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Many, many thank yous and hugs to Jackfan2 for her continuously awesome work.

Chapter 2

Dean doesn't come back that night, but that was something that Sam was actually counting on.

Growing up, Sam always felt Dean had been born with two settings for being pissed. One where he'd go off like a nuke on a submarine; blowing in just a moment’s notice, leveling everything in his path. The other, Sam likened it to an angsty, teenage-girlie mood thing; storing every wrong, every woe weighing him down, saving it for later, brewing just below the surface only for, when you least expect it, throw it all back in your face.

Dean had been doing the girlie thing this time.

The warning signs have been evident for the last couple of days, all the quiet rage simmering just below the surface. The whole package of trusty trademarks that something's bothering him and he doesn't want to talk about it. So he leaves.

Because Sam knows his brother and he knows that, when Dean reaches his limit, he doesn't trust himself enough to let it out without leading in to blows. Because it often -almost every goddamn time! – ends that way.

Dean used to do that during Sam's arguments with dad. He wouldn't take sides and he wouldn't open his mouth unless the two of them looked like they were about to turn physical. He would stay quiet and silent, boiling slowly, until he was forced to either explode and fight them both, or run away to spend all that energy someplace else.

In a twisted way, Sam was glad to see a bit of the old Dean surface, even if it is like this.

Lately, the only escape that Dean seems to find is the one that lands him at the bottom of a empty bottle and, as much as Sam hates that, the bottle has become a welcome option. Because the alternative, the one that Dean is forced to choose whenever they're on a job and needs his shit together and sober, is much, much worse.

Since returning from Hell, sobriety offers Dean little in the way of escape from his demons. Physically he escaped them, physically they were supposed to have been left behind in Hell, but mentally Dean was far from free. Mentally, demons followed him everywhere.

Escape from his demons... how fucked up was it that what passes as a common expression for everyone else, in Dean's case, actually involves real demons? And if Alistair was anything to go by, pretty fucking scary demons.

With a sober Dean, Sam has to deal with the jumpy moods, the nightly cold sweats and gasping nightmares. Sober, Sam is forced to remember that Alistair, the demon that took him only thirty seconds to kill, had spent thirty years torturing his brother. Thirty. Years.

No, it’s actually a good thing that Dean hasn't come back yet; means that he found an escape for his pent up energy. It means Sam will spend a night without listening to Dean's silent screams, or worse, face his mute recrimination when he's awake. Means that he's probably found comfort in the arms of some random woman, and that Sam needs not feel guilty for calling Ruby and to find comfort in hers. Means Sam can feel proud of himself when he drops the phone before hitting dial and doesn't call her at all.

There's not a lot that Sam can feel proud about himself these days, so he'll take whatever he can. He'd lost so much. He'd given up so much and still he can’t keep Dean safe. Still Sam could do nothing but watch his brother wither away, little by little, every day.

Alcohol seemed to help Dean more these days than Sam could... how pathetic was it that Sam would allow himself to be sidelined like that by a mere bottle; how pathetic was it to actually enjoy the respite and peace that a drunken and asleep Dean brought him?

He'd given up so much, his future, his pride, his humanity and still Sam found that he hadn't given enough. He still wasn't strong enough to bring Lilith down. He still wasn't strong enough to kill her.

Sam looked at his white knuckles, gripping the edge of the desk’s chair, before forcing himself to let go. The piece of wood wasn’t Lilith’s neck; there was no point in choking it like that. He kicked the chair away in anger.

Castiel had convinced Dean that it was his task to stop the apocalypse. Sam knew that the angel was manipulating his brother, using the guilt that Dean carried around for what he'd done in Hell, to make sure that Dean would follow the angels’ every command and lead.

Since his return from Hell, it was painfully plain for all to see that guilt guided every step that Dean took, its weight heavy and damning on Dean's shoulders. And there was no point in trying to make his brother understand that he'd been in an impossible situation, that the odds of him -or any other soul, for that matter- withstanding torture for that long and not break, were non-existent.

It wasn't a matter of strength or weakness; it wasn't even a matter of right or wrong. It was a goddamn fact that anyone else would realize and understand on their own - the fact that everyone and every thing in this world has a limit and everything breaks.

