When one door closes, another opens somewhere.
The revenant doesn't have time for Sam, tonight. Time enough for blood messages, yes, but really Sam's been quite dull and needed a lesson. Sam's going to be the sweetest grab it's ever made, because it's tasted fear before but not when it's been building for so long, and the boy is so clumsy now.
The previous owner of this quick, well-made shell is so damn noisy even though he's trying not to be. The revenant knows Dean is out and thinking coup-thoughts, and yes Sam is such a lighthouse but Dean is a claxon for the blind in here. Sam will get a visit later...when things are settled with the noisemaker.
It catches Dean out in the open.
Dean's thoughts are a stream of obscenities because hey, the fuck, this is his own headspace, and he's lost. Sam will have a lot to say about that, and for once Dean really wants to hear it because it'll mean real Sam and real world and an end to all this. Prairie gives way to woods and woods gives way to desert from one blink to the next, and he knows he should have control over this. He's internalized everything his whole life, and what's it got him? Fucking nature trail to hell. There has to be a switch, or a door, or just something that screams 'hey figure it out', and he finds himself trying to imagine these things into being. He should be able to create them if he tries hard enough. He wants a dark, eerie castle with a witch he can jam a broomstick into and douse with water, something he can win against and pound into submission so he can earn his way out.
"This is bullshit," he says aloud, and his internal voice is hoarse with exhaustion. He's winding down and has no idea how to combat anything here because he's so used to doing it all with his hands.
He feels its breath before it reaches him, even though it doesn't breathe; it's not visible but it's all around him, and when he turns there's a sense of a humanoid form that he doesn't see in ways he's used to.
"Hey, finally," Dean says, and it sounds steady but doesn't feel that way. "You want me to buy you dinner before I skullfuck you with that tree over there?"
That quickly, he's being compressed. He'd be screaming if his soul had any breath; he can't hold up and he knows it but it's never stopped him before. It's the same pressure he felt before he was able to barricade himself in, this inexorable shove to the precipice of his own existence. He digs his feet in, he's using his fingernails to try and find purchase in the dust, and he slides away anyway. He only got away the first time because it didn't understand him yet and he wasn't so tired. If he can at least make it stop chasing his brother, that'll be enough for now. He can do that much, for awhile. He can be a blazing example, a warning to others, just so long as it works.
Not like this, not after everything, not leaving Sam.
It's enough to break him but not in the way he thinks he's breaking.
The cracks start in his hands, ice blue and cataract silver; his structual integrity holds only a fraction longer, and when he goes it's a supernova he never. Quite. Feels.
It scuffs a foot outside the door this time, this once, somewhere in eastern Indiana, and pauses well away from the salt. The brother within is fading and the brother without is all stretched shadows and shattered hope and might actually come outside this time.
Sam's so glad to see the face at the door that his relief is obvious. The revenant pauses at the short, sharp laugh and slump of the shoulders that comes and isn't sure how to react. Sam backs up until the backs of his knees hit the single bed and he collapses to a sit, looking completely devastated. Dean's face is smirking at him and it never reaches the eyes. Dean was always eyes first, but Sam is just glad the body is still walking.
"Did you miss me?" Once says.
Sam is careful not to react any more than he already has. The sound of that voice alone wears him down further than the blood on the door did. He's still staring when the eyes widen and the face pales, and the form takes a single deliberate step even further away from the door.
Sam sees the stutter of consciousness and waits, unsure of what it signifies. He realizes it's more of a fullscale glitch than an anomaly when Once grimaces and the right hand arcs out to grab the doorway. The fingers uncurl past the threshold by accident and the hand jerks away again with a hiss.
"Dean," Sam says, and it's barely audible but the form in the doorway hears him and the brief upward glance affords an instant of connection.
The right hand slams open-palm against the outside of the building just outside the doorway, in rage or frustration or out of a lack of control Sam can't tell because the face is expressionless again but also now shining with sweat. "Stay inside, Sam."
Sam is on his feet again and only inches from the saltline, because the words emerge under a lot of pressure but they're all Dean's.
"Dean," Sam says, and he's at his most compelling when he's this earnest, "...come inside. Cross the line and maybe it won't follow." His voice trails off in trembles but he's already gotten everything across that he meant to. He doesn't believe it'll work anyway, and the timbre of his voice betrays it.
Dean is shaking his head. He doesn't have that much of a hold, yet, and it isn't that simple. He has to do something to shake it loose, anything, and salt won't do it. He wheels away from the doorway and starts walking, because at least his legs are working so far. He still doesn't understand what happened, or how he managed to get things together by coming apart, but he's willing to just go with it. He starts thinking of how he can jostle the thing loose and all he's coming up with is physical damage because that's how he's always thought. He can put his head under water or throw himself down some stairs, since it's not likely to enjoy either and ending up in traction will be a better option than letting this go on.
Listen. Traffic. Motels have easy freeway access, lucky me.
