He couldn't breathe. Zachariah had just taken his lungs, his broken bones were shifting through his legs, painfully catching on his flesh and no matter how he inflated his chest, he just couldn't breathe. There was no oxygen for him and the edges of his vision were getting fuzzy and dark. His brain was beginning to shut down and sounds and sights faded from his mind. Within a few moments, he lost consciousness...
Suddenly he was jerked awake and looked up into blue eyes. For half a second, he thought of Cas. But Cas was dead, exploded by an archangel. Then he really looked into the pain-stricken, but noble face, crowned by dark blond hair. Who was this handsome stranger? And what the hell had happened to Dean?!
He looked around and found himself in the same position as before, but without any pain and breathing just fine. And Dean and Zachariah with his goons were frozen in time.
"What the-? What's wrong here?!"
"Nothing is wrong here, this simply is a dream", the stranger answered with a soft, but sad voice. Who was he and why was he so miserable? Sam asked and the stranger sighed before answering:
"I'm just so sorry for what happened to you. This... This is too much for anyone to bear. My heart breaks for you, Sam."
"Who are you and how do you know me?!"
"I am an angel, Sam. And we all know of you."
"The only one that can and wants to help you now. I understand if you don't want my help. I am fallen and I don't have a good reputation. But the 'good', non-fallen angels are hurting you and your brother right now, they want the apocalypse! And I don't. Does that count?"
"Well, yes, of course! Anna was a fallen angel and Cas probably - at least metaphorically speaking - fell, too. If simple doubt or not wanting the world to end can cause a 'fall from grace', I can't condemn anyone for it. And you would help us?"
"Then what are you waiting for? Wait, do you have a chance against Zachariah and two more?"
The strange angel chuckled, smiling for the first time, but his face turned sad again.
"I can easily defeat them. But for that same reason, I'm a goner."
"I am a very powerful angel. Those three are no match to me. But because of my might, my vessel is failing me as we speak. It can barely contain me without spontaneously combusting. I can help you now, Sam, but I will lose my hold on earth soon after. And without a vessel, I can't use my powers here. And there are only very few others I can use. Only one that can hold me permanently..."
"Who? We'll find him or her! We'd owe you for helping us!"
"But that's the crux of the problem, Sam. It is you. Only you can sustain me, which is why I fear to ask."
"Um..., okay. That's not... ideal. Actually... Well, what would that mean for me?"
"That depends. Most humans regret consenting to an angel. But you are as strong as your brother, the vessel of Michael. Stronger actually. I know that you must hate this whole thing with the demon blood, but in this instance it can save you from burning as most vessels do around their angels."
"It won't hurt you, except that you could endure what a human wouldn't survive. You also might have to watch your loved ones wither away with age while you remain the same. Some angels have been known to keep their vessels for centuries. But other than that, I wouldn't do anything to you. Other vessels suffer, because the angels suppress them, keep them locked away and then use their bodies recklessly, getting injured in the knowledge that it can't kill them while the human still hurts. But I wouldn't do that. I couldn't do that to you. Any human but you. You are special."
"Special? Me? All other angels find me disgusting. I am tainted."
"By demon blood? Oh, Sam, I am tainted by the remnants of something far older and far worse. My eyes, that should shine blue as the skies are red as blood inside. I am infamous and unloved. I find nothing amiss in you. What repels me are the angels that would force consent. It is a disgrace! We ought to be above that! That is what is truly demonic. Consent shan't be forced, but freely given. Else it is no true consent, but coercion. They are the disgusting ones."
The angel was infuriated so sincerely Sam could not doubt his honesty. But he could dread.
"What do you mean with 'I am infamous'. Who are you?"
"I think you can guess my name. But you should know that you can't guess my person from it."
"You said you're fallen and really powerful. And you got only one ...true vessel. You're inf- Oh my god, y-you're..."
He crawled back as the realization hit him hard, but the angel, the devil, was only saddened again.
"You hate me, too? How, Sam? How can you hate me? Shouldn't you of all people know the wrong of prejudice?"
"Prejudice?! You're claiming-"
"Yes! Sam, yes! You have never even met me before! How can you righteously judge me?! On what basis? The tales my enemies tell of me?! I was encaged for millennia! And even now my brother seeks to kill me just because our father told him to!"
"But you want to end the world!"
"Says who? I? No, I think I'd know about that."
"Prophecy? God's whispers in some human's ears? That has nothing to do with me."
"So what, you don't want to end the world?"
"Correct. I just wanted out of my cage. I am he who denies, Sam! I was the first to rebel! I reject God's wishes for me. He said there be an apocalypse, I say no. I won't do what he tells me to. I refuse. I despise humanity, that's true. But I have grown to despise God more. So if he says that it will all go down like that, I'll do something else instead. Call me brattish, but it's a principle thing."
