characters: Sam, Dean, Impala, Ellen, Jo, Ash, Bobby, Rufus, Pamela
genre: gen, PG-13
warnings: AU - set roughly parallel to season 2-3
original prompt: Superhero AU
summary: Saving people, fighting crime, the super-family business.
thanks to my lovely betas kazluvsbooks and shippen_stand
“Come on, just put it on,” Dean said, a hint of impatience in his voice.
“I don’t want to put it on.” Sam held the latex mask in his hands, fingers pushing against the strap that held it over his eyes. He could practically hear Dean rolling his eyes, and barely even knew himself why he kept up the old argument.
“Sam — it’s not optional," Dean said. "It’s important. Staying anonymous is part of the whole crime-fighting super gig. You know that.”
Sam glared up at Dean and waved the latex mask with annoyance. “Really? I don’t see you wearing one!”
“Because I have to wear these.” Dean tapped the frame of his dark glasses. They were tinted with a multi-spectrum coating that made his eyes completely invisible. "I mean, what kind of douche wears sunglasses at night?"
But Sam knew Dean didn't have a choice. His eyes were a powerful weapon, and they seemed to get stronger every year. Some supers were immune, but not all of them. Even Sam had felt their pull once before, just a tiny bit, but enough to know what Dean was capable of.
“Put on the damn mask and let’s go, or do you want to stand here arguing all night?” Dean said.
With a defeated sigh, Sam ducked his head down and put on the mask, tying it on tightly. At least they saw eye to eye on the no-spandex thing. Black thermal shirts and pants worked just as well. Sam straightened and rolled his shoulders back. "Okay, so where to?"
"Let's find out," Dean said. He brought his fingers to his lips and whistled sharply as they started walking down the empty alleyway.
The familiar rumble of the Impala's engine grew louder as the big black car turned around the corner and came to a stop a few feet away.
"Hey, baby," Dean said, tracing his hand over the car's hood as he walked to the driver's side. "Did you have a good night?"
The Impala revved her engine in response, as Sam opened the door on the passenger's side and slid into his seat. "Know where we're going?" he asked.
Dean wrapped his hands around the steering wheel and looked at the GPS display along with Sam. “Twenty miles north, huh?" He smirked at Sam. "Told you he wasn't in the city anymore."
Sam scoffed. "Dude, you're the one who suggested the city!"
"There were two kidnappings here over the last three days!"
"There's always kidnappings here, Dean — it's the city!"
The Impala honked, her way of telling them to shut up, and pulled out of the alleyway slowly, avoiding a big pothole.
"Yeah but these last two were supers. It's him, Sammy, I know it is. The same son of a bitch who killed Mom." He swallowed. “Dad died trying to take him out. We owe it to him to finish this.”
Sam chewed on his lip for a minute while they drove through the city. When they pulled out onto the highway, he said. “How, though? How the hell do we take down somebody like Azazel? You’ve heard what they say about him.”
"Yeah, I have. He has an army. He's got barrels of Hellfire and all his cronies are jacked up on the stuff. I know."
"Why does anyone even take that stuff. It hurts like hell going in."
"Yeah, but who doesn't like having superpowers?" Dean said. "Even if they're temporary — a lot of people don't mind trading a little pain for that."
Sam shrugged. "I still don't even get how it works. It's synthetic RNA."
"I don't know either, but whoever designed it, based it on supers like us," Dean said, "At least we can tell who's on it."
"Turning your eyeballs black is one hell of a side-effect. I guess they do kinda look like demons. That's what the papers have started calling them."
Dean smirked at the term. "Demons. They might be full of Hellfire, but underneath that, they're human. They might not even be immune to me. Or you," he added, throwing Sam a look.
"Me?" Sam scoffed. "My powers barely ever work when I need them to. I nearly got us killed twice." His powers hadn't kicked in until he hit twenty-two, and at first they'd felt like a curse. Sometimes they still did. He had pre-cognitive dreams and later visions, both of them followed by skull-splitting headaches. Problem was, his dreams didn't always give him enough information to go on. One time in Memphis, they showed up hours after the crime they were trying to prevent — just in time to see the criminals speeding away. His other powers were even less helpful: Random bursts of telekinesis when he was scared that had done more harm then good — one time flinging Dean into a wall along with the crooks they were after; Super-strength that had only kicked in after he'd seen both Dean and his Dad get shot. He'd pulled them both out of the rubble easily, lifting a broken wall off of them, but then nearly collapsed after dragging them to the car. He shook his head, the memories bringing old shame flaring back to life. "I shouldn't even be doing this!"
