The Passenger (5/6)Author: hansbekhartRating:
NC-17 (Dean/Victor, Dean/Castiel)Summary:
Victor Henriksen survives Lilith’s attack only to be a plunged into a world beyond his experience and understanding, full of demons, angels and trickster gods. War is coming. He turns to the Winchesters for help, but Dean’s year is running out and Sam is desperate to find a way to save his brother. An outsider in their war, Victor finds himself caught up between good, evil and sheer chaos. He and the Winchester’s newfound allies must scramble to save a world that has already been destroyed by Armageddon. Slash. (Character death, horrific imagery, violence)
Her family is gone. Her house deserted. But the two neighbor boys are hiding in the backyard shed, and they come running when they hear Maria’s voice. An old man is sitting on his front porch in the next town over, his hands covered in blood. Maria took a swig of holy water before he let her in the car and he gives each new survivor the same. They find a second car, and more people.
By the time they stop for the night there are three cars and seventeen souls trailing after him towards the promise of South Dakota. They keep in touch with walkie talkies salvaged from the camping store the next town over from where he picked Maria up. She’s riding with him in the Pontiac, the two neighbor boys squished in the back seat with the case of water and warm blankets. Victor takes a knife to each car, tracing lines from Dean’s journal that will keep the demons out. The caravan shuffles positions and a third little boy joins the two in Victor’s backseat. Maria stays close by him. Nobody wants to eat outside of the safety of the cars. Afterwards, Victor walks all of the children to the rest stop bathroom before shepherding them back to each car for the night.
His leadership is more muscle memory than anything else. When he returns the children to their respective guardians, each window is full of people staring at him like he knows what he’s talking about, like he’d be able to do fucking anything for them if a demon came. He turns away, his heart stuttering in his chest. He doesn’t know if Singer’s house will still be standing, if Dean and Sam will even be there and not on the road or protecting their own survivors.
He walks back to the Pontiac slowly. His body feels stiff from being in the car all day. The three boys are already asleep, just the tops of their heads visible underneath the blankets. One of them is sleeping halfway up on the mostly empty case of water bottles, and Victor wishes that he had thought to move it. Maria is curled against the passenger door, another blanket wrapped around her thin shoulders. He hasn’t even asked her how old she is, if she had siblings, where she went to school. She screamed twice when she found the house empty of everything except a smear of blood that led all the way from the top of the stairs out the front door, and hasn’t said much since.
Victor eases himself in behind the wheel. He made himself the worst cup of coffee in existence, waiting for the kids to finish, getting the water as hot as it could go and mixing in some instant coffee from the gas station. Maria turns her head towards him.
“Hi,” she says thickly. Her long hair is spread across her face. Victor probably woke her up.
“Hey,” he replies. “How’re you feeling?”
She mumbles something unintelligible in response, rubbing her hands over her face. Her wrists are thin and bony. She stares into the darkness outside the car like she’ll be able to see anything. “What’s happening to us?” she asks softly.
Victor stares into his coffee. The travel mug was in the back seat of the car; it must have belonged to the dead woman. “I think you were right,” he says. “I think it’s the end of the world.”
“How do you know?” Her voice gets smaller and smaller.
“What else could it be?”
She’s quiet for a long time. Then, “Are we going to die?”
“No,” Victor says. He turns towards her. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise.”**
When he wakes up, it’s dark. Maria is a warm, heavy weight on his chest. He fumbles in his jacket pocket for his cell phone; it’s tough to do it without waking her up, and she grumbles a little. Her hands, fisted in the front of his jacket, look as small as a child’s. Maybe he should let her sleep for a while longer, he thinks; but she can sleep on the road. He’s wide awake, his whole body humming. He feels like he’s slept for twelve hours.
He maneuvers the cell phone up to his face and squints at it. And then frowns. He hits a few buttons on the face of it, presses the red button a few times. Maybe it’s stuck. No matter how many times he does it, the numbers still say that it’s 9:48am.
