stellawind: The Plaza After Rain - Painted by Paul Cornoyer c.1910 (Default)
[personal profile] stellawind
Title: The Importance of Truth
Author: [livejournal.com profile] stellawind
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] v_son_sayian
Genre: Drama
Pairing: very minor Sam/Gabriel
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Manipulation, Character death
Tier/Word Count: Second Tier / ~11,200
Summary: Mystery Spot AU. One Tuesday, Gabriel slips up, and Dean is sent to Hell months ahead of schedule. Now, this early Apocalypse wouldn't be a problem for Gabriel, but Sam's stubbornness has made things...complicated.
Link to art: Here!
Also on AO3!



The first and most important thing: it was not his fault.

Sure, he'd set Dean up to die – after all, death was a key point of this little exercise – but Gabriel hadn't meant for Dean to really die.

See, Doris had made cake for lunch, a chocolate cake. Gabriel had invested a lot of time and experimentation in this little project. Turned out she was a stress baker, and from there, it had been easy. A little accident and a ding on her car later, she was making chocolate cake, red-eyed, but somehow resolute.
 
Gabriel could appreciate that resolve, as it led to what was probably the best lunch dessert since he'd started this chain of Tuesdays, and he was engrossed in it. The frosting was some cream cheese and whipped cream concoction that he seriously needed to replicate. The cake itself was thick, luscious and so sinful...

Well, there a number of jokes he could make about that, if he wasn’t so painfully aware that Lucifer was coming.

So, anyway, the point is, Gabriel was taking comfort in chocolate, like many sane and rational beings did, and it turned out to be very good chocolate. Distracting chocolate in fact.

Distracting enough that when Dean Winchester died that iteration of Tuesday, Gabriel didn’t catch his soul and the Righteous Man went to Hell.
 
***

There was a sickening thud, the blaring of a car horn, and Sam knew what had happened.

Despite it, he turned around, and then was somehow on his knees by Dean, petting at his head. It wasn’t like he could stop himself. This was Dean, and even after a million deaths (and oh, god please, don’t let it come to that, a hundred was a hundred too many times), he doubted he’d ever not feel the terror and pain coursing through him.

The man was saying something, and Sam only looked up long enough to bear his teeth. Same fucking car, same fucking geezer. Damn it, he’d made this mistake before!

Dean one last time, trying to say something and Sam only shook his head. He’d heard it all before. Always fundamentally the same. Always about him, always a Sammy. Always about someone he was pretty sure had died the first impossible day. It was like Dean didn’t even get he was the one dying here, it was always about Sammy.

Sam closed his eyes, and brought his hand away from Dean’s face to clutch at his hand, too tight, and not caring. He bit back a cry as he felt the faint pressure back spasm, Dean’s breath shuddering to a stop.

The opening strain to the Heat of the Moment never came.

Rather there was something like the snap of a sheet and then a warm presence behind him.

“Oh, shit.”

Sam turned.

A man was standing there, looking thoroughly disoriented as he stared down at Dean’s body. In one hand he held a plate of what looked to be chocolate cake, oddly enough. Well, not so oddly. It was the Trickster.

Really, Sam should have known. Slow dancing aliens were this guy's idea of a joke. Killing his brother for infinite Tuesdays had to be a party game to him. One point per death, with additional points for creativity! his mind helpfully supplied as a tag line.
 
Would the game end when he finally went mad? It wouldn't be that long then.

The Trickster seemed to finally notice him, looking at first puzzled, and then his expression changed a little, like he'd just realized he'd missed something. He was looking at Sam, really looking at him, like Dean's body –and he hated that it was a body, there had never been a body, only Dean dying– wasn't there.

Sam bared his teeth, and the Trickster looked even more uncomfortable.

“That wasn't supposed to happen,” the Trickster finally said.

“Oh, really? You mean it hasn't been you killing him?” Sam said, and knew the words were coming out oddly, all breathy and arched until he growled out the end.

The Trickster only winced.

***

Look, it had been a really good piece of chocolate cake, alright?

But now Gabriel was pretty sure he'd just fucked up, big time. Over cake. Damn it, he hated when Sigurn was right. She'd been talking about Ragnarök and honey cake, but really setting off Armageddon was about the same.

