What Could Have Been

Chapter 27

The whole idea that angels were evil was difficult for Sam to accept. It made sense to him that demons were the embodiment of evil but he had always pictured angels as being the opposite – good, pure and righteous. The only angel he knew personally was Cas and although he didn’t fit many of the stereotypes, there was no doubt in Sam’s mind that he was one of the good guys.

Sam wanted to believe that there were other angels like Cas. He couldn’t deny the corruption of Heaven when they were plotting to end the world and destroy Dean in the process, but he wanted to give this Gabriel guy the benefit of the doubt. Surely if he was given the chance to do the right thing he would take it.

Conscious of the angel warding around Bobby’s house, Sam snuck out into the card yard to pray.

“Archangel Gabriel?” he asked, closing his eyes and bowing his head respectfully. “My name is Sam – Sam Winchester.” Did his name hold any significance? With all the talk of destiny and fate, Sam thought it might.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, but my family – and your family – need your help. I don’t know if you know what’s been going on in Heaven lately ‘cause Cas says you’ve been gone a while but your brother Michael is trying to start an Apocalypse on Earth and he intends to use my brother Dean to do it.” Sam struggled to keep a lid on the anger and frustration he felt. He wished Heaven and Hell would fight between themselves somewhere way off in another galaxy and just leave his planet and his family alone.

“Cas says you live down here, so I’m hoping that means you care enough not to want to see your home away from home go up in flames. But even if you don’t care, you should know that we humans do and we are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the world from ending. At the moment, that means killing Michael. My brother Dean intends to sacrifice himself to see it done, and he’ll do it, I know he will. Maybe you think he’s just a kid, he’s no threat, but you’re wrong. He’s the strongest person I know and he has already taken some pretty big fish. Believe me when I say he’ll stop at nothing.” Dean had already given his life once to save Sam, and Sam had no doubt that he would do it again. But he shouldn’t have to. If he could, Sam wanted to be the one to save him this time.

“I don’t pretend to know anything about God or angels or Heaven or what your life is like, but I do know something about family. Family can be a pain; big brothers especially. But if you love your brother as much as I love mine you won’t want to see him die any more than I do. The way things are going, our brothers are going to kill each other. There has to be another solution; some way to avoid bloodshed and end this peacefully. I admit, I’m out of ideas. But you’re an archangel. There has to be something you can do. Please, Gabriel. Please help me.”

Sam risked opening his eyes and looked around hopefully. But the car yard was empty.

“Come on!” Sam yelled. “What are you, a coward? Too afraid to stand up to your family? You ran away when they needed you and this is your chance to make up for it. Do something good for once! Prove that you’re not a dick like the rest of your brothers. Be the better man.”

But there was nothing. Only silence.

Sam was stunned. He hadn’t considered the possibility that Gabriel wouldn’t answer his prayer. Without the archangel, Sam had nothing. No back-up plan, no other way out. He didn’t know how to save Dean.

Dean was going to die.

Sam’s fists clenched and his face screwed up in his efforts not to cry. He knew what life without Dean was like. It sucked. It was cold and empty and lonely and awful. Those two weeks had felt like an eternity and the grief had been crushing him, slowly but surely. When Dean came back Sam had dared to believe that miracles really could happen, but now Dean was going to be ripped away from him again, this time for good.

Screw the apocalypse; Sam’s world was ending. Nothing would ever be the same.

His shoulders slumped with defeat. Angrily scrubbing the tears from his eyes, he turned back to the house. He had to face his failure and, somehow, he had to think of a way to say goodbye.

There was a flutter of wings behind him.

Sam spun around so fast that he nearly tripped over himself. “Gabriel?”

The archangel wasn’t what he had expected. He was ancient, like in his forties at least, with grey hair and a receding hairline. He wore a stuffy suit and a seedy smile that Sam didn’t trust at all.

“Hello, Sam.”

“You heard my prayer.”

The smile widened. “Oh yes. You prayed so loudly I think most of Heaven could hear you.”

Sam swallowed. “I thought praying to a specific angel meant it was for their ears only.”

“Normally, yes. But Gabriel has been AWOL for centuries, so prayers addressed to him are treated more like an open call.”

Sam took a step back, beginning to realise that he might be in trouble. “You’re… not Gabriel?”

“That poncy little troublemaker? No. I’m Zachariah.”

Zachariah. The angel Cas had listed as the second biggest threat after Michael.

Sam had left the wards.

He made a break for it, sprinting towards the back door of the house in frantic hope that he could make it in time.

An invisible hand snatched the back of his shirt. It yanked him back towards the angel and cast him to the ground at his feet.

“Foolish human. You can hide, but you cannot run from me.”

Sam struggled to stand up, to try again, but the invisible force pressed him into the dirt. “Stay put. You might be a vessel, but I will hurt you if I have to.”

Every bit as stubborn as his older brother, Sam continued to wriggle in a futile attempt to free himself. “I thought Dean was Michael’s vessel.”

“Oh, he is. But you’re Lucifer’s.”

Sam froze. “What?”

“Well once he gets out of the Cage Lucifer is going to need a meat suit as well. As Dean’s younger brother you are the perfect candidate, and I must say the Azazel prepared you beautifully.”

“The demon blood.”

