A/N: This is a long chapter, as befits the start of the Show. Also, the views and opinions that Dark expresses concerning a certain James Bond movie is all his own, even though I happen to feel the same way. I do like Paul McCarthy, though.

Disclaimer: I know I don't own 'em. You know I don't own 'em. Must you torment me with this cruel knowledge?


Chapter 22 – The Last Great Show on Earth, Act 1

The Fixer's eyes flash blue, like lightning on a distant horizon. She can hear Dark screaming, so she knows he's been taken. The Fixer cocks Ronnie's head to one side as she listens. Dark's scream is more rageful than fearful, and Ronnie smiles a little.

He's strong, her favored one, despite his human quirks and stubbornness sometimes. The day he began his lessons in spellwork, he started small at first, but moved on and up soon after that. From simple levitation to countermeasures to transport spells, she'd never seen anyone catch on as quickly as he did.

She casts outward with her senses. The Ursi Taku horde has greater numbers. They've closed the pathways up from hell in South Dakota so that only their followers can come topside. The rest of Azazel's group has to fall back, to other locations in other states, find another way to come to the surface.

Damn humans. They always assumed that when Hell came to earth demons would be united against them. That just wasn't so. Just another cosmic joke, misinformation spread by the other side.

She can hear Dark's rough whisper inside her head.

.quae ab illo inventore veritatis…

Tia knows her boy and knows exactly what he's planning then.

et quasi architecto beatae…

The Fixer directs her demon horde to cluster together in a tight bunch. They look at her, puzzled. It's not what she told them to do before, but this isn't a democracy. It's no questions asked or die.

They do as she says, eight hundred of them crowding together in that tight space. She casts a protection spell, one that buzzes and snaps in the air like scratchy black electricity all around them, and they wait.

000

Uriel turns the air around them murky with his disapproval. "He doesn't believe," he says shortly.

Castiel nods. "I know."

"He has no faith," Uriel mutters darkly. "He didn't believe even when his human father told him."

"That's true."

Another nod. "Are you questioning the plan?"

"You know I'm not. Still, to put everything on this one's shoulders. He's willful. A disbeliever, and Nephilim besides."

"Mysterious ways, brother."

"I suppose. He's Chosen, even with all his faults. If he wins…"

"If." Castiel spreads his wings gloriously wide. "It's just getting started."

000

Dean thinks of Bobby staring sightlessly at him, his life's blood staining the carpet underneath him. He sees Adin driving his body, one wing dripping with blood, and the smile on Adin's face -- his face -- makes Dean's blood boil.

It has to stop. Right here, right now.

He's losing it now, bits and pieces fading away. He can't remember who his high school English teacher was anymore, can't remember the name of the first girl he ever kissed. Can't even remember the name of the town where he and Sam were before the crossroads bitch took him from that basement. Dean rifles almost frantically through the memories (Caleb, Pastor Jim, Blue Earth, Cassie) searching for the fragments that'll do him the most good.

"Bobby, this book…I've never seen anything like it," Sam says.

"'Key of Salomon'." Bobby answers gruffly. "It's real deal, alright?"

That's it. Not gone. Not yet. Dean breathes a sigh of relief as he spreads his wings wide. He pours it on, sends all his energy out into the headspace. He sees the Key of Salamon in his head, the sigils and circles, the intricate drawings and diagrams. It hurts like a bitch in his skin, and he ignores the pain. He sees Azazel down below, growling, screaming and hissing.

Bastard sounds afraid, really scared, and for the first time in a while Dean actually smiles.

000

The earth tunes up for the show. She clears her throat. In the rest of the world she's silent. In the continental United States she screams like a banshee.

People and animals respond in different ways.

Dead fish turn up by the thousands, off the southern coast of California, along with blue whales, dolphins, killer whales, walrus, sea otters, and the bloated corpses of several giant squid the size of cruise ships.

An apartment building in Chicago, Illinois burns to the ground with over two hundred fatalities. Firefighters reported that the tenants in the building refused to leave. The victims smiled and embraced the flames.

The Mississippi River turns blood red, from Cairo Illinois all the way down through St. Louis, on to the Gulf of Mexico.

A decorated member of the New Orleans SWAT team goes on a rampage, patiently killing seventy eight people from a rooftop with a rifle before blowing his own head off. He leaves behind drawings, sketches of a dark figure with wings.

