To prove I am not dead (though work is killing me slowly with late finishes through the week and early starts at the weekend...) here is something that has been languishing on my hard drive waiting for me to write chapter two. I started it a few months ago and chapter one got bigger than anticipated. It is still a work in progress though, be warned. I still have my Dean/Crowley snapshots and my big bang to do. And my angst bingo.





Set after a slightly AU Season 5 (different, unspecified method of Apocalypse aversion, Bobby in a wheelchair). Gabriel/Dean. Dean is dreaming of Gabriel while investigating a strangely sedate and content town with Sam. But how long can the Winchesters stay out of the big picture when powerful ancient forces decide the end should be nigh? Again.

I have 'done a Supernatural' and shamelessly appropriated Norse myths for my own use. Beware.



Ragnarok
The Death of Baldur

Dean wandered through corridors splattered with blood and gore. Odin lay in pieces on the floor. A few steps later and Dean was carefully walking around the remains of Ganesh.

He was in the Elysian Fields Hotel again and Lucifer had just murdered the Gods.

But the danger was over, he knew that. Lucifer had been defeated. So why was he here?

Unbidden, his feet carried him towards the room where it had all gone wrong. The room where they had tried to take a stand against Lucifer. The room where Gabriel had been slaughtered.

Dean hadn’t felt the death like Kali did, her gasp echoing around the Impala followed by a devastated whisper of Gabriel is dead. But it had been a struggle to keep on driving away, to not turn the car around and hurtle back to the hotel where yet another person had died because of Dean.

Pushing open the door, he expected to see Gabriel sprawled on the floor, wings spread out like a charcoal picture. Dean had never gone back. The thought of seeing the body made him feel physically ill. Gabriel was an Archangel and a God, turned into a corpse because Dean had convinced him to join their fight.

But when he stepped into the room, Dean was surprised to find it wasn’t the room he had expected. It wasn’t even a room of the hotel. It was the school hall where they had fought Gabriel back when he was just a Trickster. Dean had come in first, alone, and Gabriel had tried to tempt him away from his duty. The only thing keeping Dean from falling to that temptation was the knowledge that Sam and Bobby would be there any second.

The room was filled with the obligatory Barry White, which always meant the people in said room were about to get down and dirty. The mirror-ball still hung over the stage, casting moving shimmers of light down on the large round bed beneath.

On that bed lay Gabriel, bottle of champagne in one hand, red rose in the other. He grinned at Dean as the bewildered hunter made his way down the steps and quietly asked, “What the...?”

“Your dream was getting far too maudlin,” the Archangel replied with a shrug. “If you’re going to dream of me, at least make it worth my while. Give me a speaking part, a sex scene. I’m too talented to play a corpse like some extra on NCIS.”

“A sex scene, huh?” Dean asked with a smirk as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Hey, I’ve brought you champagne and a rose. That’s the most wooing I’ve ever done. Ever. I’ve known easier Goddesses.”

“I bet you have,” chuckled Dean as he made himself comfortable on the bed beside Gabriel.

In a matter of moments the Trickster was on him, kissing and caressing and generally making Dean feel like something worthy of attention. Dean allowed it, and the whispered endearments, because it was only a dream.

And because he’d lost Gabriel before he’d even realised the attraction, it would only ever be a dream.

*

Sam grimaced at their notes as Dean let out another groan. His older brother had fallen asleep while researching, his head pillowed on his arms at the table. Dean had been sleeping more than usual lately, which was better than the insomnia that often plagued him. He’d been making a lot of happy noises in his sleep too, which was vastly preferable to the screams that came when he revisited Hell in his nightmares. Still, it was odd and if Dean had shown any other symptoms, Sam would have started to suspect an incubus or a dream-thief.

Dean had been slightly depressed, but that had been going on for months, since before the Apocalypse. Sam had hoped Dean would share his elation at killing Lucifer, but Dean had just shrugged off the prospect of celebration, saying they had lost too much to celebrate. Sam knew what he was getting at, but couldn’t shake the overwhelming relief that came from getting their lives back to the base rate of horror and tragedy that they had once known. Simple hunts. Salt and burns. Vampires. Poltergeists.

Having said that, their current hunt was becoming a bit of a brain-twister. They were in Iowa, where some interesting light phenomena had aroused the curiosity of the hunting community. With their attention focused that way, the weird behaviour of the inhabitants was noticed as soon as it began. It started with the children, all peaceful and smiling, walking around as though nothing could ever go wrong in their worlds. They were adamant about staying up all night though, their little faces pressed against the window watching the lights, no matter how many times their parents put them to bed. They were often found sleeping peacefully by their bedroom windows.

