Spoilers: General major plot point spoilers for Season 4.
Disclaimer: Don't own - just playing in somebody else's sandbox.
Summary: The 66th seal was broken but instead of out fighting against the demons, Castiel has charged Sam and Dean with a much more important job.
Dean silently crossed the small room that functioned as both kitchen and living space and had his gun snatched up from the Formica tabletop before the quick series of knocks on the cabin door had ended.
Gently he tightened his one armed hold on the small bundle pressed protectively against his chest and took aim at the door as it began to open.
“It’s just me.” Sam assured him low but remained on the other side of the threshold waiting for the door to swing fully open to reveal that he was alone.
Dean gritted his teeth to stop himself from speaking, from questioning, to try to reassure both of them and forced his gun arm to remain steady.
This was their life now, trusting each other when they were together but questioning when they were forced apart for any reason.
Now that Lilith had broken the last seal and Lucifer walked free. Now that Castiel, as his last mind fuck for the Winchesters, had charged Sam to protect the seven month old girl Dean was currently cradling against his chest and Dean himself to protect Sam but only cryptically hinting that within six years she would be the saviour for the remaining vestiges of mankind before disappearing weeks before. Now that they were constantly on the run, spending what precious time they could hidden in abandoned hunting cabins, scrounging canned food from empty towns and trying not to see the bloated bodies left to rot in the streets. Skirting around groups of people that they came across, staying hidden and weary of what could be concealed by even the most innocent of faces.
Sam, hands out from his sides, slowly stepped into the cabin.
Every possible protection symbol, lines of salt, of Rosemary, of Gopher’s Dust, of graveyard dirt, the gris-gris bags Ruby had taught them to make to conceal them from Angels and Demons alike. Everything was put to use now but precautions still had to be taken. Precautions like hiding themselves from Castiel, if the Angel still lived, Sam destroying Ruby with the powers she taught him to control with only the smallest sign of regret in his eyes as he did it, not trusting what was coming back to their latest hiding place was the person who had left.
But nothing, so far that had stumbled across them, had managed to cross the lines of protection they meticulously drew, nothing. At least not yet and Dean could only constantly hope nothing ever would, especially not wearing Sammy’s body.
He breathed out slowly, relief making him want to drop into the nearest kitchen table chair, but he forced himself to remain as he was, gun still turned on his brother. There was still one test left for Sam.
“Maia,” he cooed softly but didn’t shift his eyes away from Sam. “Sammy’s home.”
He knew she had been sleeping, her soft baby snores easing some of the guilt for not actively fighting against Lucifer and his Legion but at his voice, her little head came up and she turned to look towards Sam.
Castiel’s words had been the first clue, pretty much a flashing neon sign, that something was different with the little girl. But it still came as a surprise when they realized that she could somehow sense when a demon was nearby and would warn them with a, barely there, sound that almost seemed like the beginning of the word “demon”. “Dem. Dem, Dem.” would spill out of her little mouth in a rush, her impossible blue eyes would get huge and she would grip whichever one of them happened to be holding her so tightly that her little fingers would bleed white with the effort.
Her natural reaction had saved them more than once.
Maia reached out with one hand and clenched and unclenched her little fist towards Sam.
All of Dean’s muscles relaxed as he sighed out the breath he had been holding and he let his gun arm drop to his side.
“Still just me.” Sam tried to sound nonchalant, like having to prove that he was still himself was an everyday occurrence, and, although in recent weeks it had become one, it wasn’t something they should have to find themselves getting used to.
He let his arms fall to his sides and shrugged off his rucksack as he moved towards them.
“Hey sweetie.” He murmured, his eyes drawn to Maia as he absently dropped the bag on the kitchen table before he reached for her.
Dean carefully shifted her around so that she was turned towards Sam, one arm under her butt, the other across her chest. “Hi daddy Sammy, “ he squeaked in his best imitation of a child’s voice. “Did you find me some yummy food?”
Sam rolled his eyes but the corners of his lips were twitching upwards. “Of course my baby girl.” He carefully took her from Dean before tipping his head down and brushing his lips against his brother’s in a swift kiss. “Don’t teach her to call me Sammy.”
“Whatever.” Dean snorted and followed him back to the kitchen table. “Any problems?”
Sam settled into one of the two kitchen chairs and shook his head. “Town’s empty.” He caught Dean’s eye to make sure he understood what he wasn’t saying. “Completely empty. No one at all.”
“No one?” He frowned, it wasn’t the first time they had come across an empty town, well empty of anyone else still breathing but for there not to even be bodies seemed a little strange, especially now that Lucifer walked free. “Not even…?” He mouthed the word “bodies”, knowing that Sam would know what he was saying. Even if their father hadn’t taught them how to lip read, years of doing their job before Armageddon had ensured that they could.
