Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three
Cry ‘Havoc’ and Let Slip the Dogs of War
“Sam?” Dean called to his right, glancing away from the almost empty stretch of highway and taking stock of his quiet brother. Sam stared out his window, silently observing the passing of random trees. The hunger and need and pain had dissipated from its initial intensity to a low buzzing under his skin and remained a barring presence in his mind. Whatever the Archangel had done, she’d blocked the worst of it, but it was still there forcing him to curl in on himself in the passenger’s seat of the Impala. Not really hearing Dean, all Sam could see was Ruby’s face and hear her voice over the last year as she lied and betrayed him. She’d lied and Dean was right; he always had been right about her. He knew not to trust her and all Sam did was hand himself over to her. Demons lie. How many times had he been told that? How many times had that been drilled into his mind? How many arguments and fights had he had with Dean because he was defending her?
Now Dean was practically begging him to speak and Sam had no idea what in the Hell he was supposed to say. Of everything he wanted to say, most of all was: I deserve this. Whatever this was, whether the poison was designed to kill him, he deserved whatever he had coming to him. Sure, for Dean time had passed, hurt feelings had healed and in their entire lives Dean never stayed mad at him for longer than a few days but for Sam, it was all fresh. It was hours ago, not days and it was marked on him like a brand. He didn’t want Dean’s forgiveness; he didn’t want him to understand. He just wanted the Dean he’d heard on the damn voicemail. The Dean that would hunt him if he’d become a monster because right then, Sam felt like a monster for what he’d loosed on the world.
God, he sighed, now he was just . . . gah! Wallowing? I have the fucking right to fucking wallow? No, I don’t. This is not a pity-party; this is not me licking my Goddamn wounds. I can’t . . . I can’t do that anymore.
“Talk to me,” Dean said and Sam just slammed his hand against the dashboard, causing Chuck to jump in the backseat and Dean swerved a little in his lane.
“Stop the car,” Sam said, undoing his seatbelt.
“You sick?” His brother asked, pulling the car over to the tree-lined shoulder and into the plush summertime grass and gravel.
Without answering, Sam left the car. Stalking a few feet away he closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath. He wanted to get everything out but he only knew one way to do that and he couldn’t do that this time. He just couldn’t.
“Sam?” He heard Dean’s voice from just a few feet away and Sam shook his head, holding out his hand to keep his brother at bay. He didn’t dare open his mouth because nothing he said would be good enough. Nothing he said could express what was going on inside of him. Feeling the burn behind his eyes he tried to set his face even firmer, warning the tears that were about to fall that they damn well shouldn’t even dare. All the words that came to his mind instantly turned to bile in his mouth. Everything was true but it was the saying of it that made him sick, made him feel weak and pathetic.
Dad was right; you should have killed me.
Why didn’t you let me stay dead?
Why are you trying so hard now?
All of it turned it around on Dean and fuck if Dean deserved any sliver of that shit now.
“I’m sorry,” was what he managed to say when the tears did dare and they were falling down his face. He’d said it before and he didn’t think he could say it enough. “You’re not weak,” he whispered, his pride crumbling to small pieces. “I said it and I kept saying it and I kept thinking it but you gotta to know it’s not true.” He turned and looked to Dean who was an arms length away. Sam cracked a bitter little smile. “I couldn’t deal with you saving me again.”
“And she knew that,” Dean said with a small shrug that looked to release all the worries of the world. It wasn’t that easy. Sam wanted to scream at him that it wasn’t that easy to just . . . let go.
“Dean, I released Lucifer,” he said, slowly, his fingers pinched as he made a little gesture. “Satan is loose on the Earth because of me.”
Taking a breath, Dean shifted in his stance and seemed to grow five inches in pure confidence. It was a little thing but Sam had rarely seen it lately. Ever since Dean had returned from Hell that self-assurance had been missing and here it was in its full power.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“You’ll take care of it?” He had to bite his tongue from saying anymore.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Dean looked away with a roll of his eyes. “Okay, fine. Maybe compared to you I’m an idiot and a midget, how in the Hell—”
“I didn’t say that—”
“—we’re all fucking doomed because—”
“Dean, I didn’t say that!”
