(H-Blockx - I Heard Him Cry)
Feel insanity tonight, lost with one long cry,
try to break the loneliness, no successful try,
Heard that cry a thousand times, did not see the light,
I didn't know him demanding, one last fatal try.
Written for the Dean H/C Challenge on Hoodietime for the lyrics prompt above, posted by geckoholic.
It was dark and the rain was sheeting down when Dean finally found Sam. The big man had crammed himself into the smallest possible space, back shoved up against the wall, his long body folded up like a giant paperclip, head down between his knees. Dean could see the rivulets of water running down inside Sam's collar, the pale wet skin gleaming orange in the glow of the sodium street lights. It made him shiver in sympathy.
He could hear a low continuous unintelligible keening, and realised it was coming from Sam.
Dean hunkered down next to his brother, shoulders hunched up against the cold night, trying not to let the anxiety he was feeling bleed into his voice.
"Sam." He said.
Sam didn't react.
"Sammy, it's me."
Dean reached out towards Sam's shoulder and nearly fell backwards as Sam's hand shot out to knock his own away. Sam looked up, his eyes glowing sodium orange too, and Dean was shocked to see that this was not a trick of the light, not a reflection. All the air left his body on the exhale, and he found himself unable to remember how to breathe in.
Somehow, that lack of air wasn't enough to stop him needing to touch and he reached out again with both hands this time, and grasped Sam's shoulders tight, his fingers digging deep until he could feel Sam's bones creak. Sam's blazing golden gaze never wavered, the muttering never ceased and Dean felt himself falling forward into that weird light. He wouldn't have pulled back, even if he had been able to. The undertow of Sam's need was inexorable.
And what Sam needed was Dean.
Large hands came up and bracketed either side Dean's face. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the liquid fire that had consumed Sam's irises, even though the blaze didn't warm him. Quite the contrary, he could feel a chill emanating out from the dark depths of Sam's pupils, spread further by the icy grip of his brother's fingers on his cheeks.
Dean's soul was pouring out of him like the torrent of rain that was soaking them both. Sam was a thirsty night-time desert, a terrifying hungry singularity soaking him up. Falling, ever falling without moving a muscle, Dean forgot himself entirely, lost in the burning golden darkness.
Dean had been gone too long, and Sam was starting to panic. It had been nearly two hours, and there was no sign of his brother. Dean would never not answer his cell for this long, and Sam was even more anxious having finally worked out what this creature was they were hunting.
So now Sam was hunting Dean.
Soaked through and uncaring, Sam methodically searched in an increasingly wide radius out from their crummy Pittsburgh hotel. God, he hated cities. It seemed Dean's dislike of urban landscapes was catching.
He was a hair's breadth from despair when he rounded a corner and in a dark shrouded alleyway, caught sight of a kneeling figure, head slumped onto its chest. The streetlights shone down the alley from the brightly lit thoroughfare beyond, picking out the drops of rain as they ran down the figure's head, falling from the spiked ends of its hair like sparkling topaz jewels.
To Sam that outline was unmistakable.
Even as Sam was running forward, a dark shadow detached itself from the deeper shadows surrounding Dean and slipped away. It seemed to trail an afterglow of golden light behind it, like headlights on a long exposure photograph, but Sam had no time to worry about it. He fell to his knees next to Dean's huddled figure, and in an unconscious echo of Dean's actions moments before, he reached out to his brother.
Sam's fingers closed convulsively round sodden cloth covering solid muscle; then he was unexpectedly supporting Dean's entire weight in his lap as his brother slid sideways in reaction to Sam's tugging on his unresisting flesh. Dean's head flopped back over Sam's thigh, exposing the long pale line of his throat to the cold rain, Dean's face vulnerable and open and totally blank in a way it never was in life. Sam couldn't help a full body shudder. The memory of seeing that same expression (or lack of it rather), and the way Dean's wide unseeing eyes stared up at the low orange glow of the Pittsburgh night sky – it was something he'd never thought to see again.
