Season Three

Episode Twenty-One: Heaven and Earth

By irismay42

Part One

 

Mount Diablo State Park, CA

The sun peered shyly over the double peak of Mount Diablo, painting the early morning California sky with fingers of russet and gold. A promise of cobalt blue hung in the air, and a light breeze caressed the treetops. Somewhere a coyote howled, and a falcon wheeled overhead, searching the ground for mice and squirrels, who went about their business always aware that sudden death might come swooping down out of the sky for them at any minute.

The only human figure stirring at the base of the mountain was oblivious to nature blazing all around her, no interest in what was above her, only in what lay below.

She crouched in a trench cut into the earth, two or three feet down, gingerly brushing dirt from the object barely protruding from the ground beneath her.

She exhaled slowly, streaking dirt across her freckled face as she brushed a hand over her cheek and pushed long ginger curls out of her hazel eyes and back under the dirty ball cap from where they had escaped.

She rested on her haunches briefly, wiping her hands on the thighs of her dirty old jeans and realigning the ball cap so her curls tucked through the back vent and spiraled down her back instead of onto her face.

She glanced briefly at an old Jeep parked a few feet away; at twenty years, it was almost as old as she was. Briefly, she considered rifling through the untidy pile of what to the untrained eye might appear to be junk, seeking out a bigger trowel to expedite the unearthing process.

With a shrug of her shoulders, she dismissed the idea. The object in front of her was too delicate for such manhandling, of that she was sure.

Brushing away more of the earth, she slowly revealed an additional couple of centimeters of the find, incongruously white against the brown of the dirt in which it nestled. She frowned to herself as she peered down at the object. Too white for bones. For old bones, anyway. There should be discoloration if it were of any great age.

Gingerly, she ran a fingertip over the object, touch convincing her of what sight could not. Bones. Without a doubt.

She sighed heavily. Probably just some kid’s dead dog Dad had decided to bury out here. Certainly not a find that would secure her another semester’s funding.

Dammit, she needed to find something! She needed to find something soon. She’d been so sure of herself, so sure of her research, even when Professor Atherton had laughed at her theories and told her there was nothing out here for her to find.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t.

She jumped to her feet, almost stamping her foot in frustration. She was right, she knew it! There had to be artifacts around here. There just had to be! Why wouldn’t the faculty listen to her?

She stood there, fuming silently to herself, her body rigid and trembling in anger.

Or perhaps it wasn’t her body that was trembling.

Because the ground was trembling too.

She looked up sharply from the trench, rocks and stones suddenly dislodged from the ground above slipping and sliding down into the hole all around her.

She let out a frightened squawk as a particularly large rock narrowly missed hitting her temple, hurriedly scrambling up out of the trench as the ground began to shake more violently, the whole area thrumming with angry energy as rocks slid and bounced down the side of the mountain.

Covering her head in fear, she crouched low to the ground, hoping to lower her center of gravity to avoid toppling over completely.

Please stop, she murmured in her head, praying whatever she’d been unearthing hadn’t been buried again beneath the suddenly shifting ground. It might be worthless, but she still had to examine it properly to confirm that.

Please stop!

Before she exhaled her next breath, the quake desisted as abruptly as it had begun, the ground beneath her ceasing its shake, rattle and roll, the mountain stilling itself even as rocks continued to slide down from the summit.

Rising hesitantly to her feet, she edged warily back to the trench, almost dreading what she would see there: two days’ work lost?

It came as something of a pleasant surprise when instead of seeing her unearthed bones once again buried under mounds of rock and dirt she saw quite the opposite: the tremor had shaken loose more bones.

Crouching down at the edge of the trench, she tilted her head sideways, intrigued by the partial skeleton now revealed before her. There was something not quite…right about it.

Cautiously climbing back down into the trench, careful not to disturb any of the find, she crouched low over the bones, her long fingers tentatively probing what looked like a human scapula. Hmm, shoulder blade. Maybe not a dead dog after all….

So what was she looking at here? A murder victim? Someone who’d gone missing in the past couple of months?

Squinting harder at the shoulder blade, she frowned as her fingers traced something decidedly odd, something, from the anatomy courses she’d taken as an undergrad, she was pretty sure shouldn’t be there: A bony ridge branching off from the scapula which looked uncannily like it ought to be connected to….

She sat back on her haunches and sucked in an incredulous gulp of earthy air.

No. Way.


Hopkins Marine Station,
Pacific Grove, CA

At first he can only watch the assorted whey-faced onlookers who all stare out at the ocean, shaking their heads in mute despair. They’re lined up like witnesses to an execution, a few with hands thrown over their mouths in fear and revulsion, others shaking their heads solemnly.

It’s a shocking sight, and it takes every bit of courage he has to turn his gaze back toward the angry, roiling water, steaming and bubbling, the ocean boiling beneath a calm cobalt California sky.

As fish, birds, insects float to the surface of the water, the tall blond man can only shake his head and turn away.


Pricewise Motel,
Milton, KS

“I hate Kansas,” Dean grumbled, tossing a duffel full of dirty laundry into the Impala’s cavernous trunk with a huff.

Sam glanced over his shoulder at the seedy, one-story motel that had been “home” for the past week, and had to admit he wouldn’t be sad to see the back of the state of their birth.

Of course, admitting that to himself was one thing; admitting it to his brother was something else entirely.

“Can’t blame an entire state for its over-friendly fairies, Dean,” he said, barely suppressing a snigger.

Dean’s eyes shot to his brother, narrowing as he ground his teeth together audibly. “It’s your stupid fault we’re here at all,” he declared. “You know how much I hate this place.”

Sam raised an eyebrow as he slung their weapons bag into the trunk next to the laundry and a couple of books on fairy lore he’d “forgotten” to return to the library over in Norwich. “Hey, don’t blame me, man, you’re the one said we could do with an easy hunt after that last run-in with Mia. Go someplace she’d never expect us to go. Get off her radar.” He straightened, trying not to remember the look of terror frozen on poor Erin’s face as Mia stabbed her through the heart. He sighed, surveying the empty parking lot and deserted, pot-holed road that eventually led to the highway. “And she sure as hell wouldn’t expect us to come here to the ass-end of Kansas.”

Dean grimaced, jaw tightening in reluctant agreement “Yeah, well,” he conceded. “Still. Friggin’ fairies.”

The corner of Sam’s mouth ticked up, cheek dimpling. “You really are a chick magnet, bro,” he said, grinning. “Those fairies sure took a shine to you.”

