He tries to sleep again and wonders when the pain will end the cuts they made run deeper than his cracking outer shell
He looks with tired eyes at all the people hypnotized and wonders what can save him from a self-created hell
And he says,
"I swear I'm not the devil
though you think I am.
I swear I'm not the devil."
And he says,
"I swear I'm not the devil
Though you think I am.
I swear I'm not the devil."
"Where've you been?"
"Yeah, I can see that, Dean."
"They why'd you ask?"
He tossed the keys onto the table, watching as they slid across the smooth surface, coming to a rest against the back of Sam's laptop.
"Out where?" Sam leaned back in the chair, one hand still on the laptop keyboard, the other resting on his bare thigh.
Dean shrugged out of his jacket, noting that Sam was in his boxers and T-shirt.
"Thought you were sleeping," he said, dropping down on the edge of his bed.
"I was," Sam replied. "Woke up and you weren't here."
Dean flicked an eyebrow, leaning over to pull off his shoes. "Second verse, same as the first."
"Dean," Sam sighed and his lips pushed out into a pout, he face displaying that he knew the origin of Dean's grumpy reply. "I already told you—I just needed to get out for a bit, that's all."
"With the Colt."
"It was in my bag."
"You're such bad liar, Sam," Dean shook his head, his lips twisted into a sad smile. "What'd you do, Sam? Meet up with Ruby again? Or did you just want to go out for some target practice?"
Sam pressed his lips together, shaking his head slowly, his eyes darting to the side. "Would you drop that? I did not see Ruby. Haven't seen her since Elizabethville."
Dean knew Sam was lying. He knew his brother. Knew that there was something under the waning innocence of his hazel eyes. His jaw tightened in a moment of angry fear.
Guess it's time I saved your ass for a change…
Dean shucked his jeans, smelling the red-head in the wake of the denim, and climbed beneath the covers.
"I found something." Sam's voice was petulant. "Demonic activity, ten miles from here."
"It can wait until morning," Dean yawned, reaching up to turn off the light between the beds.
"It'll be morning in a couple of hours," Sam helpfully pointed out.
Dean sighed, gripping the edge of the comforter and wrapping it around himself, burrowing into a tight cocoon. "Then it can wait a couple of hours."
He heard Sam sigh, heard the laptop click shut, heard the bed next to him creak as Sam's weight hit it, heard Sam's deep exhale as his brother forced his body to rest once again. Sam always breathed heavily in his sleep; it was at times both annoying and reassuring. It kept the memory of the horrid silence, the painful stillness that Sam had been cloaked in back at Cold Oak from swamping Dean every time he closed his eyes.
He turned his face further into the pillow, wanting oblivion in this moment as much as he'd wanted sensation earlier. But sleep eluded him. Peace was a mockery of temptation. Sam had called him a hypocrite. He was right. And Dean didn't care. He didn't care because Sam was alive.
And how am I supposed to live with that? You know, the thought of him, wherever he is right now…I mean, he spent his whole life chasing that yellow-eyed son of a bitch, he should have gone out fighting. That was supposed to be his legacy, you know? Not bargaining with the damn thing. Not this.
Had John had even a moment to feel loss, feel a flash of panic? Had John known how his sacrifice would remove the only thing standing between Dean and the dark? Had he cared?
Twisting in the bed, putting his back to Sam, Dean felt an all-too-familiar pull in his chest reminiscent of the encounter with the rawhead, the sting of the reaper. He felt his freedom crushing him, suffocating him with its burden.
Still, a year left. You’re not scared? Not even a little?
He was a liar. He knew it. The demons knew it. Sam was the only one that was fooled. For now. Sam was the one he needed to fool. Sam was the one that needed to let him go, let this go. Before he tried something stupid and got himself killed. Before Dean lost him.
Damn if I'm not going out fighting, Dean thought. He had one thing his father hadn't had. Time.
Dean rolled to his stomach, shoving his hands under his pillow, his fingers wrapping around the knife hilt. It was hard, worn, familiar. He knew its balance, knew its accuracy. He knew his weapons as intimately as he knew himself. He knew how to treat them, how to care for them so that they responded to him.
He knew all of that… and he didn't know how he was going to leave his brother. Had he been selfish? Had he saved the only thing that mattered in his life just to curse him to a fate worse than death?
When you were trapping that demon, you weren’t…I mean, it was all a trick, right? You never considered actually making that deal, right?
