Category: Gen, Drama, Humor, Angst, AU, wing!fic
Spoilers: Through It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester
Series: Playing the Angel - While Sam and Dean continue fighting to prevent the Apocalypse, Dean inexplicably manifests a pair of wings. The brothers must work together to figure out what is happening and reverse the act before the changes overtake Dean completely.
Summary: Dean manifests wings for the first time, which complicates the case the brothers are investigating.
Word Count: 32,244 (Total)
A/N: This series is obviously AU, but will follow show canon as closely as possible. Each story can be read as stand alones, but it might make more sense together. I may occasionally post out of order.
Disclaimer: See previous post.
Sam slammed the Impala into park and jumped out of the driver's seat. His shotgun was loaded, the holy water by his side, and his handgun secure. While these were the standards in their arsenal, Sam knew that if he had to, he'd tap into his reserve power. If Dean was in trouble, he wasn't going to play fair. He would do whatever was necessary, whatever the consequences.
Sam kicked in the door.
He gagged and held his sleeve to his mouth. The room smelled of blood and raw flesh. Blood spray stained the dresser and the walls, while pools of blood had already oxidized and given the floor a deep rust color. From the door, he could see the broken lamp and Dean's cell open on the floor. Chunks of flesh were everywhere: hanging from the dresser handles, on his computer, and randomly littered around the bathroom entrance. Sam raised his shotgun and crept towards the beds and the bathroom, where most of the blood seemed to be.
He stopped. Dean's feet, turned in and unmoving, stuck out between the two beds.
His pulse quickened.
Sam ran to the space between the beds and froze.
Dean lay prone and unconscious on the dirty hotel room floor, his face turned away from Sam towards one of the beds. His arms were flat by his side; Sam noticed their dad's journal near his fingertips. There was blood all around him.
And he had a pair of feathered wings folded neatly down his back.
Sam immediately raised his shotgun, keeping it trained on the thing that looked like Dean. He was burdened with a mix of emotions: Sam wanted to go to him and make sure he was okay – hell, to see if he was still alive – but the hunter instinct in him prevented him from doing so. Sam didn't even know if this was Dean. It could easily be some crazy shapeshifter, like they'd encountered at Oktoberfest, or some other creature. He also couldn't rule out the possibility that it had once been Dean and had changed into something else.
He stared at the wings for some time. They were large and full, though they didn't seem overpowering, and almost seemed to exude a soft white light. He kept trying to contemplate what he should do next: if he should wake it, tie it up and restrain it while he researched winged creatures, or find some other alternative he hadn't considered.
Finally, he decided to investigate. With measured steps, Sam approached Dean's limp body. He crouched down, and using the barrel of the shotgun, he gingerly lifted one of the simple, straight wings.
The wing wasn't just attached to the body at random. Sam mentally traced the skin that covered the wing down to Dean's back. He couldn't discern any start or end point; it seemed perfectly natural and seamless. Sam did note that there was redness around Dean's shoulders, almost as if the wings had erupted right out of his body. His back also had traces of blood, and the wings themselves were as stained as the carpet.
He tapped the wing twice. There was solid bone along the arm of it, and it was embedded right into Dean's back, near his shoulder blades.
Against his better judgment, Sam reached for Dean's wrist and checked for a pulse. To his relief, he found the rate to be steady and healthy. But knowing that fact didn't change the problem before his eyes.
Sam eased himself onto the edge of the bed farthest from Dean and covered his mouth with his free hand. He didn't know what to do.
He afforded himself a moment of silence. Between the seals, hunting Lilith, angels and demons, and everything in between, he hadn't had time to stop. Maybe he didn't want to stop. Maybe he didn't want to have to take moment to consider all they were going through or the long road ahead.
All he wanted was Lilith gone forever. All he wanted was for him and Dean to travel the road and do what they were meant to do.
He couldn't do that if they kept hitting roadblocks along the way.
There was a stirring on the floor; Sam tensed. He raised the shotgun again and studied Dean's form – or whatever it was supposed to be.
Dean moaned and turned his head. His face was smudged with blood, and in an almost comical way, part of a dead, brown leaf from one of the trees outside was stuck to his pale cheek.
Sam wasn't laughing.
