Disclaimer: the only thing that's mine is the bird, and that's not even mine, since I don't own a bird!

Title: Freakin' Birds

Summary: Two appallingly embarrassing post-not-quite-apocalyptic moments, somehow connected to birds, lead Dean to a sort-of epiphany.

A/N: Inspired by watching Beauty and the Beast. Somehow. It has absolutely nothing to do with it, but somehow I got from there… to here.

Most days, Dean can slog through everything; focus on the mundane trivialities and day-to-day nuisances that accompany civilian-status. Nights are, as he expected, completely horrific, but that isn't the point. The nights may be intolerable, but the days are not as bad as he'd thought they'd be.

For the most part, anyway.

There are really only two moments that truly gut him, and, for some reason, they both have to do with… birds.

Birds. Birds, singing away in the trees outside Lisa's house in the dim, pre-dawn light, as he sits in the backyard, trying to shake off the lingering effects of his most recent nightmares. Birdsong is what almost breaks him.


It's so ridiculous that he almost refuses to admit, even to himself, that it actually happened. Even with the nightmares and the crying jags, he's still enough of a man to not be driven to hysterics by some freakin' birds' tweeting!

Apparently not. Apparently, the universe has it out for him even more than usual, which is really freakin' saying something, seeing as the universe has been trying to kill him since he was four years old.

That may be an exaggeration, but the point is still the same.

Birdsong cracks the desperate grip he has on control, not once, which could be explained away by the fact that he was… uhm… sick? At the time? Anyway, once could be explained away. Somehow. But not twice. Birds, twittering birds, made him bawl like a baby twice. Birds made him cry!

It physically pains him to think that sentence. Well, not physically… never mind.

The point is, although… birdsong… made him cry twice, it was… different birdsong? That doesn't really make it better. In fact, that makes him seem even more of a pansy-ass crybaby than just normal birdsong making him cry. Whatever.

The first time it happened, he was sitting in the backyard, trying desperately not to throw up from the most recent nightmare of Sam-in-Hell. He sat on the porch, leaning against the house, eyes closed, focusing on breathing in, and breathing out, and not vomiting everywhere.

That's when he heard it.

The freakin' bird.

He didn't know what kind it was. Who has time to study birdsong when they're hunting demons? Well, maybe Sam. But not Dean. Dean didn't buy into girly shit like that. Which makes this whole situation now even more… ironic? Ridiculous? Obnoxious? Fucking pain-in-the-ass? Not the point.

Anyway, the stupid bird was singing its heart out, as loud as it could. And even though Dean doesn't speak bird, he knew what the bird was saying.

'I'm happy!'

Happiness, contentment and… dammit, joy, practically dripped off this stupid freakin' bird. Anybody could hear it. And that was really not what Dean needed to hear at that particular moment.

The overwhelming gladness from this… evil-devil-bird hurt. It really did.

And not because Dean was angry that something in the universe was happy when Sam was in Hell. That's stupid, OK? The damn bird didn't know Sam. It had no idea what Sam did, who Sam was, what he'd done to save the world. It was a freakin' bird! It didn't even know what a Sam was, probably. Or that there was a Devil, and demons and angels, and that they had all been trying to send the world (including this stupid bird) to Hell in a handbasket. It was a bird.

It hurt because the birdsong reminded Dean, momentarily, of what it was like to be truly, completely happy. Except that Dean couldn't feel it.

It was akin to chugging an entire bottle of water in front of someone who was dying of thirst. Or stuffing your face with pie while sitting next to a man who hasn't eaten in a week. It was just plain cruel.

Unintentionally cruel, of course. If the bird had the capacity to understand what it had done to Dean with its happy song, it probably would have been horrified. Of course, it was just a bird, and was only singing because the sun was coming up, and there was a lot of food this year.

But either way, it really fucking hurt.

Two weeks later, Dean had forgotten about the stupid bird. He had more important things to worry about, anyway. Like keeping Lisa and Ben from noticing that he was not coping with Sam's death, and trying not to break down bawling when he saw a laptop, or when Ben offered to get an iPod jack for the Impala. Who has time to remember an embarrassing moment with a freakin' bird and maybe half an hour of misery and tears? Especially if they don't want to remember it.

Once again, the nightmares struck with a vengeance the night before the birdsong attacked.

