They’d been lucky, up to that point, Dean realised. They’d crept undetected through the corridors at Sucrocorp, steps muffled by the drab carpet tiles. Dean’s heart had been pounding so hard, he could feel it in his teeth. They’d found the real snake’s head among all the dummies, thanks to Cas, and managed to get close enough to drive that old nun’s thighbone right through him.
Just like nothing had happened when he and Sam had anointed the stupid thing in the first place.
They should have known it was a dud. But they'd gone ahead anyway.
They were so screwed.
Dick watched the mortification bloom greyish on Dean’s face, grin spreading on his own.
“Nice try, kids,” he tugged the bone out of his neck and tossed it into a handy trashcan. "But, no cigar.”
Things went south very fast around that point.
Dick had Dean by the throat before they had a chance to run. With Dean’s airway squeezed under his fingers, there was no need to worry about Castiel going anywhere. Dean had a brief flash of gratitude that at least Sam wasn’t with them, because there was a strong possibility he was about to get his face bitten off. He couldn't force enough air through his throat to yell at Cas to get out. As if he would. The angel blinked across the few feet of space between them, and got nothing but a handful of air and Dick’s fist punched through the flesh below his sternum, up and under. It happened too fast for Dean to follow. The Leviathan flicked the angel aside with no visible effort, like a mildly bothersome insect. Castiel’s torso split at the lower ribs, spilling red and black. He left a wet smear on the wall as he dropped to the carpet with a weak, gurgling cry, curling up tightly with his arms wrapped around himself. Dean saw pale flickers that spelled bad news more than the blood did, smelled copper and ozone.
Dick crossed the room to the desk he'd previously been settled at, dragging Dean along almost as an afterthought. It left his feet in contact with the floor and took the pressure off his throat for a moment, allowed him to suck in a couple of breaths and clear the swarming black blotches away. Dick pressed a button on the desk console and said simply, "Housekeeping."
Dean, throat burning, wheezing a useless string of obscenities, tried to lash out at the Leviathan holding him. It was like kicking concrete. All he did was make Dick chuckle, and deepen the bruises on his own neck. Dick wasn't kept waiting for more than a few moments, idly licking his bloodied fingers with a thoughtful look.
A few of the lesser Leviathan appeared, expressions showing varying degrees of mild curiosity at the angel bleeding on the floor. This was replaced with a certain amount of trepidation as they noted the gradually closing hole in Dick's neck, and the human trying to pry himself out of the Leviathan's grip.
"Would someone like to tell me... how these got in here? Did we leave a window open?" Dick asked, with an edge of false levity. For a moment, none of them dared to answer.
"Sir..." one of them began, faltering when Dick's flat, increasingly impatient gaze focused on him.
The other two shared a glance, and took a discreet step back.
"...There's been some trouble. A demon - "
Dick cut him off with a tight smile and a raised finger. "How about, you give me the details, once you can do so in the past tense."
The servile monster nodded eagerly, and was about to start pouring out assurances. At that point Dean, feeling their attention slip away from him for a second, wrenched himself out of Dick's grasp, leaving livid marks around his neck. Dick closed his eyes with an exasperated sigh as the human scrambled away, shoving aside the furniture scattered by Castiel's flung body.
Instinct sharply goaded Dean to flee; the opportunity was there, door not even closed and no Leviathan between him and the empty corridor. But he couldn't leave his friend any more than Castiel could have left him behind. He dropped to crouch by the angel, and had perhaps all of four seconds trying to rouse him, looking desperately for some sign of life. He was unmoving, eyes rolled up to the shivering whites, a thin line of blood oozing from the corner of his mouth.
"Cas! Cas, please, you gotta get - " Dean didn't get to the end of the hoarse, cracked sentence before he was heaved back by the collar, the suited Leviathan eagerly seizing an excuse to leave before Dick got into a bibbing mood over this embarrassing lapse.
"Let me just get rid of this for you, Sir." The Leviathan coolly ignored the human's furious struggles, which were frankly pathetic, doing him about as much good as a toddler having a tantrum in a supermarket.
