A/N: Well, guys, this has been a wild ride. Sadly, this is our stop. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through it all. A very special thanks to SaintsGhost, cursedgirl, psicat76, cuddygirl18, and Star Mage1, who have been with me from the beginning. I appreciate it. Hopefully you've enjoyed this as much as I have. This chapter title was taken from Corey Hart.
P.S. If anyone wants to take the winged boys upon themselves, feel free. I'd love to see other stories with the boys as Nephilim! Just shoot me a PM if you do so I can stop by and review!
Stairway to Heaven
Chapter Twelve: Never Surrender
John had been helpless, left to watch as his youngest was dragged down the stairs and dropped unceremoniously in a pile on the floor, before being securely attached to the wall next to him. Despite appearing so close, the tight bindings kept his son well out of John's reach. He glared angrily at the angel named Uriel, a desperate attempt to keep his fear from showing through, and it was easier than it should have been.
It was easy to be angry. He as angry at God, for condemning his son.
He was angry at the demon, who had destroyed their lives.
He was angry at the angels, here in the name of the Lord.
He was angry at Mary, for never telling him the truth, and making the deal that brought them to this place.
He was angry at Dean, for not protecting his brother.
He was angry at Sam, for not staying away.
But most of all, John was angry with himself, for not being strong enough to protect what was left of his broken family, and for not being there when both his sons had needed him so desperately.
If it would save his family, he'd change everything.
If it would save his family, he'd do everything all over again.
"I'll be back, John Winchester," said Uriel softly. "You should take this time to reconcile with your son before he leaves this earth."
John's eyes followed Uriel all the way back up the rickety steps, but he kept his silence until he was sure the angel was gone.
"Sam," he hissed, hoping that his voice would be enough to rouse the lifeless form. "Sam!"
There was no response, Sam still slumped against the cold ground, his tangle of long limbs thrown haphazardly, as if he was unconsciously trying to trip someone in his sleep. The air was cold down here, below the frozen ground, and even though John logically knew that they were screwed six ways to Hell, he still couldn't clamp down on the irrational fear that Sam was going to die from hypothermia if he didn't wake up.
John needed Sam to wake up. Needed to know if Dean had been with him. If Dean had escaped.
If there was still hope.
Please wake up, please let him wake up. "Sam!"
John tried to remember the last time Sam had willingly listened to anything he was saying without posing an argument, or a question, or a concern.
Now that he actually though about it, Sam had been listening when he left on a hunt…he'd come back to the motel two days after Christmas, and suddenly Sam didn't seem to want to listen anymore. He'd stumbled in, exhausted after a hunt that had gone to Hell in a hand basket, and then come back for more. Told Sam to get his duffel out of the trunk.
And Sam had looked at Dean for permission. Which was where he'd been looking ever since.
If Dean was here, Sam would wake up.
But Dean wasn't here.
"Sam?" John asked this time, tentatively.
Unsurprisingly, there was no response.
"I'm sorry I missed Christmas, kiddo."
But John had a feeling that missing Christmas had never been the issue.
Years later, Sam had screamed at him for pushing Dean too hard. For forcing Dean to make decisions, to do things, that he shouldn't have to do. What was it that Sam had said…No kid should have to steal presents so their brother won't lose faith in their father on Christmas. Dean had reached out then, grasped Sam's arm, and pulled him back to the bedroom that they were sharing at the time, returning seconds later to apologize to their father on his brother's behalf. Like it was somehow Dean's fault.
"I'm sorry Dean had to grow up too fast, Sam."
Still John couldn't reach his youngest son. That bridge had been burned long ago, and he was afraid that there just wasn't any time left to rebuild it.
Angels had just made it to the top of Dean's "Things I Hate" list.
They were followed closely by broccoli, and Sammy's music.
He was a little fuzzy as to how he'd ended up tied to a chair in an abandoned cabin, which was in the lovely snow covered land of the Middle of Freakin' Nowhere, as he'd so eloquently told Sam. Or had been trying to tell him, before Sam did a good impression of narcoleptic.
