So here is the sequel to "Whatever you do, don't let go." Let's get over and done with all the official stuff first, okay?
Summary: We all know the movies in which the hero defeats even the strongest villains, narrowly escapes all kinds of danger, protects countless lives, gets the girl and single-handedly saves the world.
Real life is no movie.
In real life, the villains are often stronger than the heroes. In real life, sometimes you can't escape the danger but can only try to reduce the damage. In real life, you cannot save everybody, and real life isn't always about getting the girl.
It doesn't even matter whether or not you want to be a hero in the first place. When the time comes you have no choice but to carry the weight that's put on your shoulders. You single-handedly take it up to save the world.
Even if you're not entirely sure that those you love are fighting on the same side as you are.
Even if saving the world means going up against your own brother.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to my story "Whatever you do, don't let go". It is set a week after that story finishes, and it's a direct continuation of that first story. To understand "The Darkness Within", you should have read "Whatever you do, don't let go" first. Otherwise neither the story nor the references that are made to the events in the first story will make sense.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Supernatural. All characters belong to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is made with this story as it was written for entertainment purposes only.
Rated for some language and violence.
Chapter 1 – In the Darkness of the Night
Pain and darkness and darkness and pain…
A darkness blacker than black, impenetrable and suffocating and roaring, pulsing like a living, breathing thing that engulfed him…
…and heat. Heat so strong that it scorched the hair on his arms, in his neck and on his head. He could hear the sound of flesh sizzling in the invisible fire that was burning inside of him, eating at him, devouring him.
And there was something in the darkness…watching…lurking…
The darkness was alive.
And it was waiting.
Waiting for him.
…always watching. Waiting.
Preparing to strike.
Preparing to take everything he had. His body. Heart. Mind. Soul. Everything that counted.
In the end, the darkness would take everything.
Everything he was.
Everything he had.
Everything he loved.
And then he took a breath
and the darkness lunged –
Heart pounding furiously in his chest, he stretched out his arms, flaying at the darkness, trying to get a hold of that invisible something attacking him, but his hands only met nothingness. Darkness, all around him was darkness.
Something held him then, stilled the movement of his arms with a firm grip around his wrists, and Dean desperately struggled against that hold, pulling and pushing at his own arms in a vain attempt to get free. Because there was something in the darkness that was trying to get to him, trying to hurt him…
"Damn it Dean, open your eyes!"
The grip moved from his wrists to his shoulders, shook him, and he blinked, startled at the fact that the darkness vanished. He blinked a few times more, trying to blink some semblance of focus back into his world.
The first thing he saw was a pair of hazel eyes, inches from his own, watching him with that unbearable mixture of sadness, worry and fear in their depths that it didn't take anything else more for him to remember.
Bobby's. They were at Bobby's house, in the guest room, had been staying here for the past week. Ever since…
And the light came from the small lamp on the table on the other end of the room, their room never dark at night because the darkness freaked him out and he had frigging nightmares like a little child, nightmares that he couldn't tell apart from reality if he woke up and the room was dark.
So they kept a light on. The badass demon-hunting brothers were sleeping with a night light because big brother was afraid of the dark.
Breath still coming in panted bursts, Dean roughly shook his brother's hands away from his shoulders.
"Get off me."
Sam withdrew the hands, but he sat down on the edge of Dean's mattress and kept looking at him with that soul-deep ache in his eyes that Dean couldn't stand to see there.
"Dude, you ever hear of personal space?"
Sam rolled his eyes, but didn't move.
"Demi Moore table-dancing." He gave a fake shudder. "Shouldn't have watched that Striptease re-run. Now that's a horror movie if I've ever seen one."
"Dean." A frown line had appeared on Sam's forehead. "Don't."
Dean tiredly rubbed his eyes. "It's too early for this."
Sam shook his head. "We need to talk about this."
With a tired sigh Dean shook his head. "There's nothing to talk about. Dude, I'm twenty-nine years old. It was just a nightmare, I can handle it. Besides, it's not as if I remember anything, anyway."
Nothing except for darkness and pain and such a strong feeling of fear that it was a small wonder he hadn't pissed his pants to maximize the embarrassment.