Dean grunted, yanking open the driver’s door and bending to look inside the Impala. “Fairy dust’s gonna be a friggin’ bitch to get out of the upholstery,” he grumbled, straightening as Sam breezed past him, ruffling his hair.

“Not to mention your hair, dude,” he commented gleefully. “Looks cute on you though. Sparkly.”

Dean grimaced at him, shoving away his brother’s large hand before shaking his head like a wet dog and brushing angrily at his shoulders in an effort to further dislodge the shiny powder. “Friggin’ fairies,” he moaned for the ninetieth time that morning. “Shoulda ripped their friggin’ wings off, see how much they liked me then.”

Coldplay’s Lost! suddenly started to warble from the general direction of Sam’s jeans, and Dean rolled his eyes.

“Friggin’ Coldplay…”

Sam frowned at him as he checked the caller ID, his phone not recognizing the number. He shifted slightly when he noted the Palo Alto area code, unconsciously turning his shoulder so he was facing away from Dean.

Heart picking up the pace uneasily, he jabbed at the button to pick up the call and offered a wary, “Hello?”

“Sam?”

The voice sounded familiar, but Sam couldn’t quite place it. “Uh – yeah?” he confirmed dumbly, wincing slightly as he imagined Dean’s response to his giving away his identity so easily.

“Sam!” The voice was warmer, an obvious smile in the inflection. “It’s Zach! Zach Warren! You know, the guy you saved from Death Row…?”

Sam’s face lit up immediately, relieved and genuinely pleased to hear from his old college buddy. “Oh my God, Zach!” he burst out, again wincing, but this time at the girly excitement in his voice.

He glanced furtively over his shoulder at Dean, who had taken a step toward him, a frown minutely crinkling his forehead.

Sam again hunched his shoulder, once more turning away from his brother, almost as if he were embarrassed to be taking the call. “How did you get my number?”

“Becky,” Zach replied, and Sam nodded. He’d kept in sporadic e-mail contact with Rebecca Warren—the girl the shapeshifter with Dean’s face had almost killed—ever since they parted ways in St. Louis back in ’05.

“Well it’s—it’s great to hear from you, man,” Sam stammered awkwardly, suddenly realizing he had no clue what to say next. “How is Becky? She’s at Harvard Law, right?”

“Yeah,” Zach confirmed. “She got a couple of years ahead of me after—y’know. I had to take some time out.”

Sam nodded, understanding probably more than Zach realized. “Yeah, Becky said you’d gotten into Stanford Law. Congrats, man.” His eyes flicked up to see Dean standing right in front of him and he gritted his teeth together, determined to show not the slightest emotion. Bitterness? Envy? No way.

“It’s hard work,” Zach continued. “But it’s worth it. Thought my chances of law school were completely shot after Emily.” He sighed. “Amazing how one night can change your life forever.”

Sam didn’t realize he hadn’t responded at first, images of Jess bursting into flames above him springing unbidden into his head. “Yeah,” he agreed quietly. “Life has a habit of pulling the rug right out from under you when you least expect it.”

He chanced another look at Dean then, the older brother’s expression morphing from inquisitive to sympathetic and concerned in the space of a heartbeat.

Even only hearing one side of the conversation, Dean must have read the look on Sam’s face, the single word displayed in his eyes and the awkward set of his mouth: Jessica.

Unable to bear Dean’s compassion, Sam turned again, walking away from his brother just a couple of paces, heading back toward the rear of the Impala.

“I’m sorry, man,” Zach said finally.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, mentally shaking himself before continuing on a little too brightly. “So what can I do for you, Zach? Not sure I’d make that good of a study buddy these days.”

Zach laughed hollowly. “You might be a little rusty, but really, it’s just like riding a bike.”

“Yeah I guess,” Sam agreed, vividly reminded of Dean telling him the exact same thing about hunting the night he came and got him at Stanford. “Not sure law school’s in my future any time soon.”

He heard Dean’s boots scuff the gravel and didn’t have to turn to know his brother had walked away.

“Yeah, from what Becky tells me,” Zach began a little cautiously, “you kinda switched your specialty there, huh?”

Sam paused for a second. “She told you what – what really happened to Emily, right?”

“Yeah,” Zach said. “Which is kinda why I’m calling.”

Sam’s eyebrow ticked up. “Yeah?”

“I have—something—that might fall into your area of expertise. Something I could kinda use your help with.”

Sam risked another glance in Dean’s direction, but his brother was leaning against the Impala’s hood nonchalantly, face impassive as he did his best to give Sam a little privacy.

At least, that’s what Sam hoped he was doing.

“So,” Sam continued, a forced levity in his voice that he most certainly didn’t feel. “Ghouls in your basement? Vampire bats in your belfry?”

Dean looked up at that, a quizzical expression in his quirked eyebrows.

Zach laughed a little bleakly. “Wish it were that simple,” he said. After a beat, he continued, “So there’s this girl…”

Sam grimaced. “Aw man, you sure I wanna hear this?”

“Don’t be a pervert,” Zach admonished him.

Sam shook his head. “Spending too much time with my brother I guess.”

It was Dean’s turn to grimace, obviously affronted that Sam should be…saying whatever it was he was saying about him.

“Her name’s Daisy,” Zach continued. “My girl.”

“Way to go, dude,” Sam said, genuinely pleased for his friend. “I’m happy for you.”

And he meant it.

Sam hadn’t spoken to Zach a whole lot since St. Louis, but if what his friend had felt for Emily was anything like what Sam had felt for Jess, then he knew how hard it must have been for Zach to take that difficult step toward finding someone else.

“Yeah,” Zach continued slowly. “It…wasn’t easy.”

Sam nodded, even though he knew Zach couldn’t see him. “No,” he agreed. “I know.”

The line was silent for a second, Zach and Sam communing on some level where shared experience was more important than words could ever be.

“She’s an archaeology student,” Zach continued. “Daisy Duffield.”

“Cute,” Sam remarked.

“Yeah, she is,” Zach agreed. “Thing is, she’s been out on a dig at Mount Diablo Park for a couple of months and—well—she’s found some—uh—interesting bones that—well—maybe you guys might want to take a look at.”

“Bones?” Sam repeated. “Why do you think we’d—?”

“They’re just—weird,” Zach explained, hesitating for a second before adding, “Maybe your kind of weird.”

