Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Rating: PG-13 for language, a mature scene in the first chapter, and some darker themes
Spoilers: Set in Season 5 after 5.05, Fallen Idol. Anything up to that point is fair game.
Summary: There are things that make him human. Deciding what those are will become the difference between sanity and madness. When a demon forces the issue, Dean and Sam fight back the only way they can: together.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
...continued from Part 2A...
"Pie? For breakfast?" Sam questioned, the look on his face clearly disapproving.
"It's always time for pie," Dean countered, tossing a grin up at the sleepy-looking waitress. It was just the right amount of charm to drag a smile from her weary lips, though he didn't miss the way her eyes traced the path of his bruises, a pucker of worry folding her brow when she saw his bandaged wrists.
"You got it, Sugar," she nodded.
"So, assuming we get a ringer…then what?" Sam asked when the waitress left. "Any idea how we contact this demon?"
Dean quirked his eyebrows. "Dunno. Telegram?"
"I'm serious, Dean," Sam pouted as the waitress delivered his orange juice and Dean's coffee. "Giving us two days and then bailing wasn't the best plan."
"You forget what we're dealing with?" Dean pointed with the flat of his hand between Sam and the empty space next to him. "Demon, Sam. Sam, demon."
"Smart ass," Sam grumbled.
Dean sipped his coffee, wanting the flavor to settle on his tongue for a moment before swallowing. He needed this right now. More than his next breath.
"She'll probably find us. They usually do." Another sip of coffee and he saw his grimace reflected in Sam's eyes. He'd had better; it tasted like…dirt. "If not…well, it's not like we haven't summoned demons before, y'know."
"What if we can't find it?" Sam asked, digging into the eggs set in front of him. "Got a Plan B?"
"Summon her, trap her, beat the fuckin' antidote out of her." He cut the end of the pie with the side of his fork.
"That should be Plan A," Sam pointed out.
Dean took a bite of his pie, frowning. They'd definitely picked the wrong diner; rather than exploding with flavor on his tongue, the mixture of crust and fruit was flat, tasteless. He chewed it anyway.
"Wonder where Cas is," Sam asked suddenly. "I, uh…kinda expected him to be back here watching you like a hawk."
Pushing his pie away after two bites, Dean looked at his brother. "Why?"
"He was plenty freaked out about finding you," Sam shrugged. "He's invested a lot in you, y'know?"
"I guess," Dean looked down at his cup of coffee, watching the vibrations from his grip ripple through the dark liquid. He knew it would taste like dirt—if it tasted like anything. He wasn't ready to accept another loss, so he drank.
"You guess? He went to Hell and brought you out, Dean," Sam reminded him needlessly.
A raw scream tore through Dean's mind and it was all he could do to not flinch. "You actually think that's something I'm gonna forget?"
"Well, no," Sam relented, bowed by the unexpected fervor in Dean's tone.
"I know what he did then; I know what he's doing now. Practically cut off his own damn wings, the bastard," Dean grumbled, not wanting to think about Castiel's sacrifice, his willingness to back Dean's fight, his belief that God was out there, that they could win this if they found Him.
Sam was quiet for a moment, finishing his breakfast. "Does he really have wings?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude. He's an angel."
"We've never seen them, though."
Sam snapped his head up. "You have?"
"First time I met him," Dean told him, simply holding the coffee cup now. "They're like…shadows. Big mothers, too."
"Huh." Sam nodded, pushing his empty plate away. "Guess it's just…easy to forget he's not one of us sometimes."
Dean's smile was reluctant. "Well, he does lack our keen fashion sense."
"I don't know," Sam's smile echoed his, "I've been thinking about getting a trench coat. Only black—"
"Like Mulder's," Dean finished for him, his smirk covering the rising panic that sought to send him running. He glanced down at his watch. "You ready to hit this religious store?"
"I can't believe it's nine in the morning," Sam commented, looking over Dean's shoulder. "This storm makes it look like night out there."
"Nothing like a Midwest thunderstorm," Dean sighed, standing grabbing his coat, then leading the way out. "'Course…it would be nice to dry out once in awhile."
