A/N: This story was originally written for the Supernatural Virtual Seasons, Season 3, Episode 9. Unlike Devil Inside this wasn't considered a "stand alone" episode, but you can read it without having to read the rest of the episodes, as long as you understand a few things.
The virtual seasons began at the end of the first regular season and have taken a different path from the show. In the VS, John is still alive, though not a huge part of the boys' lives. In the premiere episode of Season 3, the boys found out that though the YED (called Haris in the VS) is dead, they have a "bigger bad" to fight: Lucifer himself.
There will be four parts, and I know some readers wished Devil Inside was longer, but there was an episode formula Gaelic and I had to work within. The same goes for this story.
There are references to a 'sink hole to Hell' which was featured in Episode 3 and a girl who Sam and Dean looked after during episodes 5 through 8. I refer to some of this history throughout this story, but tried to execute everything so that it was as close to "stand alone" as possible. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Don't own Sam or 'the' Dean. Sad.
Original Posting: May 20th, 2008
Dedicated to: Mike, Kira, Rhodes, and Mal
The Great Gig in the Sky
Butte County, CA
There were certain moments in his tangled life when Nathan Cole felt things would be all right. Moments graced with simplicity, and hints of the way things used to be, in a time he couldn't get back. Working on the truck, listening to his little sister chatter, the sweat of hard work soaking in the heat of the sun on his back and neck, were all things that seemed to settle peacefully against the turmoil within. Muting it for a while.
Filling his lungs with a hearty breath of fresh spring air, Nathan destroyed the moisture collecting at his hairline with the back of his hand, slow gaze moving from the truck's engine over to his sister, Chelsea, who'd set up a picnic for herself in the front yard. Blankets and dolls spread out before her, the seven-year-old's imagination moved between song and dialog flawlessly as she poured out imaginary tea and straightened the sun bonnet that had belonged to their grandmother. The obnoxiously large rimmed hat covered her copious amount of golden blonde curls and kept falling into her eyes.
Nathan smiled at the sight, especially when she turned, realizing he could see her struggle with the hat, and smiled bashfully before returning to her "guests." She was gonna break hearts. That was for damn sure.
He looked out over the rolling hills, the overgrown fields, and the rust-colored mountains in the distance. While people outside of Northern California found the sight to be breathtaking, Nathan was ready for a change of scenery. To him, the way the landscape rolled on visibly for miles, only to be halted at the mountains, gave the feeling they were alone, confined. Then again, Nathan wasn't just ready for a change of scenery; he was ready for a change of any magnitude.
"Nathan," Chelsea chirped, freckled face turned in his direction, nose scrunched. "What are the chances those tornados will come here?"
For a beat, Nathan didn't register where the question had come from, thinking at first it was all part of the game she was playing. But in the background, only serving as noise until now, he could hear the radio he'd set up in the garage, the DJ blathering on about the storms that had hit south of them.
"…but that's beside the point. California hasn't seen deaths by tornado in what? Fifty or more years? This is unnatural. This many tornados in just a few weeks. This is Cali-friggin-fornigh-ay…not Kansas. I mean maybe there's something to this Global Warming nonsense. Al Gore's probably…"
Nathan flicked the off switch, shaking his head.
"Slim, Chels," he replied, smiling thinly. He nodded toward the sky. "Just look at it."
Chelsea tilted back her head, bonnet slipping onto her back, looking up into sky as brilliantly blue and clear as her own eyes. There wasn't a cloud there, and that seemed to satiate her curiosity.
Nathan dropped the hood of the truck back into place, finished giving it a look over. Having backed it into the garage and lowered the door, he stopped by the edge of his sister's picnic to get her attention.
"Jay's coming over tonight," he said.
That afforded him a wrinkled expression of disgust from Chelsea.
"What?" Nathan intoned, warily.
"He's changed," Chelsea shrugged. "Not sure I like him anymore."
"Chels, it's Jay. I thought you liked him. And hey, people change…" He knew that all too well.
Chelsea smiled weakly and handed Nathan a piece of candy she'd probably been pretending was a tea cake. "Whatever, dude. If he comes over he better stay out of our food."
Nathan took the candy, cracking a smile. "Dude?"
"Kristen says that at school."
"Mmmhmm," Nathan pondered that statement, rolling the tangy candy over his tongue. "Why am I not surprised? You gonna be okay out here?"
Chelsea rolled her eyes. "I'm not two."
"Sorry, I forgot," Nathan replied tapping down her bonnet over her eyes. "Seven going on twenty-seven."
It was a sad truth though. Forced maturity through circumstances beyond what any seven-year-old should have to go through. There were days when she'd say things that would blow him away with her profound wisdom. Things that made him question who really needed whom in this family.
Leaving Chelsea to enjoy the day, Nathan stepped inside their house, ignoring the creaking of the screen door begging to be fixed. The old frame sometimes jammed, and the hinges were only a few slams away from breaking apart. It was a sad reflection on the rest of the house. Nathan couldn't keep up with the repairs that needed to be done.
