Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 17
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.Part 2: Chapter 17-B
By the time Dean and Brenna returned – clearly having worked through some lingering issues – Sam and Aislinn had worked their way through two bowls of Lucky Charms and three episodes of Scooby Doo. Not only that, Rufus had arrived, going through his inventory of supplies and calling Mason as a necessary forth man in the ritual.
"He's going to meet us there," Rufus explained, his eyes on Brenna as she held Aislinn over on the couch and had a whispered conversation in Gaelic.
"We really need to get him involved in this?" Dean asked, eyes worried, leaning against the kitchen chair where they were gathered over Rufus' items.
"Spell requires four souls, each standing at a point on the compass," Rufus said. "You want someone else, to…?"
Dean sighed, shaking his head. "Just not sure what to expect, I guess."
"We'll keep him safe, Dean," Sam said, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder.
Dean nodded, then looked at Rufus. "When do we do this?"
"Any time," Rufus told him.
"Any time?" Dean's chin went up. "Don't have to wait for the summer solstice or the first blue moon or fourteen passed the witching hour?"
"Oh, it's a smart ass, is it?" Rufus said, raising an eyebrow at Dean. "You're the one with a demonic deadline. Thought you'd want to get this done as soon as possible."
"I do," Dean said, looking at Sam. "I just…."
"We might not like the answer," Sam concluded, feeling the weight of Dean's unspoken words. "But…avoiding it isn't going to make it easier, Dean."
"Yeah, I know." He took a breath. "Okay, just let me grab a quick shower and we can go."
"What about…?" Rufus looked at the couch where Stella had joined Brenna and Aislinn, bringing a bag of crayons and some paper Sam realized she'd pulled from the back of the hunter's journal. He winced, but didn't say anything.
"They'll stay here," Dean replied, raising his voice just enough. "It's warded, so they'll be safe, if…." He let his sentence hang.
"Sure! We'll just have some girl time," Stella interjected.
"Oh, yeah," Brenna echoed. "There's tons of stuff we can catch each other up on."
Dean and Sam exchanged a nervous glance.
"Somehow, that isn't very reassuring," Sam muttered.
Ten minutes later, they were loading up the supplies for the spell and weapons into one of the duffel bags. Stella stood up to give Sam a kiss goodbye, but Brenna just looked at Dean, not saying anything. Dean nodded back at her, offering a small smile, then shifted his eyes to Aislinn.
"You gonna be okay here with these two?" he asked.
"Yep," Aislinn replied, leaning casually against Murphy as he lay next to her like a canine wall of protection. "We're making games."
"Games?" Dean crouched down looking at the drawing Aislinn was concentrated on.
"Hide and seek games," she said, looking up at him, her green eyes smiling. "Like what you do."
"I play hide and seek?" Dean asked, tilting his head, then glancing up at Brenna, who shrugged in response.
"Yep," Aislinn nodded, showing him her paper, which to Dean looked like a drawing of a maze. "The bad guys hide and you find them."
Dean blinked, then looked over his shoulder at Sam in amazement. Sam's eyebrows went up and he looked at his niece in wonder.
"That's right," Dean said, huskily. "I find the bad guys."
As he stood up, Aislinn traced him with her eyes. "Be good, okay?"
"I will, kiddo," Dean replied, then jerked his head at Sam. "Let's go."
"You want to take the dog?" Rufus asked.
Dean shook his head. "He's better off here with them."
The quiet in the Impala was heavy. Sam didn't ask Dean about his conversation with Brenna, or the ensuing comfortableness he'd seen with Aislinn. He also didn't tell Dean about his conversation with Stella. But he felt both weighing on them as they followed Rufus to the open field far out past the small Lawrence airport.
In times past, what they were about to do – or the ensuing fight they were trying to avoid – would have been their primary focus. It would have captured all thought and energy. But Sam knew he was torn, and he could feel the shift in his brother as well.
Things weren't like they used to be. Not since Stull. Not since they'd tasted the possibility of an actual life. He meant what he'd said to Stella: he was a hunter. Dean was as well. But did who he was have to define how he lived?
The question lingered as they parked and joined up with Mason to trek out to a cleared off area of land. It looked like it had at one time been the foundation of a large house or barn; no field grass grew on it and he could still see remnants of gravel scattered around.
"How'd you find this place?" Mason asked.
"Aerial recon of the town," Rufus replied matter-of-factly.
Mason folded his lips down in a frown. "Of course. What was I thinking?"
"Okay, here's how it gotta go," Rufus told them. "The sigil needs to be painted with portions of these ingredients…and blood." He looked at Dean. "Your blood."
