|Redefining Perceptions of Insanity
Author: Aurilia PM
Pre-series AU: In Sam's sophomore year at Stanford, the Zombie Apocalypse brings his education to a screeching halt. Rated for language, gore, and violence. Not slash.Rated: Fiction M - English - Horror - Sam W. & Dean W. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 57,072 - Reviews: 65 - Favs: 58 - Follows: 78 - Updated: 04-08-10 - Published: 04-04-08 - id: 4175648
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Max Brooks; various publishers including, but not limited to, Three Rivers Press, Crown Publishing Group, and Random House, Inc. This story is also based on characters and situations created and owned by the writers, producers, et al of the television show 'Supernatural', including, but not limited to, the CW network and Eric Kripke. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, internet persona, or other being, living or dead, is completely coincidental and unintentional unless otherwise noted.
A/N: Kripke owns my soul. Just so you know.
Just a reminder: This tale is completely AU. It takes place while Sam's at Stanford, before he met Jessica.
This story is rated M for language, gore, and violence. Happy reading!
This is also my 'chapter of death', so I hope y'all enjoy!
Redefining Perceptions of Insanity
"Get the kit, Sammy," Dean ordered, scrambling to shove the remains of the zombie off of Miguel.
Sam turned on his heel to do just that, only to find his path blocked by Melody and one of the dogs. The dog sniffed him and let out an odd noise, a cross between a whimper and a growl. "Hush it, Beauty," Melody said, not moving her gaze from Sam's eyes. The girl slowly shook her head and reached for the nickel-plated Taurus nine-millimeter Sam still held in his hand.
"Where's that damn kit, Sam!" Dean was now putting pressure on the spurting wound in Miguel's neck.
"It's too late for that," Melody said, "and you know it." Though she didn't speak loudly, her words carried easily to everyone watching. Carrying Sam's gun, she stepped around the taller Winchester and approached the hunched-over figure of Dean. Dean looked up when her shadow fell across him. "He's already dead," she met Dean's gaze with her own, and Dean had to forcibly suppress a rash of goosebumps at her expression. She leveled Sam's Taurus at Miguel's head. "Lucky for us, he's gonna stay that way." Melody braced her left wrist with her right hand and pulled the trigger. At a distance of only a couple of dozen inches, the slug didn't miss.
The biggest part of Dean was in shock at the events of the last sixty seconds, for that was about how long it had been since that freaking moan had echoed out from under the wrecked SUV. A slightly smaller portion was highly unnerved that this girl – this little girl who didn't even have tits yet – had just coldly dispatched someone that, had it not been a zombie-bite, should have been savable. And the smallest portion, which wouldn't have a chance to be heard until much later, was thinking that this little girl would make one hell of a hunter someday.
A stray breeze wafted the curling trail of smoke from the gun's barrel away into nothingness. With the last of the smoke, the girl's expression shifted subtly, losing the coldness and becoming once again the face of a twelve year-old who'd been forced to see things no one should ever have to see. Without saying anything more, she slowly turned around and walked back to the truck, returning the gun to Sam on her way.
Melody climbed back into the bed of the truck, seemingly unaware of the blinking stares leveled at her by everyone, including her brother. What happened, sis? Is that it? That why you won't talk about what happened out at the base? Who was it, Mel – Kira? Rochelle? Andrea? Who was it? Dave suppressed the questions he wanted to ask and simply pulled her into a close hug.
Only a few yards away, Mark watched everything play out. Is this how it starts? he mused, stooping to retrieve the cable from where he'd dropped it. Is this how that metallic tang starts seeping in? Like Sandy? Like the Winchesters? It's like Dean's wrapped up in some sort of solid-iron armor. Sam's only a little less…sharp? Metallic? Like he's wearing chainmail, not full platemail. He mentally snorted in amusement. Who would've thought that one class I had on medieval history would ever have this kind of application? And Sandy – she wasn't near so…whatever it is; more like tinfoil or the foil that gum comes in than anything of real substance. But that girl? She's getting there right quick; already scarier than Sandy ever was. So is this how it starts?
