Notes: Angelface universe. A story that explains some of (but not all of) how Sam and Dean got to the point they're at now, how they could have turned out so dark and different. And it all starts with one little change in a decision made by a demon, a sideways approach to a problem of blood and dilution.
Obviously can be read on its own.
John Winchester had seen and experienced a lot of bizarre, screwed up things in his lifetime. He was ex-marine, several tours of duty under his belt, and while now he was nothing more than the owner of the local garage he still possessed enough mental and physical control to combat the thing inhabiting his skin. Perhaps not well, but hard enough that the black presence was forced to clamp down on him hard, squeezing his consciousness like a vice.
"Calm down, calm down." John felt the words come from his own mouth with no instruction from him, his voice soothing. "This is just a temporary intrusion. I'll be gone before you even know it."
John tried to protest, to demand answers. He wasn't crazy. There was someone else in his body with him and they had to want something.
"Just twenty four hours of your time," John heard his own voice say. "Nobody will even know. You'll come home this time tomorrow and everything will be just fine. I just need your body for one measly day."
Why should he? How did he know he could trust the thing? John posed the questions with a furious fervour, as loud as he could without actually being able to wrest back the control of his voice.
"I'll make you a deal." John felt his face form a smile. "We never break deals, my kind. It's our only mark of honour. Now listen, you make this deal and I promise that nobody gets hurt. You don't make the deal and I'll make sure it's not just you who suffers. You like your wife and child alive don t you, John?"
Horror thrilled through his being like a living force, crushing his resistance with the perfect threat. Yes. Fine, John thought furiously at the thing, I'll take the deal. Twenty-four hours and nobody gets so much as a paper cut from you.
John blacked out into numbness. It was like being asleep, floating somewhere just out of reach of consciousness. He came back to himself at exactly five forty-six in the afternoon of the next day and outwardly acts as if the entire experience had never happened. If perhaps he stopped by the library a few times to do a little research, looking at spirits and demons and possession, he told nobody. He kept it from his friends, from Mary, not wanting them to think he was crazy. He was relieved as hell that his wife had never asked him about those twenty four hours that he had been missing. So relieved that he never noticed that something might be wrong.
John didn't realise that he had been tricked until much, much later.
In fact, he didn't realise until one week after Mary's funeral.
She had been killed in a hit and run crash on the way to pick Dean up from school. John had gotten the call two hours later, too late to pretend for Dean's sake that everything was going to be ok. The next week had been a blur, and John remembered little except the sober dread that he felt at his wife's funeral knowing he would have to keep living without her in his life.
John had allowed himself that one week of open grieving before he picked himself up again to be the strong presence that his children needed. He started going through Mary's things, sorting her life into three separate piles - things to donate, things to keep in storage, and things that needed to stay exactly where they were. That was when he found her family's legacy hiding in a shoebox in her side of the closet.
Dean was seven, and Sam was only two years old, when John found out about hunters, about Mary's family, and the deal his wife had made with the 'yellow-eyed demon' nearly twelve years ago - just after he had decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
It all came together in bits and pieces, the big picture far too terrible to take in all at once.
Twenty four hours. Ten years after Mary made her deal with the demon. She had never asked where he went. As far as she knew he had never been gone. They hadn't been trying for another child when Mary had discovered she was pregnant again. John had always considered Sam to be a happy accident, but now he began to wonder.
He realised his first practical lesson in the world of the supernatural as he looked at the lost little toddler who was his son but wasn't. Never trust a demon.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't shoot you where you stand."
The man swayed, bloody and bruised, his weapon kicked to a far flung corner. He'd lost, and he knew it. He stared up at John Winchester over the shotgun barrels pointed at his face, the white of one eye stained a bloody red, a popped blood vessel making his vision fuzzy. "Your son," the man growled, "is a born killer. Don't fool yourself, Winchester. He'll turn on you. Demons can't be trusted."
The five year old in question was currently in the back seat of the car, being guarded by his nine year old brother. John didn't have to look to know that his boys were crying. John's eyes hardened. He said four words, and pulled the trigger.
"That's not good enough."
The man collapsed, his face torn to pieces by buckshot. He gurgled on the ground, bleeding out fast, and was dead by the time John had slung the shotgun back over his shoulder. "He's my son," John told the fallen shell of the hunter. "No god-damned hunter is going to get near him."
John forced his features to soften as he returned to the car to reassure his sons. Sam's unusual heritage had only just begun to make itself known. The boy didn't know he was doing it, John reasoned, couldn't help it. Things moved when Sam got upset; Just little things, like a vase tipping over without a breeze, or bits of paper flying around the room. Somehow that equated to potential evil, somehow the reality of Sam's demon blood had been leaked.