Since the other hunters Bobby was in touch with all seemed to have something going on, Sam and Dean were investigating this one. During their stay, the behaviour of the townsfolk had become even stranger. The adults were starting to space out, one by one, becoming as dreamy-eyed as the children. Whatever it was, it was spreading. People were still going about their daily routines, but with an innate serenity that was far too suspicious to leave unchecked. It wasn’t like Sam wanted to steal their peace of mind, but when a whole town started acting stoned it was usually a prelude to carnage. There was that one time when it was a prelude to the biggest orgy Sam had dragged Dean away from, but that kind of result was rare indeed.

Dean took in a deep breath and held it. Sam suspected he was waking up, but then a loud moan shattered that illusion. For God’s sake...

“Dean!”

His older brother shot upright in his chair with such a bewildered look on his face that Sam felt slightly guilty for waking him. But there were limits, and he knew Dean wouldn’t want to listen to him making happy noises in his sleep either.

“M’awake,” the older hunter mumbled, still blinking heavy-lidded eyes and punctuating the statement with a jaw-clicking yawn.

“Looks like it,” Sam replied sarcastically. “Anyway, if you’re done with your private pay-per-view, I think I might have noticed something interesting.”

Dean rubbed at his face with both hands and yawned again before licking his lips and nodding. He dragged his chair around to a spot beside Sam’s so that he could see what his brother was reading. “Right. I’m actually awake now.”

“Good. Okay, so I was going through the interviews again. You remember Hilary Roberts?”

“She was the one with the twins,” Dean recalled, still looking a bit bleary-eyed. “They were staring the whole time. It was really creepy.”

“Yeah. Well the creepy kids might have distracted us from something important. I even wrote it down, but didn’t really see it until now.” That was a source of embarrassment that Sam felt the need to excuse. “I mean, sometimes I’m writing so fast and just jotting down what they say without really listening, you know? Like I do it on auto-pilot like I’m in a lecture or...”

“Sam, I get it, the power of your brain can’t be contained while taking notes. Now what’s the interesting part?”

Sam blushed at his own tangent and cleared his throat before continuing. “Well, they’ve all been talking about the splendour of the light, right?”

“Yeah, so? That hasn’t been ringing any bells for us so far.”

“Well here Hilary said ‘the splendour of his light’.” Sam pointed at the sentence, feeling rather pleased with himself.

“So it’s a God thing? Cas said it wasn’t a God thing.” They had called him for advice once the good vibes of the town started spreading, but after a brief visit the angel had determined it was nothing to do with Heaven and left the Winchesters to figure it out.

“First off, we’re presuming Cas knows. Ow!” Sam rubbed his arm and glared at Dean, who seemed completely unrepentant about whacking him.

“It’s Cas, dude. He knows. What’s the second off?”

“Huh?”

“First off, Cas might not know, second off...”

“Oh, right.” Sam glanced towards the heavy ancient texts on the table, filled with supernatural lore. He had been researching his ass off while his brother slept and suddenly his vague theories didn’t seem to reflect it. “Well secondly, it’s not necessarily a God thing. In fact, it probably isn’t. It sounds to me like we have one supernatural being running around town dropping people into this trancelike state. The lights that occurred before were probably this creature travelling here or being born, or whatever.”

Dean shook his head. “This still doesn’t give us squat to work with Sam, unless you want to wander around town looking for a magical glowing hippy.”

“No, I know,” Sam sighed. “But it does change the questions we can ask the townspeople. We were too vague before. Maybe if I ask specifically about this guy I’ll get better answers. Maybe even a description that we can match to something in the books.”

“Okay,” Dean nodded. “It’s worth a shot. We’ve got nothing else. Lemme take a shower then we’ll suit up and go back to the houses.”

“I can probably go alone,” Sam said as he began to gather his books and pens together. “We’ll only need to try a few houses before we know whether we’re barking up the wrong tree. I’ll interview Hilary Roberts and Lee Morgan again, you take...” he glanced at the notebook he was about to shove into his bag, “the Ellis family and the Martinez couple? They seemed the most talkative.”

Dean nodded. “Sure, yeah.”

Sam hesitated as he picked his laptop up from the table. Dean was staring into space, frowning slightly. This too was not unusual lately. And it was getting hard to ignore. The younger Winchester sighed heavily and put his laptop back down. “Okay, what’s wrong?”

“What do you mean?” Dean asked innocently.

“You’re doing it again. Getting distracted, looking depressed...”

“Maybe you’ve just forgotten my mannerisms,” Dean quipped.

“If something’s wrong you can tell me. I know you know that. Why do you have to keep everything bottled up?”

