If you wanna go and leave your man
Go on, I'll understand
But then the night gets dark, all is still
Pray for me, I know you will
Hard row to hoe all by yourself
“Dean, it’s me! Don’t you see me?” Sam yells out the Impala’s window at the figure walking along the edge of the dark mountain road.
“Yeah, Sammy, course I do. Heard ya comin’. Why the hell are you here?” DemonDean asks, flashing his shiny black eyes in the glare of the headlights.
Sam tries not to flinch at seeing his brother’s eyes go black and concentrates on the fact that his brother is right within reach, after almost two months. He’s actually right there, walking and talking. Not dead in his arms, in the car, on his bed. He’s alive. “I’ve come to get you out of this place. C’mon we don’t have long before Crowley will be back,” Sam says, worried about how long they have before Crowley or his minions notice that the Impala’s been stolen from their compound.
“Not goin’ anywhere with you little brother. You’re safer without me around, glad you got the car back though, you’ll take better care of it than I was,” DemonDean says looking straight ahead and speeding up his still-bowlegged walk.
“Bullshit Dean! Get in the damn car!” Sam yells, wishing he could just get out and shove Dean into the car, but his brother is a powerful demon now. There’d be no way he could manage it, Dean has to come willingly.
“Can’t,” DemonDean says with that fatalistic finality in his voice, the one that means there’s no point in talking to him.
“What are you talking about?” Sam asks, voice going softer when he hears that Dean’s given up.
“It’s warded Sam, ‘member? Not goin’ anywhere ‘til you take off the devil’s trap,” DemonDean says.
“Oh, right. Forgot about that.” Sam pulls onto the side of the road and puts the car in park. He leans over to fumble in the glove compartment, coming up with a large knife. He scrapes briefly at the headliner and throws the knife back in the compartment, shutting it with a sharp bang. “Get in already.”
DemonDean rolls his eyes at his brother’s familiar impatience and gets into the passenger side door as slowly as he can manage. Just to see if Sam will take the bait or not.
“Close the damn door, we need to go.”
DemonDean slams the door and cackles loudly. “Same as it ever was, huh Sammy?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. More things change, more they stay the same. Does Crowley have any tracking type of things on you?” Sam asks as he pulls out onto the road, stomping down on the gas pedal until they’re both pressed back into their seats by the sudden acceleration.
“Not that I know of, don’t have anything with me besides the usual.” DemonDean pulls the First Blade out of its inside pocket deep in his new leather jacket. The one Crowley had given him last week. “Although he did give me this coat.”
“Take it off, give it to me,” Sam demands.
DemonDean shrugs out of the coat and hands it over. Sam takes one hand off the steering wheel and runs it along the bottom hem, stopping at one spot near a side seam. “Get the knife out of the glove box and cut it open right here,” Sam says, pointing at a small lump near the stitching.
“I’m not cutting up my new coat, Sam,” DemonDean growls with a warning implicit in its deepness.
“It’s gonna be a tracker coin, just like the one he put in this car, remember all those years ago when he could always find us?” Sam asks, instinctively trying to placate the obstinance in his big brother at being told what to do.
“Fine, but it’s not gonna be one of those, he trusts me now,” DemonDean says, deftly handling the knife to slice only the stitching apart, carefully sparing the elegantly distressed leather. A shiny coin falls out onto his lap, shutting him up.
“He hasn’t done any spells on you or anything like that, right?” Sam asks, looking for what he knows is too long at the sight of his brother sitting there next to him after all these months.
“Naw, just given me bugged clothing I guess,” DemonDean says with a shrug that is anything but casual.
After an uncomfortably long pause where Sam thinks about how that shrug tells him that Crowley’s had more impact on Dean than he’d hoped, he finally asks, “How’ve you been Dean?”
DemonDean looks over at his brother with a sly smile. “Oh you know, same ol’ same ol’, killing stuff, hanging with the King of Hell, the usual.”
“Cut the crap, Dean, are you okay?” Sam persists, knowing this is going to be harder than usual getting anything out of Dean.
“Never better. Being a demon’s easier than I thought it’d be,” DemonDean says with his patented breezy nonchalance that has never hid a thing from his brother.
“You’re not one though,” Sam insists, chin going up stubbornly.