"No kidding," Sam groused as the rain quickly plastered his long hair to his scalp.
Dean's breath was rain soaked as he jogged over to the antique store, his heart in his throat, the memory of the taste of dirt in his mouth.
Here goes nothing.
"Plan B is still an option, y'know," Sam muttered as Dean plowed the heavy car down the rain-slicked road. "It was a long-shot that they'd have something."
"I know, Sam."
Nothing in the antique store came close to looking like the Eye of God, and the owners didn't know of any other shops nearby. After calling a half-dozen other stores they found listed in the phonebook and getting nowhere, Sam had suggested they keep looking, try anyway, but Dean's tight face and tired eyes had convinced him to just return to the motel and regroup.
Sam squirmed slightly in his seat. He was wet, cold, but the heater was up full-blast and he hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours. His eyelids grew increasingly heavy.
"We can still get that antidote, Dean."
They pulled into the motel lot and Dean shoved the gear into park, sinking back against the seat.
"What is it?" Sam asked, the air around him seeming to grow dense, almost impenetrable with dread.
"You remember back in Rivergrove…when we thought you had the Croatoan virus…and everyone wanted one of us to put a bullet in you?"
Sam swallowed, shaken by Dean's wording. "Yeah," he whispered.
"I thought…I thought that was the worse I could feel. Right there. In that moment." He lifted his eyes to peer through the windshield as the rain began to slightly abate. "But…in this really weird way…it was kinda like a weight off."
"Locking us in that room. The world on the other side. We'd go out together." Dean's voice was below a whisper, but Sam took in every word.
"I was so stupid," Dean shook his head slowly. "I had no idea how much worse…. I thought we'd had rough times, but…Hell kinda shifts your perspective, I guess."
"And angels," Sam chimed in quietly.
Dean huffed. "Angels."
Sam looked down at his hands. For a long moment the only sound was the slowing thrum of the rain on the Impala's roof.
"Y'know what the odds are that this demon would find you? Here, now?" Sam said softly. "It's like playing…roulette. They had to have been looking for us for awhile, y'know? If we hadn't come back here…."
"They'd have figured out another way," Dean sighed. "She wants this Eye of God thing as protection from…something. She would have found me even if we'd've gone to…Amsterdam."
"You think? I mean maybe it was just dumb luck."
"I remember her, Sam."
"The demon, you mean?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "She wasn't…innocent. I mean…well, you know what I mean. She'd killed someone. And she'd tried to bargain her way out."
Dean rubbed his eyebrow. "Maybe."
"You can tell me, Dean," Sam said quietly. "You don't…it doesn't have to stay buried."
"Yeah," Dean said in a dead voice. He opened the door. "It does."
Sam followed his brother into the motel room, then paused, watching as Dean stood at the foot of the bed, staring at the flowered comforter. Somehow they'd reached a place where the fear of death matched the fear of life.
Dean had a point: the angels might step in. But if they didn't—or until they did—Dean's life was being slowly siphoned away from him. Again.
I'm so goddamn tired of getting the short end of the stick.
"Get some rest," Dean said suddenly.
"You're dead on your feet, man," Dean said.
Sam hadn't realized that Dean had been looking back at him, so inward was his gaze. He dragged his eyes away from Dean's face to look longingly at the bed.
"But you've only got—"
"Hey," Dean put a hand on Sam's shoulder, his eyes warm. Sam looked at his brother's hand, taking a moment to register that it had been awhile since Dean had touched him out of camaraderie.
It used to be so natural—a squeeze of reassurance, a teasing smack to the back of the head. They'd lost that rhythm along the way. Sam wanted it back.
"Plan B is gonna take both our A games. You're tired. Get some rest."
"What about you?" Sam frowned, not wanting to be the only one to concede even a temporary defeat.
"My turn to keep watch," Dean replied, eyes flicking to Sam's laptop, then back, his only concession to the fact that Sam had allowed him his couple of hours.
