Hello, welcome to this fic! It was written for the lovely Vanessa in the SFTCOLARS Secret Santa Challenge! Only just in time for Christmas, and I'm sorry this is only the prologue, but the rest is coming soon, I promise! huggles

I anticipate this being probably two or three chapters, plus this prologue and an epilogue

Please read, review and enjoy!

PS for those interested, the prompt given is at the end

PPS apologies for any errors in geography or geology.


New Mexico Desert

August, 1996

It was hot. Very hot. Hot and still, as though all the air had also escaped along with every drop of moisture from the surrounding landscape, leaving an arid wasteland that loomed all around with mirage, mystery and a vague, unspoken threat.

A small bead of sweat rolled down the boy's freckled nose, hanging precariously from the tip for an instant before dropping, with a small puff, onto the dusty page before him. The ink in the heavy, dense writing ran slightly, before the page dried almost instantly, leaving nothing but a wrinkle in the paper and a smudged letter 'C' in the title:

"The American Civil War".

Sam frowned slightly, pausing his scratchy writing to take in the smudge with distaste. Although he should know better by now, he still liked his work to be neat. It made him in control; feel proud of the finished product.

Dean said it made him a freak.

From his position on the ground, leaning against the side of the Impala and enjoying its shade, Sam looked around for his brother. Dean had grown tired of the few entertainment possibilities the car offered and was now working away from it in an ever increasing circle, seeking something to occupy his interest in the surrounding dust-covered landscape.

At least, he had been the last time Sam saw him. Now, he was nowhere to be found.

"Dean?"

There was no answer, and Sam hastily shoved his homework back in its bag, leaving it beside the car as he rose to his feet and spun a slow three-sixty, hand shading his eyes as he looked for his errant seventeen-year-old brother. Surely there weren't many places he could have disappeared to?

Shaking his head as if that would banish the unease that began to gnaw at his insides, he stepped away from the car, heading towards a small outcropping of rocks he could see several hundred yards away in the distance. Dean had been in this general direction the last time Sam had seen him – which, admittedly, had been several minutes ago – although Sam very much doubted he would have gone that far away. Gritting his teeth and feeling much like the older brother in this annoyingly-familiar situation, he unconsciously broke out into a jog, noting that the surrounding landscape was much more undulating than he had noticed.

He would kill Dean when he found him. Dad hade made them promise not to leave the car.

oooooooooooo

Although Sam's dislike of hunting had grown in the months since he turned thirteen, even he had to admit that this latest case was weirdly interesting. Tragic, mysterious and slightly scary, but also interesting.

How could three people have been found drowned in the middle of the desert?

It was the same story every time. A person driving down the lonely, deserted highway would fail to arrive at their destination, and their car would be found stopped on the side of the road, with no obvious problems. Each time it had then taken days of searching before the bodies turned up in the desert, with no obvious signs of trauma – except for the drowning.

So yeah, Sam had actually been interested this time, he always did like a good mystery, and so being left behind to "guard the car" had irked him. Although not as much as it had Dean, who had come as close as he ever came to arguing with his father.

"Dad, let me come, you'll need me and Sam can mind the car-"

"Dean, I said no and I mean no. This is a one-man job, and you know it. I don't plan on hunting anything anyway, just scouting the area, so you will do as I say and stay here and mind that car."

The "and your brother" went unspoken but was clearly said.

"Is that clear?" John's voice was steely and cold. It was a tone that, lately, was usually reserved for Sam.

"Yes, Sir." Dean had muttered, and spent the next twenty minutes sullenly throwing stones at invisible targets in the empty, rocky surrounds. From the few that had managed to stray and hit Sam, Dean obviously was not happy at being made to stay with him and babysit.

Sam hadn't exactly been thrilled either, but he had simply winced and said nothing.

oooooooooooo

"Dean!"

There was still no answer, and Sam had almost made it to the rocks. He felt rather panicky now, and unbidden images came into his head of Dean grabbed by a desert monster, Dean gasping for air, Dean choking and drowning all alone in this wasteland while Sam sat and did his homework. Oh God, oh G-

"BOO!"

"Ahhhhhhhhhh!" Sam screamed a high-pitched squeal and jumped back, hands up in a reflex, as Dean leapt from behind the rocks, his hands pulling his face into a decidedly unnatural expression. As Sam stumbled to a halt, his shock quickly turning into rage, Dean burst out laughing, leaning on the rock for support and slapping his knee in delight.

"You should have seen your face, Sammy! Priceless. And I always told you, you scream like a girl."

He kept laughing even when Sam smacked his arm in anger.

"Dean, you jerk! What the hell did you do that for?"

"I'm bored. This stinks." Dean said, the smile fading from his face as he turned and began to climb the rocks. "I wish Dad would just realize that you're- that I'm old enough to come with him, help him out." He leapt from the rock, landing with a puff of dust beside Sam. "The man's not invincible, whatever he thinks." Dean's hazel eyes, looking at Sam, held well-hidden reproach, and against his will, Sam felt the guilt rise within him as he gazed at Dean, who had turned and begun to climb the rocks again. But anger rose just as swiftly, if not quite as far. He didn't ask for this, he didn't ask to be baby sat and dragged on hunts and left in the car. He would have been happy to help, or else to be left at home to finish his homework.

Dean leapt from a higher height and landed beside Sam with a heavier crash. Sam opened his mouth to say all these things to Dean, but then snapped it closed and began clambering up the rocks before Dean could start again. Why bother?

Attempting to appease his brother, he called over his shoulder, "Want to play some go fish? I brought the cards and everything." He sensed rather than saw Dean wrinkle his nose in distaste. "I brought some food as well. Good food, if you like M&Ms" He had reached the summit and, turning, saw Dean had cocked his head to the side, considering. Sam knew he had won, Dean would never say no to chocolate and he also had a well-hidden soft spot for go fish.

"Fine," Dean said grudgingly. "Let's go. Fish, ha. And should you really be jumping from that high?"

Sam grinned, "You scared, sissy?" And then he leapt into the air, crashing to the ground beside Dean.

The only problem was, the ground kept going.

Sam felt his feet punch through the rock, which shattered like glass. The desert floor was somehow as thin as cardboard, and he felt it collapse beneath him, beneath him and Dean, and with a yell they both plunged through the hole, descending into the blackness of the earth, as chunks of broken shale and dust fell around them.


TBC…

Muahaha! I love cliffies! This is shaping up to be a very guilt-ridden fic, on all sides – and angsty too, don't forget angsty! And if you think Dean came out slightly OC, I agree... sigh... lets blame it on teenage hormones (his, that is). At least I can tell you his issues will be resolved in later chapters!

The prompt:

The boys are cold--seriously cold. They're cold and wet and trapped . . . somewhere--somewhere dark.