Dean Winchester had a date with Hell, but Gabriel had just sent him there four months early.

He had a system, a way to keep his little pocket universe separate, but still connected to what was beyond the little Florida town. It had been enough so that when Dean died, he could grab Dean’s soul in the moment between his last heartbeat and the true death, then restart. The only problem with this was that he had to pay attention. Normally, it wasn’t an issue as he carefully shepherded each accident to his liking and watched. This time, he hadn’t, and the built in hazards had done the job.

Already, he could hear the heavenly chorus changing, twisting and readying themselves. Enochian words he hadn't heard in millennia began to ring out. They called for war, called for the end and sand of the Paradise that was to come.

They sang that one of Gabriel's brothers was going to die.

Rather than the Sam that was there, for a moment Gabriel imagined that Sam that would be there, after the Seals broke and after Sam said yes. He could see him in a white suit, and with the constant refrain of Heaven echoing in his head, he could see how his brother would die, fully and completely in that body, his grace flickering out.

The image was so real, so utterly there

Foresight wasn't a gift of Gabriel's; he was one who helped craft the future, not one who was swept into it, so he rarely saw anything. However, some things were ineffable fate, so willed by God. And those events, should Father permit, he could see.

So he looked into the future, pushing harder at the veil of spinning and changing time then he had in years. No, lifetimes. Harder than he had since he left Heaven, when he had seen and prophesied the last battle between his brothers.

He knew that Lucifer would be wearing Sam Winchester's body, and he would be clad in white. He could already imagine as he pushed how easily the blood would stain it–

But that wasn't what he saw.

He saw Sam saying no. Always saying no. He saw that Lucifer would never be in his true vessel.

He saw that it would never be over.

Sam was Lucifer's vessel, the true one, just like his brother was Michael's. If Lucifer did not die in Sam's body or kill Michael in Dean, then it wouldn't end. Rather, his brothers would fight forever and on, in proxy through their underlings. More angels would fall, until their dying grace rained from the heavens. It would flow into the earth like salt, burning the ground it touched, making it barren. Madness would descend on the humans like a plague, and by the time the last of brothers died, there would be no one to remember them, not even him.

Shaken, he turned away from the future, into the present, where none of his siblings had yet died.

Sam was still talking at him, swearing vengeance. He looked like he would be trying to kill him already, if he could only let go of Dean's body.

“I'm sorry,” Gabriel interrupted, desperately trying to figure out how he could turn the tide back.

 Sam had to say yes, had to, had to, had to. He had been going to, once. But now something had changed, and it had all been something Gabriel had done. Which meant he should be able to fix it.

“Sorry?” laughed Sam. “You think sorry will cut it? That it'll-”

Gabriel snapped his fingers.

They reappeared in an empty field, somewhere in Texas. Gabriel had the feeling the less people who witnessed this, the better. They had been starting to draw a crowd in that little Florida town.

“Dean wasn't supposed to die permanently,” Gabriel explained.

Sam's laugh was bitter and he didn't look away from Dean. “So, a joke on me, huh?”

“No. A lesson. Dean bought a one-way ticket. While he's on Hell Airlines a little early, it doesn't change anything.” That was probably the greatest lie of his life.

“He had time left,” Sam spat. “I would have found something, done something.”

He would have done anything, Gabriel knew with a deep ringing certainty. It resonated through him clearly enough to blot out Heaven's hum.

An idea stuck him. If Sam would have done anything have kept Dean from Hell, what would he do to rescue him? For moment, it bloomed. Promising Dean's life, in return for one favor, one tiny yes. It would set everything back on track, and once the sixty-six seals broke, the vessels would be there and willing–

He cut the thought off. It wouldn't work like that. He couldn't enforce the bargain, not if Sam got stubborn and Sam would.

“Most people wouldn't go to these lengths,” he said instead. He fished around in his pockets for a piece of candy and popped a jolly rancher into his mouth. The burst of sweetness was comforting.

“We aren't most people,” Sam said, but he looked a little more abstracted now, like he was pulling himself together. His eyes were tracking the candy wrapper, and for a moment Gabriel thought about offering a piece to him, but then he noticed how Sam's eyes flickered around.

