Disclaimer: I have no claim to Supernatural and all that entails.
Words: 3, 498
Pairings: Nothing that's not canon, so some mention of past Sam/Jess. Present Gen.
Warnings: Probably PG/PG-13 for some language and a little bit of blood. Not beta'd.
Summary: What if, shortly after losing John, Sam has a vision of hounds dragging Dean to Hell?
The first strange vision he has—which is just stupid, because visions shouldn’t be normal enough to have a strange one and Sam just wishes he were normal, why can’t he be normal, he misses her so much, he misses Jess oh pleaseohnonotJess—
The first strange vision he has is of Dean.
Of course it is, because, well, Dean.
It’s unclear like his first visions of Jess (Jess, JessJessJess my fault all my fault) were unclear and distant like a nightmare. There’s just some screaming, some screaming and blurry movement and bright, bright light but that’s tame compared to some of his other nightmares. Except when Sam wakes from this one he’s sweating and shaking. He stumbles to the bathroom, feeling a little like he’s going to throw up but he swallows it back. He gets some water and does throw that up the second it hits his stomach. Dean’s out, not even in the room, out drinking Dad away like it will be so easy. Like guzzling down the alcohol will flush Dad out and don’t you think Sam would be there, too, drowning out the myfaultmyfault, it’s Dad’s fault, fuck him, I miss himImisshim if it would work?
The next night is a full-blown vision. Sam can tell because it's like he's living it, because he can’t remember he’s really asleep in a motel bed. There’s screaming, Sam’s screaming like he’s losing his life, losing his soul, coming apart at the seams. Sam struggles but he can't move, he's trapped, and Dean’s screaming, too, and there’s blood painting the cheery daylight spilling in through the slatted blinds in the white-trimmed windows and where are they, why are they here, what’s happening to Dean, please Dean, it’s not fair, it’s too soon, it’s my fault—
Sam keeps screaming, keeps coming undone, and red,red,red keeps filling it all up and the sound of the hounds, the hounds howling and growling and gobbling up Dean’s soul, eating and tearing and dragging Dean down, dragging Sam apart—
Then the bindings holding Sam snap and he can move, he can go to Dean now, but it’s too late— Glass green eyes just staring, just staring out at nothing Dean, Dean look at me, please, Dean, NO NO NO—
The air is cool when he wakes up, the unit clanking and rumbling (growling, howling like the hounds, like the hounds the houndsthehouds—) in it’s struggle.
He’s shivering but he’s not feeling cold, much, and he’s not feeling pain, much, and he’s generally just not feeling much of anything (not even alive). He’s kind of floating, seeing the sheets and the comforter twisted all around him but not really knowing it. His eyes wander around, from the sickly brown comforter to the edge of the battered nightstand to the lamp that's gushing so much light, so bright it hurts everything, pouring in through the white-trimmed windows, the howling and the—. He whimpers and shakes. When he tries to stop the trembling he shakes harder.
A hand rests on his shoulder and it’s the ignition, the spark that triggers a chain reaction, boom-boom-boom. Sam’s head explodes and comes undone, he can’t catch his breath, and his stomach lurches and races up his body—
When Sam is Sam again the air unit is still clanking miserably, knocking unbearably against the sore corners of his head.
The nightstand lamp is turned off this time but the bathroom light is turned on behind him with the door pulled to a crack, letting the light slip into the room enough to see but not enough to hurt. It’s what their Dad used to do when he had a hangover, Sam thinks with an emptiness that hovers between his heart and his stomach.
Sam wishes he had a hangover. It would hurt a lot less.
Suddenly something is pressing up against his lips and he parts them a little sluggishly, letting Dean work in the straw. Sam’s eyes are heavy and the light, though small, hurts his eyes and he just wants the air unit to shut up even though the cool air feels so good on his hot, sweaty skin.
“Sam,” Dean whispers and Sam jolts, wincing. “Sam, you have to stay awake to drink.”
Sam wants tell Dean to shut the hell up. Wants to say, you’re too loud and what the hell I’m not a baby. He wants to say those things to Dean a lot of the time, actually. But the thought of speaking makes him cringe so hard his toes curl into the sheets. So he just drinks, orange juice bursting psychadelic across his tongue. It’s good, his mouth is so dry, and he sucks in once, twice more before Dean takes the straw from between his teeth, spraying drops across Sam’s face (they land like bombs across his tender skin).
He’s kind of horrified when he whimpers again, but only a little. He’d have to feel better to care more.
