Category: Gen, A/A, Drama, Angst
Spoilers: Major series plot points
Summary: When Sam suspects Dean has been possessed by one of the legendary Grand Marquises of Hell, he must decide whether to cross the line to save him. Takes place before A Very Supernatural Christmas.
Word Count: 18,766
Sam had already started the exorcism when Dean awoke.
"What the hell, Sam." Dean tugged at the rope that bound him to one of the motel chairs. "You think that's going to work?"
Sam flipped the page. "Ecce dabit voci Suae, vocem virtutis, tribuite virtutem Deo."
"I'm not a demon!"
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas—"
Sam ignored him and kept chanting, keeping his voice steady and even. Though, the further he dove into the exorcism, the more nervous he became. Dean wasn't even breaking a sweat. The only thing that seemed to be affecting him was the herbal bundle, and even that was starting to wear off.
"Go ahead and waste your breath," Dean mumbled. "When this is all done, I'm so going to kick your ass."
Sam stopped at the edge of the circle, leveling his gaze with Dean. "Vade, Satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae salutis."
Again, nothing. Frustrated, Sam slammed the book shut.
"You see?" Dean grunted and pulled at the rope, but quickly sighed when he failed to free himself. "Sammy…"
"You're not leaving me with many choices," Sam said coolly. He tensed, watching the lights flicker. "Why don't you make this easy on yourself and leave?"
"I'd love that." Dean jerked his hands again. "How about untying me?"
Sam withdrew the Colt.
"Whoa! Hey." Dean squirmed in the seat, and flattened his palms in surrender. "Let's not jump the gun here."
"I'm done. I'm sorry, Dean, but I'm done."
Out of all the monsters they'd hunted over the years, Sam never had expected this. He set his jaw and leveled the Colt at Dean's head.
He felt a flicker of hesitation as he saw the fear swell in Dean's eyes. The fear was real. The fear was deep. Only Sam couldn't be sure if the fear belonged to Dean or something else.
"Sam." Dean's voice was urgent but firm. "Whatever you've been told, it's a lie." He struggled against the rope that bound him. "It's all a lie."
Sam stared at him. Maybe once he would have pleaded with the demon to let him go. Maybe once he would have reasoned with the spirit to move on. But those days were gone.
Everything else had failed. Sam knew he had only two options left: the Colt or…
Sam swallowed hard. He knew what he had to do.
While he kept the gun trained on Dean, Sam searched himself, trying to find this center that Ruby had mentioned. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, he wasn't even sure if it was possible, but at this point, he knew he couldn't shoot Dean. He couldn't be the one to send his brother to Hell.
Somewhere in the distance, he saw Dean frown. "Sam?"
Sam let himself float, disconnect, and slip to a place that was cool and painless. The heat and fire of emotion didn't seem to touch him there, and just out of reach, he felt this itch, a deep burning itch, begging to be scratched.
"Sam? Hey, Sammy? Sammy, look at me."
Closer. He felt it just beyond his fingertips.
A light buzzing filled his ears. Nothing overpowering, but soothing, like coming home. He knew if he reached just a little further, if he just pushed past that invisible wall, he would be there. He would be where he should be.
Everything snapped off around Sam. He blinked and frowned at Dean. "Bela?"
Dean nodded. Sam noticed he looked breathless, sitting as far on the edge of his seat as he could within his binds. The desperation in his eyes threw Sam's balance. He tried to wrap his mind around what game they were playing now, how any of this could be relevant.
Either he had done something to spook Andras or he'd frightened Dean.
"What about Bela?" Sam said. He kept the Colt aimed at Dean's head.
"I got a message from her. I've been tracking that bitch all day."
"When did you get that call? Today?"
Dean had an uncomfortable, pained look on his face, one that Sam had learned to read years ago. Dean was scared.
"The convenience store," Sam said, suddenly making the connection. "She's the one that tipped you about Andras."
Dean didn't answer.
"Well, did she?"
He rocked back and looked away. "I don't know."
Sam stared at him. "You don't know?"
"I just knew we had to come here."
"Oh, that's helpful."
"Look, it seemed like a good idea at the time." He motioned to his bound hands. "Then you went all Misery on me."
