There were tiny Leviathan floating in the air, swirling around like dust. Dean pushed his eyes close, trying to force the dark spots away from his vision.
The sickly smell of blood filled his senses and Dean suddenly remembered why there was a bad taste at the back of his mouth; they were going to reopen the door to Purgatory and get Dick out and they already had the two main ingredients for it.
All that they needed now was a little cooperation from the stars.
Even in his fogged, exhausted mind, Dean knew he couldn’t let that happen. He willed his eyes to focus. In between the blows to the head and the blood loss, that was nothing short of a Herculean effort.
What he had been looking for, however, didn’t require that much of a focused eyesight. A full moon, peeking from behind storm clouds, was a hard thing to miss.
If there was an eclipse that night, they were screwed.
There were voices, echoing in the mainly empty space. ‘Steve’ had called in reinforcements, it would seem.
Dean studied his options. His hands were tied behind his back and he felt so weak that the only thing keeping him upright was the fact that he’d been propped against a corner of the small fence running the length of the rooftop. One short push and Dean could jump over the edge. Were he able to fly, he’d be home free.
As it were, his only option was through the roof door. And there were currently five Leviathans, plus ‘Steve’, having a merry meeting there.
To be completely honest with himself, Dean had no idea why he was still alive. The monsters had gotten what they wanted and, at this point, he was nothing but food to them. Why keep him alive at all?
He tugged on the ropes, not really expecting to find any give, but old habits were hard to break. Blood, both from the patch of skin that had been ripped off, and from the puncture wound the Leviathan had made to collect his blood had cumulated to soak them thoroughly through. Instead of loosening them, however, the dry blood had made the ropes too stiff and thick to allow for any give at all.
He had no weapons, no strength, no way of overpowering the gathering of monsters standing between him and freedom.
All Dean had was Sam, somewhere out there, hopefully already aware that his brother was missing.
Dean leaned his head against the cool wall, allowing it to calm his feverish skin. He couldn’t stay there, hoping for the off chance that Sam might arrive in time, that Sam might arrive at all.
He needed a plan.
Dean stood no chance against the group of Leviathans, that much he had no illusions about. But he sure as hell could still make sure that the gateway to Purgatory stayed close.
There was only one thing that Dean could do.
On top of one of the ventilation shafts to his left sat two jars filled with a dark fluid. Dean figured one was his and the other the virgin’s blood. All he needed to do was make his way there and destroy the one ingredient that the Leviathans wouldn’t be able to replace at a moment’s notice. The blood of the virgin.
All Dean needed to do was to get up and move. Which was the same as saying ‘here’s a car. Lift it up using nothing but with your pinky toes’.
Dean pushed against the ground, his fingers gripping the gravel and trying to find an anchor for his motion. It was hard to keep his balance with his hands behind his back and the world swirling around him, but the wall was a constant that helped Dean tell his up from down. Kind of.
His legs trembled as Dean finally made his way upright, feeling like he’d just climbed Mount Everest in his briefs. The dark spots were back, but this time Dean didn’t waste anytime chasing them away. All he needed was to walk five feet, unscrew a jar and spill the blood.
Easy plan. Bitch of an execution.
----- o -----
Sam was ready to kick himself when he saw the group of Leviathans take the stairs for the roof access. He had been there before, he knew it.
He just hadn’t searched the damn roof.
Patience was hard to come by and Sam had to push away the urge to just follow them out, take control of the overwhelming need to just barge into a situation he knew nothing about. It wouldn’t help Dean and it would probably get him in as much trouble as his brother and it sucked.
Most, if not all the buildings in that place that Sam had seen so far, had only one access door to the roof, which meant that the Leviathans would see him at the same time, if not before he saw them. Armed with just a couple of two-gallon containers of Borax, Sam needed the element of surprise on his side.
Racing out before he could change his mind, Sam didn’t slow down until he reached the building immediately next to the one where Dean was being held. He took the stairs two at a time, stopping only when he reached the roof access.
Opening the door as quietly as he could, Sam peaked out and sighed in relief. The orientation of the roof he occupied was such that the access door was hidden from sight from the adjacent roof.
