When tomorrow has been stolen and you can’t lift your head
And summer feels like winter your heart is full of stone
Though all your hopes have fallen your skin is now your only armour
Wear your scars like medals defender of the faith
—”When All Around Has Fallen,” Delirious?
Dean slept until evening, ate the scrambled eggs and toast Bobby brought him, took another Percocet and slept again. His dreams were strange, stranger than usual, even. The reoccurring dream of life with Lisa and Ben, the dream he treasured and adored, now involved Ben hunting and Lisa hating him for bringing her son into this life. When he dreamed of Hell — and eventually he always dreamed of Hell — he dreamed of Ben on the rack and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t wake himself from that one, even when he screamed Castiel’s name.
Being awake was worse. Being awake hurt. His leg throbbed, his face ached, his stitches itched, and his body felt like a single mass of bruises.
In the morning he got up long enough to piss, eat some instant oatmeal and take another Percocet before going back to sleep. The dreams were even worse — the burned forest, the plodding footsteps, the miles and miles of chains. He wanted Castiel to come and take him away — why wouldn’t he take him away? — but he couldn’t run fast enough to escape the smoke and fire.
When he woke again it was evening. Bobby’s bedroom was purple with shadows, and Sam sat at the foot of the bed, reading a book by a pen-sized flashlight. “Hey, Dean,” he said softly when he saw Dean was awake, and shut the book and put it aside. “How’re you feeling?”
“Like hell,” Dean said without irony.
Sam winced. “Yeah. Hey. A job’s come up for Bobby — there’s a violent ghost over in Minnesota that he wants to take care of — and he wants me to come with him. But I’m worried about leaving you alone.”
“All I’m doing is sleeping.”
“I know,” Sam said, “but you’re not getting better.”
Dean couldn’t argue with that. He wasn’t getting better. He hurt too much, his sleep wasn’t restful, and even if they were protected from being found at Bobby’s he wasn’t protected from Lorcan’s long distance torture. He had a feeling that Lorcan sat in his real estate office all day, crushing the handkerchief in his hand, hurting Dean just because he could.
“Go do the job,” he told Sam. “I’ll be fine. I should’ve waited longer to go hiking than a day, I guess.”
“This isn’t just from overdoing it, Dean,” Sam said. “I know it’s not. He’s still hurting you, isn’t he?”
“Maybe,” Dean said, “but I’m fighting it the only way I can, okay? Go do the job.”
“But what, Sam? What can you do?”
Sam looked away, tense, and said, “I can go back to Bethlehem and kill Lorcan Murphy.”
Dean closed his eyes and set his jaw. “He’s not a demon.”
“Maybe I can sweat out some information from him first about where to find the next Grail castle, because this,” he waved the book, “isn’t telling us jack.”
“You’re not going back to Bethlehem.”
Sam made an exasperated sound. “I’m not going to learn anything on the job.”
“If you go back to Bethlehem, Lorcan Murphy will find you and he will kill you. And he’ll probably take his time doing it, too. I can’t protect you right now, Sam.”
Sam got off the bed to pace in frustration, long arms waving. “You’re the one who needs protecting! Murphy’s after you, not me. I’d bet the beast is after you, too, and Castiel’s focus is on you, and nobody trusts me with anything anymore. Least of all you. You want me to go with Bobby so you don’t have to worry about me.”
Dean sighed. “Yeah. You’re right. Bobby will look after you when I can’t.”
“I don’t need looking after!”
“Yes,” Dean said, “you do.”
“If you two are done screaming at each other,” Bobby said from the doorway, “I’ve made burgers.” He had a plate in one hand for Dean, and Dean pushed himself up to eat.
“Yeah,” Bobby said, “and Sam, you’re coming with me. I could use a hand and you two could use the time apart. Nothing drives you crazy like living each other’s back pockets. Come on.” He tugged on the back of Sam’s shirt. Sam rolled his eyes but followed him downstairs anyway.
In the morning Dean saw them off and then curled up on Bobby’s couch, desperate for some real rest — a dreamless sleep, preferably, something so deep he wouldn’t remember any of his dreams.
Instead he fell into something light and restless, the same dream as always — the screaming, the fires, and he could only weep in frustration. “I hate this place, I hate this place, I hate this place,” he whispered, unsure if he was asleep or awake. “Castiel. Castiel. Please come and get me, Castiel. Please, please, please . . .”