"We had to zero-dark-thirty his ass," Big Dean explains to Tall Sam after Daddy goes off to take a shower. "It was pretty brutal. Got the intel we needed and exorcised the demon, but the human host died. Dad was pretty spooked."
He takes a big breath, looking up at his brother with big green eyes.
"First time's a bitch, Sammy."
Tall Sam shifts uncomfortably.
"I guess he had to learn somehow," he says softly. "At least you were there."
Dean's lying in the crib with the baby, supposed to be sleeping, but the door is open because otherwise Dean wakes up in the dark and sometimes that causes him to freak out, so Tall Sam insists they leave it open.
Big Dean has his back against the wall, and Tall Sam stands almost pressed against him, head bent and body slightly hunched over so they're breathing each other's air. Big Dean lowers his chin, and now the space between them is almost heart-shaped.
"I found Daniel Elkins," he says quietly.
Tall Sam shifts uncomfortably, pulls back so he can look at his brother's face a moment, shrugs.
"So, I've got the colt. You remember? The gun that kills -- "
"Yeah, so?" Tall Sam interrupts querulously.
"So I'm saying we kill Azazel now. In this timeline. We hunt him down while we can. Now."
Tall Sam shakes his head.
"Dean, that's insane," he says irritably.
"It's not insane, it's smart," Big Dean insists. "We know what he was doing this past year. We know which kids he was feeding his special ovaltine to."
"Dean -- " Tall Sam shifts his feet uncomfortably again.
"We follow his trail," Big Dean's on a roll, not gonna be interrupted. "We set a trap for him. We know he wants me dead. Little me. But he doesn't know we're here. Isn't expecting us to come looking for him -- "
"Dean!" Tall Sam barks, puts a hand on Big Dean's shoulder, and Big Dean stops, looks up at him.
"We can't kill Azazel in this timeline," he says, lowering his voice. "If we do, it changes everything. Dad's entire life while we were growing up. Our lives growing up."
Big Dean nods.
"Yeah, what's your point, Sam?"
"My point is -- if we don't grow up the way we did, we don't become who we are. Dad doesn't spend his life on the road chasing down leads, with us in tow. Everything turns out differently."
Big Dean nods again.
"Yeah, I still don't see your point, Sam," he says. "Seems to me if we kill Azazel now, things could be a helluva lot better. These little kids grow up a little more normally. Dad doesn't spend the next twenty-two years drinking and hunting and ending up dead. You wanna tell me the downside of that? Huh? 'Cuz I gotta say, I just don't see it."
Tall Sam sighs, shakes his head, moves away and paces a little so that Big Dean has to turn to keep facing him.
"You can't save him," Tall Sam says softly.
"I can try," Big Dean argues. "Maybe I can stop that bastard from making that deal right here, right now. Maybe I can't, but I gotta try, Sam. Hell, he isn't even expecting it to happen for another twenty years. We go after him now, we've got the element of surprise, plus years of knowledge and experience he won't expect us to have. We'd be fools not to take advantage of that."
Tall Sam is silent for a moment, and Dean watches his face, fascinated by the play of emotions that move across it as he's thinking about what Big Dean's saying. He can't see Big Dean's now, but he can imagine the stubborn set of his jaw, the determined, half-crazed look in his big green eyes.
"Sam, listen to me," Big Dean tries another tack, speaks with a low intensity that makes Dean's spine tingle. "If we do this now, we save all those kids and their families. Put a stop to all of it. You hear me, Sam? We kill that son-of-a-bitch now, nobody else has to suffer like we did. It'll be over. For good."
Tall Sam is still turned toward Dean, and Dean can see the minute he surrenders, drops his eyes, squares his jaw and shifts his feet.
"You do realize Dad won't let us go without him," he says slowly, carefully.
Big Dean starts to shake his head in protest but Tall Sam interrupts before he can say anything.
"No, Dean, you know Dad. He's not gonna wanna be left out of this," he says.
Big Dean's still shaking his head.
"He's not ready," he says. "He almost got himself killed this time. He doesn't have the chops yet for this kind of hunt."
"Doesn't matter," Tall Sam insists. "We need to take him. He needs to be a part of this. He's gonna wanna look that bastard in the eye when you pull the trigger. You know that. It's the only way it'll ever be over for him."
Big Dean is silent again for a minute
"And you know, what? He's right. We do this, we do it together."
"Sam -- "
"No, Dean, I mean it," Tall Sam presses. "Here's the plan. We get out there, track that thing down and kill it, then we all drive up to Minnesota, to Pastor Jim's. Leave Dad and the kids there. Then we come back here, find the spell to get us home. That's all. That's how it's gotta be, Dean."
Big Dean doesn't move, and Dean imagines him trying to stare his brother down. But Tall Sam doesn't flinch, his jaw stays set, his eyes hold Big Dean's without blinking. He doesn't back down, and finally it's Big Dean who nods, lowers his eyes, scrubs a hand over his face.
"Okay," he agrees with a small shrug of his broad shoulders. "Okay, Sam. We'll do it your way. We'll leave in the morning."
