What Could Have Been

Chapter 18

“Here’s what I know,” Bobby opened. “And I’ll warn you ahead of time, this is a story that is hard to swallow even when the supernatural has already been incorporated into your world view. I don’t pretend to have all the facts either. But from what I’ve learned from Dean and Cas, both together and separately, I think I have a basic grasp of the situation.”

“We’re listening,” John said.

“Okay. The basic premise of this tale is that time is fluid and, if it takes their fancy, angels have the juice to bend it however which way they want.”

“You mean time travel? What’s that got to do with-?”

“Just listen. Messing with time is tricky and dangerous, so the angels only really use it for educational purposes. Once upon a time, the angel Castiel took Dean – as an adult – back in time to show him something. He was supposed to learn what the angels knew about the demon Azazel and his plans, so he could use that knowledge to continue their work. But Dean wasn’t content to be a passive observer of events. He interfered, and in doing so he changed history.”

“But if he went back and changed time, surely he would have changed things to the point that he wouldn’t ever go back to change time, so it wouldn’t have happened, so it couldn’t have happened.”

“The theory is that he created an alternate reality that runs in parallel with the original timeline. Everything that happened still happened, but he also set off a new run of dominoes that has created the world we are living in right now. Cas said Dean’s actions snapped the original thread, making it impossible for Cas to return to where they had started. He was trapped in this new reality, and what Dean did was causing tidal waves of change.”

“What did Dean do, exactly?”

“He saved your life, Mary. In the original timeline, you died in Sam’s nursery. The demon killed you and John, you became a hunter to get revenge. Dean and Sam grew up in the life, without a mother, and from what little Cas has said about that timeline a lot of bad shit went down. So it’s not hard to understand why Dean would have done what he could to stop that from happening if he had the chance.”

“How did he do it?” John asked.

“Well, Mary, I’ll ask you. Why didn’t you go into Sam’s nursery that night?”

“Because someone warned me not to.”

“Who?”

“It was a hunter who…claimed to have knowledge of the future… Oh my god. That must have been Dean. Our son, our son from the future. I met him. I can’t believe he never let on.”

“Would you have believed him if he told you?”

“Probably not, but – this is crazy.”

“No kidding,” Bobby agreed. “I’ve had years to try and wrap my head around this and it still boggles the mind. But here’s the thing. Dean managed to prevent your death, but he couldn’t stop Azazel completely. He still got to Sam.”

“What did he do?”

“He made Sam drink demon blood. Before you ask what that does, I don’t know. I think Cas did but he wouldn’t tell us. I’m betting on nothing good. But Dean thought that killing Azazel would protect Sam, and I’m all for giving it a shot.”

“The last thing Dean said was ‘The demon can be killed’,” Mary said. “He said it like he knew it for a fact. But as far as I know, killing a demon is impossible. I know how to identify them, trap them, hurt them and exorcise them, but there is nothing in the lore to suggest that there is a way to kill them. I’ve only met one hunter crazy enough to try to kill a demon and he- oh!”

“What?”

“The hunter was Dean. The other – older, wow, this is confusing. But when adult Dean showed up all those years ago he said he was hunting something. A demon. He said he was going to kill it. My parents and I laughed it off because no one can kill a demon, but if it was Dean, and if he was from the future then maybe… maybe he knew something we didn’t.”

“Mary, this is very important,” Bobby stressed. “The adult Dean is the only one who had full knowledge of the future. If he knew for a fact that the demon could be killed, he must have seen the demon die. You have to try to remember. What did he do? How was he going to kill it?”

“He knew that the demon was going to be at the Walsh’s, but he couldn’t have gone there straight away because my Dad and I got there first. Dean turned up with a gun…”

“A gun?”

“Yes. He tried to get a shot off but the demon fled its meat suit before he could.”

“What sort of gun could kill a demon?”

Bobby scratched his head. “Nothing I’ve ever heard of,” he confessed.

“Wait…. I think… I remember once my Dad told me something about a special gun,” Mary said. “It was a bedtime story, when I was little, about a gun that could kill anything. It was made by Samuel- something. He had the same name as my father, and a line of weapons was named after him…”

“Can’t be Winchester,” John said.

“No.”

“Well, there aren’t that many US gun brands,” Bobby said. “Let’s see – there’s Mossburg, Remington, Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson, Colt-”

“Colt! Samuel Colt. My dad told me that he was a hunter, like us but on horseback. Legend says that on the night that Hailey’s Comet was overhead he made a special gun with thirteen bullets. He used them sparingly over his lifetime, but when he vanished so did the gun. As far as my father knew, it was either lost or it never actually existed. He told the story like it was a fairy tale.”

“But you said adult Dean had a gun he was going to use against the demon.”

“You think he found it?”

“Maybe he had foreknowledge about where it was, or rather where it had been.”

“So he went to get it. Brought it back.”

“It couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours out of Lawrence, then.”

