"Cason, it's not what it looks like," Dean said quickly. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized how stupid and clichéd it sounded. But then, sometimes clichés were clichés for a reason. He tried to think of some rational way to explain it to her, but there was no way to introduce the topic in a way that would be the slightest bit plausible. Not when she hadn't had any of the eye-opening experiences that others in the past had had.
"I know this sounds absolutely insane, but I wasn't trying to hurt you. I was trying to protect you—"
"And you did a great job," her father interrupted.
"Yeah, I screwed up, I'll admit that. Lately, that's kinda become a pattern for me. But all the other victims have died, and I know that I let you get attacked, Cason, but unlike the others, you're not gonna die…and some of that is because of me. I have screwed up a lot of stuff in my life, but at least I can say that I kinda did that right."
Cason was lying still on the bed, not moving except for the rise and fall of her chest. Her eyes were heavy-lidded and while it was obvious to Dean that she was interested in every word he had to say, it was also obvious that she was completely exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. He could also tell from the way that the nurse was looking at him that if he didn't stop coming in and disrupting Cason's sleep, he wasn't going to be welcome much longer.
Looking at Cason again, he lost all will to explain what he was really doing there. He had been all of four years old when he had been forced into knowing things that only a select few should know. He knew too well that once you knew something, it was impossible to not know it again. Once she knew about all the things that went bump in the night, she would never be able to go back. She wouldn't turn the other cheek when things started happening; instead, she would be out there in the thick of things, fighting a fight that she wasn't prepared for, and it would get her killed.
He hadn't come all this way—across years and miles—too see her get killed.
And so he bit his tongue about everything he wanted to say. He didn't tell her about the incubus that was trying to kill her. He didn't tell her that she should be afraid of the dark or anything else about his world. Instead, he turned to Scott Butler, knowing that if anyone was going to call down the police on them, it would be him.
"Sir, I know you don't believe this—if I were you, I probably wouldn't believe it either—but I'm not trying to hurt your daughter. She's…a hell of a woman, and I…just keep her safe, okay. I swear that once this is finished, once we get the guy who's doing this, I'm gone. Just please believe me when I tell you that I didn't want anything to happen to Cason," Dean said.
He hadn't been that sincere with anyone in a long time—Sam being the exception. He was desperate to make them believe him. Of course, it didn't matter if they did because either way Cason was probably still going to think that he was a criminal and someone who had potentially had something to do with her rape. And when all was said and done, he was still going to get in his car—the one female in his life that had always been there for him—and drive off into the sunset, but he still wanted her to believe him.
"Have called the cops on me yet?" Dean asked quietly.
Scott Butler was silent, his arms crossed over his chest. His lack of response told Dean all he needed to know, but in the even that it hadn't, Cason helped him out.
"He called ten minutes ago," she whispered. "So you might wanna get the hell out of here."
He nodded and quickly crossed the room to where she was lying. Before her father could stop him, he whispered in her ear, "I meant what I said. I never meant for you to get hurt. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you."
That was all he managed before Scott was pulling him away from Cason, and none too gently. Dean didn't fight back—probably one of the few times in his life when he didn't. Instead, he made his way to the door.
"After dark…she won't be safe. Make sure she's never alone after dark," Dean told her father. Then he was gone out the door, trying to fight the feeling of disappointment burning in his gut.
He hadn't expected Cason to welcome him with open arms; he hadn't expected sunshine and puppies and apple pies, either. Coming into it, he had wanted only one thing: to keep her from getting killed. In that regard, he had been successful thus far, but the rest of this whole damn hunt was feeling like a failure. Coming into it, he hadn't really been thinking long-term—he was a hunter, after all, and their definition of a long-term plan was deciding which brand of lighter fluid was going to go on their funeral pyre—but he hadn't wanted it to end this way, that was for damn sure.
As soon as he made it to the elevator, he called Sam. It took just one ring for the younger Winchester to pick up the phone.
"What?" Sam asked, sounding annoyed and slightly out of breath.
"Cason's dad ran a background check on us. Our cover's blown."
"That would explain why Bennett tried to arrest me when he arrested Hadley."
"You got away? Where are you? I'll come pick you up."
"I'm circling back around to the library. If you pull up front, I'll be ready to go."
Dean picked up his brother in front of the library, wearing a coat that was not the same one he had left the motel in the night before. Sam threw open the door and slid into the passenger seat, and they were off in a squeal of tires before the door was even closed. When Sam caught his breath, the questions started immediately.
