maychorian: (SamnDean GUNS COST MONEY MAN)
[personal profile] maychorian
Fandom: Supernatural
Title: Chapter 3: With My Feet on the Air (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: ~6600 (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 3: With My Feet on the Air

Jimmy sat frozen, listening to the footsteps of Sam and Dean rushing away down the hall outside. Dad rested next to him on the sofa, his arm still around Jimmy's shoulders, holding him warmly but not too tight, not so close that Jimmy felt confined and trapped. Dad rode that line a lot, constantly testing how close he could get to Jimmy without getting too close, without triggering Jimmy's defense mechanisms hard enough to make him flinch or back away. He'd gotten really good at it in the past few years, or maybe Jimmy had finally left Mr. Baker far enough in the past that John Winchester no longer evoked that old devil with every casual move.

"You okay?" Dad asked, and Jimmy realized that he'd been staring off into the distance again.

In his head, Castiel's scream was starting to get ragged, which shouldn't be possible. It wasn't even physical.

Jimmy turned his head to stare at Dad straight on, his answer wordless but plain. Dad grimaced. "Yeah, dumb question. I know you aren't."

"Castiel isn't," Jimmy said, compelled, even now, to keep reminding his family that the invisible Winchester was the one in trouble. He could never forget. They shouldn't either.

"I know." John sighed and rubbed his upper arm. "Okay, what do you want to do? How can I help try to reach into that brain box of yours, start pulling out what we need?"

Jimmy shifted where he sat, hugging himself as a shiver rocked through him. "I don't want to...work on remembering."

"I know it's hard, but we gotta try..."

"No, I mean..." Jimmy leaned back into his father's side, seeking warmth. "I do want to try. I want to do everything I can to help us figure out how to nail this demon to the wall. But first I gotta try to help Castiel."

"Can you?" Jimmy knew Dad didn't mean to sound so deeply skeptical. But he really, really did. "I thought you've been trying to communicate with him and it hasn't been getting through."

"No, that's true. I can't talk to him, and he thinks that we can't hear him, either. But I can. And I think… I think I might be able to reach him a different way."

"How?"

Jimmy hugged himself tighter, biting his lower lip. He truly wasn't sure that this would work at all. He wasn't sure if it was even possible. But the idea had been niggling at the back of his mind ever since the car crash last summer, when he had been the one to save Castiel instead of the other way around.

That was when he had first learned how to delve into the realm of mind and spirit and find the spark that was his angelic brother. If he could do that while coping with shock and hypothermia and broken ribs and internal bleeding, he really ought to be able to help Castiel a lot better now when he was warm and comfortable, supported by his father's strong right arm.

"I've told you that we're...mixed up together. We're too close. We bleed into each other. All the time, and more and more as time passes, despite everything we both do to keep us separate."

"Yeah? And you think this will help you now?"

"It'll have to. What I saw earlier... He's making it worse by struggling so hard. Every time he pushes against the spell, it tightens further and hurts him more. But he can't help it, he can't stop fighting. He never will, not as long as he thinks we're in trouble."

"What are you going to do?"

Jimmy stared across the expanse of grayish-white carpet, a broad salt plain baking in the sun. "I'm going to go inside there, back to the cage that's burning Castiel alive as we sit here. And I'm going to try to take charge of him the way he's taken charge of me thousands of times."

Dad blinked. For a second he didn't breathe. "You're going to...possess him. The way angels possess humans."

"I'm gonna try."

Dad held him tighter, squeezing Jimmy hard into his side. Jimmy let him. He rested his head on his father's chest and closed his eyes. And he disappeared back into the burning wasteland inside his head.

X~*~X

Jimmy walked down a passage of braided gold, molten metal twisting and pouring, constricting and expanding as in the rhythm of breath. He held himself at a remove, forcing himself not to feel the heat, the pain, the isolation. It was easier now that he'd been here once before and knew something of what to expect. He had a purpose, a mission, and he intended to complete it.

