Characters (overall): Dean, Castiel, Sam, plus a number of angels and demons
Rating (overall): NC-17
Warnings (overall): violence, torture, drug use, insanity, mentions of rape
Spoilers: Going AU during episode 5.18: Point of No Return. No spoilers for after season five.
Words (this chapter): 7,644
Summary: A man wakes up in a ruined wasteland, without memories, without a name, without knowing the strange guy who claims he used to be an angel, or that he once had a little brother. All he knows is that the world is dying, everyone is lying to him and that somehow, somewhere, something went terribly wrong. Because someone said Yes when they should have said No, and someone else paid the price.
They take the left of the three tunnels, and then the right one of the next two, then they turn left at a junction and wander through a hall made of stone and then they take another turn and another and then Dean doesn’t pay attention anymore. Too busy thinking about Sam to watch Sam and suddenly he’s alone. With an unexpected jolt of fear he looks up and finds no one else in the light of the torch. No light ahead of him. He was the last in line, and at some point the others must have turned left and he right, or the other way round, and it can’t have been more than a few seconds ago. It can’t.
“Hey!” he calls, and his echo answers.
Hastily, he walks back the way he came, finds a tunnel branching to the left and enters. There’s no one waiting for him, just darkness stretching out endlessly. “Hey!” he calls again. “Sam! Cas! Sammy!”
There’s nothing. He hurries along the tunnel but there’s another junction and he doesn’t know which way the others took. How far could they have walked before they noticed he was gone? Can they really be out of earshot?
Are they just as lost as him? Is Sammy running around, scared, alone in the dark?
Dean’s torch is dying. He has to find them, now, and the rising panic won’t help him. He has to calm down. He has to think!
There’s no point in running around aimlessly; too much of a risk of picking the wrong tunnel and getting even more lost. He should just wait where he is; eventually they will come back for him. He just took the wrong turn and they will notice, and Jena will make sarcastic remarks while Cas will frown in disapproval and Sam will be pale and relieved because he was worried, was flipping out inside because they didn’t know where Dean was and if he was okay. Because that’s how Sam and Dean react to losing sight of each other, and great job, Dean, for not paying attention and scaring Sammy like that. Even more stress for his little brother, what an awesome job he’s done again.
For a few seconds, Dean focuses on being angry at himself since that is a lot easier to bear than being scared and facing the knowledge that he’s going to die in here if they don’t find him. Then he realizes that his torch isn’t going to live much longer and the panic comes knocking again. Which is ridiculous because he’s been through so much, has faced so much and kind of ended the world, so he shouldn’t be this scared of being lost and alone in the dark, so fucking far away from any source of light. But the situation strikes something primal inside him and there’s a note of fear in his voice when he yells for the others once again.
There’s no reply. How far ahead do they have to be for them not to hear him? Do they even stand a chance of finding him in here? How many turns did they take? Can Jena make him out with her archangel powers when other angels cannot?
Will she bother? Of course she will, if only to stay on Sam’s good side. What if they are splitting up looking for him and Sam gets lost? They wouldn’t be that stupid, would they?
What if Sam wandered off looking for him on his own?
Sitting still is impossible. Dean doesn’t even know if the others passed this way at all. The best thing would be going back to the last point he remembers being with them for sure, so he moves backwards and backwards, but there are two tunnels and he’s sure they came out of the right one (the wall to the left had been closer then, right?) but then he’s not sure if they have ever been here at all. There was a large rock in the shape of a nose that attracted his attention, but no matter how far he runs back, he can’t find it. Maybe he did take the wrong tunnel. So he walks back, but now he can’t find the junction he just passed and his light keeps getting weaker and weaker and the story of Sammy getting lost in the mirror maze doesn’t seem so funny anymore.
He calls again and was that an answer? Dean stops, listens, but doesn’t hear anything over the echo of his own voice. He waits until it dies and calls again, but the echo being thrown back at him swallows everything. He feels like there is something hidden beneath it; someone calling at exactly the same time, there but invisible.
His heart is racing, and not with hope. He doesn’t call again.
His torch dies. In the darkness that follows, Dean hears his heartbeat thunder through the tunnels and caves.
Suddenly he is convinced that there is something moving in the darkness. He needs to be quiet, but if he is, the others will never find him. And it’s probably just his imagination. It happens, in total darkness, in an unfriendly environment. Even to hunters. Dean knows that better than anyone.
