Point Pleasant, West Virginia
His name was Mike MacDavis.
His friends called him McD. The nickname had developed from a combination of his name and his daily trips to McDonalds. It was an easygoing name for an easygoing guy. He always had a smile for the cashier and there was never a complaint to be heard when he came in for his Big Mac and milkshake.
He had everything he'd ever wanted in life. A stable job that paid the bills, a loving wife that supported him through everything - even that brief phase ten years back when he'd attempted to become a painter. The artistic venture hadn't gone anywhere, but they had some lovely watercolor landscapes that brightened up their home now, adding a splash of color in a modern setup.
They had three wonderful children together, the oldest ten and the youngest toddling along at just two years of age. He trailed after his mother with a thumb in his mouth no matter how much it was discouraged by his parents and siblings.
They had a home together, deep in the countryside. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the suburbs, the only disturbance in the peaceful landscape was the cries of the blue jays and grackles hopping around the yard and trying to find seed. A playset out in their backyard was full of toys, even a tonka truck that the two year old, Max, used to push sand out of his way gleefully, kicking up a whole mess whenever he was out there. Not far away, in the shadowed treeline, a tire swing hung from the thick, tall oak. When kids came out to play, it was one of the most popular places to be.
Flashes from the last day sped through his mind. The path of the SUV wavered on the road as his thoughts tried to turn inwards to remind him of who he was.
Laughing while he gave his six-year-old daughter a piggyback ride.
Breakfast, always an adventure with the children. Max had decided his eggs and tater tots made good projectiles and refused to eat, but had been more than happy to try and fill up his father's coffee cup with floating debris. He spent the entire time happily squealing "Dada!" whenever he was caught.
Packing everyone into the family SUV. Heading out to the circus.
For some reason, he could have sworn he heard wings beating as he closed the driver’s side door.
Not much made it into his memory after that.
Little sparks lit up from time to time.
A ring of fire.
Carrie giggling next to him when he bought her a bag of cotton candy half her size. Her sticky face shining in the multicolored light.
They all packed back into the family SUV. No one seemed to notice the way his eyes had glazed over. They missed the red spark that appeared when he stared out at the road.
McD took a deep breath, his hands tightening on the wheel. The flutter of wings grew stronger in the back of his mind.
Or was it coming from outside the car?
It didn’t matter.
The red glint grew in strength, beginning to overtake the dark brown color of his eyes. His thoughts were washed away in the red tide, pushed out of his own head with each beat of the wings. There was nothing left. No thought, no memory, no family…
Marissa, for days afterwards, would swear that her husband’s eyes actually glowed red as he gave the wheel a yank.
Sending the SUV with all three of their children strapped inside careening into the other lane.
Directly into the path of an oncoming tractor trailer.
Dean considered his cards carefully, sizing up his opponents out of the corner of his eye.
The game was down to three, the others having backed out long ago when the stakes rose too high. Dean's winnings sat to the side, already a good haul for the night's work.
But he could do better.
"Raise," Dean said confidently, pushing his chips to the center.
The man across from him fidgeted at that, staring out at the five cards aligned on the table. Out there sat two aces... he knew that if Dean had the other two, it was all over for him. Even if Dean only had one ace, the guy risked going up against a full house.
Dean stared solidly back, his years of hunting serving him well and hiding his own tells. Out of everyone watching the game, the only person that could call his bluff was currently concealed in his chest pocket.
Sam, barely four inches tall, was adept at reading facial expressions. His small size meant that every little twitch and uncertain flicker that passed over Dean's face, or any other human's face, was easy for the small hunter to read.
Normally, Sam never came out to a bar like this. A rowdy bar scene wasn’t a safe place for him to relax and hang out with Dean. Plus, there was no way for him to enjoy a drink with his older brother, since he couldn’t risk coming out of the pocket. But this trip wasn't just for relaxing and building up their stack of emergency cash.
This was for training.
If Sam's curse wasn't temporary, they needed to harness it and use it to their advantage. They'd already begun by training Sam's fighting skills and having him practice daily by trying to escape from Dean. Being able to escape from a hunter would help develop skills to escape from other humans without the same reflexes. One day, Dean knew that Sam would be able to evade him effortlessly.
He just needed the opportunity to hone those skills.
