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13 August 2009 @ 02:10 pm
Not An Ounce of Peace  
Part Three

*

“Just so you know, I don’t know that I’m comfortable with this kink,” Dean said, feeling at the blindfold with his fingertips.

“It’s just until Bobby gets here,” Sam told him. “It’s really creepy when you just sit there and stare at me. I thought you were going to start just drooling on the bed this morning.”

Dean shrugged. He didn’t really mind just staring at Sammy. “Did you at least get me some breakfast, bitch?”

Sam pressed a styrofoam cup into Dean’s hand. “Coffee. And there are doughnuts on the table.” Dean heard Sam shuffle and fumble with something for a minute. “I asked some questions at the diner.”

“Yeah?”

“You were definitely there last night. They remembered you because the Trickster, he brought the pie himself, before you even showed up. Told the waitresses it was a special occasion, that you should have that pie specifically. I think they thought it was your birthday.”

“So he was planning this? It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing?”

“Looks like it.” There was a long pause and the crinkle of paper, as though Sam were grabbing his own doughnut from the bag. “I think the waitresses think I’m your jealous boyfriend now.”

“Aw, Sammy, I promise you’re cuter than the Trickster,” Dean teased as he pulled his own doughnut from the greasy bag.

They ate in relatively companionable silence. Dean refrained from trying to tug off his blindfold like he had after Sam ambushed him that morning, even though it was pretty uncomfortable. The coffee was hot and bitter and the doughnuts were sweet and greasy. Dean knew that Sam was probably drinking one of his frou-frou drinks - a double vanilla latte or some other California crap - but with the blindfold, he couldn’t call him on it.

Just as he was finishing off the bitter, lukewarm dregs of the coffee, there was a pounding at the door and Bobby’s voice yelling, “Let me in, you pair of idjits.”

Dean remained seated at the narrow, little motel table, but he could hear Sam get up to let Bobby inside.

“So does one of you want to tell me what’s going on?” Bobby demanded. “Because all I know is that I was chasing black dogs in Pennsylvania when I get a call that I am absolutely needed here.” Dean hadn’t heard Bobby sound that pissed off since he’d fought with Dad, back when Dean was still a teenager himself.

Dean self consciously rubbed at Sam’s impromptu blindfold. He wanted to see Bobby’s face, be able to gauge his fellow hunter. Bobby’s face usually told volumes more than his words; his voice wasn’t enough. If Dean were being totally honest - and he couldn’t find a reason to lie to himself behind the blindfold - he also wanted a chance to see Bobby. Even though every hunter worth his or her salt knew Bobby Singer, he was a notorious loner. It would be something to see all of the good Bobby had done in the world.

There was a long moment of silence in the motel room and Dean realised that Sam expected him to be the one to explain the whole screwed up situation to Bobby. But before Dean could start in on the Trickster and his stupid, magical pie, Bobby growled, “You want to tell me why your brother is wearing your torn up shirt wrapped around his face?”

“Your shirt, Sam?” Dean exclaimed. “I thought it was mine. Tell me at least it was clean?”

“I think so? Yes?” Sam said in the tone of voice that told Dean he was lying. “Look, Bobby, it’s his eyes.”

For a minute, Bobby was silent and then when he did speak, his voice dripped horrified disbelief. “You burned out your brother’s eyes?”

“I can see just fine! He just doesn’t like the way I’m looking at him,” Dean said scornfully at the same time Sam protested, “Why would I have burned out his eyes?”

“I read new reports, boy,” Bobby told Sam. “And I’m not an idiot. Some fool turning rain into blood out in Illinois, right where I sent you two? I figure that’s either you or one of those fool angels of your brothers.”

“It was the Trickster,” Sam said to him, his voice full of the same hate it always had when he talked about the Trickster.

“How are you figuring on that?” Bobby asked. “I’m pretty sure that it was a Nain Rouge up there, nothing so fancy as the Trickster’s style. And what the Hell would he want with your brother’s eyes?”

“He wanted me to see,” Dean explained as best as he could. “See more, I think.”

