Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 16
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.
Author's Note: Apologies for this being slightly tardy. If it helps, it's the longest chapter yet.
Thanks so much for your continued reading – both the lurkers and the reviewers. I hope you are as entertained reading this story as I have been writing it. I so enjoy spending time with these characters. *smile*
Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11, Part 2: Chapter 12, , Part 2: Chapter 13, , Part 2: Chapter 14, , Part 2: Chapter 15
art by thruterryseyes
The smell of sulfur permeated everything.
He should have been used to it by now, but every time someone new was brought to the rack, the stench slammed into him, triggering every hunter reflex that hadn't yet been burned out of him. He forced himself to maintain an impassive expression; even distaste would trigger a reaction. It was better to simply turn completely off inside. It was the only way to survive the killing.
Every day had become a repeat of the one before. Blood and screams. Cutting just right to pull the most pain from the moment. He had become so good at it they didn't even bother to observe him anymore. They simply expected results. And Dean had always been one to provide results. He'd stopped counting the days, not like he had when he'd been the one on the rack. He didn't want to know how much time had passed because he was no longer resisting. He'd succumbed and the sooner everything melded into the same Hell, the sooner he'd lose himself completely.
It was the sound that alerted him to something being different.
The screams had stopped. For a moment, he could hear nothing. Not even his own heart beating, which he knew it still did because he'd seen it for himself when they'd ripped it out of his chest with gore-covered claws.
And then the demons shrieked.
Dean went to his knees, the knife that had been so at home in his hand clattering to the floor. The sound of rage echoed through Hell and Dean shook with the force of it. The body on the rack hung loosely from the hooks, his job already complete. His face, his arms, his hands were covered with blood that had sprayed on him as he'd completed their latest request.
Maybe this is it…maybe they're done with me…maybe I'm finally going to die.
The shrieking intensified and he felt the walls around him shake. Pushing away from what he knew was the door to the room where he'd been sequestered, Dean put his back to one of the walls, having been too often torn apart from behind to expose that vulnerable part of him now. He'd bargained to stop the pain, but if there was one thing he knew was fundamentally true in whatever realm he existed it was that demons lie. At any time, Allistair could strap him back on that rack and take him apart piece by piece for his own sadistic pleasure.
He wasn't expecting the light.
There had been nothing but darkness – extreme heat and extreme cold, but never light. Nothing to break up the alternating smothering quiet and constant screaming.
When the light hit him, Dean pulled back, away, pain unlike the torture he'd lived through the last forty years searing his eyes. He cried out, reacting as he hadn't allowed himself to for years. The light became a figure with terrible blue eyes and wings to span the length of the room. Dean pushed to his feet, his body trembling in reaction to the light.
Dean simply blinked, eyes watering, head tilted to the side to try to see around the light.
"You are needed."
He'd done enough; he'd killed enough. They could not get him to do anything else. He'd go back on the rack first. He shook his head, unable to get his voice to obey.
"You are needed," the figure repeated, and Dean saw it reach for him.
Lifting his hands in instinctive denial and protection, Dean saw them in the light that cut through the thick dark that had wrapped around him for so long. They were coated in blood – another soul's blood.
A soul he had torn apart.
"No," Dean whispered, taking a step back.
The figure wasn't dissuaded, however, and stepped forward, its hand going to Dean's shoulder. The light seemed to rip through him, heat cutting like the blades Allistair loved to wield. It was perfect and terrible and like nothing Dean had ever experienced in forty years of Hell.
And he screamed.
The hand was on his shoulder, branding him. Searing into him and marking him forever. He couldn't back away, couldn't escape.
"Dean, hey! Easy, man, it's okay!"
That voice…it wasn't from the figure of light. It…actually didn't hurt to hear it.
He froze, listening for it again.
"That's it, just take a breath."
Dean cautiously opened his eyes. For a moment everything was blurred, shifting in and out of focus. The voice continued, a soft, almost crooning sound that he latched onto, pulling himself from the disorienting darkness of the dream into soft, muted reality.
Virgil's hand was on his shoulder, bracing him just where Castiel's mark had been. Looking blearily around, Dean realized he was in a bed, the room around him filled with ambient light. He'd pushed himself high in the bed to get away from the hand on his shoulder, bunching pillows behind him in an effort to escape.
He realized his hands were out; his right, he saw, still covered in blood.
Instinctively, he wiped it on the covers over his legs. The blood smeared against the white of the sheet, but Virgil seemed unconcerned. He was staring at Dean with a calculated gaze, waiting until Dean slowly uncoiled before taking his hand away.
"You back with me?"
Dean swallowed and nodded, sniffing as he dragged his left hand down his face, pulling the oxygen cannula from his nose. "Where am I?"
"Idaho Springs Medical Clinic," Virgil said, slowly straightening up and checking something on a machine next to Dean's bed.
"Where the hell's Idaho Springs?" Dean asked, sinking back into the bed a bit.
Now that he wasn't doing a Spiderman impression and climbing the walls to get away from Virgil, he was starting feel why he was in a medical clinic. He ached pretty much everywhere, though the real pain seemed to be concentrated mainly on his side.
"About ten miles north of Argo. Nearest medical facility to head to when you get yourself shish-kabobed by an ancient druid monster."
Dean dropped his head back against the pillows, closing his eyes and biting back a groan. "They specialize in monsters here?"
"Not really," Virgil said, adjusting Dean's IV before sitting down on the chair next to Dean's bed. "But they had stuff like blood and antibiotics, so I figured you'd be cool with it."
