Title: Breathe easy
Summary: Lilith keeps breaking the seals and there is only one person who can stop her. The one who started it all. The one who can't compose himself enough to do it. Dean is having hard times with the Apocalypse rolling in on them and the seals breaking faster than they can stop it while Bela is doing her best to be back to her life after what she'd experienced in Hell
Spoilers: Season 4, up to "Jump the Shark" (so far; I'll see if I need to extend it)
Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel, Anna, Bela, Bobby, Ruby, some other demons perhaps
Pairings: Dean/Bela, Sam/Ruby (implied)
Disclaimer: unfortunately, none of them is mine. All characters belong to Eric Kripke and CW. I boldly borrowed them for entertainment purposes only and promise to give them back, sooner or later. Probably unharmed.
Author's Note: I have a serious problem with the sequels or two-part stories, and actually I wasn't sure about writing this one. Never planned it. "Dear Angel" was written almost overnight; I considered it to be a finished independent story and I liked it that way, but then I just… well, I miss Bela. Chances are, it might not work in the end, so please be kind. I'm very bad with timings, too. Really. I know that supposedly Alastair was killed or sent back hell by Sam long before "Jump the shark" but I may need him to make this story work.
The title is take from the song "Breathe easy" performed by Blue. I just like it. Not that it has much to do with the plot of the story :))
-- Would you mind if I hurt you?
Understand that I need to.
Wish that I had other choices
Than to harm the one I love…
"What have you done" by Within Temptation --
The air in the small bar located on the outskirts of the town was thick, heavy and consisted mainly of booze and bluish cigarette smoke even at three in the afternoon. Plus, utter lack of windows and natural light which didn't exactly let define the time of the day without the clock wasn't really helping the matter. Not that anyone cared of course. Not in a place like that anyway.
Several coins brought an old bright jukebox back to life and now it was playing some thirty-year old country song. Both the song and the jukebox itself were out of place and stood out like a sore thumb, but then again no one seemed to pay any attention to it either.
As for Dean, he had no problem with any of them. He was sitting on the tall stool at the scarred counter that had probably never been polished or merely properly cleaned in its hundreds of years of existence, staring sightlessly at the ice cubes rolling in his half-empty glass of whiskey and doing his best to keep his mind blank. Trying not to think. Like – at all. Okay, maybe it would finally start working after another glass. Or two. Or three, more like it.
And here is to no alcohol before sunset, he thought absently and gave his drink a small shake. The cubes clinked and settled.
He didn't remember how he ended up there. Of when. Or why, speaking of that. Or if he had any significant reason to ever leave. Small evil voice inside of his head – still too sober perhaps – told him that the answer to the latter was probably no. Dean heaved a deep sigh, his fingers flexed on the glass and then relaxed a little again. Some conscious part of his mind wished he could stay here forever to have one drink after another until he simply stopped existing. This at least would make a lot more sense than anything else in his sorry life.
He was so screwed up. His whole life was falling to shit. Everything he lived for, everything he believed in – it had all gone right to hell leaving him alone, confused and rather miserable. All the things that made sense ever since he remembered himself, that were the core of his existence just – poof! – disappeared and now he didn't know where to turn to find himself again. In case it was possible, which he wasn't all that sure of anymore. So far, the feeling of self-disgust and hatred was so deep and consuming that it hurt.
On the bright side, he at least knew he actually had a soul. Kinda. Could practically feel it aching, scarred and wounded. And no, he had no idea how – or if – he could stop it.
So, dad, are you still sure you staked on the right son?
Maybe it wasn't a salvation at all? Dean couldn't help thinking that he'd been brought back only because it was he cruelest way to punish him for what he'd done in hell. No, he didn't care about any of that down there. It wasn't hard to learn to block his mind and emotions when he knew he'd already been to the worst place imaginable. He'd been dead anyway. He'd been to Hell. How worse could it possible have gone from there?
