Yes, I know it's early - it's still Friday afternoon, not Friday evening. But I bailed out of work because of a monster headache that's taken some very heavy duty painkillers to make a dent in it, so here I am - floating a little bit, but we'll see how we go.....
Okay, first, thanks to the usual suspects - Chasidern for another very spiffy story banner, and Ziggy for her eagle-eyed beta-ing - Go Team!
Second, you might want to listen to the film clip of John Farnham's Chain Reaction on YouTube first before you read the story, as I wove the story around the song. The quality isn't all that flash, and the clip starts off slow before the song actually begins, but bear with it, okay?
Here's the link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bP7OVS2ZDGI
Okay, so we're bouncing back to season 1 for this one - and it's going to be a two-shot. Hope that you enjoy it.
JulesChain Reaction – by MizpahChain reaction = a series of rapidly occurring events, each of which precipitates the next (Collins English Dictionary)
Set in Season 1, between the episodes Dead In The Water and Phantom TravellerChapter 1“One shot in the revolution
One drop from a poison pen”
“Paige, I’m home.”
Don Chambers shook himself like a dog as he stomped across the front porch of the modest bungalow he shared with his wife of two years. Raindrops flew from his shaggy hair, splattering onto the front door and falling to the cracked and peeling floorboards. He tossed a wary look over his shoulder as a bolt of lightning lanced across the dark, brooding sky. Thunder rolled a few seconds after; a long, threatening rumble.
“Damned storm’s comin’ faster than I figured.”
He shrugged out of his heavy jacket, hanging it up on the rack beside the door as he pushed his way inside. “Paige,” he called again. “You here?”
No sound greeted the lanky mill worker and he frowned, running a hand through his wet hair. He walked down the short hall, peering into the small but cosy living room as he passed. The room was empty – the worn sofa strewn with glossy magazines, the fireplace cold and filled with ashes.
Don gave a weary sigh and continued on.
The master bedroom looked like a small whirlwind had swept through it. Rumpled sheets trailed from the unmade bed onto the floor, clothes lay scattered across the half-exposed mattress. The coverlet had slid off completely, lying in a crumpled heap at the foot of the bed. A half-eaten apple rested on the edge of the dresser beside a dirty coffee cup, the dregs long since dried to a flaking brown stain. Everything was coated in a fine layer of dust, and the man grimaced as he trailed a hand across the mirror, leaving streaks in the reflective surface.
“Great,” Don muttered, shaking his head in disgust. “Guess you were too damned busy to clean the house again today, huh?”
His shoulders drooped in resignation as he trudged into the kitchen and surveyed the greasy sink overflowing with dirty dishes. Breadcrumbs dotted the tiny counter top, nestled amongst an array of soiled mugs and glasses. Don heaved a sigh as a cockroach skittered across the stack of plates.
He almost missed the note stuck to the tacky surface of the tiny table, half-hidden by an empty wine glass. Picking it up, he read the message scrawled in his wife’s untidy script before crumpling it in one huge hand. Don tossed the wad of paper towards the overflowing trashcan, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
“Gone to Emma’s, huh? Well, that’s just peachy.”
Another rumble vibrated through the house, causing the dirty glasses to clink softly together. Don massaged the ache that seemed to have taken permanent residence at the back of his neck before picking up the phone, his fingers rapidly dialling the number from memory. Leaning one shoulder against the wall, he waited for the other party to pick up. “Hello?”
“Emmie? It’s Don.”“Hey.”
“Look, is Paige still there? That storm’s comin’ fast – if she hasn’t left yet, tell her to stay put. I’ll come get her.”“Paige?”
Emma Washington hesitated for a moment, confusion evident in her voice. “She’s not here, Don.”
“She’s left already? Damn.”“Honey, I haven’t seen Paige since Tuesday.”
“But – she left a note…” A sick feeling began to grow in the lanky man’s stomach. He glanced around the shabby home, taking in the all-too-obvious signs of neglect. “She said she was over at your house.”“Oh, she did, did she?”
Anger tinged the woman’s wry tone.
“Em…”“Sorry, Don, but I’m through lying for that girl.”
Don heard a deep sigh. “She’s probably over at the Fifth Wheel.”
“The Fifth Wheel?” Don swallowed convulsively as he pressed his free hand to his temple. “Drinkin’?” Please, God, let it be drinkin’…“Moe said…Moe saw her with some stranger. Real handsome guy – just passing through town, he said. Paige was – well, Moe said Paige looked kinda taken with him.”
The tall man swayed for a moment.“Don? Honey – look, I’m sorry, but you had to know the truth.”
