"Merry Christmas, bitch."
Madge Carrigan howled G-rated curses as she barrelled through to the living room– and choked as an evergreen stake slammed through her lungs.
Dean turned in time to see his younger self clothesline Ed Carrigan and swing round to stab him in the stomach. "And a Happy New Year," younger Dean said, grinning. "Or how 'bout 'Happy Dead Year'? Huh? What, you got nothing?" Shrugging, he pulled out the stake and stepped over the body. "Loser."
Dean smiled. "You know if Sammy were here he'd say–"
"'You know it's August, right'?" they finished together, and chuckled.
Younger Dean drove Baby back to the bunker, but older Dean picked the music; it was the only way they'd settled on that didn't mean taking two cars on every job they did together, and it didn't technically break his rule (quit the bitchface, Sammy). Twice he put on the REO Speedwagon tape Jo had left behind ("totally by accident, Dean-o") after she and Ellen had come to see the bunker and get all the anti-angel, anti-demon, anti-everything tattoos Cas had been perfecting. Other him had complained, but it wasn't half as fun as his face when Dean had put on Taylor Swift and said, deadpan, "Oh, it's my favourite song now."
Dad was in the library when they got back, typing away on the laptop he'd grudgingly accepted after Dean and Sam got it as a birthday present and refused to share theirs anymore. They'd gotten one for younger Dean too, but he didn't use it much. (Yet. Busty Asian Beauties was going to come online in a few months.)
"Hey Dad, you're back early. Is Elkins all right?"
He nodded absently, reading a minute longer before looking up. "He didn't have the Colt."
"What?" Dean stopped in his tracks. "He's got to. He lied."
Dad shrugged. "He said he didn't. And even if he does, you can't force a man to give up something like that."
Dean sighed and dumped his duffle on the table. "Yeah, I can. Where's Cas?"
Dean twitched. Walking casually out, he said, "Really got to get that guy his own space, even if he doesn't sleep. I'm not a fricking movie theatre."
Dad didn't say anything, and Dean breathed out as he headed down the corridor. Music was thumping from a branch off towards Sam and Jess's room, and he snickered as he made out Taylor Swift. Suffer, Sammy.
Cas was slumped against the headboard watching TV. Dean leaned on the doorframe and knocked a few times. "Hello, Dean. When did you get back?"
"Just now, and I gotta go again; Dad didn't get the Colt."
Cas's brow furrowed and he hit mute. "Why not?"
"Didn't say. You want to come?"
His eyes swung back to the screen for a few seconds. "Do you need me?"
"I want you." He stopped. "To come. Along, I mean."
Cas looked at him, head tilted, for a few seconds. Dean refused to squirm.
He clicked off the screen. "All right," he said, getting up. "I assume we'll start with Elkins. The Colt is a powerful and unique tool. Everyone would want it."
"Yeah, question is, who knew where to find it when they didn't last time?" said Dean, leading the way back. "We must've changed something."
"We've changed a great deal. It's hard to determine which are relevant." Cas thought for a second. "I doubt it's Heaven. Angel radio has been silent, and our swords are nearly as versatile as the Colt."
"Yeah, but you gotta be at close range," said Dean, stepping into the library to grab his duffle. "But right now it still only works with the original bullets. I'd say look into the vamps Elkins was chasing, but they killed him for it last time, so that leaves–"
"Hell," Cas finished. "Azazel?"
"Probably. The others are still down deep there plotting." Sparks of black fire and blood shot behind his eyes and he shook his head hard. That was over. That was way over, and would never happen. Cas was watching him. Dean turned away. "Which puts us back at the start: How'd he know?" He ran through all the names on his kill list. "Maybe Meg or Tom, but it doesn't fly; they're not that subtle."
"I wouldn't know," Cas said, and it was sharp enough to make Dean glance at him– Oh. Right. Meg. Cas was still clinging to the hope of saving her, but the her she'd been when she died, not–
Fuck it, I'm too tired for this. He sighed and took the turn to the garage.
