Title: Pulled From The Fire
Pairings/Couples/Category: Dean W.
Word Count: 4,270
Summary: Dean was fine until he woke up in his own coffin in Pontiac, Illinois. Spoilers for season 4.
Disclaimer: The characters of Supernatural do not belong to me and no infringement is intended.
The heat, the pain… the power.
That first cut; the blade of the large knife shimmering, the flames from the pit reflecting in its impossibly shiny surface. The slicing of soft, warm flesh, watching the blade tear at the unblemished skin, seeing the thick, inviting blood well up, pooling in the ravine created by the blade before spilling over and running down over the skin, pulled by gravity, glistening bright red, making his mouth water.
Everything else slips away as he revels in the sheer pleasure of it. Everything he felt before is gone, all that pain, that suffering, that terror… all gone. Now all he feels is power and satisfaction as he takes his revenge.
And he enjoys it. Looks forward to it.
It gives him this incredible sense of pleasure, of accomplishment, that he's never been able to fully grasp hold of before and he doesn't want to let it go.
He can't think about what he's left behind, what this makes him, because this is all he has now. He's off the rack, no longer subjected to the torture himself, no longer gathering all of his willpower and forcing himself to keep saying no. This is his life now, and as long as he keeps doing it, he's safe. And he can't help it if he enjoys it too, if he gains more pleasure from tearing souls apart than he does from anything else.
'That's my boy.'
He can hear the echo of Alastair's voice in his mind, the proud, smug tone of his mentor cheering him on, encouraging him to embrace the rush, the blissful hedonism of inflicting pain.
He sends the soul in front of him a twisted grin, his lips curling up in satisfaction, delighting in the fear in its eyes when he reaches for his next toy of choice, holding it up menacingly, letting the prisoner before him see it, letting it imagine what kind of horrors he has planned.
As he steps towards the rack, hand poised ready to inflict as much slow, excruciating pain as possible, there's a sudden blinding white flash and a high-pitched screeching noise that causes him to drop to the floor, hands covering his ears. He cries out as he feels a white-hot burning sensation in his shoulder and then he's being pulled upwards.
He feels nauseous, stomach turning and eyes rolling back in his head in response to the sheer force with which he is being dragged; his body twists and turns involuntarily and he closes his eyes in an attempt to stop the sick, spinning feeling…and then he feels nothing.
His eyes fly open as he regains consciousness, gasping for breath. He coughs harshly. His throat is burning and he winces as he tries to swallow. He has no idea what happened, no idea where he is.
All he knows is that it's too dark, too quiet… too cold here.
His hand pats over his body, discovers he's wearing clothes… normal clothes: t-shirt, jeans, shirt.
That's wrong too.
It's too dark to see anything, but he quickly realises there's a lighter in his pocket and he digs it out. It takes a couple of clumsy attempts, his hands feeling strange and numb, but he gets it working… and then almost immediately wishes he hadn't.
Because he's trapped in a tiny wooden box… one that looks suspiciously like a…he can't even say it, because the moment he thinks of it his chest tightens with a strange, unfamiliar fear. He looks around, scopes out his surrounding, his breaths coming short and fast. This is an old fear, nothing like the terror he'd felt for thirty years, but it's there all the same.
Claustrophobia: such a normal, human fear.
"H-help," he tries, but his voice is hoarse, barely above a whisper, and he winces and coughs at the pain in his throat. "Help…help."
In a sudden panic, he pounds against the wooden ceiling above him with the palm of his hand. Dirt falls through the cracks, landing on his face; he blinks as some of it goes into his eyes. It confirms his suspicion: he's in a coffin… he's six feet under, buried alive. His chest is tight, he knows the oxygen down here is quickly running out with every breath he takes, and he feels the panic rising up again. He slips his fingers into the gaps in the wood, tugging at it with as much strength as he can muster, trying to pry some of it free. He groans with the effort, fingers sore and painful as splinters in the wood cut into them. It takes a few long, frustrating seconds, but eventually he feels it begin to give way. The wood collapses, raining dirt and soil down, covering his body.
