See exhibit A below
Now, pull your eyes away from the insane cuteness of that couple and from the general yummyness that that man possesses and notice the sexy temp tattoo he has on his arm. See it there? I think I can rest my case, right?
So, the story. Dean's back from Purgatory, adjusting -poorly- and there are some... changes he needs to cope with. Warning for language and some gore (hey! it's me!) and, as always, major hugs and kisses and thank yous to jackfan2 for the awesome and lovely beta reading.
All remaining assholisms and mistakes are mine.
----- PRIMAL -----
Dean wasn’t the kind of guy that sat at the window, watching the raindrops gliding down the glass, contemplating the whys and the hows of his existence.
He was pretty sure he’d go insane if he ever tried.
‘Roll with the punches’, his dad used to say. So Dean did.
Most of the time, it wasn’t even that much of a big deal. The thing only came out when he was in danger, like some kind of adrenaline fueled response. Dean had no idea why or how it worked. Just that it worked.
He had no idea why or how come it was still even there. After all, what happens in Purgatory stays in Purgatory, or at least he had thought as much.
For once, Dean was more than happy for being utterly wrong.
Stripped of his weapons and left feeling all but naked in a room filled with Leviathans, Dean knew with a certainty that was born out of his many years fighting evil, that he and Sam were screwed.
Sweat trickled down the side of his face, lazy fat drops that took their time descending to pool at the hem of his shirt. Beside him, Dean could feel his brother tensing, eyes darting around carefully, methodically; trying to guess which of the monsters surrounding them would make the first move.
When Dean surged to action and started slashing away with a weapon that should not exist, it took all of them by surprise. Even himself.
----- o -----
It was only after Cass blipped out of existence that Dean realized how truly dark Purgatory was, as if the angel had a light of his own that had been snuffed away alongside with him.
The things that charged him then had red eyes and fur that seemed to melt into the shadows. There were teeth too. Dean couldn’t see them in the darkness, but he could hear them grind and snap, eager to taste his flesh and tear it apart.
He had picked up a rock from the ground on instinct, not really sure if he should use it to stave off the inevitable or put an end to his misery.
----- o -----
“You should eat,” Sam pointed out, pushing a plate with greasy fries and a bun overfilled with undercooked meat.
Dean picked it up and took a bite just to avoid discussing the matter with Sam. He wasn’t hungry.
After he’d come back, Dean was rarely hungry. It was like his stomach had retired from lack of use and was now reluctant to return to active duty no matter how much Dean forced the issue.
After spending so much time being an out-law in Purgatory, it was hard to start taking in account the laws of physic again. One year without food had bared no consequence in there.
Two days on Earth and Dean could barely muster the energy to get out of bed. He did it anyway, dragged himself on weary legs to the bathroom and stripped. Cleaning up, like so many other things, was a luxury that he had been forced to do without in Purgatory.
Under the hot water, Dean’s eyes couldn’t help but travel there, to look at the piece of Purgatory that he’d dragged back, the piece that seemed to scream for the whole world to hear that he was not the same man as before.
Getting out of Purgatory was a little like running at full speed towards a solid wall, knowing with all certainty that it’s going to hurt like hell once your body impacts and then hit it and finding out that the wall isn’t solid at all. There is no wall.
Dean had expected an obstacle nearly impossible to surpass; unimaginable pain; some sort of tangible barrier to separate what had been from what was now. Instead, Dean slipped from one world to the other as easily as one using a revolving door. Round and round he went and, on some days, he couldn’t really be sure which side he’d come out.
It would be less confusing if he and Sam spent most of their time in big cities, filled with barely controlled chaos and the buzz of a thousand people. As it was, the Winchesters kept mostly to small towns and the long stretches of road between them.
A tree was a tree was a tree. And in days when the sky was mostly overcast and all colors turned into gray, Dean was sure that he had never really left Purgatory. His eyes would start darting around, looking for the kind of danger that he knew couldn’t be there, sweat pouring down his back like an ice cold zipper, slowly sliding down to expose his soul.
Sometimes all it took to ground him back was Sam’s solid presence by his side. Other times he had to stop the car and walk away, fearful of what Sam might see, terrified that he would realize out how much his brother had changed.