Several skyscrapers in downtown St. Louis and Chicago are damaged when hundreds of doves and pigeons slam into the glass walls of the buildings. Shards of glass falling to the sidewalks below decapitate eighty seven people in the bustling lunch-time crowds.

Thirteen people are killed in Modesto, California, stung to death by Africanized bees.

Road rage takes on a whole new meaning when a tractor trailer driver on I-45 along the California coast decide to play bumper cars. Fifty seven people are killed. The trucker, a Camilla Ferris out of Las Vegas Nevada, is finally captured and subdued by police. When cops finally pull Ferris out of the bullet-riddled cab of her truck she babbles about black smoke and men with yellow eyes.

The temperature in New York City drops sixty degrees in eight hours; snow falls.

In Montana twelve people stop their cars on a highway overpass and jump off, falling to the roadway below. The death total reaches thirty and climbing.

Shoppers at a Wal-Mart superstore in Dayton, Ohio turn violent and dismember several store employees.

Unseasonably warm weather in the nineties surges up into Canada, around the Great Lakes. Vancouver British Columbia swelters in 100 degree heat.

The time for small signs and omens is over.

000

Bobby sees it. He's looking Adin right in the eyes when it happens. Dean's not the one driving that body. Bobby knows that, but he stills feels sick to his stomach. He remembers what Dean told him.

I'll do what I can to slow them down, give you a chance.

Kid was true to his word.

The right side of Adin's face sinks in slightly, just enough to turn half of those perfect angel features bruised purplish black. Capillaries in Adin's right eye burst and that golden eye color is submerged in a river of bright red blood.

Adin staggers forward, a few stumbling steps, and his remaining good golden eye focuses on Bobby in bewilderment and confusion. He can't understand this. Doesn't know why this is happening.

Getting soft in your old age, Singer, Bobby thinks to himself. Never mind that moments before this…this thing actually laughed as it skewered him with those razor sharp feathers. Damn it, Dean might not be driving now, but that's still Dean's body, and Bobby hates that it had to come to this.

Adin sways on his feet for a few more seconds, then his head rocks back and he goes boneless. His wings slump and he collapses to the floor, just as Sam struggles up.

000

going to help you see the light…

Something deep inside Sam unfurls slowly, freed from the layers that bound it so tightly. His mind expands upward and outward. The sound reaches him first. It's ocean waves, the tide coming in and out, deep and rolling. He floats, rides the waves of sound and air around him.

The tide flows out to sea, and Sam remembers. He sees John and Dean, Bobby and Pastor Jim.

Sight and sounds flood into him. The taste of Jess's mouth, the smooth feel of her skin.

The rumble of the Impala's engine full out on the highway, Sam waking up with the sun on the horizon just past the Impala's windshield, and when he glances to his right Dean's there, a slight smile on his face, his profile lit up by the sun…

Bobby's place, the air filled with the scent of dried herbs and chili and dusty books.

Bacon and eggs in the morning, hot coffee, salt and sulfur and blood and flames…

The tide recedes, and Sam is pulled backwards, into his past.

His mother's heartbeat echoes in his ears.

He giggles as Amaris wriggles her toes in the sand. She stands there blinking in the sunlight with her hand over her gently swollen belly. He kicks a little inside her, and it's Amaris' turn to laugh.

It's not time to come out yet, but he makes his presence known.

My boy, Azazel thinks to himself, my beautiful baby boy.

There's a vibration that comes from Azazel, one that unborn, unnamed Sam isn't quite sure about. He gets quiet each time father is around. He has no doubt his father loves him, but some young ones are always skittish around their male parents.

The tide goes out, and the little one hears an echo.

If you walk out of that door then don't come back, Sam, John snarls.

The tide slides back onto the beach, and none of that matters anymore.

They haven't given him a name yet. He hears some of the names they discuss, and he doesn't like any of them.

Ari, Matai, Arnon, Leshem...

No, no, no, no. He kicks each time he hears one. The one name he likes the best is the one that's already taken.

Adin.

He knows Adin is his big brother. He can feel him each time the boy gently puts his hand on Amaris' belly. He can see him, and it's not fair. He's tall, freckled and tanned, bleached blond from the sun, and his ice blue wings are impressive and beautiful.

The little unnamed one's own stubby little wings flap weakly inside the womb, and somehow Adin knows. He laughs.

The tide goes out, and Sam comes back to the present.

"What? You don't wanna go flying with your big brother, is that it?" Sam doesn't like that gleam in Dean's eye.

