Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Rating: PG-13 for language, a mature scene in the first chapter, and some darker themes throughout
Spoilers: Set in Season 5 after 5.05, Fallen Idol. Anything up to that point is fair game.
Summary: There are things that make him human. Deciding what those are will become the difference between sanity and madness. When a demon forces the issue, Dean and Sam fight back the only way they can: together.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
...continued from Part 3A...
It was as if he were standing in the middle of a transparent balloon.
Opening his eyes, Dean glanced over at his car, lifting his hand and resting his against her black skin, water droplets having dried in streaks in the time they'd been hiding inside the warehouse. He couldn't feel her warmth, but he appreciated the resistance. The support. The non-verbal I'm still here…I'll always be here.
The rain that had been so loud moments ago was muted, distant. If he held his breath, he could still hear it, but barely. Swallowing a roll of nausea, he looked at Sam.
"Say something." He could still hear his own voice, trapped inside his head as if he were listening to a TV set from an adjacent room.
Sam opened his mouth, then closed it once more, eyes darting quickly in thought. "We have to figure out how we're going to make that demon give up the antidote," he said.
It was like listening to someone underwater. He got the gist of Sam's words, if not the distinct words themselves.
Holding very still, oddly afraid he'd lose even that connection, Dean nodded. "And just hope she didn't hide it five states away."
"It's a second dose of the virus," Sam revealed.
"Swell," Dean muttered, rolling his eyes. He had yet to step away from the support of the Impala. "'Cause the first dose was so much fun."
"That bad, huh?" Sam's eyes tracked to Dean's chest.
Dean reached up to touch the remembered bruise. "It was like getting humped in the neck by a porcupine, Sam."
Sam lifted a shoulder. "Bright side? You won't feel it."
"Now who's Mr. Silver Lining?"
Sam's flinch was his only warning that there was someone else in the room. Dean turned, following his brother's rapid look, and saw Castiel standing near the abandoned trolley tracks just beyond the Impala. He was wet, dried blood on his mouth, and his hair was shoved back from his forehead as if sent there by anxious fingers.
He gripped a gym bag in one hand; Dean guessed that to be the items they'd need to summon the demon. He felt lightheaded, remembering her anger, her hatred, the way she cursed at him, her scream so loud as he cut into her that it had literally made his ears bleed. He knew why she wanted revenge.
And part of him didn't blame her.
Dean looked over at Sam, saw his brother was speaking, but couldn't pick up on the words. There was a sensation of water in his ears, flowing around his head, building fast. He felt himself drowning.
The fact that his brother turned to face him was the only proof Dean had that he'd actually spoke out loud. He couldn't even hear his own voice anymore. The balloon was complete: he could see the world, but he was not a part of it.
Stepping away from the Impala, Dean staggered, his vision tilting as the world shifted around him. He couldn't keep his balance, his stomach rolling with the lost equilibrium. It seemed unfair that he couldn't detect touch, but he could still feel nauseous. He took a step toward Sam and nearly fell, caught by something.
Looking unsteadily over his shoulder, Dean saw Castiel next to him, his face covered in a sheen of sweat, his hands gripping Dean's arm and side. Looking directly into Castiel's eyes, Dean dropped his guard, for just one moment, and let the fear and anger and pain that had been tightening around his heart since he'd woken up in Raya's apartment shine out.
He watched Castiel absorb it, his nostrils flaring slightly as if breathing it in, his head drawing back as if it were too much. The angel's eyes softened. And Dean heard his friend's voice, clear in his mind, like ice crystals on snow.
"I've got you, Dean."
Dean closed his eyes, nodding. When he opened them again, he was sitting on the ground, propped up by what he assumed was the Impala, without connection, looking back at his brother and his friend.
Something was wrong. Sam's face was lined, his eyes small, his lips thin. He only held that look, Dean knew, when he was both scared and out of options. Dean couldn't see Castiel's face, but whatever the angel was telling Sam caused the blood to drain from Sam's face and turned Dean's heart sideways.
Looking up, he found the door handle of the Impala and reached for it. He was spinning, the world turning three beats faster than it was supposed to, just enough to make even the simple attempt of grab handle, grip handle into a forced agenda. Pulling himself to his feet, he breathed through his mouth, staving off the nausea and turning to face the other two men.
Sam's hazel eyes shot over to him, but then back to Castiel as he snapped off several rapid words.