His shoes set down on the shining fire, again and again, ripples spreading out from each touch like sonic waves as the golden corruption responded to his touch. He did not feel the impact of his steps, though. It was as much gliding as it was walking, which was fitting, since there was no need to walk in this place. But Jimmy maintained the image of himself as a young man in a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers, moving silently through halls of torrid flame that flowed and melded and bent together in an unending kaleidoscope of bright agony.

After a time the narrow vein began to widen. Jimmy no longer walked on the metal, but floated above it, pressing onward by the dint of his desire to do so. An invisible force resisted him, like the heat of a fire, a wall of intensity that tried to keep him out. He was not deterred.

The passage widened yet further, a cylinder opening on all sides, and Jimmy drifted outward as if rising from a flower with the opening of its petals. It expanded into a broad spherical space like a womb, a cave, a planet. The walls twisted gold and tarnished black, and nowhere was pure white to be seen, not even a hint of it. Castiel's grace had been fully subsumed and perverted by the Hellish spell, and it encased him completely.

Suspended in the center of the metallic womb was the cage. It was not a cube, nor a sphere, nor any other geometrical shape Jimmy could have named. It was extra-dimensional, for one thing, as was every other construction in this place. But to Jimmy's perception, it appeared as a golden shape, oblong, shifting continually, bulging with lumps here and there, then constricting against them, flattening them out, until another bulge appeared somewhere else.

It was the evidence of Castiel's struggle, his constant fight to punch through his prison and escape. There was nothing Jimmy wanted more than to see him succeed, to see Castiel's brilliant angelic fist pierce through the molten corruption and blast apart the cage with the power of his purity and will. But it was impossible, because Castiel was fighting himself, that part of him which had been changed and ensorceled by the demon.

"Castiel!" Jimmy cried, more out of reflex than anything. He knew his brother would not be able to hear him. But oh, how he wished he could.

Jimmy caught his breath and held himself in stillness again. He had a task, and he knew he could complete it. His will was powerful here, here in the depths of his own mind. He breathed deep for a moment, then brought his will to bear with all the force of his righteous rage. The opaque appearance of the cage faded to translucence until he could see Castiel inside. His mind chose to make the angel appear as his twin, another young man with dark hair and blue eyes, his body twisted and contorted in his agonized struggle, his mouth open in an endless scream.

"Castiel," Jimmy said again, though he knew Castiel could not hear. It was uttered softly, almost to himself. The words became another focus of his will. "Castiel, stop fighting. Please, let me help you."

Jimmy stretched out his hands as if he could reach Castiel with his body. If Dean could have seen it, he would have said Jimmy was trying to use the Force and he would have teased him for being the Obi-Wan of the family, old and wise and bossy and skilled in spiritual power. The thought sharpened Jimmy's focus, bringing his will to bear yet more fully. Star Wars was a movie. Castiel was his friend.

"Let me in, let me in, let me in." It became a chant, low and intense, uttered through gritted teeth. Jimmy had tried before to shield Castiel from pain and injury, on that awful day of the crash, and he had failed to relieve Castiel’s pain in any measurable way. He could not fail today.

At first it didn't seem to be working. There was no change: Castiel struggled, the cage morphed and tightened against his every move. The walls of the globe pulsed and shone with sickening light. Tension wracked Jimmy, manifesting as pain in shoulders, his back, as he strained to reach Castiel.

He did not allow himself to think that it wouldn't work. He could afford no doubt. It would work because it had to. That was all.

Quantum entanglement. He and Castiel weren't just mixed and mingled...their spirits were synchronized on a profound level previously thought impossible. A consequence of how they met, perhaps—both injured, both wounded, both mutilated and mangled, spiritually and psychically. They had grown together like two branches cut and grafted to a new trunk. In healing they had wound together, bound together, adopted family of the Winchesters and each other.

How many times had he or Castiel "come forward" or "faded back," trading control of Jimmy's body between them? Thousands. Tens of thousands. So many times that it had become a reflex, no thought, no uneasiness, no fear. The trust between them was absolute and unbreakable.

