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This Bloody Life

Chapter Text

Don’t Stop.

Don’t Stop.

Don’t Stop.

His breath was coming hard and fast.

 

Keep Running.

Don’t Stop.

Keep Running.

The frozen wind was stinging against his face. Burning in his lungs, igniting flames inside his chest.

 

You can do this Dean.

Don’t Stop

Keep Running.

BREATHE!

 

Dean could hear them chasing behind him. They were getting closer. But it didn’t matter. If he got caught trying to escape…. He was dead anyway. Might as well die from running too hard for too long. It would be less painful.

You can do this…

His head was throbbing, and blood was dripping slowly from his temple. His bruised ribs weren’t helping with the breathing problem, neither were any of his other injuries for that matter…

Dean pushed the pain away, like he had been forced to learn oh so many years ago and pushed his legs to go faster.

He had been in Lucifer’s territory for ten years now, tortured, enslaved, starved, abused, even drafted… the list went on. Now the promise of freedom was so close, he could almost taste it.

You can do this!

Don’t Stop!

Keep Running!!!

The deep mud was making his footing difficult and the dead, broken tree limbs kept tripping him. Before the Great War began, this had probably been a forest of some kind. Now it was nothing but wasteland and death… pretty much like the rest of the earth.

Don’t Stop!!!

Keep Runn- “AHHH!”

Dean felt a searing pain slice through his shoulder, his pace faltering making his feet betray him and throw him to the ground in a heap.

“He’s down! Terminate him!”

Dean felt the blood flowing from his shoulder were the demon had thrown its knife into him. The throbbing in his head was now a roaring pounding, his vision going hazy, threatening unconsciousness.

No…

Dean heard the three demons approaching him rapidly, their footsteps crashing towards him.

I won’t die like this.

Dean was a fighter. He had decided the moment he began his escape that he would either succeed or die trying. There was no other option. And he had come too far to die now. Days on the run. He was so close.

Dean took a deep breath and pulled himself up to a standing defensive position, pulling the demon’s knife out of his shoulder to use against its previous owner.

Here goes nothing… or everything…

The three demons came at him all at once. He began slashing quickly, the knife flashing dangerously in the moonlight. The first demon got hit in the chest, while Dean ducked the second’s punch. He dodged the third’s kick, quickly grabbing its foot and breaking the leg backwards.

“Exorcizamus te….”

Their eyes flicked black as Dean began the exorcism, his only chance of survival. Their attacks quickened with fury at his treasonous speech. But Dean was too good for that. He sped up his attacks in response, his words continuing on.

One landed a hit against his temple and he went down with a scream of pain and frustration.

The mud was mixing with the blood, but the deadly gleam in Dean’s eyes pierced through, and the demons realized in that instant…. They were too late.

“….AUDI NOS!!!”

The demons fell to their knees screaming in agony as black smoke poured out of their bodies. After mere seconds, the demons were gone, and their meat suits dropped lifelessly to the ground.

Did I just…

Dean’s eyes were huge, a slow smile growing on his face. His triumph filtering into his foggy mind.

“YES!!!!!”

The overwhelming emotion of victory flowed down on him. His slightly hysterical laughing filling the dead wood.

“YESSS!!!!”

Tears of joy and relief glistened against a vibrant green.

“I’m still alive…..” He whispered hoarsely in relief.

After a moment to collect himself from his survival, Dean painfully came to a standing, leaning slightly against the tree. His shoulder was not as bad as he had thought, thankfully, it had already stopped bleeding. His temple was sporting a dark bruise, but he’d live.

I’ll live…

Dean gave himself one more moment of reveling before pushing off of the tree and began trudging towards his now almost-assured freedom.

Just beyond this wood was a Midway. One of the few unclaimed areas, possessed by neither Lucifer or Michael, where freedom fighters usually resided in large communities of huts and impoverished, decrepit buildings.

There he would find freedom. Safety. Well, more than normal.

SPNSPNSPNSPNSPSNPSNPSNSPSNSPSNPSNSPSNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPSNPNS

It took hours of limping tiredly through the dead wood, before Dean finally caught sight of the huts. He was exhausted, in pain, and just downright filthy, but he didn’t care. He had made it. Days of being on the run, fighting group after group of demons sent to hunt him down. And he had made it.

As he neared the ram-shackled cluster of buildings, a group of freedom fighters ran out to him. Repurposed water-guns filled with holy water, aimed at him.

“STAY WHERE YOU ARE!”

Dean raised his hands defensively, taking a more relaxed and casual stance.

“Easy there, fellas.”

 The water splashed unto his face and he spat in response. “Really dudes?” He muttered, wiping away the holy water that was dripping from his now soaked hair, merely smearing the mud already there.

“HE’S CLEAR!!!”

With that, the men turned around and gestured him to follow them into the town.

One of the young men, a dirty blonde with grey eyes, smirked at him over his shoulder. “Sorry man. That really is my favorite part though.” He laughed, grinning at Dean, who was trying his best to not look like a wet dog.

“Your compassion overwhelms me.” Dean sneered sarcastically. His sopping footsteps following the young man.

“My name’s Caleb.” The blonde offered, shaking Dean’s hand while they continued walking.

“Dean.”

“Dean. Cool. So, what are you doing out here anyways?”

Dean sighed, running a hand through his blood and mud-spiked hair. “Just got away from Lucifer’s Legion.”

Caleb stopped abruptly, staring at Dean in shock.

“Wh-What?”

Dean turned to him and shrugged his shoulders…. well, one of them. “I just escaped from being imprisoned by Lucifer.”

Caleb’s eyes were wide like saucers. “Oh dude….we are…. SO GOING TO CELEBRATE!!” The young man let out a whoop, his eyes dancing. “I’m paying for rounds. Renegade, you are amazing. Only a handle of people have EVER been able to get away from them. THIS IS SO COOL!”

Dean let out a small laugh, feeling a slight swell of pride. “Yeah, well, as much as I’d love some sweet booze right now, I’m kinda walking wounded here. How about a pit stop with the doc first, yeah?”

“Whatever you say Renegade. Let’s head over to the medics.” Caleb grinned. “THEN, I’m buying rounds.”

He led Dean to a large, crumbling building that looked like it used to be a warehouse or something before the war. Just one big open room full of people. He could see a couple medic signs in the right front corner with a couple cots and curtains that came into view as Dean was led closer.

But just as Dean reached them, he suddenly got the feeling that he was being watched. Subtly glancing to his left, he was met with a hard gaze of dark brown eyes.

He froze.

“Dad…" 

Chapter Text

The crowds of people began to fade away, the noisy bustling and chatter slowly muting.

All Dean could see was that man. 6’ 2”, dark hair, brown eyes. The sheer confidence and power radiating off of him.

“Dad…”

He tried to move. He tried. But his limbs weren’t responding, and his muscles were freezing. His brain started short circuiting like a haywire computer grid.

