I’m completely thrown that there are actually reviews for a story that hasn’t actually started...
Thank you all so very much and here you go. Happy New Year.
Thank you Li for betaing!Chapter One – Hello Goodbye
“What can I get for you?”
Ariel Cooper looked up from the sand coloured counter she had been studying for the past five minutes. A young freckle-faced teenager was standing behind the counter, wearing a beige and black sun visor with the words Tim Horton’s embroidered on the hem. “Can I have a large double-double with a multigrain bagel, toasted and buttered please? And a large black decaf with sugar and a bagel with everything on it.”
“Anything else?” the young cashier asked dismissively. At seven in the morning she couldn’t be bothered to feign enjoyment in her career choice.
Absently rubbing the pendant around her neck, Ariel hid her smile as the clerk’s feelings became apparent to her. She wasn’t in the habit of toying with peoples emotions, but the young girl’s unhappiness was so drawing she couldn’t help grip the small silver pendant around her neck and smile. “Do you have parfaits?”
“Yes.” The cashier smiled baffled. She felt a sense of happiness wrap around her mind as she looked at the raven-haired woman smiling at her.
Releasing the pendant, Ariel felt a small sense of accomplishment as the smile the clerk wore not only stayed but increased despite Ariel releasing her hold. “I’ll take two.”
“That’ll be thirteen sixty-eight.”
Ariel handed the clerk a twenty dollar bill and patiently waited for her change, chuckling to herself when the young girl started to hum as she handed Ariel her change and readied her order. Despite refusing to admit it to Brooke, Ariel’s abilities had finally started to even out, allowing her the opportunity to control them in a way she hadn’t expected. Not only could she sense the feelings of others but if she focused her energy hard enough she could project small bursts of her emotions on others. At first the process had been anything but easy or even smooth, but the more she practiced with the aid of the silver pendant her father had given her, the more she was able to control her abilities.
After the cashier handed Ariel her order and wished her a good day, Ariel started to make her way back to the motel where her sister would undoubtedly still be sleeping. Making her way through the empty city streets, the warm shaft of the newly risen sun brushing the back of her Stanford jacket, Ariel couldn’t help but rush. The text message she had received ten minutes ago told her that her email account held a message she was dying to read.
Pausing long enough at the front door to search her pockets for her room key, Ariel pushed the door open just enough to move inside before closing and locking the scuffed metal door behind her. Brooke didn’t stir. Making sure she was light on her feet, Ariel skirted past her sister and placed the coffees, bagels, and parfaits on the small white plastic table that sat at the end of the room opposite the two twin sized beds. Casting off her jacket, Ariel opened and powered up the laptop, making sure the built in speakers were muted as the Windows start-up theme chimed. Ignoring her coffee, which was still to hot to drink, Ariel decided not to open the bag containing her bagel. She feared the sound of crumpling paper would bring her sister out of the rest her body so clearly needed. She opted to eat the strawberry yogurt parfait instead. With a smile, Ariel logged on to her hotmail account, waiting extremely impatiently as the browser connected. Pulling the silver pendant off her neck as she waited, her smile grew tenfold when she saw a message from SWinchester.
The calm silence of the early morning was interrupted by hearty laughter that nudged Brooke from her peaceful slumber. Without any thought, she grabbed her pillow from beneath her head and flung it in the direction of the noise.
“Ow!” Ariel grabbed the pillow that had knocked her in the side of the face and shied it at her sister as she spoke bitingly. “Good morning to you too, sunshine.”
Brooke’s cattish response was short and sweet. “Bite me.”
“You’re awfully brusque this morning.” Ariel turned the chair beside her until she could prop her sky blue runners on the plastic surface.
Brooke turned just enough to glare at her sister, who was opening a small paper bag in front of her laptop. “That’s how I wake up. Eyes wide open and evil, thirsty for the blood of the fool that woke me…”
“Ha! You’ll have to settle for coffee instead.” Ariel chortled as she gestured to a brown coffee cup, a creamy parfait, and a tan paper bag sitting in the center of the table. She returned her attention to the laptop’s screen.
