AN: I know I just did an update, but I finished this last night and I just don't think it would be fair to make you wait, especially after that iant hiatus for my exams.
This is it! The final chapter. Let me know what you think! (Prepare for a bumpy ride, folks)
Echoes of excited whispers reverberated around the giant chamber, whose ceilings were so high that they weren't visible; they were obscured by demons without vessels, circling and floating above the heads of the room's occupants like wind-whipped kites. Sam would have thought the room was awash with flames, if he didn't know better: while the room was lined with fires on either side, they weren't large enough to create that much smoke.
The brothers were ushered along the centre of the room, with demons crowded on either side of their path; more appeared by the second, watching and cheering; some groaned, in pain and anguish, unable to make any happy sound at all. However, they all did what they could to express their surprise that yes, Sam Winchester is here, he's finally here.
The clink of chains and the roar of scream-hoarse victims, tortured on the racks of Hell for hundreds of years without quite becoming demons yet, made it difficult to hear, although Sam and Dean both managed to hear the wheedling, sinister voice of the demon that had tormented them since their infancy: they looked up as they approached up the steps to the bronze throne, and saw the yellow-eyed demon nearing:
"Sam! You made it. So prompt. That imposter Daddy of yours taught you well,"
Sam sneered at the demon by means of a response; Dean made to attack him, but Sam caught his shoulder just in time with a quick whisper of, "Don't,"
The demon smirked at the Winchesters, before turning to the crowd.
"Brothers! Sisters! Sons and daughters!" He addressed them, the theatricality making the brothers roll their eyes. "It's with a heavy heart that I speak to you right now, about to relinquish power – but it's all for a cause I know is very dear to all of you.
"You must have all felt the change: the blood magic, the opening of a devil's gate – you all know what this means. The time has come, my friends. The change we've awaited for centuries has happened: we're finally all going to be freed, into an Earth that we can take for our own!" The cheering of the crowd reached a crescendo, as Sam and Dean cast wary looks at one another: they didn't like at all where this speech was going. He continued, "It will be ripe for the taking, for us to do as we please with. On Earth, as it is in Hell!"
He stood absorbing the applause and feverish hysterical screaming – whether through joy, or through pain, the Winchesters couldn't tell – for a moment, holding his arms up. Sam's face twisted into one of horror, while Dean frowned.
"Wait a second, pal," He interrupted, drawing the demon's attention. He looked surprised, but amused, by what the older hunter said next: "There's no way that gate's staying open forever – sorry to ruin your whole Nuremburg rally vibe, but you ain't coming out on top here. There are still plenty of good hunters up there, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts that they'll stop you in ten second flat,"
The demon turned slowly to Dean, as the sound died down in the hall.
"Oh?" The demon asked, raising an eyebrow to challenge him. Dean didn't care though.
"Yeah. And I ain't taking this lying down, either," He asserted.
The demon smiled slowly. Then, with a quick wink, Dean was choking, his hands flying to his throat, and blood pooling on his lips in seconds. Sam heard sickening cracks, and was reminded that this wasn't the first time the demon had injured Dean: last time, he'd have died if it wasn't for their Dad's sacrifice. This time, there was no safety net; Sam knew any demon would laugh off the offer of his tarnished, mongrel, part-demonic soul in a deal.
"Dean!" He cried, grabbing his brother by the shoulders, and looping one of Dean's arms over his own. "Let him go! Now!" He demanded, but Azazel just smiled. Dean's legs buckled, and he fell to his knees. Sam's eyes widened in panic, as he crouched down, completely unsure about what to do. "Now!" He yelled, enraged.
"Make me," The demon hissed, earning screams of approval from the previously-quiet crowd. Sam looked around, feeling helpless. He knew what they wanted, but should he do it? Should he kill Azazel, and prove all these demons right about him? Prove him a killer, inhuman?
But one look at Dean was all it took. His eyes bulged from their sockets, his face was deathly grey, and was his breathing laboured and painful. "Sammy . . ." He rasped, and that was it. His younger brother's decision was made; there was nothing he wouldn't do for Dean, even if he knew he was being goaded, or even tricked. He couldn't put anything in front of Dean's life – especially not for selfish reasons, like upholding his reputation as a soft-hearted human. He would d this 100 times over and not even flinch, if it meant Dean getting out of this alive.
Because Dean believed in him. Dean had searched for him; refused to believe he was dead, and even when he turned up contaminated with sulphurous blood, still believed that he was good, and kind, and still his Sammy. Dean had put everything on the line taking Sam in in his new, tainted state. Now it was time for Sam to return the favour.
He stood up, holding his palm toward the demon, and concentrated. He watched as Azazel's soul squired and writhed, as if its very movements were beckoning him; goading him into attacking. It took barely any of the strength Sam's rage and emotion had released inside of him before the floor began to shake slightly, and the fires flared up, causing those at the back of the crowd to scream and burn. Sam ignored any sound but Dean's quick breaths, and his grunts of pain. He closed his eyes.
