Max Winchester is living probably the most boring life on the planet. He's 12 years old, which is boring, he has two older siblings, which- Abby and Jack are cool- but that's boring, too. His parents run a body shop, and yeah, it's sort of cool that all these rich people come begging to Dad to fix their cars, but it's not like Tom's dad, who's a firefighter or Jimmy's dad, who is a surgeon. Uncle Sam is lawyer and Bobby is, well Bobby. They never go anywhere, they never do anything and Max thinks that banana slugs have a more interesting life than he does.
Which is why he's kicking a pinecone in front of him as he trudges home from school with Jack. Abby's in high school now, so she gets out 15 minutes earlier than they do, and meets them at the corner of 5th and Broad, because there's nothing to do in this town in the dead of winter, other than go home and not freeze to death.
"How's tricks?" Abby asks, huffing out a breath over the edge of her stupid pink scarf. Her nose is red and her hands are crammed into her pockets. Jack rolls his eyes.
"You forgot your gloves again," he says. Abby shrugs, grinning.
"That's what pockets are for, little brother," she explains and Max wishes someone would let him forget his gloves.
Instead, Max has his huge stupid winter coat and mittens over his gloves. He'd tried telling Father that nobody in the 7th grade still wears mittens, but Father had just stared him down, and so here was Max, wearing mittens, like a loser. Abby tugs Max's hat down over his eyes, even though he slaps at her hands because, Jesus, people will see. She slings her arm around Jack's shoulders and he rolls his eyes but lets her. It's still weird that Jack is as tall as Abby now- Abby has always seemed like a giant, but Dad says Jack will probably get taller than her this year.
"Bill Ireland is looking at you," Jack says absently, glaring at him. Max glares too, because Jack had explained that guys who look too long at their sister are assholes, and Max knows that's serious, because... assholes. Abby frowns.
"Why?" she asks and Max rolls his eyes because everyone knows Abby is the prettiest girl in their stupid town- everyone except Abby. Max kind of thinks Father likes it that way, but Dad always just shrugs. And Dad overreacts about everything, so it's probably not actually a big deal. But last week, Charley Weeks had passed him a porno mag with a note that said, "This looks like your sister, man!"
Max had gone to the Principal's office for punching Charley in the face, but Father picked up the phone, not Dad- and Dad would have probably would have blown a gasket- but Father had just told him that violence was the easiest, but not always the right answer. And then he'd looked at Max like something was on his face for a long while before smiling and ruffling his hair. And Father hadn't told Dad- or at least, not that Max knew, so Max was sure that keeping boys away from his sister was totally legit.
"Because he's an assweasel," Jack mutters and Abby punches him in the arm. Max hides his grin in his puffy coat, because Abby's punches hurt, even though she's a girl.
"Jack, he's nice! He offered to be my science fair partner," Abby argues. Jack snorts and pulls his key out, unlocking the front door. The house is cold- but that's not too weird, Dad and Father forget about stuff like central heating all the time- but they usually turn the hall light off before heading over to the shop. Abby hovers over the little box on the wall and Max can hear the heat clanking on.
"Dad, Father, we're home," Abby calls out. There's no response, but they all shrug and drop their backpacks off in the kitchen, because it has been kind of busy recently- Dad has two Corvettes and a Mustang on his plate. But Max sees Jack glance at the ugly clock Uncle Sam got them and Abby is frowning as she pulls five mugs out of the cupboard.
"Well, we can go bring them some cocoa," she muses, pulling the tin of powder out too, putting a pan on the stove. Jack pulls out a loaf of bread and nudges Max in the ribs.
"C'mon, short stack, you want the PB&J, you get the PB and the J." Jack says, reaching for the plates. Max sighs, because he's not going to be the shortest forever, you know. But he gets them out of the pantry anyway and even opens them so Jack can just make the sandwiches assembly-style. Jack even passes him the first one, crusts off and everything and he inhales it even before Abby puts two mugs down in front of him.
"And since you're finished now, you get to take the cocoa," she says, smirking as she picks up half of her sandwich. Max hates being the youngest. A lot. He puts his stupid coat back on and takes the mugs- because there's no use in arguing with Abby, ever- and just glares at her and Jack as he heads back out into the cold.