Dean knew he was speaking. He couldn't hear his own voice in his head. He couldn't even feel the vibration of sound in his throat. But he knew because every time he said his brother's name, the soft skin around Sam's eyes tightened. It had been this way their entire lives: Sam always responded to Dean's saying his name.
But this time, Sam was focusing on something else, something more important, something that Dean didn't understand.
And that pissed him off.
Look at me, dammit!
He put as much effort as he could into the cry, bending from the waist as he punched the sound into the silence surrounding him. Castiel and Sam both turned to face him.
And then the world seemed to explode.
Lightning flashed—bright, blinding, leaving negative imprints on Dean's eyes—inside the warehouse. He saw wind slashed at their bodies, sweeping Castiel's trench coat behind him in a twisted tail and pressing Sam's loose shirt against his skin.
Gripping his ears, his face fisted in pain, Sam went to his knees. Castiel whipped around to face the entry to the warehouse, situated several feet behind the Impala. Dean's eyes were pinned to his brother, confusion as to what was causing him such pain evaporating as he watched the windows from the top of the warehouse rain down on them in a shower of glass.
Hurrying forward on wooden, uncooperative legs, his balance shot but his focus keen, Dean staggered to Sam, dropping to his knees and protecting his brother the only way he could. He curved his body around Sam's bowed shoulders, putting his hands over Sam's, forcing himself to press hard, working to close out what he knew now was the voice of an angel.
Glass fell on and around their bodies as Sam curled into himself, his eyes closed tight, his mouth opened in what appeared to be a silent scream.
The windows, Dean realized.
The angel's voice had shattered the windows that flanked each side of the top of the warehouse, sending the glass down to cover them in deadly droplets. He spared a fleeting thought for his Impala, hoping the voice hadn't shattered her windows as well.
Dean wasn't sure if the glass cut either of them—something told him he couldn't afford to lose much more blood and he desperately needed Sam to stay whole. He shifted up close to Sam, keeping his hands over Sam's, working to stave off what he knew all-too-well as a soul-piercing screech of sound.
He lifted his eyes to find Castiel and was dismayed to see his friend pushing himself to his feet as if he'd been slapped down, turning furious eyes toward a shadowed figure. Castiel spoke and Dean jerked, startled by the sound of the throaty voice inside his cotton-wrapped world.
"You achieve nothing by being here."
Swallowing, Dean looked toward the shadow, narrowing his eyes as he tried to make out the human features of this angel's chosen vessel. Castiel had told Sam he'd had a source, that there had been someone who'd warned him about the virus. As Dean stared at the figure, though, a sick feeling grew in his gut. He couldn't hear the other angel's words, but Castiel's reply was all he really needed.
"Dean is the only one who can decide that. He has to be the one to say yes to Michael."
Something forcibly shoved his hand away from Sam's ears and Dean looked down, realizing that Sam was trying to shift to his knees. Dean dropped his hands and Sam instantly flinched, curling into himself once more, drawing his forehead down to his knees. Dean wrapped around his brother, tucking Sam's head against his chest, keeping his hands in place and glaring at the shadow.
"You arrogant sonuvabitch," he muttered, not knowing or caring if this new angel could hear him.
Castiel shot a look over his shoulder at Dean and then was suddenly shoved aside with enough force that he folded in half like a broken doll and slipped quickly into the darkness at the edge of Dean's sight. Dean felt his breath catch against his teeth as he fought for control of his fear.
The shadow suddenly glowed, the shards of glass lifting from Sam's body, hair, from Dean's arms, from the ground around them. Dean blinked, narrowing his eyes as the glass floated up, watching as it seemed to blend with the rain that now fell into the warehouse through the broken windows. The glass and water began to spin until Dean found himself forced to blink, unable to focus on the cyclone that filled the air, narrowing to a point just above where the new angel stood.
Dean looked at him, able to see him now as the electric sign from outside caught on the thousand points of light emanating from the angel-powered storm raging silently above him. The man the angel had chosen was dressed in flannel and overalls, looked to be in his mid-fifties, with thinning brown hair and non-descript features. Dean felt a tug of pity for him; anything he'd been before, anything he'd hoped to be, was gone now.
Erased by the presence of an angel.
"Am I supposed to be impressed?" Dean said. Shouted. He wasn't certain. He just forced the words loose.
The angel spoke, tilting its head like a curious dog. Dean lifted an eyebrow, instinctively ordering his muscles to tighten around his brother, pulling him closer.
"Hate to break it to you, pal, but for all I know, you're singing Sweet Child of Mine."
