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The Lamb: The Beast You Made of Me

The Lamb


Chapter 8. The Beast You Made of Me

Dean slung an arm around Buffy’s waist and helped her wobble down the hospital hallway from the cafeteria to her room on the third floor. She urged her feet to move faster but she still hobbled like an old woman crossed with a flat-footed duck. It had been three days since she’d lost her spleen and taken staples and stitches in her kidney. The doctors had been keeping close tabs on her during the day shift, practically strapping her to the bed, but at night, Dean helped her get back on her feet again. Another day of practice, she assured herself, and she’d be wielding battle axes and stabbing demons with a big fat knife.

Dean stopped in the middle of the hall, pulling Buffy tighter against his waist. She looked up, surprised, from her feet. The morphine had made everything fuzzy, including normal things like putting one foot in front of the other. If she stopped too long, she felt nauseous, like the moving world had suddenly come to a halt.
“Cas,” Dean grimaced. Castiel stood in front of them, his face as sour as a lemon. His eyes seemed to smolder and his skin turned sallow.
“Something or someone is murdering angels,” Cas growled like a defensive dog. “We’ve captured a demon that we think knows something, but he won’t give up the information we want.”
“Uh huh…” Dean frowned, confused as to what Cas was proposing.
“We need you to interrogate him, Dean.”
“Me?” Dean blinked.
“Yes,” Cas nodded briefly. “We know you can do it.”
“You’re angels,” Buffy hissed. “Why can’t you just…I don’t know…pour holy water down his throat until he talks?”
“Buffy,” Dean stopped her. His face had become cloudy and his eyes darkened. He seemed to reflect Castiel’s insistence.
“What? Damn it Dean, we have a job to do! Seals! End of the World! Lilith! Remember?”
“This is part of that, Buffy,” Dean sighed. “It’s just…part of it.”
“We need to go now.” Castiel stepped up to him, and before Dean could protest, or even help Buffy back to her room, they disappeared. Buffy shrank to the floor but managed to catch herself before she went splat on the linoleum. Clawing her way back up the wall, she looked around the hallway. A sensation crept up her back, like fingernails scraping up a chalkboard. Spidey sense, she thought. Something was wrong about all this. Something was definitely wrong.

---

“Wait, so where’d he go?” Sam demanded after Buffy filled him in. She stood against the edge of her bed, leaning heavily on the bed rail. She’d managed to pack her bag without any assistance from Sam. He stormed in, oblivious, an hour after Dean left with an angel in tow. In his hand, he clutched a few pieces of printed paper, probably a new case.
“With Cas,” Buffy sighed. She pushed back any feelings of exhaustion or pain. Without considering Sam’s thoughts on the matter, she’d decided to check herself out of the hospital, take Dean’s car, and drive until the damned creepy feeling on the back of her neck led her to Castiel’s hideout.
“Got any more details than that? Come on, Buffy! He could be in trouble!” Sam threw up his hands, irritated. Frustration came off of him in almost visible waves.
“I’m aware of that,” Buffy grunted through clenched teeth. “I plan to go and find him. Are you coming or not?”

Without a second thought, Buffy heaved her pack onto her shoulder and took off down the hall. She suppressed the wobble in her gait despite the fact that her overnight bag felt like a sack of rocks.
“Mrs. Samuels?” A nurse called down the hall, her voice echoing past Buffy’s ears. The Slayer didn’t turn. Sam’s footsteps were husky behind her. Don’t stop, she urged herself. Don’t falter. The pain will fade. Dean needs my help.
“Mrs. Samuels, please! You need to let your body recover! Mrs. Samuels! Come back!”
“Sorry,” Buffy yelled back in a damp and low voice. Saliva collected on her tongue. Splinters of pain shot through her upper chest, around the snag of stitches. “Got a world to save.”

At the car, Sam insisted on driving. His fingers twitched and his right eye blinked almost constantly. Every few seconds, he’d shut and open the eyelid, as though a particle of fine dust was caught on the center of his pupil. Never once did he rub at the annoyance. He just stared over the dashboard, fussing. Buffy claimed the passenger seat reluctantly. Her nape tingled in that old familiar We’re all about to die way it had. She pulled her seatbelt across her chest and pointed off into oblivion. It was the signal to go, but Sam just sat there, staring.
“Sam,” Buffy said urgently. “Go.”
“What?” Sam asked, blinking constantly. “Oh right, yes.”
The Impala jumped forward as soon as he started the engine. Even the pistons under the hood were ready to find Dean and drag him back to his senses, to the mission. Sam applied a conservative foot to the gas and they eased out toward the highway.
“If you don’t drive with some fire under your ass, Winchester, I’m throwing you out the window and taking off without you.” Buffy flicked her head to look at her driving companion. She could feel the urgency of her task under her skin, in her blood. Something, somewhere, was very wrong. Dean was in danger. The last morsels of surgery pain drifted into the back of her head like a latent migraine. The desire to ring Sam’s neck consumed her like a wildfire.
“Do you even know where to look?” Sam asked cautiously.
“I’ll know when we get there.”
---

