Word Count: ~9900
Warnings: Language and heavy violence.
Summary: With Lucifer’s triumph over Michael, the gates of Hell fell apart, and in the wave of demons that issued forth, Dean Winchester lost his life. Years later, as Lucifer nears victory in Heaven, a changed Sam Winchester presides over a ruined world below, pushing the forces of humanity and Heaven toward extinction. The war is nearly over and nothing stands to alter its course, until Sam hears the reports and the rumors of a man and he knows—his brother is back.
Art Masterpost: Here
A/N: Written for the spn_reversebang challenge. A million thank you's to nyxocity for being the most talented and dedicated artist and collaborator I could ever hope for, and as always, my eternal gratitude to antarshakes, my wonderful, beta-extraordinaire.
The demon takes a long pull from a barely held together cigarette, pinpoint of orange the only color amongst the charred asphalt and blackened husks of burnt-out cars. Exhales harshly and resists the nagging urge to glance up.
Route 29 is still visible on a sharply bent sign post nearby.
With a sigh, he flicks the butt into the gravel and the gray clouds swirl threateningly overhead. Too open on the ground, too quiet.
“Is he here?” another voice materializes next to him and he tosses a glance of aggravation to the side.
“But is he—“
“You’d know if he was.”
The newcomer relaxes, eyes settling to his meatsuit’s natural green before they flick upwards. Five wooden pikes planted behind them in a straight line and stretching overhead. Secured on each one are various limbs and body parts, all but one writhing in slow, individual rhythms on the point.
“Had to make sure the prisoner was clean before he sees him,” the green-eyed demon says distractedly, dragging his eyes away from the scene above. “He’s really gonna show, huh? Only met one other that’s ever even seen his face. Heard from somebody else he has some sort of spell that makes you forget what he looks like.”
“Sounds like bullshit,” the first demon answers uneasily. “If he didn’t want anyone knowing his face, there’s a much easier way to get results than that.”
Green-eyes’ gaze flicks back upward, where a clenched fist opens and twitches. “Where do you think the rest of them are?”
“Scattered across the highways, whatever idiot demon the Boy King has locked inside still screaming with their mouth a thousand miles away. Not planning on finding out more than that.”
“Makes you wonder what they did to piss him off.”
The air cracks, overheated and suddenly stifling. “The torso said a name,” a low, calm voice informs the two of them. Instinctively, the first demon takes a step back as the Boy King’s murky, yellow eyes roam over them, assessing. Just as quickly, they darken to impatience.
“What prisoner made your lieutenant send the call?”
Green-eyes clears his throat. “They pinned him down during the raid on Pikes Peak. Crowley said—“
“Pikes Peak.” he interrupts. “Tell me it’s Singer.”
The demons exchange a cautious look. Carefully, green-eyes responds, “No, my King, not Singer. This one sacrificed himself so Singer could get away with some other human. No one at the battle recognized the new one, maybe a new leader.”
With a small chuckle, he begins, largely to himself, “They still think keeping him alive is going to accomplish something.”
He doesn’t say more, and after the moment stretches out, green-eyes volunteers, “They’re holding him at the Baron, and there’s something you should know about—“
He blinks and the Boy King is gone.
The exterior of the towering Royal Baron hotel is an exposed, rotting shell, disheveled rooms open to the cracked streets below. On the inside, the lobby, staircases, and elevators are as pristine as they were when tourists and newlyweds stepped across them.
When the Boy King strides across the bright marble, black eyes follow in his wake. A demon stationed at the elevator opens the doors and pointedly keeps his eyes on the ground until they close. The thing inside needs no direction.
On the nineteenth floor, the doors open with a cheery chiming. Revealing rows of cells of varying sizes and designs. Each room a distinct exercise in housing the prisoner therein. A witch whose cell is adorned in sigils and wards, glares as he passes by, sensing his presence. Most of them though, will never see or feel beyond their doorways again.
The new arrival is at the end of the hall. Heavily guarded from every angle, a trio of demons performing another round of assurances that this capture was complete. They all part, move to the sides of the room with its tacky paintings when he approaches. Leaving the prisoner in the center, head bowed.
“Castiel,” he circles him, coming to a stop at his back. “Castiel,” he murmurs directly into his ear, prompting him to raise his bloodied face.
At that, he roughly grabs Castiel by the chin, massive hand tilting his head back to peer into his eyes. A glow starts to build beneath Castiel’s skin where it touches Sam’s, making him grit his teeth, breath coming in ragged bursts. He swallows the pain into a grunt.
