This fic was written for Unattainable Dreams' Halloween Prompt Exchange. It is set sometime during Season 5. My prompt was the chorus of "A Gorey Demise" by Creature Feature. I hope you enjoy reading it, because I loved writing it! Happy Halloween, everyone!
The first thing Dean noticed when he parked the Impala in front of the old bar on the corner was the faded neon sign hanging crookedly over the door that read "The Bucket of Blood." Or technically, "T e Buc e of Bloo ," but he wasn't in the mood for technicalities. It looked about the same as the usual hole-in-the-wall dives he was used to, and he sighed and slammed the driver's side door shut loudly, pulling his leather jacket tighter around himself when the chilly October wind whistled by. Tonight, if he was lucky, he might be able to drink himself into oblivion for a few blissful hours, until he forgot why he had wanted to do it in the first place.
He pushed the door open a little harder than was necessary, wincing when it cracked against the wall and drew the attention of a few of the patrons. He shrugged and waved apologetically, and they turned back to their conversations again. As he made his way to the bar, he noticed with annoyance that a large majority of the people there tonight were dressed up in some kind of costume or another. Some only wore masks or animal ears, and maybe some face-paint, but others were completely decked out in robes, gowns, and monster suits, from zombies and skeletons and ghosts to a Woman in White and some sort of demented-looking angel-demon hybrid.
"Wonder what Cas would think of that," he muttered to himself as he watched the angel-demon stretch across the tiny table and start making out with the man in devil horns next to her. "Mr. Stick Up His Holy Ass would probably say it's an abomination or somethin'."
Dean shook his head, trying to remind himself that it wasn't Castiel's fault he was in such a bad mood. Or Sam's either, for that matter. The fault lay with someone who didn't exist on the mortal plane, and who with any luck he'd never see again. He knew he'd been acting weird and they'd only been trying to help, but he couldn't tell them what was really going on; he didn't do well with other people worrying about him. He had told them he was fine, dammit, so why couldn't they leave well enough alone? That had resulted in Sam's Bitchface #27, the "Why are you being such a difficult asshole, Dean?" face, and Castiel had simply nodded and disappeared from the room before anyone could speak again, knowing when his help was unwanted and preferring to leave the fighting to the two brothers. There hadn't been much fighting afterward, though. Sam had picked up his bag and headed to the library to research their next case, and Dean had stormed off with his keys in hand, headed to the nearest bar to drown his anger in booze. It wasn't the best way to do things and he knew that, but sometimes it was all he could think of to do.
Dean snapped out of his brooding – brooding? Wasn't that Sam's thing? – when the bartender set down a glass of whiskey on the rocks in front of him. He didn't remember ordering it, but apparently he had, and he gave the woman a flirty half-smile before sucking it down like it was water. The bartender – Bridget, according to her nametag – raised a thin eyebrow and got him another, pressing her lips into a thin line when he tossed it back like the other and slammed the glass down in front of her again.
"Long day?" she asked when he looked up at her expectantly.
"Long day, long week, long freakin' year," he muttered, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples tiredly.
"You wanna talk about it?" she asked casually, seemingly relieved to notice him sipping at his drink instead of chugging it down when she refilled it this time.
Dean sighed and set his drink down, looking at her strangely. "Thanks, Bridget, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
The older woman smiled and tucked a loose strand of black hair behind her ear, making her way toward another customer who wanted a drink. "You might be surprised," she muttered under her breath. "You might be surprised."
The younger Winchester jumped about six feet out of his chair, knocking over a stack of books before he took a deep breath turned around, holding his palm over his now racing heart. "Dean was right, Castiel, you have got to stop doing that," he said as he glared at the angel, who merely stared back with a slightly confused look on his face.
"Sam," the angel continued as if the previous moments had never happened. "Did you find anything else out from Dean after I left the room?"
Sam sighed, rubbing a hand over his face and shaking his head; even to Castiel, he looked exhausted. "I tried, believe me, but he wasn't about to tell me anything. I figured if I pushed much more he was gonna do something stupid, so I let it go for now." Castiel nodded as if he had expected this answer, and for a moment Sam could have sworn the Angel of the Lord looked worried. "Why? You know something I don't?"
"Perhaps…" Castiel answered slowly, turning his gaze toward the ceiling as he spoke. "It has been only a short time since Dean was raised from Hell. I know that he has spoken to you about it before, but you must understand that a single year of your time is not nearly long enough to forget the things he endured for forty years in the Pit."
"Yeah, I figured that," Sam said quietly, his eyes losing the cold edge they had held a moment ago. "But what's that got to do with anything right now? Shouldn't he be getting better and not worse?"
