Author Notes: I'm sure a few of you are wondering where the remaining chapters of After the Fall are - and they're coming, I promise. (Two of them, in fact; Chapter Eight and an Epilogue.) It's just that it's quite a bit harder than I thought to wrap up one story while you're working to get the next one started, and I really did need to push to get this posted today. Because today is the ten year anniversary of my first SPN fic, Roadside Casualties, and I had the thought a few months ago of marking that absolutely silly stat with a giant, epic fic that was built around and prompted by lines pulled from all of my previous SPN fics. Turns out, there've been a few.
So, all the shout-outs in all the land go to Nova42, who not only put her brilliant mind into action helping me come up with a plot for this beast, but also took on the nearly insane task I assigned her, of pulling a line from each and every one of those 92 (EEP!) stories. It was a lot to ask of her, and I was super annoying about it, and I think I owe her a store-bought homemade pie now. *cards fingers through wings*
This story takes place between 11.03 "The Bad Seed" and 11.04 "Baby", and is going to be another WIP posting - *pauses for groans and begs for patience* - but it's going to be my main priority as soon as I get ATF wrapped up. I'm super excited about this story, and the list of lines I have to include are going to be both challenging and fun to incorporate. There will be mysteries to unravel, and should be some angst and a lot of H/C - and I'm really going to work on that "C" part a few of you have told me I tend to forget about :P - and some MoC fallout woven in, because I wanted to.
*swallows new story jitters*
Here's to another ten years of writing SPN fanfic?
Be All Our Sins Remember'd
Sammy doesn't need to know he's still having nightmares – that he never truly stopped. The dreams Dean's having now are just…different. But no less intense.
They're putting on a decent-enough show – both of them – but the Mark of Cain and its influence aren't so far behind in the rearview mirror for the damage it had wrought to be forgotten.
The nights still pass mostly sleeplessly and certainly restlessly, once twisted by horribly vivid nightmares that left Dean drained and aching, burning with a fever too high to really survive. Without the Mark, he may not have. Now, hours spent attempting slumber are consumed by chilling, surreal remembrances of exactly what he'd done, how far he'd gone to satisfy the bloodlust. A suffocating, nonstop procession of the faces of those he's hurt.
Some are strangers, bloodied and pulped and slashed beyond recognition; poor, nameless bastards who would have been left to live under other circumstances, because he and his brother have never been killers. There are a select few who'd deserved it, who had earned exactly what Dean gave them. Those for whom he feels regret, but no remorse. The ones he's not unhappy are dead, even if he is sorry to be the reason why.
Some faces are those of friends – of family – beaten down by his hand. Sam, and Cas. Charlie. God, Charlie.
The nightmares are different, and so is the task of escaping them. He doesn't often startle awake and upright; it takes time now, for Dean to dig himself out. Then he lies still, drenched in a cold sweat, staring at the ceiling and sluggishly blinking away the images of their wounded, disappointed faces as he struggles to catch his breath.
I'm so sorry, kiddo.
You and Sam stay the hell away from me. Next time I won't miss.
Close your eyes. Sammy, close your eyes.
And sometimes, when he blinks too long, she slips in through the cracks – the canyons – left behind in all the places the Mark was torn from.
Dean has more questions than he does answers, but the Mark of Cain is gone, so the presence of the Darkness in his thoughts is pretty low on his list of Shit Sammy Needs to Know Right Now.
The Mark's gone, and in its place is…well, Dean doesn't know if he's yet in a position to begin to figure out what exactly has taken its place. Who he is now, and if that man is anyone resembling the man he was before. He's not sure he's worked far enough through the weighty exhaustion pressing down on him since they unleashed that dark, ominous cloud upon the world. Not to mention the extremely demanding pain left by Castiel's fists. Because he got what he gave, that's for damn sure. Traded bruised, bloodied knuckles for a bruised, bloodied face.
It's fine, Cas. Besides, I had it comin'.