He straightens slowly, easing Maria away. It’s darker outside than when he went to sleep. The slam of the car door echoes out into the blackness. He puts his hands out; his fingertips are hazy. He can barely see the other two cars. He makes his way hand over hand towards the bumper. When he gets out there he keeps both hands on the truck and kicks out with one foot. On the third try, some heads pop up inside the car.
The old woman – Theresa, Victor thinks, her name is Theresa and that’s her grandchild in my back seat - rolls down the window. “Mr. Henriksen?” she asks, and Victor can’t think of anything to say, anything to explain or reassure. The world has gone dark.
“Oh my god, it’s mid-morning
,” someone says from the back seat. “Where’s the sun
Bruised, exhausted eyes turn towards him. Behind them, he can see the bumper of the rear car. They turn on their headlights – a sign of life as good as any, he guesses – and he winces, shades his face with his hand. The lights throw his shadow out into the darkness.
“Come on,” Victor says. “Let’s hit the road.”
Victor’s caravan crowds together nervously on the road. The lights shining hard and too close in Victor’s rearview mirror bring his shoulders up tightly, just waiting for one of them to rear-end him. But he can’t blame them, not really; the blackness is as thick and heavy as the worst kind of fog, and it reflects the headlights back at him. He drives on the Braille line just to convince himself that they’re moving at all. The clock on the dashboard ticks hours by and it never gets lighter.
Morning comes and goes and brings no light. Every few hours, the radio crackles and asks for bathroom breaks, for help. They’re terrified. The boys sit quietly in the backseat. Maria holds onto the walkie talkie like it’s a direct line to God. Every time the car hits something in the dark she gets a little smaller.
It takes them three days to get to South Dakota.
The morning of the third day, the darkness vanishes. Victor wakes early with the door open and cold air leaking in on his face, Maria curled against the car with her knees pulled up to her chest. She’s weeping in the grey, dull light. He scoots over to her side of the car and she grabs blindly for his hand. They watch the sun rise over a scorched earth.
They’re only two hundred miles out that day and the anticipation is painful. They pass the ruins of towns, people sitting in the rubble just watching the fires burn. “Should we stop?” Maria whispers, and Victor shakes his head.
“Can I get the radio?” he asks. “Thanks. Hey, Charlie?”
The walkie talkie crackles. “Yeah?”
“Can you break off and go talk to those people, see who needs help? You know where we’re going, right?”
“Yep, we got it. We’re full up, though – can’t take any more passengers.”
“That’s okay,” Victor says. “Let ‘em know where we’re heading and why. If they want to come along, it’s up to them.”
The last car peels away from the group. The town fades into the distance. The relief of seeing other people is almost palpable in the group – Maria and Steve talk it over for the next hour. They’re not the only ones left. It occurs to Victor that he never even considered that they were – never even stopped to think that the Winchesters would be gone. He reaches under his collar to touch the charm there, still hanging on its thin cord. He hasn’t taken it off since the hospital.
The first thing he’s going to do is punch Dean Winchester in the face for leaving him in that hotel room a day before the apocalypse. The second thing he’ll do is, of course, the obvious one.
“You’re smiling,” Maria says.
“Yeah, well,” Victor says. “Life’s funny that way.”**
Passing under the big sign for Singer Salvage Yard is like entering the Emerald City. Everybody is tense, twitching with anticipation. The place doesn’t look like much, never has – just an old house with peeling paint and junked up cars surrounding it like a medieval wall. The sun is still high in the sky and the air is hot and still. Summer has come early to Bobby Singer’s home. There are more cars in the front of the house, cars that actually look drivable, and tucked in with them – Victor’s heart squeezes tight when he sees it – is that big black monster of Dean Winchester’s. For as long as he looked for that car, he’s never been so glad to see it.
The kids stick close to Victor. Maria sticks closer than anybody. Victor’s boots thump hollowly on the dry wood of the porch. He’s going to punch Dean Winchester, kiss him like a movie heroine, and then they’re going to save the world.
It’s Singer who opens the door, and for a long time he just stares at Victor. “Well,” he says, his voice raw. “Guess you’d better come in.”
