Title: Road to the Apocalypse (1/10)
Pairing: Sam/Gabriel, Dean/Castiel
Warnings: Explicit Language, Slash. Violence. Angst. Wings.
Spoilers: General Season 4. Season 5, up to "Hammer of the Gods"
Disclaimer: I'm not making any money from this. Kripke just makes awesome toys.
Characters: Sam, Gabriel, God, Dean, Castiel, Ruby, Raphael, Assorted Angels, Others
Genres: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Angst, Drama, Spiritual
Word Count: ~1,300
Summary: An archangel with holes in his memory. A demon-haunted hunter. A man freshly returned from hell. An angel of the Lord struggling to find his way. The Devil trying to break free. They just might be doomed.
Author's Notes: Sequel to "To Weather Any Storm", second in the Darkness before Dawn series. This chapter is pretty much "Lazarus Rising" (S4E01) remixed with "The End" (S5E04). Lines of dialogue cribbed directly from the episode are italicized. Chapter title taken from the Smashing Pumpkins song of the same name.
Some say there are as myriad themes as there are stories. Some say there are only three themes: man versus man, man versus environment, man versus himself. But the truth is somewhat simpler, and can be summed up in a single word.
Because really, behind every story is a search for the truth. The truth of who we are, where we come from, why we're here. Why does the sun come up? Why are there rainbows? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we keep going, keep hoping, even in the face of certain doom?
I know people who say endings are the worst, because it all has to lead somewhere, plots have to be resolved, subplots tied up without leaving dangling threads. All neat, prettily packaged like a birthday present wrapped professionally at the store. But I find beginnings are the worst. You have to set the stage, introduce the characters, bring in elements of the main plot. Beginnings have to hook your readers, snatch at their interest and keep them turning pages, keep them caring..
Beginnings are the worst because, if they're not done right, everything just falls apart.
The Beginning is the End is the Beginning
"Dean, don't do this."
Sam's voice was quiet, broken, pleading. Tinny across the miles bridged by the cell connection. It didn't even sound like his brother. That made it a hell of a lot easier to squeeze his eyes shut, steel his nerves and say "Bye Sam," before snapping the phone shut and settling back into an uneasy sleep.
When he woke up, the small but vibrant town he'd pulled into hours before was a shattered wreck haunted by the ghosts of rusted-out cars and graffiti tags of vanished gangs.
Future Dean was a dick and a half. He was cold, ruthless and utterly humorless. A hard man, hard enough that John Winchester could only have dreamed of emulating him. Even the recollection of Rhonda Hurley and her pink satin panties didn't do more than make him smirk faintly. He also liked to touch his guns a bit much. Dean was one for weapons, and had whiled away many hours in the car devising new places to hide entire arsenals, but Future Dean really liked his guns. He kept touching them, caressing them, like they were the only thing standing between him and certain death.
Gratned, given the times, Dean could see why Future Dean might think that way. That didn't make it less unsettling though.
With very ltitle subterfuge, Dean turned the conversation to Sam, which effectively chased off Future Dean. Dean didn't buy this excuse of "errands to run"; he'd used that one before, when he wanted to avoid talking about a subject.
"I got a camp full of twitchy trauma survivors out there with an apocalypse hanging over their head. The last thing they need to see is a version of The Parent Trap."
On that note, Future Dean departed, leaving Dean handcuffed to a pipe. Dean looked around, besmused and somewhat incredulous. "Dick," he said.
"You're only now figuring that out, Dean-o?"
Dean was getting sick of people getting the drop on him, but at least this time, he wasn't getting hit with angel mojo or a crowbar. He didn't think his head could take much more of either of those. The voice should have tipped him off, as the Trickster came sliding out of the shadows, eyes bright and patented smirk in place.
"I should have known," Dean snarled, instinct driving him to look around for a stick. Fucker had it coming, after all the nightmares this asshole had given Sam. And, he supposed, for what he'd done to Dean himself, even if Dean couldn't remember any of it. "Nice impression of Zachariah. You really got the douchery down. Had me fooled but good."
The Trickster spread his hands with a shrug. "Wish I could take credit," he said. "Really, I do. It's a fairly masterful bit of hocus-pocus. But even I'm not twisted enough to come up with something quite like this. No, that's all Zachariah." He grinned. "It's always the quiet ones."
Dean snorted, tugging uselessly on the handcuff. Nope, still solid. "Yeah, right. You get your rocks off on this kind of crap as a day job."
"Not these days," the Trickster said with uncharacteristic solemnity, and shook a pair of bracelets out from the sleeves of his jacket. They glittered in the dim light, far too brightly, and seemed to glow with an unearthly white radiance.
Dean squinted, then blinked. He'd seen those sigils before. Drawn in blood. Painted with acrylic. Laid on a page in black ink in one of Bobby's books. Symbols to bind and contain immensely powerful beings. "Is that—"
"Enochian?" The Trickster's eyebrow went up in just that smug, condescending expression that always made Dean want to break his teeth. "Good on you, Dean. And they say the American education system is failing."
"You're an angel." If anything was going to break his disbelief about this whole scenario, it was that. "No friggin' way."