While lost in his thoughts, Mark missed Dean's gaze shift from Melody to Miguel's body, before leveling off on his brother. Most of the others were staring after the girl, too, and likewise missed the quick byplay between the Winchesters – not that there was a whole lot to see, just Dean making a quick jerking motion with his chin towards the Impala and a quick nod on Sam's part – but Brooks and Al both noticed, and had to wonder what it meant.
They didn't have long to wait.
Sam returned to the car and grabbed the keys from the ignition. Joe tried to ask, "What's up?" but Sam didn't answer. The younger Winchester headed to the trunk and rummaged around. While Sam was busy with the trunk, Dean headed to the mangled cars blocking the road and peered under the wreckage before turning his attention to the contents of the vehicles.
One by one, the others (save Keri, who was sleeping soundly and had been completely unbothered by the gunshot) slowly exited or dismounted their respective vehicles. Without really meaning to, the Winchesters had managed to capture everyone's attention.
Dave, his arm still wrapped around his little sister's faintly-trembling shoulders, stood in the bed of Brent's pickup. Beauty and Beast sat at attention to either side of the siblings, like some odd sort of canine honor-guard. In front of the truck, Heidi had joined Mark. Their pose was a tad more intimate than that of the Abrams, but very similar nonetheless; the winch cable still dangled from Mark's left hand, his right wrapped around her waist. Al and Joe slowly made their way to where the pair stood, and halted a few feet from them, quickly joined by Martha and Brent. Brooks was the last to join the confused cluster of survivors and probably the only one among them who realized just what the red gas can in Sam's hand meant.
His personal suspicions were confirmed when Dean returned from his search of the wrecked cars with a couple of felted-wool fabric squares (roughly ten feet to a side, but folded neatly) – the kind used mainly as 'furniture pads' when moving, but which also could be thrown in the trunk of a car as 'emergency blankets' in a pinch. Brooks gave a silent nod of approval that nobody saw. Good idea, he thought, though I wonder how they seem to be on the same page. I mean, it's not like solanum-reanimates were all that common until recently. Perhaps it's something to do with what Winchester told me back when that stupid Halloween poster showed up on our door. But still…they didn't even talk about it.
The Winchesters paused next to Miguel, and even with the sound of the breeze rustling the vegetation to either side of the road, their quiet voices were heard loud and clear by their audience. Dean looked from his brother to the mess of blood and back. "I got this, Sammy."
Though the group could hear the Winchesters, none really had a clear view of their faces, and as such couldn't see the expressions they sported. Sam's was caught somewhere between revulsion and a watery sort of resignation. Dean's expression would have been harder to pin down, but if one looked close enough, it was possible to see something best described as wanting to keep his brother from having to do the hard part, paired with a goodly dose of 'why', and beneath everything else, a slowly-growing flicker of determination. "Yeah," he said. "The pickup," he nodded towards the mid-seventies truck whose frame was pretzeled into and around the frame of the SUV, "has a load of brush in the bed. See if you can't get the civs to lend a hand. Set up back that way, 'bout a hundred yards behind Brent's truck."
"Gonna have to siphon some gas, first," Sam replied, holding up the gas can. "This is empty."
Dean frowned. "Try the station wagon. Pull from the fuel line under the car. The siphon hose disappeared six weeks ago and I haven't gotten around to replacing it yet."
Sam opened his mouth for a moment to ask why he should try the station wagon first, but then his eyes landed on the half-a-zombie whose guts trailed back under the wreck and suddenly understood. He snapped his mouth shut and gave a quick nod before stepping around his brother to head for the station wagon.
Dean sat the grey-brown 'blankets' down next to the two corpses before sighing slightly and heading purposefully towards the cluster of survivors. Dave smiled faintly at Dean's manner; at that moment, the older Winchester reminded him very strongly of some of the teachers he'd had at military school. Dean stopped a few feet from the group. "Mark? You and Brent should see about moving the wreck out of our way. Al and Joe – you two give Sam a hand. Brooks? You're with me." Dave's impression of Dean continued all through while the man was speaking. It's sort of like how some of the shyer upperclassmen acted right at the beginning of the year; they weren't used to having any sort of authority, but still did what they were supposed to. Wonder which school he went to? Know it wasn't the Academy – I've seen all the pictures of the graduating classes of the last fifteen years or so and have a good memory for faces. He's not old enough to have graduated before then, but I know I didn't see him in any of the pictures. Dave gave a mental shrug. There's really too many schools out there to know for sure which he went to without asking. Maybe I'll ask after we stop for the night… We are stopping for the night, right? Maybe I should talk to one of them before we get going again. Would be nice to know what's going on.
