Summary: Completely AU, FBI 'verse – Hurt Sam, Hurt Dean – with John, Mary, Bobby...and many others – When the gunfire stops and the smoke has cleared, John can finally see his oldest. Dean's shirt and both his hands are covered in blood, but John can tell he's alive. Across the way, the news is not as good, as Sam lies unmoving on the floor.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: usual language; includes character names from all seasons but no other major spoilers beyond seasons one and two; basic "feel" for the overall SPN storyline (with tweaks, of course)
A/N: Told from different points of view; if the character did not have a known last name, I used the actor's – The boys are always claiming to be FBI agents in order to investigate cases of the supernatural. But what if the Winchesters really were FBI agents? What if that was the family business from which Sam strayed? And what if John and Mary and most other hunters were still alive; all working together to capture Azazel before the serial killer strikes again? What if all those variables had changed, but Winchester luck stayed the same?
Step by step, heart to heart, left right left; we all fall down, like toy soldiers. ~ Eminem (...or Martika)
I need a break.
Maybe pack it in, pack it up, and haul ass to the nearest tropical island in time for New Year's.
Toes in the sand, an umbrella drink, Karen beside me wearing next to nothing; all sounds pretty damn good to me as I sit at the far end of a ridiculously long table at 1:06 on Christmas Eve afternoon, listening to grown men bicker like two-year olds.
"We ran the heuristic algorithm three times, John."
My gaze shifts to Miles Asher as he speaks, remembering the first time I saw him and his mullet and his sleeveless dress shirts with the sloppily tied ties. He had always looked more like a scrawny Lynyrd Skynyrd groupie going to a wedding than a MIT-educated computer guru going to work; but that was just Ash.
When he had been hired by the Bureau two years ago, I had tried to enforce the dress code and all the other "rules" we have. But it didn't take long to figure out Ash marched to his own drummer – a drummer who probably played the solo in Zeppelin's "Moby Dick" on a constant loop – and after his first week, I had decided I liked that.
Ash holds up his chart as though the lines and numbers mean anything to anybody except him. "Three times," he says again, talking about that algorithm.
"And guess what?" Frank Devereaux asks in that obnoxiously smartass way of his; his whiny voice grating on my already frazzled nerves as he stands beside Ash at the front of the conference room.
Frank's squinty little eyes dart behind his horn-rimmed glasses between me and John Winchester, like he literally expects us to guess.
And I swear if Frank's conspiracy theory crap had not been so dangerously close to the truth all those years ago, his crazy ass would never have been hired by the Bureau. But the old adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer seemed like a good idea at the time, and now – almost 20 years later – I'm told by the Director it still is.
But as I stare at Frank, who is still staring at us, I'm not so sure.
Frank shakes his head as people do when they think they're dealing with dumbasses – half pity, half disgust – and answers his own question.
"You've got a better chance of Jesus showing up at that church tonight than this Azazel guy," Frank tells John, and I can see the muscles twitch in Winchester's clenched jaw.
Because for John, Azazel is his white whale; is the one that got away. The one that was researched and tracked for years; the one that John had neglected his family for in hopes of getting a big break in the case; the one that John had literally killed for – having shot and killed Azazel's daughter, Meg, in self-defense during a raid a few years ago.
And then when John had finally caught and arrested Azazel last year, when it seemed all the sacrifice had been worth it – Azazel had walked free.
"The Slash and Burn Killer" as Azazel was known, due to his penchant for slashing his victims' throats and abdomens before setting them – and the building they were in – on fire, had been released from federal prison six months ago following a mistrial; a mistrial that had resulted from a medical expert's misleading testimony regarding blood evidence, not to mention the intentional errors of the Assistant District Attorney at the time.
"Maybe your computer crap is wrong," John counters Frank's argument, his tone too measured to be natural; his anger barely contained.
"And maybe Lee Harvey Oswald really shot Kennedy," Frank snaps, rolling his eyes at what he perceives as an absurdity; pulling up his already-too-high-waisted pants over his gut before he plops down in his seat.
Ash continues to stand and frowns. "Dude, the pattern recognition software is never wrong," he defends, his tone and expression implying John just insulted his mother instead of his computer. "I know it sucks, but if it doesn't show Azazel on the grid, then he's not on the grid. And there's none of the usual signs that he's in town or even close to this town."
"He called me," John growls, as though that trumps everything else.
And maybe it does.