"What the hell happened, Dean?"
"Cason's dad ran a check on us with some old buddies of his. He knows all about our criminal background."
"Damnit. We're going to have to stash the Impala and get another car until we get out of town," Sam said. Immediately, Dean's eyebrows shot skyward.
"Ditch my baby? Are you serious, Sam?"
"We can ditch her in the woods somewhere off one of the back roads, or we can keep driving it, get caught in it, and then watch it sit in an impound lot until Bobby can figure out some way to get us out of jail. You choose."
Dean sighed, knowing that he was beaten. "Alright, while I stash her, you get the busted green four-door from in front of the motel. And be sure to—"
"Change the plates. I know, Dean."
Dean drove the Impala to the edge of town and stashed it in the woods, his heart breaking as he did so. He caught a ride back into town with a young man—far too trusting of him, but then, he was a college-aged stoner—who had no problems leaving him standing in front of the sketchiest motel in town. Sam was waiting in the green sedan.
"Alright. Where are we headed?" Sam asked as Dean sat in the passenger seat.
"The liderc is going to go after Cason tonight. We know where it's gonna be."
"And every security guard and police officer in the city is going to be looking for us. That makes getting in and out of that hospital ten times harder. And let's not forget that there's going to be violence, which is sure to attract even more attention."
"We could just get in there and burn the herbs. That would buy us some time until she goes home," Dean suggested.
"The longer we're here, the bigger chance we have of getting caught. We need to take care of this now," Sam said. Dean wanted to argue, but he knew that his brother was right.
"When is Bobby going to be here?"
"He should be here by this afternoon. That'll give us a few hours before nightfall to make a plan."
"Alright. We've got to find somewhere to bed down and plan until then," Dean said, trying to think of another place where they could stop and rethink things.
"Dean, we've got to sleep. I'm exhausted and so are you. You're only going to get sloppy and make mistakes if you don't sleep."
"Sam, I'm fin—"
"No you're not. I'm not either. We've been running too long on too little and its not okay. Until Bobby gets here, we sleep." Sam's voice left no room for argument, and Dean knew better than to try when he was like that. So he just nodded and let his brother drive.
They pulled into yet another dumpy motel ten miles away from the one where they had been staying earlier. Once Cason was lucid enough to tell police everything that she knew about them, they would fall on the motel and pour over every detail of anything and everything they had left in the motel. Thankfully any books they had were packed up in Sam's duffel, but they would still find copies of all their information on the liderc. This would put them back on the map as a couple of wackjobs who hadn't conveniently died in a police station explosion.
Sam went inside and got the room, knowing that it was going to be much easier to Cason to identify Dean from security footage than it would be for her to identify Sam. He quickly got them a room on the corner of the building, far from stairs and the front office. It had two windows, allowing for better escape opportunities if that was something they had to resort to.
"We're in room 132," Sam told Dean, tossing a key to his brother. They pushed open the door to their room and stepped inside. Sam didn't bother to pull anything out of his duffel before collapsing onto the bed and falling asleep. Dean made an attempt, but ultimately ended up staring at the ceiling and thinking of all things about this case that had gone so incredibly wrong.
It was only after an hour and a half of staring at the ceiling that he finally drifted off to sleep. His dreams weren't the ones he had hoped for.
Dean watched the scene from behind the Jeep, and was horrified at what he saw. Blood was still running down Dean's belly—his future self's belly—and he was still in pain. Despite it, though, he sat up beside Cason and held her hand, a calm look on his face, despite the mortal wound in her side. He knew without further study that neither one of them were going to survive their injuries.
"We did it. We stopped Lucifer," Cason whispered. "Will you…hold me?"
"It'll hurt you," his future self answered, trying not to let the tears spill down his cheeks.
"We're both already hurting. I don't want to die alone. Please?"
"You're not dying. We'll get you to the Jeep, and get you back to camp and you'll be fine." His lie sounded false, even to him.
"Dean," she said, pulling him down beside her on the ground. "This is it, and you know it. Please stay with me."
Finally he nodded and lay down beside her, wrapping his bloody arms around her as they both continued to bleed in the middle of the road. She pressed a bloody kiss to his lips, pulling herself as close to him as possible as she got colder and colder. He returned the kiss, taking care to be gentle with her, though he knew that nothing could really hurt her anymore. Tears flowed freely from both of them.
"I'm scared," she told him, her voice quiet and breathy.