Sam shook his head. He couldn't believe he was entertaining this idea. "Dean, what the hell is going on?"
"I don't know!" He jerked his hands and sighed. "Earlier today I saw that she'd called when we were in Ohio. Every time I try to check that damn message I –"
"I can't remember."
"You can't remember." Sam let out an aggravated sigh. "Do you want to be more specific?"
"I told you! I can't remember. Everything gets all foggy and weird."
Sam felt his stomach flop. "Where's your phone?"
"It's in my coat."
Sam backed away, keeping the gun pointed at Dean. When he reached the bed, he leaned back and started fumbling through his pockets. To his disgust, he came across some crinkled gum wrappers filled with old chewed gum. He made a face and bypassed them, grabbing Dean's phone. He flipped it open and scrolled down to the received calls.
Sure enough, Bela's number was there, listed at the exact time they'd hit the convenience store.
Immediately, Sam went to Dean's voicemail.
"Hey! That's private!"
Sam jabbed the gun at him, warning him to be silent. The message started.
"Hello, Dean," Bela said. "I have something important in Harmony, Pennsylvania for you. It might give you some answers on those burning questions you have about Sam."
Sam shot a hard look at Dean. He thought he saw a wave of guilt wash over Dean's face, but it was quickly replaced with the same uneasiness he'd seen earlier.
Sam waited for Bela to continue. Only, she never did.
Dead air filled the voicemail for the next thirty seconds. Sam was about to disconnect when he heard a low thumping, almost like tapping on a padded tablecloth.
Then, the chanting began.
Sam immediately recognized the Latin. It was medieval Latin, garbled but understandable through Bela's accent. But it wasn't just the Latin Sam recognized. He heard the name Andras.
And the name Dean.
It suddenly all made sense.
"What?" Dean asked. "You got that look on your face." He swallowed. "I'm not going to like this."
"It's an incantation." Sam lowered the Colt and sighed. This wasn't the best of news, but it was at least something Sam could process. Incantations could be reversed or broken. Sam stuffed the Colt in his jeans and turned to Dean. "Bela placed one on you."
"An incantation for what?"
"It sounds like a summons, Dean."
"You saying she summoned this thing on me?"
"There's one way to find out." Sam started to dial her number.
Come on, pick up, he thought to himself.
"Oh, Sam. What a surprise. I assume Dean is tied up right now?"
Sam glanced over to Dean who was frantically trying to weasel his way out of his restraints.
"You took the summon and modified it into an incantation on Dean," Sam said.
"Guilty as charged."
"You do realize this thing is a cold-blooded murderer who turns on its summoner."
"I've taken precautions," Bela said. "Besides, I thought it might be nice to have an assassin at our beck and call."
"Not our," Sam reminded her. "How could you be so stupid? This thing will come and kill you. You can't control it, Bela."
"Then you don't know me very well."
"I don't think you're listening to me," Sam said pointedly. "This demon? Because of you it's going to take control of Dean, and then it's going to come and kill you."
"No friggin' demon is stealing my thunder," Dean muttered. "I had first dibs."
Sam pinched his face and shot Dean an impatient look, warning him to keep quiet.
"Listen, Sam. My sources are far more reliable than yours. I have nothing to worry about. You on the other hand…" Bela let out a soft chuckle. "Well, let's just say I wouldn't want to be in your shoes once Andras rears his ugly head."
Sam clenched his teeth. "I'm going to kill you."
"I said first dibs!" Dean yelled.
She sighed. "I can see that Andras hasn't made an appearance yet. Give my regards to Dean."
The line went dead.
Sam stood there and stared at the phone, trying to think of his next move. Bela had made that incantation two weeks ago. Unless Andras was playing head games with him and was posing as Dean, that meant he had gone all this time fighting back the incantation.
Sam felt hope again.
He just didn't know if he could be sure that Dean was the one that was in front of him.
It was time for him to take a chance.
Sam walked over to Dean and started cutting through the rope that restrained him. "Something must be holding it back from taking over your body."
"Yeah. Those charms Bobby gave us."
"I don't think those charms are going to hold up against this thing."
"Then, my winning personality." He grinned.
"Just stop, all right?" Sam broke through the rope and went for the second hand, but stumbled back, feeling a swift smack to his head.
