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Any Little Song That You Know

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one

Then

John Winchester slept every night beside Mary without stirring.

"But the war," she'd asked one night, before they'd turned the lights out. "You don't dream about it?"

"Sometimes."

"How do you sleep?"

"If there's one thing I learned from the war, it's how to sleep when I have to."

Mary wasn't so lucky.

Horror had touched her life - more of her life than John's, if they compared, and they didn't - and left its mark. Dreams of ghosts and vampires and pagan gods were childhood staples, to the point where they didn't wake her up. But every few nights, she dreamed of two yellow eyes, the lips of her father, and a hunter telling her not to get out of bed.

He said a date, too. But for the life of her, she couldn't remember it.

Years passed, and while the dreams lessened in frequency, they stayed as potent as ever. Mary never told John about them, since the morning seemed no time to bring them up. Pregnancy brought a release in physical discomfort; it was much harder to get to sleep, but once she did, she didn't dream once.

Or was pregnancy a different kind of dream?

Whether or not it was, there was a baby in a crib in another bedroom when November 1983 came around. Mary heard his cries on the second night of the month, and she stirred, half-asleep, to check on him. But when the light in the hallway flickered, her eyes widened.

The old dream.

Don't get out of bed.

This was a dream she'd never had, but years of nightmares taught her to recognize the threshold between safety and terror. This was the threshold. She could walk to the baby's room, see where the nightmare led, or go back to bed and hope it went away.

Mary wasn't the type to retreat from the dangerous. But the ghosts of dead memories hovered in her mind, and they all said the same thing: go to bed.

She wouldn't be ruled by her nightmares anymore.

Decision made, she climbed back into her empty bed; John, for the first time in a while, wasn't lying next to her. She wrapped the sheets around her and wished for his warmth.

Before she knew it, the sun streamed in her bedroom windows, and November the third dawned like the days before it.


November 2005

Dean screamed.

At least, he thought he screamed. His throat was straining, but he couldn't hear properly. Not with the rush of blood to his ears, and every nerve in his body active.

The pain. He'd never felt such pain.

It eased, and he shook. The release of his tensed muscles felt nearly as painful as the tightening had been. But the muscles weren't the source of his pain. It eased enough to let him think, and he realized it was coming from inside his torso, from a bunch of different sources.

The pain resumed, and Dean heard his scream this time. It was choked, half-whimpering. He hated the sound of it.

He also heard thumping, and the crash of his door.

"Dean? Dean!" The voice was feminine, but low with tension.

He couldn't answer. It was all he could do to keep breathing. He could feel his skin shred, blood pouring down his torso, feel intestines slip toward gashes, feel his muscles spasm without control…

A palm touched his forehead. "What's wrong?"

"My…" He screamed again. "My stomach!"

A pop rang in his ears, and the pressure on his torso eased.

"What's wrong with your stomach?"

Couldn't she see it? It was…

Wait.

He wasn't seeing his stomach; this torso looked longer and leaner around the remnants of the torn skin. And the body the torso belonged to was lying on dirt, but Dean could feel his blankets under his back, sticking to him.

But it was his body. He could feel every one of those goddamned gashes.

"Help," he cried, but the voice he heard wasn't his own. It gurgled around blood. "Help me."

"Hang on," a voice said, but it wasn't the same voice he'd heard earlier. This voice was a man's, gruff and deep.

There was another pop, close enough to make his ears ring.

"I can't–" That was Dean's voice, and he stopped to clear fluid from his throat. But his throat felt clear, just as it felt flooded. "Can't see."

"Hold on," the woman said. He could feel her hand in his. "The ambulance will be here any moment, sweetheart."

Just after she finished, the man spoke. "You'll make it."

Strong arms slipped under his back, and he was hefted up, just as he stayed on his bedding. The movement sent fresh shots of pain through his body, and both his own voice and the other cried out in protest.

His vision blurred.

"You will stay with me," the man said, almost as a threat. No, it was definitely a threat; he tilted down into Dean's vision, and a permanent snarl was embedded on his face.

He heard voices in the distance, and he tried to focus on them. Someone spoke his name once, twice, and a third time. He couldn't answer.

Dean's head lolled back…both his head, and the other. He lowered to the ground again, and all he could see were stars, and the tops of trees bouncing in a breeze. He inhaled a shuddering breath, but all he smelled was the iron of blood.

"His heart rate's dropping," he heard, but it was a near whisper.

"Starting compressions."

A slight pressure appeared on his chest, but it, along with the pain, was beginning to fade. His eyelids felt heavier than barbells.

"Charge paddles."

More chatter continued, but the breeze was louder in his ears.

The man's face appeared in the gap through his narrow eyes. "Damn it, listen to me, boy!"

A jolt hit him, and he could tell both of the bodies jerked in reply. The man jumped to his feet and closed his eyes, jaw clenched. He said something, but Dean couldn't hear what it was.

"He's unresponsive."

Golden light glowed, along with a sweet note that caressed and stung his ears at the same time. The man turned to it, almost resigned, and walked out of Dean's vision. Which was fine, because he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer, not even to watch.

The light grew and stabbed through his closed eyes. Dean felt himself drawn toward it, even as it burned. But before he could act - if he even could - the light disappeared, and he passed out.

-

"We've got a heartbeat."

Mary unclenched her fists, but she didn't push away from the wall. Experience had taught her to stay out of the way.

The paramedics slid Dean – unconscious, but obviously breathing – off his bed and onto the gurney waiting next to it.

They rushed him out the door, and Mary stayed close behind, heart in her throat.

-

Dean jogged down the road. He could see his breath mist the air in front of him, and the cold air ached against the skin bared by the tears in his clothes. Still, it was a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

A light flashed in his face, and he tried to raise his hand to cover his eyes, but it wouldn't lift.

"Mr. Campbell, can you hear me?"

He felt a groan rattle his teeth, but it didn't reach his ears.

"Raise your hand if you can hear me."

He raised his hand, but it didn't move.

"Good, good."

His feet caught on a rock, and he stumbled, but didn't lose his balance. The voice faded in his ears, replaced by the whistling of the wind through the bare branches over his head.

"…show no damage. We'll do more…"

It was almost as if the voice wafted on the breeze, coming and going as the wind rose and fell. He wondered about it and didn't notice it all at the same time. He was foggy and confused and tired, and determined and clear and full of energy.

A streetlight appeared, complete with what appeared to be a car underneath. He approached…

…and a hospital room came into clear focus. He gasped so hard he nearly choked on his tongue.

"It's okay," a man said, putting a hand on his chest and forcing him back. "Do you know where you are?"

"I was…" Dean's words cut off with a cough.

"You're probably experiencing some dry mouth, as a result of the drugs," the man said kindly.

"The hospital," Dean croaked. He worked some saliva in his mouth, but it did little to ease the parched feeling.

Something rattled in his ear. He moved his head. Mom sat in a chair directly next to his bed with a cup in her hands. She took out an ice chip and extended it toward him. He took it with his teeth and sighed as the chip melted on his tongue.

"I'm Dr. Perry, Mr. Campbell."

Dean nodded once. His head felt thick, but free of any pain. "What happened?"

"We're working on it," Dr. Perry said. "We'll run a couple tests, and while we're getting the results, you can get some sleep. Sound good?"

"Sure, whatever," Dean said. He sounded – and felt – like he'd swallowed a handful of gravel.

Dr. Perry went to the open door and poked his head out, and Dean glanced back at his mom. She was paler than he'd ever seen her.

"Mom," he said. "I'm fine."

She cracked the barest hint of a smile. "Of course."

-

Mary bit into the tuna sandwich as if she hadn't eaten in days. It felt like she hadn't, anyway.

The cafeteria was nearly empty, besides a lone woman mopping the floor behind the counter. Four in the morning wasn't a bustling time in this portion of Lawrence Memorial Hospital; graveyard was still working, day shift hadn't woken up, and visitor hours ended long ago. A lone TV in the corner of the room broadcasted a late-night infomercial, and Mary was glad for it. She knew how overpowering silence could be.

Mary only had bits of bread crust left when a man in green scrubs burst in the door, half-jogging in her direction. Her eyes snapped to follow him, and she didn't like what she saw: large eyes, faster-than-usual breath, tense shoulders. She felt her own heart beat faster, and she braced herself to receive him.

But he passed her table and went for the TV. He hit the buttons on the TV, and grumbled when nothing happened. He turned toward the employee behind the counter.

"You got a remote?"

The woman nodded and reached under the counter. "What channel?"

"CNN."

She squinted as she hit the buttons, and the channel flickered over. It was too quiet to hear the specifics, thanks to both her distance and the man blocking the speakers, so Mary rose and stepped closer.

An anchor was speaking fast, but with the same assured cadence and tone most TV reporters used.

"…still coming in, but the estimates are reaching the millions. President Bush has ordered–"

Mary stopped hearing the words when she saw the visuals. A city – Detroit, if the crawl at the bottom of the screen was any indication – reduced to nothing but piles of rubble, illuminated in circles by large spotlights, bordered by a deep black.

"What the hell?" she asked.

"Dunno," the man said. He seemed rooted to the spot, shaking his head as he spoke. "My wife texted me just before I hit my break and said something about a bomb in Detroit…but this…"

He trailed off, and Mary knew what he meant.

Back on the TV, a helicopter shot over one of the nearby lakes. There wasn't much to see, since it was still dark, but that was the most notable part: a city the size of Detroit would have something to see besides the occasional spotlight. The sky and the lake they were hovering over were more notable: dozens of lights moved toward and away from the city, both in the air and on the water.

The anchor described some of the rescue effort in progress, and the footage cut to a man covered in chalky dust. His eyes and mouth stuck out simply because they weren't the same, too-bright shade as the powder he bore.

"There wasn't just one explosion," he was saying.

"You said you saw a light?" a disembodied voice said, and a microphone waved in view.

He nodded vigorously, a cloud of white dust rising around him. "A bunch of lights, over and over, then one big one, when the buildings...and, and the people, their eyes burned–"

Mary was out of the cafeteria and running before she finished her next breath.

-

Dean stared at the panels of the ceiling above him. They'd turned off the heart monitor, luckily – he'd been ready to throw the damn thing out the window – but he could hear voices in the halls and see the lights from cars move across the walls. The TV wasn't working, and when he complained, the nurse he'd paged told him he was supposed to try to sleep anyway. And she wasn't even hot.

The only thing he could do was think about nearly dying. Not fun.

As he breathed in the sterile hospital air, he considered what he knew. The doctor had given him some of the details: screaming, delirium, and his heart stopping. But he could have guessed most of it on his own. It's not what stuck with him.

The dreams, on the other hand...they were so real, his skin still felt cold to the touch. The nurse he'd asked about his clothes had said there wasn't any blood on them, but he wasn't entirely sure she wasn't lying to him.

When you're in the frickin' Matrix, he thought, it's hard to know who to trust.

The door creaked open, and someone slipped inside quietly.

"You can turn on the light," he said.

There was no reply.

He sat up. "Hello?"

A hand hit his chest with enough force to hit him against the bed. He still ached from the paddles they'd used – and possibly from his not-gored torso – and now, it felt as if an anvil crushed his lungs. He gasped, and followed the arm to a body and a face: Dr. Perry. But his eyes were so shadowed they seemed almost black.

"Hello, Dean," he said. It was more a growl than words.

Dean pushed at the hand, and when he didn't move, he tried with both hands to pry it off his chest. The doctor didn't budge in the slightest.

"Calm down, kid. You're hurting yourself."

He raised a needle, and jabbed it in Dean's neck.

"Help!"

"Shh," Dr. Perry said. He tossed the now-empty needle away, and covered Dean's mouth with his free hand. Thankfully, it was loose, and Dean could still breathe, if only shallowly. "Just keep quiet, and–"

"Back away."

Dr. Perry leaned to find the source of the voice, which allowed Dean to see the hallway. Standing in silhouette in the door frame was his mom, breathing hard and clenching her hands into fists by her legs.

"Mary," Dr. Perry said. "Nice of you to show up."

Mom stepped inside. "I said, back away."

The doctor's hand moved from Dean's chest up to his throat, and he choked.

"Come any closer," Dr. Perry said, "and I'll rip his head off."

Mom took a decided step forward, and Dr. Perry pulled his hand off Dean's mouth and started to point it at her. But before he could do anything, she whipped something in front of her, and steam rose off Dr. Perry's skin. He screamed, and withdrew the hand from Dean's throat.

Dean gasped, and the world swam around him. He pulled the IV in his arm out with a grimace and jumped out of bed, trying to get as much distance from his mom and the doctor as possible.

But Mom was speaking quickly in a language he didn't recognize, and Dr. Perry was on his knees, screaming and holding his hands over his ears. And he was jerking around faster than any person he'd ever seen.

What the hell was going on?

Mom finished off a sentence with emphasis, and Dr. Perry's head jerked up. Black smoke spewed out of his mouth and into the air as he shrieked, and wind hit Dean's face in a rush. He flung himself against the opposite wall, barely noticing the trays he crashed into and the chair he nearly fell over.

"Dean," Mom called over all the noise. "We gotta go."

The smoke disappeared out the open door, but Dean couldn't pull his eyes away from the ceiling. He felt something tugging his arm, and he jerked it back without seeing what it was.

Mom grabbed his face. "Look at me."

He did, finally.

"Mom." The word came out shaky.

"I know," she said. Her brow furrowed and jaw set. "But we've gotta go, okay?"

"Okay." He was nodding, and he couldn't seem to stop. "Okay."

Mom let go of his face and grabbed his arm again. She started a brisk pace, but Dean took two steps and felt the room spin. He stopped and dropped to a knee, wincing as he made contact with the floor.

"Dean! What's wrong?"

"I..." He shook his head to clear the cobwebs. "The doctor. He had a needle."

Mom lowered, and put a arm out. Dean leaned on her just enough to get to his feet, but she took most of his weight without complaint. He stared at his feet, watching them move forward in an attempt to stay steady. It didn't really work; he toppled over twice, and brought Mom down with him the second time.

"This isn't working," she said, withdrawing her arm.

Dean watched as Mom pushed to her feet and jogged out of the room. Only the distant sound of her feet slapping the tile stayed behind, and the beating of Dean's heart in his ears. The smell of his sweat masked any of the hospital's sterility.

Just as he was starting to wonder if she was coming back, the footsteps grew louder and louder, until wheels came into view. The wheels were attached to a chair, which was less attention-grabbing than the red tracks they left behind in their wake.

Mom helped Dean up, and he could feel just how much he was trembling in her steady hands.

"What's the red?" he asked.

"Huh?"

As he sat in the chair, he grabbed the armrests to still his shaking hands. All it did was rattle the chair.

"O-on the floor," he said.

Mom stepped behind the wheelchair, and turned it toward the door. "You weren't the only one attacked."

That was his only warning as she pushed him into the hallway.

An unpleasant metallic tang burned his nostrils just before he caught sight of blood dripping down the walls. His eyes jerked around, and he took in the sight of the hallway: white emergency lights making up for the broken florescents overhead, carts and gurneys overturned with wheels spinning, and contorted bodies on the ground, lying in pools of blood.

Dean's vision went black, and he didn't think it had anything to do with the drugs in his system. His head slumped forward.

"Hey, hey," Mom said, shaking his shoulder. She didn't stop the wheelchair. "Stay with me."

He forced himself to stare at the end of the hall. A distorted reflection in the metallic elevator doors stared back: Mom, looking like she always did, and Dean, clutching the wheelchair for dear life.

But Mom turned away from the elevator doors, and they proceeded down another hallway. This time, the bodies lie in the middle of the hall, and although Mom navigated the chair as best she could, Dean's feet hit heads and hands. He gagged.

"Almost there," Mom said in his ear.

"Where are we going?"

"The stairs. Breathe slower, or you'll hyperventilate."

He would have laughed if he hadn't been struggling to breathe. Or fighting to stay awake.

She stopped the chair in front of the door to the stairs, which was swinging, half-open. He wondered if she was going to turn around, until she spoke.

"You think you can do a couple flights?"

Dean stared at the darkness past the door like it was going to eat him. "You're kidding."

Mom put the breaks on, and bumped the wheelchair a couple times to make sure it wouldn't roll. "Stand up."

There was a clatter at the end of the hall, and they both turned heads.

"Dean."

She didn't have to tell him a third time.

He got to his feet so fast he tipped forward, and only Mom's hand at the back of his hospital gown kept him from falling into the stairwell.

There was another clatter out of sight, but closer.

Mom let go. Luckily, Dean had his feet, so he managed to walk forward. The door clattered against the wall, and only one light worked, flickering in and out. Mom dragged the wheelchair behind her and slammed the door shut.

"Can you make it?" she asked, folding up the wheelchair.

Dean peered over the side. The clatter of metal on metal, Mom's shoes on the concrete, Dean's breath: all noise bounced off the walls, and made however many floors beneath seem miles below.

He blinked sweat out of his eyes, and forced his eyes open further.

"Yeah," he muttered. "Yeah."

Mom picked up the wheelchair. It blocked a good portion of her body from view. "Let's go."

They moved slowly, but steadily. The more Dean walked, the sleepier he became, but there was enough adrenaline in his system to keep him moving.

As they reached a floor landing, Dean decided to ask a question to stay awake. "Why'd you bring the chair?"

Before Mom could say anything, a door opened. Dean backed against the railing, clutching it as hard as he could manage.

The hall beyond appeared exactly as the hall of a hospital should in the middle of the night: quiet and dimly lit, but humming with an occupational level of activity. The door had been opened by a woman in scrubs, clutching a pack of cigarettes. She gaped at Dean and Mom.

"Hi," Mom said.

"Hi," the woman said slowly. "Can...I help you with something?"

"We're just heading out. Thanks."

The woman stepped in the stairwell, slightly tense with suspicion, but she closed the door behind her.

Mom hefted the wheelchair up with a smile, and swung her entire body so the portion of the wheelchair she couldn't keep against her body clocked the woman in the chin.

Dean cried out, but the woman turned her head and grinned, bearing black eyes and a bleeding mouth. "You're gonna regret that."

The door opened again, and a man came out. "What's going on?"

The woman turned toward him, and Mom started toward the stairs. Dean followed her, still clutching the banister. Voices echoed behind them, but luckily, there was only another floor to go before the bottom.

Except Dean passed out a few steps above the ground floor.

He half-woke with a cold breeze on his face. He opened his eyes enough to see the world tipped at an angle.

"Where..." he managed to get out.

"The parking lot," Mom said. "I'm getting you out."

He was safe, and he didn't have the energy to remain conscious. So he didn't try.

-

Mary navigated her truck behind the farmhouse, a cloud of dirt rising behind. It was slightly too early for any kind of dawn, so she pointed the truck toward the house and left the headlights on. She couldn't take time to turn on the outdoor lights, not yet.

She ran around back, pulled the wheelchair out of the bed, and propped it up next to the passenger's side door. Dean groaned as she opened the door and unbuckled his seat belt.

"Come on, kid," she said, shaking his shoulder gently.

As he had in the hospital and the parking lot, Dean managed to stand without being fully conscious. Mary guided him into the chair, but his weight was forward, so he nearly tipped over. She pushed him back, and he slumped into something resembling a sitting position.