Best to stop that. He had a suspicion Sam was looking for any convenient piece of wood. While it wouldn't kill him, it was still a pain to have a stake in his chest.

“You aren't,” he agreed and with his first instinct, and tossed the first bit of chocolate he found in his pockets over. If chocolate got him into this mess, it should damn well get him out.

Sam didn't catch it.

Instead, he let it bounce of his chest, and it landed on Dean's body, before slowly rolling onto the ground. Gabriel looked at the little silver Hershey's Kiss, its foil glinting in the weak winter sun among the dead grass. He thought about going for it, since he wasn't sure how many he had left, and chocolate sounded really good, but one look at Sam dissuaded him.

Sam was still as a snake and he vividly reminded Gabriel of the serpent Skadi had set on him, how it had simply held still and dripped poison on him in that unending dark of the cave. His eyes were slits and there was only a glint to them, shiny and hard.

“He'll be back,” Gabriel found himself saying. “At most it will take a year.”

Sam's eyes snapped wide open, and were startling bright. The spell broken, the remembered drip-drip-drip receding, Gabriel reviewed his words, and winced again. Okay, he had to spin this, and he to spin this fast.

He had the feeling that Sam would hunt until the end of time, given reason to.

Sure, that had been the plan originally, to get him to see who he could become given a chance, to bring him a little closer to Lucifer's mindset, closer to saying yes. However, suddenly it didn't seem like a good plan to have all that drive focused on him.

He had the uncomfortable notion that Sam wouldn't stop until one of them was dead. At this point, he would give even odds on who would be the corpse. If any human could figure out who he was and how to kill him, it would be Sam.

Slowly, Sam lowered Dean down and stood, and now all his attention was focused. Gabriel could feel the difference already, his grace flaring up, sensing the regard –almost as sharp as an angel's– leveled at him.

“Says who?” he asked, his shoulders in a relaxed, easy posture that didn't fool Gabriel a bit.

“People,” he prevaricated, calves tensing as he decided if he should run or not. He rubbed his fingers together, and decided to wait. He could change this, somehow, he was sure. He was Loki, trickster of gods. He could lead Sam down the dark, left hand path as easily as any demon. By the end of it, he could have the human eating out of his hand even as he betrayed him onto his brother.

“People?” repeated Sam.

The sheep bleated. Oh, how nice. It would be easy to lead to the slaughter.

“And such,” he added off-handedly, reeling Sam in. “Everyone's heard of the Winchester brothers after all. And some of the older, wiser heard your names before you were born, hot stuff.”

“What do you mean? Prophecies?” Sam asked, carefully stepping around Dean, leaving him behind as he stalked forward.

“Among other things,” he said, as bland as he could, though he felt like cackling.

“What do these things say?”

“Quite a bit,” he said, and fought down another triumphant smile. “By the end of it, the whole of the world will know of you though. Demons will scatter before you.” To do Lucifer's bidding, but he could hold off on that bit for a while.

“And Dean?”

“Will walk again.”

***

Sam ignored the eighth call from Ruby, and kept the speedometer at a steady seventy miles per hour, angling northwest, already in Missouri. He'd driven a thousand miles, through the night, and he had another ten hours to go. Metallica was blaring on the speakers, and if he didn't look to closely, he could pretend Dean was sleeping.

Still, he wasn't, and it would be best to keep to the speed limits. There wouldn’t be any way to explain it to a cop.  He eased off the pedal.

In a haze of gas stops, coffee and old tapes, the last couple hundred miles rolled by until he was outside Sioux Falls, rolling into the junkyard at twilight.

He stopped at the old, rusty red '65 Mustang, the one he knew Dean wanted when he was sixteen until Dad had made a pointed remark about how useless it'd be for hunting, too small for any real arsenal.

It wasn't a glass coffin, but Dean wasn't Snow White. He'd use the Impala if he could, but he needed her for now. The Mustang would keep Dean out of the ground, and by some miracle, its windows were all still intact.

If they were lucky, it would still be cold out when Dean... would come back. Sam's mind shied away from the whys, and desperately tried not to think what would happen come summer to a body in a car.

Still, better than a box in the cold ground, with no way out.

