A heart-felt acknowledgement of and thanks to Sharlot for her suggestions, editing and general understanding of how to write.
Well, he was alive.
Alone and freaked out but definitely alive.
Images and thoughts rioted while he tried to remember what happened. How did he end up here? He recalled his shock when the scythe harvested Death after the Horseman demanded that he kill his brother. When the choice was Sam or anyone or anything else, he would always choose his brother. Eventually.
He remembered warning his brother about the Mark being the barrier that kept the Darkness at bay, remembered the white hot pain when the curse was pulled out of his body and soul. He remembered the storm, the lightening, and geysers of clouds and dirt erupting all around them. He remembered turning to Sam in alarm and attempting to outrun the roiling clouds but being engulfed when the Impala failed them.
Then he was here.
"Sam!" The thick swirling fog swallowed the word. The heavy air pressed in on him from all sides; suffocating. The lack of solid reference points was disorienting. He saw only smoky shadows that sifted and swayed, reminding him uncomfortably of Purgatory. His breath stuttered when a disturbing idea forced its way to the front of the line of his racing thoughts.
"Sam!" He bellowed with growing desperation. He half hoped he wouldn't get an answer. His brother had made mistakes, some pretty damn big errors in judgment, but he didn't deserve to spend eternity in Monster Hell.
He turned in all directions, his senses strained to catch the smallest sound and pierce the thick shadows. He reached for his gun. He didn't have it. He didn't have any of his weapons.
To his left the fog started to thicken. A figure slowly emerged. At first he thought it might be his brother. As the shape came closer, he noticed the walk was wrong; it wasn't Sam.
The haze obscured his vision. The man had to get within a few yards before he could make out any details: tall and broad shouldered, short, dirty blond hair darkened with age, and a face he saw every morning when he looked in the mirror. The figure was a perfect copy except for the eyes; the irises were whirling storm clouds.
"What are you?" he demanded. "Where's Sam!"
The thing that looked like him smirked with a familiar grin and shook its head. "What do you think I am, Dean? Where do you think Sam is?"
Dean bristled at the condescending tone. "Listen, I've had a bad day, hell, I've had a bad decade so just answer the damn question. Are you, a 'shifter, demon, leviathian? What have you done with my brother!"
His image grew translucent then solidified, drawing more of the fog into itself. "I'll give you a hint.
"I am the voice that whispered to you through the Mark, the power that strengthened you, the rage that aimed you like a weapon. I raised you like a dark Lazarus from your death bed. I am the Void."
Dean canted his head thoughtfully then snapped his fingers, "Yeah, I think Death mentioned something about you. The void, huh, so you're a big bag of nothing?"
The thing scowled. "I am chaos, divided from Light, the corrupter of the Morningstar, the anger that drove Cain to madness. I am the Darkness. You should fear me!"
Dean pulled bravado around him like his father's long absent leather jacket and dismissed the claims with a disdainful nod of his head. "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I've known the dark since I was four years old and things there fear me. You're just another megalomaniacal son of a bitch with delusions of godhood."
The figure wavered then darkened, the rough voice growled, "I'm no god. Gods create while I am the opposite of creation."
Dean turned away as if unconcerned and appeared to look into the mist while watching the figure from the corner of his eye. "Okay, you're a badass. Why are you here bothering me instead of starting your plan for world domination?"
"Part of me is here and part of me is spreading out over the earth." The thing wearing his face smiled cruelly.
"As to why I'm honoring you, you carried the Mark. I thought we deserved a face-to-face introduction. After thousands of years of Cain, it was appealing to have someone new, someone else worthy, to act through. You are a perfect killer. You cause pain and destruction wherever you go.
"I have been in your mind, Dean, seen your memories, thought your thoughts, and inserted my own little suggestions to turn you into what I needed you to be. I know your past better than you remember it yourself. I thought I had to be content tormenting my jailer and encouraging your potential for slaughter but, suddenly, I'm free. If I were capable of gratitude, I would thank your brother."
The Dark took a few lurching steps forward. "Dean, you are unique. I want you to continue to be my blade, my hand that snuffs out the small lives of man while I challenge Heaven and Hell."
Dean stilled, made sure the Armageddon wanna-be couldn't see how his heart faltered. "I think I'll pass. I'll keep my hands to myself, so to speak."
His doppelganger chortled viciously. "You think you have a choice?"
Dean crossed his arms in defiance and clenched his jaw. "You think I don't? I didn't bend over for an archangel. I didn't back down from a Hell Knight. I fought the Mark and maybe I didn't win but I would call it a draw. I was a founding member of team Free Will. Yeah, I think I got a choice."
