paleogymnast (paleogymnast) wrote,

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An Echo (fanfic)

Title: An Echo
Fandom: Supernatural
Characters: Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester (sort of)
Pairings: none
Rating: PG-13 (for a little bit of language and some dark imagery)
Word Count: 1006
Warnings: Fairly dark fic, vague religious themes
 Futurefic, so vague or potential spoilers for all episodes aired thus far; lots of speculation about where this season might be headed. Thank you to emerald_angel for some early suggestions, thanks to Carlos (who doesn't have an LJ account) for the beta, and to pixie9696for help with the summary and encouragement to post; will be cross-posted to dean_sam and sn_fic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no money is being made, no copyright infringement intended!  "Supernatural" and its characters are owned by Eric Kripke, Warner Brothers, the CW network, et al.  This is fiction written entirely for entertainment purposes only.  Not mine; don't sue, please. I repeat: not mine.
Summary: The war is lost, hell has Dean, so what remains?

He remembers something vague from one of Pastor Jim’s sermons about how the punishment of hell wasn’t fire and brimstone and torture and pain, but the separation from God. 
Of being forever shut away from the simple kindness, the one thing that everyone should want. Dean has never had much faith in God, but he did have faith in Sam, still does, in spite of everything. And he thinks that maybe that’s what hell is all about, at least for him; it’s being kept away from Sam and knowing that he will never, ever, possibly see him again. That complete and utter loss of hope. The feeling of failure as a human being, a brother, a protector, but beyond that, the sense of betrayal of the most basic truth of what it means, meant to be Dean Winchester. The separation, the distance, the annihilation of the part of Dean that was Sam and the loss of the man that Sam was.
But sometimes, hell is pain and suffering of the physical kind. Fire laps at his skin, tendrils of blue and red and yellow flames entwine around his limbs, creeping ever upwards until he is completely engulfed. His hair should be singed, his skin should be charred and black and falling away, and he can even smell it, the rancid, stifling aroma of burning hair and skin and fat and flesh is in his nostrils, choking him, haunting him, making him gag. Dean’s stomach wants to wretch in protest, but somehow hell won’t let it. Just like he can see his skin is still whole and fine and unmarked, even when he should be pile of ash and bone on the rough earthen floor. The flames are but an echo here… amplified and repeating but insubstantial, unreal. Yet it doesn’t matter, because echo or not, real or not, ashes on the floor or standing here whole, every second he feels those flames is an eternity. Then again, for all he knows an eternity might be only seconds. There’s no sense of time or space or continuity in hell.
Sometimes, Dean is alone, which is often, considering that most of hell’s former residents have fled to earth—it’s only him and the other rejects, the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst, the uncontrollable and the embarrassing, and the insurance policies—Dean realizes that hell is being forgotten. It could be seconds or months or decades or millennia that pass by in those times, and Dean would never know. And at those times, it’s silent. Still. Tasteless. Odorless. The bleak and barren visual of an endless and empty landscape and the occasional sensation as his bare feet tread along the earthen floor or his hands trail along the sticky-sharp, bloody walls of bone, the only sensations that keep it from being complete sensory deprivation. He almost forgets what sound sounds like. There is no one here to make a noise. No direction, no breeze. Sometimes Dean remembers that he should be able to make sounds, to speak, but when he tries, there is nothing. Somewhere in Dean’s mind, a voice from his past muses that with a space this cavernous there should be an echo. But there is none. And hell is the loneliness of not knowing if anyone or anything even remembers you exist or existed. Even hell has forgotten him.
But sometimes, sometimes, Dean is not alone. Sometimes he comes to Dean. Hesitant, fragile, small, and young. Brown hair and hazel eyes bigger than the cavern of hell itself. He is young and gentle. His skin is warm, and when he hugs Dean, the chill that has settled at the core of Dean’s soul begins to lift. It’s not hot like fire; it’s the kind of warm that feels good and right and everything about life and love and family that Dean lost when arrived here. He looks like Sam did about the time he finally found out what Dad really did when he was gone all the time, maybe eight years old, and he turns to Dean with complete faith and trust in his eyes. This Sam is whole and good, not twisted and evil, inhuman and corrupted like the Sam that roams and rules hell’s kingdom on earth. Sometimes Dean sees him. Sometimes Dean thinks he can touch him. And then, one day, he speaks to Dean…
“I love you,” he whispers. “You’ll take care of me and protect me from the monsters that are real.” Sam nestles his tearful cheek against his big brother’s shoulder, allowing himself to be held. And Dean remembers what it’s like to be loved.
“Of course I will,” Dean finds himself whispering, and he his voice makes noise. “I’ll always take care of you, Sammy.” In his mind, he’s wondering, what are you? Fear for a moment making him believe this may be a new form of torture hell has thrown at him, maybe, maybe the evil that Sam has become has remembered Dean and thinks this is a fun way to fuck with him; keeping up appearances for one of hell’s last residents.
“Don’t think that,” Sam says against Dean’s shoulder as if reading his brother’s mind. He pushes himself back and looks deep into Dean’s eyes, showing his truth to Dean’s soul. And Dean feels the truth, and the warmth washes over him again, the first relief he’s felt in what might be centuries. “I’m an echo. A memory. I believe in you, and you still believe in me. I won’t leave you.”
And he doesn’t. Sam’s echo stays with Dean, and Dean realizes that maybe hell isn’t about pain or lost faith in someone else. It isn’t about isolation or torture or silence or being forgotten. Hell is losing faith in yourself. And maybe with this Sam by his side, Dean can believe in himself again, becoming Dean instead of a lost echo, and maybe… hell will lose its power and Sam… 
“You can still save me,” Sam whispers.
Tags: angst, au, dean'spov, fic, futurefic, pg-13, supernatural
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