AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'd just like to say that of all the Supernatural characters, Crowley is my favorite to write.
One of the reasons I feel affected by 9/11 is that I was alone when I first heard about it. It was my first year at college and I was far away from my family and I didn't have any real friends at the time. I still find it ironic that the worst domestic attack in history happened while I was in history class.
September 4th, 2011
It was rare that Dean found himself at a loss for words.
But as he stood in New York City, looking at Ground Zero, he couldn't think of what to say. Beside him, John and Sam also stared out at the empty space. Most of the rubble had been cleared, but some still remained. And even though he tried not to think about what had happened there 10 years ago, the reminders were painfully obvious.
Back at the hotel, Dean got settled on one of the beds in the room he was sharing with Sam before pulling off his boots and jeans so that he was sitting in his shirt and boxer shorts. While Sam logged onto his computer, he kept an eye on Dean who was removing the prosthetic leg he'd been using for just shy of a decade.
"I can hear you brooding over there, Sammy," Dean said as he put the leg aside and turned to look at his brother. "You okay?"
Sam shrugged. "Guess I never thought we'd be here again." It had taken him a long time to accept that he was never going to have a full recovery. But thinking about some of the other people who had been injured in 9/11, he supposed he was lucky. He still couldn't walk more than a few feet, but it was better than when he'd first gotten out of the hospital and hadn't been able to move his legs at all.
Glancing over at Dean who was lying on his bed with his own computer, Sam tried not to stare at what was left of his brother's right leg, or at the support brace he wore on his knee for the longer hunts and car rides. After seeing how badly Dean had been hurt, Sam had expected him to raise a fuss. But Dean's concern had been Sam and getting him ready for Stanford.
"I don't know how we're going to pull this off, man," Dean said suddenly, slamming his laptop shut in frustration. "How are we going to stop all those deals in a week?" Thinking for a while, he said, "We gotta find the demon that holds the contracts. Use the Colt, maybe?"
"Okay," Sam replied, thoughtfully. "But how do we find him?" He heard knocking on the door and straightened up, waiting until he heard—
"It's me," John said, quickly.
Sam wheeled over to the hotel room door and opened it, revealing his dad standing there with two pizzas and a pair of six packs. "Hey, Dad."
John entered the room and set dinner down on the table next to Sam's computer. "Any luck figuring out a plan?" he asked, hopefully as he opened up the first box and grabbed a slice of pizza.
"We got nothin'," Dean replied, gloomily as he set his laptop aside and moved over to the other side of the bed so he could get at the pizza and beer.
"I don't like the sound of that," John said, frowning as he pulled out a beer and twisted the cap off.
"Oh. Okay," Dean said before adapting an overly cheerful tone. "We've got nothing!" he repeated, earning himself a smack to the back of the head from his father.
"Look, Dad, seriously," Sam interjected. "How are we supposed to save 1,700 people all at the same time? And they're not all going to be here this week anyway."
"Wait a second," Dean said, thinking. "Remember when that case about 4 years ago? 6 people made deals with the same demon."
Sam nodded, remembering the case. "Yeah, they all said that the demon had an accent or something."
"Okay," John said, wearily as he rubbed his face with one hand. "So how do we find this demon?"
"Well, you could try just letting him in," an English accented voice said from the open doorway.
All three Winchesters drew weapons and aimed them at the demons standing there. "Who the hell are you?" Dean demanded, aiming his favorite 1911 Colt at the demon's heart.
"'Hell' being the operative word," the demon replied. "The name's Crowley. And if you'd be so kind as to let me in for a spell, we need to talk."
"So talk," John said, calmly, as he aimed the Colt at Crowley.
Crowley frowned and let out a deep sigh. "Fine. It concerns you, your sons, and the end of the soddin' world!"
John wasn't sure what this demon was up to, but he didn't want the hellspawn to call any more attention. Looking at Sam who was still parked by the door, he nodded once.
Sam wheeled forward and bent over, using the tip of his sawed-off shotgun to break the salt line. Setting the gun in his lap, he wheeled back to let Crowley in before closing the door behind him. "What do you mean 'the end of the world'?"
Crowley sighed again as he looked at the three Winchesters. "First of all, the three of you were never supposed to be at Ground Zero in the first place. That one event changed a world of things and not just for you." Pulling a bottle of scotch out from nowhere, he went to the kitchenette and pulled out a glass before pouring himself two fingers of the amber liquid. "You see, in the grand scheme of things either Dean or John were supposed to break the first of 66 Seals which would eventually free Lucifer from Hell. Sam was supposed to be Lucifer's vessel and destroy the world unless Archangel Michael—played by Dean, of course—killed him."
"So what changed?" John asked, curiously. It wasn't in his nature to trust demons—they had the habit of lying to save their sorry asses—but Crowley didn't seem the type to tell tales.
"A pair of angels," Crowley said, annoyance in his voice. "—that go by the names of Castiel and Balthazar." Rolling their eyes, he added, "They decided to abort the Apocalypse. Put an extra heavy-duty lock on Lucifer's cage. So far, all attempts to breach it have failed."
