You know Sam we’re allowed to have fun once in awhile (points to a waitress in short shorts) That’s fun. –Dean Dead in the Water
Dean Winchester, aged twenty two, drummed a beat on the steering wheel of the Impala. It had been one week, thirteen hours, forty three minutes and twelve…thirteen…fourteen…seconds since Dad had told Sam to leave and never come back. Dean really wasn’t happy with either family member at the moment. Although he was angrier with Dad than with Sammy if he had to choose between the pair.
He could never stay mad at his goofy little brother. He knew Sam’s reasons for wanting to leave, and, even if he didn’t agree with them, he still kind of understood. Sam had never known Mom. All he had known was the hunt, and Dean really couldn’t deny him the taste of civilian life. He just hated that it meant leaving him behind. Dean just didn’t feel right without his brother near. He'd read about people who'd had a limb amputated and still felt pain in the long gone extremity. He could practically feel his brother next to him, hear him complaining about the music, playing Eye-Spy in the miles of prairie.
He dry swallowed and gripped the steering wheel. Shit! He wasn’t going to have a chick-flick moment, even if he was by himself.
His jumped as he heard his cell phone ring. Keeping his eyes on the road, Dean leaned down and grabbed the cell on the seat next to him. He frowned, not recognizing the number but opened it all the same.
“Dean?” said a cautious voice on the end of the other line. Dean nearly swerved off the road he was so relieved.
“Sammy?” asked Dean, trying to play it cool even though his inner self was jumping up and down with joy and relief at the same time. Sammy was safe.
“Yeah it’s me,” said Sam with a tone that Dean had never noticed before. It was sad and happy all at once. Dean gulped, noticing the slight change in Sam’s voice. No more of that childish softness coloring his words, it was rougher, but, dammit, it was still Sammy voice. Dean had missed it after not hearing it for a week.
“Are you okay, Sam? Did you get to Stanford alright? Are the coeds hot?” asked Dean with a smirk, trying his best to play the older brother. As if his younger brother leaving him hadn’t hurt at all.
“I’m fine…,” there was a pause at the end of the line as if Sam was trying to think what to say next. “I’m not going to college, Dean.”
Now Dean had to pull over, because he couldn’t believe the words that had come out of Sam’s mouth.
“Christo,” said the elder Winchester brother into the phone.
“I’m not possessed, Dean,” huffed out Sam practically making a verbal bitchface, “I guess I just wanted to see if I could do it.”
Silence reigned on both ends of the phone. Sam spoke with a resigned tone as if he was coming to a realization.
“I just wanted Dad to be proud of me. If he'd just told me that he was proud, I probably would have thrown out the acceptance packet then and there. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these past couple of days. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hating the guy.”
“Christ, Sammy, no chick flick moments.”
“Nah man, I’m just giving you the message to give to him. I don’t think that he would be up for talking to me anytime soon. Our family is full of stubborn asses in case you didn’t notice.”
Dean sighed knowing that was true. Sam took that as a sign to continue.
“Our life is dangerous. I was just sick of worrying all the time about whether or not each new hunt would be the last one for you two, for all of us. I just wanted to know I had other options.”
“Yeah I understand, Sammy.”
“It’s Sam, you jerk.”
“Shut up, bitch. Where are you? I’ll come and get you.”
“Some crappy motel in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere,” said Sam vaguely. There was another pause, and Dean could feel his heart sink, “Dean, I think I just need some time away.”
“No just think about it. I’m still pretty pissed at Dad. He probably doesn’t want to see me right now. If we get back together, there’s gonna be a lot of tension and trust issues. Shit I can’t handle that right now, man. You’ll just drive yourself insane trying to play peacekeeper. I’ve met up with these,” Sam paused as if trying to find the right word, “I met up with some other hunters. They’re new to all this, and I’m gonna travel with them for a bit.”
Dean felt his heart drop into his stomach. He didn’t like the idea of Sam traveling with people that he didn’t know. However, it wasn’t like Dean had any power to forbid. He’d done it himself a couple of times when the Impala had broken down on a hunt he was helping out with and he couldn’t get at his girl with some tools.
Hunters may not trust a lot of other people, but they take care of their own.
“Sammy, you don’t know these people.”