Sam nodded. “Ah,” he said. “Okay—”

“But—” Zach continued, “That’s not all. There’s—there’s something else I’m kinda worried about. Daisy, she…” He paused for a second, took a breath. “Sam, I could really use your help…”


Palo Alto, CA

“So…you’re really okay with this?” Dean asked, obviously trying to sound casual but with an undercurrent of concern threaded through his voice that set Sam’s teeth on edge. “I mean,” he continued, glancing surreptitiously at his little brother out of the corner of his eye, “coming back here.”

Sam set his jaw tightly, trying to remind himself that Dean was just trying to be a good guy, a good big brother. “Why wouldn’t I be?” It came out harsher than he’d intended, snappish even, and Dean recoiled a little, that kicked puppy look on his face he always used to get whenever he’d failed to live up to Dad’s ridiculously high expectations.

Sam hated to think he’d put that look on Dean’s face.

He opened his mouth to apologize, just as the Impala rumbled past the little coffee shop where he and Jess used to drink lattes on a Sunday morning, and his throat constricted so much he couldn’t form a single word.

“So…” Dean tried again. “Zach’s gonna meet us at the university?”

Sam merely nodded, unable to trust his voice as tears prickled at his eyes.

There was the deli where they ate breakfast before class; the restaurant where he’d taken her for their first date; the jewelers where the rings he’d been saving up for had probably been sold years ago.

All gone. All of it. Jessica. Sam and Jessica. Them.

That bright, shining future he’d almost held in his hands, almost but not quite, all of it slipping through his fingers because of who he was. Because he was a Winchester.

“We could stop, man, if you want—”

“I don’t need to stop,” Sam snapped harshly, immediately regretting it when Dean just nodded, so much patience and understanding on his face Sam almost wanted to hit him. Hard.

If he hadn’t come for him that night… If Dean had just left him the hell alone….

God, this was a hundred times worse than their trip to Seattle a couple of months back, and he’d thought that felt awful at the time. Then, all he’d had to consider was the road not taken, what might have been. Now…it was like being in mourning all over again. Not just for Jess; but for the life snatched away from them, the life forever denied him.

Because of who he was. Because he was a Winchester.

And as much as he knew it was wrong and unfair and totally undeserved, every time he looked at Dean all he could see was the thing that took it all away: the hunt; the life; the family. The Demon.

Until eventually he just stopped looking at him altogether.


Stanford University
Palo Alto, CA

Dean got it. He did. He’d told Sam once that he didn’t know what it was like to lose someone the way his brother lost Jessica. But he did. He did. He’d lost Sam. For almost four whole years. And this was the place responsible for that. This was the place that took Sammy away from him and made him Sam.

So he could sympathize, he really could. Loving someone that much and losing them? It was the worst thing in the world. And for Sam, losing Jessica—losing the life he had all laid out in front of him, the life he had with her—that must have been impossibly hard on his baby brother. He’d seen it himself first hand—the nightmares; screaming her name in the middle of the night; the way he’d thrown himself into hunting as if that would somehow make it right again.

And now coming back here—seeing places he used to take her, places they used to hang out with their friends… Well it didn’t take a genius to figure out what must be going on in Sam’s planet-sized brain. After all, Dean had been there himself, that first time they’d pulled up outside their house in Lawrence—Jenny’s house. He knew what Sam was feeling; he knew only too well.

Loss.

So he totally got why Sam had been stonily silent since they were about three miles outside of Palo Alto. To be honest, Dean had been pretty stunned Sam had agreed to come here at all. Sure, Zach Warren was an old school buddy and everything, but the Winchesters sure as hell didn’t owe him anything. Not after what Dean had sacrificed to get him off the hook with the cops.

Which was the thing Dean didn’t get: Why Sam seemed to be so pissed off at him. What the hell had he done wrong that had upset Sam so much he couldn’t even look at him?

Unless what Sam had said to him that one time had been a lie: that Sam really did blame Dean for Jessica’s death.

“I’m sorry, man,” he said quietly, eyes still fixed on the road ahead and studiously not on his little brother, not entirely sure whether he was apologizing for Sam losing Jessica, or for his part in Sam losing Jessica, or for Sam’s having to come back here at all; none of which were really Dean’s fault when he actually came to think about it.

Sam looked at him then, for the first time since they’d entered Palo Alto, and something in his resolutely stoic expression seemed to shift just a little.

“No,” the younger brother said on a sigh, raking his fingers through his hair tiredly. “I’m sorry, Dean. I—I’m being a jerk—”

“No you’re not,” Dean assured him. “Well not much. And I get it. I do. How you might think that—that it’s my fault, if I’d not come and got you, not dragged you back into hunting, how she—she’d still be here and you—you’d have a life. Be a real person.” He remembered those words of Sam’s, like a knife through his heart back in Chicago. So Dean—Dad—they weren’t “real people?” Not real enough for Sam, anyway….

Sam shook his head sadly. “Dean, I already told you I don’t blame you for what happened to Jess,” he said, and Dean wanted to believe him, he really did. “But it’s just—hard. Harder than I thought it’d be. I thought—four years—it’d be easier now. I’d be over it. But—”

Dean nodded his understanding, even as he turned off Campus Drive and headed for one of the university’s parking structures. “Yeah, I know,” said, maneuvering the big Chevy carefully into the structure. “Maybe we need to lay down a couple new hunting rules,” he added, deliberately lightening his tone. He glanced sideways at his brother, smiling sardonically. “How about from now on we stay outta Kansas and California?”

“And New Jersey?” Sam suggested, a reluctant smile hovering about his lips.

“Oh God yes,” Dean agreed wholeheartedly, pulling the Impala into a space on the lowest parking level, grateful for the shade provided by the floors above. Shutting off the engine, he sat back for a second. “So why’d Zach want to meet us here?” he asked at length, shoving open the driver’s door and swinging his legs out onto the asphalt. “I mean, not that I’m worried anyone’s gonna recognize you as the brother of that dead serial killer from St. Louis or anything.”

Sam exited the passenger side of the Chevy a little more slowly, almost reluctantly, peeling off his jacket and tossing it onto the back seat with Dean’s. “He’s working,” he replied finally. “Couldn’t meet us until after class.” He glanced at his watch. “In about two minutes.”

“Wow,” Dean whistled. “Are we ever punctual!”

As they headed for the parking structure’s exit, he suddenly added, “Whaddya mean Zach’s working?”

He blinked in the harsh sunlight as he followed Sam out onto the sidewalk, feeling slightly overawed by the red-tiled buildings rising up all around them, the palm trees shimmering lazily in the heat, the country’s best and brightest scurrying between classes, books and laptops clutched to their chests.