The angel stopped speaking and Dean saw the glass tornado shoot overhead, bypassing each of them. He turned his head to watch the mess of deadly shards land in a heap on the far corner of the room, sparing them. He whipped his head back, recoiling when he found himself face-to-face with the new angel.
"Whatever you want," Dean said, feeling short of breath, "you're not gonna get it."
The angel spoke again, and Dean blinked in surprise at the half-smile he saw shift across the angel's mouth. Before he could think of anything else to say, the angel was gone. Dean sat still, Sam curled against his body, his world shifting steadily around him as if the loss of his hearing had tweaked something deeper inside, something that had always kept him steady, sure, in stride with his place in the universe.
Something moved his hands, and he looked down to see Sam unsteadily pushing Dean back and away. Dean dropped his hands and waited as Sam managed to crawl upright, his face sweat-covered, his shoulders moving as he drew in large breaths. Sam spoke, his lips moving in what could only be a plea for reassurance.
"He's—it's…the angel's gone," Dean told him, pinning his eyes to Sam's face, his mouth, needing that connection to the world so desperately he was scaring himself.
Sam was touching him, lifting his shirt, moving his head one way, then the other. It took Dean a moment to register that his brother was checking for new wounds from the falling glass. He opened his mouth to tell Sam that he was fine when it occurred to him that he could have a six inch blade buried in his back and the only way he'd know is if he passed out from blood loss.
He sat still as Sam's quick fingers checked and reassured them both that Dean had no new holes in him. Sam ruffled his own hair, searching for latent glass.
"You're okay, Sam. The angel, it…all the glass is over there."
Dean reached up, gripping the back of his brother's neck, moving his hand so that Sam's head wobbled. Sam winced and Dean made himself lessen his grip, watching as Sam reached up and clapped a hand on Dean's shoulder, sliding his hand down the front of Dean's chest. It was like looking out through someone else's eyes. Sam rubbed his face, mumbling something, and Dean watched each motion, each movement.
Dean watched his brother's mouth, fear slicing through him as he worked to keep up. Suddenly Sam opened his eyes wide, and Dean saw a name on his brother's lips. He echoed the realization.
"Over there." Dean pointed to the shadows where he'd seen his friend thrown.
Sam scrambled, all legs and arms and hurry, and moved in the direction Dean indicated, the dark swallowing him whole before Dean could get to his feet. Stumbling forward, Dean breathed through his mouth as his lungs seemed to grow heavier, and fell to his knees next to Sam and Castiel.
The angel was unconscious, though no other markings or wounds were visible. Sam was frowning, cupping Castiel's face gently, speaking, though Dean had no idea what words were being said. Panic began to climb his spine, perch in the back of his throat, scratch at his eyes. He couldn't quite seem to steady his breathing. He needed to know what Sam was saying.
It was the only way he could decide what to do next. How to fix this.
Because he had to fix it.
This was happening to them because of him. Because he'd had a chance for mercy and he'd chosen wrath. Because he'd wanted the pain to go away. Because he'd wanted to feel nothing.
And he'd told her that.
She cursed at him, accused him of the one thing he truly feared beyond all else: that he'd become one of them. She'd pleaded with him, begging him to stop. All he'd wanted was for her to stop talking. To stop screaming.
So he'd made her stop.
Dean jerked, brought roughly back to the present by the sound of Castiel's gruff voice in his head. He looked at Sam, then back at Castiel who was blinking himself aware.
"His name is Adonael. He leads a garrison."
Sam reached forward, easing Castiel away from the wall. Dean watched Castiel slump slightly forward, then gather himself. He was speaking, Dean realized belatedly. He was speaking to Sam and Dean couldn't hear the words inside his head.
"Cas!" Dean shoved at the woozy angel's shoulder. "Don't shut me out, man."
He saw Sam look at him, confused. Brow puckered, shadows dancing across his face from the rain-drenched light spilling in from above, Sam began talking to him, reaching out and gripping Dean's arm, pulling at him.
"I…I can't…," Dean shook his head helplessly, darting his eyes from Sam's mouth to his brother's eyes, trying to find sense in the torrent of words. Sam slid closer, moving his hands to Dean's shirt. Dean glanced down and saw Sam's fingers curled in damp cotton. His head bounced slightly as Sam shook him, still talking, still silent.
Dean looked back at Sam, shaking his head as Sam slid one and down to Dean's arm, pulling at it. "Jesus Christ, Sam, please…just stop!" Dean jerked his arm free. "I can't hear you, man. I'm sorry, but…."
