AN: My betas are looking over the first two chapters of Falling Skies before I repost them. While we wait here's something else that I've been working on that is completely unrelated.
Gods Be Gentle
Summary: What exactly does it mean to be human? Dean thought he knew. The 'Master of Death' has a few ideas of his own. Slight AU Seasons 3 & 4. No slash.
Good night, good sleep, good rest from sorrow
To these that shall not have good morrow;
The gods be gentle to all these.
-Swineboure "Ilicet" Lines 43-45
"Today's your lucky day kid."
The reaper's hand shot out, her palm touching Dean's forehead. His eyes widened and he jerked, his instincts telling him to disengage, disengage right now.
But then Tessa froze, her eyes shining a familiar dull yellow. Dean stared at her a moment more, eyes wide and his heart lodged somewhere in his esophagus. He stepped away, but she, rather, the yellow-eyed-bastard possessing her, didn't move. Her hand still outstretched where Dean's head had been.
The sound of footsteps made him turn. There was a boy standing in the doorway, and he was staring right at Dean.
He was young, barely 10. His hair was dark, almost black and longish, brushing his shoulders and hanging into his eyes which were bright green, lighter and greener than his. His face was intent, sharp dark eyebrows pulled down into a severe frown.
"Who the hell are you?" Dean blurted out, uncomfortable with the silence.
The kid's head tilted to the side, and the frown deepened slightly.
"I am the Master of Death," he said in a crisp British accent. "Your father just tried to cheat me."
"What?" Dean bleated but he had been dismissed as the kid turned away to examine Tessa. He moved further into the room, his hands sunk deep into his jean pockets, and circled the reaper, motioning Dean to move aside with an impatient tick of his head.
"What's going on here? What did you mean my father tried to cheat you?" The Master of Death didn't answer, instead stepping closer to Tessa to stare into her frozen face. "Hey! Answer me."
The kid glanced at Dean over his shoulder, green eyes flashing white for a moment. "Are you normally this moronic? I'm the Master of Death. You don't talk to me like that. Especially not right now. So shut up and sit. down."
Dean's knees buckled at once and he found himself sitting on the bed watching the Master of Death with wide eyes. Kids shouldn't be able to talk like that, he thought numbly. He hated it when they were kids because they always came off so freaking creepy. This kid was no exception. He looked normal enough in his sweater, jeans, and his oversized glasses but the tone…
The kid turned back to Tessa's possessed body and sighed. She jerked, suddenly unfrozen. Yellow-Eyes glanced at Dean briefly before moving on, fastening onto the Master of Death. The kid didn't seem to faze the bastard at all.
"Winchester made a deal," the demon said simply.
The Master of Death looked unimpressed. "Uh huh."
"If this is about your pet reaper, I'm going to give her right back. Scout's honor."
"Of course you are. Unfortunately, that's not the only problem here. Dean Winchester is mine. He should have been mine 6 months ago, but circumstances kept him from me. This time I'm claiming him, deal or no deal."
The demon twisted Tessa's face into a grimace. The Master of Death looked unconcerned.
"Look, we all know that the kid is going to find a away to get himself offed eventually. Daddy dearest is trying to buy some time, that's all and it's a really good deal."
"I don't care," was the flat response.
The demon made a short frustrated noise, taking a single threatening step toward the Master of Death, who hadn't even taken his hands from his pockets. The demon aborted the move and paced a short distance away, before turning back.
"Do I get a say in this?" Dean asked incredulously.
The demon ignored him, but the Master of Death scowled at him.
"No you don't get a bloody say. Be quiet."
"Okay buddy. I don't know who you think you are…"
"Kid," the Demon interrupted. "You're not doing yourself any favors. Shut up." Dean fell silent, glaring at both of them. The demon turned to the Master of Death and heaved a long-suffering sigh. "I'll cut you in."
"You have nothing I want, Azazel."
"Not so. You must have been paying attention. Johnny boy got his hands on the Colt and he's offering it up to save the kid's life." There was no change on the Master of Death's face but the demon, Azazel, must've seen something because he continued. "Think of it. The gun that can kill anything, even things that should not be able to die."
The Master of Death stared at Azazel levelly for a long moment before he sighed explosively and rolled his eyes. He appeared very human in that moment, shattering the domineering image that he had cultivated since entering the room.
"Damnit," he muttered with the air of someone who'd just given in.
Azazel cackled and turned on Dean, who shot to his feet and scrambled away.
"Wait! Wait! What's going on? What deal is my father offering?"
The demon reached for him, stretching Tessa's face into a sneer. "Never you mind about that."
Before he could touch Dean, the Master of Death was standing in the way, managing to cross the room in an instant.
"Not you," he hissed. "It's bad enough that I am forced to do this. I won't have you pervert the natural order any further." The demon backed away, hands in the air. "Leave us. You'll know when its been done."
Tessa tipped her head back and screamed. A long cloud of black smoke issued from her mouth, filling the air briefly before it disappeared through the vent it had come from. Tessa staggered, and the Master of Death reached forward to steady her, which looked a bit ridiculous due to the size difference. Tessa raised her head, her expression anguished.
"Sir!" she gasped, and that wasn't strange at all.
Tessa nodded, glancing at Dean anxiously. "What will this do?"
The Master of Death smiled, and for the first time since he'd walked into the room he looked like a regular kid.
"Whatever it does, the consequence falls on me."
"Harry," Tessa said lowly. The frown snapped back and Tessa subsided. "Yes sir." The Master of Death – Harry – stared at her for a moment before turning to Dean, who stiffened under his attention. After a moment, Tessa flickered out of the room.
"So you escape me again, Dean Winchester."
"Sounds to me like you're letting me go," Dean said.
Harry sat down on the bed, and fuck the kid's feet didn't even touch the ground.
"Yes well. I hate that bastard, and the Colt should never have existed in the first place."
"Why? Seems like a good thing to me. Some things just need killin' and the Colt evens the odds a bit in our favor."
"It true," Harry admitted, and Dean stared at him in surprise. "But some things should not be killed, and as one of those things I think that it's within my best interest to make sure the Colt doesn't end up in the wrong hands."
"So you're bringing me back to life?" Dean asked and retook his seat on the end of the bed.
"Yes," Harry said softly. "And I'm sorry."
"Why?" Dean laughed. "It's what I want."
"There is a price for everything," Harry said simply and stood. Dean turned to him, moving to stand as well. A small hand on his shoulder stopped him. "You'll understand eventually." The frown was back, but now it looked just a little bit sad as well. "Everyone does."
Harry carefully laid his hand on Dean's chest, the other on his forehead. Everything went white.
John laid the gun on the table between them, eyes still a little moist after his talk with Dean. The demon grinned and reached for it, but a sharp knock on the door made him pause. John turned his head, an explanation on the tip of his tongue. It died there when he laid his eyes on the boy who had interrupted them.
John had been doing this a long time, and any good hunter grew a sense for what was and wasn't natural. The boy standing in the doorway looked normal, in his jeans, tennis shoes and his sweater, but John would bet his best gun that there was something wrong with him.
The demon leaned back, his smile slipping for a moment before it was back, as sardonic as ever.
"I was going to summon you."
The boy's eyebrows rose slightly and he entered the room, moving just out of arm's reach.
"I'm sure you were."
I wish, just once, that I wasn't right, John thought. He turned to the demon, his hand tightening around the Colt. "What's this?"
"Oh don't worry Johnny-boy. Harry is just here for his cut."
The boy held his hand out, his eyes on the Colt. John pulled it closer and took a step back.
"John," the boy said softly. "I promise you, I'm the lesser of two evils." He motioned to the gun. "That thing shouldn't exist, but since it does it should be with someone who will make sure it isn't abused. Your son is safe, and I'll make sure the gun is kept safe too." He held his hand out again. "Give it to me."
John's grip on the gun loosened and he dropped it into the boy's open palm. A moment later it was tucked into the back of his jeans under his sweater.
"That settles that," the demon said flatly. "Only one more little thing."
The boy stepped away, his gaze heavy on John's.
"What?" he snapped, deeply uncomfortable.
"Nothing," the boy said simply. "I'm just a little sad that you won't be coming to me, like you should've." He turned away, pausing at the door and speaking over his shoulder. "But it's really none of my business."
"No it not," the demon bit out. The boy shrugged and left. The demon turned back to John, his smile widening. "Let's get down to business."
Harry jerked, eyes flying open, hand clutching at his chest. There was always someone nearby, so a moment later he felt a hand cover his.
"I think I'm being summoned," he said incredulously.
Reaper Davis stared down at him, a small frown of concern pulling his brows down. "Summoned?"
"Hand me my shoes please."
Davis pulled them out from under the bed and handed them over. Harry had to pause as the tugging became a bit more insistent but he resisted, taking his time to lace up his tennis shoes.
"Should I follow?" Davis asked as Harry slipped his phone into his pocket.
"No. I'll be back as soon as possible."
Harry allowed the tugging to jerk him away, and found himself in the middle of the woods next to a small campfire. There was a young man standing a few feet away. Harry frowned, sinking his hands into his pockets as he kicked idly at the seal directly under where he stood.
"Jake Talley," Harry said musingly, the man's name popping into his head like he'd always known it. "You've had a rough couple of days."
"I need something from you, a gun." His tone was firm, but Harry looked a bit deeper and easily saw the fear that was brewing in him. There was guilt also, but that was waning, replaced by the elation that his new powers gave him.
Harry reached behind him and pulled the gun out of the back of his jeans.
"You mean this?"
Jake's head lowered, nostrils flaring. "Give that to me."
Harry felt the compulsion try to settle on him, and brushed it aside. "Ha. No."
Jake only looked surprised for a moment before his expression turned hard. He stalked forward, hand curled around a knife. Harry didn't budge from his place in the circle, utterly unintimidated.
"Where'd you learn this?" Harry asked, nudging at the sigil burnt into the dead grass.
"Yellow eyed demon showed it to me. He said that you would have a gun with you, and that you would hand it over."
"Oh yeah," Harry said flatly. "Did he tell you exactly what you were summoning?"
Harry had to give the man credit, he only faltered for a moment. "He said you were a spirit."
