Season Four

Episode Sixteen: The End of All Things

By irismay42

Part One

 

“You feel it, don’t you?”

The voice is familiar, but Dean can’t quite place it, and when he looks, there’s no one there.

Alone. He’s alone.

His chest burns with a sense of dread and loneliness, and when he looks down, he realizes his amulet is glowing, reflecting the dull red of the burning sky.

The clouds above him are on fire and the heavens are falling, the sky raining down like ash.

Beneath him, there’s nothing, just something in the distance, glinting.


* * * *

“You feel it, don’t you?”

The voice is familiar, but Sam can’t quite place it, and when he looks, there’s no one there.

Alone. He’s never alone. Even here, in the middle of nowhere, looking up at a sky on fire.

There’s a mountain in the distance, a shape he recognizes, and he’s surrounded by familiar faces. Some of them he knows to be dead, some of them still living. Special Kids, all. Haris’ Chosen Few. Whole and breathing, not cursed and broken.

Kyle’s here. Matthew Teller. David Mitchum. Nathan Cole and his sister Chelsea. Alyssa Medina, who stole Dean’s memory. Poor Matthew Ismay. Max Miller. Daisy Duffield, and Sam wants to laugh when he remembers Dean calling her “Cousin Daisy.”

There are a few others he doesn’t recognize: a handsome black soldier; a shorter man with an impish grin; a young woman with a round face and a guileless smile.

He hears the voice again, but he can’t understand what it’s saying anymore.

There’s a brilliant flash of light and…

* * * *

Dean sat up sharply, the bed springs shrieking in protest as he clutched the comforter to his chest and tried to stop himself from hyperventilating.

Breathe Dean. Just breathe.

His dad’s voice in his head was chased away by the tinny wail of music, and it took him a couple of seconds to realize his phone was ringing.

Dimly, he made a mental note to kick Sam’s ass later on for once again changing his ringtone, but he was still too freaked out by the dream he just had to spend too much time worrying about his little brother’s whacked sense of humor.

Sammy was the one with the freaky ESP dream vision mojo thing going on, after all.

Dean had had nightmares before, of course. But never anything as vivid as this one, which had left him gasping for air and fumbling for his amulet like a toddler looking for its pacifier. He was ridiculously relieved to discover the little charm, cool and firm against his chest, not glowing or burning or glinting or whatever else it had been doing in his dream.

Taking a long, deep breath and letting it out slowly, he fumbled for the phone on the nightstand, his sleep-hazy vision inadvertently coming to rest on Sam, who was raised up on his elbows looking back at him.

“Nightmare?” Sam asked, and Dean wondered how the hell his brother knew that. Until he realized the level of freaked out he was currently experiencing was reflected in equal measure in his brother’s eyes.

Sam’s breathing was as fast and as desperate as Dean’s, his complexion as pallid, and Dean wanted to ask, wanted to check, but his phone was still shouting for his attention, the little screen flashing “Demon Chick” insistently.

The epithet was meant affectionately, of course.

“Addie?”

Addie Roberts had proven herself pretty damned invaluable when it had come to getting Dad out of Stull last March, and even though it went against every fiber of his being to be on first name terms with a demon, Dean had to admit he kind of liked the girl. Demon. Whatever.

“Dean?” Addie sounded on edge, nervous, maybe even more freaked out than Dean was right now.

“You okay?” Dean asked automatically. “It’s the middle of the night.”

He glanced at the beat-up clock radio on the nightstand for confirmation that it was, indeed, still the middle of the night, Sam casting a quizzical look in his direction that he merely returned with a shrug.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry to have to—” Addie stumbled, and it was the first time Dean remembered the demon apologizing for anything. “It’s just—”

“Addie,” Dean said as calmly as he was able. “Take a breath and tell me what’s wrong.”

Addie paused for a second, and Dean thought he heard her exhale slowly.

“Dean, I think something big’s going down.”

It was Dean’s turn to take a breath. “Demon big?”

“Lucifer big,” Addie corrected him. “Hell knows, I’ve never exactly been in any demonic inner circles, and I certainly don’t have any kind of inside track when it comes to Lucifer’s schemes, but I’m...hearing whispers.”

“What kind of whispers?”

“The ‘demons mobilizing in their hundreds’ kind,” Addie explained. “I hear they’re after something.”

“What kind of something?”

“I don’t know. But it’s something Lucifer wants badly enough to send his minions out to the four corners of the earth to find it.”

“What, like a copy of Superman #1? The perfect burger? Cheap Viagra?”

“I think maybe some kind of artifact.”

Dean frowned. “To do what?”

“I don’t know. To complete something.”

“That’s kinda vague, dude.”

“I know. But it’s all I know. That and—and it’s big. Apocalypse big. And—and—”

“Addie...?”

“I think maybe—maybe I’m being watched.”

“Watched? Who by?”

“I don’t know. Dean, I don’t know much of anything, so I don’t understand why they’d be interested in me...”

Dean swallowed. “Because they know you’ve been helping us.”

A shaky breath was Addie’s only reply.

“I’m sorry, man,” Dean offered, and he meant it. “I know you were trying to stay under the radar.”

“Couldn’t go on like this forever,” the demon admitted. “It’s not your fault. Just...just promise, if something happens to me—”

“Addie—”

“My—her kids. You gotta make sure they’re safe.”

“Addie—”

“And Sam. You need to watch out for Sam.”

The world screeched to an immediate halt and for a second Dean’s voice got stuck in his throat. “Addie? Is something after Sam?”

Dean studiously avoided looking at his brother right then, but he could feel Sam’s eyes boring into him.

When the demon didn’t reply, Dean repeated his question. “Addie? Is something after Sam?

Again, there was no reply, the line suddenly going dead.

“Addie?”

Dean swallowed, his gaze finally meeting his brother’s as he disconnected the call.

“Dean?”

Dean gulped down a breath. “Addie thinks something big’s going on,” he relayed shortly. “Lucifer’s after something.”

Sam’s jaw tightened. “What would Lucifer be after?” and Dean could tell Sam was already thinking the same thing he was, without even hearing Addie’s side of the conversation.

When Dean made no effort to answer, Sam deftly changed the subject.

“So, what were you dreaming about?”

Dean frowned at the sudden non-sequitur. “Huh?”

“Nightmare,” Sam reminded him. “You were having a nightmare.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Sammy, we just found out Lucifer’s got some big bad scheme up his sleeve and you want to know what I was dreaming about?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah I do.”

“Lollipops and candy canes,” Dean replied shortly, throwing his brother’s words from years earlier back at him.

Sam didn’t seem at all amused. “Dean.”

“Alright, Samantha, keep your hotpants on.” Dean took a breath. “The sky was on fire. Okay? There was a—a hole in it. And it was dark and there was something shining and someone said, ‘You feel it, don’t you?’ And that was it. It was just a dream. Nothin’ to get your panties in a knot over.”

Sam frowned at him.

“Okay, Doctor Freud, whatcha got for me? I’m in love with my cousin’s neighbour’s uncle’s sister’s goldfish?”

Sam sighed, his shoulders drooping. “I had a nightmare too.”

Dean’s expression sobered. “I noticed.”

“Three nights running now. It always starts the same way.” Sam lowered his eyes. “A voice I kinda recognize saying, ‘You feel it, don’t you?’”

Dean stiffened. “You had the same dream?”

Sam shrugged. “The sky on fire? Yeah, that part I dreamed. But the rest? No. I was in the wilderness maybe, and all the other Special Kids were there—even the dead ones. And some I didn’t even know.”

Dean processed that for a second. “You think—this was—one of those dreams?”

Sam shook his head. “Death vision? No, no one died in my dream, Dean. It was just...weird is all.”

“And you were where?”