Now he knew, though. Remembering all the people – souls – he'd destroyed, humiliated and abused, every single one that he'd worked on. All of them were tearing him apart now. Hundreds. Or maybe thousands of hem. He lost track of numbers, or maybe never actually counted. It didn't change the fact that it was bloody unfair that he was alive now whereas all of them, guilty or innocent he didn't care, stayed where they were. It was unfair in that charming way life tended to be, in general. And saving one soul – for whatever price there was to pay now – didn't make Dean all that sure that it had made it up for what he'd done. Nothing could, or would, for that matter.
He just wanted to forget. For a while. For one goddamned minute. About everything, every bloody day of his life. For just a moment, he thought. Just to catch his balance again. To believe that it was worth it. To stop falling apart. God, how much more alcohol he needed to stop going crazy?
There was no sound and the air remained still but all of a sudden Dean knew that he wasn't alone anymore. Someone was sitting right next to him, on the similar tall stool to the left from him, his face a stone mask. The one Dean got rather used to by now. Surely, he was dressed in that trademark beige raincoat of his. Dean Winchester didn't need to bother and turn his head to know all of that.
"So, what happened to the conspiracy theory, Cas?" He asked with a smirk keeping his eyes on the glass. "Popping in and out like that."
"He didn't notice, I assure you, Dean." Castiel's vice was calm and confident.
Dean looked at the bartender out of the corner of his eye. The appearance of another customer out of thin air, literary speaking, didn't seem to merely bother him. At least he never stopped wiping dry the beer mugs standing at the other end of the counter. Inwardly, Dean winced a little. He could have used a show.
"Did he notice you at all?"
"He thinks I came here with you and am staying here ever since."
Dean's lips quirked into a poor imitation of a grin. "Messing up with people's minds now? Dude, where is Lord's will in it?" The question was heavy with sarcasm, almost a dare.
Castiel ignore it completely – both the questions and the tone they were asked with. "What are you doing here, Dean?" He asked in that level voice that was setting Dean's teeth on edge more that anything in the entire universe.
Dean took a big swig of his whiskey and let it burn its way down his throat. It settled heavily in his stomach like a misshaped lump, but it only took a moment for comforting warmth to start spreading through his body making his thoughts fuzzy and muffled by the second. Making him feel a little like a stuffed toy.
"I am playing golf here, don't ya see?" He breathed out.
Seriously, all he wanted was to be left alone, at least right now.
"Lilith is not wasting her time getting drunk in places like that."
"Sure she doesn't," Dean muttered. "Bet she'd pick something friggin' posh instead. With face control and guest list, y'know."
"The world is going crazy, and it is not a metaphor anymore. You have to find her before more seals are broken. Before it got too late."
"Well, sorry, buddy, but apparently it slipped her mind to share her schedule with me. Or maybe it is a poor postal service to blame." He shrugged. "Either way."
"Dean," Castiel started, and either Dean was getting a little delusional, which wasn't all that impossible, or there was a warning in the angel's voice. "You promised…"
Oh, yeah, right. That didn't slip his mind for sure.
"To help you, and listen to you, and be a wordless puppet in the Lord's hands." Dean turned to look the angel in the face. "I remember that. But I never promised to be friggin' excited about it. You know where she is – tell me and I'll go and kick her ass. If you don't, just go to hell, Cas. I'm in the middle of something very enjoyable here, really."
Castiel wasn't looking his way though. He was staring at the row of bottles before him instead. "She won't be sitting and waiting for you to come, Dean. If we want to get her, we need to be a step ahead. Otherwise, everything is vain."
"This whole bloody world is vain, man."
God, he was so tired of all of that, Dean thought. So tired that he thought his head was going to explode any moment. He rubbed at his face and tried to remember the last time he had decent sleep. Or… any sleep.
"There was no demon activity lately. For almost two weeks now. What do you want from me, exactly? It's not like we can walk around the streets with EMF and check everyone."
Castiel kept silent for a long moment. Not that Dean expected any response or reaction at all, what with the question being rhetoric more or less. Besides, angels were hard on actual advices. But he started counting in his mind alongside with the clock ticking on the wall to the right from him all the same. As if waiting for something.