He stands back to let Victor’s group file in. There are people there already – dusty, bloody, travel-worn people, in suits and pajamas and uniforms. They’re perched on stairs and cross-legged on the floor. There’s an infant sleeping in an enormous metal bowl that might’ve had a previous life as a mixing bowl or the center piece of some kind of ritual, before it was stuffed full of old clothes and used as a bassinette. Sam Winchester is sitting alone at the kitchen table, a bottle in his hands. He looks up when Victor comes in.
Victor glances around the kitchen. Looks over his shoulder. His people are slowly dissolving into the huddled masses, being taken into this group or that. A black girl with a London accent has brought Maria to a free space and is sitting with her. He doesn’t see Dean anywhere.
He turns back to Sam, who’s still watching Victor, something unreadable in his eyes. “Where – ?” Victor opens his mouth to ask and Sam cuts him off.
There’s a long moment of silence that rings in Victor’s ears. He opens and closes his hands, wiping them on the palm of his pants. “What?” he manages. His mouth is almost too dry to speak.
Sam drinks from the bottle. Something amber colored. The bottle is plastic. “Dean is dead,” he says. Slow and measured. The fingers of his other hand are splayed wide on the table top, perfectly still. “He made a deal. It came due.”
Victor takes a step towards the table, but his legs give out from under him like he had his strings cut, and when he falls onto his knees in the middle of Bobby Singer’s kitchen, Sam just looks at him. He doesn’t say anything. It makes sense – Dean’s dead, and there’s nothing else to say.**
Victor is six steps up, and he’s frozen on the seventh. There must have been a moment where he let himself think about putting one foot in front of the other instead of just fucking doing it. His right foot is on the seventh step – his left is as stuck as if someone nailed him to the floor.
There’s a thickness to the air that Victor knows – a smell that he has found in alleyways and basements, in abandoned places where Death has come and stayed for a while. It’s hot in the house. Too hot to keep a body where the sun lays cheerful squares on the wooden floors. It’s been four days.
Victor drags his left foot up onto the seventh step. His whole body feels numb and cold all over. His shoulders ache. The smell gets worse the higher he goes. It’s not a rotten smell – he remembers a house in the country that smelled of sweet grass until you went upstairs, where a body had liquefied slowly in the bathtub. He remembers the suicide of a man who hung forgotten in the rafters until the flesh melted off his body in long strips, looking like so much spaghetti. He remembers the smell of the funeral home after Anthony’s body was found, nothing but chemicals and underneath, the faintest trace of old leaves.
They’ve laid Dean in the same bedroom that Victor spent the night with him. It’s the second one on the left, right across from a bathroom that Victor never used. The door is open.
Bobby Singer is hunched over on the old three-legged stool that had been in the corner, his elbows resting on his knees. Victor can’t see his face. It’s easier looking at the shaggy curve of his cheek than at Dean, who doesn’t look at all like he’s sleeping. Dean is pale and bloodless and obviously, clearly, horribly not alive. He’s covered to his chin with a blanket – the same blanket that Victor slept under, that Dean slept under, both of them naked and sweating.
“Come in or don’t,” Singer says. “Don’t just stand there with your thumb up your butt.”
Victor comes in. He stands awkwardly just inside the door. This isn’t
, Dean had said, a good idea
. There’s sunlight on Dean’s face. It’s shocking, how much this hurts. Months of dull, unrelenting grief and there’s still a heart inside of him to break.
“What –” Victor says, haltingly. “Was it -?”
“Boy wasn’t born with a lick of sense in him,” Singer mutters. “Not a goddamn lick o’ sense. Too much heart by half and it’s all his daddy’s fault, every goddamn bit of it.”
“What happened?” Victor asks, and Singer glances over his shoulder, like he’d already forgotten Victor was there.
“Dean,” Singer says, “he traded his life for Sam’s. They gave ‘im a year for it. A year
. Stupid fool.”
forgotten, Victor thinks. Maybe he’s forgotten that it’s Victor Henriksen standing here, maybe he’s just talking to Dean. Singer is silent for a long time. All that Victor can see is the rounded edges of his bones. “I never loved John half s’much as I loved his boys,” Singer says, and that’s when he breaks down and starts crying. It’s silent, shoulders shaking, his whole body quaking under it. He doesn’t even bother to hide his face.
