Characters/Pairings: Dean, Sam, OCs
Rating: PG-13, but note: there are some mature themes/scenes
Spoilers: set directly after 3.10, Dream a Little Dream of Me. Includes references to characters and situations from previous stories.
Summary: An unreal heat, an unusual enemy, and an unresolved relationship buffet the brothers through the storm of Dean's deal. No wound is healed without leaving a scar.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
Chapter 1, A and B
Chapter 2, A and B
Chapter 3, A and B
Chapter 4, A and B
Chapter 5, A and B
Adoamros ignored Dean’s protest stalking forward, knife at the ready.
Dean shoved upward, weakness falling by the wayside, aching body, trembling heart, hardening to steel, pulling strength from seemingly limitless reserves as he surged forward. His attack was purposeful, vicious, unrelenting. He slammed his fists into the wizard’s body, his face set, jaw hard, eyes like stone. He heard the wizard protesting, heard English mixed with Latin, but didn’t care.
He was going to beat the man to death if that is what it took.
Dean was silent in his fury, absorbing the minimal hits the wizard was able to get in as he backed the man to the edge of the train car. Panting, he curled his fist in the wizard’s shirt front when Adoamros went to his knees.
“I’m taking that knife,” Dean said darkly.
“You can go to hell,” the wizard replied, spitting a mouthful of blood toward Dean, his eyes barely open.
“Not today,” Dean snarled, raising a fist for another blow, lips curled in a snarl of hate.
Dean paused as the weak plea met his ears, awareness seeping in. The sun beat with unforgiving force down on them, reflecting on the metal surface, searing their skin. In the distance, the train whistle blew. Out of the corner of his eyes, Dean registered a tunnel approaching.
“Dean! Help me!”
Dean dropped his fist, looking over toward the edge where he’d seen Virgil fall. He was shocked to see Virgil’s fingers gripping the edge of the rail car, knuckles white.
“Virge?!” Dean cried out, going to his knees and crawling toward the edge, his back to the beaten wizard. His belly on the hot metal roof, Dean leaned over and saw Virgil hanging from the rail car, his legs slapping against the side of the box with the fury of the wind.
Dean immediately reached down and grasped the older man’s forearms. Virgil awkwardly released the border of the train and gripped the muscled edges of Dean’s arms, the blood from the recent knife wound making the hold tenuous.
“Is he dead?” Virgil yelled.
Dean saw Virgil’s eyes latch onto his bloody, bruised hands.
“Almost,” Dean called back. “Hang on, man, I’ll pull you up!”
The whistle blew again and Dean and Virgil instinctively looked toward the front of the train. The tunnel loomed close. Dean shot a look over his shoulder. The wizard was pushing himself slowly to his feet, the Kestrel Dagger still clutched in his hand. Dean looked back at Virgil, his eyes desperate.
Sacrifice was a hell of a thing, Dean knew. It was both selfish and selfless, provided relief in tandem with terror. He had only seconds to make the choice between Virgil and the knife—both choices a different form of salvation.
I’m sorry, Sammy. Dean closed his eyes.
Opening them again, he locked eyes with Virgil. “No matter what happens,” he yelled over the whistle, “don’t let go.”
“Aw, fuck…” Virgil bleated, gripping Dean tighter.
Dean kept his head low, tucking his chin into his shoulder, and slid his eyes askance to the wizard. Just as the ancient M.E. stood upright, the train encountered the tunnel. The wizard looked at Dean, seemed to see the horror there, then turned in time to slam against the solid stone of the tunnel entrance face-first.
Over Virgil’s reverberating cry of fear, Dean heard the sickening crack of flesh and bone liquefying against the immovable rock surface, felt the hot splash of blood across his back and across his arms, and swallowed the rush of bile as what was left of the wizard’s body crashed against him as it tumbled from the roof of the train to be crushed under the wheels, the Kestrel Dagger following suit.
After what seemed like years in darkness, the train exited the tunnel. Panting, Dean looked down at Virgil, silently praying that the man was still in one piece. Virgil looked back up, his blue eyes wide.
“Do you believe that just happened?” he squeaked.
Dean shook his head slowly.
“Get me up,” Virgil said.
Dean strained, pulling as Virgil searched for a toe-hold, the wounds on his back breaking open with a searing pain. Groaning, he leaned as far back as he could, helping Virgil scramble up the side of the train. They rolled to finally lay still on the roof of the car, panting for breath.
“Holy shit,” Virgil gasped.
“I know,” Dean rasped, his voice the first to finally succumb to the beating he’d given his body.
“No, man, I mean…” Virgil slowly sat up. “Holy… shit.”
