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
The door didn't open again until after five in the morning.
Sam sat on his bed, silent, as Dean slipped into the darkened motel room. He watched as Dean shrugged off his wet jacket, tossed it over the back of one of the worn down chairs, and started rummaging through his pockets.
"What took you so long?"
Dean started, but quickly regained his cool. He squinted as he fumbled for the light, and when it snapped on, he just sighed.
"Dude, can you get any creepier?"
"We left the shop after three," Sam said. "It doesn't take that long to look around."
"That's because I wasn't looking around." Dean tossed a few bags onto the bed. "I found her stash."
Sam raised his eyebrows, a hint of a smile touching his lips.
"Not that kind of stash." He nudged his chin toward the bags. "Take a look."
Sam spread out the sample bags over the surface of the bed and studied them. He recognized a few of the easy ones – juniper, gravelroot, and wormwood. The others he couldn't identify offhand, though he thought he had seen a few samples on the shelves in the shop.
"For a place that prides itself on everyday natural remedies, she has a lot of the good stuff," Dean said.
Sam nodded, but kept quiet. Even though he couldn't recognize all the samples Dean had swiped, he could tell they held a common theme. For a shopkeeper who specialized in helping people with sleeping problems or cold sores, Jen had an extremely high number of herbs and plants associated with powerful magic.
"Do you know what these are?" Sam held up the other bags.
"Nah, I thought you might. But I got something better than that." Dean went back to his jacket and pulled out a small camcorder. "It got a little wet with the rain, but I think it's all right."
Sam took the camcorder from Dean. Once he flipped it on, he watched a figure – presumably Jen – start marking the ground. The symbols that she inscribed into the circle weren't ones that Sam readily recognized, but he understood the gist of the ritual.
"It's for protection, but it's nothing like what we've seen," Sam said.
"It's the real deal. And take a look at the book in her hand." Dean reached over and grabbed a cold slice of leftover pizza from the table. "There," he said, his voice muffled as he chewed.
"I see it."
The worn, tattered book looked centuries old. In fact, it looked a lot like the Key of Solomon that Bobby had given them. Sam squinted, trying to make out the words on the page, but Dean's video was too shaky and far away.
"You could have gotten a better shot," Sam said, bringing the camera closer to his face.
"And you say I need glasses." When Sam glanced up, Dean shrugged. "You try making secret home movies and not get caught." He shoveled the rest of the slice into his mouth.
Sam ignored the comment and went back to studying the scene. His attention returned to the book. "You think it's The Lesser Key of Solomon?"
"I wouldn't doubt it. She had all kinds of funky stuff in her house." Dean paused and fingered one of the newspaper clippings Sam had copied. "What'd you find out?"
Sam sighed. "Not much. Just that there was a wave of violent acts before Beauregard exorcized the demon."
Sam shook his head.
Dean sighed, stopping to rub his face. "All right. Well, we've got to think of something before this gets out of hand." He lumbered into the bathroom and turned on the faucet. "Dad had to have something."
Sam glanced over to their father's journal. The more he thought about their discovery, the more he thought maybe that information wasn't meant to be found.
"I hate to say this," Sam said, "but I think Jen is our best source on how to banish this demon."
"Unless she's the one summoning it," Dean called back.
Sam put the camcorder down. "Excuse me?"
"Someone's got to have summoned Andras," he said. "She's got all the right tools for it."
"It could be someone else."
"Yeah, like who?"
"Someone who knows what they're doing."
"Yeah, well unless I'm missing something, you and I are the only other people that would have a clue what to do." As the room fell silent, Dean shut off the water and poked his head out of the bathroom, a frown on his face. "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"
Sam didn't say anything. Dean could deflect with humor all he wanted, but he knew exactly what Sam meant.
"You know something you're not sharing, Sammy?"
"I don't know," Sam said. "You tell me."
Dean sighed, scrubbing his face with a towel. "I don't know what your problem is, but you better get over it fast. We've got work to do."
"Don't try to change the subject. You—"
They both turned their heads at the sound of an alarm. Seconds later an ambulance went flying down the street.
