Sam Winchester and his half-brother Adam where facing off, the tense air filled with the sound of crows beating their rancid black wings.
A black '67 Chevy Impala rolling in across the gravel, the two possessed men watching with cool gazes.
Suddenly, the earth beneath the two brothers opens up, a gaping maw swallowing them both whole. Sam and Adam disappear below the surface, falling rapidly into the heart of Hell itself.
The ground closes, leaving no trace of the two warring entities.
Dean awoke from his bed to the sound of soft sobbing. It took him a few moments to realise it was he who was sobbing. He reached an arm out and pulled the sheets closer, his eyes stinging mercilessly from hot tears. Next to him, Lisa's warm body was turned to his, her mouth slightly ajar and her eyelids twitching in some unknowable dream. Dean lay next to her a few more minutes, staring at the pale ceiling, before mouthing a curse and rolling out of bed. He knew he would not sleep any more that night, and would spend the rest of the hours before sunrise fiddling with his car and his motorcycle. Dean had become bored with absorbing himself in the television every night, so had begun building his own motorcycle from scratch.
Dean slowly and stealthily padded through his house, taking a moment to look in on Ben, and followed a wall with an outstretched hand to avoid walking into any furniture. He was glad the garage was attached to the house, as it meant he wouldn't be leaving his family alone. All of his years as a hunter had left him with acute paranoia, although justified, and he never felt comfortable leaving Lisa and Ben alone in the middle of the night without him. The interior of the house was expansive and had two shallow hallways leading to various rooms at different sides of the house, both sufficiently lit during day and night. The master bedroom was at the end of the east hallway, which also joined to Ben's room, and connected to a well-furnished lounge room. The lounge room led to the dining room and kitchen, where granite benches surrounded a cosy collection of cupboards and appliances. Branching off on the north wall of the lounge was the laundry and bathrooms. Dean anxiously inspected every corner of his house, as he always did after a nightmare, and made his way to the garage. The door to the garage was located at the other end of the house, branching off from the dining room. As he gripped the door knob and opened the door, Dean heard the sliding of the wood across the tiled floor and the faintest squeak from the hinges. He grappled for the light switch and flicked on the three large fluorescent lights above his head. His garage was incredibly cluttered, but he was still able to move about without too much difficulty. He gently closed the door behind him and admired his half-built black-and-chrome '96 Harley Davidson Fat-boy standing proudly next to his meticulously cared for Impala. The bike's frame was pretty much in place, as was the motor and fuel tank, but the guards he had scavenged from a scrap yard still needed reshaping and painting. Dean settled on the concrete floor with a rag and one of the guards and began cleaning. He knew his motorcycle was merely a distraction and gave him purpose on the lonely nights, but he could feel they were too superficial. The truth was he was unsettled, fidgety and frustrated. As one of the bastard angels Zachariah had once said, he was born to hunt, and not to live out an ordinary, apple pie life. As Dean admired the Impala, he could almost imagine the car's impatience at being stuck in a garage, unable to go out more than twice a day, and only for trips to the pub or a supermarket or soccer practice. Her sleek body needed to be roaring along a straight road for eight hours at a time, heading to some far away destination, carrying her two passengers to some danger they would face together and ultimately succeed. Dean blinked away the traces of fresh tears in his eyes and focussed upon the curved metal in his hand.
Dean worked until the sun rose above the tree line, bringing with it warmth and soft birdsong. He put the guard, which looked clear of dirt and rust, on the ground and turned off the lights in the garage. He wearily opened the garage door and was greeted by the sight of Lisa setting the table for breakfast and Ben running around looking for a school book. Dean smelt the burnt toast and fresh orange juice on the kitchen bench, as well as the fresh scent of the new day. Lisa looked up from where she was buttering the toast at the bench and smiled kindly at Dean.
"Yeah. Same thing as usual", Dean replied, his voice flat and his eyes glazed. Lisa could see the way Dean had lost a lot of his strength and appetite after the confrontation at the graveyard, and that had been two years ago. He had lost a little of his muscle definition because he wouldn't eat a lot, but he still continued with basic training each day while Lisa went to work. Ben raced into the kitchen and snatched the toast his mother had just finished smearing with peanut butter. He tried to fit a whole slice into his mouth, but only managed two thirds. Dean smiled and watched the kid run back to his room to change from his pyjamas, and walked up beside Lisa. He hugged her shoulders, and Lisa sighed.
"And there is nothing you can do? I really worry about you," she said, momentarily forgetting about the sandwich she had started making. Dean shrugged slightly, let her go and walked to the fridge. She watched him finish off half a carton of milk before continuing with her sandwich.
"Don't worry about a thing. Besides, I'm going to old Andrew's shop to apply for the job today. If he doesn't accept me, I'll just have to work out of the garage," he said half jokingly.
