Fic: Never Say Die (15/16)
Title: Never Say Die (15/16)
NEVER SAY DIE
Dean felt the ropes binding his legs begin to unravel. He fell, twisting awkwardly in the air. His hands came free as he fell and somehow he landed on his feet. For a moment, Dean clung to the frame, the floor rocking beneath him like a boat in a storm. Blood rushed in his ears, The concussion would have been bad enough, but after hanging upside down for so long...
John's face swam into focus beneath him. Dean blinked, still waiting for the world to stop dancing. It was a struggle not to throw up.
"Help your brother," John said hoarsely.
Dean gathered his strength and threw himself at Jezebel, leaving Lilith to Sam. Though she must have had time to act while he pulled himself together, she seemed utterly surprised by his attack. Dean had wrestled her to the floor before she even started to fight back. But when she did fight, he knew he was in trouble. Her demonic strength was far greater than his. She flung him off her as if he were a mere doll. Dean slid across the floor and crashed into the frame where John remained bound. Dean scrambled up and lunged at her again. This time he managed to grab her wrist - not the hand holding the knife - and he wrenched her arm around with all his might. He felt - and heard - bone snap.
But it wasn't Jezebel who screamed. It was Sam. Blinding light filled the room. Dean squeezed his eyes shut and even through his eyelids it was too bright.
Jezebel pulled her wrist out of his hold. She was going to break free!
Dean couldn't fail. If he failed, Sam was dead. Sam could not die.
Dean threw a punch, blindly. His fist connected with what he thought was her arm. He turned his face away from that awful light and felt for the knife he knew was in her hand. Jezebel fought like a wildcat, her nails gouging lines across his back as she bucked, trying to throw him off her. Somehow, Dean clung on and - yes! - found her knife.
John shouted, "Dean!" then something else. Something in Latin.
Of course. Are you a hunter or not, idiot!
Dean held Jezebel down. "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus..." He didn't want to exorcise the bitch, but the ritual held her and drained some of her strength. "Omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio..." Dean wrenched the knife from Jezebel's hand. He plunged the blade into her heart and twisted it viciously. Hot blood pumped over his hand. He stopped the exorcism before it could send her to Hell too soon. Jezebel had tortured and mutilated his father. Dean wanted revenge for that.
The blinding light was fading and Dean found he could look now. He saw Sam on the ground. He saw Lilith standing over him.
Dean didn't think. He leapt up, slipping in Jezebel's blood, the knife gripped tight in his hand. It took him four strides to reach the dais. One leap to reach Lilith. One blow to plunge the knife into the child's neck. The spray of blood told him he'd hit the artery.
Lilith began to turn to him and there was nothing childlike in her expression. Nothing human in her eyes.
"Dean! No!" Sam moaned from below them.
And like iced water down his spine, Dean realised how badly he'd fucked up the plan.
But she would have killed Sam!
Now they were all going to die.
Lilith collapsed to her knees, blood spilling from her neck. Her body might be weakening, but she still had power.
Dean saw her begin a gesture. He swept the knife down, slashing her wrist. "Sam! You've got to do this now!" He fumbled for the pouch of herbs and offered it to Sam.
Sam was struggling to rise. He looked up at Dean. "Can't. You...you drew first blood. It's got to be you."
No! I can't! I'm not a witch. It won't work for me! Dean shook his head desperately. There had to be some way for Sam to...
Sam still owned Dean's soul.
Dean began this. Dean drew first blood.
Everything in Dean rebelled at the thought. The weirdo psychic crap was Sam's deal. Dean didn't have any power. He didn't want it.
Help your brother.
Dean reached out to Sam. "My soul is yours. Can you channel your power through me?"
Sam lifted a shaking hand and passed his own pouch to Dean. They'd had to do it this way: keep the ingredients separate so none of the demons would sense what they planned.
A surge of power ran through Dean's body as Sam grasped his hand. Dean gasped.
"Dean. It has to be now." There was a grief in Sam's eyes, an apology.
Dean thought this must be what a shot of ecstasy would feel like. Suddenly he could do anything. He rounded on Lilith and plunged the knife in just below her ribs, slicing her open. Lilith screamed, she screamed like a little girl in agony. Dean knew he was killing a child.
