So, I've learned that I probably shouldn't sign up for challenges at the same time a filing with the Copyright Office is due. Whoops! But now I am snowed in for the day and, having blissfully napped, I am ready to post this story, along with the beautiful art from glasslogic.
Fic Title: The Road
Word Count: ~12000
Warnings: Some violent images
Summary: A case gone wrong leaves Dean with a power he hates. It’s up to Sam to save him.
Art Link(s): LJ | Original prompt:
Thanks to my extremely patient and kind artist, glasslogic, for the beautiful art and the prompt.
He pulled at the door handle, in perfect time with Sam on the other side, and—
Fire behind, Dad beside, Sammy in Dean’s arms, the car’s flank reflecting as their home burned down. A hole the size of the world in his life. The rumble of the road instead of the words that curled up and floated off before they could leave his mouth, all the pleas for his mom to return disappeared into ashes. Guns and salt and motel parking lots made of gravel, rough under the tires. Knives and names. The way the gears had ground the first time he’d driven the Impala, Dad bleeding beside him and Sammy back waiting for them; had to be strong, not scared at all, Sammy scared for the both of them.
Windows blank with fog, with breath, curled up around each other on the nights there’s no money, nights Dad drinks the money or the car does. Mile markers flash in the headlights, regular as the tick of a clock. Girls in the backseat and always, always the road. Rattle of plastic in the vents. The tapes hiss and reverse; the music starts again. Sam gone, Sam back. Shock of the hit, bodies crumpled inside like tissues. Rebuilt, rebuilt, rebuilt. Resurrected. What’s dead should stay dead. Wheels on the road, going nowhere, going anywhere.
Dean gone, Dean back. Sam gone, Sam back. He’s choking Dean but he’s loving Dean more; he lets Dean go and Dean goes to his knees. Darkness and silence, like there’s no air at all, like a year without a breath. The road: the only thing that stays the same, even when they’re not moving. Back but not back. Crash and jolt and back again. Crash and stop and panting in the backseat, Sam gasping like he’s gutshot, like he’s only waiting for the lights to go out.
The road goes on and the road goes on. He’s different, doesn’t change the oil even though the engine thirsts, grinds wrappers and cold fries into the floorboards. It’s just a car. Gentle hands, the road, he’s careful, so much to make up for, the road.
Blackness surged through him and he fell into it gratefully.
Sam was, at this point in his life, a connoisseur of fear. There was the sour-penny taste of physical trauma when a monster was about to hurt him; the miasma of dread when a demon was threatening some horrible new revelation; the generalized heaviness of knowing he was a freak; the waxy feeling in every blink when his mind kept betraying him. But of all the terrors, the heart-clench of fear for Dean’s safety was the hardest, because he could never get inured to it.
There was absolutely no reason that Dean should’ve collapsed. Even when he’d had the Mark, it had hopped him up, not knocked him out. They’d finished the case in good order—a routine haunting, complicated only by a coven of witches who’d also been investigating, with a ludicrous plan to “release the tormented spirit from its chains of being.” On their way into the house, Sam and Dean had just evaded the witches, who’d been dancing naked in a circle under the trees on one side of the house, chanting and generally being useless but nonlethal.
Dean had gotten to burn down the entire house, which Sam generally didn’t like to encourage, but the fire department had responded quickly (he almost hoped they’d gotten an eyeful of the witches) and the silhouette portraits scattered throughout the house that had been sustaining the ghost had all crisped. Sam was ready to call it a win, and then Dean had stiffened, made an awkward noise that Sam had already opened his mouth to mock, and gone down like he’d been cold-cocked.
He’d continued to seize as Sam had maneuvered him into the back seat. He’d bitten his tongue and Sam knew he wasn’t supposed to stuff anything in Dean’s mouth, but it was terrifying to watch Dean jerk, blood drooling from his lips like a vampire fed on dead man’s blood. He’d debated a hospital—seizures weren’t on the list of common hunting injuries they’d learned to handle on their own. But then, five minutes in, Dean had gone still. Breathing, but unconscious. And Sam’s quick googling said that a hospital wouldn’t be much help now that it was over.
Dean would be going to a doctor, at gunpoint if necessary, but they could do that closer to home.
