AUTHOR'S NOTES: With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I wanted to do a story with Sam and Dean and what might have happened had they been at Ground Zero that day.
Needless to say, this is highly AU. Therefore: no Apocalypse, John is alive, Azazel and Lilith are toast, the brothers are still as close as ever, and Crowley maybe has a shred of decency left in his after all.
I hope you guys like this. This story had been in my head for a couple weeks now and I figured I should just go ahead and do it up.
STORY SUMMARY: Having been injured helping out during the WTC attacks during 9/11, Sam and Dean's lives changed dramatically. But that won't stop them when they find out that the hundreds of people who made crossroads deals that day are about to die unless they can stop it.
SUPERNATURAL: Save Our Souls
September 11th, 2001
It was the first time Dean Winchester could remember that he, his father—John—and his brother—Sam—had quit right in the middle of a hunt.
Sitting in the '67 Chevy Impala that had been the closest thing the Winchesters had to a home for the past 18 years, Sam and Dean just listened to the reports on the radio.
And suddenly, John Winchester had done a 180 turn and burned rubber heading towards New York City.
They hadn't been the only hunters who had showed up. It seemed like every hunter in New York and surrounding states had come down to do whatever they could to help. Mostly, that help consisted of attending to survivors or getting names of who might have been in the Twin Towers when they'd collapsed.
Not that New York was the only attack. It was only a matter of hours before it seemed like every hunter had made a beeline for whichever attack they'd been closest to.
It was probably the first time that any hunter had been able to help and had actually been thanked for it.
As busy as the hunters were, the demons found themselves equally busy. Every demon that was topside was provisionally recruited as a crossroads demon to keep up with the growing demand. Even the proper summoning rituals were forgone temporarily.
At the end of the week, 1,703 deals would be made and sealed—the largest number in any given timeframe ever.
Dean had heard the sounds of someone crying for help as he helped a young woman out from the wreckage of the South Tower. Making sure the girl was safely in the hands of the paramedics, he ignored their warnings to get back and instead started climbing back to where the sound was loudest. Looking up as he heard someone call his name, he saw Sam trying to get to him.
"Sammy, help me!" Dean called, as he saw an arm sticking out from underneath a pile of rubble.
Sam went to his brother and they quickly moved the rubble to free the young female firefighter who was thankfully still alive. "You're okay," Sam assured her as he and Dean carefully pulled her out. "You'll be okay."
But just as Dean got the woman to safety, he set her down quickly outside the main wreckage when he heard Sam cry out in pain. "Sammy!" he called, panic thick in his voice. Without even thinking, he went as fast as he could to where he'd last seen Sam. But when his foot caught a patch of loose rubble, Dean went down hard, screaming himself as he felt a horrible crushing pain in his legs as a slab of concrete wall landed on his lower body.
John Winchester felt his legs turn to rubber as he overheard the 23-year-old firefighter tell the paramedics about the young man who had saved her. The girl was maybe only a year older than Dean, and Dean had managed to rescue her without any thought to his own safety.
And right then and there, John had an epiphany. His sons were running headlong into danger because that's what he'd taught them to do. But this time, it wasn't a ghost or monster that was the threat, but humans. He'd trained his boys to hunt evil and save people, regardless of the danger involved and today Sam and Dean were in a situation that was entirely non-supernatural and they still barreled ahead.
In that moment, John couldn't be prouder of his sons and the men they'd grown up to be.
But hearing Dean's sudden screams, he couldn't remember ever feeling more terrified in his life—even including the night Mary died in the fire.
All Sam could remember after the ceiling collapsed on him was pain. It seemed to radiate through his whole body and as his brain blocked out all other thought, the only thing he could think about was that he was going to die in this wrecked building. Before he lost consciousness, he could have sworn he heard his father's voice calling for him.
The emergency room was standing room only, although John didn't think he could have sat even if he could have. He'd started pacing and hadn't stopped because the few moments he did, a thousand worst-case scenarios flooded his brain.
John stopped and found himself facing a couple about his age looking at him. "Yeah?" he asked, not sure what the two wanted.
"Sir, my name is Victor Anderson," the man said before gesturing to his wife. "This is my wife, Gillian. We heard your sons were the ones who pulled our daughter out. She's a volunteer firefighter."
John nodded, remembering the girl briefly. "Yeah, that was Dean and Sam," he confirmed.
"We wanted to thank them," Gillian said with a grateful look. "Meg is our only child. I can't imagine what could have happened if your son hadn't found her."
