What have I become
I’m yours alone
You do not care but I want more
The first time Dean realized that he was a monster it was in a moment that had nothing to do with the reasons why he was a monster, or even with the kind of monsters their way of living was about. Or well, not yet anyway. It was a moment of sheer frustration and that tingling feeling of wanting to move on.
If he hadn’t realized it that September day in a small town in Connecticut, called Hazardville, or if anything about this particular case had been any less obscure, he might have never realized it at all and probably wouldn’t have ended up where he did. But he was beginning to learn a few things about himself and his place in the world and that your past doesn’t always have to define who you are.
Hazardville was all brickwork and white wood paneling on impossibly green lawns, and there was a smallness and wilderness about this place that cried of old and history. It had originated as an industrial village around the manufacture of gunpowder, using water power in the area of Powder Hollow, and despite its odd name, which, by the way, it got from one Colonel Augustus George Hazard, there seemed to be nothing hazardous about this town. In fact, it seemed entirely peaceful.
The thing is, Dean wanted to listen to his brother, in all honesty. Sam was jabbering about Person A, and Person B, and about the investigations of numerous other victims’ cases, and about how they might proceed from here on. But listening is hard when your thoughts are too loud.
For some undetected reason Dean’s ears kept ringing with that specific set of words. It was like a never ending mantra, or an echo in the highlands of his brain.
I gave everything for you. And this is what you give to me?
Heard more than a thousand times, but never understood. It was an everything Dean couldn’t fathom. So what he did was playing the scene over and over again in his head, turning it over, hearing the words better and louder, and trying to decode their meaning.
Castiel had been angry then. He’d beaten him up, torn him apart, formed him anew, shook out his idiocy. A fight. A fight for his life on both sides.
And though it’d been painful and definitely unpleasant to have his friend give him a piece of his mind in such a violent kind of way, it was a language Dean spoke. Fighting was something that worked for Dean. Because that is how you defeat the enemy.
Now, of course it isn’t always that easy. It isn’t always black or white, hero versus bad guy, the world is more complicated than that. Sometimes you just need someone to help you realize that you’re the villain of your own story. He’d realized that then.
He’d also realized that he was an asshole.
Even then as he’d stopped to throw himself in the fire and become the vessel of some douchebag archangel, who’d claimed to save the world, but just wanted to win a fight with his brother, Dean had never, in fact, stopped being an asshole. He couldn’t get over himself.
“Dean,“ he heard his brother say, “would you stop chewing on that pen and listen?“
Dean cleared his throat and tried to focus back on the subject. “Yeah, no, sorry. Uh, ten missing people, I know.“
As John Green would put it, this case happened to be the first note in the melody of coincidences that changed Dean’s life.
It was that kind of case that didn’t want to be solved. With no connections between the victims, with no signs of forced entry in their homes, no big bag of shit showing up and having their villain monologue gig, no nothing. And that nothing was beautifully emphasized by the wall in their shabby motel room where they’d intended to spread out their leads and guesses. Save for ten pictures of the missing people, it was empty.
Dean ran a hand over his face and through his hair. There was something off about all that, he could sense it in his guts. But they had no fucking clue what the hell was going on.
Sam fixed his own hair in a mirroring gesture and suppressed a yawn. They were all exhausted. Not by kicking ass and ganking monsters, just by sitting around with no clue at all and staring holes into the furniture, as if it held all the answers.
“I wish Cas was more of a help,“ Dean said, bitterness creeping into his tone. He turned back to chewing on his pen and tried to get out all the thoughts on how many things Castiel could do and couldn’t do anymore. Get out that stinging feeling rising inside him and turning his stomach into knots he didn’t want there. He had no idea where it came from or for what, he only knew he wanted it all out.
The day had been a sunny one and now that the evening was slowly strolling in, the light had an orange tint to it that warmed up the dull colors of their room. They were sitting at the small table, Sam in front of his laptop and Dean in front of his beer he was peeling off the label of. He’d started early today and it was his third beer already, but it didn’t quite give him the carelessness he tried to achieve anymore.
