Title: The Cost of Retribution
Characters: The Winchester men, of course!
Spoilers: In My Time of Dying, ELAC and Crossroad Blues.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters belong to Eric Kripke and the folks at the CW.
Summary: A deal is made and the demon is banished forever. One-shot
WARNING: Death of canon character is assumed throughout the story, read at your own risk.
The Cost of Retribution
New Orleans, Louisiana
The drunk stumbled out into the alley behind the seedy bar, one hand thrown out against the nearest wall to steady himself. It was closing time and the alley was the quickest way home as well as the being the most covert. As he zigzagged his way down the littered road, he could hear two voices rising and falling in the darkness. Drawing closer, he could see two figures up ahead. He could tell by the loudness of their voices that the debate was becoming heated and was on the verge of physical blows. Quickly ducking down behind the smelly dumpster, he listened to the fierce argument, hoping he'd go unnoticed. He wanted no part of the trouble he could smell brewing between the two shadows.
"You can't do that, Sammael! The others won't let you."
The eyes of the man speaking glowed in the dark, causing the drunk to wonder what had been in his last drink. He couldn't see the eyes of the one called Sammael, but noticed that he literally towered over the other man in height.
"The others don't have any say over this. The deal's been made. Your time is up."
"NO!" roared the man with yellow eyes. "Father won't allow it, you don't have the authority!"
Sinister chuckles rumbled from Sammael's throat.
"Father's still not pleased about that deal you made with the boy's dad. From his perspective, I'll just be putting things back the way they should be."
"Is that what you're getting out of this? Retribution?"
An evil grin contorted Sammael's handsome face into a terrifying leer. He took a step toward his opponent, forcing his back against the brick wall.
"Yeah, I admit I get a certain satisfaction from seeing the tables balanced, but it's more than that. Besides the obvious pleasures I get from the deal, I also get to inspire despair in countless hundreds of souls."
Yellow Eyes shuddered, then began pleading, "Is one puny human worth all this? He means nothing."
Still smiling, Sammael replied, "Oh, but that's where you're wrong. Even he knows not his great worth. I don't think anyone really knows what he's capable of and how his existence tips the scales in the favor of all that's Good."
"I-I don't understand…"
"No, of course you don't. But that's not my problem and it's irrelevant. Your value to us has been trumped. Time to say goodbye."
Before the shadowy man could launch a protest, Sammael laid a hand on his compatriot's face.
"By fire you were birthed and by fire you shall be consumed."
Flames burst forth, instantly incinerating the screaming man into ashes.
The drunken man's eyes widened to saucers. Hastily trying to escape the impossible scene before him, he loudly knocked over a stack of rubbish piled next to the dumpster which had sheltered him.
The Angel of Death's fiery eyes snapped to the man who was now crab-crawling backwards, away from the high demon's presence. Sammael only laughed at the man's fear before dissipating from sight. The insignificant human was unworthy of his attention.
I'm sorry, little brother. I tried my best to set things right.
All I ever wanted was for us to be a family. You, me and Dad – that's all I ever really needed. Now…well, you understand. Go back to school, find a nice girl, live a happy life. That's what I want now.
I've never been one for the Oprah moments, but I guess you're finally gonna get one. I wished I could've said this to your face. I'm proud of you little brother – of the man you are and who you've become. If I had any part in that, then that's enough.
Teaching you to tie your shoes, play pool, throw knives – the way you'd look up at me all wide-eyed innocence ready to learn – those were my best moments. In your eyes, I could see the good in me. For a while, I knew what it was to feel like a hero. Thank you, for that, Sammy.
Okay, that's all the chick-flick moments you're gettin', a lifetime's worth. Look, Sam, I know this isn't what you wanted. I know you probably hate me right now, but don't do anything stupid, all right? This is the way things have to be. What I've done, I've done for you and Dad. I'm putting things back the way they should be. The demon is gone, you will be safe. No more visions, either, isn't that a kick!
