Notes: AU post-Swan Song. I try my hardest to stick to previous canon, but I'm not stressing it. Ellen and Jo never died. Sam/Gabriel, Dean/Castiel, Bobby, Ellen/Hotch, Morgan/Jo, Garcia, Chuck
Summary: Sam was never meant to say yes to Lucifer, and using Adam was cheating. Team Free Will has another chance to fix the apocalypse, if they can just understand what they have to do.
More AN: Editing for format, because I always forget that fanfiction net hates me.
Sam sat up, gingerly. The memory of burning darkness and intense pain sucked his breath from his lungs, forcing him to take a moment to regain his bearings and realize that, no, he wasn't being torn apart in Hell, he was surrounded by darkened shops and quiet streets, very much alive and still on planet Earth. Smoke billowed from a few wrecked cars, and trash littered the sidewalks.
A light breeze rustled papers, and Sam realized he was utterly alone. The sun was high overhead, cheerful and bright in an almost mocking sort of way. The end of the world should have been heralded with storm clouds and thunder.
Rule number one, Sam thought, after checking the waistband of his pants. He needed a weapon. It only took a few moments to identify a Wal-Mart, and Sam thanked his good luck, before staggering through the doors. Wal-mart weapons would suffice until he could raid a gun shop. The creepiness factor increased ten-fold, now that he was out of the sun into an unlit building. Not even the generator lights were on. Shadows danced near the doorway, before fading into pitch black darkness. Sam glanced back outside, before sliding sideways, keeping the wall at his back, until he could sink into shadows.
His heart pounded in his throat as he waited, just watching. He had no idea what could be out there. And so, just when the hair on his neck was surely standing straight up, he drew a deep breath, forcing his racing heart to slow, and then waited some more. He pushed back the doubts – was this Hell? Was this wasteland some sick creation of his mind, or someone else's?
While his eyes scanned the darkness for any sign of life, he mentally made a list of priorities. First and foremost he needed weapons, and possibly a map. Spray paint, flashlights, batteries, lighters, and salt. Food, and water, he tacked on. Clothes. He had no idea when his next chance would be to stop, and he would need every necessity available. While this shopping spree was far from ideal, he stood an even poorer chance, 'Against what?' if he needed to make multiple stops for supplies, and he already knew he would need at least one for proper guns.
And so, after what he guessed to be about thirty minutes of waiting, he inched forward. Carts were too noisy, but there was a stack of handheld baskets he could use. His primary target was the gun case. Sam closed his eyes, and brought forth every Wal-Mart he'd ever been to. Weapons tended to be kept in the back, as well as most of his necessary supplies. He saw that this store held the clothes first, so logic would dictate that the right side of the store held food and toiletries, while the back would hold electronics and DIY merchandise.
Grabbing a basket, Sam crept forward.
It took what must have been two hours, creeping around, trying to discern noises over the sounds of his own fear, but Sam felt a low stab of pride at the array by the front door, hidden just behind a register. If there were any other survivors, logic would dictate that they would come here eventually, and he didn't want to advertise that he was nosing around. The weapons section had been positively cleaned out, now split between the space under a register and tucked into Sam's clothes.
Next order of business was finding a vehicle that wasn't wrecked, and hopefully had gas. He found a hose, and managed to cut just enough to siphon fuel with. If the power was out across the board, then gas stations were useless.
Sam slipped back outside. He was thankful it was the dead of summer, giving him a few more hours of daylight to get moving. A few quick movements, and Sam was the proud owner of a tan car, luckily pulling a pair of keys from the purse that had been dropped haphazardly on the driver's seat.
What the hell happened here? Did everyone just… disappear, in the middle of their day?
It only took a minute to load himself up, before hopping in and yanking out the maps he'd found. The first one, a state map, let him know he was in Virginia. He found a few maps of various counties, and guessed that he was somewhere west of Washington D.C., though without any identifiable streets, it was really just a wild guess. And so he yanked out the map of the country, and began detailing his way to the only place he knew to go. Bobby's.
The drive west had been eerie. This SUV contained an iPod, but after a moment's reflection, Sam decided it was too morbid to listen to music. A few empty cars littered the highways, but otherwise, he was alone. There were no Croates, but no humans either. Nothing. Somehow, not even Coldplay was comforting right now.