He passed the pictures of their mother in the hall, lingering. In the photos she was healthy, full of life, beautiful. It was how he wanted to remember her. Not sickly, with translucent skin loosely pulled over bones, eyes dead. Chelsea, in her vibrancy, looked a lot like their mother before the sickness had taken her, and even though Nathan hadn't seen his father since he was a kid, both he and Chelsea supposedly shared his likeness as well.
One more testament to how screwed up their little family was.
There was nothing screwed up about Chelsea, however. Chelsea was all Nathan had left; probably the only good to come out of their broken home.
Catching his reflection in the picture's glass, Nathan scoffed at memories of being told he looked like his father. Sweat-soaked dark bangs clung to his forehead above tired, hazel eyes. If it was true that he looked like his father, then it wasn't any mystery why lately he couldn't stand his own reflection.
Chelsea had brought in the mail and Nathan picked it up off the hall table, sorting through it quickly. Bills he couldn't pay, letters of sympathy, advertisements. He tossed them all back onto the table save one letter from Wayne Statehe eyed wearily. He knew the contents would be a letter asking him to come for interviews. He ran a hand across his lips as he studied the envelope, pulling at the corners of his mouth pensively with his fingertips. Graduate school was a dream—a dream belonging to someone else, not him. Not anymore.
He tossed the letter in the garbage in the kitchen and paused at the sink, suddenly dizzy, a heat and pressure building and radiating behind his eyes. Bracing against the counter's edge, he started to run water, moving his hands beneath the cold stream to bring overflowing handfuls to his cheeks and neck.
Palpitating his eye sockets in an attempt to alleviate the pain, sending sparks of white skittering across his vision, Nathan opened the cupboard above the sink, pulling out some prescription pain meds.
Popping a few pills into his mouth, he made his way to the living room, collapsing on one of the couches. Too much sun, or stress, he wasn't sure, but the relentless pounding within his skull made him sure his blood vessels had mercilessly tightened in an attempt to strangle his brain.
Closing his eyes helped, and after a few minutes he'd slipped effortlessly into the painless quiet of sleep, oblivious to the sound of the wind chimes in their kitchen window spinning and dancing with increasing dissonance.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…" Chelsea sang as she cleaned up her picnic, making sure the small plastic cups and plates were all arranged neatly in her mother's basket.
Her hat kept falling off as the breeze would hit the large brim and send it back. She'd given up adjusting it, and let it rise and fall along with her curls like a kite, attached only by the ribbons tied loosely around her neck.
The wind had become stronger and she was hurrying to pick up her things before the entire party was blown away. She was unaware that the clouds had been gathering in the sky, that the wind had become colder. She'd welcomed the new breezes at first, as they cooled her hot cheeks, but as they intensified, she found herself annoyed with them for blowing around her blankets and cups.
"You'll never know deeeeear, how much I love you…So please don't take, my sunshine…"
Dark shadows spread across the ground, enveloping her and the surrounding area, directing her gaze to the sun above—or rather where the sun was supposed to be. Black, ominous clouds rolled and swelled above like whitecaps on the ocean, moving with a life of their own, covering as far as she could see, swallowing up her blue skies.
Looking over her shoulder at the house, she called for her brother hesitantly.
The slick silk ribbons around her neck slipped from their knot, and the hat was pulled from her back and ripped up into the sky on a strong gust of wind. She tried to catch it, stumbling to her feet after the bonnet.
The chimes dangling from the front porch bobbed and swung, creating a deafening cacophony of noise as they slammed repeatedly into each other and the nearby support beams. Leaves from the trees in the front yard were tearing free and cutting through the air, pulled by a wind that was snapping through the flag by their driveway and pitilessly knocking over the pinwheels Chelsea had placed in the garden.
The hat landed and rolled, Chelsea grabbing one of the ribbons before it could take flight again, pulling it into her chest and clutching it there. The overpowering electric snap of lightning and thunder caused her to duck, unprepared for the sudden splitting of the skies.
Curls whipping around her face, she ran back to her blanket, gathering up what she could carry, looking back toward the screen door as her heart pounded a hollow into her chest.
Comfortably unaware in the dark of sleep, Nathan only became vaguely tuned into something amiss when a dull and distant roar entered his dreams, clawing at the back of his mind in persistent and nagging dives aimed at gaining his attention. It was joined by a high-pitched wail that twisted within the sound, grating against every innate survival instinct until his heart beat rapidly at almost the same tonal frequency.
Something was wrong. Something was undeniably wrong.
There was an almost human quality to the howl, and when his synapses finally flared to life against the painkiller-induced fog that settled into his mind, his eyes snapped open. Chelsea's frantic screams finally wrapped around his heart and snapped him back into adrenaline-fueled clarity.