Dean simply nodded, but Sam protested. "Why his?"
"Because he's the one who needs the answers."
"It'll be fine, Sam," Dean told him.
Sam frowned. "Three days ago you were in a hospital bed because you almost bled out."
"And I'm okay now," Dean said, his tone hardening with a warning.
"Maybe we can reason with this Crowley guy," Mason hedged.
"Reason? Have you met this guy?" Rufus interjected. "You don't reason with a demon, man."
Mason raised his hands in surrender. "Just…trying to save the kid some blood is all."
"Doesn't matter," Dean said. "I need answers about this…angelic power, or whatever. Crowley's just a…formality."
"A formality with a horde of demons ready to squash us," Sam grumbled.
"Nobody's squashing anybody," Rufus interjected. "Let's just get this over with and we can figure out Crowley later."
Rufus began mixing the ingredients in what looked like an altar bowl while the other three men stood patiently waiting, squinting into the sun. Sam looked up; the sky was painfully blue, the clouds clinging to the horizon from a storm that was still miles off. The June heat hadn't crested quite as high as it could this time of year, and if he let himself, he could almost feel at peace.
"Sam," Dean said to him in a low voice. "No matter what we find out…I need you to do something for me."
Sam frowned, looking at his brother. "Nothing's going to happen to you, Dean," he said, feeling a haunting echo of Dean's take care of my wheels request just before the Hellhounds tore him apart.
"Just…I need you to promise me something, okay?"
"What is it?"
"Don't let Brenna raise Aislinn alone," he said, looking down. "Be part of her life. Let her know about us. About…," he glanced up at Sam through his lashes. "About me."
Sam pressed his lips together looking away. "Nothing's gonna happen to you, Dean," he repeated, his voice firm with conviction. Then he looked back at his brother, eyes serious. "But…I promise."
"You ready?" Rufus stood up, the bowl in his hand. Dean could see the holy oil with bits of other items swimming in it.
Dean nodded and stuck out his arm. Rufus drew the blade of a large knife across Dean's left forearm, gathering the blood until it pooled slightly on top of the oil, then nodded at Mason, letting the big man tie off Dean's wound.
"Once I get this drawn, each of us takes a point. Sam, you're East, Mason South, I'll be West and Dean's North." He grabbed a piece of paper out of his pocket. "This is Enochian. I need you to read it, Dean, the moment we're in place. I'll light the sigil and it'll burn hot, and we'll only have until it burns out."
"How do we know who we're going to get?" Dean asked.
Rufus narrowed his eyes at Dean. "That's up to you."
"Me?" Dean asked, his expression confused.
"The blood draws the angel to us, so…I guess we'll see if you still have a guardian angel out there, kid."
Dean looked at Sam, who nodded nervously. They took their places, waiting as Rufus finished the sigil and stepped to the western point of the circle. He nodded at Dean and struck a match against his thumbnail, dropping it just as Dean began reading.
The flames quickly raced along the path Rufus had painted, rushing to a point at Dean's feet. As he finished the spell, his pronunciation awkward and stilted, Sam held his breath, afraid to take his eyes from Dean, afraid he'd miss something only his brother could see.
When the sound came it struck Sam in the back of the head first, knifing through him and causing him to grab his ears before his eardrums burst. It was like a high-pitched screech, so piercing it felt like his eyes were bleeding. He didn't realize he'd gone to his knees until he looked back over at Dean and saw his brother had done the same.
Just then, the storm that had been hours away rushed forward, clouds eating up the blue of the sky to gather an untimely darkness around them. Lightning cut the air and Sam could smell ozone from where it hit nearby. The screech continued, barely muted by his protective hands, and in the distance, Sam saw the glass in the side windows of Rufus' truck shatter.
As the sound intensified, Sam cried out, his body curling forward, unable to stay upright against the onslaught. The storm raged around them – lighting raining down on the field surrounding them – and Sam desperately tried to keep his eyes on Dean. Then he saw the light.
A figure, wings spread in currents of power, blue light emanating from where its eyes would be, appeared in the center of the sigil. It faced Dean and Sam saw it reach out, unable to breach the barrier of the holy fire. Dean fell to his side, his face knotted in pain, his back bowing as the figure reached again. To his horror, Sam saw the T-shirt covering his brother's shoulder burn away…in the shape of a human hand.
"Oh my God," Sam breathed.
And then power – a burst of it like he'd never felt – shoved him to the ground, pressing his body to the earth until he couldn't breathe. Then as quickly as it came, it was gone, leaving Sam panting, his ears trickling blood from the effects of the sound. He slowly pushed himself up to all fours, eyes on Dean, and saw his brother was in much the same condition, though he was looking at the center of the circle.