But of course Sam wanted to talk about it, because Sam wanted him to share and care and talk about his feelings, and on the list of things Dean was willing to do at 3:15 in the morning, caring and sharing as well as heartfelt brotherly moments were nowhere near the top. They weren't even anywhere on the list.
But of course Sam didn't care about that. He kept on watching him with that expression that clearly said he didn't believe a word his brother was saying about how he was fine.
"This is eating you up from the inside, Dean. You haven't slept through a single night since we came back to Bobby's."
"I told you I'd sleep on the sofa, then I won't wake you up."
"It's not about waking me up!" Sam raised his hands in exasperation, then let them drop limply in his lap. "It's about what this is doing to you. Waking up in the middle of the night, screaming? Its wasting you away, and you can't tell me any different because it's the same thing you've told me after Jessica's death!"
Dean shook his head. "What do you want me to do, Sam? Do you want me to cry on your shoulder for an hour or two because I had a nightmare?"
"Not a nightmare. Nightmares. Plural. Every single night for the past week, you've woken up from them. That's not normal."
"Maybe not, but right now I'd say there's not really much we can do about it."
Sam bit his lip and Dean knew his brother's next words before Sam said them.
"Talk to me. If this is about what happened to you, about…about hell, I want you to talk to me. You don't need to bear this alone."
Dean shook his head, fatigue and exasperation fighting for dominance inside of him.
"Sam, I don't know how often I have to tell you. There is nothing to talk about. I don't even know what those dreams are about."
"They're bad, okay? I know that. But it's not like your visions. I know those dreams are bad, but that's about it. So even if I was in a caring sharing mood, which by the way I'm not, there is nothing to talk about. And even if you sit here all night and nag me, that won't change anything. So we can just as well cut this short and go back to sleep, because I hate to tell you, but you don't exactly look peachy, either."
Sam looked at Dean for a few seconds longer, long enough to make Dean start fidget uncomfortably. The dim light in the room was bright enough for Dean to make out the swollen purple bruise on the left side of his brother's jaw, a reminder of that very first night back at Bobby's when no lights had been on by the time Dean had scared himself out of his nightmare. He still didn't remember what he had confused his brother with, but waking in the darkness with hands restraining him, Dean had simply snapped.
And if he was honest, that scared him more than the nightmares.
The nightmares only left a lingering feeling of fear, but the fact that they confused him enough to hurt his own brother scared the crap out of him.
The next morning, Dean had announced that he was going to sleep on the sofa from now on to prevent a repeat performance of that night's fist fight. And Sam had told him in no uncertain terms not to be such an idiot and had left the light on from then on.
Which was frigging embarrassing.
He was twenty-nine years old. He had been hunting the things that go bump in the night for all his life. And now he was sleeping with a night-light on. It was beyond embarrassing.
But if it stopped Dean from rearranging Sam's face, he was willing to live with that embarrassment. And if Sam ever told Bobby or anybody else about it, Dean simply had to make sure that his body was never found.
He drew a deep breath and stretched back out on the bed.
"I don't know about you, but I'm beat. If you want to keep playing Dr. Phil for the rest of the night, at least do it in your own bed."
Dean deliberately turned his back towards the other bed, closed his eyes and fell silent. After a few seconds, the mattress shifted as Sam got up, and a creak followed by rustling sounds announced that he had gone back into his own bed.
"Night." Dean mumbled, doing his best to sound tired. He knew that he wasn't going to sleep for another minute that night. He never did after the nightmares. But for Sam's sake, he was willing to pretend that he slept, if only so that his brother would get some rest as well.
It wasn't easy, though. Years of living within a few feet of each other had tuned them in pretty well in on each other, so well that the smallest things out of the ordinary stood out like the proverbial pink elephant. And ever since Dean had…come back, for a lack of better term, Sam's internal sensors had only increased their fine-tuning.
Dean forced himself to relax, to go limp in feigned sleep and even out his breathing. No more words were spoken, but still it took nearly an hour until Dean heard Sam's breathing even out into soft snores as he fell asleep again.
It was only four in the morning, but Dean was wide awake. In the dim light of the bedroom, Dean stared at the wall beside his bed and tried to find out what was causing that gnawing feeling of fear in the pit of his stomach.
