A/N – It's been a long time coming, I've been writing this story for a year and a half. This is the last chapter. I've left it open for the possibility of a sequel though, if people want one. So let me know. Or just let me know what you think. I love reviews. (who doesn't?!)
It has been going on for hours now, possibly even days. It goes in cycles, he is beaten, forced to watch Sam die again and again, another beating, a rest, more visions of his brother's death...
And somewhere deep inside of him, something snaps, and Dean screams, and screams, and screams.
His captor takes a step back and he can hear the smile on his lips as he speaks. "Tell me, Dean. You've seen all the options, which one was your favorite. How would you like your brother to die?"
Dean raises his pounding head, opens his eyes, more for effect than anything else, narrowing them into slits and he glares into nothingness. His voice sounds weak and broken in his own ears, hoarse from the hours of screaming, but he hasn't surrendered yet. Not quite yet. "Go to Hell,"
The man chuckles, "I'll let you think about it for a while. But you will choose, because if you don't, I'll choose for you. Believe me, you don't want that."
Dean listens to footsteps crossing the room and the sound of a door opening and then closing. Then, with hands trembling from exhaustion and horror at the many visions of his brother's corpse still floating across his mind's eye, he resumes his loosening of the ropes fastening his hands behind his back.
He doesn't think his captor has noticed the progress he has made, although it is impossible to be certain in his current condition. Surely, if he had, he would have re-secured him. The hours of constant fidgeting has caused the knots to slip, slackening the rope. The circulation has begun to return to his fingers, and slowly but surely, he is bending his wrists upwards, and pulling at the knots with his fingertips. He is untying the ropes.
Time doesn't seem to have any meaning here, He doesn't know whether it's because he can't see, or because the overwhelming assault of vision after vision seemed to last forever and when they stop, time appears to speed up by comparison. Or maybe his captor is just eager to get back to the torture. Either way, the man seems to re-enter the room only a few minutes after he leaves.
On hearing the door open, Dean quickly moves back into his slumped position on the chair, praying that his escape attempt remained unnoticed.
"Made a decision?"
"Yeah," the uncomfortable position of his head, resting forwards onto his chest, makes him sound much worse than he actually feels. Which isn't to say he feels good, but it could be worse. His hands revel in their newfound sense of freedom, and stashed behind his back, they are itching to move.
"And I've decided you're a ghost," he raised his head sightly, hoping his gives the impression that he is looking right at the man, "You're the same ghost Sam torched the other night. You survived somehow, some kind of a trick." he coughs and struggles to stay in his position on the chair without falling to the ground. "That's why the visions. They're exactly the same as the one the other night."
The man laughs. He actually laughs, as though that is the funniest thing he has ever heard. "I can't believe the great Dean Winchester took this long to put it together." Another pause for laughter. Dean doesn't know whether it's for effect or if he really is that hysterically dumb right now. "And even then he gets it completely wrong. This is priceless. When I tell my employer, she'll double my fee!"
The man ignores him, Dean pictures him kicking himself for letting that piece of information slip. Instead of dwelling on it, he continues their discussion. "I'm not a ghost, Dean. There never was a ghost. I really thought you'd have worked it out by now. I made you see it all, the ghost, the grave the bones, everything. I gave you the vision in the graveyard. You and your brother were fighting something that didn't even exist."
"You did this?" He had half put it together himself, but he had it back to front. This was so much worse than he had thought. "You blinded me?"
"It seemed like the best way. I needed you weak, helpless. And I thought the visions would have more impact if they were all you could see."
Well, he'd been right about that. "You bastard!" This hurt. This hurt so much worse than the idea that it might be years before he could see again. The idea that someone, a human, no less, could have done this to him deliberately. Not a random act of misfortune, this guy had actually sought him out and planned the best way to torture him. He had plunged him into darkness because it suited his purposes. Dean hates that he has to ask, because it feels like he's begging, but he has to know, "Can you undo it?"
"I could, but I won't. Not worth the effort, not since I'm going to kill you."
That's all he needs to know. Dean springs forward off of the chair, leaving the ropes on the floor and runs forward in the direction of his captor's voice. His outstretched arms touch the man's shirt and Dean swings a punch. His guess is right on target, and his fist makes contact with a stubbled jaw. With a satisfying grunt, the man staggers backwards.
The element of surprise now all used up, and his sighted opponent with the upper hand, Dean doesn't pause. He listens carefully to not lose track of the man's location. He is used to fighting in the dark, but not like this. This is a completely new experience. He throws another punch, but hits air and curses as he staggers forward.
A fist makes contact with his cheek, missing his nose by the sheer co-incidence of him moving at the right moment. In a reflex action, hit right hand grabs onto the wrist of the hand that struck him and grips tightly. Then, his opponent's location known, he punches him again and again with his left fist until he feels the warm, sticky sensation of blood on his knuckles.
