What Could Have Been

Chapter 23

It was with great trepidation that Azazel entered the convent. He was not superstitious so he had no fear of walking on consecrated ground, but he had returned to this particular convent out of necessity and he feared the consequences that awaited him.

His father was going to be furious.

A kid and an angel had laid waste to years of careful planning. Azazel had been working hard to complete the orders his father had given him and despite a few bumps along the road it had all been coming together quite nicely. Then the angel had turned up at exactly the wrong moment and Lilith had made a rash decision and now the entire scheme had fallen apart.

Azazel still believed in the mission. But with Lilith gone he did not know if there was anything he could do to free his father from the Cage. He hoped that his father had a Plan B, but he was terrified of explaining why one was necessary.

Needs must.

Azazel turned to face the assortment of possessed nuns he had brought with him to Saint Mary’s Convent. The place had been abandoned since his little massacre in 1972 so he had been forced to supply his own bag of nuns this time. He was disgusted to see that the demons were quaking in their habits; they were weak, lesser creatures who still believed God might smite them for trespassing in one of His churches. Azazel rolled his eyes, flicked a hand to dead-bolt the door and told the demons to smoke out. They did not deserve to stand in Lucifer’s presence anyway.

The nuns were confused at first, then scared, then screaming and then dead. Once he was finished with the slaughter Azazel discarded the bloodied sword and seized a dead nun by her ankle. He dragged her over to the altar and tossed her on top.

Azazel knelt down before the altar and folded his hands together. He swallowed nervously, knowing that he would probably be better off fleeing for his life than delivering this piece of news to his father, but loyalty won out over fear.

“Father? Can you hear me?”

Wind rustled through the convent, casting strange shadows over the walls as the candle flames flickered.

The dead nun gasped and twitched.

Azazel clutched his hands together tighter, trying to crush the shaking that betrayed his terror.

“Yes, my son,” the nun rasped. “Why have you contacted me in this manner? I had thought the next time we spoke would be in person when I walked free.”

“Ah, yes. About that…”

“Long have I waited. My patience grows thin.”

“I am sorry, Father. I have endeavoured to do as you asked, but I have encountered a problem.”

“What problem?”

Azazel swallowed again but his throat was dry. “Lilith is dead.”


The candle flames shot up to the ceiling.

Azazel cowered, head bowed to the ground, hands splayed in supplication. “Father, forgive me. I planned to free her by opening the Devil’s Gate in Southern Wyoming, but she took matters into her own hands. An angel turned up to free one of our high-profile prisoners, breaking through some of the deepest barriers in the Pit to do so, and Lilith hitched a ride.”

“She did what you could not.”

“Yes, Father, but immediately upon her arrival on Earth she was killed by some hunters. Everything happened so fast, I couldn’t-”

“No mere hunter could kill my first child.”

“They used a gun. A special gun, the one I had been searching for, the key to the Gate. It can kill almost anything. Lilith had no defence against it.”

“So my beloved is dead.”

“I am sorry, Father.”

“Her murderers have suffered for their crime?”

“Well, no…” The flames flared dangerously and Azazel hastened to add, “They include one of your potential vessels, Father, I did not want to risk bringing him harm.”

“I have only one true vessel.”

“Oh.” Azazel had set up dozens of demon-blood children for his Father to choose from when the time came. If he had known to go after one child in particular his job would have been far easier. “Do you have a name?”

“Now that he has been born I can sense him. Born into the bloodline of Cain and Abel, conceived by the union of Campbell hunters and Winchester Men of Letters, and christened by demon blood at six months of age, he is the chosen one.”

“Sam Winchester?”


“Great, good to know. I will have him ready for you. But Father, with Lilith dead, I do not know of a way to liberate you. She was supposed to break the seals. She was the final seal.”

“There is another way. My brothers believe that this knowledge has been hidden from me, but I know of a key that can open the Cage.”

“That sounds easier.”

“It is not. The key is comprised of the four rings of the Horsemen.”

“War, Famine, Pestilence and Death? Father… they are big players. I do not know if I could command them.”

“You could not. Only I possess such power. It has been foretold that my deliverance will awaken them and they will march across the Earth, leaving devastation in their wake.”

“But if we need their rings to get you out of the Cage, and you need to be out of the Cage to get their rings, then we have a problem.”

“That is why you were told to free Lilith.”

“Right. Again, I am sorry. But Father, all I want is for you to be free and to reign in your rightful place. If there is anything I can do to fix this I will do it.”

“If this connection is held open by regular sacrifices it may be possible for me to project my power into another.”

“Father, it would be an honour…”

“Not you. You could not hope to contain my power, and you are far from worthy. It has to be my vessel.”

“The boy?”

“Retrieve him. Prepare him. Secure his permission for my power to enter his body, and then bring him here to me. Only then will I consider forgiving your failure.”

