This is the first of two parts, the second will be posted in a couple of days. I've been needing a good dose of hurt/comfort since S8 began, so here goes...
As always, I have to thank my good buddy and beta Sharlot from the bottom of my heart for all of her time and attention on this fic. I've tinkered with this chapter here and there since she worked her magic on it, so any mistakes are all mine.
Forget About What I Said
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, nor any canon characters therein, and I am making no profit from this piece of fiction.
Chapter 1 – Old Ghosts
Now you finally get to take care of yourself. About time, huh?
The room seemed to swell and recede before his eyes like the tide, the two beds bobbing up and down in the distance.
The blue-green swirls that rippled along the walls weren't helping. Nor was the whirlpool of nausea that sucked at his gut. Or the crashing waves of pain that were slamming against the inside of his skull.
Dean was adrift amid an ocean of pain and confusion. Alone.
He lifted a shaky palm to steady his roiling head, eyes widening slightly as he caught sight of the blood that clung to his fingertips. How the hell had he not noticed that before? Was this some new injury that he'd missed during his initial, cursory examination? Something other than the patchwork of cuts he'd already catalogued on his arms and legs? The thought caused the room to pitch once more, and the hand that had been heading in the direction of his temple instead swung out to brace his body against the wall. The impact reverberated all the way up his arm and rattled his head afresh.
With a groan he swallowed back an eruption of bile and took a deep breath, not particularly wanting to see his dinner yet again. Hunting alone sucked. It always had, and it always would. But this time it had been of his own choosing, and he couldn't forget that. Sam was off on another one of his new age, hippy-hikes (camping, Dean. Camping!), and Dean had decided to leave him to it. Only...when he'd returned to the motel after seeing Sam off at the bus stop, the four walls of the room had leered back at him tauntingly, the bottle of scotch on the table winking at him until his pulse quickened nauseatingly.
He'd had to get out of there. If he stopped too long, all the poisonous, toxic thoughts he'd kept at bay would come slithering back to the forefront of his mind. So it had been either alcohol, or a hunt.
So he'd chosen a hunt.
He could have called on Bobby and waited for his old friend to come and help, but he'd known that the veteran hunter was already helping out a friend over in Oregon, so he'd decided to tackle the job alone.
Dean frowned, maybe he ought to try and call Sam, but he wasn't quite sure what had happened to his phone. It had gone walkabout somewhere between crashing through a grimy set of French doors and collapsing into the driver's seat of the rusted up Buick he'd been driving around for too long. Anyway, it wasn't like the kid didn't know where he was – Dean wasn't stupid, after all. He'd given Sam the name of his motel; but his little brother didn't know why Dean was where he was, or what he was doing there.
Dean wasn't stupid, after all.
Especially after Sam had told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to go looking for hunts when he didn't have his little brother there to watch his back.
The wounded hunter groaned at the thought of what his brother would say to him if he found out. Death by blood loss, or death by little brother...Hell of a choice. Besides, Sam seemed to really need the time and space, and as much as he missed his brother, Dean didn't want to ruin that. The kid had more than enough to handle without having to bail his big brother out yet again. If getting away on his own stopped Sam's mind from collapsing in on itself, Dean would go with that.
Now you finally get to take care of yourself. About time, huh?
And then there was that. But what Sam hadn't realised was that Dean had taken care of himself before. Many times. Patching himself up, taking care of himself. He'd had more than enough practice in the past.
And he sucked at it.
Dean coughed slightly as he reached the bed, winded as he flopped down onto it. His body was like a switchboard lit up, nodes of pain flashing and bleeping the length of him as he fought the urge to just lie back and stop caring. To just let the world go to pot, to just let go and float off to join all the people he'd lost. But Dean didn't. He kept himself upright, reached for his badly depleted first-aid kit, for his bottle of Johnnie Walker, and got started. Because even when Sam didn't need him, the kid was still Dean's reason to keep going.
He wouldn't reach all the cuts, the elder Winchester knew that, but the worst ones at least seemed to be in locations that he could get to easily enough. The one on his thigh was going to be a bitch, and there was one on his arm that he really wasn't looking forward to cleaning out, but the rest of them would probably–
Dizziness shimmered in the air around him, a pale cloud fuzzing at the edges of his vision. He dropped his hands to the edge of the bed and gripped hard, white noise rushing past his ears.
