Dean wanted to say so many things to his brother. He wanted to say goodbye, he wanted to say 'I'm sorry', he wanted to say 'you have no right to judge me'.
He wanted Sam to understand that this was his choice and despite all the crap that had happened to bring the two of them to that place, Dean's resolution was still the same.
But he said nothing.
The world was coming to an end, Lucifer was getting stronger by the minute and they were powerless to do anything to stop him. They had two choices: either give up, roll over and wait for the end like everyone else, or Dean could use the one weapon that they had at their disposal; the only one that was sure to finish Lucifer off.
But Dean knew his brother. For Sam, there was no difference between both options; both meant giving up. And he wasn't wrong.
It was just the body count at the end that differed from one to the other and Dean was sure as hell going to do his best to keep it as low as he could.
Zachariah was speaking, weird words that Dean recognized vaguely as Enochian. Calling Michael to the stage.
After all, it was show time.
Despite the fact that the sun was barely up, there was a bright, white light flowing from outside, seeping through the windows and cracks on the shaking walls. It wasn't pretty or even awe inspiring. It was terrifying, like a tsunami-size wave of energy from which there was no escape.
Zachariah smiled, victory splattered all over his face. "Finally, the day arrives," he whispered to himself, seeming to relax now that his job was done.
Dean looked at his brother, knowing that it would be the last time he would see Sam. God… he hoped it would be the last time, because seeing Sam again after this day would mean that Sam had said yes to Lucifer and they would be meeting to fight to the death.
Dean was all for Michael killing Lucifer, just as long as the devil wasn't wearing Sam's body at the time. Anything but that.
Sam's mouth was open, lips moving as he formed silent words. As the world shook and came loose around them, Dean moved closer. He wanted to hear, he needed to know what Sam was trying to tell him.
A blur of flesh jumped in between the brothers and Dean found himself staring at diaper-man rather than Sam.
The sight of the person who'd spent the past days torturing him was startling and Dean fell back, landing on his ass. He was staring at a being wearing nothing but a linen cloth, but the face was no longer that of a bald, skinny man; it was Alastair's fangs, Alastair's spikes and horns, Alastair's colorless eyes that Dean saw staring down at him.
"I must finished what I started," the vision of terror said. "I must free your heart and save your soul!"
Dean's eyes were drawn to the man's hands as he swung the axe he was carrying. On pure instinct, he rolled to the left as the axe came crashing down, aimed at the spot where Dean's chest had been just seconds before.
He didn't stop to think how close that had been. He could barely rationalize who was trying to kill him: a demon who was supposed to be dead, a man off his marbles or an overzealous angel with the ethics of a scorpion. At the moment, all Dean could figure was that Sam had been trying to tell him something and Dean hadn't caught it.
Dean shook his head, bracing himself with both hands on the floor as the whole room dipped and dimmed around him. Shaking his head had been a really bad idea. Like a TV with bad reception, Alastair's face flickered and twitched, diaper-man's gaunt face replacing it every so often.
The dirt and trash on the ground regained focus as Dean stared down, everything jumping and bouncing like the whole place was made of jelly, losing structural integrity the closer Michael came.
Michael was coming to claim him. And the guy in diapers was doing everything in his power to make sure that the only thing the archangel would find once he got there, was a bloody corpse.
None of that really matter to Dean now. Either way, these were his final moments. What did matter was the fact that he'd lost track of his brother in middle of the mayhem. In his heart, Dean hoped Sam had come to realize that Dean was a lost cause and that Sam had done the smart thing by getting out of there. Dean knew his brother however; for a smart guy, Sam usually did the dumbest things.
The axe was raised, ready to swing in his direction again and suddenly Dean was pressed with bigger concerns, like the fact that he had crawled himself into a dead end. Franticly, he looked around, searching for something that he could use to defend himself. Every thing around him was either wood or falling apart and he lacked the energy and strength to just jump to his feet and charge the attacking man before he could strike again.
For a heart-stopping second, Dean could see every detail in that axe's blade in crispy definition; the slight blue tint of the steel; the chipped piece that had probably broken off when it'd hit the stone floor; the trace of brown, old blood near the hilt, from the last person whose life it had taken.
Dean closed his eyes, knowing that death would be as swift as it would be brief. Michael was almost there, after all. Dean wouldn't stay dead for long.
