THE ROAD SO FAR:
Amanda Winchester is dead and John is possessed by the yellow-eyed demon. Their son Dean has abandoned his old life as a college student and musician and taken to the road with the mysterious hunter, Sam Campbell. Sam is teaching Dean about the supernatural and, together, they have embarked on a quest to find and rescue John, and avenge the deaths of their mothers. But Sam is harbouring secrets: about his dark past, about his strange prophetic dreams, and about his struggle against his powerful attraction to Dean.
Slough , Colorado
It had been raining earlier, but now the night was clear. The air was still and a heavy mist clung to the ground in the dark corners of the cemetery, while the grave itself was bathed in cold moonlight. It illuminated the dead leaves that lay sodden in the grass, and the newly dug earth was moist and glistening. It made it easy to work, shape, mold, and soon the rough clods began to take on form: first an oval the size of a human head, then an oblong barrel representing the torso; arms grew out from the trunk, legs, feet. Eventually a fully fashioned human figure lay stretched out over the grave, like the first lump of primordial clay, waiting to receive the spark of life.
The work done, the creator retreated into the shadows and was gone. Time passed. Clouds gathered once more and hid the face of the moon as the earthen chest began to rise and fall, and the creature took its first breath in darkness.
It felt wrong. It felt disrespectful, or insensitive or something. It shouldn't be sunny. The birds shouldn't be singing. And he shouldn't be able to smell someone cooking roast turkey somewhere. The world should have the common decency to acknowledge that his mother was dead and not just carry on with its usual business as if nothing unusual had happened. He wanted it to be raining when he reached the grave. He wanted it to be cold and grey and miserable, but it wasn't. Everything was bright, all the colors were too vivid, and it all felt so wrong.
He brought orchids, because Mom didn't like lilies; she said they made her think of funerals . . . and this wasn't a funeral. It should have been, but it wasn't. It was just him and a lame bunch of flowers.
The gravestone was inscribed "BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER". Who had done that? It was a charitable gesture considering neither husband nor son had been present.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there, Mom. I'm sorry . . ." for so many things. There was no end to the sorry.
He knelt down and ran his hand over the granite stone. That, at least, was as it should be: cold, hard and gritty.
Then a shadow fell across the grave and Dean felt its chill touch as if it were something tangible. "You should have stayed gone," said a voice behind him.
Dean turned and gasped. "Dad!" he cried. But then he felt doubt; the face was wrong, the smile was mocking, and there was a strange yellow light in the cold eyes. Then Dean realized it was the reflected light from dancing yellow flames. Dean realized he was on fire.
Dean flailed wildly and a hand caught his wrist. He tried to pull away from it but the grip was too strong.
"Whoa! Dean! Steady! Whoa!" Sam's voice.
The over bright colours faded back to normal hues, Dean became aware of a dark frame around him, another presence sitting next to him, he was aware of his own frantically beating heart and unsteady breathing, he registered movement, then his vision began to focus on the road ahead, the central lines weaving a little unsteadily from side to side as Sam tried to steer with one hand and hold Dean's thrashing arm with the other. He willed himself to stillness and after a moment Sam let go.
They were in the Impala.
Sam threw him a concerned look. "Another nightmare?" he asked.
Dean cleared his throat hard but didn't answer.
"You wanna drive for a while?"
Dean scoffed. "Oh, you're gonna let me drive my own car? That's generous."
That just worried Sam even more, but it was a different kind of concern now. He studied Dean with a deep crease etched between his eyebrows.
Dean sighed. "I'm sorry, Sam. I'm tired." Sam was a control freak. It wasn't his fault. It was a natural consequence of his hunter training and his guerilla camp upbringing. He automatically took charge of everything if you let him, and Dean kept letting him because it was the line of least resistance. That was Dean's problem, not Sam's. He had no business getting cranky with Sam just because he was either too tired or too lazy or too fricking weak or something to take the wheel himself. It wasn't even his car; it was Dad's. Maybe that was part of the problem. Why did he keep talking as if Dad was . . . ?
"You should let me give you something to help you sleep."
Man, he did worry, though - like Dean was his personal responsibility - and he was getting worse, not better. He was getting as bad as Penny. The thought of his ex-girlfriend filled Dean's chest with an aching pang. Maybe that was another part of the problem. He missed Penny. He missed having someone to hold and cuddle up with. He missed having a warm body next to him in the bed at night. He was afraid to sleep, and afraid to wake up cold and alone. "I don't want any more of your witch-doctor potions, Sam."
"It isn't a potion; it's just a herbal sleep aid," Sam persisted. "I'm not suggesting you make a habit of it, but once in a while just so you can get a solid night's rest – "
"I've got my own methods, Sam."
"Yes, 'cause consuming large quantities of alcohol is so much more healthy!"
Sam's sarcasm was the last straw. "Damn it, Sam! Who died and made you my mother?"
Silence fell like a concrete block. Dean couldn't believe what he'd just said, and Sam was trying to pretend he hadn't heard it. "Stop the car," Dean snarled.
"Dean, try to calm – "
"I said stop the car!"
Sam pulled over and Dean got out. He stood leaning with his hands against the hood, at a loss for what to do with himself, then he realized that what he really needed was to shoot something. He went to the glove compartment and pulled out the Colt semi.
"Dean, what are you doing?" Sam demanded.
"I need the practice," Dean explained, reasonably he thought, but Sam was out of the car and round the front in moments.
"No, Dean, put the gun back. You don't pick up a weapon when you're upset and angry."
