James stepped into the building and smiled wearily.
"Hey, Dad." Amber enthused, hurrying closer to him.
Sam watched James hug his daughter warmly and press a kiss into the top of her head.
"Hey, baby." James murmured softly, pulling her tight against him. He then looked up and met Sam's hesitant frown. "You guys okay?"
Sam's mouth was dry. "Christo." He managed.
"Hey?" James smiled slightly, regarding Sam in wary concern.
The shrieking and wailing of panicking dogs and cats made them all wince suddenly. Sam spun towards the noise and his heart was in his throat.
"What's up with them?" Amber wondered aloud.
Sam was aware of the front door closing and the two of them heading towards him. He froze in the doorway of the reception, unsure what to do. In the corner of his eye he watched Amber and her father approach, their arms wrapped around each other. Along the hall, he could hear Caroline soothing the animals and he was certain she sounded just the same as before.
"I see the doctor has been hard at work."
Sam turned to James and saw him indicate the blue cast on his arm.
"You're lucky she didn't give you an anti-lick funnel round your neck."
Watching Amber chuckle in agreement, Sam managed a thin smile and then turned to meet James' steady gaze. "How's Dom?"
"Fine." James nodded, "I dropped him off at the trauma centre. But he'll not say anything about what happened."
Sam's pulse quickened, "Amber thought you were taking him home."
"What? No! I couldn't just dump him with that leg as it was." James countered, glancing down at his daughter. "It's okay, honey." He offered softly, giving her a gentle squeeze. "It's all over now."
And that clinched it. Shit. He's way too calm.
"Not quite, Dad." Amber sighed, "Sam thinks there's a demon after us."
James gasped and looked back up at Sam in horror. "What? The one that was in Dom?"
Sam took a deep breath, clenching his good hand at his side. "Maybe."
"Oh shit!" James hugged his daughter protectively.
"It's okay." Amber shrugged, smiling up at Sam. "We're making this place safe and Sam's family are on the way."
Sam watched James in interest. You're good. But not that good. You don't have him quite right. "Yeah." Sam smiled thinly, "Maybe you can help. We need to draw some more protective emblems to ward off the evil bastards."
James frowned and looked down at Amber, seeing her nod in agreement. "Okay …" He slipped his arm away from her and dragged his hands through his hair, groaning softly. "Man, it's gonna cost thousands in therapy to get over all this …"
"Maybe you should have gone that route in the first place." Sam offered carefully. The quick glare he was shot in return was understandable and he decided to let it go. But there was no way James was getting out of his sight. And I need some way to draw the evil bitch to the surface without putting the others in danger. I need Bobby. And fast.
"Amber, you think you can copy what I've drawn?" Sam asked, smiling as he saw her nodding eagerly. "Anywhere the salt is thin." He watched her hurry past him into the hallway and then he moved towards the front door.
Kneeling down, Sam evened out the salt line that had been scattered across the doormat. Watching the reflection in the glass door of James standing behind him, he sighed wearily.
"What can I do?"
Sam stood back up and turned slowly. "Does this place have a kitchen?"
"I think so." James shrugged and then smiled in understanding. "Coffee, huh?"
"I'll go check with Caroline."
Following him from the room, Sam could hear that the unsettled patients in the overnight pens were growing more upset the closer James got to them. His heart was pounding in his ears and his mind was running quickly through his options. Sure, you could probably handle the bitch. But Amber and Caroline will get caught in the crossfire and you can't chance that. Can you?
Caroline stepped from the kennel room, concerned as to who was approaching and worried about the animals screeching behind her. Seeing James, her shoulders fell and she glared at him in open hatred. "Why the hell are you back here?"
"I came to check on you and Amber." James shrugged, "Caroline, honey, I'm so - "
"Don't 'honey' me, you sick bastard!" Caroline spat angrily, advancing on him. "Get out of here. Now!"
James sighed, "Caroline, please …"
"No! Get the fuck away from us! NOW!"
Sam watched the stand off and held his breath. Aware of Amber hurrying into the hall behind him, he held out his good arm and stopped her beside him. Glancing down at her worried face, he quickly smiled and shook his head.