He doesn't know how he does it.
There's too much dirt and soil, it fills his ears, his nostrils, would have filled his mouth if he hadn't clamped it shut. It spills down onto him, filling up the small space of the box, threatening to suffocate him. Fear clutches at his chest again. He can't breathe, there's not enough room… and he knows he has to get out of here right the hell now.
He shuts his eyes tightly, steels himself and takes the plunge, hands moving upwards, clawing at the soil, forcing his body into positions it shouldn't be able to get into. Anything to escape this prison, anything to breathe again.
Seriously, he doesn't know how he does it. It shouldn't have been possible… but somehow it is.
Somehow the soil is lighter, less compact, less dense than it should have been. Somehow he manages to get out of the box, manages to lift himself higher and higher through the soil. His arms are raised above his head, almost as if he's being lifted up, guided towards the surface. He doesn't seem to notice that he's not able to breathe, that he doesn't feel that normal, uncomfortable tightness that comes with holding your breath for too long. He just somehow seems to claw his way out of there, relief overtaking his entire body when his hands finally come free, grasping at nothing but air.
It feels strange against his bruised and battered fingers, the cool, refreshing breeze that is so unfamiliar to him after decades of feeling nothing but heat and fire—that he's almost afraid to keep going. But he does because, let's face it, if he doesn't take a breath soon, he's going to die. It's a struggle; that strange feeling of lightness, of being helped, is gone now and he has to gather all of the upper body strength he can to haul himself up and out of the ground, gasping as he fills his lungs with much-needed air.
He winces as he turns over onto his back, still gasping for breath. He shields his eyes. It's too bright here and the sun hurts his eyes. He feels vulnerable and exposed… he feels like he shouldn't be here.
It feels wrong.
After several more seconds of lying on the ground, of recovering from the exertion of crawling out of his own grave, he gathers his strength again and pulls himself to his feet.
He struggles to keep his eyes open, his instincts telling him to keep them closed, to hide in the dark where it's comfortable and normal. But when he does open them and takes in his surroundings, he feels the shock slamming into him.
This isn't right, this new, unfamiliar world.
The silence is deafening.
Everything is too much here… too bright, too calm, too quiet, too peaceful. It's actually frightening, terrifying even, and he is tempted to crawl right back into that grave again and hide away.
He steels himself, allowing his eyes to get used to the sun, before he turns and surveys his surroundings. His mouth falls open, his chest pounding as he takes in the circle of fallen trees, the cross marking his grave in the dead centre.
It's freaky; it looks like a nuke went off or something. He feels bile rising up in his throat as it dawns on him that whatever did this, it could only be something really evil.
He stumbles away from the gravesite, almost running, so he won't be tempted to dive back inside that small wooden box again and hide away from the world.
He wipes his brow as he walks along the abandoned road. He's dripping with sweat; the heat from the sun is unsettlingly overpowering, burning his skin in a way he'd never experienced in the Pit. It was infinitely hotter there, yet somehow the bright sunshine here is harsher, more punishing than the dark, blistering heat of the pit.
He doesn't quite know how his legs are still holding him up, how he's still walking, when all he wants to do is curl up and hide, to lose himself in the memories of torture, of twisted pleasure and pain, of comfort and safety… where he's the one dealing out all the punishments and no one can hurt him.
He walks for what seems like hours, seeing nothing but asphalt and grass and trees… things that he had once taken for granted, yet now they are strange and unfamiliar. He stops in confusion when he comes upon a derelict building before him. It takes a moment for his brain to comprehend that this is a gas station, that the strange see-through box in front of it is known as a phone booth, that the metal contraptions beside it are things called cars.