Sam's eyes widened. He held up one of the herbal bags. "Isn't that towards –?"
Dean stormed past him and went for the door. "Grab your stuff. I'll get the car."
By the time Sam and Dean had arrived, the crime scene had been roped up and the investigators were hard at work searching the house. Sam followed Dean down to the front of the lawn where a crowd had gathered, including about a half a dozen reporters. Already the news stations were going live, reporting every sound byte as the neighbors fought each other for their fifteen minutes of fame.
"This town's quick," Dean said, squeezing between an older couple. "You see anything?"
"There's the ambulance." Sam peeked over the heads of some of the bystanders and watched a couple of EMT's carry a stretcher into the ambulance. "It could be a murder."
"Let's find out." Dean slipped up aside a young woman. "Hey there. Know what's going on?"
She shook her head. "I don't understand it. They were such a nice couple. They never fought."
"Domestic dispute?" Sam asked.
The girl shrugged. "I guess. They just started yelling sometime after three. No one could really hear anything with all the thunder from the storm." She sighed. "I think someone finally called the cops when they heard the gunfire." The girl looked to Sam. "I didn't even know they had guns."
Sam nodded and offered his best sympathetic smile. He took a moment to scan the crowd, noting that most people had the same baffled expression. The reporters were eating it up, aside from a few that were having camera problems.
"Goes to show that you just never know," Dean finally said.
Sam went to glare at him, but Dean was already working through the crowd. After a quick thanks, Sam followed after him. He frowned; Dean was heading for the crime scene.
"Hey," Sam said, grabbing onto his shoulder. "Do you want to be a little less conspicuous today?"
"This is where you would normally cover for me."
"I'm just saying I don't think this is the best time."
Sam glanced over to his right. "See?"
"Great," Dean said, finally realizing.
Jen stood several feet away, but the coldness in her face was unmistakable. Sam gathered she just wasn't watching them; she was studying them.
She also knew that they'd found her. Quietly, she lifted the collar of her jacket and started to walk away. Sam and Dean pressed through the crowd and followed her. Only when they were far enough from the crime scene, did she stop and turn to face them.
Sam immediately noticed some kind of herbal bundle around her neck.
"I know you broke into my house last night," she said.
Dean kept his distance as he glared at her. "You're going to have to prove it."
"As soon as I can, I'm going to have the cops all over you."
"You know, maybe we just got off on the wrong foot," Sam said, forcing a smile. He stepped between Jen and Dean. "We're all on the same side here."
"Yeah," Dean said, glaring at Sam. "How do we know this isn't her handy work?"
"Are you accusing me?" Jen scoffed. "As far as I recall, nothing happened until you came to town."
"Your family has had a pretty long history with the occult," Dean shrugged. "Just saying…"
"Look," she said, waving a finger at them. "If I catch either one of you near my shop or my home again, I'll call the police. Now get out of town, and take your crap with you." With that, she stalked down the street back toward her home.
"That went well," Dean mumbled.
"She had some kind of protection around her neck." Sam watched her disappear into the shadows in the yard next to her shop. The two of them started back toward the crowd and to the Impala. "She's scared, Dean."
"Well, she should be if she summoned the damn thing."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "You still think she summoned it?"
To Sam's surprise, Dean sighed. "I don't know. The more we work on this whole thing the less sense it makes."
Sam couldn't argue with that. He still felt like they were missing some vital detail. Neither of them still knew any important defining characteristics of the demon, or how he could be repelled. If Ruby was right and Andras had possessed someone, namely someone like Dean, then Sam knew they were in the worst situation possible. Any investigation they did together could be tipping off the demon. At the same time, Sam didn't want to cut Dean out. If he lost sight of his brother, he could lose him forever.
"You've got that face again," Dean said, stopping in front of the Impala.
"That thinky face." He opened the door. "And not the good kind."
"There's a bad kind?"
"I know your faces. Hell, I've been keeping track of them since you were a baby, down to the constipated look when you were in diapers." He rested his arms on top of the hood and chuckled once before he slid into the car. "I can read you like a book."
