunker’s land, traveling up one of the side roads they occasionally drove on when they were heading that way. They usually took this route when they were heading to Chicago. There was a twelve mile marker out here too, he’d never noticed that. He pulled over and parked. By the light of the truck’s headlights, he consulted his map and began digging. He quickly planted the two yew trees and started in on digging where the god’s statue should be.
Sam dug as carefully as possible, making sure not to touch the statue with any part of his body or even the shovel. He didn’t want to summon the god here on his own before dawn had broken. He was trying to time it so that Dean would arrive just before the god would. He wasn’t sure how long the vowing and ring-burying and everything would take. As he dug, Sam sang the song that he’d learned by heart now, the words flowing from him, “A crown above and a crown below.”
The god’s statue was almost unearthed just as the dawn began to peek into the sky.
“We’re doing this today, huh?” Dean asked from above, not commenting on his singing.
Sam looked up from the pit he’d dug around the statue. His brother shone in the residual light from being with the goddess of the dawn for twelve hours. It wasn’t fair how goddamn beautiful it made him. He scowled at Dean pretending that he’d forgotten what a big day today was, and said, “Yeah, I’ve got the digging just about done.”
“Nice job not touching the statue, in my experience that’s real hard to do,” Dean said, reaching down to give Sam a hand up out of the pit. They both made grunting noises getting Sam up onto the same level. Sam dug in his pocket and handed Dean one of the engraved silver rings.
Dean held it up to catch the light of the dawn, it glinted and sparkled. ‘I Promise’ was engraved on the outside in manly blockish letters. Inside the ring was his name and the date in a flowing script. “Nice,” Dean said, “so, what’s the plan on what we’re saying?”
“Yeah, like we talked about, we both have to make a big, life-time vow. Otherwise it’s a ‘why bother the god’ situation.”
“Are we doing the same vow or what?” Dean asked.
“We can, we don’t have to though,” Sam said. “Why, what are you thinking?”
“I was…uh, wondering what you're thinking,” Dean admitted, putting his hand on the back of his own neck, instantly giving himself away.
“I’m going to say that I’m vowing to remain with you, for the rest of our days, no matter what comes,” Sam said, letting Dean off the hook. He couldn’t stand the hesitancy, not when it mattered so much and when they were burning up the little time they had to get this done.
Dean looked up at him, those green eyes of his holding all the light of the new-dawning day, piercing right into Sam’s heart. He knew what this meant to Dean, to hear this from him, even under these circumstances. “That’s…uh, that’s good, I’m gonna use that too, if it’s okay if I copy you?”
“No problem,” Sam said with a smile, trying not to think of what he really wanted to promise. “Ready to do this or what?”
Dean nodded and they both reached out to touch the gilded top of the statue.
A roar of wind and snow and ice, a full winter storm’s blast accompanied his entrance. The Norse god of winter and justice stood before them.
“Why have you summoned me?” Ullr asked, his enormous red beard shaking as he yawned and stretched, towering above even Sam.
“We are here, as descendants of the ones who tied you to this land, to apologize to you, Ullr. My name is Sam Winchester, and this is my brother, Dean. We did not know of the responsibilities we bore to the four guardians of our land. We did not intentionally ignore those responsibilities.”
“What my brother is saying, we’re sorry, Ullr. We didn’t even know about any of you guys being out here. But we’re here now, and we’re willing to make it up to you.”
Ullr grinned at Dean’s more colloquial statement. “I have been content, as your recent hunting on these lands has been more than enough for me. It had been quiet for many years, I have enjoyed the deepening winters.”
“Another one of the four deities, Mater Matuta, she is unhappy with our ignorance of the agreement, so we are contacting each of you in turn to make it right,” Sam said, trying to get across the real reason they’d dug this god up and bothered him.
“I am not surprised to hear of her unhappiness, we all told her that it was a lot to expect from a small amount of humans in a secret society. She would not temper her expectations.”
