Tony's breaths came in ragged gasps as he tore through the woods.
The sun was high in the sky, beating down on his neck as he ran. He'd lost his weapon to a pack of vampires hours ago – long before the Leviathans had picked up his trail – and now he was less than a hundred yards from the portal. He risked a glance over his shoulder and was surprised to see an empty path behind him.
Just keep running.
What looked like a black asteroid crashed to the ground in front of him and he swerved to avoid it, diverting around a tree and trying to keep his path.
"Don't run, now, Tony," a mocking voice called. "We just want to have a little fireside chat. Get to know one another."
He tried to pick up speed. He could see the tear ahead of him, blue and ephemeral even in the bright sunlight. If the rumors he'd heard were true, he could get through to the other side – even without a human. What the hell he'd do when he got there, he didn't know – his body had been burned by a hunter – but it didn't matter.
Anywhere was better than here. He wasn't cut out for this place.
After what seemed an eternity, he stood before it. He pulled the spell out of his satchel, furious that he hadn't had time to memorize it. He said the words, and the gap opened wider, exposing a black maw in which nothing could be seen.
Tony looked back over his shoulder.
Three Leviathans stood in a line, staring menacingly at him. Why they didn't leap through the portal, he had no idea, but he wasn't going to stick around to find out.
With one last look around the place he'd spent the last ten years, he jumped through the gap in the world.
He'll be back soon. Dean swallowed, cracking his neck. His skin was shot through with cold and his muscles trembled as if in anticipation of a jump scare. Calm down.
He turned off the television, getting up to toss the dishes in the sink. The bunker was dead silent now; he couldn't even hear cars passing on the highway outside. The quiet was almost oppressive, and it only served to highlight the chaos in his mind. He'd tried to distract himself with the tube, but it wasn't working; all it did was add noise to the reel of horror in his head. Unfortunately, the soundlessness of the space only made him edgy and hypervigilant.
Benny had called him six times since he'd left New Orleans, but Dean hadn't answered even once. He simply didn't want to hear what he knew Benny would say – he'd heard it damn near every day of their last few months in Purgatory and really couldn't stand it anymore. Benny meant well, and he was one of the best friends Dean had ever had, but sometimes Dean wished he knew when to fuck off.
Must have been a real sap when he was a human, he thought, leaning over the sink. Would have made a hell of a shrink.
He was pouring himself another drink when the shrill sound of his ringtone reached his ears again.
To hell with it, he thought, setting the glass of whiskey on the counter and crossing the room. He picked up the phone, unsurprised to see Benny's name flashing across the screen.
"Look, man, I told you, I'm fine – "
"Dean!" He sounded winded, and possibly injured; Dean's already wired emotional state intensified. "Pick up the telephone once in a blue moon."
"What's wrong? Do you need me?"
"I'm all right," he said, "just had a run in with a skinwalker. He wasn't huntin' me, it was just a wrong place wrong time kind of thing."
"I am, but…I've been trying to get in touch with you. Something's goin' on, man."
"Yeah, you're telling me. If that demon really was the one who told you about – "
"No, not that."
"What the hell else is happening? Princess Peach been kidnapped?"
"It's these monsters. Don't mean to sound like a hypocrite, but it seems like they're everywhere since we got back. 'Specially the last few weeks."
"It's Earth, Benny. Welcome."
"Naw, it's more'n that. This skinwalker was just a fluke, but since we split a few months back, the others, they've been all over my ass."
Dean frowned, switching ears. "What for?"
"Dunno. Killed 'em before they could say. But there have been a lot of them, Dean. And I think…"
He trailed off.
"I think they – "
But Dean heard Sam at the door and cut him off.
"Listen, Sam's here, but I'll hit you back once he's busy. You sure you're safe?"
Dean ended the call, slipping the phone into his pocket and trotting back to the kitchen. When Sam finally made it inside, he was leaning against the sink, glass in hand. Sam caught sight of him and ambled over sheepishly, dropping a bag onto one of the bar stools and sitting in another.
He looked as good as new. Hell, even his hair was shinier.
Dean stared defiantly at him over the rim of his glass, savoring the taste of the drink.
"You're looking well, Marguerite."
Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I ought to be. Took enough of that potion to raise Frankenstein's monster."
Dean chuckled, setting his empty glass in the sink. "They slip a little into your IV during surgery?"
"Something like that."
He nodded, stepping away from the counter and leaning his back against the fridge. He was still a little sore from his rough and tumble with Crowley, but damned if he was gonna let that get in his way. It was time for Sam come clean about the shenanigans that had been taking place under Dean's nose. Sam was lying – lying big – and going forward, he was gonna have to be honest. Dean wasn't about to get blindsided again.
"What were you thinking?" Sam said. His elbows rested on the counter. "Why'd you just take off like that after Nikki? It's exactly what Crowley wanted."
"What was I thinking?" Dean scoffed, biting his lip. "I'm not the one who's in bed with crossroads demons, Sam. I'm not the one who's lying his ass off about what happened this past year. I'm not the one with Kryptonian healing potions in my goddam back pocket – "
"I saw the basement at Nikki's," Sam interrupted, ignoring him. "Something's wrong. I haven't seen you go Guantanamo like that since Alistair. I saw Kaja's body, man. And what happened in that crypt, with Crowley…"
Dean nodded. Of course, he thought. Should have known he'd pull this. Fine. He wants to play that game…
"Okay," Dean said.
"Yeah. I'm having a hard time here, I fucking admit it. I've had a screw or two loose for a while, but this last little otherworld adventure really threw me for a loop. And then there's the stuff with this tablet, and you, and these trials…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "And then when Crowley just showed up and tried to blow us all away like redshirts, I dunno, I just…snapped, a little bit. And I accept responsibility for that, Sam, really, I do."