“Don’t come into my house, treat me like an idiot and then use that name on top of it.”
“My apologies, Boy King,” he answers dryly, face revealing the lingering burn of Sam’s touch.
Sam genuinely laughs. “I will find out what your angle is, Castiel. Why you’re here. Why you let yourself be captured. Where your powers are.”
“Perhaps presiding over your kingdom for so long has made you paranoid. We both know this day was inevitable. Only, I admit I intended to be on the opposite side of this scenario,” he pulls at the spell-bound chains around his wrists in agitation.
“If it were anyone else, I might be inclined to believe you. Your war effort, and I use the term loosely, isn’t amounting to much more than a two-fold ass-kicking, is it? Between Lucifer upstairs and me in this wasteland, I’m surprised you have the time to hatch clever schemes like this anymore.”
“You and Lucifer. Lost children that decided to take it out on the world.”
“Well, be sure to bring that up in the next session,” he paces. “We’ll fit in around my flaying the flesh from your all too human bones until you give me what I want. Don’t worry, I’ll send what’s left back to Bobby. Maybe forget that he turned his back on me and have that shiny-eyed moment of regret you’ve been keeping him alive in the hopes of.”
“What choice did he have? Did I. What Lucifer broke loose inside of you—“
“Is remaking the world,” Sam finishes. “This craphole has to belong to somebody. Might as well be me.”
There is pity in Castiel’s expression, even in the midst of this and the promise of so much worse to come. Sam’s eyes flare. He shakes his head. “There was a time when I was so in awe of you. But look at you now. A pathetic, dying breed.”
“And what about your breed?”
“There’s nothing like me,” he corrects. “So why should I give a damn about humanity? What’s it worth to me?”
He wraps a hand around Castiel’s throat, preventing him from answering and marveling at how vulnerable it is without the flickering light of Heaven coursing beneath it. “I don’t believe a word out of your lying, sanctimonious mouth. You always lied to us—to me,” the slip doesn’t escape Castiel’s attention, even as his air thins dangerously. “Lucifer didn’t. He kept his promise and when he left I was greater than anything you could ever hope to be. And most importantly?” staring into Castiel’s wide eyes, he shrugs, “I’m winning.”
It’s so much easier prying open Castiel’s thoughts now. He casually flips through images as Castiel goes pliant beneath him, nearly unconscious. The recent battle at Pikes Peak is near the top, Bobby’s face, unchanged over the years due to the angels’ meddling floats across the surface and—
There’s another. The one he escaped with, image indistinct and vague. Castiel is fighting him and putting up a better defense than Sam had anticipated. Still, it’s nothing that can’t be swept aside and he’s almost there when a burst of power issues forth and severs the connection abruptly.
Sam blinks, unsurprised by the hidden reserves, mind still mulling over the images Castiel ripped away from him. Senses heightened in active annoyance and creeping suspicion.
“I’ll be back for the rest,” he straightens up to find Castiel gazing back defiantly. “I promise you that.”
Seated at a plain, cheap table, fingers tapping a rapid rhythm on the surface, Sam’s eyes scan plastered walls. An old loft space, out of the way, hidden from the eyes of Heaven and Hell through the most powerful and extensive spellwork he could find or torture out of others—the center of his war.
By the edge of the table is an old typewriter, a relic even before Lucifer and Michael’s throwdown wiped most of the planet clean of its technological and human garbage. He ceases his tapping to type out a short description of the battle of Pikes Peak and rises to tack it to one of the detailed maps along the wall. Various countries, regions, cities. A sea of notes and pins, scribbled shorthand and jargon no one else would understand.
But no one set foot in here, even the few that could approximate its ever changing location. The stories that grew over the reclusive Boy King. The fear over what seeing him meant. All of it what Sam wanted.
From the old border between Michigan and Canada, he hears a message, details of a possible, impending attack in Detroit. A constant stream of demon voices, requesting orders and giving updates, Sam’s war waged mostly from this room.
Another, closer, asks if Sam wants company for the night. Something warm and something that splits easy. He sends a reply—not tonight.
He lets his thoughts drift as he stares intently at the covered wall. Wonders if he should dispatch a group to comb Pikes Peak more closely, determine what about that place prompted Castiel to get himself caught there. And who the unknown player on the board was. Bobby, the old son of a bitch, wouldn’t trust new blood easy.
Castiel and Bobby. There’s a familiar, missing link he doesn’t want put to voice. Spent years waiting, coiled, for the angels to pull that card. He shuts the thought out of his head instead and refocuses his attention to the walls. The disorganized, obsessive walls of a hunter being used to wage war on Heaven and Earth.
