Tom Murphy is robbing a Waffle House outside of Soda Springs when the headache starts. He has his unloaded gun pointed in the elderly cashier's face and she doesn't look particularly impressed. He knows he's really too short and sweet-faced to rob anybody, but he needs the money pretty bad. He should have worn a mask or something. He shouldn't have gotten high before he stumbled through the door and screamed at the three customers and two employees who are present for the three AM shift to get on the fucking floor, but he never would have had the nerve to try this sober.
After stuffing the contents of the cash register into a take-out box and fleeing without impediment, he stops in Wyoming just before he hits highway 80, pulls over and counts the cash. One hundred and ninety two dollars. He's not sure if it's enough to get him to Vegas, particularly since he went the wrong way out of Soda Springs. The headache that started when he pushed into the Waffle House is intensifying, and he winces, leaning onto the steering wheel. In a few hours it'll be dawn. Trucks rumble by on the two-lane road that leads to highway 80, and he envies truckers and Waffle House cashiers and anybody who doesn't have this headache. He did the last of the coke he stole from his roommate in Missoula back in Idaho Springs, where he bought the gun. Probably he should get rid of the gun, considering that it's evidence, but then again, he didn't fire any bullets. He hasn't got any bullets; he couldn't afford those. He grits his teeth and wishes he had some aspirin, but maybe he can't afford that, either. He's got to get to Vegas and turn whatever's left of the Waffle House money into the ten thousand he owes Pete Ocala because Pete knows cops all over the country and he could track Tom's car down no problem, and he can't leave the car. The car is all he has left.
Sometimes he tells sympathetic women that he wasn't always like this, but that's not true: he was. Even when he was ten years old he was already this guy. He was born two years before his four-year-old sister died by falling down an escalator at the mall. His mother went nuts and his father, who had already been looking for an excuse to go, left before the funeral. Tom got in trouble at school not for fighting or being disobedient but because he could never muster up the energy to even attempt to do his assignments. He felt bad about it, kind of, but would skip class to smoke cigarettes and kiss girls who were doomed like him. In high school he got high with his friend Ryan every morning before school -- or before the idea of school, because often they didn't make it there -- and when Ryan woke Tom up from a stoned nap by kissing him on the mouth Tom punched him in the face and stormed out, but the next day he was back for more. Since then he's been getting fired a lot and kissing guys who are doomed like him, but he still finds women to be better listeners, and there have always been one or two around in bars who are willing to make sad faces at him.
He can't afford a motel room, so he parks in the Wasatch-Cache National Forrest and puts his seat back. His heart is still hammering from the coke, and his head still feels like it's being smashed very slowly but steadily in a vice. He wishes he had a beer or something to help him sleep. The headache is so bad that when he shuts his eyes everything is white, not black.
Then something rips the roof of the car off and Tom can only open his eyes and gasp as he feels a massive, invisible river of everything flooding into him and burning him raw inside and out.
He figures his roommate's coke must have been cut with cyanide or something and hopes that if he's not actually dying his car will somehow be okay.
He wakes up in what looks like a fall-out shelter and scrambles to his feet, thinking Pete must have found him. He's bleeding, and someone is sobbing, kneeling on the floor beside him with his head in his hands. Every part of Tom aches; he feels like he's had the shit beat out of him not only recently but regularly for the past few months. The sobbing person is a man with short hair who looks up at Tom with wrecked eyes like Tom just told him the world is ending.
"Please don't leave me," the man says. Every word sounds difficult and sharp as it comes out, and the man quakes a little, like someone is making him speak. His nose is running and his cheek is bleeding.
"Where the fuck am I?" Tom asks, backing away from the crying man. He looks strangely familiar; maybe he's another failed dealer who Pete is torturing in whatever fucked up serial-killer hideout they're in. There are satanic-looking things spray painted on the walls and there's a huge knife on the floor. But that doesn't seem right; why would Pete leave a knife lying around for his captives to wield? Tom looks at the crying man again and squints, trying to place his face. Maybe they met while Tom was high. He's definitely seen him around.
"He's gone, isn't he?" the man asks, choking up more tears with the words.
"Pete?" Tom says.
The man crumbles to the ground and cries silently, shaking. Tom stands up and looks around. The door of the fallout shelter-torture chamber is hanging open. Outside the room, it looks like a tornado has recently been through, but over the wreckage the sky is blue and clear. The remains of what might have been a house and a couple of cars are scattered all over the cluttered field outside of the shelter; Tom can smell a fire somewhere but can't see it.
"What happened?" Tom asks. "What is this place?"
The crying man doesn't answer. He looks pretty badly hurt; his left leg is twisted funny and his torn shirt is wet with fresh blood. Tom looks down to appraise his own condition more thoroughly. He's sore, and his clothes are ripped and bloody in spots, but he feels strangely good, like these are the first moments of recovery after an especially long bender. His headache is gone.
"Are you okay?" Tom asks the crying man. "Do you know what happened to my car?" He looks at the wreckage outside but doesn't recognize his old Ford among the few mangled pieces of former vehicles that he can see amongst the debris.
"No," the crying man says. He takes a deep breath and tries to stand, but his left leg gives out underneath him and he collapses again. He sits in the dust on top of what looks like a big Satan star and lets his shoulders slump in defeat. "I'm not okay."
"How did I get here?" Tom asks. "Was it Pete? Is he gone?"
"You don't remember anything," the man says flatly. He has big lips and they're cracked and dry. Tom could use some water himself. He looks around the shelter and sees a shelf with sundries spilling off of it. He roots through them until he finds a plastic bottle of prune juice and figures it's good enough. After drinking some, he offers it to the man on the floor.
"What's your name?" he asks when the man only stares at the juice, unmoving. The man shuts his eyes.
