Category: Angst, Drama, Humor
Spoilers: Spoilers through On the Head of a Pin
Summary: When a hunt to protect one of the seals goes wrong, Sam awakens to find he's a hot-shot lawyer and Dean is a mechanic. Now, as the end of days nears, he must navigate a foreign life to figure out what went wrong, and get back to who he should be even if it means sacrificing the ones he loves.
Word Count: Approx. 33,000
Disclaimer: See previous posts
[Chapter 1][Chapter 2][Chapter 3][Chapter 4][Chapter 5][Chapter 6][Chapter 7][Chapter 8]
It wasn't until a good twenty minutes later that either of them had started to relax. They kept changing between main roads and back roads, careful not to look too suspicious. They couldn't keep inside cities and towns for the entire trip. Sooner or later, Sam knew they had to get back on the highway.
"We're going to jump highways soon. We probably should make sure we're ready before we get to the wharf."
They had stopped on an old country road on the outskirts of a dying city. The rundown buildings in the far distance told their own stories of glory days past. In many ways, Sam thought he was looking at the ruins of a once glorious place, one that had fallen under its own weight and pride.
Sam looked to Dean, who leaned back and breathed out. He looked exhausted.
"We're so screwed," Dean said.
Sam wanted to tell him it would work out fine in the end, but he wasn't about to start giving out false promises. Telling him it would be over soon was the best he could muster.
He knew they were being hunted. The closer they moved toward the wharf, the heavier the sky became. It wasn't just the weather. There was something distinctly ominous to the sky, the earth, and everything around them. Sam didn't know at this point whether it was the demon he'd encountered in the antique shop or if it were another demon trying to get in on the action. Either way, he took the demonic omens as a sign he was on the right track.
If demons were out to get him, then Dean would need to be prepared as much as possible.
"It's not going to be easy," Sam warned him. He looked up at the sky. The billowing clouds of black smoke were absent, but the storm clouds continued to build. "We must be on the right track if demons were following us."
"Because that's exactly what I hoped for on this trip." Dean sighed. He opened the car door and both he and Sam took out their weapons to give them a hearty check. "It's like I can't escape hunting."
"Neither could I," Sam said as he rolled out their arsenal. "It has a way of catching up with you."
Sam lifted his head at her name. He saw that Dean was checking one of the shotguns. Sam was a little unnerved how he was holding it.
"I wanted to go after the thing that killed her, yeah."
"That's so like you. If Mom hadn't flipped about you -- well, the other you -- dropping out of college, I'm sure you'd have picked up hunting full-time."
Sam straightened. This was news to him. "I--your brother dropped out?"
"Almost. Mom pulled the old 'I'm disappointed' card and said something about it wasn't what Jessica wanted. So I figure that's why you stayed in school." He shrugged.
That actually made sense. Suddenly, Sam felt a whole lot better. "What about you?" he asked. "Why did you get into this? Why did you quit?"
"Mom was afraid something was gonna come after us, which I always thought meant you," he said pointedly. "But she thought the best way to stay safe was keep a low profile. Dad thought nailing the sucker head-on was the best way to protect the family." Dean paused, stopping to stare at the handgun he'd chosen. "I went with him."
Sam didn't have to imagine what that must have looked like. He had lived that life so often -- watching his dad and brother go out on a hunt -- to come back with that euphoric high that had only depressed him. He had felt more like a freak on those days, wanting nothing more than to escape.
He wondered if that was what his mom had felt like in this life, knowing full well what her husband and son were facing.
"So, what? You met Charlotte and settled down?"
"Something like that," he muttered.
Sam raised his eyebrows.
"I knocked her up."
Sam blinked with surprise. "What?"
"Don't get me wrong. I love her. It takes work, but we're good." He blinked and shook his head. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this."
Sam knew. There was something comforting in talking so openly. They both knew that when this was over, and the swap was made, it would be like it never happened.
"Anyway, she had a nasty poltergeist in her house, and she was grateful." A sloppy grin spread across Dean's face. "Very grateful."
Sam sighed. Even here Dean was a pervert.
When Dean didn't continue, Sam jumped in. "Let me guess. Mom pulled the disappointed card on you, too."
