Balthazar’s Grace picked Sam up and threw him through the window behind him. Thrown through a window, what the hell. Dean coughed beside him, and Sam wanted to do the same. God, but he hurt like a bitch.
The ground under his hands wasn’t the cut grass that had been under the window. Sam clenched his fist in the dust and rubble, unable to believe what he was seeing.
“Dean?” he gasped, “Dean, are you seeing…”
Dean groaned. Sam could hear him roll over; he glanced over. Dean’s leg bled sluggishly from a gash, and nearby, Sam could see blood smeared on a twisted metal pylon.
Sam scrambled over as Dean lifted his hand to the wound. “Dean, hey, hey, you okay?”
Dean shrugged, poking at the edges of the gash and wincing. “Didn’t hit anything vital. Shallow, too. Should stop bleeding in a few. Fucking Balthazar, man, why did we trust him?”
Sam shrugged, already ripping a strip from his shirt. He wrapped the wound tightly with the makeshift bandage and helped Dean stand.
He looked around.
“Dude, where the hell are we? Are you seeing what I am?”
All around them was, in a word, destruction. Twisted metal and slowly burning cars littered what had probably once been streets. Concrete and rebar had been scattered around them like so many fallen dominos, and in the distance oily smoke rose from a massive fire. Any structure still standing had been twisted on itself, steel reinforced buildings reduced to massive contorted skeletons on the horizon.
Sam tried not to look at the bodies on the ground. Well, the pieces, in most cases. A skull, here, still wet with blood and tissue. A torso over there, impaled on a piece of rebar. He gagged belatedly, the stench finally registering – freshly dead bodies, gasoline, smoke, pulverized concrete dust.
Whatever had happened had been violent, and it had been way too fast to escape.
Dean stumbled over to a car, flipped on its roof, gas tank burning quietly. Sam followed, trying to hold his brother’s weight. “Dean, hey, where are you going?”
Dean grunted, “Do you hear that? Because I do.”
Sam listened harder. Sobbing echoed from somewhere in the pile of rubble the car sat near. “Is someone…alive in there?” he called.
A woman stuck her head out of a small tunnel. “Oh my God,” she gasped. “Oh my God.”
Dean was trying to pull forward, to help her out. Sam let him go and followed his brother, watching for any sign that his limp would turn into a collapse.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” Dean asked. “What happened here?”
She laughed. Sam could hear the hysteria. “Where the–” she glanced down. “Where the heck have you two been? Did you not see the alien spaceship? What, you think this was a nuke or something? Seriously, you both got amnesia?”
A kid poked his head out behind her. “Mom, is everything okay?”
“Yeah, baby, we’re okay,” she soothed him. “We’re alive.”
Sam stepped forward. “Do you…aliens?” he asked. Really? Of all the…Balthazar had some explaining to do. He couldn’t have sent them somewhere where they could calmly hide from – Virgil, was it? And keep the key that was tucked into his jacket pocket safe. No, he had to send them to some kind of place where aliens had just destroyed the city, if not the world.
Sam wasn’t holding out hope for the world, not if the “aliens” had already done this much damage so quickly.
Dean cleared his throat before getting down on one knee. (Sam could tell it was because the hurt one was about to give out, but he didn’t say anything.) “You two need help out of there?”
She huffed and shook her head. “Nah, I got it. Just…gimme…” She grabbed a protruding piece of rebar and pulled herself free. “Okay, now, Dylan, grab my hand, okay?” She hauled the kid – Dylan, apparently – out, and a dog followed behind. It sniffed both of its owners and then trotted over to Sam, tail waving. “Boomer!” the woman called, and the dog huffed and turned around.
She straightened her shirt and turned to them, saying, “I’m Jasmine, by the way. And, yeah, aliens. You two really didn’t know? It was on every news channel. Hell, even the president came on.” She blinked and glanced around at the destruction, taking in the carnage. “Heck, I hope the President’s not dead.”
Dean groaned as he straightened, too. Sam grabbed his elbow, but Dean shoved him away. “Hey, Jasmine. I’m Dean, this is my brother, Sam. Anything we can do to help?”
She tilted her head. “Either of you able to hotwire a car? I figure, you look pretty strong, too.”
They glanced at each other and shrugged. “Yeah,” Dean replied. “Why?”
Jasmine pointed to a bright red work truck, only just buried by some pulverized concrete. “You two are gonna help me get that thing running. We need to get to El Toro and find Steve.” At their questioning looks, she clarified, “My…my boyfriend. He’s in the Air Force.”