He blinked awake. He was in his bed and the bedside lamp was on, just enough that he could see the familiar walls. He felt like the wrong side of a five-day bender, his head a mass of damp cotton shot through with iron spikes. Last he remembered, he’d been looking forward to a drive—
First things first. He put his hands down to push himself upright, and a shudder like orgasm went through him.
He was made of fire, and it was great. No nagging conscience (except for Sammy, have to do something about that). He didn’t care about all the shit he’d failed at. A demon who doesn’t save people is just doing his job. No Alastair on his back, all screams and razors and blood when it could be beer and darts, and if the dart ended up in the shoulder of some asshole who objected to a far more handsome man making time with his date, well, sometimes you have to make an exception for the blood.
But here he was in the fucking Bunker again. He didn’t remember what had got him here, but last time he’d made Sam a promise. And not that he was a demon of his word, but some things needed doing, and Sammy was definitely one of them.
His weapons were back on the walls—sloppy, Sam, what would Dad say?—and it was a matter of a moment to arm himself with a nice new cleaver. He remembered picking it out, testing the weight of it, enjoying the feeling of having a new weapon, one that was all his. He’d been looking forward to trying it out even before whatever’d kicked him back to his carefree, lighthearted self had happened. And Sam did make a large and enticing canvas.
Whistling, he pushed open the door.
Sometimes you just had to go with the classics. “Honey!” he called out. “I’m home!”
Sam burst out of his room, his fearful expression weirdly focused.
He cracked his neck. “Yo.”
Sam stopped, his eyes going to the cleaver. “What the hell, Dean?”
There wasn’t even a snappy comeback to that. He let his disappointment show on his face. “That’s all you got? Not, I’m sorry, I failed you, all that jazz?”
Sam held his hands up. “Dean, I don’t know what this is, but we’re going to fix it.”
“Tried that, Sammy. Doesn’t seem to have stuck.” Before the last syllable was out, he was rushing Sam, who broke just in time, dashing down the hallway with the speed of a long-time runner.
He was slower by a hair. Probably should’ve done more training. Oh well. A good chase would get his adrenaline up, at least.
“Come on,” he called out. “I’ll make it good for you, I promise.” Sam liked it rough, and he doubted Lucifer had cured that. His mouth watered, thinking of how he’d stretch Sam out. Cut his clothes off first, run the thin edge of the blade down those Baywatch pecs and abs.
Castiel wasn’t going to interrupt them this time, not leaking grace like he’d been last time they’d seen him.
He stalked down the hall towards the reading room, loose and ready.
There was a clang, and solid metal bars incised with Enochian dropped down before and behind him.
Hunh. Apparently Sam had made additional plans in case of his reappearance.
Sam came around the corner, keeping a good six feet back from the bars.
He held his hands out (cleaver included). “Well, you got me. What now? Another round of the cure? ‘Cause I’m thinking you’re gonna have to change the name, seeing as it didn’t work.”
“You’re not a demon,” Sam said.
He snorted. He’d been just an asshole and he’d been a demon, and he knew the difference. “You sure?” he asked, and blinked black—
Tried to blink.
“You crossed five devil’s traps chasing me,” Sam said, and he remembered that, internal demon-proofing as an improvement the Men of Letters had never been cautious enough to do. They’d taken nearly a whole day to do it, doors and ceilings and odd angles just in case something tunneled through. Sam had known just when to hold out the pencil or the masking tape for Dean to take, and Dean had handed them back without moving his eyes from the lines he was drawing. It had been a good day; he tried to keep from thinking about days like that, but now that Sam had reminded him, the details came back. The devil’s traps should’ve at least stung when he trampled through, and they hadn’t.
He raised his left forearm and sliced shallowly across it. He stared until the first drop of blood hit the floor, and the healing hadn’t started.
The cleaver drifted down. He didn’t have any more desire to use it, except maybe on his own stupid face.
“See?” Sam said, and to his credit he wasn’t gloating. Probably because he was worried that Dean had finally gone certifiable, even by hunter standards. After an uncomfortable silence, he asked quietly, “Dean, why did you think you were a demon?”
