Dean paused and sat back down on the floor, stretching his legs out in front of him, trying to be as ready as he could when she released him. Raya approached holding a folded bundle of clothes. He recognized the flannel on top as the one he’d been wearing when she’d kidnapped him from the parking lot of Ranchero #2 way over in Downs. He’d had a trunkful of grocery shopping too, he tried not to think of all that marinated steak gone bad in his Baby. Hopefully Sam had found the car and taken care of it. He tried to keep a picture of him getting to cook the steaks for Sam in their home, both of them safe and away from all this demon drama.
“You said we were close to the bunker, so where the hell are we?” Dean asked as he took the bundle of clothes from her, hiding his worry that she knew about the bunker at all.
“We’re on the shores of Truman Lake in Wisdom, Missouri. One of Bast’s devotees built himself this temple out of sight of any neighbors in the late 1800s. The sacrifices he performed over the years of anyone unfortunate enough to find the place built up enough power so that it was an obvious choice for me to use,” Raya said with a haughty tone that made him want to laugh.
“So you’re not a Bast devotee yourself?” Dean asked, trying desperately to make conversation with this demon so that she’d let him keep his mind. He had to keep Sam safe, he hoped that his brother wouldn’t be home when they showed up. He worked on getting his jeans and boots on as well as he could with the cuffs still holding his wrists.
Raya laughed suddenly, her head tipping back as her mouth opened wide. The laughter sounded forced and unnatural to his ears, demons forgot how to sound human once they’d been down below for a while. “No, I am a devotee of ending the reign of demons in the world. But I will use power where I find it, even if Bast or any other deity is involved.”
“Well I second that emotion, sister,” Dean said. “Can you undo these so I can get dressed the rest of the way?”
“You do know that if you try anything, I will—“ Raya said, waving her hands over the inscriptions on the chains and cuffs.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, you’ll come after me, kill me or whatever, as long as you’re on the up and up with closing the Gates and leaving me and Sam alone, I’m on board.”
The chains clinked to the floor and before Dean could even pass his hands over the blistered skin on his wrists a loud crash sounded just outside the archway. Raya jumped in surprise and dashed across the room. Sam entered the temple, his chest heaving as he raised what looked like part of a stone altar over his head, he threw it at Raya as she approached. How the hell was Sam doing that? The thing must have weighed a thousand pounds!
Raya easily blocked it with her power before it could quite hit her, the thing exploded into a cloud of granite powder and shards. With a blast of her remaining power she slammed Sam up against the side of the Bast statue.
“Heya, Sammy,” Dean said, quickly pulling on the rest of his clothes, “Meet Raya, she wants to close the Gates to Hell. Did you put the steaks in the freezer?”
Sam’s eyes widened at him from around the statue, and his face contorted in one of his epic bitch-faces. Oh god, Dean had missed those. But Sam didn’t speak, or move again, and a look of intense pain flickered over his face. Dean looked over to see Raya with her hand outstretched towards Sam, she had just begun to clench it into a tight fist.
“Hey, Raya, you just promised me a second ago that no harm would come to him, remember?” Dean called, moving closer to where Sam was pinned to the statue.
“That was before he threw my own altar at my head,” Raya said, picking shards of granite out of her hair.
“He’s really sorry, I promise. He just had to do the He-Man routine so we can keep track of who saved who this time,” Dean said, “can you let him catch a breath and talk at least?”
Raya glowered at Dean but released her clenched fist and flicked her fingers in Sam’s direction. Dean’s relief at hearing Sam’s loud inhale of breath was everything at that moment.
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas—“ Sam began speaking the demon exorcism the very moment he was done taking in that first breath.
Raya flicked her fingers at him again and Sam’s voice cut off abruptly. She raised her hand above her head and he slid up the wall of the temple until he was twenty feet above them, plastered to one of the corners of the ornate ceiling. Dean saw Sam’s chest was still moving, so at least he knew he was breathing.
“Hey, like I said, he had to try, you gotta give him that,” Dean said with a shrug. He was trying his hardest to seem nonchalant about the fact that she was hurting his brother, but the rage building inside of him was getting hard to hold back.
Raya laughed that horrible almost-human laugh again, but Sam remained on the ceiling, bitch-face now replaced with a mask of pain. “You think I don’t know how much this hurts you, Dean? Seeing him in pain, knowing he’s about to die?” she asked with a sneer.
“You’re hurting him, Raya, c’mon let him down, so we can go back to the bunker and I’ll get you what I promised you,” Dean said, readying himself to tackle her if she didn’t let his brother down right the fuck now.
Sam slid up along the arc of the ceiling slowly, inch by horrifying inch until he was in the center of the temple at the very peak of the high ceiling.