It surprised him that he was able to hear the gunshot above all the noise around. Amidst the groaning wood, breaking glass, cracking stone and angelic high-pitched voice, the sound of one bullet leaving the barrel of a gun was crystal clear to Dean's ears.
He opened his eyes out of reflex, searching for the source of the shot. The gun, that one he knew well enough. Sam's gun.
There was a splatter of fresh blood on his face, and for a second Dean wondered why he felt no pain if he'd been shot. The blood, however, was not his.
Looking up, Dean realized that the bullet had hit diaper-man instead. There was a flap of flesh, hanging from the man's right shoulder, blood streaming fast and hot down his arm.
Sam stood in the other corner of the room, gun still up, trying to squeeze out another shot. A killing shot this time around.
Before Sam could fire again or Dean could get his hands around the fallen axe, or diaper-man could do anything more than howl in pain, Michael arrived to end all plans.
"Welcome, welcome, welcome!" Zachariah was beaming, face open in a wide smile, as his attention was kept solely focused on the archangel. Zachariah, patron angel of every boss' kiss-ass on this land.
There was so much light inside the small room that every thing else had seemed to disappear.
The church's walls seemed to vanish, Zachariah's form shrunk until he was nothing but a thin line of black and the madman in front of him... Dean looked in astonishment at the expressions crossing over the man's features as Michael touched down. There was wonderment at first, quickly followed by a sense of just reward and, finally, utterly confusion, as, unable to handle the presence of the archangel, his skin started to melt away, atom by atom.
Just a mere human, diaper-man realized too late, and one that didn't even registered in the archangel's awareness as he was reduced to dust in seconds.
Star dust, Dean caught himself thinking, as he looked at the sparkling particles that started falling down in the place where, seconds before a lunatic killer had stood.
A single word, and yet the entire room seemed to react to it, recoil and shy away.
It was the first time Dean was able to assimilate the fact that there was an archangel in the room, wearing nothing but his true form, and Dean was right there, staring at him, understanding his words.
Slowly, Dean got up. These were his last moments on Earth as himself. He would not spend them on his butt, shivering in fear.
Despite the bright light that annulled all else, Dean searched for his brother. He feared that Sam might've still been in the room when had Michael arrived, that he might have met a fate similar to diaper-man's. Dean shuddered at the thought.
"I believe you have something to say to Michael?"
Zachariah had sneaked over and now stood at his side. His grabby hands pawed at Dean's shoulders, a mocked support that served as nothing more than to keep him from bolting.
Dean shrugged off the angel's touch. More than anything, it irked him that, in the end, Zachariah had gotten what he wanted. After all the manipulation, after all the pain and death he'd brought on, Zachariah would triumph.
Michael was silent, looking expectantly at Dean.
He looked like nothing Dean could have ever imagined. It was like staring at an Aurora Borealis that stood inches away.
Zachariah had once boasted that his true form had a bunch of wings and animal heads. Dean figured that was supposed to be impressive, amongst the small-change angels.
There were no animal heads in what Dean was seeing and the archangel's wings were made of the very fabric of time.
Michael was regal. He didn't so much fill the room with his presence, as he did pull the room into him, like a vacuum. A black hole.
Michael was a black hole of pretty colors and Dean couldn't help thinking about what it would be like to be sucked into that.
"Don't be afraid," Michael whispered, even though an entire wall came down with the sound of his voice.
What happened next, Dean would never know if Michael did it on purpose, to somehow reassure him or if it happened because, at some level, they had begun to merger as one already and the archangel could not prevent it.
One second Dean was inside a room falling apart, the next he was outside Bobby's salvage yard. Faster than the blink of an eye.
Dean looked down on himself in confusion. Instead of the ripped up boxers, Dean was wearing his usual jeans and shirt. He had no idea why he was there or what had happened in between.
"YES, OK? YOU HEAR ME, YOU SON OF BITCH! I SAID YES!" a deep voice screamed into the night.
That was Sam's voice and even without seeing his brother, Dean could read the despair in his broken tone.
Dean wanted to run. He knew what was happening and he knew he would be too late to stop it, but still Dean felt that he had to go to Sam and... do something!
His body didn't move an inch forward. Instead, he shot upwards, an impossible jump that went higher and higher and higher until Dean realized that he wasn't jumping at all. He was flying.
