He didn't have the heart or the courage to return to Detroit, despite the fact that he knew he should.
Instead, Daniel avoided it by any means, thereby avoiding himself in the process. He couldn't handle it, the answers he'd been seeking for so long now sitting there in front of him and he was pushing them away like a bitter child. Like he'd gotten just what he'd asked for then changed his mind at the last minute.
He wasn't sure why it hadn't occurred to him sooner that what he was looking for may not be the best thing to discover of himself. Not that he even had any definite idea of what 'himself' meant anymore, but now he knew what had happened to those around him.
Those who continued to run through his memories like they were trapped there.
It wasn't even a clear picture. With all that Alder had told him, and the few pieces of the puzzle that Daniel had managed to put together about Dean, everything else was still a gaping maw of confusing space. He'd been able to put the frame into place, bordering around him like a trap, but still not giving a good picture of where he fit in it. Who and what he was, in the grand scheme.
Anna had told him that he couldn't have both, but what was one without the other?
Who was he without a name?
He'd left Lawrence and Alder just as soon as he could, barely thanking the man as he'd let his shock settle into his gut like a lead weight.
The hunter had looked concerned, but it wasn't like Daniel was his responsibility. Stories had been shared, and they'd parted ways, probably never to meet again.
Why hadn't Eaton told him? He'd never spoken a single thing about the war, nor had he offered anything to Daniel about whether or not they'd fought together…or what had happened to Dean and how. Had they been together, in the end? And had Lucifer still been inside of Eaton when he'd died that freezing night in the snow?
It terrified him to imagine it. He'd been so new and so lost, unable to help or even ask about anything else other than himself. If he'd known then what he knew now, could he have helped him?
Daniel felt incredibly selfish and horribly wretched.
And he knew he should go to Detroit.
Still bordering on the line between responsibility and cowardice, Daniel headed north, but not in the direction he should have gone.
Instead, he went back in the direction he came, taking the first ride available that was going towards Denver so that he could make his way up and into Montana, where Alder had said another of the large battles had taken place. It was cold, now mid-October, and it became even more so as Daniel went further north, unsure why he was punishing himself with the cold when there was a simple solution to head south.
But Daniel had no interest in going to Phoenix. He was afraid he'd be too comfortable there, or find something else that would drive him a little more over the edge. Either one was non-negotiable.
When he arrived in Great Falls, he was an absolute mess. Exhaustion creeping into his thin frame after a day or two without eating and not enough sleep to make up for it. He wasn't trying to waste away on purpose, but the dreams had ramped up to a horrifying clarity and he was losing the will to fight them. To fight what he knew he was, in the back of his head, despite all arguments to the contrary.
It was raining in the city, a cold and bitter chill that had soaked into his coat and made him shiver from the inside out. He didn't want to be sick again, but he didn't have it in him to worry about it. After all, if he was such an otherworldly thing, why not challenge it? Why not see how far he could take himself before those damn powers of his took over?
Maybe he could heal the damn world.
Unable to think straight enough to work himself out, and against what he knew was his better judgment, Daniel made his way to the first bar he found. He was delirious, confused and practically hysterical as he quickly made 'friends' with a small gang that were traveling through on their motorcycles and found him too amusing to pass up.
They could probably tell that there was something wrong with him, but at that point, everyone had seen their fair share of people driven to the edge by the war and everything that happened. So what was he but another bitter soldier who'd lost too much.
Daniel drank heavily for the first time in his life, and it took him less than an hour to lose everything else.
When he woke up the next day, he was in an alley very similar to the one he'd woken up to in Detroit. Only it wasn't as cold and he wasn't covered in blood stains or tattered clothing. His head felt like there was a lead weight in it, and he groaned as he sat forward, half damp from the rain and dirty from the ground. It had to have been the worst way to wake up he'd ever experienced. And that included being sick.
Daniel pulled himself to his feet, already regretting the motion before he turned towards a trash can and promptly rid himself of nearly everything he'd had to eat or drink for the week. Which was more drink than anything else, but it felt ten times better to get it out of his system.
He staggered forward after that, wiping his sweaty brow even as he shivered in the cold and clutched to his bag of belongings like it was the only lifeline he had.
He didn't get far, crashing into the next alley and leaning back against the wall with a heavy head and nothing left to push him forward. His ankle was killing him, and it itched terribly. Daniel scratched at it with an angry hiss before he pulled the pant leg up to find a small wound that had been inscribed in the simple shape of that same, five pointed star in a circle that he'd seen on Alder's ring.
He groaned, letting the cloth cover it again and scrubbing a hand over his face in irritation. He didn't remember any of it, and that just wasn't acceptable. He hadn't gone all that way only to start forgetting things when it was in his control not to.
That would be the first, and absolutely last time, that he ever drank.
He slept for a good bit of the morning after that, waking again after being startled by a honking car horn and hating how badly his body was rebelling against him. It wasn't like he hadn't done it to himself, but Daniel suddenly wished he hadn't been so eager to be punished. He still couldn't recall the specifics what he'd done or why, and had been far too quick to jump to conclusions than he assumed necessary.
