Word Count: ~6000 (total)
Characters: Dean and Sam, Dean and John (gen)
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Some kinds of ugliness take a long time to fade.
Warnings: Bad language. Show-type levels of violence, gore and murder. Violence against children, not perpetrated against, or by, any Winchesters.
Author's note: This fic is a remix of After the Flood by i_speak_tongue for the Dean-focused h/c remix challenge at hoodie_time . With huge thanks to i_speak_tongue for the liberties she's allowed me to take with her fic.
2006, New Orleans
The man threw Serafina back into the room like she was garbage, and she sat up slowly with a look on her face that no child should ever have. It was the look of someone who knew what evil was, and it hit Dean so hard in the stomach that he thought he might puke.
He might have, if he didn't have the other little kids – Tyrell and Shana – tucked into his sides.
"Tyrell," the man said. "Come here."
Tyrell didn't move. Dean breathed out.
"Tyrell?" The man raised an eyebrow, and Dean wanted to take a rock and smash every bone in his face. In his body.
"He's not going anywhere with you." Dean tried to keep his voice steady. Tried to keep the fact out of it that he was chained to a fucking wall and no use to anybody.
"I don't mind an audience." The man let that sink in, and Dean swallowed down bile, harsh at the back of his throat. "Tyrell?"
Tyrell didn't move. The man moved towards him, smiling. When he was within striking distance, Dean kicked out, hard. He'd meant to sweep the man's legs away from him, but the angle was all wrong, and he connected with his kneecap. The man fell back against the floor, cursing, out of reach.
Smiling, in a way that made Dean's heart thump in his chest, he got to his feet. He pulled a knife from his belt, the kind Dean had, the kind Dean used, and picked Serafina up.
"Put her the fuck down," Dean shouted.
The spirit laughed, and it sounded like wind howling across a prairie.
Now, New Hampshire
Sam hadn't called the entire two hours and change that he had been walking around, snow squeaking under his boots, and that was some kind of record for Sam just letting him be.
He looked up when Dean opened the door, brown paper bag under one arm. He watched while Dean slid the bottle out of its wrapper, and took two shot glasses out of his pocket and put them on the table between the two beds. Moved to sit opposite Dean, the way they'd sat a thousand times, in a thousand different ugly motel rooms.
"Whiskey?" His nose was wrinkled, and Sam was more of a beer man. Dean didn't know how to tell him that Jameson's was we'll make it, and everything will be okay, and I love you, you crazy fuck.
"We, uh, drank it in New Orleans." He said it halfway between the way Sam said it, and the way people who lived there said it.
"You and Dad?" Sam was being careful, had the same hey trust me, I'm really a puppy expression on his face that he used on grieving parents and suspicious schoolteachers.
"Yeah." He paused, and he knew that he could cut things off here, like scissors through thread, and they could just get drunk and talk shit and watch crappy TV, but the ache had been blooming in his chest for days.
He poured two shots of Jameson's. Scooped his. Sam wrapped his fingers around his, glass tiny in his ridiculous hands, and took a cautious sip.
Dean felt the warmth chase the liquid down to his stomach.
"We, uh, went to New Orleans a year after Katrina." Sam took another sip. A bigger one, and Dean couldn't tell if he liked it, or if he just wanted Dean to keep talking. "There was a whole bunch of freaky stuff happening at this old convent."
"In the whole damn place, really. The flood—" He paused, trying to organise his thoughts. "It dragged up things that should have stayed buried."
There was a whole bunch of other things he wanted to say about the flood, but he didn't have the words, didn't want to step foot onto Sam's turf. Because his was just one of the post-Katrina stories, and he knew that there was a whole world out there of upheaval, and pain, and hurt. He had read stories about racist murders, and people being abandoned to die, and people being called looters for taking medicine for their kids. The whole thing made him so sick he could puke.
"So, this one evening, I went to get some beers, and this guy hits me over the head, and—" Sam put his empty glass down, and Dean filled them both up. He drank his in one. "I wake up in the basement of this abandoned house."
2007, New Orleans
He was so tired, so thirsty, so strung out on adrenaline that the whole rescue was like little flashes, as though he was watching a DVD that kept skipping. He saw his father come in like the Sirocco, kicking open the door, and shooting the man in the head like it was nothing, while the spirit screamed like a stuck pig.
Then he saw his father leave the room with the can of salt, and he wanted to call out but his tongue was welded to the roof of his mouth.
Then his father was kneeling beside him, holding a canteen to his lips, and he'd never tasted anything so good as that water, warm and faintly plasticky, filling his mouth smooth as silk. There was blood all over him, drying on his skin, soaking his jeans. The floor was slick with it. "Any of that yours, son?" He shook his head.
Then he was in the hotel room, and it was cold with the central air. John half-carried him into the bathroom and sat him on the closed lid of the toilet, turning the shower on.
The room filled with steam, and John leaned Dean against himself and began to pull Dean's shirt over his head.
"I c'n manage." Dean batted away John's hands. "I can do it."
Dean had his head against John's shoulder, and his father's sigh ruffled the hair that wasn't clumped with blood. "Just let me do this for you, son."