It took every single ounce of control to not wreck the vehicle then and there, though he did slam his foot on the brakes. A quick glance to his side revealed a brunette female, and Sam almost flung himself out of his still moving car, not knowing what she was, but deciding to take his chances with the asphalt.
"Whoa there, buddy, slow it down. It's me, Gabriel."
The brunette's hand came up to rub against her forehead, as though easing a headache. The car finally screeched to a stop, and Sam jumped out, grabbing the gun that was tucked into the waist of his pants. She just stared at him, half amused, half irritated.
"Yeah, before you go postal on my ass, Gabriel the Archangel. Loki. The trickster. Want further proof? I trapped you in a time loop for the equivalent of almost… ten months." She at least had the decency to look chagrined. "I joined Team Free Will, blah, blah, blah, Lucifer stabbed me, blah, blah, blah. What else do you want to know? I really want to prove who I am, and get the hell moving again, okay?"
Sam just stared. "How did you survive?"
"I didn't. Dead, as in ding-dong, poof, although the light at the end of the tunnel was not much of a light so much as a spark. It sucked. Then, boom, I'm back in my body. I figure, if Dad's giving me a second chance, why waste it? I screwed around, had some fun, and then BAM! I'm blasted to who the hell knows where, stuck in this damn body… I wasted all the grace I had left just trying to find you. This is not my idea of fun!"
She was on the verge of a full-fledged temper tantrum by this point, and Sam slowly inched forward, lowering his weapon, but still unwilling to tuck it away. Not yet.
"So… you came back from the dead, went on a gender-bending spree, and now…"
"I found you!"
Her eyes twinkled with mischief, a smirk graced her lips, and Sam put his gun away as he slid back into the driver's seat.
"So, any idea what's going on?"
"You heard anything about Cas, Dean, or Bobby?"
"Not a peep."
"Fine, what about Lucifer, or Michael?"
"You know anything?"
"Fat lot of good you're turning out to be," Sam muttered.
"Oh, honey, don't be like that," she purred, and it was so wrong, Sam felt the breath choke in his throat. He was tempted to laugh. "So, where are we headed, Sammikins?"
Sam counted to ten. Twice. "Bobby's."
She nodded, before making a shooing motion with her hands. "Mush!"
"Wait, how did you find me?" Sam asked suddenly, breaking the silence as the vehicle bumpily drove its way through the grass next to what must have been rush hour traffic. "Cas put the sigils on our ribs. You shouldn't have been able to find me."
Gabriel shrugged, not even bothering to look away from whatever fascinated her out the window.
"Lucifer must have erased them when he wore your body."
Sam shuddered, and found himself unable to ask any more questions about it.
They spent the next thirty minutes in utter silence. Sam didn't know enough about the archangel to discern her body language, but he felt like she was getting agitated, though there wasn't any activity out of the norm that should've set her off.
"So what are you doing here?"
She turned to him, corners of her mouth turned down in a frown.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you hid yourself after you came back to life. Why bother to find me at all?" Sam couldn't bring himself to voice the 'Why didn't you come help us?'
Gabriel's brows furrowed.
"I just gave my life for a fight that wasn't even mine," she retorted, and the temperature in the car dipped. "I stood up to my brother for you, and he killed me. That's what happens when people help you, Winchester. They die. Excuse me for not running open armed back into that shit."
"You're not a person," he pointed out, fingers flexing on the steering wheel. It was juvenile, but right now, the only thing burning in his mind was just how much he hated the stupid creature seated next to him.
"Exactly! Not even a fucking archangel gets out of your mess alive."
"This mess might not have even been here if your family had left us alone!"
"Oh, boo fucking hoo. Just because they're my family doesn't make them my responsibility." Gabriel was clenching her hand around the door handle, the other fisted in her lap. Sam could hear the way her teeth ground together, but he couldn't bring himself to stop.
"Well they're yours more than they ever were ours! And don't give me any of that destiny bullshit-"
"No, you listen the fuck up," Gabriel breathed. "You could have ignored it. You and Dean and my stupid little brother kept moving along, spending your whole time walking the line they drew for you. You can't choose humanity and not get involved in the fight. There was a choice, you made it, deal with the consequences."