Sighing, Sam nodded, sinking down onto the bed. Dean pushed at his shoulder and huffed out a laugh when Sam let his body give with the motion, flopping backwards. He gave no further sign that he was ready to crawl up toward the pillows.
"You're too big for me to put you to bed," Dean commented dryly, kicking gently at Sam's leg. "Get on up there before I change my mind."
Sam yawned loudly as Dean moved to sit down on one of the chairs. "Yeah, okay."
Kicking off his boots, Sam didn't bother undressing further, knowing that they'd have to get ready to summon the demon shortly. He shifted until he could grab a pillow. Peering through sleep-narrowed eyes at his brother's bruised face, Sam called Dean's name.
"You really think we…y'know…keep each other human?" He wasn't sure where the question had come from, but it was suddenly vitally important to know Dean's answer.
Dean leaned forward, his elbows braced on his knees, staring at the palms of his hands. "I think it kinda depends on how we define being human."
Sam frowned. He hadn't expected that.
"The way I define it," Dean continued, lifting his eyes to meet Sam's, "yeah. You keep me here, Sam. You keep me in the fight. Remind me that there's more to all of this then what some angels say there is."
The way I define it... Sam lifted his head slightly, wondering at that. "What about—"
"Hey," Dean held up a hand, palm out, silencing Sam. "No talking. Sleep. I'll wake you up in a couple hours and we can kick some demon ass."
Sam nodded, letting his head sink into the pillow, blocking out the sudden influx of questions.
Dean waited until Sam's breathing changed, became heavy, languid, dragging air through his parted lips and across his teeth. When he was sure his brother was asleep, he stood, checking to make sure his gun was secure in his waistband, and then slipped quickly outside.
The rain had slowed to barely a sprinkle, but water ran in a virtual river down the black-topped parking lot. Dean frowned, watching it catch against the Impala's tires in little whitecaps, then glide down the lot to the churning mud of what might've been a riverbank—or just the edge of a grass lot.
"If'n yer headin' out," came voice to his left, "y'might wanta wait a bit 'till they sandbag."
Dean looked over to see a man about his age dressed in khaki coveralls, a Royals baseball cap turned backwards, with a patch of beard tucked beneath his lip. Just down from their room, he was leaning against the pop machines, safe in a protected alcove, dry from even the little rain that still fell.
Looking back over his shoulder at the curtained window that led to where Sam now slept, Dean sighed. This was his burden; the demon was after him. It had nothing to do with Sam. It wasn't related to their destinies to become angelic vessels. It wasn't about Armageddon or releasing Lucifer from his cage. It was a simple case of revenge and he didn't want Sam messed up in it any more than he already was.
But…Plan B without his brother's help at this point would be a suicide mission.
I can't do that to Sam…not now.
"What are they sandbagging?" Dean asked, making his way over to the man. A 1980's-era boom box was on the floor neat the candy vending machine, an old Lynryd Skynyrd song slipping softly from the speakers.
"Used to be a crick 'fore all this here rain," the man nodded to their right, past the end of the parking lot. "Thinkin' I might build me an Ark."
Dean chuckled appreciatively. "You work here?"
The man reached into a front pocket of his coveralls and pulled out a pack of Camels, tapping one cigarette free and slipping the butt between thin lips. "Yep. Been the maintenance man since high school. You want?"
He offered the pack to Dean. For a moment, Dean paused, his instinct to wave off the cigarettes. And then something shifted. He found himself nodding, and reaching, grabbed one and balanced it at the corner of his mouth, his lips pushed slightly out.
"Name's J.R.," the maintenance man said, his mouth tight as he held the cigarette still and flicked a Bic lighter at the end. He pulled in puff, then another, before leaning over and lighting Dean's.
He'd smoked several times in the past—usually when nose-deep in alcohol, or when working someone to get information he needed—but it had never taken. It was too complicated and costly a habit to have when they lived the life of a gypsy and all too often depended on fake credit cards for a bed or a meal.
Plus, it tasted like shit. He'd never enjoyed the burn in his throat, the clogging, fogged-up feeling of his lungs, the slightly off-kilter way the world looked as the nicotine hit his system.
But none of that mattered now.