"Dean," he says weakly. "What's yours?"
Tom isn't sure he should give his real name, but the guy seems pretty harmless.
"I'm Tom," he says. "Do you remember how you got here?"
Dean tries to get up and again he falls onto his ass, hissing in pain. Tom kneels down beside him and puts his hand on Dean's back. He's shaking pretty hard. He's a good looking guy, and Tom wonders if he's one of Pete's whores. He'd heard that Pete had branched out into men, too.
"Just take it easy," Tom says while Dean drinks the juice in pathetic little sips, as if its burning him on the way down. "I think your ankle might be broken."
"It's not broken, it's just dislocated," Dean says roughly. "I can snap it back into place -- fuck." His face pinches up like he's going to start sobbing again, but he smashes his lips together and it goes away.
"What happened?" Tom asks. "Please, do you know?"
"Fine." Dean glares at him. "You want to know what happened? You prayed to be possessed by an angel and you got your wish. Why the fuck you wanted that, I don't know. But he was here, and there was a battle, and my brother --" His voice chokes away and he pitches the prune juice across the room. It splatters everywhere and lands on its side, dumping the last of its contents onto the floor sadly. Tom stands up and sighs.
"You're high," he says, trying to be charitable. It's easy to forget that you are when you're truly out of your mind on something.
"Just get out," Dean says. He shuts his eyes and leans back to lie on the floor. "If you're not him, what the hell good are you to me? Just get away from me."
"You don't know where my car is, do you?" Tom asks when he gets to the door. Dean says nothing. He's got a hand over his face and clearly isn't interested in helping Tom find his car. Probably Pete stole it; definitely it's long gone. This seems worse than anything for some reason. That car could have taken him away from this horrible place where he's somehow ended up.
"Can you at least tell me what town we're in?" Tom asks.
"Sioux Falls," Dean mutters, his hand still over his face. Tom feels sorry for him; he looks so wrecked. Tom has sucked dick for coke before, sure, but this guy has definitely been through worse.
"Um, and what state?" Tom asks, embarrassed.
"South Dakota," Dean says more sharply.
Tom walks outside of the shelter and into the rubble. He can see for miles; everything has been smashed down to the ground. He starts to stumble into the remains of the house that seems to have once been attached to the shelter, then looks back at Dean. He's still lying on the floor.
"You don't have a car, do you?" he asks. "I could use a ride." He isn't sure where to, but he certainly isn't interested in staying where he is. There is something creepy about the place; it's not just the tornado-strewn wreckage but something sharp and electric in the air. It's too quiet.
Dean sits up onto his elbows and frowns. Without speaking, he takes hold of his left ankle and yanks on it. He screams so savagely with the pain that Tom actually jumps.
"Fuck!" Tom shouts. "What'd you just do?"
"I tried to --" Dean is curled into himself, moaning under his breath. "I tried to -- I don't know if I --"
"Here," Tom says. He goes to Dean and puts an arm around him to help him stand. Dean leans against him weakly, and Tom can feel the heat of the blood on his shirt.
"You're hurt pretty bad," Tom says. "Did Pete do this to you?"
"Who the fuck is Pete?" Dean bellows, looking at Tom like he wants to kill him. Tom shakes his head. The guy is totally out of his mind.
"Never mind," he says. "Let's just find a way out of here, okay?"
Dean says nothing, and Tom helps him limp out of the shelter and through the wreck of the house. It looks as if an entire junk yard has been thrown onto the property.
"Was there a tornado?" Tom asks, though he doesn't expect Dean to answer. Dean is staring straight ahead, at something in the distance. Tom turns to see what he's looking at. At the edge of the destruction around them, a perfectly untouched car sits waiting, gleaming in the late afternoon sun. It's black and sort of old-fashioned looking.
"Is that your car?" Tom asks as he begins to walk toward it, following Dean's limping lead. He hears something get choked down into the back of Dean's throat, a pitiable little noise that Dean turns into a swallow.
"Yeah," he says hoarsely. "That's my car."
Dean drives for a long time and Tom waits for him to ask where he needs to be dropped off, or to just squeal over onto the side of the road and tell him to get out. When he doesn't, Tom falls asleep.
He dreams about a church. Someone throws him against a wall and then pins him to it; he's being choked. Another man appears on the scene and knocks the man who was attacking Tom aside; Tom writhes on the floor.
The dream changes; he's alone with Dean in a dark motel room. Tom feels calm in a way that he never has before, though his face is bruised and bleeding. Dean is angry about something, shouting things; Tom can't hear the words clearly. He feels like he has water in his ears. He stands from the bed, walks to Dean and puts his hands on Dean's face. Dean looks so angry, but it melts to sadness when Tom strokes Dean's temples with his thumbs the way a trainer might soothe a wild animal.
He wakes up when the car stops. They're in the parking lot of a motel, and Dean is holding onto the steering wheel of the car like any minute now it's going to be the only thing left in the world. Tom moans and sits up. Something is strange, and he sits beside Dean in silence for awhile, frowning and trying to figure it out. It finally comes to him when Dean throws open the driver's side door. He doesn't want to get high. He had forgotten what that felt like.
"Where are you going?" he asks Dean, climbing out of the car. The answer is not very far: Dean is stumbling against the car and cursing, trying to walk on his own. When Tom moves to help him Dean gives him a look of fury.
"How can you not remember anything?" Dean asks through gritted teeth. "All the other ones did."
"What other ones?" Tom wonders if Dean is still high; he seemed so lucid when he was driving. He still hasn't answered any of Tom's questions about how he got to South Dakota -- if that's actually where they are -- but Tom has all the time in the world to wait and find out when Dean's head clears.