Lightning gave definition to the dark in a hot and stuttered burst outside the window and Nathan swore as he fell from the couch, the room plunging once again back into black. He didn't know how it had gotten so dark so fast, or how long he'd been out, but he didn't care as he twisted around to his stomach, digging his toes into the carpet in an attempt to stand.
Chelsea. He could hear her screaming his name.
He looked from the living room toward the front of the house and could see her at the screen door—the damn thing jammed again—pounding the living hell out of the metal mesh, trying to reach through the ornate design of the frame to get to the lock.
Still slightly disoriented, he tripped in his sprint through the kitchen to get to her, falling just as the old ash tree came through the kitchen window, narrowly missing him. Covering his head as branches and glass rained down on him from above, Nathan only paused a beat, bowing his back, curling knees against his chest, tearing up from under the debris toward his red-faced and terrified sister.
Practically breaking the handle off the door, he lifted up and pulled the warped metal back. Chelsea fell into him, knocking him off his center, her small hands fisted, face buried quickly in his shirt.
Beyond her the sky crackled with life, and in the distance he could see the clouds churning through the fields; a pillar of lightning and dust and debris greedily devouring the earth and sky.
"Nathan!" Chelsea bellowed into his shirt, commanding him back from his shock, her cries holding panicked supplication. Save me! Save us!
He gathered her up into his arms, making his way toward the basement, ducking around the fallen tree in their kitchen, heart in his throat as more windows broke, more glass flew. Shielding her the best he could with his own body, he made it to the basement stairs taking them two at a time until his feet hit concrete.
"I couldn't get in," she was crying as he felt in the dark for the pull chain for the light. His hand kept coming up empty, grasping at the air.
"I'm so sorry, Chels. I'm so sorry," Nathan repeated over and over as he found the string and turned on what light they had, the bare bulb flickering in and out.
Grabbing a blanket from one of the trunks he wrapped it around her and knelt with her on the floor, trying to calm her, covering her with his body as the storm raged on restlessly. Above he heard something break and snap, the shed out back if he had to guess. More glass was raucously raked away by branches, dust falling from the rafters above them.
The banshee-like cry of the wind became so thunderous and all-consuming that Chelsea's screams were drowned, lost in the sound. He closed his eyes, rocking her, praying the floor above didn't come down on them as the house shook. He could feel Chelsea's heart beating in spurts against his chest.
"Not here…please…Not here. Not us."
The house gave one last shudder, moaning, and he thought for sure they were done.
"Not us!" he screamed, terrified, but above all else, angry. Not here! Not like this!
And it stopped.
Like someone had covered his ears, the silence that fell upon them suddenly cast him into confusion and disbelief. He unfolded from his protective cocoon around Chelsea and looked up at the light swinging above their heads. It browned-out a few more times before coming back, illuminating air thick with dust.
Chelsea, still sobbing, refused to let go of his neck, and he had to take her with him as he cautiously went back upstairs. Making his way to the front door, stepping carefully over glass and splintered wood, he assessed the damage.
Their roof was still in place, and minus the tree through the kitchen, they still had a relatively untouched house. In awe, he stepped into sunlight, sirens filling the air, their warning sounding too late. Barely able to regain his breath as Chelsea wrapped her arms tighter around his throat, he saw some of the farms in the distance, some leveled and others undamaged.
He felt Chelsea turn her head and look up. He followed her gaze to the bonnet snagged in the branches, ribbons lifting weakly with residual zephyr. Nathan looked past them, into clear skies, unblemished azure.
Not a cloud in sight.
Butte County, Early Afternoon
"…Made up my mind to make a new start, going to California with an aching in my heart..."
With both windows down in the Impala, the sun warming his face, and Zeppelin's Going to California delivering soothing acoustic guitar that flowed with ease from the speakers, Sam found himself getting sleepy. Leaning against the doorframe, wind moving through spread fingers, ruffling the hairs on his arm and lifting the bangs from his forehead, he was lost in a moment of contentedness that was both rare and coveted.
Dean and he had been through a lot lately, and at times it seemed that solace was only attainable through the simplicity of moments like these. The only way to keep from falling over was to keep moving. The only way to quiet the restless noise in their heads was to drown it out with the road and music. The only way to rest was sprawled out in the front seat of the Impala.
They had to take what they could when they could, and for Sam, a little bit of peace had been bestowed on him the last hundred miles.
He stretched out a little, letting muscles pop and lengthen in his legs, then cast a look at his brother, picking up on a few of his subtle mannerisms. The way his jaw was set, eyes fixed on the road ahead, shoulders squared and tense, fingers lacing and unlacing around the wheel, it didn't take a lot for Sam to know the lyrics of the song probably hit too close to home as they filled the silence between them.
Dean always thought that he was good at hiding things on his mind, but Sam had somehow mastered the ability to render Dean's walls as opaque as cellophane. Two things, among many others, had to be clawing around that head of his: a distant father and a girl Dean had distanced himself from.
Passing ranches and seemingly endless hills, Sam knew the countryside of Northern California was a far cry from the California he had been used to. He preferred what he was seeing, however. Trips to this state always proved bittersweet, and the less this felt like the California he knew, the better.