Bending down, Dean pulled a baseball sized stone from the ground and fastballed it to Chuck’s bespectacled face.
Before Sam could shout, the stone was easily caught in Dean’s hand. Less than a second had passed but he’d moved over twenty feet and caught the ball that had been going towards the Impala at at-least ninety-plus miles an hour. Dean palmed the rock, leaning against his car and just shrugged to his brother.
“Okay, granted I can’t really compare the two, but dude, when you said you wanted to go to Stanford, with our school record, I thought you were nuts, but I never thought you weren’t smart enough and I never thought you couldn’t get the work done. I always knew from day one the only way someone was gonna hold you back was ‘cause of some stupid technicality. I had faith in you, Sammy. Now, this is different” he raised his eyebrows and gave a little shake of his head, “I get that, but other than telling me we’re all S.O.L. ‘cause I’m driving this boat, how about you just have some faith in me?”
Breathing hard, Sam asked, “Dean, what the Hell did they do to you.”
Cracking a smile, Dean tossed his brother the stone. “Honestly? Nothing.”
Rolling his eyes, Dean pushed off the car and walked back around to the driver’s side. “I suck at telling stories. Ask the little man in back,” he said, climbing back into the car.
Looking to the stone in his hand, Sam took a breath and dropped it to the ground, moving to the car. Taking his seat, Sam turned to Chuck who was already sorting through his papers.
“Okay, okay, hold on,” Chuck said, flipping pages in their proper directions. “Umm,” he scanned the papers, “‘Who are you?’ Dean breathed, trying to split his focus between the woman and his kid brother. A moment later he just turned completely to Sam. ‘What’d you do to him?’
‘Neutralized the poison in him. It won’t last forever though. We need to go.’
‘Neutralize? With what? Eau de PMS?!’” Chuck snorted, “Love that line.”
“Chuck,” Dean warned, pulling back onto the highway.
“Alright, alright,” he muttered. “She went to the wall and ripped the dagger from the stone. The handle was covered in thorns. ‘These thorns once drew blood from the body of Christ. He is with Sam now and where he is, the Beast cannot be.’”
“Jesus Christ?” Sam murmured, his gaze looking down to the scars on his hand.
Dean arched his brow, “I said the same damn thing.”
Yeah. He really fucking hated angels.
Feeling the power over his mouth return to him, Dean rubbed his chin, “Any chance you could just toss a ‘shut-up’ my way instead of giving me lockjaw?”
“Telling you to shut-up carries no guarantee that you will,” she said simply and causing his face to turn puce.
“And how am I supposed to kill Lucifer? Chainsaw?”
“He can’t possess his first choice—”
“—So he’ll procure a replacement. Getting another vessel ready will take time and he’ll never be at full power in the substitute. He will come after Sam.” She looked to Castiel. “Angels can only inhabit according to certain bloodlines and unlike the little pissant demons you’ve faced before, Lucifer follows the same rules.”
Recognizing the most obvious candidate, Dean pointed to himself. “Umm . . . hello?”
She smirked, “Right, because you weren’t just in the same room with him and open to possession.”
“Winchester, there’s a reason you’ve never been possessed and it’s got nothing to do with that tattoo, as effective as it may be with Sam. Besides, you’d have to ink the body mass of a baby elephant to keep the Beast out of a Host. The same reason he must be killed by you would destroy him if he entered you.”
“I’m a demon roach motel?”
Dryly she said, “Bingo. I couldn’t have said it better. What exactly is this desire to boil things down to ridiculously simplistic analogies?”