Victor moves forward half a step. Then another. It’s hard to reach out. He remembers the first time that he met Bobby Singer, magnificent in his redneck stubbornness, his hand halfway to his shotgun even before he opened his door to two government agents. Under his palm, Bobby’s shoulder is as hard as stone. And when Bobby grabs for Victor’s hand, it’s just as hard not to pull away, to flinch back, but he lets Bobby grip his fingers tight enough to hurt.
“I’m,” Bobby says, “I think I’m gonna sit with him awhile, son.” Victor nods even though Bobby can’t see him do it, hunched over in his chair. When Bobby lets him go he slides his hand over Bobby’s shoulder, gives him an awkward pat before fleeing.
He stumbles on the stairs. Makes it through the hallway and the living room and all those refugees camping out in Bobby’s living room, bangs a hip hard into the doorway and makes it outside just quickly enough to vomit his meager, pathetic breakfast onto the bare earth next to the porch. Victor wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his jacket and tries to steady his breathing.
“You want some of this?”
Victor turns. Sam is leaning over the porch railing, elbows balanced, long legs stretched out behind him. He sloshes the bottle in his hand, pointed at Victor. Glass this time. He’s moving up in the world. There’s not a whole lot left inside. Victor takes it. It burns going down. When he wipes his mouth again on his sleeve he can smell vomit.
“Sam,” Victor says. “Sam, I’m – ”
“I know,” Sam says. “It’s pretty bad up there. The hellhounds tore him right open. I thought – I thought right to the end of it that I was gonna save him. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough then. But I will be.”
Victor stares up at Sam, who takes the bottle back and empties it down his throat. He throws it away into the tall grass. It hits something, a stone or a fender or god knows what, and shatters. “Bobby wants to burn him,” Sam says. “But Dean’s gonna need his body when I get him back.”
The screen door bangs behind him, and Victor stares at the spot where Sam Winchester used to be, unable to look away.
It’s getting dark outside. Victor sits heavily on the bottom step of the porch. He can hear voices behind him, pots and pans banging. He should have figured that Bobby Singer would be fully stocked for the apocalypse. He’s hungry, but he can’t go back inside just yet. Even the idea of it makes him sick. He lets the wind blow over his face. There are shadows stretching long towards the horizon. He closes his eyes, and when he opens them there’s a man in a long coat standing out in the middle of the field, staring up at Bobby’s house. There’s a long moment where Victor only looks at him, wondering where the fuck he’s come from, why he’s not inside the house where it’s safe. Then it all clicks and he remembers the hospital, the passenger seat of Dean’s car, brushing up against a tan trench coat on his way into Ellen’s roadhouse, hardly noticing long enough to say he was sorry. He knows this man.
“You,” Victor breathes.
The man turns towards him. He’s an ordinary-looking man – almost as ordinary as Coyote. Before this life, before Colorado, Victor might have summed him up as a tax accountant or a door-to-door Bible thumper. Ugly Sears trench coat, tie still around his neck even though it’s the end of the world. But it’s the unending blue of his eyes that stop Victor cold and fearful ten paces away, his fists in front of him like it’ll do some good against whatever’s wearing this man’s body. It’s not human. If it’s a demon they’re all dead.
“Victor,” the man greets him, almost personably. “How are you.”
Victor pulls the gun out of his waistband. It hasn’t left his side since the motel. It’s a terrible thing to carry around him, long and heavy, but it feels right in his hand. He can feel that scratched out pentagram against his palm. He thumbs the hammer back. The man smiles thinly.
“No,” he says. “That won’t help.”
He spreads his hands, and Victor reacts. The gun is impossibly loud and in the long stillness that follows, nothing happens. No reaction from inside the house, just laughter soft through the open windows. They haven’t heard anything. Victor doesn’t lower the gun or look away from the man, who is staring down at the smoking hole in the front of his jacket. The man lifts his eyes and looks at Victor. The rustling of wings is loud and terrifying. Victor flinches - and when he opens his eyes the man is standing too close to him, peering up into his face.
“Be not afraid,” the man says.