‘Because I felt good’ wasn’t an answer that was going to make Sam happy. “I don’t know,” Dean told him. “I woke up, and it was like—I felt like I did when Crowley was yammering in my ear, before he got too annoying. It wasn’t a memory. I was there.”
“Do you remember what happened back in Lewisburg, when you passed out?” Sam was at the bars now, his hands curled loosely around them. Dean thought he should stay there, on the other side, protected from Dean and all the things Dean had thought to do to him even while in possession of a soul.
Dean blinked a few times, not to show his inner demon but trying to reorient himself in the now. “I don’t know, Sam, it was like I was hit with our whole lives, you know? Like someone dumped a truckload of history on me.”
“And you just remembered being a demon so well that you thought you were one,” Sam said slowly.
“A memory curse?” Dean said, sounding stupid even to himself.
Sam frowned. “I don’t know.”
“I didn’t touch anything,” Dean defended himself. “I didn’t even insult the witches. Unless they could hear me in the motel, which would mean they were spying.”
“We need to research,” Sam said, those four little words Dean hated so much. Maybe Sam would forget to lift the barrier, and then Dean would have a good excuse for sitting this one out.
Sam wasn’t even surprised at this level of denial from Dean. Comparatively, Dean was arguably more forthcoming than he’d been about his crossroads deal, or the Mark of Cain. If that had translated into an easier job figuring out what the fuck was wrong with him, Sam would’ve been a lot happier.
Dean did his usual routine of grumbling, foraging for snacks, and drinking two or three beers before even considering settling down to research.
At long last, Dean came over to where Sam had stacked ten books of possible relevance and four expandable files with promising titles.
“All right,” Dean groaned, hooking a chair with his boot and plopping his ass into it in a motion that shouldn’t have looked as suave as it did. “Just gimme something I don’t have to translate.”
Sam briefly considered one of the folders, then realized that Dean would destroy the order of the records inside and probably leave random pages scattered around. Instead, he pushed over a basic encyclopedia of curses; it had been left out on a reading stand when they’d arrived, as if it was consulted so regularly it didn’t even need a place on the shelves.
Dean put his hand on the cover—
Larry said something and Max laughed, that awful honking sound that got more grating each time. Someday, he was going to snap and cast one of the silencing curses on Max. The other Men would probably give him a medal.
David and Ted were debating how to categorize the outcome of the Milton investigation. Ted maintained it was only a Type 3, but David had an itch at the back of his neck, and according to him his itches were never wrong. Ted pointed out that somehow the itches only revealed themselves after relevant events, and David scoffed and said that no good would come of letting a woman think she was an initiate.
Down the hall, someone screamed. He jumped to his feet, hand already reaching for his pistol. A white face, streaked with red, emerged from the darkness of the hallway.
“Josie?” he said, and her mad smile was wide as a carnival barker’s.
She looked at him—
Dean came to himself slumped against the wall. Sam was pawing at his jaw, jabbering at him, and for a moment Dean didn’t recognize his own brother. Fear spiked cold in him as he sat up straight and tried to push Sam away.
“I saw the Men of Letters,” he said, because the fastest way to get Sam to back off was to give him a lead to follow. “Right before Abbadon killed them. I think I was one of them.”
Sam tilted his head, then half-turned to look at the book of curses, abandoned on the table. “Touch,” he said. “You touch something and you get—memories.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Dean said. He shoved himself to his feet. “I need a memory of a beer.”
“Think you have enough of those already!” Sam called after him, but turned back to the books.
Nine hours later, Sam stood up, feeling his bones creak like they’d really lived hundreds of years in Hell with his soul. His back ached and his neck ached and the sides of his knees ached, and he was no closer to figuring out what could have happened to Dean. Obviously, the ghost-hunting witches were a candidate, but he couldn’t find a single mention of a spell that would produce this kind of effect. They hadn’t sounded like they were throwing curses. They hadn’t even known Dean and Sam were in the house.
Wait a second. They’d been trying to release the spirit. Sam grabbed for a volume he’d discarded earlier—he hoped it was bound in lambskin—and flipped to a page that he’d passed by because it had nothing to do with memories.
They’d been told so many times that the Winchester and Campbell lines had been brought together for a reason; Sam and Dean had been bred to be the cardboard sleeves around the liquid fire of angels. The demon’s blood had unlocked some potential in Sam. What if the witches had released something similar in Dean?