Behind them was a blackness so complete, so opaque, that he disregarded all blackness he'd ever seen before it. This was it. The abyss. And he was about to jump right over the edge, for his brother. He opened them again.
He stared at Azazel, concentrating more of his power – which now felt completely, scarily natural and organic as it came from within him – on the demon, as he brought his hand into a fist. He saw Azazel's demonic soul, inside its body, now plagued by spasms and vigorous shaking, and realised that it was experiencing its death throes. Good, some dark part of his brain thought; he wondered idly if that dark part was as small as it used to be, or if, like a tumour, it was growing rapidly and uncontrollably.
With one final push with his powers, he felt something break. Azazel's soul shattered, emitting a white light before completely disappearing. There was no great fanfare, as he imagined there might be when the hunt that had spanned two generations and cost at least two lives just in his own family, came to an abrupt end. The anti-climax almost detracted from the victory. Almost.
Azazel's meat-suit flopped to the floor, dead. Sam had killed him. He'd killed the yellow-eyed demon. It was over. . . Well, so to speak. Deep down, Sam knew it would never be over. Especially now he'd been permanently changed.
He looked to Dean; found that his eyes were wide and alarmed, instead of pleased and proud.
"Sam . . . Your – your eyes," He explained quietly.
"They went yellow again?" Sam asked – he wasn't happy about it, but he was curious all the same.
"They still are," Dean breathed. Though he was recovering from Azazel's torture, he still looked completely shocked and horrified at Sam's new appearance. Indeed, Sam felt sick himself, as he pressed a hand to his face. It was as if he expected to feel some form of change – but of course, he felt nothing. He wondered if it was his imagination that was causing everything he saw to have a yellow tint to it.
He couldn't blame his brother for being scared, or sad. He couldn't even deal with this himself. Not now, anyway.
It was then that he noticed that the hall was completely silent. He turned to face the crowd, breathing quickly, terrified of what would happen next. But nothing did.
In that moment, he felt out of control. He felt unsure, but all-powerful: a feeling he consciously knew was awful and wrong for any one person to experience. He knew he was changing; he'd just killed the demon, and his eyes were reflecting the dead creature's deceased soul.
He took a step down from the platform they were on, and was immediately met with deafeningly loud cheering. He looked all around, and saw that every creature in the room was elated – sinisterly so – at what had just happened.
Then it occurred to him: Azazel had said that he was giving up his power; he'd wanted Sam to kill him. It was all about the line of succession: Sam was in charge now. These demons were looking at him with something as close to love as they could manage; a twisted form of adoration and loyalty, to the end and destruction of the Earth, and possibly beyond.
All hail the King.
It was almost too late when he realised one figure had broken from the crowd, brandishing a rusted knife, heading straight for him. He looked up, perplexed, as his adrenaline made him able to jump out of the way just in time. He desperately tried to catch a glimpse of who – or what – was attacking him, but fell short in the most part.
It certainly wasn't a demon. Sam recognised it as a tortured soul, with skin flayed off its arms, and ragged clothing that was covered in a mix of blood, sweat, and other filth. Its hair was lank, and facial hair obscured its face.
This man hadn't broken yet. He wasn't a demon. The youngest Winchester's blood ran cold when he confirmed that, no, this man was no demon: he was someone Sam knew; someone he'd avenged just moments ago.
He was John Winchester.
". . . Dad?" Sam asked tentatively, but his father was too busy making a lunge for him. "Dad! It's me!" He protested, holding up his hands.
"You are not my son," He screamed, his voice ragged from disuse.
"Please! It's me!" The crowd jeered and hooted, watching the would-be fight unfold. They didn't deem it their business to get involved in Sam's fights: after all, a good king can win any battle. And they all believed, after several millennia of hype, that Sam would be a good king.
John managed to get one blow to Sam's arm, leaving a shallow cut that Sam found didn't affect him at all – like the wound on his hand, it ceased to be painful, and he saw that it was already beginning to heal when he shot the smallest of glances at it, between dodging that attacks his father was raining down on him. Even in Hell, the man was a formidable fighter.
It made sense Sam would be able to carry on, unperturbed, even when injured. After all, he realised idly, he'd seen a demon get thrown from a building and walk away. Dean, however, didn't realise this – or didn't care – and was beginning to edge towards the fray, trying to find a way to help. "Sammy," He warned in a low voice, avidly watching the conflict for an opportunity to help – but there was none, especially in the state he was in, courtesy of Azazel.
"I can see it in your eyes! You're not human!" John roared.
"Please! I can explain, Dad!" Sam begged his father. He wanted to be happy that his father was still human; hadn't been changed by this awful place yet, even after what, in Hell time, would be hundreds of years. But he couldn't celebrate that fact: not while his father was swinging a rusted blade, coated with many years' worth of blood, at him. This was the part of his father that told Dean to kill him if he couldn't save him. The part that forgot how to love him, even with his tainted blood.
