Chapter Fifty Seven
As he approaches Edwin's hut, all John can make out on the floor are bodies. Oh God… he hadn't thought that his heart could beat any faster than it already is but, as he imagines Dean lying lifeless amongst those bodies, it does, pumping blood that feels freezing cold through his shaking muscles. It's only his years of military discipline that keep him going forward, putting one foot in front of the other until the bodies come into focus. Security guys… John's entire body sags with relief as he casts his glance over the men and women lying unconscious on the ground. Unconscious…not dead, John muses as he watches Hendrickson's chest rising and falling – that's not a demon's usual style. He should be happy that half the camp's security force isn't dead...he is happy, but confused and worried as well. That's hunter logic for you.
A glimpse of blonde hair catches his attention. Robby… John swallows a lump in his throat as he approaches the unconscious kid. That's a lot of blood. John can see it, crusted on the kid's face and seeping into the ground under his head. He thinks he can see the boy's chest rising and falling but he crouches down and presses two fingers to the boy's blood stained neck just to check. He can feel a pulse under the freezing skin, faint, but there. God knows what those powers have done to his head though, John remembers holding Sammy while the vision brought him to his knees and, for a second, he feels bad for this boy, alone in the dirt, using his one chance to escape to warn them about Azazel. It's a shame this isn't Bobby's son, he'd be a kid to be proud of. But, John stands up and makes his way to the door, he's got his own son to worry about right now. Still, despite himself, he can't help but cast one last glance back to the kid before he enters the hut, chances are Azazel's going to kill him in here and he'll never get chance to see the boy again. And, hat or no hat, he knows this kid helped Dean through twenty years of hell. And John's been a dick to him this whole time, just because Edwin fed him the same bulllshit lies he fed Dean.
"Sorry, Kid." It's easier to say while the boy's unconscious. And that's that. John hates how final it sounds as he pushes the door open and prepares for his next challenge.
He was expecting to find Azazel waiting for him on the other side of the door. Maybe a few minor demons or at very least something that was going to hurt him. He wasn't expecting to find Jim Murphy just standing and staring blankly at the doorway. John feels relieved, confused, angry and kind of nervous all at once and, since he doesn't know which of his questions to ask first he just yells out one vague question that covers all of fucking everything.
"Murphy, what the hell?"
Jim just stares at him a minute before looking down at his hands, like he's never seen fucking hands before, and the staring back at him. And when he says staring he means staring, like studying John like he's some kind of puzzle to be worked out or something.
John wonders if he's going crazy. Maybe he's actually unconscious out there with the rest of them from Security and this is some kind of fucked up dream. Or maybe he's having visions now as well as Sammy. Fuck it, he doesn't have time for this, if Jim's lost it then whatever, he'll save Dean by himself.
"Where's Dean?" he asks, pissed off that Murphy hasn't already gone to find him.
"Dean…" Jim repeats, like some kind of retarded Robocop. "Dean Winchester…"
"Yes, Dean Winchester," John repeats through gritted teeth. "My son! Where the fuck is he? What the fuck is wrong with you, Murphy?"
Jim pauses, looking down at his hands and tugging at his clothes briefly and then to John. "I am not Pastor James Murphy."
John can feel his fear response kicking in again as his shakes his head, feeling a weary despair threatening to take over him. Not Jim…God no. First Bobby, now Jim…he can barely stammer the word out of his mouth.
But Jim doesn't flinch, just kind of half smiles and shakes his head. "I apologise, I forget how…limited human sense are." He…it…whatever this thing is that's wearing Murphy's skin is talking like it doesn't want to offend him or something. Like it's not really sure how to talk at all.
"My name is Castiel," it explains. "I am an angel of the Lord."
John's reaction is instant as he snorts and shakes his head. "Yeah, and I'm Jesus H Christ." He's getting more and more convinced by the second that this is some fucked up dream after all. The 'angel' doesn't react to that and John would be angry if he wasn't so fucking confused.
There's a strained silence while John tries to work out what to say and the…angel, John can't even think the word, tilts it's…Jim's head to one side. Just trying to put this into words is giving John a headache.
"You do not believe…" the thing, yeah, that'll do, the 'thing' states to him and John snarls at it as he replies.
"No, I don't fucking 'believe'. Jim I swear this is so not the fucking time for some elaborate Bible-bashing-"
John's words are cut off as the room floods with light and, from behind Jim Murphy sprout a pair of…wings? This is an…angel? But if this is an angel then…
"What's happened to Jim?" the eldest Winchester asks as the light fades and the wings flicker out of sight.
"The Pastor is here," Castiel assures him. "He summoned me and allowed me to use this vessel to take form in this place."
"Summoned you?" John repeats. "Why?"
"To defeat the Yellow-Eyed demon," the angel responds and, for the first time in hours, John actually smiles. This has got to be too fucking good to be true but he's too exhausted and confused to do anything but go along with it. If there was ever a time to find God then he figures this is it.
Dean recognises Dad's footsteps before the man comes into view. There's a part of him that's happy, like ridiculously happy. Dad came to save him! He can't believe it. But there's another part of him that knows Dad's gonna get killed if he comes in here and it's that part of him that has him crying out.
