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Title: No compromises
Author: janie_tangerine
Fandoms: Supernatural/Watchmen
Characters Dean, Sam, Castiel; Daniel, Dr. Manhattan (Rorschach gets mentioned a lot; mostly everyone who was relevant in the movie/graphic novel is mentioned)
Pairings: gen, though there’s past Daniel/Laurie implied (nothing that wasn’t in canon anyway)
Rating: PG13
Wordcount: 8472
Spoilers: SPN: through 5x14; Watchmen: all of it.
Warnings: uhm, nothing triggering happens. Actually, considering my fandoms, this has a pretty tame rating.
Disclaimer: SPN belongs to Eric Kripke and Watchmen belongs to Alan Moore. I don’t own zilch.
A/N: thanks so very much to zelda_zee for the beta! <3 Also, for practical reason this assumes the movie’s ending, but there are a bunch of things which are from the graphic novel.

Summary: “Mr. Dreiberg,” Castiel says, and Dean braces himself. “We would like to have your help in stopping the end of the world.” Or, where Manhattan is back on Earth exactly during the Apocalypse. Dean, Sam and Castiel investigate.



When, sometime in 1986, the New Frontiersman publishes a journal supposedly belonging to a former well-known vigilante who disappeared into thin air the year before, not many people take it seriously. Or at least, not enough to question Adrian Veidt about the journal’s content.

Mostly, it’s for two reasons: one, the publisher is the
New Frontiersman, and two: the former vigilante, known as Rorschach, was a notorious nutjob (and saying just that is a compliment). There was a reason for the Keene Act.

Nonetheless, someone does believe it. Or at least, thinks that the journal’s content would make quite the comic book. Strangely, Veidt doesn’t oppose the project. It’s not like a comic book obviously based on
Rorschach’s journal will ever bring anyone to investigate the reason why world peace has become a reality. Also, it’s all publicity and publicity never hurts, whether negative or positive.

So Veidt just assures himself that he will get a share of the profits and the comic books are published. (He doesn’t even get that much of a share, since the comics don’t sell much. That’s not an issue since he had expected that from the beginning.)

They’re issued from 1990 to 1993, and as Veidt had foreseen, they’re more of a cult phenomenon than a mass one. It won’t be a bunch of kids reading too many comic books threatening the outcome of his plan.

Anyway, this is not what strictly interests us.

What interests us, is that a Dean Winchester is in that small but faithful number of people who reads
Watchmen issues religiously. He buys the first one out of curiosity when he’s twelve and he’s grabbing groceries while his dad recovers from the last hunt at their current motel room. The first issue is displayed along with a bunch of other comics near the check out. Dean buys it because there’s Dr. Manhattan on the cover and even if he destroyed New York and everyone is searching for him (and will probably never find him), Dean always thought that he was cool. Also Sam has been spending the last week complaining that he doesn’t have anything new to read and that he’s sick of Dean’s old Batman issues, so maybe he could read it, too. And, it’s cheap and he has just enough spare change.

Then Sam likes it, too, and that’s how they end up buying the comics during their entire run.

Dean isn’t surprised when Sam decides that his favorite is Nite Owl, second incarnation. Figures that his brat of a brother would like the one with glasses and the cool machinery.

For Dean it takes a lot more time to decide who’s his favorite. At the beginning he likes Silk Specter most, mainly because he thinks she’s hot, and he doesn’t exactly like the Comedian, mostly because the way he’s drawn looks a bit too similar to his dad for Dean’s taste. Manhattan is always cool, but at some point around issue five Dean decides that Silk Specter might be hot but she’s too irritating.

He settles on Rorschach around issue ten. That’s when he realizes that the psycho kind of grew on him. It’s not like Dean necessarily identifies with the character, not the way he does when he reads, say, Batman. But when he reads the issue where they show Rorschach’s background (he forbids Sam to read that one) there’s
something he thinks he just gets. After all, unleashing your anger on criminals because you were raised fucked up like that, isn’t the same thing as avenging the love of your life by searching for the son of a bitch who killed her, or wiping from the face of the earth other sons of bitches who kill and hurt decent people? Dean lost his mother when he was four, and Rorschach might as well never had one, and he doesn’t know why but he gets it. He gets it because he still misses her like a limb, and he’s sure it’s like that if not worse for Dad, and isn’t that sensation of emptiness that makes Dad what he is? And that makes Dean want to be like him and save people and hunt things?

Sam always tells Dean that he can’t wrap his head around how Dean can like such a total psycho, and Dean tells Sam that maybe one day he’ll get it.

Dean knows that the comics are about real people. The Comedian’s death was all over the news in ’85, he remembers that, and of course Manhattan was real and Veidt is; he wonders where the others are. He thinks he’d like to meet one of them. Maybe they just retired after Manhattan destroyed four cities, which would be understandable.

The ending comes, and Dean can’t help spending a lot of time thinking about it. It’s not like he
believes it, after all it’s completely crazy. Why would Veidt, of all people, do such a thing?

Then again, the whole thing is apparently based on what was in this journal Rorschach supposedly wrote, and thinking that it’s entirely bullshit would kind of mean admitting that he spent three years admiring someone who was completely out of it.

Then again, they’re just goddamn comic books, and Dean is fifteen and he can’t spare comic books much time. Not as much as he used to.

Sometimes, though, he still can’t help wondering what would have happened if, instead of ending up translated into a comic book that not many people bought, Rorschach’s journal ended up in, say, the
New York Times.

He ends up deciding that it’s better like this. After all, killing people and hunting things is bad enough when there’s world peace. Imagine if everything had ended in a war.

