Cas had abandoned him.
Mom expected him to turn up with a miracle.
But without his angel, there was nothing Dean could do.
Sammy was dead.
Dean wanted to burst through those doors and gather his baby brother into his arms. He wanted to sob out all of his apologies and regrets and ‘I love you’s. He wanted to beg Sammy not to leave him. He wanted his mother to comfort him. He wanted his father to wrap his arms around both of them and to say something about how they would get through this as a family.
He wanted Sammy alive. He wanted, no, needed Cas to come back right now and fix this.
But Cas wasn’t answering his prayers.
And Dean knew that he couldn’t face his family. If he went in there empty-handed it would break Mom’s heart and Dad would blame him for what had happened to Sam. He couldn’t stay.
He ran and he kept running, blinded by tears, driven by grief. He stumbled and tripped and knocked into people but he didn’t care, he just kept running. Because maybe if he ran fast enough and far enough he could leave behind the emotions that were ripping him apart.
But when he fell, slamming to his knees on rough concrete and skinning his palms, Dean couldn’t get up again. The fight and adrenaline flooded out of him, leaving him weak, exhausted, helpless.
Sammy was dead.
Hoarse, ragged sobs wrenched their way out of his throat. The pain was crushing him and he curled around the gaping wound that was his heart, trying desperately to hold himself together.
But how could he? And what was the point anymore?
He had lost everything.
It was all his fault. He had let everyone down. He had chosen hunting over his own family. He had left Sammy all alone when it was his job to protect him. He had been stupid and selfish and Sammy had paid the price.
Sammy was dead.
How was Dean supposed to live with that?
He had to find a way to make this right.
He prayed to Cas. He prayed to any angel who would listen. He prayed to God himself.
But when he received no reply, he didn’t stop there.
Because he knew for a fact that it wasn’t just the forces of Heaven that could raise people from the dead.
Demons could too. After all, when Dad had been killed, Mom had made a deal to save him.
Dean stood to his feet and angrily dashed away his tears.
“Alright, Azazel, you want me? Come and get me!” he yelled into the night. “No more games. No more angels. Just you and me, face to face. Come on you son of a bitch!”
“Language, Dean,” a voice purred.
Dean spun around to see that a man he didn’t recognise had appeared behind him. It wasn’t the same meat suit as the last time they had met, so he had to check. “Cristo.”
The man’s eyes flashed yellow. “That’s right, buddy boy, it’s me.”
Dean’s fists clenched as the memories of the night of the fire surged to the forefront of his mind. This was the demon who had killed his grandparents, bled into Sammy’s mouth to use him for god knows what, stabbed Dean and would have murdered his mother. He loathed this creature with every fibre of his being. “I’ve been looking for you for a long time,” he growled.
“Oh, I know. You want me dead for what I’ve done to your precious little family. But you didn’t bring me here to kill me.”
“No,” Dean grudgingly admitted. He forced his hands to relax. “I don’t know what you did to my brother, and I don’t know what you want from him. But if you wanted him dead you would have killed him that night in his nursery.”
“What’s your point?”
“Sam died tonight.” Saying the words out loud felt like a stab to the gut. It hurt, oh god it hurt. But he was going to fix it. He was going to do whatever it took to save him.
“That’s unfortunate. He showed a lot of promise. But I don’t see how it is my problem – there are other children like him. He’s replaceable.”
“Not to me he isn’t!” Dean yelled.
The demon raised his eyebrows, smirking.
Dean wrenched his emotions back under control, dragging in a deep breath. “I know you can resurrect people. You did it for my Dad. You can do it for Sammy.”
“It’s not a parlour trick, boy. I can’t just snap my fingers and make it so, even if I wanted to. Rules, red tape, you know how it is.”
“You’ve got to have something in exchange,” Dean guessed.
Azazel began to smile. “That’s right.”