We have no reason to think – and more importantly, no evidence to suggest – that Azazel will strike tonight. No one has heard from him or seen him since he walked out of jail and out of our lives back in June.
But if it really was Azazel who had called John last night; if it really was the Slash and Burn Killer calling his old archenemy to gloat over his plan to start another killing spree tonight on Christmas Eve at a church – just like he had originally started ten years ago – then I'm wondering why the hell we're all sitting around a conference table and not hauling ass to said church in preparation for a stakeout to stop the sick bastard.
But protocol is protocol – and the Bureau is a stickler for protocol – so, here we sit.
Ash shrugs. "Hey. Whatever, man," he responds to John's insistence about the call and closes his laptop before crossing to the door. "I just run the data."
"And the data says he ain't comin'," Frank taunts from across the table.
John stares at him.
Ash glances at me, and I nod, giving him permission to leave and wishing I could do the same – because this is about to get ugly.
"He fucking called me," John tells us again – in case we missed it the first 30 times – and then glares at Frank, daring him to make another argument against that fact.
"We traced that number you gave us," Frank reports, his chair groaning as he leans back and places his clasped hands on his fat belly; his posture and tone entirely too relaxed in the face of a pissed John Winchester. "Know what we found, Secret Agent Man?"
John's jaw clenches impossibly tighter, and I think if he throws a punch at Frank, I'm not going to stop him.
"Nothing," Frank continues, clearly pleased with himself. "According to our databases, that phone number doesn't even exist."
John shakes his head. "That's not possible."
Frank shrugs, uprighting his chair. "Anything's possible, J.W. I mean..." He chuckles. "When you were arresting Azazel, did you think your son would be one to let the sick bastard go?"
It's a low-blow, even for an asshat like Frank, and I feel my earlier annoyance instantly morph into anger.
Because it wasn't like that; Sam had not just "let" Azazel go.
In fact, even though Sam was the District Attorney, he had not even been directly involved with the case. Since his dad – John – had been the arresting agent, Sam had bowed out due to the potential conflict of interest.
As was his nature, Sam had done the right thing – or what he had thought was the right thing – and had deferred the case to the Assistant District Attorney, Ruby Cortese.
But unbeknownst to Sam – or to anybody else at the time – Ruby was a mole, manipulating testimonies and destroying evidence, which resulted in the mistrial and Azazel walking free.
Sam had tried his damnedest to salvage the case, but it had been too little, too late.
Ruby and that medical examiner guy – Tyson Brady – had both been tried and convicted of numerous charges and were currently serving their sentences in federal prison; Azazel had been released back into the world; and Sam had been left to bear the weight of all that had gone wrong.
I shake my head.
It was messy and complicated and not the kid's fault – though I know Sam still blames himself, and John still blames Sam for what happened as well, even now...six months later.
The mistrial had been the straw that had broken the proverbial camel's back, which I guess wasn't hard to do considering that camel had been carrying a lot of baggage for a lot of years; father and son's relationship having been rocky since Sam's adolescence.
Even still, John doesn't tolerate anyone talking shit about his family – especially a dickhead like Frank Devereaux.
Rage flashes in John's eyes, and I see his hand curl into a fist half-a-second before he stands; his chair scraping against the floor and smacking into the wall behind.
And I find myself on alert, sitting on the edge of my seat; silently urging John to cold-cock the smug sonuvabitch.
But before anything can happen, Mary Campbell Winchester appears in the doorway; gray skirt and white blouse fitted in all the right places; high heels making her already long legs look longer; blonde hair swept up in a loose bun; black-rimmed glasses sitting primly on the bridge of her nose.
I'm happily married, but John Winchester is one lucky, lucky man.
"Am I interrupting something?" Mary asks innocently; her words polite, but her tone knowing and her expression the same as if she had just told Frank to fuck off.
And Frank knows it, too.
"I was just – "
"Making an ass of yourself like usual, I'm sure," Mary smoothly finishes for him as she shifts the bundle of folders in her arms to rest on her hip – as I've seen her do with her babies in years past – and continues to stand in the doorway and stare at Frank.
And I remember having also witnessed this routine numerous times before – this composed intensity that always makes the other person blink first; only it was not with Mary.
Samuel Campbell had been one of the best agents the FBI had ever seen, and if he had lived long enough – had not been shot and killed during a warehouse raid about ten years ago – he would have been damn proud to see his daughter follow in his footsteps; to see his only child, his Mary, kick ass and take names on a daily basis...even though she never threw a punch.
