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The Lucifer Effect

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When Dean tried to get up that morning, his pillow stuck to his face.

He might not even have noticed it, if his vision had been just a little blurrier and the headache pounding behind his temples had been just a little worse. It was one of those flat motel pillows, the kind that had a promising career as a disposable napkin waiting for it if housekeeping ever forgot to pitch it back onto a bed after washing it, so it wasn't like it was that much of an inconvenience. But he was just lucid enough to notice the slight drag on the side of his face as he started to push himself up, and then it was annoying.

Dean lifted a hand to pull the pillow off. Or tried to, anyway. His hand was stuck, too. To the bed's threadbare comforter, which he'd apparently slept on top of last night. In his clothes. Great. Combine that with his headache and he'd probably gotten himself plastered, passed out, and then puked while he was asleep. Glued himself to the bed that way, which was pretty disgusting, especially considering it'd never happened before. He couldn't believe Sam hadn't cleaned him up or at least flipped him over. If Sam had been around last night, that was. Maybe that was why he'd gotten drunk. He really didn't remember anything from however many hours before, which was always a good sign.

Dean wrenched his hand free from the comforter and yanked the pillow off of his face, wincing slightly as it pulled on stubble that was just a little too long for his liking. He dropped the pillow and stared blearily down at it, and the large stain on it where his head had been resting. It was a testament to just how messed up his head was this morning that it took him a few seconds to realize that something was very wrong with what he was looking at.

The stain, in roughly the same shape as the side of his face, was a rusty red-brown. There were little smears and droplets around the main bulk of it. As Dean's vision slowly cleared, he could see little strings and scraps and clumps dried onto the pillow. Pieces of...he wasn't even sure he wanted to know.

"What the hell...?" His first instinct, as he pushed himself further up, was to grab his stomach, which felt fine (at least until the rancid metallic scent all around him registered and got it rolling uncomfortably). His shirt, stiff and saturated, peeled stickily off the comforter, and he put his hands on his face, feeling for wounds and gashes. He didn't find any, which wasn't all that surprising. Now that he was sitting up, he could see how soaked his clothes were, as well as everything he'd slept on. Plain common sense told him that if that much blood had come out of him, either flowing from a cut or being thrown up, he'd be dead.

Shocked and, more than anything else, confused, Dean grabbed at his shirt, just staring at it. He could sort of discern some kind of vague splash pattern in the dried blood that covered it, like he'd been standing at the edge of a swimming pool full of gore when someone did a cannonball into it. Then he noticed his hands. He kept his nails short, but blood was still caked underneath them. It had built up around the silver ring he wore on his left hand. He was drenched in it up past the elbows, red-brown flaking and itchy on his freckled skin. There was a ragged, half-dried patch of...something, something that looked like it had been thin and elastic when it was still moist, stuck to the face of his watch. Examining that with a sick fascination, Dean felt another worm of nausea slither through his stomach. Right before something occurred to him that he really should have thought of earlier.

"Sam?" Dean dropped his bloody hands, scrambled off the ruined bed. "Sammy?!"

He didn't see him at first, and that had him feeling about a thousand times sicker than he had earlier. When he finally caught sight of him, he relaxed. Sort of.

Sam was sitting by the motel room's door, on one of the cheap plywood chairs that had been grouped around the small table, in the perfect position to see anyone who came in. He had Dean's handgun, grips smeared with red and brown, resting on one thigh, near his hand, and a hypodermic full of something dark resting on the other. Like Dean, he was wearing what were probably yesterday's clothes. And, like Dean, he looked like he'd taken a shower in the runoff from a slaughterhouse.

His long hair had matted into ropy tendrils around his blood-spattered face, the honey-colored highlights in it obscured by what covered the rest of him. His hands looked a whole lot like Dean's did. His T-shirt, jacket, and jeans were clearly ruined, and even his boots were covered. Like he'd been wading through the stuff. The only clean part of him seemed to be his eyes, fixed on Dean and carefully blank.

"Shit," Dean cursed under his breath, before practically lunging over to Sam. It felt like the movement sent a couple of medicine balls rolling around in his tender head, but he couldn't care less. He felt Sam's throat with blood-covered fingertips, looking for any break in the skin, and was about to dive under his shirt to search for wounds, but Sam reached up and brushed his hands away before he could.

"I'm not hurt," he said, voice rough with disuse as he shook his head a little. A nebulous sort of relief went through Dean when he heard him speak, though he wasn't sure why. "You're not, either. Far as I know." He lifted one of his hands and stared at it. Dean could see that the covering of dried blood had cracked over the lines in his palm. "None of this is ours."

"Are you sure?" Dean asked, staying where he was just in case Sam took the statement back and pulled up his shirt to show him that his chest had been minced into raw hamburger. But Sam just nodded. So Dean took a few steps backwards, in order to sink down onto the edge of the blood-soaked bed he'd slept on last night. He felt much better once he was resting on a solid surface. "Then where the hell did all of this - " He twitched a hand at his own shirt. " - come from?"

"You don't remember?" Sam asked. Dean was slightly unnerved by how calm he sounded. Mostly because he knew his brother well enough to be aware that, the greater the control he was exercising over himself, the worse the hysteria boiling just below the surface.

"Sam, right now, I barely remember lunch yesterday," Dean replied, raising a hand to massage his forehead. He stopped when he realized there was blood crusted into his eyebrows. "Wouldn't be surprised if my BA's still over the legal limit; feels like I got run over by a semi." He glanced down at himself. "Guess it kinda looks like it, too."

"Suppose it makes sense that you blacked out," Sam replied. "We were definitely drinking. Actually, I doubt either of us could've made it through last night without the booze." He glanced down at the gun on his lap, studying it. "Kind of wish I'd forgotten, too."

Dean was beginning to feel nauseated again. "Sam," he said clearly, trying to bring his attention back to him. "What happened? We went after vampires. I remember that."

Sam's eyes flicked from the gun to the syringe, which, Dean realized, was probably full of blood he'd taken from a corpse. "We found them. Or a couple of the others found them, I should say. And then they brought us to them."

Dean ran a hand over his hair. It was stiff with blood, and he could feel pieces of the stringy stuff that had been on his pillow stuck between the strands. He forcibly swallowed something that burned at the back of his throat and leaned forward a little.

"Sam," he repeated, lowering his voice and letting some of the urgency he was feeling slip into it. "What happened?"

Sam finally looked back up at him, and swallowed himself before responding.

"We crossed a line," he said quietly. "We crossed just about every line in the book, last night. That's what happened."