And always, always, Dean would take care to make sure his sleeves were down.
----- o -----
The rules of Physic on Earth didn’t exactly translate well in Purgatory. Up was sometimes down, down could be sideways, heavy was sometimes weightless, forward could sometimes backfire. It became an annoyance after awhile.
It was downright scary the first time Dean went down a hill and found himself on top of a tree.
He didn’t grow used to it. There was no growing use to seeing mountains fall down from the sky like they were nothing but rain. There was no growing use to feeling time pass by you and leaving no mark behind. No hunger. No thirst. No sleep.
All rules were out the window. That, Dean could understand. That he could plan for and be prepared.
Still, even after some time spent there, some things still managed to catch him by surprise.
Pulling physical things out of thin air should not be possible. And yet, Benny assured him that the woman that lived by the mountain could. That after seeing her, he could to.
You see, she was like him. Human.
----- o -----
Dean’s world was still spinning when Sam’s hand landed on his shoulder and everything came to a sudden stop. His head hurt.
Dean blinked, trying to clear the red haze from his eyes only to find out that it wouldn’t go away. He licked the corner of his lips. Blood. “Are you okay?” he whispered to Sam, because seeing his brother through a red film was setting off all the alarms in his being.
Sam just stared at him, a look of disbelief mixed with anger that Dean couldn’t quite understand. Around them, the ground was littered with black goo and severed heads.
Sam looked away, pulling a bandana from his pocket like the thing was corded around his kidneys and it actually hurt to pull it out. “You’re bleeding,” he mumbled, shoving the thing against Dean’s forehead with force enough to make him stumble. “Also, you lied to me.”
The change in topic was so abrupt that Dean was sure he’d heard wrong. “I— what?” he asked, fumbling with the piece of cloth that had been thrown his way. “What are you on about?”
“You said it was just one more tattoo. A ‘trifecta celebration’,” Sam said, mocking throwing Dean’s words back at him.
And just like that, Sam turned and started picking up heads into a black plastic bag.
----- o -----
They had to walk for almost a week to get to the right place. Suspicious by nature, Dean thought more than once that the vampire was just stringing him along and leading him some place far away to betray him. But then again, why go through all that trouble when every square inch of Purgatory was fit for an ambush?
The mountain was impressive, making the Everest look like a scrawny hill. The center of it was hollow, like someone had stolen the heart of the mountain and left it standing there, dead. The summit, covered in fire, seemed to be supported by little more than thin air. The whole thing seemed ready to collapse at the flap of a bird’s wing.
The mountain wasn’t their destination, just a landmark. The tree Benny led him to stood tall and wide enough to park a freight truck inside. Dean couldn’t help but whistle as they went in. He’d stayed in motel rooms smaller than the natural cave created inside the tree trunk.
“Come in peace or be gone,” a voice boomed from the far end of the spacious room.
“We come in piece, Frey,” Bennie replied for the two for them, like it was some sort of password that would get them through the door. “I brought you a customer.”
For some reason, Dean had been expecting a small, old lady. Feeble. Possibly with her hair up in a bun.
He should have known better than to expect anything in Purgatory to follow Earth’s rules. She was old, that much was plain to see just from looking into her eyes. She felt as old as the world itself, maybe older.
She looked like a young woman. A Norse woman. A regular Valkyrie, long blond braids and all.
It was kind of hot.
“Did you bring payment?”
“Five werewolf hearts, as requested.” Benny tossed the bloody bag on the floor of the large tree. “Fresh,” he added with a snarling smile.
Despite the fact that they were in Purgatory and that every werewolf killed ended up there sooner or later, it had been surprisingly hard to find five of them in such a short time.
Dean had suggested they used the hearts of vampires and other shapeshifters. After all, since they’d all been human at some point, their hearts should be all the same.
Seeing the woman open the bag and sniff each heart with the same focus as a hound on its prey, Dean was glad that Bennie had flat out refused to cheat. Dean wasn’t sure how, but he was certain that she would have been able to find out which weren’t truly werewolf hearts.
“Payment is good,” she sentenced. “We begin now.”