Frank squirms in his chair, clearly uncomfortable, and looks everywhere except at Mary. He glances at me, still seated at the far end of the table, and then at John, still standing across from him.
"Well..." Frank sighs, as people often do before transitioning. "Think I'll head back downstairs," he comments as he stands and crosses to the door.
Mary smiles sweetly as he squeezes by her to exit the conference room. "Nice to see you again, Frank," she calls after him and watches as he disappears down the hall.
There's a beat of silence before she turns back to look at me and John and rolls her eyes.
"I had that handled," John tells her, talking about the situation with Frank and his smart mouth.
"I know," Mary agrees easily and smiles at her husband.
A silent conversation passes between them – typical of all the Winchesters – and John smiles back at her, shaking his head fondly as he slides his chair away from the wall and sits back down diagonal from me.
Mary's smile widens; because she knows she just successfully defused an explosive situation and knows that John appreciates it, even if he'll never admit it.
And I think to myself – not for the first time – that Mary should have been a negotiator or a member of the bomb squad instead of a profiler.
"Alright, fellas," Mary sighs, crossing to the table and depositing the stack of folders before settling into her seat beside John. "What did I miss?"
And just like that, the mood in the room instantly changes.
Mary glances at me and then at her husband. "John..." she prompts.
John sighs harshly. "Ash says he's not on the grid."
Mary nods, both in understanding and agreement. "He's right," she says simply and doesn't look surprised when John's attention snaps to her.
Mary shrugs apologetically. "I know you don't like it. But he's right, John."
"How can you say that?" John demands. "Azazel called me."
"No, somebody called you," Mary corrects. "We were unable to trace the number on your cell phone to a specific person or location."
"It was him, Mary," John insists, and I see the anger returning to his eyes. "After all these years, I know the sound of that fucker's voice, and it was him. He told me when and where and all but drew me a fucking map, and all of you want me to sit on my fucking hands and do nothing? Jesus!"
Mary stares at him, completely unfazed by his outburst; it's not like she hasn't experienced it before...on a daily basis.
To say John could be moody would be like saying the ocean could be salty.
"You done?" Mary asks him dryly, shifting in her chair to cross her legs.
John sighs loudly in response.
"No one is saying 'do nothing'," I tell John reasonably; because as Deputy Director of the FBI, it's part of my job to always be the voice of reason...which sucks. I miss the days where I could go off half-cocked, dropping f-bombs and slinging punches just because I was pissed.
"Then what are you saying?" John snaps at me.
"I'm not saying anything yet. We just need to make damn sure our shit is together on this," I remind him and see Mary nod in agreement with me. "I have no doubt that Azazel is the Slash and Burn Killer. And I have no doubt that he is one of the sickest, most evil sonuvabitches we've run up against in all our years with the Bureau. But..."
John glares at me because he knows what's coming.
"He wasn't convicted, John. He's a free man just like you and me. So, until he does something to warrant another arrest, you need to stand down." I pause, making sure John is listening to me. "The last thing the Bureau needs is another misstep in this case, which results in this asshole walking free again."
John snorts disgustedly and shakes his head, looking away from me but careful not to look at Mary, either. As though avoiding eye contact will somehow prevent us from knowing exactly what he's thinking.
"It wasn't his fault," Mary states calmly, but her expression is hard and icy.
Because this – John's bitterness toward his own son – has been going on for months, and Mary is done with it.
John shrugs. "I didn't say anything."
"No," Mary agrees. "But you were thinking it."
John doesn't deny it; just continues to stare straight ahead.
The silence is thick and awkward as Mary glances at me and then back at her husband.
And I know that if they had not both known me for more than 30 years; if their kids had not grown up calling me Uncle Bobby and my wife Aunt Karen; if I had not been just plain ol' Bobby before I was Deputy Director Singer, the conversation about this touchy subject would have ended right here.
But it doesn't.
"When are you going to let this go?" Mary asks John.
"Let what go?"
Mary stares at him, clearly unimpressed by his act.
John shakes his head, a gesture of frustration. "What? What do you want me to say, Mary? That I forgive Sam, and then we all have a group hug in time for Christmas?"
Mary narrows her eyes. "Don't be a smartass with me, John. And don't be a dick, either. There's nothing to forgive. Sam did nothing wrong. You can't blame him for what happened."