"I didn't think you read books."
"That's cute." He slipped behind the wheel, sat back, and waited until Sam was in the Impala. "Lay it on me."
"Okay, what if this demon isn't like other demons?"
"We know he's not," Dean said simply. "He's a powerful son of a bitch. That's why we waste him."
"No, Dean. I'm talking about possession."
"All the demons we've encountered possess people."
Sam mumbled under his breath and hit his head on the back of the seat. "You're not listening. This demon doesn't come to make a deal or possess some unsuspecting person nearby. He takes control of the summoner."
"The summoner becomes the demon."
"That's always a risk when summoning, Sammy. You know that. You have amateurs working circles all the time tapping into stuff they can't handle." He waved at the distant crowds still gathered aside the crime scene. "I bet half the possessions out there are stupid kids that don't know better."
"No, it's different."
"Well, how different?"
"Once Andras gets control, that's it, Dean. There's no exorcism. There's no way to get rid of the demon. There's no being saved."
It took a few minutes, but Sam could tell the information was finally sinking in for Dean. He frowned and searched his face. "Where'd you learn that?"
Sam hesitated. "Books."
Dean glared at him. "Now who's the liar?"
"I'm serious, Dean."
"All right," he said. "Let's say your secret information you don't want to share is right. Then how did Jacques Beauregard bind the demon and send him back?"
Sam looked away and stared at the dashboard. That…he didn't know. In fact, nothing made sense: what he and Dean knew, what Ruby told him, what Jen had said. The pieces didn't add up which meant that either they were wrong or someone was lying.
"I wish Dad had left us something."
"You and me both." Dean jingled his keys and went to put them in the ignition. "Maybe Bobby –"
The Impala's engine hummed to life. Sam stiffened when he saw Dean staring at the dashboard, which brought back memories of the convenience store just days before. He went to grab his arm and froze.
Dean still had the keys in his hand.
Sam's eyes widened. He grabbed the door handle to jump out, but when he glanced back, he realized Dean refused to move.
"Don't you be messing with my car!" he yelled. Dean gripped the wheel and glared out the windshield. "You hear me!"
The lights went dead, and everything snapped off. Not waiting another second, Dean jammed his keys into the ignition and turned on the car properly. Based on the relief in Dean's face, it hummed and purred just the way it should.
"That's it. This Andras is gone." He glared at Sam. "Tell me you have something we can use."
"Not here," Sam said, suddenly feeling vulnerable again, even if he felt some relief. If Dean was this mad about his car, then maybe he really was Dean after all. "I need to get back to the library."
"All right. The library it is."
"How long is this going to take?"
Sam let out a heavy sigh and turned his head, glaring at Dean. "Before you were all set on coming here. Now you change your mind?"
"That was before I knew it was going to take all day."
Sam rolled his eyes. He'd convinced Dean to try to dig up anything else he could find on Jacques Beauregard while he double checked the old newspaper scans, but Sam knew that wouldn't distract Dean for long. He just hadn't figured on Dean hovering over him the entire time.
Sam ignored his brother and scrolled through the scanned computer files. He'd spent the last two hours reviewing the same articles he'd researched yesterday, hoping to find the same pattern in each incident. While Sam had his notes and photocopies handy, he wanted to see everything in context, something that was hard to do when Dean tapped the desk with his pen every two seconds.
Sam slammed his hands down on the table. "Dude."
"I'm trying to work."
"It's not my fault you're slow," Dean said as he tossed a folder on the table. "I did my part."
"Your part wasn't hard." Sam leaned toward the folder and peeked inside. "Anything new?"
"Not really. Well, there's the little bit where Jacques split town after he bound the demon."
Sam stopped and frowned at Dean. "He didn't stick around for all the fame and glory?"
"I thought maybe he was in it for the chicks." Dean shuffled through the papers inside the folder and withdrew a lone sheet, handing it to Sam. "But looks like this whole deal was personal."