"Even your voice sounds different," Dean says, giving Tom a terribly wounded expression. Tom doesn't ask another question, just puts Dean's arm around his shoulders and hoists him up. They head toward the motel's front office and Dean pays for a room with a credit card. The dowdy woman working the desk barely looks twice at them, as if bloodied young men show up after midnight and ask for motel rooms all the time. But of course they do; Tom lived in that world, once. Why does it seem so long ago?
"How long was I out?" Tom asks Dean when they're inside the room. It's dank and nondescript with dusty curtains covering the only window. Dean sighs.
"'Bout a year, far as I know," he mutters. "Maybe longer."
"Hmm." Tom should know better by now than to ask this guy anything and expect an answer that makes sense. "Are you hungry?" That question, at least, should be safe enough.
"No." Dean falls onto one of the beds and lies on his side, turned away from Tom.
"Are you still bleeding?" Tom asks.
"Just leave me the fuck alone," Dean says, but there's nothing mean in the request; he's earnestly begging.
Tom undresses in the bathroom and takes a shower. He's starving, and the inside of his mouth feels strange, dry and clean. Maybe he had some kind of prolonged blackout following the Waffle House robbery; maybe he got arrested and the experience was so traumatic that he blocked it out. Maybe he met Dean in jail.
He doesn't want to put his ruined clothes back on, so he walks out into the room with a towel around his waist. Dean brought a duffel bag into the room, and Tom hopes he'll be able to loan him some clean or at least semi-clean clothes. Dean seems to be asleep, so Tom squats down to quietly root through the duffel. He finds a shirt, underwear and pants stuffed in between a variety of flasks, a big, gold cross, two leather bags full of odd-smelling powder that is not coke, and three guns. Loose bullets rattle around on the bottom of the bag.
"Stay out of my shit," Dean says listlessly, and Tom jumps back.
"I just wanted to borrow some clothes," he said. "Mine are wrecked."
Dean says nothing, so Tom dresses quickly. He doesn't feel tired at all, and he wants to go out and eat everything he can find, his appetite finally returned after years of existing off of Saltines and coke, but he doesn't want to leave Dean alone when he might still be badly injured, and also, he doesn't have any money. The Waffle House loot was not in the pockets of the pants he was wearing when he came to, which were yuppie duds he didn't even recognize.
"Why don't you clean up and we'll go get something to eat?" Tom says.
"Don't you have anywhere to go?" Dean asks, still turned away from him. "Righteous man?"
"No," Tom says. "I don't even know what day this is. Look, maybe you should go to the hospital." There is a sizable blood stain leaking out around Dean's back.
"Just let me die in peace," Dean says.
"Where are you from?" Tom asks. "Are you one of the guys from Missoula? One of Pete's boys?"
Dean has gone back into silent mode. Frustrated, Tom walks over to the bed and rolls him onto his back. Dean grabs his arm with surprising strength and scowls up at him.
"I don't need your help anymore," he says, spitting with anger.
"Yes, you do," Tom says, looking down at his blood-soaked shirt. "You need to at least close up that wound."
"I won't die," Dean says. The threat of a sob flickers onto his face then disappears. "They won't let me."
"What did you take?" Tom asks, sitting down on the bed beside him. Now that his cravings are gone, he feels so magnanimous and patient. It's amazing, living without that never ending need.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Dean asks.
"I mean what are you on?"
Dean laughs unhappily and lets go of Tom's arm. They look at each other for a long time, Dean deflated on the bed and growing paler while Tom watches him. Tom wishes to hell he could remember where he met this guy. Little things about Dean's face jerk at his memories like deja vu: the insincere smirk, the way his eyes wrinkle at the corners.
"If you give me some money I'll go out and get you bandages and something to eat," Tom says gently. Dean still looks like maybe he wants to kill him.
"Why?" Dean asks. "Why do you want to help me if you're not him anymore? If you don't even remember?"
Tom sighs. "I don't know what happened," he says. "I was driving toward Nevada, I'd just hit Utah and I pulled over to get some sleep. Then it was like -- I thought it was some kind of bear attack. Some kind of crazed super bear that could tear through metal, because I think whatever it was fucked up my car pretty good. And then it was like everything hurt, my bones, my skin, my fingernails, everything, like I was being burned alive. I thought I was dying, at best. And then I woke up and there you were."
Dean frowns deeply and sits up a little.
"You prayed for him," he says.
"For who?" Tom asks.
Tom wonders why people always start going on about God when they're really and truly fucked up. They'll start talking about seeing Him or being Him or thinking they can walk on water because all of a sudden they remember their Sunday school stories. This is especially true of crackheads on public transportation. He's not sure how Dean can seem so aware of his surroundings and so far gone at the same time, but that powdery shit in his duffel bag was unlike anything Tom ever put up his nose, so there's no telling.
"Just give me ten bucks," Tom says. "Or come with me if you don't trust me. But I haven't got anywhere else to go, and I don't know why, but I do want to help you. I feel like I know you -- when did we meet?"
Dean settles back against the pillows and folds his dirty hands over his chest.
"We met when I tried to kill you," he says, his voice unnervingly soft. He isn't quite looking at Tom; he seems to be looking through him.
"Why'd you try to kill me?" Tom asks, not bothered by this for some reason. He feels invincible, which is ironic, because he used to get high in order to try and get close to this feeling.
"Because I thought you were going to kill me," Dean says.
"Well. I wasn't." Tom is no angel, but he's never wanted to kill anyone, not really.
"I know." Dean seems so tired. Tom thinks of the dream he had in the car. He wants to touch Dean's face and watch him wind down under his fingers. He's obnoxiously crazy but still pretty good looking.
"Just give me a little bit of money and I'll come back here with everything you need," Tom says. Dean's eyes get wet.
"No, you won't," he says, but he reaches into his pocket and puts a twenty in Tom's hand anyway.
