The world was gray. Faith was certain it was her imagination, but it seemed like there was a constant cloud following them when they hit the road. Maybe bright and sunny days just didn't exist here. Or maybe she'd brought this storm with her, when she arrived.
A late start wasn't their friend. They'd spent most the daylight on the road, and it was dusk now, a hint of lavender bringing on the night. Faith wasn't worried about the time of day, though. She did most of her best work when it was pitch black out. No, it was the destination that was bothering her.
The guys had filled her in on the way there, given her the info on Samuel Colt, the man who made a demon killing gun, and apparently constructed a big ass iron symbol to hide a cemetery from devil radar or whatever.
Faith felt a little sick after the boys told her that part. She'd already overheard most of this conversation, but it made more sense now. She had a piece of info they didn't.
Right after the fall of Sunnydale, G-man had been talking about Hellmouth with the Scoobs, and she'd actually paid attention this time. There was a mention of potential thin spots, where a Hellmouth could be formed. One in Ohio. Hence the Cleveland base they set up in the states. But Faith was almost positive he mentioned there being rumor of a "thin spot" in Wyoming, and this world was too like hers for it not to have at least a few similar supernatural hotspots. Not a chance that was a coincidence. Not when the hunters were already certain this Colt guy had built his trap to keep something inside.
Faith was suddenly sure she understood why the Yellow Eyed Demon they were after would be here. Every villain worth his salt wanted to open a goddamn Hellmouth, didn't they?
She considered bringing the idea up to the Winchesters and squashed it. Any explanation would take more work than she was willing to do.
"Ellen said she'd never heard of you at the Roadhouse," Dean said. "Let's face it, you'd stand out in that crowd."
Faith was certain he'd mentioned something earlier, the brothers spatting over something to do with the tape deck. She'd zoned out, lost in her own thoughts. A part of her wished she'd ridden in the car with Bobby and that Ellen lady instead of taking on the backseat of the Impala again. As much as she liked getting a glimpse of those pretty faces in the rearview mirror, what she really wanted to do was fish for some info on the Winchesters. She couldn't just come out an ask them what she needed to know, such as why the spirit of the first slayer said their dad ('late' from what little bit she'd picked up on) would have approve of offing his youngest.
"Listen, I've been to several Roadhouses, not a one of them hers. Never said otherwise. Sorry I don't have a list of hunters in my back pocket like you two," she commented. "If we're going to play the getting to know you game, I get to ask you a question now."
"Just making conversation," Dean said, defensively.
"And I'm just asking a question."
"We're almost there," Sam noted, as if to interrupt them.
Faith didn't doubt he was right. They'd turned off the main highway a while back and the backwood roads were starting to look decidedly spooky. Or maybe that was just her nerves narrating.
"Bobby raise you two?" she asked.
It wasn't the question she wanted to ask or even close, but for some reason, she was still interested in the answer.
"No," Dean answered. "We spent some time with Bobby growing up, but our dad raised us. John Winchester, he was a hunter too."
Sam make a little noise from the passenger's seat, and the brothers glanced at one another, as if having a silent argument. Touchy subject, John Winchester. Faith raised a brow. She hadn't intended for that question to stir the pot, but obviously there were some mixed feeling already there.
"When did he pass?"
They were quiet a moment before Sam cleared his throat. "Not long ago."
"Shit, sorry," Faith sighed, and pushed herself back in the seat. "So, this is a family business, huh? Our family's only business was alcoholism and gambling."
Dean snorted. "Yeah, well, there's whiskey under the seat."
"Shit, this really is like every first date I've ever been on." Faith didn't bother digging for the flask though. "You guys were raised knowing about the things that go bump, then?"
The rest of the answer was cut off. Sam had seen what she'd just noticed, the long stretch of overgrown railroad iron up ahead of Bobby's old Chevelle. The older hunter was tapping his breaks, and the Impala slowed down as well.
"Should we just cross over it?" Sam asked Dean.
