Yes, I Do Believe in Miracles (unabridged)This is a featured page

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Chapter 1
Sam sat slumped in a chair at one of the library’s large tables, glaring at the whiskey bottle as if to blame it for the rage and despair swirling inside him. Surrounded by the library’s echoing darkness, he silently wished the gloom would take him. “Dean.” He whispered aloud, blinking back more tears. Pouring another glass, he shook his head slowly in stunned disbelief. He forced the whiskey down, grimacing against the burning as it mingled with the pain already flaying his insides. Hours passed as he sat, drinking alone and not caring anymore, about anything. He’d summoned Crowley hours ago, but he never showed. Is that even possible? Doesn’t he have to show up? He dozed in and out of consciousness, with Dean’s voice alive in his head “Sammy, this isn’t about your clown thing, is it?”…“Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cake hole.”…“Everybody knows Batman can’t fly.” Dean’s mutilated face in Sam’s bloody hands “Sam, it’s okay. I’m here. I’m here. I’m not gonna leave you.”

“Dean!” Sam started awake at his own voice and looked for Dean’s face. But Dean wasn’t there. He’s gone.

Sam looked down at the empty whiskey bottle lying on its side, and the second bottle or maybe third – what’s the difference, which was already half empty. He poured himself another drink, downed it and slipped back into unconsciousness. Kevin, run! Run NOW! Sam felt his hand on Kevin’s head as unbelievable heat radiated through him and Kevin’s eyes erupted into fire. He trusted us. He trusted ME. Kevin, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Sam’s head swam, mercilessly throttling him from one memory to the next. “Don’t you dare think there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you. It’s never been like that. I need you to see that. I’m begging you.”
Sam heard his own voice “No, Dean. I wouldn’t. Same circumstances, I wouldn’t.” Dean’s last words echoed inside Sam’s head. “I’m proud of us.” Sam jolted himself awake again. Annoyed, he reached for the bottle, longing for unconsciousness.

“Sammy?” The voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It was barely above a whisper.

Sam blinked, squinting into the cavernous darkness of the library. Dean? But it can’t be Dean. Dean’s gone. Dead.

“Sammy.” Soft voice, so familiar. Can’t be Dean.

Sam turned around slowly and glimpsed a shadow standing in the doorway of the library, silhouetted by the dim emergency light from the next room. It can’t be

“Dean?” Sam was already on his feet, albeit unsteadily and using the library table for support as he turned toward the voice and the figure in the doorway.

“It’s me, Sam.” Dean took a step toward him, his face still in shadow.

Sam stepped toward Dean, nearly falling as he moved away from the table toward his brother. Dean reached out, catching Sam by the shoulders to steady him on his feet. “Whoa. Gotcha.” Sam was wobbly, but tried desperately to focus on this face, on this voice. Can’t be Dean…

“Dean? You’re alive? How…?”

“We need to talk, Sam.” Confident that Sam was no longer going to teeter onto the floor, Dean stepped back from Sam and walked to the table, reaching over to switch on one of the small table lamps. The soft glow illuminated Dean’s face as he pulled out a chair and sat down. He looked up into Sam’s eyes, but said nothing more. Still in disbelief and on wobbly legs, Sam made his way to the table and sat down across from his brother. Although focusing was difficult, Sam studied Dean’s face, looking for familiarity.

“Dean? I…”

“Sam, move away from him!” Castiel’s stern warning startled Sam from across the room.

“Cas? Wha…?” Sam was stunned by the sudden presence of his friend and even more alarmed by his warning.

NOW, Sam!” Castiel moved swiftly toward Sam. Dean watched Castiel’s approach, but sat unmoving. Sam tried to stand and back away quickly as Cas had warned, but his wobbly legs and foggy head both refused to cooperate. Dean regarded Sam and Castiel intently without moving or speaking.

“Cas? What’re you doing here?” Sam asked, as Castiel helped him to his feet and pulled him away from the table.

