Like a Fish Out of Water
Dean has led them to this moment and they have all come willingly, those hunters who remain. Looking at their grim, bloody faces, he wonders for a moment if this is stupid, if he’s only leading them into death. They've stopped singular demons, momentary transgressions, apocalypses, and saved the world one person and battle at a time, like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon. This will wound the leviathans more deeply than any of those battles, and every person who stands with him stands here because they believe that.
There are others who should be here, but he doesn’t have time to grieve for them. Not anymore.
The world roars with the battle-cries of leviathans and the foul army of monsters they’ve brought with them, and he can hear their eager mews as they leap forward to taste human flesh with their sharp claws and sharper teeth. It's a frightening sound, a cacophony of death and blood and mutilation, and it's the best sound he's heard in a long time. Blood sings in his veins and the sword feels good in his hands; natural, perfect. Every sense is alive with awareness, every nerve tingles, every muscle coils and poises on the edge of unleashing the fury that's been building in his bones for the last six years or more. It's been too long since he fought like this.
The creature above him flaps its mighty wings with the sound of thunder, sluicing down rain in heavy gouts, and then it swoops down in a single smooth motion, arcing gracefully through the air as it comes for him.
He runs away, leading it, and then makes his stand. He waits, willing his instincts to quiet their screaming, willing his legs to stay rooted to the spot. He waits as it speeds toward him like an arrow, the sky seeming to widen beyond its normal dimensions to allow the creature passage. It opens its foul mouth, and he can smell rancid death on its breath, taste mortality and the faint scent of ozone, and still he waits. Milliseconds stretch out like eternity, each one straining like tiny horses beneath his skin.
He ducks under the seeking teeth at the last second and slices into the dragon's neck. The sword barely pierces its thickly scaled hide, and he shoves it deeper, seeking the tender flesh below the chin. Black ichor sprays and blurs his vision, but not so much that he can't see the single, malevolent red eye that turns toward him.
He doesn't know if he's going to live or die, and right now, he doesn't care.
This is what he was made for.
Rain pours and monsters howl, and the carcasses of the dead choke the ground with their sheer numbers. Among their bloody and broken bodies, the battle rages at a fevered pitch. Swords slice, teeth rend, axes fall, battle-cries ringing out with the sounds of combat and the cries of the dying. The hunters keep fighting, and on wobbly, battle-weary legs, some of them make their stand atop the hulking carcass of the dragon Dean brought down. Dean’s feet slip on bile and blood, and the ground itself has turned a deep crimson that even the heavy rain can’t wash away.
He spots Garth go down, teeth of a leviathan shredding through his shirt, leaving his stomach a bloodied wreck. Dean lops off the thing’s head, hoping the hunters carrying chemicals are keeping up with their job of dissolving leviathans and dismembering them.
Long minutes pass, and more hunters fall, and Dean feels Garth begin to slip from his grasp. He glances around, sees Sam swaying on his feet, sees Tamara go down beneath a mass of bodies, coming out screaming and bloodied, and he knows this is it. They can't last much longer. They've done almost all the damage here that they can. Even if he wanted to leave now, pull them out and try to save their lives, he knows he can't. They're surrounded, and the mass of monsters, though smaller than it was at first, is still huge, enough to kill them all easily.
“You and me, Sam,” he says, pressing his back closer against his brother’s.
“Just like always,” comes the answer.
He stands over Garth and defends the hunter’s unconscious body, knowing he can't hold the monsters off for longer than a few more seconds. They press in from all sides, and he feels his spine begin to fuse against Sam's with the weight of bodies bearing down on them. Sam grunts in surprise as something cuts into him, and Dean feels the teeth of a leviathan scrape against his throat. He can’t move his sword arm, so he closes his eyes instead, reaches for his brother’s hand, and it’s not something he’d ever do any other time, but he does it now, and he doesn’t care. Sam’s fingers close around his, squeezing Dean’s in a death grip, and this is it, and they both know it—
Suddenly, the entire battle comes to a screeching halt, creatures backing away so rapidly that Dean and Sam almost fall on top of each other as the pressure against them relents. Something is glowing by his feet, and he looks down to see Garth suffused in blinding, bright white light that burns his retinas like the fire of the sun.