Dean’s kneeling in front of the bed, the light from the bathroom reflecting off of eyes on an otherwise dark face. Sam feels the weight of Dean’s hand on the bed but he doesn’t touch Sam.
“We have to see how your stomach does this time, Sammy. You threw it up the past two times.”
Sam doesn’t remember those times but his stomach cramps and, dude, you do not talk about throwing up to someone with a queasy stomach. How dumb are you? He wants to say it but he’s still cringing at the thought of talking so he doesn’t. He settles for a glare that Dean probably can’t quite see in the shadows of the dim room.
“It was gross. All over the bed, all over you. You owe me two sponge baths. And a burger with pie.”
Sam’s stomach gurgles, his throat tightens, and his brother is an asshole.
But Sam doesn’t puke and is rewarded for his efforts with three pills, pushed one at a time past Sam’s sluggish lips, and more orange juice.
“What was that, Sam?” Dean says, voice hoarse as he strains to continue to whisper. He’s angry. That angry-worried he gets sometimes, when he realizes guns and fists and salt and sarcastic comments won’t be enough. When he feels his world start cracking and slipping out under him. Sam knows, more than anyone, that Dean waves around weapons and careens headfirst and stupid into danger but he always, always needs those shields around him because he just can’t deal with some things—probably with a lot of things. Not that Sam hasn’t tried to help, but he’s starting to think that he’s just as bad.
Dean’s voice is getting tighter. “Was that a vision? Since when are they like that?”
Sam shrugs. “Wasn’t as bad last night.” Then he groans, pushes his head into the pillow in an attempt to smother the pain, and then swears off talking forever and ever.
Dean’s quiet for a long time and it starts to feel like Sam's eyelids are swollen and…sandy, or something, and it’s getting harder to keep them open. He doesn’t want to sleep, though. There’s something there. Something just under the surface. Something he’s not quite putting together and something he doesn’t want to put together, ever.
“You had a vision last night?” There’s sound in Dean’s voice, now, though he’s still quiet and Sam’s head (not just the headache but his whole head, too, what did Dean give him?) has receded away from his body, away from awareness and he's left hollow and floaty with the pain just sort of fluttering instead of throbbing. So it takes Sam too long to realize the tension that’s winding tighter and tighter around them. “You didn’t tell me.” And Dean, his jerk of a brother, manages to sound hurt and accusatory and pissed off all at once.
“You would have known if you were here.” Sam says so quiet he’s not even sure he says it out loud but of course he does because his stupid head is slow and hates him and Dean’s practically shaking with—with—something now. Anger, maybe. Wrath. Self-loathing. Sam would care, or wouldn’t care because he’s just too tired to, except he’s distracted with his racing heart that’s suddenly trying it’s damnedest to punch its way out of his chest.
“Well? What was it, then? The demon?” Dean interrogates but Sam can't hear him past his racing heart and his lungs have forgotten how to work and his throat clamps down on what little air he had left and his head is bursting and there’s the screaming and the howling and oh, please no, pleasepleaseplease give him this one thing—just give him this one thing, give him Dean, give Sammy his brother—
He shoots out of bed, or falls really, smashing his head into Dean’s stomach and wrapping his arms around his big brother and Dean can't do anything but stumble backwards, cursing and cursing as he falls, pulling the rest of Sam off the bed. They end up in a heap on the floor with Sam honest to God sobbing into Dean’s chest, the chest that Sam sees as bloody and swollen and so, so, so still no matter how tightly he shuts his eyes.
Dean starts saying, “Sshh, Sammy. Sammy, it’s OK—what the hell—it’s OK, tell me what’s wrong. Tell me what to do, Sammy. What the hell you little brat. Shit. Just breathe, Sammy, just take a breath or something.” His voice is cracking as he talks and his hands try to push Sam away, tries to see Sam's face so he can assess what's wrong, tries to get Sam off the floor and back into bed. But Sam just hangs on like he’s four years old again. Then Dean gives in and just holds Sam close, buries his nose in Sam’s hair and mutters a lot of nothing into his scalp like he did the night they don’t talk about, the night Jess was taken away and part of Sam was taken away that night, too.
The truths wash over Sam and he’s not sure he can breathe one more second, he’s not sure he can exist outside this moment with his big brother all around him. He can’t imagine anything but this, this desperation clawing him from the inside out and—
He takes a deep, shaking breath between the gut-wrenching gasps and tears he can't even bring himself to be ashamed over. He takes another, and another until he's just boneless against Dean. Face hot, tears streaming, but forcing himself to just think.
