“Well it’s about time you two figured it out. I thought you never would!” Bob’s voice, the flutter of wings and the hand clamping down on Dean’s shoulder all happened at the same time.
Dean nearly jumped out of his skin. He coughed and quickly wiped one hand over his mouth to cover up the snicker when Sam startled backwards a full foot then lurched forward and grabbed Dean’s arm, yanking him back from the sudden movement and sound.
“Stop that!” Dean shouted at the same time Sam did.
Bob simply chuckled and grinned. “You two always so jumpy?”
“Can I hit him again?” Sam let go of Dean, straightened and squared his shoulders.
Dean crossed both arms over his chest. “Only if I get to, too.”
Bob sniffed and stepped back. “No need to get testy.” He tapped one of the books Sam had been reading. “Your brother is right, Dean, all the two of you need to stop the Apocalypse is within you already. Sedona is special because of its higher concentration of energy. It’s a gateway to other planes, Heaven and Hell included.”
“And are we right about demons having more power there?” Dean asked.
Bob nodded, smile dropping slowly off his face. “Yes, sorry.”
“Well, we really didn’t expect it to be easy,” Dean said. “What else can you tell us?”
“Nothing until you figure it out for yourselves.”
Sam groaned and Dean simply shook his head and went on, giving his brother a fast side-long glance. “Alright, new tact. What about our dad? Is there some way to save him? Without Sam dying?”
“Dean,” Bob began in a quiet voice. “You have to understand, your father is a demon. In a round about way this is something he chose. By saving him, do you mean returning his life? His human life? That’s not possible. Nothing can undo him to become human again.”
Gaze shifting to Sam briefly, Bob shook his head. “Sam was returned from the dead, returned as a human. It’s an entirely different thing. Your father is a demon and he was simply given back his appearance as John Winchester because of what he needs to do.”
“What about his soul? Release his soul from Hell, from being a demon?”
“You want him alive, Dean, that’s really simple. I’ll just go meet him and whatever happens, happens,” Sam barked.
“Sam, do you honestly want Dad to burn in Hell forever?” Dean shouted.
Sam took a step forward, fists bunched at his sides, anger all over his face. It was Sam’s eyes that told the real story, the shimmering tears, the flashes of hurt and betrayal. “That’s what he wants me to do!”
Dean had no answer to that, it was the truth and they all knew it. “You’re not dying,” he said softly. “Dad, our dad, he’s already dead and has been for a year. But, if there is way to stop his soul from burning in Hell forever then I want to try.”
His words seemed to deflate Sam. Staggering back until he hit the table covered with books, Sam leaned against it, gripping the edges with his hands until his knuckles were white. He didn’t look at Dean or Bob, but focused instead on some point on the floor between them, biting down on his lower lip.
Bob drew in a deep breath, folded his hands in front of him and spoke in a quiet, calm voice. “Your father made a deal with a demon, one that when his life ended included him going, willingly, to Hell. He made that deal freely and was an adult, it was his choice. He fully accepted whatever fate would await him in Hell, and becoming a demon was one.”
Dean’s heart sank. If possible Sam’s expression became even stonier.
“But…” Bob held up one finger. “…he didn’t do what he did for personal gain and he had no way of knowing Azazel’s plans. John did what he did to save his sons.” He turned a sharp gaze on Sam. “Both of his sons. It was Dean’s life, literally, but also yours, Sam. The simple fact is you would have never stayed with your father, fought beside him and quite likely the two of you would have killed one another. It’s also another fact that neither you nor Dean would have survived Yellow Eyes alone. I’m not sure John knew that, but what he certainly did know was his sons are far stronger together than apart.” He looked pointedly from one to the other, resting his gaze on Dean. “I’ll see what I can come up with. I’m not making you any promises. In the mean time you two need to get your asses to Flagstaff and get yourselves a battle plan.”
Dean nodded. “Thank you.”
“Oh, and you have to be there by May second, so put a move on. I’ll meet you there,” Bob added and in a flutter of wings was gone.
Packing up, they set out for Flagstaff. The drive was quiet, solemn even. Dean gave his brother every opportunity to leave, if that’s what Sam wanted so badly then so be it. Dean might not stop him from going after John, but he sure would never let him do that alone. He planned to follow Sam if it came to that. What Sam did was stick to Dean like they’d been glued together. The message Sam sent was received loud and clear and Dean couldn’t have been happier about it.
They might disagree on their father, but what they didn’t disagree on was that they needed to stick together, to stand together to stop the Apocalypse. Without each other they would both be lost.