These aren't wounds that are going to fade overnight, and this isn't a tired that can be slept away, but Dean gives it a go. He's not sure how long he sleeps after he stagger-limps to his room under Sam's nauseatingly close supervision, but he's in and out of consciousness for what feels like an eternity. When he finally wakes, his head seems to weigh a hundred pounds and the knuckles of his right hand ache with the phantom pains of the swings he's taken at those he loves, and he's overcome with the unmistakable sense that someone's been in his room. A tickle at the edge of his left ear brings him to raise a shaky hand to investigate, and he discovers a long-thawed ice pack on the pillow, level with where his thrashed face has just been. Sam.
He rolls to the right and finds a glass of water on the table next to his head, a plate holding a sandwich stacked generously with some sort of lunchmeat that looks and smells fresh enough. Dean leverages up on an elbow and rubs the stickiness of too much sleep from his eyes. With a somewhat clearer gaze, he also finds a small pile of flat white tablets – the good stuff – lying atop a yellow sticky note that announces in his brother's tight scrawl, Don't take these unless you eat something.
He pushes up farther in bed and surveys the dark, vaguely unsettling and unfamiliar landscape of his room. It'd been tossed, days ago, and while he'd long ago grown accustomed to the persistent exhaustion and headache, he hasn't yet gotten well enough reacquainted with extended consciousness or coherency to put his belongings back in order. Just inside the door, there's a box of things brought back from the towering pile in the library, unwashed, unpacked and giving the room a faint scent of gasoline that isn't necessarily unpleasant, though the implications might be.
Dean groans and rolls out of bed, sets his bare feet on the cool concrete floor. The pills are appealing but the sandwich seems like too much work for his sore jaw, and from what he remembers of the last time he was in the same room as his brother, Sam's not really looking to be the sort of nursemaid who turns a blind eye and lets Dean break the rules. In fact, he's probably fortunate he wasn't marched into an ER that night. Nosey little son of a bitch. But Dean owes him one – owes him more than one – and he can let Sammy call the shots. For now. He's not so sure he should be the one leading the charge, anyway; not when his head is roaring and pounding so badly he can hardly think straight, and his left eye's having a hell of a time focusing on anything more than a foot out from his face.
He gropes on the floor for a pair of jeans and drags them on, hopping somewhat shakily to his feet. He's feeling a bit nauseous in a familiar way, knowing well enough that it's likely hunger and dehydration, and guesses that eating something wouldn't be the worst idea.
Dean runs his tongue over the fuzz on his teeth and makes a pit stop at the narrow sink. He has no desire to sneak a peek at his reflection but his eyes are drawn upward anyway and, God, he looks like shit. He knows he's slept some but certainly doesn't look it. He's red-eyed and pale, shadowed and bruised. Oh, hell yes, he's bruised. The swelling's gone down some but his jaw and cheekbone are impressively blackened, and when he raises a hand to probe at his cheek, a sharp bite of shifting bone brings him pulling his fingers away with a harsh intake of air.
Fuck, but Cas has a mean right hook. Something Dean already knew, he supposes, and in case he forgets again, this reminder looks like it will linger for a while.
He splashes some cold water on his face and scrubs a hand through hair that is admittedly gross-feeling, but decides that he really should probably think seriously about some food if he wants to stand up long enough to subject himself to a shower. And coffee. Yeah, he'd kill for a cup of coffee.
It takes a moment to shake that thought from his mind, and an odd tremble from his hands, before Dean can jerk open the door to venture out into the dim hallway.
Without enough energy to put up a front for his brother, he pads into the library with bare feet, in a wrinkled, fairly ripe-smelling t-shirt and jeans. He stops on the threshold at the sight of said brother hip-deep into some marathon cleaning session, and rubs the back of his sore neck, seriously contemplating pulling a one-eighty before Sam spots him. But he's just not the sort of the guy who has that kind of luck.
"Hey," Sam greets him, too brightly. Way too goddamn cheerily. And so…loud. "Look. It walks. Or, sort of, anyway."