This was the same, only reversed. Jimmy had once read The Sword in the Stone, Castiel following along with interest, and he remembered the way they had both struggled to imagine living life as Merlin did in that book, backwards, growing younger in his own perception and older in everyone else's. Merlin had described to young Arthur the way he had to do things—as in a mirror, reversed. Both Jimmy and Castiel had found the idea fascinating and baffling. Even Castiel, with his vast experience of time and traveling through it, had been grateful that he did not have to live his life in reverse.

Now Jimmy had to figure out how to do it, not in time but in spirit and space. This was the final barrier between them. They shared minds. They shared Jimmy's body. Now they had to share Castiel's spirit.

The only hesitation Jimmy felt was that he had no opportunity to ask Castiel's permission. They were always very careful about that, though over years the asking and giving of it had narrowed to the smallest of spaces, the barest of thoughts. But Jimmy had no other option. This was the only way to reach him.

Then it happened. It was like passing backward through a sheer waterfall, not of water but of fire. The sensation poured over Jimmy in an electric wave, sharp and shocking, overwhelming and paralyzing him. Then he was through, and the cosmic vastness of Castiel surrounded him.

Angels were...huge. Somehow, even after thirteen years of living with one, Jimmy had never quite grasped this. But Castiel—injured, crippled, imprisoned Castiel—was unimaginably immense. Possessing him was like possessing a skyscraper, one that existed on all dimensions. Being trapped in Jimmy must be incredibly confining for Castiel, like a phoenix whose wingspan stretched from horizon to horizon somehow being crammed into a shoebox.

And now Jimmy, fragile creature of dust and clay, had propelled himself into this colossal space. The expansion stretched his mind almost to the breaking point. It would have broken other minds, he knew with no sense of ego, only acknowledgement of fact. There were reasons that he was fit to be an angelic vessel. One of them was his ability to bear this, no matter how narrowly.

Then the pain hit him. It was incredible. Terrible. Overpowering. Just as Jimmy stepped inside him, Castiel struck out once more, and the corruption struck back. There was no way to resist the pain, and almost no way to endure it. It had to be borne, and so it filled everything and blew it all away. For a moment Jimmy forgot who he was, where he was, what he was. Nothing existed but the agonizing fire exploding through the entirety of his being.

After what seemed an eternity, the pain abated enough for Jimmy to recall himself. It did not recede completely, though. From the trembling exhaustion Jimmy felt in Castiel, it was clear that it never did. But as he froze, holding himself still in the coffin-like space of the golden prison, the pain abated enough that he was able to think and be himself. If he'd been in a physical body, he would have been breathing hard, trying to regain his senses.

A split second of silence, stillness, and Castiel exploded in panic. He understood that he had lost control of himself, and his mind had gone white at the realization. He fluttered against Jimmy's control, pounding himself against the sides of this new cage like a terrified bird.

"Castiel, Castiel, it's me, it's me. Calm down, it's okay. I'm just here to help you."

Surely Castiel would be able to hear him now that he had invaded this prison so completely and utterly. Surely Jimmy had earned the right to be understood.

But Castiel continued to struggle, now not against the golden corruption, but against Jimmy’s will. No words had any effect. Though Jimmy had found a way to circumvent the spell, it still held Castiel in isolation, unable to hear his brother’s voice.

Jimmy winced and held himself in silence and stillness, begging for Castiel to understand. If he made any move at all, if he even twitched against the molten bands that held him imprisoned, the pain would overpower him again. He had to resist the overwhelming urge to move, to fight, to seek escape.

Evil and pestilence radiated from the walls of the cage, sizzling against the boundaries of Castiel’s spirit. It was causing contact pain, as heat from a fire or the noonday sun would burn against unprotected human skin. Jimmy forced himself to bear it quietly. The trial was a sore one.