He should have thought about that man in the community center in what had seemed so long ago. What alcohol did to good people was a lesson he'd learned. Something he probably should have heeded as well.
"Well hey there, angel. You ok?"
Daniel jumped, his bleary eyes turning to look at the silhouette of a woman who was standing over him, holding a white umbrella with red polka dots and blocking the haze of the rain. He blinked up at her without saying anything, his hands shaking in the cold.
She looked about the same age he was, with a sweet, round face and brown hair that curled around her ears. She was wearing a black coat that reached past her knees overtop of simple jeans and what must have been a hooded sweatshirt beneath. She wasn't thin in the slightest, but not a large woman either. Just a normal, average, everyday person who was stopping in the rain in an alley to ask him if he was ok. He could have cried.
She leant down in front of him, brown eyes looking into his as her fingers touched his forehead, just as Shannon had once done to check his temperature. Her fingers were warm, and he ached for touch. He assumed this was what it meant to be at the lowest possible point he could go.
"You don't feel like you've got a fever, but you don't look so hot either. Are you lost?"
And Daniel couldn't help it, the tears flowed like they had when he'd heard the truth of Dean's death a week ago. Like it was something that needed to come out of him or he'd simply explode otherwise with the weight of his grief. He cried and she let him, even though she didn't even know who he was or whether or not he was a danger to her.
She'd called him angel when they'd met, but Daniel thought maybe it was the other way around.
Her name was Alice, and she worked at a small, free clinic in the first rebuilt part of the city of Great Falls. She'd set up as soon as she'd had the chance, a history of war already settling across her young features along with a determination to make it right at the same time. She was one of the ones who'd found it upon themselves to make do with what was left, no matter how bad things had once been. There was nowhere else to go but up.
She'd taken him back to her clinic and cleaned him up. Washed his clothes for him, fed him and generally given him the space and time to get himself back on his feet. He'd stood beneath a shower for nearly half an hour, unable to remember the last time he'd had the advantage of being so clean and glad to indulge in the scalding water on his weary frame.
Alice had scolded him for being so thin, giving him a large sandwich that was stuffed full of tuna and other things that he couldn't really identify, but it had tasted glorious. There were a few others that were in the same clinic, all who seemed to have been pulled off the street just as he had, but they kept mainly to themselves. Horrors read so easily in their eyes that some seemed like they wouldn't even acknowledge the world anymore.
He was grateful he hadn't let himself get to that point.
Alice had also been kind enough to give him aspirin, which suddenly became the most wonderful invention in the world to his aching, hung-over head.
He slept for the first full night in weeks there, with no dreams to taunt him that he could remember.
Daniel was stalling, and he knew it.
He had been given what he'd needed, the final clue of where to go, but was hiding within the sanctuary of someone who didn't judge and didn't ask questions of him. He was thankful to have not gotten sick, and that Alice was so kind and giving, asking for very little in return, but he knew it wasn't where he should be.
After the first few days of being cared for, Daniel couldn't stand it anymore and started cleaning the place whenever he had the opportunity. Alice scolded him, but he wouldn't have it, taking care of things while she wasn't looking and generally earning his keep as he felt he should.
She complained for the first week, but afterwards, it just became a thing he did that she accepted without argument. Daniel had a sneaking suspicion that she was glad of the extra help.
There were a few other doctors that came and went, working for free and offering their services where it was needed, but Alice was the only constant. She told him about what had happened when the fires had first started, burning her hospital to the ground along with her home and everything she'd ever loved. Her siblings had been spared on the opposite side of the city, but they'd fled to avoid the worst of it.
She had stayed, joining with the hunters that were leading the retaliation there and offering her services as a medic to any who needed it. Alice had been one of few.
After the war had ended, and when things had started getting rebuilt around her, the hunters who had charged themselves with ridding the last of the demons from the city, had made sure to find her a place where she could continue to do the work she'd desired. A man named Robert Singer had sanctioned with what was left of the city council, and she'd been given her own small piece of what was being rebuilt after she'd promised that it would be a free place where any would be treated.
Because of that, she was tax-free, rent free, and would be set for the rest of her life in that small space. She said she still wrote to that kind hunter to let him know how things were going. She hadn't heard from him in awhile though, and prayed that he had made it back to his home in one piece.
After a month and a half of living in Great Falls, and ignoring the rest of the world like it would chew him up and destroy him at any moment, Daniel felt numb.
Alice had kissed him once, running her pale fingers through his hair and smiling before their lips had met and she'd fallen asleep afterwards nestled into the crook of his shoulder. They'd been watching a movie of some sort, but Daniel couldn't recall what it was about.
The next day, she kissed him again, but it had been different this time. He'd let her do it, but she was seeing something in him that he had been trying so desperately to ignore. Something he hoped was hidden along with everything else he'd fought to deny.
"Hey angel." She said, her nickname sticking for some reason, even when he'd asked her not to the first couple of times. Alice was nothing but stubborn when she'd set in her ways.
"You're still waiting on somebody, huh?"
Daniel's shoulders slumped, his gaze moving away from hers, but she pulled it back to him with her hands on his cheeks. She was a mere inch shorter than him, and hard to ignore at even the best of times. Daniel had liked that about her.
