Chapter Ten: The Devil's Gate
Here's the last chapter of this story! Thank you to everyone who's read, commented and enjoyed. There is a sequel in the works, although it's probably going to be close to two weeks before I can get it started here (I'm trying to find a job and finish unpacking/cleaning everything from my insane 1,000 mile move back home). A full-length summary of what to expect from the next story will be at the end of this chapter. Again, thank you for reading and enjoy!
Danielle silently walked into the old graveyard, the Colt held tightly in her right hand as she mentally followed the presence of five people to what she was sure was her final destination.
Sam and Dean stood before the crypt that was her target, Bobby standing to their left and two women Danielle assumed were Ellen and Jo Harvelle standing to their right.
"Hey," Sam said the moment Danielle was close enough.
Danielle smiled slightly. "Hey," she replied. "You're looking well, Sam."
"You don't seem surprised to see us," Dean stated, jaw clenched in anger, not that Danielle could blame him.
"I'm not," she said simply. "You're standing in my way."
"We're not movin'," Dean said.
"Did you know what Dean was gonna do if you killed me?" Sam asked.
Danielle huffed and scowled. "Do we have to do this right now? I'm kind of on a timetable here."
"I'm not letting you do this, Dani," Sam said, and Danielle's heart panged at the continued use of her nickname. Despite it all, Sam still seemed to care about her.
"You don't even know what's behind those doors," Danielle finally said, nodding at the crypt and blinking away sudden tears.
"And you do?" Dean snapped.
Danielle shrugged. "Azazel says that this is how he's getting his army."
Ellen's eyes narrowed. "A Devil's Gate? You're gonna open a damn door to Hell?"
Danielle frowned. "I guess so," she said, "I mean, you're the experts when it comes to stuff like this."
"You can't want to do this," Jo said, clearly dismayed by the situation.
"I have no choice," Danielle replied. "I've got to open those doors, it's the only way to get him here."
"What?" Sam frowned at her, confused, and Danielle sighed. She still had to get Sam to kill her, but she had to let them know about the Colt. So, she lifted up the gun in her hand, pointing it off to her right so they could clearly see what it was.
"The Colt," Dean said softly.
"It's still got the one bullet in it," Danielle said, "I already checked."
"So why didn't you kill him if you had the chance?"
"Because that's not my destiny!" Danielle snapped, lowering the gun and glaring at Dean. "I have a role to play, Dean! We all have a role to play, and mine is to do whatever Azazel wants me to do."
There was a moment of silence.
"We don't have to do what they want," Sam spoke softly. "We don't have to be what they say we should."
Danielle had to blink back more tears. "Yes, Sam," she said, "we do. I already flipped those switches the way they were supposed to be flipped. I've accepted who and what I am, and I am opening those doors." She swallowed hard. "It didn't occur to me that Dean would make a Deal for you until yesterday afternoon, but I knew it would happen the moment the thought crossed my mind." She met Dean's eyes. "How long d'you get?"
"One year," Dean said. "You happy?"
"Not really," Danielle replied. "I meant to try and save Sam from the future, not…" She trailed off and looked away.
"Please don't do this," Sam pleaded. "Let's just… just walk off the chessboard."
Danielle blinked hard, but a tear finally escaped, trailing down her cheek before she wiped it away. "I can't," she whispered.
Sam closed his eyes and sighed. "Then we have to stop you," he said.
Danielle gave him a wan smile. She wanted to say I know you will or let's stop and talk about this so I can tell you everything the angel Zachariah told me and then we can end this before the Apocalypse can even try to start, but she knew what would happen should she try to say any of that. So, she rallied her courage, placed on her mask, met Sam's eyes and said, "I'd like to see you try." Then she gathered her strength and pushed.
Everyone was sent flying and Danielle took off like a shot, lifting the Colt once more and jamming it into the lock on the doors of the crypt. Then she turned to see that Sam was already on his feet, a gun in his hands.
Her eyes met Sam's once more and thought about everything that had happened over the last year since Jared's death. All the pain, the loneliness, the fear, confusion, and Danielle wondered if she would have been better off never knowing the truth about angels and demons, or the supernatural world around her. Would it have been better to have never known Sam or Dean, or the pain in their lives? Would she have been better off dying without ever knowing the truth until it was too late to do anything about it?