Reality slammed John like a load of bricks and he said, "Sam got caught in some falling debris. Dean got hurt trying to rescue him."
Gillian looked horrified and put a hand on John's arm as she replied, "I'm so sorry." She gently squeezed the arm of the man who'd saved her daughter and added, "I really hope your boys will be okay."
"Me, too," John said, quietly, accepting a cup of coffee from an older woman carrying around a tray of insulated cups.
Dean groaned as he finally started waking up. Outside, it was dark and he wondered how long he'd been out of it. Looking around at the hospital room, he blinked in surprise when he saw that Sam was in the bed next to his. And in between, head lulled to the side, was Dad, snoring softly.
Looking at his younger brother, Dean saw that Sam was wearing a back brace and seemed to still be unconscious. "Sammy?" he said, tentatively.
Sam didn't wake, but John did and he looked at his eldest son with a mix of pain and relief. "Dean," John said, looking at him.
"Dad?" Dean said, not liking how dour his father's mood was. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his lower body almost made his scream. It was then that he looked down and saw that while left leg was in a cast almost up to his hip, his right leg was just gone about two thirds up his thigh. He shot a horrified look at his father as he asked, "How bad?"
John looked down at his hands and said, "Dean, I—"
"Dad, just tell me!" Dean demanded, sharply. "How bad?" Running a hand over his face when his father refused to answer, Dean let out a deep sigh and said, "I screwed up, Dad."
"Don't ever say that," John said, sharply, looking up at his son. He stood and helped Dean sit up a bit before retaking his chair and making sure his oldest son was looking at him before he went on. "Now you listen to me, Dean. You did not screw up. You did nothing wrong and watching what you did out there? I have never been prouder to be your father."
"You mean that?" Dean said, more than a bit surprised. He'd never heard his father talking like this before.
"Yeah," John replied with a warm smile. Looking over at Sam, he said, "Did you know Sammy got into Stanford? Full scholarship, too."
Dean looked surprised at that and turned to look at his sleeping brother. His little brother got into one of the best colleges in the country? And the college would pay for him to go? "We gotta let him go, Dad," Dean said, resolvedly. He didn't want to leave his brother alone. Not with all the scary crap out there. Besides… how bad had Sam been hurt, anyway? Sam had obviously hurt his back—what if the injuries were permanent? But at the same time, Dean knew that chances like this didn't come around all the time.
John nodded, knowing that Dean was right. Besides… for some reason, hunting didn't seem as important anymore for some reason. "Well, we still got time before Sam needs to be there."
"How bad was Sam hurt?" Dean asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
John sighed and rubbed his face with one hand—a habit that he'd noticed that Dean had picked up years ago. "Sam broke his back. Docs say it could be worse. He's still got some sensation in his legs, but… But he can't move 'em."
Dean lay back with a deep sigh as he looked down at his own legs. "This sucks, Dad."
"Yeah," John agreed. "Yeah, it really does."
The world had changed for the Winchesters in the past four years.
Confronted by his sons' disabilities, John had quit hunting full time and when it had come time for Sam to graduate high school and go off to college, he and Dean had moved to California with Sam.
They'd found a one-story house just a few blocks from the Stanford campus and John had taken a security job at the college so that Sam and Dean could have decent health insurance for once. That, and so he could keep an eye on his youngest son.
Late at night, though, when he got home from work, John still kept his eyes and ears open for the monster that had killed his wife, Mary. He believed it was a demon now and he spent every possible moment combing through reports for signs that the thing was on the move. But he wouldn't go after the demon—not yet. Not until he knew that the bastard wouldn't be able to get away.
For Sam, the only sign that he had been getting any better during the past four years was that he could kind of… sort of… move his legs a bit. If he had something to hold onto, he could stand for almost 10 seconds before his legs gave out and he'd fall to the ground.
Between classes, homework, and physical therapy, Sam hadn't really had time to date while at college—something Dean teased him about relentlessly—but coming out of a PT session at the local healt center one night, he'd almost run into a beautiful blonde with the sweetest smile he'd ever seen. As the two sat in the coffee shop around the corner, Sam found himself falling head over heels for Jessica Moore.
Of course, just because he had a girlfriend and a normal life, it didn't make things easier for him. In fact, Sam often felt like a loaner because he couldn't walk. Even when he was with his study groups, he felt like he was always being included out of pity.
