Author's Notes: Welcome! This story is a prequel to my other story Song Remains the Same. The Family Business is a family drama centered in on Alex (Sam's twin sister).

Summary: I'm Alex Winchester. I've been mute since the night of the nursery fire and no one knows why, but that hasn't stopped me from hunting with my two brothers, Sam and Dean. Our dad disappeared recently and we're setting aside our differences to try and find him. This... could get interesting.

Rating: Rated T — for violence, some colorful language.

Disclaimer: Supernatural and all of the characters therein do not belong to me.

Spoilers/Warnings: AU (slight). Spoilers for seasons 1-3. Story includes constant family drama - overprotective Dean - Sam and Alex butting heads - sibling rivalries - etc etc. You can go to winchesteralex dot tumblr dot com to see pictures of Alex and stuff from this story as well as Song Remains the Same.

Please read and review; I love to hear from you! Cheers & happy reading!

The Family Business
by River Winters

Chapter 1 / Bad Mojo

October 2004
New Orleans, Louisiana

"This is Alex," he says. "She doesn't talk much."

Actually, I don't talk at all. But that's my older brother Dean's favorite way of introducing me to strangers, especially when we're working a job. He figured out awhile ago that when he implies I'm disturbed—one of those people who is quiet and crazy and might snap any second… people are inclined to either be a little scared of me, which is better than how they treat me if he tells them what I really am: completely mute. Since forever.

Well, since I was six months old. Apparently I was a normal baby—you know, crying, screaming, babbling, the works—until the night that Mom died. There was a fire in the nursery, she was trapped inside. We—my brothers and me, my dad—barely got out alive. And ever since that night, my vocal chords haven't been able to make a sound. At first doctors said it was some kind of post traumatic stress reaction. They couldn't find anything physically wrong with me, they never did, and here I am, still silent all these years later.

It's okay, I guess. I've gotten used to it, I've figured out my own way in the world. Not like I've had much choice. I think a lot of kids probably say they had a crazy childhood but, no, really: I had a crazy childhood. I'm twenty-two now, which seems old to me, but sometimes (okay… most of the time) I still feel like a kid. Dean and Dad definitely treat me like one most of the time. But the way I was raised made me dependent on them, so… I'm sort of stuck. That makes it sound like I want to get away, doesn't it? That's not it either. I love my family, even though we're a wreck and a half. Oh, by the way? I have another brother, Sam. He's my twin and he's older than me by a minute and some change. I don't think about him much anymore, some days I forget about him completely. I don't know how I feel about that.

I haven't seen Sam in years, I think four now. He's away at college, doesn't want anything to do with the family. I do know how I feel about that: sad.

I haven't seen Dad in weeks, but that's nothing new. He does that a lot. Just disappears on hunts and jobs.

Dean's the only one I see every day, and that's always how it's been for my whole life. Even though he constantly annoys the shit out of me, I wouldn't trade him for anyone or anything. He's never let me down, and he's pretty much the only one I can say that about, period. He has his issues and weaknesses, but when it comes down to it, he's my hero. I would never tell him that though. We typically like to keep feelings and shit like that on the down low. No chick flick moments—his words, not mine. Don't let him fool you though. He's a softie underneath the tough guy act. Anyway, he and I are close—we have to be, the work we do.

He and I are on a job right now, actually. We're both in our FBI getup, poking around in this cheesy little hole-in-the-wall voodoo shop. Dean is questioning the shop owner and the shop owner's wife, and I'm looking around, not impressed. It's all a bunch of fake plastic stuff made in China. I look through the shelf of 'psychic powders' and sneak a sniff of the cat's blood powder. Ugh. Yeah… that is not cat's blood—it's talc scented with copper. Gag. What a freaking rip off. I put the little powder jar back. No serious hoodoo here, just tourist trap stuff. Maybe this lead is a bust. Well, that sucks. This was our last lead.

