Title: Long Road to Ruin
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
A/N: Credit for the Latin goes to the Supernatural Wiki. Thanks to Meg for the beta.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
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 to the motel room's chair. "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.
Two Weeks Earlier
"I said, can't we just drop it?"
Sam leaned back in the passenger seat of the Impala. "I'm just saying maybe you need to get your eyes checked."
"My eyes are fine."
"Dean, you attacked a midget at a toy fair."
"He fit the description."
"They all fit the description," Sam said. "It was a Christmas toy fair. Who do you think they pick to play elves?"
Dean shrugged his shoulder. "It doesn't matter. After we left the flax seed, the real goblin left town." The car slowed, and Dean turned into a gas station off the side of the road. "I'm going to fill her up and get something to eat. You want something?"
Sam laughed, but shook his head. "You're changing the subject."
"I'm getting snacks."
"I think someone's embarrassed he made the kids cry."
Dean opened the car door, stepped out, and glared at Sam through the window. "You know, deep down, you were crying along with the rest of them." He flashed a mischievous grin before he tapped the side of the car. "Now, get ready to pump the gas while I go pay."
Sam just shook his head again and waved Dean away. While their last hunt had been less than ideal, at least it hadn't been mortally dangerous. At its worst the hunt had been annoying. Sam would take hunting troublesome goblins over demons any day, especially with the months falling away.
He refused to think about Dean's deal right now. With a sigh, he opened the passenger door and started for the pump, awaiting Dean's signal. When he glanced up, he saw Dean give him a thumbs up sign from inside the convenience store. Sam waved back and started pumping gas.
After he was finished, Sam leaned back against the Impala and gazed into the large windows of the store. From where he was standing, he could see Dean eyeing the racks in the food aisle, the bored clerk flipping through a magazine at the counter, and another customer buying a coffee and a donut.
Coffee and donuts didn't sound like a bad idea. He was surprised Dean hadn't jumped all over it.
Decidedly hungry, Sam pushed off the car and walked toward the store. Once inside, he bypassed the clerk and entered the food aisle.
Dean was still standing there, staring at the rack that covered everything from Twinkies to salsa to candy bars. Sam reached over and grabbed a Snickers bar. Somewhere, he found the strength to fight the urge to throw it at Dean's head, and instead gently placed the candy bar back on the rack. But his brother's sudden attack of indecisiveness was getting on his nerves.
"Do you plan on making a choice any time this century?" Sam asked with a smile.
Dean didn't say a word. No insult. No jab. Not even a glare, mocking or otherwise. The smile vanished from Sam's face and he leaned closer.
Dean stared ahead, his face void of any emotion. His body was so tense that Sam could have easily mistaken him for a wax figure if he hadn't known better. The only sign of life came from an involuntary twitch from his right eyebrow, and the fact his cell phone was glued to his ear.
"Hey." Sam grabbed onto Dean's shoulder and squeezed it. When that didn't work, Sam lightly shook him, hoping that would snap him out of his stupor. Finally, Dean blinked, though his eyes rolled once or twice, as if he was struggling to break from a deep slumber.
Sam frowned. "You okay?"
"Uh, yeah." He turned around, his face knotted with confusion, before he turned back to Sam. "Yeah, I'm good."
"What were you doing?"
"Just checking my messages." He glanced over at his cell phone and snapped it shut. "What are you doing here?"
Now it was Sam's turns to stare. "I was waiting for you."
Dean took another quick scan of the store, prompting Sam to believe he had no clue what was going on.
"Dean, you sure you're all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just haven't eaten all day." Dean grabbed a couple of candy bars and a bag of chips. "Let's go."
That was it. Dean threw some change on the counter and walked out, expecting Sam to just take his word. Sam was tired of it. He was tired of having to go through this song and dance every day, everywhere, about everything. Even now, Dean considered himself the final authority on everything.
"You know, maybe I should drive," Sam suggested. He quickly closed the gap to meet Dean by the car. "If your blood sugar—"
Dean gave him a large caramel covered toothy grin. "Got it covered."
