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Deus In Absentia

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    There were bodies everywhere. Of course there was. His sons had decided to fight here, after all. His heart ached at the bloodshed, the needless masacre Dean had enacted as a sort of... last stand. He sighed, looking down at the broken body of Dean Winchester laying sprawled unceremoniously in the garden of the sanitorium. 

    Behind Him a dry voice drifted on the air, "I suppose there is no point in keeping a hold on this seeing as how You have come Personally to meddle with my Order once again."

    With a gesture the body goes from corpse to merely comatose, merely waiting for the Soul held in Death's grip. "Indeed," the figure says. 

    Death, to His surprise, comes up alongside Him and deposits the Soul into its container once again. 

   "I'll be wanting My angel too."

    Death merely turns up one corner of his lips, "Your angel?" With a flick of his gaze down towards the body at Their feet, his meaning becomes clear.

    An amused huff and an ironic curl of Chuck's mouth along with a repeated, "indeed" acknowledge the truth of Death's statement. 

    "Why do you even bother? Clearly this story has played itself out."

    Chuck looks over with a sly glint in his eye, "Don't you think this would be the perfect time for a plot twist?"

    Death rolled his eyes, "I do wish you would stop making me work quite so hard. I'm getting rather tired of cleaning up after my litle brother. After all, You and Your Favorites have no respect for my Order.'

    "Don't worry; after this little fiasco I'll make sure all my children start playing nice."

    "See that You do," is all that He hears od Death's departure. In the distance He hears Castiel start to stir. He kneels and starts shaking Dean, saying in a panic-laden voice, "Dean, oh my god, Dean, wake up! Please, Dean. Oh god, Dean, please wake up!"

    And just like that, the story tht was written off as a dead end gets a continuation. Now all He has to do is wait for the other key players to congregate and this story can finally move on.

Chapter Text

    "Oof!" Henrietta Bishop landed in a-- very painful-- breathless heap, having hit the brick wall behind her at an unknown speed and with considerable force before crumpling to the ground. She laid still for the exact second it took her to blink and assess that there was no real damage done to her person. She immediately rocketed up, gun drawn, scanning around with a speed ony barely human. 

    She was in an alleyway. There was a wrecked and broken down car at the curb of the building to her right. The quality of the light told her it was early afternoon. Judging from the all around air of despair and abandonment, she concludes she was in one of the off-zones the invaders kept to scare the population with. 

   She crept towards the entrance of the alley with her gun at the ready. A quick scan told her that the street was deserted. She quickly picked her way through the streets heading due North while searching out clues that could tell her where she was--- and in which city. It was a large city to be sure but it didn't fell like Boston, even any of Boston's off-zones. 

    There weren't any sky patrols so it definitely wasn't New York. The lack of patrols was telling-- and unsettling. As was the slight...wrongness in the air that settled deep into her bones, telling her without words the, Etta we're not in Kansas anymore. A ghost of a smile formed on her lips at the thought, the voice in her head sounding like her long-lost father. Her quite literally long lost father. But she wouldn't think about that now. 

    She was approaching the outskirts of the city when she heard the first signs that she wasn't alone in this post-apocalyptic world. A scuffling, as from an injured person stumbling down the road. She edged around the corner. Nothing surprising: more broken down cars, some debris...and there! A man, limping, his back to her. He was 5'9", in shabby clothes, brown hair matted and messy even from a distance. She kept her gun drawn and at the ready as she approached, calling quietly, "Sir, my name is Agent Burke. I'm from the Fringe Division. Sir, I'm here to help you."

   She finishes catching up to th man. He's bleeding, staring at nothing with wide and blank eyes, not even sowing his pace. She circles so that she's five feet in front of him and that's when she sees it: in giant, red letters, spray painted fully across the building in her peripheral. CROATOAN.

    And then her focus is wrenched back to the man in front of her as he rushes her. Etta's shot goes wide as she's tackled to the ground. She's left wrestling with the man, her gun held horizontal to protect her from--- is he trying to rip her throat out WITH HIS TEETH?! She finally catches a good look at his face: rotten teeth, skin like he has an advanced case of leprosy, and eyes wild with insanity and an animalistic hunger. 

    Renewing her efforts she violently thrusts back, sending him ass over end. He charges. She doesn't hesitate. The bullet flies, lodging deeply into his skull right between with eyes. Etta slowly lets out a controlled breath. Right. With those shots someone--- or more somethings--- are likely to come. 

    High ground, she decides. Observe and assess. 