The distinct scent of fire intermingled with the rain-thick air and drew Sam's attention toward the farm they were approaching. At least that was Sam's best guess at what it had once been.
Workers were piling debris from what looked like a barn in the open fields, while nearby burn piles sent up thick plumes of black smoke. A house in the distance was missing one half, the three levels openly exposed, revealing disheveled and destroyed contents of what looked like a dining room and a few bedrooms. Wires and splintered beams hung down from one level to the next like frayed ends of cloth.
Dean whistled and slowed down the Impala to take in the destruction, shaking his head.
"That is the definition of 'sucks out loud'…"
Sam could see Dean's eyes flood with concern, looking at the workers. Maybe he was hoping to see the survivors clearly labeled among them.
"Yeah…" Sam huffed, pretty sure the closest he'd ever gotten to something like this was from the comfortable distance a television screen provided. "They said it came out of nowhere."
The car picked up speed, Dean's eyes back to the road. "Don't most tornadoes?"
They passed a few TV vans alongside the road as they headed into town. The reporters were using the backdrop of the partially mauled Welcome to Butte County sign as they told their stories.
"Well, uh," Sam started, distractedly. "Yes and no. To most people, how fast these things show up, it feels like they came out of nowhere. This one, Dean, literally did come out of nowhere."
Dean's brow lifted in confused interest, but something else was tugging at his attention. Vans and SUVs with what looked like communication equipment strapped to their roofs lined the main road into Oroville. It looked like a tailgate party between the lawn chairs and the grills, intermixed with cameras and equipment Sam couldn't identify.
"They can't all be the local news…" Sam observed.
The tape in the deck switched sides and Zeppelin's Misty Mountain Hop replaced the melancholy folk of the previous song. With the flip seemed to go Dean's mood as he stared, almost wide-eyed, at the number of people setting up equipment alongside the road.
"Storm chasers," Dean snorted, slow grin spreading.
"No way," Sam replied, doing a double take.
The TV crews for local news were in clearly marked vans, but the other vehicles…
"What variety? Thrill seekers? Scientists?" Sam asked.
"Probably both. Think we'll run into that Hunt chick and Billy boy?"
"Are all these people nuts?" Sam ignored his brother's question. "You're supposed to run away from tornadoes."
"Dude," Dean lifted a brow. "What the hell does that say about us?" He waved a hand from one side of the road to the other as if Sam couldn't already see the turn out for Butte County's freak natural phenomenon show. "Why are we here, again? I mean, granted, you said you found a gig in California, I agreed on your word that it had something to do with us…but, uh…last I checked, you can't rock-salt a twister."
"True or false, we deal in supernatural occurrences?"
"True," Dean huffed out a short laugh.
"California ranks thirty-two out of fifty states for frequency of tornadoes, the risk of them occurring is…well, forty-five out of fifty. No one has died from these things in Cali in, oh, over fifty years."
"Sorry. Blanket argument."
"Dean. Focus. Ten tornadoes in increasing severity, all in one week, even more numbers of violent storms, all claiming twenty or more people across the touch down radius, limited to Northern California…"
"Okay, that is freaky…Doesn't mean…"
"No Doppler activity before they strike, Dean. They literally materialize out of thin air. Out of blue skies."
"So, you're telling me, people are enjoying a Bing Crosby-esque day, then BAM, their homes are off to Oz?"
"Okay, so you have a theory?"
"Uh, well, I'm banking on demonic activity."
Dean's eyes slid to the right. "Blanket argument."
"Look, there was a lot of mythology and belief back in the day that some natural phenomena were caused by demons or demi-gods. Adad and Ishkur, Lilith the wind demon, Shedu from Chaldean mythos," Sam replied, counting on his fingers the demons he could remember from his research. "Uh, many cultures believed that tornadoes were demons themselves or were controlled by them."
"M'kay," Dean replied pushing out his lips for a beat and nodding. "So why now? Which demon, if it is a demon, is pissed at Northern California?"
"That's what I hope we can find out before the next one strikes. And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it isn't a demon. I mean, with the former angel of light having way too much fun topside, this could be his doing too, Dean."
"Friggin' Satan," Dean growled.
"I hear you, brother. It could be anything, but whatever it is, it has scientists baffled and the behavior of the storms feels…"
"Selective?" Dean asked.
"Unnatural selection," Dean mused. They passed a truck where a group of people were tapping a keg on the back. He nodded toward the sight. "Survival of the fittest at its finest, Sammy."
Sam's jaw worked with concern. "They shouldn't be here…" The Impala was slowing down and Sam furrowed his brow. "What are you doing?"
Pulling the Impala alongside a row of black vans, Dean threw her into park and nodded toward the paint job on the side of one of them. "These people look friendly enough."
