Well, here it is, part one of the story I promised ages ago to reapertownusa:) I hope you like it!
The initial idea for this story came from a recent episode of Dexter. I'm not gonna go into details, because I don't want to spoil that show for those who see it, but a single image from there sprouted this whole thing here, so... go Dexter! From there on, it's my own evowl and twisted mind at work :D
Humm... warnings and stuff: the story is an AU that starts off right at the end of '99 problems' and should resume canon by the time they hit 'The devil you know'. As reapertownusa and myself share a *cough*... taste for bloody, suffering Dean, as well as a... *cough* propensity for messing with the poor guy's head, expect both of those in this story. Other than that... well, you know my Dean swears a lot more than the CW's, so, there's that ;)
Big thank you to jackfan2, my all around awesome-beta and sounding board. All remaining mistakes are mine.
Dean pulled angrily at the chains, eyes focused on the links looped around the metal ring on the floor. Like before, it was of no use.
The cuffs around his wrists bit into his skin, reminding Dean of his failure to get those open as well. They had been his first target, easy locks that he could pick in his sleep... if only he had anyfuckingthing that could be used as a lock pick.
The damn ring on the floor seemed to be bolted to the very foundations of the building and no amount of pulling and jerking and twisting seemed to even loosen either chain or ring.
It didn't help that he could barely bend his arms and put some serious strength on the task at hand. The sick fuck who had left him there had kept the length of chain so short that Dean's choices were either kneeling or laying curled around the metal ring.
Actually, he had woken to find himself cuddling the damn metal thing, like it was some kind of fluffy and sick teddy bear. Which was funny, considering that, when he'd come to earlier, he'd seen just that; a filthy, headless teddy bear, yellowed-white stuffing spilling out, lying not three feet from Dean was.
The sound of dragging chains had roused him from the dark. There was dust in the air, heavy and mischievous, tickling his nose and scratching his throat.
The sneeze that exploded from Dean's chest as he woke was the full-body kind, the ones that started in your nose and, when released, make you shudder all the way to your toes.
It brought with it the clatter of more dragging chains.
When Dean had lazily moved his hand, intent on wiping the wetness he could feel sliding down his nose, the bitter reality of his condition had presented itself in all its lovely shades of fucked up.
Relying on sound alone, there was no denying that the dragging chains and his movements were related. His hand had stopped midway through, jerked back into its previous place with a snap of metal around his wrists.
Even before acknowledging the wrongness of his situation, Dean already had a pretty good idea of what he would find when he opened his eyes. It made him wish that he could just ignore all the facts around him, the ones screaming in chorus that he was in deep shit. All the clues that were telling him that he was not where he was supposed to be.
But that wouldn't work. See, when it came to getting into and out of shit, deep, shallow or anything in between, nobody had more experience than the Winchester brothers, and ignoring the facts would get him no closer to figuring out his current predicament. So, opening his eyes, he acknowledged with a tired sigh, was a required first step.
Not that it was an easy first step. The dirt had permeated everything, even his closed eyelids. It was like pulling against an insanely heavy curtain but eventually he was blinking against the gritty feeling, several seconds later, his gaze focused on the beheaded teddy bear.
Rolling to his back, Dean had turned his gaze up higher. And inverted angel figure was looking back at him. Not the Castiel-kind but the Hallmark kind, complete with fluffy wings and a white gown.
This one, however, wasn't on the cover of any sentimental postal card. It was painted in delicate glass, a mosaic of color decorating a high window.
There were more beside him. More angels, saints, prophets and martyrs. All glorious in their flat depictions of piety and righteousness.
His head hurt, but at this point, Dean couldn't really tell if that was due to the bruise he could feel pulsing all the way from his ear to the top of his head, or because of his hungry stomach.
The last thing Dean remembered was leaving, Sam and Castiel fading in his rear view mirror. He'd run away like a thief in the night, unable to keep on dealing with so many people dying or condemning their souls to Hell. Not when there was something that he could do about it; not when there was something that he was supposed to do about it.
Or so everyone kept telling him.
Dean remembered bright lights, some douche driver with his car's headlights set too high; he remembered the bone-jarring jolt and realizing that someone had hit his car from behind; he remembered up becoming down and thinking that his car deserved better than that.
