"Crown of Thorns"

"Chapter: Fall from Grace"

The words the demon spoke to him crashed into his mind like harsh currents. They were electrifying thoughts that invaded his head like a disease. He knew demons lied. It was one of the first lessons he learned as a novice hunter. Never trust a demon no matter how sweet the lie. He had a name of a demon: Azazel. There was no harm in being cautious with what the demon told him, but he could check the demon out. If the demon had the same attributes as the demon who murdered Mary, then he would know who to go after once and for all.

He needed to leave the hospital. He needed to get his boys and get the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible. The very prospect that his sons were taken away from him burned at his heart. Dean would be all right. He was legal. Sammy was another story. If Sammy had told the truth, then he could have been carted off to a foster home by now.

The door to the room opened, and John's breath caught in his throat. Please be Dean. Please be Dean. When the door opened all the way, it was Caleb Lyons walking through the doorway and not his son.

"What the hell are you doing here?" questioned John as a smile worked its way on his face because he knew his boys were safe with Caleb.

"Apparently I'm playing godfather to your brat," he responded steadily as he walked towards his friend. "Care to tell me what the fuck happened?"
There were few people who had gained John's complete trust over the years and hadn't lost it. Jim Murphy and Caleb Lyons had always been there to look after his boys, with few exceptions. They were the only hunters he completely trusted who were still alive. If Bill Harvelle was still breathing, then he would be on the list as well. Any given day, he would gladly have Bill watching his back during a hunt. Too bad Bill couldn't say the same for him.

"A demon got into my mind and just… I don't know. I don't really remember," replied John as his face scrunched up in concentration.

"Yeah, well, there's lots of reports of people going psycho and killing loved ones before offing themselves as well." Caleb paused as he pulled up a chair. "There are definitely players in town."

"What kind of players?"

"Both demonic and hunting," he replied as he leaned back in the chair. "I was making some calls once I got here to claim temporary custody of Sammy - by the way, the kid is smart. He said Jimmy was his father and you were his uncle. Anyways, I made some calls to some friends. All of them said some serious demonic activity was cropping up around this area. There are at least ten different hunting groups camped around. You know the average demonic possession cases happening in a year is about three or four, right? This month alone in this lovely state it's already ten."

"They wanted to draw me out."

"Conceited much?"

"I'll explain later. Right now, get me and the boys out of here."

"You look too much like a patient to just walk out of here."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, when the demon laid it's mojo on you, it caused pressure to swell up in your brain which made you act out. You had brain surgery, my friend, and currently have some nifty white wrap on your bald head."

After a good ten minutes of careful planning, the hunters set their plan into motion. John changed clothes and sneaked out of the hospital window while Caleb told Dean to check out against medical advice. Within the next twenty minutes, the Winchesters and Caleb were in the Impala.

"I'm not staying with him," objected Sam. "No way in hell!"

"Sammy, stop," Dean murmured as he pulled his brother close to him. "Caleb, drive."

They drove for just over two hours before they crossed into Blue Earth, Minnesota. Even though the pastor wasn't home, they camped out at his house. John had a spare key to the house and let the small group in.

"Caleb, take Dean upstairs," ordered John.

The older hunter helped the younger one up the stairs. John watched wearily as the two made their way upstairs. His head was pounding and he felt disoriented. He could barely make out Sammy's presence.

"How could you hurt Dean like that?"

Sometime, just sometimes, John wanted to shake the kid. Sammy was defiant, stubborn, and sometimes the biggest pain-in-the-ass. Finding his way to the living room, John leaned back into the comfortable couch and waited for his youngest to press matters. Sam never stopped pushing.

"Dad, I'm talking to you."

"I was sick, Sammy," he whispered.

"It's Sam. You don't get to call me Sammy anymore."

Quirking an eye open, John stared at his son. The kid was beyond pissed. There wasn't trust in his eyes any longer. It felt like someone had stabbed John in the heart and twisted the rusty blade just to prove a point. Sammy went to hero-worshipping his father to hating him in a matter of a couple days because of some demon.

"Go check on your brother, Sam," John said in a defeated tone. "Just get the hell out of my sight."