“I dunno, a park or forest or—or somewhere familiar, somewhere...” Sam’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Devil’s Tower!” he burst out. “It was Devil’s Tower, Wyoming!”

Dean wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that, especially if this was Sam’s freaky psychic ESP thing kicking into overdrive. “Where Lucifer’s bitch—”

“Eligos,” Sam supplied.

“—smashed your hand into a million pieces and tried to bring about his own little Special Kid Apocalypse?”

Sam nodded, flexing his hand absently, before eventually adding, “These dreams. They’ve gotta be connected, right?”

Dean shrugged. “Just because we heard someone say the same thing? Dude, sometimes a banana’s just a banana.”

Sam raised a brow at him.

“They’re just dreams, Sammy. Well, mine are at least.”

“But what if they’re not?”

“Sam, I don’t have a psychic bone in my body—”

“Unless I’m in trouble. Then you seem to know something’s wrong before I do.”

Dean didn’t respond to that, just rolled his shoulders and examined the comforter for a second. “Look, you’re dreaming about a specific place, right? Wyoming? Someplace you’ve been? Where something traumatic happened to you. Well, I don’t think I was dreaming about Wyoming, dude. I don’t think I was dreaming about anywhere. It was dark, the sky was on fire, and I was by myself.”

“You were?”

Trust Sam to find something so insignificant significant.

“Sam—”

“Look, all I’m saying, man, is that this might be relevant. Maybe Addie’s right. Maybe something big really is going down. Maybe...maybe we’re a part of it.”

Dean blew out a slow breath. “We always seem to be a part of it. If only we knew what ‘it’ was.”

“Well there’s only one way to find out.”

Sam swung his long legs out from under the covers, snatching up his cellphone from the nightstand and beginning to scroll through his list of contacts.

* * * *

They spent the next couple of hours Googling themselves to the brink of insanity, calling all their contacts, and pretty much pissing off every hunter they knew who would still talk to them.

It was a pretty small number.

Jefferson was about the only one with any remotely useful information, and that had nothing to do with Lucifer, the sky burning, or any artifact the Devil might be turning the world upside down looking for.

“You know, you boys should be careful givin’ away your location to other hunters,” he warned them. “Rennie Lofton and her crew are just itching for a chance to get even with you two. And don’t forget a whole helluva lot of folks still think Sammy’s the Antichrist and you’re his bitch, Dean.”

Dean grunted. “That’s just ’cause I look so damn hot in heels,” he commented wryly.

“Dean,” Jefferson said. “This is serious. These people want to kill you.”

Dean sighed heavily. “I know, man.”

“Look,” Jefferson continued, and Dean was pretty sure he heard a hand scraping through stubble. “If I hear anything, I’ll give you boys a holler, okay? But in the meantime, just—just try to keep a low profile. Somethin’s definitely goin’ on. I just ain’t sure what it is yet.”

“Yeah,” Dean snorted. “Seems like there’s a lot of that going around.”

Dean had spent about ten minutes staring at his phone after he’d ended the call with Jefferson, his finger hovering over the call button.

Sam hadn’t said anything, hadn’t even asked, just informed Dean he was going to try and call Bobby.

Dean took a breath, finally hitting the number for “Dad’s cell.”

Not surprisingly, he got voicemail.

And from the look on his brother’s face, so did Sam.

They hung up on the two older hunters at pretty much the same time, neither of them leaving a message.

“So what now?” Dean asked on an exhale, tossing his phone aside onto the bed. It wasn’t that he needed Dad or Bobby to tell him what to do. It was just…in his experience it never hurt to get a second opinion.

Sam seemed to have other ideas, however, suddenly springing to his feet and digging his duffle out of the closet, grabbing handfuls of clean and dirty clothes, books, weapons and anything else within arm’s reach, and stuffing it all haphazardly into the canvas bag.

“Sam?” Dean rose a little uncertainly, trying to get his brother’s attention, but not succeeding until he caught hold of Sam’s wrist in an attempt to still his frantic movements. “Hey, man. What are we doin’?”

Sam just looked at him for a second, as if it should be patently obvious what they were doing.

“We’re going to Wyoming,” he explained shortly. “That’s where it—whatever it is—is going down. That’s where we need to be. I’m certain of it.”

Dean frowned at him. “What part of ‘keep a low profile’ didn’t you get, Sam?” he asked incredulously, not releasing his brother’s wrist, but instead forcing him to hold still for just a second. “Wyoming’s the last place we should be heading!”

Sam matched his frown with one of his own. “Dean, that’s the place I dreamed about! It’s where I’m supposed to be—”

“How do you know that? Sam? You said yourself you didn’t think it was a vision. And I sure as hell didn’t dream about Wyoming. What if it’s a trap? What if someone’s trying to finish off what ol’ Eli started? Huh? Luring you guys back to the scene of the massacre? Sammy, what if someone’s after you?”

Dean swallowed, remembering Addie’s warning as his fingers tightened around Sam’s wrist.

Sam paused only briefly before shucking out of his brother’s restraining grip and resuming his packing. “Why would anyone want to do that, Dean?” he demanded, seeming to deliberately avoid his big brother’s gaze.

“Uh, lemme think,” Dean began, screwing up his forehead in mock concentration. “Well there’s that Lucifer guy who wanted you all dead in the first place. Remember him?”

Sam virtually growled at him. “Why would Lucifer be trying to lure us to Wyoming, Dean? That makes absolutely no sense.”

“Oh, I don’t know, because he wants to kill you, Sam?” The volume of Dean’s voice went up a notch to match Sam’s.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Say that’s true—”

“It’s true.”

“—and Lucifer still wants me dead. Why a vision? Why lure me anywhere? Why not just kill me?”

“I thought you said it was just a dream?”

Sam ground his teeth together audibly. “Look, messing with my hokey visions was Haris’ style, and he’s gone, Dean. If someone wanted to lure all of the surviving Special Kids anywhere, they’re not gonna be stupid enough to choose the place we almost got wiped out, are they? Huh?”

Dean lowered his voice slightly as he shook his head. “And yet you’re stupid enough to be thinking about going back there.”

Sam’s jaw tightened, and he turned away angrily, all stiff shoulders and hard angles. “So that’s it? You think I’m stupid, Dean?”

“Sam—”

“Too stupid to be capable of making my own decisions about my own life?”

“Sammy, look,” Dean remonstrated. “Addie told me to keep you safe. Letting you run off to Wyoming ain’t my idea of safe!”

Sam whirled at that, his spine snapping straight as he used his height advantage to loom over his brother, and it took everything Dean had not to take a cautious step back. “For your information, big brother,” Sam spat, “it’s not up to you to ‘let’ me do anything! I’m a grownup now, in case you hadn’t noticed, and for once in my life I’m going to do what I think is the right thing to do! Not what you think. Not what Dad thinks. What I think. And if I think I want to go to Wyoming to investigate this thing, then there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop me!”

Dean just blinked at him for a second, totally unprepared for his little tirade, and Sam returned his gaze, breathing heavily as his face turned an incensed shade of scarlet.

“Dean, I came here on this stupid waste of time case because you wanted to. Now it’s time for me to do something I want to do.”

“Sammy, look—” Dean tried again.

“For the hundredth time,” Sam snapped, hauling his duffle up onto his shoulder and grabbing his jacket off the bed as he made to storm out of the motel room door. “It’s Sam!”

“Wait, Sam!” Dean dodged in front of his little brother, interposing himself between Sam and his only escape route. “Can’t we just talk about this? Huh? C’mon, Sammy—Sam. Let’s just think this through!”

Sam stepped right up into Dean’s face, teeth grinding together audibly. “I’m tired of thinking things through, Dean,” he growled. “I’m tired of letting other people think things through for me. This dream, this vision is important, and I get that you might not think so, and that’s fine, but it’s important to me, so I’m going to Wyoming, whether you come with me or not! Okay?”