Only then does he let go. A final right hook to the jaw sends the man falling backwards, and Dean hears a crash and the grunt of air expelled form his lungs on impact with the hard floor. It is accompanied by the clang of something metallic hitting the ground next to him to the right.
Dean drops to his hands and knees, and crawls forward quickly before the man has time to recover. Hands sweeping across the floor in front of him find him laying almost completely still. His breathing sounds labored. His nose is broken - Dean remembers hearing the crack - and each breath is accompanied by the fluttering sound of air passing through blood.
"Undo it," Dean says, one hand feeling on the ground for what he thought he heard drop, the other pressing tightly on the man's throat.
"No," the man gasps.
Dean's hand finds what he was searching for, a small gun laying on the floor where it had been dropped. Lucky his captor hadn't had the chance to get a shot off. He feels himself grinning, and knows he looks like a madman that's been pushed over the edge, but that's okay because that's exactly how he feels. He brings the barrel to the middle of the man's forehead.
"Undo it. Fix me. Or I kill you."
"You wouldn't," the man's voice shakes with uncertainty, "You're a hunter. You don't kill humans, you kill..."
"Monsters," Dean smiles again, "Things like you."
The man makes a sound that Dean doesn't know the meaning of, half way between a laugh and a whimper, he presses the gun deeper into the skin. "The way I see it, if you're not gonna fix me, there's no reason to keep you alive. So choose. Or die."
"Okay," he wheezes and coughs through the blood dripping into his throat from his nose.
"I'll do it,"
"I knew you'd see it my way," Dean releases some of the pressure on the gun, "Do it then."
"Will you let me up?"
Dean shakes his head once from side to side. "Not likely. And if I start to have another of those freaky visions, I shoot first, ask questions never."
"Alright, just... Just relax, okay?"
"I'm about as relaxed as I'm going to get. Do it."
He feels the strangest sensation, like warm water running over his body, under his skin. Like it's actually caressing his brain. The headache that has been his constant companion during his captivity begins to fade, and as though a valve has finally been allowed to release the pressure building inside him, he feels himself begin to relax.
And then it's over.
And he feels like himself. No headache, clear head. He is Dean Winchester again. He takes a deep breath, bracing himself, and opens his eyes.
The emotion he feels is pure rage. He knows it shows on his face because he feels the man laying on the ground press his body back further into the floor just to move himself a fraction of an inch further away.
"It will take a while!" the man cries, "I couldn't do it instantly, it would have destroyed your mind. It will just take some time."
"I've heard that before," Dean says.
"It's true. A few hours, maybe a day."
Dean turns his head, trying to see something, anything at all. It is all sill completely black, but... he squints at what looks like a patch of dark gray just above his head. It is barely perceptible, and for a moment he wonders whether he is imagining it. He frowns.
"Light bulb," says the man on the floor. "It will come back gradually. Trust me, I don't lie to the man pointing a gun at my head."
"Fine," Dean pulls the gun back a little, "I believe you."
The hand still pressing him down onto ground feels his body relax just slightly. "Then let me go."
Dean shakes his head, "Not likely."
He pulls the trigger with the barrel of the gun just inches from the man's head, He feels the blood splatter cover his face and arms and backs quickly away, dropping the gun onto the dead man's chest.
A wave of nausea almost overwhelms him, and he staggers and almost falls down. Hunger and exhaustion taking their toll, he tells himself. Not the fact that he just shot a human in cold blood.
He uses the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe the blood from his face, and stands himself into an almost upright position. The temperature of the room seems to drop suddenly and Dean wraps his arms around his body against the chill. He can still see nothing but the grayish patch above his head, which means that if the room has windows, they are blocked. Which makes sense, considering what it was being used for. Or it is night time.
He allows himself a brief moment of triumph at the fact that he can use his eyes to tell him something, however simple. Then, reaching out his hands to prevent him from walking into anything, Dean starts looking for the door.
He begins by moving in the general direction that he knew his captor had entered from, and then, when he hits wall, following it around until he finds the exit.
He enters a room the is slightly less black. Relief washes over him at being able to see anything, if only a little light. Hands outstretched, he explores the new room until he finds another door. It is locked, but his captor helpfully thought to leave the key in the lock for him. He turns it, opens the door and steps through. He smells the outside air, feels the breeze on his skin.
He had no idea where he is. His kidnapped could have taken him anywhere while he was unconscious. Could have drugged him to keep him under. He could be at the other side of the country for all he knows. Or he could have just broken out of the room next door to theirs in the motel. Somehow, he doesn't think it's either of those.
He listens, his eyes remain open, still unable to make out anything of use. The sun is a patch of lighter shadow, low down. He doesn't know which direction he is facing, it could be just rising or just setting. The air feels too warm for morning. He reaches down and touches the ground. He is standing on grass, not a hint of the dampness of morning dew, the earth feels warm, still holding in the heat of the day.
