He had been keeping tabs on his boy for years and, although it was unlike him to be so sentimental, he checked on him far too often. He shouldn't have been surprised when the most promising of his candidates arrived in Sunnydale, as it was a hot-bed of mystical activity and the family was bound to come across it sooner or later.
In the recent past, it had proved to be a favorite vacation spot for him and others like him. There were BIG plans for Sunnydale and, in a way, he was proud of his boy for staying in the town, however short the visit.
He had heard that The Slayer lived in Sunnydale; others worried that it would hinder their plans, but he didn't – she was small potatoes, seemed unremarkable and not even worth thinking about. Plus, there was the added bonus- Slayers had notoriously short life spans and, according to the prophecy, she wouldn't live out the year when his old friend broke free from his mystical prison.
He ignored the fact that she had stopped the Harvest and that it put them behind schedule.
Beginners Slayer's Luck, that was all.
He wasn't worried, but he would watch the boy a little more closely. He had to be careful though, he wasn't supposed to have favorites…
The bitter words to his father still echoed in his head, but Sam refused to let go of his anger.
The leather seat of the family car crunched when Sam shifted, but he stubbornly refused to admit to his discomfort. If he did that, then Dean would smirk knowingly as if it somehow gave credence to his earlier claim that Sam was not tired, he just wanted to hide in the back seat and "pout like a Girl Scout who didn't make her cookie quota".
Sam shifted again and scowled when he realized he was lying with his arms crossed. He knew he had no reason to feel so defensive but, for once, he would like it if his brother backed him up instead of always siding with his father.
The leather creaked when he tried to find a more comfortable position for his legs and Sam longed for the days when he could stretch out his legs. Instead he compromised the best he could with his head propped on the window and body angled diagonally to give him an extra few inches of space. It wasn't ideal, but when his brother and father were determined to drive through the night like tonight, Sam made it work.
Their father drove a short distance ahead, in a the black pickup merely a shadow with glowing taillights before them while Dean drove his beloved "Baby" (yes, beloved, Dean loved the '67 Impala like Han Solo loved the Millennium Falcon - with a devotion that bordered on obsessive.) Their father had given the car to Dean on his sixteenth birthday and Dean cared for it with a precision that rivaled any NASCAR mechanic - oil changed every three thousand miles, tires rotated every five and, whenever possible, buffed the black coat to a glossy shine.
Between the three of them, their worldly personal possessions were few and fit easily into a couple of duffle bags, so Sam understood why Dean took such good care of the car. In a strange way, given his nomadic upbringing, the car was the only home Sam could remember. He knew, once upon a time, that they had lived in a house and were no different than any other American family until one horrific evening when their world fell apart. At six months old, the four door sedan became Sam's equivalent to four walls and a roof, when he grew too big for a car seat, the back seat doubled as both a play room and bedroom.
Sam missed the days when he could stretch from head to toe in the backseat and still not make contact with the car; these days it made no difference if Sam used the backseat or the front seat, comfort was elusive. Had the evening gone differently, he would be in the front, riding shotgun next to his brother as they fought for control over the music choice.
Music played softly, a small consolation on his brother's part.
Normally, Dean had the sound turned up and sang along ("Sing it loud and sing it proud, Sammy!"), a defense mechanism he used against the temptation to sleep while driving.
Tonight, the low music and lack of Dean's vocal contributions was Winchester Code for "I'm Sorry"; Sam withheld any complaints about the choice of music (not a single song was released later than 1987) – Winchester code for "apology accepted".
The car shifted lanes and slowed.
His body, long used to the rhythms of road travel, instantly made the transition from drowsy and annoyed to alert and annoyed. To Sam, the car's movements functioned as both a sleep machine and alarm clock.
Sam straightened until he had a clear view of the dash and checked the fuel gauge; an empty tank indicated an upcoming pit-stop to refuel and make use of the facilities while any level above a quarter of a tank indicated that they would find a motel or stop for food.
Half a tank, Sam observed.
Given the late hour, Sam went with motel, which meant a shower and, more importantly, bed.