----- o -----
Sam had seen it the first day he and Dean had been back together. It was impossible not to, not when the two of them shared such close quarters. He’d just stepped inside the bathroom as Dean was finishing drying off and his eyes had zeroed in on it immediately. “When did you get that?”
Dean resisted the immediate urge to pull his arm away before Sam could grab it for a closer look. Oblivious to his brother’s hesitation, Sam had taken hold of Dean’s right arm and was tracing the sword’s pattern in his forearm.
“Looks kind of Celtic or Norse,” Sam whispered. “Who made it?”
The design in itself was elaborate. Patterns that turned into the leaves and twirls, crossed lines and circles surrounding the sword itself. The blade alone was about the length of Dean’s forearm and not an inch of it wasn’t decorated with the elaborate designs.
“Some tattoo artist, real celebrity in that line of work, or so I was told,” Dean answered earnestly. See the need for more details in Sam’s eyes, he went on. “I was drunk. Thought I should get something to celebrate being such a well traveled man. You know, the trifecta,” he added with a smile. “Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. It was either this or a frigging medal.”
Sam tore his gaze away from the tattoo and looked Dean in the eye. He seemed to be weighing Dean’s explanation. “Well,” Sam said, picking up his shaving kit, “at least it’s not a butterfly... or a pair of boobs.”
Dean cuffed him in the neck, because that was what Sam expected him to do after a jib like that. Because that was normal.
And because it gave Dean an excuse to run from that bathroom before Sam could see the remnants of panic in his gaze. The terror and uncertainty he’d felt while waiting for Sam’s determination. And how relieved he was that he’d escaped greater scrutiny. That time.
----- o -----
“I didn’t lie to you,” Dean felt the need to point out.
Sam paused, a dead head dangling from his fingers by its long hair. A raised eyebrow told Dean how much his brother thought that was bull. “So, the sword you just used, the one you apparently pulled out of your ass, is not the same as the one tattooed in your arm, the one that was just a tattoo?”
“Well... it’s-” Dean looked away, resisting the urge to pull his sleeves down. “-It’s complicated,” he finished lamely.
“It’s a yes or no question, Dean,” Sam pointed out, picking up the last of the heads. “Actually, you know what? I don’t even want to know. The answer’s pretty obvious.”
And with that, he turned away and left.
The right words would make Sam stop in his tracks; the right words would make him stay. Words, however, failed Dean.
To be honest with himself, Dean wasn’t all that sure why he’d kept that secret from his brother. Well, he knew why; some part of himself had wanted his brother to look at him like he was the same man of before, like nothing had changed. Dean just wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort.
Some secrets are simply too big to stay hidden.
Before Dean could actually gather his resolve and chase Sam away with all of his perfectly good reasons for the deceit, something moved out of the corner of his eye. One of the Leviathans, head still attached to its body –or reattached to its body- slowly rose to its feet, toothy smile spreading like a shark’s as he launched himself at Dean.
Caught by surprise, Dean lost his balance and flew backwards. His head, already bruised for the initial fight, banged against something hard and unyielding. As the darkness closed in, all Dean remembered seeing was teeth.
----- o -----
It wasn’t much of a tattoo when the woman laid down her pen and declared her work done. In fact, Dean would’ve complained about the fact that the four straight lines that she had inked into his skin looked as far from a weapon he could use as four lines had ever been, but Benny had dragged him outside before Dean could open his mouth.
It wasn’t until they were ambushed on the way back by a group of nymphs and Dean found himself fighting for his life, that he understood the true beauty of the spell.
For each time he drew blood off his enemies, a new line would appear in the drawing. One more detail for each life taken.
In Purgatory, the blade had become an extension of his arm. All Dean need do was think, and Bam! the sword would magically transfer from his skin to his hand.
It hurt at first, like a pulled muscle being used over and over again. That passed, eventually.
By the time he and Benny found their way out of Purgatory, the sword’s pattern in Dean’s arm was so elaborate and intricate that the original four lines could no longer be told apart from the rest of the design.
----- o -----
As the saying goes, Dean had fully expected to wake up dead. He didn’t though. Just in a world of pain and a distant scream that he was pretty sure had belonged to him.
The world was cold and black and it was spinning around him, like water draining down the sink. His head was killing him and he couldn’t really feel anything below his stomach. Dean feared that there might be something wrong with his back, images of Bobby in a wheelchair setting off a pang of sadness in his heart.
