Title: Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Category: Gen, Drama, 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 awakens to find the wings have disappeared, but Sam is wary of the new development. Can the brothers hold it together long enough to finish their current job?
Word Count: 6,832
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.
Previous Fics (in order): The Genesis Variant, Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
And they were gone.
Dean's sleepy reflection stared back at him from the bathroom mirror. No wings. Nothing.
He rubbed his eyes. Still nothing.
He had to be dreaming or on the verge of waking. The damn things couldn't just vanish without warning. Not after nearly two weeks of suffering.
But here Dean stood, middle of the night, staring at his very wingless reflection in the bathroom mirror. And he felt very much awake.
Dean flung his arms over his head and started to pat his back. He felt the scars--two minor ones--where the wings had originally shredded through his skin and muscle, but there was no hint of wing bone, or feathers, or anything remotely wing worthy.
In the adjoining room, he heard Sam shuffle in bed as he awoke. "You okay?" Sam called.
Better than okay. He was fantastic.
Dean stood in the archway that connected their bedroom to the bathroom. His lips split into a face-eating grin and he extended his arms on either side. "What's different?"
Sam examined him, his eyes still heavy with sleep. Despite the sandy look to his eyes, Dean noticed Sam's hand hovered next to his gun. Inwardly, Dean sighed. Sam needed to quit the immediate gun reaction with him. While he was glad Sam was quick to pull on the road these days, the fact he was quick to pull on him just ticked Dean off.
"Dean." Sam stifled a yawn. "What's this all about?"
"Come on. What's different?"
"That you're perky this early in the morning?"
Part of Dean wanted to throttle him, but he just laughed instead, which managed to set Sam even more on edge. His brother was awake now, and based on the uneasy look on his face, slightly disturbed.
Dean just kept grinning.
Sam sighed. "Are you drunk?"
"You suck the fun out of everything, you know that, right?" Dean shook his head. "Check it out."
After Dean held up his finger for Sam to wait, he ran over to his bag and fished through the contents, finally pulling out a shirt. He yanked it over the top of his head and tugged his arms through before spreading them out in an attempt to show off.
Sam sat straighter.
"Gone," Dean said for him, his grin still firmly in place. He jumped backwards onto his bed, letting his body fall onto the mattress, and obviously satisfied, he laced his fingers behind his head.
His wings were gone.
Sam leaned away from the gun on the nightstand, but kept his eyes on Dean. "What happened?"
Dean shrugged. "I got up to take a leak, and whaddya know?"
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
Sam grew quiet. Years of living with the guy told Dean that Sam wasn't going to let this go. Man, he needed to let it go. But here it came.
"Something like this doesn't just stop," Sam said. "There has to be a reason."
"Hey, don't ruin this for me." Dean smiled and closed his eyes.
"Wings just don't disappear," Sam insisted. "We know it's not a curse or witchcraft. But if it's something to do with your time in Hell or with the angels…" He shook his head. "I don't know, Dean. I guess they could be temporary, but why?"
Dean was glaring at him. "What part of 'don't ruin this for me' don't you get? This is the first time I'm gonna get a full night's sleep in almost two weeks." He turned his head away from Sam and wrapped himself like a cocoon in the sheets.
Sam could stay up all night if he wanted, fretting over the change, but Dean wasn't going to dwell on it. He curled himself tighter in the sheets and allowed himself to drift into sleep, hoping that none of this was just a dream.
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The next morning seemed like any other. Sam was up first, as usual, and by the time Dean woke, he had already showered, downed a cup of coffee and an energy bar, and compiled extra research on the case they were working.
Even now, after all they'd been through, Sam was still a bit of a geek. Dean decided he could geek out all he wanted if it meant he could sleep in a little more. It was the sidelong glances that Dean could do without.
"What?" he asked.
Sam shook his head. "Nothing. It's nothing." He paused and that was when Dean knew it was not even close to being nothing. "Just…are you feeling all right?"
Dean rolled his eyes. He should have known this would go on for a while.