Dean peered at their friend. "Where's Sam?"
"He's sleeping," Virgil told him, handing him a cup of water with a straw, and steadying it as Dean drank. "Brenna and I were out in the waiting room when I heard your heart monitor going nuts."
"Bad dream," Dean muttered, trying not to think about it.
"Figured." Virgil looked away, then back at him. "I have an idea for how to help with that."
"Hunter's anonymous?" Dean guessed, raising an eyebrow tiredly.
"No," Virgil said, shaking his head with a small grin. "No group sharing, I promise. Thinking something more Dean Winchester-esque. Let me make a few calls and I'll get back to you."
Dean frowned, lifting the sheet to check out his side. His chest was bare save the thick, white bandages that covered his middle and wrapped around his back. His abdominal muscles protested his twisting to see the extent of the damage, so he relaxed back against the pillows, absentmindedly rubbing at the scars on his left eye.
"Y'know, some people collect stamps," Virgil commented dryly, watching Dean. "But not you. You collect scars."
"Not on purpose," Dean protested.
"You sure about that?"
Dean tried to push himself up in the bed, but found it difficult to do so without actually moving. Virgil expertly reached behind him and hooked his hands beneath Dean's shoulders, propping him up a bit higher in the bed and adjusting his pillows.
"I'm sure I didn't ask some druid stick monster to filet me."
Virgil sat back, rubbing his neck. "Sam told us you guys had retired," he told Dean. "Said you had a house and regular jobs and everything. Until I called."
Dean looked around the room for a clock. "How long have I been here?"
"Almost 18 hours," Virgil informed him.
Dean blinked in astonishment. He hadn't slept more than 5 hours at a time since Stull. Eighteen hours seemed unbelievable. He touched his scars again.
"They cleaned you up and stitched you up, but you spiked a fever," Virgil told him. "Gave you a bolus of antibiotics, but you had crazy reactions to the pain meds. You remember any of that?"
Dean frowned, eyes darting across the blanket that covered his lap, trying to remember. He rubbed the top of his head. "Nothing."
"You scared a few of the doctors…said some…pretty intense stuff. Luckily," Virgil lifted a shoulder, "Hell is apparently not that much different from war. It was fairly easy to convince the docs that you were a soldier. 'Cause," Virgil leveled his eyes on Dean, "you pretty much are."
"Sam okay?" Dean asked, wondering what his brother thought about that display.
"His ankle's good – couple stitches, nothing to worry about," Virgil leaned back in the chair and propped his feet up on the edge of Dean's bed, the 'C' in the Converse logo on the bottom catching Dean's eye. "He's got some bruising on his chest and arms, but apparently it's nothing he hasn't dealt with before. The taser burns are going to be sensitive for a while. He was plenty worried about you, though."
"Did he…," Dean felt his brow pucker as he searched for the right word, "connect with me?"
Virgil shook his head. "He was careful."
Dean exhaled. Sam had seen enough Hell. He didn't want his brother carrying that around with him.
"Brenna seemed to know, though," Virgil told him.
Dean rolled his lips against his teeth, looking away. He knew she'd seen something back in the mine museum. Something that had made her scream. He was afraid he knew what it was now: she'd seen him as the demon he'd become. She'd seen him torturing souls.
"Yeah," Dean replied huskily.
"Sam's in the next room," Virgil reassured him. "Told him if he didn't get some sleep I was going to put sleeping pills in his coffee."
Dean gave Virgil a side-long glance. "You wouldn't."
Dean chuckled, then pressed on his tender side. "How long I gotta stay here?"
"You were over a pint low," Virgil informed him. "Between that, the meds, and your fever, you're in here for at least another 24 hours. And then," Virgil sat forward, letting his sneakers slap against the floor, "you're gonna need to lay low somewhere before you guys get back on the road. Last thing you want is for those stitches to open up again."
"You my doc?" Dean half-grinned.
"No," Virgil shook his head, "but I'll do in a pinch."
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "You will." He looked at his right hand, the blood having dried, caking into the raised scar and the grooves of his finger joints.
"There's nothing there, you know," Virgil said quietly.
"I know," Dean whispered. "But I still see it."
"Maybe one day you'll let yourself off the hook."
Dean winced at Virgil's choice of words, knowing the paramedic could have no way of knowing how literal his phrasing could be taken. He tried to push himself up in the bed once more, but was surprised at how his arms trembled from the effort.
"Where're you going?" Virgil asked, frowning.
Sweat broke out across Dean's forehead from the effort. "Gotta pee."
"You can ask for help, you know."
"Think that's one thing I can do on my own, thanks," Dean grumbled, tugging the covers off his legs.
"Okay, fine," Virgil sat back, watching.
Dean managed to get his legs over the edge of the bed and slumped over, holding a hand against his bandaged side. He felt his heartbeat in the wound and tried to breathe shallowly through the pain. As he began to shift off the bed, however, he realized his hand was tethered to an IV pole on the right side of the bed and there were wires going from his chest to a machine on the left side of his bed.
"Want help now?"
Dean glowered at Virgil a moment, then closed his eyes tiredly. "Yes."
Virgil disengaged the leads to the heart monitor and moved the IV pole around the end of the bed, then stood patiently waiting as Dean got to his feet. His hand darted out to steady Dean at the elbow as the world settled down around him; thankfully, Dean found he was able to walk to the bathroom and take care of business with the door mostly shut. He made it back to the bed, his entire body trembling, and silently accepted Virgil's aid in settling back against the pillows, the covers once more pulled up over his bandages.
