[3/8/13 EDIT]: Played another round of Smite That Typo; chapters 1-11 are hopefully free of them now.
Blanket Disclaimer: I'm only going to say this once, I don't own Supernatural. This story is the product of boredom and a twisted imagination, I'm not getting anything other than enjoyment out of it. And possibly carpal tunnel.
Warning: Spoilers through 7x08 and possibly beyond if you squint. This is also going to eventually be Cas/Dean among other pairings, so heads up.
Additional warning: Anything can happen, you have been warned!
He's dreaming again.
Well, that's just great.
It's grainy, static-y, like bad reception on a cheap motel television. The room is the same as it was last time, the same as it's been for the last damn week.
He's starting to think that someone is screwing with him. Again.
He can just make out flames licking at the walls in front of him, but he's not worried. The omnipresent fire never reaches him, never spreads. It always stays at the edges of the room like some freaky hoodoo baseboard. His eyes trail up, watching shadows dance across the markings etched above the flames. They're clearer this time, red scribbling that he can't even begin to understand, yet somehow so familiar.
He's tied down, that never changes either. Leather straps bite into his wrists and waist, suspending him vertically against some type of wall or table; the cold metal of it feels soothing on his heated skin. His aching arms are stretched out in a mock crucifix while his shoeless feet dangle below him. He can feel the sweat and grime and blood and God-only-knows-what-else covering his skin, can smell some type of fragrant substance clinging to his wounds and burning his flesh, always burning.
Aren't dreams not supposed to hurt?
Yeah, someone is probably screwing with him.
The room is always the same, but the faces, the screams, are always different. This time it's a petite woman, short brown hair, glasses skewed on her round face. Terrified green eyes that spark something in him he can't quite name stare at him in horror and pain. Beyond that it's just flashes, blood and fear and death, always death. They never survive and God, he's so sorry for putting her through this. He has no idea what he's done, but the guilt squirms in the pit of his stomach anyway. It's all his fault and all he can do is watch, watch as light pours from the woman's eyes and mouth and she writhes on the dirty floor. The light flares and he's the one screaming now, shouting how sorry he is, shouting the woman's name, though he has no idea how he knows it. He keeps screaming even though he knows it's too late, even though the woman can't hear him anymore, can't hear anything anymore.
"Look what you've done," he hears his own voice whisper viciously from somewhere over his shoulder and agony suddenly rips through his back. "Monster." Furious green eyes come into focus then, a matching sneer inches from his face. He barely recognizes himself, his own handsome features twisted into something ugly and dark.
"Look what you've done," his double repeats mockingly. A red-streaked blade flashes in his hand like a white-hot flame. Slicing, carving, ripping, tearing. Burning, always burning.
Make it stop. Makeitstop. Makeitstopmakeitstop-ohgodplease-makeitstophelpmehelpmeplease -
Sam steals glances at his brother sleeping in the passenger seat, the fact that he's allowed behind the wheel a testament to how unwell the man is. Dean has been off for the last week, but the stubborn jerk insists he's fine.
Sam knows better though.
For Dean to risk him having one of his... hellucinations (he'll never admit to his brother that he's actually started calling them that, if only in his head) while behind the wheel, there must be something really wrong. He's been racking his scrambled-egg brain for days, trying to think of a way to get the man to open up. Something is clearly eating at him, has been for a while now. It'd gotten better after the case in Lily Dale, after...
He feels his throat tighten and his hands clench the wheel involuntarily, but he forces himself to relax. Dean had been right about Amy, but that doesn't make him feel any better. She'd killed people (dirty drug dealers, but still technically people) and he'd just let her go, let her go because his judgment had been clouded by memories. People change and the kitsune they'd hunted a few weeks ago was no longer the pretty, innocent blonde girl he'd met at the library that day. But Dean had known, Dean had been there. Dean is always there to do what needs to be done.
To do what you can't. You're weak, Sammy, a voice in his head reminds him. It sounds an awful lot like Lucifer.
Shut up, he responds, automatically reaching for the scar on his palm to give it a squeeze and glancing at his brother again.
The toll of that self-imposed burden is visible in his brother now: the dark circles under his eyes, the pallor of his skin, the dullness of his once vibrant, playful eyes. It feels like his brother is just going through the motions most of the time, like he just doesn't care anymore. About anything. They should really talk about that too...
And maybe Bobby will take up knitting.
He snorts at the thought. His brother never wants to talk about anything: Dad, Hell, Lisa,...Castiel.
