The longer Sam sits there and the longer they beat him (cut him, burn him), the less he can bring himself to care. Last time somebody tied him up in a barn and tortured him, he broke out and stole a car and brought his demon brother back home. That was with a dislocated shoulder that hurt just as bad as this wound in his leg. This time… the difference this time is that there’s no one to go back to, to go on for. There’s no reason for Sam to be anywhere other than here, watching dispassionate as the body he’s never much cared for blisters and bleeds.
[ Whyyyy? I blame this on you. Here, have some feels. ]
Being an imaginary friend is serious business; Sully should know.
There’s always something left over after it ends, always a faint awareness of his kids. His kids. The other Zanna sometimes shake their heads. “Don’t prod,” they say, “It fades.” It’s not good to hold on so tightly, they tell him. Job like this, it takes a lot out of you—seeing all that pain and trying to bring brightness, trying to paint bright colors over all the ugliness. Zanna can’t get drunk. Forget, they say. Let go. Especially ones like Sam, the messy ones.
Move on. You give all of yourself to every kid, but you’ve gotta have the sense to take it back when it’s over or they’ll break you. But maybe these kids deserve to have someone break for them.
Sully felt when Sam died the first time, and the second time. He felt when Sam jumped into Hell and left the plane the Zanna operated on. A flutter—a blink, and Sam was gone, like a TV turned off.
They tell Sully he’s wrong to hold on like this, that Winchesters break everything they touch. Sully knows better, of course. Sam has always been a hero; that will never change.
Sully was with Magda for only a few days, a special case no one else dared to touch. Too old, a lot of them said of the regressed, suffering mind that had all but cried out to them. Too unstable, too dangerous, that one, with the powers to detroy Zanna if she wished. Lonely, despairing, lost. Can’t help every kid. Save your resources for the ones you can actually save.
She reminded him of Sam, so Sully went.
She found solace for just a few days before her mother had caught her talking to him. “Demon,” the woman had whispered when she saw her daughter speaking to empty air. “Consorting with demons.”
Magda had bled out her penance for finding peace with him. Sully knew when he wasn’t wanted, when his presence caused more harm than good. He left.
Magda was crossed off the list of potentials as a mutually destructive relationship. Didn’t mean Sully couldn’t still sense her sometimes, that bone-deep despair and self-hatred. (Like Sam, so much like Sam.)
He felt when she met Sam, felt something like light growing in him, two souls mending each other. He had never hated the bond, but he never loved it more than when he felt two of his kids bring each other such frail, tentative joy.
He feels them part, better for having met, feels the pain he never quite healed in Sam scabbing over, senses a hope within Magda he barely thought possible.
Sully cherishes that while it lasts, and he feels good.
He senses Magda fading, of course.
He’s by her side in an instant, just by thinking it. Benefits of the bond, if you hold onto it.
“It’s all right,” he says, stroking her hair as she fades. He doesn’t let her hear the tears that threaten his voice. “You told me you believed in heaven, right?”
He watches a Reaper appear, stares her down as she settles in front of Magda, gaze steady. She’s calm and self-possessed, with a leather jacket and tall boots and warm, dark skin.
He’s only a Zanna, but he’ll make sure this Reaper takes Magda where she belongs, he swears it. The reaper stares at him, raises an eyebrow, and nods, as if amused by his helpless defiance.
Sully turns back to Magda. “Well, that’s where you’re going. You’re going right to heaven, Magda. You’ve always been so good. Here,” he whispers. He feels Magda’s soul let go of her redundant body, heart no longer beating. “Here. This lady’s gonna bring you home. You’ll be so happy there.”
Magda looks at him, and she smiles.
“Come on,” the Reaper says, and when Magda takes her hand, Sully watches her soul spiral upward in a blaze of light. The Reaper nods, once, and disappears, leaving Sully on the ground with the vacant, bloodied body of his girl.
Let go, they’ve always told him. It’ll drive you mad to hold on to them. Zanna live too long to tie themselves to every assignment.
And maybe they’re right. His record is the spottiest of them all. Maybe he’s sewn so much of himself into his kids that they take it with them whenever they go.
He remembers her smile as she faded, though, remembers meeting Sam last year, remembers the warmth Sam’s meeting with Magda brought to both of them, feeling the both of them grow because of it.
No, he’ll never regret any of it. He’ll see every last one of them off if he has to, break himself open for every beautiful soul.
When Sam is sick, Dean tucks him under all the blankets he can find in the motel room and makes a run to the vending machine for Sam’s favorites – ginger ale and those orange cheese-and-peanut butter crackers.
Sam still calls them “hospital crackers”, because of the two days they spent living off them in the ER while John lay unconscious in a hospital bed and “Uncle Bobby” drove out from South Dakota.
His little brother doesn’t remember the wait like Dean does, wondering whether their dad would make it, and dodging hospital staff until Bobby showed up. Sam was only five and to this day, he only recalls the crackers and the card games and curling up on the couch next to his big brother.