“You know,” he mused with a small smile as he balanced Maia on her feet against his thigh and gently bounced her. “She can’t understand a lot of words yet. It’s kind of silly for us to be so,” he shrugged, “paranoid of saying…” He stumbled to a halt and then sighed self depreciatingly. “Never mind.”
“Yeah that’s what I thought.” He chuckled. He had known where Sam had been going with his little speech and had already known that in the end even he wouldn’t be able to voice a word that might upset the little girl. To any parent it would seem stupid but no other parent they had ever met had a child that could sense demons at seven months or, according to Castiel, would somehow be the salvation of mankind. So if that meant not saying or doing anything that may just upset her and keep her as innocent as possible, for as long as possible, Dean was all for it.
“So whatcha get anyway?”
He nodded towards the rucksack. “You want an itemized list? Look for yourself, I’m busy.” And as if to prove his point, he shifted Maia until she was cradled in his left arm and gently took one of her hands in his. He brought her fingers to his lips and began to slowly kiss each one separately.
“I’m disappointed Sammy I thought you were all for the lists.” He muttered and pulled the bag to him.
“Not much need for lists anymore.” He answered low.
Dean unzipped the bag, ignoring the sharp undercurrent of sadness in his brother’s voice and swallowed down the lump that was trying to form in his throat. Sam was right, when you’re two main priorities where protect Maia and stay hidden, list just weren’t needed for that.
To distract himself, he started pulling small boxes, jars and cans from the bag. “Lets see. Dehydrated potatoes mashed and scalloped. Spam, tuna, chicken, salmon, dehydrated milk, and,” he blinked and peered into the bottom of the bag. “How many jars of baby food are in there?”
His head shot up, there was no way they had lucked out and Sam had managed to find that many still before their expiration date. “Really?”
Sam grinned, “One of my saddle bags is full with more.”
“Well holy sh…”
He coughed, “Uh…well that’s…that’s great!”
He shifted and chewed on his lower lip, “That’s not all.”
Dean narrowed his eyes as something cold slithered up his spine. The last time Sam had gotten that look on his face was the first time they had stumbled upon a small town full of rotting corpses, well actually his brother had seen them first, since it had been his turn to sneak into town to see if it would be safe for them to ride through and maybe scavenge what they could. But Sam had said the town was empty, not even bodies, so what could be worse than that?
“Sam?” He prompted low.
“It’s like everyone just disappeared, like Rivergrove.”
“Rivergrove?” The name sounded familiar but he couldn’t recall why.
“The demon virus a couple years back.”
It was like someone had punched him in the gut as the memories flooded his mind. Memories of the residents of the little town going crazy and killing each other because of becoming infected by a demon virus. Of Sam being attacked by a nurse and becoming infected. The soul shattering certainty that he was going to have to kill his brother because of it and then kill himself because he wasn’t going to be able to survive without him. Of the town’s doctor showing them how everyone had just up and disappeared without a trace and Sam’s miraculous lack of infection. The fact that although they kept close tabs on the ghost town for the better part of a year, no one who had vanished ever surfaced again.
And now it seemed to have happened again.
He fought down the urge to take Maia and make a run for it. The cabin had obviously once belonged to a weekend hunter, if the guns stored in the closet in the single bedroom and the animal skins that had been laying around the cabin, until they had cleared them out, were anything to go by. It was roughly two miles into town and they when they had scouted around, found no signs that anyone had been near it long before the last seal had broke. They were virtually as hidden as they could possibly get, it didn’t even seem like demons had stumbled across it but the thought that maybe the closest town had been effect by the same infection that had taken the Rivergrove citizens sat like acid in his stomach. “You think this town is like Rivergrove?”
“Yeah.” He admitted quietly.
“Fuck!” Dean shot out of his chair and began to pace. “We’ve gotta move Sam. I don’t like being this close to someplace like that.”
It was a dead giveaway just how badly shaken up Sam was when he didn’t instantly start giving Dean hell for swearing. “Yeah I know.”
He stumbled to a halt and swivelled around to stare at him. Sam was agreeing with him? Without a fight or a need to discuss their options, it happened so rarely that it only served to unnerve him more. “You agree?”
He sighed half in frustration, half in resignation. “Here we go.”
Sam continued as if he hadn’t even spoken, “I checked a couple of the houses Dean. I didn’t even have to pick the locks, the doors where open. It looks like everything these people owned is still there. It doesn’t look like survivors or demons have found this town yet.”