Dean agreed, but was unable to do much more than lay there. His back throbbed, the wounds Brenna had treated punished beyond endurance. He felt the sticky wetness on his skin from the rock salt wounds, his head throbbed from the cut near his scalp, and bruises he’d ignored stood up to be counted.
“Dude… you feel that?”
Dean groaned. “You’re gonna have to be more specific.” He blinked, trying to bring Virgil into focus.
Virgil puffed out a breath and Dean finally saw what he meant.
It was cooling down. Rapidly. They could see their breath as the wind whipped around them. Dean began to shake, small trembles at first, inside, around his heart. He clenched his fists.
“I think the train is slowing down,” Virgil announced, his eyes tracking the gore that ran the length of the rail car roof.
Dean nodded, trying to still his visible trembles.
“You okay?” Virgil asked.
Dean shook his head. His strength was gone. His chance was gone. He was wounded and aching and back at square one. And he had no idea how far away they’d traveled from Sam.
“I don’t see the knife,” Virgil said quietly, I’m sorry implied in his tone.
“I know,” Dean mumbled. “It’s—“
Before he could finish his sentence, he caught his breath against a hot, searing pain that sliced across his belly, his chest, his arm, his thigh. He tore at his too-big shirt, feeling for sure that he would witness his skin opening, exposing his life’s blood for all to see. The burning intensified to an almost unbearable peak and he saw white, crying out as his back arched. Virgil was beside him, whispering meaningless words, moving his hands away, trying to see.
“There’s nothing there,” Dean finally heard.
Gasping he ran his fingers across the cooling skin of his belly, realizing that Virgil was right. As the pain passed, he struggled to his elbows, allowing Virgil to help him sit up. He pulled his shirt up, peering closely at the muscled ridges across his belly. There was nothing there. Not even the scars left behind from a knife that hadn’t touched him.
“They’re gone,” he gasped. “The scars… they’re gone…” He rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth. “Sam… I need to get to Sam,” he looked over at Virgil. “We need to get back.”
“Okay,” Virgil nodded, gripping Dean with a strong arm as the hunter sagged with exhaustion. “We’ll just, uh…” Virgil looked around. “You got any idea where we are?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Sam said into his cell phone. “I’m sure, Dean. It hurt like hell for about five minutes, and I think I scared away a few birds yelling like I did, but… yeah, just like you said, the cuts are gone.”
Sam looked over at Brenna who was on her knees near him, not touching him. She had scooted close when Sam had suddenly cried out, his back tensing, his hands going to his bare chest in a desperate search for relief.
“Yeah, I figured it out when it dropped like fifty degrees in five minutes,” Sam told his brother. “Dean… what about the knife?”
Sam swallowed, closing his eyes as he listened to Dean tell him that the knife was gone. The reason they were there, that they suffered so much, that Brenna sat before him, wounded and broken, that Griffin was dead… was gone.
“Yeah, I’m here,” Sam said softly. “Let’s just talk about it when you get back.” Sam paused, listening to the complete weariness he heard under his brother’s voice, the bravado masking the pain Dean had been ignoring since they left the motel room. “What do you mean, come to you? Where are you?”
He looked at Brenna, watching her watch him.
“You just… left the Impala?” Sam exclaimed, incredulous. “Yeah, I’m good to drive. Not much else, but, yeah. Yeah… yeah, she’ll come. You, uh… you be careful, okay?”
Sam closed his phone, sliding it back in his jeans pocket. He smiled weakly at Brenna.
“They’re okay,” he said. “Well, they’re both on their feet and talking. Dean’s definition of ‘okay’ is a bit… random.”
Brenna’s shoulders sagged and Sam shivered.
“We have to take Griffin’s truck and meet them.”
“What about… him?” Brenna looked over her shoulder at Griffin’s body.
“We leave him here,” Sam grunted as he pushed himself painfully to his feet. “I’m gonna call a friend. He can help.”
Unthinking, he reached down for Brenna’s hand to help her up, withdrawing it only when she looked away.
“C’mon,” Sam said, bending carefully to retrieve his brother’s knife. “We need warmer clothes.”
Brenna stood, walking ahead of Sam out of the crypt as if her legs were made of glass. Sam looked down at Griffin, rubbing tired fingers across his mouth.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t save you, man,” Sam said softly. With a grimace, he bent, patting the dead hunter’s pockets and searched for keys. Pulling them out with a handful of change, he looked around for something to cover the body. Finding nothing, he closed Griffin’s eyes, then laid two coins on the dead man’s lids.
“See you on the flipside,” he said softly, then stood, wavering slightly, catching his balance. He pulled his cell phone back out, dialing Bobby’s number.
