Shades of Gray
AN: PLEASE READ!! Here's the last part. You have to remember when you read this part that this was actually part of the story arc, I had forgotten, there are references to Dean being possessed by the demon spawn of the bad guy whose name is Haris in another story and Sam doing what he thought was the right thing about it. It's not til the end and I apologize if it sort of confuses you but there was no way to change it without changing the ending. Sorry.
I'm so pleased at the response to this story and so many of you felt it was worth reading again. The last VS story will post next week. It's very dark, even for me and some people found the images in it disturbing so I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
Also ta for the support on the impaired Dean stories and apologies to the Sam girls for inadvertently seeming to ignore their understandable needs for the same thing. Writers, get with it! Sam and Dean need to be physically (or workably mentally) challenged. There can only be so many codas for NRFTW after all!
There's a market out there screaming for suppliers!
(So many things to choose from…so little tme….)
Breath knocked out of him by the sudden shove into the wall and the resultant press of angry bodies, Dean fought to regain his footing before he was crushed beneath the shuffling feet around him. Several others joined him on the floor, victims of randomly thrown punches and loss of balance.
He could barely hear above the shouting and screaming of the mob surrounding him. Using whatever hand holds he could get on the pant legs and jackets around him, he clawed his way upright only to get a solid punch in the jaw that threw him backwards again.
The tightly packed crowd did not allow him to fall far and even though his ears were ringing, he lashed out at the nearest face in a boil of anger, feeling the satisfying crunch of knuckles on bone.
A frantic voice over the PA screamed uselessly for order, but that only succeeded in adding to the existing din. Dean's boots slipped in a growing of puddle of blood and somewhere much too near him for comfort, a gun went off to the accompaniment of more screams. There was a concerted effort to back away from the sound but the mass of flesh left nowhere for anyone to go.
Trying to get his bearings and shoving against the surging throng in an effort to get to the door, he smelled the smoke at almost the exact second the flames began to crawl up the old projection screen.
What the holy frigging hell was happening?
The mayor, Reverend Haley, and assorted members of the city fathers abandoned ship with a vengeance, forcing their way into the crowd in an effort to get to the emergency exits, all still effectively blocked by other individuals either fighting each other or fighting to escape.
The building was old and it didn't take much for the screen to melt away and collapse in a burning heap onto the wooden stage. The leaping flames clawed at the moldy, floor-length velvet curtains sending flames shooting to the ceiling in one quick burst and from there to the fabric lined walls.
Using all of his strength, Dean forced his way through the packed crowd, smoke filling the air and obscuring his vision. People were still fighting around him, but now to get out of the building, trying to climb over one another, clawing madly for escape as the crackling flames spread through the interior of the old building.
As Sam made his way along the street, the smell of smoke becoming stronger, he could hear screaming and shouting ahead of him along with orders being shouted through a megaphone.
He could make out nothing semi-clearly more than three feet ahead of him. Using his hazy view of the fiery skyline as a target, he relied on his outstretched hands to guide him through the growing crowd of people. He was forced to stumble to a halt now and again as he was assaulted by more of the brilliant flashes across his own vision. Each unexpected burst sent him against the wall he was using as a support and guideline, hands clutched to his head.
He reached out and caught someone's shirt as they hurried past him, holding firm as they tried to jerk away. "What's burning?" he yelled.
"The theater!" The barked reply came. "They were having a town meeting and the building caught on fire!" The fabric was wrenched from Sam's desperate grasp.
Reaching out until he felt the solid roughness of the brick wall, he leaned there trying to think, finally doing what he should have done before and fingering open his phone. He hit the speed dial for Dean and held the phone to his ear, hunching over to try and block the increasing noise around him. The air was getting foul with smoke and it added to his difficulty in trying to see.
"C'mon!" he demanded of the phone, hanging up when it went to voice mail. "Dammit!" he spat.