Sam had just kinda grimaced and gone down.
Dean had tried to get to his brother, but before he even made it two steps, he was met with a face full of snow. "What the heck," he spluttered, attempting to rise to his feet, only to feel himself go down again.
It was like invisible ropes were holding him in place, leaving him unable to struggle. "What the fu…"
"Ah, ah, watch your language please."
"Get a little closer so I can watch you die, you son-of-a…" His tongue suddenly glued itself to the roof of his mouth.
"My name is Uriel, Angel of the Lord, human. And you will respect me."
Dean took a deep breath the second that his tongue released itself. "Power trip much? Didn't that stuff get Lucifer kicked out of heaven?"
A pair of large boots suddenly appeared in Dean's vision, and then there was another voice, this one much softer than the first.
A frustrated sigh sounded above Dean's head. "Michael."
"You are walking a thin line, brother. It is not our job to create suffering."
"I thought I was relieving suffering," Uriel muttered, but stepped away. And suddenly Dean was upright, legs moving jerkily up the path, Sam being dragged ahead of him. "What are you doing?"
The angel with the quieter voice, Michael, spoke. "We are doing what the Lord wills, Dean Winchester."
"He wants you to kill people?" Dean protested, glaring down at his feet as they betrayed him with their mechanical steps. "I thought God loved everyone."
"Just because you love your foot doesn't mean that you don't need to cut it off when it gets gangrene."
"Uriel," Michael snapped, patience clearly wearing thin.
"I was just trying to explain it in a way that the human could understand."
"He is only half human, Uriel. And it is not for us to understand what the Lord wills. He works in mysterious ways."
The conversation had quickly deteriorated from there, and it all ended with Dean being tied to a chair, Michael staring at him, while Uriel dragged Sam through a doorway, and by the rhythmic noise, down a flight of steps.
Michael seemed the more understanding of the two, and so Dean decided now was a good of time as any to plead his case.
"Do whatever you want you want to me, just leave Sammy and my Dad alone."
Michael smiled sadly. "It appears you have the curse of the Nephilim, Dean."
"Oh yeah, and what's that," Dean snapped, mind racing to find any way out of this situation. There had to be a weapon somewhere, anywhere…
"To care too much for others, and not enough for yourself." Michael leaned up against the dusty counter. "It doesn't happen to all of you. Some only gain the powers, many use them only for selfish reasons. But some gain the true nature of an angel. Often these ones destroy themselves before we can even get to them. Always putting yourself in harms way for another," Michael shrugged, "Despite the angelic side of you, you still are part human, and as such, mortal instruments can still harm you."
Dean couldn't find any weapons, minus the two swords that Michael had strapped to his back, since he had, apparently, taken Sam's. "Problem being, some of their souls appear to get trapped, and become demonic in nature. Luckily, a fair number of human hunters seem to be willing to take on the demons, because despite our efforts, they continue to grow in numbers."
It seemed rather irrational to Dean that their way of solving this problem was to kill two, if not three, hunters. But who was he to judge mysterious ways? These seemed friggin' mysterious enough for him. Still, it couldn't hurt to ask.
"So, uhh, what good is killing three hunters going to do you?"
"Three?" Michael looked confused for a second, and then his face cleared in understanding. "No, not three. Just one."
Dean's heart skipped a beat. Please let it be me…
"Unfortunately, Samuel cannot be redeemed."
Dean's vision whited out at the edges, tunneling suddenly before coming into sharp focus. "Not Sammy," he whispered hoarsely. "God, no."
Dean was the one that lied, cheated, and stole.
He was gluttonous.
Heck, he even once swore a blue streak up and down the Mississippi, just to prove it could be done. Not Sam. Never Sam.
For God's sake, it was Sam that prayed every night.
Not Dean. Never Dean.
"Please, God, no," the words came out choked, tears somehow escaping not from his eyes, but into his voice.
Uriel appeared then, before he could say anything else, before he could plead his brother's case.
"Let's get on with this, Michael."
"Patience, Uriel. Dean needs to understand why we are doing this, or he will never aid us."
