Dean felt Sam paw his arm.
"De...Dean, I'm gonna be-" Sam's voice was strangled and at the last second, Dean tore his gaze away to grab his brother. He doubled over, nearly collapsing and threw up.
"Shh," Dean whispered, holding Sam up as the kid convulsed under him. It was short-lived. Heaving breaths, Dean started to feel Sam relax. "Okay, c'mon," he said as he practically carried Sam to the threshold of the door and set him down. He angled Sam's pale, sweaty face up.
"S'gonna be okay, Sammy," he murmured, pulling the sleeve to his sweater over his hand to wipe Sam's mouth off. Sam barely flinched, still struggling with shock. Dean used another part of his sleeve to absorb the sweat off his face.
"Are-are they..." Sam coughed, "alive?"
Dean gulped and looked back into the room. Torn, he admitted that he couldn't turn back on these souls now. Not if one of them was still alive.
"I'm gonna go check. Two seconds, Sam, two seconds. Can you hold on for me?"
Sam swallowed convulsively and nodded. Dean brushed his hair back.
"Okay," he breathed, and toggled the gun in his hand, prepping himself to go inside.
Dean stepped around each body in the dark, trying hard only to look for the necks to check for pulses. He reached the fifth body in the far corner without luck and swore under his breath.
"Dean?" Sam called out.
"They're all dead," Dean whispered, his voice sounding devoid of life as well. He stepped through the room, carefully avoiding the bodies, and made it back to Sam.
"C'mon, time to go," he said, reaching down to pick Sam up. Sam raised his arms and went with it, getting his bearings as Dean raised him to stand.
After that, they flew out of there, grabbing their baskets from the floor, the Djinns still writhing five feet away. The two of them busted out of the minimart and into the raging winds. Dean halted as Sam ran towards the passenger seat of the Impala. He stopped when he turned and saw Dean had stopped.
"Dean! C'mon!" Sam yelled. Dean bit his lip, the rain smattering over him as gusts slammed against him. He looked at the Impala's shattered driver's seat window, its low carriage, its inability to manage terrain rougher than gravel or mud, and its high-maintenance as a vintage beauty that he had one day dreamed of inheriting...
He didn't want to... He really didn't want to, but there were too many disadvantages. He had to look out for them both - make practical choices and sacrifices to make sure they would stay alive and not just in the short-term.
Dean licked his lips, tasting rainwater, and cringed as he took in the silver four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee parked next to the Impala.
"Dean!" Sam screamed over the storm as he watched his brother shoot over to the Jeep, trying the doors.
"Sammy we gotta take a different car!" Dean yelled just as the door behind the passenger seat opened when he tugged on it. Sam ran over to his brother's side.
"Don't argue with me! Throw your stuff inside and help me!" Dean yelled, throwing his basket into the back seat. Sam followed Dean's orders, throwing his stuff inside as Dean ran over to the Impala and popped the trunk. Sam got out and checked if the Jeep's trunk was open - it wasn't, so he ran back into the open seat and jumped over the seatback to unlock the trunk from the inside. Just as it opened out into the empty parking lot, Dean arrived, dripping wet holding their weapons bags. He dropped them off with Sam and ran back for more as Sam arranged them in the back. When he was done, Sam turned back around, scanning the interior of the Jeep, wondering if there was anything they could use.
It was surprisingly cozy - several lightweight blankets were scattered in the backseat and the interior wasn't leather but a worn navy blue fabric stretched over the seats. It was torn in some places, cushion fluff breaching out. It was clear this car had been worn-in, almost lived-in, and there was something in that. Something Sam couldn't quite put his finger on, but he appreciated it nonetheless. Eased the loss of the Impala by a fraction.
"Sam!" Dean's harsh yell interrupted Sam's reverie and Sam turned back to his brother. "Sam come check I didn't miss anything!" Dean called out. Sam nodded and scrambled to get out of the car from the backseat. He ran with his brother out to the Impala and looked inside. Everything had been cleared out - the trunk, the backseat. The trash from their McDonald's dinner the night before still remained in the side panels of the passenger seat. The driver's side window shattered, rain was already starting to pool into the front bench seat and ruin the leather. Sam stared inside, feeling empty and lost. Dean came up to his side and wrapped an arm around Sam to pull him against his side.
The rain poured down on them as they remained still, gazing into the only place either of them had ever felt could qualify as, 'home,' feeling the same sense of grief.
This was it. From now on, they were unanchored. They only had each other.
Sam sniffed and wiped his eyes, feeling Dean squeeze him against his side reassuringly.
"We'll miss you baby," Dean said evenly. Sam nodded and leaned his head against Dean. He felt Dean rub his back a couple of times and look down.
"C'mon Sammy," he said, starting to nudge his brother back to the Jeep. Sam went with him until he spotted something in the back seat. He wrenched away from his brother.
Sam jumped into the backseat and grabbed the little green army man stuck in the ashtray. Using all his strength, he tore the thing off and pocketed it. He turned around and saw Dean leaning in, looking for him.
