Rating: R - Gen - hurt!Dean
This story procedes directly after the events of S3 Episode 47
Spoilers: General to all aired ep in USA
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Beta: Thank you Kat!
Summary: Dean accidentally uncovers something else left over in his father's old storage space...
Dean knew as soon he ripped open the yellowed packet that it was all bad news.
He scrubbed a hand through his hair and read the small piece of paper that had been contained inside. With a groan, he read it one more time just to make sure.
If he wanted to get technical, it wasn’t really made of paper. The yellow stuff was vellum created from a specially treated animal skin. This one was particularly thin and fragile even though it had been fashioned to last. He flipped it over in the hope that the carefully inked words he had read weren’t still there. The torn envelope it had come in was lying on the table with all the rest of the documents retrieved from the storage space.
Dean had spent the day and all of the night salvaging and sorting their father’s hidden collection into three piles.
They couldn’t leave all the treacherous junk lying around for some city inspector to find accidentally one day; or worse, another opportunist entrepreneur who liked to put price tags on things that should be buried. Some of the items were easily lethal, like the dusty artillery and collection of tactical explosives. They were cleared from the shelves first. Dean added a few of the older weapons to their inventory if it looked worth the clean up. A few finds were like the objects in the lock boxes: Unmarked, unexplained and in all probability toxic. However, there was plenty in there that neither Sam nor he knew existed. Some of the stuff had nothing to do with the sinister nature of the flipside at all.
The brothers’ authentic birth certificates were shuffled in with old insurance papers. Dean wasn’t aware he had a middle name and he was happy to leave the one he found to remain lost. Another puzzling find amongst the clutter were a few rotted cardboard boxes filled with loose documents. Half of them made no sense at all, seeming to be unorganized pieces from forgeries for identification and property.
The rest were random notes and pages like the one Dean held in his hand.
He flipped the card between his fingertips and let out a deep sigh. The fragile envelope he’d opened as casually as a phone bill was much more than a harmless scrap of paper. Dean glared at the symbols slashed across its surface. He wanted to crumple it into a ball and toss it into the fireplace but that wouldn’t help: not now anyway. It was much too late for any straightforward resolutions.
He let his forehead thud on the table.
Dean had only just managed to convince Sam to get some rest about an hour ago. He had to admit, the intriguing stash of their father’s belongings was hard to walk away from even though he was just as exhausted. As much as he had insisted his brother was being a moron for forcing himself to stay awake, he couldn’t seem to follow his own good advice.
Sam had dusted off a sorry looking mattress and dragged it up the stairs with not so much as a ‘goodnight’. He hadn’t looked back, and Dean hadn’t seen him since. Which brought him to the problem at hand.
“Shit,” Dean repeated.
The card spun across the table and landed at a perfect tilt. Like the minute hand of a timepiece, it was a subtle reminder the clock was ticking. One look at his watch told him the stupid piece of paper was right. From the moment he’d read the thing to now, he’d wasted 15 minutes and he didn’t have a whole lot of time left if he wanted to prepare himself for what was to follow. But, first things first.
Dean stood up and stretched, draining the last of his warm beer and chucking the can into the overflowing trash.
He had to wake up his brother.
Sam wasn’t going to like the reason why either.
Sam grimly studied the piece of paper safely tucked back in its protective envelope.
As his brother slowly walked around the table Dean noted that Sam was wisely not even touching the thing. Slumping down in a chair, he wondered ruefully whether this night would have gone differently if he didn't happen to have a high tolerance for large amounts of beer. If he were a lightweight he would have landed in bed hours ago whether he wanted to or not. He might not have even starting searching through that last tattered folder of miscellaneous crap.
Hell, he might not even have ended up finding it at all.
“Well... did... did you really look at it?” Sam leaned down to examine it sideways. “All of it?”
“Oh yeah,” Dean quickly affirmed. “I really read it.”
“Are you sure?”
“As a fortune cookie.”
His brother’s fists slammed into the table, venting frustration he had been attempting to keep in check.
“But, why?” Sam’s pained demand sounded more like a plea. “Why would you ...do that?”
Dean wasn’t real pleased with the situation either. His own irritation at the unfortunate turn of events caused his own aggravation to rise up and match his brother’s. But instead of swinging a punch like he wanted, he stood up and shoved back his chair loudly into a wall. The dent in the plaster made him feel a little better, but not by a whole lot.