Dropping into the shadows, Sam walked around the access and looked across. Standing right in front of the roof access door stood all six of the Leviathans, talking to each other like some book club meeting. The wind carried their voices across, but still Sam couldn’t tell what they were talking about.
Sam pulled his coat closer and perused the rest of the roof. Like the one he was on, there were shadowy areas where he couldn’t see; blind spots that he hoped weren’t hiding even more Leviathans. Six was going to be hard enough as it was wi—
His gaze froze when he spotted a familiar form. Dean.
Tucked away at the far end of the roof, leaning against the corner of two of the walls, Dean was barely more than a shadow himself. The vague human shape and the fact that the Leviathan who had taken Dean was a part of the group talking by the door, however, was all Sam needed to be sure that he was looking at his brother.
The fact that the shape hadn’t moved an inch since Sam had spotted him was doing weird things to his heart, sending it racing in fits and starts. Was he too late?
The rational part of Sam’s brain eventually managed to take over and offer some sense to the situation. If there was one thing that their past experiences had taught them was that with the Leviathans, ‘too late’ meant not much left except for body ‘crumbs’.
The clouds moved and in the sudden brightness of a full moon, Sam could see more details. Midway between Dean and the group of Leviathans, on top of what looked like an air conditioner unit, there was a glint of glass. It took a second for Sam’s eyes to focus enough to realize that the glint came from a set of glass jars, each filled with a dark something.
Sam’s brain was too quick to make the connection.
The last time, his brain had been consumed with the fight with his personal demons in the form of a very insidious and tortuous memory of Lucifer. Still, Sam remembered well being sent to fetch a jar filled with the blood of a virgin and Bobby’s lady friend, the one who’d come from Purgatory all those decades ago.
Sam looked up at the full moon again. Certainly they weren’t trying to...
The blood of a virgin was relatively easy to get, the blood of a Purgatory native not so much. Although Leviathans were as native to Purgatory as they come, they didn’t actually have blood, just that gooey substance that resembled more like petroleum. So where would they ge—
Sam’s gaze fell on the unmoving shape again. Oh, crap!
Making his way down, feet barely touching the steps, Sam raked his fingers through his hair, resisting the urge to pull. The one thing he wanted to do NOW! was the one thing Sam needed to save for last. First, he needed a plan to get pass all those Leviathans, destroy those jars and, finally, get Dean out of there.
He looked around in despair. The warehouse Sam was currently in was one of the few actually in use. Row upon row of pallets and large containers filled the area, leaving only two corridors to move around. There had to be something there that he could use to even the odds.
Sam looked at the labels on the sides of the containers. Soft drinks, paper, auto parts, clothing, box after box filtered through his eyes until it all became a blur. And then Sam saw the logo of a brand he recognized. Trojan.
He couldn’t help but smile.
----- o -----
Strange as it sounded, the thing that Dean had missed the most while he was stuck in Purgatory, was music.
Sure, he missed Sam, that much was a given, but knowing that his brother had not been dragged to that place along with him was to Dean more a source of comfort rather than grief.
He missed his car, but then again, there was nothing new to that sentiment. Being on the run from the Leviathans for the better part of a year had meant being apart from his baby; sad as it was, he had learned to do without. On some days, Dean even caught himself thinking that the Impala was just a car.
Not having the need to eat, drink or sleep was weird, but as he felt no hunger, thirst or sleep, he had soon learned to do without that as well.
On any given day, music was the familiar balm that smoothed his troubles away; it was like fresh air for Dean, cleaning his mind from all the crap he saw on a daily basis and allowing him to breathe more easily.
Dean felt like he had been suffocating for the whole time he’d spent in Purgatory.
On one given night, sitting victorious with Benny and Cass in the field of their latest battle –Vetalas or Wendigos, something with too many teeth- Dean started humming.
Humming turned into voicing the words for a song he knew well and soon after he had managed to get his companions to join in.
They sang terribly and Benny and Cass didn’t know the words, but there was music in Purgatory for the first time since the beginning of times.
Dean had felt so human and alive in that moment that his eyes watered and he knew beyond any doubt that he wanted to go home.
Benny must have seen that in Dean’s eyes, because from that moment on, he started whistling whenever they were forced to fight for their lives.
Each monster that they defeated was one step closer to getting out of there.
