Fandom/Genre: Supernatural, Gen, Futurefic, Character Study
Characters: Sam Winchester, others (5.22 spoilers) highlight: mentions of Michael, Lucifer, Dean Winchester, Cas
Word Count: 1,297
Warnings: none to speak of aside from major spoilers for 5.22
Spoilers: Up through 5.22
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not profit; anything you recognize belongs to Kripke, Warner Bros., et al.
A/N 1: This is the third in a series of seven fics my post-5.22 ‘verse. Can be read as a stand-alone.
A/N 2: Many thanks to Carlos, calamitycrow, and sleepwalker1015 for the beta and feedback!
Summary: For Sam Winchester, Hell is nothing like what he expected. A character study.
Also available on: AO3
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And Hell Has No Purchase
The thing about Hell is it’s a prison for your mind, for your soul. There aren’t any guards in hell, not even in the special places like Lucifer’s cage. All the overseers and torturers and monsters are just other people. Other souls. There’s nothing special about them. The thing about hell is, Hell is something you do to yourself.
Hell depends on your anxieties and hatred and anger and doubt. It finds your weak spots and tears them open, uses your regrets and fears against you. Hell has no power, no hold over a mind and soul at peace. But then again, how often is anyone at peace?
Well, Sam Winchester is at peace, and he came to hell by choice. Real choice—free will and freedom and all that most people only pay lip service to without really having a clue. This isn’t the kind of choice someone makes when they strike a deal. It’s not a desperate ploy to trade suffering now for suffering later or your life for another’s. It’s not about Sam at all. It’s the single most selfless thing he’s ever done, and sure as Hell (and that’s not a pun) no one wanted him to do it. So he’s here in hell, but it’s not Hell because Hell has no power of it’s own, only what you give it.
Sam Winchester lived twenty-seven years on Earth—actually it’s a lot closer to twenty-nine from his perspective—a ‘monster’ among humans. He lived almost all of that time feeling like an outcast. A sport. A changeling. The ugly duckling. A demon among a family of angels. The marionette with invisible strings, and there was always someone pulling. Even when the people in his life were actually human (or as close to it as a Winchester could get) there was always someone waiting in the wings yanking on their strings.
Sam learned anger and frustration and bitterness. At first he just wanted to run away—anywhere but here, as if his family was the problem. He never saw what it did to Dean until it was almost too late, and towards the end of Sam’s life—if you can call it that—he spent a good chunk of time beating himself up over that. Until he realized it wasn’t his fault or Dean’s or anyone human’s any more than it’s your fault to be born. Then, after college and Jessica, he spent a long time worrying about being a monster. Hating himself, berating himself, trying to figure out ways to atone for his existence... and it always led to more shame, more regret, more pain, more harm—to him to the world to everyone he loved. But he didn’t know how to stop, couldn’t see a way out. Until...
Until he realized he was asking the wrong questions. It wasn’t a way out he was looking for, but a real choice, a way to take control, if only for a moment... a reason.
The reason, it turns out, was simple. He could, only he could. Not anybody else. He could stop it. He could give Dean a life, give the world a future, take control, take the power away from the angels and demons, choose family. Choose freedom.
And not to get anything for himself. It isn’t an act to prove he’s not a monster. It’s not a desperate plea or act to avoid being alone to keep Dean with him. It’s for Dean, for the world, for humanity. Sam hated being a puppet, a marionette on a string, and he realizes he can cut those strings, for everyone, maybe for good.
It’s not until he’s lost control completely, so locked inside his own body, his own mind, fearing he’s handed the world to Lucifer on a silver platter, that he gets it. The first piece anyway. It’s not about power or forcing your way into things. It’s not about taking control—seizing, grasping, wrestling—it’s about love. Love and the knowledge-trust-faith-belief that goes along with it. It’s only when he let’s go that he realizes the control is his if only he accepts it.
He gets the second piece when Michael uses his brother’s body—his other brother’s body—to try to play out his Destiny. It’s the same words Dean used to throw back at him, about loyalty and being a good son, doing what you’re supposed to do. He spares a moment to feel sorry for Michael, that he can’t figure out what Dean and now Sam both learned. You can’t live your life for someone else, by their rules, constantly striving for perfection or approval or rebuke. That’s not living. Only Lucifer couldn’t see that. And Michael doesn’t want to. He’s too caught up in being right, in getting daddy’s approval, to realize he’s not right or in control, he’s just hurting along with the rest of them. And Sam is unsure, for a moment. What to do? He’s come this far... and he see’s Dean and he understands. There’s no fighting or fear or regret. No anger or pain or loss. Only this. Only surrender to what he knows is right. Faith in Dean, in himself. Let go. That’s all that’s left. Let go of all that ties him here, that sucks him down and causes pain. Show them the way...
So he finds it. Peace. And he grabs Michael because it’s the best thing to do. The only way to make them stop. And they fall.
Only for Sam it’s more like floating. Like release.
Sam Winchester is in Hell. But Hell has no hold on him. Neither torture nor pain nor anguish nor agony can touch him, for Sam Winchester is the rare soul, the uncommon mind, who has found peace. The storm can surge around him, the fire and blood at his feet, but they can not touch him. All Sam sees are stars. The night sky of a million brotherly moments reflecting back at him with hope and promise. And his mind is free to learn, reflect, grow, understand.
Around him Michael and Lucifer fight. Michael is angry, in pain, his fury at being stuck in Hell burns so bright the sun would shy away. Lucifer is more subdued, reflective. But he’s still angry and frustrated and derives too much pleasure from Michael sharing his plight.
Sam wishes they would listen, could see that down here they cause their own pain. He wishes they could see...
It’s unexpected to have more wisdom than an archangel and the devil himself… but he’s not yet wise enough to show them the path.
Then again, they’ve had millennia or more to figure it out, and they haven’t, maybe they never will. Eventually Sam gains the wisdom to realize Peace is something you have to find for yourself. People can open the doors and show you the way, but the journey is one you have to take alone.
So he exists, in Hell, but not in pain. Sam Winchester is at peace, and he realizes maybe eternity isn’t such a long time after all, especially when it’s filled with so many possibilities and opportunities. And he rests. Secure in his knowledge that Cas is okay after all and he’s watching over heaven and Dean. And Dean, the savior of humanity, the key to the puzzle—to Sam’s life—is finally getting to live a human life. And they’re all apart, but not really... maybe together they can bring change to their respective spheres. He would worry about Dean, because he still has a lot to realize—not learn, because Dean’s the great teacher, who taught Sam—but Sam has faith and he know eventually Dean will understand.
Sam Winchester is in Hell, but he’s never been more free.