Oh yeah...He'd forgotten about the blood loss. That was going to be problematic. A growing patch of red was already staining the tangerine-coloured paisley pattern on the bed cover. He really ought to do something about it, he thought, staring blankly downwards at it as his head pounded. So he took a swig of whisky. And another.
When cold giddiness was replaced with warm heaviness, he stopped, sloppily screwing the top back onto the bottle and letting it thwump down onto the lumpy mattress. No better anaesthetic, he thought, as he clumsily toed off his boots and reached for his belt buckle, beginning the unpleasant task of removing his jeans. Standing up again was going to be awesome fun, but infinitely worse was the prospect of peeling back the denim that was stuck to his wounds.
He held back a growl through gritted teeth as the rough fabric pushed past his wounds and he slumped backwards, breathless as his jeans slouched to the ground in a heap. His heart was fluttering as he reached again for the Johnnie Walker, breaths catching as he tried to prepare himself. The top was almost impossible now to remove with numb, rubbery fingers but eventually he managed it, a lop-sided smile of triumph nudging at the edges of his lips. It vanished again though when he brought the brim of the bottle to hover over the wound, replaced by grim, clenched teeth.
The pain, when it lanced up his body, was almost enough to make him pass out, was too much for him to even make a sound. His throat seemed to close over and he gasped, breaths coming too hard and too fast. Son of a bitch, there wasn't enough Johnnie Walker in the world to dull pain like that, he thought. His vision disappeared in a mass of colourful fireworks as he waited for the pulses of agony to subside. It seemed to take a while.
Eventually his senses began to reconnect and he felt awareness return with a lurch. The wound was still oozing blood and it badly needed stitches. Dean took one look at his shaking hands and winced, groaning as the action aggravated his headache. Jeez, he'd really screwed up this time. Sam was going to...Sam was going to...
He blinked, trying to keep focussed on what he was supposed to be doing, but reality wasn't playing ball, instead wavering and wriggling cruelly before him. Which was going to make stitching himself back together a total blast.
The first one wasn't as bad as he'd expected – though the tug of the needle still felt as grotesque and unnatural as it always had – but the second one burned like a hot poker, as did every one that followed. He could feel sweat trickling to the edge of his brow as he worked – when had it gotten that hot? –the beads dripping distractingly into his eyes. Eyes that were blinking more and more frequently. Eyelids that were getting heavier and heavier.
Dammit no! He couldn't stop there. He wasn't even half-way.
And then there were all the other cuts that needed attention, that were still bleeding out at a worrying rate. But he was so hot, and the room had gotten so fuzzy, and his head had gotten so woolly.
And his fingers had lost all feeling, the needle slipping from his grip as he slumped backwards.
He should have waited for Sam. Should have called him. Should have told him...Should have told him that...that he...
The previous day...
"I'm telling you, Dean, I feel great!" Sam sounded so enthusiastic that Dean had to force back a wince. He paused half in and half out of his Buick as he glanced around him, automatically checking for threats. They couldn't be too careful these days, not with the big mouths constantly on their trail. But then, what was new?
Listening to the contentment in Sam's voice, Dean felt a stab of guilt. It wasn't that he resented the fact that his brother had found some kind of outlet for all the crap he'd been through, that he was dealing with it – if anyone deserved some peace, it was Dean's little brother...It was just that, well, Sam's happy-happy, gung-ho attitude only highlighted more and more just how not happy-happy Dean was.
"The air is just so...so, fresh. A-and it's beautiful, you know?" Sam was continuing to rave as Dean chewed on his bottom lip and picked at a hangnail on his thumb. The elder hunter was seriously starting to wonder if some other mad fan hadn't gotten a hold of Sam this time and pumped him full of happy pills. Maybe he shouldn't have let the kid go off again. But Sam had made that big speech about Dean not needing to look after him anymore, and the older man hadn't quite known what to do with that. So when Sam had announced he was taking off for another few days in the wilderness, Dean hadn't the heart to put up any meaningful protest.