“I could drop him here, to the marble floor and he would be so much pomegranate jelly. Or I could leave him up there to starve. Which would you prefer to see?” Raya asked, her eyes clicking back to black, her face gone an unsettling blank.
Dean felt all the rage he’d been trying to hold back crash over him and he launched himself at her with a savage growl, knocking her to the floor. He had his hands around her neck, watching her face go red as she struggled under him, having to project her power to hold Sam on the ceiling had left her vulnerable. She managed to get one hand free and flicked Dean to the side of the temple. Dean crashed into the statue and blinked his eyes until the blurriness cleared. He watched as Raya struggled to her feet, grinning at him with her demon black eyes flashing with the promise of immense pain.
Just as it seemed she was about to end both of them, Sam was—Sam was there, floating down through the air from the height of the temple ceiling. There was a visible wave of power blasting out from him, it was pinning Raya to one spot on the floor where she barely managed to remain standing. Dean couldn’t process what he was seeing, how the hell was Sam doing that floating thing? Was Raya making him see things again?
Raya’s eyes widened with surprise and she managed a low bow against the pressure of Sam’s power, “Your majesty.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Raya?” Sam asked as he helped Dean up, running his hands over Dean’s body in their familiar quick check pattern.
“We never gave up the hope that you would return to us, the Boy King’s reign has long been foretold and you’ve never been needed more. Hell will gladly welcome your rule,” Raya said, still holding her bowing position.
“Not this shit again,” Dean said. “C’mon, Sammy, just—wouldja tell her already.”
Sam’s eyes flashed yellow for a moment and the power he’d been projecting towards Raya seemed to fold back inside him, it made Sam feel even larger and stronger than usual against Dean’s side. Dean leaned into Sam even harder, hoping the press of their bodies together would snap Sam out of whatever the hell this was. He made a resolution to never think about the yellow in Sam’s eyes unless absolutely necessary.
“I am no one’s king, Raya, and you are not to call me that ever again,” Sam said. “So, I guess that was you last month trying to get into the bunker past our wards.”
“Yes, my ki—Sam, it was me. I just need the Trials,” Raya answered.
“And you’ll have them, if you behave,” Sam said.
“Yes, of course, I will,” Raya promised.
“Good, let’s go then,” Sam said.
Dean relaxed against Sam as his brother’s voice seemed to lose that edge of extra power. Sam’s arm came around his shoulders, holding him close in a half hug that Dean’s body responded to with such a wave of need it made Dean almost gasp out loud.
“You okay, Dean?” Sam asked quietly, lips brushing the side of Dean’s temple.
Sam’s voice was a trigger, suddenly Dean could feel each place they touched in this burning wave of—shit, what was this? He couldn’t begin to tell himself what it was, all he could feel was a powerful wave of need and emotion and want and Sammy and mine.
“Me too, Dean,” Sam said quietly, his lips still moving against Dean’s temple, as if he was responding to something Dean had said out loud.
Dean turned in Sam’s hold to look up at his brother, not sure what or who he would see, was it still his Sam or someone or something else now?
“It’s still me, Dean, don’t worry okay? We’ll talk about it after,” Sam said, nodding his head towards Raya.
Dean silently agreed with a small nod of his own. His thoughts cascaded over him though, what the hell was going on with his brother? He wouldn’t let himself go down the path of questioning his own body’s response to it either, because—nope, not going there.
“Are we leaving soon?” Raya asked. She stood in the archway with her arms folded, obviously trying her best to regain her composure from her earlier outbursts.
Dean shrugged into his flannel and stalked past her, somehow knowing Sam would have his back and make sure she didn’t try anything else. So his brother was that juiced-up and powerful again, sure it was good timing, but what did it even mean? How and where had he gotten enough demon blood though? Or had he gotten there another way this time? He wished they had a second alone to talk about all that, but Raya was there and Dean wanted more than anything to just leave her there in the dust for what she’d just threatened to do to Sam. And for taking his own mind over too, but he’d promised her. And he wasn’t a demon anymore, so that meant he kept his promises. There had to be something separating him from them.
The three of them walked down the short gravel driveway from the temple and there was his Baby waiting for them gleaming under the evening sky. He turned just as Sam tossed him the keys over Raya’s head and grinned, pleased that Sam wasn’t questioning whether he was okay to drive or not. Sam roughly shoved Raya into the back seat and climbed into his spot on the passenger side. Dean started up the car and was happy to hear that familiar roar and rumble beneath him. It soothed everything that had gone jagged inside of him, from Raya pawing through his memories, or his response to whatever it was Sam had just done. He was back inside his girl, and she was going to take them home.
