"What do you think it all means?" Sam crossed his arms over his chest and walked around the motel room, stopping every few feet to dig at the carpet with his boot toe. They'd spent much of the last twenty-four hours combing the town of Seven Trumpets for any clues that might tell them what disastrous event was coming.
Dean sat at the table, the small canvas bag he'd put the coins in was open in front of him and a few of the coins were scattered beside it. He picked one up, turned it over and then, with a flick of his wrist, sent it flying at Sam.
Catching it out of the air, Sam fisted the coin gingerly, waiting for a burn. Dean's gaze followed him even he didn't say anything. Sam met Dean's gaze for a minute before opening his hand and staring down at his opened palm. The coin sat there innocently, no different from any of the change he might have found in his pocket. "You can quit throwing these at me. I believe you."
Putting one hand to his ear, Dean smirked, "What was that, Sammy? I didn't quite hear you."
Sam cranked back his arm and sent the coin sailing back to his brother. "Fine, jerk. You were right, I was wrong. Happy now?"
Leaning back in his chair and flinging one arm over the back Dean smirked. "Yes. I am. Can we be done with the Sam is evil crap now? Bury it once and for all?"
"Yeah." Sam nodded. He had to admit it felt good, being able to find things that proved he wasn't evil, and backed up what Dean and Bob had been saying all along. Sam had wanted so desperately to believe Dean's words every time they'd been spoken, but a nagging voice in his head wanted proof. More and more he was being offered that proof. "Now can we move on to our other problems?"
"Yes." Dean smiled smugly and went back to sorting the coins. "Twenty-one coins, all with a different imprint representing a seal. At least we have a starting point, something to look up."
He gathered them up and put them back in the bag, pulling the strings tight. Dean got up and stuffed it into their weapons' duffel. "So what do we have? A town that may be destroyed in a few hours and we don't know why. A handful of coins representing Biblical seals. A thing that looks like Mothman, who's may be a demon come to destroy this town, or an angel come to issue a warning to it. Then there are the nightmares you've been having and again something that looks like Mothman that might be John or might be Azazel or both. It spouts stuff at us John spouted at us while we were at Carver's house. Last, but not least, we have a fashion conscious angel who also spouts a bunch of mumbo jumbo and won't tell us what it means."
"That about sums it up."
"Well, then, at least you and I are on the same page, even if no one else is remotely in our book."
Sam chuckled. The fact Dean could make a joke and find some humor in almost every situation was nothing short of inspirational at times. "Bob said you were given something that is our answer and you'd have to make a choice."
"Sammy, I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what he—John—might have given me that I'd still have that is the key or an answer and I'm coming up blank."
"I'd say Bob is full of shit except we've been hearing that from multiple sources, including Da—John himself." Sam sighed and wandered to the window, leaning one arm against the frame and gazing out. "You know I hate this, right?"
"Yeah, I know." Dean said softly. "Me too."
Sam stared at the mountain above the town. The sun was rising behind it, casting gold and pink rays through the trees and onto the town nestled at the base of the mountain. His reflection in the window faded away as the mountain—that was really a volcano—became more visible in the brightening sky. A cold chill ran through him. He turned to face his brother. "Dean, we have to leave."
"Right now." Sam crossed the motel room in a few long strides and started grabbing their stuff, shoving everything haphazardly into bags.
"Sam? What are you doing?"
"Dean," Sam turned to him. "Now, right now, please believe me. Trust me."
They stood like that for a few seconds looking at one another. Dean nodded slowly. "Do you know why?"
"No. Just that…something about the mountain, it's wrong, something is wrong with it…right now, please?"
Dean didn't hesitate that time. He became a flurry of activity, helping Sam. The fact his brother took his word so unconditionally filled Sam with warmth and a self-confidence he didn't often experience.
Arms loaded with their bags, Sam grabbed the keys and ran to the car. He threw everything into the trunk, swiveled on his heels and tossed Dean the keys. They both froze in their tracks when flocks of birds took flight from what seemed everywhere at once. The street filled with the sound of barking dogs, many, many barking dogs. A low rumble started and surrounded them. In unison they stared at the ground.
