Title: Road to the Apocalypse (2/10)
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: 2,664
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: This installment takes place during the events of "Lazarus Rising" and immediately following "Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester", leading into the opening scenes of "In the Beginning". Title is from the Trivium song of the same name.
Dean stared at the mirror, almost unable to recognize the man staring back at him. His eyes were bloodshot (flesh flayed from his bones), dark circles shadowing them (blood, so much blood and oh, the screaming), and his cheeks were hollow with exhaustion. It was a stranger reflected there, the spectre of hell lurking in the lines of his face, the set of his mouth.
He squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing them with the finger and thumb of his right hand. He turned around, sagging back against the cracked countertop, unable to look at himself in the mirror anymore. Not that he minded being out of Hell, but he wished he knew why he was out and, more importantly, who had pulled him out.
He turned back to the mirror and pulled the neck of his shirt down over his shoulder. The vividness of the handprint had faded somewhat, from the angry scarlet to a duller, healing pink. Nothing in the lore said anything about creatures able to dredge the Pit and haul out souls, but Bobby and Sam were still looking. It looked human, the handprint, but that didn't mean anything. Lots of things looked human. Lots of things wore human skins like condoms.
He ran his fingers over the raised welts. It should hurt, it looked so much like a burn, but it didn't. He didn't know what it felt like, but it wasn't pain. It was cool, almost soothing. He stared at it for a long moment, wishing like hell he knew what it meant.
Movement behind his shoulder. The Trickster stepped out from behind him, smirking. "Castiel," he said, voice echoing oddly.
Dean whirled, pulling the knife at the small of his back and swinging it up into an overhand position. There was no Trickster behind him. He glanced back at the mirror, wide-eyed, but the Trickster's reflection was gone.
He was alone in the bathroom.
When his heart rate was in some semblance of normal, Dean pulled his shirt clear of the brand again. "Castiel," he muttered, trying it out. The name resonated, deep down in some unidentifiable place inside him. It sounded right.
Dean let the shirt slide back up his shoulder, hiding the brand from sight again. He set both hands on the counter and leaned forward to examine his reflection again. "Castiel," he said again and yeah, it sounded exactly right.
It was a lead. A slender one, but still a lead.
Dean was uncomfortable with the séance right from the start. It began as a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, ramping up into near panic as soon as Pamela touched the brand on his arm. It felt like invasion, like violation and, even though Pamela wasn't doing anything but touching his arm, he really wanted her to stop. It took all he had not to shake her fingers away from his crawling skin.
"I invoke, conjure and command you, appear unto me before this circle." Pamela repeated it, her voice falling into an easy cadence as she worked her magic. On a normal day, it would have been hypnotic, but Dean was wound tighter than he'd ever been, and it was all he could do not to fidget in the chair.
Bobby and Sam looked just as uncertain as he felt, but neither of them said a word. Dean knew they wanted answers just as much as he did, wanted to know what new horror they were dealing with, what world-ending bullshit was coming down on their heads.
This is a bad idea.
"I invoke, conjure and command you, appear unto me before this circle." Pamela's head canted to the side. "Castiel?"
Dean jumped, gaze flying to Pamela.
The psychic looked smug, stubborn. "No. Sorry, Castiel, I don't scare easily."
Dean's voice shook. "Castiel?"
Without opening her eyes, Pamela turned to Dean. "Its name. It's whispering to me, warning me to turn back."
The television flickered to life. The table started to shake. Pamela's voice rose, demanding, commanding Castiel to show her its face. Dishes rattled in the cupboards. Bobby and Sam looked as spooked as he'd ever seen them.
The Trickster stood behind Pamela, shaking his head slowly, eyes full of sorrow and resignation.
"Stop. Stop!" Dean tried to jerk his arm free, but Pamela's fingers clamped down like iron around his shoulder.
"I almost got it. I invoke, conjure and command you! Show me your face!"
The candles flared and Pamela's eyes lit up like the Fourth of July. The scent of burning flesh filled the air, and Pamela screamed.
Gabriel manifested in a motel room decorated with hearts and tacky gold wallpaper. A hole-in-the-wall rent-by-the-hour kind of place, from the look and smell of it. He liked it already. It was just his style.
The bed was rumpled, trash full of empty take-out bags and shreds of newspaper. He snapped his fingers and the paper flashed back into wholeness, floating in front of him. He plucked it out of the air, smoothing it out.