The cold and blackness were easily explained by the fact that they were now outdoors. The floor beneath his back felt lumpy and unforgiving and Dean could see gray clouds against the dark sky. The reason for his numbness, however, was scarier than a broken back. There was a Leviathan currently sitting on top of him.
“That was a really neat trick you pulled back there,” the thing said. “Dick will want to take a look at this.”
It took Dean a second to link the words to the fact that his arm was on fire. Sitting across his hips, the Leviathan had Dean’s right arm in a dead grip, blade slowly sawing away at the skin bearing the tattoo.
Dean twisted his hips and thrust with his legs, trying to dislodge the monster currently filleting him. His feet skidded on the ground, the sound of loose gravel mocking him.
The Leviathan didn’t move an inch. Although it looked like a half starved middle age man with a balding head, it weighed like a well-fed bull.
“Dick’s dead, asshole! Didn’t you get the memo?” Dean spat, trying to dislodge the arm trapped against his body. And damn the Leviathan’s top dog for making every mention of his name sound like soft porn.
“Stop squirming, mouse”, the Leviathan hissed back, his focus on the task. “If I mess this up, the boss will have my hide for it.”
Dean forced his eyes to look at his arm. Blood looked black in the dim light, making his arm look like it was covered in dark vines.
Nearest to the wrist, the skin was already raised and the Leviathan inserted his fingers underneath.
Dean gasped, choking down another scream. “Dick’s in Purgatory. He’s not seeing the light of the sun anytime soon,” he managed to say through clenched teeth. God! That hurt!
“You know what Steve here used to do, back when he was food?” The Leviathan asked. It actually paused, waiting for Dean to take a guess; when none was offered, he went on. “He was an office clerk at some unimportant business company -which sounds boring just from saying it, by the way- but on weekends...” the monster paused again, giving a pull on the skin between his fingers, tearing it back a good couple of inches.
Dean screamed, whole world going white with pain, blood rushing to his ears.
“On weekends, Steve here hunted rabbits. Killed them and skinned them...”
Another pull, skin tearing away like fray cloth.
Dean heard the voice at a distance, words filtered through a waterfall.
One final pull of skin that tore it all the way to Dean’s elbow. He barely felt it as the Leviathan used a knife to cut the whole piece away. “There,” the Leviathan said, sounding utterly satisfied with itself. “Perfect.”
Through the haze of pain, Dean could feel the monster getting off of him and walking away, light footsteps crushing gravel. His right arm was burning, spasms of pain hitting like pointy needles where the skin was missing.
Rolling over with a hiss, Dean’s eyes followed the Leviathan across the space. There were a number of raised platforms and metallic structures at regular intervals, popping off the ground like mole mounds. It finally hit Dean were they were.
Across a small distance, on the opposite end of where the rooftop entry door stood, Dean saw as the monster picked up a large jar sitting on top of one of the air conditioner exits and dumped the stretch of Dean’ skin inside. From where Dean was, he could see the black ink of the tattoo, suspended in some kind of clear liquid, clashing heavily against the pink swirl of fluid and blood surrounding it.
Struggling to get to his feet and make his escape before the Leviathan returned to finish the job, Dean clamped a hand over his bleeding arm and rolled over on his knees. Using his bleeding arm for support, Dean pushed to his feet.
The round trip from standing on his feet to landing back on his knees was so fast that Dean barely had time to realize that his legs lacked the strength to keep him up. The landing jarred his wounds and Dean bite down his lip to stop himself from screaming.
God! Now would be a really nice time for Sam to show up for the rescue.
From what little Dean could see from that roof, it seemed like they hadn’t gone very far from the place where he and Sam had been ambushed. But Sam had already left the building by the time the Leviathan had pounced.
If Dean knew his brother well, Sam would go sulk by the car, waiting for Dean to admit defeat and join him there. Hours could go by as the two siblings fumed in separate corners. Hours without Sam ever find out that Dean was in trouble.
“SAM!” Dean tried, hoping that his brother was somewhere close enough to hear him scream. “SAM!”