"Yes, because we need more rev-heads hanging around here than there usually is," replied Lisa, her gaze resting on her son. Ben was almost ready for school, the only problem was he was calling out desperately for his jacket, somehow hoping it would reply and let him know where it was.
"Mom, have you seen my jacket?" he yelled from the lounge room.
"The ACDC one?"
"No, the Metallica one!"
Dean spotted the jacket thrown carelessly on the floor near where the front foyer connected to the dining room. He picked it up and threw it at Ben as he pelted through the house.
"Come on dude, hurry up or you'll be late. Would hate to miss half of math class."
"Dude! That would be awesome!" Ben crowed before racing past Dean into the garage. He followed the thin path through the debris with ease, which came of practice, and stood next to the Impala. He looked back at Dean with a pleading look in his eyes, and Dean rolled his eyes. He pulled on his jacket from the foyer hook and took his keys from his pocket. He turned to Lisa and gave her a kiss.
"Don't encourage him," she warned playfully, then added more seriously, "And be careful." Dean promised he would and went after Ben. The two of them lifted the garage door and jumped into the Impala.
After dropping Ben off at school, Dean began driving through the busy streets of San Francisco. They had moved there after a demon intrusion in their old home, and as such the house was built from iron, layered with salt, demon traps and everything possible to stop unwanted guests entering their home. As he scaled the steep hills on the way to Andrew's garage, he wondered what Bobby was doing and if taking this job was his way of getting closer to his old life. He began to get absorbed into the flow of traffic, concentrating only upon the vehicles and pedestrians, and not upon thoughts of the past. He was a few blocks from the garage when a calm but commanding voice spoke to him.
"Dean, stop the car."
"Jesus! Cas!" Dean swore in surprise, jumping out of his skin and nearly driving headlong into oncoming traffic. His heart was still racing after he had pulled up at the curb and turned to look at the angel.
"You think you could give me a bit of warning? You know, walk up to the side of the road and flag me down? Stick out your thumb?" Dean suggested sarcastically, calming down. Castiel still looked the same as Dean had last seen him; Overcoat, grouchy expression, funny tie.
"If I had 'stuck out my thumb', you would keep driving." Dean had to agree. Cas was obviously there to ask for help, and Dean had had enough of sacrificing himself for God's angels, even if it was Cas. But something inside Dean was curious to know what Cas wanted and even to jump straight into action again.
"Why are you here? What do you want?"
"I want you to find Jesse Turner."
"Jesse?" Dean asked, confused for a moment. Then he remembered. Jesse was supposedly the Anti-Christ, and demon spawn. He had unimaginable power and disappeared mysteriously after learning about his real identity. Dean had forgotten about him. "Why do you want him?"
Castiel looked blandly at Dean and replied, "Because I need to know where he is and what his intentions are. If we don't act fast, he could be on our doorstep within days."
Dean frowned and searched for any hidden meaning in the angel's eyes, but as usual, Cas was as emotionless as ever.
"Why, you think he's gone dark-side?"
"It's not his morals that are in question, but his will power. He may be under the control of someone else."
Cas paused for a moment and observed a woman and two children weaving between traffic to cross the road. Dean had no idea what to expect, and he was certainly unprepared for what came out of Cas' mouth.
Dean felt many emotions well up from the deepest pit of his heart, but the defined emotions were anger and disbelief.
"How could you say that? You don't remember Sam throwing himself and Adam into the Pit? You don't remember how he sacrificed himself for the rest of humanity and your loyal angel pals?" Dean's fury would've made any man shrink in terror. His face was flushed and screwed up into a ferocious snarl and his eyes flashed dangerously. Cas didn't seem too fazed by Dean's reaction; he even seemed to have expected it. He was, after all, an archangel.
"I say that because Sam has been sighted."
Dean stopped and just stared at Cas. He knew the angel wouldn't joke about this, but it was impossible to believe. They couldn't have failed; otherwise the world would be overrun with Croatoan virus and the apocalypse would've continued.
"Who saw him? Where? Tell me, God dammit, Cas!" The questions just came barging out, and Dean found he had trouble containing his impatience. Cas sighed and looked carefully at Dean.
"I have many contacts. All we know is he has been spotted in Los Angeles, perhaps headed to an airport."
Dean was already halfway through figuring out routes, motels and fuel, when he stopped. He had a family now. He had a house, a half-built motorcycle, and, hell, he was even going for a job. His insides were tied up in knots at the pain of Sam's loss coupled with his feeling of lost identity and restlessness. Dean stared out the window at all the people walking past, living their normal lives, oblivious to all the secret wars and terrible creatures lurking right under their noses. For Dean it was far too late to go back now.