There wasn't an answer. Faith sucked in a breath as soon as she saw the shadow of something moving in the brush to their right. For a split second, Faith imagined she saw the murky outline of a hulking form on all fours, running, but the image was gone in a blink. Before she could question it, something hit the Chevelle at full force, denting into the side so hard the car raised onto two wheels and was sent skidding off the road and into the ditch. It landed at an angle against the grass bank, two tires blowing on impact.
"What the fuck!" Dean snapped, slamming on his breaks before he ran into the tail of Bobby's car.
The guys were out of the Impala in a second flat, and Faith jumped out behind Dean, following them toward the beaten Chevelle. She slid to a stop before she reached the front, the hairs on the back of her neck rising. When she spun around, there was nothing there, not anything she could see at least.
"It's still here," she warned. She raised her voice. "It's still watching us."
There was a loud creak of metal on the passenger's side, as Sam helped Ellen out of the car, but Dean had stilled entirely, obviously feeling the same unease.
"What the hell was it?" Ellen asked, her voice dragging slightly.
Faith shot the woman a look. Her forehead was covered in a bright red smear, but she seemed to at least be standing on her own, with a balancing hand from Sam. Her eyes weren't focused, though, and Faith took that as a bad sign.
The group quieted without answering. Something moved closer to the road, the sound of a scraping claw on blacktop. It was the only warning they had before the back bumper dented in, the metal crumpling beneath a massive weight. The roof of the Chevelle popped and cratered as the invisible beast's weight hit center, then shook the body as it hopped off from the front.
"Hellhound. The demon knows we're here. We need to get Bobby out. NOW!" Dean snapped. "Get Ellen in the Impala, Sam."
Faith realized she was the backup Dean was waiting for, and she knew why as soon as she saw the fold in the metal over the driver's size door where it was wedged shut by the blow, its handle long gone. Past the shattered glass, Bobby's head lulled back, as if he was barely conscious. Dean crossed over to the passenger's side where Ellen had been moment's earlier, only to have something slam that door shut, nearly knocking him back. Faith reached out for his arm, pulling Dean toward the road just as a the grass and gravel beneath split under vicious claws.
Dean sprung back up at her side, watching the empty spot in front of them for movement. Faith elbowed him over silently, edging their way back around to the other side of the ditch.
"No time to be dainty," Faith said and reached out, gripping the hole where the handle had been. The metal screeched and moaned as she pulled. The driver's side door gave way, collapsing off once it was free. Dean dove forward around her, pulling at Bobby until the men were both stumbling out and way.
"Damn, She-Hulk, how strong are you?" Dean asked, huffing as he half-carried Bobby up the shallow bank. As if on second thought, he reached down, where the trunk had been jarred open, and grabbed for something blindly.
"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," Faith answered, watching out for the pair.
A headlight busted as something scraped the front of the hood again, and Faith braced herself for the creature to move again. A scatter shot rang out from behind. It must have hit its mark because there was a short, angry growl from in front of her.
She reached out on instinct, catching the iron crowbar tossed her way. Dean was pushing his way back from a few yards away, a sawed-off shotgun raised high. So that was what he'd been looting from the back of the car, she thought. She could see Bobby behind Dean, trying his damnedest to stumble toward the Impala, a hand held to his bleeding nose.
"If Giles only knew all that dumbass blindfold training actually came in handy," she muttered, swinging out blindly with the bar. It didn't hit a mark, but she hoped the thing was still somewhere in front of them.
She all but ran backward, nearly slamming into Dean's side. She spared a glance only to find his attention was no longer on watching their ten o'clock. He was staring at the Impala with wide, terrified eyes, and she wondered if he saw it, too, the glimpse of the beast she'd seen earlier. It took her another beat to realize what he was really looking out, or wasn't. Ellen was propped up in the backseat, unconscious, her legs still hanging out the open door. The trunk was popped, probably to look for weapons… But Sam wasn't standing at it or sitting in the car. Faith felt her face go cold; he was gone. Sam was gone.
"Sam!" Dean screamed out toward the brush. "Sammy!"
