Actions

Work Header

Half City Lights

Chapter Text

Magenta Skycode: Go Outside Again

It starts with a knock on Dean Winchester’s door, followed by a heavy thud.

Dean lifts his gaze to look at the mountains that rise tall and snowy across the lake and frowns. He placed an order for some marine architecture books last night, but it couldn’t be them yet. Salespeople never find his house, and he can’t even begin to think how little possibility there is for a surprise friend visiting him.

It doesn’t matter, though. Soon enough, the knock is repeated, followed by a kick.

There’s only one person who kicks down doors if he’s being ignored, and that’s…

Dean groans loudly and hops onto his feet. He drags himself through the dark kitchen — the natural light only hits it before sunset — and into the hallway before opening the door to none other than Sam Winchester himself. He’s got one of those condescending looks on his face, but he pulls Dean in for a hug nonetheless.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” he mutters against the top of Dean’s head, the tall bastard, “I worried when you didn’t answer your phone after telling me to fuck off.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean says, “why wouldn’t I be okay?”

“So he had a good reason to leave several days before you expected and drive all the way here to strong-arm you,” Jess, Sam’s wife, says. She pushes Sam away to hug Dean herself, “so please, just play along.”

“Great, just what I need.”

“He was also worried sick.”

“In that case, thanks, I guess. For looking after me.”

“Are you not going to invite us in?”

“Of course,” Dean says with a one-sided shrug.

“Fair warning: he won’t take no for an answer,” Jess grins and slides past Dean into the house.

“Fuck,” Dean mutters, mostly to himself, and makes way for his moose brother to enter as well.

 

Sam and Jess got engaged two months ago, and neither one seemed to be very interested in planning anything extravagant. Jess’ parents were willing to lavish money on something extravagant for their only daughter, but such trappings didn’t interest her, and neither did the local church. Instead she proposed a small wedding, with only close friends, but in an exotic destination of their choice. Sam had told Dean excitedly when they agreed, and Dean had clenched the phone in his hand hard enough to almost break, knowing his brother would demand that he travel overseas despite his terror of flying. . Sure enough, he’d gotten a Save the Date postcard telling him only that they’d be going to a ‘surprise destination’ from Amsterdam. He wished them the best and refused every time Sam begged him to reconsider. Dean wants to believe Sam wouldn’t drive here hoping he’d convince Dean to step into a metal cage of death in the sky, but he knows that’s exactly why they’re here dragging all their luggage with them.

Dean makes them coffee and digs up some chocolate chip cookies from the pantry. They sit at the bar table of his open concept kitchen for a couple of quiet beats before Sam starts speaking.

“So, I got that job,” he says. “The one I told you about before, well, that whole fuck-off thing.”

“At that environmental place? Shit, man, that’s awesome!” A note of enthusiasm sneaks into Dean’s voice. “I knew you’d get it.”

“All of us did, except for you,” Jess hums dreamily, pushing a lock of Sam’s hair behind his ear, “you’re too modest for your own good.”

Sam manages a smile. “Yeah. And I’m still grateful that none of you told me not to go after my dream. So, anyway, Dean. I know we talked about this and you said no like a hundred times-”

“I will say no again, Sam, so help me God.”

“I know. It’s… I really want you there. I’ve promised to pay for your expenses, knock you out-”

“Please, don’t. ”

Sam gives him a pensive look, his face determined and sly, like he’s got an ace up his sleeve and he’s just been waiting for Dean to call.

“I can still sweeten the deal for you. You know the invitation just had the first point where we’d all meet, and the final destination  is still a secret.”

“Yeah, and it seems like you’ve got plenty of friends willing to travel on the Moore’s dime. ”

“I don’t enjoy your tone,” Jess huffs. “My parents want to do this, and  it’s not like everyone we invited is coming. But, yeah, we’ve got a group of wedding guests coming.”

“He’s just jealous,” Sam says, and Dean scoffs before nodding and mouthing ‘yeah, I am’. “Are you listening to me?”

“No. Even mentioning traveling is making me nauseous.”

He finishes his coffee before he’s too sick to do so, and pushes cookies in his mouth.