"Hmm. I suppose that's true. Like how a great white shark is a fish." Harry toed at the sigil, and stepped over it. It fizzled away leaving nothing but a burnt patch of grass.
Jake backpedaled and curled his hands into fists. Harry moved forward and an instant later he was standing before Jake, inches apart. He stared up into the man's dark frightened eyes and smiled.
"Or like a housecat and a lion are both felines," he added just to see the boy flinch. "I suppose I am a spirit."
"H-he threatened my family," Jake croaked. "I don't even want to be here. He forced me."
"Oh I don't know about that Jake. I'm sure that you could've thought of something. Sam Winchester came to me, because of you. That wasn't supposed to happen Jake."
Jake opened his mouth, but Harry raised a hand bidding for silence. He stepped away, sensing Jake's relief at the distance.
"But it's none of my business really." He held the gun by the barrel with his pointer finger and thumb, as if lifting something distasteful. "Tell Azazel that I'll be back for it when he's done."
Jake took it from him, turning it over in his hands. "Why are you giving him what he wants? Obviously he can't trap you."
Harry laughed, ignoring Jake's answering scowl. "Please. Just because you failed to lay the trap properly doesn't mean that he will. I would prefer to avoid that happening."
Harry stepped back, out of the circle the campfire threw off.
"I'll see you later Jake."
Sam lowered the gun, breath coming fast as he stared down at the crossroads demon he'd killed. He heard a soft crunch behind him and spun, his finger tightening on the trigger. He only had an instant to take him in. He was just a kid, not a day older than 11. Dark longish hair that fell in loose tangles almost to his shoulders. Glasses. That was all Sam saw before the Colt was ripped from his hand and into the stranger's.
Sam groped for his flask, thinking that all he had to do was buy a little time, just a little bit. He needn't have worried; the kid seemed more concerned with the gun he was holding, turning it over and over in his hands.
Sam only paused for a moment before he grit his teeth and took his chance, tossing some of the holy water into the boy's face.
There was no effect.
Sam wasn't sure who looked more surprised.
"Uh…" he began.
"Save it," the boy said in a strong British accent. He smoothed his wet bangs out of his face and removed his glasses, all while holding the Colt.
"Who are you?" Sam asked.
"My friends call me Harry. You can call me the Master of Death," Harry snipped as he cleaned his glasses on a corner of his shirt.
"Master of Death?"
"Echo, echo…" Harry mocked flatly and Sam pursed his lips.
"Why are you here?" he asked, very aware that the only weapon he had on him was his hunting knife.
"I came for my gun," Harry said and turned it over in his hands one more time, as if making sure it was real. "Azazel promised it to me in return for allowing your brother to be resurrected. I gave it back to him for a short period, but then you killed him." It was said flatly, so Sam could not tell whether or not this Master of Death was displeased with the fact or not. "I was content to let you carry it because you couldn't use it. But now that it's been tampered with, I think that it's time to reclaim it."
Sam gawked for a moment, trying to assimilate all that information.
Harry snorted. "Don't strain yourself," and it was such a Dean statement that Sam's lips twitched up into a smile before he could stop himself.
He quickly sobered as he put the Master of Death's words in context.
"You were there when Dad made the deal for Dean," Sam stated.
He was not a demon, and if he was a demon he was powerful enough that holy water had no effect. Sam sent a quick prayer to whoever was listening that he made it through this, because there would be no living with Dean if something happened to him. But here was a chance for answers. They knew roughly what had gone down, but perhaps knowing the details of Dad's deal would help Sam find a loophole in Dean's.
"What is a Master of Death?" Sam asked.
He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but the soft smile that lit up the boy's face wasn't it.
"What a fascinating question. No one's ever asked before."
And then he fell silent, staring at Sam with that same little smile. Sam tried not to let it creep him out, but it was hard doing.
"So what are you?" he asked again.
"The simplest way of saying it is that I'm a sentient aspect of a fathomless concept. Master of Death is a title, a bit of a misleading one actually."
Sam stared for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around the idea. "So…are you human?"
"No," Harry said flatly and then he tipped his head to the side in thought. "Yes."
Sam shook his head, putting that thought away for now. "But you were there, when my Dad made his deal?"
"No. I walked in as Azazel was trying to resurrect your brother's spirit." Harry turned his head aside, frowning heavily. "It was wrong. Your brother should have come to me that night. Now the likelihood of that happening is slim. I made a choice, and Dean will suffer for it."
"The Colt," Sam said.
"It never should have existed in the first place."
Sam stared at the gun, realizing for the first time that it was about to be taken away. Their best weapon and his best hope to get Dean out of his deal, out of reach.
"We need it."
Harry's nodded once, his expression ungiving. "I know."
"If you really feel bad for Dean, then you won't take the Colt from us."
"Guilt stopped working on me a long time ago, sunshine."
Sam clenched his jaw, his thoughts back on the knife in the holster at the small of his back.
"I wouldn't try it," Harry said, and his voice had lowered.
Sam was more than a foot and a half taller than him and wasn't easily intimidated. He pulled his knife but an eye-blink later Harry was gone.
"Are we just going to not talk about it?"
Dean didn't turn to look at him, but his jaw clenched and his hands tightened on the steering wheel. That small show of emotion was enough to make Sam's face heat, and his stomach tighten.
Sam and Dean had always argued. Now, with Dean's deal looming close it seemed like that was all they did. It was easy to argue a point when he was sure he was right, and trying to make Dean help himself was the right thing to do. They shouted at each other, which let Sam know that Dean was frustrated, but not really angry.
When Dean got angry, truly angry, he got quiet. It didn't help that he knew that this was his fault, all his fault.
"Dean, I'm sorry."
Dean squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
"Sam," Dean growled. "Let it rest, for just one freakin' moment."
Sam watched Dean take a deep breath and flex his fingers on the steering wheel.
"So tell me, why did you think that it was a good idea to summon the crossoads demon, after I very clearly told you not to?"
"I was trying to help," Sam said miserably. It was a shame that Dean would never have a family; he pulled off disappointed father better than anyone Sam knew.
Dean nodded slowly. "You were trying to help, and now you've lost us the Colt. Good job there, Newton."
He sighed, head tipping forward for a moment. "Tell me about the Death Master."
"Master of Death," Sam corrected automatically. "He didn't seem dangerous. He just wanted the gun back."
"He's the one who resurrected me?"
"Don't remember it," Dean was silent for a moment. "You sure that he wasn't a demon? He was a part of Dad's deal."
"There was no reaction to holy water. I didn't get a bad vibe off him."
"Cause that means something," Dean muttered. "Maybe Bobby can help."
The car fell silent, thankfully not has tense as before. Sam glanced at his brother's face apprehensively.
"You bet your ass." The words were light, but the tone was not. Sam hunkered down in his seat, calculating how long the drive to Bobby's was.
Bobby was just with pleased with Sam as Dean was, but didn't hold the grudge long, instead throwing himself into researching the Master of Death. Dean focused on tuning up the car, while Sam tried to stay out of Dean's way.
Two days later Bobby presented what he knew.
"It's Death," he said flatly. "You don't mess with Death."
"So he's a reaper? A spirit? What?" Dean asked, unimpressed.
"He's the king of all reapers. The Angel of Death. He's wiped out entire armies. First born sons ringing any bells?"
"How do we gank it?"
"You don't," Bobby snapped. "It's Death."
"Well we gotta do something to get the Colt back."
"Can we summon him?" Sam asked. "Maybe we can make a deal for it."
Dean's eyes widened and took an angry step forward. "You've lost it if you think I'm going to let you-."
"I just meant that maybe we can talk to him."
They fell silent, avoiding each other's eyes as they fetched what Bobby needed to summon Death. The ritual was surprisingly simple. Bobby glanced at the brothers, who'd armed themselves. They both nodded and Bobby took a deep breath before dropping a lit match into the mixture of herbs.
There was a brief pause, Bobby, Dean and Sam sweeping the room.
"Can I help you?"
Dean definitely did not squeak at the voice that came from just over his shoulder. He backpedaled, barely missing the corner of the desk. He caught a glimpse of dark green eyes before a sharp pain stabbed at his temples. He hissed, eyes narrowing, and he remembered.
"It's you," he said lowly.
The Master of Death raised his spread hand and wiggled his fingers. "Me," he agreed, and that adult tone coming from such a small body made the hair on the back of Dean's neck rise.
He looked about the same. Pale skin, the bridge of his nose lightly freckled, and so, so skinny. His hair was somehow even messier, and he was dressed in a pair of dark sweat pants and an oversized T-shirt.
"Were we interrupting something?" he asked, and he wanted it to come out snarkier, but his voice automatically gentled.
Damn kids. He didn't seem bothered by the gun, but Dean couldn't keep it pointed at him. He thumbed the safety on and tucked the gun back into his pants.
"I was sleeping," Harry said simply, and then he yawned.
Bobby and Sam shared a look, but took their cues from Dean. After a short pause, Sam did the same. Bobby rolled his eyes, muttered something unkind under his breath, and turned his shotgun aside.
"Yeah well, I need something from you," Dean said.
Harry was rubbing a hand across his eyes, looking exactly like a kid who'd been interrupted mid-nap would look. He looked very human, not anything like the unnatural kid Sam had encountered at the crossroads a few days ago.
Harry yawned again, edging past Dean to collapse in one of the chairs next to Bobby's desk. Bobby and Sam shared another look, and repositioned themselves to better cover Dean.
"I already told Sam that the Colt is mine."
"We need it," Dean said.
"So your brother said, but that doesn't change the fact that the Colt is mine, bought for with your life." Sam stiffened, and presumably made a sound because Harry's gaze swung around and fastened on him. "Can you get me a cup of coffee?"
Sam gaped, stunned that a little kid was asking for such a thing. If Dean was surprised he didn't show it. When Sam hesitated, Dean rolled his eyes and nodded for Sam to go ahead.
"How do you take it?" Sam asked as he walked into the kitchen.
"Unmolested." And Sam actually jerked, because what the hell? Children shouldn't say things like that.
Sam heard Dean snort, and rolled his eyes at the coffee machine; of course Dean and the pint sized Master of Death had the same sense of humor.