The Impala seemed to settle herself as they crunched down the gravel road back to the highway that would lead them towards home. Dean didn’t have to decide which way to turn. Baby made that decision, guiding her own wheels in the direction she knew they needed to go.
“So, Raya knows Bela, Meg and Abaddon,” Dean said, breaking the silence in the car, because it seemed to be weighing his baby down, holding them back from getting home. It was almost like she knew they needed to talk about the hard stuff before they got out of her safe cocoon. Maybe she did?
Sam didn’t say anything, just turned slowly in his seat to stare at their passenger in the back. Dean could hear the click of her throat when she nervously swallowed.
“I haven’t been a demon for very long, not compared to most. I was one of the newer ones, and at first we were kept in these cells, my sister, Sakina and I, at least we were together. Then Crowley came, and everything changed,” Raya said in a rush, as if she was putting the words up as a shield against Sam’s stare.
“Let me guess, I bet he had you standing there with all the other idiots in those waiting lines, or what was it he called them? Oh yeah, queues?” Dean asked, laughing at the memory of Crowley telling him how he’d reformed Hell the very second he’d taken it over.
“Yes, the queues, my sister and I stood in those lines for what seemed like several lifetimes. We weren’t having fun of course, but at least we were still together then, surviving together. That was pretty much how our human lives were.”
“Hell isn’t supposed to be fun,” Sam said with a dark menace behind his words. “Both you and your sister were sent down there for a reason.”
“I know that, believe me,” Raya said, with an unspoken ‘your majesty’ left in the air between them.
Dean shifted uncomfortably in the driver’s seat, hearing the ring of power spin up again in his brother’s voice was unnerving in the dark as they sped towards home. “We’re almost home, Sammy,” he said, hoping that it would tamp down that dark power he was hearing more and more clearly in his brother’s voice.
Sam didn’t answer verbally, but one of his giant hands landed on Dean’s shoulder. The contact with his brother sparked that full-body reaction once again, and Dean regretted for a moment that he was the one driving, he wanted to just fall face first into it and wallow in the pleasure sparking through his body just from Sam’s hand on his shoulder. He took a deep breath, tightened his hands around his baby’s steering wheel and shrugged Sam’s hand off. He attempted a growl but it came out as a strained laugh. Sam still didn’t speak but Dean could feel his brother’s eyes tracking him, searching the side of his face for what? What was his brother looking for?
“Poor you, you stood in line in Hell’s eternal waiting room, then what?” Sam asked without taking his eyes off of Dean’s face.
Raya answered slowly, like she had to go into a bad dream or memory to pull up the words to describe it. “Then everything changed back again, to how it had been before. That was when the real torture began. You may have killed Alastair, Sam, but there were many others ready to take his place.”
“Abaddon or Meg?” Sam asked.
“Bela, actually, and many others I never knew, we all took turns, that was how I heard about you two. Abaddon especially, she was convinced that if you’d closed the Gates then we would have all…”
“Would have what?” Dean asked.
“We would have all been taken into Heaven, the souls powering Hell would have been absorbed into Heaven. And maybe our torment would have finally come to an end.”
“That is not how it works, not when it is in balance,” Sam said with an unusual darkness permeating his words.
“I thought that demons died for good when they flamed out here,” Dean interrupted abruptly, trying to change the subject. Sam’s dark tone was scaring him.
“They—I mean, we can’t ever really die permanently, that isn’t a decision that’s left up to your human actions here on this plane of existence. It’s all up to whoever rules Hell, or I guess Heaven. Maybe God himself, who really knows? It’s all about the souls since we demons started out as humans.”
“You know who told me that it was all about the souls, one time? Death,” Dean said.
Sam tilted his head as if trying to place when that conversation had taken place. “So, Raya you’re telling us that even when we think we’ve killed a demon here, they’re not really gone for good?” Sam asked.
“No, they’re not, it reduces them to their essence, a very small part of them. What’s left of their souls ends up back down in Hell, but they’re not much more than that, they’re just a smidgen of what they started out as, but still that spark of a human soul persists. There’s a place there, way down deep I was told, that they stay until such time as they are reconstituted by the ruler of Hell,” Raya said.
Sam and Dean looked at each other then, their eyes wide with surprise at what that could mean. All those demons they’d thought were gone for good, Alastair, Azazel, Abaddon, Ruby, Meg, weren’t really erased forever. The lights from the Impala’s dashboard lit them up with highlights that caught yellow in Sam’s, which made Dean let out an involuntary gasp.
“What is it?” Sam asked in a whisper.
“Nothin’,” Dean said, pulling into the driveway that led to the bunker’s garage. He tried to calm his pulse, it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest with panic, it was the stuff of nightmares seeing his brother’s eyes go yellow like that.