But not Dean. Dean didn't see the world... better yet, Dean didn't see himself like that. No, in Dean’s world there was only action and reaction; cause and consequence. And Dean’s actions had caused the suffering of others, so he had to pay. Simple as that. No gray, no shadow, no blur.

0o0o0o0o0o0o

When morning comes and Dean still hasn't shown, Sam goes from thankful to pissed off. This isn't just Dean letting out a bit of steam, this is Dean moping and being a retaliating prick, his way of payback for what happened with Lilith. This is Dean not telling him ‘I told you so’ about Sam’s lack of success in killing Lilith, but enjoying Sam’s anxiety, waiting for Sam to speak his mind on the matter and admit to his fault and shortcomings. This is Dean punishing him like he's still a five year old kid with a snotty nose because, naturally, Dean took the car and without it, Sam's stuck in the motel, outside the town, with absolutely nothing around there to do but wait. And stew.

Sam kicked the fallen chair again. He could leave. He could give Dean a taste of his own medicine and let him be the one standing in an empty motel room, not knowing where Sam was.

Only, Sam had done that before. Too often already and Dean, pissed as he was at Sam’s decision earlier to face Lilith, had still managed to stop himself from walking out on Sam. Had managed to swallow his anger and stick around to protect Sam.

Sighing, Sam dropped down to sit on his unmade bed, running a hand through his disheveled hair in frustration.

Maybe it is for the best that Dean is spending some time cooling off somewhere. The way things have been between them lately, in between Dean’s guilt and Hell-memories and Sam’s needs for demon blood and Lilith’s head still attached to her black-smoky ass, it’s best that they cool off in separate locations, or else they might actually come to regret being together.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Alexa parked the Impala inside the garage and turned off the engine. Taking a moment, she tenderly caressed the steering wheel like it was a long lost friend; she took a deep breath, relishing in the moment as she came to realize that she had just driven Dean’s car, that everything was going exactly as she had planned.

The smell of old leather and something stale inside the car, something that breathes lived-in, was not something that the books ever mentioned. Nor did it say anything about the broken spring beneath her right leg that probably wouldn’t bother Dean’s longer legs but was making hers throb painfully.

Still, this was the Impala, the one thing that had been constant in the brothers' troubled lives, the one thing whose reconstruction had helped the most in bringing Dean back to life after their father’s death. And she was holding the key in her hand.

The Impala and Dean were almost the same entity. Reliable, strong and beautiful.

Finally moving to get outside, Alexa closed the door and crossed in front of the classic car's still-warm hood to open the door on the passenger’s side. Dean was slumped against it, eyes not quite closed in sleep but not really aware of what was going on. The loss of the door's support and the following sensation of falling in to emptiness were not even enough to rouse him.

Stealing a wheelchair from the local hospital had been too easy. All Alexa had needed to do was wait for a patient to be released, run to the newly vacated chair and say that she needed it for an incoming patient. Now, popping it open, Alexa maneuvered the wheelchair closer to the door and pulled on the brakes.

Dean offered no protest. Reaching in, she easily slid his slumping frame from the car and in to the chair, straightening Dean's head back to lean against her stomach when it fell down on to his chest.

The room was already prepared.

Alexa had decided on leaving the bed without real sheets. She knew that Dean would not be happy when he realized what she had done; she knew that it would take a while for him to understand that she was there to help him. In the mean time, that meant an unpredictable amount of time during which she could not afford to change the bed sheets, or release Dean from the bed for him to use the bathroom or take a shower.

Alexa trusted Dean’s common sense and knew that eventually he would see her point. However, until such time came, a plastic cover on the mattress would have to do and the restraints on his arms and legs were unfortunate, but necessary.

Before transferring Dean to the bed, she took time to fluff the pillow; the scent, so reminiscent of her childhood, wafted about the room, filling her senses and Alexa smiled. The pillowcase had been washed recently and smelled of the fabric softener that her mother used when she was little.

Dean would like that. Maybe Mary even used the same softener when he was younger. The books hadn’t mentioned that either.

Now that she had time and quietness all for herself, Alexa stood back, embracing every nuance, her eyes gently roving over his slumbering form, memorizing, cataloging, comparing. There were so many differences from the books, so many details that were never even mentioned.

