Just a warning: this chapter is all over the place. It's about to hit the fan real soon, and there were some things that needed to happen first. We've got some bonding, some plotting, and lots of worry.
And for those of us who need it, some nekkid Dean thrown in for good measure. Bon appetit!
"I heard you the last seven times," Jess teased as she pulled away from the mirror briefly, tweezers still in hand, to peer at the prone Winchester on the bed closest to the door. From her vantage point in the bathroom all she could see of him was his legs.
"Well I'm even more bored now than I was then," he pouted. "What're you doin' in there anyway?"
"Preening," she replied, yanking a stray hair from her brow and squinting closer to the mirror to look for any wayward friends in need of plucking.
"You mean you don't wake up looking hot?" Dean griped from the other room. "You're shattering my illusions."
"Had to happen some day. I hate to tell you this, but I also do number one and number two in here sometimes."
She heard the sound of Dean shifting on top of the blankets.
"Hey, you've obviously got me mixed up with Sammy. He's the resident prude of the Winchester clan. You know he swore up and down, right up until the time he left for Stanford, that he didn't masturbate?" Dean snorted a laugh. "Forgetting of course that we shared the same freakin' cell in whatever sleazebag motel we were stayin' at for eighteen years, but hey! Sure thing, Sammy."
Jess could hear him chuckling at memories of times past.
"What the hell is taking him so long, anyway?"
"Maybe he needs a break from you," she shouted, grinning at her own reflection when he didn't immediately reply.
"Isn't that how he met you?"
Jess did not like the bitterness in his tone, and if he'd been standing she was sure his shoulders would have slumped with his latest remark. Well enough of this, she thought. Moping and bitching was not her style, and she had no tolerance for it in others, and certainly not in the brave little toaster in the next room, who'd already been through enough already. Squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath, she marched out of the bathroom and stood at the foot of Dean's bed, towering over him in what she hoped was an intimidating pose. He lay on his back staring up at her quizzically.
"So is this it?" she asked, challenging.
"Is this what?" He squinted at her in confusion.
"The 'real you'? 'Cos for a while there I thought you were like this... unbreakable superman type, slaying vampires without access to your trusty weapons cache and withstanding torture for months without even breaking a sweat. But your little brother going away to college is the straw that broke the camel's back, I guess. That was the earth-shattering event The Great Dean Winchester couldn't handle?"
She watched almost in amusement as his squint turned into a frown.
"Are you mocking me?"
She rolled her eyes with exaggerated care. "Well duh!" When he huffed a mirthless laugh she continued. "Dean, your brother didn't go away to college to get away from you. He went away to college because he had dreams."
Jess was at least glad to see that she had his undivided attention, those captivating green eyes of his locked sharply on hers.
"I don't..." she stumbled, "I don't know what it was like in the real... well, where you came from? But I'm guessing some things were at least partly the same. Like, Sam went to Stanford and met me... And I'm guessing that means he left hunting. Left you and your father."
Again Dean huffed, averting his eyes with a turn of his head and a wide, almost pained smile. Then he draped an arm lazily over his forehead, shielding his eyes casually, though it was obvious from the way he played at being casual that he was feeling tense and sullen. The topic of Sam leaving was not an easy one for him.
"It wasn't because of you," she assured him, softening her voice a bit. "You're his brother, Dean. Sam loves you. It's just..."
"Oh God, shoot me!" Dean moaned, yanking the pillow out from under his head and tossing it at Jess like a puffed up missile. "Can we stop with the touchy-feely crap? I think I'm gonna hurl again!"
"And I'm hungry!" he griped. "Where's Sam with our damned food?"
"Touchy feely?" Jess pressed, arching an eyebrow. "I'll show you touchy feely you emotionally repressed egomaniac!"
"OW!" His half-grunted, half-yelped exclamation of pain when all one hundred and thirty pounds of Jessica Moore's weight suddenly impacted with his stomach, knobbly knees grinding into his belly as she pounced like a cannonball on top of him.
"Jesus you're heavy! Oof!"
The wind was knocked out of him anew as she attempted to crawl off of him, flopping onto her side on the bed so she could more easily kick at him with her legs.
"Suck it up, Superman!" she crowed, flailing strong-thighed legs as she attempted to kick him off the bed.
