Later, Dean would wonder if they would have met at all if the woman hadn't been so loud, if he hadn't been so hungry, or if Sam had been in the mood for pizza rather than hamburgers.
On the other hand, it was likely that their meeting was as inevitable as breaking all those seals. As inevitable as the Apocalypse itself. The omens and portents that had led them to this town were not ones that could be ignored. For six months, the little Northern Michigan town had played host to about a hundred different types of psychic and supernatural fucked-up-edness.
The couple had caught Dean's attention as he waited impatiently for Sam to show up.
"We could rent a car!" The red headed woman laughed, as they walked past him into the diner, "That's the only way to travel in America!"
Dean followed her with his eyes, appreciating the view. She was cute. Not drop dead gorgeous, but there was something compelling about her. She had laughing eyes and a smile that Dean returned, when her eyes randomly found his. He was surprised to feel a jolt of strong attraction, that made him look twice.
She was older than the women Dean was normally attracted to, but, honestly, he wouldn't have said no to this woman, had she asked. She seemed so cleanly full of life, so comfortable in her own skin. Not innocent; she was too old for that, rather she was untainted.
Dean puzzled over that word crossing his mind, but the more he thought on it, the more it fit. She was untainted and free of other-than-human influence of every kind. He knew, without a doubt (although he couldn't say why), that a demon would never be able to possess this person, and an angel wouldn't have a chance either. She was firmly and entirely herself.
If that wasn't sexy, Dean didn't know what was.
The man with her-he drew a second look as well. He was just strange. Tall and skinny, all angles, in a blue suit with red canvas tennis shoes (that fashion disaster alone made Dean shudder). His dark brown hair looked like he's stuck his finger in a light socket. "We don't need a car." he was saying to her, "We can get around fine." Something about him both repelled and attracted Dean. He had an irrational urge to go ask the woman if she was okay.
The man was talking amiably enough to the woman. There were no creepy domestic violence vibes or anything like that. It just seemed that something deep in his gut warned Dean that this man was dangerous.
That was the Hunter's instinct that had kept Dean alive (okay, except for that brief stint in Hell) for twenty odd years. He would not discount it.
They both had British accents, but they didn't sound pompous or snobby-they sounded like they were having a really good time. Less Masterpiece Theater, more Monty Python.
"If you think I'm letting you drive a car here, you're mad." the man was saying with a snort, "They drive on the wrong side of the road."
"Who's to say they're on the wrong side? Maybe they're on the right side. Most countries in the world drive on the right." The woman challenged.
"Don't be daft, every other planet in this galaxy drives on the left." the man returned lightly.
The woman giggled and pushed the door of the diner open and the couple disappeared inside.
Dean really, really wished Sam would hurry the hell up. Dean didn't like to go get a table until Sam got here. Since they met that whole diner full of demons, Dean didn't like to be anywhere he couldn't see who was coming up on him, where the best cover was, and which way the escape routes lay. He, especially, was not walking into a diner by himself. So he just hung out by the newspaper machine, pretending to make a call on his cell, so he wouldn't look like creepy stalker guy.
Sam finally drove into the parking lot with the Impala. Pulling up to the front of the building right next to Dean.
Dean snapped his phone shut, "About time." he drawled, "I'm only about to starve to death."
"Yeah, well, I had a hard time finding those documents. I hate looking through these small town records." complained Sam. He been looking to the plans to a church that had been built maybe a hundred years before, over an old Native ritual ground that apparently was the source of a lot of demon activity around here, "All those boxes of papers...half of them are moldy." Sam sneezed, "I think I'm getting an allergy to mold."
Dean rolled his eyes, "Yeah, dude, I feel your pain. Now can we eat?"
Sam preceded him through the door. They both took a quick look around, spotting the fire exits and taking in the look of the people. The diner was full up with the lunch rush. They were all rural Midwestern types; farmers, truckers, construction workers. The well worn jeans, leather or denim jackets and baseball caps that were the uniform of working men and women.
"Just you two?" asked the hostess as she started leading them to the back of the restaurant,
"Do you have something closer to the window?" asked Dean, actually wanting a table near the door.
The woman (girl really, she couldn't be any older than sixteen. Too young for Dean to even look at) rolled her eyes, "They're all taken." she said flatly, "You guys always ask for them."
Dean and Sam glanced at each other, "You guys?" asked Sam.
The girl walked to a back table and slapped the menus onto them, "You hunter types." she said sourly, "This is the best I got." she said, shrugging.
Dean smiled his trade mark charming smile, "So, you got good turkey hunting around here?" hoping that it was turkey season.
She rolled her eyes again and looked disgusted, "Yeah, right. Whatever. Your waitress will be with you in a minute."
"Okay, that was officially weird." said Sam, watching the girl walk away.