Not when he was hungry to taste anything…even the tang of a filtered cigarette.
He pulled in a drag, let the smoke fill his lungs, the weight of it heavy at the back of his mouth, then breathed it out with only a rough cough. One more drag and he pulled the cigarette from his lips with the tip of his fingers and thumb, cupping the burning ember in the palm of his hand to protect it from the rain.
Darting his tongue out, he rid his lips of the paper lingering there, trying to temper the rising panic that he'd not tasted the smoke. There'd been nothing, not even the sensation of ash on his tongue.
It wasn't even numb.
It just simply…wasn't.
"So, where ya goin', Dean?"
"Nowhere," he muttered, sagging back against the wall. "I'm not going anywhere, man."
J.R. suddenly leaned over, turning the volume up on the boom box as sad chords from a lone acoustic guitar melded with the returning rain.
"'At's the stuff, right there," J.R. nodded, his eyes half-closed as he continued to smoke. "The man in black."
"Johnny Cash?" Dean guessed.
"You know it."
"I hurt myself today to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real."
Dean swallowed, narrowing his burning eyes against the twisting tendrils of smoke that curled up from his lips as he breathed out once more.
"Dude sounds like he's really lived, y'know?" J.R. commented as the age-laden voice lamented his choices in life.
"Yeah," Dean sighed out a breath of smoke, wishing suddenly for the flask he'd thrown across the room.
Would he remember the taste of whiskey? What about food? He ran his tongue along the inside of his bottom lip. Would he remember what a woman tasted like—how there was always the quick bite of whatever had last touched her lips before him and then nothing but flesh and warmth and a distinct sweetness that was unique to each woman?
"What have I become? My sweetest friend. Everyone I know goes away in the end."
If he couldn't smell anything, couldn't taste anything, how soon before everything else disappeared…before he was vacant, hollow?
How soon before he couldn't feel the grip and kick of his weapon, the rumble of his car beneath his legs?
How soon until he was nothing more than a shell of someone who had once been human?
It had been his worst fear in Hell. It had chased him as he watched his brother succumb to addiction before his eyes. It had gripped him as he'd let Sam walk away from hunting, from him. What if he lost the one thing that made him human?
"And you could have it all. My empire of dirt. I will let you down. I will make you hurt."
"…been through the shit," J.R. was saying.
"What?" Dean looked over at the other man, realizing his cigarette had almost burned down to the filter. He bounced his thumb on the end, dislodging the ash. "What was that?"
"Said ya look like y'been through the shit," J.R. indicated to Dean's bruised eye. "Tangle with the wrong woman 'er somthin'?"
Dean lifted an eyebrow at the irony and glanced away. "You might say that."
The rain began to increase, splashing up toward them in a wave of sound from behind the motel, across the roof, to the lot still flowing with water. J.R. cursed his luck just as Sam pulled the door of their motel room open, poking his head and shoulders out in a panic.
"I'm right here," Dean called his brother's attention, turning his back to J.R.
"What the hell are you doing out here?" Sam demanded, straddling the doorway, rain soaking his hair and plastering his T-shirt to his chest in moments. Dean flicked his butt into the current of water bouncing around the wheels of the Impala. "Are you…smoking?"
Dean lifted his chin, challenging Sam's incredulity. "Worried it's gonna shorten my oh-so-rich-and-wonderful life, Sam?"
He watched Sam square his shoulders, weighing his reply. "No…just haven't seen you do that since we were kids."
Dean shrugged, moving into the rain from the safety of the vending machine alcove. "Guess I just…y'know, wanted to see—"
This time Sam's cry was a warning. Dean caught the look of shock on Sam's face two seconds before he sensed an approach from the rear.
"What the hell—"
Turning quickly, he instinctively lifted his hands before J.R. slammed into him, grappling for dominance in an awkward, painful embrace.
"I have been looking for you," J.R. growled, his articulation strangely perfect.
Dean shoved his fist into the other man's gut twice, surprised when J.R. didn't crumble away despite how his belly gave with the impact. Dean was skidding backwards, trying to force space between himself and his attacker. J.R.'s hand reached up and closed around Dean's throat, squeezing.
