A/N This final part is a bit Dean-focused, but hopefully you'll forgive me ;3 This is the last chapter, so please review!
Thanks to CandyCakes, lizziemarie0529, WeirdyMcWeiderton, and Souless666
Disclaimer I don't own Supernatural or any associated characters, events, etc.
The phone call comes on the first day of the third week.
It's Bobby's voice, slurred with tiredness, gruff but sounding almost proud.
"I've got it."
"A what?" Sam repeats, his forehead furrowed in confusion.
"Lich. It's a… sort of witchy thing, but undead, way more powerful," Dean explains, loading and locking his handgun with a handful of the gleaming silver bullets that lay on the floor around him. The weapon feels good in his hand, full—it's been too long since a hunt—but at the same time, there's a sickening hollowness around the edges of his stomach. More to do with leaving Sammy at home alone than anything else, he figures, glancing up from his task. The kid is solemn-eyed, standing with his hands laced behind his back and his chin tilted downwards. Still somewhat shocked, apparently, from Dean's hurried explanation of what he's going to do—adjusting to the realization that he's not his proper age, that he's an adult and—hopefully—soon to regain the body of such. "You gonna be okay here? It'll only take a couple hours."
"Yeah… I'm good."
"Great." He tucks the gun under his jacket and stands up, scooping the remaining bullets back into their box. "Bobby said that any spells will reverse as soon as the thing's dead, so you should find yourself properly grown-up by the time I'm heading home."
"I don't want to be a grown-up."
He freezes, glances up in surprise. "You don't—Sam, you are one. This is just a curse, okay? You're just messed-up right now, and I'm going to fix you."
Sam shakes his head, his face twisted into a frown. "I—I'm not, I…"
"Trust me, kid, it'll feel a lot better once you're back to normal. It'll be less scary… you'll have your memory totally back… we can go back to looking for Dad."
"Looking for Dad?" His voice trembles.
Shit. Dean never did tell him that John was missing, did he? Only made endless excuses for his absence, invented a hundred little hunting trips that could be taking up his time… "Yeah. It's nothing you need to worry about, though, okay? Just—just stay here, and when I come back… I'll explain everything." Not that you'll need anything explained at that point. "But you need to stay inside, got that? Keep the drapes shut, don't let anyone in. I'll be as quick as I can."
Sam nods shakily, his eyes wide and swimming with moisture that Dean forces himself not to acknowledge. Instead, he takes a deep breath, looks around the room. "Okay. I'll be back as soon as I've smoked this bitch."
He hesitates for an awkward moment, about to turn away, and then Sam suddenly darts across the small distance between them, latches onto his leg and clings tight. Dean stiffens a bit in surprise before sighing and bringing himself down to a crouch. He takes ahold of Sam's tiny, shaking shoulders, looks him in the eyes.
"Hey, it's okay. Nothing to cry about."
"Be careful," Sam whispers, his eyebrows raised with delicate concern and his bottom lip jutting out to suppress tears. "Don't—don't leave me alone here."
"I'll be fine," Dean promises firmly, trying to disguise the fact that he feels vaguely as though he's been punched in the chest with an iron fist. His lungs twist and his heart throbs at the worry in his brother's eyes—what if he doesn't make it? What if this lich is tougher than Bobby implied, what if it gets him and he can't return, can't keep Sam safe—
No. He'll have to do this. He'll manage it; surely they've dealt with worse.
Though everything he's encountered before has been documented, there's been no need to page through dusty books for two weeks before discovering any trace, and having that trace be nothing more than a fragment of a myth…
"I'll be fine," he repeats, but this time his voice cracks, and he gathers Sam up to him with one arm, gently presses his lips to the softness of his brother's dark hair and squeezes his eyes shut, holding him there for a long moment. "Fine," he whispers for a third time, his breath warming Sam's forehead. Then he draws away, standing up and disengaging his thigh from the four-year-old's fierce grip.
"Remember, lock the door, and don't open it for anything," he shoots roughly over his shoulder, swallowing the inexplicable emotion tingling in his throat and stepping outside, leaving behind the colorful living room with its patchwork of couches and chairs.
The Impala is waiting in the gravel driveway, her black surface gleaming as sleekly as ever, and he pulls himself in quickly, gunning up the engine and backing out, but keeping his eyes unwillingly glued on the small form of the house, the dark curtains that are surely blocking out all the light, keeping the inside tense and dreary.
Surely Sam is mature enough to do as he says, smart enough to make it just a few hours.
He's got to be.
He brings the Impala to a rumbling halt outside of the house where it all started, its unsteady walls peeling and the shingles on its roof heavy with grayish moss. A vine of ivy creeps down the front, curling around the door hinges as if trying to seal out intruders.
Sitting back, he tightens his hand around the gun at his side. "You're gonna pay, lich bastard," he mutters, stroking the smooth metal with his thumb. Silver bullets, if Bobby's ancient tomes were correct, would kill the thing in an instant. If only he'd known so before he and Sam had gone for it the first time, it never would have been a problem—but of course he'd gone in for it like an idiot, expecting a ghost, armed with rock salt and holy water. Undead though this creature might be, neither of those things would have the slightest effect on it.