Frustrating, that’s what it was. Tiring even. Everyday, another person could disappear somewhere and all because they didn’t manage to find out what they were up against. They’d taken on bigger fish, like Lucifer for instance, but it appeared some random being that fucked around here did a better job than Satan himself.
There was a loud thump as Dean’s fist crashed into the tabletop. His brother flinched.
“Dude,“ Sam gave.
The atmosphere in the room was dusty, yet aglow somehow, coppery in a way, as though the air was made of iron and rusting. No matter the bright color of dawn, against the brownish wallpaper and the wooden furniture Sam still looked like an exclamation mark. Two beds stood against said brown wall, quiet and neat, like dead limbs hanging onto the body of this dead room. The bright light of the exaggerated plastic chandelier seemed to try and give some color to the grey and brown of the interior, but the only thing it did was making a joke out of this room.
Dean sipped from his beer, looked out the window. He crossed his arms, his foot under the table tapping along to his nervous heartbeat. He’d expected this hunt to be easy and done within a few days. Now it’d been two weeks already and reality had proven him wrong. All this was so disappointing, and it’s funny how calm he could be in action and how anxious he was in the quiet.
“There’s gotta be a connection between the victims.“ He said.
Someone opened the door of their ramshackle room and Dean rolled his eyes.
“You don’t understand!“ said the first person that entered, waving his hands about over his head, his breathing fast, as thought he’d run here. “Some things can be alive!“
Coming right after him was Cas, an exasperated expression on his face.
Dean raised his brows. “How’d the questioning go?“
Cas looked at him, then away, saying, “He had a conversation with a pencil.“
“Funny,“ Sam thought out loud. “One thinks pens are friends and the other thinks they’re something you can eat if you try hard enough.“
Dean wanted to punch Sam’s face for that. Of course he wouldn’t, but the idea of it was nice somehow.
Bert, who kept making friends with objects, fell onto one of the beds and looked like a fat kid that finally got invited to a party. Something was stuck in his dark mustache that looked like mayonnaise or vanilla pudding, but he didn’t seem to care. His grey t-shirt said he’s a special edition, though Dean thought Bert was an edition no one had ever asked for. But he’d been here first and there was, to Dean’s never ending regret, no way to make Bert drop the case. This was actually his hometown and Dean thought that, after all, there was a proper reason for the town’s name. Bert was more hazardous than any other hunter he’d ever met.
What’s done is done, that was the straw Dean held onto, so he could — and even considered to — help that Bert guy with a case that could as well be no case at all. Just like when they’d run into him, while he’d been faking to be an FBI agent in an unnerving purple suit, Bert was sitting on the bed all giddy and excited and ruining the smoothing of the sheets Dean had spend half an hour on for a lack of anything else to do. About five minutes into their very first conversation Dean had decided that Bert was irritating as fuck.
“Why would you try to eat a pen?“ Bert asked. He always took things very literally. “It’s all plastic and ink.“
Dean would have almost smiled at that, only that he was too busy keeping his heart rate at a healthy pace. He uncrossed his arms and wrapped his hands around the bottle he was glaring at. He was all grinding teeth and narrow eyes and something told him that he wouldn't be able to keep up the pace his heart aimed for any longer.
“No, Bert, he—“ Sam began, but his brother cut him off.
“You know, Bert,“ Dean spit, the name sounding like an insult, “I actually envy you for how dumb you are.“ He looked straight at the other hunter.
Bert looked puzzled.
“All naive and giggly-wiggly. Life must be so much easier when you have others do all the work for you and not even getting the whole picture of it all.“
Bert didn’t look puzzled anymore, he looked irritated. Cas jumped in for the rescue.
“Dean is very furious right now. I think you insulted him.“ He said.