Slipping, his boots losing traction against the wet cement, Dean registered a smeared image of Sam standing in the rain, his arm raised, gripping the demon-killing knife. It took until that moment for Dean to register that the man he fought was no longer a man at all. He forced a hand up, clawing at J.R.'s eyes. The demon inside howled, gripping the back of Dean's neck and pulling at him, each one fighting desperately to gain leverage.
Dean broke loose, crashing his fist against the other man's skull, cursing when J.R. caught his arm on the back-swing and twisted it roughly behind Dean's back, pushing him face-first toward the side of the building, next to their motel room window.
Rain hammered down, nearly drowning out Sam's scream of, "Dean!"
As the side of the motel rushed up to meet him, Dean used his momentum and scrambled up the wall, his boots hitting the siding in quick succession as he pressed his back against J.R.'s front. The leverage allowed him to flip up and over the other man, freeing himself.
"Don't kill him! Not yet!" Dean bellowed to his brother, rushing the now black-eyed maintenance man and body-slamming him through the large, rectangular window.
In a crash of double-paned glass and flimsy, wooden table and chairs, Dean and J.R. entered the motel room, scattering duffel bags and Sam's laptop and bringing the Midwest storm of the century in with them. Dean slammed his fist into the demon's jaw, flying backwards into the pile of glass when J.R. returned the favor.
The gun tucked into his waistband bruised his spine with the impact and Dean twisted, reaching, pulling the weapon free, aiming it, despite the fact that he knew firing it was basically a useless gesture. J.R.'s demon struck Dean's arm, sending the gun flying. Kicking out, Dean's boot hit J.R.'s crotch with enough force that the human would have been incapacitated. The demon, however, simply tumbled backwards, then surged once more to its feet.
"Hold him! Hold him off!"
In a blur of motion, Dean registered Sam scrambling past them, climbing onto the nearest bed, and reaching above his head with the razor-sharp tip of the demon-killing knife he'd been wielding outside.
Blinking water from his lashes and shaking in his head as the ringing in his ears increased, Dean hollered, "Whatever you're doing do it fast!"
J.R.'s demon roared as he dove once more for Dean, this time barely touching him as he slammed Dean against the wall with brute, demonic-force, then dragged him down and through the broken glass and furniture.
"Hang on, Dean!" Sam's voice sounded as if it were coming from miles away, the roar of the storm enough to literally drown out anything but the pressure building in Dean's chest and head as the demon slammed him once more against the glass-covered floor.
"Hurry!" Dean rasped as he swept his leg toward the demon's precarious balance and knocked it off its feet.
The demon matched Dean's speed rising to its feet.
"Now!" Sam yelled, jumping down and shoving the bed aside. "Push him back!"
With all that remained of his strength, Dean fisted his hands in J.R.'s coveralls and forced the demon toward where the bed used to be, then released it, falling backwards onto his rear, gasping for breath. The demon moved to rush Dean only to be stopped by an invisible wall. Stumbling, it looked around, confused.
"Devil's fuckin' Trap, asshole." Dean spat blood from his mouth.
Sam stood next him, equally soaked, breathing hard. All three looked up to see the crude, hastily drawn Devil's Trap Sam had scratched into the dry-walled ceiling with the tip of the knife.
"Nice job, Sammy," Dean gasped, reaching a hand for help to his feet.
"Thanks." Sam gripped his arm, leveraging him up. "I need to start carrying Sharpies on me or something."
Dean glanced once more at the scratched up ceiling. "You work with what you have."
"Why didn't you let me kill him?" Sam asked, eyeing J.R.
Dean licked his lip, only realizing he'd drawn more blood into his mouth when he followed that motion with a swipe of his hand and saw the red smear.
"Well, for one," Dean said, circling the demon, "the guy he's wearing doesn't deserve it."
The demon sneered.
"Plus, I think you might know something," Dean said to the demon.
"He knows of the reward for killing Michael's vessel."
Castiel's voice from out of nowhere had Dean and Sam jerking in surprise.
