The light finally faded, and Dean was left standing on the highway under the dark, night sky.
"Hey, Dean." Sam said from behind him.
Dean jumped an inch or so off the ground and spun to look at Sam. "Sammy. You had me worried for a minute there - thought you went supernova."
Sam stared at Dean serenely, but didn't respond.
"What was that light-show all about?"
"I killed an angel."
"Oh." Dean cleared his throat, "Anyone we know?" Dean felt a familiar pulling sensation and closed his eyes out of reflex. When he opened them again, he was behind the wheel of the Impala. He pulled his keys out of his pocket and started the car. "That's a pretty handy trick."
"I'll teach you some time. Right now, you need to go back to Bobby's."
"Bobby's? Wait - what do you mean 'I need to' - where are you going?"
"I'm going to go kill Lilith. I need you to stay with Bobby - keep him safe."
"You think he's just gonna welcome me back with open arms? Sam, I'm a demon." Dean frowned when he realized he felt regret. He wouldn't be welcomed back by Bobby ever again.
"He doesn't need to know you're there. Just watch him. Both sides are trying to bring the Apocalypse on, both sides are trying to stop me. They'll use anyone I care about to distract me. I know you can defend yourself, but Bobby can't."
"So the angels - "
"They want Lucifer freed as much as Lilith does." Sam smirked, "The angel that came for me - called me an abomination." Sam turned towards Dean. Even though he was shielding Dean from seeing his power, a sliver showed through. His eyes were glowing with pale yellow and white light. "He tried to smite me. He laid his hand on my head and sent the power of Heaven to burn my soul...and all it did was tickle."
"You killed an angel, Sam. That's...I mean, can any other demon do that?"
Sam laughed, "No. Then again, I'm not a demon." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a long, silver blade. "This was the angel's blade. Take it. It's the only weapon that'll kill them. Well...besides me."
Dean eyed the blade and nodded, "Thanks. What about Lilith? You ready to take her on?"
"Lilith." Sam grinned at Dean, and Dean felt the temperature in the car plummet. "Lilith will try to bargain with me. Then, when I give her a taste of how much power I really have, she'll fall to her knees, press her forehead to the earth and beg me to show mercy."
Dean was still nervous about Sam facing Lilith, but it was more than that. He wanted Lilith to suffer. He wanted to be there, he wanted to make her pay, and he wanted to watch her die.
Sam frowned and added, "Dean - I'm sorry, I'm being selfish."
"Lilith. You want payback. You want to carve her to pieces and see me tear the life out of her." Sam shook his head, "You have every right. I'll bring you to us as soon as I've got her bound."
Dean didn't even see Sam leave. Suddenly, he was just alone in the Impala, driving to Sioux Falls. He turned on the radio and sang along with Zeppelin.
Dean parked down the road from Bobby's and walked to the salvage yard. He tried to open all his senses, searching for any nearby threats, but he didn't need to look very hard. In the middle of Bobby's scrapyard were three demons.
Two of the demons were fighting each other, so Dean took out the third - stabbing him in the throat with Ruby's knife. He had a brief moment of annoyance when he realized he didn't have an easy way to drain the blood and bring it back to Sam. He could grab a bottle from the Impala...but he still had the other two demons to take care of first.
The larger of the two remaining demons grabbed the other one from behind, forced its mouth open, dropped something inside and then ran. Dean dodged just in time, and got out of the path of the ensuing explosion. Demons might not have an easy way to kill each other, but having their vessel blown up by a grenade was a guaranteed method of making the demon leave, at any rate.
The black smoke fled from the tattered corpse and disappeared into the night.
Dean stared at the remaining demon and asked, "You two have a misunderstanding?"
The demon smirked and said, "Yeah. He was gonna kill Bobby Singer. Can't let that happen."
"Is that so?"
"I'm going to prove to Sam Winchester that some of us can be more to him than food."
Dean arched an eyebrow at the demon. "What about Lilith?"
"Lilith rules by fear - because she's the strongest." The demon scoffed, "She's not the strongest anymore. Sam is. If you're smart, you'll get on his good side too."
Dean laughed, "Oh, I'm on Sam's side. He sent me here to make sure Bobby was safe."
The demon smiled, "Then...you know him? Maybe you could put in a good word for me?"
"Sure, man." Dean smirked and envisioned slicing the demon's throat before throwing him at Sam's feet.
A sound - a scream of rage and triumph - cut through the air and they both turned towards the sky.
"He found her." The demon said, in awe.
"He found Lilith." Dean said, but he was already alone. "Dammit!" He tried to will himself to Sam again, concentrating as hard as he could.
When Dean opened his eyes again, he was looking at Sam, or rather - he was looking at Sam's feet, which were dangling over the rock ledge he was sitting on. "Hey, Sam." he said, grinning up at his brother.