"Caroline, be reasonable!" James persisted wearily.
"NO! You're sick, James. You need help. And until then you stay the fuck away from Amber. You here me?" Her eyes flashed with fury and she strode closer to him. "Now get the fuck out of here before I call the police."
"You don't want to do that."
Sam shuddered, James was remaining so eerily calm and it was nothing like the disturbed, grieving man he had been previously. He was in fact so calm that his sudden lunge towards Caroline did not register at first. There was a pause before any of them realized what had happened and then Amber screamed.
It was hard to hold her back, his bandaged arm stiff and his ribs stabbing as he held her against him. Sam looked down at Caroline's unmoving form on the floor of the hall and his heart sank.
"No! Daddy, no!" Amber sobbed, fighting against Sam's grip and blinded by tears. "Daddy!"
Sam gasped in horror as Amber instantly became quiet and still. She sagged back into his arms and he could barely hold her, pain tearing through aching muscles. He could feel her trembling against him and heard her gentle whimpering, she was still conscious but being controlled somehow. Grunting with the effort, he lowered her to the floor and then looked up at James.
James turned slowly and gave a heavy sigh. His face still calm and expressionless, he regarded Sam in quiet interest.
"It's you … isn't it." Sam offered quietly, slowly getting to his feet.
"Hello again, Sam." James' mouth broke into a smile and his eyes turned black.
Sam shivered and took a step backwards, his head spinning.
"I was hoping to stay hidden for a little longer." James continued. "But this stupid bitch forced my hand." He nodded behind him towards the slumped body on the floor. "Women, huh?"
Sam glanced at Caroline and frowned in concern.
"We do get powerfully angry. Don't we?" James observed in amusement, "The more dangerous of the species, huh?"
"Except you're not human." Sam grated.
"True." James shrugged and stepped forwards. "But that doesn't mean I don't have feelings." His smile faded as he neared Sam. "Like grief … or sorrow."
Sam snorted, "Yeah, right."
"You of all people should know what it's like, Sammy. Finding him lying there … dead … gone."
He could not stop the image of his father's body on the floor of the hospital room and Sam swallowed back sudden tears.
"But … unlike you … I saw what happened." James continued forward and looked up at Sam with a slight frown. "I know it wasn't you that killed him."
Oh god, no. Dean! Sam stood his ground and tried to stay calm.
"And I've been waiting … biding my time until the moment was right." James suddenly gave a small chuckle. "Never in my wildest dreams was it a human that provided the opportunity to get my revenge."
Sam glanced past James to Caroline's still unmoving body and then looked down at Amber. She was watching her father through tear-filled, sorrowful eyes and appeared to still be in some strange kind of trance.
"They'll be okay." James waited for Sam to look back up at him and nodded in confirmation. "I have no interest in them. Only you. And, if you do as I say, I'll not harm them."
"What?" Sam's voice was tight and he cleared his throat. "What do you want?"
James smiled warmly up at him and gave a slight shrug. "For you to surrender to your destiny and embrace what you were born to be."
Sam backed off a little and quickly shook his head.
"Oh, come on. You've tasted only a small piece of the power you have inside." James' smile grew, "And I know better than anyone how much you enjoyed it."
"No!" Sam husked, his stomach flipping over.
"I've seen your soul, Sammy. I've been in your head." James' smile faded and he groaned softly, "In fact … it was only then that I really understood …" He closed his eyes and sighed. "I was so angry, so focused on revenge. I hated him for all his self-righteous prophesying and his damned stubborn plans."
Sam edged further back from James and frowned in confusion.
James opened his eyes and looked back at Sam. "You know what I mean. Don't you." His smile returned and he laughed slightly. "In fact, you and I are so very similar."
"No!" Sam argued in disgust, shaking his head, "I am nothing like you."
"Oh no?" James countered calmly, "You don't wish that you could have those moments back? To tell him what he meant to you and try to better understand him? You're not filled with this hollow, agonizing grief every time you realize that you can never make up for all that you wish you had never said?"