So, evening. That puts it somewhere between maybe six and eight at night, he can't be sure of the sun's position and he can't remember what time it's supposed to set. He can't hear anyone around. No cars passing within earshot, no evidence of people. It might be a good thing, considering he is covered in blood, but he doesn't know where he is, and he doesn't know how to get back to Sam.
He takes a breath, "Hello?" There is no reply. Well, it was worth a try. His arms fold across his chest and fingers nervously tap on the tops of his arms. He turns, and very carefully walks back inside the house.
Sam can feel himself beginning to lose hope. The area they are searching is larger than he realized, and June was correct when she told them how many places there would be to search. A lot of the houses were occupied, and the owners didn't take kindly to two strangers arriving, asking questions.
"Looks like another building over there," Sam looks where Bobby is pointing and turns left. He doesn't hold out much hope, the cozy looking farmhouse has a picket fence and smoke coming out of the chimney. Half way there, his phone starts to ring.
Ha almost ignores it, but something tells him to pick up. Still driving, he reaches into his pocket, and retrieves the phone. He doesn't recognize the number. He answers.
Sam slams on the brakes, bringing the car to a sudden halt. "Dean?" Relief washes over him, he grips the phone tightly, as though afraid of dropping it. "Where are you? Are you all right? What happened to you?"
"Dude, one question at a time. I'm okay, I think. Getting there, anyway. No clue where I am, though. Somewhere remote, its pretty quiet anyway, can't hear any cars."
Bobby reaches out and takes the phone from Sam, putting it on speaker phone. "Dean, is there anything else you can tell us. We've managed to get a vague idea of your location, we're there now, but we're trying to narrow it down. Anything at all?"
There is a pause on the other end of the line and Sam checks the display to make sure Dean is still there. "It's a house," he says eventually. Haven't managed to find any food, but the water and phone are still working. I'd guess someone moved out recently, then our friendly neighborhood psycho found it, it probably doesn't look deserted or run down."
"That's great, Dean, anything else?"
"Yeah. I'm not going to go outside in case anyone's around, but I think there's some furniture around that I can throw outside. See if you can find a house with the door open and a bunch of chairs on the lawn."
He hangs up. Sam sits with the phone in his hand, just looking at it for a moment. The trance doesn't break until Bobby claps a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon Sam, lets find your brother."
Sam nods, and with shaking fingers laces the telephone back in his pocket. He turns the car around and drives.
Dean watches the sun set through the window with a sense of trepidation, seeing the first thing he has seen in so long grow darker and disappear into the horizon makes him wonder whether his captor told him the truth. Would his sight return, or was this it? The man had had no reason to do as he promised, in fact he had every reason not to do. He had to know that whatever he did, Dean wouldn't let him out alive.
The thought hummed around his head, a buzzing little insect of doubt, whispering that what if he had made it worse? What if...
The sound of a car outside snapped him out of his reverie, he got to his feet and rushed to the door. He could see headlights. He squinted and thought that maybe he could make out the front of the car as well. A door opened, and a voice called his name. It was Sam.
The sense of relief at the fact that something is finally going right washes over him like a tsunami. His knees give way and holding onto the door frame, it is all he can do not to fall over. Sam reaches him in seconds, crushing him into a strong embrace. Dean can see the his brother's silhouette in the glare of the headlights, and it is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.
"Dude," he pushes Sam away gently, "give me some air."
Sam backs off, "Are you okay?"
Dean nods, "I think so. I think... it's coming back. A bit at a time, but I can almost see you."
Sam doesn't answer. Dean resists the urge to reach out and touch him, make sure he is still there, then a choked response, "That's great, Dean. That's so great. Come on, lets get out of here."
Dean shakes his head, "There's a dead guy inside. I killed him. I think he's human."
Sam and Bobby get Dean safely to the car before they get to work getting rid of the body. The next thing Dean knows, he wakes up in bed. His eyes open, and he can see shapes and colors. One of the shapes moves towards him, he smells coffee and heard something being placed on the table next to the bed. "Can you see me?" Sam asks, nervously.
"Yeah," Dean can't stop the grin from from splitting his face. "Everything's still fuzzy, but it's definitely getting better."
He watches Sam move to the other side of the room and sit down. "Do you know anything about the man that took you?"
He shakes his head, nothing useful, "He was working for someone else, but I don't know who," He pushes off the sheets and gets out of bed. Light is streaming in from the window, he walks toward it and looks outside. "Whoever it is, she's really got it in for us."
Dean keeps looking out of the window as he hears Sam get to his feet and start to pack his bag, "What do you want to do?" Sam asks.
"For now, there's nothing we can do. Just keep an eye out for anything odd. But for today, I just want to do this."
He hears Sam pause, and pictures the incredulous look on his face. "What, look out of the window?"
"Yep. But preferably the window of the car. You're driving. But only until I can see straight again. Gimme a minute to get ready, then I want to get the hell out of this place."
Sam nods his agreement and smiles. Nothing sounded more appealing.