The deep seeded fear he'd always had of planes and machines in general that served solely to defy gravity and transport people from one place to another, was absent when he was the one doing it.
He couldn't feel them move, but Dean knew that wings were somehow involved in the equation. He knew the concept alone should be freaking him out, but he couldn't seem to care less.
Everything looked tiny from where he was, but Sam was easy enough to stop. His brother was standing under a lamplight, walking in skewed loops, whiskey bottle dangling from his hand like a leash without a dog.
"Where are you?" Sam half sobbed, half screamed at the night. "I'm here! I'm ready!"
Sam took one swallow of the bottle and tossed the empty thing against one of the car carcasses lying around. It bounced off the hood, landing somewhere in the dark.
Once more, Dean tried to move his uncooperative body. Once more nothing happened. He was just sitting there, like a crow perched on a high balcony, watching the scene.
"This is not how I'd envisioned our reunion, Sammy."
The voice was quiet, gentle, but even so it startled Dean. Lucifer, still wearing Nick, was standing right beneath the lonely lamppost. He bent down to pick up the empty bottle, disapproving frown on his melting face. "Not that I'm complaining," he went on, hands up, looking as harmless as the devil can, "but what made you change your mind, Sam?"
"Screw you," Sam spat as an answer. "Screw you and your brother! Screw my brother too, while you're at it!"
Lucifer nodded, acting like Sam had politely answered him. "Dean said yes, didn't he?"
Sam seemed to deflate where he stood, six foot plus of man shrinking to a little kid's size. "I told him I couldn't do this on my own," he whispered almost to himself. "I told him... but he wouldn't listen."
Dean was listening. He was listening now. And all of a sudden Sam's words he hadn't been able to hear inside the church were crystal clear and so obvious.
Sam couldn't do it alone.
The same way Dean couldn't either.
Dean wanted to scream at his brother that he finally understood. That he now knew that the only way to defeat Lucifer was for them to stand together, but his tongue was just as disobedient as his body.
"I know, Sam," Lucifer cooed. "Older brothers always have a hard time listening to their siblings. But Sam... we can end this, right now, right here."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, wiping the wetness from his red eyes.
"Michael's here," Lucifer said. "Now."
Suddenly, they were both staring right at Dean and Lucifer smiled. "Hello, brother."
"Let's do this," Dean heard Sam say faintly. "My answer is yes."
"NO!" Dean screamed, hand reaching forward as if that could somehow stop the words from leaving Sam's mouth.
Zachariah was staring at him like Dean was sort of lunatic. "'No', what?" he asked carefully, the menace clear in his tone.
Dean took a loud, deep breath. He was on his knees, back at the church and instead of Sam and Lucifer staring at him, he had Michael and Zachariah doing the same. "No... I've changed my mind," he said very quietly. The glint of metal caught his eye and Dean extended his hand while watching the veins pulse in Zachariah's temple.
"This is no time to fool around, you dumbass," he all but screamed, grabbing the ropes dangling from Dean's wrists and pulling him up. "It ends now!"
At the last possible second, Dean's fingers curled around the angel sword that Castiel had dropped and thrust it up. The blade buried itself in the soft spot beneath Zachariah's jaw like the angel was made of melted butter.
The look of surprise on the angel's face mirrored Dean's. He hadn't planned the move; he hadn't expected it to work; neither of them had any idea that a human could kill an angel.
Dean pulled the sword out and like a cork that had been holding the angel's grace inside, light poured out through the gaping hole it left behind.
Zachariah fell back, hands flying to his throat as if he could stop the inevitable from happening.
The explosion of light that followed as Zachariah gave his final breath was lost in Michael's presence, but Dean knew the angel was dead. The imprint of one of his burned wings had hit straight across his arm.
"That was only one of the possible futures, Dean," Michael, who had silently stood and watched as Dean killed his right hand angel, told him. He sounded more sad than angry and for the first time, Dean felt something other than hatred for the archangel. "I am sorry you witnessed that."
"I'm not," Dean said, feeling stronger now than he had in months. "I know what I have to do now."
"So you think," Michael said. "But you're wrong."
Dean grasped the sword tighter. Whether or not it would work as easily on an archangel as it had on a lesser angel, he had no idea, but he'd sure find out if Michael took another step closer.