Tom walks across the street to a 24-hour convenience store. The air is sharp with a breeze but warm enough, and he's glad it's at least still summer. He can't have been out for long, maybe a couple of days. It wouldn't be the first time he lost consciousness in one state and came to in another.
Normally, if someone trusted him with cash he would use it to at least get drunk. Without even considering it or really feeling guilty, it's just always been his default, to erase his senses one by one. Dean said his voice sounded different, and Tom feels changed all over. Maybe this is how it happens for a select, special few; he'd always hoped that someday one of his benders would scare him straight. He's practically bouncing as he walks through the convenience store selecting bandages and painkillers for Dean. So this is what it's like to be happy: you wake up on the floor somewhere and suddenly everything feels like it's going to be okay.
When he gets back to the motel room Dean is not on the bed. For some reason this pitches an incredibly intense fear straight through Tom's chest; he feels the remains of it trickling down toward his stomach even as he hears the shower running and realizes that Dean is still around. He sets the supplies he bought on a little table near the covered front window and lets out his breath. For a moment his breezy new sanity had been yanked away from him and he was filled with that old, all-consuming want. His legs are shaky in the aftermath.
Dean gets out of the shower, still limping, and now also making an uncomfortable hissing noise and holding his side. Tom ignores the fact that Dean is wearing only a towel and wordlessly goes to work, cleaning the horrifying gash on Dean's side before wrapping the gauze he purchased around it. He feels odd doing it, as if he's healed people before. It feels like he's doing it wrong now, though he couldn't imagine how else to go about it.
"At least the bleeding's stopped," he says when he's done. Dean grunts with disinterest and crosses the room to dress. Tom turns his back and makes a racket with the bags of food and drinks that he purchased, giving him privacy.
"So you're some kind of holy man," Dean says when he walks over, wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. "Driving to Utah."
"Oh, no," Tom says. "I was on my way to Nevada, like I said."
Dean gives him a suspicious look. Tom gets the impression Dean doesn't like him at all, and he's not sure why he should be crushed by this but he is. He's also not sure why Dean is still tolerating his presence, but maybe he doesn't have anywhere else to go, either.
"You didn't pray to God to be visited by an angel?" Dean asks. Tom is definitely starting to get nervous about how serious and sober Dean seems when he says things like that.
"No," Tom says. "Not lately." He wasn't exactly raised in the sort of household where angels were regularly appealed to. "Why?"
Dean digs in to a can of Pringles without answering. He has a cut on the side of his face that branches out like a delicate red spiderweb, and Tom studies it, his stomach filling with warmth, maybe from the junk food he's eating. Neither of them sits down or moves from the table; they eat standing up, until they're full.
Afterward, Tom waits for Dean to dig into his duffel and come up with something to smoke or snort, because certainly that's how they got into this mess together, but he just goes over to the bed and sits on it heavily. For awhile he stares into space. Tom watches him unashamedly, because there's nothing else in the room to look at.
"I think my brother's gone forever," Dean says. He doesn't seem to be talking to Tom, but Tom walks to the other bed and sits opposite him anyway.
"My sister is," he says, trying to be helpful. He doesn't even remember her. Dean looks up at Tom as if he just teleported there.
"He's gone forever, too," Dean says, staring at Tom like he's looking for something secret that may or may not be written on his face in very fine print.
"You," Dean says. "Him."
Tom shakes his head. He watches Dean shuffle under his blankets and roll over to face the wall.
"Thanks for letting me stay," Tom says, knowing in the uncomfortable silence that follows that Dean is awake. "That guy that you asked me about before, Pete, he's this guy who wants to kill me, I guess, because I owe him a lot of money. He was my dealer but I think I'm cured."
"Here's what I want to know," Dean says loudly, rolling onto his back. He's speaking to the ceiling. "If he lied to me about you, did he lie to me about everything else? Did he lie to be about what happened to Sammy?"
He gives Tom a look of annoyance before rolling over again. Tom doesn't know what to tell him. It's like they're living in two different dimensions that have sloppily overlapped, but he still feels calm and certain like he never has about anything else: this is where he needs to be.
Tom dreams about Dean, and in the dream Dean is shaking and quiet and looking at him worshipfully. He's staring at Tom like he needs Tom's hands on his face, like Tom is the sun and Dean wants to melt to nothing beneath him. Tom wants to give it to him, but in the dream he knows that he can't. Something big and painful is stopping him, keeping him silent and still, though the only thing he knows is how much he wants to wrap himself entirely around Dean, worse than any dangerous craving he's ever known. He imagines that he has two great, dark wings that he could close around Dean to fix him, steady him, but he stands in place and watches Dean from across the room.
When he wakes up he's still pulsing with this longing, and his cock is hard beneath the blankets. He looks over at Dean's bed, and when he finds it empty the feeling of suffocating panic returns. He wants to reach down and jerk himself off, but instead he gets dressed and walks out of the motel, praying that Dean's car isn't gone. When he sees it still parked in front of the room, ticking in the late morning sun, his breath returns.
His hardon is still sinking as he makes his way across the street to the only place in walking distance aside from the gas station convenience store where he bought bandages for Dean the night before. It's a greasy little diner, and Tom finds Dean inside, drinking coffee in a booth near the back. He eyes Tom warily and says nothing when Tom sits down across from him.
"I had a dream about you last night," Tom says, the words falling out of him like he's been hit in the stomach. He puts his sweaty hands on the cool tabletop and stares.
"I don't want to hear it," Dean mutters into his coffee cup. The cuts on his face have closed, but they're still angry and red, and it makes him look prettier beneath the grime of his injuries.
"Are you sober?" Tom asks.
"So can you tell me now, how I got to South Dakota?"
