The Farewell Tour
Sam offered to drop Pastor Gideon off in the nearest big city, but the man insisted on returning to his flock despite the fact that members of that self same flock had just beat the stuffing out of him. "They'll need me," he said. "Now more than ever, they'll need me. It's what Leah would have wanted. She'd hate what those demons turned her into, what they used her to do to our parishioners… our friends. I have to go back." Sam wasn't precisely surprised, more impressed in fact. The man had faith and a strong sense of duty, both things that Sam admired. More importantly, Sam didn't have to worry about finding a safe place to leave the guy or how he would manage in a strange city, and right now, anything that let him focus exclusively on his urgent search for Dean was okay by him.
Getting Castiel into the car had been challenging, but Sam wasn't leaving the angel behind. There had been too many demons in the vicinity too recently, and if they found the angel when he was so weak and helpless… it didn't bear thinking about. While Sam was able to lift Castiel fairly easily, Jimmy being a slight man, the angel could barely straighten up and had a tendency to start coughing up blood when jostled. All in all, the whole situation was not good with a capital fucking not. At least they had a car, though, Pastor Gideon having given them the keys, ironically enough, to Leah's old Volkswagen Rabbit. It wasn't big enough for the angel to stretch out in, so he was propped up in the passenger seat, leaning drunkenly against the window.
"You okay, Cas?" Sam asked for what must have been the dozenth time.
Castiel just grunted and fixed Sam with a scowl that was equal parts misery and fury – misery because of whatever the Whore of Babylon had done to scramble his insides and fury because of Dean. God help Dean when they found him… except, of course, that God wouldn't help. That was the whole problem. Dean had given up hope. Dean was going to say yes to Michael, and Sam would lose his brother forever… not to mention half the population of the Earth. The fact that Dean mattered more to him than the other three billion people whose lives were on the line was no one's business but his own.
So they hit the road. At the first major city they came to, Sam pulled into a Best Buy a bought a new laptop with built in 3-G using the only matching credit card and fake ID he had on him. It gave his name as Steve Wozniak and was Dean's idea of a joke. Damn him for putting me through this, Sam thought, and then immediately regretted it. Dean had already been damned once, and it wasn't something that he could find it in himself to joke about, not even in the privacy of his own mind. Using the 3-G connection, he logged into their cellphone carrier's website and called up the GPS on his brother's phone. The location given was nearby, and Sam felt a nearly overwhelming sense of relief. Maybe Dean hadn't really lost his mind. Maybe the eldest Winchester just needed some time to himself, some time to absorb and deal with everything they'd been through in the last few weeks. It was annoying, but Sam was hardly in a position to bitch given how many times he'd done the exact same thing.
The relief was short-lived, however. The GPS coordinates led Sam to a landfill outside the city limits of Minneapolis, just up Highway 169 from Blue Earth and the remains of Pastor Gideon's congregation. Crap. Dean had ditched his phone, ditched all their phones, including Dad's. That was so not good on so many levels that Sam could barely contain the nausea that churned up in his stomach. Without a word, he got back in the Rabbit, gave Castiel a quick once-over and then gunned the little car into gear, heading as fast as he could for Sioux Falls and Singer Salvage Yard.
Once at Bobby's, Sam dumped the still recovering angel on the bed that had taken the place of the hunter's old sofa, and set to helping Bobby scry for his errant big brother. It was a frustrating and ultimately pointless business. The scrying was no illusionist's card trick. It took hours – or at least the kind of scrying that didn't involve heavy duty dark magic like Ruby had used took hours. Worse, every time they'd get close to zeroing in on Dean, whatever method of divination they were using that time would go haywire and they'd have to start all over. Bobby figured that it meant Dean was constantly on the move, but he tried multiple forms of scrying just in case. Nothing worked. Nothing. And the pit in Sam's stomach just got deeper and deeper. Then, two days after Dean's disappearance, a miracle happened – a purely human miracle. Missouri called.
"Sam Winchester, what in the world has happened to your brother?"
"Missouri?" Sam asked, stunned by the abrupt reappearance in his life of a woman who'd made a tremendous impact on him and brother both, though he'd met her only once.