"Y'know, I've seen a lot of injuries in my line of work," Virgil said, not looking at Dean as he adjusted the settings on the machine next to him, then leaning over to remove the sticky leads that had attached Dean to the monitor. Dean winced as Virgil pulled the leads from his skin, but said nothing as he listened.
"I've pulled men out of burning buildings. I've resuscitated little kids who nearly drowned at a pool. I've untangled people from cars that look like wadded up tin foil…. And I can safely say I've never encountered anything like what you and your brother put yourselves through."
"Perks of the job," Dean mumbled, letting his head drop back once more, closing burning eyes.
"If these are the perks, I'd hate to see the benefits package," Virgil muttered. "Your medical record is etched into your skin."
"What's going on back in Argo?" Dean asked, deflecting the attention from himself. "They dig the Smith's out?"
Virgil sat down once more, leaning forward and propping his elbows on his knees as he exhaled a tired, unamused laugh. Before answering, he pulled his red hat from his head, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand, then tugged it back on. Dean thought he looked tired and decided to tell him so.
"You're not winning any magazine covers yourself, y'know," Virgil retorted. "And it's been a long coupla days."
"Yeah, I know," Dean replied quietly.
"Maddox was forced to call in state officials," Virgil told him, "because of Reynolds. And because one coroner couldn't handle all the bodies."
"What'd he tell them?"
"Oh, y'know," Virgil shrugged. "Your basic serial killer scenario. They're excavating the closed-off part of the mine now. Sam told them about the other bodies still in there from twenty years ago and the Staties are demanding to know why the hell no one went in after those guys back then."
"What's the answer?" Dean asked, having wondered that same thing himself.
Virgil shrugged. "Anyone who knows ain't talking, and those who are talking don't know. This town's secrets have secrets, man."
"What are they going to do about me and Sam?" Dean asked, bracing himself for another round of police questioning like he'd faced after Stull.
"Nothing," Virgil replied. "Far as Maddox is concerned, the less the Staties know about you and your brother, the better. No one is ready to talk druid witches and you two pretty much showed up the entire sheriff's department."
"So…we can go?"
"When you're healed up," Virgil nodded, his eyes shifting to something off in Dean's blindside. "If you want to, that is."
Dean turned his head to follow Virgil's line of sight and saw Brenna leaning against the doorway, arms crossed over her chest. A worried frown creased her forehead and her eyes looked tired as she rested them on Virgil.
Virgil nodded at Dean. "Think so."
"Can I come in?" Brenna asked, this time looking at Dean.
"Uh, sure," Dean replied, glancing uncomfortably over at Virgil before looking back at Brenna.
He hadn't been alone with the two of them since discovering Sam was missing; he had a distinct feeling of missing time. Brenna stepped up to the bed, her bottom lip caught in her teeth as she worked through what she wanted to say next. Dean traced her form with his gaze, following her extended arm to where she worried the ridges along the blanket, her eyes downcast.
"I'll, uh…go…check on Sam," Virgil said, clearing his throat and standing.
"Virge, wait," Brenna said, not looking up. "I said this to Sam earlier when you were in here helping with Dean," she took a breath, then squared her shoulders and raised her eyes to meet Virgil's squarely before looking over at Dean with the same serious gaze, "and now I need to say it to you two."
Dean swallowed, feeling momentarily off-balance.
Dean blinked. That was not what he'd been expecting. He'd expected fire, irritation, rebellion. Not remorse.
"Sorry for what?" Virgil asked, sounding as confused as Dean felt.
"I'm sorry for bringing you both – all of you – into this," Brenna elaborated. "None of you would be here if it wasn't for me. Virge, you wouldn't be in danger of losing your job—"
Dean shot a look at him. "You might lose your job?"
Virgil waved a dismissive hand at him. "It's nothing. Just some Union red tape I gotta untangle, that's all."
"And Dean," Brenna shifted, moving close to the head of the bed. "I can't even begin to apologize to you. For…so much. More than," she nodded at his torso, the bandages hidden beneath the covers, "getting you hurt again."
"You didn't get me hurt," Dean interjected. "Big ol' stick man did that."
"I got you here," she argued. "And before you protest that, too, I talked to Sam. I know you were out of the game and you came here because of me."
"Virge's the one who called us," Dean pointed out, rubbing his scarred hand on the bed absentmindedly.
Brenna leveled her eyes on him, causing him to unexpectedly catch his breath. The odd gold-green color in her eyes was larger than normal to begin with; when her pupil began to widen as it did when her vision kicked in, it was disconcerting to say the least. He swallowed, forcing himself not to look away. He knew she could see into him with barely an effort if she wanted it and he needed to be able to face that squarely.
"I know you care about what happens to Virge," she said quietly, "but you came because he said I was in trouble."
Dean didn't reply.
"And I'm sorry…I should have known." She shook her head. "I should have known the Smith's were crazy…demon crazy."
Virgil scoffed. "How, exactly?"
"I was here, in Argo, because of the druids, because of the roots this town had into part of my past," she said, her voice trembling slightly. "I was here to use the mineral in the mine and…mask my sight. I…should have seen something. I should have known."
"You can't greet everyone you meet with holy water, y'know," Dean offered quietly. "Sometimes…we don't know."
She glanced at him, frowning. "You don't blame me?"
She waved a hand down his body.
Dean felt a tired, rueful grin tug up the corner of his mouth. "Sweetheart, I've been making my own decisions for a lotta years now. There's nothing that happened on this hunt I blame on you."