He nodded, and that was his acceptance.
She said goodbye to him the next day, and left to take care of her patients.
Daniel packed up his things, his coat cleaned and his jeans patched together with a few small tricks that Alice said she'd had 'up her sleeves' to make them last longer. His hair was still no longer than the day he'd woken in the alley a year ago.
He hitched the first ride he could find headed towards Detroit.
It was the middle of December.
Daniel was lucky enough to find someone that was going so far as Minneapolis for the first part of his journey. A younger man in his twenties or so named Pete, who was driving the first rig he'd ever owned across the northern part of the United States with a shipment of recycled paper.
Pete hadn't been involved in the war, had grown up in southern California his entire life but couldn't stand how that part of the country was ignoring the rest of the country's problems. Daniel recalled that not everyone had been willing to believe the story about demons or that there had even been fighting so much as a country wide sickness.
He wondered at first how people could do that, ignore what was right in front of their faces. But then he remembered that he'd been doing the exact same thing.
Pete liked to collect things as he went from state to state. A shot glass here, a mug there, something that reminded him of all of the places he was going to, or had visited while he was on his newfound journey. There was a growing collection of these knickknacks in the back of his rig, and it amused Daniel to think how much longer he'd keep doing it when there was no room left to lie down.
He liked listening to the young ideals the man had, and how passionate he was about getting deep in to help out with whatever he could and protect his country. Be it from anywhere, even from Hell itself, the kid had wanted to fight but had been kept at home by his denial ridden parents.
Daniel told him about Oklahoma City, and the boy looked like he'd just been told that Christmas came early.
He dropped him off in Minneapolis after making his delivery, then turned south to head towards Kansas. Daniel couldn't help but feel like he'd made a small contribution somehow, and it made him proud.
The next time he found a ride, Daniel didn't get so lucky.
The man hadn't said much, aside from the fact that he was going in Daniel's direction and wouldn't mind the company. He was a much larger built man named Wayne, but Daniel had learned not to judge by appearance alone, and there were religious crucifixes and symbols decorating the inside of his truck in a halfway tasteful manner. He decided he may as well, as cold as he was, and climbed inside.
The first ten hours had passed by in almost silence, aside from a religious radio program that had music every so often, but had otherwise been more boring than informative. Daniel didn't think he was all that religious personally, aside from generally believing in God, but there was something about the people speaking on the radio show that didn't make much sense.
They screamed about the hostilities of man, and how the recent war had been due to how far down the beaten path that humanity had gone. Crimes against Christ, sinners, non-believers and those who went against the teachings of the bible had all aided in the invitation to the evil creatures who were taking over the planet one country at a time. The United States being the first of those that deserved it.
Daniel said nothing as he stared out the window, seeing Wayne out of the corner of his eye with his curly black hair and tight expression as he nodded after each person said something that was particularly offensive towards people in general. He didn't think it wise to offer his opinion, and thankfully, Wayne didn't really ask. Choosing instead to stay in his own world of that group of people who thought that humans needed to die in a fire or plague of some kind, cause that would teach 'em.
By the time they'd reached Ann Arbor, Daniel was seriously considering finding someone else to take him the rest of the way, just so he wouldn't have to listen to it anymore.
He'd been dozing for just a bit, not realizing that the rig had stopped until he'd opened his eyes with a start to find Wayne on top of him.
Daniel started to cry out, only to have a hand slap over his mouth almost immediately, stifling his cry. Eyes darted to the windows, but Wayne had parked them beside the dark cover of pine trees that were right up next to his door and basically blocking anything from getting in or out. It was sometime in the evening, but the sun had long since gone down, leaving little more than the distant highway lights to illuminate within.
He knew he was trapped, and hardly in a position that he could fight back with too, since Wayne had positioned himself so that he was straddled over Daniel's lap. He wasn't sure why he hadn't noticed what was going on sooner, but it was too late to debate on that now. Wayne had his arms pinned with one hand above his head, the other over his mouth with a thumb trailing across his lips like he was petting him.
It turned Daniel's stomach, and he squirmed in protest.
The hand over his mouth suddenly pulled back and swung forward in retaliation, knocking stone-hard knuckles into his eye that flashed white and painful across his vision, dazing him.
"Don't you say a damn word, faggot. You hear me? Don't you say a damn word." Wayne hissed moving in to drag his tongue up the side of Daniel's neck, which elicited a disgusted groan from deep in his chest with how little he wanted to be where he was anymore. It wasn't worth the ride, he'd walk the rest of the way if he had to.
Apparently Wayne didn't like that sound either, and hit him again, making him see stars as he gasped aloud with the pain that radiated through his head. He'd already been so easily subdued by this man, his will forced into submission because there was no muscle to fight back with and no enemy to destroy. He wasn't a demon, Daniel knew, despite how much he wanted to burn the jerk's eyes out if he could. His head was too fuzzy to think straight and it wasn't like he could just call upon that power of his if needed it.
This was going to be something he just couldn't get away from, and it terrified the hell out of him.