"Son of a—we need to put a freakin' bell around your neck!" Dean exclaimed.
"I don't see what purpose that would serve," Castiel replied, his brows pulled close over his placid blue eyes.
"Where have you been?" Sam demanded.
"Looking for answers," Castiel replied, stepping calmly over the broken furniture, the storm outside forcing him to raise his ever-modulated voice. "I have information that may help us."
"With him?" Dean pointed to the trapped demon glaring quietly at Castiel.
"He is of no concern to us."
"How do you know?"
"Because I followed him here," Castiel looked at Dean, tilting his head.
"Took your sweet time, didn't you?" Dean muttered. "And he is a concern—there's an innocent guy in there."
Castiel stared at him for a long moment. Dean held his eyes, forcing the angel to see the turmoil, the frustration, the overpowering need to fix this that churned just beneath the surface.
"I see," Castiel said, as if he truly had seen something.
Dean frowned, unsure what he might've inadvertently revealed to the angel.
Castiel turned to the demon. "You realize you are playing a very dangerous game."
"Maybe for you," the demon snarled.
"Hell is at war with itself," Castiel continued, moving around Dean and pulling the demon's attention with him. "The bounty on this vessel could be paid in blood if the wrong…," Castiel's eyes flicked over the demon's face, then off to the side, "…being…were to find out what you had done."
J.R.'s demon frowned.
"There are some who want to see how this plays out," Castiel said mildly over the noise of the storm.
Dean looked over at Sam, seeing his brother's eyes already on him as he hunched his back against the incoming rain.
"Let your friends know that the bounty on Michael's vessel comes at a price," Castiel said, his voice a low, threatening growl.
J.R.'s demon looked over at Dean, who lifted his chin in return, challenging it to say something. Face twisted in a pissed-off sneer, the demon screamed its way out of J.R.'s mouth, leaving the maintenance man to crumble in a boneless heap.
"Thanks, Cas," Dean said sincerely, the adrenaline high from the fight beginning to wear off, leaving him slightly light-headed and incredibly weary.
"I told you to be careful," Castiel snapped, facing Dean. "Retracing your footsteps makes you too easy to predict and find."
"Yeah, okay, we got it," Dean returned, wiping rain from his face as it clouded his vision.
Castiel was wavering in front of him, shifting slightly in perception and focus. Edges were blurring, turning almost liquid.
Oh, God, no, not yet.
He ran his wet sleeve across his eyes, willing his sight to clear, needing to keep this sense long enough get the antidote from the demon.
"We cannot stay here," Castiel informed them.
"Ya think?" Sam shouted, moving to toss the broken table and chairs aside, searching for their duffel bags and his—now ruined—laptop.
"We need to head to some place where we can work in peace," Castiel said to Sam, then looked over at Dean, "and summon a demon."
"We could head to the Bottoms," Dean said, turning to grab the belongings left in the bathroom.
His vision swayed once more, tilting crazily sideways and forcing him to reach out and brace himself on the dresser. If he didn't know better, he'd swear he was drunk. Everything seemed muted, narrowed, as if he were falling down a tunnel, then yo-yoing back upwards once more.
"What is this place?" Castiel asked.
"It's downtown," Sam explained shoving his wet hair from his face. "Basically a bunch of abandoned warehouses."
Dean moved away from the dresser, leaving Sam to answer Castiel. He wanted to retrieve his flask from where he'd thrown it earlier.
"And no one will be there?"
As Dean bent over, a twisted sensation of nausea and darkness seemed to wash over him like a wave.
"No one that will care what we're—Dean? You okay?"
He was on his knees. When had he gone to his knees?
"Dunno…." His voice was slurred, sluggish. "Something's…really off."
Sam was next to him, peering at him. It wasn't until he looked down that Dean realized his brother was gripping his arm tight enough to turn the wet skin white.
He couldn't connect why that didn't make sense. He'd always been able to recognize Sam's grip. Always.
"Oh, Jesus…," Sam breathed, his face paling, his eyes on Dean's side.