Sam had a vision. Sam had a vision of Dean dying. He was ripped apart and dragged to Hell and Sam was left to cry over his bloated, red, empty body.
My brother is going to die.
Sam’s pretty thankful when he passes out again.
Dean presses and cajoles and scowls and tantrums but Sam never, never, never tells Dean about the vision. Never tells him of hounds and claws and the screaming and the blood against the white-trimmed windows. Sam never even considers telling Dean, because what would he say? Hey, you’re going to die, big brother. Nice and bloody by the hands of a scary little girl in a sunny suburban home. You’ll be chewed up by hellhounds and dragged into hell. Pass the ketchup, will you?
Yeah, no. Ever since Dad and the Yellow-Eyed Demon Dean’s been spiraling—hell, they are both spiraling—enough without that, thanks. Sam will just keep it to himself.
For a jumpy few days Sam expect the hounds to show up any minute. That time is fairly blurry, complete with tunnel vision and a full-blown panic attack. Sam is dimly aware of Dean seriously considering knocking him unconscious out of equal parts concern and frustration. He's all, "be still for one fucking minute, Sam, you can barely even stand up" and "eat something, you gigantic girl" and "are you watching me sleep, you freak?" and "tell me what’s going on, Sam!". Then Sam eventually realizes that the vision is set further into the future than anything else he’s “seen” before. It's not like Jess or their old house--those were just a few days or even hours into the future, but this thing with Dean will happen weeks, maybe months or a year or two from now. He just knows. The little girl and the blonde-haired woman, the ones he didn't recognize. They'd be the omen of the events from the vision. Sam had to make sure Dean never, ever met them.
In the mean time he researches hellhounds and hell. When he types in “hellhounds” he gets “hellhounds: wikipedia” and “hellhounds: runescape wikis” (what the hell is that? Some sort of rpg game?) which he bookmarks because you never know. Animal Planet did a segment on hellhounds at one time because a link comes up to the video and the tag line is, of course,
“Hell” brings up wikipedia articles and the fact that there is a place called Hell, Michigan. There’s a movie called Hell (and a movie called Hellhound, too) and a Bulgarian techno icon dubbed “DJ Hell”. There are recipes from Hell’s Kitchen and videos of kids living in third world countries. There are websites with gaudy graphics, little web-page shrines to Hell wreathed in typical quotes from literature, all Abandon hope, all ye who enter here and Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed in one self place, for where we are is hell, and where hell is there must we ever be and They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. There are countless blogs and discussion forums under the question,
There are theologians throwing down verse after Bible verse and skeptics pointing to science and historians indicating records of Hell from several cultures and religions and if there really is a Hell, would it necessarily be a Christian Hell?
Does it matter? Sam scrawls next to his neat notes in a journal he bought three weeks ago because it reminded him of Dad. Hell is Hell.
Dean pokes him in the forehead. “Relax the eyebrows, man. No wonder you get headaches.”
Sam looks up from his laptop, surprised at the touch. Dean’s been a lot of things, lately. Full of grief and anger at their father. Frustrated at Sam, badgering and manipulating Sam about his vision until it borders on cruelty. And, because Sam thinks he knows Dean, he’s pretty sure Dean’s hurt, in a way, that Sam hasn’t told him. His brother has been all this tangle of emotions and conflict and denial (and he calls Sam an emotional girl like he has no real clue how well Sam can compartmentalize) but ever since the vision he has avoided touching Sam like he’s carrying the plague.
He squashes the irrational hurt at Dean’s avoidance. Of course his brother, who only sees things in black and white, who has little pity for the plight of an outcast shapeshifter or a werewolf unaware of the killing monster he becomes a few nights a month would have a problem seeing something supernatural and wrong in his little brother. Because he can’t kill it—he’d have to kill Sam—and so he has to let something supernatural perpetuate and occupy the same car, the same hotel, the same air as him. It flies in the face of his beliefs, of the truths of right and wrong and purpose that have woven Dean together for years.
Dean’s…zeal is so much like Dad’s it makes Sam’s skin crawl, makes him grit his teeth because revenge doesn’t give them the right to decide what creatures should die, it just doesn’t. He’s caught himself praying the same prayer over and over lately: God, please, listen, please not my stupid, self-righteous, annoying brother. Please not him, take me, take me, take me instead.