Grumbling at having to get out of bed, Brooke rolled off the mattress and headed towards the small en-suite bathroom as she questioned, “When did you get coffee?”
“Half an hour ago.” Ariel spoke just loudly enough for her voice to heard through the closed bathroom door and over the sound of running water.
“I didn’t hear you leave.”
“That’s because you had enough shots last night to inebriate a horse,” Ariel called out to her sister clamorously before shaking her head and reaching for her coffee. After a long drink, Ariel set her coffee back on the table before she continued. “I’m actually surprised you came back to the motel. I thought you were going to give that bartender the night of his life.”
“Oh, I did.” Brooke smirked as she exited the bathroom, running a comb through her hair, remembering the high points of last night’s events. Setting the comb back into the bathroom, she spoke facetiously, “But I like to sleep alone.”
Ariel couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Because there’s nothing wrong with two very consenting adults engaging in some extracurricular activities?” Brooke hollered over the running tap water as she lined her violet toothbrush with red and green Aquafresh, knowing her sister was getting geared up for her typical ‘there must be more to life than sex’ talk.
Ariel didn’t disappoint her sister one bit. “That’s one longwinded way of describing a one night stand, sis.”
“Please spare me the after school special crap,” Brooke muttered between brushes. Rinsing the sink after spiting and placing her toothbrush back on the white laminate counter, Brooke walked out of the bathroom, grumbling the whole time. “I have a big enough headache as it is.”
“God forbid you actually have a meaningful relationship.” Ariel crossed her arms across her chest defiantly. Just once she’d like to see her sister hook up with a guy she actually cared about, who actually cared about her. Brooke’s assertion that all meaningful relationships led to death and heartache was getting old real quick.
“Damn straight.” Brooke changed out of her Led Zeppelin tank top and boy shorts into a plain white tank top and jeans without turning to see her sister’s censorious stare. Kicking into a pair of black heeled boots, she muttered, “They end badly.”
Ariel went to say something but the pain lining Brooke’s words made her think better of it. Shutting her mouth, she turned her attention back to Sam’s email, snickering as she read the text.
Brooke flopped into the chair next to her sister, grabbed her coffee cup and flipped open the newspaper resting under her bagel before looking at her giggling sister. “So Air-bear, now that I’m awake, what’s so damn funny?”
“Sam?” Brooke didn’t bother to hide the surprise that laced her tone. Ariel had just received an email from him that week. The pair had gotten into the habit of writing one another in-between jobs. Without exception. “That was fast.”
“It was only a gremlin. They would have been done sooner, but the sneaky bastard kept fiddling with Dean’s car.” Ariel chuckled, picturing Dean’s expression when his transmission was strewn across the parking lot in pieces. He must have been livid.
Brooke hid a smile at the thought of a gremlin messing around with Dean’s baby. “I’ll bet he loved that.”
“He slept in his car that night.” Ariel nodded as she continued to read the well composed happenstance of the Winchester brother’s latest hunt.
“Not surprising.” Brooke shrugged flippantly. She wouldn’t have been surprised if Dean slept on the hood of his car in the rain to prevent it being tampered with. Sucking down the caffeine in her cup, Brooke enjoyed the familiar taste of her favourite brew before asking, “How are those boys doing?”
“Good.” Ariel munched on her bagel happily before adding, “Just being their regular insane selves.”
Brooke’s eyebrows rose as she repeated Ariel’s last statement in her mind, trying to account for her sister’s wording. “Don’t tell me they’re pranking each other again.”
“Oh, big time.” Ariel laughed openly. She had been enjoying the retelling of Dean and Sam’s pranks over the past several months. It seemed like every time they got bored, they decided to stave that boredom by acting like six year olds.
Brooke opened the bag containing her bagel and started in on the warmed dough. Alternating between reading the newspaper, drinking coffee and talking with her sister she asked, “Who’s winning?”