"Dude!" Sam pressed his hand to side of his head. "What the hell was that for?"
"That's for tying me up."
"What else was I supposed to do?"
"Not point a friggin' gun to my head, for starters."
"I didn't know if you were you." Sam hesitated, but finally shook his head, crouching in front of Dean to untie his feet. "In fact, I'm still not sure, but I'm running out of options."
"Fine. Whatever." Dean broke free from the rest of the rope and rubbed his wrists. "So we kill the bastard before it grabs itself some prime real estate."
"It's not going to be that easy." With one last grunt, he freed Dean from the chair. "Most of the information on Andras is missing. Just like in Dad's journal. I don't think anyone wanted this summon to fall into the wrong hands."
"Then where the hell did Bela get it?"
"I don't know."
"There's got to be some way to defeat this thing," Dean said. "Did you call Bobby?"
"I left a message. He hasn't gotten back to me yet."
"Dammit!" Dean started to pace the length of the floor, running his hands through his hair as he walked. "You know, out of all the ways I expected to go to Hell, this wasn't one of them."
"You're not going to Hell, Dean," Sam said evenly.
Dean glared at him, but didn't reply.
"At least we have a good idea of when Andras is around."
"What do you mean? You find something?"
"Every time he goes to make a move, there is some kind of electric disturbance."
Dean eyed the lights in the room. "So what? This thing is juiced up on electricity?"
"I think he is electricity."
"Come again? I thought you said this thing takes over people who summon it."
"He does. Or, in your case, the poor bastard who will be his vessel." Sam tried to suppress a smile when Dean scowled at him. "But I'm starting to think his true form involves electricity."
"That's what you found in the library," Dean said, nodding with understanding.
"Yeah, I figure we track his moves by –"
The two of them froze as the lights started to flicker.
"Aw. Crap," Dean said with a sigh.
"I think we've run out of time." Sam searched the room and paused, his gaze settling on the Impala out the window. "But I have an idea."
Sam quickly grabbed his bag and shoved his notes inside. "Hurry," he called back to Dean.
The two of them rushed out of the motel room and started for the Impala. All around them the streetlights started to flicker and buzz, like they were overloaded with a surge of energy that could barely be contained.
Sam immediately ran to the truck. He whipped out a marker, and after he paused for a moment to recall the image in his mind, he started to draw on the car.
"No, no, no!" Dean lunged at him, but didn't stop him. "Not again!"
One last symbol…Sam was finished. He pocketed the marker and opened the trunk, giving Dean a stern, authoritative look. "Get in."
Dean stared at him incredulously. "Dude, you're not putting me in the trunk."
"It's a Devil's Trap. Nothing will be able to get in."
Dean blinked at him. "It's my trunk!"
There was another flicker, brighter and more frenzied than before. Sam felt an increased sense of urgency. They had to go now.
Sam shifted his weight impatiently. "Dean, just get in the trunk."
"When we get out of here, we're going some place sweet," Dean muttered. He hesitated, eyeing the inside of the spacious trunk. "You know that I could poke out an eye in here?"
Sam shoved him inside and shut the trunk. He could still hear Dean's whining and protests as he jumped into the driver's seat and started the Impala.
As much as he wanted to, Sam knew he couldn't keep Dean in there forever. Eventually, Dean would get out, and Andras would take over. Sam just needed to find a way to break the incantation and send Andras back to Hell.
He glanced down at his cell phone. Still no word from Bobby.
Sam needed time to think. He needed to find a place where he could keep Dean safe until he could come up with a plan.
Sam tapped the steering wheel. He knew one place. He just didn't know how welcome they would be there.
Deciding he had nothing to lose, Sam started the ignition and drove off into the night.
Sam slammed the Impala into park. He disregarded the loud "oof" from the back and jumped out of the car, making a beeline to the herbal store.
"Hey!" He pounded on the door. "We need help!"
He peered inside the darkened shop, searching for any sign of movement, activity, anything. When nothing but emptiness stared back, Sam pounded harder.
"I know you're in there!"
Sam was about to go for his lock pick when he saw a flicker of light from inside. He squinted, searching for her. "Jen?" He rapped at the glass. "Jen!" He saw a glimpse of her face before it disappeared again.