"And what about this guy, you know him?" I hear Dean asking somewhere behind me. He'll be showing the shop owners a photo of the guy we're working for right now, Doug. His family is being haunted. And I mean that in the literal sense.

We're not in the most normal line of work, my brother and I. We're not FBI agents, despite what you might think from our very convincing ID cards and outfits. This one of our covers, one of the numerous illegal stunts we pull working our real job.

It's… well, let me back up and explain a little better. It all goes back to that nursery fire that I mentioned. The fire that killed the mom I can't remember. Her death wasn't caused by faulty wiring, like the police said. It wasn't arson or an accident. It was something else. And I do mean some thing. It was a monster, a demon, a supernatural creature of some kind—we're not sure which, just that something paranormal killed her. Ever since I can remember, Dad has been dragging us along with him as he searches for the thing that killed my mom, and he still hasn't found it, but he's not giving up. Say what you will about my dad John Winchester, but hey, he's committed. You can't say he's not… although some people use the word 'obsessed.'

For awhile, me and Sam thought he sold stuff, was a traveling salesman. We didn't know the truth. Dean knew before us what Dad really did, knew that our mom was killed by some kind of thing that goes bump in the night, but he kept it from us, trying to keep us safe from the truth. But as you know, the truth always comes out in the long run.

As far back as I can remember, I know that I was always kind of unsure about who my dad was. I knew a couple things for sure: he was angry, he liked to drink, he was paranoid as hell. Same story now, too.

I always knew we weren't like other families or kids. For one thing, we never lived in a house after Mom died. My entire life has been spent on the road. In the car, staying in skeevy motel rooms, crashed in stranger's homes or friend's of Dad's guest bedrooms. We were never one place for longer than a month or two.

My dad was sort of like a drill sergeant, honestly. He said things like games and playing were a waste of time. From a really young age, he made us learn to shoot, how to fight, how to make weapons out of almost anything, he drilled survival skills into us, made us practice picking locks, getting out of ropes, reloading a shotgun in seconds flat. He taught us these drawings you could do for protection from 'dark forces.' I sometimes thought he was kind of crazy until I saw, for myself, a monster when I was maybe six years old.

We were in a motel room suite, it was the summertime, Dean was ten, Dad was gone. It was real late at night, I was trying to sleep. Beside me, my twin was asleep. I listened to the sound of the TV in the main room, wished Dean would let me watch with him, but he kept telling me to go back to bed each time I wandered out there. So I stayed put and was frustrated with how hot the room was and how wide-awake I felt. After awhile, I heard Dean switch off the TV and leave the room. I jumped up, ran to the window, watched him go across the motel parking lot to the little restaurant across the street. I wasn't sure if I should follow him or not. So I waited and didn't take my eyes off the restaurant. I didn't like it that he wasn't in the room with us anymore, but I remember thinking if I kept my eyes on the restaurant, me and Sam would be safer.

After awhile, I heard it. I turned around, confused. Sam? The light in his room had come on, and something about it all felt bad, just bad, in my stomach, my head, everywhere. I went to the door, opened it even though I was scared. I saw a man with hands like tree branches, like claws. He was like a thing from a halloween movie, but so much worse, and he was bent over Sam, hurting him. And I didn't know what to do. My feet were glued to the floor. And the man saw me and reached out to me and hissed, I opened my mouth to scream even though I wasn't able... he touched me on the head, and I remembered nothing else, it was like I went to sleep. And when I woke up, he was gone, Dad was there and told me I just had a bad dream. I knew that was a lie. And ever since that night, I knew that monsters were real.

I found Dad's journal a couple years later. We weren't supposed to look at it, but I guess even then I was a rebel. I looked, and I would never be able to unsee the things that were there. The drawings, the words in there that I didn't understand frightened me, and I went to Dean, scared, pointing at the journal, hoping he'd understand that I wanted him to explain.