"Well." Dean sets down his cup. "I thought for a long time that you were some kind of God-crazy douche who prayed to be possessed – or maybe just visited, ha – by an angel, but now I'm starting to get the impression that you're some sort of junkie who Castiel took against his will. Which figures, considering everything I've learned about angels."
Dean bats his eyelashes sweetly and gives Tom a sarcastic smile.
"You've got no fucking idea what I'm talking about, do you?" Dean says. His amusement fades and he looks sympathetic for the first time since Tom's dream.
"Who's Castiel?" Tom asks. Someone took him against his will? Fuck, he'll have to get tested again. He shifts on the seat, trying to figure out if he's feeling subtly sore.
"An angel of the lord," Dean says. "He had some work for me, so says him, and when he'd fed me a lot of shit about my brother being in a better place he took his exit."
"Oh." Tom sits back, disappointed. So Dean is like this all the time. Unless he's just tweaking again, which is possible, but his eyes look so weary and sharp; he doesn't seem to be high.
"You want something to eat?" Dean asks. "C'mon, I'm buying."
They both have the lumberjack breakfast, and Dean has an extra side of sausage. Tom has never seen a junkie with an appetite like Dean's, and he's quite enjoying the resurgence of his own ability to eat real food without feeling like he's going to wretch.
"So what's your story?" Dean asks. "You got a family somewhere?"
"My mother lives in Missoula," Tom says. "I grew up there."
"Idaho," Dean says, his mouth full of hash browns. "I killed a shape shifter there once."
"You kill a lot of people?" Tom asks.
"When I have to," Dean says, giving Tom a dark look that makes him queasy. "You?"
"I've never killed anyone."
"Sorry, pal, but that's not true anymore. At least, not of your, like, physical, you know. Hands."
"Nothing." Dean sighs and wipes his mouth with his napkin. He looks out the window for awhile, and then back at Tom. "You don't have anywhere to go?" he asks.
"Not really." Tom thinks of Pete and the money he still owes. "Do you?" he asks.
Dean doesn't answer. He pays the bill and Tom follows him out of the diner, the greasy food beginning to settle unpleasantly in his stomach. He walks a few steps behind Dean on the way back to the motel.
"Here's the facts, man," Dean says when they reach the motel door. He wheels around and stares at Tom, his eyes hard again. "You were possessed. By an angel. I know you don't believe that, and that's okay. But he was – he meant a lot to me, even if he was a liar. And when I look at you I see him. And there's not a lot in this world that I want to lay eyes on right now but your face – well, it was his face, sort of." Dean shuts his eyes and shakes his head. "Why the fuck am I telling you this?" he mutters. He turns and unlocks the door, and Tom follows him into the dark room.
"What I'm trying to say is this." Dean bolts the door behind them. "I need a few days to, whatever. To think. And if you want to sit around and quietly look like him I wouldn't be opposed to that."
"Okay." Tom doesn't know what else to say. He feels safe from Pete when he's with Dean, maybe only because Dean's calm delusions make Tom's own disastrous life feel less surreal and horrible. He figures something really fucked up happened to both of them, and he'll remember it eventually, but he's not in a big hurry to relive whatever they went through together. They'll hang out for awhile, and maybe he can talk Dean into getting tested, too. He feels strangely clean in the meantime.
Dean starts drinking that night, and Tom waits for his own maniacal need to get fucked up to return, but it doesn't. He just sits on the end of his bed feeling sorry for Dean as he gets more and more wasted, laughing loudly at the TV.
"Look at this fucker," he slurs as Steven Segal kick-boxes his way across the screen. "He can't even fake-fight right."
When the bottle of tequila is mostly empty and sitting on the floor beside Dean's bed, Tom retrieves it and sniffs it with disgust before pouring it down the bathroom sink. There was a time when he would have spent his last two dollars on a tiny bottle of the cheapest tequila from the scummy liquor store across from his apartment, but now the scent makes his stomach turn. What the hell happened to him? Maybe he really was possessed by an angel who wiped his insides clean. Tom laughs at the idea and goes back out into the room, where Dean is fast asleep on his back, spread across the bed like an exhausted kid who collapsed in the middle of his bedtime story.
Tom sits on the bed and watches Dean sleep for awhile. It feels like something he's done before, and a long-forgotten pang hits him hard in the chest. He was in love once, with Ryan, the first boy who kissed him, but Ryan OD'd senior year and Tom hasn't loved anyone since. Still, the pang in his chest is for Dean, as if he's spent a long time wanting him and not having him. Dean who likes his face. But he's crazy and mean and Tom believes that he has killed people, even if he is just a beat-up pretty boy whore who's seen so many hard times that he's started hallucinating angels. There's something unreachably hard in Dean, and Tom can imagine him gutting a coworker for some rock and walking away, calmly talking to himself about his mission from God.
He wants to dream about Ryan when he finally drifts off to sleep, the way he had talked about the future when he was high, making plans for the house they would buy together with a pool and a water slide, but he dreams about Dean again. In his dream they're in a church, fighting a pair of thugs and losing badly. Suddenly the doors at the front of the church fly open and a tall man with black eyes walks in. In the dream, Tom knows that this man will save them, but his heart breaks anyway, for Dean, somehow, and someone else's tears slide down his cheeks.
Tom wakes up when someone grabs his shirt, and he gasps as he's pulled up from the bed. He thinks of Pete, how they found Jack Hunter without a tongue or eyes but still alive after Pete was through with him. He tries to fight, but the hands that pin his shoulders down are strong, and when his vision clears he sees that it's Dean hovering above him, not Pete. For a moment this is not a comfort at all, but then he sees the look on Dean's face as his eyes adjust to the darkness. Dean's lips are shaking and his eyes are wet.