“How – how long have you known, Em?”“As far as I can tell, it’s only been going on for a couple of days. The guy booked into the motel on Monday night – said he was workin’ a job just outside of town, but he didn’t say what. He was talkin’ to Pat Aimes over at the gas station. Had a real nice car, too, Pat said.”
“Yeah.” If there was one thing his young, impressionable wife was a sucker for, Don thought bitterly, it was a great car. “I – I gotta – I gotta go.”“Don, now don’t you go doing anythin’ stupid. That girl just isn’t worth it.”
“Yeah.” Don hunched over, gripping the phone so tightly his knuckles turned white. Pain stabbed at his heart and he stifled a gasp, biting his lip as he forced his tall frame to straighten. “I’ll – call you.”“Don…”
The lanky mill worker hung up the phone, cutting off his oldest friend’s worried voice. Slowly, he turned to face the filthy kitchen, his blurring gaze sweeping over the tattered curtains hanging in the windows, the food-encrusted dishes, and the small army of ants trailing from the back door to the trashcan.
White-hot anger exploded in his gut, and he let out a guttural scream, lashing out with one long arm. Cups and glasses flew from the counter to shatter against the dusty, coffee-splattered floor. Don spun on his heel, took hold of the edge of the table and heaved, sending it slamming onto its edge. There was a tinkling crash as the empty wine glass hurtled across the room to smash against the back door.
His chest heaving, Don Chambers glared at the damage, clenching his teeth so hard his jaw ached with the strain. “Not this time, Paige,” he muttered darkly, turning to stalk from the room. “Not this damned time.”
* * * * *“One fruit too small and bitter
One tree too proud to bend”
“Almost got it – just hang on!”Hang on to what?
Sam Winchester wondered desperately, flailing his arms in a futile gesture as the spirit’s ice-cold hand wrapped around his throat, hoisting him off the ground.
“Hurry – up…” Wheezing hideously as his air supply was slowly cut off; Sam shot a desperate glance at his big brother. Dean was standing at the edge of the newly excavated grave a few yards from where Sam was struggling in the grip of the pissed off ghost whose remains they were about to salt and burn. As Sam’s vision began to darken around the edges, he saw a bright flare suddenly erupt from Dean’s right hand.
The elder Winchester tossed the burning matchbook into the grave, stepping back as the remains ignited with a soft whoosh. Flames rose to the lip of the hole, illuminating the scene in a flickering orange light. Spinning on his heel, he was just in time to see the spirit dissipate in a shower of bright sparks – and his half-strangled brother drop like a stone to the cold damp ground. “Sammy!”
What little air Sam had left in his lungs burst forth in a rush as he landed on the handle of the shovel he’d used to help dig the grave. Gasping like a fish out of water, he flopped onto his stomach, pressing his face against the dew-speckled grass. Strong hands slipped under his armpits, hauling him into a sitting position.
Through the roaring in his ears, he thought he heard his brother’s anxious voice, but the words seemed garbled, like Dean was talking underwater. Or maybe he was the one underwater, he mused, peeling his eyes open to find the landscape blurry and wavering.
“Sammy? Talk to me, dude.” Dean wrapped one arm around his brother’s heaving chest, supporting the younger hunter as Sam struggled for breath. “Sam!”
“’M – al’ri’…”
Dean settled back on his heels, a relieved chuckle spilling from his lips. “Dude, I think the jury’s still out on that one. Although I gotta say – nice Godfather impersonation.”
Scowling, Sam decided not to waste precious air formulating a verbal reply. He drove his arm back, jabbing Dean in the ribs with his elbow, his mouth curling in a smug grin when he heard his brother’s startled grunt. The arm across his chest was removed, and he found himself tilting sideways before a hand fisted in his jacket, hauling him upright again.
Gingerly, Sam probed his ribs. “N-no.”
No doubt there would be some pretty spectacular bruising making its appearance in the morning, but nothing was cracked or broken. That probably counted as a successful hunt in Dean’s book, Sam thought bitterly, transferring his hand to his throat. His skin still felt cold from the spirit’s touch, but he couldn’t detect any damage.
A finger hooked under Sam’s chin and gently tilted his head back. Heaving a tiny sigh, he succumbed to his brother’s scrutiny for a few seconds before pushing the elder Winchester away. “Dude, I’m fine.”
“Okay, Don Corleone.”
Standing up, Dean stretched out a hand to haul his brother to his feet. He studied Sam’s movements carefully, finally deciding that the kid had merely had the wind knocked out of him. There was no sign of any injury apart from a faint mark on Sam’s throat and a slight stiffness in his torso, no doubt caused by a few bruises.