With a heavy sigh, Sam swung the passenger door open and plopped himself down into the seat. He wasn't going to argue about nonsense right now. He decided he'd ask Dean about it again later. But at least for now, they had another case to work on.
Sam reached into his pocket and withdrew a small notebook. "Creekside, Kentucky. Locals report moving chairs, levitating beds, and various slamming doors."
"That would be my first guess. Though, it's not just one house, but also multiple hauntings on the same street. This could be more than just a poltergeist we're talking about. Bobby gave us some notes from a friend of his and said he'd be happy to contact him for us if we need anything."
"Then let his buddy take care of that one." Dean started the car. "I got something better."
Sam lowered the notebook. "Better?"
Dean grinned. "Oh yeah."
Obviously, Sam's definition of better differed greatly from Dean's. He stared at the screen of his laptop, and for the third time that night, he tried to make sense of the information that was in front of him.
"You're kidding, right?" Sam asked. "This is a joke."
Dean glanced up long enough from cleaning his gun to a flash him a grin. The glint in his eyes was unmistakable.
Sam sighed. "Dean, this is serious."
"I know it's serious. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't serious."
Sam clenched his teeth and bit back the rebuke that had formed at the edge of his lips. His attention darted back to the computer. There was no way they had the tools to fight this thing. He didn't even know where to begin.
"Hey," Dean said, glancing up at him. "Don't get like that. I know what I'm doing."
Sam laughed. "You do?"
"Of course I do."
"That's a load of crap." Sam pointed his finger at the computer screen. "Andras? What the hell were you thinking?"
"I figured, hey, Seven Deadly Sins…Marquis of Hell. No sweat."
"Dean, this isn't funny."
"Sam, I know it's not funny." Dean tossed the gun on the table and glared at him. "But for the past few months, we've been picking at this and that, and not getting anywhere. We've got to hit 'em where it counts."
"I thought you were tired."
"I am. But I'm sure as hell not going to sit around and let those sons of bitches take over. If I can take out a few big guns along the way, I'm gonna do it."
Sam shook his head. "I know what this is about. This is about you. This is about your guilt. And this is about your being afraid you won't leave any kind of legacy behind you."
Dean glared at him, a brief wave of coldness washing over his eyes before the levity returned. "I am legend, Sammy."
Sam rolled his eyes. Sometimes he didn't know why he tried.
"Fine," he said. "So how are we going to kill one of the marquises of Hell?"
Dean held up their father's journal. "I did some research."
He frowned. "Since forever."
"Dean, your idea of research entails stealing numbers off public restrooms."
"Ah, Sandra." He reveled in the moment with a goofy grin before he grabbed a chair and pulled it aside Sam. "You'd be surprised what you can learn in a bathroom stall."
"I think I'll pass," Sam muttered. He nudged his chin at the book in Dean's hands. "What did you find?"
"Notes." He started to flip through the small book. "I saw something in Dad's journal about the Key of Solomon."
"The book Bobby gave us?"
"Yeah, but I'm not talking Devil Traps or your regular run of the mill protective circles. This sounded heavy duty." Dean flipped another page and paused. "Found it. Lesser Key of Solomon. It's a companion book."
Sam leaned back in his chair and thought about the name. After Bobby had given them the Key of Solomon, he'd done a little research on the grimoire and recalled finding a couple of other books that connected with the Key. Only as far as he could remember, they were associated with darker arts, and therefore, he'd passed on reading further. With their father's death and the craziness that happened right after, he'd never really given it much though. Now he thought maybe he should have.
"Dean, you and I both know that most of the grimoires on demons out there were born out of medieval lore. Half of the information is wrong, and the other half is made up."
"Dad didn't think so." Dean stopped and tapped the notebook. "Here. Dad lists them all."
Sam took the journal from Dean and eyed the list. All seventy-two demons were scribbled in their father's handwriting along with little notes jammed into the margins. Some of the names were lightly inked, while others had asterisks and were underlined in heavy black.
Andras was one of those names.
"Dad must have thought this was important," Sam said. He frowned and turned the page. "I wonder why he never mentioned it before."