Each shred of music echoing in that colorless forest was a step closer to home.
----- o -----
The first two steps had been somewhat easy. After that, Dean had lost track. His whole world had been reduced to those two jars of blood, all else erased from his senses.
He was whistling. Dean hadn’t even noticed when he’d started doing it, but now that the sound was there, he couldn’t bring himself to stop.
It was easier to focus on the notes rather than the swirling world around him or the fact that his body felt so rubbery that he could barely sense his feet touching the ground. It gave him strength. Purpose.
Dean whistled and with every low-toned note that drifted out, loosed from pursed dry lips and toss to drift in the wind, he got closer to his goal.
Somewhere outside his bubble of focus, Dean could hear running feet. Distantly, he knew that he’d been spotted and that he needed to hurry.
Speed, however, wasn’t on the menu anymore. Dean was like a giant iceberg, with no chance of being steered; no course correction; no acceleration; no breaks.
Someone shouted his name, but Dean couldn’t take the risk of looking to see if Sam was really there or if he’d imagined it. To look would mean to divert his focus and that would be the end of his mission.
With one last push of sheer will strength, Dean collapsed on top of the jars. Underneath his chest, he felt a moment of satisfaction as glass broke under his weight. A sticky wetness started to soak his shirt before everything faded to nothingness and Dean smiled.
He’d done it.
----- o -----
When he was twelve, Sam had played the part of Frank Gibbs at a school play. His teacher had praised his acting, saying that he was a natural.
Knowing what his father and brother did for a living and how they managed to fool everyone –him included, for a while- nothing could’ve angered Sam more than being told that he was good at making others believe he was someone he was not. That had been the end of Sam Winchester’s acting career.
As he opened the door to the roof and looked in surprised horror at the six Leviathans staring back at him, Sam’s acting was at his best. The trick was, it had always been, to not fake emotion. Only, his terror wasn’t for the monsters leering at him. It was for the thought that he might be too late.
Letting the door fall closed behind him, Sam moved across the catwalk that ran across the entire building. When the door slammed a second time, he stopped, turned around and aimed.
“Bullets don’t work on us, you moron,” one the three Leviathans that had come inside said. “But go ahead... let out some steam,” he added with a smirk.
It was Sam’s turn to smirk back. “Sure thing.”
Sam changed his aim to a higher point and shot. The bullet missed all three monsters; instead, it hit the cluster of Borax filled condoms that Sam had hung over the catwalk, directly in front of the access door. The latex exploded in a shower of floor cleaner that covered the screaming Leviathans.
As soon as the bullet had left his gun, Sam was at a sprint, racing towards the door. Borax was effective in distracting Leviathans, but it wouldn’t kill them.
The head of the first Leviathan landed with a splat four stories below, quickly followed by two others.
Dick’s minions... terminated by condoms. It was like being killed by a pun.
Sam stopped and took a breath. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than thirty seconds and yet his heart was racing.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, Sam opened the door to the roof a second time. This time the surprised look on his face was genuine.
He had expected the remaining three Leviathans to be on their toes, waiting for him to finish what he’d started. Instead, their attention was on the other side of the roof. Dean was on the move.
Two of the Leviathans looked in Sam’s direction but paid him no attention. Their focus was on Dean, who hadn’t even looked like he’d heard Sam at all. They were all moving towards the same destination.
The center of the roof and the two jars. Instinctively, Sam knew what Dean intended to do. He also realized that, at the turtle speed Dean was currently moving, there was no way he was going to reach it before the Leviathans reached him.
On the run, Sam reached into his pocket and took out two more condoms filled with Borax. He threw them at the moving Leviathans, watching in anger as the slow projectiles hit their targets, bounced off and landed on the gravel, perfectly intact. Great... he was stuck with the safest condoms in the market.
“Hey! Hey!” he yelled, trying to get their attention, Dean’s attention, trying to get anyone to look at him and stop moving.
Sam sprinted forward, cursing the gravel ground that didn’t allowed for a proper grip and made his every foot fall slip and slide. As soon as he was in reach, Sam jumped and tackled the closest Leviathan.
Sam Winchester, the hunter who used to have demon blood until he spent a hundred years in Hell, who had been brought back to life by an angel with a skewed sense of being helpful; Sam, no less human than the guy next door, grabbed one of the oldest and most powerful beasts in all of creation, and nailed him down using nothing but the strength of his arms.
