What Could Have Been

Chapter 24

Sam drew in a deep, steadying breath and twisted the doorknob. The door creaked ominously as he pushed it open, sending chills down his spine. It took all the courage he had to step across the threshold into the abandoned house, and not just because his brother had told him very sternly when he was little that he was never under any circumstances to go into old empty buildings like this, not even as a dare or to impress a girl. Dean hadn’t said it in so many words, but Sam had understood that any manner of nasty things could be hiding inside. Unfortunately, he knew for a fact that a monster was waiting for him in this house and he had to go in anyway.

He didn’t close the door behind him. Directly in front of the entryway was a staircase, but Sam turned left and entered the lounge room.

The man from his dream stood in front of the large boarded up windows, gazing contemplatively at them as though he could see the sunrise beyond. Sam figured it was far more likely that the demon was plotting the end of the world and it made his skin crawl to even be in the same room as him.

But he was doing this for his family.

“Alright, I’m here,” Sam announced.

The demon turned and a grin spread across his face. “Sam. It is so good to see you in person after all these years. I remember when you were just a small babe, and now look at you.”

Sam shivered at the reminder that this creature had been in his nursery. “What did you do to me that night?”

“I didn’t hurt you, Sammy. I would never hurt you. What I did was to help you grow big and strong.”

“Why?”

The demon stepped closer and Sam fought the urge to retreat. “Because you’re special, Sammy. All the other humans out there are so weak, so ordinary. But you, you have an incredible destiny. You are meant for great things. You, Sam, are going to change the world.”

“You mean destroy it.”

“No, Sam. This planet is beautiful. My father has no desire to see it destroyed. He wants to make it better. He wants to fix it.”

“How?”

Azazel spread his arms. “Look at this house. It is in a terrible state of disrepair. The original owners left, allowing this house to fall into ruin. It would take a great deal of work to restore it to its former glory. A few of these walls would need to be torn down and some of the floorboards would have to be ripped up to make way for higher quality replacements. When it was finished, it would not be the same house it once was, but it would be beautiful and filled with renewed purpose. That is my father’s plan; not to hurt, but to heal. He cares, Sammy, far more than the God who left your planet to become such a mess in the first place.”

“You’re talking about the Devil.”

“His name is Lucifer, Sam, and he was once the most beautiful of God’s angels until he was cast out.”

“He must have been cast out for a reason.”

“What about Castiel, your brother’s pet angel? He turned against Heaven. He has Fallen just as Lucifer did. You do not consider him evil, do you?”

“No…”

“So why not give Lucifer the benefit of the doubt? He is not the monster you imagine him to be.”

“You still haven’t told me what it is you want me to do.”

“Lucifer has been unjustly imprisoned. There was no trial, no chance for an appeal, no parole, no early release for good behaviour. Lucifer gave knowledge and free will to the human race and his punishment was to be locked up in Hell for thousands upon thousands of years. Is that fair, Sam? Does that sound like justice to you?”

“You want to let him out.”

“He deserves freedom, Sam.”

“I thought breaking seals was going to free him anyway.”

Azazel’s face twisted before he painted a smile back on. “Yes, well, the best laid plans of mice and demons, you know how it is. We had to go to plan B, and you’re it kiddo. You collect the rings to open the door and Lucifer walks free. You will be rewarded and your family will live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It’s a good deal, Sam.”

Sam steeled himself. “What do I have to do?”

“I’m going to take you to a convent in Maryland where you can talk to my Father. He is going to ask you a question and all you have to do is say yes. We will take care of the rest.”

“And if I go with you, Dean will be safe. You promise.”

“We won’t harm a single hair on his head, you have my word. In fact, if it makes you feel better I will have the dog that bit him put down.”

Sam glanced back at the open doorway. When he turned to face the demon, his chin was set with determination. “Okay, then.”

Azazel clapped his hands together. “Great! Let’s go.”

There was an expectant pause.

The demon frowned and snapped his fingers.

“Is…something meant to happen?” Sam asked.

He snapped harder, frustration and confusion warring across his features. “We should be in Maryland right now.”

Sam looked around the room. “Fairy sure we haven’t gone anywhere.”

“Something is blocking my ability to teleport.”

“Really? Huh, that’s weird.”

Azazel glared. “You! What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Sam replied innocently. “I’ve been in here talking to you this whole time, how could I do anything?”

Azazel snarled and lurched forward, trying to grab him. Sam stepped backward neatly and Azazel jerked to a stop, almost as though he had hit an invisible barrier.

“Of course,” Sam continued cheerfully, “I created a pretty neat distraction while my mom snuck upstairs to paint a Devil’s Trap directly over your head and Dad and Bobby ran salt lines along every window and door.”

There was a lot of enjoyment to be had from watching the horror grow on the demon’s face as Mom walked smugly down the stairs, paint brush in hand, and Bobby and Dad stepped carefully over the salt line at the front door.

“Did you really think I was stupid enough to trust you?” Sam asked. “You’re a friggin’ demon. And not just any demon, but the one that has been stalking my family my whole life. After what you did to my brother there was no way I was ever going to make a deal with you. As soon as I woke up I told my family what had happened and we hatched this little plan. You’re trapped now.”