When the comic books end their run, it’s 1993 and Robert Redford has been elected for a second term as President of the United States


--

“What the fuck do you mean, Dr Manhattan is back?” Dean asks skeptically before taking a bite from his burger.

Sam shrugs and looks back at his laptop screen.

“It’s all over the news. Apparently, he’s been seen three times in three different states.”

Dean shrugs and swallows. “And how does this interest us? Sam, I’d like to remind you, there’s an apocalypse going on here. If Manhattan decided that he wanted to take a vacation back on Earth, and why he’d do that I don’t even fucking know since he’s still wanted worldwide, I don’t think it’s our business.”

“It isn’t, I guess. It’s just that you were so freakin’ obsessed with those comics back in the day, I figured you’d want to know.”

Dean nods and comes closer to the laptop.

“Well, let me have a look.”

There’s an article from the New York Times website which says that yes, Manhattan appeared for about ten seconds in three different towns. The first time it was classified as a mass hallucination, the third had brought in the Army. He skips a long-ass section dealing with the possible political repercussions and sits back on the bed.

He figures that if a nuclear war starts again, the Apocalypse will be the least of their problems. Or of Lucifer’s problems. Or of the angels’ problems.

Yeah, very funny.

“I bet someone’s hunting him down.”

“Dude, I wouldn’t want to be in Nevada, Utah or Colorado right now. Apparently they sent in the Army and half of the highways are blocked.”

“It’ll do them a lot of good, considering who they’re searching for,” Dean mutters before kicking off his shoes. “In more pressing matters, do we have any news on what’s the devil up to?”

Sam shakes his head, closing the laptop and reaching for a diner bag containing the salad he still hasn’t eaten. “Nope. With this Manhattan deal, there’s nothing else around. Not an omen, not a thing. Maybe Lucifer is afraid of a possible nuclear apocalypse too.”

“No other Horsemen showing up?” Dean asks.

“Nope. Wherever the three of them are, they’re laying low. And I checked the newspaper. You wanna hunt, this is not the right place. There isn’t a single thing that has ‘possible hunt’ written on it.”

Dean can’t exactly believe that they’re stuck with nothing to do with the fucking end of the world going on. Yesterday it was demons and omens everywhere, today it’s quiet?

Takes Dr. Manhattan to scare the devil away, Dean thinks, and then his phone rings.

He picks it up and looks at the caller. Cas, it reads. Dean presses the green button and answers the call.

“Cas?”

“Where are you?”

Dean almost smiles at that. One day they’ll teach Cas what manners are. “Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Founder’s Motel, room fourteen –”

Cas is in front of him before he can finish. He closes the phone and pockets it with a sigh.

“Hi there. So, any news?”

Cas turns towards Sam, nodding in acknowledgment, then turns back to Dean.

“Not really, but I would like you to enlighten me about this.”

Cas hands him a newspaper and Dean raises an eyebrow while reading the headline. It’s another one about Manhattan, of course. Dean doesn’t know why Cas would give a damn, but he figures that they don’t have anything better to do, so he might as well share.

“Didn’t you hear about him in Heaven twenty-five years ago? This guy destroyed four cities with nuclear explosions in ’85 and then he disappeared somewhere in the galaxy. I dunno, some people thought he was some kind of god, back then. Is there a reason why you’d care about it?”

Cas stares at Dean for one second, then takes the paper back and shakes his head before looking up at Dean again.

“Back then, if someone wanted to destroy your world, it was not our concern. But before I go on, I would like to know more about this.”

“Oh crap,” Dean says. “It’s not easy to explain. I mean, he just, once upon a time Manhattan was human -- he studied physics or something, but one day there was this accident and –”

“Dean,” Sam interrupts, “if you try to go through the entire thing, considering the way you explained it when you were twelve, I doubt Cas will get it. Just go to the comic book store on the corner and find the issue about Manhattan. I’m pretty sure it’s not out of print.”

Sam has a point, and Dean doesn’t really feel like going into all the references and intricacies of the series, so he drags the angel down to the comic book store, uses a fake credit card to buy a cheap, used Watchmen collection and then finds the both of them a coffee shop. He orders them both coffee and Castiel starts reading from issue one.

In the next three hours, Cas goes through the entire series and Dean drinks way too much black coffee. He also introduces Cas to the wonders of lemon meringue pie, while he gets apple for himself. He picks up the numbers Cas discards and has a re-read, too, and sometime in the middle he can’t avoid asking something.

“Who’s your favorite?”

“Sorry?” Castiel asks, looking up from the comic book (Dean thinks it’s the issue where Laurie and Daniel have cheesy sex on that spaceship that looks like an owl) and stares at Dean like he has grown two heads.

“Come on, everyone’s got to have a favorite. Sam liked Nite Owl, but that’s obvious. He was such a geek back then, of course he’d like the geek.”

“… I do not see the point of favoritism,” Cas answers, and Dean sighs.

“It’s not supposed to have a point, it’s supposed to show that you have a taste,” Dean tries to explain, but Cas looks even more lost than before.

“Very well,” he says turning the page he was on. “If it’s that important to you, I think the most interesting one is… Rorschach, but I don’t see what this changes –”

Dean shakes his head and sits back in his chair, not needing the rest.

“Chill out, man, it just shows that, in contrast to Sam, you have awesome taste.”

Dean spends the next hour or so wondering what the hell Castiel finds so appealing about his favorite character (to be honest he had thought he’d go for Manhattan -- you know, God complex and everything), but before he can reach a conclusion Castiel has shut the final issue and he’s looking at the cover like it holds the secrets of the universe.

“Cas…? What is it?”

“I think we should find him.”