He takes a deep breath, wants to yell again, as loud as he can, when he hears a sound, like stone scraping on stone, somewhere far away.
And damn, as a hunter he knows better than anyone that there are things in the dark.
So he doesn’t make a sound. He tries to find his way back to where he came, back to that big junction he found before, where anyone looking for him just has to pass. Wants to feel his way along the wall, but his fingers in the darkness find nothing, no wall, even though it was right beside him. He walks a few steps, feeling around, all his senses focused on the dark and the emptiness, and was the tunnel this wide? He should have hit stone by now.
When he finally, finally touches the wall of solid rock, it’s the wrong angle. He’s not facing the direction he thought he was and now he doesn’t have any idea which way to turn. Where he came from, where he’s going.
The others won’t leave without him, would they? (He’s not even scared of dying. This is deeper than that.)
He should just sit down, take deep breaths, and wait for them.
A sound again, barely audible over his tense breathing and racing heart. It must be the others, looking for him. If he can hear the pebbles they send tumbling down, they have to be close enough to hear him call.
Only, he’s almost certain the sound comes from the wrong direction.
Just a stone falling, then. It happens. They disturbed the quiet of this place. It’ll settle again, when all lose pebbles have fallen.
It takes effort, but Dean manages to calm down. He can’t change anything about the situation he’s gotten himself in, and whining won’t help. Now he needs to stay calm, think, take the logical steps. He can almost hear his father’s voice as he slows his breathing, concentrates on the facts instead of his imagination and the deadly, looming What If. He can’t see. Moving about will only get him more lost. The others will be looking for him – logically he knows that, so he will focus on that knowledge. Jena has great chances of actually finding him, even if she can’t magically locate him. The others must be running low on light too, though, so maybe she left Cas and Sam and went looking on her own.
Or maybe they have to get more torches before they can even try to save him, which would mean they have to get out first and then come back. Last time he asked, not that long ago, Jena estimated another two hours to the exit, but if she goes on her own, she might be faster. Still Dean will have to settle for a long wait in the dark, and his stomach tries to clench at that, but he won’t let it. This is manageable.
He doesn’t like the thought of Jena leaving the others alone, but Cas can look after Sammy. He has done that so for so long. He won’t let anything happen to him. Dean has to rely on that, and he has to fucking accept it.
He waits for what seems like hours – but Dean is accustomed to tense situations and the tricks his mind plays on him. It’s probably been no more than ten minutes when he hears stones fall again, so much closer this time. And for one second he thinks he hears something like footsteps.
His heart leaps, but he can’t tell if it’s for hope or fear. He’s still convinced that the sounds are coming from the wrong direction, but his sense of direction is as lost as him and the others might have walked a detour looking for him. Someone is nearby, but he sees no light. They must be in another tunnel. If he doesn’t make a sound, they are going to miss him.
Another minute passes in silence and then he can hear it: footfalls, no doubt. Light, even. Not Sam, who’s limping and has trouble lifting his left foot all the way off the ground after a long walk. Not Jena either, though – her naked feet would never cause this much noise. It would explain the lack of light since she can see in the dark, but it’s not her. Must be Cas, then. But Cas is too human, needs light. (Doesn’t he?) So he’s coming down a different tunnel, and Dean can only hear him because the sound is carried far and around corners. He needs to call or his friend will miss him, and so he does.
There is no reply, except that the echo of his voice trails out with what sound like giggles. In a female voice that doesn’t sound like Jena at all.
One minute or an hour later, Dean is pressed against the wall, his knife in his hands and his heart hammering in his throat. He moved away from where he’s been waiting, the position he gave away with his call, but he kept pumping into things, kept stumbling on the uneven ground and he thinks he made too much noise; that she (it) must be able to find him. If he can hear her footsteps she can hear his.
Except he’s not hearing anything anymore. As soon as he stops for one second and listens, he hears only silence. And he thinks, desperately hopeful, Okay, there’s a hell of an echo in here and she can’t locate him, is running in the wrong direction, has followed the wrong tunnel.
Or she’s not after him but after the others (Sam) and figured that he’s not with them so she’s not wasting her time.
Which just makes him want to move faster to warn them, but he doesn’t even know where they are and all that’s left for him to do is standing there, still and motionless, listening into the dark for anything, anything at all.