"Aid you…Hell no! You're trying to kill my brother!"
"He is an abomination," Uriel spat, "And as such, he needs to be destroyed."
"Sam is anything but an abomination!" Dean's anger was nearly palpable. "He's a good person! He's five million times better than me! And he's definitely better than you, buddy!"
"Michael, do we have to listen to this?"
"Dean, your brother has been tainted. There is no cure for the demon blood. It is part of who he is now. And though it may seem that he is a good person now…in the future, that isn't a certainty."
"So you are going to kill him, based on the fact that sometime, in the future, he might not be good?"
"Good grief, Michael," Uriel snapped. "Your brother is the heir to Hell's throne."
Well. That was a shocker.
Gently, Michael attempted to explain. "Your brother, if left unchecked, has the potential to call the demons to him and overthrow Lucifer. As you can understand, I am sure, that we can't let the Prince of Darkness rise into power."
Dean was clearly still stuck on the whole 'heir to Hell' thing.
"Michael," Uriel was all but tapping his foot with impatience.
"I know this is a shock for you, Dean. The truth is, but for the fact that you managed to summon the Sword…"
"Though why you were letting your brother carry it, I'm not quite sure I know."
"Sword?" Dean croaked, mind racing to catch up with what Michael was saying.
"Yes," Michael gestured to his back, where both swords were strapped. "The Sword of Justice, it can only be summoned by angels and those Nephilim that have a truly pure soul. Because of this, you are automatically granted a reprieve, because no soul so pure could ever become demonic in nature."
Sam's salvation was in the sword…
"Michael. We have other business to attend to. This must be done now."
"Sam…" John licked his dry, cracked lips. "Please, kiddo…"
There was a soft moan.
"Sam…c'mon, buddy. Nap time's over."
"Daaadd…" He paused. "M'head hurts…"
"Sam, you need to get up. Now."
Sam carefully untangled limbs and slowly made his way onto his elbows, and from there his hands and knees. Head hanging down low, Sam finally managed to make it to a sitting position, leaning hard against the wall. "Dad…where's Dean?"
"I was just going to ask you that, Sam."
"I don't know…he was talking to me, and then…DEAN!!"
"Sam, I don't think…"
But when it came to his brother, Sam didn't really care what his dad thought. "DEAN!!!"
Sam? You okay?
M'fine. Where are you?
Heading down to you, I suspect.
"Dad, Dean's coming down…"
The door creaked open, and Dean most certainly did come down. He just came down with company that Sam would have preferred not to see.
"You leave my boys alone!"
"Dean, you okay, son?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Touching," Uriel muttered. "Michael, if we could speed this along please."
Dean didn't appear to be bound by anything, but his arms were stiff at his sides, and with Uriel's words, he dropped to his knees. "Look, you've got the wrong…"
"Silence," Uriel ordered, and Dean's mouth stopped moving, anger and frustration playing across his features.
Dean? You okay?
Stupid angel has me hog-tied with his stupid powers. Sam?
He couldn't say it. Couldn't tell Sam goodbye.
We're gonna get out of this.
Even in the dark, Dean could make out Sam's wry grin.
Sure, Dean. Dean? Yeah, Sam?
I love you too.
Did you have to turn this into a moment?
"What did you do to him?" John snapped, pulling uselessly against his bindings. "Let them go!"
"Both you and Dean will be free to go as soon as this is over," Michael said soothingly, drawing one of the swords from his back. It lit automatically in his hand, bathing the entire basement in an orange and red glow, shadows flickering and dancing away from the light.
"Sam…" John whispered. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please let him go…
It's okay, Dean. As long as you're safe.
Michael took a step towards him, and in response, Sam's wings tore from his back, body arching in some sick parody of obedience. On hands and knees, Sam knelt before the arch angel, his head bowed as he prayed silently for his father and brother. He was at peace.
Dean, sensing Sam's acceptance, flew into a panic. No…Sam…
Sam's head lifted, his eyes piercing his brother. You know what I am, Dean. This is for the best.