John and Sam, in Dean's mind as alike as twilight and , two sides of the same coin, echoing heartbeats. Dean had needed them both in different ways, and because of him, they'd both died.
Sam… you and Dad… you're the most important people in my life…
Dean pulled in a breath, rubbing his face into the pillow. John's death took away his balance. Sam's death destroyed him. Dean had died in that moment. A year wasn't going to make much of a difference. And maybe this way he could prepare Sam for what was apparently waiting for him in the shadows, waiting to pounce when his guard was down, his guardian gone.
I'd do it again, he thought fiercely. He would do anything to keep Sam safe, alive.
Is that what you want, Dean? You want me to just let you go?
Clenching his teeth against the growl building at the back of his throat, Dean bound his frustrated anger, his helpless resistance to the truth and stuffed it, deep, low, into his gut where the only thing that would expose it was currently gripping tightly in his hand. He'd created this moment. He'd created this hell on earth. He may as well enjoy it while he could.
I'm not a bad person…
The thought eased his shoulders. Enjoy what he could, while he could. Tasting, feeling, smelling, listening, touching, holding. Tucking Sam behind him and barreling through the demons until he found the end of the road, until he tumbled off the cliff. Just as long as Sam didn't follow.
Minutes, it seemed, after he'd finally succumbed to exhaustion, Sam was jostling his arm.
"Dean, we gotta go."
"Now, man," Sam was insisted, eager. Eager Sam before coffee was hard to process. "Bobby says that this one is a mean bastard."
"You called Bobby?"
Dean didn't pull his face from the pillow, his body still enjoying the feel of the bed against his skin too much to budge.
"What?" Sam asked, his voice irritated.
Dean lifted his face slightly so that his mouth was free of the pillow. "You called Bobby?" he repeated.
"He called us."
Dean groaned, rolling to his side.
"You look like shit, man," Sam observed. "What did—or wait, maybe I should say who did you do last night?"
Dean allowed his grin to slide into place, pulling the side of his face into a quirk of sly humor, his eyes barely slits, shielding the honesty that swam to the surface. It was the grin that he knew would always soften his brother's eyes with tolerance. It was the grin that always made Sam glance away, amused exasperation tugging at his lips. It was a grin of protection.
Dean reached up to ruffle his sleep-flattened hair, saying nothing.
"Did you even get her name?" Sam said, turning from the bed.
"We weren't really worried about names," he retorted. Though he'd given her his. His one way of reaching out. His one way of connecting. My name is Dean.
"You're impossible," Sam shook his head. He was dressed, ready, his backpack on his shoulder, his laptop in his hand.
Dean sighed. "Give me ten minutes."
"You have five."
"I better get coffee out of this."
"Depends on if we get there before another Ritchie shows up," Sam challenged.
Dean was out of bed and in the shower in the space of a minute. Ritchie hadn't deserved his fate. But, he wondered, letting the water wash her scent off of him, erasing the memory of his brief escape, did any of them? John hadn't deserved to be a widower, burning in a special hell even before he sacrificed his soul for his oldest son; his mother and Jessica hadn't deserved to die in wicked pain; Sam didn't deserve the loss he'd survived, let alone the destiny he was fighting to this day. None of them should have to suffer as they did.
Except me, he thought desperately as the weight of water answered the call of the earth, threatening to bow him. I deserve everything I get, and I'm gonna take the rest.
Five minutes later, they were heading west.
I always fail to see the little things in front of me the things that mean so much to you, a way to let you know
That I appreciate the way you always tolerate but sometimes when I medicate
frustration in you shows me how you feel
But I swear I'm not the devil
Though you think I am
I swear I'm not the devil
And I scream
I swear I'm not the devil
Though you think I am
I swear I'm not the devil
There were three of them. Two men and a woman. She was the worst of the bunch.
We're gonna try to get rid of these sonsabitches without casualties this time, Sammy. Promise me you'll try to save them before you use the Colt.
Sam's reluctance had tightened Dean's chest to the point of suffocation before they'd even reached their destination.
They're demons, Dean. Since when did you care so much?
Since he'd seen the coldness in Sam's eyes. Since he saw what his brother was slowly becoming capable of. Since the doubt the yellow-eyed demon had teased him with had taken hold, gripping his heart and making him realize that by saving Sam, he may have doomed him. Since the responsibility of Sam suddenly became almost too heavy for Dean to carry.
