Terribilis Deus de sanctuario suo. Deus Israhel ipse truderit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi Suae. Benedictus deus. Gloria patri. Amen.
The tall, aged stone pries itself open wider, and the living, moving darkness behind it starts pouring through the gateway to Hell into the nameless cemetery. Pieces of it break off and fly into the air. Some are shapeless, but John spots a few that look like people, deformed man-like shapes that make his stomach rise to his throat.
"Father . . ." Meg whispers worshipfully.
John twists on the ground and looks back at his boys. Meg's eyes are turned skyward, her expression rapturous.
Then, Sammy shifts and cradles the chain around his wrist in both hands so that it doesn't clatter against the fence or the ground. He stretches out and nudges Dean with his toe. Dean rolls his eyes to look at Sam without turning his head or pushing the scythe further into his neck. But something passes between them that John can't understand.
In the next moment, Sammy's foot kicks out and catches Meg in the back of her leg. Surprised, Meg jerks forward, and Dean uses the momentum to pitch Arendt's body over his head, rolling the demon forward and off of him.
Bobby falls to his knees and grabs the shotgun from the ground. He fires as soon as the gun is in his hands. Meg's chest gets the first barrel, and the second scatters her face and shoulder with pockmarks of blood. Flat on her back, Meg stares up as Bobby looms over her with the shotgun. Dean scoops up the scythe and stands at Meg's other side.
"Don't move, bitch," he growls at the demon.
John pushes himself to his elbows, one hand still on his leg, and the wind increases. John starts to hear screaming from the stone gateway, high and inhuman.
John nearly loses what height he's gained when Sammy's voice joins the screaming. Glancing over his shoulder, John sees Sammy stretching forward, reaching as far as he can with one hand still chained to the fence.
"Seth, you have to stop him!" Sam yells above the volume of the wind. "You did it before. Please!"
The manacle around Sammy's wrist is digging into his skin with the force of him pulling away from the fence, toward where Azazel stands in front of the open gate. Azazel turns, but Seth's face doesn't change as the gusts from Hell catch at his hair and flings it in his face.
"Please." Sammy's sobbing now. "You're not a monster. We're not the monster. You said you didn't let him win before. You have to stop him or he'll win. He'll kill all of us."
Everyone is frozen, despite the wind and the smell of sulfur and blood in the air. Azazel blinks, and it's the first time John has seen him do that since Seth tried to beg for death. It shouldn't mean anything, even though John pushes himself up higher to watch Seth's face.
"Me and Dean," Sammy says. "Dad's here, too. Please."
Bobby starts reciting Latin. John hears the Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, and Dean starts up, too. Between them, Megaera writhes on the ground. But Azazel just steps forward, his eyes on Sam.
"Who are you trying to save, Sammy?" he asks coldly. "You are mine, and he's already given up." The demon waves one hand over the front of his body, where Seth's shirt is still dripping with blood.
The demon's coming closer, and John doesn't have a weapon. The Colt is in the gate, and Bobby's shotgun is busy with Meg.
"You can still have what you want, Sam," Azazel says. "You want a loving family. We'd love you. This one never got a chance to love anyone for very long." He trails a finger delicately across Seth's collarbone. "Not even his precious brother."
Oh, to Hell with all of this.
"Get away from him, you son of a bitch." John pushes himself up to rest on his good knee with one hand bracing himself against the ground.
Azazel's face snaps over to him, but at least he's not looking at Sammy anymore.
"You lose." Azazel sneers. "Know when to quit, human."
John considers spitting in Azazel's face, when suddenly Azazel's face becomes Seth's face. His eyes flicker from yellow to brown and then back again, as if some angle had caught the light strangely. But Azazel hasn't moved. It's just Seth fighting back.
"Seth." John makes his voice firm, instilling it with all the belief he can muster. "You fight him. You're stronger than this bastard." Azazel's yellow eyes still stare at John, and John inhales. "You are a Winchester."
In the time it takes him to breathe in again, John thinks it hasn't worked. That nothing will break through to Seth now that Azazel has him back under his thumb.