"What?" Dean pulled his brows together. "What is it?"
"Just…take it easy, Dean," Sam was saying, talking to him with that tone again. That cornered-animal tone.
Dean looked down at his side and blinked at the sight of a two-inch piece of glass protruding from the area just beneath his ribcage. His gray Henley and jeans were soaked through, dark with water. He saw now that blood had mixed in, turning much of the material black, but it was hard to say by simply looking how much blood he'd lost; the wet clothes masked too much.
The slow spin of his head and the steadily increasing feeling of falling both pointed to two things, though: his body was going into shock and he'd been bleeding for awhile.
Drunkenly, he lifted his eyes, meeting his brother's anxious hazel eyes.
"I didn't…didn't even feel it," he confessed.
He lifted his hand, looking at the appendage, slightly amazed to see it still attached to the end of his arm. Amazed the he even had an arm. The rain had soaked through the bandages on his wrists, all-but exposing the raw cuts. He wiped at his mouth with a clumsy hand, seeing the red stain of blood from a split lip.
"I don't…feel anything," he whispered, surprised that he could still feel himself falling. How could he fall if he didn't have a body?
He realized that Sam was adjusting his hold, turning to face him. But he couldn't feel the pressure of his hands, denied even the comfort of touch.
"It's okay," Sam was saying. "We'll fix this…we'll fix this, Dean."
Dean pushed back against the darkness, willing it away. It hadn't been his sight. He had to repeat the assertion to himself.
I still have my sight.
He could still see his brother, see the arms that gripped him, lifted him, sat him on the wet bed, tipping him sideways. He could see Castiel's tense face; worry a foreign visitor in eyes that had seen so much.
"If I can't…can't feel it, how come I'm…so dizzy?" Dean forced out.
"The virus blocks the sensory receptors," Castiel said calmly, pushing J.R.'s limp body slightly to the side with his foot so that he could step closer to Dean. "It doesn't affect the physical damage done to your body. You cannot feel it, but your body is still impacted by invasion and loss of blood."
"He can't feel it, but…it still hurts?" Sam barked, his voice the edge of a blade, his patience evidently washed away by the constant barrage of rain and bad news.
"Essentially, yes," Castiel nodded.
"How does that even make sense?"
"I did not manufacture the virus," Castiel reminded them. "And the human body is a complex organism. Beyond your comprehension."
"Okay," Dean shoved out, forcing his lips to obey him, demanding his voice stay steady. "Not the time for the whole mysterious ways shit, Cas. Can you help or what?"
Dean watched as Sam looked expectantly at Castiel, waiting for the angel to make this right.
"I cannot heal you," Castiel said softly. "I am sorry, but—"
"Forget it," Sam snapped. "We did just fine before angels came along."
"Can you do this, Sam?" Dean reached up to grab his brother's arm, dismayed to find that he had to command his hand to close.
There was nothing there, nothing below his fingers, nothing in his grip. Only there was. Sam was there. He held on to Sam and felt…nothing.
"You're bleeding a lot, man," Sam shoved his hair back, his eyes darting along the wound and up to Dean's face, "it's gonna be sketchy."
"Well…you can't hurt me," Dean pointed out.
"Yeah," Sam reminded him. "I can. You just won't know it."
Castiel straightened suddenly, stepping around the cockeyed bed to peer through the broken window. Watching him, Dean realized the angel was listening to something.
"Thought you weren't on the angel grapevine anymore," he called out.
Sam turned slightly to frown in Castiel's direction. "What are you—"
"Sirens," Castiel replied. "Still at a distance, but coming this way."
"Fuck me," Dean whispered. "This just gets better and better."
"We must leave this place," Castiel said needlessly. "We cannot be caught by the authorities."
"Pretty sure we got that, Cas," Sam snapped moving away from Dean.
Pushing himself upright on wooden arms, unnerved by the slow spin of the world, Dean craned his neck to see where his brother went. Sam returned carrying the spare white towels from the bathroom.
"You don't understand—she is tracking you," Cas continued.