He made another move toward the door, and Dean caught hold of his arm, trying to restrain him, stop him, give him time to cool down, time to think before he made a really stupid, rash decision.

But Sam’s mind was apparently made up, and no amount of time was going to change that. Instead, he simply shoved Dean’s hand away and shouldered him aside as if he wasn’t even there, and for the briefest of instants when he yanked open the door and turned one last glance toward his older brother, Dean could have sworn his eyes glinted yellow.

He swallowed hard, for a crucial moment too stunned to even contemplate chasing after his little brother, frozen to the spot and unable to process the idea Sam might actually leave, let alone make some effort to try and stop him from leaving.

His gaze turned outward, eyes slowly blinking into the yellow sun beginning to peek over the horizon. And right then he knew it had only been a trick of the light.

It was just a stupid trick of the light.

“Sam…?” he murmured quietly, his brain finally getting with the program as his legs stumbled out into the murky parking lot.

There was no sign of his brother. It was as if Sam had just melted into the early morning gloom.

“Sammy!”

It was 5.30 a.m. and the neighbors weren’t going to be happy, but Dean really couldn’t bring himself to give a crap.

Sam was gone.

Sam was walking into a trap.

And Dean had just let him go.

Cursing angrily at himself, he turned and darted back into the motel room, hurriedly snatching up his car keys before dashing back out into the parking lot.

Sam couldn’t have gone far in the few seconds Dean had been catatonic.

“Sammy!” he yelled again as he ran toward the Impala, pointedly ignoring a string of curses issuing from a room off to his left.

“Shut the hell up!” a male voice cried from another room further away, but Dean ignored him too, the whereabouts of his brother way more important to him than disturbing some trucker’s beauty sleep.

“Sam!”

As he neared the Impala, Dean was indescribably relieved to see a dark figure leaning against the side of his car.

“Sam,” he mumbled. The lot wasn’t particularly well-lit, and he found himself squinting into the semi-darkness as he drew nearer to the Chevy, ready to give Sam a piece of his mind for bugging out on him. Or tell him he was sorry and beg him not to leave. He wasn’t sure which yet.

“Hey, man, I’m—” He abruptly swallowed the apology that lingered on his lips as he realized the dark figure casually leaning up against the driver’s side door wasn’t Sam.

He was dressed in black, and there was something glinting in his hands.

“You feel it, don’t you?” he heard a disembodied voice rumbling around in his head, the fiery something glinting in the darkness of his nightmare suddenly resolving into a man in black leaning against the Impala tossing a coin.

“Anderson,” he growled, abruptly realizing what—and who—he was looking at.

The man in black looked up and smiled wryly at him, blue eyes reflecting the lot’s inadequate lighting.

“Good to see you, Winchester.”

Chris Anderson grinned at him, and for a second Dean would have liked nothing better than to wipe the smile off the older Guardian’s face with a well-placed fist.

If only because he wasn’t Sam.

And because he didn’t have time to put up with any more of Anderson’s “Join me and together we can rule the universe!” crap.

“Careful you don’t drop that,” he advised him instead, indicating the coin he was tossing into the air—his piece of Solomon’s Sword—with an inclination of his head.

Anderson continued to smile unnervingly at him, wrapping his fingers around the coin before stowing it in his jacket pocket.

Dean sighed. “C’mon, man, I don’t got all day,” he urged. “Whaddya want?”

Anderson leaned further back against the car, slow and catlike, and Dean got the distinct impression the guy wouldn’t have given a crap that Sam had taken off and was about to do something monumentally stupid even if Dean had told him.

“What makes you think I want anything?” the Guardian asked unhurriedly, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets and surveying Dean serenely.

“Because you’re like a bad penny,” Dean returned. “No pun intended. And you only show up when you want something. Of course, last time I wasn’t entirely clear on what that ‘something’ was, so maybe this time you can dispense with the Obi-Wan crap and tell me what the hell you’re doing here and how the hell you found me before I lose any more of my will to live.”

Anderson continued to gaze at him with those unnervingly focused blue eyes, and Dean found himself starting to fidget under the scrutiny.

“You wanna date, you’re all outta luck, pal,” Dean said, folding his arms across his chest impatiently. “I got places to be.” Little brothers to find.

“Dean Winchester, always in a hurry to save the world,” Anderson finally observed with a chuckle. “Or are you still chasing around trying to save that kid brother of yours first?”

Dean didn’t comment, simply clenched his jaw, glowered at Anderson, and tried not to wonder where the hell Sam might have gotten to by now.

Anderson sighed. “Touchy, touchy,” he said, hands raised in surrender. “The coin brought me here, okay?”

“Bullcrap,” Dean retorted. “No magic coin brought you to my doorstep at the ass crack of dawn, man.”

Anderson shrugged. “Alright, I was following intel,” he amended, matching Dean’s stance and folding his arms across his chest.

Dean paused. “What kind of intel?”

“Mass demon possessions in the area,” Anderson returned.

“Now that’s a whole cartload of bullcrap,” Dean insisted. “If there were any possessions in the area, we’d have heard about it.”

“So what brought you here, Dean?”

Dean straightened. “We’re in town for a routine haunting,” he replied. “Nothing brought me here.”

Anderson nodded, that smug smile returning. “Uh-huh,” he said. “Maybe not consciously.”

His attention shifted to Dean’s amulet, and Dean had to fight the urge not to look down at his chest.

“And that means…?”

“We’re all here,” Anderson said shortly.

“All who?”

“The Guardians. We’re all gathering here, and none of us have the first clue why.”

“Bullcrap with a steaming side of horse hockey,” Dean snapped.

“It’s true,” Anderson insisted. “We all felt drawn here. Just like you did.”

“For the last time,” Dean ground out, “I wasn’t drawn here—”

“The Sword wants us here.”

Dean blinked at him. And sighed heavily. “Oh it does, huh?” he said, rolling his eyes.

“It does,” Anderson maintained, his expression completely serious.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” Dean returned. “What’s so special about Pontiac freakin’ Illinois?”


Singer Salvage,
Sioux Falls, SD

“You look six shades o’ hell, Winchester,” Bobby Singer commented bluntly, opening his front door a little wider so he could get a better look at the wreck of a man currently standing on his doorstep.

“Back atcha, Singer,” John Winchester returned, running a hand through unkempt hair streaked with gray.

He was unnaturally pale, dark circles under bloodshot brown eyes giving the impression he’d not slept in weeks, while his clothes were hanging off him, as if he’d not eaten in all the time he’d not slept.

He was clutching something to his chest that looked suspiciously like the journal Bobby knew John had left with his boys, but the thing had papers sticking out of it every which way, and the way John was hanging on to it, Bobby was pretty sure he wouldn’t let it out of his grasp even if his life depended on it.

From the looks of him, maybe it did.

“Can I—can I come in?” John asked, jittery focus darting all over the place.

Bobby paused. “Depends,” he replied. “Am I gonna find myself ass-deep in crap the second I let you through the door?”

John inclined his head, blinking tiredly. “Need your help, Bobby,” he said, and he sounded so lost and helpless Bobby was instantly on the alert.

“Boys in trouble?”

John didn’t reply, but finally made eye contact with his old friend, and Bobby immediately stepped aside, jerking his head to indicate he should come inside.

John entered with a grateful dip of his head, following Bobby into the kitchen where he collapsed onto one of the rickety old wooden chairs as if his legs no longer had the strength to bear his weight.

Bobby slapped a shot glass down on the table in front of him and poured him a triple, which John knocked back in one gulp.

Bobby lifted his ball cap and scratched his head a little. “You look like you could use somethin’ to eat, John,” he said slowly. “Although I think all I got around here is Cheetos and Cheez Whiz.”