Dean's eyes opened to slits before an unseen weight pressed them shut. The wings remained motionless, like dead wood, as he struggled to full consciousness. Sam kept quiet as Dean lifted his head and squinted.
His name came out more of a slur than anything else, but Sam could understand him. Dean attempted to keep his eyes open, but his eyelids kept sliding shut. Just when Sam thought he was going to pass out, Dean's eyes fluttered again, his senses finally appearing to come back to him.
"Ugh, I feel like crap," he muttered. His hands fumbled as he tried to push himself off the floor. Sam thought that he was going to give up and collapse back into unconsciousness, but he pushed again, this time with more effort.
Sam resisted the urge to help him. "What happened?" he asked coolly.
Dean didn't answer him. His glassy eyes and dazed expression wavered between confusion and sleepiness. His gaze traveled to the alarm clock on the table between the beds to their dad's journal by his side. Sam watched as the lines in his face deepened, as if he was just now starting to work out what happened.
"Did I black out?" Dean asked. He winced and struggled to right himself again. He didn't let Sam answer; he swore and collapsed again. "Dude, get off my back."
Sam cleared his throat. Dean turned his attention back to Sam, who was seated at a distance, and frowned. Sam held up the shotgun and used it to point to Dean's back.
Dean followed Sam's gaze and twisted his neck. The frown only deepened, and for a second, Sam saw a flash of anger.
"You tied a dead turkey to my back? We're starting that again?"
"No practical jokes," Sam said.
Dean turned again, but this time his gaze swept the room. Sam noted the fear, the panic, and the nervousness beginning to settle into his eyes, but when Sam read into his face, everything was still tainted with an overwhelming bewilderment.
"Do you know what happened?"
Dean moaned again. When he grabbed at the table for support, Sam leapt to his feet and cocked the shotgun.
His vigilance seemed to be all for nothing. Dean turned his back on Sam, giving him a perfect shot if he wanted, and instead of protecting himself, he focused on dragging his weighted body off the floor. Sam wasn't even sure Dean knew he had a gun trained on him, which wasn't like Dean at all.
Even if it wasn't reacting like Dean, it still didn't act like a creature on the prowl for an attack. There was no self-preservation. There wasn't any defense mechanism. There was barely even any self-awareness. If not for the wings, Sam would just have assumed that Dean was drunk.
Dean finally pulled himself upright, or as close as he was going to get, and heaved half of his stomach onto Sam's bed. Sam cringed, watching with dismay as he smeared some of the blood and skin fragments all over his sheets.
"I can't--" Dean screwed his eyes shut, grunted, and pulled himself as he tried to stand on unsteady feet.
Sam took a tentative step forward and finally, sensing that there was no danger, grabbed Dean's arm and helped him stand.
Dean pushed him away and scowled. He buckled under his own weight, but quickly pulled himself onto the bed again.
One of the wings, still unmoving and limp, and pulled by gravity and its own weight, bumped into Dean's upper arm. He swatted it away, cursing under his breath. "Get it off," he muttered.
He swatted at it again. When his frustration, having turned into a biting anger, overtook him yet again, he batted at the wing for a third time. Dean mumbled something Sam couldn't understand, and, with a loud grunt, grabbed a fist full of feathers and pulled.
The howl that erupted from Dean's lips threw Sam back into full alert. He raised the shotgun and nearly fired as he watched the wings flap into a defensive frenzy.
Dean swatted at the frantic wings, which seemed to have a mind of their own, as he struggled to keep himself balanced. Sam kept the shotgun trained on him, as a warning if nothing else, while Dean continued to beat up himself. After a while, Sam lowered the gun, realizing this entire scenario was more pathetic than unsafe.
Dean turned, finally lost his balance, and fell flat on his ass. Normally, such a humiliating act would have completely embarrassed Dean, but his face was still marred with traces of shock and puzzlement. Unperturbed, he thrust out his arm, showcasing a handful of feathers in his tight grasp. "What the hell is that? Is that on me? Is that in me?"
"Just calm down," Sam said, keeping his voice even and controlled. He took a few measured steps toward Dean, who was clearly in a panic. Sam still wasn't sure who or what he was dealing with, but if this was Dean, he didn't know if there were other chemical reactions or magic affecting Dean's mind, his mood, and his actions.