"Of course it's me!" she snapped. "Sam, you have to stop Dean. I can't imagine what's gotten into that boy, but he's going to kill himself!"
"I know, Missouri, I know," Sam hastily assured her. "I'm trying find him right now. Do you know where he is?"
"Honey, he was here not more than two days ago."
"You saw him?"
"No, but he left a bouquet of flowers on my porch and a photograph."
"A photograph?" Sam repeated, surprised.
"It was a picture of the two of you together when you were just tykes. On the back, he wrote, 'Something to remember the goofy-looking kid by. Thanks for everything.' Sam, you have to stop him."
"I will, Missouri. I promise you I will, but I have to find him first. Did you pick up anything else when you touched the flowers?"
"Yes," the psychic answered immediately. "I saw your old house again. I've already been there to see Jenny. She and I have coffee sometimes. She said that Dean was there most of the yesterday, just sitting in his old room. She was worried about him, but she didn't know how to reach you, and she couldn't reach me because I was at a retreat. No cellphones allowed. Anyway, she tried to get him to tell her what was wrong, but he just told her that he had a lot of things on a his mind and a big decision to make. He said being there helped him think, clarified things. He thanked her and then he left. He must have come by my place not long after that. Jenny's worried sick and so am I. I could just kill that boy!"
"That doesn't help me, though. Did you get anything else? Anything at all."
Missouri hesitated. "Just a few flashes," she said at last. "A name."
"Lucas. I got the name Lucas and a flash of water."
Sam barely took the time to say goodbye before hanging up on her. Though much better, Castiel wasn't up to teleporting himself anywhere yet, let alone taking Sam with him, so the youngest Winchester hustled them both into Leah's old Rabbit and headed for Lake Manitoc. When he got there, it was to find the lake largely gone and Lucas Barr and his mother Andrea completely gone. A few carefully asked questions of the less than trusting locals, some of whom seemed to find Sam vaguely familiar, garnered him the information that the Barr family had moved away from Manitoc following the unexplained drowning of Andrea's father, Sheriff Jake Devins. Perfect. Just perfect. Further digging netted Sam the news that Andrea and son had relocated to another city, all right, but not as far as he'd initially feared. They were in Winnebago, WI, so Sam headed back to the 169 and made the best time he could to Winnebago.
Though not displeased to see him, Andrea was puzzled by his showing up so soon after Dean had paid a visit of his own. It was clear she found it odd that they hadn't come together, and her concern only grew when she realized that Sam was trying to find his brother. He hastily explained that he and Dean had gotten separated on one of their road trips and that, due to an unforeseen cellphone problem, they were having some trouble hooking back up. He figured there was no need for Andrea to worry unduly, especially when she didn't know about the Apocalypse, and it wouldn't actually help him find Dean. Once she was reassured that nothing problematic was going on – for problematic, read nothing likely to come back and bite her and her son in the their collective asses – she was happy to let him see Lucas. Dean had taken Lucas out for a long lunch, a lunch from which the kid had come back quiet and withdrawn. His mother figured it was just a result of seeing Dean again, that Dean reminded Lucas too much of losing his father and grandfather. She hadn't nixed the lunch, however, because Lucas had been excited enough to see Dean, whom he still idolized and who, to Sam's shock, apparently called the kid for a chat about once a month. How could Sam not have known that? He found himself wondering how Dean had explained the lack of calls during his time in Hell. Worse, he found himself wondering just how many other things he didn't know about his brother. How many things had he missed or ignored entirely because he was too caught up in his own bullshit? Right now, what he didn't know could literally be the death of his brother.
Lucas was glad to see Sam, but not for any happy reasons. Despite the fact that they hadn't seen each other in more than four years, despite the fact that Lucas was now thirteen years old and at a socially awkward age for any young man, the kid threw himself at Sam without the slightest hesitation, hugging him tightly. The kid had sprouted, and his head came up all the way to Sam's shoulders now. He still had the same long floppy hair, the same soulful eyes and the same desperate intensity about him. Hugging the kid back, Sam founding himself asking an entirely unexpected question.
"What did Dean tell you?"