John shrugged, his head sinking below his shoulders as he hunched over the kitchen table.

Bobby sighed, taking the seat opposite his friend. “Okay, out with it,” he insisted. “What’s on your mind, John?”

John didn’t answer for the longest time, his finger playing distractedly with a long gouge in the tabletop that Bobby seemed to recall Sam making when he was about six and had just gotten into that awkward destructive phase little boys were all prone to.

Finally, John shook his head and drew in a long breath before exhaling very slowly, eyes never leaving the gouge his son had made in the table. “I don’t know what to do,” he said quietly, his voice rough from the whiskey and subdued like Bobby had never heard it before.

“About what?” Bobby asked softly. “John, what’s wrong?”

John scrubbed a hand through his hair, his gaze still not leaving the tabletop. “I’ve been puzzling it round and round in my head since I got back from Stull, Bobby,” he explained, his voice little more than a murmur, “and whichever way I look at it, they die.”

Bobby swallowed.

“My boys, Bobby,” John clarified unnecessarily, finally looking up from the tabletop. “My boys are going to die and I can’t figure a way to stop it.”

“Stop what?” Bobby asked a little uncertainly. “What makes you think they’re gonna die?”

“Because that’s how it always ends!” John burst out, momentarily covering his face with his large hands. “Every time! That’s how it always ends!”

“John,” Bobby said, a little more sternly than he’d intended. “You’re not making much sense here, buddy.”

John wiped the back of his hand across his face, and it was the first time Bobby remembered seeing him with anything approaching tears in his eyes.

But he was crying.

John Winchester was sitting at his kitchen table crying.

Bobby poured him another triple.

“Spit it out, John,” he insisted. “A problem shared, right?”

John took the glass, throwing the liquid down his throat before returning his old friend’s sympathetic gaze. “I’m not sure it’s going to make sense,” he said quietly.

“Like the rest of our lives, friend,” Bobby pointed out.

John nodded, a flicker of a smile toying with his lips. “When I was in the Nexus—”

“Nexus?” Bobby repeated with a frown. “Stull?”

Again, John nodded. “Stull is just where the doorway’s located in this reality,” he confirmed. “The Nexus is—it’s every doorway. In every reality.”

“Okay…” Bobby began.

“And when I was stuck on the other side of it, every reality I saw they—they—”

“Your boys died?”

John lowered his eyes to his empty glass. “One way or another.”

John didn’t seem to want to elaborate, and Bobby wasn’t going to push him, just relieved his old friend finally seemed to want to talk about something.

Although he couldn’t help feeling John should be unburdening himself to his sons at this point.

“Bobby,” John breathed. “The things I saw… I been rollin’ it round and round in my head and I just can’t… I can’t see a way to protect them, Bobby. To save them.”

“Maybe they’re not yours to protect or to save, John,” Bobby returned, a little unsettled by the wide-eyed look of panic his words seemed to elicit from the other hunter.

“What…?” John spluttered, his already pale complexion draining still further. “What do you mean by that?”

Bobby shrugged dismissively. “I dunno, John. You’ve always tried to protect those boys. Maybe this time you have to let them save themselves. Maybe that’s how it ends different.”

“But what if they can’t, Bobby? I gotta protect them. From all those futures I saw. All those ways it could go south. I just—I just don’t know how to do it.”

“Is that why you’ve kept the boys at arm’s length since you got back?”

John considered the question, before nodding reluctantly. “You noticed that, huh?”

“Dean wandering around like a kicked puppy tryin’ to figure out what he did to deserve a beat-down? Yeah, I noticed.”

John sighed again, his hands once more covering his face. “I can’t burden them with this,” he said at length, shaking his head vehemently. “They already have enough weight on their shoulders. I’ve already put enough weight on their shoulders. And the more time I spend with them, the more I want to unburden myself, tell them what I saw on the other side.”

“So why don’t you do that, then? John, they’ve been waiting months for you to get yourself straightened out enough to talk to them about what happened.”

“I know that,” John admitted. “And it’s not fair on them. I know that too. But telling them what I saw…planting the seeds. That’s not fair either.”

Bobby scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Like a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of deal?”

“Exactly,” John agreed. “If I tell Dean I saw him sacrifice himself for his brother, maybe he’ll think that’s what he’s supposed to do here—”

“And when did Dean ever not try to sacrifice himself for his brother?” Bobby asked wryly. “Dammit, you gotta give your boys more credit than that, John. They can choose their own paths.”

“But what if it gets them killed?”

“John, they’re smart boys. They know how to look after themselves. And each other.” Once again Bobby tugged off his ball cap and scratched nervously at his scalp. “And you know what’s really not fair on them?” he continued.

John snorted softly. “No, but I’ve got a feeling you’re gonna tell me.”

“Damn right I am!” Bobby returned. “John, what’s really unfair is their dad giving them the cold shoulder after they busted their asses to get him out of Hell!”

“Bobby–”

“You need to talk to your kids, John.”

John sighed again, and this time the shudder seemed to go all the way through his body. “It all seems so inevitable,” he said dejectedly. “Michael can’t stop Lucifer this time—”

“Michael…?”

“And from everything I’ve seen, every reality I’ve experienced, the only people who can stop him…are my boys.”

“Well you’re not wrong there.”

John shook his head. “No, Bobby, you don’t get it,” John told him, looking up at his friend through anguished eyes. “Bobby. To stop Lucifer, I think my boys have to die.”


Devil’s Tower,
WY

Sam remembered the last time he had stood here and shuddered.

He flexed his hand almost unconsciously, muscle memory reminding him of the mess Lucifer’s flunky Eli had made of it.

If it hadn’t been for Gudrun…

He tried not to continue with that line of thinking, instead turning his attention to the little clearing off to his right where so many of Haris’ “special children” had met their Maker.

Or…whoever.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. He’d hoped never to see this place again as long as he lived. No matter how long that turned out to be.

He scratched absently at his arm, remembering the burn of the ropes binding him to that tree right over there, before rubbing his hand over his face as his eyes scanned the clearing, vividly reliving the sight of Alyssa Medina hanging, dead and bloody, mere feet away from him, while David Mitchum’s chest was crushed to dust and his lips dripped blood, just as Dean’s had when Haris had been wearing Dad as his meatsuit.

He took a breath and blew it out shakily, his gaze turning to the place where Matthew Teller’s legs had been smashed to pieces and wondered how—why—only Sam had walked away from here.

So much death.

In his dream, they’d all been here, alive and whole, all of the special children, those chosen by the universe to atone for the sins of their forefathers. Haris had used them, twisted their gifts, painted bulls-eyes on their backs so big Lucifer just couldn’t resist.

And now…

“Hello, Sam.”

Sam turned sharply, relieved and a little unnerved to find Kyle Williams standing behind him.

“Kyle? How…?”

The priest smiled weakly, glancing sideways at the young man standing to his right, who grinned lopsidedly at Sam from a face so familiar Sam for a second couldn’t place him.

“Good to see you again, Sam.”

Sam blinked. “Matt?” he stumbled. “Matt! I—I thought you were dead!”

And then he was shaking Matthew Teller’s hand so vigorously it was a wonder he didn’t pull the young man off his feet… His feet?

“Rumors of my death...yada yada,” Matt said with a wave of his hand. “The cops told me they got an anonymous tip that something—something bad had happened here, and when they showed up, somehow I was still breathing.”

“God, Matt! If I’d known… I was so sure I was the only survivor, and—and I was so grateful my brother was alive after—after we killed Haris that—that I just let my dad shove me and Dean into his truck and take off with us, never looking back. Never wanting to look back.”

“Your dad probably saved my life, Sam,” Matt informed him easily.

“You think he was the one called the cops?” Kyle asked.

