Dean straightened to his full height, panting in big gulps of air to catch his breath. He felt Sam’s arm brush his and heard the rustle of Sam’s jacket as he turned. Dean scanned the area—they were alone, just Sam and him.
The top of Devil’s Tower was a disaster. Rocks were upturned and large chunks of earth gouged out and strewn over the ragged ground. Turning in a circle, Dean threw his arms up and let them drop to his sides with a thud. Sam was scanning the countryside of Wyoming, one hand pressed against his forehead to shield his eyes from the glare of sunlight.
Every single other thing was gone. No angels, no demons, no one was left up there except them.
“Now what the hell are we supposed to do?” Dean kicked at a loose rock, sending it sailing off the edge to arch toward the ground far below. “How do we get down? We sure don’t have enough rope for that climb.”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Sam leaned closer to the edge and looked over. When Dean reached out and grabbed his sleeve between thumb and forefinger, urging him back from the edge, Sam shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, well, stay back.”
Sam turned so his back was to the edge and looked at Dean. “We—”
His words were cut off when the ground shook. Scattered rocks rolled side to side and the remains of shrubs rattled. Something under their feet cracked and popped as if they were standing on top of a popcorn popper.
“Sam, get away—”
The south face of the Tower was composed of huge columns of rope twining alongside each other reaching from the ground into the air. The top of the column Sam stood on snapped and dropped away. Sam looked down, wide-eyed, then for a brief second turned a horrified expression to Dean. Half a second later he was propelled down the Tower face, sliding on a wave of loose rock and dirt.
“SAM!” Dean dove at his brother, landing flat on his stomach with a hard oommppfff. Sam was scrambling upward against the river of dropping rock. He looked like a dog trying to run on a wet linoleum floor. Dean saw how the skin peeled away from Sam’s fingers in his efforts to grab onto something solid.
Inching forward, Dean got a hold of Sam’s jacket and pulled back. Another loud pop and the next column over gave way, tilting Dean precariously on his side and more on his imagination than on hard rock and stone.
“Let me go. Dean, I’m too heavy.”
“Shut up and get your ass back up here. Sammy!” Dean lurched forward for a better grip. He realized much to his horror, Sam wasn’t struggling to climb up and get a better grip on Dean, he was struggling to get out of his jacket. “No, Sam, NO!”
A third column gave way, bits of greenish and white dirt rolled down, more pebbles and bigger rocks dragging Sam down and away. Throwing himself over the edge, Dean got a tight grip on Sam’s arms and yanked his brother against him. Kicking both legs out, Dean tried digging his heels in to slow their fall, but it was impossible, there was nothing solid to brace against.
“You should have let me go,” Sam shouted. “Stupid bastard.” He twisted to the side, trying the same maneuver as Dean, getting his heels dug into the sliding rock to stop their descent.
“No way am I staying up there alone.” Dean grit his teeth against the sting and bite of hard, fine sandy grains raking over his skin where his clothes rode up. Sam’s hands fisted in his jacket, clinging desperately, despite his plea to let him drop.
Rocks bounced past them; the Tower’s base was twelve-hundred feet below them and getting closer each second. As more of the south face of the Tower fell away. Dean was vaguely aware of more shaking and rumbling from the flat ground below. Sky and rock turned end over end on each other in a dizzying kaleidoscope of color and texture.
Sam’s arm slid around Dean’s middle as the world went gray. He couldn’t tell if the screaming of rock was inside his head or only outside. Dirt and dust filled his nose. Kicking one leg over Sam’s and pulling up enough to boost him still a bit closer, Dean got a better hold on Sam’s arms.
When the world blacked out Dean’s last thoughts were if they were supposed to stop the Apocalypse, them dying in a rockslide was a bit counterproductive.
Sam jerked awake.
Every bit of him hurt. His hands and fingers throbbed in time with the pounding of his head and the rush of blood through his ears. The ground under his ass was hard, making that hurt, too.
Ground. Hard land. Under his butt.