"Dad, no…get out of here!"
Well…he tries to cry out. The Yellow eyed demon's had him pinned against the wall for what feels like forever, pushed against the wall by a force that leaves a steady, aching pressure on his chest and throat and everywhere else.
He tries again as Dad finally comes into his line of sight, "Run…" but it's nothing more than a cracked whisper that causes Azazel to just smirk.
The demon watches as Dean makes eye contact with his father and just smirks again. "Or should I say 'Dad'?" it laughs, making air quotes.
Dad just stares the thing down, the same look in his eyes when he shot Walker…probably the same as when he shot Edwin.
"Let my son go," Dad growls and the demon just laughs.
"I do think I promised little Isaac up there that if he didn't bring me Sammy and Lily then I would break Dean's neck."
Dad pauses a second, "Isaac…"
That name again. They're obsessed with it.
"Yes, keep up Johnny boy," the demon rolls his eyes. "If you hadn't been such an emotionally stunted ass you might have worked it out yourself. If you'd talked to the boy you might have actually realised who that 'old man' is that he keeps seeing visions of."
Robby's talked about the old guy he sees sometimes, mostly when they've drugged the shit out of him, but not much since it pissed Edwin off and the kid didn't want another beating.
"Isaac doesn't see the past," the demon pauses and shrugs. "Not yet anyway. Isaac sees the present, he was seeing his Daddy wandering around another one of your little camps, he just didn't know it."
"Bobby's alive…" John muses out loud before shaking his head and glaring at Yellow-Eyes. "Bullshit, you're lying."
"Why would I lie?" Azazel asks. "You're both going to die now anyway. This just makes it more entertaining."
Deans breath hitches and he whimpers despite himself. He's never really given a shit about dying before but now…now he knows Dad must care about him, at least a little bit. Now he knows for definite and he…he wants to go home. He won't fuck it up this time, he won't, he'll be the best son ever if he can just…please…
"Don't let me die down here…" his voice is a broken whisper plea but Dad moves towards him all the same, taking a wide berth of the demon and placing a hand on his arm. Dean can barely feel it, his muscle are so tense but if Azazel does snap his neck then at least Dad will be with him when he dies. At least it will be quick, it's more than he deserves.
"You're not going to die," Dad promises, sounding so sure and confident that Dean can't help but believe him a little bit. "Just shut your eyes." And Dean, remembering his promise to himself earlier, screws his eyes shut trying not to imagine the sound his neck will make when the demon breaks it.
But then he feels…something, there's no other way to describe it. Behind his eyelids he can tell there's a light burning brighter than any fire Dean's ever seen. And then he's falling, landing in someone's arms. Dad?
"It's alright, Dean," Dad says, "It's over."
Dean risks opening his eyes then. He wants to move, to get on his knees and beg Dad for forgiveness but his muscles are cramping and useless after so long pinned against the wall and all he can do is apologise over and over.
"Dad I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I-"
"it's alright…" Dad promises. "I've got you."
And Dean, for the first time in his life, kind of understands what it feels like to feel safe. And as pathetic as it is, he lets himself enjoy the feeling of being protected for just a few seconds longer.
He can see the Yellow Eyed demon on the floor…dead? And standing over him, the priest Jim.
"How did…" Dean's question goes unfinished as the pastor reaches a hand out to his forehead. He flinches back, the memories of all his beatings fresh and raw in this place, but Dad holds him steady and, in an instant, all his pain is gone just like when Robby-
"Robby?!" Dean scrambles to his feet then, looking round the room even though he knows Scrap isn't here. And then, he does the only thing he can do, turns to his father for help he knows he doesn't deserve.
"Dad…" he can't even get the words out. He doesn't even know how to ask for help. No-one's ever really helped him before Dad and Sam came along, except for Scrap and he didn't even need to ask him.
"Kid's outside, Dean but…"
Dad's expression says everything. Dead? Dean feels sick with panic. He can't be. Not now they're finally free, not after surviving all that…
"He's in bad shape," Dad finishes and Dean swallows the lump in his throat as his knees almost buckle with relief - Scrap's alive that's what matters. All he wants to do is run up there but…he promised he was going to be a good son now and so he turns pleading eyes to his Dad yet again.
"Please can I…" he has to pause for a second to get his nerve, too used to having the shit beat out of him for asking anything to finish. He learnt the hard way…the very hard way not to ask questions and, back down here where most of them took place, it's hard to forget those lessons.
But somehow Dad knows what he wants to ask and he nods, gesturing with his head to the staircase. But Pastor Jim is in the way and…Dean touches his forehead. How did he do that?
"Dean this is...Castiel," Dad tries to explain. "An angel who's using Pastor Jim as his vessel."
Dean barely hears the words. He's never even heard of an angel before but…it healed him. Maybe… "You can heal Robby," Dean says, grabbing Pastor Jim's arm.
The…angel just stares blankly forward and Dean grits his teeth in frustration, his grip tightening. "Please!"
Nothing. Dean wants to just shove past the thing and run upstairs but he's aware of Dad beside him and he doesn't want Dad to think he's running off again. Instead Dean turns to the man and tries pleading with him instead cos fuck knows he's got no pride left anymore.