Matt shrugged. “Only other person breathing who would have known about it, outside of Sam and his brother.”

Sam shook his head, appalled. “Matt, I’m so sorry—”

“Sam, you thought I was dead. And from what I can remember, you weren’t in the best of health by the time that demon had finished with you. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

“You—you remember…?”

Matt shrugged. “Some of it. But after Eli crushed my legs? Nah. It’s a complete blank until I woke up in the hospital days later.”

Sam looked down at Matt’s legs and frowned. “But…?”

“These things?” Matt grinned at him. “I’m the Bionic Man, dude!” He rolled up the leg of his jeans just a little to reveal metal prosthetics. “Amputated mid-thigh. But my new legs are way better anyway! You should see me out on the track!” His smile sobered a little, before he added, “And besides. I’m glad of the reminder of what happened here. Makes me remember how lucky I was to get out alive.”

“I still don’t understand why Eli didn’t try to lure me out here,” Kyle put in. “Y’know, if Lucifer planned on killing all of us.”

Sam shrugged, reluctant to admit he’d wondered the same. “Maybe you just flew under his radar.”

“But not anymore?” Kyle said slowly. “I mean…this could be a trap.”

Sam frowned. “For the ones that got away?” He shifted uncomfortably, Dean’s voice ricocheting around in his head warning him of the same thing. “Did—did you guys have the dream?”

Kyle nodded slightly. “I thought it was a death vision,” he admitted. “At first. I thought it meant we were all going to die. All of the ‘special kids.’ Until I spoke to Matt and he told me he’d had exactly the same dream.”

“You did?” Sam wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. At least he and Kyle usually had visions. Matt certainly didn’t.

“‘You feel it, don’t you?’” Matt murmured. “Devil’s Tower. The whole IMAX experience.”

“And yet you both came here,” Sam observed. “Even though—”

“Even though this could very well be a trap,” Kyle finished his sentence for him. “Someone using our dreams to lure us to our deaths.”

“No,” Sam proclaimed with a determination he didn’t really feel. “The dream didn’t feel that way. It felt like a—a summons, a rallying call. Like this was somewhere we were meant to be.”

Matt nodded. “Totally,” he agreed. “You think I’d be caught dead—or whatever—in this godforsaken place for a second time if I thought some demon was just out to torture me again?”

Kyle worried his lower lip with his teeth, but made no comment.

“So how did you two track each other down?” Sam asked at length.

Kyle shrugged. “You once told me about the other people like us you’d met, Sam,” he explained. “I decided to try looking a few of them up.”

“But I thought Matt was dead—”

“Didn’t stop me looking,” Kyle admitted. “Just in case. I looked for Alyssa Medina too. And David Mitchum. Unfortunately I think they really are dead.”

“There were others,” Matt put in. “In my dream. Kids I didn’t recognize. A cute redhead—”

Sam snickered. “Down boy,” he said. “That’s my cousin you’re talking about.”

“Really?” Kyle sounded surprised. “You didn’t tell me about her.”

“She can cause earthquakes.”

“Ah. Of course she can.”

“And a soldier,” Matt said.

“Mm,” Sam agreed. “Don’t know him.”

“And a stoner guy.”

“Him either.”

“And… Nathan Cole,” Kyle said suddenly, looking beyond Sam’s shoulder.

Sam turned sharply, more than a little surprised to see a dark-haired young man and a girl of perhaps eleven or twelve approaching them.

“Sam,” the young man said.

Sam swallowed. “Arashi,” he said quietly, ducking his head a little.

The young man’s jaw tensed before he ground out tersely, “You can call me Nathan, Sammy.”

Sam smiled despite himself. Nathan had never liked the nickname his best friend had saddled him with. “Touché,” he agreed, just relieved Nathan was even talking to him, considering he hadn’t parted with the Winchesters on the best of terms. And… “We thought you were dead.”

“A lot of that going around,” Matt muttered.

Nathan shrugged. “Lying low,” he explained shortly. “And was I ever glad? When I heard what happened here…”

“You know about the massacre?” Kyle asked.

Nathan nodded. “Saw it in a dream,” he said. “Another dream.”

“Like the one that brought you here?”

“A little more horrific, but yeah,” Nathan agreed. “If I hadn’t let the world think I was dead, I probably would be by now. Chelsea too.” He inclined his head in the girl’s direction, and Sam blinked.

“This is Chelsea?” Sam asked disbelievingly. “Wow! You’ve sure grown!” The girl smiled shyly up at him, and he suddenly had to rewind the last couple of seconds in his head. “Wait,” he said slowly. “Why would Eli have wanted Chelsea?”

Chelsea glanced up at her brother, who nodded almost imperceptibly, and she turned her gaze toward the ground between her and Sam before closing her eyes tightly.

Within seconds, a tiny dust spiral formed at Sam’s feet.

Sam nodded, suddenly understanding. “She’s ‘atmoskinetic’ too.”

Nathan replied with a tiny nod of his head, before stuffing his hands into his jeans pockets. “I don’t think this Haris creep could have known about her,” he said. “And the less people know the better,” he added. “But…y’know, she had the dream too. She deserves to be here.”

Sam nodded, although he couldn’t help wondering whether, had his “gifts” been manifest at that age, Dean would have ever let him walk into what could still very well be a trap.

Even though he kept telling himself this wasn’t a trap.

He thankfully didn’t have time to think any further on that, as the sound of an engine approaching drew his attention to an oddly familiar-looking Jeep that had pulled up next to what Sam could only assume was Nathan’s Chrysler.

The Jeep was dusty and battered and looked like half a mountain had fallen on it.

Which was when Sam realized half a mountain had fallen on it.

He grinned brightly, glancing slyly at Matt. “Remember that cute redhead…?”

Daisy Duffield strode across the plain as if she owned it, coming to a stop right in front of Sam and squinting up at him. “That brother of yours could have told me about the big family reunion, coz!”

Sam snickered, before gathering the archeologist up into a bone crushing hug. “Daisy, Daisy,” he murmured, pulling her off her feet for a second before releasing his hold on her. “That brother of mine would never have admitted you two were still in contact with each other!”

He’d had a sneaking suspicion Dean and Daisy had been keeping in sporadic contact since Mount Diablo, despite the two of them not exactly hitting it off when they first met. Eventually, he figured they’d both come to realize that they actually kind of liked each other a hell of a lot more than either of them was willing to admit.

“Email’s a fabulous thing, Sam,” Daisy replied brightly. “Don’t get the urge to punch him in the face every time he opens his mouth.”

Sam snickered. “I’m sure he feels the same.”

Daisy drew in a gasp of mock offense. “You wound me, Cousin Samuel,” she told him.

“Unintentional, Cousin Da—”

“Remember what I said I’d do to your brother if he ever called me that?”

And Sam knew she wasn’t kidding.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he returned.

“Hmm, you better not,” Daisy warned him, shoulder checking him softly. “I figure we’ve all been too busy dreaming about other stuff lately, huh?”

She glanced around the other “special kids,” all of whom nodded slightly at her.

“You had the dream too then?” Sam asked, unquestionably happy to see his cousin, but also kind of worried, because this could still be a trap, and Daisy…well Daisy was family.

And Dean would kick his ass from here to Mars if he let anything happen to her.

“Nnnnngggg!” Kyle suddenly grunted, doubling over as he clutched at his head in a gesture Sam found chillingly familiar.

“Kyle?”

The priest had his eyes crushed tightly closed, and it didn’t take a genius to work out he was having a vision.

“Kyle!” Sam repeated, grabbing the smaller man’s shoulder. “Stay with me, man!”

Kyle continued to groan, his fingers only clutching his temples harder. “No—it—no…”

“Kyle?”