There’s nothing. And he takes another step forward, his feet feeling for the ground, making too much noise. Stops again, to listen. Nothing. Another step, another stop. A woman’s voice, right behind him, saying “Hello Dean,” and breath brushing the damp skin of his neck as she speaks.
Dean doesn’t even have time to make a sound before she lifts him up and throws him against the rocks as if he weighs nothing.
She’s over him in a second, her bony knees digging into the flesh of his thighs as she’s kneeling on him, her hands (long hands, broader than Jena’s) closing around his neck. Dean brings up his own hands, wraps them around thin wrists, but they don’t move because her strength isn’t human. But she’s not strangling him, not really. She’s playing, and she knows his name.
He doesn’t even know what she is.
“Poor Dean,” she sing-songs. “Poor, poor child, all alone in the dark.” Suddenly her hands leave his neck, only to collide with his face a second later as she backhands him. “I’m close to tears!” she spits out.
“You’re fucking insane,” Dean gasps, his head reeling from the blow and from colliding with the rock earlier. He’s finally seeing something: colorful lights dancing before his eyes.
“An insane demon. Will you look at that! And there they say we are all insane, but nooo, there are levels. You’d think it was an achievement to be considered insane by demon standards. Congratulations, asshole!” And, great, she really is insane. And a demon.
“What the fuck are you talking about? What do you want?”
She just snorts. Stands and pulls Dean up along with her, and his legs won’t carry him even though they don’t hurt. He registers it unconsciously as she presses him against the wall of rock, a sharp edge digging painfully into his back. “It took me ages to find you but they knew I would. You’re my gift for leading them just like I was yours. I love symmetry.”
Dean still has no idea who she is, no fucking idea whatsoever. But she’s obviously pretty far gone so she might not know either. She might not know him at all and just babble. Might help if he could see her, but if she’s a demon it’s unlikely he’d recognize her face.
“Meg?” he tries, and she laughs, shrill and ugly. He imagines her throwing back her head and exposing her throat, and if he could see her and move, and if he had a demon-killing weapon…
“Meg’s gone, gone, gone,” she sing-songs. “That bitch who tried to sell us all out. Your precious little brother toasted her, didn’t you know? Little Sammy burned the life right out of her. We cheered.”
She’s not one of Lucifer’s, then. Doesn’t really narrow it down. “Who the fuck are you? Who were you leading? Who’s coming?”
“All of them.” She brings her face real close to his, draws the words out. “Aaall oooff theeeeemmm.”
“Yeah? I thought most of them are working for the other side?” Dean can’t not snarl back. He’s fucking terrified, for himself and for his brother – it’s an automatic reaction.
“If we found you, they will find you as well. But we found you first. I found you first.”
“Far as I can tell, you only found me.” There’s no hope for him. No fucking hope. He’s going to die here, taken apart by this demonic nutcase, and Dean can only hope that she’ll be quick, in the end, and that she’ll be gone by the time Michael brings him back.
For the first time he hopes that the others are not looking for him. He’d rather die of thirst a thousand times over while looking for the exit than have his brother run into the demons that have followed them.
“I don’t care for more,” she suddenly yells. “I was only looking for you. Where the others are, I don’t give a fuck! This is as far as my contract goes.”
“What contract?” Dean can’t quite follow. It’s either because of his ringing head or because she’s not making any fucking sense.
“I’ll take you apart, bit by bit,” she promises, her voice all calm again. “I’ll take my time, like you did with me. I’ll experiment. And when you are small enough to be carried comfortably, I might take you along and we’ll find the others and I’ll let you watch what they are doing to your brother before I rip out your eyes and eat them. But before that I want you all for my-” She stops, suddenly, as if a thought just came to her. “But that might not work because you’d be dead before then. People can die in the real world. Not like in Hell where the pain just goes on forever.” She’s yelling again, and Dean’s stomach clenches, turns to ice.
“Who are you?” he whispers.
“I was your first,” she whispers back, into his ear. “I was the one Alastair gave to you as a gift, as a reward, as a toy. When he taught you to like it. And you liked it sooo much.” She’s rubbing against him now, pressing her body against his in a far too intimate way that makes his skin crawl and his frozen stomach turn. “You liked me so much that you would not let me go. Not even when I begged for mercy. Not even when I gave up and in and tried to make the same choice you made. You wouldn’t let me go!”
