Chapter One: Opening Move
Did I say Monday? I might be a little excited about getting this story going, especially after the emo ending of the last thing I posted, and this chapter just flowed from my brain through my fingertips and onto the screen like magic. Here be the retelling of 2.21 and 2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose", though probably not quite the way you might have imagined it. I really hope you enjoy the story ahead, it's gonna be interesting!
There are defining moments in life that make us who we are and shape the world around us as we know it. Some moments come by mistake, while others are made with purposeful intent. In the end, some moments, particularly those made with intent, are capable of determining the fate of the world.
When Dean Winchester was four years old, his mother had a baby boy named Samuel. Sam was born exactly one month premature and it was weeks before Dean was able to do more than look at him, a full month before his parents were able to bring him home.
Dean still remembers the first time he laid eyes on Sam through a glass window in the hospital. Sam had been so tiny back then and had to be closely monitored by the nurses to ensure he was breathing properly.
Not that Dean knew that back then. What he remembers most about that first month of Sam's life is the short conversation with his father that defined what his relationship with Sam would be like.
"So I'm a big brother now?" he had asked his father.
"You are," his father had answered, smiling a little. Dean had looked at baby Sam and thought about what his mother had told him.
"And big brother's are s'posed to take care of little brothers, right?" he had asked next.
Dean still remembers the slight frown that crossed his father's face. "Right," he had said. "That's what Mommy told you."
Dean remembers nodding his head as he put two and two together. "So he's my Sam."
"I… I guess he is," he remembers his father's almost hesitant answer.
"My Sam…" Dean had said, feeling awed by the idea that someone could be his. "Sammy. He's Sammy, and I'm gonna take care of him." Dean still recalls the way he smiled at his father before looking back at Sam again. "You gotta be strong, Sammy," he had said through the glass. "Me an' Mommy an' Daddy are gonna take care of you, so get better, okay?"
It's moments like this in the days following Sam's birth that define the kind of person Dean is, as well as who he is going to become as he gets older. He is a big brother, and Sam is his to look after and protect. He isn't always good at it, and sometimes Sam is just another annoying little brother he doesn't want to spend every minute of every day with, but he has somehow managed to be there for the moments that mattered the most.
Sam is, in actuality, Dean's purpose and reason for living. Sam's existence defines him, even shapes him.
It makes it that much harder for Dean to stare down at his brother's lifeless body.
"What am I supposed to do?" he shouts to an empty room. No one answers him.
Dean is alone.
The next moment will define the fate of the world indefinitely.
48 hours earlier: April 24, 2007
April showers bring May flowers.
Sam idly considered the rhyme as he and Dean drove aimlessly down the freeway in Arkansas. It tended to rain a lot in early spring, but the way things were going, it was amazing more places hadn't flooded lately. He leaned back in the passenger seat, staring out at the dreary world around them as it was illuminated by the Impala's headlights. The way the rain was going, there probably wouldn't be any flowers in May because the whole world would be flooded, just like in the story of Noah's Ark.
There hadn't been a lot of talking between the Winchester brothers since Sam had rescued Dean from the Djinn in Illinois two days ago. It shouldn't have hurt him, knowing how much Dean desired a normal life, but the idea that he might have been willing to stay in the drug-induced fantasy for however long he would have lasted did.
It was moments like this that made Sam wonder if Dean really understood how much he needed him to stay around in the fucked-up reality of what was his world and life.
"I'm hungry," Dean suddenly said.
"Last sign said another ten miles to the next town," Sam replied, barely glancing at Dean and resisting the temptation to read his emotions. He was still eternally grateful to Danielle Young for teaching him how to control his empathy, even if she had gone missing two days ago (Dean didn't know that yet because that required an actual conversation), but there were moments he wished it were still out of control, just so he would have an excuse to try and understand where his brother was at, these days.