Sam looked at Castiel, who offered him an explanation that Dean missed. Sam sat back on his heels, dropping his head forward and shoving his fingers into his hair, the heels of his hands digging into his eyes. Dean began to back away, his movements awkward, clumsy, sluggish as if alcohol flowed through his system and not a strange, demonic virus.
Castiel was struggling to his feet. Sam was supporting him. Neither of them glanced at Dean. But Dean couldn't take his eyes off of them. They were his lifeline. They were his only connection. Crab-crawling away from them, he kept moving backwards until he was met with resistance, unable to move further.
Craning his neck, he saw that he was once again up against the Impala, her windows intact. He quickly looked back toward Sam, terrified that he might lose sight of his brother. Terrified that he needed this so badly; that he'd lost everything else. Everything that made him real.
This was what they'd tried to do to him for forty years. Take away everything that made him whole, made him human. They'd tried with pain and they'd tried with deprivation. They'd tried with taunts and they'd tried with orders. They'd used his fears and his weaknesses against him. They'd put his shortcomings on display and wrapped his doubts in pretty packages.
But he'd fought and he'd survived. He'd returned to the world only to come close to losing Sam. He'd allowed the self-righteousness of survival turn him into an echo of himself, gripping that persona tightly up until the moment he found out that Sam had given in.
Until he saw the Devil look back at him from his brother's eyes.
He wasn't going to get back into his life only to lose to the treachery of a demon. He wasn't going to let Sam fight this battle without him. He wasn't going to lose himself. Not again.
"What do you mean, he can hear you? Just you?"
"If I allow it," Castiel answered, his voice a wince as Sam steadied him on his feet, "he can hear my voice."
Sam glanced at Dean, heard him working to calm his rapid breathing, but decided against reaching out to him again—the fear and panic lacing Dean's expression and voice had Sam coming undone. Instead he turned his attention back to Castiel.
"What the hell was all that, Cas? Why is some angel—"
"I don't give a shit what his name is!" Sam yelled. "Is he your source? About the virus?"
Castiel nodded, his face lined with true exhaustion. "I did tell you that you would not like him."
"Why did he come here? Why did he hurt you?" Sam kept his hand on Castiel's upper arm, slightly unnerved by the fact that it seemed the angel needed the support.
"He came for Dean."
Sam shot a glance over to his brother, surprised to see that he was now backed against the Impala, hands braced at his sides, rhythmically dragging in measured breaths, his face pale in the odd light slipping through the windowless walls. Pulling Castiel with him, Sam made his way toward Dean, watching how his brother's large eyes followed him closely.
"What do you mean he came for Dean?"
Castiel stood, his shoulders bowed, and looked at Dean. "I wasn't…warned about the virus." By the quick, surprised jerk of Dean's head and the way his eyes widened as he stared at Castiel, Sam surmised that his brother was hearing the same thing he was. "I…discovered…the information. I wasn't as careful with my retreat this last time."
"So all that stuff about…some of your brothers understanding your search," Sam frowned. "It was all a lie?"
Castiel looked over at him. "No. That part is true. Adonael is just not one of them."
"Lemme guess…this guy's on Zach's side, huh?" Dean spoke up, his voice like sandpaper on rock.
Sam glanced at him, aware that he was seeing Dean as close to the edge of losing control as his brother had ever been. He was trembling visibly, his lips lined with a bluish tinge. His fingers flexed against the ground as if he were consciously reminding himself that the ground was, indeed, there.
Castiel closed his eyes, then pulled himself straighter, squaring his shoulders. He looked at Sam, renewed strength in his gaze. "Adonael saw the virus as a potential for weakening Dean's resolve. He came now because Dean is vulnerable."
"Cas?" Dean called. "Hey! Don't…what are you saying?"
Ignoring him, Castiel continued. "If they strip away everything that makes Dean human, he will have much less reason to resist."
Darting his eyes between Dean and Castiel, Sam asked, "But why would Michael want a human vessel without his senses?"
"Michael would make his vessel…whole."
"Sam?" Dean called his name, his voice quavering with tension.
Sam saw him using the Impala to stand, but couldn't bring himself to move to help. The implication of what Castiel was saying had begun to sink in.
"And this demon…she's just, what? A means to an end? You guys working together on this?"
"The angels are not working with the demon," Castiel said, tiredly. "It is seeking revenge for what happened in Hell. That…and protection through this artifact."
"So…you're saying that the angels knew about this…demonic virus," Sam said, looking at the floor, but seeing his brother tied to a chair, neck and shoulder bruised from the injection needle. "And instead of warning you…they allowed the demon to find Dean?"