He did explain. That our dad was a superhero, like in the comic books. But he also swore me to secrecy, said Dad didn't tell us about the monsters and demons so that he could keep us safer from it all. When Sam and I were teenagers, Dad finally told us what we had already figured out awhile ago, and he started taking us on hunts, putting all of our training to use. I got left behind a lot or got the stupid tasks (driving the getaway car, running surveillance, going on grocery runs while the 'men took care of the dangerous work'… yeah sure, gimme a frigging break...). Dad said it was to keep me safe—his same old bullshit excuse for everything—but I think it was because he thought I was the weakest link. I couldn't blame him for thinking that, but it made me all the more determined to be as badass as possible. I have a huge problem with people calling me disabled or thinking I'm less of a person for my one small inability to speak. So I kind of work extra hard to prove that I'm just as capable as anyone else.

So, fast forward a few years. Here we are, and this is what we do—me, Dean, Dad—the family business, if you will. No one pays us, there are no benefits—in fact, you could argue that it's the most insane 'career' a person could choose. You really can't ever walk away. You get to a point where you're stuck in this life… and I'm more stuck than a lot of other people are. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong, but… I know that I have no other options, not now, not ever. Dad didn't let me learn sign language, he always said he was going to find a way to fix me. Well… twenty two years later and I'm still stuck on silent and can only communicate by writing, making faces, and using a variety of gestures. I mean I guess if I really wanted to, I could go get a book and learn sign language, it wouldn't be the first thing I taught myself but how many people do you meet who know sign language? Also, I know Dad would never take the time to learn it and I don't want to saddle Dean with yet another thing so… I stay the way I am and have gotten really good at writing fast. It's okay.

Or, I tell myself that it's okay, because if I really do stop and think about it, I get so pissed I could punch a wall. It's not fair but that's life, right? I guess I'm a pretty angry person, deep down, mad that I don't have a voice because I feel like I should have one. That's why I like this life, some days more than others. I get to kick a lot of ass and let go of some very pent up bad feelings by beating the shit out of the bad guys. I mean, it could be worse. I remind myself of that a lot.

And besides being an outlet for my rage, this job saves people. And that's the most important thing at the end of the day. Maybe we haven't found Mom's murderer, but along the way, we've saved a lot of lives. And every time I get fed up and depressed about this weird life I live, I just try and think about that. The monsters we've killed, the families, kids, people we've saved.

So it's not all bad.

Right now, on this particular job we're working, Dean and I are trying to find a Necromancer. Dad's off following some lead in California, left us with the Impala. He wouldn't take us along with him, insisted he needed to do this one alone. I was kind of glad, actually. I honestly don't like to be around him more than I have to be, for a variety of reasons I don't want to go in to or think about.

So, we're working a job just the two of us. A family down here in New Orleans has been haunted by dead spirits, three people have already died. This guy named Doug Morrow called us, got our number from Bobby Singer, a hunter friend of ours who is basically like an uncle to us. Haven't seen him in awhile, need to change that. So anyway, Dean and I burnt rubber to get down here and help out, try and figure out what's happening. At first we thought it was your run-of-the-mill vengeful spirits. But then we began to realize a Necromancer was involved when we found some hex bags and spell work at Doug's house and Doug's parent's house. Necromancers are pretty much witches, the worst kind—they mess around with dead spirits and in some cases they can control them. They give me the heebie jeebies. You can't be too careful around them. I have been triple checking every little crevice and crack of the Impala whenever we get back to it for hex bags, and Dean, as paranoid as I am, is refusing to stay in a motel room—too many places to hide hex bags.

We're obviously dealing with a very powerful, cruel Necromancer from the deaths that have occurred so far. Doug's mom was found with her head crammed into the blender in the family kitchen, three days later his dad was beat to death with golf clubs (while he'd been out on the range alone), two days after that, Doug's sister was found with a garden hose shoved down her throat still running at full blast—she'd half drowned, half exploded. Pretty sadistic, horrible stuff. It's weird, too, because Doug's family is wealthy and well-loved by the community. They own a small chain of specialty coffee shops. It's been hard finding anyone who doesn't like them or would have motivation to kill them.