When it recedes, Garth's back on his feet, healed and whole, looking at his belly as if he's never seen it before. “What the hell just happened? Not that I'm complaining.”
Dean's left speechless, and he opens his mouth as if some sort of explanation might tumble out. But it's someone else all together who answers for him.
“This is finished.”
An old man stands near them, plain wooden cane clutched in one hand, his white hair, mustache and short beard smartly styled, a forbidding glare radiating from his dark eyes.
Dean blinks a few times, trying to make sense of this turns of events—and Jesus Christ, is that old man Christopher Lee?
The leviathans and other monsters are actually whimpering as they back away in a widening circle.
Christopher Lee makes an impatient gesture with one hand, and the leviathans seize, screaming, oily black essence trailing from their meatsuits’ mouths and noses before it catches fire, flames extinguished quickly by the whipping wind and rain.
The de-possessed humans and remaining monsters run then, fleeing the scene. The hunters who are still standing remain for a moment, and then the old man makes another gesture, and they vanish, leaving only Sam and Dean. The rain begins to die out, clouds breaking up above their heads.
“They’re safe,” Christopher Lee—and Dean’s now 100% sure that this is Christopher Lee—says. “I sent them home with the same message I’m about to give you.”
“Saruman?” Sam breathes in confusion at Dean’s side.
“You know who I am, don’t you?” Christopher Lee asks, his dark, beady eyes fixing on Dean’s.
And yeah, Dean guesses he does.
“So Dracula is God now?” Dean asks, taking a step closer to the older man.
“Always a smartass, Dean,” God remarks, clucking his tongue ruefully. “And not even a thank you.”
He says something else, but Dean’s barely listening—can barely hear him—he can feel fury surge through him, that same bloodlust he’d felt at the beginning of the battle, rage of the last six or more years rising up inside.
“Thank you?” Dean demands, incredulous. “Now you show up? All the dying we’ve done, me going to hell, Sam going into the pit, our mom, our dad, our grandparents, and what? We’re supposed to be grateful that you finally got tired of banging hookers in Rio? Ran out of blow? Maybe your skeeball arm finally gave out?” Dean spits, stepping up to the old man.
“Dean.” Sam’s voice is a warning, and Dean hesitates, annoyed, looking at his brother.
Sam cuts his eyes sideways at Dean, his mouth moving in a whisper in the same direction, as if it might help keep the Almighty Himself standing less than five feet away from hearing him. “He might be a dick, but he’s still God.”
The amount of fucks Dean gives can’t be measured, since they don’t exist.
“You’ve been useful, Dean, you and your brother, so I’m inclined to indulge you. But don’t push your luck. Be grateful that I’ve come at all.”
And then God sits down—actually sits down on the back of a dead creature that has a mass of tentacles where its legs should be—and pulls the shoe from his foot, gnarled fingers rubbing the sole.
“This vessel’s getting old,” God says, and shakes his head, fingers rubbing vigorously. “It was better when you humans died young. I set it up that way for a reason. But you always think you know better, with your science and this whole “the singularity” nonsense.” He grumbles most of the words, speaking more to himself than either Sam or Dean, and admittedly, they’re both too stunned by this strange turn of events to have anything, useful or otherwise, to contribute.
Before Dean can find his tongue, God’s on his feet again, shoe back in place and standing solidly as he regards them severely beneath the clearing sky.
“The message I have for you is this: As of today, humanity starts over at square one.”
Dean squints, tilting his head as he thinks that through. So, what? Leviathans destroyed, demons back in hell, angels back in heaven?
“You mean you’re hitting the restart button?”
“No. I mean it’s over, Dean. I’m leaving, and I’m taking them all with me: the angels, the demons, the monsters, every last thing on this planet that isn’t human.”
“What?” Dean asks, frowning as he lifts his hands from his sides in confusion. “You’re just gonna… pack them in your suitcase and take them all to the hotel at the end of the universe?”