"Hold on just a tick there." Dick beckoned the leviathan forward, Dean in tow.
"I'm going to assume that the other half of your sad little double act is around here somewhere." It wasn't really a question. Dean kept his mouth shut and his eyes peeled. What for, he didn't know. There was no way he could run and ditch Castiel. His exit route was gone anyway - a few more leviathan had showed up to spectate, loitering around the door.
Dick tipped his head and peered at Dean, arranging his features in a caricature of confusion.
"Seriously though, what was a piece of old bone meant to do to me?"
Dean glared silently in response.
"I don't suppose it matters now, anyway. You're done." Dick grabbed Dean's jaw and turned him roughly to look again at the angel. "But before I eat you, I just want you to know what a huge favour you've done me. Done all of us."
Dean clenched his jaw and said nothing. He knew he'd fucked up, and hard. He could feel his pulse thumping sickly at the base of his throat, mind going in circles desperately trying to think of something, anything. At this point, all he could think about was what it was going to feel like getting eaten.
Inches from his face, Dick's grin began to broaden grotesquely. Razor teeth began to glitter through the thin disguise.
A hovering leviathan, wearing the shape of the research assistant she’d consumed and replaced, cleared her throat and tentatively raised a hand.
Dick turned smoothly to see who'd had the temerity to interrupt him. "What?"
"... Can I have that?" she asked,
There was a taut little pause from Dick. "What?"
"That one," the subordinate pressed on. "Can I have it?"
Dick blinked. "...Did you come up here to bum a snack?" he snapped incredulously. "Get back to work unless you want to be dessert!"
"Sir, that's not what I meant..." She scurried over, unperturbed, bending close to Dick and quickly murmuring something.
After a moment or two, the irritation left Dick's face, replaced by a growing look of delight and amusement. With a laugh, he rose and clapped the researcher on the shoulder. “Actually, I like that."
There was a murmur of interest from the dozen or so creatures watching.
"I like it!" Dick repeated. The sharklike hints of his real face slipped back out of sight.
I'm going to give you the green light to go ahead.” The researcher bent close again, and there was another second or two of murmuring. Dick cut her off, flapping a hand dismissively. "Yes, and the other one, why not."
Dean's stomach somehow dropped even further through the floor. Other one. They hadn't been looking at Cas.
"Shit..." the whisper escaped through his teeth. Dick turned a big, gleaming smile on him.
“Oh, come on. There’s no need for that attitude.” The monster slung a friendly arm around Dean’s shoulders, turning him towards the doorway.
He was shoved into the arms of the female-looking leviathan who'd asked if she could have him. Reflexively Dean froze; waiting for the teeth. Instead of anything taking his head off, though, Dick kept grinning, and kept talking.
“… As I was just discussing with my colleague, I’m willing to turn this into a positive. Dean, you can actually help us.”
Dean stared at him, seriously confused.
"What?" He didn't know what the fuck Dick was talking about but it couldn't be anything good.
“Hear me out. Picture this;” Dick swept his hand through the air, as if gazing at some invisible panorama.
“We’re willing to offer you an… opportunity to contribute to Roman Enterprises’ innovative research projects.” The phrase rolled slickly off his tongue and he paused, as if stifling laughter.
“What…” Dean swallowed, feeling the dragging ache in his swollen throat. “… What the hell does that even mean?” He was starting to get a sick, sinking feeling he could guess the answer.
Dick grinned, gleefully watching the fear and dismay washing over the doomed little ape. “It means, the company is doing some great work here, and you know, there's no reason why you can’t be a part of it.”
There was a chorus of snickers from the peanut gallery.
Fuck. That sounded like Dean was going to become some kind of soyalent green or something. A mental image suddenly formed; being recycled into weird meat products, packaged and scattered across the shelves of roadside stores across the country. The dreadful thought struck him, right in the pit of the stomach, that he wasn't going to be seeing Sam again.
No. He couldn't start thinking like that. He wasn't dead yet. They were in deep, deep shit, but giving up wasn't an option.
Dean hoped his brother had cottoned on that something had gone wrong and was working on being a long goddamn way from here. Fat chance of him having that much sense, though.
