In principio erat verbum
SPN || R - sexuality, theology, some disturbing imagery || Sam/Dean, past Sam/Jess || 3,200 words
There's power in words, and they define the world. Dean's defined Sam, until they didn't.
- spoilers for all seasons
in principio erat verbum = in the beginning was the word (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1)
bellum es = you are beautiful/handsome
meus, meum es = mine, you are mine
Sam's earliest memories were vague impressions of soft, whispered words. Heat and light. Motion blurs of a time when being a Winchester meant a small Kansas house with a mommy and daddy and two little boys.
The earliest memory with any sort of coherence involved a motel bathtub and six-year-old Dean holding up a rosary between their naked folded legs. "Paster noster, qwuees in kellis," Dean horribly mispronounced with a proud smile that showed off the newest gap in his teeth. Their daddy was kneeling by the tub with a plastic cup in his hand to wash the soap from their hair, but Sam didn't really remember that part; just the harsh reflection of light off the wet crucifix, the way the words came out mangled from Dean's little mouth but no less sincere for it. You gotta learn it when you get big like me, Sammy, keep you safe.
Took the longest time for Pastor Jim to get Sam to say it correctly. Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum, and soon it was practically second nature.
In principio erat verbum. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
"Why words?" eight-year-old Sam asked Pastor Jim, and Pastor Jim said, "Because there's power in words, especially names. You make sure never to give your real name to a demon or a fairy because it means they can hurt you."
"But don't they hurt you anyway?"
"This is a different kind of hurt."
"But what if they already know your name?"
"Just because they know what people call you doesn't mean they know your name," said Pastor Jim kindly, and he laughed when Sam's face scrunched up irritably. "You'll understand when you get older, Sam."
"But I'm old enough now."
Then Pastor Jim looked sad, like he often did when he looked at the Winchester boys.
Sometimes Sam would get angry.
Of course, everyone does, right? But not – not like this. Not enough to consider the pros and cons of putting a bullet in John Winchester's skull with cool detachment and then realize, belatedly, that he was seriously considering it, that the hatred was like a living thing inside of him and despair was its little sister and the body count was going to include his own father.
Didn't happen often. But afterwards, every time, Sam would stand in front of the dirty motel mirror and stare at his reflection and wait for the hazel of his eyes to go black as tar.
Then Dean would yell for him, Sam, get your skinny ass out here and eat something, and suddenly he'd be Sammy again, just Sam, growing out of his puppy fat and into a beanstalk like his body was stuck on fast-forward. Dean would stomp over to the bathroom door to call him a pretty princess, stop fucking staring at yourself, and somehow Dean's affectionately annoyed voice would pull him back.
The time that Sam got really angry, he left for California for four years. If he'd stayed, someone would've ended up irreparably broken.
It wasn't the six-foot-plus body and miles of lean muscle and golden skin that made Jess a little crazy for this Kansas boy. It helped, of course, because she was a warm-blooded heterosexual woman and dear Lord, but if that was all she was looking for she could've easily found someone else whose heaviest emotional baggage was a missed birthday or two.
It was the way he always kissed her with an odd mix of awe and possessiveness, as though he couldn't understand why she was standing in the circle of his arms but was willing to fight to keep her there anyway.
It was the way he tended to hold books: Delicately, as though dropping them would make them shatter. How he could remember the most obscure and inane facts and whip them out at the strangest times, like the time he pressed her down into their bed and whispered, Did you know a pig's orgasm can last up to thirty minutes, and she laughed breathlessly as she came, not sure if she believed him or not, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist to hold him there until long after their heartbeats slowed.
It was the way she would wake up in the middle of the night, three or four in the morning, and her Kansas boy would be lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. Hic, hoc, haec, he'd be muttering to himself, huius, huius, huius. Or sometimes it'd be Zeus Hera Hades Daghda Brighid Morrighan Odin Freya Hel, because counting the names of deities was more familiar to him than counting sheep or primes.
It was the way he said his brother's name. Of course he almost never talked about his family, just left little Easter-egg hints like his utter disgust for Jim Beam and the way he could snap out a yessir with the best of the boot-camp recruits. But sometimes, rarely, usually when Sam wasn't even thinking about it, other things would slip out. Very funny, Jess, but that girl is way more Dean's type, anyway. Cook whatever you like, I'm not picky, should've seen some of the things Dean came up with when we ran low on supplies. Yeah, Dean showed me how to do that, I swear his head must be the strangest place in the world. Jess didn't even know what this mysterious brother looked like but the way that Sam said Dean, the way the single syllable just slid off his tongue as naturally as an exhaled breath, she felt that it was the key to unraveling the whole mystery that was 'Sam' if only she could conjugate the verbs correctly.
"You're Dean? You're the Dean?"
Scruffy, half-wild, a good-natured leer over her Smurfs shirt, and even though Jess was standing right next to her Kansas boy it was suddenly like she was invisible. A foreigner who could grasp only a few words out of ten and none of the subtext.