He set the mug at Harry's elbow and retreated, standing shoulder to shoulder with Bobby. Upon his summoning Harry had given Dean most of his attention. Sam wasn't sure he liked it, but that meant that Dean was spearheading this encounter. Dean could charm almost everybody, when he was in the mind for it. Dean had gone into this situation ready for a fight, but he'd softened.
"I remember you," Dean as Harry sipped at the coffee, both of his small hands wrapped around the mug.
"Oh yeah? What do you remember?"
"You didn't want to bring me back."
Harry finally looked up and met Dean's eyes. "No," he said finally. "And I said I was sorry. Do you understand why?"
Dean clenched his jaw, and didn't answer. "Do you understand what's been going on? We're at war here. That Colt is our best weapon against the demons."
Harry leaned back in the chair, sipping from the mug. "Hmm."
Dean blinked, leaning forward. "Hmm? That all you have to say?"
"What do you want me to say?" Harry asked simply. "The Colt is a weapon that man never should have had. It was a mistake allowing it to exist for so long. There's a natural order, and it disrupts things."
"Innocent people will die."
Harry leaned forward suddenly, his eyes catching Dean's and holding them. "Is that what you truly want the gun for? Or do you wish to save yourself from Hell?"
"What does that have to -."
"Everything," Harry said.
Dean was beginning to draw back, and Sam knew that this was when he would normally step in to smooth things over but he couldn't. He needed to know what Dean would say, desperately.
"Aren't you supposed to be able to read my thoughts are something?" Dean asked with a shit-eating smirk. "All knowing, all powerful death?"
Harry blinked at him. "That's rather flattering of you," he said, voice a bit faint. "But I'm hardly all knowing." He was silent for a long moment, searching Dean's eyes. "It's wrong," he said softly. "You, of all people, should come to me."
"Hey now, I'm just a regular guy," Dean said still smile.
Harry stared at him levelly, hands wrapped around the coffee mug. Then he sighed.
"What if I told you, that this gun couldn't help you? That nothing will help you?" He reached out and wrapped his hand around Dean's wrist. "You're marked. Your soul is marked for the pit. There's no getting around that."
Dean seemed frozen, his eyes wide and his lips parted. Sam waited for him to say something, to tell this kid that he had no idea what he was talking about. When it didn't happen Sam finally decided that this had gone on long enough.
"There's got to be a way," he said moving to stand at his brother's shoulder. "You're the Master of Death right? Couldn't you just keep him alive, prevent him from dying?"
Harry didn't answer right away, staring into Dean's eyes for one more, very long tense moment. Dean moved his wrist out from under Harry's small hand, curling his fingers into a fist. He still didn't speak.
"His fate is out of my hands," Harry answered without looking away from Dean's face. "It should have ended with the Rawhead." He frowned up at Sam. "Now I have no idea what's going to happen."
Dean finally stood up and left the room. Sam warred with following him for a moment, but Bobby made the decision for him by falling into his chair with a deep sigh.
"Leave him be," he told Sam. "We've got work to do."
With Dean's absence, Harry lost interest in them. He lowered his head onto his folded arms and closed his eyes. Sam and Bobby watched him incredulously. A few moments later he began to breathe deeply, each exhale ending in a soft wheezing snore.
"Some Master of Death," Bobby snorted, but Sam noted that he kept his voice down.
"Well according to him the title is misleading." Sam frowned, peering at what he could see of the boy's face. "You weren't there when he took the Colt Bobby. He felt different then."
"Well that quantifiable," Bobby snarked.
Sam shrugged helplessly, but didn't take back the statement. Bobby glowered at him for a moment before his face softened and he handed Sam a book from the small stack at his elbow.
"Junior here isn't going to be much help," he said. "So if we're going to save your idiot brother we got to do it ourselves."
Sam sighed and settled in to do some reading. He tried not to worry about Dean, realizing that his brother obviously wanted some time alone. He promised himself that if he hadn't reemerged by the time it got dark, Sam would go and find him.
It turned out he needn't have worried. Dean appeared just as the sun was setting, tossing his jacket on the coatrack. He paused upon entering the study, eyes on their visitor, who hadn't moved in hours.
"He's still here?" he asked, frowning.
"Oh," Sam said. "I didn't even notice. He's been asleep this whole time."
Dean walked over and poked the boy in one of his boney shoulders. When he didn't respond he leaned over, peering into his face.
"Hey kid," he said sharply.
The boy opened his eyes, staring at Dean blearily.
Sam wasn't sure how to describe the emotion that slowly painted itself across Dean's face. The always slightly tense expression that Sam had gotten used to seeing over the last few weeks practically oozed away. His eyes gentled, and even the hard line of his shoulders loosened up. Sam watched the transformation with a frown because he hadn't seen that expression in years. It was the way Dean had used to look at him when he'd thought Sam wasn't looking, back when they were both kids.
Sam opened his mouth to say something but Dean was already moving, smoothing his long-fingered, deft hand over the sharp wings of the boy's shoulders.
"Okay," he said to himself, and easily gathered the Master of Death into his arms.
Sam gaped, but Bobby barely reacted at all.
"What are you doing?" Sam bleated.
"I'm putting him to bed. He can't sleep in the chair."
Sam's mouth flapped for a moment. "Really?" he asked.
Dean hiked the kid up, settling him on his hip like he'd been born to it. Harry tucked his head down, soft snoring interrupted for a brief moment before starting up again. Dean's other hand was splayed across Harry's narrow back, supporting him as he turned to the couch under the window. Sam leaned back in his chair, watching Dean as he carefully lowered the kid down onto the couch cushions. He tossed one of the throws over the kid, pulling it up to his shoulders.
Dean turned around, scowling at the looks he received from Sam and Bobby.
"What?" he snapped.
"Never knew you were so maternal," Bobby said idly.
"Shut up," Dean said weakly and fell into the chair Harry had occupied for the last few hours.
"He's not what I expected," Sam said quietly.
"Yeah," Dean said leaning forward. "Why is Death pint-sized?"
Bobby sighed, running a hand over his beard. "He's not Death, Death. Not the Horseman. Looks to me like he's just a supercharged reaper."
"Why does he look like a little kid?" Sam asked.
"How am I supposed to know?"
"There was another reaper in the hospital," Dean said musingly. "She told me that they can change their appearance."
"So he wants to be pint-sized."
Dean shrugged, glancing at the little boy curled up on the couch.
The kid was still sleeping when Dean walked into the kitchen the next morning. He hadn't slept well the night before, so he headed straight for the coffee machine. A few moments after he got the thing going, shuffling steps entered the kitchen from the library. Dean snorted when saw the kid's face; his eyes were still mostly closed.
"Hey there sport," Dean said, grasping the boy's shoulder when he was close enough.
"I smelt coffee," the kid said, accent so muddled that Dean had some trouble understanding him.
"You're too young to need coffee."
That certainly wasn't what Dean had been expecting. "Well you look like you're eight ."
Harry hummed and rested his temple against Dean's hip. Dean hesitated for a moment before letting his hand fall on Harry's shoulder, holding the boy a bit close. He recognized the fact that this was a bit ridiculous, cuddling Death. But right now he was acting like any other kid, disregarding the whole coffee thing.
"Okay, go sit down," Dean said. Harry groaned and didn't move. "Go sit down so I can bring the coffee." That got the kid moving. He shuffled over to the desk and pulled himself into one of the chairs. Dean set a mug in front of him and sat down with his own. Harry immediately buried his face into the mug, never mind the coffee being hot enough to burn his mouth.
"I didn't know that reapers had birthdays," Dean prodded.
"Usually don't," Harry said as he came up for air. He leaned back in his chair, hands around his mug, idly kicking his feet.
"So why are you so special?"
Harry's eyes finally fully opened, but he still didn't look completely awake. "I'm just lucky, I guess."
"And if you're twenty-seven, why are you all mini-me right now?"
"Not sure," Harry said blandly. "I died and I woke up like this."
"You can't wake up after you die," Dean muttered without heat. Harry glowered at him, and sipped his coffee. "Why are you still here?"
Harry sighed deeply. "It's very tiring being me. I have to rest often to recharge. You woke me up during one of my naps."
"What makes your life so hard?"
"I'm in charge of all the reapers everywhere in the world," Harry said simply. "It's hard work."
Dean examined the boy's face, and saw that it wasn't really a boy's face. It was miniature, the way kid's features were smaller than adults, but the expression was just off. He looked tense and careworn. No nine year old should have that expression.
Harry's head tilted to the side, his gaze sharpening as the caffeine started to work.
"I know why you did it," he said quietly.
"Yes, and I understand."
Dean looked away, his first instinct to withdraw, because damnit he didn't want to talk about it.
Thankfully that was all Harry said concerning the matter.
"Can I see your car?" he asked instead, and finally he sounded like the excited kid he looked like.
Even so, Dean paused and stared at the kid in surprise and suspicion. "Why?"
"Because I heard that it looked cool. I never got to own a car."
Dean grinned when his baby was praised. He snatched Harry's mug from him, putting them both in the sink.
"Well come on."
Sam found them outside a few hours later, Dean under the Impala and Harry seated in the front seat with his feet hanging out of the open door.
He paused for a moment, taking in the scene and trying to comprehend that the Master of Death and Dean seemed to have become friends overnight. He was sure that he'd seen weirder, though he was hard pressed to come up with anything. He stood at the hood of the car, waiting to be acknowledged. Eventually Dean rolled out from under the car slightly and stuck his hand out.
"Rag," he demanded, voice muffled. Before Sam could even move to get him one, an innate response born of hours and hours sitting by Dean or their Dad as they'd worked on the Impala, Harry was there, dropping what Dean needed into his hand. Dean disappeared back under the car, Harry's little legs continued to swing out of the open door, and Sam stomped hard on his jealousy. Because really - what the hell was wrong with him?
Dean's bottom half jerked slightly, and he bleated out a surprised curse. "What happened to being lookout?" he asked Harry as he emerged from under the car.
"I was distracted by your cassettes," Harry said, and damnit the word cassettes coming out in that crisp accent, in that boyish voice was too fucking cute, even though there was no way Sam would admit it out loud.
"What's up?" Dean asked, wiping his hands.
Sam blinked for a moment, trying to remember why he'd come out here. "I found a case."