But. Not getting eaten right this minute meant the Leviathan were overconfident. More likely to be complacent, so he had to stay alert for the slightest chance at escaping. Disarmed and not likely to find borax lying around, he would just have to run for it. Maybe hide, somehow. He'd have to find Sam first; they'd have a better chance at saving Cas together. Because the angel was still alive; hurt, but not killed. If being red-misted by the devil himself couldn't make Castiel stay dead, some gooey piranhas from the great beyond couldn't do him in either. Dean clung to that conviction furiously.
HIs little burst of determination did nothing to help matters in the short term; it didn't stop the lab-coated leviathan from dragging him away down the corridor, arms twisted high behind his back and boots scraping the floor. He still tested their hold, on the off chance one of them might slip. The male didn't respond, and the female snapped and gave him a little shake that wrenched his shoulders nastily.
"Hey. I can still do what I need to do to you if you don't have any hands. Walk, or I'll start biting bits off."
Grinding his teeth, Dean walked, wondering where the hell he was being taken.
With one little pest removed, Dick turned his attention back to the bleeding, huddled form of Castiel. The angel's irises had rolled back down so that a sliver of blue was showing, and the tremors of wounded grace had quieted.
The Leviathan regarded him thoughtfully, until some drone in shirtsleeves and an ugly tie interrupted.
"So... are you going to eat that one?"
"Oh, no, no, no. I don't think so. Not yet." Dick nudged Castiel's ashy face with the toe of one immaculately polished shoe.
“You're a very special angel, aren't you? Just look at what you've achieved. You’ve ushered us into paradise… and now you've even assured our future here.”
Dick leered down at the wounded angel, tongue sliding thoughtfully along his lower lip, anticipation oiling each word. “It’s going to be one big feast from here on in,” he pronounced with relish. “And I think a celebration’s in order, am I right?” He glanced over his shoulder and grinned at the Leviathan remaining, watching avidly as their boss leaned in close to his prey.
“It’s been a loooong time since I tasted seraph.”
Dick snapped his fingers and pointed at the underling who'd addressed him, without looking up. “Call the Tokyo office. I want to speak to whoever ate that Jiro Ono guy, last month."
"Of course, si- "
"Scratch that, just get him on a flight. I want this -” and he twirled a finger at Castiel, still unmoving “ – bagged to go. Pronto.” He looked over the angel greedily once more, and announced;
"I've just had a little inspiration."
Several floors away, Kevin Tran sat still, controlled his breathing, and tried to decide how much longer he should wait for Sam. Half an hour ago, the hunter had busted the door down like some sort of redneck commando, thrown corrosive stuff on every Leviathan that came near him, and got busy with the biggest machete Kevin had ever seen. Only machete Kevin had ever seen. He’d left smoking body parts strewn all over the corridors, warned Kevin not to touch any of them, not to step in the bubbling, chemical-stinking liquid pooling on the floor.
“What the hell is that stuff?”
“Borax. They don’t like it.” Sam answered without looking at Kevin, peering around the door for a moment and then beckoning him to follow.
“Right. Borax kills the monsters. Of course.” He followed the hunter, automatically keeping the tablet in a firm grip. He was almost lightheaded with relief. At least, until Sam had stopped, a distinct look of apprehension creeping into his face.
“They're not dead...” he muttered, distractedly.
“They look pretty killed to me.”
“It doesn’t last. They get up again.”
Kevin’s eyes widened, darting over the scalded shapes lying around. “You’re shitting me!”
Sam didn’t answer, just held out a hand in a shushing gesture.
“What, what is it?” Kevin clutched at the tablet reflexively, tight against his chest.
“It’s… way quieter than it should be, by now.”
Kevin’s look of incomprehension went unnoticed as Sam stood, listening.
“So? Quiet’s good. I’m happy with quiet. And what do you mean, ‘by now’? What’s going on?”