He can't find it in himself to stay angry at the angel, even after all he's done. Maybe it's some screwed up angelic Stockholm Syndrome icing on his crazy cake, but he can't believe that Superman went over to the Dark Side without a really good reason. What's that saying? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions?
Hell, they're all examples of that. Literally.
Castiel hadn't gone into much detail about the war in Heaven, but he must have been desperate to work with Crowley of all people...er, demons. Whatever.
More than anything he wants their friend back, alive, whole, and sane. Because then maybe his brother will stop looking like that heartbroken teenage girl from that douche-bag vampire movie every time he thinks no one is looking. Not that Sam has ever seen one of those movies, ever. As far as his brother knows.
Dean groans and shifts against the door in his sleep, probably trying to find a more comfortable position. The Charger's cracked vinyl seats aren't nearly as comfortable as the Impala's well-loved leather ones.
Sam turns again to look at his brother; the light filtering through the dusty window illuminates the bruised, almost translucent skin under the man's eyes. He's been Dean-watching for weeks now while the other man sleeps, a pass time he's dabbled in all his life but has never really called a hobby. He now regrets not asking, in another time and another place, tips from the master.
He remembers waking up to the scene countless times. His brother would be tossing on the bed in the grips of who knew what kind of nightmare while a coated figure sat lightly at the edge of the bed. The angel would carefully raise his hand and smooth the crease from Dean's brow, watching intensely as his body relaxed gently back into the bed. Sam remembers the swell of jealousy-tinged relief he'd felt the first time he'd witnessed one of those moments. He'd been glad someone else was watching out for the man who never seemed to watch out for himself, but he'd also felt the bitter regret that he couldn't provide that himself. He still has to squash that little feeling sometimes, he understands that Castiel holds a place in his brother's heart that he can never touch.
Even if Dean is oblivious to it.
Dean groans again. Sam can see his eyes moving rapidly behind their purple-tinted lids. Wonderful, another dream, just what the man needs. Dreams these days never mean anything good for his older brother. Nothing seems to mean anything good for Dean anymore.
"Stop," Dean mumbles, voicing Sam's own thoughts in the quiet of the car's cabin. Sam's brow furrows as he glances at his brother again. Dean is frowning now, his face scrunched up as if he's in pain. Sweat gleams on his skin, highlighting his already sickly features.
He looks like shit.
"Make it stop. Kate!" Dean groans out, thrashing slightly against the safety belt and the door. Sam's eyebrows fly up in surprise at the exclamation.
Who the hell is Kate?
Chock another mystery up to the enigma that is his brother.
He slows the car, anxiety pawing at his chest. The elder Winchester thrashes more violently as the car comes to a halt and suddenly he's screaming, choking, sobbing worse than any nightmare Sam has witnessed in the past year.
"Dean!" he yells, finally reaching over and gripping the man by the shoulders, shaking him awake.
The effect is instantaneous. The other man gasps and pitches forward in his seat, emptying the meager contents of his stomach, what he'd managed to choke down under Sam's watchful eye at breakfast, onto the floorboard. It terrifies Sam to see his brother like this. Dean doesn't puke, not ever. Well, except for that one time with the sandwich, but that was magically induced.
Maybe it is this time too.
The thought takes Sam as he pats his still-retching brother on the back. Is that it? Is this some sort of curse? It would certainly explain a lot. He should call Bobby...
"Sam?" Dean gasps out from between his knees and the thought is forgotten, lost in the urgency of his brother's voice. His breath is coming out in rasps, but slowly evening out. He reaches up and weakly grips Sam's arm, slowly rising to look him in the eye. As blood-shot green eyes meet his own worried blue ones, he thinks that this is it, the moment he's been waiting for. The other man is finally going to crack. He's actually going to talk about what had just happened instead of ignoring the giant elephant splattered all over the floor mat.
"...We're gonna need to steal another car."
But then again, this is Dean Winchester he's talking about.
One truck stop and a stolen minivan later, they're back on the road. Dean has once again taken his place behind the wheel, ignoring his brother's incessant bitching. ("You're sick, Dean! You shouldn't be driving." "I'm not friggin' sick. I told you those eggs didn't taste right, Sammy. But noooo, I had to eat breakfast. Hope you're happy. Bitch." "...Whatever. Jerk.") He's hoping the lull of the white lines will ease the throbbing in his head.
The dream had been all kinds of mind-fucking fun. This one had been the worst so far, they keep getting more intense. They'd started out as streaks of color and sound, fire and screams. At first he'd thought they were just reverberations of his time in hell, that the screams were those of his nameless, faceless victims as he tortured and cut and burned...