“Hey, Bobby, it’s Sam. Listen, we, uh… we need your help. We’re still in Brookville and uh…” he sighed into the message. “Look, Griffin’s dead. His body is in a crypt in a cemetery outside of Brookville. Crypt’s name is Carter. It’s a long story, but… we’re beat to hell, and I have to find Dean, and… I just… could you help us take care of him? Thanks, Bobby.”
When he reached the truck, Brenna was in the back, looking through the bags Griffin had stashed there. Silently, she handed Sam a shirt which he slipped on, gingerly avoiding the field dressing on his back. He watched as she pulled off the remains of her tattered T-shirt, grabbing a long-sleeved white T-shirt from Griffin’s bag and pulling it over her black bra. She rolled up the sleeves to expose her hands, then grabbed some socks.
“No shoes,” she shrugged.
“It’s okay,” Sam said, eager to get to the next town and get his brother back.
They climbed into the cab of the truck, Brenna pressed against the door, as far from Sam as she could physically get in the small confines of the front seat. Sam started the truck engine, letting the radio station Griffin had been listening to fill the tense interior of the truck with silence-canceling music.
“Train roll on, on down the line, please take me far, away. Now I feel the wind blow outside my door, means I'm leaving my woman at home…”
Sam looked sideways at Brenna as he pulled away from the crypt. He wanted to believe that she was going to be okay. That they were all going to make it out of this, in one piece, victorious. But he couldn’t help but feel that fate had tangled them up for a reason, leaving some broken, some alone, and some unable to be repaired.
He pulled back onto the road, heading to the town about 10 miles away from Brookville, focusing only on getting to Dean, getting him back.
Because he wasn’t strong enough to learn from fate’s lessons.
She hadn’t said a word to him.
Not when Sam found them at the train depot. Not when Virgil had lifted him beneath the arms, hauling his barely-functioning body into the back of the truck. Not when they’d found the Impala. Not when a switch of drivers and a quick round of rock, paper, scissors put Sam behind the wheel of the Impala and Virgil in the black truck.
She hadn’t said a word when they stopped at the police station, reporting to a shocked-looking Calhoun and a thankful Ross that the reason it was so cool was that the wizard was dead. The killings were over. Life could return to their version of normal.
She hadn’t looked at him when they’d stumbled into the hotel, thanking the clerk with dull voices when he handed them a message from Bobby saying call me.
She hadn’t so much as whimpered the entire time. She seemed to barely breathe.
“Two hours sleep isn’t enough, man,” Virgil pointed out from behind him.
“I’m okay,” Dean replied.
He stood in front of the hotel room bureau, staring at his own reflection in the mirror. Bracing his hands on the mahogany edge, he leaned his jean-clad hips against the wood, eyes boring into eyes, searching for something that said you did good. With a glance to the left he could see Sam reflected in the mirror as well, sitting on the edge of the bed, showered, in a clean pair of jeans, his chest bare. Virgil was positioned behind him, patching up the worst of the glass cuts.
“You are hanging on by your fingernails is what you are,” Virgil argued. “You’re pale, your hands are shaking, and don’t think we can’t see those circles under your eyes.”
Dean looked back at himself. His face looked drawn, thin, his skin eerily transparent. Butterfly bandages sealed the wound at the base of his scalp. Fresh bandages pulled the punctured skin of his back together. Bruises aged his features. His bare chest was bruised and bloodstained, the tattoo showing up in stark contrast to the sunburned hue of his skin. He felt as if the fissures in his internal wall could easily undo years of shoring up if allowed to grow.
This hunt had started as a quest for a resolution to the deal he’d made for Sam’s life and turned into a battle for humanity.
“Sam?” he called softly, hating the hollowness he heard in his own voice.
“You really think the knife woulda worked?” Dean asked, his green eyes shimmering in contrast to the purplish haze of his skin.
“I don’t know,” Sam said, tiredly. Dean knew his brother was hurting. He could hear it in the tightness of Sam’s voice, see it in the careful way he held his body. He was proud of him for staying quiet as Virgil worked. “I honestly don’t know…”
The room was quiet for a moment, the hum of the heating unit ticking in the background.
“He wasn’t that different from me, y’know,” Dean said softly.
“Who? Carter?” Virgil asked, incredulity plain in his voice.
“He used magic, that knife… he killed people just so he could stay with his brother.”
“You haven’t killed anyone, Dean,” Sam said.
“Griffin’s dead,” Dean pointed out.
“He’s dead because he wouldn’t listen to us,” Sam replied.
Dean was silent. It all came down to choices. The choice to live, the choice to die. The choice to sacrifice, the choice to confess. The choice to fight, the choice to give in.
