Chapter 3: What is Evil?
In the years we have spent going up against the boogeyman, Dean and I have found ourselves in some odd situations. At this moment, we were in the weirdest circumstance I could've imagined. It looked kinda like a scene out of a spaghetti western; Dean and I were threatening the monster formerly known as Kim Possible while Ron was stepping in to protect her. Dean and I wanted to eliminate Kim without hurting Ron; Ron wanted to protect Kim from us while keeping her imprisoned and Kim just wanted to get by all of us so she could shred Tara and her children into tiny bits.
And I thought fourteenth century European political alliances were confusing.
As luck would have it, the ninja was still unaware of my brother's position behind him. But our luck, being of the Winchester flavor, meant that Dean's location was also in Kim's line of sight…so to speak. Would she shout a warning to her former boyfriend or would his reminder that Tara's children were also his cause her to let him be struck down?
It only took a moment to learn the answer to that question. Kim remained silent as Dean unleashed a sucker punch that dropped Ron like a sack of potatoes. Ron sprawled out, facedown and twitching feebly.
"Keep him down," Dean instructed me. "I'll take care of her." Dean recovered his firebomb while I planted a foot squarely between Ron's shoulder blades, pinning him to the ground. I only had a few moments to wonder how we were going to get out of the area after dealing with Kim. While we've had angry townsfolk, city officials and even monsters chase us before, an angry ninja on our butts promised to be a new yet unpleasant experience.
Dean stepped closer to Kim, staying just beyond the snarling monster's reach. He lit the rag and hurled the bottle at the ground beneath the former heroine. The bottle shattered, forming a pool of burning gasoline around Kim's bony feet. The shriek she emitted made all of her earlier yelling sound like quiet, melodious chanting. Dean and I could both that the single bottle of gasoline wouldn't be enough to reduce Kim to ash, so Dean turned from her and went to retrieve the five gallon gas can. Unfortunately for us, we didn't take into account the effect Kim's painful shriek would have on Ron.
Physically, I'm no slouch. Sure, I'm not up to Dean's level but I can hold my own against most men. I outweighed Ron by a good twenty pounds and he was still stunned from Dean's cheap shot. Ninja or no, there was no way he was going to get away from me before Dean finished incinerating Kim. My problem was that Ron had been fighting bad guys far longer than I have and had figured out my previous point before I had. Still prone, he produced some sort of exotic, chain-based weapon and lashed out.
Imagine my shock when he didn't try to hit either Dean or me, instead the chain looped around the stake holding Kim in the flames.
A quick yank pulled the stake free, releasing Kim from her captivity. It must somehow have been painful because she released a stream of invective that actually made me flinch even as I admired her imagination. Apparently, waiting for their next victim gives the undead a lot of time to think of new forms of torture. The moment Kim was free, even before she finished spewing her horrific threats, she lunged at Dean.
"Dean! She's free!" I screamed, releasing Ron so I could run to my brother's aid. Dean spun around just in time to come eyeball to eye socket with one very irritated and still smoldering undead. Kim didn't hesitate, she simply sent him sprawling again with another blow. I tackled Kim from behind.
I don't really understand why I did what I did next. I wrapped an arm around her throat and choked her for all I was worth. I mean, she's dead, she didn't need air, so choking her really didn't accomplish anything other than keep her from screaming her horrific, yet imaginative, threats. In my infinite wisdom, I had failed to secure any weaponry before jumping on top of her. I tried hitting her, but that didn't do anything. In the end I wound up using some wrestling moves, just trying to hold her immobile until Dean could get back into the fight. Despite my best efforts, Kim got to her feet with me still on her back. She reached behind her back and threw me over her head with about as much effort as I use to take off a tee shirt.
Kim slammed me to the ground, driving the air out of my lungs with a massive whoosh. I couldn't breathe or move as she loomed over me, drawing back her foot for a kick that was certain to cave in my ribcage. She didn't get a chance as Dean emptied his clip into her back. While the silver bullets didn't seem to affect her much, they did distract her from me.
I strongly approved of that. While I don't have great hopes of living to a ripe, old age, I prefer to keep the option open.
Kim turned away from me, to my great relief and faced Dean, which probably wasn't a major relief for him. Dean leapt forward, lashing out with his fists. I don't know if Kim was arrogant or stunned, she just let Dean land his punches. She's a member of the undead but she still has to obey the laws of physics; Dean's punches knocked her to the ground. I don't know when Dean managed to pick up the spike I'd pinned Kim with earlier, but he had it in his hand. He prepared to stab Kim with it, only to have her sweep both of his feet out from under him.
I was still winded and struggling to my feet as Kim performed the classic back spring to regain her feet. Dean struggled to his and lashed out with a crowbar. This time, Kim didn't simply accept the blow. She shifted slightly, catching the tool and spinning inside the arc of Dean's blow. Dean didn't release the implement in time and wound up face-down in the grass again. I was horrified for a moment that she would cave in Dean's skull with the crowbar but she was more interested in revenge than taking us out.