He concentrated on thoughts of peace, willing it to spread throughout his mind, throughout Castiel. If Castiel couldn’t hear him, maybe he would be able to feel him. The tension that had contorted Castiel’s spirit slowly began to fade as Jimmy willed it gradually away from each limb of the immense creature he now possessed. The heart of Castiel was star-bright and shining, untouched by the corruption of his grace, his life-blood, and this Jimmy touched with the gentlest of caresses, soothing and loving. My brother, my brother. Be well. All is well.

Softly, softly, little by little and bit by bit, Castiel calmed. The fluttering panic slowed, then stopped. The angel was still, resting in Jimmy’s grip, though he pulsed, with uncertainty and barely controlled fear. Jimmy? Is that you?

Knowing that words would not cross the barrier, Jimmy sent another jolt of peace through it, instead. The fear in Castiel’s spirit faded yet further, though it didn’t entirely disappear. They were still trapped in a golden prison of corrupted grace, after all.

I…I understand. You can see and hear me, though I can’t do the same. Yet I feel the effects of your presence. You…somehow, you achieved what was thought impossible. You reached back to me and inhabited me as I inhabit you. I know we cannot travel back in time, but I retroactively grant my permission for this act. You did the right thing.

In that moment, Jimmy’s love for Castiel all but choked him.

Yes, I feel you. Yet I cannot observe you. I suppose this is what is meant when they told humans to walk by faith and not by sight. It’s rather difficult, I must confess. But I do very much appreciate that you came. That you’re here.

If only Jimmy could ask Castiel the name of the demon, or at least what he knew that might lead them to it. If only he could assure Castiel that they were working to fix this, that they had a plan and they would not give up until they had him back. If only he didn’t have to go back and “work on remembering” with Dad, but instead could stay here with Castiel, shielding him from this awful place.

I feel your frustration. I wish we could talk better than this, too. I suppose you probably want to tell me something.

Jimmy’s amusement crossed the barrier.

It has not escaped my notice that the pain has diminished almost entirely. In fact, with you here, I feel no discomfort from the spell at all. Perhaps one thing you wanted to tell me is that I should stop struggling, that I am harming myself with my own desire to escape.

Jimmy sent him a burst of pride.

Hmm. Yes. That was one thing. Thank you. I will take your advice. It will be…most difficult for me to remain still, to stop fighting, but I did not seem to be accomplishing much. And I suppose it must have disturbed you to hear my cries and be unable to do anything about it. I hope this spell is not also causing direct harm to you.

Love. Peace. Understanding.

I suppose another thing you wanted to talk about would be the demon. I'm sorry, I have no more information to give you. I know that the creature is the same one that attacked us in Pontiac, the same one that traveled with me back from the Apocalypse, but you probably already deduced that. I know nothing more.

Resignation, not surprise, followed by encouragement. By now Jimmy was finding it surprisingly easy to express himself only in emotions. The medium had limitations, but he had succeeded in his quest. Castiel wasn't in pain anymore. And the longer they stayed in this inward space, sharing thoughts and mutual reassurance, the more peaceful and together Castiel was. His agitation was soothed by Jimmy's companionship, and his strength had returned rapidly.

Being trapped and in pain sucked, it sucked a lot. But the worst thing the spell had done to Castiel was isolate him from the Winchesters. Everything else was bearable, but not that.

You should return to the waking world soon. You've been here for a very long time.

Surprise.

Consciousness is a strange thing, and time plays games. Thank you for coming. I appreciate it more than I can express in words. But you should go. I will remain still in silence, waiting for you to rescue me fully.

Determination.

Yes, I know. Go now. Free me from this prison.

One last mental touch, like a warm grasping of hands in regretful farewell, and Castiel nudged Jimmy gently out of the space he had possessed. Again he passed through the fiery waterfall, frozen in shock at the pain and power of it. Then he was rising rapidly out of the golden womb, through the tunnel, across the snowy plain, back to conscious life.

Jimmy gasped and opened his eyes. Shadows stretched across the living room, showing how late the day had drawn while he was under. Dad still held him comfortably to his side, but at Jimmy's movement he tensed, arm tightening around his shoulders.