Some habits die hard.
Sam rests against the wall, arms folded impatiently, as Meg digs around in Castiel’s chest cavity. Her fingers make wet, squelching noises when she draws them out every so often and pushes back in, forcing a new opening in the blood-streaked skin.
The last time, she grins at him and sticks a bloody finger into his mouth. “Was it as good for you, baby?”
“Better,” Castiel croaks out between wracking coughs.
“Usually when I take a walk down memory lane, I don’t actually get to walk on the person. Don’t think I’ve ever pierced a heart with a heel before,” she muses, tracing a finger along Castiel’s jawline.
“Did you get anything or not?” Sam cuts in.
She sighs at Sam’s lack of a playful spirit. “What little power he has left seems to be dedicated to locking down that pretty head of his. And, of course, not dying,” she holds a hand out in capitulation. “It was enough to throw you off, which means I’m striking out completely. I could dig a little deeper,” she lilts, starting toward Castiel again, but Sam jerks her around with an invisible hand.
“If you’re blowing smoke up my ass, scattering your parts along the interstates will look like paradise compared to what I’ll—“
“Wait, you think I’m in league with the feathered stiffs?” she scoffs. “Did Crowley whisper in your ear about me? I swear I’ll have that hound of his rip off his balls.”
Sam points at a slumped Castiel. “He made it in here with a store of power that nobody caught. I don’t trust him being here to begin with. So I will strap you and Crowley and anyone else down if I decide there’s reason to.”
His power flares out across the room warningly and he glances at Castiel, golden eyes narrowed as he thinks. “I want him moved. Don’t keep him in the same spot for too long.”
“Understood,” Meg acquiesces, swallowing a sharp-tongued response at the precarious state of Sam’s mood.
“I know what you’re doing,” Sam states as demons enter the room to prepare Castiel for transport. “Dangling some blurry picture of him in front of me.”
“I didn’t show you Dean,” Castiel argues. “You saw what you wanted to see.”
A muscle in Sam’s neck twitches and Castiel is thrown against the wall, long, red gashes tearing down his sides. As he screams hoarsely, Sam strides over to him, expression deceptively calm. “You don’t say his name. You don’t talk about him.”
Meg wisely keeps her distance from the two of them but watches with interest, cruel smile playing on her lips as she starts to hear it. Faint at first but growing in intensity. A call for help. She doesn’t dare interrupt Sam, eyes still burning holes of the literal kind into Castiel.
“I hear it,” he says finally. “Detroit.”
He lets Castiel fall to the ground and holds up a halting hand to Meg. “I’ll take care of it. Stay here and stay on top of him.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” she perks up, tongue teasingly poking from the corner of her ruby stained mouth. “In fact, it’s my pleasure.”
Departing without a look back, the plush carpet beneath his boots drops away, fading into the familiar, disembodied sensation of falling out of space and tearing his way back into it. It still pulls at his chest, the force of it, and as always, he’s in Detroit in his mind before the rest of him catches up.
The droning, vague muzak of the hotel transitions harshly into the chaotic, discordant tones of battle in progress. He hears it all—the angels reduced to using human speech to protect their dwindling, mortal allies, the demons frantically barking orders that resonate inside Sam’s head.
At an intersection where the mangled remains of a traffic light litter the road, he senses an approach. Snags the flaming haired angel before she’s fully materialized and burns her right out of her pale-skinned vessel with a crushing grip on her throat.
There are others. A shopping mall across the street is thrumming with power being flung wide. The corner of his mouth quirks up in anticipation as he stalks across the street. Only to have the broken down façade of a fast food joint explode onto the street, showering him with flames that don’t do more than annoy. Humans start to stream out, paying him no mind as they flee, unable to sense his presence and how perilously close they are to annihilation the way the angels can.
He lets them go. Wants divine blood on his hands this afternoon.
Bringing up the rear is a short-cropped haircut and a pair of square shoulders. Threadbare cargo jacket stretched tight across his chest. Something different. Human but not quite.
When Sam raises his hand to stop him, it hits. Crackles along his spine like lightning.
It must hit the different one too, because he stops, slowly turns to face Sam without fear. There’s no surprise, no sound. Just a pair of gazes locking tight and still in the midst of post-armageddon.
Sam shakes his head slightly, this strange, unconscious movement. Dean’s eyes are brimming with fire and energy, the way Sam remembered before Lucifer came in and he saw no more. Before he woke up again and Dean was gone. But Dean doesn’t move, only weighs Sam with a clenched jaw.