Pressing her lips together, Brenna nodded quickly, as if to shake off residual emotion, then looked up at Virgil. "Can you give us a minute?"
Dean saw her reach into the pocket of her denim jacket and pull out what looked like a folded photograph. Virgil saw it, too, and Dean felt tension surge into the room. Virgil looked over a Dean, his blue eyes bright with what surprisingly appeared to be tears.
"Yeah, okay," he said, his voice tight. "I'll check on Sam."
"Thanks, man," Dean said as Virgil turned to leave. "I mean it. For everything."
Virgil lifted a shoulder. "Just doing my job."
"Nah," Dean shook his head. "You're being a friend. And, uh…we don't have very many of those."
Virgil offered him a sad smile, then stepped from the room, pulling the door shut behind him. Dean held his breath, watching Brenna run her fingers along the edge of the folded photo. After a moment where the only sound was the steady clicking of the IV pump next to Dean's bed, Brenna leveled her eyes on him once more, holding the photo out.
Dean took it carefully, trying to ignore the way his hand trembled. Unfolding it, he realized it was the picture he'd handed Brenna back at her house. A little girl, dark blonde hair, large green eyes, freckles, and a smile so familiar he felt his breath go still in his lungs.
"She's mine, isn't she?" He could barely force sound around the words.
Dean ran his thumb along the little girl's cheek. "She looks like my mom."
"That's how you knew, isn't it?" Brenna asked softly. "When I connected with you back at the mine to find Sam, you were distracted by what you thought was a memory of your mom."
Dean nodded. "I didn't…y'know, know I knew, though. Not…," he frowned, pressing his lips tight as he tried to fight the emotion that was threatening to choke him, "not like I could tell you I knew."
"I should have told you earlier, I just," she shrugged helplessly, moving around to the foot of the bed and slowly making her way toward the curtained window. "You were dead. And then you weren't. And…I didn't know how to say it."
"Tell me now," Dean implored, keeping his voice as neutral as he could.
Her back to him, arms wrapped around herself as if they were the only thing keeping her from flying apart, Brenna stared at the window, though Dean knew she couldn't see outside. She was seeing something much further away than the view of the Rocky Mountains from the Idaho Springs Medical Clinic.
"Leaving you that night was one of the hardest things I ever had to do," she said. "Sam was right to ask; you guys were looking for a way to save you, but it seemed hopeless. And you were so…," she looked down, as if hoping the word she needed would be written on the floor at her feet, "broken. I mean, you've always kinda been held together by duct tape and will, but that time there was this wound inside of you. I could see it so clearly and I knew that none of my herbs or my balm or my presence was going to be enough to heal it up."
Dean watched her quietly, Aislinn's picture in his hand. He didn't say anything, couldn't say anything. She was right; he'd not been whole in some time, but with Hell hanging over his head like a gallows, he'd been more fractured than ever.
"I didn't realize I was pregnant for a few weeks. Virge and I were trying to find a place to live in Boston, find jobs, and basically…navigate each other. Virge was always really good at watching out for me, but we never really worked out the relationship part of our…relationship. I mean, if you think about it," she looked down and Dean could see a sad smile tug at the corner of her mouth, "he kinda got stuck with me."
She rubbed her arms as if she was cold, then moved closer to the window, parting the curtains. Dean was surprised to see the beam of sunlight slip through. He really had lost track of time.
"I knew the baby was yours because I hadn't been with anyone else since that afternoon in the back of the train museum," she glanced at him over her shoulder, "remember that?"
"Not something I'm likely to forget," he replied, feeling his gut heat up at the memory of that couch, of her body against him and beneath him. If he allowed himself, he could recall every moment of that afternoon, right down to her taste, her smell, the way their bodies had glided together in the primal, perfect rhythm.
"I didn't tell Virge at first, either," she confessed, turning back to the window. "I thought about calling you; I knew there was still time before your…deadline. But then…I couldn't. You did what you did for Sam, so he could live, and it was tearing you up to know you would be leaving him behind. How could I tell you about a baby?"
"Brenna…," Dean choked out, his mind spinning with the implications of what it might have meant had he known….
If he'd known about the baby when he'd come back from Hell. If he'd known when he was trying to figure out his way in the world while demons tried to snake his brother out from under him. If he'd known when facing down angels. If he'd known when he went to Stull to either save Sam or die right along with him.
"Of course, as soon as I told him, he knew the baby was yours. But he never walked away from me," she half turned, not looking at him, but not looking away. "He stayed by my side the whole time, and he helped deliver her. We never made it to the hospital; she was born in the back of an ambulance, three weeks early."
"Wow," Dean breathed, watching her, trying to imagine.
"She was in a hurry," Brenna smiled. "And I guess, so was I. The moment I knew she was real, I couldn't wait to meet her. I could…feel her inside of me. Not just, y'know, moving around, but sense her awareness. Like I do when I see into someone, only on a level I never imagined before. By the time she was born, I had managed to control the sight. At first I was able to limit it to contact only, and then I managed to find…triggers to keep it contained until I wanted to use it. But I could see the world through her eyes at any time." She glanced up at Dean. "That's why I named her Aislinn. In Gaelic, it means vision."
Dean bobbed his head in a nod of understanding, running his thumb along the photo once more. "When was she born?"
"May," Brenna smiled. "May 21st."
Dean nodded again, looking down at the dried blood on his hand. When he was taken to Hell, his daughter had been born. He slowly wiped his hand on the bed sheets, his brain pin balling around the fact that the whole time he'd been fighting angels and a destiny he wanted no part of, the whole time he'd been struggling with this newfound power…a piece of him had been walking around, outside of him, in the world.