Okay, fine. He'd play along. "So which one are you? Sneezy, Grumpy, or Douchey?"
The Trickster smiled a weird little smile, almost like he was remembering something with great fondness. "Gabriel," he said. "They call me Gabriel."
If he'd whipped out a hammer and smashed Dean over the head with it, he couldn't have been more stunned. "The archangel?"
The Trickster—Gabriel—nodded. "The last time we had this conversation," he said, "it involved a ring of fire and three hundred television channels. Don't worry," he added, when Dean opened his mouth. "You'll see when you get there. But trust me, it was a hoot."
"Yeah, I think I'll pass, thanks." He flicked his eyes back and forth between the bracelets, glowing with magic, to Gabriel, waiting patiently with that funny look on his face. "How the hell did you get here?"
Gabriel blew out an explosive breath, and all the piss and vinegar drained out of him. "That," he said tiredly, "is a very long story I have absolutely zero intention of getting into now. But to sum up: Future You is a massive dick, my baby brother a drugged-out traitor, and I was in the wrong place, worst time."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "You're saying Cas helped trap you?"
"Helped? Dean, it was all his idea to begin with. See, when his mojo started going south, he tapped into that great well of knowledge without the experience to use it, and had you—the other you—whip together a summoning spell. The rest, as they say, is history."
"So… what? What's the point?"
Gabriel whistled. "The facts really just go right over your head, don't they? Maybe I should rethink my congratulations of the public school system. Let me try again, using small words." Dean bristled, but bit back the comment rising in his throat. Maybe this was all one of Zachariah's choose-your-own-adventure mind fucks, but maybe he could get something useful out of the deal for if—when, when—he got out of it.
"I'm not just an angel, Dean. I'm an archangel, which is a whole other level of badassery. Castiel can do some pretty goddamned impressive things if he thinks about them hard enough." Gabriel paused, making sure Dean was still listening. Like he'd miss a word, even if he intended on taking them with a grain of salt. A tiny grain of salt. "I don't even have to think about doing them. It's whimsy to me. If it strikes my fancy, it's done."
Dean thought he could see Future Dean's thought processes now. "So you're what, a WMD?"
"Pretty much." Gabriel plopped down on the floor beside him, stretching back with his hands behind his head. He might have been at the beach soaking up the sun for how concerned he looked with his predicament. "A WMD with hefty ties with the heavyweight on the other side." Gabriel tsked at Dean's frown. "Lucifer? As in, Lucifer the archangel? You know, my brother?"
Dean forced a smile. "Right. The other side has a pet angel, and now, so do we."
Gabriel shot him a look. "Archangel. There's a difference. I'm a game-changer, baby. I'm a wild card."
There was something in his tone. Dean still wasn't convinced all of this was legit, but he was starting to believe. "Zachariah doesn't know you're here, does he?"
Gabriel looked pleased. If he reached out to pat Dean on the head like a clever puppy, Dean would bite his fingers off. "Ah, Zachariah. Good old Zachariah. Solid sort, but completely middle management. Who I am, what I am and, more importantly, where I am and what I know, is eternally above his pay grade." Gabriel sat up, looping his hands around his knees. "So listen up, Dean-o. This is how it is: mistakes were made. By you, by me, by the whole clusterfuck of angelic idiots floating around on their clouds. And what we have here is a whisper-thin chance to set them right."
Gabriel smirked. "You'll like this part. You get to give me a well-deserved asskicking."
Dean was liking the sound of this more and more with every passing second. "I'm listening," he said.
Gabriel's eyes danced. "Thought that'd get your attention." Before Dean could say no, or at least request dinner and wine first, Gabriel poked him in the forehead with two fingers, and Dean's mind was suddenly flooded with chaotic fragments, the director's cut of Gabriel's memories in HD, surround sound.
Lilith light Sam pain Gabriel with wings Sam despondent Gabriel desperate a prayer in the void of space "Gabriel!" Raphael the garrison hope joy fear rage Dean crawls out of hell "I've got genital herpes" witches and demons and angels poking their noses everywhere Adam and Michael and Zachariah and Lucifer breaking free and gods feasting as they try to avert the apocalypse and angel blades and the prophet Chuck and Castiel and Uriel and Jo Ellen Bobby making a deal Crowley the Colt and three hundred channels and nothing's on four Horsemen and Luciferluciferlucifer
Ow. OW. OW!
Dean slapped Gabriel's hand away from his forehead, reeling backwards with the same kind of drunkenness only a serious bender could give him. Gabriel's face swam in and out, doubles and triples. It must have been the lack of focus, but he could swear Gabriel looked concerned.
"You okay there, Dean?"
Dean grunted, trying and failing twice to sit back up. He finally managed it, but the migraine was killing him. "Next time," he ground out, "I'd like a New York sirloin and a bottle of merlot before you bone me."
"Zachariah's going to take you back sooner or later," Gabriel said. "When he does, you take all that back with you and you fix this."
He could only make sense of half of the information Gabriel downloaded into his brain, but there was one big problem that he could see. "How do you expect me to pull that off? Half of this happened before Zachariah popped me here."