Sam gritted his teeth and steadied his breathing. She's playing with you, Sammy. Don't listen. Don't listen.
"And the worst thing is I never saw that he was right. About everything. Not until he was gone." James sniffed back tears and gave another gentle shrug. "And I have you to thank for that."
Sam stared at James in as calm a disinterest as he could manage, his heart racing.
"I sensed the power within you, Sam. And it's still there, waiting to be developed."
"Yes." James urged, hurrying closer, reaching out towards Sam. "You have no idea of the potential within you."
"NO!" Sam swiped James' hands away from him and retreated along the hall.
James paused and studied Sam in interest for a moment. "No matter. You will understand. When your brother gets here and I send him down to the fires for the murder of my father, you will have nowhere else to turn."
"NO!" Shouting angrily and suddenly advancing on James, Sam felt the air around them move and he froze in fright.
"See?" James laughed in delight, "See what you can do?"
Don't listen. Don't listen. Don't listen.
"You just wait, Sammy. It feels so good to use it. Soon you won't be able to get enough."
"No." Sam backed through the door to the reception and watched James follow.
James sighed in dismay and his shoulders sank. "You can't fight the inevitable. Just let it happen."
Oh, I can fight. I will fight with everything I have. Sam paused in the middle of the reception room and took a deep breath. "You're wrong."
James gave a confident shake of his head.
"I write my own destiny." Sam continued evenly, "And only I decide what I'll do with my future." Dean would be so proud right now. "And I'm going to destroy every last one of you." He watched James laugh in delight and renewed anger surged within him. Sam let it build and could feel it grow within him. It frightened him and gave him hope at the same time.
"Such a waste." James sighed in pity.
"I disagree." Sam whispered and focused inward, tapping the fury swirling inside him. It surprised him how easy it was to gather the energy stored there and it scared him that it even existed. But he had known for some time now just what was growing within him and it haunted his dreams.
She was right. The demon within James -- the one that smiled through him now with unbelievable darkness -- had stirred something within Sam when she had forced herself inside him. It had lain there unseen, lurking in the shadowy corners of his mind, and over the past week it had started to emerge. It scared him more than ever but he had kept the secret to himself, unsure exactly what it meant and not certain how those around him would react.
"You were meant to lead us, Sam."
Sam was torn from his thoughts and met James' black, soulless eyes. "No." He smiled and shook his head. "I am going to defeat you."
It was part thought and part physical action. The energy was almost an extension of his hand and flowed unseen from his fingers. Sam flung his arm across the air in front of him and felt a strange connection as whatever he had created slammed into James and sent him flying across the room.
James thudded against the wall and slid down to the floor, groaning in pain but also laughing in delight.
Sam ignored the amusement and quickly glared at the door to the reception, seeing it instantly slam shut on his command. Hurrying over to the door, he quickly drew another encircled pentagram on the white wood and turned back into the room.
"What?" James was getting to his feet and brushing himself down. "You think you can trap me here?"
"For a short while, yeah." Sam sighed, walking slowly towards him. He flicked his hand out towards James and saw him flung backwards, pinned against the wall.
Stepping up before the struggling demon within James, Sam smiled merrily. "You're scared. Aren't you."
"Of you?" James spat angrily, "Don't flatter yourself!"
Sam moved in closer and his smile grew. "No. I can sense it. You're pissing in your pants, bitch."
Sam laughed in delight, "You know, that first day I met you, when you were wearing that cute blonde body, that's exactly what I would have done." His smile faded and he took a deep breath. "But now." He sighed in contentment and leaned in closer. "For her and for everyone else you harmed ... I'm gonna fuck you up."
"No?" Sam quirked an eyebrow and shrugged his shoulders, "And just a second ago you were preaching about the power within me." He saw the fear that crossed James' face and his smile returned. "I think you're about to become a test for exactly what it is that I can do."
"No!" James gasped in horror.
Sam was so intent on glaring into the black eyes suddenly so full of fear that he did not register the smashing of the glass front door. Neither did he see the two men that hurried into the building and stared at him in stunned horror.