“Really?” Sam says, looking at the crumbs falling on the table, “is your final word going to be no? You won’t attend your brother’s wedding? Your only brother? The only family you have?”

“Final answer. Now, can we please talk about something else? I want to hear about your new job.”

“There’s one more thing I’m going to say,” Sam mutters. “After that, I’m done trying to persuade you.”

“You’ve got your fucking travel gear with you. There’s nothing you can say that would change my mind since, apparently, you’re heading to the airport from here.”

“Mykonos.”

Dean perks up despite himself, and that flash of intrigue is where Sam strikes.

“I know you want it, Dean. You’ve always wanted it.”

“Oh, that’s a low blow. Sam, don’t be like this. You’ve always talked about a city-”

“We can travel to Athens afterwards. There’s vast history in the islands of Greece that we want to discover,” Jess states, “but more than anything, we really, really want you on board. If this is what it takes to have you by Sam’s side for our wedding, then it’s the only place for us to go.”

Dean sighs. His eyes automatically travel towards the bookshelf on the back end of his living room.

Damn , Sam is right. Dean really wants this, for a host of reasons that no one but Sam truly knows.

 

Dean walks along the lakeside, rolls his shoulders and finally takes a seat on the nearby dock. Almost automatically, he strips off his boots and socks and lets his feet fall into the water. He wiggles his toes and sighs.

The view in front of him is familiar, but it’ll never stop being stunningly beautiful. Tall, stony mountains rise across the clear water, the sky is turning orange in symphony with the setting sun, and the air is clear enough to feel like it’s piercing Dean’s lungs. Montana’s late July days are almost uncomfortably warm for him, but having a natural swimming pool right next door takes the edge off that. Besides, bodies of water — especially calm ones like small lakes — have always made Dean relax and think clearer.

He already knows he’s going to say yes to Sam. It will probably be the only time he ever has to board a plane, and killing two birds with one stone by flying to a location he needs to travel to, eventually, anyway… It’s too good of a deal.

He watches his feet blur in the water and wiggles his toes again. It’s been a long while since he last was at sea. He’d need a tourist guide to take him through the motions of swimming in something that isn’t a shallow lake and possibly has waves in it.

He lets his exhale roll until his lungs are painfully empty, and stretches out the time between breaths. As he inhales again, he lifts his gaze up to the mountains — the firm, strong walls he’s build around himself in fear of change.

He’s ready for something to begin.

*

Dean wakes before his alarm. For a moment, he just lies on his mattress, waiting. For one foggy moment, he doesn’t fully realize it’s the morning of their departure and instead, he thinks about Mykonos. There’s books and notes all over his house about modern research on folklore and gods — mostly those of the ocean kind — and even though he went through them last night, he fears he’s missing some of it. The fear is not unfounded, either; his research has been going on for more than twenty years and there’s bound to be something that gets by his radar.

Greece has always been one of the places he’s been desperate to visit. It’s filled with people still active with lore, especially of that of their gods, so he’s bound to find invaluable information among them. He needs to go see the sights, spot the historically important locations, travel between Greek islands and shit , all of this is already making him very excited.

That is, until he remembers he needs to board a plane in five hours. A dead weight settles on top of his chest at the realization, and he tries to gasp through it to no avail.

Dean stomps his way to the kitchen and splashes his face with water before drinking it straight from his hands. It doesn’t really help, but it clears his mind enough to think of the options. Should he get wasted? The flight is just around 18 hours in total, so it wouldn’t be his personal record. Sam wouldn’t allow it — he’s way too into all things health-related and would remind Dean of the dangers of flying under the influence. He has an entire monologue about the dangers of self-medicating anxiety with alcohol, and Dean still has it etched into his skull,  even though it’s been over ten years since they last flew together.

Besides, he doesn’t want to deal with the consequences right after landing. It’s enough to be jetlagged, but jetlagged and hungover… Nah. Not worth it.

Which leaves him with medication. He has some prescribed pills for insomnia in his drawer, because sometimes summer nights are too hot for him, so surely he could start the trip with eight hours of shuteye?