He couldn't remember how this was supposed to work. Sam was meant to do it, not him. He had never explained the exact spell.
"Sam! Tell me what to do!"
"Heart," Sam gasped.
Yeah, I got that part. Dean tore open both pouches and mixed the contents in his hand. He had no idea what was in it: herbs, ashes and some kind of oil. The result was a foul smelling sticky mixture that clung to his skin like glue. Dean smeared the stuff over his hands, then drew one hand down Lilith's writhing body, painting stripes across her skin. She screamed at his touch, as if the stuff were holy water. But it was pretty damned far from being holy anything.
Dean hated himself for being able to do this to an innocent kid, even if she was possessed. He pushed his hand into the hole in her chest. Lilith clawed at him, but only with her hands. Why wasn't she using power? Dean felt her heart, a hot, slippery muscle beating wildly against his hand.
He wanted to throw up.
"Say it," Sam instructed. Then words in some language Dean had never heard before.
Sam repeated the words of the spell.
Dean said it after Sam.
"Three times while you take the heart."
Dean obeyed. He got a firm grip on that living heart and pulled. He felt things inside her body pop and tear. He felt insane. When he reached the last words of the spell, he screamed them, almost hysterical.
The power blasted out from him. Dean, in the centre of the blast, saw it clearly, a ripple of blue-white power spreading out so fast not even a demon could outrun it. New waves of power continued to pump out from him with every beat of his pulse. Dean raised the bloody heart above his head.
Lilith was dead.
Jezebel stood a step away from the dais, utter shock on her face. As Dean watched she fell. A puppet with its strings cut. She hadn't even had time to scream.
Dean turned to Sam, a triumphant grin on his face.
Sam met his eyes. "Dad," he whispered, and collapsed, his eyes open, but unseeing.
John rolled off the frame as Dean cut the ropes with a bloody knife. He got to his feet as quickly as he could. "Sam?" he asked urgently.
"He's hurt," Dean answered. His face was utterly bloodless.
John took in the scene quickly. Dean, so very pale and scared. Lilith's mutilated body. Blood everywhere. Sam, lying in an unnatural position, his eyes open. Oh, God, was he dead?
John ran to his boy's side. Kneeling in the blood, he turned Sam onto his back. He found a pulse in Sam's neck. He was alive!
Dean stood over them, the knife held loosely in his hand. There was blood all over him, thickest on his hands, but there were splashes of it on his face. Smudges of blood over Dean's chest were beginning to dry. His pants were soaked with it.
"What the fuck did you do?" John demanded.
Dean answered dully, "It's a spell. Virgin sacrifice. Sam figured since Lilith's body was a child, she'd probably be - "
"A spell?" John interrupted. "To do what?"
"Kill demons. It kills all demons in a three-mile radius."
Oh, God. Oh, no. Not Sam. John looked down at Sam. "Did Sam know?" he asked. He reached out to close Sam's eyes, and saw again that his hand was missing. He hadn't noticed because it hurt less than the broken bones had hurt. John didn't even care. He shifted so he could use his other hand. Sam's skin felt cool, but John felt a whisper of breath from Sam's parted lips.
"It was Sam's plan," Dean said.
"Oh, Sammy. Dean, don't you understand?"
Dean knelt on the other side of his brother's body. "What are you talking about? Lilith did this. Not the spell!"
John closed his eyes briefly. Dean didn't know. It would be kinder, perhaps, to let Dean blame Lilith for this. But he hesitated for too long.
"What?" Dean insisted.
John gave him the truth. "Sam has demon blood in him. Not much but...enough."
Dean stared for a moment. With an abrupt gesture, he pushed himself away, turning his back on John...and Sam.
"He's breathing, Dean," John said. "He's alive." But who knew how much of Sam was left? Oh, my son. John looked up. "Dean!" he barked.
Dean turned around.
"You say this spell killed all the demons? You're sure?"
"That's what it's supposed to do."
"Then go down and get Ellen. I'll take care of Sam."
"Yes, sir," Dean answered frostily. He stalked away, still carrying the bloody knife.
