The feeling of chaos is what hit Dean first.
It was so thick he could literally feel it wash over his body. The noises around him sounded like he was underwater, the shattering boom of bombs going off and the screams of his fellow men were almost muted in his ears. He tried lifting his face out of the mud to see what was going on, but his head felt heavy and full of led, the blood dripping into his eyes kept him from seeing barely anything anyways.
The strain became overpowering as he let himself collapse back unto the blackened ground he had passed-out on in the first place. He could feel himself slipping in and out of unconsciousness, time seemingly far out of his reach.
Another bomb went off.
It was close.
The aftershock seemed to yank him back to semi-awareness, allowing him to blink his eyes open weakly. The noises of what was going on around him were slightly clearer now.
He wished they weren’t.
Dean slowly became aware of voices distinguishing themselves from the chaos. Almost as if two people were walking towards him. He tried not to panic, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, relaxing his body to blend in with the corpses that littered the ground. Their desperate conversation began to filter into Dean’s mind as he lay there.
“This war was supposed to be us against DEMONS! Not HUMANS!! Why is Michael ordering us to massacre God’s greatest creations!?? THEY ARE INNOCENTS!”
“Shut your mouth with this insolence! These humans are in alliance with Lucifer so by hurting them we hurt him. Why do their lives even matter to you?! They are mud monkeys! Not even worthy of our acknowledgment except in their destruction!”
“You are truly led astray if you believe that, my brethren.”
“It is not I who is in the wrong state mind on thi-… Oh look, I think that one’s still alive.”
Dean nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound, his eyes flying open by their own volition. He immediately caught sight of the two angels, one of them removing his blade from his fellow soldier’s now severed head.
He could see the outlining shadows of their enormous wings against the flashing night sky. Glancing over at the second angel, he froze.
His eyes were locked with a vibrant blue gaze, eyes shining brightly with power and angelic grace. It felt as though the angel was looking through his eyes, passed his body, and into his very soul.
He was going to die.
There was a brief beat of stillness, then the blue-eyed angel turned to his compatriot and jerked his head in the opposite direction of where Dean was laying.
“Come Uriel, it is time we headed back to command.”
Dean’s muscles relaxed from their tensed position as he watched the two beings depart. The one with the blue eyes never glancing back, purposefully not acknowledging Dean’s existence.
Then not a minute later he felt a hand on his shoulder, gripping him tightly. “Come on brother, you still with me? Dean?” When Dean nodded numbly in response, he felt himself being hauled to his feet and an arm wrapped around his waist. “We’re falling back brother, we ain’t winning this one today.”
Dean woke with a start.
His eyes flying open and his muscles tensed. He could feel his breath sucking in and out of his lungs at a near-painful speed. Slowly he allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkened room he was lying in, habitually taking stock of his surroundings.
Motel. He was in a motel.
Glancing over to the right, the long body of Dean’s little brother could just be made out under the lump of excessive covers and blankets on the nearby bed. On the bed beside that one lay his father, much in the same state of unconsciousness.
Dean lifted himself to seated from his position on the couch, stretching out the crick in his neck. He remembered fondly the fight Sam had put up last night at him having to sleep there and not in one of the beds, but Dean had refused to share one with Sam, knowing his nightmares would wake the boy.
Dean glanced at his watch, absently running a hand across his face.
Suppressing a groan, the middle Winchester made his way over to the kitchenette, praying for a cup of coffee strong enough to wipe his exhaustion away for a bit. While waiting for his cup, Dean glanced around the small, dark room almost in fondness. He remembered staying in motels when he was little. The squished living space that somehow felt safe and comfortable, sleeping side-by-side with his family.
He had been living in barracks and even jail cells for so long…
Quickly blinking away the memories, he grabbed the coffee and made his way outside, leaning leisurely against the outside wall. The next three hours were spent staring at the sky.
The motel door was thrown open as Dean’s long-limbed moose-of-a-brother stumbled outside. “Dean! There you are!” Clear relief washed over the young man as he spotted his older brother. He made his way to plop down next to him on the cracked sidewalk. “What are you doing out here?”
Dean silently shrugged a shoulder, still watching his gangly brother in amusement.
Sam fiddled with his hands for a second before looking back over at his brother. “I was afraid you’d left us, for a second there…”
The amusement drained Dean’s face as the words sunk in. His brother was still worried he’d lose him again. Not that Dean was really shocked by the misinterpretations of his feelings towards his family. There was no doubt that he had been withdrawn and quiet around them. Although more so silently angry with John.