A moment of hurt flashed through the kid's eyes before he turned and huffed up the stairs to the usual room the boys shared while staying with the pastor. John let out a deep sigh as he arched his back into the couch. When did things get so messy? When did their lives go from being all right to a complete disaster?

When Sam was fast asleep in a different room to give Dean some time to recover without the smaller boy checking on him every couple minutes, John went upstairs to sit by his older son's side. The kid had several bruises and cuts on his face and arms. He didn't even want to know the damage underneath Dean's clothes. Brushing a lock of hair away from the kid's forehead, he stirred awake.

"Dad?" his voice was thick with sleep.

"Hey, Dude, how you doing?"

"Better. How are you?"

A frown crossed John's face. Dean shouldn't be asking how his father was doing. Dean should be worried about himself for a change and not everybody else.

"I'm good. I'm real good now seeing you."

"Did you get it? The demon that…"

"Nah, I didn't get it. Look, Dean, whatever I said or did back there, I didn't mean it. It wasn't me."

Dean nodded slowly, but John knew the kid didn't believe it. Anyone that ever knew Dean knew that he took whatever was said to him to heart no matter what the circumstance was. The kid would forever be haunted by the fact that his father beat him and he would believe what was told to him even though John had no control over himself at the time. That was one fact that would forever haunt John as well.

"Do you need anything? I'm gonna be at your beck and call for as long as you need," John said with a small smile.

"Dad, can I ask you a question?"

"Yeah, sure, go right ahead."

"Do you… do you know what killed Mom?"

The question threw John aback. Why would he ask that now of all times? Swallowing hard, he shook his head in the negative. His hand left the boy's forehead and gripped Dean's hand tightly.

"I have theories, but I don't know for sure."

"What's your main theory?"

"I'm thinking a demon." John cleared his throat. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason."

Dean shook his head before closing his eyes and turning his face away from his father. John took that as his cue to leave.

Sam gave his father the silent treatment for the next few days. Dean was up and walking around. Caleb pushed John to tell him what the hell was going on. John waited for Jim Murphy to get home. Two days later, Jim walked into his home to find it full of houseguests.

"I didn't know I'd have company," he announced his presence in concern as he saw the bruises and cuts on Dean's face.

"Pastor Jim!" shouted Sam.

The smallest kid got up from the couch in the living room, where he'd been watching television with his brother, and rushed towards the pastor. Sam threw his arms around the man and held on as though the pastor was his only lifeline.

"Sammy, it's good to see you too. Dean, are you okay?"

"'M fine," he mumbled.

"Where's your father?"

The smile on Sam's face fell as he gestured towards the kitchen. He then retreated to the couch to sit with his big brother. John stood in the doorway watching the scene unfold in front of him. With a frown, he motioned his old friend into the kitchen where Caleb sat.

"What happened to you?"

"Had brain surgery. No biggie."

"John?" Jim questioned. "What in all that is holy happened?"

He ignored the question and sat down at the head of the small table. Jim sat across from Caleb as his gaze shifted between the two younger hunters. John leaned back in his chair and tilted it on two legs.

"A demon," Caleb replied. "Johnny's been messing with the wrong crowd."

"You had brain surgery because of a demon?"

"This demon is known as an Assassin Demon. It gets inside your brain, applies pressure, makes you hurt the people you love."

"Assassin Demon?" questioned Caleb. "Oh, this has got to be good."

Jim shot Caleb a look to shut up. The pastor didn't take well to people interrupting a story with sarcastic comments. He liked to hear all of the facts before discussing what exactly needed to be done.

"An Assassin Demon? Is that way both Sam and Dean are acting oddly?" asked Jim.

"Dean knew about the hunt. He knew that something was changing people so they attacked loved ones and then killed themselves. He knew everything. Sam knew very little. He doesn't even know that it was a demon that caused me to… he thinks it was purely medical and doesn't accept that."

"Why didn't you tell him the truth?"

"You know Dean and I keep Sammy in the dark with this stuff. Plus, it would just give him another reason to bitch and moan about hunting." John chuckled softly. "I'm not giving him more ammunition."