“Who?”

“Manhattan.”

Dean blinks.

Then he blinks again and stares back at Cas.

“Go over that again.”

“We should find Manhattan,” Cas repeats, like he doesn’t understand what’s so weird about it.

“Why would I want to find a guy who almost destroyed the world?”

“That’s what your official history says,” Cas replies, and Dean doesn’t know if he likes where this is all going.

“Okay. What’s your point, exactly?”

“If this is real,” Cas says, “we should assume that Manhattan did not destroy anything himself.”

“Alright, let’s pretend for a second that this isn’t a completely made-up thing which was born out of a diary published on that New Frontiersman crap. Why would you… wait. You aren’t implying that –”

“He left Earth twenty-five years ago. And he said he would find a new galaxy. Dean, angels can travel in time and they have seen creation, but there’s a reason angels are not God. We travel through time, but we can’t see time all at once. And he’s closer to what God is than any of us would be.”

“You mean that you want to ask him where God is because he might know?”

“At least he might know when God left or when he’ll be back. Or if He will.”

“You do realize that the entirety of the military is hunting his ass, right now? How would me, you and Sam manage that, if you have any idea?”

“I think your brother should be there for such a conversation,” Cas replies, like it’s a perfectly great plan, and Dean figures that if it stays a plan then discussing it and explaining Cas why it’s utterly nuts still beats doing nothing. Also, after Cas risked his life to bring the both of them to the seventies last time, if for once he has a plan to propose, Dean doesn’t really feel like saying outright no before giving him a chance to explain it.

--

They go back up in the room again and Cas informs Sam of what he’d like to do. Sam, to give him credit, just raises an eyebrow and doesn’t tell him that he’s nuts the second after he’s done speaking.

“Alright. Explain to me how exactly you think we should go about finding him. You do realize that if the US military can’t get a lead, it’s highly improbable that we could, right?”

“They’re searching for him on the premise that he started a nuclear war.”

“And how would that change things?”

“Maybe he wouldn’t be averse to talking to us, if our intentions were good.”

“That’s all nice and dandy,” Dean interrupts, “but still, finding him is a problem.”

“We should ask one of the others,” Cas answers calmly again.

“The others…?” Dean asks, not sure that he got it.

“Not everyone in those comics died. And they are real people. Veidt, Dreiberg and Jupiter,” Castiel adds in the end, so that Dean is sure of where he’s going.

“Dude, I doubt a former senator and almost-president will answer your questions, especially if you’re implying that he’s the one who destroyed the world to get perpetual peace,” Dean tries to object, but then he looks at Sam and damn, that’s the face Sam has when he’s thinking he might have a shot at… whatever it is that he’s dealing with.

“Sam, what –”

“Dean, it isn’t that bad of an idea. Veidt is out of our league, sure, but if the other two agreed to put their real names out there, then… I don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot.”

Cas is conveniently behind Sam’s shoulder, staring at the laptop as Sam starts typing, and Dean wonders when it was that they became desperate enough to search for comic book characters to stop an apocalypse.

Well, it’s still a better option than saying yes to an archangel.

“Dean, what was the false name they used in the end?”

“Who, Dan and Laurie? Hollis. Sam and Sandra, I think.”

Sam types some more, but admits defeat after fifteen minutes.

“I can’t find anyone named like that. Except… maybe…”

Sam types again, Cas still hovering over his shoulder. Dean thinks that they’re both going crazy, that’s what they are –

“Bingo.”

“What?”

“I found him.”

“Him? Shouldn’t it be them?”

“Well, there’s a Daniel Dreiberg living in New New York. Hey, Cas, can you hand me that issue where Daniel went to see Hollis and then he went back home and found Rorschach eating his beans?”

Cas hands them over without even looking at the cover and Dean doesn’t want to know how he does it. Sam checks something, then goes to google maps

“I’ll be fucked,” Sam whispers, and Dean relents and moves behind Sam to check the screen.

Apparently, Daniel Dreiberg’s house is the same as Hollis Mason’s. New York was mostly rebuilt after it got half-destroyed, which is why it’s called New New York now, and half of the most important buildings are still in the works, but what has been rebuilt has mostly been rebuilt exactly how it was and where it was. So either Hollis Mason’s house was one of the few buildings that didn’t get destroyed, or Dreiberg is living in its exact replica.

“This is crazy,” Dean argues, but Sam looks convinced and Cas looks… well, like he’ll do it alone if he has to, and Dean just raises his hands and concedes defeat.

“Alright, alright. Let’s go check this out. It still beats doing nothing while we wait for Lucifer,” he mutters, picking up his jacket. Then he turns to both Sam and Cas, grabbing the keys from the motel room’s table.

“And we’re driving. No zapping around. Understood?”

--

It takes them about five hours to get to New York, and in some kind of miracle Dean finds a parking space near Dreiberg’s house. They can’t manage to find anywhere cheap enough so Dean breaks out a new fake credit card and books them a room in the closest hotel they find. The clerk looks at them like they’re all freaks when they get a room with two queens for the three of them, but he doesn’t comment and that’s good enough.

“So,” Dean says as soon as they’re in. “How do we do this? I mean, we could tell Dreiberg that we’re crazy fans of the comics, but then we’d sound like stalkers and I think we’re some fifteen years too old for that. If we say we’re Feds he won’t talk to us. If we tell him the truth he’ll think we’re nuts. Suggestions?”

“In spite of your ideas about how to become president, I vote for telling him the truth,” Cas chimes in. Sam looks at Cas like he doesn’t want to know what he’s referring to, but then he nods at him.