"Sounds like all that fresh air's gone to your head, Sammy. Always were a lightweight!" Dean tossed back when his brother paused for breath, but it didn't have his usual flair, and he knew it.
So did Sam, apparently, if the too-long-to-be-entirely-innocent silence was anything to go by. "So, how are things?" The younger Winchester managed eventually, suspicion prowling at the edges of his hesitantly casual tone.
"Just catchin' up on a little R'n'R, Sammy. Met a teacher at the bar last night, and man, did she teach me a lesson!" Dean tried to slip a leer into his voice to pad out the lie as he wiped a hand across his brow and slammed the car door shut.
"Okay, definitely TMI," Sam interrupted hastily, sounding as if he'd bought the story, and Dean closed his eyes in relief. He trudged around the front of the car and towards the motel room, managing a chuckle at his brother's disgust.
"But seriously, dude, everything okay?" Sam turned serious as Dean reached the door, nailing his big brother just when he thought he'd managed to slip past unnoticed.
"What? Sammy, I'm fine," Dean swatted away the concern and pushed open the door, crossing the room to sit down on the furthest bed with a sigh he hoped his brother hadn't heard.
No such luck. "Right," Sam seemed to believe the deflection as much as he would have an announcement from Dean that he was going to be starring on Broadway. "Come on, dude, what's going on with you?"
"Sam, just 'cause I'm not up for sittin' round a campfire singin' Kumbaya doesn't mean somethin's up. I'm fine!" It always felt like he was protesting too much though, nowadays. He wasn't fine, and he knew it, but neither did he know what to do about it. Darkness seemed to crowd him from all sides, and he was constantly tired. Not the hit-by-a-truck fatigue that usually followed an intense hunt, but a bone-deep weariness that dogged his every step. Even dragging himself through the day seemed to take more energy than he had in reserve.
Ever since Cas...
But no, he shook his head forcefully, he wasn't going there right now. To do that would be to write off the entire evening to an alcohol-induced stupor.
"Okay, look, I can come back a little earlier–" Sam barely managed to get the words out before Dean had cut across him.
"Don't be stupid, Sammy. It's all good. Just go and find yourself a hot, female ranger and have some fun. Or, you know, go breathe some more air!" It wasn't that Sam's offer to cut short his trip hadn't touched him, especially after their recent problems. It was more that Dean didn't want to be the selfish one, didn't want to be the one dragging Sam back from time and space that the younger man needed so desperately. No, he wasn't going to do that. Sam had lost enough because of him.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Okay. Just...take care of yourself, man." Those words again. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" There was an air of cheekiness about that last directive, but the elder Winchester could easily detect the steely command that lay beneath it.
"What, so I don't get to have any fun at all?" Dean was surprised when a real laugh burst forth, even as the nagging voice at the back of his mind was reminding him about what Sam really meant. Don't do anything stupid. Don't do any hunting.
He hung up the phone after Sam's spluttered response and glanced at the newspaper he'd left lying on the bed earlier.
Third Mysterious Death at Rottenrow House: The Gillingham Curse Returns?
"Sorry Sammy," Dean muttered wryly as he reached for the laptop and powered it up.
The house had a faded grandeur, Dean decided as he stared at it through the Buick's grubby windshield. There was something almost sad about the way it seemed to droop. Dean could relate.
Paint was peeling from sky-blue, clapboard walls that were hirsute with sprouting vegetation, and weathered wrought-iron framed a jutting veranda, on which sat a lone wooden chair that creaked audibly in the evening breeze. All but a single pane of glass on the imposing bay window had shattered, and the roof had so many missing tiles it resembled an unfinished jigsaw. Nevertheless, Dean could see the house it had once been, before the century-old burglary that had sealed its fate ever since. The old building apparently had one hell of a history and would probably have been a local tourist attraction had it not developed an unfortunate reputation for deadliness. As far as the house's historic contribution was concerned, Dean didn't much care, but Sam would have oohed and aahed over it; the girl.
But Dean was trying not to think about how much he was missing his brother.