"Mason?" Dean rasped, his voice sounding as if he'd been the one screaming.
It was Mason's voice, Mason's body, but Sam knew at once it was not Mason.
"I had forgotten that you cannot hear my voice."
"Cas?" Dean whispered, the sound coming out like a sob.
"I have been searching for you," Castiel said through Mason, the big man's scruff-covered mouth looking strange as it formed around the words.
Sam stood up on trembling legs, seeing from the corner of his eyes that Rufus was doing the same. Both stared with amazement at Mason and Dean, one trapped within the circle of holy fire, the other still on his knees outside of it.
"I prayed to you," Dean said. "Every day. For months."
"I was prevented from hearing you," Castiel said, casting Mason's blue eyes down in regret. "I never meant to leave you to face this alone."
"I told you to stay away," Dean said, tears and regret thick in his voice.
He stood up and Sam saw him sway, but he never took his eyes from Mason and Sam knew he was seeing their friend the angel – gentle eyes, messy hair, and trench coat – and not the big mechanic.
"Just as you had to be there for Sam," Castiel said gently, "I had to be there for you."
Sam felt his throat tighten as he saw a tear escape Dean's large eyes and slip down his cheek.
"We don't have a lot of time," Dean said. "And I got so much I wanna say to you…so much I need to know."
"I know, Dean." Sam was amazed to see Castiel's smile grace Mason's face. "And one day – many years from now – we will be able to talk about everything and all your questions will be answered. But right now, you have only one answer you need."
"The amulet," Dean said.
Castiel nodded. "It seems I was…remiss in sharing information with you."
"Ya think?" Dean snapped, irritation slipping across his expression. "You fused me with the damn thing," he said. "And now I can't touch Sam without going dark."
"It's like a…shock wave. Like a surge of power. I can't see anything, and he sees into my head."
Castiel turned and looked at Sam, then, and Sam gasped slightly to see how easy it was to forget that he was looking at Mason. "You are fused as well?"
Sam shrugged. "That's…kinda why we called you."
"What do I do with this, Cas?" Dean asked. "How do I…turn it off?"
"The amulet is a beacon of power. As I told you, it finds the power of God within the righteous man. But if its connection with you has affected Sam as well, I can only assume your righteousness lies within that connection."
Dean scowled. "Try English, Cas."
Settling his shoulders, Castiel looked at Dean. "There is no way to…turn it off. Not if you ever want to use the power again. The amulet is a beacon of pure light. Darkness simply cannot exist with this light. Any darkness."
"So, what, I can zap demons?"
"All demons," Castiel said. "Any within reach of this light."
"Why do I get the feeling there's a 'but' involved?" Dean asked, brow furrowed. Sam saw him glance down and realized that the holy fire was beginning to diminish. "What's the catch, Cas?"
"You are incomplete. You have only used part of the spell. You can either complete the spell and use the light as a weapon against the dark…or you can reverse it completely."
"What happens if he reverses it?" Sam asked.
"No…dying? No…retracing time and losing Sam to the Cage?" Dean asked.
Castiel shook his head. "You will be as you always were."
"And what if I become this…light beacon?"
"You will be the beacon," Castiel told him. "You cannot have both."
"Red pill or blue pill, that it?" Dean asked in a shaky voice.
"I do not understand this reference," Castiel frowned.
"What about me?" Sam asked. "You said his righteousness lies in our connection. How does that affect this whole…light beacon thing?"
Castiel frowned. "I do not know. You are an…anomaly."
Sam glanced at Dean. "Well, I guess that's a step up from abomination."
"If I turn into this beacon…what happens to Sam?" Dean demanded.
"The amulet was designed to protect the wearer from sacrifice," Castiel said.
"I think turning myself into a beacon of light is a pretty big sacrifice, Cas," Dean grumbled.
"Yes," Castiel replied. "I agree, but it would be your choice. It would not be taken from you, it would be given."
"Friggin' loopholes," Dean muttered.
"But…if I'm part of this equation…," Sam said hesitantly, "couldn't I protect him? Act as his amulet?"
Castiel canted his head in curiosity. "It is a possibility I had not considered. As I said, you being part of this is an anomaly. The possibility that you can protect your brother from being burned up by the light is as great as the possibility that he cannot complete the spell without you."
"Oh, well, that's just great, Cas," Dean said. "We've got a fifty-fifty shot at both of us dying or both of us living."
Castiel looked back at Dean. "Isn't that how your lives have always been?"
"Dean," Sam warned. "The fire."