"Oh, you shouldn't hunt," he said, his voice drawn out into a whine. "You have a family. You have to think about them."
"Well, she's right. Family comes first."
"I know. I quit. End of story."
Sam knew it wasn't the end of the story. Something else must have happened. He knew Dean, any Dean, well enough to see right through him.
He decided not to press the issue right then. Dean was already shuffling through the rest of the items Sam had bought, running them through his hands with both disdain and idle curiosity.
Sam did the same. He made sure all the guns were loaded with ammo, the holy water was ready for use, and that they were stocked with salt. Once he was done, Sam stood back and scanned their arsenal. It wasn't the best, but it would have to do.
They both fell quiet after that as they finished their preliminary weapons check. Dean seemed lost in thought, as if he wanted to ask something, but didn't know how to approach Sam.
It seemed odd -- both the awkward silences and the normal conversations they were having. Dean was so much like his brother, but also a stranger in many ways. He didn't understand how he could feel both comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Judging by the tension in Dean's face, Sam knew he felt the same.
And it was in that common ground they found reassurance.
Both Sam and Dean packed up the weapons and stashed them back in the trunk. When the time came, they would be ready. Now, they just needed to make it to the wharf.
It wasn't until they were back at the front of the car that Dean spoke.
"So, what exactly am I here for?"
Sam frowned, though he started to feel queasy. "What do you mean? We're going to get that mirror and set things right."
"You don't think I can't see through you? You might not be my brother, but you're close enough. What's the real reason you nabbed me for this gig? You could have grabbed that mirror all on your own. What won't you tell me?"
Sam sighed. He knew this moment would come. He just hadn't figured it would come like this.
"The mirror is activated by blood. It can only be undone and closed with the blood from the person that opened it."
Dean's eyes widened. He didn't need this one spelled out for him. "It's my blood."
"I need it to make the mirror work. That's all."
"And you were gonna tell me when?" Dean's face grew dark. "When I'm cut and bleeding out?"
Some of the warmth he'd felt just moments ago began to evaporate. "No, no. Come on, you know it's not like that."
"I promise you that nothing is going to happen to you. I just need a small sample and then I can get back to my brother and you can get back to yours." His voice quieted. "It's not like I could have asked you over the phone."
Dean snorted. "Suppose not."
And that was it. None of the anger, none of the pain, none of the hurtful and distrustful glares that Dean had been giving him for the past few months. Sam relaxed and smiled. For the first time in a long time, he felt like Dean trusted him.
They both opened the doors to the Oldsmobile and were about to climb in when Dean's cell rang. He frowned, looked down, and pulled the phone from his pocket. Sam leaned against the side of the car, between the open door and inside of the passenger side seat, watching.
"Hey, Char," Dean said. He gave a shrug to Sam. "What's up?"
Dean's vague surprise at the call shifted to dark concern. "The van's on the news?" he asked aloud for Sam's benefit. Then he let out a nervous chuckle. "Like we'd dump the van and steal a car."
Sam shifted his weight. If the police and news stations were broadcasting their actions on the highway, they didn't have much time left to get to the wharf. Hating to do this to Dean, he walked over to the driver's side of the car and moved to take the phone. He stopped when he saw Dean's face drain to a ghostly white.
"What?" Sam asked.
"Stay inside," he said into the phone. "Don't go out. Don't open the door. Lock everything now."
Dean's face never retained its color. Sam moved around him impatiently. "What?"
"Everything's black," Dean said, his voice shaking. "Charlotte...she says the city's gone black."
Sam felt his own strength begin to wane.
"There's screaming and gunshots and hissing."
"Dean, tell her to salt the doors, windows, any opening. She needs to take the kids and get into a room and stay there. Double salt. Anything."
"I know." Dean stiffened. "Charlotte? Salt everything. Yeah. The doors, the windows, the vents. Whatever you can."
Dean began to pace. Sam's anxiety rose with every step he took.
"No, I don't know what's going on," he said to her. "Just do that and hunker down together. Kids asleep? Ah." He nodded. "Okay, put her on."
Dean turned his back to Sam and kept his pacing. Sam wished there was something he could say to reassure him, but he had the sinking feeling that this disaster extended far past just an enchanted mirror.