"We're always finding new stuff in that book. Plus, the pages were stuck together."
Sam raised his eyebrows and immediately investigated the corner by running his fingers over the edge. Dean was right. Two of the pages had stuck together. No wonder they had never come across this before.
Still, something felt off. Sam didn't need the journal to remind him that Andras was an important and impressive figure in demon lore. He knew the name. Dean knew the name. They both knew it was associated with evils that rarely made it out of Hell. But there was more. Something else had to have struck Dean to pique his interest.
"So, we know that Dad thought Andras was an important demon." Sam pointed to the computer. "We know that. That doesn't mean it's here."
"Oh, it's here."
"And how do you know the demon is here?"
Dean's face brightened with a knowing grin. "Call it a hunch."
Sam narrowed his eyes. "What aren't you telling me?"
"Let's just say I got a tip that Andras would be coming back to Harmony." He reached into his pocket and took out a piece of newspaper. After he unfolded it a few times, he placed the copy on the table. "Looks like one of the descendants of the conjurer who bound him and sent him back to Hell moved back to town."
Sam looked down at the newspaper. The picture showed the photo of a young couple with a small child standing in front of a new herbal shop. He glanced up at Dean. "Revenge?"
Dean waggled his eyebrows. "Feel like going shopping?"
"Well, at least it's colorful," Sam offered.
The shop was brightly decorated on the outside, with wind charms and dreamcatchers dangling around the doorway. The place reminded Sam of one of those really silly New Age shops they'd encountered on the West Coast.
"No real practitioner in their right mind would sell this junk," Dean muttered. "These people are screwed if this demon is coming for revenge."
"We should try to warn them somehow," Sam said.
"Yeah. This ought to be fun." He opened the door and rolled his eyes as the lights flickered and the sound of Celtic music filled the air. "After you."
The moment Sam walked through the door to the shop he was blasted with the scent of oregano. He sniffed, covered his nose, and glanced over to Dean. "Kind of strong."
"No kidding." Dean wrinkled his nose. "It's like an Italian restaurant in here."
"Oregano has a long history in medicinal purposes." A young woman emerged from the back storeroom and gave them a gentle smile. "Plus, it's great in pasta sauce." She stepped behind the counter. "I'm Jen. May I help you with something?"
"You've got quite the collection here," Dean said.
"Well, it is an herbal shop." Jen arched her eyebrows and pointed to the sign that read Herbal Essentials.
Sam couldn't help but let out a chuckle. Of course, a little rebuke never stopped Dean before.
"You see, my brother here – he loves this stuff. Herbs. Crystals. The works." Dean grinned. "We were in town and he had to stop by. He especially loves," Dean waved his arm and motioned to the pastel colored gemstones that lined the top of the shop, "the pink ones."
Sam shot him a cold look. "He's embarrassed. He couldn't wait for your shop to open."
Dean didn't bat an eyelash. "My brother's too modest. He's been talking about this place since we came to town."
"There's nothing to be ashamed of," she told them. "Many young men are interested in natural remedies today." Before either of them could say anything, she rounded the counter and started toward a bookcase filled with small bottles. "Even for something like dandruff." She held out a bottle to Dean.
Sam grinned as Dean's smirk was wiped clean off his face. He frowned at the bottle, and then eyed his shoulder, brushing it off a couple of times. While Dean preoccupied himself, Sam approached the shopkeeper.
"We're actually looking for something a little different," he said quietly.
"Different?" She stepped away from the bookcase. "How different?"
"Maybe something for protection."
"Protection from sickness or –"
"Demons." Dean strolled over to meet them. "Big nasty ones."
Jen stared at the two of them, and the corners of her mouth twitched, as if she was trying to hold back a smile. "Demons."
"That's right," Dean said. "You've got to have something here."
Jen started to laugh, but when Sam and Dean remained motionless, a small frown touched her lips. "You're serious."
She crossed her arms. "All right. Who are you?"
Sam and Dean exchanged an uneasy look. "We're reporters," Sam said at last.
