Characters: primarily Sam and Dean, a touch of Cas and a guest co-star
Warnings: the odd swear word, a little violence, a little blood. Deviates from canon a fair amount.
Summary: Sam is a desperate man, and does a few things that might piss off the Big Guy Upstairs. But there are reasons -- no better reason than family.
Notes: Hugs and puppies to monicawoe and geckoholic for Enochian coaching, plot salvaging and emotional UMPH. You're gorgeous, ladies. Without you both, this would've been poo. (Might still be poo, I suppose!) Any mistakes remaining occurred at my own ineptitude. Characters and universe borrowed from Kripke and company. Concrit ALWAYS welcomed!
(Crossposted at A03 for downloadable excellence: http://archiveofourown.org/works/801414)
At dusk, a bang of thunder rolled through the thick sky, throwing thready luminescent fingers between the darker clouds. Rain began to pelt the earth, hitting the city like bullets. If Eli didn’t know any better, he’d say even Heaven was damn pissed at his situation.
His slick-bottomed shoes skidded on the pavement as he fell towards traffic, amid a spasm of horns and headlights. He narrowly avoided the bumper of a sedan, bolting left. Brakes pealed. Clutching a hand to his side, he pulled his navy overcoat close. The ache down his flank throbbed like fury.
The big man was still following, still lancing through cars and rain with a single-minded focus that flared panic in Eli’s belly. This wasn’t right. He wasn’t supposed to be on this end of the chase. This felt like shit.
Umbrellas were blooming on the sidewalks, offering some small amount of cover and misdirection. Eli hunched and practically crawled, woozy, cramming back pain with his tongue against his teeth. A door opened and a couple, laughing, spilled out into the summer storm. Eli stopped to let them pass then stumbled around the pair, into the building.
The room was dark, air-conditioned, some sort of tavern. People with drinks in front of them looked up, but only briefly. Made perfect sense, a businessman darting in from the rain. Eli straightened, even though his side burned as it pulled.
“Bathroom?” he said to the bartender, a woman with a sleeve of tattoos and a tiny glint of metal beneath her lower lip. She jutted her chin in response, went back to chatting up patrons.
Eli made a beeline for the single-room toilet, locking the door behind. His heart was still jigging against his ribs, straining with an exhaustion he shouldn’t have been feeling. Had never felt before, in fact. This was, perhaps, a heart attack—as improbable as that should’ve been.
He pulled a fistful of scratchy paper towels from the dispenser and dried his face. They’d do no good for the injury, but at least now, he could take stock. His skin looked sallow and disgusting in the artificial light, short reddish hair plastered to his skull. Fatigue etched brand new lines in his face. He flopped down the toilet lid and sat. There was a window to his left, translucent for privacy but cracked open, cigarette burns on the sill. It was still raining great pellets, and the air that drifted in through the crack was sour and humid, stinking of trash and stale smoke. He lifted the edge of his coat and a dull glow seeped through a hole in his shirt. Eli allowed himself a moment of self-pity.
But he only got that scant moment. The doorknob rattled.
“One minute,” Eli called out, his voice more unstable than he’d like.
“Hurry up, man. Gotta piss.”
Eli dragged a hand over his mouth. He’d give it five more minutes. If there was no further ruckus from outside, maybe he was in the clear, maybe he’d slipped his tail. He closed his eyes and listened. And prayed.
Relative silence—traffic, soft conversation, faint music.
There was still a deep thrombosis in his chest, a sense of obstruction that shouldn’t have been there, but he couldn’t stay in the bathroom much longer; it would just attract attention. He pressed his side gingerly, curbing a wince. He wanted to vomit. What a peculiarly awful sensation.
Eli dragged to his feet and the room wobbled. When it stopped, he thudded his hand onto the doorknob. There was a sizzle and he jerked back.
It was just a normal doorknob, dirty from years of human contact. He sucked at his fingertips, cautiously touching the door with the opposite hand. He heard a crackle, felt a twinge like an electric shock snapping up his arm. The skin wasn’t blistered; it was something internal. The room got very, very small.
Eli spun drunkenly, threw open the sash. Fetid city air washed in. He shoved his palms against the screen and it flopped into the alley. Shoehorning this ungainly body through the window, he dropped down, ankle-deep in a puddle.
A hand shot out and grabbed his collar before he could take one squelching step. He was hauled around the corner into a cul-de-sac designed for a dumpster, slammed against brick and held firm.
It was the big man, and he’d flushed out Eli like a rabbit from its burrow.