John's eyes widen. "The hell I can't!" he yells. "Sam – "
"Was just doing his job," Mary defends...and she's right.
That's part of the problem.
Sam was doing his job and not their job; not the family business.
When it had come time to choose careers, Sam had chosen "lawyer" over "FBI agent". And while John had insisted it didn't matter; that he didn't resent Sam's decision; that everything was all good because at least Sam was still in the business of putting bad guys away – John's actions had spoken louder than his words.
It was little things at first – John purposefully missing family dinners, saying he had to "work" just so he wouldn't have to see Sam...shit like that.
But earlier this year, Sam had been appointed District Attorney – the youngest person to date to have received that honor – and John had not attended the ceremony or the reception afterwards.
Sam had been gracious and understanding; had excused John's absence with polite words and a wounded smile.
But Mary had been pissed, and Dean – Sam's older brother and John's good little soldier, having fallen in line right behind Daddy as an FBI agent – had been livid.
But that incident was not the issue they were discussing now.
"His job?" John repeats. "His job is to win cases, to keep serial killers off the fucking streets instead of just blindly trusting another attorney to do it for him!"
"He couldn't be involved in the case because of you, John, and the overall history between Azazel and our family. You know that," Mary reminded sharply. "And as for Ruby, he had no reason to suspect she was a conniving bitch."
"She's right, John," I add, knowing John won't think it's my place to speak on this issue but unable to keep quiet. "I've known the judge, Rufus Turner, since grade school. And he told me he had never seen anything like that girl – even he never suspected her until the last minute – and by then, it was too late. She was good. Her and that Brady guy..."
John snorts disgustedly. "Brady..."
Mary glares, once again reading John's thoughts. "Sam's known him since they were sophomores in college. Hell, Brady was at our house just last Thanksgiving. How was Sam supposed to know Brady was working for the wrong side?" She pauses. "Did you know?"
John doesn't say anything.
"That's what I thought," Mary answers. "And that's why this needs to stop, John. If you're pissed because Azazel is free, fine...be pissed. But don't be pissed at Sam, because Sam did nothing wrong."
I nod in agreement, the movement so slight that I doubt either Winchester sees it as they stare at each other.
The silence that fills the conference room is tense and thick; muffled voices and ringing phones filter in through the closed door as reminders that even if their family is falling apart, the world still goes 'round.
That's how life worked.
That's how the job worked.
And that's why John clears his throat and jumps right back into the conversation about the case as though the last ten minutes never happened.
"I called Missouri Mosley," John announces, knowing that will get a reaction from Mary, will distract her from continuing to hound him about the issues between him and Sam.
Mary frowns. "Why would you do that?"
I'm wondering the same.
John shrugs. "I wanted to know what she thought about the call from Azazel."
Mary rolls her eyes to indicate her opinion of this.
"What?" John asks defensively, and I see another battle on the horizon.
But that's how it's always been with the Winchesters; they're a passionate bunch, that's for sure.
Mary shakes her head. "Missouri's a nice woman. But she answers the phone at a freakin' psychic hotline, John. She thinks whatever you want her to think. That's what she gets paid for – to tell you what she thinks you want to hear."
It's John's turn to shake his head. "That's not true," he counters. "There have been plenty of cases where she knew details no one else knew, details that were not released to the media."
And John's right.
I'm still not sure how she pulls it off, even though we've investigated her at least twice. But Missouri has always known far more than she should about our cases. And she's always been more right than wrong with her predictions.
"Fine." Mary sighs, because she can't argue against the truth of John's last statement. "What did she say about the call?"
"She said it was him – "
"Oh, of course she did..." Mary interrupts.
John narrows his eyes.
Mary smiles, amused. "Any other news from the future?"
An unreadable expression passes over John's face, and Mary's smile falters.
John glances at his wife; then at me and then back to her. "After I told her about the call, she did a reading...or whatever...and she said she saw blood on the door of a church."
Mary leans forward in her seat, an instant believer at the mention of blood. "Yours?"
John shakes his head. "No. Someone else's. But someone I know."
Mary swallows, staring intently at her husband. "Who?"
And I can see her holding her breath, praying John doesn't call Dean's name. Because Dean is on John's team; and if I decide to let them move on this, if this goes down, Dean will be at that church with John tonight.
And although I know Mary would never wish harm to any member of John's team, the mother in her would rather such a fate fall on anyone except her oldest son.