Other facets of training focused on what Sam could do if he was caught. Dean had already taught him how to pick a lock (Sam always kept at least one paper clip tucked away in that satchel of his), and then he'd taught Sam how to track where a car was going, even if he couldn't see out the window. Now, if Sam escaped his captors, he'd be able to lead Dean there over the phone without ever having to see an address, so long as he was awake for the trip.
Tonight they were working on communication.
Sam's plan of using Morse Code to talk back and forth while he was in a pocket around other people was inspired. Not only was it inventive and off-the-wall like most of their methods, if used correctly, it was perfectly crafted to their situation. Sam could pound out a message no matter where he was hidden so long as he was on Dean, and if Dean needed to answer all he had to do was absently drum his fingers against his pocket. People would assume it was simply a nervous habit while Sam interpreted every word.
Putting it into practice wasn't as easy as they assumed.
First off, they had to start by actually learning Morse. While Sam had plenty of downtime in the car to study, Dean had to spend that time driving (though Sam did take advantage sometimes and quiz him on the longer stretches). Dean had the basics down pat, but if Sam moved too fast, he could lose a lot of the translation.
Secondly, though Morse Code was fantastic for communication, it was long-winded and slow. Each letter had a combination of sounds to go with it so even just spelling out Dean took a good amount of effort. Now that they were both becoming comfortable with the code, they had started to develop their own shorthand for it. Luckily, if either brother had to come up with something on the fly, they were usually in tune enough with each other to figure it out, and they'd get better at that with time and practice.
Currently, Sam hid in Dean's pocket to try and get a read on the other players and communicate everything he could garner. He might be the only one that could get a read on Dean, but he was also able to decipher the expressions of just about everyone else they'd run into so far. At least if Sam figured out Dean was bluffing, Dean could use the excuse that he was sitting right next to his heart; of course the guy could hear when his heart sped up from nerves.
With Dean's opponent considering his options, the pocket flap shifted slightly as the smaller Winchester peered out at the looming surroundings of the bar. The motion was so small that if Dean couldn't feel the movement in his pocket, he'd never even notice himself.
Throughout the night, he'd occasionally feel Sam stiffen up and freeze as instincts born of years of hiding from humans took over. If anyone even glanced towards the pocket, Sam could instantly tell. Dean kept a careful eye out anytime he felt Sam freeze, scanning the bar patrons clustered around to make sure his brother's secret was safe.
Dean's opponent gave a sigh. "Fold," he decided, backing out of the game to watch the end with the rest.
Down to two.
The last player in the game with Dean was a curvy woman with warm chocolate brown eyes that remained trained on him. Her lips quirked up in a smile, making his heart race for a whole different reason than the game. Luscious lips parted with the promise of more as she leaned forward. "I raise," she said in a deep throaty voice that was only for Dean despite the crowd their game had gathered.
If Dean hadn't been sweating before, he'd have started right there. She was the only person he couldn't get a read on, and from the way she was staring at him like a fish on the hook, she knew it.
But she didn't have his secret weapon.
He debated internally, resisting the temptation to glance at his cards. Calling her bet would take most of his winnings for the night. He'd be right back where he'd started, minus the cash he'd tossed on drinks.
As though Sam knew Dean was in trouble, there came movement from his pocket. A steady tapping. Dean covered up his focus on the soft movement by tossing the rest of his whiskey down, his mind struggling to decipher the message with the slight buzz he had going from the alcohol.
The tapping tapered off right as the word clicked.
Dean shoved his chips forward, giving her a smug smirk. "Call," he declared. Now it came down to the one whose bluff was best.
She flipped up her cards with a delicate motion, manicured nails manipulating them deftly.
The ten of spades and the two of hearts winked up at them, giving her a pair of tens. A weak, flimsy hand to bet so much on. Her entire game had centered on psyching Dean out.
He flipped up his own. A ten of hearts and the jack of spades was revealed.
"Two pair," he smirked, reaching forward to collect his winnings. His higher value cards nabbed him the win.
A flash of disappointment passed over her face before it was covered up. She sat back, sipping from a daiquiri like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Her eyes were dark as she watched Dean extricate himself from the game after that, sizing him up.
As Dean walked away, he mentally declared the night a rousing success. Not only did he now have a new stash of untraceable cash to draw on, the communication he and Sam had worked out was growing stronger. Soon, he knew he'd be able to interpret Sam's words on the fly.