The car coasted along the exit and Sam rolled down the window a little grateful for the cool, but not cold, air that rushed in through the window. He supposed there could be worse places to be in February.
The motel was located just inside the town limits. There was nothing notable that would distinguish it from any number of the other motels had stayed in throughout his life, same as the buildings and stores nearby. They pulled into the parking lot just as his father walked out of the motel office. The car idled as Dean rolled down his window and caught the keys their father tossed to them.
And so began their routine.
Pull into the parking spot next to Dad's truck, car doors open; Dad unlocks motel door and enters the room while Dean pops the trunk. Sam grabs a duffle for each hand, turns sideways as Dean sidles by to reach Dad's truck. Sam pauses outside the door, Dean arrives, two duffels in hand just as Dad walks out of the room and nods to them. (Winchester code for "Coast is Clear".) Sam places his duffels near the bathroom door, along the farthest wall; Dean places one duffle on the table -if no table, then on dresser- and the other between the beds. Sam walks out, dad walks in carrying the two duffels – one bulky with weapons and the other smaller with ammo. Dean unzips the duffle closest to bathroom and walks out of room, dad right behind. Sam carries two more duffles, everyone turns sideways as they walk past each other. He puts one duffle on each bed. Goes to unzipped duffle and pulls out 2 midsized cans of salt. Outside, Dean grabs a hiking backpack, dad grabs another bag. Whump! Impala trunk is closed. Dean walks in, tosses keys on dresser. Sam lines bathroom windows with salt…
They each had their roles and moves down pat, in a routine that they could all do (and have done) in their sleep.
Sam continues to line doors and windows; Dean rolls out a worn towel on the dresser and begins to lay out the weapons on top. Dad walks in, closes door. The last bag he carries is set near the wall with the most space. One prime specimen of the finest motel art (beach scene) is lifted from the wall and placed flat on the floor and slid under the bed. This allows space to tack up maps, photo's, newspaper clippings and any other minutiae that could be used in the hunt. His dad unzips the bag.
A thick folder is pulled out from the bag first and Sam stopped moving. Dean, always tuned into what he refers to as "Sam Radio" (even when his back is turned), shifted imperceptibly - his body angled to face Sam.
Sam's eyes are riveted on the bulky, dark brown folder, its movements tracked as his father passed the folder from one hand to other, lost in thought and seemingly unaware of Sam's attention. After an eternity (fifteen seconds), his father walked over to the round table near the door and placed the folder on the table.
(Winchester code for "We will be here long enough for you to go to school").
Sam can't hide his grin as he finished lining the salt and even playfully bumped his shoulder into Dean's when his brother claimed the first shower.
Belongings sorted in their temporary places, Sam reached into the ammo bag and began to make salt shells. As his father walked by, Sam felt a fleeting squeeze on his shoulder before the hand moved to the top of his head. (A father's code for "Are we good, son?"); Sam lets him (a son's code for "We're good, Dad".)
Winchesters do apologies their own way.
Dean came out of the bathroom and his father went in next, as Dean passed by Sam's chair, Sam was treated to a playful push that almost unseated him.
"Watch it, Jerk." There was no sting in the words as Sam righted himself.
"But I'm your Jerk, Sammy, you know you would be lost without me." Sam snorted when Dean sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on a pair of shorts. He nodded toward the folder. "So…school tomorrow."
"Yep." Sam popped the "p" and grinned as he pulled out more rock salt from the ammo bag.
This time Dean snorted.
Sam looked over his shoulder.
"Yeah, but I am your nerd, you know you would be lost without me."
Dean rolled his eyes, then winked. Sam grinned and turned back to continue filling shotgun shells with rock salt.
The night the Winchesters arrived in Sunnydale seemed like any other.
Most of the town's inhabitants would have given no thought to the sleek black machine as it rumbled along the highway that led from the interstate toward the sleepy California town. Most of its human inhabitants, that is; it was the town's other inhabitants, though, that warily watched the Impala and speculated quietly what it meant.
A few left town.
One celebrated its arrival, but later regretted it.
Unbeknownst to the small family that slumber in the room, lives were about to change. For better or worse? Only time would tell.