When Dean opens the door to the room, Sam’s head makes an appearance above the blankets.
“I actually,” Sam says to Chuck, stumbling over his words, “I, um, I prayed to you.” He pauses, just for a moment, a tiny suspension of time. “Maybe it got lost in the spam.”
He smiles, gestures nervously with his hands. He’s trying to make it okay.
Dean kind of wants to punch him in the face.
It’s stupid. It’s stupid, because obviously it’s fricking God that really needs a smack to the jaw. Wouldn’t work, of course. Dean’s punched angels before. It’s a profoundly unsatisfying experience. But he can feel it, tingling at the backs of his knuckles; can hear the crunch of it, a heavy dull blow that might at least start to convey the weight of Dean’s anger and disappointment and frustration. What the fuck.
“I can see that not everybody’s happy about this,” Chuck says, looking at Dean all regretful and Dean’s so mad and so disappointed that he can barely speak.
“People prayed to you,” he says. He doesn’t say, “Sam prayed to you,” but he thinks it and he looks at Sam and he sees Sam’s colour heighten, just a little; sees Sam look away. OK. Right. It makes Dean wanna howl. It’s. After all. It’s Sam who spent fucking months of this year on his knees beside his bed, head bowed and hands clasped in nervous supplication while Dean watched him, so uncomfortable that eventually he had to interrupt. It’s Sam who got poisoned and was so afraid for his life that he prayed - that he called out to God long before he spoke a word to Dean. It’s Sam who went to confession when he was a little kid, who prayed ‘every day’ through their adolescence, through Stanford, through Jess; it’s Sam who kept faith and kept faith and kept faith and now, now he’s sitting there in front of God himself and he’s just like “oh well, guess you probably had other things to think about, it’s fine”?!
Baby powder and butterfly kisses. These are the memories that are still fresh in Mary’s mind. But stolen credit cards, cheap beer and two sons older than she is? That’s all new to her.
Left alone while Sam and Dean check out a case nearby, she wanders the Bunker, looking for clues, anything to help her understand more about the boys. She trails her fingertips along the dark wood tables and dusty lore books of the library, and the antique maps in the war room. These are tools of hunting but say nothing about the hunters themselves.
Which is why she finds herself standing in the middle of Dean’s bedroom fifteen minutes later. The little boy who loved to play with toy cars and eat homemade pie is now a man who mounts weapons on the wall and keeps porn meticulously organized under his bed. As she picks up the family photos displayed on Dean’s desk, her smile is bittersweet. Moments that feel like yesterday to her are now yellowed pictures, their corners bent and surfaces scratched with age.
Sam’s bedroom is a mystery. It is both barren and full. Stacks of case files and lore books are piled around the room but she can’t find a single personal item until she spies a wooden box at the back of his closet. Opening the lid, Mary finds more photos, some childhood artwork and a necklace with a brass amulet. Her smile returns as she spies the green army men at the bottom of the box. She pulls one out, recognizing the cheap plastic figurines that Dean would play with for hours on their living room floor. He must have passed down the toys to Sam, treasured possessions, from big brother to little brother.
She closes the lid carefully and puts the box back on the shelf, carefully tucking the little toy into her pocket as a reminder that no matter how much bigger or older they get, they were once her little boys.
OK so I wanted to have this fic finished today but it’s got very long and out of control and I don’t think I’ll be able to write another 8k or so words this evening, so, have the start of it because it is really a fic for this day.
Sam wakes up on November 2nd with a miserable hangover, his mouth furry and thick and sour and a throbbing knot of pain behind his eyes. He forgot to turn off his alarm when he went to bed, so the tinny ring of it sounds out at 6.30 like it always does, and he rolls over to hit the snooze and notices the date at the top of the screen. It’s shock enough to jolt him fully awake, his dreamless alcohol-coma sleep dropping away to leave him shaky and unrested. Suddenly chilly under his scratchy blanket, he sits up in bed and draws his knees up to his chest. He hugs his arms around them, staring unseeing into the gloom.
Dean’s enthusiasm – no, his unsettling determination – for them both to get blackout drunk last night is starting to make more sense. Sam’s brother has been volatile, unpredictable, since Mom walked out around two weeks ago. The night of, Dean had gone to bed straight away, hadn’t said anything to Sam at all; and then had appeared in the library next morning with an unconvincing grin, bearing overfull plates of breakfast and iron-solid insistent on taking a hunt which he’d found somewhere in the Arizona wild. On the road, he’d blasted the music and slapped down Sam’s attempts to talk, hooked up with two separate women in one night (and in the bed next to Sam’s), and finally had argued Sam into an ill-researched confrontation with a Balrog which almost got the two of them killed. They’d despatched it eventually, although it had burned the both of them badly, so that Dean’s blistered now down one side of his torso and the fingers of Sam’s right hand can’t close.