Grinning, Dean retrieved the shovel and handed it to his scowling little brother. “Dude, if you’re finished with your flying lessons, we’ve got a grave to fill in.”
Snatching the long-handled tool from Dean’s grasp, Sam stormed over to the mound of dirt, ramming the blade of the shovel viciously into the base.
Dean watched his moody sibling for a long moment, deep in thought. Sam had come back from Stanford changed – it wasn’t so easy to read him any more. Four years at college had almost turned him into a stranger. There was still enough of the Sammy he remembered to keep him a little off-balance, however, and he found himself slipping into old habits more and more frequently, lulled into thinking that Sam would react the same as he had done when they were younger.
Sometimes, like now, it backfired on him. Ever since Jessica’s death, Sam was often a little hot-headed in his response, and with their dad missing, that put Dean squarely in the firing line to receive the full brunt of his brother’s pissy moods.
Giving a mental shrug and an inaudible sigh, Dean picked up the second shovel and strode to the opposite side of the mound. “So,” he ventured, pushing his booted foot against the shovel blade to drive it in deeper. “I could use a beer once we’re done.”
Letting out an annoyed huff, Sam kept shovelling the excavated dirt back into the grave.
“Oookay.” Dean worked faster, suddenly eager to get the job done and move onto some more pleasant pursuits. And get away from his brooding little brother for a while. Maybe a few beers would help to lighten the mood.
Finally the hole was refilled, and Sam tamped the turf back down while Dean gathered the weapons and tools. The younger man took up his usual position to the left of and a half step behind Dean as they made their way back to the Impala, Sam’s upper arm continually making contact in a warm, reassuring brush against the elder Winchester’s shoulder.
Popping the trunk, Dean tossed the weapons and shovels into the cavernous space and retrieved a bottle of holy water. He fished a handkerchief from his pocket and wet it before applying the cloth to his face and hands, wiping off the worst of the sweat and graveyard dirt. Tossing the bottle to Sam when he was done, Dean slammed the lid of the trunk and stepped around to the driver’s side door.
A faint rumble caught the green-eyed hunter’s attention and he looked up, spotting the roiling bank of dark clouds moving swiftly across the star-speckled sky from the southwest. Lightning flickered deep within the mass, and Dean unconsciously counted off the seconds until the soft but ominous roll of thunder followed. He looked across the roof of the Chevy at his brother. “It’s still about an hour away at best. We’ll go have a couple of beers, and pull out in half an hour. Maybe the worst of it will miss us.”
Sam flicked his gaze from the oncoming storm to his sibling’s face. “Why can’t we just stay another night and wait it out?”
“Because I don’t want to stay another night in that freakin’ rat-hole of a motel!” His good mood evaporating entirely, Dean dropped heavily onto the front seat and pulled the door shut. “I’d rather face the freakin’ storm.”
Dean shook his head in exasperation as Sam folded his long limbs into the car. The motel had been seriously bad, even on their scale of bad. Hardly anything had worked – the television, the coffee maker, and the bedside lamps had all been on the fritz. Even the shower had banged and clanged, emitting a tiny dribble of ice-cold water for a total of two seconds before giving up the ghost. And don’t get me started on the mattresses
, Dean thought grimly, suppressing a shudder. There was no way he was staying there another night.
“Fine.” Sam closed the door, crossed his arms and thrust out his bottom lip in an all-too-familiar petulant sulk.
The Impala roared to life and rumbled through the cemetery gates.
Sam folded his arms tighter against his torso, glaring out the window at the darkness. He was tired, he was sore, and all he wanted was a shower, a soft bed and the chance of a couple of hours sleep before the nightmares began ripping his mind apart in their nightly torture session. But big brother wanted to go out and have some fun – and what big brother wanted, big brother got. Sometimes he wondered why Dean bothered to have him along for the ride. His brother would do just fine without him, he groused silently. Dean would always fall on his feet.
Dean pursed his lips, steering the big car easily with one hand as he threaded through the streets of the town. He could feel the waves of disapproval emanating from the slumped form of his brother, and fleetingly wondered why he had been so happy to have Sam back at his side again.
Granted, the kid had a lot on his plate with his girlfriend dying in the same way as their mother. And he was not unsympathetic towards Sam’s nightly jerk-awake-in-a-cold-sweat act after the inevitable instant replays. He just wished the constant nightmares and the search for answers hadn’t turned Sam into this sullen, brooding pile of angst. To see a smile on that lean face had been a rare occurrence since the night of the fire.
Finally the bright lights of the local bar came into view, and a smile of anticipation lit Dean’s face as he swung into the parking lot. Finding a spot between a dusty pickup and a silver Cavalier station wagon, he switched the engine off and draped one arm across the back of the seat.