"Jimmy? You okay?"

Jimmy raised his head from Dad's chest, sitting up on the sofa and stretching out his shoulders and back. His stomach rumbled. "I'm fine. Castiel and I found a partial solution. He's not in agony anymore. For now, anyway."

Dad sighed, and Jimmy was close enough to feel the tension slowly drain from him. "Good to hear." He patted Jimmy's shoulder blade. "That was a hell of a job, kid."

Jimmy turned on the sofa to look in his face. "He's still trapped, though. The corruption is painful, but no longer unbearable. It's going to keep trying to swallow him fully, burn into his core. It's still pushing in on him. We have to get him out."

Dad nodded. "We will."

Jimmy stood from the sofa to stretch his legs, looking around. The room had retracted from the strange delusions he had endured earlier, becoming once again just a dingy living area in a second-rate apartment. The walls were dirty, the carpet stained, the door thin. Normal, ordinary. Home.

The nausea from his bloody nose had passed, and he knew he needed to eat and regain his strength. Usually by this time in the day one of them was cooking supper or calling for takeout. "Are Sam and Dean still out hunting?"

Dad shifted on the sofa, then stood up abruptly, as if he couldn't be still for another second. Jimmy could see the disturbance on his face, which until now had been completely solid and strong, displaying nothing but calm. For Jimmy's sake, that had been. Dad was worried about his younger sons out there hunting a demon on their own, and Jimmy couldn't blame him.

Still, "I'm sure they're fine," was all Dad said.

Jimmy bobbed his head, a short, decisive affirmative. "Of course they are. I've seen glimpses of them, in Castiel's memories of the future. They're amazing together, the most unstoppable team of hunters the US has ever seen. Legendary."

Dad's jaw tightened. "Right now they're just eighteen and fourteen, though."

"Kids, I know. Babies by some estimates. But they're Winchesters. They have teeth."

X~*~X

They'd been tromping through the woods for way longer than they should have been when Dean finally thought he might have spotted something. He whistled, waving his little brother over with broad sweeps of his left arm, pointing with his right. "Yo, Sammy! Is this the clearing you were talking about?"

Sammy had been wandering about twenty yards to Dean's left, still in sight, but far enough away that it took him a minute to reach Dean, crashing through the undergrowth with little of his usual grace. They were both keyed up and anxious, many of their woodcraft skills taking a backseat to their need to just find what they were looking for.

The kid was scowling. "I told you to call me..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Dean rolled his eyes. "It's gonna take some getting used to, all right? Now, c'mon. Is this the place?"

Sammy—Sam—stepped toward where Dean was pointing, peering through the trees. The clearing was oblong and sloping, full of tall grass and flowers, just like Sammy had described on the way over here. "It might be. My memories are...a little fuzzy."

"I get it." Dean put a hand in the middle of Sam's back, nudging him toward the clearing. Sam was already moving, but he didn't seem to mind the assurance of Dean's presence at his back. "It must have been a crazy time."

"Yeah."

They stepped into the clearing, looking around. Dean's nostrils flared. He thought maybe he could catch a hint of sulfur, a trace of the demon that was messing with his family, trying to kill his brother. Might have been his imagination.

Sammy stepped slowly over to a certain spot, lifting his feet high to avoid the long strands of grass. He put a hand to his face. "You smell that?"

Dean nodded, moving to stand next to him. "Sulfur."

"This is the place. Where she...it...showed up."

Dean turned around where they stood, studying the scene from all angles. This was where the demon had stood when it pulled out Castiel's grace and twisted it, mangled it, using Hell and magic and unholy spells to torture and imprison the best angel on Earth. A shiver ran over his arms and upper back. He thought he could feel the remnants of it, the evil tainting the ground and the air, making even the sky seem darker, more clouded.

At his shoulder, Sam's breath was starting to come faster, his entire body tensing up. Dean turned to him, frowning in concern. Sammy was staring away into the trees, his eyes wide, too dilated.