The tide surges back onto the shore --

"Stop being so impatient, brother," Adin says with a grin. "I'll teach you how to fly when you finally come out."

What's out in the ocean is a faint echo, overlapping all else…

"You're not afraid of flying, are you, Sammy? I fly just as good as I drive."

Back again, cocooned inside his mother's womb. The unborn son gets bigger and stronger each day. It's nearly time, but there's tension in the air.

He doesn't like the way some of the others look at his mother. He doesn't like the thoughts he hears inside their heads.

carrying his child, too, that monster...

She feels the tension in the air too. She senses it, even though she can't hear like he can.

shouldn't be allowed to live…

On the last day of his life the little unnamed one known later as Sam Winchester scents blood in the air. He kicks and fusses inside her, but Amaris doesn't listen, she can't hear him, and Adin's not around.

The baby screams as the mob gathers around his mother. When the first stone smashes into the side of her face he screams loud and long, but no one comes, no one hears…

no…noooooo…

The tide goes back out to sea, and it all comes rushing back over Sam. His breath hitches in his throat and it's dark. His head is filled with her failing heartbeat, and he hears screaming, and he's not even aware that it's him, even when Bobby pulls him up on his knees.

Sam sees Adin--sees Dean--lying on his side nearby, his wings limp over him, still and quiet. Sam pushes Bobby away, lunges forward to be with his brother, and he can't hear himself sobbing brokenly, can't hear himself moan over and over "..don't leave me…please don't leave me…"

000

YOU'RE MINE,Azazel rages against the wind, fire and light. YOU WERE MINE BEFORE ALL ELSE, BEFORE HEAVEN FUCKED WITH YOUR HEAD AND TRIED TO USE YOU AGAINST ME. MINE! MINE! MINE!

The light's all around him, the damnable light. It melts the buildings into the ground. The air rips into Azazel's skin and his clothing. He's faded round the edges, but he's too much of a bastard to just lay down and die. Not just yet anyway. He whispers black countermeasures under his breath in reverse Latin, and the air around him quiets just a bit. It's only temporary, and the Demon knows it.

He stares up at Dean, and he hates the sight of the damn boy, more than he ever thought he could. Dean shines so brightly he eclipses that fake sun in this place. Storm clouds swirl and boil in the turbulent air all around him. His wings are outstretched, shining glowing blades of blue flame and golden light.

Azazel snarls at the sight of him. He's not heaven born. He's not, the Demon snarls under his breath. They're using you boy, and you're too stupid to realize it. It's not fair, it's not right. Dean wouldn't even exist if it hadn't been for him.

Azazel's skin bubbles and runs as he calls up protection in ancient Sumerian. He growls under his breath, dark rumbling sounds, as another tremor rumbles through the ground underneath his feet and knocks him onto his knees.

His hand brushes up against a large shard of yellow crystal. It's about the length of his forearm, as big around as his wrist. Azazel's working on instinct now, using everything he's got. This can't be the end, it can't be, but if it is then he's only too glad to drag Dean Adin down with him. He doesn't care about Adin. The boy's failed him again, obviously. Failed him, and bringing Dean down is something that Azazel has to do himself.

He grabs ahold of the shard, and he prays into it, forces his intentions deep inside the crystal. The yellow darkens, streaked with blackness and madness. The air around it buzzes and sizzles as Azazel digs his fingers into the slick yellow surface. He leaves his fingerprints burned into the yellow, and it's only fitting, just one more thing to impress into the damned thing.

The ground shakes and trembles, nearly dropping out from under his feet. Azazel's eyes turn blackish yellow as he stares upward into Dean's light.

Azazel throws the shard into the air, and it whistles as it tumbles end over end, streaking towards its target. Azazel wills it to fly high, wills it pierce Dean's heart.

This is all he's got, and it has to do.

000

Dark can still remember just about every marine lecture John Winchester ever gave Dean. If it was useful, which meant if it involved strategies and killing, Dark settled himself and listened intently.

"I don't ever want to see you make a habit of this, Dean."

voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur…

Dark coughs out clouds of blue light. There's a buzzing and rumbling in his head and chest, and the space around his heart feels like it's stuffed with razor sharp glass. His throat's raw, the air he breathes in is splintered like broken glass.

"You have to pick your spots."

aut odit aut fugit, sed quia…

Ellen laughs, a low rumble that rattles branches, and shakes the ground.

"You do the research, have a backup plan in case things go south."