Danielle's thoughts turned to Sam, the young man who still had faith in the future despite his dark past. She couldn't imagine never having gotten to know him or spent time with him. Sam's issues had somehow given her the strength to confront her own, and she in turn had given him what he needed to keep going.
In that split second's eternity of thought, Danielle knew she was glad that she had met Sam and Dean, that she had spent time with them, healed with them, learned from them and taught them what she could offer in turn. She was truly all the better for having known them both.
The world around her was silent, apart from the unlocking doors behind her and Sam's heavy breathing as he lifted his gun, the safety clicking off like the echoing of a pin dropping in an empty room.
One moment later, a single shot rang out, and Danielle welcomed the pain.
She had played her role. The game was over, and she could finally rest.
It was like a wall breaking down.
The moment the gun went off, Sam found he was suddenly able to sense Danielle's emotions, and the things he felt…
Peace. Understanding. Relief. No fear.
It was as though she had already known this was going to happen. Known, and accepted.
Sam watched as Danielle broke eye contact and looked down at her abdomen, fingers reaching up to lightly touch the slowly growing stain of blood on her pale blue jacket. She wobbled slightly and dropped to her knees. Sam let go of his gun.
"Dani —" He was already moving toward her without thinking, sliding to his own knees and catching the brunette by the shoulders as she started to list forward, ignoring everything else around him. "Dani, hey, hey, just keep breathing, you're gonna be fine, I'm sorry, okay? Just hang on —"
"It's okay, Sam," Danielle cut him off softly, reaching up to touch his cheek. "This was meant to be. I'm fine."
"No," Sam said forcefully, "no, this is not fine, Dani! None of this was supposed to happen!"
"Yes it was," Danielle said gently, and Sam could see the tears gathering in her eyes. "The moment he took you from your family and fed you that blood, we were headed straight for this moment."
"Don't say that," Sam snapped, pulling an old bandana from his back pocket and pressing it to Danielle's wound. She hissed and tried to pull away, but Sam held on as tightly as he could. "I'm sorry I shot you, just hang on, we can fix this —"
There was a loud crack as the doors to the crypt flew open, releasing unnumbered souls from the depths of Hell. Sam barely even blinked as noise exploded around him, his entire world on the girl kneeling before him.
"I wasn't supposed to ever meet you," Danielle sighed before coughing. A trickle of blood trailed its way from the corner of her mouth and down her chin, causing Sam's panic to grow even more. "I wasn't important until Azazel kidnapped you and changed everything. He — " She coughed again. "He changed the world, but I made it right."
"Don't say that," Sam pleaded, ignoring another sharp cracking sound as the iron railroads surrounding the boneyard were broken open. It was utter chaos around him, but for some reason, it seemed that little of the noise penetrated the small space he and Danielle occupied.
"You — you gotta promise me somethin'," Danielle's voice was starting to rasp as her face paled. She coughed again and grasped as hard as she could manage at the back of Sam's neck. "You gotta… control your anger, Sam… Don't let it control you…" She trailed off and blinked hazily before coughing again. "I'm sorry it — that it has to be this way."
"It doesn't," Sam said, gently placing his free hand against Danielle's jaw, suddenly fascinated by how small she really was compared to him. "Dani, it doesn't!"
"But it does," Danielle told him. "He told me it does —" She started coughing again, her small frame shaking from the force of it. "Can't — can't fight destiny."
"Yes you can," Sam told her sharply. "Dani, we've made it this far, please don't…"
Danielle smiled at Sam and looked up at the night sky. "I'm gonna see Jared again," she whispered. "They promised me…" Sam stared at Danielle, confused as she gazed upward for a moment more before meeting his eyes again. Then she leaned forward and placed a barely-there kiss on his lips, a mere brushing before she whispered, "It's time to let me go, Sam."
"No," Sam's voice broke. "Dani, please don't."
Danielle blinked and a few tears escaped, trailing down her cheeks and shining faintly in the moonlight. Sam could see her eyes losing focus, could feel her emotions slipping away. "Don't tell my family what I did," she breathed, closing her eyes before gasping for breath.
"No…" Sam whispered brokenly as he felt Danielle's life ebb away, her small body going limp in his arms. He pulled her close and squeezed his eyes shut. "No…"
Danielle was dead.
Sam didn't pay attention as damned souls streamed over his head, swirling violently away from the Devil's Gate. He just couldn't be bothered to care.