The fact of the matter was that wishing couldn't change what had happened. John and Mary were both dead, and Sam was an ex-blood junkie with more abilities than you could shake a stick at who had lost his girlfriend and had his dreams of a normal life smashed to pieces by the tide. Life sucks, he thought, and then you die. Callous, yes, but true.
When they reached the next town, Dean pulled into the first diner he saw, the lights inside doing little to light up the dark world around them. He then pulled out his wallet and handed over two twenties.
"Cheeseburger, extra onions," he said simply. "Oh, and pie."
Sam sighed and glared at Dean. "Dude, I'm the one who's gonna have to ride in the car with your extra onions."
Dean shrugged and Sam let out another sigh before stepping out into the pouring rain and running over to the diner. He quickly pulled open the door and headed inside to the counter.
"Hi there," said the waitress brightly. "Table?"
"No, thanks," Sam said. "Take-out."
"Okay," the waitress said. "What can I getcha?"
"Uh…" Sam quickly glanced at the menu to see if there was anything he wanted when he felt it. Even worse, he knew that it was already too late.
Danielle was right. Azazel's plans were moving forward, right now.
Sam started to turn to try and warn Dean, anyway, to maybe even help the customers and staff, but then he smelled sulfur and everything went black.
Dean was going to kill him for failing so badly.
Sam was gone.
Dean flew out of the Impala and into the small diner, immediately taking in the sight of the now-dead customers and staff.
Every last person's throat had been slit.
Dean checked out every inch of that diner before he found sulfuric residue on the back door. "Sam!" he called out, stepping out into the rain and taking in the empty darkness before him. "Sammy!"
Dean's thoughts were whirling as he ran back through the diner and out the front door. The street was empty, the nearby buildings dark, all closed up for the night. "SAM!" Dean shouted.
Sam would have said something if he'd felt a demon nearby, wouldn't he? True, they weren't exactly on the best of speaking terms after everything with that damned Djinn, but Sam would freaking tell him —
Unless it was an ambush. Sam's abilities could only do so much.
"Shit," Dean hissed, striding back to the Impala as he pulled out his phone. He tried dialing Sam's number, but it went straight to voicemail. "Shit!" he violently kicked out at the nearest tire before sliding into the driver's seat of his car.
Okay, Bobby, then. Dean wiped off his wet face as best he could before holding his phone back to his ear.
"Bobby, it's Dean, I need your help."
"Dean? What's wrong?"
"Sam's gone, Bobby," Dean choked out, hating the way he voice betrayed his inner feelings. "A demon came and fucking took him without warning."
"Where you at?" Bobby asked at once.
"Arkansas," Dean sighed. "About eleven hours from Sioux Falls, I think, maybe less if I push it."
"All right," Bobby said, "Dean, you start driving this way and I'll meet you outside of Omaha, okay?"
"Omaha?" Dean asked. "Why there?"
"I'm finishing up a hunt in Watertown, it's about two hours away from my place and I've got things there I could use to help us. Now, tell me everything."
November 27, 2006
Ava Wilson came awake with a gasp and shot up into a sitting position.
It was freaking cold.
Staying calm had never exactly been one of Ava's strong suits, but she somehow managed to force herself to not panic and take in her surroundings. She was lying on an old mattress in an ancient room. And even worse?
It was snowing outside. Shit.
Ava was surprised to discover she was dressed in her winter gear, but wherever she was right now, it was a lot colder than back in Illinois.
Trying to suppress her shivering, Ava stood and began to slowly walk around, taking in the room, the hallway outside it, and the stairs that led to the front door of the building she found herself in.
It was probably even colder outside, but Ava needed to find out where she was, as well as what had happened to Brady. She'd been cooking dinner for him, waiting for him to get home, right?
Ava's memories felt jumbled and twisted and she didn't like it, at all.
Opening the front door of the building, she stepped out onto a covered, wooden walkway and realized the town had a western, rustic feel to it. And given how alone it was…
A ghost town. Terrific.
