The Big Reveal!
This story is a sequel to my previous story, "Bait and Switch." It can be read alone, but it's more fun and will make more sense if you read both. Set post Dark Side of the Moon, episode 5-16.
He was so tired. The Impala sped along the dark empty streets, blowing through stop lights as they rushed to catch up with the shapeshifter. There's wasn't another car in sight, let alone a cop car, but Dean seemed to recall something about Stockton installing traffic cameras to catch people who ran reds. He figured they were going to have to ditch their plates for new again, otherwise he and Sam might wind up sitting out the final days of the Apocalypse in some Podunk county jail. They really didn't have time for that. At least Dean didn't have time to deal with Sheriff Andy and Barney Fife if he was going to go through with what he'd been thinking about ever since their return from Heaven. Dean sighed, and then cursed silently for doing something that might draw Sam's attention and lead little brother to ask awkward questions.
Dean took his eyes off the road just long enough to gauge the reaction to his sigh on Sam's face. He needn't have worried. Sam wasn't paying him the slightest attention. Since their return from Heaven and Joshua's announcement that they were on their own, Sam had been quiet and withdrawn, seeming as lost as Dean felt himself, and for once Dean didn't have will to take care of Sam as he should. He'd caught Sam watching him sometimes with a curious, almost puzzled expression on his face, but just when Sam seemed on the verge of speaking, a shutter would slam shut on whatever impulse was driving him, his face would go blank and Dean was left wondering if he'd imagined the whole thing. He supposed he should try and drag it out of Sam, whatever it was, but he just couldn't seem to dig up the required give-a-damn. Besides, what was the point? The Apocalypse was in full swing and Lucifer was winning. They were all going to die, they were all going to Heaven – or Hell for the unlucky – and then he'd never see Sam again, not the real Sam anyway. He might see a nice little Sammy simulacrum from time to time. He might even be fooled by it, and the idea of that made Dean's skin crawl. If he did say yes to Michael and did manage to defeat Lucifer, then things would go down a little different, a few million less people would die horribly, but it would all come out the same in the end. As far as Dean could tell, Paradise on Earth was just another version of Heaven's little Matrixville. Everyone would be happy, like doped up psych patients.
And Sam – the real Sam – would have exactly the life he always wanted, a life without Dean or Dad or anyone who loved him. Dean couldn't understand it at all, couldn't understand how Sam could despise them that much after all this time, but it was what it was. And anything was better than an eternity of withdrawn, miserable, mopey Sam… well, anything except Hell on Earth. So Dean was just going to have to sack up and do it. He just hadn't quite worked up the nerve yet.
At the moment, however, Sam was neither withdrawn nor concerned about Dean's own emotional turmoil. The youngest Winchester was utterly focused on the job at hand, watching the side streets and parking lots as they sped down Hammer Lane, watching for the shapeshifter they were out to get and gank before the sun came up and this cheesy little Central Valley town came back to life.
"Turn here," Sam said suddenly, pointing to a shadowy pathway between two big box stores. "I saw him duck down that side alley on his bike."
"I don't think that qualifies as an alley, Sam," Dean commented reflexively. "We're in the heartland of urban sprawl here, and urban sprawl doesn't do alleys."
"Whatever, dude, just turn."
Dean turned into the parking lot and then brought the car to a stop at the entrance to the alley wannabe. The shapeshifter's bike might not have had any problems getting through, but the Impala was never going to fit between the concrete bollards that blocked the mouth of the pathway. He and Sam bailed out the car, grabbed their weapons – the ones they didn't already have on them – and started down the shadowy alley. At the end of the pathway, loading docks took off in both directions along the rear of the stores. Security lights cast periodic pools of brightness, but most of the area was in darkness. There was no moon visible in the cloudy sky, and no stars, and Dean almost tripped over the shapeshifter's Honda CB350.
"Nice bike," Dean noted, wondering what would have possessed the thing to abandon its ride when it had succeeded in going somewhere that they could only follow on foot. Was an ambush waiting for them? Sam rapidly unscrewed the gas cap on the old bike and peered inside the tank with his penlight.
"Looks like he was running on fumes," Sam whispered as he killed his light. Dean nodded.
"Okay, he could have gone either way," Dean said. "Assuming he didn't just climb the rear fence and hide in that subdivision."
"If he did, we won't find him there, too many people, so let's just check this out," Sam suggested.
Dean grunted agreement, and they split up, each heading out to check opposite ends of the shopping center. Dean had passed two of the big box stores and another half-dozen smaller retailers when he came to a standard-sized door with a snapped doorknob. Though it had been closed, without the lock holding it shut the door swung silently inward on its hinges when Dean tapped it lightly with the barrel of his sawed-off.