    She's on the roof of a near-by building when a group of five shows up. They are all dressed in combat gear. They stop at the sight of the corpse. Two men detach from the group and come forward to inspect the body as the rest spread out in a defensive formation. The first one, the leader, is 6'2" with dark blond almost brown hair nad he crouches and turns the cadaver over to see the face. The second man is 6' with messy black hair. The leader says something to the black-haired man and gestures. The man crouches and shakes his head, points to the wall of the building in front of them... in the directionof Etta's first shot. Interesting. She has the impression he's pointing at the exact place the bullet is lodged. The leader nods slowly. Gets up and moves to stand in the exact spot Etta had stood when she killed the man. The leader turns his body sideways, bracing his feet, and lifting his hand in the shape of a gun. He makes a movement as if his hand-gun fired, all the while talking, explaining, theorizing with the black haired man, who nods and stands up. The leader places his hands in his hips, scaning the suroundings. His head turns to the black-haired man who crosses his arms and brings one hand up to his chin as he contemplates whatever was said to him. His eyes narrow as he nods again and scans. Etta can see the moment it clicks; his hands drop to his sides before he sweeps his hand across the horizon, his eyes scanning the roofs. Etta quickly ducks, turning onto her back. Yes, these two are some quick ducks. If her instincts are correct....Well, putting two and two and three together, she isn't in her world anymore. Her parents' stories of the other worlds making this a not-totally-insane idea. Her Grandpa Walter always did talk about weird sciences. Hell, she herself was irrefutable edvidence of the Strange and Weird. Thanks to the Cortexiphan still in her Mom's system when she conceived and gave birth to Etta, Etta had subtle but handy skills that she used to the fullest. 

    But those people down there...No, she knew those stances, the wariness, that broken-but-still-fighting air. No, these were members of the Resistance. Didn't matter if they were members of her Resistance or not. She grins. She always was one for the underdogs. 

 

 

Chapter Text

    When Dean came to in The Garden, with Chuck practically bawling on top of him, he felt the urge to do nothing but slam his head back down and groan. Why, dear god, why did he have to wake up. He had been perfectly happy sacrificing his life if it meant his past self didn't make the same stupid mistakes. And he could you know, deal with it because he knew Cas was with him to the end. Even if, especially if, that end was bloody. Oh God. Cas.

    Dean shot up so fast he slammed heads with Chuck, who immediately curled up and rocked back and forth, cupping his forehead and whimpering. Meanwhile, Dean just let out a pain-filled gasp in the shape of his best friend's name. 

    Dean scrambled up, pulled Chuck to his feet and took off, racing around the building back towards the last place he had seen Cas. When Dean had sent him off to die. Like cannon fodder. Dear god, what had Dean done. If Cas was dead....

    Dean stumbled to a halt at the threshold, gripping the solid door tightly as he leaned heavily upon it, gasping for breath. When he finally looked up, all his hard earned air left his lungs in a whoosh as he saw the messy haired figure make its way towards him. Green eyes caught and held blue ones as they came to a standstill, staring at one another as they hadn't in years. In Castiel's eyes Dean saw the same thoughts he himself had had upon waking: disbelief at being alive, confusion about being alive, especially while everyone else was dead around them, bitterness about waking back up to this shit storm, and yes, anger too. Cas had been just as resigned, hell he'd been sorta happy, to die "for the Greater Good" if it meant this world didn't have to keep dying. 

    Dean couldn't take it anymore. He crossed to the middle of the room and grabbed Castiel into a hug. The ex-angel stood woodenly as Dean hugged him before cautiously raising his arms in a tentative embrace. His delayed response meant they were only really hugging for a fraction of a second before Dean pulled back saying with a relieved grin, "Buddy, am I glad to see you."

    "Yes," Castiel remarked flatly, "because one is always glad to see the person they sent to die up and about."

    Dean's grin slipped off his face and Castiel was glad for it; having Dean grinning at him like that reminded him of the easy smiles and friendship they used to share. Back when Cas was still useful. Still an angel. Now all that smile reminded him of was how much he had lost and how much was infinintely out of reach. 

    "You're right," Dean said in the low tone he had adopted over the last five years, "I did send you to die; I sent us all to die. So the question is: why aren't we dead? And why is this shit-world still around?"

    "The logical conclusion is that past you didn't make the choice to say yes to Michael, thus continuing the path to this future."

    "Well shit," Dean said. "What do we do now?"

    Cas gave a tired sigh that was laced with something like regret and something like misgiving, "We do what we always do, Dean. We live."

                                                                                            ~~~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~~~

    After The Garden things mostly went back to normal at Camp Chitaqua. The onyl noticible difference was that Dean had to replace his command team and that Cas cut down the time he was stoned and started going on spply runs with Dean once in a while. It was a small step really, but it gave Dean hope tht maybe, just maybe, Cas would pull himself out of the almost-five year long downward spiral his life had becomesocne he lost his angelhood. 