“Then why are you wearing a shirt on your head?” Bobby paused again and then asked cautiously, “You’re not seeing people’s insides or something?”

“He’s seeing colors,” Sam told him firmly. “When he’s not blindfolded or got his eyes closed, he acts like someone slipped him something. I thought he was stoned out his mind when he came in last night.”

“Dean?”

“He fed me magic pie,” Dean mumbled, not liking how stupid the story made him look. “I thought it was just from the diner, but apparently not. Now I can see people’s good deeds.”

“That doesn’t sound like the Trickster.”

“I didn’t believe him that the - that Sam’s power mojo isn’t demonic. He wanted to prove me wrong. Now I can’t look at Sam without going loopy.”

“Take the shirt off your head.” Bobby told him in the tone that said he was just minutes away from adding, “you idjits,” to the end of all of his sentences and possibly dousing them with holy water for good measure.

Dean reached behind his head and untied the sleeves that Sam had knotted under the nape of his neck. He made a face when he recognized the Pembleton flannel shirt Sam had been wearing three days earlier. “Seriously? You couldn’t have at least grabbed one of my shirts out of the laundry bag?”

“Don’t look at me!” Sam snapped, from somewhere to Dean’s right, probably perched on his plastic chair by the door.

Dean just sighed and rolled his eyes, steadfastly staring at Bobby. Then he froze and frowned. Sam might have been a technicolor acid trip - one of the good kinds - all on his own, lighting up the room like a Christmas display, but the people in the diner had had a subtle glow and depth, too, even if they weren’t as brilliants and colorful as Sam. He had been able to see their good deeds, lit up like neon signs by the side of the road, just advertising the good of humanity instead of cheap beer and a relatively clean bed. He could see the people and their histories and their lights, even just out of the corner of his eye.

Bobby, though, just looked like Bobby. He was wearing his old, battered green John Deere cap and the same old water-proof gray jacket he’d been wearing since Dad introduced him as Uncle Bobby, before Dean was even going to school. He looked like he hadn’t slept in three days and his beard was scruffier than Dean had seen it since he crawled out of that grave in Illinois. But he didn’t have any glow, any light, to him. There were no good deeds lighting the way to faith in humanity in Bobby, but he wasn’t hollow and flat, like Ruby had been. He was just himself.

Bobby frowned back at him, looking as worried as he ever had. “What is it, boy?”

“I think it’s gone,” Dean said slowly. “I’m not seeing anything.”

“It was just like a twelve hour thing?” Sam asked, moving into Dean’s field of vision.

“Uh…” Dean replied, the shimmer and light of Sam’s presence as distracting and powerful as a punch to the gut.

“Damn it,” Sam swore. “See? This is - damn it. Dean, tell Bobby what’s going on!”

“What do you see when you look at Sam?” Bobby asked cautiously. “Can you see your brother?”

“Yeah,” Dean told him, trying to focus on Bobby and ignore the lights and sensations of Sam. “I can see him. It’s just - It’s like, I can see all the good other people can do, right? Like, I can tell if you rescue kittens from trees or if you take in foster kids or look after dying people, I can see it, just by looking at your face, okay. You shine a little bit, if you do shit like that, like headlights on a dark road, brighter if you do more. But Sam - he’s like the fucking Fourth of July.”

Bobby frowned at him. “What are you on about?”

Dean realised, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Bobby was talking to him and that his grizzled face was as worried as it had been he’d shown up on his doorstep in September, but somehow it didn’t really register. Sam was standing next to Bobby and he was just amazing. The lights and colors were still there, same as the previous night, but Dean saw, as he gazed at his brother, that it wasn’t Sam’s personal firework display that was so damn wonderful. There was something else, something else inside Sam, that made him brilliant and dynamic. Looking closely at him, Dean could see the good things Sam had done in his life. It didn’t even occur to Dean to blink it away, to close his eyes against Sam’s inner light. It wasn’t just that it was nearly all-encompassing; more than that, it was all-comforting. The beauty of his good deeds and his simple innate goodness that went beyond his actions meant that Dean had been right in always watching Sam, in giving Sam a life by losing his own, in loving Sam and needing Sam more than he could imagine Sam loving and needing him.