A clipping cut from a local edition, dated several days back. Some mumbo-jumbo about weird weather that, to the uneducated eye, would seem like just another mood swing of Mother Nature. Gabriel smirked as he crumpled the page and tossed it back into the can. "Hunters." It never ceased to amaze him exactly what patterns sharp human minds could pull from disconnected reports of grave disturbances, weird lights and quirky weather.
Still, that wasn't why he was here.
He wasn't sure why he popped in here, as opposed to the thing that had drawn his attention to begin with, but this was the first lead he had on what had gouged out a chunk of his mind. He could work with this. "Alright," he said, and rubbed his hands together briskly. "Let's see what's what."
He extended one hand, fingers spread. Around him, time froze and slowly began to rewind. Shadows of bodies moved through the room, ghosts of what had been. Streamers of color unwound before his eyes. He flicked two fingers, and the ribbons resolved into human forms.
He frowned at them. One was vaguely familiar, a dark-haired man. The older dude, he was pretty sure he'd never seen. The last two, a tall lanky figure and the smaller woman, were too blurred by demonic darkness to make out features. He paced around them, hand absently moving to fine-tune the image, but it refused to sharpen.
A flare of power from somewhere east of him drew his attention like a whip crack. Gabriel snapped his head up, peering at the ceiling. He knew that sensation, even if he hadn't felt it in eons. An angel was moving, and far too close for his liking. Witness protection only worked if one kept one's head down.
He'd figure this all out later. The afterimage dissolved into nothing. With a sound like a flapping of wings, he was gone.
Alistair froze, standing with dead eyes and an arm partially raised. The whip hung in mid-air, droplets of blood and gobbets of flesh suspended beneath it. Dean, braced for the blow he knew was coming, stared in disbelief. What the hell?
The Trickster stepped out around Alistair and Dean knew then that he was dreaming.
"You," he hissed, straining at the straps binding him to the rack. Even knowing it was a dream didn't make them less tight. "Get the hell out of my head. I've got enough crap in here already without you junking it up."
The Trickster tutted. "Dean, Dean, Dean. I thought we had an understanding."
His muscles bulged with the effort of breaking free, protesting at the demands he was putting on them. Head trip or not, it fucking hurt. "We have an understanding, alright. I understand that the minute I get loose, I'm going to kill you."
The Trickster waved a hand at Dean. "Of course you will," he said indulgently, circling Alistair with an arched eyebrow. "Of course, you'd only be hurting yourself but I'm pretty sure you'd like that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You have a masochistic streak a mile wide, Dean." The Trickster crossed his arms, standing beside Alistair. He reached up and patted the demon on the arm. "Or do you need me to turn Huggy Bear here back on to refresh your memory?"
Dean snarled wordlessly and turned his attention back to freeing himself from the rack.
"Let me help you with that." There was a snap, and Dean was quite suddenly seated at a diner table, wound-free, pain-free, drowning in confusion.
Dean wished he wasn't getting so used to being bounced around like a friggin' ping-pong ball, but it was becoming the sad reality of his life. If it wasn't some demon in the body of his grandfather throwing him across the room, it was some angel dropping him in the past without warning. "Where the hell are we?"
The Trickster grinned and pointed at the wall behind Dean. He glanced back. There was a menu on the wall, listing the weekly specials. His stomach sank. "Tuesday," he said, toneless. "Pig in a poke."
"Oh, don't look so worried." The Trickster leaned on his elbows. "It's not that Tuesday. Besides, we're in your head. Nothing happens here unless you want it to."
"If that were true, you wouldn't be here."
The Trickster gave Dean a look like he couldn't believe the stupidity. "I'm a part of you, dumbass," he said. "But I forget. You forgot." The hand came up, the fingers snapped.
WingsangelswordSamindangerfi ghtingfallinggoldenwingsburn ingfireGabriel
Dean reeled back, slapping a hand to the side of his head as his brain tried to crawl out through his temple."Son of a bitch!"
If looks could kill, Gabriel would be a smudge on the linoleum. "No!"
"Hey, don't blame me." Gabriel laced his fingers together and made a show of putting them behind his head. "I'm just a figment of your imagination. You're in control here, Dean-o."
Cautiously, Dean withdrew his hand from the side of his head expecting to see blood. He dabbed at his ear and under his nose, but his fingertips were clean. "What the hell, man?"
Gabriel shrugged, looking unconcerned. "Sack up, you big baby. You've been through worse."
Dean sighed. "What do you want, Gabriel?"