“So? All the more reason to book before they do and decide to set up camp.”
“The grocery store where I got the food from is fully stocked with canned and dried goods. I found silver jewellery in one of the houses and we are in desperate need of silver for bullets, Dean. Not to mention fully stocked cupboards.”
He wanted to argue but Sam had a point, they had started making their own bullets by melting down silver, blessing it and reforming it and they had run out of silver a week earlier. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were sitting on a ticking time bomb.
“If we still had the Impala,” he grumbled sadly.
Shortly after the last seal had broken the electricity had stopped working. At first they had thought that it was only in the town they had been in but nowhere they had gone seemed to have power. And without power gas pumps no longer worked.
At first they had managed by siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles but eventually their luck had run out just as the Impala and the jerry can had run out on a back road just outside of Denver. The only upside, and it was a pathetic upside, was that the Impala had purred her last only feet from a horse farm.
As far back as Dean could remember he didn’t bother to pretend to be a cowboy who rode in and saved the day because, other than the horse and the hat, he was eventually going to become one of those guys that actually did that.
At least he could say that he still didn’t have the stupid fucking hat.
“I’d be all for staying and taking what we can if things weren’t so reminiscent of Rivergorve. But they are so instead, we scavenge what we can, load up the pack horse and our saddle bags and then we’re gone.”
Sam was shaking his head, “Don’t you think it would be a better idea to make a couple runs and bring as much as we can back here?”
“And do what with it?” He demanded.
He shrugged, “We know that no one has found this place yet. We’ll store it all here. All the food we can lay our hands on, at least. Then we’ll leave once we’ve cleaned the town out of anything of use to us.”
He sat down and stared hard at the table. “Do you think that’s wise? I mean that could take days, weeks even.”
Sam leaned forward and squeezed his thigh, “Wiser than leaving it where anyone could find it.”
Dean dragged the rucksack towards him and began to pull the jars of baby food out, giving himself time to consider. He knew that logically Sam was right but they had been charged with protecting Maia and sitting around just waiting for someone else to stumble upon the town seemed insane. But on the other hand, not trying to ferret away what they could so that hopefully it would still be here when they made their way back seemed ludicrous because they would need it to help protect Maia.
“We do this,” he said slowly, inspecting a jar of peas. “We all go together.”
He could see Sam shaking his head vehemently from the top of his vision.
He narrowed his eyes and glared across at him. “I know, God help me I know it’ll be taking a huge risk to take Maia there but we’ll be able to get it done faster. Besides,” his eyes softened as he looked at the little girl staring back at him and smiled at her. “She’s the best defence we’ve got Sam. She’ll know long before we do if any demons are coming.”
“What about survivors?”
He had shot his first civilian three days after Lucifer walked free because the man had gone after Sam with a knife, looking for, of all things, money. He hadn’t felt guilty for it. And that had been before Castiel had charged them with protecting Maia. It wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar to shoot another to protect his family. And besides that, they had yet not to come across bands of survivors that could manage to stay quiet long enough to go undetected.
“We’ll hear them before they even know someone else is around.”
“I don’t know Dean.” He muttered hesitantly.
“We do it this way or not at all.” Dean was more than willing to fight until they were both blue in the face over this. It had never sat well with him that one of them had to stay behind with Maia while the other went out to scavenge, well at least when it was Sam doing the scavenging. But if his brother wanted him to agree to this plan then they were going to do it Dean’s way. For cutting down the amount of time they had to stay pinned to one place, it made sense. The fact that he could keep an eye on his brother was simply a bonus.
He didn’t flinch when Sam glared at him and waited, silently, for him to either try to argue more or accept that Dean just wasn’t going to let this one go.
“We work fast.” He grumbled.
“D’uh.” He muttered and rolled his eyes.
“And we take shifts carrying Maia in her carrier.”
Did Sam honestly think that he was going to argue with the terms, especially since they were the ones he would have set himself? He shrugged, “Agreed.”
He still didn’t look completely convinced but seemed to be grudgingly accepting. “Yeah, okay then.”
“And the three of us stay together.” He pressed, “The town is empty now but…”
“You never know when it will change.” He nodded, “I know.”
No you don’t. He thought as his gaze drifted back to Maia and he watched her eyelids droop lower and lower until she was starting to snore softly against his brother chest. Not quite four months before, they had been fighting the good fight, trying to find Lilith and stop her from breaking the last seal. Now they were living in a post apocalyptic world, hiding from the same demons they used to actively hunt, only really moving during the cover of night and protecting a child that was supposed to be mankind’s salvation.
You really, really don’t.