His evil twin walked slowly around him, eyeing him up and down. "Team Free will?" the thing scoffed, "God gave free will to mankind.
"Have you asked yourself if you're even human anymore?"
"Shut the hell up," Dean snarled before he slammed the lid down on his emotions and shrugged the question off.
"Don't you think it's ironic that your brother, once an abomination, is now sanctified; his chronic tendency to choose the unrighteous path if it will lead to what he wants notwithstanding. The trials to close the gates of Hell cleansed him of demonic taint, while Gadreel left a little bit of angel grace behind; sloughed like a cat sheds fur when it rubs against your leg in hopes of being fed.
"But you, Dean Winchester, you have lived a life where the lesser darkness has tainted your soul and changed your flesh. You were a vampire. Your blood was cleansed of the disease but do you really think that changes on the cellular level can be gotten rid of just because you had a good purge?"
Dean interrupted, "You obviously never spent the evening puking your guts out. That potion scoured my insides out better than a good colonic, and don't ask how I know that."
The Darkness continued as if Dean hadn't spoken. "There was your desperate plan to destroy Eve. You swallowed the ash of a phoenix; a poison potent enough to kill the Mother of all Monsters. She drank in the lethal toxin when she tried to change you by taking your blood. Of course, she couldn't take all the ash from your system; bits of it are probably still circulating around in there because phoenixes regenerate. Also, she bit you in order to corrupt you into one of her monsters. The ash of a creature of legend and a transformative infection from a primal force; but you weren't changed?"
"Changed? Nope, but it sure as hell affected me," Dean countered mockingly. "That ash was disgusting, it was days before food tasted right and I had hot flashes for a week."
Dean's double frowned. "You've worn Death's ring and acted as his proxy. You really think a mere man could do that? If the ring and scythe hadn't recognized you, do you think you could have wielded his own weapon to destroy The Grim Reaper's avatar?"
"And of course one of the biggest changes, a true metamorphosis, the Mark of Cain changed a cooling corpse into a Knight of Hell. Worm food, or in the case of a hunter, fire wood, transformed into a being with the power of a fallen angel. Then you were changed back into something that could at least pass for human.
"If you cast a demon from a dead body, aren't you supposed to be left with a dead body? Not a live Winchester."
Dean faked a yawn, "I'm tired of listening to your boring monologue. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, got blood on the t-shirt, tossed it and got a new t-shirt. So if you've got a point make it."
"My point is this; you are no more human than I am. You are more monster than man."
He could tell he was on his back. Something was gripping his face, turning it this way and that. He made a fist and tried to swing but his arm just lay there. His forced heavy eyelids up but couldn't quite focus. There was a big, familiar blur squatting beside him. "Smm?"
"Yeah, it's me. Come on, we gotta go!"
His vision slowly cleared. His brother had red running down the side of his face. "You 'k, Sm? Y're bleedin." He tried to sit up but dizziness put him right back down with a stern warning to just stay the hell there for a minute.
Dean felt his brother latch his forearms under his armpits and start hoisting him up, talking while lifting, "I'm fine, Dean. Come on."
"Wh'r we going?" He struggled to get his feet to support his weight. He looked around but couldn't make sense of what he was seeing.
"Outta here. The cloud flipped the Impala. It's gonna take both of us to right her."
Finally on his feet, Dean gripped his brother's arm long enough to steady himself. Concentrating on the blood on his brother's face brought everything rushing back. He searched his brother's eyes while Sam talked.
"The cloud rolled right over us without doing too much damage but look around, everything else looks like a tornado hit it; the bar, the field, even the car you jacked."
Dean turned away and scanned the scene, not sure what he was searching for. There was no one there but them. They were the only things still standing.
"So, ah," he heard Sam say, "I guess that cloud was the Darkness. I swear nothing in my research said the Mark was anything but a curse. I don't regret what I did to get rid of the Mark and save you, but I never intended to….."
"Save it, Sam. Good intentions ain't gonna stuff the djinn back in the whiskey bottle."
Dean deliberately avoided looking at his brother. He already knew what he would see: desperation and determination. He also knew the next thing his brother said would be a plea for forgiveness couched in a rationalization. He wondered when they would finally learn from their past and quit making the same damn mistakes.
"Dean, I know I should've listened to you about the Book of the Damned but…"
Dean sighed and interrupted his brother's apology, it wasn't necessary. "Don't worry about it, Sammy.
"To err is human.
"We'll worry about forgiveness later."