"Hey, pumpkin," Dean said, his voice strained as feigned cheerfulness entered it. "Not giving Mommy a hard time, right? Good." He glanced at Sam and offered a weak smile. "Brushed your teeth? Okay. Now be good for Mommy and your brother. I'll be home when you get up, okay?" He breathed out. "Sleep tight and remember, angels are watching over you."
Sam jerked at the familiar words and stared at Dean. He was talking in hushed tones to Charlotte now, likely reassuring her everything would be okay in the end. He snapped the phone shut and when he noticed Sam was watching, the nervous smile returned.
"Becky won't go to sleep unless I say that." He paced for a moment, restless hands scrubbing his scalp, and with a final shake of his head, he marched to the car. "I have to go back."
Sam caught him by the scruff of his collar and pulled him away from the door. "Dean, we can't go back. We have to finish this."
"To hell with your stupid mirror! My family's in trouble. They need me." He wrestled against Sam, pushing and shoving to try to get to the door. Sam matched his every step and pounded him against the back doors.
"I understand. I understand more than anything."
"What do you understand?" Dean asked bitterly. "My family's alone and scared. They could die, Sam. Die."
"I was ripped away from my brother in the middle of a fight against a demon, a bloody battle that went all wrong." Sam steeled himself, but he couldn't stop the emotion from surging in his voice. "He could be dead."
They stood, nose to nose for some time, without speaking. The anger in Dean's eyes started to subside, not completely, but enough for Sam to know his rage had ebbed. In its place was the root of it all: a deep biting fear and concern that made Sam feel even worse.
"None of this would have ever happened if the mirror hadn't activated," Sam said. "I need your help to make it right. The demons will come after me. If I'm gone, you and your family will be safe. Get it?"
Dean shrugged off Sam's grip with an angry jerk and walked away from the car. "I get it."
The anger still lingered in his face, though Sam knew it was more for show than anything else. Dean searched him for a long, hard moment, before he shook his head again.
"You'd trade all of this? The fancy parties, the TV coverage, the celebrity clients, Paris Hilton -- all to go back to no family and hunting?"
Sam nodded. "This isn't my life. Hunting is what I do now, and I always have my brother."
Though, Sam often wondered if he really could count on Dean anymore.
"Okay," Dean finally said. "I guess--"
A loud crash reverberated through the lone road. Before either one could say anything, Sam noticed the road crack behind them and widen into an extensive gap. With a pop and fizzle, a stream of steam and gas erupted from the abyss and shot towards the sky like an overheated geyser.
A rattled howl pierced the sky.
"We've got to go," Sam said, as he tugged Dean back toward the car.
That's when the assault began.
It started with one little thump, then another, and another. Sam searched the dark roadway, struggling to find the source of the sounds. The only light came from the sputtering geyser, but even it's misty light was swallowed by the growing blackness. He heard a loud belching noise on the ground.
Sam and Dean looked down to find two frogs hopping by their feet.
Dean gaped at Sam. "Don't tell me it's raining--"
Dean shielded his head as the thumps pummeled them. Soon, the air was filled with the hums and croaks of frogs and toads.
Sam nudged him to the car and jumped into the passenger's seat. He thought about driving himself, but if they were experiencing what he thought they were, he might need to keep a lookout and prepare to fight as Dean navigated the roads.
"Dean!" he called.
Dean slid into the driver's side and managed to get the car started. The smack and splatter of unsuspecting frogs slammed into the hood above them. Dean jumped as two smashed into the windshield.
"Can you drive through it?" Sam asked, feeling sick as one of the dead frogs slid down the slope of the windshield, leaving a trail of blood and guts behind.
Dean stared ahead. Worried he might be in shock, Sam gave his shoulder a shake. "Dean?"
"Dude, it's raining frogs!"
Sam bit back the retort and just nodded. "Do you think you can make it?"
Slowly, Dean nodded and brought the car back onto the road. Sam tried to relax his shoulders, even though he knew the tension wouldn't cease. He glanced briefly into the rearview mirror as he leaned back into his own seat to look once more at the geyser.
Castiel sat in the rear, his mouth moving wordlessly.