“Sure as hell am. Crowley’s even calling me a Knight of Hell now,” he says proudly, even though he knows how stupid that will sound to Sam. And that Sam will know he really isn’t proud of his transformation and what it had likely done to his brother.
“You are not a Knight of Hell, Dean. Cain made the Knights, he’s the only one who ever did. And he didn’t make you, he only passed on the Mark. And you’re not really a demon either. Not technically.”
“According to who?” DemonDean asks.
“Whom,” Sam can’t help himself correcting Dean automatically. “According to the Men of Letters. I finally found the book I’d been looking for, it was misfiled. Kevin found it actually.”
“Kevin? Like Ghost of the Prophet Kevin?” DemonDean asks.
“No, living, breathing, returned from the Veil Kevin,” Sam says, thinking of the Kevin that had returned to the Bunker, more surprised than Sam was at actually being alive.
“No shit, how’d that happen? God give him a do-over like he did Cas or something?” DemonDean asks, actually sounding interested in something finally.
“Nope. Cas brought him back once he got Metatron sorted out. Something about Gadreel’s sacrifice undoing the murders he’d committed. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m just happy he’s alive. So is he by the way and Mama Tran is out of control about it of course.”
“I wish I could have seen that. Tell him I’m sorry or somethin’,” DemonDean says.
“You’re gonna tell him yourself when he gets back from visiting his mom,” Sam says.
“No fucking way, Sammy, you’re not taking me back to the Bunker.”
“Yeah, Dean, that’s exactly what I’m fucking doing. We know how to get rid of it now,” Sam argues.
Momentarily surprised by the repeat of his own cursing, DemonDean finally asks, “Get rid of what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, man. The Mark. Between the three of us, we figured it out. You just have to be there willingly,” Sam says, throwing in the little-brother pleading note he knows sometimes works, but who knows if it will work on this version of his brother.
“And?” DemonDean asks.
“What’s the ‘and?’ for?” Sam asks with genuine confusion.
“There’s always an ‘and’ with these kinda things. So out with it, or I’m bailing out of the car right now.”
“Dude, we’re going like 90 miles an hour on the freeway,” Sam says, beginning to panic a little, because he just got Dean back, and he doesn’t want to lose him this quickly.
“Yeah, and I’m a demon. Or close enough to it. So fess up or I’m outta here,” DemonDean says, hand on the door latch release.
Sam’s eyes focus on Dean’s clenched hand on the door handle. “Fine. Like I said, you’ve got to be there willingly, you have to perform a mitzvah and you have to take some human blood.”
“Still not getting it, what’s a mitzvah, and whose blood and how exactly?” DemonDean asks, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“A mitzvah is like a good deed; it’s the Hebrew word for it. An act of human kindness, to be specific,” Sam answers.
DemonDean considers that definition for a moment. “So it’s the human part of it then that does the trick.”
Sam’s phone chimes, he briefly looks at the screen and presses a couple buttons on the touch screen. Castiel’s voice suddenly booms out of the car’s speakers. “Sam. Do you have him?”
“Yeah Cas, you’re on speaker, say hi,” Sam says, smiling over at Dean.
“Hello Dean,” Castiel says, voice ringing in the small space.
“Hi Cas. Using a cell phone again, huh?” DemonDean says, rolling his eyes, with a small smile on his lips.
“Sam, your location?” Castiel asks.
“Uh, let’s see. Northbound, Highway number seventy-one, just past the outskirts of Crowley, Colorado,” Sam reports.
“Is that where I was? I kinda lost track lately,” DemonDean asks.
“Yep, Crowley’s hideout was in Crowley,” Sam answers, wondering what Dean means by ‘lost track’.
“That’s not obvious or anything,” DemonDean says with a snort of laughter.
“Well, we checked the even more obvious ones first, like Hell, Nevada for starters,” Sam says.
“You look well, Dean,” Castiel interrupts from the back seat.
“Ah!” DemonDean yells in alarm. “Cas! What have I told you? Make some goddamn noise first.”
“Sam, do you want me to take you two and the car back to the bunker?” Castiel ignores DemonDean’s protestations and asks the question he knows needs to be answered first and foremost.
“No, Cas, Dean and I need to talk for a little bit before we get back. But thank you,” Sam answers.
“I had predicted your answer. Here are your sandwiches. I will see you in approximately five hours,” Castiel says, handing DemonDean a crumpled paper bag and disappearing in a rustle of feathers.