Sam took the paper. Jacques Beauregard had left town, only it wasn't just after the defeat of the demon.
"His sister was one of Andras' victims," Sam said quietly.
As he stared at the article, he frowned, curious as to why the details of Rebecca Beauregard's death had been left out. All the other deaths he'd read about laid out the gruesome details for all to see. This had nothing.
Dean leaned close, tapping the file with his index finger. "My guess is that this thing likes to hit people where it hurts the most: the people they care about."
Great, Sam thought to himself. Another sadistic demon. Maybe Jen and Ruby were right about Andras. Maybe…
Sam straightened and went for his notes. From the corner of his eye, he saw Dean tense as well.
"Find something?" Dean asked.
"Maybe. I think I just thought of a way to narrow our search."
He pulled out all the violent acts that he'd catalogued from the 1890's in Harmony. What he noticed didn't surprise him. Over three-quarters of the extremely violent incidents in 1890 and 1891 were domestic: spousal abuse, family feuds, and lovers' quarrels gone bad. While that statistic on its own didn't point to a demon, the other factor Sam had found did. Each incident had been preceded by an electrical disturbance.
Including the episode last night.
"What?" Dean leaned closer. "You found something?"
"Yeah," Sam said slowly. He shuffled the papers and brought them out of sight from Dean's prying eyes. "I think you're right. The deaths are a form of domestic or familial violence."
"All right," Dean said with a clap. When an older woman glared at him – and Sam by extension – Dean lowered his voice to just above whisper. "Now we know its target of choice. But what's this hunch of yours that brought us back here in the first place?"
Sam looked down at the incidents he'd printed. Normally, he wouldn't hesitate to share his findings with Dean. This time there were just too many questions left unanswered. Ruby's words kept echoing in his mind, urging him to throw away the blinders and see what was right in front of him. He should be able to tell. He would know if Dean had been possessed. He would know if Dean was under the influence of something else.
Then, he remembered his father and how it took them hours to figure out the truth. The yellow-eyed demon had been that adept at taking on his persona. Dean hadn't been able to tell that Meg possessed him until it was almost too late.
Sam really had no way to know for sure.
But this was Dean. This was the same Dean that had hit on a pretty college student the moment they'd walked into the library. This was the same Dean that had dribbled crumbs over a yellowing book in the archive. And this was the same Dean that swore they'd kill this thing with their bare hands if necessary.
No way could Ruby or Jen be right. The electrical issues they'd experienced had to be a coincidence. Maybe Dean was right. Maybe Jen was using this whole story as a cover.
Or maybe Jen was right and Andras had taken Dean long ago. Everything they were going through was really just playtime for the demon.
Sam set his jaw. He really hated being the one of the receiving end.
"Sam. Sammy. Earth to Sammy."
Sam howled as Dean punched him in the arm. "Dude, really?"
"Well, you just took a flight to lala land."
"Yeah." Sam rubbed his arm as he glanced down at his file.
"So…what'd you find?"
"Uh, basically the same that you did. I couldn't be sure until I came here to check."
"That's it?" Dean asked, frowning. "We came back here for you to just agree with me?"
Sam forced a smile. "Pretty much."
Dean's eyes darkened. "You're hiding something."
"Hey, whatever. If you want to keep your little secrets, go right ahead. I'll find someone who will help." Dean shook his head and whipped out his cell phone. "Bobby's got to know something, and I'll bet he's willing to share."
"What the hell?"
Dean was scowling at phone. Sam scooped of his files and stood, moving to peek at the phone, but Dean snapped it shut before he could catch a glimpse.
"Son of a bitch."
"You finish up here." Dean pocketed his cell and started for the exit to the archives. "I'll meet you back at the motel."
He waved him away and started down one of the corridors. Sam went to follow, but a stern faced library interjected.
"Young man, this is a public library. Quiet means quiet."
"Sorry. Won't happen again," he muttered. He gently pushed her aside and started to jog down the corridor.
By the time he'd made it into the main room of the library, Dean was out of sight. Sam sighed. Dean wasn't making this any easier on him. So, Sam would return the favor.
