It wasn’t even an idea really, it was too crazy and not at all thought out; it was just an action, a little compulsive twitch. Dean didn’t even know where it came from.
Well, maybe he did.
But be that as it may, it happened on a Friday night. Unfortunately, by that time he was drunk off his ass and just about ready to take the chick he’d been talking to into the back of the Impala to show her how it’s done. Everything was so fucked and he was so numb that he’d gone back to old patterns even though he knew he didn’t want them, knew it wouldn’t make things any better. He just needed something to do, and so while Sam acquired larger and deeper shadows beneath his eyes staying up at the computer, researching, he went out.
Amidst chatter and the raucous sounds of pool and old glassware clunking against tables, the ring sat heavy in his jacket pocket, all classic heavy gold and a bright stamp of sigils like a crest upon its flat surface. Dean closed his fingers around it mid-sentence, a meaningless habit he’d formed since acquiring it, and he rolled it around in his hand.
“What’ve you got there?” The girl said. Katherine, she’d said her name was. She was dark skinned, with long soft hair and sinuous curves that Dean could see himself doing a whole lot with.
“Hm? Nothin’,” he said easily, taking his hand away.
Playfully, she reached in instead. Before Dean could stop her, she had the ring delicately between her fingers.
“This is pretty,” she said, studying it. “Why aren’t you wearing it?”
“Shouldn’t,” Dean replied, but he at least had the drunken wherewithal to take it back immediately. “It isn’t mine.”
“You didn’t steal it, did you?” Her eyes glinted. He smiled at her.
“And what if I did?”
She prodded at it in his grip, so that it slipped over onto the tip of his forefinger. “Well, that would be very naughty,” she said, with a raised eyebrow. She looked down at his hand. “But then again, it does look rather good on you.”
“A lotta things do,” Dean grinned, a little too widely.
She returned the expression slyly, her whole body switching gears from demure to overt. “I’ll bet.”
Dean felt his expression go from easy to stiff. He hoped she didn’t notice. Taking his hand out of her grip, he stuck it back in his pocket, and leaned back slightly. He steered the conversation elsewhere, back to small talk, nothing personal, toning down the flirting just enough to start to give opposing signals. It wasn’t like he hadn’t done it before, or had it done to him. He just...wasn't feeling it anymore. It was becoming a regular occurrence.
Fuck Famine and his psychotherapy bullshit.
So after a few more minutes, the girl didn’t seem all that surprised when he knocked his last beer back and stepped away from the bar.
“I’m afraid I’ve gotta take an early night,” he murmured, excuse coming easily. “Just remembered I got some work to do.”
She pouted halfheartedly, but let him go without comment. It was early yet, bar-wise, and Dean was not the only fish in the sea. He exited to the parking lot with his hand still feeling the contours of the ring around the tip of his finger.
By the time he got back to the motel, Sam was asleep, sprawled out with a book near his face, all limbs akimbo over the bedspread. Dean sat heavily across from him, the weight of alcohol in his gut resonating against the weight of guilt and fear and emptiness, like his whole body was an echo chamber just amplifying nothingness upon nothingness.
It was quiet in the room, except for Sam's breathing. But wasn’t peace. It was just another night of waiting. And he hadn't even brought anything back to take his mind off of it. Figures.
Dean was so tired. But as soon as his eyes closed, Michael would be there.
It had been getting more frequent. Cas shielded it most of the time, drew sigils across his brow, but sometimes Dean didn't let him, couldn't bear to sense the light fade in the angel just that bit more. Ever since they got back from the seventies, he'd been feeling the angel's decline, like a spreading bruise working its way outward, sensitizing skin, weakening it.
So sometimes Dean passed out without assistance. And then Michael was there, still wearing John Winchester's young and guileless face, turning it into something sharp and inexorable. Dean just turned away from him, couldn't bear to look him in the face anymore, and since it was his dream, dammit, no one else could see how he closed his eyes, played blind and deaf as the archangel spoke to him, invaded his space, coaxed and prodded. He'd save his anger for when he showed up in person again, if he ever managed to. In sleep, he couldn't bring himself to fight. So he'd just ignore it, and wake up exhausted.
The ring flipped over and slid around as he pushed his palm lazily against the sheets. He'd forgotten it was still there. He gazed at it, this strange relic of the Horseman, halfway down his left forefinger, caught on his second knuckle.
You can't fight city hall, Michael had said.
How did one wage a war against Heaven and Hell?
Dean spun the ring once, twice. Pushed it down past the second knuckle until it hit the sensitive webbing between his fingers. It tingled slightly. But like the girl said—it did look rather good.
He couldn’t remember why he never wore it in the first place.
He snorted to himself, wiped his newly adorned hand across his eyes and lay back against the pillows that smelled of age and dust motes. He closed his eyes, letting the suggestion of the idea fade into nothing.
It was all so ridiculously hopeless anyway.