"The first few months after she was born were…well, not to make light of the word, but…hell," Brenna recalled. "Neither of us slept; we had to get used to each other, and I hadn't really figured out how to protect her from me. It was…a dark time for me. My world was dark, actually. But then…that September, things just…changed. I don't know what it was, but the world brightened up and she and I started to figure things out."
"Tell me about her."
Past the painful portion of her story, Brenna smiled warmly as she thought of her daughter, moving from the window to sit at the foot of Dean's bed, the mattress sinking slightly with her weight.
"She's smart. And happy. And stubborn. She loves music – I mean loves it. All kinds. Gaelic songs, lullabies, classic rock," she glanced up at Dean's chuckle. "I'm totally serious."
"I believe you," Dean replied. "Just thinking she came by that honest."
Brenna quirked her lips at him, but Dean was thinking about the time he and Sam had spent at her house back in Massachusetts – before the IRA had burned it to the ground. She had Led Zeppelin playing on a constant loop, saying that she heard too much in the quiet. Dean liked music, sure. But it was only since Stull that he had suffocated in the silence, finally understanding what she meant.
"When she was about eight months old, I could not get her to nap – no matter what I did. The only thing that worked was if I put her in her baby swing and played Metallica's Nothing Else Matters. Over and over. And then one more time."
"With the orchestra or without?"
"With, of course."
"That's my girl," Dean grinned and caught the slight hitch in Brenna's exhale at his words.
"She draws constantly, and will use anything…crayon, paint, pencil, dirt."
"Dirt?" Dean chuckled.
"Oh, don't get me started. I've had Aislinn Muire Kavanagh written in clay on the side of my car more times than I can count."
"My mother's name," Brenna shrugged. "I didn't really know her – I mean, I was four when my parents were killed – but in my mind she was perfect. I mean," she smiled shyly, "I know she wasn't perfect. Nobody is. But to me, she was. And I wanted her granddaughter to have some of that spirit."
"I'm sure she does." Dean smiled at her, waiting until she met his eyes. "You said that she doesn't talk?"
Brenna's face clouded. "She does, I mean she can. She just won't. There's nothing physically wrong with her. She can form words and make sounds and once in a while she'll call my name or say 'yes' or 'no' or some other one-word response. But she won't talk to anyone else. And she doesn't…y'know, converse with me. I've seen other four-year-olds talk your ear off, but not my girl. And," her brows pulled close, "she has night terrors. Not actually…dreams, but she will wake up terrified and screaming and its only if I hold her that she calms down."
"I'm sorry, Brenna."
"That's one of the reasons I wanted the bastinite," she confessed. "It think her terrors come from me – pulled from what she sees inside of me that she doesn't understand. I thought if I could just block it…."
"You can't block the world from her, though," Dean said, his voice low, feeling the weight of his words. "I mean…when I met you, you could just look at me and your eyes would do that…bird thing and every wall, every guard I put up just…disintegrated. You didn't have to touch me."
"It was stronger when I did, though," Brenna said softly, remembering. "I almost killed you once."
"There were extenuating circumstances then," Dean muttered, remembering the wraith and its effect on him. "You lost it when you lost Declan, I remember that. So it's more or less tied to your emotions. But you got it back, and you learned to control it. Gotta think the same is going to be true for her. If she has sight, like you, no amount of magic rocks will keep her from seeing into people."
"I know," Brenna sadly. "I just…," she looked at him, tears swimming in her eyes. "I had to try. I know I caused…all of this. I know I screwed up…but I'm her mama. I had to try."
Dean swallowed hard as a tear rolled down Brenna's cheek. He ached to reach out and touch her, to offer some form of comfort, but she was coiled tight, unreachable. He knew what that felt like: to be so hollow that a whisper could shatter the thin shell portrayed to the world.
"What happened to you, Brenna?" He whispered.
She frowned, wiping her face with the back of one hand.
"You had this…fire in you," Dean remembered. "I saw it even back when we first met you. Like you were going to burn up the world."
"It's still there," Brenna told him. "But now it's contained. Having a baby changed me in ways I couldn't begin to predict. She's my fire now."
"I want to meet her." The words were out before he realized he was going to say them.
Sniffing, Brenna looked at him, her eyes wide, face pale.
"You don't have to tell her who I am," Dean hastily amended. "I just…I can't imagine…not seeing her."
"But…," Brenna stood up, wrapping her arms around herself again, and started to pace. "Who are you going to be to her?"
He shrugged. "I can be a friend of…what does she call Virgil?"
"He's just…Virge," Brenna said. "He's been a part of her life – a part of our lives – and she loves him, but to her, he's mama's friend."
"So, I can be her mama's friend," he said. "Please, Brenna…I need to see her."
Brenna pulled her bottom lip into her mouth and Dean kept his eyes on her face, holding himself completely still, resigned to whatever her next words would be.
"Okay," she nodded. "But, tomorrow. You look exhausted and Virgil's aunt is bringing her home this morning. It's the longest I've ever been away from her and I need some time."
Dean was nodding as soon as she said the word tomorrow. "Okay," he agreed.
A knock at the door pulled their attention and Dean half-expected it to be Sam. Instead, it was a nurse with a food tray saying she wanted to check his vitals and then he could have some food since he'd been fever free for eight hours.
"I'll be back tomorrow," Brenna promised, smiling at him.