"How do I complete the spell, if that's what I want to do?" Dean asked quickly, his eyes darting down to the dying fire.
"I will give you the knowledge for each option," Castiel said. "You will choose wisely."
"Yeah, well, this ain't like grabbing the right grail," Dean said. "You couldn't have told me all of this back in that alley before I headed off to Stull?"
"I didn't know it all then," Castiel told him. "Would you have listened anyway?"
Dean shot a glance over at Sam and Sam realized the answer was no. Dean would have done whatever he had to in order to save him out at Stull, including sacrificing himself as a beacon of light.
"I have to go," Castiel said. "Remember. You are needed."
Dean blinked, looking momentarily shell-shocked. "What did you say?"
"You are needed. It's as true now as it was the day I pulled you from Perdition."
Before anyone could react, Dean was propelled across the dying flames of holy fire into the circle with Castiel by an invisible force. Castiel reached out and put his hand on Dean's forehead, whispering, "Goodbye, my friend."
Sam gasped as Dean went stiff and silent, his eyes turning a cloudy white and his face draining of all color. Castiel held him like that for just a moment before a burst of power echoed between them like God clapping his hands. Rufus and Sam were shoved backwards off their feet. Sam looked up to see Mason lying on his back, blinking at the sky in confusion, and Dean lying in a crumpled heap on the other side of the circle.
Sam scrambled over to his brother, hastily turning him over. Without thinking, he pressed his fingers against Dean's pulse and it took him several moments to realize that not only was he not feeling a heartbeat, he wasn't connecting to Dean at all.
"Dean!" he looked over at Rufus. "He's not breathing!"
Rufus was helping Mason sit up, checking to make sure the big man was back with them, and turned to hurry over to Dean. Checking his pulse for himself, Rufus leaning his face close to Dean's mouth, then got up on his knees and pressed his hands on Dean's sternum, beginning compressions.
After one breath and another set of compressions, Sam started to feel himself grow cold, his heart shivering in his chest as he silently begged Dean's to start beating again.
"C'mon, kid, dammit," Rufus scowled.
Mason made his way over, still looking shaken up, but definitely Mason. "Let me help."
He took Dean's head and timed his breaths with Rufus' compression. Sam counted silently, his eyes pinned to Dean's hands, holding his breath until Mason breathed for Dean. After the fifth set of compressions, Rufus got mad.
"God dammit, Dean, don't you do this!" One two three for five…. "I told that fool Bobby it was dangerous to get so involved with you two and now look at me!" One two three four five…. "Don't you dare let me start caring about you and then go and die on me, you hear?"
With another breath from Mason, Dean coughed. It was weak, but it was there. Rufus rolled him gently to his side and Dean began to drag in breaths, exhaling with deep, bone-crushing coughs. Sam reached out hesitantly and let his fingers brush against the back of Dean's hand, finally exhaling when he felt the shock of connection and a brief flash of a panicked memory of waking up inside a coffin.
"Take it easy, kid, that's it," Rufus was saying. "Just breathe."
"-am?" Dean rasped, his eyes not yet opened.
"Did that really happen?" Dean asked, blinking up at his brother. "It was Cas, right?"
Sam nodded, glancing at Mason. "It was Cas."
"I'm good," Mason said, still perched by Dean's head.
Dean rolled his head and peered up at him. "Did you…kiss me?"
"Don't tell me," Mason grinned. "You've had better."
Dean folded his lips down in a half-hearted grin.
"Feel like sitting up?" Rufus asked.
Dean nodded and allowed Rufus and Mason to help him. He slumped forward, holding his head in his hands. The air had cleared, no more lightning, no storm, but the world was still shadowed by clouds, the sky remaining overcast. Sam had lost time; he had no idea how long they'd really been in that field.
"That was some spell," Dean said, his voice muffled by the ground.
"You remember it all?" Sam asked, hoping he wouldn't have to repeat what had happened. He wasn't sure he even wanted to think about it.
"Yeah," Dean sighed, bringing his head up. "And more than that," he said. "I know how to do…whatever I gotta do."
Sam crouched down in front of his brother. "Listen," he said, his voice for them only, though he knew Mason and Rufus were listening closely. "You don't have to do this. You can take the blue pill. Unplug from the matrix and live a normal life."
"And when Crowley and his minions come knocking?" Dean asked. "What then?"
"We've fought 'em before," Sam said. "We can fight 'em again."
"You willing to fight them with Stella in the balance?" Dean challenged. "What about if he uses Aislinn as his collateral damage?"
Sam was quiet, feeling his heart sink at Dean's truth.
"It was never in the cards for both of us to have a normal life, Sam," Dean said finally. "And it was always supposed to be you."