And Dean remembers her now. It’s like her words have opened a door in his mind to all the memories of Hell he usually keeps locked away somewhere out of reach just for the sake of survival. But he never truly forgot – and how could he forget her, that vile creature Alastair gave to him when Dean first gave in? That chunk of meat on his very own rack. That thing that twitched and screamed.
His mind had still been reeling with the magnitude of his defeat after he had given in, when the thought of going through another session had been too much to bear (he could have made another one, and another, and another ten, or hundred, but it wouldn’t stop at a hundred, or a thousand, and his soul had submitted before the prospect of eternal agony) and he had given in with a whisper, barely a nod. He’d given in before, had agreed to torture and maim and become Alastair’s pupil rather than his toy, but he had never meant it. Had planned to take the knife offered to him and use it to fight his way out. They had always seen through it, had never let him go. Only when Dean said Yes that time and Alastair lifted him off the rack (so fucking gentle, like a father or a lover) did he realize that this time he was willing. This time he had no hope. (This time he was utterly and completely broken.)
Alastair took him by the hand that day, led him to another room that looked just like the one Dean had been tortured in but wasn’t, and there was a rack and a woman strapped to it, all naked and whole, yet untouched by the suffering of Hell but already so, so afraid. She was gagged, but her eyes were pleading, panicked; Dean remembers looking at her and knowing he could hurt her, even as he felt the final trace of his humanity flare up and scream.
And Alastair had whispered into his ear. Had told him who she was, this woman he had hand-picked just for him. This lady who looked so much younger than she had been (“Lived for ninety years, Dean. Such a long life and she didn’t deserve it.”), who had not made a deal but earned her stay in Hell through her deeds and the state of her soul.
Not a good person. Led a life of crime. Traded drugs and weapons in seedy backstreets, made money with organized sexual slavery. She shot six people in her life, two of them innocent. She had one beat to death, ran a girl over with her car when she thought the girl might have seen her committing a murder. She used those around her, gaining power and abusing it. When she was forty, she took the money she had made and disappeared. Lived out her days in another country with a new name, a fake past. A normal life without all the danger and the stress; just enjoying herself as a rich woman with many lovers and expensive toys, reaping the fruits of all her hard work. A safe life that ended with a stroke. She gave to charity.
Forty years of crime against fifty years of normalcy. Her life had a rough start. Ending up on the wrong side of the law was nearly inevitable. She left that life when she could.
But, Alastair had whispered in his ear. But she used to have a little brother. Six years younger, utterly dependant on her. And she didn’t take care of him. She took the most food for herself, left him scraps. She never let him go to school, let him smuggle drugs and dirty money instead. When times were hardest she avoided having to prostitute herself by pimping him out. He died in a gang fight when he was fifteen, and all his life until the end he had loved her because she was the only one he knew how to love. When he was gone, she considered it an inconvenience.
Alastair had chosen her with care, knowing it would make it so much easier for Dean to take the final step over to the rack and pick up the knife. Her eyes had been wide and panicked and they were the first thing he went for. When the tip of the blade first made contact, he felt elation.
“I remember you,” he hisses through clenched teeth, the old hatred flaring up. There’s not a trace of the guilt he used to feel all the time, all the time since he crawled out of his own grave. (Alastair had been so proud. He had rewarded Dean. Dean wanted to keep her. He had wanted to keep her for a long time.) “You tried to give in before I even started. So willing to hurt others for your own convenience. But no one gets off that lightly. That’s not how Hell works!”
“I know Hell better than you do, asshole!” she spits back. Strong fingers find their way into his hair and pull. “I know how it works. I did not deserve what you did to me, for so long! Even your master told you to let me go, said I was ready. But you just kept on going.”
“You deserved everything! There’s not a day I haven’t hated myself for what I did in Hell but for you, I don’t feel guilty. If I could, right now, I would pick up where we felt off!”
“I’ll rip you apart!” she screeches. “Then you’ll have time to overthink that again while I ignore your pleas for mercy!”
Dean doesn’t point out that her torturing him will hardly make him think of her any more kindly. He doesn’t actually have time to think anything at all before her hand clamps around his throat and squeezes, her nails digging into his flesh, reopening the cut from the other demon’s knife and going deeper. If he’s lucky he managed to anger her so much that she’ll lose control and accidentally kill him quickly.
Though she’ll probably stomp around on his corpse in blind rage so long that she’ll still be here when he comes back.