She pulled the chair away enough to slam the truck door closed. Dean twitched, and went back to snoring quietly.

Mary navigated into the house. The headlights filtering through the door made the walls too white, and her eyes struggled to adjust. She paused to work the wheelchair through the nearly-too-small door frame, and parked Dean in the kitchen while she made sure all the doors and windows in the upper part of the house stood secure. They did.

She allowed herself a brief moment to catch her breath in the kitchen. Dust motes lingered in the air, illuminated by the headlights. It seemed time stopped, but not long enough.

Back to work, she thought.

After pushing up the sleeves of her blouse, Mary kicked a couple of rugs out of the way and dragged the wheelchair back to Dean's old room. It still had a twin bed and the cowboy-themed wallpaper she'd put up when they'd first moved in. The chair didn't fit in the door, so Mary brought Dean to his feet and dragged him the few feet to the bed.

But she settled Dean on the mattress, and wiped sweat off her forehead. Even though he was out for the count and the ghastly look to his skin, he looked okay. She could let him sleep for a little while.

Mary brushed a hand over his hair, and left the room.

The next step was an inspection.

A trip around the upper floor of the house satisfied her. The baseboards still had their sigils, she renewed the salt under the floorboards, and the stock of holy water and various dusts and powders remained ready behind the broom cupboard. Everything she needed for basic defense was ready.

The basement light was out, so she descended with a flashlight. The key to the weapon closet was in a bracelet she always wore – Guns don't do nobody no good if you can't get to them, her dad always said – and she selected a sawed-off shotgun and a box of shells with the light balanced in her teeth. She picked up a couple holsters and put them on, making sure her pistols stayed somewhat covered by her shirt. Two shells went in the shotgun, two went in her pocket, and the box went back up the stairs with her and on the kitchen table.

Mary went to the side door, still illuminated by the headlights, and grabbed her jacket again. The first hints of false dawn tinged the sky outside, and she still needed to check the perimeter. But she paused before opening the door. The house was safe – she'd seen with her own eyes – but something told her not to leave.

Trust your instincts, her dad had always told her. But he'd also said, Safety first, and they wouldn't be as secure if the iron in the perimeter was disturbed.

"Damn it," she whispered, and unlocked the door without further hesitation.

The farm was too big to run around comfortably with the night she'd had, and there was a bite to the air not even her thick jacket could keep out entirely, so she jumped in the truck and drove around the edges. The fields hadn't seen crops in years, but she winced as she crossed them. Some habits never went away.

All she had to do was brush away a layer of dirt in four corners of the property, and her mind was eased. Not entirely, of course. A part of her always wanted to dig up the entire boundary, but it was beyond impractical, and the house had guards in place even if the iron wasn't fully present. And it probably was.

Mary returned to the farmhouse after fifteen minutes. The sky was still a very dark blue, but she could see the outlines of the trees even outside the beams of her lights. It was always heartening to see the daylight, when she knew what crawled in the dark.

She dragged herself inside, fighting her overworked muscles. After she used the bathroom and grabbed a granola bar and the shells from the bathroom, she opened the door to Dean's room. Since he was on a bed, he'd fallen asleep more deeply; his snoring was loud enough to wake the dead.

Her chest tightened. Dean would have questions, and while she had answers, he wouldn't want to hear them.

There was so much he could hate her for.

She slid in the corner next to the door and stared at the floor as she ate.

-

When Dean finally started waking up, he yawned, and blinked heavily.

"Good afternoon."

He forced his eyelids open. "Mom?"

Mom sat in a chair opposite Dean's bed. And it was his bed. The wood creaked in a particular way as he sat up, and he remembered using the bed as a kid. But it felt wrong now. He'd grown too big for it.

"We're at the farmhouse," Mom said.

Dean stared blankly. "You mean, Uncle Stan's?"

Mom nodded.

"Didn't you sell it after he died?" Back when he was in fourth or fifth grade, if he remembered right.

"I put it under a different name." Mom's eyes took in the room. "In case something like this happened."

Dean opened his mouth, and closed it again. He'd lived long enough with his mom to know she gave him an opening. "That wasn't a dream."

She shook her head.

The more Dean tried not to remember the hospital, the stronger it stuck in his mind. The blood – blood was never that vivid, that red in the movies – streaking the white walls. The unmoving bodies, with hands grasping for something they'd never get. His mom's even breath behind him.

This wasn't new to her.

She sighed, and he realized his was shaking his head slightly. "Dean–"

"Can a guy get something to eat?"

As she eyed him, he had no idea how he looked. Pissed, maybe. Scared out of his mind, probably. But he didn't know how he felt, so how he appeared was tough to call.

"I'll get you something." She rose to her feet and stretched. "Any requests?"

"Surprise me."

Mom turned and opened the door, and Dean noticed, for the first time, the butt of a shotgun sticking out of a holster on her back.

Just after she left, he scrambled until he found a trash can next to the bed, where Mom always stuck it. He was just fast enough. His stomach was mostly empty, but it didn't stop him from vomiting what little contents he had into the can, and from dry-heaving for several minutes after.

-

Mary opened and closed the cabinet doors loudly, even though Dean had stopped retching. From the scratching and creaking, she bet he was looking for non-hospital clothes to wear in the dresser, and she didn't want him to think she was listening.

But the noise both Mary and Dean made didn't mask a thump in the hallway outside the bedroom. The shotgun was in her hands before she fully realized why.

It was probably Dean, she thought. But she couldn't afford not to check.

As she edged forward, she kept her weight as even as possible. It didn't stop the floor from protesting under her, but she hoped it wasn't loud enough to give her away. She leaned against the wall next to the entrance of the hallway, held her breath, and listened.

A light cough came from Dean's room. A creak came from further down the hallway.

Mary exhaled once, inhaled again, and slipped around and pressed herself into the corner.

Sure enough, a figure stood next to the doorway of Dean's room, leaning against the half-open door. He stood a good foot taller than Mary, and she suppressed a shiver. If this guy was human, he was going to be tough to take down. If he wasn't…well, she could give Dean a fighting chance.

The figure shifted into the light coming from the bared windows of Dean's room, and light gleamed off his hand. No, an object in his hand: a knife.

That was her cue.

She jumped forward and stuck the barrel of the gun in the guy's neck, at the base of his skull.

"Drop it," she said. Her voice was low, to make it carry more.

The man froze. At the edge of her vision, she saw Dean button up a pair of jeans and sling a sweater over his head.

Before she could warn him, the man swung the hand with the knife in her direction, but she was ready. She whacked his hand with the barrel of the gun and swung the butt into his chin. He grunted, and swung his free hand in a fist. Mary leaned back to dodge, and only a couple of knuckles grazed her arm. It hurt, but not enough to lose her momentum.

Mary stepped back and raised the gun again. "Hold it!"

He lunged forward, but before he could cross the distance between the two of them, he stopped in place. His eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and he fell forward. Mary pressed against the wall to avoid getting pinned.

"Mom?"

Dean stood above his attacker's unconscious body, clutching an empty dresser drawer. He trembled, and dropped the drawer as horror spread on his face.

"You okay?" Mary asked, lowering her gun.

He could only nod.

Mary glanced at the unconscious heap on the ground. She knelt and raised his head off the carpet to see his face.

She'd thought of him as a man, but he was nothing more than a kid. His round face told her he was definitely a few years younger than Dean. He wore his brown hair shaggy, and it spread out on the floor around his head. She could already see bruises forming on his face where she hit him, particularly next to his prominent nose.

He looked peaceful in his sleep, and familiar.

Mary pressed a couple fingers to his throat. She could see he was still breathing, and his heart beat seemed strong and even, so if Dean hadn't cracked anything badly, he would probably be fine. But who did he look like?

In a rush, she realized.

John.

"Mom?"

Mary blinked away tears and hoped Dean didn't see. She slid the shotgun into the holster again, and grabbed an arm.

"Help me get him up," she said.

-

As Mom finished tying the stranger to the chair, Dean hovered in the doorway.

"That gonna hold him?" he asked.

"Sure."

She tested her knots and stepped back. Nodding to herself with satisfaction, she went to the cabinets and pulled a glass out.

"You should go sit," Mom said, taking the glass to the sink. When she turned on the faucet, she raised her voice a little to make sure Dean could hear over the water. "This could take a while."

Dean crossed his arms and stepped inside the kitchen. "I'm fine."

"We don't know what they gave you."

"I don't know a lot of things," Dean said, stopping next to Mom.

Mom sighed and turned the water off. She pulled a silver flask out of her jacket pocket, and unscrewed the top. "I know."

"What are you doing?"

"It's holy water," she said as she tipped some of the contents into the glass. "Helps me make sure I'm talking to the guy I want."

"He's not gonna drink."

Mom carried the glass over and tossed the contents in the unconscious kid's face. He winced, and shook his head to fling the water away.

Dean vaguely regretted staying when the guy tested the rope around his chest and wrists. He was more than big enough to take care of himself, and bigger than Dean. The stranger winced as he rolled his head on his neck, and Dean winced when the guy looked up at Mom, who stood right in front of him.

"Let me go," he said, so quietly Dean almost missed it.

"You're John's boy, aren't you?"

He stiffened, and the chair scraped against the linoleum. Dean backed against the sink, and hated himself for it.

Mom paced, arms crossed. "Guess that's a yes."

"What do you care?"

"Did he tell you to come here?" She paused for effect. "Sam."

Sam tossed his hair out of his eyes. "He told me he was looking for a woman named Mary."

"That's me."

"He's..." Sam exhaled. "He hasn't answered his phone. I thought I'd see if he found you."

"Didn't seem like you were looking for him."

"Let me go," Sam said again. He didn't seem worried at all, and Dean was kind of annoyed by it. He wanted someone around who felt like he did: half-scared, and confused as hell.

"Give me a good reason."

Dean couldn't see Mom's face at this angle, but her shoulders tilted up, and she shifted her weight between feet. It was the first time Dean had noticed she wasn't completely fine. She'd taken mutilated bodies at the hospital in stride, and carried around guns almost as big as she was, but something about this punk shook her cool?

"Have you been outside lately?" Sam said. "The world's going to hell."

"Literally?"

"Dad thought so."

"Okay, fine." Mom turned a chair around and sat, leaning forward on the back. "Things suck. What would keep you from gutting my son if I let you go?"

Dean put a hand over his stomach. He wasn't exactly lining up to get torn up again.

"What if I said I was sorry?"

"I wouldn't believe you."

"But I am."

"Because you got caught."

Sam glared at the floor like it was pissing him off. Mom gave the dying light in the window behind Sam the exact same stare.

"I'll let you go," Mom said, finally, "if you promise not to hurt Dean."

"Or what?"

"Or I take care of you, here and now."

"Mom!" Dean said.

She looked back. Her expression was just as pissed as before, but she raised an eyebrow to tell him he wasn't the cause. Dean held up his hands in question, but she shook her head.

"He's the one putting you in danger," Sam said, craning his neck to see Dean around Mom. "Both of us, now."

It was Dean's turn to give the kid a scowl. Sam gave Dean a very fixed stare in return, and sweat broke out on Dean's forehead. He didn't know him at all, but everything about his face said I will kill you, and you can't stop me.

Mom shook her head. "If you didn't want danger, you wouldn't have come."

"I wouldn't leave Dad," Sam said. His face softened for the first time for the whole conversation. "He's all I've got."

Mom got to her feet and grabbed Sam's knife from the counter in a flash. She crossed the floor toward Sam, and Dean cried out, reaching out a hand as he stepped forward.

"It's okay," Mom said through grit teeth. It took Dean a second to realize she was talking to him; it took Dean nearly a minute to notice she was cutting through the ropes around Sam's torso. "He won't hurt me."

The ropes fell at her feet, and Sam rose, rolling his shoulders. Mom looked extra small next to him, but she held her head high.

"You haven't seen Dad?"

"I haven't," she said. "And I'd better not see him, if he knows what's good."

Sam's face screwed up, and he opened his mouth.

The world shook violently, just before a large flash obscured the room and a boom rattled the walls.

Dean, unprepared, lost his balance and hit the floor. He wasn't the only thing to topple: cabinets opened, drawers slid out, and utensils and dishes fell all around. He put his hands over his head to protect it, but since he'd been in front of the sink, nothing had been right behind him.

"The hell?" he yelled over the ringing in his ears.

Someone grabbed his arms and pulled him out of the kitchen.

-

Dust-size debris fell on Mary's head as they descended to the basement. She'd had the presence of mind to grab the flashlight, since the sun was gone and they'd plunged into darkness. The ground shook again violently, and she grabbed the rail of the stairs for balance, almost losing her grasp on the flashlight.

Sam spoke as they reached the bottom, but her ears rang from the initial blast, so she missed it.

"What?"

"The basement! Is it safe?"

"Safest part of the house!"

It didn't mean the basement was safe, but she figured, at worst, it was stable enough to buy them a couple of minutes. Enough time to think.

"Dean."

He didn't reply.

"Dean?"

Nothing.

Mary wondered, briefly, if something had snapped inside him. But she didn't have time to worry, so she guided him under the work bench that held her welding tools.

She grabbed a sheet of metal to protect her head, and turned to Sam, who'd grabbed a long piece of wood for a similar purpose. A more distant explosion rattled the walls a little, but Mary didn't have to raise her voice to be heard. "What's going on?"

"I don't know!"

"Does this mean–"

She paused as another explosion shook the basement. It wasn't as dramatic down here as it was upstairs – she could hear more dishes crash on the floor – so she hoped the ceiling would hold.

When it had quieted again, she said, "Does this mean they're being open now?"

"Looks that way," Sam said.

She ran her free hand through her hair. "They drugged Dean in the hospital. They want him alive."

"You sure about that?"

"The house is still standing, isn't it? Why not just blow us up?"

"They're trying to drive us out." Sam didn't look pleased by the thought.

Another explosion, but Mary was able to nod even as her teeth clanked together.

"There an exit from here?"

She gestured toward the gun closet. It had seemed a good idea to put a couple of exits in the basement; it had seemed downright essential to put one of those next to the weapons.

"If it hasn't caved in," she said, and she fervently hoped it hadn't, "that's it. I assume you parked by the grove to the east?"

Sam said something, but she was paying attention to another distant explosion and missed it.

"What?"

"They're timing them," he said. "One close explosion every two minutes, one far off every thirty seconds."

Mary glanced at Dean again. He was hugging his legs to his chest and breathing quickly. It decided her.

"You have to get him out," she told Sam.

"Him?" An explosion forestalled his next sentence. "He'll get me killed!"

"You wanted to get me out."

"Yeah, but you aren't gonna bring demons on my ass!"

"Of course I would," Mary said. "I've stayed near Dean his entire life. If a demon saw me with you, they'd assume you're Dean."

That shut Sam up pretty effectively.

"Dad would kill me if I took him," he said after a moment.

Mary clenched her jaw, but left the subject alone. "Dean's the key."

"To what?"

"To all of it," Mary said. "Detroit, this attack, your dad."

Sam squinted in disbelief as another explosive rumbled. Mary grabbed his arm.

"Take Dean, get out of here, and figure it out. I'll buy you some time."

"How?"

Mary sucked in a hard breath. "I'll face them."

"Are you kidding?"

"They won't kill me."

Sam shook his head. "You can't face more than a couple demons by yourself."

"I have guns."

"That won't do you any good."

"My anti-possession tattoo will," she said, patting her left shoulder for emphasis.

"You think that'll stop them from flaying you alive."

She was done debating. "Go while you have the chance."

"Not without you."

Mary pulled a pistol out of her pants pocket and pointed it in Sam's face. He jerked in surprise.

"This is the best plan we have," she said.

Sam swallowed. "You won't shoot me. You need me to take Dean."

Again, he was the very picture of John when she'd first met him. The stony expression didn't help. Mary's chest ached.

"Guns are in the closet next to the exit," she said, breathing evenly. "Take as much as you can carry."

Another loud explosion went off, and a piece of one of the overhead beams crashed to the floor. Sam grabbed the flashlight from Mary, took Dean by the collar of his jacket, and walked in a crouch toward the closet.

She'd won. Still, didn't feel like much of a victory.

Squaring her shoulders, she moved with the rocking ground in her own slide forward. The explosions continued as she made her way through the house and to the front door, and she bumped the walls with enough force to leave her black and blue. Her hip in particular complained, but she ignored it and made it to the exit.

An explosion required her to pause before unlocking the door. She wiped sweat from her forehead and palms, and checked her weapons.

Maybe she could take a few of those bastards down before she died.

Chapter Text

two

Dean experienced the next few minutes as if he watched them on TV.

Sam handed him the flashlight and stocked up on weapons. He filled holsters he already wore – apparently, Mom had relieved him of guns without Dean noticing – put on a couple more rigs that fit, checked the clips inside the guns he grabbed, and handed Dean a couple holsters. He'd stared at them in the blue light for a few minutes before Sam, in frustration, forced them over Dean's arms. One held a knife, and the other, a pistol Sam handed him.

Once finished, Sam dragged Dean out of the basement through the door next to the gun closet, and pressed him against the side of the house. Dean stared as Sam slipped around both sides of the house, and only remembered to exhale when he came back in view. His breath clouded the air.

Finally, Sam came back and leaned against the wall next to Dean. He took the flashlight, clicked it off, and stuck it inside his jacket. "You need to listen and do exactly as I say."

Dean, foggy-headed, understood enough to nod.

"We're gonna run for it." Sam pointed to a gap in the fence about fifty feet away. "My car's parked there. You get in the passenger's side, and you keep as far down as you can until I tell you it's safe. Got it?"

Dean nodded again.

Sam drew a pistol out. "Let's go."

He dashed forward, and Dean stared at his dust for a second before stumbling after.

Cracking sounds rang out in the air, and Dean ducked his head as he ran, holding his hands over his ears. Sam slowed, aimed for a somewhat distant point, and fired his gun. Dean passed him, but Sam caught up before long and passed through the fence before him.

The car Sam mentioned was a black beast shining in the moonlight. He was already in the car by the time Dean passed the hood, and just as he took the side opposite Sam's and slammed the door shut, the engine roared to life.

Dean cowered under the dash as Sam pulled back with a violent speed. He cried out as the car bounced on the dirt and his head hit the glove compartment.

I'm gonna die.

A surge of panic came with the thought, and for the first time in hours, he felt present. He was in the car charging through the night, a gun bounced in a holster he wore, and the guy next to him would have liked him better dead.

Dean gasped once, and again. It felt like his lungs shrunk.

His thoughts zoomed in his head, almost too fast to catch. He clutched his forehead with his hands, and realized Mom was gone, and Sam had saved him. It wasn't how things should've gone.

"Wait!" he said.

"Kinda busy," Sam snapped. His eyes were fixed on the road, and he held the steering wheel tight.

"What's going on?" Dean asked, starting to raise up.

Sam dislodged one of his hands and smacked Dean on the top of the head. "Stay down!"

Dean sunk back, and stared at the mat under his feet. He couldn't see it too well in the darkness, but he could see the outline, and some of the mud caked on it. The faintest scent of gasoline reached his nose.

"What's going on?" he asked again.

As if on cue, a metallic clang shook the car. Sam swore under his breath.