Pulling back, Lucas looked up at Sam with a haunted expression. "Nothing. He didn't say a thing about anything real. He just talked about music and that new Live Nation tour with Styx and Foreigner and Kansas all performing together. He said he wished he could take me, but he was going to be going away for a while. He said he wouldn't be able to call anymore for a while, maybe for months, but…"
"What Lucas? Tell me what else he said."
"It wasn't what he said. It was… it was what I felt. I haven't seen anything bad in a long time, but when Dean said he was going away for a while, I saw… things."
Sam felt suddenly hollow inside. "What things, Lucas. What did you see?" The kid swallowed and looked away, not speaking. "Lucas, please. I know it's hard to talk about this stuff, but it's important."
"Dean's in trouble, isn't he?"
"He is. I'm trying to help him, but I can't do it alone. So please, tell me what you saw."
Lucas took a deep breath, then walked over to his desk. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a mixed stack of papers. Some looked like good art paper, but there was also binder paper, construction paper and even a couple of envelopes. "It's easier if I show you," he said. "I started drawing this stuff after Dean left. My mom hasn't seen them, and I don't want her to worry, so please don't show her."
Sam nodded, looking rapidly through the pictures. Lucas' talent had grown exponentially in the time since Sam had last seen him, and he now understood the source of all the art on the teenager's bedroom walls. Lucas must have drawn and painted it all himself. The top of the stack of papers was what looked like a hastily done drawing in pen. It was Dean in the Impala. Even with the lined paper and the smeared ballpoint ink, it was easy to make out the look of hopelessness in his eyes. Sam swallowed nervously, then stopped breathing altogether as he flipped to the next page. It was a pencil sketch on heavy art paper, a detailed drawing of Lucifer, his skin looking more rotten, his body more decayed than ever. Holy crap. "Lucas, do you know who this is?" Sam demanded, feeling more than a little undone.
"He's just… he's bad news. If you ever see that guy, run, okay?"
Lucas nodded with wide, troubled eyes. "What about Dean?"
"I think this may just be what I need to help me find him," Sam answered distractedly. "Thank you, Lucas. I can't thank you enough." He turned to go, but Lucas stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Wait," Lucas said, shoving a box into his arms. "Take these with you." Sam looked down and saw that it was the box that Dean kept his cassette tape collection in. The greatest hits of mullet rock Sam had once jokingly called it. Dean loved that music, loved his tape collection and had vowed never to get rid of it. My, God, Sam thought. He's really going to do it. He's really going to say yes. "He gave me those," Lucas went on, oblivious to Sam's internal turmoil for the moment. "I – I didn't want to take them because I knew it was his way of saying goodbye, and they're cassettes, I mean, I don't even have a cassette player, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings when… make sure he gets them back, okay?"
"I will," Sam promised. He'd left Lucas still scared and worried about Dean, but he'd sworn that he'd call the kid later and let him know that Dean was okay and would be calling monthly as previously scheduled. He hoped like heck that it was a promise he'd be able to keep. After a quick farewell to Andrea, Sam had gotten back in the car and dumped the stack of pictures in Castiel's startled lap. "Look through those. Let me know if you pick anything up?"
"Pick up what? These appear to be the work of a human artist, primarily portraits of people whom I do not… " The angel's voice trailed off as he flipped to the picture that had disturbed Sam the most. It was once again a picture of Dean, only, it wasn't Dean. The features were the same, the clothing, the hair, all the same, and yet it simply wasn't Sam's big brother. The expression on the face, the distant look in the eyes, the alien set to the shoulders, to the entire body. It wasn't Dean, and Sam knew who it had to be.
Castiel must have seen the same signs in the charcoal picture that Sam saw, because the angel's brows drew down, his eyes going stormy as he sat up straighter in the Rabbit's tiny passenger seat. "Drive," he growled. Sam drove. The only problem was figuring out where to go next. Among the other pictures in Lucas' collection had been images of Dean's old girlfriend Cassie, the burnt out remains of the Roadhouse, the old rental in Santa Fe where the they'd lived with Dad for almost six months – that place was probably the closest that Dean had come to having a real home since their mother died – an apartment building that Sam didn't recognize, Dean's bar-wench-friend Jamie, the backwoods lane where Dean had taught Sam to drive, the Hollywood studio where they'd worked so briefly but memorably as P.A.s and… Lisa and Ben Braeden. From the looks of things, Dean was going to be zigzagging all across the country, saying goodbye to people and placed that meant the most to him, and he had a huge freaking head start. Even if Sam could figure out where he would have been headed next after seeing Lucas, Dean would be long gone from there by now. It was maddening. This was Dean's farewell tour and Sam desperately needed to know where the next show was scheduled to take place.