“Too, close to call.” Ariel shrugged. She couldn’t decide which was worse. Putting peanut butter in Dean’s favourite boots or shrinking Sam’s favourite hoody. But wasting time pondering such questions was pointless, so she moved on. “Find anything yet?”
Brooke didn’t take her eyes off the newspaper she was scanning as she munched on her bagel before answering. “Not yet.”
“Why don’t we take a little road trip then?” Ariel smiled mischievously. It had been several months since Dean and Sam had driven out of Red Bridge. Other then semi-weekly emails with Sam, they hadn’t had any real contact. She wanted to see Sam. But perhaps the bigger truth, which she refused to wholly admit, was she wanted to see Dean. Badly.
Shrugging, Brooke didn’t bother to look at the impish smile she knew her sister was wearing. If her sister wanted to road trip, there was only one destination she had in that head of hers. “Got some place in mind, do you?”
“The boys just finished a job in Bad Axe, Michigan.” Ariel offered sheepishly. She hoped her sister wanted to hang out with their friends as much as she did. It was certainly a rare thing to have friends who lived the same crazy lifestyle. “We aren’t that far from the border.”
Brooke rolled her eyes dramatically and sighed at the thought of driving down to the states. She hadn’t been to America since she had picked Ariel up at Stanford two years ago. Crossing the border was a tedious process she didn’t enjoy. Taking another sip of her coffee, Brooke turned the page of the paper she was studying. After scanning the contents, her eyes caught something that startled her. Her breath stopped as she read and reread the lines, praying her imagination was playing tricks on her. After reading it for the fifth time she let out the breath she had been holding when she realized she wasn’t imaging anything. Setting her coffee on the table and scooping up the newspaper off the counter top, she walked to the nightstand where her car keys sat next to her cellphone. With one quick movement she collected her keys, cell, and charger and walked straight out of the motel.
Before Ariel could do more then call after her sister, the sound of Brooke’s Mustang roared through the early morning air. Ariel raced out of the motel in time to see Brooke peel out of the parking lot and head down the street. With a speed befitting the panic speeding her heart rate, Ariel pulled her cellphone out of her back pocket and hit the speed dial. A few moments later her sister’s curt voicemail kicked in.
“You’ve reached Brooke Cooper. If this is an emergency leave a message. If you’re calling about 06-31-84, text me your coordinates. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
A well toned blonde slid two chilled beer mugs across the counter, stopping just in front of a tall sandy-haired brunette holding a twenty dollar bill in his palm. When her blue eyes locked with his hazel ones, she leaned into the bar top, making sure her voice carried to his ears alone as she batted her eyes sweetly, “It’s on the house darlin’.”
Dean Winchester gave the bartender a raffish smile that made her lick her lips noticeably. Before he could reach for the beer mugs, her red painted nails closed around his hand, folding a napkin into his palm. Dean glanced at the paper, noticing the phone number written in purple, and looked up at the girl wearing purple eyeliner. She winked and asked quietly, “You’ll give me a call?”
“Scouts honour.” Shooting the blonde a tight smile, Dean moved away from the bar, carrying two beer mugs in hand. Once he reached the table where his brother was sitting with the laptop open as though this were a library and not a pub, Dean set the mugs down, discarded the napkin with the lip liner phone number, and drank headily. His brother gave him a bizarre look which he promptly ignored. It’s not like he had ever been a boy scout. “What? She’s not my type.”
“Since when do you have a type?” Sam queried before reaching for his beer and taking a drink.
Dean gave Sam a look he usually reserved for drunken barflies that pissed him off and backbit, “Since now.”