"Oh, Sammy boy, I knew I'd bet on the right pony with you. Congratulations, champ. You've made it to the next round."
Sam spun around, disoriented, but he managed to stay standing. How he'd gotten here, he wasn't sure. One moment, he'd been standing at the back of the Impala, and the next… He froze when he saw the speaker sitting on a fallen log. The demon was leaning forward, arms resting on his legs, hands clasped, the expression on his face more patience than expected.
"Dean," Sam breathed, suddenly remembering his family had been left behind. "It was a hellhound," he said, louder. "Yours."
The demon spread his hands, as if confessing. "Got me, kiddo. An angry bitch, that one, and she's going to rip the people you love into pretty flesh ribbons if I snap my fingers."
Sam felt as if his chest might at explode. He took a shaky breath. "You want inside Colt's trap."
"See, I knew you were smart," the demon said. "Thing is, I don't even have to get inside myself. Not if you're willing to run a little errand for me. In and out in just a few painless minutes. What do ya say, Sammy?"
"Screw you," Sam hissed. "What's in that place? What was it that was worth the lives of all of your "special children"?"
"Oh, I think you know," the demon chided. "It's a door. Pretty simple door, actually, but it leads to a place that, well, is near and dear to my heart."
Sam's eyes widened. "It's a hellgate, isn't it?"
"Ding ding ding." The demon chuckled. "Listen, I can see how opening a door to Hell might be a bit of a gray area for you."
"It's not going to happen. We're not going to help you."
The demon cocked his head. "We?"
"I know that you don't want Faith and me just to cross over a boundary for you. We're not going to play along with your plans."
"The girl? Faith. That was her name, then." The demon shook his head with a short laugh. "Oh, son, didn't you hear me the first time. You won this race. She'd not even in it. You thought she was your 'special' sis, huh? Can't lay claim on that fine piece of real estate. I've got to admit, I wasn't expecting her to pop in and turn my game upside down. Still, kind of glad she stepped in when she did. Jake just didn't seem to have the 'be all you can be' spirit as advertised." His eyes narrowed slightly and turned a murky yellow, and his voice was harsher when it returned. "I should thank her."
Sam's brow wrinkled in confusion. "She's not…" He shook his head. That didn't matter. As long as Faith wasn't working with the demon, he could put her at the back of his mind for the moment. He had bigger problems. "What do you want?"
"You got it in one," the demon assured. "I want the gate to open, and I want you to lead whatever comes out. You want to play the hero? You want to make sure we don't hurt the innocent? No better way to do that to be the one leading the soldiers away from the villagers."
Sam made a face. "I'm not releasing a demon army. You're insane. You can threaten all you want, and that's not going to make me do what you want."
"I can, and will, threaten that big brother and that stand-in uncle you've got back there," the demon said, sounding bored, "but I know killing them right now won't get me what I need. You Winchesters are vengeful types, I've learned. Let's try the path of least destruction first. Let's bargain. What do ya say?"
"I'm not making a deal."
"No, no, of course not." Yellow eyes locked onto Sam, a genuine smile beneath. "You've got entirely the wrong impression here. You see the end of the world. I see a beginning. Do you really think those souls downstairs deserve what they get? You and big brother, you do everything in your power to save lives, but what about souls? You're going to tell me it sits well with you, leaving people to suffer?"
"Are you honestly trying to convince me you're doing this for the souls of Hell?" Sam scoffed.
"So what if some of them deserve to be there? Not all of them do. Not everyone in Hell is a serial killer or pedophile." The demon tilted his head in thought. "Like that daddy of yours. Sure, Johnny could have paid a bit more attention to your report cards, but surely you don't want to see him burn for eternity, right?"
Sam tasted vomit at the back of his throat. There was a part of him that planned for the demon to bring up his father, but he still wasn't prepared for his soul to be put on the table. "You put him there."