Like Dean's fingers. Long, almost delicate, like those of a musician, with the same freckles that sprinkled playfully over his face, peppering over each slender digit. Or the hair, how it changed from predominantly dark blond on his head into a golden hue on his chin and forearms. Or even the shadows cast by his long eyelashes, magnifying their length to appear almost twice as big.

The smell was never mentioned either, some sort of cologne, because she could smell something faint and sweet and distinctly male when she neared him. She could also smell the leather of the car on him, even long after they had left the car behind, like it was part of his skin.

Attempting to make him as comfortable as possible, she removed Dean’s jacket, belt and boots. Judging by the contented sounds he was making, Alexa figured that it was working.

Dean’s right sock had a hole in it.

Alexa tried to ignore that fact as she busied herself wrapping Dean’s wrists and ankles with a thick cloth before tying the rope over them.

Dean should not have tattered socks. It didn’t fit him. Dean was a hero, and heroes shouldn’t be walking around with their big toe sticking out like that.

Satisfied that he was well secured to the bed, Alexa left the room in search for a solution to her new problem. Dean needed new socks.

0o0o0o0o0o00o0

On the scale of bitch hangovers, this has got to be the worst Dean can remember. Even before opening his eyes, he can feel the thumpthumpthump of his heart beating the shit out of his head and the disgusting dry paper feeling in his tongue.

Dean buried his head deeper in to the soft pillow he could feel underneath. It smelled nice, not at all like the industrial detergents he'd grown accustomed to from the variety of motels he'd stayed in throughout his life. No, this smelled of flowers and sunshine.

Definitely a chick’s house. Dean didn’t remember hooking up with anyone recently, but given the state of his brain, he figured that it would be a feat to even remember which way was up and which way was down.

Dean figured he’d better remember the gal’s name before he opened his eyes, or else he would be in trouble. He'd made that mistake once, one time only... it hadn't been pretty.

He was semi-lying on something soft, a bed Dean hoped, but for the life of him, could not force his arms to move. They felt like they were made of lead, heavy and sore by his sides.

Dean decided to pop on eye open, carefully. A lone scout to make sense of the barren land of his recollections.

When the world swam into view Dean was not the least bit surprised that the soft yellow painted walls and brown drapes were not at all familiar to him. He had obviously followed this woman to her house and this was probably her bedroom. He couldn’t feel the familiar shape of a female body pressed against his, so she had probably let him sleep in.

More surprising than waking up alone in a stranger’s bedroom, was the fact that he still had most of his clothes on. Had he been so drunk that he had passed out before showing this woman a good time? God… he hoped not. That would be too lame.

It took the beginnings of a cramp, that he could feel starting to build up in his right leg, for Dean to realized that something was very, very wrong with this picture. Attempting to shift the limb in question in to a more comfortable position, Dean realized that his movements were restricted, allowing him no more than a few inches of lift. Bounded.

That was way kinkier than what he usually went for.

Raising his pounding head as far as he could bear without white spots of light stabbing his eyes, Dean looked down and confirmed what he had feared. Both his ankles and his wrists were strapped to the bed frame. “T’fuck?!”

Dean tested the strength of the restraints but it was no use. The ropes were tied tightly to someplace underneath him, in the bed frame; the knots at his wrists far enough that his fingers couldn’t reach them.

Dean looked around again, eyes adjusting to the tiny lines of light coming from three narrow slits in the closed window blinds to see the closed door and the barren room. There was a small table and a chair near the window, his jacket and belt carefully laid over the chair.

Dean raised his head again, satisfied that the pain and dizziness of the earlier attempt were wearing off. With a clearer head he was able to see the mattress he was lying on was covered with some kind of plastic sheet cover thing and at the foot of the bed there was something bright green that he couldn't quite make out.

Narrowing his eyes and trying to focus better in the poor light, Dean realized that the green thing was not by his feet… it was his feet. His green-socked feet. “T’fuck?!” he said again, louder this time around.

Somehow, the notion that someone had removed his socks and decided to redress him without his being aware or expressed consent, graded more on Dean’s nerves than the fact that he was trapped.

Because trapped he could handle; trapped meant that someone wanted something, meant that he had some sort of control. Someone taking something from him and then redressing him, in Dean’s world, was just too friggin' disturbing.