Flagstaff was the largest city closest to Sedona and as they had in previous cities they found a telephone book and located the largest library in town, the main branch. Hopping from one library to another not only was the way they’d get information they needed since there was no more internet to research on, but the majority of people wouldn’t see the benefit of a library now. They were sturdy buildings, with lots of space to park inside and filled with information. They were perfect for two young hunters to use and one would no doubt eventually become a home base for them, if not here then some other part of the country.
First priority was securing the building. That done they set about learning all they could regarding Sedona and its supposed powers.
“I think I know how we can trap them, even with the energy vortex.” It was the most Sam had spoken since they’d gotten there.
“Good, what do you have in mind?” Dean scooted his chair around the table so he sat on the same side as Sam, leaned over and looked down at what Sam was reading. He had a legal pad with all sorts of scratchings and notes and half sentences. Until now Dean hadn’t paid too much attention to what his brother had jotted down. Jabbing at the words scribbled on the margin of one of the pages, Dean read the words. On top and in big letters was the word deal. Under that were conditions of a basic deal with a demon. “Sam, I think I’m getting an idea.”
Sam snorted. “I knew I smelled smoke. I hope there’s a fire extinguisher somewhere around here.”
A whoosh of air had them both looking up.
“You never have doors to knock on,” Bob complained. “I did some talking and worked some things out and here’s what needs to happen for your father’s soul to be redeemed and sent to Heaven. This isn’t going to be easy. First and foremost the Apocalypse must be halted. The final seal cannot be broken, and Lucifer cannot be permitted to rise from his prison in Hell. That happens and it really won’t matter anyway. You have the seal coins. Once the Apocalypse is averted they will be restored to their original state.
“You know what to do, it’s inside both of you. I am confident you’ll find a way to halt this. Now, as for your father’s soul. He’s instrumental in bringing on the Apocalypse. He must chose for himself and with no prompting or signaling from either of you to assist him. If you try to give him the slightest hint of your plan then he will burn in Hell forever. To redeem himself, John has to save both of you and do so because that is what he wants the most; his sons to be spared and the Apocalypse averted. If those conditions are not met he will not get another chance.”
“Okay, that’s fair,” Dean mumbled, he wasn’t happy about it, but at least it was a chance, a small chance, but a chance.
“There is one other thing. Both of you have to agree to his redemption and by doing so forgive him.”
Dean’s response was immediate, he didn’t even think before the words came out of his mouth, “Of course we do.”
Sam was silent. When Dean looked at him, waving one hand to prompt his response he said nothing, simply stared at the floor.
“Sammy? You can’t possibly not agree.” It was more than Dean could wrap his mind around. Sure, Sam and their Dad had had differences, but this went beyond mere arguments.
Lifting his chin, Sam looked everywhere but at Bob or Dean. “Whatever Dean wants, I’ll go along with it.”
“You know, Sam, I don’t think—” Dean shouted, his rage boiling up faster than he could stop it.
Bob stepped forward and put a hand on Dean’s shoulder forcing him back a step. When Dean’s lips pressed shut Bob let go of him and moved to Sam, placing the same hand on his shoulder and squeezing. “That’s good enough. Since he agrees simply because he loves you more than he fears anything else, it’s good enough. Sometimes we have to do things only because someone else wants it. There is nothing wrong with that.”
“Now,” Bob said, moving back to the table with their notes and research. “Show me what you have so far.”
It didn’t take them much time to run through what they’d worked out so far, which wasn’t much. Figuring out how to create a Devil’s Trap that would hold in the energy vortex was a serious stumbling block.
“I’m worried with the extra energy and extra power that’ll give John and Yellow Eyes they’ll get loose,” Sam said quietly. He still wouldn’t really look at Dean, but Dean chose to ignore it for now.
“Sacrosanct oil,” Bob said. “I’m surprised neither of you thought of it.” Smug bastard. “There is a large church about a mile from here, I happen to know they have some. I suggest you take something to carry the bottle in. The stuff can be…volatile.”
“Volatile?” Dean asked at the same time as Sam, his brother’s voice sounding as dubious as his own.
“Well, maybe that’s the wrong word. It’s no different than suntan oil by itself, but when mixed with certain…elements…it can become beyond deadly. Using a mixture of holy water and salt to create the lines of a Devil’s Trap with the oil sprinkled on top should create a strong enough barrier.”
“And when we begin the ritual, we ignite it. That will keep them inside for sure?” Sam asked.
“I haven’t actually tested the theory, but yes that’s the plan.”
“How—exactly—are we supposed to get our dad out?” Dean met Bob’s gaze and didn’t waver.
Bob sighed, dropping his own gaze to the floor. “Only your father can do that. It was what I was trying to explain earlier. He must choose his own path.”