The gun drops out of Victor’s cold hands, and he stumbles backwards. The man looks at him. “What the hell are you?” Victor breathes.
“Castiel,” the man answers. “I’m an angel of the Lord.”
For a brief, hot second Victor remembers prayer, remembers Josiah bringing him each week to Mass. Maybe they’d all gone as a family, before Anthony disappeared, before their mother lost her mind, but if they did Victor was too young to remember and church has always been the smell of his father’s cologne mixing with the incense. He remembers believing in angels so much more than he ever believed in devils.
“You,” Victor whispers. “You were with Dean all along. You told him what Sam was doing with the demon.”
The angel inclines his head. “Dean is – very important. I’m sure you’ve seen that there are many … pivotal events playing out.”
“Dean is dead
,” Victor says. “How can you say he’s important? If he was so important, why didn’t you save him
The angel’s face creases in exasperation. Victor can barely think of him by name, can barely think of anything over the frantic thump of his heartbeat. “I wasn’t there to perch on his shoulder,” Castiel says. “I’m a soldier. It wasn’t my place to interfere.”
“But you’re here,” Victor says, and Castiel looks away.
“I,” Castiel says, and then shakes his head, like he’s changed his mind about whatever he was going to say. “It was necessary,” he says instead. “There’s a bigger picture going on here. I don’t expect you to understand.”
“I don’t,” Victor says. He spreads his hands, steps away from Castiel. “I don’t understand any of this. Three months ago, I was with the FBI, hunting down Dean Winchester because I thought he was the embodiment of everything that could go wrong in the world that I lived in. There’s a lot that I don’t understand
Castiel just looks at him, completely expressionless, like he’s just waiting for Victor to do something else. “Why are you here?” Victor asks again, suddenly exhausted. “Dean’s dead. Look around you, there are so many people that need help right now.”
Castiel trains his eyes up to the sky, but only for a second before he looks back down at the ground. When he speaks, Victor could almost swear that he’s embarrassed. “This is where I need to be,” he says. “This was the job that God gave me.”
“To watch over Dean,” Victor says. “Even now. To watch over him, but not to save him.”
“Yes,” Castiel says miserably.
Victor sways on his feet. He rubs both hands over his face, turns and picks up the gun from the grass. He feels better with something in his hands, something to look at other than that unfathomable blue. “It’s the end of everything,” he says, and Castiel shakes his head.
“It’s only the beginning.”
Victor jerks his head up. “How?” he asks in disbelief. “How is this the beginning of anything? The whole world is over, it’s gone.”
“Only as you know it,” Castiel says. “The war has started.”
Victor thinks of clean smoke and good meat, of soft, open eyes telling him that it was go big or go home
, that a storm was coming. “What war?” he asks. Castiel says nothing. “Between – ”
“Yes,” Castiel says, and the world reels underneath Victor’s feet. He stumbles, his chest squeezing tight; the sky has opened up above his head and for a second he thinks he’ll fall again, helpless in front of this creature, this being that he used to believe in. He can’t believe he didn’t see it before.
“How many people have died already?” he gasps. Castiel’s mouth draws thin, the corners turning down unhappily. “For what?”
“It’s God’s will. I don’t expect you to understand,” Castiel says again.
For a second, Victor thinks he’s going to throw up, but when he opens his mouth he’s only laughing. He thinks of all those empty houses, of all the children inside Bobby Singer’s home who will never see their parents again. Go big or go home, and this was only the start of it all. “You burn everything,” Victor says, “and then what – start over? Make it all better? How?
How is this God’s will?”
“To destroy the existence of evil?” Castiel asks. His voice is cold and hard and Victor takes a step back reflexively. “To eradicate our enemy and take away everything that is poisonous and ugly? You ask me to justify the means to end suffering and temptation?”
“Yeah,” Victor whispers, “I do. Justify this – ” He points up, to where Dean Winchester lies stinking and rotting in a small, dusty bedroom. “ – tell me how that’s his part to play in Armageddon, how his death or any of them is worth what your side is doing.”
Castiel is quiet for a long time. The wind lifts the trench coat, billows it out behind him. There’s thunder in the distance. Maybe Victor’s just called the wrath of God down upon himself. He squares his shoulders and waits for the angel to answer.