He sighed, slinging an arm around Sam’s shoulders to pull his brother in closer. “I’m sorry Sam. I know I’ve been kinda withdrawn, I just… I’m processing a lot right now. You know? Getting away from Lucifer, running into you and John after ten years… it’s a lot.” He tilted his head to catch Sam’s gaze. “But I’m not going anywhere, okay? I made you a promise. And I don’t break those.”
Sam nodded silently, lowering his eyes.
The dejected look was really hurting Dean’s soul. He just wanted to make his little brother smile again. He hated knowing that his issues were affecting Sam. Dean took a deep breath before turning back to his brother. Time to fake till you make it.
“So, Dad said that we wouldn’t be able to cross over into Angel Territory until after dark. You want to go hang out till then? Just you and me?”
The shaggy brown head popped up in excitement, “Really?!”
“Yeah, man. We’re like two miles away from a city, let’s head over there and see if we can find some fun!” The teasing grin that managed to slide unto his face made him proud of his acting abilities, he might have even been able to make his eyes shine with this one.
“I’ll go tell Dad we’re heading out!” The little moose leapt to his feet and sprinted inside.
It only took about ten minutes for Sam to convince John to let them go, Dean waiting patiently outside while his brother dealt with negotiations. He took advantage of the moment to steel himself against the amount of happy pretense he’d have to put up today.
Within twenty minutes they were on the road to civilization.
The brothers weren’t sure exactly what the name of this city was, but they were pretty sure “Den of Iniquity” would be an accurate title.
It wasn’t even ten o’clock yet, but all the bars and strip clubs had already opened and filled to the brim with occupants. Apparently apocalypses drove people to drink more. Who knew?
There were tall skyscraper buildings lining the main strip, which Sam eyed warily, hoping the decrepit things wouldn’t collapse on them. Without a doubt, this place must have been very impressive before the War, but now the description of “shady” was a gross understatement, and it was only early morning.
“Alright!” Dean called out, slapping his hands together in glee, “Where do you want to start?”
A raised eyebrow was the first response he received before Sam finally glanced around and spotted a breakfast-ish looking diner farther down the road. “Why don’t we start there? Grab some breakfast. I’m starving.”
Dean’s playful grin wavered for a moment before he bowed low and swept his arm out dramatically, “Lead the way little brother. Lead the way.”
Flashing his brother a mischievous smile, Sam asked, “Race ya there?”
Before Dean could respond, Sam was sprinting towards the diner, his laughter floating behind him. Chuckling to himself, Dean followed in pursuit, making sure to not let himself run quite as fast as his little brother.
Sam swerved past a young couple and creamed straight into an elderly lady, scrambling to his feet and throwing apologies over his shoulder as he continued his sprint. Dean genuinely laughed at the shocked and horrified look on the woman’s face.
Sam managed to just barely make it to the diner before Dean skidded to a stop beside him.
“Ha! Beat ya!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever Sasquatch. I’m just impressed you managed to control those bambi limbs enough to not hit every old lady on the way here.” Dean laughed, noting Sam’s reddening face.
“I still beat you.” Sam mumbled pretending to look hurt.
Scoffing, Dean just rolled his eyes and opened the diner’s door, “After you, fine champion.”
After ordering breakfast, Sam inhaling his eggs and bacon, Dean picking at his soggy waffles, they made their way over to one of the clubs. Nowadays, no one really checked ID anymore, so long as you didn’t look like a child, no one asked questions. And Sam being only eighteen didn’t even cause an eyebrow raise.
The bar was packed, people dancing in a sweaty haze on the open floor, small amounts of fresh air wafting through the large shattered windows that lined the front wall. About five fist fights broke out in a span of ten minutes, but Dean just grinned and whispered to Sam, “Well sure is my kinda place. Classy..”
They ordered a couple of beers, flirted with a couple of women, and also men in Dean’s case but Sam didn’t comment on that. The next few hours were filled with a lot of obnoxious laughter and stale ale, but Sam had to admit, he had fun.
By the time they were headed back to the motel, the tipsiness had faded to a light buzz as the boys walked in companionable silence.
“Yeah, Sammy?” Dean replied, glancing over to his right.
Dean felt a swell in his chest and boy did he want to pull a chick-flick move right now. But instead, he just smirked and said, “Anytime little brother. Anytime.”