He pulled out his cell and started to dial Dean's number.
Then, the lights flickered.
Sam froze. No, he thought. Please let it be a coincidence.
The power shut down.
Sam closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh as he listened to the Impala peel away from the library. He knew that his options were running out, and if he didn't act fast, there would be no turning back.
Resolved to find a better way, Sam opened his eyes and headed for the door.
Sam flung the herbal shop door open and marched inside, ignoring the shocked and nervous look in Jen's eyes as she fumbled for something behind the counter.
"I told you to stay away from me!"
"Look, I don't have time for this," Sam said, keeping his hands open as he stepped toward the counter. "My brother's in trouble, and I have to help him."
"If you and your brother have been irresponsible, that's not my problem." She grabbed the phone and waved it in front of his face. "I'm calling the cops."
"Call the cops. It won't make a difference." He leaned toward her. "Where are your husband and daughter?"
Her face paled. "Are you threatening me?"
"I'm warning you." He reached into his pocket and withdrew the newspaper article Dean had given him. With a single jab, he struck the picture of Jen's family with his index finger.
Jen snatched the article and glared at him. "Get out!"
"Where are they?"
"You sick bastard." Her trembling hands started to pound the buttons on the phone.
Sam easily reached over and gave the cord a swift tug. When she scrambled to grab it, he tossed the cord aside. "You're not listening to me," he said coolly.
"They're far from here," she finally said. "You or your brother won't find them."
"And you think that is going to work? Do you think you can hide them?" Sam let out an aggravated sigh. "He'll come for them. You know he'll find them anywhere. They'll never be safe unless we stop this thing."
Jen fell silent; Sam figured he'd finally struck a cord with her.
"So, what do you want?" she said quietly.
"I need information. I need to know what your grandfather did so we can get rid of this demon."
"How do I know--?"
Sam opened his jacket and reached inside. He took out a small charm and held it in front of her.
She frowned. "Where did you get that?"
"I'm a hunter. We're hunters." He put away the charm. "I assume you know what that is."
She remained silent.
"I know you have information on Andras," he said, taking another step forward. She didn't move this time. "I know you have rituals that can be used against him."
Jen looked down, away from Sam, and fell into the seat behind the counter. With a heavy sigh, she bowed her head, clasped her hands, and brought her fingers to her lips.
Sam held back the nervous flutter in his stomach and rounded the corner to stand in front of her. "What? What is it?"
"I-I don't know how to stop it."
"We saw you. We saw you creating a circle –"
She shook her head. "It gives minimal protection at best."
"It's a lie."
Sam felt his throat tighten. "What?"
"Jacques didn't know what he was doing," she said quietly. "He never cast any demon out."
"I read the lore."
"The lore is wrong," she said. "My great-great grandfather never knew anything about the occult. He had to learn when…" She looked down at the floor. "She was lonely. She just wanted some attention."
Jen nodded. "He didn't know what to do."
"But the demon left," Sam insisted. "He did something right. We can use that."
She shook her head again. "We can't. Jacques came across a special gun. It's gone now."
Sam felt his fingers go cold. "A special gun?"
"After she died, he wanted nothing to do with that gun." Jen met his gaze. "I don't know what happened to it."
Sam turned away, and closed his eyes, trying to push back the pain. He refused to believe that the Colt was the only way to deal with this demon. He wasn't going to relive the mess with his father and Dean all over again.
After he took a moment to regain his composure, Sam turned around. He reached back and withdrew the Colt, and held it in front of her.
Jen's eyes widened.
"This should have killed it," he said. "I need to know why it didn't."
Jen kept her gaze locked on the Colt as she spoke. "From what I was told, he shot her in the shoulder. The demon escaped, but she suffered from complications and died shortly thereafter. Jacques couldn't live with himself after that."
Images of his father pleading with him to shoot assaulted his mind. Sam held onto them and pushed them back deep into himself. He cleared his throat.
"I need whatever information you have."