As he approaches the building, things begin to come back to him; he starts recalling long-forgotten, every day aspects of human life… food, water, money… civilisation. The door is locked, a 'Closed' sign hanging from the window, and no one answers when he knocks and shouts a hoarse 'hello', but he needs to get inside. He almost slams his fist straight through the glass, almost relishes the thought of the pain and blood that would come with it, but then he remembers that he's not in the pit anymore. He remembers that if he hurts himself today, he won't be put back together again tomorrow good as new, and so he reaches for the shirt tied around his waist, wraps it over his hand and smashes the window. He feels a curl of disappointment in his belly at the lack of pain.
Acting on pure instinct, he heads right for the bottled water in the refrigerator, grabs one and downs almost the whole bottle, gasping, his body screaming out for fluids. The cold liquid soothes his parched throat and the air, cool in comparison to the sun's strong rays, dries the sweat dripping from him, making his shirt stick to his hot skin.
He sees a newspaper and reaches for it, confused when he sees the date is September…of 2008.
It's only been four months since he became a hellhound's chew toy and got dragged into the pit?
How is that possible? He's been down there for decades… how can only a few months have passed up here?
He puts down the paper with a frown and heads off in search for a bathroom. He places his shirt on the edge of the sink and turns on the tap, running his hands under the cool water, splashing it onto his face as he tries to grasp what the friggin' hell is going on. He turns the tap off and dries his face on the shirt before looking up at the mirror.
It's surreal, seeing himself in the mirror. He hasn't seen his reflection in years, isn't sure if he even recognises himself anymore. After all that time in hell, after everything he's done, he's almost expecting to see the grotesque face of a monster, of a demon, staring back at him… but when he sees himself, looking exactly the same as he had forty years ago, looking better than that, in fact, he can't believe this is really happening.
Where are the scars on his face… all those marks of his former life?
A memory flashes before his him, one of hellhounds and claws and tearing flesh, and he tentatively lifts the hem of his t-shirt… waiting for the scars he knows are there to come into view.
Except there's nothing there. The skin on his chest is smooth and flawless, no sign of any of his scars anymore.
It's like everything's gone, like he's good as new.
What the hell is going on here?
How is he here? Why?
He lowers the shirt, stares at his reflection in confusion for a moment, before he feels a twinge in his shoulder and remembers the stinging pain of being hauled out of the pit. Turning slightly, he reaches for his sleeve and just hesitates for a second before lifting it up, wincing as the material brushes against the tender flesh.
His eyes widen in shock and confusion as he sees the burn mark there… a hand-shaped burn mark.
What the hell? The phrase repeats in his mind. Over and over. Like a loop.
Something is not right here…he doesn't know how or why he's here, but he does know one thing for sure: whatever did this, whatever brought him back, it's a result of some bad mojo.
He quickly covers the mark again, unsure what to make of it, but not wanting to think too much about how he got it. Instead he strides back into the main store and grabs sustenance in the form of power bars, opening one and taking a bite, before shoving as many as he can carry into a plastic bag. He adds cookies and several bottles of water and then lets his gaze roam the small room in search of anything else he might need.
He stops though, when he sees the magazine rack in the middle of the store and something flickers at the edge of his mind… his gaze fixes on the one with a picture of a voluptuous, olive-skinned girl with dark almond-shaped eyes, smiling seductively up at him from the cover. It's familiar and memories suddenly come slamming back into him.
Memories of endless motel rooms, numerous random towns, even more random girls, life on the road… Dad…Sammy.
He reaches for the shiny magazine, turning it over in his hands, and his mouth curves into a smile as he flicks through the pages, the photographs igniting an old familiar heat in his groin. It's a feeling so normal, so innocent compared to the twisted torture he'd endured and also dealt out for so many years, that it finally dawns on him that maybe all this is actually real and not just his imagination, maybe he really is back home.
