Either Kings or Pawns
Summary: The plan to raise Lucifer won't work if Sam Winchester gets himself killed before his brother breaks in Hell.
Sam doesn't sleep but he's not quite awake, either. The crown is heavy in a deeply unnatural way, holding him immobile, wearing into him and pressing, thick and smothering, against his very being.
The bar is a distant thing, oily and vague, all the details slipping and sliding away across the wooden floor. A smear of movement, a mumble of people. It all seems to move too fast to keep up with, too slow to keep track of. He can hear the demons talking but the words don't make sense unless he concentrates, like they're speaking a language he barely understands. Sometimes they talk to him, cackling jeers or idle threats, details of tortures they'd like to enact or graphic descriptions of Hell that he tunes out and ignores as best he can. Sometimes there's shouting and singing and demon girls gyrating in his lap, invasive hands roaming beneath his shirt, the music endless and obnoxiously loud, with bass that vibrates his bones, powders and pills and drunken laughter and fist fights. Sometimes there are hands tugging on his hair, holding his head back and forcing his mouth open to pour shot glasses of a bright red liquid down his throat. It warms like a gentle fire, tastes sharp and spicy and good and wrong and he can never think through the sludge of the spell long enough to remember to figure out what it is. The demons melt back into the background of bar life and he forgets to wonder. A lot of the time, he forgets to think at all under the pressing weight of the crown but when he does, he thinks he probably deserves this. Dean is in Hell because of Sam and Sam is alive when he shouldn't be. It seems only fair that Hell should come to him.
The demons whisper about Lilith and seals, angels and Winchesters. There's a restlessness in the air that bleeds into the murky depths of the spell and wakes Sam up enough that he tries to pay attention. Time seems an abstract concept but he knows that some has passed and something has changed. The demons are tense now, like soldiers standing to attention, awaiting their next order, the mood and music dulled. Sam can't make much sense of their muttered conversations but he hears them say his brother's name enough that he wants to tear out of his own skin to rip them to pieces. It feels like his anger should have some physical affect, too strong to contain in a motionless body, but the crown is stronger, the rage doesn't result in even a finger twitch, and soon enough he's sinking back into the nothingness that pulls at him, losing track of everything as life murmurs on around him, half-forgotten and ethereal.
Reality bleeds back into existence when the familiar black-eyed face of the bartender swims into view, close enough to demand attention, wavering like they're under water, though they can't be because Sam's not drowning and the demon is talking, lips wobbling up and down, and Sam can hear him but the words just slide away. The demon leans back a little and holds up an empty whiskey tumbler with a flourish and Sam watches the pantomime play out before him, confused, as the bartender presses a nail to the soft flesh of the meat-suit's exposed wrist and drags it down, opening up a split in the skin that fills with deep red blood and quickly overflows. The demon raises the tumbler and lets the blood spill into it, a mesmerising, velvety stream that slowly fills the glass, and Sam doesn't put it all together until fingers tangle in his hair, pull his head back, press against his jaw to hold his mouth open, and just the smell makes his throat constrict with longing. He's so thirsty suddenly, maybe more thirsty than he's ever been in his life, and it tastes so good that by the time it occurs to him that this is really, really bad, the blood is already curled up, warm and soothing, inside him and the bar is empty for the first time since he walked in.
He doesn't know how long he's alone before he's not, before there's a face in front of him that seems to be shouting. First, Sam thinks the demons are back and then he thinks he must be dreaming or hallucinating or maybe he's dead because Dean can't be here because Dean is in Hell. Still, it's a nice dream, even if Dean looks a little rough around the edges, his eyes a little wild as they search Sam's face, bloodshot and ringed with bruises like they haven't closed in days.
Bobby is there, too, hovering over Dean's shoulder, and then closer, kneeling next to the throne with bolt cutters, snapping at the chains around Sam's wrists. Dean's shirt sleeves are pulled down over his hands and he's reaching for Sam's hair – no, for the crown. He plucks it from Sam's head like it weighs nothing but it's as if a thousand pounds has lifted, like gravity has finally pulled back and stopped trying to compress him into a tiny ball, and the bar springs back to life in full colour, high definition and surround sound. Sam gasps, stunned and overwhelmed, and it's like the first breath of air he's ever taken.
Dean's hands are on his face now, the crown tossed aside, and he's saying, “Sammy, Sammy, hey, it's me, it's Dean, can you hear me? Sam. Sam. Come on, Sammy, talk to me.”
Sam says, “Dean?” and “Am I dead?” but he's not sure if Dean hears the second question because it gets lost in the folds of his brother's shirt, and then he gets lost in how real Dean feels, how he smells like gun oil and grave dirt and sweat and home. Sam's ribs hurt where Dean's arms press against them but he doesn't try to move other than to raise his own arms. It's harder than he expects, like lifting weights rather than his own limbs, but he manages to twist his hands into Dean's shirt, clumsily returning the hug as best he can. They're on the floor, he realises, Dean on his knees and Sam half-crumpled in his lap. Dean must have pulled him from the throne, but Sam doesn't understand how Dean can be here.
“Dean?” he asks again, so, so confused. He can't put his thoughts in order well enough to figure out what he wants to ask first. How is Dean here? Is he okay? Where are the demons? How did Dean find him and how long has it been? The questions all swirl together, pushing at each other in a fight for dominance, until one thought stands out above all the rest and suddenly Sam's picturing an empty glass slowly filling with blood from a demon's veins. He tries, he really does, to bring his thoughts back to Dean and how happy he is that Dean is here, but he can't ignore it.
He's just so thirsty.