Writer's Note: Okay new story. This doesn't mean I'm going to neglect Clean Slate - I just felt like writing about the beginning of an epic apocalypse today. That's normal, right?
Dean kept the cheap motel curtains back with his hand, staring open-mouthed at the sky in awe.
"Dean..." Sam whispered behind him. "Where's dad?"
Thunder erupted overhead and lightning could be seen within the massive black cloud pulsing its way towards the clear blue skies directly overhead.
"I don't know, Sammy," Dean managed to say over the sound of his hammering heart beat. "Start packing," he whispered.
"But Dean..." Sam murmured, "Dad."
Dean turned around, finally fixing his brother with the same unblinking gaze he had on the encroaching cloud.
"I know, Sammy," he said softly, then pushed past him. "Start packing anyway."
The switch had been flipped. Dean hurriedly grabbed his duffel and set it on the bed as he went around the room picking up their things. Sam watched, dumbfounded.
"Dean-" Sam's voice cracked. "Are we just gonna leave Dad?"
In the midst of his rush, Dean stopped and looked up at Sam.
"Sam, do as I say. Now," he yelled as he threw Sam's duffle at him. Sam reacted fast enough to catch it and, reluctantly following his brother's orders, jogged over to his own bed. He started picking up his brother's rate of movement, throwing clothes haphazardly into the bag. The atmosphere was charging anxiety into both of them as they worked.
The daylight streaming from the window slowly extinguished and Sam stopped moving to look outside, feeling an overwhelming dread as the cloud pushed in and eclipsed the sky over their motel. The room went dark as the cloud continued to expand beyond, its opacity increasing directly overhead.
Sam vaguely heard a click. He flinched around to see Dean lowering his hand from the bed stand light switch. He looked at Sam urgently, his features sharp and shadowed by the stale yellow light. It suddenly felt like it was eight, maybe nine at night.
"C'mon Sam!" Dean's voiced pitched in fear. Sam started to tremble as he ran back to his duffel and started whipping things into his bag without regard. He vaguely heard keys jangling and looked up just as Dean reached for the motel room door.
"Dean! No!" Sam shouted. Dean turned around, eyes wide.
"Sam, it's going to be okay. Get the stuff together - I'll be right back, I promise," he said quickly. Before Sam could stop him, he'd opened the door and slammed it behind him. Sam ran to the window and pulled the curtains back to watch Dean's single-minded trip to the car's trunk. Jumping back and forth in anxiety, Sam prayed for Dean to get back to him as soon as possible. He looked up at the sky - lightning flickered within the cloud's blackness. It hadn't grounded yet.
"DEAN!" Sam called, unable to contain his desperation. Dean heard him through the window and on reflex looked up and directly into Sam's eyes through the window. Realizing Sam was just scared, Dean disregarded the call and turned his gaze back to the trunk. Oblivious to witnesses (of which there were none), he grabbed the sawed-off, packed a handgun into his waistband, banged the trunk door shut, and sprinted back to the motel room.
He shut the door behind him. Sam moved up to him and Dean put his hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes.
"Sammy, it's gonna be okay. You gotta listen to me, though, okay? Trust me. Can you do that?"
Sam gulped and nodded, a tear slipping down his cheek. Dean pulled his hand from Sam's shoulder, cupped his cheek and wiped the tear away.
"Dad's gonna be okay. We're gonna meet him at the rendezvous, you understand me?"
Sam nodded again, his eyes widening. The rendezvous was the worst-case scenario.
"Dean... What's happening?" He rasped. Dean pursed his lips with angry determination.
"Nothing we can't handle," Dean said with conviction and squeezed Sam's shoulder. Sam blinked and tried to draw strength from his brother. "Got it?"
"Got... Got it," Sam said, his voice shaking. Local emergency sirens started blaring in the distance. Sam reacted to look outside again but Dean pulled him back.
"Ignore it, Sam, Sammy, you got it? You with me?" Dean asked again, looking at Sam sharply. Sam, unnerved by the alarms, started trembling more, but steadied himself at Dean's insistence. Dean's expression softened as he squeezed his brother's shoulder once, twice, then roughly pulled him into a hug. Sam felt the sawed-off shotgun in Dean's hand thump against his back and gave in to the momentary show of affection.