“If there was something to tell, I’d tell it!” Dean snapped. This wasn’t the first time Sam had quizzed him about his mood. “Stop making problems up where there aren’t any. I know stopping the Apocalypse has left a void in our lives where problems of massive proportions used to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to imagine up crap to fill that void!”

Sam clenched his teeth and took a deep breath, reminding himself that he loved his brother very much and they were trying not to make each other so angry they couldn’t see straight anymore. “Okay, I know I’m not imagining this. Something is wrong.” Dean opened his mouth to protest but Sam held up a hand quickly. “Nuh-uh, let me finish. I know something’s wrong, but if you don’t want to talk, it’s not like I can make you. I just want you to know that I’m worried.”

If looks could kill Sam would be surrounded by eager reapers, judging from the glare Dean was shooting his way. “You done?” Dean asked, irritated.

“Yep,” Sam replied with a beatific smile. He had laid the foundations of the guilt trip. Now he just had to wait until Dean couldn’t bear to watch him worry anymore. Dean had a painfully low tolerance for the old guilt trip, he always had. He’d soon be telling Sam what was on his mind.

“Good. I’m going to take a shower before we go. I’ll drop you off at Hilary’s.”

Sam rolled his eyes at his brother’s love affair with his car. “Dean, we’re practically in her neighbourhood already. It won’t kill us to walk it.”

“Dangerous words Sammy,” Dean said, shaking his head as he walked to the bathroom. He paused in the doorway to say, “You walk. I’ll drive.” Then he shut himself in the bathroom. Sam could hear him getting undressed.

“I could use the exercise,” Sam said to the closed door. He checked his watch before saying, “Meet you back here at seven-thirty?”

He received an affirmative noise in response, so Sam grabbed his case and left Dean to his own devices for a while.

*

In the shower, Dean thought about his dream. Or rather, his dreams. Plural. He had been experiencing them off and on for a while now. Sex dreams about the Archangel Gabriel. As if Dean didn’t have enough sin on his soul already, now he had to worry about Castiel reading that from his mind or Chuck putting a dirty gay dream sequence in the next Supernatural book.

But it wasn’t just that. It was so much worse than that. Gabriel was dead. So while the dreams were fantastic and definitely teaching Dean a few things about himself, they were just fantasies taunting him with something he couldn’t have. Every time he woke up he thought of Gabriel facing Lucifer, of Kali whispering Gabriel is dead.

If he’d thought Gabriel was going to die, he’d never have convinced the stupid bastard to join their war. Somehow he’d got the impression that the ‘Trickster’ was invulnerable, a false confidence that led to Gabriel’s death. Gabriel had been so full of self-preservation at first, then after a meeting with the Winchesters he wanders into a den of angry Gods and stands against the Morningstar. And why?

“I’m the Costner to your Houston.”

Dean chuckled bitterly at the memory. Another person killed riding to his rescue. Dad. Cas. Jo. Finally the Archangel Gabriel himself. That had to be some kind of record. Gabriel shouldn’t have died. Dean never thought he could die. Since their first encounter the Trickster had been the most powerful thing they’d ever tangled with. They had been enemies, then bigger enemies, then the dude strode into the Elysian Fields Hotel to save their lives and Dean had felt a sense of relief he hadn’t experienced in a long time. It was like whenever Castiel appeared mid-fight and he knew that would tip the balance in their favour, but on a bigger scale. It was someone saving him for a change.

And then, like all the other times, his hero paid the price. Like Dad and Jo and temporarily Cas. If Dean was being honest, he eyed his best friend with a little bitterness these days. Every time he saw the angel he wanted to ask where Gabriel was, why their ‘Father’ hadn’t resurrected him. Gabriel had died fighting the good fight, just like Cas. Maybe that wasn’t enough to pay for the things he did as Loki? God could be petty, Dean knew that much.

With a sigh Dean leant his head back on the wet tiles, letting the water from the shower beat down on him. Was it sane to dream compulsively of someone you’d only met four times? Sometimes he felt like he’d known the Trickster for longer, but then he quickly brushed that off as oncoming insanity. Maybe the dreams were supernatural in origin, but he couldn’t tell Sam. What would he say? “Actually, there is something wrong. Since Gabriel died I’ve dreamt we were fucking. Off and on, like, nothing committed.” Yeah, then Sam would have him committed.

They weren’t all sex dreams, to be fair. A few weeks back Dean had dreamt he was at home with his Mom and Dad, having a proper Thanksgiving dinner with Sam and Jessica. Gabriel had been there with him and nobody had batted an eye. In fact, his Mom seemed to think the Archangel was adorable, making cracks like, “You know, when I said angels were watching over him I didn’t mean in that way.” Gabriel had laughed. Dean, Sam and their Dad were grossed out while Mom and Jessica giggled like schoolgirls.