“I’ve been sent to raise Dean Winchester from Hell,” Castiel says unwillingly. “But not yet.”
Victor opens his mouth to reply, but Castiel’s eyes widen abruptly, one hand flying up to his throat. He coughs, deep and hard, and other hand comes up, palm out, like he’s holding something back. It’s Sam. Who’s standing on the porch, his own hand out and thumb and forefinger curled into a circle, his eyes dark and terrifying.
“Why not?” he asks softly. Castiel makes a quick gesture with his wrist, and Sam stumbles backwards, landing hard on the bottom step. With careful, economical motions, Castiel tugs on the front of his jacket, straightens his tie.
“Samuel Winchester,” he says. “I didn’t think we would meet so soon.”
“If you can bring him back, whatever the hell you are,” Sam says, ignoring him, “do it now
“Or what?” Castiel says, low. “Think carefully before you open your mouth.”
Sam lowers his chin mulishly. Before he can say anything, Victor speaks. “Sam,” he says, “Sam, he’s an angel.”
Sam’s eyes widen. His face opens, covered in naked wonder. He tries to speak and fails, beyond words. “Thank God,” he says and brings one shaky hand up to wipe his cheeks. “Thank God.”
“I wouldn’t,” Castiel says tonelessly.
Sam opens his eyes. “Aren’t you here to help us?”
Castiel hesitates. He stares down at his feet. He glances over at Victor. This close to the angel, Victor can see that his face isn’t blank, not exactly; the muscles are slack, like he doesn’t know quite to use them, wearing some poor bastard’s body the same way he’s wearing that cheap coat, the same way that the demons do. “We’re here to win the war,” Castiel says. “Your brother will play a large part in our fight. That’s why I’ve been sent, to raise him from perdition.”
“I don’t understand,” Sam says. He slides down off the porch and onto his knees. He opens his hands. “Please, you have to save him. God only know what they’re doing to him in Hell – ”
“God knows,” Castiel says. His voice is almost gentle. “I know, too. Everything that has happened to Dean is happening to me as well. He’s attracted the attention of a – very high ranking demon. A specialist. He’s put Dean on his rack, focused all of his energy into breaking your brother. At this moment, he’s infested Dean with thousands of tiny worms that are burrowing through his skin. When they break through the walls of his intestines, they will rupture outward in enormous, agonizing sores. There are seven in each of his eyeballs, twisted around the cornea. They will also pass out of his body sooner or later. When they do, Alastair will feed them to Dean and it will happen all over again.”
Victor’s stomach clenches, and he turns away, doubling over and breathing harshly through his nose until it passes. “No
,” Sam says. It’s more of a sob than a word. “No, you have to do something, you can’t let that happen.”
“It’s already happening,” Castiel tells him. “It’s happened every day for the last sixty nine weeks. Time passes differently in Hell, you know. For every day that goes by on Earth, months will pass. And each day, your brother endures tortures that are unlimited by human imagination and the physical reality that you know. And at the end of each day, this demon makes him an offer. To come down off the rack, if he will put someone else on it. Every day, Dean has said no. He has spit in Alastair’s face and paid dearly for it. So far he has resisted, but he will not be able to forever. And when Dean breaks – when he takes up the knife and spills blood of his own free will – that, and not before, is when I will be allowed to save your brother.”
“How can that be God’s will?” Victor asks again. “How can that be what God wants?”
“I’m told that it’s necessary,” Castiel says. “You act like God has never ordered cities to be destroyed, never punished the innocent to prove a point.”
the point, then?” Victor asks. “What’s the bigger fucking picture?”
Castiel is quiet for a long time. Victor can see Maria through the windows, sitting at the kitchen table for a meal with some of the others. He’s seeing a window to the moon. No one’s come looking for them, like they’ve ceased to exist for everyone inside. It’s getting colder – Victor wraps his arms around himself. Sam is shivering in his T-shirt, still on his knees on the cold ground. “Lilith is breaking the sixty six Seals,” he says, after a while. “Think of the Seals as locks on a door. The last one opens, and Lucifer walks free.”