The demon shrugged. "Technically he put himself there, but okay. I'll take the blame. So, how 'bout this. You open this door for me, and I get one demon out instead of an army." He raised a finger. "Just the one. Someone who matters dearly to me. And I let your father's soul zip out with my special lady, have him waiting at the door for us, as it were. What do you say, Sam?"
Sam swallowed hard. He could hear his name in the distance, being screamed out. Dean wasn't far. "I say screw you," he bit.
The demon stood slowly. "Plan B it is, then."
It felt like he'd been hit by a car. One second he was standing, then the next he was on his back, breathless. Sam struggled to move, but his limbs didn't so much as twitch. The demon loomed over him, a disappointed frown on his face.
"See, the first time I visited you, Sammy, it was just to get me in your system. I think what you need is a little taste of freedom, a pick-me-up." The demon lifted his wrist, running one nail against the flesh. "Better than mother's milk."
The red rained down.
It was a low and steady hum blocking out the rest of the world. Dean couldn't hear her, screaming at him, but he could see her face, her lips moving. She was trying to tell him something. Faith looked small. He hadn't really noticed what a petite woman she really was until she was standing in front of him, shaking him. Petite but entirely too strong, if the grip on his upper arms was any indicator. He stared through her, past her, into the Impala, where Bobby was forcing himself behind the driver's side, barely able to move, but bringing the engine to life easily enough. Ellen was still out in the back, but someone had rolled her the rest of the way inside and shut her door.
"Sam," she said.
The word bled in, broke him. He could hear himself shouting now, screaming out for his brother. He choked on the last call, giving Faith a chance to interrupt.
"We've got to stay alive if we're going to save Sam," she repeated. "You hear me, Dean? Get your shit together."
The comment came out soft instead of the harsh bark he was expecting. He nodded once. When he blinked, he saw it, midair, then suddenly flying their way, the Chevelle's battered car door, flung like a Frisbee. Without a word, he hooked an arm around Faith, pulling her toward him. They toppled back, Dean landing hard on his shoulder and wincing at the jarring pain. The heavy metal scraped a deep, sparking line across the top of the Impala, then passed right over the area where Faith's head had been a second earlier. It landed with a hard clatter behind them.
Faith lifted herself up off of him, a hand buried in his jacket, pulling him with her. Still on one knee, she shifted toward the Impala.
"Drive!" she snapped.
The wheels of the Impala spun, squealing, and the car shot forward. Dean half expected it to slam into the invisible beast, but the creature must have moved. The Impala skid to a stop right over the iron barrier. Bobby and Ellen were safe, but Dean was suddenly aware of how exposed he and Faith were on the road.
Faith straightened, crowbar raised. Dean hadn't even spotted a hint of movement, but as soon as the woman found her stance, something grabbed hold of the bar, jerking it and growling low. Faith didn't lose her grip, letting herself be slung to the side instead. Dean knelt back down, fingers finding his shotgun. Before he could raise it, something pulled at him, a claw ripping into the denim of his jeans as if they were made of satin. He didn't even register the pain until a scream was ripping its way out of his throat.
Faith cried out for him, but he knew she would be a second too late.
Hot, sulfurous breath poured over his face, but the end didn't come. Dean opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed. Faith was standing a few feet back, a tilt of her head telling him she was eyeing the devil's trap, less than fifty yards from her position, where Bobby was pulling himself out of the Impala, looking dazed. She could make it that far before the hellhound caught her. She didn't move, though, turning her attention to something past him.
Dean twisted his neck and saw them, strolling out of the sparse thicket against the road. Sam. Sam was right there, still alive. So was the son of a bitch who'd taken him. The demon was at Sam's side, one hand on the hunter's back, like he was guiding him, the other at his side and holding a long barreled handgun. The Colt. Right there in the open.
Dean's mouth went dry. He tried to move and winced when pain shot up his leg. A glimpse down showed him a tear in his thigh, blood spilling too freely. He could almost feel the creature still nearly, the hellhound that had torn into him.
