See part 1 for disclaimer and notes.
Really big thanks to the many people who have read this story, and thank you for taking the time to leave feedback. Supernatural fans are pretty awesome!
Comfort to the Enemy
Ruby strokes her fingers through his hair, and he can feel the cool swell of her breast beneath his cheek, his head cradled as it is in the slim cold curve of her arm. Her wrist flashes pale in the darkness as she twists it in offering. "It was always you, Sammy," she croons, and blood coats his tongue in a salty-sharp rush.
Sam jolts awake to phantom blood sliding thickly down his throat. He gags, lurches up out of bed, feet tangling in the bedsheet. One knee hits the floor before he wrenches free and charges for the bathroom, careening off bedside, chairback, doorframe on the way. He slams the toilet lid up and heaves.
Ruby slithers through the back of his mind, the scent he identifies as hers flooding his sinuses—musky sex and a metallic blood tang. He retches again but all he brings up is his scanty dinner. The blood is already absorbed, but his stomach keeps trying to wring it back out, keeps trying until Sam is utterly spent.
He lowers his forehead to the toilet tank. The supple coil of Ruby's limbs withdraws from around him, a departing whisper of coolness. Sam takes a shaky breath, spits, flushes, all without lifting his head.
The depth of what he's done is starting to pinch at the edges of his consciousness. He presses his forehead harder against the porcelain, trying to grind out flashes of images—Ruby splayed beneath him, smirking as he grabs her arm with desperate fists and latches on with his mouth; Dean, choking on a motel floor with Sam's hands white-knuckled on his throat; the convulsive leap of a terrified nurse's chest under Sam's palms a second before she goes limp beneath his pinning weight.
His stomach curls, but there's nothing left to bring up. Sam shoves away from the toilet and cranks the cold water tap fully open, the resulting gush splattering him with ice-cold droplets. He rinses and spits until his teeth ache and his face is dripping, but after-images still echo in his mind's-eye.
At last he give up and turns off the faucet, swiping his face in the crook of his elbow.
Dean's low-pitched question greets him as Sam steps out of the bathroom. His brother's sprawled in one of the room's two armchairs that's been repositioned between the beds and the marked door. The knife rests easily on his lap and the serrated edge catches the light before Sam flicks the bathroom switch. Dean looks relaxed, legs stretched before him, head tipped back, but Sam can feel the wary alertness in him from across the room.
"Yeah. Just…" Sam can't finish.
"No, I'm…" Well, he's not fine, or even okay. "No, thanks," he says lamely as he crawls back into bed.
Dean's only reply is the soft creak of the chair as he shifts position, quietly watchful in the dark. Sam fights the knotted sheet smooth and draws it up over his shoulder. He rolls so his back is to Dean but then realizes that puts him facing Castiel in the other bed. The angel is utterly silent, utterly still. Sam can't tell if he awake or not, but he rolls over anyway and stares up at the ceiling.
The pictures still flash at the edge of his mind, blood spiral on a stone floor, Ruby exultant. Bobby dropping like a sack of flour, gunstock to the cheek. Dean coughing on a motel floor.
Then Ruby again, rolling the nurse's body aside with the indifference one shows a drained battery. She kicked dead leaves over the woman's face and arms while Sam, vibrating with building power, stalked back to the Mustang.
If Dean could see that last one…
Sam drags the pillow up over his face and presses his arm tight to hold it in place.
Dean dozes off again once Sam lies down. His brother's too twitchy to actually be asleep—Dean can hear the little distressed gasps he's making, the rustle of sheets as he startles at every click and hum in the room and on the road outside. But shit, Sam's staying put, Cas is resting, and Dean's wiped; and so he lets himself drift off.
Wingbeats pass overhead in his dreams.
Deep silence nudges him awake some hours later, his hand tightening on the hilt of the knife reflexively. He listens; Sam's breathing evenly, the pillow shielding his face having slid down to the bed again. Cas isn't moving and the room is still. Dean sits up slowly, drawing his feet in so he can stand up quietly. He rolls his head until the vertebrae in his neck pop, one after the other down the length, and checks his watch. Just shy of four a.m.—probably the best time he'll get for what he needs to do.
Dean strips off his t-shirt and replaces it with one from the packages Sam just bought. He snags Sam's jacket, too; his own is stiff with blood, and if he gets caught out there, bloody clothes will compound his troubles.
There are matchbooks in the ashtray on the dresser, and a big can of rocksalt next to the window. He palms the ketchup keyring and slips out the door.