“Alpha Centauri’s nice this time of year,” God says with an enigmatic smile.
And floored as Dean is that God has read Douglas Adams, he’s still too fucking astounded by what God is telling him to really take full notice of that part.
“I’m saying you’re both out of business. I’m saying tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, or one of those other clichéd bullshit lines they sell in the Hallmark stores these days,” God shrugs. “It’s done.”
“You’re… just going to abandon humanity?” Sam asks, like he can’t believe it.
God throws up a hand, waving it through the air. “I abandoned humanity a long time ago. I’ve got a lot of other spoons in the pot, if you know what I mean. Besides, humanity stopped needing me around the time they learned to make weapons and fire. You’re all fucked up,” he adds with emphasis, “no doubt about it. But I did make you in my image,” he goes on, shrugging again, “so I don’t know why I expected you to be any other way.”
Dean’s pretty sure Sam’s jaw is about to fall off its hinges.
“You’ll probably be fine,” God says with a tilt of his head. “You have been this long.”
Dean, on the other hand, is about to have a heart attack and die of not-surprise. “Then why come back at all?”
“Because I made you in my image.”
“Vanity?” Dean asks, unimpressed.
“You weren’t going to win this time, Dean,” God says, beady eyes fixing on Dean’s with a ferocity that makes Dean take a step back. “But if you’re unhappy, I could always bring the Leviathans back and let this play out.”
Dean keeps his mouth shut and decides to take a pass on that.
God holds his gaze on Dean for a moment longer, and then nods almost imperceptibly.
"Dean," Sam says, breathless. "My head... Lucifer's gone."
"He's really gone." Sam's eyes are wide and relieved and Dean doesn't understand how this is possible.
"A side effect of my healing everyone on the battlefield," God says. "You're welcome."
It's so huge Dean can't process it right now, and he doesn't have time, because Dean can sense God readying to leave, see it in the motions the old man makes as he steps back, cane in hand.
God’s about to leave the planet forever, and he’s got maybe a few seconds to get what he can out of this deal.
“We want a few things, before you go,” Dean interjects.
“I saved you all. Healed your brother. I’m taking everything supernatural from the planet, giving you a normal life, and you have the nerve to ask for more?” God asks, thunder in his tone.
“We’ve been fighting your battle for you for years now. We stopped Lucifer, the apocalypse. A few things you can make happen with a wiggle of your eyebrows? I’m thinking you can spare us that much.”
God’s expression suggests he doesn’t agree with Dean in the slightest, but he pauses, calculating as he looks and Dean and folds his arms across his chest. “Go on. I’m intrigued.”
“Bring Bobby back,” Dean says, nearly in unison with Sam.
“Impossible,” God shakes his head. “I have him running the call center in heaven. He’s irreplaceable.”
Dean blinks a few times, taking that in. It’s maybe one of the craziest things he’s ever heard—so ridiculous that for a long few seconds, Dean can’t even wrap his head around it. He tries to imagine Bobby at the center of heaven, baseball cap on his head, wireless receiver clipped around it, talking into the microphone and flicking switches on a gigantic call board.
“Bobby… is running the call center in heaven?” he asks, like he’s sure God is fucking with him.
“Did a hell of a job running your hunter’s call center, didn’t he?”
Dean can’t argue with that. But still… “Really? Bobby?”
“I can’t close down heaven and hell, Dean. Human souls still need somewhere to go after they die. And I need people to make sure things keep running. No deal.”
“Wait,” Sam says.
God looks at him, brows drawing together in a frown.
“We have something you might want.”
This is news to Dean. What the hell could they have that God would want?
“It’s an amulet,” Sam goes on when God raises his eyebrows with same incredulity Dean feels. “One that can locate you.”
Dean’s eyes focus on Sam, narrowing, his heart doing an odd, double thump in his chest. The amulet? His amulet? Sam has it?
Sam looks momentarily chagrined and slightly guilty, averting his eyes from Dean’s, and then he kneels down, unzips his small pack—
Brilliant light explodes from the opening, nearly blinding Dean for an instant. When he moves his hand from shielding his eyes, blinking and squinting, he can see the amulet--his amulet, part of him insists—dangling from Sam’s fingers.