Sam swore. He didn't have time for this.
Sam pressed his face against the glass and took a deep breath. "Look, I know you're not too happy with me right now, but please let us in. My brother needs protection."
He waited and waited what seemed like forever, and still she didn't come to the door. Sam was considering breaking through the glass when finally the lock clicked and she opened the door.
"I told you I already gave you everything I could."
"We know you have a room full of materials, and you drew protective circles."
"I gave you that information," she said.
Sam nodded. He had all the information she'd given him. He'd tried it himself but he couldn't shake the gut feeling that she had something here that could help. There had to be more.
"Jen, I know you're scared, but please," Sam said, searching her face. "This is my brother. You would do the same for your family."
With a sigh, Jen finally nodded. She opened the door and stepped aside so that Sam could enter. He hurried inside, taking a mental inventory of the shop for anything that might help keep Andras at bay a little longer. Then, he followed her into one of the back rooms and saw the circles that Dean had taped the other night.
He paused as he studied them. "These look more elaborate."
"After you left, I went through my family notes and found more details." She moved a chair out of the way to give them more room. "This middle one is designed especially for Andras."
"How long will it protect him?" Sam asked.
At this point, any time was good enough for Sam. "I'll go get my brother."
Sam rushed out of the shop to the Impala. As he unlocked the trunk, he saw the streetlights flicker.
"Come on, Dean."
After Sam grabbed his bag, he helped Dean out of the trunk, surprised to see how worn and battered he looked. Dean didn't even argue with him as he leaned on Sam for support.
"You look like crap." He grunted as he practically dragged Dean to the door.
"I still look better than you on a good day," he said with a weak laugh.
Sam forced a small smile, but remained quiet. He was unnerved by Dean's weakening state; he didn't know if this was a side effect of the mandrake combo or if Dean's body was finally deteriorating to the point where Andras could possess him.
One thing was for sure; Sam didn't want to find out the hard way.
He guided Dean through the herbal shop into the back room where Jen had the circles set up.
"This one," she reminded Sam, pointing to the center. "This sigil will keep Andras from entering the circle."
Sam hauled Dean over to the circle and allowed him to collapse inside. He stood back and stared, waiting, while he heard Jen preparing some herbal combinations behind him. Already, the color was beginning to return to Dean's semi-conscious face as if the magic of the circle itself was keeping his vitals in order.
While Sam was aware that circles could serve the dual purpose of either trapping a demon inside or protecting a person within its lines depending on how the circle was drawn, the latter was not an option they often used or were experienced enough to practice regularly, the Devil's Trap a notable exception. They never really had the need.
He was beginning to think he and Dean still had a lot to learn.
"I need more Solomon's Seal," Jen said. "Could you grab me some?"
He hesitated, glancing back at Dean. He was still only partly conscious, his eyes half shut and his body still, but his breathing was regular. Sam could swear that there was renewed energy in his face, in everything about him.
"Where do you keep it?"
"Storage room. Third shelf."
Sam breathed out and nodded, before he started back to Jen's storage room. Sam fumbled through the jars and bottles, squinted at each and every hand-scribbled label in the low lighting. Frustrated, he tossed his bag on top of a stack of empty jars and started digging deep into the third shelf.
"Come on. Come on," he mumbled. Solomon's Seal had to be somewhere.
He heard a moaning come from the back room.
"Dean!" Sam looked over his shoulder, torn whether to go back or to keep searching. He held his breath, listening for any other sound or indication that Andras was nearby.
Everything went quiet.
He shoved the jars aside, pressing harder. He was about to start tossing them on the floor when his phone rang.
He withdrew the phone and checked the caller ID.
Sam sighed with relief. "Bobby."
"What the hell you boys doin' in Harmony?"
Sam found himself wincing even though Bobby couldn't see him. "Dean thought we could bag a demon, but things got out of hand."
"Well of course they did. This ain't just huntin' the local demons and sprites, Sam. This is big league."
"Yeah, I know. Look, Bobby, I'm running out of time. Dean's in trouble."
"You said somethin' happened but didn't say what." Bobby grew quiet. "Just what have you boys been messin' with?"