Trying not to get knocked down by the people running past him, Sam pushed away from the wall and made his halting way toward the crowd gathering in front of the burning building despite the efforts of police and firefighters to keep them away. A strong stream of water began to spray on the front of the old building.
Fights were breaking out in the watching crowd even as smoke filled the street and panicked individuals stumbled screaming from the blazing theater. Sam could hear the crackling of the flames, his eyes now streaming from the acrid burn of smoke.
Without realizing it, he blundered into the edge of the throng and was instantly enveloped in the mob of fighting, yelling people, getting shoved this way and that as the crowd surged. People were stumbling and falling, being trampled underfoot as the mass of terrified people fled. Still half blind, Sam totally lost his bearings as he was pushed helplessly through the morass of out-of-control humanity.
Starting to panic, lost in the crush of bodies, smoke starting to gather in this throat and his eyes streaming, Sam did the only thing he could think of: He called for his lifeline.
"Dean!" Hoping that if Dean were close enough he would hear. "DEAN!"
In that moment, the firemen manning one of the hoses were ordered to turn it on the crowd in an effort to disperse them.
The cold pressure of the water blasted into the forefront of the crowd knocking them backwards and into each other like falling dominoes. Sam never knew what hit him as he was half-drowned by the icy flow and thrown to the ground, his head cracking against the pavement as he was buried under falling bodies.
Dean couldn't believe it when his phone buzzed against his chest. Of all the damn times for a phone call!
He was still trapped within the crowd trying to get out of the smoke-filled theater. People were packed at the door; too many trying to get out at one time, pulling each other bodily away from the openings. Dean had never seen anything equal to the panic he was witnessing. People were going to die needlessly. He reached out for a woman who fell in front of him but she was immediately lost under the forest of legs.
Burning fabric was peeling form the walls and falling into the already screaming mob, the flames licking the ceiling and setting the rococo ornamentation on the ceiling ablaze. The whole damn thing would be coming down in no time.
Pissed off now, with a strength born of desperation, Dean fought his way through the tightly packed crush, shoving when he could, hitting when he couldn't, until he managed to get to the doorway where at least twenty people were trying to push through an opening intended for two.
"Help me or we're all gonna die in here!" Dean yelled at one of the burly men next to him. His eyes were watering and it was getting harder to breathe. The man scowled at him but then seemed to understand Dean had a point.
Between them they muscled into the throng at the door and began to hold back enough people to allow a trickling stream of others to begin to escape. Resistance was strong and violent, but several more men joined Dean and his companion and gradually the crowd began to thin and coughing people staggered out into the street.
By the time the last of them filed out, some being assisted, the ceiling was burning in earnest and pieces were starting to crash to the floor. The heat was appalling and even as Dean hacked for air and wiped his eyes he knew the people still lying on the ground among the burning seats wouldn't be leaving.
Hating it, but knowing he had no choice, he turned and followed the last man out as the blazing old chandelier burned free of its fastening and crashed to the ground, sending skyrockets of fire throughout the room. Seconds later the rest of the ceiling joined it.
Dean stumbled away from the inferno behind him. Doubled over coughing, wiping at his eyes, he gradually realized that other than some muffled crying and sounds of pain, the huge group of people gathered in front of him were huddled against one another gazing at the ruin of the old theater and at each other with looks of shamed horror and confusion. A soft murmur was all that could be heard of the words that passed among them.
As he watched, many of the survivors began to fall into each others arms with cries of comfort and sorrow. The overwhelming air of fury and tension was gone and in its place was overwhelming loss.
Dean staggered to a lamp post and leaned against it, dragging his phone out of his pocket and snapping it open.
Missed calls: Sam
He automatically hit redial.
"You've reached Sam, leave a-"
Dean was dumbstruck. Shit!! He shot a look at his watch. It was 4:37. His heart went into overdrive as he put an instant scenario together.