He wondered fleetingly what it had been like for Sam here; what Sam had been like here. Had he ever even thought about Dean? About the life he’d left behind?

“He’s a TA,” Sam explained, heading for an imposing-looking building fronted by a line of yellow brick archways. “Helps him pay his way through grad school.”

Dean whistled as they entered beneath one of the archways, tugging open a glass door and holding it for his brother before following him into the blissfully air-conditioned interior. “That pad his mom and dad had in St. Louis?” he said. “Sure didn’t look like he’d be sweating the school fees.”

Sam shook his head. “Dean, not all college students are spoilt brats living off their parents’ charity.”

Dean nodded thoughtfully as he followed Sam into a large lecture hall, his brother seeming to remember the way without even thinking about where he was going. “No,” he said to Sam’s retreating back. “I guess not. Or else how the hell would you have gotten in here?”

He followed Sam down between rows of benches and tiny tables, again imagining Sam sitting in some crowded, mind-numbingly boring lecture, scribbling down notes in his ridiculously neat handwriting, completely oblivious to the chick behind him ogling his girlie hair and wondering what shampoo he used.

No one ever asked Dean what shampoo he used….

He hung back a little as Sam trotted down the sloping stairs toward the young man standing at the front of the hall. He was collecting papers into a pile on the desk and generally tidying up after the recently finished lecture.

Dean had never actually met Zach Warren, but recognized him from the photo stuck to the fridge in his and Emily’s apartment, and the security tape of the shifter when he was wearing Zach’s face.

He seemed taller in person, broad shouldered and dark haired, still with a neatly-trimmed goatee and dark sparkling eyes that lit up when they caught sight of Sam.

“Samwise!” Zach burst out, rushing toward his friend as Dean raised an eyebrow at the salutation.

Samwise? And he got on Dean’s case for calling him Sammy?

Sam made a beeline for Zach, the two young men enveloping each other in a heartfelt hug while Dean continued to loiter toward the back of the hall, letting them have their reunion without interruption.

“Hey, Zach.” Sam finally returned the shorter man’s greeting, pulling away slightly to meet his friend’s gaze. “How ya been?”

Zach shook his head, thumping Sam’s shoulder before finally disentangling himself. “I’m good, man. How ’bout you? It’s been too long.”

Sam averted his eyes uncomfortably. “Yeah,” he agreed with an awkward smile. “Too long.”

Zach looked Sam over appraisingly. “Well, life on the open road seems to agree with you,” he commented. “You look—big. Real big!”

A genuine laugh escaped Sam’s lips at that, his shoulders relaxing as his face settled into a broad smile. “Chasing monsters is a really effective fitness regime,” he said. “Can’t afford to get too flabby when there’s a werewolf on your tail.”

Zach blinked at him, apparently uncertain whether he was joking or not.

Sam laughed again. “And you, look at you! Stanford Law, huh? And Becky at Harvard. Your mom and dad must be real proud.”

Zach shrugged. “Helluva step up from Jefferson City Correctional Center, lemme tellya.” At that, he glanced over Sam’s shoulder to where Dean was still lurking, his expression sobering. “I have you and your brother to thank for that.”

Sam turned in the direction of Zach’s gaze, as if only just remembering Dean was there. “Uh—yeah—I forgot you two never actually met. Zach—my brother Dean.”

Dean took a hesitant step forward, smiling awkwardly as Zach held out a hand toward him. Dean took it a little self-consciously, Zach turning the handshake into a warm two-handed grip.

“I never got to thank you for what you did,” he said sincerely. “Taking the blame for Emily’s murder when that thing…” He trailed off, shaking his head as his eyes filled with unshed tears. He took a breath, composed himself a little, before meeting Dean’s gaze once again. “You and Sam,” he said, “you saved my life. And I know you pretty much lost your own to do it—police record and a reputation as a dead murderer. That must have been hard—knowing that, as far as the world knew, Dean Winchester was just another dead psycho.”

Dean shrugged. “Yeah, well… Didn’t have much of a reputation to begin with,” he said with a half-grin. “And being legally dead has its advantages.” He shrugged. “Don’t pay taxes for one thing—”

“Dean, you never paid taxes,” Sam put in.

Dean glanced over at his brother, looking a little crestfallen for a second, before demanding, “Yeah? So? Your point being?”

Sam snickered at him, and Dean felt something finally relax inside of him.

“Anyway, I guess everything’s cool now, huh?” Zach suddenly interjected. “Y’know—now you’ve finally been exonerated and everything.”

Dean stopped dead, expression frozen on his face as his attention shot from Sam back to Zach. He just blinked dumbly at him for a second before finally managing to croak out a strangled, “Huh?”

Sam frowned, taking a step toward his friend. “Zach,” he said slowly. “What do you mean ‘exonerated?’”

Zach blinked at him in mild surprise. “What—you guys don’t—you don’t know?

“Know what?” both brothers managed to ask at the same time.

Zach shrugged. “Couple of months ago I get this call completely out of the blue from some cop in Baltimore—”

Dean and Sam exchanged a glance. Guevara?

“I’ve never been to Baltimore in my life,” Zach continued. “So it kinda confused me when the guy told me the St. Louis police were reopening Emily’s murder due to some ‘recent developments.’ He told me the St. Louis cops still believed they had the right guy—their perp was most definitely six feet under—but they weren’t so sure he was Dean Winchester anymore. Apparently they were planning on exhuming the guy’s remains and carrying out more thorough testing.”

“About freakin’ time,” Dean muttered, folding his arms across his chest. “This cop—his name wasn’t Guevara by any chance? Rafael Guevara?”

Zach nodded. “Yeah, that’s the guy. You know him?”

Dean shuddered as he remembered trying to fight off the Service 66 Slayer, who had an unhealthy interest in cutting out his eyes and his heart and tossing him into a Hellgate, while at the same time trying to avoid getting hauled right off the train and into the precinct by the Baltimore cop. “He—uh—kinda owes us a favor,” he replied guardedly.

“Pretty big favor,” Zach observed. “Baltimore cop messing with a St. Louis murder investigation? He must have pulled some serious strings to get the case reopened.”

Dean nodded, glancing again at Sam. “I just have that effect on people,” he declared.

“Well he called me again yesterday,” Zach continued. “They’ve done some new hi-tech DNA analysis and they’re satisfied they’ve got their murderer, but they’ve also confirmed he’s not Dean Winchester.” He inclined his head in Dean’s direction. “Which we—uh—kind of already knew, right?”

Dean just nodded mutely, while Sam blew out a breath. “You’re really off the hook?” he said a little uncertainly.