It was so perfect Dean had woken up in tears and started drinking before Sam was even out of bed. There was no way to explain why this hurt so much. The Trickster had been a douchebag, he’d killed Dean over and over, he’d hurt Sam, then... he’d died for them.

Dean switched off the water and took a deep breath. He’d get over it. Shove it down and use the pain to take on the bad guys. Like always. Eventually the dreams would leave too.

*

It turned out all of Sam’s subtlety in his interview was completely unnecessary. When he finally asked who Hilary had meant when she said ‘his light’, the woman’s smile widened to Cheshire Cat proportions.

“Yes, his light! He wanders, you see,” she said enthusiastically.

On the ground the twins – both little blonde girls – grabbed each other’s arms with childish excitement. “He’s the best, isn’t he, mommy!” One of them cried out with glee.

Hilary nodded to her children, still smiling away. “He is. And so handsome too.” She turned back to Sam and with a lovesick sigh repeated, “Blindingly handsome.”

“Right...” Sam tapped at his notebook with his pen. “And the light comes from him?”

“From inside!” squealed the other twin from her spot on the thick, crème carpet. “It’s ‘cause he’s so bright and so light and so good!”

Hilary chuckled proudly, looking pleased with the enthusiasm of her children. “That’s right, girls!” To Sam she said, “We really can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s handsome and wise and well-spoken...”

“Does he have a name?” Sam asked, pen ready.

“Baldur!” cried the twins in unison.

“Baldur?” Sam echoed. Hilary nodded. “But that’s...” One of the Gods that had died in Lucifer’s attack on the Elysian Fields Hotel. A Norse God, if Sam was remembering his myths correctly. Could he have been resurrected somehow? Or was it some monster just borrowing his legend to hypnotise these people?

The twins and Hilary were still looking at him expectantly so Sam finished lamely with, “That’s great. Really, that’s fantastic. Anyway, I think that’s all I need to ask for now, so thank you for your time.”

He was just walking towards the front door when Hilary Roberts chased after him and grabbed his wrist. “Wait! Don’t you want to meet him?”

“You might be able to cheer him up!” said one happy twin, following her mother like a little duckling.

“He makes us all happy but he’s still so sad,” added her sister mournfully, the first hint of displeasure Sam had seen from any of the town’s inhabitants in days.

Sam crouched down to the little girl’s level. He knew one was called Ivy and one was called Sheila, but since they were identical he had no idea which one he was addressing. “Why is he sad?” he asked gently.

Behind him the door slammed open. Sam jumped up and turned, trying to push the child behind him to protect her from the sudden blinding light that slowly faded into the form of a man.

“I am sad, Sam Winchester, because I know I am soon to die,” said Baldur. “Unless I can stop the men who would kill me.”

At the sound of his voice Sam was breathless, and fell to his knees in awe beside Hilary and the children. Baldur reached down and Sam let the shining God slide his perfectly-formed hand into his jacket pocket and retrieve his mobile phone. Then Baldur took Sam’s wrist in a strong grip – but it didn’t hurt, it felt gentle, loving... – and he placed the phone in the palm of Sam’s hand.

“Call your brother,” Baldur requested in a voice too soft, too kind, to be a command. “I need to speak with him.”

Sam held the speed dial immediately. Dean had to see this. He had to know this peace.

*

The Ellis family were such an old-fashioned happy family stereotype that Dean kind of wanted them to turn out to be the source of all this mess. He sure as hell couldn’t get any sensible answers out of them. ‘A wandering light’. ‘A bright man’. Other than that they just fangirled over the enigmatic bastard, even the aging Dad was swooning like a schoolgirl at the thought of him. It was downright bizarre.

The ringtone of his phone provided Dean with an excuse to get out of the house before they roped him into a family board-game. He knew their kind. First it would be friendly – but useless – chats, then dinner and would he like to stay for dessert? It’s home-made pie. Then wham! Before he knew it, he’d be rolling dice, shuffling a counter around a board, and wondering whether it was acceptable behaviour to laugh when the kids were hopelessly outmatched.

Luckily, his cellphone saved him. With a final wave and a big cheesy false smile, he stepped out into the night and answered his phone, knowing from the display who to expect. “Hey Sam, get anything?”

“Dean, you have to see this. It’s... It’s amazing. Come to Hilary’s, right now. Hurry.”

With that, Sam hung up.

