What Could Have Been

Chapter 30

“Alright, everybody back inside the wards!” Bobby yelled.

Dean snagged his brother’s arm and yanked him forward, trying to make his shorter legs move faster as they all sprinted back towards the safety of the house.

Fire flared up in their path. Dean staggered back from the intense heat, caught Sam who almost stumbled and tried to go around. The fire spread like a wall in front of them, barring the way. For an instant Dean considered risking severe burns to jump over. They were sitting ducks out here. But before he could attempt it the flames shot sky high. They were forced to retreat.

“Back, back, back!” Bobby yelled. “Stick together!”

They fled back into the car yard, seeking sanctuary behind the broken down vehicles.

The wind picked up, whipping dirt and rocks and shattered glass into the air that lashed at their arms and faces. Dean pressed Sam against the wheel of an old pick-up truck and shielded him with his body as best he could. Debris struck at his exposed skin, leaving a myriad bruises and cuts.

Dean swiped at the blood. He stared at the red substance on his hand, and flashbacks to Hell almost crippled him.

Blood and torture and screams. Alastair’s face leering at him. Laughter echoing around the chamber. Fire and brimstone and ash and sulphur. Pain and death. Over and over and over…

“Dean! Dean!”

Sam slapped his face, hard. Dean startled back to awareness.

Wide eyes stared at him, worried and afraid. “You okay?”

Dean nodded wordlessly. He wasn’t, but having a mental breakdown would have to wait.

He looked back down at his hand. “Blood!” he yelled. “The spell, come on!”

“We need a bowl!” Mom called back.

Thunder boomed overhead. Storm clouds had rolled in out of nowhere. Lightning flashed across the sky and hit the ground behind them. A new fire started, arcing around the yard to connect with the wall of flames in a massive circle. It was trapping them here. There was nowhere to go.

“This will have to do!” Bobby yelled. He whipped his cap off his head and turned it over. “Mary!”

She took the cap and snagged a jagged piece of glass from the ground. She cut a deep slice in her arm. Blood dribbled into the cap. “John!”

It was a gruesome game of pass the parcel. Dean took the cap from his Dad. He hesitated with his knife poised at his skin, memories of being shredded to pieces almost overwhelming him. But he gritted his teeth and cut deep. The blood spilled down his arm and into the cap.

Sam squeezed his hand in gentle reassurance and then claimed the knife. He spilled his own blood offering into the cap before tipping in Gabriel’s as well.

“Cas, your turn!”

Cas darted across the clearing and skidded in next to them. “More angels are coming!” he gasped. “They have vessels, and swords.”

“We’d better be fast, then,” Dean said.

Cas dragged up the sleeves of his coat and jacket and held out his arm. Sam swiped the blade across his pale skin and the final portion of blood dripped into the cap.

There was an expectant pause.

“Crap!” Dean swore. “We don’t know the sigil!”

“Gabriel!” Sam shouted.

The archangel appeared, hair wild, clothes askew. “What?

A blast of light arced towards him. He spun and deflected it with the back of his hand. Thirty feet away, a car exploded.

“We need the spell!” Sam called.

Gabriel deflected another blast. “I’ll send it to you!”

“No, not to Sam!” Dean cried as lightning ripped towards them. Dean shoved his brother under the truck. Sam rolled with the momentum, reached the other side and scrambled away from the metal death trap. Cas launched at Dean, knocking him clear. Dean held onto the cap, contorting his body and landing hard to make sure no blood spilled. The lightning missed them, barely. It made his point for him, but he yelled out anyway, “You’ll make him a target, you idiot!”

“To me!” Mom shouted.

“Fine!” Gabriel bellowed, making a forceful gesture in her direction before he vanished again.

Mom staggered, hands darting up to cover her eyes. “G-got it!”

Dean ran towards her with the collection of blood.

“Dean watch out!”

Dean ducked and dodged to the side. The angel that had been gunning for him stumbled. Cas threw himself at the angel and they both crashed to the ground. They grappled in the dirt as Cas tried to wrench his sword out of his hand.

Dean ran onwards. He shoved the cap into his Mom’s hands. “Hurry!”

He ran back to help Cas. He kicked the attacker in the head and three savage blows were enough to daze him. Cas claimed the sword, then flung it to Dean. “I’ll get another one!”

Ten or so more angels were running towards them. The walls of fire parted to grant them passage. As soon as they were through the flames surged to close the gap.

Dean flipped the sword in his hand and launched into the fray.

The angels were strong and fierce, but Dean had fought against Cas in training and he knew he could use his size and speed to his advantage. He ducked and darted around them, moving in to make quick stabs before dancing out again. He never stayed in one place for longer than a second. Cas was at his side and watching his back and taking out angels that he wounded, but they kept coming.

In a split second pause, Dean glanced back at his mother. She was painting on the hood of a car, fingers dripping with blood.

Thunder rolled and rain sleeted from the sky.

The fires burned hotter than ever but Mom cried out in despair as the sigil began to wash away under the deluge.

