Title: Swimming the Lethe (10/10)

Words: 28,027

Rating: R (multiple f-bombs, graphic violence)

Genre: Gen/Dark!Dean/AU

Pairings: Dean/OFCs (because it's Dean)

Chapter 1

Farr off from these a slow and silent stream

Lethe the River of Oblivion roules

Her watrie Labyrinth, whereof who drinks,

Forthwith his former state and being forgets,

Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.

-Paradise Lost

It was the first time one of Dean's homemade IDs had failed to get him in the door, and he was rendered momentarily speechless. Sam had to take up the slack and, predictably, he tried that "truth" thing.

"We're just trying to stop anyone else from getting hurt. That's the only reason we want to look at the files, I swear. Please."

The kid radiated emo honesty. He was the very soul of trustworthiness. Sam could say the most unbelievable things and get complete strangers to take leaps of faith for him. The same words out of Dean's mouth only produced creeped-out expressions and assumptions of criminal insanity, which Dean didn't think was fair because his police record was totally not his fault.

Well, mostly not his fault.

Sam's earnest tone would tug at the cockles of her heart or whatever damn thing and she would cave. He was certain of this.

"Yeah. Right." The deputy stared at them, her blue eyes flat as her tone.

Sam took a moment to be rendered speechless by the failure of his special talent. Meanwhile, Dean's brain hurtled toward the gutter.

"Come on, sweetheart," Dean drawled through his most suggestive smile. "There has to be something we can do to convince you."

The cold blue eyes lowered as Dean leaned forward over the counter and practically wiggled his ass. Sam was shooting him a look that screamed MANWHORE. He ignored it. The woman took her time dragging her gaze up his lean body and back to his face.

"You trying to bribe me with sexual favors?" she asked.

"If I say yes, will you let us into the records room?"

Dean was keeping his sights on his target, but he didn't need to see Sam's face: he could hear him rolling his eyes. The deputy was tilting her head contemplatively, assessing the salacious promise in his expression.

"Your brother goes," she said, tossing a key ring to Sam without looking at him. "You stay," she added, and hauled Dean over the counter with two fistfuls of leather jacket. Though he came willingly, the momentum still slammed his back into the wall. He was barely finished rebounding when she started the tonsil examination.

Dean's view of Sam's unamused expression was at that point relatively unobstructed. It was a face straight out of high school, before Dean dropped out, and Sam was still waiting around every day for his brother to finish fooling around behind the bleachers so they could go home.

Come to think of it, he'd spent an awful lot of time behind the bleachers even after he'd dropped out.

At least five different smartass remarks involving the word "cooties" sprang to mind, but unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on whether sex rated higher than sarcasm - his mouth was too full of the tongue of the law to use any of them. He settled for cutting his eyes to the side and motioning his brother towards the back door.

Sam wasn't gone very long, but by the time he reemerged, Dean was wearing nothing from the waist up except scars and his amulet. The cop had shed the unflattering beige uniform for muscled curves and smooth skin. Dean had considered complimenting her on her tracts of land, but wasn't sure she'd get the Monty Python reference. Also, his mouth was, once again, not taking any calls.

Sam's irritated sigh ruined the moment a little. Okay, a lot.

"Come on, Dean. Let's go."

He had to admire the way his younger brother could glower while keeping his eyes averted from the deputy's naughty bits. That was talent.

"Maybe we can pick this up later," Dean started as he began to reluctantly disentangle himself. He didn't get very far before he was shoved roughly back into place.

"Uh-uh," the deputy warned. "All night. That's the deal."

"Okay-twist-my-arm," Dean breathed as they recoupled. "Sorry, Sammy. I'm gonna hafta take one for the team."

"Yeah," Sam scoffed as he tossed the cop's key ring on the counter and dug in Dean's discarded jacket for the keys to the Impala. "Just make sure you can find your way back to the motel."


There was the sound of sulky footsteps, then the front door of the sheriff's office opening and closing. And as his jeans slid from his hips, Dean mentally checked Make Sammy Dig Up Graves While I Watch the Cute Girl off his list of Things to Do Before That Reaper Finally Catches Up with My Ass.

Dean wasn't in their room when Sam returned from the boneyard covered in filthy sweat and reeking of rot. He sighed, tossing the keys on the nightstand as he headed for the shower. Not surprising. Dean had spent entire nights "pumping" women for information before. Sam knew not to expect him before noon.

He took advantage of Dean's absence to use all the hot water. When the steam and soap had driven the stench of decaying organic matter out of his sinuses, he put on some relatively clean jeans and grabbed a book from his duffel. He'd have to start looking for their next gig in the evening, but he figured he'd earned a few hours of downtime. Chances for more than five or ten minutes of uninterrupted reading were so few and far between; living in close quarters with Dean was like living with a dervish.

For a few hours Sam could stop thinking about the job, the things he'd seen, the people he'd lost. He could stop worrying about what he might turn into or where the next attack would come from. He could stop moving and just be for a little while.

When his screwed-over sleep schedule finally caught up to him, there were no nightmares. No dreams at all.

It was getting dark again when Sam opened his eyes and stretched groggily. He stared at the digital display on the obligatory clock-radio for a few seconds (7:32) before bolting upright. Somehow, even before his eyes swept the room, he knew that everything was as he'd left it.

Dean wasn't back.

He felt the first strands of icy panic worming through his gut and ignored them. It could be nothing. Maybe Dean was still sleeping it off. Maybe he'd decided to get something to eat. Maybe he'd come back and gone out again.

