What Could Have Been

Chapter 28

"Gabriel?" Zachariah sounded equal parts incredulous and enraged.

"I haven't gone by thatname in a while. But yeah, bro, it's me – the herpes of the heavenly realms. Just when you thought I was gone for good, here I am, back again and as irritating as ever.”

Gabriel. Dean had expected the archangel to be harder to find but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. If that was Gabriel then the weapon that could kill Michael was within reach and they were one step closer to preventing the Apocalypse.

Dean eyed the archangel’s sword. It was held casually, almost carelessly, which could either mean that Gabriel had no intention of using it or that he was powerful enough that he knew he wouldn’t need to. Dean was fast; there was a chance he could snatch it while the angels were busy talking. But it wouldn’t be enough to simply grab the sword; Dean would have to steal it without either angel noticing so that word wouldn't get back to Michael that Dean's apparent consent was a trap.

Unfortunately, with what Cas had told him about archangels, Dean was pretty sure that trying to disarm Gabriel would be about as easy as diffusing a nuclear bomb.

“This matter does not concern you, Gabriel," Zachariah said. "Go crawl back into the hole you've been hiding in."

"I wouldn't call my luxury mansion a ‘hole’, exactly. It has an indoor pool, a gazebo, a tennis court, a mini bar and round-the-clock buffet dining, not to mention an endless supply of scantily-clad women who can provide hours of entertainment. Lots of sex.”

Zachariah’s nose wrinkled with disgust. “God’s holy messenger, slumming it with humans. Heaven is well rid of you.”

“You’re trying to tell me you didn’t miss me? Not even a little? I’m offended, Zac.”

Do not call me that,” Zachariah growled. “’Zac’ is a pudgy fledgling. I’ll have you know that I report directly to Michael now. I am one of the highest ranked angels in Heaven and you should give me the respect I deserve.”

“You’ve still got a stick up your ass, then. Can’t say I’m surprised.”

The angels were bickering like siblings and it was bizarre to watch. But then, that was what all of this boiled down to; a family argument being fought out on a planetary scale.

Dean didn’t know what to make of this Gabriel character, but the squabbling proved to be a sufficient distraction for Dean to edge around to Sammy’s side without drawing attention. He didn’t risk talking to him, even in whispers, but after growing up together they could communicate fairly well through body language and facial expressions. Dean started to check Sam for injuries but Sam pushed his hands away in assurance that he was fine. Dean raised his eyebrows to ask ‘Really?’ and a slightly haunted look passed over Sam’s face before he shook it off and nodded firmly. Dean squeezed his shoulder gently, knowing how he felt and promising he would do everything he could to make sure Sam wouldn’t be hurt like that again. Sam patted his hand in thanks. Dean jerked his head in Gabriel’s direction, a question in his eyes. Sam pressed his palms together briefly in a mime of prayer. Dean shook his head but Sam folded his arms stubbornly, defending his actions. Dean just shrugged. They had no way of knowing how this would go.

Meanwhile, Zachariah scowled at his older brother. "Get lost, Gabriel. You have no business here.”

“Actually, I'm running a new business these days. I call it ‘just desserts’.” Gabriel waved his candy bar in the air, looking entirely too pleased with himself. “It’s more of a pastime really, but let me tell ya, there’s no shortage of job satisfaction when you’re dishing out your own brand of vigilante justice to those who really deserve it.”

Zachariah looked less than convinced. “Vigilante justice? That is hardly your style, Gabriel. As I recall, you wasted most of your time in Heaven playing pranks on the other angels and being a general nuisance.”

Gabriel grinned. “Precisely. Up there I was a celestial pain in the ass. Down here I’m known as the Trickster.”

The name rang a bell. Dean thought he might have come across it in one of Bobby’s old books – Mythical Creatures of Scandinavia, maybe? Tricksters were supposed to be mischievous creatures that had the power to warp reality and thrived on creating chaos. Gabriel would certainly have the juice to pull off similar feats, but how an archangel went from being a soldier of Heaven to a self-proclaimed demi-god of mischief and mayhem was beyond Dean.

Zachariah’s lip curled with disdain. “I see you haven’t matured at all in your 2000 year absence. If our father could see you now…”

Gabriel’s expression soured. “Don’t talk to me about Dad. He left first, remember? He shirked his responsibilities and left us with no guidance, no instructions. I was just following his poor example.”

“Then do it right. Stay gone.”

“I could. That would certainly be the easier option. But someone,” Gabriel glanced at Sam, “told me to ‘be the better man’. I thought I’d give it a shot.”

“So, what, you want back in? There’s no way you’re getting your old position back, but I suppose you could be some use in the fight against Hell’s armies when Lucifer is free…”

“You misunderstand me. I’m not here to help you, Zac. I’m here to help them.” Gabriel gestured to Sam and Dean with a sweep of his candy bar.

Sam’s face lit up and he gave Dean a look that said ‘I told you so’. Dean was reserving judgement, though. What did ‘help’ entail? Would Gabriel hand over the archangel sword? Would he stand with them against Heaven?