"No no no…," The vocal protest fell from his lips unheeded as he fumbled with frozen fingers at Dean's neck, feeling for a pulse. "Come on, Dean, please…"
The sense of relief was overwhelming when he felt the blood still pumping strongly through the carotid artery, though that was soon overtaken by concern when Dean continued to be completely unresponsive. There was not even a flicker of awareness in those wide staring eyes, and it was starting to really freak Sam out. Not to mention the fact that Dean weighed a good 175lbs and even Sam with his ability to bench press 200lbs was going to have trouble carrying Dean's dead weight back to their hotel, let alone without drawing unwelcome attention. Pittsburgh was no backwater podunk town; its streets were active all night long, especially in the borderline red light district where they were staying.
He rubbed at Dean's cold hands, trying to get some circulation going, then tapped at Dean's pale cheek.
"Come on Dean, give me something here," he pleaded.
Nothing, not even a glimmer.
Sam felt a wave of hot anger wash over him, and he welcomed it. He grabbed Dean's shoulders and shook him, not caring what passers by might be thinking at seeing the unconscious man flopping from side to side like a kid's rag doll.
"Wake up, damn you!" He was yelling now, a part of him knowing this was sheer panic, yet not caring. Dean could not go and leave him all alone again, not after everything they'd been through. Sam just would not let that happen. Bracing Dean's unresponsive body against his thigh, he drew back a hand and brought it across his brother's cheek in an almighty slap. Shaking, Sam watched as the mark of his palm print blossomed red against the white skin.
Then, miraculously, Dean blinked. Slowly, lids dropped then lifted again.
Breathing heavily, Sam held on as his brother's gaze wandered aimlessly, then finally came to rest on Sam's tense face.
"Dean. You with me, buddy?"
For once, Sam ignored Dean's distaste for PDAs and enveloped his big brother's still limp body in a massive hug. He was surprised when Dean, albeit feebly, reciprocated, his arms snaking round Sam in a weak embrace. Sam was a bit reluctant to break away, but Dean's continued weakness was bothering him and he needed to find out if the idiot had sustained any other injuries going after this monster on his own. He pulled back and looked at Dean.
"So, are you hurt? Did the son of a bitch injure you? Apart from trying to suck your soul out of your body, that is?"
"Yeah, that's why I've been trying to ring your cell for the last few hours. To tell you I found out what we've been hunting – it's a soul eater."
Sam was totally taken aback when Dean's reaction to that piece of news was to bury his face into Sam's chest. He mumbled something Sam couldn't hear as Dean's mouth was muffled up in Sam's wet jacket at the time.
Sam pushed Dean back and held him by the shoulders.
"What did you say?"
"Is that like a dementor then?" Dean asked, and if Sam hadn't known his brother better, he'd have sworn the expression on his face was terror.
"Erm, not really. Dementors aren't real. Besides, since when do you read Harry Potter, Dean?"
"Don't remember, Sammy." The terror, if it had ever been there, was replaced with a puzzled frown.
"Yeah, well. Never mind. Come on, Dean, let's get you back to the hotel. I need to take a look at you properly in the light. Sounds like you might have taken a knock to that thick skull of yours."
Sam hauled Dean to his feet, let his brother lean heavily against him as they staggered their way back through the night-time traffic of cold weary hookers, drunks and bored johns. Sam knew no one would give two more scraps of the flotsam and jetsam of life a second glance. Everyone would assume Dean was drunk or stoned, or both.
They were a block away from the hotel when Dean stopped dead in his tracks, causing Sam to nearly trip over his own feet. He could feel every muscle tense under his fingers where he was still holding Dean up.
"What? What is it?" Sam looked around but could see nothing but rain filled shadows.
"It's coming." Dean looked at Sam, his wide eyes glinting orange in the sodium streetlights. Sam couldn't help thinking Dean looked just a little bit unhinged, and he was even more eager to get them both off the street and into relative safety. He tightened his grip and practically dragged his brother the last few yards and up the stairs to their hotel room. He shoved the door shut with his foot and sat Dean down on the bed nearest the door. He quickly renewed the salt lines, then turned to check on his brother.
Who was sitting right on the edge of the bed as if poised for flight, his right leg jigging nervously up and down and his hands clasped tightly together in front of his face.
Sam's heart sank. Whatever had happened in that alleyway, he was starting to wonder if he'd arrived too late for Dean.
It hadn't finished. Sam's arrival had scared it away while it was only partially satisfied, and now it was following them.
Following him. Hunting him.