Sam started to pace the short length of the storage room, his gaze darting to the jars that lined the shelves. "I don't have time to explain, but an incantation has been cast to summon a demon into Dean." He stopped and picked up one of the bottles. "It's an incantation to summon Andras."
"I need something. Anything that will help." Sam grabbed the Solomon's Seal and started to unscrew the lid. "The Lesser Key of Solomon has pages missing; the Key of Solomon has a bunch of blank pages at the end, and Dad's journal doesn't have anything that will help."
"Did you ever stop and think that your Daddy left that out for a reason? This kinda thing ain't meant to be found."
"There has to be something."
"Of course there's somethin' or else these books would be useless. You just got open your eyes."
Sam stopped. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, use your head. Why do you think those pages are blank?"
Sam blinked. Of course.
He slid the jar back onto the shelf and laid his phone on top before he scrambled for his bag. He snatched The Key of Solomon and flipped to the end, holding up the blank pages to the lone bulb that lit the room.
He grabbed the phone. "Got it."
"You need to keep that safe. Now, you make sure you say it ten times. Don't you forget the first part. You got that?"
Sam nodded into the phone. The words would be easy enough to remember. "It says I need some mahogany." He frowned. "Why would I need Solomon's Seal if all I need is mahogany?"
"Solomon's Seal? That's used for protection in the home." There was a pause and a slight shuffling on the other side. "Just where're you gettin' all of this?"
Sam took the jar of Solomon's Seal and studied the contents closely. He paused, running his fingers over the label.
"We found one of Jacque Beauregard's descendants," Sam said, his frown deepening. He picked at the corner of the label, surprised to find the hints of another behind it. "She has a family grimore," he mumbled as he ripped the label off the jar, "but we still haven't found anything to help Dean."
Sam's eyes widened. The hasty writing read "henbane."
"You boys got to get outta there. You gotta leave now."
"Henbane is a poison." Sam pushed aside the mislabeled jar and went for the mandrake. "Nightshade."
"Sam, I'm tellin' ya, you boys need to leave that place now. I've been keeping tabs on that family for years 'cause of that demon, and they ain't alive."
"They're dead. Car accident two months back."
Sam struggled to swallow as his throat tightened. Carefully, he put the poisons back on the shelf. He brought his gaze upward, searching for any containers that might hold samples of wood.
"You hearin' me?"
Sam's roaming gaze finally stopped at an unfinished desk in the corner. He breathed out. "I'm sorry, Bobby. But I have to finish what I started."
Sam shut the phone off.
When Sam stepped into the back room of the shop, Dean was kneeling inside the confines of the middle circle. His face was flushed and his eyes glassy; Sam wasn't sure if he even knew what was going on around him.
The air felt electric.
Jen was busy preparing some concoction over on a small table in the corner of the room. Slowly, Sam started towards her, pausing by the circle where Dean knelt. He crouched down, took his knife, and scraped at the edges of the circle to leave three small gaps in the front. In their place, Sam laid small slender strips of wood.
He turned his head to stare Dean in the eyes. Dean didn't say anything, but Sam was positive he still saw his brother in there, a spark that burned just below the surface.
Sam took a deep breath and exhaled. It was now or never.
"Angele dei, qui custos es mei, me tibi commissum pietate superna; Hac nocte illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna," he whispered.
Dean's eyelids fluttered and a small sound, like he was choking on his own breath, escaped from his pale lips. Sam fought back the urge to grab his shoulder for support; he couldn't know if anything he did would break what he'd started.
He didn't even know what other poisons and magical concoctions Dean had been exposed to since they entered Harmony. At least he could certain of one thing.
"Stay in the circle until I'm done," he said, his voice low. "The wood will protect you."
Sam slowly rose to his feet and started toward Jen.
Jen glanced over her shoulder. "Did you get that Solomon's Seal?"
She jerked around, a tight frown on her face. "You need it to help your brother and –" Her gaze darted to the circle and then back to Sam. "What did you do? You broke the circle."
She gave an agitated sigh and took a step forward. "Sam, Andras is here. I know you can feel it. He's waiting. He's going to take your brother. If you want to help, get me the herbs I asked for."
He swallowed hard. "I never told you my name."