The sound of the lock turning in the door wrenched his attention away from the green socks.

Dean had more than his fair share, an unfortunately long share, of previous experiences in being caught by less than friendly entities and waking tied up.

Dean wondered what would come through that door this time around.

Seemed like shady creatures, of the natural and the supernatural kind, had some sort of bondage kink thing going on with him and Dean did not find that one bit entertaining or pleasant.

There were your regular monsters, that wanted to just stow him away for a latter snack, like that wendigo creep in Colorado, or the old couple of buckets-of-crazy pagan gods in Nebraska or even that painted son of bitch Djinn in Illinois.

Shapeshifters were simply a pain in the ass. In between the one from St. Louis, who had dragged him in to the sewers and used Dean’s face to commit all the crimes that he wanted; and the crazy bastard in Pennsylvania, who thought it was funny to dress Dean in lederhosen –something that Sam still laughed at whenever the words shorts, shape or shift came anywhere near their conversations- Dean really, really hoped that this wasn’t the work of yet another skin shedding bastard.

No, if Dean was to bet on anything, his bet was on either humans, because from those he had learned the hard way to just expect the worst, given his wonderful experiences with the Benders creepy-cannibal-stinkers family, and the motherfucking refugees of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village with their motherfucking fertility sacrifices or even from the psycho hunter extraordinaire Gordon, with his half-assed plans to kill Sam. Or just plain demons.

The ceiling light turned on and Dean was forced to close his eyes to protect them from the harsh brightness.

“You’re awake,” a perky female voice announced. “How’re you feeling, Dean?”

Dean looked at the small woman who had entered the room. Short, curly brown locks framed a sullen face with fleshy lips and cat-like eyes. He’d never seen her before, Dean was pretty sure of that, because although she wasn’t what might be called a looker, she certainly would’ve caught his attention.

He watched her wearily as she neared the bed, not bothering to answer. As soon as she was near enough for Dean to see the dark shade of green of her eyes, he spat out a heartfelt 'Christo!' and waited for the result. No black.

“I’m not a demon, Dean,” she said slightly amused, apparently by the fact that he had felt the need to check. “Or a shapeshifter, or a ghoul or any of those other creatures that can mime human beings,” she assured him as her hand reached up to smooth his hair away.

Dean flinched back, sinking deeper in to the fluffy pillow. The woman noticed his reaction and drew her hand back, looking disappointed.

“You a hunter?”

Because in this life there were only two types of people who knew that much about the things that went bump in the night; the things that went bump in the night and the ones who hunted them.

“No Dean, I’m not a hunter,” she said with a determined look in her face. “I’m a fan.”

Dean’s eyes turned in to thin slits in his face. “A fan?” He asked carefully, “A fan of what?”

The woman got up from the bed and moved to the window, pulling up the blinds to allow the sunlight to bathe the small room. Piled on the small table was a stack of black-cover books that looked strangely familiar.

Chuck’s books.

“I’ve read everything there was to read about you and your brother, Dean. I know how Mary, your mother, died, I know about the way your father, John, trained you both. I know about Jessica, and the yellow-eyed demon, and Sam’s death… your deal…”

Dean swallowed the bile flooding the back of his mouth. He was gonna kill Chuck. Just as soon as he got out of here. “I have no idea what you're talking about, lady,” Dean said straight-faced.

The woman by the window just smiled, like she knew he was going to say that. It was down right annoying. "You can call me Alexa."

“Look… Alexa,” Dean said, a theatrical long blink and a deep breath buying him the time he needed to come up with a believable story for the crazy woman. When he opened his eyes again, his mind went back two weeks ago, when Zachariah had created an illusion of a life that was as far from the Winchester life-style as Dean could possibly conceive. “Who ever you think I am, you got it wrong. My name is Dean Smith; I’m a sales director in a company called Sandover, Bridge & Iron. My father’s name is Bob, not John, my mother’s name is Ellen, not Mary, and she owns a bar in Wichita. I don’t have a brother, I have a kid sister named Jo and I know absolutely nothing about demons, yellow or pink!”

Dean tried to judge how much of this the woman was buying. The fact that she was sitting against the sunlight coming from the window, making her little more than a painful silhouette to him, was not helping his case.