Giving a put-upon sigh, the younger Winchester rolled his eyes before peeling his tired frame from the car, reaching over the back of the seat at the last minute to grab the leather satchel containing their laptop. He deliberately slammed the door in a fit of pique, eliciting a muttered curse from his big brother, and stomped towards the door of the bar, easily sidestepping an inebriated trucker who staggered out to fall to his knees beside the entrance. Sam grimaced as the man began to retch, flicking a withering glance at his sibling.
“For God’s sake, Sam – lighten up already,” Dean snapped irritably, throwing a scowl at the heaving trucker. He shoved at his brother’s shoulder, earning himself an annoyed glare, and led the way into the dimly lit establishment. Pausing just inside the door to scope the place out, he smiled as his gaze zeroed in on a likely prospect sitting alone in one of the booths against the back wall.
The young brunette looked up, returning his smile as she toyed with the plastic straw in her glass, running one finger suggestively down its damp length.
“Why don’t you go get the beers in, Sammy?”
Sam let out a disapproving huff as he watched the interchange. “Found something you like?” he inquired sarcastically.
Dean’s grin wavered slightly at his brother’s tone. “Maybe. Seems like my type.”
“Female and got a pulse – that about covers it, doesn’t it?”
The elder hunter’s smile was wiped from his face. Sam took a cautious step back, realising that he’d just stepped over a line, but it was too late to call do-over.
Dean’s wide green eyes glittered with anger. Clenching his jaw, he glared at his brother for a long moment before turning his back. “Go get the beers,” he growled over his shoulder as he made his way towards a small table near the smiling brunette.
Sam bristled, a spark of rebellion re-igniting his own anger. Who did Dean think he was, ordering him around like he was some kind of lackey – or worse, a dumb kid? His incensed stare drilled into his brother’s broad back as the shorter Winchester headed for a vacant table. Dean ignored him, settling onto a chair with his back to the wall to continue his silent flirtation with the young woman.
Fuming, Sam threaded his way through the small crowd to the bar to place their order, sending one last glare in Dean’s general direction. Sometimes his brother could be a real jerk.
* * * * *“One man to start the trouble
One kiss to seal your fate”
The parking lot of the Fifth Wheel was more than half-full. Don steered his pickup into an empty space beside a dark green Jetta and switched the motor off, resting his hands on the steering wheel while he scanned the assembled vehicles. It didn’t take him long to spot the gleaming muscle car in the next row. The immaculately kept vehicle looked out of place amongst the dusty pickups, mud-splattered SUV’s and a handful of smaller, though no less used, sedans and station wagons.
“So, he’s here,” the mill worker growled softly, his anger building until it formed a tight, hard knot in his chest.
Slowly, Don reached for the driver’s side door handle and tugged at it to release the catch, his burning gaze flicking from the muscle car to the entrance of the bar. Laughter, music and the faint hum of voices spilled from the building, and the lanky man grimaced at the thought of having his wife’s unfaithfulness laid out before his friends in such a blatant manner. The whole town must be laughing their asses off,
he thought bitterly.
“Well, so be it. Let the chips fall, as ole Charley Pride would say.”
Straightening his shoulders, Don sucked in a ragged breath and strode towards the front door. He pushed it open and slipped inside, keeping to the deeper shadows while he studied the lay of the land.
There were the usual groups standing at the bar or clustered around the single pool table and darts board over on the rear wall. No one noticed the tall, shaggy-haired mill worker, leaving him free to search the crowd for a familiar face.
At first he couldn’t find her, and a feeling of uneasiness settled in his gut. What if he’d been wrong? What if Em had been wrong? But then a small group of young men near the centre of the room pushed a couple of tables together, redistributing the chairs to allow a few more of their friends to sit down, and through the gap in the press of bodies he saw her.
Paige Chambers was seated in a booth near the pool table, her arm draped around the neck of a stranger.
Don stiffened, his anger growing cold as he watched the woman he loved tilt her head towards the handsome, brown-haired man and kiss him passionately, sliding her hands up his chest and shoulders to interlace her fingers behind his head.
The bartender glanced at the couple in disgust before tossing his soiled dishrag under the counter. He straightened up, one hand sweeping out to grab an empty glass from the bar when he spotted the tall man standing by the door. His palm knocked against the glass, sending it skidding off the edge of the solid timber bar top to shatter on the sawdust-sprinkled floor as he stared at the silent, unmoving figure.
Heads turned at the sounds of shattering glass and the bartender’s shocked voice, the patrons’ gazes darting from him to the door. Gradually the low hum of conversion fell away, leaving the music to dominate the room. All eyes were on the mill worker as he slowly stepped into the light, his face looking like it was set in stone.