With a small shrug and some glee that he’d pissed her off, he just said, “What? I’m just rockin’ the visual.” Flaying him with her glare, Dean coughed, “So . . . but I don’t get it. I went back in time. I saw Yellow-Eyes pick my mom on a lark. He wasn’t after her. He didn’t even know—” hand gestures failed him, “—about her . . . lineage.”
She had the patience of an impatient saint. “Yeah, you weren’t immaculately conceived. You’re dismissing your Y-chromosome.” Dean looked away, everything starting to gel. “Your mother was a hunter, her family moved around every other year. Your father, on the other hand, was born and raised in that little tight-knit community back in Lawrence where kin could be found nearly every other house. That’s why Azazel was there, harvesting promises. All those children had a common lineage, your father being one of those children.”
Shaking his head, Dean wanted to make sense of it, “But, Azazel killed him. He killed Dad.”
“Knowing Mary would deal for his life. Knowing that after losing her entire family she would risk her soul just to have one person left and it guaranteed that thick or thin, she would stay with John out of both love and pure desperate fear. Azazel’s fixation on her compounded with John’s bloodline—it made it all an easy bargain.”
He needed time to process all of it. He had gotten the biggest shock of his life when he’d discovered his mother had been a hunter and it was through the deaths of everyone she’d loved that she’d made a deal with a devil. Now he understood what Cas had said when he made it clear that the nursery fire would have happened no matter what—none of this actually began with a deal, it began with their blood.
“That’s why they wanted Dad,” he said quietly. “They thought he’d be the one who would start all of this but he didn’t break.” And all the blame he’d given himself doubled-down and he was feeling overwhelmed.
Finally, something like compassion came over Gabriel’s face. It warmed him, but only for a second, “Winchester, don’t be such an idiot.”
“Your father was never the target. It was always you. Azazel wasn’t only fixated with Mary back in ‘73. You traveled time. Only way you could have done that was through us and only way we’d let it happen is if you were a truly righteous man.”
At that he just looked at her like she was singing a Beijing Opera. “He didn’t have to make a deal with Dad to get me. Yellow-Eyes had me seconds from kicking the bucket.”
“And where exactly do you think you’d go?”
He matched her sarcasm, “Hmm, let’s review my life in general—”
“Yeah, let’s do that, never minding the fact that the prophecy needed a righteous man, never minding there’s a reason you can look me in the eyes without shitting your pants and never minding your life of service—”
He snorted, “I’m not exactly a Bible-thumper—”
“We—” She gestured to herself and Castiel, “Aren’t judged on faith. We know. There’s a difference and it’s big. That’s why angels are judged on good works. We know God, there’s no faith involved in facts so the only way to prove ourselves worthy is with service. How many crosses do you have in the trunk of your car?”
“What does that—”
“You think a funny-shaped piece of wood protects you from demons?”
He ground his teeth, “No.”
“No. It’s your absolute and infallible belief that what that cross represents will kick that demon’s ass six ways to Sunday. How much iron have you used to ward off spirits?” He didn’t reply. “Yeah. Nails on the cross were iron, but you knew that.”
“Okay, let’s break it down. Demons. Lie.” And the words were so simple but they mowed him over. “You were on Alistair’s table. You think your dad was in your place, somehow heard a Devil’s Trap was opening and somehow, poof! hopped-tail to the closest fire-exit?” Dean looked away. She was right. God, she was right. There was no way. He’d tried so many times to escape and it just wasn’t happening. “Ruby got herself eviscerated just so she could look in your face and lie. Alistair, after all those years he had you, knew exactly what to say to make you feel like shit. Torture ain’t just cuts and bruises.”
Turning away to his brother, cursing himself for condemning Sam for what he’d also failed to remember, Dean pressed his temple with the heel of his hand and finally sat down, sinking into an armchair.
Gabriel, crouching before him, wore that same look of compassion in her face and Dean waited for the verbal assault to continue. “Cherub,” She said, finding it funny that on Earth, most people associated fat winged-babies with the bouncer-like guardians and their flaming swords and ox-faced visages she was familiar with. Glancing to the talisman on his neck she smiled. Either way, in his case, both were appropriate. “I don’t say this to hurt you. But before you can go forward, you need to know the truth.”