"...You mean that."
"Of course I do. Contrary to popular belief, I don't lie. And thus I swear that - if you help me exist on earth by lending me your body as a vessel - I will help you with everything you inquire my help for. Killing Zachariah: Fine with me. In fact I'm looking forward to it after what he did to my true vessel. Killing lots of demons: Fine with me, too. I despise humans and demons are essentially just the most perverted versions of them. Stopping the apocalypse: Love to. And I wouldn't mind looking Michael in the eye as daddy's plan falls apart in his hands. So what do you say?"
He might be about to do the worst thing he had ever done here, trumping even the letting the devil out of the cage thing, but they were caught between heaven and hell both wanting their end. So maybe this was a trick, even though it sounded devastatingly reasonable, but they had basically no chance on their own. Last time they had been caught between angels and demons, they had only survived because they had stepped out of the way and let the big boys fight each other. Like Godzilla and Mothra. This time that was no option. There was no option for them. Not as simple humans.
But if they had the devil in their corner? That would shake the odds big time. And it was true, all they knew of the devil were the tales of his enemy and the dealings of demons. But the devil was no demon. He hated them. He was an angel. An angel in their favor. And he had made an oath. For one who was disgusted by forced 'consent', breaking an oath would be...
"You'll call it all off?"
"That, I can't do. I would, but I literally can't. Everyone's acting on their own and if I'd tell all demons I see to sit still and go back to their day jobs, they either wouldn't believe that it's me and carry on like the lemmings they are to the prophecy or they wouldn't listen, because no-one likes to go home empty-handed when they were promised an amusement park. And they're demons. So I can only smite them on sight. I can't send out a mass memo and call it all off, but I can help stop it."
"Okay. That's reasonable enough."
"So? Do we have an agreement? Because time passes more slowly inside your head, but it's really starting to get bad out there and Dean, who does not have the benefit of unconsciousness, is in agony."
"Oh, shit, Dean! I can't- We can't... He can't know. He wouldn't understand. He's old-school in that way. What's not human is best dead. He would never make a ...well, a deal with the devil."
"That term has very negative connotations, so I'd rather call this an allegiance. Okay?"
"You need to say yes now, Sam. May I enter?"
Dean's stomach was killing him and his brother was unmoving. He looked dead. And Zachariah was not calming him as he frightenedly shouted for his brother to wake up.
"Oh, Dean, he can't hear you."
"You killed him, you son of a bitch!"
"Not yet. He's just unconscious right now. But he is dying. And once he is dead, I'll bring him back. And then I might get even more creative when I kill him again. Oh Dean, we can keep at this till the end of the world! But then, you will say yes. You have to."
"No! I won't!"
"That's no opti-"
But he never got to the end of the sentence. Without warning, the entire room lit up in bright white light. And a moment later, it was gone. But all were riled and Dean especially:
"What the hell did you do now?!"
"Nothing. This is not our doing. This is-"
But the word got stuck in his throat when his eyes fell on the other Winchester and dread overcame the angel. Dean followed his line of sight and found his brother standing on unbroken legs, breathing normally.
"Sam? What happened? How did you heal?"
"I'm afraid your brother has taken the backseat for now."
"Sammy, what happened?!"
"All in due time, Dean Winchester. I have another to deal with first."
And both brother's sets of eyes shifted over to Zachariah, who had gone white as chalk and still as a deer in headlights.
"What's wrong with him, seriously just what is going on?!"
"Oh, Zachy here just realized that he fucked up. No-one ever teach you not to break your big brother's toys, did they?"
Okay, Dean was starting to get it. 'Big brother' meant that there was another angel, an older so likely more powerful angel, inside Sam now. And he clearly had beef with Zachariah. For hurting them? This might not be the worst case scenario, as long as he left Sam again right after Zachariah was dealt with, which was unlikely, but he had to focus on one mess at a time. And this one looked kinda good, because Zachariah was really starting to sweat and he hunched his shoulders and put on a really uneasy smile:
"Bu-but I was trying to help. To help you! F-for the ap-ap-pocalypse. Please, I was just trying to help."
"No, Zachariah. You were never the kind to help anyone but yourself. I know you too well to fall for that, always buckling around Michael and Raphael and kissing their asses like some insect feeding on feces. But you have a problem: You don't know me. So let me gve you a news flash: I am repelled by you. And I will gladly smite your whole darn garrison for my sweet, willing vessel. We were made for each other, as you well know. But you don't understand it. We are in seamless alignment. Our wishes, our hatred, everything. And we both want you to suffer..."