"The excrement is hitting the rotary oscillator, Dean. The Witnesses were just the first in a long string of hurt coming down. You need to get me in the game. Hella fast."
Dean rolled his eyes. "And how do I go about that? You aren't exactly known for your team-playing attitude."
Gabriel grinned. "I'm sure you'll come up with something. But if you want a hint, I'd start with Jegudiel."
"Jegudiel. One of my brothers. We were close. He can find me, and I can tell you how to find him."
Great. More feathered dickwads running around in his life. Because the one in the trenchcoat with the grabby hands and the short asshole lurking in his head just wasn't enough. "Your brother." Gabriel nodded. "Another archangel." Gabriel nodded again. "And how do you expect me to convince him to help?"
Gabriel's eyes glittered darkly. "He owes me. Tell him I'm calling in his marker for Jericho."
Sam eased the door shut behind him, not daring to breathe until the latch had clicked. He leaned against the door for a long moment, letting out the breath he'd been holding in one long rush of air. Not for the first time, he wondered what the hell he was doing. He was jaunting off in the middle of the night, sneaking out of the house like a kid with a curfew, to meet up with Ruby.
Sam couldn't help the stab of guilt; it felt like an utter betrayal of Dean who had been more of a parent to him than a sibling. Their father disappeared frequently and without warning, leaving the boys to fend for themselves as best they could. Dean had taken the responsible role, and Sam had looked up to him. Even a year ago, he wouldn't have dreamed of doing something this… this… He didn't even have a word for it. Though "stupid" came pretty close.
He slid into the Impala, still conflicted. He rested his forehead against the steering wheel and just breathed for a few minutes. When he had started all this, it was out of desire for revenge. Lilith had killed his brother, so Lilith would pay if it was the last thing Sam ever did. He had thrown himself into Ruby's plan with nary a second thought. Lilith had killed his brother, so Lilith would pay. Simple. Direct.
And then Dean was back. Sure, Lilith was still roaming around, but now so were angels, if Castiel was any indication. Things had blown up rapidly, leaving Sam floundering, grasping for reasons. If angels, and ostensibly God, were back and active in the world, did he even need to go out hunting demons down anymore? And if he didn't, then what the hell was he doing?
Truth be told, he really didn't know anymore.
Sam scratched at his left wrist, which was itching like crazy. It had been doing that a lot of late, especially when he started having second thoughts about his current plan of action. Sometimes, he thought he could see something there in the corner of his eye, a glitter of curves and swirls that raised itself out of his flesh and vanished when he looked directly at it. Maybe an angel had touched him too.
Sam smirked, darkly and to himself. It was a nice fairy tale, but yeah, right. The boy with demon blood. The boy fucking the demon girl. The boy with the spooky psychic powers and the lack of impulse control when it came to using them. What angel in his right mind would want to come near him, let alone touch him?
With a final sigh, Sam squared his shoulders, started the car, and drove off to his usual meeting spot with Ruby.
Castiel stood over Dean, frowning as he watched the human sleep. He was unquestioningly loyal to God, obeying the edicts of his direct superiors without second thought, but he was having trouble puzzling out the reasons behind their commands of late.
He had had vague concerns when he'd been dispatched from Heaven to pull Dean Winchester out of the Pit, to grip him tight and raise him from Perdition, but he hadn't thought to question. He did as he was told, went to Earth and claimed Jimmy Novak as his vessel, as he was told. He spoke to Dean, as he was told. Because God had a Plan, and he did as God commanded.
But watching Dean had crystallized those vague concerns into questions, and those questions had been brought sharply into focus by the breaking of the second Seal and the Rising of the Witnesses. He had always thought Heaven wished to avoid the Apocalypse, as it would only result in wide scale devastation and massive loss of life.
So why, then, had he not been dispatched before Dean Winchester broke on Alistair's rack? Why had he not been commanded to save Dean before the first Seal on Lucifer's prison shattered?
Jimmy had been – was – a devout man, but he was a man of the world. Not nearly as innocent as Castiel. Perhaps it was only his influence. His voice whispering in his ear. His need to know answers. Humans questioned, it was what they did. How they were made.
Yes, that must be it. He was unused to human emotions, human thought processes. He would have to learn to adapt to Jimmy's presence and Jimmy's questions within their shared body. Castiel shook his head and, with it, his concerns. He was an angel of the Lord, a loyal soldier of God. He did not question. And he had his orders.
He reached for Dean's shoulder.