Dean knew it still hungered, he could feel the chill of its fierce desire like an all-pervading mist in the damp air, and he was terrified. The night was suddenly filled with shadows and unknown horrors and he knew he shouldn't be so afraid, it wasn't like him to be so helpless with fear, but he couldn't seem to pull himself together. All he could do was cling to the comforting solidity of his little brother's meaty arm and to allow Sam to half drag, half carry him to safety.
Sam said it was a soul eater. Dean couldn't wrap his head around what that meant. Everything seemed too fuzzy and yet over-clear at the same time, and his head was swimming. After Sam had gotten him moving again, jarred him out of that moment of frozen panic when he'd felt the creature draw nearer, Dean had not really been aware of anything but the overwhelming need to get somewhere safe. Even though he couldn't have said where safety lay, so he let Sam lead him.
Sometime later, he wasn't sure how long, Sam was shoving him into a warm room he recognised as their hotel. Soaked through and chilled to the bone, Dean sat on the bed where Sam put him, and waited shivering for Sam to tell him what to do next.
"Come on, Dean, get those wet clothes off before you freeze to death!"
Dean stood and stripped, dropping his sodden layers on the floor by his feet while Sam busied himself checking the salt lines at the windows after laying a new line at the door. His fear had subsided once he'd crossed the threshold. Sam and the salt equalled safety.
Naked, he stood and awaited further instruction.
"Jesus, Dean." Sam sounded simultaneously exasperated and worried, Dean observed. Sam was somewhat hurried, and his cheeks were flushed as he gave Dean's body the once over for injuries. Dean thought his brother might be embarrassed, though he had no idea why.
He allowed his little brother to hustle him into the small bathroom and stood passively while Sam turned on the shower and then ushered him under the spray. Sam left him with an admonition don't use up all the hot water, jerk.
He also remembered to towel himself dry, and hung the towel neatly on the heated rail before walking back into the bedroom. It seemed that Sam was ready for his nakedness this time, chucked a pair of boxers and a t shirt at Dean on his way to the shower. Dean dressed and sat down again, thinking about why everything felt so wrong.
He stared at the backs of his hands where they rested on his bare thighs. He did not recognise himself. He felt – empty. He remembered being told that before, that he was empty inside, and he thought that though it had not been true then, it was true now. That soul eater had stolen part of him, and he wasn't entirely sure that he knew what was missing. Only that whatever it was, it was important, and he needed it back.
Sam came out of the bathroom, his face pink from the heat of the water and his long hair still damp. The towel hung low round his narrow hips. Dean thought absently that his brother looked fit, well muscled and lean. He thought that was probably a good thing.
"Go to bed, Dean. We need to be alert so we can hunt that monster down tomorrow, now that we know what we are hunting."
"A soul eater."
"Yeah, a soul eater."
"We've never hunted one of those before, right?"
Sam pulled on a pair of sleep pants and threw back the covers on his bed before answering.
"And we don't know anyone who has hunted one."
"Right. And your point is?"
Dean thought his little brother was getting impatient, so he moved on quickly. "My point is – we don't know how to kill it. In fact, we know very little about these creatures at all."
Sam screwed up his face and ran a hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. Dean didn't call him on how silly it looked, though he had a feeling his whole-self would have had something rude to say.
"Dean, I know we are short of information here, and we don't have Bobby to call on…," Sam's voice choked a little at the mention of their old friend, but he moved swiftly on. "But it's 4am, I'm wrecked, you've been sucked dry by the fugly and we will both function much better after a few hours sleep. So stop doing whatever it is you're doing and go to bed."
Dean watched as Sam flung himself down, the bed-springs making a jangling protest at taking all that muscled mass. His little brother must have been quite tired as it was only a matter of minutes before Sam had turned onto his stomach and had his face buried into his pillow, snuffling in his sleep.
Dean looked around. He wasn't tired, and he knew that was a symptom of being soulless. It seemed that Sam had forgotten, or perhaps he just hadn't thought it mattered. Dean considered for a moment.
Well, he perhaps could use Sam's downtime to do some research. See what he could dig up on these soul eater creatures, and maybe work out what were the other effects of this one's plundering of his own soul, besides not needing to sleep.