"Yeah? Details, Poindexter."
Sam's frown was fleeting, but potent. Dean just grinned at him. "A woman drowned in the shower, in Maine. "
His brother nodded, and tossed the rag a short distance away. "If we leave tonight, we should get there in the afternoon."
Sam nodded and turned to head back to the house. "I'll start packing."
Before he could get too far he heard Harry's soft voice come from inside the car. "I guess I should head out." And Sam turned back.
Dean was looking down at him, expression unreadable. "Yeah, about that. Where do you live exactly? I mean you're a little different than other reapers I've met, with the needing food and sleep and all."
Harry smirked teasingly. "Why do you want to know?"
"Call it hunter's curiosity."
"Sorry to disappoint," Harry said with a little smile. They blinked, and he was gone.
"Weird kid," Dean said idly.
"He's not really a kid," Sam reminded him as they both made their way back towards the house.
Dean didn't respond, but the single quick glance he shot Sam was telling enough.
Months later, after the failed attempt to make a deal to bring his brother back, after Ruby had saved him from his own stupidity, Sam remembered the Master of Death.
The ritual was ridiculously easy, and he waited calmly for Harry to appear, fingering Dean's favorite Bowie knife. Harry materialized with a soft displacement of air, and Sam was already moving, wrapping his hand around that thin neck and jerking him forward.
Harry's eyes widened slightly, but he came easily. Sam tried not to think about the feeling of the boy swallowing under his fingers. He looked human, he felt human, but he wasn't human. Sam would not allow himself to forget that.
"You can bring him back. You did it before."
"I can't," Harry said softly.
"You won't!" Sam barked, and gave Harry a harsh shake. His head jerked back and forth and when Sam stopped he looked slightly dazed. Sam swallowed the sour bile that filed his mouth and made himself remember that this was for Dean, that this boy wasn't human and didn't deserve his sympathy. "You will bring him back, or I'll kill you."
Harry's eyes flashed white and Sam gasped as Harry was torn from his grasp. His body tingled, as if every exposed bit of skin had been slapped. He opened his eyes, unsure when he had closed them. Harry was standing before him still shorter even though Sam was on his knees. His expression was thunderous.
Belatedly, Sam remembered that Bobby had mentioned the Angel of Death and Harry in the same sentence.
"I may like your brother, but that sentiment does not have to extend to you Samuel Winchester."
His voice was soft, but his face was intense. This was the creature who had taken the Colt back from him.
"Please," Sam begged.
Harry's expression did not shift at all. He leaned forward, his face inches from Sam's. "Even if I could, I wouldn't do anything to help you Samuel. You'll quickly learn that I don't respond to bullying."
Harry leaned back and moment later he was gone. Sam bent over and swallowed back tears.
It was something that Sam kept to himself, even after his brother was returned to him.
"They're back," the kid said dully.
"Who?" Dean asked glancing around at all the flickering lights.
But the kid flickered away before Dean or Sam could stop him. There was a sharp hiss of displaced air in the front entryway. Both brothers scrambled to their feet.
"Hey! Wait! We need to…Harry?"
The young man standing on the stairs was a few years too old. He was taller. His features were sharper. But he was unmistakably the Master of Death.
"Dean," he greeted crisply. "Back above ground I see."
"What are you doing here? What's with the -?" Dean waved his hand, indicating Harry's older appearance.
"I'm here to do my job," Harry said calmly, only answering half of Dean's question. He turned to continue up the stairs.
"Wait! Hold on," Dean reached out and grasped Harry's arm, tugging him down the stairs. The kid might look a few years older, but the scowl he gave Dean was very familiar. Even so, he allowed Dean to draw him away into the living room. "You can't take him."
"And why not?"
"Because demons are in town. They already took one of you guys. The kid knows where."
Dean drew back slightly, turning to glance at his brother. He'd noted that Sam had yet to say a word, and that he was keeping his distance. Dean swallowed his frustration at his brother's secrets because right now was not the time.
"Do you have any idea what's going on here?"
Harry shifted his weight, crossing his arms and giving Dean a look that broadcasted his thoughts flawlessly. Dean couldn't help it. He smirked and nudged Harry in the shoulder.
"You look constipated," he confided.
"Your face is constipated," Harry returned flatly. Tension or not, Sam laughed quietly under his breath. Dean shot him a quick scowl over his shoulder. "Yes, I'm very aware of your demon, angel spat. It's none of my business. This town is circling the drain and I have to put things right."
"We can fix it, but we need the kid. Can't you just hold off until he tells us what we need to know?"
Harry sighed, looking up at Dean with a certain degree of exasperation. "Fine," he finally said. "But my reapers will start taking again, and when they do, the kid is first."
Sam jumped at the chance to talk to the kid, and Dean let him, half-heartedly asking how Sam would get the information they needed. When Sam assured him he had it handled, Dean turned his attention onto Harry.
"You didn't explain why you're suddenly a foot taller," he said.
Harry shrugged as if to say 'well, what can you do?'
Dean scowled, and squashed down the fizzle of worry that rose up. The more he learned about this kid that more he felt like something was just off. It was bad enough that they couldn't figure out what the hell he was but the kid himself didn't even seem to know. It made Dean nervous, even when he knew that there were definitely other things he should be focused on.
So instead he decided to let it be, and tack it onto the list of things that he might never know. Harry smiled up at him, and not the enigmatic smile that Dean had gotten used to seeing from him.
"I'm glad that you're back Dean," Harry said simply. He stared up into Dean's eyes, no judgment in his gaze at all. He saw Dean, saw the raw edges that Hell had left, but it didn't mean anything to him. It didn't matter. Harry wanted nothing of him save his company, and the kid, weirdness aside, wasn't bad company himself.
The thought brought on a smile, and then a grin when he realized that for the first time in a long time it didn't feel like he had to drag it up from some deep dark and forgotten place. Harry tilted his head to the side, smiling back a little uncertainly.
The expression was suddenly wiped away as he jerked his head around, staring at the front door with narrowed eyes. A scant beat later the door was blown in by a black demon cloud. Instinctively Dean's arm snapped out, attempting to pull Harry to safety. Harry's wide eyes met his for a second and then he was swept away.
"Shit! Harry!" Dean shouted running to the front door, only to watch as the cloud disappeared up into the sky.
He banged his closed fist on the doorjam, allowed himself to freak out for a moment before he was turning and shouting Sam's name.
He's not human, Dean reminded himself as he carefully stepped toward Harry's motionless body. He wasn't human, and he would be fine as soon as Dean got him out of there. He made himself focus on the task at hand, using the abilities Cole had spent all afternoon teaching them.
Alastair's appearance made him pause. It made all the hair on his body stand up. He's not human, Dean reminded himself frantically when Alastair pulled Harry up and put the scythe to his throat. But then Alastair paused, staring down at Harry as if seeing him for the first time.
"Oh what've we got here?"
"Release me," Harry snarled.
"I don't think so Little Death. Did you know that you're a Seal all by yourself? I got myself a two for one deal here."
He turned to the brothers, grinning at Dean in particular. "Did you know that he tried to raise you, even though he knew that there was nothing to be done? He tried to pull your soul from the pit, using nothing but his will. Any other soul and he might have succeeded." The hand gripping Harry's hair loosened, and he ran his hand down Harry's cheek.
"So much power in such a tiny package."
Alastair wrapped his free hand around Harry's throat, lifting him off the ground. Feet kicking, face twisted up into a snarl, Harry dug his blunt fingernails into Alastair's hand. His eyes flashed white and there was a loud 'fwoomph' sound. Alastair jerked as if he'd been struck, almost loosing his grip on the scythe.
"That's not nice," he sang.
Then he shook Harry.
Dean barely heard Sam draw in a sharp breath beside him, his full attention on what that bastard was doing. He tried not to watch the way Harry's head snapped back and forth.
Not human, he reminded himself.
Harry's grip on Alastair's hand slackened, and Alastair stopped shaking him. Harry's eyes had gone back to normal and he hung limply in the demon's grasp. Dean felt the back of Sam's knuckles on his thigh and turned his head slightly. He followed Sam's gaze and saw that he was staring intently up at one of the chandeliers. It was shaking slightly. Dean's eyes narrowed, processing his brother's plan in seconds before throwing his concentration in with Sam's.
"Do you know what will happen if I kill you here?" Alastair asked Harry idly. "No? Me neither. I wonder if you'll come back down to us. I've missed you, you know."
Dean tried hard not to listen, to concentrate, but Alastair kept on talking.
"Does he know what you are? Do you think that Deano here would be quite so protective if he knew what you've done? You're not human after all."
Harry's upper lip curled up into a snarl, and finally the chandelier fell onto the trap, breaking the lines. Alastair's eyes widened, and he brought the scythe up.
A low pitched drone dropped down into the room like a weight. Dean and Sam fell to their knees, hands over their ears as the pressure increased. Dean struggled to raise his head, wanting to watch and fearing attack when he was vulnerable. Alastair had dropped the scythe, and had been backed into the wall. The meat suit he was walking around in wasn't tall by any means, but Harry barely touched on 4 feet 6 inches. It might have been funny, seeing a tiny kid back a demon into a corner. Dean definitely did not feel like laughing.
"You're right, demon," Harry said softly. "So much power in such a tiny package. And a bit of advice for next time: you talk too much."
Harry raised two fingers, and touched them to Alastair's sternum. The demon jerked, his eyes flashing white, and the tale-tell crackle of yellow static appearing in his open mouth and around his nose.
The drone of Harry's power had masked the sound of flapping wings, but Castiel's voice could not be mistaken. His hand reached out, wrapped around Harry's and lifted it away.
"Stop," he said again, "We need him."
Harry stared up at the angel, panting. "Mine," he said breathlessly. "I want him. Let me-."
"No, Master of Death." Castiel released Harry and he dropped to his knees, boneless. The angel barely spared Sam and Dean a glance before laying his hand on Alastair's shoulder and disappearing between blinks.
The oppressive drone of Harry's power had cut off with Castiel's appearance, and now the room was silent save for Harry's strained breathing. Sam and Dean shared a look, knowing that they were trapped behind the iron chain until someone released them. Sam raised his eyebrows, glancing from Dean to Harry and back again.
