What Could Have Been

Chapter 9

Dean did not go looking for trouble, honestly he didn't. He had every intention of doing what Bobby said and leaving the active hunts until he was older.

But somehow trouble always managed to find him.

It was lunchtime at school and Dean had opened his lunchbox to find that his Mom had given him the wrong sandwich. There had only been a little bit of peanut butter left in the jar that morning and Dean had given into his brother's puppy dog eyes, asking for marmalade in his so Sammy could have his favourite. But the sandwiches must have gotten mixed up. Dean was tempted to eat the peanut butter sandwich anyway (he didn't really like marmalade that much) but he knew how disappointed Sammy would be (he hated marmalade) so he asked his teacher for permission to visit Sam's class.

Sam saw him coming through the window and his whole face lit up. That was all Dean had been trying to do; make Sam happy. What happened next really wasn't his fault.

He entered Sammy's classroom and was hit with the overpowering scent of too much perfume. It made him take a closer look at the teacher because that much perfume had to be covering something up, and as a result he noticed the light scattering of yellow powder on her shoulders. It could have been a bad case of dandruff, but the hunter in Dean suspected sulphur. To test his theory, he pretended to trip on his way to Sam's desk and swore with the word "Cristo!"

The teacher's eyes flashed black.

“Ah, crap,” Dean muttered. A quick glance around told him that he was the only one who had seen – it seemed everyone else had been too busy watching him being a klutz – but he could tell that the demon knew he knew.

“Language, young man,” the demon purred. “I expect students in my classroom to have better manners. I think you will have to spend lunchtime in detention with me so you can learn some.”

Dean glared, translating the threat for what it was but refusing to be cowed.

“Miss Saunders, he didn’t mean to swear,” Sammy spoke up. “He’s sorry, aren’t you Dean?”

For outing a demon? “No, not really.” His defiant response drew whispers and snickers from the class.

The teacher’s lip curled. “Class, you are dismissed. Remain behind, Mr Winchester.”

The class filed out obediently, though Sam hesitated to leave.

“Catch,” Dean said, tossing Sam the peanut butter sandwich. “Don’t forget to eat your crusts.”

Sam smiled a little. “Thanks, Dean.”

“Now go on, get outta here.”

Sam reluctantly closed the door behind him, leaving Dean alone with the demon.

“Dean, Dean, Dean. Whatever am I going to do with you?”

“I wouldn’t do anything if I were you. I’ve got power in my corner that you do not wanna mess with, believe me.”

“You mean your angel pal? Yes, I’ve been warned about him. And I’m sorry, Dean, but I’m afraid he won’t be coming to your rescue this time.”

Dean felt a flicker of uncertainty. “What do you mean?”

“We know he’s been keeping an eye on you so we’ve been keeping our distance, biding our time. Oh, and taking a few precautions… like angel warding this classroom, for example.”

Dean had never heard of angel warding before, but it wasn’t difficult to grasp the concept. He paled at the implications.

“That’s right, buddy-boy. Your pet angel can’t reach you in here. You’re all mine.”

Okay, not good. Dean scrambled backwards and tried to make a break for the door but the invisible force he was all too familiar with caught him and flung him through the air. He knocked through tables and chairs alike before slamming into the wall.

“You know, I wasn’t sent here to kill you. I’m just here to watch over your snot-nosed little brother. But killing you is my ticket outta this lame posting and into the real game. I’ll be Azazel’s new favourite. He may even promote me to his second in command, and it is all thanks to you kid.”

Dean fought against the demon’s hold but it was too strong.

Panic was building up within him but he tried to keep his head, tried to think. He couldn’t draw a Devil’s Trap, his bottle of holy water was in his backpack and he didn’t have any salt on him, but even if he did he couldn’t move. He was stuck. Except…

Exorcizamus te,” he muttered.

The demon froze. “What did you just say?”

Dean kept his voice low, hoping that if he could say the chant fast enough he could exorcise the demon before he realised what was happening. “Omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas-”

The demon jolted inside the teacher’s body. “What-what are you doing?”

The language was tricky and Dean was afraid he would stumble over the words or forget some but his life depended on this so he had to try. “Omnis incursio infernalis adversarii-”

“Is that Latin? Are you trying to-” The demon jolted again and roared in pain. “You’re trying to exorcise me, you little punk?”

Omnis legio, omnis congregat- mfff!” Dean’s voice cut off as the invisible force closed over his mouth, sealing his lips together.

The demon stalked towards him, fury blazing in its eyes. “You’re going to pay for that.”

Pain ripped through Dean’s chest and he tried to scream but no sound escaped. All of a sudden he was four years old again, stuck to the ceiling and utterly helpless.