It was an old cannery. Conveyor belts long since shut down, the smell of fish lingering in the air. A wide door opening to an abbreviated pier that emptied into the water inlet, leading out to the ocean was visible from where they'd parked the Impala. Sam had been the first to scale the chain-link fence, flipping his lanky body over the top, releasing his grip on the metal chinks at the precise moment he dropped to the earth on the other side.
Dean climbed like a cat, scrambling to the top, swinging over and landing beside his brother. They walked in beat, united in their focus if not one in their thoughts. Their sudden appearance surprised the demons who had been conducting some sort of monetary exchange. Dean knew he would ponder that one later—demon mafia? Dealers? The hell? That was too weird, even for him.
They approached on a quick run, holy water at the ready, but the demons were faster, stronger, meaner. Dean felt the first punch connect and something inside of him snapped. He could no longer see reason or clarity. He gripped the larger man by his shirt, hearing a feral-sounding growl as he slammed his fists into the man's face. It took him a moment to realize the sound was coming from him.
When his body was tossed like a rag doll across the nearly-empty cannery, Dean was almost happy. He'd come to expect certain patterns from their battles, from their enemies. He knew the man would approach him, grab him by the neck, and proceed to cut off his air.
"Wouldn't be smilin' if I were you, bitch," the demon growled.
Dean gripped his massive wrist, unable to wipe the grin from his face. "Good… thing… you're not… me."
He was slammed against the wall, pulled away, dropped, picked up, turned, and slammed again, his face scraping across the rough wood. For a moment he panicked. The demon was at his back, its breath hot on his neck, its hands holding Dean's arms tight to the wall, its knee lifted, pressed hard into Dean's back. He was pinned, vulnerable. Dean struggled, pushing away from the wall, tightening his stomach muscles, resisting the sudden, absolute control the demon had over his body by sheer size, position, and strength.
Then Sam cried out—a wordless sound of surprised pain. Dean's panic increased.
There were three of them… where'sSamwhere'sSamwhere'sSam…
"I'm gonna gut you like a fish… fuck your contract…" The voice dripped with sadistic pleasure and Dean dug deep, searching for that bundle of hot frustration he'd buried last night, using it to fuel him.
Pressing his hands flat against the wall, his palms scraping against the old wood as he shoved back on the demon's grip, Dean pushed hard, slamming his head against the bridge of the demon's nose. He heard a satisfying crunch and the demon released him, staggering back.
"You may have superstrength, you sonuvabitch," Dean panted, launching himself from the wall and sweeping the demon's legs out from under him. "But you're still in a human body." He kicked the demon, hard, in the ribs, the neck, the head. "And I know a thing or two about how easily human's break."
As he jumped on top of the large body, gripping the shirt, and raising his hand to slam his fist into the bloodied face, he caught sight of Sam struggling with the other man while the woman standing, off to the side, watching.
What the hell's she watching for? Dean thought frantically.
Quickly turning his attention back to the demon pinned under him, his knees pressed tightly to the man's elbows, listening to the nauseating sounds as the man choked on his own blood, Dean started to recite the exorcism. The demon brought his head up, shock evident on his face.
Dean shoved his fingers against the man's sweaty forehead, pushing his head back to the concrete ground. "That's right, bitch," he growled. "Learned a thing or two about being prepared for you bastards since our run-in with your preacher friend."
He sped up his recitation, holding the man down with his hands against his chest as the demon bucked and squirmed, trying to get away, get out. Dean's voice growled out the last of the rite, then he was stumbling back and away from the body as the black cloud shot from the mouth and the man screamed.
Panting, Dean crawled over to the now un-possessed human, rolling the battered man to his side so that he wouldn't drown in his own blood, then scrambled to his feet and ran to Sam at the entrance of the cannery, right at the edge of the pier.
His brother was bleeding, limp in the demon's grasp. Dean slammed into the demon from the side, catching sight of the woman's calculating eyes as she watched them battle. The demon hit the ground, tossing Dean away from him.
"Sam!" Dean bleated, trying to find his brother's crumpled form in the flurry of sudden motion around him as he backed away in a crablike crawl and the demon advanced.
This one was strong. Or Dean was tiring. Either way, this time when he hit the wall, he found that his breath had left him. His arms trembled as he worked to push himself up, his chest felt loose, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle framing his lungs.