Just before she burned on the ceiling with a demon in her eyes it finally occurred to her that she'd been speaking the wrong language the whole time.
“There are some cultures that have everyone in a community change their names after someone dies so that his ghost can’t come back and recognize them.”
“I think you’d make an awesome Samantha.”
When Sam was twenty-three, he got a good idea of what Pastor Jim had been talking about all those years ago.
Being possessed means screaming helplessly into a vacuum where no one could hear; it's being held down and spread open and fucked with knives and broken bottles; it's standing naked and bare to humiliation, shame, disgust. People become accustomed to the privacy of their own head, to thinking of their physical bodies as the boundaries of their identity, you can break my bones but you can't make me love it, but then a demon squirms inside like a maggot and breaks it all apart with the casual, unthinking cruelty of a child pulling wings from a fly.
Sam blacked out for a week. Meg woke him up just enough to show him how Dean didn't even realize it wasn't his precious baby brother at the controls. And you two like to think that you know each other so well. Let him feel the stinging pain of backhanding Dean, let him watch the big brother that always seemed so indestructible collapse to the floor of the motel room.
Let him feel Jo's younger, smaller body against his. She's a tough one, Sammy, but she's no match for you. Maybe I should just let you have a little taste of what gets Big Brother hot and bothered, give you a taste of pussy that's barely legal. What do you say, Sammy, is it a deal?
Except Sam couldn't really follow the thread of what the demon was saying – every time it said Sammy it was like those knives were dug deeper into a part of him of which he'd never been conscious before. It crooned his name and he went blind with agony, felt himself forgetting where the boundaries were between himself and the rest of the world, like one of his visions had been dialed up to eleven.
Your body fits me like a pretty dress, Sammy, it feels like you were made to wear my kind inside of you.
When the binding rune was broken and it was Sam again, just Sam, his veins were heavy with something thick and dark. He was confused and terrified and angry –
– but then suddenly he could breathe again.
"There's an Irish folk tale that claims fairies are actually fallen angels. After the war in Heaven and God cast out the rebels, Michael went to him and said that if he didn't stop then Heaven would stand empty. So God commanded that everything would remain as they were at that moment. The angels in the air became storms, the ones underneath the ground became demons, and the ones on earth became fairies."
"Fascinating," said Dean.
"They were told that only those with enough blood in their veins to write their name would be allowed back in Heaven. That's why they kidnap humans – they can't."
"Thank you for that lovely bedtime story, Crypt Keeper. Now shut up and keep digging before the cops show up."
Sometimes their cases were less about chasing monsters through the woods and more about scholarly patience. Sorcerers and witches and magicians and necromancers would get their hands on texts written in languages that hadn't been spoken for a thousand years, and naturally the only solution to putting the cap back on whatever had been unleashed would be just as obscure. Drove Dean insane, not because he couldn't do it but because he just didn't have that quiet stubbornness for sitting in place for hours at a time trying to figure out whether a dark smear on parchment was a letter or spot of blood and if it had a Roman equivalent.
"Why can't we get a sorcerer that uses English in his spells? Seriously, all this cryptic crap? Sucks."
Sam had the mental image of a Victorian gentleman in a tweed suit trying to summon the forces of Hell with an I say, my dear fellow, just pop on up for a bit of mischief, there's a good man, and had to put his tired head in his arms on the table and laugh.
Dean didn't ask, just muttered, "Freak."
"The language itself isn't always what matters, Dean." He would have gone on about the collective unconscious and the power of will except he could see Dean shifting in his seat, speech without words, so Sam cut himself off with a light, "I need a burger. Where's the nearest diner?"
Like magic, like a spell, Dean grinned and was halfway out the door by the time Sam stood up. "C'mon, bitch."
Sam had a habit of making definitive statements. I know how you feel. This is how it is. Made Dean accuse him of being annoyingly self-righteous or sometimes just plain annoying.
What Sam never told him was that he sometimes knew these things as surely as he believed in the law of gravity and that two plus two was four. They would fight and the knowledge would fall into his mind with utter certainty, like stones dropped into a pool of water.
No, Sam never told. Didn't want to make it real. Didn't want Dean to look at him like a stranger; the visions were bad enough.
In the Bible there is "The Song of Songs." Traditionally the Catholic Church explained its inclusion in the Biblical canon as an allegory to the relationship of the feminized Church with God, but not even the patient Pastor Jim could convince a giggling twelve-year-old Dean and a disgusted eight-year-old Sam of that.
They didn't talk about it, not even Sam, who never could find quite the right words to say. Bellum es, sometimes, when he had Dean underneath him, Dean's back arched, sweat running down the groove of his spine. Meus, meus, he'd mouth soundlessly into the curve of Dean's neck, as though the dead language made it into something more. As though he could shape the both of them into something new, reclaim Dean's soul from the crossroads demon and lock it tight inside his own. As though every time they fucked it was a communion, one of the Mysteries in which flesh became God.