"Calm down? Dude, I have--" Dean stopped and breathed hard, as if everything finally made sense to him. "I have friggin' wings on my back!"
"I know." He stepped toward Dean again, his hands open and non-threatening. "I found you this way. What's the last thing you remember?"
Dean turned his head, his unsteady gaze lost as he thought. "I--"
"You called me, remember?"
Dean searched the room, his gaze falling to his cell phone. Then, he sighed and closed his eyes. "Dammit."
"That damn rash," he said. "It started peeling and throbbing and I heard something pop, then tear." He brought his hands to his face and scrubbed it with frustration. "I have wings. Super."
Sam reached down and grabbed their father's journal. Before he went to sit at the small table near the kitchen, he extended his hand to offer Dean some help, deciding Dean wasn't much of a threat at this point. Dean shooed him away and grumbled something he couldn't hear. Sam took the macho display as a good sign that his brother was still in there and left Dean to figure out how to help himself. In the meantime, Sam went to the table and opened the journal. Their dad had to have something on winged phenomena.
After a few minutes, Sam stopped and looked up from the book. Dean had managed to get on all fours, his wings slumping over his sides, having quieted again, and he reached out to Sam's bed for support again. With a heavy grunt, he pulled himself into a standing position. He wavered, almost buckling from the extra weight, but managed to take slow, deliberate steps toward the table. Sam felt his stomach tighten as he watched Dean struggle with something as simple as walking. This entire situation was more pitiful than funny, sadder than terrifying. He just hoped they could find a way to fix it.
Dean swung one of the chairs around and straddled it, burying his weary head in his folded arms. He stayed that way for a good five minutes, neither body nor wings making any sound, leading Sam to believe he'd fallen asleep. But finally he raised his head and rested his chin on his arms. While his eyes were still glassy and unfocused, he seemed to have at least calmed down.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked.
Dean glared at him. "My head hurts. My back hurts. I feel like the Energizer Bunny steamrolled through my body and out my back. There are pieces of me on the floor." He banged his forehead on his arms. "Yeah, I'm just ducky."
Sam didn't know how to respond without making a bird joke, so he went back to their dad's journal. Dean had always been a bit of a drama queen when it came to being sick or hurt, so he took his whining as another good sign.
Not that Dean had to know that.
"So?" Dean asked.
"There have been reports of winged creatures throughout history," Sam told him. He averted his gaze and flipped through the book.
"I'm no creature."
Sam nodded, but didn't break from the text. He knew that reports of the Jersey Devil and the Mothman spoke of creatures with wings. But both of those were considered different species by hunter standards, and didn't carry any contagion that could spread to a human.
The way Dean was acting, Sam thought he could safely rule out shapeshifting. He also knew he could discount most types of body swapping Fey. Faerie folk could be mischievous and even sinister, but something like this didn't sound like their style. Sam was convinced they weren't dealing with some kind of doppelganger. This was Dean. Something must have triggered the change.
Sam shook his head. "I don't--"
He stopped when he realized Dean's eyes were closed. Dean was slumped over the back of the chair, his head pillowed on his arms, and judging by the stillness in his face, out cold. The fact Dean kept wavering in and out of consciousness worried Sam, but he mostly felt frustrated that he couldn't fix the problem. At this point, he couldn't be sure if the rest helped Dean or made things worse.
"Dean." He reached over and gave his arm a light shake. "Stay with me, Dean."
His eyes fluttered open. "Sam?"
"Do you remember what's going on?"
Dean blinked his glassy eyes twice before he twisted to look behind him. He inhaled sharply and his shoulders shook, the wings bristling at the movement.
"Damn, it's no dream," Dean muttered. He moaned and rubbed his eyes.
Dean didn't say anything after that. He rested his head back on his arms and stared off into space, oddly quiet and detached, which only made Sam more nervous. Sam felt the pressure to find a solution soon before he lost his brother to something he couldn't explain.
He flipped to another page in the journal. There was plenty of information on some bat creature that lived in the Montana woods, but that wasn't going to help them. Their dad had to have something. Anything.