Dean stood outside a heavy iron door, his fingers clinging to the handle. Castiel hovered near him, his brows still depressed over his gloomy blue eyes. Between them, the rules of the game were unspoken. Dean knew what to do, and further, he knew why he’d been plucked from Buffy’s side to be here. All this time, he and Cas had talked about redemption. Buffy’s guilt followed her in her dreams, dancing around her brain like spastic fairies. They’d finally caught up to her in Corvallis, confronted her, and broken her down. The path to redemption was a rocky one, marred by small battles in one massive war. The seals were just the beginning, just a little piece of a much bigger problem.
“You’ve been hiding,” Cas said, seemingly reading Dean’s thoughts. “But now it’s time to come out.”
“I know,” Dean sighed. “I just didn’t want it to be this way.”
“Neither did I,” Cas frowned. “I didn’t want it to be this way for either of you.”

The massive iron door was unbolted, but the captive inside was secure. Dean noticed trails of rust cascading down the frame, surrounding each hinge screw. He thought about stopping to take a deep breath, as though he was about to dive underwater in that pivotal scene in The Poseidon Adventure, but the breath wouldn’t come. Choking on a short, shallow breath that popped up into his nostrils unexpectedly, Dean yanked open the door and stepped inside.

“So, we meet again,” Alastair laughed. “And so soon!”
“I was right,” Dean said, trying to smirk and failing. “I told you that you’d pay.”
“Am I paying? For what? Killing Death? It came back. You can’t kill Death, Dean. You can only postpone it for a little while. I’m sure you’ve learned that by now.”
“For everything you’ve done,” Dean hissed. Something in his chest tightened. Was it Alastair that had done it? He wasn’t sure. What had Buffy said? She didn’t know what it would do, but she knew what she did was wrong. She did it anyway. She did it to save them, but she did it. She caved to the pressure.
“You don’t sound convinced.” Alastair practically giggled.
“It doesn’t matter,” Dean grunted. “You’ve sinned. We both know what happens next.”
“Yes,” the demon nodded thoughtfully. “I guess we do.”

Mounted in the back of the room was a large cross. Alastair had been chained to the thing, oddly reminiscent of another sinner nailed to a cross. They’d probably suffer the same fate too. Dean’s heart sank into his gut. Alongside him stood the only other item in the room-a black wooden table. The table was covered with instruments, most of them crude and rudimentary. There were iron pokers, bottles of holy water, knives, and brands. The sight of them made Dean want to vomit right there on the floor. It all looked so familiar, so distinct. These were times he’d been trying to forget without much success for months.

Unlike Buffy’s self-induced insomnia, Dean had drowned his memories in alcohol. He awakened, panting and sweating, to a swig of whiskey and a splash of cold water to the face, every night since he’d come back from Hell. He spent his nights somewhere on the brink of drunkenness, still aware but only dimly and at arm’s length from everything. The last time he’d wanted anything, really wanted it, had been when he looked at these tools of destruction.

In the Pit, everything wanted. Desires were on high alert, whether what you wanted was escape or forgiveness or sex or drugs or torture or pain or relief. You wanted it all, all the time. But in Hell, what you wanted never turned out the way you expected. The Pit was one big trap of desires. You wanted rain and you got a flood so disastrous that it killed everything and everyone you ever gave a shit about. You wanted drugs and you got the world’s most vivid and distressing trip-Willy Wonka’s Vision Tunnel meets Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole meets An American Werewolf in London’s deteriorating zombie ghosts. Of course, then you wanted to tear out your own eyes and they were gouged out with hot pokers and wooden sticks. That was Hell. When Dean got out, he didn’t want to want anything, ever again.

“Why are you killing angels?” Dean asked quietly, picking up an iron bar from the table.
“Come on, Dean,” Alastair giggled. “Is that really what you want to know?”
“No,” Dean shook his head sadly. “I don’t give a damn.”