In the next room, Dean heard the radio come to life. Brenna had stepped through the adjoining door a few hours ago when they’d arrived, left it partly open, and fallen on the bed in an exhausted heap. Dean had followed shortly after on one of the queen beds in Virgil’s room after washing the wizard’s blood from his wounded back and changing into his own clothes. He’d woken abruptly when his dreams took him under the wheels of a train, the wizard’s laughter ringing in his ears.
Static scratched the quiet as a dial was turned in the adjoining room. Sam hissed as Virgil repaired his damaged back. Dean stared at himself in the mirror, trying to find something in the reflection of his eyes that would tell him what choice he should make now.
“I have seen too many sad eyes look at me. The eyes that set me free. All the places that I've been…”
“You’re a mess, man,” Virgil said softly. “I don’t have much by way of pain meds.”
“I’m okay,” Sam said, stalwartly echoing his brother.
“This bruising is not okay,” Virgil said. “I mean, what is it with you two? You have to literally be camping out on death’s door to admit you need help? This shit hurts, man! I know! I put street fighters back together. I’ve seen men twice your size break down and cry with a knife wound. One. Not… three.”
“It wasn’t a knife,” Sam said.
“Whatever, man,” Virgil sighed. “You’re just lucky it didn’t go too deep into muscle. You need—both of you need—sleep. Lots of it.” He stepped away from the bed rubbing a hand across his face. “And I need a shower.”
As if on cue the sound of water being turned on in the next room followed Virgil’s words.
“You ever have a paper cut, Virge?” Sam asked. Dean slid his eyes to his brother’s face, meeting Sam’s gaze in the mirror as he spoke.
“Paper cut? Hell yeah, I’ve had a paper cut.”
“You been shot?”
Virgil was quiet. “No.”
“You get a paper cut,” Sam said, still looking at Dean, “it stings, right? Sometimes, depending on where it is, it hurts like hell. You almost can’t think of anything else, it’s that annoying.”
Dean felt his chin tremble as he watched Sam’s reflection.
“You get shot, though, and the paper cut is nothing,” Sam continued. “You forget you even had it. The paper cut doesn’t matter ‘cause the pain the bullet caused is so much bigger, y’know?”
Dean closed his eyes, unable to take the honesty in Sam’s hazel eyes. He leaned forward, resting his forehead on the mirror. Listening.
“So… these are paper cuts? That what you’re saying?” Virgil said, trying to follow Sam’s line of thinking.
Dean heard Sam’s voice change as his brother gained his feet and moved closer to him.
“I’m saying that sometimes there are things that hurt worse than you can see. Things you can’t put bandages on.”
“Like losing that knife,” Virgil guessed.
“Among other things,” Sam said, his voice tight. Dean kept his eyes closed. “The knife was a shot at getting out of this deal.”
“So… it’s gone…” Virgil hedged. “Now what?”
“We keep looking,” Dean and Sam intoned together, not looking at each other.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Virgil said softly.
“There’s always something else,” Dean whispered, his thoughts bouncing from the haunting sensation of bleeding without being cut, to the odd realization that talking about his dream had healed his bruises, to the heavy-hearted discovery that his childhood had been his father’s secret treasure.
“Dean,” Sam said quietly, moving closer. Dean sensed a sudden lack of space and opened his eyes, meeting Sam’s in the mirror. “You need to go in there.”
Dean rolled his lip against his bottom teeth. “I can’t, Sammy,” he said softly, knowing what his brother was asking him to do.
“You’re the only one who can,” Sam replied.
“Can what?” Virgil asked, sounding slightly anxious. “What did I miss?”
“I go in there,” Dean said, hating the thickness in his voice, “and it’s goodbye.”
Sam looked down, pressing the thumb of one hand into the palm of the other. “It’s goodbye any way,” he said. “You know that.”
“You’re talking about… Brenna,” Virgil said
Dean pulled away from the mirror, looking at himself one last time, willing the cracks to seal up, just for tonight. He didn’t want to break down tonight, no matter how much he hurt, how tired he was.
He turned, facing the other two occupants in the room. Sam’s eyes, tired, understanding, sad. Virgil’s eyes, worried, cautious.
“Okay,” Dean said, nodding at Sam. He looked directly at Virgil. “Okay.”
Virgil swallowed, looking away. “You do what you have to do,” he said tightly.
“Hey,” Virgil interrupted, looking back at Dean. “It’s okay, man. It is. Sometimes… things just… are.” He rubbed a rough hand over his forehead, ruffling his thinning hair, then closing his blue eyes. “Thanks for saving my life.”
“Thanks for keeping your promise,” Dean replied.
Virgil shrugged. “Man’s only as good as the promises he keeps.”
Without another word he moved away from the brothers and into the bathroom. Dean blinked, looking back at Sam as the music in the other room faded, another song quickly taking its place.
