Epilogue: Six Impossible Things
I expect this letter will reach you too late, and for that I am sorry. But this is the only mailing address I have for you and I can only pray you find this while there is still time for what I have seen to help you.
In case you do find this in time, DO NOT LET SAM RETURN TO THAT CONVENT. You will lose him if he does.
I don’t know everything that is happening, Dean, but I know we’re in the end times and your family stands in the center of the storm. You know that most of my business as a psychic is fake, but I think you also know that my abilities are real. Most people don’t want the truth from a psychic. They only want comfort. You need to know the truth and that’s what I’m telling you here.
What I’ve seen isn’t very specific – don’t you roll your eyes at me, boy. Vague is better than nothing, and if you use the sense God gave you this will mean more to you than it does to me.
I see many allies around you and you need them. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends: that’s what friends are for. But be careful. One may not be the friend you think. There's some dark secret in that one’s heart and I can’t see where it’ll take you both.
Another has been an
enemyadversary and will always struggle with divided loyalties. If you understand that conflict, that one is a true friend you can trust with your life.
You have other friends you have forgotten, but your paths will cross again before winter comes. Don’t be too eager to call in the debt they owe you. They don’t belong on your road.
Someone who is no friend to you will ask your help. You should give it, though you won’t want to. The reward for taking that risk is knowledge you can use.
Trust your father, Dean. He kept the truth from you, I know, but that gives you choices you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Above all, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR BROTHER. No matter how impossible it seems, there is hope. It’s up to you to find the way, but you won’t be alone.
One last thing: I am leaving Lawrence tomorrow so don’t come looking for me asking questions I couldn’t answer anyway. I’ve done what little I can, and trust me, what you’ll find if you come back here will be nothing good.
God be with you.
“It was a trap,” Dean announced.
Jo seemed as shocked as Bobby and Ellen. Dean hadn’t realised she didn’t know. Jo knew something went badly wrong in Ilchester. Did she really think the demons had found them by accident?
It didn’t matter any more. Dean looked at Bobby as he continued, “I’m not sure if it was meant for both of us or just Sam, but…” He swallowed. Unconsciously, his hand went to his stomach, where the healing wounds still hurt.
“Sam’s dead?” Bobby asked, uncharacteristically gentle.
Dean expected that. When he returned without Sam, what else would they think?
“What could be worse?” Bobby blurted, saying what Dean knew they were all thinking, but then he shook his head. “Sorry. Just tell us your way.”
Dean nodded gratefully. “We met Cas back at Ground Zero. I don’t know if he set the trap or – ”
“I didn’t.” Castiel was suddenly there, in the middle of the room.
Jo jerked back in surprise. “Jeez! Did no one ever teach you to knock?”
Dean snarled at Castiel, “Then what the hell happened?”
It might have gone better if Castiel started with an apology or some sign of understanding. He didn’t. “I warned you they were watching me, Dean. I believed Ilchester would be a safe place to meet. I was mistaken.”
“Mistaken?” Dean repeated. “Cas, a mistake is putting salt in your coffee. Leading the Devil right to us is not a mistake!” Surely even the angel could tell he was about to explode.
“Dean,” Ellen interrupted. “What happened to Sam?”
Dean flinched at the direct question. He turned to Ellen, but she looked too worried for him to snap at her.
“We were, uh, ambushed by a couple of demons. I’m not sure what happened to Cas…” Dean looked at Castiel. He looked exactly as he usually did: a bit scruffy to be sure, but there was no evidence he’d been hurt in any demon battle. Unlike Dean, whose stomach wounds still stung every time he moved.
“I was banished,” Castiel said. “Lucifer is, or was, an archangel. He has that power still.”
It was good to have that confirmed. Well, maybe good was the wrong word. Dean had been almost certain, but there was the outside chance it had been some other angel.
Bobby half-rose from his seat. “Lucifer was there?”
“He was,” Castiel answered.
So this was it. Dean knew he had to tell them, but it wasn’t easy to force the words out. It would be even harder to tell them Sam did it for him, to stop the torture. Because what else could Sam’s last words have meant? You’ll let Dean go, forever.
“Lucifer took Sam,” Dean said flatly. He couldn’t explain. Couldn’t say any more. He barely had the strength to think of it.
“Took?” Jo repeated.
Castiel said the words that Dean could not. “He has become Lucifer’s vessel.”
“Well, how do we get him back?” Bobby demanded.
Dean couldn’t bear to hear any more. He knew that wasn’t possible. Sam was gone. He stumbled from the room into the kitchen, leaned over the sink and threw up.