Dean nodded, cleared his throat, and said, "Harry can you get us out of here?"
The boy didn't move beyond the heaving of his shoulders, but suddenly the chain fell. Dean appeared at Harry's side, laying a hand on his shoulder and attempting to look into his face.
"You all right kid?"
Harry didn't answer, slumping further down to the ground. Dean shared a panicked look with Sam but his brother's expression held no answers. Dean took a slow breath, running his eyes over the kid's head and neck, looking for injuries. His throat was beginning to bruise, but that was the only visible damage Dean could see. He narrowed his eyes as he recalled the sight of Harry's head snapping back and forth. That could do serious damage, Dean thought grimly, but this looked like something else. Something that he was a bit familiar with.
"Okay," Dean said softly. He arranged one of his hands over Harry's brow, carefully covering his eyes. With his other he took up Harry's hand and pressed it to his own chest, over his heart.
"Calm down," he said firmly. "Control your breathing."
He took a long exaggerated breath and then exhaled. Harry's fingers clenched around the material of his shirt, blunt nails and fingertips digging in slightly. For a moment Dean thought that he'd gotten it wrong but then Harry's pants began to abate, replaced by longer more helpful breaths.
Dean glanced up at Sam, and saw his brother was frowning between he and Harry in confusion.
"Panic attack," Dean explained shortly.
Harry's breathing had evened out now, and his fingers had released their frantic grasp on Dean's shirt. Dean slightly lifted his hand from Harry's eyes. They were closed but Dean wasn't sure how aware he was. The brothers exchanged glances, unsure what to do now.
The fingers tangled in Dean's shirt tightened. Dean pulled his hand away from the kid's eyes, dredging up a little grin when he saw the kid looking back.
"Hey there half-pint."
The answering scowl went a long way to letting Dean know that Harry was recovering. The kid drew his elbows underneath him, trying to sit up. Dean slipped a hand underneath those sharp shoulder blades.
"I'm fine," Harry said. Dean rolled his eyes behind Harry's back. "I saw that."
Dean drew away, rocking back on his heels. "A thank you would be nice."
Harry glanced over, bright eyes narrowing for a long moment before he nodded. "Thank you."
Dean blinked at him for a moment, glancing over at Sam before looking back to Harry. "Yeah," he said gruffly. "No problem."
Harry suddenly tilted his head, his eyes narrowing as if he were listening to some far off sound.
"Ah," he suddenly sighed. He raised his head, looking between the brothers gravely. "You need to go."
"Wha-?" Dean blinked up at a semi-familiar ceiling, trying to push away the sudden pounding in his head.
He sat up, trying to hold the clamoring pieces of his skull together. On the other bed Sam was doing the same.
"Welcome back," Pamela coughed, her hand pressed to her side.
Dean scrambled forward, reaching out to see wear she was injured.
"Holy shit. Pamela," Sam said, his large hand covering hers where it rested on her lower belly.
"No dinner first? I appreciate a man who knows what he wants."
Sam's ears turned red, but his worried expression didn't abate. "How bad is it?"
"For a moment there I thought I was a goner." Pamela's hand plucked at her shirt, raising it up just enough so that the brothers could see her unmarred flank.
Dean sat back, already having a good idea what had occurred.
Castiel felt his presence immediately and looked up from his hands. The Master of Death's gaze was a bit searing when it met his, but free of judgment. No matter what, death never judged.
"Angel," he greeted crisply. "You have something that I want."
"I cannot let you have him, Master of Death. Alastair has information that we need."
The Master of Death lifted his gaze from Castiel and fastened it onto the demon, who hung limply in the devil's trap.
"You interrupted me," he said lightly, small hand reaching out and stopping a few inches from Alastair's belly.
The demon raised his head, baring his teeth down at the boy.
"Carrying a grudge?" Alastair asked lightly.
The boy looked up through his wild fringe, nose wrinkling in distaste.
"Would you carry one if you were me?"
"Oh yes," Alastair sighed, leaning forward as far as he could. "I'd be carrying it hard, but then you were always so quiet. I could never be sure if you were there with me, or over the rainbow. Does your precious Deano know how long we were together?"
"No," the Master of Death said. "But I suppose that it's time to tell him."
"You were my favorite, until him. So quiet. I kinda wish that Dean had gotten to work on you. He really missed out."
"See there you go. Where does your mind go, Little Death?"
The Master of Death blinked, giving a small shake of his head as he pulled away.
Castiel watched them both, unwillingly unnerved by the way The Master of Death failed to respond to Alastair's taunts. He turned away from staring into Alastair's eyes, transferring that over-bright green gaze to Castiel's.
"What you're planning to do, its wrong. You know that."
Castiel stepped away from the demon, hoping that The Master of Death would follow him. He received an indulgent quirk of his lips, but the boy moved away, leaving Alastair alone in the dark room.
"Perhaps if you talk to him?" Castiel asked as the doors swung shut behind them.
"Right," the boy sighed. "Why in God's name would I do that?"
"Uriel will see that he does it anyway. If you spoke to him he might be more willing."
The boy rubbed a hand across his face, growing quiet for a moment before he gave a weary nod.
Castiel placed a hand on his shoulder, transporting them into the brother's motel room. The boy moved away at once, collapsing into one of the chairs at the small table in the center of the room. They existed in silence for a few long minutes. Ordinarily, Castiel felt the need to speak around mortals, chiefly the Winchester brothers. Like them, he found himself fooled by the Master of Death's appearance. He might look young and harmless, but Castiel had been told to remain weary.
Only a few minutes later Uriel joined them. He stared down at the Master of Death, glancing up at Castiel in question. Castiel raised his chin slightly, defending his decision.
"Like children," Harry muttered into the table, his meaning clear.
Uriel scowled and turned away from both of them. Castiel was unsure how long they waited. Time usually didn't mean much to him. Sunk deep into his thoughts the next thing he knew the brothers were flicking the lights on. They both stopped short at the sight of the already inhabited room. Dean's gaze flicked between the angels coolly before fastening onto the Master of Death, who had not looked up from the table.
"Thanks," he said gruffly.
The Master of Death looked up, expression grave. "Don't thank me yet."
Dean looked between the angels again. "Why are you with them? I thought that our angel demon spat was beneath you?"
"It is," the boy said crisply. "I'm here as a favor."
"Yeah? To who?" Harry suddenly stood. He too looked at the angels, raising his eyebrows mockingly when they kept their silence. "What's going on?" Dean asked darkly. "Someone better start talking."
"You should show us some respect Winchester," Uriel finally said.
"Yeah?" Dean challenged. "I have this thing where I only give respect to people who deserve it. Why are you here?" he asked the Master of Death again.
"They want you to torture Alastair," The Master of Death blurted inelegantly.
Dean blinked down at him for a moment before his head snapped up, glare bouncing between Castiel and Uriel as if he didn't know who to direct his ire at.
"No," he growled sharply.
"Dean," Castiel entreated softly. "Seven angels have been killed. We have to figure out how they're doing it. We can't get Alastair to talk."
"Well figure out another way!"
Uriel leaned forward, which left him looming over the slight form of the Master of Death. Castiel watched with interest as Dean twitched forward, fingers reaching for the boy's shoulders before he stopped himself.
"There is another way," Uriel said, looking at the Master of Death, whose face darkened.
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh," Uriel said with genuine amusement. "You don't know?"
"That's enough," the Master of Death said sharply.
"No, I think your pet mortal needs to be told who exactly he's running around with."
Sam and Dean glanced at Harry, but either of them could hide their interest.
"Uriel," Castiel warned softly.
"No!" Uriel snapped. "Winchester deserves to know. Your little reaper is famous. He made a deal." Dean frowned down at Harry, drawing away a little. "Yes, he made a deal and when his time came up he was thrown into the pit. He was fifteen. Ten years later he clawed his way out and became this."
"Ten years," Sam breathed in horror.
"Jesus Christ," Dean bleated at the same time.
"Yes. He's more familiar with Alastair then anyone on the surface of this disgusting planet. If you won't help us, then he will."
Sam and Dean stared down at Harry, who stared back at them, chin raised and eyes narrowed.
"Shit," Dean breathed in shock.
"Well now you know," Harry said, and managed to sound challenging without coming off as defensive.
The brothers shared another look, and this one Castiel recognized. Uriel, who had not bothered to get to know the brothers as well as Castiel had, frowned in surprise when they turned to look at him expectantly, as if asking, 'okay so?'
"You would allow him to torture Alastair?" Uriel asked slowly.
Dean glanced down at Harry, who stared back calmly.
"If he wants to, then that's his choice," Dean said equally as slowly. "He seemed to want to take a piece out of him the other day."
Harry snorted softly, turning to stare at Uriel.
"So what now, sunshine?"
"You will address me with respect," Uriel said threateningly.
Sam rolled his eyes, and Dean raised his eyebrows. Seeing that Uriel was desperately loosing ground, and acknowledging that it was entirely his fault Castiel finally stepped forward.
"We must find out how the angels are being killed. If we don't, we will loose this war. Please try to understand. Dean it must be you."
"I am done asking," Uriel snapped and transported them out of the room.
Dean whipped his head around, obviously displeased with the sudden change of location. Harry, who Uriel had dragged along, seemed equally displeased at being back here. He spared a minute however to regard Castiel thoughtfully before his attention was dragged away by Dean's angry swearing.
"What part of no don't you fuckers understand?!"
Uriel drew in a sharp breath, no doubt to continue arguing but Harry raised a hand, his unique power slamming down hard enough to suck the breath from all of their lungs.
"That's enough," he said calmly. "You presence here isn't doing anybody any good," he said to Uriel. "Please leave."
Uriel visibly calmed himself, exhaling before taking a single step back. "I will seek revelation," he said to Castiel. There was a brief flapping of wings and between eye blinks he was gone.
Dean sighed explosively, giving a sharp full body shake as if he were trying to forcibly remove the taint of Uriel's presence.
"You can't ask me to do this Cas," he said, staring down at his boots.
"I'm sorry, but I must. There's no other way."
Dean shook his head, motioning tiredly at Harry. His question could not have been clearer, even though it was silent.