The iron poker thrust through the demon’s skin. It wasn’t an easy stabbing, not the way one expects. Dean put effort behind the bar, twisting it into the shoulder of his victim. Alastair rolled back his head and screamed horribly. His bare skin swelled around the impact of the weapon, creating a spidery web of black and red lines radiating out from the hole. Dean drew it back again and dark red blood spilled from the wound before it cracked and spat and healed gruesomely.
“You do,” Alastair hissed. “You want to hurt me. You wanted to hurt all of them. You wanted revenge.”
“You manipulated me,” Dean retorted. But he didn’t believe the statement. Perhaps they had manipulated him at first, but it didn’t take long for Dean to enjoy his new role in Hell as a torturer rather than a victim. He had wanted revenge. He’d wanted it so badly that it came true.
“Did I? Did I twist your arm, Dean? Did I tell you that you had to work for me? You could have stayed where you were. You could have wanted pain, punishment, penance. You didn’t want those things, Dean. Lucifer only wants to please you.”
“Enough,” Dean spat angrily. He picked up a bottle of Holy water and popped the cork, throwing it over his shoulder and onto the floor. He took a step, two steps forward, and took the demon by the chin. Forcing back his chin, Dean pulled open his mouth and spilled the water over the demon’s tongue. The body squirmed against its restraints. It screamed inhuman screams and writhed in agony. Dean stepped back, throwing the bottle so viciously against the wall that it shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. Alastair grimaced and laughed, blood spilling from his lips and nose, shooting his eyes with pink veins.
“You used to be so much better at this, Dean. What’s wrong? Are you scared?”

---

They drove for four hours; Buffy leaning both hands on the dashboard and almost pressing her nose to the windshield. The sound of the radio drummed on her ribs, but she refused to turn it down. Her sense of urgency increased with every minute so by the time they crossed into northern California and pulled into a gas station in Yreka, she was ready to kill something. Sam got out of the car to pump the gas. He seemed oddly timid, even quiet, during the first leg of the trip. Buffy had simply directed him south, and he’d gone without protest. She’d urged him to drive faster, and he did. She sent him careening down the highway’s shoulder, around speeding 18 wheelers and tiny puttering mini-vans, and he’d agreed easily. Sam Winchester was in a fog all his own, and it was only the incessant beeping of the Impala’s gas gauge that finally brought him back to his senses.

There was another thing she’d noticed too. Throughout the drive, Sam had become increasingly weird. He’d started out with a twitch. The twitch became an obsessive hand movement, a tapping that got so irritating Buffy had to avert her eyes. He started mouth-breathing, as though his nose had been stuffed with thick gauze. His skin took on a weird yellow quality that washed him out and made him look diseased. By the time California had come into view, Sam Winchester looked shrunken and death-like, twitching constantly and wiggling in his seat.

Beyond the driver’s side window, Sam stood filling the gas tank. He kept sticking his hand in his pocket, pausing, and then taking it out. Buffy watched him feel the thing in his pocket, whatever it was, six or seven times in the minute it took to fill up the gas. After he replaced the nozzle, he closed the tank and took off toward the small Stop and Go convenience store behind the pumps. Maybe he’s just going to the bathroom, Buffy thought as she watched him take off. She looked out the rearview mirror as the last rays of sunlight lit up the evening sky with streaks of purple, pink, and orange. Her side hurt. She found herself thinking about Dean. Beside her bed, just a few nights ago, he’d told her he forgave her. The words had done something to her, touched her in a way she hadn’t been touched for what seemed like years. They weren’t enough, not enough to push back the dreams, to give her peace, but…they were a start. Carefully, Buffy pulled her knees up to her chest and tucked her arms around her shins.

Sam opened the car door and slid back behind the steering wheel. At the unexpected movement, Buffy looked up. She’d been so lost in her own thoughts (a mixture of things she couldn’t exactly describe now that the moment was over), she hadn’t noticed Sam’s return. Buffy looked down at the clock on her cellular phone. Over a half-hour had passed since Sam had disappeared into the convenience store. In the time they’d lost, Sam had gained back whatever composure he’d lost during the trip south. His composure was restored and he’d stopped twitching and squirming. His skin color resumed its natural tone. His face was set with determination to find his missing brother. He turned to Buffy.
“So, I have Dean’s cell phone programmed into my phone. According to the GPS monitor, he’s somewhere around Red Bluff. We’re almost there.”
“So we’re going the right way then?” Buffy asked, surprised to hear Sam’s interest renewed.
“Yeah,” Sam nodded.
“Good.” Buffy replied. She stared at Sam, baffled, as he put the car in gear and took off down the road. He was a changed man. Whatever they were putting in the coffee at the Stop and Go, it should have been bottled as a miracle drug. The only thing was… it smelled strangely like blood.

---

“Tell me why you’re killing angels,” Dean demanded gruffly. He twisted the knuckles of one hand into the palm of the other. His fist rammed roughly into the demon’s cheek, splintering the bone and breaking the flesh. Alastair hung limply on his cross, accepting the hit as a matter of course.
“Now Dean, we both know I’m innocent of that particular crime.”
Dean paused and stood back, his hands dropping at his sides. It was true. He did know it. He’d known it since he walked in the room. This moment in time had nothing to do with angels, not really. It was about Hell, and it was about Redemption.
“Oh Dean,” Alastair smiled, standing up as straight as he could. “You poor, stupid boy. Those angels have taken you down the wrong path. You should have stayed with me. We could have been partners. I could have shown you the ropes. Don’t you miss feeling? Don’t you wish you could feel…something? Anything?”
“No,” Dean mouthed, though his heart beat out a yes. He split his hand open on the demon’s nose, crushing the bone and forcing it through the skin. Dean pulled back his hand with a whimper. Above his head, a pipe began to drip condensation on the floor around him, across the lines of white chalk around Alastair’s confinement.
“Liar liar,” the demon heckled, his eyes ablaze though his mouth and nose dripped blood. “Pants on fire.”