After he exchanged his chips for cash and stashed the money away on his person, Dean stopped by the bar and paid his tab. Affairs settled, he headed for the door. Sam could use a drink of his own after that victory, and they wouldn't be able to do that here. The only place around that was safe to take Sam out inside the building would be the bathroom stalls, and that wasn't exactly the best place for a drink.
Someone brushed against Dean's side. "Leaving so soon?" came a throaty, seductive voice in his ear.
Dean twisted around. The woman from the poker game was standing just a breath away from his shoulder.
Her lips turned up as she leaned in closer once more. Her red blouse did nothing to conceal her cleavage, a silver pendant perched on the smooth skin above. It winked in the dingy lighting, serving to draw the unsuspecting eye down on it, as though she'd need any help attracting attention.
Her voice was breathy as she leaned in, a warm breeze grazing Dean’s cheek that tried to draw him along with her thinking. "Those were some pretty smooth moves back there. I bet a guy like you has a lot more moves than just card games."
Dean let a smile creep onto his face at the thought. "A few."
"Why don't we find a room for the night? You can show me what you’ve got..." Her breathy voice trailed off and she blinked slowly, showing off the smoky eyeshadow she wore.
A petite hand with elegantly painted fingernails brushed against his own hand, trailing up his arm. Inside Dean’s pocket, Sam stiffened and shoved an elbow in his chest, the faint jab reminding him that he wasn’t at the bar alone. The woman’s proximity meant she could possibly pick up on the smaller hunter’s presence, putting Sam at risk.
Dean took her small hand in his large one, insistently removing it from his arm. "Sorry, sweetheart," he said. Practiced charm echoed in his voice. "I've already got plans tonight."
Something in her eyes tightened at that, a strange anger flashing in them. Before Dean could think about what it meant, she was pulling away. "Your loss, hotshot," she snapped out.
She brushed by him as she stalked away. Even without Sam drumming a warning against his chest, Dean recognized the light feel of a pickpocket in his side pocket. Thankfully, nowhere near Sam. Dean's hand shot out, sealing firmly around her slim wrist before she could scurry off into the crowd.
Green eyes lacking any warmth narrowed at her. "Nice try." Dean tightened his grip until her hand was forced open out of sight from any other bar patrons. The second the fingers flexed open his other hand was there, prying his winnings out of her grip.
She didn't cry out once, only snatched her hand back from him once he let it go, rubbing a sore wrist while she glowered. "Next time you should take my offer."
With that, the would-be pickpocket wheeled around, blending into the crowd with the sharp click of high heels. No one even reacted to her attempted theft.
Now that the money was safely back in hand, Dean paid her no more thought. He absently fingered his winnings to make sure it was all there before stuffing it back into a pocket.
The parking lot was dim and cool, the world edging towards autumn. The case with Bowman was long past, taking with it the warm summer nights and hot summer days. A light flickered overhead as Dean walked out, flashing once before it snapped off. The rest of the parking lot was similar, many of the streetlights either flickering or out completely.
A few bruisers stood near a collection of motorcycles parked at the bar. With a sudden suspicion that they were the woman's backup and the reason she had offered him a warning before departing, Dean let his casual walk slip naturally into a hunter's stalk.
After over ten years hunting, it was as easy as breathing. His bearing became more confident and assured, his every pace measured and silent. His hands hung by his side, prepared to go for a weapon the moment a threat to him or Sam materialized out of the dark. A dangerous air surrounded him, one that the bruisers couldn't help but pick up on immediately. It marked Dean as a man that was not to be messed with lightly, and with good reason.
Over a dozen weapons were squirreled away on his body at any given moment. A gun in his pants, several knives scattered all over, including one in his boot and another up his sleeve, strapped to his arm. With a simple flick of his wrist he could have it in hand, ready to defend or attack, whichever was needed.
And as always, Sam was armed with his own knife. He knew the weak spots to aim for if their lives were in danger. Under the nail. The skin between a person's fingers. The arteries in the wrist or the neck. He would waste no time going for any opportunities he saw if they were attacked. It was near impossible for them to know he was even there, his main advantage.
With Sam hidden away on him, Dean had taken no chances on this night at the bar.