Dean didn’t like that answer, but it was the best he could get and he knew it. They still needed more information about the oil. “What does this stuff react with and what happens?”
“For one, Sam.” Bob shrugged.
“Yes.” Bob turned to Sam, placed a hand on his shoulder before speaking. “Sam, you can not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to come into contact with the oil, or cross the lines created by it.”
“What happens if I do?” When Bob didn’t answer, Sam shoved against his arm, raising his voice, “What the hell happens if I do?”
Bob drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You have to understand, Sam, this oil is simply oil. It’s an object with magical properties, it can’t judge and makes no distinction. It simply reacts with certain things like any other chemical reaction.”
“Bob!” Sam shouted, stepping away from the angel and running one hand through his hair.
“You’re not evil, but because of what was done to you, if you come into contact with the oil or try to cross over its lines your blood will ignite and no one, not even God can stop that or undo it. You will spend the rest of eternity between life and death, burning from within.”
Sam sucked in a breath, took another step away from Bob, his face blanching and his hands starting to shake. In two long strides, Dean moved closer, sliding one hand to Sam’s elbow to steady him. When Sam’s head jerked around obviously seeking out his brother, Dean smiled softly and squeezed his elbow. “We’ll be sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Dean, you should probably wear gloves and use a paint brush with it just to be on the safe side. It’ll be dark soon, shouldn’t you get going?”
“Why can’t you get it? Just pop over there, snatch the oil and pop back here.” Dean really didn’t like this whole oil idea and he certainly didn’t want to have to risk Sam coming into needless contact with it.
“Me?” Bob thumped his chest, voice rising indignantly. “Steal from a church? I can’t do that. Besides this whole stopping the Apocalypse job is all on you two.”
Dean rolled his eyes. Moving the hand that was on Sam’s elbow to clap on his shoulder, he gave his brother a nudge. “Let’s get going. And dude—”
“I know, I know.” Sam stuck his hands in his pockets. “No touching the oil.”
Getting to the church didn’t take long, Bob had been correct when he’d said it was only about a mile from the library. Finding the oil was hardly a chore, it was stored in a cabinet and plainly marked. Dean made Sam stand behind him while he picked the measly lock to the cabinet and eased the door open. He’d have come alone, he was that worried about Sam and this oil, but he knew Sam wouldn’t ever put up with sitting around the library waiting for Dean’s return. Dean couldn’t blame him, he wouldn’t want to do that either and wasn’t going to ask his brother to.
Pulling on gloves, Dean carefully removed the bottle; it was the size of an average spice jar with a screw-on top. The oil looked like olive oil, only it shimmered slightly when the bottle moved. They’d brought a small, extra shaving kit case and Dean placed the bottle inside, carefully zipping it closed. He slipped it inside his jacket pocket and gingerly patted the outside with his other hand.
Sam blew out a breath and grinned. “That was almost too easy.”
“That won’t get you money or drugs on the streets.”
They turned in unison, Dean smacking Sam’s arm as they did. “You had to go and say it,” he grumbled.
A priest, he was a tall man, maybe in his early forties and looked like he worked out a lot, stood between them and the door. Blocking the door.
Sam plastered his ‘little boy lost’ smile on his face and used his most placating voice. “Father, sir, we’re not stealing this for—”
The priest stepped away from the door and to Sam. “Yes, you are stealing. If you need food, I will give you some, but this is not—”
“We don’t really have time for this crap.” Dean lunged forward, starting his swing at his hip and following through. The thwack when he connected solidly with the priest’s jaw echoed around the room.
“You decked a priest?”
Dean grinned and rubbed his knuckles. “Knocked him out cold. Cleaned his clock! What are you bitching about you decked an angel.”
Sam glared at Dean for a second then smirked. “I did, didn’t I?” Wetting one finger he made an invisible hash-mark in the air between them. “I still have more points.” He grinned outright. “I win.”
Anything that made Sam smile like that was fine with Dean. “Do not.” He shoved against Sam’s shoulder as they left the church. “I let you win.”
They walked back to the library in silence. Dean’s trick of broadcasting that this part of the state was next on the ‘terrorist attack’ list seemed to have worked. Other than the priest and a few stragglers here and there, the city seemed abandoned.
Sam sat back in his chair and stretched his arms high over his head. “There are still holes in this and we’re running out of time. I don’t suppose you know what time I came back?”
Standing up, Dean eased his own kinks from his stiff limbs. “I was a little too preoccupied to be looking at my watch. We’ll just have to go with what we have. I’m going to make a last check of the doors, then we should get some sleep.”