---

“Sam! There!” Buffy pointed out across the highway to an old warehouse on the edge of Red Bluff. Thick vines had died on the rusty outside walls of the building. The parking lot was cracked with brittle asphalt. Above their heads, the moon showered them with a hazy ghost light. Sam spun the wheel and crossed three lanes of empty roadway to pull across the median and enter the empty lot. Blood pulsed through the back of Buffy’s head, and her neck felt like pins and needles pecking out patterns. The Impala pulled to a screeching halt at the old entrance to the building, now covered in thick brush and brambles. Nothing would stop the Slayer, not even thorns and poison oak. Sam scrambled out of the car after her, the putrid but alluring scent of demons tickling his nose. Buffy thrashed through the brush, the thorns clinging to her flesh and clothing like angry fingers.
---

“Do you think they care about you, Dean?” Alastair asked. He slipped one arm out of his iron shackles, as if he’d oiled them down for quick release. Dean stood on the other side of the Devil’s Trap sketched out in chalk between them. He picked up one of the iron pokers and held it aloft like a sword. “Do you think those angels give two shits about you and your mission, Dean? You broke the first seal! You started all this.”
“What are you talking about?” Dean asked, dropping the iron wand slightly.
“A righteous man will become a minion of Hell, and he shall bring about the End of Days.”
“Lying dicks with wings,” Dean groaned, still waiting for the demon to approach. Alastair stood on the edge of the trap and hissed like a caged rat.
“That’s all they are,” the demon chuckled. “And yet here you are, taking their side.” He stepped over the line, blurred by dripping water, and wound back his fist.
“I don’t know why, Dean. They’re certainly not taking yours.”

Fists seemed to come from every side and angle, making Dean feel like the little plastic food ball in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippo. He fended off the first few hits with his iron weapon, but when it clattered out of his hand, he couldn’t find it again. His feet lifted from the ground and he was thrown into the steel wall, where he slid down like a wet ice cube and rolled onto his side. His face ached like one giant bruise, and he was having trouble breathing. Kicks rained down against his ribcage, throwing him around on the floor.
“You want to feel something, Dean?” Alastair cackled maniacally.
“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” Buffy growled, throwing open the heavy iron door with one hand. She stood in the frame, trying to muster up the strength she knew she had hidden inside her.
“Why do people always say that? Dean is closer to my size than you are, little girl.” Alastair chuckled.
“Oh come on,” the Slayer smirked. “Try me.”
“Well, alright,” he agreed, “but only because you asked so nicely.”

Alastair drew back his fist and threw it toward the Slayer. She held out her hand and caught his knuckles, feeling the weight of his body ripple through her muscled flesh. Using his arm as balance, she turned in a tight circle and threw a kick back into his bloody mouth, releasing his hand just in time to send him sailing past Dean and into the barred wall behind him. Alastair folded against the wall and staggered back to his feet. Buffy dropped to one knee on the floor and touched Dean’s broken face.
“Dean,” she murmured, pulling him against her lap.
“Buffy?” Dean croaked in confused reply.

Over their heads, Alastair staggered back toward them. His inhuman face cast shadows on the facial features of his meat suit. Raging and insulted, he stood over the pair of hunters, ready to reach down and kill them both. Sam stepped over the threshold of the interrogation room and lifted his hand. His fingers seemed to shake, and his musculature vibrated intensely. Wordlessly, he lifted Alastair from the floor with only the power of his brain. His face screwed up with the pressure and his eyes darkened to slits of black. He looked as demonic as his adversary, bent and twisted and ghoulish. Alastair began to scream, tufts of his black cloud soul spilling from his mouth and nose, barreling around the room as it looked for an exit. Sam pulled his hand back, leaving only drops of the demon in its human suit. Alastair peeked out of its eyes, haunted and afraid.

The scent of demon blood filled Sam’s nose, making his salivate. He dropped anxiously to his knees and tore at the flesh with his mouth, his fingernails. He scraped open blood vessels and sank his tongue into the crevices of open wounds. It was growing cold, but it was still so good. Across the room, Castiel walked through the open iron portal. His shoulders hung limply around his body as though he’d been relieved of a heavy load. His eyes fell disjointedly upon the remains of Alastair, a feast for Sam Winchester. The smell of rot seemed to overpower the room, but Sam hardly noticed. The meal was too good to pass up.

Chapter Nine: The Grip of a Hurricane