"Don't be. You're a good person. You'll be fine."
"You will be, too…Do you think we'll…get to be together?" Her voice was getting softer and softer, her eyes glazing over.
Then she closed her eyes and they didn't open again. He watched his future self struggle to keep his eyes open, and he could tell that his world was fading to black. He tried to tell himself that Cason was just sleeping, that his future self was just really tired, that this was all a dream and he was going to wake up from it at any minute. The pain he could see written all over his face told him otherwise. He tried to ignore it when his future counterpart started to shiver.
Dean couldn't stop himself as he stepped out from behind the Jeep. He wasn't sure what he had intended to do—he couldn't change things, not in this moment, right now—but he found that he wasn't able to sit still and watch himself bleed out in the middle of the road, holding the woman he loved. His future self caught the movement and stared at him, the faintest glimmer of hope in his eyes.
"Stop this," he gasped to himself. "You stop this. Do you understand me?"
He nodded. "I will."
Then Dean closed his eyes and didn't open them again.
Sam shaking him awake jolted him back to this reality, back from his memories of his short time in the future. He quickly splashed his face with water and wiped at his eyes, as if that could also wipe away the image of himself dying in the middle of a dirt road as he held Cason's dead body. He tried to forget telling her that everything was going to be okay, even when it clearly wasn't.
"Bobby's here," Sam said quietly.
Bobby was sitting at the table, a heavy book open in front of him. He had shed his typical flannel shirt for a suit and tie, his boots for shiny black loafers. His hair was slicked back instead of hidden under a baseball cap.
"You look like hell," Bobby said quietly.
"Yeah, well, it hasn't exactly been a great week. Any ideas, Bobby?" Dean asked.
"Well for one, you can quit your moping. But then we've got to find this thing, and we can trick it into trying something impossible."
"We know where it'll be tonight. Hadley said that it was bonded to him, that it would take on his sexual desires. Once it chooses a victim, it won't stop until he has her, and it wants Cason," Sam explained quietly.
"Alright. That's where we'll be," Bobby said.
"Cason's father turned us in. The police are gonna be all over our asses," Dean mumbled, trying to keep the self-defeated tone at bay.
"Well we're still gonna have to get in there. Are you going to let the police stop you? Especially if it means that your lady love has to deal with a liderc all on her own?" Bobby asked, sarcasm thick in his voice when referring to Cason. Dean didn't bother to correct him.
"Alright, well, let's at our situation…"
Sam pulled up a copy of the hospital schematics that he had acquired from the city's electronic records—perfectly legal, of course—and they began to chart their course of action. Bobby had brought supplies, which included more weapons—not that the boys really needed them, what with the arsenal in the trunk and all, but they figured it was better to be over prepared. As the sun began to set, they made their way to the hospital, Bobby in his suit, Sam and Dean in horrible green scrubs of the hospital orderlies.
Bobby was able to waltz through the security, reaching the room and pulling Cason's father away to discuss "those horrible impostors with no respect for law enforcement." Pushing a mop bucket, Dean ducked into the room, followed closely by Sam with a large bin of dirty laundry. Cason was propped up in bed, her face still pale.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asked, though there was no real vehemence in her tone.
"I told your father that you wouldn't be safe after dark, and I wasn't lying," Dean told her. "Hadley has a partner, and he's coming for you."
"Cason?" A deep, rumbly voice said from the doorway. They looked over to find a shorter, stockier man standing in the doorway. He had a block head stacked on top of a thick, short neck; his hair was cut close, and the stubble that covered his square jaw matched. A tight t-shirt was pulled taut across his muscled chest. "I don't mean to interrupt. I meant to get up here sooner, but I'm falling apart without you to keep the bar up and running—"
"It's fine, Boston. I was hoping I would be out of here by now, but they don't seem to wanna let me go," she answered quietly, her voice breathy. "But they got the guy, so I'm thinking you should open bar tomorrow just to spite the bastard."
Boston threw his head back a laughed, a wide, lupine smile on his face; it was a smile that Dean didn't particularly care for, and not because he was jealous.
"You can guaran-damn-tee it. Now, how are you feeling?" Boston asked.
"I'm feeling a little better. I mean, I am currently missing part of my spleen, but it might decide to show up one day," Cason joked. "Might be a while before I'm back at work, though."
Boston crossed the room and took Cason's hand in his. "Take your time. You know you'll always have a job at my bar—"
"Boston, are you okay? You're burning up," she whispered, taking his hand and holding it against her cheek.