"What was that?"

With a glance over his shoulder, Sam said, "They're shooting. Hang on."

He jerked the steering wheel. After a couple of bounces, the car stopped rocking and gained speed. Belatedly, Dean remembered to fasten his seat belt.

It was just in time. Sam turned the car widely, and if Dean hadn't buckled, he'd have slid across the car. He still slid as much as the seat belt allowed, and his head bobbed up a little. He grabbed the dashboard to hold himself in place, but just as he started to duck again, Sam braked hard. Dean's hands were the only things keeping him from slamming his head in the glove compartment.

"What the hell?"

Sam didn't answer. He killed the engine and turned half his torso to see the road they'd left behind. He watched intently for a few moments, and, eventually, exhaled and slumped against the back of the seat.

"We're clear," he said.

Dean sat up and peered around. The car sat in the paved driveway of an unlit and abandoned farm, and the road attached was deserted.

He sat back against the seat, rubbing his neck. "Thanks for the warning."

Again, Sam didn't answer. He turned the car back on instead and reversed out of the driveway. He turned the car the way they'd come, and proceeded forward at a slowly increasing speed.

"We're going back?"

"No."

"My mom's in trouble!"

"She volunteered," Sam said. His voice dripped with disdain.

"She saved your ass."

"Didn't ask her to."

Dean wanted to hit something. He settled for the upholstery, which made a satisfying slapping noise against his fist.

"Look," Sam said. His voice was less hard, but only just. "I get it. But there are bigger things going on."

"Says the guy who came looking for his dad."

"I'm trying to help."

"Sorry. I don't believe attempted murders."

"Dean–"

"Stop the car."

Sam glared at him. "No."

"Stop. The. Car."

"I said no." Sam pressed the gas.

"What the hell's your problem?"

"You, right now."

"Give me one good reason not to stop the car."

Without a word, Sam clicked the radio on, and flicked the dial around. No music played; instead, every station had people talking. He stopped on one.

"–no terrorist organizations have claimed responsibility for the as yet undetermined incident in Detroit. Mass evacuations of the surrounding area are ongoing–"

Dean frowned. "A bombing in Detroit?"

"It's not a bombing," Sam said, clicking the radio off again. "There was a fight with a demon, far as anyone can tell."

"Demon." Dean half-choked on a laugh. As if this couldn't get weirder.

"You...don't know about demons?" Sam sounded surprised.

"Last time I checked, demons don't exist."

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. "Great. This day gets better and better."

"It hasn't been great for me, either," Dean snapped. "Just..."

He trailed off as images flashed in his mind.

The doctor with the black eyes. The people in the hospital, killed in the blink of an eye. Mom's guns. The holy water she'd splashed on Sam.

"You said demons," Dean said.

"Yeah."

"Are they smoke? Black smoke?"

"You've seen them."

"One," Dean said. "Mom knows about them."

"Of course she does. The house was covered in protections. I'd be surprised if you didn't have a couple yourself."

Dean let out a shuddering breath. "Demons have Mom?"

"Probably."

"Probably?"

Sam shook his head. "It's not hard to get explosives. People could want you dead."

"People like you?" Dean said, and instantly regretted it.

"I didn't really want you dead. Dad just said..." Sam sighed. "Forget it."

Dean laughed. "Forget about people wanting to kill me. Sure."

They rode in silence until Sam spoke again. "Dad just said you were dangerous. I figured he meant you weren't human."

"Did I pass your test?"

"You couldn't have been in that house if you weren't human."

"And you tried to kill me anyway?"

"I've come across dangerous humans before."

Dean glanced at Sam. For all that he'd seemed a tough SOB most of the time, now he sounded incredibly young. Vulnerable.

"Okay," Dean said. "What's your plan?"

"Get some help, figure out what to do next."

Dean wasn't sure he wanted to know what kind of help Sam would get. "And we'll get Mom?"

"I guess," Sam said. "If we can. But I can't promise anything."

Even if the kid was lying through his teeth, it was the best Dean was going to get at the moment, and he knew it. He settled back in his seat, and bit his lower lip.

"Can I drive?"

"No."

-

Mary hit the dirt mouth-first. Grit sprayed all over her tongue, and trying to force it out left her mouth muddy. She gagged, but pushed to her feet and swung her knife hand in the direction of the blow.

A hand came down sideways on her wrist. Just as she dropped the knife, a knee slammed into her stomach, and she fell to her knees, gasping.

"Don't kill her," a bored female voice said.

A male voice scoffed. "She's breathing."

"I need to ask her some questions," the first voice said.

Hands grabbed Mary's shoulders and pulled her upright, although they remained to keep her on her knees. Her vision swam – it was hard to see around the flood lights on the SUVs and Humvees parked at the edge of the property, away from the iron boundary – but she spit more dirt out of her mouth as her vision focused.

"Where's Dean?" The brunette woman wore a green and tan camouflage uniform.

"School," she said.

The soldier's eyes flashed black. "Where's Dean?"

Mary raised an eyebrow. "You don't listen, do you?"

She slapped Mary with the back of her hand. It smarted, but only enough to make her eyes water a little. The demon was holding back.

"We saw you leave the hospital," a man, also in a uniform, said behind the woman. "We know you exorcised on your way out."

Mary bared her teeth in a semblance of a smile. "So?"

"You took Dean with you."

"He felt better," she said. She ran her tongue over the crud in her mouth reflexively, and spat on the ground again. "He wanted to go back to school, and I figured, why not?"

The woman brought a fist against Mary's cheek. She still wasn't giving her all, but it was much harder than the first blow. Mary bit her tongue hard, but she gasped out a laugh anyway.

"The house is empty," another man's voice said.

"Why would I lie to you guys?" Mary said. "Go into Lawrence. See for yourselves."

The second man spoke again. "And we haven't heard back from the others."

A couple of arms grabbed her by the elbows and hoisted her to her feet. She gave a token effort of pushing back against them, but conserved most of her energy. She was going to need it.

"If you won't answer questions for me," the woman said, turning around, "you'll answer her."

"Her? What about…"

"Who?" the man said.

She'd almost mentioned Yellow Eyes. She bit her lip, and the woman grinned.

Hands jammed a black bag over her head, and the arms restraining her pushed her forward. A chill danced down her spine.

You've been through worse than this, she thought. And they haven't found Sam and Dean yet.

It was more comfort than she deserved.

-

Dean felt as if he'd been in the car for days. But the sun hadn't risen, and there wasn't any hint of dawn, so it had to be the same night.

Sam was no chatterbox. Dean didn't have the nerve to initiate a conversation, so all could do was watch the gas meter, which crawled toward zero with each mile they covered. Just as Dean was about to bring it up, Sam pulled off the highway and made for a gas station.

Finally, Dean thought as Sam parked. He unbuckled and shifted his legs around.

"Don't get out of the car," Sam said as he turned off the engine.

"I need the bathroom."

"Wait. I'll stop outside town."

Dean scowled. "I'm not a machine."

"The car's fortified against demons. You step out, you'll regret it." Sam rubbed his eyes. "And I'm too tired to drag you out of danger. You hungry?"

That was the understatement of the night. Dean hadn't eaten since...damn, nearly a day now? Still, he didn't have his wallet, and his usual diet was hard enough on a person's money supply. "You getting anything?"

"A Red Bull."

"That sounds good." Even though his bladder was full to bursting? Dean didn't think things through sometimes.

Sam slid out of the car. "I'm leaving the keys. If I say so, get the car ready. Understand?"

"Sure."

Sam slammed the door and approached the pump. He grabbed a nozzle and stuck it somewhere by the trunk, setting it to go on its own, and went in the store to pay up with the cashier.

Dean moved to the driver's seat grabbed the ignition. He had no intention of leaving, but at the same time...it would be so easy. It'd only take a couple hours to go back, and...

...he didn't know if Mom was still at the farmhouse.

He smacked the steering wheel. Driving off would lose time. And the kid saved him. It'd be screwed up to strand him.

Still, he needed to do something, so he opened the driver's side door and stuck his legs out. It didn't help much, but it made him feel a little less stiff. He wasn't used to staying still this long, or being considered useless. He would've given his left arm for his phone. Or hell, his homework.

A large slamming noise came from the store, and Dean leaned out of the car.

"Start the car!"

Sam ran with a plastic bag on his arm and a shotgun in his hand. For a minute, and with no shortage of worry, Dean wondered if he'd robbed the store. But he didn't see Sam with any money, and what would be the point of holding up a place for a couple energy drinks?

The store owner came through the door, and Dean spotted his black eyes.

Dean reached for the keys again, but as he adjusted the rearview mirror, he caught sight of the black hose sticking out of the tank and snaking back to the pump. Sam wasn't anywhere near it, and he probably wouldn't have time to take it out before they drove away.

"Son of a bitch," he muttered, and shoved out of the car.

"Hey!" Sam called. He'd stopped and dropped to a knee as he reloaded his gun. "Get back in!"

Instead of answering, Dean ran around the back of the car. At the edge of Dean's vision, Sam punched the possessed cashier, hard enough to make a cracking noise. Dean pulled the nozzle out of the tank and tried to stick it back in its holder. But he kept missing, probably because he was trying to do it too fast.

"Dean!"

He could see Sam shoving two guys at once. The second grinned at the sight of Dean.

Dean dropped the nozzle on the ground and ran back to the driver's seat as the second demon started toward him. Before he got anywhere close, Dean slid inside the car and slammed the door. The demon pounded on the roof as Dean pushed the lock, and a fist-sized imprint sunk in the metal above his head.

In desperation, Dean grabbed for the keys. His fingers jerked, and the engine roared. When he stomped on the gas, the tires whirred, but he remained stationary.

"Oh, come on," he said, looking around the dash wildly.

It wasn't until the demon hit the roof again that Dean noticed the car was still in park. He pulled the gearshift, and the car leapt forward, faster than he expected. He made a high-pitched noise in the back of his throat.

He recovered enough to turn the steering wheel as he'd moved past the last pump, and to slow as he approached Sam. He leaned over to open the passenger door, but he couldn't quite reach and keep a hand on the steering wheel. Luckily, Sam broke free and opened it himself. It only took him a couple seconds of jogging to leap in, and Dean waited until both Sam's feet landed on the floor before speeding up.

A third demon was standing near the end of the pumps, and Sam, halfway to closing the door, jerked it open as fast as he could manage. The demon took the door in his chest, and slid under. Sam slammed it shut and started rolling down the window.

"Drive!"

"Are you nuts?" Dean said, steering them onto the road.

"No," Sam said. He leaned out and fired a couple shots, and he popped the barrel to kick the shells the minute he was clear.

"That's a goddamned gas station! You could–"

The world around Dean flared up in a yellow-orange glow, and a force struck the back of the car hard enough to push them forward. Dean's head snapped, and his foot reflexively hit the brake. The car skidded to a stop.

In the rearview mirror, there was nothing but a ball of fire, tips licking the sky, where the gas station stood. Smoke poured in the vents, and Dean coughed, covering his mouth.

Sam groaned.

"You okay?" Dean asked, waving the smoke away

"I'll live." Sam bore a bloody imprint on his forehead in the shape of his rifle barrel, and a dazed look on his face. "Just drive."

Dean took off his coat and the sweater underneath. When he pressed the sweater to Sam's forehead, Sam hissed at his touch and snatched the shirt away.

"You didn't do that, did you?" Dean asked. He shivered and put his coat back on. The heat of the explosion hadn't made it in the car.

"No, they did," Sam said. "It's a signal."

Dean laughed, his voice shaking. "They don't know how to use a phone?"

"Move over. I'll drive."

"No way. You could have a concussion."

"What do you know about concussions?"

Dean smiled wryly. "I took a baseball to the head a couple seasons back. Benched me a month."

"You don't know where we're going."

"So tell me."

Sam scowled, but he withdrew the sweater and inspected the bloody stain. He sighed. "You go anywhere I don't tell you, and I'll shoot you."

"Whatever."

A flaming piece of debris hit the hood, and Dean jumped.

"Head back to the freeway," Sam snapped. "Before my car gets completely destroyed."

-

Mary was forced into a sitting position in the back of what felt like a moving truck: the floor was smooth, and she didn't touch any chairs. The demons tied her hands together with rope as the truck started to move.

"Not too tight," she said.

A knot was tied with special emphasis, pinching her skin. The hands withdrew, and she tried to move her arms. Her wrists wouldn't budge, but at least she wasn't losing feeling anywhere.

It was the most excitement Mary got during the hours of driving. No one in the truck spoke above a murmur too quiet for her to listen in on, and the longer nothing happened, the more exhaustion beat at her. She'd only grabbed a nap while Dean was sleeping off the drugs, and she wasn't as young as she used to be. It seemed suicidal to rest now, but at the same time, there was something soothing about capture. At least she knew circumstances weren't likely to get worse for a while.

She let her head fall forward, and her eyes close.

Right away, Mary was back in old Lawrence, right before John proposed to her. She ate dinner with her parents, and a hunter who'd hit town on a job.

A hunter that looked a hell of a lot like her oldest son.

The dream jumped ahead, and Mary spoke to Dean.

"You know the worst thing I can think of? The very worst thing? Is for my children to be raised into this like I was."

Dean's eyes filled with tears, and Mary studied his face. The lines around his mouth and eyes etched too deep for someone in his early twenties. This was a Dean older than she was back then, maybe even a decade older.

It's just a dream, she thought. She could tell she was waking up by the strength of the thought.

But the dream hovered a moment longer.

"Whatever you do," Dean was saying, his voice cracking. "Don't get out of bed."

The van jerked to a halt, and Mary awakened as hands grabbed her again.

-

"What's in Sioux Falls?" Dean asked as they passed a sign.

Sam's wound had mostly dried an hour earlier, but he ran his hand over the skin anyway. "A friend."

"We gonna get this friend killed?"

"He can handle himself."

Dean checked the clock. "We gonna wake him up?"

"He keeps night hours a lot," Sam said.

They switched positions after a bathroom break – actually, a pee-by-the-side-of-the-road break, which Dean didn't object to – and Sam navigated them around some twisting back roads. Some of them hadn't been repaved in decades. Others weren't paved at all.

When they pulled up at the back end of a salvage yard, Dean found out why the route was unpopular. He spotted a public entrance facing the town as they crossed the yard by foot. His muscles eased the slightest bit as they passed stacks of rotting frames illuminated by orange lights, and not just because he doubted demons watched. He'd always liked cars.

A barking dog grew louder as they approached.

"Does it bite?" Dean asked in an undertone.

Sam rolled his eyes as he reached in his jacket. "I'll take care of it."

"You're gonna shoot the dog?"

Sam pulled out a cell phone and waved it in front of Dean. "Not unless a cell phone fires bullets."

Dean kicked at patches of loose gravel as Sam dialed the number. Dean could hear the ringing of the other phone coming from the house, and he noticed a shadow moving behind illuminated curtains. The phone picked up after two rings.

"Bobby, it's me," Sam said. "I have a guest. Can we come in?"

A pause. "No, but it's your call."

He hung up the phone, and Dean frowned. "What are we doing?"

"Going inside," Sam said.

"What's his call?"

"Checking you for possession."

Sam started forward, but Dean felt rooted to the spot.

"What does that involve?"

"Nothing you won't recover from."

This didn't exactly fill Dean with warmth and joy, but it was enough to get his feet moving.

As they moved past the closest stack of parts, Dean spotted a dog sitting on a pickup. The dog rose and growled, rattling the chain around his neck.

"This your guest?"

Dean twitched. An older man stood beside him, adjusting the brim of his dirty red ballcap. He hadn't made a noise on the approach.

"Bobby Singer," Sam said, "Dean Campbell."

Bobby's eyes studied Dean with an uncomfortable intensity. His face was hard to read, but he didn't seem mad, or particularly threatening. No, it seemed he was driven by a very powerful curiosity, and he was satisfying it as best he could. After a moment, he stuck out his hand, and Dean took it.

"Heard a lot about you, boy," Bobby said. His voice was gruff, but friendly, and his handshake matched.

Dean frowned. "From who?"

"No matter," Bobby said. "There's things we gotta attend before chit-chat."

He handed Dean a shot glass, and Dean took it, waving it under his nose. It smelled like…

"Water?" he asked.

"Just drink it," Bobby said.

Despite himself, Dean turned to Sam to get his opinion.

"He didn't poison it," Sam said. "If we'd wanted you dead, I'd have done it sooner."

Dean managed not to remind Sam about the earlier murder attempt. But Sam also saved him on two separate occasions, so Dean tipped the shot back into his mouth. Considering Dean hadn't eaten in who knew how long and only had a Red Bull after six hours of driving, water tasted better than beer.

Bobby handed over a few more things: a clump of salt, a silver ring, and objects Dean didn't recognize in the slightest. Nothing happened with any kind of contact.

"You hit the big ones," Sam said.

"Yeah, I'm good." Bobby pat Dean on the shoulder. "Come on in."

Bobby's house was bigger than Dean expected, probably because the junkyard outside masked the size. There was a couple stories, and Bobby left them in the entryway via a basement entrance. Sam wandered into a room lined with books, and Dean followed, taking off his jacket and slinging it over his arm.

"How does Bobby know about me?" he asked.

Sam leaned against a table. "Same way I did, probably."

"Your dad?" Dean exhaled. "What's he got against me, anyway?"

"Wish I knew."

There was a clatter in the next room, and Bobby pushed open sliding doors to reveal a kitchen. He beckoned Sam forward.

"Why didn't you go to a hospital, boy?"

"Because," Sam said, stepping inside the kitchen. "We've got other things to do."

"Winchesters." It was a curse, but a fond one.

Sam took a chair, and Bobby turned toward the table. He spread bottles and tools across the surface, and Dean frowned as Bobby picked up a cotton ball and alcohol.

"You're a doctor?" Dean asked.

Bobby chuckled. "Might as well be."

He dabbed at the wound, clearing away the caked blood outside the cut. Dean wasn't woozy around blood – he'd spilled plenty of his own before – so he had no problem watching. But he yawned.

"When was the last time you two slept?"

"What time is it?" Dean asked.

"Midnight."

"I slept late. I'm good."

"I'll be good a couple more hours," Sam said.

"That ain't what I asked."

"Bobby," Sam said, wincing at the pressure on his forehead. "I don't have time for sleep."

"Sleep's exactly what you need if you spent hours bleeding."

Bobby withdrew the dirty cotton and tossed it on the table. He grabbed a needle and thread, and Dean's empty stomach churned. Wound cleaning he could take, but he'd never seen stitching before, and he wasn't keen on starting now. He turned away and examined the books on the shelves. They had fun titles: The Key of Solomon, Hoodoo for Beginners, and The Comprehensive Guide to Exorcisms. And those were the ones in English.

"Demons," Dean muttered, tipping the exorcism book forward.

"What was that?" Bobby asked.

"Oh, nothing, it's just..." He replaced the book. "I didn't know anything about this until a couple days ago."

"Really."

Dean could feel Bobby's eyes on him again. As he turned, Bobby looked back at Sam's forehead, which he was in the process of stitching. Dean resisted the urge to squirm.

"All I know is a doctor spewed black smoke out of his mouth, and a gas station blew up. Oh, and that someone tried to blow up my mom's farm."