God sighs in exasperation when he sees it. “I made it so my creations could find me and it’s been nothing but a pain in the ass ever since.”
“Wait,” Dean says, putting the pieces together. “So every time someone used it to try to find you… you knew?”
“Damned thing might as well be a cosmic pager,” God agrees nodding, eyes still sizing up the charm dangling in the air.
Well, it’s not like he didn’t already know God’s been mostly ignoring the phone for the last thousand years. He just didn’t know it was in the literal sense.
“Not the kind of thing you wanna leave behind when you’re going on permanent vacation,” Sam—who’s apparently given up on being shocked by God’s indifference—prompts.
“You think you can trade for human souls like Pokemon cards?” God asks, reproachful, fingers tugging his beard.
There’s a pause, and Sam looks doubtful, almost guilty again.
“Ah, who’m I kidding?” God says with a shrug. “That’s the way it’s always been done. Fine. You can have him.”
“Thank you,” Sam manages before God snatches the amulet from his hand.
The relief Dean feels over getting Bobby back, the uncertainty he’s feeling about Sam trading his amulet, the persisting major disbelief that any of this is even happening all threaten to overwhelm Dean for a moment. He shoves it all to the back of his mind—they’ve still got business here.
“Three more things,” Dean says, stepping up between them.
“This isn’t a game show, Dean,” God tells him, voice crackling dangerously.
“Small things,” Dean adds, hoping they are. He wouldn’t have thought Bobby would be a big deal either, but… “One, Adam gets a free pass from the pit to heaven.”
“Reasonable,” God nods. “Done.”
“Two, bring Jimmy Novak back and send him home.”
God’s head sways back and forth for a second. “Also reasonable. Done.”
“Three, bring Castiel back and make him a real boy.”
Now God pauses, looking at Dean with an expression Dean can’t quite interpret. “You want him to be human?”
“Yes. Just… make sure he looks like… Cas.”
“You want him to look like Jimmy Novak?” God asks, head cocking slightly as he looks at Dean.
“Yes,” Dean answers, thinking how weird it’d be for Cas to look like anyone else.
“And if he doesn’t wish to become human?”
“Pretty sure he’d rather be human and stay here than go anywhere with you.”
God nods as if allowing that Dean may be right. “I’ll present him the choice. But Dean…” a strange smile curves the corners of God’s lips. “Remember that you asked for this.”
“Enjoy your lives, Dean, Sam.”
And so saying, the old man takes up his sack and his cane, tapping the end of polished wood against the bloody ground.
“Don’t forget to write,” Dean calls after him.
God vanishes without a backward look, and Dean rolls his eyes, shaking his head.
“That just happened, right?” Sam asks after a moment, blinking against the sunshine.
Dean takes a look at the carnage on the battlefield, watches as the bodies begin to disintegrate, pieces of curled black ash peeling from the dragon’s dead body and drifting on the breeze. The sun’s out in full effect, sky perfectly blue as if it hadn’t been pouring rain like a monsoon ten minutes ago.
“Take a look,” he says, holding up his hands to indicate the world around them. “Besides, you wouldn’t have imagined God as the world’s biggest douchebag. Me, on the other hand…”
“Yeah, I should’ve seen that one coming,” Sam agrees.
They wait a few minutes, until the grass around them is as green and empty as it was when they first arrived here, and then they wait a few minutes more.
Finally, Sam looks at Dean and says, “Guess you should have specified we wanted Bobby and Cas delivered here, huh?”
Dean cuts his eyes in the direction God disappeared, gritting his teeth.
There’s an honest to goodness, no shit, double-rainbow hanging in the sky, shimmering like the world’s biggest ‘fuck you’.
“Asshole,” Dean mutters.
They head in the direction of Rufus’ cabin since that’s the only link to anything they have left of Bobby.
They stop along the way to ditch their clunker and switch back over to the Impala, and the grin on Dean’s face when he slides behind the wheel, into the smell of leather and oil, is about a hair’s breadth from being the same one he gets when he watches really awesome, filthy porn.