John looked down at his youngest son. With his eyes closed, Sam seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Blood didn't show on his black clothing, but there was a line of blood-spatter across his face. Beneath the red blood his skin seemed terribly pale. John held his hand in front of Sam's mouth and nose. He was still breathing.
Did Sam realise what this spell would do to him? He obviously hadn't told Dean about his demon blood. But Sam had known about it. He hadn't mentioned it directly but the things Sam didn't say, the questions he didn't ask, shouted to the rooftops that he knew. He must have realised this spell would hurt him.
John stroked Sam's hair gently, remembering the tiny baby he had learned to bottle-feed after his mother died. He remembered the little boy whose knees he'd bandaged. He remembered, too, the older boy who slept with a .45 under his pillow to kill the monsters in his closet. He remembered the angry, rebellious teenager who made his daddy's life Hell, questioning everything, never following orders. Sammy. John's son. Whom he loved.
Was he going to lose Sammy now?
"You did it, Sam," John said softly. "You killed her."
He tried to slide his hands beneath Sam's body to lift him. He couldn't do it. With only one hand, John couldn't even carry his son's body.
A Week Later
John laid his good hand gently on Dean's shoulder. "Any change?" he asked. In the past week the question had become a ritual. John only needed to look at the still shape of Sam's body in the bed to know the answer.
Dean answered without looking up. "No. No change." He took a sip from his hip flask.
John studied Dean. He was slumped in the chair, exhaustion etched in every line of his face. The shirt he wore was creased and he hadn't shaved for a week. The boy needed rest, but John knew he would be wasting his breath to suggest it.
Sam lay in the hospital bed. He looked as if he were simply sleeping. The doctors said Sam was fine. There was no head trauma, no internal injuries. His heart was strong. Sam simply wouldn't wake up. A plastic clip on his finger was wired to a monitor watching his heart beating and Sam was being fed through a tube but he needed no other life support. He could live for years like this...or he could wake up any moment. They didn't know.
"Why don't you take a break," John suggested.
Dean hauled himself upright. "Sure." He held out the upturned hip flask. "I need a refill anyway." He walked past John to the door, but hesitated before leaving. "Did you hear from Bobby?"
John nodded. "They're done cleaning up. He'll be here by tonight."
"Did he say how many...?"
"Five," John said bluntly. Five people survived possession by Lilith's demons. Five out of a hundred or more. The spell Dean performed killed every demon there, just as he said. Most of the people left behind died at once. Others were so badly injured they didn't last long. None were unhurt. Five lived to make it to the hospital.
"Right. I'll be..." Dean left without finishing the sentence.
Dean had been like that since they reached the hospital. He thought Sam's condition was his fault, because he performed the spell. But it was Sam's plan. For John, it kept coming back to that. If the night had gone as Sam intended, Sam would have done this to himself. Either he hadn't realised that the spell could hurt him, or he had known and willingly accepted the risk. Whichever it was, Dean wasn't to blame.
John sat down in the chair Dean had vacated. He straightened the blanket covering Sam with his good hand - John's only hand, now. By the time they'd reached the hospital it had been too late for the doctors to re-attach his hand even if they'd had it to make the attempt. John would learn to live with it. He had a future now. It was more than he'd had a month ago.
He wanted Sam to have a future, too.
Sam would wake up. This wasn't so different from John's condition back in that Sacramento hospital. David - or something - brought John back from the dead but it took weeks for him to wake up from it.
David came to the hospital when it became clear Sam wasn't going to wake up. He examined Sam and told John there was nothing he could do. "Sam's not in there. He's not dead; his body is fine. He just needs to find his way back."
John couldn't accept that as an answer. "How can we help him?" he demanded, but he'd known from David's expression what the answer would be.
"You can't, John. Keep his body alive and Sam will wake up when he's ready."
John shook his head. "Wait. You said that when I was unconscious you went to some mystic for help. Why can't you do the same for Sam?"
David had looked down at Sam's pale face for a long time. "It's not the same thing, John." He took a deep breath. "Have you ever heard of the Hmong?"
