mayachain: (spn Family)
[personal profile] mayachain
Title: Like a wheel
Author: [ profile] ms_jvh_shuh
Genre: gen
Featuring: Sam, the Impala, Dean
Rating: R
Word Count: 3032
Spoilers: This is AU for ignoring most of season 3, but there's a tiny spoiler for 3.01.
Summary: The hellhounds have dragged Dean off to hell, and either Sam is going insane with grief or the car he just inherited is trying to persuade him to follow.
Notes: This fic pops my supernatural writing cherry *is nervous*. Lots and lots of thanks to my betas, [ profile] just_ruth and [ profile] gestaltrose!

Like a wheel

Part One

At first, Sam thinks it's the grief that's slowly driving him insane. It's the most obvious explanation; Dean is dead and whenever Sam's in the Impala he is assaulted by glimpses of his brother as a child, adult, teen, alternating between all four seats and animatedly laughing and chatting at an invisible Sam - or Sammy - Dad and, on one occasion, Mom.

He's been avoiding other people for days, sleeping in the car, barely eating, not hunting, not searching, just lying in the backseat with his feet hanging out or driving around North Dakota in ever widening circles, not seeing the road, aimless, utterly miserable. It's not that far a step from there to hallucinating.

It takes him a while to figure out something else is going on.


He gets his first clue thirteen days after the hellhounds took Dean. Sam is drunk out of his mind, unwisely trying to make his way to a more remote place, away from the roadside diner, and the Impala refuses to start for him. He lets his head fall back, fumbles the key from the ignition and pats the steering wheel with sad affection.

"You miss him too, don't you," he slurs, eyes dry from too much crying.

Almost immediately, he receives a flash of a seven-year-old Dean playing the license plate game, laughing and pointing.

Sam gets the feeling he's missing something important, but he passes out before he can dwell too much on it, body slouched in the most uncomfortable position. When he wakes the next morning, still parked in full view of every passers-by in the parking lot, he's hung over, his back hurts like… something painful, and he convinces himself he dreamed the whole thing.


Fifteen days after Dean was dragged off to hell, Sam rules out the possibility that the car is haunted. No matter how attached Dean was to his car, no spirit could penetrate the Impala's heavy protection. What's more, while the images most certainly are of Dean - for all his desperate attempts to talk to them, they never interact with Sam.


The next clue comes when the flashes start to repeat every conversation about Sam's powers he and Dean have ever had in the car. His visions, the potential of telekinesis, about Andy and Jake, the last two month's discussions about what the demon blood might possibly mean and what Sam can or can't (is not allowed to try) to do with it. Not that Sam ever actually hears Dean's words or even sees himself answering, but a few unfortunate curses over the years have left Sam experienced enough with lip-reading to have no trouble following, and Dean only ever got this agitated while driving when trying to convince his brother he was the good kind of freak; everything else could always wait until there was room to pace or a door to slam.

The theme stays consistent for the next forty-eight hours. When Sam is not trying to sleep in the backseat but actually driving, the images of Dean are of the few times they talked about this with Dean riding shotgun. The consistency of the topic is only disrupted twice; once by a flash of Dean at fifteen, sitting in the back seat and swatting an invisible arm, saying serenely "Sure - You can do anything," and once by a repetition of the last words Dean ever spoke in the Impala, "She'll take you anywhere."


By the third day, the flashes have ceased to show the skeptical-but-supportive side of Dean, focusing only on his brother's enthusiastic opinions on telekinesis and mind control, and Sam has begun to think that there is way too much method behind what's happening to be simply a sorry, thrice-orphaned hunter succumbing to madness. When he suddenly gets an image of his own, six-year-old self proclaiming on the top of his voice "I'm Superman!", Sam stands on the brake, swerves to the side of the road and breathes hard. Having staved off an imminent heart attack, he swallows a few times, grips the steering wheel hard and asks out into the empty car: "Are you trying to tell me something?"

She is trying to tell him something. The lights above the mirror blink on, and the radio that's been silent for almost three weeks tunes right in on Bon Scott blaring "…speedin' limit / Nobody's gonna slow me down."

Sam can't help but laugh, dread and excitement bubbling over. "Twenty years around me, and that's all the subtlety you've got?"

Dean's car, the car that became Sam's seventeen days ago but is still (will always be) Dean's is trying to tell him something, and the message Sam finally, finally gets is:

You've got scary freaky demon powers, and I can take you anywhere.


Part 2

It's incredibly hot outside.

Sam drives slowly, steering to avoid the fiercest blazes, but he can't prevent white-hot flames from licking hungrily at the '67's doors and undercarriage. He's painfully aware that by all reason, her exterior should melt, but it doesn't.

For every meter they advance, horribly distorted figures and creatures of smoke hover in their path, but they move out of the way once they realize the Impala will not be deterred.