He had killed the only person who even remotely understood what he'd been through, and he couldn't even claim that it was an accident. He had knowingly done this, knowingly aimed for a spot on Danielle's body where she would bleed out quickly.
He was a full-fledged killer now.
Dean narrowly avoided hitting his head on a grave marker and rolled a couple times before struggling to his knees.
A gunshot rang out in the darkness, and Dean panicked for a moment, thinking that Danielle had used the Colt, after all. Then he looked up and saw that the Colt had been put into the keyhole, the seal around it turning in different directions as it presumably unlocked itself. Then he looked at Danielle.
She was bleeding.
Sam held his gun in his hands.
There was a faintly peculiar look on Danielle's face as she reached up to touch the slowly growing stain on her jacket, but Dean didn't get a chance to figure out what it meant, because she was down on her knees and Sam was moving towards her in a panic, catching her and whispering to her desperately.
Dean's eyes strayed back to the crypt doors. The Colt!
He was running forward before he even registered the motion, bypassing Sam and Danielle as he reached for the gun. There was a loud clank, and Dean could only assume the doors were now completely unlocked as he pulled the gun free.
"Get down!" Ellen shouted, and Dean turned tail, passing an oblivious Sam and jumping over the nearest headstone.
The Devil's Gate slammed open like a dam bursting at the seams, instantly followed by the screeching of damned souls twisting wildly towards the railroad tracks separating them from the rest of the world. Dean knew better than to hope they would hold against that many demons.
Seconds later, he heard another crack and knew the demons were free.
"It's the only way to get him here."
Dean looked down at the Colt and quickly opened the barrel, seeing that Danielle was right about the one bullet still being inside. He couldn't pretend to understand what had been going on inside her head, but she had knowingly given him what he needed.
Dean pushed to his feet and turned to look for Sam.
He was still kneeling on the ground, holding Danielle's body close. It didn't take a genius to realize that she was dead, and Dean felt a pang of mixed emotions at the sight. Just then, Bobby ran past him with Ellen and Jo on his heels.
"We've gotta get the doors closed!" Ellen shouted to him, and he turned to follow when he spotted a figure he hadn't seen since January.
"Azazel," he growled, changing course in an instant and raising the gun. The time for revenge, the chance to stop this demon from causing any more pain and destruction had finally arrived, and Dean was gonna make damn sure that the yellow-eyed demon breathed his last.
Unfortunately, Azazel spotted him before he could do anything and he was sent flying once again, this time hitting the side of his head against an old headstone. He blinked hazily before he was shoved against the headstone and the Colt was ripped from his hand as blood dripped down the side of his face.
"Oh, Dean," Azazel laughed from above him, and he worked to focus on the form now standing before him, idly holding the gun in its hands. "Did you really think you could stop me?" Azazel crouched down and grinned at Dean. "You should know by now that mere mortals like yourself don't stand a chance against me."
Dean glared hard at Azazel. "We almost had you once," he ground out, "and we can do it again."
"So confident!" Azazel's yellow eyes flashed in the darkness. "The man who is going to Hell in a year thinks he can stop a demon."
Dean glared at Azazel.
"Danielle was kind enough to tell me that she managed to deliver on a promise I couldn't keep," Azazel added after a moment. "And a good thing, too. Your daddy proved a little too hard to break."
Dean didn't quite understand, but he felt an irrational surge of pride, anyway. "No one breaks Dad," he told Azazel. "And no one breaks us."
"But I already broke Sammy once," Azazel pointed out. "I can easily do it, again." He rose, staring at the gun in his hands. "I have my champion," he said, "and you're in the way of what happens next. Wanna head downstairs 365 days ahead of schedule?" He laughed and raised the Colt, pointing it at Dean's head. " I'd say 364, but it's leap year next year. Anyway…" He shrugged. "I can't say I'll miss ya. Say 'hi' to Alistair for me?"
The gun was suddenly ripped from his hands, landing next to Dean, who still couldn't move. A moment later, Sam stepped into sight, hand outstretched and an expression of grief mixed with hard anger on his face.
"Sammy!" Azazel said brightly. "You're back in the game and better than ever, am I right?"
Sam just glared at Azazel. "Leave Dean alone," he said simply.
Azazel actually seemed to consider for a moment. "I told you that I'd get Dean in Hell," he said, "and I'd like to see it happen now rather than later."
