He was gone. When Sam had re-entered the cellblock, Billy was gone.
The prostitute and her client were no longer around for him to ask any questions, and Tina looked like she was ready to deck him for what he'd done. Only with an intervention by Johnson did he manage to avoid a black eye and a couple of broken ribs.
But Billy…Billy knew. He knew all about the demons and their plans to break the barrier. He knew how they were trying to manipulate the townsfolk. Sam wasn't sure if he had been working for the demons or if he had just been caught in the middle, but either way he was gone, and that knowledge had disappeared with him.
"You'd better hope he doesn't spill," Dean had said.
Sam had thought about it all the way back to the motel. All it would take would be for Billy to run to the demons and tell them all about Sam and Dean being in town. According to Billy, they already knew and had anticipated he and Dean hitting Dixville, but something made him immensely uncomfortable thinking the demons could have Billy right now.
Billy and all of his complications faded to the back of Sam's mind once they had reached the motel. When he had entered the room, all traces of Dean's wing problem were gone. Not a single stray feather could be found in any corner. He wondered if Terry had sent someone to clean up after them, or if the maid that worked in the building had grudgingly cleaned it herself. Sam, on the other hand, had witnessed what happened to one of Dean's stray feathers in the station. Part of him held the belief that was exactly what happened in the motel.
He had refused to dwell on it. Sam had packed up their remaining gear while Dean waited in the back of the van. Hearing his whiny complaints the whole way there was a small price to pay for Dean secure and safe and a few moments of peace as he prepared to leave the motel and the town behind.
That had been three hours ago.
Now, he stood outside the Impala, leaning against the driver's side, off the side of the road by a long stretch of woods. On the horizon, he could see the outskirts of the town, and wondered what Johnson, Daria, and Terry were doing, and how the town was dealing with its latest "bombshell." It wasn't fair that more people were sucked in this cat and mouse game between angels and demons. He resented it more and more as each day passed. Why did people have to suffer? Why did he and Dean have to deal with their mess?
Demons were everywhere. He knew they were in the hills and in the densely wooded areas that hugged the town's boundaries. That barrier wouldn't last forever, and when it finally broke, the innocents here would be living Hell on earth.
If Sam could only hone his powers, become better and stronger, maybe one day he could come back and save them.
He glanced at his watch. Dean was taking a long time doing his thing.
He looked over his shoulder to the roadside trees. He heard the distinct chirping of birds in the treetops, and some minor rustling in the bushes below.
He sighed and turned back to stare at the pavement. He hadn't been too keen at stopping in the forest so close to town, not with the demons out there and Dean altered. He wasn't sure what would happen if Dean came face to face with a demon in his current state. At this point, Sam didn't know if Dean was still changing. The glamour spell could have acted as a catalyst or maybe all the magic surrounding the town had caused a reaction. He couldn't shake the thought that maybe Uriel was right--Dean did remember Hell, and something had happened down there that was only manifesting now.
There was also the reality that whatever happened to Dean was ongoing, despite any magical barriers and spells they encountered. No matter the cause, Sam knew that Dean was continuing to transform, and the idea scared him. A demon could spark a reaction that might take Dean away forever.
Sam wouldn't allow that. Whatever was happening, Sam would find a way to reverse it. He'd prove to Dean that he could.
There was a soft rapping behind him.
Sam straightened and pushed off the car. Dean stood on the other side of the Impala, arms outstretched, eyebrows raised, waiting for the coming appraisal.
"No wings?" Dean asked.
"Not that I can see." Dean looked as normal as he could. He had used the glamour spell, but at least this time he was minus all the female amenities. Sam frowned. "Wait, you're not that tall."
"I don't think Bobby would be impressed that you're using his spell this way."
"Who said anything about Bobby?"
Sam snorted. "Right. Like I don't know where you got the spell in the first place."
Dean's face puckered with discomfort with a twinge of guilt.
Sam just shook his head. "Anyway, it shouldn't take too long to make it to Bobby's from here," he said, resting his arms on the roof of the Impala. "If we start now, we could make good time."
"Bobby's? Why're we going to Bobby's?"
"You're asking why?" He nudged his chin toward Dean. "He has to have some ancient lore on something to do with wings."
"He doesn't. I asked."
"So, he knows."
Dean rubbed his face and glanced away. "Not exactly."
"Not exact--You didn't tell him?"
"No telling Bobby." He turned away from Sam and walked to the trunk. Sam wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily.
"Why?" he asked, coming to stand beside Dean. "You're afraid he'll think you're a freak? Now you know how I feel."
Dean glared at him and popped the trunk.
The words had come out wrong, and while Sam didn't regret saying them, he wished his tone had been softer. He'd spent his entire life feeling like a freak only to learn he was one. He had to deal with the secret looks, the stares, and the flickers of horror that washed over Dean's face every time something happened. He was subjected to Dean's constant and ever-vigilant and suspicious eye, like he was just waiting for Sam to screw up.
He knew Sam was a freak. He could never deny that with a straight face. So maybe Sam felt vindicated that Dean was experiencing a taste of his own medicine. But even if Sam did relish the payback, he also didn't want to see his brother saddled with the constant pain he felt from carrying that acute difference from day to day.