When that demon offered to make the deal for Dad the first time, I admit, I was tempted. But, now, this time, the offer was too much to turn down. It was only right; I wasn't supposed to be alive anyway. But, there was you and the demon. I couldn't leave while there was still any possibility of the demon coming after you.
So, last night, when I found out with one simple act I could make it all just stop…well, it wasn't even a choice really. What is my life compared to having Dad back and you safe? Now you both have a chance to be a family. Please, Sam, don't shut Dad out. I know how difficult and stubborn the old man is, but try to make it work. For me.
And, Sammy. Take care of my baby.
Sam carefully refolded the wrinkled paper exactly as he'd found it. Concentrating on getting the exact same lines helped to distract him from the bloody mess on the floor. Of course, it was hard to ignore the splatters of red that dotted the letter on its outermost layer. Having done that, the young man sat silently, his blank face not yet registering what boiled inside.
The stiff paper crinkled as his right hand fisted tightly around it, heedless of the damage it caused. Blinded, soul-sick and filled with helpless rage, Sam stood on wobbly legs.
"No! God, no!" he screamed, clearing the small table next to him with a swipe of his arm. He kicked at the debris settling at his feet and then hauled the chair from the table into the air, sending it smashing into the opposite wall.
"Damn you, Dean! Damn you!" he yelled, continuing his rampage. The room's contents were upturned and thrown with such force that the impacts left gaping craters in all four walls of the dingy motel room.
"I hate you, I hate you!" he cried. "God, I hate you so much!"
Slumping next to the body on the floor he let the tears come, washing down his face, dotting his clothing and the worn carpeting beneath him. Fisting his hands in the blood-soaked shirt of his fallen brother, he jerked the still limber body in fury as he continued to rail and fume.
"You had no right, Dean! This wasn't your decision to make!"
Then, some of the rage spent, he allowed himself to see his dead brother's face through his tears. Dean's face was slack and drained of all color, save for the smears of blood that covered most of him. Panic erupted within and suddenly he crashed into the emotional pain.
"I'm sorry, man," he said as he readjusted his brother's shirt back into place.
Gathering the elder man into his arms, he cradled Dean to him – heedless of the way his brother's arms refused to return the embrace or the sightless eyes staring at the ceiling above.
"I didn't mean it. I could never hate you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry, Dean. Please forgive me."
Squeezing his eyes shut, he buried his face into his brother's shoulder, the sobs coming deep and loud. He didn't know how long he sat like that, rocking his brother's body back and forth and murmuring against the t-shirt in between bouts of crying. Vaguely, he was aware of the warmth leeching from Dean's stiffening body, but his mind refused to accept, to believe.
He'd been standing there in front of the motel door for several minutes now, listening to the storm that raged within, afraid to open the door and face what he knew waited behind it. He just didn't know if he had the strength to endure it. Weren't parents supposed to go before their children? Wasn't that the natural order of things?
But he knew. He'd known how things had gone down the instant he'd found himself back in the world of the living. He didn't remember much from his time in Hell, only that it had been hot, loud, terrifying and worse than anything he could've ever have imagined. To think of Dean there now…it was enough to crush any man's will. But now John Winchester stood outside the room of some rundown motel listening to his youngest screaming his grief to the heavens above.
Gripping the door handle, he gave it a twist and pushed inward. God help him, but the sight that met his eyes nearly brought him to his knees. Not an easy feat for a man like John. His youngest sat in the floor cradling his brother's bloodied, dead body to him, Dean's unseeing eyes staring accusingly at John from over Sam's shoulder.
At first, his mind refused to accept the image. He found himself suddenly flashing back to the first time he'd taken the boys to a carnival. It'd been five years after Mary's death, Dean had been nine and Sam five. The boys had laughed so hard and so much that their stomach muscles had clenched up in pain. Sam had loved the rides, Dean had loved watching Sam giggling uncontrollably with childish delight and John had loved watching his boys be boys.