Sam leaned forward and smiled at Dean. His mouth was smeared with blood, and his eyes were a brilliant white-yellow. "Dean. Don't worry - I only took a little taste." He wiped his hand over his mouth, "Well, more than a little. I'll wait until you're done with her to take the rest. She's bound - she can't hurt you..." Sam's smile widened and he bared his teeth, "...but you can hurt her. All you want."
Dean turned to look for Lilith and noticed where they were. Lilith was lying in a shallow pool of water. Ten feet beyond her were a few demons, including the one from Bobby's yard, watching. They were staring at him - at something just to his left. Dean looked to his side, slowly, and saw a massive lion staring back at him. Dean jumped back about a foot in surprise and took in his surroundings. They were in a zoo from the looks of it. In the lion's den, or enclosure, or whatever they called it. Sam was sitting up by the lions' 'caves,' and their demon audience was clustered near the fence at the border of the enclosure. Lilith was lying in what was probably the lions' pool of drinking water.
Sam laughed from behind him. "They won't hurt you Dean, don't worry. They owe me."
"The lamb shall feast on the lion, and the lion shall know fear." Sam reached his hand out to his right, and another lion stood up next to Sam. It had been on the ledge next to him the whole time, just out of sight. The lion rubbed his nose against Sam's hand and plopped down by his side - resting its huge head on Sam's lap. "Lilith was trying to break a seal. But I like lions. So I stopped her."
Dean turned back towards Lilith and eyed the lion warily as he walked past it.
The water Lilith was lying in was bubbling and hissing softly. As Dean got closer he could hear her making soft, whimpering noises. Dean stared at Sam, asking, "Holy water? I thought that wouldn't work on someone like her."
Sam made a pleased humming noise, "Normally it wouldn't, but then - I'm the one who blessed that water."
"We're not exactly holy lately."
Sam laughed, "No. We're not." He gestured with his hand and the ground near Lilith caught fire.
In the light of the flame, Dean saw dark outlines of ash on the ground, and asked, "What are those...wings?"
Sam nodded, "It's what angels leave behind when they die."
Dean's eyes widened, "Geez. How many did you kill?"
"Two came to stop Lilith, and then three more came to stop me." From one moment to the next, Sam was suddenly standing right next to Dean, looking down at Lilith with him. Sam crouched next to Lilith and ran a finger down the side of her cheek. A fine cut opened where he'd touched her, and Sam ran his finger back up again, wiping up the trickle of blood from her face. He brought his finger to his mouth and licked it clean.
"Sure you can wait 'til I'm done, Sammy?" Dean asked, smirking.
Sam laughed, leaned close to Dean's ear and said, "Yes. Angel blood tastes so much better than demon." Sam looked at Lilith again, and his eyes burned with white flame. "It packs a Hell of a punch too, doesn't it Lilith?"
Lilith screamed in agony and arched her back. The water she was lying in steamed and dissipated.
"Your turn." Sam said and took a few steps back, giving Dean room.
Dean kneeled by Lilith's side and pulled out Ruby's blade. He ran the edge slowly down the side of her neck, and over her chest. When he reached her stomach, he started to carve.
Sam sat on one of the nearby boulders. A lion cub jumped down off of the rock cliff where he'd been hiding and hopped onto Sam's lap. Sam scratched its ears and smiled, watching Dean work.
Lilith screamed as Dean dug the knife into her over and over again. After a few minutes, he sat back on his heels and let out a frustrated huff.
"Dean?" Sam asked, standing. The lion cub jumped down and flicked its ears, annoyed.
Dean stood up and Lilith gasped at the sudden absence of pain. He walked over to Sam and looked down at Ruby's knife.
Sam watched Lilith's blood drip off the blade, but tore his eyes away to look at Dean. "What's wrong?"
"Alistair was right. I can't get deep enough. He taught me so much, and I know exactly what I want to do to her, but up here..."
"Oh, is that all?" Sam smiled, "Not a problem." He walked over to Lilith, kneeled next to her and laid his hand on her forehead. She screamed - a high, agonized sound, and her borrowed body started to flicker.
Dean watched, fascinated, as Lilith's true form started to seep through her meatsuit. He could see her soul leaking out of the host body and becoming tangible.
Sam sat up and said, "There. Now you can reach her." He picked up Lilith's limp arm - Dean had cut a particularly deep gash near her wrist. Sam lifted the cut to his mouth and drank. Lilith's true form twitched where his lips touched her. Her soul looked like it was trying to get away from him.
Dean shook his head, but smiled fondly at Sam and sat across from him. He looked at Lilith, and saw exactly where to cut next. He slid his fingers underneath her ribcage and the moment he touched Lilith's soul, he felt something snap - the circuit completing. His soul, his real self, felt alive again, felt tactile again and it was eager to slice, rend and tear. Dean felt Lilith's soul growing weaker. Hell made a soul forget their humanity, but if you stripped away their power, any demon, no matter how strong, was still a human at the core - twisted and corrupted, but just as easy to break. For eons, Lilith had cloaked herself in power, shielding herself from nearly everything, but all that power was being siphoned away drop by drop. Sam drank all of it in and Dean understood why Sam was draining her now. The weaker he made her, the more of her Dean could touch. Dean rested his head on Lilith's chest while his fingers closed around her heart, and looked at Sam.