Now, Dean wanted to be able to trust his brother. He wanted to think that the phone-call was just Sam getting excited over something nerdy. He wanted to just run on over there and see what Sam had to show him.

But Dean was a hunter. A particularly wary one, at that. (Wary sounded so much better than paranoid). He knew that there were things out there that could imitate voices, knew there were things that could control minds and persuade people to lure their loved ones into traps. Hell, on their darker days during the Apocalypse, Sam’s motives had been dubious enough without outside influence. But judging from the calm and serene tone of voice Sam had used, Dean was willing to bet his baby brother was enthralled by the same thing the rest of the town was.

That wasn’t to say Dean wasn’t going to ride on in there anyway. He was just going to call Bobby first, keep both eyes peeled, and carry a massive gun. It was the Winchester way.

Bobby was worried – of course he was – but there was very little he could do. Even if he still had use of his legs he’d be unable to get there before Dean ran in full-speed ahead. Sam was in trouble. Dean promised to call back within the hour, then got a shotgun and drove to Hilary Robert’s home. He wasn’t even sure a shotgun would work on this thing, whatever it was. Some half-man, half-lightbulb from the sounds of things...

Dean didn’t have to reach Hilary’s home to see something was amiss. The light show lit up her whole street and he parked on the corner so as hopefully to be out of sight of the thing. Gun in one hand, silver knife in the other, Dean crept down the street with his eye out for anything that might want to kill him. Nobody else in the street seemed interested in him though, all the neighbours wandering out of their homes and crossing the street to be nearer the pretty lights. Dean tried not to look up at them, in case he got caught up in the same spell.

It seemed to be emanating from Hilary’s back yard. Since her neighbours were so blasé about the stranger walking down the street with a knife and gun, Dean shrugged and strolled along with them. Camouflaged by the other civilians, he made his way down the path and through the gate where... huh.

Where a glowing man in tight jeans and a white polo-shirt stood posing for the masses. That was a new one.

Dean paused for a moment, head tilted aside in confusion until he realised he had learned that stance from Cas. All around the glowing man sat the townspeople, saying Oooh and Ahhh as if they were judging the Mr Fluorescent America contest. Right up there in the front row (and Dean rolled his eyes because really?) was Sam, sitting cross-legged with a look of wonder on his face.

The Incredible Human Glow-Worm stopped flexing its muscles for the thrill of the crowd as soon as it saw him. “Dean Winchester. It is good to see you again. We appreciate your efforts in preventing the Judeo-Christian Apocalypse.” His voice held an odd quality, almost an echo. Every word was perfectly pronounced, but it was almost too perfect. The emotion there was imitated. This creature might have been as grateful as it claimed, but it couldn’t express it through human speech. It reminded him of angels, the ones who didn’t spend much time among humans. Not Gabriel. He knew humans inside out. Probably literally, as a Trickster.

“I think I’d remember meeting you before,” Dean said hesitantly, looking the man over as though he met so many glowing men it was easy to get mixed up.

“You have not met me in this form,” replied the man. Every word he spoke made an audience member sigh happily. “During our only encounter I was using an avatar to express my will on this Earth. It was more...human. It carried less risk. I appear before you now as I am in the hopes of averting prophecy. Could I ask you to sit before me with your brother? This will all be over in mere moments.”

Sam nodded at Dean happily and patted the space beside him on the grass. It wasn’t at all appealing to move closer to Mr McGlowy. Whatever enchantment was affecting the others hadn’t gotten to Dean yet, it seemed. “Uh... I think I’m fine over here. Really.”

The shining man looked perplexed. “I only wish to speak with you. Why do you keep your distance? People are usually drawn to me.”

Dean waved his gun, growing irritated. This was weird and he wasn’t sure how to deal with it. “Listen buddy...”

“Baldur.”

“Bal...” Dean’s brain caught up with what he had heard. “But Baldur was...oh. Oh.” An avatar. Lucifer had killed an avatar of Baldur. Which meant that this... “Holy shit, you’re a God.” To think, Dean had brought a shotgun and a silver knife. There was bravado, then there was just plain dumb and he was suddenly worried his gravestone would say the latter.

“I am. And I wish to speak with you and your brother, Dean Winchester.”

“Oh yeah? What about?” He kept the gun aimed at Baldur’s head, for all the good it would do.

“The necessity of your deaths,” Baldur said calmly. “Now please, sit.” The echo of the voice increased but whatever effect it was supposed to have still eluded Dean and when Baldur’s handsome face creased into a frown, it was clear that the God had realised the hunter’s immunity.