Castiel spoke to Sam, but never took his eyes off Dean. “Metatron is imprisoned and defeated, but he told me Dean was dead. I thought he was lying, so I came to see for myself.” As usual, Castiel’s voice betrayed little emotion.

Sam’s confused stare ricocheted between Dean and Castiel. Castiel remained focused on Dean, whose stoic face betrayed no emotion as he met Castiel’s gaze.

“That’s not your brother, Sam.” Castiel said flatly.

Now Sam’s confusion was directed momentarily only to Castiel. “Cas, what’re you talking about?”

Castiel remained next to Sam, eyeing Dean intently. Dean sat unmoving on the other side of the table. He finally looked at Sam.

“He’s not lyin’, Sam.” Dean’s look became pained as he saw Sam’s reaction to his words. “Remember when you told me that the Mark was doing something to me? Well, you were right. And when I said the Mark was making me into something I didn’t want to be? Well…that was right, too.” Dean looked down at the table, ashamed and no longer able to meet his brother’s eyes.

“Dean, I don’t…?” Sam moved as if to step toward Dean, but Castiel grabbed him by the arm. “No, Sam.” He said quietly.

Sam looked sharply at Castiel, then back at his brother, who was still looking down at the table. Dean spoke softly, his gaze never leaving the table. “It’s ok, Cas. I won’t hurt Sam. I don’t wanna hurt anybody.”

Sam looked imploringly at Dean. “Dean, tell me what’s going on.”

Dean slowly looked up from the table. His normally green eyes were solid black and unblinking.

As if by reflex, Sam ripped the demon-killing knife from his waistband. “You let him go, right now!” Sam pointed the knife threateningly at the demon seated where his brother should be.

“It’s ok, Sam.” Dean said calmly, behind black eyes.

“I said LET HIM GO, or I swear to god…” Sam could barely control the rage in his voice.

“Sammy, listen to me.” Dean’s voice was pleading, but surprisingly calm. He rose slowly and started walking towards Sam, his black eyes were impossible to decipher. “I’m not possessed. This is me.” Castiel moved in front of Sam to intercept the slowly advancing demon.

“LIAR!” Sam shouted – still pointing his knife at the demon. He glared into the demon’s black eyes, but it was like looking into a dark pit.

“I’m not lying to you, Sam. Not this time.” Dean used his left hand to slowly pull down his collar, showing Sam his anti-possession tattoo, which was still visible.

Confused, Sam lowered the knife slowly. Castiel remained slightly in front of Sam, regarding the demon with skepticism.

Sam’s voice was softer now, almost pleading. “Dean, what the hell happened?”

Dean looked at the floor momentarily and sat down. When he looked back up at Sam, his eyes were green again. “It was the Mark, Sam. It did this to me. You were right. There was a price for taking on the Mark and the Blade, and this is it.”

Sam placed the knife clumsily on the table, unable to remove his gaze from Dean. Adrenaline rush now over, his legs felt wobbly again and he needed to sit down. Castiel helped him into a chair, but stood next to him, still not believing what the demon was saying. Of course, Castiel had noticed immediately that Dean wasn’t Dean, but normally when he looked at a demon, he could see the face of the possessed human and the demon’s face underneath. This demon before him had only one face, and it clearly was not Dean Winchester’s face. Castiel listened to the demon’s explanation, wanting to remain skeptical, but also wanting to believe the demon because it could somehow still be Dean.

Sam sat in stunned silence, but Castiel wanted to know more. “When did this…? How long have you been pretending to be Dean Winchester?”

Dean looked up from the table, but seemed ashamed to look his best friend in the eye. “I wasn’t pretending, Cas. Metatron killed me. Then I was somewhere else for a while, a little foggy on that, actually…then I woke up and I was this.” He gestured with his open palms against his chest.

Castiel continued. “Demons lie. Why shouldn’t we kill you right now?”

“Cas?!” Castiel’s question shook Sam out of his fog, but Castiel held up a hand to silence him.