A gust of wind nearly made him topple over and Dean cursed his luck. He hadn’t even noticed how windy it was up there until he had opened his mouth at top lungs and barely a sound had come out. He might as well be spitting in a storm.
Sam wasn’t hearing any of it. He could be right now in front of that same storage place, and he wouldn’t hear a word.
“Now... what do you think you’re doing, little mouse?”
The voice came right from behind him and Dean turned too fast to fend off an attack that he knew he had zero chances of defending. His vision blurred, eyes barely registering the toothy smile on the monster’s face.
“There is still the small matter of getting our boss back, don’t you remember?” it chastised, pushing Dean flat on the floor. Seeing the confused look on Dean’s face, it smirked. “Forgot to mention that, have I?”
Pushing his pain away, Dean threw his leg up, feeling it contact solidly with the Leviathan’s face. It was as effective as throwing feathers at the thing, Dean knew that, but it gave him a small measure of satisfaction.
‘Steve’ spat on the floor, more annoyed than pained by the action, and kicked Dean in the ribs, effectively turning him over. “Now, now... no biting, mouse. You’ll like this next part.”
Dazed by the blow, Dean barely felt as the Leviathan grabbed his collar and started to slowly drag him towards one of the ventilation exits. They were nice and flat on the top, like a hard bed.
“Ever since he learned what was written in that damn tablet, the boss left precise instructions with a few of us, you see,” ‘Steve’ went on, pulling Dean up and on top of the flat surface like he weighed nothing at all. “Just in case the impossible happened and you grunts actually managed to kill him.”
He pulled a length of rope and set off bidding Dean’s arms and legs. “We already have the blood of a virgin –humm, she was delicious- and now, all we’re missing...”
Is the blood of a Purgatory native, Dean’s mind filled in.
----- o -----
Sam hadn’t gone that far. Sure, he was pissed at Dean for having kept the true nature of that tattoo from him, but he had just gotten his brother back from the dead –again- and that was not the sort of thing to be so easily eclipsed by one lie.
After all, the size of the high horse Sam could mount over the matter of lying to brothers was kind of tiny.
By the time he had reached the car, Sam had pretty much cooled off. Without the red haze of betrayal coloring his thoughts, Sam could even start to understand Dean.
How many times had Sam hidden from Dean what was going on because it made him feel less than human, because his abilities and the curse of the demon blood made him feel like a freak?
And Dean... despite what they did for a living, despite the fact that both of them had been dead more often than it was healthy for regular humans, despite knowing that the two of them were the most powerful angel-vessels around, Dean still saw himself as a regular Joe. One more ant in the world. Just a human, like everybody else.
If he made the effort to try and step into Dean’s shoes, Sam could easily understand that his brother was probably a little freaked out by the matter himself. It was one thing to hunt monsters; it was a whole different ball to see yourself as one.
Dean had been dragged into Purgatory a human; he had come out something more.
Sam looked around the deserted street, the soft sound of dripping suddenly reaching his ears. Looking down, he could see the pool of liquid by his feet, a bigger version of the trail of black goo, shiny as oil against the dark pavement, that he had left behind.
The bag of heads he was carrying was soaked through. Opening it with a growing sense of dread, Sam gasped as he looked inside. Most of the heads of the Leviathans had melted!
Thinking back at mayhem during the fight, Sam remembered taking advantage of Dean’s head-chopping spree and reaching for a blade of his own to fight by his side.
But Sam’s blade had been a regular long knife, one of their own, one he knew would only sever the head of the Leviathans and little else. No killing them, no melting body parts, which meant...
Dean had a frigging tattoo on his arm that could morph into a sword at his will. A sword that, as far as Sam could tell, was able to kill the most powerful being they’d encountered so far, the Leviathans.
Sam couldn’t help but grin. That was really cool!
A door banged in the distance and Sam looked back at the empty warehouse where he’d left Dean, expecting to see his brother. Instead, he saw a balding, skinny man, dragging a body outside.
The smile faded from Sam’s lips. In a lifetime together, Sam had seen Dean in just about every angle and shape one person can imagine another. Even in the dark, from such a distance, it was impossible for Sam not to recognize his brother’s limp body being pulled away into a dark alley.