"Tonight is All Hallows' Eve, Sam," Castiel answered in a tone that plainly said he thought Sam was an idiot. And honestly, a moment later, Sam would have readily agreed.
"Dammit!" he hissed, slamming his palm down on the library desk and earning glares from the few other people who would rather waste their time at the library than at a party on Halloween night. "I didn't even think about that. Some of this stuff probably brings back memories." He hadn't thought much of it before, but Dean had most definitely been avoiding some of the gorier Halloween movies this year, and when the one about cannibalistic demons came on he had turned the television off so fast Sam was surprised he hadn't crushed the remote. "He's probably trying to get drunk enough that he can't have flashbacks, isn't he?"
"That is my assumption, yes."
"Alright. I'll go find him," Sam said as he hurriedly stood up from the table. "We gotta nip this in the bud before it gets bad. Any chance you know where he is?" But Castiel had already gone, leaving Sam alone to look like a lunatic who talked to himself. He snorted irritably and grabbed his coat, pulling out his phone and hitting the speed-dial for Dean's number. "Freakin' angels."
Dean had been sitting at the bar for a few hours, give or take, and had long since lost count of the number of drinks he'd had. After the third whiskey he'd moved on to beer, and now he was drinking one that was pumpkin-colored and at least made an attempt to taste like pumpkin too, although it failed miserably. The Bucket of Blood had gotten more crowded since he'd been there, now full of people dressed in costume and celebrating one of their favorite holidays of the year. That or the fact that it was Friday night. Someone had also turned on the radio, and now it was blasting Halloween-themed music so loudly that it was impossible to ignore. If he had to hear "Thriller" one more time…
Dean jumped a little when the phone in his pocket started to vibrate, causing him to knock his crappy pumpkin-beer over and spill it into his lap. He growled in frustration and pulled the phone out of his pocket, rolling his eyes when he realized it was only Sammy. He flipped it open and held it to his ear with wet, beer-scented fingers. "What?" he snapped, and he knew Sam was probably working up to another bitch-face on the other end already.
"Dean, I'm sorry about earlier, but you really need to come back so we can talk about –"
"Nothin' to talk 'bout, Sammy," Dean said firmly. "Nothin' then an' nothin' now." He could hear himself slurring a little, but he didn't really care.
"I know you're lying, Dean. You haven't been as edgy as you are today since last year when –"
"When what, Sam? When I came back from Hell? What, you wanna have some girly moment where I cry on your shoulder and you tell me I don't have t' be 'fraid anymore, huh? Not happenin'!" Dean could hear himself getting louder, and he knew he was drawing more attention than he wanted to, but he was past the point of caring. "I said I'm fine. I just wanted a damn drink. Can't anyone just let me have a friggin' moment to myself without breathing down my damn neck?!"
"Dean, calm down. I'm coming to get you, so –"
"Piss off, Sam." Dean hung up and turned the phone off, snapping it shut and jamming it into the pocket of his leather coat. "Such a damn girl," he muttered to himself. A moment later, Bridget came back over to him, wiping up the artificially-orange liquid he had spilled all over the counter and offering him a towel so he could make it look a little less like he had just wet himself.
"Sure you don't want to talk about it?" she asked sweetly when he had handed the towel back to her and laid his head in his hands.
"Like I said earlier, you wouldn't b'lieve me if I told you."
"Suit yourself. I'll be here if you need something, Dean."
Dean sat up straighter, his eyes narrowing as he watched Bridget walk away. "When did I tell her my name?" he thought suspiciously. Then he shook his head. "Who the hell cares, anyway?" After a moment, he started to listen to the words playing over the radio, seeing as he had nothing better to do anyway. The beat was pretty cheerful, but as soon as the lyrics started up he was convinced it was the dumbest song he'd ever heard. The entire thing was about different ways people died, one for each letter of the alphabet. Pretty morbid, actually.
A is for Amber who drowned in a pool
B is for Billy who was eaten by ghouls
C is for Curt with disease in the brain
D is for Daniel derailed on a train…
Dean decided he'd finally had enough. That pumpkin beer was terrible, but he was pretty satisfied with how numb he felt right now. Time to pick up the tab and head back to the motel so Sam could get all his bitching out before his buzz wore off. Just as he was about to wave for Bridget again, he heard the chorus of the song again, louder than it had been a minute ago.