"That all true?" Bobby asked Sam.

"Don't know about the doctor," Sam said, taking a swig from the bottle of alcohol next to him. Dean wanted to say he was too young to drink, but he'd also gone to keggers years before he'd been legal. "They want him. Bad."

"Where's John?"

"Dunno." Sam dropped his gaze to the floor.

"The last time I talked to you, you were catching up on his hunt."

"I did," Sam said. "It...didn't go well."

"What happened?"

"Hellhounds," Sam said. "We got separated, so I went to Dean's to see if he'd made it there."

Bobby cut the thread off the needle and drew back. Dean thought it was to see the wound from a greater distance, but he crossed his arms.

"How'd you two face hellhounds and not get torn to shreds?"

Dean froze.

"Bobby..." Sam said.

"Your daddy's a damn fool, and you're no better," Bobby said. He pointed to Dean. "Let me guess. He told you to kill him."

"No, but–"

"He tell you why?"

"Dad said he was dangerous."

Dean's head started to ache, and he rubbed at his temples. Maybe he was more tired than he thought.

"He's gonna get you both killed, you know that?" Bobby said.

"Bobby–"

The pain in Dean's head spiked, and he cried out and fell to his knees. When he grabbed for the floor to keep from toppling over completely, blood dripped onto his hand in big red splotches.

He heard a chair scuff on the floor, but Bobby spoke almost immediately.

"Don't get up. I'll take care of it."

Dean tried to see past the blinding pain, but he couldn't do much more but clench his eyes closed. He felt Bobby grab his shoulders.

"Come on, son," Bobby said. "Let's go."

He pulled Dean to his feet, and half-dragged him several feet forward. As Dean moved, the pain decreased, and by the time Bobby guided him into a bathroom, it was almost completely gone, leaving a dull throb in its place.

"I'm fine," Dean said as Bobby closed the bathroom door behind them.

Bobby pointed to the mirror. "That look fine to you?"

Dean turned and squinted. A gash had opened up in his head, complete with blood trickling into his eyebrows. He touched it gingerly and wiped some of the blood away.

It looked like the imprint of a rifle barrel.

"Musta hit your head going down," Bobby said, grabbing a hand towel and handing it to Dean. "You get these headaches a lot?"

Dean pressed the towel to the wound. "First one."

Bobby stepped closer and dropped his voice. "What'd you say about a doctor?"

"Huh?"

There was a knock on the door. "Bobby?"

"He's fine, just gimme a sec," Bobby called back, and spoke quietly again. "Are you sick?"

Dean shook his head. "Don't think so."

Bobby exhaled, and nodded. "Stay here a minute."

He went out into the hall, and Dean could hear Bobby and Sam talking, although the walls muffled their exact words. Their voices faded as they traveled away, and Dean sat on the toilet lid and pulled the towel off his head. The blood stained a good portion.

With a sigh, he put it back, and tried to think. Something was going on, but he couldn't grasp it. All he knew is his mom had worked hard to keep him from knowing about demons, and this John Winchester wanted his blood. Wasn't nearly enough to draw conclusions from.

Bobby slipped back in the bathroom with the tools he'd used on Sam. Dean stood and moved away.

"You're not using the needle."

"Don't be stupid," Bobby said, grimacing. "Your cut ain't as deep."

Dean settled back on the toilet lid, and Bobby prepared a fresh cotton ball. As he brought it to Dean's forehead, he said, "Sam and I are going into town."

"You are? But..."

"It ain't safe, but we need intel, and we ain't getting it here. The phone lines are dead."

Dean swallowed and ignored his stinging head. "What about me?"

"You get to lie low. Don't expect anyone knows you're here yet."

"But the phones."

"Everywhere's having problems," Bobby said. "They haven't found you."

That didn't make Dean feel any better.

He watched for a moment as Bobby threw out the cotton ball and cut some gauze. He started attaching it to Dean's forehead with medical tape.

"Can't I help?" Dean asked.

"Have you fired a gun?"

"When I was a kid. Mom took me shooting a couple times."

"You ever killed anything?"

Dean didn't answer.

"I don't know you, kid," Bobby said. He moved back and inspected the gauze. "But you look like hell. You should get something to eat, catch a nap."

"Sam needs sleep more than I do."

Bobby sighed. "He threatened to shoot me if I left him behind."

"Pain in the ass."

Dean didn't realize he'd spoken aloud until Bobby chuckled. "I'm used to it."

He left, and Dean stared after him for a second. He didn't get up until he heard the front door slam, and the house quiet behind them.

-

Mary was shoved into a large building, but she didn't know where. Even with florescent light filtering through the bag on her head, all she picked up was the sound of booted footsteps echoing against the hard floor. Details were impossible to make out.

But she got to feel just how hard the floor was when she was pushed on her knees. She grunted, but kept further complaints to herself.

The bag pulled off her head, and the building came into view. She'd expected somewhere abandoned and falling down, but instead, it was a well-maintained hanger, complete with a couple of small military airplanes and heating. The light gave the air a pristine quality.

A blonde woman stood above Mary in a black skirted uniform, complete with a hat and a chest full of ribbons. Her tag read "Williams", but Mary didn't expect she went by the name.

"Free her hands," the woman said.

The demon who'd questioned Mary earlier bent and cut the ropes. As they fell away, Mary rubbed her wrists and eyed the dagger the demon used.

"Don't think about it," Williams said. Her voice was light and cheerful, and it sounded even more so as it bounced around the room. "Or I'll take you apart a piece at a time."

"What do you want?" Mary asked.

"I think you know."

Mary gave the most innocent look she could manage. It was the same kind of expression Dean used on her when he got in trouble: wide eyes, tilted head, an eyebrow up.

Williams smiled. "Payment's come due, Mary. Did you get your money's worth?"

"Go to hell," Mary said, in as pleasant a tone as Williams used.

"I just came from there."

Mary sensed an opportunity to stall. "How'd you get out?"

"Devil's Gate in Wyoming. Williams was nice enough to open it for me, when we pressed her." The demon grinned. "It's so easy when there's loved ones, don't you think?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Of course not." The demon smoothed her skirt. "Enough pleasantries. Where's Dean?"

"Dean?"

"Don't waste my time."

Mary shrugged. "Can't help you."

"I think you can." The demon nodded to the possessed woman with the knife. "Ruby."

Hands grabbed Mary's elbows again, and she thrashed back and forth, trying to break their hold. It didn't work, but she didn't expect it to. She just knew she couldn't endure whatever they would do without a fight.

The male soldier from earlier began unbuttoning Mary's blouse. Mary swung her head forward and hit him in the head. He snarled, and punched Mary. She tasted blood, which she spat on the ground with a snarl.

"Hold her head," the demon possessing Williams said. She smiled, and her eyes obscured with white.

Another pair of hands grabbed Mary's head by the forehead and under the chin. They shoved her head back, and she was forced to watch the white-eyed demon as the other demon finished undoing her blouse.

"It doesn't have to be like this," the white-eyed demon said. "Tell me what I want to know, and I'll let you go."

Mary tried to jerk her arms free as they pushed her blouse off, but one hand held each arm at one time. "No."

Ruby moved behind her, and the white-eyed demon nodded. Cold steel pressed against Mary's back – it felt like the flat of the blade – but didn't dig in. It didn't stop her from shivering.

"Lilith."

The white-eyed demon – Lilith – looked up, but Ruby said nothing beyond the name, so Mary couldn't follow their exchange. But Lilith nodded, and met Mary's gaze again.

"One last chance."

Mary didn't say a word. Lilith bent to Mary's level, and Mary got a better peek at the obscured eyes. It was as if the pupils and irises had been taken clean off.

"Why not tell me?" Lilith said. "It won't be the first time you've betrayed Dean. You stabbed him in the back before he was even born."

Mary grimaced. "And I've been paying for it every single day."

"That's right, you brought John back. How'd that work out?"

Mary didn't dignify the question with a response.

"What if I gave you my word I wouldn't kill Dean?"

"I don't trust the promises of demons."

"Why not? Didn't Azazel promise you no one would get hurt when he visited? Wasn't he right?"

Mary frowned. "What?"

"Oh, don't tell me you don't remember," Lilith said sweetly. "When you made your deal. He said no one would get hurt if he wasn't bothered."

Mary wracked her brains. She'd never been able to clearly remember that night, besides John dead in her arms and...the kiss. For years, she'd figured her mind protecting her, but now, she couldn't dismiss the feeling it was something else.

Lilith regarded her with a thoughtful expression. It made Mary more nervous than the smiling.

"I understand," Lilith said. "I can't say I'd trust me if I was in your meat suit. But I'm going to get what I need, one way or the other."

"Not from me."

Lilith nodded at the demon behind Mary. "Feel free to scream. We're the only ones that'll hear you."

The knife dug in.

For a while, Mary managed to stay silent besides the occasional grunt. But as time wore on, tears poured down her cheeks, and she began to sob openly.

"Where's Dean?" Lilith asked again.

"No," Mary said, between gasps.

The demon resumed, and the pain grew until Mary expelled the contents of her stomach on the floor, next to puddles of her blood.

But she never screamed.

-

Dean slammed against the wall so hard he lost all breath. He grimaced as the gun in his side holster bit into his side.

"Winchester," a man with black eyes said, stepping in front of him. "You're really starting to piss me off."

"Sucks to be you, I guess." The force holding Dean against the wall eased almost immediately, and he shrugged and stepped away.

The demon's face slackened, and Dean followed his gaze upward. An impressive circular symbol was inscribed on the only part of the ceiling intact in the whole place. In the sky, wisps of cloud blew over the stars.

"Now I'm really gonna tear you limb from limb," the demon snarled.

Dean smirked and crossed his arms.

Bobby stepped out from behind a mostly-intact wall with a flashlight, stepping over debris. "You weren't supposed to be the bait."

"Walk faster next time," Dean said, bending to pick up his own flashlight from the ground. He winced as he straightened.

"You hurt?"

"Doesn't matter."

Bobby sighed and turned to the demon. "What happened in Detroit?"

"You think I'm gonna tell you?"

"If you know what's good."

"I'm quaking in my sneakers." The demon was wearing a red track suit. Kind of obvious at three in the morning.

Bobby pulled a flask out of his vest and unscrewed it. It was similar to Mom's: silver, and plain. And like her flask, it seemed to contain holy water, since the demon smoked when Bobby tossed the liquid in his face.

"That stung," the demon gasped.

"We've got other stuff, too," Dean said. "And time on our hands."

"Oh, you're wrong about that. Time's running out."

"Why?"

The demon snickered. "I'll tell you, if only to see the looks on your faces."

"Well?" Bobby asked.

"End of the world. But I'm sure you figured that out already."

"It's kinda obvious," Dean said.

"But you don't know what happened in Detroit."

"We know it was a demon."

The demon shook his head while smiling. "It was good ol' Azazel in the showdown of the millennium. And he lost."

That meant nothing to Dean, but all the blood drained from Bobby's face. "What? To who?"

"Dunno."

Bobby raised his flask again, and the demon raised a hand. "None of us do. Someone owned our asses, but good."

"So why are you happy?" Dean asked.

"Yeah," Bobby said. "Your leader's dead."

"Don't you wish. Azazel was only a general. He wasn't the Grand Poobah."

"Who took over?"

"Sorry. You trapped me before I could find out."

"So you don't know nothing."

The demon shrugged, extending his hands. "See? You wasted your time."

"Not really."

Bobby pulled out a book and began to chant an exorcism, and like the doctor before, the demon spewed black smoke into the air when it finished. Dean was better prepared for the force that came with the exorcism this time, and braced himself against it.

"Who's Azazel?" Dean asked as Bobby closed the book. But Bobby frowned and glanced at Dean's side.

"You're bleeding all over the place."

Dean pulled his coat away from his left side, and sure enough, blood soaked his shirt where the gun had bounced against him. It wasn't nearly as much as the head wound, at least.

"Damn," he said under his breath. "This is my favorite shirt."

Bobby slapped him on the back.

Dean's eyes opened.

He wasn't in an abandoned building with Bobby, questioning a demon. He was lying on the floor of Bobby's living room, a spilled beer pooling on the rug next to him.

Dean righted himself and groaned as his back protested. It felt bruised, like he'd fallen on it. He pressed with his left hand to check for swelling, and his side stung. His shirt was sticking to his skin, and when he withdrew his hand, it was covered in red.

"What..."

He'd dreamed he was with Bobby. Who was with Bobby right now?

Dean picked the beer bottle up and stared at his reflection in the side, and he watched his jaw drop as he figured it out.

I'm having dreams about Sam.

It all added up. Bobby'd said hellhounds would tear Sam apart. Maybe they already had, and Dean had seen the whole thing. But how had Sam survived?

And how could a guy nearly die from a dream?

Dean shook his head and put a hand to his bandage. His head ached like it had when he'd gotten the forehead cut...the cut that mirrored Sam's exactly. But he hadn't been sleeping when the cut appeared. Hell, he'd been there when Sam got hurt, and it had taken hours for anything to happen.

Maybe it was because he hadn't been asleep. Come to think of it, it hadn't gone to sleep this last time either. But his head hurt more. Maybe whatever was happening was getting stronger.

The front door opened, and he heard voices. He scrambled to his feet and fixed his shirt. Hopefully, Sam and Bobby wouldn't notice.

"–in the bathroom, help yourself," Bobby was saying. Sam passed in the hallway next to the room Dean was in and didn't spare him a glance. Bobby followed behind and watched Sam until the bathroom door closed.

"Hi," Dean said, as Bobby turned toward him. "I was just…I'm sorry about the rug, I– "

"You fell?"

Droplets splashed on Dean's face, and he realized he was waving the beer bottle. He set it on the desk in a hurry. Bobby's eyes narrowed.

"What happened to your side?"

Dean squeezed his eyes shut. Busted. "Nothing."

Bobby peered over his shoulder in the direction Sam had gone, and spoke quietly. "You having visions?"

"What?"

"This ain't the time to be stubborn."

Sam walked back in the room, bandages in hand, before Bobby and Dean could say anything else. Dean dropped his left arm and pressed it against his blood-stained side.

"Something wrong?" Sam said. He paused and looked between Dean and Bobby.

Dean shook his head. Bobby crossed his arms. "Kid dropped beer all over my rug."

"That's not the worst thing you've had spilled on there," Sam said. He tucked his shirt and bared his cut for Bobby to see. "It doesn't need stitches, does it?"

Dean walked toward the kitchen. He felt lightheaded, like he was going to pass out. He gripped the counter, willing himself to breathe.

"You're good. Want help?"

"I got it." Sam stepped in the kitchen. "What's wrong with you?"

"Just knocked my head too hard earlier," Dean said.

"Great, now you're the one with the concussion?"

Dean turned around and smiled tightly. "I'm good."

Sam rolled his eyes and cut a length of gauze. He started to put it on his side, and froze in place. Dean wondered why, until he noticed Sam staring at Dean's right side.

Bobby noticed too. He slipped in the kitchen. "So I was thinking. I know a psychic out in Illinois, might be able to help us."

Sam frowned. Dean held his breath.

"Normally, I'd call her," Bobby said. "But with the lines down..."

Finally, Sam turned away. "Illinois's kind of a drive. We don't know what we'd run into."

"The demon knows we're here. Don't figure he can tell anyone right away, but just in case."

"Yeah. You're probably right."

Sam started to put the gauze on his wound. "You okay for travel, Dean?"

"Sure," Dean said.

When Sam finished taping the bandage in place, he rolled his shirt back down. "I'll get the car ready."

With one more puzzled glance at Dean, he strode out of the room. Dean sagged with relief when he heard the front door close again.

"Thanks," Dean said.

"Don't thank me yet," Bobby said, but his face was troubled. "I ain't gonna tell Sam now, but get this straight. If I think you're gonna hurt him, or me, I'll stop you."

"Stop me?"

Bobby moved his vest aside and bared a holster. "Stop you."

Dean nodded, tight-lipped, as Bobby put his vest back in place. Bobby moved toward the fridge, and Dean gave him a wide berth. He didn't want to screw with a guy who'd threaten to kill you one second, and get food the next.

-

Mary was only half-conscious when they threw her in a cell and locked her inside. She stumbled and hit the concrete floor when her legs buckled. Every movement sparked a trail of fire on her back.

Beams from a security light came through the window. She made out a bunk against the wall, but she hurt too much to move. Instead, she laid on her side, and stayed as still as possible. Cold air prickled her skin, but her skin was so hot she was surprised she didn't steam. Her forehead dripped with sweat, and her jaw chattered as chills set in.

The longer she stayed huddled, the less she saw the cell walls. Her vision darkened, and focused again. Eventually, the room disappeared completely.

A blink, and she was on the phone with John.

"You have two sons," she said. Her voice was twisted, angry.

Another blink, and John stood at the front door.

"I won't let your past get in the way of my children," he said. "I need to keep them safe."

"From who?"

The way he tightened his hand on his suitcase told her all she needed to know.

Blink.

She stood in Dean's room in the dark. He was small, probably barely over four. When she ran a hand over his hair, he stirred.

"Mom?" he asked, half-asleep.

Sitting on his bed, she kissed him on the cheek.

"It's okay, honey," she whispered. "Can you be quiet for Mommy?"

Dean nodded.

Blink.

Her hand on a note.

"Dean's in danger," it read. "But you and Sammy will be safe, just like you wanted. If luck holds, Dean won't remember either of you."

"Mommy?" Dean asked, his voice small and quiet in the dark.

She picked him up, and he hugged her.

"It's okay, Mommy. It's okay."

A flash outside her window brought her back to the present. She forced herself to focus.

"Hello?" she said. There was no reply.

I'm dying, she thought. She was too miserable to feel anything but relief at the thought.

Darkness overtook her, and she hoped, for everyone's sake, it would be for the last time.

Chapter Text

three

Dean didn't know how he managed it, but not long after he climbed in the back of Sam's car, he passed out. His body had been so tense and sore, he thought he'd spend the over nine hours Bobby said it would take to get to Pontiac waiting to get killed, but he didn't wake until he felt the car slow. He hadn't even seen the sun rise, and now, it shone everywhere.

The best part? He didn't dream once.

"We there?" he asked, wiping drool off his chin.

"Just about," Bobby said.

Sam had started the journey driving, but he was in the passenger's seat, yawning and stretching as if he'd been asleep too.

"So who's this?" Sam asked. "You said a psychic."

Bobby parked the car. "A friend by the name of Pamela."

"I've had bad dealings with friends before."

The tone in Sam's voice suggested what had happened to those friends. Dean suppressed a shiver.

"She's fine."

"Should I stay with the car?" Dean asked.

Sam snorted as he climbed out of the car, as if it was the last thing he wanted.

"You're our best clue," Bobby said, opening his own door. "You're coming."

Dean sighed. "Great."

Sam and Bobby made it halfway to the front door by the time Dean stepped out of the car. He stretched for a second and gave the house a once-over. He only walked forward when Bobby and Sam had made it to the door, and even then, he hovered at the bottom of the stairs.

"We won't bite," Sam said, without looking at Dean.

Bobby rang the doorbell.

"I'm good here," Dean said.