In this particular nightmare, Sam wasn't on the rack anymore (those dreams had been bad enough. Watching his brother be tortured, just as Dean had once been, and being unable to do anything about it? Recipe for insomnia). Sam was off the rack, holding the knife, and on the rack… the person on the rack had flickered, changing from moment to moment, as happens in dreams. Sometimes Ellen, sometimes Dad, sometimes even Jess. But never Dean. Because Dean was alive. And Sam was dead.

Dean sat in the same place as before, hearing their screams echoing in his ears, overlaid with Sam's laughter. The cold, uncaring laughter that made Dean's stomach writhe.

And that's when the bird started singing.

Unlike last time, this bird wasn't happy. Ohhh, no. This was, quite possibly, the most miserable bird on the planet. Clearly, its mate had run off with another bird, its eggs had all been eaten, its wings broken, and now a hungry cat was stalking it. Oh, and it was about to rain, and there was no food anywhere. That's how despondent this stupid freakin' bird was.

And, of course, the angsty, woe-is-me birdsong hit Dean at exactly the wrong moment.

Whereas before, the birdsong had reminded Dean of what he was missing, this one insistently outlined exactly what was wrong with Dean's life.

You know in movies, how they always have depressing music playing in the sad parts? It's never as sad if you take away the music. The right notes, at the right moments, can bring out the tears in the most hard-hearted jerk.

And Dean was that jerk.

Oh, no. Now he'd called himself a 'jerk', and of course that reminded him of Sam, and…. And there he went with the waterworks.

It's odd how tiny, seemingly insignificant things can be what push a person over the edge.

Because those two birds (actually, it was the same bird, in a different mood, but Dean doesn't know that) are what spur him to get back into hunting.

He's sick of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, and the only way he knows to deal with things like this is through hunting. Sure, it may not be exactly perfect, but it works. Sorta.

Anyway, less than a week after the second most embarrassing moment of his life, Dean packs his shit into the Impala and hits the road. He takes the coward's way out, sneaking off when neither Lisa nor Ben are there, leaving them only a short note:

Lisa and Ben – I have to go sort some stuff out. You've both been great, really, but I can't just sit around and be normal. I don't know how to be normal anymore. Anyway, I'll call you sometime. Or not, if you don't want me to. Take care of yourselves. – Dean.

Oddly, it's Lisa who's completely stunned by the note, while Ben just sort of nods.

"He was never staying with us, Mom," he says, as if it should be obvious. "He was… sort of on loan, I guess. Dean has more important stuff to do."

And Ben is right.

Not two hours after Dean leaves Lisa's, a visitor who is neither entirely unexpected nor unwelcome shows up in the Impala. As usual, Dean only realizes the newcomer's presence when he speaks, and Dean nearly swerves into oncoming traffic.

Angels are sneaky, after all.

As it turns out, Cas gave up the whole 'running Heaven' thing as a bad job. None of the angels listened to a damn thing he said, and he got sick of trying to talk sense into them.

Besides, humans are more interesting than angels. Angels can be very boring, especially when they're going through crises of faith. The same wailing and ranting and angsty, woe-is-me garbage that Cas honestly got enough of when he was the one going through it. It's really not as interesting from the other side of things.

So the angel and the hunter head for Bobby's, because they know that Bobby will know if there's anything of interest going on.

And, it turns out, there is.

Some hunters have been complaining lately of 'poaching'. Someone's been snatching 'their' kills out from under their noses, and doing it with an efficiency and stealth that boggle the mind. Only one of those hunters has actually laid eyes on the 'poacher', and only from a distance as he, she, or it decapitated one of the last five vampires in the continental United States. The hunter in question says that she saw a 'really tall shape, with kind of floppy hair, and it poofed itself off once it had killed my vampire.'

When Dean hears the description, he knows in his gut exactly who it is that's been 'poaching' other hunters' kills.

If one were to put it in poetical terms, one would say that he feels a blood-deep, bone-deep connection with the 'poacher'; that he knows who it is because he's always known exactly where his kid brother is (well, almost always, and at least roughly. Usually). But, if Dean has to pick one reason why he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the 'poacher' is Sam, he'll say it was the freakin' bird.

The bird that had somehow followed Dean to Bobby's, and started singing at the top of its lungs, cheeping its triumph and overwhelming delight to the world.

Well, Dean would literally say 'the stupid freakin' bird that started squalling outside Bobby's window'.

But it's the same general principle.

A/N: So… no idea where this came from. But there it is. And I think I actually like this.