“They’re good guys, Dean,” said Sam sounding so passionate about these two strangers that it took Dean by surprise, “I’m just gonna show them the ropes. They’re not possessed. I checked.”
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
“Fine. But there are gonna be ground rules,” said the twenty-two year old, “First off you call me every motherfucking day, you hear? I don’t care if it’s three in the goddamn morning, you call me, Sam.”
“Second rule, I want at least a general location of where you are. Third rule, these two guys you’re traveling with? They better have this number. If you get hurt they call me. Hell if you get the goddamn sniffles they call me.”
“Yes Dean,” said Sam sounding amused and exasperated all at once.
“…Are you sure this is what you want, Sammy?”
“I’m not sure what I want. But I’m trying to go with what feels right,” Sam paused as if trying to make a decision on something.
He began to speak again but his voice turned stony, “I’ve been having these dreams of Mom burning on the ceiling, and the taste of blood in my mouth. And I keep seeing Dad dying. Then all I see is you, burning in Hell for me. …And I see myself doing terrible things. I see the end of the world, Dean. God, it scares me so bad! I don’t know if I’m going crazy or not, but these dreams are something that I need to figure out on my own.”
Dean felt his chest tighten at that. He had always known that there was going to be a time when Sam had to try something out on his own. He knew in his gut that there would be a time when the youngest Winchester would no longer want the protective cloak of big brother and dad around him. Sam had always been independent, but Dean wished that this day hadn’t come. Especially when Sam was obviously in so much pain.
However as much of a big brother as he was, Dean was also practically Sam’s parent…
And parents knew when to let their children go, even if it hurt like hell.
“Alright, I understand, Sammy. Just keep yourself safe.”
“I will, Dean,” promised Sam not even bothering with the correction of the nickname.
They paused for a moment. Winchesters didn’t do lovey dovey crap well.
“Jerk.” –I love you-
“Keep safe, bitch.” –Love you too, kid. Keep safe.-
Then they both hung up at the same time. Their family wasn’t one for long goodbyes.
Dean stared at the phone for a long time before clasping his hands together and praying to a God that he no longer believed in.
Please, please keep Sammy safe.
Dean was trying not to think about how fast his heart had pounded, or how tight his pants had become when he first heard Sam’s rough voice. There were some issues that didn’t need visiting, especially if the feelings of the other person are in question.
Gabriel: Where did you get the holy oil?
Dean: Well, you might say that we pulled it out of Sam’s ass. –Changing Channels
Gabriel watched as Sam flipped the phone shut and rested his head against the wall. He bit into the giant Hershey bar that he had summoned into existence. Castiel was standing by the kitchenette; looking like someone had killed his puppy. The archangel sighed and cursed Dean Winchester for making people so dependent on him. However, now was not the time for thinking of the past…future…whatever.
“So what’s on the to-do list?”
Sam lifted up his head from the wall, and grabbed the pad of paper. He seemed to have centered himself.
“To kill, to stop, or to buy?”
“Kill sounds like fun.”
“Well we have the three main demons: Lilith, Azazel, and Ruby.”
“I call Ruby!” said Gabriel waving his hand around like he was a small child that knew the answer to a particularly hard problem. Sam paused, blinking at the former Trickster, who huffed, placed the candy bar down and explained his reasoning.
“What? We got three main demons that we have to waste. We each take one for the kill shot.”
“Then I would like Lilith,” said Castiel easily from his corner. He was clutching the bottle of water that he'd gone to fetch for Sam rather tightly. His mouth pressed into a thin, thin line. Dean was Castiel’s best friend. Lilith had held Dean’s contract, sending him down to hell. Plus Sam had already gotten to kill her once. Fair was fair.
Sam paused, looking like he wanted to protest, but he took another look at Castiel’s face and then nodded.
“That leaves Azazel to me then.”
Gabriel clapped his hands together.
“Fantastic! I love it when a haphazardly thrown together plan comes to fruition! Now what sort of illicit goodies can I conjure into existence for us?”
Sam cracked a small smile and handed his list over to the archangel, who quickly skimmed it. Fake credit cards, fake government badges/IDs, nice suit, guns, silver, salt, car…
All reasonable and totally boring, Gabriel sighed.
“So what sort of car should I conjure into existence?”
