For my obligatory episode tag for 10x11 "There's No Place Like Home" I've decided to tackle anactoria's fantastic prompt at the hoodie_time Dean H/C meme: Sam & Dean or TFW, gen. Dean's having visions. It could be MoC-related (maybe he's seeing things from the lives of Cain and/or previous Knights of Hell?) or it could be to do with an unrelated case. (A curse? A magical toxin? Something completely different?) Anyway, he keeps seeing things, and he's finding it increasingly hard to tell illusion from reality.
This grew pretty dark, so warnings for violence, gore and noncon. It's also more than a little weird.
Unbetaed, apologies for any mistakes.
For We Are Many
On good days, he sees the bees. On bad days, he only sees blood. Today's a very, very bad day.
For the last 10 to 20 million years the honeybee has been producing honey. It's the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
The first time it happens is when Sam's stuffing him stupid with pickle chips and apple pie.
Suddenly, Dean's no longer sitting on his bed, but walking across a mushy meadow. His feet are encased in worn, muddy boots, and bigger than they should be. A swarm of bees follows him, buzzing around his head. He lifts his arm to shoo them off – his fingers tickle his beard. In the distance, he can hear the rattle of a carriage, and that's when Dean knows this is a memory. Cain's memory.
Blinking, he refocuses on his brother and his bedroom.
"You okay?" Sam asks, pushing another slice of pie towards him. He looks tired and relieved and not at all like someone whose head was almost smashed in with a hammer. He hasn't once stopped smiling at Dean since he got back, and Dean doesn't want him to cease now.
His forearm tingles at the lie. Glancing down, Dean sees a bee scurry over the red, puckered scar that has never looked as foreign on his skin as it should. He frowns. There are no bees at the bunker, he knows that.
The honeybee is the screw that keeps the agricultural system together. By pollinating crops like apples and cucumbers it's responsible for one in every three mouthfuls man eats today.
The second time happens while he brushes his teeth. When he bends down to rinse his mouth over the sink, there's a bloodied head lying in front of him on a silver platter, and he cards his fingers through the long, matted hair of the dead man, murmurs, "Ah, you wouldn't let me kiss your mouth, Jokanaan. Well, I will kiss it now." and exhales black smoke into his lifeless lips.
In horror Dean jumps back. The room spins, he feels sick and he grips the sink for support. It's white and stainless under his wavering hands. Not a trace of what he's done –
Not he. She. Abaddon, Dean corrects himself, blinking rapidly. But there's little comfort in the notion that this isn't his memory and happened more than a thousand years ago.
He chugs down a glass of holy water and almost expects his throat to burn and sizzle.
Each day of its life the honeybee visits up to 2000 flowers.
From then on he comes to expect it. Flashes of bloodshed, sometimes centuries old, sometimes more recent, interspersed with visions of beekeeping.
Dean never used to like bees, not since that summer at Pastor Jim's where a bee had stung his baby brother and Sammy cried for hours on end, but he'll take them over the other infinitely gorier memories any day. After a while, he even comes to find their buzz soothing.
It figures that the Mark's still connected with the other Knights somehow. Sam cured him from being a demon, there's no saying how you're cured from being a Knight of Hell. Hell, if you can hang that up at all.
He'd like to ask Cas if there's a way to stop him from reliving the other Knights' greatest hits. But Cas and Sam are awfully tight these days, and he doesn't want Sam to know that Dean now carries inside him the memory of centuries of torture and murder.
So he keeps his trap shut and combs the library for further information on the Knights of Hell. There's nothing. What he does find, though, is a book on apiology.
The honeybee can remember the fragrance of a flower for its entire lifetime.
The moldy air in the cellar makes him want to puke. She's screaming hoarsely and kicking out at him when he pushes up her ragged skirt, but it's no use, he's much stronger.
A streak of moonlight falls into the dingy room, illuminating her small, bony face, twisted in shame and agony. She can't be more than twelve.
Dean wants to cry out, run for help, hide; but he can't move, he's as powerless as she is and he keeps driving into her relentlessly, mindless of the blood that trickles down her thighs.
Belial. It wasn't him. It was Belial, Dean reminds himself when the vision clears, and retches into the wastebasket.
He showers and scrubs himself dry until his skin is raw and flaming scarlet.
Were a honeybee to visit the cinema, it would be able to differentiate each individual movie frame that's being projected on the screen.
As he pores over dusty volumes of ancient lore, trying to find something, anything on the symbol disfiguring his arm and soul, something viscous keeps dripping onto his forehead. He wipes it away with his hand and stares – dark, thicker than water, tacky. Blood.
He doesn't want to, but he can't help himself. Dean raises his eyes to the ceiling and yelps. Above him suspended are eight children, their stomachs ripped open. Two of them are still breathing. When they see him looking, they cry out for help.
Knowing they're not real doesn't make it better in the least.
His heart beating wildly, Dean jumps up from his chair. "Supply run," he mouths at Sam and escapes.
At the next gas-n-sip, he can still feel the blood sticking to his forehead. He expects the other customers to look at him funny, but no one even spares him a glance.
The honeybee is a social insect. It communicates with other bees by dancing.
There's blood everywhere – on the walls, on the ground, on the pale, cold skin of the victims. On his hands.
Not my hands, he amends. This wasn't me, I wouldn't. It was – But he can't remember who it was.
