Nothing By Halves

(c)2007 b stearns

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Coda to Ninth Circle. An in-between moment in the Turn Of The Wheel series. Sam and Dean struggle with what happened in Iowa. PG, 1700 words. For girlguidejones, by request.


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Sam still thinks they left Bobby’s too soon.


He hadn’t said anything to Dean about it, because in the shape they were in, there would be a fight, and Sam didn’t feel like fighting. We wasn’t sure he had it in him, and wouldn’t for awhile.


For the first couple of weeks, they’d been doing all they could to exhaust themselves past the point of being capable of thinking too hard but not to the point where they couldn’t hear things coming.


Sam had spent those nights waking randomly from dreams of empty clearings and bloodied feathers. Metal stakes wound with ropes along roadsides, binding no one, loose edges trailing along the pavement in the wake of passing cars. Increasingly red feathers painted combtooth streaks of blood across the floors of a place he didn’t recognize; they stuck to walls as they dried. He kept trying to gather them, but they passed through his hands, intangible.


He tried not to wake Dean. Sometimes, Dean was already awake and lying still in the dark or standing just outside with the door open. He never questioned it when Sam sat on the end of his bed. He simply rolled over to make enough room, whether there really was or not, and Sam laid his head on shoulder or chest or hip, waiting for sleep to come again. Sam wondered if Dean was so tolerant of his sudden neediness because of how bad things had been, or because he needed it too.


Dean occasionally woke choking. 


Sam didn’t ask him about it. He wasn’t that dense. No matter what he’d said, Dean remembered having his throat cut and everything that went with it, drowning in his own blood. Those were the nights he ended up outside, where there was enough air.


Sometimes Sam crawled in with him under the pretense that his own nightmares drove him to it.


It was a struggle not to check for evidence that the wings had ever been there, to keep from running his hands over Dean’s bare back in the dark. He knew there wouldn’t be; it wasn’t really about knowing, though.


He had pored over the things taken from the house in Iowa, trying to get more of an idea of what the ultimate goal might have been. The most he could really gather was that they’d meant to raise the dead. It had all been an attempt to split the world open and try to put things back the way they’d been.


As soon as the shock had worn off and Sam had been able to see past the enormity of it, the desperation and loss that had caused a family to go to such lengths, he was furious.


What had given them the right to try and repair their family by killing his?


He was glad they were dead.


With enough distance, he was also able to realize that had it been the air elementals that had smashed three people into paste, he’d have seen their glow in the darkness. He’d been close enough that night to have seen them. It was possible that they’d come in low enough to be missed, but he doubted it. It may have been something else that caused the carnage.


Dean hadn’t been interested so far in discussing what might have been raised from the circle.


It’s gonna have to do something first, he’d said. I don’t give a rat’s ass what it is until it bugs somebody. Then we’ll kill it. No way of finding it until then anyway.


They weren’t sure it was evil. It wasn’t good, either, not with that kind of summoning. For all they knew it had been unwilling to be awoken at all. It was doubtful that it was the returning consciousness of a human if any of the destruction was anything but the handiwork of an elemental. They hadn’t been checking for personal effects, anything tied to the woman whose picture had been prominently displayed alongside the articles and symbols of spellwork. They’d had other things on their minds, like making sure no one would know Dean had ever been there. His DNA wasn’t on file yet like his fingerprints were. Still, it would have been hilarious for the cops to be trying to pin the deaths on him somehow with an abundance of evidence pointing to the fact that he’d been in the house and had left blood all over a clearing where three people had been crushed.. 


Dean was mainly interested in going forward, at top speed, and killing anything he could that might need it. Shamblers, mainly. There were plenty of those. Sam was beginning to think that vampires weren’t able to supplement their ranks at all while there were elementals raising hell on the wrong side of the veil.