He'd been gone for hours, Sam would have heard the sirens, maybe smelled the smoke. He was no fool and would have quickly put two and two together. He would have figured out Dean was in trouble and half-blind or half-dead would have gone to the spot where Dean was most likely to be. Right in the middle of it all.
"God, Sam!" he breathed. Sam was here, somewhere. He stepped into the street and screamed Sam's name, began to push his way through the weeping, confused throng, yelling Sam's name over and over. "SAM! Sammy!"
"Have you seen my brother? Real tall, long hair, he's here somewhere!"
One after another, the pain-twisted faces denied him.
"Please," he begged, "he's blind…I gotta find him!" Voice and hands shaking now as shoved his way through another knot of people.
Lying on the ground, soaking wet, shoulders being supported by an equally wet, heavy set man, Sam held a hand against his head, blood streaking the side of his face. He shifted uncomfortably, groaning.
Dean burst through and landed on his knees by Sam, clutching his arms. "Sam! My God, Sam! Are you okay? How did you get here?" He fingered through Sam's blood matted hair trying to find the source. "What happened? What the hell are you doing here? Why are you all wet?"
Sam blinked and stared up at Dean. "I'm okay….You didn't come back….I went after you…saw the fire…they hit us with a fire hose…I think…hit my head…" His face screwed up. "Is that everything…you asked?" He pulled his head away as Dean's fingers found a gash over his ear. "Ow!"
"Why didn't you stay at the motel, Sam? Are you nuts, you can't see!!" Dean was torn between anger that Sam had followed him, had gotten himself hurt – again -- and relief that he was there. He was safe and he was there.
"You've got on a blue shirt," Sam replied weakly.
"I know I've got on a—" Dean broke off in surprise. "Holy shit!" he choked. "Can you see me? See what I'm wearing?"
"Sorta," Sam replied, grimacing. "Help me up." Sam groped out for Dean's hand.
"I think he oughta see one of the paramedics," the man supporting him said.
Sam shook his head, clutching onto Dean's shirt, his blue shirt!, pulling himself into a sitting position. "I'm okay. I wanna get outta here."
Dean rose slowly accepting as much of Sam's weight as he could. "Sam, what happened?" He asked again, desperate to recognize the miracle of Sam's eyesight.
"Are you okay"" Sam asked instead as he and Dean moved slowly away from the wreckage of Riverside's citizens.
Dean laughed, then coughed. "Dude, I've never been better!" he replied truthfully. He tightened his grip around Sam's waist and walking slowly and carefully, led him back toward their motel.
"Hold still," Dean said softly, carefully washing the blood from Sam's hair so that he could assess the damage. "When did you start seein' better? Was it from the fall?"
"Ow! No. After you left, my headache got worse and all of a sudden I thought I was having a vision or something."
"Man, you shoulda called me back!" Dean exclaimed, parting Sam's hair with gentle fingers. "What were you thinking?"
Sam grimaced, trying not to pull away. "Honestly? It hurt so bad I wasn't thinking. I kept seeing these flashes, like a vision, but it was stuff that happened over the last couple of days. Like I'd seen it, but my mind was playing it back suddenly. And I started seeing colors again, my hand. Like looking through a weak telescope but still…"
He looked up at Dean and Dean felt a momentary thrill knowing Sam could actually see him this time. Maybe not perfectly but something made him feel the worst was over.
"Dean, all those people in the theater…all the people since this started, how many were hurt or killed?"
Dean sighed, dabbing antiseptic on the cut, which was long but not deep. "I dunno," He paused, staring past Sam. "I've never seen anything like it. It was…" He almost whispered; images that would haunt him as much as any supernatural event burned into his memory. "You think those shadow things caused all this?" he asked, moving his eyes back to Sam.
It was Sam's turn to look away. "After it was all over, everything…everyone felt different."
Dean, recalling the atmosphere of pain and sadness that had settled over everyone as the theater collapsed, killing God only knew how many inside that couldn't make it out, had died trying, had felt the change. "It was like whatever started it had gotten what they wanted." He shook his head. "We couldn't do a damned thing to help them." He placed the bottle of antiseptic on the table.