A brunette woman several years older than Dean opened the front door and grinned broadly at Bobby. "I thought it was you."

She drew him into an enthusiastic hug, which he bore with a surprising amount of grace. When they broke, he was smiling.

"Sorry we couldn't call," Bobby said.

"Yeah, TV says phones are down everywhere," Pamela said, her smile dimming. But she brightened as she caught sight of the others. "And who are these two?"

"Sam next to me, and Dean. Guys, this is Pamela."

"Nice to meet you," Dean said, climbing up the steps. He stepped forward and extended a hand.

She studied him. "Well, well. Bobby doesn't usually bring me such…attractive guests."

Dean smiled despite himself. She didn't spare Sam a glance, to his relief – boy was a little too young to get eaten alive – and took Dean's extended hand.

Immediately, her expression went blank. She extracted her hand from Dean's quickly and shook her head. Sam shot him a look as Pamela let out a shaky laugh and put a hand through her hair. "Wow. I must not have my shields up well enough. Come on in, make yourselves comfortable."

Bobby walked in without hesitation, and Sam followed after he finished inspecting Dean. Pamela stared at Dean as he waited, and leaned in as he started to step forward.

"Why didn't you tell me you're psychic?" she hissed.

"Excuse me?"

"You nearly fried my brain. I wanna know if someone's gonna do that."

Dean shook his head so hard he got a little dizzy. "I'm no psychic."

"Sure." She stepped away from the door enough for him to walk in, but stopped him with a hand to the chest. "I've got my eye on you."

Dean walked in just far enough for Pamela to close the door, and pinched the bridge of his nose. But she waited for him, and he let her lead him forward. He wondered what he was more tired of at this point: driving, or people threatening him. No, he definitely knew. Car rides were a lot less likely to get him killed.

Sam and Bobby stood in Pamela's living room as Dean entered. It didn't match the woman in the Ramones tank and leather jacket at all. Floral print and ruffles covered everything, and a musty smell Dean couldn't quite name hung in the air.

"Your grandma about?" Bobby asked.

Pamela shook her head. "She passed about a month ago."

"Sorry for your loss."

"Thanks. I still haven't given the place a do-over, but sit down, if you dare."

Dean lowered onto the couch and found out what Pamela meant. He sank into the cushions until he thought he'd be swallowed whole, and the musty smell grew even stronger.

"So," Pamela said, rubbing her hands together as she took a firm chair in the corner. "What brings you fine gentlemen to my door?"

Sam nodded in Dean's direction. "Him."

"Sorta," Bobby said. "You been paying close attention to the news?"

"It'd be hard not to." Pamela's gaze hit Dean again. "He got something to do with it?"

Bobby sat on the very edge of the couch and took his hat in his hands. "Demons have been itching to get their hands on him ever since Detroit."

"So?"

"So a demon told us they had a man in the Detroit fight, and they lost."

Pamela leaned back and whistled as Dean went cold. He hadn't made a connection with the time frame.

"How do you know he was being straight?"

"They tell the truth when they can get away with it," Sam said. "I think he was."

"What can I do to help?"

"We need information," Bobby said. "Anything, really. We need to know what beat the demons. Or who's in control."

"Geez, you aren't asking much."

Bobby sighed. "I know. But I figured it was worth a shot."

"I don't disagree there," Pamela said, "but there's gotta be better ways."

Bobby stood and walked over to the fireplace. "It's too dangerous, asking around."

"And you think a psychic's more subtle?" She barked a laugh. "You'll shine a spotlight on yourselves, I hope you know that."

Dean shifted, and not because the sofa was uncomfortable. He wasn't ready for demons to find him again.

"I've got a place to start," Sam said. He pulled something out of his jacket – Dean couldn't make it out – and handed it to Pamela. "It belongs to my dad. He went missing just before Detroit, and I think he was tracking the demon who died."

Pamela closed her hand over the object. "You know what that could mean."

Sam swallowed hard. "I know."

"Okay," Pamela said. She slid out of the chair and sat on the floor, crossing her legs and straightening her back. She closed her eyes. "What's your dad's name?"

"John."

Pamela breathed deeply, and put the palms of her hands together. "Show me John, owner of this amulet, father of Sam."

A breeze swept through the room; Dean felt it rustle his hair. The lights flickered.

"Show me John, father of Sam and…"

Pamela stiffened. Dean wanted to speak, but he didn't know if it would break her concentration.

Bobby didn't seem worried about it. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Pamela said. "Just…nothing."

Bobby took his turn staring at Dean, but Dean was over it. If Bobby was going to kill Dean, he probably wouldn't stare at him first.

"Show me the owner of this amulet, father–" Pamela cut off, and smiled a little to herself. "He's surrounded by woods. He's standing in the middle of them, like he's waiting…"

"For what?" Sam asked.

Pamela gasped and dropped the necklace. Her eyes didn't open. "He's–"

With a jerk, she flew backward through the air several feet. She hit the wall behind her and crumpled to the floor. Dean got to his feet and ran over, but Bobby made it first.

"Are you okay?" Bobby asked.

Pamela groaned. "Damn. That stung a little."

Sam stood just behind Dean, hands clenched. He was shoving the necklace back in his pocket. "What did you see?"

"Not much. He pushed me out, with a force I've never–"

She broke off mid-sentence as a howl rang through the air. Bobby rose to his feet, and so did Dean.

"What's that?" Dean asked.

Another howl joined the first.

"Hellhounds," Sam said.

"Hellhounds?" Pamela asked, her eyebrows rising high enough to disappear into her hairline.

Bobby looked around in a rush. "You got any goofer dust?"

"I don't do hoodoo!"

"Then we gotta run for it," Sam said, pulling Pamela to her feet. "There's some in the car."

Dean was already halfway to the front door, with Bobby at his heels. Bobby grabbed him as the door started to rattle. Sam nearly ran into them from behind.

"There another way out?" Bobby said quietly, as they all backed off.

"The back," Pamela said.

They made it halfway to the exit when the front door burst open and the snarling and barking grew louder. Dean ran like he'd never run before and reached the back door first. He opened it and held it for Sam and Pamela, and left it for Bobby to grab.

Just before Bobby crossed the threshold, he went down hard and dragged backward. He yelled.

"Bobby!" Sam said, turning around. Dean grabbed him and tried to shove him back, but Sam was bigger, so he only managed to hold him.

"Run!" Bobby said.

It was the last word he managed to get out. An unseen force flipped him over, and began tearing at his stomach. Blood sprayed across the exit room, and Bobby screamed.

Dean jerked at Sam's coat. "Come on!"

Pamela slammed the door closed.

"No!" Sam yelled.

"We gotta go!" Pamela said, tugging at Sam's sleeve. "Sam! We can't do anything!"

Dean couldn't listen to Bobby anymore. He jogged forward and inspected the yard. The way around Pamela's house seemed deserted, and Dean could only hear hellhounds snarling in the house.

Bobby's screams stopped.

"Come on!" he said, waving them forward.

With one last glance at the house, Sam blinked away tears and ran toward Dean. Pamela followed after a reluctant look of her own.

Dean turned around the corner, and almost immediately, he caught sight of a man in a black suit raising a gun. Before he could cry out, the man fired. Something sank into Dean's right shoulder, and he jerked back and fell to the ground. The man stepped forward, black-eyed and grinning.

Pamela, who'd been standing next to Dean before he'd fallen, backed away with her hands up.

"No," Dean said, grabbing for the demon's pant leg as he walked by.

"Bye-bye," the demon said, and pointed the gun at Pamela's head.

Chanting started behind Dean, and the demon moved his gun around to point it at Sam. But Pamela jumped forward, hands intertwined, and brought her arms down on the demon's wrist. He dropped the gun out of surprise, and grabbed his ears as the exorcism continued. Dean slid away from the demon as he fell to his knees, and got to his feet as the black smoke flew in the air.

Pamela yanked him forward, and Sam was already running for the car, which sat untouched in the street at the front.

-

Mary stirred.

For an instant, she wasn't sure why. Darkness filled the cell, to the point where her eyes didn't pick up anything in the area right away. Apparently, the security light was out. She tested her limbs, felt them groan, and squeezed her eyes as tight as they would go reflexively. She couldn't have been out for long.

Gun fire rattled in the hallway outside.

She wondered if she should call out. They hadn't bothered to cover her head when they'd dragged her to the prison – it wasn't far from the hanger – and she'd seen the military base crawling with demons. It had quashed any hope she'd had of escape, but now, she wasn't sure.

More gun fire went off, closer this time. Something clattered against the door, and Mary covered her head before she realized it didn't sound anything like bullets. More like someone holding a lot of metal hit the door.

"Hello?" she said, as loud as she could manage.

"Someone in there?"

"Yes!"

"Hold on, we'll get you out."

Mary's eyes adjusted to the dark, and she made out a toilet and sink by the door. She crawled over.

"You see anyone else?" the voice asked, as Mary tried to convince herself to stand.

"What?"

"There other people in these cells?"

"I didn't see any."

Mary grasped the edge of the toilet. She pulled herself to her knees and cried out.

"What's wrong?" the voice asked.

"I'm...I'm hurt," Mary said, gasping.

"Is something hurting you?"

Nothing besides herself. "No."

"You gonna be able to walk?"

The image of dragging Dean out of his hospital room flashed through her head. Had this started only yesterday?

"I should," Mary said.

She moved a hand over to the sink, and the other, and pulled herself up the rest of the way. She blacked out halfway up, and awakened leaning on the sink.

"Talk to me. What's your name?"

"Mary. Campbell."

A beat. "Do you know John Winchester?"

Mary grit her teeth. "I knew him."

"He sent us here."

"Us?"

"We're a team of hunters."

Mary wondered how a team could get past the demons, with the knowledge of their possessed bodies and supplies. It couldn't have been casualty-free.

"What's taking so long?"

"We had to get up to security," the voice said. Mary was pretty sure it belonged to a woman. "The locks on the doors need special releases."

Gun fire went off, and Mary, so close to the door, could hear the return fire almost as if she was standing in the hall. She swayed.

An electronic buzz went off, and the door slid into the wall. Red emergency lighting flooded the room. The guns sounded even louder, and Mary sacrificed her hold on the sink to grab her ears. She managed to stay standing by leaning against the sink with her stomach.

The person – and she was a woman – stepped over a body and pressed against the wall next to Mary.

"I'm Ellen," the woman said.

Mary nodded once at her. Ellen caught sight of her blouse and bit her lip.

"We can go if you can walk without my help." Ellen shifted, and Mary eyed her rifle. An M4, if she wasn't mistaken. Probably took it off one of the possessed. "I need to keep my hands free."

"I'll do my best," Mary said.

"Don't worry," Ellen said. "When we hit the rendezvous, you'll have a lot more help."

She leaned outside the door and pointed her gun around the frame. Satisfied, she slipped out in the hall and waved Mary forward.

Mary took several steps forward. Every single one hurt like a mother, but she could move, if only slightly faster than a crawl. Stepping over the body took slightly longer, but she managed to keep her feet from getting caught.

"How far?" Mary asked.

"Front of the building. Think you can make it?"

No matter what she actually thought, she wasn't going to say no. "Yes."

Ellen moved forward in a slow, even motion. Mary lurched forward and leaned against the wall opposite the door. She could feel blood trickle down her back, and spotted a thin trail of blood coming from the cell.

I'll bleed out before I get away, she thought, and realized she didn't care. It was better than dying alone in a cell.

"You didn't think it'd be that easy, did you?"

Mary snapped her head forward. Standing at the end of the hall, arms crossed, was Lilith.

Instead of answering, Ellen laid down a volley of bullets. Lilith disappeared.

Before Mary could try to find her, Ellen cried out and crumpled to the floor. Lilith stood next to her, Ellen's rifle in hand and a disdain on her face.

"Too bad I need you alive," Lilith said, dropping the gun. "It was so much fun leveling the other buildings."

"Ellen!" Mary said.

"Get back in the cell."

"No."

Lilith smirked. "I can make you."

Mary wondered if any of Ellen's team would show up if it took too long to hear from her. She decided it was worth finding out.

"No," she said again.

Lilith raised a hand, and Mary flew backward. She was flipped just before she hit the wall with the window, and so her back was only in pain because she'd been jarred. It was still enough to bring tears to her eyes, though.

"How long do you want to play, Mary?" Lilith asked, stepping to the door. "I'm very patient when I want to be."

The pressure left, and Mary fell to the floor. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and glared. She could be just as patient as Lilith.

But before she was tested, the room began to shake. It took all Mary's balance not to lose her sitting position. Lilith was having a similar problem; she was upright still, but her dress shoes had bad traction, and her feet slid.

A light filled the room, so bright it stung Mary's eyes.

"Wonderful," Lilith said, in a flat voice.

Williams's head jerked back, and Lilith came out in a stream of black, covering the ceiling. The smoke vanished in a vent, and the light darted away, almost as if a spotlight tracked the demon.

Mary stood as fast as she could manage and went back into the hall. Ellen was groaning and holding a hand to her head.

"Damn demons," she said. She opened her eyes. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Mary said.

She offered a hand, but Ellen waved it away and sat up. "Don't want to tear your back up more."

"Mary?"

The quiet sound had come from the cell. Mary could see Williams's head up and a trickle of blood dripping from her mouth.

"Yeah?" Mary said, shuffling back to the door. She leaned on it, grateful for the break.

"I'm sorry. I'm so..." Her voice cut off in a gurgle.

"It wasn't you." Of course, Williams wasn't innocent if what Lilith said was true, but Mary's record wasn't exactly clean either.

"Take it."

Mary frowned. "What?"

Williams raised a shaky hand. In it was a revolver with a long barrel. "Take it."

Mary stepped forward and took the gun. She noted a pentacle in the handle and an inscription on the barrel. Non timebo mala, it read.

Her breath hitched. It couldn't be. The Colt wasn't real.

Williams's head fell on the ground. Mary thought she could see her chest rise and fall, but it was hard to call in the gloom.

"Mary?"

She jammed the gun down her pants in a rush, adjusting her blouse so it hung over it. "Yeah?"

"That girl okay?"

Mary turned back toward Ellen. "Hope so."

Ellen was picking up her rifle off the ground. "We'd better get moving."

"What about her?"

"I'll send someone back."

When Ellen started forward, Mary double-checked to make sure the gun was secure. When she was satisfied, she followed.

-

By the time they made it to a motel and checked into a room, Dean's right arm was numb, and his left hand was covered in blood. But he sat down hard in a chair and let Pamela and Sam lock up and close the curtains. Pamela tore up bedsheets as Sam laid lines of black dust on the windowsills and across the door threshold.

Dean noticed blood on the carpet. He followed the trail until he saw it leading to Sam.

"Hey," he asked. "You hurt?"

"I'm fine," Sam said gruffly.

Pamela tossed scraps in Dean's lap and walked over to Sam. He flinched away from her touch, but she grabbed his jacket and pulled it back.

"How long has your shoulder been like that?"

"Doesn't matter."

She pointed to an empty chair on the other side of Dean. "Sit."

"But–"

"I said, sit."

Sam scowled, but complied. Since Dean was close, he could now see the rings around Sam's eyes, and the pinched look to his mouth.

"I'm gonna use the bathroom, if you guys won't bleed to death," Pamela said, running a hand through her hair. "Then one of you gets to volunteer to get cleaned up."

"You ever taken out a bullet before?" Sam said.

"Guess you'll find out." Pamela went into the bathroom and closed the door.

"She's gonna be a minute," Sam said, wincing as he adjusted in the chair. He grabbed a piece of sheet out of Dean's lap and pressed it against his shoulder.

"How do you know?"

"Bobby got torn apart in front of our eyes. You wouldn't need some time if that happened to one of your friends?"

He had a point. "Are you holding up okay?"

"What do you care?"

"He was your friend."

"No." Sam's jaw quivered a little. "He was my family."

There wasn't much Dean could say, but he tried anyway. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

Dean's head drooped. "I let him take the door. If I hadn't..."

"They wouldn't have killed you," Sam said, scoffing. "Hell, I should have thrown you to them."

"So why didn't you?"

"Because I didn't know what you'd do to me."

Dean barked a laugh. "Yeah. Because I'm the threatening one here."

Sam pulled back his jacket and bared the bloody shoulder of his plaid shirt. "This look familiar?"

"Should it?"

"It's the exact same as yours."

"So?"

"And you got the same forehead cut."

Dean touched the gauze on his head. He'd forgotten about it completely. "But it didn't need stitches."

"Cut the crap."

"You first," Dean said. "You got attacked by hellhounds on Saturday, didn't you?"

Sam's mouth opened once, and closed. He looked away, and back at Dean. "How'd you know?"

"Because it was in my dream," Dean said in a rush. Revealing himself was a relief, but he couldn't stop until Sam knew it all. "My stomach got ripped open, and a man fought off whatever did it."

"You dreamed about Dad?"

"Yeah," Dean said. "And I was you."

Sam exhaled. "Dad said you were dangerous."

"I'm not…this just happens."

"Wait," Sam said, holding up a hand. "You're saying you had a dream about me before we met?"

Dean nodded.

"You're not trying to hurt me?"

"God no."

By the way Sam frowned, Dean knew he had no idea what to do next. He decided to ask the question on his mind. "How are you alive?"

Sam winced and grabbed his shoulder. "I wish I knew."

Pamela came out of the bathroom. As Sam had guessed, her eyes were puffy, but she went for the bag of supplies. "Who's first?"

"Sam," Dean said, before Sam could get a word in. He closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see Sam's expression.

-

On the way to the rendezvous, Ellen told Mary she'd entered Fort Leavenworth with a team of twenty-five. She'd made it to the prison with twenty. The group that burst out of the prison and made their way toward a parked Humvee numbered just seven, counting Mary and Williams, who had been rescued by a couple of the team.

As terrible as it was, Mary wasn't really surprised there had been so many casualties. Having anyone alive was practically a miracle.

A hunter named Gordon was supporting Mary's weight. He moved slowly enough for her to be relatively free of pain, but quickly enough to keep up with the rest. Still, it gave her time to see the bodies littering the lawn. Most of them wore uniforms. All of them had their eyes burned out, and recently enough that they smoked.

"Let's move!" Ellen said.

A couple of the hunters helped Williams in the back, and moved in with her. One climbed on the outside to operate a gun on the roof. He wore a hat and a thicker coat than everyone else, which was probably why he'd earned the job. Gordon helped Mary into the back seats, next to Ellen, and climbed in the driver's seat. Ammo was stacked in the passenger's seat. Mary had to carefully adjust the Colt to keep it from digging into her leg, and to sit without pressing the stinging wounds on her back.

As she buckled her seat belt, the Humvee started forward. Mary couldn't turn and check, but it sounded as if the two hunters behind were patching up Williams's wounds.

"Looks like it was the light," Gordon said over his shoulder. "Ain't no one left alive."

"At least that makes our way out easier," Ellen said.

Mary peered out her window. Sure enough, even though bodies lay everywhere, there was no one standing. The silence left behind was unnerving.

"Here," Ellen said, handing Mary an orange prescription bottle. "Painkillers. It'll hold you over until the Roadhouse, at least."

"The Roadhouse?"

"My place. It's about a four hour drive."