But then they'd started having faces.
In Hell, he'd never looked at their faces.
This dream had been different. The screamers had always been generic women before; this time she'd had a name. It made no difference in the end though, she'd met the same fate. They always burn, too bright, too much- what? The knowledge sits just out of his reach, so close and yet frustratingly beyond his understanding. The emotions and thoughts always feel strange too, like they've already been felt and thought before, like an echo, like they aren't really his but are at the same time. God damn, he's losing it.
The not-his-his guilt still lingers in the pit of his stomach like liquid lead and he feels his grip tighten on the wheel. He feels sick again, feels the bile rising in his throat. He pushes it down, hyper-aware of the eyes watching him from the passenger seat. It's funny how Sam is so intent on having a scoop of his crazy when he already has thirty-one flavors of his own.
"Dude, are you okay?"
Dean practically jumps at the sound of his brother's voice breaking the silence, jerking the steering wheel of their latest count of grand theft auto slightly before correcting his course.
"What?" he asks, glancing sideways and trying his damnedest to look like he has no idea what the other man is talking about. Damn, nosy, observant son of a bitch.
"You've been... quiet..." The word is obviously not the one Sam wants to use to describe his behavior and they both know it. "...since we left Becky's. It's just not normal and you're starting to ...creep me out." Sam looks at him, eyebrows high on his classic 'worry' face.
"Normal is overrated, Sammy. You should know that by now," Dean huffs, trying as always to joke his way out of answering anything chick-flick in nature. In truth the dialogue is a familiar comfort, he feels his grip lessening on the wheel, feels the cold pocket of bile sitting in his throat slowly dissolving.
"You know what I mean, Dean." The elder brother hazards another glance at the younger against his better judgment.
One day Dean will ask Sam where the hell he'd learned that damn kicked puppy look, because it sure as hell hadn't been from him. Or their dad. He knew he shouldn't have let the kid watch the Disney channel.
Maybe it'd been Bobby...
"I'm fine, Sam," he says firmly, turning his eyes back to the road and totally not imagining what their surrogate father would look like with dog ears.
"Dean, if this is about-" his brother begins. Oh no, this is not happening. They are not having this conversation again.
"I said I'm fine," he repeats with more force.
"What I said-"
"I'm FUCKING FINE!" he all but screams, swerving on the road in emphasis. The outburst leaves him slightly out of breath, but the silence is well worth the effort. Hopefully Sam has given up-
"I'm not giving it up that easily."
Fuckin' mind reader. Are they sure Sam's demon mojo is completely gone anyway?
"...That's what she said." When at first you don't succeed, keep beating your head into the wall until one of them breaks.
"What!" he snarls, getting seriously annoyed.
"I really am sorry."
And that fucking does it. Dean swerves off the road, earning a honk from the sedan that zooms passed them as they abruptly stop on the dusty bank. Did that soccer mom just flip him off? Ah, well, good for her. He takes a deep breath, bracing himself, and turns to face his brother.
"Look, Sam. It has nothing to do with you, okay? So lets just drop it." He looks down at his clenched hands, unable to look his brother in the eye.
"This isn't about you, okay?" Dean shouts, turning and wrenching open the door to the car, he gets out and slams it shut. Taking a few steps away, he runs his hands through his hair and rubs the back of his neck. He turns as he hears the passenger door shut behind him, regarding Sam over the roof of the minivan.
He can just barely see his brother's annoying, stupid, worried face over the rusting metal. Sam meets his glare with a level stare, his forehead scrunching up like his eyebrows are trying to eat each other. One day his face will get stuck like that, Dean thinks with little of the intended humor. Rolling his eyes, he turns away from the offending look.
"It's..." He sighs, knowing that he's about to open a whole can of worms and shit. He's pretty sure his brother already knows what has really been eating at him, but he says it anyway. "It's about Cas, okay?" He still refuses to look back at the taller man, but takes the silence as an invitation to continue.
"Working that case with Garth... It just struck a little close to home." Finally turning back around, he looks his brother in the eye.
"You miss him." It's a statement that leaves no room for argument. Dean isn't even going to bother denying it anyway. He sighs and this time he knows the guilt he's feeling is his own.
"I know he cracked your melon. I know he lied to us. And then-" He swallows thickly. "And then I... we lost him. And those things fucking paraded around wearing him." The fuzzy black and white imagine of the horrific, gleeful, insane grin plastered on the "god's" face in that campaign office will forever be burned into Dean's memories, his nightmares.
The Castiel you knew is gone.
He's gone. He's dead.