Silver, on the other hand…
Dusk is beginning to gather in the pale clouds and violet sky as he steps out of the car, the last fading sunbeams arching almost horizontally and rebounding off its black metal. The warm air is full of mosquitoes, and he swats them aside, glancing up and down the decrepit city block as he does so. Though most of the other houses aren't abandoned, they're still in horrible condition, practically decomposing. The only sign of life in the street is an emaciated squirrel darting along the asphalt, its tail held erect in the air and its dark eyes wide with wary vigilance.
He paces up to the door, taking several slow breaths to let his anger course fully through him, power him. There's no rush now, and all he has to worry about is being careful, making sure that he doesn't slip up. Bobby's words are heavy in his ears—These things are powerful, boy, very powerful. Barely anyone has survived them, and that's why there ain't much reference for me to go on, here.
I have to try, Dean had pointed out. I don't care how dangerous they are. I'm going to try.
I know you are, kid. My guess is that the one you're after is weaker than most, that's why it didn't kill you straight off. But you have to be careful, Dean. And not just for your sake. For Sam's, too.
The door opens soundlessly, despite the copious rust on the hinges, and reveals a shadowy hallway, bare of furniture and with a carpet-less, splintered floor. Thinking of the bright, cozy interior of the house they've been staying in, he can't help but grimace. This place is disgusting. All too appropriate for the monster who resides in it.
He knows the way to the basement, remembers it from last time, and it's with cold determination that he kicks open the door leading off the hallway, revealing the first couple of cement steps, which then descend away to murky blackness.
The lich is down there, somewhere. Waiting.
Quickly, he pulls out his gun, as well as a small flashlight that he holds in his teeth. (They don't like light, Bobby warned, but it'll irritate more than harm 'em. Don't go shinin' any big beams in its eyes, or you'll be dead meat.)
Dean slowly pulls the door shut behind him, gun clenched tight enough for his knuckles to go white, then begins to step down, one stair at a time. The tiny beam from his flashlight pierces the damp air, illuminating a vortex of dust in the otherwise pitch-blackness. Chills tremble down his spine, and he keeps his eyes wide, his arm extended firmly.
Almost to the bottom of the stairs…
Then he hears it—a piercing, ice-cold shriek that freezes his insides and rocks his stomach. He raises his gun arm violently, but it's too late—already, there's frost-blue light blinding him, and he's lifted off his feet, the flashlight hitting the ground and going dark as his shoulder collides painfully with the wall. He lets out a hiss of pain as white lights flash before his eyes, and then he's falling, hitting the ground heavily.
"Son of a bitch—"
He props himself up on one elbow, scoops his gun up again. But it's useless, there's nothing to point it at… blood thunders furiously in his ears. Barely here, and you're already on the floor and blinded. You idiot, how could you ever think—
And now it's going to kill you, and you're gonna leave him alone, all alone in the house, waiting for you till he rots…
That thought is enough motivation for him to pull himself into a crouch despite the ache in all of his limbs, whip the gun up again and point it into the darkness. If only—matches, he has matches, but he's barely started to fumble in his jacket pocket when there's another whoosh of cold breeze near his left ear. He springs sideways, barely avoiding a stream of deep crimson light that blasts through the air besides him. It bores into the wall instead, leaving a massive, smoking hole, the edges of which flare briefly orange before smoldering into darkness.
Things are quiet for a few moments then, save the snap of sparks from the singed corner, and Dean takes advantage of the pause to draw out a couple of the matches, single-handedly dragging one along the side of the box and causing the resulting flame to arch blindingly into the space before him.
Immediately visible is a face.
He'd never gotten a decent glimpse of the creature beforehand, but now it's inches away from him, and it's the closest to something out of a horror story that he's ever encountered. The structure is nothing more than a skull, pale as dusted ivory, with gaping pits for eyes and a macabre grin of a mouth, teeth standing out sharp and stark. A filmy layer of unidentifiable material covers it, almost like stretched cobwebs, glittering and shimmering with the winter-blue glow that seems to illuminate it from within.
"Fuck," he whispers.
And then there's a feeling like a punch in the gut, and he's flying backwards again, the match slipping from his fingers and going dark. He releases three swift shots as his arms flail wildly, but none of them hit home, a fact proven by another blast of energy that zooms past him just as soon as he regains his footing, tailbone stinging. The air itself seems to sway ominously, and he dives out of the way just as one of the rickety wooden shelves lined against the walls tumbles downwards, crashing into a pile of wooden fragments.
A cloud of dust rises from the wreck, and Dean coughs violently, raising his sleeve to his nose and reaching once again for his matches. This time, he strikes one without anything appearing in front of him, and he's just regaining the slightest wisps of confidence when a rope of greenish-yellow light snakes around his legs and trips him, causing him to fall headfirst into the pile of broken wood. He manages to fling out an arm and save himself from the worst of the damage, but the match drops into the dry wreckage.