"No," Sam said. "This ends tonight. No more powers, or demon blood, or any of it. You're dying tonight."
Azazel stared at Sam for a moment, and then he grinned.
The ensuing battle reminded Dean a great deal of the video that had been delivered to him and John when Sam had been Azazel's prisoner nearly a year ago. Azazel was clearly stronger than the demon of that fight, and Sam was without the demon blood that had made him a real force to be reckoned with, but it clearly wasn't going to stop him.
Dean sat, pinned to the old headstone, watching as Sam slowly took more hits and began to tire. He wanted to help him, wanted to reach for the damn gun, but Azazel's powers weren't relenting.
"This needs to stop, Sam," Azazel called out after Sam slammed into a tree and slumped to his knees, breathing heavily. "I need you in tip-top condition for what's coming."
"I'm not stopping," Sam snarled, slowly pushing back to his feet.
"You can't save Dean," Azazel said, voice hard for the first time. "There's no way out unless you wanna die again, and you know that Dean would sooner kill himself than let that happen."
Sam looked towards Dean, but his hair was hanging in his face as he braced himself against the tree, so Dean couldn't make out his expression. "I'm not giving up," Sam finally said. "If there's a way out, I'll find it."
Azazel actually looked displeased as he raised a hand and clenched it into a fist. Sam cried out, dropping back to his knees and clutching at his chest. Part of Dean wanted to turn his head away, wanted to close his eyes, but he didn't. He owed Sam better than that.
That's when he saw the flicker of a ghost from the corner of his eye, a figure moving towards Azazel with steady steps, clearly intent on its mission.
It was John.
Azazel didn't notice the approaching spirit until John was on him, wrapping his arms around the body the demon was inhabiting and pulling the demon right out. Dean watched as the dead body dropped lifelessly to the ground and noticed two things.
Sam had stopped screaming.
He could move his arm.
Dean seized his chance.
Sam wanted to curl into himself when the pain finally stopped, but he wanted to know how it had happened, and his curiosity won out. He lifted his head, body shaking from the fight and pain, and he felt his eyes go wide when he realized what he was seeing.
John had pulled Azazel out of his vessel and was wrestling with him, clearly trying to stop him hurting Sam any longer. "Dad," he breathed.
Seconds later, the black smoke that comprised Azazel's true form shook John's spirit off, and he was thrown away, landing beyond some headstones. Sam struggled to stand as the smoke streamed back into the corpse it had been occupying, and then Azazel was rising to his feet, looking beyond pissed off. Sam braced himself, but Azazel stopped moving.
He was looking at Dean.
Dean had the Colt in his hand.
No one said anything as the gun went off, bullet hitting Azazel in the heart. The demon appeared stunned, jaw going slack as the bullet did what it was supposed to do. Sam watched as he sparked and flashed from the inside out, body jerking spasmodically before Azazel dropped to his knees and then slumped to the ground, the bright and eerie yellow of his eyes fading to a pale blue.
He was finally dead.
Sam managed to get upright again, using the tree behind him as support once more as Dean and John slowly rose, as well.
There was a loud 'boom' as the doors to the Devil's Gate were finally closed, and Sam was vaguely aware of Bobby, Ellen and Jo turning to face them. However, his main focus, like Dean, was on their father, and he forced himself forward, ignoring the dead body on the ground in favor of reaching Dean's side.
He tripped about two feet away, but Dean caught him and helped him steady himself as John approached them both. There were tears running silently down his face as clapped Dean on the shoulder and smiled at Sam. He didn't say anything, but both brothers understood, anyway.
Thank you. I love you. Good-bye.
John stepped away, looking, for the first time Sam could remember, to be at peace with himself. He closed his eyes, and Sam could sense him letting go as he faded into a bright light that slowly dissipated until only the moonlight was left to give light to the now-silent graveyard.
"We did it," Dean whispered.
"Yeah," Sam said just as quietly, heart aching for both John and Danielle. "We did."
Dean wouldn't take the dead body that Azazel had possessed anywhere, while Sam refused to leave Danielle behind. "She sold us out," Dean said as Sam lifted her body.
"I sensed that she knew she was gonna die tonight," Sam retorted. "Something more happened than what we know, but all this…" He shook his head. "Dani was just as much a victim as we were."