Birds are just starting a raucous twittering in the trees behind the motel, and a light drizzle is falling, beading on the Mustang and haloing the streetlights. Dean opens the driver's door, releases the brake, and puts his shoulder to the doorframe. Slowly the Mustang starts to roll, crunching over gravel. He cranks the wheel one-handed until the car points downhill, towards the town.
When it picks up speed, Dean ducks in, thumping into the driver's seat and snatching his feet in quickly after him. The Mustang coasts all the way down the hill before Dean turns the key.
A closed service station on the far side of town gets him the rest of what he needs—a five-gallon plastic bucket, a length of hose torn from the air machine, a hulking SUV awaiting repairs with a nearly full gas tank. Dean siphons gasoline into the bucket and then drives very carefully the rest of the way out of town.
There's some kind of small industrial complex just off the highway—welding and fabricating, the sign says. Big steel-sided buildings, a wide empty parking lot, a small concrete block office building surrounded by straggly junipers. Dean turns in and cruises slowly past the buildings, turns, and goes past them again, revving the engine to a roar. No one comes out to investigate, so he heads around back, where yellow-tinged streetlights cast a sickly glow over a row of closed bay doors. At the far end, another bigger concrete block building leaves a corner of the back lot in deep shadow.
Dean pulls into the shadow and parks. The odor of gasoline is overwhelming—the open bucket is venting fumes through the interior even with the broken windows, and he gets out and bends over, coughing his lungs clear.
Once he can breathe freely again, he lifts the bucket out onto the ground, sets the salt can beside it, and leans in to open the glove compartment and grope beneath the seats. There's nothing of Sam's left in the car. Dean checks the backseat and then goes around to ease open the trunk, slowly, so the hinges don't trigger a spark.
There's a devil's trap painted on the bottom.
A devil's trap in the trunk of Ruby's fucking Mustang.
"What. The. Hell." Dean touches one white line; the paint is dry, but it feels slick beneath his finger, new. Why in hell was Ruby driving around in a car with a booby-trapped trunk?
Dean closes his eyes and leans his head on the upraised trunk lid. His stomach is churning.
Sam insisting on tracking down one of Lilith's minions. With Ruby, not Dean. Ruby, who got him turned on to this drinking-blood-out-of-demons shit in the first place.
Dean sees Sam's blood-smeared face just before he blasted the demon out of poor Jimmy Novak's possessed wife and he hears Sam upchucking his guts out in the motel bathroom, and he feels like puking himself.
He forces himself to open his eyes and bend into the trunk. He doesn't see anything in the scant light of the trunk bulb and distant streetlights. Nothing obvious, anyway, like a distress message scratched in the paint or broken-off fingernails. He runs his hands around the interior, but there's nothing.
Sam was right—the trunk was empty. And the implication that he'd seen it recently enough to know sends Dean's stomach into another cold spin.
There's a puff of wind, and the drizzle patters down harder. At the edge of the trunk opening, something dark flutters in the breeze. Dean pinches it off of a rough spot in the metal.
At first he thinks it's a clump of threads, but then he runs them through his fingers and feels the glossiness of hair. Fairly long, so it's not Sam's, not that Sam would fit back here no matter what sick game he and Ruby might have played.
It could be Ruby's, he tells himself. It's dark, her latest meatsuit sported dark hair, she could have bumped her head while watching Sam paint a devil's trap in the trunk of a car she prized enough to get a fake registration for.
Yeah. He's not convincing himself here. Deliberately, Dean coils the strands of hair into a circle and lays it gently on the floor of the trunk. His heart aches really fucking bad right about now.
Dean goes back and shakes salt heavily across the car's interior. He hoists the bucket and pours gasoline down the driver's seat, and then all along the backseat, giving the dark bloodstains an extra slosh. On the passenger side, he slops gas through the open window and onto the dashboard until it drips down into the glove compartment.
The trunk is last. Dean switches the bucket for the salt can again and scatters white granules thickly through it.
For a moment, he stares down into the trunk. If he could think of a prayer or an appropriate bit of Latin, now would be the time to speak it, but his mind is numb.
His eyes are watering, from the fumes, of course. Dean steps back, fumbling the matchbook from his pocket, and tears off a match. He half-turns, strikes it, and touches the flame to a corner of the book. As it flares, he flicks both into the trunk and leaps away.