He’d never seen the man before, until today, but he felt as though he should know him. There was a familiar buzz, the hum of celestial tones, about him. He had a heavy brow but sharp, fragile cheek bones and a pinched mouth behind a week’s scruff of beard. Water trickled off the hood of his rain slicker onto Eli’s face.
As hard as he tried, Eli could not will his sword into his hand. That connection was severed, made null.
“What do you want?” Eli pleaded.
The man’s eyes briefly held Eli’s, might even have flickered with sympathy. “Long story,” he said. He pulled something from his pocket, a sliver of wood pinched between thumb and forefinger.
Eli immediately recognized it as a Splinter of the Cross. Bright, cold terror flooded his chest.
The man pressed the Splinter into Eli’s mouth and smothered it closed with his palm.
“Neh-eh nah-ee Pah-teh-rah el-ex,” the man whispered in Enochian, a language that should’ve meant solace but now made Eli’s limbs leaden. He was petrified, incapable of little more than a blink.
The big man hauled Eli over his shoulder and staggered out of the alley.
The car’s trunk was just barely big enough to contain him, his knees pressed to his chin, lodged up against the spare tire. They drove for an hour, maybe more; Eli couldn’t be sure. The smell of rubber and oil and exhaust permeated everything. Still he couldn’t move, not even to spit out the Splinter—such a blasphemous thought.
He mentally invoked God’s name and the name of every saint he could remember, but the words bounced back at him.
When the hood opened, it was dark and misty with the last of the rain. Eli stared into the burn of red neon coming from a sign, saw the symbols chalked onto the inside of the trunk. The big man leveled a glance around the area before grabbing Eli’s arms. He dragged him out into the night and then the twenty feet to a motel room. Eli was dropped onto an unmade bed. The place smelled of something burnt, incense or a recently snuffed candle.
Eli wanted to demand “Why?” I am doing my Father’s work. I am the good soldier. You, who are you? WHY? But he couldn’t. The Splinter sat heavy on his tongue.
The man stripped out of his wet coat. He wasn’t nearly as big as he’d seemed, an hour ago. Tall, yes quite, but when he let his shoulders sag, he looked ordinary. A man like a dozen others. He moved out of Eli’s scope of vision, and there was the sound of water splashing, of coughing.
The cheap polyester bedspread scratched his skin and got under his nose. On the bedside table sat a clock, a phone, a half-filled glass of amber liquid and a jumble of jewelry—rustic charms, old and dull with tarnish.
The man walked back to the bed and picked up the glass, swallowed back the drink with a wince. He sat heavily, exhaling. “Sorry. This is gonna hurt,” he mumbled, tugging on Eli’s shoulder to roll him onto his back. He loosened Eli’s tie, slipped it off, then released the first few buttons of his collar.
The tips of the man’s wet hair brushed across his cheek. His eyes were unyielding as he rolled up the sleeves of his generic plaid shirt.
Almost down to his wrists were colors, drawings—the coils of serpents and vines, the geometry of the angelic alphabet—inked onto his skin. In the dim light of the bedside lamp, Eli also saw glossy raised scars, too delicate and designed to be accidental. The man ran his tongue over his lips and pulled a blade—white-shining like ice—from under the pillow. An angel’s sword.
How could this man have a sword when Eli couldn’t? How was the universe allowing this to happen? Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?
The man dragged the tip of the sword across Eli’s throat. It took hardly any pressure to leave a mark. The sear of escaping grace spurred panic, sent agony to the site of the wound. In a blink, it became clear that Eli’s disconnect from his divine aspects—which he thought had been a fluke or a problem on Heaven’s end—was deliberate. The glow was sharp on the man’s face as he slid down the bed, knees to the floor because he was so tall, he needed the space.
God help them both, the man pressed his mouth to Eli’s neck and drank the grace. Sucked it up by the mouthful. And all Eli could do was lie there like a corpse.
Well, not a corpse because his vessel was still alive and Joe Barber, CPA, stirred somewhere in the back of Eli’s brain, swimming to the surface. When Joe realized what was happening, double the terror unfurled in the paralyzed body.
Eli/Joe’s heart began to jackhammer as both consciousnesses struggled for possession, but the grace was unspooling, pouring out of the wound and leaking from tear ducts, ears, mouth. Breathing became more and more difficult as the angel scrabbled for something to hold onto, something to keep it anchored inside Joe.
It was futile, though. Nothing stopped the man from consuming the grace—not tenacity, not prayer, not God.
The being named Elimelech, angel of Summer, ceased to exist in a blazing flash and the thrashing of vast wings.