Dean can’t even finish the thought before she lets go of him all of a sudden and screams in a way he remembers from Hell. It’s a different voice, but that is her, no doubt. The exact same scream, so desperate and angry and agonized. And he has no idea what causes it, except she’s glowing in the dark now. Glowing from the inside, her bones visible under her skin, her open mouth and eyes full of white light, and Dean has to look away, his eyes unable to deal with the brightness after such a long time in darkness.
Her hands let go of his throat the same moment she stops screaming and the light dies.
For a seemingly endless moment, there’s only silence, before it is broken by a quiet, cracked voice saying, “Dean?”
“Sammy?” Dean tries to take a step forward, only to fall onto his knees and the burned out corpse before him. He tries to get up again, his legs not fully working, not supporting his weight. But they are moving, at least, so his spine can’t be broken, can it? Now the immediate danger is over he has time to worry about that, but yet again he’s distracted by Sam being somewhere in the darkness before him.
“Dean,” Sam says again and Dean can hear him stumbling closer. “Beware the corpse,” he calls, not wanting his little brother to fall over it and hurt himself. Then he realizes how silly that just sounded and has to fight the irrational urge to giggle.
His head is pounding and ringing and he begins to consider the possibility that he might just possibly have a concussion.
At least he manages to stumble away from the corpse before he falls again. A second later, someone is before him and then rough hands are feeling his head, wandering down his shoulders, checking for injuries. They find them; Dean winches when Sam brushes over a particularly sore spot on his shoulder blade. “Are you hurt?” he asks breathlessly.
“Dude.” Dean is still trying to get his thoughts straight. “Did you just gank a demon with your brain?”
“Side effect of the blood, remember?” Sam’s fingers return to Dean’s face, cradle it. “I did that a couple of times before.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean’s not really surprised, so he probably did know that. Finally, it comes to him. “This was what killing Lilith looked like?”
“You killed Alastair?” Dean’s pretty sure he didn’t know that.
“You didn’t know?”
“I thought that was Cas.”
“Okay, what?” Dean’s own hands are feeling for Sam, travelling over too-warm skin and protruding bones.
“I’m okay with you thinking that. Sorry. I thought you knew.”
“No. It’s cool, though. I’m okay with it.” Back then, Dean probably wouldn’t have thought it was anything like oaky. Killing Alastair, any day. Doing it with Sammy’s brain, not so much. He wouldn’t be okay with it now but not being okay with it would make Sammy feel bad.
“I enjoyed it.” Sam’s voice is quiet, dull. He pulls on Dean’s shoulders to get him upright and Dean does his best to help. (Sam’s weak. Dean’s the one who should be helping him.) “For what he did to you.”
“Hey.” Dean’s standing now and his legs kindly carry him. But he has to lean heavily on his brother and it occurs to him that they are still lost in the dark. “Hey. How much did you hear?”
Sammy’s not answering. He’s leaning on Dean as heavily as Dean leans on him. Dean should check his face, see if his nose if bleeding again. Exercising his powers like this used to kill Sam even when he was strong and healthy. “I meant it,” he states. “I don’t regret what I did to her. She deserved it and I’d do it again.”
“It’s good, Dean.”
“I mean it. How did you even find me? Are the others around?”
“No idea. I was with Cas but I kind of lost him. Jena went to look for you but she was looking in the wrong direction.”
“How did you know?”
“I felt the demon.”
Of course he did. Dean sighs. They are walking, ever so slowly, and not bumping into terribly much with Sam leading the way. Freaky. “That why you run around in the dark?”
“I lost the torch when I fell earlier.”
“You happen to still have it? Maybe we can light it again.”
“Fell down a gap in the ground.”
Which, naturally, means that Sam almost fell down there as well. And then he continued walking in the dark. Dean doesn’t even want to think about it.
“How are we going to find Cas now?” For the moment, that’s the most pressing problem. If they don’t find the others or the way out, they are going to die here. And that sucked enough when Dean was alone, but for Sam it means Lucifer, and then the end of what is left of the world.
The demon spoke of others, so they’d better not yell for anyone. They are very, very screwed.
And yet, Dean is ridiculously – and guiltily – glad that Sam is with him now. He holds his brother a little closer, and together they stumble on through the dark.