Sam opens his mouth to speak, do anything to make Dean fucking move but suddenly finds the most unpleasant sensation creeping along his side. Looking down, a dagger protrudes from his flank, the fact that it even registered a testament to whatever witch put the mojo on it. Growling, he yanks it out, dragging the bold but suicidal human that stuck it in back to him and separating him from most of his spine.
He drops the dripping mess onto the concrete and catches the long, closed off look Dean gives him before he vanishes into the air.
For minutes that stretch on seemingly forever, he just stands in a Detroit street, hands dripping and glowing eyes swimming with uncertainty and fury. The day was bound to come when they sent him back. He always knew.
Now that day was here, and there was nothing Sam had desperately needed or was determined to stop more.
As Crowley enters the elegantly furnished quarters he keeps in the ruins of London, a hand bursts through his chest, cracking ribs and gripping his heart in its fist. “This better be you bringing me results.”
Sam’s eyes dart back and forth, burning intensely the way they do when he’s working to contain himself.
“Funny, I was just about to turn in a report,” Crowley says tightly, grimacing slightly in discomfort. “We’re tracking him from Detroit but he’s cleverer than he looks and as you may have noticed, risen from the grave with a few upgrades.”
Sam relinquishes the beating organ with a scowl, prompting Crowley to glance mournfully at his ruined suit. “And before you ask, no, I didn’t know. There were rumblings but nothing concrete, nothing but vagaries to piss you off,” he straightens what’s left of his tie. “If it had been more, I would’ve brought the paper in like a good pet, but I’m not in the business of running afoul that sunny disposition of yours if I can help it.”
“It wasn’t your decision to make,” Sam spits, sending a wall of bookshelves with editions Crowley had been meticulously restoring up in flames.
Crowley exhales wearily at the sight of it and proceeds tentatively. “He’s back for the precise reason you’ve always predicted. To be the final, desperate, tacky attempt to salvage a losing game. They want inside your head, Boy King.”
The expression Sam wears is a million miles away. As Crowley finishes speaking, Sam’s brow furrows and Crowley quickly finds himself unceremoniously dumped into the Royal Baron across the boiling sea.
He rolls his eyes at Meg when she clicks over on tall heels to him, smirking. “Oh, please tell me you actually thought that would work. The old, chin-up, fearless leader speech? There is way too much human left in him for that.”
“Goodie,” Crowley drawls, “So it’s drinks until we get word of how monumentally moronic he’s planning to be to see his brother, then?”
Meg arches a brow in resigned agreement. “Winchesters being reckless idiots over each other and an egomaniacal leader of Hell flushing his future down the toilet. I’m all nostalgic.” She throws her arms out half-heartedly. “Up for an old-fashioned mutiny?”
With a sigh, Crowley pushes past her and sets up shop behind the nearby bar. “You have at it. Lay a hand on Dean Winchester and I’ll be sure to sponsor the stretch of highway Sam pikes your lady bits on.”
Conflicting reports begin to flood in immediately. Demons chomping at the bit to be the one to deliver the Boy King his brother. A possible sighting outside of Corpus Christi, another in some remote valley nestled in the Smoky mountains, hollow tips and leads that amount to nothing.
Sam doesn’t respond to them. Stands in front of his war map and watches all the useless information light up in points across it. They wouldn’t find Dean if he didn’t want to be found. Sam was certain he didn’t, not by them.
Dean was waiting on someone else.
He opens his fist, coil of string and pointed edges warm in his palm. His thumb strokes gently around the amulet, contours he hasn’t touched in years but has never forgotten. Not a single one.
Slipping it over his head and concealing it beneath the collar of his shirt, he waves a hand to reveal a window looking out onto the ground below. Hadn’t bothered to use them before in here. Wouldn’t ever have the same wrecked, fire-licked view for more than a day or so anyway.
But he looks now. On a small area of wood, still mostly burnt stumps and black limbs, but beneath that, fledgling green. The world attempting to repair itself. Nature and humanity locked in a futile struggle for existence.
Sam cocks his head, thinking. Trying to muster up any sort of feeling for it. The only thing that comes is a desire to burn the rest of it down, everything in his way until it’s just him and Dean standing amongst the flames.
He steps up onto the window’s ledge and leaps down into his ruined kingdom below.
When Sam finds the underground camp, calling out to him like a beacon the closer he comes to it, he doesn’t bother slaughtering the sleeping humans in their tattered tents and their paltry patrols. He’s too close, needs to see him, needs to do something with the wealth of hate, love, and overwhelming relief warring in his chest and making him unstable.