Manning was a six hour drive away, and Dean grudgingly agreed to sleep for half of it – the second half, he insisted, but Cas got behind the wheel anyway. "This is my car," he said.
Dean scowled magnificently, eyeing Baby where she stood across the garage, gleaming over the puddles where his younger self had been washing her. "You just drove it, Dean."
"She's my car," he muttered, and climbed into the Ford's passenger seat in a sulk. Cas rolled his eyes as he drove them up the ramp and out of the bunker.
It was coming up on one in the morning, and Dean's eyelids started betraying him inside of twenty minutes. The window glass got warm under his forehead before he realised he was leaning on it, and he shook himself twice before Cas sighed and asked, "How was your hunt?"
Dean grinned in spite of himself. "Festive," he said. "Junior me's working his ass off trying to be me. I don't know whether to teach him how or lie and say he's there."
"You hate being lied to."
"Yeah, but it's not me." He paused. "Well. Sorta. He could be me, but I don't want him to, you know, go through Purgatory to get this good."
"That won't happen this time," Cas said, even sharper, and Dean backpedalled.
"I know, I know. Geez, Cas, wasn't accusing you of anything."
Cas' hands flexed on the wheel. "Has he admitted he's seeing Cassandra?"
Safe territory. Dean relaxed. "Nah, he's still mad at me about that. Or scared I'm going to tell him something else about Cassie that'll ruin it for them."
"Got nothing left," Dean shrugged. "He knows more than me now."
Cas "hmmmm"d as he changed lanes. "Do you think their relationship will last?"
What he wasn't asking was, Are you going to interfere again? and Dean honestly didn't know. Back then he'd fantasised a couple of times about getting back together with Cassie, mostly before that year with Lisa, and the few times it occurred to him since he'd figured she'd probably moved on already. Probably had three kids and as picket fence and a high flying career too (that last one wasn't a guess. He'd googled), and the thought left a bitter taste in his mouth. But now, for younger him–
"What is this, Teen Vogue?" he snapped. "I don't know, Cas, it's not my problem."
Cas did one of his big heavy you're an idiot sighs and looked away from the road for a second. "Dean," he said, "if you keep–"
The world exploded.
It felt like an explosion, at least. The cloud of demon smoke tore through the sky like a bomb so he wasn't wrong for thinking it, okay? It was loud and fast and rattled everything – Cas fought hard with the wheel to keep them in the lane – but it passed. Horns and car alarms blared around them as the rest of the highway tried to decide if it was safer to stop or keep speeding, and Dean braced himself as Cas drove and hated every second of not being able to do anything.
But for all the shit Dean gave him, Cas was a good driver, and he wove them to an off-ramp inside of a minute. "What the fuck?" Dean kept saying. "What's going on?"
Cas winced as he stopped them sloppily in front of someone's driveway. He leaned over and held his head. "Angel radio," he explained, wincing. "They're not sure what's happened."
"But this didn't happen in our time, did it?"
"Shit." Dean dropped into his seat and started dialling Sammy. "Those were demons."
"Yes." Cas winced again as he listened. "Several hell gates have opened and they're possessing large numbers of humans in the area, but none of the angels know why."
"Something pissed them off," said Dean, listening as Sam's phone rang. "Or scared them."
"Hi, this is Sam. Leave a mes–"
He ripped the phone from his and started dialling again. "Something's changed," he said, thinking frantically through everything they'd done lately. "Something tipped them off, something they realised isn't just us trying to find–" He froze. In his ear, Jess' voice started reciting her leave-a-message thing.
"Trying to find what?" Cas grumbled. He straightened up as the radio chatter died off. "Dean?"
"'The yellow-eyed demon'," Dean said, staring out the windshield. "We always called him that. It was ages before we knew his name."
Dean nodded. "That's why we couldn't just summon him all those years. We didn't find out until..." He swung around. "Cas, when we were leaving, you–"
"I said his name." Cas stiffened. "As we were passing the library. Your father would have heard it."
"But what good would it do– Fuck." Dean slammed his hand into the dash. "He's got the Colt. He got it from Elkins yesterday."
"And lied," said Cas.
