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Feathers of Black

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For the second time in his life that he could remember, Dean Winchester was woken by a smell. Not the wretched, awful sulfuric stench that had awoken him the night his mom died. This was another nasty smell – worse than the ever present smell of mold that dominated almost every motel room he and his family slept in. This was a smell he couldn't entirely describe – it also didn't help that he couldn't catch his breath. His lungs hurt as the struggled to awaken, to breathe, to escape whatever was causing that disgusting smell. He hoped Sammy had gotten away from whatever was causing it. His arm thrashed out to touch his brother, and panic seized him when he realized the bed next to him was empty.

The something already had Sammy.

Dean's eyes shot open and he saw the source. A face that could barely be called that, nothing but gray skin and a hint of bones – and the monster's mouth, a great, gaping black hole. The creature suddenly had him in a vise-like grip and he hoped that Sammy had heard the monster and gotten away. Perhaps he was under the bed.

Something changed. The monster suddenly flew off of him and then crumpled as – bullets – slammed into it's body and it crumpled to the floor.

Struggling to sit up, Dean felt a flood of relief. Dad was back. Dad had returned and killed the monster and now everything would be fine. All of that ended abruptly when he found himself being hauled to his feet and shaken. He tried to focus on Dad, to try and understand what he was telling him.

The first slap across his face he was sort of expecting. As well as the second.

Dean blinked a few times, and through the door, in the other room, he could see Sammy, safe and sound and sleeping in a chair. Maybe that's why Dad was angry. Sammy wasn't with him. He was about to try and get to his feet when a sharp sting broke across his back. He instantly curled into a ball as the blows from Dad's belt rained down on him, flinching when Dad kicked him in the side, rolling him onto his back. Still shaking, he grasped the blanket on the bed and, swaying slightly, got to his feet. There now, Dad couldn't be mad. He'd gotten up to take his punishment for falling asleep, for not watching Sammy, for letting a monster get into the room.

The punch came out of nowhere.

Dean coughed, knowing better than to cry. Dad didn't care. But why was Dad so angry? The monster was dead now and they really should be getting out of here. Someone might have heard the gunshots. Another punch and now he had to struggle to watch Dad. He kept pointing at Sam, who, remarkably, was still sleeping.

Lucky Sammy.

Dad's signing was weak, but Dean could make out the gist of it. The monster might have gotten Sam. Sam might have gotten hurt.

Swallowing hard, Dean bowed his head, waiting for another strike, but none came. He looked up through his eyelashes as Dad started gathering things up in the room, shoving them into bags. In silent understanding, Dean changed painfully out of his pajamas, doing his best to ignore the throbbing pain in his back as he pulled a shirt on. He shoved his night clothes into his duffel bag and Dad pointed to the bathroom. Nodding, he made his way across the room and got his and Sammy's toothbrushes from inside. He dropped them and the toothpaste into the big Zip-lock bag they went into and came slowly back into the room, putting the items into the duffel. Dad was getting something from the other room, he guessed. As he stuffed a few more items into the bag, he saw it.

Lying on the bed was Dad's pistol.

He calmly picked up the heavy weapon, turning it over in his hands. Dad had him clean it several times – he knew how to hold it. Dad and Sammy would be better off without him. He swallowed once and lifted the gun upwards, feeling the cold steel of the barrel against his worthless ears. He would go away and be with Mommy. All he had to do was pull the trigger.

Dad came into the doorway and stared at him, his face unreadable.

Dean knew his hand was trembling as he fumbled to find the trigger with his hand. He just needed out of here. Dad would let him go.

Suddenly Dad was running across the room, his angry expression gone and replaced with fear. He grabbed Dean's arm and yanked the gun away from his head. As the barrel cleared his body, Dean knew the weapon discharged, because horrific pain, worse than any beating, ricocheted through his wrist. He didn't see where the gun fell. He found himself being held tightly against Dad, the way he held Sammy after a nightmare.

Dad was crying.

Why was Dad crying?

Dean was suddenly very aware of how hard it was to stay focused and standing. He blinked, the room was getting fuzzy. He wasn't crying, he was certain of that. He felt his legs give out from under him and then, the ground fell away. What was going on?

He was lying on the bed again and Dad had covered him up with the blanket, a look on his face Dean hadn't seen in years. Dad looked concerned. For him. Dad cared. He said something – Dean wasn't sure what it was. He thought it might be 'stay awake' but the urge to sleep – he had to sleep. The room was spinning.

Everything became a blur. Dad packing the rest of their things, putting him in the backseat of the Impala, still wrapped in the blanket. Dean leaned against the door, struggling to do as he was told, to stay awake. Dad buckled Sammy, who was still asleep, lucky kid, into the seat next to him. The world was still moving at an unnatural pace and unnatural rhythm as Dad drove away – and stopped, somewhere.

Dean couldn't keep his eyes focused. He thought he saw Dad cover Sam up so he looked like just a pile of blankets in the backseat. That couldn't be right, Dad wouldn't leave Sammy alone. Cold air bit at his cheeks as Dad pulled him from the backseat, still carrying him. A flash of light – a sign – EMERGENCY ROOM – and then the strong smell of cleaner, sweat and blood filled his senses. The chair he found himself in was hard and uncomfortable, it made it a little easier to stay awake. It was crowded in the ER. Why had Dad brought him here? He just needed some ice, or something.

Dad tucked something into the pocket of his shirt, touched his cheek and got up.

He was probably going to get Sammy.

Letting out a worn breath, Dean did his best to remain conscious. Nurses went by, ignoring him. People coughing, looking wretched and the reek of vomit came and went. He reached up with his hand, the one that didn't hurt, and found his face was swollen. Perhaps Dad didn't know how hard he'd hit him this time.

Maybe Dad wouldn't hit him anymore.

His hand fell and he could see that the room suddenly seemed empty. Then there came a hand on his shoulder and he whimpered. Maybe he'd been making noise for a while, he didn't know. He just wanted to sleep. A face came into view, but it was a stranger.

Where was Dad? What was taking him so long?

More faces.

A man in a white coat and a woman wearing a shirt with butterflies on it. A searing pain in his wrist. A tiny prick of pain on his arm – and then came the merciful blackness.

Dean drifted into the welcoming oblivion with delight. He was certain that when he next opened his eyes, he would be with Mommy. He and Mommy would be together and he would be able to hear. Pastor Jim told him that when he got to Heaven, he would be able to hear and he believed him. Dean didn't care about that so much as being able to be with Mommy. She was the only person who loved him and cared about him.

Dean was certain Sammy loved him a little, but Sammy was only five.

So it wasn't quite the same.

Waking up was a disappointment.

His eyes were still bleary with sleep and his wrist still stung, but Dean knew right away that he wasn't dead. He was in a warm hospital bed and he could see it was snowing outside. At least he mostly comfortable and he turned his head from the window to where the door should be – expecting to see Dad sitting in a chair, holding Sammy. He wasn't.

Dean was alone.

He coughed and closed his eyes. Maybe he'd wake up where he wanted to be next time.