"Then why are you?" Dean asked.
Because you're my brother. Because you asked me to, Sam thought. "Because it's the right thing to do."
"Bullshit. You and Dad used to argue all the time about what we do. What'd you say to him the night we tracked down the Soul-traders? Oh right, Just because you have a superiority complex doesn't mean you're morally superior to everyone else. " Dean whistled low. "Yeah, that went over well."
“No, listen — I get it. Even if you were just spouting stuff from your psychology book— I get it. You want to know 'why us?'" Dean tapped his fingertips against the steering wheel.
Sam shrugged. He’d heard it all before.
"We do it because nobody else can, Sam. Nobody wants this job, but we were born into it." He swallowed angrily. "It took Mom from us, and Dad. That's why we're doing this. Because we have to."
They sat in silence for a minute or two, as Sam mulled over what Dean had said. Most of the time, he felt more like an unpaid bounty hunter than anything else. They went after criminals, super-powered or not, and stopped them. The super-villains and demons tended to fight to the death far more often than not. When they survived, Sam and Dean brought them to the Supermax wing of Southern State Penitentiary. Arkham, as Dean liked to call it.
That was main difference between them, Sam thought. Dean enjoyed the superhero ideal. He'd never questioned Dad's orders, because he’d agreed with them. He still did. And no matter how much Sam wished it could be that cut and dry for him too...it wasn't.
They were doing a public service, yeah, but was it really the best use of what they could do? Some of the supers they’d met could do incredible things. Game-changing things.
So could the villains. Yeah — some of the bad guys were evil, plain and simple, but others were just…lost. Sometimes they were trying to make a better life for themselves by taking what wasn’t theirs; sometimes they were fighting back against some slight, real or perceived. That happened most often with newly powered villains. They felt like they’d finally been given the chance to strike back. And they did. But all of them had one thing in common: they weren’t happy with the world the way it was. They wanted to change things. That’s where things started to get muddy for Sam. He didn’t entirely disagree with that idea. When it came right down to it, Sam wanted to make a difference. He didn't want to just put away another criminal or two. He wanted to make the world a better place.
Of course he couldn't explain any of that to Dean without it turning into an argument about Dad. So instead, all Sam said was, “It’s a suicide mission.”
“No, it isn’t. We’re not going after him tonight. This is strictly recon. We find out where he is and what he’s up to, then we head back to the Roadhouse and go from there.”
“The Roadhouse?” Sam raised his eyebrows skeptically. “You seriously think they’re gonna be any help?”
“You think they won’t be? They’re the best chance we’ve got!” Dean said, offended. They’d known Ellen and Jo for a few years now. Jo hadn’t come into her powers yet, but if she took after her mom or her dad, she’d pack a serious wallop. Ellen could bench-press a Mack Truck without breaking a sweat. Plus they had Ash. If anyone could help them figure out how to take down Azazel, they could.
They pulled off three exits later, and the Impala guided them down one road after the other until they got to a stretch of road with nothing but the occasional empty office park, or factory on either side. An old industrial section, fallen into disuse over the last few decades. The Impala shut off the lights and slowed as she pulled them off road, in sight of a long grey building — an abandoned warehouse of some sort.
They'd only taken a few steps towards the building when Sam stopped in his tracks, and tilted his head to the side.
"Spidey-sense kicking in?" Dean asked.
"It's not a Spidey-sense, Dean, it's—" Sam winced and pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes scrunching up in pain.
"Sammy?" From the look of it, his brother was either about to have a vision or something equally unpleasant. It was hard to know with Sam — his powers were still new and always in flux. Most supers got their powers in their late teens or early twenties. Sam had been a late-bloomer and they hadn't kicked in until he was twenty-two, but when they had, they'd nearly torn him apart.
Like his Dad, Dean had one primary power — his eyes, and one secondary: his knack with all things mechanical. But Sam...wasn't so easy to quantify. He'd manifested over a dozen different powers, but didn't have full control over any of them. The most consistent one so far seemed to be his precognitive visions. Unfortunately they also came with migraine-level headaches — bad timing for him to get one here. They'd have to pull back for now before they got themselves caught.