Ignoring the glances heavy with a mixture of worry and sympathy, Don moved to the middle of the room, his attention focussed on the oblivious couple in the rear booth. The song on the jukebox in the corner came to an end, and a tense silence fell over the barroom.
Paige drew away from her would-be lover, her face twisting in shock as she spun to face her husband. “Don – I – it’s not – it isn’t what you –”
“Don’t keep taking me for a fool, Paige.”
The young man by Paige’s side wiped a hand across his lipstick-smeared mouth, his brow furrowing in confusion. “Paige? Who’s this?”
“Shut the hell up!” the young woman hissed, gripping his arm in warning. “You’ll only make things worse.”
Shrugging off the woman’s restraining fingers, the stranger got to his feet, holding up a hand in a placating gesture. “Hey, look buddy – whatever the problem is, let’s talk about it, okay?”
Don let out a short, bitter laugh. “Sure. Let’s talk about how you’re making out with my wife.”
“Your wife?” The man’s shocked gaze switched from Don to Paige and back again. “Hey, man – I didn’t know…”
“Yeah, and I guess it wouldn’t have mattered to you if you did.” Don took a couple of steps forward, his huge hands knotting into fists. He didn’t see the swift glance the stranger directed at a point over his right shoulder. “I know your type.”
The young man’s handsome face hardened into grim lines. “I’d watch my tone if I were you.”
“You’re not me.”
A shouted warning rose from behind the angry mill-worker and he spun on his heels, throwing up one arm in an instinctive defence when he spotted the tall young man standing behind him. The second stranger swung his bottle-filled fist in a lightning fast and well-practiced move, sweeping under Don’s guard and smashing the bottle against the side of his head. He staggered, stars flashing before his eyes, and the unknown assailant bored in, throwing a looping right to Don’s stomach.
The breath rushed from the lanky man’s lungs and he gagged, bending almost double with the force of the blow. Vaguely aware of the mass of bodies shifting around him as a few of the townspeople attempted to wade into the fray; he sank to his knees and wrapped his arms across his throbbing belly.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!”
Don recognised the voice of the man who had brought his world to an end, and snarled through clenched teeth, raising his head in time to see the two outsiders make a break for the men’s room. Turning a deaf ear to the shouted, tear-filled pleas of his wife, he pushed himself to his feet and stood swaying for a moment before lurching as fast as he could towards the front door.
Staggering out into the cold, windy night, Don winced when a bright actinic flash lit up the sky, throwing the parking lot into stark relief. He blinked rapidly, the afterimages fading slowly from his eyes as thunder shook the ground, followed by the light patter of raindrops. Hearing a scuffle and the sound of muted voices coming from the alley at the side of the building, he hurried his pace, pressing one hand to his spinning head as he sprinted to his pickup.
The mill worker yanked the door open as soon as he reached it, and leaned inside, slipping a hand behind the seat. Withdrawing a sawn-off shotgun, he pumped the action before turning to face the two dark figures as they emerged from the alley and headed towards the shining muscle car.
“Holy crap! The crazy bastard’s got a gun!” The taller of the strangers shouted, diving for the gravel surface of the parking lot as the shotgun boomed.
Letting out a screech as the outer edge of the spray of buckshot slammed into his arm, the shorter man staggered for a moment before his friend lunged up from the ground and clamped a hand on his shoulder. Together the two outsiders sprinted for their vehicle, wrenching the door open and practically falling inside. The powerful engine roared to life as the shotgun spewed out its second load, the double-0 buckshot shattering the rear window and eliciting a wild yell from the occupants that was three parts fear.
Kicking up a spray of gravel, the blood red ’71 Pontiac GTO peeled out of the parking lot, fishtailing for a few yards as its tyres hit the asphalt before the panicked driver regained control. The muscle car picked up speed, heading for the main road out of town.
Ignoring the shouts from the bar’s patrons as they spilled out of the building, Don threw the shotgun onto the passenger seat and climbed into the cabin. He slammed the door, turned the key in the ignition and fired up the motor, jerking the gear lever into Drive as he floored the gas pedal.
The battered pickup careened wildly as Don sent it hurtling down the street in pursuit of the men who had taken away his dreams.
* * * * *“One kid that needs some action
One link in a chain reaction”
Sam sat alone at the table, moodily turning his half-empty beer bottle around and around between his hands. His brother and the leggy brunette had disappeared around twenty minutes ago, and it didn’t need any great stretching of the imagination to figure out where or why. Sighing impatiently, the youngest Winchester indulged in a full-blown sulk as he shot a glance at the rear door of the barroom.