The demon smirked. “That’s better. Children should be seen, not heard.”

Dean bypassed panic and moved straight into full blown terror. In desperation he called out for his angel, futile though it may be.

Cas. CAS! I’m in trouble. At the school, Sammy’s classroom- but it’s warded. You can’t- but I don’t know what to do! Sammy’s teacher is a demon, I tried to exorcise him but he’s got me- He’s gonna kill me, Cas. Do something, help me, please! Please…

But Cas couldn’t come. Dean was alone. He was going to die. He was really going to die this time-

The door burst open.

“Dean!”

Dean’s eyes strained to see the newcomer and he was shocked to recognise Bobby.

“Who the hell are you?” the demon demanded.

“Oh, just an old drunk who is about to bust your ass.”

Bobby hoisted up a large bucket of water and threw it over the teacher. The demon screamed as steam exploded from its meatsuit and Dean dropped to the ground.

Dean heaved in a breath. “-congregatio et secta diabolica... Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica, adjuramus te-”

The demon shrieked but Bobby threw a handful of salt in its eyes. “Keep going, boy!”

Dean rattled off the spell he had memorised, gaining speed and volume. The demon was choking and spluttering, black smoke beginning to cough up out of his lungs. “…te rogamus, audi nos!"

Black smoke billowed out of the teacher’s mouth, gathered in the air and then plunged into the floor, blackening a patch of the carpet. The teacher collapsed.

Dean stared at Bobby and Bobby stared back.

“What happened?” they both asked.

“How did you get here?” Dean persisted. “I thought you were back in Sioux Falls!”

“I was! Some random guy turned up in my kitchen, pushed that bucket into my arms and then suddenly I was standing outside the door of some classroom. I looked in and saw that black-eyed bastard ripping the life outta ya so I flung water first and asked questions later. But now I’m asking questions. Where am I, how did I get here, and what the hell is going on?”

“Was the guy wearing a tan trenchcoat?” Dean asked shrewdly.

“Yes…?”

Miss Saunders groaned, beginning to regain consciousness. Dean glanced around nervously, realising that from the standpoint of anyone not in the know about monsters this really did not look good. “Okay, well I’d love to explain but first I think we should get out of here.”

“Probably a good idea,” Bobby admitted.

Dean moved to the doorway and peeked out. The coast was clear for now, but getting out of the school without being seen would be nearly impossible.

“Cas?” Dean called softly. Certain that his angel was listening, he gestured for Bobby to follow him outside. When they had made it three feet from the classroom there was a rustle of wings and the feeling of a hand on their shoulders. An abrupt change of surroundings left them standing in a car yard bearing the sign ‘Singer Auto Self-Service Salvage Yard’.

Bobby stumbled when he landed, managed to catch himself and then stared around in bewilderment at his home. “What in god’s name-?”

“Do not use my father’s name in vain.”

Bobby whirled around and came face to face with an angel in a trench coat.

“Bobby, I’d like you to meet Castiel,” Dean said.

Cas inclined his head respectfully. “Hello, Robert Singer.”

“Who the hell are you?”

Cas frowned. “Castiel.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Bobby said sarcastically. “I mean what are you?”

“He’s an angel.”

“There’s no such thing.”

“Normal people would say that about monsters,” Dean pointed out. “I know he doesn’t look the part, but he’s the real deal. Trust me. His wings are just invisible.”

Bobby insisted on doing all of the usual monster tests but when they all turned up negative he still did not look convinced. It took the cut from the silver knife healing over in a matter of seconds to make him reconsider. “You’re seriously trying to tell me that you have an angel on your shoulder.”

“No, Dean’s shoulder could not bear my weight,” Cas said.

Dean smirked, ridiculously fond of how literal Cas was sometimes. “He’s a friend, Bobby. He watches out for me – has done since I was little. He’s the reason we met, as a matter of fact.”

Bobby’s eyes narrowed. “So when you said an angel told you I was a hunter…”

“That was me,” Cas confirmed.

“Right. And you neglected to tell me you were pals with a celestial being because…?”

“I dunno. Guess I’m in the habit of keeping him a secret. Sorry.”

Bobby raised his cap to scrub a hand through his thinning hair. “Okay. Okay. I can sense there is a very long story behind all of this, but let’s keep to the basics for now. What happened at the school? I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t try to hunt on your own.”

“I didn’t mean to. I accidentally found out that my brother’s teacher was possessed. I usually call Cas when this sort of thing happens-”

“You meet demons a lot?”

“Uh, yeah, more than I’d like. That’s why I asked you to teach me the exorcism and stuff.”

“Nice job with that, by the way,” Bobby said and Dean felt a burst of pride. He couldn’t remember the last time his Dad had said that to him, and he didn’t think the other Dean’s Dad had ever said it. He was expected to do a good job; Dad would only ever comment if he didn’t.