The ghosts hadn’t been banished by the spell because ghosts weren’t bound to earth by barriers, but by their own choices and delusions. Something the witches might’ve known if they’d bothered to learn more about ghosts, but set that aside. Especially if the spell didn’t have anything else to grab on to, it could possibly have opened pathways in Dean that had been shut.
But if that was what happened, then the chances of fixing it went down a lot. Curses could be lifted. Inherent powers released from behind whatever was walling them off, probably not so much. They could go confront the witches, of course, but the witches didn’t know what they’d done. Maybe, if Sam could study the spell himself—but Sam could already hear Dean asking: when had consorting with witches ever worked out well for them? Imaginary Dean had a good point, good enough that Sam didn’t need real Dean to make it.
Dean spent some time in the kitchen testing Sam’s new theory, putting his hands on every random piece of crap he found. One fork gave him nothing, the next was a memory of learning that his best friend had died. Benny, he thought, but it wasn’t Benny; the others around him were all dressed like thirties gangsters, bowing their heads in respect for the dead guy.
Food was mostly safe, thank fuck. And food included beer, which was even better. After six or seven bottles, the memories still kept coming, but with the same insulated feeling as he had for his own memories, which on average were a lot worse. Drink enough, and he could almost live with himself.
When Sam finally joined him, his mouth went tight at the sight of the pile Dean had made (Dean was using a fucking recycling bin, after months of Sam’s nagging; the kid ought to be grateful) but he didn’t say a word. He was clearly saving his conversational ammo for other business.
“I think I figured it out,” he said.
Dean just nodded, because Sam didn’t have the bounce in his step that said ‘know how to fix it.’
“Psychometry,” Sam said. “Also known as psychoscopy—no Dexter jokes, please—or token-object reading. It means being able to see the history of an object by contact with that object.”
Dean didn’t get why having a name for this was so important. They’d already known he was fucked. “Just an object. Not people?”
Sam shook his head. “Lore is, psychoscopy works on things that used to be alive, but not people or animals, even bones.”
Dean reached out and grabbed Sam’s wrist. He didn’t know what he expected—maybe a blast of what it was like to have Sam’s giant brain, like everything around them would grow a label and a list of fun facts attached. But there was nothing, just Sam’s pulse hot and reassuring against his fingers.
Okay then. “How do we get rid of it?”
Sam’s silence was answer enough. When Dean pushed back from the table, planning to find himself a bottle of the hard stuff, Sam coughed. “It’s not a curse,” he said at Dean’s look. “I mean, everything I’ve found says it’s just an ability. Like a regular psychic’s.”
“Those two words don’t go together,” Dean pointed out, even though he knew it was jabbing at one of Sam’s weak spots. Even years later, Sam still thought he was some sort of freak.
“How bad is it?” Sam asked. “Now that you’re expecting it—”
His eyes were so wide and hopeful that Dean wanted to tell him that he’d figure out how to handle this new complication, no problem, get back to being the badass he always was. “Second touch doesn’t work,” Dean said after a pause, because that was important. “So if I just don’t touch anything new, I’m cool.” Pretty soon Sam was going to figure out that a bunker filled with mystical objects with terrible histories was maybe not the best place to try out Dean’s new infirmity, but he was willing to leave that discussion for later.
Of course, Sammy couldn’t leave anything alone, so instead of a nice quiet drunk, Dean ended up playing test monkey in the kitchen while Sam entered results into a friggin’ spreadsheet. It turned out that mass-produced objects fresh from the store were usually safe. The visions weren’t really about the objects; they were about the people linked to the objects. Often factory-packaged things had only been touched for a few seconds by humans, and usually those people hadn’t given enough thought to what they were doing to leave more than the vaguest of impressions. If Dean concentrated hard enough he could sometimes get a rumble of hunger, or an ache between his shoulders, but no more of their stories than that.
By the time he’d confirmed that to Sam’s satisfaction, Sam was rubbing at his eyes like he’d done when he was a little kid. Dean managed to get him up from his seat at the kitchen island, hand on the back of Sam’s neck and not drifting down to his cotton flannel. The coolness of Dean’s skin made Sam jump, and Dean used that to push him towards his bedroom. “C’mon, Sam,” he said, low enough not to startle. “I’ll still be fucked in the morning.”