No familiar lightly freckled face dominated by a smug grin showed itself through the milling crowd. Sam huffed, shoved the beer aside and dragged the laptop from its case, setting it up on the table. Soon he was immersed in the continuing search for their missing father, calling up a few websites he’d bookmarked earlier in the day. A frown drew his brows together as he leaned towards the screen to study the information displayed.
Oblivious to the crowd of revellers, Sam jumped when a firm hand suddenly grasped his shoulder. He spun around on the seat, looking up into the grinning face of his brother. “Crap, Dean!”
The elder Winchester wagged a finger in his sibling’s face as he settled onto the other chair. “Kinda lettin’ your guard down, there, Sammy. Getting sloppy, dude.”
“It’s Sam,” the shaggy-haired hunter growled in annoyance.
“Whatever.” Leaning back in the chair, Dean snagged Sam’s unfinished beer and drained it in one long swig. He signalled one of the bar staff for another round before tugging the laptop around to look at the screen, ignoring his little brother’s exasperated snort. “Whatcha doin’?”
Sam snatched the computer back. “Looking for Dad,” he stated pointedly, adding a silent like you should be doing
Dean’s eyes narrowed fractionally, almost as if he heard the unspoken criticism. Whipping out his hand, he slammed the laptop lid shut, almost trapping Sam’s fingers in the process.
“What the hell –”
“You know what?” Dean glared at his moody brother as he raised his hand to eyebrow level, palm facing downwards. “I’ve had it up to here with your freakin’ pissy attitude. I’ve been putting just as much effort into finding Dad as you have, if not more.”
“Yeah, I can see you’re chasing down every possible lead,” Sam shot back. “So tell me, did your informant give you the heads up on Dad’s location before or after you banged her brains out?”
Dean fisted a hand in Sam’s hoodie, dragging the younger man halfway across the table. Ignoring the startled gasp from the waitress as she came to an uncertain halt a few feet away, he locked gazes with his brother for a long, tense moment, seeing a spark of worry in Sam’s expressive eyes. “Go wait at the car, and don’t say another word or so help me God, I’ll knock you on your college-educated ass so hard, you won’t get up for a week.”
Jerking out of his brother’s grasp, Sam stuffed the laptop back in the satchel with shaking hands. His chest heaving, he avoided Dean’s incensed glare as he hooked the carry strap over one shoulder and stormed out of the barroom. The long, threatening rumble of thunder as the door closed behind the younger hunter’s rigid back seemed like an omen of things to come.
Giving vent to an aggrieved sigh, Dean motioned the nervous waitress forward, paid for the beers and twisted the cap off one of the bottles. He drained it in record time and picked up the second one, turning the bottle idly in his hands as he stared into space.
There had been a time when Dean had been the hero in his brother’s eyes. His word had been law in Sam’s world, even during the tempestuous teenage years when Sam had been determined to drive their father up the wall with his constant questions and sullen acts of mutiny. But he’d never rebelled against Dean, not seriously. Not until the night he had packed up his meagre belongings and left for Stanford with rage in his heart and tears in his eyes.
And then had come almost four years of silence, followed by a wild weekend of ghost hunting ending in fire and pain and death. A stranger had arisen from the ashes – obsessive, critical and quick to anger.
Sometimes Dean found himself wishing that this new version of his little brother had come complete with an instruction manual.
Wearily shaking his head, he opened the second beer and took a few long swigs before leaving the almost empty bottle on the table, along with a generous tip for the waitress. He got to his feet, tossed a smile at the brunette whose company he had enjoyed for a brief time, and headed for the exit.
A flash of lightning lit the sky as Dean pushed open the door, almost blinding him. Blinking rapidly, he cleared the spots from his vision and glanced up at the rapidly approaching storm. Thunder shook the ground, and he realised that his little interlude might have cost them a comfortable margin in trying to outrun the storm. Great
, he thought to himself as he strode towards the Impala, and the tall dark figure waiting tensely by her side. That’s gonna make Sunshine Boy even happier…
Sam folded his arms tighter as his brother approached, anger simmering in his gut. He wordlessly stepped aside, waiting for the doors to be unlocked before heaving the satchel onto the back seat. Turning to face his sibling, he held out his hand as he blocked Dean’s access to the driver’s side door.
Dean looked at his brother in confusion. “What?”
The younger man scowled in annoyance. “’Cos you’ve been drinking,” he replied with exaggerated patience.
“Oh, come on! I’ve had a couple of beers, that’s all. Nowhere near enough to make me drunk.” Gritting his teeth in anger, Dean grabbed his brother’s arm and hauled him out of the way. “Just shut up and get in the car already, and stop being a bitch.”
