maychorian: (Castiel & Hunters (he's always been a ti)
[personal profile] maychorian
Fandom: Supernatural
Title: Chapter 2: I Was Breathing Gasoline (Coming Down Book 4)
Author: Maychorian
Characters: Winchester Ensemble
Category: Gen, AU, Family
Rating: T/PG13
Warning: (skip) Language. Allusions to child abuse
Spoilers: S4, previous stories in 'verse.
Summary: John Winchester has four sons, but to an outside observer, he appears to have only three. Their mission is to stop the Apocalypse before it starts.
Word Count: ~5600 (this part)
 Author’s Note: Coming Down on a Sunny Day master list, and YouTube Playlist, from whence came the titles.

Coming Down on a Sunny Day
Book 4: The Name of the Demon

Chapter 2: I Was Breathing Gasoline

They didn't have to call Dean to get him to come home—he was already there when they got back to the apartment, wondering where everyone was and why there were drawers hanging out of the side table. It was as if he could sense when something was going wrong, like a dog. Or like Castiel, Jimmy thought sadly.

The moment they came in the door, Dean was on them. Sammy and Dad pushed past him, heading for the books and the phone. Dean trailed after them, words spewing from his mouth. "Where the hell have you been? I come home and the door's open and stuff is all over and I'm like, 'Did we get robbed or something?' and then..." He saw Jimmy and his eyes flew wide, white all around the green. "Holy shit."

"I'm fine," Jimmy said, but Dean was already grabbing his shoulder and arm and pulling him over to the sofa.

"Sit down, you moron. Gimme that." Dean took the bloody t-shirt from Jimmy's hand and replaced it with a cloth from his own pocket. "You gotta start carrying a handkerchief, dude. I can't believe after all this time you still don't understand that."

"I'm fine," Jimmy snapped, glaring up at him. "It's stopped. See?" He gestured at his face with a hard wrench of the wrist, as if throwing a knife.

"Yeah, but it could start again anytime, and..." Dean paused, caught in mid-step as he moved toward the kitchen to take care of the t-shirt. He turned back, frowning even harder than he already had been. "Wait a second. Where's Cas? Why isn't he taking charge?"

"Because he can't," Jimmy replied, furious, and was horrified when the tears started rising in his eyes again. Oh, man, he was bad at this. He was the worst. And that just made the tears come faster.

"Tell me what's going on," said Dean, and though his voice was quiet, it was nothing approaching a request.

"You'd better sit down," Dad said, looking up from the address book he was flipping through. Bobby must not have answered the first number, the one they all had memorized.

Dean flopped down on the leaking beanbag they'd grabbed and brought along from three towns ago, looking at Jimmy expectantly. The bloody t-shirt was clenched in his fist, pressed to his knee like a talisman. Jimmy couldn't take his eyes off it. It was easier to look at that than to meet Dean's intense stare.

He didn't want to tell the story again, but Dean needed to know. So he got it across in as few words as possible. "The demon from Pontiac. The one that stole a chunk of Castiel's grace and still has it. It attacked us in the woods at the park. It had the vial of grace, and it did something with it, some spell. Castiel is still in my mind, but he's cut off. It's like he's trapped in a miniature Hell. I can't get him out. All I can do is listen to him scream, on and on."

Dean was still and silent for a moment. It was long enough that Jimmy found the strength to look up and seek out his father across the room. "I gotta tell you... what I started to say in the car..."

Dad looked up, the phone held between his shoulder and ear. In the other room, the sounds of Sammy rustling through their lore books paused, and the kid came to the door to listen. Jimmy swallowed.

"I should have told you then...should have told you right away. But Castiel begged me not to. He didn't want to worry you—he thought it didn't matter. But it does, it does matter, and I should have told you. I'm sorry I didn't." Jimmy sniffed, hard, and punched himself in the thigh.

"Spit it out," Dean said.