Sam had been silent for a moment, vacillating. Then he’d turned to the teenager, gripped his shoulders and given some half-assed reassurances as he hurriedly pushed a cellphone into Kevin’s pocket. Kevin couldn’t make his fingers uncurl from the tablet. Sam said he would come back, and trotted down the corridor, out of sight.
That had been twenty minutes ago. He hadn’t come back, and now the monsters had stopped smoking and started to… coagulate back together, pretty rapidly.
Kevin, muttering to himself, finally decided he couldn’t wait any longer. He didn’t have a weapon, stupid tablet probably wouldn’t have let him hold one anyway. Eyeing the disturbingly mobile heads and limbs, he hurried past them.
He hated to ditch the Winchesters if they were in trouble – scratch that, of course they were in trouble – but desperate lone rescues were beyond him. And he needed to find his mom, somehow.
Kevin gathered himself as best he could, and proceeded to walk calmly down the stained carpet of the hallway. Not slowly, but calmly; checking around the corners, ready to sprint if anything even looked at him.
He stayed cool and collected until he came to a fire escape. Then he ran like hell.
When he reached the front of the building, he stopped, panting for breath.
There was no sign of Meg. Kevin guessed it must have been the demon who did… this.
There were Leviathan lying in pieces all over Sucrocorp’s forecourt. The place was a mess – burn marks and strange gouges streaked the concrete, black stuff was splattered all over the place, decorating the exterior walls. One of the front doors was smashed in, along with a few windows. An oily, black shape sprawled, half-on-half-off a patch of grass, with some lumps a little beyond it. These turned out, as Kevin skirted them nervously, to be heads. It seemed like more than one belonged to the same body; the eyeless, toothy things were still leaking slime, and they looked to have been torn off raggedly. Boric acid lay in steaming puddles all over the place.
No bystanders or lookie-loos had shown up to stare or take pictures of the bizarre carnage. The thought briefly occurred to Kevin that there might not be any people left around here who were still people.
As he watched, saw the strings of goo between the heads and body thickening. Panic started to creep up on him as he threw a glance over his shoulder – the other Leviathan must have been doused earlier, and had already started pulling themselves together, beginning to move around, burning lesions slowly disappearing. Sam was right, you could put them down but not out. Kevin got the sinking feeling the Winchesters must have failed at whatever they were trying to do. He told himself again, he’d have helped them if he could. But he couldn’t.
Kevin really, really hoped that the key was still in Dean’s chevy and that the vehicle wasn’t too smashed up to start. He wasn’t sure if this was the best idea, but he was short of options and didn’t think trying to get away on foot would be any good either.
He yanked the driver’s side door open, hurriedly swept the crumbs of glass off the seat, dropped into the car, and froze.
He knew how to do this. Stick and everything. But for a clear five seconds, he couldn’t remember the first damn thing about driving. Turn the car on. Grope for keys, yes, still in the ignition. Turn. The car made awful noises, but yes, it moved. Kevin looked over his shoulder, through the back window and felt his heart try to jump out of his body. There was one of them right there, inches from the back bumper and looking right at him. And another, reaching for the passenger door. He wrenched the car into reverse; pulled it around as fast as it would go – not fast enough, stupid boat – and thought he heard something thump against the passenger window.
Getting the car pointing the right way, Kevin squeezed his eyes shut and accelerated, expecting a sudden bang and a dead engine at any moment. It didn’t happen. The steering felt wobbly and it pulled to the left, but it kept going as he got out onto the road. He was doing it. He was getting away. He had no idea where the hell he was going to go, but seeing the glowering monsters falling behind in the rear view mirror was probably the biggest relief he had ever felt, even tempered as it was by the guilt pinching at him. He hadn’t known the Winchesters long, but it was still shitty that they were probably dead right now.
Kevin picked a direction he hoped would lead away from… everything, and just drove as fast and as far as he thought the car could manage. There was a lot of crunching and grinding going on under the buckled hood, and the steam coming from somewhere in there would definitely attract attention in short order. This was like one of those stress dreams where he was just running and running and running from some nebulous, unseen bad guys, except he always woke up from those before they ever caught him. Kevin dearly wished he would just wake up at home, in his own bed, but there was no use kidding himself. This total fucking absurdity was really happening to him.