Dean replied without pausing, as if he’d expected the question. “I guess there’s nothin’ stopping you from trying, but I don’t think you can.” Dean continued. “Had a little chat with Crowley.” Sam and Castiel both looked startled. “Take it easy. He’s gone now. But according to him, the freaking First Blade is the only thing that can kill me now, and since I’m still the only one who can use it, that sorta’ means I’m the only one who can kill me.” Dean stated this more matter-of-factly than should have been possible.

Sam’s head was spinning – partly from the booze, but mostly from the fact that his world was rapidly imploding. He struggled to reason his way through this new information.

“Wait a minute. I summoned Crowley, so why didn’t he come talk to me?”

Dean looked at Sam with compassion and sadness in his eyes. “I know you did, Sammy. You were gonna make a deal, weren’t you? After all that’s happened to us? After everything you said to me? You were gonna make another deal to get me back.” Dean’s tone was soft, but his words cut deep just the same. “Crowley did come when you summoned him, but you were passed out. Good thing you were – stopped you from doin’ something stupid. So we talked; and he left.”

Now it was Sam’s turn to look ashamed. Of course he knew Dean was right, but just a few hours ago, summoning Crowley seemed like the only thing to do. Sam wasn’t planning to sell his soul, but truth told, he wasn’t exactly sure what he would have been prepared to do. Crowley put that Mark on Dean’s arm; he put the First Blade in Dean’s hand; and he put Dean in front of Metatron. Dean’s death was Crowley’s fault, period. In Sam’s heart, he’d wanted his brother back more than anything, but he also wanted some payback. He would have skinned Crowley alive to force him to bring Dean back, and partly just for the satisfaction of doing it.

Dean spoke gently. “Listen, Sammy. We don’t have to do this right now. You haven’t slept in days. You’re exhausted, and you’re drunk. Let’s do this later, huh – after you get some shut-eye?” It was more of a command than a question and sounded more like the Dean that Sam was used to. The Dean he’d grown up with, who’d always looked after him. The Dean he loved, even though neither of them ever said it aloud. But then he reminded himself that this wasn’t Dean at all -- just a demon pretending to be his brother. His heart ached with that realization. Dean’s gone now, or trapped inside his own body somehow.

Sam looked into the demon’s eyes, which were still green, for some sign of deception, but the eyes looked sincere. They looked like Dean’s, but Sam knew better. “Uh, uh. No way. If you think I’m letting you out of my sight…”

Castiel interrupted Sam. “It’s okay, Sam. I’ll watch him. Dea…uh, the demon is right. You should rest.” Castiel looked at the figure sitting at the library table and addressed it dispassionately. “And the two of us have much to discuss.”

Sam moved unsteadily toward the doorway, but hesitated and turned to Dean. “Wait a minute. What about you?
Except for being, uh, dead, you haven’t gotten any more rest than me.”

Dean’s response was succinct and without expression. “I’m pretty sure I don’t sleep anymore.”


Chapter 2
Sam slept fitfully for a few hours before waking with a barn-burner of a hangover. He sat on the edge of his bed, trying to wake up. He’d had nothing but nightmares while he slept. Resting his head in his hands, he tried in vain to shake them off. He saw himself cradling Dean’s bloody face in his hands “I’m proud of us.” Please don’t go, Dean. Please! Metatron stabbing Dean with an angel blade. Nooo! His own voice, and his own words “No, Dean. I wouldn’t. Same circumstances, I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t….” Liar.

As Sam opened his bedroom door and headed down the hallway toward the bunker’s kitchen, he was greeted by the aroma of coffee brewing and the sound of Dean and Castiel’s voices echoing from the kitchen as they talked. For a second, he was comforted by the familiarity of it all. Then he remembered what had really happened and it hit him all over again like a punch to the gut.

He entered the kitchen and saw Castiel seated at the large table, hands folded in front of him. Dean had showered and changed out of his bloody clothes from the night before. He fussed over a pan of scrambled eggs and Sam could smell toast. Dean looked up at Sam as he entered.

“Hey. You still look like crap.” He smiled slightly, which Sam found surprisingly comforting.