Jen rolled her eyes and walked away. After she slipped behind the counter, she pointed to the door. She was about to speak, but Sam beat her to it.
"No, not that kind of reporter. We work with The Occult Times." He motioned to Dean who produced the newspaper article that they'd examined back in the motel room. Sam waved the article in front of her. "We heard that one of the descendents of Jacques Beauregard had moved back to town, and we wanted to write up a story on the continuing legacy of protection the family has offered."
"I'm not really interested in an interview."
Sam pocketed the article. "So, you're –"
"I'm his great-great granddaughter, yes.
"Come on. How 'bout just a few questions?" Dean flashed her his pearly whites.
Jen sighed. "Will it make you go away?"
"Absolutely," Dean said.
"Great. We really appreciate it." Sam cleared his throat and withdrew a small notepad "So, your great-great grandfather. He's the one that was finally able to rid Harmony of demonic influence."
"So they say."
"You don't believe in any of that?" Dean asked.
"Legends are legends," she said with a shrug. "He performed a ritual and the town was happy."
"He bound a demon," Sam said.
"He could have made balloon animals and had the same result." Jen shifted her gaze between them. "Is this really necessary?"
"Why don't you just humor us then?" Dean asked.
"The story goes that in the late 1800's a novice conjurer summoned Andras and unleashed him on Harmony. Jacques Beauregard bound him and sent him back to Hell."
Sam blinked. "That's it?"
"Well, there's got to be more," Dean pressed. "Any details on Andras or –"
"Andras is a powerful demon, an assassin. He's manipulative, charismatic – People think they can control him, control that energy." Jen shook her head. "He tells you what you want to hear, but he doesn't lie. Just enough truth to ensnare you." Her voice grew quiet. "But by the time you figure out his true intentions, it's too late. You're already dead."
Sam glanced over at Dean. He could tell he was thinking the same thing.
"I thought you didn't believe in that kind of thing."
She straightened her back. "I don't. But you said to humor you."
Dean let out a frustrated sigh. "All right, and…?"
"I'm sure Jacques shared a lot of the family secrets," Dean said.
She stared at him.
"You know. Protection rituals. Summoning. Binding."
She shifted her weight again. "I'm not sure what you're getting at."
Sam glanced down at her hands. She kept turning them over and over, obviously bothered. Sam didn't know what had set her off, but he knew there was more going on in this shop than she wanted to let on. He turned away and started to examine the shelves while Dean continued talking to her.
She had amassed a huge collection of herbal remedies. Most seemed fairly standard, but there were a few Sam didn't recognize offhand. He flipped the page of his notepad and jotted a few of the names down to look up later. After he was done, he walked back over to Dean and Jen to follow the conversation.
"Okay, let me put it this way," Dean said. "Let's just say Andras was summoned. How would you bind him? Send him back to Hell? This Andras isn't like other demons."
"You sound like you would know," she said coldly.
"We're just thorough," Sam said, jumping into the conversation as he shot Dean a warning glare.
Dean ignored the look and predictably kept focused on Jen. "Would there be a way to control it?"
Sam jerked his head.
"Listen to me." Jen leaned forward, her face stern. "For your own sake, I hope you haven't done anything foolish. You're too young to get involved in the occult. Go to Church instead."
Dean scoffed. "I doubt Church is going to protect us from a demon as sly as you say he is. Then again, we're probably not the one it's gunning for."
"I think it's time for you to go." She swept her arm out and pointed to the door.
Dean just shrugged. With a sigh, he slapped a few dollars on the table and pocketed the bottle that she had given him earlier.
Sam could only offer an apologetic smile. "If anything out of the ordinary happens, please let us know. We're staying downtown."
She studied him for a moment, as if she was trying to ascertain his motivation. "The only weird thing that happened is having you boys in town." She narrowed her eyes. "Now go."
Jen led Sam and Dean to the door and waited for them to leave. Once outside, she slammed the door behind them, shut the lights, and turned over her open sign to closed. Sam and Dean blinked at each other.
"Whoa. Talk about taking things personally," Dean said. He started down the street.