Dean shrugged. “Doesn’t sound like our luck does it?” he replied. “A little too good to be true.”

“He sounded pretty genuine, guys,” Zach said. “I mean, his calling me was the whole reason I decided to risk calling Sam. I figured it was divine intervention or something—his calling just as I could really use your help. ’Cause you know I would never have asked you guys here—risk Sam being recognized—if I thought you’d be in danger of getting yourselves arrested.”

“So why do you need our help exactly, Zach?” Sam asked. “You were a little sketchy over the phone.”

Zach bit his lip before continuing. “I told you about my girlfriend Daisy, right? That she’s been out at this dig over at Mount Diablo Park for a couple months? It’s pretty much a one-woman show. She’s working on her Masters—did all this research on Native beliefs that Mount Diablo was the site of Creation—where God created Man—and was absolutely convinced there would be something of archaeological interest at the site. But up until a couple of days ago, things weren’t looking so good for her. She’d not found a thing and her funding was up for review and her professor’s a real hard-ass who didn’t think much of her theories…”

“What happened a couple of days ago?” Sam interjected.

“She found this—weird—skeleton,” Zach explained.

“What’s so weird about an archaeologist finding a bunch of bones?” Dean asked.

“There’s something hinky about them,” Zach said. “About the shoulder blades. The structure of them…and some other bones lying nearby…” He trailed off. “Look, this is something you really need to see for yourself. I can take you to Daisy and she’ll show you.”

“Okay,” Sam said slowly. “But on the phone you said there was something else…?”

Zach dipped his eyes and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Ye-ah,” he stammered. “It—it sounds kinda nuts though.”

“Story of our lives, man,” Dean assured him.

Zach looked up reluctantly. “Earthquakes,” he said at length.

“Earthquakes?” Sam echoed. “Zach, we’re pretty much sitting on the San Andreas Fault here…”

Zach nodded. “Yeah, I know. It sounds nuts. I told you—”

“What about earthquakes?” Dean interrupted him.

Zach met Dean’s interrogative gaze and seemed to shrink into himself a little bit. “They go wherever she goes,” he said, sounding a little bit desperate, not to mention a little bit sheepish. “Daisy. Earthquakes follow her around.”

The Winchesters glanced at each other. “Daisy’s an earthquake magnet?” Dean clarified.

Zach nodded. “I know. Nuts. I can’t explain it. She can’t explain it. She thinks I’m being ridiculous—paranoid. Says she’s so not being followed around by earthquakes. But she is! I swear it! Would I have called you guys if I was making this up?” He glanced from one to the other of them before continuing. “At first I thought—after Emily—after what Rebecca told me actually killed her—I thought maybe something was after me. But now… Now I think it might be after Daisy…”

“What kind of ‘something?’” Sam asked, his brow furrowing.

Zach looked up at him. “I don’t know, man. All I know is wherever she goes, earthquakes are sure to follow. That’s how she found the skeleton in the first place—there was a tremor out by Mount Diablo and it kind of unearthed itself.”

“Like it wanted to be found…?” Sam asked uncertainly.

Zach shrugged. “Maybe. When you see this thing—you’ll understand why I—why I called you. Why I think this might be your kind of thing—y’know? Weird stuff?”

“Who ya gonna call?” Dean muttered, shaking his head.

“Look, let me take you to meet Daisy—show you the dig site and the—the bones. Then maybe you’ll understand why I’m freaking the hell out here.”

Sam nodded. “Okay, we can—”

“It should only take about an hour and a half to get there,” Zach continued, a spark of hope igniting in the depths of his dark eyes. “I can drive you right now if—”

“We’ll take my car,” Dean interjected.

“He’s kind of a control freak,” Sam explained.

“While he’s just a regular freak,” Dean returned.

Sam scowled at him and Dean smiled back brightly. “Jerk,” Sam said.

“You’re so predictable,” Dean returned, before heading off toward the exit. “Listen, you girls finish catching up. I’m gonna go call Rafael the Wonder Cop.” He paused, glancing back over his shoulder before adding, “And we’d better not be camping, Samwise…”

* * * *

Dean tried his best not to let the bustling quad intimidate him as he pulled out his cellphone. Sure, these kids might be richer, better dressed and smarter than he was, but that didn’t make them superior in any way. He sniggered as a kid in designer ripped jeans, a replica Ramones tour t-shirt and a pair of sneakers that probably cost more than the entire contents of the Impala slammed right into a palm tree while trying to text and walk at the same time; maybe Dean ought to re-evaluate that whole “smarter” thing….

He wondered whether Sammy had been such a dork when he’d been here.

Probably, he figured. Sammy had always been a dork.

Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a battered business card and dialed the number efficiently—and without walking into a single thing.

“Detective Guevara,” Baltimore’s finest’s clipped tones answered on the first ring, and Dean unaccountably found himself happy to hear the guy’s voice.

“Hey, Supercop, it’s your number one fan here.”

There was a slight pause, then a chuckle. “Mr. Winchester I presume? I’ve been expecting your call.”

Dean shifted slightly. “Oh you have, huh?”

“Figured Zach Warren might get in touch with Sam. You know, I’d have called you myself but that number you gave me was out of service.”

Dean coughed awkwardly. “Oh, that number? Yeah—well—I got a new phone a couple days ago…”

“Sure you did,” Guevara returned.

“So…” Dean wasn’t entirely sure how to broach the subject. “I hear you’ve been doing some digging on my behalf. Or getting someone else to do some digging…?”

“I figured I owed you after the Service 66,” Guevara explained. “So I made some calls. The St. Louis P.D. weren’t overly thrilled to have me poking around one of their historic murder cases, particularly one that for all intents and purposes they’d already solved,” he added. “But I called in some favors. A lot of favors. And I finally managed to convince them that Dean Winchester’s demise had been somewhat exaggerated, that I’d spoken to him and he’d protested his innocence of the Emily Channing murder.”

“Aw, that’s sweet,” Dean cooed. “You on a one-man crusade to get me exonerated.”

“Stupid is more like it,” Guevara replied. “Got my ass seriously chewed out by my boss—and her boss—for not turning you in back in New Jersey. But I used my natural charm and eventually persuaded St. Louis P.D.’s own version of Gus Grissom to exhume the body and do a little DNA testing. You know, like they should have done at the time? Yeah, they were a lot more helpful after I pointed that out to them.”