“That’s good. At least it’s not a secret, then.” Sam smiled back, as much as he could muster.

“Sit down and drink your buffalo milk.” There was a glass on the table, placed carefully where Sam normally sat. Dean’s famous hangover cure-all. Sam smiled as he sat down, took the glass, and started drinking. He never liked the taste of the stuff, but Dean was right that it always worked and Sam was always hungry soon after drinking it. Sam thought to himself that Dean must have remembered that, too.

Dean slid the small plate of toast and eggs in front of Sam and poured him a cup of coffee. Sam noticed he was the only one eating. Of course angels don’t eat, but what about…?

“You’re not eating?” He asked Dean.

“Nah.” Dean busied himself cleaning up the cooking area. Sam finished his buffalo milk and started nursing the coffee. He’d take a little time to work up to the food. “So, you still kill crazy, or what?” It came out harsher than Sam had meant, but he realized that too late to take it back.

Dean shook his head slightly, drying his hands with a kitchen towel. “No. no more than usual, I guess.”

Sam looked almost sheepishly at his brother. “So what does it feel like?”

Dean sat down across from Sam, considering his words carefully. “Strange. I mean, I can sense things…like I could tell when you woke up, ‘cause you felt different than when you were sleeping. I could tell you were having nightmares while you slept...” Dean hesitated, almost embarrassed. “And I can sense how you feel right now.”
Sam looked away, as if hiding his eyes from his brother could hide his feelings.

“No, it won’t.” Dean said softly, catching Sam’s eyes and smiling slightly to try to make Sam feel less uncomfortable.

“So, what…you?...” Sam asked “You can read my mind or something?”

“Not exactly”, Dean continued. “I can’t tell what you’re thinking, but I can sense how you feel about it. Like I said…strange.” Dean paused, deciding whether to reveal the rest of what he was thinking. “And it feels…wrong. Like...like I’m eavesdropping, but worse. It feels dark, Sam. And I don’t know how not to do it yet, so that’s one more thing to feel like crap about.” Dean rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes, visibly uncomfortable with the discussion.

Sam thought about this for a moment, deciding if he wanted to know more. “What else can you do?” he asked, a little nervously.

Dean nodded, understanding what Sam was trying not to ask. He replied softly. “Well, I haven’t tried to do all that much, you know. I teleported once – just across the room. It gave me a headache, so…I won’t be tryin’ that again any time soon.” Dean chuckled a little and offered a weak smile, hoping to lighten the air.

“What else?” Sam asked. “You don’t feel angry or like you wanna kill somebody anymore.”

“No.” Dean replied softly. “No more shaking, either. I can sense the Blade nearby but I don’t need to have it with me, and I’m not thinking about killing. As far as all that goes, I mostly just feel…calm.”

Dean could feel, or maybe sense Sam getting more tense, conflicted, and afraid. This is too hard for him, Dean thought to himself. “Look, Sammy, this is all coming at you pretty quick, and I…I get it if you want some time to wrap your head around it. So, I’m thinking maybe I should clear out for a little while and give you a chance to…”

WHAT?! Are you crazy? You think I’m gonna let you leave?!” Sam could hardly contain his shock. “Dean, we got no idea exactly what you are or whether you might still hurt somebody. You don’t even know what you’re capable of! There’s no way in hell I’m gonna let you leave.”

Dean remained calm. “Not to be on the nose about it, but if I wanted to leave, you wouldn’t be able to stop me.” He paused. Be careful. Don’t make it worse. “Look, Sam, I don’t wanna fight about this. For what it’s worth, Cas agrees with you. He thinks it’s safer for everybody if I stay here in the bunker. I’m just trying to do the best thing for everybody, so…”

“The best thing is for me to cure you and get my brother back.” Sam shot back.

“It’s not that simple, Sam.” Castiel had been silent until now, but interjected. “If you cure Dean right now and he still has the Mark, he’ll die. The Mark forces him to kill. If he doesn’t, the Mark will kill him.”

Sam took this all in. “Okay. So first we find Cain and get him to take back the Mark.”