"What the hell are you doin', you blonde Amazon freak?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" she panted. It was getting harder now to shove at him with her feet because he'd begun to shove back. "I'm kicking you off the bed because I'm sick of your damned moping!"
Dean wasn't a talker, that much was clear. He was a physical being: he experienced life through his body, both the pleasure and the pain of it. It was probably why he got so much out of sex and food. Emotions weren't his thing. So he responded to physical things, physical threats, physical contact. He was like one of those medieval knights who proved truth with his body. Well fine! Jess was going to reach him on his level.
"I am not moping!" His indignant retort was followed up with an impressive foot-shove that sent Jessica sliding backward along the bedspread.
"Sorry," she taunted, jabbing him in the gut with her goes. "I guess my invitation to the Pity Party was lost in the mail then!"
"Screw you!" he barked and blocked a kick that came dangerously close to his groin.
"You think I won't hit a girl?" he asked archly.
Her smirk widened, her eyes glinting.
"You think I won't humiliate a girl?" he amended.
And that's when Jess gulped, realizing too late that maybe she'd bit off more than she could chew.
"Damnit!" Bobby hissed, snapping his cell phone shut with an angry hiss.
John peeled his weary frame away from the beat-up old Camero and peered intently at his new hunter friend.
"What is it, Bobby?"
"We gotta go," Bobby replied curtly. "Let's grab our stuff and shag ass. Now."
"What?" John barked. "Why? What about the stuff we were going to get for the ritual –?"
"There ain't time!" Bobby began pacing nervously. "What we got's gonna have to be enough."
John narrowed his eyes dangerously, his voice coming out low like gravel crushing slowly under tires.
"What the hell is going on, Singer? Is it my boys? Are they okay? Is it Dean?"
The grizzly old mechanic pulled the faded ball cap off of his head and ran a weary hand over his brow, replacing the cap with a heavy sigh.
"We gotta get to 'em, John."
"What is it?" John demanded, grabbing the man by the scruff of his shirt and pulling him into his personal space. "What the fuck is happening?"
"Omens, that's what," Bobby snarked, snatching himself free of the angry ex-marine's grip. "Demonic omens. I been keepin' track of some signs startin' on a few months now, an' I think I picked up some patterns... Called a friend – she knows a fella who's kinda a genius with computers, if you can keep him sober long enough – and she just called to say that there are signs of demonic activity in Lawrence, Kanzas."
"Lawrence." John positively gulped.
"Lawrence," Bobby repeated.
"It's gotta be the vengeance demon," John mused, pinching his lip between his fingers. "It's after my boys! It's after Dean!"
"More'n likely," Bobby agreed. "Which means we gotta haul ass, ya idjit."
John leapt to action as though he'd been zapped with a thousand bolts of electricity, springing to the passenger door and pulling it open with a loud, plaintive creak. He threw his whole body into the car and fastened the seatbelt with an angry thrust.
"I don't understand this, Bobby." His voice was a growl. "I thought those charms Isaac and Tamara gave them were supposed to shield them from the demon. How the hell did the demon find them? How does it know they're in Lawrence?"
Because no matter how much John would have liked to convince himself that maybe this wasn't their demon, that maybe his boys were in fact safe, he couldn't deny that Lawrence immediately spelled trouble. If the demonic omens were appearing anywhere else John might have conceded that it could be some other demon, up to some other evil plans. But not in Lawrence. Lawrence was where the Winchesters were born – where Mary had died. Dean would have gone to Lawrence, gone back to find his roots, maybe, and if the demons were there that could only mean that evil had found him.
"I don't know," Bobby admitted. "Maybe they lost them hex bag charms. Or maybe the demon's got some other way of findin' 'em. But it looks like they're closin' in. And we got more'n eight hours of road ahead of us and not one minute to spare."
Sam slid the keycard through the swipe panel while holding a leaking paper bag that was dripping someone's Chinese food under one arm and balancing a cardboard cups-holder with brim-full Cokes in the other. The delicate balancing act was made all the more difficult when he tensed up at the sound of pain-filled squealing coming from inside. Kicking the door open, he launched into the room, dropping the sopping bag of food with a paper-tearing thud and careening to a halt at the most bizarre and inconceivable sight he'd ever seen:
Jess lying face-down on Dean's bed, her arm twisted behind her back, with Dean perched dangerously on top of her, pinning her in place even as she kicked with impossibly long legs at his back, thumping him between his shoulder blades as she squirmed and squealed.