“Just… be honest with her, man,” Sam said softly. “I mean, she knows what you’re facing. Let her know how you feel.”
Dean looked down. “I’d rather face Hell.”
“Well,” Sam stepped forward, resting a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “Consider this practice.”
Dean lifted the side of his mouth in a weak smile, turning away and heading to the adjoining doorway.
“…You're getting closer, to pushing me off of life's little edge, ‘cause I'm a loser and sooner or later you know I'll be dead. You're getting closer, you're holding the rope and taking the fall…”
When Dean stepped into Brenna’s room, he slipped the door shut behind him. The sound of the shower warred with the music from the radio, shutting out all other sound, cutting them off from the other room and its occupants. Shuffling barefoot across the carpet, he made his way to the bathroom, tipping the door open with his fingers.
The shower curtain was pulled, but he could see her shadow silhouetted against the white plastic. She was sitting on the floor of the shower, her knees up, her head in her hands. He heard her speaking, but couldn’t make out the words. It took him a moment to realize it was Gaelic.
“Brenna,” he said quietly, trying not to startle her.
“Go away,” she said, not moving.
“No,” Dean replied.
“Dean, just… I don’t want to see you right now.”
“Well, I want to see you,” he said, stepping to the outside of the curtain. “I want… I want you to…”
“Talk? Share my feelings? Get it all out in the open?”
She stood and shoved the curtain back, standing before him wet, naked, her eyes once more their unusual golden color, but so destroyed it almost hurt him to look at them. Her hair hung down her back, slicked against her skull. Her bruises shone painfully in the harsh light of the bathroom.
Dean kept his eyes on hers, refusing to comb her body with his gaze as his instinct screamed at him to do.
“I want you to let me touch you,” Dean said quietly.
He grabbed a towel, handing it to her. When she took it from him, he shut off the water. He waited as she wrapped the towel around herself, wringing her hair out, the water splashing on the floor of the bathtub.
“He touched me,” she said, her bravado wavering.
“I know he did,” Dean said softly as she stepped from the shower.
“He… took something from me,” she said, moving past him into the cool of the bed room.
Dean watched as she dropped her towel, sliding on a pair of briefs and a Slippery When Wet T-shirt before turning around. He wanted to hide his body’s reaction to the sight of her nakedness, but she was looking at his face, nowhere else.
“Do you know what it’s like to be… stolen like that?”
“No,” Dean replied softly, the music providing a shield for them to hide behind, protected from the world.
“…But I will not hide you through this. I want you to help and please see the bleeding heart perched on my shirt…”
He stepped closer to her, the heat from her body slipping neatly beneath his bare skin, the smell of her filling his senses. She took a step back, sinking slowly to her bed. He stood where he was, watching her. She backed away further onto the bed, drawing her knees up.
“I saw you die,” she whispered. “All of you.”
“We didn’t die,” Dean pointed out.
“But you will.”
“Everyone dies,” Dean tried.
“I saw Sam stabbed in the back and fall into your arms,” she said, her voice hushed, fragile. Dean swallowed, hard. “You told me that had really happened. I saw you shredded, your chest ripped to ribbons.” He blinked, knowing only that Hellhounds would one day be on his trail. “Have you been torn up lately, Dean?”
“No,” he said quietly.
“I saw Virge—“ her voice caught at that, unable to finish. “I’ve never seen the future before.”
“It’s not the future,” Dean said. “It’s only your fear. Nothing is in stone, Brenna. Not until we make it that way.”
“You sold your soul,” she protested. “That seems pretty stone-set to me.”
“Nothing is in stone,” he repeated. “There’s always a chance, right? And even if…” he stepped closer to the bed. “Even if we all die bloody… it doesn’t mean we don’t die fighting.”
Brenna’s breath caught in a sob. Dean stopped moving, waiting with shallow breath for her to speak again.
“What are we doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean… You’re going to leave, aren’t you?”
Dean didn’t reply.
“You’re going to walk away.”
Dean looked down.
“So… what are we doing? Why are you here, Dean?” She scooted forward on the bed, causing him to back up a step with the ferocity in her shaking voice. “You want a good-bye lay? You want me to fall into your arms, thank you for saving me?”
He resisted the instinct to snap back at her, to react to her anger as she was goading him to do. He knew she was working to push him away, too afraid of what it might feel like to heal. He didn’t know how to give her what she really needed. He had a job to do, and at the moment, there was no room in his life for anything—for anyone—else.
“I want to give you back… what you lost.”
“You can’t.” She said it with such certainty that he almost took another step back.
“You can’t be sure.”
“What he took from me…” she swallowed. “I thought I could take him, Dean. I thought… I thought I was stronger than he was.”