Dean had expected that much, but it didn’t make it any easier. He closed his eyes for a moment, gathering his strength and resolve. Then he looked Azazel straight in the eye and said, “You can have me.”
“Why would I want you? You’re nothing special.”
“Because you’re not stupid. You know that if you don’t take this deal, I will hunt you down and kill you myself. I made you that promise more than twenty years ago, and I intend to keep it.”
“I’m not scared of you.”
“Yes you are. That’s why you tried to kill me as a kid. That’s why you sent your lackeys to finish the job instead of coming after me yourself. That’s why you haven’t dared to show your face until now. There is only one way out for you, and believe me when I say you won’t get another chance. Save Sam.”
“Do you understand what you’re offering, boy? If you make this trade, you won’t just die. You’ll be dragged down into the Pit. And trust me, it ain’t no pleasure palace.”
“I know that.”
“You really don’t. You cannot possibly comprehend the pain and horror of that place until you’ve experienced it for yourself. It’s what turns humans into demons.”
Dean’s breath caught. “What?”
“Your angel buddy didn’t fill you in on that little detail, huh? Yep, every last demon, save for the big boss himself, was human once. Couple of hundred years in the Pit is usually enough to do it."
“I don’t care,” Dean lied, trying to still the tremble in his hands. “It doesn’t change my decision.”
“Anything for little Sammy, eh Dean?”
“It’s a fair trade. My life for my brother’s. Do we have a deal or not?”
Azazel grinned. “Sure thing, buddy boy. One living breathing Sammy coming right up.”
“I want to see him,” Dean said quickly. “I want proof that he’s alive and well before – before you take me.”
“Fine. You can have your little reunion, but then payment comes due. No welching out on it or Sammy drops like a fly.”
“I’m not going to welch out on it. I’m a man of my word.”
The demon clapped his hands together. “Alright, then. Pucker up Dean-o.”
Dean stiffened. “What?”
“Deals are sealed with a kiss.”
Dean grimaced, but winced his eyes shut. “Fine. Get it over with.”
He heard Azazel laugh and then rough, dry lips were pressed hard against his own. A hand yanked on his hair to pull him closer and Azazel mouthed at him, making little moans with the deliberate intent of taunting him.
Dean stood there and bore it, though it was all he could do to keep from vomiting. For Sam, he told himself. I’m doing this for Sam.
After an eternity Azazel pulled away. “See you soon, Dean.”
When Dean opened his eyes, the demon was gone.
Waking up was an extremely strange experience for Sam. The first thing he became aware of was the fact that a sheet was covering his face, making breathing difficult. He promptly batted it off and sat up, trying to work out where he was.
A man in a lab coat had his back to him.
“Hey, excuse me-”
The man screamed and leapt about two feet into the air. Within minutes a swarm of security people and doctors had filled the room. They surrounded Sam, jabbering questions and accusations and prodding him with various instruments.
“CUT IT OUT!” Sam yelled.
They all froze and stared at him.
“Would someone please explain what is going on?” he asked politely. They seemed speechless all of a sudden. “Let’s start easy. Where am I?”
“You’re in the morgue of Lawrence Memorial Hospital,” Lab Coat Guy told him.
“Okay.” Creepy. “Why?”
“Because you’re dead.”
Sam looked down at his body and prodded at his leg just to test it was real. “Fairly sure I’m not.”
“You were,” one of the doctors said. “You died during surgery an hour ago.”
“Surgery? Why would I need surgery? I’m fine!”
“You weren’t. You were in a car crash.”
Sam vaguely remembered stealing the Impala and heading towards the I-29 north bound. He had tried to take a bend too fast and he had lost control – there had been the sound of screeching metal and shattering glass and then nothing. He had woken up here.
“There isn’t even a scratch on you now,” the doctor said. “It’s impossible.”
“No, it’s a miracle,’ Lab Coat guy breathed.
What was it Dean had said during that last fight with Dad before he left? Something about angels?