I glance back at Dean, who is currently speaking intensely with the shop owner and his wife—our last lead. He has their attention completely; they don't see that I've skirted the edge of the store and am right beside the doorway into the back. A beaded curtain hangs there, and I slip through, trying to be as quiet as possible, hoping the loud blues music that plays over the crappy loudspeaker system will cover up the whispery sound the beads made. Why am I being so paranoid? I really doubt that we're gonna find answers here. The shopkeeper and his wife seem pretty vanilla. I don't think the Necromancer is tied to them in any way, not from what I've seen so far. But, gotta check, just to be sure, gotta see if there's anything that raises a red flag.

I don't see anything incriminating here. It's a storeroom slash break room—just a microwave and a little table and some boxes stacked on some rickety plastic shelves. There's a bathroom door that's marked 'employees only' and then beside that, an unmarked door. Hmm. I try the knob. It's locked, but when has that stopped me? I grab a credit card out of my wallet and jimmy the door open, look behind myself cautiously, then proceed. The door opens to an old wooden stairway that leads down into darkness. Well that's not spooky…. I glance behind me again and then start downwards, shut the door quietly behind myself, steal down the creaky stairs, feeling on edge. I can see that there is a faint light source at the ground level—looks to be candle light. It's cold and dank down here, and it smells like, what is that, wormwood?

Lit candles line the walls, I can see a little better now and… oh wow. Yikes. Well, never mind, this lead was not a bust. I think I found our Necromancer.

The basement is covered floor to ceiling with painted occult symbols, there's a black divination mirror propped on an ornate table, I see a variety of herbs laid onto the table—wormwood (yup, knew I smelled it), Solomon's seal, vervain, masterwort, a few others I don't know. I know that the four I've recognized are used for casting spells and summoning the dead. There is some freshly chalked spell work drawn onto the table… and the most damning evidence there? Photographs of Doug's family—there is a bloody red fingerprint on the heads of his sister Amber, his mother Carolyn, his dad Jeff, the ones who have died already. And there are two more pictures that don't yet have blood on them. One is of Doug, one is of Doug's fiancé, April. So, just like we thought, the Necromancer plans to kill again. I better get Dean.

I turn around and then jump, startled. The shopkeeper's wife, a woman with hawkish features, large eyes, a head too big for her scrawny body stares back at me. She's got skin dark as night and in the dim light, only the whites of her eyes stand out.

"Now you wasn't supposed to be down here, little girl," she drawls in her mellow New Orleans accent, and her tone is eerie, cool. She smiles almost wickedly, showing teeth that are yellowing and seem too long for her mouth. How the hell did she get down the stairs without me hearing her?

I say nothing back to her—hello, mute—but my hand is already hovering at my back, ready to grab the hunting knife I always have holstered in my belt loop, I'm watching her carefully, ready to defend myself at a second's notice. I'm not sure if the Necromancer is her or her husband… I remember the bloody thumbprints on the photos and look down at her hands. She has a bandaid on one of her thumbs. Mmm hmm. Okay, so no big deal, she's a murderer and and a Necromancer and just caught me finding her out on both counts. This is shaping up great for me.

"Shouldn't be poking around down here, cher," she says in her low, smooth voice. "Might be the last thing you do..."

I take that as a threat and am just about to let her know I don't take kindly to threats… when I hear the door at the top of the stairs open loudly, and my brother's heavy, clomping footsteps. He comes down the stairs, arms held up—behind him, the shopkeeper, holding a pistol aimed at the back of his head. Oh great. Just great.

"Okay, so what I don't get," Dean is saying casually, as if he's used to having a gun pointed at him (well, actually, he is), "is why you and the missus are killing off the Morrow family with your creepy hoodoo stuff," Dean says, almost seeming amused. "I mean, what'd they do to you?"

