Dean's ears rang with the sound of Mia screaming, crying out for him to save her. He choked back the bad taste in his mouth and sat up, his head swimming from all the booze. A hangover was setting in but the nightmare had to stop. His senses cleared but the crying continued. He rubbed his eyes and the world became clear. Someone was calling his name. Crying out for him. A thud upstairs put him into action.
Glass bottles rattled and rolled across the floor as he pushed himself up and toward the sound, hand on his gun. He took the stairs two at a time and as soon as he reached the landing Mia's bedroom door flew open and she hit her knees in the hallway. Dean's heart stopped and he nearly fell down the stairs. He dropped to his knees, gun abandoned on the step.
"Dean?" she sobbed, holding her arms, staring at him with fear and confusion.
"Mia, I…" he touched her carefully, as though contact might burn him or his hand might move right through her and he'd realize he was trapped in a bad dream. But now; he could feel her. Her skin was still cool but warming up quickly. She was soft and supple and alive.
"What's going on?" she asked and Dean pulled her close to him. "Sam he… I thought he killed me…"
He did, Dean thought, his arms clutching her tightly. But she wasn't dead now. He could smell her shampoo, feel the softness of her hair on his cheek and although he was happy to have her in his arms, he knew it wasn't a good sign. With one hand he patted his pants pocket and realized the Impala key was gone. "Sammy," he whispered. "Hey, give me a minute and I'll come right back okay?" he said, pulling away from Mia. He stared her right in the eye. "I'm not going anywhere, I promise. I just need you to sit right here."
She was hesitant to let him go, but he was here now and she knew he'd keep his word. Shakily she pushed herself into the corner by her door, away from the stairs. Dean stood and walked down the hall to Sam's bedroom, Mia picking his gun up from the top of the stairs and holding onto it tightly. What in the hell was going on? Flashes of Sam beating her to death came back to her and she could remember the pain of it. She could remember calling out to Dean.
"Dammit it Sam," he said through gritted teeth, punching the doorframe. He took a deep breath and returned to Mia, sitting in front of her. "Mia… I don't know how to say this but.. Sam did kill you. Or more, the demon that possessed him killed you. I drove as fast as I could but," he hung his head, shaking it slowly. All those what ifs swirled around in his mind. "I didn't get here fast enough. You were already gone when I got here. Me and Bobby sent the demon back to hell but it was too late."
Mia wiped away a tear and grabbed his hand. "This wasn't your fault, Dean. I know you did what you could." She bit her lip and cupped his chin as he had done to her in the car, forcing him to look her in the eye. "I told you I forgive you because I didn't think you'd make it in time. I don't want you to carry the weight of what happened, I just want to know what's going on right now. I'm supposed to be dead and here I am and… and you," she bit her lip to keep it from trembling. "What's going on?"
"I think Sammy made a deal. His soul to bring you back."
She could see the despair in his eyes. "What do we do?"
"Don't know if there's anything we can do. My soul's already goin' to hell in a few months, I definitely can't make a deal," he shook his head.
"What about me? What if I tell them to take it back?" she asked, not willing to let Sam waste Dean's life, or his own on her.
"I can let you do that. The only way they'd let you reverse it is to give your own soul them and you drop dead where you stand. I'm not going to let that happen again," he said, a little too aggressively. He calmed his tone a little. "Besides, they want us; me and Sam. There's no way they'd let him out of the deal."
"How long do you think he has? Maybe we can figure something out."
"Usually it's ten years. You get whatever you want but they send the hounds for you in ten years."
"Then we'll save you. Get you out of your deal, and then we'll work together to get Sam out of his."
"Mia stop," he said. "I understand why you and Sam are so set on tryin' get me out of this but I just don't think it's worth it. You and Sammy, you want something more for yourselves. But me? Hell even if I wanted to stop hunting, I don't know what I'd do with myself. This is all I've ever known."
"Have you given up?"