That in mind, he hauled Dean out, trying to ignore how he wasn't warm, how the rigor mortis had come and now was mostly gone. Sam careful set him into the driver's seat, making sure he didn't have a foot under the breaks, and then moved the seat back as far as it would go, so Dean wouldn't bang his knees too much. After a moment of consideration, he buckled Dean in too. He'd call it a joke, if Dean asked.

Then, he transferred over Dean's hunting bag, along with an emergency pack, putting the weapons in the passenger seat, and everything else in the trunk, which mostly closed.

He hunched over a piece of paper, fingers freezing as he debated word choice, before scrawling out: Look in the trunk, then come find me. -S. He put the note on top of the weapons, and used Dean's favorite gun as a paperweight, just to be on the safe side.

The Impala was cold by the time he started her again.

He drove up towards Bobby's house, the world now pressing into him too tightly. The coffee was starting to show in the way his hands shook, or maybe that was the lack of sleep. His vision wavered a few times, but he still brought the Impala to rest on the driveway without crashing into anything, so he was going to count it as win.

Bobby was waiting for him on the porch, a down jacket thrown over his flannel shirt, and Sam belated realized that he should be wearing something heavier than his pullover, but he didn't think he could get his hands to relax enough to get into the trunk again. They were frozen claws around the steering wheel, and he looked at them, wondering when he'd put on the driving gloves Dean kept under the seat along with the jumper cables.

Bobby was at the car window, Sam noticed, and he found himself flinching before he could stop himself. He hadn't even noticed movement.

Bobby backed away, and Sam slowly uncurled, and fumbled open the door, barely remembering to grab the keys.

“Sam?”

“Dean's not coming.” It was all he could say, but it was enough.

Warmth around him, and Sam let himself fall into it. He should be explaining more, but it could wait until he had the words right, could explain that he had a feeling about the Trickster, and what he wasn't saying.

It could all wait.

***

Gabriel watched, silent and unseen as Sam was ushered into Bobby's. He followed them in, barely paying any mind to the numerous banishments, traps, and protections that turned the house into a supernatural fortress. None of them could hold him. 

Bobby walked Sam through tests, holy water, silver, and sacred words. However, his heart didn't seem in it.

Sam didn't notice, numbly following his leave.

Eventually, Bobby pulled down an unmarked bottle and poured out two small measures of it, or maybe two very generous shots, and set one down in front of Sam.

He took it, sipped it, and then seemed to get with the program. He tossed the rest of the drink back, and held out the glass mutely.

Bobby poured him another, this one double the size of the other.

“I left Dean in the Mustang,” Sam at last blurted, maybe the whisky loosing his tongue. “The one he wanted to paint cherry red.”

Bobby had a great poker face, Gabriel decided. The man hadn't even blinked.

“Thought that he'd–” Sam sniffed, one of those great gulping noise affairs that really meant he was trying not do something else. “Thought he'd like that. And well... he didn't bury me.”

Then Bobby's poker face cracked. His eyes widened and his hand spasmed, his knuckles going white as he tried to crush the glass in his hand.

“Boy, you'd better not– Dean didn't bring you back just so you could trade yourself back in,” Bobby said, not yelling, but coming close. His voice was horse, and he took a swig of whiskey that didn't seem to help. “Just...”

“I'm not,” Sam said. “It's...something else.”

Gabriel felt for another piece of candy, wondering if this would be what broke through Sam's resolve, but Sam didn't elaborate. It was rather annoying. Half the point of spying on someone to find out what they thought about you.

“Yeah?” Bobby asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said simply. He didn't say anything else.

Damn it, the guy was supposed to be breaking down, not clamming up. Why else go to the one place he was supposed to be safe at? Well, as safe as he could be now, with the world about to reborn.

“How did it happen?” Bobby asked, his voice uneven.

Sam eyed him, and then did the oddest little thing.

He smiled. It was slight and quick, but there for a brief second before he ducked his head.

It wasn't back when he looked back up.

“Car accident,” he said, and finished off the rest of his glass.

“Shit,” Bobby breathed. “Always thought, well before last May, he'd go out in a blaze.”

Sam shrugged. “I thought I was going to get to die in my bed until a couple years ago.”