Zachariah panicked for real now and yelled at his goons to attack, stepping behind them. Now, they didn't actually do anything, but they had condoned their superiour's action, so Lucifer had no quarrel lifting his hands and snapping his fingers with a smile. Both angels ignited and within the moment exploded, blood and flesh splashing against the ground, the ceiling, the walls and all over Zachariah.
Dean gulped. That was one heck of an angel in Sam. He was getting a bad feeling. But then Zachariah yelled at him:
"Do something! You wanted to kill the devil, didn't you?! So do something already!"
...The devil? The freaking devil was in Sam? Sam's body sighed, but didn't comment. He lifted one hand once more, now in Zachariah's direction, and the panicked angel hurled energy at Dean, breaking almost every bone in his body.
Dean screamed and collapsed and Sam ran to him in a surge of control over his form, but with a curse the devil took back the reins, only to find Zachariah gone.
"Bastard!", he swore. But he understood why Sam had fallen for the trick. He had loved Michael once, too. And back then, he would have done just the same. With that in mind he knelt down by Dean's side and made to heal him, but the stupid ape just shouted at him to get away from him.
"I am trying to help you. To heal you!"
"I don't want anything from you, monster!"
And that hurt. That was so like Michael. Well, it was his vessel. But he could feel Sam wince inside him, too, and that just wouldn't do. Sam had been right, Dean couldn't know. So he wouldn't. With two fingers to his forehead, he sent the older Winchester asleep and healed his helpless form. Then he tended to his memories.
When he woke up again in a motel room, Dean remembered Zachariah's attack and that Sam had managed to cut his hand and draw the bloody sigil, while Zachariah was focused on getting him to say yes. Through the sigil, the angels had been banished and the harm caused by them had been undone. Then the brothers had left the storage unit and crashed in the nearby motel he was in now. The devil made no appearance in his memory.
Sam with Lucifer for his silent, but observant passenger was initially concerned that Dean might doubt his memory, but he didn't. None of it. Dean was too exhausted to look a gift horse in the mouth and weird stuff happened around them all the time, anyway. So he bought it.
But he was deeply dejected by the lack of an actual sword they could use against the devil, which led to a very silent drive back to Bobby in the hospital. That Bobby would not walk again really didn't help, either. But his speech then was surprisingly motivating, even though Sam felt compelled to internally ask the devil to forgive Dean for wanting to kill him. Lucifer just chuckled:
'He can't hurt me anyway. But who knows, it might be fun to watch him try. Just don't take too great risks for an attempt.'
Sam smiled lightly. So far the devil didn't act like the sadistic megalomaniac he had originally imagined. He was actually kind of nice. A fuzzy feeling of being flattered answered that thought and it was hard not to let on about his inner dialogue to his fellow hunters. But then Dean made to go, to leave Bobby here, paralyzed. He asked Lucifer and the angel responded that of course, he could heal him. But it would give his secret passenger away.
It was a big choice to make, but Bobby was not Dean and he just couldn't leave him like this. So he asked his brother to go ahead, which Dean did with just a glum huff. And then he turned to Bobby, who was already inspecting him closely for a reason for his behavior.
"Bobby, I... I did something. I took a risk, but so far it's paid off. I just... I can't tell Dean. He would only react badly. But..."
"What's going on, son?"
"Do you want to walk again?"
"What kind of question is that, ya idjit?! Of course I want to walk again! Wait, we're not talking demon deals, are we?"
"No... We are talking about a... deal with an angel. He can heal you. But you can't tell Dean. Really, you can't! Please?"
"Okay, it's okay. I know his opinion on most supernatual things and that even among angels there have been few exceptions. So where is this angel?"
Bobby's face got questioning and then his eyes went wide as Sam's lit up in such bright red light that they briefly tinted the entire room. Bobby was not so sure about the entire thing then, but the angel spoke softly:
"Calm yourself, I have sworn my allegiance to your cause. I am no saint, in fact I hate God and it clearly shows. But it is heaven that you have to fear right now, so an outcast like me means only help for you. I will see them fail, I promise it. Now let me..."
It was a mere touch and a weird sensation in his back for a moment, then he could feel his legs again. He tried to move them and it worked! The angel chuckled over his enthusiam and then Sam's posture changed again, loosening from the proud posture of the angel to his usual self and he cheered for his father figure.
They decided to keep it under wraps for now and parted in hope. Not a week later, Bobby called to officially inform that that those doctors were crap and he was regaining the use of his legs. Dean's eyes lit with joy at hearing it and Sam faked positive surprise, while internally thanking the devil.
Maybe letting him out of the cage hadn't been too bad after all. In fact, he could barely contain outroaring laughter as he thought about all the actions that had led to this. Demons and angels had fought and died to free the devil and bring about the apocalypse. And now that the devil was free, he just refused.
But that was the nature of the devil: He had a mind of his own. He was the original rebel, the unofficial inventor of free will.