The shout came from Sam, but he didn't run forward, stock frozen beside the demon. Dean hadn't noticed it until then, the blood on Sam's face. There was a long, dripping line of red out of the corner of Sam's mouth.
"Oh, Dean-o, don't worry, Sammy's not hurt," the demon said, lips twitching with a hidden grin. "In fact, he's never been better, have you, Sam?"
Dean knew he wasn't thinking clearly, the pain leaving everything foggy, but he recognized what shame looked like on his brother's face. Sam's lips parted, like he wanted to speak, but he closed them again, his eyes glassy and wet.
"Say, Dean," the demon said, his voice almost giddy, "ever wonder what exactly made your brother so special? Or did you think he was born that way? Like one of the X-Men, a cool new genetic freak, ready to use his powers to save humanity. Not quite. Though, you could say it's all in the blood."
"Please, don't," Sam begged.
"You mean you didn't tell big brother about our fun blast to the past in Cold Oaks?" The demon feigned surprise, then turned his attention back to Dean. "You know what I did, when I visited your brother's nursery that night, Dean-o? Right before I lit Momma up like a firecracker? I slipped baby Sammy a little taste of demon's blood. Knew it would make him grow up big and strong like I needed him to. In fact, all my special children got a taste early on. I wonder, would you have sacrificed all those years, taking care of Sammy, wiping snotty noses and making grill cheese sandwiches, if you'd known you were caring for a tiny piece of the demon that killed your mommy?"
"I'm gonna kill you, you bastard," Dean grimaced.
"Dean, I'm sorry," Sam said, quietly.
Dean felt sick, but he held it down, locking eyes with his brother. He didn't want to think about any of this. He didn't want to see the blood on his brother's chin and know. he didn't want to hear his father's voice echoing in his head. "It's okay, Sammy. It's okay," he promised.
"See, that's sweet." The demon slapped Sam on the back lightly. "See, champ, that's unconditional love right there, but you know what would really help ease your brother into this? A reunion. Now, on the one hand, it's fairly easy for me to get your brother to ol' daddy's new pad."
Dean gasped, feeling the weight of a heavy paw on his chest, pushing him down.
"On the other hand," the demon continued. "It's just as easy for you to bring Pops here. Think about it, Sam. There's no reason to fight me. And even if you try, my blood is in you, filling your belly, pumping in your veins. You're my right hand. But you're my special boy, so I want you to feel you have some control in this."
Dean had almost forgotten Faith was still standing there. The woman didn't seem like the quiet type, but she'd been silent as a church mouse during the demon's arrival. Dean glanced her way, surprised at the look of annoyance on her face.
"Sam, he doesn't control you," she snapped. "You've got demon essence in you, not an actual demon. It's a big fucking difference."
"Potty mouth," the demon chided. "You know, if you were my girl, I'd bend you over my knee." He paused, smirking. "Granted, from what I've heard from Sam, you've been masquerading as one of my special children since our little run in. I told you then, and I'll tell you again. Your bloodline doesn't have a stake in this race. Back off."
She'd lied. Dean had bet on that from the beginning, but hearing it felt like another kick to the stomach. There had been something genuine in her big brown eyes: guilt.
"You don't know shit about my bloodline or what I am," she assured them. Her attention shifted to Sam. "Look, I let you believe what you wanted to believe. My bad. But I'm telling you the truth right now, Sam. I know what you're going through. I know what it is to have darkness fueling your strength. But that shit doesn't control you. And you don't have to let it take a driver's seat. No matter what he says. You can tell that part of you no."
"You sure about that, Faith?" the demon asked. "Because I have a feeling you don't know the faintest thing about being in control of yourself. I've see that wild look before. I know your type. You're a killer. I can almost smell it on your soul. Was this even your idea? Coming here? Playing with my toys? Or did someone send you just to piss me off?"
Faith was quiet a moment. "Yeah. Someone did send me. To stop you. I'm deciding how."
The demon laughed. "Oh, sweetheart, you have no clue what's even happening here. You're a pawn. And,see, Sammy's high on what I'm selling right now. He's going to do what I want him to do, because he knows it's the only way his family gets out of this alive. All of his family. Lucky for me, you're not actually important to him."