Groaning, Sam pushed gingerly against the ground and tried to straighten. He was half sitting, half lying and leaning against something hard that smelled of rubber, oil and gasoline.
Blinking, he cleared dust out of his eyes and tried leaning forward, promptly whacking his forehead on something. Reaching up, Sam felt the obstacle blocking him from moving much. It was a boot. Inching sideways far enough so he could turn and look, he saw he was leaning against the Impala, with Dean’s boot in his face.
Grasping the ankle above the boot, Sam gave his brother’s leg a shake. “Dean. C’mon, wake up. Dean?”
Climbing to his feet, using the side of the car as a guide, Sam leaned against it. His brother was sprawled across the hood of the car. Sam reached out and let one hand drop to Dean’s shoulder. He gave it a hearty shake. “Dean.”
Relief flooded through Sam and consumed him when Dean groaned and raised one hand to rub at his eyebrows. “Oh, crap, that was…not taking that ride again.” Dean moved his other arm under him and pushed up on his elbow.
Sam slipped a hand under Dean and helped him sit up. “You were the one wondering how we’d get down.”
Glaring at him for a few seconds, Dean reached out and pinged Sam between the eyes. “How’d we get here?” He sat up and let his hands dangle between his knees. When Bob appeared, Dean sucked in a breath and put one arm across Sam’s chest, moving him away from the angel.
“I moved you off the rockslide to here.” Bob looked from one to the other, but stayed maintained the distance between them, obviously heeding the silent threat Sam saw plainly in his brother’s expression. “It’s all I can do for you for now. Good luck, you know the way, keep going this way. Godspeed.”
“Goddamn!” Dean spat and slapped the hood of the car when Bob vanished.
“Looks like we’re on our own,” Sam grumbled.
“Just the way I like it, Sammy.” Dean eased off the car and took hold of Sam’s wrist, turning his hand over. “We need to bandage these up. You can’t get an infection, no hospitals to go to for help, at least not here.”
Dean moved, albeit a bit slowly, to the trunk and returned with a handful of bandages and maps. He set the maps on the hood of the car and nodded. Sam turned and leaned his back against the car, holding one wrist with his other hand. Now that the adrenaline was easing back, the sting from lost skin and ache of the cuts covering his hands were getting stronger.
Taking Sam’s hands, Dean carefully dabbed at his torn flesh, glancing up a few times when Sam panted through the pain, receiving a tight nod from his brother, permission to continue. Ten minutes later Sam’s hands and forearms were expertly cleaned and bandaged. “There’s some ibuprofen in the glove compartment,” Dean said, patting Sam’s shoulder kindly.
Sam walked to the other side of the car and reached in, fishing out the bottle of pain killers. He took a few and found a bottle of water on the back seat. Swallowing them he took another bottle of water and went back to stand beside his brother, tapping Dean’s shoulder with the bottle and smiling when Dean took it, cracked it open and guzzled half in one go.
One map was spread out over the hood. Dean wiped one hand over his mouth and jabbed at a point on the map. “We’re here. Well, more like here.” He moved his finger away from the little square that said Devil’s Tower Nat’l Mon to a spot farther south and west.
“Bob said we knew the way and to continue that way.”
“I hate that cryptic shit,” Dean grumbled, leaning one hand against the car and staring down at the map.
Sam leaned over and traced one finger over the map. “We came down the south face of Devil’s Tower and we parked south-west of it. Maybe he means literally to keep going that way?”
Dean stood and looked at him. “Huh. You think it could be that simple?”
Shrugging, Sam gulped down the rest of his water. “Why not? What’s to lose anyway?”
“Uh, our lives?” Dean sighed and stared back at the map for a few more minutes. He leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest and chewed on his lower lip for another half minute. “Okay,” he pointed to the map. “We stick to the railway and old Mormon trails, near main roads, but not on them. They’ll be too congested and if not, they’ll have people on them we don’t want to deal with. Southwest takes us to Utah.”