The rumble became a shaking. Buildings and trees swayed, car alarms went off.
"We have to clear them out." Sam turned and gazed, transfixed, up at the mountain again. Bits of what looked like steam billowed from the sides. It seemed shaped differently than it had been only minutes ago.
"Give me ideas. Something, anything. We have to tell them something." Dean swung around and followed Sam's gaze. He turned away from the mountain to stare at people walking nearby. "Hey," Dean shouted to a woman coming out of the motel office. Closing the distance between him and her, he grabbed at her shoulder with one hand and pointed to the mountain with the other. "Do you see something wrong up there?"
"No." She shook her head and smiled, stepping away from him. "It's very pretty today, don't you think?" She nodded to Dean and turned her head so she could offer Sam a quick smile before continuing on her way.
Dean stood, watching her go before he dragged his gaze from her back to stare at Sam. Shaking his head, mouthing the words, freaking weird, Dean jogged back to where Sam stood beside the car.
The entire natural world went deathly quiet. The only background sounds left were those created by man: car alarms, doors banging open and closed, and broken glass falling from windows.
Sam opened his mouth and closed it again. Holding his breath, he turned only his head to scan the area.
The shaking intensified without warning. Dean staggered to the side, bracing against the car to keep from falling. Sam went down on one knee, making a grab for the car door handle to pull himself up against.
Silence turned to a roar. Clapping his hands over his ears, Sam's body flinched to one side before he even knew why. In the next second, he bent at the waist, ducking away from some unknown force.
Dark clouds like steam rolled in huge billows, end over end, from the top of the mountain as well as its sides now. Sam squinted at it for a few seconds before realizing steam was really smoke and dust. The roaring turned to some other noise that shattered through the atmosphere. Sam ventured a quick glance at Dean, who was shifting between watching the mountain top and the people in the area going on about their daily business as if nothing unusual was happening. Sam had the rather odd feeling of he and Dean being inside their own private movie.
Dean shrugged one shoulder, and looked just as confused as Sam felt. That didn't really reassure Sam much.
The top of the mountain bulged, belched, and part of the rock and soil at the top dropped away as the peak partially collapsed on itself. Sam barely had time to blink before the rock and stone that had been sucked in was ejected along with thundering explosions and brilliant waves of red. Spinning on his heels, Sam looked around the street, confused. Still no one else seemed to notice anything odd, they were going about their lives as if the mountain their town sat at the base of hadn't just exploded.
"We've got to get these people out of here!" Sam shouted to his brother above the roar.
"They don't really look as if they get what's going on." Dean looked side to side, nodding, "C'mon we'll—"
Bits of rock rained down, making them both cover their heads and duck away. When Sam straightened, he could still see the eruption taking place and the dirt and molten stone pelting them from the sky, but he didn't hear or feel anything. He was treated to the oddest sensation of being inside a bubble.
Then, suddenly, Bob stood beside Dean.
"Listen to me." Bob grabbed Dean's arm and shook it. "These people will not suffer. Down to every last man, woman and child, they will be rewarded. Look at them!" Bob shouted, sweeping one arm in a wide arc. "They aren't even aware of what is happening. You can't save them. They don't need saving and to try and do so would be wrong. There are two, and only two, people in this town who need to live. Feel no guilt or shame. This is your duty. You must go, you both have work that needs done."
Bob's voice deepened and somehow grew to fill every bit of empty space in the world. "Take your brother out of this town, Dean. Take your brother and run."
Eyebrows pulling together, Dean's head turned slowly until he was staring fully at Bob wide eyes that narrowed in the span of one breath. Sam watched, fascinated, as something he could only describe as recollection crossed Dean's features.
Bob straighten and squared his shoulders. His voice came out strong, calm and clear. "Take your brother and run, Dean."
Dean spent another second staring. Sam looked up, first at the mountain, then at the sky, hand on the side of the Impala, when the noise and sensation of being hit with rock returned. Ducking, he threw one arm across his head, and turned back to his brother. Bob was gone.