Sam made a noise of protest, but didn’t fight. And Dean had already taken the memories from his own bed, so after a quick fight with his toothbrush (stocked by a girl who was worried she was pregnant) he crashed into the—hah—memory foam and stared up at the blank ceiling until, at long last, darkness took him back for a while.
Sam heard Dean leave the bunker earlier than he would’ve expected Dean to get out of bed. The reason was revealed when Dean came back toting three pairs of leather gloves and a couple of boxes of latex disposable ones. Dean grumbled about cows whose only memories were of farting; Sam wasn’t sure whether that reflected a real memory or just Dean being an asshole.
“So,” Dean said, his lip curling a bit as he examined the crusts of Sam’s no doubt inferior attempt at making toast for breakfast, “found us a new case?”
“Uh, what?” Sam said, with what he thought was fairly restrained incredulity. “Dean, you—”
“You don’t know how to fix it, you aren’t in the library pulling books which means you don’t think there might be something in here to fix it, and there’s still monsters out there that need ganking. So we’ve got to work.” Dean had his what-me-worry face on.
True, Sam didn’t have much of a plan for next steps in treating Dean. Castiel, who might’ve been some help under other circumstances, was off doing a kind of soul-healing retreat in some alternate plane, as best as he’d been able to explain. And true, none of the books or records in the bunker had offered solutions. But that didn’t mean it made sense to go out into the world with a brother who was liable to fall over seizing if something touched him wrong.
Sam said as much, and Dean held up his now-gloved hands, flexing his fingers (and looking more like he was pretending to be a cat than anything else). “And what if you get hit in the head? We can’t do the job with you in a full-body latex suit.”
Dean’s eyes fuzzed as he clearly ran through some sexual fantasy that Sam was probably going to imagine himself, much against his better judgment, later that night. Then he shrugged. “So let’s test whether the mojo works it’s not my hand doing the touching,” he said.
Sam’s mouth dropped open, shocked that Dean hadn’t already figured that out (not that he’d asked), and then reared back when Dean mimed reaching for his fly. “Dude!” he squeaked. “You are not testing whether your dick has psychometric powers.”
“Aw, Sammy,” Dean complained, not seriously. Good thing too, because Sam absolutely would leave him on the floor if he dropped down with a vision with his dick hanging out. “Fine,” he sighed, sounding more aggravated than any teenager Sam had ever seen eyerolling at a parent in ten years of involuntary exposure to other peoples’ families in diners across the country. Dean unbuttoned his overshirt and pulled down the collar of his tee. “Hit me.”
“Sit down,” Sam ordered, casting around for an object they hadn’t yet tried on him. “If you pass out again I don’t want to be worried about concussion. You don’t have any brain cells to spare.” Over on top of one of the bookshelves he spied a copy of Look Homeward, Angel he’d picked up a few weeks ago in a used bookstore and hadn’t had time to read.
Dean managed to keep up the aggrieved act while Sam approached, turning the spine so that it would touch Dean’s bared skin, pale and freckled over his collarbone. Sam swallowed as he first touched the book to Dean’s skin, then pressed further when there was no immediate reaction. Dean frowned, his crows’ feet deepening as he concentrated. Sam moved the book in a small circle, trying very hard not to think about how he was stroking Dean’s skin by proxy.
“There’s … something,” Dean said. “This guy sold the book ‘cause of a bad breakup. I can’t—it’s not like when I use my hands.”
Sam withdrew the book and looked at it, as if it would offer further insights. Then a real thought struck him. “You know, the fingertips have some of the greatest concentration of nerve endings in the body, so they’re capable of telling a lot more detail than other areas of the skin. Maybe it’s the same with psychometry.”
“So what you’re saying is,” Dean said, not quite able to stop the shit-eating grin, “if I had tried it with my dick, I’d have seen just as much as if I use my hands.”
Sam blushed, unwillingly imagining Dean with his hand around his cock, half-hard like he was in the mornings on his way to the shower, rubbing the head slow and steady across—he cut the thought off. That was too much, even for him. With practiced disregard, he brought himself back to the problem at hand.