Sam slowly forced his fingers to loosen on the wheel.
"So what are you doing here if you don't want to help us?"
"Fuck you, Sam."
Her avoidance of the question was punctuated by the fact that she didn't leave.
The car ride was a bit less disturbing with company, though he couldn't call it easy, especially after their fight. Sam drove for a few hours more, though he only made it just over the Appalachian Mountains and into West Virginia, having been rerouted twice by accidents blocking the entire road. Gabriel claimed her angel mojo wasn't working right, and until they knew what was going on, both tersely agreed it was better to keep her hidden.
Just as the sun dipped down to the horizon, Sam decided to find a place to stay to hole up for the night. While everything in him wanted to make it to Sioux Falls, he wasn't comfortable driving after the sun set.
"You going to need to sleep?" he asked quietly.
"Doubt it. I may not be at my full archangel best, but I'm still an angel. Can't wait for something to eat, though." With that, she was munching on a bag of M&M's, silently offering Sam a few. He hesitated a second, before dipping his hand in.
"Can I trust you?"
She paused, Sam carefully not looking to see if she was pensive or offended as he scanned the dark signs, looking for an exit with a hotel. He really didn't want to fight some more.
"What do you think?" It was laced with such disdain and sarcasm, Sam wanted to roll his eyes.
"I think it doesn't matter. You're apparently coming along for the ride. You can't mojo us to Bobby's, and I won't make it through the night without sleep. So, I guess the answer is yes. Not that I can… but I will."
"There's the Team Free Will spirit!"
Sam decided that the archangel next to him was psychotic.
Reid heard muttering. Low voices were all around him, urgent and vaguely frightened. His team had been stranded here for the past few weeks in West Virginia, while the world went to hell around them. At every turn, innocent civilians all began to suffer a deep psychosis, attacking each other with a rabid hunger that he would've expected from a zombie movie.
"Reid, man, you awake?"
Reid slowly opened his eyes and focused on Morgan's worried face above him. The team had given up trying to get to their jet, to get home, and had simply holed up in the hotel, trying their hardest to plan. They had finally reached the consensus to drive home, before everything had fallen silent, and then a force like a shockwave tore through the team and sent everybody flying.
"Reid, get up."
He sat up dizzily, before surveying the faces around him. Hotch, Garcia, and Morgan. He tried not to think of the rest of the team. The ravenous looks on their faces as the psychosis took hold of them would most likely haunt him for the rest of his life.
It was dark in the room, and Reid could tell it was nearly nighttime outside. Before they could speak, however, the sound of tires on gravel drew everyone's undivided attention. Like clockwork, they fell silent, and all weapons were withdrawn, ready to fire.
The vehicle stopped moving, and then there was silence. "Well, those – zombies – couldn't drive, right? It's got to be another sur-person," Garcia stuttered. Hotch put a finger to his lips, before motioning to the door, and was met with raised weapons, all waiting for his signal. It was a small comfort, to fall back on such familiarities as this.
He slipped the door open, gun parallel to the ground, and stepped forward, while the rest of the team melded back into the shadows, watching.
In the darkness, it took nearly a full heartbeat to recognize the sound of a gun being cocked.
"Who's there?" came a deep voice, male.
"We're the FBI, who are you?"
A short, half insane laugh sounded out. "You've got to be fucking kidding me." A second's hesitation later, he followed up with, "Our names are Sam and Gabriel."
It had been a split second decision, and Sam hoped he didn't regret it. While it was dangerous, to make himself known to armed civilians, especially ones that could recognize him, he trusted Gabriel to have his back. Croates wouldn't be speaking to him quite so civilly; they'd be attempting to gnaw on his limbs. Demons would have most likely attacked the moment they sensed Gabriel's presence, and few other creatures could fake full-on human.
When no response came, he held up his gun. Though it was almost fully dark out, there was still a bright light from the full moon, and he knew they would see him.
"I'm not… infected. I'm assuming that you're not either. Survivors? We're coming in, don't shoot us."