"They're a Chinese people with some very unusual spiritual beliefs. They believe each person has several souls, and when the body becomes ill it's a sign that one of them has become lost, detached from the body. They have a ritual, ua neeb Saib, to entice the missing soul back to the body. I can't promise it will help Sam, but I can give you the name of a shaman. He might help a white man...he might not."
John laid his hand over Sam's. He hadn't called David's shaman yet, but if Sam didn't wake up soon, he would have to.
Sam's skin felt warm and alive under John's fingers. "I hope you can hear me, son. I want you to know you did everything right. That was a hell of a spell. Lilith's dead. There are still some demons out there, but the worst is over. The war is over. You and Dean did that." John sighed heavily. "Come back to us, Sammy. Dean needs you."
When the power of Dean's spell blasted through him, it hurt so much Sam couldn't even scream. He had no sense of where he was, no awareness of his body. Only pain. Every nerve was on fire, every cell being torn apart. The fires of Hell itself could not have been worse. Sam first, terrified thought was not for himself, but for Dean. Was he, too, being torn apart by this spell? Then even that thought became impossible.
Some endless time later, Sam found himself in a cool, dark place. He thought maybe he was dead, though this wasn't anything he had expected from death. After the pain, this wasn't too bad...but wasn't he supposed to see a light or something? When Sam thought about dying, which he did about as often as any other healthy twenty-three year-old man, he'd always hoped his mom would be in that light. But this place was just dark and cool and floating.
There were voices in the darkness, far away. Familiar voices. Sam tried to hear, but he couldn't make out the words. The tone was so familiar he didn't always need the words. He could tell Dean was worried about something. So was Dad. Ellen's voice was there, too, sometimes, reassuring when she spoke to Dean and something quite different when she talked with John.
It was comforting to hear them, because it meant that the people he loved were alive, but Sam didn't try to get closer. If he was dead, then he'd be a spirit. They wouldn't want him around.
"You need him, too, John," Ellen said quietly.
John looked up. Ellen stood in the doorway, holding a tall cup of coffee. She lifted the cup slightly to indicate it was for him.
"Ellen, I can't." John waved his left arm, pointing out that he couldn't take the coffee from her. His only hand was holding Sam's. He wouldn't let go of his boy.
"I thought of that," Ellen smiled. She produced a straw, popped it into the cup, pulled up another chair and held the cup up to John's mouth.
John couldn't help smiling. "Thanks." He sipped coffee through the straw. It was strong, black and just the right side of hot. "It's good," he said gratefully.
"How is he? Any change?"
"No. No change. The doc keeps telling me the same bullshit. Nothing physically wrong."
"And you, John?"
"Well, I'll never play pool again, but..."
"John," she warned, with a look that said clearer than words that she wouldn't take any bullshit from him.
"I'm fine. Just worried about my boys. Sam's in a coma and Dean thinks it's all his fault."
Ellen squeezed his thigh. "Yeah. I'm worried about him, too."
The first thing was his body. Sam had almost forgotten what it felt like to have weight and substance. He didn't like it. It was awkward and heavy and big.
The second thing was Ellen's voice, but this time he understood her words. "How is he? Any change?"
Dad's voice answered her. "No. No change. The doc keeps telling me the same bullshit. Nothing physically wrong."
Were they talking about Dean? Was Dean sick again?
"And you, John?" Ellen asked gently.
"Well, I'll never play pool again," John said sarcastically.
"I'm fine. Just worried about my boys. Sam's in a coma and Dean thinks it's all his fault."
What are you talking about, Dad? I'm not in a coma! I'm right here!
Or was that what the dark place meant?
As soon as he thought of it, Sam tried to move his body. He didn't feel himself move, but John said sharply, "Sam? Sammy?"
Sam tried to open his eyes. It felt as if his eyelids were glued down but finally he saw a blur of light. Real light. His mom wasn't in that light, but in that moment, Sam thought seeing his Dad was even better.
"Sam!" John's heart leapt. He felt breathless with hope. "Sammy, can you hear me?"
Sam's lips moved, but no sound came out. His eyes fluttered open, the irises bloodshot, pupils dilated so John guessed Sam couldn't see much more than a blur. He enclosed Sam's hand in his own, letting him know he was there.