Impulsively, he reached out with his left hand and clasped her wrist as she turned away. At first the connection was subtle, soft, like a caress against his mind, but as she turned to face him, her eyes flashed large and predatory, the bird-like effect in full force. For one brief moment, Dean bore the impact of her sight, actually wanting her to see him, to see something inside of him besides death and blood and darkness and pain.
Dean needed her to see light so that he could believe it was there.
This time, he couldn't see what she saw. He closed his mind to anything but her face, her eyes, and the way her lips parted as she breathed him in. When the moment passed, he exhaled and released her, waiting until she smiled gently at him before he could relax.
He watched her leave the room, then turning his attention to the nurse. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until the nurse left him with the sandwich, applesauce, and water. He inhaled the food, then got out of bed once more, tethered only to the IV pole. Moving the pump around the edge of the bed, he held onto it like a staff and made his way to the window, parting the curtains and peering with squinted eyes out at the mountains across the parking lot.
"Hey, you're up!"
The pleasant surprise in Sam's voice covered the instinctive flinch as Dean was started by the sudden noise. He turned and grinned at his brother.
"Well, if it isn't Rip Van Winkle," Dean greeted. "How're you feeling?"
Sam practically loped across the room, reaching out to clap him on the shoulder in greeting, but halting just before he made contact with Dean's bare skin. Dean cast his eyes around for a shirt, but the room was empty.
"Where're my clothes?" he asked.
Sam shrugged. "You were a mess," he said. "They're either being washed, or they were thrown away."
Dean frowned. "I hope they emptied my pockets first," he muttered.
"I'll find out for you," Sam promised. "You feeling okay? You look better."
"Yeah," Dean turned and pushed the IV pole back toward the bed, needing to sit down. "Guess I made a ruckus around here, huh?"
"When have you not?"
Folding his lips down, Dean nodded, conceding the point. "You get some rest?"
"Yeah, after Virge threatened me," Sam grumbled, once more reaching out to help Dean into bed, and stopping himself before touching Dean's bare skin. He sighed. "This sucks, dude."
"You're just getting that?" Dean asked, his voice strained as he settled on the bed, lying back, exhausted.
"I called Rufus before everything went south at Brenna's," Sam revealed. "Left him a message. Not sure if he called back, but…after that whatever it was in the mine, I need to know more."
Dean closed his eyes. "You and me both."
"I mean…," Dean could hear Sam start pacing, "what if it's something we can use against demons?"
"You planning on fighting some demons?" Dean opened one eye, watching his brother's efforts in wearing a groove in the floor.
"Crowley didn't just swing by Lawrence for a visit, Dean," Sam pointed out. "That was a scouting mission. He's going to be back. And he's going to go after people we love. He's going to go after Stella."
Dean could practically hear Sam flashing back to Jessica, and knew he needed to shut that down before Sam started spiraling beyond his grasp. "You don't know that – and would you stand still, man, you're starting to make me dizzy," he groused. "You never used to pace so much."
"Yeah well," Sam grumbled, "you never used to have glowing eyes and shoot beams of light at evil spirits, so we both have new habits."
Sam stopped pacing, then looked over at Dean, shifting his weight onto one hip, his arms folded across his chest. "What."
"I'm sorry, man."
"About…," Dean lifted his head and made sure his brother was looking at him, "not reading the warning label before I used the amulet."
"Well, it's not like Cas elaborated much," Sam conceded.
"Either way," Dean lifted a shoulder, "you still have to be part of paying the price, and I'm sorry for that. This…connection thing? This not being able to touch? It's on me."
Sam sighed. "Well…," he muttered, dropping his arms to his sides. "I'm not burning in Hell with Lucifer right now, so…it's a price I'm willing to pay."
They were silent for a moment, and Dean rolled his neck, working to keep himself alert. His whole body was ticking down to much-needed oblivion.
"You talk with Maddox?" he asked.
"Not yet," Sam replied. "Virge said that they'd called in Colorado State Police. I'm staying away from that nightmare."
"Good idea," Dean nodded. "The priest guy doing okay?"
"Yeah, he's back home," Sam told him. "No one is saying word one about witches or druids. It's like they don't want to look directly at the truth or it'll eat them alive."
"Isn't that usually the way?" Dean shrugged. "I mean, when shit's flying around the room and the only thing keeping them alive is a barrel of rock salt, everyone's a believer. But you get outside in the sun and it's Chrysler's and morning coffee and suddenly it's something they read in the latest Stephen King book."
"Some people know what happened, Dean," Sam said. "Some people still believe."
"Yeah, well," Dean sighed, dropping his head back. "Let me get a little more rest and we can get out of here."
"Dean," Sam frowned, tilting his head in question. "What about Brenna?"
Dean looked away, then rubbed at the scars around his left eye. "Haven't figured that part out yet." Sam was quiet and Dean knew his brother was waiting for him to address the elephant in the room. "You're an uncle, y'know."
"Uncle Sam," Dean let amusement burble up through his voice. "You gonna grow a long goatee and get a funny hat?"
"Shut up," Sam half-grinned.
"Stars and Stripes might look good on you."
"You're such a jerk," Sam smiled.
"Yeah, well, you're a bitch."
"Better not let your daughter hear you talking like that," Sam warned good-naturedly.
Suddenly, Dean felt winded. Sweat gathered on his upper lip and the back of his neck as he looked at Sam with large eyes.
"Holy shit, man," he breathed. "Holy shit."
"You have a kid, Dean."
"I have a kid."