Sam slid an arm under the priest’s elbow, trying to keep him upright as he rode out the final throes of the vision, the tightness in his shoulders gradually relaxing as the pain seemed to ebb away from him.

“Kyle?”

“What did you see, man?” Matt asked urgently.

Kyle blinked owlishly, glancing first up at Sam, then at Matt, before finally raking his gaze over the entire company. “Death vision,” he groaned, clearly freaked out of his brain, his fingers digging painfully into Sam’s biceps.

“Who?” Sam asked shortly. “Kyle? Whose death did you see?”

Kyle blinked at him again, swallowing hard, before finally croaking out, “Yours.”


Pontiac, IL

What the hell are you thinking, Winchester? Dean chided himself, trudging after Chris Anderson sullenly. He should be looking for Sam, not going on a six million mile hike through some godforsaken forest, for crying out loud!

His Sammy Senses were tingling out of all proportion, and he just knew something was wrong. And after Addie’s warning… To just let Sam go off on his own like that… He should have known better, especially after what had happened in Hastings.

“Are we there yet?” he demanded impatiently, scowling at Anderson’s back. He felt as if they’d been walking through these freakin’ woods for days, and he couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder every few steps, somehow unable to shake the feeling he was being watched.

And it wasn’t as if he completely trusted Anderson, either.

Back in Pocatello, he and Sam had almost convinced themselves Anderson was the demon Asmodeus, and although the idea seemed ridiculous to him now, it didn’t mean he wanted to be out in the middle of nowhere with the guy and no backup either.

Anderson turned and fixed him with a beady glare. “What are you, five?” he asked.

Dean grimaced at him, before shoving his hands in his jacket pockets and continuing to lumber after the older Guardian.

His fingers tightened around his cell, and he pulled it out, squinting at it in the faltering moonlight.

Sam had been gone almost a day now, and although Dean had a pretty good idea where his idiotic little brother was headed, it certainly didn’t make him feel a whole hell of a lot better.

One more time… he thought to himself, hitting Sam’s speed dial.

Just like every other time he’d tried to call his brother since he took off, all Dean got was voicemail.

Yeah. Sam was a whole lot more like their dad than he’d ever want to admit.

“Sam, it’s me. Again,” Dean hissed into the phone. “You better not be where the hell I think you are, little brother, ’cause if you are, I am so tanning your hide when you get back here! Don’t you think I won’t, either! You’re not too big for a good spanking, Sam.” He blinked and grimaced. “And I totally meant that in a non-kinky way, okay?” He sighed. “Just—just be safe, okay? And. Call me?”

Dean hated sounding so desperate, and he was pretty sure Anderson was sniggering at him.

“Shut up,” he growled.

“I didn’t say anything,” Anderson tossed back over his shoulder.

“Yeah, well you and your stupid crusade can stick it where the sun don’t shine as far as I—”

“We’re here,” Anderson announced suddenly.

And so were all the other Guardians.

They were arranged in a rough circle, five men ranging in age from a kid in his early twenties to a guy who looked to be in his early sixties.

Dean didn’t recognize any of them, but he couldn’t help trying to do the math in his head. His amulet, plus Anderson’s coin and the six other pieces of the Sword he’d managed to gather over the years, including that nutjob Bryan Castor’s dagger… So that meant…

There should be ten other Guardians here.

According to Sam, who’d heard the story whilst trussed up like a Christmas turkey by Castor the aforementioned nutjob, the story went that Nadib, King Solomon’s most trusted lieutenant, had broken the Sword into eighteen pieces—the blade into thirteen, the hilt into five. The five pieces of the hilt were distributed amongst his sons. So. Thirteen pieces represented here…and no one looked particularly as if they were of Middle Eastern descent… So that meant…

“Where’s the hilt, right?” Chris asked, apparently reading Dean’s mind.

Dean blinked at him.

Anderson shrugged. “The Guardians have been searching for it for years. Can’t reassemble the Sword without the hilt.”

“That’s what we’re doin’ then?” Dean asked uncertainly. “We’re puttin’ the Sword back together?”

Anderson nodded slightly, causing Dean to frown.

“Won’t that—like—kill us?”

Anderson grinned broadly at him, pointedly not answering his question, before nodding to the other men gathered in the clearing. “You know who I am?” he asked them authoritatively.

“We know,” the oldest Guardian replied, a distinguished-looking African American man with quick, intelligent eyes and a suppleness of posture that suggested years of training and watchfulness.

Ex-military, Dean figured.

“Why are we here, man?” a younger man asked, Latino, in his late twenties. “Why were we brought here?”

“The Sword brought you,” Chris answered enigmatically. “You felt the pull, right?”

Dean frowned minutely, suddenly unable to remember exactly why he and Sam had come to Pontiac.

He was sure it had been just a routine haunting he’d gotten a whiff of on the net when he and Sam had been looking for their next gig. Sam had found what might have been a werewolf hanging around downtown Phoenix, but Dean had been determined they should come to Pontiac. In fact, he and Sam had kind of argued about it. The werewolf, Sam took great pains to point out, had already killed three people, while the pissed off poltergeist in Pontiac had done little more than break some old lady’s antique china tea set.

He shook his head. No way. He was the master of his own destiny. Nothing had told him to come here.

And yet…

The other Guardians were all looking at each other uncomfortably, clearing thinking exactly the same thing.

“So what’s here?” a mousy-looking guy of about Dean’s age finally asked.

Anderson gestured to the wooden cross they were currently gathered around, and Dean once again blinked, only just noticing the thing was there.

And it wasn’t as if there was anything else around to distract his attention.

“Who’s buried here?” another of the Guardians asked. This one was maybe in his fifties with a paunch that spoke of beer, burgers and baseball. He squinted at the roughly-hewn wooden crucifix, moving a little closer to get a better look at it. “There’s no inscription.”

“There’s a rumor,” Anderson began, suddenly producing a shovel Dean didn’t remember seeing him with before, “that Nadib, King Solomon’s lieutenant, never broke the hilt of the Sword into five pieces. Instead, he gave his sons decoys and kept the hilt as the piece of his master’s sword he himself swore to protect. According to the legends, he went out into the world, constantly searching for a place to hide it, but never finding one, no matter how far he travelled.”

He raised the shovel, bringing it down to bite into the earth beneath the cross.

As he started to dig, he looked up at the other Guardians, who stood watching him, uncertain of their next move.

“Well?” he asked. “What are you waiting for?”

And he pointed at a pile of shovels over by a nearby tree, and once again Dean blinked, pretty damn sure they’d not been there last time he’d looked.

He hesitated for only a second before snatching up one of the shovels and beginning to help Anderson dig, the other Guardians slowly following his lead.

“Not for nothin’, man,” he said, shoulder to shoulder with the older Guardian. “But I got a lot of experience diggin’ up corpses, and I gotta say, I feel a whole lot better knowing who the hell it is I’m diggin’ up.”

Anderson paused for a moment, his expression completely unreadable. “Nadib,” he replied simply.

“Nadib?” Dean echoed, the other Guardians looking equally as nonplussed. “How is that even possible?” he demanded. “The guy lived, like, thousands of years ago, right? Back when sandals were all the rage? Dude, the only people living around these parts back then were the native tribes.”

Chris smiled knowingly. “Nadib kept the hilt safe for centuries,” he explained. “When the legend said he went out into the world, it really wasn’t exaggerating.”

Dean’s forehead crinkled in confusion. “So…you’re saying, what? The guy beat Columbus to the punch?”

Anderson shook his head. “Nadib didn’t arrive in the Americas until the mid-1800s.”

“Well how the hell is that possible?” Dean demanded.

“How is it possible that someone taking your necklace away will kill you?” Anderson countered.

Dean shifted his grip on his shovel awkwardly.