Now he sounded like Dad. Dean ignored him. He was about to turn and head into the woods when he found himself flat against the Impala with his wrist pinned to the roof. It wasn't the first time Sam had pulled this move on him and he wasn't any happier about it now than he had been then. He was angry and humiliated that Sam could just throw him around like a freakin' rag doll whenever he wanted to. Trouble was, that wasn't all he felt. There was a part of him that found it oddly comforting to feel the weight and the warmth of Sam's body against his, to feel Sam's powerful arms around him and hear his soothing voice speaking low in his ear, telling him to let go of the gun. A part of him could have stayed like that forever, except Sam was bound to notice any moment that Dean wasn't struggling and then it would just get freakin' weird.
He loosened his grip on the gun and let Sam take it out of his hand. With his object achieved Sam immediately stepped back leaving Dean feeling cold where he had previously felt Sam's warmth. He stood up and started striding down the road. He didn't know where he was going; he just knew he wanted to get away from Sam and away from his own shame and confusion.
Sam had other ideas. He followed Dean and tried to hold him back. "Combat training," he suggested.
Dean shook him off. "You've gotta be fricking kidding me!" he snapped.
"You need the practice," Sam mimicked. Was he trying to provoke Dean?
"If I fight you now I will break your nose!" Dean growled.
"You can try."
Dean spun round, aiming for Sam's gut, not his face, but he badly wanted to lay one on the smug bastard. He punched empty air. Sam easily dodged the blow and as Dean's momentum continued to take him forward Sam kicked him in the ass, he lost his balance and sprawled out on the grass. He was back on his feet in moments but his next two punches were equally ineffective.
"You're letting your anger dominate you, Dean. Channel it. Focus on what you're trying to achieve."
His next punch flew wide, too, but then he took a breath, let it out slowly and started to pick his targets more carefully, started to strategize, and Sam started having to block.
"Good, better. Watch your right flank. You're leaving it open."
Punch. Block. Counter.
"Drop your weight. Widen your stance. It'll give you more stability."
Block. Counter. And then he landed one, straight to the abs. It was like hitting a solid wall, but it was satisfying all the same.
"Good! Much better! Coordinate. Punch with the right, pull back with the left. It'll give your punches more power. Watch your right flank."
"Good. Follow up."
Another near miss. Then Sam rabbit punched him in the side.
Dean winced and doubled over. "Son of a bitch!" he gasped.
"Warned you about that right flank, Dean."
Dean glared at Sam as he tried to recover his breath. He was so fucking like Dad sometimes.
So Dean focused. He dropped his weight, widened his stance, covered his flank, coordinated, and socked Sam in the jaw.
"Oh, shit, Sam! I didn't mean to – Are you OK – ?"
Then Dean was on the ground again. Sam had him pinned down and he was grinning, all dimples, damn him.
"Good punch," he said. "But you didn't follow up."
"Get off me," Dean growled. Or not. Whatever.
"Are you done, Dean?"
Dean stared up into the bright hazel eyes. Swear to God. Sometimes it was like the dude knew him. "Yeah."
Sam stood up, held out his hand to Dean, helped him to his feet and waited while he recovered his breath.
"Are you gonna be OK?" he asked.
Dean shook his head. "Sam, I've gotta find Dad. I've gotta find Mom's killer. It's the only thing I can think about."
"Dean, we'll find him, I promise, and we'll find a way to fight the demon. But, listen to me. You've got to prepare yourself. This search could take a while, and all that anger, you can't keep it burning over the long haul. It's gonna kill you."
Dean expelled a breath that masqueraded as a mirthless chuckle. From what he'd seen of his hunting journal it didn't seem like Sam was the poster boy for anger management. Besides, in Dean's case, anger wasn't the problem, it was the symptom.
"But in the meantime, Sam, I don't know what's happening to Dad."
Sam nodded sympathetically. It was all he could do. "I know, Dean."
Did he, though? From Sam's description of his upbringing Dean didn't have the impression he'd ever been really close to anyone. Had he ever cared about anyone enough to know what it felt like to worry about them every second of the day?
"Sam," he breathed, "I need something to . . . you gotta find us a case."
As Sam gazed at Dean his forehead was etched with a frown of helpless concern. "I know," he said. "I'm looking."
Samantha Ford stood on the corner of a suburban street in Slough awaiting the arrival of the school bus.
"Did you remember to pack your lunch?" she asked her son.
"What about your worm farm for your science project?"
"Yes, Mom. Don't fuss."
His hair was rucked up and she reached out a hand to straighten it but he squirmed away from her attentions.
"Did you put in the extra cookies, Mom?" he asked her.
"You know I make those for you, Colby?" she pointed out, "Not all your friends."
"Yeah, but Michael really likes your cookies, Mom. And he's sad at the moment."
She sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know," she acknowledged quietly, her stomach tightening with the same uncomfortable pang she had felt ever since she heard the news.
The bus arrived and she reached out to kiss her son goodbye but he wriggled out of her grasp again. "Mom!" he complained, irritably. Sadly he had reached the age when hugs and kisses from his mother were no longer cool. He jumped aboard the bus and as she watched it drive away she waved after it smiling wistfully. That probably wasn't cool either.
Once the bus had disappeared from view she turned and walked back home. She didn't notice movement among the trees opposite; the figure that followed her was barely discernible from the dark trunks it moved between.
She was putting away the breakfast dishes when she heard the crash. Hurrying into the next room she halted, shocked, when she saw the damage to the patio doors – frame splintered, broken and smeared with dirt, glass shards and earth all over the floor – then she shrieked in surprise and horror when she saw the thing lumbering toward her, caked from head to foot in mud.
But the real terror came when she began to discern features through the outer crust, began to recognize them. Her eyes widened as the monster closed on her and her mouth moved to form soundless words; her limbs had the leaden immobility of a nightmare. Powerful fingers clamped around her throat and, as she stared into the eyes of the woman she knew to be dead, her life ceased to make any sense.
And then it ceased.