Every instinct screamed at him to shut up, to move on, leave these people. He couldn't handle civilians, not now. Leaving them to whatever could be outside, though, wasn't something he was capable of. Even if he hadn't seen a single Croat, or demon, or even a stray damn dog, he was still on edge, waiting.
Sam shook his head, understanding the man's confusion. "Look, you're scared, I understand. You have no idea who we are, and you want to shoot on sight. The fact that you're FBI, though, means you won't. I'm going to take advantage of that. There's clearly more than one of you, and I know you're all armed. We're outnumbered, so you have the upper hand in this situation."
"Well, when he puts it so nicely," Garcia muttered.
"Man, I do not like this," Morgan said, his gun still aimed at the newcomer. His entire body was tense, and it took every ounce of control not to just shoot the man. He couldn't find any shape that would represent this Gabriel, though he assumed the second would still be in the vehicle.
Hotch, the leader-by-default, turned and lowered his weapon a bit. The shadowy figure stepped up to the cement pathway in front of their door, just as the car door opened behind him. "The power's out, obviously, don't know if it's nationwide yet. Gabriel, will you grab the lanterns and flashlights?"
Sam was putting everything on the line here. These people were clearly terrified stiff, and he couldn't blame them. He didn't trust them, and they didn't trust him, if the moonlight glinting off one of their weapons was any indication. However, his instincts told him that they were vulnerable like this, and leaving them would most likely mean their death. FBI was skilled enough to survive a while, but in this apocalyptic fallout, they would be in over their heads once the demons and angels came out to play.
He could feel Gabriel's eyes on the back of his head as she followed quietly, for the first time in Sam's life. He vowed to tease her about it later.
The man in the doorway stepped back, revealing a dark blackness that he couldn't see into. Sam could see his gun held loosely in his hand, not pointed at him, but ready for anything.
"Hotch," a voice called out a warning.
"Stand down," the man in the doorway stated. He was clearly in charge. Sam extended a hand.
"Like I said, Sam Campbell. You are?" He wasn't taking any chances that they would recognize him as Sam Winchester and shoot on sight.
A warm hand gripped his. "Aaron Hotchner."
Sam slipped in past him, followed by Gabriel, her hand at his back, clearly following him. It took only a few moments to strike up the lights, and then he was able to take stock of the situation. There were three other figures besides the ones he already knew. A black man, finger still on the trigger. A tall, lanky kid, his own weapon resting easily in his lap, and a blonde who looked like she would just as soon accidentally shoot herself in the foot.
"Gabriel Novak," he motioned to the archangel, pulling out the first surname he could think of.
"Aww, Samsquatch," she muttered. "Really?"
He bit back a retort, before turning to the others.
"Doctor Spencer Reid."
"Penelope Garcia. I mean, Garcia. I…"
He smiled a bit.
"All right, guys. Introductions done, let's get to the good part of this evening. We're all clearly survivors. Gabriel and I are on the road, trying to head back home, and find our families. You said you're FBI, all of you?"
Sam briefly nodded his thanks to Aaron.
"We all don't trust each other, and with good reason. It's been hell on earth out there, literally."
"In more ways than one!" Gabriel piped up, apparently having found her voice again.
"Gabriel," he growled. "Will you please shut up? Anyway, I'm assuming you have no idea what's going on. I don't know how to explain-"
"Seriously?" Gabriel interrupted him impatiently. "How about we do this shit my way, 'cause I'm not in the mood for a slow death by Sam-talk." She was all business as she stood up straighter, and reached for her side. It took less than the blink of an eye before Morgan and Hotch's guns were trained on Gabriel, Sam's on Morgan, and Reid's on him. Garcia took a moment to raise hers, before looking around wildly and dropping it on the bed with a huff.
"I would not advise pulling the trigger," Gabriel snarled, her face contorted enough to frighten even Sam. "I guarantee I won't like that. You shoot me, you just piss me off. You shoot Sammy here; you piss me off even more. You really don't want to do that."
A second passed, then two. Nobody moved.
"Oh, for fuck's sake!"
She snapped her fingers, and all the FBI's weapons disappeared. Sam lowered his still intact gun as the men all went for their belts, clearly expecting to find another there, but sorely disappointed.