He thought about yelling for Sam, but then thought better of it. Gazing cautiously into the shadowy room beyond the door, Dean pulled out his cellphone and hit the speed dial for Sam's phone. Before his brother could pick up, however, something landed on Dean's shoulders, knocking him to the ground and sending the shotgun and cellphone both skittering across the pavement. The damn thing had been on the roof or hanging off the side of the building some way. Freakin' clever monster. The weight rolled off him, and Dean quickly scrambled away, but not quickly enough as the shapeshifter – who currently looked like a night watchman, and Dean wondered where that poor bastard's body was – grabbed Dean by the back of his jacket and shoved him through the open door. He stumbled in the darkness, then dodged down an inky black walkway between two storage racks as soon as he'd regained his balance. Damn it. Dean pulled his silver knife from its sheath on his belt, thankful that it hadn't been knocked away as well. Then, quickly as he could in the darkness, Dean wound his way through a maze of shelves until he thought he had a good chance of the shifter not knowing his exact position. He barked on his knees and nearly fell more than once, but at last he hunkered down in a spot that seemed relatively safe. He was in the middle of trying to decide whether he dared use his penlight to get a better look at his surroundings, when he heard creaking coming from above. Looking up, Dean saw the shifter's glowing eyes looking back down at him. Shit! The monster leapt for him, but instead of trying to dodge, Dean brought up the blade and braced himself.
The dead shapeshifter rolled limply off Dean, his silver knife buried to the hilt in neck. Not so clever after all, Dean thought smugly as he bent to retrieve his knife. "Guh," he groaned as bits of the monster's skin slid off its face and onto his hands. He gave the blade of the knife a cursory cleaning on the shapeshifter's clothing, swiped his own hands on his jeans, and was just about to pull out his flashlight for a better look at the situation when the overheads came on, blindingly fluorescent.
"About damn time you got here, Sam," Dean snapped as he rose to his feet and walked toward the center aisle. He seemed to be in the storage room for some kind of carpet store, surrounded by roll upon roll of stain resistant flooring and cleaners. "What took you so – " Dean broke off as he got to the end of the aisle and saw someone decidedly not Sam waiting there. Someone with a gun. It was another man in a night watchman's uniform, and Dean smiled nervously even as he rapidly pocketed the knife. "Uh hi,' he stammered, "this, uh, this isn't what it looks like."
"Strangely, I think it is," the man said, raising the revolver he had pointed at Dean's chest.
"I'm not a burglar or a thief or anything," Dean insisted placatingly. "I know this looks… bad, but I can explain. You see I'm Special Agent Rogers of the F.B.I., and I – "
"Just killed a shapeshifter," the guard interjected.
"Uh… I, uh… don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, come on, Dean. Surely you can do better than that," the guard chided, his eyes flashing black.
Dean just had time to think CRAP! before he was hurled through the air, and landing atop a carpet cutting machine, all the breath knocked out of him. Aching everywhere, head swimming, Dean reached for the pocket where the Ruby's old demon killing blade rested, waiting for a moment such as this one. Sam had carried their little magical Ginsu for years, but about a month earlier he'd pressed it on Dean, claiming that he no longer felt the temptation to use his psychic powers, didn't need the demon-killing blade as some kind of nicotine patch, and that it was far more important for Dean, who was at the top of Lucifer's hit list, to be suitably protected. Dean hadn't agreed, had, in fact, been worried that Sam might be back on the juice, but it was just one more thing that he was too tired to fight about. Now he was glad he hadn't argued. His fingers had just closed around the hilt of the blade when the demon's finger clamped down on his wrist, trapping his hand inside his jacket pocket even as the demon's other hand closed around his throat. Dean thrashed, tried to roll free, but his torso was wedged into the equipment somehow, and his lungs were burning all too quickly. The demon leaned over him, holding him in place with the weight of its meatsuit, bearing down on his throat.
"You make this so easy," he heard it say as his eyes closed and little sparks, like half-dead firecrackers, went off in his darkening vision. Sam. Where was Sam? The call had gone through. Sam should have known that he was in trouble unless he'd been ambushed too. Unless…
"No!" There was a yell, some of the weight left Dean's body as the demon shifted away slightly, then, abruptly, it was all gone as the monster literally flew away from him. Jerking himself loose of the machinery, Dean rolled off the cutter and onto the cement floor of the storage room, gasping for air through his bruised windpipe, the muscles of his throat all but screaming in agony, his head pounding with a beat that only oxygen deprivation could supply. When his aching eyes stopped watering long enough for him to see, what he saw almost made Dean wish that he were blind again. Sam had the demon pinned to a wall, but he wasn't touching it. Arm outstretched toward the demon, Sam held it pinned in place with the power of his mind. Oh, god, Dean thought despairingly. Oh, god, no. Not again. Not this again.