Sam’s eyebrows lifted, but he decided against saying anything. Dean had been in the habit of tossing phone numbers lately after going through a two week span of drinking until he was barely coherent and bedding every girl he came in contact with. Dean insisted his erratic behaviour was nothing to worry about, but Sam couldn’t help feeling it had been a last stitch effort to exorcize Ariel from his mind. When his efforts had proved unsuccessful Dean had just given up and focused on the one thing that did take his mind off Ariel. Hunting. They had gone from one job to another without breaks ever since. It seemed Dean got even pricklier every week, and Sam knew it had everything to do with the author of the weekly emails he was reading. Despite Dean’s protests to the contrary, Sam knew his brother well enough to recognize that bereft look he had whenever Ariel was unexpectedly brought into the conversation. Watching Ariel die had affected him more than the elder Winchester wanted to admit. And Sam was starting to become concerned.
As though on cue, Dean asked, “How are the girls?”
Sam minimized the news article he had open on the Fairfield County Echo website and logged into his email account. There, sitting in the inbox, was a brand new message from ACooper83. The moment Sam opened the message he knew something was wrong. Ariel’s emails were usually a few pages in length. This message only contained a few sentences. Scanning the contents of the email quickly, Sam looked away from the laptop monitor to his brother. “Brooke’s gone.”
“Gone?” Dean couldn’t help the wave of concern that darkened his voice. It wasn’t like Brooke to go AWOL. “Gone where?”
“Ariel doesn’t know. She just up and disappeared.” Sam continued reading the email; trying to make out any clues Ariel may have left to explain Brooke’s sudden disappearance. The message was short, sweet, and to the point. Brooke had picked up and left without a word, and Ariel had spent the past two days trying to get in contact with her sister unsuccessfully.
Dean ran every possible scenario in his mind, trying to account for Brooke’s sudden vanishing act. None of them ended well. He was already calculating the distance from the bar to the Canadian border before he asked, “Where is Ariel?”
A soft knock brought Ariel to the adjacent window soundlessly. Before she could lift the drawn curtain back, a familiar voice called out to her from the other side of the pine door.
“Ari, you in there?”
“Sam?” Ariel flung open the door and stared at the tall, dark-eyed brunette standing in her doorway. “Oh my god! What are you doing here?”
“I got your email. We were just outside of Sterling Heights, not far from here.” Sam smiled brightly; glad to see his friend was alright despite the circumstances. “Thought you might need a lift.”
Ariel returned Sam’s smile and reached out to hug him. Sam’s arms wrapped around her and lifted her off the floor as she laughed. “It’s good to see you Sam.”
“It’s good to see you. Been awhile,” Sam said as he released Ariel, setting her back on the floor lightly. He noted that Ariel’s eyes were lined with worry despite her easy tone.
Ariel nodded, shifting to allow Sam into the room as she mumbled, “Too long for my liking.”
“Mine too,” Sam agreed as he turned and watched Ariel close the metal door behind him. It wasn’t until that moment that he noticed the thin red abrasion on the top of her shoulder. “Where’d you pick that up?”
“Beauty isn’t it?” Ariel beamed as she glanced at the healing wound on her shoulder. It no longer hurt, despite the raw look of the mark. Just another badge of honour pinned to her during the perils of her job. In her experience, hunters only seemed to respect her and Brooke when they were clad in scars or various wounds. And considering they had just come from a roadhouse a few miles away, her gash had instantly blended them right in. “Courtesy of a baykok.”
“You wear it well,” Sam joked, noting the pride radiating from Ariel as she examined the scrape.
“Don’t I though?” Ariel’s teasing smile held steady despite the ball of unease starting to gnaw on her psyche. Where Sam was, Dean was sure to follow. Considering she was dying to see him, this uneasiness was perplexing. “So where’s Dean?”
“I was wondering how long it would be before you asked.” Sam’s laughter darkened his tone as he spoke.
“Smart ass,” Ariel muttered, using her middle finger as a catapult against her thumb as she smurf kicked his ear. He was enjoying her discomfort and it pissed her off more than not answering her question.
“He’s parking the car.” Sam chortled as he avoided Ariel’s onslaught of ear flicking. “Mind if I use your restroom? It was a long drive.”
