"Other things may change us, but we start and end with family."
Salvation, Iowa 2005
He stood quiet and still in front of the display case inside of Benjamin's Antiques and Weaponry.
He knew exactly what he was looking for, even though he had yet to actually hold the weapon. He'd known about it long before they'd found the nest of vampires. He'd seen it in action long before John shot Luther to save Sam.
"Can I help you, son?"
A wizened man with narrow, black-rimmed glasses emerged from behind a thick, green curtain. Dean could smell coffee and bread and something a little too sweet to be appetizing wafting its way from the back room.
"Just looking," Dean replied, his voice cracking slightly.
"You interested in an antique weapon?"
"Maybe," Dean replied, moving away from the display case and turning toward the shelves of books and ammunition.
"Well, if I can show you anything, you just let me know," the man informed him.
"Will do," Dean said without looking.
His head was too full, the memories too loud.
Back in 1835…Samuel Colt made a special gun. He made it for a hunter; a man like us, only on horseback…. This hunter used the gun a half dozen times before he disappeared, the gun along with him….
Dean had listened to his father's words. He hadn't known that it had been made especially for a hunter. Jake had never told them; Max hadn't revealed the information, and anything else was lost to the grave. He knew he could have spoken up then, in that moment where he and his brother sat quietly listening to the almost hypnotic sound of their father's gruff voice. He could have said he'd seen the weapon, seen it in action. He knew how it had been used at least once.
But he said nothing. Neither did Sam. They both let John tell them about this Colt, about his friend Daniel Elkins, and let the past—and their trip back to it—stay a secret.
He didn't know why; they hadn't even discussed why when they were momentarily apart from John preparing for this crazy plan.
"You think this Elkins guy knew about Zeke?" Sam had asked.
"Who knows, Sam?" He'd replied. "For all we know, Zeke was buried with the gun."
"So how'd Elkins get it?" Sam had pressed. "And when?"
"What makes you think I got any more answers than you do?" Dean had snapped. "We let it go, remember? We could've looked into what happened to it after we left, and we didn't."
"Only 'cause we're not obsessed," Sam had muttered just as John returned to the room where they were packing their duffel bags, halting further speculative talk.
Now, the fact that he'd not told his father about the weapon was pointless. They had the weapon. Finding it wasn't the problem.
Using it was.
Dean heard the old man shuffling around behind the display cases and moved quietly to another glass case of weapons, his eyes scanning the makes, the workings of the weapons inside. It had to be just right. If he was going to let his father go up against Meg, it could only be with the perfect ringer.
Look... I don't expect to make it out of this fight in one piece. Your mother's death…it almost killed me. I can't watch my children die, too. I won't.
What happens if you die? Dad, what happens if you die and we could have done somethin' about it? You know, I think maybe Sammy's right about this one. I think we should do this together. We're stronger as a family, Dad. We just are. You know it.
Dean rubbed his face, wanting more than anything to turn on his heel, leave this store, grab his dad and his brother and drive. Just drive. Away from Salvation, away from Monica and her baby, away from Lincoln and Meg and their dead friends.
He wanted to forget that he'd known about this weapon. He wanted to forget that people had died to protect it.
People his dad knew. People he knew. Pastor Jim, Caleb…they had been friends, family. He'd found refuge with Pastor Jim, had recovered from nightmares and pain more times than he could remember inside the safety of that man's shelter.
He'd gotten blind drunk for the first time with Caleb. Had watched the wiry hunter take out a den of werewolves by himself one time when Dean had been too sick to help. He'd trusted that man with Sam's life.
Now they were gone.
Because some demon was after the damn Colt.
And they had it. They had it and the remaining bullets. He didn't know how Elkins had gotten it, where or when the old hunter had found it, but he'd had it, as John said, all this time. And now it was in their possession, this gun that could kill anything. This gun Dean had seen kill a demon.
And John was putting it in his hands. His and Sam's. It would be up to them to face down this demon—alone, without their father, without their unified strength—while John tried to pull a fast one on the bitch busy wreaking havoc on what little was left of their family.
Swallowing, Dean turned to another shelf and his eyes fell on a Colt—a Navy revolver. A shiver went through him. He reached out and slid the protective glass to the side, grasping the Colt and lifting it from the case.
"You like that one, do you?"
"Know anything about it?" Dean asked the old man, turning the gun one way then another, hefting it and sliding the cylinder free to check the load. It was almost as if he recognized the weight of it, the way the grip melded into the curve of his hand.