Dean looked at her, unsure of how to answer that. "You know I've always protected Sammy. I don't regret the deal I made. But I won't sit here and say I'm ready. I don't want to die, but I feel like I'd be even worse living without Sam."
"But don't you think it would be just as unbearable for him to be without you?"
"I don't know," he said, "I think he'd be fine."
"I know I wouldn't be."
Sam pulled up to the house and cut the Impala's engine. What was done was done. Now he just had to explain it to Dean. Sitting in the car forever wouldn't save him from Dean's wrath, or from the way Mia was bound to look at him. She was alive and most likely awake right now and would remember him beating her to death.
He opened the front door and heard voices at the top of the stairs. Taking a deep breath he walked to the bottom of the stairs and looked to where Dean and Mia sat talking in the darkness of the hallway. His heart wrenched up in his chest as Dean stood, helping Mia up. He said something to her, too quietly for Sam to hear, and ushered her back to her bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Dean walked down the stairs to his brother, stopping on the bottom step. He didn't know what to say. So many thoughts rushed through his head, questions that begged for answers. But Sam spoke before he had a chance to sort out his thoughts.
"How is she?" he asked, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops.
"She's shaken up. Confused, but okay. Alive," Dean said, setting his jaw, eyes staring hard at Sam.
"I couldn't let her die like that. Not by my hand," Sam explained.
"So you made a deal?" Dean crossed his arms over his chest, doing his best to restrain his emotions on the situation. The last thing Mia needed was to listen to them fighting.
"Yeah," Sam admitted. "yeah I did."
"What was the deal?"
Sam didn't answer.
"What was the deal, Sam?" Dean growled, raising his voice a little.
"She's got ten years," he said, shifting his weight.
"For what? Ten for ten?"
"What do you mean, not exactly?" Dean didn't like the sound of that. Sam remained quiet and Dean took the last step. "Dammit Sam, tell me. Ten years for what?"
"I didn't want you to die alone, Dean. If I can't take back your deal then…" he couldn't finish it.
There were no words. Dean rubbed his face. He couldn't believe his brother would do something so stupid. "So I traded my soul to bring you back and you're going to throw it away like that?"
"What? Dean, I'm not throwing anything away. I appreciate what you did for me, trust me, I do. But you didn't want Mia dead any more than I did. You care about her, I know you do. She's alive now. She has a chance to make something of herself. And me and you… we'll go down together. If we find a way to break the deals then we'll do it but if we can't…I don't want you to die, Dean. I don't. I don't want to die either but I also don't want to go on knowing your blood's on my hands. And hers," he said pointing up the stairs. "I killed her Dean. I was awake for it all. I remember beating her to death with my bare hands while she begged me to stop. What was I supposed to do?"
Dean clenched his jaw and turned away.
"Could you have just salted and burned her bones and walked away without a second thought?" Sam pushed.
Dean couldn't answer that. He bit his lip, thinking back to only hours before; the taste of her lips and the feel of her skin beneath his fingers. He'd said he didn't have long enough to offer her anything and now Sam didn't either. They were going to leave her alone. "Go talk to her," he said finally.
Sam watched his brother as he sat on the floor in the living room, tossing some logs on the fire to keep it going. Dean was angry and hurt but Sam felt that there was something else under his brother's skin but he didn't ask what it was. He had a good idea though. Dean loved Sam more than anything, he knew that. Mia though, she was not in Dean's plan for keeping Sam safe. He cared about her, that much was certain, but did he care enough for her to be worth his brother's soul? The answer was sure to be no and Sam knew there must be a great deal of guilt in that knowledge.
Sam called Mia's name from the door, rapping his knuckles on the door. There was silence, hesitation, then she told him to come in.
She sat on her bed, knees drawn up to her chest. Sam sat toward the end of her bed, nervous about getting too close. She was shaken up and skittish but she had every right to be. His eyes fell to his hands, then to the bruises on her face and chest.