“How was I supposed to know?” He demanded back. “How was I supposed to know I wasn’t supposed to read it unless I read that I wasn’t supposed to?”
Sam opened and shut his mouth.
“See?” Dean pointed. “Ain’t so simple now, is it?”
“But, but it would have changed you by now, made you into something kind of—“
Sam’s sentence trailed into silence as their eyes met. That was the question that neither one of them knew the answer to. Curses scribbled on cards were common enough, but their affects were limited. Usually, handwritten notes couldn’t turn a man into beast for eternity. However, these specially inked and preserved curses could cause their own vile brands of trouble.
"B-But you don't look...” Sam trailed off again in uncertainty. “Something should have happened by now."
That was the kicker.
Unless you were the one that wrote the thing, it was impossible to tell what that change would entail. Unfortunately, the crazy bitch who'd penned this charming greeting card probably died over three hundred years ago.
“It only lasts a day,” Sam suddenly remembered. “These curses always last a sun up and sun down.”
“Not so bad,” Dean picked his fallen chair up and sagged back in it. “I could use some time off anyway.”
“But maybe it didn’t even work? These things are supposed to take effect upon sight. That’s why they’re shielded in those sachets.”
“I thought that was a little weird too,” Dean said. “So I looked around at some more of dad’s stuff.”
“And according to this book,” Dean tapped a dusty tome in the pile scattered on the table. “The whammy can take a while to soak in.”
“Soak in.” Sam repeated. “That means—“
“That means I don’t have a ton of time to chat about it, Sam.”
Dean withdrew his revolver and rolled the barrel. Leaving the ammunition in a neat pile, he slid out his blade and laid it down on the table beside them.
“You put me downstairs and you don’t let me get past this front door.”
He wasn’t precisely sure what the curse entailed. All he knew was that it could alter the nature of any man’s soul and according to his brother, it would only last one day. Dean wasn’t sure if he’d inherit a new set of fancy fangs or an overwhelming urge to write gothic poetry, but whatever it was; it was an unknown situation that had to be treated accordingly. He felt through his pockets for anything he might have missed: A pocketknife, a book of matches, a sheathed razor blade.
“This is crazy,” Sam swallowed.
“Sure is,” Dean agreed as he found the forgotten .32 strapped to his ankle. “Think of it like, I dunno, I just was exposed to some extremely hazardous materials. Instead of a humiliating strip down by those guys with high pressure hoses, I get the fun of being locked up in a basement.”
Sam watched the careful gun disassembly, but Dean knew when his brother’s mind was elsewhere. The heavy silence meant that brain was running at around 500mph to comply a logical series of actions which would result in a solution to the current situation. The thing was that Dean had been doing some pondering on that problem himself. More often than not, they both tended to reach the same conclusions no matter how many different twists and turns their minds might make.
“We’ll call Bobby.” Sam said. “He knew all about dad’s lock boxes so maybe he knows about this one too.”
“I called him already.”
“And?” Sam held out his hands in exasperation. “What did he say?”
“He said he’d call me back.”
Dean slammed down the hand piece a little harder than he intended.
“He’ll call when he knows something we don’t.”
“We can call someone else.”
Dean was used to hearing his brother’s anger get mixed up in his fear. It was hard to sort one from the other if you weren’t paying attention.
“We can call Joshua, or Ellen, hell we could even call Bela if we have to because we can’t just sit around and—“
Dean looked up at Sam’s odd and abrupt silence.
“What?” Dean asked. “What is it?”
“You,” Sam sounded almost apologetic. “You look … different.”
Glancing over his shoulder, Dean caught the cloudy broken corner of a wall mirror that once covered the living room wall. At first, Dean couldn’t discern anything unusual from his creased jeans, three day used T-shirt and the usual lack of sleep on his face. However, as he peered closer he saw the look of his eyes wasn’t quite the norm.
They weren’t green.
The pupils had changed to a flat dull orange.
“Looks like we’d better hurry this along,” Dean suggested.
As soon as Dean got a good look at the basement, he knew it wouldn’t work.
He knew himself, and this cellar had no real possibility of containing him. On a good day, he could bust out of this place with his eyes closed. If some black mojo was about to cross all his wires he’d need a lot more than a door to keep in him in one place. For all he knew this curse was going to create a high-powered desire to leave the immediate premises in search of human brains. The single latch door at the top of the stairs wasn’t going to do the trick.