And now he was here.
"Hello?" Dean rasped, shuffling until he was on his knees. There was an old pew in front of him, bolted front leaning forward until it almost touched the floor, the back seat ripped off its frame. A contrite pew, seemingly ashamed of being the last one standing.
Other than a few carton and wood boxes, rumpled and dirty clothes and several discarded syringes, the place was mostly empty. A drug addicts' paradise, he supposed.
A ratty mattress on the far corner had lost most of its cover and was stained in so many flavors and shapes that it was impossible to tell its original color anymore.
There was straw and dirt and dry leaves on the floor. And bird shit. There was no possible way to ignore the bird shit. It was everywhere. Including the piece of marbled floor where Dean found himself stuck.
The chains jerked against a sudden tremor that wracked Dean's body. He looked down and swore; well, at least whoever the hell had brought him here and chained him to the floor had been considerate enough to leave him his boxers and shirt. He had probably inhaled fifty different diseases from lying on that floor, but hey! at least he still had some clothes on.
The anemic marble floor where he lay, with its pink veins over white slab, seemed to be all that was left of the church's altar. There were no figures left, not even the big Guy hanging from His cross.
Since he'd woken up, Dean had been trying to figure out what flavor of asshole had driven his car out off the road and taken him to an abandoned church. The location alone could not be random.
Demons, angels, horsemen or any of the freak-squad that the impending apocalypse had unleashed on Earth, it was hard to take a guess.
Demons, Dean figured, were not exactly the type to use something as crude as a car to get to him, but then again, there were some inventive bastards on the loose. If he were a betting man, Dean would put his money on Meg.
If this, on the other hand, was the work of Zachariah and his fucktards, it would be sort of ironic and all kinds of amusing… given that Dean had run from Sam with the intent to call that particular dick-angel and get him a phone line to Michael.
Jesus… it was hard even to give up!
All Dean had wanted was to see some friends one last time, make some arrangements and then give himself off as a sock-puppet to be used at will by the dickiest of all archangels ever. Was it really that much to ask to have that at least go right?
There was light coming through the painted windows, slowly dimming as the hours passed. Once the sun set, Dean was left in the gloomy dark, without so much as the company of the painted saints as the tainted glass became bleak and solid like the rest of the walls.
There was an annoying pingpingping of water, coming from some leaky pipe that Dean could not see. The sound, however, was doing nasty things to his dry mouth. He could almost imagine each one of those tiny droplets of water hitting his tongue instead of the floor.
Lulled by the rumble of his stomach and weariness that thirst was beating down on his body, Dean curled the best he could around the ring on floor, trying to find a position that wouldn't cramp his arms. It had happened before already and he was not eager to repeat the experience.
Tomorrow. He would make his way out of there tomorrow.
Sam started packing the minute the Impala's tail lights disappeared in to the night. He had no idea what he'd do after that, but Sam knew it would start with stealing a car and end with him stopping Dean from doing something monumentally stupid.
He should've known. From the minute Dean had stood up, dazed and staring at the dead corpse of the Whore of Babylon, Sam should've known that in his heart, Dean had already made a decision.
People didn't just suddenly become 'true servants of God' out of the blue; Dean had walked into the basement of that church with a firm belief that he was going to stop shit like that from happening ever again. And, of course, Dean being Dean, selfless, stupid, sacrificial-to-the-point-of-suicide, this was the only way to go.
"So, you're just gonna leave?" the preacher asked, his face still pale and gaunt after all that he had witnessed that evening. Sam figured that it would take a long time for the people of that town to recover from the damage the Whore had done.
Even if he didn't have his brother to chase, Sam knew he wouldn't stay there to deal with the aftermath. Things were too painful and messed up for the Winchesters to do that anymore.
"I need to catch up with my brother before he throws it all away," Sam said quietly, back turned as he stuffed everything into one pack. Dean hadn't even bothered to take his clothes. From the looks of Castiel's rumpled but still intact suit and trench coat, Dean had probably figured he wouldn't be needing any more clothes where he was going.
Which was nine kinds of fucked up and only made Sam pack faster.
"Why? Where do you think he went?"