"I'll get the doctor," Ellen offered.
"No! Call Dean first. He'll be in the coffee shop." Or the liquor store, John added silently.
Sam tried to speak again. "Dean?" it was barely a whisper.
John leaned forward so Sam could see him better. "Dean will be here soon, son. He's hardly left your side." It was an incredible relief.
"He's...okay?" Sam smiled, a relief matching John's written across his face.
"Worried sick about you, but otherwise he's fine." John squeezed Sam's hand. "Don't try to talk, Sammy. You've been...sleeping for more than a week."
Sam blinked a few times and squinted at John. "Lilith?" he asked anxiously. His voice sounded very rough.
"She's dead. You and Dean killed her. Do you remember?"
Sam frowned, as if he didn't remember. "The spell?" he hazarded.
"Yes. It nearly killed you, Sam."
"Worth it, if she's dead."
That was when Dean burst into the room. "Sammy?"
Sam looked up at his brother and smiled. "Hey. Miss me?"
Dean stared at him. "You goddamned piece of crap. Don't you ever"
Sam interrupted hoarsely, "Hey. We did it."
Dean looked at John, then back to Sam. John could see how badly Dean wanted to rant at Sam, because he had been so afraid. But Dean's face cracked into a wide grin. "We did, didn't we? Ding, dong, the bitch is dead."
And that, John thought, would do for all of them.
A Week Later
John passed the aluminium tube to Sam. "Needs two hands to open it." He settled down on the couch beside Ellen. They were back in Nebraska, at Ellen's apartment, though the boys were staying in a nearby motel.
Sam frowned, as he always did when John called attention to his missing hand, but he accepted the tube and started to unscrew the top.
John watched him, inwardly shaking his head. Sam was just going to have to get used to it. John lost his hand, not his brain. He would adapt. He had talked over prosthetic options with a specialist at the hospital when Sam was in his coma, but a prosthetic that was anything more than cosmetic was much too expensive and John wasn't interested in cosmetics. If a replacement would have some functional use, he would consider it. Otherwise, what was the point?
Sam slid the contents out of the tube and unrolled it carefully. John let out his breath, relieved it was still intact after all these years. It was an antique woven cloth with an intricate, circular design. Here and there, small objects had been sewn into the weave: semi-precious stones, shells, polished beads of wood and glass. Even in the dull light of Ellen's living room, it shone.
Sam stepped back, admiring the full effect. "Wow."
"What is it?" Dean asked.
"It's a mandala," John explained. "Very old, powerful protection." He looked at Dean. "I want you to sell it. Bobby told me Bella Talbot is back. She offered me a million bucks for this eight years ago."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "And the bitch didn't steal it?"
John smirked. "This is one thing Bella can't steal. Its magic, or whatever it is, will only work for you if you come by it legitimately. You have to inherit it, buy it or accept it as a gift."
John obtained it from another hunter. Rod Hammond screwed up in the worst way and ended up on trial for the string of murders he'd been trying to stop. John finished the hunt for him, but that didn't help Rod. Rod had no family, so he gave the mandala to John for safekeeping while he was in prison, on the understanding that, should he not get out, it would become John's property. Rod died in prison: pneumonia. So it was legitimately John's property.
"So you want us to go to Bella?" Dean clarified, a thread of anger creeping into his voice. "You know she stole the Colt from us?"
"I heard, yes." John met Sam's eyes first, then Dean's. "Listen, boys. Ellen and I are going to rebuild the Roadhouse. We need about a hundred grand to do it right." It was a lot of money, but they were going to build a place that really would be a sanctuary. Salt and iron in the foundations. Every protection possible. "I want you boys to negotiate with Bella. Anything you can get from her above a hundred is yours."
Sam's eyes went wide. "Are you serious? Dad, that's"
"This mandala is worth a lot to the kind of people Bella deals with. Enough to give you both a real choice about what you're going to do next. Sammy, it's more than enough money for you to go back to school, if you want to. Or it's enough to give you a good start doing anything you want."
