"What? What other way? What the hell does that mean?"
They were in the bunker, and Sam was in the middle of researching the Mark of Cain, trying to get any sense of what was happening to Dean. Because whatever it was, it was really, really bad. Dean had disappeared again, and this time Sam knew he was lying when he said he had a lead on Abbadon. Sam had a bad feeling that Dean was just out drinking again, probably killing somebody. With gusto. So when Gabriel suddenly showed up out of the blue with an offer Sam was beginning to think he couldn't refuse, he was feeling pretty desperate. Pretty much ready for anything that would stop what was happening to Dean.
And once Sam got over his shock at seeing the archangel alive and in the bunker, and Gabriel informed him that Dean was on the edge of something so bad that he -- Gabriel -- had been sent to kill him, well, that's when Gabriel offered an alternative, and Sam listened, eyes widening.
"You could do that?" he demanded.
Gabriel gave a short nod.
"For him, it would be like you never existed."
"So I would just be -- dead?"
Gabriel's face contorted as he shifted, rolling his shoulders and squinting a little.
"Not exactly," he admitted finally. "You'd be there, and you'd be you, but he just wouldn't know you. Never knew you."
"So it's like Lisa and Ben, except in reverse," Sam clarified.
"Sorta. Kinda. Not exactly." Gabriel admitted. "More like It's a Wonderful Life without the happy ending."
"But if I never existed, things would be better for Dean," Sam insisted. "Mom would be alive. He'd have a normal childhood, never even go into hunting."
Sam was rambling, his mind playing over their life, all the ways his not being there would change things.
"Never save all those people, never stop the apocalypse..." Gabriel nodded, adding his own spin.
"Never start the damn apocalypse in the first place," Sam growled, clenching his fists. "No Heaven or Hell or angels at all. No you."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Gabriel chuckled. "I'd still be here, playing around, having my way with humanity as I've been doing for millenia. He just wouldn't know it."
"No Castiel," Sam breathed.
"Yeah, that one I can see," Gabriel nodded. "Cas probably wouldn't have much reason to visit Earth, good little soldier that he always was before he met you two."
Sam took a deep, shaky breath, processing.
"But you say I would still be here, not dead. So what -- I'd be some kind of ghost?"
Gabriel shrugged. "Your soul's destiny is part of a plan even I don't have access to," Gabriel admitted. "High-level stuff. Word is upstairs, somebody even higher up than Michael -- than all the archangels -- wants you in the world somehow, somewhere. And it's not all about the apocalypse, like we used to think. This is your life, Sam Winchester, and it's a big fat dumb mystery story. And the crazy thing is, see, me being able to offer this to you -- this opportunity to erase yourself from your brother's life -- that seems to be part of it. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to do it."
Sam shook his head. "I don't understand."
"Hey, that's the point, genius!" Gabriel agreed. "That's why it's a mystery! Get it?"
Sam took a deep breath.
"And this stops the whole Mark of Cain thing?" he asked. "No more dark, evil-doing killer Dean?"
"Well, obviously," Gabriel rolled his eyes. "That's the whole point, isn't it? You're saving him from turning into a Knight of Hell, or whatever that Mark is making him do. Saving him from all the evil it's gonna make him do."
"And what about Abbadon?" Sam pondered. "If I do this, how do we stop her?"
"'We' don't do anything, Sammy boy," Gabriel reminded him. "If you do this, your brother won't even know who Abbadon is. Saving the world will be all up to you and you alone. If there is an Abbadon in that other reality. No guarantee one way or the other."
"And Crowley and Metatron -- "
Gabriel made another exasperated sound. "Listen Big Boy, I'm only gonna say it one more time. No more you means no more all the stuff you did in this world. So my guess is, no more open gates of Hell, which means no Crowley. No more angels, so no Metatron.
"But hey, what do I know? Could be things are worse here without you. Could be if you never existed, the world would be worse off. Maybe you're just like good ol' George Bailey after all."
Sam felt his face pinch into an expression of dread and doubt, and Gabriel smiled, almost sympathetically,
"But I don't think so, either, Sam. Sorry. So it's all up to you. What's it gonna be? All this?" Gabriel spread his arms wide, gesturing at the empty bunker, with its empty rooms now that Dean was off killing things somewhere and drinking himself to death, not having been home in more than a week. "Or no more you?"
This time Sam didn't hesitate.
"Let's do it," he said firmly.
Gabriel grinned, lifting his hand to snap his fingers.
"OK, Sam. I guess this is goodbye, then. And I'd add 'good luck,' but that seems like a pretty useless wish in your case. So we'll just leave it at a simple adios, amigo!"
As the archangel snapped his fingers and disappeared, Sam had a last thought.
"Wait! Will I remember anything?" he said to empty air, but Gabriel was already gone.
At first, nothing changed.
Sam was still alone in the library of the bunker, staring around and waiting for the inevitable feeling of vertigo that came with angel-powered reality shifts.
After another minute he called out.
"Uh, Gabriel? Nothing's happening. Hey!"
The silence in the bunker was unnerving and somehow deeper than it should be, so after waiting another moment Sam huffed out a disgusted breath.
"Figures," he muttered to himself. "Stupid angel can't even end it right."
Sam couldn't help feeling sorry for himself. Everything he tried to do turned out wrong, even this. No reason to expect Gabriel could really come through on his promise in the first place. It was always Sam's luck to just fail at everything he tried. Why did he expect this would be any different?
OK, then. Sam took a deep breath. Time to get back to work.
He pulled his phone out, hit Dean's number to check in as he usually did once every couple of hours.
Strangely, the number had been disconnected.
OK, he thought idly, slipping into the chair at his desk and reaching for his laptop, punching in the speed dial for Dean's other cell.
That one was also disconnected.
Sam stared at the phone for a minute, frowning.
What the hell?
He punched in another of Dean's numbers, got an old lady in Florida, hung up. Tried two or three other, older numbers that he was pretty sure Dean no longer used but just in case --
Every time, he got no Dean.
OK, this was getting weird.
Sam got to his feet, heart pounding, charged down the hallway to Dean's bedroom, flung open the door.
The room was empty. No guns on the walls, no picture of Mary Winchester on the nightstand, no neat little pile of Busty Asian Beauties under the bed.
It was like Dean had never lived here.
What the hell?
"Gabriel, what the hell?" Sam muttered, more to himself than out of any hope that the archangel could hear him.
Feeling panic beginning to well up in his chest, Sam stomped back down the hall to the kitchen. There was no sign of Dean here either -- no specialty cooking gadgets, no pie in the fridge, no whiskey in the cabinets. In fact, judging by the half-case of beer in the hall and the moldy bread and half-eaten jar of peanut-butter in the cupboard, no one but Sam had lived here for a very long time. Dirty dishes in the sink -- ok, Sam was sloppy but Dean would never leave that kind of mess for more than a week, and that looked like it had been here for months. Yuck.
Again, what the hell?
Sam checked the garage, the bathroom -- again, lack of Impala, abundance of dust where it was usually parked, no sign of anyone but Sam and his usual mess in the bathroom -- no fancy hair products -- Dean would never leave all those towels all over the floor like that --
Sam was becoming seriously freaked out.
A quick check of the internet revealed no Supernatural novels, no death record for Dean Winchester. No court records for Dean either, although his birth record was there, census records, driver's license --
Wait, how could Dean be living in Lawrence, Kansas in 2010?
Census records indicated a Dean and Emily Winchester lived at --
Sam gasped. The address was their old house in Lawrence. How could that be? Unless --
Also living at the same address was a Samuel J. Winchester, aged 1.
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