It feels like an hour, but in the end it’s probably barely ten minutes before they see the shine of torchlight reflecting off the walls of stone before them. Both of them stand very still, barely breathing…
…until Sam starts coughing, loud and explosive. Dean winces, half in sympathy and half because this might have been the worst timing ever, but the two figures that come hurrying towards them are just Cas and Jena, the relief on their faces making them look like worried parents.
“That was the most useless action ever, Dean,” Jena states, destroying the moment. Cas, in the meantime, comes over to give Sam a hug that gives Dean an idea of how he was feeling when suddenly he lost sight of his weak and seemingly helpless friend.
Well. Helpless his ass.
In the light of the torch, Dean can finally make out Sam’s face: white as paper, bloodshot eyes, and an impressive bruise on his forehead. He looks slightly out of it, so Dean takes over the job of telling the others what happened. He warns them of the demons that are looking for them and finishes with, “Sam just toasted someone with his mind over there. Do you think anyone sensed that?”
“Unlikely.” It’s Cas who answers. “His powers are mostly invisible to angels. Otherwise Lucifer would have found him much more often, before.”
“Okay. Well. How about we go back there and bleed the bitch out so we don’t have to restrict Sam’s rations as much?” Because Sam looks like shit and a hit might help and Dean hates himself for thinking that way.
“No point. Sammy’s burned the demon right out of that body,” Jena destroys his idea. “Would make just as much sense as slurping your blood.” Dean is overcome with the unpleasant idea of inviting a demon into his body that they then can trap and move around with them as a living supply ready for the taking, and that’s really not a thought he wants to explore any further.
His head is still spinning and the torchlight hurts his eyes. “We need to get out of here, then” he hears himself say. “Who knows how close those demons are? Why didn’t you notice her, anyway?”
“I did. But only when she was very close, and even then I could not pinpoint her exact location. Not a good time for you to get lost, just saying. And not a good time for your useless brother to run away from Cas, by the way.” She glares at Sam, but Sam doesn’t give a fuck. He’s still kind of supporting Dean and also kind of leaning on Cas and they still have a long way to go. Only now, they also have demons on their asses.
“Do you think the demons are shielding themselves from detection?” Cas wonders, looking at the archangel. Jena makes a vague gesture that could mean just about anything.
“I would think so. But of course that would mean that they know there’s a full-powered angel with you.”
“Sam could find her.”
“Sam’s more in touch with their nature,” Jena reminds him dryly, and Dean can feel Sam flinch at her words. So much for being out of it. Just fantastic. Bitch.
That’s the end of the discussion, though. Jena hurries them along, more tense than Dean has seen her in days, and that doesn’t do anything to make him feel better. However, it’s probably not the reason why suddenly a wave of nausea washes over him and makes him puke on the ground before his feet.
They have no other choice but to take a break. Dean feels like shit and Sam more or less collapses on top of him. They are both breathing hard and Cas is surprisingly gentle when he checks Dean for injuries.
After it’s been established that yes, he does have a concussion and a cracked rib on top of it, Jena crouches down beside him and touches his forehead. The pain lessens considerably, though it doesn’t go away altogether. “I can’t use my powers to their full extend for this,” Jena explains afterwards. “But with Sam doing so well, I don’t need to save them for him, at least.”
Dean has different opinions about Sam doing well, but while he was distracted by being in pain, Cas fed Sammy some more blood and he’s looking a little more alive. He still needs some support on the last stretch of road before the exit – and Jena makes them all tie their belts together with rope so no one will get lost again. Like a frigging kindergarten, but Dean is hardly in a position to protest.
They lost a lot of time, and due to both Dean and Sam limping, they make progress slower than planned. The longed for daylight at the end of the tunnel never comes, even as movement of the air indicates an opening nearby. When they finally emerge, it happens suddenly, without warning, and in the middle of the night.
A cold wind is blowing in greeting of their little group. They are still high up and Dean doesn’t look forward to climbing all that way down. If it were daytime, the height would at least work to his advantage by giving him a good view on the land below and maybe figuring out where they are, but it’s dark and the view is utterly useless.
It seems idiotic to leave the protection of the cave they emerge from only to look for another one, but since they know they are bang followed by demons and the demons are most likely somewhere inside the tunnels, it actually makes sense.
The cave they settle in hardly deserves the name. The mouth is too wide, it’s not deep enough, but it’s better than nothing. Dean falls asleep almost immediately, having learned to trust the protection of the two angels watching over them even in situations like this.