The truck looked to be in good condition except for the concrete chunks laying in and over the bed. Sam looked at Dean. Dean looked back, his face gray. “You know what?” Sam said decisively, “Dean’s good with cars, but he’s hurt, so I’ll get the bed clear. Dean, you can get it going.”
He grunted, “If it doesn’t have gas, we’re fucked,” but limped over to the cab anyway. Jasmine and Dylan followed him, Dylan corralling the dog, Boomer, along. Sam vaulted himself into the bed of the truck and got to work.
It wasn’t all bad. The concrete was in small enough chunks to be manageable, and the work gave him time to think. Why were he and Dean here?
One second, they’d been talking with Balthazar about protecting some key. Sam pulled it from his pocket. It still looked as unremarkable as he remembered, not like something that led into a vault with Heaven’s weapons stashed inside.
Then another angel had flown in, blade already at the ready. Balthazar had called him Virgil?
Then Balthazar had shouted “Run!” and thrown them through a window.
And then he and Dean were here. In some city, hopefully in America, considering Jasmine’s lack of an accent, where aliens had just run rampant.
Even Gabriel hadn’t had such a shitty sense of humor.
With that thought, Sam heaved the last of the rebar out of the bed. “Dean, we’re clear!” he shouted. “Start her up!”
He settled in as Dean fiddled under the wheel, Jasmine asking every five seconds whether she should just look for the keys. When the truck finally shuddered to life, Dean whooped and Boomer barked in response. Jasmine laughed, and Dean put the truck into gear. They began to inch forward, working their way through the destruction.
When he saw the first survivor, Sam yelled, “Dean! Stop!” If they’d been going faster than five miles per hour, the truck would’ve jerked to a halt. As it was, the truck shuddered to a stop and Sam vaulted from the bed of the truck, picking his way quickly over to the prone man he’d seen.
“Sir, sir, are you alright?” he asked as he approached. “Do you need medical attention?” He hoped not; he’d seen a small first-aid kit in the cab, but nothing big enough to support any type of serious wound.
The man groaned, but shook his head. Sam helped him upright, noting the limp and compensating. “Holy hell you’re huge,” the man grunted.
Sam chuckled dryly. “Yeah, I guess I eat my veggies.” He supported the man as they climbed into the bed of the truck, and as Dean started forward again, Sam asked, “Look, this is going to sound crazy, but…me and my brother, there, in the cab…we can’t remember shit. What the hell happened? Is this California?”
He got a crazed, disbelieving look. “You’re kidding. You don’t remember the goddamn alien ship hovering over downtown?”
Sam shook his head, his eyes widening. He knew that Dean was listening avidly through the broken rear window.
The man began, “Well, I got damn lucky. Was in the subway when it all hit. Fire exploded from the station entrance, but I was far enough back in the train that I could jump free and get into a maintenance tunnel. All I heard was…fire. Explosions. Destruction. I’m amazed you’re alive without any bruises to show for it. If I hadn’t moved quick…well, no one else I saw made it out.”
Sam shuddered. He could tell Dean was spooked. How could they stop this? It didn’t sound like some elaborate magical illusion hiding a god’s wrath. Angels sure as hell wouldn’t think of using some kind of ruse to fool the humans. This was too big to be the work of a witch.
He didn’t know how to fix it.
Hell, he was just glad that, for once, they hadn’t caused this.
Jasmine directed Dean out of town, to the east. As they went, they picked up survivors. Sam thanked every deity he knew every time they found one and the person wasn’t severely hurt. Somehow, these people had escaped with minor scrapes and bruises from the destruction around them. The worst wounded so far had needed a cut on her arm cleaned, gauzed, and taped up.
Then they saw the wrecked helicopter, and Sam saw the woman at the door, half-covered in rubble. Dean was already stopping the truck, and Jasmine grabbed his arm before he could jump off to help. “That’s the First Lady!” she hissed, eyes wide. Dean heard and turned to Sam, eyes wide.
Holy shit, of all the people to find. The First Lady of the United States. Sam shook himself, jumping from the bed, already asking people to make room. He could see that she that she hadn’t moved, which wasn’t a good sign of her physical condition.