The grinding noises got worse as he went on, until he was pretty sure something was going to explode or catch fire if he kept going. He looked around for somewhere to pull off, a rest stop or a side road or something. This stretch of two-lane was not the kind of place with a lot of picnic areas. He did spot somewhere a little while later; an overgrown side road he almost drove past. It didn’t lead anywhere, there was a gate, chained up, after a few yards, but there was a ditch to one side. It would have to do. Rolling to a stop, he turned towards the scrubby dip, straightened the wheels, left the brake off, got out, pushed. Gravity was on his side; the wheezing, creaking car got shoved into the undergrowth, branches squealing along the paintwork.
“Sorry, Dean,” he said quietly.
The ditch wasn’t deep enough to swallow it, so it just settled there, looking pathetic, tipped on its side. Kevin broke a few boughs behind it and hoped that no-one gave enough of a shit about this stretch of road to come and check for this sort of thing.
Now he had to hide himself. He’d seen a few cars, but not another face for hours. He felt a bit better about that, but he couldn’t jump in a bush and hope everything went away. Once more, he picked a direction and kept moving.
It took the rest of the day, to find somewhere he felt hidden enough to take a rest. He spent hours walking along the side of the road, listening for the sound of cars. A couple passed but it seemed like the drivers didn't spare him a second glance. He didn't feel like he could just strike out across the empty fields or into the woods without getting hopelessly lost. The day was damp. Dripping tree branches pared down to black fingerbones did nothing to hold off the chilly, creeping drizzle that gradually seeped in around the edges of his clothes as he walked.
A thick, fuzzy grey twilight eventually descended, dimness that made everything look low-resolution. By that point, it was a case of settle soon, or drop.
It was still a long hour before Kevin saw a half-finished housing development from the road, and started looking for a way through the fence to make his way up to it. His feet were wet and sore, shoes ruined with sticky, gritty mud.
On closer inspection, the site looked kind of a mess. Maybe the company had gone under or something. There was a lot of exposed concrete streaked with mildew, and stagnant water collecting in tarpaulins scattered around the place, but some of the houses-to-be had roofs and windows in place. Kevin picked one, slumped down on a convenient bag of sand, and tried to think about what to do next without having some kind of panic attack.
He seriously needed to find somewhere he could stay away from demons, as well as keeping his head down in case he got spotted by Leviathan. They all looked human, too, until it was too late. Needed salt. Didn’t have any salt. All he had was this stupid rock. If he could have dropped it down a sewer grate, he’d have happily done so, except just thinking about it made his hands tighten until his fingertips pressed white. He had his wallet, his cards, but was too scared to use them. He knew enough about criminals getting caught that way to figure it wasn't worth risking it.
He sat there, as it got darker, thinking. Trying to come up with some sort of plan. There was nowhere he could try to get to that would be safe, and even if there was, he had no way of getting there. He was already horribly tired, cold, and thirsty, and he couldn't see shit. No idea how the fuck to even try to start a fire or something. Wondered where his mom was, if she was alive. He tried hard not to circle that thought, tried to squeeze out any images of her hurt. Tears threatened, building pressure behind his eyes. He had to focus on what he was going to do. He still had the tablet; probably that was still in demand, and he was still in demand along with it. Maybe he could... find an internet cafe or something. Try to negotiate without giving away his location. Demand proof that she was okay.
All of that seemed like the shittiest stack of ideas, bound screw up and get her killed. He didn't even know where the fuck he was to begin with.
Kevin was jolted violently from his thoughts by a hideously loud jangling sound and pale, blinking light. It took several seconds to realise what the hell it was coming from. The cell Sam had shoved into his pocket back at Sucrocorp. He’d completely forgotten about it. Kevin fumbled the little chunk of plastic out of his pocket and squinted at the screen.
Maybe he should ignore it. It could be anyone; he had no idea who the fuck 'Garth' might be. He could ignore it, and sit in the cold trying to control his spiralling panic.
Hands shaking, Kevin thumbed the green-backed button on the left to accept the call.