"Sam." Dean's voice was harder now, the edge of it cutting through the air like the glass that had fallen moments ago.
"Yes," Castiel admitted softly.
"And this Adonael guy…how'd he find us?"
"He found me," Castiel said, looking away. "I…triggered him when I gathered the items we'd need to summon the demon." He gestured to the gym bag discarded on the floor next to the damp duffels.
Sam felt the anger of earlier resurging, refocusing, centered on Castiel. "So he found out you'd been spying, and came to give you a beat down, that it?"
"And to get Dean to say yes to Michael," Castiel looked over at Dean, evidently allowing his words to be heard. Sam saw his brother pull away, his eyes going solid with resolve.
"Like hell," Dean whispered.
"'Cause he thought the virus had almost taken away what made him human," Sam concluded, his eyes on his brother.
Dean looked back at him and Sam felt that same shimmer slide through the air between them. His breath caught and for a moment he felt certain that all of the anger and darkness he'd allowed to sneak in while Dean had been unconscious was lying naked and exposed in his eyes.
"Yes," Castiel replied.
"He's not gonna let us get the antidote is he?" Sam asked softly. "He'll find the demon before we do."
"We don't work that way," Castiel protested.
"We?" Sam countered, glancing at Castiel. "Seems like you made a choice sometime back, Cas."
"Angels don't work that way. He won't work with the demon."
Sam looked back at Dean. "Will they save him?"
Castiel was quiet.
"Cas," Sam reached out and tugged Castiel's sleeve. "If we run out of time…will the angels save my brother?"
Castiel looked at him. "I do not know. Once I would have thought yes, but…," he looked down. "Adonael is a general. If he has chosen this path, then…I don't know what to think of the choices my brothers might make."
"What made him leave?" Sam asked, speaking slowly, watching Dean's eyes hit his lips, watching his brother listen the only way he could. "I couldn't hear anything except that…screeching sound."
"Angel's voice," Dean replied.
"Dean made him leave," Castiel said.
"How?" Sam looked away for a moment, glancing in surprise at Castiel.
"Essentially," Castiel shrugged, looking at Dean. "He told him to go to Hell."
Sam choked on a spurt of laughter, then looked back at his brother, feeling tears burn the back of his eyes. He knew Dean's hands had pressed down over his, keeping the inhuman sound from bursting his eardrums. He'd been tucked up against Dean's body as the angel rained glass down on them.
The demon's virus had taken away four of his brother's five sense and yet he still fought, still worked to protect Sam.
"That's because none of them know what makes us human," he said to Dean, his voice soft because it didn't matter; his eyes full because it did.
Dean swallowed roughly, and for a split second, Sam allowed himself to believe that there had been a mistake—the virus wouldn't kill Dean, the angels would intervene and save him, it was all going to be okay.
"You might be singing a different tune," came a female voice, "if you'd seen your precious brother in action."
Sam jerked, surprised, and saw Dean frown out of the corner of his eyes, following his motion. Castiel turned slowly. All of them faced a blonde woman, dressed in black, who stepped from the rain, through the shadows, and into the borrowed light of the room. Sam knew who she was—what she was—before she said anything else. He looked hurriedly at the entrance and realized that Adonael's aeronautical display of power had erased the protective salt line.
"Son of a bitch," Dean practically growled.
"Not exactly," the woman said, moving closer.
Sam found it hard to take a breath; the slim build, the guileless smile, the long blonde hair…if she smelled like lilies he knew he would come apart. She could have been Jessica's sister.
Moving closer, the woman smiled at Sam. "What's the matter, Sammy? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"You," Sam forced himself to take a breath, "were at the motel. Weren't you?"
"Been tracking you," she nodded. "Harder to find than I thought. So, y'know, kudos to you."
"Guess we don't need this," Dean muttered, kicking the gym bag away, and glancing askance at Castiel.
Sparing a thought for what gathering those ingredients had cost the angel, Sam took a step toward the woman, purposely putting his body in front of Dean. "What do we call you?"
"Ask your brother," the woman sneered, looking over Sam's shoulder. "I told him everything."
Sam heard a gasping, strangled sound and stumbled aside as Dean was pulled forward, trying to grab anything to halt his movement. Sam reached out to him, but Dean's body was flung aside, crashing against one of the rusty boxcars cars on the far side of the room.
"Stop!" Sam yelled, oddly dismayed when Dean didn't so much as cry out with the impact. The only sound was a rough gasp as he worked to catch his breath.