“Army test ranges.”
Dean nodded. “Yeah, we’ll have to avoid those. Stay under the radar of any military.”
“If we keep going south-west we’ll end up on the coast,” Sam pointed out.
“We sure can’t go there. I don’t even know if we can get there.” Dean rolled the map up and stepped around Sam to the car door. “One step at a time, Sammy. Let’s get the hell away from here, get some supplies and find somewhere we can form a plan, figure things out.”
Sam nodded and jogged around to the other side of the car, happy to sink into the familiarity and safety of the Impala.
“Make a list of places to stop. We need to stay away from the small towns and big cities, find mid-sized towns, big enough to have some supplies and keep us anonymous. Small enough to have been mostly abandoned.” Dean guided the car away from its hiding spot and onto the road.
The sun was high in the sky and they’d gone maybe a hundred miles Sam estimated. Going was slow. Most of the roads were trashed. Every now and then they’d see others, people fleeing away from the quakes, not knowing there was nowhere to go. Whenever Sam or Dean tried their cells they got nothing but static. The car radio didn’t work either.
When they reached signs stating they were nearing Midwest City limits, Dean pulled off and reached for the map again. He spread it over the steering wheel, studying it. “We can pick up a stagecoach trail, they’re marked and if those things can get over them so can we.” Looking up he squinted out the window. “Let’s scout around here, find gas, food and more water.”
“Dean, no power, how are we going to get gas?”
Handing the map back to Sam, Dean grinned. “The old fashioned way. Keep your eye out for a fairly good sized gas station.”
Keeping to the outskirts of the town, a short time later they found a gas station in a suburban neighborhood that looked fairly deserted. Sam set to work clearing off what little remained on the shelves, making sure to take not only the food, water and juice that were left, but also car oil, brake fluid and other vehicle maintenance supplies.
He’d just finished loading it all into the back seat when Dean came from the behind the building hauling a thick, pleated hose, a few tools and some gas cans. “Gimme a hand with this, will you?”
Sam darted forward and relieved Dean of half of his cargo. “What’s all this?”
“This,” Dean dropped the hose, which was probably a good twenty feet long when uncoiled, to the ground at his feet and held up the tools, “is how we get gas. C’mon, let’s search every inch of this place for something to put it in.”
A few minutes later they had a respectable stack of not only gas cans, but empty bottles scattered around one of the access plates to the underground gas tanks. Using the tools, they got the plate off and slid the hose down. Sam held it while Dean rigged up a hand pump and started cranking away. Within minutes they had their containers, as well as the Impala’s tank, filled. The entire process had taken less than an hour and then they were back on the road.
As they neared the general area of Casper they saw more signs of people. Some traveled in gangs in pickups, the passengers armed with rifles and handguns. There were others they saw on foot, mostly from a distance because anytime they were close enough to see, they were also close enough to be seen. Getting themselves shot at or worse would serve no purpose. Dean deftly guided the car away from others and kept a good amount of distance between them and anyone else on the roads.
Sam knew exactly what Dean was doing, he was running. To where, neither of them had a clue, but staying in one spot too long was dangerous. There was probably no point in running away, sooner or later they’d—Sam—would be found by John and killed. For right now, however, Sam couldn’t help but sit quietly as Dean drove and marvel at his brother’s determination and fortitude. His never say die, never give up, never surrender attitude was something Sam felt gratitude beyond words for. The world he’d been born into, that they’d both been born into, was likely gone forever. Yet, Sam knew beyond a doubt, they’d survive in it because of Dean.
Dean was tricky and wily and street smart like no one Sam had ever known. Every decision made since they’d arrived back at their car was correct and it amazed Sam how much and how quickly his brother seemed to adapt to their new environment.
If Sam had to be stuck in a post-apocalyptic world fleeing from Hell’s minions, there was only one person he’d want with him and that someone was right beside him driving their car.