"I can't see them anymore," Sam said.
"See what?" Dean replied absently. He looked up, suddenly realizing. "You mean … " he couldn't help looking around himself. "Gone from me too?"
"I don't understand why they were hanging around me in the first place." He turned away, not sure how clearly Sam could actually see him. If a lie actually showed in your eyes. He was just glad they were gone.
"They're gone…or at least…" Sam shrugged. "If they're still here, I can't see them. But…I think they're gone." Sam fingered the bedspread.
"Why do you think they were here to start with?" Dean asked, as if Sam would know. "Where did they go if they're gone?"
Sam shook his head slightly. "Maybe they were finished here. They moved on." He let out a slow breath. "To the next town, I guess. This is so stupid," he growled in frustration. "Why be able to see the damn things and not be able to do anything about it?"
"I dunno, Sam. Maybe it was just a freak thing. Wrong place, wrong time, some one in a million combination of unrelated stuff," Dean rubbed his face. "Man, I'm tired. And we never did get to eat." Not that he was hungry now. He gathered up the first aid supplies and carried them back over to the kit.
Sam lay back against the bed and rubbed his eyes. Everything was still a little blurry but compared to the day before it was crystal. He was exhausted. He closed his eyes drowsily and listened to Dean repack the kit.
"You shouldn't have come after me, Sam." Dean said suddenly. "You're lucky you weren't hurt worse. Hell, Sam, you couldn't see, what did you think you could do?" Dean turned to glare at him. "You coulda been killed, Sam." His voice betrayed what his face couldn't show.
"Dean, all I knew was you had to be in trouble." Sam replied eyes still closed. "What happened to "if I see trouble brewing, I'll walk the other way?" he said sleepily.
Dean's eyes flickered and he looked down. "It didn't work out that way," he stated with slight twitch of is mouth. "I couldn't just-" his hand moved in a slight sweeping gesture.
"I know that, Dean. When I heard the siren's…I knew you were there." Sam sighed, his voice fading as he drifted on the edge of sleep. "I couldn't not go." His eyes might be better but the headache was zeroing back in. He was having trouble concentrating. "I was losing you, I had to make the deal…" he murmured, rolling to his side and nuzzling into the pillow. Facing the wall as the words left his mouth, his eyes snapped open in horror.
Dean laughed softly, going back to repacking kit.
I had to make the deal…the words playing back through his brain.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded, turning back to Sam's recumbent form, a frown creasing his forehead.
Sam blinked and stared at him. "What?" he said. Adrenaline flooded his bloodstream, making his heart race and his head pound.
Dean cocked his head and approached the bed. "You said you had to make the deal. What did you mean by that? What deal?" Dean enunciated the words clearly so there was no chance of Sam misunderstanding him.
"I didn't say that." Sam replied. "You heard wrong." He rolled completely over so that his face was buried in the pillow. Please, please, please…
Dean's fingers clawed into Sam's shoulder, not gently at all, and he was jerked over on his back.
"Hey!" Sam yelped.
Dean's eyes narrowed. "Talk to me." He said in a hard voice. "You talk to me, now."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Sam snapped with what he hoped was just the right amount of irritation.
"What did you do?" Dean breathed.
"Dean, I didn't do anything!"
"Don't lie to me! You think I can't tell? After all this time?" Dean's hands shot out and he grabbed Sam by the front of his shirt, dragging him up face to face as Sam struggled to get his footing.
He shoved uselessly against Dean's grip. Bigger he might have been and heavier but Dean was stronger and Sam knew it. Only death would pry Dean's hands from his shirt. Sam didn't need to see them clearly to know Dean's eyes were on fire. He'd scented a rat and he wasn't gonna quit until he found it. Sam tried to control his breathing but he already knew it was too late.
"SAM!" Dean ground between his teeth, lips curled back in a snarl. "You bastard, you tell me what you did!"