"We'll meet again, Dean Winchester," Michael said, the colors that composed his being shinning more brightly for a few seconds. "Soon."
It was a supernova's explosion after that. All Dean could do was cover his head with his arms and curl in on himself.
Far, very far away, Dean thought he could hear someone shout his name.
The last thing Sam was able to see was the silhouette of the Exorcist losing consistency until it disintegrated into a mount of dust.
Michael was in the room and the sound of his voice was as overwhelming as the bright light that was consuming everything in its path.
The only thing Sam could think of, however, was that Dean was on the other side of the church and that, between them, there was an archangel that had descended to Earth with the single purpose of getting himself a Dean-suite.
Sam tried his best to get to Dean's side, to do everything in his power to stop Dean from doing this, from saying Yes.
Already, deep inside himself, Sam could feel the bottomless pit of helplessness that he knew would engulf him completely the second he found himself alone against Lucifer.
Before, when he had been cocky and filled to the gills with demon blood, Sam would've wanted nothing more than a chance to go one-on-one against Lilith, Lucifer, Godzilla or even God Himself.
He'd been a deluded fool, he knew that. If anything, Sam now knew that all too well. He couldn't do this alone.
He needed Dean by his side.
Sam thought Dean had understood that when he called him back and told him that they would go after Lucifer together. When he had told Sam that Sam kept him human the same way Dean kept Sam human.
The fight and Zachariah's manipulations had made Dean forget that.
Dean's voice, screaming the one word Sam had feared would never leave his brother's lips.
Sam redoubled his efforts to get near Dean, but it seemed like every piece of rubble in the room had drifted to stand in his way. The fact that he couldn't see a damn thing didn't help either.
There was a gasp of pain coming from the other side and Sam's heart froze. It had been too faint and short for him to figure if it'd come from Dean or not, but the odds... were not good.
Before Sam could convince his feet to move again, the high-pitched sound that had faded to an almost whisper, grew in scale once again. Hands flying to his ears, Sam had no choice but to stand still and hunch down, waiting for the moment his ears couldn't take it any longer and exploded. He bit into his lip, longing to reach Dean but powerless to move.
Suddenly, the already too bright room exploded in a flashing light that, no matter how tightly Sam squeezed his eyelids, still reached his eyes. "DEAN!"
Then, as fast as it'd come, the light was gone. The change in brightness was so sudden and drastic that Sam was blind for a few seconds. Everything was black, a smoothing darkness that announced the danger had passed.
Sam was on his feet as soon as he could distinguish shapes and forms well enough not to brain himself against the nearest wall.
The silence that followed the ear-piercing noise was heavy and filled with dread. For a moment, Sam actually hoped that he'd gone deaf and that was the only reason why he couldn't hear anything.
The linen cloth that Sam had seen wrapped around the Exorcist's privates was curled on the floor, like a white snake ready to strike. Next to it, a black book.
Too curious to leave it behind, Sam picked the small item up and gave it a cursory look. He was expecting a Bible of sorts, given the cover and shape of the book. Inside, however, the pages were covered in gibberish. Most of it was English, some Latin and even a few words Sam could recognize from Spanish. The writings, however, made little sense in any language he tried to read.
Putting the creepy book away, thinking that the cops would be thankful when it eventually found its way to their hands, Sam moved along, carefully scouring the rest of the debris. Last he'd seen Dean, he'd been right about...
Sam saw Zachariah first.
The angel was dead, burned wings nothing but shadows of ash in the ground. His face, frozen in the last expression he'd worn in life, was filled with surprise. Sam wondered who had put that look on the angel's mug.
The thought lost interest the moment Sam spotted his brother. "Dean!"
There was no time to fear the worst. Dean's breathing was loud enough and wet enough that Sam could hear it as soon as he was close enough.
Moving faster than light, Sam was by his side in a flash, hand flying to Dean's neck like drawn by a magnet. The pulse was there, strong enough for Sam to find it at first try, even if it was beating fast enough to worry him.
Reassured that his brother was still in the land of the living, Sam paused long enough to have a good look at Dean.
He was soaking wet and there was an angel sword, grasped tightly in his hand.
Looking back at the gaping hole in Zach's throat, it was easy to put two and two together and figure out who had surprised the angel.
Dean had killed Zachariah.