Dean turned away and looked down to his feet. Speaking quietly to the floor he said, “They killed our grandparents, they killed our parents, just to prep Sam for being Satan’s tea cozy and to get me to what, exactly?”
“To blaspheme,” she said, touching his face and raising his gaze. “It was the only way your soul would have gone into Hell. Losing your father was the only way to ensure you’d rage and doubt but you kept going. They didn’t expect that. It was only when—”
She nodded, “He was your breaking point. Just like Mary, John was all she had left and she felt she didn’t have a choice.”
“I didn’t,” he said with a hard conviction and a misting of tears in his eyes. Gabriel said nothing. No affirmation but also no judgment. “You think I did, but,” he looked to Castiel, “You’ve got family.” It was all he said. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he set his face and it was as if they’d never been there.
Standing she replied, “You do too.” She looked to Castiel, gears shifting. “Ever been off-world?”
Dean was more than a little surprised by the light in Cas’ eyes. In that moment he almost believed he was a little kid.
“No,” he said.
She sighed, “No clearance?” He shook his head. “How the Hell’d you make Lieutenant Colonel at your age?”
“The Battle of Golgotha,” he said with a small nod.
“Ahh,” she said with a respectful smile.
Dean looked to Chuck with his brows raised. Chuck loudly whispered, “When Jesus stormed Hell and took the keys. He had Castiel’s battalion with him.”
“That’s why you were sent for him,” she said to Cas.
Dean looked back to Chuck, hoping his Prophetic gift could make some sense of the one-sided conversation, “Revelation 20?” He scoured his room for a Bible and snatched an old beat-up second hand copy, “—And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” Chuck looked up a little, organizing his thoughts. “So, Cas and his crew battled Satan back in the day and he’s the angel in particular and you,” Chuck pointed to Dean, “I think you’re the chain?”
Gabriel shook her head, exasperated. “You really need an unabridged version of the Bible. And you call that whispering?”
Dean gaped, “Cas, you fought side by side with—”
Castiel shrugged a little. “He did not need us but we were always with Him.” Then he confessed, “He was only in a fraction of His glory so we could see Him without dying and it was still . . .” he exhaled, the words not coming to him. “Wow.”
“Did you just say ‘wow?’?” Dean asked.
“I was there when Lucifer was sealed and because of that, I was chosen to retrieve you. I’d already stormed Hell once before.”
Gabriel rubbed her chin and then looked to Cas before making a decision. “Now or never I suppose.” Waving her hand, a holographic screen that ran the length and height of the living room appeared. In full color and with a background of electric blue, Dean could make out names and ranks under pictures of faces and some . . . amorphous swirls?
“Oooo,” said the dashing and handsome Chuck—
“Chuck!” Dean shouted.
With a pout Chuck muttered, “Yeah, yeah.”
“Oooo,” the Prophet leapt from his desk and studied the massive screen. There must have been a thousand faces there. Castiel was towards the top, by himself in the second row and labeled Lieutenant Colonel. Below him were three others, all labeled with the rank of Major. One of the three was Uriel, his picture blackened. The top row consisted of a single face: Zachariah and under that was the rank of Colonel. “What is this?” He asked.
“It is my battalion,” Castiel said. He and Chuck were on one side of the translucent two dimensional image and Dean and Gabriel were opposite them. Narrowing her eyes on Zachariah’s face, his image blackened and his name disappeared. Like touch screen shuffleboard, Gabriel touched Cas’ square and shifted him up into Zachariah’s slot.
“Congratulations, Colonel,” she said, giving him a small salute as Castiel’s eyes began to glow a bright white. It lasted only a few seconds but when it was over the look of absolute shock and surprise overwhelmed him. “You now have off-world clearance.”