She frowned, an uneasiness seeping into her face. She glanced down at the pieces of wood that lined the front of the circle before facing Sam again.
Sam yanked the Colt from his jeans.
Before he could pull the trigger, he was thrown back, sailing through the air toward the wall. Sam hit the bookshelf with a crash, collapsing into the mess of old books and papers as the remaining knick knacks rained down on his head. He struggled to get to his feet and take aim, but a crushing pressure pushed down on his chest, pinning him to the spot.
The Colt slid across the floor.
Sam grunted, trying to reach for the gun, but it was too far out of his grasp. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Jen approaching him, her black eyes gleaming with sick delight.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo," he said. To burn. To dissolve. To release. He had to keep proper count. "Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo."
"Do you think that is going to work, little Sammy?" She stopped in front of him and offered a cruel smile. "That incantation I gave to your friend? It's through me. Andras is coming back. He's linked to me."
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo."
"That wood isn't going to hold. As soon as I remove it, the incantation is done." She crouched in front of him and tapped at his nose. "I have to thank you for this opportunity. We've waited so long. We could never have done it without the Winchester brothers." She paused, searching the walls and the ceiling. When they started to spark, coursing with threads of red lightning, she grinned. "Do you feel him?"
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo."
Jen snarled and waved her other hand. Sam cried out as the pain ripped through him, threatening to cleave his chest in two. Biting back the pain that threatened to rip open his chest, he forced himself to go on.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo."
Sam cried again, the heat making him go numb. He reminded himself he had to stay conscious. He couldn't slip away. Not now.
"Regna terrae, cantate Deo, psallite Domino qui fertis super caelum caeli ad Orientem.
Ecce dabit voci Suae vocem virtutis, tribuite virtutem Deo."
The demon in Jen hissed, jerking her head back at the sound of the holy words. The ache in Sam's chest lessened, and he breathed out, trying to focus.
Through the white flashes of pain that blurred his vision, Sam saw Dean standing within the circle, their father's journal in hand. Dean could barely stay on his feet, but the fire in his eyes was unmistakable.
"Deus caeli, Deus terrae, humiliter majestati gloriae Tuae supplicamus ut ab omni infernalium spirituum potestate, laqueo, deceptione et nequitia, omnis fallaciae, libera nos, Domine," Dean said. He gasped, took another rattled breath, and continued. "Vade, Satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae—"
"I will not go back!" Jen tore away from Sam and charged Dean.
Dean's eyes widened and he started to read faster. Sam balled his fists and fought the pain.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo."
Jen threw Dean from the circle. He slid across the floor, nearly crashing into the opposite wall. He scrambled to get back to the pieces of wood that Sam had placed in front of him, but Jen easily kicked it away.
"It's over," she said.
The lights flickered, the red lightning bolted across the walls to the floor.
"Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine!" Dean yelled over the crackling that surrounded them.
She twitched and hissed. She only had her master to turn to right now, and Sam wasn't about to invite him into Dean.
"Ustulo. Dilabor. Solvo!" Sam shouted.
Jen snapped her head to Sam, the fear and rage shaking her frame. With the last moments of the rite upon them, she chose to run, dashing out of the room to get to the store. Sam collapsed as the power that held him vanished. He went for the Colt, and smiled as she became locked in the entryway between the back room and the store.
She had been too distracted to notice the trap he'd set for her.
Sam aimed the Colt at her head. "Ustulo! Dilabor! Solvo!"
There was a heavy charge all around him. Every hair on his body felt like it was standing straight up, and he felt an intense building of raw power, coursing, coursing, ready to break free. Then, with a wail like nothing Sam had ever heard before, the threads of red electricity bound together and shot toward Dean.
"Deus Israhel ipse truderit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi Suae. Benedictus Deus. Gloria Patri!"
Jen cried out as the demon flooded from her mouth in a rush of black smoke. At the same moment, the lightning popped and sparked outward, knocking the both of them to the ground. Overhead, the remainder of the red bolts exploded, raining a shower of stinging red sparks down on top of them.
The two of them remained silent for what seemed like ages, both too tired to move, and too weary to speak. The weight to the air had evaporated, leaving the distinct scent of ozone. It was a crisp, almost clean feeling, as if a place long burdened by pain and anger was now finally free.