We run the show now.
"Hell, I know he's the reason the snakes are on the plane." He kicks forcefully at a particularly large piece of gravel, vainly hoping it will carry the memories away with it as it arcs through a cloud of stirred up dust and skips to a halt a dozen feet away, still very much within sight. He hunches his shoulders, watching the dust dissipate.
"But you weren't there, Sammy. You didn't see the look on his face. I... I gave up on him too easy. I should have tried harder, should have paid attention. The warning signs were there, Sam. And I didn't see them." I didn't want to see them.
He's momentarily afraid that Sam will be angry with him, that Sam will be disgusted with him because he misses the person that punched his brother's ticket for the crazy train to Comatown.
"Honestly man, I was excepting this sooner," Sam says quietly, still on the other side of the hunk of junk. Dean lets out a rush of breath he hadn't realized he's been holding. His brother doesn't sound angry at all. Some of the tension eases out of him.
"Yeah, well, you know how I love to exceed expectations." He snorts. If there is one thing he's good at, it's breaking shit.
"I miss him too, you know," Sam responds, leaning on the roof of the car. "Profound bond or no," he adds, lip quirking up in memory. Dean snorts again and kicks another rock.
"Lotta good that did us," he mutters under his breath, though he's sure Sam can hear him. Turning back to the car, he reaches for the handle.
"Dean..." He pauses at his brother's voice.
"Yeah?" Looking up, he can see his brother watching him intently, something clearly on the tip of his tongue. Dean has had the feeling several times since they'd.. lost Cas... that the younger Winchester has wanted to ask him something. What it is, he really doesn't have a clue.
Or maybe he does.
"Nevermind," Sam backs down, opening his door and climbing back in the crapster. (God, he misses his baby.) Dean shrugs and follows suit.
"You know," Sam begins again, a small smile pulls at his face. "You aren't really a part of the family unless you've sold your soul or unintentionally started an apocalypse at least once."
Dean can't help but smile back. Truer words...
Silence spans for several minutes once they're back on the road. Dean hasn't even bothered with music.
"So this case is really weird," Sam finally speaks. Dean grunts in acknowledgment.
"I'm not sure what to make of it-" And his little brother would have continued, but at that moment the radio pops on. That's weird, neither of them touched it. Dean shrugs it off as faulty wiring and grins when he recognizes the song.
He glances over at his brother when he doesn't respond. His grin falters as he catches sight of the look on Sam's now-pale face.
He's staring at the radio like he's just seen a ghost. Which, considering how many salt n' burns they've done over the years, shouldn't even be that big of a deal. There's a nagging memory at the back of Dean's mind, something familiar about this situation, but he can't place it.
Sam blinks and quickly leans forward to snap the radio off.
Dean is about to ask what has Sam's panties in a bunch when the car is filled with the heartbreakingly familiar flutter of wings and the soft thump of a body settling into the back seat.
He can't breath.
It can't be.
His throat feels tight and dry and he still can't breath and oh God, it can't be.
"Still can't take a joke, Sammy?" And it isn't. Dean feels his hope shatter at the sound of the soft, almost playful voice.
And just like that the spell is broken.
Simultaneously, the boys whip their heads around, staring in shock at the brunette sitting in the backseat. Completely forgotten, the van swerves again and plows right into the drainage ditch that parallels the road. Reeds and cattails drum against the windshield in a broken rhythm and water laps up onto the grill as the vehicle settles.
When he's recovered from the impact, before he even registers it, Dean is clawing his way over the seat and punching the dick right in the face.
"Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? You FUCKING COWARD! Have you been hiding this WHOLE TIME? You sonuvaBITCH!" He raises his fist to land another blow, but suddenly finds himself tied and gagged and back in the driver's seat. He jerks violently toward the backseat, death-glaring and flaring his nostrils at the bastard as he struggles to free himself.
"Now, now, Dean-o. Behave yourself while I explain." The bastard wags his finger at him and he has the sudden, childish urge to bite it. He probably would too, if it weren't for the duct tape. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Sam finally recover from the shock, eyebrows knitting together in confusion and surprise.
A/N: I forgot to mention that the characters have minds of their own. What they say/think/do doesn't necessarily reflect my own opinions. Or maybe it does. Who knows! ...But in all seriousness, this is how I feel they would act in the situations my mind throws at them. My recipe for Dean may have an extra teaspoon of angst in it though.
Regarding Sam's eye color: I used to think his eyes were brown, but an internet search has revealed that they are either green or blue. Apparently the jury is still out on that one. I picked blue. That's just how I roll.