Metallica's Ride the Lightning album cover art was on the side of the van in all its electric blue glory. Lightning crackling around an electric chair, beneath the silver metallic insignia of the band, screamed at Sam to run, and run fast.
"No," Sam mouthed.
Dean's response was simple, eyes crinkling in youthful glee as he laughed and pushed open his door before further protest could be voiced.
Sam stumbled out of the car after him.
"No, Dean. No."
Sam practically tripped over his own feet and Dean's heels as he twisted around his brother to stand in his path.
"Sam, sorry, but what's the harm in asking a few questions?"
What's the harm? Sam blinked a little, mouth working but only managing a scoff at first. For starters, Sam knew how Dean's convoluted mind worked.
"Because I know you, and a few questions is going to turn into…Dean!"
His brother ducked around him and started to knock on the cab window. Sam could see a man behind the wheel, hitting the steering column like his hands held drum sticks, then switching to air guitar, head bobbing to music. Music that Sam could hear clearly outside of closed windows, the electric guitar vibrating through the entire vehicle.
Dean looked back over his shoulder, the corners of his eyes creased back with his grin. Sam just returned the smile with a glare before the guy suddenly noticed they were there, rolling down his window. Van Halen's Eruption almost knocked the two of them over as it rocketed out of the speakers.
The guy turned it down, laughing his apologies. "I just get in the zone sometimes and it's like gaaahhh!" He said, shaking his hands in front of his face for emphasis like a stream of electric current was going right through him. "You know?"
Sam could tell right away, between the long hair pulled back beneath the trucker hat, the goatee, the AC/DC shirt, and the hemp wristlets, not to mention the smell of something closely related to hemp, Dean and this guy were going to be best friends. Sam smiled thinly.
They just stared at each other for an awkward moment, Dean nodding a little, then looked back and forth between Sam and the man. Dean eventually dipped his chin, scratching at the back of his head.
"Totally, man. So uh…"
"Oh, dude, sorry. I'm Russ," the man introduced himself, sticking a hand out the window to shake both Sam's and Dean's. "You two must be those college students Professor…oh hell, what was his name? Rachel set it up. Didn't catch the names, bros. From California State University, right? Chico?"
"Yeah," Dean replied, getting an immediate elbow in the soft tissue of his back from Sam. "This is Sam…" He groaned, wincing, but managing to continue undaunted. "I'm Dean."
"Rock on," Russ nodded. "And welcome." He ducked back into the window and returned shortly with a clipboard. "Need you two to sign a waiver."
Sam shot Dean a you've got to be kidding me look as his brother took the waiver and signed one of his usual pseudonyms in indistinct scrawl, then passed the board to Sam.
Russ must have taken Sam's lemon-sucking face as a sign that he had something against waivers, because he tried to prod him along. "I know, dude. Hate them too. Like, waiver, psf…what? It's just so you don't, you know, trip on some equipment and sue us, man. Seriously. We're professionals. Been chasing storm skirt since I was at your kneecaps."
Sam reluctantly wrote his name, or more like scribbled a line where the signature would go, eyes burning into Dean the whole time, then passed the clipboard back through the window.
"Cool. I'll show you around," Russ said, dropping down to the ground and motioning for them to follow.
He opened the back of his van and pointed to two guys who were looking over what appeared to be sound and video equipment.
"Guys, this is Sam and Dean, the brains from Chico. Sam and Dean this is Greg and Jacks. They're trying to assess these mothers by sound, see if they can't catch the wraiths on camera."
The one named Jacks, looked back warily, eyes darting between the two of them. "Don't touch my equipment."
Dean nodded. "Okaaaay. Gotcha."
"Wraiths?" Sam asked.
Russ laughed. "Yeah, dude, what we're calling these tornados. Damn things just appear and disappear. Pretty effed up stuff…"
Russ saluted the two and shut the doors, waving a hand again for them to follow. Next to the van was a Chevy Avalanche with a small moving trailer attached. Two more people were working on removing something from the back.
Russ leaned into both of them. "That fine rumpus right there," he said, nodding toward the woman who'd just set an open trunk of wires and power cords on the ground.
"Russ! Stop talking about Wes like that," she shouted back without even turning a head in their direction.
The guy with her pushed thick-rimmed glasses up on his nose and shrugged.
"That's Rachel, and Wes," Russ finally introduced, bowing low in apology when Rachel turned and shook a hand held radio at him.
"I told you I needed these live, Russ!"
Russ pushed Sam and Dean toward her. "Your grunts have arrived."
Both Sam and Dean shot him a confused look and he grinned, still backing away. "Rachel will fill you bros in on the rest."
Great…Sam thought with a sigh. He turned into an armful of communication equipment that was dumped from Rachel's into his own.
Rachel's bright green eyes studied his reaction. "You're Professor Jinn's students?"
"Uh…y-yeah," Sam stammered, looking to Dean for a little help. This was his idea after all…
"Loved his classes," Rachel said, tucking a loose strand of auburn hair behind her ear. "When he found out what I do, he wanted to know if I'd take on some of his students. Guess you two are top of his class?"