"Now, like I said, we're going to do this shit my way. Before I was so rudely interrupted…" She pulled out a bag of Skittles from her pocket. "What you had out there is the apocalypse, or some pathetic imitation of it. Heaven, hell, the whole she-bang. You have a wasteland called planet Earth. There are maybe a few thousand survivors scattered across the globe, I would guess, after that fallout. On this planet, there are probably a handful of people who can protect you, Sam here being one of them." He felt a slow burn of something he didn't want to identify at that.
"I'd like to know what you did with our weapons," Aaron intoned, clearly holding back the edge that shouted fuck you.
"I took them. Like I said, if you shoot me, Sam and I will just leave. You'll die, once we leave. What's out there, it ain't pretty. It'll wear your meat suit and use your hands to slit your own throat, just because it can. Comprende?"
Hotch's mind reeled. He needed to take control of this situation, but it had spiraled so far beyond his capabilities that he didn't know where to begin. Pushing the vanishing weapons out of his mind for the moment, he focused on the two standing near the window, looking like the calm at the center of the storm. He didn't know if he should be afraid of their delusions regarding what was occurring outside, or afraid of himself for hoping they could explain this, because he couldn't.
It wasn't apparent which person was the dominant of the two, though both seemed leaders in their own way. The female was flighty, playful, and angry, rapidly switching between dichotomies without warning. The male was reserved, careful. He understood the danger, while she didn't seem to care one way or another. Aaron stopped himself before further profiling them like suspects.
"You're not Sam Campbell," Reid suddenly stuttered out. "I mean, you're Sam Winchester. I knew I recognized your face. We profiled you and your brother."
Sam had decency to look chagrined, before turning to Gabriel with what looked to be an apology in his eyes.
"Sam Winchester? As in… one of the FBI's most wanted, Sam Winchester."
Sam sagged. He clearly knew he'd been caught, though Hotch had to laugh at the irony of that. Wouldn't Henrikson be rolling over in his grave if he could see this turn of events? The end of the world and Sam Winchester shows up on their figurative doorstep. I really could use my gun.
"Yeah, all right, I'm Sam Winchester. Since you guys can't shoot me, you can't really arrest me, there's no point in lying."
"Sammy, how is it that, of all the Dad forsaken monkeys on this planet, you have to run into the ones that know you? Wait, how in the hell do they know you?"
Sam elbowed Gabriel.
"Because Dean and I ran into some trouble, a few times. More than a few, actually. Most of this was before we had Cas to help us out, back when were just hunting small fish. The FBI thinks we're a bunch of murderers or something."
Gabriel choked, snorted, and then laughed. The brunette gripped her sides and completely doubled over, before scrubbing at her eyes and sucking in air, continuing her hysteria. Sam's scowl deepened, before he reached over and smacked her in the arm.
"This shit isn't funny, Gabriel."
"Oh man, this is ten steps beyond funny! And you've got to admit it, I know funny." She straightened, occasionally chuckling.
"I'm glad I could be a continual source of amusement, want me to start pulling rabbits from a hat?" Sam deadpanned.
"All right, this is bullshit," Morgan suddenly bit out. "What the fuck is going on here? You're a fugitive, and supposedly dead. I'm assuming your brother's waiting outside, ready to what, skin us alive like those women in St. Louis?"
At the mention of Dean, Sam sobered up.
"No. I don't know where my brother is. I'm heading to the one place he'd think to meet up with me." And hoping he was still alive.
"And you know what's going on outside?"
"Morgan," Hotch finally broke in.
"No, Hotch, this is out of control. We have a wanted man in our hotel room, a girl who can apparently steal all our weapons in a second, and twenty four hours ago, we were running away from god damned zombies!"
"They're not zombies," Sam muttered. "They look like it, but it's called the Croatoan virus. Does essentially the same thing, though. They're all gone now. Whatever did this… well, they all disappeared. Not much living around here besides us, I'd guess."
Garcia cleared her throat. "How do you know all this? I mean all of… what ever happened."
"Because, I'm a hunter. My entire life has been spent fighting monsters; things that most people don't know exist."
"Your militant upbringing," Reid interjected. "After your mother's-" His voice broke off, a second too late.
Sam closed his eyes.