Also, he’s really, really tired.
The sky is brightening when he closes his eyes and it’s broad daylight when he wakes up. Which of course in fact means that there’s dim twilight outside. But that’s fine – he’s still sporting a headache and anything more would have killed him.
He can’t have slept long; the others would not have allowed that given the danger they are in, but Sam is already awake, looking a little pale and bruised but none the worse for wear. If he can face the day and the climb down, Dean has no right to complain, so he doesn’t. He just groans a lot as he sits up, as he forces down a meager breakfast and as he washes off the dried blood from the cut on his neck as best he can without wasting too much water and changes into a less-dirty shirt.
The air is very dusky when they step out of the cave, not allowing for much of a view. Dean is still sure he can make out the remnants of a city in the valley below. They continue their way mostly in silence.
It’s not likely that the demons are directly after them since the mountain offers many ways to get lost and Dean knows they can’t find them by anything but conventional means. The demon who caught up with him in the cave was driven by determined insanity and apparently she didn’t give much of a fuck if anyone else profited from her pursuit. Dean imagines her following them through the dark like some kind of demented Gollum with tits and a slightly better vocabulary, but he’s worried by her indication that other demons used her as a bloodhound to find Sam.
So the only conversation they have all day if him asking Jena a dozen times if she can sense anyone following them, which she always denies. Dean really, really hopes the hypothetical demons got lost in the mountain and will be stuck there forever.
Except they can teleport, and all…
Of course, they still have the big bad archangel protecting them, which should give them an advantage, but then, the demons seem to know about the big bad archangel, which takes the advantage away.
In the end, though, nothing much has changed. They are on the run and trying not to attract attention.
The way down is easier than anticipated. There’s some sort of path between the rocks that leads all the way down to the edge of vegetation. For a while, Dean is pleasantly surprised, but what he thought was the hardest part, the path over rocks and lose earth, turns out to be the easiest in the end. The trees that hide them from view once they reach them also hid the mean passages of steep ground and loose rocks that they have to get across.
It’s kind of embarrassing, but Dean is relieved when Sam calls for a break. He’s not doing so great himself.
At dusk, they settle beside creek, fill up their bottles, wash. Dean, Cas and Sam sleep in a heap, keeping each other warm against the cold air. The strange warming of the air to almost bearable degrees that helped them on the other side doesn’t happen here. It’s just as cold as it was when Dean was attacked by wolves.
And it gets worse the next day. While the ground flattens and make walking easier, a strong wind picks up that hits them without mercy whenever a gab in the trees gives it a chance, and it picks up speed even more, developing into a full-fledged storm, when they leave the trees behind for good and wander unprotected, wrapped into blankets and closing their eyes to slits, walking nearly blindly. It hasn’t snowed here, and the earth is loose, blowing into their faces.
It also makes the view even worse. Somewhere in the middle between their starting point and absolutely nowhere, Sam collapses. There’s no warning. He’s walking a few steps before his brother one moment and lying on the ground the next, his blanket blowing in the wind. Dean’s heart stops, then races, and finding his brother with a pulse and breathing doesn’t make it slow down much.
They carry him through the storm for hours until Jena leads them into something that provides shelter; something that turns out to be a building. Dean doesn’t care what it is. They enter through an empty doorway and go deep into the room behind until the wind doesn’t reach them anymore, and there they set down Sam and Dean collapses beside him and immediately crawls all over his brother, checking his breathing once again.
And then he passes out himself. He doesn’t even notice until he wakes up again and is somewhere else.
A sense of déjà-vu washes over him, reminding him of the time he got sick and Cas carried him from one building to the next while he was out. In this case he fell asleep inside what seemed to be the only room of a small building that still had four intact walls and a roof and he wakes up in a room that’s a little larger, the walls without tears. The first thing he notices, though, is the silence: the sound of wind is still there, but it’s subdued, and the air doesn’t move even a little.
The reason is the glass in the window that somehow survived intact. Behind it, Dean sees only the sky, but something tells him that they are a good bit above the ground.
It’s still cold, but not as cold as before. He’s lying on a mattress. Somehow, this is among the last things he notices – amazing, considering how long it was since he last saw one. He sits up carefully, winces with the pain that shoots through his head, and gives the room a closer inspection: bare walls, a table in the corner, obviously recently moved there to make room if the traces on the floor are anything to go by. A couple of chairs and a sofa beneath the window. This was never a bedroom, and it doesn’t contain a bed. Just this mattress, moved here so he doesn’t have to lie on the floor.