"What the hell are you doing, Dean?"
Dean didn't even have the grace to look ashamed or embarrassed. If anything, he looked determined, proud, and kind of fierce.
"You're hurting my arm!" Jess's muffled voice shouted through the pillow.
"Good!" Dean taunted, shoving her face deeper into the pillow with his free hand.
"Dean! Get off of her!" Sam ordered, thundering.
"No way!" Dean scoffed. "Dude, she kicked me in the jewels!"
"Can't... breathe..." Jess's voice moaned quietly through several inches of cotton batton.
Smirking, Dean released her head, allowing her to gasp a breath of air as she tilted her head back.
"Kick his ass for me Sam!" Jess shouted, earning her another face-shove into the pillow.
"I said get off her Dean – now!"
Dean just looked at Sam like he had three heads.
"Nuh-uh, Sammy. Your girlfriend here doesn't play fair."
Sam set the drinks down on the table and stalked towards the bed.
"What. The Hell. Are you doing?"
"Jesus, will you calm down?" Dean scoffed. "We're only playin'."
"Can't... breathe..." filtered weakly through the pillow again. Right on cue, Dean released her head. Jess gasped for breath and was promptly smothered to the pillow again.
"Your girlfriend attacked me, man," Dean said incredulously. "One minute she was goin' all emo on me talkin' about how much you love me, and the next she's on top of me, kickin' at me with those freakishly long legs of hers." He paused and smirked. "Personally I think she was just trying to cop a feel. I mean, I know I'm irresistible but come on!"
"You wish!" Jess shouted defiantly through the pillow.
Sam huffed loudly.
"All right, you proved your point Dean – now let her go. I mean it!"
Dean looked like he was about to argue, pursed his lips in search of a witty rejoinder, paused, and inevitably shrugged. Casual.
"Whatever," he said at length, springing up from the bed with cat-like grace and speed so that Jess couldn't land a single slap, hair-pull, punch or kick in retaliation. "I'm freakin' starving anyway. Where's the food?"
All three heads turned to the leaking bag of discarded Chinese food on the floor.
Despite its ill treatment in Sam's haste to rescue his damsel in distress, the Chinese food was still edible. Some of the flavour from the Mu Shu Pork had leaked into the Kung Po Chicken, but Dean really was starving, having thus far been 0 for 2 in keeping down any of his meals that day. He was hoping the third time was the charm because his hip bones were starting to stick out a little and he'd noticed the tight, slightly pinched look of his face.
"So what're we up to tonight then?" Dean asked through a mouthful of Szechuan noodles.
Sam chewed on it, both literally and figuratively, considering their options as he chomped contentedly on his dinner, and then swallowed, freeing himself to reply.
"Thought we could order a movie or something," he shrugged. "Maybe play cards...?"
"Most hotels you can order movies that are still in theatre," Jess added brightly.
"Yeah. We can take it easy," Sam went on. "Be ready to head back to Missouri's in the morning..."
Dean rolled his eyes.
"Why I thought you'd be less of a grandma in this reality than the other one is beyond me," he said tiredly. "Dude – I've been locked up for months. Let's go out!"
He didn't miss the weary, worried glances exchanged by the newly engaged couple.
"Dean..." Sam sighed.
"Just for a few hours, man," Dean offered. "Play some pool, have a few beers. You and Jess can have a break from me."
Jess's eyes hardened.
"You wanna go another round?" she warned.
Dean turned his palms up, his fingers curving up and inviting, urging forward in a 'come and get it' motion.
"Give it your best shot, Tinkerbelle."
"Dean, I don't think it's a good idea," Sam said wearily. "The demon's still out there and it's looking for you."
"All the more reason for me to be on the move, Sammy!" Dean's eyes were bright, his face hopeful. "You know, hide in plain sight. Stayin' here we're just sittin' ducks, man."
"And this has nothing to do with the fact that you're feeling stir crazy?" Sam queried.
"Course it does," he admitted. "But it doesn't mean I'm wrong. Look, I think we could all use a night out. Just a few hours of some good clean fun."