"Never been better, Sammy." He plopped down in the seat across from Sam and grabbed a donut. "Lay it on me."
Sam hesitated, giving him another once over. Dean could see the thought process going into overdrive in his eyes, like his mind was making calculations as quick as a computer. Just because Sam had all those fancy college classes under his belt, didn't mean Dean couldn't keep up with him. He knew what Sam was thinking, and he wasn't letting it get in the way of their job.
"Sam." He left no room for argument in his voice.
"Sprites." Sam tossed the newspaper across the table. "A nest of them."
Dean grabbed the paper, his search bringing him to an article on the bottom half of the first page. Some poor bastard on the security team had his face eaten off in the basement with the servers. Thankfully, the reporter had enough sense--or maybe not enough connections--to take a picture.
It wasn't a big write-up, and lacked all the necessary details to make this easy, but it was enough to get the job done.
"Sprites love electricity," Sam said.
Dean scoffed. "They're calling it a freak accident. I swear, people try to be dense."
Sam almost laughed. He tapped the paper in Dean's hands. "Apparently, a power surge fried Benny Lawson."
"Because power surges chew your face like kibble." Dean wasn't going to like this job. He already knew it. "This happened, what, a month ago?"
"Every full moon cycle."
Dean pushed the paper away, disgusted. He hated sprites almost as much as he hated witches. And he really hated witches.
Electricity was like candy to these suckers, nearly as tasty as human flesh. Who knew how many nests were out there, chewing on the power cables and whatever the hell else was needed to keep computer systems up and running. Back in the day, they loved to dance around power plants. He guessed they'd gotten a sweet tooth for the digital age.
"Full moon's tonight, isn't it?"
Sam nodded. "We need to get into TCI Informatics."
If Sam had had his way, he would have left Dean in the apartment and done recon of TCI Informatics himself. But since he never got his way, here he was sitting in the Impala in a gray jumpsuit with Dean, dressed the same, behind the driver's seat. The obscene noises coming out of his mouth were starting to get under Sam's skin.
"I can leave you two alone, while I actually get the job done."
Dean shot him a glare before petting the dashboard. "It's all right. Everything's the way it should be. Don't you listen to him."
"You'd think you hadn't been in the car for years. You were in here last night."
"I wasn't driving."
Sam shook his head. And people thought he was the freak. "Since you and the Impala obviously need some bonding time, how about you stay out here and keep watch while I check in at the front desk."
Dean straightened, and Sam swore he looked hurt by the suggestion. Maybe even a little suspicious. "I didn't dress up in a stupid costume for friggin' guard duty."
"No, it's not that. I'm just saying--"
"What? You don't want me on this job?"
"No," Sam said, afraid he sounded more defensive than he meant. "Of course I do."
Dean turned away, his grip tightening on the Impala's steering wheel. Sam went to say something, but Dean shook his head, stopping him. "They're gone. So let's just do this thing and get back to normal."
"You and I both know nothing supernatural just disappears without warning, no consequences."
Dean glared at him, but said nothing.
Nearly two weeks had passed since Dean first exhibited signs of the change. Since then, he had begun to control the wings better, but never had they just vanished before. Sam couldn't figure out what their sudden disappearance could mean, if it was just another evolution for Dean or if it meant something else.
On the other hand, Dean's excessive use of Bobby's glamour spell was starting to concern him. He'd reached a point where he was using it on the hour since the illusion's charm was becoming less and less effective. If they had an alternative to using that spell, Sam was all for it. He'd just rather know why and how. Dean's wings just completely vanishing, like they had never been there, scared him more than Dean getting addicted to spell work.
"I just think we should take this slow," Sam said, finally.
"Bull," Dean muttered. "You're all Lilith, seals, Lilith, revenge 24/7. So don't shovel that 'slow' crap on me." The driver's side door creaked open. "I'm going in." Dean slammed it shut.
Sam muttered under his breath and followed, grabbing the case that Dean had carelessly left behind. Inside they had everything they needed to root out the sprites: aerosols, torches, matches, and some joy buzzers just in case. The last thing they needed was to get caught in the sprites' hypnotic stares.