Had Dave been a little older than his sixteen years, he might have been more apt to peg Dean's general attitude as that of someone more accustomed to taking orders, rather than giving them; but as it stood, Dave could only make comparisons to what he already knew. Martha had a similar impression of the older Winchester brother, only she had phrased her thoughts along these lines. The thought was fleeting, however, and what gathered more of her attention was the fact that neither she nor Heidi had been asked to help with anything. Sweet kid, she thought, if a little chauvinistic. I'm not exactly a damsel in distress here. She glanced out the corner of her eye to where Heidi was watching Mark and Brent approach the entwined truck and SUV with exaggerated caution. Though I appear to be the only one who isn't. She gave herself a mental shake and strode forward to lend a hand.
On the other side of the mangled metal, Sam had wormed his way under the station wagon and stared at the innumerable hoses, pipes, and wires that snaked through the car's frame. Which one's the fuel line?
"Need a hand?" Joe asked, flopping onto the blacktop next to the car.
Sam startled hard enough to hit his head on some unidentifiable metal crosspiece. He hissed through his teeth and reached up to see if the metal had removed his brain, simply to find the only red on his forehead was a light dusting of rust flakes. "Uh…" Sam twisted his neck to see Joe. "You wouldn't happen to know which of these," he motioned to the aforementioned hoses, "is the fuel line, would you?"
"Hey, I don't even have a driver's license. How the hell would I know?"
"Great," Sam grumbled.
"It'd be the one attached to the gas tank, I imagine," Al said, following Joe's example in stretching out on the pavement. Probably a lucky break that the car's a little high-centered, else we'd need the jack to see under it like this.
Sam managed not to startle a second time, much to his forehead's relief. He scanned the assorted whatnot attached to the underside of the car. "What's the gas tank look like?"
"Usually, something like a large, flattish metal balloon," Al replied. "Shape's usually something like a rectangle, but not always. It won't have any nuts or bolts in the main body – just along the edges where it's attached to the frame," he added the last sentence when he noticed Sam reaching for the car's oil pan.
With Al's assistance, Sam soon had the gas tank located, as well as the fuel line. It didn't take long for gravity to fill the small gas can. Sam kinked the hose to stop the flow of gas and used a forgotten paperclip from his pocket to make sure it wouldn't un-kink and cause a potential problem of the giant booming kind later.
With Brooks' help, it didn't take more than five minutes to have Miguel's body transferred off the blacktop and onto one of the felted wool blankets Dean had found, and only a further five minutes to empty out his pockets. The nine-millimeter handgun Miguel had been carrying was tucked into Dean's waistband alongside his Colt, and the spare ammunition found its way into one of his many pockets.
While Mark and Brent set about moving the car carcasses out of the way and Dean and Brooks saw to disposing of the zombie, Martha tried to make herself useful however she could. As a result, the story of the wreck and its resident zombie came to light. Farmer Zed, as she mentally labeled the zombie, had been having truck problems (there were several containers of antifreeze, both full and empty, littering the cab of his truck). He'd stopped on the road to take care of the issue when the SUV came from the other direction and collided with the truck, pinning Farmer Zed between the two vehicles. When the cars were pulled apart, the lower half of the zombie was revealed, and even through the mangling the wreck put it through, Brooks had noticed the bite-mark on Farmer Zed's right calf – called it a 'slow-burn', the type of bite that could take up to seventy-two hours to 'manifest a full reanimate'. As to just why the SUV struck the truck in the first place was anybody's guess as no sign of its passengers or the driver were evident, but the force of the collision had been enough for the vehicles to wind up blocking both lanes of traffic. Some time after the first accident, the station wagon came on the scene and found its way blocked. Like with the SUV, there was no telling what had happened to the driver, and Martha had to wonder just why they hadn't tried turning around and going back the way they came.