“Thanks, Cas,” Sam says.
“Oh, he’s already long gone,” DemonDean laughs.
“He never stays long enough to hear me say thanks,” Sam says.
Castiel materializes again, just long enough to stick his head over the back seat between the brothers, “Of course I do. I always appreciate your thanks, Sam. You are most welcome.” And with that, he’s gone once again.
“I see he hasn’t changed much,” DemonDean observes.
“No, and he’s definitely stabilized quite a lot while you’ve been gone. He said taking care of me gave him something to focus on besides the travails of Heaven.”
“Glad to hear you’re not being that much trouble, Sammy.”
“Oh, but I have been though. He’s had to bring me back several times,” Sam says, voice trailing off to silence.
DemonDean of course notices that silence. “What do you mean ‘bring you back’?”
“Uh, a few times I tried some stuff to find you that maybe wasn’t too advisable, and then I just didn’t care too much anymore when I was on a few hunts,” Sam admits with reluctance, partly because he’s not sure that Dean will even care at all, something he doesn’t want to know for sure.
“Shit, Sam! I thought I told you not to try and find me!” DemonDean yells.
Sam yells back, with a huge cloud of relief breaking over his head, even through the haze of frustration with his brother. “You told me to let you go! Hah! Like that’s ever stopped either one of us.”
DemonDean crosses his arms over his chest. “It’s worked on you before.”
“When has it ever worked?” Sam asks.
“Purgatory,” DemonDean answers, as if that one word covers everything to say on the subject.
Sam shakes his head. “No. It really didn’t. I just never told you.”
“Told me what Sam?”
“What I did to find you. See, this is why I say you’re not really a demon. A demon would either not even care enough to ask or be able to just look at me and see everything if they wanted to. Maybe it’s just you and you really don’t want to though,” Sam says quickly, hoping that Dean will let him change the subject.
“Crowley said I’m just still new at it,” DemonDean says, looking out his window.
“You believe everything he’s selling these days?” Sam scoffs.
“No,” DemonDean says, puffing up in indignation. “Of course not, it’s Crowley, ‘m not stupid.”
“I know you’re not. But he’s got you believing you’re a Knight of Hell, a demon without demon powers and who knows what else.”
“Sam. I don’t want to go back to the Bunker. I can’t.”
“Is it seeing Kevin or going back home?” Sam asks.
“That what you’re callin’ it? Now that I’m not there?” DemonDean counters.
“Fuck you,” Sam says with intensity.
“What? You never did, not even when I was around making you hamburgers and watching that Game of Thrones shit,” DemonDean complains.
“I did too. Just not out loud, or not where you could hear me. And give me a break, you loved Game of Thrones as much as I did. We have season four to watch, by the way,” Sam says, hoping that will give Dean something to look forward to.
“Already watched it,” DemonDean says like he’s won something important.
“Let me guess, with Crowley?” Sam asks, stomach sinking at the thought of his brother lounging around with Crowley watching the continued adventures of the denizens of Westeros.
“Yeah, he really loves Arya for some reason; says she reminds him of you. Calls her mini-moose,” DemonDean adds.
“Hilarious. But I’ll take it as a compliment at this point. Arya is a total badass,” Sam admits.
“You know nuffin’, Sam Winchester,” DemonDean says in his best Ygritte imitation, smiling over at Sam with his traditional lascivious grin.
Sam’s face wrinkles up like he’s been gut punched, remembering all the times Dean had whispered that into his neck while they had laid entwined on his memory foam after another marathon of Game of Thrones. The desperate love story of Jon Snow and Ygritte had made both of them argue over who was right to leave whom, or whether she missed her with her arrow on purpose or not. All of the arguments had been settled with even more inspired sex, because if anything Game of Thrones had engaged a lot of their fantasies. Not the least of which had been doomed epic romance.
Sam finally is able to say quietly, “That’s not fair.”
“I’m sorry Sammy. I didn’t mean to…” DemonDean says.
“Yeah you did. Maybe you are more of a demon than I thought,” Sam says, mind going blank with fear that maybe his brother is too far gone to bring back.
DemonDean doesn’t have an answer for that. And Sam is too sad to say anything more about what they’d lost, or what he was still missing. They’re quiet for an hour or so, until they have to stop for gas.
“You won’t run away or anything, right?” Sam asks as they both get out of the car.