As fast as it started, it ended with Dean ripping away and reigniting. He pushed past Sam and grabbed both duffels off the two double beds. He threw them over his shoulder, the shotgun still held at the ready in his other hand, and looked around gravely.
"Yeah," Sam confirmed. Dean stepped forward determinedly and pulled the curtains back again to look outside. As if on cue, a harsh scream pierced through the air nearby and strangled off into a high-pitched moan.
"Dean?" Sam called in fear as the voice continued wheezing loudly through the parking lot grounds outside.
"Shit," Dean whispered vehemently as he turned and pulled Sam away from the window. Dean held Sam securely, facing him away from the window, as he bent down to look up into the ten year old's pale, stricken face.
"Sam, listen to me. We're going outside-"
"No!" Sam cried immediately, "Dean, no-"
"Sam, Sammy - listen to me, listen to me," Dean said, his irregular breaths belying the calm in his voice. He wiped Sam's bangs back frenetically, trying to overwhelm Sam's senses with his own presence, "Sam you just hold on to me and stay right behind me, do you understand? Right behind me."
Sam was hyperventilating his cries by now, but he managed to nod to Dean.
"Good, good boy. How clear am I?"
Sam gasped and tried to speak but couldn't find a spare breath.
"Sam? Sammy how clear am I? C'mon buddy," Dean said as he kept brushing Sam's hair, rubbing his shoulders, touching his face. It proved distracting and Sam's bearings started coming back to him.
"C-crystal," Sam rasped.
"Good job, I'm crystal clear. C'mon," Dean stood up immediately and turned his back on Sam. "Hold on to me now, Sam, c'mon," he coached and felt Sam's vise-like grip suddenly latch onto his waist. "Good boy, good job kiddo," he praised as he grabbed the bags and pulled them over his shoulder. He wiped the sweat off his face before picking up the sawed-off. He rested his other hand protectively against Sam's back behind him. Dean moved to the motel room door, his brother in immediate step next to him.
Dean gave himself a few deep breaths as he stared at the motel room door. On the last breath, his lips curled into a vicious grimace just before pulling the door open with the shotgun aimed and ready.
The parking lot was empty; the source of the scream was nowhere to be found. Without hesitation Dean took advantage of the silence and moved out, his little brother latched to him in tow. The wind whipped past them and seemed to whistle just as loudly as the blaring town sirens. The twilight dark of the cloud overhead cast shadows, tricking Dean's perception. Pupils blown, Dean remained vigilant as he ushered his shivering brother closer and closer to the Impala. They were almost home free until a shriek emitted nearby.
"Help me, god help me please! Please!" The panicked shrill trailed off as the woman staggered in her approach towards them. Dean whirled around in a panic towards the noise, angling his gun directly at the woman.
Dean couldn't be sure if the black liquid was blood or something else covering the whole side of her face. He wasn't taking any chances and leveled the shotgun at her head.
"Stay back!" he commanded. His teeth gritted as Sam's clutch on him tightened. Dean pulled Sam into him closer as he started backing away from the woman. She slowed at Dean's order, but still stalked them with shambling footsteps.
"Please! Pleaaaase help meeee," she growled deeply, continuing her approach.
"I said stay back!" Dean ordered again, his voice full of fury and threat. At the end of his words, he vaguely heard Sam's muffled sob calling out his name behind him. Dean ignored it and kept roughly pushing Sam back towards the Impala. Just as they reached it, the woman started grunting huffs of breaths.
Dean knew he had few precious moments before the woman would take her shot. In a flash of fluid movement, Dean lowered his shotgun, ripped the Impala's driver's seat open, shoved Sam inside, and slammed the door in Sam's face. The woman blasted an ear-splitting howl and launched herself straight at Dean.
"DEAN!" Sam screamed as he watched the inhuman woman tackle Dean down to the pavement. They struggled a few moments on the pavement, Dean fighting to maneuver the shotgun in line with a lethal hit. Before Sam could open the door, the shotgun sounded loudly and drummed against Sam's ears. The ringing in his head dulled and Sam scrambled forward to open the car door. As it swung open, he caught view of Dean lying on his back on the ground. The woman lay motionless on the pavement beyond.