Sam had hesitantly followed him down into the cellar but hadn't ventured more than a few feet from the splintered plank steps.
Dean spotted a sturdy chair and dragged it into the middle of the room. There was only one light bulb down here and it was hanging bare on a cord. Dean thought it was theatrically fitting. If he was going to be spending 24 hours painfully confined for the safety of others, it might as well look the part. Dean dug into the duffel bag until he found what he was looking for.
“Are you serious?” Sam frowned at the thick roll of duct tape in Dean’s hands. “You want me to attach you to a chair?”
“What I want and what I need are a few worlds apart at the moment dude.”
Sam caught the tossed tape and backed one step closer to the stairs. He turned the bulky round shape uncertainly in his hands as he gnawed on the inside of his lip. Dean knew that song and dance.
“Look, if it comes to that, I’ll do it but until then we'll just wait and see—“
“Do it now, Sam.” Dean took a seat.
“I’ll lock the door,” Sam promised. “I’ll be right here. And if I see anything—“
“Sam,” Dean lowered his voice. “I don’t feel right.”
“What?” Sam quickly dropped the waiting-it-out scheme. “What is it?”
“I can...” Dean clenched his jaw and uneasily rested his elbows on his knees. “I can feel it.”
There was a moment of silence as Sam reluctantly came closer.
Dean wasn’t exactly lying. He did feel cold, and his skin had started that achy burn to it when a good flu was on the way. But the condemned house they were squatting in didn’t even have a furnace in its gutted basement and they had woken up to a dusting of snow on their unkempt front lawn. Dean tried to think up something, anything else that would convince his brother it was time to start the tape unrolling, but no articulate imperatives were coming his way. He shifted his gaze downwards, suddenly unwilling to let Sam get a decent look at the bizarre orange tint that now filtered his vision.
The thought of it slowly spreading into the whites of his eyes turned his stomach.
“Does it hurt?” Sam asked quietly.
“Your eyes,” he said. “The curse.”
“Oh yeah,” Dean assured with a nod. “Real bad.”
In all actuality, he couldn’t feel a damn thing besides tired. But if Dean knew how to do anything it was how to light a fire under Sam’s ass. Dean didn’t want to be trying to convince Sam to do the job when his cursed skin suddenly decided it was going to flip inside out.
Dean held out his wrists expectantly on the armrests.
“I-I’ll just do your hands,” Sam said.
Dean listened to the dry screech of tape and held back his small smile of triumph. However, with the battle won, the dread he was keeping stuffed underneath the victory now quickly simmered back up to the surface. He had no delusions whatsoever on the nature of things his father had hidden away in that dank storage locker. His dad wasn’t a man that worried too much about something that left a nasty sting. The man had dedicated his life to seal away the things that could not only destroy lives, but utterly dismantle them piece by piece.
He shut his eyes and forced himself to breathe like a normal person. When he opened them again his right hand was already lashed to the armrest. The sight of the professional efficiency immediately comforted him. But just as Sam leaned down to kneel at his opposite side, something abruptly jerked into focus in the corner of Dean’s eye.
“Wait,” he automatically said.
Sam stilled, warily looking around the dim cellar around them.
Dean blinked in the gloom unable to pinpoint what it was that had caught his attention. The single light bulb spread a pool of light that met every wall. He squeezed his eyes shut again. He hadn’t gotten a good look at whatever it was that flashed in his peripherals but it had sort of resembled a face.
It looked like an elongated red face that was missing its eyes.
There weren’t a whole lot of things that played his nerves but not being in control of his own mind happened to be one of them.
“What’s wrong?” It was a stupid question and Sam knew it, but it was as involuntary as Dean’s warning. “Everything okay?”
“I dunno,” Dean breathed. “I-I’m not sure.”
“I’m almost done,” Sam said. “Don’t worry.”
Breaking out in a cold sweat, the feel of Sam’s hands on his skin felt foreign and repellent. Dean shook his head back and forth, his vision sluggishly settling back to normal. He bit back a gasp as a sudden gush of pain rushed behind his eyes. The image of the strange face flickered once again, the glistening outline of the grotesque features more solid in its shape. It stuttered in the darkness behind his eyelids before he forced them open again.
“You still with me, Dean?”
“There’s something in here.” His tongue felt numb in his mouth. “Did you- did you see that?”
The room lurched sickeningly to its side before slowly righting itself.
“Y-You should leave.” Dean felt the disgusting churn of nausea begin to weigh in his gut. “Get out of here.”