"Please," he whispers down at Tom. "Please just pretend to be him for a minute."
Dean curls down onto him, his whole body trembling. He's so warm and sturdy in Tom's uncertain arms that Tom can't imagine how Dean would ever need comfort from someone like him, even if he is out of his mind. Dean swallows down his sobs, but they rack through him anyway, making him jerk in Tom's grip.
"It's okay." Tom realizes that Dean is probably sobering, maybe for the first time in days, and he knows how hard it can be, how bad it hurts. He sits up a little and pulls Dean onto him fully, wrapping him up tighter. "It'll be alright," he tells Dean, who clings and shuts his eyes against Tom's t-shirt.
"That's all I ever wanted you to tell me, Cas," Dean says, his voice shaking badly. Tom pets Dean's hair and leans down to breathe in the smell of him. For some reason, it's better than anything he's ever been so close to, as if Dean is made from a little bit of every good thing in the world.
"Do you want some water?" Tom asks after they've sat like that for awhile, Dean huddled in close and holding on tight, Tom with one hand on the back of Dean's neck and the other stroking softly through his hair.
"Just don't let go of me," Dean says, his eyes still shut. Tom reaches down and pulls the thin motel room blanket over them. He's filled with a completely inexplicable, overwhelming love for the crazy boy he woke up with in South Dakota. It's amazing how much he believes what he told Dean: everything will be alright.
They stay in the motel room and Dean drinks day and night. Tom waits for a crippling need to join in to hit him, but it never does. He just watches sadly as Dean sustains his madness with beer during the day and Jack or vodka at night. Without fail, Dean will fall asleep in his own bed and then wake Tom up in the middle of the night by crawling into bed beside him. Tom holds onto Dean dutifully as the shakes move through him, and sometimes they talk.
"I don't know what to do anymore," Dean says one night, his alcohol-poisoned breath hot over Tom's mouth. Tom wants to kiss him, but the dreams where he knows he'll burn to ash if he touches Dean the way he wants to haunt him, and he only strokes Dean's back, smoothes his hair.
"I don't know where to start," Dean says. "I used to have a mission, a job. Now it's all over and I'm useless."
"I feel that way all the time," Tom says. "But you're not useless."
"Tell me want to do," Dean says. "Pretend you're him and tell me."
Tom doesn't know what to say. All he wants Dean to do is stay with him forever and come to him like this every night, wanting to be held, needing to hear Tom lie to him and pretend he's an angel.
"Quit drinking," Tom says. "It'll kill you."
"Don't you know I want to die, Cas?"
"No." It's so dark in the room with the thick curtains over the window; Tom clings to Dean and thinks of Ryan. Tom was with him when he died; he was the one who called 911, almost too fucked up to find the numbers on the phone.
"What's the point of my life anymore?" Dean asks.
"I need you," Tom says, though he isn't sure why. He does think that being with Dean could somehow keep him clean.
"You don't even know me," Dean says, and suddenly Tom isn't 'Cas' anymore.
On their fourth morning in the motel, Tom wakes up and Dean is packing things into his duffel, stumbling and still a little drunk from the binge. Tom sits up with a groan and watches him stuffing dirty socks and t-shirts into the duffel with frowning determination.
"Are you leaving?" Tom asks.
"We both are," Dean says, lifting Tom's spirits momentarily. "I'm taking you home."
They're on the road by nine, speeding south toward Missoula in Dean's impressive car. Tom feels like he's being driven to his death. He can't come up with a single word for why he wants to be with Dean, but the thought of getting left behind, back in his old life, is horrifying.
"I don't even have a car anymore," Tom says glumly. Dean's jaw tightens but he doesn't respond. Tom stares at him, his profile sharp with determination, his cuts beginning to heal. He imagines the two of them locked up in some unfathomable torture chamber designed by Pete, huddled in the corner, Dean naked and crying in his arms. Is that what happened? Why were they released relatively intact?
"I can't believe you don't remember anything," Dean says, hours later.
"Sometimes I do," Tom says. "In my dreams. At least, they feel like memories. Like someone else's memories, though."
Dean shakes his head. "It doesn't matter. Even if you remembered everything, you're not him. And he lied to me."
"Where will you go?" Tom asks as they cross into the Missoula city limits.
"Wherever I need to," Dean says. "There are still bad things out there. People who need help."
"Are you an undercover cop?" Tom asks. Dean laughs.
"Fuck," he says, shrugging. "Maybe I'll join the force."
"Maybe I will, too," Tom says, sitting up straighter. As if they would have him; he didn't even finish high school. Dean gives him a sideways glance.
"That's up to you," he says. "I guess I'd have to invent a new identity if I did. That might not be too easy. I'm supposed to be dead, you know."
"Me too," Tom says, nodding, because he does feel like he's ghost-walking through the remains of a life he's already spent.
"No kidding." Dean smirks. "I stabbed you, you know. You walked in, and it was like a handshake, bam, straight away. You just pulled that fucking knife out and looked at me like I'd hurt your feelings. Shit, that sort of got to me, you know? I mean it scared the shit out of me, sure, but it was kind of like, damn, this motherfucker ain't playing around."
He's smiling wistfully, and so is Tom, as if Dean's babbling nonsense is their inside joke. Dean looks at Tom and lets the smile drain from his face.
"Check it out," Dean says. "Lift up your shirt."
Tom's heart races at the request; he likes being told what to do and Dean seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't get too carried away with giving him orders. He lifts up his shirt and looks down at his unimpressive chest.
"No scar," Dean says. He sounds disappointed. Tom has seen the scar on Dean's shoulder, when he came out of the shower in the motel room: a big, red branding mark in the shape of a hand that looks like it hurt very badly. Tom is pretty sure that part of the reason he's fallen in love with Dean is that he's clearly been through hell.