“And the car I have parked in my garage with the trunk full of weapons," Alexa challenged. "Is that part of your sales’ pitch?”

Dean ground his teeth, not so much because of the hole in his story but more because of the fact that she had dared to mess with his baby. “They’re props,” he told her. “Plastic and fiber glass replicas… it’s an awesome presentation! So awesome that they’re paying me to go across country and show it in all the other branches.”

The woman crossed her arms and tilted her head, like she was literally trying to see him from a different angle.

"How did you managed to escape Hell, Dean?" She asked, point blank, in such a conversational tone that she might as well have been asking for directions to the nearest payphone.

"Wha... What?"

"Was it Sam?" She went on. "Did Sam make a deal of his own to get you out?" Each question built up the enthusiasm in her voice.

Dean shifted uncomfortably on the mattress, the plastic underneath him making weird squishy noises as he moved.

"I bet it was..." the woman said, leaving the window and nearing Dean. "You know I have a little sister as well?" Her voice seemed to grow more excited. "Her name's Mary and she's studying to be a lawyer, just like Sam was... she would do anything for me too, you know?"

Dean didn't know. And, what was more important, Dean didn't want to know. His head was pounding with the after effects of alcohol and whatever else had been in his drink to cause the blank space in his memory that took him from the drinking at the bar to the here and now. Her chatty, loud voice wasn't helping matters.

"It's ok, Dean," she went on, one hand reaching out to caress his face. "You can tell me all about it. I just want to help you, give you a friendly shoulder... no matter how bad it was, no matter what they did to you down there, I'll make it all better for you."

"T'hell are you talking about?" Dean spluttered as soon as he could get his game face on. He knew that Chuck's books ended with him going to Hell. Chuck himself had told him that all the stuff that happened after had never been published, had never been shown to anyone. So, if Dean could convince her that it was impossible for him to be there if he had in fact been Hell-bound...

"Did you meet Ruby there?" She sat on the bed, next to his right side, her bent leg pressing against his knee. "Did she hurt you? What about Bela, was she there too? What's Hell like? Is it truly hot; all fire and brimstone and screaming souls and bloodthirsty demons?"

Dean pressed himself as far away from her as the ropes securing his wrists would allow, the bindings digging painfully in to his skin as he pushed for a slack of space that wasn't really there. "Look, lady... Alexa - I have no idea of what you're talking about, ok? Think about what you're saying... Hell? Never mind that there is no such place... Do I even look like someone who's been to Hell recently?"

The appraising, judging long look that she gave him was disturbing, at best. Dean tried hard to look as unbothered and unburdened as possible. Could she tell? Could people actually look at him now and see it? Did it show in his eyes, like he was some kind of concentration camp survivor?

"What's that in your arm?" She asked instead, apparently having forgotten his question.

Dean tried playing dumb, looking at his right arm where his grey short-sleeve shirt barely hid the nasty bruise that he must've gained before, when soccer-mom's car hit him. "Car accident...forgot to look both ways."

Alexa reached over to his left arm and raised the sleeve up, her eyes lighting up as the hand shaped burn revealed itself in all its raised, red glory. "Was that from a demon? Did they brand you?" She asked, her hand playing over the burn mark, trying to fit her smaller hand over the red handprint. "Does it hurt?

If Dean had a problem with being tied down and helpless in the hands of a stranger before, spending forty years in Hell hadn’t helped his trust issues in the slightest. Dean shrugged himself away from her touch, wanting nothing more than to have a free hand to grab her and tell to stop fucking touching him.

“Demons..." he spat instead, annoyance showing in his tone. With an effort, he regained control. "Look, like I told you before, my name is Dean Smith and as soon as folks in the Toledo office notice I'm not at my presentation, they'll call the police and you'll be in a world of trouble... so, why don't you just let me go and I promise you that I won't tell anyone… you obviously need help and I-”

The woman's face changed like a storm cloud had just descended on her, turning her eyes in to lightning and her voice in to thunder. Dean felt like kicking himself. He’d committed the cardinal sin: never call a crazy person crazy.

He tried not to flinch when she reached for the front of his shirt and yanked the collar down. The gesture didn’t stopped her from ripping the fabric, the other side of the collar biting in to his neck.