Dean got it. He reached out to grab the kid's shoulder, pulling him back from wherever he'd been going. "Hey. Chill, big guy. We're okay."

Sammy shuddered, a quick, hard movement that passed over his entire body in an instant. He looked to Dean, blinking, wan and chagrined. "Sorry. I..."

"Don't sweat it." Dean squeezed his shoulder. "It makes sense, okay? Last time you were here you were...you were up against the wall. The guy who should have been able to handle any threat, any enemy... Castiel, he was down, and you were basically alone against the worst bitch our family has ever faced. You and Jimmy weren't remotely prepared for it. But it's different now, okay? I'm here, and we've both got enough holy water and salt rounds to down a pack of hellhounds."

Sam smiled shakily. "You took the Colt, too, didn't you?"

Dean shrugged. "Might have, yeah. Don't tell Dad."

"He probably already knows. He let you take it."

"Point."

Sam pulled in a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, then looked around the clearing again, his eyes clear, his movements purposeful. "What exactly are we looking for, anyway?"

Dean shrugged. He nudged at the grass where they stood with the tip of his boot, searching through it almost strand by strand. "Sometimes demons, especially powerful ones, leave traces behind. If we can find a residue, like, say, sulfur, or a scrap of cloth, or—best of all—some blood, we can use it to track the bitch down."

Sam knelt in the grass and started searching through it just as Dean was. "You know it's not actually a girl, right? We don't know what that thing is."

"Dude, I don't care if it's male or female or good red herring. Demons are bitches and deserve to be called out for the bitches they are."

Sam snorted. "You're such a jerk sometimes."

"Yeah, well maybe you're a bitch, too."

Sammy's head darted up and he glared at Dean with more venom than Dean had ever seen on his young face, eyes narrowed, lips flat.

Dean laughed and ruffled his hair, which was especially easy since Sam had put his head at waist height. "Calm down, man. If I call you a bitch, it's not because you're a demon. It's because you're a snot-nosed little doofus with girly hair and a stick up your ass."

Sammy paused, considering this for a moment, then nodded in acceptance and went back to his search, combing through the grass with meticulous care.

Dean stepped away to have a look at the trees at the edge of the clearing. It was a long shot, but he was really hoping to find a little twist of cloth caught on some sharp branch or something. The chances of finding blood were so vanishingly small as to be barely worth considering, but Dean couldn't help hoping. It would just be so nice, basically an instant end to it all—he and his dad would throw the blood into a spell and presto, demon kebabs on the menu for tonight.

As if to mock his optimism, Dean's stomach growled. Man, he was hungry.

Then it went to shit. Or maybe went to hell would be a better expression. A low, rumbling laugh purred through the woods like nearby thunder and Dean and Sam both pulled up short, eyes wide, breath halted in their throats.

Sam stood up in the grass, his face almost blank with terror, and Dean was at his side in three long strides. They looked around with sharp, jerking movements, neither sure where the sound was coming from. Both knew what it was, though. The demon had come back to the scene of the crime.

Dean had a bottle of holy water in one hand and the Colt in the other, and Sammy's hand was on his arm, not grabbing, just connecting. Another rippling laugh poured through the air, and Dean spun, trying to find the source. Sam turned with him, following his steps in perfect synchronicity.

"Show yourself, bitch!" Dean yelled, lips twisting around the words as if they were projectiles, bullets firing from his throat. "Don't be a pussy! Face us like a soldier!"

"Oh, but I'm no soldier."

The voice oozed through the air like dirty oil, slicking everything it touched. Dean shuddered and held the Colt tighter, feeling like he might never be clean again. He turned, looking for the demon, but there was nothing, just trees and grass and Sammy, holding onto him.

"What are you, then?" Dean asked. "I know you're a bitch, don't have to tell me that. Prove me wrong. Come and face me."