The human, barely able to stand on his own, who had been starved and tortured for a week, who had given up on everything, had killed an angel.
Sam could bet that had stung harder than the bite of the blade.
Pushing aside any thoughts of how Dean could even do something like that, Sam chose to concentrate on how he was going to get his brother out of there. Dean was in need of medical attention and there was a whole city in between that abandoned place and the motel room where they'd left Bobby.
"Could really use some help right about now, Cass," Sam grunted as he bent down to pick Dean up and placed him in a fireman's hold. His brother had lost some weight during his imprisonment, but fortunately not enough to make him an easy carry. Sam was going to be almost glad for that back pain.
Sweat gluing his hair to his eyes, Sam advanced half blind towards the front door only to realize that it was bolted shut with a heavy beam. "Shit!"
Before Sam could come up with an alternative to get out, or even consider trying to squeeze them both through one of the cracks on the walls, the sound of a car horn reached his ears.
It was pure instinct that made him jump out of the way of the van that came speeding through the front door.
The air filled with dust as wood beams split and landed awkwardly wherever they could. Sam was forced to cough out a lung before his eyes could adjust to what he was seeing. And when they did, he had a hard time believing it.
"Hello, boys," Bobby's smiling face said from behind the wheel. "Need a ride?"
One week later
"Antarctica?" Dean let out chuckling, even though the concern for why Castiel wasn't back by his own means yet was plain to see in his eyes. "Gessh, when Zachariah's pissed, he really, really sends you away. When's he gonna be back?"
Sam was still staring at the phone. After a week of silence and subsequent worry-filled hours wondering where the angel might be, Castiel had called. From McMurdo Station. "He can't," Sam sighed, teeth worrying his bottom lip. "He called us to ask for money for the plane trip back."
"What?" Dean let out, putting down the sandwich Sam had brought him. One raised eyebrow from his brother though, and Dean picked it up again. Even after this time, Dean's stomach was having some trouble keeping down any reasonable amount of food, which, in Dean's case, was damn tragic. He liked eating!
"He tried to use his angel... stuff, to get back, but nothing happened," Sam explained, eyes watching like a hawk as Dean finished the rest of his food. "Whatever Zach did to him, it fried the rest of his mojo."
"Well, good thing that dick isn't around to cause anymore trouble," Dean talked around his full mouth.
Sam stared at his brother. They hadn't really talked after... well, after everything that had happened.
Just days before, it had been impossible to keep up a conversation; weak and in pain, Dean just hadn't been able to stay awake for more than half-hour periods. Then, the nightmares had started, slamming into him full force and any rest he'd gotten had stopped being restful. Sleep deprived, Dean had been in such a fowl mood that talking to him was akin to poking an angry bear with a very short stick.
Even now, little more than a week later, the nightmares hadn't exactly disappeared. Sam kept awake, waiting for the sounds of Dean's restlessness during the night, wanting to be near by and wake Dean before his brother could hurt himself, but he'd been quiet for the last couple of days. Odds where, Dean had found the stash of alcohol that Sam and Bobby had hidden in the house.
To his shame, Sam felt kind of relieve for that. It wasn't like he could help Dean with whatever memories he was struggling against in his dreams, not when his brother clammed shut like a high security vault, but it was easy enough to guess that the whole experience with the Exorcist had only served to bring closer to surface all the Hell stuff that his brother had been trying so hard to keep at bay. If drinking while still taking painkillers and antibiotic was what it took to stop the whimpering and the pained gasps and the aborted screams, Sam could turn a blind eye to it. He knew Bobby felt the same.
It was during those quiet times, while Dean slept, that Bobby and Sam had talked. And theorized. And planned.
Mostly to keep themselves busy and one step away from going completely insane.
There was the matter of Dean killing an angel and surviving to tell about it. Dean wasn't talking about it and that was frustrating enough, but the fact that and there was no precedent that they could research to know what that meant or whether it could be done again, left more questions than answers.
There was the matter of Michael, coming and going empty-handed without so much as a leveled city; but, again, Dean wasn't talking about it and short of calling the archangel to find out why the hell he'd chosen to be nice to Dean, Sam and Bobby had nothing left but wild suppositions.
And mostly, there was the matter of why Dean had changed his mind. Try as he might, Sam could not come up with a satisfying answer for that.