Jimmy nodded and swiped a hand over his face as if to push away the torrent of emotions that were tearing through him, filling his eyes and shaking his body. "The car accident last year. It wasn't so much an accident. That was an attack, too."

Silence. Dad put the phone back on the cradle. Sammy stepped into the living room. Dean continued staring at Jimmy, and the look was a command to continue as powerful as any words could have been.

"It was the same demon," Jimmy said. "It knew that Castiel would want to visit that area, and it laid traps on the roads. We ran into one. It made Castiel's grace go haywire. And it was sucking his life away. He almost died."

"You saved him," Dean said.

"Yeah. I...I didn't drag myself to the road to flag down help. I did it because I had to break the trap. I could feel him dying and I... I had to save him." Jimmy took a breath that was half a sob and scrubbed at his face again. He shivered, partly at the memory of that awful day, dragging himself through the wet grass, the icy rain, and partly because his torso was bare and no one had turned on the heat in the apartment.

Sammy stepped away into the hallway toward the bedrooms. Dean sat still on the beanbag, his chest heaving. "Why the fuck wouldn't Cas want you to tell us about that?"

"He thought... He thought he wasn't important. The demon was only after him, didn't seem to care about anything else, and he thought that we should all concentrate on the mission and not be distracted by..." Jimmy's lip curled, and he spat the words out, as furious as Dean. "By the little matter of his nemesis trying to assassinate him."

"Yeah, well, that's horse shit," Dean said, with the confidence of knowing that everyone in the room agreed with him. "Cas is a goddamn idiot, and as soon as we get him back I'm going to tell him so."

"No arguments here," Jimmy muttered, his gaze on the floor.

Something soft nudged his shoulder, and he looked up to find Sammy standing there by the sofa, holding out a t-shirt and one of the cavernous hoodies Dean favored when he wasn't feeling well.

"Cover up," Sammy said, eyebrows raised. His voice was nearly as authoritative as Dad's or Dean's. Jimmy suppressed the urge to roll his eyes and took the clothing, slipping the shirt over his head, then drawing the hoodie over his arms. He was pretty chilly. As a matter of fact, he was verging on numb.

He was smart enough to know that that was a bad sign. Shock, probably.

Buried deep in his head, Castiel screamed on.

Jimmy shuddered and hunched over, staring at the carpet. The light from the windows was too bright, creating a path of washed-out white across the dingy carpet. He stared at it, inexplicably fascinated by the smudges and stain spots of tenants past and gone. On the far side of the room, an ant crawled along the baseboard, traversing the tufts of carpet fiber as if they were stems of grass. Something in Jimmy's perspective shifted, and suddenly the ant seemed like a person, surrounded by the almost insurmountable wilderness of carpet. It toiled across the gray wasteland like a man through a salt plain, step by laborious step, head down, eyes fixed as the sun beat upon him, hot as the flames of Hell.

"Jimmy." A hand landed on his shoulder, and Jimmy flinched and looked up. It was Dad, bending over him, dark eyes deep with concern.


Dad rubbed his shoulder. "You went away from us, kiddo. How are you doing?"

Jimmy shook his head. He felt too removed for bravado, for a show of strength. "I don't know."

Dad glanced around, probably checking on what Dean and Sam were doing—looking at books? Jimmy hadn't been paying attention. Then he sat on the couch next to Jimmy and wrapped his arm around him. Jimmy leaned into his side, accepting the offered warmth. He was unbelievably cold. He didn't understand why. Castiel was burning.

"What's going on?" Dad asked, his voice low, just for Jimmy. Letting him pretend that he could keep this away from his younger brothers, his weakness, his confusion, that he could retain some dignity.

"I don't know," Jimmy said again, but then he blinked. "Wait, I... Maybe I do. Maybe I don't. I'm not sure. It's so strange."

"Talk it out. Explain it to me. We'll figure it out together."

"Castiel and I...we've been sharing one body, one brain, for a long time."

"I know. It's unprecedented."