It was Sam's turn to snort.
"There's nothing clean about your kind of fun."
"Well you're right about that," Dean admitted, grinning wistfully at memories of some good dirty fun he'd had in times past. "But I promise I'll stay out of trouble." And it was so many kinds of wrong that he was making concessions to his little brother to stay out of trouble, as if he had to behave for Sam, as if Sam was the one in charge.
"I don't know, Dean..."
"Just for a couple of hours," Dean wheedled. "You'll feel better – I'll feel better. Everyone wins!"
Sam worried his lip as he considered.
"Maybe we should go just for a little while," Jess conceded, for which Dean was eternally grateful. "I think it would be good for Dean."
"See, Sammy?" Dean grinned. "It'll be good for me. A few hours to have some fun, reconnect with my little brother again..." He was genuinely smiling now, crinkling his eyes at the corners, and he did that so rarely Sam could feel his resolve melting. "Huh, Sammy, whaddya say?" He gave Sam a hearty slap on the shoulder, grinning too big for Sam's heart to do anything other than swell up.
It was that final 'Huh?', with that damnable grin, and those too bright eyes, that did him in. Sam cursed his brother for being so charming, remembered reading somewhere that charm was a weapon in most serial killers' arsenals, that it was always safest to consider the word 'charming' as a verb instead of an adjective – you're being charmed; this man is using charm against you, his mind screamed.
"Haha! Excellent!" Dean beamed, clapping his hands together in victory and rising from the table with a loud chair squeak. "I'm just gonna grab a quick shower and then we can head out."
Sometimes Sam found he had no defences against his brother, and wondered idly if he fared any better in the other reality. Somehow he doubted it.
It was time to dismantle the clock. That incessant ticking, like the steady clicking of a pendulum striking doom on each swing, a metronome tick-tocking the minutes and hours and days that brought him further from his revenge when it was supposed to be bringing him closer. He might have lost his mind – was fairly sure he had – because the closer he got to breaking Dean Winchester the closer he came to an eternity in Hell. A sane man would run from that, right?
But Edgar Walpole was so far removed from that. With nothing but the taste of ash on his tongue, bile in his throat, and tar in his heart for the past four years, this world and all its charms held no meaning to him anymore. Revenge was all he could think about: what he breathed, ate, slept, dreamed. It stalked his conscious and unconscious mind. He wanted to feel his enemies' pain – wanted to taste it on his tongue, that sickly copper of blood, the fluid bubbling rush of someone else's anguish. He wanted to feel bones crack beneath his fingers, he wanted to see a soul flee in utter ruin and despair. He wanted to crush the Winchesters, starting with that cocky sonofabitch Dean for daring to touch his daughter, for dragging her into this nightmare for nothing more than the satisfaction of his own rapacious lust. He wanted to watch him writhe and squirm and beg and break, and then he wanted it all to bleed onto John – the original sinner.
And as the clock ticked mutinously overhead, Walpole could feel it all slipping through his fingers, could feel his chances passing him by as the Winchesters no doubt worked on a way to reverse the wish. They were running out of time: the demon was running out of time. If they didn't catch Dean soon, they might lose their chance forever.
He'd been so close! They'd had him, had been breaking him, had almost broken him. Walpole had seen it in his eyes – the look of one lost, desperate, afraid. All of Dean Winchester's bravado gone and a frightened little boy left in his place, begging, crying for his mom who burned on the ceiling in his living nightmare of drug-induced hallucinations. He'd cried for his father to save him, begged for him to come and rescue him. But most of all, he'd cried for his little brother Sammy. So pitiful, so broken, that desperate need to protect his baby brother, and some already damaged party of his psyche that felt he'd let the kid down. It had been too delicious to watch him squirm in his restraints, crying out at visions in the dark that only he could see, begging for forgiveness for having let Sammy burn. It made Walpole shiver with the need to bring him back to the brink and push him over into oblivion. Just one push...
The trilling of the phone at his desk startled him from his dark, brooding thoughts. He answered it with a snap.
"You don't sound happy to hear from me," the demon teased from the other line. "When I come bearing good news and everything."
"You've got him?" Walpole asked, daring to hope, his breath catching in his throat in anticipation.
There was a heavy sigh from the other line.