Physically, there wasn’t a chance in Hell that Sam could overcome the fuming Leviathan underneath him. But Sam only really needed a few seconds to reach into his pocket, grab one more of his improvised ‘bombs’ and smash it in the monster’s face.
The acid-like effect that the Borax had on Leviathans was so aggressive and corrosive that Sam fought the urge to wipe his hand clean where the liquid had splattered him.
Instead, Sam gripped his machete tighter and used it to part the monster from its melting head. He kicked it away, hoping to buy himself time enough to deal with the other two before this one managed to get himself whole again.
There was no time to celebrate one less gooey monster on the face of the Earth. The other two were almost by Dean’s side.
Sam rushed up, skidded on the loose ground and raced forward without missing a beat. He was almost there. He could see Dean’s pale face, the sweat pouring under his eyes, the resolute set of his mouth.
Dean wasn’t going to stop for nothing.
Sam watched as the two remaining Leviathans made a grab for Dean. His brother gave them the slip in an elegant move that Sam would have been proud of if he hadn’t realized the true nature of the evasion.
Dean’s steam had run out. He stumbled and fell, twisting out of the Leviathans’ hands and landing with a sickening thud on top of the two jars. Dark blood pooled underneath him, running down the AC unit like hot chocolate over a cake.
Heart thundering inside his chest, Sam had no recollection of getting past the Leviathans, emptying the rest of his Borax bombs in their faces and grabbing Dean’s inert form.
Only when his hands were around Dean and the deadweight registered, did Sam started breathing again. “Hey… Dean, come on! Open your eyes!”
Dean obeyed just as everything started to go dark.
----- o -----
Dean had died once in Purgatory.
Cass was gone, not one word to say if he was still alive, dead or if he had simply been kicked out of Purgatory for being the wrong species to be in there in the first place.
Every passing hour in that place was a struggle, a fight to the death. It took its toll on the senses, always alert; body endlessly tense as a wire, ready to spring.
Dean didn’t feel the need to sleep, but that only meant that his nights were as long as his days. Never a moment to rest, never a moment to stop. His mind told him that he should be exhausted, that there was no way a human body can withstand that level of alertness for as long as Dean’s had and not burn out. But his body just kept on going.
After awhile, Dean lost track of how long he’d been in that place. There was only surviving the fight and live long enough until the next fight.
Rationality went away; all that remained was instinct.
Dean felt himself become more animal than human, tossing away all the unnecessary things that would hinder his survival.
It took him awhile to realize what was happening, but when he did, it had felt like a kick in the chest. He was losing himself in that place.
If Sam had seen him as Dean was then, he would’ve killed him, unable to discern his own brother under all that animal rage.
And Dean found himself having to decide whether he wanted to be human or survive.
The monster that had dragged Dean underneath the river then had just been bad timing.
The thing had tentacles with spiky pores and as it coiled around one Dean’s waist and two more around his arms, he could feel the pointy ends piercing his skin and cutting him open.
Dean had stopped just for a few minutes and that had gotten him killed.
As water rushed inside his lungs, Dean found hope again. He hoped that death would be his way out of that place, so he let himself go.
Turned out, death in Purgatory didn’t follow the same rules as on Earth. Shocker.
Everything went black, then white and as he opened his eyes again, Dean found himself in the same gray world.
In Hell, Dean knew he would have come back whole again, ready for the next round of torture.
In Purgatory, things went slower.
He was back, but the damaged made by the tentacle monster was still there. Dean couldn’t move, he could barely breath, blood slowly soaking the forest ground as he lay there, waiting.
Waiting for the pain to stop.
Waiting for the next monster to find him and kill him all over again.
Crying in despair because he knew then there was no way out of that place.
Benny found him three days later. And the vampire not only didn’t kill him, but told him that being human was good.
That being human was his way out.
----- o -----
It was the oddest thing, to feel wet and cold on front and warm and safe in the back. It was like Dean’s back had declared independence from his chest and abandoned it to its miserable condition.
Someone was urging Dean to open his eyes, an annoying insistence that he decided to oblige just to get the person to shut up.