"Who sent you?" Sam said with preternatural calm, his voice barely even sounding like him, and Dean was glad that he couldn't see Sam's face, afraid of what he might find there, lurking behind his younger brother's eyes. Would they flash yellow? Worse, would they turn completely black, as Chuck had said? "Who sent you?" Sam repeated, twisting his hand, making the demon writhe and scream against the wall.
Dean gulped and covered his ears with his hands as the screaming grew in volume until he feared his ears would bleed. He squeezed his eyes shut and kept them that away, unable to bear watching his brother fall into this pit one more time. This was it. The last straw. No more chances. No more choices. He'd have to say yes to Michael to save Sam from himself. There was no other option.
When shadows began to dance like lightning across his eyelids, Dean opened his eyes to see what the hell was going on. Sam had his hand pressed to the demon's forehead, and the monster was shrieking so desperately that almost no sound actually emerged from its ravaged throat. Blood-curdling hisses and grating gasps were all that the demon could produce as white light poured like fire from its eyes and mouth. More light seemed on the verge of escaping through its very skin, as Sam pressed his hand ever more firmly against the meatsuit's forehead. This… this didn't look like Sam's freaky psychic mojo. Hell, this didn't look like anything Dean had ever seen before except… except when…
Dean leapt to his feet as the dead, and now uninhabited, body of the night watchman fell to the floor. The last time he'd seen anything remotely like this was when Castiel and Uriel had come to kill Anna, when they'd fought and killed the demons that came with Alastair to capture angel radio girl. But to kill a demon like that, you had to be a… be a…
"Who the hell are you?" Dean demanded, grabbing Sam by the shoulder and spinning him around.
"Sam" smiled dryly. "I'm hurt, Dean. You don't recognize me?"
Dean's eyes widened at the all too familiar tone and wry expression. "Michael?" he squeaked. "What? How? Why?" The last was said most loudly.
Michael smiled, his eyes laughing even if his lips didn't. "Your brother and I have come up with a novel solution to the problem we're all facing."
"Sam and you?"
"No, me and Adam," Michael snapped, making dean's eyes widen. "Yes, Sam and I. Who else?"
"You guys cooked this up between you?" Dean said, still disbelieving, still in shock. For a moment he just stood there, staring at the angel, his heart pounding as his chest heaved. Then… "No. No! I don't like it."
The archangel snorted, actually snorted. "If we thought you'd like it, we would have brought you in on it ahead of time."
"I don't fucking care what you thought," Dean howled, breathing so fast he was on the verge of hyperventilating as he grabbed the front of Sam's jacket and shook him. "I don't like it, and I want you out of there. Now!"
Michael disengaged Dean's hands, gently, but firmly. Then, taking Dean's shoulders, he guided him back to sit on the edge of a work table. "Sit down before you fall down," the angel instructed. "Now, look, you were right about the whole Apocalypse thing, I admit it. This whole plan of Zachariah's and Raphael's, it's bullshit."
"Duh!" Dean snapped.
Michael went on as if he hadn't spoken. "I started thinking about it, and I decided to join team free will. This is what happened."
"You took Sam! You call this joining the team? You no good, rotten – "
"Live with it," Michael interjected. "Oh, wait, you don't really have an option, do you?"
"You'll get him killed," Dean shouted. "He'll fucking die, and… how can you do this anyway? He's Lucifer's vessel!"
"Not anymore. Now, he's mine."
"No! Sam doesn't belong to anyone but himself. I won't let you use him this way. I… take me. Okay. Yes. I'm saying yes. Just, please, take me," Dean pleaded.
Michael sighed and cupped Dean's cheek in one hand. "Sorry, Dean. You're last year's prom date, and I'm just not interested anymore." Dean gaped at him, mouth opening and closing like the valve on a V-8. "You two better take off before the police get here. One dead night watchman you just might explain away, but two is going to be hard to justify, even in California. Oh, and Dean, try to stay out of trouble." So saying, Michael tilted his head back, and Dean ducked his own head, squeezing his eyes tightly shut against the sudden flow of light leaving his brother's body. For a brief space, everything was utterly silent, then Dean heard the voice that he knew better than any other voice in the world.
"Oh, crap," Sam grumbled.