He's on his hands and knees now, his wings mantling the air around him. No one's holding him down. This bitch is standing a few feet away, and he wants to rise up, walk over and put his hands around her throat, but he has to concentrate. He has to…

totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa…

Ellen turns around as Dark tries to put one knee up. "Sit."

His eyes widen as he sits back down immediately.

"Stay."

He does.

"Good boy."

No…

"You see? You do whatever I want you to do, and you do it so prettily."

soluta nobis est…

Ellen tilts her head to one side, listening, and Dark freezes in place, not even daring to breathe.

"It won't be so bad. She's given you a taste of false freedom, let you run free for too long. You have no discipline. You have no…" Ellen hesitates. She frowns, searching for the right word, and she smiles thinly as it comes to her. "You have no fear of your betters. That's not a good thing for a creature like you. You need a firm hand, my little one. Someone who understands that mindset of yours. We'll take you in hand, teach you to remember your proper place in all this."

Dark rolls his eyes wearily. "Bitch, will you stop with the monologuing?"

He blinks, and she's beside him already.

Nam libero tempore…

"First lesson, then." Her finger traces along Dark's back, between his shoulder blades. His eyes widen as electric shock rolls over him, through him. He jerks forward and slams the open palms of his hands against the ground. His wings twitch uncontrollably as the muscles in his shoulder blades spasm wildly.

Ellen laughs. "We'll teach you to keep a civil tongue in your head."

His jaws clamp together so tightly he can actually hear his teeth crunch together, muscles thrum and vibrate as her fingers traces lightly over his skin. "I can touch you whenever I want. Where ever I want."

"Sometimes, son," John rumbled in the past, "sometimes you have to take the hit."

"…cum soluta nobis est…." Dark whispers, and in response, Ellen's hand slams down onto Dark's back.

She frowns, tries to pull away, but she can't.

She's stuck.

Dark smiles thinly through the pain. His dark gold eyes flash electric blue as he willingly takes all the energy in, concentrates, doubles and changes it. He spreads his palms wide as his hands glow with a reddish orange energy that surges and arcs between his fingers. It outlines his entire body, flickers and glows along the leathery edges of his wings. His wings lift up and out behind him.

The words inside this throat finally come out in full force, cracked and broken at first. He clears his abused throat and bellows the rest of the invocation out.

"…eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit…"

Dark hooks his fingers into the ground, and the earth rumbles and growls in response.

Ellen Harvelle's stuck to the ground next to him, frozen in place. A corona of clouds and flashes of lightning surround the both of them. He can see the Lesser and Greater Ursi Taku, electric blue eyes in the cloudskin all around her, wide-eyed, deer in the headlights startled.

Gotcha.

He needed a hell of a lot of power for this, more than he could ever hope to generate on his own. But if he could get the stupid sumbitches to get close, he could snare them, and he'd have all the power he'd ever need.

After all, he's just an insolent pet, a disobedient toy.

The possessed ones in the woods all around them have fanned out. Some of them climb the fence surrounding Singer Salvage Yard. Singer's wards won't keep them out anymore because Adin disabled them, but that's all right. Doesn't matter anymore.

They won't get away. None of them will.

"…quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est…"

Ellen's lips move slowly. "Stop." Hundreds of voices overlap, and Dark catches the first rising note of panic. Good.

"…maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat…"

The spell expands ever outward from the ground underneath Dark. It grows and expands , turns from electric blue to reddish-orange as it engulfs the woods, crawls underneath the fence of the Salvage Yard, through the house on the lot, onward to the highway, and the woods past the highway where the Fixer and her group stand ready.

Ursi Taku demons in their stolen meatsuits are frozen in their tracks. The human flesh dies first, peeled away like discarded skins, running like melted candle wax into the ground.

The spell pulses twice as it receives the flesh and blood.

The demons are left exposed, thick black smoke. They try to escape, black clouds surging up into the sky, but they don't get far. The spell pulls them shrieking down into the ground.

Two miles away the Fixer smiles grimly, and anchors herself and her horde.

Everything slides sideways, out of the world, a large chunk of South Dakota disappears in a reddish orange flare.

000

Dean narrows his eyes, sees Azazel's crystal shard streaking through the air at him.

It's time then.

He wills the fire in the air around him to heat up a little. He has to make this look convincing, or Azazel will run. There's no time left. Clock's just about run out. He has to minimize the damage too. Won't work if he's too injured to follow through.

Dean hears John Winchester's low rumble of a voice in his head.