As he opened his eyes and the world eventually came into focus, three things registered so quickly and so devastatingly that Dean couldn’t move, paralyzed in shock and fear.
The moon was quickly disappearing, which meant the eclipse had begun.
Sam was standing above him, all of his attention focused on Dean.
And there were two Leviathans standing behind Sam, ready to strike.
There was no time to shout a warning; there was no time to even think about what to do.
One second Dean was feeling the utter despair of watching everything unfold around him and being helpless to stop it and the next he could feel the –now familiar- surge of energy running through his body.
The recently skewered skin of Dean’s arm felt like it was covered in electricity, numb and on fire at the same time.
It was as instinctive as breathing.
Dean pushed Sam away and, even though he remembered in painful detail as the Leviathan had cut away his tattoo, he knew that when he struck forward, there would be a sword in his hand. It burned like fire, blade red like it was hot, cutting swiftly across the Leviathans necks.
When he was done, Dean gave the blade in his hand a confused look very similar to the one Sam had given him just hours before. That blade shouldn’t be there. ‘Steve’ had cut the tattoo away...
“Hey! Dean? Are you okay? Are you with me?”
Dean could only nod, looking around at the mess of dead bodies and spilled blood. They were nothing but shadows as the moon became completely covered and the world turned black as oil.
“Let’s get out of here,” Sam let out with a sigh of relief, his warm hands grabbing Dean by the shoulders and urging him forward.
Dean stumbled the first couple of steps, the adrenaline of the moment ebbing away and leaving nothing behind other than exhaustion and pain.
“You know,” Sam said as they walked over the bodies by the door and stepped inside. “I may have freaked out a little bit when I realized what that tattoo of yours did, but now...” he paused, chuckled and Dean could hear the enthusiasm and wonderment in his voice. “Now, I gotta admit, it comes in pretty handy!”
Dean looked at him, his left hand automatically trying to cover the mess in the right forearm, the mess left behind by the absent skin. He resisted the urge to look back at the rooftop entrance, past the door, past the bodies and into that jar of clear liquid where his tattooed skin was left floating away.” Yeah,” he whispered. “Pretty handy.”
The eclipse was over by the time they reached the street and despite the white light of the full moon that washed the darkness away, Dean still felt in limbo.
Everything was okay; everything was about to come apart.
They had stopped the Leviathans’ plan for now, but now they knew that Dick had left instructions to get his ass out of Purgatory. All the Leviathans needed was another eclipse. And blood.
Sam had seemed to accept the fact that Dean had a tattoo that could magically transform into a powerful weapon, but now Dean had to deal with the fact that the tattoo was just ornamental. The tattoo had been cut away and still the weapon had appeared when Dean had needed it. Whatever that woman in Purgatory had done to him, it went deeper than skin.
“Hey... are you okay?” Sam asked again as they neared the car. Dean’s silence seemed to have registered. “You lost a lot of blood, we should—“
Sam’s hand reached out, intended on looking at the forearm Dean had been clutching since they left the roof. It was impossible to hide the fact that there was an injury there, not with a blood soaked sleeve pointing its accusatory finger. “Lemme take a look at that...”
Dean instinctively pulled away, stumbling when he found himself without Sam’s support. “It’s fine,” he offered, the words too fast and casual to ring true.
“You don’t need to hide it anymore, Dean,” Sam reminded him, forcefully pulling Dean’s hand away and carefully peeling the soaked sleeve away. “It’s not like I don’t know what that tattoo does now.”
The normalcy of Sam’s words and his lack of reaction at the torn skin caught Dean by surprise. He looked down, barely managing to hide his surprise as he saw what Sam was looking at.
The tattoo was back, skin restored where it had once been cut. Like nothing had happened.
“No cuts, no burns,” Sam pointed out, looking at the skin closely. “So where did all this blood come from?”
Dean felt hot and cold at the same time. “I have no idea,” he whispered.
I have no idea what’s going on, Dean thought.
I don’t know what I’m becoming; Dean couldn’t bring himself to think.
“Let’s just get out of here,” Dean said aloud. Maybe if they drove fast enough, he could leave all that had happened that night behind him.
Benny had told him that being human was the key to getting out of Purgatory. But what if it had been the price to pay?