He ignores the sudden flashes of other memories, memories of torture and pain and pleasure all rolled into one, as he shoved the magazine into the bag. Looking around, he tries to distract himself from the twisting feeling in his gut brought on by those memories by trying to remember where he is, what he—a human being stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on his back—should be doing in this situation.
Money. He needs cash.
The thought comes to him as he spots the cash register, so he heads over to it, opens it up and grabs what little cash is still left inside, shoving it into his pockets. Maybe by doing these normal, everyday things: getting food, water, cash, he can pretend that he is still normal—just a regular guy.
Thing is, he's not a regular guy, is he? Not anymore.
Not since demons and spirits and his father's vengeance robbed him of the normal life he'd once had; not since he endured thirty years of torture in Hell; not since he spent a further ten years inflicting that same torture on others and enjoying it.
The TV in the corner suddenly flicks on, the screen filling with static and bringing him back to the present. He stares at it for a moment, uncomprehendingly, before cautiously reaching over and turning it off, telling himself it's just faulty wiring and not anything more sinister, except his stomach is churning uneasily.
Then the radio starts up instead, blaring loud music around the otherwise silent store. Before he can do anything more, the TV flicks back on again and suddenly it dawns on him that something's going on; something supernatural, something not normal.
Not that he even knows what normal is anymore.
He springs into action, grabbing a tub of salt and pouring it onto the window sills in a vain attempt to protect himself—an instinct that has been ingrained in him since childhood. He doesn't even stop to think that after all he's done, he probably doesn't even need salt to protect him anymore. He's been torturing people for years, for pleasure, he can more than handle himself.
He's not prepared for what happens next though, not able to protect himself from the ear-piercing screeching that fills his head, almost bursts his ear drums. He falls to his knees, hands covering his ears, as he tries to shield himself from the glass suddenly shattering all around him. He has no idea what's going on, isn't sure if maybe this is all just a figment of his imagination, if it's just his mind playing tricks on him.
As suddenly as it began, the noise ceases, the glass shards falls to the floor, becoming still, and the whole place is bathed in silence. All he can hear is his heart pounding frantically, his ears still ringing from the screeching noise. He struggles to his feet, surveying the damage in confusion, a sense of foreboding washing over him.
He needs to get out of here.
Needs to find Sam.
He heads outside and slips into the phone booth out front. For a moment, he just stares at the phone, unable to comprehend what he's supposed to do now, the idea of making a simple phone call, communicating with someone else in a way that doesn't involve bloodshed suddenly seeming very foreign; but he steels himself and lifts the receiver, holding it to his ear as he dials his brother's number, fingers instinctively pressing the right buttons, even though he couldn't tell you what number he's dialling.
He waits for it to ring, unsure of what he's actually going to say when Sammy picks up, but all he hears is an automated message telling him the number is out of service. He hangs up, closing his eyes and prays that Sam has simply changed his number and is not, you know, dead.
For a moment, he feels lost; what's he supposed to do now… who else can he call? It takes a moment, his memories still kinda jumbled, but then another flicker of a memory assaults him: a junkyard filled with rusting, battered vehicles, a familiar baseball cap, dozens of plaid shirts that all look exactly the same… Bobby.
He picks up the phone again and dials another number. The relief he feels at the sound of Bobby's voice on the other end is so immense that he just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.
"Bobby? It's me. Dean."
He doesn't think that the man might be suspicious, that he might not believe it's really him, that he might hang up on him. All he can think about is how incredible it is to hear that voice again after so long. It's soothing, taking him back to a simpler time, and he just wants to cling to that, to forget all the horrors he's faced since then, but the moment the call disconnects and he hears the dial tone, that feeling disappears and all the memories of the pit come flooding back.
He tries again, needs to hear that voice, needs to make him understand, but it's no use.
"This ain't funny. Call again and I'll kill you."
The words cut right through him. He closes his eyes against the pain he feels at the rejection of the one person apart from Sam he thought he could always count on. The dial tone echoes in his ear once more, Bobby hanging up before he can even get out a sentence. The sense of rejection, of confusion, of sudden loneliness, is too much. He needs a human connection, needs to get that soothing feeling back, or he's just going to get lost in his memories.