The elder Winchester clambered out of the car, feeling the familiar pang of longing when the door swung shut without the Impala's reassuring squeak. Soon, Baby...soon, Dean vowed as he marched round to the trunk and threw it open, sighing at the mess inside. Their weaponry felt much more haphazard these days, but then, they could hardly build a secret compartment into every car they commandeered. Sometimes they changed cars daily, only keeping them a little longer when they felt safe enough – which was rare.
The elder Winchester unzipped his duffel, making sure he'd packed several rock salt rounds along with the usual assortment of weapons and gas. The tools of their trade. Now all he had to do was figure out what was keeping the spirit of Edward Gillingham tied to the old house. To his frustration, Dean had discovered very quickly that the man's remains had been cremated, along with any chance that this was going to be a routine salt and burn. So it was needle in a haystack time. Awesome.
Dean cast his mind back to the old microfiche article he'd read that morning as he heaved the duffel over his shoulder and slammed down the trunk lid.
Gillingham had apparently been a local bigwig, well on his way to becoming a big political player before his premature end. The Senator and his family had been asleep one June evening in 1897 when Rottenrow House had been broken into by a passing vagabond (Dean wasn't one to pass judgement, but he'd picked up the term in one of the newspaper articles and had quite liked it). Having heard the burglar downstairs, Gillingham had apparently leapt from his bed and raced downstairs to defend his household, taking his gun with him. Quite how the man had gotten into a hand-to-hand combat situation after that, Dean couldn't fathom, but the gun had been wrestled from Gillingham's grip and unceremoniously used against him. He'd died instantly. The 'vagabond', in contrast, had escaped apparently without injury...but with the family silver.
And they said crime didn't pay.
Dean might have felt sorry for old Gillingham – he had been trying to protect his family, after all – if the sonofabitch hadn't taken to killing all those who entered his house without apparent authorisation. The legend that had sprung from the crime over the years warned that Gillingham was still trying to take his revenge on the burglar who'd killed him. But if that was true, Dean had pondered, then why hadn't there been more deaths?
He'd come to the eventual conclusion that the house had likely been all but forgotten about for decades; locals knowing to stay away and tourists never hearing about it. Folkston wasn't a big place after all, and wasn't exactly at the top of the 'places you should visit before you die' list. Then there was the fact that the house was still owned by Gillingham descendants, who were perfectly capable of 'authorising' people to enter if they so wished.
The house had fallen into disrepair over the passing years after several batches of mysterious deaths had all but nixed any chance of selling it on. The deaths had always been investigated but nothing had ever been discovered. Which was hardly surprising, since cops never paid attention to the right clues. The most recent deaths were now at the centre of a huge local investigation. Not that the police had any chance of finding out the truth.
Dean drew his EMF meter out of his jacket pocket as he crunched across the gravel driveway towards the front door. Yellow police tape still criss-crossed the entranceway, showing at least that no one had passed through since the cops had turned the place over a few days ago, but then, Dean mused, they could have just climbed through one of the windows. Just as he was planning to.
The elder Winchester glanced around outside one last time – seeing nothing but overgrown shrubbery and tangled tree branches – before vaulting agilely through one of the glass-toothed windows. His heavy boots landed solidly on the hardwood floor, and a breeze seemed to stir up around him at the motion. A fog of dust sprung up before his eyes and he coughed slightly, bringing his sleeve up to cover his mouth.
He was standing in what would once have been the main living room, but which was now grimy and weathered from exposure to the elements. The walls were mouldy and cracked, an old fireplace opposite the window was now blackened where it had once been white, and a chandelier was listing dangerously from a ceiling rose in the centre of the room. The space had clearly been emptied of anything valuable, but a few old chairs and a bowed cabinet remained.
In one corner, a dark, claret stain marked the floorboards, outlined by scuffed chalk that was just visible in the dim light. Neil Berry, most likely. He'd been the first one to die in the recent spate of deaths. A real estate agent, if Dean remembered correctly. The mastermind behind the recent marketing campaign to get the house razed to the ground, and the one bringing pressure to bear on the house's owners. Red Berry Real Estate had wanted the chance to sell the land the house occupied to a local developer, Larry Newman. He had been victim number two. Both had apparently been in the house without the owners' knowledge when they had died.