As he continued to flip through their dad's notes, Dean reached over and pulled Sam's laptop to the edge of the table. He cringed, flicking off a piece of molted skin, and poked at the keys. Sam watched him quietly. Dean still looked pale, even a little green, but to his credit he was holding up well.
Sam wasn't really sure what they would accomplish as they researched the problem together, but they had to at least try.
The Satanists would have to wait. For now.
After a long silence, Dean finally asked, "There has to be cases of people getting wings, right?"
Sam knew that Dean was seeking reassurance, but it wasn't something Sam could give him. He had never heard of cases where people spontaneously grew wings, and any case of a person that started manifesting other physical attributes beyond the norm never ended well. For something that supernatural to take place, usually it meant that the person was undergoing some kind of transformation, a transformation that would ultimately be their undoing.
Sam couldn't help but think Jack Montgomery.
He tried not to think of himself. That was different.
Dean abruptly stood, which set Sam on alert again. He tensed and brought his hand to his side, but Dean didn't try anything. The worst he did was swagger as he stood, but with every step, he seemed to handle the extra weight with more confidence. Sam watched him make his way to the bathroom, and after grabbing the sink for support, he reached over, slammed the toilet, and started to retch.
Sam made a face and went back to his notes.
After a few minutes, Sam heard the shake of pill bottles and running water. Considering the amount of blood in the room, Dean's transformation must have been painful. At least Sam could sympathize. When he would receive the vision headaches, no drugs could help ease his pain.
Sam lifted his head and saw Dean staring at the shotgun on the bed. His wings bristled. "You were gonna shoot me?"
Sam shrugged. "I didn't know what you were." When Dean leaned over the bed and touched the shotgun, his wings gave a subtle twitch. Sam tried to ignore them by turning back to the journal. "Here," he said, trying to change the subject. "Dad has some notes about different winged creatures."
"So? I'm not any of those things."
"Yeah." Sam pointed to one of the pages. "Well, gargoyles have wings. Same as harpies, angels…really any number of creatures."
"Human," Dean reminded him. He looked at the page once and then collapsed back into his chair. "Bobby's got a beard and a big sack cloth. Don't make him Santa."
"Sam, those aren't people."
"I know," Sam said impatiently. "But I'm trying to see if they can hex or curse anyone into the same kind of life."
Dean sighed. His wings flapped unexpectedly, causing both of them to jerk. Dean just rolled his eyes and went back to being miserable.
"Wonderful," his muffled voice came from his folded arms. "I'm the world's biggest feather duster."
"We'll figure something out," Sam said.
Sam held onto that mantra as they researched for the next couple of hours. When they reached well into the third hour of looking through various databases, forums, websites, online stories, and the rest of their dad's notes, Sam knew they weren't going to make any headway. So far, out of the hundreds of weird blogs and unconfirmed reports, all they had found were three alleged winged cases that had any resemblance to Dean, and Sam was using "resemblance" liberally. One lady thought she was a swan and had been institutionalized. Another was a bad Photoshop job. The third was about a boy who had the misfortune of having a deformity that his parents milked for all that it was worth.
"This is fantastic," Dean said, throwing the journal across the table. "There's squat out there."
"You always said you were one of a kind." Sam looked up from the computer and smiled.
"Lighten up, Dean. We've dealt with worse. We'll fix this." His smile grew. "In the meantime, we won't have to worry about dust for awhile."
Dean glared at him. Sam laughed.
It was all he could do. If Sam was truly honest with himself, he was worried. More than just worried, Sam was afraid for his brother and what this incident could mean. The fact remained that something had changed Dean. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, Dean was different, and that difference could be manifesting in ways they hadn't discovered yet. A pair of wings seemed innocent enough, but Sam was concerned that maybe Dean had changed in other fundamental ways as well. Unless they were dealing with something like an illusion or parlor trick, like something created by a trickster, then they had to face the reality that Dean had changed.
One fact unsettled Sam the most. This happened just two days after their encounter with Uriel and Castiel and the witches. While Sam knew Dean had met angels before, he couldn't deny the parallel between angels coming to town and Dean leaving them only to grow a pair of wings right after. He also couldn't say he enjoyed the intense interest they seemed to have in his brother. The idea sounded insane; angels, whether they had had good intentions or not, wouldn't have the time or the inclination to give a regular human being wings. For what? What good would come of it? How could that even be useful? If Sam had learned anything from his brief interlude with the angels, it was that they were logical and utilitarian beings.
