A sequel of sorts to "Lady in Black," set between "Nightshifter" and "Houses of the Holy." Will probably make much more sense if you've read "Lady in Black."

Queen of the Road

It breaks his heart, but after the fiasco in Milwaukee, Dean knows the day he's been dreading has finally arrived.

He's got to get rid of the Impala.

"You sure about this?" Bobby asks, as concerned as he was when the boys showed up at his yard after John's death. Maybe a little more.

"She's too easy to recognize," Dean says. Forces himself to say, more like. Sammy's giving him that worried look again, silently asking the same question as Bobby.

Because, you know, this just isn't hard enough without those two making it more difficult. Maybe he should call Ellen and Missouri so they can make him feel even worse. Missouri's great at making him miserable.

"I'm sure," he says, putting an edge in his voice. Sam's been asking him that for two days, which is weird, because he was sure Sam would be all for ditching the car. "We can't afford to get caught. Not now."

He makes himself walk away without touching her one last time, leaving Sam to empty all the stuff out of the back and make arrangements for a new vehicle. If he tries—

That car has been part of his life since he was born. Mom drove it to get groceries. Dad drove it from one crappy motel to another. It's been the one constant in Dean's life, more than Dad, more than Sam. It never ran away to college.

And now he's had to let it go.

He's lost Dad. He's lost the car. He's losing Sammy.

He doesn't know what to do, so he does what he always does: he lets Sammy hammer out the details while he walks away, and keeps walking until he knows he'll be able to charge forward without betraying all the pain inside.

The new car has Nebraska plates, seat belts, a CD player, A/C, and no personality whatsoever. It's beige.

No, really, it's beige. Sammy has no taste in cars. Too much brain, not enough passion, that boy.

Maybe he really is a demon.

There's a job in Rhode Island, murders by people claiming angels made them do it. Dean lets Sam drive. No reason to be possessive over the car anymore. Although if Sam doesn't get better taste in music, he might have to in sheer self-defense.

Dean just stares out the window at the dreary fields, feeling the seat belt cut into his neck, listening to—to something Sam swears is "deep" and "meaningful" and "important," like music has to be fucking important, and tries not to focus too much on his own misery. It's hard when the songs on the radio keep trying to impress on the listener how important their misery is, usually in bad rhyme and acoustic guitars (because electric would be shallow, after all).

They stop for the night somewhere in Indiana. Sam's worried, and Dean knows he is, but what's he going to do? That Fed knew about Dad, for Christ's sake, knew about Sammy and how they grew up. The Impala's never even had a different license plate number, in all these years. If it's not included in the bulletins, that Fed's a total moron, and he didn't sound like a moron. Morons generally can't track Winchesters.

Dean can't sleep for feeling like he just stabbed his best friend in the back. He lies awake, thinking about the Impala, reliving old memories, absently counting the number of times Sam stumbles out of a nightmare. It's an easy night on the other side of the room: the telltale noises of Sam jerking awake only break the silence three times.

Finally the window begins lightening with the dawn, and he gets up and gets dressed and heads out to make a breakfast run. The first thing he sees, of all things, is a black '67 Impala parked next to their car. Life sucks some days.

Wait a second.

He'd know his Impala anywhere, and know it blindfolded. The Kansas plates with the number KAZ 2Y5 just confirm his instincts.

"SAM!" he bellows, and that's when he sees the damage to the other car: smashed windshield, broken side windows, dented sheet metal. It looks like it's been through the demolition derby. "What's the bright idea?"

"Huh?" Sam staggers to the door and looks outside—and flinches. He mutters something that Dean can't quite make out, but it sounds like "I was afraid of this."

"I thought you agreed with me that it was too dangerous to keep her! And you had Bobby drive her all the way out here?"

"Oh, trust me, Dean," Sam says, "Bobby didn't drive her anywhere."

"Well, you didn't and I didn't, so who did?"

"Um. You remember that time I told you you fell asleep at the wheel and the car was driving?"

Dean stares at him. Of course he remembers it, because it was such an un-Sammy thing to say. "I did not fall—"

Sam rolls his eyes. "You could help me out here, if you're going to be so blatant about it," he says.

To the car.

The horn honks cheerily, and the car rolls forward and nudges Dean's leg like an overgrown puppy. It's a move that can't be anything other than intentional; the nudge is too gentle, and the car backs up, right back into its previous position.

"It's possessed," Dean breathes. "Has to be. Bobby must have gotten some—"

"I already brought that up, and he nearly strangled me. It's not possessed and there weren't any bespelled parts in the rebuild. It—she just isn't like other cars. She's—well—she's more or less alive."

"Sam," Dean says, very carefully, "it's a car."

"I know that," Sam snaps, "and you know that. Problem is, she thinks otherwise."

"Son of a bitch," Dean whispers. The Impala's headlights flicker, and she nudges his leg again, a little more insistently. "Then what happened to—to that?"

Sam glances at the beige car. "You didn't," he says wearily, in a tone of voice he usually reserves for Dean's wilder antics.

"Are you implying that my car beat up your car?" Dean demands, feeling suddenly defensive. Sam's wide grin doesn't make him feel better. "Oh, fuck this. Just—just fuck it."

"I think she just wants to make sure you don't leave her again." Sam has the same annoying little-brother-bests-big-brother grin he had when he found out about Cassie. Dean—quite nobly, he might add—resists the urge to smack it off his face.

There's another honk from the car, soft and questioning and a little afraid.

Dean runs his hand over the black metal of the hood. "Sorry," he murmurs, "I didn't know." There's a tiny mechanical purr from somewhere in the engine compartment. It sounds happy and content.

The keys are where he and Bobby agreed they should stay, in case they had ever needed to come back to the junkyard for the car: in the glove compartment.

He grins. All is right with the world again. "Get the gear out of that thing," he orders Sam. "And I'm driving."

the end