The Hitchhiker
K Hanna Korossy

So far, Dean wasn't too impressed with angels.

Castiel had sent him back in time to meet his parents: great, awesome. The chance to kill old Yellow Eyes preemptively while he was there was just gravy. But so far the angel hadn't exactly been a lot of help on the mission. What was up with popping in just to lay a guilt trip on Dean about changing his family's destiny? Wasn't that what he'd been sent back there for? And, yes, it sucked that a lot of people would go unsaved if the Winchesters didn't go into hunting, but what was Dean supposed to do, just let his parents die? No way. No one could ask that of him. It wasn't right.

So the least the feathery bastard could have done was give him a hand. Beaming him to Colorado to Elkins' place would have been nice, instead of leaving Dean to make the twelve-plus hour roundtrip overnight. Hey, he would even have appreciated just getting directions. I-70 had been around in the Seventies, Dean was sure, but who knew about any of smaller streets he normally took? Or, for that matter, if Elkins was even in the same place thirty-five years earlier. A place Dean had been only once, over two years before.

"'You have to stop it.' Yeah, 'cause that's not vague at all," he muttered to the steering wheel. "Maybe if I'm supposed to do something, you could at least tell me what it is."

He checked the passenger seat despite himself. No angel. Figured.

No Sam either, he thought with a pang. The kid wasn't even born yet. And Cas said he wasn't looking for Dean?

Yeah, he wasn't going to think about that right now.

Dean chewed his lip. "Okay, fine. You want me to figure this out? I will. Just gotta get the gun from Elkins, go back, and shoot the yellow-eyed bastard. Piece of cake." Right, because nothing could go wrong with that plan.

What had Castiel meant by saying Sam wasn't looking for him? Where had Sam gone, any—

The girl came out of nowhere, a dark frightened face bright in Dean's headlights for a half-second before he swerved the car around her. He skidded to a stop on the shoulder just beyond, heart pounding in his chest.

"What the—?" Dean shoved his door open and got out.

The girl was already marching toward him, patchwork skirt swirling around her ample frame. Her afro was held back by a colorful headband, and under it, her eyes were large and…really ticked off.

"Are you trying to kill me? Who taught you how to drive, Evel Knievel? Is this skirt not bright enough for you to see, or are you blind?"

Dean's mouth opened and closed in surprise.

"Well, you gonna just—oh." As she got close and really saw him, her anger seemed to flicker and drain. "Sorry, just…it's been a long night. For you, too, huh?"

He didn't know what she saw in his face and he didn't want to know. Dean cleared his throat. "You're okay then? 'Cause I need to…" He gestured vaguely down the dark road.

"Give me a lift."

"Excuse me?"

She lifted her chin. "I need a ride. Wherever you're going's fine."

Dean blinked. "Look, sweetheart, I'm in a hurry—"

"So we should quit flapping our mouths and get going, you dig?"

He stared at her. She stared coolly back, seemingly unbothered by the fact he'd nearly mowed her down a minute ago and she didn't know him from Michael Myers.

And…he really didn't have time for this. Cursing himself, Dean flicked an arm toward the passenger-side door. "Fine. Whatever. You can come as far as Colorado, but then you're on your own."

"Fine." She strode over to the door and, clutching her varsity jacket and bag tight to herself, climbed in.

Dean rubbed a hand down his face and also got back in. "But we're not stopping for bathroom breaks every hour or anything. You slow me down, and I'm dropping you off at the nearest rest stop, you got that?"

"Baby, you're wastin' time."

Dean glared at her, then promptly floored it and shot out onto the road at full speed. The girl was flung back in her seat with a squeak, and Dean hid a small smile.

A few uncomfortably quiet miles passed before he found himself grudgingly speaking up. "My name's Dean."

There was a beat. "Missie."

"Missie." He cringed for a second at the reminder of another Missie, but considering the youngest Bender hadn't even been born yet in this time, it wasn't much of a chill. "You always accept rides from strangers in the middle of the night, Missie?"

"Only when they owe me one for almost running me over," she shot back.

"Yeah, well, maybe if you weren't walking on the road in the middle of the night…"

"It's called hitchhiking," she said haughtily.

He raised an eyebrow. "At 1 a.m.?"

Missie returned the look. "I needed to split. What's your score?"

"My…right. My score." Sobered, Dean swiped a hand across his mouth and chin. "Let's just say it's a matter of life and death and leave it at that, okay?"

He could see her in his peripheral vision as she studied him, her expression doing that odd falter again. "Okay," she said, muted. "That's cool."