Walking quietly from one door to the next, Dean checked them and the windows. Everything was intact and secure. He made his way to the service entrance, stepping outside for some fresh air. Slight movement in the shadows had his hand immediately reaching for his gun. In the next second the shadowy movement resolved more clearly. “Hello, Dean.”
He relaxed a small amount, he’d always be wary around this visitor. “We have it as done as it’ll get. There’s really only one sticky spot.”
The figure in front of him nodded, but said nothing.
Dean was hit with a flash of inspiration so suddenly it nearly shoved him off his feet. He narrowed his gaze, studying his visitor closely. “You can help. Sam and I, we can’t do this alone, we need help. Your help. I’ve never asked anyone for anything like this before, but I think I have an idea, if you’ll help us. We’re out of options and have no where else to turn.”
It only took him a few minutes to explain their plan and what help they needed.
A slow nod was the answer Dean had hoped for. He blinked and was alone, Dean’s visitor had vanished.
When they reached Sedona just after sunrise the next morning Dean could feel the change in the atmosphere. The place glowed with energy. It was as if there was a constant low level hum, nothing that could be actually seen or heard, but was felt deep down in every nerve ending. As they walked they had a good view over the landscape. He could tell by the way Sam turned every so often, looking in all directions that his brother felt the same energy shift. On another day, in other circumstances they would both find the phenomenon interesting, downright cool in fact.
Today it was simply another thing to either help or hurt their cause and they’d have no way of knowing which until they were in the thick of things.
There was a visitors’ center at Red Rock State Park, a large, one story building with enough open space in the center and a few smaller rooms to the side. The open-air ceiling was thick wooden beams supported by bricks made of the area rock. Iron railings ran beside the rock pillars, lining the walkway into and out of the structure, which delighted Dean. It was the first stroke of good luck they’d had and might be a good sign.
If Dean believed in signs, which he did not.
To one end was a gift shop filled with aisles of trinkets for travelers to take home. The rising sun shone down cheerfully through the rough wooden beam ceiling. It was a lovely picture.
Too bad it was likely going to be nothing but rubble in a few hours.
Using a large, flat brush, Sam began the task of creating a Devil’s Trap drawn with holy water in the center of the facility’s main room. Dean followed along behind him, with a drawing in hand to be sure it all went smoothly. Once the water dried on the stone floor it was difficult to tell exactly where the lines were, which was crucial to their plan. They didn’t want Azazel or John knowing exactly where the boundaries were. Their fear was since the area offered higher energy, and therefore more strength to the demons, if they had lines they could see to focus their energy on they would be able to crack them.
If these two demons were allowed to escape the brothers, and the world, were certainly done for.
The salt they sprinkled over the holy water blended in with the stone flooring; as long as Dean kept either demon from looking too closely it wouldn’t be immediately apparent the salt made a pattern. Pulling on gloves, Dean took the shaving kit case out and opened it, revealing the bottle of sacrosanct oil. He opened it, setting the top down on at his feet and dipped a small eyedropper into the bottle, pausing before he did anything.
Sam stood a foot or so away, peering over Dean’s shoulder.
“Dude, go over there.” Dean sighed and pointed to a spot near the gift shop.
“Dean, don’t be ridiculous,” Sam huffed, bitchface working overtime. “I’m not dumb, it’s not like I’m going to go roll in it.”
Keeping his features neutral, Dean asked in a soft voice, “Please?”
Nodding, Sam scratched at his arm, looked around the building and nodded again. “Okay, if it’ll make you feel better.”
“It would.” Dean didn’t move until Sam was safely a few yards away. “Thank you.” He moved slowly around the perimeter of the trap, dropping oil every few inches. It swirled and shimmered over the stone, but like the salt unless one looked very closely the fact it made a circle wasn’t noticeable right away.
Sam took the bag of seal coins and spread them across a counter top between maps and broachers. All were cracked and tarnished except one. A single coin was bright and shiny, perfect. The one coin left to be cracked, the one seal left to be broken and Sam’s life would end while the Apocalypse began.
Bob stood watching them. Once Dean completed the trap, Bob closed the distance between he and Sam, and placed a hand on his shoulder, leaning in and speaking into Sam’s ear. The two of them moved into the shadows of the gift shop.
Dean pulled out a paper with the summoning ritual written on it, stood well outside the circle and began. It didn’t take long before there was a flash of light and a demon inside a man stood inside the circle, staring out with snapping yellow eyes and a scowl on his face. Dean ignored the vile glare and kept reading until a second flash produced a second figure in the circle. His father, John, watched him with eyes equally as yellow as Azazel’s, though his expression seemed more curious, or maybe it was that of someone who’d won a contest.