Dean managed to get to his knees, but the world tilted, causing him to slide into the wall once more as he worked to regain his balance, worked to pull in air. He felt the shadow looming, felt hands grasp him, yank him to his feet. He couldn't find his knees. They'd disappeared, leaving him at the mercy of the demon's grasp.
"You… ready to… fuck my contract, too?" Dean gasped.
"You're worth more dead than alive," the demon growled. It wrapped thin fingers around Dean's bruised neck, lifting him, strangling him. "And I'm ready to cash in."
"Hey!" Sam's voice was thick, angry.
Dean blinked rapidly, fighting to keep his eyes open, fighting to keep the gray at the edges of his vision. Sam stood, blood running down the side of his face, listing to the side, Colt up, aimed, and cocked.
"Sam…" No… don't lose yourself to save me. Don't carry my weight.
The Colt bucked in Sam's grasp, the bullet burrowing into the demon's temple. It released Dean as sparks reverberated through the human body it inhabited. Dean landed hard, blinking, his hand going to his raw throat. He slid his eyes to Sam and felt the pull in his chest again at the dead look in his brother's gentle eyes.
"Once and future king my ass," the woman suddenly growled.
Before either brother could think to move, she grabbed Sam, strength disguised by her diminutive stature, and with her arms wrapped tightly around his body, flung them both from the pier into the dark waters below.
Staggering to the edge of the pier, Dean searched the mocking surface of the water for any sign of his brother. Taking a ragged breath, he dove, sluicing his body through the surprisingly clear water, the salt stinging his eyes.
Sam struggled against the demon's grasp; Dean could see she held him firm, Sam's jacket and her pants snagged rather securely on a large nail protruding from the bottom of the pier. Sam still held the Colt, but was unable to twist around to aim and the demon was strong.
Dean reached for Sam. She pulled him away. Dean reached for her, his lungs burning. She dodged him. Dean grabbed the Colt from Sam, sparks firing behind his eyes as his oxygen reserves ran out. He didn't register how easily Sam's grip gave way. He pointed the Colt at the demon, praying for a miracle.
She smiled. And then suddenly a black cloud erupted from the woman's mouth. The demon escaped through the water to the open, leaving its human transportation choking and gasping in salt water.
Dean was running out of air. Shoving the Colt into his belt, he reached for Sam's jacket, ignoring the way Sam's arms floated limply around him, the way his brother's head bobbed with the flow of the water. He jerked Sam free, wrapping his arm around his chest and began to kick to the surface, the panic in the woman's eyes as he left her behind searing into him.
They broke the surface of the water, Dean coughing, gasping, Sam in his arms. The dock was three feet above him. It may as well have been three thousand feet. He couldn't lift Sam and stay afloat. He didn't have the strength.
"No…" he coughed. No this is not happening… I won't let this happen… He reached up to the dock with a desperate grasp, his fingers closing around a coil of rope. He pulled it down into the water, their heads dropping below the surface once, twice, before he could kick his way up again.
He looped the rope under Sam's arms, tying him to the pier so that his head and shoulders were out of the water. Pausing only a moment to consider the repercussions of his actions, Dean took another breath, then dove down to the bottom of the pier. The woman was staring out with sightless eyes, her mouth opened in silent denial, limbs floating uselessly in the ebb of the water.
Tearing her pants free, Dean grabbed her wrist, kicking to the surface, dragging her behind him. He was able to tie her next to Sam, falling once beneath the surface of the water when he was done, his legs burning from exertion. He surfaced once more, coughing, gagging out salt water.
Using the side of the cannery building, crusted with barnacles and rust, Dean climbed to the flat of the dock, expelling salt water as he pressed his bruised chest against the edge. He crawled to the pier where he'd tied his brother and the woman. Grabbing Sam first, he pulled him over the edge, laying him flat. Then he reached down and did the same with the woman.
How could you make that deal, Dean?
‘Cause I couldn’t live with you dead. Couldn’t do it.
So, what, now I live and you die?
"C'mon, Sammy, don't do this," Dean panted, leaning over his brother's inert chest, water streaming from his face. He started compressions. "You live, Sammy… that's the deal."
Pinching Sam's nose, he breathed in to his brother's mouth, pulling back and coughing as his own chest protested. He began compressions again, his eyes darting up to the staring eyes, the blue lips, the silence of the woman next to Sam.