"I'm not going to treat you like a freak, Dean," he said softly. "I've been down that road."
Dean didn't look up. He kept fumbling for nothing in the trunk, stopping to reload his gun. But Sam thought he saw some of the hardness in Dean's face soften, even if he was too proud to admit his appreciation to Sam personally, as well as any of the associated guilt that came with it.
Sam shoved his hands in his pockets and watched Dean work. When the silence grew uncomfortable again, he decided on a different topic. "What do you make of all this?"
"Make of all what?"
"What the town is hiding? It has to be something big."
Dean lifted his head. He had that disgusted look on his face that Sam knew could never be good. "I dunno, Sammy. But I get this feeling in my gut, you know? Like whatever we missed is gonna haunt us. Like we just walked out on a game changer or something."
Sam wondered what it could be and if Dean was right. Maybe this was another one that got away, and maybe in the end they would pay for it.
He swallowed hard, his fist closing around the dented bullet in his pocket. "What about the station? What do you think happened back there? With the gun shot?"
Sam was positive that Dean's face paled. "I dunno. Ricocheted off something?"
"You don't think it had anything to do with your wings?"
Dean turned and stopped to glare at him. "First, not my wings. Second…come on. I get beat up by a freakin' tree, and you think the feathers go all Man of Steel on a bullet?" He blew a raspberry and buried himself lower in the trunk. "It ricocheted. End of story."
"I said end of story."
Sam pressed his lips together and felt the tension return to his jaw. He nodded and shifted his weight, trying to release some of the pent up tension inside. If Dean wanted to be difficult, he could be difficult. But it didn't erase what happened and it didn't make the anxiety over the entire case any less in Sam's mind.
"So, what do we do now?" Sam asked.
Dean loaded the clip and tossed the gun into the trunk. "As soon as we can get in touch with Castiel, he can toast these things."
"We don't even know what caused them, though I think we both know that this has something to do with the angels or your time in Hell or something like that."
"Still could be the Trickster."
Sam imagined it could, though as each day passed, he started to believe that possibility less and less.
He hesitated, knowing that the suggestion he was about to propose had zero chance at being considered, but he wanted to try again anyway.
"We could call Ruby."
"We are especially not calling Ruby." Dean's intense glare screamed end of discussion.
"Then what do you want to do, Dean? Because this can't go on forever."
Dean straightened, his face stony and determined. "It won't. Cas will make them go. He can raise me from the dead; he can get rid of these wings."
Sam nodded, but he wasn't convinced. In fact, he didn't think they could trust any of the angels at all.
Through the corner of his eye, Sam saw Dean pull out the car keys. "I got a few more things to secure back here." With that, he tossed the keys to Sam.
Sam snatched them and hesitated, staying beside Dean for another moment. Whatever was on his mind, he wasn't sharing, and Sam didn't think he was going to talk any time soon. He still wanted to ask Dean about his time in Hell, to see if Uriel was right, but he knew this wasn't the time. It would come soon. Dean would have to come clean with him eventually.
He flipped the keys over in his hand and started to the driver's side, trying not to think of his own burdens and secrets, and the long road ahead.
* * *
Dean watched Sam stroll back to the front of the car and open the driver's side door. As he disappeared into the Impala, Dean let out a heavy sigh and bowed his head, bracing himself on the outer edges of the trunk.
These were the times that Dean wished he could read people's minds. Often, he thought what Sam said and what Sam thought were completely different. Sam was so closed off to him, so secretive, that it tore him not to know what he was really thinking and feeling, and how Sam might actually see him. Maybe Dean didn't really want to know.
The wing deal changed things. There were just too many changes: Sam and his demon blood, his boost in powers, Ruby, the coming Apocalypse, the angels breathing down their necks…It was all too much. He wished that they could go back to the way things used to be, just him and Sam, hunting ghosts and monsters.
He slammed the trunk and felt the invisible wings flutter behind him.
Dean started a slow stroll to the passenger's side of his car. Demons. Angels. Every damn thing in between. He resisted the urge to look back at the town, knowing that if he did, he would be faced with a barrage of doubts and questions that he just couldn't handle.
The town could keep their secrets and shove them. In the meantime, he had a job to do and a body to fix.
As for what lay hidden deep inside the old town, that would remain a mystery for now. Though Dean knew that one day, and one day soon, they would find out exactly what Dixville was concealing, and when they did, he hoped that he and Sam--hell, the world--would be ready to face the resulting chaos that was sure to follow.
End Note: Thank you reading. I hope you enjoyed the story. Since this is part of a series, I didn't wrap everything up at the end and some of the unanswered questions will be answered as the series progresses. The series takes place over the course of Season 4 and Season 5, and I know many of you (as well as myself) had a hard time with the brothers' relationship in S4, but I will be sticking to canon as closely as possible in the series, which includes the tough spots in S4. If that is not your cup of tea, there's no hard feelings if you don't stick with the series. If you do stick around, I hope you'll enjoy the ride. I'll label each fic or ficlet as Playing the Angel so you know. Thank you again for reading. :)