Dean nodded in agreement, picked up the menu. He glanced around the diner without looking obvious. At the people who could have been farmers or truckers or construction workers, but now that he looked again, he saw the wary set of their shoulders and the way they all seemed to have one hand in their lap as they ate. They seemed to fill every other table, "I got more officially weird, here." Dean said quietly, his eyes flicking up from his menu to meet Sam's
Sam nodded, minutely, apparently looking at the menu, as well. He pitched his voice low, a rumble over the table, "I see it."
"Think we got a situation?" Dean asked rhetorically.
"Oh, yeah." snorted Sam, "No doubt." his hand disappeared from the table, to settle on his knife, Dean knew.
A movement attracted Dean's eyes. A man was approaching them, unremarkable in jeans and blue jean jacket. A white guy with a "Don't mess with Texas" baseball hat and a Celtic knotwork tattoo around his left wrist. Dean could see at least three powerful protection symbols worked into the design. The man was walking with a measured tread, not too fast, not too slowly, his hands carefully in sight.
Sam looked up suspiciously, but put on his friendly, I'm-not-a-threat-at-all smile. Dean could never manage it when they were talking to another guy-he got into more bar fights when he was trying to be non-confrontational.
"Can I help you?" asked Sam.
The man stared at them as though he'd seen a ghost, "You boys the Winchesters?" he asked bluntly, with a decidedly non-local accent. East Texas or Northern Louisiana, maybe.
"Depends on who's asking." Deans lip curled and he felt for his own knife.
The man stared at them some more, "Shit. So it's all Apocalypse stuff?" he wiped his hands off on his jeans, sat down hard on the empty chair at their table, "I came up to check out a Wendigo that's been haunting my brother-in-law's place. But then it got weird even for me."
Dean and Sam glanced at each other again, the man's words confirming Dean's suspicions "So...you're a Hunter?"
The man snorted, "Boy, all these folks in here, practically, are Hunters." he jerked his head to indicate the other watchful men and women eating quietly, "It's like a regular convention. But shit, I wasn't planning on the Apocalypse happening here. So what, it's the Final Show Down?"
That idea made Dean's heart turn over in his chest. He took a deep breath, pressed his lips together, glancing around again, "Hope not." he replied, honestly.
Before he could say any more, another man emerged from the men's room. A black man with a hard face that Dean recognized instantly, "Rufus?" he said, astounded, "What are you doing here?" Last they'd heard of Rufus, he was working a vampire case. Long distance, like he usually did. They hadn't heard that he'd actually come outside.
Rufus stared at Sam and Dean in horror, "Dean? Sam?"
The other man shook his head, "I'm gonna tell my sister she can get that damned Wendigo herself." he muttered, heading towards the door.
Rufus shook his head. "Sounds like a good idea to leave at the moment, with you two in town." he said, "What brings you up here?"
Sam frowned. "We came up here because of all the omens," he said. "We haven't heard anything about Wendigos."
"Well, we damn-near have a whole pack of them up here. And vampires, too. Some werewolves, a truckload of ghosts, and one or two demons." said Rufus, ticking off his fingers as he listed the monsters, "What omens?"
"One of the streams turned to blood while a bunch of guys were fishing in it." said Dean, "Some old friends of Dad's I guess."
"You mean the water went red?" asked Rufus, to be clear.
Sam shook his head, brushed his hair out of his eyes, "No, this was the real, stinking, sticky stuff. They called us freaking out. Well, then we checked the news and did a couple web searches. Lots of stuff about lights in the sky and a weeping rock, we figured we better come.
"Fuuuuuuck" said Rufus in a long sigh, "I think I'm gonna finish my coffee and head on back to my place. Maybe we oughta let everyone else know what's comin' so they can make up their minds what to do."
The waitress came over, "What can I getcha?" she asked, her voice bright with false cheer. She was a middle-aged woman with graying hair and a tired set to her face. Quite good looking for her age, and Dean could tell that she'd been gorgeous when she was young, "You want a menu, Rufus?" she asked.
"Naw," Rufus replied, with a smile for her, "Just a burger and a beer."
"Gotcha." she said, "And what'll you guys have?"
"Bacon cheeseburger and a Coke." Dean replied.
Sam ordered some big girly salad thing
The door opened and shut. All the eyes in the place turned to look at the newcomer. He was a brown haired man of medium height, dressed in a pale tan trench coat over a business suit. His coat and shoes had clearly seen better days. It seemed his dark hair had never seen a comb.
He looked sort of like a befuddled accountant who'd had a few too many drinks at the bar with his coworkers the night before. Out of place, among the canvas jeans and work boots sported by the other patrons of the restaurant.