The other knights advance on him and he can feel their laughter reverberate in his throat. Don't lie to yourself, Dean Winchester. We're inside you. You are us and we are you.
Gasping, he startles awake and puts his hand over the pounding scar on his forearm.
It's just a nightmare, he tells himself, but he steps in front of the mirror nonetheless to check if his eyes blink black.
Only if it flaps its wings about 12000 times per minute is the honeybee able to keep afloat in the air. The beating wings create a buzzing sound.
"You remember that time when you were crazy about bees?" Dean asks Cas after telling him to throw him at the sun.
Cas smiles bluntly. "You mean that time I was crazy?" Eventually he adds, "The bees are a good memory. They're fascinating creatures."
Dean wishes Cas would tell him more about the bees, but Sam calls, and the next thing he knows there are big hands on his face and his arm burns as if stung by a hundred bees. Five people lie slaughtered around him and his hands are sticky with blood. Not Cain's, not Abaddon's, not Belial's, not Ashmedai's – Dean's hands.
It's just a nightmare, Dean tells himself, frantically. It's just a memory. But Sam's hands tighten around his skull and Dean needs to believe that Sam at least is real or he's got nothing. "Tell me you had to do this!"
With dead eyes Randy stares at him, slumped over in his chair like a broken, bloodied ragdoll, the latest entry in the long and bloody annals of the Knights of Hell. I did that, Dean understands with nerveless horror, and understands nothing at all. "I did…" he chokes out. "I didn't mean to."
During its lifetime, the honeybee may fly up to 500 miles, until its wings wear out.
His arm stings, he's walking through a nightmare world and he's reading up on bees. Beside him Sam's expression is solemn. "Part of that powerful force has to be you."
Dean nods and looks back down at his book. It's not the Mark. It's not them. It's all him. He's the pied piper who sets the rhythm for this symphony of doom.
Time to change the tune, then. Cut back on his vices. No booze, no burgers. Instead egg white omelet and Pilates.
Immediately he feels lighter inside, like a weight's been taken off his shoulders, and when his hands tremble now, he's no longer sure what he's craving for.
It's almost like flying.
He turns a page and murders a convent full of nuns on the outskirts of Rome. The book in his hands is shaking. It takes him a while to remember that he's never been to Italy.
The honeybee dies when it stings. It is estimated that 1100 stings are required to be fatal.
On good days, he sees the bees. On bad days, he only sees blood. Today's a very, very bad day.
Today, the ground he walks on is littered with dead bees, thousands and thousands of them, their shells crushed to pulp and dust.
"You okay?" Sam asks, like he always does, but today he seems far away and fuzzy like a dream.
Dean wipes a hand across his eyes. It comes away wet. "The bees. They're dying."
Sam claps a hand on his shoulder. It should be warm and heavy, but Dean can hardly feel it through his shirt. "I'll make you a sandwich."
Shivering, Dean stares at the tiny corpses under his feet and wonders if insects have bones and if he should salt and burn them.
When the honeybee dies, the other bees take its corpse and carry it away from the hive.
"You lied to me," he accuses Charlie. Dark Charlie, he corrects himself. Because Normal Charlie, she wouldn't.
"You've got to snap out of it. Dean!"
"You lied to yourself," she says, and it's not Charlie, but her words echo inside his chest in twenty different voices and pitches, and he thinks she's right.
"Dean, whatever you're seeing, it's not real, you've got to calm down, you've got to trust me."
Because it's Sam, and he should never have to sound like that, Dean tries, he really does, but when he steps out of the shadows, his little brother's eyes gleam bright yellow, and Dean can no longer believe in him.
On average, the honeybee lives for three to six weeks.
The weather is mild and he walks among the empty beehives with Cas. The fallow soil crunches under his feet. The land lies open and empty. It smells of putrefaction.
"This is a dream," Cas informs him, his blue eyes scrunched up and earnest. "Dean. You've got to wake up."
Dean does. He's cuffed to his bed and the bees are gone.
Without them, the world is quiet. "I keep seeing things," he tells Sam who's sitting by his feet, anxiously gnawing his lower lip, because the silence is oppressive and he misses the buzz.
His brother almost smiles at that. "No shit, Sherlock."
Sam sighs. "Charlie came to visit, she's back from Oz, and you were convinced she had an evil twin or something." It sounds so ridiculous Dean wants to laugh, but he's forgotten how. Sam's mouth twitches in sympathy. "You broke her arm and tried to throttle me. It's fine, she's a tough kid."
He removes the cuffs and hands Dean a greasy cheeseburger and a beer. Dean stares at him, uncomprehendingly. Surely, the last thing he deserves is a treat.
"Eat. Drink." Sam points a stern finger at him and somehow still manages to sound like he's scared for Dean, rather than of him. "And if you ever try to live healthy again, I'll kick your ass myself."
During its lifetime, the honeybee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.
"He's calmed down now," he overhears Sam say on the phone. Talking to Cas, undoubtedly.
"Why aren't you chaining me up in the dungeon?" he asks Sam. If he squints, he can still see the faint red marks of his fingers on his brother's throat.
Sam looks oddly determined. "You can do this. We can do this." Dean has no idea where his brother's taking all that confidence from. The bees are gone and it's quiet, but that might just be the calm before the storm.
He stares down at his bruised knuckles and tries not to see the blood of a thousand years.
The honeybee isn't native to North America.