Turning suddenly, his eyes falling on the uncertain gaze of his brother, the breath left Sam's body in a weary groan. His shoulders fell and he smiled in delighted relief. It was enough time for his focus to fail and James slipped down the wall, free from Sam's hold.
"Sam! Drop!"Without a second thought, Sam sank to the floor. He heard Bobby's grunt of effort and saw the blur of some kind of weapon shooting over him. The iron rod sank into James' shoulder and through to the wall behind, pinning him in place. He yelled in pain and his legs crumpled under him, leaving him hanging there limply. Bobby was across the room in a heartbeat, splashing James' screaming form with holy water. Satisfied that the demon was crippled enough for the time being, Bobby climbed up onto one of the waiting room chairs in the reception and began to draw chalk symbols on the roof.
Sam fell from his crouch to a crumpled heap on the floor and sighed in exhaustion.
Turning his head towards his brother's voice, Sam saw Dean hurry over and kneel down beside him. Dean's face was filled with questions and Sam shook his head slowly as he tried to sit up. Everything hurt with a new intensity and he winced in pain as he clutched his bandaged arm to his chest.
"Oh god, Sammy. Look at you …"
Sam felt Dean's hands on his shoulders and leaned forward into the touch. He was quickly embraced and he leaned his cheek against Dean's chest. Exhaustion and pain threatened to tear down the last of his defenses and he could feel tears brewing.
"It's okay." Dean whispered quietly, holding Sam as tightly as he dared. "I've got you."
The firm grasp of his brother's arms hurt his ribs but he was past caring. Suddenly longing to crumble into sobs and just keep crying, Sam closed his eyes and focused on steadying his hitched breaths.
"Hey, Sammy. It's okay, now."
"Yeah." Sam pushed back from his brother and smiled tearfully up at him. "It's good to see you, man."
Dean smiled and nodded quietly.
Sam then heard the beginnings of a familiar Latin incantation and he turned his head to see Bobby standing in front of James. The scruffy old hunter was reading the precise phrasing from his journal and the ritual was working well.
James hissed and spat, glaring angrily at Bobby. "I'll find my way out, you fucking bastards. And I'll kill you all!"
"Yeah, good luck with that." Dean offered dryly, helping Sam get to his feet.
James laughed suddenly and turned to Dean, pure hatred in his black eyes. "Oh, you smug son-of-a-bitch! You have no idea what you did." He glanced at Sam and his smile grew. "What you created."
Sam was aware of his brother shooting a wary glance in his direction and kept his focus on James. He saw the shudders that swept through his body and heard the demon crying in pain as Bobby continued. "If you do get out," He offered calmly, stepping closer, "Come find us." Sam smiled icily, "I'll be ready for you, bitch."
Bobby completed the incantation and James screamed. Arching his neck and yelling at the ceiling, the black cloud billowed from his mouth. It was sucked into the chalk design on the ceiling and was gone.
Sam nodded in satisfaction and sighed wearily. Now it was definitely over, he suddenly felt the room spinning and his knees buckled beneath him.
Strong arms caught him and lowered him carefully to the floor. Sam leaned back into his brother's embrace and closed his eyes.
"Sammy?" Dean urged.
"Yeah." Sam whispered, "I'm ... I'm here."
"Are there any others?" Bobby asked worriedly.
Sam shook his head and lifted his good arm to point at the door behind him. He heard Bobby hurry across the room and open the door. Amber and Caroline could both be heard crying in the hallway and Sam sighed in relief.
"What the hell happened, Sammy?"
"Later." Sam breathed, resting his head back on Dean's shoulder. "Tired."
"No shit." Dean laughed softly, "You look like holy hell."
"I was so worried, Sammy." Dean offered, his voice cracking.
Sam felt his brother lean his head down against his and took a moment to enjoy the closeness. "Sorry."
"So you should be. Bitch."
Dean laughed softly, "Come on, you wimp. Let's get you up." He moved back and slipped his arms under Sam's shoulders, quickly apologizing when his brother whimpered in pain. Helping him from the floor, Dean grunted with the effort. "Jeez, you're heavy."