The resulting 'whump' is surprisingly soft, but strong enough to pick Dean up and toss him across the wet pavement as he's sprinting away. His feet lift off the ground and for a second he's airborne. Then he remembers to tuck and roll, and coming down hurts, but not as much as if he'd spread-eagled face-first onto the rough parking lot. He bounces to his feet around the corner of the concrete block outbuilding.
Ruby's piece-of-shit Mustang is burning fiercely. Orange-black flames roll out of the windows and trunk and smoke billows heavily from the undercarriage. The paint blisters, and there's a deep 'pop' as the cracked windshield shatters out across the hood.
Thin rivulets of flame drip out the open driver's door and run beneath the car, joining the other fluids pooling there. There's a brief pause where Dean hears only the vicious crackle of flames, and then a 'poof' as the undercarriage ignites. A shriek of stressed metal signals the gas tank splitting open. He spins back behind the wall, instinctively covering his head with both arms, and the car explodes.
It levitates into the superheated air and then slams down, hard. When it crashes, Dean peeks a quick glance around the building.
A cyclone of fire roars out of the trunk, spiraling straight up into the sky. Tongues of flame spin off it, hissing away into the misty rain.
The Mustang sinks into a burning hulk fed by blazing upholstery and melting rubber. It'll be nothing but ash and scorched metal bones by the time it's done cooking.
The drizzle has strengthened into a steady drumming rain. Dean turns up the collar of Sam's jacket and plunges his hands into the pockets. He should get some grim satisfaction from seeing Ruby's car burn, but he only feels cold.
It's still blazing as he trudges off toward the highway, but he doesn't look back. He's keeping the cold at bay by mulling over the cars he saw on the way out here. Cars parked safe distances from houses, or in back of that service station. One of them will be a decent temporary replacement for Ruby's wannabe-cool Mustang.
Sam's stretched out on his bed when Dean returns, damp-haired and watching CNN with the sound off. His eyes get wide as Dean slips through the door in a rush of mingled scents—rain and gasoline and smoke. Nervously he rubs his hands on the thighs of his new jeans.
Dean's just too tired for a confrontation that might yield answers he isn't ready to hear. He plunks a bakery bag and a carton of milk on the table and heads for the bathroom, peeling off Sam's sodden jacket as he goes.
"I'm gonna take a shower. Leave the honey-glazed donuts for Cas."
The bathroom hasn't been renovated since the motel was built in the 1950s, but it's clean, cleaner than most of the places he's been in the recent past, hell, cleaner even than Bobby's bathroom. The water's decently hot, too, and he stands under it, one hand braced on smooth tile, head bowed beneath the spray, long after the soap's rinsed away.
Cas is awake when he comes back out. The stunned haze has faded from his eyes, replaced by his normal quizzical interest in his surroundings. The coffee pot is burping gently and sending out heavenly-smelling steam and Sam's at the table, turning a blueberry muffin into a pyramid of moist purple crumbs. Dean makes a beeline to the cupboard for a mug, knocking back a long swallow of coffee before crossing to Castiel's bed.
He drops to its edge, nudging the angel upright. "Lemme see."
Castiel sits up obediently, turning his back to Dean. A splotch of dark blood stains the gauze, so Dean teases loose the adhesive tape with painstaking care.
His caution is unnecessary—the damage has nearly vanished. The deep fissures carving Castiel's skin have fused into slightly raised silver lines. There are a few knotted lumps where the muscles are still knitting, but the dozens of gouges and scratches down his side have closed over. Even the terrible bruising on the side of his face is little more than yellowish shadows and a pink line on his cheekbone.
Dean presses on the shoulderblade that only a day before was a mangled wreck of tissue and bone. "That hurt?"
"Can you move it? Lift your arm; now rotate it. Can you open and close your fist? Twist back and reach as high as you can. Yeah, that's good—you've got range of motion back." He lets his hand slide away as Castiel arches his back and gives a little rippling shudder, for all the world as if he's settling feathers into place. And Dean's afraid of what the answer might be, but he asks anyway. "How… how's the wing?"
"Mending." Castiel shifts so he's facing Dean, and his expression is maybe one step removed from impassive—there's, maybe, a hint of pleased satisfaction drawing up his lips and crinkling the corners of his eyes. "Slowly, but mending. I think I will be able to fly again eventually. Thank you."
"I didn't do anything!" Dean protests. He covers his discomfort by leaning over and snagging his mug from the nightstand. "I just… made you take a little downtime."