"I'm so sorry, Mia."
"I know," she said. "I know it wasn't you. It was the demon. I don't blame you Sam I just… it's weird being around you right now."
"I understand," he said, starting to stand.
"Wait," she said, stopping him. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Yeah. Of course."
"Dean says you made a deal to bring me back." she said, hugging her knees.
"I did," he admitted.
Mia nodded. "He's not happy. I um… I heard you two earlier. I guess he thinks you wasted your soul," she said, forcing a smile but Sam could see the tears in her eyes.
"Oh, no, Mia," Sam said. "He didn't mean it like that. He doesn't think you're a waste, he's just mad because-"
"Because you mean more to Dean than anything," she interrupted. It wasn't what he was going to say but it was true. "I've known that since the first time I met you two. And deep down you know he meant it. He might not have meant that I wasn't worth saving, but we both know he meant that I wasn't worth you."
Sam couldn't deny it. His eyes dropped to his hands and the bruises that had darkened there. "I've said some terrible things I said about Dean the last few days. Thought some bad things about him too… none of that's me. And this isn't him. He cares about you, really he does. And if we give him a few days he'll be back on track and we'll get this figured out."
"Still… maybe it would have been better if you hadn't interfered. Not that I'm not grateful. I am. I don't think I've ever had anyone willing to do that for me but," Mia sighed. "I can't seem to get what he said out of my head."
"Look, go get a shower and when you're done you can talk to him about it," Sam said, patting her hand before heading downstairs.
Mia closed the bathroom door, biting her lip and she smiled to herself. She reached down to pull off her shirt but pain shot from her shoulder and she let out a little whimper. She tried again and pushed through the pain. It faded quickly but the physical shock of it brought tears that turned into a deeper kind of hurt.
She let the water run over her body, washing away her tears as soon as they touched her cheeks. Still his words repeated in her head mingling with flashes of his fingers pressing into her skin, his lips soft on hers. She thought of the taste of his tears and the way his hair felt in her hands. Slowly she lowered herself in the tub, hiding in her thoughts until the water was so cold her skin prickled.
"Sorry, I don't know much about this whole deal business but let me get this straight," Mia began, leaning into the doorframe. She'd been listening to Dean and Sam discuss what to do. Or more, Sam talking and Dean drinking and arguing with him. It really was like he'd given up on saving himself but she knew he just wanted to save his brother and Sam had given his own life for hers. She felt like she was intruding. "If your deal is broken, Sam dies. And now if Sam breaks his deal, I die."
"That's how it works," Dean said, taking another swig. "And I've never heard of anyone goin' back on a deal."
"But it must be possible. I mean, if there's rules and consequences, there has to be a way," she said.
"She has a point Dean. There has to be a way," Sam repeated.
"Stop Sam, just stop," Dean snapped, fire in his eyes. "God I've had it with this constant back and forth over what to do."
"I'm not going to stop," Sam shouted. "Not until I know that you're going to live. That we're both going to live."
"Is that what this is about Sammy? You think that since your life is on the line too that I'm going to help you find a way out of this? Well what if it doesn't go the way you plan?"
Mia slunk away to the kitchen, leaving them to argue. At the end of the day it wasn't about them. Not really. She knew that Dean felt some way about her, though he'd never said as much but he was harder than Sam. His brother meant more to him that anything, even his own soul. Dean would have had a hard time burying her or burning her bones, but he would have done it and moved on. Their shouting match in the living room was growing louder and her hands trembled. She had to do something to stop them. To put their lives back to the way it was twenty-four hours ago.
She exhaled, pressing her hands into her palms to stop the tears she knew were coming. She knew what she had to do and it would be the hardest thing she'd even done.
"I know what to do," Mia said, calling Sam and Dean's attention to her.
"What?" Dean said, confused.