The notion that this odd, scruffy man was one of the most powerful creatures in existence was a little baffling. Jo had grown up among hunters and sometimes, when he was home to tuck her in at night, her daddy told her stories about angels. No one had ever seen them, he said, and maybe they didn’t really exist, but he told her the stories just the same. Jo had put them in the same mental category that most children have for fairies and witches and Santa Claus. But here in front of her, was an angel, and real or not, he was all they had.
She heard Dean vomiting in the kitchen. He ran water, then turned it off. She heard something clatter as Dean knocked it off the kitchen counter, followed by his footsteps as he left the room, heading into the junkyard behind the house.
Castiel started after Dean.
Jo stepped into his path. “Let him go. We need to talk.”
“I am here for Dean. Not for you.” Castiel turned his gaze to her and Jo felt herself quail inside, but she stood her ground.
“Is Dean really the only one who can stop Lucifer?” Jo demanded, forcing herself to meet those blue eyes.
“I believe he is.”
“Then you’d better listen to me.”
Dean would not kill Lucifer now. Not if it meant killing the brother he loved so much he’d gone to Hell to save him. Dean would let the rest of the world burn to keep Sam alive. Somehow, Jo thought, Lucifer had known that. Why else had he chosen Sam?
What terrified her was the possibility that Dean might go further than simply refusing to fight. If it came down to it, might Dean try to stop anyone else from killing Lucifer?
That couldn’t be allowed. This was Armageddon. Someone had to stop it.
In an unexpected moment of clarity, several things the brothers had told her over the years came together in Jo’s mind. For an instant, she saw the big picture. She gasped aloud. She knew what to do.
Castiel moved and Jo was sure he would push past her in pursuit of Dean and her chance would be lost. But then Castiel nodded gravely.
“Say what you must,” he agreed and stepped back.
Jo could feel everyone’s eyes on her and she hated it. She didn’t like the attention any more. She sought out her mom’s face, feeling panic rising, but her mom’s look was supportive and she drew strength from that. Bobby, too, was family. She could do this.
“Dean was right,” Jo said, her voice shaking a little. “He’s not the man you need to take Lucifer on.”
“Jo, that ain’t fair,” Bobby objected. “He needs some time…”
Castiel said, “He is the only man who can. It is destiny.”
Jo interrupted, “He’s not strong enough. We all know it. But we also know it’s in him. Hunters talk, Bobby. The Winchesters are a goddamn legend. If anyone can win this battle, it’s them. But not with Dean like this.”
Bobby nodded. “Okay.”
Jo turned to Castiel. “Dean told me you brought him out of Hell. Is that true?”
“Good. Because I know who can help Dean find the strength he needs.”
“I cannot save Sam,” Castiel said.
The sorrow in his voice seemed genuine, and that made Jo feel a bit better. Castiel did care.
“Not Sam,” she said.
Ellen and Bobby got it in the same moment. She saw them exchange a look, Ellen shocked, Bobby thoughtful.
“Jo, no. You can’t mean…” Ellen began.
“Ellen, she’s right,” Bobby said. His mouth twisted in disgust. “I hate to say it, and it’s more trouble than I want to deal with, but she’s right.”
Some of the tension twisting Jo’s stomach eased at Bobby’s support. “He knew, didn’t he?” she asked Bobby. “He knew this was going to happen to Sam. That’s why he…”
Bobby nodded. “Always did have more guts than sense.”
“Who are you talking about?” Castiel asked.
Jo didn’t answer directly. She wanted to be sure. “How far are you willing to go for Dean?” she asked.
The angel regarded her for a long moment. “It is not a question of willing, but what I am able to do,” he said finally. “I pledged my loyalty to Dean above all else, except God. If it is within my power, and Dean asks me, I will do it. But in giving Dean my vow I have cut myself off from Heaven.” He took a step toward her, looking into her eyes. “I can no longer walk through Hell, Jo Harvelle. Do not ask that of me.”
Jo swallowed. “I don’t think you’ll have to. But Dean won’t ask. Not for this. It’s too important. You’ve got to trust me. Us. Dean needs someone he can trust completely. We’d all like to think that’s us, but we’re not his family.”
“Then tell me who,” Castiel said simply.
Jo met Bobby’s eyes. He nodded. She looked at her mom. Ellen did not look happy, but eventually she nodded, too.
Jo took a deep breath, and spoke the name. “John Winchester.”
~ End of When the World is Burning ~