“Also not that simple.” Castiel replied. “If Cain takes the Mark back, assuming he’s even willing to do that, Crowley will have a Knight of Hell to deal with. He won’t stand for that.”

“Then we kill Crowley!” Sam retorted, becoming ever more frustrated.

Dean held up a hand to silence Sam. “Hold up, Sam. Cas, what’s the difference? I’m a Knight, too, ain’t I”?

Castiel snorted. “Dean, we have no idea what you are. And even if you are a Knight of Hell, which we can’t know for sure, Crowley perceives you as an ally, making you preferable to Cain, whom Crowley may consider a threat. If Cain decides he wants to take over Hell, it’ll be Abaddon all over again as far as Crowley is concerned. I believe he would do everything in his power to prevent Cain from retrieving the Mark and the Blade.” Castiel paused briefly. “However, as we discussed last night, we must find Cain and convince him to remove the Mark.” Castiel stood up from the table. “I am uniquely qualified to do that. I will be in touch.”

Never a fan of words or debate, with that, Castiel was gone.

Sam turned to Dean. “Okay. How’d he do that? And last night, too? No car?”

Dean nodded in understanding. “I asked him the same thing last night. He says the angels are healing themselves – some faster than others. Eventually, they’ll all have their wings back.”

Sam nodded in reply and looked at his brother. “So, what about you? What’s it gonna be?”

“Well, until we know whether I’m gonna go guano or not, you can keep me on lockdown.” Dean rose to leave. “I’ll be in my room.”

Sam watched Dean leave, listening to his steady footfalls down the hallway toward his room. He resisted the urge to follow him and ask more questions. He wanted to know more, to understand. How can I help if I don’t understand? Doesn’t matter, he thought to himself, I’m gonna cure you, Dean. This time, I won’t let you down. I promise.


Chapter 3
Days passed with little word from Castiel. Dean mostly stayed in his room, venturing out occasionally to check on Sam. Keeping his distance felt better – when Sam was close by it was nearly impossible to avoid “hearing” his thoughts and feelings. The whole thing just made Dean feel even more ashamed and guilty, so he’d just as soon not have to look his brother in the eyes.

Sam passed the time reading everything he could find about Knights of Hell, and reviewing the Men of Letters’ recordings and notes on the demon cleansing ritual. As far as Sam could see, the priest who’d performed the cleansing in 1958 and the possessed man who was cured both survived. That meant that as long as the demon cleansing was not part of the tablet trials, and as long as the trial incantation wasn’t recited, there was no reason to believe Sam and Dean wouldn’t both walk away from this intact. May be wishful thinking, Sam thought to himself, but it’s all we got and this is Dean we’re talking about. This has to work. I have to save him. I can’t let him down again.

In true Castiel fashion, after several days of no communication at all, Cas appeared in the library standing next to Cain. Sam was sitting at a table reading about the ritual, while Dean lounged in a nearby recliner, eyes closed, wearing headphones and listening to Led Zeppelin. They both jumped to their feet when Castiel and Cain appeared.

“Ok, so how does this whole demon warding thing work, anyway?!” Dean spat. “I’m walking around the bunker like I live here, which I guess I do, and you can just ‘pop in’ with one of creation’s most powerful demons in tow. How does that work, exactly?”

Cain showed no response at all to the question, and Castiel seemed only mildly annoyed. “Warding works like a devil’s trap, Dean. It’s only effective if it remains unbroken. Once you invite a demon in, like when you two brought Crowley through your front door as a prisoner, the domicile is no longer warded against that species and thereafter they can enter unhindered. So, the only…”

Sam interrupted. “So, you’re saying right now the bunker’s not warded against demons.”

“That would be correct.” Castiel replied “Unless of course, you replace the warding sigils with new ones, but then your brother would instantly be expelled, so…”

“Not if we cure him first.” Cain interjected. He spoke with authority, but dispassionately, moving toward Dean as he did so. He eyed the hunter with a look that could almost be mistaken for sympathy. “As I said to you when we met, you and I are very much alike, Dean Winchester. Neither of us wants to kill, but we do what we must. I admire your bravery, Dean, but Abaddon was my responsibility – not yours. The Mark is a burden that should never have passed to you. I’m here to make it right.”