Dean curls his lip in response, shuffles completely into the large room and sinks gingerly into a chair at the table across from his brother. "Yes, it walks," he returns, wincing around the pain caused in his battered cheek and jaw from speaking. "It walks and talks and ties its own shoes."
"You're not wearing shoes."
"Two outta three ain't bad."
Sam jerks a thumb behind him, with the hand not gripping a stack of books. "There's still coffee."
Dean looks longingly in that direction, but can't imagine dragging himself upright again just yet. There's not much to say about the kid's timing. "I just sat down."
"I'll get it," Sam offers, setting his stack of books aside.
After a brief internal battle of pride and will, Dean shakes his head. "Nah, I'm good." He scrubs once more at the back his neck, kneading an insistently sore spot. "How long was I…?"
Sam sneaks a peek at his watch. "Uh, two days? Give or take?"
Dean raises his eyebrows as his stomach growls an aggressive agreement of Sam's assessment. "Damn."
"Well, you've been through a lot." He doesn't like the way his little brother's eyebrows draw together in concern, in how are you, really? Sam frowns, raises a hand in a vague gesture to his own face. "You sure you don't want Cas to – "
"No, Sam, it's fine. Really." It's not fine; it hurts like a motherfucking son of a bitch just to speak, but it's too much to ask of Cas, and it's the least he deserves, after everything. A teaspoon of pain in exchange for all of the suffering he's doled out.
"You sure? Because it looks…" Sam swallows, takes his time choosing his words. "It looks like it hurts."
Dean huffs, drops his hand and eyes to the table. "Yeah, well. What goes around comes around, I guess." The longest string of words he's put together so far, and he winces as it sends another shockwave of pain through his cheek and jaw.
He raises his gaze to his brother, says low and steady, "don't, Sam. Seriously." Dean tears his eyes away and looks around the room, taking in the row of boxes along the perimeter of the library, the seemingly organized stacks of books covering damn near every inch of available table space. "You've been busy," he notes. "Hey, didn't you do this already?"
It's one of their stronger – though not necessarily always positive – shared traits. Boiling an intense, serious, complicated issue or event down to its simplest form of acknowledgement. Didn't you do this already? he asks. Clean up the mess I left you, he means. The bodies, the blood. The pile of treasured belongings seconds away from being set ablaze. And at the time, he couldn't have cared less.
"Oh." Sam looks around the room, dropping his hands to his hips. "Yeah. I mean, I cleaned up before, but I, uh…I dunno. I've just had some free time the past couple of days."
Dean doesn't want to remember walking back into the bunker, smelling death, bleach and gasoline, but he does. Doesn't want to remember that he came seconds and inches from losing absolute control…but he does.
He pushes up from his seat, desperate for a distraction. "I should help you with this."
Sam raises a hand. "No, it's okay. I've got it."
"Sam – "
"Really, Dean. It's cool. I've got a system." He lifts a shoulder, smiles. "Besides, you and cleaning? Oil and water, man."
"Yeah, you're probably right." Dean sinks back into his chair, slowly, as each and every sore and abused muscle howls in protest of this latest movement and his head pounds like he's got a subwoofer sounding off behind his brain. "Any news on any of the, uh…" He rubs his eyes with his thumb and index finger, waves his left hand over his head.
"Not as much, no. It's been…quiet."
Dean lets his hand fall with a smack against the tabletop. "I know no news is supposed to be good news, but…"
"With us, it's usually more 'the calm before the storm.' Yeah, I know." Sam takes a breath, drops his shoulders. He starts sifting through the books on the table between them, like a lack of eye contact is going to soften the delivery of what he says next. "I guess as soon as you and Cas are feeling up to it, we can get back out there and – "
"I'm fine, Sam."
One large leather-bound tome thwacks atop another. "Dean, this is the first time you've really STOPPED since the Mark of Cain…and that's only because a roided-up Cas used you as a punching bag. After you woke up in a field a mile from the car with no recollection of how you got there. And you haven't slept in…do you even know?" Sam pauses, scratches at the side of his face. "Let's just…take a break, man. Things are quiet. Embrace it."