"Yes. No one knows what sort of effects this could have on an angel, on a human. The way we've been living. Most vessels aren't aware of what's going on while they're being used for heaven's purposes. But I...I share every second."

"It must be very weird."

"It is. There's...there's this bleed. This...mixing. Of us. We're two beings, two entities, but in some ways...we're almost not."

Jimmy was aware enough to realize that he'd gone limp, leaning against his father. Dad was supporting most of his weight, keeping him close and safe. It let Jimmy take himself away from his physical body, retreating into the realm of thought and expression. His voice sounded echoing and vague to his own ears. The landscape around him shifted from a drab apartment to a barren wasteland of white on white, to a prison of golden fire.

"I'm listening, Jimmy. Keeping talking."

Dad's voice, rumbling and deep, surrounded Jimmy in a cocoon. It reminded him of what he was doing, why he was here. He had to figure it out. He had to understand.

"Castiel is trapped, Dad."

"You said that."

"He's being kept from us. He's being deceived into believing he's alone. It's awful."

A tear slipped out of his eye. Dad's blunt, callused thumb wiped it away.

"But he's not alone. I'm here. And I'm...I'm seeing it too."

"What is it, Jimmy? Where are you? What are you seeing?"

"It's Hell."

"No it's not, son. You're inside your own mind."

Jimmy wandered down a corridor of twisting flame. The walls pulsed, loosely constructed of thick ropes of braided metal that shone like the depths of a blast furnace. Only he wasn’t looking into the furnace. He was inside it. He didn’t know why he wasn’t instantly immolated, disappearing in a puff of steam and carbon ash.

"It's fire,” he said. “It's hot and burning and bright. It feels like death. It feels like torture."

"What color are the flames? Are they red?"

"I...I don't know. It's hot. It's bright and burning. My eyes hurt from the light."

Jimmy heard the screaming. It wasn’t his voice. He didn’t understand why it wasn’t. He was only touching this dimension on the smallest and most impersonal of scales, only a corner of his mind interacting with it, like tipping a toe into an ocean, and yet it still threatened to overwhelm him utterly. It could wipe him out in an instant without even trying to, like a man destroying a gnat while wiping a dish.

Dad’s voice was solid and calm, a tether out of the maelstrom. "All we've heard about Hell, it's red there. And the light doesn't hurt you. The demons do."

"No demons here. Just me and Castiel. Mostly Castiel."

"What color is the fire?"

"It's not fire. It's molten metal."

"What color is it?"

Jimmy caught his breath. He could feel himself blinking, inside and out. It felt like rubbing sand into his eyes with his thumbs. Castiel was a brilliant spark, a single point of light surrounded, buried, almost drowned by fire, white all but disappearing into…

"It's gold. It's bright and burning gold."

"Then it's not Hell, Jimmy. You're not in Hell, and neither is Castiel. We can get him out. We can get you both out."

Jimmy pulled in a deep breath through his nose and mouth. He could feel the heat on the fragile membranes, drying him out, threatening to blow him away. He had to hold on. He had to be strong for Castiel.

"Do you hear that?” Jimmy said. “We're gonna get you out."

Castiel didn't answer.


Jimmy fell silent, leaning into John's side with the sort of full-body sprawl that was normally only seen in exhausted elementary-age kids. It had been years since even Sammy had leaned on John like this, and Jimmy himself never had. When he came to them, he'd been too old, too skittish, too damaged by the drunkard who had used him for a whipping boy. It wasn't until the first time they fought this demon that he even let John hug him for more than a couple of seconds.

And now he was practically comatose on top of John, completely checked out. Not out of reality, exactly, but certainly out of this version of it. John looked up at the ceiling for a moment and squeezed his eyes shut, praying for strength.

Then he looked to his other boys, the ones who were currently sharing this plane of existence. Sammy had hauled a number of books into the living room and was leafing through them, and Dean stood by the phone, the earpiece held loosely in his hand. He was looking at John, jaw clenched tight. He'd waited as patiently as he could, but his edginess had worn through in the tapping of his toes and the quiver of his body, set to run if he only knew where to go.