Dean seemed confused. “But don’t you…I mean, I promised to…”

Cain replied “I release you from that promise, Dean Winchester. I am here to retrieve my Mark and the First Blade. Then I will take my leave of you. Are you ready?” He awaited a response, but his posture and fierce gaze betrayed nothing resembling patience.

Dean looked to Sam, whose worried look betrayed his feelings, even if Dean couldn’t already read them. Without hesitation, Dean retrieved the Blade from its shelf and lock box and stepped toward Cain. As Sam and Castiel looked on, Dean placed the Blade in Cain’s left hand. A look of calm resignation, barely perceptible, crossed Cain’s face as he looked down at the Blade. The two men stepped closer, each locking his right hand on the other’s forearm. Suddenly, the Mark on Dean’s arm glowed red hot. He grimaced and sank to his knees, but didn’t release his grip. The glow spread down Dean’s arm toward Cain’s, eventually enveloping his arm, too. After a moment, both men released their grips and the Mark on Dean’s arm was gone.

Cain stepped back, with the Blade still in his left hand. He looked down at the Blade and smiled knowingly, then he looked up to scan the stunned faces in the room. “I take my leave of you now. Do not try to find me again. You will not like what you behold.” Before anyone could respond, he was gone.

Sam rushed to Dean, who was back on his feet but seemed stunned. Sam put his arm around his brother to steady him. “Dean, you okay?”

Dean looked up at him. “Yeah, I think so.”

Sam smiled at him. “Good. We’ve got work to do.”
_______________________________________________

Sam used the bunker’s small chapel to say his confession and prepare for the ritual, while Castiel waited outside the door with Dean. Neither spoke. When Sam opened the door, they entered and saw a chair for Dean near the altar, and a small table that held the ritual syringes, wrapped in their leather covering. Dean sat in the chair and looked up at Sam, who walked over to him. Castiel sat in a nearby pew, watching the brothers cautiously.

“Dean, before we do this, I need to say something to you. It’s gonna make you uncomfortable, but…I don’t care.” Dean squirmed slightly in his chair, but made no effort to stop Sam. Sam continued. “Dean…I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Dean asked.

“For what I said…about not being brothers. Of course we’re brothers, Dean. Nothing can ever…I should never have said…what I said. And I’m sorry I took so long to understand why you did what you did. I get it now. And you were right. If it was reversed, I would have done the same thing. But you knew that all along, didn’t you?”
Dean watched his brother calmly, but didn’t speak, so Sam continued. “I never wanted to hurt you, Dean. I was just so…pissed… I didn’t think about what I was doing to you. But when you…when you died… it felt like Dad all over again.” Sam paused, choking back tears. “I never got a chance to tell him I was sorry. And I was almost stupid enough to make that mistake again. I’m sorry, Dean.”

Dean replied softly. “It’s okay, Sammy. I forgave you a long time ago.” He paused and took a deep breath before continuing “Look, for what it’s worth, I hated lyin’ to you, Sam. Hell, I wanted to tell you right away at the hospital and a hundred times after that – almost came close more than once…”

“I know.” Sam interrupted “Crowley was right. I saw everything through Gadreel’s eyes. I remember everything, Dean.” He thought again about the past few months; all the fighting and anger. Stupid. “Look Dean, we can’t change any of that now or take it back, but what I can do is get my brother back… that’s all that matters now.”

Sam breathed deeply and wiped away a tear. Dean’s eyes remained locked on his brother as Sam reached over to the table and unfolded the leather fabric that held the syringes. Sam slowly removed the first syringe from its sleeve and withdrew enough blood from a vein in his left forearm to fill it. Then he stepped toward Dean, who closed his eyes as Sam gently tilted his head to the side to administer the first injection.

THE END
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