“He’s right. If he has any information about Manhattan, he won’t share if he doesn’t think we need it for a good cause.”

“Saving the world from the Apocalypse?”

“Well, what was he trying to do in the first place? Okay, it wasn’t the Apocalypse per se, but…”

Dean still doesn’t think that their argument is good enough, even considering with whom they’ll be talking, but this might be the only case in existence when telling the truth would make them sound less crazy than it usually does, so he says fine, let’s do this, and by the way he still thinks it’ll end up in nothing.

Still. They shot the devil in the head and it didn’t work. After that, you just take what you can get.

--

Sam knocks on the door and for a minute there’s no answer. Dean is tempted to admit defeat, but before he can say anything, a lock turns and the door opens a notch.

“Mr. Dreiberg?” Sam starts. “We’re here to see if you could answer a few questions…”

“If you’re from the FBI, I don’t know anything. For the tenth time,” someone says from the other side of the door.

“No, not FBI,” Sam assures him.

“So what, are you, comic book fans? The ones bothering to track me down are usually younger than you three are,” comes without missing a beat, and they still haven’t seen the man’s face.

“Mr. Dreiberg,” Castiel says, and Dean braces himself. “We would like to have your help in stopping the end of the world.”

“Say that again?” Dreiberg says after some twenty seconds of utterly awkward silence. “Is there another nuclear war going on now that Jon is back?”

“No,” Castiel answers. “It’s the Apocalypse.”

There’s silence for another twenty seconds and then the door opens fully. And yes, Dean thinks, if the comics were anywhere near accurate, this could be Daniel Dreiberg, twenty years later. He’s wearing jeans and a large hoodie, his hair is almost all gray and he has thick glasses. If you hadn’t read the comics, you’d never imagine what he used to do for a job. He looks friendly enough, even if he’s probably triple-checking them before even thinking about letting them in.

Not that Dean would blame him for that.

“The Apocalypse with a capital A?” he says then, and Sam steps forward.

“I know it’s… a hard pill to swallow, but… yes. And… we mean it in the biblical sense of the word.”

He hands over a bunch of printed sheets of paper and Dean recognizes newspaper articles talking about omens and Death being released, all from respectable newspapers.

Well, Sam did come prepared.

“So… you’re saying that the devil is walking this planet and that you three are trying to stop him and you need to talk to me in order to do it. Boys, everyone who read those comics knows what I used to do back in my prime, but the devil is way out of my league,” Dreiberg says, but at least he isn’t kicking them out. Yet.

“We… uh. Well, we thought you could give us a lead on where to find Manhattan, actually,” Dean says, figuring that at this point they might as well spill it all.

“Right, and why would I do it when I haven’t spoken to the FBI, Homeland Security or the President about it? What would you need to talk to him for?”

“Because he could help us find God,” Cas replies, and… okay, that’s the gist of it, but… yeah. Maybe Cas should have worded it more differently.

Not that Cas knows what nice wording is.

At least Dreiberg hasn’t laughed in their faces yet.

“Well, if the devil was out of my league, God is even more out of my league. And sorry, but usually if people tell me they’re searching for God, I peg them for delusional.”

“But I’m not people,” Cas answers, and then suddenly disappears and reappears behind Dreiberg’s shoulders.

Dreiberg spins to look at Castiel behind him, then looks back to where Cas was standing a second ago, then back to where he is now.

“You were there. And then you weren’t. What are you?”

“I’m an angel of the Lord.”

“And you’re searching for God. To stop the Apocalypse. And you three all want to talk to Manhattan in order to get there,” Dreiberg sums up, and Castiel nods. “And what about them? Don’t tell me you’re angels too.”

“Nope,” Dean says, “one hundred per cent human here, but we fight the good fight.”

He avoids mentioning the whole vessels deal. It’s already a miracle that Dreiberg hasn’t told them to get lost.

“And how did you track me down? Not many people read those comic books, and it’s been years since they were out, anyway.”

“He –” Sam starts, but Dean elbows him and shuts him up.

We used to read them a lot, back in the day. You were totally his favorite,” Dean adds, and Sam looks at him like he’d strangle him on the spot if he could.

Dreiberg looks at the three of them again and then shakes his head, even if he’s half-smiling.

“Come in,” he says.

“Just… just like this?” Dean asks. “I mean, uh, if I were you I’d…”

“Oh, of course you would, but I was just… really seeing if you were the right ones.”

“The right ones…?” Sam asks, and Dreiberg seems very, very amused.

“He came here. Jon, I mean. Before the first time someone saw him again. And he told me you’d come,” he says, and then he lets Dean and Sam in. Dean is sure that his expression matches Sam’s completely shocked one. “Also, what should I call you? The three musketeers worked fine until now, as a group, but you know. Might be easier to have names.”

Well, guy’s got a point.

“I’m Dean Winchester,” he supplies. “This is my brother Sam, and Feathers over there is Castiel. And… crap, so the comics were all real? And he told you we’d drop by?”

Dreiberg snorts and motions for them to sit on the living room’s sofa, which is big enough for the three of them. Dean can’t help noticing that there are owls everywhere. There’s a calendar with an owl printed on the front, small owl statuettes everywhere, and an incredibly tacky potholder shaped like an owl.

Then again, they’re talking with a guy who used to go out at night and fight crime under the name of Nite Owl II, so. There’s also a framed picture on the table in the living room.

He doesn’t really need to refresh his memory to know who’s in it. Comedian, Silk Specter, Manhattan, Veidt, Nite Owl II, Rorschach. Right. It was in one of the comics, too.

He needs not to think about Manhattan actually mentioning them as in himself, Sam and Cas.