Dean darted around the car, opened the passenger door and shoved Sam inside. "I think we'd better listen this once."
Before Sam could respond, the door was slammed shut. Dean sprinted to the front of the car, slid over the hood to his side and yanked the door open as the wind went from nothing to hurricane force in a matter of seconds. Slipping behind the wheel, Dean cranked the engine. He started to shift the car into gear but stared at the rearview mirror instead, body completely still. "Oh, shit."
Sam twisted in his seat and gaped at the gray cloud rolling end over end down the mountain and directly at the town kicking trees, dirt and buildings along in front of it. "What the hell is that?"
"Sammy, you need to watch more movies…pyroclastic cloud, dude." Jerking the stick shift down, Dean had the car in gear and was stomping on the gas.
Tail end spinning left then right, the car lurched forward, making Sam grab onto the dash to keep from becoming one with it. He turned to watch larger rocks then boulder-sized chunks hurtle into the town, smashing through everything. Yet, the only ones who seemed to be remotely aware there was a problem were Sam and his brother.
Flipping around forward and using the side-view mirror to watch the onslaught, Sam shouted, "Faster, Dean, must go faster!" The car steadily picked up speed. So did the cloud. "It looks like a giant demon."
"Stinks like one too." Dean shut down the heat. "Cover the vents."
Sam started, eyes watering from the sting of sulfur. "Crap." He dug under the seat then turned around and hung over the seat back, rooting around, finally grabbing up napkins and towels. Dropping back, he shoved them against the vents along the dash and floor.
The faster Dean drove, the faster the cloud overtook and buried the town. It was literally ripped up from its foundations and scattered across the mountainside. Cars, building parts and plants were flung high. The one thing Sam never saw was a person. It was as if the town had been deserted all this time.
Scenery sped by, blurring into one streak of brown, green and white backed by light blue sky as they bounced over potholes and swerved around debris blowing into the road. It was dizzying how fast and sure Dean could drive this car. Sam gripped the dash with one hand and the seat beside Dean's leg with the other, alternating between holding his breath and gulping in large amounts of air.
Finally, they were gaining ground and outdistancing the destructive cloud. Not the shock wave winds, however. Trees crashed down, shrubbery was uprooted and blow across the road making Dean turn and swerve to avoid collision every few yards.
Waving one arm frantically, Sam tried to direct him. "Left, Dean, go left…no right…no—"
"SHUT UP! Shit, this is like every bad disaster flick ever made."
Sam let go of the dash and used both hands. "That way…no left…your other left—"
Sam bit down on his lower lip to oblige his brother. He wheezed out a low groan and braced himself when a tree—oak or maybe maple, Sam wasn't sure and it really didn't matter—crashed down. Branches scattered across the road along with dried leaves, fanning out in every direction. The wind swooped down and picked them up, flinging them ahead of the car and tree.
Skidding to a turning stop, Dean hit the steering wheel, swearing loudly. He had the door open and was out in no time, running to the tree. Sam didn't need him to say a word; he was out and running on Dean's heels in seconds.
"This thing is huge!" Dean spat.
Turning to scan the area, "We need something for leverage." He turned far enough he couldn't see Dean.
He heard an odd crunch and Dean's screamed. Sprinting toward where Dean lay under the tree, Sam dropped down and shoved against the solid mass of wood. "What happened?"
"It…just…rolled…" Dean ground out. He tried shoving Sam away. "Get back in the car and find another route. Get the hell out of here."
"I'm not leaving you!" Sam shouted, grabbed a section of the tree and tried lifting, grunting with the strain.
Getting a hold of Sam's arms, Dean shoved him hard enough his grip on the tree was severed and he stumbled back. "Yes, you are! This thing is five hundred years old and weighs as many tons, you can't lift it."
"Dean, I—" Sam's words caught in his throat when he saw Bob standing a few feet away, hands folded in front of him, watching them with a placid expression.