The shop faces a parallel road, but it's quickest to cut through the backyard and over the fence- although Max isn't sure how he's going to swing that with two full mugs in his hands. He thinks about going around, but that'd be a pain in the ass, and it is cold, so he just goes for it. He only spills a little, and not even on his hand, so he's feeling pretty boss when he kicks at the back door of the shop- because fence, apparently yes- doorknob, no. Max can hear Zepplin floating out from inside and he smiles, because Dad saves Zepplin for really good days.
It's not so loud though, that they shouldn't be able to hear him, so Max just kicks at the door some more when he doesn't hear anyone coming. After another moment Max scowls.
"Dad!" A long pause. "Father!" No noise from inside other than Kashmir, so Max sighs, because he has to do everything himself. He puts down the mugs, and opens the door, using his butt to keep the door open while he twists to pick the mugs back up. He starts walking toward the office in the front, because if they didn't hear him, that's probably where they are, but he doesn't see them anywhere- not even a note in Dad's terrible handwriting saying, "Back in 15." He figures maybe they're doing something really delicate in the shop itself and can't drop it.
He wishes he had put the mugs down on Father's desk, because when he slips on something and goes skidding two feet, the hot cocoa spills all over his hands. He's swearing, because damn, that's hot. He looks behind himself, because what the crap is grease doing over here, and holy crap.
That's not grease.
That looks like blood. A lot of blood.
"Dad?" Max calls out, because if something happened, if they went to the hospital, someone would have called, right? If Dad or Father got hurt, someone would have at least called Abby, so it can't be blood. He walks around the 'vette and drops the mugs.
That's a person, that's some person he doesn't know and they're in a big fucking pool of blood and they have to be dead and Max doesn't know where his parents are. He slams out the back door at top speed, vaulting the fence and throwing the kitchen door open.
"Jesus Christ, Max, where's the fire? You walk in on them again?" Abby teases and Max hasn't cried since he was 7 and broke his arm climbing the big tree in their backyard, but he's crying now. Abby's face goes white and Jack pulls Max over to them, crouching on the floor.
"Max, Max," Jack says and there's a dead person in their shop, there's a dead person.
"They're not there, someone's dead," Max blurts out. He looks down because he can't look at Abby and Jack, pale and scared, and there's blood on his shoe. Abby pulls him up in her arms, like she used to when he was little, and tells Jack to take the phone and the box under the sink down into the basement.
"Abby, there's blood on my shoes," Max says, because what the hell else can he say. Someone is dead. He hears Abby breathing, fast and shaky, but she carries him down into the basement and her hands are steady when they put him down on the couch. Max hears Jacks slam the basement door behind him and run down the stairs.
"Max, baby, you have to tell us what happened," Abby says, frowning. Max tries to take a deep breath but hiccups.
"No one answered the door, I went in, they weren't in the office, and I slipped on it, and then there was someone in there and they were dead, Abby, they were on the floor and they were dead, and I couldn't- I don't-" Max tries, but- but- what if, somewhere else in there, Dad and Father were dead too, and he can't breathe. Abby pulls him tight against her and rubs his back over his stupid coat and shushes him.
"Okay, okay, breathe, Max, breathe," she says and Max wishes he could be brave like Abby- like Jack, who's standing there, clutching the box to his chest- but what if they're dead?
"Jack, give me the box. Call Uncle Sam, now." Abby keeps one arm tucking him against her side, squishing him into the arm of the couch and opens the box.
The box has been under their sink for as long as Max can remember- he's never known what was inside of it- he's always assumed that it was plumbing stuff, but when Abby pulls the top off, there's a bag of salt and a funny looking knife- and Max is still for a moment, wondering what the hell is going on. Abby pulls a note out of the box, and in Father's precise, blocky letters it says:
"Pour the salt in a line in front of the basement door, in front of the window over the laundry machines, and in front of the door to the heaters. Do not use the knife unless you have to."