"I would kill him," Harry said flatly. "There wouldn't be any time for questions or answers. I would obliterate his soul." His tone turned mocking. "That's not what they want."
Castiel watched Dean raise his head, saw he and Harry share a long loaded stare. He saw the moment Dean recognized the truth of Harry's words, and saw the moment of defeat as Dean gave in.
Dean gave Cas a list and sent him away to gather what he needed. Then he sat down at the rough metal table and put his head in his hands.
"How did you survive?" he found himself asking without looking up.
He heard Harry shift, and the soft thud of something soft hitting metal. He raised his head to see that Harry had managed to pull himself up onto the table, his feet swinging. He leant back on his hands, face turned up as his gaze grew distant.
"I didn't. Technically."
"Remember? Yes." A small frown marred his young face. "All of it."
He tipped his head down, pressing a fist to the center of his chest. "It sits right here. It always hurts, but sometimes it only aches."
Dean briefly touched his own chest, feeling that he was intimately familiar with what Harry was describing.
"10 years," he said lowly. "You're just a kid."
"I was fifteen."
"What did you deal for?" Harry's expression closed off, not that it had been particularly open to begin with. A spark of anger began to grow inside Dean and he scowled, hand snapping up to point harshly at Harry's face. "Fuck kid. How about a little fucking give and take here? All you bastards seem to know every single fucking thing about me. How is that fair?"
"What makes you think I give flying bloody fuck what you think is fair?" Harry snapped. "And get your finger out of my face."
Dean pulled away, clearly remembering what Harry had begun to do to Alastair, and slightly amused despite the situation. He sighed explosively through his nose.
"I don't think you'd understand," Harry said, and his voice was quiet, subdued, and so, so guilty.
Harry parted his lips, about to speak, but Castiel appeared with a duffel bag in his hand. Dean rolled his eyes, because of course he would show up now. One glance at Harry's shuttered expression said that there was no chance of getting anything out of him now. Dean spun and shoved his finger back under Harry's nose.
"This isn't over."
Harry scowled and hissed something dark under his breath.
Whatever lightness the interaction inspired drained away when Dean began preparing his tools. Castiel hung back, but Harry stayed nearby, silently watching Dean work.
He lowered his head over the cart, took a deep breath, and pushed it through the double doors. He was only slightly surprised when he felt Harry fall in behind him.
Alastair raised his head and began to sing. Dean continued to push the cart forward, feeling his skin ripple as revulsion ripped through him.
"I'm sorry," Alastair laughed. "This is a very serious, emotional situation for you. I shouldn't laugh, but are they serious? They sent you to torture me?"
He turned his head, staring over Dean's shoulder. "Now the little death there. That makes sense." Alastair tilted his head to the side, carefully examining Dean's face. "Ah," he said. "So they told you."
Alastair leaned forward as far as his bindings allowed. "What do you think a millennia of torture does to a human soul?"
Dean was careful not to let his expression shift. "I'll give you one chance," he said simply. Tell me whose killing the angels. I want a name."
"What? You think I'll see all your scary toys and spill my guts? Come on now Dean-eo. I thought you knew me better than that." He looked over Dean's shoulder. "I thought he knew me better than that."
"You'll spill your guts one way or another. I just didn't want to ruin my shoes." Alastair smiled and gave a little nod of understanding. "Answer the question."
"Or what? You'll work me over? But then, maybe you don't want to. Maybe you're scared to?"
"I'm here aren't I?"
"Not entirely. You left part of yourself back in the pit." Alastair leaned forward again, and spoke softly, as if divulging a secret. "That's what happens, you know. The longer you're there, the more that's carved away until there's nothing left but the nasty bits. Come here, little death."
There was a brief pause, and then Harry walked up from behind Dean. His gaze was placid, blank.
"Look at him," Alastair breathed. "Just look at him Dean. He's perfect. The perfect canvas. Oh Harry. I've missed you so much."
Harry's expression didn't change. "Tell him what he wants to know," he said flatly.
"And what are you going to give me in return?"
"I'll destroy you quickly."
Alastair leaned back, looking extremely satisfied. "He was so sweet when I got to him Dean. I wish you could have known him then. Now he's all… prickly." He titled his head to the side. "You seem rather attached. Do you want revenge for what I did to you? Or to him?" he asked with a nod at Harry. "Or maybe this is about your father."
Dean turned away, focusing on preparing his tools.
"John Winchester," Alastair said slowly. "He's almost as famous as Harry. One hundred years I had him on my rack. I offered him the same deal I offered you – I put my blade down if he picks one up. Every time, he said no.
"And then along comes Dean-eo, and I thought, it was just going to be more of the same. But you broked … in thirty."
"Just give me the demon's name, Alastair."
"A child lasted more than a thousand. Your father for a hundred. But daddy's little girl couldn't even take it for thirty."
Dean didn't see Harry move, but he felt the air grow heavy. Alastair groaned, the cords of his meat-suit's neck standing out with the strain.
After a few moments Harry let up, circling around to Alastair's other side. He looked up at Dean, green eyes hooded.
"Going to let the child fight your battles for you?" Alastair panted out.
"You know what?" Dean said with a wry smile as he filled a syringe with holy water. "I could still dream in hell, and every time I dreamt of this moment. And I got some ideas." He turned and in one swift motion jabbed the syringe into Alastair's neck.
What felt like hours later, Dean stood back and watched Harry brush his fingertips over Alastair's sternum, watched the demon convulse as much as he could tied down like that.
"Give us the name," Dean said lowly as Harry let up.
"You know," the demon panted. "You have no idea, how grateful we are to you."
Dean turned back to the cart, trying to decide what he was going to try next. "Oh yeah?"
"Really we owe you. See, we started with Harry here, and it didn't quite work out. Stubborn. And then we tried your father, but he just wouldn't break. But you. The first time you picked up my blade and sliced into that weeping bitch – that was the first seal."
Dean stilled, horror filling him, even as he growled out a denial. Alastair opened his mouth, no doubt to continue, but suddenly Harry was standing between them, more expression on his face than Dean had ever seen before.
"Explain yourself demon," he hissed.
"Oh yes. Your little deal was very fortuitous for us."
Harry raised his hand, and it was like Dean was standing under a live wire. "Explain!"
"The first seal shall be broken when a righteous man breaks in hell. As it breaks, so to shall it break. We had to break the first seal before we could break any of the others."
Dean reeled from that for a moment and so nearly missed Harry's scream of rage.
"What the fuck does that have to do with me!" Harry reached past him, grabbed the demon-killing knife from the cart and opened a deep slash across Alastair's chest. "Why me?!"
Alastair's groan was cut off when Harry threw his power at him, flinging his hand out like he was swatting a fly out of the air.
"Why me?" he screamed again.
Dean stood back, eyes wide. He almost let Harry just get on with it. But then Harry stopped himself, turning from Alastair and leaning heavily on the cart. Dean pried the knife from his clenched fist.
"It doesn't matter," Dean said hollowly. "Even if the demons win, you won't be around to see it."
He turned, and was brought up short by Alastair, who stood a scant foot away.
"You should see a plumber about the pipes."
Dean brought the knife up – too late. Alastair's hand wrapped around his and twisted, snatching the knife from his grip. Then he punched Dean across the face, knocking him to the ground.
Dean laid there for a moment, waiting for his vision to clear. He looked up just in time to watch Alastair plunge the knife into Harry's gut.
One glance showed Sam all he needed to know. Dean was laid out on the dirty floor, eyes closed and his face bloody. Not even a foot away, Harry was curled around a knife hilt emerging from his side, a pool of blood growing around him.
He reached out and pushed Alastair away from Castiel. He felt the power rush through him, riding the high of the demon blood as he wrenched the answers out of Alastair.
It was so, so easy. Sam barely stopped himself from grinning. It felt like he'd drank a whole pot of coffee. It felt like he'd just climbed a mountain. He felt like God.
When it was finished, Sam stood there for a few moments. His breathing was slow and calm. Castiel struggling to his feet was what snapped Sam out of it.
"Dean," the angel rasped.
And like that it all drained away. Sam felt sick to his stomach as he turned around, falling to his knees at Dean's side.
He jabbed his fingers at the pulse point in Dean's neck. Still there. Still alive. "Oh God. Dean."
Castiel finally made it to their side. He placed his hands on Harry and Dean.
An eye blink later they were sprawled out just shy of the sliding doors of an emergency room. Castiel only stayed longer enough to drop them off, but Sam barely paid any attention. He shouted for help. His hand on his brother's shoulder as he watched Harry work hard to create a new puddle of bright red human blood.
Sam was surprised that Dean hadn't made any noise about leaving the hospital until he walked into the room one day to find his brother gone.
He asked a passing nurse and was directed two floors up, to the pediatric ICU where Dean had found Harry's hospital room and maneuvered his wheelchair as close to Harry's bed as possible.
"What are you doing here man? You should be in bed."
"The doctors haven't noticed anything off about him," Dean rasped.
Sam sighed and slumped down into a chair in the corner of the room. He began to chew at his fingernails, staring at his brother with hooded eyes.
"Why are you here Dean?"
"He's a part of all this Sammy," Dean said lowly, and then suddenly he smirked. "And I'm waiting to see how long he's going to play possum.
Harry's next exhale came long and loud without his eyes opening. Dean leaned closer, resting his forearms on the edge of the hospital bed.
"Answers," Dean demanded shortly. "Now."
"Don't have any," Harry said, his voice thin and quiet.
He pressed a hand against his side and struggled to pull himself up. Sam only hesitated a moment before getting up and reaching out to help. He tried not to think about the last time he had touched the Master of Death, and how thin and light his body had been then too. Harry was silent for a moment, clenching his teeth against the pain in a way that only came with practice. He got a handle on it, and lifted his head. He and Dean could almost be related, and Sam was a little surprised by the thought. The green eyes were only a few shades off, and the shape of the face was similar enough. Their pallor, that slightly pale gray tint that seemed to descend upon anyone who spent too much time in the hospital, was almost exactly the same.
Sam pulled his hands away, and slumped back into his chair. Dean watched silently as Harry fruitlessly tried to get comfortable. That soft look was back around his eyes, but it fled the moment Harry turned to look at him.