“You choose,” Sam paused, realizing he was talking to, “Just nothing too strange.”
Gabriel felt that was an unnecessarily reasonable request. He chewed his lip for a moment before a wicked grin spread across his face. He snapped his fingers, whistling innocently as Sam, curious, went to the window to see what kind of car they'd got.
Sam stared out the window for several moments before turning. His left eye seemed to have a slight tick to it.
“You should really get that tick checked out, Sam. You know - before it becomes a problem,” said Gabriel airily, as if he was talking about the weather.
“A hearse?” ground out Sam, mentally counting to ten in Latin.
“How bad ass would that be?”
“Gabriel, don’t make me set Cas on you.”
Said angel looked up from his quiet contemplation and cocked his head to the side.
“You’re cold, Winchester.”
The archangel sighed, a put upon sigh and snapped his fingers. In the place of the bad-ass black hearse was a black 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air. The paint job and chrome gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. Sam poked his head through the curtains and nodded.
“Figured why mess with the classics?”
“We should probably get going soon,” said Sam cracking his back.
“Is your body adjusted to the effects of the merging?” asked Castiel. He walked over, seemingly now out of his funk.
This new Sam stood at his original height of six foot four, but his hair had grown out, brushing his chin, with a thick gray streak going through it. (This led to Gabriel to nicknaming Sam Rogue when he got pissy.) His face still held a youthful quality to it - all softness as all the lines from stress had been erased. His body was smooth lines of lean muscle instead of awkward stick-thin limbs. Grace had taken the place of awkward teenage coordination. A hardness now existed in Sam’s eyes that certainly hadn't been in his younger self’s eyes. He looked ageless, caught between the harshness of adulthood and the relative serenity of youth.
“Cas, we’ve been here for a week. I had four days to recover. I’m as good as I’m ever going to get.” He paused and clasped his hands together tight. “I just want to get this thing going.”
A silence stretched between the three. It crackled in the air.
It was time to start this thing. Sam grabbed the duffel filled with clothes and the brown leather laptop bag complete with the laptop that Gabriel had conjured up. Together the trio walked out to the car, Sam opened the truck to put his duffel in there. He felt around and stopped, realizing the trunk had a false bottom. He raised an eyebrow at the archangel.
“Might as well make it as homey as possible, Winchester. You ready?”
Sam stared into the trunk feeling the energy crackle in him the way it had all those years ago: when his attempt at a normal life had burned in front of him. He looked up at Gabriel and nodded.
“Let’s do this.”
He slammed the trunk shut.
John: I just got here in time to see the girl take a swan dive. (pause) She was the bad guy, right?
Sam and Dean: (in unison) Yes, sir. –Shadow
“What do you mean Sam is on a hunting trip with some newbies?” demanded John Winchester into the phone, his voice rough.
“Exactly that, Dad,” said Dean in an exasperated voice. They had been having variations of this same conversation for the past ten minutes, “Sam’s not going to college. He met up with some new hunters. And he’s offered to show them the ropes.”
“Dean, we don’t know these people.”
“He tested them for possession. He’s not stupid, Dad. He got a full ride to college if you didn’t notice.”
“You should have gone to get him.”
“And what? Drag him back kicking and screaming? Dad…Sammy needs some time. If we just pick up hunting again, then what? He said that it would be all tension and trust issues between the two of you. And I’m inclined to agree with him.”
“What are these hunters’ names?”
“Erm…,” said Dean grabbing the sheet of printer paper to look at the email Sam had sent along with two cell phone numbers, “Their names are Castiel and Gabriel. Some sort of biblical names, I guess.”
“I don’t like this, Dean. This could be a trap.”
“I’m not going to go against Sammy, Dad. If you hadn’t make a huge deal about the kid getting into college, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“You have something to say, son?”
“No, sir. These are Sam’s words. Couldn’t have told him that you were proud, could you? He was tired of worrying when he would get that call saying one of us was dead.”
Silence hung between father and son as thick as cheap smoke in a dive.
“Dean” began his father in a careful measured tone, “Next time Sam calls you. You get that location from him. And I will get him back. These guys? They do not mean good news. You call me, son. That’s an order.”
Dean listened as the dial tone filled the phone line.
What just happened? Was not good at all.