“Yes, the comics were the real deal,” Dreiberg says before sitting on an armchair. “After all, they based them on Rorschach’s diary. I told them what happened after he sent the diary in, when they contacted me. And I can assure you, Rorschach might have been borderline psycho, but he wasn’t one to make compromises. It’s all true. It just figures that even if the truth came out no one would believe it. I’m sure he isn’t finding it very funny, wherever he is. Especially since he hated comic books.”

Then he shakes his head and pushes his glasses up from the tip of his nose.

“Anyway, yes, Jon said three people would drop by. I’m still not sure you came to the right place. If you wanted real information about Jon, you should have probably talked to Laurie, but then, I’m pretty sure that if you read the comics you were expecting to find her here.”

“I kind of was,” Dean supplies, and Sam elbows him this time.

Right. He deserved that one.

“Nah, it didn’t work out in the long haul. She decided she couldn’t keep on lying, which is understandable, and… I think she left the country. She never told me where she was going, but if you haven’t tracked her down I guess she doesn’t want to be tracked down. She could have probably helped you more, but then again I’m not sure that she would have shared any information. And Jon did come here, so maybe it all has a meaning. He didn’t share it though.”

“What else did he say?” Cas asks.

“He… well. He said he came back because we were in danger. I’d have expected it to be some other nuclear crap, but if it’s the end of the world, as you put it, and if you’re not lying, then he probably meant that instead. I highly doubt he’s going to… do something about it actively. But – and I guess that this is what interests you – he added that you three would eventually find him. Sometime at the end of the month, but he wasn’t very specific on the when and the how.”

Sam looks at Dean first and then at Castiel, and then at Dreiberg again.

“Why wouldn’t he specify that?”

“Maybe he didn’t want me to accidentally give it away to all the FBI people that have visited me since. Who knows? I don’t really think that any being in existence can understand him. But if it’s of any interest to you, I ran a check after he disappeared. The radioactivity in this area jumped up to a degree which would have been unhealthy if it hadn’t lasted for just three days.”

“That’s all he spilled?” Dean pressures, and Dreiberg just shrugs.

“Nothing else that you would be familiar with even if you did read the comics. But it was quite a shock to see him. A good one, though. I doubt he will stay much longer than the time it’ll take for you to find him, but I wouldn’t even be here if I were him. Not when the only people not believing you tried to end the world are a bunch of not-too-young comic books fanatics and conspiracy theorists.”

He lets out half a laugh at that, even if it’s not exactly a happy one.

“Sorry. It always seems funny, at first. Then… it just doesn’t.”

“Why, ‘cause those conspiracy theorists are in business because of a guy who was the worst conspiracy theorist than the whole lot of them?” Dean chimes in, because he has read those comics enough to know what Dreiberg means.

Dreiberg stares at him like he got it just right and then the corner of his lip rises slightly.

“You really are a fan, huh?”

“Well, since he spilled on my preferences,” Sam chimes in all of a sudden, “I’ll tell you that at the time Dean here really had a liking for that conspiracy theorist.”

“Why would you tease him about it?” Cas suddenly says, and Dean guesses that at least he’ll have a back up. “If you ask me, the… conspiracy theorist was the most interesting one by far.”

Dreiberg turns to Dean, looking like he can’t believe his ears. “You got an angel to read Watchmen comics?”

Dean shrugs. “Easier than explaining the whole story.”

“And I thought that we were batshit crazy. Don’t worry, that’s a compliment. I don’t know how much he would have appreciated being considered the most interesting one, but I’m sure he’d appreciate it a lot if the truth got out in the open for real. Sorry, I really didn’t mean to go there. I think about it too much, you know.”

“You’re helping us, feel free to go wherever. Hey, he cried when he got to that point,” Dean says nodding towards Sam, who elbows him again. Damn, Dean’s hip has been elbowed enough today.

“I did not!”

“Yes you did, but that’s not really the point.”

“Dean, just…”

“I’m… very sorry about that,” Cas says then, and Dean suddenly realizes what the heck they’re doing.

Way to be polite, huh?

“Oh, they’re entertaining, don’t worry about it,” Dreiberg says, and he really doesn’t look pissed. “But back to our main problem again… I don’t think I have much more for you to go on. Hell, as far as I can say, maybe Jon’ll just pop up out of nowhere in a week and say, well, I warned you, and you won’t have to actually look for him. All I can say is that he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying his stay much, but if I were him I wouldn’t enjoy it either.”

“No shit,” Dean agrees, and by their nodding he figures that Sam and Cas aren’t disagreeing. “Well then, thank you for helping, really.”

“It was nothing.”

“Considering what we’re working on, I think it’s way more than something.”

Which they can all agree on, and if Sam ends up shaking Dreiberg’s hand for a bit too long when they’re leaving, who can blame him? He totally was Sam’s favorite, back in the day. Dean has to bite back a laugh when the former Nite Owl tells Cas that he has a classy coat, and then he shakes hands with him, too, and they’re back outside.

Well, at least they have half a lead.

--

“Sam, we can’t just sit on our asses. Dreiberg said ‘for all I know’, but I highly doubt that Manhattan will show up wherever we are a week from now.”

“Okay, but it’s not like you have a better plan, do you? I mean, come on, Manhattan isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to find.”

“Dean is right,” Cas says, and huh, at least for today it seems like someone agrees with him for a change. “We can’t just wait for him to show up.”

“Well,” Sam says, leaning back on his chair, his fingers thrumming on the table, “I guess there’s the radioactivity. That’s pretty much the only trail he’s leaving, from what I understand, but it still gives us zilch.”