She nodded and hopped off the stool, quickly passing him before she slipped into the next room. He eyed the doorway, making sure she wasn't pulling a fast one over him, before he hid the Colt. While he waited for her, Sam studied the different bottles that she had stacked on the shelves behind the counter.
This time he recognized some of the plants. Jen had both heliotrope and a black hellebore. Both were extremely powerful poisons used in serious magical practices.
Jen wasn't just nervous that Andras might come back and take revenge on her family. She was terrified to the core.
"Here," she said, stepping out of the back room. She handed him the worn and tattered book Dean had caught on camera. "It's all I have."
Sam's eyes widened at the prospect and he quickly took the book. Each page was filled with sigils and incantations, as well as precautionary steps to protect against the demons that could be summoned. He could almost feel the power contained within the handwritten words, the swelling and longing of something that yearned to be let free.
"It's the Lesser Key of Solomon." Sam flipped through the book, searching for Andras. He paused and glanced at Jen. "Is this real?"
"One of the originals," she replied. "Or so I'm told."
Sam continued to flip through the pages, stopping when the book abruptly ended in the middle. He frowned and turned back and then skipped ahead. "There are pages missing."
"Some demons were too dangerous to keep in there," Jen explained. "Jacques kept the protection and defense rituals, but ripped out everything else and burned them."
She hadn't even finished speaking when Sam started to frantically search through the book. He'd found some information on Andras, but nothing more than some magic circles and some defensive rites. Angry, he slammed the book onto the glass counter.
"It's in your brother," she said softly.
Sam didn't answer her.
"I feel bad for you." She sighed. "But it's just going to keep killing people."
"And I don't have a way to stop it," Sam muttered.
Jen made a vague wave of her hand toward Sam. "That gun could do it."
"I'm not killing my brother."
She placed a hand on his shoulder. "He's probably already dead."
Sam shook his head. Maybe Dean didn't care about his soul, but Sam did. And he just couldn't believe Dean was already gone, burning in a thousand fires within the depths of Hell.
"I don't know the specifics," she said, continuing, "but after the demon left, he tried to reach her, but there was nothing left. She was an empty shell. When Andras takes hold, he takes over completely."
"Yeah, so I've heard."
"It's probably toying with you. It always plays with its victims."
Sam turned to her, his eyes dark. "How do I know it's not you?"
She stiffened. "Excuse me?"
"It toys with its victims? That would suit you perfectly, wouldn't it?"
Jen set her jaw and ripped the bundle from around her neck, tossing it on the counter. "Take it."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "Why?"
"It's a mix of mandrake and Solomon's Seal. Andras can't go near the stuff. Wear it and then you'll know."
Sam picked up the bundle and examined it. It smelled awful.
"You were wearing this earlier," he said.
"And your brother wouldn't go near me."
"What about you?" he asked, refusing to consider that possibility.
"I have more."
He nodded and squeezed the bundle. At least he would know one way or the other when Dean came back to the motel. But that wouldn't help him rid Dean of the demon, if Dean was still alive. So far, his options were the Colt and…
Sam set his jaw. "What else do you have?"
"That's it," she said. "That's all I have."
"Maybe we can use some of your circles and—"
"No." She grabbed the book and handed it to him. "Do it yourself. I'm done."
"Look, you wanted information and now you have it. If you're not going to do the right thing, then I have to leave."
"You're skipping town? You know this thing will find you."
"Then maybe you should do something about it. You're a hunter, after all. Act like one." She shook her head. "I'm sorry. But that's all I can do. Please leave now."
Sam had no reply for her. Instead, he grabbed the book and the bundle and headed to the door. It seemed like all his options had run out and he was left to face the inevitable.
He would not back down.
Sam had one option left. If that didn't work, then he would do this on his own.
With one last stroke, Sam finished the outer ring of the circle. This was the second he'd created that night; he wanted to make sure that each one was flawless.
Dean still hadn't come back.
"That isn't going to work."