He was glad that he kept Sam’s dreams to himself.
Dean: (referring to Bela) Can I shoot her?
Sam: Not in public. –Red Sky at Morning
“Nebraska?” groaned Gabriel (again) from the driver’s seat. Sam, folded into the passenger's seat, rolled his eyes.
“Yes, Gabriel. I’m glad that you know your states.”
“Hardy-har-har, Sammy. Seriously though…Nebraska?”
“I do not understand,” intoned Castiel from the backseat. “What is wrong with the state of Nebraska?”
“There’s nothing fun in Nebraska,” complained Gabriel, “I die a little inside every time I have to set foot in that state. You’re killing me, Sammy.”
“It is nearly impossible to kill you, Gabriel,” reminded Castiel.
“He’s being sarcastic, Cas.”
“I still do not understand the concept of sarcasm.”
“Something that I weep for every day, bro,” said Gabriel with a huff, “Alright so where in the great state of Nebraska do we have to go?”
“Harvelle’s Roadhouse,” said Sam easily as he opened a map, “We’re going to need contacts and allies. That place is as good a starting point as any. Then we’ll head over to Bobby’s in South Dakota.”
“I like Ellen and Jo,” said Castiel with a quick upturning of the lips, “Though they seemed quite interested in getting me intoxicated.”
“I’m sure they were, bro,” said Gabriel mock seriously before muttering, “I fucking hate Nebraska.”
“Really? I didn’t pick up that sentiment the first hundred times,” snarked Sam as he tried to figure out the best way to get to the Roadhouse on the map. Castiel turned his face to hide the tiny smile on his face.
Gabriel muttered a curse, huffing like a fourteen year old girl not getting her way. Hitting the gas pedal, the scenery became a blur to all in the car.
“About a day and a half…”
“To fuckin’ Nebraska.”
It’s just an average day in the lives of Team Free Will.
Ellen: What, you can’t pick up a phone? What are you, allergic to giving me peace of mind? What, I have to find out you’re alive from Rufus?
Dean: Sorry, Ellen.
Ellen: Yeah you better be. You better put me on speed dial, kid.
Dean: Yes ma’am. –Good God Y’All
Ellen Harvelle had always prided herself on being a strong woman. Part of her strength, she'd found, was her ability to offer motherly advice and help. The younger hunters, those who didn’t know sulfur from mustard, looked upon her as a surrogate mom. Someone who would offer words of encouragement and a kick in the ass. Older hunters had come to respect her and the sanctuary that she offered. She offered a place where hunters did not have to hide their chosen lifestyle.
She'd never wanted that life for her only daughter, Jo. Though, at sixteen, she was already talking about following in her father’s footsteps. That in a nutshell was what was going to keep Ellen Harvelle up at night for years to come.
“Mom?” called Jo in a cautious voice, “Some car just pulled up. I don’t recognize it.”
“Alright, Jo, you know the plan.”
She heard the pump of a shotgun. Ellen grabbed her pistol from her boot. She listened as the door opened and closed.
“They are not here,” said one male voice. It sounded rough and gravelly, reminding Ellen of the crunch of Bill’s boots on the parking lot all those years ago.
“They’re hunters, bro,” said another male voice. This one sounded full of laughter and impishness, and it brought back memories of playing pranks on her brothers growing up. “They’re hiding somewhere.”
“Gabriel has a point Cas,” said the third voice the youngest sounding of the trio. However it was also the most heartbreaking to hear; it was full of pain and regret, sending Ellen’s maternal instincts into overdrive. “Hunters don’t tend to trust a lot of people.”
Footsteps echoed through the silent establishment.
“Is this man okay?” asked the gravelly voice.
“He’s fine. Just got so drunk that he passed out,” said the laughing voice.
Ellen hid herself as the door to the kitchen swung open. In the dim light, there stood a boy no older than his early twenties at most. He was tall and catlike in his grace. She could tell by his stance that he was a hunter from the way he cased the area, carefully sweeping over it with his slanted eyes. His chestnut hair fell into his eyes, and in the light she could see strands of gray interwoven in it.
“Hello? Mrs. Harvelle? Anyone here?”
She sneaked up behind him and clicked the barrel into place. The man-boy froze and raised his hands. Outside she could hear Jo holding the other two at gunpoint.