“Dean! Oh god, Dean!”

Dean blinked back Sam’s probity, pushing it out of his mind by sheer force of will. Sam was kneeling on the floor in front of him, looking scared and desperate. His eyes were huge and his knuckles were bone white where he was gripping Dean’s knees.

Dean dropped a hand to Sam’s shoulder, resisting the warming comfort that came from touching Sam. If Sam was this panicky and shaken, Dean needed to give him the same comfort that Sam’s very presence was offering him. Dean could do this; he’d held Sam through his nightmares, reassured him Dad would be fine when they were kids, pulled him from the fires. “Hey, Sammy,” he said, his voice rough. “I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere, buddy. I’m not leaving you.”

If anything, Sam’s grip on Dean’s knees tightened. Dean could feel Sam’s rough nail through his jeans, could feel Sam’s intensity and his fear. “You just keep going off like that, just keep staring.” Dean didn’t like the fear and desperation tainting Sam’s voice. “God, you can’t even look at me. Do you need me to get another blindfold? I swear, I’ll use your shirt this time.”

“You think you can keep hunting with your brother in a blindfold?” Bobby asked roughly.

“I’ll be fine!” Dean told them. “I just need to get used to it, that’s all.”

Bobby didn’t look terribly impressed and Sam kept his grip on Dean’s knees. Dean kept his eyes steadily focused on Bobby, trying to ignore Sam and everything the sight of Sam did to him. Bobby sucked on his teeth for a moment. “I’m going to keep an eye on you, see if I can figure out what’s going. Dean, get yourself ready. We’re going out to that diner you talked about.”

Dean managed to shower and get dressed without any trouble, but the diner was a bit of a problem. Bobby insisted on Sam sitting directly across from Dean at their booth and Dean kept drifting off, amazed by Sam. The waitress acted like she thought maybe something was wrong with him, but eventually, by the time the food came, Dean managed to just not stare directly at Sam for too long. He could see him, could see how amazing and wonderful everything was, but it wasn’t as god damned distracting.

Bobby walked with them back from the diner, still eying Dean carefully. “How are you doing? Better now?”

Dean glanced from Bobby to Sam, his facial expression changing only slightly when he caught sight of his brother. “I think I can handle it now.”

“Are you sure?” Sam asked. “You were looking kind of loopy when the waitress was bringing out the pie.”

Dean scowled at him and pulled out his key to open the door to their motel room. “Yeah, well, let’s not get another waitress who’s in the running to be the next Mother Teresa, okay? It’s a little distracting to see all that when I’m just expecting pie.”

He opened the door and then pulled back, stumbling into Sam as if he’d been struck. He covered his eyes protectively with his arm and cursed. Sam grabbed Dean’s shoulders, steadying him, and Dean heard the other two hunters pulled out their weapons and move cautiously into the motel room. Feeling blindsided, Dean braced himself against the doorframe.

“Dean Winchester,” he heard Castiel’s voice echo out into the parking lot, “you are needed.”

“Holy fuck,” Dean swore, still shielding his eyes from the sight of Castiel. “Turn down the lights.”

He stepped further into the motel room, trying to train his eyes on Bobby and his green trucker hat. To his right, Sam still looked like a vaguely disgruntled Fourth of July and straight ahead, Castiel glowed in his vessel like a second sun. For the first time, Dean could actually see the difference between an angel taking a vessel and demonic possession, could see why that pastor in Louisiana was speaking in tongues. The light and color and glow of the angel was nearly overwhelming, so similar to Sam, but Dean could also see the life and deeds of the human vessel. He was a good man, a family man, who had, indeed, prayed to help God and the angels however he could.

“What is wrong with him?” Castiel cocked his head to the side and looked at Sam quizzically.

“He’s seeing good deeds,” Sam said, slowly and with distrust. He’d never recovered his initial trust in the angels and right now, he was ready to go for Bobby’s throat if he looked at Dean crossways, never mind one of the angels who was trying to throw Dean into the line of fire.

“How did you do that to him? That should not be possible.” Castiel, the angel, not the vessel, quivered and shook a little as he spoke, shining with the pure light of God.