"The Lord is my Sheppard," Sam whispered quietly. "I shall not want."
Slowly, Michael lifted the sword above Sam's neck, positioned himself to bring it down, so that one blow would sever Sam's head from his shoulders.
"He make me lie down in green pastures…"
Tears ran from both of John's eyes, and for every one of his tears, another one was mirrored in Dean's eyes.
Sam could smell his feathers burning this close to the heat, but still he left them fanning out, not wrapped around his body in protection. Sam knew that in the moment when that demon had stood over his cradle, he had been damned. Here was his salvation.
"Samuel Winchester, today is the day of your judgment," Michael's deep voice intoned, sword raising ever higher, the otherworldly glow expanding to chase away even the deepest of shadows. "Your soul will be judged in the eyes of the Lord, his Book checked for your name…"
"He restorith my soul…"
"Go swiftly towards your judgment…"
The sword swung down, cutting through the still air in a slow, graceful ark, flames leaving a glowing path, burned forever in the eyes of those that were watching.
It seemed like forever, an eternity, to John, as he watched his son's death speeding ever closer, with Sam, just kneeling there, accepting of his fate.
And suddenly, a blinding light flooded the entire basement, like looking directly into a flare, and a sound that could have rivaled the bells of Notre Dame shook the foundations of the small cabin.
It took a minute for John's vision to clear, but when it did, hiss breath was stolen away.
If he'd been standing, he'd have fallen to his knees.
As it was, he was already there.
John had never seen a more awe inspiring sight, and knew that he probably never would again.
Michael was bearing down hard, muscles cording in his arms, throwing all his weight behind the movement, trying to force his sword to finish its trajectory.
Below him, Dean was bent backwards, ink black wings spread wide as he stood protectively over his brother, his own flaming sword locked with Michael's, the picture of an avenging angel. Sam was still on his hands and knees, but now he was looking up at Dean, wonder playing across his face, staring at the miracle known as his brother.
It was clear that Dean was straining to keep Michael from finishing the job. He was only half of an angel, his human weakness and lack of training meaning that the likelihood of him defeating a millenniums old angel was slim to none. But he would die trying.
John shook off his stupor as his brain registered a flash of movement, but his strangled, "Dean!" was seconds too late.
Uriel had come from nowhere, his own sword raised as he flew through the air, a war cry torn from his lips.
The flaming metal came down, slicing easily through feathers, sinew, and bone.
For a second there was a pause, and then an earth shattering scream.
Dean's body crumbled, curling in on itself. The sword clattered lifelessly to the ground, flames sputtering and then dying out, leaving only dull metal behind. One wing dangled precariously, held on only by a small ligament that had somehow made it unscathed. The fire had already cauterized the wound, the smell of burning flesh and feathers sickening. John's stomach heaved. He was going to lose both his sons.
Uriel paused, sword raised for the killing blow, and Michael froze, his own sword hanging limply at his side.
Sam's chains snapped, and no longer bound, Sam dove for his brother, covering Dean's prone body with his own.
"No, Dean…please…Dean, please…"
Sam's hands reached for his brother, roving all over, touching, trying desperately to get a response, any response.
"Dean…please. Not you too…please…" He sobbed harshly, pressing his head down to Dean's shoulder blades, burying his face into the tee that smelt purely of Dean.
Tears fell in torrents, Sam's broken voice the only sound in the still basement. "Please, God. Take me. Please…not Dean. I just lost Jess…I can't lose Dean too. Please, take me, take me…oh, God…Dean…you Jerk. Get up, get up…"
Sam had never prayed for anything for himself. But he prayed now.
"Dean…don't leave me…you can't leave me…I just got you back…Dean, I just got you back…"
The soft sobs were interrupted by hiccups now, and small gasps for breath.
Sam's hands fisted in his brother's shirt. He didn't care that two angels were standing above him, holding his death sentence in their hands. He wouldn't have cared if he was surrounded by a legion of demons. All that mattered was that he was going to be alone. That Dean was dying, and that it was his fault.