"Wait." Castiel lifted a hand. "We can give you the Eye of God."
Sam looked at the angel in shock.
"Now," the woman declared. "I want it now."
Castiel shook his head. "Give us the antidote first."
"You've already managed to attract the attention of an archangel," the woman scoffed. "Let's not waste time bargaining. Give me the Eye and Hero over here gets to feel things again."
"You expect us to trust you?" Sam spat. "You don't get a thing until you give us the antidote."
"Trust is a two way street, kiddo," the blonde sneered. "You gotta give a little to get a little."
"You already have the advantage," Sam countered, searching for a way to get around her and get to Dean. "Just…c'mon, leave him alone. Give us the antidote."
"You have the Eye?"
Sam darted a look to Castiel.
"We can get it for you," Sam hedged.
"You've had almost two days," the blonde scoffed. "What are you waiting for? Heavenly intervention?"
The boxcar rattled and Sam shot his eyes to Dean; his brother was jerking, thrashing against the demon's hold, working to free himself.
The woman moved closer to Dean, shadows dancing across her face, exposing the evil creature using the human body like a puppet. Dean pulled his face up, twisting it away as she reached up to trace a finger down the side of his face. Sam knew that his brother couldn't feel her touch, but the sheer disgust on Dean's face seemed to tell a different story.
"Did you tell your brother how you cut into my body? How you ignored my cries? How I begged you to stop and you just closed your eyes…and took me apart."
Sam felt his heart turn over, his stomach clench. The demon spread her fingers at the base of Dean's chin, and then wrapped them almost gently around Dean's throat.
"Whatever you're saying to them," Dean rasped, "you weren't innocent."
"We're all innocent," the demon hissed. "Until we burn into this."
"You killed a priest," Dean went on, "and then sacrificed souls to get out of your deal."
"And you're so much better?" The demon countered. She looked over her shoulder at Sam. "Seems to me the word was your brother tried everything to free you," she looked at Castiel, "and the angel that hauled your skinny ass out of the Pit isn't allowed to go home," she returned her eyes to Dean and Sam saw him pull back. "And you sure as hell didn't escape without blood on your hands. My blood."
Castiel moved forward again, but this time the demon lifted a hand, pointing at him.
"I may not be able to stop you," she growled, "but I can do plenty of damage to these two before you get to me."
"This isn't our first rodeo," Sam shot back. "We can take care of ourselves."
The demon squeezed Dean's throat and Sam felt himself go cold as he heard the rattle of breath in Dean's chest. He curled his fingers into fists, eyes searching the room for something he could use as a weapon.
"Doesn't…work," Dean wheezed.
"What?" The woman turned back to him. "What was that?" Sam saw her squeeze harder.
The woman blinked, her grip relaxing slightly. Sam bent low, his fingers skimming the ground until he found Dean's 1911 where his brother had set it out to dry. He knew it wouldn't kill her, but he was banking on it distracting her long enough that they could get her away from Dean. He cursed himself for not having the foresight to protect the warehouse with a Devil's Trap.
"Kill…me…or not," Dean gasped. "Doesn't matter."
The woman released him and Sam heard Dean's feet hit the ground seconds before his brother fell to his knees, opening up the shot for Sam. He pulled the gun up and fired.
The gun clicked uselessly. Sam swore, remembering Dean's lament that everything—even his weapon—had gotten wet.
The blonde demon slid a smirk over her shoulder as Dean coughed roughly, working to pull air into his body. Sam watched him lift his eyes to the demon.
"You're going back to Hell, bitch."
The woman crouched down until she was eyelevel with Dean.
"You still wonder if you made love to me or her, don't you?" The woman whispered. Dean simply stared at her; the fact that he couldn't hear the words didn't erase the look of hatred that was fixed on his face. "I suppose you'll never really know."
"Maybe not. But I will."
Sam turned quickly, instinctively training his weapon on the new voice. He pulled the point of the pistol up quickly when he recognized the dark-haired woman standing just inside the doorway, rain slicking her hair to her head, .38 pointed at the blonde.
"Raya?" Sam cried. He looked from the detective to Dean to Castiel and back. "Are we Lo-Jacked or something?"
The blonde demon stood, raising her arm. Raya fired two quick bursts, not hesitating, her aim true. The demon bucked, falling backwards.
Sam rushed across the room to Dean, grabbing his brother's upper arms and pulling him to his feet. It was like balancing a drunken man: Dean was wobbly at best, clutching at Sam's shirt for steadiness. Sam ducked under his brother's arm, supporting him as they looked toward the demon.