Wayne, on the other hand, looked like he was ecstatic, and his free hand moved to Daniel's waist while his arms were still pinned above his head. He licked his lips and it made him cringe, wanting to cry out but knowing it would just get him hit again.
Something warm was traveling down the side of his head and it reminded him of that feeling he'd had so long ago. When his head had felt like someone had bashed it into a wall a few times like a fresh egg. Daniel squirmed, unable to help it with the revulsion pumping through him, and Wayne didn't seem to like that at all.
"You hold yourself fuckin still or I'll do it for you, faggot. You just sit there and you take it. You like it, and the fires of Hell will lick up your spine on the day of judgement and burn you from the inside out."
Whatever reason Wayne had to speak the way he did, Daniel didn't like any bit of it. He tried hard to focus his eyes, the meaty man's hands already digging down into his pants as Daniel suddenly called out angrily and startled him. His expression went quickly from surprise to anger, and he pulled his arm back again for another hit just as Daniel closed his eyes and pleaded with anything that was listening for him to be somewhere that wasn't there.
He dropped to the ground. Hard.
Daniel cried out, his backside and his elbows tingling with the sudden pain of falling to the ground from five feet in the air. He twirled himself around and stared in confusion at the large, front wheel tire of the rig he'd been in, unsure what had just happened, but hardly one to argue his luck.
He sat up quickly, leaning down to untie his bag from his ankle, which had become a habit of his when he knew he might fall asleep, and slung it quickly over his shoulder. There was an angry bellow from inside the cab, but Daniel had run for it as soon as he could stand. His head was still spinning, and ached from the two hits that had been hard enough to knock something out of place, if they'd hadn't already.
Somehow, he'd just gone from one place to another without so much as a thought and a hope for safety. Whether or not it was something in his power to do, he wasn't sure, but the fact remained that he was no longer in that seat, no longer in danger, and no longer anywhere near being underneath Wayne.
That was a power he was more than happy to accept.
Daniel decided to walk from there.
Neither asking for nor accepting any rides, despite how awful he felt. It just wasn't worth it, and he'd had enough of a scare for that week to think better of it.
After running for as long as his lungs would support him, Daniel had stopped at a truck stop, still keeping a frightened and wary eye out for a bright red rig or a large, black haired man. He cleaned himself up as much as he could, but there was an ugly bruise around his eye and up his forehead. The cut had bled a great deal, but it wasn't anything serious. He had learned from Alice that head wound's bled like crazy but were only serious if they were deep or had a concussion to go with them.
Daniel wasn't so sure about the concussion, but he could at least tell that he wasn't going to bleed himself to death. He still looked a fright with the painting of color down his face, however, and his head ached worse than it had with his hangover, but he'd live. There were worse things, after all. Others had gotten further trying to abuse him in such ways, that had just been the first time he'd managed to zap himself out of it in time.
He wasn't sure what to make of that power, but didn't really dwell on it. It was just another thing in a long list of what would probably never be explained. Detroit was about fifty miles from where he was, so he slept in a hidden corner of the truck stop that night, knees curled up to his chest beneath his jacket, and set out early the next morning.
Alice had given him just a small bit of money, and he'd promised her that he wasn't going to starve himself anymore if he could help it. It was a promise he was going to try hard to keep.
When Daniel finally reached the city limits of Detroit, it was only then that he saw what he'd apparently missed the first time he'd been there.
The city was a mess.
What had once been buildings that stretched up towards the sky were now only half there. Detroit was right on the edge of Canada across from a large stretch of water that connected Lake Erie with Lake Saint Clair. He'd heard about the great lakes from Keifer, but had been so new and so confused that there wasn't much information that had seemed significant. He'd also, apparently, been so lost in his lack of memories that he'd failed to notice what was wrong with the entire place.
It was more than obvious that a battle had taken place there. One even worse than what he'd seen in Oklahoma City, Lawrence or Great Falls. Large, burnt craters had taken the place of where buildings had once stood, and each of the ones that had fallen had also taken out ones around it as well.
It made sense why so many people had come to the community center, and so often. It was one of the few places in that area that was offering a sanctuary for children to come and be somewhere that wasn't destroyed by the war. To ignore it all and pretend like everyday life was still happening someplace else.
It also explained why Kiefer had been so willing to offer him a job there. Even when all he'd done was spoken to him on the street. Everyone had probably looked somewhat like he had. Lost and war shocked with little else to turn to.
That, and the people there had seen otherworldly creatures before. Seen them kill their families and burn their homes after healing from knife and gunshot wounds. He was amazed he'd gotten as far as he had after healing the first time.
Daniel hadn't planned on going straight to that place immediately, but he ended up down that road without even thinking about. He hadn't left the community center very often, staying deep inside his small sanctuary while he was still afraid of the rest of the world, but he seemed to know where he was going now anyway.
It was the worst part of the city, and was a horrible mess that seemed to be the very core of where the last of the fires had taken place before the war had ended. Daniel was ignored by those he passed, his cold fingers tightening on his pack with the hesitation of having to face it all over again.