“Can’t you, I dunno, just find somewhere on the internet where they tell you how much radioactivity there is in the US? Maybe there’s a pattern. Or something.”

Sam looks at him like he’s utterly crazy and then he shakes his head.

“I doubt that. It’s not like google maps. You just don’t… see radioactivity online.”

“What about the… conspiracy theorists?” Cas asks.

“What do you mean?”

“You implied that there are some people who believe those comics rather than Veidt.”

“There are, yeah, but… shit, Sam, he’s right!”

“What do you mean?”

“People go on forums to discuss Chuck’s stupid books; you think they wouldn’t go on forums to discuss a conspiracy theory? And with Manhattan back? I’m pretty sure that there has to be some crazy psycho who already did the job for us.”

“I can’t find a forum if I put conspiracy theory about Adrian Veidt in the engine, can I?”

“The New Frontiersman has a web page,” Cas supplies, and Sam looks at him like he has just grown another head.

“And how would you know that?”

“Dude, he’s still an angel. You think he doesn’t know what the hell goes on at New Frontiersman?”

“I’m so deleting this from the history,” Sam mutters before searching for the webpage.

--

“These people are nuts,” Dean comments after staring at the screen over Sam’s shoulder for two hours.

“Yeah, but I guess that one of them must work in high places,” Sam mutters while looking at this thread made by this nocompromises user who has posted a long and detailed list of all the places in the States where the radioactivity rate has been higher than usual in the last month.

“Is that even legit?”

“They seem more informed than anyone else,” Sam shrugs, and on that he’s right. There’s nothing useful on the regular news, or in the newspaper, or in any of the more mainstream websites they’ve tried.

“Well then, let’s get down to this.”

Dean goes fishing for a map and a pen in a duffel and then asks Sam to tell him the cities on the list. He crosses them off one by one and then he leans back and takes a look at it.

“Fuck me sideways,” he whispers, and Sam shuts the laptop before coming over to the table along with Cas.

“I’ll be damned,” Sam echoes, and Cas doesn’t say anything but it’s clear on his face that he sees it too.

It’s a horizontal line going through three states, and each of the towns is at the exact center of said state, or as close to it as it gets.

“So wait,” Sam says, “this actually has a pattern. And they were what, one every five days?”

“Yep, the last one was two days ago.”

“So what would the next one be?”

“Kansas,” Cas supplies.

“Gee, thank you. But we’ll never get there in two… wait. The one after Kansas would be Missouri. And it’ll take two or three days to get there. If he shows up in Kansas in two days and in Missouri one week from now…”

“It’s exactly the end of the month,” Cas finishes the sentence for him.

“We’re driving,” Dean says. Sam nods and Cas doesn’t try to argue. If Dreiberg said that Manhattan decided they’d meet in a week’s time, then he figures it isn’t even worth it to try to break all the speed limits in order to arrive in Kansas on time. They’ll take it easy and head for Missouri instead.

--

They take it slow. After they get to California, Missouri (because of the radioactivity data that crazy guy keeps on posting on the forum, according to which it’s rising steadily around there, in particular -- and how hasn’t the government realized that already?) Dean re-reads the comics in the evenings, the ones Cas isn’t wearing out, anyway. Sam tells them that they’re crazy while he keeps on researching at insane hours and to insane degrees (and by the way, Lucifer is still laying low), and Dean can’t help wondering how this will end. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up, because even if they’re apparently going to talk with a kind of demigod, he has learned not to expect anything. If things go bad, at least it doesn’t bring him down any more than usual.

Still, Cas keeps on re-reading the Manhattan issue like it holds the secrets of the universe and Dean tags along, if only because they don’t have anything better to do and they haven’t managed to pick up a hunt along the way, just to kill the time.

It almost seems like he’s on vacation and it feels weird, but at least with all the recent distractions he hasn’t had time to think about how long it’ll be before he’s forced to consider saying yes to Michael.

--

The night before Manhattan is supposed to show, Dean has a dream which in the morning he will blame on anxiety and on reading too many comics in a short time.

In his dream, he’s standing in the midst of a snowstorm, his feet planted on ice, and he’s cold down to his bones. He can’t see much except a silhouette in front of him, and it takes force of will to just walk towards it.

Dean doesn’t need to move much though; the silhouette comes towards him instead. He realizes that he has indeed read too many comics, because not even when he was thirteen did he ever dream of seeing that face where black and white shift in continuous motion. Add a ratty dark trench coat and a hat which the wind threatens to blow away, and well, Dean doesn’t really have many doubts about who it is that is standing in front of him.

“This is crazy,” Dean mutters.

“Not crazy,” Rorschach supplies, his voice low and barely audible. It’s the voice Dean always thought he’d have.

“What, then?”

“Reminder. No compromises.” Rorschach says, and then the wind blows faster and Dean’s legs can barely hold him up, the snow is in his eyes and, as Rorschach tears away the mask, he wakes, feeling cold as ice as he was feeling in the dream.

Dean doesn’t fall asleep again that night.

--

Nocompromises says that the radioactivity around here was off the charts in the last two days,” Sam informs him first thing in the morning, and Dean wonders why the heck does shit need to happen on the day when he’s had almost no sleep. Cas is looking antsy, or well, antsy if you’ve been around him long enough to tell. To the casual observer he’d look indifferent as ever, but there’s something in the way he moves and in the way his he’s holding himself that gives him away to Dean.

It feels very, very stupid to just sit around and wait though.

“Does he say anything else?” Dean asks, dragging himself out of bed, and Sam sighs, rubbing his eyes like someone who spent the night researching on a laptop.

“That some of them should drive here before anyone realizes that Manhattan is probably going to show up.”