Seething with anger, the young hunter stumbled a few paces before regaining his balance. He spun on his heel, shooting his brother a dark glare as the elder man dropped onto the driver’s seat. Letting out a quiet huff, Sam stomped around to the passenger’s side and flung himself into the car as Dean turned the key in the ignition. “We’re not done with this discussion,” he snapped.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes, we are.”
The first few drops of rain pattered onto the gravel parking lot as the Chevy headed towards the low foothills on the outskirts of town.
* * * * *“I got a fever, a fever in my soul
No I don’t want to die
Before I get old”
The winding mountain road kept blurring before his eyes.
Don shook his head, and decided immediately that it was a bad idea when a sharp pain speared through his skull. Raising his hand, he felt gingerly at his throbbing scalp where the second stranger had hit him with the bottle. His fingers came away wet, and he grimaced as he looked at the ruby smears of blood on their tips.
“Son of a bitch!”
A light scattering of raindrops splashed against the windshield, followed by a flash of lightning that almost blinded the pissed off mill worker. He cursed, blinking rapidly to clear the spots from his vision.
A hundred yards head of his speeding pickup, the brake lights of the Pontiac GTO flared briefly in the darkness as the blood-red muscle car skidded around another bend in the road. So far he had managed to keep the fugitives in sight, although the GTO was slowly increasing its lead as the road gradually became steeper. If he didn’t catch them soon, he ran the risk of losing them on the treacherous mountain highway.
If that happened, Don vowed to himself, then he would just keep driving over the mountains and into the next town – he was bound to catch up with the strangers there. With a little luck they would be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking they had ditched him or that he had given up the chase, and decide not to travel any farther in this weather.
“I won’t give up that easily, you bastard,” he muttered, his hands tightening on the steering wheel as another bolt of lightning threw the dark countryside into stark relief. Thunder cracked across the sky a bare second later, and the rain began to fall in earnest.
Don flicked the windshield wipers to high speed, but kept his foot pressed hard on the gas pedal, sending the pickup careening around the bends at breakneck speed. Up ahead, he could still make out the faint red glow of the Pontiac’s taillights through the downpour. They suddenly vanished, and Don smashed his fist against the dashboard in frustration. “No! No, you don’t!”
The engine of the ageing Dodge began labouring under the strain of the high-speed chase and the increasing incline of the road. Don ignored the faint shudder that ran through the vehicle and rammed the gas pedal against the floorboards. Suddenly the truck began to fishtail as the tyres fought for traction on the wet asphalt, and the lanky mill worker reluctantly slackened the pace a fraction, struggling to get the vehicle back under control. It wouldn’t do to get himself killed, he thought bitterly. At least, not before he’d caught up with the bastard who had stolen his wife from him.
After that – he didn’t care. He hadn’t thought much beyond smashing the guy’s face in. If he was truthful with himself, Don didn’t want to think beyond that – didn’t want to think about facing his lying, cheating wife, or going back to the filthy house that until that evening he’d stupidly referred to as his happy home.
His thoughts snapped back to the task at hand as the Dodge slid sideways around the next curve, the tyres squealing on the wet road. Frantically spinning the wheel, Don managed to straighten the vehicle back up again just before the passenger side fender scraped the guardrail. Breathing hard in reaction to his near miss, he threw the truck into another tight turn, fighting the pull on the steering wheel as the tyres tried to follow the camber of the road.
The storm lashed the countryside with its fury – the bright beam of the Dodge’s headlights illuminated the almost solid curtain of wind-driven rain and the rippling sheets of water skating across the asphalt. Common sense told him he should slow down, but anger overrode any reason. He was almost at the summit of the range – it was all downhill from there, and he could regain what speed he had lost on the ascent. It looked like the full force of the storm had unleashed itself against this side of the mountain, so he would soon be out of the worst of it.
Gritting his teeth, Don sent the pickup hurtling into the next curve, not caring that he was veering onto the wrong side of the road.
He didn’t see the glow of oncoming headlights until it was too late. With a wild yell, the lanky man hauled on the steering wheel, trying vainly to get back on his own side of the road. The other vehicle’s rear end began to drift sideways as its driver tried to avoid the speeding Dodge.
Tyres screamed, scrabbling for purchase on the steep, rain-washed road. Don tensed as the two vehicles skidded inexorably towards each other, waiting for the sickening jolt of the inevitable collision. Painfully aware of the long dark shape of the other car bearing rapidly down on him, he jammed his foot on the brake pedal, knowing in his heart it was hopeless.