It could have been a spell or a hex placed on Dean while they were in town or when they arrived here in Dixville, Oklahoma. For Sam, that seemed more likely than religious warriors giving Dean wings for kicks. The only problem with a witch hexing Dean was that a hex almost always meant something bad. If this was just the beginning of a transformation for Dean, Sam was uneasy about what the rest of the change could entail.
Then there was the third idea he had, one he didn't want to ponder if he didn't have to.
"I know you're thinking it," Dean said at last.
"Thinking what?" Sam sat straighter. "Can you read minds?"
"What?" Dean scowled. "No."
Sam felt a twinge of relief. "Do you feel any different?"
"Dude, I have wings on my back."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know. I mean, are you having any strange feelings? Urges? Cravings?"
"I have wings, Sam. I'm not pregnant." Dean paused and considered that for a moment. "At least I hope not." He looked down at his stomach.
"Unless you can spontaneously change sex, I doubt it. Though, you know, if you can wake up with wings one day, I suppose anything is possible."
Dean gave him a worried glance.
Sam smiled again.
"That's so not funny."
Sam shrugged. Then, he looked at the clock and shut his computer. They weren't getting anywhere. He didn't feel like Dean was a threat in his current form and he knew they both could use some sleep. As much as Sam hated to sideline the wing issue, he knew they couldn't waste any more time on this. If Lilith had some of her followers working magic in the woods, then they had to act fast. They had to be rested and prepared.
"I know what you're thinking, man, and no. I didn't come back wrong."
Sam eyed Dean. "You don't sound too convinced."
"Believe me, I know."
"Why? You remember something you're not telling me?"
Dean's face reddened. "No."
"I didn't come back wrong. Just trust me on that." His voice lowered, almost sounding hollow and brittle. Finally, he cleared his throat and shook his head. The wings shook with him. "This is new."
Sam would have to take his word for it, at least for now. It didn't mean Sam had to like it.
"You got that look," Dean said, frowning. "I hate that look."
"I think we should try to contact Castiel," Sam offered. "Or Ruby."
Dean laughed, and then fell dead serious. "No."
"Ruby might know."
"Fine, let's call Castiel."
Dean rubbed his face and let out a threaded sigh; Sam thought he was going to hurl again. "The guy that just wanted to wipe an entire town off the face of the Earth? One of the guys even you think are a couple of dicks?"
"Yes, we've established that." Sam sighed. Sometimes trying to reason with Dean was impossible. "I just think we should cover our bases."
"These wings don't work the same as Cas' wings."
Sam arched his eyebrows. "So, now you're the expert on wings."
Dean glared at him.
Sam tried hard to ignore the way the wings arched behind Dean's back every time he became agitated. He wasn't even sure Dean realized it.
"How do you know?" Sam asked, breaking his gaze.
Sam scoffed. "No. I'm just the one thinking with a clear head. This is all new to us, Dean."
Dean sighed. "I've seen Cas' wings."
Sam blinked. He'd forgotten that Castiel had revealed that much of himself to Dean.
"Part of them anyway," Dean muttered. "Or their shadow. Something. These are different. I just know it."
Sam really didn't want to know how Dean could tell the difference. Even if he did, Sam had a feeling he wouldn't be finding out anything soon.
"Look, Dean, it's late. Tonight's a wash. We're not going to get any information out of the occultists in the woods. Let's clean up some of this mess, get some sleep, and figure things out in the morning." He rose from his seat and came to stand beside Dean. "Can you make it to the bed?"
"Dude, I'm not a cripple."
Yet, Dean didn't move.
Sam moved closer and started to offer a hand to help, but Dean swatted him away. He obviously was still in a mood and Sam wasn't going to push it. Not when he had bigger problems to deal with.
Battling his own fatigue, Sam stretched and reached over to grab a pillow from Dean's bed. He shoved it into Dean's arms and walked away, not even waiting for a response. Sam had no doubt that he looked as worn as Dean did. Both of them could seriously use the rest after the events of the day. But even as Dean gave a forlorn look at his bed, Sam had a feeling neither one of them would be getting much sleep tonight.