He knew it was probably an irrational fear, especially since the last time he'd been there was before he knew a great deal of the things he knew now. Still, it was like having a fear once as a child then being forced to face it as an adult. Knowing full well that it made no sense, but still harboring that child-like terror when there was no one left to turn to but himself.
He paused for only a minute, knowing he was at the right spot and knowing that it had basically been a year to the day that he'd last been there, before turning and walking in.
It was exactly the same.
He wasn't in the alleyway that he'd woken in, but where he'd last seen Eaton, the man's crinkled smile and weary face still easy to see above the shadows of flames in the now empty and fire-less container.
Daniel swallowed hard, taking a few steps in with his shoes scuffing across the cold cement. His eyes were drawn to the space where Eaton had made his bed. Where he'd flattened and created a space for Daniel as well before wrapping a cloth around his neck and telling him to take care of himself.
He'd smiled then, a knowing smile, and though Daniel hadn't known him at the time, Eaton probably had.
"Why didn't you tell me?" He asked softly, crouching down between the barrel and the cardboard that was nothing more than a pile of trash to anyone else.
"If I was so important…if you were…then why didn't you tell me? I could have helped you." Daniel wasn't sure if that was true or not, but he liked to believe it was. He leaned forward and placed his fingers on the cold cardboard, angry and frustrated and sad all at once. He wasn't sure what exactly he'd come there to find.
"You're a difficult man to track, you know that?"
Daniel startled, falling backwards before scooting himself back a few feet, his eyes wide and his heart beating frantically as it recalled the last time someone had snuck up on him.
There was a man standing at the end of the alleyway, about twenty feet from him with a heavy coat and brown hair that curled up around his neck. He was very tall, and was looking down at Daniel with a curious expression. He took a few steps toward him, but Daniel shoved himself back again and he stopped, putting his hands up as if to prove that he was holding nothing that would hurt him.
"Whoah, it's ok dude, I'm not gonna hurt you."
Daniel swallowed, pushing himself into a crouched position slowly before standing to his feet, never once moving his eyes from the man. He looked strangely familiar…in a way that was making his stomach do back flips, but hadn't noticed with the initial fear.
"What do you want? I have nothing worth stealing…nothing of any value." That at least, was the truth. People had tried to rob him before, but never found much more on him than a small bit of pocket change. Even in his travels, he'd never acquired anything more than the small amount that was in his pack. It hadn't really seemed necessary.
The man laughed, but it didn't sound menacing, a grin curling up the side of his face as he took another few steps into the alley. Daniel stood his ground.
"We weren't looking for you to rob you, we were just looking for you. It's Daniel, right?"
Daniel felt his insides jerk, wondering just how badly he'd managed to get himself into trouble already. He nodded, eyes wide as they darted to the entrance of the alley, expecting someone else to be there.
The man nodded, a sympathetic expression on his face that made it look like he was trying to appear diplomatic. Daniel felt slightly ill, trying hard to recall why it was this man looked familiar. There was a memory just on the edge of his aching head, but he couldn't access it. Never could when he really needed to.
"Yeah, actually. Though right now it's just me, ok? A friend of ours met you a couple of months back, an older man wearing a ball cap. In a bookstore?"
Daniel swallowed, his throat suddenly made of sand. Oh God…
"I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to hurt anyone, he…he's ok, right?" Daniel asked quickly, hating the thundering ache on the side of his head from the swollen purple and blue bruise that was Wayne's parting gift to him. A bruise the day after was always the worst.
"Oh no, no it's ok. I'm not here to attack you or anything, and he's fine, so don't worry. He was more concerned about you. Well, irritated, but also concerned. Wow, he really wasn't kidding. Do you…do you know who Jimmy is?"
Daniel felt his heart sink. How many times was he going to go through with this? How many of his mistakes was this questioning man going to make him pay for? How long had he been following him?
"Yes. I know who he is. If you've come looking for him, I…I know I look like him, but I'm not. I'm just…not. I don't know how I know. There's a city in Illinois where his family had once…"
"Yeah, yeah I know, Pontiac right? That was one of the first places we'd gone looking for you, actually." The man gave him a kind smile, but it still put Daniel on edge.
"Why?" He asked, ready to take another step back if he needed to, glad that it was a two way open alley. "Why are you looking for me? You…you aren't…are you…" And then he did take a step back, his eyes focusing on the man's eyes as he waited for the second they would turn black. He seemed to recognize the fear, seemed to know what it was that Daniel was afraid of and shook his head quickly. His feathered hair falling into his face as he did.
"No! no, no I'm not a demon."
"How am I supposed to know that? They look like everyone else…and they knew who I was and were looking for me just like you are…how do I…"
"Do you know who I am?"
And that stopped him short. The panic in his heart making him breath heavy, but the prospect of being approached by someone else who thought they knew him was too much to ignore. His eyes narrowed and he tried to imagine where else he could have seen him. In a town he'd been in perhaps…on the road…in a picture…
"My name's Sam." He said, and the last piece clicked into place.
Daniel's breath caught, and his hands moved up in front of him slightly. To what ends, he wasn't sure, but this had been the last thing he'd been expecting.