The blonde didn't stay down long. Before Raya could reposition around Sam and Dean for another shot, it surged upward, eyes black.
"That hurt, you bitch!"
"Damn," Raya countered, not lowering her weapon. "It was supposed to kill you."
"Raya, you can't—" Sam started.
The blonde demon crossed the room in a heartbeat, her eyes boring into Sam's. "Your brother is dying," she interrupted him. "If you want that antidote, you meet me at the corner of Nickel and Strand in one hour. Bring the Eye of God, or I destroy the antidote."
Raya stumbled backwards as the demon crashed into her, exiting the warehouse too fast for any of them to catch her.
"Sam," Castiel said suddenly. "He is bleeding again."
"Dammit," Sam grumbled. "C'mon, Dean."
He tugged on Dean's arm, moving toward the Impala at the same time, trying to get Dean's attention. Dean nodded, his eyes down. He'd seen the blood.
"What's the matter with him?" Raya holstered her weapon and moved further into the warehouse, her boots clunking against the floor boards as she approached.
Sam glanced over at her. "You bring your friends with you?"
"Don't have a lot of those right now," Raya replied. "It's just me."
"How'd you find us?"
Sam propped Dean against the Impala's trunk, noting the way his brother kept shaking his head, blinking his eyes wide as if he couldn't focus. He had yet to mention Raya; Sam was beginning to wonder if he'd noticed her.
He lifted Dean's shirt, moving the gauze away. Two of the stitches had pulled loose. Raya hissed in sympathy.
"How'd that happen?"
"It's too complicated to explain," Sam sighed, thinking of the series of random events that had culminated in his brother's battered state. "Cas, can you—"
"Salt," Castiel said. "Yes."
"Salt?" Raya frowned, reaching out to hold up Dean's shirt as Sam dug through the first aid kit for the sutures and bandages.
Sam saw Dean's eyes hit Raya's face, and watched as his expression closed up, folded inward. He didn't say a word, and Sam found that he suddenly had trouble breathing. He needed Dean to keep fighting. He needed Dean's voice. He needed the noise.
"Keeps the demons out," Sam explained.
Raya nodded slowly. "Okay, next grocery trip? I stock up."
"How'd you find us?" Sam repeated, setting the supplies next to Dean on the Impala's trunk.
"I'm a cop, remember?" Raya handed Sam suture kit as Dean leaned backwards across the car, giving his brother access to his wounded side. "I woke up and those two bodies were gone. I needed to know what the hell happened to me."
She paused a moment as Sam began to stitch, keeping Dean's shirt up and out of the way. "I just started retracing your steps. Found out what motel you were staying at, got there right after the squad guys. Saw blondie beating the hell out of the maintenance man to find out where you'd gone, so I followed her."
"She tracked the virus," Castiel reminded Sam.
"Yeah, I figured that," Sam muttered, tying off the stitches and reaching for a new bandage. "So glad you went and accidentally signaled your friend the archangel. That worked out great."
"This series of events was completely unpredictable," Castiel said.
"I know," Sam sighed, taping the bandage in place.
He nodded to Raya who dropped Dean's shirt and stepped back. Dean's narrowed eyes were trained on a point just beyond him, brow furrowed as if in thought. Gripping his brother's shoulder, Sam shook Dean slightly to get his attention.
"You're set," he said as clearly as possible.
"What's the plan?" Dean rasped.
Sam flinched. Dean may not be able to feel the hell he'd had been through, but his body didn't know that. His voice was pain.
"What's this antidote she was yammering about?" Raya asked.
Sam kept his eyes on Dean, aware of the other two people in the room, but looking only at his brother. Time had ticked away from them before and he'd lost Dean then. He wasn't going to lose his brother this time. No matter what it cost him.
"They injected Dean with a virus. It's killing him."
"I won't let it beat me, Sam," Dean vowed quietly, continually narrowing his eyes as if to focus. "I can't, not now."
Sam's jaw was tight as he nodded. "I'll meet her. I'll get it from her."
"How?" Castiel asked.
The room seemed to shift around Sam, the almost visible shimmer of energy between himself and Dean twisting, coiling, tightening.
"Any way I have to," Sam said, knowing he could do it. Knowing how to do it.
Dean shook his head. "No, Sam."
It didn't matter that he couldn't hear him; Sam knew that Dean would follow his thoughts from point to point until it led to demon blood.