Mary inspected the bottle. She couldn't read too well without her reading glasses, but she figured out she was allowed two pills. She popped the cap. "Got any water?"

Ellen handed her a water bottle.

"Holy water?"

"I wouldn't give you booze for pain pills."

Mary nodded, and drank the pills down. She handed the bottle back.

"John sent you?" she asked Ellen.

Ellen nodded. "We gathered yesterday morning, as soon as we figured Detroit was hunter business. Just before the phone lines went down, he called and said he'd spotted a lot of demonic activity in the area."

"Really."

"You don't believe me?"

"No, I do, but..." Mary sighed. "He wasn't returning Sam's calls. Sam was looking for him just before I got captured. I don't why he wouldn't get in contact."

"Probably focused on the job."

Mary laughed under her breath. The job. If only she'd known John would start hunting. "So why'd you move in?"

"John said they captured civilians. We found several dozen hanging from the rafters of a hanger, completely drained of blood."

Mary raised a hand to scratch her head, and winced as her back twinged. But it wasn't as bad as earlier, so apparently the pills were starting to work.

"Here's what I don't get," she said. "You guys were outnumbered, and you went in anyway?"

"We weren't gonna," Ellen said, leaning back in her chair. "But there was a flash of light just as we got here to check things out, and a bunch of demons died. Created a lot of chaos."

"Like the light outside the prison?"

"The very same."

"And..." Mary trailed off.

"What?"

Mary wasn't sure how much to share. Ellen was a friend of John's, sure, but she wasn't exactly going to drop what she knew, or what she wondered, into casual conversation. Like the light in Detroit. Had the same light appeared on the military base? And what was it?

Her vision went a little fuzzy.

"I think the pills are kicking in," she said.

Ellen nodded. "I'll let you be."

Mary settled against the seat. She felt it press the cuts, but only a little.

-

Sam had it easy, comparatively; he only needed his shoulder to be stitched, sterilized, and covered. Dean, on the other hand, actually had a bullet in his shoulder, and they didn't have the right tools to pull it out. He had to give Pamela credit, though. She was even-handed and calm, even when he cursed in her face and nearly vomited on her shirt.

She only protested once. But to be fair, she was covered in both Sam and Dean's blood; she'd smeared a streak across her forehead that she didn't bother to clean off, and her hands were bright red, no matter how many times she washed and rewashed them.

"I'm a damn psychic," she said under her breath. "I don't have the know-how for this."

"And I'm a college student," Dean said.

Sam didn't have anything to add; he'd passed out five minutes before.

When she finished, and helped Dean back into his badly-stained polo, she disappeared into the bathroom and took the longest shower Dean had ever been around for. Sam was out cold, but Dean was wired and sore, neither of which ever led to restful sleep in his experience. Oddly enough, despite his three major wounds, he felt his energy grow as the minutes passed.

He turned on the TV. Nothing played on any channel besides static. He hoped it was because they were in a hole with crappy reception and not because the world really was ending, but it wasn't doing anything to help his shaking nerves.

When the TV clicked off, he caught sight of himself in the mirror above the dresser. He'd taken his coat off, and he could see he'd not only lost weight, but he'd gained a couple creases in his face. Maybe more; the gauze still hid his forehead. He noted the dried stain of blood on his side, and pulled at his polo to try to make it lie flat, but the blood had stiffened the fabric.

Dean raised the edge of the shirt to check on the wound. It was gone. But the shirt was bloody, so he'd been hurt. He remembered bleeding. But when he pressed the skin with his fingers, and found it wasn't even tender.

He pulled away the tape holding the gauze in place on his forehead. Sure enough, the gauze was stained, but his forehead was completely bare.

He started to pace. It didn't help, but he had nothing else to do. Pamela hogged the bathroom – and, although Dean was covered in sweat and blood, he figured she'd earned the right – and the goofer dust still covered the exterior doors and windows, so he couldn't leave. There was no way to blow off steam, or to think about what all this meant.

Unless.

His eyes fell on Sam's bag. A lot of it had been filled with weapons and supplies, but it couldn't be all. Dean hadn't seen any other bags in the car, but the kid treated the car like his house. He had to have something with him, right?

Pawing through a stranger's stuff? Dean thought. Low.

But Sam wasn't a stranger anymore. Sam was the guy he'd fought demons with for the last couple days, and the guy who was linked to his weirdo ESP thing. And somehow, his dad knew more about Dean than Dean himself. That was more than enough justification for snooping.

He moved the straps of Sam's bag away from the opening, but hesitated on rifling through. If Mom found out…

Mom's got her own problems.

He grimaced, and began to push the contents around.

Most of it was more of the same: water bottles marked "holy water" in permanent marker, a box of salt, extra clips for the guns. But on the bottom sat a book...no, a journal. Dean half-smiled to himself. It didn't get more perfect.

He grabbed it and slipped behind the twin Sam wasn't using. It faced the bathroom, which meant Pamela would see exactly what he was doing when she came out, but if Sam woke up, it would give him a second to hide it under the bed.

That is, if he decided he would pretend he didn't flip through. As he settled against the mattress, stretching his legs out on the floor, he wasn't sure he would. He needed the knowledge no one seemed ready to give him, and he wasn't ashamed to find it. What could Sam do to him, anyway?

Dean flipped through the first couple of pages. The entry date started in mid-1987, so it had to be Sam's dad's journal. Even better. All the letters were capitols, which was weird, but readable.

The content the words created was a little harder to casually read. The guy writing the journal raged over something he never specified, although he implied he was the victim of something. Made sense to Dean. Fighting demons wasn't sort of job someone got into without a damn good reason. He certainly wouldn't.

Sam's dad had started out nearly as clueless as Dean in terms of knowledge, although he referred to target practice he'd done "in the service", which Dean took to mean military. That explained the sharpness with which Sam moved, but it didn't paint a pretty picture of the kid's childhood in Dean's mind. A guy focused on revenge, with military discipline?

Sam'll hate me if I pity him, Dean thought. But he couldn't help it.

The water turned off in the bathroom, and Dean jerked out of his reverie. He was running out of time.

He flipped through the pages faster. It seemed John began fighting monsters when leads on demons dried up, and he'd scribbled creepy drawings in the corners. There was the occasional mention of where he'd leave Sam on some of these hunts – Bobby's name caught his eyes a couple times – but Dean wasn't reading close enough to see if Sam's mom was mentioned. Maybe she'd died.

What he was really skimming for was his own name. But no matter how fast or slow he searched, he never saw it. There was no mention of Mom either. Whatever connection they had wasn't important enough to write down.

Or maybe too important.

There were pages missing, words scratched out so entirely they were black boxes. Dean hadn't thought much of it when he'd flipped through the first time, but as he bounced back and forth between a couple pages, he wondered. John wrote openly about killing monsters and tracking down demons. What would he want to keep secret?

Pamela's footsteps in the bathroom grew heavier and more frequent. Dean started to flip the journal closed; there wasn't anything he could learn in the next few minutes.

His thumb got caught in a gap in the cover. The paper interior of the cover stuck to his thumbnail for a moment, so it jerked forward when he pulled. Behind it, Dean could see the corner of a picture; it showed half a window, golden with light and edged with snow.

Dean slid the picture out of the cover.

It featured four people: a tired woman in a hospital bed, a baby in her arms, a man standing next to her, and a little boy standing in front of his legs. It was the same man from Dean's dream, minus the sour expression and a couple decades. If Dean hadn't gotten a really good look at the man in the recent past, recognition would've been hard.

The boy had rumpled blond hair and a mischievous smile on his face. Dean stared, wondering where he'd seen it before, until he remembered the pictures Mom had of him as a toddler. His eyes snapped toward the blonde woman in the bed.

"Mom?" he whispered.

Dean flipped over the picture. The back read "Sammy's birthday, January 1987".

The bathroom door opened, and Pamela, in her slightly bloody clothes with a towel wrapped around her head, emerged.

"Bathroom's free," she said, without looking up at first. When Dean didn't answer, she walked over and looked down at him. "Dean?"

"Sam's my brother."

Pamela didn't say anything, but she looked at the picture in his hand. He remembered what she'd done with the necklace Sam'd given her, and how she'd cut off.

"You knew."

"John told me," she whispered, shooting a glance at Sam. "But I wasn't sure."

Dean tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. "They kept it from me. She kept it from me."

"They tried to protect you from something."

"No." Dean shook. He wasn't entirely sure why. All he knew was he was feeling something so strongly, he couldn't stay still. "Don't."

Pamela held up her hands. "Dean."

Dean was up and on his feet before he realized. He didn't feel anything in his shoulder anymore. He didn't feel anything besides the need to move.

He grabbed the keys to the Impala from the table and went to the door.

"Dean!" Pamela yelled.

He could hear Sam start to move on the sheets, but Dean pulled the door forward and broke the line of goofer dust. There was no howling, so he stepped out into the chilly late-afternoon light and climbed in the car.

By the time Sam appeared in the door, Dean was turning the car out of the parking lot and into the street. He barely noticed the picture was still in his hand, half crumpled against the steering wheel.

-

Before the fight in Detroit, Harvelle's Roadhouse had been a bar. When Mary and Ellen and the other hunters pulled up in the Humvee, Harvelle's was the shabbier doppelganger to the demonized Fort Leavenworth, complete with barricades, patrolling hunters, and lots of guns.

A doctor met up with the Humvee upon its entrance, and Williams was passed off into her care right away. Ellen helped Mary out of the car, and let her lean as they walked directly inside the main building.

"You guys use a bar?" Mary asked.

"It's my family's bar," Ellen replied. "Good a place as any."

As they stepped inside, Mary couldn't see any of the walls around the dozens of hunters milling around. The air was filled with cigarette smoke and a thick layer of noise created by all the collective conversations, and Mary winced, overwhelmed. Ellen helped her on a bar stool, and turned to the crowd.

"Hey!" she yelled. The group hushed. "If you ain't eating or waiting for the doc, out! We got sick people!"

The hunter filed out the door with surprising speed and efficiency. Either she'd been out of the game too long, or Ellen was a force to be reckoned with. Maybe both.

Just as the last few edged out, the doctor reappeared and approached Mary. "I'm ready for you."

She helped Mary to her feet. Walking was starting to hurt again, but she didn't pause. It'd be over faster if she didn't linger.

But she still paused when she saw a sign on the door of the room the doctor led her toward.

"'Dr. Badass is in'?" Mary read.

The doctor smiled wryly. "It was here when I got the room."

The room in question was covered with electronics. Spare computer parts stacked on tables all the way to the ceiling, but the center was clear except for an empty table. Mary undid her blouse and used it to wrap the Colt. The doctor beckoned for Mary to lie on her stomach and didn't appear to notice, even as Mary kept the blouse and gun in her hand.

"Where's Williams?"

"In a quieter room, getting some sleep," the doctor said. "She'll be fine, but I couldn't really do anything for her."

They both fell silent as the doctor examined and bandaged her back. The only time Mary felt the doctor's touch keenly was when her fingers brushed her left shoulder.

"They cut a full piece away here," the doctor said. "You have to be careful with it."

Mary was half-asleep. "Oh. Sure."

When the doctor finished, she pushed more painkillers in Mary's hand.

"You're lucky," the doctor told her as she washed her hands in a basin. "Most of these cuts are shallow. But they're gonna hurt for a while."

Mary wasn't surprised. Lilith had wanted pain, not injury.

She thanked the doctor, who left to allow Mary to replace her shirt. She did so, making sure the Colt was tucked back in her pants and hidden, and walked back out into the bar. Gordon and the others from the base perched on bar stools, tearing into plates of food and gulping down liquid of various colors. Mary took an empty stool and leaned gratefully on the bar.

Behind the bar, a man with a mullet walked up to her. "Ain't you a pretty sight. What's your name?"

Mary shook her head, but she smiled. Only hunters would flirt during the apocalypse.

"Mary," she said. "You?"

"Ash. Hungry?"

"Absolutely."

He grinned and went toward a swinging door. Mary noticed a clock overhead as he passed through, which read four-thirty. Hard to believe, but unless she figured wrong, she'd been held by the demons less than twelve hours.

"Doc give you good news?"

Mary leaned forward. A couple bar stools down, Ellen was nursing a bottle of water.

"Better news than I expected," Mary said. "Don't worry. I'll eat, then I'll be on my way."

"You're leaving?"

"I've got demons to take care of."

Ellen laughed. "Not like that, you're not."

"It'll be hard," Mary said. "But my son might be in trouble."

Gordon put down his fork and pushed his empty plate away. "What's his name?"

Mary didn't like the way he was staring at her. "Does it matter?"

"You don't wanna get cleaned up before you go?" Ellen said. "Get some rest?"

"I wish I could. But the way things are going..."

"You don't have a car."

"I'll walk."

"Are you always this bullheaded?"

Mary shrugged gingerly.

"Well," Ellen said. "Will you let me do you a favor?"

Mary wanted to say yes right away – after all, the woman did save her from demons – but Gordon made her suspicious. "What?"

"Go out back to my trailer. It's the first one you'll come across. My husband'll can get you some fresh clothes."

Mary took in her outfit. She hadn't noticed before now, but dirt and blood stained a good portion of both her blouse and slacks. That's what she got for wearing light-colored clothes when the end of the world descended.

"Guess I could stand to blend in more," she said, sliding off the bar stool. "Tell Ash to hold my plate?"

"You want me to walk you out?"

"I'll be fine," Mary said. The painkillers did wonders.

"Ash'll hold your plate." Ellen pointed to the hallway Mary had gone in to get to the doctor's room. "Exit's at the end, and there should be coats by the door."

Mary followed the hall to the exit. Sure enough, coats hung on hooks by the door, and she took one. She didn't want to pull her back too much, so she didn't put her arms in the sleeves, but she felt warm enough to go out in the night. Unfortunately, half-frozen mud surrounded the Roadhouse, and Mary's shoes weren't made for to hold out wet. She knew she'd lose feeling in her feet, but she went out anyway.

The area was ringed with tents, but only a few seemed used; she spotted a group of RVs in the near distance, which would be better against the cold. The trailer in question also had a couple of similar structures behind, all with lights blazing. It was early morning, but Mary figured most of these people hadn't slept.

She made it to the wooden steps of the trailer before she lost all feeling in her feet, and she stamped her way up to clear the mud from her shoes and help circulation. It also meant she didn't have to knock much once she reached the door.

"Coming!" a muffled voice said. Mary rubbed her hands together as she waited for someone to appear.

A blonde head and two eyes peered out of the window next to the front door. They disappeared, and the door opened a crack, revealing the full head of a teenage girl.

"You lost?" she asked.

"Uh, Ellen sent me," Mary said.

The girl opened the door and stepped back. "Come in."

Mary did, and felt immediately warmer. The girl stepped out of the living room area and into a small hallway.

"Dad!" she yelled. "Mom sent someone!"

"Joanna Beth, how many times do I have to tell you not to answer the door?" a male voice called back.

"It's okay, it's a woman!" Joanna glanced at Mary. "I could probably take her!"

The owner of the male voice appeared, leaning on a cane. His hair was lightly gray, but his face was dark and lined, like he'd spent a lot of time outside. "Don't underestimate."

"Hi," Mary said. "Ellen said you could get me some clothes?"

"Looks like you need some, for sure. Jo, will you go in my room and get..."

"Mary."

"Mary some of your mom's clothes?"

"They're not gonna fit her," Jo said.

"You'd rather share yours?"

Jo slipped around her dad and disappeared. He walked forward and extended his free hand. Mary took it, and shook.

"Ellen get you out of Leavenworth?"

"Yeah," Mary said. She glanced at the couch behind her. "You mind?"

"Sorry. Please, sit."

Mary lowered onto a cushion, but didn't lean back. The man sat on a couch opposite almost as carefully; his left leg wouldn't bend at the knee.

"Name's Bill," he said.

"Nice to meet you."

"And you."

The front door opened, and Ellen walked in. She smiled at Bill and closed the door. "See you found your way here."

"Yeah, thanks," Mary said.

Ellen leaned against the door. "Jo getting clothes?"

"Yeah."

"Good. That'll hold her for a little while." Ellen crossed her arms. "I've got some questions."

Mary stiffened. She'd hoped to be spared an interrogation. "What do you want to know?"

"What you know about John Winchester, for starters."

"She knows John?" Bill asked, bushy eyebrows rising.

"Knew John. I haven't talked to him in...nearly twenty years now."

Bill's eyes narrowed. "That's before John started hunting."

"But you know about demons," Ellen said.

"My parents hunted. I helped until they died."

"When was that?"

"Back when I was eighteen."

Jo slipped in, holding a stack of clothes. Mary got to her feet quickly, and winced as her back twinged.

"Thanks," she said, taking the clothes. She met Ellen and Bill's flat looks with a softer version of the innocent expression than she'd used on Lilith. "Where's the bathroom?"

"Next to the bedroom," Ellen said. "It's the only room without a window. I'll show you."

Mary let Ellen lead her forward. It wasn't a big trailer, so the bathroom sat on the other side of the kitchen, which was attached to the living room. Ellen opened the door and let Mary step in the room before closing it.

The bathroom was small, but Mary had enough room to chuck off her soiled clothes and slip on Ellen's. And luckily, the painkillers kept her from feeling too much. Jo was right; the clothes were a couple sizes too big, and slightly short, but it was refreshing to wear something clean again.

She'd set the Colt on the sink as she changed, and now, she picked it up and popped the chamber out. Five bullets. It seemed so few, especially with the power they had. But she knew Lilith was gonna get one right between the eyes.

Hiding the Colt under the looser clothes thwarted her until she realized she could wear her old pants under the new, and she redressed. Her legs warmed, and the baggier clothes hid the bulge the gun made. Perfect.

"What should I do with the old clothes?" she called out.

"Leave 'em on the floor." Ellen was right outside. Of course.

With a sigh, Mary opened the door and smiled sweetly at Ellen. "Thank you."

"No problem." Ellen leaned toward the living room. "Bedtime, Jo."

"Mom!"

"Bedtime."

Mary heard grumbling, but Ellen ignored them and stepped away from the door. She waited for Mary to step in the living room, and slipped around her to lean on the exit door again. The door on the other side of the front door slammed shut; Jo definitely wasn't happy about getting kicked out.

"I don't know what you want," Mary said. "I can't tell you anything about John."

Ellen sighed. "Sure you can. You're the reason he sent us in."

"What about the dead civilians?"

"There was no way we coulda saved 'em. They'd been dead for hours."

"Sounds like bad timing."

"Maybe," Ellen said. "But I know John Winchester, and he never mentioned you. Which tells me you're important to him."

"Important to Sam, too," Bill said.

Ellen nodded. "Why are you going after Sam?"

"What?"

"In the bar. You said you had a son to go after, and I thought..."

Mary was so shocked she fell into silence.

"It wasn't hard to figure," Ellen said, crossing her arms. "That part, anyway."

"Why are you guys curious about John, anyway?" Mary asked, to cover.

Ellen grimaced. "He's got things to answer for."

"Ellen," Bill said quietly.

"I know."

Mary frowned. "Am I missing something?"

"She's had a bone to pick with John for years," Bill said. "I busted my leg hunting with him."

