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The motel was shaped like an L. It was ranch-style with no second floor. The short bottom line of the L was the office building and the long part consisted of eight rooms side by side, the eighth being Sam and Dean's. There were only a couple other rooms taken but they'd asked specifically for the last at the end. It wasn't the greatest call they'd ever made, whatwith an intersection practically sitting on top of the rear parking lot outlet but they thought it was more likely they'd need to make a quick getaway than become first responders to a traffic accident caused by zombies.

They'd been wrong.

There was a roof over the drive-up to the office. It supported a giant neon light sign. "The Safe and Sound Motel" was emblazoned in blue kitschy cursive, yellow smiling crescent moon and stars around the text. Below, a red vacancy sign in all caps was lit up too. Drivers on the lofted interstate would be able to see it, maybe take the next exit to get there if the sign convinced them.

Dean made the astute observation that the moniker was exactly what a voyeuristic psychopath owner would name their hotel. Sam smiled. It was the first one he'd made after they'd discovered Sam was immune to the Croatoan virus in River Grove, the first smile after Dean told Sam their father's last words had been an ultimatum between saving and killing him.

Sam stopped smiling.

Dean took the exit.

Sam imagined Dean holding a gun to his head, putting him down like an animal. Sam had never even thought to think Dean could do that, or that he was capable of doing anything which could drive Dean to do that but now… now their own father had. The scenario had a weight of truth to it now.

Sam was scared. And pissed.

At the river, Dean had begged for them to lay low. This would mean more time spent together where Sam would just throw furtive glances and barely restrain himself from openly seeking reassurance from his big brother. Sam was afraid and angry but Dean had a knack for only drawing out the former in him. It was paralyzing comfort though. Sam would rather stay angry. It motivated him; he’d get answers this way.

They grabbed food at a diner as they traveled south. Sam brooded, gazed out the window as he yo-yoed between whether he was going to stay with Dean or leave him. He didn't want to leave the only backup he had, the only person who'd ever look for him if something went wrong. Dean meant so much to him.

Sam rubbed watery eyes and huffed a sigh. He didn't want to leave but he couldn't get the idea of Dean aiming the Colt at him, saying he had tried to save him but they were past that now.

Sam kneaded his chest. It felt like his heart was breaking.

Dean called it an early night and got a room in Matilda’s Pass. It was a small town but with enough cars on the streets Sam had options if he wanted to boost one. That was only if he went through with his plan to leave his brother.

In bed, Sam tossed and turned, waves of sickening dread and cold fury sweeping over him until he woke up at 3:30, got his stuff together, and snuck out.

Dean slept on.

It was cool out. Some strong winds were coming in from the western oceanfront. It woke Sam up further under the hazy blue light of dawn. The streets and forests in the distance were damp, a standard morning humidity in the Pacific Northwest in the fall.

Sam retrieved his Taurus from the Impala using his spare pair of keys. He opened it to find it fully loaded. He thought to go for an extra box of bullets to store in his backpack just in case. He was in no hurry; he knew it'd be hours before Dean woke up. Or maybe he was just telling himself that and there was a part of him that wanted Dean to catch him. Whether to convince Dean to come with him or so Dean would anchor Sam down with him to lay low, Sam couldn't honestly say.

He got everything packed and decided he'd go to the Roadhouse first, see if Ash could search house fire incident dates with six month old babies on the off-chance some kids like him had experienced the same thing as his family.

He was just stepping away from the Impala when a tingling sensation crept up his spine and lodged itself at the base of his neck. Sam scratched the area curiously when iron hot nails curved up and into his brain, skewering through his mind. Sam cried out, his knees buckling and he fell to the rough pavement. He was so blinded he skinned his palms and the side of his face against the parking lot's asphalt and gravel.

Numb with the agony spearing his head, his drool mixed with blood from his scraped lips as he fought the urge to throw up. All thoughts of subterfuge gone, Sam could only think one coherent imperative through the agony: Dean. Sam struggled onto all fours and started crawling back to their room.

He was crying and hazy under the pain. He barely even noticed when a young woman materialized in front of him. He had enough in him to point at the room before the vision took him over entirely.

Then his body and mind descended into a hell unlike anything he'd seen before.

It was the crack of dawn when their motel room door began shuddering under the barrage of open-palmed hits accompanied by frantic shouting on the other side.

Dean woke with a start but remained silent and elegantly moved out of bed, his grip firm on the blade from under his pillow and warning "Sam" in an undertone.

Dean expected an immediate "yeah" or "it's the motel clerk" from behind him. He turned and squinted into the dark of the room. He realized it was just him, half-crouching under the sounds of this assault on the door. He was alone. There was no Sam.

"Hello, help! There's a guy out here!" The woman's wobbly voice registered and Dean set the knife down on the table just inside the doorway before opening it.