Dean watched her, his eyes darting between her mouth and eyes.
“All I could think about at first was getting him away from you. There was so much blood…” She swallowed. “And then… the things I saw when he touched me… I was wrong to want that power back.”
“Your power is a part of you, Brenna. It makes you who you are.”
“Well, I don’t want to be me anymore.”
Dean licked his lower lip. “I don’t know if we get that choice.”
They stared at each other a moment, the music humming in the background, late afternoon sunbeams tossing dust particles through the thick, drawn curtains.
“Tell me one thing,” Brenna asked, water clinging to her lashes, turning her eyes innocent. “Did you ever… love me?”
Dean lifted his eyes, letting his heart show. “Yes,” he replied.
She swallowed and dropped her gaze. He didn’t know which direction to move, afraid to push, afraid to leave. He needed a guide, he need a light. She reached out her hand to him. He almost didn’t take it, aware of what might happen to her—to him—if she were able to strip him bare once more as she’d done so many times in the past.
When he hesitated she whispered, “Please. I don’t know what else to do.”
Stepping up to the bed, his knees hitting the mattress between her legs, he leaned close, letting his breath caress her face, then took her hand, weaving his fingers with hers. Her gasp pulled him in and as her head dropped back, he closed his eyes, falling into sensation, music filling the empty spaces of the room.
“Can you remember when...when we used to cry, but never in distress. Or can you picture then how we used to pride ourselves on neatness… ‘Cause I can’t understand, what you meant to me. You made me wild, then you tied my hands…”
Brenna sighed as Dean rolled against her, eyes closed, burying his face in the damp crook of her neck, breathing in the wet perfume of her hair, images flooding his senses. He’d never before seen what she saw, but something broken inside of her sought healing in the fractures of his borrowed soul. He opened up, showing her the moments of his life, the choices that led him to this moment, this bed, these arms.
He let her see the pain of loss he’d buried deep. He let her see the sorrow of failure that held him back. He let her see the fear, the unrelenting terror of a future he hurtled toward, resisting the choice he’d willingly made.
He wrapped his arms around her slim, strong back as she saw tears he never showed, felt her leg hook over his hips to draw him close as he let her see his escape into faceless women, searching for the sensation of touch, misery seeking company. He slipped his hand down the small of her back, tucking his fingers beneath the waistband of her briefs, feeling the silk of her skin as she dove head first into his nightmares, seeing his personal Hell, seeing his torture.
Her lips found his, his tongue sliding deep into the warm recesses of her mouth as she pulled poison from his memory, her hand stroking his bare chest as though caulking the cracks in his reserve with her touch. He heard her whisper to him, her mouth against his ear, meaningless phrases that comforted, consoled, promising nothing but now.
Tightening his arms around her, he rolled her on top of him, slipping her T-shirt over her head and letting her wet hair drift in thick tendrils across his face. She worked her slim fingers under his waistband, unfastening the button and sliding the zipper loose. In moments there was only skin and breath and scent.
Dean pressed his lips to her neck, desperate to touch, to taste, to own. He wanted to brand her, mark her as his. No matter what happened next. No matter who else touched her. They would never touch her this way. They would never see what he saw. They couldn’t feel this connection.
“Mo chroi,” Brenna whispered, her hands skimming the wounds on his back, her lips against his bruised cheekbone.
“What does that mean?” he asked, tracing her jaw line with his mouth.
“My heart,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
“What do you—“
Dean gasped in surprise as her lips met his again amid a torrent of images. He saw himself through her eyes, felt the rush of sensation as they touched, felt the thrill in her gut as they became one.
He was swept away by sensation, almost not feeling her hand on him, stroking him, teasing him. His body felt as taut as a guitar string. He gripped her shoulders, rolling her to her back, settling himself between her legs, feeling her breathe in sharply as he entered her, burying himself deep, filling her as the pictures from her life scattered through his brain like a mental scrapbook. They fell in quick succession, fading, slipping, receding until once again there were only two people, in a bed, music as their protection.
“I’ve lost you,” she gasped, arching up as he thrust deep.
“I’m here,” he whispered. “Open your eyes.” He held his body still until she complied, sinking in once more when he saw her look back at him. “I’m right here.”
“So tell me you need me and I will stay. You believe me and I will wait. That you'd come back for me every time I fall. In your heart there's just no place, there's no room to make a mistake, and with one wrong turn you would never make it home…”
“Hold onto me,” she pleaded, wrapping her legs around his waist, her hands at his neck, pushing up to fill herself with him. “Hold me tighter.”
Dean scooped her up, sitting back on his rear, setting her in his lap, connected to her. She rocked, gasping at the sensation. He kissed her jaw, her chin, skimming her lips, then ran his mouth down the bow of her throat as she dropped her head back. His thumb skimmed her nipple, making her shudder.