He shook Sam, face so close Sam could feel the wet heat of Dean's breath.
Sam couldn't look him in the eye. He'd known this day was gonna come at some point but hadn't prepared himself for now. Betrayed by his own mouth.
"Dean…I…I didn't have any choice…"
Dean released him so suddenly Sam fell halfway to the floor. Dean stood over him chest heaving, his face crumpled by stunned disbelief.
Sam pushed himself up, tried to speak, say something to make this better. "Dean, you were gonna die! We had to get that thing out of you! What was I supposed to do? There wasn't any other way. Haris-"
Dean stumbled back from him, as if Sam had become too foul to be near. "HARIS!" Dean shouted. "How could you? After everything we went through to get you away from him and you just give yourself to him for nothing?" Dean's voice rose to a scream of fury.
"It wasn't for nothing!" Sam screamed back. "It was for you!"
Dean stared at him. He snorted sarcastically. "And just what did you get for your money, there sport?" he snarled. "Now that your secret is out, tell me about this great deal you made in exchange for me!" Dean made a disgusted sound.
"Dean, I had to do something! You were gonna lose control, hell you were losing it, you still think I couldn't see it, couldn't tell? You were gonna hurt yourself, other people. Haris agreed to take his spawn back in exchange for me." Saying it fast didn't sound as awful. "But he gave me time Dean. 'Til my next birthday-"
"We can figure something out, Dean! I know we can. I tricked him out of the amulet … " Sam cut himself off in horror. Son of a bitch! Why hadn't he been born mute?!
Dean reared back, one hand clasping his necklace. "You what? Christ, Sam, this just gets better and better!"
Sam sighed. "Haris couldn't take his kid back as long as you had the amulet. It was protecting you up to a point but it was also keeping the demon prisoner. The only way to get rid of it was to remove the amulet." Sam raked his hair, wincing when he hit the cut from smashing his head on the pavement.
"Since I never take this off and you know why, just how did you manage that little trick?" Dean's teeth were ground so tightly together he almost couldn't get the words out.
Sam's eyes fell to the floor as he mumbled a reply.
Dean leaned forward, one hand cupped behind his ear. "I didn't quite get that." he barked.
Sam squared his shoulders and looked Dean in the eye. "I drugged you."
Dean's eyes became slits. "You what?" he whispered.
Sam's hands flopped ineffectually. "That night we went out for dinner and some drinks. I put ecstasy in your beer."
Shocked beyond words, Dean finally forced out a strangled, "You gave me a freakin' DATE RAPE drug?"
Sam hastened to reassure him. "It was just so you wouldn't remember that night! It was easy to get."
Dean was breathing heavily through his nose.
"When you were out I took the necklace off long enough to let the demon out but instead of giving it to Haris I tied it back on. He couldn't take it off you, so I figured it was okay."
"Okay?" Dean cawed nastily. "Dude, what the hell makes you think anything about this is okay?"
Sam stepped forward, hands out. Dean backed up further. "Dean, I had to do something!" he repeated again. "You would have done the same thing for me! Dean, you've given up everything, sacrificed everything for me. What was I supposed to do?"
Dean's eyes glistened suddenly and he laughed. "If I've sacrificed so much for you what makes you think I'd be grateful that you threw it all away?" His face twisted and he slammed his fists into this thighs. "Dammit, Sam! What should you have done? I wish to God you'd killed me, that's what you should have done. Compared to this at least then it would have been quick!"
Dean pressed a hand over his mouth, eyes darting around. He lurched to the table and snatched his jacket that still stunk of smoke and jerked it on, wiping roughly at his face.
"Dean, please…where are you going?" Sam reached out, catching Dean's arm.
Dean jerked away like he'd been burned. "I can't believe you did this, Sam," he choked. He opened his mouth to add more but nothing came out and he finally shook his head and jerked open the door, throwing himself into the smoky darkness.