The shopkeeper motions for Dean to come stand beside me and he does, gives me a sidelong look, smiles cheekily. "Hi," he greets me, like it's been awhile and like he thinks he's cute. Shut up, I want to tell him. I feel kind of grumpy right now at this turn of events.

"That rich white family gonna shut us down," the wife answers. She draws herself up to her full height, looking at Dean angrily. "They tryin' to run us out of business, buy this shop and tear it down to build more of their soulless coffee shops."

Dean looks confused, like no way, that can't be it. His expression twists up. "You telling me all this crap is over real estate?"

Her contemptuous expression sours even further. "No, Agent Ford, not real estate. Our place in this world."

"This dump?" Dean questions and I kick him in the shin—you're gonna get us killed, you idiot!

The wife is insulted, there's a cold, building fury in her voice. "This 'dump' has been in the family since the city was built in the seventeen hundreds. We wasn't gonna listen to that man's offers any more or his insults about our heritage. They threaten to get the code inspector out here, they threaten to get us audited if we won't give in to their demands." She is quiet and narrows her eyes. "No."

Dean and I exchange a look. Well, Doug didn't tell us those details, which seem sort of sketchy but still… this woman seems nine kinds of crazy to me. I mean I understand not wanting to sell out the family business or whatever, but really, did she have to resort to violently killing the family one by one?

"So lemme get this straight," Dean says, chuckling a little, acting casual. "You don't like the offer... so you kill the entire family with ghosts."

There is a cool, superior smile. "Yes. Not just them, but you and Agent Fisher, too," the lady says, glancing at me. "That's what you get for poking your nose where it don't belong," she says. Dean's expression is pretty murderous at this point, but he doesn't move—the husband is still holding us at gunpoint. The wife goes over to a hutch against the wall opposite of us, pulls out a polaroid camera from a drawer. Oh geez, I see where she's going with this, but it's kind of weird. Why not just shoot us? Would be easier. She comes up and takes my picture. The flash blinds me, she then takes one of Dean.

"Hey, that wasn't my good side," he quips. She ignores him, takes the two gray, developing polaroid pictures out and puts them down onto the table with the photos of the other victims, I look at Dean sidelong like any day now. Just give me the signal. I'm very aware that the shopkeeper is still standing there, holding the gun on us and I know he is too, but come on… it's now or never, right?

I see a flicker in Dean's front. He's nervous, a little unsure. But he covers it up, carries on like he's indifferent, detached, a little amused by everything. "Okay, you know what? I think we're done here," he says, and waits for the wife to reply.

"Oh no, we just getting started," the wife says, and she's cutting open another finger slowly, picking up one of our pictures, she begins to chant in a low voice.

And the second we've been waiting for—the shopkeeper glances, just briefly, away from us and at his wife—and Dean barrels forward, tackling the guy to the floor. I hear them wrestling around, hear the gun clattering to the floor—even as I grab the wife by the back of her dress and fling her away from the table. The photographs flutter to the floor, she whirls around, surprisingly fast and I see that her eyes have gone completely white. She pushes me hard, harder than I think she should be able to, naturally—I fly back and hit the wall—it hurts bad, the impact is jarring and makes pain explode all throughout my back. I fall forward but roll sideways, finding my footing again, fighting through the pain because it's do or die.

This next part happens in the span of just a couple small seconds, but it feels a lot slower than that. I see that the shopkeeper has regained control, he's straddling Dean on the floor and then pistol-whips him across the face with brutal force. My brother yelps and falls back, stunned, and the shop keeper is pulling the pistol's hammer back, aiming the gun at Dean's face—and I don't even know when I whipped out my knife, I don't have time to think, I just throw it hard and fast like I've practiced a thousand times, my only thought is to save Dean. The knife plunges into the husband's back between his shoulder blades and Dean's would-be murderer cries out in pain and shock, falls over and off of my brother.

