It was hard not to think of it as “he.” Hard not to think of it as a kid.
And Sam didn’t make it any easier, calling it by name. “Jack said you told him you’d be the one to kill him.”
“Yeah,” Dean said. Took a swallow from his coffee cup and grimaced—the pot had been left on too long; it managed to be burned and tasteless at the same time.
“Why’d you tell him that?” Sam asked.
“Because it’s the truth,” Dean said. “I figure, Prince of Lies’ spawn, why not go with honesty.” Sam was frowning at him. Dean got up, took his coffee over to the liquor shelf and added a splash of bourbon for flavor. “He”—it—“He’s a big...whatever. He can handle it.”
When he turned back, Sam was still frowning. “What, you think I was gonna change my mind about him, after he opened up a gate to Hell?” Dean said. “I get that you’ve got hope. But what part of dangerous are you not seeing here?”
“Why does it have to be you?” Sam said.
“If Jack does turn out to be too dangerous,” and Sam glanced at the door, as if checking for listeners. As if they had any idea what a nephilim’s hearing range actually was. “If we have to take him down—why would you be the one to do it? I’m the one advocating for him—if it goes sideways, it’s my mistake to fix.”
“No,” Dean said.
“Why not? I did with the Men of Letters, didn’t I?”
“That was different,” Dean said. “You didn’t ever like those douchebags—you just thought they could be useful.”
“I think Jack could be useful,” Sam said, and maybe didn’t even hear the guilt in his voice as he said it, that proved the point.
Dean took another gulp of coffee—better, though not by much. “Either way, it’s gonna be me.”
“Why?” Sam’s voice got an edge, but it wasn’t real anger, just testing. “You think I can’t handle it? That I’m not strong enough?”
“No,” Dean said. “You could do it, if you had to. But you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
Sam blanched, not ready for that. “You—you wouldn’t either.”
“You really think I wouldn’t?”
“You’ve seen enough of him to know,” Sam said. “However powerful—however dangerous Jack is, he’s just a kid. It’s not his fault—“
“—that he’s a monster? Doesn’t mean he’s not one,” Dean said. “And taking out monsters, that’s what I do—that’s what I’m good at.”
“You hunt things to save people—” Sam started, then cut himself off.
Too late. Dean could’ve listed off all the people they hadn’t saved, but no point; he could see that tally unscrolling in Sam’s eyes, as soon as he said it.
But Sam wasn’t one to give up. The darker things got, the harder he blew on whatever embers of hope he had left. That was part of this, Dean knew. Sam not giving up on Mom. Not giving up on the nephilim, either, even knowing what it was. “Even if you do have to kill Jack,” Sam said, sure and certain, “it’d be because you have to. Not because you want to.”
And yeah, it was cruel, to stamp on those embers; but kindness only got you dead, in the end. “You really think I don’t want to end the thing that got Mom killed? That got Cas killed?” Dean thought of that anger, that pain. Thought of narrowing it down into a knife blade, a bullet, and sending it home, letting it go.
The Mark of Cain wasn’t howling its bloodlust on his arm anymore, but he remembered every kill he’d made with the First Blade. Sometimes, late at night when even a bottle of whisky wasn’t enough to chase down sleep, he’d let himself remember them. Let himself remember the release, the ecstasy, the first time he’d climbed down from Alistair’s rack.
He let himself remember now, and let himself smile, and Sam flinched. Sam who loved the adrenaline of a hunt, more than he’d ever openly admit; Sam who knew what it was to want vengeance, to want blood—but not like this; Sam never wanted this. Dean went for that opening like this was a knife fight. “You think, when we do find the weapon that can kill this thing, that I’m gonna let you have it? I’d fight you for it, Sam, if I had to. This is my kill.”
“Because you don’t want me to have to do it,” Sam said quietly. Not parrying, not ducking. “Because you know how much it’ll hurt, and you don’t want me to be hurt more than I already will be. Than I already am.”
“Sure.” Dean dropped the smile. Drank the rest of his coffee and said, “If that’s what you want to tell yourself, sure.”
“If you really want to kill him, then why won’t you use his name?” Sam said. “You’re trying to keep your distance, and I get it, Dean. And I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“Because it’s going to hurt you, too. Even if you want to kill a monster, you’ve seen too much of him already. You’ve seen the human in him, too, and you want to save him. And if the only way to do that turns out to be by killing him...” Like me, he didn’t say, but that was what Sam thought the problem was, thinking this nephilim was like he’d been once, an innocent human poisoned by unholy power. “Maybe you’ll do it, if you have to, so I won’t. Or maybe you won’t be able to, and I’ll have to. But if it comes to that, we’ll figure it out, together.”
Dean shrugged, turned to leave, but Sam got up fast enough to block the kitchen doorway, looking Dean square in the eyes. “If I’m wrong, Dean, then say his name.”
“Jack,” Dean said. “His name’s Jack.”
But Dean let his eyes drop from Sam’s as he said it. Like he couldn’t face his brother, because in the end Dean was a coward after all; in the end he couldn’t let Sam see the truth.
That this was Sam’s real problem: that Sam was way too used to loving monsters.