His hands were trembling, and his knees were weakening. After all those years… he was right there. The man who had left him behind. The man who had left him for dead in that awful place, after they had accidentally wandered into demonic territory. The man who had caused him a decade of pain and nightmares beyond imagining. The man who took only Sammy and ran…Sammy….

Sammy!

Is Sammy here too???

Samm-

Dean was jarred from his thoughts as his father started moving towards him. His unwavering gaze did not falter as he bore down on Dean.

Dean lifted his eyes into the hard gaze staring back at him. Nose to nose with the man who had abandoned him ten years ago.

“…Dean?”

The voice threw him off. It was cracking with emotion. Dean didn’t know how to respond to that. He hated this man. He did something so unforgivable… why was he crying?

Sure enough, there was moisture building in the older man’s eyes as Dean studied him. But that didn’t make any sense. He had abandoned him. Why did he care if he found him again?

“Hi Dad.”

That one small greeting seemed to break down John Winchester’s last walls as he grabbed Dean into a tight bear hug, his shoulders shaking, his hands clutching into Dean’s hair.

Dean was frozen.

He couldn’t respond. Asides from the fact that all his injuries were screaming at him to make it stop, he did not know what to do. He had imagined reuniting with his father many times in the past….but it never looked like this.

“What are you doing here?”

John pulled back slightly to look at Dean’s face. “Passing through. Dean…” His throat caught, “How are you alive??? How did you get out???”

Dean shrugged off his father’s embrace and took a step back, ignoring the look of shock on the older man’s face.

“I got out. Freed myself. Thank you for the help, by the way.” Dean turned and continued his path to the medic station, noticing Caleb staring at him just ahead. Dean was too tired to deal with this right now. Exhaustion didn’t even seem to cover it. This was too much.

“Dean!” John called behind him, the hurt evident in his voice.

“Dean! Look at me boy!” Dean felt a hand grab him roughly at the elbow, jerking him towards his father. “What is wrong with you?? What-“

“Sorry I’m not in the mood for a heart-to-heart Dad. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to get some pretty pretty pills before I collapse into unconsciousness.” He yanked his arm out of John’s grasp and went over to one of the nurses who directed him towards an unoccupied cot.

John suddenly seemed to become aware of how injured his son was. He had been so focused on the fact that his presumed-dead child was right in front of him, breathing, alive. And not a child. A man.

John stared at Dean, fifteen feet away, sitting down carefully on a beat-up cot as though every muscle in his body was burning in protest.

He noticed the blood. The filth. The torn rags that bared some resemblance to what was once clothing. He noticed the sharpness in his cheeks and the chisel in his jaw. He noticed the green eyes, no longer bright and joyful like what he had remembered. Now they were vibrant in defiance and steel, as though they had been tempered like metal with fire and experience. This was no longer the bouncing twelve-year-old boy he had left behind…

This was a soldier... More than that.

A warrior.

The thought hit John like a bus on steroids. What had happened to his son?

Dean tried to ignore the fact that his father was still staring at him and smiled tiredly up at the doctor who was approaching him.

“Hey doc. Do me a favor would ya?” Dean nodded to the makeshift curtain dividers next to the bed. “Pull the curtains before we start?”

The doctor nodded silently, glancing from Dean to John and back to Dean. “Of course, kid.”

SPNSPNSPNSPSNPSNSPNSPSNSPNSSPNSPNSPSNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNS

About an hour later, John watched as the doctor reemerge from behind the hastily-drawn curtain. He began to stride towards the bed when he was suddenly intercepted by a young man with dirty blonde hair.

“Sorry, no visitors here, pal.”

John jerked away from the offender with anger. “That’s my son, boy. I suggest you get out of my way before you start being acquainted with the pavement.” He spat.

Caleb backed away slightly, his arms up in defense. “That may be, but Renegade in there is pretty roughed up. He needs some…. Drama deficient … sleep. ‘Kay?” He glared at John.

John didn’t seem at all intimidated by the scrawny punk. “Listen, kid-“

“He just got free of Lucifer’s Legion. I think he is more than entitled to some undisturbed rest. And from what I’ve seen, you would definitely be a disturbance…..sir.” Caleb sneered. He didn’t know why he was taking such a liking to this kid, maybe it was respect, maybe it was overprotectiveness, he didn’t know. What he DID know, was that this douche bag wasn’t getting anywhere near him until Dean wanted him to.

John’s mouth dropped a little.

“He just got free?” The voice was so small, Caleb almost didn’t hear it.

“Yes. As in…oh! Thirty minutes ago. Now get lost.” Caleb turned on his heels and went to go talk to the doc…. Then maybe flirt with one of the hot nurses if he had time before Dean woke up….

John was shocked.

He JUST got free.

He has been in there for… ten years.

John felt sick. He knew he had made a mistake that night, but he never thought it would lead to this…. He had thought it would have been over quick…

*Flashback*

“Dad, why did we leave the road? It’s dark out here!”

“I know Sammy. This is a short-cut. That means we will get to the next town sooner! Less walking, is always better, right Sammy?”

“This isn’t safe.”

“Safe? Running from angels isn’t safe, Dean. I think you can deal with a few miles of swamp.”

“We still should have stayed on the path…”

“Dean, will you stop your wining?! You’re not helping this situation.”

“Dad…. did you hear that.”

“Your imagination is becoming extremely tiresome, son.”

“No, Dad. I’m serious.”

“I hear it too Dad!”

“Someone’s coming!”

“Damnit! Run boys! Come on!”

“AHHH!”

“SAMMY!!”

“Hand him to me Dean, HURRY!”

“Dad, be careful, they shot his leg…”

“I got him, COME ON DEAN!”

pant…..pant….pant….

“Dad, they’re getting closer!!”

“I know Dean, just keep running.”

Pant…pant…pant…

“Dad…I don’t think those are angels….”

“……”

“DAD!!!! AHHH!”

“Dean!”

“My….shoulder….”

“Come on Dean! Keep running! Damnit Dean!”

“Dad….I can’t keep up….”

“I know, son. You gotta stay with me!”

“Dad….”

THUD.

“Dean!!”

“Dad…”

“Damnit son, I can’t carry you both!”

“Dad…. I ca…can’t run anymore….”

“Damnit Dean! They’re getting closer….”

“Dad…please don…don’t leave me….”

“Dean….I….I can’t carry you both…..”

“Wh…what?”

“I’m sorry Dean…I really am…”

“Dad! D…Dad! Wait!! PLEASE!! DAD!!! DAD COMEBACK!!! PLEASE!!!”

“DON’T LEAVE ME!!!!”

*End flashback*

John sighed. He had thought they’d kill Dean right away… he hadn’t thought they’d… but they had. They had taken him and done god knows what to him for ten years.

He shivered.

Maybe Dean did deserve a little space from him while he slept.

SPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPSNPSNPSNSPNSPNSPSNPSNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNSPNS

“Hey there, sleepy head! About time you started chirpin’ with the birdies!”

