He stopped the Impala on the very edge of the cliff. Exhaled slowly, hands still shaking from the adrenaline rush.
“They tell me death is my drug,” muttered Dean under his breath to nobody but himself, “And I might as well chase it.”
“Dean! You alright?”
Dean flinched at the sound of his brother’s voice that had torn him out of his thoughts, and blinked slowly as the world around him flowed back into existence, pushing out the dim memory. “Yeah…” He cringed slightly at the pounding pain in his temples - Dean didn't remember the last time when he did not have a headache - and squeezing his eyes shut, he downed a cup of steaming black coffee.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m good,” he muttered, crinkling his eyes and nose from the bitter burning taste.
Sam stared at the older Winchester, unconvinced. He bit his lower lip and raised an eyebrow, skeptically scanning Dean from head to toes, while the latter one was examining the wall in front of him, undeniably finding something interesting in it. Exhaling loudly, clearly unsatisfied with what he was seeing, Sam collapsed on the chair opposite Dean, leaning forward on the table.
“When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?” asked Sam, glancing at the numerous empty coffee cups stacked around Dean together with a pad of handwritten notes and an open laptop, “‘Cause you sure as hell didn't today.”
Dean turned around to look at Sam with raised eyebrows. “Since when are you in charge of my sleeping schedule?” he said, munching on a hastily thrown together sandwich that didn't look all that fresh.
“Since you're in this damn kitchen every time I go to sleep and you're here when I wake up and I myself hardly get my 6 hours,” Sam pushed forward, employing his ‘dad voice’.
“Dean, we are concerned about you,” Castiel said hoarsely, walking into the kitchen.
“You're in on this, as well?” The older hunter raised his hands and glanced around. “What is this, an intervention?” Dean consumed the rest of the sandwich and wiped his hands on his pants.
Castiel exhaled irritatedly and sat on the chair near Dean. “Is this about Michael?”
Dean froze for the fraction of a second, but then furrowed his brows and shook his head. “Why would this be about Michael? Michael left, I'm fine. It's over. It’s been over since two weeks ago, when that son of a bitch smoked out of me.”
The younger hunter and the angel exchanged glances. “Dean, you know that if you have any problems, you can talk to us,” said Castiel, slightly leaning towards the hunter.
Dean stared at him for a couple of moments, then shook his head and started gathering all his notes and books in a pile. “If I had any problems-” the hunter paused and skillfully threw his phone in the air, where it made a flip and landed right in the middle of the pile of notebooks and books- “I would've told you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I, for one, actually have work to do and an archangel to track.” Dean gave Castiel and Sam a passive aggressive nod and, carrying the pile of books under his arm, the hunter left the kitchen.
Sam’s eyes followed him with a worried expression, while Castiel, with narrowed eyes and furrowed brows stared into nothingness, lost in thought. With an exhale, Sam turned around and looked at the angel.
“What is it, Cas?” asked the hunter, while reaching for a beer.
The angel shook his head. “Probably nothing. It’s just…” Castiel cocked his head with a slight squint and gazed at the doorway through which Dean left. “Something changed about him. There is this… aura around him now that wasn’t there before. Something dark, like-“ the angel bit his lip, trying to find the right words- “this dark power that is just there and it’s inside him. Something’s wrong, Sam.” Castiel looked down at the floor and shook his head. “Something’s really wrong.”
The voices appeared primarily in the nightmares. Just screams. It was usually some random voices screaming, but sometimes Dean heard his own voice begging for help from inside of his head.
Dean shut the door of his bedroom and leaned against it, exhaling loudly. “What the hell is wrong with me?” he muttered to himself, as he wiped sweat off his forehead. He inhaled slowly, closing his eyes. “I’m fine,” he mumbled, trying to calm himself down, “I’m good.”
The hell you are, a small voice inside his head replied. When was the last time in last two weeks you slept more than two hours a day? Remember Sam and what happened to him, when he binged on insomnia?
“ I’ll be fine,” repeated Dean in a hushed voice, “I always am.”
He gulped down the traitorous lump in his throat and dumped the pile of books on the bed. He, and the rest of inhabitants of the bunker to be fair, had made absolutely zero progress on locating Michael, and everyone started to give up a little bit. After all, the archangel kept quiet and hadn't surfaced for at least three weeks now.
Means he's plotting something. And you're right in the middle of it, the voice informed him smugly.
The hunter shook his head and exhaled loudly again, rubbing his temples. He needed to get out of the bunker. Without much thought, he grabbed the keys to Baby from his night table and opened the door with a bang. He needed to get out of here, before he could hurt anyone, himself included.