"Oh, yeah," Dean replied, the bull oozing naturally from his persona. "I'm Dean and this is Sam. Professor Jinn is amazing. Real…visionary."
Rachel beamed. "What did you think about his paper on common modes of mesoscale convective organization?"
Dean's face…God, Sam wished he had a camera. It was a moment worth documenting.
Sam watched Dean's brain claw for purchase, smiling at his brother and Rachel. There was no way Sam was stepping into this one.
"Great work. Awesome look into the theory of…" Dean coughed, mumbling something incoherent into his closed fist.
Rachel's brow ticked up. "Sorry, didn't catch that…"
"Rache," Wes called from the trailer, causing the young woman to hold up a finger at Dean and Sam.
"Hold that thought. We'll talk later. Why don't you guys get acquainted with some of the equipment and the rest of the team, huh?"
She jogged off, and Sam looked over at Dean, smiling thin. "The theory of… what was that again, Dean?"
"The theory of you're a major pain in my ass. A little help would have been nice," Dean replied, returning to the Impala.
Sam followed, realizing when he'd reached the car that he was still carrying the communication equipment. He sighed, sliding the equipment to the ground, and then swung in front of his brother once more.
"Dean, listen to me, we can't do this."
"They expect us to be knowledgeable in this field. This isn't a good idea."
"And how else did you want to get to the bottom of this, Dorothy?"
Sam shrugged, trying not to raise his voice. "I. Don't. Know. But I'm not exactly brushed up on my mesoscales, Dean. And what happens when the students they are expecting…"
Another car pulled up alongside the Impala from the road, its occupants pointing to Russ' van.
Sam tipped his chin in their direction. "Think the students from Chico are here."
Dean adjusted his collar, before striding up to the car, his expression asking Sam to trust him as he leaned coolly against the students' car door. The passenger window was rolled down and Dean flashed them a confident grin. Sam joined Dean reluctantly, if only to be witness to how bad things could get.
"Hey, you guys Professor Jinn's students?" Dean asked.
"Yes sir," one answered. Both looked like they'd crawled out of an Abercrombie catalog.
"Well, guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but uh, we're gonna have to ask you to turn back around and go home."
"What? Why?" The one behind the wheel asked indignantly. "We were told…"
"Look, I know you both were looking forward to this, but these storms are unstable. We can't risk you guys getting caught in the suck zone."
Sam, along with the two in the car all scrunched up brows. The two college students were confused, Sam disbelieving that Dean had actually just said "suck zone."
"Whatever, man," the driver sighed, disgust evident as he started to back up. "Prof's going to love this."
They made a wide turn, almost taking out another team's equipment as they whipped the vehicle around. Dean dug his hands into his pockets as he watched them go, rocking a little on his feet.
"There. One problem solved."
"The suck zone, Dean?" Sam asked, incensed.
His brother shrugged. "I've seen Twister. We so can do this, Sam."
"First of all, Dean, tornadoes don't suck, they…"
Sam stopped himself as Dean's grin started to grow mischievous, making him look innocuously twelve. "They what, Sam?"
Sam waved a hand through the air dismissively, deciding that in situations such as these, walking away when he'd set himself up for Dean's humor was the best way to preserve his dignity.
"Guys," Rachel called out to them, as she approached at a slow run. "I almost forgot." She held out two room key cards to Sam. "As soon as you two get done with those radios, maybe you should get settled in town. Professor Jinn paid for your room in advance."
Sam felt it coming before Dean's hand clapped down on his shoulder from behind. His brother's way of saying I told you so.
"Thanks, Rachel," Dean said, plucking the cards from Sam's hands, looking at the name of the motel before tapping them against Sam's forehead. As soon as she was out of earshot he laughed a little. "Come on. Let's hear it. This was a good idea."
Sam shook his head, unable to resist smiling at his brother's enthusiasm over a few key cards. "Wow, Dean. A free room. You are the man."
"Damn straight," Dean responded, pocketing the cards.
Determined to do some research, Sam remembered a detail in the last report that he hoped Rachel could help him with.
"Hey, Rachel," Sam called out after her.
She lifted her eyes from the computer she was looking at out of the back of the van and tucked another rogue strand of hair behind her ear. "Yeah?"
"The last touch down happened around here, right?"
She nodded emphatically. "Yeah. A funnel touched down and then disappeared over a farm off of Oakland. Few miles up the road from town."
Cole Residence, Mid Afternoon
The Cole residence was one of the few properties on their way out of town that wasn't completely torn apart. While debris littered the yard, and the shed out back looked like it had been reduced to a pile of toothpicks, the two-story white farmhouse still stood.
As Sam and Dean parked the Impala behind a truck in the driveway, they could see one of the residents working on the roof, replacing shingles. Moving in unconscious sync, they stepped from the car and approached the house, just beneath where the guy was working. Life of my Own by 3 Doors Down was playing from the truck cab, giving the sweat covered, bare-backed worker something to labor to.