Peace touched everything, even the dead body of Jen that lay sprawled across the entryway.
Finally, he heard Dean stir beside him. "Exploding demons," he managed to say. "That's a new one, even for us."
Sam forced a small smile, but he didn't have the strength to wear it for long. "We almost didn't make it this time. You almost didn't make it."
"We always almost never make it, but we're just that good." Dean offered a smile, and winced, touching his cheek.
Sam shook his head. One day they were going to make a mistake far worse than any of the ones they'd already made. When that day came, he wasn't sure he was ready to face the consequences.
That wasn't the only thing bothering him. "I don't understand," Sam said as he turned to Dean. "How did you hold it off so long?"
Dean reached two fingers into his mouth and pulled out a small piece of wood.
"You broke off a piece and put it in your mouth?" Sam laughed.
"It's called genius, Sammy." He winced. "Ow. I think I got a splinter."
"Yeah, that's real genius, Einstein."
"Worked, didn't it?"
Sam just shook his head.
The two of them fell silent once again. Sam knew that Dean was thinking the same thing; whoever that demon was that had possessed Jen had been part of a greater plan, a plan that not only involved both of them, but also exploited their fears and weaknesses.
"How long?" Dean asked.
"Two months. That's what Bobby told me."
"Demons got to be pretty desperate if they're possessing corpses."
"Yeah." Sam tapped his leg and looked ahead. "This is bad, Dean. We were targeted especially for this."
"We've been targeted before."
"This is different," Sam said. "It's very different."
"Hey, just relax." Dean forced himself to stand, batting Sam away when he nearly lost his balance. "We got the job done. That's what's important. Now, I think we earned some R&R." He winced. "I'll even let you drive this time."
Sam sighed. He was too tired to argue. He cringed, biting back the lingering pain, and stood. He and Dean packed up as quickly and efficiently as they could. Come the morning, they wanted to be as far away from this place as possible. The last thing they needed was to be implicated in another murder.
"Hey, did you say a prayer to me?" Dean asked.
Sam stared at him. He wanted to say that someone had to pray for him, that someone had to care since Dean didn't seem to give a damn about his life. But not today. Sam was too tired to fight someone else's battles.
"It was a plea to guardian angels." He shrugged. "If they exist."
Dean eyed him closely, but didn't comment.
"Anyway," Dean said as they headed out of the store to the Impala. "Whatever it was, it was a nice touch. But I say we get as much distance between us and this damn town as we can. God knows how many other demons could be working backup here."
Dean turned and arched his eyebrows. "What?"
"It's nothing," Sam said quickly. "I just think you're right. We don't know what other demons could be involved."
Dean gave him an odd look, one Sam knew was Dean's way of piercing through his façade. Only he didn't say anything this time. He made his way over to the passenger side of the Impala and slid inside, keeping watch on Sam until he joined him.
Sam got the point. Eventually, they were going to have some kind of blow out.
Sam started the Impala. "You know, with everything that happened, I'm thinking maybe we need something more powerful."
"Powerful? What the hell you talking about?"
Sam held up the charm that Bobby had given him. "We can lose these, Dean."
"So what?" he asked. "Something more permanent?"
"Like what?" Dean asked. Sam noted the trepidation in his voice.
"I don't know. It's just a suggestion."
"We'll talk to Bobby. See what he says."
"We better give him a call now," Sam said. "Tell him what happened."
Dean nodded and took out his cell. "But if he yells at me, I'm blaming you."
Sam allowed himself a tempered smile. As Dean dialed Bobby, Sam took a glance at the store through his rear view mirror for one last time. He felt that part of him should feel guilty or concerned for the Beauregard family. Normally, he knew he would. Instead, all he felt was an anger that pulsed just beneath surface.
He needed to have some words with Ruby.
Sam finished packing the last of their belongings as Dean loaded up the car. He paused, gazing down at the small bottle Jen had given Dean for dandruff. Sam picked it up and ran his fingers over it, before he glanced out the window. Dean was muttering to himself, cursing over the writing on the trunk. Dean slammed it shut and leaned against the side of the car, still talking to himself as he waited for Sam to leave the motel.