For all that, he didn't look like a civilian. His dark blue eyes were intense but focused on something in the far distance. He looked around the room as if searching for someone.
Dean and Sam looked at each other, with equal parts apprehension and relief.
"Cas!" called Dean.
Castiel looked around some more, tilting his head to one side as if not sure if the voice calling his name was inside his head or outside of it.
Dean waved, since Cas apparently couldn't see them, sitting at the back as they were. Castiel stared at them hard. The hostess went over and said something to him and then moved off with an annoyed hmph and a toss of her hair. Dean smiled to himself despite the possible grimness of the situation, wondering what awkward thing their favorite angel had said to the girl.
"Dean?" Sam said, very quietly, "Does Cas look okay to you?"
Dean shook his head. Castiel did not look okay. Not at all. He was pale and his mouth was pressed into a thin line. When Castiel got close, Dean realized that there was a light sheen of sweat on the angel's upper lip, and there were dark shadows under his eyes.
If Castiel were a human, Dean would say he looked frightened.
"What are you doing here?" Castiel demanded, tightly, "I didn't know you were here."
"Good to see you too." returned Dean, irritably as Castiel came over. The angel loomed over them, staring with wide eyes.
"Cas, what's the matter?" asked Sam.
"Didn't you hear me?" growled Castiel, "I. Didn't. Know. You were here."
Dean stared at Castiel, a little nonplussed, "So, we're supposed to check in with you now?"
"I always know where you are." replied Castiel, "Except for last night and today. I followed the road from the last place I knew where you were. I saw the car outside." Castiel looked around the diner, "This place is nowhere."
"Yeah, well, Northern Michigan isn't exactly known as a cultural Mecca." drawled Dean.
Castiel turned around to fix Dean with his intense stare, again. Dean wished Castiel would remember to blink. It made Dean's eyes hurt just watching him.
"I wasn't speaking metaphorically." Castiel's voice was very low.
"Sit down." Rufus indicated the empty chair, "People are looking at you. We got a whole room full of nervous Hunters in here. No point in making them more edgy."
Sam leaned forward over the table, "What do you mean, 'nowhere'?" he asked Castiel.
"I mean, this place isn't anywhere. It's as if it were outside the world." Castiel stopped speaking when the waitress brought their drinks.
"Can I get you something?" she asked Castiel.
Castiel looked at her, seeming bemused, "One of those sweet, carbonated drinks with a lot of caffeine ." he said, after a moment.
"Okay." she replied, writing it down, almost as if he was making sense, "You want the kind with the caramel coloring or the kind with the green coloring?"
"The green." replied Castiel, "And whatever my companions are having."
The waitress looked at him a little blankly, then said, "Well, they're all having something different."
"I know. I'm very hungry." Castiel said in his deadpan way.
The waitress rolled her eyes and muttered something about "All these creepy assholes." just loud enough for Dean to hear her.
Rufus smiled grimly, "She's been having a rough few months."
Sam turned to the man, "Yeah? How come?"
"Well, like I was telling you, 'bout six months ago, this town went seriously weird. It used to be a mill town, and that's where the first haunts showed up." Rufus replied.
"Not the church?" Dean asked, with surprise.
"It's demons at the church." put in Sam.
Rufus nodded in agreement, "Revenants in the mill. Wendigos up at the Ellis cottage. Vampires in some cellar of some barn somewhere. A Lady in White on the south side of town, near the high school...Who the fuck knows what else. Hunters started showing up about four, five months ago. They came in by ones and twos, but the shit keeps getting deeper, and now it's like the only people in town are the ones who've got nowhere else to go, and the Hunters."
"Who in here isn't a Hunter?" Sam asked, attempting to look around surreptitiously.
Rufus looked around as well. "Apart from a couple locals, just the two Brits in the corner." he said, "They're the only tourists here, anyway."
Dean and Sam both looked at the couple. The man seemed to feel their scrutiny, but the woman kept up her conversation. The man looked around sharply, his eyes settling on Castiel.
The man said something quietly to the woman, who raised her eyebrows in surprise and muttered something back.
The man looked right at Castiel and jerked his head towards the door.
"We have to speak to that man." Castiel stood up, very suddenly, earning him more than a few odd looks. Dean could practically hear the tightening of knuckles on knife hilts.
"Cas, sit down," he hissed.
"Come with me." Castiel practically growled.
Sam and Dean looked at each other, shrugged and stood. Everyone relaxed as Castiel hurried out of the door.
"Rufus, ask the waitress to make the food to go." Sam threw some bills at Rufus.
Rufus nodded, "Meet you outside in a minute." he said.
The red haired woman was arguing with the man just outside the door, "I don't see what the hurry is. And, you can't leave without paying, this is America. They'll shoot you or something. Let me just pop back in with my credit card."