“I guess the case seemed pretty cut and dried,” Dean observed. “Y’know, they figured they had their killer. Dean Winchester. That freak of nature did have my face when he died after all. The guy may have been a psychotic, homicidal dick, but he obviously knew handsome when he saw it…”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Winchester,” Guevara returned. “He didn’t look so handsome by the time they dug him up. In fact, he’d pretty much liquefied.”

“Eww,” Dean managed. “Nasty.”

“Yeah,” Guevara agreed. “The forensic guys told me the corpse shouldn’t have decomposed as fast as it had, and when the techs in the lab got to take a look, they said it was almost as if the body’s genetic structure was breaking down completely.”

Dean huffed. “Figures. Couldn’t hold its form once it died.”

“Yeah, well I could hardly tell them that,” Guevara pointed out. “But the DNA they took from the remains matched what they found at the Emily Channing murder site; not to mention Alex and Lindsay Akita’s apartment, the Warren house and in the creep’s lair on the trophies it had taken from its victims. So it was pretty conclusive evidence that they had the right guy. But then they went on to compare that DNA to your DNA—”

“How’d they get my DNA?” Dean interrupted.

“Beer bottle taken from the Warren house back in ’05. They still had it in storage, as well as another that matched Sam’s DNA—apparently that fine upstanding brother of yours participated in an experimental voluntary program while he was at Stanford—a couple hundred students provided DNA samples which were loaded onto the Federal DNA Database.”

Dean shook his head. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“He did you a favor,” Guevara informed him. “By comparing his sample and yours they could prove the sample on the beer bottle belonged to his brother, not just some random guy who’d been chugging back a few at Rebecca Warren’s house. They compared that to the cuffs I’d used on you back on the Service 66 and found a match. But when they compared your DNA to the stuff they got from the remains, they conclusively proved that the perpetrator’s DNA sample and your DNA sample didn’t match, although there were some ‘weird’ similarities, apparently.”

“How weird?”

“I dunno, man, you’re the shapeshifter expert. You tell me.”

Dean shrugged. “Maybe that’s how it mimicked people—borrowed some of their DNA somehow…”

“Whatever it did, it was enough to convince St. Louis P.D. that their murderer wasn’t Dean Winchester, even if they’re yet to identify who he was. He wasn’t on the Federal DNA Database, or any state database, so neither the cops nor the Feds have been able to figure out who the hell he was. They did say his DNA was seriously freaky though…”

“That’s how the techs described it?” Dean clarified. “‘Seriously freaky?’”

“Well maybe not exactly,” Guevara conceded. “Although they did say it was like nothing they’d ever seen before.”

Dean took a breath and exhaled slowly. “Listen, man,” he said awkwardly. “I can’t—I can’t thank you enough. For straightening this out for me. Getting me off the hook. I’m a free man now, right?”

“Mostly,” Guevara confirmed.

“Mostly?”

“You still have about fifty unpaid parking fines…”


Mount Diablo State Park, CA

Sam took a deep breath as he, Dean and Zach followed the trail from the visitors’ lot where Dean had parked the Impala to the area where Zach’s girlfriend was busy digging up dead things.

He could hardly believe it. Dean was a free man! He could use his real name again without fear of being summarily cuffed and thrown into a county jail cell with a six foot ten inch black guy called Brenda and a couple of rolls of toilet paper!

All this, and it was a beautiful day too—the sun was warm on their backs, the scenery was breathtaking, and for the first time that day he could think about Jessica and about Stanford without hurting from his head to his toes.

Maybe things were looking up.

“This feels like camping, Sammy,” Dean grumbled from behind him, lugging a duffel full of supplies up onto his shoulder with a grunt.

Sam refused to let Dean’s negative view of the great outdoors dampen his spirits. “You’d rather we were on horseback?” he asked innocently, shutting Dean up pretty damn quickly.

“Friggin’ horses,” Dean muttered, continuing the rest of the hike in virtual silence.

It took them less than half an hour to make their way to the dig site, where a young woman with spirals of ginger hair sticking out the back of a dirty baseball cap was crouched over a trench cut into the parched ground.

She looked up as they approached, rising to her feet and putting one hand on her hip when she caught sight of Zach.

“So you brought the Ghost Busters along, huh?” she said, looking the Winchesters over a little warily.

Zach shook his head. “Honey, we talked about this,” he said, his voice attempting to be soothing and / or placating. “Sam’s a friend from school.”

Sam held out his hand and Daisy shook it a little reluctantly.

“Nice to meet you,” Sam said, smiling brightly.

Daisy didn’t seem too convinced, merely tipping her head at him in acknowledgement.

“He and his brother are interested in—uh—unusual phenomena,” Zach continued, gesturing at Dean, who stepped forward.

“Dean,” he introduced himself. “Only go by ‘Sam’s brother’ at parties.”

Daisy looked him over for a long moment—probably a little longer than even Dean was used to being looked over by attractive young women, Sam figured. His big brother started to shift uneasily, and Daisy merely tilted her head to one side before asking, “I know you?”

Dean shrugged. “Depends if you’ve ever been to one of those parties,” he replied.

She continued to look at him a little suspiciously. “You remind me of someone…” she said, trailing off as she considered.

“Johnny Depp? Rudolph Valentino?”

“My granddad,” Daisy decided eventually. “He’s eighty-six.”

Dean recoiled a little. “Gee, thanks,” he managed.

“It’s the freckles,” Daisy informed him. “And you should look so good when you’re eighty-six.”

Dean forced a polite laugh before muttering, “Somehow I don’t think I’ll make it to eighty-six, lady.”

“So you wanna see my bones?” Daisy asked suddenly, changing tack so quickly Sam almost felt seasick.

“Uh, sure,” he agreed, following the young woman over to the trench.

Dean trailed along behind him, Zach bringing up the rear.

“Here,” Daisy said, pointing down into the excavation. She scratched at her ball cap as Sam and Dean peered down into the hole. “Carbon dating’s proved pretty inconclusive. Can’t seem to get any kind of reading that’ll enable me to date the bones.” She shook her head, exasperated. “They could have been here a week or a couple of millennia for all I can tell.”

Sam ran his gaze the length of the trench, taking in the almost-complete human skeleton unearthed below him. “So apart from not being able to tell how old they are,” he asked, “what’s so special about these bones in particular?”

Daisy jumped down into the trench, gently lifting what Sam figured looked vaguely like a shoulder blade. “You see this?” she said, pointing to an odd protuberance branching up from the bone. She made no further comment, and Sam was left to nod dumbly, trying to figure out where he’d seen something like that before.

In an anatomy textbook.

In the section on birds….