"What?" Dean sank back against the wet mattress. "I thought you said—"
"The virus," Castiel interrupted. "She is able to track the virus."
"We gotta hurry," Sam muttered, his eyes on Dean's. "I'll get the glass out, but we'll have to wait to stitch you up."
Dean nodded. "Field dressing."
"Got it," Sam replied, wiping his face once more. "Cas—get our stuff in one pile. We're gonna have to move fast."
"There isn't much for me to…consolidate," Castiel said.
Dean caught his brother's eyes. "It's okay, Sam. You got this."
"Ready?" Sam replied, unable, it seemed, to register the fact that Dean wouldn't actually feel the pain inflicted upon his body. "One, two—"
Dean saw Sam's shoulders flinch and shift, watched as his arms were suddenly a blur of motion, sensed that his body was being pressed deeper into the sodden mattress, heard Sam's grunts of effort and whispered curses…but felt nothing.
"Gotta wrap this around you," Sam was saying. "Tie off the padding. Need to keep pressure on this—here."
Dean saw his brother grab his hand, moving it down to his side. He followed the path of motion and saw that Sam had folded one of the smaller towels into a thick square, covering the wound, then wrapped a longer towel around Dean's waist, tying off the bandage over the square. Sam placed Dean's hand over the knot.
"Can you press?"
Dean tried, ordering his arm muscles to constrict. "How's that?"
"Good," Sam nodded. "Just keep that up until we get outta here. I'm getting our bags."
Castiel moved over to Dean, helping him sit up, and then slinging Dean's free arm over his shoulders. Dean registered he was standing by the change in perception, but it was as if he were floating, disembodied and unconnected from the world around him.
"I will take us—" Castiel began.
"You're crazy if you think I'm leaving my car." Dean cut him off, unsure if he were actually walking or if Castiel was dragging him out into the rain. Everything was slipping in and out of focus, making it hard to keep his eyes on any one thing.
He saw Sam rush past them, throwing their wet bags into the trunk, then open the passenger rear door, water kicking up around his ankles.
"Get in the back," Sam ordered.
"We must hurry," Castiel said, easing Dean down and shutting the door behind him.
Dean heard a door open, then shut, closing his eyes and willing his stomach to stay put. He hadn't realized he'd started to shake until he tried to wipe water from his eyes and saw the visible tremble of his hand.
It took him a moment to realize that his head was no longer lying on the seat of the Impala, but resting on the trench coat-covered thigh of an angel of the Lord.
Awkwardly lifting his head and craning his neck, he tried to look up at Castiel.
"I know what the antidote is," Castiel informed them as Sam turned the ignition, the faithful Chevy roaring to life despite the torrent of water rushing under and around it. "And we need to get it in the next twelve hours."
Dean tried to sit up, working to put some space between himself and Castiel, but he was met with resistance.
"What! It's not even been one full day. We should have more time!" Sam countered, slamming the gear in reverse.
Looking down the length of his body, Dean saw the make-shift bandage on his side had quickly slipped from white to red, his wet clothes soaking through the towels and turning the edges of the red to pink.
Resting on the bandage was Castiel's surprisingly strong hand, keeping Dean immobile with barely any effort. It was unnerving for Dean to see Castiel work to keep his blood from spilling free—even more so to see the angel's hand tremble with the force of Dean's shaking body.
"This demon has a price on its head," Castiel informed them, grunting as his back slammed against the seat when Sam hit the break and shifted to drive. "Tomorrow night, the stay of execution will be lifted. In twelve hours, Dean will be dead."
"Son of a bitch," Sam and Dean muttered in unison.
The sirens were loud enough now that Dean could hear them over the sound of the storm.
"We gotta lose these bastards, Sammy," Dean grunted through teeth gritted against the shakes. "Can you do that?"
"Watch me," Sam returned.
a/n: I am a bit sorry for the cliffy; don't mean to tease…just trying to pace the story out so that these long chapters aren't too cumbersome. Hope to see you back next chapter!
Hurt - originally by Nine Inch Nails, but I used the cover done by the original Man In Black, Johnny Cash
Continued in Part 3A here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/95802.html