"Not yet," it admitted. "But I've enlisted some... help, you could say, from someone who's been keeping tabs on the Winchesters for quite some time now. Seems they've been on Hell's radar for a few decades and some of my friends downstairs were more than happy to offer their services."
"Then you know where he is now?" he pressed.
"We do," the demon assured him, its borrowed voice confident. "We're closing in to collect tomorrow, if you cared to join us."
"Just tell me where I need to be." And it came out as a hiss, because he could feel himself coiling like a spring, ready to let loose with fangs and venom, ready to sink his teeth in and drink deep until there was nothing left but ash and bile.
"I thought you might," the demon simpered. "Then you'll want to take the next flight to Lawrence, Kansas, my friend. Soon enough we'll all be collecting what's ours."
And Dr. Edgar Walpole sighed deeply in contentment when he disconnected the call, feeling relief at the demon's words with all that it signified – even Hell. Because Hell he could stand. In fact, part of him longed for it. It was knowing that the Winchesters were out there that ate at his soul and denied him rest. He longed to see this wish to its conclusion. Would happily pay the price.
Sam didn't want to admit it but he was having a good time. The music was a little loud, and the bar a little too crowded and entirely too smoky, but the atmosphere was light, the mood boisterous and rowdy in a friendly kind of way, and Dean was smiling at a hundred watts, resting leisurely against the bar with a beer in one hand and a very pretty redhead nuzzling against his side, whispering something into his ear. She'd discovered him earlier, bent over the pool table lining up a shot, and had won her way to his heart (or more accurately, his groin) by giving his ass a hearty squeeze and ruining his shot.
Sam grinned despite himself at the way his brother threw his head back and laughed at whatever naughty joke his flavour of the evening had just shared with him. It was nice seeing him so relaxed. Sam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his brother relaxed. He tried not to think about it, but his mind was replaying a constant loop of images of Dean dressed in hospital clothes, pale and desolate, eyes staring vacantly ahead, arms and legs strapped to a bed. And that had been reality for the last four years, hadn't it? As far as Sam knew, that's what Dean's life had been – life inside concrete walls and barred windows, medicated and restrained and enclosed... trapped. It didn't matter that the Dean he saw before him came from a different life. The horror of Golden Brooke, and Stafford before it, had been reality for Sam – Dean's life as an inmate and patient behind those cold walls with calculating and concerned doctors had been reality for Sam.
Which made moments like this one bittersweet. He wanted to give Dean this moment because he felt all too keenly how much he needed it. More than that, though, he felt he owed it to him. Reality or not, illusion or fabrication, it had been real for Sam. And he needed to see Dean happy right now, needed to see him smiling and socializing and laughing and interacting like a normal human being.
But there was a demon out there looking to drag Dean back to that hell and that threat was all too real. And when Sam saw little Miss Redhead take Dean by the hand as if to lead him out of the bar, Sam felt a spike of panic stab him through the gut.
"Ummm... Do you think we should...?" Jess trailed off, giving her boyfriend a rather insistent nudge in Dean's direction.
"Yeah," Sam replied.
With his long legs he was at Dean's side, standing like a barricade of man meat, within seconds, Jess flanking him on his left. Dean's smile faltered for a fraction of a second, his gaze swinging briefly toward his companion and then back to Sam with a question in his eyes.
"Hey man," Sam said, attempting at casual. "We were thinking maybe it was time to head back." He smiled politely at the girl with the flaming hair and tried not to grimace when she winked at him.
"Well we were thinking of heading back to my place," she purred in Dean's ear.
Dean licked his lips lazily, blinking up owlishly at Sam with raised eyebrows and a smug grin.
"You heard the lady," he said, patting his baby brother on the shoulder in dismissal. "I'll catch up with you two later."
It was Sam's firm grip on his shoulder that stopped him.
"Maybe some other time, Dean," Sam warned, shaking his head. "Remember we've got an early start tomorrow."
"I'll be back in time," Dean shrugged. "No worries."
No worries my ass!
Sam huffed and rolled his eyes.
"Probably not the best idea, Dean," he said, aiming for cryptic because every warning he wanted to give sounded completely insane. "You going off alone..."
"But I won't be alone," Dean joked, grinning lewdly and snagging his redheaded friend by the waist. "I'll have Angie here –"
"—Amy here to keep me company." He grinned like a five year-old with the spoon of cookie batter. "And don't worry, we are All Systems Go." And winked.