“Dude,” Dean began, looking directly across and into Castiel’s face, “Did you just get a promotion?”
“I am not—” Castiel started to say when Gabriel touched the screen and over eight hundred faces were blackened.
“Ready?” She asked. “Experienced? Old enough?” Touching the screen again, half of those who remained simply vanished, leaving less than a hundred faces and nondescript blobs. “A hundred of our brothers and sisters are dead because they did not join with Uriel’s plot to aid in Lucifer’s ascension or because they discovered Zachariah’s schemes to accelerate the written timetable. Eight hundred are now in one of those two camps. The only ones left are either true, like you, or are weighing their options. Of the hundred, you are the only senior officer. So, whatever you believe you are not, you will accept the duty given you.”
Castiel looked to the screen and couldn’t believe the corruption had gone so far and had gotten so deep. So many blackened faces of those he would have vouched for with his life. “I will,” he said.
“So . . . does Zach know he’s been demoted, or—what?” Dean asked, noticing the looks Cas and Chuck were exchanging. With an exhale, Gabriel sent the screen spiraling away to nothing.
“He knows,” was all she said. Frowning, Dean looked to Chuck wearing a bright WTF on his forehead. Chuck gestured with his head to the kitchen and walked out of the living room, Dean on his heels.
“We went looking for the rest of him but we searched the whole block and we couldn’t find him,” he said, opening the freezer.
“What are you talking abou—Yo!” Dean jolted, looking into the freezer. Amongst two bottles of Grey Goose, a pint of frostbitten Haagen-Dazs and several microwave dinners was the blue-black bloated and frozen face of Zachariah.
Chuck nodded, “She killed him dead.” He picked up the box of cereal and started to absently munch on it.
“Yeah,” Dean said, closing the fridge, his eyes wide, “I think Zach knows.”
“I just hope he’s not in Mrs. Watson’s petunia bed. She buries her cats in that petunia bed,” he absently munched a little more furiously.
Looking just past Chuck, Dean looked to the hole in the side of the house. “She did this?” He asked, his voice quiet.
“She is not to be fucked with.”
“Winchester!” They both jumped at her voice, Chuck a little more visibly than Dean. They turned to her. “Get cleaned up, there’re clothes over the bathroom door.” She said, gesturing upstairs.
He looked down to his own clothes but she dismissed him. “You’ll fry like bacon wearing those.” He had no idea what she was talking about but the second he opened his mouth she gave him this kinda . . . look and he knew she was about to wire his jaw shut.
With a smile he said, “I’ll just go get cleaned up.” He about-faced out of the kitchen.
Gabriel turned to Chuck who was still snacking on cereal when she gave him a cold, deadly smile. “The blessing of prophecy comes with certain behavioral requirements.”
“Hmm?” He squeaked.
“A gospel can have no credibility if written by a sad, whining, whoring, pathetic little man.”
“We’re gonna have a little talk, Prophet.”
“Umm, can we skip this part?” Chuck asked, his hand mowing over his beard. “It’s a little,” cough, “difficult.”
Dean rolled his eyes and said, “Skip ahead, skip ahead, yadda, yadda, Chuck got whipped in no uncertain terms, yadda, yadda—”
“Thanks Dean,” the Prophet said with a cross pout. “Thanks a bunch.”
“Oh Hell no!” Came the decided words from above. “You are out of your—” barreling down the stairs, barefoot, his lower half wrapped in a towel, Dean was waving what looked like simple white fabric in his hands. “No way I’m wearing—” A moment later he was dry and clothed from head to toe in what could only be described as oil-sheikh couture. He looked like a little bitch—
“Hey,” Sam quietly spoke up. “You’re editorializing again.”
Dean shook his head, “No, he’s not,” he explained. “I did look like a little bitch.”
“Make sure you write that,” Dean said, looking to Chuck and making a scribbling motion with his hand. “Little. Bitch.” Pointing to himself he said, “I do NOT approve.”