It had been a week.
A week since he had been released from the hospital, the place where he had woken up after Sam had brought him back from hell. It was still all a big clot of incomprehensible madness in his head, even though things had become clearer as the days passed. Dean now remembered pretty much everything that had happened in New Harmony, when they had tried to kill Lilith before his time had run out. The parts that he hadn't remembered on his own had fallen back into place once Sam had recounted them to him.
And even though Sam had been more than just vague on what had happened after the clock had struck midnight, that was one thing Dean didn't need his brother's reminders for. He remembered Lilith's attack on him, how she had set the hellhound loose and how its claws had shredded skin and flesh and bone. Dean could still feel the pain from the wounds, could hear his brother's screams echo in his ears and mingle with his own cries of pain, all in vivid and brutal clarity.
And then he had woken up in the hospital, and nothing had made sense anymore. Not really. He had gone to hell and come back, saved by the amulet his brother had given him years ago. An amulet he had always cherished because of the gesture and the person it had come from, not as a means to save his soul from damnation. But then again, hope sprang eternal, and sometimes it came from the least likely of all places.
Whatever that pendant had done, it had pulled his soul out of hell, and according to Ruby had put it into the limbo, the place in between, neither here nor there, to wait out as the story of his brother unfolded. Pretty ironic, considering that the limbo was Dante's first circle of hell. The place for the guiltlessly damned, and Dean was fairly sure that he didn't fit that description in any way.
Yup, nothing like the wee hours of morning to brag to himself with his knowledge. That Sam was the college boy didn't mean he was the only one with brains in the outfit. Sam was and would always be the geek and head researcher, but Dean was by no means stupid. And with his impeding damnation hanging over his head, who wanted to blame him for reading up on the concept of hell, trying to acquaint himself with the ideas others had of what it might be like. In fact, he had spent quite some time researching that particular fact. At night, when Sam hadn't been looking over his shoulder.
Not that it had helped him in the long run, or that he had any idea whether one of the descriptions of hell he had read about had been true or not. Because he didn't remember hell, or the limbo.
And while his soul had been hanging in the limbo, Ruby had guided Sam along the way, pretending to help him kill Lilith in order to save Dean. And then she had revealed herself for the turncoat she was. A big I told you so was on the tip of Dean's tongue whenever he thought about it, but he never brought himself to say it out loud. Sam worked himself up enough about it, Dean could tell. And if in the end her involvement had helped to bring him back, he really had no right to complain. Every fibre of his being revolted against that thought, but what was done was done and couldn't be helped anymore.
There were more important things to focus on right now.
Ruby had betrayed them, had killed Lilith to take her place, and she had tried to kill Sam. If anything, that last point was more than enough to put her on top of Dean's Most Wanted Dead list. Nobody tried to do that to his brother and walked away unscathed.
But there was something else about this, something he could not quite put his finger on. It was just a feeling. Whenever Sam had talked about Ruby's betrayal, Dean had been left with the feeling that there was a vital part to the story that his brother was leaving out. Sam of course denied that, in typical Sam fashion. But Dean knew his brother too well than to believe that.
There was something else to that story, and he didn't know what it was.
All he knew was that he had been to hell and had come back, and that nobody knew exactly how and why that had worked. That was already confusing enough, but the nightmares weren't helping any.
Sam suspected that Dean was having nightmares about hell, and in all honesty Dean thought so, too. But even if he wanted to, he couldn't possibly talk about them because he didn't remember them. He didn't remember anything about hell, or the limbo, either. All he knew was that the nightmares made him wake up screaming, his brother's name mostly, and that they left him with a lingering feeling of soul-wrenching fear that he couldn't seem to shake off even in his waking hours.
Dean turned onto his back, trying to keep his movements as natural and sleep-sluggish as possible. He had learned over the past couple of nights that even the slightest sound out of the ordinary woke Sam up.
Crossing his arms under his head, Dean stared up at the ceiling in the dim light of the lamp on the other end of the room.
He still didn't understand it. Didn't know if he would ever fully understand what had happened to him. But, and that was a thing he would never admit, not to anybody, and especially not to Sam, the mere thought that he had died, gone to hell, and come back, scared the living daylight out of him.
