What Could Have Been

Chapter 17

Dean stayed very still. “Mom…Dad… take Sammy and run.”

“Dean, we’re not leaving you here!” Mary didn’t know what Dean had done and she didn’t know what god-awful creature was standing in that doorway, but she did know that she wasn’t about to abandon her son to face yet another monster alone.

“I don’t want you to see-” His voice broke, a single tear spilling down his cheek. “Please. I’m begging you.”

Mary grasped at his sleeve, trying to pull him with her. “Dean-”

He spun abruptly and pushed her away with all of his strength. “GO!”

Mary stumbled into her husband and tried to lurch back towards her son but before she could reach him something yanked his legs out from under him. He crashed to the floor.

Three deep gashes tore their way down his leg.

“Dean!” Sammy cried.

“Sammy, don’t look-” Dean gasped out. His back arched and blood spurted from his chest. A scream tore out of his throat.

John rushed forward, snatching up a chair and throwing it in the direction of the invisible creature. It bounced off nothing and they heard the echo of a snarl.

Claws raked down Dean’s arm, stripping it to ribbons. Dean screamed and Sam screamed louder: “No! Dean!”

Mary grabbed Sammy and pulled him to her, belatedly covering his eyes. She longed for a gun or a knife or something, anything, but she wasn’t a hunter anymore, she didn’t carry those things with her and never more had she regretted making that decision than in that moment when she realised that hunting was the only thing that could have kept her family safe.

John tried to tackle the creature but he was thrown across the room and slammed against the wall.

Dean was screaming and choking and blood was spilling everywhere.

Sammy was hysterical, fighting to break free from her arms to run to his brother but Mary wouldn’t let him go, not when Dean had done this to protect him.

Besides, it was already too late.

Dean’s cries cut off mid-scream. Blood gurgled in his throat. His breath rattled.

His body gave one last feeble twitch and was still.


John climbed painfully to his feet and staggered over to his eldest son. He dropped to his knees beside the broken body, heedless of the blood that soaked through his jeans. “Dean?” He slipped a hand beneath Dean’s head and raised it gently. “Dean? Son?”

Green eyes, once filled with life and mischief, stared blankly.

“Is he-?” Sam tried to ask, but words failed him.

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” Mary whispered.

“I wanna see him, let me see him! Dean!”

“No, baby, don’t look. Don’t look. He doesn’t – he didn’t want you to – he wants you to remember him the way he was. Not like this.” Oh god, not like this.

Her son lay in a pool of his own blood, torn completely to shreds. Mary was never going to be able to get the image out of her head. It was seared there, a permanent reminder that she had failed.

A parent should never have to watch their child die. Today, Mary had seen death claim both of her children. She should have protected them. She should have been the one to save Sam. She should be lying dead in Dean’s place.

This was an agony she deserved.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She knew it wasn’t good enough. Sorry couldn’t bring Dean back.

Sam struggled weakly against her but then collapsed in her arms, sobbing into her chest. Mary tightened her embrace, trying to be the support her baby needed, even as her entire world was falling apart.

She had rejected Sam’s death, not letting herself feel it, refusing to believe it, holding onto the hope that a miracle was on its way.

But there was no hope for Dean. If Cas was going to show up he would have been here by now. He would have stopped this.

She was wrong. Angels weren’t watching over him after all.

She shouldn’t have expected them to. She was Dean’s mother. She had one job, and that was to look after her children.

Now Dean was dead and Sam was heartbroken.

John was silent, but his shoulders shook with grief as he cradled Dean’s lifeless body in his arms.

Two minutes. In the end they only really had two minutes together. Two minutes spent reunited as a family. Two minutes being truthful and honest with each other. Two minutes listening without judgement. Two minutes mending bridges. Two minutes apologising. Two minutes loving and accepting. Two minutes believing that they might actually be okay.

But their one shot at finding happiness had been ripped from them.

Monsters had torn her family apart, just as she always feared they would.

Well, Mary wasn’t going to lie down and take it this time. She was sick of letting monsters run her life. She was sick of living in fear. She was sick of having loved ones stolen from her. She was sick of standing back and doing nothing while evil prospered.

This was the last straw.

Dean was dead.

And so was the demon who had killed him.

“Azazel,” Mary hissed.

“W-what?” Sammy hiccoughed.

“The yellow-eyed demon. He did this. He’s the one who started it all. And he is going to pay.

John gently closed Dean’s eyes and draped his leather jacket over the body before he stood to his feet, grim determination settling over his features. “Where do we start?”

Try as he might, Bobby had not been able to get a wink of sleep. Dean and Cas had left some time last night and he hadn’t heard anything from either of them since. Dean wasn’t answering his phone, Cas wasn’t answering his prayers.

There was a slight possibility that everything was fine. Maybe Cas had healed Sam and the Winchesters had welcomed Dean back with open arms. If that was the case, Bobby could see how he might be forgotten by the wayside.