Yeah. Cool.

They drove for several minutes before she abruptly said, "Smokey's up ahead."

Dean frowned at her. "Smokey?"

She tilted her head. "Peelers? The fuzz?" She sighed heavily. "Po-lice?"

"Oh." He didn't see anything, but he automatically eased off the gas. Seconds later, his headlights gleamed off a metal body tucked behind the shrubbery as they passed it. "Huh. Good eyes there, Missie."

"Yeah, groovy," she mumbled.

Dean glanced over at her a few times as he drove. His mind was just as happy to dwell on something other than the fate of his family hanging in the balance, and instead he pondered a girl out on the road in the middle of the night, ready to hitchhike with anyone, anywhere.

He surprised even himself when he said quietly, "It's tough, huh?"

Missie didn't ask what he meant. "Like you wouldn't believe."

"Oh, I can believe a lot."

"It's not fair. Probably ain't gonna get fair no matter how hard I look, but I'm still lookin'."

He digested that. "I'm with you on the not fair part, but the answers? They're inside you, not out there. Screw destiny—it isn't about finding yourself, Missie. It's about creating yourself."

He wasn't letting destiny win this one, either.

Missie was silent. She seemed to be thinking about what he said, but he guessed she was about twenty and Dean didn't remember himself being all that open to advice at that age, either. And he hadn't been as much on his own as she seemed to be.

"You're pretty smart for a chump," she finally grudgingly allowed.

Dean wasn't sure if he should be insulted, but the curled corner of her mouth gave him a clue. "It's all experience, sweetheart," he said with a tilted grin.

"I bet," she said dryly.

Miles went by. When the conversation seemed to be over, Dean flicked on the radio, struggling to find something to listen to in between the ballads and disco music. He finally settled on Alice Cooper, and thought he saw an approving gleam from Missie.

The end of the song led to the chatter of the late-night DJ, and that was when Missie spoke up. "You really believe that? About destiny?"

You know the worst thing I can think of? The very worst thing? Is for my children to be raised into this like I was. Mary's—his mom's—words marched relentlessly through his mind. Dean swallowed. "About making your own choices? Yeah, I do. Gotta do what you think is right, not what everyone else is telling you to do." Whether they were angels or demons, his dad or…his mom. He would do what he had to, for his own reasons.

Missie nodded and fell silent again. By the time they passed the next town, she was asleep, head canted toward the window like Sammy's so often was.

Dean turned the radio down, thinking about his family, how Mary was the same mix of empathy and determination that Sam was, how John had looked when he was unburdened and happy. Maybe the angels—God?—were testing him, telling him to "stop it" and then questioning his motives. But the closer he got to Colorado, the more certain he was of his decision.

He'd given up his family ideal once, when it had been just a djinn's fantasy and the only one who'd sacrificed was Dean himself. This time, however, his family's happiness and future really was at stake, and they deserved to have that as much as any victims the Winchesters had saved. Maybe that had been their real destiny, before Azazel had screwed with them. Or maybe destiny was whatever you made it: Dean didn't know, and honestly didn't care. The one thing he did know, the one thing both his parents had taught him, was to do what he believed was right. And that meant ending this son of a bitch before he wrecked more lives.

Clenching his jaw, Dean drove on through the night.

The sky was just starting to lighten when he pulled into a gas station across the street from a bus terminal. He let the engine idle a moment before clearing his throat. "Missie."

She snapped awake like she'd been sleeping on guard, eyes darting around the car before they fixed on Dean.

He softened his next words. "Last stop. We hit the Colorado line a few miles back."

"Oh. Yeah." She stifled a yawn and peered out the window.

"You, uh… You have some money? Gonna need to find…" He struggled for the word. "…a pad to crash in soon."

She looked back at him, seeming faintly amused. "I'll be all right, sugar, don't you worry." She clutched her denim bag closer to her, her one piece of luggage, and swung the door open.

And paused.

"It was good meetin' you, Dean," she said over her shoulder. "I hope you find what you're lookin' for, too." She smiled at him for the first time, and it melted her face into something suddenly familiar. "See you around." With one last significant look, she got out.

On the back of her jacket, spelled out in pink corduroy letters, was Moseley.

Dean gaped as he watched her stride across the street, back straight and head held high, to disappear into the bus station. "Son of a…" he muttered, trying to remember exactly what they'd talked about.

Screw destiny. It's all about creating yourself.

His mouth turned up in a slow smile. "Yeah, see you around," he murmured.

Then Dean turned back to the road and headed out into the dawn.

The End