"You get hold of Bobby?" John asked. He'd been ignoring the goings on in the room, completely focused on trying to guide and understand Jimmy's disjointed ramblings through his dual psyche.

Dean bobbed a short nod. "He's gonna start searching through the lore. He doesn't think it will help much, though. He said 'balls' about five times."

John grunted. He wasn't sure it would help much, either. Ever since Castiel had introduced him to Bobby, both men had done all they could to gather books about angels and heavenly lore. There hadn't been many that weren't full of religious gobbledygook, and Cas had dismissed most of them out of hand as "Medieval fanfiction," whatever that meant.

Castiel was always and ever their most reliable source on this sort of thing. And now they couldn't reach him. Might never be able to reach him again.

No. He couldn't think like that.

John looked up and met Dean's eyes. "What are you thinking?"

His middle boy had good instincts, good analysis on anything pertaining to the life. More than Jimmy, Sammy, or even Cas, Dean seemed born to be a hunter. He and John often stayed up late, talking about monsters and demons and ways to kill the things that went bump in the night. Since John started taking him on hunts, things had never gone more smoothly. There was no one he would trust more to look at this situation and figure out what was going on.

Except that this was about Cas. Dean had...something special with Cas. They all knew it was there, John especially. Dean was Sammy's big brother, and he was the most intense about that aspect of his life. Mostly, John figured, because Dean was a sheepdog type. He needed to look after folks, and he could do that most effectively with Sammy. He took care of all of them, Jimmy and Castiel and even John sometimes, but Sammy bore the brunt of his devotion.

But there was something about Cas. From the moment Dean figured out that the angel existed, their bond had been particularly strong. He and Jimmy rubbed each other the wrong way a lot, he looked up to John as John had once looked to his SO, and he guarded Sammy the way a bear guarded a cub. But Dean and Castiel had something else.

John hoped it wouldn't impair Dean's judgement. They both knew Castiel was in trouble. Was in agony. Jimmy wouldn't shut up about it, but even if he hadn't mentioned it, John thought maybe Dean would know somehow.

Truth was, though, that Dean pushed the hardest when he was running on pure emotion. His jaw tightened, his eyes sparked fire, and every movement was tense and efficient and graceful, his body in perfect concert with his mind and his heart. When Dean wanted something bad, so bad that it filled his entire being with want, no obstacle could stand in his way. And the thing Dean wanted the most was to keep his family safe.

Thus it was now, John saw.

Dean's eyes hardened to points of green flint, obsidian hard and razor sharp. "What am I thinking? I'm thinking it's time to kill a son-of-a-bitch demon, that's what I'm thinking."

The corner of John's mouth curled up in a smile. Trust Dean to cut straight through to the simplest solution. There was a touch of weariness in it, though. This was something they had discussed many times before.

"We still don't have any more of a line on this demon than we did yesterday, dude."

"Yeah, well, enough's enough." Dean slammed the phone back into the cradle, making it jangle in protest. "The damn thing has been messing with our angel way more than we even knew about. We gotta get down to brass tacks and just slice throats until we find the right one."

"It's not gonna be easy. We've tried before."

It had all been unfortunately random and fruitless, despite the immense care they had taken in their activities. The choosing of a good site where they could draw the sigils and wards, far enough away from civilization for privacy, close enough that they could use the site on a regular basis. The gathering of the necessary materials: herbs, candles, blood. Finding a night when Dean and John could get away without worrying the other Winchesters.

Then they looked through the demon lexicons, of which there were many, and chose a name. Sometimes Bobby had suggestions. Sometimes they heard something on a hunt, or from another hunter. Sometimes the spell fizzled because the demon they chose was dead or otherwise unable to obey the summoning. In that case, at least they knew it wasn't the demon they were seeking.