Joe Barber had always thought himself a good man, an honest man. A man who tried. He didn’t doctor books or slide through loopholes. He’d found a nice girlfriend who owned two cats and they hadn’t had sex yet, if handjobs didn’t count. He was probably going to propose to her this autumn with hopes for a spring wedding.
A month ago, when the angel had appeared to him in a frighteningly sharp daydream, Joe didn’t feel he had the right to say no. His life had been blessedly free of friction; this was an honor, to be asked to be the corporeal host of one of God’s soldiers. Elimelech had assured him this was temporary, one task and then Joe could have his American dream.
Of course, Joe had said yes.
In the last hollow minutes of Joe’s life, he watched the big man step away, could feel the angel’s holy power thrumming through the man’s body, almost vibrating beyond his painted skin. The man tore off his shirt and rubbed hands over his bare arms like they itched. Maybe he was strung out on drugs, but that didn’t explain what had just happened. Clearly, this was evil, the Devil’s work.
All the scars and tattoos, they shifted and stretched over the man’s muscle—the raw build of someone who didn’t have an easy existence. Not a yielding thing about him, save the vaguely apologetic look on his face when he turned around.
“Had to be this way,” he murmured, speaking more to himself, it seemed. He hummed, rolled his head on his neck as his spine cracked. He still had the sword in his hand, and he sat heavily on the opposite bed.
He laid his left arm bare, palm upwards, across his thigh. Frowning in concentration, he used the tip of the short blade to bite into his skin. His actions were precise and deliberate, like writing. Instead of blood welling at the site, grace tracked out in lines of luminescence.
Joe’s pulse stuttered at the sight of the glow and he could no longer feel his limbs. Despite regaining use of his body, he had barely the strength to push the Splinter out of his mouth with his tongue. It stuck wetly to his cheek. He was cold but couldn’t shiver. His heart was a dying thing in his chest.
“Ah doh-heh ee daath. Ah bee-ah-loh ee beh-ree-en-teh-seh,” the man spoke as he worked.
The language echoed, familiar. Joe had once understood it, through the angel’s filter. Now, nothing.
The world got flimsy around the edges.
The chant was repeated, blood blending with the grace running down the man’s arm to soak into his jeans.
Joe swallowed, watching the mess, the air too thick to pull into his lungs. Then he closed his eyes and after a sputter of regret, quietly died.
Sam secured the Splinter in a Ziploc sandwich bag before he dumped the body, swaddled in a blue tarp and weighted with slate, into the Ohio River. Frankly, he didn’t much care if it floated to the surface sooner rather than later; he would be long gone by tomorrow, a smudge of memory, little else.
Elimelech’s grace buzzed insistently in his veins, leaving him with the curiously loose-limbed sensation of being drunk, and yet somehow honed to an edge. His temples throbbed and every whistle of wind carried germs of knowledge.
Buttoning his sleeves around his wrists, he hitchhiked to wherever the first person who picked him up wanted to go.
He stopped moving at a town called Crow, West Virginia, because he liked the sound of it, and got a room at the Pagoda Motel. A sign out front boasted “mountain vintage”, which apparently meant one towel and no cable. He didn’t need cable anyway, not with All Angel Access.
The room was paneled floor to ceiling and stunk of mildew, but wasn’t the worst place Sam’d slept, not by a long shot. A quick once-over determined that, at least, there were no bedbugs. From the sheen of dust, he guessed there hadn’t been a lodger here for quite some time and housekeeping was less than involved. Again, no real complaints.
He didn’t bother warding the room because at this point, he was plenty warded. His body was covered with them, mapped across his skin and insinuating mystical safeguards into his meat and bone. Sometimes, he didn’t even feel human. Like today.
He sat on the bed without pulling down the covers, and methodically ripped bits from the King James Bible he’d found in the nightstand, wadding up each page to lob it at the garbage can by the old television. It was strangely satisfying, the sharp tearing followed by a soft, hollow plunk. Symbolized everything he believed about God’s little winged handmaidens. The floor was covered with wadded paper by this point, and he wasn’t even through Exodus.
Sam’s laptop, sitting open on a set of drawers, pinged. A dialog window popped up on the screen and Sam shifted his eyes.
He tossed the Bible aside and lumbered off the bed. The computer pinged again, another line of text appearing.
::Sam? Are you there?::
::I don’t enjoy using these things.::
Sam watched the screen, grinning with all his teeth.
Keep your pants on. I’m here, he typed to ‘NrdyAngl’, though the humor was lost on Cas when Sam had set up the account.
::My pants aren’t … oh. Joke.::
Sam sat on the corner of the dresser. You got news for me?
::Yes. I’ve found him. Though it wasn’t difficult. He wasn’t exactly hiding his light under a bushel.::
He’s expecting me.