“Hey, baby,” he says, still grinning as he runs a hand across her dash.
He takes a long moment to just let the feel wash over him, muscles in his back unwinding with the familiar fit of her seat against him, his hands flexing around the steering wheel.
“Could you… please not do that?” Sam says in a tight voice that suggests Dean has crossed some kind of line.
“Come on, Sam. Tell me you’re not the least bit happy to have her back.”
Sam thinks for a second and then tilts his head in a way that says, “yeah, maybe, okay”, and Dean can see Sam relax fractionally, too, leaning back against the seat.
They share a brief smile, though Sam’s enthusiasm is nowhere near Dean’s, and then Dean starts the engine, listening to her purr for a few seconds before he shifts her into gear.
Bobby’s there, sitting on the porch like he’s been waiting for them, hat on his head, a beer clutched in his hand.
Dean hugs him so hard he feels like something’s going to crack in his chest, and for just a second, he feels like thanking God after all.
They stay for a week, watching game shows and Latino soap operas and black and white movies. Bobby cooks for them, grumbling and telling them to get him this or that, and does he look like their goddamned chef? Dean and Sam both get him whatever he wants without a single word in return, smiling the whole time, which makes Bobby act even grumpier, even though they can hear the way he’s trying not to smile the whole time.
They spend evenings on the porch, enjoying the sunsets and the feel to the air that says summer is just around the corner, drinking beer and playing cards. In between, they search the internet for any signs of Castiel or things going bump in the night, but don’t come up with much.
At the end of the week, Bobby announces he’s had enough of taking care of them and is heading back to Singer Salvage to rebuild.
“Say hi to Sheriff Mills for me,” Sam tells him with a knowing grin.
They say goodbye in the cabin driveway, and wave as Bobby’s car kicks up gravel. Then they get in the Impala and set out into the world to see firsthand just how much of the supernatural God took with him.
Eight weeks later they turn a corner in Chicago, and Dean finally has to admit that God made good on his promise. They’ve only managed to find three leads, and all of them have ended in humans being psychotic assholes.
The monsters, the demons, ghosts, they’re all gone. Completely and totally gone.
It’s another week before Sam looks over at him and finally says, “They’re really gone, Dean.”
Dean can hear the unspoken, “What do we do now?” so loud that Sam might as well have said it.
Fuck if he knows. He wasn’t built for this. Yeah, he spent a year with Lisa and Ben half-ass pretending he wasn’t a hunter, but he still was. It’s what he is. His fingers are itching for his gun, for the holy water, for the salt, for everything in the armory of the Impala’s trunk.
He knows how to fight monsters, knows how to save the world. Moves and rules and knowledge burned into his brain, guided by pure instinct.
He doesn’t know how to just live.
He doesn’t know how to do this.
They drive for a few more days before Sam finally turns to him inside a motel room one day, and asks how long they’re going to do this.
“What are we supposed to do, Sam?” Dean snaps, irritated as he yanks the zipper closed on his bag. “Buy a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence? Get a dog, adopt a couple of kids? Where are we gonna get the money to do that? I’ve got construction worker skills at best, and you’re a law school drop-out. And oh, yeah, how many brothers our age live together?”
“Okay,” Sam says after a moment, “I’m still stuck on the part where we’re adopting kids.”
Dean scowls, throwing out a hand. “You know what I mean. That whole idea… that’s not our kind of life.”
“What is our kind of life, now, Dean?”
Drifting across the countryside in their car, living out of motels on food that comes in paper and plastic wrappers, all of it paid for by credit card fraud. That’s been their life so far. There’s no reason it has to end.
Except that there’s no reason to do it anymore. The strain between them is palpable, neither of them with anything to do, both of them on edge, waiting for something to happen.
Dean doesn’t have an answer for Sam, and he can feel his brother there, waiting, can almost see him, standing, arms folded across his chest as he stares at Dean’s back, willing Dean to tell him what else there is.