“Solomon’s Sword is a legend in itself,” Anderson continued. “It has powers beyond human understanding! Nadib himself didn’t know how he managed to live so long, but he always attributed it to the hilt constantly being about his person.”

Dean frowned. “How do you know what Nadib thought?” he asked skeptically.

“He left a journal,” Anderson replied with a shrug. “I found it at Shadrack Mann’s place.”

“When you bumped into Bobby, right?” Dean said with a knowing grimace. “He always said he thought you’d lifted something that didn’t belong to you.”

“Didn’t belong to him either.”

“He said you ransacked the place.”

“Mann was a messy old geezer.”

“And you just decided to steal his stuff?”

“If I hadn’t, do you think any of us would know what to do here today?”

Dean grunted. “Well I guess the Sword might have told us if it went to all that trouble to bring us here.”

Anderson scowled at him, but didn’t reply, merely returning to his digging.

Dean sighed. “So the journal told you where Nadib was buried?” he asked, trying to sound conciliatory.

Anderson didn’t offer the same courtesy. “Yes, Dean, Nadib wrote where he was buried in his journal.”

“You know what I mean, asshat,” Dean growled, fingers tightening around the shovel’s handle as he visualized smashing it into the condescending asshole’s face.

Anderson barely stifled a smug grin. “No,” he replied at length. “Nadib wrote about his intention to be buried with the hilt, that’s all.”

“If all of this is true,” the oldest Guardian put in, gesturing at the crucifix, “then Nadib lived centuries before Christianity existed.”

“Yes he did,” Anderson confirmed. “But he was converted in the early days of the religion. According to his journal, by Christ Himself.”

“Wait, back up,” Dean said, holding up a hand. “Nadib was converted by Christ? Jesus Christ?”

Anderson nodded. “He was in Galilee during Christ’s ministry,” he explained. “He was present at the Sermon on the Mount; when Christ fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish; the Crucifixion.”

The Crucifixion?” Dean blurted.

“Nadib saw much in his long life,” Anderson said with a slight inclination of his head. “And when he finally passed away, his only request was that he should be buried with the hilt. His friends at that time had no idea who he was or what the hilt might be, but he was their friend, and by all accounts a great man, so it was only fitting they honor his last request.”

Dean studied the shallow hole in the ground in which they were currently standing and blew out a slow breath. “So you think this is where the hilt’s buried?” he asked a little uncertainly.

Anderson paused, his blue eyes eerily reflecting the moonlight as he nodded, just once.

The Guardians continued to dig in silence.


Outside of Broken Bow, NE

Bobby sat on the hood of his battered old Chevy Chevelle, his feet swinging idly.

Behind him, the moonlight cast into silhouette the burnt-out remains of a ramshackle building, broken, twisted timber limbed with silver, broken glass sparkling over uneven gravel and floorboards warped by heat.

Might have been a bar once.

John paced up and down in front of him, alternately crossing and uncrossing his arms over his chest, fingers occasionally brushing against the 9mm tucked into his waistband.

“What makes you think this is such a great idea, Singer?” he asked shortly, pausing his pacing only briefly to squint at his old friend.

Bobby shrugged. “Storm’s comin’,” he murmured, vividly recalling the day four years earlier when he had told John’s boys the exact same thing. “We need help, John. If we’re gonna save your boys. Save the world.”

“Bobby. To stop Lucifer, I think my boys have to die,” John had said.

Bobby’s response had been obvious. “Then we have to find another way to stop Lucifer.”

Of course, that was all well and good in theory. Out here in the real world? Not quite so easy.

John stopped pacing and looked at him. “What makes you think they’re gonna help us?” he asked sullenly.

“Because you asked,” Bobby replied simply.

“This a private party, or can anyone join in?” a broad Texan drawl called out into the half-light.

Bobby slid off the Chevelle, holding out a hand toward their old friend Jefferson, who strode toward them with a grin on his face the size of the Grand Canyon.

He was flanked by several other hunters, only some of whom Bobby recognized, although the black couple to Jefferson’s right were a sight for sore eyes.

“Isaac! Tamara!” he burst out, taking first the man’s hand, then his wife’s. “It’s good to see you both! Been too long.”

“Good to see you too, Bobby.” Tamara’s smile was genuine, but her husband seemed a little less than pleased with the situation.

“Why here, Singer?” Isaac asked. “Why did you want to meet us here? Of all places.”

Bobby thumbed toward the burnt out ruin behind him. “Used to be common ground here once,” he said evenly.

“Hasn’t been a roadhouse here for nigh on forty years, Bobby,” Jefferson pointed out. “Not since old Nate Harvelle passed on.”

Bobby nodded. “Damn shame,” he observed. “Someone should have taken this place on instead of letting demons burn it to the ground.”

“Or at least rebuilt it,” Jefferson agreed. “I remember this place from when I was a kid. My daddy used to bring me here. Always said it was good for hunters to have a safe haven, somewhere they could go to be among their own kind.”

“Didn’t turn out to be so safe from what I heard,” Isaac commented wryly.

“Maybe not,” Bobby conceded. “But maybe that’s what’s called for here. Common ground. We have a job to do. A lot of people to save. And to do it, we’re damn well gonna have to find a way to put aside our differences and work together.”

“And why should we believe anything the father of the Antichrist and his bitch tells us?”

Bobby squinted into the gathering darkness as a shapely female figure in black leathers approached, removed her motorcycle helmet and shook out raven black hair.

Rennie Lofton.

John immediately lurched toward her, a feral growl reverberating in his throat.

“I ought to kill you!” he snarled. “After what you tried to do to my boys!”

“I was doing the world a favor,” Rennie retorted, removing black gloves from her deceptively dainty hands.

“You no-good—” John’s fingers flew to the handgun in his belt, but Bobby caught his arm and did his best to hold him back, one hand gripping his biceps hard enough to bruise, the other planted flat against his chest. “Easy John,” he urged in his most soothing tone of voice. “Common ground, remember? We need all the help we can get!”

“I don’t need her help,” John seethed, pushing against Bobby’s restraining hands. “I need to put a goddamn bullet in her brain.”

“Now, now, John,” Rennie cooed, glancing over her shoulder as a couple more trucks and cars pulled up in the roadhouse’s old parking lot. “I believe the cavalry’s here.”

“To help us or to kill us?” John asked through gritted teeth, and Rennie merely raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow as several hunters Bobby remembered seeing in her company previously exited their vehicles and slouched over to stand at her shoulder.

“Well that’s entirely up to you, sweetheart,” Rennie returned with a lurid leer. “All you need to do is renounce those abominations you call sons and you have yourself your own little army here.”

“It’s my sons who need our help!” John burst out angrily.

Rennie pivoted on one ridiculously high-heeled boot, and made as if to head back to the jet black Harley she appeared to have arrived on. “You should have told us that when you called us, Winchester,” she snapped. “You really think we’d put ourselves in the line of fire to help your accursed offspring?” She turned to the hunters behind her, obviously playing to the crowd. “We all saw what Sam did, John,” she continued, turning back toward him and Bobby. “The visions. Who put those in his head, do you think? Huh? You think it was God turned him into a channel for death visions? And how about pretty little Dean, huh? Possessed by a nasty ol’ demon. We saw his eyes, John. We all saw.”

“He’s not possessed,” John growled. “He never was. He fought the thing off. He’s a good soldier. A good hunter. And Sam’s visions—he uses them to save people, not to kill them! Between the two o’ them, those two boys have saved more lives than any of you could ever hope to.”

“Whatever, Winchester,” Rennie scoffed. “You’ll do anything to save your boys’ skins, won’t you? Like cover up the murder of one of your own? Don’t try and tell me those boys of yours didn’t gank Sid Morrow and the other hunters that got wiped off the face of the map last year.”

