Sam Winchester opened his eyes to the faint light of the dawn streaming across his face. A little bearded man in square, horn-rimmed glasses was hovering over him. Bolting up, Sam twisted around, reacquainting himself with his surroundings. When had he gotten here? He could barely—
“Yeeeah, you had minor-ish, maybe loosely definable as major meltdown,” Chuck said, his hands in his robe’s pockets. He looked as if he’d been awake a week and was only surviving out of his coffee pot. But he was smiling. Sam had never seen the Prophet so happy and . . . “Calm,” Chuck said in answer to Sam’s unspoken thoughts. His voice and manner seemed to define the word. “Sorry, I squeaked out a couple of pages last night so this is all reruns to me. Wrote all the way up to brunch.”
Chuck pinched his features. “She does brunch. It’s weird. Doesn’t have to eat but she does brunch,” he shrugged.
From the hallway and into the living room, a tall blonde woman in fluid navy slacks and a white cotton tank top passed them on her way into the kitchen. Her eyes were glass, or mirrors, or something. Like metal. Her arms and up to the hollow of her neck were covered in tattoos.
“Get up,” she commanded, not even looking at him and disappearing into the next room.
Chuck hurried over to Sam and pulled him up, “Okay, no, she says up you say how high . . . ma’am.”
“Where’s Dean?” Sam demanded, pulling free of Chuck and straightening himself on his feet. The night before had turned into an ocean of memories and he was lost in them. All he did know were the hard and fast truths—Ruby had betrayed him, Dean came after him and . . . “Oh my God—”
“No, no no no,” Chuck said, waving his hands, trying to assuage Sam’s fear. “The apocalypse has been postponed until further notice.”
“Is not and never was your concern,” the woman appeared at the entryway between the kitchen and the living room.
Sam looked pointedly at her, “Excuse me, who are you again?”
She smirked. Sam saw it was mostly humorless. “Think of me as Castiel’s big sister,” turning back to the kitchen she said, “Come and eat.”
Sam glanced to Chuck, expecting an explanation. “Er,” Chuck began. “She figures, and she’s right, I had to revise this three times, I swear, each time she told you you just kinda freaked out. So she’s not telling you until you’re ready.”
“Chuck—” he began, his voice threatening.
The Prophet almost curled over himself laughing. The youngest Winchester just stood over him, his face getting tighter and angrier every second. Catching his breath, Chuck said, “You think I’m more scared of you than I am of her? I can’t even say the word call-gir—” His entire body jolted like he’d been hit by lightning. “—without spazzing.”
Eyes wide, Sam said, “What?”
Chuck got deadly quiet, his humor completely gone, “She said next time I try to break one of the six hundred and thirteen—”
“Six hundred and thirteen?”
“Six hundred and thirteen commandments?”
“Yeah. The list was longer than ten but Moses balked at the idea of having to carry that many stone tablets from the top of the mountain. That was a pre-Motrin society, don’t forget. Anyway, she said if I try to break one again, she’ll do what she did to me last night, but with the.”
“ . . . the what?”
Throwing his hands up in the air he exclaimed, “The WORD the.” He shivered. “You know what that can do to a writer if he can’t write the word ‘the’? If I have an epileptic fit every time I write or say the word ‘the’?” With a sigh he said, “I’d have to write poetry or something.”
“Winchester!” The woman’s voice snapped and Chuck pushed Sam forward. Entering the kitchen the thing Sam immediately noticed was the gaping empty hole in the wall. It wasn’t even as if the house had been torn apart or smashed—the slice in the architecture suggested the house was built that way, with a hole integrated into the design.
The woman was standing before the hole, her attention focused onto Chuck’s backyard.
“Eat,” she said, her mirrored eyes still turned away from him.
“Where’s Dean?” Sam asked.
“Ohh,” Chuck said, making a beeline to his dinner table. It was laden with all kinds of delicious looking foods. “Ha,” he said to himself, murmuring “Cheerios,” distastefully as he started filling up a plate with grapes and eggs and pancakes and honeydew.