"I have to save you, Dean," Sam whispered, willing his brother to understand.
Dean blinked his eyes wide, reaching up a clumsy hand to wipe at them.
Sam frowned. "Dean?"
"You can't…," Dean shook his head again, blinking, then peering with narrowed eyes at Sam. "You can't do that again. Not for me. Not for this. Don't let this send you back there."
"I'm getting the antidote," Sam vowed. "I'm not losing you again, man. I can't."
He began to step away, acutely aware of Raya's eyes and Castiel's silence. Dean's arm swept out toward him, grabbing at him—and missing. Sam went cold. He slowly took Dean's arm, feeling his brother tremble beneath his fingers.
"Son of a…." Dean's curse faded as he shook his head again, reaching up to wipe at his eyes.
Sam felt himself sink as Dean's his blood-red eye began to water. With a quick, desperate motion, Dean stared around him, narrowing his eyes in the direction of darkened corners, lifting his face to the light from above. He face completely drained of color.
"Oh, fuck, Sam."
Sam stepped back at the desolation he heard in Dean's voice. He didn't release his brother's arm; even though he knew his grip couldn't be felt, he was afraid that if he let go Dean truly would fade away.
"It's…it's gone," Dean choked out. "It's gone."
"Oh, God," Sam breathed. No…no no no…it's too fast it's too soon I need him not yet not yet not—
"Everything just…melted," Dean revealed, his voice a breathy waver of confession. "And then…you were gone."
Sam stood completely still, gripping Dean's arm, his brother's fingers flexing spasmodically on air, searching. The blue around Dean's lips creeping further into the flesh, contrasting sharply with the death-pale hue of his cheeks. His eyes were wide, the pupils eating away the green.
For several heartbeats, the only sound in the abandoned warehouse was the rain: hitting the roof, slapping the pavement, running down the interior walls from the broken windows above.
And then Dean's voice—a familiar air of toughness wrapping around fear so real it was palpable—called out hesitantly. "Sam? You're still there, right?"
Sam felt air leave him as Dean stumbled sideways with nothing to balance him. Not even the sight of his environment. Sam tightened his grip, and then gently pushed at Dean, backing his brother up against the Impala, desperate to find some way to tell him that he was still here.
"I'm gonna fix this, Dean," he vowed, swallowing unbidden tears. "I'm not gonna let them get you. Not again."
"I will help," Castiel said softly from behind him.
"Me too," chimed in Raya.
Sam looked over at her, surprised. "Why?"
Her eyes were pinned to Dean, her face devastated. "Because he didn't walk away when I thought he would." She looked up at Sam. "And because everything you said about having that…thing…in my body was true."
Sam moved Dean's arm again, not knowing any other way to show his brother that they were together on this. Not able to imagine how alone Dean had to be feeling, cut off from—literally—everything. It was a version of Hell that scared Sam more than he wanted to contemplate.
He pressed down gently on Dean's shoulders until his brother allowed himself to be eased to the ground, leaning against the wheel well of the Impala.
"Cas?" Sam looked at the angel. "Will you stay with him?"
Castiel frowned. "You will need my help."
"He can hear you, you said," Sam implored. "And I can't…I can't leave him like this…not alone like this." Sam glanced at Raya. "Besides…I got the law on my side."
"He isn't going to be happy when he finds out you've gone after the antidote without him," Castiel predicted.
Sam looked at his brother, his stomach hitching at the sight of Dean's searching eyes, seeking something concrete, viable, real. His hands were fisted at his sides, pressing hard enough against the floor to turn the knuckles white. His breath caught and Sam watched him force air out slowly before pulling another in.
You just keep breathing, Dean.
"He can kick my ass later." Sam looked at the angel. "Cas?"
Castiel looked at him, and Sam felt the angel's blue eyes peel away layers in a glance. "I will stay."
Sam nodded, then moved around to the trunk, lifting the false bottom. Raya followed him.
"You need a spare weapon?" she asked, pulling a .45 from a side holster.
"I got it covered," Sam said, leaning into the trunk and grabbing the demon-killing knife, a rock salt-filled shotgun, his Glock, and Dean's flask of Holy Water.
Raya whistled. "When this is all over, you really should tell me what you two do for a living."
Sam slammed the trunk closed. "We just try not to die."
a/n: Thanks for reading! The final showdown is around the corner. And we climb inside of Dean's sensory-deprived head a bit in the next chapter (the one I've been looking forward to writing since I started this journey).
Continued in Part 4 here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/96939.html