Jack mutely thrusts the phone at Abby and Max knows Father never tells them to do anything unless there's a good reason. He's 12 years old, and he's a Winchester, so he closes his eyes for a second, breathes, and takes Jack to do what Father says. He can hear Abby telling Uncle Sam that something is wrong, he needs to come now, but Max needs to focus on the job at hand. They do the top door first, moving on to the window, and Max crawls on top of the washer to do it, letting Jack pour a thick line of salt before the last door.
They don't hug anymore- they're boys and too old for that- but when Jack helps him down off the washer, he doesn't let go of Max's hand and he's stupidly grateful for that. Abby tells them Uncle Sam is coming, he's bringing Bobby, they're going to look over the shop and come get them. Max frowns, because a thought just occurred to him.
"Should we call the police?" he asks, smooshed between Jack and Abby on the couch and he hates that they look over his head quickly before shaking their heads.
"Uncle Sam said not to," Abby finally says. Max frowns, but Uncle Sam knows everything and if he says so, it's probably right.
It feels like forever, sitting silent in the basement, almost too close to be comfortable, but it can't be more than twenty minutes before they hear the opening of a door upstairs, thick boot soles on the wooden floors.
"Abby? Jack, Max?" Uncle Sam calls and the basement door opens.
"Thank God," he mutters, taking the steps down two at a time. Uncle Sam is ginormous and worried as he runs his hands over Max's hair. "You're okay." He sounds like he's reassuring himself, so Max nods.
"Kids okay?" Bobby calls from upstairs, the familiar squeak of his wheelchair totally better than police sirens. Bobby's not their grandpa, but he might as well be and Max wants nothing more than to go hide in Bobby's scrap yard until his parents come to get him.
"Yeah, Bobby," Uncle Sam yells. He grabs the bag of salt and herds them upstairs, but Max sees him pick up the knife before he follows, slipping it smoothly into his belt. Bobby looks scowly and pissed, which means he's worried, too. Bobby hangs up his cell phone.
"Not getting any answer," he mutters. Max can't hold it in any more- he has to ask.
"They aren't dead, too, right?" he blurts out and Bobby claps him on the shoulder.
"They weren't there, son," Bobby says, and Max knows that's not a no- but at least it's not a yes. "But your daddies are tough bastards, remember that." Abby pulls Max back against her, tucking him under her chin.
"What happened?" she asks. "Why can't we reach them?" Bobby and Uncle Sam share a glance- just like Jack and Abby- and Bobby shrugs and Uncle Sam sighs.
"Sit down, we have to tell you some things first." Uncle Sam says and this is serious, so they just line up on the stools at the counter, watching as Uncle Sam runs a hand through his hair.
"There's no easy way to explain it, so I'm just going to be blunt and you're just going to have to trust that I wouldn't joke about this, and I wouldn't lie about it- and neither would Bobby." he says, leaning against the sink. "Angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, lots of other things- they're all real. And most of them are trying to hurt people."
Max wants to laugh, but it explains a lot, actually. The way Dad will sometimes snort after a news report and mutter under his breath, the way Father doesn't like letting them out after dark. He should probably be freaking out, but he's already seen a dead person- well, maybe not person, now- and it sits right in his mind, like part of him already knew. Uncle Sam watches them for a moment, but Jack and Abby are just sitting very still, just like him, and so he goes on.
"Your dads, me, Bobby, we all used to... hunt these things. To stop them from hurting people." Uncle Sam goes on. And again- it sort of makes sense- Dad's weird tattoo, the scars, the way Dad had laughed in Mr. Marshall's face when he'd asked if Dad wanted to go hunting. "And that's... not all." Uncle Sam glances desperately at Bobby, who just shakes his head.
"Your father is an angel," Uncle Sam finally says, and wait- what. Abby frowns, like yeah, this is the step too far.
"Dad is an angel?" she asks, clearly disbelieving. Sam shakes his head.
"No, uh, Cas, Castiel." he says, which yeah, okay, that makes much more sense- but not much. He tries to imagine his solemn, strange Father with a pair of white fluffy wings and it just doesn't fly. Jack shakes his head.