Dean groaned and rolled his head to look over at the bright and happy voice that dared interrupt his dark and nightmare-filled sleep.

“Caleb.”

“Yup! And you, my friend, have been sleeping for going on 8 hours now. Apparently you were a little tired. Who knew?”

“Jackass…” Dean muttered. “So what? You been standing vigil over me for 8 hours now? Is your piety filled or your twig and berries hanging limp?” He snarked.

“Neither!” Caleb chirped, his teeth flashing. “I’ve just been checking in every few hours or so after I realized you’d be out for a while, sleeping log that you were.”

“You’re too kind.”

 Caleb’s grin grew wider. “Of course. That’s my defining trait, you know?”

“Oh, believe me, I did not.” Dean grinned.

Caleb chuckled and leaned over to help the quick-witted young man sit up against the metal backboard of the cot.

“So, how’re you feelin’ there, Renegade?”

Dean shrugged. “I got eight hours of sleep. That alone is enough to make me feel better than I have in years.”

Caleb nodded slowly, apparently processing away information.

“You feel like you’ll be up and about soon?”

“Why? You guys got a community marathon going on today or something?”

“NO. Thank God, no. But, uh, some of my superiors heard about you. Apparently they want to have you come over and talk with them. You’re the first person we’ve ever met who has gotten away from those sons of bitches and still lived to tell the tale…They think you could have some very valuable information.”

Dean nodded silently. For a moment, his eyes lost focus and seemed very far away, as though his mind didn’t realize that he was sitting on that hospital bed.

“Yeah….yeah I do….”

Chapter Text

Caleb raised an eyebrow in response. “Oh well that wasn’t ominous. Like, at all. Renegade, you kinda freak me out sometimes. You know that?”

Dean just flashed a toothy grin before pulling back the covers to get out of bed. “What can I say? I have a flare for the dramatics.” He pulled himself up to standing, fighting the wave of nausea that washed over him, and swallowing thickly. “It’s one of my more winning qualities.”

“Uh huh. Whatever you say dude. You okay there?” Caleb glanced at him worriedly, reaching out both hands to help his unsteady friend.

“Mhmm.” Dean closed his eyes, trying to regain his composure. Come on, Winchester. Stop being a wuss. It’s just a few scrapes and bruises. Barely worth your acknowledgement, really.

Caleb watched him closely for another minute before slowly releasing his grip on the younger man’s shoulders. “You good?”

“Yup.”

“You sure?”

“Mhmm.”

Keeping his eyes shut for one more beat, Dean took a deep breath before righting himself and smoothly forcing his cheeky grin back on his face. “Alright, Cowboy. Let’s lock and load. We got a super important town meeting to go to, right?”

“Yeah. Okay. Let’s go.” Caleb bit his lip, in worrying contemplation as his eyes followed him out the warehouse door before following after him quickly.

----------------

“Alright, so you’ll be talking to our group of elders, okay? There are five of them. All are ex-warriors and very grumpy.  First, we have Rayland. Now this son of a bitch is a…”

Dean was trying to focus on what Caleb was saying. Truly, he was. But his mind kept floating back to the abrupt and very brief meeting he had with his father earlier. The bastard was probably still in the decrepit town, waiting for Dean to come to him. The son of a bitch. Dean knew that his father had been put into a difficult position, and he was glad that his father had chosen Sam over Dean. But still…

Dean wasn’t perfect. And at this point, Dean had decided he had the right not to be. If he felt betrayed and bitter towards his father’s abandonment of him, well then he was going to darn well show it! Those last ten years had been, for lack of a less puny term in this scenario, hell. All of it was his father’s fault. The things that had been done to him…. And the things he had done to others… he had to blame his father for it all. Otherwise he would crack under the guilt and self-blame that would eventually end up killing him.

So yes.

His father was a bastard.

He had to be.

“-wish you luck in there, Renegade. You’re gonna need it.”

Dean snapped back to reality as he almost slammed into a stationary Caleb, who was standing in front of a rundown five-story office building. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” Time to focus Winchester. You’re not a butt-hurt son anymore. You’re a soldier. Act like it.

He ascended the stairs to the top floor, making his way up to the meeting hall, a long room filled with nothing but an equally long table and five men sitting all clustered together at one end.

The door creaked open in announcement of Dean’s entrance, causing the battle-worn leaders to straighten in response. Dean held his head high in false confidence as he walked down the length of the room. He knew this game. If he pretended to be confident and know everything, they would assume he did.

“Dean? Isn’t it?” A man at the head of the table, salt-and-pepper in his hair and beard, stood in greeting of their newcomer.

“That’s right.” He added bit of sauved grace into his step, followed by a relaxed and loose-limbed plop into a nearby seat at the table.

“We know that you were behind Lucifer’s lines for a very long time-“

“Ten years.”

“Y-yes. Ten years…” The elder faltered at the brazen interruption. “But, uh, anyways. This is incredible! Hardly anyone has managed to escape his imprisonment. We were hoping… you could give us information you learned from the other side?”

“Yes, I can.” Dean replied, suddenly exhausted, wiping a tired hand over his face. “….I’m going to save your asses.”

“Excuse me?!” A tall man on the right, with an almost Nordic braid in his beard, stood in shock.

“Yeah. Your asses. Saved. By me.” Dean sighed, rubbing the side of his head. “Your welcome.”

The elders all glanced nervously at each other in dread at the young man’s next words.

“Lucifer is having a tough time of it, trying to get through Michael’s borders. So he’s trying a new strategy: taking over the Midlands first, to get a better angle of attack on Michael.” A collective gasp went through the room, but Dean continued on with his explanation. “You guys in the Midlands are weak. Ununited. It will be a cake-walk for Lucifer’s Legion to take over. He’s already in the process. You don’t have a lot of time. You need to evacuate soon.”

He leaned back against his chair and let the dire news, delivered so emotionlessly, sink in to the older men’s brains. He could see the panic set in. Then the terror at the reality. Then the sadness of the tragedy of the situation. And finally, as with all good leaders, the resolve to address the situation head-on.

“How long do we have?”

“A couple weeks at most. You have plenty of time to move out. But you do need to move.”

The men nodded their heads, huddling around each other in discussion of where to begin the movement. Some even throwing out suggestions of a possible regrouping with nearby Midland towns. Maybe even make a stand. But those were quickly dismissed.

To be honest, Dean was surprised. He hadn’t thought they’d take his word at face value. He thought they’d be more suspicious. He had been living under Lucifer’s rule for ten years after all. Yet these dodo elders didn’t even stop to think he might be a spy, or even just lying for the heck of it. He mentally shook his head. They were too trusting. It was almost sweet. Their innocence.

“Lucifer is not someone you guys can fight against. So don’t even consider it. He will send spies. Moles. Subterfuge is his weapon of choice, so be cautious. And for God’s sake, be suspicious of everything. And everyone.”

The elders nodded their heads in unison and thanked him for his help.