“It was a trickster,” Bobby said, his gruff voice carrying in the crowded room. “Sam had nothing to do with it.”

Castiel turned to Bobby and his vessel’s eyes widened momentarily. He took a long moment to look at Bobby and, after considering him, spoke. “He shouldn’t be able to do that. Humans aren’t built for that kind of thing.”

Dean scowled. “I am still here.” He lowered his arm and and blinked against Castiel’s light. “Ignore my eyes. Why am I needed?”

“The seals are still being broken,” the angel told him. “Lilith is coming ever closer to freeing Lucifer from his prison.”

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

Dean was tired, tired of dealing with angels who never said what they really wanted, tired of Sam lying to him and sneaking around behind his back, tired of people having crazy plans for him. He was tired of fighting Lilith, the boogeyman who haunted his dreams when fleeting images of Sam did not. Sometimes, when he lay on his back in his bed and watched the lights from passing cars play on the motel wall and listened to Sam’s rhythmic breathing in the next bed, Dean wondered what it would have been like if he hadn’t told Zachariah he would leave his office job and hunt. He wondered if Sam would have gone, taken to the road and left Dean Smith behind, if Zachariah would have let their secret weapon rot in a corporate job, if he could have ever been happy there.

Castiel’s eyes flickered from Dean to Bobby in uncharacteristic caution. “My brothers and I are fighting on the battlefield, losing our lives to save yours. We need you to find a way to stop her.”

*

“Why are we doing this again?” Sam asked, touching his amulet through his shirt.

Sam never took it off anymore. He had, once, back when they were still in West Virginia. He’d wanted to take a closer look at it, compare it with some research he’d pulled up since those first few days he’d been wearing it on the road. It looked for all the world like an Enochian square, the sort of simple amulet most two-bit ceremonial Enochian magicians could cook up in their basements, but Sam trusted Leland Brodbeck for reasons he never fully explained to Dean and he believed that there was something more to the angelic names on his amulet.

Dean had been in the shower when Sam took off the pendant and put it on the table so he could sketch it out. When Dean came out of the shower, he’d literally dropped his towel in shock. He had become used to seeing Sam as the brilliantly lit, colorful, six foot four fireworks display he had become. But when Dean had stepped out of the shower in the dingy motel outside of Clarksburg, West Virginia, Sam hadn’t been the Fourth of July and Times Square on New Year’s Eve all rolled into one. He’d still been brighter than most people, more colorful, better and brighter and stronger, but it was dimmed somehow, like Dean was seeing Sam through a bad television connection with a lot of snow, like he needed to adjust the picture.

Sam had originally been worried that Dean was losing his vision entirely and then been hopeful that the Trickster’s gift was fading, but they quickly figured out that it was the amulet. Sam did his best to research it more before they left that state, but he was hard pressed to find anything new. It was clearly charted, an Enochian amulet, but the angels’ names were strange and unfamiliar. Dean had gone through Sam’s notes and studied it himself, but as far as they could tell, it was supposed to bring good health or strength to the wearer, and Sam kept wearing it next to his skin.

“We’re here because there’s a nasty-ass poltergeist bothering people,” Dean said, trying to ignore the niggling voice in the back of his head that was reminding him that Sam never did tell him why he trusted Leland Brodbeck so goddamn much when the man’s father made Bela Talbot look like a trustworthy friend. It didn’t make sense to be jealous of a stranger, to be jealous of his own baby brother. That wasn’t the kind of man Dean was. He wasn’t jealous of his actual lovers and he really had no business being jealous of his baby brother, certainly not of what Sammy had done when he had been dead.

Sam pulled the salt rounds from the trunk of the Impala with a scowl. “We should be looking for Lilith.”

“Last I checked, the world is still spinning, people still need saving,” Dean told him, loading the rounds in his shotgun. “Besides, we’re supposed to be looking for a way to stop her, not chasing after her like a couple of dumb fucks.”

“I can stop her,” Sam said, his voice earnest and carefully measured. “I’m strong enough.”