“Oh please no, last thing I need is people who hang around the New Frontiersman’s website,” he groans.

“To their credit, most of them go there just because it’s the place with most traffic. I doubt they actually buy most of the crap that gets posted there. Or that they buy the actual newspaper.”

“I doubt we should wait here,” Cas supplies.

“Yeah, good morning to you too. But I think Cas has a point. Come on, we might have come all the way here, but I highly doubt that Manhattan will end up in our motel room just because he wants to save us the trouble.”

“And where do we go to look for him?” Sam asks, shutting the laptop in defeat. “It’s not like he left a note.”

Which is a point, but in the end Sam has to agree that it’s just ridiculous to stay there at the motel, and that’s how they find themselves driving just outside the city limits. It’s not like the guy’s going to have a chat with everyone in the town’s main square, right?

“Man, this is just plain surreal,” Dean says after they park next to a field which, from what he sees, has to be where you bring your girlfriend for a picnic, and maybe something else, if you live around here.

“Maybe fifty years ago I would have agreed with you,” comes from behind the three of them, and when Dean turns he just doesn’t have any words.

--

Ohfuck is the one thing his brain can supply. Because what the hell can you think when your hands are bathed in blue light and in front of you there’s someone who glows and looks at you with ageless eyes and is… is what they used to call God on the news before four cities blew up?

“This seems way too easy,” he mutters under his breath. Sam is staring with his mouth open and Cas looks actually awed.

“It’s not,” Manhattan answers calmly. “I would have appeared here anyway, and you would have ended up here anyway. Maybe you arrived earlier than you would have if you hadn’t been searching for me, but believe me, we all would have been here today and now. One way or the other.”

Dean nods, because he sort of understands how Manhattan sees time, if the comics are anywhere near accurate, which he thinks they are. Dean can’t take his eyes off him -- he’s still glowing, pulsing with blue light and his lips are set in a thin, neutral line.

“Why did you come back?” Sam asks then, sounding a lot more unsure of himself than he usually does.

Manhattan tilts his head just slightly, now facing Sam. “Do you think I accepted Veidt’s plan and its consequences just to see this planet destroyed again in what is a mere second?”

And right. For him, thirty years must be a cosmic joke.

“But you won’t do anything, will you?” Cas asks then, and Manhattan shakes his head.

“I already have done enough, according to your history. And while you might think otherwise, I am not a god. I can’t undo this simply by willing it,” he continues, his tone so calm that, in comparison, Cas sounds emotional.

“Then what’s the point?” Dean asks, trying to keep his voice even, too.

“I had not been expecting many people to know about this Apocalypse. After all, you know what happened twenty-five years ago. Nonetheless, I might have expected more than three people who are aware of it and trying to stop it, if I still could expect at all.”

Like Dean didn’t already know that Team Free Will isn’t exactly that great on numbers.

“Do you know where He is?” Cas asks very directly, and Dean figures he just couldn’t bear to beat around the bush anymore.

If only Manhattan’s face wasn’t so perfectly emotionless, Dean would swear that for a second there was something like compassion in his eyes.

“I am afraid not. I know when He left, but you know that, too. And I can’t tell you when or if He will be back. His will is too much even for my vision. But you are searching too far,” he adds, as Cas stares at him, not backing down for a second.

Only Cas would hold a staring contest with Manhattan, of all people.

“What do you mean?”

“If you’re searching for God, then He’s closer to you than you could ever imagine. But I would not advise you to count on someone else to win your wars.”

“Not that I don’t think you have a point,” Dean says, “but we’re kind of running out of options here.”

“You’re both thinking about compromising.”

That’s really not much question about what compromising means.

Dean can’t even say that he hasn’t gone there lately. There in the sense of, ‘should I say yes after all?’ He glances guiltily at Sam.

Well, Dean won’t blame Sam for having thought about it, considering that he did, too. He doesn’t look at Cas, if only because Dean’s half-sure that he’s staring at the both of them like they personally offended him. And Dean wouldn’t blame Cas for having thought that either.

“Compromise is never a good solution,” Manhattan states, and Dean can’t help it.

“Isn’t that what you did?”

“I never said I was infallible. I compromised, that’s true, but did I have a choice?”

There’s not much to say about it. He didn’t.

“But you do. You might forget it when you consider compromising, but you always have a choice. As do you,” he says turning towards Cas. “But I am sure you know that.”

“Can you do anything?” Sam asks then, almost pleading, holding Manhattan’s stare for maybe ten seconds before he can’t take it anymore.

“I can’t tell you where your God is. I can’t change things with mere force of will. I interfered enough twenty-five years ago to do the same now. But I can tell you that you do stop it.”

Dean opens his mouth, but Manhattan shakes his head.

“Don’t ask me how. Or when. But you do. You all do.”

“Do we compromise?” Cas asks then, and Manhattan stays silent for a second.

“No, I think you don’t.”

“You think? Shouldn’t you know?” Sam presses on, and Manhattan almost smiles at him.

“I see it as a no. But how can I know how you see it? I learned to never take humans for granted. I was wrong the last time I did, wasn’t I?”

“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” Cas asks then, his voice quiet, almost resigned.

“Talking with you was all I could do. And maybe I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t suspect already, but now the three of you will think about this conversation, and maybe you will make different decisions than the ones you would have made had we not met. Or maybe it will not change one thing.”

“Shouldn’t you know that, too?” Dean asks.

“I do. But I wouldn’t wish omniscience on anyone,” Manhattan answers, and then he holds out his hands and closes his eyes, and for a second everything Dean sees is blue.

When he comes to, Manhattan is gone.