Sam turned to face the preacher then. It was a good question. With the marks on their ribs keeping their location hidden from all angelic beings and their voices mute to all angelic ears, Dean would have to find someone to call the archangel for him.
"Some place big enough to have a religious nut-bag or two," Sam realized suddenly. He was pulling out a map and unfolding it over the bed covers even as the idea formed in his head.
Dean had told him about the end of the world 'prophet', preaching outside that motel in Kansas City, the one who had ratted him out to Zachariah. If it hadn't been for that guy, Zach would never have gotten the drop on Dean and sent him 'back to the future'.
And if he knew his brother well, Sam knew that Dean would count on that connection to get in touch with either Zachariah or Michael himself this time around.
The next city was at least a three-hour drive away. Sam looked at Castiel, lying prone on the bed where Dean had dropped him. The angel was still apathetic and numb, and if Sam were to risk it, he would say still hangover. Whatever the Whore had done to him, it had sapped the angel of all his strength and power.
It was too bad. Sam could've used the head start to get to the city ahead of Dean. "Will you stay here for a bit? Make sure that he's alright?" Sam asked the preacher. He felt slightly bad for abandoning the two like that, but someone had to stop Dean.
The preacher nodded, looking confused. Sam couldn't blame him. There was not much he could do anyway.
"Cass," Sam called out, crouching near the unresponsive angel. Dull, blue eyes remaining focused on the TV's empty screen, like he was just waiting for his favorite show to start. "Cass… I need you to call me as soon as you can, okay?" he went on, prying the angel's right hand open and placing a cell phone there. "I could really use your help with this," Sam finished with a whisper.
"Maybe I could help?" the preacher offered. The shock seemed to have worn off his face some, enough for him to realize that Sam was one step away from panicking. "Anything?"
Sam grabbed his backpack, stuffed full of his and Dean's things and gazed one last time at the room. "Pray… pray that I'm not too late," Sam asked before closing the door behind him.
The sunlight woke him the second time around. Dean had been sure he wouldn't be able to sleep a wink under such circumstances. His body, however, seemed to have had other ideas.
Nothing had changed. There were still crows, perched on every high niche in the room, the marble under his body was still cold as fuck and his wrists were still attached to the floor by a short length of chain.
His bladder was full, which sucked as fairness went, because Dean's throat was parched. As far as he could see it, it was a damn waste of water for his body to want to throw it away like that.
Contorting his body so he could reach the front of his boxers, Dean pulled the fabric down, and with barely a shred of modesty, aimed as far as he could from the place where he was bound. There was nothing to be done about the smell, but at least he wouldn't be lying on his own piss.
Tucking himself in, Dean remembered the paperclip he's sewed to almost every pair of underwear he and Sam owned. He dragged himself closer to the ring on the floor, struggling to reach the hem of the boxers with his right hand.
It was gone. Like every other weapon and piece of wire that Dean usually carried on his person, it was gone.
Dean ground his cheek against the cold marble, growling the frustration away. Why did he have to be grabbed by the smart psycho?
His stomach growled, reminding Dean of just how hungry he was. He ignored it, told it to shut the fuck up. More than the hunger, more than the thirst even, it was the slow crawling of time that was starting to get to him.
He was there, wasting time, playing some sick fuck's games, while outside, there were people dying. People Dean could save if he managed to grab hold of Michael's voicemail.
Whoever was responsible for him being there, they were taking their sweet time starting the introductions. "Get the fuck in here, you son of a bitch!" Dean yelled to the empty room. The hoarse boom of his voice managed only to send the once calm crows into a winged frenzy of flight. "Fuck!"
Time passed slowly. Dean altered between lying on his back, which put his arms in an awkward and painful position, and standing on his knees, which was all kinds of fucked up for his joints.
As day slowly moved into night time, Dean began to wonder if he hadn't been brought to that place to simply be left to die.
Sam had put everyone on high alert. Called everyone they knew, checked with anyone who might bump into Dean. It was the first thing he did, after driving like a bat out of Hell towards the closest big town and checking into the first motel he could find.
Minneapolis seemed like the logical choice, if Dean's intention had been to go straight for the exit and check out of life without saying goodbye to anyone.