"Cas..." he began, but turned to see nothing but the empty passenger seat of his car. Dean struggled about his decision for a few more minutes before pulling out into the traffic and making his way home.
Dean arrived back home at around 11:45. Everyone was still out, so he had the place to himself. He unlocked the garage door and parked the Impala. Although he was still tired from getting little to no sleep the past two years, he didn't go to sleep. Instead, Dean picked up a rag and finished off the guards for the bike. After closing the door behind him, he removed the fuel tank from the bike and set it and the guards on an old sheet, then went to a small cupboard deep in a corner surrounded with larger shelves containing random tools and equipment. He opened the creaking doors and took out a few small cans of black paint. The motorcycle was sprayed black already, but it needed touching up before the bike was ready to be run for the first time in years, despite the lack of mufflers and a seat.
Dean sat for a couple of hours, allowing the steady work of painting and clear-coating the motorcycle parts to order his thoughts. He felt that it could be Sam out there, continuing the job he was born to do, working to set the record straight for starting the Apocalypse. However, the Sam running around outside the box could contain Lucifer. But how could they have gotten out? The cage was specially designed and even Death himself had said it would seal the mislead angel away for good. If the powerful, evil angel couldn't get out, how could a human who was starving for demon blood? Bobby said Sam had changed from his demon addicted self, but Dean still felt the sting of betrayal from all those months ago when Sam chose a demon over his older brother. Dean had tried to trust his little brother again, but his paranoia warned him not to trust anyone, even Sam. Dean shook his head to clear the dark thoughts of the past and wondered what he would do. Would he drop his new family to search for a brother who wouldn't even let his family know if he was alive? Besides, if Sam was headed to an airport, he could be anywhere by now. Dean was jolted from his thoughts by a knock on the door of the garage. Suddenly, Cas appeared on the other side of the door, his face grave. Dean jumped a little, then realised Cas always looked grave, but he couldn't help but think there was something more in Cas' eyes.
"Sam was definitely at the airport."
Dean got to his feet and frowned.
"Thanks for knocking, but what do you want me to do about it?"
Cas turned his head a little so he looked at Dean out of the corner of his left eye. Dean definitely saw a twitch in the corner of Cas' mouth. He was slightly amused.
"He's your brother. I thought you might've wanted to find him."
"So what, you think I'm okay with him just showing up and not telling me he's alive, not mention in the same side of the country? That I'm going to drop everything I've worked for in the last two years?"
Cas suddenly stepped closer and stared hard into Dean's eyes.
"You know as well as I do, you are restless with this life. You know you were born for hunting, you just don't want to admit it. You think you can just deny everything?" Cas asked with a firm voice that surprised Dean, and added after a small pause, "Even if it means leaving all of this behind."
Dean stared at Cas, open mouthed. He was shocked Cas could read him so easily and that he knew the angel was right. He knew he wouldn't be right until he began hunting monsters, as it was his only redemption for his actions in Hell. And he had to find his brother. After all the years he had to watch out for him, even though he knew Sam was old enough to look after himself, Dean still had to do all he could to keep his little brother from harm. He looked at Cas with not determination, but acceptance and, even a little, defeat.
"The International Airport?" Dean asked wearily.
"Yes. We can't find him because of the sigils on his ribs, and we aren't sure where he is going, but I'm sure you can find out."
Dean thought about this for a second and stared to his side at the drying bike parts on the floor. He might be able to get over there on one of his fake ID's but it would be difficult to transport the Impala. He looked up at Cas, but he was already gone.
"God, Cas. What am I going to tell Lisa and Ben?" Dean wondered aloud. He stared a moment longer at the spot Cas had stood, then turned and entered the house.
Dean hung up the phone and stretched. He lifted the notepad he was scribbling on and scanned his notes one final time. They were the flight details for a 'Richie Sambora', which was quite a conspicuous name compared to the other passengers. Richie Sambora is the lead guitarist in the rock band Bon Jovi. Dean had to make sure it was his brother, so he called the airport and connected to various staff asking for appearance details and the like. Sure enough, 'Richie Sambora' was ridiculously tall, well built, muscular and had a 'handsome face', or so said one of the receptionists. And the thing that surprised Dean the most was his flight was out of the country, to Australia. Dean had booked a flight to the same location, which was Melbourne, but via connecting flight from Singapore. Dean pushed his chair from his desk and headed for the kitchen. On the fridge was a note that read:
Going to the dentist with Ben. Be back late. - Lisa
Dean looked at the time: nearly three o'clock. He walked through the house to get to his bedroom. Connecting to the left wall was a large walk in wardrobe, bathroom and small set of steps leading down into a cellar. Dean flicked on the light and descended. The room smelt very dusty, it echoed and the light attached above the stair mouth was faint. In the small stone room, several locked trunks were stacked up against a wall. Cabinets with large padlocks hung from another wall, and various sacks and boxes frequented the corners. Dean took out two large duffel bags, but stopped. If he was flying, it would be nearly impossible to sneak weapons through security. Dean looked forlornly at the cabinets which contained many different firearms, the trunks containing blades and ammunition, the sacks of salt and the boxes of random miscellaneous items. Dean grunted and pouted, then trudged back up stairs. This meant he had to find contacts in Australia, buy weapons, ammunition and other hunter items. This was going to be difficult. Dean flicked off the light and walked back into the kitchen where his desk was propped against the back wall. He picked up his notepad again and sat back down. He picked up the phone and called Bobby.