They're trying, oh, they're trying to get inside, but Sam's doused every inch of her in seven layers of holy water, reinforced every protective sigil already on her and added every new one he could find.


He hasn't called Bobby. He's evaded the man for weeks, and he couldn't stand the thought of Bobby's doubts discouraging him. Besides, he didn't need the older hunter to figure out how and why she is… becoming.

The Impala is his home, Dean's home, the only home any of them really believed in after the fire. A lot of belief, acquired slowly over two and a half lifetimes and only ever enforced during the last year.

Without Dean, she's the only family Sam's got left, the only thing he can cling to, and the fact that he barely left her at all since Dean died only emphasizes his belief.

She hadn't needed to remind him of the hunt accompanying the Winchester brother's last prank war.


All around them, there are fires with people chained to poles and burning, screaming, whimpering.

Sam would have thought the torture would be more elaborate, but it seems very straightforward, unfortunate deceased humans poked by pitchforks. On a vague level, he wonders if they all made deals, tries to see if he can identify any notoriously evil people, but they're all twisted in the same grimaces of agony, all unrecognizable.

He tries not to think that this is how he'll find Dean, strung up and reduced to a mindless lump of meat like the rest of them. He tries not to despair at the sheer infinity of the place, not to fear they can drive around here forever and not find him.

They drive for what seems like hours, and Sam knows he'll never forget the screams.


He's lost track of time some while ago, for which he's grateful; the pain is always immediate and therefore cannot go on for long.

It can't be called consciousness anymore, what he experiences, but there's an awareness in the mind that's been thoroughly diminished, and it's becoming aware of a black monster approaching the fire that holds him.

As it moves closer, it slowly morphs into an image of the Impala, and whatever is left of Dean is dismayed that he's still got energy left to dread what they've planned for him now, what new scenario they've thought up to torture him with.


The Impala seems to know where she's going, which Sam finds out when she starts resisting his attempts to steer her. Sam relaxes his grip on the wheel, choosing to trust her, and it's only five more turns around faceless, unfortunate people's pyres before he sees his brother.

Even if his little brother senses weren't screaming at him, the blank wall formed by a whole pack of demons would help him recognize the charred and bloody figure as Dean. Every trace of trepidation he might have felt while planning, every ounce of fear he might have felt while driving into hell with a car disappears.

An unwavering hand slams the most worn-out tape in Dean's collection into the cassette player, and the Impala roars, mirroring Sam's anger, and drives straight into the demon-made barrier. The creatures are sent scattering, howling.

When the door opens and the salt line and some of the sigils break, the demons confident enough to brave the remaining protection are held at bay by the crackling voice of John Winchester, recording exorcism rites, underscored by a drum beat for the benefit of his oldest son.

Sam steps out of the car.


The aware part of Dean judges the impression of his brother to be a good one, familiar confident stride, favorite scythe-knife in hand. But Sammy never had eyes as black as a demons', never had the blackness overlaid by every color of the prism dancing in them.

The images they send him, of Sam being injured, dying, of Dean failing him again and again, on some level he still knows they aren't real, that Sam's alive and safe as can be, but sometimes he forgets.

He closes his one barely functioning eye against the look-alike in front of him. It's dangerous to dream.


The fire surrounding Dean flares hot and high, but then Sam narrows his eyes at it, and the flames disappear.

The silver blade of his knife cuts through the ropes binding his brother to the pole. When none of the lock picks take to the chains, Sam calls up a very clear memory of Jake's fists flying in Cold Oak and breaks the shackles around Dean's wrists and ankles with his bare hands.

While he works on cutting Dean down, most demons are scared off approaching by a forbidding growl from the Impala's engine. A few who must belong to the upper echelon still press forward, but the furious glare Sam directs at them sends them flying.

His demon blood is in its element here, no difficulty at all using any power he needs, and they've never felt so alluring, never been this easy to control, but Sam's saving Dean, so he's in his element, too.


The swollen eye does not open again, but the pitchforks can project whatever they want into his mind, and this time, they have him imagine hands loosening the chains; hesitant hands, big hesitant hands, big, hesitant, gentle hands touching his skin.

They are making him imagine his little brother's hands catching him.

They are making him imagine Sam.


He doesn't quite know how to touch Dean, but once he cuts through the bonds and does, as firmly as he needs to and as lightly as he can, he discovers that some of the wounds marring his brother's body have to be illusions. Sam ghosts a finger over a place where there was a horrid gash mere seconds ago, marveling at the return of unblemished skin.

Dean would bitch at him for dwelling on how the h... this place works while there are still ten feet and twenty demons between them and the Impala, but when he can use the bitching opportunity as a distraction from nightmares later, Dean will thank him.