Azazel reaches out with his hand spread, ready to throttle John's neck — and then he stops. John looks up to Azazel's face, and Seth is there instead.
Seth's jaw clenches hard with strain, and his hand shakes in front of John.
"Kah . . . Nah . . . Om Dar."
The words — are they actual words? — punch their way out of Seth's mouth into the air between John and Seth. John wants to know what the hell's going on, but he doesn't dare take his eyes away from Seth. What if Azazel comes back again?
Seth's brows come down as he breathes heavily, still half-frozen with one hand reaching towards John.
"Kah Nah Om Dar!"
It's Enochian. It has to be Enochian, because that's the only language the words really sound like. John's eyes dart to Sammy, but Sammy's mouth is hanging open as he stares at Seth. The kid's not to be any help translating. Then, John sees Bobby almost lower his shotgun as his head comes up to stare as well. Meg's body — Arendt's body, now — is motionless and bleeding on the ground, and John turns his head back.
Seth stands straight up in front of John, his hands raised in front of him as he stares at them. And his hands are glowing.
No shit, Seth's hands look like something replaced his blood with pure light. It shines out from just underneath his skin, outlining his veins and tendons, and it's growing stronger with every second Seth stands there.
Seth looks up from his glowing hands to John. His chest heaves, but his eyes are his own.
"It's okay," he says. "I got 'im."
Turning his back on John, Seth strides to the split stone in the middle of the cemetery that's still spewing darkness, wind, and twisted forms. He reaches out and pulls the Colt out from its place in the keyhole of the gate and flings it to one side. It lands about three yards away from John. Then, Seth plants his hands on the open stone. The light streams from his fingers and cuts straight through the darkness as he takes a breath and heaves.
Leaning forward, Seth pushes with all his strength. Now his arms are starting to glow as well, like the light is slowly traveling up his limbs to his heart. Seth's starting to steam with the effort.
Then, John eyes widen because that's not steam rising up from Seth's arms. It's too dark. Like the black smoke that Wilson breathed out when he was possessed. Curling, writhing out of him like visible poison seeping out of his skin. As the glow spreads up Seth's arms, the black smoke seeps out of him, avoiding the light. Seth keeps pushing, and slowly the stone gate grinds together.
The wind is worse now, tearing at Seth like it's trying to batter him away from the gate.
"John, get down!" Bobby yells.
John looks over his shoulder and sees Bobby crouched on the ground with one hand in front of his face, shielding himself. Dean is bent over Sammy, still looking to Seth and the gate. John turns back to the gate and grits his teeth.
He has to use one hand and one knee to drag himself across the dry ground, but he makes slow progress toward Seth. He keeps one eye on the light as he goes; it's reached up to Seth's shoulders now. Whatever is happening is giving him the strength to close the gates again, but the darkness that is still seeping out of Seth's pores is now gathering in a kind of cloud just over his head.
John reaches the gun at the same time the light reaches Seth's chest. John flings himself forward and catches the Colt in bloody hands as his leg hits the ground with a stab of pain. He braces the Colt in both hands and rolls on his back, pointing the gun up at Seth. With a loud scraping of stone against stone, Seth slams the gate to Hell closed and hunches over himself. A hood of shadow, almost like the top half of a man, hovers over his shoulders with two long arms like anchors still attached to Seth's back.
"Seth!" John calls with the breath he has left.
Seth staggers backwards and turns his body. The shadow has a face — or something like a face. It looks more like a skull, tossing back and forth as if the demon is in pain. Its hands are buried inside Seth's chest, and the wind whistles in John's ear.
He aims, and pulls the trigger.
Seth gasps and holds his glowing hands over his stomach. From the ground, John watches the bullet pass through Seth's gut and straight into the center of the swirling black mass with a demon's face. The darkness lights up from within, outlining a thin, long ribcage that looks only half-human. The high-pitched scream makes John wince without closing his eyes.
Then, the last tendrils of the demon peel away from Seth's back, releasing him in a snap of tenterhooks. The Demon stops screaming abruptly, and the light blasts through the ribcage like an explosion without heat or sound. John closes his eyes against being blinded.