Dean met John's eyes. There was a great deal being said in that one look. It was an acknowledgement that John wouldn't be hunting again. There was a certain pride. There was speculation that John couldn't quite decipher, and much more.
"Alright," Dean shrugged. "We'll go see the wicked bitch of the west."
Dean was waiting in the Impala, and his music drifted over the road to where John stood. The mandala was stashed safely in the trunk.
Sam came up to John's side, pulling on his jacket. "Do you mind if we take a bit of a detour, Dad? It'll add a few days to the trip, that's all."
"You find another hunt already?"
Sam smiled. "No, not a hunt. I have a friend in upstate New York. I'd like to drop by and see her."
Her. Ah. "Girlfriend?" John asked slyly.
"We went on one date, found one of her friends in a pool of blood and I nearly got her killed. I think girlfriend would be exaggerating." He shrugged. "I'm not expecting anything. It just...I don't know. It feels like the right time to visit."
"You go ahead. You've both earned your shore leave."
"Thanks. Dad...what you said about making a choice..."
"I don't want to live on the road any more. But I'm going to keep hunting. I'm going to need your help."
John turned to him in surprise. "My help? I don't think I can be the hunter I was."
Sam looked very serious. "I have to track down the children, Dad. All those nursery fires from the year Jess died. You're the only person who knows where they all happened."
John swallowed. "Why do you want to track them down? The demon is dead."
"Before he left, David told me about the other generations of kids like me. The demon didn't make us psychic, Dad. He just took advantage of something already there."
"He fed you his own blood, Sammy."
Sam nodded. "I know. That enhanced our powers, I think, and gave the demon some kind of power over us. But the psychic thing that's what drew him to us, Dad. I didn't get that from him."
No, John thought, you got that from Mary. He kept the thought to himself. He would never know for certain and Sam didn't need to hear it.
"The children born that year will be the last generation tainted by Azazel's blood." Sam frowned. "Some of them will go bad, I think, even without him pushing buttons. A few might be really dangerous. But it's the others I want to find. They'll need...help."
It was true. John pushed his misgivings aside. If he didn't trust his own son, who could he trust?
"There were nine nursery fires that year," John said. "Ten, including Jessica. You could find them all yourself by following the same trail I did. But I know more than that, Sam. I can tell you about all of the children Azazel visited that year."
Sam stared. "How? We tried tracking back the omens, but"
"There are no secrets in Hell, Sam. The demon took everything I knew, but when he did that, he couldn't hide what he knew from me. Maybe he didn't try I wasn't much of a threat to him dead. But I saw it all, and I remember."
"Then you'll help?"
John nodded. "While you're gone, I'll write it all down for you," he offered. "When you get back, we can talk over your plan."
"Thanks, Dad." Sam smiled and started toward the Impala.
"Sam!" John called after him.
Sam turned back.
John stayed where he was long enough to watch the boys leave. Dean waved to John as he hit the gas, accelerating out of town. John was glad to see the smile on Dean's face. The road trip would be good for him.
"Do you think they'll keep hunting?" Ellen asked from behind him.
John turned to face her. "I don't know about Dean. It's going to be a while before he works out what he really wants. Sam seems set on it." He smiled, walking back into the apartment building with her. "Funny, I would have thought it'd be the other way around."
"Dean's lived through a nightmare this past year," Ellen pointed out. "You said it yourself: Going to Hell knocks some perspective into you, and Dean came very close."
John nodded. She was right. But Dean had never known anything but life on the road. John never allowed him to. John didn't know if he could make up for his mistakes, nor even if the boys would let him, but he intended to try.
Ellen turned to him as she opened the apartment door. "You're looking very serious, John. Deep thoughts?"
He shook his head. "Memories. Regrets. Wondering where we'll all be this time next year."
Ellen laughed. "Borrowing trouble already, John?"
"No. I'm looking forward to it." As he said it, John realised it was the truth. An unknown future stretched before him and for the first time he could remember, the unknown didn't scare him.
John reached for Ellen and kissed her. "Can I ask you a question?"
Ellen, catching his change of mood, kissed him back. "Sure."
"Just what is that tattoo on your ass?"
To be continued...
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