“Anyway, I guess we don’t have to worry that getting tossed into a gravestone will be any worse for me than it ever was, long as I wear gloves. This could even be useful,” Dean said, sounding more excited now. “How many times have we spent hours in the library trying to figure out some symbol?”
“‘We,’” Sam said, putting a nerdy younger brother’s lifetime of scorn into the word.
“Hey, I’m looking out for your interests, Sammy.” The thing was, Dean wasn’t wrong. This talent had the promise of being a hell of a lot more useful than Sam’s random demon-blood powers; it was consistent—too consistent by half—and it was strong.
“We’ll find something easy,” Sam decided. “Salt and burn.”
Dean leaned back, balancing his chair on its two back legs. “That’s what I’m talking about. None of this demons and angels shit. Light ‘em and leave ‘em.”
“Sure,” Sam said. At the very least, Dean with a short-term objective would be less likely to go off and do something stupid on his own while Sam was trying to figure this out.
Dean didn’t mean to find them a werewolf. Current problems aside, werewolves always made him think of long-ago Madison, and Sam’s epic failures in the ‘find a nice girl who won’t die or go evil or both’ department. But he couldn’t ignore werewolves ripping hearts out, either, and it would’ve been uncool to send Garth after his less housetrained cousins.
Sam pouted, but he knew the deal as well as Dean did, and they geared up for a trip to Indiana.
Fortunately, the driving gloves he’d chosen were comfortable enough. Come summertime, his hands were going to be swimming, but for now he thought he could pull it off.
“Gloves are gonna make shaking hands awkward,” he mused as they hit the interstate. “I could pretend to be highway police.
“Tell the witnesses you have eczema,” Sam suggested.
“What the hell is eczema?” Dean bitched.
“It’s not an STD, so don’t sweat it. It’ll make you seem a little fussy, but so does your hair.”
“What’s wrong with my hair!?”
Sam coughed, and if it sounded something like “fifty dollar hair gel,” Dean was just going to ignore that.
When they arrived, the case was the usual bluff-the-locals thing, FBI badges flapped open, blah blah blah down to the morgue. It was small enough that they only had to wait until the attendant went to get a coffee, and then they could investigate in peace.
Sam slid the body on its metal ledge out of the fridge compartment and Dean pulled back the sheet, even though it was obvious from the outline that there was a lot less in the center than there should’ve been. “Man, sometimes I miss the days when this kind of thing grossed me out,” he told Sam, bending over to make sure that the injuries were what you’d expect from a werewolf.
“Yeah,” Sam said, too heavily; Dean had set off another of his mental landmines and Sam was thinking about how they were glorified serial killers, unfit for human company.
Dean sighed to himself. He needed to change the subject, pronto. “Okay, so I’m gonna try my Carnac the Magnificent thing.” The girl’s shirt was still stuck to what was left of her shoulders. He peeled off a glove, stuffing it in his jacket pocket so as not to lose it, and reached out to one of the spots not saturated with blood.
Pain, unbelievably great, like being blinded, and then even more crashed down on her. She felt lighter—that was her arm, it was lying on the ground, it wasn’t a part of her. Oh God it hurt, it hurt, like iron bars shoved through her.
It’s inside me—
Then he was intact, his heart racing and whole in his chest, and for a minute he was sure that he was back in Hell. The feeling of immediate difference, total physical resurrection, was exactly the same.
But he never would’ve heard Sam’s voice—even terrified—calling his name in Hell; that was too much of a comfort. He opened his eyes and looked up. Sam’s face was tight with restrained panic, knowing that he couldn’t make too much of a fuss in a morgue without blowing their cover.
Carefully, he readied himself to stand up from his slump, then right before he put his hand on the wall for balance he realized that he definitely did not want to touch the wall of a morgue and fished out his glove. It felt too tight, hot and scratchy, but it didn’t make him see anything at all.
“’m okay,” he said, and let Sam pull him to his feet.
Then he had to admit his failure. “I got nothing. I saw the wolf—” (nightmare, not real, this isn’t happening—all the things civilians thought, only from the inside this time, things Dean had never had the luxury of believing)—“but it was a wolf, which we knew.”