One by one we bite the dust
Kick the bucket and begin to rust
Give up the ghost when your number's up
We all fall down
Ashes to ashes, bones to paste
You wither away in your resting place
Eternity in a wooden case
We all fall down
All of a sudden and completely against his will, his mind began to replay the very images he had been hoping he wouldn't remember tonight. Dad lying in the hospital room, his dying words to Dean being orders to either protect or kill Sammy. Sam, limp and boneless against Dean as the knife in his back bled the life out of him, and nothing Dean could do to save him. The crossroads demon, offering him Sam's life at the cost of his soul's eternal damnation. The Hellhounds tearing his body apart, the ripping of bone and muscle drowning out the screams in his throat until there was nothing. Nothing but darkness, emptiness, and then…
Dean's eyes widened, his breath quickening and his heart racing as he looked up at Bridget again. Her face – something was wrong with her face. It was twisting, melting off, and she seemed completely unaware of it. Her eyes turned coal-black, and a crooked smile twisted her disintegrating skin.
"What's the matter, Dean? Don't you remember me?" The voice coming from her lips was completely different than it had been earlier. While before it had been warm and inviting, even a little sexy, now it was masculine, cold and sharp as steel. It immediately sent shivers down his spine. He knew that voice.
"A… Alastair…" Dean whispered, feeling like he couldn't breathe properly.
"Aww, you mean you're not happy to see me?" Alastair asked in a deceptively gentle voice. "But I've missed you so very much, Dean. It's been such a long time since we've worked together, hasn't it?"
"Shut up! You shut up!" Dean shouted, trying not to notice the way the walls had begun to run with fresh blood, dripping loudly as the drops splattered onto the floor. He could hear the clanking of chains above him and forced himself not to look up; he didn't want to know who or what was chained up there now. "You're not real!"
"Not real? I'm hurt, Dean. And after all that time we spent together, too…" He reached out and pushed against Dean's chest, knocking him off of the barstool and onto the floor. An instant later he was standing over the older Winchester, grinning madly and cackling as he produced a knife and began to sharpen it, every rasp vibrating painfully through Dean's entire body. That stupid song was still playing, too, seemingly on endless repeat as it reminded him over and over that "we all fall down." Suddenly there was a loud banging somewhere behind him, and two new voices joined the cacophony of screams that had grown louder ever since Alastair had appeared. They almost sounded like they were calling his name, but that wouldn't have been surprising. Half the souls in Hell had called his name while they begged for him to stop chopping them apart.
"You know, I've been thinking," Alastair continued as if Dean were not struggling to free himself underneath him. "The food up here is so dull compared to what you ate in Hell, isn't it? I know you remember what I'm talking about." Dean did, and his stomach flipped over at the memory of being force-fed long pig from the victims he tore apart. It had taken him a long time to be able to eat meat of any kind again after that, and he still sometimes couldn't look at it while he ate. "Would you like to try some again?" Dean's face paled and he went ramrod still, watching in horror as Alastair cut into one of the people sitting around the bar and pulled off a large chunk of their flesh. The woman didn't even scream, just slumped over with her eyes wide and staring straight at him, as if asking "Why?"
"Don't be so afraid," Alastair whispered calmly. "It doesn't matter whether I kill them or something else does. John, Sammy, Jess, even dear old Mom – it doesn't matter how much you fight it, everyone falls down in the end. And I can help you make the most of that. Come back to me, Dean. Take back your place as my apprentice."
"No… No, no, no no NO!" Dean screamed, shaking his head from side to side as Alastair brought the flesh closer and closer to his mouth. It already smelled rotten, and the stench alone almost made him vomit then and there. "Please, please…"
"Dean…" one of the demons sitting behind him said softly. "Dean."
"No! Leave me alone! Get off me!"
"Dean. Dean." They continued to chant his name while Alastair approached him again.
"I said I don't want it!"
"Nnn… Nnnn…" Tears were trailing down his cheeks now, dripping from his eyes of their own accord as he whimpered and writhed against Alastair's grip. The two demons were approaching him, and for some reason Alastair backed off a little when they did. Were they going to torture him now, while Alastair watched? And why did they keep saying his name?
"Dean. Dean. DEAN!"
A hand suddenly slapped his face, and Dean's eyes flew open before he bolted up with a breathless scream. Sam's arms were around him immediately, holding him upright when he lost his balance and started to fall back again, and he sank exhaustedly into his brother's gigantic arms, panting raggedly as he tried to slow his racing heart.
"Is he okay?" someone asked from across the room. "Should I call 911?" Oh, it was Bridget. She looked pretty scared, actually, and he felt like a jerk for making her worry.
"No, it's okay. He's okay," Sam said softly but surely. "Just too much to drink, you know? I'll take him home." Dean felt himself being hoisted up by his armpits, and then his arm was flung over Sam's shoulder while the Sasquatch half-guided, half-carried him out toward the Impala.
