A/N: I am really sorry about the long delay in updating this story. Wouldn't blame you if you guys refused to read it. I'm sorry. I have NO excuse.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dean, Sam or John. And I'm not very happy about it, either.
"That was it? That all you got?" the demon sneers. Dean's hand tightens around the soft underside of John's throat. All around them the wind picks up in the wall cloud. Lightning flashes. Thunder rolls, deep and hollow, making the ground shake.
John's grin stretches almost from ear to ear, bright and unnatural. Dean doesn't flinch. He shows no sign of disgust, and the demon sighs and shakes John's head.
"No wisecracks? None of that famous Winchester black humor? No? Oh well." The demon throws John's arms out wide. "Go ahead, boychick. Do your worst. I'm pretty sure Papa John won't mind it a bit. He'd tell you not to give yourself up for him. Tell you to take your shot and put us down for good. So go ahead, Deano. Do it. But make it slow, will ya? I wanna hear this old boy scream until his lungs bleed and burst."
They stare at each other hard then, dark gold locked onto pitch black.
Three seconds later, Dean blinks. Dark gold fades back into tired hazel green.
"I thought so," the demon rumbles softly.
Dean's shoulders sag as his fingers loosen from around John's throat. Dean drops his gaze, stares at a point down and to the right of John's left shoulder. His fingertips skate limply over John's chest.
"It's okay," the demon purrs roughly. He gently pats the side of Dean's face. Dean raises his head slowly, looks him in the eye, wearily, suddenly horribly young and vulnerable.
"You never had a chance. You know that, don't you?" It's a good imitation of John's voice, rough and gentle.
Dean shudders at the sound. "Don't hurt him anymore…please…"
"I won't. You do as I say, and I won't."
Dean nods, numbly, dully, and the demon pats the side of his face again. "That's my boy. We're going on a little trip now. You know where. Before we go, though, I want you to do something for me. I want your juice. Your power. It's such a little thing, Dean. You won't be needing it anymore, not where you're going. You'll be with John, and soon little Sammy is gonna be joining you down there too. One big happy family, together again. Won't that be nice?"
The demon leans forward. A tinge of sulfur breath brushes against Dean's right ear. "I could stop John's heart, kiddo. Right freakin' now."
Dean takes a shallow breath, raises his right hand, and the air around his fingers pulses dark gold.
"Give it to me, boy."
The demon black eyes swirl with golden color. John's mouth drops open, and his eyes widen. He's lit up from within, black smoke and bright light that streams out of the pores of his skin, his eyes, nose and mouth.
John groans. He slumps forward, leaning heavily against Dean. Dean takes John's weight and straightens up, one arm around John's waist, the other one around John's shoulders. The demon flows out of John's body, a thundercloud of black smoke interspersed with golden light.
"D-Dean?" John croaks.
Dean smiles a little.
The cloud stretches upward, over their heads. A gigantic face forms, hollow black eyes and a cavernous mouth. The demon laughs, a loud booming growl of noise that rivals thunder.
"DID YOU REALLY THINK I WAS GOING TO GO BACK DOWN TO HELL, LITTLE MAN? WITH ALL OF THIS…POWER? SO MUCH, AND IT'S MINE, ALL MINE..…"
"We're….screwed…" John whispers dazedly. "It lied."
"Yeah," Dean says calmly. "It did."
"I PROMISED I'D SEND YOU TWO BACK TO HELL," the demon booms. "NEVER SAID YOU'D BE IN ONE PIECE."
The demon rushes down towards them, eyes slitted, mouth open, jagged spikes of energy sharp and lethal. As if in answer, the wind picks up, ruffling John and Dean's hair and clothes. The demon roars, loud and triumphant. It's almost on top of them when the light inside the demon cloud pulses dark gold and pinpoints of light speckle its roiling black hide like fireflies.
John lifts his head. If these are his last moments, he'll spend them on his feet. He pushes himself upright, and that's when he senses the onrushing power in the air.
He recognizes it.
Four years old, giggling when John ruffled his hair.
Running through the house, happy, excited. "I'm gonna have a baby brother!"
Pastor Jim's place. After the...afterwards. Climbing up into the cot with John. Solemn, with a little boy's wide eyes. "It's okay, Dad. It's okay."
The points of light expand, punch through the cloudskin, and the demon's eyes widen. Its mouth gapes open as it shakes its head from side to side in disbelief.
"Is this a good thing?"
Dean nods, the corners of his mouth upturned in a slight smile.
The points of light, so much like fireflies, tumble through the air, and the black smoke of the demon turns grey, then dead white, as the power rushes home.