But then again, there were a million things that could have gone wrong. Castiel might have had an in-flight emergency and crash landed in the middle of nowhere. Castiel might not have had enough angel juice to save Sam. John Winchester might have kicked Dean out again. Something even worse could have happened, and in Bobby’s experience it was always the worst possible option that came to pass.

So he worried, and he got mad at Dean for making him worry. He hoped that Dean would get his ass back here soon so he could yell at him for making him worry like this and then hug him tight for the reassurance that there had been nothing to worry about after all.

When the doorbell rang early the next morning it took Bobby all of three seconds to open the door.

“Boy, you better have a good excuse for-”

It wasn’t Dean.

A man, woman and child stood on his doorstep. He didn’t think he knew them, except the man looked somewhat familiar and the woman had remarkably similar features to Dean…

His expression darkened. “The Winchesters, I presume.”


In an instant Bobby had his shotgun cocked and aimed at Dean’s so-called parents. They barely flinched, which was a testament to their respective histories as a marine and a hunter, but Mary did push the kid behind her so she wasn’t taking him as an idle threat. Good.

“You’re not welcome here,” he told them. “Get off my property before I shoot ya.”

“Dean sent us,” the woman said.

Bobby narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You’ve seen him?”

“Yes. He’s - He’s the reason Sam’s okay.”

Bobby was glad to know the little squirt had made it; from the way Dean talked about his brother it was obvious that Sam meant the world to him, sibling rivalry notwithstanding.

He dared to let himself relax, just a little. “Cas came through, huh?”

“Well, no. The angel never showed.”

“What? He left here with Dean. They should have turned up at the hospital together.”

“Dean came alone. He didn’t know where Cas was.”

Bobby had a very bad feeling about this. “So then how is Sam alive right now? And where is Dean?”

“I think… I don’t know for sure, but I think Dean…” Mary drew in a breath, trying to steady herself. Her hands were shaking. Tears were welling up in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Bobby. I think he made a deal.”

Bobby froze. “No.”

“It’s the only explanation I can think of. I’ve never known a deal term to span less than ten years, but Sammy’s here and the thing that – that killed Dean, right in front of us… I think it was a hell hound.”

“Dean’s dead?”

But he could see it in their faces. More than sorrow, more than grief, their eyes bore the shell-shocked look of people who had seen true horror.

Death by hell hound was about as graphic and agonising as it could get.

But it didn’t end there.

Hell hounds were demonic pit bulls that collected on deals. They came for the soul and once the body was dead the soul was dragged into the Pit.

Dean wasn’t just dead. He was in Hell.

“Thank you for coming all this way to tell me in person,” Bobby said stiffly.

“From what I understand, you’re the one who took him in when we-”

“Kicked him out onto the street?” Bobby filled in. The Winchesters flinched and Bobby felt a tiny burst of vindictive pleasure. He thought he had been angry with them before but now he was furious. Their negligence had done this to Dean. They were his parents. If they had just done their jobs

“We were wrong,” John said. “If I could change what happened that day believe me I would do it in a heartbeat.”

“It’s too late,” Bobby said sharply. “Your son bought a one-way ticket downstairs. There’s no coming back from that. No one has ever busted out of the Pit before. He’s going to be tortured for all of eternity until everything that made him good and Dean has been burned away. He was the bravest, most heroic, selfless, compassionate and loving kid I have ever met and now he’s gone because you couldn’t keep your family safe.”

“You don’t think I know that?” Mary said. “I am never going to be able to forgive myself. Never. But like you said, it’s too late and I am just going to have to live with the fact that I killed my son.”

“Yes you are. And you can go do it somewhere else. Get off my property.”

Mary stepped forward to prevent the door from closing on them.

“No. This isn’t about us. Dean gave us a job to do, and I intend to see it done. But we need your help.”

“What job?”

“Dean told me to kill the yellow-eyed demon. It was his dying wish, Bobby.”

Bobby sighed. “Of course it was. He wants Sam safe.” And that’s what it all boiled down to in the end. Dean would do anything for his little brother; even die. Even if Bobby had somehow known what he planned to do, there would have been no stopping him from making that deal.

Mary was right. There was only the mission now.

“I’m going to find and kill that son of a bitch once and for all,” Mary swore. “But if I’m going to do that I need to know everything you know.”

“Fine,” Bobby grunted. “But first I’m going to need a good stiff belt.”

Bobby went looking for a bottle of whiskey, leaving the door open in unspoken and reluctant invitation for the Winchesters to follow him inside.

He chugged down amber liquid until the sharp stabbing pain in his gut was reduced to a dull ache and the grief of losing the boy he had loved as a son had faded enough to enable him to function.

Wordlessly, he passed the bottle to the Winchesters. They looked like they were on the verge of emotional breakdowns too and liquid comfort was the only thing he could or would provide.

“Right,” Bobby said gruffly. “We got work to do.”

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