Dean moved to Sam's side, putting his hand on his brother's shoulder.
"It's Andy," Sam said, through gritted teeth.
"He's in trouble. Azazel's got him trapped in there." Sam had met Andy his first year on patrol — back when his only qualification was that he'd had a vision once. Despite Sam's protests, Dad had insisted that going out in the field would help kick start his powers better than anything else. Andy was a telepath, a damn good one too. He could persuade you to do just about anything, and you'd do it with a smile on your face. Andy also had the ability to send images, and what he'd projected to Sam was scary as hell.
Azazel had him in a cage. It was barely tall enough for him to stand in. There were others around him, all of them supers, all of them trapped.
"He's having trouble getting through," Sam said. "The cages Azazel's got them in...they must have built in disruptors or something."
"Them? How many are in there with him?" Dean said, worried. Andy was a good kid. He'd helped Sam accept his gifts more than anyone else had been able to.
"Can't tell. At least a dozen, maybe more?" Sam blinked as his vision came back to normal. "Dean, if they've got this many prisoners..."
"Yeah, I know. Then Azazel's got at least as many of his own in there to guard them." He turned back to the Impala. "Come on, we can make it to the Roadhouse by eleven if we leave now." He took a few more steps, and turned to look over his shoulder when he didn't hear Sam following him.
There was nobody behind him.
"Sam!" he called out in a panic. "Sammy!"
He started running towards the building when the Impala turned on her lights and honked loudly in warning.
There were six people standing in front of him, all of them with solid black eyes — the telltale sign of somebody on Hellfire
Before Dean could move to take off his glasses, someone else grabbed him from behind, pinning his arms together. A voice whispered into his head, self-satisfied and heavy with threat. "Run along, Dean. We'll take good care of Sammy for you."
He could feel the pressure build inside of his brain as the telepath overrode his free will, forcing him to leave. His vision bled yellow, and then faded completely. It wasn't until he was fifty miles away, only a few minutes from the Roadhouse, that he finally came back to himself.
"Take it easy, kid. You did the right thing coming here," Ellen's soft brown eyes were wide with worry as she looked at Dean from across the bar top.
"Baby brought us here. I didn't even know where I was," Dean said, peeking over his shoulder through the window at the Impala. She always parked where she could see him.
"Well then she's a smart car. You can take those off, you know," Ellen added, pointing at his glasses. "Ain't nobody here but us."
Dean had been furious when he’d found himself on the highway — headed away from Sam, away from Azazel, but now his anger had burned out, turned to dread, and settled deep in his stomach. He pulled off his glasses and slipped them into his front jacket pocket. “They’ve got Sam. And I have no idea how to get him out.”
“We’ll figure somethin’ out. Don’t you worry.” She cocked her head to the side. “You hungry?”
Dean’s stomach growled loud and he smiled sheepishly. “Maybe a little.”
Ellen disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes while Dean drank his beer. He turned and looked at the jukebox, suddenly feeling the need for some Led Zeppelin. The jukebox, eager to please Dean like most machines built before he was born, lit up and started playing “Ramble On.”
The door to the kitchen opened, and Dean turned back to it surprised to see Jo, Ellen’s daughter. She was carrying a plate of steak fries that smelled so good Dean's mouth started watering.
Jo set the plate down in front of him and leaned forward, looking into his eyes with open admiration. "Man...they really are something."
Dean's main power didn't work on other supers, which was a relief for many reasons, not the least of them being how much he enjoyed having the glasses off for a bit.
"Shame they're in such an average face."
"You're an...average face." Dean said, mock-offended and way too tired to come up with a witty comeback. He grabbed a fry off the plate and shoved it into his mouth, relishing the taste of potato and salt.
"You fixed the jukebox?" Jo asked, walking over to the old machine.
Dean shrugged. "You're welcome."
"He'll be okay," Jo said, still looking at the jukebox. "Your brother. He's strong. From what Mom told me, he's stronger than most."
"Maybe, but Azazel's got him. And—“
"And we can talk it all through after you have some dinner," Ellen said, walking back in from the kitchen. She was carrying a plate with a burger so tall, Dean wasn't sure he could fit it in his mouth.