“You’re here to stop her,” Sam says, and Castiel looks away.
“We’re here to win the war,” he says. “A righteous man who sheds blood in Hell – this is one of the Seals. As he breaks – so shall it break. This burden rests on Dean, who has sacrificed so much already. His fall will allow us to destroy Lilith and Lucifer himself. His suffering will help us win the war.” He moves towards Sam, who looks up at him with red, hopeless eyes. Castiel kneels before him in the trampled earth in front of Bobby’s porch.
Believe me, Sam,” he says quietly. “I would give – anything for it to be different.”
Sam turns away. “What do you care?” he accuses. “If you’re not willing to help him, what the fuck do you care, anyway? What have I been praying to all these years? Fuck you. If you’re not going to help us, then get the fuck out of here.”
“Dean is – ” Castiel starts, and then says nothing. He looks over his shoulder at Victor, who feels a twinge of surprise that the angel even remembers that anyone else is there. There’s something in Castiel’s eyes that takes Victor a long time to recognize. It’s buried deep in the slack face of his host, but there’s real emotion there. Real anguish. It’s hard to witness, and Victor looks away. When he looks back, the angel is gone.
The floor is hard under Victor’s shoulders. He’s got a spot on the rug and his jacket is balled up underneath his head, and all around him are sleeping bodies, snuffling, whistling, breathing bodies. Upstairs, he thinks that he can hear someone crying.
Sam Winchester is standing in the doorway. Victor can feel him there, feel Sam’s eyes on him. The floodlights are on in the yard and they throw Sam’s shadow against the wall. When Sam turns away, Victor pushes himself up and follows. Not like he was sleeping anyway.
He expects there to be another bottle in Sam’s hand, but either Bobby’s well has run dry or Sam has. The kitchen table creaks when Victor sits down, and he glances over his shoulder, checking to see if they’ve woken anyone up.
Sam is sprawled in his chair. It looks too small to hold him up. He stares at the ground and shakes his foot back and forth. He looks so fucking young and for a long, stricken moment Victor can’t remember how old Sam is, how many years it’s been since he was that kid at Stanford.
He’s spared of trying to figure out what to say when Sam looks up, focuses directly on Victor for what feels like the first time since Colorado.
“I want to burn him,” Sam says quietly, “so that no one can use him, no one can have him for their fucking war. But then I think about never being able to get him back, about him gone forever, and I just can’t
– ” He squeezes his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose tightly.
Victor thinks about Nancy, poor sweet Nancy with her pretty face cut into strips and peeled right off her body. Of the hot slickness of the deputy’s insides, splashing on Victor’s shoes. He thinks about the way Lilith sliced the thin skin between his fingers and toes with the knife from Victor’s own pocket, digging the tip of the blade up underneath his nails. He tries to imagine taking that knife to Nancy, to Reidy. Tries to imagine living with himself afterwards.
“We’ll get him back,” Victor says steadily. Sam looks at him like Victor’s just thrown him a lifesaver. “We’ll do it on our terms. And then we’ll take the war directly to her own fucking doorstep. See what she thinks of that.”
“Not a lot,” comes a voice from the shadows. They both tense, Victor’s hand flying to his waistband. He curses; the gun is in the living room, underneath his jacket. When the girl steps out into the dim light, Victor feels just a sliver of pressure subside; it’s the demon.
“What are you doing here, Ruby?” Sam demands, his voice still pitched low. No sound from the other room yet. Ruby turns the third chair around, straddles it backwards. There’s a tension in her face that isn’t quite smothered by the sneer on her lips. She’s afraid, Victor thinks.
“Gee, Sam,” she says. “Thanks for the warm welcome back, I appreciate it.”
“Didn’t think you’d show your face around here again, that’s all,” Sam says. His whole body is coiled and ready, and Victor leans back instinctively.
“Couldn’t get near the place,” she says. “Not until your feathery friend left. And that’s why I’m here. They’re coming for you, Sam. That angel was the only thing standing in between you and a thousand demons who all want your guts for garters. It’d be a nice way to get established in the new world order Lilith’s got planned. Y’hear?”