Dean’s hand closes in a fist around the handle of his backpack, teeth gritting together. Dad, monsters, demons, angels, heaven and hell all the way through leviathans, and he’d never had time to think about any of this. Never thought there’d be a day when he’d have to think about this.
He leaves Sam without an answer, getting up and walking to the bathroom. The click of the door shutting behind him sounds loud in his ears, and he pushes it away, stripping out of his shirt and moving to turn on the shower.
The water hits his shoulders in hot spikes that can’t drive out Sam’s voice.
What is our kind of life now, Dean?
After he’s done, dried off and mostly dressed again, he opens the bathroom door, steeling himself for Sam waiting for him, maybe lying on the bed watching TV, or hunched over his laptop at the table by the window.
Darkness greets him, along with blessed silence. Sam’s asleep; face down on his bed, one foot with a sock still clinging to it sticking out from underneath the covers, across the edge of the mattress into open air.
If they ever do get a house of their own, Sam’s going to need a bigger bed.
Dean pushes the thought from his mind, and falls between the sheets of his own bed.
He wakes in the morning to Sam reciting something in Latin and sits up in alarm, sheets tangling around his legs before he kicks free of the bed, on his feet, gun in hand.
Sam stops speaking and looks up from the table at Dean, eyebrows riding high on his forehead. His expression is primarily made up of, “What the hell is wrong with you?” with “Dude, why are you in your underwear?” taking a close second, and a pretty good helping of, “Have you finally lost it?” on the side.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Dean snaps, self-conscious and annoyed. “You were the one reciting Latin. Killing something while you’re doing that is practically Pavlovian.”
Sam spares Dean a slight smirk, shakes his head, and then he looks back down at the book spread open in front of him. “I’ve been trying to cast spells.”
“Why?” Dean asks, putting the gun down, because clearly Sam’s not being attacked by anything.
“To see if one of them might work.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Dean asks, shooting his brother a glance as he tugs on his jeans from the day before. He stops in mid-tug as it hits him, eyes going wide. “He took magic, too?”
Sam nods, rolling his upper lip under his teeth. “Which probably means he took the Native American earth spirits, the pagan Gods, the other Gods, everything.”
“Can he even do that?” Dean demands, jeans still hanging around his thighs, forgotten. “Just… take away other people's religious figures?”
“He made the planet,” Sam shrugs, glancing up. His eyes linger for a moment on Dean’s half dressed body, and then he quickly looks away.
Dean pulls his jeans up the rest of the way, not bothering to zip them before he sits down hard on the bed. He lets his head fall forward, running his hands through his hair, fingers gripping the shape of his skull lightly for a moment.
“Motherfucking asshole,” he mutters and exhales as he lets go, eyes meeting Sam’s.
“I guess we really are out of business,” Dean says, and immediately hates himself for presenting Sam with a perfect opportunity to revisit last night’s conversation.
Sam just nods, and Dean is more grateful than surprised that Sam doesn’t ask him again what they’re supposed to do, because Dean still has no fucking idea. Dean’s still wrestling with the idea that they’re living in a 100% normal world. It doesn’t seem possible.
Instead, Sam—who usually lives about three counties over from “flogging a dead horse” in the land of “flogging the stain of something that used to be alive once, maybe"—actually changes the fucking subject.
“Let’s go visit Bobby,” Sam says.
It’s not until much later, looking back, that Dean will realize Sam didn’t change the subject at all.
Singer Salvage doesn’t look all that much different on the way in, until they turn the corner of a twisted pile of metal and see the bare bones of wood sticking up from concrete poured into the ground. There’s a trailer set off to one side of the space cleared around the skeleton of a house, just past Bobby’s old beat up pick-up, and Dean pulls the Impala up nearby.
Sheriff Mills is there, sitting on a white and green lawn chair, flipping a pair of steaks on the Smokey Joe outside the trailer, smoke curling up out of the little black grill. When she looks up and sees them, she greets them both with a bright smile.
“Sheriff Mills,” Dean says with a nod, smiling back.
“Jody,” she corrects, wiping her hands on her jeans as she stands up.