::I don’t know. Perhaps. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t care who finds him. Michael has never been humble.::
Sam snorted a laugh. So where is he?
What the hell is in Williams?
The screen was inactive for a few conspicuous moments.
::He said something about wanting to see the Grand Canyon.::
Sam’s hand fisted on his knee and he felt what remained of his smile drop away. Michael was a prick, a fucking prick.
::I don’t like the sound of that.::
I only said thank you.
He prodded fingertips over the raw sigil on his forearm, felt the heat in the healing scar. The sticks and dots of angelic script spelled out words of secrecy and obdience on his skin, and he could only hope the bastardized magic wouldn’t backfire. A dozen ancient tomes and months of research and still, Sam wasn’t sure.
::Don’t do anything rash.::
I’m at the Pagoda Motel in Crow, West Virginia. Be here.
::I don’t’ think this is wise.::
There was a knock at the door. So polite.
“As soon as we arrive, he’ll know you’re there,” Cas said, shouldering past.
Sam hadn’t yet unpacked, but he gathered up the few things that were out, the computer, a gun. “I get that.”
“Do you think you’re ready for this?”
Sam spun and grabbed Cas’ arm, prickles of grace leaping from his hand to Cas through his overcoat, his clothes. The angel’s mouth opened with a gasp.
“If we don’t go now, he’ll be gone. Ready or not, it’s time,” Sam insisted.
Cas stared at him, eyes wide and blue and sad. “This is a fool’s errand. We’ve already lost Dean; to lose you too, I don’t—”
“Dar-bess,” Sam whispered in Enochian, and the sigil stung as it glowed into action. Obey.
Something tremulous flickered over Cas’ face, a shadow of doubt before softening into compliance.
“Take me to Michael,” Sam said.
Cas smiled, nodded almost imperceptibly, and touched two fingers to Sam’s forehead. The world spun.
They reappeared on an isolated butte at the edge of the canyon, an area where tourists were certainly forbidden due to the sheer danger of it all. Cas stood stoically, his coat whipping, and Sam crouched through a wave of vertigo.
The Grand Canyon stretched around them in stratum after stratum of orange and brown and dusty purple, the sky a boundless turquoise. It was far larger than Sam had ever imagined, so massive that the sides and bottom faded into hazy distance and it vibed like an entirely different planet, like somehow Cas had made a huge error and dropped them into an alternate reality. Wouldn’t that be nice.
Cas knitted his brow. “How did you make me do that?”
“Sorry; I had to see if it would work.”
For a heartbeat, Cas looked like he wanted to be annoyed—very annoyed—then he simply sighed. “I can take us somewhere else, but this is private. Little chance of collateral damage.”
“No, no. It’s fine,” Sam lied, straightening. He steadied his feet under him and took out the bag with the Splinter. He knew he didn’t have time to squander, so he secured the relic between pinched fingers and let the wind take the bag.
Cas’ gaze flicked over Sam’s shoulder. There was Michael, in Dean’s skin. Smiling.
He looked good, sleek like a well-fed house cat, something Dean would be hating with every silent wail. His sweater was thin and smooth, likely more expensive than Sam’s whole wardrobe including his boots, and he was wearing slacks, for God’s sake, khakis. Dean had never owned a pair of khakis in his entire life. Sam was suddenly and keenly aware of how shabby his own clothes were, how his shirt was thinning at the elbows and fraying at the cuffs.
“Sam.” Michael had to raise his voice to be heard over the wind. “Can’t say as I’m surprised, but you, Castiel? Really? And I thought little brother Lucifer was the most disobedient angel.”
Cas narrowed his eyes but Sam spoke first, shrugging, playing at casual. “He owed me a favor.”
“I don’t buy it, but we’ll go with that.” Michael chuckled. “So what can I do for you, Sam?”
Stop saying my name, for one. It made him itch, how unlike Dean this facsimile was, despite sharing the same body. Nothing about the mannerisms reminded him of his brother; there was no affection, no concern, no whiskey-grit to his voice. Michael had buffed and polished him to a glossy sheen. “I just want to talk to Dean for five minutes. That’s all.”
He took a step closer, angling his head and narrowing his eyes as though examining a bug. “Really? And what makes you think he wants to talk to you, hmm? Maybe he likes me in here, Sam. His knees don’t ache anymore. That trick shoulder? Gone. I mean, look at you. What have you done to yourself? Is this the latest in ‘hobo chic’?” Michael sniffed, frowning. “You’re practically brimming with angel, and it isn’t Castiel’s joy-juice either. What have you been up to, hmm?”