Sam really can’t blame Dean for the way he looks at him—like Sam’s dead, like he’s disgusting, like Dean hates himself for somehow letting all of this happen to his family. Sam knows, from the start, that the visions aren’t a good thing. Sure, he can stop bad things from happening, but Sam feels it deep down, aching like an echo in his bones. The visions aren’t normal, and sometimes he thinks they come from a black place that only intends to harm both Sam and Dean.
Dean stops going out. He doesn’t drink as much. He sticks to Sam like—like—Sam’s not sure. He just knows that every time he turns around Dean is right there like Sam will disappear (or go completely monster) if he gets outside of grabbing distance. Dean doesn’t argue, stops giving Sam those hurt, accusing looks like Dad was his fault (because it is Sam’s fault, he’s smart, he should have seen what Dad was doing, should have stopped him, should have done something and Dad, please come back, please tell me what to do about Dean). All in all Dean’s destructive behavior vanishes overnight and Sam is thankful for the vision in a sick, masochistic way for about a day and a half.
And then he realizes that Dean isn’t letting Sam out of his sight. He doesn’t go out because Sam doesn’t go out. When Sam does go out Dean stays seated at the table with him, taking a few shots of whiskey before nursing one beer after another, knee bouncing and fingers drumming the table, growing surlier as the hours tick away.
Sam snaps his laptop shut, unable to do much research because Dean keeps looking over his shoulder, keeps eyeing Sam every time he gets up to retrieve another drink from the bar (too jittery and impatient to wait for their waitress and Sam thinks that the alcohol is doing a really shitty job of mellowing Dean’s nerves). “This is ridiculous,” he announces, throwing a wad of cash on the table before practically stomping out of the bar and grill.
Dean waits about five seconds before following and doesn’t comment, either because he’s back to his silent treatment (which Sam doesn’t know what that’s supposed to prove, or if it’s related to Dean’s vendetta against talking about Dad or about Sam’s vision) or because he thinks it’s all a bit ridiculous, too.
When Dean beheads a vampire with a power saw and lets the blood spatter over him—when he looks more alive than he has in two weeks while he holds down the creature and slices nice and easy into it’s flesh, Sam thinks that maybe he’s neglected to see how unhinged his big brother has become.
For a bizarre moment while he stares at the cruelty twisted into Dean’s otherwise familiar features, Sam thinks how typically selfish Dean is being. Sam’s Dad died, too. Worse, he died with bad blood between them and Sam can’t fix that, ever, and it’s killing him each day he wakes up and realizes that Dad isn’t there just on the other side of his stupid phone and his stupid voicemail. And, you know what? It’s Sam, not Dean, who is having the head-splitting Death Visions. The vision was two weeks ago and his stomach is still uneasy, he still can’t seem to eat anything without feeling sick and lightheaded, and he thinks the headache is still lingering. It’s Sam who’s seen his brother die, it’s Sam who has to fix it, it’s Sam who might be turning into a monster.
Dean saws away, doesn’t flinch when the blood baptizes his hands and his cheeks, only moves when Sam squeaks something past frozen lips (maybe his brother’s name? He’s not sure). Dean’s lip is curled up and he doesn’t even look satisfied, just full of wrath and maybe even a little hungry for more. When he looks at Sam, his gory hands hanging at his sides, Sam realizes that his heart is pounding and he wonders if this is fear for or fear of his brother.
Whatever this tension is—Dad or Sam’s silence about his vision or just their life—it’s reconfiguring everything they thought they knew about each other. They’re both getting twisted up, souls tainted blacker each day. Sam’s seeing death and Dean doesn’t feel like he’s alive until he kills. They’re both turning into monsters.
Sam thinks it’s probably his fault.
The thing is, Sam is not about to tell Dean that he had a vision of his brother (his everything, OK? His everything) being torn apart and dragged to Hell. They’ve stopped his visions from coming true in the past, Sam’s going to stop this one. He’ll just have to deal with Dean and his behavior, it’s a small price to pay. Even when the looks Dean gives him when he thinks Sam isn’t looking is less despair and concern for him and more wary—more calculating.
Sam sees the way Dean looks at him with vampire gore dripping from his hands and wonders if this is what it feels like to be hunted by his own brother. If this is what it feels like to know he'll be killed. Maybe Dean will slice his throat open like this vampire.
Sometimes, when Sam isn’t hurt and bitter about it, he thinks that it might be a good idea.
Continued in Shake and Bleed