A/N: Okay, so here's finally the last chapter of my story. I'm sorry for the crazy long wait. You guys have been incredibly patient with me and I thank you for that. There will be a sequel to this story so that's why it ends a little abruptly.
Btw, I was in Vancouver with a couple of friends in August (to look for the set of Supernatural) and we shot a documentary about our trip. The documentary is called "When Mental Illness Turns into Mental Wellness" and is in three parts. All three parts can be found on YouTube: http://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?vWRUGDymzF2A
And since this is the last chapter I just want to share the link (again! lol) to the music video that the lovely Tara made for this story. So for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the vid, here's the link: http://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?vG-1jNshoHD4 Thank you again Tara!
And a big thank you to everyone for reading my story. It's been a long year and two months. lol Thank you also for all the great reviews and all your patience!
"Cry freedom Cry freedom Cry
With a quiet voice
See the purest light
With fresh sight.
With a gentle will
And be still.
Til your heart does ache
With a quiet voice
-- David Keig
He gathered his dead, or unconscious friend, he did not know which yet, in his arms and squeezed him hard.
"Dean! Wake up, dammit."
He tilted Dean's head to the side gently to get a better look at him. Dean's face was covered in blood, but thankfully all of it seemed to be coming from a nosebleed. Kyle felt his neck for a pulse and was relieved when he felt a faint rhythm against his fingertips.
"You gotta stop doing this to me, man," he breathed. "Or I swear to God you're gonna give me a fucking heart attack."
He slapped Dean lightly on the cheek trying to wake him up. Dean moaned softly and despite the dire situation Kyle felt himself smirking. "Yeah, that's right," he coaxed. "You gotta wake up so you can get out of here."
He shook his friend impatiently and Dean stirred slightly.
"Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul." – W.E. Henley, 'Echoes'
Dean opened his eyes as another shake, harder this time, yanked him out of unconsciousness. A pair of blue eyes peered down at him and he jerked away with a gasp.
"Easy. It's just me."
He recognized Kyle's voice immediately and slumped back with a painful groan.
"Jesus, Dean. What happened?"
Kyle sounded like a worried parent and it kinda annoyed Dean. Only a little though. He frowned, coughed and wiped a hand over his face slowly. His palm came back stained with blood and he stared at it, eyes widening.
"Dean!" Kyle grabbed his wrist and leaned in closer to get his attention. "What happened? Are you badly hurt?"
Dean shook his head slowly and from his perspective it was the honest truth, although for anyone else it would've been a lie. Dean had been beaten so much in his life that he perceived pain differently than most people. To him pain was a constant. Unbearable pain was only when physical pain was accompanied by emotional pain. It sounded corny even to him, but a broken heart and a torn soul hurt much worse than any random beating ever could. So this wasn't so bad. At least not compared to other things he'd experienced in his life.
"I'm fine," he said in a raspy voice and struggled to sit up. Kyle rolled his eyes and gave him a small push to help him.
"So what happened?"
That was the third time Kyle asked him that. Dean thought about his answer for a second before breaking into a crazy, on the verge of hysteric, laugh.
"I was mugged." He laughed again, tasting the words and closing his eyes as he tried to wrap his head around the fact. "I was mugged..."
Kyle stared at him, eyes widening, with an unreadable expression on his face. Then his eyes narrowed and he poked Dean hard in the chest with his index finger. "Don't lie to me. You've lied to me for years. I'm your best friend…" He grabbed Dean by the shoulders. "…and I think I fucking deserve the truth, don't you?" His voice was rough with emotion and Dean's laughter died on his lips immediately.
They sat in silence for a while then Dean turned away, too ashamed to look at his friend. "I'm sorry," he said softly, reaching to wipe some blood off his face with his sleeve. "I didn't want to lie to you."
"Then why the hell did you?"
Dean laughed again but this time softly, bitterly, sadly. "Because I'm pathetic." And ashamed. He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and risked a look in Kyle's direction then exhaled slowly as if giving up, giving in.
"Okay..." His voice was low, the tone resigned, the words ominous - and all of a sudden Kyle wasn't so sure he wanted to hear it.