Bobby only shook his head. “You're welcome to stay here, long as you need.”

“We'll see.”

The drinking on Bobby's part got a heavier as the night progressed, but Sam never got past the tipsy stage while Bobby progressed slowly into sloshed and then shit-faced. After a time, Sam left him to and stumbled, only a little unsteadily up the stairs into the guest room.

There were two twin beds, ghostly white in the moonlight, and Sam looked at the bed by the window longer for a long moment before slumping down on to the other one, moving the piles of books on it to the floor. He didn't lay down, however. He rolled his shoulders, took a deep breath, and then spoke.

“Well?”

He said it to the space by the door, a good six feet from where Gabriel actually was. Still, it was a unnerving.

“I know you're there,” he said, matter of fact, if a little slurred.

“How?” Gabriel asked, coming to a snap decision and appeared with no fanfare.

“You'd be wanting to watch,” Sam said simply.

“It was a great show,” Gabriel agreed, and brought a little popcorn into existence. “I'd give you an eight in drama up until the point you started to talk with Bobby-boy. Then you got a little wooden.”

“I'm not a very good method actor,” said Sam after a moment, though Gabriel could tell that his first instinct was try to find a stake and have another go at killing him. “Plus, I get stage fright.”

“And the smile? That was totally breaking character!”

“Oh, that smile was just for you.”

“I don't feel very loved,” Gabriel remarked.

“You killed my brother,” Sam said frostily.

“A car did, you said it yourself.”

Sam's arm went under the bed, faster than what Gabriel thought was possible for a human. He drew a knife, and there was murder in his eyes.

Shit, okay. Time to tone it down. Kid sure as hell wasn't Lucifer. Despite all the prophecies drawing parallels between the two, they obviously had different coping methods. And now that Gabriel thought about it, they had vastly different paths of rebellion. Sam left. Lucifer planned a coup.

That said, their rage levels seemed about the same. Redirecting should also be on the agenda somewhere. Rage was good, probably helped him a little closer to saying yes, but that much rage was bad focused on him.

Gabriel cleared his throat, smiled, and looked significantly at the knife.

Sam didn't put it down.

“Who are you?”

Gabriel froze. Oh, fuck. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck. If Sam suspected, it might be too late. On the other hand, his press as an angel had always been rather good, placing him at Michael's side. It could send him over to Lucifer right then and there, which would be a wonderfully simple solution. If it worked.

“Which one? Coyote? Anansi?”

“Loki.”

Sam nodded once, and Gabriel was sure that he was cataloguing the idea, planning to research it to death. Well, good luck to him. Other than a few carvings and some poetry and prose written by some drunken skalds, there was very little out there that wasn't speculation. He'd made sure of it.

Gabriel fidgeted, and then brought out another piece of candy. Best keep in character.

Or something.

***

Sam woke sometime in the early morning, though he didn't bother to look for his phone or to pad out to the hall and check the clock in the next room. It didn't really matter. Bobby would still be sleeping it off, and that would give Sam more than enough to leave.

He didn't feel like staying around and talking about it. Bobby was sure to try to convince him to burn Dean, but they couldn't do that. If he avoided Bobby, Dean would lay where he was, until he needed to not be. Bobby would respect it, barring a ghost.

Sam didn't bother leaving a note.

The Impala was waiting for him, a fresh coat of snow on her, and Sam suddenly remembered how Dean would always bitch in the winter, trying to stay south of any where less than forty degrees, swearing about the salt on the roads. Well, Dean wouldn't have to live with it, for now.

The engine started without a problem, and Sam carefully drove out to the main roads, fishtailing until he slowed the Impala to a crawl. Slowly, he drove through the monochrome world, thinking.

Loki had no reason to help him. Therefore, he had an agenda, which didn't in anyway match up with Sam's own, in all likelihood. A lesson, he'd said.

Sam spent most of the drive out to I-90 pondering that, trying not to think about the sickening thump-screech and Dean looking up at him or the way his eyes ached.

He thought of going east on a whim, at first thinking that Chicago sounded like a good idea, and then reconsidered, remembering Meg. He decided southwest would be better, if nothing else to get him out of the snow.