He drove in the general direction of Santa Fe, trying to make up his mind where to head first. He was totally unprepared when the world outside the car winked out of existence and then reappeared with a totally different view. They'd been traveling 75 miles per hour when Castiel apparently decided to take matters into his angelic hands without regard to the internal combustion engine. Sam stomped on the brake, just barely managing to avoid a collision with the concrete retaining wall that had appeared directly in front of them.
"Son of a bitch! Cas! You can't just do that without saying something first!"
"I have been trying for hours. I didn't know if it would work until it worked."
"Still! Give a guy some warning!" Looking around, Sam saw a whole lot of old apartment buildings, a large expanse of empty street with cracking asphalt and a freeway retaining wall, the one they'd nearly smashed into. Nothing was remotely familiar. "Where are we?"
"It was in one of the drawings."
"Why would Dean come to Lubbock?"
"I do not know," the angel admitted, "but he has been here. I can sense his presence."
"You can sense – but what about the Enochian sigil? How can you find him with that on him?
"I cannot find Dean from any distance, but the connection between us allows me to sense the places in this world where he has passed recently. If we find the city he is in, I will know."
"Is he here now?" Sam demanded eagerly.
"No. He has already left We must try – " The world around the car seemed to whirl as if in a dance, and Sam saw that Castiel had done it again " – another place."
Glancing about – and devoutly hoping that stories of a mysteriously vanishing/reappearing car weren't going to feature on the six o'clock news tonight – Sam saw a mix of brick buildings, old and those meant to look old. They were in the middle of some kind of plaza and the whole place just screamed tourist trap. It was all terribly familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. "Now where are we?"
"Pennsylvania," the angel replied dryly. When Sam just looked at him blankly, the angel added, with more than a hint of inexplicable annoyance creeping into his voice, "Canonsburg. This is where Dean was… de-hymenated."
"Oh," Sam said. "Jamie. Huh. The place looks different somehow. More… colorful."
"Dean has been here as well. He is moving very quickly for a human driving a dilapidated car."
"Jesus, Cas. It's not like insulting the Impala is going to magically make Dean appear just so he can chew you out. Can it, will you, and do that transporter thing again." The look the angel turned on him was infuriated, scornful and… raw. It was then that Sam knew beyond a doubt that Castiel was every bit as panicked and frantic to find Dean as he was. The skin over Castiel's face was stretched thin, looking almost translucent. Clearly these trips took far more out of the angel than was safe. But they had to find Dean. "Get out."
"Get out of the car," Sam said as he threw the door open and climbed out himself. Castiel appeared standing in the street beside him, and taking the angel by the arm, Sam said, "We'll keep going without the Rabbit."
They tried a half-dozen more stops, always just behind Dean, always playing catch up, until, at last, Sam felt he had to call a halt to their hunt. "We have to stop, Cas. You can't keep doing this," he insisted as he watched Cas leaning against an alley wall, his eyes closed, his chest heaving. "You're still too weak. You won't do Dean any good if you kill yourself."
"If we do not find Dean and stop this madness then my death will be completely irrelevant," the angel ground out. "All of this, everything that has happened, my fall, your redemption, all of it will be pointless."
"I can 'transport'us once more before I must rest. We have to get ahead of Dean somehow. I… I do not know where to go." The angel sounded hollow, almost without hope, counting on Sam to have the right answer but not really believing that he would. Sam stared at the dim sliver of sky visible above the walls of the alley. Where wouldn't Dean have gone yet? Where? Then, suddenly he knew. He just knew which goodbye his romantic, idiotic, idealistic brother would save for last.
Placing a hand gently on the angel's shoulder, he said, "Take us to Cicero, Cas. He'll go there to see Lisa and Ben, and we'll be waiting. I promise you, we'll find him before it's too late."