"You don't want any company?" Tom asks as Dean pulls onto the street of Tom's mother's last known residence. "Wherever you're going?"
"I tried the company thing," Dean says tightly. "One sacrificed himself to save humanity and the other went back to heaven when he was through with me. Something makes me think the third time ain't gonna be a charm."
They sit in the car outside of Tom's mother's squat little house with its sagging front porch. The paint is still chipping and the yard is still overgrown; nothing's changed. Tom stares down at his hands and waits for Dean to tell him to get out.
"What if the angel comes back?" Tom says, egging Dean on. He'll play along if that means Dean won't leave him here.
"He won't," Dean says. "And even if he did, he'd probably possess some other poor sap. I wonder why he picked you, if you didn't ask for him."
"Maybe I did," Tom says. "Maybe I did and I didn't know it."
"I don't think it works that way."
"Well. I used to get sick as hell when I wasn't using, and now I can't even remember what it felt like to get high. Maybe he helped me."
"No." Dean squeezes the steering wheel like he's gathering strength from the feel of it under his hands. "It doesn't work that way. They don't do people any favors unless they're getting something in return."
"Maybe they want me to help you in return," Tom says desperately. Dean shakes his head.
"Just get lost," he says, staring straight ahead, out the windshield. "I don't need your help, and I got nothing to offer you."
Tom gets out of the car, his hands shaking at he looks across the lawn at his mother's house. He'll go inside and find his mother passed out in her recliner, shut himself in that bedroom where Ryan shuddered and died in his arms ten years ago, and he'll remember what it feels like to want anything but consciousness. He's sure of it, but if Dean doesn't want him, he's got no place else to go but back to the bottom.
"Hey," Dean says before Tom can slam the car door shut.
Tom stands waiting, trying to set his face in a way that will change Dean's mind. Dean shakes his head as if to dismiss this last hope.
"Well. You take care of yourself, Tommy."
He drives away so fast that the car's tail pipe scrapes over the speed bump at the end of the road.
It only takes Pete four days to find him. Tom lays low at first, but when he realizes that he really has been gone for over a year, he feels so disoriented that he starts to get careless. He's pumping gas when Kurt and Yancy show up grinning like Tom is a carnival prize they just won. Tom stands beside his mother's pathetic old station wagon and doesn't try to run. Maybe if they kick the shit out of him he'll wake up with Dean again.
He's been dreaming about Dean, waking up hard and beating off guiltily, because in the dreams it's so clear that he can never touch Dean, except maybe to hold him the way he used to do, in the motel room, in the dark. He wakes up thinking Dean will slide into bed beside him and need that comfort again, but he's long gone, and sometimes Tom thinks he invented the whole thing, like Dean invented an angel, to make himself feel better about what he's never gonna have.
"Nice car," Yancy says.
"Where you been, T?" Kurt asks. Tom looks across the lot and sees a couple of other thugs waiting in one of Pete's Hummers.
"Out of town," Tom says.
"Coming back wasn't so smart," Kurt says, almost sympathetically. Like Tom doesn't know that.
He tells them that he's got some money at his house, because he knows his mom is at work at the Bi Lo until nine o'clock. He figures he'll think of something, but on the way there, between Yancy and Kurt in the backseat of the Hummer, nothing comes to mind. He wants to ask Pete's guys about Dean, but he's afraid to implicate him. At least Dean got far, far away from here.
The driver stays in the Hummer and the buck-toothed guy who rode in the passenger seat stands guard at the door of Tom's mother's house while Yancy and Kurt follow him inside. Tom's heart is pounding; they already know he hasn't got shit. If he had ten thousand dollars lying around, would he be wasting time in this shithole? He'd at least be higher than God if he had that kind of money, is what they're thinking, but Tom's cravings still haven't returned. He's almost sad, because he misses that expensive but easy comfort.
"You know what I think, Yance?" Kurt says while they crowd the door of Tom's bedroom, watching Tom take out the drawers of the dresser, pretending to have misplaced his cash. "I think he's broke as shit."
"Like always," Yancy says.
"Useless junkie like any of them." Kurt gives Tom a kick to the stomach to get the festivities started. Tom goes stumbling across the room and curls up in pain. He lies on the floor, thinking about Ryan, how big his eyes got before the last seizure took him, like he was already seeing something Tom couldn't.
"Pete's too busy to do you personally," Kurt says. "But he gave us a few ideas for how he'd like this to go down."
"Heard you like to take it up the ass," Yancy says, picking up a baseball bat that has been leaning in the corner of Tom's bedroom since he was nine years old. He didn't like going to practice so he quit the team.
"Look," Tom says, struggling to stand. "You guys already, you know, last year --" He stumbles against the back wall, cornered. Yancy shuts the bedroom door, which seems perverse somehow, and Tom's heart hammers as he thinks about how bad this will be before it's over. And they'll let him live, too, so he can be a walking example.
Kurt throws a punch and Tom tries to catch it, but this only results in Kurt's knee slamming hard into Tom's already sore stomach. He gets the wind knocked out of him and thinks he's going to throw up, but he doesn't have time to do anything before he's being shoved over the side of the bed. The feeling of helplessness makes him more angry than terrified; he can remember, suddenly, being all-powerful, throwing people aside with a glance and pulling a six inch blade out of his chest without blinking. But now, as Kurt holds him and Yancy yanks at his pants, all he can do is flail and curse, tears of frustration already pouring down his cheeks.
"We're under orders to make sure you can't walk right for the rest of your pathetic junkie life," Kurt says. "And that tongue's coming out, too, but we'll do that after we've listened to you scream and beg for awhile."
Tom bites down on his tongue, resolving not to make a sound, but when Yancy kicks his legs apart he can't hold down a groan of terrified dread.