There are even sheets, though they have seen better days. Dean can’t blame them – he’s seen better days, too. What he doesn’t see is anyone else. Cas isn’t there. Jena isn’t there. Most importantly, Sam isn’t there.
With the help of the wall, he manages to move himself upwards. The mattress becomes his best friend when everything turns black and it kindly breaks his fall.
The next time he wakes up, his head doesn’t hurt as badly. He’s still lying on the mattress, under the covers, arranged in a normal sleeping position, not in the heap in which he must have fallen, which means the others are, in fact, still around somewhere instead of moving on without him.
His eyelids are sticking together. He tries to rub them only to find that he can’t move because something heavy is lying on him. Something tells him, even before he is able to see, that he found his brother at least.
Sure enough, Sam is half-lying on top of him, crawling in with his sick brother just like his brother did with him. The headache isn’t quite bad enough to excuse the water in Dean’s eyes anymore, but Sam’s asleep and Dean doesn’t really give a fuck.
Sam shifts slightly, pulling himself even closer to Dean. His skin is overly warm when Dean brushes the bangs out of his face, but what else is new?
Carefully, carefully, Dean rolls away, leaving Sam to curl up in the warmth he left behind. He sits up and finds Cas, half-sitting on the couch and also deeply asleep. The whole thing has the air of a lazy afternoon. It’s almost absurd.
Dean doesn’t want to wake them, but he wishes there was someone around to tell him where they are. He also would like to know if there’s a bathroom around because he really, really needs one right now.
His legs are shaky as he stands up, but they carry him. The door of the room is open, revealing a short corridor behind it, with more open doors. One leads to a bathroom where Dean relieves himself. There’s no water, though. No surprise there.
Afterwards, he goes to inspect the rest of the place. There is a glass door leading to a stairwell, and an elevator without power. Dean doesn’t explore the other floors, though, unwilling to go too far from the others. There is a kitchen. A small office with bookshelves and a computer. And a bedroom, with a single bed, the covers unruly because Sam has slept in them before worry for his brother has driven him to sleep on Dean instead.
Ceilings and floors before every door and window are painted with devil’s traps and Enochian symbols.
In the end, Dean returns to the room with the couch and carefully sits down on the corner not occupied by Castiel. He finds their bags between couch and wall and reaches for one he knows contains food. He’s not hungry but very thirsty, hoping to find their water bottles still full. Cas wakes up while Dean rummages through the contents of the bag and blinks at him lazily.
“Where are we this time?” Dean keeps his voice to a whisper, careful not to wake his brother. Though Sam looks sick, he also hasn’t seen him sleep this peacefully in a long time.
“Some city.” Yeah, Dean didn’t really think it would be more specific than that. “This building is stable, we’re up far enough not to be easily spotted in the windows. There is furniture that is comfortable. This is not the worst place to wait.”
Of course, there is the other side of this: the place offers nowhere to run should they be discovered, and no fresh food and water should they run out of supplies. But it has beds. It has that going for it. “What are we waiting for?”
Dean noticed her absence before, but assumed that she was simply out getting supplies. This sounds like something more long-term, though. “What’s she doing?”
“How are you feeling?” Cas asks almost at the same time so Dean can’t be sure he’s really trying to avoid the question.
“Where’s Jena?” he asks again. Cas sighs, defeated. So much for that.
It doesn’t make sense. “But we’re waiting for her.”
“Yes. I hope she will come back.”
Dean still isn’t sure he understood. “Does that mean she abandoned us?” That wasn’t very quiet. Sam shifts and Cas throws Dean a warning glare.
“No, she didn’t. She will come back, but it might take time. Maybe longer than we can wait. It’s not likely, so I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“Well, I’m worried! What’s she doing?”
“Working on a plan to defeat Lucifer.”
That shuts Dean up for a moment. They have been so busy running that he almost forgot that there was a point to it.
“I don’t know. He refused to tell me. Possibly because he doesn’t know yet himself.”
“Or because he doesn’t think you’d approve,” Dean voices, almost inaudibly, what Cas mercifully didn’t. He looks over to where Sam is sleeping peacefully and Cas does the same and neither of them says a word.