Yeah, well, you’re a hypocrite, Dean. How did you feel when Dad sold his soul for you? ‘Cause I was there. I remember. You were twisted and broken. And now you go and do the same thing…to me. What you did was selfish.
"Sam," Dean barked, breathing into his brother's mouth again. "Don't do this, man."
You were twisted and broken.
Dean massaged his brother's heart, pausing only to breathe into Sam's mouth, filling his brother's uncooperative lungs. He looked at the woman again, his own heart twisting in his chest.
You saved my life over and over. I mean, you sacrifice everything for me. Don’t you think I’d do the same for you? You’re my big brother. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. And I don’t care what it takes, I’m gonna get you out of this.
"Jesus, Sammy, please, please," Dean felt the sob building as he breathed for his brother again. "Please don't do this."
And Sam coughed. Dean turned him to his side, letting his brother cough out the salt water. On trembling legs, he climbed over Sam's body, starting compressions on the woman. He'd waited too long. He knew it. He breathed into her cold, wet mouth, shuddering at the difference in the feeling of her lips against his from the red-head last night. He began to shake.
He massaged her heart again, listening to his brother drag in air, thanking whoever watched over the damned that he'd been able to bring Sam back once more.
You were twisted and broken.
He breathed again into her pliant mouth, feeling nothing give back, feeling no response.
I'm not a bad person…
"Is she…" Sam rasped.
"She's gone," Dean asserted, falling back to his rear, reaching over and closing her eyes. His fingers shook. "She's gone."
"You t-tried," Sam said, coughing again.
Dean looked over at Sam. His brother's long hair clung to his face like vines, his eyes were red-rimmed and bleary from salt water, and his lashes stuck together. Water clung to his lips and chin, and Dean saw him shiver in the warmth of the day. He wanted to reach out to Sam, just to touch him, just to reassure himself of his brother's warmth, but his hand was shaking too badly. Sam would see.
"You okay, gill-boy?"
"Will be," Sam nodded. "Thanks to you. Again."
"Well," Dean shrugged. "Couldn't let you become fish-food. Who would I hang out with for the next ten months?"
Sam frowned, dragging his knees under him, pushing himself slowly to a sitting position. "Dean," he started, coughing again, then turning his head to spit out salt water. "You don't get it."
"You were always there, man." Sam shook his head slowly, pushing his wet hair from his face. "Even when I was at school, I knew you were there. I mean, I couldn't see you… but I… I heard you, y'know? I felt you around. I depended on that."
You were twisted and broken.
Dean looked away, over the water, letting the reflecting sun dazzle his eyes.
"And now… you're asking me to just let that go? Not even try to save you?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "I am."
"I don't know how," Sam said, his voice a plea of anger. "I can't."
"You have to, Sam."
"I need you, man," Sam whispered the confession.
Dean sighed, looking over at the woman's body. "How are we going to explain this?"
"We don't." Sam answered so quickly that Dean shot his eyes over to his brother's calm face. "We erase the fact that we were here and we walk away. Just like always."
"Damn, Sammy," Dean shook his head. "When did you get so harsh?"
Sam pushed himself to his feet, wavering a bit, then reached down for Dean. "When you stopped," he said, grasping Dean's wrist and pulling him up beside him. "Someone has to be the heavy."
Sam turned away and Dean leaned forward, resting a hand on the top of his thigh, trying to catch his breath. The earth's pull was too great at times. He found himself struggling to resist.
Following Sam out past the dead man and the bleeding man, Dean thought of the red-head again. The way she'd practically climbed into his skin to get close, the way he'd been able to bury himself in her for a moment, completely oblivious to reality. He thought of Sam's tolerance, the way his brother gave in to his half-hearted attempts for one last…
"Think there's another way out?" Sam was asking him.
Dean shot his head up, meeting Sam's eyes with surprise, realizing belatedly that Sam was referring to the chain-link fence.
"We'll find one," Dean said glancing to the side. "After hauling your two-ton body out of the drink, my arms need a break." He started to turn away.
"Hey, Dean," Sam said, softly.
Dean turned back to face him. I'm not a bad person…
"Thanks." Sam met his eyes, and Dean saw his brother staring back out at him. His Sammy.
He grinned, allowing it to reach his eyes. "Don't mention it." Please.
Following the fence line, Sam sloshing behind him, Dean watched for a break, an escape route.
A way to turn the light at the end of his tunnel from hellfire into hope.