Sam’s insistent voice comes through his thoughts again, reminding him that like drinking, sleeping pills also indirectly increases the risk of blood clots. Guy’s a damn clickbait article.

Dean groans and packs a couple of pills anyway. Maybe he’ll ask Sam to wake him up after four hours to stretch his legs and pump his ankles. Hell, he should ask Sam to do it for him.

“Hey, man,” a voice says from behind Dean, effectively making him jump.

“Fuck, Sam,” he huffs and turns around to face his moose of a brother, “are you serious? You can’t fucking sneak up on me like that!”

“Why are you awake already? We don’t need to leave until…” Sam lets his eyes wander to the large copper clock on the wall, “Oh, okay. Maybe it’s good to be awake.”

“I can’t exactly sleep. You’re being an ass, and I hate you. Why can’t you do this somewhere I can drive to?”

“Because we want to go to Europe, travel while we can, and if Jess’ parents are willing to foot the bill why shouldn’t we go all out? Besides, you want to go to Greece to catch your gods,” Sam says and rubs his eye, “and I need coffee before I can listen to your whining.”

 

Jess joins them as soon as the coffee’s on the table; she’s got the nose of a fucking bloodhound when it comes to caffeine. They talk about plans that mostly involve sleeping for the first couple of days, and preparing a short-notice ceremony somewhere nice. There’s a lot of things Dean, as the best man, needs to take care of — but he’ll get help from Bela, the maid of honor. It’s been a while since he met her and it only happened twice, but he’s certain they’ll get along just fine.

Too soon, they pack their stuff in Sam’s hybrid RAV4. After the anxiousness that didn’t fully form into a panic attack in the morning, it’s been hard for Dean to fully grasp reality. He knows it’ll hit him at the airport, but for now, he closes his eyes and listens to the steady hum of the vehicle.

He’s packed enough lore to last him through the two weeks he’s going to spend in the islands of Greece. He imagines rocky shores, crystal waters and white sand; he imagines white buildings and creeks and flowers; he imagines laughing people and hidden caverns until his heart is about to burst. He needs to do this. He wants to do this.

The closest airport from Dean’s house at Lake Josephine is either Glacier Park International or Lethbridge; and this time, they’re driving up to Canada. It’s a bit over an hour and a half spent in semi-awkward silence — Jess and Sam both want to talk about upcoming adventures, but they know it’d likely bring Dean to the brink of another panic attack. Instead, they talk about the office turtles that Jess spends her days with, Sam’s salary, and salad recipes. It’s pointless, idle chatter, but Dean is almost grateful for it — until he remembers it’s Sam and Jess’ fault he’s in this situation to begin with.

Dean’s wiring doesn’t fully connect when they’re checking in, or when they go through security, or when they purchase snacks and drinks from the tax-free stores on the other side of the security gates. He absently watches the planes disappear into the pitch-black darkness of Canadian sky, and wonders if there are people who do this daily. Is this normal for someone? What could he learn from a person like that?

It’s not until their passports are checked and they’re pushed into a makeshift aluminum hallway tube that Dean’s feet stop working.

“Okay, this was fun,” he breathes out and lets his body drag him to the floor, “see you.”

“Dean,” Sam says, calm but firm, “we can’t stay here.”

“That’s right, we can’t. This is a no-place between Heaven and h- Sam, are we in Purgatory?”

“Get yourself together, man,” Jess whispers. “You can do this. You’re not alone.”

Dean shrugs.

“I’m not even afraid up here,” he says, pointing at his temple, “but my feet won’t work.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m bigger than you,” Sam huffs and yanks Dean by his wrists, but it’s not really painful. “We’re causing a scene, and you hate it more when your anxiety draws attention to you. Is that what you want right now?”

“If that means I can stay.”

“There’s nothing in the world that is keeping you here,” Sam mutters, “unless you’re going to die right now.”

“Don’t test me, so help me god, Sammy. It can be arranged.”

Jess makes a half-gasping sound and looks around nervously, obviously already afraid they’re going to be thrown out due to suicide threats.  “Please don’t bring security down on our heads because you’re shouting about self-harm, please, Dean!”