Working together, it took Sam's group roughly twenty minutes to assemble enough of the brush from the wrecked truck into a suitable pyre. It took a little longer for the others to winch the wreck enough out of the way that they'd be able to get around it. As the others finished their tasks, Dean and Brooks finished up wrapping Miguel's corpse with the felted wool. When Dean added a thick layer of salt to both the body and between the wool layers, Brooks leveled an unmistakable 'What the fuck?' look at him. In reply, Dean merely shrugged and muttered, "We got enough problems to deal with." The comment only served to confuse Brooks further. Mentally promising himself to get the older Winchester to clarify that comment later, he helped Dean schlep the now-wrapped body of Miguel to the pile of gasoline-soaked brush centered on the double-solid-yellow stripe well behind Brent's pickup.
Dean pulled his Zippo from his pocket and flicked it. Heidi cleared her throat a little before he could touch the flame to the waiting brush. "What?" he asked.
"Shouldn't someone say something?" she asked.
The question triggered an uncomfortable exchange of glances among the cluster of survivors. Martha sighed, "Oh, for hell's sake. I don't know what to say, and it's been a fair few years since I attended a funeral, but…why not?" She took a deep breath and began singing in a surprisingly melodic alto. By the time she'd reached the end of the first line of Amazing Grace, most of the rest of the group had joined in. Even Sam was trying, though he mangled a few of the words.
Dean didn't even bother trying. He just licked his lips and waited impatiently for the song to end. When it finally did, he touched his lighter to the brush, which ignited with gasoline's customary fwoop noise. He checked his watch to find that they'd wasted an entire hour dealing with both the wreck and Miguel. "Come on, people. Daylight's wastin'," he said.
Though the rest of the group could only hear the barked order, Sam knew his brother well enough to tell that what happened to Miguel was bothering Dean. Mark opened his mouth to protest, but Sam laid a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. "Just because you can't see it, don't mean he doesn't care. But he is right. If we want to find a safe place to hole-up for the night, we'd best get a move on."
"Stop already?" Al asked, checking his own watch. "Hell, it's only just noon."
Sam nodded, his eyes still watching his brother as the older Winchester headed back to the Impala. "Not saying we'll stop right now," he replied. "Just that if we plan on finding a safe place for the night, we need to get going. Besides, I don't know about you, but I'm really wanting to make it to Joshua's place as quick as possible."
"You ain't never said, Winchester, but just what's so fuckin' special about this Joshua-dude's place?" Joe asked; his own eyes couldn't seem to tear away from the rapidly-charring figure in the flames.
Sam's eyes flickered over to Joe. A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "You'll see when we get there."
About an hour later, the down-by-one group of survivors drew closer to I-505. As mile after mile unrolled before them, more cars became apparent. The closer to I-505 they came, the thicker the congestion became until Dean, growling a little under his breath, pulled to a stop where a gravel road crossed their two-lane blacktop.
"What's up?" Joe asked from his position behind Sam.
Sam shook his head, though Joe didn't know if it was in reply to his question or to the level glare Dean was shooting in his brother's direction. "I don't think we're going to be able to continue on this road, Dean. It's got an on-ramp to I-505 about four miles from here, and if this," he gestured to the abandoned vehicles littering the road, "is any indication, it'd be simpler to just find a way around."
"Agreed," Dean snapped, then stuck his head out his window. "Hey! Vanderhaven!"
A few minutes later, Brooks ambled up to the open window, a question etched on his face. "Winchesters?"
Dean jerked his chin to indicate the gravel cross-road, "You and Martha take lead here. Don't figure either of you'd want to eat our dust. Follow this south until we find something heading west. Got it?"
Brooks glanced around at the rapidly-dwindling available space on the paved road and nodded. It made sense. They didn't really have the time to deal with a major pile-up or choke-point, and that looked like what was ahead of them if they stayed on the highway. He headed back to his bike and relayed the message to Martha. At a hand-gesture from Dean, the pair of motorcycles took point and headed south on the gravel road.