“On a Monday night?” Sam forced a weak laugh as he tightened a strip across Dean’s chest. “Bars are all closed.”
Dean’s skin prickled down his spine as Sam brushed against his leg and accidentally knocked their shins together. The pain caused an urge to stand up. Startled, Dean made fists to keep from ripping his free left hand out of his brother’s grasp.
“Is that too tight?” Sam yanked the silver tape taut. “Can you feel your fingers?”
Dean always heard Sam use that even tone when a stranger was on the verge of panic.
“You gotta talk to me, man,” Sam said. “How’s it feel?”
Concentrating on the question, Dean experimentally wrenched his forearms up as hard as he was able. There wasn’t much give but he knew that with some concerted effort he’d be free in less time than any curse was going to take.
“D-Do it right.”
Sam nodded and rolled out another strip the length of his arm.
Dean gritted his teeth as his ankles and calves were pulled awkwardly to the splayed shape of the chair, a method they'd been trained to secure anyone considered high risk. He found himself staring at Sam’s hands as they worked, his fingers proficiently pulling through the sticky tape as easily as a slick piece of rope.
“Yer all set.” Sam sounded a lot more composed than he looked. “I’m gonna call Bobby, and I’m going to see if he has anything about —“
“It won’t matter.” Dean heard himself say. He ground his trapped hands into shaking fists. “All this won’t matter.”
Sam stood up and stepped backwards.
The words that were forming were strange on his tongue but it felt good to keep saying them anyway. Every syllable took a piece of the strain away pressing at the inside of his skull. Each full word felt like a relief.
“Because there’s nothing wrong with me, Sam.”
He felt like smiling so he did.
Sam stared back at him, his hands working at his sides. Dean wasn’t sure what his eyes looked like now, but however they appeared, it wasn't good. Without another word, his brother was searching his jean pockets for a telephone.
“Go ahead.” Dean nodded. “Tell Bobby I said hi.”
Dean paused, dazed and confused. He had no idea why he had just said that. He wanted to explain to Sam that he hadn’t meant it. He wanted to say what he was screaming inside his head but nothing would come out. Sam turned away when someone picked up on the other line. Dean’s throat worked as rage coursed through his body. Words spewed from his mouth before he could even think of how to form them aloud. The pounding in his head grew into a noise so loud he didn’t understand why Sam wasn’t alarmed or distracted by its roar. This entire plan had been a mistake. He’d explain it to Sam. He would make it perfectly clear how this had all been a grave misunderstanding. His brother would understand. Sam would let him go.
Sam was somewhere nearby talking. His voice was too low, murmuring with a frantic urgency that Dean only heard when they were in real trouble.
The tape encircling his limbs and chest was too tight. Dean’s vision tunneled as everything started to brighten into a blinding shade of white. He couldn’t draw in enough air. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t move—
Dean realized that the long red face was back.
He struggled to look up at it where it hung, disembodied, from the basement floor. The dark bloodied stretch of it pulled into an obscene grin that dropped down towards the floor like hot wax. It wasn’t flickering or fading in the stark light of the bulb. Before he could help it, Dean let his stomach heave and the vomit splash down the front of his chest. Sam’s hand was gripping his shoulder, his voice saying that it was all going to be fine. An endless litany that assured him it would all be well.
Bobby was on his way.
He would figure it out.
Dean gaped at the shimmering countenance as its vulgar mouth impossibly stretched. Leaving its grin behind, it pulled like soft taffy into another grossly exaggerated emotion. Instead of misshapen mirth, its hollow mouth had widened to emanate a deep howl of frenzy. Dean squeezed his eyes shut, the cutting keen of its hideous shriek forcing him to hunch down in a useless gesture to defend himself. Sam heard him wheeze in pain and instantly his grip on Dean’s shoulder became harder. The wailing reached such a fevered pitch that Dean felt warm blood flow from his nose and pool hotly over his upper lip.
Sam’s voice lowered softly and was next to his ear so he wouldn’t miss a word. He was telling Dean not to be afraid. Sam was telling him that he’d be right at his side until it had all passed. Dean didn't have to look his brother in the eyes to know that he was the only one in this basement witnessing any of this. Sam was not seeing or hearing anything unusual at all.
Dean silently hoped there really was a plan.
Because if there wasn't, his brother's repertoire of plausible reassurances wasn't going to last much longer.