"…Kiss me while I'm still alive. Kill me while I kiss the sky. Let me die on my own terms, let me live and let me learn…"
Sam coughed as they stood beneath him, hoping to get his attention over the music and the determination clearly set into the young man's face. Sam didn't think the guy could be much older than Dean, much older than him for that matter.
"Hey," Dean eventually called out, grabbing the guy's attention, accompanied by distrustful narrowed eyes.
"Can I help you?" The guy asked, squatting close to the edge of the roof, passing the hammer back and forth between his hands in an attempt to intimidate. "I've already talked to everyone I care to talk to, gentlemen. So if this is about the storms, you're wasting your time. Can't you collaborate with the other news teams?"
"It would just take a minute," Sam pressed. "We'll be out of your hair in no time. We just heard that the last tornado disappeared here, and wondered if you could answer a few questions…" He opened his hands in peace. "It would really help us out, man."
"Yeah, I bet it would," the guy sighed. "Please, just go. I have a lot of work to get done. Or didn't you see the tree sitting in my kitchen?"
Sam heard him mumble something about opportunistic parasites before returning to work. The front door slammed and both Sam and Dean turned to look at the girl who'd come to sit on the front porch. She folded herself onto the stairs, elbows on knees, head in hands, staring at them,
"You with the news?" she asked.
"Yes," Sam nodded.
"Trust me, mister, you want to get in your car and go," the little girl said.
"Chelsea," the guy called down from the roof. "Go back inside."
She didn't move, and Sam approached her. "Were you here when the storm hit?"
He heard a laugh from above, and looked up to see the resident shaking his head.
"You guys are unbelievable," he said, shoving the hammer back into his belt. "I'll give you a statement, just wait right there."
Sam watched him crawl back through one of the open windows and shrugged at Dean who shrugged back.
"Is that your brother?" Sam asked Chelsea.
She bobbed her head once. "Nathan."
"Seems like a good guy," Sam said, unaware he was about to retract that statement.
Nathan came barreling through the front door, swinging the shotgun in his hand up to eye level, steadying it on Sam. Dean had somehow shifted completely in front of Sam at that moment, hands up in momentary submission. If Sam could have seen his eyes, he knew they'd hold a different story; one that promised retaliation if Nathan even thought about pulling that trigger. He could hear it in Dean's voice.
"Hey, hey, just calm down!" Dean barked. "You want us gone? We're gone. Not worth getting shot over."
Sam heard tires spinning up the gravel driveway, the heavy back beat of punk rock, and then Rise Against's Chamber the Cartridge suddenly overpowering all other noise, as a jeep skidded to a stop next to the Impala. The driver barely took the time to shift into park before falling out into a run and jogging toward them.
From his expression, Sam guessed he'd seen Nathan with the shotgun and was going to try to run damage control.
"Nate! Dude, chill! Put the friggin' gun away. No sense shooting people," the new party said as he hopped up the porch steps, ruffling Chelsea's hair as he went.
Nathan lowered the shotgun. "Just trying to get them to leave, Jay. It's not even loaded," he sighed as the guy took it from his hands and set it down on the porch swing.
"Reporters?" Jay asked Sam and Dean, who'd since relaxed into side by side formation, Dean still keeping one shoulder tucked protectively in front of Sam's body.
"We were just trying to figure out what happened," Sam replied honestly. "Didn't mean any harm."
"Well, damn, what's the harm in telling the story one more time, Arashi?" Jay asked Nathan, eyes dancing.
Sam raised a brow at the unusual nickname. "Was that Japanese?"
Jay laughed, "Yeah, little inside joke between the two of us. Come on, Nate, just tell them and we'll get to work on removing that tree from the kitchen. Unless you think it makes a sweet new table?"
Sam could tell that Jay was trying to soften Nathan up, make sure that he didn't get in trouble, but Nathan wasn't going to give them much of anything. He'd dropped his shoulder into the porch post, crossed his arms, and was looking anywhere but at Sam and Dean.
"Fine," Jay said with a dismissive wave of his hands. "I'll tell them. So it was friggin' sweet. I, of course, wasn't here, but I've heard the story from Nate, and I saw it touch down. Seriously, I didn't think those things could just drop down like that. Beautiful day, then WHAM, there was a twister kicking its way for Nate's house. So I was like in my jeep, pronto, trying to get here, right? The thing just vanishes as soon as it hit Nathan's property…I mean, how freaking awesome is that? It couldn't touch my boy Nate."
Jay cast out a hand, knocking Nathan's shoulder. "Couldn't touch you, man."
Nathan shook his friend's hand and turned, grabbing up the shotgun and stalked back into the house. Jay sighed as he watched his friend leave, the screen door slam making him wince. Chelsea hit Jay in the calf before standing up.
"Way to go, Jay," she reprimanded.