"Hello?" Ava called out after a moment's hesitation. "Hello? Is there anyone out here?"
"Great," Ava remarked to herself as she made her way over to the next building. "All alone in a freakin' ghost town."
"You're not alone."
Ava barely suppressed her scream as she whirled around to see an older man with short, grey hair. "Who are you?" she asked.
The man grinned. "All in good time," he said. "Now, come along, there's three others here and I'd like to get started sooner rather than later."
"Started?" Ava echoed. "What's going on? Where am I?"
"Nowhere," the man tossed over his shoulder as he started down the wooden walkway. "There's miles of forest surrounding us, so escape won't be happening anytime soon."
Ava hesitated before deciding she probably had nothing left to lose and moving after the man.
"Why would I wanna escape?" she asked.
"You're Sam's friend," the man answered, and Ava's insides went even colder than the air she was breathing. "That means I have no guarantees at this point that you'll participate fully."
"How do you know Sam?" Ava couldn't help but ask.
The man paused and grinned at Ava from over his shoulder. "We go way back," was all he said before turning away. "Hailey Walker, Jordan Thomas and Ronald Belnap, would you please come out!" he suddenly called out in a very loud voice that made Ava start and take a step back. A few seconds later, other people who were bundled up like Ava began to emerge from different buildings along the 'main street'.
"That's right," the man called out to them. "Get over here, would ya? We've got introductions to make, rules to establish, the whole nine yards — and the sooner we get this started, the better."
Ava didn't like this at all, but the fact remained that until she knew more about what was going on, this man was pretty much her only hope of getting back home, back to Brady. She silently watched as the other people made their way through the snow and over to where Ava and the man were standing.
"What's going on?" asked the taller of the two guys who approached. "Where are we?"
"As I told Ava Wilson here, you're nowhere," the man said. "There's nowhere to go, and no one to save you except yourselves."
The other girl, Hailey, stared at the man with disbelief. "You're kidding," she said, eyes wide as she stared up at him.
"I'm afraid not," the man said. "So, Ava has visions, Hailey's got telekinesis, Jordan's sets things on fire with a touch and Ronald's as strong as the Hulk." He grinned. "The rules are simple. Only one of you lives."
The man's eyes turned yellow and Ava felt her gut clench.
"You're Azazel," she said.
"Bingo!" Azazel proclaimed with a wide grin. "Sammy taught you well. See, I've got a lot of you special kids living all over the country. Thing is, I only need one of ya. This is the beginning of the competition, and whoever lives, well…" He trailed off with a small shrug. "You live and you do a few tasks for me, and you, in turn, keep your families safe."
Ava couldn't believe this. "What about your army?" she asked.
"I've got a demon army downstairs," Azazel said, "and they're just waitin' to burst free, you know? What I need to find for my army now… is a leader."
Sam and Dean had gotten it wrong. He didn't need them all to be his soldiers. He only needed the one to be a leader.
"So," Azazel said after a moment had passed, "let's get started, shall we? No trying to escape or I'll have to have you automatically disqualified." He grinned. "Let's see who my American Idol will be."
And then he was gone.
April 25, 2007
When Sam woke up, he was lying on the ground (which was damp and slowly soaking through his clothes), and the morning sun was barely visible through the cloud cover. He scrunched his eyes shut for a moment, trying to stem his headache before he forced himself to sit up and look around.
It was clearly an old ghost town, and it was surrounded by trees that seemed to go on forever. Pushing to his feet, Sam continued to look around as he pulled out his cell phone.
No signal. Damn.
But there were others here. Sam could sense them.
Putting his phone away, Sam made his way to the nearest building and reached out with his empathy, trying to determine if the person nearest to him was someone he knew or not.
There was a creak of wood as the person made their way towards the front of the building. Sam paused, still trying to figure it out —
"Andy?" he said before he could stop himself, and the creaking stopped. "Andy Gallagher?"
"Who's there?" Yeah, it felt like Andy, all right, and it was definitely his voice.