"So let's get to the part where you tell us about the deals," Sam interrupted. They could talk about how the end of the world was stopped after they saved 1,700 people.
Crowley sipped his scotch and set the glass down on the counter before walking towards the Winchesters. "Here's the deal, boys," he said, finally. "The angels I mentioned want to go back in time and prevent 9/11 from happening."
"Wait, they can do that?" Dean said, quickly, as he looked at Sam. If the Twin Towers hadn't been hit, then Sam would never have been hurt. Dean would have both legs, and… But thinking about what Crowley had said before, he stopped and said, "Wait, if these angels undo things… does that mean that Sam and I…?"
"And I think he's got it," Crowley said with a snarky smile. The smile vanished, however, as he went on. "Now… as I said, the angels want to undo the worst terrorist attack in American history. Which would screw the world over royally, including yours truly. So… In the spirit of altruism—and considering I'd rather a quick and painless death to what the angels have in mind—I come with a white flag. Namely… myself."
The Winchesters exchanged looks as they considered the proposition. On the surface, there was, of course, nothing to think about. The deals would never be made if the angels had their way, but on the other hand, who knew how many people would die if the Apocalypse got underway?
Of course, if they just killed Crowley that would save all the people who made deals and not just those affected by the terrorist attacks—every contract the demon held would be broken.
"I can see you need a moment," Crowley said, heading for the door. "I'll be back in 24 hours." And with that, he left the hotel room and vanished.
For a while, the Winchesters said nothing as they thought about the choices before them.
Finally, Sam looked at his dad and his brother and said, "I, uh… I need to…" Before his family could ask, Sam headed out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Dean let out a deep sigh before putting the safety back on his gun and putting it back under his pillow. Feeling his father staring at him, he looked away as he carefully stood, balancing on his remaining leg. He hopped over to the table and managed to get seated without falling flat on his face. After grabbing another beer and another piece of pizza, he went onto Sam's computer, still ignoring his dad.
"Dean," John said as he sat across from his son and pulled the laptop away, setting it on Dean's bed. "Talk to me, kid."
"I hate this, Dad," Dean said, angrily. "I mean, I…" He looked away for a moment and as he faced his father, he ran a hand over his face. "The idea of Sam being out of that damn wheelchair… I'd do anything if it could help him."
"And you think I don't feel the same?" John said, feeling a touch hurt. "Dean, I'd love nothing more than for you and Sam to be happy… For you to have full use of both legs and for Sam to be able to walk on his own again." He sighed and went on. "But we've got to think about the big picture, Dean. You know that."
"I know, Dad," Dean sighed, wearily, as he repeated the face-rubbing gesture he'd picked up from his father. He used the back of his chair for support as he stood. Going to his bed, he pulled back the covers and laid down before closing his eyes.
The bar in the hotel lobby was quiet as Sam sipped his beer. He didn't look at the TV in the corner, even though he noticed that the people still sitting at the bar were. He knew what the latest news was and didn't need the reminder.
He knew what choice Dean would make. He'd heard the promise for so long. "If it's the last thing I do, I'll get you walking again, Sammy." But Sam hadn't put too much stock into the words after a while. He knew the odds of recovery from spinal injuries and he knew that the chances of him walking again decreased the more time went by.
Sam remembered the first month in the hospital with his brother. He'd started slipping into depression, of course, but Dean had very quickly yanked him out of it. His big brother had never let up in pushing Sam with his physical therapy and once he'd started his own, Dean had started chomping at the bit to get walking on the crutches and then to get the prosthetic. All so he could be there to help his little brother.
"Got two of those?"
Sam looked up as his father sat down opposite him and signaled the bartender for a second beer. Looking at his dad, he asked, "So what's the verdict?"
John waited until his beer arrived before speaking. "After the paramedics took you and Dean to the hospital that day, I was digging in your bag. I forget what I'd originally been looking for, but I remember finding the acceptance letter from Stanford." He took a swig of his drink and went on, surprised that Sam wasn't butting in with one explanation or another. "All I could think about was how could you not tell me? How could you plan to walk out on your family?"
"Dad, it wasn't like that," Sam insisted. "I just… I wanted my own life for once."
"I don't think I ever told you how proud I was of you for getting that scholarship," John said, honestly. "I just couldn't believe that you did that all on your own." He was quiet for another moment as he tried to think of the best way to say what he was thinking. "Sam, if I could change things—change what happened to you and Dean—I wouldn't. The three of us have been closer in the past 10 years than we ever were before. And I wouldn't give that up for anything."
Bryan Norton slowly opened the door to his daughter's bedroom, looking at the sleeping child. 10 years ago, he'd made a deal to save his pregnant wife in exchange for his soul. His wife had been 3 months along when she'd gone into work at the North Tower and she'd been trapped when the building had started to collapse. All Bryan wanted in the moment that he saw the news at his office across town was for his wife and unborn child to be safe.