"Chels? What?" Jay whined, watching her retreat before shrugging. "Don't mind him. He's had a rough run recently. Just take my advice, and don't come back out here. Next time he might actually load the thing."
"Noted," Dean replied dully.
"You need anything else?' Jay asked. "Oh, name's Jaime Alden. When you quote me."
"Thanks," Sam returned with a half nod, then watched Jay head inside, dropping his shoulders. "That was weird."
"Totally," Dean sighed. "I need a drink."
Charlie's Bar, Night
They'd spent the past couple of hours with the "Ride the Lightning" storm chasers, drinking beer and listening to their stories. Sam had remained silent for the most part, taking in the stories that were flying across the table rapid fire. Each one of the storm chasers had their own version of the most dangerous chase, and through the smoky haze and florescent lights, Sam could see Dean eating up every word.
Dean had been flirting with Rachel, and Sam had been somewhat glad to see that Dean was able to get his mind off of things that had been plaguing him for weeks, but when he saw his brother pull back and withdraw within himself, taking on a careful, guarded persona with the beautiful storm chaser, Sam knew he was padding those walls of his.
Someday, Dean…Sam thought, You'll get your shot at having someone.
He deserved that at least. Sam had always thought Dean deserved that.
Sam could see Dean's attraction to the team. The team's driver, Russ, was an adrenaline junkie, and even Rachel, with her knowledge of what these storms could do, had some of her own close calls that she described with excited eyes and laughter.
The whole bar was crowded with the other storm chasers and reporters, and Sam could hear similar stories floating around the room. Personally, Sam felt these people were crazy, but who was he to make commentary on the lives of storm chasers when he was a demon hunter?
There'd been a small fight at the bar earlier, taking Sam's attention away from the team's conversation and directing it to the side door where a group of people were being shoved outside. Sam thought he recognized Jay, but couldn't tell before the doors slammed shut.
The crowd tonight was loud and hyped up on adrenaline, and Sam wanted to get going before more fights broke out. He wasn't exactly sure what kind of fights drunken researchers could get into, but he didn't want to stay around and find out. He'd grabbed Dean's shoulder, pulling him in close so he could hear him over the noise.
"I think we should go," Sam said.
"Aw, come on, Sammy. I want to stay. If I wasn't a hunter I'd be running around with Russ and the gang. I've kinda always wanted to be a storm chaser."
And there it was again, that look that Sam noticed for a while now had been void from Dean's face. There was nothing forced about his smile, that light in his eyes, and Sam knew it was more than just the beers Dean had slammed back. Dean needed this distraction.
"I thought you wanted to be a firefighter," Sam returned.
Dean laughed, taking another swig of beer. "You forgot a mechanic, an astronaut, a bounty hunter…"
Sam huffed, returning the cool beer bottle's rim to his lips and letting the dry flavor of the liquid swath his tongue. Sam had no idea where to even start their research, and so he was giving in to Dean's methods slowly. They would have to wait and see one of these freak unnatural occurrences themselves, and it was probably best to stay with the people that knew what they were doing.
"Well, Dean, I hate to say it…but I think you were…"
Sam didn't get to finish, as the entire building shuddered violently, the TVs throughout the bar switching to static snow-white screens, the pub lights swinging above the tables, flickering in and out. Everyone went silent, the only noise in the bar coming from the jukebox, and with the sudden quiet came the awareness of how loud the wind was tearing around the building outside.
Dean looked at Sam, then up at the nearest dancing light. "Spirits, tornadoes, they both at least have something in common. Both screw with the electricity…"
Sam was transfixed by the beer bottle he'd set down on the table as it started to shake, joined by the other glasses surrounding it as they started to vibrate and clank into one another.
"Yeah, but one sure makes one hell of a bigger bump in the night."
The liquor bottles on the shelf behind the bar had started to rattle against each other riotously, before another tremor through the building sent them crashing in a shower of glass and amber liquid to the ground. A woman screamed, and the entire bar plunged into dark as storm sirens kicked to life in the distance.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Once again, I'm going to be putting up these chapters every other day. I covet your feedback and would love to hear from you.
Oh, and I don't claim to be an expert on meteorology. Just a student of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. *laugh* It's just for fun. The science I tried to use is probably nowhere near the realm of the real...but the show is called Supernatural.
Also, I know it has been a while since I've written anything, but I hope that will change soon. I do this for fun, to appease my muse, for the sake of painting pictures with words, and I love playing in this universe that Kripke created. But it's a weird thing, putting yourself out there like this, and it got to be a little too much for a while there. It was like I would hold my breath every time I'd post something, and people rarely understand the power of their words. Putting yourself, all that work, into a story is a seriously precarious and dangerously brittle thing, and so I needed to really reinforce the walls, remind myself why I write. Because this is supposed to be an escape, not a prison, you know? *laugh* And I've probably scared a ton of you away...Anyway, putting up these VS stories is kinda my way of coming back to posting, and I'm really grateful for all of the writers and readers out there who understand and who've been awesome with advice and help. You guys rock!