Gabriel's grin was sudden and sharp, more than a little unhinged. It came to Dean suddenly, the creeping horror of realization that maybe the intervening five years hadn't been very kind to the archangel's sanity. "I told you, Dean," he said in a very self-satisfied tone, "I'm a wild card. A game changer. I freaking angel of mass disruption. He thinks he's going to pull you back to 2009, but he's wrong. You'll go back. To the beginning. To all of it. I'm counting on you, Dean-o, and believe me, if you knew our history? You'd be laughing."
Dean cleared his throat. "We're not going to have a chick moment, are we? Because that would be uncomfortable."
"Oh, Dean," Gabriel said with a laugh. "I'd say never change, but that would defeat the entire purpose of this whole little endeavor, wouldn't it?" He brought his hand back up, and flicked Dean right in the center of the forehead. "Nighty night."
Dean didn't even have time to protest before he promptly forgot all about Gabriel.
Dean Winchester woke up in a pine box, and spent a frantic few minutes clawing his way out of his own grave. At first, he was convinced this was some new horror, a fresh torment devised uniquely for him and, as he stared around at the shattered glade, he waited for the demons to start popping out of the woodwork. Eventually, he picked a direction and started walking, still half-expecting for the rules of the game to change, reality to warp, and a new scene of mental purgatory to melt out of the countryside.
Even after he hotwired a car and fled the tiny, abandoned store shattered by whatever the hell that had been, he had a hard time believing he was free.
It wasn't until he laid eyes on Bobby, and later Sam, when locks turned in their tumblers, connections latched back into place, and he allowed himself to feel something he hadn't in what seemed like years: hope.
When Sam opened the door and there was Dean - really Dean because Bobby vouched for him and Bobby never vouched for anything he wasn't one-hundred percent certain about – Sam didn't know what to think. He wanted to believe it was true, especially since Bobby was there, standing beside his brother, but it was such an insane thing, such an unfathomable fact he stopped thinking and reverted to pure instinct: he pulled his silver blade, and went for the kill.
Bobby caught his arms and shoved him back. "I already been through this! It's him! It's really him!" If Bobby's hands hadn't been so tight on his arms, Sam might well have collapsed.
Eventually, the trip-hammer of fearhaterageangerhopejoydisb elief surging through his head gave way to pure relief, and the knife fell from his nerveless fingers. Dean was solid in his arms, warm and real and Sam closed his eyes and just hugged his brother, relieved beyond words that he'd found some way out of the Pit.
Relief gave way to sullenness and guilt, as the accusations came. On some level, the suspicion from both Bobby and Dean was almost welcome, because it was normal. They always thought he was up to something and, truth be told, if he had been on the other side, he'd probably be right there throwing accusations at Dean.
Because Dean was right. If Sam hadn't done it – and he wished to God he had, but he hadn't – t what did?
Gabriel froze for one long, exquisite moment as the rush of foreign emotions tumbled through the missing piece of his memory he'd long-since given up trying to explain. After weeks of poking and prodding, he reverted to pretending it didn't exist. He was pretty good at pretending with centuries of practice under his belt, good enough to convince even himself that it didn't bother him.
He waited another moment, but whatever it had been was gone before he could begin to unravel it. He shrugged and nodded briefly to the dealer, who tossed two more cards face-down on the table in front of him. He tapped them with a finger for a moment, switching them with the cards he wanted. Because honestly, what good was being an all-powerful archangel pretending to be a demigod if you couldn't abuse your powers to cheat your ass off?
Gabriel smiled as he slotted the cards into his hand. He glanced up at the other players, making a show at trying to puzzle them out. He knew what hands they had, of course he did, but if there was one thing he really enjoyed, it was how congratulatory humans got when they thought they had one over on him.
The Frenchman had a three tens, not a bad hand normally, but the game hadn't been going his way thus far tonight. His nose twitched almost imperceptibly, a sure sign of his nervousness and uncertainty. The woman in the red dress, a bombshell blonde, had a truly shitty hand with a pair of deuces, but she knew how to bluff her way into winning a pot. A cool, unflappable character whom Gabriel fully intended to bang into a mattress when the game was done. The English bloke was erratic as lightning, had the best hand barring Gabriel's, and his thoughts moved in such strange patterns even Gabriel had trouble reading him from time to time. He was also brilliant at dissembling and detecting deception, one of the best Gabriel had ever seen. Barring himself, of course.
Gabriel thumbed his cards apart, smirking. He flipped a ten kay chip into his free hand and opened his mouth to drawl something appropriately witty when there was a sudden wrench and that well of emptiness in his head filled up with guilt and fear so breathtakingly sharp, it was impossible to ignore.
The chip clattered to the tabletop, and the cards slipped out of his fingers. "Fold," he muttered, attention on and interest in the game already vanishing like fog in sun. Without another word, he stood up and left the room.
The four other people at the table glanced at each other and then at Gabriel's abandoned hand. Silently, the dealer flipped them over, revealing a royal flush. They all shared another look. Then the dealer swept Gabriel's chips into the pot, and the game continued without him.