They’d gotten through the Green Mountains without incident and through most of Sweetwater County by the time the sun was low in the sky. It’d be dark soon and Dean wasn’t keen on traveling at night. Most roads were in horrible condition and without power for many lights along the way, it was simply too risky. Staying to the east of Rock Springs and giving it a wide berth, they finally stopped at a small science center just outside Flaming Gorge National Recreation Center.
Inside the recreation center was likely to be hordes of people, camping or still in RVs.
“Why are we stopping here?” Sam asked.
Dean glanced over and grinned as he drove the car around the building, coming to a stop outside a truck delivery door. Ever since being bounced, literally, off Devil’s Tower, Sam had been looking at Dean with a sort of awe in his expression. Neither one of them had ever had to survive on their own to this extent and Dean was discovering knowledge and inner resources he’d never known he had. Or that Sam had for that matter.
Mostly Dean was working on common sense and a sheer will to keep himself and his brother alive. It felt incredibly good to have some of the little brother hero worship he knew always lurked beneath Sam’s surface come out.
“Resources. People aren’t going to come here for supplies. They’ll go to grocery stores and hospitals, but not somewhere like this. We can hole up for a few days if we need to.” Dean cut the engine and got out of the car, heading for the garage door. “But first we have to get inside.”
Sam examined the door, there was a security system. “No power,” he said as he picked the lock.
Dean grabbed a chain tucked into the juncture of door and building. “Help me with this.”
There was a matching chain on the other side of the door. Sam grabbed hold and glanced back. “On three?”
“Yep. One, two…three…” Dean leaned his weight into the chain and pulled hand over hand, hearing Sam do the same. The door rattled and the chain caught a few times, but they reeled it open. Sam stood, holding it open while Dean ran back to the car, jumped in and drove it inside.
It took a few minutes for his eyes to adjust to lower lighting, but when he took a good look around, Dean was delighted with their finds. “Yes!” He punched the air and crossed the garage, Sam on his heels.
“See that, Sammy. That is a thing of beauty.”
“It’s a delivery truck. A big delivery truck, but just a delivery truck.”
“Yep, and it’s…” Dean popped the truck’s hood and whooped. “Perfect. This is a diesel engine. The average car battery has about five years of life brand new. The battery in the Impala is about two years old, and I have a spare in the trunk. That gives us a good five to eight years of car battery and that much time to find another one. We can rig up other batteries using smaller ones. But what we’re going to have trouble getting is gas. This baby, she’ll run on less fuel and…”
“And, we can make our own,” Sam finished.
“We can put the Impala in the back, store way more supplies and food than in the car. Eventually we’ll have to find something a bit bigger, something we can armor up and sleep in if we have to. But for now,” Dean ran his hand over the truck side, “this will work great. There was a computer store down the street, let’s check that out while there is still light and then go through this place.”
“Dean, no power, what do we need computer supplies for?”
They left the center garage, closing and relocking the door before setting out on foot to the store Dean had spotted. “There’s going to be a lot there we can use, and I bet no one loots an electronics store when there is no electricity. We get all the batteries we can carry. We also get any computer supplies you want. There may not be an internet anymore, but that’s still a good, compact way to store information and keep journals. So, a few more laptops, some extra hard drives, and all the computer batteries we find, even if they’re not the right kind. Those are lithium and last far longer than regular ones. Cords, wiring, anything like that is going to be useful.”
Sam nodded as they headed to the back of the store; again he picked the lock to a delivery entrance. Guns out and at the ready, they prowled the store. Just as Dean thought, there was very little taken or disturbed giving them ample selection of what they needed. They took some large shopping bags near a register and filled them with as much as they could.
Long shadows were covering the street and sidewalk by the time they’d finished and returned to the science center. Dropping their bags near the truck, they went from the garage to the main part of the building and searched completely. Their first stop was the gift shop.
Sam went straight to the reference section, pulling out a few books and maps. “Here’s one of the fault lines.” He held it up. Moving away from the books, he grabbed clothing and several of the totes on sale. Grinning, Sam held one up. “Seems fitting that we have clothes with T-Rex skeletons on them.”