“Sam?” called one of the voices.
The kid, Sam, sighed as Ellen led him out.
“Kind of tied up here, guys.”
Ellen turned her attention from the boy to the two men standing before her. She could see Jo’s blonde head behind them and the shotgun pointed at their backs.
The two men were roughly the same height. One had dirty blonde hair that curled, pushed behind ears that were slightly too big. His eyes were the color of honey. He looked completely at ease with the situation. He was dressed in the dark green button down shirt, slightly baggy black jeans, and a light gray windbreaker and he was looking around the room with his hands clasped behind his head in a non-threatening gesture.
The other man had mussed brown hair that looked as if it never been combed before, with a heavy five o’clock shadow on his baby face. His bright blue eyes seemed to soak up everything like a sponge. He didn’t look like a hunter, dressed as he was in a beige trench coat and suit-tie combo. He had his arms raised in the same manner as the boy, and he reminded Ellen of her old accountant.
“Who are you?” she questioned the three.
“My name is Sam Winchester,” said the boy slowly, “I have I.D. on me if you would like to see it.”
“Winchester? You’re John’s boy?”
“You know them, Mom?” asked Jo from where she was.
“I know this kid. The other two I don’t know.”
“They’re newbies,” said Sam slowly.
“We had a run in with a couple of pagan gods when we met up with Sam. They were about to have me and my brother for a…Summer Solstice Feast, literally,” said the honey-eyed man, “My name is Gabriel Ravenson. You can call me Gabe though. This is my half-brother Castiel Archer.”
“I am beginning to prefer Cas,” said Castiel slowly. He looked at Sam, “Can I put my arms down? I feel foolish.”
“Sure, hon,” said Ellen lowering the pistol. She had salt lines secreted away on the property. Sigils carved into rocks scattered around the place. The Roadhouse had been warded against evil by a white witch and blessed by a priest. There was no way these three could mean any harm at all.
Sam turned around, fiddling with the sleeves of his hoodie. He'd grown handsome, oddly pretty in the awkward phase between adulthood and childhood.
“Now how did you hear about this place?”
“I stole my Dad’s journal one night. And I saw the Roadhouse mentioned.”
“Seriously though? Nebraska?”
Sam turned to shoot (what Ellen assumed) was a very dirty look at the man. He turned to meet Ellen’s eyes.
“My Dad kicked me out.”
“What for?” asked Ellen as she took the boy’s hand. He bit his lip, looking young and lost. If John Winchester had been in front of her at that exact moment there was a very good chance that Ellen Harvelle would have punched him in the mouth.
“I got into college,” admitted Sam with a shrug of his shoulders, “He told me to leave and don’t come back if I was going. I was so mad that I left. I ran into Gabe and Cas. And I want to keep hunting, but I need help.”
“Sweetheart, go to college. Get out of this life,” pleaded Ellen softly.
“I can’t. You don’t understand,” whispered Sam with a couple tears escaping his eyes, “I have these dreams. And they scare me so bad. I see my Dad dead. I see Dean, my brother, selling his soul for my life. I see fire and death and destruction every night when I close my eyes. I need to stop this.”
“How can you?”
“I was wondering if you'd heard about anything dealing with signs of major demonic activity. These dreams…they have to be connected. I think my mom was killed by a demon. And he’s sending these images in my sleep.”
Ellen felt her maternal instincts kick into overtime. She wrapped an arm loosely around the teenager’s thin shoulders. He was shaking badly, curled into himself, tears making tracks down his face.
“Tell us you can help,” said Gabriel as he walked over to them.
Castiel was patting his pockets and pulled out a handkerchief before offering it to Sam. The teenager stared at the piece of cloth.
“Where did you get that?”
“Apparently it was in the pockets of my coat.”
“You carry around handkerchiefs?”
Castiel nodded with the serious expression on his face. Sam stared at the piece of cloth before taking it slowly. His shoulders were shaking with silent laughter that began to overturn the fear and pain in his eyes. Castiel looked proud of himself for turning Sam’s mood. Jo stared at the trio with a perplexed expression on his face.
“Jo? Can you go get Ash?” asked Ellen from her spot.
“Sure Mom,” said Jo relieved to be given concise orders. She walked over to the pool table to awaken their resident genius.