"Sam…Sam Winchester?" The picture he'd seen was at the forefront of his mind, and Sam smiled as he said it, as if to match the image he'd seen in that memorial graveyard.
"But…but you're dead! The man in the ball cap said so…and Alder said you'd been shot in the war…"
"Alder? Louis Alder? Jesus, you really did get around, didn't you?"
"That…that doesn't…how're you…the end of the war, he'd said…"
Sam took a step forward at that, his expression becoming a bit more serious and it was slightly startling.
"You don't remember the end of the war?"
Daniel shook his head, swallowing and licking his lips. The urge to run was starting to become overwhelming.
"No, no, should I? Was I there?"
"What do you remember?"
"Nothing! I don't remember anything! I haven't since the day I woke up here a year ago today and I still don't know anything more than I did before, except that people died! And you're supposed to be one of them! And Dean…" Daniel choked on his words, his chest shaking as the emotion boiled over and he moved a hand to the aching side of his face.
"Whoah, easy. You, uh…you've got one hell of a shiner there dude." Sam stated the obvious, and it made Daniel laugh in the way that wasn't out of amusement or happiness at all.
"Why do you think your name is Daniel?" He asked softly, trying to keep Daniel calm, he noted, and it frustrated him. What was the point of asking him these things? Why couldn't he just stab or shoot him and get it over with?
"I don't think it is. I never did. An old, exhausted man gave it to me and told me I reminded him of his son. Right before he died, he called me Daniel…" He was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and tired of running.
Tired of being lost.
"You really aren't a demon." Sam said, more to himself than to Daniel and it irritated him. No, he wasn't a demon, obviously. He was beat to hell and had no upper hand whatsoever. Sam was a tall and skilled Hunter. If he wanted to, he could take Daniel out without anyone ever hearing his cry. Maybe that was why he'd been tracking him anyway.
"And you lost all your memory."
"I think I've figured that out by now, thanks." He said bitterly, hands moving to clench around his pack as he shivered in the cold. "Listen, I don't know why you're alive when everyone thinks you're dead, but I have nothing to offer you. I'm sorry if your search for me ended in disappointment, but obviously there isn't really much to me to begin with." Daniel turned away from him slightly, offering the hint that he was finished with their conversation and wanted to leave. He wasn't even sure why he'd come back to Detroit in the first place.
Sam's eyebrows raised and he shook his head.
"Wow, this is weird. You…" He pursed his lips, shifting his stance slightly as if the argument in his head was battling with his ability to stand still.
"You don't know what you are, do you?"
Daniel froze again, forgetting to breathe for half a minute before he dragged in a breath of air. Did he know? Had he seen him, maybe? Seen those horrible things, and what he could do? Was he actually hunting him?
"No…no, I'm not anything. I'm human. I don't…" He took a few steps away from Sam Winchester, the panic building in his throat like a scream.
"Holy shit…" Sam breathed, a hand coming up as he took a few steps towards him, as if he were expecting to stop him from falling over somehow. Or stop him from running. Daniel's panic flared. He didn't want to hurt anyone, he didn't even want to be there.
"Wait…Daniel, wait a sec!" and he surged forward again just as the warning signs went off in Daniel's head and he bolted.
He heard Sam cry out for him, heard it but didn't stop, every inch of him wanting desperately to get away and to ignore another piece of what he was missing that had come to find him.
"No, no Daniel, don't do that. Don't ignore it, don't push it all down. You can't keep running from this, or it's going to overwhelm you."
"Even if what's in front of your face is telling you that nothing will ever be good again…you gotta watch for those clues, and find something better."
"Some memories, some knowledge, is better left forgotten."
"I didn't even need two weeks. Met him on the first day I can recall, where he clothed me from the cold and told me that it was not what I was forgetting that was important, but who."
"Now aint' that sumthin. You ain't a robot after all."
He felt his heart stop, which in turn sent the feeling immediately down to his feet where they decided to stop doing what he told them and one foot tangled in the other. He fell, hard, the air getting knocked out of him as his hands scraped across the cement in a vain attempt to break his fall. All in the span of about a few seconds before he came to a jarring stop.
He lay there and breathed for a minute, everything aching but none of it really processing as all thought had somehow seemed to stall. He heard his own breathing catching up with itself, and he heard footsteps. Someone was running, someone else was walking, but definitely two sets, and the voice that he'd heard wasn't Sam's.
The word…the name that he'd heard…he knew it.
Slowly, he twisted himself to the side, watching with blurred vision that took him a second to clear since all the blood was rushing to his head from the fall. Someone was running towards him, and it was familiar. He knew it, and had seemed to know it forever, but couldn't recall when in the last year he'd seen anything like it.
It wasn't in the last year. It was before then. It was before everything.
The figure stopped running about five feet from him, wide eyes staring down at him with an expression that was difficult to read. He'd seen this man before, but never completely. Not in any pictures or anywhere else in the large world that he could reference. But he knew he'd seen him. Everything but his face.
"Dean." He breathed, and it was barely audible.
Sam was standing beside his brother, looking down at him sympathetically but without any sort of malice or distrust. Whatever he'd come to ask of him had finished, his interrogation decided. He spoke to Dean for a second, low voices sharing something he wasn't privy to before Dean placed a hand on his brother's arm and squeezed before letting him go.