"Bon appetit," Ellen said, sliding the plate in front of Dean.
He was halfway through his first bite before he realized he'd forgotten something. "Fank ou," he said, his mouth still half-full.
"Don't mention it," Ellen smiled at him and poured herself a glass of iced tea. She walked out from behind the bar and sat with Jo at one of the larger tables.
Dean picked up his plates and joined them. He wolfed down the food for a few more minutes, and then said, "I need to talk to Ash."
"Yeah, I suppose you do." Ellen looked at Jo. "Can you bring him out here, honey?"
Jo nodded, got up and disappeared out the side door.
"How's he been?" Dean asked. The last time he'd seen Ash had been years ago, before the accident.
Ash had been a traditionalist as far as superhero matters were concerned; he'd always insisted on wearing his full costume —red spandex and what had to be a recycled luchador mask— whenever he was conducting superhero business, even if he was just hacking a network or five. That night he'd made a crack about how Ellen and Jo should get matching costumes, forgetting stupidly about Ellen's enhanced hearing. She threw a table at him from halfway across the room. Dean smiled remembering the look on Ash's face. He'd hidden safely in his room for the better part of the next six hours.
A year later, the Roadhouse was attacked by a gang of villains. Not even the super-powered kind, just thieves with guns. Ash tried to defend the bar's meager earnings, and got himself stabbed in the gut in return. He'd had just enough left in him to drag himself to his laptop.
Jo came back in carrying said laptop. She placed it gently on the table and opened the display, careful not to touch the twisted knot of cables mounted on the exterior. Nobody knew how Ash had done what he’d done, but they didn’t want to accidentally damage anything.
The display was on but blank except for a blinking cursor at the top of the screen. Dean put his fingers on the display and typed, Hello? He looked over at Ellen. “Can he hear me?”
Ellen nodded her chin at the display.
Of course I can hear you, man. I have a microphone.
“Oh,” Dean rolled his shoulders back awkwardly and said, “It’s good to uh…see you, I guess.”
You mind getting a man a beer?
“Uhh…” Dean looked at Jo, completely confused. She stifled a giggle, jogged over to the bar and came back a moment later with a PBR, setting it down in front of the laptop.
Thanks ma'am. The display flickered, the background shifting from solid black to red and silver — Ash's superhero colors. How can I help?
After telling Ash every detail of Sam's disappearance, Dean felt even more exhausted. Retelling he story had made one thing perfectly clear:
He needed help to save Sam. If one of Azazel's goons was strong enough to mind-sway Dean, then he had no chance against a whole group of them.
"It doesn't make any sense," Dean said. "They mind-whammied me. Just...rolled me under."
"You're right, that doesn't make any sense," Ellen said. "You should have been immune, Hellfire or no."
"Maybe Azazel's stronger now," Dean said. "I couldn't tell which of them was in my head."
You sure it was a synth-power?
Dean cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. "Last thing I saw was a sea of black eyes."
But you said Andy was there, right? He called out to Sam.
"Yeah...son of a bitch. You think Andy did this?" Dean didn't want to believe it, but Andy was one of the few people they knew strong enough to overpower other supers. Even him.
Doubt it. Andy's cool.
"Really? How would you know?" Dean was starting to get agitated. If Andy had turned on them, then it could've been him that lured Sam in. His cry for help could have been a trap.
We hung out a bunch. Shared some drinks, smokes and other…mind-opening edible things.
"People change," Jo said, sadly.
Nah. Not Andy. What you should be asking yourself is: what if they found a new way to synth RNA? What if they copied Andy's?
Dean took a long sip of his beer, and thought. “That would suck.”
That it would, Compadre.
“So what do I do? I have to get Sam out of there.” Dean finished his beer and set it back on the table. His heart ached as his thoughts drifted to his father, and he wondered what he would have done. Dean missed him, every day, but he tried not to think about it too much because it didn’t change anything. Usually, with Sam by his side, it was easy enough to focus on keeping them both alive and safe, but tonight — he wished Dad were still there.
Jo patted Dean on the arm and stood up, her face resolute. “We call for back-up.”