The door to the trailer opens and Bobby steps out, two beers caught between his fingers. A smile creases his face as he sees them, and then he lifts the hand with the beers and says, “Guess I oughta get a couple more.”
Bobby manages to find a couple of steaks for them, too, and when they protest, Jody insists it’s no trouble at all, and Bobby leans in, kissing her on the cheek. The look she gives him in return makes Dean smile, and when he looks at Sam, he sees Sam wearing the same happy expression.
Dean still isn’t exactly sure what they’re doing here, but it feels good, feels familiar and comfortable settled in between the piles of junk tipping toward the sky, smoke rolling up out of the Smokey Joe, smell of grilling meat filling the air, beer in his hand and all that’s left of his family around him.
After they’re done eating, Jody wants to hear everything about what happened with God. While Dean’s telling her exactly what an asshat God is, he notices Sam and Bobby leaning up against one corner of the trailer, Sam’s hand wrapped around a bottle of beer as he talks to Bobby, Bobby listening intently. He wonders for a second what they’re talking about, and then Jody hits him with another question.
By the time he’s finished telling the story, the sun is sinking low in the sky, the sky turning purple above them.
They decide to stay at a motel nearby since Bobby’s trailer is the size of a molecule.
When Dean wakes in the morning, eyes fluttering open to the golden rays of sunlight filling the room, he can hear fingertips tapping against a keyboard.
Sam’s hunched over his laptop, sunlight filtering through the gauzy curtains, casting him mostly in shadow, as intent on the screen as he’d ever been in the middle of a case.
“You found something?” Dean asks, sitting up.
“I did,” Sam nods.
“A case?” Dean shoves up from the bed, almost excited.
“No. I found some houses. Not too far from where we are now. Nice places, small town.”
Dean freezes halfway to his bag and a fresh change of clothes. “Tell me they’re haunted.”
Dean doesn’t need to be able to see his brother’s face clearly to know what expression Sam’s wearing. “Sam.”
“Dean…” Sam sighs at his tone, like Dean’s the one that’s being unreasonable. “Bobby knows a real estate agent that’ll help us out, get us a good deal.”
Fine. “And how are we gonna do that, Sam, huh? We don’t have any history on paper except our birth certificates, our criminal records and oh, right, our death certificates,” he adds emphatically.
“What do you think I’ve been working on for the last couple weeks?” Sam asks. “Birth certificates for Dean Smith and Sam Wesson. Social security numbers, work, credit, bank and residence histories, a few driving and parking violations on each of our records. We’ve even got Bobby to cover the calls for all our references. We’ve got it all, Dean. We’re set.”
“You… can do all that?” Dean asks in disbelief.
Sam shoots him a look that conveys how disappointed he is in Dean’s lack of faith in him. It also reeks of “duh”. “Not only that, but I managed to secure enough money to get us through the first six months while we look for jobs.”
Dean stands there for a minute, speechless, and then he shakes his head with finality. “No.”
“What else are we gonna do?” Sam asks, exasperated. “Live in motels forever? Stay with Bobby and Jody in Bobby’s new place?”
“We’ll figure something out.”
Sam leans forward in his chair, hazel eyes tightening on Dean. “Why are you fighting this so hard, Dean?”
Dean doesn’t really have an answer for that.
“Come on,” Sam says, turning his puppy dog eyes on Dean. “At least come look at the houses. What can it hurt?”
“No, Sam. We are not doing this. Absolutely not.”
“Fine,” Sam sighs, scowling. “Just look at one, then. You can live through one.”
When Dean opens his mouth to reply, Sam cuts him off.
“For me, Dean.”
Dean snaps his mouth shut and sighs. He guesses it really can’t hurt. “Just one.”
It’s a small town, like Sam said, about twenty-five minutes outside Sioux Falls, fields and fields of wheat surrounding it.
Dean grudgingly has to admit to himself that it’s a nice looking neighborhood. The houses are on the small side, but they’ve got a good amount of space and mesh fences between them. The lawns are well-trimmed and green, some of them boasting flower beds around the edges of the houses.