The wind stops.
John opens his eyes again. His breath sounds loud in his own ears.
"Dad?" Sammy calls, quiet and still frightened.
John looks up again when Dean sounds more worried than Sam. Seth is still standing with his hands on his stomach, covering the bullet wound John gave him. He's not glowing anymore, and his eyes are the same as they've always been. Seth stares back at John, his mouth open and his eyes glazed over in shock.
Then, Seth's face softens into a strange smile, and his eyes slide closed. He opens his mouth with a small sound, but instead of words, blood and spit escape his lips and trickle down his chin. Seth's legs give out, and he collapses to the ground in front of John.
John drops the Colt as Bobby rushes forward and puts his own hands over Seth's stomach. Dean starts forward then stops, glancing back at where Sammy is still chained to the fence. John makes the decision for him.
"Dean, get your brother."
Dean doesn't even nod before he bolts back to Sammy's side. John puts a hand back on his leg and sits up enough to peel off his jacket and toss it to Bobby.
"We need a hospital," Bobby says without looking up.
John chokes on the few words that are in his throat and nods instead. The Demon is dead. The Demon that killed his wife and wanted his son is dead. His mission is done.
What if his mission just cost John Seth's life?
John walks down the hall of Memorial Hospital in Rawlins on his crutches. He can't feel his legs, although that might be because of the thick brace on his thigh to keep him from moving and tearing his stitches open. Again. The doctor's words bounce around in his head, but he's not processing them. He's not capable of it. He even has a folder of brochures and information in one hand that he hasn't looked at yet.
Right now he needs to find his family. He hasn't seen them since they put Seth and Dean in one ambulance and piled John and Sammy in the other one before the slammed the back doors shut on John. The only reason he's even on crutches instead of in a hospital bed is because he's responsible for the two boys that are somewhere in the pediatric unit in the hospital and John refuses to be stuck in a bed if they need him. Now, though, John isn't looking for Sam or Dean yet.
John comes to a "T" in the hallway and tries to look both ways while not taking up too much room with his crutches. He's almost starting to wish for a wheelchair just because it could be faster than his stupid limping.
John looks down the hallway to his right and sees Bobby hurry up to him. The bandage over his temple looks clean and new, but other than that Bobby probably came out of the cemetery the cleanest of them all.
"Been looking for you," Bobby pants.
"Yeah?" Something in John's chest clenches. He can't take any more news today.
"The police are gonna want to talk to you," Bobby says. "I told them we were on a camping trip and Arendt kidnapped Sam. They bought it, but they have some questions about Seth."
Hell, John has some questions about Seth, but he can't make his mind focus on the police that are going to be after him pretty soon. The edges of his brain feel fuzzy.
"I kept 'em away from the boys, though." Bobby nods decisively, and that makes John look up and focus more on the man.
"How'd you manage that?" he asks.
Bobby's mouth quirks under his beard.
"Said I was your brother-in-law," he says. "Figured Seth could probably pass as your brother."
John's head drops on his chest. He can see the plain folder in his hands from the corner of his eye.
For a second or two the hallway seems silent, quiet footsteps playing at patterns in John's ear.
"You sure?" Bobby says cautiously. "I know the Demon said—"
"He has a picture of me and Mary in his bedroom," John snaps and waves the folder in front of Bobby's face. "His blood matches mine."
"What?" Bobby's eyes widen.
"They did—" John can't remember the name of the test. "We're the same type. They wanted to see if I was … a viable donor."
Bone marrow, elevated white blood cells, hemoptysis.
John runs the palm of his hand hard over his face.
"Can you . . . keep the police distracted?" he asks Bobby.
Bobby's face twists into a grumpy frown under his hat. How does he even still have that stupid thing?
"You wanna make a bust outa here, we're gonna need more than just me waving my hand for the cops."
"No." John shakes his head. "Not yet. Just … gimme a minute."
"Yeah," Bobby says softly and nods. He puts his hand on John's shoulder, just briefly, and then he leaves.