When Sam could open his eyes again, he saw nothing but darkness. He had no idea where he was, but after less than a second of trying to sit up, or move, he realized he was strapped down — to something cold and metallic. His shirt had been removed and there were thick leather straps across his chest, wrists and ankles. He tried to turn his head, but it was strapped down as well — a band spanning his forehead and another across his chin.
He heard a click, followed by a buzzing sound and then the ceiling above him flooded with light so bright he slammed his eyes shut again. The light made his head throb — a familiar ache in the back of his brain kicking into overdrive. Somebody had pried into his mind, probably forced him unconscious.
“Sleep well, Sam?” asked a voice from across the room. The sound of footsteps came closer as the speaker walked across the room. A pockmarked face looked down at Sam, smiling at him with white teeth and sickly yellow eyes.
“Azazel,” Sam said.
The man brought his hand to his chest. “You’ve heard of me! I’m flattered.” He leaned in closer to Sam and whispered, “Did your Daddy tell you about me?”
Sam pushed back the rage bubbling in his mind and instead asked, “What are you doing?”
He chuckled. “Giving your life new purpose.” Turning his back to Sam he moved across the room to a table. Sam could barely make out what was on it, but it looked like a rack of ampules.
“My life has purpose,” Sam said, trying to see what Azazel was doing. He could see the man’s hands moving across the rack of vials, glass clicking against glass as he pulled out one tube after the other.
“Really?” Azazel turned back to face him, holding a handful of ampules and a rather large syringe. “Because what I see is a young man with truckloads of wasted potential.” He moved closer, drawing the blood-red liquid out of one of the ampules and into the syringe.
Sam felt his heart start to beat faster as Azazel repeated the process with another ampule, and then another.
“You and your brother came here to see what I was doing, right? You wanted to know what nefarious deeds I had planned. Well champ, now you can find out first-hand.” He brought the syringe to Sam’s pinned left arm and pierced his vein with the needle.
Determined not to show fear, Sam bit back a wince and watched as the Azazel pushed the plunger down, forcing the red liquid into his veins.
"I'm a lot like you, really. I just want to make the world a better place." Azazel patted Sam on the cheek and winked at him.
The ache in the back of Sam's mind flared back to life, increasing ten-fold. His veins felt like they were on fire. Unable to hold it in any longer, Sam cried out in pain. The lights above him grew brighter and distantly, he thought he heard the sound of shattering glass.
Then everything went dark.
Despite his protests, they’d convinced, forced Dean to go get some sleep in one of the bedrooms. They did have a point. He wouldn’t be good to anybody, least of all Sam if he couldn’t see straight.
True to her word, Jo had called for back-up. So had Ellen. Dean knew that with certainty the moment he woke up because of all the voices — familiar voices — he heard out in the main room.
Dean slipped his glasses on anyway, not wanting to risk accidentally exposing somebody who wasn't immune. When he pushed the door into the main bar room open, he couldn't help but smile.
Three other supers had joined them. But not just any three — Rufus, Pamela and Bobby. They were all sitting at one of the round tables, playing poker. Jo and Ellen were nowhere to be seen, probably catching some shut-eye themselves.
Dean and Sam had known Bobby since they were kids. Dad used to leave them with him when he went on missions. Bobby was a telekinetic, a damn strong one. He owned a scrapyard piled high with old heaps of cars, but he never needed a forklift, a crane or any other kind of machine to move the masses of metal. Just his mind.
Pamela was a telepath and a pre-cog. Dean was particularly glad to see her, since she'd worked with Andy before and might know his weaknesses. Plus, their powers were pretty even, from what he'd seen last time.
Dean had only met Bobby's friend Rufus once, but it was a night he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. Rufus had a way with the elements. He could turn a candle flame into a bonfire, or a light rainfall into a flash flood.
"Hey," Dean said quietly, holding up his hand in greeting.
"Hey yourself," Rufus said, glaring at his cards.
"Hi kid," Bobby said, smirking up at Dean. "I'd give you a hug, but we're kinda in the middle of something here."
"These geniuses think they can beat a psychic at poker," Pamela said.
"Bobby can't beat anyone at Poker," Dean said, sitting down on a nearby chair.
"Watch your tone, boy." Bobby said. His eyes were warm, despite his gruff response. "I'm doing just fine."
"Two Jacks," Rufus said, slapping his cards on the table.