As he hurriedly walked through the library, he noticed his younger brother sitting in front of the laptop and a few books on one of the tables.
“Dean, where are you going?” Sam raised his head from his laptop and stared at the other hunter.
“I, uh- Got something to do. Be back late, don't wait up for me.” Dean grabbed his jacket from the nearby armchair and started to walk upstairs.
“Hey, you plan to be anywhere near Junction City?”
Dean furrowed his brows. He didn’t really decide where he was going. Might as well be of use. “I may be. What’s up in Junction City?”
“A body. Police is squeamish about it, said something happened to the vic’s eyes. Oh, and get this, he had blisters all over him. Sound familiar?” asked Sam, raising his eyebrows.
“A burnt-out angel’s vessel.” Dean sighed. “Could be Michael, could be some random rogue angel doing some vessel-hopping.”
“Could be,” agreed Sam, “So? You’ll check it out, or should I send someone else?”
Dean hesitated for a second. “Nah, I got it. Heading in that direction anyway,” he lied.
“Okay, great.” Sam nodded. “Keep me posted.”
“Since when does Michael take up 90 percent of my thoughts?” Dean wondered and tried to write off his fear of the archangel as worry.
“Agent Bohnam, I've never seen anything like it. Everything is weird about this case,” babbled the policeman, way over his head.
“Well, weird is my usual.” Dean gave him a tight-lipped smile and followed him into the morgue.
“And where did you find him, Sheriff?”
The chubby, bald man thought for a second. “In the old warehouse out of town. Teenagers climbed in there to hang out and found the body.”
Dean nodded. The policeman quickly shuffled forward and opened one of the metal shelves of the morgue and rolled out the body.
“We -uh, still haven't touched him at all, so he’s still dressed in whatever he was found in. Sorry if that's an issue,” the policeman babbled apologetically and unveiled the body.
It looked disgusting. The face of the deceased - a middle-aged man with graying temples - was permanently stuck in an expression of agony, with red blisters peppered all over it. The worst part was the eyes, to be precise the lack thereof. Just two black holes. Dean couldn't make out whether they were still smoking or if that was just his imagination. And that's when Dean's heart stopped for a second. Poor fellow was dressed in an old fashioned suit. An eerily familiar old-fashioned suit.
“Michael…” exhaled Dean, gripping on the wall for support.
“Did you say something, Agent?” asked the policeman, switching his gaze over to Dean.
“No, no… This- uh, this is definitely interesting,” recovered Dean, “Mind if I snap a pic of him? For investigation purposes.”
The policeman shrugged. “Whatever you need, Agent.” Dean smiled and snapped a quick picture.
“What even could do something like this?” muttered the policeman, staring at the body.
“That's what I am here to find out,” lied Dean. He already knew what, or rather who did that to the victim. “I'll keep in touch, Sheriff.” Dean didn't bother to be overly polite and left the morgue without further interaction with anyone and no intention to ever return or actually keep in touch with the sheriff. He already got what he needed. Sighing deeply, he glanced around, squinting at the sun and got into the Impala, immediately rolling down the windows. He took out his phone and dialed Sam. After a couple of long buzzes, his brother picked up.
“Hi, Dean. Did you check out the corpse?” Sam asked him, slightly exhausted.
“It’s a burnt-out angel vessel, Sam,” Dean stated gravely into the phone, “Michael is burning out vessels.”
“You sure?” Sam’s muffled voice replied through the speakers.
“Dude, all the signs were there. The body had those blisters, like the ones Nick had back in 2010. And the eyes, they were burnt out. Just like the body in Nebraska. I'm sure that if I were to visit New Orleans in person I would find that the corpse there looks the same.”
He heard Sam’s sigh through the receiver. “I'll keep you posted if anything else turns up. What are you planning to do next?”
Dean exhaled. “I'm coming to the bunker. You want me to grab you anything on the way?”
“I'd appreciate a Caesar salad, to be honest.”
“You got it.” Dean hung up and leaned back, massaging his temples. A tiny voice in the back of his head reminded him that these people were dead because of him.
“They're dead because of Michael, ” argued Dean aloud.
Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetie, replied the voice.
Dean groaned quietly and banged on the steering wheel. He was getting so fed up with not only fighting the war with an archangel but also fighting a war inside his head.