Sam finally succeeds in getting Dean on his feet, and somehow, he’s dragged inside the plane. It reeks of disinfectant and fake leather, and Dean is stuffed next to the window before Jess and Sam take care of their carry-ons. Dean instinctively clicks his seatbelt closed and tries to inhale, and exhale. It’s no use — he’s feeling a sense of dread that can only be caused by knowing he’s going to die; there’s no way he can escape this plane now, and his brother is being an unreasonable ass in letting him die like this.

“This is a good starting point,” Sam insists, trying to soothe Dean’s anxiety with logic, “the flight’s only fifty minutes. We can do this. You can do this.”

“Don’t think you’re going to make me forget the eight plus hours we’re going to be flying across the fucking Atlantic,” Dean hisses. “You’re not fooling anybody.”

Sam pats Dean on his arm and focuses on talking with Jess. When the engines turn on, Dean grits his teeth and briefly thinks he’s going to pass out. He’s angry at Sam and Jess for doing this to him, for behaving like jerks, and now ignoring him completely -- except that this is exactly what he’s asked of Sam in the past. They’ve flown together before, and if there’s anything that amps up Dean’s anxiety, it’s anyone hovering and fussing around him. They’ve long since established that it’s best for Sam to just get him in, because if he doesn’t  they’re going to spend hours trying to soothe him, only for his anxiety to return as soon as they’ve entered the plane. If Dean wasn’t so anxious right now, he’d be proud of Jess adapting to the situation this well, but he’ll appreciate them rationally once he lives.

*

Amsterdam is bustling with traveling families, businesspeople, couples, and what look like sports groups. As Dean walks among them, he stretches out his fingers — they’re stiff from all the handle-grabbing he did over the Atlantic.  He can’t say the ocean isn’t beautiful, though. It’s different from his little lake; far more than he could handle on a daily basis, but even so, he’s looking forward to seeing the Mediterranean Sea.

They’ve got a couple of hours to kill before boarding the plane to Athens, and Jess and Sam spend it shopping. Dean slumps into one of the row of seats currently unoccupied and lets his gaze travel among the people.

Is anyone as afraid of flying as he is? He knows it’s one of the most common fears people have. How come they hide it so well, then? Why aren’t there more people overwhelmed in his line of sight right now? A couple of kids are having a nervous time where they’re sitting on the other side of the aisle, but even they are handling it better than Dean was. He’s slightly sorry for the bruises he inevitably caused both Sam and Jess, and hopes they will fade before the wedding.

They’ve now been traveling for more than ten hours and Dean still can’t imagine himself eating. That is saying something, too — there’s a ton of restaurants and cafes all around him selling mouth-watering burgers, pizzas, tacos, and even Mediterranean sandwiches. All Dean can think of is throwing up into a too-small paper bag while thirty-five thousand feet high, and if there’s a whole pizza to get through… Nah, it ain’t gonna happen.

Eventually, Sam and Jess are done shopping. They still can neatly fit everything in their carry-ons, so Dean doesn’t have to offer to carry their nonsense along in his own bag. Sam must mistake his grumpiness for anxiety — which, in all honesty, might be the reason he is grumpy in the first place — and throws him a sympathetic smile.

“How are you feeling? Is the third take-off less nerve-wrecking than its predecessors?”

“Hell, no,” Dean states “Sam, I know you’re a firm believe in facing your fears to get over them, but you’d need to take me for about three hundred thousand rides before I’ll believe it’s not going to kill me. Not that that’s going to happen, though. Mark my words, after I’m done with Mykonos in two weeks and fly home, I’m never boarding a plane again.”

“Ah, never say never,” Jess hums, “you don’t know what will happen.”

“That’s right. Maybe you’ll really hit it off with a local and-”

Dean interrupts Sam with a scoff. “Romance? Are you serious, asshole? You think I’m going to get over my issues with romance?”

Sam bites his lip, and Dean knows he made a mistake by saying issues rather than fear of flying , because now Sam’s thinking about other things he thinks are wrong in Dean’s life — things Dean should fix or get help fixing. Be that as it may, hoping Dean will find a healing-type love is rich even by his about-to-be-married brother’s standards.