After a few strides, Sam easily caught up with Dean and passed him. He reached the front door first, and without waiting, opened it and walked inside. The man behind the front desk looked up at him, and then Dean, before grunting in a bored tone and clasping his hands over an open planner.
"Can I help you gentlemen?"
Sam shoved the case into Dean's arms and smiled, stopping at the front desk. "We've been sent by corporate to check on the servers in your basement and perform a little maintenance." He glanced down at the planner and the employee checklist to the right before waiting for the security guard's answer.
The stout, balding man eyed them closely. "I never got a call about this."
"Corporate's a bunch of slackers," Dean mumbled.
The man chuckled. "Don't I know it." He stood, and after he gave them another once over, he shook his head. "Just let me go clear it."
They watched him move to the side and call into his walkie-talkie. Then, he picked up the phone.
Sam felt his muscles tense. When he glanced over his shoulder, he could tell Dean was thinking the same thing. The first rays of moonlight glinted off the cars parked along the street, including the Impala, which was mostly hidden from view in the alley across from TCI Informatics. Soon the moon would be at its fullest and the sprites would be out on a rampage. They needed to get inside now.
The security guard hung up the phone. "Sorry, guys. I can't get anyone from corporate on the line at this time. I can't clear you otherwise. You'll have to come back tomorrow."
Tomorrow would be too late. Anyone working in the building would be exposed to the sprites.
"We got to get in there now," Dean said suddenly, surprising Sam with the urgency in his voice. His eyes locked on the guard and narrowed. "We need to do our job."
"I need to do my job," the guard snapped back. The suspicion returned, flaring in his eyes.
"Go cool off," Sam ordered. He glared at Dean, silently chastising him. They didn't need to make enemies right now.
With a curse under his breath, Dean moved to the glass windows. He rolled his shoulders back a few times as he stared out into the lit street. Some of the rays of moonlight streamed through the glass and illuminated him, like they would any regular person, but for whatever reason, Sam started to feel queasy at the sight. There were no wings. No hint of anything supernatural in his body.
Only Sam felt something was off. For the first time, he felt it deep down in his bones.
Dean shouldn't have come. Sam should have never let Dean leave the motel room.
"Sorry," Sam said, turning to the guard as he tried to block out his growing trepidation. "Corporate's been trying to let him go for a while, but he has family connections."
"Don't I know what that's like," the guard said with a grumble. He sighed and shook his head again. "But I can't. It's office policy."
"Look, I know you have protocol to follow, but so do we. I don't mind waiting. Really. But we get paid by the hour. So if the main office calls and finds out we've been getting paid for nothing, that's going to fall on your head. Like I said, we certainly don't mind. But it's something you might want to think about."
And he did. The guard looked away, his face lost in thought, though he never quite stopped studying them from the corner of his eye. Finally, he let out a heavy sigh and nodded.
"Go on ahead. Elevators are around the corner." His eyes narrowed slightly. "I'll be watching."
Sam nodded. He knew the guard would be keeping a close eye on them. That's why his first priority was to take out the cameras.
"Thank you." He gave a friendly nod to the guard before he urged Dean to follow him to the elevators. "What's the matter with you?" he asked, keeping his voice low, almost afraid to hear the truth. "You were fine just five minutes ago."
"Sprites. I hate them."
The two of them had hunted sprites once, when they were teenagers. They'd been lucky and found a nest on the off cycle, the entire group asleep. Their dad had just finished off a spirit in Duxbury in Massachusetts and was resting back at the motel, and the two of them had driven down the coast to hit a concert. Instead, they'd stumbled on the sprites hidden beside a few power lines. He and Dean had made quick work of the nest, and after a bit of patting themselves on the back, returned home where Dean proudly boasted the accomplishment.
John hadn't been happy. Dean hadn't been happy ever since.
Sam hit the button on the elevator. "We need to disable the cameras."
"Nest first, Sammy. As soon as those cameras go down, security's going to be on our collective asses."