But often the demon they called appeared, imprisoned in their Devil's Trap. Then, always, the disappointment when no glimmer of brilliant white light was seen, when no vial of stolen grace was found. And Dean and John asked questions.

Eventually, John made Dean leave the room while he...questioned...more vigorously.

So far, it had all been for naught. John's promise to Castiel that he would one day destroy the demon and retrieve his grace remained unfulfilled.

Now, Dean's face was naked, revealing his rage at both past failures and present impasse. "We gotta try, Dad. What else can we do? That bastard is trying to kill Cas."

"Or at least keep him from completing his mission." John looked down at Jimmy's dark head, resting limp and quiet on his shoulder. "That...creature...finally succeeded in crippling him completely."

"We gotta do something. Not just because...not just because it's Cas. Though that would be enough. But because this has to be about... The rest of it. This has to be about them doing everything they can to wipe out Cas. Because he’s the only being on the face of the planet that has any chance of stopping it, and they know it, and they have to snuff him out so they can get their damn showdown. Cas was in their way. This has to be all about that."


The sharp clip of John's voice brought Dean up short. John tipped his chin across the room. He was looking at Sammy.

The rustling of Sammy leafing through books had halted. He was watching Dean with great solemnity, his young face almost as hard and set as Dean's. It was not a look John had seen on his youngest before. It suited him. Sammy knew there were deeper currents flowing in the room, issues he had never been informed of, and he was ready to accept them.

Dean's eyes followed John's, flicking over to Sammy. For a moment everything halted as Dean considered what to do. Dean had committed to protecting Sammy from the last truths, the worst truths, for as long as possible. They all had. Sammy had enough on his shoulders, far more than any other fourteen-year-old in the world, possibly in the history of the world. Did they have to tell him the rest? Did he have to know that all of this—the blood of Azazel in his veins, the tainted children who were his brethren, the angels and demons and the ancient struggle that threatened him and his family with torture and death—was all leading up to the end of the world?

Dean looked to John, his eyes pleading for some direction. John's shoulders slumped. If only they could stop here, if only they could keep Sammy innocent of this last, awful secret for just a little longer.

But it was too late. The instant Castiel went down, the clock had started on the Apocalypse. Dean and John both knew it. Sammy needed to know it, too.

Reading the answer in John's body language, Dean straightened up, drew a breath, and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he stepped over to where Sammy sat on the floor, surrounded by books, and sat next to him.

"Sammy, dude, there's something we gotta tell you."

Sammy raised his chin, jaw firm, mouth set. Bracing himself to receive the blow that he saw about to land. And Dean started explaining exactly what the angels and demons were expecting the two of them to do.

John's heart broke a little bit more.


Dean did most of the talking, with John only occasionally chiming in. Sammy listened, asking clarifying questions now and then, mostly concentrating on taking it in. Jimmy remained quiescent on John's shoulder, shivering under the soft hoodie, his arms pulled tight to his stomach as if to stanch a gut wound.

When it was done, Sammy sat back, staring across the room with an expression empty of emotion. A book rested open in his lap, his hand loose on the pages. Dean sat there, looking steadfastly into his face, his chest heaving for breath as if he had just run a race or lifted a weight almost beyond his strength.

"We're supposed to be the perfect vessels for Lucifer and Michael," Sammy said. "So they can destroy the world and make it into something new."

"Got it in one." Dean was grim and hard, too accustomed to this horror to even be angry about it anymore. Though he had been, when John and Castiel first explained it to him. Oh, yes. Dean had been angry.

"It's not going to happen," Jimmy said. His voice was clear and sharp in the quiet room, his tone the quiet sort of confidence that did not require volume or stridency. He knew it to be true, and so he stated it simply. "We're not going to let it."

Sammy looked up to meet his gaze. "That's what this is about. What it's all been about. Azazel, the blood, the special children. We're supposed to bring on the Apocalypse."

"Azazel wants to open the gates of Hell and release hundreds of thousands of demons into the world," Jimmy said. "And then, yes, he wants to release Lucifer from his cage so the end times can begin."