“Your brother had his breakfast hours ago. He’s been in training ever since.”
“Training?” He asked, coming around and standing next to her. Now, looking out of the hole and into the backyard he saw something that took words from his mind. Instead of a view of five feet of cement and twenty feet of unkempt weed growth, Sam found himself looking out into Chuck’s backyard and seeing a barren desert. The sun that shone through Chuck’s front windows by the living room was not the same as the four heaven-bound orbs burning in the distance or the mountain sized moonscape hovering beyond the horizon.
A half mile over the sand dunes Sam could make out two solitary figures. Fighting?
“What is this?”
She placed her hands on her hips, seeing something she wasn’t liking and mumbled, “Sere. A post-creation world.” Out to the two figures she shouted, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” The figures paused and turned to her. “Get over here!” Both figures slumped, dejectedly. One placed a hand on the other and an instant later, Dean and Castiel were at the entryway.
“Dean!” Sam said, moving to his brother who was dripping with sweat and wearing his best Lawrence of Arabia. They both held long swords in one hand and daggers in the other.
“Sammy—” Dean’s face lit, his exertion melting on seeing his brother. Dropping the weapons to the ground, Dean pulled his brother close and gave him a series of pats on the back. They were allowed this moment before—
“Okay, reunion TBC,” the woman said, now turning to Castiel. “I didn’t tell you to go easy on him.”
“He left himself wide open.”
Dean’s face got heated and he protested, “Did not!”
She turned on him, her reflective eyes glowing. “Fine,” she said, a sword and a dagger appearing in her hands. “Show me.”
With a grin like he’d been waiting a long time for this, Dean elbowed Sam back and grabbed up his blades, stepping out back through the rift in reality, leaving Chuck’s house and entering another world.
“Oh!” Chuck said, grabbing up his plate and following them out onto the planet’s surface. “Smackdown.”
Sam turned to Castiel, his look telling him he not only wanted an explanation but he needed one and desperately. “She’s right,” was all he said, however. Leaving the blades in the kitchen, Castiel placed his hand on Sam’s shoulder and they walked out onto Sere.
“Cas,” Sam said, walking out onto the planet’s surface and feeling the heat instantly hit him. It was like all the oxygen in his lungs was set on fire and evaporated. Turning around he saw Chuck’s house, in full, sitting like it had just crushed the Wicked Witch of the East and had just liberated Munchkin Land. “You’re an angel and look at this place. How’s Dean supposed to win?”
“He’s not.” Castiel said with a low grumble. “I was supposed to reflect his level of skill and steadily increase, guiding him along. He’s making progress, just not enough to please her.”
Sam stared at her, liking her less every minute. “It’s only been a couple hours.”
“Time is different here. We’ve been training a few days now. Nearly a week.”
He stopped cold, “What?” The clash of swords brought him back around and he saw Chuck sitting in the sand, cross-legged, observing the fight. Dean and the other angel were going after one another in rapid-fire succession, each clash of the blades ringing across the barren dunes.
“This can’t be right . . .” Sam said, watching as they both became more and more of a blur as the swords clashed louder and louder. Dean doesn’t move this fast. Dean can’t move this fast. No one can. And just as suddenly as that thought had entered his mind, Dean was immobile, the angel’s sword pressed through his chest. “Dean!” Sam screamed, racing over to him when Dean’s shoulders slumped and he cursed.
“You had to show me up in front of my kid brother?” He said, peeling out from her sword. There was no cut and no blood. The sword was clean.
“Next time try being an example,” she chastised, the sword and dagger disappearing from her hands. She turned on Castiel, “We’re facing down your Garrison at noon and you think it’s helpful leaving him like this?”
“Hey!” Dean objected.
Castiel looked to his feet and said, “But he kept losing.”
Chuck waved Sam over, “Hey, how’s your hand?” He asked.