"Hey, I'm so sorry," she started and Dean looked past her, his eyes widening, "but do you know this-oh!" She stumbled a bit to the side as Dean brushed past her to get to the body sprawled on the ground, a hand outstretched, finger pointed to their door.

"Sam? Sammy?!"

Dean nearly skinned his own bare knees getting to his brother, and vaguely processed how damn chilly it was wearing nothing but a worn white t-shirt and boxers right now. The shape of their motel was a corridor for the winds and they beat down on him, mussed his hair and flapped his clothes as he bent over his brother to assess.

He rolled Sam all the way onto his back and bracketed his body to hover, his sleep-warm palms (despite the winds quickly cooling him) cupping Sam's face. One whole side of it was covered in red from a rough gash along Sam's hairline, and another along his lips. It was the typical excess amount of blood that came from head wounds but it didn’t stop Dean's stomach from somersaulting or his chest from clenching in fear at the sight of it.

"Sammy, c'mon."

Sam didn't respond. Dean slid his hand down his brother's neck and felt a strong pulse. He looked around and found the kid's backpack, rummaged through it to find some suspiciously long-term items there before he found a cotton shirt to bunch up and apply to the cut on Sam's forehead.

After that nothing really happened. No news was good news in this case. Sam was out cold from a vision. A little knocked up but otherwise they were fine.

Dean breathed a sigh of relief, dipped his head down to press against Sam's temple for a minute.

"So," the woman interrupted tentatively, coming closer to them. She'd been standing back, arms wrapped around her body against the morning's increasingly forceful gales, honey brown hair uncomfortably whipping around her face. Still, she was staying put in case they needed anything. Dean would've thought to appreciate it if he wasn't focused solely on his unconscious brother. "How's it going here? You guys okay? Need me to call an ambulance?"

"No, no, that's okay. My brother here's having a seizure. He has epilepsy. I know how to handle it," Dean lied calmly. He hoped she'd go away before Sam's vision ended. If Sam awoke gasping and gulping air, clutching his head like it'd just been cracked open, it'd guarantee her hovering compassionately over them for the rest of the morning. Ordinarily that could be nice but the two of them were strained after their talk by the river yesterday, and Dean was downhearted thinking Sam was probably out here because he had been ditching him. Now there was this vision compounding the stress and it was really lasting way too long. Dean checked his watch.

"Okay. If you're sure."

"What?" Dean looked up, distracted. "Oh. Yeah, yes, I'm sure."

"Need help bringing him into the room?"

Dean looked down at Sammy's long body and hesitated.

"I can get his legs under the knees, you get his shoulders, we can carry him onto a bed in no time," she said, positioning herself between Sam's knees and clinically lifted them up a bit, waiting for Dean to lift Sam's shoulders.

"Okay, okay yeah," Dean muttered, going with it, and gently looped his arms around Sam under his armpits and lifted.

They got Sam down on Dean's bed. Dean was relieved to be out of the weather. The woman seemed to prefer it as well; she hadn't been wearing a jacket. Her name was Whitney and she was the night shift clerk. She'd been in the office when she saw Sam collapse and ran out to him. Dean warmed to her when she left them alone after a simple reminder she was only a star-oh away on the room phones if they needed anything. She didn't notice the knife Dean had left on the table by the door. Or if she did, she didn't care.

Dean went to work then, soaking hand towels with lukewarm water and coming over to clean up Sam's bloody face. Every once in awhile Sam's expression would screw into a rictus of pain and agony, open his mouth wide in a silent scream, body shuddering in waves. It was starting to really fray Dean’s nerves. He kept telling himself it was a good thing. Sam was clearly reacting to some kind mental stimuli. He must just be temporarily caught in the throes of these hellish visions and when it let him go Dean would be there, he'd be right here. He'd be the first thing Sam would open his eyes to and Sam would know it was over, he was safe. Everything would be fine. Right.

Dean was still gently wiping the blood off his face when Sam finally surfaced. His eyes snapped open and his throat worked like he couldn't speak, couldn't even breathe.

"Sam." Dean brushed Sam's hair back. Sam's eyes focused on Dean and glistened with tears.

"De," he scratched out before he pressed his lips together and heaved.

"Oh shit," Dean muttered, grabbing the wastebasket. Sam sat himself up so he could curl over it and throw up. Dean moved out of the way, over to Sam's other side. He was burning with curiosity over what Sam saw but he held his tongue. He rubbed Sam's back instead. Sam heaved more. On second thought, maybe Dean didn't want to know.

After a few minutes, Sam delicately set the wastebasket on the floor. He slumped against the headboard, eyes closed, and Dean was right there with a cold compress. Sam took it gratefully and pressed it to the back of his neck. Dean dabbed the blood off Sam's face more. Sam breathed through it.