Sam's tone is amazingly indifferent, but it's a plea and a command at the same time, and Dean doesn't quite have the energy to fight with his brother. Especially not when they both know the kid's right. He purses his lips, subjecting himself to another rocket of agony through his face. "Sure."
"Yeah?" Sam asks, in obvious relief, but still hesitant. Still knowing his brother better than Dean is oftentimes comfortable with.
He bobs his head slowly. "Yeah, you're right."
"Okay." Sam nods. "All right. So, we'll just…take a break."
Dean drums his fingers on the tabletop, watches as his brother goes about moving more books from one stack to another with a sort of deliberation he can't begin to make sense of. Exhaustion presses down on his head and shoulders and he gives into the weight, sliding lower in his seat.
For Sam, taking a break might mean carving out time to pick new curtains for the Batcave, but as much as Dean hates to admit it, the son of a bitch really is right. Because for Dean it means catching up on about four years' worth of sleep.
"Hey." Sam frowns, stops Dean as he's finally pushing up from the table. "Eat something before you crash again."
"Nag, nag, nag," Dean complains over his shoulder, but good-naturedly, knowing full-well he's got a lot of nagging coming his direction, given the events of the past year and a half.
"Yeah? Get used to it." Seems like Sam's not looking to sidestep the issue, either.
Dean narrows his eyes. "There's coffee?"
Sam nods. "Yeah, unless Cas wandered out and found it. But I haven't seen him around in a few days, either. Not since…you know."
Dean's bruised eye thrums a pulse, like his heart has leapt up from his chest into his abused face while he wasn't paying attention. Yeah, he knows. "All right," he says tightly. "Just don't…mess with anything. Whenever you get the cleaning bug up your ass you always put things where I can't find them."
The too-bright smile is back on his brother's face. "Scout's honor."
Sam's grin is so big and nauseatingly forced, Dean decides on skipping the coffee, a choice he hopes not to come to regret later in the day.
Dean snaps awake with a suddenness that would have been painful even if not for the persistent fire raging in his injured face and his sore…everything else. It's like smacking into a brick wall of consciousness, and it's a feeling he hasn't missed.
Goddamn. He sucks in a harsh breath and sits up in bed with a groan, dragging a cautious hand down his bruised face. He slaps at the base of the lamp to his right until a soft light invades the room with the snap of the switch, and he squints at the face of his watch. There are things that have required some recalibration since moving into the bunker. Simple things, like using the presence of natural light to determine the time of day upon waking.
It's night, late but not too; he's slept through most of another day. Dean pushes his hand through his hair, almost like he can drag the remnants of this latest nightmare from his mind, catch them between his fingers and drop them to the floor. Something else Sam can flitter about cleaning up.
Maybe he can't drag them away, but he can wash them away, like he has a hundred other nightmares.
Dean rolls to the side, biting his lip against the protest rising in his sore ribs, and gropes blindly on the floor until his fingertips graze the neck of a bottle. He grabs it up eagerly, needing the memories to be gone, needing to take a layer off of the pain, but finds the pint already empty. Perfect.
He spots the pain pills lying in wait on the table, just as a tear of inarguable hunger rips through his gut, so fierce and demanding it's almost painful. The sandwich is still there, but now with a smell that's less than appetizing.
Burgers and whiskey exist outside these concrete walls, Dean tells himself. His head swims as he swings around, and he has to drop a palm onto the surface of the bedside table to keep his sorry ass off of the floor. The pills rattle against the smooth wood, drawing his bleary gaze downward.
Sorry to go against doctor's orders, Sammy. Dean scoops up the tablets, downs them with the last swallow of now-warm water from the glass his brother left him, and heaves himself fully out of bed.
To be continued...
Prompt Lines included in this chapter:
This isn't a tired that can be slept away.
His tone is amazingly indifferent, but it's a plea and a command at the same time.
He decides on skipping the coffee, a choice he hopes not to come to regret later in the day.