The twelfth didn't hurt nearly as much as the first. His back had become a throbbing, aching mess long before the tenth - and yeah, he'd kept track. Even though the belt was probably slick with blood by now, his back was too numb and he too out of it to fully register the pain. 'Thirteen,' he counted silently, and winced as the belt tore away more skin from his back and another piece of his soul.
'I'll be okay. I'll be okay. He won't kill me,' he told himself. But as the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth strikes bore down on him in a quick succession he wasn't so sure anymore. Reinhold wasn't slowing down, he was speeding up. 'Oh,God. Please.' Another sound of something wet slapping skin and he moaned softly. "Please…" He did a double take. Was that his voice just now? It was, and he was surprised that his plea had actually made it to his lips and managed to slip out. But before he could recover from the hit or his own expressed defeat, another strike whistled in the air and this time it ripped a cry from his throat. It'd hit much lower this time, marking previously unscathed skin, and it hurt even worse than the first. He gasped a sob, his defences finally breaking.
"I'm sorry." His voice was twisted in a painful gasp that sounded more like a cough as he tried desperately to conceal the sobs he could no longer hold back.
"Crying are you, you little shit?" Marcus face came into view, sneering at him.
Dean shuddered in shame, eyes dropping.
"Marcus. Leave him be." Reinhold sounded annoyed. It was one thing to discipline the boy, another to taunt him.
"That time when you saw…you know, in the locker room…" Dean paused, hesitating. "They were… Reinhold, he…"
"Whipped you?" Kyle filled in slowly. He would never forget those lacerations on Dean's back.
Dean's face flushed and Kyle wondered why he was ashamed of it. It wasn't Dean's fault Reinhold was a sadistic bastard.
"…yeah." Dean's voice wasn't more than a whisper. Then he gave a small sigh – one that sounded like relief – like a burden lifting from his shoulders. "And the times I missed practise or stayed home from school… It wasn't because I didn't want to go…" His eyes moved upwards to meet Kyle's gaze for the first time since he'd started talking. "I never got mugged… Well, not until now at least." He stopped and bit his lip, ending it now before he'd break down. He didn't want to talk about it. Not with anyone.
"Okay," Kyle murmured, and the one word held a lot more meaning than it usually did. He got up and reached for Dean's hand. "Let's get you outta here. Sam's waiting."
Dean accepted the outstretched hand and let himself be hoisted to his feet.
"There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way." -- Christopher Morley
Sam scanned the parking lot and surrounding area one more time before closing his eyes and taking a long, deep breath. Dean wasn't there, and Sam was sure of it now - he wasn't gonna show. Tina squeezed his hand and Sam opened his eyes again to look at her.
"Maybe we should go look for him?"
He nodded slowly.
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." -- Nelson Mandela, 'A Long Walk to Freedom'
To say that he was fine would've been the understatement of a century. He wasn't fine he was great, felt more alive than he had for a long time. Not even the fact that his arms were covered in blood could take away that feeling. Maybe it was the waning rush of adrenaline or maybe it was the blood loss, but John felt calmer than he had in a long time. It was now or never and he had planned for this moment for ten years. He was ready for this. Ready to finally meet his sons.
Sam and Tina didn't have to walk far in their search for Dean. It only took them about five minutes before they ran into Dean and Kyle. Dean was leaning on his friend, his face a mess of dirt and blood. He looked like shit.
Dean offered Sam a weak smile. "I'm fine, Sam. You know me - just couldn't leave here without a little bloodshed.
"What happened? The worried look on Tina's face shocked Dean, stumping him into silence.
"He was mugged." Kyle spoke for him, sending his friend a knowing look.
"Mugged!" Sam and Tina exclaimed in unison.
Dean waved at them dismissively. "I'm fine. Really. I promise." He pushed away from Kyle and started towards Sam. "I just wanna get out of here if that's okay."
There were no goodbyes. Not really. Kyle and Dean didn't say a word to each other. Not because they didn't want to, but because they didn't have to. Dean offered his friend a slight nod which was returned with a friendly clap in the shoulder.