"But," he starts, and then trails off, because, well, that probably explains where they all came from, once and for all. For years, after bedtime, they'd debated the possibility that they had a biological mother out there somewhere, because two men can't make a baby- but maybe a man and an angel can. Max really doesn't want to know. Abby puts her face in her hands.
"God, Dad is going to go to Hell, he has sex with an angel, he's going to Hell," she mutters, and one, ew, he didn't want to think about that ever and two, crap, she was so right. Uncle Sam huffs out a reluctant laugh.
"Been there, done that," he mumbles. Jack and Abby raise their eyebrows, just like Dad, but Max really doesn't want to know, he just wants his parents to come home, so he can go back to pretending he doesn't know anything about any of this. Abby shakes her head forcefully, like she's trying to get her mind to clear.
"But then, what, something came for them?" she asks and it's the first time she seems scared, so Max takes her hand. Abby squeezes back, tight. Bobby shrugs.
"Maybe, but maybe it was just an unlucky coincidence." he says. "In the meantime, while Sam calls up some folks, looks for Dean and Cas, you kids are staying with me- it's the safest place around," Bobby's tone brooks no argument, but really, Abby looks ready to brook.
"We're not kids, you know," Abby says hotly. "Were you ever going to tell us about this?" Uncle Sam looks back at Bobby and then shrugs.
"Honestly? No." Uncle Sam replies calmly. "We thought we had sealed Hell off, before any of you were born. It was never going to be an issue." Jack looks a lot like Father already- and the way he's looking at Uncle Sam and Bobby is straight out of the "Dad fucked something up" playbook.
"They're our parents," Jack says, like that should explain everything, and for Max- it does. They can't just ship them off to Bobby's to hide. Bobby sighs.
"Damn fool Winchester genes," Bobby mutters. "Look, kids, I know you want to help, I know you want them back- but as scared as you are for them, I can guarantee you, wherever they are, they're more worried about you."
Which is when Dad and Father walk in the door, dirty and covered in blood.
They're nearly tackled back out when the three of them attach themselves like leeches. And because Max is still a foot shorter than Abby and Jack, he's practically hugging their legs, but they're not dead.
"Uh, hi kids," Dad says weakly, muffled into Abby's hair.
"I thought you were going to get us back earlier," Dad hisses at Father and Max can imagine the irritated look on Father's face when he shoots back, "Time travel is not a precise activity, Dean."
"I'm guessing you guys went to the shop," Dad says apologetically. Max punches Dad in the knee. "Okay, sorry, Maxey." Max just sniffles against Father's jeans.
"Pair of idjits," Bobby says loudly, which means he's relieved and pissed. Uncle Sam laughs. After a moment, it's clear to Dad and Father that they're not getting loose any time soon, because they just sort of drag the whole clump into the living room and drop down onto the couch. Abby is holding on to Father's arm like he's never going to get it back and Jack is crushed to Dad's side. Max feels like he's totally justified in sitting in both their laps because he saw a freaking dead body today, he's earned it.
"So," Uncle Sam prompts. Father and Dad looks like they know they're in deep, deep, unmercifully deep shit. "Would you like to explain why there's a body in the shop?" Dad shrugs, wrapping an arm around Jack.
"Meg came and brought a couple of friends with her," Dad says and while Uncle Sam and Bobby make faces of sudden understanding, he still has no idea what's going on, so he just glares fiercely up at Dad.
"That is so not an explanation," Abby argues. Dad looks at Uncle Sam.
"Uh, how much did you tell them?" he asks. Uncle Sam grins.
"Enough," Uncle Sam says. Father looks like he'd really like to smite something, and wow, that facial expression suddenly makes sense.
"We did not want you to find out this way," Father says, sparing a glare for Uncle Sam.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Jack asks, almost whiny. Dad sighs.
"We were hoping we wouldn't have to," Dad answers, which is still a really dumb answer. He and Father tuck Max close, and it's a good thing he's so secure in his masculinity, because this is a lot of hugging today.
"Meg is a demon," Father says quietly. Dad snorts.
"One time, your father set her on fire and stomped on her face." Dad adds. Father glares at Dad and Max spends a moment trying to reconcile the man who makes him take vitamins with someone who can set a demon on fire and stomp on their face.