Zachariah did not look happy. “You’re choosing humans over your own family?”

“This is their planet, Zac. Dad created it for them, not for us. We can’t just bust in and destroy the place.”

“We will rebuild it, make it better, more beautiful. We will transform the Earth into Paradise.”

“And millions of humans will die in the process.”

“So? They are nothing but a plague of cockroaches. Look at what they have done to our father’s creation in the few thousand years since he granted them ownership. They have filled the skies and seas with pollution, decimated entire forests, eradicated hundreds of species and spilled oceans of blood. Their extermination will rid the world of this disease and when the last trace of their filth is gone we will care for the Earth in the way God intended.”

“You know, Zac, you sound a lot like Lucifer. We were not charged with custodianship of the Earth, we were instructed to be guardians of the people. You and Michael seem to have forgotten that.”

“Who are you to school me, Gabriel? You abandoned our mission long before we gave it up as a lost cause.”

“Well I was wrong, and I’ve come to make it right.”

“What are you going to do?” Zachariah challenged. “Fight Michael yourself? A celebrity death match between the two of you would be just as destructive as one against Lucifer.”

“No. I’m not going to fight my brother.”

So, Dean was right about him. He wouldn’t kill Michael. They were brothers and Gabriel was human enough for that to mean something to him. He could no more hurt Michael than Dean could hurt Sam.

Dean wondered if Cas would be able to do it. He had chosen Cas because even with limited Grace he was stronger than any human and stood the best chance against Michael. But Dean was asking him to kill a brother and a friend in one fell blow. Though it had to hurt him, Cas had agreed to the plan. He loved Dean enough.

“Damn right you’re not going to fight him,” Zachariah said. “You don’t have the guts. Face it, Gabriel, you’re no hero.”

“I never said I was. I didn’t come here to save the world.”

Sam’s shoulders slumped with disappointment, but Gabriel continued, “I’m simply going to protect the Winchesters so that they can save the world themselves.”

Sam beamed but Dean was less than thrilled. They didn’t need protection. Dean could protect Sam just fine on his own. What he needed was the sword.

Zachariah snorted derisively. “One snotty-nosed brat barely out of diapers and a broken-willed teenager? Do you really think these guys stand half a chance against Heaven?”

“With a little help? Yeah, I do. These humans are delightfully stubborn SOBs. They’ve foiled your plans twice already, haven’t they? Third time’s the charm.”

“I’ve got news for you, Gabriel. There’s no fight left in them. Dean has already agreed to say yes to Michael. He made his choice, and he is coming with me.” Zachariah clamped his hand around Dean’s arm and yanked him away from Sam.

“No!” Sam yelped, lurching after him. A curt gesture from Zachariah shoved him back and pinned him in place. Sam squirmed and writhed, fighting to get free. “No! No!

Dean locked eyes with his brother and very deliberately did not struggle against the angel’s hold. Sam knew that Dean saying yes was part of the plan and he had to accept that.

When Sam stopped fighting, Dean glanced meaningfully towards the sword in Gabriel’s hand. Sam followed his gaze and his face twisted with grief. He shook his head, turning pleading eyes on his brother. Dean knew it wasn’t fair to ask Sam to help kill him, but if Gabriel had answered his prayer and he claimed to want to help them then maybe he would give Sam the sword willingly once Zachariah and Dean were gone.

Dean didn’t want his sacrifice to be in vain. If they wanted to save the world, this was the way to do it.

“Dean consented under duress, Zachariah,” Gabriel said. “You were torturing his little brother.”

“A yes is a yes, no matter how it was obtained. Besides, I was just doing my job.”

“Sam is twelve for Dad’s sake!”

“Yes he is. It made for a superbly high-pitched scream.”

Dean fought the urge to punch that smug look off the angel’s face, but oddly enough Gabriel looked just as pissed as he felt.

“You sick bastard,” Gabriel accused. “You get off on it, don’t you?”

“What can I say? I take pleasure in my work. What were you saying about ‘job satisfaction’?”

“I might play deadly pranks on some arrogant dicks, but they all had it coming. Sam is just a kid! You have no right to use and abuse an innocent child like that.”

“I have every right. I am an Angel of the Lord. More than that, I am chosen. I am holy, I am righteous and I am feared. I walk the halls of Heaven and other angels avert their eyes! These boys are little more than mutated fish with an overinflated sense of their own importance. They are the scum beneath my shoe. They are cockroaches, Gabriel.”

“No they’re not,” Gabriel said. “But you are.”

He snapped his fingers and suddenly the band of pressure around Dean’s arm was gone.

At first Dean thought the angel had vanished, but then he looked down and saw a large, fat cockroach scuttling around the dirt at his feet.

Wide-eyed, Dean looked up at the archangel. He had known archangels were powerful, but this was taking things to a whole other level.

Gabriel shrugged. “What? I’m the Trickster, and he was a dick. It’s what I do.”

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