Sam looked down at him, still laying on the pavement, and he smiled and nodded. Then he turned with one last glance at his brother, and left the alley completely.
They were alone.
Dean took a few steps forward; careful steps that he recognized so as not to startle him.
"You were dead." He said, unable to push himself any higher than where he was.
"So were you."
There was silence for a moment, and the sounds of the city started to come back slowly, despite how little either of them were paying attention to it.
"I thought I'd killed you." And that at least, was true. It was one of the few memories that had been returned to him.
Dean looked surprised at first before he took a few steps forward, crouching down in front of him so that he no longer looked as intimidating as he had before. In fact, now that he could see him, Dean looked just as tired as he felt.
"Yeah, I know. I've got the scars to prove it, too." He said, grinning in a way that was almost out of relief. It didn't reach his eyes, in fact, his eyes looked wary and protective. Like he was expecting to be hurt at any moment. He didn't look bitter, however. Didn't look like he blamed him at all.
He swallowed, not knowing what else to say. He knew Dean had probably heard his conversation with Sam. That his brother had been sent in as the negotiator to figure out whether or not he was who they thought he was. And that meant that Dean knew he didn't remember anything. Knew that he was lost, and had been searching for himself…for him, ever since he'd woken.
Ever since that day a year ago.
"What's my name?" He asked him, pulling himself forward so that he was sitting up as his fingers froze on the cold pavement of the dirty alleyway.
Dean stared at him for a moment, licking his lips before his eyes moved from his down to the ground and back up again. It was an expression he couldn't read.
"Castiel." He said softly, between them. "Your name is Castiel. You're an angel and…and aside from my brother, you're my best friend. You saved my life when Lucifer tried to kill me before he turned on you. Before he…" Dean trailed off, shaking his head as he leaned his knees forward so that he was now kneeling.
He pulled his legs in so that he was sitting cross legged, scooting himself forward a little bit with rapt attention so that he was only a few feet from Dean. Dean didn't try to move away. The name was his, he knew that, knew it and accepted it almost immediately despite how little else that provided him. It was something. Finally, it was something that was his.
"Before he what?" He asked hesitantly, eyes imploring. He didn't want to see Dean look so sad.
"He ripped you in half. Pulled you away from the fight where I couldn't follow, and I didn't have a clue what happened to you. We all assumed you were…" He stopped, although the words had already been said.
"I'm not dead." He said unnecessarily, with what little he could offer. This was the moment he'd been waiting for. The one he thought he'd never see because he'd been told over and over by the rest of the world that Dean was gone and that he should just get over it. Move on. Do something else.
"When I asked about you…everywhere I went…people said…"
"Yeah, I know. It was a cover. Bobby's the only one who knows we're alive and we're gonna keep it that way. Too much damn publicity, to be honest. Especially with the rebuild goin on." He gave a small smile, and it was wonderful to see. "Bobby didn't recognize you, otherwise he'd have never said…"
"I understand." He filled in quickly, not needing more of an explanation than that.
The two stared at each other again, the awkwardness more than apparent.
"Do you…" Dean started, pursing his lips for a second before swallowing. "God, just look at you. You're thin and…and cold. Scared, even. You look so different, so…human. You don't remember…"
He shook his head, knowing that question already since he'd been answering it over and over again for far too long.
"I have bits and pieces. Fragments that never made much sense." He said honestly. "I used to dream about you once…you were asking where I was…asking if I was ok, but I didn't know what to do with that. Didn't know if it was actually you…"
Dean laughed incredulously. "Seriously? Wow, you'd be mocking me for that usually…cause that was, well. I was kinda sorta praying, if you can believe it. Well, I guess you could since you don't really…" He coughed, scratching the back of his neck and it was familiar enough that it made him smile. Dean caught it and smiled back at him.
"Damnit, Cas…" He said softly.
And there was a jolt that that one word suddenly shot through him like a bolt of electricity.
He fell backwards, Dean crying out to him as he felt hands on his chest and shoulders, but couldn't see anything anymore. The ground was freezing beneath him, but it faded away as he arched upwards with taunt muscles and clenched hands. Pain erupted through him, opening a part of his head that he hadn't noticed before, hadn't ever even thought was there until it was suddenly flooding into him with too much information.
The world faded out around him, along with the tops of the buildings and Dean's frightened face.
He remembers Hell.
The feeling of it as it singes his wings and makes him sicker the longer he stays there. He is fighting, charging his way in for one purpose and one purpose alone. To find Dean Winchester.
Dean can't hear him, so he finds himself someone whom he could. A body that didn't need to be anyone in particular aside from a devout man. Anything else makes no difference, and he looks upon Dean for the first time through human eyes.
He shows Dean his past in order to warn him of his future. All the while, knowing what was going to happen to his brother but doing as he was told regardless. It was all for the greater good, but it hurts Dean.
Dean stops him from destroying the lives of innocent people. Despite what his orders had been. He is relieved to have been told to listen to him, even if he tells them to leave.