Mary has never said it aloud, but I know that's one reason why she was glad, was thankful that Sam had not chosen this life – because at least he was safe.
"Who?" Mary repeats, actually grasping John's wrist.
John shakes his head again. "I don't know. She didn't know."
Mary nods her understanding but looks even more concerned.
John covers Mary's hand with his own. "It'll be okay," he assures her, even though I can tell he's also concerned.
He would rather Missouri had told him it was his blood that she saw, than to have to wonder and worry about whose it was; especially when Dean is among the possibilities.
There's a beat of silence.
"Did she say which church?" I ask, beginning to feel anxious myself.
...which is ridiculous.
Nothing has happened yet. No one has been injured; no one is bleeding.
And yet, what if Missouri is right?
John sweeps his thumb over the back of Mary's hand and then looks at me. "Same church as where it all started before...just like Azazel told me last night on the phone."
I nod, needing no further explanation.
Azazel's first killing spree had begun exactly ten years ago during a Christmas Eve service at a church downtown, much like the one he supposedly had planned for tonight. As was the same back then, Jim Murphy – who had been one of the Bureau's chaplains for as long as John and I had been agents – still pastored the church located at the intersection of Blue Earth and Lawrence Streets.
And if I know John – and I do – I know he has already been in touch with Jim about the possibility of yet another threat to his congregation on this, one of the most joyous nights of the year.
"Have you called Jim?" I ask anyway.
John nods, his hand still resting over Mary's as she continues to grasp his wrist. "Yeah. If you give us the green light on this, he's onboard."
I nod in return, having expected that of Jim.
"I assured Jim we wouldn't disrupt the church service. We would just fan out and blend in with the rest of the congregation. Nobody would even know we were there, unless we saw something suspicious or Azazel actually showed."
I nod again at John's plan of action.
It's a good plan. But still...
John stares at me, and I know what he wants to hear.
I sigh and rub the back of my neck. "I don't know, John. I know you think Azazel is coming. And I know you think he called you last night and that Missouri confirmed it. But I need more than your hunch and a psychic's say-so on this, or it's my ass." I pause, because that's not 100% true. "It's all of our asses on the line here, John."
John scowls his anger and annoyance, and I know I'm not going to like what he says.
"Would you rather dozens of innocent people...innocent families...be slaughtered at church on Christmas Eve because you didn't have the balls to do what you knew was right?" John shakes his head. "The Bobby I used to know would tell the Bureau to shove protocol up its ass and then strap on some Kevlar and kick ass right alongside me and my team." John pauses. "But I guess that Bobby doesn't exist anymore...does he, Deputy Director Singer?"
Mary glances at her husband, the hint of a smile on her lips and love shining plainly in her eyes. Because even if John Winchester worries the shit out of her sometimes; even if they disagree more than they agree; even if the issues between him and Sam are not yet resolved, John is still the love of her life, is still her badass hero in so many ways.
They make me sick.
I sigh and shake my head. "I'm gonna regret this..." I mutter to myself.
John shrugs. "Better safe than sorry, Bobby. If nothing happens, then fine. Spending an evening at church won't hurt any of my team, trust me. And for the record, I hope I am wrong; I hope Azazel is a liar on top of everything else, and nothing happens tonight. But if something does happen..."
John doesn't finish his statement because he doesn't need to.
I get it.
We all get it.
And that's why – even without concrete data or reliable evidence – I'm giving my permission for John to take his team out tonight.
"Fine," I tell him with a sigh. "Make the calls, get things set up".
John smiles. "Thanks, Bobby," he responds genuinely, and I see a glimmer of excitement in his eyes.
I offer a small smile in return, because I remember how that feels; to anticipate a stakeout; to feel confident in your team's experience and skill; to crave the adrenaline rush that danger brings.
And that's fine; that's part of being an agent; part of what makes an agent.
But this is not our usual type of case.
And I know John knows that, but still...
"John..." I begin.
"I know," John confirms before I can say more and nods for emphasis. "We'll be careful." He glances at Mary, making her the same promise. "No one's dying tonight, unless it's Azazel."
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," I comment as I stand, feeling my left knee creak in protest.
John chuckles and watches me cross to the door. "I'll be in touch, Bobby."
I nod. "You do that," I encourage him. "And you watch yourself out there. Idjit."
John smiles. "I will," he assures as the door closes behind me.