"That's why Cas is here. That's why he traveled back in time. To stop it."

"Yes." Jimmy sat straight, pushing away from John. He sat upright on the sofa, not leaning back into the cushions, though he didn't try to shake off the hand John kept on his shoulder. He watched Sammy steadily, without pressure, without tenderness. The time for coddling had passed. "Castiel rebelled against his superiors who wanted to destroy the world. He chose to side with us, with humans, with the ideal of free will and all the mess that comes with it. It cost him dearly, but he never regretted his choice, only the consequences it had for me."

"The demon that came back with him in time. It knows about the Apocalypse, too. That's why it has to kill Cas."

"That's right. Castiel has been too successful. He's changed things already, so many things, in so many ways. They...those bastards, the monsters that want to destroy humanity...they couldn't let him get away with it."

Dean swallowed, tipping his chin upward in defiance. His voice was harsh. "Cas isn't done yet. We still need him, no matter what he thinks. If he dies, the bastards win."

Jimmy nodded. "We can't let that happen."

"No." John squeezed his shoulder, more proud of his sons—all of his sons—then he could ever express. "And we won't."

"So what do we do?" Sammy looked to him, then to Dean and Jimmy in turn. "We've got to fix this. How?"

"There might be a counterspell," John said. "We have Bobby working on that. It would be a good start."

"It's not any spell I ever knew or read about," Sammy said. "And I've read a lot of lore. Do any of you know what it was?"

John shook his head. "There's too much we don't know."

"Bobby hadn't heard of anything like it, either," Dean said.

Jimmy sat thoughtful, blinking down at the carpet. "All I know is what I felt. It had to do with the grace, that little vial half-full of Castiel's grace. The demon got us out beyond the wards, and then it...harmonized the grace it held with the grace Castiel still possesses."

"Like...quantum entanglement?" Sammy asked.

Jimmy nodded slowly. "Exactly."

Dean rolled his eyes, and John had to sympathize. Trust these two to pull out the big words no one else understood.

Jimmy was still going. "Then, when the demon did whatever it did to the grace in the vial, the spell affected Castiel in the same way. How many spells can there be that involve an angel's grace? It must be incredibly hard to get hold of. There's no reason for such spells to be in any of the books we can get our hands on. Maybe heaven even had a policy of destroying such lore if it ever got written down. Imagine how dangerous that would be, to allow such knowledge to exist on earth. No." He shook his head. "We're not going to find this in a book."

"Then what..." Sammy narrowed his eyes, looking at Dean. "That's why you were talking about slitting throats until you find the right one."

"You've been summoning demons at random, haven't you?" Jimmy didn't sound as angry or disappointed as John might have expected. The kid was too far beyond it, too jaded and numb to be able to pull out much emotion. He just looked at John and Dean, his head shivering in something like disapproval. "You are such idiots."

"We had to try," Dean said, but his voice wasn't as defensive as it would have been if this secret had come out some other day, when they weren't all simply terrified that they would lose Cas. "We had to do something."

"I can't think of many things more stupid than summoning whatever demon your finger landed on in the lexicon." Jimmy stared at Dean, clear-eyed and stern. "You could have called up another Azazel. A knight of Hell. An infernal monster capable of breaking your wards and Devil's Traps. Anything."

"Well, we didn't, okay? We accomplished approximately jack shit. So lay off, man." Yep, the calm in the room was rapidly burning off.

"Simmer down," John said, and Dean looked away. John turned to Jimmy, pulling him in again. "You too, kiddo. I know you're upset, and you have every right to be. Yes, we could have done any of those things. But I made a promise to Cas, and I had to try to keep it."

"Without the name of the demon, you might as well have been throwing darts at a barn wall."

"We know," Dean snapped. "And we did it anyway, okay? What else do you want from us?"

"Wait a second," Sammy said, sitting up straight. "You're saying that if we knew the demon's name, we could summon it?"