Sam ignored Ruby and started working on the symbols within the circle. The instructions in the Lesser Key of Solomon weren't much different from those in the Key of Solomon, aside from a few obvious distinctions. Some of the symbols were older variations of the ones they currently used while others Sam had never seen before. The differences made sense. They were tapping into power they had never used before.
"Andras isn't your run of the mill demon," Ruby said. He heard her shift behind him. "None of the regular tricks are going to work. They didn't work on Azazel, and they won't work on Andras."
"They're not tricks," Sam muttered. "And I don't recall inviting you in."
"Since when do I need an invitation?"
Sam stopped drawing and let out a heavy sigh. After pausing a second, he placed the chalk down, and with mild impatience he glared at her. "What do you want, Ruby?"
She was standing behind him, her arms crossed. "I've come to give you one last chance."
"It's not an option."
"And the Colt is?"
"I don't have visions anymore, okay?" he said, turning back to the circle. "I'm normal now."
She laughed. "Oh right. Normal. Keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, we have a war to fight."
Sam threw down the chalk and stood to face her. "You know, maybe I'm tired of this stupid war. Maybe I'm tired of going nowhere. And maybe I'm tired of taking orders from people like you."
"Are you finished?"
Sam just shook his head and went back to finishing the protection rites.
"You Winchesters are thick-headed."
"You said it yourself. If Andras is in control, then Dean's already gone." Sam finished the last symbol and put the chalk away. He glanced over his shoulder before dragging a small carpet over the circle. "I have to know for sure."
"If you would listen for a second, maybe you would hear me. If you were able to control the demon, you may be able to hold onto whatever shred of Dean might be left."
"So, you're telling me part of him could still be there?" Sam asked.
Ruby gave him a long-suffering look. "If you act fast enough, you can grab him before he slips too far into the Pit. But it comes with a price."
"I heard you. I'd have to control the demon."
"And I don't want to do that."
"So, you'll let Andras win. And you'll lose Dean."
"I won't," he said through gritted teeth. He glanced over to his bed, and to the cell phone lying on top of it. If only Bobby would call him back. He just needed a few more options. There had to be a loophole. There always was a loophole.
"Sam, it's time to get a clue. Andras means business. He's here. You either control him or you kill him. Only in one of those choices does Dean walk away alive."
Sam sunk onto the edge of the bed, mulling over what Ruby said. The months were flying by, and Sam still had nothing to show for it. All of Ruby's promises were nothing but empty words, and part of him was starting to doubt she could really help at all. He had to keep holding onto that hope that maybe there was a way, and she would reveal the secret at the right time, or he and Dean would stumble onto something before his time was up.
It couldn't be over now. Sam had to believe everything they had gone through wasn't all for nothing.
He sighed and gazed up at Ruby. "How…How would I do it? Just for the sake of argument," he quickly added.
"Well, just for the sake of argument, it's not all that hard," she said. "You just concentrate."
He snorted. "Concentrate on what?"
"You'll know when the time comes," she said with a sly smile. "Just focus. It will snap into place."
Sam nodded. Part of him knew this should be bothering him more, but at this point he needed to focus on keeping Dean alive long enough to find a way to keep him alive period. He would do whatever it took to make that happen.
It wouldn't come to that, he quickly reminded himself. He would find another way.
He took a deep breath and cleared his mind. Now, he just had to wait for Dean.
An hour later, Dean returned to the motel. Ruby had been long gone by then, which had given Sam the opportunity to reflect on the situation, look over his notes, and make some last minute changes to the room. Now, he sat at the edge of the bed, watching the door, waiting for Dean to leave the Impala and walk inside.
Sam knew the best-case scenario would be that this was all just a misunderstanding and he would walk away looking like a fool. He would love more than anything for that to happen, though his gut told him that whatever was happening was much more sinister.
He just had to keep hoping Dean was still in there.
The doorknob jostled; Sam tensed. He knew the time had come.
Dean opened the door and stopped, taking one long look around the room. His gaze finally settled on Sam, and he raised his eyebrows. "Done a bit of redecorating?"
Sam rose to his feet, his intense gaze locked on Dean.
"Oh, I get it," Dean said. "You think I'm possessed."