All Gabriel did was turn her back on him and wave her hand over the hole. Powerful winds cycloned around them and the dark landscape of an overgrown backyard exploded in vivid orange light. Grains of sand swirled and twirled into the kitchen. Dean and Chuck shielded their eyes from the intensity of the glare. Castiel openly stared at the sight. The windows in the living room still reflected night.
“Welcome to Sere,” Gabriel said, stepping out onto a whole new world. Dean and Chuck’s eyes slowly adjusted to the light and they found themselves staring out onto massive sand dunes and staring out at a horizon that was dwarfed by a giant, star-sized moon. Up to the sky were four blazing, burning orbs in colors ranging from red to green to blue to a nearly invisible white.
“The blue and white ones will collapse in a few years. The entire system will be in flux but in the meanwhile Sere is the primary training ground for warriors like you.”
“We’re not—” He didn’t finish his sentence. He knew it was stupid the second he saw the stars above but he just had to verbalize the impossible awe surging through him. They weren’t anywhere near Earth anymore.
“Oxygen remains in the atmosphere even though the planet is completely devoid of life,” she explained, leading them onto the hot surface of the planet. “Mountains of rock and streams of crystal clear water to the south, pristine ice caps to the north. The dunes here at the equator. No plants, no animals. Not even moss. Armageddon was fought here about a hundred thousand years ago and the planet reclaimed the land. The architecture, the roads, the entire civilization. Everything’s moved on. Everything but one. At the top of this dune.”
“Earth is gonna be like this?” Dean asked. Chuck stripped off his robe and held it over his head, shielding himself from the stars.
Gabriel looked to the Prophet, “You can withstand an hour here before you’re in any danger.”
“Ohh, okay,” Chuck lowered his robe but still wished he had his pair of Ray-Bans.
To Dean she said, “All life flows to death just as all birth flows to life. This is the future of Earth just as every other planet in your solar system experienced its dawn and its twilight. However, God’s schedule is not Lucifer’s schedule so this false-start Armageddon is an uprising, not the Word.”
“How many Lucifer’s are there anyway?” Dean asked, looking over the bleak horizon.
Gabriel smiled and for the first time, Dean saw it was actually genuine. “Finally. A question that proves you have something of a deductive mind.”
“Am I supposed to say thanks?”
“There is one Lucifer but dimensionally, he has a portal, a seal, on every creation planet with the most recent one existent on Earth. If he unlocks them all, he will have the strength to come back into his Grace. Once he does, it will be equivalent to what happened to Sam when he looked into my eyes but exponentially multiplied. He will burn into nonexistence, his own soul destroying him.”
“Guilt?” Dean asked, trying to imagine what that experience would even be like for the embodiment of all evil finally facing what he’s done.
She turned to him, their eyes nearly level. “Imagine a child realizing they’ve disappointed a dearly loved parent.”
Having been that child, Dean knew the feeling.
“He would not be able to live with himself.”
Chuck added, “Literally.”
“And the conflict in all of this is to be like God, which was his blasphemy, he must join again with his Grace. It is Lucifer’s pride that tells him he will not be ashamed. For evil to die, however, the gates must be opened and he must cause the apocalypse on every creation world.”
“How many gates are left?” Dean asked.
“Only Earth’s.” She said. “That is the last gate. There are still vast pockets of life around the universe but those civilizations have already entered their End Times. Earth’s gate releases the last point so if Lucifer succeeds, all creation will then head to death.”
Dean and Chuck were perfectly frozen. Petrified. If a strong wind had gone by they would have been blown over.
“Earth is the last gate?” Dean asked.
“How exactly are you defining the End of Creation?!” Chuck demanded. “What’s the metric you’re basing this on?!”