“Yes, Father. It will be done.”

“Do not disappoint me. I have waited almost 3000 years since you made your last promise to raise me from the Pit. If I am kept waiting again you will suffer the consequences.”

“Yes, Father.”

The candles spluttered and died. The body of the nun collapsed, lifeless.

Azazel stood to his feet. He had work to do.

Sam was dreaming about unicorns shooting rainbows out of their butts, empty suits of armour chasing him down a road and some random guy holding a plate of cheese when his dream abruptly changed.

He was sitting on the couch in Bobby’s lounge room and a man was standing in front of him, blocking his view of the TV.

“Hello, Sam. Sure has been a while.”

“Who are you?”

The man’s eyes flashed yellow.

Sam scrambled off the couch and bolted for the door, a cry for his parents already on his lips.

The door slammed shut of its own accord.

“Don’t be silly, Sam. No one will hear you. You are still fast asleep.”

“So this is just a nightmare?”

“No, but it is the only way I can talk to you in private.”

Keeping a wary eye on the monster, Sam edged around the room until the couch was a barrier between them. “You’re Azazel. The yellow-eyed demon my brother warned us about.”

“That’s me.”

“Get out of my head.”

“Now, now, Sam, is that any way to speak to the man who saved your life?”

“Dean saved me. You used me to hurt my brother.”

“Oh, don’t hold a grudge. Dean’s fine, isn’t he?”

No, Dean was a long way from fine. His leg was messed up, he flinched at loud noises, he kept zoning out, he wouldn’t sleep unless Cas was in the room with him, his emotions were all over the place and sometimes he had panic attacks so severe that not even Cas could calm him down.

The demon coughed. “Well it could be worse. He could still be down in the Pit.”

“You can’t claim credit for his resurrection. That was all Cas.”

“Oh, I know. But it is only by my mercy that Dean has been allowed to live. You see, your brother sold his soul to me. He belongs to me now. Technically, the angel stole my property and I could take Dean back if I wanted to. It would be well within my right. It is all in the contract.”

“You could try but we’d stop you.”

“My hellhound already has Dean’s scent. I set it loose and it won’t give up until Dean is back down in the Pit screaming his lungs out. It will kill anything that gets in its way. And if by chance you manage to kill it first, there are hundreds more where it came from. I’d like to see your little family up against a pack. I am sure it would be a glorious blood bath.”

“If you are so sure of yourself then why haven’t you tried to take Dean back already?”

“I don’t really need him anymore is the thing. He’s a fun toy to play with, but I might be willing to let him go…”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “What do you want?”

“You’re smart, kid. I like that. Here’s the deal. I need to borrow you for a little while. Don’t worry, you won’t be hurt – in fact, you will probably feel better than you ever have. All you have to do is collect four rings from some friends of my boss. It shouldn’t be difficult; he’ll give you all the help you need.”

“Who is your boss? And what friends? What happens if you get these rings?”

“You don’t need to worry about that. All you need to worry about is your brother. If you do what I ask I promise that your family will be safe from demons forever. If you refuse, Dean goes back on the rack and I will put a bounty on your parents so high that every monster on the planet will be after their heads.”

“I’m not agreeing to anything without knowing the full terms of the deal.”

“That’s fine. I hope you enjoy watching your brother get torn to shreds for the second time. I’ll make sure you have a front row seat. I gotta say though, Dean endured five years of Hell torture for you and this is a poor repayment.”

Sam froze. “Five… five years?

“What, he didn’t tell you? Three days up here is about a year in Hell, Sam.”

Five years. Oh god. No wonder Dean was a mess. It was a miracle that he was able to function at all.

“Not that you care, though. You’re more than willing to send him back downstairs, and all because you’re too squeamish to run a few errands for me. I guess the selfless trait doesn’t run in the family, huh?”

Sam thought about the haunted look in Dean’s eyes. He thought about the vulnerability in his posture. He thought about the fear that made Dean’s hands tremble when he was trying to do something as simple as tie his shoelaces. He thought about how quiet Dean was now and how rare it was to see him smile. He thought about the way Dean had screamed when the hellhound was ripping him apart, and he realised he couldn’t bear to put his brother through that again. Not when he had the power to stop it. “Wait.”

The demon smiled. “Yes, Sam?”

“I’ll go with you. Just leave my family alone.”

“That’s my boy. The place you are staying is warded so I need you to sneak out. There is an abandoned house half a mile down the road. I will meet you there. I don’t think I have to tell you that if you don’t turn up I play fetch with my hellhound.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Good. Wakey wakey, then, Sam.”

Sam woke and sat bolt upright. He had fallen asleep on Bobby’s couch. Cartoons were playing quietly on the TV. It was early morning and from the sound of things everyone was still asleep.

The demon was expecting him. Sam knew he had to hurry.

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