“No Sam, of course not. I’ll pump the gas. You go get some snacks, hit the head.”
Sam nods, silently accepting the demon version of his brother’s apologetic look over the top of the Impala. He tosses the keys to Dean and stalks off towards the back of the station. In the bathroom, he locks himself into a stall and sits down to let himself cry for a few minutes. Tears of loss, and pain and fear flow out of him without stopping. He hears someone come into the bathroom and stop at the doorway.
“Sammy, you okay in here?”
“Yeah, uh, give me a sec, I’ll be right out,” Sam says in the most normal voice he can manage when his voice is choked up after all the crying. The footsteps recede and the door closes with a quiet snick. He flushes unnecessarily and comes out of the stall to wash up and sees a silent Dean leaned up against the wall with his arms crossed. Dean hands him a water-soaked wad of paper towels without a word. Sam presses them against his eyes and wills himself to not start crying again.
“I’m sorry, Sammy.”
Sam throws the sodden wad of paper into the trash and looks at his brother. “I know you are. That’s why I have to fix this. It’s why I want you to help me fix it.”
Dean’s eyes flash black briefly, as if the demon part of him wants to say no, but they come back to green, and he says, “Okay,” and opens his arms up wide. Sam falls into his brother and lets himself be held close in that achingly familiar way he can never do without. They don’t move for a while, Sam’s tears soaking into Dean’s shirt.
“You don’t even smell like you anymore,” Sam mumbles against the cold skin of his brother’s neck.
“I know, it’s awful isn’t it?” Dean jokes, it seems like he’s trying so hard to break the lousy mood that Sam is stuck in, as if seeing his brother hurting so much is really hard to take, even for a demon.
Sam laughs this horrible, broken sounding thing that isn’t really a laugh. But it is somehow better than continuing to cry.
“I got you some licorice whips and a diet coke,” DemonDean says, pulling them both out of the bathroom and back towards the car. “Hey, I’m gonna drive the rest of the way, you get some rest.”
Sam swallows more tears that suddenly well up in his throat. Hope surges that his brother really isn’t gone for good. Not yet. Not if he still had anything to say about it. He hands over the keys and gets in on the passenger side, absurdly grateful to get to ride in this car at least this last time. He falls asleep watching Dean drive, like he has countless times, adding this memory of his beautiful brother steering them towards where they need to go to the list of the ones he definitely wants on repeat in their shared Heaven.
You hit the city, it swallow you whole
You got no friends darlin', to satisfy your soul
And then the sidewalk ends, lights all red,
You say to yourself, you're better off dead
Hard row to hoe all by yourself
After Sam wakes up from a short nap filled with images of Dean’s eyes turning from black to green and back again, the rest of the drive is filled with Sam catching Dean up with what Cas and Kevin have been doing, what exactly a mitzvah is and whose blood he’ll be consuming.
“So I don’t have to drink your blood, right?” DemonDean asks, sounding like he is torn between relief and regret.
Sam tips his head sideways, considering what Dean could regret about not having to drink his blood, is it possible he wanted to, is he really that much of a demon now? “No, you’ll just inject it like we did with Crowley.”
“You know I’m still not a big fan of needles, but I’ll do it,” DemonDean says.
“Good, and the mitzvah. Have you thought of what you’ll do?” Sam asks.
“I’m gonna go get Meg back for Cas,” DemonDean answers with firm conviction.
“Wait, she’s not dead? And can you actually do that?” Sam asks with real surprise.
“Yeah, I even saw her a couple months ago. Crowley killed her and brought her back because he thought she’d be useful if he had to bargain with Cas at some point. But he’s got her stuck in one of the deep backwaters of Hell. I know how to get in and out quick.”
“You sure Cas really wants her back?” Sam asks.
“Yeah. Based on what she told me, Jon Snow and Ygritte have got nothin’ on them,” DemonDean answers, eyes glittering black for a moment.
Sam ignores the renewed pain of that particular reference. “Why would you do that for him? Or her for that matter?”
“If I was human, I’d do it for Cas, because he brought you back to me, more than once, when he didn’t have to. And I’d do it for her because she kept him around long enough to fix you in that mental hospital,” DemonDean answers.
“Seems like two good reasons. I think that’ll count,” Sam says, impressed that Dean’s put so much thought into the decision.