He thinks fast, hotwires one of the abandoned rusty cars and after a couple of false starts, he's on the road The drive takes him several hours longer than it should have because he can't concentrate, his thoughts confused as he tries to differentiate between this world here and the one he's just left behind.
He doesn't even know what's real right now, doesn't know what he's supposed to be feeling. Is it right that he's craving that dominance again, that his fingers are itching to pick up a blade, that he wants to feel that euphoric rush as he cuts into the warm flesh of a helpless soul? He catches his lip in his teeth, body thrumming with want and need for that control again.
The radio playing softly in the background switches to an old, but familiar song and suddenly his thoughts are consumed with his old life; memories of Sam singing along to this in the Impala as he drives them to another job, his voice deliberately loud and off-key, just to piss Dean off; of this song playing in the bar the night he met Cassie; of being on the road; of actually saving people instead of hurting them. He suddenly feels sick; waves of nausea rolling through him as he tries to reconcile the person he's become with who he used to be, who he used to want to be, before. He's not sure if he can go back now, he's seen too much, done too much, to just go back to being human, to being Sammy's big brother again.
When he finally pulls up in front of Bobby's house, he's exhausted. He hasn't slept since yesterday, can't even remember the last time he slept in Hell. His heart is pounding as he knocks on the door and waits for it to open, not entirely sure how Bobby is going to react when he sees him.
At least he still looks human, is all he can think. Although whether or not he's still human inside is another debate entirely.
The door swings open and Dean's breath catches in his throat, his shoulders sagging with relief when his eyes land on the achingly familiar face.
Bobby is staring at him, expression frozen in shock as he fumbles for words. His disbelief is so palpable that it's like a force between them, a force Dean feels like he's going to have to fight and push his way through just to get to him. He takes a breath, nods in agreement as he steps over the threshold, acknowledging how crazy it is for him to be standing here and that he has no explanation for it either, He wants to cry at the sight of the man before him, this man who is the closest thing he has to a father.
All that time in Hell… he'd almost forgotten this, forgotten him and Sam, forgotten how to be human.
Yet now he's here, in Bobby's house, with Bobby standing before him—in the flesh—and it's so familiar that it causes a lump to rise up in his throat, the prick of tears in his eyes.
Everything suddenly snaps into focus and God, he's missed this.
He's so consumed by this new feeling—something that was at one time second nature, but is now so strange and unfamiliar—that he almost believes that Bobby does see that it's really him standing before him, but then he sees the silver glint of the knife in his hand and there's no time to think, he just reacts on instinct.
His heart races painfully in his chest as he realises how freakin' important it is to convince Bobby that he's real and here in the flesh. He tries everything he can think of to convince Bobby that this isn't a trick, that he's not a shapeshifter or a revenant or anything else; he cuts himself with a silver knife, desperately trying to ignore the rush of pleasure that accompanies the sharp pain, trying to shut out how it would feel to slash the same blade across Bobby's arm, his throat, his chest, watch the skin tear, take him apart piece by piece.
No, he slams down those feelings, buries them as deep inside as he can.
He needs to convince Bobby, needs to convince himself, that he's not a sick, twisted demon…that he's just himself, that he's really Dean.
When it finally happens, when Bobby finally realises that it really is Dean standing right in front of him and pulls him into a hug so tight he can barely breathe, it takes him a moment to comprehend the feelings coursing through his body. Feelings of happiness, of relief… of belonging… all rush over him, swirling together, twisting and curling in his belly. It's incredible and it's real.
He's out of Hell and back where he belongs.
He's Dean Winchester again.
Not a defenceless victim, not a promising protégé, not a twisted, sadistic torturer.
He's just Dean.
As always, feedback and comments are very much appreciated :).