"It's Sam," he called out. "Winchester," he added a moment later.
There was a pause, and then Andy stepped into view from a narrow alleyway between the building Sam stood in front of and the one next to it. "Sam," Andy breathed. "Thank God, I thought I was all alone here!"
"There's three others here," Sam said. "I haven't figured out who they are yet, though."
"Sam?" came a distant voice. It was female, and Sam recognized it, at once.
"Danielle!" he called out. "Dani, I'm over here, it's okay!"
A moment later, a figure stepped out from the corner of a distant building and Sam knew at once he was right.
"Sam," Danielle said, grinning before she ran forward and flung her arms around Sam, hugging him tightly. "How are you? Where are we? What's going on?"
Sam hugged Danielle back and opened his mouth —
"I'd like to know that, too," Andy said before he could say anything, and Danielle stepped back. "I'm Andy, by the way," the small man added.
"The mind controller guy," Danielle said with a small nod. "Sam told me about you." She turned back to Sam. "Where are we? What are we doing here?"
"I don't know," Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair. "What's the last thing you two remember?"
"Honestly?" Andy said. "My fourth bong load."
Danielle stared at Andy. "Bong load," she said in that flat voice that meant she was a little disturbed by the idea.
Andy nodded. "It was weird," he said. "All of a sudden, there was this really intense smell, like uh…"
"Sulfur," Danielle said at the same time as Sam. "I remember that," Danielle added, tugging at her ponytail. "I had a late-night dance practice up at my school, and I know Roxy was picking me up…" She shrugged and looked up at Sam. "You?"
"I was at a diner…" Sam trailed off. "Dean," he breathed.
"What?" Andy said. "Is he here?"
"No," Danielle answered immediately. "There's two other people here, but I didn't recognize either of them. Did you?" she asked Sam.
Sam shook his head.
"Recognize?" Andy echoed.
"Oh, we sense emotions," Danielle said quickly. "Empathy."
"Ah," Andy said.
And then Sam remembered.
"Wait, Dani…" He stared down at Danielle with a faint frown. "You… you've been missing for two days."
"What?" Danielle stared up at him, and he lowered his shields slightly, sensing genuine confusion and fear. "But… how's that possible? You… I remember, you told me last night on the phone that Dean was missing —"
"That was two — well, almost three days ago, how," Sam said. "I found him."
"Oh," Danielle said. "I don't understand, then. How —?"
"I don't know," Sam said, "but wherever we are, the whole thing just can't be good."
"You mean because we're all psychics," Danielle said, and Sam nodded.
"It's what we've got in common," he said, "so maybe the other two out there will be like us, as well."
Danielle nodded silently when they all heard someone.
"Hello?" It was a male voice this time. "Is there anybody here?"
Sam moved forward in the direction of the voice, Danielle and Andy just behind him. "Hey," Sam called out, and from around the corner of another building further down the way came two people. One was a guy, tall, black and wearing army fatigues (Sam thought he looked familiar, but he couldn't quite place him), and the other was —
"Lily," Sam said without thinking. The blonde girl frowned and paused.
"Do I know you?" she asked, and Sam observed how she kept her hands close to her body at all times. She probably never learned of a way to control it, he thought sadly.
"No," Sam said. "I mean — I'm Sam. This is Danielle and Andy."
"I'm Jake," the army guy said. Right, Sam thought, the guy with super strength.
"How did we get here?" Lily asked. "A minute ago, I was in San Diego."
"If it helps any," Jake said to her, "I went to bed last night in Afghanistan."
There was a long moment of silence.
"I know how we got here," Sam finally said, "but I don't know if either of you will believe me."
Lily and Jake both frowned. "I'm willing to believe anything at this point," Jake said.
Sam nodded. "Okay, but I'm still pretty sure you won't buy it, anyway." He swallowed. "We were brought here by demons."
There was another long moment of silence and Sam knew this was definitely going to be a long day.