"I'll do it," Sam interrupted. "Just stop."
"Sammy," Dean breathed, when the hellhound moved off his chest.
He heard the beast move when it tapped the car door laying on the road, leaving it spinning. Sam tracked the movement with his eyes then moved his focus to his brother, shaking his head to ask him to stop speaking. Dean held back what he wanted to say, confused by the look in his brother's eyes.
"I'll do what you want me to do," Sam said again.
The demon chuckled. "There we go, kiddo." He pointed at Sam like a proud father. "This boy knows what he's doing. He's going places." The demon raised the Colt in his other hand. "The first of those places being Hell's doorway."
"Just the one demon. And my father," Sam said, his brow wrinkled in thought. "That's all."
"You don't want to lead an army, then you don't have to lead an army," the demon assured. "This is the right choice, Sam. The only choice. I just want what's best for you. You'll see."
"What do I do?"
Dean closed his eyes, moving his fisted hand to his forehead, trying to block it out. He couldn't just lay here, couldn't be a witness to his brother doing what the demon wanted. Something hit the bottom of his boot, forcing him to look. It was Faith. She'd moved close to him and had her hand outreached for his. Forcing himself to sit up, he took it. He half-expected the hound to grab hold him, force him back down, but it didn't happen.
Faith jutted her chin back toward the ditch. Dean didn't understand what she wanted him to see, until he noticed what's she'd seen. There was movement near the brush. Why was the hound so far away? Dean hoped to God it wasn't because it was getting ready to spring on Sam.
"Oh, it's easy," the demon said. "Old Samuel Colt used this gun of his as a key to the gate. Talented human that he was. All you need to do is cross the barrier and find the door. I'll place a call from here, make sure they're ready on the other side."
The demon held out the gun.
"You're going to give me the only weapon that can kill you?" Sam huffed. "You think I'm going to fall for that?"
"You're going to kill the only person who knows how to summon your father's soul to the gate?" the demon returned. "Not to mention that it will, quite literally, take a snap of my figures to turn the hound on dear Dean. My dying act would be to drag his soul to Hell. Tell me, am I lying?"
Sam shook his head. "I believe you."
He reached out, gently picking up the Colt. He held it by its handle, turning it, as if the get another good look at it from the side. Dean's heart broke to watch him. He knew what his brother was thinking, how that gun had looked like the answer to all their problems when they'd found out about it. And now it would be their downfall.
"Why would Colt even make a key?" Sam asked, staring down at it.
The demon shrugged. "You humans and your contradictions," he noted. "Go ahead, Sammy boy. Get a move on. The sooner you do what you need to do, the sooner this is all over with. Dean doesn't look like he has much time for you to waste."
Sam nodded. "Maybe Colt made this the key, because…" He trailed off, then looked up at the demon, his head cocked in thought. "Maybe because he knew that if demons thought they could use it to open Hell's door, they wouldn't destroy the one thing that could take them out." He tilted the gun, turning it on the demon. "This is for our Mom."
The shot rang out, muted in Dean's ears. He didn't believe. He didn't believe it had been fired until he saw the red dot on the demon's head, the look of shock in its yellow eyes. Its body lit up, like a fire had sparked beneath the skin, the silhouette of the skull flickering brightly under the flesh. Not quickly enough. The demon moved its hand as it sputtered to its end, the click of its fingers snapping louder than the gun shot.
Dean braced for the hit, but the hound didn't pounce.
Instead, Sam had the hand peeking of his sling outstretched, toward the ditch, his fingers trembling as if he were holding something back. A line of red dripped down his nose, effort leaving his body shaking as he dropped the Colt to the ground.
"Your blood, your power," he bit. "Bet you're regretting that pick-me-up."
The demon's body dropped as a long-dead corpse. Sam turned, looking to his brother with a dim smile on his face, before his knees went out and he fell. Dean wished he could have been there to catch him.