John takes a deep breath and finally reads the placards screwed to the wall. He limps down to the in-patient rooms, looking for the right room number. Then, he hears Sammy before he even gets to the open doorway.
"I figured it out," Sammy says boldly. His voice still shakes, though, like he's not used to being so brave. "I know … I know who you are."
John freezes and picks his crutches off the floor so that they don't make any noise. It means he has to lean on the wall as he shuffles and limps closer to the door, but he does it anyway.
"Yeah," Seth whispers so softly that John has to go through three different options of what Seth could have said.
"How did you— Why didn't you—"
Sammy sounds choked up by the end of it, and John braces himself to rush into the room. Except how did Sam ever figure out who Seth is? It's not as if John has been sharing his information. Although Azazel was pretty obvious about the Winchester blood.
John kind of wants to kill the demon again just to make himself feel better.
"Did you always know about …" Sammy finally starts, "about us? The blood?"
"No," says Seth. "Not 'til I was twenty-two."
John didn't actually expect that, but something loosens in his chest just the same. Pictures of Seth and Harry Winchester talking about the ones they left behind — half-thoughts of Seth inserting himself into the Winchester family strictly for the purpose of his hit list — they all disappear as the breath hisses from John's lungs.
"Azazel showed me," Seth says.
John remembers a yellow-eyed man hissing in his face with sulfur-tainted breath, and he stops shuffling forward.
There are tears in Sammy's voice, and John starts moving again. Forget being quiet, he's not letting Sammy cry over Azazel. The bastard has caused enough trouble in his family.
"'S'okay," comes Seth's voice, hoarse but intense. "He's dead. Really, actually dead."
John makes it to the doorway and sees Sammy hovering by the side of Seth's hospital bed. Seth looks pale but cleaner than John has seen him in days. The corner of the gauze over his heart is peeking out of the low collar of the hospital gown he wears. John doesn't know what the clear bag on the stand contains, but apparently it's not helping Seth stay awake. Even with his fierce reassurance to Sam, Seth's eyes are only half-open.
John rests his crutches against the wall inside Seth's room. The noise makes Sammy's head snap around to look at John, but Seth stays motionless on the bed. Sam's fingers brush over the clean white bandage that circles his wrist where the manacle made him bleed.
"Sam," John says. "Go check on your brother."
He doesn't really want Sammy here when John talks about the doctor's prognosis — because he still has to talk about the doctor's prognosis. Sammy's already about two minutes away from calling Seth "Uncle Seth." The only way John knows Sammy is going to stay away and not eavesdrop is to assign him to watch over Dean.
"Yes, sir." For once, the phrase doesn't sound sarcastic coming from Sammy.
Sammy just shuffles away from the hospital bed. He does give Seth one last glance over his shoulder, but Sammy trudges his way to pass John towards the door. John lays one hand on Sammy's shoulder, and the kid stops.
John looks down at Sammy. He can pass the tight grip off as losing his balance, or needing a little support with his crutches leaning up against the wall. Sammy stares up at John, his eyes wide open.
"You're a good boy," John finally says.
Sammy's shoulder lifts under John's head ever so slightly. Just enough so that John can feel it, can see Sammy's chest rising up straight and proud. Patting Sammy's shoulder once, John lets Sammy go and ignores the burn at the back of his eyes. It'll pass.
Once Sammy's gone, John shuts the door and then limps gingerly to the single chair on one wall. He tugs it with his hand so that it's closer to Seth's bed. As he sits, he spots a trail of water just under Seth's closed eyes, but he ignores that, too.
"How you feeling?" he asks.
"Like I died," Seth says without opening his eyes. "Again."
What? John's already on the verge of demanding answers, but then he looks at Seth's cheeks again. Azazel has already mentioned Hell and Lucifer, and John wants to know how that happened even though he doesn't know if he can handle knowing how it happened.
One thing at a time. The blood thing is more immediate. John has plenty of time and resources at the Bunker to research Lucifer.
"The doctor said something's wrong with your blood," John says.