Kyle smiled; happy that his friend was finally getting away from what he guessed had been a pretty miserable life. Dean returned the smile. He felt free. The burden of having kept the truth from his friend for so long was finally gone after years of silent suffering. More importantly, he was forgiven. He got in the car and glanced over at Sam and Tina whose bodies were locked in a tight embrace a few yards away. His brother was crying but was trying to hide it by burying his face in Tina's hair. Like for Dean and Kyle, few, if any, words were passed between them. They had already said their goodbyes and what was left now was nothing but their feelings for each other.
Kyle tossed something to him and it landed on Dean's lap. He picked it up and stared at it. It was one of Kyle's elephant hair wrist bands, he had two and he never took them off.
"Kyle…" he began, not quite sure what to say. "I…"
"No chick flick moments, okay?" Kyle said, cutting him off. "Just take it."
Dean nodded slowly. "Okay." He slipped it over his right hand and watched the curve of black around his wrist. But when he looked up to thank his friend, Kyle was gone.
They had been on the road for more than twenty minutes before any of them spoke.
"Do you think they'll be alright?" Sam scratched himself and looked at his brother with a sad expression on his face.
"They'll be fine, Sammy," Dean replied, throwing a quick look in the rear-view mirror at a car that was following them, "and so will we. I promise." He stepped on the gas and pulled out onto the highway. The other car, a black Impala, sped up and followed suit.
After what felt like an eternity of the other car trailing them Dean was starting to get a little worried. He didn't recognize the car. None of Reinhold's or Marcus' friends had a car like that. Still, who would be following them if not Reinhold or Marcus? No one else would have a reason to. He made a quick decision and turned the wheel sharply, the car swerved and they skidded over two lanes towards the closest exit on the highway. Dean's breath caught in his throat when he watched the other car doing the exact same thing, taking the turn just as determinedly and in a way that was very unsettling. Sam who'd been dozing off in the backseat woke at the sharp turn of the Mustang.
"Wha... What's going on?" He asked drowsily.
Dean glanced in the rearview mirror at the other car before answering his brother. "Someone is following us."
Sam quickly spotted the other car as it came up behind them, following them, but keeping a safe distance. The other driver honked the horn and both brothers jumped at the sudden sound. Dean stepped on the gas. And of course, the Impala followed.
It continued like that for a while. Whenever Dean tried to break away, the other car would speed up. And whenever they made a turn the Impala would follow. The other car honked again and Dean frowned.
"Can you see the driver?" he asked Sam as he made a left turn onto a dirtroad. He'd completely run out of options.
Sam peered through the backwindow, squinting slightly. It was too dark to see anything. "No."
Dean ran a hand over his short hair, cursing under his breath. Sam winced.
"What are we gonna do, Dean?"
"Just give me some time to think, okay?"
Sam turned to look at the other car again. "He's speeding up," he said, watching as the other car accelerated. The headlights of the black car were soon illuminating the interior of the Mustang and Sam crouched down in the backseat. "Dean!"
Dean stepped on the gas and grimaced when he realized he'd already pushed the car to its limit. They couldn't go any faster than this that was for certain. The other car honked again and Sam yelped. The other car drove up next to them, swerving slightly in the gravel.
"He's gonna force us off the road!" Sam gasped, his eyes wide with fear.
"Sam put on your seatbelt," Dean ordered, a determined look crossing his features suddenly. Sam quickly obeyed.
"What are you gonna… DO." The last word came out in a short gust of air when Dean suddenly stepped on the brakes and the car stopped with a screech in a cloud of dust. They groaned in unison as they tried to loosen their seatbelts that had locked after their sudden, and jerky, forward motion.
Their pursuer stopped his car with a similar screech a couple of yards ahead and killed the engine. Dean looked over his shoulder at Sam.
Sam's eyes found his brother's and he nodded wordlessly.
"Stay here." Dean unfastened his seatbelt and opened the door slowly. He was sick and tired of running and he just wasn't gonna do it anymore.
"Where are you going?" Sam asked urgently and glanced over at the other car. He saw the other driver getting out of his car and quickly moved to unfasten his own seatbelt. No way in hell was he gonna let Dean fight the other man by himself.
"I said stay!" Dean ordered with a finality that surprised even him. He slammed the door and turned towards the stranger standing by the other car. "Who the hell are you and why are you following us?!" he called. He sounded calmer than he felt.