Dean didn't like it, but Sam couldn't be made to change his mind, so they wrapped her body up with some spare blankets Bobby had before driving away from the old boneyard. Dean had a mild concussion and Sam needed stitches, so they hit up the nearest hospital to get checked out, Sam telling the authorities that they had been attacked while camping by men with guns who had shot Danielle before Sam and Dean were able to fight them off.
Sam still had his Jedi powers, so their story was accepted without question. He also made sure they would get Danielle's body sent back home to Provo before insisting that he and Dean needed to return there, as well.
"What are you gonna tell her parents?" Dean asked as Sam drove to the nearest motel for a few hours rest.
Sam didn't say anything for a minute, eyes on the road and shoulders tense, probably from physical and emotional pain. "I don't know," he said, "but they deserve to know from us, not some state official."
Dean frowned, but didn't say anything for a few minutes.
"There's an army of demons out there," he finally stated.
"I know," Sam said. "Bobby said he'd try to find out where they all went."
"We should be helping him," Dean said.
"Ellen and Jo can do that," Sam replied. "We're going to Provo first thing in the morning and we're gonna stay for the funeral, too."
Dean stared over at Sam. "Sam —"
"Don't," Sam said. "Danielle was a good person who got influenced to do some bad things, and I don't know why. I have to do this, I have to find out what happened." He glanced over at Dean. "After that, I'm gonna do everything I can to get you out of your Deal."
"I know what I said," Sam continued before he could speak. "I researched after Dad…" He trailed off and took a deep breath before continuing, "Look, I know there's nothing you can do, but I still have to try. If there is a way out, I'll find it. Don't give up, not yet."
Dean swallowed, uncertain as to what he should say in response. "Okay," he finally settled on as Sam turned into the parking lot of a small motel.
"Okay," Sam said in return, giving Dean a small smile before getting out of the Impala to check them into a room. Dean watched him go, sadly acknowledging that the last of his little brother's innocence had finally been shattered. Jessica's death had knocked him down, but he'd found his feet again. Being kidnapped by Azazel and losing Dad had severely shaken his self-confidence and almost thrown him completely off-axis, but he had managed to retain his foundations and build himself back up. Being killed by a trusted friend and then brought back to life only to find that your brother had traded his soul… It had done something completely different. Sam's posture was still straight, and he still carried himself with self-confidence, but the look in his eyes had changed. He was more hardened to the harsh realities of their world, maybe less likely to look for the good in everything over finding the cold, hard facts.
The worst part of it was that death hadn't done any of this to Sam. Dean had done it. Dean had put that new look in his eyes. He couldn't bear to live in a world without Sam alive in it, but he was willing to leave Sam in the world without him. It had clearly hurt Sam far more deeply than their dad's Deal had, but Dean couldn't bring himself to regret his actions. He really would make the same choice every time.
Sam returned to the Impala, jangling the key to their room, and Dean got out to get his things from the trunk. He knew that their work was far from done, but an important battle had been won, and for now, they were both still standing, still breathing, still capable of fighting. Whatever came next, they would face it together.
Hoisting his duffel bag onto his shoulder, Dean followed Sam to their room. There was much to come, but for now, Dean focused on the present, on Sam's soft breathing, knowing there was a firm heartbeat still driving Sam forward. Everything else could wait, he told himself, and he let the motel room door swing shut behind him, locking out the rest of the world.
The sequel will be called "Demon Year" (I think, it's still a working title for now), and the summary is as follows:
As Dean's year comes closer to an end, Sam tries to find a way out of his Deal, despite knowing there's probably nothing he can do. Meanwhile, there's an unleashed army of damned souls to track down and return to Hell, a supposedly "good" demon named Ruby following the Winchester's almost everywhere, an escaped Gordon Walker hunting them down to kill Sam once and for all, and the FBI on their trail once again. If that isn't enough, a new enemy from Hell arises, and not only does she want Sam's head on a pointy stick, but she'll send as many demons after him as she can until he's dead. Danielle Young's best friend Roxy Parker continues to be drawn further into the world of the supernatural as she tries to head off the FBI's search for Sam and Dean and starts taking on demons of her own, all in the name of staying in contact with the Winchesters. Can Dean protect Sam until his Deal comes due? Will everyone even manage to survive the oncoming year? This story will have Ellen and Jo along with my OC's Roxy, her girlfriend Taryn, Danielle's family, and others.
Thank you, everyone, for reading. I hope you've enjoyed the ride!