He takes off and every step is leaden because he's loose but close to unravelling and the revenant is wrapping itself around him in coils that weigh him down. Somewhere behind him a confused and painfully hopeful Sam has left the door open and crossed the salt with a shotgun and neither of them are going to look back. He crosses the parking lot with all the grace of an arthritic and the dew on the overgrown grass in the adjoining vacant lot clings to him as he struggles along. He locks up at one point near the edge of a sloping ravine that heads down toward the freeway while it tries to make him turn back to Sam. For just an instant he gets a headful of how badly it wants Sam. The entire world is red with an urge to lay hands on Sam and get inside. That next step is really hard, and maybe there are joints that will give way if he keeps this up.
Oh, that's an overpass, right there, and it's closed for repairs.
"What are you doing!"
Sammy is screaming, he's in a panic, and Dean can finally hear him, but he doesn't stop. He remembers hearing Sam scream out of fear as a child, and the sound had kicked something without remorse to life in Dean's brainstem, something that would rend the world to pieces. It was an instinct down in the reptile part of the evolution ladder, merciless and holding no regard for self. Sam screaming as an adult kicks both brainstem and gut into gear and ups the ante, because children scream at the drop of a hat and adults only scream when they've reached the end of their ability to cope. It makes everything easier because the revenant is a bastard but it can't stand against what he'd do for Sam.
He's only going to have one chance. This is probably going to be bad and he wishes Sam didn't have to see it, but hey: he's been wishing that for twenty-two years and they've gone too far too many times. He doesn't want Sam to have to shoot him to save him. He can't leave Sam with that. His grip is slipping in everything, on himself and the world, and he pushes harder.
Not even light escapes? Right, asshole? How's this?
God, he loves overpasses. They're so handy. It's a drop right onto the busy Interstate below. A good, long drop. Dean thinks maybe the hitchhiker is only willing to play chicken for so long. It's shuffled mortal coils before but obviously hates that shit because boy, hasn't it held on to this one way too hard.
"Okay, bitch," he says aloud with his very own vocal cords. "This is the last stop."
"Don't touch me, Sammy," Dean hears himself say as he climbs up onto the siderail, because the thing will use the contact to leap. It's all about the physical with this thing when it isn't mindfucking someone. He can hear Sam struggling just as hard as he is. Dean is wrestling with something foreign lodged in his soul, but Sam is back there wrestling only himself, and even Dean knows that's a lot harder. "Whatever happens, don't touch." He makes sure his back is turned because he can always trust Sam with his back and if he sees Sam's face he'll lose all his resolve.
His hands strain against the cold metal so hard they ache. One impulse to hold on, one to let go. The thing has finally realized that Dean is serious. Dean means to hold himself hostage and make a Rorschach test of his lifeblood on the northbound lane below, he's not playing around, and nothing knows that better than the thing sharing his headspace. There's still an internal argument going on.
Are we choosing? Are we paper-scissors-rock over my brother? Are we overpass-asphalt-with a chance of semis?
Dean's got both feet over the railing for a leap of faith and luckily it's too dark for anyone below to have noticed him yet. He doesn't want the county suicide squad mobilizing to talk him down because really it's all redrum from here on out and film at eleven is not how he wants to be remembered. Hey mom no hands!
"Dean, come on, there's a better way to do this," Sam is saying, and Dean would cover his ears if he could, because that voice is quiet and pleading and inutterably sad. This is what they've come to.
"Not today, Sam," Dean says, and even he can hear how little control he has. He should say more and he can't, he hasn't got breath or time for hey Sam I'm sorry or it's okay, we've seen enough to know it probably doesn't end here. This is just a little collateral damage, to him, in the end. "Turn around."
Sam won all the staring contests and most of the standoffs in their past. He's so solid and rooted in himself that he doesn't have to drop his eyes, for anyone. This time, he flinches first. Maybe not a good soldier and maybe not a good son, but Sam all the same and more than the sum of his flaws.
Hands reach forward and get just a double handful of leather to begin with, but then Sam's able to pull in close enough to slide his hands underneath and grab Dean's shirt at the stomach in one hand and get a grip on his belt in the other.
The revenant makes the final leap before Dean can, bridging the gap and reaching for Sam with everything, and Sam feels cold fingers slip past his ribs and around his throat, an invasion too quick to even startle from. He doesn't let it stop him from jerking Dean away from the railing even though the force he uses out of panic nearly knocks them both to the ground. There's a moment where Sam and Dean are caught together, hooks already dug sharp in one and reaching into the other, connected by something older than the souls it holds.
Sam is the last piece and a circuit closes that the revenant had no fundamental idea of; Sam and Dean are suddenly brother-mirrors facing each other and reflecting into eternity now that it's connecting them. There are no gaps left to hide in between the two, and caught between there's no room to pull free either. It shreds and shreds in a live current accidentally created in its greed, twisting in a solar wind made by the same light-not-escaping it had taunted Dean over.
Sam does not need to try and level adjuration against it. Sam is adjuration.
Nothing in the visible spectrum remains, finally, and the tendrils of whatever held them both hostage trail away. There's a terrible moment of silence while the shock of it buffets them, and Dean's form stands and blinks at the middle distance with a sparking, silver-blue gaze.
The light stutters and burns out, camera-flashes capturing nothing. The knees buckle because if the form's not hollow, it's close to it. Sam's death grip keeps the pavement from doing more damage than the revenant already has, and he sits on the ragged gray stone and holds all he has left close to his heart.
Sam is keening into the dark and can't even say why anymore.