"Okay! I'm good!" He yelled back, scooting himself into Dean's arms and got back to standing outside.
"Okay let's go!" Dean called out, starting to jog around to the back seat of the Jeep. The two of them climbed in and jumped over the bench seat to get to the front. Dean settled in the driver's seat, Sam the passenger, and as Dean fidgeted with the wires to get the Jeep started, Sam jammed the little green soldier into the ashtray next to him.
The car started and Dean snapped with victory before he shifted to reverse. He glanced at Sam before he looked all the way back and maneuvered out.
"Keep an eye out for tow trucks now while we're driving, Sammy," Dean murmured, shifting to drive once they got out of the spot.
"They have master keys to cars - if we gotta ditch this one, we gotta be able to take another fast without the time spent on hot-wiring," Dean explained distractedly as he drove them out of the parking lot and turned on the radio. It was all static and Dean continued to fiddle with it.
"Dean - you gonna tell me what's going on now?"
Dean sighed as he turned the car out onto the highway and accelerated. He turned the radio off.
"Yeah go ahead," Dean allowed.
"What was Dad working on?" Sam asked immediately.
Dean shook his head.
"I don't know that much about it. Dad said he was working on something that had to do with demons-"
"The demon that killed Mom?" Sam probed gently. Dean shook his head.
"No, like... all demons," Dean clarified. He paused for a second. "-And I know he was working with Bobby on it."
"Bobby was here?!" Sam asked, alarmed. If what their father was working on brought Bobby out into the field, it was... unprecedented. Dean nodded, his expression grave.
"Yeah he needed Bobby's expertise on it..."
"Where are they now?!" Sam asked, his voice pitching with anxiety. Dean winced and licked his lips.
"No, I don't know, Sammy," he replied quietly, "Dad just told me before he left this morning that if something happened..." he trailed off.
"-What?! If something happened, what, Dean?"
"That I'd have to take you and get out. Get to the rendezvous..."
"Jesus Christ," Sam whispered, knocking himself back against the seat. Dean remained silent, fixated on the highway.
"What's happening right now though? The Soulers - they... we've never seen that before. Not in such huge numbers."
"Something got released, I think. I think the demons were trying to start this..."
"And Dad and Bobby were trying to stop it," Sam finished Dean's sentence. Dean nodded, his heart starting beat faster at the implications. "Do you think they're dead?" Sam asked, his voice cracking.
Dean swallowed nervously and blinked the tears out of his eyes. He shook his head.
"No. I don't," he said grimly, but full of resolve. "We're going to find them at Greenbrier. They'll be waiting for us there."
They sat in silence after that, Sam trying to rein in his doubts and pull strength from his brother's determined statement. Dean glanced over at his brother and waved him over.
"C'mere," he murmured, holding his hand out. Sam held out for a few seconds before scooting over towards Dean, letting him put his arm around him. "Can you sleep?"
Sam gave a thick laugh as he wiped his face.
"No," he drew out the word, sending the message that that was an impossible concept. Dean squeezed his shoulders and Sam leaned his head against Dean.
"Why can't we go into the back roads? Why do we have to take the highways?" Sam murmured.
"These things are targeting populated areas first."
"How do you know?"
"Wouldn't you? Common sense."
Sam nudged in closer to his brother.
"Yeah," he whispered the agreement.
They drove on in silence, the Jeep whistling through the storm on the slick, blackened highway.
Sam blinked, slowly coming to. He'd fallen asleep against Dean and had awoken to the sound of the car crunching gravel as it slowed.
"-We stopping?" Sam murmured, groggy, moving up from his hunched position. Dean pulled his arm from around Sam's waist as the kid stretched and moved to shift the car to park.
"Where are we?"
"Hidden," Dean replied, a note of finality in his voice. Sam looked out the windows. The headlights were lighting up dense trees and foliage all around them. "We're stopping here for the night. C'mon, I need your help," he said as the engine died down. He picked up a flashlight and turned it on, swiveling over and landing himself in the back seat with a dull grunt. Sam followed suit, grabbing his own flashlight and jumping over the seat.
"Grab one of the first aid kits, will you?" Dean asked, pulling his sweater off. Sam nodded and grabbed it from the seat well where they'd thrown all the supplies. He turned back around to his brother, setting the kit down next to him as Dean held his flashlight in his mouth and lifted his t-shirt up.
Sam flashed the light around his abdomen, lighting up past scars and present scratches and gashes that had long since stopped bleeding.
"Dis'fect'nt," Dean murmured around his flashlight. Sam grabbed the bottle and unscrewed the cap as he handed Dean gauze. Dean took the two items and started cleaning and wrapping his wounds. Sam grabbed the New Mexico sweatpants and peeled his jeans off to change. When Dean was done with his dressings he did the same and the two of them hunkered down against the seats quietly, Sam pulling the blankets them, Dean settling himself lengthwise across the bench. He reached out to Sam and Sam, satisfied with having covered them properly, leaned in to lie alongside his brother.