"And the reminder was appreciated." Castiel abruptly flips back the blanket and stands up. "You wish to continue the journey."
Dean lurches off the bed. "Jeez! Pants, Cas! Pants first, then walking around!"
Sam might be smiling faintly – it's hard to tell, because he nearly dislocated himself whipping his chair around so his back is to the bed – so to keep him smiling Dean makes an exaggerated show of grumbling and averting his eyes while he flings clothing at Cas. He can only pray the guy knows shorts go on first.
He busies himself fixing a mug for Castiel while quiet cloth rustlings commence behind him. He pours in coffee to the halfway mark and then brings the level to the rim with milk, because if the angel's going to be riding with them he needs to experience coffee, but Dean's not sure he can handle a fully-caffeinated Cas.
"Is this acceptable?" he hears from behind him, and Dean braces himself and turns.
The dark jeans are a little long and loose, and they'll have to swap out the Tax Accountant shoes for a decent pair of boots at some point, but, "Yeah, you're good," Dean tells him with relief.
Castiel runs his fingers down the dark grey sleeves, either pleased with his new attire or just perplexed by it, who knows. And if his hair's standing on end in ruffled tufts, well, that's just a minor grooming flaw that can be ignored.
Dean thumps the mug of milky coffee onto the table and points. "Sit. Drink this and have a donut."
Castiel pulls out a chair. With great care he extracts one of the sticky donuts from the bag and sets it precisely on a napkin. Dean waits until he raises the mug and takes a swallow – it makes the angel actually blink – before he pulls out his own chair and reaches for the bakery bag.
One down with the 'what will he eat' problem, one to go. Dean stretches a leg out under the table and "accidentally" kicks Sam, and after an almost-too-long pause Sam flicks a blueberry across the table at Dean.
It's a start.
Dean swipes a wad of wet paper towels down the back of the door and then stuffs them into the plastic bag along with all the other blood-soaked clothes and linens. Once they reach a deserted stretch of road, he'll stop long enough to torch the whole bundle. Sam's probably right—no sense borrowing trouble with angel blood.
He shoos Castiel out into the rain ahead of him and Sam follows, the laptop salvaged from Ruby's car tucked protectively under one arm. Dean jerks his head past the side of the motel. "Head for the Nova around the back."
He nearly plows into Castiel's back when the angel jerks to a stop rounding the corner. Castiel cocks his head at the shiny dark green car waiting there.
"You have procured a new vehicle."
"Yup." Dean dodges around him to open the driver's side door and deposit the bags inside. Sam gives it a long look, but he doesn't say a word. He hunches the laptop higher under his arm, a muscle in his jaw jumping.
"That is good." Castiel steps up to the open door and bends, peering inside. "I did not like the previous one."
"You and me both, buddy."
Castiel straightens and reaches over the roof. He swirls rainwater with two fingers and murmurs a few quiet words. Sam tilts his head—it's not Latin, but he doesn't recognize what language it might be. While he and Dean watch, Castiel strokes his fingers through the beaded water, painting the roof with invisible symbols. He steps back with a satisfied nod.
"Shields at maximum, huh?" Dean says. "Does it work against cops, too?" Castiel gives him a blank stare. "Never mind. We ready to go?"
When Castiel has situated himself in one corner of the backseat, Dean reaches for the wires dangling beneath the steering column. The engine catches with a well-cared-for roar that is music to his ears. She'll be okay in his hands while he borrows her.
He dials his phone once he pulls out of the motel lot. "Bobby? Dean. Nah, we're good—stopped for the night, but we're on the road again. Got Cas with us; Angel Radio's quiet, but you hearin' anything?" He listens while the wipers slap back and forth. "Okay. We'll be careful. See you in a day or so."
Dean tucks his phone away and presses down on the accelerator. So "good" doesn't exactly describe their current sitrep—he's a wanted man, he's riding with a grounded angel who's got his own deathsquad after him, and his brother just may have done darker things than he could ever have suspected a week ago.
They're alive. Together. In a tolerable car on the way to an old friend's place.
Good is relative.
I killed the trenchcoat, I did. I'm sorry! Dean'll get Cas a new one if he looks forlorn enough, I think.
There may be a sequel covering more of their trip to Bobby's, I have ideas knocking around in my head right now. But I'm a slow writer (also have a full-time job and kids & a house to take care of) and I have a couple other stories I've been working on. It may happen, just don't hold your breath :)
Thanks for reading, I really mean it.