“Yes. Of course, you’ll need to drink a few gallons more of it before Lucifer’s twisted Grace can possess you without making you explode into chunky soup, but we’ll get to that later.”

Sam felt sick. The Devil – the most evil creature in all of creation – the father of evil – wanted to possess him. And if he did, Dean and Sam would unwittingly be pitted against each other in a battle to the death.

What was worse was the knowledge that as soon as Dean found out about this he would be more determined than ever to kill Michael before he could let Lucifer out of the Cage. He would plunge that sword into his own chest before he’d let Sam get hurt.

“For now, all you need to worry about is getting your brother out here,” Zachariah said. “Call him, would you?”

“No!” Sam spat.

Zachariah shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t ask nicely.”

Before Sam could work out what the angel meant he was struck with an explosion of pain.

He couldn’t help it. In that instant, as agony ripped through every fibre of his being, all rationale thought was erased. He forgot all about his vow to save Dean. He forgot about the consequences.

He screamed.


Dean had the unsettled feeling that something was wrong, but there was very little right with his life so he attributed it to the mess of anxiety that had been churning in his gut for days and tried not to think about it. All of this would be over soon anyway. As soon as Cas found the archangel blade, Dean would give himself over to Michael. Not long after that, one way or the other, Dean would be dead.

It didn’t bother him as much as he thought it should.

After Hell, living was hard. Every breath was an effort. Every attempted smile hurt. He was trying to be okay so his family wouldn’t worry, but the pretence was draining.

One last battle, and then he could let go.

To be honest, it would be a relief.

All he really cared about was keeping his family safe. As long as they were okay, he could be at peace.

The sound of Sam’s scream shattered the illusion.

Dean ran for the door. He didn’t know why Sam was outside and it didn’t matter; if he was outside the wards that meant an angel could get to him and if he was screaming an angel already had. Dean knew what they wanted and he knew how far they’d go to get it and there was no way in hell he was going to let them do that to Sammy.

Strong arms caught him around his waist. “No, Dean! You can’t go out there. I’ll go, I’ll get Sammy.”

Dean shoved his father away. “You stay here! You’re just going to give him more hostages!”

“He’s my son!”

“And he’s my baby brother! You can’t help him, Dad, only I can. Don’t you dare get in my way.”

“Dean-”

“Bobby, my parents try to leave you shoot them in the leg, you hear me?”

Dean didn’t wait to see if his instructions would be followed. He burst through the door and sprinted out into the car yard, guided by the sound of Sam’s screams.

“STOP!” he yelled.

He didn’t recognise the angel but it wore a meat suit so it probably wasn’t Michael. His next best guess was Zachariah.

The angel waved a dismissive hand and Sam’s writhing body slumped motionless to the ground.

“Dean!” he said cheerfully. “Glad you could make it.”

“You leave my brother alone, you bastard,” Dean growled.

“Well now, you see, that’s up to you. If you don’t do what I tell you I’m afraid little Sammy here is going to experience every pain and illness known to man and a few that aren’t until you give in. Alternatively-”

“I’ll do it.”

The angel’s eyebrows rose. “What did you say?”

“I’ll do it,” Dean repeated, loud and firm. “I’ll say yes to Michael. Leave my brother out of it.”

“Are you serious? I barely spent a minute working this kid over and I didn’t even start on you and you’re giving in just like that?”

Dean held his head high, ignoring the mockery. “I’ve made my decision.”

“Wow. I knew you’d be easy to crack but I didn’t expect you to be such a pushover.”

“Did you come here to insult me or to secure a vessel for your boss?” Dean asked. “You’re wasting time.”

“Fine, have it your way. One archangel coming up.”

“First, you heal my brother.”

“I barely even-”

Fix him.

The angel rolled his eyes but gestured at Sam. Sam lurched upright, gasping and flailing. He looked at the angel and then at Dean, eyes wide with terror.

“The kid is fine. Can we get on with this?”

“You have to promise that he’ll be safe.”

“Heaven won’t touch him, I swear it,” Zachariah said, crossing his fingers over his heart.

“And no harm is to come to my family.”

“Done.”

“That includes Bobby Singer and Castiel.”

His face wrinkled with disgust. “The traitor deserves what’s coming to him.”

“Cas walks free or no deal,” Dean said firmly.

“Fine. Your pet angel will be pardoned. Anyone else?”

Dean wanted to say everyone else, but if he pushed too far Zachariah would just go back to torturing Sam.

“That’s it,” he gritted out.

Zachariah clapped his hands. “Fantastic. Let’s get this show on the road. I’ll call Michael down, you’ll say yes and we’ll have ourselves a merry Apocalypse.”

“Dean, no!” Sam cried.

The last thing Dean wanted was for Sam to see this, to go through the trauma of watching his brother die all over again, but there was no other choice. “I’m sorry, Sammy, but I’m doing what I gotta. Be good, okay?”

Sammy just shook his head, tears in his eyes, and Dean forced himself to look away. He braced himself. “I’m ready.”

Zachariah opened his mouth and started to chant in a language Dean didn’t recognise. But before he could get more than two words out, the flap of wings heralded the arrival of a newcomer.

Candy bar in one hand and angel sword in the other, the unknown angel surveyed the scene almost curiously. Sam stared up at him with a mixture of hope and disbelief, and the angel winked at him. “Someone order an archangel?”

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