The third had been a teenage girl carrying out a dare – apparently in response to renewed interest in the house – and was the main reason why Dean was so set on giving old Gillingham his marching orders.
The EMF squealed and screeched as Dean stalked into the hallway on creaky floorboards and he swung his head this way and that, searching for signs of an imminent attack. He slung the duffel bag to the ground and quickly pulled out his sawed-off, panning it around as he carefully edged up the wide, imposing hallway. His shadow seemed to lengthen as the light outside dimmed. The air was filled with static tension, an unearthly atmosphere cloaking the space around him. One he'd experienced a thousand times. Gillingham was there, Dean could sense it, and the hunter wondered how long it would take for the spirit to announce himself.
Dean felt the familiar prickle at the back of his neck too late as the temperature around him plummeted, and as he whirled to face his attacker, he felt himself being picked up off the ground and hurled backwards. Air rushed past his ears and his vision blurred. And then he hit the wall, pain exploding behind his eyes and shooting down his spine, before falling forwards onto his hands and knees. The shotgun had slipped from his fingers on impact, skittering several feet away along with the still wailing EMF meter.
The elder Winchester was shaking as he lifted his head. "Son of a bitch!" He hissed as his eyes landed on the spectre that was flickering at the end of the corridor. Gillingham was glaring furiously at him, his lip curled into a snarl.
"You dare steal from me?" He boomed at Dean, charging down the hallway towards him, eyes and nostrils flaring like an enraged bull.
Dean cursed and scrabbled for his sawed-off, breath catching as his bruised back protested sharply. He clutched at the gun and flipped onto his back, growling in pain as he raised the barrel and fired at the last second. The gun's report was deafening in the confined space, and the spirit seemed to explode before his eyes. Dean was gasping heavily as the figure before him disintegrated, his head throbbing urgently to the beat of his heart. He raised his eyebrows and glanced at the visible dent his body had made in the wall. "Pfft, fresh air...You don't know what you're missin' Sammy," he grunted breathlessly before pushing himself to his feet.
Putting a hand to his head to steady the sloshing in his skull, he moved to retrieve the now quietly humming EMF meter. At least the threat had passed, for the moment. He wasn't sure how long he'd have before the vengeful spirit came back for round two.
The various news articles that Dean had spent the morning perusing hadn't been exactly...definite about where Gillingham had actually died in the house. He knew the fight had taken place downstairs, but not much else. Of course, that didn't mean that there wasn't a haunted object with some sort of significant connection to the old Senator elsewhere in the house. There was nothing for it but to search every room for EMF.
The living room he already knew was clean, and when he scanned what had probably been the drawing room, and the dining room, he came up empty too apart from the obvious crime scenes of the other victims. He made short work of the downstairs bathroom, also finding nothing, and moved towards the back of the house to search the old kitchen. Twilight was well on its way outside, giving the house an even more sinister feel as darkness trickled in through the windows.
The kitchen was mouldy and steeped with dust. There was a congealed pile of something gross on one of the counters and Dean felt his stomach roll at the sight, a fact which was doing nothing to help the pounding in his head. The hunter quickly skimmed his gaze around the large, high-ceilinged room as he checked for any signs of his unfriendly host. Surprisingly, Gillingham had left him alone, but Dean was very aware that his luck could change at any moment.
In fact, the moment came when he entered the adjoining breakfast room. The square space had a cool, barren feel to it. The pale walls glowed with an ethereal sheen as the fading skylight shone in through a set of tall French doors, and the grey tiled floor was clinical and stark. But even beyond that, there was a sharpness to the atmosphere, something malevolent. Dean had been doing his job too long not to know a site of serious spectral energy when he saw one...that and the EMF had shot off the scale. This was where Gillingham had met his end, Dean was sure of it.
The room was empty apart from a broken cupboard that sat along the far wall. He moved to it, holding out the EMF meter in the hope of catching an upward fluctuation. As soon as he reached it however, his breath began misting in the air in front of him as the temperature plunged once more.
"Get your filthy hands off my silver, boy!" Came Gillingham's yell behind him, and Dean spun to face him, sawed-off automatically raised. But the old man had gotten wise to him, and the gun flew instantly from his grip, arcing up over the spectre and landing with a clatter on the kitchen floor.