"Everybody's dying right now," Sam whispered, settling his back against Dean's chest. Dean laid his arm over Sam.
"Yeah," he sighed heavily. "Not us though, Sam," he murmured, pressing his arm against his little brother for emphasis. Sam squeezed Dean's arm back. "Try to sleep."
"What're we doing tomorrow?"
"We're gonna keep going."
"Y'think we're gonna make it?"
Sam bit his lip, thinking, then shot up, jarring his brother.
"Whoa - what?" Dean asked, watching Sam turn the flashlight on and bend down and rustle around in the supplies. He came back up quickly and shined the light on what he'd found.
"You want some string cheese?"
Dean chuckled tiredly as Sam ripped the bag open.
"Sure, dinner of champions," he replied, reaching out to Sam for a stick. "Get the Doritos too, dude," he suggested, pulling himself up against the seat. A few seconds later Dean heard the pop of the Doritos bag opening and Sam passed it over to set down between the two of them as they ate.
Sam leaned forward and grabbed the map from the front bench seat and opened it in front of them.
"Can you show me-?"
Dean nodded and grunted, his mouth full, and pulled the map over onto his lap. He shined the flashlight and let Sam sidle up against him as he pointed to where they were now: two hours outside Amarillo. He let Sam study the map as he outlined their route to West Virginia: route forty straight east 'till Knoxville.
"Dean, no way route forty's gonna be completely clear all the way through," Sam said, looking up at his brother. Dean shrugged slowly, trying but failing to come off nonchalant.
"We'll do the best we can. Last resort is we take back roads until we can get back on."
"Okay," Sam said softly. They continued looking at the map. Sam took a Dorito from the bag.
"Sam," Dean started, then stopped, unsure.
"We're up against more than just monsters. You know that, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"Other survivors... They're going to be dangerous. It's not just going to be Soulers and Djinns that're going to threaten us."
Sam absorbed the information, thinking.
"Dean, if we can't trust other humans-"
"No, we'll trust them... Sort of. Just... I'm just saying... Just because they're human doesn't mean they're gonna be the good guys always, okay?"
"I already knew that, Dean," Sam replied seriously.
"Good," Dean nodded, solemn. "If we meet other humans, you still stick with me, you got it? Don't let your guard down."
Sam woke up with a start at the break of dawn, hearing static. Dean had hotwired the car again and he was fiddling with the radio up in the front seat.
Sam jerked up and pulled the blankets, which had been rearranged to cover him, off as he pushed forward to lean over the bench seat.
"Wha-" he whispered as the static disappeared and a voice came through the speakers. It wasn't as crackled and disjointed as the last broadcast they'd heard.
"We urge survivors to reach Oklahoma City's County Hospital as a point of contact. Dr. Alcome is the senior administrator of the shelter. Supplies and-"
Dean turned to Sam, eyes bright.
"Dr. Alcome, Sam. That's a hunter signal."
"What? When did it become a hunter signal?" Sam asked, groggy and confused. He rubbed his eyes and fell over onto the front seat.
"Nevermind. You'll see. But if Bobby and Dad are ahead of us - or if they're behind us - they'll hear and stop off here. I'm positive."
"I thought you said we shouldn't go near populated areas," Sam remarked, doubt in his tone. Dean looked up, a glint of hope in his eyes - the first Sam had seen since all this had started.
"Well yeah but... Sammy, if Dad's there..." He trailed off, looking to Sam. "We won't go if you don't want to."
Sam nodded and took a deep breath.
"Okay yeah. It's... It's along the way anyway, right?"
Dean grinned and tousled Sam's hair.
"Yeah. It's gonna be okay. We'll find Dad there, I bet you anything."
Sam's heart lifted, his brother's optimism starting to convince him that this was okay. That they'd be safe. Dean shifted the car and started rolling out of the forested surroundings.
"Hand me the pack of Ding-Dongs, will you?" Dean asked, opening his hand palm up in front of him.
Sam looked at Dean's hand, then up at his face with a harassed expression. Dean waggled his hand in front of him, smirking.
Sam rolled his eyes, sighed and turned over to grab the junk food from the bag in the back.
Just as Sam handed him the pack, they pulled out onto the interstate and Sam got a clearer view of the skies.
It was surreal. The storm had abated, but swirling, dark grey clouds still blocked the sun, throwing everything into a perpetual dusk.
"Wow," Sam breathed, leaning forward towards the windshield and looking up. Dean squinted to look up too. "This is what I always imagined the apocalypse to be like," Sam whispered with awed dread.
"You weren't too far off then, Sammy," Dean whispered back. At that, the engine revved as Dean pressed the pedal to the floor and fiddled with the crinkling pack of Ding-Dongs over the steering wheel. Sam sat back, watching the road as the Jeep shot down the highway heading East on route forty, Oklahoma bound.
Writer's Note: Thank you so much for reading! Please review/comment if you can spare the time!