Dean yanked on the door release. "We gotta get back," he said, leaping out and hurrying round. "I'm driving."
If the well-dressed corpse hadn't said enough, the shouting echoing down the corridors would have done it. Jess was livid.
"That's a PERSON!" she screeched in Dad's face, pointing a sharp finger and barely stepping around the devil's trap on the floor. "I don't give a FUCK about your fucking revenge, he had a right to LIVE!"
Sam tried, "Jess–"
"SHUT UP. This possession crap is out of control! There are people in there!"
Dad wasn't saying anything, but he had the Colt cradled in both hands and the body leaking at his feet. Younger Dean was glaring at it, cold and hard, and Sam's face was grim.
Dean stopped in the doorway. "Fuck. Fuck."
The others glanced his way, but only his other self reacted: He grinned, angry and feral, and Dean felt sorta sick. "We got the son of a bitch!" younger Dean crowed.
"You've got no fucking idea what you've done," said Dean. He gripped the back of a chair and leaned over, thoughts racing. "Fuck."
Beside him he felt Cas sigh and pull out a chair, heard him drop heavily into it. "This is bad," he said dully.
"Thank you," said Jess.
"Not 'cause of that," said Dean, and he looked up for a second. "Sorry. Someone was always gonna have to die to kill him with them."
"And you feel justified in that?"
Dean rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I really can't deal with lawyer talk right now, okay? You've got no idea–"
"Then why don't you tell us, Dean," snapped Sam. "For once."
Dean looked up at his little – so little – brother, and his throat went dry. All the awful things he'd spent months promising would never happen this time rushed back and he choked on them.
"Dean," Cas said quietly, "this changes things. They have to know."
"If you don't tell them, I will."
"You can't stop me."
He snapped his head around then, braced to go, but Cas just looked sad, and the fight drained out of him.
Jess marched over and planted herself in in front of them, arms folded, beating Sam by half a second. "Start talking."
Younger Dean was hovering halfway between them and Dad, who was still looking over the corpse numbly. Dean kept gaze on him. "Azazel had kids, Meg and Tom, they were working this thing with him. Now they've got half of Hell dragged up, probably to find out what happened, we don't know what they're going to do, and that's on you," he said, louder. "Why'd you go behind my back?"
Finally Dad met his eyes. "You knew how to summon him all along."
"And if I'd let you kill him then, all the people we've saved this year would've died. You know how many more are gonna die now?" he seethed. "Do you have any fucking clue?"
"Hey, hey guys–" younger Dean tried, but too late. Dad stalked down the room, Colt in hand.
"This son of a bitch is the worst thing we've ever seen and you let him live–"
Dean barked a laugh, short and rough and hollow.
"Older and more powerful players than Azazel have now been awakened," Cas said, "and we don't know what they're going to do next. It was the only advantage we had. Now they may very well bring about the Apocalypse."
Into the silence, Dean muttered, "Again."
Younger Dean laughed, for a second. A few giggles in, he trailed off. "You're kidding."
Jess's hand closed around the cross on her necklace. "Dear God in Heaven..."
"God's AWOL, Heaven's full of righteous smiters that don't think for themselves and the archangels want this world to end." Dean rubbed his face, hard, and sighed. Over his fingers, Jess looked stricken. "Sorry. I'm sorry, this– wasn't supposed to happen."
Feeling the weight of every long year in his bones, Dean dropped into a chair with a long sigh. "We barely stopped it last time, and a lot of people died. Jo and Ellen, and–" It caught in his throat, and he looked down. Ash, Adam, Pam... "So, you know, it was kind of worth letting Yellow Eyes walk around a bit longer," he added pointedly.
Dad held his eyes. "You should have told us."
Dean snorted. "If you'd've just done what we told you–"
This time Dad laughed, a short rough bark. "You actually expected that?"
Dean clenched his jaw. "I know what I'm talking about. You don't."
"You should have told us."