Sam jumped and spun around, twisting his body in the seat. The back was empty.
"What!" Dean exclaimed. "Is there something in the car?"
"I saw Cas," Sam breathed.
Dean looked at him like he had two heads. "What-who's Cas?"
Sam turned to him and tried not to let his momentary astonishment show. "He's an angel."
"No such--" Dean didn't even bother to finish. "You know angels?"
"Yeah." Though as far as Sam was concerned, they were worthless if they wouldn't actually show themselves for more than a few seconds to help.
"Angels are good. They can help us, right?"
"If they want to," Sam murmured.
Dean frowned. "Highway?" he finally asked. Sam got the impression Dean wanted to avoid the conversation as much as he did.
Dean stomped on the accelerator and bolted down the road. As they disappeared into the rolling dark fog, Sam blocked out the sound of tires crunching the bones of the frogs and stared into the night.
As they sped down the last stretch of highway, Sam and Dean listened intently to the news reports poring over the local radio stations. Even though Sam suspected what was happening, he still couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Police urge you to stay in your homes…Hospitals are overrun with the sick and dying…Unknown plague hits New York…"
Dean glanced at the radio. "What is this? The Apocalypse? On speed?"
"Sounds like it," Sam said quietly.
Plagues. Burning oceans. Dried up rivers. Total darkness. They were all happening, all at once. That could only mean that all the seals were broken. Lilith had won. He had failed.
And worse, he'd brought the end of times to this world. He wasn't sure how it worked, but the guilt weighed deeply on him, only strengthening the closer they traveled to the docks.
"I can't reach Mom and Dad," Dean muttered, pocketing his cell. "They're still on that cruise you got 'em for their anniversary, and reception sucks."
Sam looked out the window. Snatches of light whizzed by them, trying to poke out of the darkness. If it were black here, he couldn't imagine how it was out on the ocean. He hoped his parents would be safe.
He glanced at the cell in his hands. Ruby's number flashed "out of service." He knew contacting her had been a long shot, but he thought -- maybe hoped -- that since he'd seen Castiel, he would be able to find her as well.
He would have to manage with the little information that he had.
"Magic mirrors, angels, the end of the world." Dean shook his head. "I'm going insane."
"We…" Sam thought to what Dean had told him about his role in saving the world. He couldn't believe it. He wouldn't believe it. "I was supposed to stop this," he told Dean.
"The end of the world? How the hell is any one person supposed to do that?" Dean changed lanes; the hissing of rain whistled by them. "Isn't that an angel kinda job?"
Sam didn't answer.
Through the blinding rain, he felt the darkness rising both outside and within himself. Once he found the demon that had started this, he wouldn't just send him back to Hell, he'd kill him. Lilith would be next. No matter what.
Traffic was surprisingly light; not a soul headed toward the Cape. Visibility was near non-existent, but he and Dean managed to drive through the blackness, watching the exits whittling down to their final destination. He tried not to think of all the destruction happening across the world and focused solely on finding the mirror. But even Sam couldn't ignore the muffled screams and shouts that bled through the windows, the broken down cars in the lanes stretched away from the coast, or the gushing roar that circled overhead.
Sam sucked in a deep breath. The exit loomed ahead.
He knew that once they took the exit, there was no going back. As soon as they hit the wharf, they would need to move fast. The demons must know their plan by now, and the apocalypse was well under way. There were no second chances on this run. None.
"Look, Sam. I gotta tell you somethin' before we go in." Dean's face was masked by the dark shadows, yet there was a warm light in his eyes.
The car bounced over the grooves in the road, its racketed wheels spinning as Dean steered it down the ramp to head to the wharf. Sam waited for him to speak, feeling something important in the silence between them. The docks came into view.
"We did kill Yellow Eyes," Dean said, never taking his eyes off the road. "Dad used the last bullet in the Colt and nailed him."
The words were a relief to Sam. His family had peace here. His family had been able to live without that cloud always hanging over their heads.
"But he said something," Dean continued. "Yellow Eyes said something I'd never been able to shake."
Sam felt his breath hitch. "What did he say?"