Back to Dean, where it belongs.
Dean opens himself up to it, and his skin and eyes fairly glow for a moment, from his head down to his boots, as the fireflies and points of light sink beneath his skin.
A light breeze swirls around them. Everything stops.
The wind, the lightning, and thunder. The wall clouds continue their slow, lazy turn, silent now.
Tendrils of white smoke hang in the air. The back of John's skull prickles slightly as the demon sends out its dying declaration, a faint unwelcome whisper.
Dean hugs John to him, listens to his Dad's heartbeat, a sound he never thought he'd hear ever again.
Dean smiles again, broader this time. "Hi, Dad."
"Hey, kiddo," John says softly.
I'll be damned, Sam thinks to himself. He watches the spirits drift and float above the food court, then he scowls darkly when he realizes what he said.
Whoa. Poor choice of words.
He's seen this kind of thing all his life, just not in broad open daylight. Not among the living like this. As the child of a hunter Sam knows that the dead can be anywhere, everywhere. He never realized that even while he was living life as a hunter, there were some things he was better off not seeing, twenty four/seven.
Sam drinks his soda, and he tries not to stare as the ghost of this high school girl stands there staring banefully at the five cheerleaders sitting at the table nearby.
He knows why she hates them. They're everything she wasn't in life. They're athletic. She wasn't. She had to work at being popular, and Sam knows somehow that she wasn't very good at it.
Her pale skin is grey around the edges, and the bluish tinge around her mouth and mouth is more solid than the rest of her. Her long blonde hair hangs dull and lifeless around her face. She's still dressed in the clothes they buried her in, a simple navy blue suit.
Her feet are bare. Sam can still see the marks where she slashed her wrists.
Sam leaves what's left of the roast beef sandwich, gets up and busses his tray. Several of the black eyes track him, their eyes alternating from pitch black to grey, brown, or hazel, as they hide behind their newspapers, their magazines.
Sam doesn't react. He shoulders his backpack, feels the familiar weight of the gun inside. He could duck inside the men's room, go into a stall and pull it out, put it in his back waistband underneath his jacket, but he has a bad feeling about that. They'd follow him inside, and the idea of being cornered in some men's room just doesn't appeal.
So he heads for the street, almost lazily, just another tall, cute black kid out for the day at the mall. Sam recalls Dad telling him that one of the gifts God gave man was the ability to bless things with simple prayers. A good idea is a good idea, so Sam stops at this little kiosk store and buys four tall bottles of water.
At $5.50 a bottle, that's some expensive holy water.
John takes one look at the silent figure on the bed and his knees buckle. He barely feels Dean's solid grip on his elbow, holding him up. John barely feels the chair that Dean puts underneath him, guides him into.
"Oh God…Sam," John whispers hoarsely. "Sammy…" He sits there, and he forgets to breathe but he does it anyway, grief squeezing his chest closed, the air in his lungs razor sharp.
Sam looks like he's asleep. John could fool himself, pretend that's all, but there's no rise and fall of Sam's chest, no breath sounds. Sam's perfect, frozen in time. John wants to reach out, brush his youngest son's hair away from his forehead ---
---kid needs a haircut ---
But if he touches Sam, Sam's skin will be cold, lifeless, and John knows he just couldn't stand that.
Dean's hand squeezes John's shoulder, firm at first, then John feels this tremor ripple through Dean's fingers.
Dean deflates. He sinks down to the floor beside John, sits cross-legged just like he has countless times in his life, when he was younger mostly. John glances at the back of his eldest son's head, and he sees those broad sturdy shoulders tremble inside his brown leather jacket.
"I…I couldn't save him, y' know? I tried." Dean's voice cracks as he bows his head, pulls a great hitching lungful of air into his chest. He shakes his head. "Dad, I tried. I did. But…I can make this right. I can. I'll get Sam back. Mom too. I'll get them back." Dean angles his head to the side just then, and John sees his eyes spark bright gold.
"We'll live where ever we want." Dean whispers. "Nobody will take anything away from us anymore. Nobody. We all gave enough. We've suffered enough. Not gonna allow it. Not anymore."
He's my son, John thinks to himself. Doesn't matter how he got this way. Doesn't matter what he's done.
John sees Dean standing untouched in the middle of a roaring inferno, and the fire softly caresses his skin with a lover's touch.
The demon's dying declaration echoes faintly inside John's head, before it fades away forever: You'll be the end of him, John-boy. Your precious son. Heaven and hell won't be able to touch him, but you, you'll bring him to his knees.
TBC later on this week