Except Sam knew that no one had come in while he was asleep. Certainly not his brother. Dean never left a room exactly as he'd found it unless it was a crime scene.

And Dean would never turn off his phone.

He was out the door in seconds and on the highway a few minutes later. His quiet sense of solitude was gone, consumed by the Dean-shaped hole in his world. It felt like a string snapping under tension, like a sudden cessation of the gravity that kept them in each other's orbits. He had to find Dean before they both tumbled off into nothing.

The sheriff's office didn't look much different than it had earlier that day (or the night before, depending on how you looked at it). That middle-of-the-night electricity was gone from the air, replaced by slow-paced, small-town quiet. He headed straight for the front desk.

"I'm looking for, ah," Sam stalled a moment, trying to remember the name on the shirt he'd seen crumpled next to his brother's. "Mina Rose?"

"I'm Mina," the forty-ish, dark-eyed deputy replied. "Can I help you with something?"

In a moment, the bottom seemed to drop out of everything. This was really happening. Dean was really in trouble.

Dean was the next gig.

The trek back to consciousness never got any shorter no matter how many times Dean made it. There were always several seconds of sensory input before he was able to find the wheel again, before his grogginess finally registered and his adrenals started dumping uppers into his bloodstream.

He took in the hard, cold surface he was lying on, the absence of his shirt and the presence of his jeans and boots. He was definitely hung over, but not from alcohol. He'd been drugged, which meant somebody's ass needed kicking and he didn't have time to waste getting his shit together.

His eyes snapped open to complete blackness. He listened for a few seconds but heard nothing. Moving was next on the list, so he tried that. He was rewarded with the sound of metal jangling against stone and a sharp pull against his wrists. Handcuffs. And a chain running to a ring in the floor. Great. Way to win the Waking Up in Strange Places lottery. Why couldn't he just have been pantsless in a gutter somewhere?

He levered himself upright with his bound hands but couldn't get further than his knees on the chain's short slack. He searched his pockets. They'd been emptied, but the paperclip he kept in the waistband was still there. Sweet.

He was feeling around for a keyhole when the silence was shattered by the screeching of metal on metal. A door. Few feet away. He instinctively palmed the paperclip, though it was a senseless act in the dark.

"Hi, Dean."

He recognized the cold tone, the smooth feminine voice. Right. The deputy. That's what he'd been doing the night before - that morning. She'd been fantastic. Shame about the psychosis.

He cleared his throat as best he could and when he spoke his voice was a little hoarse, but otherwise steady.

"I gotta be honest with ya, this is a little kinky - even for me."

"I've been waiting for this a long time. You're hard to track down."

"Uh...thanks? Look, I'm flattered you want to join the fan club. Can't say as I blame you. But whaddya say we unlock these," he gave the metal around his wrists a quick shake, "and you can just post porn on the internet like everyone else?"

"You have something I want."

"Didn't get enough last night, huh?"

"Something that can't be bought or sold or learned."

"What is this, a MasterCard commercial?"

"Something that's not John or Sam. Just you. They make you good, but you could be so much better. Do you know what makes a good hunter great?"

Those names from her lips made him angry. Getting snatched by a fake cop-hooker from hell was bad enough, but the fact that she'd targeted his family almost had him lunging at her until his wrists bled. Or broke. He clenched his jaw until the violent fear receded.

"Any particular reason you haven't hit the lights? Not like you've got anything I ain't seen."

"They say there's only one thing faster than light, and that's darkness." He managed not to flinch when her next words sounded inches from his ear, but just barely. "You know darkness, don't you Dean? Can't you see in the dark yet?"

"I wanted night-vision goggles for Christmas, but apparently Santa isn't a tulpa after all."

He caught a flash of silver irises in the dark, glowing like cat's eyes for just a moment before his field of vision was blank again.

"There are other ways to see in the dark, Dean. So many years fighting with the odds stacked in the monsters' favor. Haven't you ever wanted to level the field?"

"Whatever. Can we get to the point of this infomercial? What's the deal? Five easy payments of $39.99 and I get a free toaster with my Lasik surgery?"

"I can give you this gift. This and many others. I can make you stronger, faster, more deadly. All I have to do is bring out what's inside of you."

"I think I will bring up what's inside me if this goes on much longer. You're worse than that Oxyclean guy."

"You're a true killer, Dean. Your daddy didn't have it. He thought he was willing to do what it took, but when you really needed him, what did he do? Gave himself over to the monster he'd sworn to fight with his last breath. Handed the burden on to you because he knew you'd do what he could not, end the life he wouldn't."

Something snapped inside him. He felt it cracking through his insides, whip-like and resonating. His blood hummed with it.

"Shut your fucking mouth," he growled, pulling noisily at the chain as he lunged impotently in the direction of her voice. He knew he'd lost his cool, was acting recklessly. He didn't care. "You don't talk about my dad, you stupid little cunt!"

"You kill clean," she continued, unresponsive. "There's no malice in it. You're a sharp edge, built for damage. And I can make you so much sharper."

"You don't know the first fucking thing about me."

"You think you won't do it? You think you'd rather die?"

Yes. God help me, yes. Let the world burn and put a bullet in my brain first.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he breathed through clenched teeth, trying to rein himself in. But it was too late for that. Maybe it had always been too late.

"Oh, but you do, Dean. And you can do it. I can help. I can make it so much easier. So painless. All you have to do is forget. Forget everything but the kill. Be the hunter you were born to be. Be how you were made."

Her last words faded gradually and were punctuated by the creaking of the door. It closed with a solid, metallic thump, and Dean was left alone in the dark.