She glanced up as he walked forward, eyes dull. Sam walked a little faster, not liking the way her eyes were already fading. “Ma’am, ma’am, do you need help?” He regretted that question as soon as it came out of his mouth, but she didn’t seem to have the energy to give him a scathing look reading “Seriously?”. He lifted the shard of the helicopter – the door? – off of her middle and grimaced. “Ma’am,” he began, “I need to take a look at your abdomen. I’m skilled in first aid.”
She groaned as he pressed on the right side of her stomach, and Sam’s worst fears were confirmed. Internal bleeding, and from the feel of it, it was already bad. They needed to get her to somewhere with surgeons and a sterile operating table. Even he and Dean wouldn’t fuck with an injury like that. Hell, that was why they had the fake insurance, for injuries like this.
Dean, noticing how long he’d taken, stepped out of the cab and limped over. “Dude, what’s up?”
He paused at something he saw on Sam’s face. Sam drew in a breath, saying, “She needs help, Dean. Hospital help, not anything we can do.”
Dean’s face fell. “Well, shit,” he sighed. “Okay. I’ll tell Jasmine. I guess we need to head straight to wherever she wants to go, then. You need to get her to the truck without hurting her more.”
Dean limped back to the truck, still favoring his leg. Sam couldn’t see any blood leaking through the makeshift bandage he’d tied, but he knew that anything could be making Dean limp. He wouldn’t put it past him to be hiding a sprain. Dean spoke to the people in the truck bed, all watching Sam and the First Lady worriedly, and they immediately began scrambling around, pulling off suit jackets and overshirts to make a pallet for her to lie on.
Sam tried to lift her gently, but she hissed in pain anyway. Sam muttered apologies, and she tried to reassure him weakly. Her voice was reedy when she thanked him, but Sam could hear the sincerity. “Anyone else would do the same,” he replied, “I just want to help as many as I can to live through this. Okay? We’re heading to a place with surgeons, so I need you to hold on. Can you do that, ma’am?”
He didn’t call her on being the First Lady, although she could probably tell that he knew. He figured that she didn’t need the reminder that her husband was probably at the center of another attack.
When Dean was sure that they were set, the truck shuddered back to life – the First Lady winced, but there was nothing Sam could do – and rumbled further east. This time, Sam didn’t look for survivors. He couldn’t handle the guilt of having to leave them behind, because there was no way they were stopping. They had limited time to get to a hospital, and they’d already lost hours before they even found her. The other survivors seemed to agree, doing their best not to fawn over her but still paying closer attention to her than to their surroundings.
The destruction stopped abruptly just before the city faded into rural highway. When they left the rubble fields, Dean opened up the throttle and did his best to avoid potholes. Jasmine gave hushed directions to a base called El Toro.
Sam saw the smoke rising from miles away, but Jasmine seemed to ignore it. Only once they stopping in front of the ruined gates and saw the twisted bits of fighter jets and airplanes did Jasmine curl in on herself. “Now what?” Dean asked quietly. Sam knew he hated to do it, but the First Lady was still huddled on the pallet of jackets in the bed, and she needed medical attention sooner rather than later.
Jasmine’s voice shook when she said, “I don’t…I don’t know. I…”
A huge jet screamed by just overhead, flying much lower than normal. They all watched it go. When the sun caught the tail fin, illuminating it and the seal painted on it, the First Lady gasped, “That’s Air Force One. Follow them.”
Sam noted the plane’s trajectory, and Dean pushed the truck as fast as it would go. Every so often Sam would correct their heading, taking note of landmarks every time they changed. (He wished it was nighttime; stars moved a lot less than even mountains in the distance did.)
By the time they got to Area 51 – and what a trip that was, that Area 51 existed – the First Lady was struggling to keep her eyes open. Sam was talking to her, telling her what he remembered of some of the hunts he and Dean had gone on, recasting them as urban legends to avoid awkward questions from the people around him. His voice had gotten hoarser with every story, but he needed something to do and telling these stories at least kept everyone occupied with something besides the slowly fading woman in their midst.
Soldiers hustled the First Lady deep into the base as soon as they realized who they were looking at. Sam watched her go, hoping that she'd live, despite what his gut told him. But once she was gone, he and Dean hovered, with no idea what to do with themselves.
They walked over to a man who had some sort of authority, going by the major’s insignia on his collar. “Sir?” Sam asked, “Is there anything we can do to help? We feel useless just sitting around.”
The major looked them over. “And you are? What skills do you have?”