“But where did it go?”

“I don’t know. Dean vanished after I made the deal. I searched the area but only ever found the rented car he was driving. No gun.”

“Well it couldn’t have vanished into thin air,” John said,

“Maybe it reverted back to where it was supposed to be once Dean’s interference in the timeline had stopped,” Bobby suggested.

“So it went back to where he got it from?” Mary asked.

Bobby shrugged. “Maybe. It would help if we knew where that was. Are you sure you don’t remember anything else?”

“I’m sorry but that’s it. I know Dean talked to my father more but I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know if he told Dad anything else important. Even if he did, Dad’s gone. There’s no way of knowing.”

“Great,” Bobby sighed. “Well, I’ll call around my hunter contacts, see if anyone knows anything. Your parents were hunters – you got anyone you could call?”

“It’s been more than 20 years; I’ve long since lost contact with all of them. But there was one woman I met who might be able to help…”Mary dug an address book and her phone out of her purse. “She’s a psychic who lives in Lawrence. She could sense that alternate reality stuff around Dean – maybe there’s a way she can trace adult Dean’s footsteps back to where he found the Colt.”

“Worth a shot.”

“Here it is. Missouri Moseley.”

Mary dialled the number.

“Hello, Missouri? It’s – how did you know – right. Yes. I’m calling about – okay, I know you know, but I’d like to explain it anyway to make sure we’re both on the same page. Thank you. You told me once that my son Dean was a focal point or something. That he could change history? Well, it turns out that he already did…” Mary went on to explain most of what they had just pieced together about what had happened back in 1973. “…so I need to know. Do you think it is possible that the original Dean could have left traces that you could sense – yes, exactly, like ripples in time. Is that something your psychic abilities would be sensitive to? Even 22 years later? Okay, that’s great, that’s great news. Thank you.” Mary covered the mouthpiece. “She says if I can take her back to the place where Dean gave me the warning about November 2nd she should be able to track his impact on the timeline from there.”

“That’s the best lead we got,” Bobby said.

Mary nodded. “Missouri? I can be there late this afternoon if that suits you? Yes. Thank you. See you then.”

They agreed that Mary would take the truck to travel back to Lawrence while John and Bobby started working on ways to find the demon.

Sam listened to all of this from the stairwell and scarpered upstairs before his mom could discover him eavesdropping on her way out the door.

It was a lot to process. Sam was fairly sure he’d need a degree in theoretical astrophysics before he could be able to understand all of this talk about time travel, alternate realities and ripples in time. To be perfectly honest, he could care less.

What did any of it matter? Even if they worked out what had happened in the past, it was already done and over. They couldn’t change the outcome and even if they could it would be an impossible choice – to let Mom die in the hope that Dean would live to adulthood or to save her life knowing that Dean would die at sixteen as a consequence. Sam was of the firm opinion that time shouldn’t be meddled with; if Dean had left things the way they were he would be alive and they wouldn’t know to miss the normal life they’d never had.

But he couldn’t be angry at his brother. He missed him too much. Besides, he knew that Dean had died to save him. Dean had gone to Hell to save him.

Sam was never even going to get the chance to say thank you, or sorry, or Happy Birthday.

Dean was never going to have another birthday.

Sam thought he had run out of tears but ten minutes later Dean’s old Metallica shirt was soaked through again and Sam’s eyes were red.

He hated this. He wanted his brother back.

He knew that Bobby had said there was no way to break a person out of Hell, but from the sound of things they hadn’t thought a demon could be killed until half an hour ago. How could they be so sure that Dean couldn’t be saved? Why wouldn’t they even try? What use was getting revenge against the demon who had killed him if it wouldn’t bring Dean back?

Well, the grown-ups might have given up but Sam would not surrender so easily. He would never be able to live with himself if he did.

All he needed was a miracle, and he knew just the angel for the job.

Sam knelt down beside the bed that had been Dean’s in the week he lived here with Bobby. He folded his hands together and closed his eyes.

“Dear Cas,” he prayed. “It’s me, Sam. Dean’s brother. I need your help. I don’t know where you’ve gone or why you left when Dean needed you the most, but you need to come back now. I don’t know if you know but Dean… Dean made a demon deal to save me and a hell hound killed him.” Sam shuddered at the memory. Mom had tried to block out the worst of it but Sam could still hear his brother’s screams and he could still smell the blood and he had known that his brother was dying a horrible death only metres away and there had been nothing he could do.

“It was awful, Cas,” Sam whispered. “Bobby said that Dean is in Hell and there’s no way to get him out. But you’re an angel. You can fly and heal people and travel through time. There has to be something you can do to save Dean. There has to be. You can’t just leave him there, Cas. He trusted you. He needs you. So wherever you are, if you could get here…” Those useless tears were making an appearance again; Sam scrubbed them away with his sleeve.

“Please, Cas. Please save Dean. You’re the only one who can.”

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