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Welcome to Cornucopia!

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                 Sam and Dean Winchester are done. Retired. End of the line.

                 After 15 years of hunting together, saving the world, and dying time after time, the Family Business is officially closed. About a month ago, they did Billie a huge favor, saving life as we know it (again) in the process, and in gratitude, Billie had offered them a retirement plan. They could hand off the Bunker to younger Hunters, and move away. Billie had given them the opportunity to live in this mythical town on the coast of South Carolina, where gods, monsters, supernatural creatures of all descriptions, and humans, live together in peace. Apparently, it’s an epic secret, guarded by some industrial strength magic, and most folks go so far as to fake their own death before moving there. Either that, or they actually die doing something exceedingly selfless or important, and Death (now Billie) offers them the chance to return to Earth as a resident of Cornucopia, SC.

                The boys were skeptical, of course. Decades of The Life, being tricked and manipulated and trapped a thousand times, will do that to you. But Sam never really wanted to spend his life hunting, and Dean never really expected to survive this long, so eventually, they agreed to cut their losses and give the whole retirement thing a try. Once they accepted, Billie revealed that there were familiar faces in Cornucopia: Ellen and Jo were allowed to set up shop there, after dying in that explosion 8 years ago, and Bobby moved there to be with them a few years later, after that whole dying and being a ghost thing. Crowley was rewarded for his sacrifice in the alternate universe a couple of years back, and now he runs the Cornucopia DMV. Billie hinted that they might recognize one or two more residents, but she wouldn’t elaborate, except to reassure the Winchesters that Cornucopia is more or less idyllic, so no one will have any hard feelings towards a couple of retired hunters (even THESE hunters). This is where ‘people’ go to get away from a life of drama and violence, for good, so the whole community works towards peace and harmony, and against grudges and enmity.

                So, eventually, the Winchesters handed over the Bunker keys to Donna, who traded in her Sherriff’s badge to hunt full time. She brought along with three 20-something hunters who, like Sam and Dean, would have been Men of Letters legacies. Once the four newbies were settled in, the boys packed up the Impala, and drove to South Carolina.

                When they arrived, the town looked so innocuous that Dean was immediately suspicious. They didn’t have to pass through any security, they didn’t see or feel any magical bubble, or notice any threshold to be crossed. There was just a regular DOT sign, saying “Welcome to Cornucopia [population: 2471]”, with an illustration of a horn of plenty on a shield. Dean was so wary, in fact, that he swung the car around and drove away again, just to make sure he could. (“What are you doing, Dean?” / “Just making sure this isn’t some Twilight Zone, Hotel California crap, where you can’t ever leave again.”) But no, they drove back the way they came for about 3 miles with no issues, before Dean let out the breath he was holding and turned back towards Cornucopia.

                They arrived in town around dinnertime, and drove up and down the main streets, looking for Ellen’s bar. They found “The End of The Roadhouse” about two blocks from the center of downtown, on a big corner lot. This place looked a lot nicer than the original Roadhouse, to be honest: two stories, with a nice brick façade, and a big, wraparound porch, covered in tables. They parked and headed inside, where it looked more or less like a cleaner, better lit, better maintained version of Ellen’s old bar. There were plenty of customers, but no one appeared to be bristling for a fight, or drunk to the point of being rowdy. Hell, there were even a few families sitting at tables, eating their dinner. As Dean and Sam scanned the place, however, those families gave them their first taste of just how different Cornucopia really was.

                At a booth halfway down a row, sat a mom, dad, preteen daughter, and a baby in a highchair. They were just a family enjoying their dinner. A family of Bigfoots, that is. Dean jerked, grabbing Sam’s arm, and reaching into his jacket, reflexively. Same followed his gaze and his eyes widened, but he pulled himself together pretty quickly, and elbowed Dean in the ribs. “Quit it, asshole. Remember what Ellen said,” Sam hissed at him.

                See, once they knew that Cornucopia existed, and who lived there, Sam had written to Ellen and Bobby, via the local Post Office. Ellen had called him right away, relieved that they could finally ‘let the cat out of the bag’. She’d told them all about the town, and what they could expect when they arrived. What Ellen had said, boiled down to, “They’re all good people here. Not necessarily human people, but good people either way.”

                Dean tried to relax, and continued scanning the place for Ellen, or Jo, or Bobby. In the course of his search, he spotted a goblin, drinking alone at the bar, and a pair of honest-to-god dwarves, eating clam chowder at a small table near the stairs. Everyone else looked human, but Dean knew better than to assume.