Sam felt his throat close. "That's not true."
Dean smiled, his eyes soft and sad. It was the same smile he'd given Sam before Hell. The same one that had stayed with Sam the whole time his brother had been gone.
"Don't decide now," Sam implored. "Please. Just…think about it."
"Our deadline's up tomorrow," Dean pointed out.
"Then give it that long," Sam encouraged. "Don't do anything until the morning. Promise me."
Dean took a breath, looked up at Mason, then over at Rufus, and back at Sam. "Okay. I promise."
Mason pulled Dean to his feet and Sam saw him wince slightly and rub at his shoulder. Glancing over, he saw what Sam had noticed earlier: the hand print was back and his shirt had burned away.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered.
"Guess he was trying to let you know it was him," Sam shrugged.
Dean looked at Mason. "You really okay?"
Mason nodded. "Feel a little…empty. If that makes sense. But yeah, I'm okay."
"Thank you," Dean said. "You didn't have to. Y'know…say yes to him."
"He made a compelling argument," Mason said.
Sam frowned. "What did he say to you?" he asked, wondering what Mason could have heard when the rest of them were clutching their ears in pain.
Mason looked at Dean. "He said he wanted a chance to save his friend."
Dean smiled, then looked at Rufus. "You okay?"
"Except for you scaring ten years off my life with that little stunt, sure," Rufus said. "And before you say anything, I'm planning on sticking around to see this thing through. I ain't got anything else going on anyways."
Dean nodded, rolling his bottom lip up against his teeth, then turned and led the way back to their cars. Rufus cursed his luck at his broken window, commenting that no one had mentioned he might want to roll it down. The storm had cooled the air and yet it felt heavy, oppressed, as if waiting for something to break it down and disperse it.
"Sam," Dean said as he rested his hand on the door of the Impala. "You mind grabbing a ride with Rufus back to the house?"
Sam tilted his head. "Where are you going?"
Dean shook his head. "Nowhere. Just…need to think."
Sam swallowed, nervous. "Dean…."
"I swear, Sam. Just think."
"You just had CPR done on you, man. I don't think—"
"I'm okay, Sam." Dean gave him a small smile. "And you know I've been through worse."
"You can't do anything without telling me. Without telling her."
"I won't," Dean said, leveling his eyes.
Taking a breath, Sam nodded, stepping back and watching the Impala drive off with a heavy heart.
"It'll be okay, kid," Mason tried.
"I wish I could believe that," Sam replied.
At the house, he found he couldn't tell Stella, not yet. He didn't know what words to use and the ones he chose just sounded empty, inadequate. Instead he distracted himself by walking Murphy, playing catch with the dog in the front yard, and helping his niece make Mac 'n Cheese for dinner. He paused his constant movement once when Brenna took his hand, letting her see into him as only she could. He knew at once she'd seen the truth he couldn't bring himself to say when her face went pale and she gathered Aislinn to her in a silent hug.
Stella was watching TV and Brenna was putting Aislinn to bed on a pallet Sam had rigged in Dean's room when Dean finally came home. Sam was sitting out on their front stoop, Murphy at his feet and a beer in hand with another waiting for Dean. He watched as his brother climbed slowly from the Impala and walked up to the house. He simply looked at Sam in the darkness for a moment, his eyes glittering in the moonlight, then sat next to his brother and took the offered beer.
"Where you been?" Sam asked.
"Just…driving around. Windows down, music up, that kind of thing." Dean took a long swallow of his beer. "Reminded me of when we were kids. And that damn car was the safest place on earth."
Sam knew then what his brother had decided. What had always been Dean's only choice. And he knew, too, that it had never been a question for him, either. Dean showed him out at Stull the extent to which he was willing to go to protect his brother – even if it was from the pain of dying alone.
I'm here, Sammy. I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you.
"You don't have to do this, you know," Sam tried one last time.
Dean took another drink of his beer and sighed. "Yeah," he said. "I do. I'm in this, Sam. I can't face my daughter knowing I made the world more dangerous for her."
Sam nodded, looking down. "Well, then. I'm in it, too." Dean looked over at him and Sam met his eyes unflinchingly. "I'm not gonna let you go through this alone."
Dean took a breath, then leaned the neck of his bottle over to clink it against Sam's. "To tomorrow."
"To tomorrow," Sam echoed.
Their beers gone, the brothers stood up and went inside to make the most of what could be the last night of safety.
Continued in Chapter 18.
a/n: Big showdown to come in the final chapter! After that, the epilogue will explain the excerpts from the Memoirs of Samuel Winchester. So, two chapters left! Hope you're enjoying.