Someone kicks in the bedroom door, and Tom figures it's got to be Pete, having changed his mind about wanting to be personally involved in collecting his debt from Tom, and when he sees that it's actually Dean, he moans in protest. No, no, he wants to scream, but Kurt is shoving his face into the mattress. No, you got away, why'd you come back, you got away.
"Who the fuck are you?" Yancy asks, scrambling up from the floor.
"I'm a friend of Castiel's," Dean says. He sounds so calm, like men like this have never hurt him before. Maybe they haven't; maybe Tom was wrong about everything. He wants badly to look at Dean but Kurt is still holding his head down, nearly suffocating him with his childhood bedsheets.
"Cast a what?"
Tom hears a pained oof and then the crash of Yancy falling to the ground. Kurt hops up, and Tom looks up to see Kurt's gun spinning across the floor like a toy. Kurt gets in one good punch, and Dean staggers for a moment, then picks Kurt up and throws him through the window. Yancy is motionless on the ground, maybe dead. Dean is barely winded; he pulls Tom up from the bed while Tom struggles to right his pants, humiliated and too stunned to be grateful yet.
"What, how did you?" Tom huffs.
Dean shakes his head, dismissing Tom's questions. "Let's get the hell out of here," he says.
Tom stumbles through the rooms of the house and out into the yard, where the driver and the buck-toothed man are both lying unconscious in the weedy grass. He hesitates before climbing into Dean's car.
"C'mon," Dean says. "Turns out I could use the company."
They don't stop driving until they hit California. There's a scummy motel near Goose Lake and Dean squeals into the parking lot like there's a fire he's got to put out. Tom is silent and still shaken from earlier events.
"So the angel," he says as Dean unlocks the door of the room he's rented. "The angel told you to come and save me?"
"No." Deans snorts as if this is preposterous. "I was all the way to Vegas and I turned around."
"Turned around – for me?"
They walk into the room and Dean shuts and bolts the door behind them. It's more cheerful than the room they had in South Dakota, with brochures about nature hikes on the table beside the single bed.
"I couldn't sleep," Dean says, and then he's kissing Tom hard, slamming him back against the door. Tom loses his breath and shuts his eyes. It doesn't feel like it does in his dreams, some forbidden thing, something he can never have. It feels like it did with Ryan, like Dean is a man who will save Tom or take him down with him, and either way Tom is along for the ride.
"Wanted to fuck him so bad," Dean growls, his kiss rough and his breath hot. "But the thing is, see, he didn't even have a body, man, and it was you, it was you the whole time, it was you."
Tom laughs and wonders if Dean is drunk; he doesn't care. He lets Dean throw him onto the bed, laughing harder when he thinks about the fact that this is the second time he's been thrown onto a bed today. Dean rips Tom's shirt over his head and flattens his hand over the center of Tom's chest.
"I stabbed you right here," he says, like it's breaking his heart. Tom reaches up to touch Dean's face.
"I forgive you," he says.
This seems to throw the switch, and Dean is frantic again, tearing Tom's pants down and pulling his own cock out. It's purple-red and dripping like he's been hard since Utah.
"You were the one," Dean says. He seems astonished, staring down at Tom, who is open and waiting for him, breathing hard with his legs spread apart, his ankles in Dean's hands.
"I wanted you," Tom says, his voice breaking as he remembers. "He wouldn't even let me hold you."
Dean falls onto him, kissing him with fevered breath like he's trying to give Tom CPR. Tom swallows up Dean's breath gratefully; he's all bacon and black coffee, the kind of counterpart Tom had given up hope of ever finding.
Dean slicks himself with some unidentified oil from his duffel bag; it smells like incense and Dean slides in with a groan. Tom cries out happily as Dean crowds all the way into him, the full weight of the longing he'd forgotten crashing onto him along with the pleasure of finally having what he's wanted.
"So good, so good," Dean chants, his mouth moving over Tom's as he pushes into him. His eyes are barely open, eyelids heavy, cheeks flushed. Tom touches the cuts on Dean's face as Dean thrusts into him, tracing every jagged slice with his thumb. He remembers being able to heal people with his touch. He remembers, now, what it was like.
When Dean comes his whole face gets so tight that Tom is afraid his skin will break at his temples, but then he goes just as fully slack, his mouth wet and open as he slumps down onto Tom, who came all over Dean's chest well before Dean finished. They lay there for awhile like two men who've just narrowly escaped drowning at sea, exhausted and collapsed onto the deck, clinging to each other to stay warm.
"If I'd have shown up too late today," Dean says, his face pressed to Tom's neck. "If I'd have found you dead, that would be it. I would have given up on everything."
"Yeah, but you didn't," Tom says. He pushes his hand through Dean's hair the wrong way, ruffling it. Nothing has ever felt right like Dean's hair under his fingers, and this is what he will always crave from now on. Castiel didn't take his addiction away; that punishing need is still in him. It's just that he wants Dean now, only him.
"I didn't," Dean says. He pulls out of Tom and they both groan.
"I wasn't too late," Dean says. "Funny. You're the first thing I haven't failed to save awhile. He was always telling me I'd figure things out eventually."
Tom hasn't figured everything out quite yet, but he's close enough to the answers that he knows what to do next. He pulls Dean down to him and yanks the blankets up over them. They'll sleep for awhile and decide what to do with the rest of their lives in the morning. Or Dean will decide, and Tom will follow.
"I think I did pray for him," Tom says as Dean drifts off to sleep, his grip slackening on Tom's side. "I'm sure I did."
"He called you a devout man," Dean mumbles against Tom's skin.
"I am," Tom says. He pulls Dean in closer and watches the shine of headlights from the parking lot slide across the ceiling. "I am, now."