                Sam finally saw Ellen walk out of a back room, and the Winchesters headed towards her. Before they got halfway across the restaurant, however, a Hellhound came trotting in the front door, heading straight for the kitchen. Sam and Dean froze, trying to spot who the hound was after, but no one looked panicked. Just as Sam was wondering why they could see the hound with their bare eyes, Ellen looked up from the bottle in her hand, and pointed a finger at the giant, smoking beast. “Bella!” she said loudly, “Oh no you don’t. Out on the porch; you know better!” The beast froze. Ellen’s finger swept towards the front door, and the Hellhound’s ears sagged. ‘Bella’ hesitated, looking about as mopey as a 4’ tall, smoking, red-eyed demon dog can look, long enough for Ellen’s eyebrows to raise, indignantly. “Go on, get!” Ellen repeated, and the hound turned around, shuffling dejectedly back towards the entrance, just as a big, burly man with suspenders opened the door. His eyes darted around the bar before he spotted the hellhound. He gave it an exasperated look, then glanced up at Ellen, throwing his hands up. “I’m sorry, Ellen. She was right next to my chair one minute, and the next . . . poof!” he apologized, in a thick, Cajun drawl. Waving at the hellhound, he continued, “Come on, brat. You know you’re not allowed inside anymore.” Ellen crossed her arms, but the fond smirk on her face said there were no hard feelings.

                As she watched the man and the . . . dog? wander back out to the porch, her eyes lit on the Winchesters, and her smirk blossomed into a full-on smile. “Boys!” she called out. “About damned time. Come here and gimme a hug.” Sam and Dean did as they were told, and soon enough, they were seated at a booth with Ellen and Bobby, eating lasagna and drinking a beer. “So, you weren’t kidding about the population here, huh?” Dean commented, one eyebrow raised. Bobby snorted in response. “Ahh, this ain’t the half of it. You get used to it. Besides, they’re all good eggs, who cares what they look like?” Sam nodded at his plate. “They must be, if you guys aren’t worried about a hellhound wandering into the bar. What’s up with that, anyway?”

                Ellen’s eyes rolled in exasperation. “Ugh. That damn dog – no pun intended. She’s the firehouse mascot, Bella. And she was just fine until last Fall, when Joanna Beth got it into her head to start slippin’ her hamburgers! Next thing you know, Bella’s begging customers at their tables. I had enough when she decided to cut out the middleman, and snuck into the kitchen a couple of months ago! She’s been banished to the porch ever since. Benny usually keep a good eye on her out there, but she sneaks off every now and then.” Bobby huffed a laugh, licking his fork. “Aww, she’s sweet as can be, that dog, but she’s probably go back to Hell for a hamburger. You know hellhounds never give up. She’s gonna get back in that kitchen eventually.” Ellen just grumbled, but Sam was sure he caught the words, “twenty broken dishes” and “new line cook” in there. “Hey, um, why can we see her?” Dean asked. Bobby waved a hand. “Oh, the invisibility thing isn’t their natural state, it’s just some spell demons put on ‘em when they go out to collect on a deal.”

                The four talked about the town, and about what the boys wanted to do here. Dean planned on working for Bobby at the garage, at least for the foreseeable future. Sam wanted to work with animals, to start with. Ellen lit up at that idea. “Oh, that’s perfect! Mike and Kelly are here, having dinner. He works for the Department of Parks & Rec, but he used to work part time at the kennel and groomers, too. He just quit when his youngest was born, a few months ago; he’ll know if they’re still looking for someone. Come on, I’ll introduce you.“ Ellen dragged Sam off, leaving Dean and Bobby to talk about housing. Bobby handed Dean a manila envelope. “That’s a copy of the recommendation letters we wrote for you boys. They’re already on file at the Town Clerk’s office, but just in case, thought you should have a copy.” One of the requirements for establishing residency in Cornucopia, was that someone who already lived there had to vouch for you. Billie’s recommendation could cover that prerequisite in a pinch, but the Town Hall preferred to have at least one letter from a resident on file, whenever possible. Ellen and Bobby had offered to write letters for Sam and Dean.

                “You boys can stay with us tonight, and tomorrow you head over to the Town Hall and talk to Kelly. She’s the Town Clerk; she’ll get you set up in a house – first month’s rent is free.” At Dean’s shocked look, Bobby just smiled. “It’s kind of a town policy for new residents. Anyone with an empty apartment or house, coordinates with the Town Hall, and whenever we get new folks in, Kelly makes sure they have somewhere to live. Everybody tries to take care of each other.”

                A few minutes later, Ellen and Sam returned to the table. “I was just telling Dean that you boys need to go down to Town Hall tomorrow, see about a place to live.” Bobby rumbled. Ellen nudged Sam, “He means Kelly, Mike’s wife. She’s the Town Clerk.” Sam nodded and turned to Dean with a big smile on his face. “Mike and Kelly are the Sasquatch family we passed on the way in here. They have the cutest little baby; he’s so fluffy!” Dean blinked at his brother. “You’re taking all this very well, Sam.” Sam grimaced. “They were really nice people, Dean. I’m not gonna be a dick for no reason.” Dean shook his head, briefly. “No, no you’re right. It’s just . . . gonna take some getting used to, I guess.”

                When Ellen went back behind the bar, Bobby took Dean and Sam back to the house he shared with Ellen and Jo, right across the street. Seeing Jo again was emotional, though Dean tried to hide how choked up he got about it. They sat up until well past midnight, drinking beer and trading stories. By then, the long drive had caught up to the boys, and they crawled into the beds in Ellen’s guest room, both asleep in minutes.