The only upside was Jess. Sam had never had a girlfriend before and the more he was with her, the harder he worked both at school and PT. Of course, Jessica had told him over and over that she would have liked him even if he wasn't in a wheelchair.
While his father had back-burnered hunting in favor of working an honest job for Sam's sake, Dean had gone in the opposite direction. A year after 9/11, Dean was back to as close to 100% as he could be. Sure, his left knee hurt like a son of a bitch if he drove for too long at one time and he'd only just started getting used to going longer amounts of time with the prosthetic leg, but Dean knew that there were monsters still out there and if his father wasn't going to fight them anymore, then he had to.
On a cool November night, Dean found himself sitting in the Impala with his father, looking at the apartment Sam had been sharing with Jessica for the past year. The night was calm and there wasn't even the slightest indication something was amiss.
Which is why Dean had started to ignore the looks he was getting from his father. "Look, you said you noticed certain signs or whatever," Dean pressed, eyes fixed on the apartment windows. "And that they were centered around here."
"Dean, this stuff isn't an exact science," John argued. "I mean, I could have been—"
But both Winchesters were out of the car and racing towards the building when they saw the building lights start to flicker violently.
Dean was only slightly slower than his father, his panic pushing him along. After John broke the door down, he and Dean hurried inside just as they heard Sam's scream of "Jess! No!"
There was an explosion and John and Dean bolted for the bedroom door when they smelled smoke.
The bedroom was on fire and Sam was lying on the floor, his eyes fixed on the ceiling where Jessica's bleeding body was pinned. "Jess!" he cried, tears falling down his face.
"Sammy!" Dean said, not giving another thought to his own safety as he dashed forward, grabbing his brother's arm and hauling him to his feet, hurrying out of the apartment and down the stairs as the smoke poured out into the hallway.
Everyone else in the building was evacuating as well and it was a few moments before the sounds of sirens could be heard over the panicked shouts.
Outside, Dean got Sam over to the Impala and opened up the rear passenger door with his free hand before getting his brother sitting down. "Sammy?" Dean asked, hesitantly.
"She's dead…" Sam said, quietly, tears still streaming down his face. "She's dead, Dean. Jess is dead."
Dean crouched down as best he could and looked his brother in the face, waiting until Sam's eyes met his. "It's going to be okay, Sammy. Okay? I promise."
Sam nodded numbly, not even really registering Dean's words. But something inside him was waking up and becoming angry. He wanted to find what had killed the girl he loved. He wanted to find it and he wanted it dead. Looking over Dean's shoulder, he was surprised to see the look on his father's face.
It was the look John Winchester had when he'd done something he didn't want to talk about. In John's hand was a very old, antique Colt revolver. "Let's go home," John said, quickly, going to get behind the wheel of the Impala. Once Sam and Dean were in and the doors were closed, he headed straight for the house and pulled into the driveway.
"We need to go, Dad," Sam said, still looking straight ahead. "We've got to find the thing that killed Jess."
"Let's just get inside first," John replied before getting out of the car and going to the garage where he'd stashed the old hospital-grade wheelchair Sam had first used after being released. After John and Dean had helped Sam inside, he grabbed two beers for himself and Dean and a soda for Sam. Once they all had their drinks and were sitting down, John looked at Sam. "It was a demon that killed Jessica," he said, simply. When Sam sat up a bit more, he held out a hand to stop his son from going anywhere. "I already killed it. That's why I was still in the building. It's done."
"You killed it?" Dean said, doubtfully. "After all this time, you just…?" he mimed firing a gun.
John gave a soft laugh. Leave it to Dean to be skeptical. He handed over the Colt and said, "Made by Samuel Colt for a hunter about 150 years ago. They say it can kill anything."
"Like the demon that killed Mom and Jessica," Dean filled in, studying the gun. Looking up at his father, he asked, "So it's over?"
"It's not over," Sam spoke up. When his father and brother looked at him, he sighed. "I'm sorry, Dad. You came out here to help me, you stopped hunting all the time… You and Dean have done everything for me and I'm throwing it in your faces."
"Dude, you're saying what, exactly?" Dean said, calmly. He knew full well what Sam was trying to get at but wanted to hear the words from his brother's own mouth.
Sam gave Dean a 'You know what I'm saying' look as he said, "We're hunters. It's what we do. There's no use in trying to pretend otherwise."
Dean looked at his father and shrugged. "You heard him, Dad. This is what he wants."
"Okay," John said, nodding. "Then let's do it."