"Well, let me see," he reached for a large index card that was tied with coarse string to the hammer, peering down the bridge of his nose at the typed information. "Looks like the dealer that rents this particular booth bought it at auction from an estate sale in Texas just a few months ago."
"Where in Texas?" Dean asked, mouth dry.
"Austin," the old man replied. "From the estate of a…Jane McAdams. It was purchased along with several other pieces."
Dean felt his heart thud heavily as he once more regarded the gun in his hand. The grip was some kind of dark material, not ivory as he half expected it to be. The barrel was scuffed and worn. The gun looked ancient.
It is ancient, he realized, registering why he felt such a connection to the weapon. He may have only seen it a couple of months ago, but it hadn't been new since the Civil War.
"What other pieces?" Dean asked.
"Well, let's see," the old man replied. "Looks like several history books, some furniture, pieces of a Civil War-era doctor's kit, that type of thing. Seems most everything has been sold, though."
"I'm," Dean paused, clearing his throat. He seemed unable to let go of the gun. "I'm looking for a Colt built around 1835. Or as close to it as I can get."
"Well, that one there is a '68," the man told him. "In excellent condition for such a weapon. With a decent cleaning, it'll still fire. What do you need it for?"
To save my father's life, Dean nearly said, literally biting his tongue to keep from speaking aloud. "For, uh, a reenactment."
"Don't know that I have one much older than that if you need it to work. I can see if I can dig up some more information on it, if it would help you. Or call the dealer who is selling it."
Dean didn't know why he was stalling. He knew this was Tom O'Maera's gun; the weapon he'd borrowed from the little girl who'd saved his life, the weapon he'd used to hold off the men trying to finish the job they started when they shot Sam. He felt it. In a sea of weapons, across a sea of years, it had found its way to Salvation, Iowa, to this antique shop. To the only place he'd been able to go in the time allowed him to find a stunt double of a weapon.
A stunt double for the weapon that had been the catalyst for Dean to have used this weapon in the first place. His head spun. There were too many coincidences tied up in this history, in this fold in time. Too many unanswered questions.
And right now, he had a job to do, and people waiting for him and he had to make a damn decision.
Look, besides us and a couple vampires, no one's really seen the gun. No one knows what it looks like.
With his father's words backing him up, Dean looked at the old man. "Naw, that's okay. I'll take this one."
"Excellent choice," the man replied with a crooked, tooth-free grin.
Dean felt strangely hollow as he watched the old man ring up the gun, then wrap it in a piece of paper. He slid the weapon in the pocket of his leather jacket and returned to the Impala, the bell above the door in the antique store ringing an ominous farewell.
The trip to the agreed-upon meeting place felt as if it went too fast and took too long. He needed to get back to Sam, back to Dad, but he knew the minute he arrived, John would be leaving them. Again.
And when he did, there was a very good chance that this time, he wouldn't be back.
You boys…you tell your Dad...You tell him…to hang on to you…. Nothing…nothing as strong as family.
The final words of a dying hunter were crawling around inside Dean's brain and he shook his head, willing silence to take control, quiet the voices, muffle the memories. He saw Sam and John standing outside of John's black truck in the middle of an open field, just beneath a highway overpass. He pulled to a stop, took a breath, and got out.
"Did you get it?" John asked.
For one moment, Dean considered lying. If he didn't have a fake Colt, John would have nothing to give Meg. He wouldn't be able to leave.
But then more of their friends would die.
Or they could take the actual Colt to Meg—together, all of them—but then Monica would die and another family would be sentenced to the same Hell Dean and Sam had lived their whole lives.
Pressing his lips together, Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out the paper-wrapped weapon.
Words danced on the tip of his tongue; he could almost taste the confession. It's a good gun, Dad. I've fired it before. A hundred years ago. It belonged to a hunter—a guy like us.
He handed the package to John. "You know this is a trap, don't you? That's why Meg wants you to come alone."
"I can handle her," his Dad replied with familiar, frustrating confidence. It twisted Dean's heart. "I got a whole arsenal loaded: holy water, Mandaic amulets—"
"What?" John's question was edged.
Dean saw it in his father's eyes: he knew what Dean wanted to say, what he couldn't say. He knew he was probably walking away from them for the last time. He saw it and it burned through him.
It don't matter what you want…It matters what you're gonna do...Please…promise me….
"Promise me something," Dean forced out, bringing his eyes up to meet John's.
"What's that?" John asked, cautiously.