As far as he knew, one minute Dean was dead set on saying yes, ready to throw away everything they had worked for, and the next he was back on board with Team Free Will.
There was a huge gap separating those two points, but Sam was pretty sure that his brother would never give him a straight enough answer to connect those dots.
"... Bobby is gonna be pissed when he sees that bill, but really, it's not like we can leave Cass—"
"Dean," Sam cut in, having barely noticed that his brother had been talking all this time.
Dean went quiet, eyes scanning Sam's face. These days, it was like he could smell when a serious conversation was coming and promptly made his escape. "This sandwich was awesome. I'm gonna grab me another one of these. Do y—"
"You know at the church," Sam started before Dean could bolt. "You never got around to tell me what made you change your mind."
For a second there, Sam was sure that his brother was going to ignore him and go away just the same. For more than a second, Sam was positively sure that Dean hadn't changed his mind at all and was just waiting for the right opportunity to get in the car again and drive off.
Dean did neither, though. "I, ummh," he said, voice raspy with emotion that ended in a painful sounding cough. He looked Sam straight in the eyes for a moment, before shifting his gaze from Sam's face to the pulled string on the couch's cover. "Zachariah's smug face, to be honest," Dean went on, a smug smile of his own finding its way to his lips. "Couldn't stand that guy boasting to everyone how he'd bent me to his will. Sounded way too kinky for my taste."
Sam wanted to call bull, wanted to remind Dean that he was a lot of things, but petty wasn't one of them, and that there was no way Sam would ever believe that such an important decision had been taken on a who's-the-bigger-dick basis. "So, like a five year old, you didn't eat your soup because the grown ups was telling you to?" Sam asked, playing along.
"Damn straight!" Dean offered with a smile. "Five year olds' know it best."
Sam could only shake his head. It would be easier to fly to the moon on the back of chicken than getting an honest answer out of Dean. Not about this anyway. Never about something as important as this.
"Hey, Sam?" Dean called out after a moment. Long enough for Sam to believe that the 'moment' was over.
"What? Want another sandwich?" Sam offered out of habit, an odd one he'd picked up after learning that his brother had been starved for a week. "I think there's still some peanut but—"
"Back at the..." Dean paused, the memory of the place still taking him straight back to the hands of the Exorcist. "Back there, just before that crazy fuck jumped on me and tried to finished what he started," he went on, words coming out of his mouth shyly and deeply measured. "You were trying to tell me something..."
Sam blinked. He hadn't even realized his brother remembered that. The world was coming down on them, Zachariah had been in the process of calling Michael and Sam had been sure that he was going to lose his brother. A deep honesty that could only be born out of despair and loss had made him blurt out the words that had been heavy in heart for months. "Don't leave me alone," Sam had screamed at Dean then. 'I can't do this with out you'.
It hadn't been cheap blackmail or even a cheesy throw-away line, carelessly blurted out in the last ten minutes of a movie. It was just facts, even if Sam had spent a long time trying to ignore that knowledge.
Without Dean there to remind Sam that there was still hope, that as long as they had each other, they still had something, Sam couldn't keep on fighting. If Dean had said Yes to Michael in that church, Sam feared he would've ended up saying the same to Lucifer, sooner rather than later.
"I guess I was trying to warn you," Sam eventually said, making it look like he was having trouble remembering some non-important moment in that crazy sequence of events. "After all, there was a crazy-eyed, naked man running towards you with an axe."
Instead of laughing at his lame joke, like Sam had hoped Dean would do, his brother merely smiled and gave him a knowing look. In an odd, chilling way, the gesture made him feel like Dean was inside his head.
"Yeah... I think I've had it up to here with crazy, naked men," Dean agreed, getting up to join Sam. "Come on... let's make that sandwich happen. Together."
AN: First off... DO NOT KILL ME! The fact that I jumped a week ahead in the story's timeline has a reason. A very tasty reason.
Jackfan2, my beta, who happens to be one AWESOME writer, is treating us with a comfort laden special story that will cover the moment from when Sam and Bobby drive away to the dreaded 'one week later'.
So, stay tuned for that add to the story somewhere in between the end of this week and the beginning of the next :))))
My deepest thanks go to my friend jackfan2, without whom this would all be crap and who, despite her busy life, found the time EVERY SINGLE WEEK to go over this so that you guys could have a chapter a week.