"You could start caring for starters," Castiel said in the end.
Dean chuckled ruefully. "You can tell me to go and fight, and I will, Cas. You can tell me to go and kick some demon asses and I'll go and do it." He kept his eyes on the ice cubes in his glass as if an answer could sooner or later appear somewhere there. "But you cannot tell me to start caring."
"You can't." He repeated. "You have already asked for more than you had right to, saving me or not." His voice was grave and cold, and it dropped a little as the memories of Alastair sprawled on the rack and a row of knives lying on the small table before him filled his mind.
"So you don't think that what you've asked in return was big enough? I went against Lord's will to do you a favor, Dean."
"Since when sending innocent people to hell to pay for the sins of the others is His will, Cas?" Angel didn't answer, for which Dean was endlessly grateful. He was so not up to listening to all that If-it-happened-then-it-was-Lord's-will-and-if-it-was-his-will-it-was-the-right-thing-to-happen shit. He finished his drink if one bog gulp feeling that his blood was finally getting somewhat warm for the first time in a long while. Put the glass on the counter and then, "How is she?" in a low voice, more a whoosh of a breath than actual sound. The words came out of his mouth before he has time to think but he… Well, he just needed to know. Caught his breath even. A little. Like the answer… mattered or something.
"Why don't you ask her, Dean? There is no need to ask me." Castiel's voice sounded oddly tired, to Dean's endless surprise.
Dean's lips quirked into a humorless smirk. "The nature of our relationship kinda excludes any sort of civil communication, see."
"Look, she hates me, okay? She'll probably start shooting before I open my mouth."
Leave alone the fact that least of all Bela probably needed to be reminded of hell and her time in the pit, and he kinda was the best of all possible reminders. Dean simply wanted to stop causing her any more pain than he'd already caused. And the best way to do it was to keep distance, like several states between them. Preferably. For the sake of both of them. He couldn't even think of her looking at him the way she did the last time he saw her. Couldn't stand the thought…
Dean hoped that he made his point clear. Not that it ever worked well in the past, what with Castiel following blindly the orders of his superiors. But come on!
"They know she escaped and they don't like it." An angel said with what Dean thought was regret.
Yet, the words struck him although he expressed it only by tightening his grip on the now empty glass. It would probably make sense to ask for more whiskey. But then maybe not. His stomach twisted with… oh, God, worry? Seriously! The last sip now felt almost nauseating.
"How?" Dean fought to keep his voice nonchalant. "Are you guys running a bulletin or something? Heaven and Hell Daily?"
"It's not a common thing for people to come back from dead, Dean."
Dean considered his words for a long moment, and then nodded in agreement. With good luck – not that he believed he had it – he could easily become a part of history, like the second… Second what? Dean "Jesus" Winchester. Now that was just insane, right? Maybe some more whiskey wasn't a bad idea after all.
"Okay, so? It wounded their pride or what?" He muttered not at all up to hearing the answer. "Personal revenge?"
"I think you understand that Lilith used Abby… Bela in the past because she was connected to you." Sure thing, Castiel was quick to confirm the worst of Dean's fears. "It couldn't have escaped them that you got out one after another."
"What a coincidence, huh? Well, stranger things happen. Like winning a million in Jack Pot or something." And then as an afterthought, "Oh, who am I telling it to?"
"They will probably try to get to her."
"Come on! Only an idiot would mess with Bela, and they are… Okay, they can."
Crap, crap, crap!
The thing was, they could actually decide to try… Not that it was any of his business anymore. Or ever.
"I can't be her babysitter, if that is what you're trying to say, man," Dean told in a dull voice as if… hell, as if what he'd done made him responsible for her well-being in any way, for God's sake! "Not that she'd let me." He paused and then let out a long sight staring right before himself. "I helped her out. Kinda. Okay, you did. Whatever, dude. Now she's on her own." He gestured at the bartender - one more, the same.
"I didn't bring her back only because you asked me to, Dean."
"What?" Okay, now that was a little… unexpected. Dean blinked dumbly at him. "What do you mean? Why would you do it then?" He was still holding his empty glass so tight that he might have as well broken it if he wanted.