“I’m crazy, I know that…" she leaned in close, sparing a quick glance at his exposed skin, her eyes triumphant and dangerous, "but I also know exactly who you are, same as I know that that," she poked the inked artwork on his chest, "is an anti-possession charm that Bobby found and that both you and Sam tattooed it to your chests as protection after Sam was taken by Meg and tried to kill you!”

Dean swallowed the foul aftertaste of having his life explained to him like that. After having denied all knowledge of the matter, there really wasn’t much that Dean could say. He couldn't even pull the same shit he and Sam had pulled with Chuck's editor and claim that he had the tattoo because he was a fan too. So he said nothing at all.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Dean's still refusing to talk as Alexa goes back in to the kitchen to get him some food. She had expected some kind of play on his part, some kind of con to get away from there and back to Sam.

Alexa had been expecting that, even if it still annoys her the way Dean just assumes that she's dumb enough to fall for his lies. They weren't even good lies.

There's a story behind that burn mark on his shoulder, one that was never mentioned in the books, and Alexa plans to find it out. But first, Dean needs to eat.

She knows from the books that he likes his food greasy and salty, but Alexa figures that that’s only because he and Sam are always eating in those ratty, roadside places and, given the chance, Dean would appreciate a nice, home-cooked meal.

She doesn’t cook much, but the waffles dipped in syrup and the black coffee are easy enough and she knows that they will be welcomed.

When she returns to the room, Alexa finds Dean all twisted in the bed, somehow trying to reach the rope knots with his teeth. The distance is too far, she knows that, but still the surprise at how soon Dean tries to escape startles her.

The clatter of dish and cup in to the floor alerts Dean to her presence and he looks up. The angry look on his face makes him look older, feral. Not at all like the Dean she knows from the books.

“That won’t work, you know?” She says after taking a quiet breath. The coffee and waffles had made a mess on the floor and for an instant Alexa could almost swear that she heard one of the nurses, angry that she'd wasted the food. But there are no nurses around now and, either way, the mess was Dean’s fault, not hers.

“What won’t work?” Dean asks innocently, his mouth drawn in to a smirk but his eyes allowing for all the anger to escape freely.

“I made you breakfast.”

Alexa can feel Dean’s eyes on her back as she bent down to pick up the mostly intact waffles and wipes a bit of hair and dust from the syrup before putting it back on the plate. There’s nothing she can do about the coffee but go get anther cup.

“I told you… I'm not who you think I am! I'm just a sales director, on my way to do a presentation,” Dean tries again, using the same arguments he had before. “I don’t know what crazy axe you have to grind with that guy, but I ain’t it.”

Alexa takes a seat by his side, on the bed, noticing once again the way he flinches from her contact. She would have to read the books again to be sure, but she could swear that Dean didn’t use to be like this. Could it be his Hell experience that had turned him this skittish of human contact?

Alexa could only imagine the horrors Dean had gone through in there, the things that those revengeful demons must’ve put the hunter through. She couldn’t wait for him to tell her everything about it.

But first, breakfast.

“I made you waffles,” she announced, holding one of the broken pieces in her hand.

Dean looked at it disgusted. “I like mine gunk free, thanks.” The finality of his statement was punctuated by turning his head to face away from her.

Alexa was having none of that. She knew Dean liked to eat; in fact, from the way the books described him stuffing his face time and time again, she was slightly surprised to find out that the hunter wasn’t a mountain of a man, chubby and round around the edges. Dean was skinny and she wouldn’t allow him to starve himself to death while in her charge.

Placing the plate on the bedside table, Alexa reached for Dean’s nose and gripped it tight. Two furious green eyes focused on her face as Dean tried to break free from her hold. She knew he couldn’t, not with the remains of the drug in his system and not tied up like that.

After what felt like a too long period of time, Dean was finally forced to open his mouth to breath.

Wasting no time, Alexa shoves the piece of waffle inside his mouth, then she covers his lips, in a finality all her own.

O0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Sometime after lunchtime, Sam had graduated from annoyed as hell in to worried sick. Grabbing his cell to check for missed calls, Sam's stomach twisted when he saw that Dean hadn't even tried to reach him.