"It was necessary at the time," Father protests. Dad just looks amused and seriously, what is wrong with their family.
"As you can imagine, she was sort of upset about that. And you know, that whole thing where we foiled Hell's plan and killed Lucifer." Dad explains. Max just blinks.
"Anyway, they slimed their way on through a Seal on a technicality, which let me tell you, Crowley was pissed about." Dad goes on, directing the last bit to Bobby and Uncle Sam. Bobby snorts.
"Smug old bastard, thinking he'd be the only one to stay up here," Bobby says. Uncle Sam looks pretty amused and Max wonders how any of this if funny to them.
"Aw, Bobby, you know he's saving himself for you," Uncle Sam says, batting his eyes at Bobby until Bobby punches him in the thigh, hard.
"I like my soul where it is, thanks," Bobby growls, patting the wheelchair. Dad shrugs.
"Suit yourself, Bobby, but I think he's sweet on you," Dad says cheerfully and seriously, something so wrong with their family. There's the loud sound of a throat clearing.
"I like my men significantly less flannel-covered, so, surprisingly, you lot are all tragically off my radar." There's a swanky looking English dude standing in the kitchen doorway.
"Speak of the Devil," Father says, settling Max more firmly on his lap. The guy waggles his eyebrows.
"Not if I can help it," he says with a shrug. "And isn't this precious, all our little Winchesters in one place." He looks pointedly down at the thick line of salt.
"Aren't you going to let me in?" he asks, practically pouting. Uncle Sam sighs and walks over, kicking part of the line out. The guy pats Uncle Sam's cheek fondly. "Thank you, sweet Samuel."
"Kids," Dad says with just a little bit of tension in his voice. "This is Crowley. Do not trust him and if he asks you to kiss him, shoot first, get your Father and I second." The guy- Crowley- makes a face.
"Dean, you say that like I would try to take advantage of your darling family in any way," he complains. Father snorts, which... that's never happened before.
"Are you..." Abby trails off. Crowley smiles widely.
"I, my dear, am the last demon on Earth," Crowley says happily. Jack frowns.
"Wait, I thought demons were bad, demons took Dad and Father somewhere," he argues. Crowley shrugs.
"One might say I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way," Crowley suggests and Max doesn't know what that means, but apparently Father can set shit on fire and stomp on it, and if he's not doing that, how bad can this Crowley be? "In any case, I just popped by to let you know that Meg's back in her prison, all's right with the world."
Father just stares at Crowley for a long moment before he sighs.
"Yes, yes, I talked to Michael, we'll go double check all the Seals, thank you so much for that, I would love to go on a roadtrip with the known universe's biggest drama queen." Crowley says. Father's smile is small and kind of mean and Max thinks his father is sort of badass.
"You never had to share a body with him," Dad says and Max takes it all back- his family is so not boring- but he wouldn't mind if they we're just a little bit more boring, because this is too interesting, really. Crowley snorts, blows a kiss to Bobby and disappears.
"Dad, that guy is weird," Jack proclaims solemnly. Dad laughs.
"Yeah, I know it," Dad replies. "Anyway, Cas and I obviously took exception to being kidnapped. By the time Crowley showed up, it was mostly taken care of." Dad shrugs, like killing some demons, whatever, and seriously, both of his parents are ridiculously badass. It's sort of unfortunate that nobody starts "my dad could beat up your dad" anymore, because Max thinks that either of his parents could take on the whole PTA without blinking.
"I hate to bring this up," Abby says hesitantly. "But what are we going to do about the corpse in the shop?" Dad sighs.
"Aw, crap, I'd totally forgotten about that," Dad mumbles. Father shrugs.
"It will be taken care of," Father says and seriously, badass.
And really, it's an anticlimactic end to a weird, weird day, but Dad's stomach growls, so they order pizza and Uncle Sam argues about getting a vegetarian one and yeah, Max figures this is just something else he'll have to deal with- no mom, angel father and completely damn ass crazy dad.
Max extracts a promise from Father that they'll go buy him new, non-demon covered sneakers tomorrow and figures today could have been worse. After all, he is a Winchester.