Suddenly, before Dean could blink, Baldur was right in front of him, way within his personal space boundaries. The group gathered on the floor all whined pathetically at the slight increase in distance between them and their new shiny God. This close Dean could see there wasn’t a single blemish on the being’s skin. Not a single imperfection. But it wasn’t enthralling, not for him. It was inhuman, and unsettling.

Baldur pulled the gun from Dean’s hand easily and threw it over the fence. “Discard your petty toys and show me how you elude my charm.”

Dean laughed nervously. “Well you’re very buff and all, but you’re really more my brother’s type. I’m sure you’ve noticed. I don’t really swing that way.”

It didn’t seem as though the God was even listening to him. Baldur’s glowing gaze roamed his face as though the secret to Dean’s defence could be found there. The God reached up a shining hand and pressed it against Dean’s forehead.

The Gods aren’t Gods. They’re shiny baubles filled with poison. You can see it. You’re Dean Winchester and you see past the polish.

Baldur snatched his hand back, looking surprised. “I see. Loki has already made his claim on you.” The God sighed, looking truly despondent, leading a few of the innocent civilians to ask why he was so sad. He ignored them, glanced up at the sky, then back down at Dean. “I am afraid, little Winchester, that this means your death will be painful.”

The God reached out for him and Dean lashed out with the silver blade. It made contact with Baldur’s wrist, but didn’t leave a scratch. In fact, Dean suspected it may have bent the blade a little.

Baldur sighed, as though dealing with an idiot. “My mother took an oath from all things that they would not harm me,” he explained as he took hold of Dean’s neck and lifted him with one hand. Dean clawed at the strong arm and his eyes met Sam’s across the garden. Sam looked worried, biting his lip anxiously, but as black spots started to dance across Dean’s vision the hunter realised that his brother would not make a move to save him. “All things love me,” Baldur said softly, possibly the last thing Dean would ever hear.

“Well then,” said what had to be a hallucination. “How about a kiss under the mistletoe?”

Baldur turned but not fast enough, and Gabriel drove a branch of mistletoe through the God’s chest. Baldur dropped Dean, but Gabriel was suddenly right there to catch him and Dean gasped for oxygen as he was lowered carefully to the floor.

“Easy there, Deano,” the Archangel said and Dean still wasn’t sure he was seeing reality.

Baldur hacked up blood that shimmered on the grass as he collapsed to his knees. “Lo...Loki...”

“I never wanted this to happen, Baldur,” Gabriel said, scowling at the mortally wounded God as he protectively held a semi-conscious Dean against him. “Why would you do this? You forced my hand!”

The bleeding God still didn’t look angry, just heartbreakingly sad as a glistening tear trailed from his right eye. “I... tried to save them... the humans... all of them...”

Then he fell limp and all the bystanders fell into fits of sobbing hysteria at the loss. Even Sam was on his hands and knees weeping. Dean looked up at his saviour, who was staring intently at Baldur’s corpse. He’d known Gabriel wouldn’t die. He’d known all along! “Hey Gabriel,” he said, voice raspy from where his throat had been squeezed like the Stress-Toy of the Gods. “What are you doin’ here?”

“Saving your stupid ass,” the Archangel grumbled, still glaring at Baldur.

Dean sat up straight and shifted away from Gabriel’s inhumanly strong arms. “What about them?” he asked gesturing towards the crowd of teary mourners.

“I’ll fix them. You okay?”

It was a surprising show of concern. Dean nodded, trying not to wince as the simple motion pained his throat. Gabriel noticed anyway and reached out, so similar to Baldur that Dean flinched away for a second before the Archangel’s hand slid gently around his throat. Gabriel closed his eyes for a second and Dean felt warmth where the palm rested, like a heat pad around his throat, drawing the pain out of his neck and soothing the throb of the bruising.

Gabriel drew back his hand and assessed Dean’s neck. “There. Good as...well, not new. But barely-worn.”

“Thanks,” Dean said, rubbing a hand around his neck where Gabriel’s had just been. Those hands were so soft, probably from being an Archangel with nothing to do but click his fingers. Had that vessel even been in a fight before Lucifer?

“Yes, don’t be so patronising,” snapped Gabriel and Dean’s eyes widened when he realised the Archangel had read his mind. “I just use nice hand moisturiser, is all. Peach-scented.”

Everyone was still milling around, sobbing over Baldur’s body. Gabriel stood up and held his right hand up and... click. Suddenly the only people left in Hilary’s back yard were Sam, Dean, Gabriel, and the body of Baldur.

“They won’t remember,” Gabriel told Dean. “I mean, they’ll remember most of the past few days, just not the parts with blind adoration of a Norse God. Oh, except Sam. Figured he could handle it.”