"Okay boy," she snarled, dropping the tool and catching Dean by the throat. "You think you're some kind of great monster hunter but I was taking out the bad guys long before you knew what a bad guy was. You like fire? Let's see how much!" With that, she started to half-drag, half-carry Dean towards the still burning patch in the yard. By now, I was on my feet again and ready to get back into the fight. I rushed forward and drove a shoulder into the backs of Kim's knees.
"Oh, you want some more?" Kim shrieked, tumbling forwards with a series of somersaults that turned into flips. "I took my lumps against Shego and Monkeyfist! You think you can match them?"
I had a moment to hope that agile, athletic and skilled revenants never became the norm before she was back on top of me. She unleashed a series of kicks and punches that I could barely dodge. I blocked a couple and the force of the blows told me that I would be seriously hurt if any of them landed.
Moving faster than I could believe, she got inside my guard, grabbed the front of my shirt, twirled and crouched, flipping me over her head both efficiently and brutally. For the second time in less that five minutes, the air vacated my lungs.
"Back to you," she snarled at Dean, leaving me while she went back to whom she must have considered her chief tormentor. This time she simply grabbed Dean by an ankle and started to drag him towards the flames. "I don't know what the so-called heroes are learning these days but in my day I learned really quick that the bad guys hit back. I guess you think I'm the bad guy now but I'm really not! I'm just paying back the favor you decided to pay me, just like I'm going to do to Tara. Remember that, boy! You decided to bring fire into this, so it's fire you're going to get out of it."
I was still dazed from my collision with the ground, so there was no way I was going to be able to keep her from throwing Dean into the fire. Dean had figured this out as well and was struggling ineffectively, trying to kick his ankle out of her grip when she suddenly stopped.
"No Kim," Ron said with a firm voice, blocking her path to the flames. "I won't let you kill him."
"Now you think you're the hero?" She snarled back, "I could understand you sticking up for Tara's brats, they're yours as well. Why these two?"
"I won't let you kill them," he repeated.
"Why Ron?" She shrieked. "They started this! They let me out so that they could destroy me! Aren't I supposed to be able to fight back? Tara killed me and had the family I should have had but you wouldn't let me have justice! Now they try to destroy me and you won't let me strike back! What did I do to make you side with everybody over me?"
"I'm not, Kim," Ron insisted, although his voice sounded unsure. "You were never about killing and maiming. I won't let you change now."
"Dying changes your attitude…Ronnie," she snarled back. "I'm not the good little girl that got killed by one of her friends anymore. Now get out of my way or you'll just be one of the ones I have to take out."
"It's your choice Kim," Ron said, suddenly holding a blue, glowing sword in front of him.
"It was your choice…boyfriend," she snapped back. "You're the one who humped that hussy and made those brats. You're the one who put yourself between these two and me. Let's finish this!"
Kim released Dean's ankle and leapt at Ron. Ron dodged to one side and slashed at her. Kim ducked the strike and spun, extending a leg. Ron leapt lightly over the sweeping leg and somersaulted backwards. The two combatants soon closed with each other again, forming a blur of flailing limbs and steel. I stumbled to my feet and lurched over to check on my brother.
Dean's bell had been rung but he was still moving. I helped him to sit up so that he could see the fight raging scant feet away. Ron had taken on a blue tint again and he was slowly getting the better of his onetime girlfriend. Kim, however, wasn't slowing. As an undead, she could lose limbs without permanent injury. The issue was still very much in doubt as Kim could land a single, solid shot and eliminate Ron. Ron had to inflict dozens of cuts to take Kim out of the fight.
"What do we do?" I asked Dean.
"If she wins, she's gonna kill us then go after Tara and the kids," Dean gasped, still trying to get his bearings. "If he wins, he's gonna kick our butts then run us out of town."
"That's sort of the way I see it."
"Not much of a chance of them taking each other out of the game, is there?"
"I don't think so," I admitted.
"Okay, let's see if we can help Ron out."
This made sense to me, so we quickly cased around the back yard for something to use to help Ron. We recovered the crowbar and found a length of chain in Ron's tool shed. With these, we sought to tip the fight's balance.
By the time we got back to the duel, Ron was sporting a bloody slash on his left shoulder. While he was a long way from incapacitated, he clearly didn't have full use of that limb. In the meantime, he had managed to sever one of Kim's wrists and one of her ankles. She was now scrambling about like some hideous spider, occasionally springing up to claw at her former soulmate. Dean took a deep breath and charged in behind Kim, using the crowbar to smash the back of one of her legs. While this blow didn't really harm her, it knocked her off balance long enough for Ron to hack through one of her elbows. I followed up by swinging the chain, entangling her.