The only thing that was keeping him from brooding about this for too much was that they had work to do.
Ruby had betrayed them, and now they had to work as hard as possible to stop her from going through with her plan. Which, according to Sam, was as small-scale as bringing back Lucifer himself. Ruby wanted to bring back the devil, who seemed to have been absent from hell for decades and centuries, if not longer. They had no idea how she wanted to do that, but whatever she had planned, they had to stop her. And to do that, they had to find out how she was planning on bringing him back in the first place.
For the past week they had been digging through all accounts of hellish lore they could find. That demons had beliefs just like humans had not been a new revelation to either Sam or Dean. With what old Yellow Eyes had done to Sam, they had heard enough about it in the aftermath. Azazel's plans had been to become the demonic leader with a human as his second in command. But Ruby's plan was in another league entirely.
This was Lucifer, the devil in person they were talking about. And even though Dean still didn't know whether or not he believed in angels and all the good Christian lore, he had seen enough evil incarnate over the past decades so that the thought of the devil personified left him with more than just an unsettled feeling. Much more than that.
If they had ever needed to stop something, this was it.
But research was putting huge obstacles in their way. There were plenty of accounts of all kinds of apparitions. But Dean was hesitant to trust two-thousand year old eyewitness accounts claiming they had an apparition that told them something about the devil. There was tons of Christian lore around, but nothing so far had really helped them understand hellish lore. It was what demons believed, what they thought would bring Lucifer back, how they thought that it could be stopped, that was going to help Sam and Dean put an end to it.
But demons hardly ever left written traces, instruction manuals for the good guys to win the war. So Bobby was keeping his eyes open for signs of demonic activity. The next demon they identified and captured was going to go through a long round of interrogation before they sent its sorry existence back to hell. And until they could lay their hands on one, they were going to stick to Bobby's books, and whatever his contacts could come up with.
It didn't feel like they were doing enough. Whatever was coming towards them was big, and it felt as if nothing they did was ever going to prepare them sufficiently for it.
Dean's heart started beating faster in his chest and he felt sweat pop out on his forehead as the panic inside of him started to rise further.
No, not now. Not now.
It had happened before during those nightly hours of brooding. The feeling of fear never quite went away these days, it was always there, beneath the surface. It was stronger after the nightmares, overpowering nearly, but even once he calmed down it never quite went away. And when his thoughts went down the wrong road, when he brooded too much and tried too hard to remember what hell had been like, the fear broke free.
Dean couldn't control it, and that was the scariest part of it at all. His body went into fits of panic and it all was beyond his ability to control it. And it if the panic went out of control, racing heartbeat, frantic breathing and blacked-out vision included, Sam was going to wake up again thinking Dean had another nightmare. One embarrassment per night was enough, two nightmares in one night would make Sam resort to thumbscrews to make Dean talk about what was bothering him.
Rationally, he knew he was safe. While there were a lot of things to worry about, nothing was really posing a threat to him or Sam at this very moment.
But his body's reaction was beyond rational control.
The beating of his heart sounded like rapid thunder in his ears as Dean clawed the bed sheets with sweaty palms and white knuckles and screwed his eyes shut, taking slow, deliberate breaths.
No reason to panic.
Sam was still snoring softly in the bed a few feet to Dean's right, and Dean latched onto the sound, searching desperately for something to ground himself. Sam was there, there was no reason to panic. Dean listened to each of his brother's relaxed breaths, forcing his lungs to expand in the same rhythm.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out and in and out and in and out.
Dean didn't know for how long he had been lying there, imitating his brother's regular breathing, when Sam mumbled something in his sleep and turned around on the other bed. Dean exhaled one big breath and slowly opened his eyes again.
Sam was still asleep, and the panic was back in its box, for the moment tucked away into a dark corner inside of him. It was all he could ask for. 4:30 in the morning, and sleep was definitely out of the question by now. No sleep, and no thinking. Nothing but lying in the semi-darkness of the room, listening to Sam's deep and regular breathing, and hoping that the unreasonable fear was not going to rear its ugly head again tonight.
And so he lay there and waited, until it was late enough to justify getting up.
Thanks for reading. As always, please let me know what you think. Thank you.