Dean’s eyes left Bert and squinted at the angel instead, and that vein on the side of his neck popped out that little bit too much to not be a warning. He rubbed his brows, saying through gritted teeth, “Stop. Reading. My. Mind. Cas. It pisses me off.“
Cas fixed his eyes to the ground and went somewhat pale, fiddling with the fabric of his trench coat. He clawed into it and smoothed it down over and over again. It was a view that Dean rather didn’t want to endure, annoying to no end, so he trained his eyes back to Bert.
“You shut up, you asshole!“ came out of Bert as he stood up for the first time since he’d entered the room. “Sorry, but you’re being rude and unreasonably mean. I am who I am, and you, sir, need to deal with that. You don’t even know me, or how I—“
“Oh my god, I don’t care!“ Dean jumped off his seat and crossed the few feet between them, standing face to face with the short pudgy hunter. “You think I won’t punch you just because I’d have an audience? I could break your nose right now, if I wanted to.“
“Yeah?“ Bert snorted, glaring right back at him. “Why don’t you then?“
Dean bristled and pushed air out of his nostrils. “Can’t you just fuck off already?“ he snarled.
“Hey! Hey—hey!“ Sam came in-between them, his hands raised and facing his brother. “Calm it, Dean. Okay? Calm down.“ He touched the older one’s shoulder and fixed his eyes.
Dean exhaled a sharp breath and turned, muttering something under his breath. He heard stomping feet behind him and the door. Bert left and Sam stood there in the middle of the room throwing down his arms, exasperated and shaking his head.
Let’s all agree that storms have something beautiful about them. The world darkens and clouds race through the sky dangerously and thunder roars its battle cry and lightning strikes and slashes and burns in tumultuous bolts and rain falls down on earth in a raging shower that cleanses it all and trees are shaken to something that looks alive and parts of them fly through the air like they’d spread their wings and travel the world.
Dean, though, hated storms. He took a deep breath before getting out of the Impala and ran towards the concrete block building like he was running for his life, Castiel right behind him. Inside, Dean ran a hand through his soaked hair and as he gazed over he found the angel all dry and shiny.
“Look at you, cheap-tricking it with your mojo,“ he said. “Thought you haven’t got much left.“
Castiel grimaced, then looked away. He clenched his fingers into his trench coat and then, with his eyes still fixed on his shoes, he moved a trembling hand to the hunter and when he touched him Dean was dry as well.
They made their way down a cold depressing hallway and towards apartment number five, where a short old woman with thin grey hair and thick framed glasses answered the door. Eleven missing people.
They went through the usual smalltalk and after they politely turned down the offered coffees, they went into the latest victim’s bedroom. A teenager going by the name of Betty Hamilton and living with her grandmother.
Her room was what you’d expect from a thirteen-year-old girl. All shades of pink and rose, white furniture, a ton of pictures of her and her friends at the wall above the bed that was dressed in flower print sheets and blankets and all kinds of multi-colored pillows. There were posters of teen heart-throbs Dean didn’t recognize. Then again, the only teenager he knew in this particular decade was Ben, who had been more interested in Dean’s enormous gun collection hidden in the trunk of his car than in any Justin Biebers or some K-Pop wannabes.
Dean looked out of the window with the turquoise-colored silk curtains, out into the garden. It had a swing set and a trampoline and a small pool with all kinds of swimming toys in it. It looked like they had taken the girl away in the middle of playing there, which was pretty unlikely, not only according to the police file. The beginnings of autumn had cooled down the temperatures to a mild 64 degrees Fahrenheit and it got quite frosty during the nights.
Both the front door and the back entrance were perfectly intact, as was this window. Again, no signs of forced entry. Although the report already said that, Dean couldn’t help but check for himself and look for signs the police wouldn’t look for.
He felt along the white smooth window frame which looked so new that he assumed it had been replaced not long ago. There were no carvings or symbols painted anywhere. Then he breathed against the windowpane, looking for the usual messages ghosts liked so much to leave behind. He’d always thought they all struggled with some serious case of low self-esteem, longing for attention as much as they were. There was nothing there. And when he lowered his eyes down to the window sill and felt over it there was nothing there either. But then there was.