"I don't ever want to see you make a habit of this, Dean. You do the research, have a backup plan in case things go south. You have to pick your spots. Sometimes son, sometimes you have to take the hit."

The shard tumbles through the air, reduced by half. Dean braces himself, and seconds later something hits him in the chest, hard enough to knock the breath out of him. He's pushed backwards in the air by a few feet, and his wings beat almost lanquidly, compensating for the backwards push, cold fire outlining the edges of his feathers.

At first he thinks the bastard missed him entirely.

That fucked up notion lasts for all of one second. Dean glances down and he knows that's not true.

The end of the crystal sticks out of his chest, embedded in the grey fabric of that damn hoodie, beating in time with his heart. He touches the end of it (slicksmoothandsharp), and his fingers shake a little.

Huh. No pain. There's no blood.

Not at first, anyway. Dean stares dully as blood pools around the hole, runs down the front of the grey hoodie in long dark ribbons.

"You're mine, boy," Azazel whispers gleefully. Dean jerks his head around, searching for the source of the voice. He can almost feel Azazel's breath on his right ear.

Nothing's there.

"Mine. Always was, always will be."

Inside him. It's inside him…

"Come on down, Deano," Azazel purrs, "come on down and we'll have ourselves a nice little father son chat."

One heartbeat…

Dean's sight goes yellow, bright, hard and blinding.

…two heartbeats…

His muscles seize up. His wings scoop air uselessly once, twice, and there's no power, nothing to keep him aloft anymore. He loses altitude almost immediately as he turns over on his side, his wings trailing out behind him. He's in freefall, fading into black.

The last thing he hears is Azazel's laughter, loud and triumphant.

000

Dark cracks his neck first one way, and then the other. His shoulders and neck are all cramped, and that space between his shoulder blades hurts like a bitch. It's nothing he can't handle.

He's very pleased with himself. He whistles to himself as he gets to his feet.

What does it matter to ya

At first he doesn't recognize the tune, then it hits him. Paul McCartney. Wings. Okay.

When ya got a job to do
You got to do it well.

Ugh. Dean would tear the knob off the radio trying to get away from songs like that. It's not one of Dark's favorites, either. He can't imagine Dean sitting there listening to Sir Paul, not unless Dean had been tied to a chair and forced to listen. Mind you, there were plenty of times Dean actually was tied to a chair and tortured, but Dark can't remember any musical torture that went along with the bondage stuff.

You got to give the other fella hell… Dark grins to himself. Well. Song's not all bad then. He stretches his wings out, one after another. He remembers now.

James Bond. Live and Let Die. Roger Moore.

Yeech.

Dean watched that one night in some crappy motel room up in Flint, Michigan. He was laid up, banged up after a run in with a particularly frisky 'geist. He couldn't find the remote but he was too sore and banged up to get out of bed and turn the sucker off manually. That was two hours out of Dean's life that he'd never get back. It was truly craptastic.

The ground rumbles, and Dark smirks. He wiggles his toes in the grass underneath his feet. The rest of Azazel's group is coming up. They'll be here very soon.

He sees Ellen Harvelle lying on her back a few feet away. She's still possessed, but there are fewer Ursi Taku around her now. The Greater ones sacrificed the Lesser ones, used them as a shield. Harvelle pushes herself up on her elbows, stares up at Dark, past him, her eyeline going up into the sky at his back. The remaining Ursi Taku around her blink dazedly as they take it all in.

The grass, the trees. Bright open sky.

The Mississippi River flowing behind them.

The Gateway Arch.

They're not in South Dakota anymore.

"You know what they say, bitch," Dark smirks as he stalks towards her, his wings raised to their full span behind him. "Location, location, location."

000

The light in the sky flares so brightly Azazel can't see. He shields his eyes with his hands, and everything goes negative, smeary gray and white shadows in his vision. He stands there panting, cringing. Dean could come down on him when he's helpless like that, swoop down from above and put an end to him once and for all.

It should happen like that. He expects it. The crystal was a Hail Mary play, a desperation move. It was all he had left.

When his vision clears the sky's still dark, storm clouds rolling and boiling overhead.

Azazel looks down at the street in front of him, at the base of what used to be the Sears Tower, and he can't help it. He laughs loud and long.

Dean Winchester's a broken winged bird, lying motionless and bloody amid chunks of concrete and debris.

It's a beautiful sight.

000

Well, they say write what you know about, so I intend to tear up the real estate here in good old St. Louis Missouri. Hope the Chamber of Commerce doesn't mind...