He almost laughed out loud. “You have got to be kidding me!” he burst out, glancing sideways at Dean, who was frowning at the skeleton, his head skewed slightly to the side.

“Is that what I think it is…?” the older brother murmured.

“Wings?” Sam burst out. “Seriously?”

Daisy climbed back up out of the trench, shrugging a little defensively. “It’s not that much of a stretch,” she informed him. “Mount Diablo’s an incredibly important sacred site to the local Native American tribes. According to Miwok and Ohlone creation mythology, this is where the creator Coyote made man and the world…”

“Yeah, Zach mentioned that,” Sam intoned, eyes never leaving the skeleton laid out at his feet. “But still…”

“Hold on, wait,” Dean said suddenly, raising a hand. “You’re saying this is an angel?” He glanced first at Sam and then at Zach. “Dude, you brought us here for friggin’ angels?”

“What?” Zach looked vaguely taken aback. “Wait, no! Angels? Hell, no! I brought you here because I was worried about the earthquakes! I swear!”

“Zach!” Daisy spat. “You told me you were bringing them here to look at the bones—!”

Zach’s gaze skittered from Daisy to the Winchesters and back again. “I didn’t—” He looked back to Daisy. “Honey, I was worried—”

“About earthquakes?” Daisy burst out, squaring up to him. “Dammit, Zach, I am not being followed around by freakin’ earthquakes!

“Honey—”

“You think I’m a freak, is that it? You think I’m causing earthquakes somehow? Tell me how, Zach, huh? How?”

“Look, baby, I was just worried about you! I never said you were a—a freak! It’s just—well, Sam and Dean deal with this kind of—stuff—all the time and I thought, if something was after you, then they’d be able to help—”

“After me?” Daisy echoed. “What the hell could be after me, Zach? Something that causes earthquakes? Are you out of your mind?”

Suddenly the ground beneath their feet began to tremble and Sam glanced up at Dean who was standing closest to the trench. Rocks began to slide down into the excavation, and Dean backed away from the edge, the trembling increasing to a definite shake as Daisy froze completely, her cheeks flushed and her hands balled into fists at her sides.

“I think maybe we need to get out of here,” Dean suggested as the quaking intensified, almost throwing him to his knees as the dull rumble increased to a deafening roar.

“I think maybe you’re right,” Sam agreed, catching Zach’s arm as Dean grabbed hold of Daisy, just as an ear-shattering crack echoed all around them, and the ground started to split apart at their feet.

A crack rapidly zigzagged out from where they were standing, reaching out to the base of the mountain in a matter of seconds, widening instant by instant as the ground shook itself mercilessly and rocks the size of a person’s head began to bounce down from the summit of Mount Diablo.

“Sammy—” Dean began.

“Jeep!” Sam ordered, pointing to Daisy’s battered old vehicle even as he urged Zach toward it.

Dean followed suit, virtually dragging Daisy in his wake. She seemed to be in shock, staring up at the trembling mountain above her as if there wasn’t a huge crack forming in the ground right beneath her feet.

As the crack widened still further, more incongruously white bones were thrown up toward the surface as the earth underneath churned and juddered, and Daisy seemed unable to tear her gaze away.

“Come on!” Dean yelled at her, pulling hard. “Or do you wanna end up some archaeology chick’s big find in a couple hundred years time?”

Daisy finally looked at him, shaking her head as her face paled, letting him pull her over to the relative shelter of the Jeep, which Sam and Zach were already crawling beneath.

Dean shoved her under in front of him before throwing himself to the ground as a sound like an explosion ripped through the air above their heads and rock began to rain down all around them.

“Dean!”

Sam scrambled out from beneath the Jeep, crawling over to Dean and grabbing hold of his arm. “C’mon!” He half-dragged his brother back under the Jeep with him, the ground continuing to shudder and rock like a carnival cakewalk on a Saturday night.

“Sam, I don’t know how you did it but you found something worse than camping,” Dean bellowed in his ear. “If this keeps up they’re gonna be digging us out with the angels!”

“No, I can’t lose those bones!” Daisy suddenly piped up. “It can’t all be buried—I’ve been working on this for months and I can’t lose it all now!”

As she spoke, the violent quaking all around them seemed to lessen, the continuous rattle of rocks sliding down the side of Mount Diablo beginning to subside and the ominous rumble emanating from the ground beneath them fading to a dull throb.

Sam took a breath, his fingers cramping from the hold they still had on Dean’s shirt.

“Is it over?” Dean asked, peering out from underneath the Jeep as the dust began to settle all around them.

As if in response the ground gave one last heave before everything stopped, an eerie silence falling over the mountain and the park beneath.

Sam crawled out from under the Jeep, Dean close on his heels as Zach and Daisy hesitated before finally following suit.

Dragging themselves to their feet, they surveyed the scene around them.

Dust and dislodged earth choked the air, a haze obscuring Mount Diablo’s twin peaks, and the crack that had opened from the base of the mountain to Daisy’s dig site was now a yawning chasm, maybe fifteen feet wide and who knew how deep. Bones protruded from the walls of the opening, hundreds of them, and Sam couldn’t help wondering how many—People? Angels?—had died here.

Daisy moved cautiously over to the edge of the crack, peering down at the newly-unearthed bones, shaking her head as if she didn’t quite believe it. “What the hell…?”

“Sam.”

Sam turned toward Dean at the summons, but his brother wasn’t looking at him—he was looking up at the mountain. Sam followed the direction of his gaze, to a large pile of rocks at the base of the mountain and a huge jagged hole in the side of Mount Diablo itself—a hole that hadn’t been there before the quake.

Zach and Daisy had also turned to see what the brothers were looking at, Zach mumbling hopefully, “Wind caves, right? Like at Rock City?”

Daisy shook her head. “Too big,” she said. “It looks more like…the entrance to something bigger…”

She took off at a trot, Sam and Dean exchanging a glance before setting off after her.

“Wait!” Sam called. “Maybe we ought to come up with a plan before we charge right on in there…”

Daisy glanced back at him, but didn’t slow her forward motion. “What? Why?” she demanded, if anything quickening her pace. “This could be what I’ve been looking for since I got here!”

“And it could also be dangerous!” Dean cautioned her. “We don’t know what’s in there!”

Daisy didn’t even spare him a backward glance. “What, you think there’s gonna be a monster in there or something?” she said sarcastically. “I thought you guys did this for a living? What are you afraid of?”

Dean paused to produce a sawed off shotgun from the duffel he’d lugged from the Impala, breaking it open and inserting a couple of shells before answering with a grim smile, “Nothing now, sweetheart.”