Sam wasn't in the mood for joking. Fueled by anger, he marched after Dean until he caught up with him and tried to make eye contact. Dean just kept walking down the sidewalk.
"Did you see her reaction?" He chuckled. "You know she was lying."
"You didn't answer me. You weren't seriously thinking of trying to control this demon."
Again, Dean didn't make contact and kept walking. His reaction was not encouraging.
"I wonder what she's hiding."
"Dean." Sam grabbed onto his arm and held him still. "You did not—"
"I wanted to gauge her reaction, okay?" He shrugged off Sam and glared at him. "What's got your panties in a twist?"
Sam huffed and shook his arms, glaring at Dean as he started back down the sidewalk again. After a moment to gather himself, Sam started after him and came to stroll beside him. "You know, you've been acting funny since we left Ohio."
"Is this about the convenience store again?"
"This is about everything."
Dean turned to him and scowled. "Not this again. Sam, I told you –"
They both stopped and looked up as the streetlights started to flicker. Sam frowned, watching the wavering lights ripple down the street like a wave of unhindered electricity. He dropped his gaze to Dean.
Dean stared at him. "Okay, that was weird."
"Yeah." Sam shifted his weight, suddenly feeling very exposed out in the open. He shivered and squeezed his arms close to his body. "But it doesn't change anything."
"Look, we'll talk about it later," Dean said. "Right now, we should focus on this."
"Fine." Sam shoved his hands in his pockets. "So, do you have a theory?"
"I'm thinking we scared her enough that she might bring out Gramp's gizmos."
Sam nodded. "We might be able to see what rituals she's using for protection."
"I'll see what she's using."
"You hit the library and see what you can find out about Andras' original visit."
"And you're just going to waltz back into the shop?"
Dean laughed. "There's a house out back." He produced a paperclip and waved it in front of Sam. "I'm going to have a little look see."
Sam decided not to fight this battle and let it go. He had too many other questions. Once they both got back to the motel, Dean was going to come clean no matter what. Besides, he was right. For now, they had to stay focused on whether Andras was back in town, and how to get rid of him. If they could get rid of him.
Sam lingered a moment longer as he watched Dean disappear behind the herbal shop. Once he was gone from sight, Sam shook off the chill of the late afternoon and headed to the town's central library.
After spending hours poring over old files in the town library, Sam was beat. He took a swig from his beer bottle and cracked his neck, trying to work out all the kinks, before finally letting out a heavy sigh. His handwritten notes and photocopied newspaper clippings from the city archives littered the surface of his bed, leaving little room for Sam to stretch out his legs.
He heard a crackle of thunder outside, followed by the steady patter of rain. He wanted to just get lost in the sound, to close his eyes and drift off, but he knew that he had too much at stake.
He'd spent all day looking for patterns. Most demons and spirits had an MO, and Sam was determined to find one for Andras. Jen's assertion that he was an assassin could fit any number of demons or creatures. If they were going to battle this thing, they needed to know specifics.
"There has to be something here." He placed the bottle on the table near the bed, careful not to knock over the pizza he'd ordered.
So far, Sam had only come across various murders that could be associated with Andras. Mass suicide. Decapitations. Even cannibalism. All were extremely violent activities happening prior to April 7th, 1891, when Beauregard had made the front page after casting out the demon of Hart Street. Sam knew the murders had to be Andras, but they were random and sketchy, spread across the span of several months. He had never heard of a demon taking its sweet time on a killing spree.
Sam scanned through the articles again. Fires. Storms. Torture. Stabbings. Floods. Harmony seemed to have it all. The events were so haphazard, so chaotic, that Sam wondered if the disorganization was the pattern after all.
If that was the case, he had no idea what step they should take next.
Frustrated, Sam pushed aside his notes and shook his head. He knew that he needed a break. With a sigh, he slipped off the bed and lumbered to the bathroom.
Sam leaned over and turned on the faucet. The water was cool on his fingers, and he splashed himself a couple of times, allowing the water to invigorate his tired eyes. As the water ran down his face, Sam breathed out and closed his eyes. The distraction was a welcome one; he relished the feel of the cold droplets on his skin.