Swallowing any prideful thoughts of being the first to cave in, or even of playing the fool and be made to look like the needy younger brother while Dean was probably having some fun with a random skirt, Sam searched Dean's number and hit dial. The phone went straight to voice mail.

While it had become a sort of grim costume with their father's cell to always be answered by John's voicemail, Dean had never even bothered to record one. He had no use for it. Instead, a mechanical voice just spit out Dean's number and instructed the caller to leave a message after the bip tone.

For all the times that Dean had needed their father and had been met with nothing but a gruffly pre-recorded message, Dean always answered his phone. It was the one thing that he prided himself for being polar opposites from John. Because, if anything, Dean knew how much it hurt to need someone and not be able to rely on even the certainty of an answered phone call.

Sam didn't leave a message. The message here was very clear. Dean not answering his phone meant that he was in trouble and Sam had wasted precious time already.

0o0o0o0o0o0o

Alexa placed the empty dish on the kitchen counter, next to an open pill bottle and the faint white dust of the pills she's carefully grinded. Dean had eaten the whole thing, but in between what had been wasted on the spilled coffee and the waffles that Dean spat back, Alexa couldn't be sure just how much of the sedative was actually in him.

She should probably wait until the next day to actually try and talk to the hunter. He seemed angrier that she'd figured he would be, but given the time and willingness to listen to her reasoning, Alexa knew that he would come around.

The rest of her morning was spent entertaining herself by cleaning up the place, playing housewife to the first house that she'd ever owned in her adult life. The house wasn't all that big, with a long corridor that stated in a hall that also served as a living room and kitchen and on a bathroom. The two rooms in between were so small they might as well be closets, but still, in the whole, it was bigger and more colorful than her restrained world of sterile bedroom walls and barred window recreation room at the institute.

There were no bars at the windows here and the only sounds she heard were the joyful chirping of the birds that were nested in the trees outside. Sometimes the birds sounded too much like the quiet, nonsense voices of the other patients and Alexa had to close the window to stop them from reaching her.

The faint sound of snoring reached her from the bedroom and Alexa smiled. At least Dean was resting.

She tiptoed back in to the room, watching from the door the relaxed stance of the man sleeping on the bed. With his eyes closed and his face slack in peaceful repose, Dean looked more like the man that she'd pictured. She liked this far more than the angry, food spitting and loud swearing beast that had reared out its ugly head earlier.

Alexa didn't like it when Dean talked to her like that, but she figured that it was his coping mechanism, making him act like that. Soon, he would realize that she wanted only to help.

Reaching up, Alexa carefully wiped the sweat from Dean’s face, laying a hand on his forehead to check for a fever. The room was pleasantly warm but there was no reason for Dean to be flushed and damp like that. Maybe he was sick?

Following the trail of salty fluid down Dean’s neck, Alexa’s hand rested on the leather cord string hanging from Dean's neck. She pulled it out. In the books, the significant pendant had been described as a golden Egyptian-looking face with horns. The metal was darker looking than gold and its weight was less than it would've been expected from real gold. Felt more like brass or copper. Whichever the metal was, it felt hot from the contact with Dean's skin.

Alexa was about to carefully lay it on top of Dean's shirt when she took notice of the mess.

There were pieces of semi-chewed food all over Dean's grey t-shirt, failed missiles from his firing range every time she had taken her hand out of his mouth.

The vomit-like food looked disgusting and the smell of cold, coagulating syrup was turning Alexa's stomach. That mess had to be clean. As she was getting up to fetch some clean towels from the bathroom, a hand curled around her arm, restraining her with painful grip.

The surprised yelp that escaped Alexa's mouth was more from the unexpected move than the bruising touch. Dean's eyes were open, even if slightly unfocused, and his hands were free.

She had no idea how he'd managed to do that, but before she could figure, Dean's forehead was colliding with hers and everything went black.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Dean was having a really bad trip. Not that he’d had many in his life… well, there had been that one time with that chick from Orange County and the weird frizzly acid strip that he had tried because, lord! the things she had planned for them to do under the influence could not be ignored… but other than that, Dean’s experiences with drugs had been, mostly and sadly, of the medical kind.