“Well, whatever it was, I’m fine now, so can I go home?”
“All our tests are saying you’re perfectly healthy so I don’t see why not… Does anyone know if the boy’s parents are still here?”
“They are,” a security officer spoke up. “His mother didn’t want to leave until her other son arrived.”
Sam perked up at that. “Dean? Dean is on his way here?”
“I think so…”
Okay, having a near death (or actual death) experience wasn’t fun, but if it got his family back together Sam was more than happy to have made the sacrifice.
“Can you take me to my parents now please?”
“They’re not going to believe this,” someone muttered.
“Their son is alive. They’re not going to care how it happened.”
It was a strange procession of people that led Sam through the hospital to the waiting room; it seemed they all wanted to witness his parents’ reaction to seeing him.
The room was practically deserted until they got there. Through the press of bodies surrounding him, Sam saw his parents sitting next to each other, hands clasped. Dad’s head was bowed, but Mom kept glancing hopefully towards the opposite doorway, almost as though she was expecting someone.
“Mary, he won’t come,” Dad said quietly. He sounded so lifeless, so defeated. “I drove him away. We’ve lost both of our children, and it’s my fault.”
“He’ll be here, John.”
“But after what I said… What I did…”
“He’ll be here.”
“Mr and Mrs Winchester?” the doctor said.
They both looked up, and the crowd parted.
Sam gave a little wave. “Hi guys.”
Dad stared at him in shock. “S-Sammy?”
“Oh thank God,” Mom exhaled.
His parents rushed forward to sweep him into a hug. The next five minutes were filled with smiles and tears and “You scared us” and “Don’t do that again” and “Thank goodness you’re alright” and “We love you so much”.
The hospital staff left the room to give them some privacy.
Dad finally pulled away slightly to hold Sam at arm’s length. “But, how…? We saw you die.”
Sam shrugged. “I’ve got no clue.”
“Sam, where’s your brother?” Mom asked. “Isn’t he with you?”
“I’m here,” came Dean’s voice from the doorway.
“Dean!” Sam exclaimed, running towards his brother and practically jumping into his arms.
Dean staggered but caught him and gave him a brief squeeze before setting him down again. He smiled down at his little brother and ruffled his hair fondly. “Heya Sammy. It’s good to see you up and around.”
“You don’t seem surprised,” Dad said.
Dean stiffened, his defences rising automatically as he turned to face his father. “I only came to make sure Sammy was alright. I’m leaving, don’t worry.”
Regret flashed across Dad’s features. “Dean, wait – I don’t want to fight. I’m glad you’re here. I’m just… I’m not sure what’s going on. My son died today and now he’s here and he’s fine and you’re back and I couldn’t be happier but… I don’t understand what happened.”
Dean sighed. “There’s no point in me trying to explain. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“Sam just came back to life. At this point I think I could believe anything.”
Dean shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can. Not after all this time.”
“Then allow me,” Mom said softly.
Dean looked at her in surprise. “Mom, what-?”
“John… There’s something I should have told you a long time ago.”
“Mary? What are you talking about?”
“Monsters are real, John. Dean was telling the truth. I know because – because I used to be a hunter. My parents, my family… we were all born and raised in the life, trained to hunt and kill the creatures that go bump in the night.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. Werewolves and shape shifters and vampires and wendigos… all those things Dean drew in Kindergarten and wrote about in his hunter’s journal. They’re real. Anytime you read a strange story in the newspaper, of bizarre deaths or mysterious disappearances, 90% of the time a monster was behind them. And when the stories stop as suddenly as they started, it was probably because a hunter killed whatever it was. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. All of it. Everything Dean has been trying to tell us all this time…”
“Why are you telling me this now, instead of 20 years ago?”