The thing about Dean though, was that, at heart, he was a sentimentalist. He'd go on and on about growing no attachments, keeping no sort of connections with the people they meet, strictly 'love'em and leave'em' approach to every woman he took to his bed.
In reality, Dean knew by heart the name of everyone they'd ever saved, and everyone they'd failed to save and, okay, he might not remember the names of all the women he'd had sex with, but the few he did remember, he carried those in his heart with fondness.
Despite Michael's promises that he would not leave Dean a drooling mess once he was done with him, Sam knew that Dean wasn't taking that for granted. For one, it was an archangel's promise and, while most people would trust it to be truthful because of that, Dean expected it to be bullshit for the very same reason.
In his mind, Dean had already known that there would be no coming back from this decision of his. And that was why Sam hoped that his brother would stop to say some goodbyes along the way and that Sam would stumble on at least one of the people he called.
So far, however, no one had seen hair of hide of Dean. Bobby assured him that he would be putting his feelers out as well, before joining him in the search, but Sam could hardly sit by the phone and wait.
It was a good thing that someone had come up with a version of phones that you could actually carry around with you.
Minneapolis was one big city. Sam'd never had any problems with big cities, certainly not in the same way as Dean, who was constantly irked by them. But, after what felt like his hundredth red light, Sam now decided he hated cities. This one in particular, especially when he couldn't find a single clue of Dean's whereabouts anywhere.
Taking a calculated risk, Sam had spent hours downtown, talking to every street preacher he could find atop an apple box and every lunatic of religious persuasion he could see walking about. Some of them, Sam could tell as he showed them a grainy picture of Dean -that he'd amplified from one of their fake ID cards until it was mostly just faded pixels- looked like they'd seen Dean's image before, but none knew the name of the man on the photo.
Sam figured that, when Zachariah had made his rounds, he must've given all sort of information about Dean to his newest 'recruits'. However, it was far easier to remember a name than it was a face or even the model of a car.
Sam was sure that Zachariah had been in touch with some of those doomsday's announcers... but none of them had been the one to deliver Dean to the angels.
"Ah," a man's voice, a stranger's voice, echoed through the empty space, scattering away the flock of crows that had been witnessing Dean's misery for the last couple of days. "You're awake. Good."
Dean twisted around, trying to catch a look of the speaker. His body was stiff and sluggish, feeling as if he'd slowly turned into the very stone he'd been chained to while hours had become days and still no one had come for him. Until now. He was almost happy that someone had finally shown up.
Shuffling his chain around, Dean managed to drag himself to his knees, mustering his remaining strength to circle his way until he was facing his captor.
Dean had to blink hard and resist the urge to rub his eyes.
The skeleton thin man, shaved of all hair and walking towards him, wearing nothing but what looked suspiciously like an adult's diaper and a walking stick, could not be an angel or a demon. Demons were vain and pretentious creatures; they wouldn't be caught dead in that.
And the only angel Dean had ever seen wearing something other than a suite had been that cupid fella… and that one was wearing even less than this guy.
No, what ever this anorexic sumo wrestler was, it wasn't any of Dean's usual playmates. In fact, there was only one brand of fruitcake that usually reached these levels of insane. Humans.
"Who the fuck are you?" Dean eloquently asked, his voice raspy and barely above a whisper. Day two of his captivity had been, unwisely, spent yelling at the empty walls. "T'hell do you want from me?"
"Dean... are you a man of faith?" the diaper-man asked, his tone unmoved by all the venom in Dean's questions.
Dean remained silent, his rage slowly seething underneath his skin. The freak knew his name; he knew exactly who Dean was... If this guy wasn't incline to answer Dean's questions, then could shove his own questions up his as—
"I can see that you're not," the man said, sounding disappointed with his own conclusion. "Faith protects men, Dean," he went on, circling his prisoner with methodical, slow steps. His walking stick made punctuation marks with every step he took, the pockpockpock noise as irritating as the man's presence. "Men without faith become vulnerable, Dean... like you. Tell me, Dean, has evil robbed you of your tongue?"
Dean thought about sharing a few choice words with his captor, but he knew it would be pointless, like throwing rotten eggs to an empty wall. All he would be left with was the nasty smell.