He took that as his cue to leave. The idiots hadn’t even asked for more information. Oh well. It wasn’t his fight. He just wanted to move on. So, with a quick bow of his head, he turned on his heels and exited the place with a resolution to get the hell out of Dodge.

Caleb met him outside, the poor man looked a little frazzled. “Well that was quick.”

“Yup.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Not really. You guys will have to move out soon.”

“Oh.” Caleb sighed, “I had heard rumors of Lucifer advancing. But I didn’t think they were real. Guess I should have known better.”

Dean chewed his bottom lip in sympathy. “Sorry dude.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Its okay. Hey, why don’t we go get a drink, huh? I still owe you one, right?”

“Ignoring your impending doom by drowning yourself in the bottom of a whiskey glass? I like it. Let’s go.”

--------------------

An hour or so later, Caleb was full-on plastering himself with his third round of personal shots, while Dean merely sat next him, silently nursing his solitary whiskey glass. It had been so long since he had gotten a swig of the good stuff, he wanted to savor it as long as possible.

Before Caleb could order his fourth round, however, the doors to the dank basement bar swung open, and none other than John Winchester himself strode in to the establishment.

Dean cocked his head in contemplation before turning back to his drink, blatantly ignoring his father’s entrance. He’s still a bastard. And I’m still pissed. Enough said.

He though he might even get away with his clear avoidance of the man. But no. He wasn’t that lucky.

“Dean.”

He took a sip from his glass.

“Dean, son.”

Another sip. “I’m not your son.”

“Please, Dean. I just want to talk.”

Dean felt a large rough hand land lightly on his shoulder. Before he even could think, his reflexes kicked in and with a second he had grabbed the hand, whirled about, twisting his father away from him, his arm pinned behind his back, and Dean’s knife against his throat.

“Leave me alone, old man.”

“…Dean?”

Dean’s head snapped to the entrance of the bar. His throat closed up and his breath got sucked out of his lungs. Tears started glazing over his sight, but he wasn’t very aware of the problem at this point. The beat of his heart was hammering against his ribs, and of all the things he suddenly wanted to say, only one word escaped his mouth.

“Sammy?”

His father was forgotten in an instant as Dean bolted towards his brother. Both of them leapt into each other’s embraces, gasping and clinging onto hair and clothes, fingers and shoulders, anything and everything that meant the man standing in front of them was their brother. Ten years older. But still their brother.

Anyone looking in on the scene must have felt as though they were intruding on a very private moment. And they would be right. But neither Sam, nor Dean, cared at all.

“Dean? Oh my god. Is this really you? Are you really here? How are you here?” Sam choked out. He was practically sobbing, and all the young man could think about was all the nightmares he’d had about how Dean had died. How long he had cried and how many years he had mourned his big brother’s death. And yet here he was alive.

“Yeah, Sammy. I’m right here kiddo. I’m right here.” Dean soothed, rubbing circles onto Sam’s back as he held his sobbing little brother in his arms. “Come on Sammy. Come with me.” Dean whispered, glancing up and finally noticing the stares from everyone in the room. “Come with me.” He led his brother into a back room, completely ignoring his father, who was staring at the whole exchange with a mixture of pain, tears, and resentment.

He guided his baby brother to a rickety, wooden chair, quickly seating himself opposite him.

“Sammy, it’s so good to see you.”

Sam’s red eyes met his gaze through the unruly mop of brown bangs. “Dean. How are you…. I thought you were….”

“Dead? Not hardly, kiddo. I’m right here.” He plastered a cocky grin on his face, trying to lighten the mood, spreading his arms wide in a confident gesture.

“But…how?”

There was a slight rustling near the small room’s entrance, causing Dean to glance up into the weary eyes of his father.

“It’s a long story.”

“Tell me what happened.”

Haunted green eyes flicked back to Sammy, not at all diminished by the fake smile that occupied the lower half of that face. “Some other time.” He glanced back up at his father, a sudden spark of malice and pain shooting through him. “I promise.”

Sam followed his glance to look at their father. “Dad? Did you know Dean was here?”

John Winchester glanced warily over at Sam, “I’m just as surprised as you are, son.”

Momentarily sated, Sam turned back to Dean. “You’re staying with us though right Dean? You’re not leaving again? Right? After all this time, we finally found you. You’re of course coming with us, right?”

Dean’s gaze slid cautiously between his long-lost father and brother. He loved Sam. He had missed that boy so much. And wow had he grown! The kid was a freaking tree now. He looked so grown up, yet still like such a child. Like he had somehow managed to maintain his innocence after all this time.

But Dean… Dean knew that he himself hadn’t managed that. He knew he wasn’t the same as when he left. He was damaged, yet stronger. So weary, yet wiser. Broken, yet stubborn. Dean knew himself well by now. What he had become in the last ten years.

Tainted.

Unclean.

He knew he should walk away, keep his brother safe from himself. A part of him even wanted to. He had suddenly become free and now it almost felt like being tied down again. But yet for all of that, it only took one look into his little brother’s sad eyes before he responded.

“Of course I’m coming with you Sam. I’m never leaving again.”

“Thank God!” Sam lunged forward, wrapping him in a bear hug, before quickly releasing him again. “I still can’t believe you’re here. I still can’t believe you’re alive!” He whipped around to face his father, “Dad! Are we still leaving in the morning for the Citadel? Should I go grab Dean’s stuff to pack with ours?”

John’s eyes were unmoving from his eldest. “I think that’s a great idea Sam.”

Dean met his stare head-on, “My stuff’s in the clinic down the road.”

Completely oblivious to the tension, Sam hopped up and bolted out the door as fast as he possibly could. Leaving the two older Winchesters glaring at each other in his wake.

“The only reason I’m doing this is for Sam. Do you understand? I don’t trust you with him.” Dean rose steadily to his feet, ignore the pains that were reappearing in his body after the previous adrenaline spike.

“Dean. In that forest….I had no choice…”

Dean walked closer to his father, lifting his chin in defiance. He took great pride in noting that he was now eye-to-eye with the older man, almost as if his height was confirming that he was now his equal, if not more.

“Don’t. Don’t you dare.”

A flash of pain traveled across John’s features. “What?”

“I know what you’re doing.” Dean’s stance shifted, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I have no idea what you are talking about, son.”

“I already told you. I’m not your son. Not anymore.” Dean’s eyes glittered dangerously. “I know what you’re doing. It’s the same thing you did when Mom died.” John visibly flinched at the mention of that horrible night. “You’re choosing not to remember what actually happened, what you actually did, because it eases your guilt. You feed yourself lies to make yourself feel better.”

Dean leaned in, his voice barely above a whisper in his father’s ear. “You aren’t as innocent as you think you are.”

With that parting phrase, Dean swept past his father and made his way to catch up with Sam. The only one who had yet to betray him.

Chapter Text

“You sure this is a good idea, Renegade?”

“Not entirely. But I’m not leaving Sam again. I can’t.”

“Yeah, I guess. That old man of yours though…”

“He’s an ass. Yeah, I know, Caleb.”