Dropping the gooey bag on the floor, Sam raced to follow. He had absolutely no way to kill the Leviathan, but he couldn’t lose track of where the thing was taking Dean.
The fact alone that the Leviathan was keeping Dean alive was enough to send a chill down Sam’s spine. They had figured that the whole thing at the warehouse had been a trap, but now Sam was sure he knew for whom the trap was set.
They were after Dean.
----- o -----
He would die first, but if ever pushed to talk about his experiences in Hell, Heaven and Purgatory, Dean would say that all of them had sucked, but also that he had hated less the last one.
And people would ask, “Surely you mean Heaven, not Purgatory?”
What the fuck do people know anyway?
Hell had lived up to its expectations. It was terror, pain and despair, all rolled into one massive cluster of loss and failure.
The game was fixed and there were only two positions you could play: the victim or the torturer. Dean had been forced into both roles and he had felt trapped and helpless in both. Hell made him feel dirty, no matter if he was the one being shredded by hot knifes or the one holding the blade.
Heaven had been a disappointment. Deep down, everyone holds the hope that Heaven –even if it doesn’t exist- should be a place filled with peace and happiness.
All Dean found in there were lies. The souls of the dead were lied to, led to believe that their lives went on just the same when in fact they were all trapped in re-runs of their own soap operas. They were the angels’ bitches and most of them didn’t even realize it.
The whole thing had reminded Dean of the one time he had tried drugs. The feeling of letting go, of entrusting all decisions and power to something else that you could not see or understand, to float five inches above your own existence and be nothing but a hot air balloon controlled by the wind and without a mind of its own.
After the initial buzz, Dean had been scared shitless at the lack of control.
Heaven was exactly the same. No control, no power over your own fate, helpless to get off the ride and start a new story. Stuck in the seat the angels decide to put you and watching the same movie forever.
Purgatory had sucked, no question about it. It was like the longest survival course that Dean had ever taken, a whole degree in blood and gore, a PhD in how to kill to avoid being killed.
But Dean hadn’t been helpless; he had barely survived by the skin of his teeth, but he had fought and he had won.
He had been able to fight.
----- o -----
Sam had lost his prey.
He’d been a hunter his whole life, stalking monsters as monsters stalked the innocent. Rare had been the times when the monsters had gotten the better over Sam.
Most of the times, he had Dean or his father to cover his back, to look right when Sam had to look left, to keep all angles covered. On the few occasions he’d hunted alone -because he either lost someone, or was lost himself- he had been so deeply focused that he could almost guess what the monsters would do next. And he did not lose sight of them until they were dead.
The damn Leviathan carrying the body—
The damn Leviathan carrying Dean had given Sam the slip. It had turned left, then right and then all the lights had gone out and by the time Sam’s eyes had grown used to the dark, they were both gone.
As far as Sam was aware, Leviathan weren’t like demons and angels. They couldn’t pop out of existence at will, pop in again at some other location. They walked, they ran, they used cars and other means of transportation.
Sam had lost Dean from sight, but his ears were still working and he hadn’t heard any engine start. They were still around there somewhere. He just needed to figure out in which of the nearly twenty warehouses Dean was being held.
At some point, Sam could swear he had heard his name at a distance. He had stopped, closed his eyes, trying to pin point the source but all he could hear were crickets and the rustling of leaves.
Half an hour later Sam was ready to start screaming and let the Leviathans find him instead of the other way around. He’d searched the five buildings closest to the last location he had tracked the Leviathan and come out empty handed. Plus, the warehouses were huge and Sam knew he was wasting time Dean did not have.
The sound of tires rolling over wet floor was the one thing out of place that Sam immediately latched on. Someone else was there.
Moving as silently as he could, Sam followed the sound until he heard the car stop and doors banging. Five men exited an old Ford Lincoln and headed for one the warehouses Sam had already searched.
What the fuc—
Sam had searched that place from top to bottom. He was sure it had been empty. And yet, there was no doubt in his mind that those men were Leviathans and that they had come because of Dean.
His wandering about hadn’t been completely useless though. Second storage place was being remodeled and the cleaning crew had left their supplies in there. Sam clutched tightly the industrial bottles of Borax as he watched the group of Leviathans go inside.
Sam followed them in.
----- PART II -----