“We’ll see,” Dean said dryly as he watched Sam wipe his tears away and blink in confusion. He waited one... two... three... There it was. Sam’s sudden horrified realisation that he had sat back and watched the target of their hunt almost murder his big brother.

“Oh my god, Dean!” Sam ran over and started frantically checking him for injuries, patting him down, peering closely at his throat. “I am so, so sorry, I don’t even know how he got me like that, I just... I couldn’t think!”

“Sam, it’s okay...” Dean tried to bat away the hands prodding him. “Sammy! Quit it! It wasn’t your fault. I’m fine, anyway. Gabriel fixed me up.”

Both Winchesters looked over at the Archangel. Gabriel was stood glaring down at Baldur as though even in death the God was holding answers to pertinent questions.

“Thanks for the intervention,” Sam offered hesitantly. “But um... aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

Gabriel looked up at them and raised an eyebrow. “Want me to fall on my sword for you?” he sneered.

“No! I just wondered how you were here when Lucifer killed you.”

The rogue Archangel laughed bitterly. Perhaps he’d watched them kill his brother and couldn’t help hating them for it. Dean could understand that. “When Lucifer thought he killed me.”

Dean was starting to wonder if this was one of his dreams. It was too good to be true otherwise. The world took from him, it didn’t give back (well, except for Cas, but he’d died twice. Dean would never believe Cas was gone for good now, no matter what happened). “Kali said you were dead.”

“She would have thought so,” Gabriel said as he prodded the dead God Baldur with the toe of his trainers. “The remaining Grace in my vessel got vamoosed and I’m sure that’s what she was watching for. How was she, anyway? How’d she take it?”

Dean looked at Sam, who looked blankly back. “Uh, she didn’t really stick around,” Dean said awkwardly. “Hard to tell.”

“Fair enough. I need to steer clear of her for a while anyway. She’ll be livid I faked my death. Kali’s always livid.”

“Well we’re grateful you turned up when you did,” Dean said, before Sam could carry on asking questions while they stood in an amnesiac civilian’s back garden with the corpse of a God. “Did you really kill him with mistletoe?”

“Baldur’s one weakness,” Gabriel replied, but his smile seemed strained. “You might want to hold off on the gratitude though.”

“Why?” Sam asked, folding his arms, waiting for the downside.

“Because I think I just started the Ragnarok.”

Sam paled. “What?”

Dean nudged him. “Dude, what’s the Ragnarok?”

“I need to move this body somewhere uninhabited,” Gabriel said, interrupting them. “Before his mother hears about it and kicks up a fuss. So I’ll see you later boys, it’s been fun, let me give you a ride home.” He reached out towards them, fingers together...

“Wait a second!” Dean shouted, but by the time he was at the final syllable, he and Sam were in Bobby’s house.

The older hunter just stared at them from his wheelchair for a moment, then went back to reading his book. Too much strange crap happened for Bobby Singer to give a damn every time.

Dean turned in a circle, taking in that yeah, they were definitely at Bobby’s. He rushed over to the window and looked outside. “Son of a bitch! The Impala’s in Iowa!” Dreams or no dreams, life-saving or no life-saving, no fucking with the car was permitted! Fucking in the car was a whole different story but hey, know what? They’d still need the car!

It didn’t seem like his younger brother was moved by his crisis, though. “Dean, Gabriel said he started the Ragnarok.”

“What does that have to do with my car?!” Dean snapped. Sam knew better than to dismiss the car, damn it!

“Will you shut up a second, boy?” Bobby growled, finally taking an interest in them. “Sam, are you serious? That Trickster bastard started the Ragnarok?”

“He’s not a bastard, he’s an Archangel,” Dean interjected. He reached up to his neck, remembering Gabriel’s soothing touch. It took a moment to notice Sam and Bobby were staring at him like he’d grown another head. Because of the lives they led, Dean checked his reflection in the window to make sure he hadn’t. Nope, one head. “What?”

“Since when have Archangels been good guys in your book?” Sam asked, looking more amused than anything else.

“Since they died fighting Lucifer...”

“Obviously faked it,” Sam said.

Dean continued on anyway. “Then came back to save my life!”

Sam seemed to accept that one. “Okay, we do owe him that.”

Bobby made a sound of derision. “Not if we all die in the damn Ragnarok...”

“What the hell is the Ragnarok?” Dean snapped. He’d lost his car and nobody had even answered his question yet because they were all too busy bitching about Gabriel!

“Another Apocalypse,” Sam said with a weary sigh.

“Oh, you’re kidding,” Dean groaned. Maybe those dreams of his had been some sort of warning but, being the horny son of a gun that he was, he had twisted them into something else.