And then the woman appeared before his desk, claiming that she could guarantee his family's safety in exchange for his soul in 10 years.
He didn't even have to think about it.
But thinking back on it now, Bryan felt his heart break as he realized that he'd never see his little girl grow up.
10 years and Gail Anderson would never forget the names of the two young men who'd saved her life.
She'd only been a volunteer firefighter for 3 months, but when the reports started coming in about the plane crashing into the North Tower, she'd gone to help. It was her job and she knew that she'd be needed.
The going had been slow, but she'd never complained and never slowed down. Until she'd gotten caught in a ceiling collapse.
Gail had though she was dead—just another death statistic.
And then Sam and Dean Winchester had come along and pulled her out. They hadn't been firefighters or paramedics or even military. They'd just been two young men who had just shown up out of the blue to help.
Gail hoped the boys would be at the memorial dedication. She hadn't been able to tell Sam and Dean before that she owed them her life. But they deserved to know.
As the hours ticked by, Crowley stood next to the 9/11 Memorial, a glass of craig Scotch in his hand.
Hundreds of years in Hell had hardened him into a demon, but he liked to believe that he wasn't as heartless as some demons.
In fact, Crowley was one of few demons who could still see humans as something other than pathetic, weak meat suits.
When confronted by the greatest attack in the history of the United States, people came to help with no thought as to their own personal well-being. That kind of selflessness was something to be admired.
There was the faint sound of wings and Crowley glanced to his left to see Balthazar standing there. "What are you doing here?" the angel asked, sounding genuinely curious.
"The average number of deals on any given day is only about 300, believe it or not," Crowley replied. Turning to give Balthazar his full attention, he sipped his scotch and went on. "10 years ago, a total of 1,824 deals were made less than a week from today." He finished his drink and got rid of the glass before he said, "And I won't be able to collect any of them."
Balthazar looked surprised at that news and frowned slightly. "Going soft, are you?"
"No," Crowley replied, turning and walking away. "If fact… by tonight, I expect I'll be dead."
The beer had been abandoned for the whiskey.
In John's hotel room, he sat at the table with his sons. Each Winchester had a glass of liquor before them and even though no one was talking, they didn't need to say anything. In the middle of the table, the Colt lay waiting.
Dean looked from his watch to the door and the broken salt line. In a matter of minutes, Crowley would be there for the Winchester's decision and as he looked at his dad and brother, Dean could see the resolve in their faces.
True to his word, Crowley suddenly appeared and Sam, Dean, and John looked at him for only a moment.
Crowley didn't ask what the choice was. He didn't have to.
The bullet from the Colt tearing through his heart was answer enough.
September 11th, 2011
The Impala rumbled to a stop in the last available parking spot early that morning. John looked at the rest of the crowds heading for the memorial dedication before looking at his sons. "You sure about this?" he asked, looking from Dean to Sam.
Dean nodded silently and got out of the car, his father a few steps behind him.
It took Sam a while to get out of the Impala and into his wheelchair, but he refused any help. Today, he needed to do this on his own.
As he followed his dad and brother, and saw the crowds around the memorial, Sam suddenly felt himself transported back in time. He remembered the dust from the rubble, the pain as he lay sprawled, pinned by the broken ceiling and support beams. And then there was the fear. The fear that he would die trapped, that his brother wouldn't be able to save him.
Beside Sam, Dean was also lost in thought. But unlike his brother, Dean was thinking about all the people gathered here today that might be dead now if they hadn't killed Crowley. For the past 6 years, saving people and hunting things had basically become the family business, hindered only occasionally by Sam and Dean's disabilities.
Being a hunter was a crappy job at best and it was only because Dean had cleaned up at a poker game the week before that they could afford the hotel instead of one of the usual craphole motels they tended to frequent.
Focusing his attention as the speeches began, John couldn't help but feel more than a bit annoyed that the politicians weren't doing more praising of the firefighters, paramedics, and police that had been at Ground Zero 10 years ago. But as he looked at Sam and Dean, he noticed that they didn't seem to be bothered.
Even the people standing nearby that John recognized at having been at the Trade Center the morning of September 11th seemed only mildly put out. And as he thought about what these people had done—what his sons had done—John figured that it was like hunting. The people who knew what you'd done were the only ones that mattered.
Looking at the reflecting pools that had been set where the towers had been, John thought about all that had been lost 10 years ago. The loss of security that even other hunters felt as they realized that there was evil in the world that couldn't be stopped with silver, iron, or rock salt—enemies that weren't supernatural.
But when John looked at his sons—Mary's sons—he saw that as much as there had been loss, there had also been something gained. He wouldn't trade the life he had with Sam and Dean for anything. And he understood now that what he did was more than hunting things—it was about saving people.
In the back of the crowd, two angels stood, watching the Winchesters.
"By the way, Castiel," Balthazar said with a smirk. "Next time, I get to pick which global crisis gets averted."
Castiel's expression was stoic as he asked, "What did you have in mind?"
"Funny you should ask," the other angel replied. "How do you feel about unsinking the Titanic?"