Sam fought the urge to back away. “Tried some dumb shit but I get it now. It’s futile. I’m just … I’m just tired. I want it to be done.”
“You don’t say?”
“Five minutes. Five measly minutes.” Sam lifted his hands in supplication, tilted his brows just so, the way he always did to get Dean to cave. But this wasn’t Dean. “To tell him I’m sorry?”
When Michael groaned in annoyance, Cas bristled. “Michael, he’s giving up. Show mercy. It’s the least you can—”
Michael bared his teeth and swiped his hand through the air. Cas went soaring out into the Grand Canyon as though yanked by a cord and in seconds, he was gone.
Sam leapt at Michael in that unguarded moment, going for the angel’s mouth with the Splinter. But in a blur, Michael had Sam’s forearm in a steely grip, squeezing until bones ground together. Sam hissed, hell-bent on keeping the shard of the Cross in his fingers. He needed every drop of holy mojo he could muster.
“And you wanted me to trust you?” Michael said, incredulous. He clutched tighter and Sam felt tears spring to his eyes.
“No, I never thought you would,” Sam gritted out, and light began to spill from between Michael’s fingers as the sigil on Sam’s arm bled. “Dar-bess, you son of a bitch. DAR-BESS.”
Michael’s expression faltered, wavering between terrible fury and confusion.
“Leave,” Sam said. “Just … leave.”
Grace coiled up their arms, from the tips of their fingers to their shoulders. It burned, vaporous, as it spent its power. At first, the shift in Michael was almost imperceptible, the slightest dilation of pupils, a flutter of lashes. He dragged in a great breath, shivered, and then Dean was there. Like magic.
His mouth moved as he tried to find words, still clutching Sam’s arm like a lifeline. Speechless, for once in his life.
“Take your shirt off,” Sam almost laughed, manic with relief, but they weren’t even close to safe yet. He pried Dean’s hand away and reached for his boot where he’d hidden the angel sword. This was one of those days he was damned glad to have stupidly long legs.
“What? Alright, alright,” Dean stammered, tearing the sweater over his head.
Sam shoved him down onto his back, onto the hot, rocky ground, and pleaded with his eyes. “Just trust me; he’ll be back.”
Dean’s panicked stare zeroed in on the sword, but he jerked a nod. Swallowed hard. “I trust you, Sammy. Just make it quick. Do it.”
Sam hesitated, bewildered. “No, dumb ass, I’m not gonna kill you!”
“You’re not? I mean, I knew that—”
“Hold still and shut up, okay?”
Dean panted in pain as Sam used the sword to carve a sigil into his chest, a mockery of Michael’s symbol, blood and grace once again swirling together as Sam murmured holy words over the grimacing mess of his brother. Sam felt the force of immense wings beating at his back and he yanked up his sleeve, pressed his own leaking arm to Dean’s chest. If he’d guessed correctly and did everything perfectly and all the planets were in alignment, the ritual would keep Michael out of this particular vessel. Forever. The wind roared in his ears, merging with the breaking-glass cries of an angel’s true voice. But he stayed curled over Dean, chanting, afraid to stop the angry sear of grace passing from one wound to the other.
Like a great vacuum, the sky seemed to inhale and in a deafening whoosh, the angel was siphoned away. Might even have been repelled, Sam didn’t know. Didn’t fucking care. It was done.
He lay there, sapped.
Dean had to shove him away in order to sit up. Dust smudged his face as he looked down at his chest, stunned. “I … don’t …”
Sam just flopped a hand, pulling himself to his knees.
Dean leaned forward, curled his palm behind Sam’s sweaty neck and tangled fingers in his hair. He pulled Sam into his arms and sat there, holding him, drawing hitching breaths.
Finally, Dean found his voice. He eased back but kept his hands pressed to Sam’s cheeks, staring at him with eyes full of pain and apology, neither of which Sam wanted. All he wanted was what came next, one simple word.
“Thanks,” Dean said. The best fucking word in the English language, as far as Sam was concerned.
Though he ruefully gave due to the best word Enochian had to offer: dar-bess.
“Sam?” Dean said, his voice thick.
“I – I owe you a chicken dinner, man.”
Sam almost choked. “Yeah, Dean, you do. And we got to see the Grand Canyon, too. Cool, right?”
Dean grinned, swiping at his eyes. “Very cool, Sammy. Very cool.”
(Prompts: 1. Sam takes over the forces of Hell, makes them serve the Winchester cause in some way, and wins back his brother in the process. 2. Boyking!Sam and his magnificent tattoos/scarification/piercings. 3. AU where Sam is an angel hunter.)