The adults formed a perimeter around Azazel and pulled flasks of holy water out of their pockets to hold at the ready.

“Those won’t work on me,” Azazel said, trying to sound cocky.

“No,” Dean agreed. Leaning on Cas for support, he limped into the lounge room to face the demon that had sent him to Hell. He smiled grimly, and raised the Colt to point it directly at Azazel’s heart. “But this will.”

Dean had been shaky ever since he got back, but now his arm was as steady as a rock. He wasn’t scared and he wasn’t angry. He was deadly calm.

“This is for my family,” he said. “You son of a bitch.”

There was no fanfare, no long dramatic speech, no gloating.

Dean pulled the trigger. His aim was true.

Azazel’s eyes blew wide with shock as the bullet slammed into his chest. He staggered back. Lightning jolted through his body, illuminating his skeleton in bright flashes as his twisted soul was purged from the flesh he had stolen. His eyes glowed yellow a final time before the taint was shredded and all that was left was the cold emptiness of death.

The body thudded to the floor.

There was a long silence. This was the monster who had killed Mom’s parents, the monster who had killed and resurrected Dad, the monster who would have killed Mom if the other Dean had not gone back in time to warn her, the monster who had poisoned Sam, the monster who had tried to kill Dean, the monster who had dragged Dean to Hell, the monster who would have freed the Devil and brought on Armageddon.

Azazel was dead. He was never going to be able to hurt anyone else ever again.

“Good riddance,” Sam said.

Dean let the Colt drop to his side. “I keep my promises.” The adrenaline flooded out of him and he sagged against his angel, looking more exhausted than he had when Sam woke him. “Is it over? Can I sleep now?”

“It’s over, Dean,” Cas assured him. “With Azazel, Lilith and Alastair all dead, there is no demon left in Hell with the means to raise Lucifer. Besides, without its leaders Hell will be in chaos. The demons will be far too busy fighting among themselves to bother with Earth. You have ended it, Dean.”

“Good,” Dean sighed. “Now maybe we can have some peace and quiet.”


Zachariah stormed through Heaven, all six of his wings flapping with agitation, scattering cupids and lesser seraphs in his wake. Humans were infuriating. Why couldn’t they ever do what they were told?

“Michael!” he called.

The archangel descended, a displeased expression on his faces. “I trust there is a reason you have entered my presence in such a disrespectful manner.”

Zachariah bowed low, though his wings twitched with annoyance. “My apologies.”

“What is it, Zachariah?”

“The demons have failed,” he reported. “Just goes to show that if you want a job done right you have to do it yourself.”

“What has happened?”

“The Winchesters,” Zachariah growled. “Those overgrown apes are more trouble than they are worth. Instead of rolling over and accepting the roles that destiny has given them they keep fighting against the natural order and ruining everything! Do you know what they did this time? They killed Azazel. He was the only demon left with the knowledge of how to free Lucifer and secure his vessel, but he couldn’t even stand up against one little family of hunters. Honestly, he had one job. When did the forces of darkness become so inept?”

“What of Lilith?”

“She’s dead too. The Winchesters killed her. They’ve taken out all the highest ranking demons in Hell. I’m telling you, Michael, Apocalypse Now has gone off the rails.”

“That is unacceptable. My brother and I must battle to the death. So it has been written and so it shall come to pass.”

“Yeah, well, not at the rate things are going. We have no more convenient pawns to use. Lucifer is going to be trapped in that cage indefinitely. So much for Paradise.”

“Destiny cannot be so easily averted.”

“Tell that to the mutated fish who created this mess,” Zachariah muttered. “Look, Michael, I’m not seeing another choice here. The only way this apocalypse is going to happen now is if you break Lucifer out of the Cage. You threw him in and now you are the only one with enough juice to pull him out.”

“Such blatant action would incite rebellion in Heaven. We have already had to execute one rebel.”

“A few angels here and there might kick up a fuss, sure. But once we have Paradise on Earth, no one is going to care how we got there.”

“I do not know that this is something I can do. Freeing Lucifer would reflect poorly upon me.”

“Our Father left strict orders. Are you willing to disobey and incur his wrath?”

Michael was silent for a long moment and Zachariah knew he had him convinced. Michael had always been and would forever be the perfect son.

“I would need my sword,” Michael said at last.

“Is it in the armoury? I can get it for you-”

“No. It is not a weapon. It is a person.”

“More humans? Michael…”

“It was with my sword that I first cast Lucifer into the Pit, and it is only with my sword that I can raise him.”

“Fine. Who is it?”

“My vessel. Dean Winchester.”

“Great,” Zachariah muttered. The only upside to this was that by the time the Apocalypse was over both Dean Winchester and his brother Sam would be burned out husks, completely catatonic and too busy drooling on their clothes to cause any more trouble.

“He will need to say yes to me,” Michael pointed out. “After all Castiel has told him of Heaven, I am afraid he will be reluctant to submit.”

Zachariah waved a dismissive hand. “Nah. Alastair as good as broke him in Hell. It won’t take much to push him over the edge. I think he will find that we can be very… persuasive.”

“Then let it be done,” Michael said.

Zachariah bowed. “Yes, Michael. It will be my pleasure.”

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