Making sure her face was a serious as her tone Ariel answered, “Yes Sam. I mind.”
“Now who’s the smart ass?” Sam muttered as he deliberately messed up the midnight strands on top of her head and headed towards the washroom.
Ariel made a muffled annoyed sound, but her voice was sweet when she called after Sam. “Only for you, Sugar.”
Sam’s laughter carried through the motel room as he closed the door. Ariel was still smiling when she heard a curt knock on the front door. Without bothering to see who it was, she opened the metal doorway and her breath wedged in her throat when she caught sight of Dean leaning against the door jam, hand raised, about to knock once again. “Dean.”
“Hey Ari.” Dean noticed the corners of Ariel’s mouth fall the moment he spoke. He wasn’t sure how he had expected their first meeting to go, but he had imagined something a little less…casual.
Ariel pursed her lips, but said nothing. She wasn’t sure whether to hug or kiss him, and she suspected he was just as unsure. The pair just stood in silence, watching one another, neither certain what they should say or do until Ariel realized she was preventing Dean’s entrance to her room. Moving aside and motioning inward, she waited for Dean to brush past her before she shut the door.
“How was Bad Axe?”
Dean shrugged. He knew Sam had already relayed all the high points in his email. There wasn’t much to add. “Some old story.”
“You came. You saw. You burn and salted?” Ariel jested quietly, trying to lighten the mood, or keep herself from attacking him in an onslaught of kisses. She wasn’t sure which.
“Exactly.” Dean smiled somewhat. Ariel simpered quickly and moved away; turning toward the table she had been sitting at before Sam arrived. Dean noticed the red scrape lining the top of Ariel’s shoulder and without thinking he walked up behind her, hooked his finger into her loose blue collar, brushing the top of the abrasion as he moved the fabric away to look over the gash. “That’s one heck of a neck bite. What happened?”
“A baykok.” Ariel fought to control her breathing pattern as she felt Dean examine her wound, but she couldn’t control the shiver that rippled through her when he spoke so close to her ear. It took every ounce of will she had not to turn and kiss him. The power of that need scared the crap out of her. She never would have expected her feelings to remain this strong after so much time had passed.
“You alright?” Dean whispered, noticing the shivers that seemed to race over her skin, causing goose bumps to form up the back of her neck as she flushed.
“I’m fine,” Ariel attested quickly, moving away from Dean as though his words had scolded her. Shifting through some papers on the table as though she could actually read past the fog that had taken residence in her brain, she muttered, “Just pissed off at Brooke.”
Dean lifted his eyebrows silently, noting the drastic subject change, but he went with it. “I don’t blame you.”
“This isn’t like her.” Ariel looked up from the table, shaking her head disconsolately. She was still trying to account for her sister’s behaviour. “She never just takes off.”
“What happened exactly?” Dean asked curiously as he stuffed his hands in his jean pockets, watching the changing light pattern on the curtains to his right.
Ariel watched Dean intently as she made a helpless gesture with her hands. “Nothing. That’s the crazy part. She got up, drank her coffee, put on her jeans, and walked out.”
“She just picked up and left without a word?” Dean asked completely flabbergasted. Just up and disappearing was a little much, even for Brooke.
Ariel shook her head in answer. “Not one.”
“Why the hell would she do something like that?” Even Brooke wasn’t that careless. Something big must have made her jump ship without her sister. Dean was stumped as to what that something was, though.
“Beats me! She read something in a newspaper, got in her car and took off.” Ariel flopped into her chair. After the frustration over Brooke’s disappearance faded, she was left in the same spot she had been in moments ago. Watching Dean watch her. She couldn’t really believe Dean and Sam had driven all this way just to help find her sister. “When I sent Sam that email I never expected you guys to come out here.”