"So, you've all decided to team up on the freak?" She shrieked. "That's fine, you can't win. No matter what, I'll kill you all!"
We still took some shots but with Dean and I backing Ron, Kim was at a severe disadvantage. Every time she tried to strike at Ron, either Dean or I would take a shot at her back. While what we did to her didn't seem to cause any real damage, we managed to entangle, slow and distract her. Finally, we reduced her to a mass of twitching body parts.
"Let's take her back to the cistern," Ron said in an emotionless voice, although tears rolled down his face.
"No, burn her," Dean demanded, "set her free. If we seal her back up, we'll have to do this all over again."
"Like I said before," Ron growled, tightening his grip on his blade. "You'll destroy her over my dead body. I know what I'm doing. Are you going to help me or not?"
For what felt like forever, Dean and Ron locked glares. While I was ready to back Dean, I didn't relish the thought of taking on Ron. Finally, Ron broke the tension.
"We'll get the two of you out of here," he told us. "Then we can talk. She'll reform before long and I don't want to have to tear her apart all over again."
Dean was convinced, at least enough for a short reprieve. We helped Ron dump Kim's remains into the pit, return the lid and seal everything with a thick layer of mortar. Ron called Wade and I don't know what sort of story the genius fed to the authorities to get us out of the neighborhood. Dean and I followed Ron's instructions, recovered the Impala and drove to the City of Lowerton. We checked into the rooms Wade had reserved for us and got cleaned up. Ron arrived later that evening.
"You aren't doing her any favors," Dean told the blonde, middle-aged man. "It might hurt her when we burn her but it has to be better than years in the cistern."
"You don't know everything," Ron countered. "I was able to call in some favors from some very knowledgeable people."
"Like who?" Dean demanded. "We've been doing this a long time. Between our father and us, we've been at this for more than twenty years. Who knows more than we do?"
"Vatican representatives," Ron replied. "And some other religious and scientific organizations that I'm not about to tell you about. I know the only way to eliminate her is to burn her. That's no big revelation, you knew it as well. What you might not know is what happens to her after you incinerate her."
"She moves on," I interrupted. "She meets whatever fate's in store for her."
"Not exactly," Ron answered me. "Do you guys believe that you have souls, that something lives on after you pass away?"
"Yes," we both answered. It may sound corny, but facing the evil things has done a great deal to convince me that heaven must exist.
"Okay, what you may not know is when you incinerate a creature, like what Kim has become, you annihilate the soul as well. That's why I won't burn her, I won't doom her to nothingness."
"So what will you do?" I asked. "What hope is there? The only way she's leaving this world is by burning. It's either nothingness now or more torment followed by nothingness."
"There is hope," Ron told us, "the one thing that these sources told me is that she's being fueled by her desire for revenge, a perverted sense of justice. If she can let that go, give up what's kept her from moving on in the first place, she can move on."
"Will you risk your life," Dean asked. "Will you risk your children and grandchildren? Even if what you're telling us is true, what happens if she breaks free in the meantime? Will you risk it?"
Ron looked down at the floor for several, long minutes.
"Yes, I will," he finally said, looking back at us. "God help me, but I will. I have to balance my life, my children's lives, against Kim's immortal soul. Maybe I'm being selfish and foolish but I won't condemn her to annihilation. I always had a sunny disposition when I was younger and I guess this is a byproduct. I have the optimism, the faith in Kim , to believe she'll find her way out of where she is."
"I guess that's your decision," Dean grumbled. "I hope it doesn't come back to bite your ass."
"It's my ass to get bitten," Ron countered. "I really have to wonder about the two of you. How many souls have you destroyed, in your own quest for revenge? How many will never have the chance to find their own redemption?"
Neither Dean nor I had an answer. We could just sit there as he walked towards the door.
"You have this room for the night," Ron announced. "And Wade has fed the authorities some story that I don't even want to know about. I will say this, I want you to leave and never come back to my little corner of the world. I've dedicated myself to defending my children from Kim but I've also dedicated myself to defending Kim from people like you. If you come back here again, while I still draw breath, things are going to be very unpleasant."
With that, Ron left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
We never saw him again.
For a long time, Dean and I just looked at each other. It wasn't the fact that we had received a threat. Trust me, we've received so many over the years that they don't really have much of an effect anymore. No, what bothered me was, for the first time ever, I found myself questioning what we really accomplished.
What is evil?
-Is evil an undead creature, trapped in an abandoned cistern, waiting to break out and take away what her murderer gained by killing her?
-Is evil a man willing to risk his children's lives, for the sake of his teenage sweetheart's immortal soul?
-Is evil a middle-aged woman who once killed a girl and now keeps it secret, hoping the girl's parents can have the happiest ending they possibly can?