The wife—I forgot about her for two seconds, shit—shrieks in rage and she's suddenly in my face, her hands like an iron vice around my neck, her white eyes staring at me, seething. She's holding me against the wall with surprising strength, I can feel the dark power rising off of her like a mirage of heat off the ground on a summer day. She's hissing at me and throttling me, it hurts, I can't breathe, I kick my feet uselessly and can't break her hold on me—

And then there's a gunshot. She's shocked, her eyes have gone wide, her hands slack. And she lets go of me, falls sideways. I'm surprised, not sure what happened. To my left, Dean is standing, holding his gun, a grim look on his face. He looks at me, expression unreadable. I slowly, weakly give him the thumbs up. Thanks. I put my other hand onto my neck, wincing, still able to feel the crushing force of the Necromancer's fingers there. Ouch. Son of a bitch that hurt.

"You okay?" he asks gruffly, coming to me and trying to get a good look at my neck. I shrug, like, I guess?

He's bleeding from his cheek where he was struck with the pistol and I look at the wound with wincing sympathy, gesture to it.

"Ah, I've had worse," he replies, brushing aside my unspoken question. Satisfied that we're both okay, we both look at the dead bodies on the ground. Well, I guess case closed. Still, I don't feel great. The dead body of the shopkeeper is face down and I have to yank my knife out of his back, look at his blood on my knife. I don't like killing people. Killing monsters and ghosts is okay with me, but this? This gets into the moral gray area. Dean's voice interrupts my thoughts.

"Shall we?" my brother asks, gesturing toward the stairway. I nod and grab up all of the photographs before we go, just in case. And maybe I'm weird, but I take the polaroid camera, too. Dean gives me a weird look. What? I like cameras.

He stops at the foot of the stairs, his hand on the railing and he looks back at the people we killed. "You know, at least with monsters and stuff you feel okay killing them. With people... feels a lot messier."

He looks at me briefly. I look back again, not really wanting to, but not able to stop myself. The shopkeeper's wife stares up lifelessly at the ceiling. I'm sorry she chose to handle things the way she did. I'm sorry we had to kill her and her husband.

But sometimes, you just don't have a choice. It's kill or be killed.

The Next Day
San Antonio, Texas

I brush my teeth fast, glance up into the reflection in the fast food restaurant bathroom mirror. I'm often times struck by how I don't look a damn thing like my mom and how much that sucks because from the pictures I've seen, she was really beautiful, sort of looked like a barbie doll. She was blonde with pretty little features, really girly. Me? I'm the spitting image of Dad, if he were a chick. I have the same dark hair, wide-set eyes, prominent jaw, flat eyebrows. I look at the old photos of mom and am not sure why my twin got the pretty features and I ended up looking like the dude.

Another lady uses the sink beside me to wash her hands and gives me a weird look as I spit out the toothpaste and rinse. I'm used to the funny looks by now and don't really care. People look at you weird when they catch you brushing your teeth in public bathrooms, but you don't even want to know the comments and looks you get when people catch you washing your hair or shaving your legs in public restrooms. It's just one of those times you have to suck up your pride and just do what you've gotta do. I toss my toothbrush back into my duffel bag which I had plopped onto the counter and zip it shut, go back out into the dining room where we were eating lunch. The table has a bunch of our junk all over it—files, printouts, notepad, pens. We kind of set up office wherever we go.

Dean's sitting at a table, on his phone, listening intently, a weird look on his face. His half-eaten hamburger sits in front of him, forgotten.

Immediately, I can tell something's up. I sit down across from him, watching him closely, trying to figure out what's up. He's frowning deeply and lets out a troubled breath, holds the phone out to me, indicating I listen.

"Push one to listen to the voicemail again," he tells me, and I push one, hold the phone to my ear, then my stomach flops weirdly when I hear Dad's voice—not who I was expecting to hear. The voicemail is fuzzy and distorted, breaks up a bunch, I can barely make it out. There are weird cracks and hisses, buzzes.

"Dean… something big is starting to happen… I need to try... figure out... going on. It may... you two… very careful. We're all in danger."