“We didn’t mind taking a little detour.” Dean shrugged, combing a hand through his hair while averting his eyes from Ariel’s constant gaze. When he finished studying the paint stain on the carpet next to the door, he looked back at Ariel, who hadn’t taken her eyes off him the whole time. They both just watched one another, still unsure how to proceed with their conversation. Dean was trying to gauge how much distance was required to keep himself from doing something stupid when Ariel started fidgeting with her hair. Dean cursed silently. In the six months that had passed he hadn’t been able to banish the raven-haired girl with the bright green eyes from his mind, despite his best efforts. And with the way she was staring at him it now, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out nothing had changed. It was still too soon. He shouldn’t have come.
Ariel resisted the urge to tiptoe through Dean’s emotions. Her new found control allowed her to shut out emotions until she wanted to feel them, unless they were on a large scale. But the way Dean was raking her over with his eyes, she didn’t really have to guess what was going on in that head of his. She was thinking the same thing. “Dean-”
“Do you know which newspaper she was reading?” Dean interrupted swiftly, preventing Ariel from saying something he was certain would only add to his sleepless nights. She had a real knack at using her words to imprint herself on his mind.
Ariel hoped her voice didn’t ring with disappointment as she answered, “Yeah, I got a copy. There are two stories that look like our kind of gig.”
Dean glanced over the outstretched newspapers lining the table top. Red marker and sticky notes lined most of the pages with Ariel’s handwriting signifying areas of interest that might have caught her sister’s attention. “Mind if I?”
“Please.” Ariel gestured to the vacant seat next to her. When Dean straddled the chair and started skimming over the pages, Ariel noticed a reddened abrasion on the back of Dean’s neck, buried in his hairline. “Looks like that gremlin gave you a bit more trouble than Sammy let on.”
“What?” Dean queried, puzzled. When Ariel’s fingers lightly traced the scratch buried at the nape of his neck, understanding dawned quickly. “Oh that. That’s from a cusith in Cedar Falls.”
“A cusith?” Ariel questioned quietly, the amazement in her voice evident as her fingertips followed the healing claw marks left by a creature she had only ever heard of. “My, my, aren’t you just the lucky one.”
“I was born lucky,” Dean muttered jokingly as he turned until he could face the green-eyed woman feathering the hairs on the back of his neck.
His movement made her realize she was still touching him. Dropping her hand as though his skin had burned her, Ariel turned her attention back to the newspapers she was supposed to be scouring for clues to her sister’s disappearance. After a few moments she noticed Dean was still studying her expression. Looking up from the table, she found herself perfectly reflected in eyes, more green than hazel at the moment. Ariel mentally kicked herself for sending Sam that email. She should have known they would come for her and try to lend a helping hand in her search for Brooke. Why had she been so slapdash? Despite the amount of time that had passed, Dean was constantly on her mind. A fleeting reminiscence that haunted her days and tormented her nights. It was too soon to be this near him again.
Sam’s snicker brought Ariel from her thoughts like a shot. Sobering quickly, she shifted away from Dean as though nothing had happened and glared at her friend with a look that was nothing if not accusatory. “How long have you been standing there?”
“When you’re done gawking, pull up a chair and help, would you?” Dean snapped sharply at his brother, kicking the legs of a vacant plastic chair next to the table gesturing animatedly.
Sam plopped himself down on one of the remaining chairs and gave Ariel an ear-to-ear grin. She responded by tossing a few pages of newspaper at him, thoroughly irritated. The commotion brought Dean’s attention back to the table and the paper he had long since abandoned. Ariel’s paper throwing had brought him to a new page and the words practically jumped off the page as he read. Forcing himself to remain calm, he reread the typeset again and again in an attempt to convince himself he had misread the information. By the fifth read he was certain he hadn’t. “Son of bitch!”
Both Ariel and Sam exchanged looks of confusion, both asking in unison, “What?”
“We got to go.” Dean was already out of his chair and gathering the paper together as he spoke.
“What?” Ariel questioned as she looked at the page Dean had clutched to his chest, vaguely remembering an article she had highlighted as a possible hunt for Brooke. The details in her mind were sketchy at best. “Where?”