"In a right angled triangle, the area of the square on the hypotenuse equals the sum of the areas of the two squares on the other two sides therefore, if c denotes…"
Sam usually slept lightly. It was a Winchester habit, compounded over the years by the numerous reasons both brothers had for finding sleep a traumatic rather than a restful experience. Having memories of Hell's cage added to that list was just the latest cross Sam had to bear. He didn't complain. He knew Dean had to suffer his own Hell memories, and since Sam had gotten his soul back, he saw no point in trying to care and share any more. (You're gonna take all that crap and you're gonna bury it, youre gonna forget about it because that's' how we keep going).
:: Hey, sleepy head, wake up! You're missing the show…::
He was surprised when Lucifer/Hallucifer woke him with a prod to the shoulder, and that he hadn't been woken by Dean's odd background muttering by himself. Once roused though, he was wide awake. He flipped the light on and sat up.
"… the length of the hypotenuse and a and b denote the lengths of the other two sides…."
Sam had seen a lot of strange and horrific things in his life, but this was something else.
Dean was sitting on the edge of his bed, still dressed only in boxers and t shirt, as if he hadn't moved since Sam had told him to go to sleep. Yet clearly Dean had moved, because all around him, arranged with a careful precision that was so unlike his big brother it made Sam's heart ache, were the entire contents of their well stocked medical kit. Items were placed on the untouched bed-spread, or on the floor, all within reach of the older hunter.
But that wasn't what was really twisting Sam's gut. No, it was the fact that Dean was busy methodically stabbing one of the hypodermic syringe needles into his thigh, each downward blow punctuated by the low recitation of mathematical theory.
"…the Pythagorean theorem can be expressed as the Pythagorean equation: a + b = c …"
Sam moved with the speed of a thought, and had grabbed Dean's hand before he could bring it down again to stab the bloody needle into the mass of punctures in his abused thigh muscle. Sam ripped the syringe away and threw it across the room.
"Dean, what the fuck..?" Words failed him.
Dean looked from Sam's hand, tightly fisted round his wrist, up to Sam's face. There was no anger or pain in Dean's expression, only a kind of dispassionate curiosity. With his free hand Dean gestured at the seeping wounds.
"Look at that, Sammy. Twenty times, and it doesn't hurt at all."
"Jesus Dean, what are you trying to prove?" Sam didn't wait for an answer but started cleaning up the mess Dean had made of his leg with the handily placed antiseptic and sterile dressings. He was actually grateful for Dean's forethought in arranging everything so Sam could work quickly, seeing as how his brother was not interested in fixing himself. No, Dean was more interested in telling Sam his theory about what the soul eater had done to him.
Sam was having a hard time concentrating, what with the image of Dean stabbing himself burned into his brain, together with the added distraction of Hallucifer's intermittent interruptions.
"You see, when your soul was still in the cage, you behaved without certain constraints, but you could still feel physical pain (and pleasure too, if your sexual exploits were anything to go by)..," Dean was saying.
"Exploits? Pythagorus' theorem? What is going on with you, Dean?"
"That's what I am trying to explain Sam; I was trying to see what elements of me the soul eater took, because I don't think my condition is the same as your soullessness. For instance, I don't seem to be able to feel any physical pain, where you could. For you, not having the soul left you largely without emotions. For me some emotions are still strong, while others appear to have disappeared – so for instance I no longer feel embarrassment with nudity, or the fact that I have a greater intellectual capacity than you have given me credit for."
:: Only marginally greater, hey Sammy? I mean, he is still stupid enough to stick needles into himself, after all. That doesn't cry out "intellectual giant" to me; how about you?::
Sam hated it when his hallucinations read his mind, even though he knew that was inevitable, as that was where they lived. He also hated to hear his brother talking like some sort of pseudo academic. This whole situation was weirding him out.
"Yeah, right, Dean. You are a genius who has just made a pin cushion out of his leg." Sam tied off the bandage. Dean stood up and seemed surprised when his injured leg buckled under him as he put weight on it. Sam sighed and helped his brother back up onto the bed.
"Um, well," Dean said, looking for all the world a little abashed in spite of his stated loss of the ability to be embarrassed. "I didn't spend all the time you were asleep experimenting on myself." He pointed to the open laptop on the table. "I've also been doing some research on soul eaters. It's all there, in my notes."