Dean slammed the trunk shut, the sound echoing through the graveyard. He remember only too clearly the last time Sam thought he was strong enough to tangle with Lilith, remembered the horrible power of Lilith in Hell. He wouldn’t, couldn’t, lose Sam to that.

Sam sighed, a cross between a huff and a scowl with a little bit of the hair flip that used to drive Dad nuts, and followed Dean through the cemetery gates, carrying the shovels across his shoulders. The Maryland graveyard was damp from the spring rains and the grass squelched unpleasantly under their feet as they passed the rows of silent, shadowed headstones. Dean could hear the traffic on Route 40 on the other side of the graveyard, but the green slopes by the church were lonely and silent.

Sam set the spade into the earth and Dean kept watch, his hands tense and ready on the shotgun. They’d already gone three rounds with this spirit when they’d looked into the purported haunted house. Dean had discovered an unexpected advantage to the Trickster’s trick: Dean could see the malevolent spirit. In the same way that he could see good deeds as a shining glow, bad deeds were a kind of shadow, a negative space, and it turned out that it didn’t matter if you were living or dead. This one, a former high school principal, was a swarm of bloody crimson and uncomfortable negative space, like something that just wasn’t there, and was totally impossible to miss. It was Sam who volunteered to disinter the body if Dean could keep a lookout.

With the flashlight propped against a nearby headstone, the slope of the green hill protecting their activities from the prying eyes of civic minded people and the road, the graveyard was cast in an eerie yellow light. Dean shifted, scanning the cemetery for anything out of the ordinary. When he saw a flash of blood red and nothingness against the white half-moon in the sky, Dean shouted for Sam to duck and he aimed the shotgun and filled the spirit with rock salt.

After that, Sam worked at a double pace, while Dean kept the damned spirit distracted and at bay with rock salt and shouted insults. Finally, Sam hauled himself out of the grave and rifled through the duffel bag, looking for the gasoline that Dean normally had at hand during a standard salt-and-burn. It was then that Dean made his mistake.

He looked into the open grave to pour the salt over the corpse and then muffled his mouth with his fist so that he couldn’t make a noise. It was too late, though; Sam, who was in the process of dousing the corpse with gasoline, saw the sudden movement.

“What is it?” Sam asked, sharp and insistent and everything Dad always was and Sammy never could be.

Dean just shook his head in denial and watched as the flame from Sam’s match consumed the half-rotten corpse, purified the dark spirit in flame against the dark Maryland sky.

Dean didn’t say anything as he helped Sam carry their tools back to the Impala or when he put the car in gear and left the cemetery behind them. Nothing interrupted the discordant shrieks of Metallica’s guitars as Dean navigated the streets of Old Ellicott City. Sam didn’t even ask any questions when Dean pulled into a parking space by the old firehouse and walked rather deliberately down toward a run-down dive bar.

Sam waited until Dean had finished his first beer of the night before he said anything at all. He leaned against a rather sticky bar stool and looked Dean right in the eye, knowing what that did to Dean, when he spoke. “What did you see back there?”

Dean motioned the bartender for another beer and drummed his fingers tunelessly on the bar. “I saw his life.”

Sam frowned at him and gripped his own beer more tightly. “What?”

“And a whiskey,” Dean told the bartender in a taut voice when he came by with Dean’s beer. “I saw all of the good deeds the fucker ever did in his life. Every god-damned thing.”

Sam swallowed his beer and watched Dean with his big, liquid eyes. “What did he do?”

Dean shrugged and downed the shot of whiskey, closing his eyes against the sweet burn of the alcohol as it slid down his throat. He remembered the soft, gentle glow around the decaying body, the sight of the children he’d saved from the streets, the generous portions of his meager salary he’d given to the local children’s hospital, the time he’d spent at the local animal shelter. He remember watching it all be burned away, destroyed and turned to salted ash in an empty coffin.

“Dean,” Sam said, his eyes too beseeching, too earnest.