While following the rooster-tails of dust kicked up by the motorcycles, Sam kept an eye out for any sort of marker that might give him a clue as to where they were heading. The gravel road wasn't marked on the map he'd been using to track their progress back on the highway. Eventually, Brooks' cycle's taillight came on, and the bike made an inadvisably-fast turn to the right. Martha had no trouble keeping up, and had it been audible over the noise from the engines, her laughing, wordless shout of glee would have garnered no few odd looks from her companions.
"Where the hell are we, Sammy?"
"Bob's Road?" Sam shot back, flipping through the few maps Dean had available of the area.
The comment managed to wrench a short snort of humor out of Dean – ever since Twister had come out back in '96, instead of saying they were lost, Sam had taken to saying they were on 'Bob's Road'. "Find me somethin' better, Sam."
It was hard for Dean not to hear the whiny ten year-old hiding in Sam's voice. The images it brought up were almost enough to shove aside what had happened to Miguel.
By the time Sam finally figured out where they were, a new two-lane blacktop had appeared in the distance. Wonder of wonders, it even looked to be deserted.
Heading north on the two-lane that didn't even have a name on Sam's maps, they passed safely under I-505 about half an hour after getting back on the pavement. As the afternoon sunlight began to take on the golden hue of early evening, Sam had managed to navigate the caravan through several clusters of houses that claimed to be towns by virtue of having a map-dot.
Each 'town' they blew through had been creepily empty.
At about four-thirty, Brooks – he and Martha had been shunted back to between the pickup and the Impala when they'd hit pavement – sped up and drew alongside the Impala's driver-side window. He beeped the motorcycle's horn once to catch Dean's attention and then used his left hand to tap the gas-tank. Dean nodded.
"Looks like we need to find a place for gas," Dean said as Brooks fell back to his place behind the car.
"There's another town coming up in about five miles," Sam replied. "Cadenasso. Maybe there's a gas station."
Minutes later, they pulled to a stop at a gas station. Directly across the highway was a long-abandoned farmhouse. "You sure this is a town, Sam?" Al asked as he climbed out of the car's back seat.
Sam shrugged, "That's what the map says."
Were it not for the fact that the pumps were set up for credit-cards, and the three new-looking cars parked in spaces beside the building, Dean would have assumed the station had likewise been long-abandoned. "Don't know, don't care," he said. "Let's just gas up and get the hell out of here." He pulled his gun from his waistband and headed for the building.
The gas station's main building was little more than a largish cinderblock box, lacking even windows. The door was a heavy, steel contraption, which still had the keys dangling from the lock. "Hell," Dean muttered, "that can't be good."
"Hey, man," Joe was saying as he walked up behind Dean, "do you think they got some of that orange-flavored Mountain Dew?" Before Dean could stop him, Joe had twisted the keys and pulled the door open, "'Cause I'm fuckin' parched and –"
Joe didn't get to say much else as a pair of large hands, caked in dried blood, shot out and grabbed his arm amid an unseen cloud of fetid decaying stench. Dean, reacting purely on instinct, raised his gun and backed up quickly. The sound of screaming almost downed out the racket of zombie-moans and the squelch of flesh being torn apart.
Most of the rest of the group came running – Brent stayed with Keri, and Melody grabbed hold of the dogs' collars to keep them from getting in the way.
Moments later the screaming stopped.
Dean, Sam, Martha, Brooks, and the kid, Dave, all had guns leveled at the door. The moaning from the other side was muffled, but loud enough that everyone present knew there were more than just a few of the fuckers hiding inside.
Al, his heart beating somewhere behind his tongue, shivered as the undead started banging on the door. His eyes caught sight of the keys, still resting in the lock, and suddenly, his pulse began to slow. "Excuse me," he whispered, stepping around Brooks.
The door rattled in its frame as Al hurried up to it and twisted the keys back to the 'locked' position. He then removed them and hurled them as far away from the building as he possibly could. As the rest of his companions blinked at him, he shrugged. "What? Did you honestly want to fight the damn things?"
"Joe was in there," was all Dean could say.
Al swallowed and squared his shoulders. "Then it was already too late. Besides," he pointed to a painted-over square metal sign hung to the right of the door at eye-height, "I don't think we really want to deal with what's in there." Though obscured by the paint, the metal sign still bore the legend 'Public Fallout Shelter # 974 – Parking in Rear' stamped into it. "They were built during the Cold War. This one probably served all those blink-and-miss-it towns we've been passing through. Explains why no one was there."