Sam quirked his brow and looked to his hands, spotting faint scarring on his right palm. “How’d I—” A memory, sharp and white hot, pierced his mind and more of the night before came to him. A girl. His trunk? “I don’t—” A sharp pain shot up from behind his sinuses and blanked out his vision. A cold slick trickle streamed from his nostril and he found it hard to breathe.
“Uh oh,” Chuck said, scrambling to his feet. “Brunch!” He said, remembering he’d been Cinderella and the stroke of twelve finally came. He hadn’t seen past this point. “Hello? Guys?” He flailed, catching Dean’s attention.
“Sam?” He said, before watching his brother teeter on his feet. “Sam!” He cried out, rushing to him and gripping onto his brother before he fell to the sand.
“The Blood is passing through. The hunger is coming on him,” Castiel said.
“Wha—what blood?” Sam stuttered, a tearing pain slashing through his insides. This was familiar. Too familiar and then he realized what was happening. “Not again,” he quietly said, his hands gripping desperately to his brother. “Dean—”
Looking down to him, Dean was assaulted with the memories of what happened to Sam just three days prior. It felt longer to him but he realized he’d been in Bobby’s bunker with Sam only three actual days ago. It was then that he’d said he would have rather see his brother die than become a monster. Suddenly Gabriel’s words came through to him and he realized, on that point, he’d already made up his mind and still, every part of him absolutely rejected it wholly and completely.
“Time to pack up,” the female angel said, looking down to Sam. They found themselves in the crabgrass and dandelions of Chuck’s backyard, the world of Sere gone into the ether. Turning to Chuck she said, “Get everything you need, you’re going with them.”
“Wh-what?” He asked, scrambling around to her. Instead of the consternation she expected she was amused to see the light in his eyes. “I get to meet Bobby Singer? Are you serious? His library—Oh my—” she made a low grumbling noise and he swallowed, ending, “goodness gracious.” Backing away from her he turned to his house and pattered through the gaping hole as if Christmas was early.
“I can’t do that again,” Sam quietly said, his breath coming rapidly. The pain hadn’t come on as sudden as this last time and now he just felt like he’d been hit by a bus.
“Come on,” Dean said, helping Sam onto his feet and avoiding his words. He knew Sam had to go through what he’d gone through. He had to go through detox; it was the only way to make Lucifer the un-comfy in Sam’s skin.
Watching the brothers enter the house, Gabriel turned on Castiel. “His ego is not worth his life.”
“These swords aren’t going to hurt him but your concern for his feelings will kill him. Do you understand?”
She walked on ahead of him, her slacks and shirt melting into her steel armor, her hair raising on a breeze and braiding itself into gravity defying perfection. “Get ready for battle, little one.” She said, not turning back but her voice clear in his mind.
Standing alone in the morning sun, Castiel looked up to the sky and sighed.
“What?!” Dean demanded.
“You’re driving,” Gabriel said, tossing him the keys to his car which had appeared on the curb.
“To spend time with his brother before being locked up in a tiny dark dank room with only his pain and his demons for company,” she said, her tone sharp and arched. Those words tempered his rage, understanding what she was telling him. Leaning over Sam she drew a sigil over his forehead and told it to contain him. The black mark lit like a beacon and then burrowed under his skin, vanishing. “It’s a five hour drive. Don’t drink too much and you won’t have to make any stops.” She gestured to Chuck, “Anything comes after him, and consequently you, I’ll be there.”
Sam Winchester, who’d been curled in on himself on the couch heard this and came to the instant realization that this angel wasn’t just any angel, was she? Unlike Anna who’d also been Castiel’s superior at one point in time, this woman seemed leagues ahead of the other angel. Now she seemed to imply she had a connection to Chuck. Hadn’t Dean said only one kind of angel was assigned to a Prophet?
He managed to sit up in time just to watch as she and Castiel disappeared.
Chuck was dragging his heavy suitcase out the door, a broad smile on his red flushed face. “Are we going?”