As Dean tried frantically to think of a solution a glancing blow caught him across the head. He saw stars.

“Dean-” Cas shoved him to the ground and stood over him, beating off the attackers. He was in danger of being surrounded but he wouldn’t move, protecting Dean as he struggled to get his bearings again.

Dean saw his Dad kick a car door off its hinges. He hoisted it into the air and held it over Mom’s head, blocking the elements. She kept painting.

Bobby appeared, splattered in blood with an angel sword in his hand. He stabbed an angel through the neck just as he was about to do the same to Cas. As more wings were burned into the ground Bobby dragged Dean to his feet. “Keep fighting!”

It was chaos and it was blood. Dean moved on instinct, years of training from Bobby and Cas combining with memories of the other Dean in pitched battle with monsters. He stabbed and whirled and parried and slashed, advanced and retreated. He took advantage of the fact that the angels were trying to capture not kill him. Their hands were everywhere, snatching at his clothes, grasping at his limbs but he never gave them the chance to gain purchase, his sword stinging and biting and forcing retreat.

“Nearly there!” Mom yelled. “We just need-”

A concussive force hit the ground. Gabriel’s body disappeared into a crater and the shockwave threw Mom violently backwards.

She hit the ground with a sickening crunch. She didn’t get up. Her head lolled, blood trickling down her scalp.

Mary!”

Recklessly throwing the car door aside, Dad ran to check on her. He dropped to his knees by her side. “Mary! Mary!

“The sigil!” Bobby yelled. Rain was still flooding from the skies. If they didn’t finish the spell they were all dead.

Sam darted out of the shadows and tried to hoist the door back into place. He wasn’t strong enough. Bobby ran to help him.

Suddenly reduced to two defenders only, Dean and Cas struggled to counter the sheer force of numbers brought against them. They fought harder than ever, but Dean could tell it wouldn’t be good enough.

An angel twisted Castiel’s arms behind his back. No longer a match in brute strength, Cas tried to wrench free but the angel held fast with one hand gripped around both of his wrists. The other pressed the tip of a sword against his throat.

“Dean Winchester!” the angel bellowed.

Dean froze.

Three angels seized him, their hands crushing bruises into his arms and shoulders.

“The archangel Michael has a question for you. Answer correctly or everyone here dies, starting with this traitor.”

The high-pitched whine started up again. It reverberated in Dean’s ears, growing louder and louder. Michael’s true voice. Dean couldn’t understand the words but he knew what was being asked of him.

Let me in. Let me take over your body and wear you as a meat suit. Let me use you to free Lucifer from Hell so he can possess Sam. Let me start the Apocalypse. Let me make you responsible for the deaths of millions. Let me destroy the world while you watch. Let me use your own two hands to kill our brothers. Let me in, Dean, and I will spare your loved ones. Just say yes.

“No!”

The whine built in pitch. Dean winced, hunching his shoulders in a vain attempt to block his ears. The sound felt like a thousand knives ripping into his flesh. He was sure his eardrums were going to burst.

“No, no, no, no, no, no!” Dean screamed. He screamed it over and over until he could barely remember why it was so important to refuse. One simple yes and all of this would be over.

The pain was excruciating. He could feel blood trickling from his ears.

Bright white light surrounded him, burning, searing. Everything was heat and pressure and pain. His head was going to explode.

STOP!

The angel’s grips suddenly slackened.

Dean slumped to his knees, panting for breath. “I’ll do it,” he rasped.

“What was that?”

Dean looked up at the angel who held Cas, drawing in a breath to say one fateful word, but blue eyes caught his gaze.

Cas was begging him not to do this.

Don’t give in. Don’t surrender to them.

Tears burned in the corners of Dean’s eyes. He couldn’t do this. He had reached the limits of his endurance. This was all too much. The weight of the world was crippling and he yearned for an end to it all. He didn’t care anymore. He couldn’t. He wasn’t strong enough. He had to say yes.

“I’m sorry,” Dean whispered.

Cas gave a minute shake of his head, wordless in his despair.

But then a hard look came into his eyes.

Dean felt a jolt of panic. “Don’t-”

Cas gritted his teeth, and gave a violent jerk of his head.

The sword sliced clean through his throat.

No!”

Shocked, the angel let him go, his sword clattering to the ground.

Dean ran forward, catching the limp body of his best friend in his arms. “Cas, no! No!”

A glowing blue light was spilling from the cut in his neck. His Grace. The spell.

“You stupid son of a bitch!” Dean cried, clutching at his collar and shaking him, tears splashing onto his cheeks.

But the angels had backed off and Dean knew what he had to do. He couldn’t let Castiel’s sacrifice be in vain.

With a scream of grief and outrage, Dean caught the Grace in his hands, cupping them together tightly so no trace of the power would be lost. He clambered to his feet and ran.

The angels lurched after him but he was faster.

“My answer,” Dean thundered to the Heavens, tears streaming down his face, “is NO!

He slammed the Grace down into the centre of the spell.

There was a blinding flash of light.

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