Metal screeched and glass shattered as the front passenger side fender of the pickup ploughed into the rear passenger door of the oncoming vehicle, sending it into a spin. The Dodge lurched, tearing free of the other car, and continued its out of control slide across the wet road. Don pumped the brakes in a futile attempt to stop the truck, but the momentum was too great. With his breath freezing in his lungs, he sat helplessly as the vehicle slammed through the guardrail and tipped over the edge into the black abyss beyond.
* * * * *“It took some time just to bring me here
Nobody’s gonna put me down
Do I make myself clear”
“I’ve called every contact in Dad’s journal – I’ve put feelers out every place I can think of. If that’s not enough for you –”
“That’s not the point, Dean, and you know it.”
“No? Then what is the point?”
Sam let out a frustrated sigh, curling his hands into fists. “The trail’s gone cold. We’ve got nothing – no leads, no clues. We should go back to Jericho, and –”
“No. No way. How many times do I have to tell you, there’s nothing in Jericho – all he left behind was the journal.”
“We don’t know –”
“Yes, we do!” Dean gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to pound his fist against the dashboard as his anger grew. “Damn it, Sam, you saw the freakin’ room! There was nothing there. Dad wouldn’t have given away anything like that if he wanted to disappear.”
“So – what – that’s it? We just give up?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what, Dean? What the hell are we supposed to do now?” The younger hunter drew in a ragged breath. “Just forget about Dad, and strike out on our own? You’re the one who wanted to go find Dad in the first place, and now you’re telling me that we should just stop looking?”
“I didn’t say that! Jeez, do you ever stop freakin’ bitching? Ever since you came back, you’ve done nothing but whine – about the food, about the motel rooms, about hunting, how jacked up our lives are – God, doesn’t anything make you freakin’ happy? With your pissy attitude, it’s a freakin’ miracle that Jess didn’t blow her brains out after the first month you were together.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Dean realised he had crossed a line that should never have been crossed. One quick look at his brother’s pale, pinched face confirmed it. “Ah, jeez – man, look…”
“If that’s how you feel,” Sam whispered harshly, his voice barely audible above the swishing of the windshield wipers and the low growl of the Impala’s engine, “why the hell did you come get me?”
“Now, look –”
“Just drop me off at the next town, and I’ll go find Dad myself. You can do whatever the hell you want.” Turning to face the window, Sam stared out at the rain, biting his lip hard to keep the tears from falling.
“So that’s it? You’re just gonna run off again?” Dean felt sick to his stomach. Sometimes he wished his mouth had come with a delete button. “Freakin’ great.”
“I’m not just running off. And I didn’t just run off four years ago, either.”
“I never said anything about that.”
“You don’t have to. I can tell you were thinking it.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Sam.”
Sam gave a disgusted huff.
“You know what? Fine. You want to act like a spoiled little bitch, you go right ahead.” Resolutely, the elder hunter fixed his gaze on the rain-drenched road, flicking the wipers onto high speed as they headed into the worst of the storm.
“I just want answers! I just want to find Dad! I need to find Dad! How the hell is that making me act like a spoiled little bitch?” Sam yelled, his anger boiling over.
“Don’t you think I want freakin’ answers, too?”
“She was my girlfriend!”
“And twenty years ago it was our mother! You might not remember her, but I do!” Dean’s eyes cut to his fuming brother for a brief instant. “You know what? You’re just like Dad – all you focus on is what you need! And all you do is bitch about everything until you get your own way! The motel room’s not good enough, I eat too much, I drink too much, I don’t do this, I don’t do that – I’m sick of it!”
“I don’t ever say that!”
“Oh, come on! What about back at the bar?”
“You’d had a few drinks!”
“I can still drive!”
“I’ve only got your word for that.”
“Okay, that’s it.” Dean practically vibrated with rage. “When we get off this mountain, I’m pulling over the first chance we get, and I’m gonna kick your ass so hard…” He left the threat unfinished, shaking his head as he gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckled hands.
“Yeah? Why wait that long?”
“Don’t push me, Sam.”
“And that’s another thing! It’s always your rules, your way of doing things! You never ask my opinion on anything! It’s like I’m still a little kid!”
“The way you act? No surprise there,” Dean shot back, sending the Chevy into another tight curve.
It happened in the blink of an eye. Sam’s retort died on his lips as headlights from an oncoming vehicle blinded him. He flung out his hands, realising with sick horror that the car was on their side of the road, and closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable head-on collision.
* * * * *Now come on, be honest - hands up those who thought Don would find Dean in the bar with his wife?
You forgot my three golden rules:
I love to play with your minds
I especially love to play with your minds......