    Come to think of it, Cas seemed to have an uncanny ability to be able to pick all the supply runs that ended up being "interesting." And by interesting, Dean meant everything went to absolute shit and ended with copious amounts of death, usually. 

    Which is precisely why Dean's concentration is razor sharp today. Because Cas chose to come on this supply run. 

    Today they would be scouring what was left of this big city. They hid the cars in the trees at the city's edge and continued in on foot. All was going as planned, which was creeping Dean the fuck out. Hish shoulders were practically twitching with the tension. So when he heard the shots he wasn't surprised. The only surprise was that it wasn't anyone in his group that had fired. 

    "Okay," Deain said, "Team 1: we're going to find whoever took those shots. Could be more survivors. Team 2, continue on foraging." The two groups nodded and rearranged. 

    Eight blocks later they came upon the dead Croat. With a silent gesture Tom, Amanda, and Neal spread out while Dean and Cas went to inspect the body. 

    Crouching, Dean heaved the heavy motha over, giving a clear view of the gunshot wound. "What do you say? Our Croat-killer a good shot or not? We heard two shots and looking at the body it's clear they missed. Still, right between the eyes is hella impressive," Dean says as Cas crouches next to him. 

    Cas shakes his head. "They didn't miss; It was more of a misfire. The bullet is over there," he gestures to a space a few feet to their right on the wall of the building they were crouched in front of and then says, "They were probably tackled  to the ground by the Croat. Hm, something tells me they are, in fact, a very good shot. And highly trained."

    Dean squints into the middle distance absently saying, "highly trained." He glances around before standing up and slowly circling around to stand in front of the body, all the while thinking aloud, "Okay. So, let's assume this highly trained person saw the Croat--- most likely from behind  'cause this is one ugly motha--- and thought it was a person who needed help. They rounded to get in front of it aaaand..." his eyes drift to the large letters to his right, "and they get distracted by seeing this thing for the first time-- it is pretty ominous-- Bitey here starts charging, finally scenting fresh meat, tackles them, the gun goes off. Now, I'm willing to bet that this person stood riiiight here, braced themselves, and calmly lifted their gun"--he demostrates, settling into a stance and slowly lifting his right hand, fingers folded to form a gun-- "and shot it point blank." He makes a gun noise as he fake shoots. 

    "Now," he continues, "the only way all this is really possible, since no one that hasn't been living under a rock for the past three years, would know exactly what a Croat looked like even from a distance and wouldn't be startled by the big-ass CROATOAN on the wall over there. Especially not someone who has survived this long. Especially not a highly trained someone. So that means we're dealing with another frickin' newbie. Great."

    Cas nods and stands up. Dean puts his hand on his hips and slowly turns in a circle. "Where, oh where, would I go if I found myself in a creepy-as-fuck abandoned city, having just killed what appears to be a zombie, and with no idea what would be lured to the sound of the gunshots...? What do you think, Cas?" Dean asks as he turns his head towards the ex-angel. Cas hums as he crosses his arms, bringing one hand up to cup his chin. Cas' blue eyes narrow as he nods and then does a quick scan of the surounding buildings and alleyways. Dean can practically see  the "clunk" in Cas' brain a second before he drops his arms back to his sides, "Well, would need a better understanding of the dangers coming after me. So I would" --his hand sweeps to encompass the roofs of the near-by buildings-- "take the high ground. And observe."

    Just then they hear the other sounds they've been waiting for: Croats. A group of about fiften Croats surround them. Dean and Cas switch to that effortless back-to-back neither consciously thinks about that has always been their norm. In the midst of the melee Dean kicks a Croat back, causing a domino effect that temporarily gives him an almost-breather. Tom, Amanda, and Neal are still alive so that's something. Cas is whirling like a dervish, cutting a swath of death. Dean's breath catches. It's been so long since he's seen Cas fight like this: deadly grace, efficient movements, knife flashing. It gives Dean an extra boost to see his best friend like this, like he was before he lost his grace. 

    Dean knows how this fight is going to end and he hates it. Once more he's going to fail the people he's responsible for. It'll be just him and Cas and corpses. Again. 

    A flash of light catches his attention but he doesn't have anymore time to think about it as he stabs a Croat in the neck before shooting another if the head. A shift in the fighting causes him to once again focus beyond just the next swipe and shot. 

    A blonde shape in black is making considerable headway in this fight. She's almost scary to watch as she takes down Croat after Croat. Dean and Cas can only just match her and in less than three minutes the miraculous happens: Dean and Cas are left standing, as are all the rest of his team. And the blonde haired, blue eyed stranger. 

    The moment the last body drops all guns are pointed at the stranger. who then holds up her hands in surrender. 

    "You boys aren't half bad," she says, smirking. "Your lackeys could use some work though." This causes another round of tensing and gun cocks which only illicit a small laugh from the woman, "skittish too. "

    "Enough," Dean barks. "Now you tell me who you are and what you are and what you're doing here right now or so help me I will put bullets in you myself."