"If they see what we're doing, they'll be on us anyway."
They stepped into the elevator and Sam punched the button. He didn't need this right now. They had very little time to get the job done. They couldn't waste the precious few minutes of prep time arguing on procedure.
The elevator ride was quick, but still didn't stamp out the awkward silence between the two. Dean was edgy and irritable; Sam was uneasy. He still wondered at times if Dean had been bitten or infected by something supernatural, making his changes less magical and more biological, which would in turn explain how he could have slipped into the magic dead zone of Dixville. Though there was still a part of him, no matter how unlikely it sounded, that believed the angels were involved, especially with Castiel missing in action. Sam wasn't fond of either option, but at this point he just wanted to understand. The more he knew about what was happening to his brother, the more able he would be to find a cure and fix it.
Sam wrestled with these thoughts as the elevator jerked to a stop.
The door opened with a sweet sounding bell. Dean started stalking toward the room that housed the servers without another word. Sam followed, drumming his fingers at his side as he considered his options. He could stay with Dean to look for the nest, and to keep an eye on him, or he could make a quick run to the floor that housed the security cameras and cut them down. He'd checked the log sheet when they first approached the front counter and he knew the building was short staffed tonight. He could easily take out any resistance and get those cameras out of commission. He just didn't want to leave Dean alone in the server room without any backup.
As Dean stopped at the door and opened it, Sam knew his mind was made up. He'd run up to take out the cameras whether Dean liked it or not. After checking to make sure Dean was okay, Sam backed up and started toward the elevators.
He froze when a security guard, different from the one that had been at the first desk, blocked his path.
"Hi," Sam offered. He rattled off a bunch of options in his head, trying to settle on something that sounded natural. "Do you know where the bathroom is?"
The guard said nothing at first, searching his face, before he finally nodded. "Yeah. Just up the stairs, second door on the left."
"Great." Sam offered a smile to go, but the man didn't move. His gaze was fixed on something behind him.
Sam turned to check.
Dean poked his head out of the server room, rolled his eyes, and started toward Sam and the guard. He was going to open up his mouth and cause more problems. Sam just knew it.
"Got a problem?" Dean asked.
"Just making sure the two of you do your job."
Dean and Sam exchanged a look. It was going to be impossible to find the nest if they had a security guard breathing down their necks. And even if Sam did sneak out to shut down the cameras that would leave the guard with Dean with the expectation that Dean would be working on the servers. Considering Dean still didn't know how to set his own ringtone without Sam's help, leaving the two together would be a very, very bad combination.
"I think we can handle it," Dean said. He wiped his forehead and waved to Sam. "Let's go."
Sam gritted his teeth, trying to keep the rush of frustration down as he followed Dean.
"You're not the usual guys corporate sends down."
"They're on vacation," Dean said over his shoulder.
"So, the best the main office can do is send down two flunkeys in a beat up trash can?"
Dean stopped short. Sam felt all the alarm bells going off inside his head.
When Dean turned to the security guard, Sam jumped in front of him, pushing him back with the palm of his hand. "Don't," Sam warned. They couldn't get into a fight with a security guard because Dean was hypersensitive over the Impala. "There's a camera over the guard's right shoulder."
Dean's gaze traveled past Sam, past the guard, to a spot on the wall. A mild tick under his eye started to twitch, something Sam had never noticed in Dean before, something that unsettled him. At first, Sam thought it was anger, but quickly realized it was an involuntary spasm that Dean didn't even seem to notice. After a long pause, Dean visibly relaxed, even taking a step back. By now, they both knew they would have to take out the security guard if they were to stomp out the sprites tonight and save a life. But that wasn't for the hallway.
"At least we're getting the job done," Dean muttered. "Better than being an ass bugging two guys to get his jollies off."
Sam threw his arms down by his side. That was great. Dean started back toward the security guard, and for a second Sam thought he was spoiling for a fight, when he managed to catch a gleam in Dean's eye. Sam understood immediately.