Sam frowned. He pulled the autopsy report from where it was clipped to the slab and flipped through, reading with the speed that always made Dean feel equal parts proud and inadequate. He stopped and reread a sentence. His eyes darted halfway to Dean, and then he resolutely turned the page.
“What?” Dean asked sharply. He might have phantom pains in his chest (not hooks, didn’t happen to him, only echoes) but he wasn’t weak.
“There were some foreign fibers in her wounds,” Sam said reluctantly. “No match to any of her clothes. It’s possible—”
Dean was already stripping off the glove. It didn’t feel that good anyway.
Sam was not okay with this. Dean pretended that having another person’s memory of having her heart ripped out of her chest was no big deal, but Dean didn’t have to watch his own eyes roll back and his head jerk like he was being punched by ghosts. Dean didn’t have to watch his brother’s back stiffen and his legs collapse as his face twisted with agony.
But he could hardly argue with Dean about trying again now that Dean had already been through that; it’d be for nothing if they stopped now, and it wasn’t like they cared anything for evidence protocol.
This time, Dean got an image of the guy who wore the sweater the fibers came from. That still wasn’t immediately helpful, since it turned out that—shockingly—the man wasn’t wearing a nametag, and Dean indicated that he got the werewolf’s-eye view anyhow, so all that he saw was “dude with hairy forearms, like, he might’ve had some wolf in him even before he got bit, and a watch on his right wrist.” But Dean did recall that he got bit while he was visiting a national park over the last long weekend, staying someplace called the Lake Lodge.
Sam managed to trace the man by calling the Lodge and pretending to be a cop. The werewolf’s name was Brian Legg III, and he knew Dean was still shaken when no filthy jokes about third legs were forthcoming.
They staked out Legg’s house, and put him down before he could kill again. A win, and more efficient than some of their hunts, but it wasn’t the magic bullet (so to speak) Dean had plainly been hoping for. Sam was grateful to get back in the car, where Dean would be more willing to talk about it.
Sure enough, an hour outside the bunker, Dean glanced over to where Sam was sitting and said, as if continuing a conversation, “Y’know, I get why more people don’t have their emotionally significant moments staring at themselves in a mirror—outside of romance novels, anyway—‘cause not everybody can be as good-looking as a Winchester. But that was still annoying. Guy couldn’t have spent some time thinking, ‘I, Brian Legg the Third, am about to be eaten by a wolf’?”
Outside, the world was black and white, flashes of highway barriers and nothing else but them, chewing up the miles. Not safe, but the closest thing they had to safety. “Maybe it’s not worth it,” Sam said. “You’re right, there’s no reason the talent would provide useful information.”
“Didn’t hurt,” Dean said, with only the faintest squint of his eyes as he stared resolutely forward; he might’ve as well written ‘I’m lying’ on the car window. “Sped things up, didn’t it?”
“You didn’t look good in the morgue,” Sam told him.
“Bite your tongue. I always look good,” Dean said automatically.
“Seriously,” Sam insisted.
“Seriously, I always look good. It’s nothing, Sam. I just gotta learn how this works. It’s not like I was a dead shot the first time I picked up a gun. I’ll practice.”
Sam couldn’t make Dean’s decisions for him. He still wanted to make sure that whatever had been unlocked in Dean wasn’t costing him more than it was worth.
“When I didn’t have a soul,” he said, ignoring Dean’s grimace, “I did nothing but sacrifice people for the greater good. Or, I don’t even know, for my need to be hunting. My need to win. It’s the thing I hate most about myself. And I don’t want to make you a part of that.”
“Sam,” Dean said, like it hurt him, “that’s not you. It never was. And I know what I’m doing. Okay,” he said before Sam could interrupt, “I don’t have a fucking clue. I mean, I knew what would happen when I touched that shirt. I’m a hunter. I’m—I’m grateful to be a hunter. It’s better than anything else I could be,” and the horrible thing was the absolute fucking acceptance in Dean’s voice, like he was talking about gravity or two plus two equalling four.
There was no chance of reaching Dean when he was like this. “Okay,” Sam said, because Dean only saw reason in stages. “But I’m just saying okay for now. We don’t really know how this power works. If it gets stronger, or worse—”
Dean didn’t say anything. But it wasn’t a no, and Sam had to be content with that.