It made sense. Particularly after Heidi jogged around to the side of the building and reported that there was a large lot, jam-packed with cars, on the far side.
Eventually, the string of vehicles managed to connect up with Highway 20. As early evening transitioned into true evening, Sam directed Dean to turn onto Leesville Road. Had the day been better, Dean would have found the road fun as it twisted and turned through switchbacks and hairpins through a mountainy area. But the day, for all it's blue sky and sunshine and puffy popcorn clouds, had been monumentally shitty.
Aside from Sam's quiet directions and the almost inaudible sound of Pink Floyd repeating over and over in the tape deck, the interior of the Impala was drenched in silence.
Brooks and Martha, as well, were silent, though more by necessity than because of the day's events.
In contrast, Brent's truck was almost obscenely cheerful – Keri's fever had broken and she was awake and upright, getting to know Heidi, while Brent (who would admit to being somewhat spooked over the deaths that day if asked, but only if asked) sang along to a Tracy Byrd CD. In the bed of the truck, Mark and Dave had found some common ground – video games – and were chatting over the sound of the wind. Melody, her head pillowed on Beast and cuddled around Beauty, was sleeping.
After following Highway 20 for about forty minutes, the string of vehicles reached a small town slightly larger than the map-dots they'd already driven through by the name of Lodoga. As was had been the case way back in Davis, undead made themselves known as they tried to shamble after their preferred prey, but just couldn't move fast enough to keep up with the car, truck, and motorcycles, even when the vehicles had to move slow around stalled or abandoned cars in their path.
In the middle of town, the Impala made a left-hand turn onto Lodoga-Stonyford Road, and minutes later, the dead town was put to their rear-view mirrors. The new road angled northwest before changing to slightly more west than north. Dean slowed some and seemed to be looking for something.
Sam knew the pattern – he'd seen it often enough growing up, first shown by their dad and then by Dean after he'd begun driving. Dean was looking for a place to stop for the night. Sam knew the formula – a house by preference, not a trailer, at least three miles off the main road, and still hooked up to electric. He had to wonder if Dean would still look for the 'electric' part of the equation with circumstances being what they were.
So when Dean turned right onto a narrower-than-normal road, Sam was unsurprised. Obviously, his brother hadn't failed to miss the little signs pounded into the ditch either; the ones that read 'Now Leasing for the 2003 Season' and 'Lakefront Timeshares' and, probably most importantly, 'Model Homes Now Open'.
Before long, they crested a long hill to see a lakeside development all shiny and new and totally devoid of undead – unless some had wandered this way from Stonyford.
Noticing which houses were most likely to suit their needs – the model homes were the only ones with curtains at this point – Dean pulled into a cul-de-sac and parked so the Impala was facing back the way they came.
After securing their chosen house, Dean stood in a dining room furnished with a wooden table set in reddish wood and looked outside. The last dying rays of light from the setting sun were painting the landscape in tones of orange and gold.
"You okay?" Sam asked.
Dean shrugged. "Ask me again after we get to Joshua's." He tore his gaze from the window and yawned. "I don't know about you, dude, but it's been one fuckin' hell of a long day for me."
Sam nodded in agreement as Dean headed for the living room and one of its pair of sofas. He took up Dean's position at the window and stared at all the newly-built homes and felt a pang of sadness at how they would never house people now; how they wouldn't get the chance to be a home.
A/N2: I didn't really want to kill off the black dude, but the character simply wasn't making himself useful. Sigh. Uncooperative characters really piss me off. Can you tell? Anyway, I know it's a little shorter than usual, but I wanted to get this out before another eight freakin' months went by. I promise the next chappie'll be longer to compensate.
And I'm beginning to seriously wonder if someone over at Show is reading this fic – I mean, tonight's episode (99 Problems)…the fire-truck's water-cannon…the baddie hiding under the car… It's enough to make me stop and go 'huh'. If so, I say YAY\o/ - if not, please, no one harsh my squee, 'kay?
I know it's been a while, but having to work for a living fuckin' sucks ass. Review, please, and give my mindless dronelike existence meaning.