He caught the case in his arms as soon as Dean shoved it at him and stormed right past the security guard and the camera. "I'm calling my boss and filing a complaint."
The security guard almost laughed. "Now? At this time of night? Get off."
"You heard me, Chuckles."
The security guard predictably took the bait. He spun after Dean, following him past the camera. Any time now, Dean would strike and knock out the guard. Then they would have to find a place to stash the body.
Only it didn't happen the way it should have.
When Dean turned to deliver the blow, he froze, staggering forward and then backward. The security guard went for the weapon at his side, but stopped, realizing something wasn't right.
"Hey man? You sick?" The guard sounded terrified.
Dean doubled over and clutched his stomach, a strained look passing over his face, cementing itself into his features. There was nothing fluid about his movements, just sharp jerky motions. Dean let out a groan between his clenched teeth.
Sam saw it in his eyes. The glassiness he'd seen just two weeks before. The confusion. The pain.
The case dropped to the floor. In an instant, Sam bolted past the camera to the blind spot between the stairs and the hallway. Dean was already forcing his stiff body up the stairs, away from him, away from the guard.
The guard continued to stare. Dean's back was to them now and it pulsed, like a living thing was trying to break out of the back of the jumpsuit.
Sam used this as his opportunity. He snaked his arm around the guard's neck and held him tight. The surprised guard hadn't seen the attack coming. While he put up a decent struggle, Sam's strength and training was too much, and he eventually caved.
Dean had disappeared by now.
Sam rested the unconscious man on the ground and sprinted after Dean. Up the stairs. Down the hall.
He found him. The bathroom.
The door shut with a loud click.
"Dean!" Sam pounded on the door. "Dean, come on! Let me in."
The door refused to open. Sam heard the grunts, the groans of pain, and banging. He swallowed hard and pounded again. He needed to get inside before someone else came down to check on them.
He needed to make sure it was still Dean who was in there.
The pain flared hot-white across his back. Dean stumbled through the bathroom, heaving his weight against each bathroom stall. He knocked the doors open with his shaking hand. Empty. All of them empty.
He let out a threaded sigh. At least he wouldn't have an audience. As he clenching his teeth, he ripped the zipper down as far as it could go and snaked his arms out of the jumpsuit's top. The fabric fell limp around his waist and down his back, the arms flapping aimlessly as his body shook. The muscles of his back started to pulse.
Dammit. This crap was supposed to be over.
He felt the tear--no, not tearing this time. Instead, the sensation felt like fluttering or wind on his back on a hot summer day. The only difference was that it wasn't a welcoming sensation. It burned and it seared, reminding him over and over just how wrong this whole mess was.
Dean stumbled and grabbed onto the edge of one of the bathroom stalls, feeling that odd light sensation he'd experienced back in the locker room in Middletown after Sam had hosed him down.
Across from him, the mirrors reflected his torment. He saw light and shadow blinking in and out behind his back, feathers furling and unfurling, bathed in a dim glow. The weight would return and his knees would buckle in time for the wings to vanish again and leave him off-balance.
Finally, they burst with incandescent white, chasing away the last vestiges of shadow. Both wings stretched open, like a long yawn after a deep sleep, and shook out their kinks. Dean found his back easing into the stretch, a feeling of satisfaction and contentment momentarily washing over him, as if this was the most normal and right thing in the world.
"Like hell," he muttered under his breath, disgusted at the thought.
He straightened his back and the wings nearly folded behind him. He stood there, staring for the longest time, unsure what to do, not knowing if he had enough strength to move, or if he even cared.
The loud pounding noise outside the door brought him back.
"Dean! Dean, open the door!"
He didn't want Sam to see him like this. When he used that glamour spell Bobby had given him, he could tolerate it a bit better, knowing Sam couldn't see the damn things, and they could at least pretend things were normal. Whenever Dean had the wings out in their full ridiculous glory, he couldn't stop Sam from staring, couldn't stop him from looking at him in a way no little brother should ever have to look at his older brother.