This is a mistake. But there wasn’t ever a question that he wasn’t going to make it.
It’s at the back, almost in a place of honor, heading up the sea of dilapidated housing. That’s Dean, pulling people to him and commanding loyalty in a way that the Boy King doesn’t. Respect and trust instead of fear. Sam would call it laughingly sentimental if he weren’t busy imagining his fist crashing through Dean’s face for doing this to him.
It shouldn’t barrel into his chest as hard the second time, but it does.
The thin flap of the tent opening flutters to rest on his shoulder as he stands there, watching Dean’s hand halt mid-stroke on the knife he’d been sharpening. Sam drags his eyes along the pale veins of Dean’s arms, the sleeves rolled up to the crook of his elbow, short spikes of hair sticking out in various directions.
Dean’s mouth falls open as if he were about to speak, but he snaps it shut, nods at nothing in particular. There’s a short exhale and Sam doesn’t know which of them moves first, but then they’re crowding each other’s space, gripping onto each other like there’s nothing else and Sam closes his eyes at the feeling of their cheeks pressed tightly together, the burn of Dean’s stubble against his smooth-shaven skin.
His smell. That’s what wraps itself around Sam the hardest. Years of living with it flooding back in a sensory overload.
He doesn’t want to let go when Dean sighs and starts to pull away. Is half-dazed as Dean fixes him with a pointed stare and delivers a stinging right hook infused with all of his newly acquired power. There’s an audible crack when it connects and like that, Sam’s attention is front and center again. He shakes off the blow and quickly has Dean immobilized in an old hold he hasn’t had the opportunity to utilize in a lifetime, one arm restrained behind his back.
The feel of Dean’s ass against his cock is making his head cloud again. Nothing else had ever come close.
“You’re strong,” he slides his hands to Dean’s hip and pulls them back against his crotch, “But I’m stronger. And I have all the experience at being more than human, Dean.”
Dean puts up an obligatory struggle against him, but all is does is rub him off on Sam more. Sam suspects it isn’t entirely unintentional and clenches his jaw in response.
“So,” Dean’s voice is thick with rising lust, but overlayed with an unmistakable air of scorn, “What do I call you? Boy King?”
“Yeah, well, I remember you a little differently too,” Sam counters in his ear. Exhales hotly over the shell of it. “Now I know what happened to Castiel’s power.”
Dean takes advantage of the distraction, sending Sam tumbling gracelessly backwards with a bright, burst of power. Rests his hands on the rickety table he’d been working out, breath coming in fast pants. Sam straightens up and swallows, follows suit and uses the space apart to try to clear his head too.
One thing that hasn’t changed. Being around Dean again, it’s—dangerous.
When Dean looks up, his gaze hooks on Sam’s eyes. He forgets that they’re inhuman, doesn’t change them and hasn’t since Lucifer gave him his body back.
“You’ve been gone a long time, but you’ll get used to it,” Sam says plainly, but lets them roll back to hazel regardless.
“Used to it?” Dean gestures in disbelief at everything and nothing. Laughs mirthlessly. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
A long minute passes as Sam’s brow furrows in confusion. “You can’t be serious. What, are you gonna stay here and be the angels’ little soldier boy? They only brought you back to dick me around. Fuck them.”
Dean’s expression darkens, and reads like Sam is missing something painfully obvious. “Oh, I’ve heard plenty since I’ve been back, but see, I don’t need to listen to the angels. I just need to stick my head outside and see what Sam Winchester’s better living through demonics has done for humanity.” He levels Sam with a look of disgust so intense it’s practically tangible. “This is what you let happen after I was gone?”
Sam’s eyes slip back to yellow, anger flaring. “If I had been able to do this sooner, you would’ve never been gone in the first place. I wouldn’t have had to wait on Lucifer to take Heaven before I could have you back.”
“Then good thing you weren’t,” Dean retorts, “I’d hate to look ungrateful.”
He turns his back on Sam, sitting heavily on a stool and picking up the knife he’d been sharpening when Sam came in. If there is anything more impossible than taking over the world, it’s getting Dean to open his mouth once he’s done dealing with something.
He could threaten to kill every man, woman, and child in this camp and it would make Dean speak, but none of it would mean anything. Some things even the Boy King couldn’t control.
Dean is back on his work with the knife, steadfastly pretending Sam isn’t there. Doesn’t look at him again and Sam doesn’t give him much chance before he puts as much distance between the two of them as he can imagine.