“I didn’t want to go into the family business. I hated it. I ran away and I married you. I should have told you, but I didn’t want hunting to be a part of my life anymore. And then the night of the fire happened and… I was scared, John. By then I had been pretending to be normal for so long that I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t want to stop. I was a coward, and because of me Dean had to grow up fighting monsters on his own…”
“Not alone,” Dean said grudgingly. “I had Cas.”
“Your boyfriend is a hunter too?” Sam piped up. All of this talk about monsters and hunting probably should have freaked him out, but to be honest it was kind of cool that his Mom used to be a superhero and now his brother was one. It was like he was living in the comic books, except it was real and it was both scary and totally awesome at the same time.
Dean rolled his eyes. “For crying out loud, Sam, he’s not my boyfriend. Gees, a few rumours here and a few assumptions there and all of a sudden things get blown way out of proportion. Cas is just a friend. And yes, he’s a hunter. Sort of.”
“Oh,” Dad said.
There was an awkward pause.
“I’m sorry, son,” Dad said at last. “I was wrong.”
“Yeah, I’m not in a gay relationship. You jumped to your own conclusions with that one.”
“Not about that. I was wrong to treat you that way, regardless of who you chose to be or what you chose to do.”
“Or who you choose to do,” Sam smirked.
“Sorry Mom,” he muttered. His dad and brother were getting dangerously sappy and he knew how much Dean hated chick-flick moments so he thought they’d be grateful to him for lightening the mood a little.
“But speaking of Cas,” Mom said, putting the conversation back on track. “John, he really is an angel. He’s the reason Dean survived the fire that night. He’s the reason Sammy’s alive right now.”
“Dean, where is he? I want to thank him.”
“Me, too. Also, I probably owe him an apology-”
“Cas couldn’t make it,” Dean said curtly. There was a strain in his voice, a tightness around his mouth, pain in his eyes. “But it’s fine. I found another way.”
A chill settled over them; a sudden sense of foreboding.
“Sammy’s alive, and he’s going to stay that way. That’s all that matters.”
“No it’s not. Dean, you matter too. Whatever’s going on, let us help.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Dean, are you in trouble?” Dad asked. “Because I might not understand all of this stuff yet but I’m willing to try, and if my boy needs help… I’m here for you. Even if it is 16 years late.”
The corner of Dean’s lips curled into a half-hearted smile. “Thanks. Really, it means a lot. But there’s nothing you can do.”
“I’m pretty handy with a gun you know.”
Dean huffed a laugh. “Guns aren’t much use against what’s coming.”
“Dean, what is it? Please let us help you.”
His head whipped to the side. “Did you hear that?”
“Barking,” Dean whispered. “There, again! It’s getting louder.”
“Dean, we’re in a hospital, they wouldn’t let dogs-”
“Whoa!” Dean recoiled from them, stumbling back against a wall. “What’s wrong with your faces?”
“Nothing, Dean, we’re fine! What’s wrong?”
“They’re coming,” Dean gasped. “I thought I had more time but they’re coming now.”
“Who? What? Dean, talk to us!”
Dean shoved all the doors closed and then grabbed Mom’s shirt, pulling her close. “Listen to me. A demon is after Sam. His name’s Azazel, he has yellow eyes, he’s got some sort of plan for Sam and other kids like him, something to do with feeding them demon blood when they were six months old.”
“Hang on, what?” Sam exclaimed.
“Cas has gone AWOL. He might have just taken off, but he might be missing, or dead. Keep a lookout for him, and if you get into trouble a little prayer can’t hurt.”
“There’s a hunter named Bobby Singer who lives in Sioux Falls. He took me in, he knows a lot of what’s been going on and he can protect you if you need it. His number’s in my phone.” Dean shoved his cell phone into Mom’s hands.
“The demon can die, Mom. Find a way to kill it. Look after Sammy for me, okay?”
“Okay, I promise, but Dean-”
The door slammed open of its own accord.
As far as Sam could see there was nothing there but Dean went as white as a sheet, eyes wide and frightened. He turned slowly.