Sam sat down on the dining chair and quickly scanned Dean's notes. It didn't take long. They were pitifully short.
"And before you say anything – that is the sum of all knowledge, believe me. I've searched every possible source."
Sam lean back in his chair and ran both hands through his hair in frustration. "There's nothing here to help us kill the thing. Nothing to say how we can get your soul back."
"No. I checked every record I could find, together with any case that sounded as though it could be a possible match for what we know about the soul eater's MO and there is nothing to indicate anyone has ever killed one. The only possible candidate is this one," Dean tapped a couple of keys and called up a web page. Sam leaned forward again and read quickly.
"So all that case gives us is that maybe a silver knife will work."
"Yep. And before you ask, I couldn't find anything about anyone surviving an attack with all or part of their soul intact."
"Well that's just great."
Dean nodded as if he hadn't noticed Sam's bitter sarcasm, and pulled up the other chair. He pushed the laptop lid down and Sam was forced to meet his brother's uncannily unDean-like gaze.
"We do have one advantage though, Sam."
"Yeah. Me. I can feel it, Sam. It has my soul and I can feel it. And it can feel me, I'm certain of it."
Sam shook his head. He could see where this was leading and he hated it.
"It is hunting for what is left of my soul, right now. All we have to do is use me as bait, and wait for it to come and get me."
"What choice do we have? It is coming for me, whatever we do, and I've got nowhere to run to. Nowhere to hide."
"Goddamn it, Dean." Sam acknowledged defeat.
So they waited.
"In the room?"
"Is the salt working?"
"What? What do you mean, no?"
"Think about it, Sammy. What if this soul eater is like a striga? What if the only way to kill it is while it's feeding?"
"No, Dean. We're not using you to test this crazy theory. I won't lose…. I can't. Just no, alright"?
"Why not, Sam? What's the worst that could happen? You lose me? Now stop me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there is a lot of the Dean Winchester that you know left in this body."
"That son of a bitch has taken a big part, maybe the best part, of me and I want it back. And I don't want to live without what it stole.
Break the salt line, Sam."
Gritting his teeth, Sam reluctantly scuffed a gap into the salt-line across the threshold. Took a deep breath, then another as - nothing happened.
He turned around, saying, "I thought you said it was right outs... Oh shit."
He hadn't sensed anything passing by, yet clearly the soul eater had just gone straight through him as if he wasn't there.
It was like the alleyway all over again, but without the rain. Dean was down on his knees, and this time the darkness that shrouded him was glaringly obvious under the bright electric light. Sam could see the blackness was shot through with flashes of sulphuric orange and a pure white light, and even as he watched, it was starting to take a more solid shape as it sucked the remnants of his brother's soul out of his body.
Sam had no choice but to try Dean's experiment, or his brother would be lost to him forever anyway.
Silver knife in hand, Sam launched himself into the dark.
Dean was comatose for nearly twenty-four long hours.
Sam supposed in the scheme of things, it wasn't that long. He knew that when Death had restored his soul he'd been out for much longer, but he'd known nothing about that (obviously). Hadn't had to live through the waiting, the pain of seeing the one last remaining thing in this whole world that he loved, pale and still on a dingy bed in a dingy room, not knowing if he was ever going to wake. Or whether he would be sane and wholly himself again if he did.
So Sam lived through those painful hours now with a greater understanding of how Dean must have felt, back then. Not patiently (Sam wasn't really a patient person), more stoically, because he didn't really have any other choice than to suffer through the waiting. The alternative was to give up and walk away, and neither Winchester was that much of a coward.
When Dean did finally wake up, Sam didn't have to wait long for the signals that everything was back to normal.
This was how it went. Dean was weak as a new-born kitten, but the stubborn idiot would rather fall out of bed trying to go to the bathroom to take a piss on his own than alert Sam to the fact that he needed some help. When Sam got him to his feet, and half carried him to the toilet, big brother was quick to tell him to leave off all the touchy feely crap, he was perfectly capable of holding his own dick while he took a leak, alright?
The second was Dean loudly demanding pie, because "Dude, that other me was a dick who didn't remember to eat!"
And "Why are you laughing, bitch?"
Hallucifer was vocal in expressing his disgruntlement at Dean's return but Sam ignored him and carried on smiling.
He'd be more than glad to see the back of Pittsburgh.