“Don’t trust him.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t.”

“We could really use your help with the evacuation here… if you decide to change your mind, Renegade…”

“Thanks for the offer man… but… I better get out there.”

“Alright. Fair enough.”

Dean emerged from Caleb’s apartment, pulling his pack over his shoulder, striding towards the staircase at the end of the hall. He didn’t know why John and Sam were headed for the Citadel, Michael’s capital city, but it left an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t like angels, and he was pretty sure angels wouldn’t like him either. They could probably still smell the residue from the demon territory off of him. Great.

Caleb appeared in the doorway behind him, tugging a loose t-shirt over his head. “Hey, Renegade!” He called after Dean.

The Winchester turned and raised an eyebrow in query.

“Be careful out there. Okay? Angels are dicks.”

Dean cracked a smile and nodded his head, “Duly noted. And same to you Caleb. Be careful. This world is dangerous.” He tossed a parting wink before heading down the staircase to meet his brother and father.

 

------------------------------

 

Sam saw his brother coming towards them long before John did. Dean looked a little less tired than he had last night, though slightly more ruffled in appearance. He still couldn’t believe his brother was alive. He had spent the last ten years thinking his brother was dead, and now suddenly, there he was. Not only that, but he wasn’t the gangly twelve-year-old that had been frozen in Sam’s memories. He was a man now. It was so weird.

Sam guessed it must be weird for Dean to see him as well. At just eighteen, Sam had already shot up past his father in height, and probably Dean too… that was a strange thought.

Either way, Sam was so excited to go on this adventure with his brother! The Citadel was an incredible place. Or so he’d heard. Pearly gates and glass buildings. Rumor had it that this place was modeled after Heaven itself. The true Heaven on Earth. Or so they said.

“Dean!”

Dean glanced up to see his little brother jumping up and down, waving his arms exaggeratedly, in the distance. He smiled. No matter what else had changed, Sammy was still just a giant happy puppy. He just hoped he’d never have the world harden and hurt him as it had for him.

Dean’s smile faded.

“Dean! Dean!”

“Hey, Sammy boy!” Dean grabbed his brother into a crushing hug, pulling back with a small grin on his face. “How’d you sleep, Jerk?”

“Like a baby, Bitch.”

The brothers burst out into a light round of laughter at that, and Sam took Dean’s pack, leading him toward a beat-up, old school bus that was parked a few feet away.

“Apparently some people are already starting to head out, so Dad thought it would be easier going if we tagged along and caught a ride for the first part of the trip.” Sam called over his shoulder.

Dean eyed the bus warily. Gas and fuel were very hard to come by these days, so people rarely drove or rode anywhere. The last time he had ridden in a vehicle had been…

Dean froze, suddenly an overwhelming sense of panic flooding his system.

*Flashback*

The clamor from the passengers faded away into the background, with nothing but a forced silence and tense atmosphere.

The dusty junker of a school bus had disappeared and was replaced by six massive black and grey transport vehicles, a long line of men and women leading up to their open doors.

“SINGLE FILE LINES TO THE VEHICLES.

YOU WILL BE GIVEN A BRIEFING PACKET ON ENTRANCE.

REPORT TO YOUR CO IN EACH VEHICLE.

ANYONE WHO SPEAKS WILL BE ELIMINATED.

ESCAPEES WILL BE ELIMINATED.

TRAITORS WILL BE ELIMINATED.

CONSPIRATORS WILL BE ELIMINATED.

SINGLE FILE LINES TO THE VEHICLE….”

The overhead intercom blared loudly in Dean’s ears. He kept his head down, staring absently at his black and grey camo cargo pants, large combat boots crunching with each step.

No one was speaking, just shuffling in rhythm to their fate. No one wanted to be here. But it was still better than being in the Pit. Dean suppressed a shiver. He had just gotten out of there, after five years. Five years of torture. Five years of indoctrination that never really stuck. The demons had been pissed at him for never breaking, calling him “The Righteous Man”, even though he still just a boy.

He knew they were still suspicious of his loyalties, but his pretending of being submissive had finally gotten him out of there.

And brought here.

They were going to a warzone. Against Michael. The thought petrified him. He’d have to fight angels… He didn’t know if he even could. Sure, they had been trained mercilessly for months, and Dean had been quickly promoted to the advanced ops because of his natural fighting abilities… but still.

He was only seventeen.

And he was about to go to war.

He was petrified.

He could vaguely here Sam calling his name back to reality, the memory slowing fading from his vision, just as he heard the screaming from the women who had been caught as a traitor, farther down the line.

The guards rushing at her with death sticks slowly fading away, before the memory could continue.

Her screams echoed in his head as reality pulled him back to the present.

*Flashback End*

“Dean!”

Dean snapped his head over to look at Sam, who was standing at the entrance to the bus, staring at him in confusion. “You coming man?”

“Yep!” He trotted over to catch up. “Sorry Sammy, I still got that morning fog thing going on, not really awake yet.” He chuckled as Sam rolled his eyes at him.

They made their way to the back of the bus, joining John on the very last row. Dean’s father glared up at him as he approached. “Hello, Dean. Did you enjoy your night’s sleep?” He sneered.

Dean cocked his head is defiance as he lowered himself down to the seat next to Sam. “Yes, I did. Though you obviously didn’t.”

“Well, maybe that’s because I was up all night trying to figure out why my son who I haven’t seen in ten years, didn’t want to spend the night with his family right after reuniting with them?” John snapped at him, causing Sam to lower his eyes quietly.

Dean caught the look, and took a breath before responding, he didn’t want to fight in front of Sammy. “I just thought it might give us some time to process. It’s really not that big of deal.” He added a shrug as a additional diffuser.

John grunted in response, leaning back against his seat.

Dean glanced out the window, the bus slowly pulling away from the curb. He could see the outside world start to flash by faster and faster. The trees zipping by in a blur, the buildings on fast-forward. He could feel the panic growing as more memories started to filter back in. He gulped and quickly turned away from the window.

He really needed to get a grasp on this.

Giving Sam a side-long look, he decided to occupy his attention on something else. “So. The Citadel? Why are we going there?”

His father’s dark eyes glared at him in annoyance. “None of your business.” Sam glanced between the two of them, furrowing his brow in confusion.

“There’s someone there that Dad needs to meet,” Sam explained.

Dean nodded his head. He looked between his brother and father. Sam didn’t seem to know any more information than that, and John didn’t seem to want to give any more information than that. Alright then. He leaned his head back against the seat, closing his eyes. Might as well get some rest then.

 

---------------------

 

The next few hours were spent between napping and Sam telling Dean all about his life in the past ten years. Apparently, Sam and John had spent a few years in a small Midland town, before they got the warning that Michael was coming. After that, they started moving around a lot. The angels that had been tracking them that night had finally caught up with them. But instead of taking them in, John had somehow managed to work out a deal of some sort…

Sam hadn’t been able to give specifics, and John had been asleep, but it all sounded very sketchy to Dean. Apparently, John had been doing a lot of odd jobs for them lately, dragging Sam around with him, but not involving him in what was going on. Something that really frustrated Sam.