He wouldn't imagine that a single tiny flame could do so much damage, but the sawdust must help, because suddenly there's flame everywhere, and it's all he can do to heave himself back to his feet, cursing and beating out the edge of his jacket, which has begun to smoke. The gun is still clutched in his hand, and pure fury is coursing through his veins now. He looks up swiftly, the fire lighting his face from below. At least now he can see properly—and, sure enough, there it is. The too-thin form of the lich is bent in a corner on the opposite side of the room, seeming to conjure some sort of spell in-between its spindly skeleton's hands—this one is midnight blue, pulsing rapidly, and Dean knows that it's seconds away from being hurled straight at him.
This is his chance.
He aims at it, a clear shot, words burning in his mind—this is for Sam, you bastard.
But as his finger draws back the trigger, the blue light explodes before his quarry, and the bullet dissolves as soon as it hits the wall of blazing luminescence.
"Shit," he gasps.
The dark, material luster collects itself into an arrow shape, streaking towards him. He tries to duck again, but it's like a locked-on missile, zipping around to slash at his shoulder. An unwilling cry of pain falls from his lips as the glow pierces him like a dagger, tearing a massive rip in his jacket and the flesh below. Blood spurts wildly from it, and horror pounds in his head as he stumbles backwards. Deep. It's deep.
Fuck, it's deep.
The lich flies up next to him, and everything's too bright and too dim at the same time, so that its face is foggy, a blurred mess of silver splashed with flaming orange from the reaching tongues of the fire below. Then shards of ice seem to pierce his chest as its hand settles over him, and he knows that this is it. Blood drips down his arm sluggishly now, and even though he doesn't dare to look, his head is light enough that he knows it can't possibly be a trivial amount.
It's hesitating, though. It's hesitating, and the only reason he can imagine is that it's still gathering its strength, hasn't quite brought its power back up after the dark blue energy spell.
This is his chance to end the fucking thing.
"Suck it, bitch," he manages to rasp, tilting up the nose of the handgun so that it's lodged directly under the creature's ribs and firing without hesitation.
He hears it howl, but the last of his strength is gone, and gray numbness is cascading down on him now, forcing everything else away. He feels himself hitting the ground, but in a vague way, not a painful one.
I'm sorry, he thinks, and the last thing he sees is the fire.
There's something cold on his forehead.
He fidgets slightly, tries to groan and ends up letting out a weak sort of whimper. A bead of moisture from the cool object slips down his cheek, and he twists his head away, trying to escape the chill.
To his relief, the icy thing obediently slips away, to make way for a light draft of air. Slowly, he becomes aware of his other surroundings—hard ground below his body, something warmer and softer propping his head up. Slowly, very slowly, he manages to inch his eyes open, grimacing at the brightness that assaults them. Several blinks later, he focuses enough to see properly—he's still in the cellar of the damn house, but the fire is gone, leaving only a mound of blackened wood, with an electric lantern sitting next to it and casting long shadows over the cement ground. Shoved off to the side is a dusty husk of a figure, like a bug's carapace only rather human-shaped. It takes him several seconds to see the glint of silver peeking out from its desiccated ribs and realize that it must be the remains of the lich.
The warm thing beneath him shifts, and then it clicks into place in his mind—shit, he's in someone's lap. He tries to sit up, but an angry throb of almost white-hot agony runs down his arm, and he glances over to see that it's wrapped in a ridiculous amount of gauzy bandages, through which a faint trace of scarlet still manages to show. Tingling pricks of lesser pain that he recognizes as stitches run along the edges of the hidden wound. Someone's done a good job on him, in any case.
He's never been so relieved to hear someone's voice in his entire life.
"Sam," he groans, settling back fully as his brother leans over him. His face—God, Dean could probably stare at it forever. It's the right face, the one that he's used to, not that of the kid. He did it. He killed the lich. Reversed the spell.
He did it.
"Are you okay? I'd've taken you to a hospital, but I didn't want to move you on my own—and, well, I could hardly call them in… awkward questions." He gestures vaguely to the whole of the scene before them, including the pile of singed wood and shell-like corpse of the lich.
"Awkward questions," Dean agrees. It's something that he's all too used to avoiding, after all.
"I'm sorry I didn't come earlier, but I was waiting for you to come back, then when I realized that something must be wrong, I grabbed everything I could…" He gestures to a large, metal box sitting next to them, its lid painted with a bright red cross. A first-aid kit. "…And took a bus here. Just glad I remembered the address."
"You… do remember, then? All of it?"
"All of it," he confirms. "And…" The corner of his mouth turns up slightly, almost apologetically. "Thanks, Dean. For… everything, you know."
"Don't you dare get sappy on me," Dean shoots back, exhaling heavily and letting his eyes drift shut again as he relaxes fully. "You're the one who saved my ass just now, in any case."
"For now. We should still keep a close eye on it, though, it was a bad wound, you really shouldn't have gone so far to—"
"Hey, what'd I just say?"
"Bad manners not to accept gratitude, jerk."
"Bitch," is all Dean mutters in response, but he can't quite keep a grin off his face.