“Don’t second guess this. This is why Zachariah was so certain his plan would work and Earth would be the last bastion of civilization in the universe but he didn’t understand the depths of Uriel’s faction and every faction like his in other battalions. He wasn’t just up against demons but he was up against his own kind. That took the odds of success squarely out of his favor. This is not God’s schedule. Human creatures are destined to travel space and repopulate the entire universe before Lucifer’s gate on Earth was to be opened. The End of Creation would take billions of years to trickle down after that. That is what is written.”
“Unless I can stop this,” Dean said, giving voice to the words unspoken. “If I can’t stop this then fuck what happens to Satan, everybody on Earth turns to sand?”
She didn’t even try to sugarcoat it. “Exactly. Like I said,” she gestured to the barren wasteland where down, into the valley, a single, solitary remnant of an entire world’s civilization remained: a great pyramid. “Welcome to Sere.”
“Stop.” Sam said, cutting off Chuck’s words. “Stop the car,” he told his brother as he struggled with his seatbelt.
“Dean—” Sam mumbled, sweat beading across his forehead. Dean spun the car onto the shoulder, clearly seeing that his brother was about to get sick in his car.
Sam jumped out and barely made it out of the car in time before he doubled over and retched into the dirt and grass. Dean stood just outside the driver’s side door, looking over the roof to the quaking body of his little brother. He didn’t know if he should go to him or not, everything had come at him too hard and too fast. Throughout the story, Dean had taken glances at Sam as Chuck filled him in to what happened during the hours he’d been sleeping and the tension and unhidden despair Dean had seen in his face came closest to breaking his heart than anything they’d ever been through. He wanted to tell Sam that none of this was his fault; that everything that happened to them was set in motion generations before they were even born. But, no matter what he said, Sam would blame himself for this and Dean knew it was also true that as much as Gabriel had told him no one could have withstood thirty years of daily torture, he would always blame himself as well.
Winchesters were cursed. He knew that now, but for completely different reasons than he’d ever imagined.
“Sam?” Dean said, popping the trunk and pulling out a bottle of water from the cooler. He held the bottle over Sam’s shoulder and tapped him with it.
Accepting it, grudgingly, Sam rinsed out his mouth and then took a few long gulps.
“No one’s blaming you,” Dean silently said.
Sam bitterly laughed. “The Archangel Gabriel hates me,” Sam corrected, standing up and moving away from the mess. Going back to the car, Sam sat in his seat with the door open to the bright midday, his feet firmly planted on the ground.
Standing over him, Dean exhaled. “Dude, Ruby or not, we both thought that killing Lilith was the way to go so it would’ve ended up exactly like this.”
Okay. Fine. Maybe he could let go of that guilt because what Dean said was true and they were both played by the angels. But he was wrong saying they’d end up exactly like this. In the end, he’d given Dean scars, he’d almost killed him and for what? Funny, he thought, I can let go of the guilt of setting Satan free but I’m killing myself over leaving Dean. What kind of twisted logic is that?
“What changed your mind?” He managed to finally ask.
“Sam, I’m not the psychic one here, you gotta help me out a little.”
“The voicemail,” Sam said, his voice small and raw. Chuck’s eyes lit up and he started rummaging through his papers.
Dean smiled, “So you did get it? I wondered about that.” He shook his head, still smiling, “What makes you think I changed my mind?”
The blood instantly drained from Sam’s face and a chill slicked the back of his throat again. “Dean—”
“No, no, no, no, okay! Subterfuge!” Chuck screamed, not finding the papers he needed and reaching over to tap Sam’s shoulder. “Give him your phone.”
“What?” Sam asked, his voice mimicking his desolation.
“It was Ruby,” Chuck said, opening his door and climbing out with nearly a ream of paper in his hands. He tossed them on the trunk of the car. “She changed the message. Seriously, Sam, give Dean your phone.”
Dean’s face hardened, “That bitch did what?”
Sam’s fingers shook as he pulled out his phone and an instant later Dean had snatched it clear from his hand and opened Sam’s mailbox on speaker.