Bobby once told him that family didn't end with blood. As he stumbled backwards up the steps he'd just come down from, while his demon subjects looked on noisily, he wished that his father had the same philosophy.
"Sam, look out!" He heard Dean cry, and it startled him so much that he looked around, just in time to see Dean leap up, and shove him out of the way.
Dean. Dean who had looked at him with horror only a moment ago; who had just seen his baby brother's eyes transform fully into those of the creature he hated more than any other. Dean was still the one to rush to his side, pushing him out of the way, as John Winchester's blade came down, slashing across where Sam's chest would have been. Slashing down on where Dean's chest now was.
The older Winchester choked, overbalancing. And falling. Sam caught him under his arms, sinking to the floor, as he watched Dean's skin bleed, in utter shock. He could see torn muscle and tattered skin; could even see the jagged shapes where the force and awkward angle of the blow had shattered some of Dean's ribs. He looked up at his father, who stood there, heaving with the force of his stunned breathing. He was gaping in horror at cutting down his first-born son, the one who had always obeyed his orders: the one that, now, had sacrificed himself for a brother whose humanity was long gone. He was realising that he didn't know Dean at all.
John dropped the blade, completely disgusted at himself. He allowed himself a second more of staring at his sons – both of them – and creating an image in his mind that would endure, and last him an eternity. Then he slipped back into the crowd, lost forever as far as those sons were concerned. As if resonating with the seismic shift in their now-shattered father-son relationships, the floor began to shake. It seemed strangely incidental for a while to the Winchester boys, both still caught up in the sadness and intensity of the moment they'd just shared with their late father.
Eventually, the brothers looked up, sensing a pervasive change in the atmosphere that simply couldn't be ignored. They silently realised that the smoke that flew overhead was clearing all of a sudden.
"W-what's happening, Sammy?" Dean asked, looking up at his brother, trying to sit up and failing miserably with a flinch of pain. Sam was selfishly grateful – somewhere under the layers of fear that his brave face wasn't quite covering – that Dean had still called him Sammy. He'd sacrificed himself for him, like always; he was still his Sammy.
So, when the ceiling above them opened up to reveal the night sky above, and thousands of black tendrils of smoke flew vertically up into the air and on to Earth, he didn't care that the world might be ending. Even if it was, they could fix it. Him and Dean, together. They were still a team. They could still do it . . .
". . . Dean?" Dean's eyes lazily found Sam's; they were sluggish in their movement, and he was coughing up more blood. Sam realised that the cut on Dean's chest wasn't as shallow as the one on his own arm; he might also still be suffering complications from Azazel's torture. "Dean, we've gotta . . ." He began, but Dean's eyes were closed. He shook his brother for a moment, but received only a small groan of pain for his troubles. Dean didn't open his eyes.
Sam barely noticed when Ruby sidled up, one of the few demons left that weren't flying upwards, and into Earth's sky through the now gaping hole in the roof. The Hall was now empty of demons, leaving only tortured souls and half-demonic creatures to watch, groaning longingly, as their superiors flew off into a land they had called home so very many years ago.
He only noticed her presence when she quoted in a low voice, "And it is written . . . That the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell . . . As he breaks–" She recited, crouching down next to Sam, and putting a hand on his shoulder, causing him to flinch. "–so shall it break,"
Sam looked up at her in horror, his eyes wide and his mouth gaping. And, tears were welling in his eyes. He glanced down at Dean, then back up at her again:
"W-what does that mean? Righteous man? Who – who . . . Dad?" He asked uncertainly. But he realised that wasn't the most important issue right now; he shook off that line of questioning, and asking with an uneasy curiosity:
"First seal? What does that mean?"
Ruby just smiled a mischievous smile: full of wonder and obvious loyalty to her new leader, it spread slowly across her face as Dean shuddered in Sam's arms, shaking and coughing and losing consciousness. She squeezed his shoulder, to his discomfort, before thankfully letting go and letting her gaze drift upwards; Sam followed it, and could see Earth's night sky, black but completely starless.
And then he knew. Whether it was the demons escaping, or being crowned king of Hell, or the fact that Dean was going to die that made him sure of it – he couldn't say. But it was obvious, plain as the sky above him or the brimstone beneath his feet.
The world was ending.
My PM inbox is now open for prompts - I prefer one-shots these days, although I do occasionally get tempted to do multi-chapter fics (see also: Journal). Let me know if you have any prompts for me! Hope you enjoyed this :)
Got any artwork you'd like me to use for this story? It doesn't currently have any cover art, but I might make some in the future, or ake requests for what you think it should be like.
You can also find me on Tumblr at thatwasbeautiful-clarence for prompts and general Spn blogging. Cheers!