He stared at the door as Sam pounded on it, struggling to remember why there would be so much urgency in Sam's voice.
His eyes widened. They were on a hunt. They were working a job. That fact had escaped Dean's mind. How had that happened?
How the hell was he going to get out of here unnoticed?
Dean crept toward the door. TCI Informatics could be crawling with cops or security by now. He had no idea how much time passed or what had happened between Sam and the guard outside, other than knowing Sam sounded okay, if not a bit frantic.
He considered unlocking the door, but thought better of it, choosing to lean on the cool metal instead. "Sam?"
"Dean?" There was a sigh of relief. "Open the door."
His head was filled with fogginess. It wasn't bad like last time, thankfully, but it was enough to throw him off his game. Dean didn't like feeling less than one hundred percent on a hunt.
"No, man." He felt the wings rustle behind him.
Sam fell quiet on the other side.
That was perfect. Sam didn't even need to see him to get back into over alert mode.
"They're back, aren't they?" Sam asked.
"What was your first clue?"
"You must have triggers that make them active. Fear? Anger?"
"Super. I'm the pansy-ass version of the Hulk," Dean muttered. "Instead of smashing things, I tickle people." But he wasn't going to talk about this. "What happened to the dick?"
"The guard? I locked him in one of the empty closets for now. But we're running out of time. His friend will be down here any minute, and it's well past dark. The sprites will be awake and on the move by now."
Fantastic. Could this day get any worse?
"We have to torch those sprites and get out of here." There was a shove at the door.
Dean refused to unlock it. "I can't come out of here, Sam. I mean, come on."
"You can't be serious."
"Dude, I have wings on my back and this place is littered with cameras."
There was another long pause. Dean decided he didn't like the emptiness to this break in conversation. It could only mean something bad.
"Then I'll have to do it myself. No time to take out the cameras. Go wallow in your self-pity. I'll take care of it."
"What? No. You crazy? You can't take on a whole nest by yourself."
"Sam! Sam, don't you do this."
And that was it. Dean heard the shuffle of Sam's feet grow more and more distant until he was left with just the sound of the restless wings at his back.
Dean paced the length of the bathroom as he tried to decide what to do. Sure, he could just waltz out there, wings and all, but they'd just finished having the cops chase them down. They didn't need to start that again with the added fun of crazy scientists or religious nutjobs.
But he couldn't just stay here either. Sam was taking on a nest of flesh-eating sprites who'd already killed at least once. Those bloodsucking freaks would be out for more. He needed to be there, making sure he had Sam's back.
Dean didn't know who or what did this to him, but when he found out they were going to the top of his hit list.
There had to be a way to make the wings go away. They had done it once before. Granted, he still didn't know how, but if they disappeared once, they could disappear again.
He would make the damn things disappear for good.
Dean stopped in front of one of the mirrors. He didn't bother to study or stare or even glance at the wings behind him. He just looked into the determined face of his reflection.
He concentrated. He thought about the times he had to really focus hard and pushed that energy into making the wings disappear. The first time he'd shot a gun. The first time he'd gotten laid without screwing it up. Passing his GED exam. That time he and those triplets…no that was too distracting.
"Come on," he muttered, feeling the weight remain, the rustle of restless wings at his back. Sam was out there alone. Sprites were a two-man job. He needed to be out there.
His back popped.
Dean winced and rolled his shoulders. When his gaze locked onto the wings, he saw them shudder, flashing in and out, before solidifying into the hulking mass of annoyance that had plagued him for nearly two weeks. He set his jaw and focused harder.
He focused on the sprites. Sammy. Getting out of the prison of a bathroom that smelled like pee and lavender. Driving his baby.
The wings flickered again, sputtering like an engine turning over.
Dean threw the bathroom door open and surveyed the hall. No sign of either guard or anyone else. Off to the server room.
After another quick glance over his shoulder, Dean tied the flapping arms of the jumpsuit around his waist and stormed down the stairs. The air conditioning felt cool on his bare back, but he'd decided to leave the top part of the jumpsuit down just in case. Besides, as much as he hated to admit it, he knew that he had the starts of a weapon back there.