Sam wondered if this was some kind of alternate reality brotherly code for something, looked at Jess for help, but was at a loss when she merely raised her shoulders in confusion and shrugged.
"You know...," Dean said, more quietly this time in a half-hearted attempt at privacy. "With the side effects... How we were worried about..." He coughed uncomfortably and lowered his voice. "... the dysfunction...?"
Sam's cheeks blushed.
"I wasn't actually all that worried, Dean," he griped.
"Thanks," Dean said dryly. He gave his baby brother a hard look for a moment, in order to fully convey how sorely disappointed he was in him for failing to share the burden of fear that Dean might have been struck impotent. "Anyway," rolling his eyes and plastering on his trademark grin. "Turns out it was nothing to worry about. We're good to go."
Sam didn't want to know how Dean knew he was 'good to go' – had an idea and felt himself blushing again, noticed that Jess was blushing too – and schooled his face into the most put-upon, bitchy scowl he could muster.
Amy the redhead giggled like bubbling champagne and leaned in to nibble at Dean's ear.
"Hmmm... I bet you are good to go," she cooed.
"Much as I'm sure you'd like to take her for a test run, Dean," Sam said, exasperated, "now's really not a good time."
"Besides," Jess added, "wasn't the waitress this morning enough of a ride for you?"
And Sam decided he was going to kiss her, among other of her favourite naughty things, as soon as they had a moment alone together, for the immediate dousing effect her comment had on Dean's companion.
"Waitress this morning?" she asked archly, pulling away in scandalized outrage.
"What?" Dean scoffed good naturedly. "Don't listen to them! They're Mormons – they don't believe in sex before marriage. Fun is like illegal for them."
But the damage was done. Apparently Amy the redhead wasn't too keen on being Dean's second lay of the day and the trail of red hair flapping against her back as she stormed away was the last any of them saw of her. Dean turned to face Sam and Jess with a slow and steady glare.
"Do you know what kind of Puritan scourge is going to be unleashed on the world when you two start breeding?" Dean hissed, then seemed to realize what he'd said as his eyes opened wide with what looked like panic and regret. Deep regret.
"Forget it," he muttered, finishing his beer in one long pull and slamming the empty bottle on the bar top a little too loudly. "Let's head back."
He tried so hard not to, fought with every last nerve ending in him, resisted with gritted teeth and eyes squeezed shut tight, but it was a losing battle. Termites had invaded his mind, eating away through layers of carefully constructed thought-walls and burrowing deep into his subconscious. There was no use fighting it, and he found he couldn't if he tried. Feeling the warm, soothing, steady cascade of water spouting down on his head and shoulders, Dean began to hum.
"It's the final countdown..." he sang quietly, suppressing the urge and failing once again as he sang a high pitched 'Doodoo doo doo. Doodoo doo doo doo.'
"It's the final countdown..." he repeated, adding more gusto to the line because the song called for it.
He wished he could make himself stop, because the song sucked ass and shouldn't be in his head to begin with. But he'd stepped into the shower this morning with that feeling in the pit of his stomach – the feeling that was never wrong – that told him that the clock on this timer to doom was about to run out. Somehow he knew it. Maybe it was his connection with the demon that told him things were going to come to a head real soon, or maybe it was his own finely honed instincts as a hunter that just warned him when danger was seriously nigh.
Dean knew it was all coming down today, could feel it in his skin.
So he hummed the stupid song because it was stuck in his head, thinking how wrongly appropriate "The Final Countdown" was in matching his mood. He felt strangely pumped, almost hyper, but nervous at the same time. He was raring for a fight, wanted to slam his fists into something evil and pound it until it played dead or (better yet) died.
"You almost done in there?" Sam's voice called through the door, the preceding closed-fisted thumps to which caused Dean to jump nearly out of his skin.
"Yeah, in a minute!" Dean called back, turning his face up into the spray. He'd almost forgotten how awesome showers were, having endured several months of being manhandled into and out of his clothes by the asylum staff and scrubbed down in a lather of brusque hands and soap like a soiled child. He shuddered at the unwelcome memories and turned his back to the water, enjoying the warmth as it spread through tired muscles.