"Nah, I'm fine. You know me, always running hotter than usual."
"Hotter than usual, huh?" Dean asked, stepping towards Cason.
"It's a fact of life that men's bodies are typically hotter than a woman's…temperature-wise, anyway," Boston replied, his voice calm.
"I don't know about that. She's right, Boston. You feel downright feverish. Hot to the touch," Dean said lightly, grabbing Boston's wrist.
"What are you doing?" Cason whispered, looking back and forth between the men standing at her bedside.
"Cason, can you walk on your own?" Dean asked.
"Not really. Why is this important?"
"It's not," Boston answered for her. "Because you're not going anywhere."
In the blink of an eye, Boston was lashing out, his fist catching Dean in the jaw. Caught off guard, Dean released Boston's wrist and dropped to the floor. Sam launched himself at Boston, but was stopped by a rolling cart that the other man thrust in the way. Pulling himself off the floor, Dean shoved the cart back into Boston, pushing him away from the edge of Cason's bed. Boston's grip on her arm stayed strong, yanking her along with him.
Cason cried out as she was jerked from her bed, pain slicing through her abdomen as she felt her stitches tear. Her side slammed into the tile floor and the breath rushed from her lungs. Boston struggled to pull himself on top of her, pinning her much smaller body beneath his. Before he could get settled, Dean wrapped an arm around his neck and jerked him off of her. As soon as Dean got a good grip, the smell of burnt flesh filled the air, and Dean jerked his arm away.
Cason could feel the heat of Boston's body as he tried once more to climb atop her; he was too hot. It wasn't normal body temperature, she knew that much. She struggled as much as she was able, trying to ignore the pain in her side and the way that her chest complained every time she drew breath. He was so hot…
"So fuckin' beautiful," Boston mumbled. "Gotta have—"
He was silenced when Dean slammed the butt of his gun into Boston's head. It didn't knock him out as they had expected it to, but he stopped for a moment, and that was long enough to get him off of Cason.
"Hold him still, Dean!" Bobby called from the doorway, where he was standing, trying to hold Cason's father out of the room. Bobby quickly began chanting in a language that Sam could only presume was Hungarian. Boston strained against Dean's grip, his skin burning hot and torching Dean's clothes. The longer he held on, the more unbearable it became, but somehow, he kept hanging on. As Bobby finished the incantation, there was a bright flash of light and the liderc stopped fighting. Instead, he was still on his knees in front of the older hunter.
"What did you do?" Dean asked, clutching at his burnt arms.
"He's bound to me. Now, he's got to take my orders. Hadley could have been doing this, but he was too damn stupid," Bobby replied. "Now, this is the task I give you: you must carry water in a sieve. Is that understood?"
"That is an impossible task, sir," the liderc said, his voice full of hatred as he realized what had happened.
"An impossible task? Well that's not good is it?"
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the liderc dropped to the floor, his body writhing an contorting. Bones were popping in and out of place as his giant frame shrank and became more compact. Feathers pushed their way through his skin, and talons grew from his feet before they transformed into claws. Then, one by one, the white feathers slowly turned grey, and then black, as they caught aflame. The creature shrieked and writhed in pain as the fire consumed it's body—hurting for the first time in centures—and burned the creature up, leaving nothing but a tiny pile of ash in the floor and the smell of burnt flesh in the air.
There was a long moment of silence as they all stared at the small pile of ash, as if they were unsure of what they had just witnessed. Sam recovered first, and pulled a dustpan out of his laundry cart, quickly sweeping up the remnants of the beast that had caused so many people so much pain. Dean was the next, crawling over to where Cason lay on the floor, a bloodstain spreading slowly across her abdomen.
"My stitches busted," she whispered, sounding almost disbelieving. "My stitches busted."
"That's okay. The doctors can fix that," he told her quietly, picking her up and putting her back in bed.
"What just happened?" she asked. Down the hall, she could hear the footsteps of a crowd of people. In minutes, there would be more security and police in her room, putting Sam and Dean in a bad position.
"There's not much time to explain," Dean answered.
"I don't care. I've got to know."
"Tell you what. When you get out of here, I'll meet you at your place and explain it to you. That sound okay?" Dean proposed.
"Not really, but I guess it'll have to do. And don't stand me up either. You said you'd explain it, and I'm holding you to that," Cason said, though it was hard to take her threat seriously as her eyelids were falling shut.
Dean brushed a kiss on her forehead.
"I'll be there."