He hadn’t looked at Dean like that in months, maybe since before he had died, since before those damned Devil’s Gates were opened, since before everything went to Hell, literally. It was too much for Dean, did things to him that it just shouldn’t. The colors and the lights merged and blended around Sam, reminding Dean of his brother’s goodness, of his beauty, angel and human in one amazing package. He averted his eyes and focused on drinking more beer. Remembering the destruction of that purity and righteousness in the grave, seeing Sam’s innate goodness and it’s focus on him; it was too much for Dean to bear. He couldn’t shoulder it all, not when he was so weak, so simply human.

“Sam Winchester?”

Dean turned on his bar stool to look the stranger talking to his brother. He was shorter than Dean, far shorter than Sam, and the kind of rickety lean Dean wasn’t used to seeing in young men. The man had a pinched, weaselly sort of face and his bulky black coat was far too heavy to the Maryland spring weather. His narrow, pale eyes were widened to what looked like capacity and darted from face to face in the bar, reminding Dean of a cornered fox.

Sam’s eyes widened slightly in recognition and he shot an unreadable look at Dean. “Leland? What are you doing here?”

It took Dean a moment to connect the dots, but when he did, he couldn’t help blurting out, “Leland Brodbeck?” The son looked nothing like his father, except maybe in the eyes.

Leland nodded sharply, his almost colorless blond hair falling sharply in his face. “Best psychic in Old Ellicott City, at your service.”

Dean raised his eyebrow, remembering the shop in Tennessee, the back room cluttered with enough magic to drive a psychic mad. “Psychic?”

“A good one,” Sam said pointedly.

Dean snorted.

“I avoid hunters as a rule,” Leland told him, his voice reedy. “From what I can see, and I can see a lot, that kind of relationship usually ends badly for the psychic. Often in blood.”

Sam looked away from Leland and began toying with his half finished beer.

“Then I really don’t see why you’d want to chat us up,” Dean said dryly, keeping a close eye on Sam. “We don’t have great luck with psychics. You might have seen that.”

“It’s hardly a social call,” Leland snapped, a blush rising to his narrow, pale cheeks. “The sixty fifth seal is broken.”

Dean froze, an icy chill sliding down his spine, imagining the horrors of Hell brought to earth. “What did you say?”

“She’s let loose Famine. The seal is broken. If my vision was right, she is on her way to Stuttgart, Arkansas. She will break the final seal or try to, at least,” Leland said, his voice thin and sharp as though he were out of breath just by saying the words.

“Which seal is it? What’s the final seal?” Sam asked, leaning forward on his bar stool and towering over Leland.

“I’m a psychic, not a prophet, Sam,” Leland snapped. “It’s the god-damned apocalypse, I’ve figured out that much from my father’s books and conversations with other psychics. And I, for one, am happy that I don’t know what the end of the world looks like. Whether it ends in fire or in ice, it’s going to be painful and it’s going to be bloody.”

Sam slumped back on his bar stool, clearly chagrined.

“Stuttgart?” Dean asked, putting his beer down. “It won’t take that long to get there, not if we don’t sleep.” He dropped some money on the bar, enough to cover their drinks, and pulled the Impala’s keys from his pocket.

“I’ll follow you,” Leland said, trailing after them, weaving his way around the many bar patrons in their various states of drunkenness.

“The fuck you will,” Dean told him. “We’re going to the end of the world. We’re facing down the leader of the demon army, one of the highest ranking demons in Hell. I know; I was there. You think the world is ending in fire or ice? When Lilith frees Lucifer, the world is going to end in pain. The best you’re going to be able to hope for is that no one cares enough to turn the spit too often. You said you avoid hunters; why would you want to be part of this?”

Leland stared Dean down, his pale eyes too knowledgeable for his face. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know where Lilith will be. You don’t know who she will go after. You have no way of knowing, not without me. I’ve seen it. I will continue to see it. Eventually, I will see the end, see the agony of innocent people dying. The least I can do is be there and try to stop it.” He went to his own car, an old Plymouth with a dented door. “I’ll see you at the Tennessee border, should be time for breakfast then.”