The youngest Winchester whispered to his brother how he thought that this trip to the Citadel had something to do with all of that.

Dean was inclined to agree.

He could feel his hackles rise on the back of his neck. Great. Now above everything else. John was working with Angels. That’s just dandy.

“Hey, Dean?”

“Yeah, Sammy?”

They were on their fourth bus by now, getting close to Angel territory. Dean would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous. He shoved his shaking hands into his pockets, blocking his painful memories from his mind.

“Are you glad to see us again?”

Dean turned sharply to look at Sam. His little brother had big sad eyes, filled with worry and sadness. “Of course I am Sammy! Why would you think I’m not?”

“I don’t know… I just wanted to make sure…”

Dean felt his heart crack a little at Sam’s small voice. He pulled his brother into a hug, resting a chin on the boy’s bowed head. “Sammy… you have no idea how glad I am to have you back…” He clutched the lanky body in arms slightly tighter, “The memory of you kept me alive for ten years Sammy… of course I’m glad to see you.”

Sam sniffed quietly, burrowing his head into his big brother’s jacket.

“Sammy, look.”

Sam lifted his head to look out the window. There was a line of yellow trees starting to mix with the green outside.

“That’s Michael’s territory.”

Sam looked up at Dean, “How do you know?”

Dean pursed his lips together but didn’t respond. He swallowed thickly before looking down at Sam giving a quirk of a smirk.

“Trust me. I know.”

Chapter Text

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.”

THWACK!

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.”

“Mm’kay.”

 

------------------

 

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.

3:45 AM

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.

 

-----------------------

 

“Dean?”

“Dean!”

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.

“Dean?”

“Yeah, Sammy?” Dean replied, glancing over to his right.

“Thank you.”

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.”

Chapter Text

Dean hated forests.

Freaking roots.

Damn branches.

Dirt. Mud. Scratches. Scrapes. Shadows. Darkness.

Freaking nature mazes from a horror film. That’s what forest where. Stupid forests. Dean hated forests.

Dean thwacked a loose tree branch from in front of his face and ducked under a low-hanging limb. He puffed his breath out from his lungs, watching the small cloud form in front of him in the cold night air. He could see John just up ahead, carving his way through the Angel forest on some sort of invisible path. Sammy was just behind him, his long hair dampened by sweat and clinging to his forehead and back of his neck.

Even Sammy, boy sunshine up there, was starting to swear under his breath as he stumbled on tree roots and tripped over bushes. It would have been comical to Dean if he hadn’t been in the same situation himself.

Fucking forests.

“So how much longer in this place? We’ve been trudging through here for over two days.”

Dean could practically hear John roll his eyes at the whine, “We’re almost done. A couple more hours and we’ll hit a cabin with a friend of mine who’ll sneak us in. We should be there by morning.”

Sam huffed in response, scuffing his foot on a pile of dirt and stumbling in the process. “Oh yeah? And how is this friend of yours going to sneak us into the most heavily guarded city on the planet?”

Biting his tongue to point out how Lucifer’s capital was probably ten times more heavily guarded, that place was basically a glorified penitentiary, Dean tilted his head to hear his father’s muttered response.

“He has his ways. Don’t worry.”

Sam scoffed, “Oh, well then. I feel so much better.”

Dean wondered if the days of traipsing through a dense forest was finally getting to his little brother, or if maybe Dean’s attitude toward his father was getting picked up by Sam. He hoped it was the former. Though he had to admit, it was amusing to see Sam without his blind obedience.

--------

They continued on this way for a couple more hours before Dean had another flashback. He had been having them a lot lately and had somehow managed to not alert his father and brother to his episodes. Normally it was just a few seconds here and there, little triggers of images or sounds. He rarely saw full-on scenes unless he was sleeping and having a nightmare.

At first, Dean hadn’t been bothered by them. He figured it was normal. Just escaping from Hell on Earth and all that. But… they were starting to become more vivid. More invasive. He felt like over the past few days he had begun to lose a little control. But it was fine. Everything was fine.

This one wasn’t even that bad.

Dean heard a coyote howling in the distance and just like that, his mind was gone.

 

*Flashback*

Dean leaned his head back against the wall of the transport vehicle’s interior. He closed his eyes as the vehicle turned onto an especially bumpy road, jostling them in their seats.

Benny was sitting across from him, rambling on about how he had pinned down a lieutenant angel in one of the skirmishes last week. His voice drifting soothingly into Dean’s ears over the roar of the engine.

Then his eyes snapped open.

“What was that?”

Benny looked up at him and all the other soldiers went silent.

There it was again.

Howling.

The hellhounds were upset. Something was wrong. Someone was coming.

 The overhead speakers blared loudly with instructions for preparing for an attack. Dean and Benny rushed to grab their rifles, load up ammo, and pull on their packs and helmets.

“You think it’s angels?” Dean turned to look at a man beside him in his mid-forties who was fidgeting with his rifle nervously, eyes darting back and forth.

“Probably.” Dean muttered, shifting back to face the back exit of the truck and feeling his shoulders tens in anticipation.

The howling from the hellhounds in the truck behind them was growing frantic and he could feel their vehicle starting slow. Apparently, they were making a stance against their attackers. Wonderful.

He glanced over at Benny, who was standing beside him, running his hand up and down his rifle. Up and down. Up and down. His breathing forcibly controlled and rhythmic. Dean felt his heart rate speed up and blood starting to pound in his ears.

They were about to fight.

He felt the vehicle come to a complete stop and his breathing hitched. His eyes were blinking rapidly as he shifted into a ready stance.

The back entrance slowly started to lift up, light from the outside filtering into their eyes.

And then the screaming started.

 

*Flashback End*

 

“Dean! Hey! Dean!”

Dean snapped back to reality as Sam started calling his name. His memories fading into the background and the forest taking shape once more around him.

“Dean? You okay their dude? You’re kinda lagging behind.”

Dean glanced up at Sam who was quite a few feet ahead of him now, watching him with a slightly concerned expression. “I’m good! Just tired. I think this forest is getting to me.” Dean let out a light laugh and jogged to catch up with his brother.

“Oh, okay. Just checking...”

Dean gave him a grin and slapped him on the back, “No worries little brother.” He walked a few more steps before he felt a headache coming on quickly. “Actually, I’m gonna go take a quick leak. You go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a sec.”

Sam nodded as Dean headed quickly off into the bush. His headache was getting worse and there was a blinding pain behind his eyes. He stumbled through the bushes, Sam fading away behind him. “What the fuck is going on with m-“

*Flashback*

The hellhounds were howling like mad and some of the soldiers farther down the line were already under attack. They were screaming and Dean felt his blood run cold.

He saw the angels coming out of the forest on either side of the road. Their angel blades flashing in the sun. He felt the men beside him surging forward in a charge.