"DEAN!" Sam cried out again, making Dean flinch on the ground, fall his head to the side, and open his eyes to see Sam.
"Sam, stay there!" Dean warned in pain. Sam didn't move.
"Dean get up!" Sam screamed. Dean rolled over and sorely dragged his wrists along the pavement to push himself up.
"Now, Dean!" Sam yelled, making Dean shudder with urgency again and shift his weight to roll his knees up and take a small crouching step forward.
"Dean! Dean! Get the fuck in here!" Sam called desperately. Dean's knee almost buckled as he took another step forward. He braced himself with a hand against the cement before pushing off again to get into the Impala.
"Quiet," Dean whispered back forcefully as he stumbled his way towards the car door. He finally reached the driver's seat and folded himself inside. Hands covered in blood and sweat trickling into his eyes, Dean fumbled with the keys to start the car.
"How bad are you? - Can you drive?"
"I can drive," Dean replied softly as he grabbed Sam harshly and pulled him closer to his side. He let go of Sam, turned the engine over, shifted, and regripped his little brother before jamming his foot on the accelerator. He deftly maneuvered the car with his left hand as he held his little brother tight to make sure the kid wouldn't go flying. He took quick breaks and sharp turns to pull them out of the motel and onto the street.
It was four in the afternoon and the roads were dark; the town hadn't yet turned on the streetlights despite the black clouds above having blotted out sunlight fifteen minutes ago.
Dean squinted for accuracy as he drove down the deserted local main street. His tight grip remained on Sam, distinctly aware of his brother's presence and unwilling to give it up. Sam realized Dean wouldn't be letting go any time soon and positioned himself more comfortably against Dean's side. He placed his hands over the arm Dean had wrapped across his chest. Dean pressed Sam against him reassuringly and Sam leaned in.
"Where... where is everybody?" Sam whispered, feeling as empty as the street they were currently rolling through.
"They... must think it's a tornado," Dean murmured, disturbed as he envisioned the inhabitants of this town - families and innocents - huddling like sitting ducks in storm shelters and porcelain tubs just waiting to get picked off. Dean regripped Sam tighter against his chest as he drove. Silence fell upon the two of them as they tried to come to terms. Sam reached for the radio but Dean pulled him back.
"Don't. Just... Not yet, Sammy," Dean whispered the plea, not sure if he'd be able to handle the radio reports. Sam fell back against Dean, silently acquiescing. They passed Sam's junior high, the local barber shop, the small mom 'n pop grocery store... All deserted, every color muted.
It was already a ghost town. Sam didn't understand his own certainty, but he simply knew this town was forsaken.
"Dean?" Sam breathed heavily.
"Is this what killed mom?" Sam asked solemnly.
Dean's lips curled in frustrated concentration at the road sign ahead and made a last-minute turn towards the interstate.
"Dean?" Sam prompted, looking up at his brother. Dean sensed Sam's attention and shook his head slowly.
"No, Sammy," he whispered, "This isn't what killed mom."
They turned got onto the highway. It was equally deserted.
"Jesus," Dean sighed worriedly, blinking tears back, "Nobody's getting out."
Dean pushed the accelerator to reach eighty-five and worked to keep his hand steady on the wheel. A massive explosion went off in the distance, pulling Dean off-guard. He gave a double-take and felt Sam strain across his body to see out the driver's side window. A huge fireball flickered into sight above the treeline that bordered expressway. Layers of swirling flames peeled off into the sky as the ball rolled and twisted, expanding and rising higher, emitting brilliant burning firelight into the blackened sky - and onto the darkly-lit highway. Dean blinked the sweat out of his eyes and sped up, taking advantage of the increased visibility. Pitch black smoke circled around and drifted off in waves over the surrounding countryside.
"It's a power plant," Sam murmured, unable to take his eyes off it. Dean bit his lip with worry, tears starting to threaten his eyesight again. This was just the beginning. The world was burning. Dean straightened and kept his eyes on the road, ordering himself to stay in the present. To keep Sam safe. To get to the rendezvous.
Writer's Note: Thank you so much for reading! Please please let me know what you thought - any and all feedback is adored if you can spare the time. Thank you! ~ Alex