As he turned his hand palm up and gazed at his fingers that had traced the cold material of marble only a second ago, there was a barely there hint of some powder-like trace coating his index and middle finger. He rubbed it between index finger and thumb and held it under his nose. It was yellow and stank of sulfur.
Just when he raised a brow at that, Betty’s grandmother knocked on the doorframe, like this wasn’t her own home, carrying a small round tray with two steaming cups. “Your coffee, gentlemen.“
Cas gave her a look like she’d just murdered one of his kind. We said we don’t want any coffee, his face said. Only when he found the Winchester’s scowl he returned his eyes back to his shoes.
“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Hamilton, that wasn’t necessary.“ Dean said politely and took the two cups from her, shoving one of them into Castiel’s reluctant hands. Some of the coffee spilled and stained Cas’ white shirt and he looked down at the brown hot taint and seemed to choose to ignore it.
The angel was completely lost in the coffee he didn’t intend to drink, or didn’t know what to do with, while Dean gave the lady a friendly smile. Her eyes were dark-rimmed and blood-shot, it was clear she cried a lot these days. Her hands fumbled with her now empty tray, and Dean wondered if she was that type of person who needed someone to look after. It sure must be hard for her now without her granddaughter here.
“You know, Agent Ford,“ she was addressing Dean, for Castiel still seemed dramatically absent, “the night my sweet Betty disappeared, I told her… I told her about her mother.“
Dean watched as she wiped a tear from her eye.
“I used to tell her that her mother died in a car accident, but…“ She swallowed thickly. “But that’s not true. Sandra, that was Betty’s mother, she… she killed herself when Betty was just a little baby.“
“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Hamilton. Was Sandra your daughter?“ Dean asked calmly. He was well-trained in talks like this one, though it was no real effort to sound honest. He could sympathize, after all his father had, in a way, killed himself, too.
And while he wasn’t sure which was worse, killing yourself or being killed, he knew it didn’t really matter. Even if we don’t actually kill someone in our entire life, we’re all killers in a way. We’ve all killed parts of ourselves in order to survive our life. We’ve all got blood on our hands. At some point, something always has to die so we can stay alive. Let that be people or ideas or wishes or ways of thinking.
“Yes. Yes, she was, my Sandra. She was so beautiful. And smart. But she had her problems and well… anyway, I finally found the courage to tell Betty and she got really angry with me. Told me to leave her room and all. I thought we could sort it out in the morning, but then…“ She broke into a fit of crying and Dean put a gentle hand on her arm.
“It’s not your fault, Mrs. Hamilton.“ He said, even though he had no fucking clue whose fault it was.
It was late evening and Dean was helping himself and his starting headache with a fine glass of whiskey. After Sam and Bert had talked to another person lacking a family member, they had regrouped and still had absolutely fucking nothing. Twelve missing people.
They’d discussed demons. And once again, inevitably, the name of Crowley came over someone’s lips. Ever since they were here, it was the first time they’d found sulfur anywhere. And sulfur meant demon and demon led the trace to the snarky bitch of hell who called himself king. Because there was no way a bunch of amateurs and rogues could organize something this huge without the delicate command structure under Crowley’s fierce hands.
But also, there was no doubt that in the case of Betty a demon would have been at work that was particularly clumsy. The first one to leave tracks behind. Congratulations. You win being pulverized by your master later on.
Dean was annoyed anyway. By yet another kidnapping they hadn’t been able to prevent. By having spent the whole afternoon in close proximity to Bert and Bert’s weirdness. And by Sam’s eagerness to spend hours on end with research on tracking down demons, the traces of that still scattered about their room in the form of books and paper. And last but not least, by Cas’ ongoing quietude.
The angel seemed to go in and out of reality more often now. He always appeared to be lost in thought or lost in general, and whenever Dean looked at him he wanted to shake him awake. Whatever kind of stupor or trance Cas was in, it was still better than having him say something stupid. Or say something that should stay between him and Dean. Or say anything at all. It was fine with Dean. Except for when it wasn’t.