Satisfied with the momentary reprieve, Sam wiped his face on his sleeve and glanced up into the mirror.
Ruby's black eyes stared back at him.
Sam jumped and stumbled back a step. He reached for his weapon and swore, realizing he'd left it on the table with the pizza.
"Is that any way to say hello?" she asked.
He glanced over to the table. "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to help."
Sam scoffed. "So far, you haven't been much help."
"My time is precious. Now, do you want my help or not?"
Sam set his jaw and stared at her.
Ruby rolled her eyes. "You really need to get past that stubborn streak." Sam almost thought she would smile, but her face remained impassive. "I've come to offer you information on Andras."
"How do you know about Andras?"
"How could I not? Let's say I may have bumped into him once or twice downstairs."
"Friend of yours?" he asked.
"Hardly. He's a monster."
"And you're not."
"For someone that could desperately use some help, you're not making it easy." She raised her eyebrows. "He's here. He's just waiting for the right moment."
"The right moment."
"To reveal himself."
Sam shook his head and let out a short laugh. "This is the help you're offering?" He grabbed a towel and wiped the rest of his face. When he was finished, he tossed it aside and stepped over to Ruby, looming over her. "I think I'll pass."
"He's an assassin. He lives to kill. It gives him a rush." She held her head high. "He gets off on toying with people before he finally kills them."
Sam bit back his annoyance and stormed out of the room, going back to his notes on the bed. He made sure he kept his flask of holy water near when he turned to face her again. "So far, you've told me nothing that I don't already know. If you want to help, you'll tell me how to bind this demon and keep it from hurting anyone else."
"It's been done before."
She scoffed. "Whatever. Just know he's insane. Bloodthirsty. He'll never go back."
"We'll send him back. We know there's a way. We're going to do this." He pointed to the notes on his bed. "We're here to bind him and send him back for good."
"Is that what Dean told you?"
Sam tensed. "What has that got to do with anything?"
"Come on, Sam. You're not stupid. I know you're thinking it. You've been thinking it ever since you came to Harmony."
Sam stared at her. He refused to admit that Ruby was right. While he'd had severe reservations about this trip from the start, the fact that Dean was hiding something made him all the more nervous.
But she knew. He could see it in her face.
"Dean wouldn't summon a demon that powerful. He wouldn't try to control it."
"Are you so sure?" She cocked her head when he fell silent. "I didn't think so."
"Dean can do some stupid things, but he wouldn't try to control Andras."
"He wouldn't? Just like he wouldn't summon the Crossroads Demon? Just like he wouldn't make a deal with a demon?"
Sam clenched his teeth, and bit back the fire that was rising inside of him. "Don't," he said through his rattling jaw. "Don't go there."
"The truth hurts. The fact is, Dean is perfect for him. Andras has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time." She took a step closer. "Insecure. Scared. Looking for some kind of reassurance that everything will be all right. Andras feeds off this kind of ache. Your brother is too weak not to be tempted. Andras knows this, and Andras will exploit it."
"Then, we'll use his arrogance to trap him and send him back."
"You're not really listening to me, are you?"
"Your friend at the herbal store failed to mention something."
"Andras isn't just summoned. He's much too powerful."
"What are you getting at?"
"Those that summon Andras become Andras."
Sam felt the blood drain from his face. "You're not serious."
"I'm always serious."
"It's a lie."
Her eyes bore into him in a way that resonated deep with Sam. She didn't need to speak for him to understand. He set his jaw and willed himself to remain strong. "I can't believe that."
Ruby sighed. "Don't believe me. That's your choice. But when you finally do, it'll be too late."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean, Sam. Once Andras takes control, there's no going back. You have two choices. The first isn't pretty."
Sam thought of Ava and the other children like him. He cleared his throat and stood straighter. "And the second isn't an option. I'll do it my own way."
She shrugged. "Suit yourself. It's your funeral." She opened the front door and started to exit, pausing to give him one last look. "Just remember, the clock is ticking."
[Part Two] [Part Three]
Website: Long Road to Ruin