Dean rounded the corner and swung open the door to the server room.
What the hell.
Sam had been here. That much he could tell. The towers and blinking nightmares that Dean assumed were the servers were half charred, half working. The vent in the upper left corner was undone, the plaster cracked and the ends blacked from fire.
A mess of twigs and wires and some gunk Dean didn't recognize lay on the floor along with their empty case of supplies.
Sam had gotten the nest. So where the hell was Sam?
"Sam!" He stepped over the nest and peeked around a large hunk of metal tower. "Sammy!"
While Sam had been here, he definitely wasn't now. And thank God his dead rotting corpse wasn't around, either. That left a few options. Sam could have run off to eliminate any sprites that had escaped. He could have hit the cameras to try and tamper with what they'd recorded. Or he could…
Dean didn't want to think on the unspoken options in his mind. His stomach turned at the thought.
His best option was the security room. Even if Sam wasn't there, it would give him a bird's eye view of where Sam could be.
He took out his phone and flipped it open. When it kept ringing, Dean found himself chanting, "Come on, Sam. Answer. Answer your phone."
Dean kept up the mantra as he left the server room and entered the hallway. He snapped his phone shut when he heard a thumping sound.
It came from one of the more slender doors that lined the corridor. He approached it carefully, drawing his gun, and paused at the handle. He seriously wished he had taken a buzzer and a torch with him.
The thumps became louder more intense, and that was when he made out the muffled cursing of a man.
Dean relaxed. "Got quite the potty-mouth on you, Chuckles."
Another round of angry banging.
"Man, you are way safer in there. You'll thank me in the morning."
He moved on.
When he reached the floor housing security's main office, he knew something was wrong. Not a soul had come after him, even though the place was loaded with cameras. So either Sam had silenced the guards, taken out the cameras, or there were no guards left aside from Chuckles in the basement.
That was a sobering thought.
Dean tried reaching Sam again, but without luck. That little nagging fear started to twist in his gut, rolling over and causing an uncomfortable restlessness down his back and shoulders.
He winced and rolled them back. Man, he hated when Sam was right.
Dean forced himself to remain cool and started down the hall toward security's office. Ahead, he saw the body of man--not Sam--and realized it was the other security guard, the first one, whom he'd had words with when they'd entered the building.
He picked up his pace and jogged to the unmoving man.
Alive. The security guard had a pulse, but he'd seen better days. A gaping hole had been chewed into one of his cheeks, right down to the jaw, while he had nicks and cuts dotting his forehead, hands, and all around the neckline. Any more pockmarks and he'd make Freddie Krueger look like a GQ model.
Dean glanced at the room and took a whiff. Burning. Wires. He didn't need to be an idiot to piece it together.
He dug out his phone and dialed; Sam's distinct ring bellowed from inside.
Dean snapped the phone shut. "Dammit."
Without another thought, he burst through the door. Sparks flew, raining down like fireflies in mid-summer, while the camera monitors buzzed with white snow.
Not just sparks. Sprites.
And in the center, Sam stood enthralled, letting the little bitches slice and cut and chew off his finger.
Son of a bitch.
"Sam." Dean poked Sam in the arm, careful not to look at the sprites as they started to buzz around his head. "Come on, Sam. Snap out of it."
Sam just stared on, a small smile on his face, his eyes vacant but at peace. He was so far out to lunch Dean didn't know if he'd ever come back.
"Screw this." He started to fumble around the floor.
He felt the anger in him rising, the fear, the annoyance at everything gone wrong in their lives. It surged. It pulsed. It unfolded.
He let it come this time.
As the wings expanded behind him, Dean used them as cover for him to locate and secure one of the buzzers and torches Sam had dropped before checking out. He slid the buzzer over one of his left fingers and rammed it into Sam's leg. Sam sputtered, the life snapping back into his eyes. He only took one quick glance at Dean before he was back in the fight. A cold anger Dean had never seen before crept into his eyes, into his smile, turning it sinister. He ripped off the sprite from his bloody finger and lit a group of them on fire.