"S'mmy…" Dean mumbled, his voice still shaking as tears continued to fall down his face without his noticing. "'M sorry, S'mmy…"
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said gently, letting Dean lean against the side of the Impala while he opened the passenger door and then easing him into the seat before reclining it back. He quickly moved around to the driver's side and got in, starting the car and pulling out of the parking lot as smoothly as possible. Dean was lying on his side, his back turned to Sam, and he was shaking as he drew his knees up a little closer to his body. "Cold?" Sam asked, and Dean nodded slowly, shivering again as if to emphasize that point.
"Don't feel good," he muttered, holding a hand over his stomach and sighing.
"Yeah, that much alcohol'll do that," Sam said dryly. "Just let me know if I need to pull over."
Despite a couple of close calls, they made it back to the motel without needing to stop. Once he had parked, Sam turned off the car and got out just in time to see Dean fling the door open, fall out on his knees, and proceed to puke all over the ground beside the Impala. The younger Winchester sighed and made his way over to his brother, hauling him to his feet before he could faceplant in his own mess. "You good now?" Sam asked as he guided Dean toward the door. Dean shook his head, and Sam held him a little farther away in case he was going to be sick again. "What's wrong?"
"Think I'm hallucinating again. Do you see Cas over there or is it only me?"
Sam looked in the direction Dean's head was turned, and sure enough, there was the trenchcoat-clad angel, silently watching the two of them make their way toward their motel room. "No, it's not just you, Dean," Sam said with no small sense of relief. "Castiel, what are you doing here?" Castiel followed the two of them, waiting to answer until Sam had unlocked the door and let Dean flop face-first onto one of the beds.
"After I was sure Dean was safe with you, I came here to make sure there was nothing in the room that would cause any… unpleasant memories. Afterward, I thought it might be better to wait here than to appear in the middle of that crowded room."
"So you were the other demon, Cas?" Dean mumbled from his bed, the sound softer than usual with his face half-hidden in the comforter.
"A demon? Me?" Castiel repeated, his eyes narrowing in barely concealed offense. "I know that I am cut off from Heaven at the moment, Dean, but that is no reason to call me –"
"No, no, I mean… I was… You and Sam were… Alastair… And then…" he couldn't finish any of his sentences, though, and he finally just shrugged and gave up. "It's confusing, okay?"
"Don't worry about it, Dean," Sam cut in before Castiel could make his brother any more flustered. The angel always seemed to have that effect on Dean. "Just get some sleep, okay? We'll talk about it later."
"Later, like tomorrow?" Dean asked with barely-concealed dread.
"Later, like whenever you feel like talking about it."
Dean smiled slightly at that, and before long his face relaxed and he was snoring loudly on the bed and drooling onto his pillow. Sam grabbed a spare blanket and threw it over him, making sure he was turned on his side in case he got sick during the night. Once he was sure Dean was really asleep, he flopped onto his own bed, kicking off his shoes and burrowing under the covers with a weary sigh.
"What a night, huh Cas?" he muttered sleepily, his eyes already starting to see double as he fought to keep them open.
"Yes. Although whether it was ultimately a good or terrible night, I am not yet sure."
"Well, we'll find out when he decides to tell us. At least he's decided he will sometime – that's progress for him."
Castiel nodded, his face unreadable as he watched Dean's sleeping form. "I will watch over him tonight, Sam," he finally said, lowering his voice when Dean stirred a little. Sam grunted an affirmative and yawned, falling into sleep himself within minutes.
When Castiel was sure both Winchesters were asleep, he made his way over to Dean's bed, standing over him for a moment while he concentrated hard on his limited reserves of power. With a touch so gentle it could hardly be felt, he laid his hand on Dean's forehead, sifting through the memories of what he had seen at the bar and erasing them one by one. He would still have a terrible hangover in the morning – there was nothing Castiel could do about that – but at the very least he would not be plagued with false memories of a place he should never have had to see at all. Dean's face immediately relaxed, and the slightly shaky breaths he had been taking evened out and slowed.
Castiel allowed himself the smallest of smiles as he returned to his usual seat on the other side of the room. He would tell Sam what he had seen later, when he was sure Dean was not around to hear. He might not be as powerful as he once was, but he was still going to help these two in any way he could. Compared to what he was always asking of them, it was the least he could do.
The clock across the room flickered for a moment, and the time changed from 11:59 to 12:00. Castiel looked at the two Winchesters again, his gaze softening for a moment, and his lips parted in a real smile. "Happy Halloween, Sam and Dean."