Castiel ignored him however. "You have to find Lilith and stop her until it's too late. The further she goes, the easier it gets."
Dean clenched his teeth in annoyance debating bringing them back to the original conversation, but then decided to let it slip. He wondered how much he actually wanted to hear the answer. It wasn't the first time he fought the wish to bloody grab an angel and shake him hard to force him become more… human?
But all of a sudden he felt oddly numb, as if all of his thoughts and feelings were not exactly his anymore. As if the whole end of the world thing was a joke of some sort.
Middle-aged bartender with barely recognizable face, what with the darkness and smoke filling the entire space of the bar, came up to them and replaced Dean's empty glass with the new one. He barely looked at Castiel and never asked if he wanted something, too, which made Dean let out a small grumbled smirk. He took the glass and turned it from side to side in his hand studying it thoughtfully as though it had some deep meaning, or whatever.
"Honestly, dude, do you think it all makes any sense? Like – at all? You think we can actually win? Because… really, if the whole world falling to shit is inevitable, then I'm sure I'd find a better way to spend my last days than tearing my ass for nothing."
"It's not that simple…"
"'Course it isn't. But seriously, man, tell me, doesn't God actually have this big book or something where he keeps records of our sins and good deeds and other stuff?" Feeling that his brain simply didn't want to get affected by alcohol today, Dean looked at Castiel. "Can't he like…. Say if the damned Apocalypse is meant to be so that the fight became at least worth it?" Then rubbed tired at his eyes. "I just wanna know."
Castiel stayed silent for a very long time. He just sat there looking at Dean with patience and understanding. And sympathy maybe. And all of Dean's anger and frustration was suddenly gone. For a very long moment he wasn't even sure he was able to feel anything at all. He was just so tired…
"You shouldn't be questioning His existence."
"Sorry, I got a little carried away by all the crap that's happening all around."
Another gulp made its way down his throat while Dean debated sticking to where-the-hell-God-was-when-I-suffered-so-much theme. Not that it made much sense. Or where-the-hell-God-was-when-my-brother-started-messing-up-with-the-demon? Yeah, that was a huge issue. Kinda.
Sam wasn't the person he used to know and love and… trust anymore. They had secrets now… real big secrets. Not just some crap like "I won't tell you what I feel because I'm not some freaking girl". They both had dark secrets now. They became strangers. And for the first time in his entire life Dean didn't know how to make it up. Something told him that a couple of beers wouldn't do the trick. He wasn't even sure if it was possible at all.
And together with it, he wasn't so sure he wanted to save the world he didn't belong in anymore. Hell if Castiel and the like didn't know about it.
The Juke Box started playing something from the decades old album of Rolling Stones but Dean couldn't make out the name of the song at first, his hands holding on to the cold glass as it was an anchor of some sort. He wished it were.
"Look, she's a big girl and she can take care of herself better than anyone in this friggin' stupid world. She's better off without me, and… Really, man, I have no idea what do you have in mind but…" Dean paused. "Hey, Cas, can I ask you something?" Breathed out after a great deal of hesitation as if he wasn't quite sure how to put his thoughts in words. "I know you've already done a few things for me. But can… can you keep an eye on her?" The end of the phrase came out like 'keepaneyeoneher', too fast and muffled, what with Dean not being sure he actually wanted to say it; like he changed his mind the last moment but it was too late.
No response came. And okay, maybe it was a little too much. He could admit it. The end of the world was coming, the war between living and dead, blah, blah, blah. He could swear Cas and his buddies could find a better hobby than baby-sit some lost soul. Besides, after all that Castiel had already done for him Dean hardly had any right to ask even for a napkin, leave alone any actual request, but if he was right, if they actually were thinking of coming for her… he just had to.
Thinking that he gave Castiel enough time to consider his words, Dean turned around… and saw empty chair.
"And they say I have problems with manners," he muttered shaking his head.
To be continued!
A/N: More to come soon, hopefully :)) Reviews are always love!