There were several minutes of chaos and fighting before something caught Dean’s attention.

Or rather, someone.

The blue-eyed angel.

Dean froze and they stared at each other for a moment. It had been months since he had seen him at that battle, but they both clearly remembered the other.

Dean gave him a slight smirk and a nod before turning back to his own attacker. He didn’t know why he did that, and the angel looked equally perplexed as well. But Dean could have sworn he’d seen the angel’s lips quirk into a smile before Dean lost sight of him.

The skirmish only lasted a few more minutes before the angels retreated. Both sides took heavy casualties, but Dean breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t see Blue Eyes among the fallen angel bodies on the road.

*End Flashback*

 

Dean straightened slowly, a wave of dizziness sweeping over him. He quickly wiped the sweat from his eyes. He swallowed down the rising vomit in his throat and clenching his shaking hands.

After taking a breath to calm himself he headed back to Sam.

He was worried about these flashbacks. But he didn’t have time for it. So, he was fine. Everything was fine. He just had a lot of bad memories. He was fine.

By the time he caught up with Sam and John, they had just caught sight of the cabin.

 

---------

 

“So you three idiots, free and independent men, you want to go into the Citadel? Michael’s capital? By choice?? Why?”

John huffed at the wiry old man in front of them. “The Why is my business. The How is yours. What’s your plan for getting us in?”

Joshua, the older man helping them, scrunched his mouth in disagreement. “There’s a tunnel underneath the city, that’s how you’ll enter in and how you’ll exit out. If everything goes smoothly, that is.”

Dean and Sam shifted their feet uncertainly. Dean had tried to pry information about this mission from their father but to no avail. He knew it involved him helping angels. Probably for a profit. But other than that, neither Dean nor Sam knew what they were doing here.

“Good. Let’s go now, we still have a couple of hours before daylight. I don’t want to waste another day.” John turned towards the door and stalked out of the room. The boys scrambled to finish their soup that Joshua had given them and grabbed their packs.

“You sure are a stubborn one, aren’t you?” Joshua sighed and followed John out the door.

The four of them piled into Joshua’s beat up truck and within a few minutes, they were standing at the tunnel’s entrance. It looked pretty under imposing, basically just a large sewer tunnel located in the decrepit brick wall that marked the outer edge of the city.

“This is a stupid idea.” Dean mumbled under his breath, staring at the dark entrance to the tunnel.

Sam glanced over at him, looking worried, “But it’s a beautiful city right? This will be pretty cool. Right?”

Dean offered him a forced grin and nodded, “Yeah, it’s beautiful. You’re going to love it, Sammy.” He looked over at John who was ignoring them and entering the tunnel. “We better head in before Dad leaves us in the dust.” Dean chuckled lightly.

Sam nodded smiling, “Yeah we probably should.”

Dean watched his little brother head in next before glancing back at Joshua before he went in himself, “Let’s hope we make it out of this place alive.”

Joshua nodded sagely, “Let’s hope.”

Chapter Text

Image

The first thing that hit Dean’s senses was the smell of sewage. Wonderful.

The tunnel was pitch-black dark, with no light source to be seen. The Winchesters could barely see their noses on their faces, let alone the path in front of them. They had no choice but to feel along the side of the wall as they walked, the slimy moss-covered wall that was lined with god-knows-what kind of gel film over top.

Between that and the smell of decomposing something in his nostrils, Dean was trying his best not to up-chuck his dinner right then and there.

“How long do we have to go through here Dad?” Sam’s voice was hushed as he tried to make his footsteps equally quiet. As much as he wanted to imagine that this was an epic adventure, he was also old enough to know that if they got caught down here, especially with no ID papers, they would probably end up dead.

“Only a couple miles.” Was the gruff reply.

A few minutes later, Dean felt something large and furry scurry over his boot and he froze eyes wide. There was a small squeaking noise that was coming from close to the ground and Dean bit his lip to keep from whimpering.

He could fight angels. He could fight demons. He could take on a pack of hellhounds and not even blink. But god help him…. He was terrified of rats.

“Dean you still there?”

“Mhmm.”

He felt another one brush past him, and he took a deep breath to collect himself. He didn’t notice that Sam had stopped to wait for him, or that his little brother was totally aware of his fear of rodents. But he did notice when Sam started slowly pulling him forward to continue moving on.

Fucking rats.

They traveled through the underground tunnel for another hour or two, Dean sending up prayers for deliverance from the rats every five minutes. So, by the time they made it to the tunnel exit, the three Winchesters were very much so ready to get out.

The opening into the city consisted of a rusted-over metal ladder that led up top to a manhole placing them in an alley of a side street.

They had made it.

“Well, this is… interesting.” Sam muttered, gazing around the back-alley that they were now standing in. “I thought this place was supposed to be filled with glass skyscrapers and diamond gates and crap.”

Dean wasn’t sure if it was possible for an eighteen-year-old to look like a disappointed toddler, but Sam was definitely giving it his best try. There was a slight pouty lip and everything.

“Mmmm, never really bought into the whole ‘Pearly Gates’ thing, but yeah, I would have thought it would have been nicer than this…” John replied, gazing into the street that didn’t look much better than the alley. There was mud and trash filling the road and ragged clothes hanging from lines between buildings. The roadway was narrow and cramped, lined by rundown buildings with boarded up windows.

“This place is a dump…” Sam whispered, wrinkling his nose.

John stopped and turned to look back at Dean, who was standing very still with his lips pursed and his brow creased. “You’re very quiet. Want to share with the class?”

Dean’s gaze shot over to his father. “This is not the angelic part of the Citadel.”

John tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, studying his eldest child. “What do you mean?”

The fair-haired man sighed, running a hand over his face, “Man, you guys really don’t know anything about this place, do you?” He glanced between the two of them, taking in their confused looks, before puffing out a breath and continuing on quickly, “In most parts of Michael’s territory, humans are put under strict rules and otherwise ignored. But here, there are things to be done, buildings to be maintained, and high-status angels to be served. In the Citadel, angels keep humans as slaves.”

Both Sam and John’s eyes widened in horror.

“Some angels keep personal slaves, they wait on them hand and foot, all day and every day. Other people are just used for general purposes, are collected when they’re needed…. they live here.”

“Angels use humans as slaves?! Are you kidding me???” Sam burst out, unable to keep in the outrage and shock any longer. His lips were trembling and his jaw quivered slightly.

It was like Dean could physically see a piece of innocence burn away from his brother. Damn, I’ve only been with him a week and already I’m corrupting him. Great job Dean.

“How do you know this?”

The question hit Dean smack in the chest, the force of which almost made him step back. His father hadn’t asked him anything about his experiences and his past this whole time they had been traveling. He cleared his throat and forced away the nausea building in his stomach.