But with no doubt even more annoying was the fact that Cas didn’t even seem to care anymore. Not about the case, or the general situation, or his own situation, and clearly not about Dean.
Dean needed his friend back. Period. But Cas wasn’t himself lately. Cas was turning into this new thing, this new creature, both literally and in Dean’s eyes. He was like a new found being he needed to observe and examine first, before he knew what to do with it. The way you look at a new piece of furniture that doesn’t quite seem to fit in your living room.
And who said it was only kidnapping? Who said that all those twelve missing people weren’t dead already? Who said there wouldn’t be more? Who said that they would find the monster that did this?
There was nothing more frustrating than a hunt that didn’t involve hunting.
And that made him angry. That sort of anger that comes abruptly, that ignites a spark inside you. His fingers around his glass started shaking and there was that burning twitch in his chest, boiling its way up into his throat. At first it was only a tiny flame, barely hearable, barely there. But then it grew and his hands started shaking more violently and his breathing went frantic and a raging nausea was crawling about in his conscious, and then it transformed into waves and waves of uncontrolled fire, rising inside him like fever.
He emptied his glass and put it down and for some reason, let it be the bitterness of the whiskey or the storm of disgust within him, his jaw clenched. A glance to the side and through the dull darkness of their room told him that his brother was sound asleep, sprawled out on his bed and half his limbs hanging loosely from the edge of the mattress. Dean ran a hand over his face, took a breath into his stomach. Fuck it.
He slipped out of their room and walked along the path by the building to the door behind which he knew was Castiel’s room. He skipped the knocking and strode right in. The door slammed shut behind him with a loud thump.
In an instant, Cas sat straight up in his bed. It was weird to see the angel sleep nowadays and that was just another thing pouring oil into Dean’s fire of irrational rage. Or maybe what provoked him the most was the silence. Because deep down Dean knew it wasn’t Cas’ fault that everything was so hard lately, that nothing worked out the way he’d planned. Dean just wished his friend would care enough about anything. Stop keeping quiet and stop looking at his damn shoes and stop turning into something he wasn’t.
What are you doing here? Why are you in my room? Maybe Go away, or at least Hello, all things Dean thought Cas should be saying. Instead the angel stared right back at him, until he looked away again, while Dean stood there in the dark of the room he wasn’t supposed to be in.
Castiel knew, with a crucial certainty, what was about to come.
It took Dean two minutes and fifty-five seconds to know it as well.
He wanted to make a step forwards, but his knees were shaking with that knowledge. And when he exhaled through his nose a few times, in order to calm down, he knew the fever had taken over. And though fever is something that takes control over you and not the other way around, it was still a fever he didn’t want to have.
So he turned his back to the angel, because it occurred to him that that was the only way to withstand. Without a look back he made his way to the door, which was as blue inside as it was from the outside.
“Dean,“ he heard and stopped.
This is so fucked up, Dean thought and rubbed the back of his neck where cold sticky sweat had gathered. He exhaled another stuttering breath.
He could swear he heard a Please somewhere behind him, but shrugged it off and set himself into motion again. Please stay, he completed in his mind, recalling the first time this had happened.
As he had the doorknob in his sweaty palm and felt his shoulders tense, he stopped again. He wondered why Cas would encourage him, wondered why he never stopped him. He wondered what he’d gone to Cas for in the first place.
“So, what d’you think?“ Sam asked, wandering down the path from Carole Newman’s house, the thirteenth on the list of missing people.
Sam was with Bert, because Dean claimed to have a headache and Cas claimed to prefer staying in his room. They’d questioned Anne Newman, the victim’s seventeen-year-old daughter. Again, there was no trace of sulfur this time, so either the demon became more careful or it was another demon or that particular connection was a dead end altogether.
“Dunno, Sammy,“ Bert gave back.