"Bobby, it's me."
"Dean! It's been a while!"
"Yeah. Booby, I need your help. Sam's back."
There was a silence on the other end for a few seconds. Then, there was a shaky breath.
"How? Is it for good?" Bobby asked, before growling, "You didn't-"
"No! I don't know how, but I know where he's going. I need to find him."
"...What do you need, boy?"
"All your hunter contacts in Australia."
"Australia? Why is he going there, I wonder?... Gimme a sec..."
Dean heard a great deal of rustling and a silence. His mind was racing, hoping there were enough hunters over there, otherwise he would be alone. He heard a series of thumps, then a rustle of the phone being picked up. Bobby was panting slightly.
"You're in luck. I know enough hunters that I can count them on two hands. Most are along the east coast. Got a pen?"
Dean nodded, and tapped a pencil at the phone. Bobby heard this and began giving the names and contact details about eight hunters.
Dean said his goodbyes to Bobby, promising to keep in contact and call before he left. Dean noticed it was almost time for Lisa and Ben to get home, so he hurried around the house packing all of his clothes and effects in his duffel bags. He had started making preparations to get the Impala shipped over to Australia when Cas appeared for the third time that day. He appeared in front of Dean when he was carrying a coffee, which he jumped and spilt, scolding hot, all down Cas' front. He didn't seem to notice all that much, to Dean's amusement.
"I see you have found out where he is going. And you are leaving."
There was a silence as Dean placed his coffee on the bench and returned to his desk. He flipped the notebook over discreetly as he ruffled through a draw. Cas walked up behind him with an expression of expectation and confusion.
"Where is he?"
Dean stood up straight with a smile on his face.
"Ah come on. You're telling me you don't know?"
Cas looked at Dean curiously.
"I don't know. He's hiding from me remember?"
Dean raised his chin in a half nod.
"Oh. What, your spies can't find a seven foot man sitting on an a plane?"
Cas looked away. He side stepped up the Dean and slipped the notebook from the desk and read the list of locations. He dropped the notebook back on the desk and looked at Dean, his brow creased in frustration.
"Australia. That would take too long to get there, especially if he's halfway there."
"What, you can't stop him from flying?"
"Yes, I could ground him early, but it would be an abuse of power."
"Screw the rules. Aren't you the head honcho anyway?"
"Yes, but I have restrictions on what I use my powers for. Can't you get there faster?"
Dean shook his head and stuck his thumb towards the garage.
"I need to transport my horse out there too. I'd like to be able to get around legally."
Cas glared at the garage door, which was shut, and it opened swiftly, stopping just before the wall. He walked in and put a hand to the motorcycle and both it and its parts disappeared completely. Dean gasped and raced in.
"That doesn't even work yet! You chucklehead, I meant the car! What did you do to my bike anyway?"
With that, Cas reached out and the Impala disappeared. Dean cried out.
"Dude! Where's my car?"
Cas turned to Dean and held out a hand.
"I sent them to a safe location. Now I must transport you there as soon as possible."
Dean took a step backwards and looked fearfully at Cas' outstretched hand.
"No way. I'm not going with you! I like my digestive system working properly thanks."
Cas sighed and raised an eyebrow slightly.
"You would rather fly?" he asked. Dean stopped, considered going with Cas for a moment, but shook his head.
"I'll fly thanks," he answered, his voice wavering.
"Fine. I'll ground both his plane and yours as soon as possible."
"Wait-" Dean began, bus Cas disappeared. This was strange. Why did Cas seem so agitated, not to mention him reappearing three times in one day? Dean gathered his last bits and pieces and zipped up his two duffel bags, which were decidedly light. Dean pulled on his boots and heard Lisa's blue station wagon pull into the driveway. He stood and walked to the front door where they would be entering. He scratched his head anxiously and paced. His mind had gone blank, and the front door knob was turning. As Lisa walked into the house, her radiant smile dropped and was replaced with a confused frown when she saw Dean's serious, pained face.
"Dean? What's wrong?" she asked warily, her eyes searching his.
"I have to leave."