"Believe it or not, us supernatural beings don't all get together for tea and biscuits. I have no idea what those winged bastards are planning."
Dean's face darkened. His gaze wasn't for Harry or Sam, but some distressing middle distance.
"Your deal," he began, and Sam watched Harry shrink back into the pillows.
"Look whatever it was, it can't hurt you now can it?" Sam prodded.
The look Harry gave him could've peeled paint, but more than that, there was a certain amount of knowing there that put Sam on edge.
"Hey," Dean said sharply, recapturing Harry's attention. "We ain't gonna judge you kid. Honestly, I think we're a little past all that."
"Don't call me kid," Harry said mulishly, which didn't go far in proving his point.
It made Dean smile, which was certainly something considering how his mood had swung over the last few days.
"Until you get a handle on what stage of puberty you want to be in, your name is kid."
"I can't control it," Harry snapped, his lips going white as he pressed them together. "Sometimes I wake up and I'm older, sometimes I'm not."
Dean squinted up at him and titled his head to the side, his classic 'puzzeling' expression. He sucked in a breath, probably to ask more questions, but Sam cut him off.
"Maybe we can help?" Sam said, sunk deep in what Dean called his 'lawyer voice.'
Harry just glowered and turned his head. Sam finally lost his patience. "If you know something you have to tell us. If you're a part of all this, we need to know."
"I'm under no obligation to tell you anything?" Harry drawled without turning his head.
Sam's straightened his spine and raised his chin. "What's that supposed to mean?" Harry just closed his eyes and heaved out a weary sigh. "Answer me," Sam barked.
"I'm thirsty," Dean announced, his voice intent. "Can you go get me a coke?"
Sam blinked, caught off guard and speechless by his brother's deliberate interruption. "Dean, what the -."
"The machines are downstairs," Dean said, his expression and tone ungiving.
Sam stared for a moment, shame beginning to fill him as he examined Harry's white face. He left without another word, watching out of the corner of his eye as Dean turned to Harry and began to speak quietly.
He decided against the elevator, taking the time the stairs offered to think. And if he took a few quick swallows from the flask Ruby had given him, no one needed to know but him.
He bought a coke for Dean, a Root Beer for himself, and after a little thought bought a coke for Harry too.
When he returned a few minutes later, Dean had bent his head close to Harry's and Harry was speaking quietly in his ear. He broke off as soon as Sam appeared in the doorway, pressing his hand to his middle as he drew back. Dean's expression was dark, but intent. He wiped it free of any expression as soon as he noticed Sam in the doorway. Sam clenched his jaw and offered Dean his coke. He hesitated for a moment before offering Harry his as well.
The Master of Death stared up at him, eyes slightly narrowed as that overly sharp gaze flicked over his face. He huffed lightly and took the can from Sam.
"Pouting doesn't work on me either." He turned to Dean, who had just finished chugging his root beer. "I have to get out of here. Believe it or not, the job doesn't come with benefits."
"I hear that," Dean said. "We should hit the road too." He paused, glancing over at Sam, who instantly knew what his brother was about to say. " D'you want a ride?"
Harry looked up at Dean, the answer in his eyes. Sam knew, without a doubt, that if he hadn't been there Harry would have said yes.
"Maybe some other time," Harry said thinly. "I want to ride in the car."
Dean's look of disappointment flickered across his face almost too fast for Sam to pick it up. But he saw it. The irrational anger and the equal amount of shame that filled him were not so quickly stamped down. Sam could only hope that Dean's preoccupation allowed it to slip by unnoticed.
"Can I offer a bit of advice?"
Dean almost jumped out of his skin, his hands tightening unconsciously on the wheel as his eyes jumped to the rearview mirror. Harry raised his eyebrows and leaned forward, sticking his head in between the seats. Sam sunk back, a hand pressed over his eyes.
"Don't do that!" Dean snapped.
"Noted," Harry said dryly. "Now, I'd strongly advise you guys to forget about what you just learned. I'm sure that there are other things that require your attention."
"Someone's been writing books about our lives. I think that's pretty important," Sam said.
"I second that," Dean said. He glanced over, narrowing his eyes at how haggard the Master of Death looked. "You look like shit."
"Thanks," Harry said flatly. "This is a bad idea."
"Sit down," Dean said and reached out to push Harry back into his seat. "The last thing I need is a freakin' ticket."
"Why is it a bad idea?" Sam asked.
Harry was silent for a moment. When he spoke his voice was quiet and halting, as if unsure of what he was saying. "There are simply some things that we're not meant to know about ourselves. What you're hoping to uncover ranks high on that list."
"So you know what's going on?" Dean asked, fingers tightening on the wheel.
"Can't or won't?"
"Then we'll investigate. Thanks for the advice though."
Harry leaned forward again, face twisted into an expression of supreme earnestness. "Dean, trust me on this. You don't want to know."
"Trust you?" Dean snapped. "Why the fuck should I trust you? I barely know anything about you. What's your stake in this anyway?"
"None at all," Harry said coolly. "Just speaking from experience."
The air grew tight for a moment, and when Dean glanced at the rearview mirror, the kid was gone. Dean took a deep breath and released it, rolling his shoulders back. Sam shifted, gaze resting pointedly out the window.
"What?" Dean growled. "Out with it."
Sam shrugged. "He seemed concerned."
"You wanna drop it?"
"No," Sam answered at once. "I just think it was weird."
Dean waited until Sam was asleep before slipping out of the Impala. They had driven through the night, heading west out of Ohio. When Dean's eyes had stared burning he'd pulled off the main road and stopped in the middle of a bare field. He perched himself on the hood of the Impala, leaned back, and stared up at the sky. For a moment he considered praying to Castiel, just for someone to talk to. He stamped the urge down, because … well … no.
The air tightened and released in a way that he was quickly becoming used to, which meant that when Harry appeared next to him he didn't startle. The Master of Death was eyeing the car carefully, hands lightly touching the cool metal of the hood. Dean raised his eyebrows, watching this with interest.
"Why so obsessed with the car?" he asked.
"I am not obsessed," Harry said waspishly. He settled after a moment, touching the hood of the car again. "Before I became," Harry waved his hand, encompassing everything that he was, "this, I had the ability to sense things. I don't remember everything, but I remember that. Your car, she sings. She has presence."
Dean listened with reservation but could not deny his interest. "What kind of presence? She's not haunted is she?"
Harry grinned at him. "Don't worry. It's a tiny spark. Not evil, not good either. Just there. Like a dog, or a particularly personable cat." Harry paused for a moment before hopping up onto the hood to sit beside Dean. "So I was right."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yes, you were right. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"No," Harry said shortly. "I would have loved to be wrong. But really, are you surprised?"
"No, but I'm not sure if anything would surprise me at this point." He shook his head. "I guess it just means that we're in this now, until it's over. There's no escaping it. How did you know?"
Harry took a deep breath, leaning back to mirror Dean's position on the car. "A few years ago, a woman in England wrote five books but died before she could finish the series."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you talking about Harry Potter? You're Harry Potter?!"
"My books were more popular than yours," Harry said lightly. "Even if she never finished."
"There was nothing about Hell in those books."
"Well no. They were children's books weren't they? Besides, she died remember? They tried to finish things based on the notes she left, but they decided to stretch it out. They made a few changes." Harry took another deep breath. "I made a deal for the power to destroy Voldemort completely, to end the war. They made me Master of Death. I destroyed him, utterly. They waited just long enough to let me see that I'd done it, finally obliterated him, and then they killed me and dragged me down into perdition.
"Alastair never asked me for anything. He just … cut and … tore and sliced until there were pieces of me that were gone. He just ripped chunks out. Never said anything, never offered anything. Called me Little Death and just destroyed me over and over and over again."
It was strange to hear his pain in someone else's voice. Part of Dean wanted to make Harry stop, another part was morbidly fascinated at hearing it. He was beginning to understand why this being, this boy, drew him so much. Admittedly he'd never read the books, by the time they'd come out he had been eighteen years old and had already dropped out of high school. With a kid brother who was interested in reading everything he could get his hands on, it was hard not to know the gist of the plot. His dad had denounced them as idiotic, but Sammy had just been starting high school and was quick to ignore their dad's wishes.
Some kid, given a shit ton of responsibility that was his by chance. Yeah. It sounded pretty familiar.
Harry laughed brokenly. "But there was a reason, Dean. There was a reason they dragged me down there. There had to be hundreds of witches and wizards who were desperate enough to make a deal. But they chose to come to me. Why me? Why?"
It was asked so plaintively, and so desperately that Dean couldn't help himself. He reached out to touch one of those thin shoulders, and found that they were shaking. Dean readjusted his grip drawing Harry closer. It seemed like that was all Harry needed. He began shaking in earnest. He breathing quickened and he fisted a hand in the collar of Dean's jacket. He pressed his forehead to Dean's shoulder.
And he keened.
That was the only word for it. He keened around his rapid breaths, his small fist tugging on Dean's collar. The air became overly tight, more than it ever had before. Dean straightened, dragging them both off the hood of the car. He heard the creak and slam of one of the doors opening and closing and then Sam was hovering at his side.
"Dude. What the hell?"
Harry stopped keening, and started panting. Shaking harder and harder in the circle of Dean's arm.
Dean raised his head and glanced over at his brother. "Get back in the car."
"Dean what -."
"Sam, get back in the fucking car!"
His brother spread his hands and backed away. He did not get back in the car, but he stepped far enough away that Dean couldn't see him anymore.
He leaned back, trying to get a look at Harry's face.
"Okay," he said. "Slow down. Take a deep breath." He wrestled with Harry's free hand, and pressed it to his sternum. "Copy me. Okay."
He took a deep breath and released it. Like before, it took a few minutes for Harry to calm down enough to breathe properly. When Dean finally managed to get a look at his face, he was alarmed at how pale he looked and morbidly fascinated at the fact that even after all that, there were no tears. Deeply immersed in his need to give comfort, Dean didn't even think as he smoothed those wild bangs from Harry's forehead.
"Hey," Dean said and tipped Harry's head up slightly. "Hey. You're okay. Open your eyes for me." Harry continued to breath heavily through his nose. There was no indication that he heard Dean at all. "Open your eyes and look around. See where you are."