--

They’re silent until they climb back in the car. The more Dean thinks about it, the more it seems like a crazy daydream, but hey, Cas and Sam saw it all, too, right?

“Has he really helped us?” Dean asks, unable to take the silence anymore.

“At least we know we don’t say yes,” Sam says. “That’s something, right?”

“And he said that God is closer than we thought,” Cas muses, and Dean would really like to know about that. Of everything Manhattan said, it’s probably the most useful information, but on its own, it doesn’t really help.

“I guess that at least it confirms that he’s somewhere and not dead, as our pal Raphael said,” Dean says, while making himself comfortable in the front seat.

“How did we even drive him away?” Sam says. “I mean, back then. Not now.”

“He said it. Compromising sucks. Also, I doubt that they’d have believed him if he told the truth in person.”

Cas nods from the backseat, his hand going towards his neck.

“Hey, is that my amulet?” Dean asks. “Is it tingling or something?”

“No,” Cas answers. “It didn’t burn. Not then and not now.”

“Well, I think he’d be happy to hear that.”

Sam’s cell rings at that point, and he takes the call, getting out of the car; Dean can tell that it’s Bobby, but not much more of the conversation. Sam gets back inside a couple minutes later.

“Bobby. He says that he got wind of some suspicious stuff going on in North Dakota. People apparently started killing themselves in crazy ways yesterday -- which was Valentine’s Day, by the way.He doesn’t know if it’s Apocalypse-related, but he thinks we should check it out.”

“Well, that shouldn’t take much time. Cas, are you off searching again or are you coming along for this one?”

Cas looks pensive for a second, then… well, if he doesn’t make himself comfortable in the backseat, Dean doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“I’m apparently closer than I had thought. Which at least means I don’t need to search in another continent. I will come with you.”

“Awesome. Then let’s get to work,” Dean says, and puts the car in gear, heading for the highway.

If, during the drive, Dean has to put up with Cas and Sam discussing every comma of what Manhattan said, well, there’s a lot worse he could endure. After all, if he can avoid compromising as long as possible, and since he just had a confirmation that in the end he won’t... then he figures that the three of them will just hang on and endure it, they way they always do.


-END-



Prompt:
-SPN/Watchmen: The events of Watchmen happened and are part of the history/legend of the world/United States. In the 2000s the boys start to investigate a supernatural blue being known as Dr. Manhattan.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
gladdecease
Nov. 18th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
Oh, nice.

I love what you do with the world after the events of the comics; it's believable as well as a good segue from the 1980's to present day. Dan interacting with the boys was great, and Manhattan was as mysterious as ever.

Very well characterized, and a really enjoyable story.
janie_tangerine
Nov. 18th, 2010 08:52 am (UTC)
Thanks so very much! :D

I'm so glad that it worked for you, also because while I read tons of Watchmen fic I had never written it before and so it's great to know you liked what I did with the Watchmen characters in this. Thanks again! :D
beatrice_otter
Nov. 18th, 2010 05:09 am (UTC)
I don't watch SPN, and all I know of Watchmen is the movie, but this was very well done and I enjoyed it.
janie_tangerine
Nov. 18th, 2010 08:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D I'm so glad to know that you liked it even if you're not familiar with one fandom. And considering that I had never written Watchmen before, if you're familiar with that one and you liked this, then I can feel accomplished. ;) Thanks again!
a_q
Nov. 18th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
That was friggin' awesome story! And seamless crossover to boot, which is not always easy to do - but you just meshed those two worlds together perfectly!
Really great work.
janie_tangerine
Nov. 23rd, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
Ugh, sorry for the late reply. And thank you so very much! :DD I'm so glad that you liked it this much and that it worked for you. Especially because I had never really written Watchmen before so it's great to know that. Thanks again! :D

Edited at 2010-11-23 09:26 pm (UTC)
cassiopeia7
Dec. 18th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Brilliant! Doctor Manhattan as an . . . angel? Or something much, much more? Wow, just wow.

And this:
Dean . . . doesn’t exactly like the Comedian, mostly because the way he’s drawn looks a bit too similar to his dad for Dean’s taste.

LOL! I was wondering how/if this issue would be addressed. And I love how you handled it.

*applause*


Edited at 2010-12-18 10:05 pm (UTC)
janie_tangerine
Dec. 18th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Manhattan is a special snowflake. ;) Thanks so very much for reading, I'm so glad that you liked it!

Also lol I couldn't help that part about the Comedian. It's too good to let it pass. ;)
emerald_embers
Dec. 21st, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
DUDE. I've had this bookmarked for a while, kept meaning to get around to reading it, and I'm SO glad I did :D. This is spectacular. Your Dr Manhattan is just incredible, and I love your Dan! <3 <3 <3
janie_tangerine
Dec. 24th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
Eee, thank you! :DDD I wouldn't know about spectacular but if you think it is then I'm so very happy ;) and phewww I'm so happy that you liked the Watchmen people characterizations. Mostly because 99% of all the WM fic I read is like Dan/Rorschach so I was like 'HOW DO I EVEN DO GEN?' XD ;)
mulder200
Mar. 27th, 2011 01:14 am (UTC)
“Dean, it isn’t that bad of an idea. Veidt is out of our league, sure, but if the other two agreed to put their real names out there, then… I don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot.”

Cas is conveniently behind Sam’s shoulder, staring at the laptop as Sam starts typing, and Dean wonders when it was that they became desperate enough to search for comic book characters to stop an apocalypse.


LOL! Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.

janie_tangerine
Mar. 27th, 2011 09:47 am (UTC)
Guess they do? ;) thanks for reading! :D
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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