Daisy frowned at him, obviously disapproving of his use of firearms, before she began to climb up the pile of blasted rock which led to the hole in the side of the mountain. “Boys with toys,” she muttered, scrambling to the top and pausing when she reached what was obviously the entrance to a cavern of some sort. She shook her head as she glanced behind her, Dean then Sam and finally Zach climbing up next to her. “This shouldn’t be here,” she told them, pointing at the rough-hewn hole which seemed to have been blasted outwards from the mountain.

That certainly explained the pile of rock they’d just climbed up, Sam observed, squinting into the cavernous black opening, able to see little but the couple of feet illuminated by the dust-hazy sunlight.

“There are a few small caves in the area,” Daisy continued, taking a step toward the opening. “Over in Rock City, a couple of miles from here. Wind caves, where the rock’s eroded,” she added. “But nothing like this.” She took another step, crossing the threshold into the cavern, seemingly oblivious to her companions. “Can’t see a damn thing in here,” she muttered, startling when Dean suddenly put a hand on her arm.

“Hold on,” he instructed her, grinning as he produced a couple of flashlights from the duffel. He tossed one to Sam before taking a cautious step into the dark opening in the rock. “Okay, now we can at least see the monsters before they eat us,” he quipped.

“That’s not funny,” Daisy told him, before motioning to the duffel with a flick of her head. “You know, it’s painfully obvious to me now that you guys aren’t really Ghost Busters at all.” Dean raised a brow at her, and she flashed a grin at him bright enough to rival his own. “You’re Boy Scouts.”

Dean’s own grin widened in response. “Be prepared, sweetheart,” he said. “Always been my motto. Right, Sammy?”

Sam huffed. “Not really the one that springs to mind, Dean,” he observed. “‘Shoot first, don’t bother with questions at all,’ maybe. Or ‘Hi there, I’m Dean, I’m an Aquarius.’ Oh and let’s not forget the immortal ‘Are those real?’”

Dean pulled a face at him. “Dude, you’re pissy when you get PMS.”

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

“Er, kids?” Daisy interrupted. “Find of the century, deep dark previously undiscovered cavern in the side of a mountain could be full of monsters kinda deal going on over here.”

Dean tore his attention away from Sam for a second. “I know,” he protested. “I was getting to it.”

With that, he took point, inching his way cautiously into the cavern, Sam on his heels trying but failing to keep Daisy behind him.

“Wow.” Dean whistled as he came to a dead stop a few feet into the side of the mountain. “This ain’t no wind cave.”

Sam couldn’t help whistling himself as he drew level with his brother, casting an awestruck gaze about him.

The cavern was huge, so big in fact that the boys’ flashlights made virtually no impact on the inky darkness; and yet light seemed to be coming from somewhere, because if Sam squinted hard enough he could see that the rocky floor sloped down gently in front of them, while the ceiling swept up for at least a couple of hundred feet above their heads.

“This can’t be here naturally,” Daisy breathed, gazing around the cavernous expanse before her.

“Why not?” Sam asked, trying to keep pace with her as she started forward once more, Dean flanking her warily on her opposite side.

Daisy gestured up toward the ceiling. “This! All of this! It’s too—it’s just—something this massive just shouldn’t be here! I’m no geologist, but I’m guessing only an underground water source could erode a mountain from the inside this way, and although, granted, millions of years ago Mount Diablo was surrounded by sea, right now there’s no water down here that could have done this—”

“No water like that, you mean?” Dean swung his flashlight further into the cavern, the beam glinting off something that at first glance appeared to be a huge sheet of black glass stretching from one side of the cavern floor to the other.

Daisy took another couple of steps down into the cave, blinking in disbelief. “That can’t be here…”

Sam shone his own flashlight further down into the cavern, finally managing to overtake Daisy as she stopped dead to stare in the direction of the beam.

“It’s a lake,” he breathed, the sheer size of the body of water stretching out in front of him truly breathtaking in its almost unnaturally glassy stillness.

Dean moved up to his shoulder. “Thanks for pointing that out, Joe College,” he muttered. “But what the hell is a lake doing here?”

“Is that—steam?” Zach suddenly drew up behind them, squinting as the flashlight beams illuminated white vapor rising from the lake’s obsidian surface.

Daisy continued to shake her head. “That’s not possible,” she asserted once again. “There’s no volcanic activity in this area. What could be heating it? Hell, there shouldn’t even be any water here, much less steaming water!”

Sam played his flashlight along the edges of the lake, the beam reflected back by shards of unnatural whiteness scattered around the earth in stark contrast to the blackness of the water. “More bones,” he observed, as Dean took a few steps closer, his own flashlight picking out more of the remains.

“They’re everywhere,” Dean said slowly, sounding a little unnerved. “Look. They’re all around the lake.”

And they were: unnaturally white bones scattered around the entire circumference of the water, almost as if….

“It’s a pattern,” Sam said suddenly, catching the skeptical look Dean shot his way. “Almost as if they’d been arranged by…someone…”

“Some cultures—the ancient Romans, for example—sometimes used to leave the remains of the fallen on the battlefield after the fighting was over,” Daisy told them. “As a warning.”

Sam glanced back at her. “You think that’s what this is?” he asked. “A battlefield?”

Daisy shrugged. “Or a warning.”

“A warning against what?” Dean asked. “What the hell happened here? Seriously—winged skeletons, mountains with holes where there shouldn’t be, lakes that shouldn’t exist…?” He trailed off as the ground beneath their feet began to tremble. “And earthquakes.”

“Not again,” Zach moaned.

But this vibration wasn’t anything like the tremors they had felt earlier.

This was rhythmic; ordered. Unnatural.

With each thud, ripples broke from the center of the lake, gentle at first until the rhythmic pounding began to increase in intensity and the water began to lap more and more violently against the rocky cavern floor.

“Uh,” Dean began. “Maybe we oughtta…”

A thud more violent than any preceding it shook the cavern floor, throwing them all to their knees as rocks were shaken loose from the ceiling and began to rain down all around them. As the vibrations increased in intensity and violence, the whole cavern seemed about to collapse on top of them, and as Sam dragged himself to his feet he caught sight of the lake.

“Sam!” Dean yelled, struggling to his feet next to him. “We gotta go…!” He was tugging at Sam’s shirt, but Sam wasn’t moving, staring transfixed at the lake, not at his brother.

“Dean,” Sam said slowly. “The lake. It’s—it’s boiling…”

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The Winchester Chronicles

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