I'm confused and a little thrown off by the urgent tone in Dad's voice and I look at Dean questioningly. "Phone didn't even ring," Dean says, sounding as disturbed as I'm beginning to feel. "Just suddenly said new voicemail. Did you hear all that EVP on there?"

I'm grabbing my very beat up laptop out of the laptop case on the table, opening it up and impatiently clicking the space bar as it wakes up. Of course I heard the EVP, and that's half of the reason I feel suddenly a little afraid. EVP is short for electronic voice phenomenon. They're sounds found on electronic recordings which resemble speech, but are not the result of intentional recording or rendering—in other words, it's the paranormal world, ghosts and spirits, caught in recordings. In mainstream culture, people think EVP is a bunch of conspiracy theory screwhead crap, but in our world, we know better than that. What have you gotten yourself in to, Dad?

For the next few minutes, Dean and I work on getting the voicemail over onto the laptop, arguing. Well, Dean coming over to sit beside me, telling me "no, that's not how—give it to me, lemme—hey!" as I smack his hand away. He gets impatient with me sometimes, but hey, feeling's mutual.

I finally get the recording over onto my laptop, run it through gold wave, slow it down, remove the hiss, hit the laptop a couple times when it freezes up—piece of junk—I hate computers—and press play to hear the final product.

"I can never go home..." says a sad, soft female voice. Dean and I both look at each other. I can see the wheels in my brother's mind turning, he's frowning deeply, staring at the laptop screen unseeingly.

"Never go home," he repeats, thinking hard, then picks up his phone, calls Dad's number, gets up and paces back and forth beside the table. He calls three times.

"Dammit, he won't answer," Dean mutters angrily. Same as the past three weeks. I'm not sure why Dad won't answer, I just know it's upsetting my brother a lot.

"Okay, you know what? Get that slowed down recording onto the tape recorder for me," Dean says, and grabs his jacket, starts shoving all of the paper clippings into the laptop bag. "But you'll have to do it in the car."

What's the huge hurry? Are we gonna go try and find Dad? Huh, okay… but then Dean surprises me with what he says as he shrugs his jacket on. "We're gonna go get Sam."

I look at Dean in shock, unable to hide it… and then grab a pen that's still on the table, the notepad it was on top of. I write my response, underline it twice, then show it to him, my expression demanding.


"Because you heard Dad… we're all in danger. Besides, Sam can help us out." Dean lowers his voice, leans a little closer. "I have a bad feeling about this, Al. Don't you? Come on, Dad's being weird as hell then he leaves us this voicemail about something big happening?" Dean gives me a look, like don't you feel it too? Yeah I do, but… I don't like this idea at all, it rubs me the wrong way.

Dean snaps the laptop shut sort of rudely, making me look at him. "Just go with me on this one," he says, and I already know there's no use arguing. But I can let him know I'm not happy about it.

I give him the most are you frigging kidding me look I can muster. I mean, what the hell is Sam gonna do that we can't? He hasn't hunted in like four years, isn't he safer out of the loop than in it?

In response to the face I'm making, Dean gets exasperated. "What? He hasn't dialed my number in years either, you don't think I'm mad too?" He's getting impatient. "Come on, let's go."

I'm hunkered down in the front seat beside Dean as the Impala coasts down the freeway. It's around sunset, we're somewhere just shy of the California border, I think. I'm trying to get used to the idea of seeing Sam again. I have a lot of mixed feelings about my twin. Last time I saw him was when he left for Stanford and it was one of the worst nights I can remember. He and Dad were practically screaming at each other before it was all over.

I can't remember most of the shouting match except for the end, which has always stuck in my mind, whether I want it to or not.

"If you leave, if you walk out that door, you better stay gone!" Dad had thundered.

"You know what, I will!" Sam had fired back, enraged. "I don't belong in this shitty excuse for a family and I don't care if I ever see any of you ever again!" He'd stormed away, and that was the last time I saw him.