The man stopped his circling, closing his eyes as he extended his arms. He stood there for a minute, still as a statue, light bouncing off his shaved skin like the sun itself felt disgusted for touching the man.
When he finally opened his eyes, the man in diapers opened a small, black book. His voice boomed across the empty church, "'Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said,"By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons'."
The walking stick, turned out, was a multipurpose tool for the crazy man spouting out nonsense. And walking was hardly its main function.
The first strike hit Dean across his upper back, sending him crashing to the floor with a disgruntled yelp, more indignation than pain. The second hit lower, sending lightning bolts of pain up and down Dean's spine and he couldn't help but scream.
The lunatic in diapers was as methodical with his rod as he'd been with his walk as he slowly but surely covered Dean's body with angry welts.
It was becoming painfully clear to Sam that Dean was not in Minneapolis. Or anywhere on Earth, as far as it seemed.
Sam kept an eye on the news, dreading each time a special, last minute report came in. Every single time, he was sure they were going to show him images of Dean, destroying some city or entire country, as Michael battled Lucifer.
So far, however, all the bad news was of the 'normal' kind. Floods, fires, massacres and epidemics. Just your average day on a pre-apocalyptic world.
"Zachariah is still looking for Dean, same way as us," Castiel chipped in, in his own way trying to lift Sam's spirits. "Are you certain that it was Dean's intention to give himself to Michael when he abandoned you?"
The angel's voice was so filled with hope that it was almost pitiful to hear, even if his choice of words stung.
When he'd arrived and learned what Dean had done, Castiel had been angry, angrier than Sam ever remembered seeing him. Such was the faith the angel put on Dean that he had felt Dean's defeat as a personal betrayal.
To some extent, Sam knew exactly how that felt. His gut reaction was to say yes, absolutely yes. Of course Michael had been the reason why Dean had left them all behind without looking back twice.
Three days had gone by since Dean had left Blue Earth and once Castiel had join him in his search, Sam still had nothing to go on. The longer it went by without hearing anything about Dean or Michael, the less sure Sam could be about Dean's reasons.
Maybe Dean's purpose had been to simply disappear. Drop off the face of the Earth and leave angels and demons and the rest of the world to fend for themselves.
It was a possibility that Sam found very difficult to even consider, not because it implied Dean was running away like a scared coward but simply because Sam couldn't picture Dean ever doing something like that. even if, after all he'd been through, all that he'd suffered, Dean was more than entitled to chose the easy way out.
Easy, however, had never been Dean's way... no matter what he said to women.
"Yes," Sam finally answered the angel. "You didn't see the look on his face, Cass," he reminded him. "You didn't see how lost and desperate Dean was as he looked around at those people, hundreds of souls bound to Hell because the Whore had tricked them," Sam said, his voice sad and disappointed. At himself, mostly, for having failed to see that sooner. "Dean left Blue Earth with the sole purpose of finding Michael."
"Of betraying us, you mean," Castiel pointed out, his blue eyes burning hot with fury. "And yet Michael remains without his vessel."
Sam nodded, choosing not to amend the angel's words. He knew his brother's reasons to give in like that the same way he knew Castiel was bound to see nothing but the bigger picture and fail at grasping the details.
Dean's engraved tendencies to self-sacrifice meant that he would always put the lives of a few over his own; Castiel's wider view stopped him from understanding the strategic value of risking a key-piece in a hopeless move. They would never see eye to eye on something like this.
"Someone stopped him," Sam suddenly realized. Even as the words were leaving his mouth, he realized that it was the only reasonable explanation. "Someone stopped Dean from reaching Michael."
Castiel tilted his head, as if weighing the value of Sam's theory. "If that is so, then we owe this person our thanks."
There was blood crusted over his left eye. Which was all the same, because Dean lacked the energy to open both of them.
Peeling his right eye open, he waited for his vision to stop wavering and focus on the dirty floor.
Moonlight was dancing off the ever present dust, silver particles floating in a blue reality that was almost pretty to look at.
Dean figured he'd fallen asleep –most likely passed out- sometime after Mr. Crazy-no-pants had tired of turning Dean's skin as blue as his surroundings.
Sadly, Dean was sort of used to having the living snot beaten out of him by this and that dick looking for answers. Or just for pure revenge, like Zachariah was so fond of doing.