"Dean." The other man's voice was low and throaty, rough with emotion, but there was no doubt who it belonged to.
"Dad?" Dean's body trembled and his arms fell limply to his sides. He took a step back and sent an uncertain look to Sam who was staring at his brother through the rolled up window.
"Yeah, it's me." The other man stepped into the beams of light from the Mustangs headlights and stopped. Though he seemed a bit uncomfortable at first, his lips curved into a faint smile when he laid eyes on Dean. But the smile faded as soon as he saw the stains of blood on his son's face and shirt.
John took a quick step forward but stopped when Dean backed into the side of the Mustang. "What happened, Dean? Who hurt you?"
Dean didn't answer him, instead his arm travelled up to curl protectively around his midsection as he stared at John in disbelief.
John turned to look at his youngest who had just stepped out on the other side of the car. Sam was tall and gangly and his dark, unruly hair was so long it covered half of his face. And although he looked awkward in that way every 13-year old did, his gaze was steadfast and unyielding when he locked eyes with his father. John was glad that at least one of his sons seemed to be okay. Dean, still staring at his father with a look of a deer caught in headlights, was broken. Maybe broken beyond repair, John just didn't know. His 17-year old son had been through so much. Too much if you asked John. But there was evidently a part of Dean that was still the son he had raised so many years ago. John had noted with pride that his son, despite his own fears, had positioned himself between his younger brother and the potential danger. Apparently there were some things that time and certain people couldn't change.
Sam rounded the car and walked up to his brother, eyes still locked on John.
"Sam… Dean…" John spoke, his voice trembling a little. "I'm…" He paused. To tell his sons that he was happy to see them would be a huge understatement. He wasn't just happy. He was happier than he'd ever been in his life. The immense pain of having lost his sons - a pain he had carried with him for ten years was slowly fading and it felt like he could finally breathe again.
"Why did you do that?" Sam's voice sounded calm but his dark eyes were flashing.
John's forehead crinkled in confusion. "Do what?"
"Why did you chase our car like that?" Sam demanded. 'You scared us.' "You almost ran us off the road!"
John shifted his gaze to Dean who quickly looked away, hands fisting in his pockets.
"I tried to get your attention," John heard himself explain. "I honked… I tried to drive up alongside your car but whenever I got too close you would speed up." 'I didn't know what to do.'
"Of course we did," Sam said angrily, "We thought you were--"
"It's okay, Sam," Dean interrupted before his brother could get into too much detail. "Nothing happened. Right?"
"But--" Sam protested. He didn't understand how Dean could just wave something off like that. He knew their dad had scared him too.
Dean grabbed Sam's wrist. 'Sam…It's dad.' He didn't have to say it, his eyes expressed his silent request and Sam knew to let it go.
John smiled. The bond his sons shared seemed to be just as strong now as it had been when they were young. He reached out tentatively and planted a huge hand on each of his sons' shoulders.
"Boys, I'm so happy I found you…" He didn't care if it sounded stupid.
Sam glanced at Dean before offering John a hesitant smile. He felt weird because even if he'd wished for this moment their father was still a stranger to them. But Dean had been right… It was okay. They would be okay. From here on things could only get better, right?
The heat of John's hand on his shoulder spread to Dean's chest and then his back and from there to the rest of his body. He was safe now, finally able to slump back and pass the reins to someone else. Someone he could trust. He was tired all of a sudden. Tired in a way he'd never been before. It was a bone-deep fatigue and it completely overwhelmed him. He closed his eyes, welcoming the reprieve his father's presence offered. Sure, in the ten years that had passed, some days had been hard while others had been even harder. Some days he'd wished for death, wished for the peace it would bring. Shit had happened. Things he didn't even want to think about. He'd come to know the definition of the word 'pain'. And pain – it hurt. Sometimes it had hurt so bad he couldn't even register the pain.
But standing between his brother and his father just then, hearing them breathing and feeling the warmth of their bodies, Dean realized something. Sometimes it didn't hurt at all.
A/N2: The great comedian Eddie Izzard once said that car chases are a lot cooler on television than in novels. He was probably right, but it didn't stop me from writing one anyway. ;) I hope it didn't suck too much. Take care everyone!