They stared at each other for a nearly half a minute and then broke out into simultaneous grins. Visibly bracing himself for whatever he'd feel when he touched his brother, Sam launched forward and wrapped his arms around Dean's shoulders in quick, tight hug. The shock was sudden and shook through Dean, turning his vision black, but it didn't last long as Sam pulled away, blinking and panting.
"What? What did you see?"
"Just…light," Sam gasped. "So much of it…it hurt my eyes."
"Light? That's it?"
Sam nodded. "A blue light. You go dark?"
"Yeah, just like always."
They were quiet a moment, staring at each other.
"You're gonna be a great dad, Dean."
Dean looked away, his throat tight. "Jesus, Sammy."
"I'm no dad."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Dean looked back at him, letting the fear and loathing he felt for himself swim to the surface of his eyes. "Look at me, man! My side is in ribbons because of some druid witch, I can barely see out of one eye, my scars have scars, and I have random angel powers I don't know how to control."
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"I'm a mess, Sam," Dean said softly. "I'm not fit to be that little girl's dad. I'm barely fit to be your brother."
"Dean," Sam's voice grew hard. "You were more a dad to me than our actual father was."
Sam leaned forward his hands on the bed, his face close to Dean's. "No, you listen to me. And I mean fucking listen this time."
Dean blinked drawing his head back and staring at his brother, unnerved by the strange déjà vu of Sam leaning over him. It was not unlike John's position the last time he'd seen his father alive.
"Dad taught me a lot," Sam started. "He protected me as best he could, for as long as he could. But you raised me." His hazel eyes were fierce as he stared at Dean. "You taught me to tie my shoes and ride a bike. You talked me out of my bad dreams. You taught me how to shoot and throw a knife and make Mac 'n Cheese. You taught me about girls and how to drive. You were there for me every day, Dean. You are going to make a great Dad."
Dean couldn't speak. He waited until Sam finally drew away before replying, "We're hunters, Sammy. Raised by a Marine. She's just a little girl."
"Look at Jo," Sam said. "At Mom. They were hunters."
"Jo and Mom are dead," Dean pointed out.
Sam sighed, hanging his head and speaking to the bed. "Everyone dies," he said finally. He looked over at Dean. "Even though you've managed to find your way back and have bargained for my life…we're both gonna die someday. What matters is…what did we do while we lived?"
Dean looked down. "When'd you get to be so smart?"
"Learned it from my big brother."
Dean huffed and shook his head. "I don't know if Brenna wants me to be Aislinn's dad."
"She kinda doesn't get a choice, there."
Dean looked away. "Not what I meant."
Sam rested his hand on Dean's covered leg. "Me neither."
Dean looked back at him.
"This is ultimately about what you want to do. What you're prepared to do."
Dean nodded. After a moment, he spoke up. "Problem is…I have no idea what that is."
Sam moved around to the other side of the bed, sinking down on the chair.
"I have blood on my hands, Sam," Dean continued quietly.
"We've all done things—"
"No," Dean interrupted him, holding out his scarred right hand. "I have blood on my hands. I see it, right now. All the time."
Sam frowned. "There's nothing there, Dean."
"What are you—"
"You think a little girl needs to be around a guy who sees the blood of the people he ripped apart while he was in Hell all over his hands?"
Sam pressed his lips flat, looking down at his hands. "You don't have to decide right now," he said. He narrowed his eyes as he looked up at Dean, as if seeing how completely spent Dean really was. "Hey, you okay?"
He wasn't, but saying that out loud wouldn't make it any better. He was exhausted, he hurt, and every time his heart beat he felt a dull stab through his body like the organ was slowly tearing him apart, beat by beat.
"I'm fine," he replied. "Just…y'know. Tired."
"It's been a long few days," Sam nodded. "Maybe get some sleep. We can talk later."
"Yeah, okay," Dean sighed, knowing the outcome wasn't going to change, but too tired to argue the point. He closed his eyes. "What about you?"
"They said I could get a cot later. I'll just read something for a while," Sam said, though his voice seemed to be fading.
Sam's voice seemed to echo as Dean slipped into a comfortable gray, his body relaxing into the bed. For several long moments, there was nothing. Only peace, and rest – finally, at last, rest. But then he saw what looked like a giant…moth? The wings beat against the air around him and the eyes, God, the eyes were so black, so large and black they seemed like holes. He tried to back away, but the black of the eyes pulled him close and he realized he could see inside, see down into the moth's eyes, the air around him stirring by the beating wings.
There was light inside the black of the eyes. A blue light. And it seemed to be pulsating, beating like the rhythm of a voice he couldn't understand. Instinctively, he tried to get closer, to reach for the light and his world began to spin, light and darkness slipping around him until suddenly, he was tangled in chains, edges of hooks digging into his flesh and snagging him so that he couldn't get away. In the distance, he could see Sam – wrapped in the blue light, arms spread, eyes closed. Dean called out, knowing instinctively that the blue light could help him if he could only hear it, but the chains held him fast.
And Sam wasn't moving.
He struggled, pulling his arms away, but the chains wrapped tight, like a snake squeezing its prey. He couldn't break free and was helpless to watch the darkness grow around him. He arched his back, his last defense against the prison of chains, and cried out.
He sat up, sweaty, choking for breath.
"Easy, man, take it easy!"
He clawed at his throat, trying desperately to get air, still feeling the chains wrapped around him, knowing that if he could only release the pressure on his throat he could breathe again.
"Hey, I'm here, Dean, it's okay, just breathe, okay?"