Florida wasn't even considered.

***

It became clear after the second day that Sam had no plan. His route meandered through the southwest, and several times he crisscrossed the same roads, not even seeming to notice.

He never once took out a map.

It was starting to frustrate Gabriel. He'd swear that Sam was doing it just to annoy him, expect for that would be insane. The more time passed, however, the more likely the idea seemed.

Sam didn't call on him again, but sometimes he would look darkly amused, and then do something else that made no sense, like simply pulling up to a not very good scenic overlook of the Grand Canyon, and then just sitting there.

For hours.

Something was wrong with him.

Occasionally - well, maybe once or twice a day, to be honest, Gabriel would find himself looking to the future. Each time, it got easier to slip into the stream of time, twist himself into the what would be, and to look.

Sam's answer didn't change.

Gabriel gave in, the inelastic future scaring him, and was in the Impala passenger seat on the tenth day after Dean's death, waiting for Sam in the early morning light. He'd even brought a peace offering of a latte, but ended up drinking it himself, after adding a few more packets of sugar. He also ate the M&Ms he found in glove compartment, and was starting to eye a nearby vending machine (real chocolate always tasted better than anything he conjured up) when Sam finally came out.

He didn't seem to surprised, and only chucked his bag into the back and slide into the driver's seat without a word. His impassiveness was only broken by the sequel of tires as he pulled out of the parking lot too fast.

“Who're Azazel's friends?” he finally asked.

“Well,” Gabriel said slowly, blinking. “As long as your definition is loose... Lilith supposedly made him her right hand for a while. And there's all his children of course or any demon who wanted to curry favor.”

“And his plan for me?”

Gabriel tilted his head, wondering what to say, what Sam would believe. He settled for saying all that he would have known, if he had been only Loki, a trickster god.

“Other big players. We didn't think much of it.” He was tempted to add something about how it was all Judeo-Christian and didn't matter to him, but that would be more Baldur's or Odin's line.

Sam shook his head.

The drove through another few miles, the sky encompassing the flat, wide-open land so completely that it seemed like they would drive over the edge of the earth, given enough time.

“Thing is, if Dean was supposed to die, supposed to have his one way ticket and this supposed rescue... then I was always the one. Azazel... paid attention to us, hurt us more, killed more people around u- me than he did to the others. They were window dressing. I was something else.”

They topped past the range of the Impala's speedometer, and Sam's foot stayed on the gas pedal, pushing the car just a little harder, a little faster until the engine made an odd little noise. He looked at the dash, and then eased of the gas, letting them coast.

“I was supposed to die. Dean was always supposed to make that deal.”

...Okay. So those days Sam had spent going around in circles? Now seemed more logical.

“Heady stuff.”

Sam looked at him, and the car drifted a little, as he didn't look back to the road. He held Gabriel's eyes as he spoke.

“Azazel’s plan is still happening, even though he died, isn’t it?”

“I dunno.” A lie, he knew. But he hadn't realized Sam had seen it like that. “You sure about that?”

“It's the only thing that explains my life.”

“The world doesn't revolve around you, kiddo.”

“Dean's did,” Sam spat, bitter and harsh, though Gabriel thought he'd been trying to sound flippant. The Impala's roared under him, and they shot forward.

Gabriel shifted; wondering if now would be a good time to–
 
“Don’t leave.”
 
***
 
Sam knew what the words sounded like, but it’s not a plea to have someone be there for him, to fill the aching hole left by Dean. It couldn’t ever be filled, only smoothed to a dull numbness by time and maybe blood. What this was about was watching Loki, keeping him close enough to kill or trap if he needed to. If Dean didn’t come back… well, he’d need to do something then.


Still, Sam hated being alone.
 
So much of his time was spent living in the same space as someone else, tangling lives together until there wasn’t any more room. First (and always) there had Dean, then Brady when they were roommates, then Jess, and Dean again.
 
It was wrong to be in the Impala by himself, driving for days and nights without end, the seat beside him empty every time he glanced over. He didn’t like the hum of the engine being the only thing filling the silence. He thought about getting something to hook his iPod into, but he knew how Dean would react to that.
 