Dean felt Sam standing close to him quiet, tense. He felt his brother's uncertainty, anger and hope. He felt his father's resolution, regret, and excitement. Above it all, he felt his own fear. In this moment, he was willing to do anything—anything—to get these two out of this fucked up situation.
"This thing goes south, just get the hell out. Don't get yourself killed, all right? You're no good to us dead."
John swallowed, his dark eyes seeming to take in his sons as if quietly embracing them. "Same goes for you," he said softly. Then he took a breath, shaking himself slightly. "All right, listen to me. " He pulled the real Colt from his pocket. Dean saw that he'd made the right choice: the guns were close enough. "They made the bullets special for this Colt. There's only four of 'em left. Without 'em, this gun is useless. You make every shot count."
Dean couldn't speak.
"Yes, sir," Sam replied, his voice sounding young in the vacuum of air that Dean suddenly felt pressing around them.
John looked down at the weapon in his hands, his voice turning soft, sad. "I've been waiting a long time for this fight. Now it's here, and I'm not gonna be in it." He looked up at them and Dean felt breathless by the look captured in John's eyes. He couldn't quite identify it. It almost…looked like…pride. "It's up to you boys now. It's your fight. You finish this. You finish what I started. You understand?"
Dean pressed his lips together, holding back any words of protest, of warning, of truth. He didn't want his father to see the emotion his mask of determination was barely keeping in check. He wanted to send him off to this fight with the faith that they would all come back together when it was done.
He would see his father again.
His nod mirrored Sam's and he took the Colt from his dad and slipped it into the pocket of his coat.
Sam spoke up, his voice confident, encouraging. "We'll see you soon, Dad."
John smiled at them, both of them, and Dean felt cold. He was suddenly a child again, wanting to feel the weight of his father's hand on his shoulder—the recognizable weight of that one hand, resting there, reassuring in his solidarity, telling him without words that everything was going to be okay.
Because he wasn't so sure anymore.
"I'll see you later," John replied.
He looked at them one last time, and then as if looking any longer would change his mind, John turned, climbed into his truck, and drove away without a backward glance. Dean heard Sam sniff next to him, knew his brother was working to not give in to tears.
"Later," Dean said softly to the fading taillights of the truck.
Before Sam could say anything to him, Dean turned away, heading to the trunk of the Impala, the weight of the Colt tipping his jacket crookedly on his body. He knew Sam needed to hear something reassuring, a cocky we got this epithet of reassurance. But he wasn't sure he could muster the strength to speak those words.
I should have said something…I should have told him a long time ago.
"What good would it have done?" Sam asked quietly.
"How do you do that?" Dean asked quietly, not looking at his brother.
"I was thinking the same thing," Sam confessed. "Neither of us said anything. Both of us could have."
"He wouldn't have believed us," Dean said, looking down. "And he would have been pissed."
"You're only saying that because of what he said about my visions," Sam said, opening the trunk and holding out his hand.
Dean pulled the Colt from his pocket and handed it to his brother. "And because it's true."
"He would've believed us," Sam argued. "Why would we make something like that up?"
"If you're so sure, how come you didn't say anything?" Dean asked, half-turning to face his brother.
Sam swallowed. "'Cause," he shrugged, his eyes on the interior of the trunk. "By the time he found us again, he already basically knew where the Colt was. He would've gotten it with or without us." He looked up at Dean. "And all that stuff that happened in Texas? Happened to us. It was ours."
Dean looked away. He didn't know if he agreed with Sam's reasons; he didn't even really know what his own were. He felt certain he was going to regret keeping from his father the fact that they'd seen the Colt before.
But life doesn't allow for the nostalgic reparations that backward glances encourage.
"Yeah." His voice was barely audible.
"We're gonna be okay," Sam asserted.
Dean looked at his brother, unable to reply, unable in the moment to agree. After a few heartbeats of time he turned away, heading to the driver's side of the Impala.
"C'mon," he said. "We've got a mom to stalk and a baby to save."
And a demon to kill, he promised himself. Because one way or another, you bastard, we are ending you.
The deep rumble of the Impala punctuated his vow.
a/n: There you go! I hope you've enjoyed. I have treasured each and every one of your reviews.
I keep telling myself that I'm going to stop writing fanfic at some point and focus on my original stories, but then I get a new SPN-infused idea and it becomes an after this one promise to myself. I suppose I just enjoy this escape too much. I know one day ya'll are going to get tired of me, but I do enjoy your comments almost as much as I enjoy telling the story.
So, for now, you'll be seeing more of me. Even if it's just a one-shot here or there (oh, and a planned co-write with a lovely writer, LovinJackson).