Is evil two men traveling the country, striking down malevolent, unnatural things without thinking about what they are doing?
-Is evil a man who became so infatuated with his wife's murderer that he all but abandoned his two sons to pursue it? Did the good he accomplished by hunting for the demon make up for neglecting his fatherly duties?
"I know what you're thinking, Sam." Dean interrupted my thoughts. "You're wondering if we're actually doing any good with what we're doing. Trust me, I asked dad the same thing a couple of times when you were still at Stanford."
"What did he say?"
"He told me that some people are philosophers and statesmen. These people plan and debate the consequences of their actions. We aren't those sorts of people. Beat cops, soldiers, really anybody who faces the bad guys can't take the time to debate the right and wrong. We can only do what we can, fight the evil that we find and hope that we're doing the right thing."
"Dad said that?" I asked. "I'd think he'd be more likely to say 'shut up and quit your sniveling.'"
"Oh, I got plenty of that," Dean chuckled. "Every time I wondered why he never taught me how to hit a breaking ball or tie a fishing line. Finally, after he was pretty sure I was following him in the trade, he opened up more. Sammy, as corny as it sounds we're champions for humanity. We've taken it on ourselves to jump in and do something when almost everyone else would pretend that it never actually happened. Ron's a champion of a different sort and the really lousy thing is that we're working at cross-purposes right now. It's sad, 'cause I think we could be really good friends with him under different circumstances; kind of like soldiers on opposite sides in a battle."
"So what do we do now?"
"We get a good night's sleep and clear out of Colorado. I don't think we'll be coming back to these parts, at least not for a good, long time."
"I don't like getting run off like this," I admitted.
"We're not getting run off," Dean insisted. "This is Ron's turf and we're leaving him to it. I think it's time to head back to the roadhouse, or maybe Bobby's place and see if we can get back on ol' yellow-eye's trail."
"But what about Kim?"
"Kim, or whatever she has become, is now Ron's responsibility. He's taken the task upon himself, much like we've taken our task upon ourselves. He's both her jailer and her guardian. I only hope that, someday, he gets the ending he's fighting for."
Sam Winchester turned off his computer and stood up. It had been years since he and Dean had last stayed in the Middleton Motor Lodge, so reviewing his thoughts from that earlier time was a good idea. Glancing at his watch, he realized that it was time to go. Dean stepped out of the bathroom, wearing his best (and only) suit, clearly thinking the same thing.
They didn't share a single word as they climbed into the old Impala. They had already mapped out the route they would take. Soon, the Impala carried them to Middleton's Mountain View Cemetery, just before the hearse arrived. The sky, which had been overcast and rainy for most of the morning was now clear so they climbed out of the vehicle and stood respectfully as six pallbearers carried the mortal remains of Ronald Dean Stoppable to his final resting place.
While the Winchester brothers had had their differences with the older man, they had always respected him. For this reason, when the aging Wade Lode contacted them last week, they had made the trip. Even though they didn't attend the church services, even though they didn't join his friends and family, they still watched, silently, as his casket was lowered into the earth. Both men sighed as, after the graveside ceremony, Lon Stoppable turned his back on his mother and stalked off without a word.
At least Tara could count on the companionship offered by her daughter, Kim, and her son-in-law, Ron. Their oldest child, Ron Junior, would return to Japan, where he was attending some sort of school, in the morning. The ceremony complete, Sam and Dean turned to leave, only to find themselves facing Roy Stoppable. For several minutes, the brothers stared at Ron's second son until Dean broke the silence.
"We were only paying our respects," the older of the brothers told the younger man. "We don't want anything to turn unpleasant."
"There's plenty of unpleasantness without us causing any more," Roy agreed. "I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your being here. You're more than welcome to join us. His friends, family and…other acquaintances…are gathering at mom's home for a meal and memories."
"Except for Lon," Sam pointed out.
"Lon hasn't forgiven mom," Roy answered, "it took me awhile but I've managed to remain civil."
"So I take it you know everything," Dean prompted.
"Everything," Roy confirmed. "Dad made sure I was ready to take up his duties. I thought I'd make sure you knew that. If you try to open up the old cistern, things will turn unpleasant between us."
"Fair enough," Sam nodded. "If you don't mind me asking, just how much of your old man's talents have you picked up. I mean, if something unpleasant was to…climb out…could you handle it?"
"Oh, I think I'll get by."
For just a second, Sam and Dean swore that Roy's umbrella, which he was holding point down in front of him, took on a blue glow.
After I posted this story my dear wife, Ciya, took a look and came to the conclusion that I souldn't post without proper, adult supervision. Those of you re-reading this will probably note that it is slightly different, and better, than my first revision. I would like to thank Ciya both for beta-ing the story and for putting up with me for so long.
Until my next posting, best wishes everyone;