He'd wrestle Dean to the bed, strip him naked, pin him down, trace letters and sigils on his brother's broad chest with saliva as his invisible ink. Meus, meus, meus. Please, God, don't take him, because this was when he still prayed and believed in angels. He would lick his own name down Dean's cock, following the heavy veins, moving up the cut of muscle along Dean's hips, scrape long red lines like a signature with blunt nails. Salty sweat on his lips, Dean's wordless groans rich and filthy in his ears.
Or Dean would lay Sam down, gentle to Sam's nearly desperate roughness, and run his hands over Sam's body like he was something worthwhile. Long, deep strokes until Sam thought he would melt into the mattress, and by the time Dean eased into his body he'd be strung out with need. Spread his thighs until his hips ached, pressed his legs along the length of Dean's torso to try and make Dean move faster and harder – wanted to feel it for days, to have physical proof that Dean had been literally inside him and that Sam been the sole focus of his attention for that little while. When Dean came, he'd whisper Sam, and Sam couldn't help but think that everything had to turn out all right, that he was more than the demonic blood that sometimes made him so cold and furious inside. Because if there were miracles like this then maybe. Maybe.
Meus, meus, meum es.
Dean went to Hell and Sam might as well have followed.
The blackness in his blood that he'd fought his whole life was suddenly everything he needed: Punishment for his failures, the tool for his repentance. He wondered, if he tried to write his name, whether it would bleed through the Book of Life and fall back down to earth as acid rain.
Dean came back from Hell and it hadn't been by Sam's hand.
There were other things Sam had never told Dean. I was the one that broke your Batman action figure and blamed it on the next door neighbor's kid. I was the one that made sure Maria O'Connell caught you behind the bleachers with Crystal Harris so she would break up with you, just because I was jealous.
I can also hear Castiel's true voice. The Enochian characters carved into his ribs pulsed with his heartbeat. What does that make me?
"After Mom died," Dean admitted, "I didn't feel much like talking."
Samuel, Lucifer murmured. Samael.
Sam had fucked up. Dean had pushed when he should have pulled and what human could've possibly guessed that killing Lucifer's First was a bad idea, but it was ultimately Sam's fault, should've been more patient with Dean's trauma and anger, should've listened when Dean said Sammy.
It wasn't at all like being possessed. There wasn't any way to really describe what it was like to have Satan himself replace the visions and the odd moments of intuition. It felt like coming home. It felt like being torn apart into something that wasn't him.
But Sam had always defined himself by his big brother and that, that was what simultaneously saved and damned him. Jimmy said being Castiel's vessel was like being chained to the back of a comet. Being trapped with Lucifer and Michael in Dante's frozen pit and Milton's burning lake was like being in the heart of a supernova at the far edge of the universe.
Here be monsters.
In the beginning was the Word, and it created order out of chaos. God said, Let there be light, and he said it was good.
There was no light, and there were no miracles. Hic, hoc, haec were just sounds made by an animal that had happened to evolve a clever brain and traded the ability to choke to death for the capacity for speech. Sam was just a syllable that had been conditioned into him to elicit a response.
He supposed he could still feel pride; he was a damn good hunter, one of the best. Lust, because that was about as close as he could come to feeling something intangible. Greed, perhaps, in taking advantage of Dean's twisted love, and the gluttony that came with having no use for moral restriction. Wrath, envy, sloth, those things were harder, but still more distantly familiar than anything else. He could still sense the demon blood inside of him, weighing him down with promises, and he could still hear the voices of angels. He still hadn't told Dean.
He sometimes thought about fucking him. Give back to Dean a little bit of what they'd had before and make him less likely to turn his back. He remembered the taste of his brother's cock, the shivery satisfaction of kneeling astride Dean's lap and riding him until dawn, the tight clinging heat when he fucked Dean slow but hard and how, if he paused for a breathless moment, he could feel Dean's racing pulse around his own cock. He remembered because Lucifer had loved that he'd carnally sinned with his brother.
And Sam knew that his soul was still burning in hellfire and freezing in Lucifer's cold because he caught a glimpse of it every time he closed his eyes, the train at the far end of a dark tunnel. Twelve months was over a century in Hell, more than a hundred small eternities, and he idly wondered what it was going to be like if he ever got that soul back. Gibbering, slobbering insanity, or perhaps he'd already given in and become the Antichrist that the boy Jesse had never been. Let's play a game, folks, and see how far Dean Winchester could be pushed before he irrevocably gave up on his little brother, or maybe in a burst of rage end up pushing Sam into doing exactly what he shouldn't. Precedence: If it happened once it could happen again. It wasn't paranoia when people were actually out to get you.
He wondered what it meant that when Dean said Sam, Sammy, brother, it no longer seemed like anything more than a convenient title. Pater noster, Sam started, but then he didn't see the point in finishing.