"He told me one day you were gonna snap. He said it was going to be dark and horrible and there was no runnin' from it." Dean swallowed hard. The car careened toward the fringe of the docks. "That was right before Dad shot him in the head. Even Dad told me once that you might go funny, you know after all the visions and stuff. I never believed him." He glanced at Sam. "That never happened, right?"
Sam clenched his jaw. His own insecurities and doubts bubbled to the surface. All the questions he'd had since he had started training with Ruby, since he'd started taking the blood -- they all crashed around his mind, like the red blood waves that ate away the piers to their right.
He was doing it for the greater good. He was doing it to save people.
Sam swallowed down the doubts and sat straighter. "You don't really believe that, do you?" he asked.
"I thought maybe. Once. But you went all lawyer and that was that." He shrugged. "And I see you, a hunter, and you turned out all right."
His implicit trust burned Sam to his core. He never wanted to lose that, even if this Dean wasn't his brother. He never wanted his true brother, wherever he was, to see that deeply into him. He never wanted to lose that bond that seemed to be slipping from him every day.
"No," he said. "It never happened."
Dean breathed out. The reassurance seemed to take years off his face. He drove the Oldsmobile through the deserted streets of New Bedford, the dead end wharf just ahead.
Sam felt the anticipation in the air; it threaded around him like a net, holding him in place. He tried to stretch beyond it, but it pulled him back, suffocating him. Through the web, he saw the warehouses cut through the dense fog, their tops disappearing into the stormy sky.
His heart pounded harder and harder as Dean pulled the car into park off the side of the street.
"Which one?" Dean asked.
Sam saw a glimmer. Castiel stood in front of a building obscured by the fog. He raised his hand and beckoned to them before he vanished into the mist.
"That one." Sam said. He checked to see if Dean had seen Castiel, but he made no sign of understanding.
Sam wasn't going to waste any more time with details. He took a deep breath and seized the handle of the door. Time for them to move.
"Wait." Dean grabbed Sam's arm. "What if you're wrong?" he asked. "What if all this talk about alternate realities is a bunch of crap? We go to this mirror and nothing happens?"
The thought had crossed Sam's mind. Maybe he and Dean hadn't latched onto the other scenarios so fiercely because they were scared of what other answers might be waiting for them. Sam knew there was a chance he'd never get his old life back, or that time might have been changed beyond the angels' control. He might not be able to undo the damage that had been done. This might be their end.
"We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there," Sam said quietly. He stilled, frowning when he saw Dean digging into his wallet. He watched in silence as Dean withdrew a small picture and handed it to him. "What's this?"
"Picture of my family. I was going to give one to…Sam, but we ain't exactly close."
Sam took the photo and studied it the best he could through the darkness. The picture included the four Winchesters: Dean and Charlotte were seated in front of a backdrop with their son and daughter seated on their laps. Timothy grinned at the camera, easygoing and free, though Rebecca looked like she'd just sucked on a lemon. Despite the sour face, Dean and Charlotte smiled, both genuinely happy. Out of all his life, all the time he could remember, he had never seen that kind of smile on Dean's face shine as brightly as it did in this picture. The closest he could remember were the times when Dean had been reunited with his Dad, or with himself.
"I can't take this," Sam said.
"Nah, take it." Dean offered no other explanation.
Sam held it close before he drove it deep into his pocket, securing it with his money clip. "You should give him one anyway. I'm sure he wants it, deep down, even if he's too proud to say so."
Dean nodded, but the light never reached his eyes. Not this time. That was when Sam saw it: the fear, the dread of the unknown. Dean believed he would never see his brother or family again. This was his way of tying up loose ends.
Sam wouldn't stand for it. "No," Sam told him. "You're not going to die tonight, Dean. We're going to be okay."
Dean averted his gaze. Instead, he stared out into the swirling sky.
"I'll make sure of it," he told Dean. "I'll make sure you see your family again. I promise."
Dean gave a slow nod and met his gaze. Sam made sure his promise blazed in his eyes, letting Dean know that even if he wasn't his brother, he mattered just the same. He saw it in Dean's eyes as well.
Sam broke the intensity and glanced at the warehouse. "This is it. You ready?"
Dean shook his head.
Sam nodded. "Me either." He took a deep breath. There was no going back now. "Let's go."