Sam looked thoroughly shocked at his admission and fumbled for words, but Dean held up a hand.
"Don't bother," he said. "I know. I try to do too much, I don't deal with my feelings enough, or ever, yadda yadda…I got enough of that crap from Benny this week – "
Dean looked up defiantly. "Yeah. Benny. The guy who helped me escape Purgatory, who was there for me, the one who heard about the escape hatch from your Replacement Ruby…" He couldn't keep a satisfied smile off his face as the color drained from Sam's cheeks. "You know, that guy."
Sam took a deep breath, and Dean could feel him reaching for another lie.
"Look, Dean – "
"No." Dean walked around the counter and sat on a stool beside Sam, resting his elbows on the bar as well. "Don't. I don't want to hear it. There's no way it's a coincidence that the demon you're bumping uglies with is the one to tell Benny how to break us out of the joint. I want the truth. No cuts, no buts, no coconuts."
"If I could – "
"You can!" Sam jumped back at bit at his outburst, but Dean didn't care. "Haven't you learned that? What the hell have we been doing all these years?"
"It's – "
"Do you remember when we trusted each other? When we worked together to get shit done? When I could fucking call you if I was in trouble and you would show up? When you could tell me what was happening to you and we'd find some way to fix it? Do you remember those days, Sammy?"
"You were never supposed to meet her," Sam muttered under his breath.
"I said, you were never supposed to meet her." He was staring straight ahead, not looking at Dean. "She was supposed to go there, spread the word, make sure it got to you, and then vanish into the wind. She shouldn't have come when you summoned. She knew better."
Dean glared at him, unable to believe his ears. "That's the problem you see with this? That I found out?"
"Then un-complicte it! Tell me the goddam truth!"
"I – "
"Did you really put down all those Leviathans?"
Sam hesitated. "I had help," he said. "But yeah, I did."
"And you sent that demon – Kaja – to find me?"
"Did you have something to do with that gate out of the Purg, Sam?"
Sam didn't reply.
"Sam – "
"Yes, okay?" Sam still wasn't looking at him; his expression was blank. "Yes."
"Then why did you tell me you took time off to do fuck all? Was it because of the witches? The demons? Because we've been there, Sam. Neither of our hands are clean on that score. You didn't need to hide that from me."
"So why did you?"
Sam swallowed hard, and…
Were those tears?
"I guess I just thought…I dunno, that I could make it all up to you somehow, that if I could do this one thing for you and do it right, that…things could go back to how they were, that we could be who we used to be." He paused and breathed, tapping his fingers on the formica. "But that's not gonna happen. I see that now."
Dean shook his head in confusion and put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "What do you mean, make it up to me? Make what up?"
"Who we were…those men are gone."
"What do you – "
"About Adam," Sam said, clearing his throat. "We need a plan."
"Hey – "
"We owe him, Dean," Sam said forcefully. "We can't let Crowley screw him over. If he becomes a knight, he'll be virtually impossible to kill. He'll never have peace. There's gotta be something in this place about how to stop it. We should talk to Metatron, too…"
"We'll get to that, but Sam – "
But he climbed off the bar stool and strolled off in the direction of the library. Dean was only midway through the great room when the library door shut behind Sam.
Adam sat in the Devil's trap with his legs crossed, watching the king pace to and fro while his lackey talked into a bowl of blood. Lucifer had mentioned that about fifty years before, but Adam hadn't yet seen it in person. It was underwhelming.
He breathed deep.
The air on Earth was thinner than he remembered. Wherever the cage was – there was some debate about whether its location could actually be classified as a place – the air was thick, hard to breathe in. It was hard to say how long his corporeal body had lasted in there. Between Lucifer and Michel, the torture he'd endured made all of the years run together and he couldn't remember when he'd physically died.
Not that it mattered.
He was better now.
More powerful than most demons.
Lucifer had said so himself, and the fallen one was a lot of things, but not a liar.
Never a liar.
And he'd told Adam one day, while peeling his flesh, that Sam, the Sam who'd been the only other human thing in that cage, was gone. That Death had come to get him – on Dean's orders, of course – from that cage and bring him home to Earth. That Dean had had a choice between his soul and Sam's and, well, there really wasn't a contest there, eh?
He hadn't wanted to believe it, hadn't wanted to face that he was alone in that hellhole with only the Devil and his brother to keep him company, but after a while it could no longer be denied, and oh, that was a bitter day. It was the day he'd finally known he'd never escape, never get back to his mother, never see another living thing. And Lucifer had made him an offer, and offer he'd have been a fool to refuse, and offer he'd make good on, if only for spite.
They would pay.
They would pay for all of it.
And if the world was destroyed for it, if Dean's life work was invalidated by it, well that was just icing on the cake. No one had cared about his life, or his death, or his soul, so what was it to him?
He knew what the king wanted, and oh, he'd be delighted to oblige him.
A regular demon, his brothers could kill.
But a knight?
He smirked to himself as Crowley got shakily to his feet and walked over, cane clicking on the stone.
"So, Your Highness," Adam said, "you make a decision?"
He could tell that the King was still wary of him, he grew less so by the hour. Soon, Adam would be free. And when that happened…
He grinned at the mental image of Dean's flayed body.
"Not just yet," Crowley said. "Details, details. Not easy to make a knight, you know. Got to get it right the first time."
Adam nodded thoughtfully, uncrossing and recrossing his legs.
It was no bother.
He had all the time in the world.