Despite himself, Sam smiled.
Again, he looked down at the bottle. Without a word, he threw it in the trash barrel and listened to it shatter.
It was over now.
Sam shoved the last of his stuff into his bag. He had just finished zipping it, when he felt a presence in the room. Slowly, he tilted his head and glanced up.
"I know you're waiting for me," Ruby said. "Might as well get it over with."
Sam set his jaw and stalked toward her. "It was you. You're the one that sent the demon to Bela to summon Andras. You wanted it to take Dean all along so I could do whatever your twisted little mind wanted."
Ruby rolled her eyes. "That's the best you can do?"
"Stop with the games, Ruby. You told me that you knew how to save Dean. I've done nothing but cooperate."
"Cooperate?" She crossed her arms. "You haven't even begun to get your hands dirty."
"And you haven't done anything to help Dean."
She just sighed. "You can believe whatever you want, but one fact remains."
"Your chance to save Dean? That could have been your one shot."
Sam glared at her. "It would have killed him."
"If you had listened to me, then maybe you could have controlled it long enough for it to tell you how to save him." She narrowed her eyes and scoffed at him. "Good job, Sam. You could have just signed your brother's death sentence."
Sam shook his head. No, he refused to believe that. He hadn't lost his one chance. He knew there had to be other options out there.
He turned to face her. "You said there was a way to help him," he said between clenched teeth. "You promised –"
"And I delivered. You chose not to listen to me. That's your problem. Not mine."
"There has to be another way."
"Maybe," she said with a shrug. "But it's going to cost you."
There was always a cost, some price to pay. Sam was growing weary of all the sacrifices. But he wouldn't give up. He wouldn't stop trying. He wasn't a quitter.
"What do I need to do?"
She raised her eyebrows. "You'll know when the time comes."
Sam shook his head. "Look, I need—"
"Who you talking to?"
Sam jerked and looked behind him. Dean stood in the doorway, watching him closely, a sharp intensity to his hardened face. Sam tried not to look like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar, but he knew that Dean could see right through him. When Sam turned away, he realized that Ruby was already gone.
He sighed. "It's nothing."
"Nothing? Well, that's sure as hell pretty intense for a whole lot of nothing."
"Just drop it, Dean." Sam grabbed his bag and brushed past him as he headed for the Impala.
"I can't just drop it," Dean said, following Sam out the door. "Is it that demon gal again?"
Sam stopped and gave him a pointed glare before he started back towards the car. He threw his bag in the back seat and grabbed the driver's side door handle.
Dean grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back. "Hey, I'm talking to you."
"Okay. Fine," he said as he spun around. "What did Bela mean when she said you had questions about me?"
"Don't change the subject."
"No." Sam had had it. "I heard her message, Dean. What kind of questions?"
"Questions?" Dean shrugged. "I don't know. That's chick's crazy. She'll say anything."
Sam set his jaw and shook his head. "You're lying. You keep lying. I know something is going on. You can try to hide it all you want, but sooner or later I'm going to find out."
"Yeah? Like you're not keeping secrets, Sam?" Dean sighed. "Look, let's just leave this mess behind us and get out of here."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, all right. Whatever."
Sam climbed into the driver seat and slammed the door. While he waited for Dean to climb in, his gaze fell back to the motel. He knew that even after what happened here in Harmony, that he wouldn't give up on finding a way to save Dean's soul. But he also knew he couldn't do it without Dean's help. He just didn't know how to tackle that problem yet.
And Ruby. He still couldn't figure if she was friend or foe. He wanted to believe that she held the key to saving Dean. He wanted to believe that she was on their side, but there was always this voice, somewhere in the back of his mind, whispering warnings into his ear, urging him to be cautious.
He would ignore them. He would keep ignoring them like he had since the day he had met her.
Caution wasn't something he could afford to waste time on right now.
Yet, despite all his convictions, there was one lingering doubt that outweighed them all.
Dean shut the door. "Ready?"
Sam nodded and started the Impala. "Let's go."
As they pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the road, Sam vowed to become even more dedicated than before. He just hoped that for their sakes, out of everything they left behind in Harmony, Dean's one chance at salvation wasn't one of them.
[Part One] [Part Two]