Dean let him. Let him unbutton his jeans, and pull them off, and help him sit down in the bath in just his underwear. Let him shampoo his hair, and rinse it off. Let him soap his back, and his chest, and his arms and his legs, and wash his face with a flannel like he was two years old. Let him pull him up from the bottom of the bath, and wrap a towel around him, and it was then that Dean realised that his father had been crying, tracks still on his face.
"I don't ever want to lose you, son." Dean was limp like a dishrag, horror at seeing his father cry not even coming close to balancing out the exhaustion he felt, and John was holding him up, arms strong around him. "Never."
Now, New Hampshire
"Dad figured out that the spirit was a guy whose children let him drown." Dean swallowed his third shot.
"Nice." Sam curled his lip.
"They, uh, had their reasons." Dean looked away from Sam's look of dawning comprehension. It made him deep down squirrely to talk about this stuff with Sam. "The man, the man who was down there with the spirit. He was just a sick fuck."
"What happened to him?"
Sam wasn't nearly done with his sipping, but Dean poured himself another shot. Gulped it down and damn if the burn wasn't fading. "Dad shot him."
Sam was still. "Dad shot a human?"
His tone hit something raw in Dean. "He—. You don't understand, Sam."
"So why don't you talk to me about it." It was Sam's reasonable voice.
"I am talking about it." Dean was shouting, he was being mean, but he couldn't stop. "This is me. Talking about it."
Sam always wanted to talk, but it was so functional for him. Feel bad, say words, feel better. Sometimes Dean felt a pure rush of envy that Sam had such assurance in being able to get the cap back on the tube. The things inside Dean were so molten, so much that he was scared they would spill out of his throat and burn his life to a cinder.
"He took the kids away, and hurt them." He said it in a rush, on one breath. "I couldn't stop it."
Sam didn't hesitate. "You were chained up with a dislocated shoulder."
"He said if I fought him he would do it right there." Dean felt his mouth shake. Sam closed his eyes. "I didn't want—"
To see it. And the thought that coiled in his belly like a snake, was that he didn't want to know what he would have done to not see it.
"He killed them in front of me." He couldn't stop the words just falling out of his mouth, little bitten off pieces of horror.
Sam's eyes opened. "Shit, Dean."
"With a knife." The look on Serafine's face, screwed up in pain and fear, would be with him forever. "In front of the other kids, too, while there were any left."
Sam leaned forward, elbows propped on his legs, and he rested the tips of fingers against the denim covering Dean's knees.
"I knew people could be bad, Sam." He poured another shot, hand unsteady. "I didn't want to see it."
That was as close to the truth as he could get. The truth that, while he totally understood that they were trying to grind evil under their boots, the fact that there was no engine braking on man's inhumanity was like a slap in the face.
There were moments in Dean's life when things felt good. Not thank fuck you're alive, which was always bubbling with too much adrenaline to genuinely feel nice, but good. An unexpectedly tasty burger, with fries that were the right amount of crisp. Getting the truth out of someone, Sam sitting next to him, the questions unspooling between them like they had a script. A bottle of beer by the side of the road, dappled sunlight falling on their heads, and air heavy with the smell of cedar. Some people whose lives would be okay now, staring at them like they had brought a gift basket of hope to the front door, with satiny red ribbon tied in a bow round the handle. Hell, even a new pair of warm socks, smooth and thick and snug against his feet.
There were also the other moments, where he felt like he couldn't do this another minute, couldn't ride the wave of the hunt through to the shore, because he was just so damn tired of not knowing who the bad guys were. He never hunted the feeling down. Never poked it, like he would his tongue into a tooth that wasn't quite sore yet. He just waited, hunt by hunt, for the sight of another daughter flinching away from her father, another pair of kids hustling on the street, another old man broken down by the factory closing down and taking his town away, to fade from his heart like a bruise.
Sam stood up, and he'd barely been touching Dean at all, but the space he left behind him felt cold. Dean watched as he sat down next to him, side-saddle on the bed.
"I know you don't—" Sam pulled his special, empathetic bitchface. "Just—" He leaned forward, wrapped his arms around Dean, and Dean let himself be pulled against Sam's chest.
His brother was warm around him, against him, the smell of his childhood, and he felt himself relax just a little. Those children on the washed-out posters were still missing, and either scared out of their minds or dead, and nothing could ever make it okay, but sometimes it didn't entirely suck to be him.
"Are you humming 'He's Not Heavy He's My Brother'?" Sam sounded half-amused, half-offended.
Dean snorted against his brother's shoulder. "Not unless AC/DC have done a cover I don't know about."
Sam laughed, and it rumbled against Dean's ear. "I'm pretty sure they're all dead."
"Bitch." Dean pushed him away. "Don't fucking talk about Bon Scott like that."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Jerk."
Dean stood up. "I'm gonna order some food. Pizza?"
"Sure." Sam looked at him, his expression unreadable. "Dean—"
He looked at his brother, all he had left, and he felt warm down to his boots for the first time since they'd come to the town. "I know, Sammy. I know."
He shuffled the menu open. "Pepperoni okay?"