"Fine," Tall Sam nods.
"But we're not taking the kids," Big Dean says.
Tall Sam considers, then nods. "Right. Obviously. So what do we do with them?"
Big Dean turns, looks into the dark room where Dean and Sam are sleeping, then back at Tall Sam. There's a twinkle in his eye and he's smiling a little.
"I think I have an idea," he says. "Come to bed and I'll tell you."
In the morning Sam wakes up first, pats Dean's head and pulls on his ear to get him to wake up, chanting "Dee Dee Dee" and blowing raspberries against his cheek.
Dean climbs out of the crib, then pulls Sam over the side so they fall in a heap together on the floor, Sam on top, still chanting happily.
"Dee Dee Dee."
It's his first word, and it makes Dean proud, even if it's a little annoying sometimes. He says "Da Da Da" too, whenever Daddy's in the room. In fact, at first he called Dean "Da Da," which was funny, because he said it even when Daddy wasn't around, so Dean knew he meant him. But now he can say "Dee" and it's clear.
He takes a clean diaper out of the bag, tackles his wiggling brother, and manages to change him. He has to sit on him to do it, but Sam tolerates it, doesn't really seem to mind. He wraps the used diaper in a plastic bag and heads out the door to the bathroom. Sam toddles after him, pulls a washcloth off the sink and sits down plop on the floor with the washcloth in his mouth while Dean does his business.
Usually Tall Sam greets him in the hall by this time, but he's half-way to the library before he remembers.
Tall Sam and Big Dean are leaving this morning. Daddy too.
That's when he hears shouting.
"Goddamn it, boys, I said no!" Daddy's yelling at Tall Sam and Big Dean. Dean stops in the entry to the library, stoops to try to stop Sam from toddling ahead of him. "We do this, we do it together, you hear me?"
Tall Sam raises his eyebrows, gives his brother a look that says, "See? I told you so."
Big Dean ignores him.
"Dad, this is a powerful demon we're talking about here," he argues. "It's not something that's easy to kill."
"It's the son-of-a-bitch who killed my wife, damn it," Daddy growls. "I have a right to be the one that kills it."
"Dad -- "
Tall Sam sees Dean and Baby Sam in the doorway, tips his head and raises his eyebrows in warning.
Daddy glances over, sees Dean and Baby Sam, frowns.
"Dean, take your brother into the kitchen and get him something to eat," Daddy orders, and Dean scurries to obey. But he can still hear them.
"Dad, we can't all go," Tall Sam is saying. "The kids -- "
"So we take the kids to that friend of yours in Minnesota. Jim, is it? We leave them there, we do the hunt. Together."
They're silent, considering. Dean wants to cry suddenly. They're talking about leaving him and Sam with a stranger so they can do something that might get them killed, and Dean is just not okay with that. Wants to scream, "No!"
But he doesn't. He helps Sam get into his high chair, gives him some Cheerios, makes himself a bowl with milk and sugar, climbs into his chair to eat.
"There isn't time, Dad," Big Dean's saying. "The trail goes cold after a year, and the year's almost up."
"Why a year? What's it doing?" Daddy asks.
There's another pause, then Dean hears Tall Sam take a deep breath.
"It's going after babies born in 1983," he says. "In twenty-three years, one of them opens the Gates of Hell, lets a shitload of demons out."
"Sam!" Big Dean barks. "Shut the fuck up!"
"What, Dean?" Sam challenges. "You think we can keep that secret? Now that you've decided we're going after Azazel now? You just want Dad to go in blind? Like he did to us all those years ago? Well I'm sorry, but I don't think that was the right way to do it. Not then, not now. If we're all going after Azazel, we all deserve to know everything about him, just like with any other case. No secrets. No misguided attempts to protect each other by withholding information."
"Sam -- "
"No, Dean, let him talk," Daddy interrupts. "He's right. I need to know the whole story. Even if you think it might affect the timeline or whatever. I need to understand what we're up against. I need to know why a demon is going after my infant son, goddamn it. Why it killed my wife."
"Dad -- " Big Dean protests, huffs out a frustrated breath. "Damn it!"
He pauses, gets his bearings, shakes his head.
"Dad," Tall Sam interrupts. "What you need to understand is that Azazel bled his demon blood into me when I was a baby. He -- "
"Sam!" Dean barks. "Enough!"
The silence is palpable, and Dean imagines the three of them, standing in a triangle in the middle of the library, staring at each other with varying expressions of shock and anger and, in Tall Sam's case, stubborn suffering.
"He did what?" Daddy breathes.
"He did it to all the babies," Tall Sam says. "He needs us to open the Gates of Hell for him in twenty-three years. Those of us who survive. One of us will do it."
"Sam, are you saying you -- " Daddy's voice sounds strangled, choked. "Are you the one who does this thing?"
"Not technically, no," Tall Sam sighs. "But I'm there. So's Dean. So are you, actually."