“I am going nuts, aren’t I?” he whispered to himself, feeling his eyes fill up with tears. He gulped down the lump in his throat and furrowed his brows. He glanced at the rearview mirror and, tightly pressing his lips together, drove out of the parking lot and did his best to pretend he didn’t hear the voice in his head reply.
He’d been driving for around twenty minutes, loudly blasting Black Sabbath in order to fill his brain with music and to forget the rest, when he noticed a gas’n’sip. Remembering Sam’s request and feeling slight hunger himself, Dean pulled up near it and walked inside. He quickly scanned the shelves, grabbing a refrigerated plastic bowl with Caesar salad and a 6-pack of beer. Looking around the store he noticed a stand with pies.
“Yahtzee,” he whispered to himself and picked up a carton with apple pie. He eyed the pie for a couple of minutes and headed towards the cashier. Near the check-out he skimmed over the shelf with keychains, when the melodic voice of the brunette behind the cash register distracted him.
“There is no way out,” suddenly said the cashier.
Dean felt the blood in his veins freeze, as he gulped down.
“I'm- I’m sorry?” He carefully set down the carton with pie, the caesar salad, as well as the six-pack on the counter and gazed at the young woman.
“There was a guy here yesterday and he described you - tall, dirty blond, wears a flannel, looks dark and pensive - and asked me to tell you that there is no way out, whatever that means,” she noted cheerfully and scanned the beer, the salad and the pie. “That’d be 10 dollars 23 cents.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dean fished out a credit card out of the pocket of his utility jacket and handed it to the cashier. “By the way, the guy, what’d he look like?”
The girl shrugged. “Wore an old suit, kinda like those they got in ‘Some Like It Hot’.”
Dean’s heart stopped for a second as he took out his phone and with cold fingers he opened the picture of the corpse he snapped twenty minutes ago. He zoomed in on the suit, making sure to hide the head of the dead man.
“This suit?” he asked and felt a traitorous crack in his voice.
The cashier squinted and then nodded fiercely. “Yes, that suit. Exactly that suit. You know him?”
“Unfortunately. Hey, uh-“ Dean fished out a pen and hastily scribbled his number on the receipt- “anyone else shows up with cryptic messages for me, gimme a call, okay?” He slid the paper over to her.
The brunette nodded. “Sure hope they won’t. The dude was creepy.”
“Yeah, he was,” Dean said absent-mindedly and headed out of the store, his heart racing like a hundred devils. Michael was there and Michael knew Dean would come. Dean didn’t even know how the bastard knew that Dean would choose to go to that exact gas’n’sip, however, it was entirely possible that the archangel visited all convenience stores along the road and told every cashier the same thing.
And what did that even mean, ‘There is no way out’ ? Dean bit his lower lip as he tried to figure out to what the archangel was referring to. Was it to the fact that there was no way out for Dean to escape being Michael’s vessel? Dean shuddered under the weight of the thought. Abruptly, his phone started to ring. Cursing silently, he tried to set the salad, pie and beer on the top of the Impala and not drop anything and grab the phone out of his pocket.
“Yes, Sam?” he answered a bit irritatedly.
“You okay?” asked Sam, his voice clearly concerned.
Dean exhaled. “Yeah, yeah, sorry. Nearly dropped my crap because of the phone. What is it?”
Sam hesitated to reply. “Dean, I’m sorry. It is Michael.”
Dean felt his heart stop for a split second. “How do you know?”
“A body turned up in Colorado. I called Dave, asked him to check it out and apparently, before the dude dropped dead in an old suit with burned out eyes he’s been going round the town, asking people what they want. Didn’t kill anyone this time though. One guy he visited recalled asking him what’s his name. He said that it’s Michael.”
“Son of a bitch,” muttered Dean.
“There’s something else. I put out a call to all hunters, asked them to keep me posted on any bodies with burned out eyes.” Sam stopped talking.
“And?” pressed on Dean.
“The reports flooded in from all over the country. He’s racking up a body count. 23 burned out vessels so far, counting the ones that we found. He’s jumping from vessel to vessel.”
Dean felt his blood rushing away from his face. “He can’t find one that will hold him,” he finished Sam’s thought.
“Yes,” replied his brother, even though the last sentence wasn’t a question.
“Okay, I’m heading back to the bunker, I got something too.” Dean was about to hang up when Sam called out his name.
“We’ll stop him. Those people, they’re not on you. They’re on
The phone vibrated, signaling the end of the call. Dean slid it back into his pocket and leaned on the car, staring into the gray sky above his head. He squinted slightly, furrowing his brows when he felt his eyes watering, and shook his head. He didn’t remember last time he felt so desperate.