Sam let himself be guided over to one of the plastic chairs. He sank against his brother heavily and smiled gratefully as Dean wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Keeping his eyes closed he was vaguely aware of Amber rushing into the room and crying out as she saw her father.
Caroline. Sam blinked his eyes open and smiled weakly up at her.
"Oh, he'll be fine." Dean offered lightly, "He's just milking it."
Sam's smile grew.
"Oh, I think he's in pretty bad shape." Caroline countered.
The arm around him squeezed him tighter and Sam could feel Dean nodding.
"We'll look after him." Dean assured.
What? That's it? You're not fishing for her number? Man, I must be in quite a mess. Sam sighed and sank a little more against his brother.
"Hey. It's okay." Dean whispered, "Let's just see this guy is okay and then we'll find you a nice soft bed. Sam?"
Sam nodded an affirmative. Shit, Dean. If you knew who this guy was … The thought sent a shudder through him and that generated another reassuring squeeze from his brother. It felt good and he could feel fresh tears stinging. God, Dean, I'm scared, man. I'm so scared.
"Okay, we'd better go."
Bobby's voice brought Sam out of his musing and he felt Dean begin to move away from him. He let himself be lifted to his feet and staggered between the two of them, the world dancing around him as he was led out to the waiting car.The wide back seat was surprisingly comfortable but he supposed that just about anything soft would be bliss after metal exam table or concrete. He shuddered at the memory and let his head sink back against the jacket Dean placed on the door as a makeshift pillow. His feet were lifted up onto the seat and a warm blanket was thrown over him. He was then aware of someone planting a kiss on his cheek and he forced his eyes open.
"Sorry. All out of bones." Caroline smiled down at him and then sighed heavily. "Thank you, Sam."
Sam looked into her blood-shot eyes and understood her meaning. He nodded slightly and closed his eyes. Feeling the car rocking as she climbed back out, he then heard his brother offering a number to call if she needed to talk. Smooth. Sam smiled to himself and sighed in dismay. Still. I wouldn't have you any other way.
Suddenly feeling very safe and unbelievably tired, Sam let his body sink into the seat. He was vaguely aware of Amber saying a tearful goodbye and was sure he heard sirens in the distance. Then he felt the movement of the car as Dean and Bobby climbed into the front.
The quieter noise of the newer car's engine starting up seemed wrong somehow. Then he thought he heard Dean remarking to Bobby something about the vet being 'shit-hot' and Sam knew everything was as it should be. Even the nagging doubt somewhere in the pit of his stomach that there were going to be questions he could not answer and uncertainties that he would probably never settle. But his brother was sitting at arm's length from him and complaining about the sensible 'mom-mobile' that Bobby had hot-wired. Sam heard Bobby's gruff reply and sensed the affection in which it was said.
"You okay, Sammy?"
Sam quirked an eye open and saw his brother leaning round to look at him. He nodded a reply.
"You know, I even packed you a pair of those pansy new shorts."
Sam grinned merrily.
"And I had to get on a plane." Dean groaned, watching his brother in the rear-view mirror. "You have any clue how much of a pain in my ass you are?"
Sam licked his dry lips and laughed wearily. "Love you too, man." He replied in a whisper and saw his brother smiling happily.
Dean cleared his throat and shrugged as he flicked on the radio.
Sam closed his eyes and knew he could at last give in to his exhaustion. Safe. Sudden adrenaline surged at the notion and every injury seemed to remind him just how wrong he was. Dean's gonna freak. And Bobby's gonna give me that 'what the hell ARE you?' look of his. He clenched his good hand into a tight fist and tried to calm his breathing.
And then the voice in his head that sounded so much like his dad started soothing him softly. And it felt so good to find a warm memory of the man, instead of misunderstanding and unresolved guilt from fighting with him. Recalling nights from long in the past when he would rush to the open front door to grab his father's leg and beg him not to leave them alone again, he could see his dad's smiling face and feel the gentle touch of his hand ruffling his hair. Dean's right here, Sammy. Everything will be okay. He swallowed back his tears and let contented sleep at last wash over him.
-- FIN --