They were partial to disabling the things from a distance before attempting to take their heads off. When they had a chance and were out in the open, or at least far enough away from the nearest town to get away with it, it was all about fire. Dean had adjusted a flamethrower to get extra distance out of it without accidentally setting himself on fire in the process. Mostly it was for open areas only, since starting forest fires wasn’t really the point either. They didn’t need to resort to anything as dramatic as a damn flamethrower, really – there were plenty of other ways to bring the things down without getting too close. But they did nothing by halves lately, and Dean was getting so much obvious satisfaction out of it that Sam didn’t even attempt to suggest alternative methods.


Did I hear you giggling? I did. You were giggling! 


No, Sam. I don’t ‘giggle’. Be useful and go take the head off it, would you?


It was about distraction, and doing things a little differently. Also, it was about making sure nothing got a chance to grab Sam again. Dean had a bit of a grudge against the shamblers for that, as well as the whole wing-breaking incident. Okay, maybe not so much a grudge as a rousing urge to show some extreme prejudice.


They checked in with Bobby every couple of days to let him know where they were. Bobby liked to know, lately, and they liked the routine of it. He had kept his ear close to the ground and had heard a few things about sightings of someone with wings, but nothing indicating they knew who it might be. No one was looking specifically for Dean. That would have been a whole other problem to deal with, because it wasn’t likely that many hunters would be willing to listen to the whole tale without showing a little extreme prejudice of their own, first. Not everybody was out looking specifically for evil. Some folks settled for unnatural or just out of the ordinary.


Fires didn’t speak to them; the corpses of the shamblers they torched didn’t sit up and impart any cryptic phrases; the water in the toilets at rest stops didn’t try to get in their lungs. They were stuck with the usual stuff, like the undead. It wasn’t easy work; there was no such thing. They were tired and constantly on their guard, and waiting for the next part of the cycle without really believing it was the last of the whole thing. Dean kept saying just one more to go but Sam didn’t think it ended there. Not after what he’d heard Bobby say to Dean on the porch in the dark.


The goddamn thing killed you, Dean. Blew you right out of your body. Only, you’ve got some kind of anchor...


He didn’t want Dean to know he’d heard that any more than Dean seemed to want him to have heard. That obviously wasn’t up for discussion, either. The possibilities that went with it made Sam think about it more often than he really wanted to. It didn’t necessarily revolve completely around the seasons or the Sabbats. Once the elementals settled their dispute – assuming that’s what they were doing at all – what did that leave Dean with? They’d only assumed it would go on for a full turn. Maybe it got random somewhere down the line. Maybe he’d sneeze one day and blow his soul right out the back again and not be able to hold onto it.


He found himself examining anything that looked like a natural disaster. Dean had been working at being his own natural disaster long before his name turned up on a hurricane. The hurricane season wasn’t as bad as it had been the previous year so far, anyway, but who knew? Bad earthquakes hit, but they were on natural fault lines in areas that had already had a lot of trouble in the last five years. There was nothing weird about any of it. No storms that encompassed entire states, no bizarre droughts that hadn’t already been in progress before the first air elemental had started smashing buildings, no strange migrations that couldn’t be blamed on global warming. When he and Dean had declined an invitation to join up against the air faction, and been dismissed, it was as if the elementals had decided to move things slightly off their plane again.


Sam didn’t want to talk to any of them to find out. They’d left their mark. Dean hadn’t been cursed – his basic construction had been altered. There wasn’t necessarily a cure. He might be done in a month or so, or he might have to hide on every damn solar Sabbat for the rest of his life, and Sam could start calling him a were-angel just to annoy him. Maybe he could learn to change the shape or size of the manifestation, maybe they didn’t have to be visible. If he could hold the wings in like he held a breath, then there had to be a way to control other facets of the whole thing.


Or maybe he just thought too much.


They were in New Mexico in a ghost town. They’d seen a shambler about a mile east the night before, and Dean was sure this was the spot the parent vamps had been nesting in. Dean was getting the flame thrower out of the trunk with a grin, and Sam knew the whole place would be going up.


That was fine. It got the job done.


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