"I want my brother back."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. And any second my head is going to spin around, right?"
Sam said nothing.
"Oh, I know." He chuckled and waved his hands. "There is no Dean. There is only Zuul."
"That's not funny."
"You're right. It's not funny." Dean shook his head and shrugged off his jacket, tossing it on his bed. "Now will you quit this crap so we get down to business?"
"I'm not playing this game anymore," Sam said. "What do you want?"
Dean shrugged. "Hot pastrami sandwich. Maybe some Combos."
Sam clenched his teeth, and took a long hard swallow, willing himself to remain completely focused. He took a step forward.
"I know that Andras takes over its summoner. I know the signs."
"Well, you got some faulty logic there, Sherlock."
"Why is that?"
"Because first of all, I never summoned the damn thing. And second," Dean reached into his shirt and held out a second chain, the small charm Bobby had given them dangling from the center, "I still have this."
"So?" Dean shook his head. "You think that after what happened to you, I'm going to leave myself open like that?"
"Andras is a different kind of demon," Sam explained, slowly closing the distance between them. He kept his movements conservative, noting that Dean was watching his every move, even as he slipped his hand behind his back. "He's craftier than most demons."
"Well, if he possessed me, he'd be stupider than most demons." Dean frowned, his gaze hardening as he searched Sam. "All right, what? You're going to try an exorcism? Maybe some salt? Or you could always throw some holy –"
Sam tossed holy water in Dean's face.
Dean swore, bringing his hand to wipe the water from his eyes. No smoke, no burns – nothing happened to Dean that would give Sam a sign that he was possessed.
"Come on, Sam." Dean wiped his face on his sleeve. "That's enough. You happy now?"
"Holy water didn't work on the yellow-eyed demon."
"So why did you even bother?" He flapped his water soaked shirt. "Damn."
"I just wanted to get close."
Dean's frown turned to mild confusion. As Sam advanced, Dean stumbled back, closer and closer to the wall. Then, he flinched. And flinched again.
Sam clutched the bundle hidden under his shirt. "Now I know."
Before Dean could answer, Sam lunged forward, aiming for Dean's head. Dean ducked and dove forward, his shoulder ramming into Sam's stomach. Sam gasped for air, but quickly recovered, locking his arm around Dean's neck. Despite the hold, Dean twisted and turned, using his body mass to push Sam backward.
Sam held his ground.
Dean twisted again, this time shoving Sam back into the bed. Sam grunted, losing his grip, which allowed Dean to sweep his leg under, drop Sam to the ground, and pin him. Dean let out a smug chuckle, thinking he had the upper hand, like he always did, which caused Sam to lose concentration. Right now, Dean seemed to be nothing else but Dean, complete with his amusement at inappropriate moments.
"Well, that was fun," Dean muttered.
The flash of lightning outside brought Sam back to his senses. He used his height to worm his way out of Dean's grasp, and flipped, pinning him to the floor. Dean chuckled again, but Sam saw the distinct flicker of fear in his eyes, as well as a light sweat dampen his face.
Everything about his face seemed off, and Sam suddenly realized why. He reached down his shirt and withdrew the mandrake bundle, pausing long enough to watch Dean's expression.
He paled. Dean kept trying to move his face away from the herbal potpourri.
"You can't stand this, can you?"
"Dude, it smells like wet feet." Dean coughed.
Sam reached over and tied the bundle around Dean's neck. He coughed again, obviously weakened by the properties of the bundle, but did nothing but lie on the floor.
Sam withdrew the Colt. He flipped it and with a deep breath, he struck Dean's head with the butt. Dean immediately went limp.
Sam rose to his feet and stared at him. He had hoped that he had been wrong. Now Sam was faced with a reality with limited options. He didn't know if anything was left of Dean inside or if he'd already lost him completely.
The thought that Dean could be gone – long gone – burned Sam inside. He set his jaw, staring with hate at the demon lying beneath him.
If anything, he would make Andras pay for what he had done. Sam would make sure of it.
[Part One] [Part Three]