It was that time of year again. Dean let out a weary sigh as he settled himself down on the fender of the gleaming midnight black Impala, watching his warm breath curl away in puffs and swirls in quickly dissipating clouds. He patted the still warm hood and leaned back against the windshield. Baby had fulfilled more than his basic needs for shelter. She was his faithful and dependable traveling companion.
A tool box. A workshop.
She’d been been his sanctuary, his port in a storm.
Five hundred and two cubic inches, and two hundred and seventy-five horses of growling raw power, she made the sweetest music he’d ever heard.
She had been … home. More so than any other place he’d ever been. More than the white-vinyl clad two-story in heartland suburbia he’d started life in.
He couldn’t think of that place as home. Hadn’t been able to for years.
They’d had it all. Mom, Dad, two kids, and everyone buried up to their necks in diapers, Little League baseball, and mortgages. Lucky Charms for breakfast and Knight Rider and The A-Team on the TV after dinner with the family.
Kit had been a pretty cool car, but he had nothing on Dean’s Baby.
They hadn’t had a dog, but that had probably been for the best.
In one horrific, mind-numbing instant, their nearly perfect little slice of the American dream had been annihilated. Ripped away, torn to bloody pieces, and obliterated in a flaming pile of rubble.
Dean closed his eyes to the twinkling stars above and pressed his lips into straight line.
When everything else had been taken away, the one constant through it all had been the Impala. His mother was brutally murdered and snatched from him. His father was gone. Even Sam had been AWOL a time or two, but his beloved black beauty had always been there. If Dean had anything to do with it, come Hell and high water, she always would be.
Dean shoved all the disappointments away with another gentle pat on the smooth hood. When not much else was, the heat radiating from the engine block was a comfort to him. It soaked into his suddenly chilled bones, and he was grateful.
That time of year—chilly nights that required the addition of a Carhartt jacket over the standard uniform of T-shirt and thick, plaid flannel. Any colder, and he’d be wearing the old leather.
Falling leaves, crisp, cool air, and bright blue skies.
It would come as a shock to most people, but Dean could appreciate the beauty in nature. No one would ever imagine Dean noticed such things, but he did. There was no sky as blue as an October sky.
But November …
And at night—the stars. After the hazy, hot summer, even the stars twinkled more brightly in the clear, clean air.
Autumn was the breath of fresh air after the oppressive summer and before the snowy wet and cold of winter.
It was the season for hordes of cute little witches, werewolves, and wizards. Sometimes there were sparkly fairy princesses and pint-sized ninja warriors thrown into the mix. No matter how bad it was, when the little rug rats were costumed and painted up, Dean noticed them, too, and liked watching them skip down the sidewalks littered with fallen leaves with their parents close behind. He’d almost smile as he listened to their excited giggles and squeals.
He enjoyed it, but more often than not, it resurrected an old wistful ache.
All those fuzzy little bumblebees and miniature superheroes were happily, blessedly unaware of the real monsters lurking out there in the long, dark night, and Dean wanted to keep it that way.
Those bastard angels that would cut your heart out as soon as look at you, and lying demons that could almost talk you into thinking they had a heart buried somewhere within their blackened souls.
Not to mention the real hex-casting witches, nasty little fairies, and vampires with their mouths full of dripping fangs.
Only when Dean was alone would he allow himself the luxury of shuddering.
With another leisurely stroke across the Impala’s slick paint, he shook off the memories, old and new, that haunted him. Sam might have found some solace in his yoga and rabbit food, but nothing grounded Dean like the feel of solid, good ol’ American steel.
A slight crackling sound and movement between the shadowed trees brought Dean out of his Happy Chevy Place, and he bolted upright, reaching for the pearl-gripped semi-automatic Colt hidden in his jacket, and the twelve-inch Bowie knife nestled at his back.
Soon recognizing the mutantly tall silhouette of his younger brother, Dean pulled his hand from around the cold, chromed steel of the hand gun and slid the knife with well-practiced ease into its leather sheath.
“’Bout time you got back, bitch. I’m starvin’.”
Sam eyed his brother with annoyance and held up two plastic grocery bags in a gesture of exasperation. “Jerk. It’s almost a quarter mile through the woods to that Gas-n-Sip. You could have gone yourself.”
“Why would I?” Dean grinned and grabbed the goodies out of Sam’s hands. “When I can get you to do it?”
He hefted the bags, testing their weight. “Did you get the pie I wanted?” He started rummaging through one of them and pulled out a bottle. “What the hell is this? Green tea sweetened with honey?”
With a scowl, Sam snatched the drink away. “That’s mine,” he hissed. “Your pie is in the other one.”
“Got my extra whipped cream and Redi-Whip?” Dean’s whole face lit up with a beaming smile when he dug out the clear plastic container, contents completely obscured by white.
“Of course.” Sam rolled his eyes and planted himself on the Chevy’s hood next to Dean and poked around in his own bag.
“Whip it! Whip it good!” Dean winked at his disgruntled brother and squirted another rippled ribbon of puffy white over the creamy mound.
“Oh, yeah. I love me some pie!” Smacking his lips, Dean tore the crinkly wrap from the little plastic fork and stabbed into the fluffy mountain.
Moaning in pleasure, he shoved the first bite into his mouth. His eyes fluttered closed in obvious bliss. “Oh, this is so good. Mmmm.”
Another globular mass was shoveled in. “Mmm,” Dean groaned in delight. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” he mumbled around another mouthful.
Sam’s lip curled up in revulsion, and he scooted away from him. “Must you? I don’t need to see that.”
“Sammy.” Dean only succeeded in smearing the sticky mess across his face when he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “You just don’t know …” another heaping forkful disappeared, “… what you’re missin’.”
His eyes suddenly flew open and he halted mid-chew. Snapping his mouth shut, with obvious difficulty, he forced himself to swallow. “What … what the hell? What is that? That ain’t blueberry pie.”
Shooting him a guilty look, Sam subtly eased farther away. “It’s all they had. It’s pumpkin.” He took a quick bite of his carrot stick and chomped it nervously.
“Arrrgh!” Dean rolled his eyes in disgust, screwed his face up into a pout, and then glared at Sam before he turned his attention back to the offensive treat.
Yes, it was that time of year again, and the worst part of all?
It was a damn nightmare.