Dean filed the chilling sight to the back of his mind and torched a dozen of his own. Sensing a group behind him, he rammed the wings against the wall, pining them in place. He heard their chipmunk-type squeals as he smothered them. Not wasting a second, he spun around and burned them while they were stunned.
Dean chanced a glance at the vent above the camera display. Swarms of sprites poked in and out of the vent, buzzing around like little piranha gnats.
He averted his gaze as not to look them eye-to-eye, and fished for another torch, his having reached the end with a stubborn spit.
That's when he felt it. A nice warm, softness that made him think of those few times when he was a kid when his mom would wrap him in blankets straight from the dryer. He relaxed into the feeling, letting it wrap all around him. Dean hadn't felt like that in a long, long time.
A jarring jolt of electricity shot up his arm.
The warmth evaporated, leaving him cold and in pain. Dean shook off the feeling, remembering where he was.
Sam let go and torched another twelve sprites.
Dean hated sprites. He hated them.
Pinpricks of pain started to dot his back, one by one, fierce and biting. The damn things were chewing on the wings. They were all over him from his stupor.
Dean gave the wings a hard shake and flung the little creeps across the room. Several landed on the monitors with a loud spat, their guts streaking the snow-filled screens. The rest hung onto him for dear life, chattering in unintelligible mutters.
He spiked the wings long and tall, and with a swoosh and clink, the feathers sharpened, cutting the sprites in half. Their sharp cries silenced.
Sam's hard gaze was on him. He could feel the questions and the unease in the silence. Dean didn't turn to face him.
He said nothing and neither did Sam, the two of them darting in and out of each other's stream of fire. One would light up, the other would buzz, over and over, like some kind of sick dance that rivaled Thriller. Finally, after God knew how long, they finished exterminating the sprites. The room was a mess: burned and charred everything, little fires still burning, smelly heaps of sprite guts, and ashy piles.
Sam had told him the security guard injured outside had disabled the alarms and sprinklers for him. He would be okay, and now awake, though in serious pain, was making arrangements with some trusted contacts to clean up the mess and take care of any images or fingerprints they'd left behind, as well as Chuckles, before he went to the hospital. Smooth talker Sam never failed to get people on their side.
Dean stared as Sam threw a match on the empty nest that now rested in the middle of the floor. Sam had seen him use the wings as a weapon. No doubt he'd already figured out they'd acted as a shield against the bullet that should have killed him back in Dixville.
Whatever Sam thought of them, he didn't say anything. Not now anyway. But he'd start questioning him soon, just like he'd start harassing him about Hell again. For now, both of them were tired and still haunted by the magical binds the sprites had on them.
He didn't want Sam to know. He didn't want Sam to see him as anything but his big brother.
They had to get things back to they way they used to be. No more angels or demons. Just a good healthy vampire or ghost hunt. Something normal.
He felt a pang inside at the thought of normal, of real normal, but quickly pushed it away.
He'd get it as close as he could.
Dean sucked in his breath. The muscles on his back pinched and knotted. He rolled his shoulders to try to relieve some of the tension, even if it was a useless gesture.
Sam eyed him without a word.
The weight on his back lightened. The wings fluttered, shaking lightly, as they folded in on themselves. From the corner of his eyes, he saw them reflected on one of the blackened screens, the solid bone and feather fading, blinking in and out, as they dissolved into light and shadow and puffs of white smoke until there was nothing left.
But they were there. Dean could still feel them thrumming just below the surface. It was like sucking in your gut and holding it. Uncomfortable. Tense. He wanted to just let go, exhale and let them come tumbling out. But he couldn't. He wanted to resist that urge as much as he could.
He wanted to at least pretend.
His eyes met Sam's. They held each other's gaze, exposing all the fears, the pain, and the anger they'd felt over what had happened over the past few months, hell, over the past few years, even if just for a few seconds.
There would be no pretending. Not anymore.
Dean turned and walked out the door.