He knew the concept was too simple, knew there had to be more to hell than simple pitchforks and fire. What he saw, he thinks as he gets a firmer grip around his brother and helps him step towards the car, must have been merely symbolic of the real, psychological torture, of a constant replay of the victims' worst nightmares and memories.

Or maybe his eyes simply replaced the horrors that were really there with something they could deal with.



It must be Meg who has found him, Meg who must've found a new way to torment him, a way other demon's couldn't, because they never knew the man he was like she knows him. Knows just how to hurt him in a way even Sammy's death pales against, simulating hope through the phantom touch of his brother, an illusion of comfort.

An illusion of movement.


By now, some of the highest ranking demons have joined the creatures surrounding them, and they've started up a chant of their own. Sam notices the fierce pull surging through his veins, urging him to drop Dean, to quit struggling, to come "home".

"D'you think these powers are because of the Demon or because of me?" he'd asked the Impala before they barreled through the cowboy cemetery's Devil's Gate at full speed.

The pull is strong, but it's nothing against the marrow deep love Sammy Winchester feels for his brother, and the demon blood was only ever Azazel's vain attempt to control him.

Armed with all the proof he ever needed, he sneers at the chanting demons.

Of course she was right. After all, she's known him even longer than Dean.


It's not working.

He will fight, won't let it work on him but then -

he hears a laugh; a carefree, affectionate, delighted laugh Sammy laughed when he first moved across the room on his own or got an A for his homework or wisely chose to stop drinking exactly one shot before Dean.

No demon could laugh that laugh like Sam.


Inside the car, his father's voice ends, leaving only the sound of the Impala frantically rewinding the tape to start at the beginning. The circling demons surge forward at once, seizing their chance.

The Boy King, a demon once called him. If they could, they would tear him apart.

They can't.

What happens to a demon when it gets exorcised in hell?

Sammy was eight when he learned the words by heart. Twenty-five years old, he adds Andy's inflections to his voice while repeating them.

Part 3

Dean's lips start moving along with the exorcism as Sam telekinetically holds him upright, wraps an emergency blanket around his shivering body. Sam loads his semi-conscious brother into the back seat and walks to the front still chanting, not paying the demons disintegrating behind him any heed.

He doesn't even have to touch the gas pedal before the Impala floors it, oblivious to any irrelevant obstacles such as lost souls and illusions of pyres, taking them straight to the exit.


She barges through the Gate into the outside world, tires screaming at the sharp turn she does to keep from crashing into a headstone.

Anxious to get away but impatient to let Sam take care of Dean, she rolls to a stop sooner than she's entirely comfortable with, cooling on a green patch not yet used for new graves.

Sam's in the back seat almost before she's set the brake. Water, alcohol, cloth, needle, thread, bandages, he's prepared himself to fight for Dean's life. What he finds when he removes the blanket to reveal bloody, naked skin truly is a miracle. No broken bones, a few gashes, second degree burns; more and more of Dean's injuries seem to fade the longer Sam touches him.

If all the wounds had been real, no way could he have explained a body that should be dead to a hospital.


The air smells clean, cold. If what's slowly re-emerging of Dean's mind thinks long and hard about it, it smells like it will rain soon.

He's way too tired to comprehend how this came to be, how he was moved. He's safe now.

The purr of the Impala's engine, the smell of ancient leather, the feel of Sam's hands cleaning his wounds are far too real not to be so.


Dean's eyes remain closed as the swellings on and around the lids fade, his breathing even and slow. As Sam puts a band aid on the last of the gashes, he turns his head slightly in Sam's direction and whispers hoarsely, "Knew you'd come."

It's a lie, they both know it.

Twenty-one days after the hellhounds came, it's all it takes.

Before he knows it, Sam's hugging Dean to his chest and kissing his brother's face over and over, forehead, nose, chin, cheeks, everywhere he can reach, crying like the baby he was when Dean first rescued him. Maybe it's a relief that Dean falls asleep while he's at it, but Sam's been through his own private hell, too. He's entitled to his breakdown.


The Impala stays immobile for the two hours it takes for Sammy to regain his composure. She waits until the younger very gently shoves Dean further into the back seat, fits himself against his brother, far too weary and grateful to even question how he's able to do so. Listening to two sets of soft snores she's known for most of their existence, she silently rolls out of the cemetery and parks behind a few trees to hide herself from view.

There's nothing, she finds, like surviving a trip to hell to inflate a car's ego. It's only fair that she expand her backseat interior so that her warriors can sleep off their exhaustion comfortably inside her.

Besides, she knows they'll still have to leave her for food an showers and actual hunting and shit, but she knows she's their home now all the way down to her core, and she never wants them to sleep in some soulless motel room ever again.

The End.

The song the title is derived from (as well as the lyrics from above) is this one *g*
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