"My mother was killed when I was six months old. My father, my brother, and I packed up, and spent our lives on the road, doing just this kind of stuff. Saving people, hunting things, the good fight." The bitterness in his voice was plain to the whole room.
"I wanted out. I was tired of motels, and changing schools, and spending my life looking for the evil in the world. You're FBI; you gotta understand what I'm saying. Only you chose your life, hunting bad people. I was born into my life, hunting bad things. I was eight when I first learned that monsters were real."
His words struck a chord through the group, and Hotch could feel his team's eyes on him.
"My first instinct is to label you delusional, to persuade you to stand down, and accept mental help. Monsters aren't real. I've read your file, thoroughly, I profiled you and your brother for Agent Henrikson. Vigilantes, with a delusion that you're ridding the world of evil, when in reality, you're just killing innocent people. However, given what I've seen with my own eyes, there's clearly something… not normal out there." Sam snorted. "There doesn't appear to be any way to get you help, or to find out the extent to your psychosis versus what might be reality. I don't know if I should politely request that you return our weapons and leave, or to throw my entire life's work out the window and trust you."
Morgan's gaze pierced his skull; he could feel the disapproval there. Reid was deep in thought, and Garcia… poor Garcia just looked curious.
"You have to make up your minds about that," Sam replied. "I think this night is over. There's not much left to explain. I know you think I'm crazy, but I'm going to do some things that will protect you overnight. You have until morning to decide where you stand."
Hotch watched as the man drew several intricate circular designs on the floor in various places, before standing, and handing them a bunch of… salt shakers?
"Pour this across the window sill and doorways and underneath any air vents or cracks into the room. Make sure it is a complete and unbroken line, and do not, under any circumstances, break it, you hear me? Anything, I mean anything, goes bump in the night, you scream. I'll be right through that wall, next door."
The two left without much more to say.
"Hotch, what the hell was all of that? Politely request and leave?"
Morgan's temper was rapidly spiraling out of control, and Hotch held up a hand to stave off the explosion.
"Morgan, think about this objectively. There is no logical way to explain what happened to the people around us. If this Winchester kid is right, then think about his file. Think about all the crimes he's tied to, and his brother. What kind of things out there could do what we blamed them for?"
"I don't know, Hotch, but you're considering trusting a wanted murderer. His brother… the pictures of how he skinned those women…" His voice trailed away, horror registering on his face, when he realized what Hotch was trying to explain. If the brothers didn't do that, then what did?
"I don't think he was lying," Garcia said, throwing her lot into this group. While she was clearly out of her element, she still was a part of this team, and wanted to make sure she felt like it. "And what that Gabriel girl did? She didn't move fast enough, at all, to steal all our weapons. I mean Hotch, she took the one strapped to your ankle."
"She would have had to move at a speed of damn near two million miles per hour to go undetected by the human eye," Reid said quietly. "Significantly less if we all blinked at once, giving her under a quarter of a second to perform all the thefts, but still faster than any technology that exists today, let alone beyond the capabilities of the human body."
"So, magic. Great."
They fell into silence, and Hotch shifted from his position on the chair.
"So, now it comes down to this. There is some element of truth to what Sam is saying, though we don't know how much. Is Sam one of the good guys, and will he really protect us, or is he one of the bad guys? And can we survive this on our own?"
Silence met his questions, and stretched on.
"I can't get past the profile," Morgan said, stretching back into the headboard of his bed. "I can't see him as a good guy."
"I do." Morgan shot Reid a dirty look, while the younger man just shrugged. "I've seen liars, I've seen really convincing liars, and I've seen honest men. While he looked worried, his mannerisms did not belie guilt, or any attempts to conceal facts that would intentionally harm us. He admitted to who he was, and pleaded with us to look past that out of genuine concern for our safety. If he was truly a murderer, he could have killed us then and there without repercussion. He seems to want to protect us, though what from is the more troubling mystery."
"I think he's a good guy." This time, Garcia was on the end of a look that was half incredulous and half hurt. "I… I know I'm not a profiler, or anything, and I don't think you would toss my opinion out the window for that. His friend seemed kind of freaky, but he just seemed honest."
They all looked to Hotch.
"Get some sleep," he decided, though in his heart, he already knew his answer. There was nothing left in Virginia.