This one felt like a mix between those two kinds. His body felt detached from him and vision was wonky, filled with weird colors and strange shapes, but he could remember where he was and what was happening.

Dean remembered the disgusting waffles and being force-fed. The crazy woman that was keeping him prisoner must’ve put something in them other than dust and syrup.

Sam would never let him hear the end of this one. Dean Winchester, Mankind’s final hope for the impending apocalypse… caught and trapped by a fan.

Chuck and his motherfucking full frontal prose. He was going to murder that annoying little man.

As soon as the woman went away, Dean started to work on his freedom. The whole room had the impersonal feeling of a rented house and the mattress he was laying in was an old thing that had probably come with the rest of the furniture in there. Contorting his right thumb, Dean slide the ring from his middle finger. The thing had been with him for more years than he could remember and the number of times he had used it to pull open countless beer bottles had roughed the inner edge of the silver ring.

Dean used it to cut through the plastic cover and the outer layer of the ratty mattress.

Forcing his mind to focus on the task at hand and not give in to the pull of the drugs in his system, Dean meticulously pulled one of the mattress’s strings out and started to work on the rope binding his right wrist. Ignoring the sweat stinging his eyes, Dean lost track of time as he slowly wore the rope thin enough for him to break it.

Fearful of the pull of the drugs in his body, Dean decided that the safest course of action was to lure the woman back in to the room and take care of her before testing the strength of his legs.

Making short work of the rest of the knots, Dean concentrated on fake-snoring, lure her in to a sense of security when she returned.

He was about to start snoring for real and lose his chance of escaping when the sound of the woman entering the room finally reached his ears.

Dean forced himself not to react as she fondled his face, his neck, when he felt her fingers playing with his necklace. Feigning sleep was something that he worked far too much at for these past months and the sad fact was that, because of Sam’s secrets and midnight walks, Dean had become frighteningly good at it.

Dean waited until he could no longer feel her touch, waited until the springs of the mattress announced that she was getting up, and sprang to action.

The head-butt was sloppy, at best, but it was enough to render the woman unconscious.

Jumping to his feet as soon as she was down was not the smartest thing that Dean could’ve done. The room made a crazy spin around him and the pretty colors that he’s been seeing so far, turned in to bright flashes of light that threatened to blind him completely.

Dean struggle on, hands stretched outward, trusting on the wall to both keep him up and to guide him out of there.

He didn’t have his boots on, he didn’t have his jacket or his cell phone, but he wasn’t thinking ahead enough to figure that he might need those. No, Dean’s focus was on finding a door and leaving.

The object of his desires morphed in to existence at the end of the corridor, to the right of the room that he’d just exited.

The distance seemed impossibly long, stretching and wobbling like a weird cinematographic camera trick.

Walking like a blind man… a very drunk blind man, Dean forced his numb body to move in that direction. He was almost at the door when he heard the shout.

"Dean!"

He had no idea why the hell he turned. He knew who had called him, he knew that there was absolutely nothing more that he wanted to hear from that woman's mouth, but still Dean turned. The reason why he had felt compelled to turn became clear immediately as he saw the gun in Alexa's hands. It had been the danger in her voice, the familiar twinge of menace that he could recognize any time, any place. "Alexa... wai-"

In the dark lit corridor, the flare of the gun going off looked almost like an explosion of light, gunpowder erupting in a orange ball of sound and power.

Inside his drug-addled mind, the idea of ducking didn't even crossed Dean's brain. Instead he just stood there, arm still raised, frozen in its pleading stance for reason. Reasonable behavior from the crazy woman...

The bullet took what seemed like an awfully long time to reach him, so long that Dean wondered if he'd finally gotten lucky and she had missed after all.

Then came the white, hot-blinding pain in his right shoulder and Dean looked down, surprised to realize that the bullet had hit home after all and that, from the amount of blood soaking up his shirt, it had been there for awhile.

Somehow that made little sense for him there, the intrinsic physics of light speed-versus sound speed-versus pain speed escaping him as quickly as the blood coming out from his shoulder.

When the floor rushed up to meet his face, Dean thought that that was, somehow, also very wrong, because at least the law of gravity he remembered well and the fact that the floor had fallen up instead of waiting for him to fall down, seemed not fair at all.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0






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