Thanks to Starliteyes as always for making this readable.

The Burn

I can feel it in my back first-- clenching and knotting with tension--the burn of strong, overworked muscles crying out for relief. It crawls down into my biceps, straining and burning, until it feels like my skin is going to split apart and peel away. I ride the wave, bite down my reluctance and pull the wire tighter. Razors slice my palms open, cutting sinew and gouging at the tiny bones in my hand. The burn turns to fire and I think of Jess.

Gordon's teeth are strikingly red against black skin, that is graying with blood loss. His eyes bulge out of his sockets, so round and white they remind me of huge freshwater pearls. The thin wire slices through skin and muscle like butter, catching on bone and grizzle. I think he might be dead, but I'm not sure because his red teeth are still grinning at me skeleton- wide and his eyes are staring into mine.

The burn is back, spreading to my hands. It isn't the same as the good solid ache in your muscles when you work them hard. It's more of a sulfur burn—an evil burn. The rags I wrapped my hands in are drenched with blood, but I can't tell if it's mine or Gordon's. Everything seems to be coated in red. The wire, our clothes, our skin. Even Gordon's eyes are red now as small blood vessels pop.

I grunt, putting all my strength into pulling the wire tight. It holds taut for a second before giving way with a sharp snick and a wet plop. Gordon's head rolls loose and falls to the floor. Dust poufs up in a little cloud and I think of hot summer days. It lands face up and he's still grinning at me. Grinning at me like he's getting ready to offer me lemonade. Grinning at me like he knows my secret.

The burn in my arms and back lessen, but my hands are on fire. I cover up the pain, grimacing at Dean as we head out the door. At the car I wash my hands off with holy water and the burn flares white hot behind my eyelids. I bite my lower lip to hold back my cries and I can't help but to think that the salty tang of blood tastes great. I suck on it a little and crawl into the passenger seat, suddenly unaccountably weary.

Dean wants to look at my hands when we get back to the house we are shacking up in, but I wave him off and go into the bathroom to wrap them up. There's no running water and we have a bucket in the corner to flush the toilet. I pour some more holy water on the wounds, ignoring the tears streaming down my face. I clean up and walk out into the common room like a zombie. I fall face-first into the old, bare mattress and fall asleep. I can feel Dean's eyes on me the entire time. I think I can feel them even when I'm asleep.

The burn stays, even though the muscles are healed and my skin has knitted together by morning. It's in my blood now, I can feel it. It's spreading up my arms, and into my chest. My heart is beating, sluggish and slow, churning like a tired old tugboat in polluted waters. The burn is so hot that it's cold and I shiver in the mid afternoon sun.

Sound bears down on me from all directions. I can hear critters in the woods several hundred yards away as they scurry through the leaves. Dean's beside me, working on the Impala and every movement he makes sounds like a battalion of marching soldiers. He asks me for a beer and I cringe at the sound.

The worse thing is that I can hear his blood. It's rushing beneath his skin like a tidal wave. Roaring, pounding, singing a siren's song. It sounds so refreshingly cool that I have to swallow down the extra saliva in my mouth.

I take a swig of beer, but the burn has moved into my throat and no matter what I drink I can't seem to quench my thirst.

Dean's asking me if I'm okay and I nod. I know I look like Hell. My skin is gray, and my eyes are bloodshot. White brackets have formed around my mouth from swallowing down my screams. I hunch inside myself, hoping he won't notice, knowing that he will. Dean always takes care of me. He's always been there. There has never been anything that he hasn't done for me. He even sold his soul to save me. That's what big brothers do. That's why I've worshipped him since I was four.

I look up at the darkening sky, narrowing my eyes against the falling sun. Ribbons of twilight are spreading along into the dark places, but I can see with perfect clarity. A bat swoops by, and I watch as he leaves trails of yellow vapor behind him. The world is beautiful now. I have always lived in the dark, but I was never able to see the loveliness of it before.

I swallow a thick burr in my throat, and I slick my tongue against the roof of my mouth, looking for a drop of something wet to ease the burn. The fire in my blood eases, leaving me comfortably chilled. Blood oozes through my veins and my heart only beats once or twice a minute. It's better that way. Without the constant distraction of my own vitals I can hear the rest of the world with perfect clarity.

I take another sip of beer, gagging on the sour taste before throwing the bottle away from me. It lands with a thunk half a field away. The air shifts over my skin, feather light and delicious as Dean turns towards me. I can feel his eyes on me. The same look he's had since I killed Gordon. Its sorrow and acceptance rolled into one. It would break my heart, if my heart wasn't such a solid hunk of frozen meat in my chest now.

I love my brother. That hasn't changed. Lots of other things have changed, but not that. He's my hero, my best friend-- the one person in the world that I can rely on no matter what. He's taken care of me when I was sick, tormented me when I was healthy, and always, always protected me. I love him so much, yet I can't help but to wonder what else he would give if I just asked.

I look up at him standing by the chrome bumper of the Impala. Darkness has crept in, trying to engulf him in a protective blanket, but I can see right through it. His eyes are green and dark, his mouth thin with worry. He grips a greasy wrench in his hand until his knuckles grow white.

His blood rushes faster, nearly deafening me. His heart beats in a beautiful tempo that makes me ache with the need to be nearer to it.

I yank my eyes away from his, forcing myself to move to my place beside the passenger door. Suddenly, my head feels heavy, and the burn in my throat is like acid. I drop my forehead to the smooth, cool roof of the car, resting it there while swallowing down tears. The scrap of gravel as Dean moves closer to me abrades my ears and I cringe. I want to tell him to run, to get as far away from me as possible; but I know that it's hopeless.

"Dean, I'm so thirsty."

My voice is ragged, rough with the burn, and it barely sounds like me. I close my eyes against the pain, wondering once again if there is anything Dean won't give me.