He wanted to – didn't Sam see that he was trying? He blinked bleary eyes at his brother, reaching out for him in a panic-induced attempted to drag Sam close to him where they would be, presumably, safe. But his hands felt wooden, his fingers like marionettes on strings. And he couldn't fucking touch his brother. Not even to save his own life.
"With me, okay?" Sam was saying, his eyes on Dean's. "Just breathe with me."
Dean focused on his brother's face, his brother's voice, and found his way back out of the maze of chains that wrapped him up, strangling him as they spun around him.
"It's spinning," he panted.
Sam's hands hovered over his sweaty shoulders, not touching him, but visibly wanting to. "What's spinning?"
Dean looked at his brother, his eyes cloudy from the dream, not yet sure where the line between real and not real was drawn. "Everything. The world."
"It's…it's okay, Dean. It's supposed to spin."
Dean shook his head, working to swallow as the air started to come in more easily, the chains loosening. "What happens when the spinning stops?"
Sam was frowning, his face as close to Dean as he seemed to dare without touching him. "Are you awake, man?"
Dean lay back, catching his breath and dragging a hand down his face. "Think so."
"You back with me?" Sam asked.
"What was spinning?"
Dean dropped his hand, staring at the ceiling. "The only thing that keeps us from floating away is the fact that the world is spinning."
Sam sat down heavily in the chair next to Dean's bed. "That is…incredibly profound for a nightmare."
They were both quiet for a moment, the sound of Dean's ragged breathing the only thing that combatted the silence.
"It's too fuckin' quiet," Dean said, almost angry.
"I can hear too much when it's quiet," Dean muttered.
"I know," Sam repeated.
Resting his hand on his tender side, Dean thought about the chains in his dream.
"We're always moving, Sam," Dean rolled his head on the pillow, pining his brother with his eyes. "It's what's kept us alive. What happens when we stopped moving?"
Sam frowned. "We stopped for a while," he said. "The world didn't end."
"We had a house. And jobs. And friends," Sam pointed out. "We even got a coffee maker."
"Can we stay there without falling off the world?" Dean asked, knowing his words sounded almost garbled, but too rattled from the dream to say anything else.
"What did you dream about, man?"
Dean groaned and closed his eyes. "Some big…moth man with wings and a blue light in its eyes."
Sam tilted his head. "Cas?"
Dean looked at his brother, arching an eyebrow. "You think Cas is a moth man?"
"No," Sam replied cautiously. "But he has wings and blue eyes."
"Cas isn't dead, Dean. He's just…not here."
"Or so you hope."
Sam pressed his lips together and looked down. "You have got to get some actual sleep."
"Slept eighteen hours just a little while ago."
"Being unconscious with a 104 degree fever isn't sleep," Sam countered. "Maybe we should…I don't know, go talk to someone like Virge suggested."
"Who, Sam?" Dean pushed up in the bed a little. "Who's gonna understand Hell?"
"Well…Virge said that you could just talk about it like you'd gone to Iraq or some place."
Dean shook his head, looking down at his scarred hand, running his fingers over the raised flesh, watching the blood ooze out as he pressed gently.
"It's not Iraq, though," Dean said quietly. "The nightmares are…well, just dreams. You have bad dreams. You know."
Sam nodded, his face clouding with memories.
"The other stuff…it's like…," Dean looked away, remembering. "It's like I'm not here anymore. I'm back there, in that room, the rack in front of me. Or I'm on the rack. And I see all the…the blood and…and horror and I hear all those sounds…the screams and the shrieks and the groans and the misery. I don't see anything real around me. I see—"
"I know what you see," Sam interrupted quietly. "I've seen it when I touch you."
Dean looked at his brother with tragic eyes, grateful and apologetic at once.
"You don't have to live with that alone, man."
"It was my choice, Sam," Dean replied. "No one else's. I gave up my soul. No one took it from me. Why should anyone else have to carry this?"
"Because, Dean," Sam said, sitting forward. "You're one of the good guys."
Dean still shook his head. "I can't be part of their lives like this," he said. He looked over at Sam. "She can see this, Sam. A touch and she's right there with me. And her daughter – our daughter – has that same power. I can't ask them to carry this…this Hell."
"So maybe you get help and come back to them."
Dean shook his head, his throat too tight to speak.
"It might sound lame, but," Sam said, leaning back, "it kinda seems like for us? Before something great happens…everything falls apart."
Dean huffed a laugh. "Ain't that the truth."
"So…maybe you have to get through this fall in order to have your family with you."
Dean shot a look over at his brother. "You're my family, Sam."
Sam smiled softly. "I'll always be your family, man. But I don't have to be your only family."
"Put it this way," Sam continued. "When I get back to Lawrence, I'm not wasting any time finding a much prettier face than your mug to look at."
"What are you talking about?" Dean grumbled. "I'm pretty."
"Yeah, well," Sam grinned. "You're not my type."
"You really like her, huh, Sammy?"
Sam's smile softened. "I haven't felt like this for anyone since Jess," he admitted. "I'd go so far as to use the 'L' word with her."
Dean tilted his head. "Licorice?"
Sam smirked, pointing a finger at his brother. "You got me."
Dean smiled. "I'm glad, man."
"Maybe one day, you can share some licorice with Brenna," Sam ventured.
Dean shrugged. "Not sure I'm the licorice kind of guy."
Sam shook his head. "Dean, man…you've got so much licorice, you're friggin' Willie Wonka."
Dean chuckled. "Okay, now I have a serious jones for some Twizzlers."
Sam grinned and sat back in his chair, putting his feet up on Dean's bed.Chapter 16 continued in Post 17-B, here.