"Three Kings," Bobby countered, smirking as Rufus scowled.
"Full house," Pamela said, laying down three aces and two Queens. "Thanks for playing, boys." She chuckled, and swept her arm across the table, collecting the wadded up dollar bills gathered in the middle. "Dean, honey — sit your ass down and bring us up to speed."
After Dean told Bobby, Rufus and Pamela everything he and Sam had learned, which didn’t seem to amount to much, they started to talk strategy.
Of all of them, the only one who had faced Azazel before directly, was Rufus. Dean and Sam only knew about Azazel because of Dad. One of the last images he ever projected at them was Azazel — cruel, twisted expression and yellow eyes glowing like flames. Dean would never forget what he looked like, or how much hate Dad had poured into that image. He was determined to take the monster down, no matter what it took.
“He did something to himself,” Rufus said wrinkling his nose at the bitter coffee he’d brewed himself. “Nobody knows exactly what. If you ask me — he made his own special kind of Hellfire. He’s always stronger, every year. Last time I took him on—” He turned his eyes down at the table for a few seconds, and took a breath. “I lost three people. Good people. That bastard’s going down. He might be strong, but he bleeds. I’ve seen him bleed. And if he bleeds…”
“We can take him,” Bobby finished, patting his friend on the shoulder. “We’ve just gotta be smart about it.”
Pamela tilted her head to the side and walked over to the smaller table across from them, where Ash’s display was blinking on and off. “What the hell?” she mumbled.
Dean followed her to the computer and stared at the screen.
You guys have long -range missiles I don’t know about, or are we gonna get moving sometime this year?
“We?” Dean asked incredulously.
I’m mobile. And I’m hell of a lot smarter than all of you. So take me with you. Or don’t — just don’t blame me when you come back crying.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Any intel you’ve got that could help us?”
Oh I don’t know…how about a blueprint of the building Azazel’s holed up in? Or biometric readouts on everybody inside?
Dean grabbed the laptop and looked over to Pamela.
“I’ll go get Ellen,” she said, heading for the back rooms.
The first thing Sam noticed when he woke up was that he felt different. He couldn't pinpoint exactly how, but something had changed.
His situation, on the other hand, hadn't changed. He was still strapped to the same cold, metal table. The light above him flickered weakly. Most of it had shattered, and big chunks of the glass cover were missing. Looking down, he saw some of the glass debris on his chest. Incredibly, none of it had cut his skin.
He lifted his wrist experimentally, testing the strength of the strap. Then he heard a voice that sent simultaneous waves of relief and panic through him.
"Sammy!" Dean called again, and he sounded so close.
Terrified that Dean would draw Azazel's attention, Sam sat up, forgetting how thoroughly he was being restrained. There was a snapping sound, then another, and then the straps that had been locking his head into place fell into Sam's lap.
After a moment of confusion, Sam pulled up hard with his arms and felt the leather straps give as he tore through them both. Too worried about Dean to stop and think about why he'd been able to break through his bonds, Sam unbuckled the cuffs around his ankles, leapt off the cot and ran towards the door.
The door was an ugly shade of blue - painted over so many times, the door itself was thicker because of it. But underneath that, it was just wood. Sam took a step back and delivered a strong quick front-kick to the doorknob.
His foot took out the doorknob and a good chunk of the wood surrounding it, including the piece that held the rest of the locking mechanism. The door swung open, out into the hallway, and Sam found a mildly startled looking Dean staring back at him.
"Sam?" Dean's grin was wide. "You're okay!"
"Azazel did something to me." Sam shook his head, I don't know what — he gave me something."
Dean nodded and swallowed, then he held up his hand. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "One. Dean, we—”
"We have to get out of here. Now. Before Azazel comes back." Dean pointed behind him. "Path is clear the way I came in, but we need to move quick." He turned and headed down the hall.
“Wait! Andy showed me where Azazel was holding him. There’s dozens of supers being held prisoner here. We have to help them!”
“Andy showed you?” Dean asked, his expression turning cold.
“Yeah. They’re in a big room full of cages — we have to find it.”
“Oh we’ll find him,” Dean said, cracking his knuckles.
Pushing aside the bad feeling in his gut, the one that kept screaming something was wrong, Sam followed Dean into the darkness.
ON TO PART 2!