It was just him and the silence, until that morning, when Loki was waiting for him; two drunk cups coffee and the M&M bag empty in his hands. He still didn’t know what to think about that.
 
But he’d filled the silence, and that had been enough.
 
Now, Loki was looking at him, the fixed smile now gone and the tension in his face plain. He looked like he wanted to ask something more, but he wasn’t sure how to phrase it.
 
Sam was actually fine with that silence, as it was all too familiar from when he and Dean fought. He also was pretty sure that whatever Loki was thinking would be enough for him to want to take another crack at him with the knife.
 
A black and white sign flashed by, and Sam realized just how far over the speed limit he was. After a glance to mirrors, checking for any flashing lights, he slowed and concentrated on keeping at the speed limit.
 
“Sure, it’s not like I have anything better to do,” Loki finally said, the flippancy at odds with the timing.
 
Sam pretended not to notice, and also didn’t mention the odd feeling that he had that it was true.
 
Another twenty miles passed, and Sam kept flicking sideways glances to the passenger’s seat, checking that Loki was still there. For a while, he halfway expected the Impala to suddenly turn pink, or something else garish enough to fit a trickster’s taste, but nothing happened.
 
He had the feeling that he had something that had surprised him. Too bad he couldn’t figure out what it was. He thought about asking what it had been, but he had far more pressing questions. He remembered what Loki had said in that empty field, when Dean had been in his arms.
 
“Will the demons let Dean go?”
 
“No, they’ll all need to go through the motions, I think,” Loki said. He licked his lips, a quick dart of tongue.
 
“Yeah?”
 
“Who do you think is going to bring him back anyway?”
 
Sam turned his attention fully back to the road, not looking away from the asphalt.
 
“Surely you have an idea,” Loki cajoled.
 
“I do.”
 
That was the problem, he had too many. He wasn’t sure which to pick, which seemed true. They ranged from everything from reapers to valkyries. He even thought that it might be him, because he would storm Hell for Dean, as soon as he could figure out how.
 
“Well?” pressed Loki.
 
“You know who it’s going to be,” Sam countered. He was pretty sure that Loki was telling the truth about that anyway. Dean couldn’t have just died, his life ended with everything left like this. It wouldn’t be like that.
 
(It wasn’t one of those darker nights, when he thought that the Trickster was just preying on his denial, and jerking him around with an impossible promise of Dean’s resurrection.)
 
“Tell me,” he pressed.
 
Loki let out one long, slow sigh, and spoke.
 
“One thing first, what does Dean mean to you?”
 
“He’s my brother.” It was as simple as that.
 
“That means nothing,” Loki said, after a laugh that hollow and hinted of old pain.
 
“How can you–” Sam tried to remember Norse mythology. He’d looked it up almost a week ago, after he’d gotten the name out of him, and he’d spent one long night in the half dazed place of not sleeping, but not fully awake, and most important, trying not to think. He’d spent the night (trying not to replay each death he’d seen Dean die) surfing the web, going from scholarly sites to neo-pagan groups, and looking for information. That said, there wasn’t much he could remember.
 
There was one thing though. Loki’s brothers weren’t in the main pantheon. They hadn’t been Odin or Thor, or any of the other Norse gods. They had been jötunn, something like giants or maybe minor gods.
 
“Dean…” Sam sighed, and then chose his words carefully. “He’s constant, like gravity.” He glanced again at Loki out of the corner of his eye.
 
Loki wasn’t even looking at him, rather turned away, looking at something in the far off distance of his window, his back ramrod straight.
 
Sam thought a little more about what Dean was, thought about everything that had happened now, but didn’t think he could elaborate further. Everything else he said would be a distraction from that basic principal. He could tangle up the idea that with how Dean was crude, overbearing, had issues, and with every other facet he hated, but it would detract from the meaning (and he wasn’t sure he could voice the other things, that Dean was his, a touchstone, the one reason he thought he had a conscience).
 
“Pull over then,” Loki said. “I don’t want you wrapping the car around a pole over this.”
 
Sam did and killed the engine.
 
The silence grew.
 
They were in the middle of nowhere, two lanes with a dotted line the only thing breaking up the wild fields around them. He wasn’t even sure what state they were in now. There were no cars in the distance, no sound but the crunch of gravel under his shoes as he got out. It was like he’d traveled too far, beyond all limits and had come to rest in a no-man’s land.
 