“Look,” Bobby tried to explain. “That wasn’t John’s boys. There was this girl named Mia. Except she wasn’t really a girl—more like a half-demon. Everything that happened was part of her psychotic plan to set the boys up, to set us hunters at each other’s throats, at their throats. She wanted them to suffer—”

“Why?” Rennie demanded. “Why would a demon give a crap whether your boys have a decent rep with the rest of the hunting community?”

“Because of me,” John said quietly. “Because she blamed me for what she was. It was a bad hunt that brought her into the world. I tried to save her, but… but she was beyond saving.”

Rennie folded her arms across her chest, shifting her weight to her back heel. “Why should we believe you?”

“Because we have no reason to lie,” Bobby shot back. “Not now. Not about this. Now isn’t the time for us to be at each other’s throats. Now’s the time for unity. Some bad stuff is going down—end of the world bad. Lucifer walks the earth, and if someone doesn’t stand up to him, the whole damn world is going to Hell. Literally. And we’re the only ones that can stop it.”

Rennie sucked in her cheeks, the scar running across her face gleaming an eerie white in the moonlight. “If this is the end of the world,” she drawled, “if we all need to band together to stop Armageddon—” She took a breath. “Then where are your precious boys in all this, huh, Winchester? Where are Sam and Dean Winchester when the End is nigh? Why aren’t they part of this fight if they’re such damn heroes?”

Bobby cast an uncertain look in John’s direction. “They’re fighting on a different front,” he explained sketchily. Of course he didn’t actually know where in hell the boys were because John was stubbornly refusing to call them. “Hopefully, we’ll meet up with them soon.”

John glanced up at him through dark lashes, but made no comment.

Won’t we, John?” Bobby prodded.

He understood the man’s misgivings. He did. And he sure as hell didn’t want John’s boys to die trying to save the world. But, dammit, they deserved to be part of this.

Forcing down his annoyance with John, Bobby turned back to the gathered hunters. If they didn’t get them on their side, Dean and Sam were as good as dead and Lucifer… Well Lucifer might as well tell his troops to stay home ’cause this sure as hell wasn’t going to be much of a fight.

“Look,” Bobby said, drawing in a deep breath. “I know not all of you trust us,” he glanced pointedly at Rennie and her little band of disciples. “Hell, most o’ you sons o’ bitches don’t trust each other much, either. But we’re all there is. We’re the only ones who have a hope in hell of savin’ this crummy old world from oblivion, and messed up as the planet is, I’d rather not see it fall into Lucifer’s hands. This is our time, people. This is why we’re here, why we gave up on normal, why we risk our lives on a daily basis to fight evil; to protect our families; to protect our homes, our way of life. If we don’t stand up and be counted now, no one else will, and this world of ours is as good as gone, you understand? Gone. You think Lucifer will spare your kids ’cause they’re just kids? D’you think you’ll escape Hellfire because you fought the good fight? You think God is gonna show up with a miraculous last minute assist? Huh?

“We’re it, people. We’re the last line of defense this planet has.”

He took another breath, slowly scanning the crowd of gathered hunters, hoping like hell he was wrong, that there were others out there who could help them save the world.

But somehow? He didn’t think so.

“So who’s with me?”


Pontiac, IL

Dean’s shovel hit something hard.

He glanced up at Anderson uncertainly, uncomfortably aware this wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill salt n’ burn where the only thing at risk was pissing off some random ghost with a grudge.

Anderson nodded slowly. “Open it.”

Dean was the only Guardian remaining at the bottom of the hole they’d dug, and when he looked up, all he could see was six silhouettes outlined in moonlight, and a rectangle of clear, starry sky beyond.

“Guess I drew the short straw, huh?” he commented, before inserting the blade of the shovel in the gap between the lid and the body of the casket.

“Well you are the only person here with experience in grave desecration,” Anderson replied with a sardonic grin.

Dean scowled at him. “The Feds so have the wrong idea about me,” he commented, taking a breath before pushing his weight against the shovel’s handle.

The lid came away with a disconcerting sigh, and Dean couldn’t help the smug smirk that erupted on his face as the other Guardians took a nervous step away from the grave.

Shoving open the rickety old coffin lid, Dean whipped his flashlight out of his jacket pocket and played it over the inside of the casket.

It was a plain pine box, no frills, no adornments, no lining. Just a skeleton. A really old skeleton, from the looks of it. And Dean had seen enough skeletons in his time to give that Bones chick on TV a run for her money.

She was hot for a nerd, though…

“Dean?”

Anderson interrupted Dean’s thoughts, a flashlight suddenly shining straight into the younger Guardian’s eyes.

“Hold on to your panties, hon,” Dean returned, leaning down to get a closer look at the remains.

The skull was intact, the bone yellowing in places, while bony hands laid across the skeleton’s chest clutched urgently at something metal.

Dean leaned closer, peering at the object with a practiced eye.

It was a little tarnished and dusty and didn’t look at all impressive, and he couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.

Pulling what he assumed to be the hilt from what he further assumed to be Nadib’s skeletal hands, he gingerly held the ancient object up toward Anderson.

“Don’t look like much of a demon-slaying über-weapon to me, boss,” he observed, before a sudden tingling began to shoot up and down his arm and his amulet literally lifted itself off his chest, the leather cord straining toward the hilt. “Holy crap.”

“Here.” Anderson reached out a hand toward him, and for a second Dean wasn’t entirely sure whether he was offering to help Dean out of the grave, or gesturing for him to give him the hilt.

Choosing to believe the former, he grasped the Guardian’s hand firmly, allowing the older man to haul him up and out of the grave.

Taking a breath as he struggled to his feet, Dean looked down at the uninspiring piece of metal in his hand, before murmuring, “So this is it? We put this thing back together and we all bite the big one?”

Anderson shrugged. “Honestly?” he said. “I don’t know.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Super.”

Smiling grimly, Anderson reached into his jacket pockets, carefully withdrawing his coin. Bryan Castor’s dagger. Seth Bowman’s ring. The other pieces of the Sword he’d somehow collected over the years.

Bending slowly, he laid each piece reverently by the graveside, before motioning for the other Guardians to do the same.

There was a muted collective intake of breath as each Guardian hesitated.

Anderson looked up at them, frowning.

The older Guardian Dean figured for ex-military was the first to move, carefully removing an innocuous-looking bracelet from his wrist and placing it next to the other items.

The young Latino man followed, laying a long chain beside the dagger, while one by one the other men reluctantly divested themselves of the pieces of the Sword they’d sworn to protect their entire lives.

Dean swallowed.

The hilt was positively vibrating in his hands, and it was all he could do to hang on to it as each piece of the Sword was laid out on the ground before him, until only his amulet remained.

None of the other Guardians appeared to be suffering any ill-effects from being separated from their pieces, which Dean took as a good sign. But still. He hesitated, probably longer than he should have, and Anderson merely looked at him, before once again holding out his hand.

This time, Dean knew what the older Guardian wanted.

Handing the hilt to Anderson, Dean carefully removed his necklace, before placing it gently on the ground with all the other pieces.

And absolutely nothing happened.

Anderson frowned, examining the hilt before carefully laying it down by the pieces of the blade.

Still nothing. The hilt didn’t even seem to be vibrating anymore, not as it had when Dean had been holding it.

“Uh. You got an instruction manual, chief?” Dean asked, causing Anderson to scowl at him mercilessly. Dean sighed, crouching down before the pieces of Solomon’s Sword as he wondered what had made the hilt vibrate so violently before. Maybe it had just been a reaction to the chilly night air. Or the warmth of his palm.

“Well this is an anticlimax,” he observed, slowly reaching out for the hilt.

The metal was cool and smooth as his fingers closed around the ancient artifact.

And he was promptly blown off his feet in a blinding explosion of light, sound and unearthly power.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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