“We have an offering prepared, if you would care to accept it?” Sam asked.
“Of course,” Ullr said with a small nod.
Sam and Dean pulled the rings out of their pockets. “We have read that you were accustomed to hearing sworn oaths, and having rings buried at your shrine.”
“That is true,” Ullr said. “Do you have oaths to swear and are these the rings you intend to bury?”
“Yes, we do, they are,” Sam said, looking over at Dean, who nodded.
Sam stood up tall and held the ring out towards Ullr in the open palm of his hand. His head was turned towards Dean though, he met his brother’s eyes to find the strength to do this and so that he could watch Dean hear the words. “In front of Ullr, and any other deities who care to hear, I, Sam Winchester do so vow to remain with you, Dean Winchester for the rest of our days, no matter what may come.”
Dean’s eyes almost misted over with sudden tears, and Sam almost reached out for him. But his brother steadied himself and copied Sam’s pose, continuing to lock eyes with him. “In front of Ullr, and anyone else out there with their ears on, I, Dean Winchester do so vow to remain with you, Sam Winchester for the rest of our days, no matter what may come.”
“Your lives are forfeit to me if you so ever break this vow you have sworn to me on this day,” Ullr said to both of them, his ice blue eyes solemn and unblinking.
“We do so acknowledge and swear to remain true to our vow made this day,” the brothers replied in unison. They leaned over together and buried the rings that they’d been holding near the bases of the new trees.
Ullr nodded at them, beaming wide and bright as the sun glinting off the scattered piles of late winter snow. His eyes sparkled with surprise when he noticed the just-planted yew trees.
“You have planted these beautiful trees for me?” Ullr asked.
“Yes…uh, we read that you liked yew trees, and we wanted to mark the spot where we made our vow,” Sam said.
“I do like them, very much. I have missed having trees such as these to watch over. The forests where I used to live and hunt were a veritable sea of green as far as the eye could see. I will ensure that they grow strong and true.” Ullr came towards the trees and ran his fingers over the tips of their branches.
“Thank you, Ullr. We look forward to watching them grow,” Sam said.
“Yeah, thanks, Ullr, every single time I drive by here and see these trees, I’ll remember you and I’ll remember our vow,” Dean said.
“As I look forward to watching you grow towards fulfilling your vows. You may wear the rings as a reminder. Good day, gentlemen,” Ullr said, inclining his head ever so slightly then taking a step backwards and disappearing into the trees.
“Well, that was a helluva lot easier than I thought it’d be,” Dean said, fiddling with the ring that was somehow now on his left-hand ring finger instead of buried in the soil under the yew trees.
“It was, and it took longer than I thought. I’m going to be fading soon, you’ll rebury the statue?” Sam asked, twirling the ring on his own finger.
“Sammy,” Dean said, all of a sudden his face was stricken with immense sadness. Sam felt it too, a wave of disappointment that they had to be parted after such an emotional moment. Dean opened his arms and Sam stepped into them, wrapping his own around Dean. He hesitated for a moment and then Sam tucked his face down against his brother’s neck.
“I’m sorry you had to vow something like that,” Sam said in a whisper against Dean’s skin.
“What?” Dean asked.
“Now, you’re stuck with me,” Sam said.
“Likewise, dude, and…hey, it’s really okay by me,” Dean said, his hand finding the back of Sam’s head, fingers twining into the depths of his hair.
“Me too, Dean,” Sam said. “I’m fading—“
Dean started to reply, but his arms were empty, the air was too, there was no more Sam. He said it out loud anyway, just in case Sam might be able to hear his words. “I didn’t need to make this vow today. I’ve been trying to live it my whole life. Hearing you say it though…” Dean trailed off, unwilling to voice what he was thinking.
He threw the shovel and gloves in the back of the truck with a clang that only increased his frustration and drove back home, turning towards the rising sun. He was going to have to get used to the light glinting off the ring. That was the only upside to all of this.
To Part 7