Getting a good running start, Sam charged Bob and didn't stop until he had the angel trapped between himself and the Impala. Fisting Bob's clothes, Sam gave him a shake. "Help him. NOW!"
Bob glanced down at Sam's hands. "Was I supposed to knock again?" He looked around. "I don't see anything to knock on."
With a growl, Sam shoved against Bob, let him go and stepped back. "I can't move that tree. Dean is trapped. We're both going to die, because I'm not leaving him."
"Then I suggest you go pick up the tree." Bob tilted his head ever so slightly at Dean and the tree.
"It's too heavy. There isn't enough time to cut it away."
Bob placed a hand on Sam's shoulder, making it tingle for a second. "You can do anything you have enough determination to do." He let his hand fall away. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, let it out slowly and folded his hands together again. "Now, Sam, I suggest you go pick up the tree."
Sam's attention was drawn up when the feeling of being in a protective bubble returned. He looked around. There was no noise and nothing moved. Scrambling back to Dean, he was on his knees and shoving against the tree, trying to lift at the same time.
The tree rolled away, freeing Dean and clearing the road. All at once sound, and movement came back to the world. Dean was clawing at him and struggling to get off the ground. Hands firmly under Dean's shoulders, Sam hoisted his brother up and slid an arm around Dean's waist.
"I'm okay. I'm okay." Dean pulled ahead, grabbing at Sam's arm as he did so and broke into a run. "Nothing even hurts now."
When they reached the car, it sat there alone. Bob was gone. They didn't spend a lot of time worrying about it, simply piled into the car and sped away.
Sam sat in the seat, staring down at his hands. "Dean?"
"No." Dean held up one hand for a few seconds then dropped it to Sam's shoulder. "Never. Not a word. We're not looking this gift horse in the mouth or any other part of its body."
Sam decided for once Dean was right. Maybe that was a brilliant idea. Some things were never meant to be explained, simply accepted and offered thanks. Which was what Sam did.
Dean fished two beers and a blanket out of the trunk. The blanket he tossed over the hood of the Impala, then hiked himself up onto the car, leaning back against the windshield. One beer he took a swig from, the other he handed off to Sam after his brother settled beside him on the hood. The sun was creeping down below the horizon. The night sky was clear and, for now, moonless. Stars were already starting to twinkle to life.
Sam nudged Dean's side with his elbow and pointed up. "Big Dipper."
Smiling, Dean relaxed back more. "Remember how to star hop?"
Chuckling softly Sam nodded. "You taught me that when I was, what? Five?"
"Something like that. Kept you distracted."
"It was fun. I always thought it was so cool how you'd tell me since the light from the stars takes so long to get here looking at them is like looking back in time." Sam extended his free arm and traced a line against the stars. "It still is. Follow the arc to Arcturus." Finger extended, Sam mapped out the shape of the Big Dipper's handle then dropped his arm a bit to point at a bright star. "Did you know that star, Arcturus, has a place in the Apocalypse?"
"Doesn't everything?" Dean took another pull on his beer.
Kicking at Sam's ankle with the side of his foot, "Come on, tell me. I want to hear."
"One of the stories, at least the part I remember, says a comet comes from the same part of the sky as Arcturus, hits the Earth and wipes out most of life in the seas and is part of the start of the Apocalypse."
"Maybe it's already happened and we just can't see it yet."
"It's interesting that we heard about the volcano erupting on the news but not one word about any people in the area." Dean took another draw on his beer and glanced over when he felt Sam's shoulders lift and drop.
His kid brother nodded, but whatever he might have said was cut off by Bob materializing in front of the car.
"It seems Seven Trumpets has really blown her horn. It was her destiny and she did a grand job."
Dean choked on his beer. Beside him Sam flinched and had to grab onto Dean's arm to keep from falling off the car.
"Stop that!" they yelled together.
Bob shook his head and fluttered up to the roof of the car, sitting cross-legged. "You two are way too jumpy, you know that? How is it you ever do any of that ghost chasing stuff in the dark?"