*

They had headed to Arkansas at a breakneck pace. Sam and Dean switched off driving and napping. Dean didn’t know how Leland did it and he didn’t ask. Castiel had appeared to Dean in a rest stop bathroom outside Roanoke, Virginia, while Sam was buying them coffee and M&M’s. Castiel told him they needed to prepare for Lucifer’s rising, that the seal was broken. Dean told him where Lilith was headed, to gather the angels in Arkansas for a final stand as their last hope. As they crossed the border from Tennessee into Arkansas, the Impala a speeding shadow on Route 40, Sam woke from his nap, the sun bright in his face, and he called Bobby, relying on the older hunter to alert the rest of the hunting community.

Dean was swaying of his feet like a drunk by the time they pulled into a shabby little motel in Stuttgart. He had a crick in his neck from sleeping in the Impala’s passenger seat and he really wanted to catch at least a few hours of sleep in a real bed before the end of the world. What he really didn’t need was to stumble into their rented room and see the Trickster lounging on his bed, eating chocolate covered cherries.

Dean could feel Sam tense up beside him, could see the anger and the cold, white fear in his brothers face, and he stepped between his younger brother and the Trickster. “What do you want?”

“Dean-o, don’t be like that,” the Trickster exclaimed, bouncing up from the bed. “I see that you’re really enjoying my little gift. Like watching baby brother, don’t you?”

Dean froze and stared at the Trickster, caught between him and Sam.

“What?” Sam asked, his voice as cautious as it ever was. Dean was startled to feel Sam hand on his shoulder, gripping him as though to keep him closer, keep him from the Trickster.

The Trickster simply grinned at them, feral and bright. Like Bobby, Dean noticed, he didn’t have any shades of color or light around him; he had done no good or bad deeds. He cocked his head at the brothers and looked from them, with their bags still in their hands, to the rough, simple motel beds with the tacky metallic headboards. “I do hope you sleep well tonight. I think you’ll need it for tomorrow.”

Dean blinked, groaning against the pounding on the door. There was dim blue light coming through the windows, like dawn was just creeping over the horizon. What the hell, he thought, it had just been the middle of the night - and he’d been standing up and talking to the Trickster. It was fucked up, fucked up like Broward County had been, but he couldn’t bring himself to be angry. He hadn’t actually had a real night’s sleep since before he’d died, maybe since before Sam died.

However, judging by the molten red color of Sam’s face and the furious, incoherent noises coming from his bed, anger was something Sam had in great supply. If Dean didn’t know better, if he didn’t know that that kind of thing happened to Dean and not Sam, Dean would swear that Sam was having some kind of panic attack. He was staring at Dean with wide eyes and growling something incoherent and angry.

The heavy pounding on the door continued. “Where the fuck are you guys?”

“We’re in here,” Dean wearily responded, pulling himself out of the motel bed. He was still dressed in yesterday’s clothes and, looking over at Sam again, so was his brother. He padded over to the door in stocking feet to unlatch the door and let Leland inside. He could hear Sam moving, getting out of bed and getting his breathing under control again.

“The world is ending and you two just decided to sleep in?” Leland asked. He looked young and smaller without his bulky black coat and his hair was wild, like he’d caught a quick nap and hadn’t bothered to see what he looked like afterward.

“Magic sleep,” Sam growled, changing out his flannel overshirt for a fresh on. He walked up behind Dean and gripped his shoulder again, his hand heavy and tight. “It wasn’t our choice.”

Leland just frowned at them, his nearly colorless face twisted with worry and fear.

“Do you know where this is all going to go down?” Dean asked, carefully eying the light coming in through the blinds. “Did you see anything other than just the town? I don’t think we’ve got the time to search or save the whole town.”

“It was on the lawn of a church. There was a sign that said that Jesus died for our sins,” Leland told him. “That’s where I saw her.”

Dean frowned and turned to Sam, whose face was still the burning, angry red. “Reverend Lawley?”

Sam’s lips thinned into a fine, white line and his grip on Dean’s shoulder tightened until Dean was sure it would bruise. Then, he suddenly let go and went to his duffel. He triumphantly pulled out Ruby’s demon killing knife and smiled so coldly Dean could feel the chill in his bones. The colors around Sam paled a little and the lights dimmed and Dean silently promised himself that Sam wouldn’t use that knife that day.

*

Part Five
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