"Oh, Dean, Dean, Dean." The voice sighed, seeming to both approach and retreat at once. "You're just not very smart, are you? You have no concept of what you're dealing with."

Sam gripped Dean's arm in sudden excitement. "Oh yeah?" he called, loud and assertive, no longer afraid in the throes of sudden inspiration. "You wanna scare us? Tell us you're some famous demon from the old lexicons, someone we can look up and read all about. Tell us about all the angels you've fought, all the humans you've corrupted. Are you Crowley? Abaddon? Baal? Are you Legion?"

The voice laughed, slithering through the air once more, echoing from all sides. Dean held firm, tired of playing by its game. He was not afraid of this thing, and he wasn't going to let it think he was.

"Legion? Oh, no, little human. I am not Legion. I am one. But I am mighty. And I have allies."

"What do you mean?" Sammy's voice was harsh, and his grip on Dean's arm was starting to pinch.

The demon laughed. "You'd like to know, wouldn't you? You'd like me to tell you everything. You'd like to know my name."

As it spoke, the voice seemed to swing around them, coming from the left, from the right, behind them, before. Then, on the last word, it came from everywhere, blasting in on them in full surround sound, so piercing and overpowering that Dean's hands instinctively fled to his ears. Beside him, Sam fell to his knees, his gasp of pain buried in the awful noise.

"You get nothing. You learn nothing. There is no help for you here. There is no hope for that pathetic creature you call your brother. I am ancient and wise, far too canny to fall for your simple human tricks. My ally is far more powerful than anything you have ever faced, anything you ever will see. Were my ally to feel the need, it could step in and devour you with four mouths at once. But there is no need. I am too much for you."

The voice became a physical thing, a blast of air thundering down from the sky, driving the Winchesters to their knees in the grass. Dean pulled his hands away from his ears with a mighty effort. He'd dropped the holy water, but he still held the Colt. He gripped it in both hands and held it out straight, chest heaving, mouth open and panting in the wind. Just give him a target, he prayed, to what or to whom he could not have said. Give him a target and he would blow it away, no matter what force, what power tried to intercede.

The voice laughed again, every reverberation of sound like nails being driven into Dean's skull. He winced but held his ground, pointing the Colt at the deep darkness that had descended on the wooded hill.

"Look at you, tiny human, with your tiny weapon. You think I fear that? You think I fear you? I do not."

"Then show yourself!" Dean yelled. "Stand where I can see you! If you're really not scared of this gun, let me shoot you with it!"

The voice cursed, deep and guttural, in a language Dean didn't know and had never heard the shape of before. He knew it was a curse, though, by the tone and the emotion, by the sharp blast of heat that seemed to drive sparks into his eyes, his ears, his hands.

It wasn't just a profanity, though, like Dean proudly considered part of his own lexicon. It wasn't a simple "shit balls" or "holy fuck." This was an old-fashioned curse, the kind that went on for several sentences and was probably as creative as all hell, calling down death and destruction and all manner of unpleasantness to strike Dean for his insolence.

Dean found this encouraging rather than frightening. He'd struck a nerve. The demon wanted them to think that it was impervious to threats, that their words meant nothing to it. But his and Sammy's repeated accusations of cowardice had succeeded in angering it.

If they just poked the bear a little longer, maybe it would finally rear up and show itself. Dean struggled to his feet, panting, and swung the Colt around the clearing as he searched for any hint of a target.

"Pussy!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs. "You're no warrior! You had to use a disguise to even get close to us. You're a sneak and a cheat and a liar! You couldn't get near to my brothers without using the face of a little girl! You didn't even dare to do it when the strongest Winchesters were out, me and my dad and Castiel. You went after our support staff and rookie instead."

Even in the maelstrom of the invisible attack, Sam couldn't help making a noise of protest at this. Dean gave him a shrug and a hard look, daring him to disagree. Sammy huffed out a sigh, shoulders slumping.