"All right, all right," said Sam, getting between them, sheer height blocking their view. "You both screwed up. You both treat the rest of us like kids–" Dean flinched "–and we don't have time for that anymore. No more secrets," he said to Dean. "No more micromanaging; you don't have the intel anymore. We've all got to work together to figure this out. So," he said, taking a seat like a lawyer, "you're gonna tell us everything."
Sam, limp and bleeding out, Jake Talley's knife in his back. Sam, icy in a neat white suit. Sam, black eyed. Drinking blood. Soulless. Hallucinating. Desperately pressing the scar on his palm. Fevered, gritting his way through the trials.
Sam, baby-faced under short hair, watching him intently. "Yeah, fine," Dean muttered. Everything about the Apocalypse. They could handle that. They'd need to know about the seals, Lilith, the righteous man crap, Ruby (oh, definitely Ruby, one word there: No), the angels and Michael, the Seven Sins demons and the Horsemen, Croatoan, the special kids–
Sam, standing on the lip of the Pit. "It's okay, Dean. It's gonna be okay. I've got him."
Everything – more or less.
Dean rubbed his face. "I don't know where to start. It's... a lot."
"Summarise," Sam bit out.
"Azazel and his followers intend to free Lucifer from his cage in Hell," said Cas. "The archangel Michael will let them so he and Lucifer can battle to the death, and end the world."
"Why?" demanded Jess. "They're angels."
"Michael and Raphael believe it will create paradise," Cas replied. "They don't particularly care if humans live to experience it."
Her hand tightened on her cross.
"Most angels don't know about that," Dean put in, wishing it could actually help. "Cas didn't."
Sam's face brightened. "We can use that," he said, puppyish with sudden optimism. "If Cas can contact them quietly, tell them the truth–"
"That's the plan, Sammy, but it won't be enough," said Dean irritably. "Not even close."
A step back from their rough circle, younger Dean broke his silence. "Then what is 'the plan'?" he sneered. "Save the world all by yourself?"
Dean glared at him. "There are six hundred seals locking Lucifer in his cage. The demons only need to break sixty-six to get him out."
"Shit," muttered Dad.
"We can't hope to stop them all," said Cas, "but the first and the last are very specific. The first requires a man–" he paused for a microsecond, glancing away from Dean and adding "–any man that fulfils certain criteria, to shed blood in Hell. They want a particular man but will settle for anyone; it's unlikely we can do more than postpone them."
"But the last seal involves killing Lilith," said Dean, "the oldest demon there is. So me and Cas think if we kill her before the other seals are broken, that ought to shut things down pretty good."
"You think," said Dad flatly. "And if you're wrong, then what?"
"Michael and Raphael will probably find a way to force it anyway," Cas noted desolately.
Dean ignored him and nodded to the Colt Dad was still holding. "Archangels are one of the few things it won't kill, but it'll knock them out for a minute or two. Last time round we found out how to open the cage in Hell. If we can get them together – Lucifer and Michael, and Raphael, if we can – we can gun 'em down, throw 'em in and lock the door behind them."
Sam rubbed his face. "This is... huge."
"Yep. Still glad you know?"
Sam bitchfaced at him. "Yes. Now what do we do?"
Dean sighed. Looked at Cas. Cas met his gaze, regret filling his eyes. "We act," said Dean. "Fast. Now. Before the demons or the angels or anyone else can figure out what we know. We've got to try to get to Lilith and Alastair and every other big player in Hell and kill them. And we're gonna need every ally we can get."
Younger Dean leaned back, getting it first. "Bobby. And Ellen and Jo, and Jim, and Caleb. That's why you keep bringing them here. Every hunter we know. You want them all on this," he accused.
"I didn't want any of you on this, I want everyone to live!" snapped Dean. "This bunker is the safest place on Earth. If shit goes down, and it will, this is the place to be."
"Well, we're not staying here," said Sam, getting up. "We're going to be out there helping to stop this. So tell us how."
Dean locked eyes with his brother, too many dangers and risks and what if?s spinning through his mind. He looked at Cas, tired and sad, and at Dad, hands tight around the Colt.
At himself, young and angry and determined to save the world.
Slowly, he let out his breath and took a seat. "Like this."