"Aw crap!" Dean groused as his eyes flew from side to side, looking for anything he could use as a weapon. "You know, you really need to lighten up a little, dude," he tried to stall as he eyed the French doors, mentally gauging the distance he'd have to cover to get to them. Half the panes were missing or shattered, and they looked flimsy enough for him to kick his way through.
"Get out of my house!"
In the end, Dean made it through the French doors just fine, he just went through them with a little more speed – and height – than he would have liked. Gillingham had barely finished speaking before Dean was picked up again and hurled head first at the set of rotting doors. The hunter had a brief moment of clarity, stomach dropping as he realised what was about to happen, and then his head was breaking through wood and glass and he was landing heavily on hundreds of jagged, serrated shards.
He felt pain mushroom instantly in his thigh, and he ground out an agonised groan. His body was quivering all over, spasming as glass seemed to cut into every inch of his skin. "Ugh, Jesus..." he murmured as he tried to push himself up on jellied muscles. The spirit was still behind him, and he had no guarantee that it couldn't follow him outside. He had to get away, had to retreat and regroup. But dammit, the whole world seemed to be spinning way faster that it should. And he could feel his heart frantically pumping in his ears, forcing the blood already oozing from his wounds to pulse even faster.
The grass was mercifully cool beneath him as he felt around with his hands. He hadn't opened his eyes, he realised belatedly as he forced his eyelids up, feeling like he was trying to break open a padlock with a crowbar. Darkness met his blurry gaze, night having now fully fallen. Glass glittered around him, along with splintered wood and an old iron door handle.
An old iron door handle.
"Guh!" Dean grunted as he grasped the rusted metal object and laboriously turned to look back the way he'd flown. The hole he'd left was like a gaping mouth in the back of the house, glass and wood teeth bared threateningly. Gillingham stood in its centre, eyes boring into the young hunter as he lay bleeding on the ground. Dean stared back, lips pulling back into a growl as he pushed to his feet, swung the iron handle in his hand and then flung it at the spirit with a primal yell. He staggered at the momentum, raising his head just in time to see the surprised expression on Gillingham's face as he dissipated into the air.
"Ha ha...ow, son of a bitch!" Dean groaned, glancing down at the spreading crimson on his thigh. Oh this is not good. This is really, really not good! He thought anxiously, already beginning to feel weak from the amount of blood he was losing. He really needed to get back to the motel, and fast.
Going now meant leaving his stuff in the house, but there was no way he was in a fit state to retrieve it, and there was no way he wanted to go another round with Gillingham. He'd have to take the chance that the cops wouldn't return for another look around tomorrow morning. The last thing he needed was his bag of weaponry being discovered. 'Dean Winchester' had a rap sheet that could get him in serious trouble if he was ever caught, especially after his doppelganger's recent antics. But none of that was even worth worrying about if he ended up bleeding to death.
Dean swayed dangerously on his feet as he turned towards the side of the house and began drunkenly lurching in the direction of the over-grown path that skirted the wall. A glance at his arms revealed a frightening number of criss-crossing cuts, some of which had thankfully stopped bleeding, though others were still weeping red tears. The pain in his thigh was almost transcendental, and whatever bell had been clanging in his head was tolling ever louder and louder.
His vision was beginning to grey at the edges as he rounded the side of the house, his steps growing slower and smaller. But there! There was the Buick, just a few metres away now. He could make that, he was sure he could. And make it he did, but by the time he'd pulled the driver door open he was ready for collapse. He hung half in and half out of the car as his stomach suddenly decided to rebel against his impromptu workout. The elder Winchester turned his head at the last possible second and retched violently, the remains of his meagre meal returning for a show-stopping encore as he held on to the door frame for dear life.
He wiped a shaking hand to his lips when it was all over, feeling the world surge and dive like a rollercoaster as he allowed himself to slump backwards into the car against his seat. This had been a bad idea. Such a bad idea. Sam was going to kill him. No wait, Sam was going to kill him and then salt him and burn him.
If Dean survived long enough.
He felt his eyelids flutter downwards like falling leaves and then everything was fading.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you if you enjoyed.