    The platinum blonde makes a low hum, "Mm, very macho." She says with derision, "Fine, Mr. Underdog Leader, which of those questions would you like answered first?"

    Cas narows his eyes and cocks his head, seeming to look into her very sould. He comes to some sort of conclusion and lowers his gun, to Dean's disbelief. Forestalling Dean's protests he says, "I don't think it's necessary for everyone to point a gun at her. Now, first answer what you are, who you are, then why you're here. Though I feel the last will be the most interesting and we won't take your word for for the one anyway. Mind if I test you while you answer? It won't be anything extreme."

    "Fine. I'm human. My name is Henrietta...Bishop; call me Etta. I'm an agent of Fringe Division, if that means"-- she hisses in pain as Cas drags a silver blade over her arm, then drinks the liquid Cas murmurs is just water-- "if that means anything to you."

    Cas steps back with a nod to Dean who then takes a step forward to stand beside Cas and says, "It doesn't, so why are you here? How'd you get here?"

    "I don't know why I'm here or the particulars of how I came to be here but seeing as how I've passed the 'I'm-a-human' test could we go before more zombie things get here? That fight wasn't silent."

    Dean nods to his team nd the remaining three lower their guns and the group starts their way back to the vehicles to meet up with the other team. The walk back is silent. The other team merely raise eyebrows at the new addition before heading out at Dean's order. 

    "Now," Dean says. Cas is driving and Dean is sitting next to Etta as he continues the little "interview" they had started earlier. He keeps a gun on her. She rolls her eyes but otherwise doesn't comment. "What details can you give? Seeing as how you ;don't know the pariculars' of how you got here."

    "So eager to learn my secrets," she teases. It earns her a snort from the front seat and she grins. Notices Dean's jaw ticking in irritation and she grins even wider. Then, before he gives into the temptation to shoot she almost starts her story but stops.

    "What?" Dean snaps.

    "Well, before I tell you all about how I got here, why don't you tell me where here, and more to the point, when and where here is?"

    Dean sighs in aggravation and it's Cas who answers. 

    "It's March, 2015. We're currently in Illinois, U.S.A., Earth. The thing you killed was a late-staged Croatoan, or Croat, as we call them. I have the feeling we'll talk more in-depth about that and what's going on in current affairs. That should be enough information for you to start acclimating. At least for now. You seem rather intelligent. So, your turn. Before our fearless leader decides to just shoot you. He has become rather ruthless in recent years."

    "Okay. 2015, huh? I can work with that," Etta murmurs. She stays quiet for a second to think. Then: "Well then. When and wheres. Considering this world it shouldn't sound too crazy but....

    "I'm from the year 2036. Seems like on top of that I'm from an alternate universe too. That world, much like this one, is war-torn. Though under quite different circumstances. My world was taken over and brought to heel by these...Invaders from some future where humans have sacrificed emotion in order to further higher brain function. Now they rule like kings and the...natives are treated either like rats to be hunted down and killed or like pets to sit at the feet of their masters. As long as they don't bite the hand that feeds them or piss on the rugs. Traitors." She grinds her teeth in impotent fury. Takes a breath to calm down and continues, "There is resitance of course, but we're losing. Before the Invaders crippled Fringe Division and left it to 'police the Natives'...The Original Fringe team fought against the Invaders. With only four members...they would have won too. But half-way through the fight the Fringe team just...vanished. Lost. No one has seen or heard from them since. Mist people think they're dead or that they never existed at all but I think... I think they're trapped in Amber. Frozen in time.

    "So I've been searching. There's whle cities trapped in Amber." Remebering her audience she further explains, " Amber is an aerosal that solidifies when it meets the nitrogen in the atmosphere, trapping anything in the blast radius inside, like mosquitos in amber. It was originally designed to plug rips in the fabric of the universe because that happened. In fact, it was a major problem at one point. Then the Invaders used it as a crowd control slash terror tactic, which worked brilliantly by the way. The fuckers. So I've been searching amber sites, having my contacts search for the original Fringe team.

    "I was at this particular amber site, cutting my way through and uh... well, stuff-- an explosion and bullets and stuff-- kinda, um, weakened the structural integrity of the amber and it seems this paricular amber site was stopping up a wormhole or something because all I remember is getting thrown back during an explosion and then slamming into a wall in an alleyway in this zombie-- Croat, sorry Croat-- infested world. Now, would you care to explain what is up with this world and what Big Bad it is you all are fighting against? Because I know underdogs fighting the good fight and it is you guys if I ever saw any."

    Dean decides, what the heck? Let's go for gold and the shocker statement. 

    "We're trying to kill the Devil."