The interplay passed in seconds, and Dean yelled into the darkness again. "And you know what, pussy? Coward? Even then, even after getting my brothers out of the wards, into your trap, out where you had the advantage and complete control of the terrain, even then it was all trickery and ambush and nasty little spells. You're nothing! You're a charlatan! You're a big, fat, freaking wimp!"

The voice roared in wordless and unholy rage. A blast of air rushed down from the sky, driving Sam and Dean to the ground, blowing the grass outward in all directions as from the center of an explosion. Dean held onto the Colt, but the streaming air made it impossible to see, and he was forced to close his eyes by the insane strength of the wind. It seemed about to pop his eyeballs out of his head with the sheer force of speed.

“Filthy little fools!” the demon thundered, loud enough that Dean feared for his eardrums. “I have become a god! My name is written in more texts than exist in all the libraries of men, and after the new world is made on the bones of the old, my name will be written in thousands more. For in wiping out that pustulent little angel, I have helped to write the history of the new era in which demons and gods will rule the earth once more, and I will be honored for my deeds. You are nothing. Your family is nothing. You are a stain upon the earth, one that will presently be washed clean, and we will no longer have need even to rule you as slaves!”

Well, they had definitely poked the bear. Dean opened his mouth to yell back, but he knew instantly that it was useless. The wind was too strong, too loud, too all-encompassing. Any words he tried to produce would be jammed back in his throat.

For a moment, he worried that maybe he'd pushed a little too far. Maybe the demon would be able to crush him and Sammy where they stood. Maybe taunting into a mindless rage the entity that had managed to get the best of Castiel hadn't been his smartest move.

With another wordless roar of fury, the immense pressure of the wind abruptly ceased. The voice cut off in mid-shout, there and then gone, and Sam and Dean lay in the grass, panting and spent, staring at each other in wide-eyed bewilderment. The sky still seemed dark and overcast, but that was probably because it was way too late, now, the sun sinking beyond the mountains.

Dean sat up cautiously, patting himself down for injury, and found none. He reached over and grabbed Sam, too, checking him over despite the kid's squeaky protests and squirming to get away. "Okay, okay," Dean said after awhile, breathless, still catching up. "We're okay. We're okay."

"You'd better believe we're okay. We're freaking awesome." Sam finally succeeded in pushing Dean's hands away and bounded to his feet. Dean stared up at him, eyebrows raised. Sam was vibrating, not with fear, not with anger at Dean's reckless tactics, but with excitement. He looked down the hillside, bouncing on his feet as if ready to run.

"Yeah? We are?" Dean hauled himself to his feet with a bit more difficulty, checking his guns and his holy water as he went. The demon was gone, and it had appeared to leave them entirely whole and unharmed, but Dean wasn't one to trust appearances. "How so, chief?"

Sammy turned to him, a wide, manic grin splitting his face. It did nothing to reassure Dean. "Yeah, yeah, we are. We're so, so awesome. Didn't you hear? Didn't you catch it?"

Dean shook his head wordlessly. He had no idea where this triumphant joy was coming from.

"Damn, Dean, you're a good hunter." Sam reached out to punch his arm, prompting a scowl of confusion from Dean. He rubbed his arm where Sam had struck it, then spun his fingers, prompting him to get on with it. Sammy obliged, still grinning huge and feverish. "You did the perfect thing, taunting it like that. You got it to give us all sorts of clues. Man, that was awesome."

"I did, huh?" Dean considered for a moment, then nodded firmly. "Of course I did."

"C'mon, let's go!" Sam began picking his way through the long grass, heading downhill back to the park. "We gotta get home and call Uncle Bobby!"

A split second late, Dean trotted after him. "Do we? What for?"

"Well, we should probably talk to Jimmy, too." Once they hit the trees, Sammy moved even faster, rushing down the trail he'd already taken three times before. "He can probably corroborate a few things, make sure we're on the right track. But we've got it, Dean. I'm sure of it."

"What do we got?"

"We've got everything we need to figure out the name of the demon."

Previous: Book 4 Chapter 2
Next: Book 4 Chapter 4
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