"He shot you," Ellen said.

"It was an accident. Worse has happened to better hunters than me."

Mary swallowed an apology. She was the reason John Winchester lived, after all. But she couldn't talk about Yellow Eyes. "I don't have any love for John myself, or he for me. I don't know why he'd try to save me twice."

"Twice?"

"Demons attacked my place," Mary said. "Sam came because John was supposed to be helping me. That's how I got captured."

Ellen squinted at her. "Why'd the demons go after you?"

"We have a history." Evasive, but utterly truthful. Still, Mary decided to give them a little more, since evasion never quelled suspicion. "They killed my parents."

"Sorry," Bill said.

"Worse has happened to better hunters," Mary said, with a hint of a smile. She put a hand over her mouth to yawn.

Ellen looked vaguely sheepish, and stifled a yawn of her own. "We should get some rest. You in particular, the doctor told me you're not up for vigorous."

"That'd be great," Mary said, "but I don't have much of a choice in the matter."

"Nobody does. But we get rest where we can, and you can now."

Mary figured Ellen wasn't going to let Mary leave. To her surprise, Mary was half-relieved. Going back out in the world wouldn't be pleasant, especially as battered as she felt.

"I'll take this couch then?" she asked.

"And I'll take the other."

"Guess that means I get the bed," Bill said. He raised to his feet just as carefully as he sat. "Have a fun sleepover."

"Get me some blankets?"

"Sure."

Ellen sat on the opposite couch as Mary stretched out, trying to figure the best way to lie without hurting her back too much. She'd probably be watching Mary like a hawk all night.

Mary couldn't help but admire her.

Chapter Text

four

Dean parked the Impala about two hours out of town, after the last hints of sunlight disappeared.

There were practical reasons. The tank needed to be filled, for one. For another, he didn't have any destination in mind. The word "away" flashed in his mind over and over, and it wasn't until the headlights only flashed over empty roads and against trees that he realized he'd met his goal.

For a while, all he could do was stare at the steering wheel as if it held the answers. If tears went down his face now and then, he wouldn't admit to it.

Why, Mom?

His solitude broke when the driver's door creaked open. Dean had forgotten to lock it.

"Get out."

Dean looked up to see Sam leaning on the car, his face tight with anger. Without saying a word, Dean unbuckled and stepped out into the chilly air.

Sam swung, and Dean rolled with the punch. It didn't hurt much. That wasn't the point.

"Don't you ever, ever take my car," Sam said.

"Sorry," Dean said quietly.

Sam rubbed the knuckles on his fist. "What was so goddamned important? Pamela wouldn't say."

Dean glanced behind him. A blue sedan sat parked several feet back, and it was too dark to see clearly inside, but he figured Pamela was in there, watching.

He turned back and studied Sam. It felt like the first time he'd really seen him, but it wasn't really Sam he noticed, but the angles of Mom's face, and John's coloring. Hell, there were hints of Dean himself all over Sam's body he'd been too clueless to spot before.

Dean handed the picture to Sam.

Sam's brow furrowed as he inspected it, and smoothed as he took in. He flipped it over to read the back, and back to the front. Finally, he gaped at Dean.

"This is..."

"You. And me. And..." Dean felt his throat tense. "Our parents."

Sam took a dazed step backward. "Where'd you get this?"

"Your dad's journal."

"I've looked in there a million times."

"It was hiding in the cover."

"Oh." Sam's voice was small.

They stood in silence for a few minutes. Dean couldn't meet Sam's eyes, so he watched Sam's breath misted in the air. He knew Sam was staring at him, though. Probably searching for the same things Dean had searched for minutes earlier.

"I..." Sam coughed. "Sorry I punched you."

Dean held up his hands. "I deserved it. I just...I couldn't think."

"Yeah."

Another moment of silence followed. If the blue sedan hadn't opened and Pamela hadn't emerged, Dean figured he and Sam would have stood across from each other for hours.

"Sorry to interrupt," Pamela said, "But the radio just went dead."

Dean's breath hitched. He'd totally forgotten about demons, and the end of the world. He'd been lucky Sam caught up so quickly.

"Right," Sam said. His voice was forced, as if he wanted to cry but wouldn't. Or couldn't. "Yeah. We have to get moving."

"I know where John is."

Sam's fists balled by his side. "Where?"

"An old convent in Maryland. Ilchester."

It meant nothing to Dean. Sam's posture didn't change, so Dean wasn't sure it meant anything to him, either. But Sam spoke anyway. "Thanks."

"I'd go with you," Pamela said. "But I'm going back. For Bobby."

Dean shook his head. "You don't know who's watching your house."

Pamela's eyes narrowed. "And I don't give a rat's ass. I won't leave him."

"Thank you," Sam said. Tears glistened on his cheeks. "I wish I didn't have to."

Pamela stepped forward and took Sam's hand. She squeezed it once, pat it with her free hand, and dropped it. "I know."

She walked back to the blue car and started it up. It backed away and turned onto the road. Dean and Sam watched until the taillights disappeared around the nearest corner.

"So," Dean said.

"So."

"Maryland."

Sam's head jerked up. "You're not coming."

"Like hell I'm not," Dean said.

"You're a risk. You get hurt, we're both screwed."

"Goes the other way too, doesn't it?"

"What about your mom?"

Dean clenched his jaw. "Oh, believe me, I'm gonna find her. But we know where he is."

"Yeah, I guess we do." Sam nodded. "And I guess I couldn't leave you for the demons to take."

"No."

Sam shook his head. "I'm gonna regret this."

As they walked back to the car, Dean thought, You and me both.

-

Mary planned to sneak out when Ellen fell asleep, but her body had other ideas. Of course, she didn't sleep restful, or consistent. It was more like she lived a movie spliced all wrong.

A light under the crack of Jo's door darkened without her noticing. Bill appeared and disappeared in a flash. Ellen huddled under a blanket, changing positions with the speed of a demon. The food Ash had offered appeared in front of Mary, and she ate, half asleep. She didn't remember eating until she briefly awakened later, much less if she liked it.

The sun rose, and light from the window behind Mary's head jerked across the wall with each successive waking. Midday light filtered through the curtains when Mary awakened for good.

And Ellen wasn't on her couch.

Mary opened an eye fully. She waited, quieting her breath, and heard Ellen and Bill's hushed voices in another room. She couldn't make out the words, but it didn't matter.

This was her chance.

She rose, wrapping the blanket around her as her body protested from head to toe. Gritting her teeth, she tiptoed across the room and slipped out the door.

The area around Harvelle's stood silent, and as Mary walked around the muddy field, she encountered no one. She wasn't particularly worried anyone would stop her - if Ellen had really wanted to keep her in the trailer, she would've guarded better - but it was nice not having to force her way out. A line of cars sat to the east, and Mary made her way toward them. No windshields were frozen, since the air was edged near warm, so she wouldn't have to wait for a car to warm up.

She approached a red pickup at the furthest end of the lot and tested the handle. It gave, and the door creaked open. She smiled, relieved.

A rifle cocked.

"Turn around. Slowly."

Mary clutched her blanket and turned. She didn't have time to get the Colt, but she didn't want to waste it on a human.

"Gordon."

Gordon was hunched behind a sedan, his gun propped on the roof. "Mary."

"This your truck?"

"Hardly. And I wouldn't care if it was."

"Oh?"

"Tell me about your son."

Mary forced herself to breathe evenly. "What about him?"

"I cleared out some pockets of demons on my way here. One of them talked about you."

"They say anything flattering?"

"He said you were helping their head honcho," Gordon said. "I figured it wasn't true when I saw your back."

"You figured right."

"He also said Dean joined their side."

"And you believed him?"

"When was the last time you saw him?"

She considered. "Yesterday."

"That's enough time to change sides. Or be forced."

Mary shook her head. "He couldn't be possessed. He's got medals in his shoes and spells in everything he owns."

"They don't need to possess him. Just...torture his mom and imprison her, maybe."

Mary knew Gordon was trying to get a rise. It didn't stop her stomach from churning. "No way. I know Dean."

"He'll end the world."

"Never."

Gordon was obviously a professional, and not ready to shoot her; his finger was near the trigger of his gun, but not on it. It didn't stop her from thinking about the Colt, and lamenting that it would take too long to draw.

"I heard he was going to Ilchester," Gordon said. "That true?"

"I don't know where that is." It was true. She didn't even know what state Ilchester was in. "Let me go, and I'll find out."

Gordon sighed. "I'm sorry, but I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because he'll kill us all, and you're not prepared to stop him."

"Please," Mary said.

Gordon's finger eased on the trigger, and Mary swallowed hard.

Another gun cocked, and the barrel of a pistol appeared not too far from Gordon's head. Mary glanced over to see Ellen on the other end.

"Morning," Ellen said. "Sounds like you guys are having a fun chat. Mind if I join?"

"Ellen," Gordon began.

"No," she said. "I told you the rules when you came here, and this is breaking them. We do not turn on each other."

"But–"

"I said no. Give me the gun."

Gordon waited a moment, and Mary held her breath. But to her relief, Gordon withdrew from the trigger and handed his gun over. Ellen took it by the barrel and slid her pistol into the waist of her slacks.

"Now get out."

He held up his hands. "I want to help."

"Seems to me you're out for blood. Human blood."

Gordon stiffened. "I've had your back for years."

"You have. But there are some things I cannot tolerate." Ellen put her hands on her hips. "You wanna help, you'll go in the roadhouse and let Gene lock you up. Cool your heels a couple days, and we'll reevaluate."

He eyed Mary. "We don't have a couple days."

"I'll take care of it. I promise."

Gordon nodded, and stuck his hands in his coat. Ellen raised the rifle, almost in warning, and he turned and walked away. It wasn't until he'd disappeared inside that Mary allowed herself to relax at all.

"Thanks," she told Ellen.

"Who's Dean?"

Mary swallowed. "You heard?"

"He's the son you talked about last night, isn't he? That's why the demons came after you." Ellen shook her head. "You should've told me."

"You see how people take it. I couldn't be sure."

"Guess not." Ellen looked her in the eye. "I want you to trust me, so I can help."

Mary smiled, but she leaned against the truck to ease her shaking legs. "Seems like the least I could do at this point."

"Why do the demons want Dean?"

"He has...some power. Maybe they think he's a weapon."

"Geez."

"So I have to go," Mary said. "To Ilchester, wherever that is. Sam was with him, but he can't know much. Dean knows less."

Ellen bobbed her head, but her face was tight. "I guess we'd better get going."

"We? You're coming?"

"You can't drive until you've got those painkillers out of your system," Ellen said. "And it sounds to me like you need backup. We can take my pickup, it's the black one on the other side."

Mary wanted the help more than she could say. But it didn't seem right. "You can't leave your family."

"My family's got dozens of the best hunters in the country watching out, and they ain't useless on their own." Ellen balanced the barrel of the gun on her shoulder. "Besides, I don't have to go the whole way."

"But...it's dangerous."

"It's not exactly safe out here, either."

She had a point. "Okay, if you promise me something."

"What?"

"If there's trouble, you get out," Mary said. "No matter what it does to me."

"But–"

"I have plenty to answer for. You don't. There's enough death around."

"You could be signing your own death warrant," Ellen said. "I hope you know that."

Mary sighed. "There's worse things than death."

Ellen studied her a moment, but eventually gestured behind Mary. "I've got maps in my truck. Let's find Ilchester."

-

Sleep, ride in the car, sleep, get hurt, ride in the car, sleep. It never seemed to end, and driving the entire night to get to Maryland didn't help. But Dean had nothing to do yet again, so he napped until Sam shook his arm.

"What?"

"You were thrashing around," Sam said around a yawn. "Almost knocked me in the jaw."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Whatever."

Dean stretched, staying very carefully on his end of the car. "How long have we been driving?"

"Six hours."

"How much more do we have?"

"If the traffic stays clear..." Sam paused. "Another six, probably."

"Are the roads usually this empty?"

"Can't say I've taken this route much. But no, not when I've been on here."

Sam looked tired. He was slumped over slightly, and his eyes were the kind of wide that a person took on when he forced them open.

"You want me to drive?" Dean asked.

"No."

"You should get some sleep."

"I'll be fine."

"Is crashing the car fine?"

Sam scowled. "I've done more on less sleep."

Dean's stomach growled. He hadn't eaten since Bobby's, but something told him they couldn't really get some fast food. It'd be a pity to die on an empty stomach.

Panic surged through him. He couldn't be casual about more danger, particularly when there seemed to be so much he didn't know. And there was an added edge now, with Sam. There was so much to lose.

He couldn't think about it anymore, so he blurted the first thing that came to mind. "So you've been fighting evil your entire life?"

Sam frowned. "Oh no."

"Oh what?"

"We're not going to do touchy-feely, 'you're my family so I need to know you' crap."

It was Dean's turn to frown. "Please. I'm not into chick-flick moments."

"Sounds like it to me."

"Because I asked you a question?"

"Because you want to know about me. You didn't care before."

Dean didn't want to say it was because he was scared of Sam. "We've got nothing but time right now. You want it to be quiet and boring?"

"I could stand a little quiet and boring."

"I need to think about something that doesn't have to do with death, okay?"

"Hunting's got a lot of death. It's part of the job."

Dean didn't know how to respond, so he waited. Finally, Sam glanced at Dean out of the corner of his eye. "Dad hunted all my life. He started using me in elementary school."

"Using you?"

"To stay in the car as backup, at first. Usually when he couldn't find a sitter."

"You could drive in elementary school?"

"First grade."

"Damn."

"He was trying to protect me." Funny how a voice could sound defensive and pissed at once.

"I'm sure you're right."

They rode in silence for another few minutes before Sam asked, "What about you?"

"Me?"

"Yeah. Your life."

Dean shrugged. "Not much to tell. Single mom, baseball scholarship. I'm…I was gonna graduate next semester, if I kept my grades up."

"What's your major?"

"You'll laugh."

"You're the one who brought it up."

"Education. Physical, in particular."

Sam didn't laugh, but he also didn't have anything to add. Dean endured another few minutes of silence before trying again. "Any girlfriends?"

"Me?" Sam laughed harshly. "Never stayed anywhere long enough. I fought just to graduate high school."

"Fought?"

"Dad saw it as a waste of time. Thought I needed to stick with him to stay safe."

"Wow, great guy," Dean muttered. When he realized what he said, he flushed and spoke up again. "You like school?"

"No."

"Yeah, me too."

Sam rolled his neck on his shoulders. "I love school."

"Really?" Dean laughed, and it was genuine. "You should've lived my life. I kept telling Mom I wanted to be a mechanic, but no, she made me go to college."

"I'd kill to go to college."

"So why aren't you?"

Sam sighed. "I was on my way last week. Bobby called when Dad started tracking the demons, and I came back."

"Which school?"

"Stanford."

Dean whistled. "You got the grades for Stanford?"

"And the test scores, believe it or not."

"Oh, I believe it." Dean shook his head. "Man, oh man."

"What?"

"It's just…it's a kick to find out I have a kid brother and that he's a brainiac all in one day."

Another pause fell over the car. Dean might have been imagining it, but it seemed more friendly than before. He hoped so, anyway.

"Okay, I gotta ask," Sam said, finally.

"What?"

"You don't remember me at all? As a baby?" Sam asked.

"Can't say I do."

"What'd your mom tell you about your dad?"

Dean shrugged. "That he left before I was born. His name isn't even on my birth certificate. What'd your dad say?"

"She died in childbirth." Sam shook his head. "The name on my birth certificate says Angela Winchester."

"And he didn't have any pictures?"

"No. I always figured it was too painful." Sam frowned. "How old were you in the picture? The one you found in the journal?"

"It was when?"

"January '87."

"I was born November '83," Dean said. "So I'd have been, what, three?"

"That's old enough to remember something."

Dean opened his mouth to say "no" again, but he paused as something came to mind. It churned for a minute, and he said, "Maybe."

"What?"

"I…had an imaginary friend, as a kid," Dean said. "I forgot about it until now, actually."

"An imaginary friend."

"Yeah. I didn't have many friends in school when I started, so I pretended my shadow was a kid to play with."

"I don't follow."

Dean swallowed. "I called him Sammy."

That ended the conversation. Dean didn't know what Sam was thinking, but Dean wondered just how much Sam had been an unseen force in his life, and how much else he still didn't know.

But he forgot to worry about death for a few minutes.

-

Much to Mary's annoyance, she fell asleep again in the truck. Something about the black interior of Ellen's truck and the fall sun streaming in lulled Mary into a comfortable warmth she couldn't resist.

And again, she dreamed.

This time, she stood in her family's old house with Sam and Dean, both about a decade older than now. Sam had more inches in height and twice the muscles as the Sam she'd seen a couple days before, and Mary stood as tall as she could to compensate.

Sam went off with John to finish the safeguards, and she insisted Dean give her an explanation.

"I'm your son," he said.

"You can't expect me to believe that."

But the more he talked - about the soup she fed him, about "Hey Jude", details no one else should know - the more she believed.

"No," she whispered. "I raised my kids to be hunters?"

"You didn't. Because you're dead."

Time jumped ahead, and two strangers attacked. They weren't demons, Mary remembered that much, but she couldn't remember what they actually were. But Sam was dead on the floor, Dean slumped as he lost consciousness, and the attackers disappeared, all at John's hands.

"You're not John," she whispered.

"No," the being using John's voice said. "We need to talk."

"About what?"

"About your death. I want to stop it."

Mary trembled. "How?"

A horn honked, and Mary jerked awake.

"Welcome to the world of the living," Ellen said.

The truck sat on the top of an incline in the darkness; it had been full daylight when Mary'd fallen asleep. On the road ahead, a line of taillights stretched as far as Mary could see. She squinted in the direction of bright lights toward the end of the line and made out the outlines of trucks at the end, along with tiny figures walking the perimeter.

"What's going on?"

"Road block, by the looks of it," Ellen said. "We're not too far from Indianapolis, but we ain't getting in."

"What do we do now?"

"This."

Ellen pulled the truck onto the center divide, and crossed onto the other side of the road. She wasn't the only one to have this thought; cars peeled off from the line in several places to backtrack.

"Is there another way?"

"I have to check the map," Ellen said. "But we should probably switch, if you're up to driving. I'm starting to see double."

"Once we get some distance."

"Well, yeah."

But Mary's bladder was full and couldn't wait for much distance. She managed ten minutes before she said, "I've gotta pee."

"No wonder, the way you've been sleeping," Ellen said as she pulled to the side of the road. "Been out all day."

A chill passed through Mary as she remembered her dream. It felt more like a long-forgotten memory, thinking about it. But the idea was something she couldn't begin to unravel. For starters, how had Sam and Dean traveled through time? What had possessed John, if not a demon? Why could she still only remember a fraction of what happened?

What else was she forgetting?

"Are you going?"

Mary shook her head. The truck was parked and idling, and had been for a minute or two. "Yeah, sorry."

She opened the door and climbed out of the truck. Before she could duck behind one of the nearby trees, a car pulled up, blinding her with its headlights. Mary whirled and grabbed the open door.

"Hold it."

Mary felt in her jeans for the Colt. It was still there, but she didn't pull it out. She couldn't risk losing it.

A figure approached. "You ladies okay?"