They drive down Meadowlark Lane, Sam counting down numbers until they come to 1314 and Dean slides the Impala up against the curb. The house has yellow siding with white shutters and trim, a wooden front porch with a swing bench, plain metal rods of a wind chime dangling high above the porch railing. A real wind chime, he notes, looking at the thick rods, the kind that don’t just tinkle like a bad movie sound effect. They clink together with real, faint music as Dean and Sam get out of the car.
“Well, aren’t you two handsome?” chirps the real estate agent, meeting them as they get out of the car. She’s somewhere around forty, dark hair pulled back from her face, curls trailing down to her shoulders, a silver barrette pinned on one side. She’s pretty, despite the garish red lipstick she’s wearing, her dark brown eyes almost the color of her hair, crow’s feet just barely creasing the edges of her eyes as she smiles at them both.
“I’m Daisy Wilson,” she says, introducing herself as she holds out a hand to Sam. Sam reaches out and takes her hand, smiling back, introducing himself and Dean.
“Well, come on then,” she says breezily, turning to lead the way. “Let’s have a look shall we?”
“You’re just gonna love this place,” she adds, looking over her shoulder at them as she smiles even wider.
“There a reason there are bars on the windows and door?” Dean asks. He’d seen them when he’d seen the rest of the house, had been waiting for Sam to ask, but since Sam didn’t…
“It’s got what you’d call character,” Daisy replies, Dean’s question glancing right off her cheerfulness as she turns the key in the lock on the iron door over the screen. “The former owner was a war veteran. He liked to keep things locked down. We intend to have them removed, of course, but this place isn’t even listed, yet. It’s only been a few days since he passed.”
“Did he die in the house?” Dean asks, and Daisy pauses with the key in her hand halfway to the doorknob.
“It was a natural death. Old age. And anyway, you’re not worried about ghosts, are you?” she adds with a grin.
No. He really isn’t. Not anymore.
Daisy shows them the house, and on the surface it’s like any other house. They enter a small foyer off the living room, and there’s a closet to one side, a half bathroom on the other before it opens up, living room straight ahead to the left, kitchen off to the right, both rooms connecting to the dining room by open, arched doorways that connect all three in a circle. At the far end of the living room, just to the side of the doorway to the dining room, there’s a set of stairs leading up to a narrow hallway with doors on the left, a bedroom first, a bathroom in the middle, and another bedroom at the end of the hall. Down in the kitchen, there’s a door leading to the back porch and the fairly big backyard. Sam asks her questions, and it’s all about as normal as it gets.
But then, just off the kitchen, there’s a door inside the short passage leading to the dining room that opens to the basement. It’s got reinforced iron plating on the inside of the door, every wall in the basement covered in it, and then shelves and shelves of canned goods, bottled water, books and video tapes and a couple of medical kits. There’s an old couch that smells faintly of disuse set in front of an ancient TV set up on cinderblocks, VCR attached to it, a single, made-up bed set against the far wall.
“We haven’t had a chance to renovate down here, yet,” Daisy says, hopeful and apologetic. “But look at the potential of the room, imagine it wide open, without the shelves and--”
She breaks off, watching as Dean kneels down next to a particular piece of iron plating, running his fingers over the rivets.
“What was the owner’s name?” Dean asks.
Daisy hesitates, seeming thrown. “Dale. Dale Johnston.”
He exchanges a glance with Sam, and they both know this was the house of a hunter, or at the very least, someone who was aware of their world.
“He lived here alone?”
“Yes,” Daisy answers.
Dean likes Dale, likes him a hell of a lot for building this room, which Dean is sure has sigils and warding symbols carved into every surface just behind the iron plating. Iron bars on all the windows and doors. Dean would bet there are secret symbols buried everywhere in this house, salt sunk into its bones.
It’s not like they need the protection. There’s no reason they’d ever need this panic room. But somehow, it makes him feel comfortable, welcomed.
Dean has no idea how to feel about any of this, but if they’re going to have to live somewhere…
“So,” Daisy says in a too-bright, almost singsong tone. “What do you think?”
He glances up at Sam, and Sam takes in his look, nods once.
And that’s how they end up living in a house in Ernest, South Dakota.