“I- of course not, Dean. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like a jerk.”

Dean just lifts his eyebrows and leaves it at that. They’ve been here before. Sam sighs and gives Jess one of their patented couples’ looks that is more telling than words could ever be. Jess looks around for a moment and then leans towards Dean.

“What do you say we’ll go get some snacks for the rest of the flight before we board? You choose, I buy.”

Dean scowls at Sam for a second longer before taking the bait. “Sure. I see it’s a distraction, and it’s not like I could eat anything, but I’ll bite. It’s going to be expensive for you, though.”

 

Air time is shorter again, just over three hours. Sam and Jess buzz about countries they fly over; Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia. When they start talking about the recent history of Eastern Europe, Dean can feel his eyes drooping. It’s unlike him, and the notion almost makes him panic again — but when he opens his eyes again after what feels like a second or two, the seatbelt light is on, his belt is buckled by Sam, probably, and his vertigo suggests they’re descending.

“Morning, Jess says nonchalantly, her gaze fixed on her phone, “Ford or Volvo?”

“Hmm?”

“We’re booking a rental for the duration of our trip. We’ll drive it from the airport to Mykonos. There’s a ferry to take, too, it’s gonna be exciting, “Sam says, “I was thinking Ford, they have a neat hybrid series now. It’s no Chevy, but it’ll do.”

“Both equally suck,” Dean huffs, clenching the seat tighter because the plane is making a tight curve in the air, “take your pick from equally sucking cars.”

Sam and Jess talk quietly while filling out their information for the rental site. Dean watches the plane dive under the layer of clouds — and the sight makes his breath catch. The Mediterranean Sea stretches everywhere he can see — bright turquoise, shimmering, undoubtedly magical. A buzz of excitement runs through his veins as he remembers why he’s agreed to this trip in the first place. He’s ready to get to Mykonos and start his search of whatever he can find, really; gods, more lore, information, and just great locations. It’s with these thoughts in mind that he lands without much panic.

As soon as Dean gets his hands on his luggage, he digs out his notes. It’s still five hours of driving, but since Sam got shuteye while Dean almost fainted over the Atlantic he’s willing to take driving duty, leaving Dean with enough time to look into his latest findings about local gods.

It’s all so vague, though. He’s looked into stories by locals and by people with vast traveling experience around the Greek islands, especially those from less than a hundred years ago; he’s going for recent information, after all. Data about Greek gods since the dawn of time is available for anyone with little to no effort at all, and Dean figures that if there’s gods to be found through ancient chronicles, someone would have done so already.

He does realize it’s all really far-fetched to begin with. There’s no proof of gods existing, let alone sea gods. Still, he keeps on pushing forwards, because for him, they’ve got to exist. As a child he believed in impossible things, as all children do; but there’s a line of demarcation between the time he believed and the moment he knew . Knew that someone miraculous and wonderful had touched his life, had touched him, and it’s colored every facet of his life since. A lifetime of research stemming from a single moment at sea. It’s been a long time since he could lead a “normal” life with “normal” interests, ever since he woke up with the sense that there was something more out there, more than most people know. Sure, Sam might trivialize his interests into something that should lead to romance, but it doesn’t make them any less valuable for Dean.

Shedding all thoughts of his issues and his past, he rolls open the window of the backseat and flips Sam off when he starts complaining about what the pulsating air does to his eardrums. The sea smells of salt, and of fish, and of something far sweeter; it might be wildflowers that carry towards him with the wind.

They drive up to the Grand Hotel Resort at Agios Ioannis, which seems way too extravagant compared to the humble home Dean only just left but already kind of misses. Sam deals with checking in, luckily, and after Dean signs the travel data papers he’s granted his room key and guided to the second floor. Sam and Jess will be staying a couple of rooms over in a honeymoon suite, which is a blessing for obvious reasons.

It’s only 10 am local time, but they agree to meet for dinner around five. Sure enough, Dean falls asleep as soon as his luggage hits the floor. He’s pretty sure he sleepwalks the last couple of steps to his bed, and for now, he remains blissfully unaware of whatever’s going on behind the closed curtains of his room.