He felt more than saw Sam move cautiously and silently across the floor to stand next to Dean. He didn’t say anything, what was there for the kid to say anyway?
“Well, you two finally figure it out and come to your senses?” Yellow Eyes crossed both arms over his chest and stopped scowling. Now he was grinning as if he had the canary in his fangs. “I love it when a plan comes together, I really do. The Bringer of Light will rise up and take his rightful place and rule this piece of crap rock.” He turned to John. “Seems like your boys finally got with the program. Nice to see your family reunited.”
“Dean,” John began in that voice that was half order, half placating, “Don’t you see, it’s the only way. It’s what you’ve always wanted, us together.” He shrugged. “Hunters in Hell are a little like cops in prison. This was the only way I could ensure both of you would have a place in the new order of Hell that would keep you safe. I did it for you. You and Sam.”
Dean’s heart gave a violent lurch when John’s gaze landed and lingered on Sam’s face. Sam stood there, not moving, barely breathing. Dean needed the focus kept on him. “There’s a certain logic to that.”
John’s gaze swung back to Dean, the very corner of his mouth twitched up for a second. Dean reminded himself demons couldn’t read minds, they learned a person’s inner workings through possession. Dean had never been possessed, but John had. He’d been possessed by the demon standing next to him.
“But, Dad, it’s a bit twisted. You of all people wouldn’t want to see Lucifer rise, it’s what you’ve fought against most of your life.”
“The time for Lucifer is now and there is no other way, son.” John’s softened gaze turned to a glare. “Now stop fooling around, it’s time for you and Sam to play your part and take your places with us.”
Dean kept his face neutral, his hands at his sides. No tells. Wasn’t that the first lesson in poker and pool hustling his father had taught him? Dean had learned well. He nodded and spared a glance at Sam. “Time to take our places. I guess Sam and I can accept that, but first I want to be clear on how this is going to go down,” he snickered, “no pun intended. You,” Dean pointed to John, “kill Sam. You’re the only one who can do that?”
“I’m his father, it’s only fitting,” John confirmed.
“I’m curious, what happens to us, to me, if someone else kills him or he falls off a cliff and dies?”
Yellow Eyes laughed, “You amuse me. If he dies I bring him back.”
“Don’t you have to get to him first?”
Azazel looked at the ground then took a few steps forward, stopping when his toe hit the unseen barrier.
“Oh, my God, did you honestly expect there not to be one of those? These are my kids after all.”
John rolled his eyes and mumbled, “Saawwrrreee.”
“So,” Dean held up one finger and made sure they were both watching him. “Before we, Sam and I, go jumping into the abyss as it were, I want to be sure this is the deal. Sam lets John kill him. And I die, how?”
“Anyway you chose,” John said. “You tell me how and it’ll be done.”
“Fair enough. So, you kill Sam, I die too, we all go to Hell, protected from any torture and from other demons because Sam died and Lucifer rose?”
“Yes,” John and Azazel said together.
“No other way to do this? That’s the deal, right Dad, you have to kill Sam?”
“That’s the plan. No one else can break the final seal but the one who, in essence, created it. I enhanced Sam’s blood, but it was John’s seed that brought Sam into creation in the first place. No other scenario will open the door for Lucifer.” Yellow Eyes rocked back and forth on his heels looking quite pleased with himself.
“Well, if that’s the only way that is the deal then, right?”
“Yes.” John met Dean’s gaze steadily.
Dean shrugged. “Well, heck, if that’s the only way, then there’s only one way to put a stop to all this.” Pulling his gun out from under his jacket, Dean turned in one smooth, swift movement and raised his weapon. “Sorry, Sammy.”
Sam gasped, stumbled back a half step, looking around wildly he shook his head. His mouth opened, no doubt to protest, but he never got the chance to say a word.
The shot Dean fired was straight and true, cutting through Sam’s heart. His knees buckled and his face crumpled. It was all Dean could do to keep from looking away, but he had to watch every second until the light faded from Sam’s eyes. Crumpling to the ground, Sam’s limbs sprawled out and a pool of blood began slowly spreading across the stone floor eventually sliding alongside the oil and holy water of the Devil’s Trap.
“Sam?” John’s face was blank, but his voice had shock and pain all rolled into one. He turned to Dean, meeting his gaze.
Dean chuckled and used the barrel of the gun to scratch an itch on his forehead. Shrugging he then spread his arms wide and grinned at them. Because he could, he fired off a few shots into both John and Azazel even though it did nothing but make them look at him as if he were insane. “Problem solved.”