“Ash?” asked Gabriel.
Ash’s mullet head poked up as Jo finished waking him.
“Issit closing time already, Ellen?”
“Been that for several hours. You were just too drunk to move,” said the elder woman as she stood since Sam had regained his composure.
“He’s a genius,” assured Jo walking over to Ellen. Ash wandered over yawning widely. Gabriel took a look at him before cocking an eyebrow.
“He’s looks like a roadie for an eighties hair band.”
Ash grinned, “I like this guy. So what do you need me for?”
“Can you run a search for specific patterns of supernatural activity in the country?” asked Sam seemingly recovered from his semi-breakdown. He was looking at Ash expectantly.
“In my sleep,” said Ash with a proud smirk adorning his face. Sam smiled back before holding out a piece of paper and a wad of bills.
“Fantastic then can you research these specific phenomena and how it coincides with nursery fires anywhere in the US? I hope this money covers it. I may have more things that I will ask you to help with.”
Ash took the bills and flipped through them before taking the paper, “Dude for this amount of money I will be your ass slave until the day I die.”
Sam looked bemused and uncomfortable.
“Um…just the research would be good.”
“Actually I think he’s taking the more hygienic approach,” said Gabriel from his spot. Ash flipped him the bird as he and Sam exchanged phone numbers.
“So you came here because…?” asked Jo.
“I need people on my side. My dad has pissed off a lot of hunters. But I know in my gut that this thing is really big. I know that allies and connections would go a long way. I just need some help.”
“Something your daddy never admitted. You have whatever help I can offer you,” said Ellen with a smile.
“Thanks,” said Sam shifting his feet. He suddenly looked very awkward, “We should go. I saw some signs of a haunting a couple hours away in the local paper.”
“Oh no you don’t. Let me make you some sandwiches for the road.”
Sam looked like he wasn’t sure how to react to that before smiling.
“No, listen, this is important. I know you don’t trust me. Just now I realized something. I don’t trust me either. From the minute I saw that blood, the only thought in my head…And I tell myself it’s for the right reasons, that my intentions are good, and it-it feels true you know? But I think, underneath…I just miss the feeling. I know how messed up that sounds, which means, I know how messed up I am... The thing is, the problem’s not demon blood, not really, I mean I- what I did, I can’t blame the blood or Ruby or…anything. The problem’s me. How far I’ll go. There’s something in me…that scares the hell outta me, Dean. In the last couple of days, I caught another glimpse.” –Sam Good God Y’All
“So I’d say we had a productive three weeks,” said Gabriel as he held up the bottle of beer in his hand in salute.
Sam nodded his assent holding his own bottle of beer up in salute, “Hear, hear.”
Castiel drained his bottle before tilting his head to the side, “So what are we going to do while we wait for Ash to finish his search?”
“Hunt,” said Sam simply as he finished off his bottle, “We’ll get drive to South Dakota in a day or two. Once we get Bobby on our side, then we’ll hunt.”
“Oh wow, Sam, you sure know how to show a girl a good time.”
“Only the best for you, darling,” said Sam sending a sweetly sarcastic smile in Gabriel’s direction. The archangel grinned and broke into peals of laughter.
“There’s a reason that I like you best, Sam!”
Sam grinned before standing, “I need to grab my bag from the trunk.”
Gabriel tossed him the keys, “Don’t get that fine ass of yours raped, Winchester. I don’t want to explain to your brother why your virtue was stolen, before he had a chance to pilfer it.”
Sam flicked up a certain finger as he left the motel room. He walked over to the Bel-Air and opened the trunk. He took out his duffel, pausing when his phone rang. He looked at the screen for a couple minutes, but didn't recognize the number.
“Um hi?” said the shy voice of a young man. “Is this Sam Winchester?”
“Oh! Great! I’m having this problem. And your name came up. Could you help me?”
Sam paused knowing this could be a trap. He bit his lip slowly for a couple moments.
“Are you still there?”
“Yeah I’m still here. Where do you live?”
“Good luck for you. I happen to be in this town right now. How about we meet tomorrow at noon in the park?”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll meet at the bench nearest the fountain.”
Sam hung up the phone and stared, wondering what he'd just agreed to.