It was the one and only carnival he'd ever taken them to. He couldn't remember why he'd given in that particular night, but he'd cherish that memory forever. Sam with cotton candy face and Dean with big eyes full of excitement.
Now, as his eldest stared back at him, he saw nothing but emptiness and blame. Pushing the door shut behind him, he walked toward Sam.
His shoes made no sound as he padded across the carpet, so when he gripped Sam's shoulder, the young man jerked around, startled. Then, as recognition set in, his son's eyes begged for the impossible. All John could do was echo his son's grief back to him. There would be no miracles today. John Winchester looked down at his younger son hugging his dead brother to him and wept. Wept for himself, wept for his sons, wept for the world's loss of another hero.
"Dad!" Sam whispered, shock still making his eyes wide. "You're alive. Is it really you…are you really here?"
John knelt beside his sons and drew Sam to him in a bear hug, feeling the warmth of one son and the cold of the other. How could life be so cruel and unforgiving?
"Yeah. Yeah, it's really me."
Sniffling against his dad's over shirt, Sam whimpered, "Help me fix Dean, Dad. Please…help me."
John's face tightened in a pained cringe and he squeezed the young man closer to him, stopping the motion of Sam's hands on his brother.
"I wish I could, Sam, but there's nothing we can do. He's gone, Son. Your brother's gone. I'm sorry."
"No. No." Sam levered Dean away to look down on his brother's pitifully broken body. "There's got to be something. Please, we can't just give up on him."
His voice bracing, sharp, John commanded, "Sam, you've got to listen to me. Dean's not coming back this time. He's gone. The deal he made can't be undone and he's gone."
Reaching out a trembling hand, John closed Dean's lids over dull green eyes.
Sam's head fell to meet his brother's as he nodded, saying, "I know. I know."
Carefully, they wrapped Dean's body in one of the blankets from the bed, preparing the body for the funeral pyre they'd yet to build. Leaving the room as it was, they gathered up Dean's belongings and dumped the stuff into the Impala's trunk.
John watched as Sam took one last look around the room. Spying the wadded up letter lying on the floor where it'd fallen earlier, John watched as his son crossed the floor and stooped to retrieve the crumpled paper. Sam tried to smooth the ridges out of it, holding it next to his body with unsteady hands.
Then, satisfied that he'd done his best, he pocketed his brother's parting words, flipped off the light and shut the door with a soft click. The old hunter gave his son one more squeeze on the shoulder before they turned to the Impala, the sight of the car almost sickening. Sam tossed his father the keys and together they left the death scene miles behind them.
As John Winchester stood next to his only living son, watching as the flames devoured his first born, he allowed his torment to wash over him. Foremost in his mind was the idea that he should've been able to prevent this. But how? He'd gone wrong somewhere, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what he was supposed to have done.
Dean, why did you do this? Together, you and Sam could've figured out another way to destroy the demon…and I'm not worth this, not this!
But there was no going back.
Through a haze of tears, Sam choked out, "I miss 'im, Dad. I just can't believe he's really gone."
Nodding and scarcely finding his voice, John replied, "Yeah."
Facing his father, the young man sniffled and then asked, "What now?"
The old hunter whispered, "I don't know, Sam. You could always go back to school." Then John looked into the swimming eyes of his son and continued, "It's what he'd want."
Sam held his father's gaze a moment longer, wondering how he'd known, then looked to the ground as he said, "Yeah, but I don't know if it's what I still want. I mean, after all this, it…just doesn't seem important anymore."
Giving Sam a sad smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, John laid a hand on his son's shoulder, saying, "Give it time, Sammy, give it time." John paused, and his smile became more genuine as he said, "I've got nowhere special to be. Why don't we go visit the Grand Canyon together?"
Smiling back through his tears, Sam answered, "I'd like that, Dad. I think Dean'd like that, too."
A/N: I want to give special thanks to Tidia for helping me brainstorm my way through this. She was elemental in making it come to life as it has. Also, thanks goes out to Mady Bay for her exemplary beta skills and for being my guinea pig on this.