Dean cleared his throat. “Sam and Dean Winchester, sir. Um, I’m pretty handy with anything that’s got mechanical parts. Sam here is a whiz with computers, any kind. And we both have basic medical knowledge, you know, first aid, stitching people up. Can do IV lines in a pinch but it’s not exactly something I want to do. If you catch my drift.”
The major grunted. “Either of you able to fly a plane?”
“Um, no, sir. No flight experience whatsoever. We can drive anything you put us in, but we’ve never had a chance to learn how to fly,” Sam answered, noting Dean’s expression of disgust.
The major grunted again. “You said computers?”
“Go on down, there’s a bunch of scientist types. Talk to them, they’ll have a job for you.” Sam nodded and turned away, just overhearing the major direct Dean to “get that on your leg stitched up and go talk to that engineer over there, I’m sure he needs more hands.”
When he finally made it to the lab, he gaped. Okay, aliens were looking a lot more likely. Because he’d never seen anything like the ship they had stashed down here. Black, sleek, covered in what could have been circuitry, could have been tribal designs inscribed in armor. It had no landing gear that he could see, and the pilot’s seat – or what he thought could have been the pilot’s seat – was directly in front of some propulsion system straight out of old Star Trek reruns. That ship was as alien as it got.
Men in white coats swarmed over and around the ship, toting huge devices – likely sensors. Another group hovered by a wall of computers. (Sam wondered what year it was, because judging from the technology, no one had invented the truly portable laptop. These laptops were bricks.) One man stood out, his wifebeater and tousled hair a stark contrast to the white-coated scientists around him.
Sam walked over to him, offering a hand. “Sam,” he introduced himself. “I’m a good hand with computers. You need any extra help?”
He didn’t get a handshake, but his feelings weren’t hurt. He knew the manic look in the other man’s eyes from too many times the hunt was urgent and he had to find out what it was yesterday. “David. You code?”
“Yeah, I, uh, I code. And hack, if you need that.”
David looked up. “Viruses?” he asked, eyes lighting up.
Sam grinned. “Yeah, actually.”
“Perfect,” David hissed as he turned back to his laptop. “Look over this, will you? Trying to get that thing’s shields down. It’s harder than it looks.”
Sam huffed, muttering to himself, “Can’t be harder than the FBI.”
David heard him, spinning and hissing, “What? The FBI? You hacked the FBI?”
Sam glanced around, hoping that no one was paying attention, although he didn’t think anyone would really care. “Yeah, you know, it wasn’t that hard…”
“Oh God, teach me. I made it through their first firewall but the second tagged me. I had to do some fancy shit to keep them from tracing me,” David whispered, grin huge.
Sam nodded toward the laptop. “Maybe later,” he conceded, “but right now we have a virus to code.” He didn’t mention that he hoped that he’d be back to his universe soon. Sure, he loved being able to help out without carrying all the guilt for causing it (you started one Apocalypse, how many others will you cause? someone whispered). But he didn’t want to have to stay here, away from Bobby and, well…the other friends he was sure were probably still alive somewhere. Hopefully.
He read through David’s code, fixing some incongruities and bad variable assignations, before pronouncing it as good as it would get on such short notice. David kept asking questions every time he changed something, and Sam found himself enjoying teaching someone who was obviously interested. (Maybe he could fix things instead of break them here.)
Once they proved to the major and assembled pilots that they’d pulled it off, everything started happening. David was rushed off to get suited up in a piloting suit, and some pilot (Steve? Coincidence?) stepped up. Sam stood back and let everyone else figure that out; he wasn’t an engineer, just a coder. David thanked him hurriedly just before climbing into the ship, and then (after a rough takeoff), they were off.
Sam followed the important-looking people to the control room, wondering when Balthazar would decide that it had been long enough.
He found Dean in the control room, and they wordlessly decided to fade into the background. They didn’t have a dog in this fight, not really, and they didn’t know the enemy or the already-decided strategy.
So they stood and watched in the tense silence as the jets were gathered.
A flutter from the hallway drew their attention, although no one else seemed to hear it. It sounded too close to an angel setting down. They stepped out, only to face what could only be Virgil, stony-faced and toting some serious firepower.
“Shit,” Dean gasped. As one, they turned and sprinted away from the control room, trying to draw Virgil’s fire away from the (relative) civilians. They ducked and zigged and jumped, anything to confuse the angel’s aim. Virgil started firing, and that drew the notice of the guards. They ran up, firing point-blank, only to have their bullets (even the obvious headshots) shrugged off.