Dean took his time squeezing copious amounts of Jess's girly body wash onto his palm, taking in the aroma of coconut with a chuckle at the thought of walking out of here smelling like a beach bum. But the body wash was smooth and foamed into a soft lather that almost tickled his skin and God it felt good to be washing himself again, to be in control of himself again. Tried not to think about the possibility of this being his last shower as a free man, tried instead to visualize stepping out of the bathroom to find Sammy seated at the table near the window, hunched over his laptop doing research on their latest hunt. 'I think I may have found something, Dean,' he heard his brother's voice say in his head. 'Those swimmers that went missing in Mississippi? All of them had been to see a palm reader named...'
Fuck, it didn't matter what they were hunting or where they were. It only mattered that they were together, where they were supposed to be, fighting evil like they were supposed to. And Dean had to get back there.
He sighed heavily, wishing now that he hadn't allowed his mind to stray back to those awful moments at Golden Brooke. Memories ghosted over his flesh, of his wrists and ankles in restraints, the feel of the bed pressing solidly against his back as he fought against being bound, being helpless. The prick of needles breeching his skin. The rush of chemicals flooding his bloodstream. The electric fire of jolts of electricity searing through his skull...
And suddenly he wasn't remembering anymore. He was there. Or rather, it was here. Pain. In his head, firing through his synapses, jolting through his nerve endings. He felt himself gasp – didn't hear it, couldn't hear it – as all awareness of his body and its proximity to anything was seared away with the blinding pain lancing through his skull. He thought he felt a crack, the solid impact of hitting something, but couldn't be sure. And there was copper in his mouth: blood.
He wished he could pass out, or snap out of it, or wake up. He wished he could call out for Sam.
Sam smiled in relief when Dean finally stopped singing. He wanted to strangle the jerk for putting that stupid song in his head, and also for everything that the song implied. His big brother thought that this was the end, that either they would succeed today in setting reality back to rights, or Dean would be caught and would be dragged back to a lifelong incarceration at the asylum. Sam could see it in his eyes, could see how it bled from his body in rippling waves of tension. He was like a tightly coiled spring, ready to leap into action, ready to fight to the death. And that terrified Sam right down to his core.
"He'll be okay, Sam," Jess whispered from her seat on the side of their bed where she was dangling a curling iron over one shoulder and angling it to curl the ends of her long blonde locks.
"Yeah," Sam said absently. And he wished he believed her. But he was afraid like he'd never been.
Breaking Dean out of Golden Brooke had been nerve-racking, terrifying, but at the same time exhilarating. Then they'd had a plan, and numerous people taking part in the action. They'd worked like a well-oiled machine, pulling off the impossible without a hitch. But now it was just Sam and Jess and Dean and only Dean knew how to handle the supernatural and Dean alone wouldn't be enough to fight against this demon and whatever resources it had at its disposal. Sam knew it: Dean knew it. And it left Sam feeling so helpless because all he wanted to do was tuck his big brother away some place safe where the darkness would never find him.
A long squeak of skin against wet porcelain, followed by a thud and a choked groan, had Sam rushing to the bathroom door with his heart lodged in his throat.
"Dean!" he shouted, pounding desperately, straining his ears to hear over the sound of the loud shower spray.
"DEAN!" Louder this time, demanding, insistent. Desperate. "DEAN!"
He forced the knob but the door was locked.
'I'll kick it down!' he thought savagely, raising his leg at the knee to force the door open, but Jess's hand on his shoulder made him pause.
"I got it," she whispered urgently and he sighed in relief when he saw that she'd already twisted the hook end of a coat hanger into a straight line, working the tip into the round hole lock on the bathroom door and angling it until she felt that pressure spot inside, felt it give a little as she pushed at it. Her long slender fingers twisted the knob and it turned, opened, gave them admittance to whatever mess lay inside.
Sam tore the curtain aside and gasped at the sight of his brother lying sprawled rigid on the floor of the tub, his face twisted in a tight grimace of pain, his short blondish hair plastered wet on his forehead, his back arched and his limbs twitching. It looked like he was having a seizure, but not. Behind his head, along the base of white tile where it met porcelain, a steady trickle of fresh, wet blood dripped onto Dean's naked shoulder.