Sam jumped at the door but Dean was already lost to his still blurry eyes. "DEAN!"
Behind him, Dean's phone, abandoned on the bedside table, began to ring.
Dean had walked to the bar, knowing if he got behind the wheel of his car he'd wrap it around a telephone pole. And damn if there wasn't some appeal in that idea right now. He was so angry, the two miles to the small tavern at the edge of town, the only one, vanished in record time beneath his boots.
His mind reeled with what Sam had told him; anger gradually being replaced by hurt, disbelief and a staggering sense of betrayal. After everything that had happened all these years, everything that had been done, that he had done to keep Sam safe, all of it had been washed away in an instants thoughtless act. How could he have done such a stupid, stupid thing, Wasted himself. For nothing. NOTHING!
Dizziness overwhelmed him and he reached blindly for one of the trees along the road, leaning his body against the rough bark, feeling it scratch the skin of his face. Giving him something real to anchor himself to. If he'd had anything to eat it would have been on the grass by now. He hung there hands over his face, breathing deeply. Gradually his head cleared and he finally pushed away, walking slower, his destination a glowing haven a short distance away.
What in the name of God was he supposed to do now?
Sam was sure by the time he got to the phone the damned thing would have quit ringing, but no such luck. His head was about to blow into pieces.
"What?" he groaned wearily.
"Sam?" a gruff voice replied.
Sam snapped upright. "Dad"
Dean looked up as a shadow fell across him. His table was littered with shot glasses but he was still cold sober.
"Go away, Sam," he said, rolling an empty glass under his fingers, looking away.
Sam glanced around, the bar was deserted. He guessed everyone was home recovering from the days events.
"Can I sit down?" Sam asked softly.
Dean moved his head slowly back and forth. "No," he said flatly.
Sam nodded. "Okay. You're mad at me."
Dean's eyes flicked up briefly.
Sam nodded again. "Okay… you're furious with me. I can understand that. But, Dean, what I did, I'm not gonna apologize for it. I'd do it again. Right now."
Dean snorted. "I'll bet you would," he sneered.
Sam closed his eyes and counted softly to himself. "I know you think I threw myself away for an unworthy reason. But I didn't. I need you to know that. Where is me trading myself for you with a chance of maybe being able to fix it worse than letting you die or become one of the things we hunt? And then there's no one to save me. I couldn't let that happen to you. I'm sorry I had to drug you to do it, but I knew you'd never go along with what I wanted to do." He shrugged. "I don't know what else to say. It's done, Dean! Like it or not, we have to deal with that reality. You can hate me, if that's what you have to do, it's okay. I understand."
Sam had nothing more to say.
After a moment Dean lifted his gaze and fixed it on Sam, tilting his head slightly. His eyes were bloodshot and the look on his face and what he saw in those haunted green eyes tore into Sam like the jagged edge of a knife.
He would have preferred the hate.
Finally, Sam drew in a breath and held out a piece of paper with some information scribbled on it.
"Dad called after you left. He's got a job for us. Some place in Tennessee."
When Dean made no move to take the slip of paper Sam pulled it back and shoved it in his pocket. He nodded his head toward the empty booths lining the opposite wall. "I got the car. I didn't really have any trouble seeing to drive here. When you're ready, I'll give you a ride back to the motel."
Dean just continued to stare at him.
Sam moved away, turning back at the last moment to add something to his statement. He blinked, reaching up to rub at his eyes as he saw a slither of darkness move across Dean's face. It was gone in an instant. So fast Sam wasn't sure he actually saw anything.
He hesitated, looking into Dean's flat gaze. "Never mind," he murmured, continuing to the booths and sinking into the furthest one from Dean, shaking his head when the bartender asked what he'd have.
Dean's eyes never left him.
The shadowy silhouette draped over Dean's shoulders, shifted slightly before settling in like a contented cat, its eyes barely discernible as a faint red glow, unseen and unnoticed.