"M'sorry, m'so sorry…Please…"
Fingers reached out, stroking the damaged wing, threading through the feathers.
"Please…" Sam's broken voice was barely a whisper now. His eyes shuttered shut, tears drying as he clung desperately to his brother. "Please…"
It was John's gasp that broke the silence.
Sam's eyes were closed, his breathing deep, as if he was falling asleep. Fingers still stroked over his brother's severed wing, and where they touched, a miracle was occurring. Slowly, bones knitted together, and ligaments reattached themselves, muscle growing back over, and finally, feathers rippled, reaching out to cover where the wound once was.
Uriel stepped forward again, sword once again raised, but Michael flung his arm out, stopping the other angel mid-stride. "He has the gift of healing," Michael's voice was full of wonder.
Sam saw none of this, intent only on holding onto his brother as long as he could, trying to keep his heart and mind from being torn asunder. It was a groan that caused him to scramble backwards, kneeling in front of his slowly stirring brother. "Dean?" he called anxiously, hand darting out to his brother's shoulder.
"Dude…" he moaned, turning slowly so he was laying on his back. "Did you get the number on that bus?"
"Dean!" Sam cried, pulling his brother into a rib breaking hug, moving fast enough to make the world swim around the older man.
"Woah…slow down there…"
"Sorry…" Sam pulled back, grinning from ear-to-ear. Suddenly, he remembered the angels, and whirling to his feet, Sam jumped in front of Dean, making it clear that both of the angels would have to come through him to get to his brother.
"Don't touch him," Sam warned.
Uriel once again attempted to step forward, but Michael's arm across his chest stayed firm.
Slowly, Michael bent at the knees, placing his sword on the floor. Hand now free, he carefully unbuckled the leather strap around his chest, pulling the other sword towards him, before thrusting it out towards Sam. "I believe, Samuel, that this is yours."
Licking his lips, eyes darting from one angel to another, Sam swallowed hard, and then nodded.
"It can't be," snapped Uriel. "It isn't possible. This abomination couldn't summon the Sword."
"The Lord has judged him, Uriel. And his soul is pure."
"You know what the boy is capable of, Michael. We have to stop him now!"
Michael turned to face the other arch angel. "It is not for us to decide, my brother. The Lord works in mysterious ways."
"I told you before, Uriel, you walk a thin line, and right now, you are about to cross that line."
Uriel's eyes smoldered, but the flames flickered out on his sword, and he stepped backwards.
Michael laid Sam's sword on the ground at his feet, before taking up his own, strapping it securely to his back. "Please forgive us," he said gently. His eyes turned suddenly from Sam to John. "Your prayers have been answered, John Winchester."
And with that, John's bindings fell away and then angels were gone.
By the time they'd made it to the Impala, both boys had been half asleep and tripping over each other, neither quite willing to let go of the other. Somehow, John loaded them both into the backseat, covering them up with a spare blanket from the trunk, reminded briefly of when his boys were both small enough for him to carry.
He wished that he could carry them now.
But even if he could, neither of the boys would have wanted him to.
Sometimes John forgot, that just because they didn't say they needed him, didn't think they needed him, didn't mean they didn't want him to help them. But it had been too long.
So John drove them to the nearest motel. Paid for the room for a week.
He got both boys settled in, stocking up on enough groceries so they wouldn't have to venture out for awhile.
And when both boys had fallen into a truly deep sleep, John had pressed kisses to their heads, and slipped out the motel door.
A quick walk to the bus station, and John was on his way to where he'd last left the truck.
As much as he wanted to stay, he knew he couldn't.
There was only one thing that mattered. That his sons were safe.
John intended to keep it that way.
He had a demon to hunt.
A/N: I hate to say goodbye, so I won't. I'm planning on a sequel, when things settle down and I have time--which may not be anytime soon. But I at least have some idea of what I'm planning. And a title. If you want to be on the lookout for it, I'm gonna call it Highway to Hell. And you guys are always welcome to play in this 'verse. Just let me know, so I can pop by and say hi! Much love, and if I don't hear from any of you soon, have a very happy summer. :)