“Speak for yourself, I’m not wearing that. It’ll make good bandaging material though.” Dean moved along the rows, picking up a few things here and there. “Hey, Sammy, check this out.” He went back to where his brother was, shaking a flashlight as he walked. When Sam did nothing but raise a curious eyebrow, Dean held one out to him. “Try. This is a—” Dean flipped the packaging over and read the label. “Faraday light. No batteries. Dude, you shake it and it makes light.”
Shaking the thing heartily for a minute, Dean then hit the button on the side and shone bright, bluish-white light at Sam.
“Sweet!” Sam grinned and shook up his own light, producing the same effect.
They carted what they took from the gift shop back to the garage. First they rigged a ramp and got the Impala inside the truck. Next they began packing their new found supplies inside. When Sam’s stomach gave a grumble, Dean stopped and glanced at his watch. How long had it been since either of them had eaten anything other than gas station food? Dean could only guess.
“Let’s raid the cafeteria and find a place to bed down for the night.” Dean jumped clear of the truck.
“We should be sure the building is secure, too,” Sam added, handing a freshly loaded handgun to Dean.
It was a single story structure with a basement holding offices and storage areas. The cafeteria was in the center. Clearing out all the canned and freeze dried food first, then heading to the vending machines for more perishable items, they sat and ate sandwiches and candy bars. The lower storage rooms had cases of water and some extra food, so that was hauled to the garage and packed away in the truck.
They took sleeping bags and blankets from the Impala and returned to the basement, spreading them out for a bed. It was the last place someone breaking in would go and the easiest place to defend. Dean didn’t like leaving the truck with the Impala and all they’d collected in the garage, and saw by Sam’s expression he felt the same, but this was the most logical way to go. In the days since all the destruction had begun no one had bothered with this building, it was unlikely anyone would now.
Sitting cross-legged on his sleeping bag, Dean shook one of the Faraday lights and studied the fault line map Sam found earlier. This was going to help them plot where to go. They needed to go away from the quake zones and steer clear of unfriendly people. They could guess from the fault lines where people, desperate, wounded and frightened would be coming from.
Glancing over at Sam, Dean smiled, the kid was out like the lights of the town. They’d been well trained, were smart and resourceful. They’d survive. He turned off the light and set everything carefully beside him and settled in for the night. Tomorrow was another day.
Run. Run, Dean. Take your brother and run.
Continue in the direction you are going. Run, take Sam and run.
Images of the desert, then the Grand Canyon and finally road signs flying by, Flagstaff, Sedona flashed in front of Dean.
Run. Run. Run. Take Sam and run.
Save Sam or kill Sam.
Pulling air fast and hard into his lungs, Dean bolted upright, instinctively throwing off the hands gripping his shoulders. His first thought after waking was Sam was the worst kind of wanted man, he was the final seal and it was unlikely those wanting the kid dead were going to give up until they completed their mission.
“Dean. Wake up, man. You with me?” Sam was inches from his face, pale and shaking, eyes wide and pleading. He sat back on his heels and scooted a few inches away. “Dean?”
“Yeah, I’m…gimme a minute…” Rubbing his eyes, Dean picked up the light and turned it on, scanning the area. “I was dreaming?”
“I’d call it more like a nightmare.” Tentatively Sam reached out and let his fingers rest lightly on Dean’s forearm. “You okay?”
He looked at Sam, studying him briefly before answering. Sam needed, desperately needed Dean to be alright. He also needed the truth from Dean. “I was, I could hear John and Bob, first one voice then the other, then sort of both of them together.”
“What did they say?”
“Dean, we can’t keep running.” Sam looked away for a second, before meeting Dean’s gaze again. “Running just means we’ll be chased and it won’t do any good.”
“I think I know where we can run to, though. I heard, or saw, I’m not even sure, a place. We need to head south, to the desert. And we need to go now, Sam.”