Their bodies took on the primal rhythm inherent to need and lust, rocking with effortless motion, tension building to a peak. Dean felt her release, felt her quake around him, causing him to surrender, sparks of light dancing behind his closed lids, his breath stuttering in his throat as he worked to breathe.
In moments he came back to himself, laying on his side, Brenna sprawled next to him, her head on his arm. He reached out and brushed her damp hair from her face, watching as she blinked her eyes open.
“We’re in a bed,” she said, her rosebud mouth quirking with a shadow of her old humor.
“Wondered if you’d notice.”
“What happens now, Dean?” she asked, rolling toward him, seemingly unable to break their tenuous contact.
He sighed, closing his eyes, his hand on her shoulder. “I wish I knew.”
“Fight more bad guys?”
“Always bad guys to fight,” he said quietly, rolling her closer to him, needing her warmth.
“So you’ll walk away.”
He was quiet, absorbing the feeling of her body against his, the serenity of the moment.
“I can’t just walk away from you,” he confessed. “I can’t just leave.”
“You can’t be everywhere, though, can you?” she said, tracing his tattoo with the tip of her finger. “Not even Superman could do that.”
“Batman was just a man,” she said softly.
“So am I,” Dean replied, kissing the top of her head.
The music faded into the background as weariness overwhelmed him. The comfort of Brenna’s body by his side, the softness of the sheets beneath his bare skin, the darkness of the room all played a part in helping him succumb to the will of his exhaustion.
He slipped over the edge of sleep with her words held captive in his heart.
“Someday, Dean. You won’t have to walk away.”
His dreams were tangled, words in languages he couldn’t understand, blood and death contrasting with safety and light. He saw Sam’s smile, felt the leather of the Impala’s seat, heard the low rumble of his father’s voice, felt the stroke of soft fingers against his stubbled cheek. He rolled to bury himself in the comforting smell of woman, burrowing deeper under the covers and finally falling into peace.
When his brother’s hand shook him awake, Dean blinked blearily up, confused, disoriented. It took him almost a full minute to realize he was alone in the bed. The curtains were still pulled, soft sunlight filtering in. At some point, the radio had been turned off. The doors between the two rooms were opened and Sam stood next to the bed, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, a cup of coffee and a piece of paper in his hands.
“Time ‘s it?” Dean muttered.
“Three,” Sam replied, his voice rough from sleep.
“In the morning?” Dean squeaked.
“Afternoon. Next day.”
“I slept a whole day?”
“Yeah,” Sam replied, sitting on the edge of the bed. “You needed it, man. You’ve been through hell.”
“Says the human cork board…” Dean yawned, stretching gingerly. “That for me?”
“Yeah.” Sam waited until he’d pushed himself up in the bed, then handed him the coffee.
“How’s your back?”
“Been better,” Sam confessed. “But I’ll live. Talked to Bobby.”
“Yeah?” Dean rubbed his puffy eyes with the heel of his hand. “And?”
“Said he got Griffin’s body. Gave me hell for the mess we left.”
“You tell him we had other things on our minds?”
“Gave me hell about that, too.”
Dean blinked sleepily, a small grin on his face. “Where’r Brenna and Virge?” His stomach dropped at the look on Sam’s face. “What?”
“They left last night.”
Dean set the coffee on the nightstand, looking away, his jaw tightening as he worked to still the uncomfortable race of his heart, the automatic denial of the truth. “How do you know?” he asked, looking hard at Sam.
Sam sighed. “I found this in the corner of your mirror.”
He handed Dean a folded up piece of paper written on hotel stationary.
Dean took it but didn’t open it. “Did you read it?”
Dean flipped the folded paper open.
I know you’d hate to walk away from me after all this. And I also know that you have work to do. So, I had to leave. But I’m a coward. I couldn’t do it with your eyes on me. I couldn’t do it where you’d see.
I’m going to be okay. Someday. And you will, too. Just try to remember something. You have a purpose. Not even Hell can take that from you. You are light. And sooner or later, someone’s going to notice.
A chuisle mo chroí.
“You okay?” Sam asked softly.
Dean folded the paper, rubbing a hand across his face, then looked up at Sam. “Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“What do you want to do?”
Dean shrugged, pulling his lip in. “Get the hell out of here.”
Sam nodded, and stood. Dean felt his brother’s worried eyes on him as he stood stiffly from the bed, the night before and the hours of inactivity after catching up with him. He headed to the bathroom, a hand on his sternum, feeling as if he needed to keep something there so that he stayed in one piece.