He's emailed me a couple times over the past few years here and there, just to check in. But I think he feels like I do. Like it hurts too much to communicate much with each other because of the memories it brings back. So, we just kind of ignore the issue. I mean for me, the last thing I need in my life is more pain, right? But I do feel guilty. I miss how Sam and I used to be, back when we were a lot younger. I'm not sure how to act when I see him again, and my stomach is in knots.

He just… we used to be close as kids, as most twins are I guess. But I don't know what happened—as we grew up, hit the middle school and high school years, we just clashed, grew apart. He started trying to separate himself from the family, started becoming restless and unhappy. He and I have our similarities—stubbornness, temper, we take things to heart—but we have a lot of differences and always have.

He was always Mr. Good Grades, I dropped out when I was sixteen. Forged Dad's signature on the paperwork, made my whole family good and mad when they found out. I wanted to shake them… because what good was algebra going to do me when hunting a Wendigo? Why would knowing about world history be useful for me, in the kind of life I live? Also, you don't even wanna know how mean kids are to the mute tomboy looking girl. I'd had it with the entire everything that school was and I decided to quit.

"Hello, earth to Al?" Dean says and I look at him, frowning, preoccupied, huh? "I asked if you wanted burgers or tacos for dinner."

I shrug, who cares. And Dean grins. "Burgers it is!"

Again? It's always burgers. It's quiet for another minute and Dean clears his throat. "Listen, I know seeing Sam will probably be kinda, heh, weird for us all, but he can help us on this, okay? Trust me. And hey, maybe this is the opportunity we've been waiting for."

I give him a weird look. 'We?' I mouth skeptically and he huffs impatiently.

"Fine, me. I just, you know. Wanna see this family back together again, how we used to be."

This is one of those moments where I so wish I could just open my mouth and tell him everything I am thinking and feeling. What, you wanna see the family how it used to be when you and Sam fought constantly, clashed and argued about everything, Sam whined day in and day out, you got jealous of how Dad treated him differently? I think Dean is remembering things in better light than how they actually were. I really doubt Sam will go for this, but Dean seems optimistic.

"It could be great, you know? The three amigos, back together again," Dean says, and I look at him sidelong, pick my notepad up from off the floor, scrawl something. I show it to Dean and make a face at him—I'm grudging and resigned, but trying to find some humor in the situation, too.

Just don't expect me to like it, jerk.

He just grins crookedly and laughs, knowing he's won and smug about it. He turns up the music—a song we've both heard a million billion times—and he starts to drum along to the beat of the song on the steering wheel.

"Won't ya gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister!" He bellows out, 'singing' along pretty badly to Skynyrd. I roll my eyes, trying to press a smile away by smashing my lips in together. What a loser. I'd tell him to audition for American Idol sarcastically and laugh at him, but I don't feel like writing it out, and anyway, I think he gets the idea that I'm judging him and that he's pretty terrible from the look I'm giving him.

"Hey, don't look at me in that tone of voice!" he quips, pretending to be mad for two seconds. His face relaxes into a grin as he looks back at the road, shamelessly bobs his head up and down to the music, pursing his lips. He mortifies me and delights me at the same time and I shake my head, look down, a hand on my forehead. Oh my god you are the uncoolest dude in the world. I'd be laughing out loud at this point if I were able.

And this is how I've survived the life I lived: moments of stupidity and silliness peppered into the more horrible stuff we do: kill, hurt, bleed.

The Impala streaks down the road at illegal speeds, taking us toward Stanford, where the brother we haven't seen in years is about to get a pretty rude awakening. I don't have the heart to tell Dean that I doubt Sam will even consider coming with us. He's a good guy, really, but I know how he feels about Dad. I know how he feels about hunting. I know how he feels about me. And all of it adds up to very slim chances that he'll hear Dean out on this or help us in any way.

But, if he does agree to come along… there's only one thing for me to think.

This... could get interesting.