Dean turned back to him, combative stance fading. "Yeah. That's where we were headed with this."

"And then we could get it to undo the spell, or give us Cas's grace, or at least find out what it did."

"Or just kill it," Dean said.

"But we don't know its name," John said. "That's kind of been our problem."

"Well, what do we know about it? Maybe we could figure it out."

After a second of contemplation, they all turned to Jimmy. He paled under the scrutiny and leaned back into the couch, scrubbing a hand over his face. "You think I haven't thought of this before? I don't know that creature's name any more than any of you do."

"Yeah, but you know more than any of us," John said. "You've been in Cas's head, or as close as anyone can get to it."

"You said you've seen stuff from the future," Dean said. He bounced up to his feet, unable to sit on the floor anymore. His voice was suddenly eager and light again. Full of hope. "Just images and impressions, I know. But there's gotta be something in there that will help us."

"I told you how hard it was to grasp, too, didn't I? How confusing and bright and painful? Angels don't perceive things the way humans do. It's all messed up in there."

"Yeah, but it's there." Dean spread his hands. "C'mon, dude. We gotta try. For Cas."

Jimmy groaned and leaned into John again, closing his eyes. Of course he would try. They would all try. They would do anything they had to do.

Sammy stood, too, leaving the books on the floor. He looked into Dean's face, head tilted back. "If we're going to go straight for the demon, maybe there are other ways we can try, too."

Dean tilted his head, regarding his little brother with the respect of a fellow hunter. "What are you thinking?"

"For once, we know where the demon is. Or where it has been. The park, the woods. The little girl named Tilly. Maybe there's even an actual dog. We could try tracking him—her—it." Sammy shook his head distractedly. "We could try tracking the bastard in the physical realm, too."

"Yeah, good idea." Dean reached out to pat the kid on the shoulder. "Good thinking, Sammy. But you'll have to tell me the rest of the details you guys left out."

Sammy took a breath and raised his chin. "Of course. But...I need to ask you a favor."

Dean paused, his hand falling to his side again. "What?"

Sammy looked around, meeting Dean's eyes, then John's and Jimmy's. "I think you should call me Sam from now on."

Dean's shoulders slumped. "Sammy..."

"No." The boy looked back to him, his shoulders straight. He was still shorter than Dean, still forced to look up to meet his eyes, but he wouldn’t be for long. That was already evident. "You tried to protect me for as long as you could, and I get it, I do. I even appreciate it, or maybe I will after I get over being mad about there being yet more secrets in this stupid family. But you told me now. I'm fully a hunter now. I'm Sam."

John swallowed at the lump in his throat. "Son..."

"I know." Sam turned to look at him, giving him the same strong, clear-eyed regard he'd given Dean. "I know this is hard. You wanted me to stay a kid. You wanted at least one Winchester to be innocent, just a little bit, just for a while. You lost that today, the demon took it from you, from us. And that sucks. But if we're going to do this, you can't think of me as Sammy now. You can't think of me as a little kid. It was Sam Winchester who faced the Apocalypse in the future Cas came back from, the future he sacrificed himself to prevent. And it's Sam Winchester who will face the Apocalypse now."

John's chest heaved. Jimmy was silent at his side, frozen in understanding and regret. Dean's eyes were too bright, and he had to look away.

"Okay," John said, his voice almost too low to hear. He cleared his throat. "Okay. You made your point. You're Sam."

"It's Sam Winchester who will face the Apocalypse," Jimmy said, his voice carrying the intonation and solemnity of prophecy. "It's the Winchesters who will stop it all before can begin."

"That's the plan," Dean said roughly. He grabbed Sammy—Sam—by the shoulder. "Let's go, you dork. We got a demon to run to ground."

John nodded. "I'll stay here with Jimmy. We' on remembering."

Jimmy sighed, but he nodded.

They had their battle strategy. It was time to go.

Previous: Book 4 Part 1
Next: Book 4 Chapter 3
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