"Dean," she began, taking a step toward him, arms behind her back. "I remember when we were kids and I met you two for the first time. I was so envious that Sam had someone who loved him so much as you did. And now you've given your soul for him? And for what? Him to throw his life away to bring me back? Seems like such a waste," she said, unable to hold back tears.
"You're not a waste Mia," Sam said.
"I didn't mean it like that," Dean said, remembering his conversation with Sam when he'd come back from the crossroads. His stomach wrenched up inside him and he knew she'd heard what he said. "I didn't want you to feel like that. I'm so sorry," he said, ignoring the fact that Sam was in the room as he put his arms around her shoulders.
"I'm going to set Sam free," she said, looking into Dean's eyes. He pulled away some, confusion in his eyes. "You know, I love you two. I have since we were kids," she said, choking on a sob. "I wish I hadn't have wasted so much time and now… now I can give you time, Sam. Time to save Dean. Do you think you can do that? Find a way to get him out of this mess?"
Sam' fists clenched at his sides, a hard knot rising in his throat. What was she talking about? Giving him time?
"We'll figure this out," Dean said. He knew she was upset about him not having much time left, but the tears that streamed down her cheeks seemed to go beyond that. She stood on her toes a little and pulled him close for a kiss. At once he felt something hard against his abdomen and blood on her lips. "Mia?" he said, his voice barely louder than a whisper when she winced in pain. Her lips were stained red and she became heavier in his arms. "Sam!"
At first Sam didn't understand what was happening but when Dean lowered Mia to the floor he understood why his brother had called his name. Her hand was wrapped around a dagger that was protruding from her. There wasn't much blood when he dropped to his knees beside her but he knew it was only because the blade was stopping some of the flow. If he could call an ambulance, she might have time.
Sam whipped out his phone, his fingers fumbling to call 911 but she saw him and pulled the blade from her body. Blood poured out around her fingers and Dean pushed his hand on top of hers.
"Don't you die on me like this!" he shouted, clinging to her tightly but knowing his strength wouldn't be enough to keep her tethered to the earth.
"Shhh," she said, her hand falling on his cheek. "It's okay Dean. I said I had a way. You have Sammy back now," she forced a smile but her breathing as getting labored, the pool of blood around her growing. "In the morning I want you to leave. Get in the car and you drive as far from here as possible."
The heat of her blood, sticky in his fingers, her body getting heavier by the second; how had they come to this? He felt there was something he should say. Anything. But nothing came to him. His words burned in the fire that blazed in the back of his throat. He was surprised he could even breath.
"Dean?" Sam whispered, his voice shaky as he put his hand on his brother's shoulder. "She's gone."
Sam stroked her hair, his tears falling into the black locks and he leaned into her. Dean hid his face in the crook of her neck as he had in the Impala and he wept.
In the end Dean couldn't make himself burn her bones. He and Sam gave her a proper burial, soaking the soil with holy water. Sam got a bad feeling about it but his brother was dead set on his decision. They covered the grave and did what Mia had asked them to do. They got in the car, drove away and never looked back.
The Impala roared down the highway and Dean never moved, never flinched. The sun was setting on the horizon when Sam decided he couldn't handle the silence anymore. He'd noticed a trinket hanging from the rearview mirror; a silver wing. He hadn't ever seen it before and although he knew Dean must have taken it from the house, it was his way to start a conversation about what they'd just experienced. "What's that?" he asked.
Dean set his jaw, adjusting his grip on the steering wheel. "It was Mia's."
"Do you want to talk about what happened?"
Sam sighed, used to getting shut down by his brother. "Dean, I want to make sure this never happens again."
"And how do you plan on doing that?"
"We can't trust these pendants," Sam said, ignoring the bitterness in his brother's tone. "They can get pulled off, broken, stolen, lost… I think we need to do something more permanent."
Dean got the idea. Tattoos. It was their best bet at doing what they could to never have another incident like what happened to Mia. "Fine. And Sam?"
"I don't want to ever talk about this again."