The hallway filled with confused, terrified people, and Sam spun around, not willing to let their shit screw up these people’s lives any more than it already had. He pulled out the angel blade he’d started to carry when he’d been soulless and yelled, “Hey, featherface! Yeah, you, you big bag of dicks!”
Virgil turned, arm already raised to fire, shotgun barrel smoking. (Had he ever reloaded? Huh.) Sam waited until Virgil presented a large enough target and threw the angel blade, end over end. It thunked home in the angel’s sternum as Dean yelled, “Flash grenade! Eyes closed! Get back!”
Virgil died screaming, light pouring from his eyes and mouth. The outline of his wings spread up the hallway’s walls.
Sam braced himself on the wall, gasping. “Holy shit,” someone nearby muttered. “What the everloving fuck was that.”
Then the major from before and a squad of armed and armored soldiers appeared from around a corner, running full-tilt. “What’s going on here!” the major yelled into the silence, “We heard gunfire, the general called us in…what the hell is that?!”
Sam put up his hands, seeing Dean do the same in his peripheral vision. “Sir,” he began, “This is going to sound batshit insane, but I figure you’ve already seen aliens, so maybe you’ll believe it. That guy was possessed by an angel.”
“An angel?” someone behind them gasped.
Dean took over. “Yeah, angel. No, not the fluffy winged dudes you hear about in church. Angel from where we’re from are dickbags. Plain and simple.”
"Where you're from?" the major interrupted incredulously.
Sam said, “We’re, well, not from this…dimension? In our world, monsters are real. Demons, angels, vampires, werewolves…where we come from, it’s all real. We, me and my brother, we hunt that stuff. And we pissed off some major higher powers. It’s a long story. Basically, we’re not from this universe, dimension, whatever, but our problems seem to have…followed us.” He shrugged, trying to appear harmless in front of the trigger-happy squad. “Sorry.”
The major rolled his eyes. “Hell,” he said, “Aliens are real. Why not other fucking dimensions, too.”
The matter was dropped when a scared-looking tech poked her head out of the control room, saying, “Sir. The package was just delivered. Waiting for success. The general is asking for you and a quick debrief on…this. Whatever just happened.”
The major glanced back, but Sam had already pulled Dean away and around a corner. They didn’t need to have to explain to a general why they’d dragged trouble into his base.
Balthazar appeared in front of them, staring with a raised eyebrow at the angel bade Sam leveled at him. (He’d grabbed it just before they retreated from the hallway, figuring he’d probably need it again.)
“Boys,” Balthazar drawled, “Don’t be so rude. I’m here to take you back.”
Dean growled, “Fat lot of help you were when fucking Virgil attacked us.”
“And that’s another thing,” Balthazar hummed. “Congrats on being alive! Why, I almost bet against you. Oh, and Dean, you may want to make sure you’re up on your tetanus shots, hmm? Oh, and good show. You almost had me fooled that you had the real key, after all!”
Sam growled, realizing that they’d only been bait the whole time. Dean grabbed his own angel blade, hissing, “I’m going to stab you in the throat, you dick.”
Balthazar grimaced. “Let’s not get stabby. After all, you’re lucky I dropped you here! I could’ve sent you to the universe where your lives are a TV show. Virgil’s attack blew that plan to smithereens, unfortunately. Oh, I could just see the looks on your faces…”
Dean growled, almost shoving off the hand Balthazar placed on his shoulder. Then he heard a flutter, and the hallway disappeared, to be replaced by the room they’d been in before it all went down.
Balthazar promptly vanished, leaving Sam and Dean with a useless key. Sam sighed and started trudging back out to the Impala. At least they were back here, somewhere where what they knew best could do some good. Dean fell in step beside him and nudged his shoulder. “Nice throw back there, Sammy,” he said. “You took out that douche without, really, anyone getting hurt.”
Sam smiled, pushing back into his brother. Yeah, it felt nice to save everyone, with Dean by his side.
(Back in the other universe – dimension – whichever, the major tried to explain everything he’d seen, still looking for the two very tall men – Sam and Dean? – that had taken out the angel. Angels. When he couldn’t find any sign of them, he wondered if he’d hallucinated the whole thing, but his squad backed him up, and the body with the charred wings still lay in the hallway.)
(One general huffed a laugh behind him, seeing the wings. “Aliens, angels, alternative universes…what next? Intelligent robots kill us all?” The scientists behind him didn’t laugh, looking at each other furtively. The major chose not to ask. He’d had enough shit on his plate for one day.)