The man frustrates him, but he deals with it. The man taunts him, but he takes each visit in stride.
The man was infuriating, but he is fascinated.
His brothers are dying, the war is going badly and there is someone on their side that is killing other angels. Someone he may know. He doesn't like what he tells Dean to do, doesn't like what Alistair does to either of them, and his heart breaks when he finds out it was Uriel.
Everything is circling down, and it's ending with Dean in the center.
He feels guilt.
He wants to tell him, wants him to understand why it is that he's doing what he is. What the purpose is for his brother and why he was told not to tell him. But his brothers find out before he can, and he is punished. He doesn't like pain, doesn't like it one bit and can't escape it soon enough, so he agrees to say nothing.
He is weak, and Dean is strong.
The war begins, Lucifer is free.
But he chooses the right side, with the Winchesters against Lucifer. With Dean.
Sam has to leave Dean, and they have to let each other go, otherwise more people will die. They have to split up so that more hunters find them. More people know the truth. It eats away at Dean, but he is there to catch him when he falls. He doesn't leave, he doesn't run, and he doesn't disappoint any longer.
Dean kisses him, and everything suddenly makes more sense.
The fascination makes more sense, and he wonders why he never noticed it before. Probably because he wasn't human. Dean doesn't seem to care.
He calls him 'Cas' and it feels more like his name than anything else ever did. Something that actually belongs to him when little else in Heaven ever had.
The angels hate him, aside from a few that join their cause. He doesn't hear God, he doesn't know for certain if what he's doing is right, but it feels right. It makes sense but makes him want to scream at the same time.
Dean takes his hand, and he doesn't feel so alone anymore.
Lucifer has him.
They'd worked so hard to close the gates. To cut off the reinforcements and finally hold the upper hand against the minions of Hell, but he'd caught them off guard. Caught him off guard. He's pushed down into the body and trapped there as his vessel screams and dies. There's no one else there anymore, and Lucifer tears him apart from the inside. It's agony as he rips him to pieces, shoving everything that he's ever known into the recesses and leaving him with nothing left.
Lucifer doesn't win, but he defeats him before he goes. Defeats him and leaves him for dead like he was an empty shell.
He leaves him human, and trapped.
Then the fallen, angry seraph within him shoots Dean with his hands, and all he sees is blood.
It's all he can do, the last thing he knows how to before it's all pulled away from him. He pulls out the bullets, forces the body to stop bleeding. Forces the air back into Dean's lungs and blood back into his heart. He fixes what he's done, but he can't fix himself.
It knocks him somewhere else, and he doesn't know what's happened anymore.
Doesn't know anything.
Castiel opened his eyes.
He was warm, and safe, a feeling of contentment somewhere within him despite the fact that he knew there was still a great deal of himself that had been taken away. Removed from his angel soul and suppressed with a force that was something he'd never overpower.
It was probably permanent, everything else that he'd lost.
It took him a second before he realized that he was in a bed. Probably in a hotel room, although he hadn't a clue where that would be. His knees were drawn up to his chest, just as he always did, and there were arms wrapped protectively around him.
He uncurled his legs, twisting himself slightly so that he could move within the circle of the arms without pushing them away. As he did, he could feel that the person behind him was awake, and that they were letting him move as he would, without helping or pulling away.
Letting him remain there as if the very thought of letting go would mean he'd disappear.
Castiel didn't blame him.
He turned himself around the entire way and came face to face with Dean Winchester. Hesitant hazel eyes stared at him sleepily, but focused, with an arm still draped over Castiel's as if any argument he might possibly have had wasn't going to get him to move it.
That wariness, that hesitation, it wasn't necessary.
He leaned his head forward, tilting until he could place a kiss softly on the lips of the man before him. A chaste kiss that was similar to the one that Dean had given to him in what seemed like another life.
Dean responded, the hesitation clearing just enough that he moved into him as his hand gripped the angel's forearm and clung with a hold that told him everything he needed to know.
I thought you were dead, I missed you, I'm sorry.
Castiel pulled himself back after a moment, the message clear, before smiling again, and was soon joined by Dean's grin that was never easy to resist.
"You ok?" He asked tentatively.
"I will be, yes."
Dean let out a huff of a laugh, his hands moving to Castiel's face before running up through his hair then tracing hesitantly over the bruise still lingering on the side of his face. Castiel closed his eyes as he did, letting him see him and feel him and knowing that it wasn't a dream or even a memory any longer. It was real, and it was now.
"What happened to you?" He asked, pursing his lips. Castiel shook his head, a hand moving to Dean's chest where he could feel the scars of two, healed bullet wounds that would be something he'd regret for the rest of his existence. Dean's hand moved to cover his.
"It doesn't matter." Castiel said, and he meant it. "It's been a year, exactly a year to the day.
But I'm not lost anymore."
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
-Henry David Thoreau
thanks so much everyone for reading! i know way more about the highways of the U.S. thanks to researching for this story, haha. all in all, i'm still pretty proud of it too, and that's saying something. Supernatural, Castiel and Dean aren't and never will be mind, i just had fun playing with them :3
again, thanks for reading! 3 all in all, this was a great ride.