John knew exactly who to blame for that. He had looked for answers in only two places, giving the secret to only two people. John knew which one of them would have talked.
He kept the steel from his eyes as he comforted Sam and Dean, telling his boys how good they'd been to stay in the car like he told them. John resolved to start teaching his boys how to shoot just as soon as he could trust them with guns. Dean he would start teaching almost straight away. Sam would need a few more years before his coordination was good enough to think about giving the kid a weapon.
In the meantime, one was never too young to learn how to meditate. Maybe that would help Sam control the things that happened when he lost his temper.
Six shots lined up along the fence, coke cans and soda bottles. The pistol looked huge in nine year old hands. Eight rounds, six targets.
Dean's face was scrunched up in anticipating as he lined up his shot and took aim just like his father had shown him. He squeezed the trigger slowly, keeping his eyes open to make sure his aim didn't waver. the pistol jumped in his hands, the shock of the recoil zipping up his arms. The old glass soda bottle shattered right through the middle, and Dean turned to the next target feeling more confident now that he knew what to expect.
Five bullets later and six targets lay on the ground, aluminium pierced through the centre and glass bottles shattered on impact.
John clapped his son on the shoulder, unspoken pride radiating from his whole being.
"Wow!" Sam exclaimed, his brown eyes wide. "That was so cool, Dean!"
At the next diner they stopped at John bought both of his sons huge strawberry milkshakes. He didn't tell the waitress what they were celebrating, or own up to it when Sam accidentally caused the clock bolted to the wall to fall from its perch.
Sam only spent two years in public school before John decided it was better to teach him at home. Sam was a nice kid, a smart kid, he did well in classes and made friends easily. It was just that, despite daily meditation and focus exercises, Sam was still a seven year old boy. Not even the best and brightest seven year old can keep hold of his temper all of the time.
It usually wasn't that bad. Light bulbs broke sometimes when Sam was tired and frustrated in the afternoons, sometimes a pencil would snap or a window would suddenly open a crack without being touched. But when Sam managed to push another kid down a flight of stairs in full view of his entire class - without laying a hand on the boy or (as he later confessed) even meaning to do it - John decided that was the last straw.
He pulled Sam out of school that very afternoon, right after picking him up from the Principal's office. The worst thing was that the school seemed glad to be rid of him. That was sick, John thought, that they were relieved to be rid of a kid like Sam who wanted nothing more than to learn and make friends his own age.
"I didn't mean to push him down the stairs, daddy."
John glanced over his shoulder to look at Sam in the back of the car. The boy sat looking down at his knees, crumpled forlornly in the middle of the back seat, one of his shoelaces coming untied, a healing scab on his left knee. John sighed. "I know, kiddo. I know you didn't."
"He was just being mean," Sam continued, his lower lip quivering because he knew it was his fault the other boy had fallen and broken his leg, despite the fact that it could never be proven. "He called me a freak and I got mad. I pushed him with my mind, but I didn't mean for him to go down the stairs."
"Sam..." John shook his head. Accidents happened, but even so; "Sam, you shouldn't push people just because they make you mad. Remember what I told you? You only use your powers, or your fists, if you have a real reason. Words can't hurt you, son."
Even as he said it, John knew it wasn't true. Words could have a huge impact, especially on a child. Especially on a boy like Sam, who already had enough to deal with.
John gave Sam his first pistol when he was nine, the same age Dean had gotten his first .45. They were in the country at the time, renting a small cottage on the edge of a huge citrus orchard, which meant there was plenty of room for target practice and no need to worry about anyone wandering in the way of a stray bullet.
John had put down his first demon a month before they moved in. He now had the 'official' name for what Sam was, and confirmation that it wasn't only hunters that he needed to keep his boys safe from.
"Why does Sam need to learn to shoot?" Dean asked, cocking a sawn-off and taking aim at the white ring painted on the side of a twisted old lemon tree. "You know he could just learn to kill people with his mind."
John ignored the sound of the shotgun blast to show Sam the correct way to hold his pistol. He stepped back to let Sam take aim on his own. Dean was thirteen and surly, pissed off at having to move to the country and away from a girl that he liked in the last town they'd lived in. "You boys are too young to be thinking about killing," John informed his sons, watching like a hawk as Sam squeezed the trigger. "I'm teaching you self defence, that's all."
Sam's first shot hit the tree, but not the target. He shook out his hands before taking aim again. "Why not?" he demanded, staring at the target as if he could will the bullet there with his mind alone. Perhaps he could. John wasn't going to rule anything out yet when it came to Sam's abilities. "You killed before."
"I killed when it was practical," John replied simply. "When there's no other solution, understand? There are people out there who want to hurt you boys, those are the only people you ever raise a gun to."
He didn't know it then, but he would change his mind only a few years later.