“But go on,” Bobby prompted.

“So I was gonna call Cas, but the demon said the classroom was warded against angels.”

“It is,” Cas confirmed. “Enochian symbols are emblazoned on the walls; I couldn’t get in. They also blocked me from sensing the demon’s presence.”

Dean nodded. He had figured as much. “I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it out of there. But I prayed anyway, and you came through Cas. Just like always.”

“You came and got me,” Bobby realised. “That was some quick thinking.”

“You have no idea how relieved I was when you showed up,” Dean said. “Thanks Bobby.”

“No trouble.”

“But one thing I don’t get – why was a demon possessing my little brother’s teacher and not mine? He said he had been sent there to keep an eye on Sammy. But what would demons want with him? I thought I was the one they were after.”

Castiel didn’t reply straight away.

“Cas…?”

“Dean… the night of the fire. Azazel did try to kill you, but that was not the reason he was there.”

Dean struggled to remember. The pain and the fear and the heat stood out the strongest in his memories, but he did vaguely recall that the demon had stuck him to the ceiling to get him out of the way. To stop him interfering.

Dean had looked down, terrified and bleeding-

Blood. The demon had dripped blood into Sammy’s mouth.

“What-what did he do? Cas, what did the yellow-eyed demon do to my little brother?”

“I do not know for certain.”

That was not what Dean wanted to hear. “What happens when a baby swallows demon blood?”

“There are no immediate effects…”

Dean’s eyes narrowed as he recognised the avoidance tactic for what it was. Cas had lived in the future – well, a version of thefuture – and he had to know more than he was saying. “And later?”

“It is complicated, Dean.”

Don’t start that with me again! Sammy is my responsibility. If anything bad happens to him, I swear-”

“Sam will be fine as long as we can keep him away from demonic influences. His physiology is slightly altered, but it won’t harm him. Azazel is the true threat, to both of you.”

“So we need to kill him. Right the hell now.”

“It is not that easy. According to the original timeline Azazel does not surface again until 2005.”

Dean didn’t bother to do the math. A month was too long to wait to put this bastard in the ground, let alone years. “That’s not good enough! We should draw him out into the open, force a fight. We can use me as bait if we have to! Anything to protect Sammy.”

“No, Dean. I will not take any action that endangers your life. Besides, if the demons know to use angel warding then they know about me. Azazel is not foolish enough to be drawn into a direct confrontation with an angel.”

“Well what then?”

“I’m sorry, Dean. All we can do at this stage is watch out for your brother and keep him as far away from hunting as possible.”

Dean stood there, shaking, fists clenched at his side. His blood was boiling and he itched for a fight, still filled with adrenaline from his latest near-death experience, needing something to swing at to take away this feeling of utter helplessness.

“Hey, kid, c’mere,” Bobby said, reaching out to him. Dean stiffened, restless and angry and not in the mood to be comforted – right up until Bobby tugged him into his arms, squeezed him tight and said “It’s okay to be scared, son.” Dean struggled mightily to stop tears from welling up in his eyes. “Let it out, kid. Come on.” Dean slumped, the fight draining out of him. Bobby patted his back gently. “That’s it. It’s okay.”

Dean shook his head weakly. “It’s not.” It was one thing for Dean to be in danger – he was used to it by now – but he couldn’t stand the thought of anything happening to Sam. From the sounds of things the demons had a not-good plan for Sam and he didn’t know if he could stop it. All he knew was that he couldn’t bear to lose his little brother. He couldn’t.

Bobby withdrew slightly to hold him at arm’s length. “Look, I don’t pretend to know what the hell is going on. Angels and demon blood and ‘original timelines’ – it is all a bit beyond me. But you’ve got an angel looking out for you and your brother, and for what it’s worth you’ve got me, too. We’ll figure this out. And if shit’s going to go down in 2005 then that means we will have plenty of time to prepare. That SOB turns up to hurt you or Sam, we’ll be ready. Okay?”

Dean nodded shakily.

Bobby clapped him on the shoulder. “Okay then. Castiel, why don’t you get Dean home? Folks must have noticed he’s missing by now.”

“Of course.”

A stern edge entered Bobby’s tone. “Then you come straight back here. You and I need to have a conversation.”

Cas frowned a little but didn’t argue. With a two-fingered tap to Dean’s forehead he zapped Dean into his bedroom.

Dean’s arms slipped around himself in a self-hug as he waited for his angel to leave him there alone.

Cas paused and looked back. “Are you okay, Dean?”

Dean donned a smile he didn’t quite feel. “Yeah.”

With a flutter of wings, Cas vanished.

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