Sam was motionless against his chest. The small hunter was the only person in the world that could see past Dean's confident exterior to know he was nervous. The increased heart rate gave it away, like a giant billboard shouting out Dean's every thought as Sam leaned against his chest.
The bruisers watched him stalk by with keen eyes. One man cracked his knuckles menacingly, but no one made a move. Dean reached the Impala without incident, swinging into the driver's seat and starting her up.
Sam was left in the pocket as they pulled out of the parking lot. He'd caught on to the strained edge Dean's emotions had taken, and knew to stay out of sight. If the massive hunter was nervous, he was nervous.
Dean only began to relax as the bar dwindled behind them into the distant night. He'd smelled a setup the moment the woman had trailed after him. Likely, they'd been searching for an easy target to win the game, getting some fast cash out of a quick mugging in the parking lot. Clearly, they shied away from a dangerous target like Dean.
A half hour out from the bar, Dean spotted a dirt road covered in overgrown weeds. It was well hidden and vanished into the shadows. The Impala took the turn with a crunch of gravel under her tires, following through all the way to a field that stood under a starry sky. Dean parked her next to an old oak tree for the night before shutting her down. Heaving a sigh, he slumped back in his seat and the rest of the tension slipped away.
Slipping two fingers into his pocket, Dean propped it open enough for Sam to climb out. He left his fingers in the pocket, giving his small brother something to grip. Sam took the assistance, scrambling out of the pocket and hauling himself onto the back of Dean's hand. It was an easy, effortless motion, one that demonstrated the trust between the brothers after over a year back together. Even the light tickle feeling of the small boots shifting on Dean's hand did nothing, the hunter ruthlessly suppressing the desire to flinch. He knew that a simple twitch could knock Sam off balance, and though Dean thought he'd be able to catch his brother, it was best to not take the chance.
The easy trust between them had been built from the bottom up over the last year. Thirteen years of separation, divided by not only distance but also by scale had not been enough to push them apart. Even the brief setbacks caused by the Mangas family hadn’t done irreparable damage to Sam’s trust of his older and literally bigger brother.
Free of the warm and cramped confines of Dean's chest pocket, Sam stretched his arms out in the air with a lazy yawn. As always, Dean was unavoidably fascinated by the movement of those delicate arms and tiny fingers, normal, ordinary movements displayed perfectly in miniature.
Sam ignored the look on Dean's face, not caring about the fascination as he finished his stretch and lazily ran his fingers through messy hair. Even being held only a foot away from Dean didn’t change how comfortable he was.
Sam let his hands fall back down to his sides, done stretching. “Successful night?” he asked with a grin. He hadn’t seen the winnings at the end, being too concerned with staying out of sight at the time, but he’d watched the pile of chips on the table grow while he was assessing Dean’s opponents.
Dean gave him a smug smirk. “More than I’d hoped.” He pulled the cash out of his pocket, showing off their winnings. “And this time, half the money is yours, shorty. You’ve more than earned it.”
Sam crossed his arms thoughtfully. “It’s not like I actually need it for anything,” he pointed out. Both of them ignored the fact that after 13 years spent living a life that centered around scavenging, Sam barely knew what to do with money. He’d adjusted to simply being able to search out what he could. If he couldn’t find anything, that was it. He’d live without.
Dean nudged one of the small elbows, jarring them from being crossed. “But now you can’t tell me to just order for myself. Nowyou can eat whatever you want and not feel guilty about it. You’ve got your own cash stashed away.” He tucked the money out of sight.
Sam frowned. He almost looked like he wanted to argue, but ended up deciding against it. Technically, Dean was right. Sam’s calls throughout the night were spot on and got them through more than one game he’d normally fold out of. Sam could spot a bluff with the best of them.
The rest of the night they spent either outside the Impala, sitting under the oak tree and sharing a beer, or in the Impala. Dean curled up in the backseat as usual, and Sam got the entire front seat to himself. Sometimes he’d have Dean get out his bed and set it up by the back window, under the stars, but tonight he wanted to curl up in the warmth of a flannel shirt. There was no room for Dean to stretch out, so using a pocket on the hunter was off the table. He was too scrunched.
The clean flannel shirt Dean grabbed from his duffel was perfect for Sam. He settled in, enjoying the warmth even during the chill night. Soon the world would slip to winter and a night like this wouldn’t be possible, but for now the Impala provided a home and a place to rest for her boys.