“Not my idea of a joke,” said Gabriel, suddenly sat in the armchair in the corner of the room.

“Then why’d ya do it?” Bobby demanded to know. Unfortunately, while he remained intimidating to the hunting community and evil supernatural entities, angels and Archangels still managed to find Bobby Singer completely unthreatening. Dean knew it bugged him but hey, angels bugged everyone.

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “For shits and giggles because the last Apocalypse wasn’t fun enough.” Sarcasm dripped from his answer. “It was an accident, you idiots.”

“How can you possibly start an Apocalypse unintentionally?” Sam asked, as though the concept was absolutely ridiculous.

Dean knew it wasn’t and was shrinking back on himself before Gabriel even said, “Ask Dean.”

“That was different,” Bobby said loyally. “You bein’ what you are, you should know better.”

The Archangel shrugged. “Okay, next time I’ll let these two get murdered. Is that your preference?”

“How is saving our lives to blame for starting the Ragnarok?” asked Sam, clearly floundering without enough information.

“Endless questions...” Gabriel muttered before leaning forward in the chair to explain. “It wasn’t saving your lives, it was ending Baldur’s. Norse prophecy dictates that Baldur dies by Loki’s machinations and it sets everything else in motion. I wasn’t intending on having any part in it, but as you saw, Baldur forced my hand.”

“Because you just had to run in and save the Winchester boys?” Bobby asked, sounding doubtful. Dean could see his point, when Gabriel saved them from Lucifer he was trying to save humanity, not just Sam and Dean. This was different, somehow...personal. The thought made a faint feeling of hope bubble up in Dean’s chest, but he burst it. This was Gabriel they were talking about. Not a martyr Dean could dream of with rose-tinted glasses, but a Trickster God sat in Bobby’s armchair talking about how he had begun the end of the world.

Gabriel shrugged. “Baldur was a dick. I never liked him. Of course I’m gonna side with Sam and Dean.”

“What was he even doing there in the first place?” Sam asked.

“Do you do anything but ask questions?” Gabriel asked incredulously before settling back in his chair. “That is an excellent one though, I’ll give you that. What was Baldilocks doing in Iowa, of all places?” He stared off for a few moments as if thinking it over, then shook his head. “Nah, I got nothing. But I am going to find out. If I hear anything good, I’ll let you know. Frankly though, I’ve been here too long already. You boys don’t want to be associated with me now. When the Gods figure out I killed Baldur things are going to get messy.”

“That’s how it happens,” Sam realised. “The Gods go to War over it.”

Gabriel nodded. “Pretty much. There’s some more shit to throw at the fan first but I don’t exactly plan on hastening the arrival of Ragnarok. I didn’t help avert one Apocalypse just to start another.”

“Where are you going to go?” Dean asked, for no reason other than sheer curiosity.

“I’m going to see how bad it’s got. Try and figure out my next move.” Gabriel grinned. “Why, will you miss me?”

Dean just raised an eyebrow and tried to look unimpressed. “No. You left my car in Iowa.”

The Archangel frowned for a second. “Oh yeah.” Then he clicked his fingers. “There you go. Good as...well, as good as it was.” He chuckled. “I know better than to try and improve the car.”

Dean mirrored his grin. “Good. You’ll live longer. But seriously, thanks. You know, for saving me and stuff.”

“Stuff,” Sam muttered, “Is that my name now?”

“It suits you,” Gabriel told him, before winking at Dean and disappearing.

Bobby was looking at him strangely. Dean bristled. “What?”

“You’ve got awful taste in friends, Dean,” was all the hunter replied before switching his book on ethereal entities for one on Norse mythology.

Was he that transparent? Dean spluttered. “He’s not my friend! He’s Gabriel.”

When Sam and Bobby just shared a look that Dean couldn’t decipher, he grumbled, “Whatever, I’m gonna check on the car,” and stomped outside.

Sure enough his baby was exactly how he left her, with the exception of the backseats, which were covered in all the stuff they had taken into the motel. Gabriel was nothing if not thorough and Dean found himself surprised at the Archangel’s thoughtfulness. Maybe he had died a little at Lucifer’s hand and it had messed him up in the head. He had said something about losing his remaining Grace, hadn’t he? What did he mean by that?

On top of Dean’s clothes and bags lay the ‘Casa Erotica’ dvd that Gabriel had given him prior to the Lucifer showdown. Hopefully the Trickster had no idea how often Dean had watched it since.

Satisfied that everything was in order, Dean brought his and Sam’s bags into Bobby’s house. He got the feeling they would be here a while.

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