“First saved message: ‘Listen to me you bloodsucking freak—’”
“What the fuck—” Dean mumbled, confusion and rage fighting for dominance over his features as he heard his voice say words he would never imagine saying.
“Dad always said I’d either have to save you or kill you. Well, I’m giving you fair warning: I’m done trying to save you. You’re a monster, Sam. A vampire. You’re not you anymore, and there’s no going back.”
Violently jabbing the button, Sam was sure Dean was about to toss the phone into space. Instead, he held it up to his brother.
“You think I’d say this to you? You believed that shit?”
Defiance boiling in him, Sam said, “You did say it, Dean. You said stuff really close to it back in the motel so, yeah I believed it.” He had to look away from Dean’s absolutely crushed expression.
“Sammy, I’m an asshole and a dick most of the time but I’d never give up on you, got it?” He said, restraining himself from screaming and kicking his words down his brother’s throat. “I get mad, I talk crap but don’t you ever think I’d say half that bullshit!”
And with Dean’s shock and anger and rage, Sam knew Dean was telling the truth and he knew he’d believed the worst of him. “I thought—” He buried his face in his hands, remembering how badly Ruby kept pushing him to listen to the message. The phrase ‘that bitch’ would never grow old in memory of her.
“‘Screw it,’ he said, flipping open his phone and hitting the first number on his speed-dial.”
Dean and Sam looked up, hearing Chuck’s voice from the back of the car. He was reading off of a rumpled sheet of paper.
“The phone rings once and heads straight to voicemail. ‘It’s Sam, leave me a message,’ came the short recording.
“‘Hey, it’s me, ahh,’ he says, the words struggling to leave his mouth. With a short cough and Bobby’s words replaying in his mind, he went on, ‘Look, I’ll just, get right to it. I’m still pissed and I owe you a serious beat-down but . . .’ he pauses and it feels like it lasts forever. ‘I shouldn’t have said what I said. You know, I’m not dad. We’re brothers, you know, we’re family and uh, no matter how bad it gets, that doesn’t change. Sammy, I’m sorry—’ he manages to get in half the word before he’s cut off.”
Chuck looked up to them from over his glasses. “That was the message that was supposed to get to you but she messed with it.”
The levels of devastation Sam had been feeling that day were dwarfed by hearing what Dean’s message was supposed to have been. The dulled pain of his addiction didn’t at all compare to what he felt looking up into Dean’s face. There must have been a limit to the amount of times a person could apologize.
“I don’t—” He began when Dean’s eyes widened and he shouted—
“Chuck!” Watching his brother, Sam would have sworn he’d disappeared instead of moving so fast he hadn’t even seen him. Spinning around, Sam saw the 18-wheeler barreling towards them, Dean blocking Chuck by standing between him and the rig. At that speed and size they were all about to be killed. A moment later an electrical storm surrounded them, bright light nearly blinding them.
The Archangel Gabriel appeared a few feet before Dean and . . . bitchslapped the forty-ton truck across the empty highway and towards the opposite bank of trees. It barrel-rolled a few yards above the ground, never even marring the asphalt before slamming into the vegetation.
Her head tilted to the side, “That is seriously lacking in imagination,” she turned to the men who all stood agape. “Didn’t they already try the ‘truck accident’ routine?” No one spoke. Dean almost nodded.
She looked to the truck and then back to him and laughed. “You think you’re ready to take on something like that? Oh no, Cherub, not yet,” she said. “It seems the dogs of war are out. Get your asses to Singer’s,” she commanded before crouching down and shooting up into the air like a rocket, her armor radiating like white fire.
Sam choked, “Holy—”
Chuck nodded, “Yep.” He opened the trunk and pulled a beer from the cooler. “Yep,” he muttered again, drinking half the bottle in one swallow.
Dean stared up to the sky and then over to the truck, the wheels still spinning on their axels. With a grin and more than enough terror, her words replayed in his mind.
Not . . . yet.
Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three