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An Existential Crisis [the retcon remix]

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Mary never stops being his favorite.

She's such a little minx, that girl—all homecoming queen and cotton candy rainbows one minute and the scalding burn of holy water the next. And so angry. Azazel has rarely seen such anger in a human, such righteous, masochistic, and impotent rage. Oh, yes, Mary Winchester is Azazel's favorite. The very air around her is sweet with fear and pain. It's enough to drive a body to distraction.

Azazel has to sit on his hands for years after they make their deal, remind himself that Mary is important, necessary, that he doesn't want to tie her down and make her bleed, not yet anyway. But he does want to. He certainly does. She'd bleed so pretty, too; Azazel just knows it.

"That's my girl," Azazel says when Mary pawns all her guns. Then she stops wearing protective charms and salting her windowsills as well. "Don't make it too easy for me, sugar," he says, disgusted. "I like a little backbone." Azazel watches Mary live her very ordinary, nauseatingly normal life, and part of him misses the hunter who kissed him in the dirt at Peterson's landing, her face smeared with tears and her hands stained with her daddy's blood. It's so disappointing when humans just give in. Worst part of the whole damn demon gig.

Mary's first whelp is nothing special. Azazel pays him little attention except to notice that Mary gets a bit of her bite back when he's born. She starts practicing martial arts again, shadowboxing in the backyard, her feet leaving heavy green prints in the dew-laden grass. Her waist whittles down once more, and she stops. Azazel shrugs. The time is growing so close that he can shift his attention from Mary to the next child she will bear—one of his psychic kids. Maybe the psychic kid, the heavyweight champ, Lucifer's vessel.

Finally, finally, everything is in place, and all that's left is to waltz right in and get the party started. Azazel imagines pinning Mary to the ceiling like a moth and setting her on fire, slashing her belly and lighting her up like a Christmas tree. He's never felt so good in the skin he's wearing. He shimmies in through baby Sammy's window, and his feet stick fast to the carpet as soon as they hit ground.

"That little bitch," Azazel says, and Sam gurgles in his sleep. The lights flicker with Azazel's anger, and before long, Mary stands in the doorway. "Hello, Mary," he says.

"Azazel." She clenches her jaw, and her eyes keep darting back and forth between him and the baby.

Azazel whistles to hide his shock. He hasn't been snowed in a long time; he should have expected Mary wouldn't just roll over, not for him, not for anybody. "You figured out my name?"

"I figured out a lot of things."

For the first time in recent memory, Azazel is afraid. What does Mary Winchester think she knows? What has she done? He pushes into her mind and right on top, floating like a cherry, is this memory: "Thanks, Cal," Mary says and throws her arms around his waist, squeezing tightly. They walk through every room in the empty shell of the house, and Mary inspects the grid of intersecting devil's traps painted on the bare concrete floors. They're all perfect, unbroken, with not a space for a demon to stand that he won't be caught in the whole damn house. "You can lay carpet in all the bedrooms. Linoleum everywhere else." She grins up at Cal, fierce and wicked and beautiful. "Let that son of a bitch try to touch what's mine now."

"I can see that," Azazel says as he lets go of her mind. He feels something give in his meatsuit's knees as he strains against the devil's trap. Human bodies are so stupidly fragile.

Mary scoops up Sammy from his crib, and Azazel braces himself for a string of Latin, for the words that will funnel him from this body and back into hell. They never come, and Azazel doesn't understand why Mary doesn't just exorcise him already. It'll be a little setback, sure, but Azazel can claw his way out of hell if he has to. Nothing he hasn't done before. Sammy's a bust, obviously, but Azazel can take his lumps as well as the next guy. He looks into Mary's thoughts again, and this time she's remembering a gun, sleek and sexy—the stuff that demon nightmares are made of. Azazel backpedals out of Mary's mind with the knowledge that he is well and truly fucked. He may as well play the only card he's got left, now; maybe she'll take the bait. Somehow he doubts that.

"We had a deal, Mary," he says as she leaves. "You know how deals work. If you don't come through on your end of the bargain, I can take back what I did."

She stops with her back to him, both feet over the threshold of the door, Sammy making sleepy noises against her chest. For a long minute, she says nothing, her heart beating so loudly in her chest that Azazel can hear it. Then she says, "I let you in my house, as promised. I never said I was ever going to let you out again."

Azazel has a lot of time to think while he's waiting for her to come back with the Colt. He thinks about death, true death, and what place there might be worse than hell for somebody like him. Even at its worst, hell is thin in spots—just enough give for a demon determined enough to wiggle his way through to the outside. Azazel has a feeling that whatever is underneath hell is locked up so tight he'll never leave. And worse than even that, his last thought between the time Mary pulls the trigger and the bullet brains him is that maybe when a demon truly dies, he doesn't go anywhere at all.