The chair fell onto all four legs with a loud thump! Folding his hands together, John leaned forward onto the table to get to the good information he had. All hunters had their specialties. Jim's forte was demons and all things dealing with religius lore. Perhaps the only person who knew more about demons was Bobby Singer. Except, John didn't feel like talking to the guy unless it was dire.

"You ever hear of a demon named Azazel?"

"'And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all coloring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.'" Jim recited. "Book of Enoch."

"So, this Azazel fell from grace?" questioned John.

"Azazel corrupted man and was doomed to damnation. 'On the day of great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.'"

John nodded as he tried to sort all the thoughts that were roaming wildly in his mind. If Azazel was real, John vowed that he would find the demon and kill it with his own two hands.

"John, what's going on?" Jim asked.

"The Assassin Demon told me it was hired to alter my mind so that all three of us would die."

"This demon… did it go by the name of Abaddon?"

"It didn't give a name. Why? Who's Abaddon?"

"Abaddon is known as 'The Destroyer'. He's identified as an angel of death and destruction, a demon of the abyss. He's known as a chief demon of the underworld hierarchy. Some even compare him to Satan and Samael," replied the pastor.

"Samael?"

"He's attributed to being the 'Angel of Death'."

John's head was spinning at the amount of information. The use of the word hierarchy by Jim made what this demon - Abaddon? - say more real. Running a weary hand down his face, John sighed deeply.

"If this demon is named Abaddon, it's a female demon," John said slowly to gather his thoughts. "How can Abaddon and Samael both be the 'Angel of Death'?"

"Samael is known as the 'Angel of Death'. Abaddon is known as the 'Angel of Death and Destruction'. I'm assuming it has the power to not only alter minds but a lot of other things as well. There's a story of how Abaddon was called upon by Moses to invoke the terrible rains of the Plague of Egypt."

"How would one go about summoning Abaddon?"

"You're off your rocker, Johnny," Caleb finally spoke with a scoff. "This demon chick alters your brain so you will kill your sons and you want to summon it?"

"I want answers, Caleb."

"Enough," Jim said sternly. "John, listen to me, summoning demons is not the way to go."

It was John's turn to scoff. He'd heard speeches like this all too often. John was impatient and a person who acted without thinking first. This demon had information on what killed Mary, and he was just supposed to sit around with his thumb up his ass?

"Screw you, Jim," he said. "I can summon the demon if I want."

"What, John? Are you going to summon Abaddon and Azazel to demand answers? They're powerful, so powerful that not even a Devil's Trap could hold them for long. Do you honestly have a death wish?"

"I've been hunting this demon for over a decade now, Jim, and this is my first real lead. I gotta know what happened to my Mary," John said in a cracked voice.

"What about Dean and Sam? They already lost their mother. Do you really want them to lose their father as well? To become orphans? Think rationally about this, John. Think about your sons."

"They'll be fine. Hell, they'll probably be better without me. They could have a chance at a normal life-"

"You stop right there, Jonathan Winchester," Jim seethed. "Those boys would be wrecked and you know that. You are all those boys have. You have been with them every step of the way. You have cared and protected them their whole lives. You may be fighting with Sam now, but that boy still loves you more than life itself. I will not stand back and watch you break those boys."

John let the words process in his mind. No. He couldn't do that to his sons. He couldn't risk dying and leave them to grow up without a father. Mary would never forgive him if he did that.

"Okay, we'll try it your way for now, Jim," whispered John. "Dean and Sam will not know anything about this. They will not know about Azazel or Abaddon or anything dealing with Mary's death. They are to be kept in the dark. Do you hear me?"

"Crystal," Jim replied.

"Nothing leaves this room. Caleb, do not discuss this with anybody else or you'll end up in a body bag - so help me God."

"That stings, Johnny," said Caleb. "You know I wouldn't do that."

"All right then," John said with a smile. "Let's kill some of evil sons-of-bitches and raise a little hell."


Author's Notes - Thanks for the fantastic ride with this piece. It's a huge set-up piece for the title piece of the series entilted "The Dark Horse" where everything will fall into place. Everything I've been building up in the series, especially with this story, will come full force. Thanks so much to my editor, Shannon, yet again. All mistakes left are my own. I hope you stay tuned for the next updates of the series.