“How do you not know this?” Dean threw back. “What? You have this masterplan to sneak in here, for who-knows-what reason, on this super-secret mission, probably pimping yourself out for some random angel and you don’t know basic information about this place?!” He was tired, his flashbacks had been haunting him in the tunnel, and now his baby brother was being thrown into the realities of the real world because of some mission John was dragging them on. He was so tired.

“Watch your tone, boy…” The warning low in John’s throat.

“No! Tell me what we’re even doing here! Huh?! What the hell is going on?” He would later berate himself for allowing so much emotion to show and losing control, but right now? He was so tired.

“That is none of your business, Dean!” John took a deep breath, calming himself, “The less you know, the better. This job is dangerous, and I don’t want you two involved.”

“Then why did you bring us here?” Sam’s voice cut into the argument, stilling both men for a moment.

“I- I need to keep you close, Sammy. Otherwise, how can I protect you?” John glanced over at a stiff Dean before turning back to Sam, “But that doesn’t mean that I can tell you everything about this.”

“Sometimes you don’t make a bit of sense, Dad.”

John chuckled softly at his youngest’s pinched face, “Don’t I know it.” He glanced out the alley once more before turning back to look at Dean, “So is this macho-fest done? Or do we have to start pulling punches in the middle of enemy territory to get you to fall in-line?”

Dean lifted his chin in defiance, “You didn’t answer my question.”

John bit back a small smile, “And I’m not going to.” He lifted his pack on to his shoulder and headed into the street, Sam and a begrudging Dean following behind.

-----------

There were very few people on the streets, just a figure here and there huddled in a corner. None of them spoke to them or even acknowledged them. John kept checking street signs, quickly weaving them closer and closer to the center of the city.

It wasn’t long before they came to a low stone wall separating where the humans lived and where the angels lived. Dean had picked them up some ragged slave clothes on the way there, having everyone change to blend in before they entered the main city.

When they passed through the gates to enter the city center, all three Winchesters let out silent gasps.

It was beautiful.

“Oh my god…”

There were clear crystal skyscrapers reaching toward the sky lining broad and spotless streets. There were thousands, maybe even millions, of angels. Running here. Flying there. Their wings were fully visible and unfurled.

And wow, were they magnificent.

Dean had never angel wings that weren’t covered in mud and damaged by war. But these, they were gorgeous. So many different colors, all reflecting the sunlight and groomed to perfection.

Dean hated angels with a passion, that much was certain. But their wings? Perhaps after a few shots, the man might admit that he had a “thing” for wings. Maybe even a kink, if he was feeling frisky.

“Dude, holy crap. Look at these buildings…”

Dean glanced over to see Sam gazing wide-eyed around him, unbelief written on his face.

Sam could care less about the angels or their wings, what had captured his attention was the city as a whole. It was the most modernized place he’d ever seen. After traipsing through the slaves’ quarters, this part of the city made him feel as though he was stepping into the future.

“This is incredible…”

“Boys, we need to get moving. Enough with the star-struck looks okay? Let’s blend in. The building we need to go to is just down the street.”

Sam and Dean dutifully followed their father’s lead and blended in with a group of slave workers shuffling toward a construction site in the same direction.

“Hey, Dean?” Sam whispered to his brother as they shuffled in rhythm with the others. A sort of gloomy mood had seemed to suddenly overtake him, as though a particular thought had just been realized.

“Yeah, Sam?”

“I just… I don’t know, I just I thought that…” Sam dropped his head slightly in embarrassment. “I just thought that angels were supposed to be the good guys? You know? They’re powerful and righteous. Warriors of god and all that. I mean, I know they’ve hurt us, and they were even hunting us that one time, but… I just thought that those were a couple of bad eggs. You know? But-but this… they enslave humans…” His eyes seemed to get watery, denial at the tears vivid on his face as he turned to his brother beside him. “Angels aren’t good guys. Are they Dean?”

If Dean still had an unbroken piece of his heart left at this point in his life, it shattered right then.

“No, Sammy…. They aren’t.” The look of pain on Sam’s face at the loss of his childhood ideals was tearing through to his soul. He wished he could say something, anything to make his brother feel better. But all the experiences he had with angels involved when they were trying to kill him.

And then it hit him.

Blue Eyes.

“But… not all of them are bad, Sammy.” Dean laid a hand on Sam’s shoulder as they continued walking.

“Really?” Damn, Sam was doing a fantastic puppy impression, and it was killing Dean.

“Yeah. Really. An angel even saved my life once.” Dean tried not to choke on his words, the thought of Blue Eyes was bringing up all sorts of memories, good and bad.

Sam’s eyes went wide, and a little bit of sunshine returned to his face. “Are you serious?! What happened??” Dean scuffed his shoe against the pavement.

“I’ll tell you some other time. But, he-he saved me. So, not all angels can be bad, now can they?” Dean finished with a grin, flashing his white teeth at Sam in what he prayed would be a hopeful smile.

“I guess not.” Sam returned the grin, “That’s good to know.” He nudged his brother with his shoulder fondly. “Thanks for telling me, Dean.”

“Of course. Never stop looking on the bright side, little brother. You got to keep the sunshine in my life.” Dean laughed and that scrunched face Sam made.

“Dude. That was so chick-flicky.”

Dean just laughed at his little brother embarrassment, feeling a small spark of joy in his soul.

--------------

A few minutes later, the three Winchester had parted from the downtrodden group of humans and made their way to the back of one of the tall buildings.

“Stay here. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t even look at anyone. I’ll be back soon.” John turned to go as he felt a hand reach out and grab his arm lightly. He turned to see a begrudged Dean squinting at him.

“You, uh, you sure you don’t any back-up on this? You said yourself, this job was dangerous.”

John hid the small smile that twitched at his lips and shook his head, “Nah. I got this. You stay here.” He glanced over at his youngest child. “And watch out for Sammy.”

--------

John made his way through the building’s back stairwell, inputting codes when necessary that he had been given before by his employer.

Sure, he was nervous.

He had no idea what to expect. The small-time angel that had contacted him as a messenger had barely been a threat. But this guy? He had no idea what to expect. He really really hoped this wasn’t a trap. Dean would never let him live it down.

Finally, he reached the door with the correct number, knocking thrice, then twice, then four slow knocks. The door swung open and presented a young angel girl, black raven hair and smoldering dark eyes.

“Come in. Human.

John ignored the shiver that ran up his spine and followed her into a lobby-type looking room. She told him to wait there, then disappeared past an adjoining door.

Five minutes later, she returned and gestured for him to go inside.

“He will see you now.”

John slowly walked through the door, hearing the girl close it behind him. The room inside was white and spotless, but pornographic art hung on the wall, almost like an affront to the implied angelic purity of the room’s design.

An angel with golden brown wings was lounging in a reclining chair in the corner of the room, reading from what looked to be a skin mag.

“Hey there, Johnny boy.”

John forced the shake from his voice before he spoke, his nerves racked up to a ten. “Hello…sir.”

Twin, round, whiskey-colored eyes rose to meet John’s gaze.

“Please. Call me Gabriel.”