The man seemed to give his assent and the woman nearly plowed into Dean, "Oh, pardon me." she said, brightly. Her gaze slid down to Dean's feet and up again, as if she liked what she saw.
Castiel did his angel thing, one minute he was right beside Dean, the next he stood in front of the strange man.
"What are you?" Castiel demanded in a low voice.
The man didn't seem surprised by Castiel's sudden appearance. On the contrary, he looked angry and perhaps a little curious.
"You need to give that body back to whoever you've borrowed it from." the man said, after looking Castiel up and down, "That can't be good for it."
Castiel took a half step back, "What are you?" he asked, again.
"I'm the Doctor." replied the man, as though that would explain everything.
"You are not human." Castiel rasped. He did that staring thing he did so well, but the man didn't flinch. "And 'The Doctor' is not a name." Castiel paused, "Your name is...hidden from me."
"Woah, Cas." said Dean in a low voice, coming up to the two of them, "So, is he a demon? An angel? A monster? What?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam put his hand on his knife. Dean wished he had his pistol. He reached under his own jacket.
"I don't know what he is." Castiel admitted, "But no human has two hearts."
The man backed up a little, his expression that of someone who's been caught with his hands in a cash register and is trying to think of an excuse. Then his eyes narrowed and he stepped forward, aggressively, "Well, you shouldn't have a heart at all. At least not that one. What are you? The host mind isn't even there any more. What have you done with it?"
"Jimmy has gone to Heaven." replied Castiel with angelic dignity.
The Doctor's lip curled with disgust, "You bastard. You can't even say it." with surprising speed, he lunged forward and grabbed Castiel's lapel with one hand. Do these people know what you are?" he nodded to Sam and Dean with his chin, "The Shadow Proclamation made invasion by parasitism a war crime, you know."
"I know nothing of this Shadow Proclamation." Castiel paused for a moment, "I am an Angel of the Lord." he pronounced solemnly, "The man who was this Vessel gave it up to me willingly."
"Is that what you're telling them?" The Doctor snarled shaking the angel's lapel. He got right up in Castiel's face, their noses not two inches apart. His voice dropped to a whisper that carried over to where Dean stood, "Is It? Because nobody gives their body over willingly." Castiel just continued to stare coolly at the man.
Sam stepped around Castiel to get closer to the Doctor, "Look, I'd like to know why you're here-and how you know that Jimmy isn't in there." he indicated Castiel.
The Doctor looked at Sam, startled. "So you know that the thing inside him is a parasite?" he sounded outraged.
Dean scowled. "Look, Cas can be a jerk, but he's not a parasite."
The Doctor looked from Sam to Dean and back again. He let go of the angel and backed away, as if to take be able to look at Castiel's whole body, muttering to himself. He tilted his head to the side, pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket and put them on. Dean wondered if the man had any clue how goofy he looked.
The Doctor looked marginally less angry after a moment, even perhaps sympathetic "Oh, hang on...Are you symbiotic?" A deep sadness passed over the man's face, "I'm so sorry. You won't last long without the host mind."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Dean, deciding that they needed to get this conversation into normal-weird territory.
The angular man turned to Dean, took a step towards him with an oddly Castiel-like expression. That sense of looking through him, "What have they done to you, then?" he asked in a voice of both sadness and concern. He pulled something from his pocket and tried to point it at Dean.
Sam leapt across the distance still separating them, grabbing the man's hand in a death grip, "I don't think so!" A quick jerk and Sam twisted the Doctor's arm and shoved the man to the ground with his knee in the small of his back.
"What are you doing?" A strident voice cawed. The woman was back, looking affronted. Dean didn't want to upset this obviously civilian woman, and it was more than likely she had no idea that there was something wrong with this freak.
"Hey, he pulled his..." Sam sat on the man, holding him down with his knee and one hand. In his other hand he held the object the Doctor had pointed at Dean. Looking at it, but clearly, not knowing what it was, "Thing..first!"
The woman rolled her eyes, "It's a screwdriver," she huffed, "Honestly! I can't leave you for five minutes without you upsetting someone, can I?" she said irritably to the man on the ground. "Bloody spaceman."
"I didn't do anything!" protested the man.
"Yes, you did," she countered, "Can you let him up?" she smiled winningly at Sam, "He's mostly harmless, really." She turned to Dean with that dazzling smile "I'm sorry, he's absolutely useless in public, always says the worst possible thing at the worst time. Can I have his screwdriver back?"
"Mostly harmless?" the man on the ground said indignantly, "I am not 'mostly harmless' "
"So you admit you're a threat?" asked Castiel, flatly.
"I-Well, no...not as such..." the man back pedalled.
The woman rolled her eyes again, "Will you shut it?" she smiled at Dean some more, "You see what I mean?"