This guy, however... he didn't want to know anything. He hadn't even bothered talking to Dean as he'd mercilessly beaten him, sticking to just reading from his stupid little book. And on the one time Dean had managed to catch his breathe for long enough to try and say something, no-pants had proceeded to viciously strike him in his throat. After that, everything had blurred together in one big haze of continuous pain.
There was something shimmering near him. Dean could see it from the corner of his one working eye. Shifting slowly on the floor, hissing as bruises scrapped against the cold floor, Dean moved until he could see what it was.
The bastard had finally left him some water.
Urging his stiff arms to work, Dean pushed himself to his knees, chains dragging all around him. The nearness of such precious liquid gave him more strength than he could hope for but, still, his fingers trembled as Dean curled them around the small bowl. He licked his lips in anticipation as water sloshed inside the container, anticipation only making his hands shake harder.
One small sip, Dean tried to tell himself. There was no way of knowing when the nutbag would be coming back, or if it was in his plans to give Dean anymore water. He had to make this one last.
Just one small sip.
His mouth, however, had other plans. The water was stale, left in the dust for too long, but it still felt like the most delicious thing ever as it slid down Dean's parched throat. The last drop of it trickled down Dean's chin before he could stop himself from drinking it all.
Enraged by his lack of restraint, Dean tossed the bowl away with a howl. The cheap plastic bounced and rolled away until it came to a stop near a pile of empty crates.
The two gulps he'd managed to drink had barely been enough to drive Dean's thirst away.
Out of spite, he gave a hard pull on his chains, watching dispassionately as the skin around his wrists broke all over again. Dean sagged against the floor, like a puppet whose strings were slowly cut, one by one.
His stomach had finally stopped rumbling, settling for a dull pain that got lost amidst all the others. Skin... the body's biggest organ, Dean had read it somewhere. There was no way his stomach could ever compete with that.
Dean laughed in the dark, blood-curling giggles that echoed around the empty structured and returned to him in distorted versions of his skewed sense of humor.
He was losing it.
Sam was losing his mind. While they sat on their asses, clueless about where Dean might be or who might've taken him, Lucifer was busy causing havoc in the world.
Bobby, who in lack of a pair of wings had taken a little bit longer to join Sam and Castiel at the motel room that had become their center of operations, was sitting in one of the beds, newspaper hiding his face from view. "Hail storm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana," he read. "People saying the 'hail was bigger than a tennis ball'. And here, middle of the Pacific Ocean, two cruise ships managed to collide due to 'an odd radar malfunction that affect both ships simultaneously'... thousands died. And this one... some ass is killing off people in Chicago, trying to get the devil out of their bodies with whatever dumbass ritual he made up. I bet you he's not even getting the possessed ones right. Oh, and this one's the best: a flock of ca—"
"What was that about the guy in Chicago?" Sam cut in, not waiting for Bobby's answer as he ripped the paper out of his hands.
Bobby was about to give him grief for his poor manners, but one look at Sam's face as he read the rest of the article and the hunter knew Sam was on to something. "What is it, boy?"
"They're calling this guy 'The Exorcist'," Sam said, his face growing grim as he read on. "'Police have finally released some details about his victims, hoping to put a quicker end to The Exorcist's seventeen deaths toll, so far. The gruesome report lists a number of never before known facts, like the victims' missing eyes and broken necks, heads twisted 180 degrees and the form in which their bodies are displayed on abandoned buildings around the Chicago area, lifting some of the veil surrounding a killer that has spread terror in the hearts of Chicago's citizens for close to two months. So far, no pattern has been found as to his choice of victims, lending weight to the notes left in every crime scene, in which the killer claims to be doing God's work'. Bobby..." he whispered, face robbed of all color.
"Dammit! You don't think that..."
"We know that Zachariah got every religious nutbag on the lookout for Dean," Sam said, his mouth reluctant to say the words his brain had already formed. "And we assumed that Dean would seek one of them out to get in touch with Michael—"
"You are thinking that perhaps the opposite happened," Castiel chipped in, concern for Dean's disappearance finding its way to his face for the first time. "You think this man, this killer, has Dean in his possession?"
Sam nodded, biting his lip. "We can't afford not to check."