"But we can stop it, Dad," Big Dean chimes in. "It doesn't have to go down that way. If we kill Azazel now, none of it will happen. We stop it, all of it, right here, right now. And I've got the thing that does it."
Dean can hear him pat his jacket pocket.
Daddy sucks in a breath. There's a long pause, and Dean imagines Daddy's face, grim and set, glancing from one to the other of the men, wincing only slightly when he looks at Tall Sam.
"Okay," he says finally. "How do we find the bastard?"
"We need a public library," Tall Sam says.
"And I need to make a phone call to an old friend in South Dakota," Dean adds. "We don't have time to drive all the way to Minnesota, but Sioux Falls is only five hours away. And I know somebody there who can keep these kids safe."
They pack up after breakfast, hit the road with Daddy driving, Tall Sam folded into the back seat with Dean in the middle and Baby Sam in his car seat. It's a bit of a tight squeeze, but Daddy insists that they all stay together, not go in separate cars, so they leave the stolen Toyota Corolla by the side of the road.
When they get to Lincoln, Big Dean takes Daddy to a tattoo parlor so he can get an anti-possession tattoo. He wants to take Dean too, but Daddy nixes that idea. Meanwhile, Tall Sam takes Dean and Sam to the public library, lets them play in the Children's Room while he does his research. When they all meet up again Daddy looks a little pale, and his shoulder has a bandage on it. They've still got some traveling to do, but luckily Baby Sam falls asleep as soon as they hit the road again, so the drive to Omaha and then on to Sioux Falls is fairly quiet.
Bobby Singer's house is messy and full of books and smells funny. He stares at them blankly as they wait on his porch -- three tall hunters with a toddler and a little boy -- and listens to Big Dean explain who they are and where they came from. Then he explains why they're there.
"So let me get this straight," Singer looks from one to the other of them, then down at Dean, winces a little. "You say you're from the future and we're old friends there."
"The oldest," Big Dean nods. "I can barely remember a time before I knew you."
"Mister, you don't look very old -- "
"I'm thirty-five," Big Dean says. "And I can promise you, we go way back."
"Well seein' as how I'm younger than that, I don't see how that's possible," Singer says skeptically.
"Time travel's a bitch," Big Dean shrugs. "I'm older than my own father right now. Figure that one out."
"Yeah, I don't think I want to," Singer's eyes widen as he looks from Big Dean to Daddy and back again. "And you say you've got a lead on whatever's been setting those house fires and killing those families?"
"It's a demon," Tall Sam says. "And yeah, we've got some leads. We're gonna hunt it."
"A demon?" Bobby looks equal parts shocked and skeptical. "Are you sure?"
Big Dean nods.
"As sure as we are that it was a demon that killed your wife, Bobby," he says gently. "And we're also pretty sure you're gonna wanna help us bring this one down."
Bobby stares at them like he's not sure whether to cry or slam the door on them. Maybe both.
But there must be something in Big Dean's face that he trusts, something that makes him believe them despite himself. That and the fact that Baby Sam is blowing raspberries at him, reaching for his cap with chubby, drool-slick fingers, flashing his dimpled smile and chanting "bah bah bah bah" like he knows him.
"Okay, come on in," Bobby accedes reluctantly. "But don't touch anything. I'm in the middle of an important case and I've got all my research just where I want it."
So of course the first thing Baby Sam does is make a mess, cruising around the room as soon as Daddy puts him down, grabbing papers and books and dumping everything on the floor before Tall Sam gets a chance to set up the portable crib and sticks the baby in it with some toys.
By that time Bobby's been properly scolded for not running the usual tests on them to be sure they're not demons themselves, and he's staring at Big Dean and Tall Sam with amazement as they run down the list of monsters and creatures they have first-hand knowledge of.
"You boys need to stay for at least a week," Bobby says when they stop for air for a minute. "I need at least that long to pick your brains on all this crap. Hell, I'm just getting started understanding the supernatural world. You boys have been living your whole lives in it."
"Learned a helluva lot about it from you, old man," Big Dean says. "Growing up, we spent weeks right here, learning from you."
Tall Sam and and Big Dean head into town to the public library to do some more research and pick up some supplies. Bobby feeds the kids macaroni and cheese for dinner while he and Daddy share a bottle of whiskey and exchange hunting stories. When Tall Sam and Big Dean get back they take the bottle away, help Bobby grill some steaks, then Daddy and Tall Sam bathe and put little Sam and Dean to bed.
Daddy explains to Dean that he needs to be a good soldier and man up while Daddy's gone hunting.
"Can you do that for me, Dean?" Daddy asks. "Stay here and look after your brother for me for a few days? I need to know I can count on you."
And Dean nods, says "Yes, sir," and doesn't cry, because he's a man now and Daddy needs him to be a good little soldier and Baby Sam needs him to protect him and keep him safe while Daddy's gone.
He lays awake for a long time, listening to the voices rise and fall, catching bits and pieces of the conversation as he huddles around his baby brother like a human shield, guarding him against the world.
PART EIGHT - BACK TO MASTERPOST