“You knew about the angel?” Victor asks. She looks over at him, her head tilted, eyes narrowed.
“Not as much, no,” she says. “They’re not prone to popping over for a beer more than, oh, once a millennia or so. All I knew was, it was something big. Something I’d never seen before. That thing was enough to keep Lilith off your trail for a little while – even found the time to save your
ass from that demon at the motel, chuckles – but it’s apparently flown the coop. Guess where that leaves us?”
“Fort Knox,” Sam says, “Let them come.”
“No,” Victor says abruptly. “We can’t stay here.”
They both look at him. Victor gestures over his shoulder at the huddled masses. He can’t hear anyone crying anymore. The house is quiet and still. “You want to risk their lives? We brought these people here so they would be safe, protected
. The last thing we oughta be doing is bringing demons down on their heads. We can’t. Stay. Here.”
Sam blinks at him, looks over to the living room like it’s the first time he’s seen it, like he’d forgotten it was full of people. They’d rearranged the whole place to fit everyone; more showed up after dinner. They’re all people that Dean and Sam saved over the years, a catalogue of every life they changed. The stacks of books are repositioned anywhere they won’t fall on someone’s head. The whole house reeks of the musty blankets Bobby brought up from his basement so that there’d be enough to go around. They’ve circled the wagons. “Where can we go?”
“Where’s Lilith?” Victor asks Ruby.
She hesitates before answering, her eyes darting at Sam like she wants permission. He’s looking at Victor, eyes clear and determined. “In the west,” she says. “Near Vegas.”
“Of course,” Victor says, rolling his eyes. “Go big or go home. That’s where, then. That’s where we gotta go.”
“You won’t get a hundred miles,” Ruby hisses, and Victor shrugs.
“Better than the alternative.” He looks at Sam, who smiles, unexpectedly.
“I feel like the Sundance Kid,” he says, and Victor laughs. It feels good, eases something deep inside of his heart. He wishes that Reidy were here to see this, Winchesters and demons and angels and fucking everything
. He bet Cal would’ve loved it.
He wakes Bobby up while Sam gets the car ready. Bobby’s eyes open when Victor crouches next to him, like he’s just been waiting for Victor to get there. There are five children sleeping in Bobby’s bed and the old man’s wrapped up in a carpet on the floor, between them and the world.
Victor tells him of the angel in a hushed whisper. Sixty-six Seals and sixty-nine weeks. Bobby watches Victor’s face with bright eyes, and at the end of it Victor tells him not to burn Dean’s body. Bobby just shakes his head, passes a trembling hand over his beard. The door at the other end of the hallway is closed but there’s the faintest hint of sour in the air.
Sam is waiting by the car. His duffle’s in the backseat. Victor slings his through the window. “You ready?” he asks Sam.
“This is suicide,” Ruby says sourly. She’s leaning against the front porch, her arms crossed tightly over her chest. “You seriously think this big damn hero stuff is going to do any good? If you die, you throw away our best chance at beating Lilith. If you guys think this is bad, just wait until she really
gets going –”
“No,” Sam says, and she stops dead, her hand flying up to her throat. “I don’t believe you.”
Her eyes flicker and turn black, and she coughs deeply. A trickle of smoke falls out of her mouth and slides down her chin before dissolving into the air. Victor is suddenly, distinctly afraid. “Sam,” he says at the same time that Ruby does.
“Sam, don’t do this,” she says, “I can help, I can –”
“You said you would help me save him,” Sam says. “But you want to use me too, just as much as the angels want my brother. I should kill you. I can do that now.”
“Sam,” Victor says softly. He puts a hand on Sam’s arm. The muscle is tense underneath his hand and then, abruptly, Sam relaxes.
“I’m not what you think I am,” he says, and Ruby sags abruptly, gasping for air.
Sam turns away, and like that, the fear is gone from Victor’s heart. He looks at Victor and Victor holds his gaze. It feels important not to look away, not to give; he can do this for Sam, hold him up until they can get Dean back, until they find Lilith and make her pay.
“Come on,” he says. “We’ve got work to do.”Chapter 4 * Chapter 6