"Dad, please make him."
John can hear the unshed tears in his son's voice as Dean turns wide, desperate eyes on him.
"Dad, please make him."
The hopelessness in Dean's voice is heart-breaking and, for a second, it takes John's breath away. It's obvious that Dean doesn't expect that anyone will listen to him or help him but he can't help but try anyway. Christ…how often has Dean been in this position, begging and pleading out of pure desperation rather than out of any expectation of mercy? John shivers and watches as Dean blinks away tears, and finally let's go of the angel's arm.
"Can you do it?" John asks the angel, trying not to notice how Dean's head shoots up in surprise.
"That is not my mission," the angel replies and John feels anger and frustration rising in him. Firstly because this is something Dean wants, and, secondly, if the demon was right then the kid can see where Bobby is. John has to know if Yellow-Eyes was telling the truth.
"I didn't ask about the mission, I asked if you can heal the kid upstairs," John meets the thing's stare, Jim's usually warm and calm gaze now empty and cold.
"Fuck your mission," Dean growls beside him and John tries not to smirk. Chip off the old block indeed. But still, 'not helping right now' as Sammy would say.
"I will try, Dean Winchester," The thing…Castiel - John can't think of it by name, can't even get used to calling it an angel really says. Thing will do. "If only to prove to you that there is good in the world."
The words give John goosepimples and he can sense Dean edging nervously closer to him.
"I'll do anything you want," Dean whispers his reply and the angel cocks his head to one side and smiles. It's a weak, thoughtful kind of smile, nothing like the beaming grins Pastor Jim used to give and whilst it's probably supposed to be comforting, it just makes John shiver.
"Not for me," the angel replies. "For God. Now take me to the boy."
John's torn between sending Dean in front so John can watch his back, or going in front himself in case there's an ambush waiting. After a moment's notice he turns to the angel and gestures to the stairs. "You first."
And then in a gust of wind and the sound of wing beats, Jim is just...gone. Fuck. "Upstairs," John orders Dean who follows without question. Even in his panic, John notes that it makes a nice change from Sammy's latest habit of second guessing every decision.
Its dusk as they step out of the hut. John barely has time to notice it though as he feels Dean rush past him and drop to his knees next to the unconscious Robby…Isaac Singer. Standing above them both is the angel, staring down with a vague curiosity.
John feels a swell of anger for his son who's cradling his friend, staring up at the angel with confusion and bitter betrayl in his eyes.
"You promised you'd save him!"
John's heart drops as he sees Dean's hand curling into a fist. He watches the miniscule shifts in Dean's posture and knows any second now his son's gonna swing for this angel. And that is definitely not a good idea.
But it seems like the angel can sense it too as it answers "I have tried."
"You've tried?" John asks, feeling indignant on Dean's behalf. "You're supposed to be an angel!"
"This…" the angel nods to Isaac's blood stained body crumpled in Dean's arms. "This is not a normal injury. This is…a ritual, a curse. I cannot heal this."
John remembers all those months ago, watching as the mist had revealed the extent of the binding Edwin had inflicted on Dean and Isaac. But still…
"You healed me, just heal him, the same!" Dean yells what John had been thinking.
"I wish that I could," the angel responds. "The vessel was…fond of this person."
"Jim…" John murmurs to himself, watching as the angel tugs curiously at Jim's clothes. He's let his friend be taken over by this…thing. And for what? To kill the demon that he should have killed years ago. If he hadn't been so arrogant he might have realised the demon was playing him. If he'd been a better father, maybe Dean would have run right into the demon's hands. Maybe Isaac wouldn't have had to sacrifice himself to warn them the demon was there.
"Bobby…" he whispers with dismay as he stares down at Bobby's son. His son lying on the brink of death in Dean's arms. "I'm sorry." He's failed his friend. Let his son die.
Dean breathes in a ragged sob then and turns haunted, desperate, pleading eyes on the angel. "Please," the desperation in his voice has John clutching at his chest. "Please you have to be able to. Please this is…" the kid pauses, eyes screwed shut as a sob breaks out. "This is all my fault. He didn't want to go and I-I made him. It's my fault so you can just…you can just take my life instead? And then-"
"No!" John moves then, stepping in between Dean and the angel. "That is not happening." John glares and the angel and Dean in turn.
"Dad!" Dean exclaims and John prepares himself for an argument, faltering when Dean's expression changes from defiance to sheer panic, staring down at Isaac's chest, hands hovering uselessly over the boy's bloodstained. "He's not breathing!"
Dean's breathing speeds up then, and John knows his echoing his son's terrified expression in his own features.
"Dad! He's not breathing! He's not breathing, he's not-"
John drops to his knees as Dean starts panting. The older Winchester pulls Isaac's limp body out of Dean's arms and lays him flat on the dirt. Beneath the crusted blood, the boy's skin is ice cold under John's fingertips as he feels for a pulse. Nothing. John flashes back to Nam as he presses the heels of his palms onto blood soaked olive cotton. And, just like Nam, he has the horrible feeling that this is just one more man he won't be able to save.