Loki got out of the car too, and stretched, before hoping up onto the hood. He looked manic, like he’d had eight cups of coffee, on top of a pound of chocolate covered espresso beans, washed down with three Red Bulls. He was twitching slightly, like he couldn’t decide where to look, and was settling on something about halfway between reality and daydreaming. Then, he looked at Sam, and it seemed like he was frantically reconsidering saying anything.
 
Sam did his best to look sane and calm, very deliberately not thinking about the wooden stakes wedged under the driver’s seat. He could have one in his hands in about seven seconds.
 
Finally when Sam was beginning to think about grabbing a coat out of the car, his overshirt not quite enough to stand against the wind, Loki slumped.
 
“It will be an angel that will bring him back.”
 
“What?” Yeah, sure, he kind of believed that there was a God. Most days anyway, which was enough for him to fight about it with Dean, and angels were folded in with that belief, but…
 
“Yeah.” Loki said.
 
“Fucking hell.” Angels. There hadn’t ever been even a hint in all the hunter lore he’d heard, in all the books and websites about demon he thought had basis in reality, that angels were real.
 
“More like Heaven, but close enough,” Loki tossed out, sounding darkly amused.
 
“Why Dean? Why not Dad or anyone else who’s made a deal?” Dean couldn’t have been the first person to make a deal for a good reason (well, something like one; Sam knew he was supposed to be dead still).
 
Loki shrugged, and then looked at the car.
 
Sam heard it too, his phone vibrating. A moment later, it started to ring, and he fished it out, hoping to see Dean’s number on it. He’d left the cell phone, fully charged, though turned off beside Dean’s wallet in Mustang.
 
It was Ruby, again.
 
“Shouldn’t you answer that?”
 
Yeah, probably. He’d been ignoring her constant calls for the past week or so. Since that Tuesday.
 
He hadn’t spoken to her in… months it felt like, or maybe a year. He should ask how long they’d been in that loop, how much time had passed for just him and Loki someday.
 
He’d tried to call her in the loop, but had never caught her. It wasn’t exactly odd, as he’d never returned any of her calls, never called back the number that would occasionally text him.
 
Then, on Tuesday, when he’d found his way back to the Impala, shaken and not really sure if this wasn’t just another Tuesday, with a new twist, he’d found he’d missed two calls. He hadn’t bothered to answer when he’d been driving to South Dakota, since he’d never answer her call with Dean in the car. After that, it had just seemed like too much work.
 
“Sam?” The voice was tinny over cell phone speakers.
 
“Yeah,” he said, not really sure what else he could say. ‘Sorry, I don’t need you’re help anymore’ seemed the most true and direct. He just didn’t want to explain.
 
“Oh, fuck. I’m glad to hear from you. Are you okay?”
 
“Fine,” he said curtly.
 
“I heard about Dean,” she said.
 
Loki jerked suddenly, all his attention now on the phone.
 
Something tickled at the back of Sam’s mind, like it always did on a case, when all the facts were there, and he just hadn’t lined them up in the right–
 
“Who told you?”
 
“What do you mean who told me?” Ruby asked, with a snort. “It’s all over the place. Dean Winchester is dead.”
 
“Who told you first?”
 
Ruby didn’t say anything.
 
“Ruby?” he pressed.
 
“I cheated a little,” she admitted. “I just wanted to keep tabs on you two. I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
 
A spell or something, Sam decided. It would explain how she had known so quickly. Except…
 
“Would you have been, if it hadn’t been quick?”
 
“Of course,” she said softly. “I know how much he meant to you. If there had been a way, I would have helped save him.”
 
“Thank you,” Sam said, and hung up. He ignored the phone when it started to ring a moment later.
 
She’d never come the handful of times it’d taken Dean hours to die.
 
Loki looked at him, and in that moment, all hint of the Trickster was gone, leaving behind a not quite man who was frowning at him.
 
“What was that about?” he asked.
 
“A demon lying to me. I shouldn’t be so surprised.”
 
“Angels lie too,” he said, with a small, little smile.
 
***
Part 2
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