Sam grimaced a little, saying, “Only Dean gets to call me that. No offense.“
They reached Bert’s car, a rusty old thing in rusty shades of a color that probably used to be some sort of red, and Bert mumbled a quiet sorry.
“Speaking of,“ he said, leaning on the roof of his car. “What’s his deal?“
“What d’you mean?“
“I mean, what’s his deal? Like, why is he such an ass?“
Sam sighed and leaned onto the roof as well. “Well, I know why you think that, but… Dean isn’t always like this, you know. He’s actually very kind-hearted and nice.“
“You did hear what he said to me, right?“
“Yeah, no, I get it, Bert. But you gotta understand that Dean’s life hasn’t always been easy, it’s just that… he gets like that when he’s frustrated, it’s got nothing to do with you personally.“
“Well, I thought you two were brothers. How’s it that you’re not like that then? If his life had been oh so painful?“
Sam stared at his fingers on the car roof, his mouth distorted and a frown building between his brows. “Well,“ he began, sighing. “I guess everyone has their issues, like… call it inner demons. And I guess everyone deals with them in their own kind of way, you know.“
“What you mean inner demons?“
“Like, uh, things of the past, you know. Experiences or something that happened to you and you can’t let go of it, because uh… because it changed you. But, like, you still try and fight them, because you know they’re not who you are. And sometimes, some people can’t win that fight and that changes who they are in the present. Does that make sense to you?“
“I’m not sure,“ Bert answered, looking at his car keys he was fumbling with. After a minute of silence he said, “I don’t think I have any inner demons.“
“Yeah, I mean, okay, I’ve had some bad stuff happening to me at the time, but none of it really changed me, I guess. I’m okay with who I am and what I’ve done.“
Sam nodded in weak acceptance to that and was about to get into the car when Bert spoke again.
“What’s your inner demons then?“
The Winchester smiled and looked to the ground. “Maybe another time, Bert. Let’s go.“
Writing is something magical itself. It can be inspiring and invigorating and even therapeutic, but most importantly, writing calms you down. Now, the kind of writing Dean did wasn’t that elaborate type or even the kind creating a story, it was merely a list of some sorts. A list he’d started long ago and couldn't stop working on. But it was just that, calming.
He sat on his bed, headphones playing his favorite music to him and shutting out the world. The pen in his hand was drumming against the piece of paper as he was staring into space. He wondered how his own ideas managed to be so stormy and loud the one time and so quiet and still the other.
“She’s gay!“ Sam prompted the minute he walked back into their motel room.
Dean hurried to shove his list under his pillow and took off his headphones. “Come again?“
“She’s gay.“ Sam repeated, supposedly talking about Anne Newman.
Dean frowned. “Okay? You shouldn’t hit on her anyway, Sammy, she’s a minor.“
Bitch face. “I mean, she told her mother that she’s gay.“ Pause. “The night Carole disappeared.“ His brows rose in expectation.
Dean was processing. “Come on, Sam, skip to the end, I’m not in the mood to play you douchey I-know-something-you-don’t game.“
Another bitch face. “Dean, that’s the connection!“ Sam announced. “Anne told her mother she’s gay. Mrs. Hamilton told her granddaughter how her mother really died. That guy Harry told his roommate he’s in love with him. And I’m sure if we ask all the others there’s something alike there, too.“ Pause.
“That’s the connection! All the victims had someone tell them some sort of secret and then they disappeared right after that! That can’t be a coincidence!“
It was a possible connection, it just wasn’t something Dean could make himself care about. It was a thin straw to work on and Dean wished he could be excited about it, he really did. But it had been over two weeks of doing nothing and frustration had sunken into his bones like an additional weight he couldn't carry any longer. He wanted out of this town. Out of this peaceful not-hunting in a peaceful place that seemed to turn even more peaceful the more people went missing. He had his duty and all, the family business. Saving people, hunting things. He just felt like it didn’t matter anymore. He felt like the eagerness to fight and hunt that was embedded in his DNA had been killed somewhere along the way.
He wanted to run.