He really should try to soften this kind of blow, shouldn't he?
Seth hums something John really doesn't understand. His head sinks further into the hospital pillow like he doesn't have the strength or will to keep it up anymore.
"They're talking about your blood cells and doing some tests." John drops the folder of information on the foot of Seth's bed, but he doesn't open it. "They think you have leukemia."
Seth cracks his eyes open and turns his head to peer at John.
"Is'at what it looks like?" he slurs tiredly.
Seth knew about this. Of course Seth knew about this; he said that he'd been poisoned when John's boys asked him.
"What happened to you?" John asks before he remembers that he was going to leave that question for later.
"I passed the Trials," Seth answers easily. John has no idea what that means. "Obstacles Heaven set up for one man to go through. They purified me so I could shut the gates of Hell."
Yeah, with his magic, glowing arms.
"They're gonna purify you right into the ground."
"Yeah," Seth agrees, like he already knows that part, too.
John presses a palm to his mouth and breathes in slowly through his nose. He smells bleach. His hand drags over his face, and John looks up at Seth. The oxygen hasn't changed Seth's pale, tired face.
"We can fix this," John says.
He says it in the same, firm tone that means this is what will happen because this is what I say that makes Sam and Dean obey. Seth just huffs out a dry laugh that turns into a wet cough. Pink spittle dribbles out of the corner of his mouth, and John jumps up quickly to grab a tissue to swipe away the blood so he doesn't have to see it.
"You always think you can fix things," Seth says.
"We can." It's annoying that Seth won't believe him like his boys will.
"No." Seth's head rises up off the pillow as he props himself on his elbows, his neck straining and his eyes frowning at John. "I've been hunting a long time. Sometimes you can't fix things. Just end up making them worse."
John doesn't want to acknowledge that Seth might be right — in certain circumstances. But then Seth's arms give out, and he falls back onto the bed hard. John reaches out and puts a hand on Seth's shoulder, too late to catch him or break his fall. At least Seth doesn't start coughing again.
John sinks back down into the chair. They can argue this later, when Seth's not in danger of coughing up his lungs or passing out when he gets angry. Time to pick a different topic of conversation.
"You've hunted your whole life?" John asks.
"Nearly." Seth closes his eyes again. He's starting to look like a stick figure in the hospital bed.
"You always ... hunt with Dad?"
John doesn't breathe once his question is out there. It's the first time he's actually acknowledged their connection out loud.
"No. With my brother." Seth's slurring his words like he's already half-asleep.
John's chest swells, almost the exact opposite of the empty, cold feeling whenever Azazel popped up before. His eyes are fixed on Seth, but Seth's eyes stay closed, his breathing slow.
"What's that like?" John asks slowly.
Seth lets out a snort through his nose.
"Aggravating," he breathes. "Treats me like a kid most of the time. He's overprotective."
John would argue that Seth only got that from watching the way he treats Sam and Dean, but there's no way he's saying anything out loud with Seth's voice already this quiet.
"We keep keeping secrets from each other." Seth's head tosses slightly with a line in between his eyebrows. "It never works."
John nods. They need to stop doing that. John's going to help Seth with his hit list now that he knows about it, and Seth isn't going to go on any more suicidal missions to protect John and his boys. He opens his mouth to make some sort of promise, a plan for once they get back to the Bunker.
"Wouldn't have any other brother," Seth says on one last exhale.
John freezes. He glances down and sees his hand hovering above Seth's arm. He didn't plan to do that. But John lowers his hand anyway and lays his palm over Seth's arm just above the wrist. Seth's body relaxes an extra inch, and he sleeps.
John can wait to tell Seth the rest of it. About helping with the hit list and maybe finding a school in Smith County for the boys. Dean can stay with Sammy while John and Seth hunt, as long as Seth goes through all the security features of the Bunker. Maybe they'll even hang that photo of the Men of Letters somewhere. John will watch Seth's back. Big brothers are supposed to protect little brothers, aren't they? Dean always does with Sammy. John might be late. Seth will probably complain. But they can fix this.
This is how it starts.