For just an instant, Dean caught a glimpse of what Sam really looked like. He'd been shielding this entire time, projecting a much weaker image of himself, but Dean had seen the truth - and it was terrifying. Sam's power was immense - a maddening aurora of light and dark, interweaving and ever-changing. It stretched as far as Dean could see, reaching out in every direction, wrapping itself around every living thing near them, and keeping them entranced and docile. Sam's eyes were too bright, too magnificent, to look at - they demanded unquestioning obedience, and promised rapture, madness, death in return. Dean blinked as his vision faded back to what he was supposed to see, but Sam gave him a knowing look. Lilith would die tonight.
Before she died, though...Dean was going to carve Lilith apart, bit by bit, until he'd made a symphony of her screams.
The next few hours were perfect.
Sam had taken every drop of blood Lilith had to offer, even cleaning up what Dean had spilled in his previous attempts. He'd run his finger over a dried patch of blood and it would liquefy - running up his finger in complete defiance of physics and biology. By the time Sam was done, Lilith was completely drained.
Luckily, Lilith didn't need blood to feel pain. Dean drew so much agony out of Lilith that Hell itself heard her.
The soft rays of dawn surrounded everything in a warm golden light - Sam, the lions, Dean, his blade, and the tattered strips of Lilith he twisted between his fingers. The sun inched higher and fell on the dozens of corpses covering the path around the lion exhibit. Lilith had let the more curious of the zoo patrons watch her work before letting her demons decimate them.
Sam was lying on the ground, next to the sleeping lions, as content as they were. From one moment to the next, his expression shifted and he sat up. "Time's up, Dean."
Dean turned to Sam, "Why?"
"The angels have started breaking seals."
"Son of a bitch." Dean said, and untangled his fingers from Lilith's entrails.
Sam crouched down next to Lilith and Dean, and laid his hand on her cheek. "Of course they're only up to fifty-eight, and that's not gonna cut it, is it Lilith? How does it feel, knowing you failed?"
Lilith turned her gaze from Dean to Sam and answered, "You are so much like him. You're his - you were made for him...and all you've done is delay his return."
Sam sneered, and Lilith lit up with white fire. Her soul and body screamed one last time and then fell silent.
Dean looked down at the pile of ash and then back to Sam. "Thank you." he said, and relished the satisfaction he felt in the wake of her death.
Sam nodded at Dean, smiling. In his mind, Sam heard Lucifer scream in impotent fury. Sam shut out the Devil's rage easily, and sat with his brother in the quiet peace of the morning.
Their peace was short-lived.
There was a deafening sound - dozens of massive wings beating at once, mixed with an ear-shattering high-pitched noise. Dean stood up and spun around, resisting the urge to cover his ears and huddle close to the ground. He'd known the angels would try to interfere. He'd expected this.
"Abomination. This ends now." said one of the angels. He was in a young vessel - a man a few years younger than Sam.
Sam tilted his head, "You look familiar."
"My name is Michael. It's my destiny to kill Lucifer and his vessel. I don't really care in which order."
"I wasn't talking to you." Sam stared at the infuriated angel, reaching for the vessel's thoughts. "Huh. Well what do you know..."
Dean looked at Sam curiously.
"He's our half brother." Sam answered.
Michael's shoulders twitched in annoyance. He looked surprised and offended that Sam had read his vessel, against his will.
Dean snorted, "No shit."
Michael snarled, "It was supposed to be you, Dean, but since you blackened your soul again all on your own, I can't use you as a vessel anymore."
"I still say we purify him. If we fail, he dies. If we succeed, you will have your true vessel, brother." said the angel standing next to Michael.
"Two arch-angels." Sam said, eyebrow raised. He stepped closer to Michael and looked down at him, "I wonder how you taste."
Michael drew a silver blade and brought it down, aiming for Sam's throat.
Sam smiled as metal hit metal.
Dean pushed Michael's blade back and away from Sam and growled, "Back off."
"Impudent piece of filth!" Michael snapped, and lunged forward again. Sam caught Michael's blade in his hand. The metal melted in his grip and Michael took a step back in shock.
"No weapons." said Sam. "Show me what you can really do."
Next to Sam, Dean's blade met Raphael's. Dean felt reality shift just a bit as the air around his skin thickened and formed into something like armor.
Sam stopped shielding and his power flared into existence around them. The sky lit up, brighter than the sun. The few demons still watching disintegrated into dust. The army of angels behind Michael and Raphael all drew their swords.
Dean turned to Sam and grinned, saying, "This is gonna be fun."