"Towel!" Sam shouted, and Jess was already there with it in her hand, draping it over Dean's body to give him some privacy. She switched the water off and crouched behind Sam, giving him some distance but hovering close enough to be of use if she was needed.
"What's the matter with him?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Sam shook his head and bit his lip, watching his brother's convulsions as the bile rose in his throat.
"I dunno..." he muttered. "I dunno..."
He was about to tell Jess to dial 911 when his brother suddenly stilled, the twitching stopped. Allowed himself a modicum relief at the steady rising and falling of Dean's chest as he breathed, but was tense like a live wire nonetheless.
No reaction. He cleared his throat and tried again, louder this time.
Eyelids fluttered, slivers of green peeking out behind those long sooty lashes. Dean blinked twice, slowly, as colour rushed to his face, flushing him in a blush of red. He gasped and flew into a sitting position, his arms flailing, his eyes wild.
"NO!" he shouted hoarsely. "Nono! Don't, please!"
The tub squeaked loudly as he twisted away from his brother's helping hands. Sam gulped at the smear of blood on the wall where Dean's head had just been, where it had obviously impacted with the wall when he fell.
"Dean," Sam placated. "Hey, Dean, please, it's just me. It's just Sam."
Wide, terror-filled green eyes darted about the room, from left to right and right to left again, fast at first but then slower, pausing on Jess and then, eventually, on Sam.
"Sam?" Dean croaked, blinking in confusion. Sam tried not to panic at the red staining his brother's mouth.
"Yeah, Dean," Sam whispered. "I'm here."
"Ow!" Dean groaned, placing a prune-fingered hand to the back of his head and wincing in pain. "Sonofabitch! Bit my tongue..."
"You fell," Sam explained patiently. "Hit your head and... I think, had some kind of fit...?"
Dean pouted, looking cranky and confused as he massaged his achy, bleeding scalp.
"Dean Winchester doesn't do fits, Sammy," he grumbled and furrowed his brow in concentration. Sam tried not to grin: Brainless-Hot-Guy appeared to be back. "No, I think... I thought..." He pursed his lips and his eyes went kind of vacant. "It was like... electricity, in my brain... I thought I was there again... that they were..." He coughed, cleared his throat, and then firmly clamped his mouth shut.
"It's okay," Sam assured him. "It might have been a flashback. Or possibly even another side effect of the withdrawal."
When Dean nearly went cross-eyed trying to give his little brother an uncomprehending look, Sam humoured him with an explanation.
"They call them 'after-shocks,'" Sam said. "Happens with some types of anti-depressants. I read about it while you were, uh, recovering."
"Awesome," Dean exclaimed joylessly. Then he seemed to finally take notice of the fact that Jessica was in the room. "Well hello," he beamed with false enthusiasm. He made a show of looking around the bathroom, his gaze travelling up the shower wall, from one side to the other, and then taking in his own nakedness, with the meagre wet towel covering him, and then returned with a tight-lipped smile to Jessica. "Enjoying the show?"
"I'll just... go out there," she said delicately, standing from her crouched position and scurrying out of the bathroom in all haste, closing the door behind her to give Dean some privacy.
"Lovely girl you've got there," Dean said dryly. "When she's not trying to grope me she's standing around peeping to see me nekkid."
Sam rolled his eyes and huffed.
"She was just trying to help, Dean."
"You keep telling yourself that, little brother." He was about to attempt to stand up but then thought better of it, giving his brother a hearty shove. "You wanna maybe leave so I can put some clothes on or what?"
Sam was about to move but hesitated.
"But you fell and hit your –"
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean barked. "Now go. Give a guy some freakin' privacy!"
"You sure you're okay?" Sam pressed, pausing at the door. "Should I get some ice for that? Or maybe you need some stitches?"
"Nah," Dean scoffed. "I'm good. Really. Now go! The sooner I get outta here the sooner we can get back to Missouri's. We waste any more time and she'll be threatening to beat all of us with her wooden spoon."
The thing with Jess might have felt a bit over the top, but I wanted to show her attempting to reach Dean in some way that he wouldn't run away screaming from. We didn't see much of Jess on the show, but from what we did see of her I gathered that she was a really solid kind of chick. So this was my attempt to show how a chick like that would try to relate with a guy like Dean.
He doesn't make it easy.