"Fine," Mary said, holding up her hand to block some of the light. "Just needed a bathroom, and we couldn't wait for the line to move."

A low chuckle was all the warning Mary got. She reached for the gun, but she was pinned to a tree before her hand was anywhere near the butt.

"Drive!" she shouted.

Tires squealed as the truck roared to life, and Ellen peeled away. Even as a couple cars started pursuit, Mary breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't been sure Ellen would honor her promise.

"Hello, Mary."

A blonde woman walked behind what Mary could now see was a police officer. Mary didn't need to see the woman's white eyes to know who she was.

"Lilith."

Lilith beamed. "You thought you got away, didn't you?"

"I did get away."

"I let you."

Mary smirked. "You ran."

Lilith didn't rise to the bait. Instead, two possessed people came forward and held Mary's arms as the pressure on her chest eased. Lilith walked forward and grabbed Mary's chin.

"I said you'd help me, whether or not you wanted to." Lilith grinned. "We're going to have so much fun."

Lilith left the blonde woman's body and clouded the air in front of Mary's face. With terror so acute the world seemed to freeze around her, Mary remembered the doctor at the Roadhouse had said a patch of skin on her left shoulder was completely gone.

Her anti-possession tattoo had been on her left shoulder.

-

The sky was brightening when Dean and Sam crossed into Ilchester. Demons and the end of the world seemed more of a night and full moon deal, but the sun was well on its way up as they roamed the city streets.

"Something about this seem off?" Dean said.

"Beside everything?"

Dean studied the sidewalks. There were no cars parked, no people grabbing papers or running out for breakfast. "It's empty."

Sam nodded, more as confirmation than in agreement. "It's a trap."

Dean expected Sam to turn around the car immediately. But when a few moments passed and they still inched forward, he said, "And we're still going?"

"Where else do we have to go? Especially if Dad's part of the trap?"

He was right. But it didn't stop Dean from tensing head to toe.

The convent sat silent at the fringes of town. The forest to which Pamela had referred was overgrown at the edges of the property, but everything within a certain radius of the building was dead and yellow. It wouldn't have been remarkable – late fall, after all – but the dead plants formed a perfect circle.

Sam parked the car closer to the greenery than the dead, and made for the trunk immediately. For the first time, Dean got to see his supplies up close, and how organized they were: a false bottom propped up by a shotgun, compartments for everything he'd seen and a lot he hadn't, and pretty much every gun or knife shape he'd ever imagined.

"What do we need?" Dean asked.

Sam grabbed a couple of guns and knives. "More than I have. Still got your gun?"

Dean nodded.

"Keep it out," Sam said, closing the trunk.

As Dean pulled the gun out of his holster and Sam clicked the safety off his pistol, he wished Sam could give him a comforting word. Dean couldn't ask for one, of course. But Sam had Mom's confidence, and anything reassuring would've eased the gnawing in his gut.

Sam walked forward a step, and stopped in place.

"What is it?" Dean asked.

"Just...stay behind me, okay?"

It was the most Dean was going to get. Somehow, it was enough. "Okay."

Sam and Dean entered the convent, Sam moving as smoothly as he ever did, and Dean trying to mimic his confidence.

Dean took in their surroundings as they walked inside the convent. The walls were dark with soot, as if there'd been a fire, but the ceiling had few gaps, so no outside light came in. Sam pulled out his flashlight and clicked it on. The beam was cold and blue, and Dean, feeling the wintry temperatures, shivered.

It didn't take long before they encountered light from a different source. The convent had a long hall near the entrance, and at the end, a room held two holders of glowing candles and stained glass windows illuminated by faint light. Milk jugs with red liquid sat on the floor, and a white altar stretched the width of the room.

A woman stepped in view. A very familiar woman.

"Mom!" Dean called out.

Sam grabbed for him, but Dean was running before he could be stopped. Mom turned and smiled with relief as he crossed into the room, and Dean could hear Sam's footsteps behind.

Mom leaned away as Dean made to hug her. "Please, don't."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"The demons...there's cuts I don't want to tear open."

Dean blanched. Her back arched and her arms were held out to the sides, and he knew she had to be in more pain than she let on. Pain she'd endured for him.

By the way Sam stiffened beside him, he was bothered as well. "Where'd they hurt you?"

"My back," Mom said.

Dean didn't know what he expected next. But it wasn't Sam raising his pistol and sticking it in Mom's face. Or the choked sound that escaped his mouth.

"What are you doing?"

"This isn't your mom." Sam grimaced. "Our mom. They took off her tattoo."

Mom gaped, hurt. "Sam."

"Who the hell are you?" Sam asked.

"Stop it!" Dean said. He stepped away from Sam, balling his fists. Could he take him?

Mom bit her lip. But she smiled at Sam. "Smart boy."

Sam flew across the room and hit the wall, and the doors behind them closed. Dean started to run toward Sam, but the air grew solid in front of him, and he couldn't move a single step. The pressure eased as he turned toward the demon, who held Mom's hand extended.

"What did you do to her?" he asked. His voice was shaky, but gruff.

"Not much," the demon said. She lowered Mom's hand. "Compared to what I'll do in the future, anyway.

Dean's body had gone numb, and it was only as Mom's face contorted in an unfamiliar smile that he felt the weight in his hand. He raised the pistol.

"Please, that's a pea shooter." the demon said, smiling. "Won't hurt me in the slightest. Mommy, on the other hand–"

"Let her go," Dean said.

"Or what?"

Dean lowered the pistol. "Or...I won't do whatever it is you want."

The demon walked Mom over to the altar. Dean hadn't noticed before, but a couple items rested on top: a fancy cup, and a gun with a long barrel.

"What makes you think I want something?" the demon asked.

"You haven't killed me," Dean said. He shot a look at Sam, who struggled against whatever the demon did to him with no effect. At least Sam seemed okay.

"Looks like smarts run in the family. Good job of figuring out the connection, by the way." That was aimed at Sam, who grimaced. "Mary's loving that."

"Fuck you," Sam said.

The demon made a tsking noise. "That's not very nice."

"What do you want?" Dean asked. He hoped he didn't sound as desperate as he felt. "Me?"

"Something like that." The demon picked up the gun and admired the barrel. "They don't make guns like this anymore."

"So?"

"So...this is the only gun on the planet that can kill me."

Dean's heart leapt so high, it felt like it pulsed in his head. But it sunk again as he made a connection. "Why would you tell me?"

She extended the gun, butt first. "Because I want you to shoot me."

Dean took a step back. The demon advanced to make up for the lost space.

"No way," Dean said.

"You wouldn't be saying that if you knew what I had planned for Mary." The demon brushed locks of his mom's hair out of her face. "We could kill a lot of people, spill a lot of blood...the Mary and Lilith show, now on tour."

No, Dean thought.

"Don't," Sam said. For once, he sounded more panicked than Dean felt. Dean couldn't feel anything. "Don't do anything she wants."

Lilith grinned at Sam. "And you can be the opening act."

She jerked a hand, and blood spurted from Sam's chest. He howled as it dripped to the floor. A couple heartbeats later, Dean's head stabbed with pain, and he yelled, sinking to his knees as a gash tore open in his own chest. A pleased sound came from Mom. Lilith.

"Well, well!" Lilith moved to stand over him. "Isn't this interesting? I knew Azazel's blood would give you power, but this! Not what I expected."

Even as Dean's head throbbed and he pressed a hand to his bleeding chest, he had the presence of mind to ask a question. "Azazel?"

"Oh, great story there." Lilith crouched. Close as she was now, it was even easier to see the unfamiliar energy animating Mom's face. "See, Azazel killed your dad, about a decade before you were born. Mommy here agreed to let Azazel give you his blood so she could get John back."

Pain struck Dean as the numbness left. It hurt like the headaches, and like the hellhounds tearing into him, but it was purely emotional this time.

"What?" he asked.

"I wonder," Lilith said, ignoring him as she stood again, "if it works the other way?"

A cut tore into Dean's cheek, and warmth spilled down his face. Sam cried out again, and Lilith clapped excitedly.

"Oh, if I didn't have other things to do! But maybe…"

Dean raised his head. Lilith paced a couple steps as Sam winced against the wall. Dean struggled to think, to come up with something…"How's this?" Lilith asked. "Shoot me, or I tear your brother apart piece by piece."

"No," Dean said, but more out of desperation than a solid answer.

"I'll start small. I need an answer, after all."

Dean shook his head hard. "No."

Lilith whipped her head toward Sam, who didn't make any noise beside a quiet whimper. Again, pain ripped through Dean; if he wasn't mistaken, the sole of his foot had been sliced open.

"Your mom took you from your family and lied to you," Lilith said. "That's not counting the demon blood. And you don't want a little payback?"

A couple tears escaped Dean's eyes. He wiped at them with his free hand and caught the blood from his cheek. He dropped his hand and noticed the growing pool of red beneath Sam's feet.

Blood. He couldn't escape it. And maybe he shouldn't.

He raised the hand with the pistol at Mom's head.

Lilith shook her head. "What did I tell you? You need the Colt."

"It'll get her away from you."

"I can animate dead bodies as long as I want," Lilith said. "She could be my puppet for decades…centuries, even."

Dean's eyes trained on Sam again. Sam still struggled, pushing against whatever power Lilith used on him to no effect. But he noticed Dean's stare, and met his gaze.

His name was Sammy.

"Sammy," Dean said aloud.

A moment beyond words passed between them, and Sam nodded once, slowly.

Dean rose, ignoring the lump in his throat. He kept the gun on Lilith, even as his hand shook, and leaned on the uninjured foot.

"Let her go," he said.

Lilith held up Mom's hands. "Have you been listening at all?"

"Actually, yeah." Dean pointed the gun at his own head.

Lilith paused for a moment, and barked out a laugh. "You're joking, right?"

"You've got three seconds." Now the decision was made, his voice was even and strong.

"This is ridiculously stupid," Lilith said, but the smile vanished.

"Two seconds."

"Think about this. Think about Sam."

Dean's hand tightened around the handle of his gun. Oddly enough, his fear was gone.

"Dean!"

"One."

He pulled the trigger.

-

The gun fired, and Dean fell to the floor in a heap. At the same instant, Sam's head jerked to the side, and he slumped against the demonic power holding him against the wall.

Mary saw every instant, slower than the human eye could. She wailed a wordless cry in her own head, and her body felt waves of rage and frustration caused by another source.

Shut up, Lilith thought. She rubbed Mary's hand against her temple.

You killed them!

Shut up, or I wear you as long as I exist.

Mary couldn't stop screaming. The brains of her sons slid down the walls of the chapel, leaving smears behind. Dean had killed them both. And she'd watched every second, powerless to move, powerless to say any kind of word.

This was Hell.

A person appeared in the middle of the room next to Dean's body. Mary couldn't see much about him besides a glow she wouldn't have viewed without Lilith, but the demon recognized him immediately, with equal parts disgust and shock. The man bent and pressed his fingers to Dean's throat, and after a moment, he straightened and approached.

Lilith backed away. "Why won't you leave me alone?"

As he closed in, Mary made out his features, and it was her turn to be shocked. He was John Winchester. Except not.

"Let her go."

Unlike Dean's threats, this had power. With a last surge of terror, black smoke shot out Mary's mouth and pooled on the ceiling. Her throat convulsed as if she were vomiting, but she also could hear herself shrieking. Once the last bit left her body and swept out of the room, Mary slumped forward, and only John's arms caught her.

"Mary," the being using John said. "Let me help."

He touched fingertips to her forehead, and every muscle in her body tensed for a very long second, so hard she would've cried out if her body had let her. When he withdrew his hand and she relaxed, the pain in her back disappeared completely. He helped her on her feet, and oddly, she felt good. Rejuvenated.

That didn't stop her from sobbing. She grabbed the altar as despair hit, numbing her to any other sensation.

"I'm sorry," the being said. Mary couldn't see the glow Lilith had viewed, and John's body was much older than the last time she'd seen him, but he seemed to shine in the morning light regardless. "But it had to happen."

"What are you?"

"I'm Michael," he said. "We've met before, but you wouldn't remember. Allow me."

He stepped forward, hand extended, but Mary shrunk away. He paused, smiling.

"I can give your memories back. I've unlocked a couple, over the past few days. The ones you needed to know."

Mary braced herself, and let him touch her forehead.

"We need to talk."

"About what?"

"About your death. I want to stop it."

Mary trembled. "How?"

"My name is Michael. I'm an angel of the Lord."

Mary had seen angels before. One was dust on the ground with Michael's touch; the other, disappeared with a snap of Michael's fingers. This was more than a simple angel.

"The archangel?"

He smiled. "Your death starts a chain of events that traps me in Hell, Mary Winchester. I want to offer us both an alternative."

"You can do that?"

"I have the power to manipulate time," he said. "The power to change memories. I would use both."

Mary swallowed hard. "Why do you end up in Hell?"

"I was trapped unjustly, in my battle to kill Lucifer. A mistake. You're familiar with mistakes, aren't you?"

She didn't want to answer. Besides, Michael already seemed to know. "What would you do?"

"Advance you and John to 1983," Michael said. "It's not much time, but enough to shift events."

Mary shook her head. "It would never work. We have a house, jobs–"

"Which would be waiting for you."

She stared at the ground. Dean slept just behind Michael's feet; Sam was growing pale in death. "Would it help them?"

"The path they're on now sends them both to Hell."

Mary raised a shaking hand to her mouth. She knew her mistakes would curse her family, but this?

"Will I remember?"

"Not for a very long time."

She didn't have to say yes. Michael already knew.

Mary jerked back to the present with a gasp.

Gaps in her memory filled with a precision that was almost painful. Michael had visited the kitchen in the farmhouse when she and Dean first arrived, and while she'd tried to sleep in Ellen's trailer. The visits hadn't been much – appearing, touching her, disappearing – but now that she remembered, she could remember how much power surged through her with the casual contact. She suspected, from the way her head ached as she tried to sort it all, there were other moments she still couldn't remember.

"You..." She struggled to find words again. "You said you'd help them!"

"I did," Michael said. "They're both in Heaven. I granted Dean a pardon for the events of his suicide, and Sam earned his way in."

Somehow, this angel was more of a bastard than her ex-husband. "But they're dead."

"Lucifer broke free," Michael said, "and there was a toll on the world."

"And there isn't here?" Mary swept her hand around. "The demons are playing around like it's freaking Disneyland, and you're trying to save your own skin?"

"I saved both of us."

Mary shook her head. "Don't you dare."

"I also gave Sam and Dean extra time," Michael said. "By agreeing to help me, John kept Sam from dying after the hellhound attack, and Dean by association."

"Wait," Mary said. She clenched her hands by her side to keep them from shaking. "That means you can bring them back."

"Yes."

"Then do it!"

"I'll bring Sam back," Michael said. "It's part of my agreement with John. But I can't resurrect Dean."

"What?"

Michael picked up one of the containers from next to the altar. It sloshed with red liquid. "Demon blood. It was meant to nourish Lucifer, once he escaped his prison."

Mary pushed tears off her cheeks hard enough to bruise. "I don't give a shit."

"Lucifer needed a human vessel," Michael said, as if she hadn't snapped at him. "Angels can only use certain humans, and only if they say yes. Lucifer needed an angelic vessel corrupted by demon blood."

All of a sudden, Mary's legs gave out under her. She sat against the altar.

"If Dean comes back, he will kill Lilith, and Lucifer will be free. Dean will be the host for Lucifer, and I will have to fight him."

"This," she whispered. "This was Yellow Eyes's plan?"

Michael nodded. "I killed him in Detroit to prevent Lucifer's rise. But Lilith was freed regardless."

"You–" Mary choked. "Millions of people!"

"The consequences would have been worse, if I'd battled Lucifer." Michael smiled sadly. "It isn't fair. But this is the path we've both chosen."

Mary held her hands on the sides of her head. Michael crouched in front of her.

"No angel will bring Dean back, and no demon can accept your soul, as it's already doomed for Hell."

"What?"

"You would go to any lengths to save your son," he said. "I will grant you absolution and erase the mark of your deal with Azazel, as reward for your help. But not until your death."

Mary felt a tear trickle down her cheek, and a shuddering breath leave her body. "But John, and Sam?"

"John won't condemn himself," Michael said. "I've shown him how dangerous Dean is. And Sam...well, why would he damn himself for someone he hardly knows?"

She couldn't accept it. There had to be something she could do. "I'll kill you."

"You won't want to," Michael said. "I'm going to lock most of your memory of our conversation. You will be satisfied because you have the knowledge, but you won't be able to access it."

He extended two of John's fingers again, and Mary moved her head to the side to avoid his touch.

"I don't want to forget," she said. "I don't want this."

Michael took hold of the back of her head to hold her in place. She struggled against him.

"It's too late to turn back," he said. "You chose."

-

Mary picked herself up from the floor. Her head felt thick, and she rested her head in her hands, willing it to ease. Shouldn't be healed by an angel take away her pain?

She dropped her hands and frowned. Michael. He'd chased away Lilith, and helped her. And…

A gasp sounded in the corner, and John helped Sam to his feet at the corner of her eye. She rushed over.

"Sam," she said. "Are you all right?"

Both John and Sam turned toward Mary. Sam jerked his hand away from John and shot them both a sour look.

"You lied to me," he said to John.

Mary faced John, but he stared at the wall behind Sam, where the smear of blood still marked the wall. If she didn't know better, it looked like his eyes welled with tears. Her own eyes started to smart.

"I'm glad you're okay," John said. He still carried himself like he had twenty years ago. "Both of you."

Sam grimaced and opened his mouth, but a howl stopped him from speaking. They all froze until the sound died.

"Hellhounds?" Mary asked.

John jogged to a broken stained glass window and peeked outside through a gap.

"And demons," he said, taking a pistol out of a thigh holster. "You guys armed?"

Sam pulled out a rifle. Mary pat her clothes for a moment before she caught the glimmer on the altar. She jogged over and took the Colt in hand. It felt good.

"What's that?" John asked.

"I'll tell you later," she said, sticking it down her pants. She couldn't waste the bullets on lackeys.

Of course, that meant the only free gun in view was hooked on Dean's fingers. She stared at his corpse, pale with loss of blood, and ached for his green eyes to move, to stop staring at nothing.

They wouldn't stare at anything again.

"Mary! We've gotta go!"

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

She bent and took the gun, and Sam stood at the corner of her eye as she brushed her hand across Dean's cheek.

"Now!" John said. He held the latch of the door in hand, ready to open it.

Mary rose, setting her jaw.

"Let's go," she said.

-

The air in the convent rang with dying echoes after Mary, John, and Sam fought their way out, and the Impala sped away. Once the echoes were gone, few noises remained. No birds dared to chirp in the branches outside even after the demons disappeared, and no people reappeared in the whole of Ilchester.

Hours passed, and the sun sank, sending cold breezes through the chapel. It blew out the candles, rattled the containers of blood, and blew through strands of Dean's hair.

Just as the sun set, the bullet dropped out of Dean's head, and the last of his wounds healed behind it.

His heart beat once, twice.

And just like that, Dean Campbell jerked back to life, gasping air into his lungs so loudly his voice spread across the empty town, and the birds outside startled into flight.