The water stung his cuts and beat on his bruises. He let it. He relished it. He leaned his forehead on the tile, wishing he could turn the temperature up, wanting to melt away the disappointment, confusion, wariness, and pain of the last few days. Wanting to rewind time to when Sam suggested going to Dad’s storage unit. Wanting to drive the other way.
Stepping from the shower, he wiped the steam away from the mirror, looking at his reflection and for one disorienting moment, not recognizing the person he saw there. He stumbled from the steam-filled bathroom, letting the chill in the main room ground him once more.
Inside thirty minutes, they’d both packed and were leaving the hotel rooms, moving stiffly, bodies battered, eyes ancient. As Dean made a beeline for the Impala, Sam reached out a long arm to stop his brother.
Dean dropped his bag, his shoulders sagging. “I’ll be damned.”
Brenna’s bike sat parked in front of the Impala, keys dangling.
“She left it?”
Dean walked over, stroking an index finger down the handle bars and across the seat. He picked up the saddle bags draped across the back and looked inside. One pouch held a jar of the purple goo she used to heal him. The other was empty save a pendant. He reached in, pulling it out.
“Saint Christopher,” Dean said, showing Sam.
“She gave us that once, didn’t she?”
“Now what?” Sam asked. “Think this means she’s coming back?”
“She’s not coming back,” Dean said softly.
His gut told him that fate brought them together in the first place, and fate would be the only thing to bring them back. He stared at the bike a moment, trying to figure out what she was trying to tell him. What she wanted him to do.
When he saw the price tag spinning in the breeze from the handlebar, he laughed.
“What?” Sam frowned at him, worried.
“Saw a used car lot on the edge of town.”
“You’re gonna sell it?” Sam asked, surprised.
Dean smiled softly. “She wants me to,” he said, jerking the tag free and showing it to Sam. “Besides,” Dean bumped him with an elbow. “If you think I’m giving you the keys to my baby before I’m in the ground, you’re crazy.”
Sam shook his head, saying nothing else as they loaded the bags into the Impala. Dean swung his leg across the bike, glancing at Sam as his brother slid behind the wheel of the Impala. Pausing a moment to take a breath, Dean turned the key and pressed the ignition, feeling the thrum of the vehicle roar to life beneath his legs. He turned the bike in a tight circle, pulling out to the highway, Sam following behind him.
The cool fall air slipped around him, stinging his eyes, soothing his bruises, sparking his senses. They reached the lot and Dean struck a deal, pocketing the cash and turning his back on Brenna’s Indian, knowing she would have had to do the same thing when she at last climbed into Virgil’s truck.
Sam slid over, surrendering the wheel of the Impala.
“Where we going?”
“I don’t know, man,” Dean said quietly. “I… I got nothing.”
“Maybe I have an idea.”
“Better be a good one this time,” Dean scowled. He shuffled through his box of cassettes, pulling out one at random, shoving it into the tape deck. “I think I’ve had enough drama to last me awhile.”
“I think there’s something we need to do, Dean.”
Dean pulled the gear down to drive. “Why don’t I like the sound of that?”
“Just jump on the highway and head east.”
Too tired to argue, too tangled to think, Dean followed orders. He suspected their destination, but was in no mood to debate with his tenacious brother about closure. He just needed to drive. He needed to move, see the trees pass by in rapid succession, see the headlights reflect the white lines of the highway, feel the rumble of his baby’s engine, move, move, move, and hopefully, maybe, forget.
Dean lasted through three cassettes, two cups of coffee, and one gas station fill up before he gave in and let Sam take over. When Sam began to drive, Dean tried to stay conscious, tried to keep his blurry eyes open, tried to ignore the throbbing ache in his head, to no avail. Within minutes, he was sagging in the passenger seat, slipping sideways, his forehead coming to rest on the cold window.
“Dean, we’re here.”
“Open your eyes, man.”
“Don’t want to.”
“Just for a second.”
“That’s Dad’s storage unit.”
“I know, Dean.”
“Why are we here?”
“There’s something I didn’t tell you...”
a/n: One chapter left, weaving together the last of the loose ends. It won’t be as long as the rest, and I hope that when you reach the end the ride you’ve taken will have been worth it.
Also, a quick note about the music. I’ve been told that some readers feel the insertion of lyrics is distracting, and I apologize if this has been such for you as you read. The way I look at it, fanfiction is pretty much the only place you can get away with including lyrics without worrying about copyright issues and whatnot. And music permeates so much of what we do in life. We each have a soundtrack.
And this one is mine for this story.
Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd (or Metallica, but Skynyrd did it first)
Reply by Staind
Loser by 3 Doors Down
Wasteland by 10 Years
Tied my Hands by Seether
Mo chroi, My heart.
A chuisle mo chroí Pulse of my heart