He cupped Harry's forehead and drew him closer. He could feel the kid's heart pounding against his but it was beginning to slow.
"Open your eyes." Finally the kid heard him, and those eyelashes, insanely long, fluttered as his eyes cracked open. "You're safe."
Harry stared up at him, eyes glassy and dull. Dean twisted around, and Sam appeared from around the back of the car.
"Get me one of the blankets," Dean said quietly.
"Sam, just do it."
There was the dull thunk of the truck opening and Sam reappeared with one of their stolen motel blankets. Dean somehow managed to wrap it around Harry only using one hand. With one arm wrapped around the kid's waist, he managed to get to his feet.
"Is he okay?" Sam asked quietly.
"Yeah," Dean said, pushing Harry's wild bangs out of his slowly blinking eyes. "He'll be fine. Can you…?" Dean jerked his head at one of the rear doors.
Sam opened it for him and Dean slid into the back seat, Harry's head tucked under his chin. Sam slid behind the wheel, facing out.
"What the hell was that?" he said lowly.
"It's called a flashback," Dean said, his tone deceptively casual. "It's a symptom of PTSD."
"You're saying that he has PTSD?"
"Are you surprised?" Dean asked. He felt Harry stirring, settling down against Dean's chest. When he ducked his head he saw that the boy's eyes had closed. He didn't exactly look peaceful, but his face had relaxed some.
"I guess not," Sam said softly. "What do you see in him Dean?"
Dean didn't answer. Sam didn't ask again.
The sun was rising and Dean was dozing when Harry opened his eyes. Dean somehow sensed the change at once and ducked his head down to meet that weary gaze.
"Hey," he whispered.
"This is embarrassing," Harry rasped.
"Yeah well, we all have our moments."
"Let me go."
Dean did so, and Harry scrambled, all sharp elbows and boney knees, to get out of the car. Sam had awoken, probably when Dean had greeted Harry. He met Dean's eyes in the rearview mirror and looked away. Dean frowned, hesitated for a moment, before following Harry.
The boy was standing a little ways away from the car, staring down at his feet. Dean was sure to approach him from the side, because he understood much better now what ailed him.
"Stop looking at me like that," Harry snapped. "I'm not fragile. I'm not broken."
"Well I'm not either," Dean said casually.
"Now you know," Harry said snidely. "So what are you going to do?"
"Keep you around," Dean said seriously. "You'll ride with us until this is all over."
"I have a job to do."
"It'll keep," Dean said gruffly. "Now come back to the car. I'm hungry. You hungry?"
Dean turned around and walked back to the car. He walked to the driver's side door and motioned for Sam to scoot over. He slammed the door closed and heard another door close right after. He met Harry's eyes in the rearview mirror and offered a little grin.
"All right, I'm starving."
"How'd it go?"
Harry blinked at him from behind his large mug of coffee, and was unmoved by Dean's harsh tone. Sam was in the bathroom, which gave Harry and Dean time to talk.
"I was right wasn't I? What was he?"
Dean stuffed his mouth with a handful of french-fries and glowered.
"No, not vampire. Not werewolf either, wrong time of month. Shapeshifter? No?" Harry took a long drink from his mug, the skin around his eyes starting to tighten and crinkle as he fought a smile. Suddenly Harry put the mug down, face brightening in triumph. "Ghoul?"
Dean threw a handful of sugar packets at him, lips twitching into a reluctant smile.
Dean sat and listened to the sound of his brother's suffering, numbly taking the shot glass that Bobby passed over to him. He glanced up in time to see Bobby pause for a moment before handing one to Harry as well.
"How long is this gonna go on?"
"Here, let me look it up in my demon blood detox manual. Oh wait. No one ever wrote one. No telling how long it will take. Or if Sam will live though it."
Harry made a soft noise in his throat, and Bobby and Dean immediately turned on him. Harry was staring down into his glass, and suddenly he swallowed it back.
"It could last weeks," he said roughly. "He'll live but things like this leave scars."
"Did you know?" Dean asked.
Harry looked up at him, his green eyes dark and distant. "Sort of," he said softly. "I knew that there was something wrong. Something very wrong."
"And you have much experience with the affects of demon blood?" Bobby asked sarcastically.
The Master of Death turned that sharp gaze onto Bobby, who stared right back.
"Not exactly," Harry said flatly. "Something similar though."
"What about these 'scars'? What are we talking about here?" Dean asked.
"Scars on the soul," Harry said simply. "He'll be marked forever."
"But he'll live."
It wasn't a question, but Harry nodded anyway. The moment was broken by the shrill ringing of Bobby's phone. The older hunter sighed and answered.
"Hello…Suck dirt and die, Rufus. You call here again, I'll kill you."
And he ended the call. Harry and Dean glanced at each other before looking to Bobby for an explanation.
"What?" Bobby snapped defensively.
"What's up with Rufus?" Dean asked cautiously.
"He knows," Bobby said ominously.
The phone rang again, and Bobby snatched it up. "I'm busy, you son of a bitch. This better be important."
Harry and Dean watched Bobby's face fall in dismay and then tighten in worry. Dean frowned, wondering what could possibly be happening that was worse then their current situation.
"The seals," Harry said flatly, answering his unasked question.
"They're falling. One after another. The souls that my reapers are gathering are all marked by their involvement." Harry swallowed, rubbing a hand over his mouth absently. "It's like an after taste. Nasty."
"Why didn't you say anything?" Dean snapped.
"I just did."
Bobby hung up with Rufus, rubbed a hand over his face, and immediately reached for one of his books. Dean watched him work for a moment before turning away. Harry sighed and hopped down from his chair. Dean was torn for a moment, stay with Bobby, follow the half-pint, or return to the panic room and listen to his brother's suffering close up and personal.
Dean had always been a glutton for punishment, so the decision turned out to be rather easy.
"Your presence is disrupting, Master of Death."
"Really?" Harry asked dully. "You're the only ones who seems to think so."
Castiel's brow furrowed. "Sam must be released."
"I don't think that Dean would agree with you."
"Dean does not know the full story."
Harry looked up from examining his fingers, which were tangled together in a rare show of nerves. He forced himself to take a breath and laid his hands flat on his bent knees.
"If I told you, you would tell Dean. He cannot know yet."
Harry tilted his head up, staring into Castiel's borrowed eyes. "Ashamed to tell Dean, so it can't be anything good." Harry tilted his head to the side, thoughts spinning. "Something so bad that it got you dragged back to Heaven."
Harry's eyes narrowed, and then widened in horror.
"Why are the angels letting the seals break?"
He knew he was warm when Castiel's nostrils flared, his eyes narrowing the tiniest bit.
He spun, trying to get back to the house, get back to Dean, but he was stopped by a hand clamping onto his shoulder.
"He cannot know," Castiel said lowly.
Harry threw his hand out, attempting to blast Castiel away from him. As soon as he was free he spun, trying to get to the house, but found his path blocked by another angel.
"Hiya," the angel said casually. "I'm Zachariah, and you've outlived your usefulness."
"Thankfully, you're not my supervisor," Harry snarled.
The seraph sighed, looking down at Harry like he was either something disgusting or something to be pitied.
"Oh Harry, Harry, Harry. Don't you know that you're just a cast off?"
Harry grew silent, his indignation draining away to be replaced with a cool creeping horror.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Zachariah just shook his head, and reached out, trying to lay his hands on Harry. The Master of Death danced away, and sucked in a deep breath.
"Dean!" he screamed. Zachariah grabbed for him, a steel like hand wrapping around Harry's wrist.
"We should have taken care of you a long time ago. Bye-bye Master of Death."
The door slammed open just as the angel's hand landed on his forehead. His last thing he saw was Dean and Bobby running forward, guns raised.
"Dean! The angels! They're -!"
Zachariah's free hand clamped down on Harry's face, and everything was burnt away in a bright flash of light.
Dean reflexively shielded his eyes, waiting for the light to die down. When he was finally able to look he saw that Harry had gone limp in Zachariah's grasp. He recognized the loll of the head, the unfocused sheen in the half opened eyes, but he denied the logical conclusion he'd come to. He cocked his gun and advanced, rage making everything slightly hazy around the edges. It only became worse when Zachariah let go, and Harry's limp body bounced on the packed dirt before lying still.
"Fuck," Dean growled. "You fucking son of a bitch." He raised his gun, finger flexing against the trigger.
"Rather attached weren't you?" Zachariah asked with a confused frown. "He was nothing but a juiced up reaper. A Plan D. A cast off." He nudged Harry's body with his toe.
"So that makes him nothing? He was a fucking person you bastard!"
"Not anymore," Zachariah said gravelly. "He stopped being human when Alastair broke him in Hell. He was weak, and he became an abomination, just a different kind than what you're used to. I've put him out of his misery." Dean finally lowered his gun, eyes on Harry's sprawled body. "You made us a promise, Dean. We still need you to hold up your end."
"Get out of here," Dean growled.
Zachariah paused, staring down at Dean's bowed head. Then with a mute flapping of wings he was gone. Dean ignored Castiel, who had stayed behind. He handed his gun off to Bobby and reached for the pulse in Harry's neck. He'd felt a heartbeat before. That whole night in the back seat of his car, he'd felt the kid's heart beating against his. It was still now, but Dean checked his wrist too. And then he pressed his hand against the kid's chest just to make sure.
"He was a person," Dean said lowly.
Behind him, Bobby heaved a long wary sigh. "Dean…"
"He was!" Dean snapped. "I don't care what he called himself, or what his job was. He was a person and those fuckers killed him for no reason."
Bobby came forward, kneeling down next to Dean. He put the guns aside and reached forward to straighten Harry out. Dean didn't move to help. Instead he watched as Bobby turned Harry onto his back, laying his limbs straight and closing his half open eyes.
"Okay Dean," Bobby said wearily. "We'll take proper care of him."
Dean nodded grimly, rubbing a hand over his face. He stood, scooping up his gun as he went. He was tired, tired of loosing people, tired of fighting.
He glanced toward the house, imagining his brother down in the panic room and wondered if he'd be loosing him too. He wondered if everything would be lost.
The sequel titled Witness to Hidden Things has been posted.