Dean turned away and cranked his head back to look at the sky again. "You moved the tree. I suppose I should thank you."
Leaning down, Bob took Dean's beer, drank from it and handed it back. "I think you just did."
"So, can't I have a beer with my kid brother in peace?"
"No." Bob sighed and looked up at the darkening sky. "What happened in Seven Trumpets is what this entire world will be like if the Apocalypse isn't halted, fire, brimstone and utter destruction. It must be stopped."
"Yeah, we get that. How? Oh, wait I know, the answer is already inside me."
"See, you can learn." Leaning forward, Bob ruffled the top of Dean's head then his hand hovered near Sam who pulled his beer out of reach. "As for you," he flicked the back of Sam's head. "The gift you were blessed with is yours. It was always yours. What you chose to do with it is up to you and only you. You're not evil or a bad person, no matter what you may think."
"Of course he's not. He's my little brother and if he was unworthy he wouldn't be my little brother."
"Ohhh, geez." Sam rolled his eyes and handed his beer up to Bob who was nearly as good at rolling his eyes as Sam. "Here, you need this as much as I do."
Bob swung off the car and stood beside it, handing Sam back his beer.
"You know you can have one of your own." Sam offered.
"No…no, I'm good, thanks." Inhaling deeply, Bob tilted his head back. "That story about the comet is a good one." He pointed to Arcturus. "That's the one there, that bit of rock out in space near that star, you probably can't see it, though. My eyesight is much better."
"Um…no." Dean sat up and rubbed the kinks from his back.
"Well, take my word it's there. It's had some mishaps lately. Got hit a few times and where it's heading changes. Interesting bit of trivia…see, I know a few of those dates its trajectory was changed. The first time ever that it happened was on January twenty-fourth, nineteen-seventy-nine."
Dean turned his head to stare at him. Sam sat up and leaned around Dean to see Bob.
"Then it was bumped again, I believe a few years later, May second, nineteen eighty-three. Interesting, isn't it?" Bob walked around to stand on Sam's side of the car. "Sort of like a big, galactic game of ping pong. A few more hits and it won't be an issue at all."
"Those are our birthdays. There has to be more—" Sam's words stopped abruptly when Bob tapped his forehead. His beer bottle slipped from his hand and smashed on the ground.
Slumping to the side, Sam would have slid off the car had Dean not dropped his beer, jerked to the side and grabbed his brother, holding him against his side and on the car. "Stop that too!"
Bob waved one hand in the air. "He's fine, talks too much sometimes, but he's fine."
Dean had to agree with Bob on that statement. "Wake him up. He can hear anything I can."
"That may very well be, and you can tell him anything you'd like, this isn't a secret. However because of his special—condition—there are things I can not say if he can hear me. The words simply wouldn't come out in any way you would be able to understand. I'm sorry."
Looking away from Bob and down at Sam, Dean nodded. The angel seemed pretty sincere in his apology, so Dean decided it was the truth. Or at least the truth as Bob understood it.
"Here's the thing, Dean. You have the answers, and everything you need to stop this Apocalypse from happening is within you. There are obvious ways and then there are other ways." He reached across Sam and patted Dean's chest. "It's all in here."
"You gotta give me more than that."
"You and Sam have to come to the answers and conclusions yourselves. That's simply how it's meant to be." Bob placed one hand on Sam's shoulder, making him stutter awake.
Sam straightened and looked around. "Wha…happened?"
"You nearly fell off the car." Smile spreading over Bob's face he kindly patted Sam a few more times. "You should be more careful."
Sam looked over at Dean. Shrugging, Dean hopped to the ground, "I'll tell you later." Digging his keys out of his pocket, Dean dipped his head at the car. Turning to Bob he sighed heavily. He should have known the guy would be gone.
Sounds of Sam moving, folding the blanket and the car's gentle rocking as he climbed inside reached Dean. Tipping his head upward, he gazed at the dark sky alive with brilliant points of light. His biggest hope at this point was that every night of his life he never saw a new and unknown comet.