"Tilt your head away from me a little bit," Dean whispered, rough calloused palms gently maneuvering his brother. He wanted to flush out some dirt he'd seen along Sam's scalp above his ear. He held a water bottle with a nozzle up over the area that'd do the trick when Sam inhaled deeply, a wet sound, and sniffed. Dean froze. Sam shivered, let out another sticky breath.

Dean touched Sam's chin, placed the barest pressure on it and Sam turned to look him in the eyes. "Sammy?" What happened? Are you okay? What'd you see?

Sam's chin trembled and tears rolled down his face. "Something... Something went wrong, Dean. Something went really, really wrong."

Chapter Text

"What went wrong? What do you mean?"

Sam looked at his watch. Dean could see he was still trembling and wrapped a palm around his wrist. Sam stilled and looked up.

"We only have a few hours. Dean. I swear. I didn't do this," Sam begged Dean through tears. His face still wore pieces of pavement from outside mingled with the blood from his scrapes.

Dean suspected Sam's eggs were still scrambled but regardless his brother's distress was real. "Sammy, whatever comes, man. I know you haven't done anything. We'll handle it."

They exchanged meaningful looks. Dad was wrong on every level to say what he did. Dean pressed a steadying palm against the back of Sam's neck. "C'mere."

For a second Dean didn't think he'd come but then his little brother shuddered, and shifted, and ducked in against him. "Hey, hey, it's okay," Dean whispered, bringing his hand up to cup Sam's head. Sam started crying in earnest. He curled around Dean like ivy until he was practically in Dean's lap. "Man, Sam, what is going on?" Dean's tone was so much angry concern as he hugged Sam tighter. He rubbed Sam's back. Sam moved his head so his chin hooked over Dean's shoulder.

"There's a different strain of the Croatoan virus. It'll be released soon. The world's..." Dean gently pulled Sam off of him so he could look him in the eyes. Sam sniffed and looked up. There were burst capillaries; red blood seeping into the white of his eyes. "The world is never gonna be the same again." Sam swallowed and looked down at his watch. "Starting in about three hours."

Dean pressed his lips together and breathed through his nose. "How do we stop it?"

"We don't. It's like The Rock. Remember that movie?"

Dean snorted and nodded. Sam wasn't smiling.

"The strain's aerosolized. Missiles are flying over the Pacific right now to release it over every major city in the states."

Dean reeled back, shook his head. "C'mon Sam, that sounds..."


"Yeah," Dean chortled, affronted. "I mean... wouldn't it make more sense that your vision just fritzed? Or you were shown an alternate dimension or something?"

"God, I wish that were the case," Sam said with a laughed cry. He sighed and got up from the bed, slow and sore. He paced to the window with their parking lot the view and wrapped his arms around himself.

"Unfortunately I don't think it is." He cracked his back. "I'm gonna, um, probably go and throw up again," Sam said, pointing at the bathroom as he gingerly made his way towards it. Dean huffed a laugh but his eyes were sympathetic; worried. Sam stopped and turned back to Dean. "We should be prepared, uh," he paused, voice caught in his throat. "You should put some clothes on."

Dean nodded numbly. Sam went into the bathroom.

Everything felt stilted. Dean rubbed his face down, not quite believing the unbelievable 48 hours he'd been living and what Sam would have him believe the rest of their lives would be like in the next... he looked at his watch: 2 hours 48 minutes from now?

Dean was well aware of the instinct to knee-jerk deny when people were given Earth-shattering news they couldn't reconcile so he suppressed his own. Sam deserved the benefit of the doubt.

As he got dressed, Dean's alarm grew as it dawned on him that while he and Sam had grown up with all sorts of ideas for what they'd do in a zombie apocalypse, Dean found his plans woefully undeveloped, his judgment scattered with way too many options. He needed more information to determine their best course of action.

He went to question Sam again and noticed somewhere along the way the kid had decided to take a shower-? He must be really out of it; now was no time for a shower. He hadn't even closed the door, either. Although for that Dean supposed it could be his little brother just didn't want to miss hearing if Dean yelled for him to get in here the zombie apocalypse was about to start in the parking lot.

Sam was so nauseated he really did as he'd told Dean and sat down in front of the toilet just heaving for a minute. Eventually his breathing relaxed. He was cold, sore from seizing on the pavement outside, his face hurt, and he was still jittery from the adrenaline crash. He should still be on that adrenaline high though; the worst was yet to come. He leaned over the bowl again at the thought, let out weighty hiccups as his mouth filled with saliva. After a few minutes nothing came up and he spit, blood from a cut cheek or gums pinking the drool.

Overwhelmed and shivery, Sam wasn't really thinking about anything other than a shocky imperative to get warm. He shucked off his clothes and got the shower going, turned the faucet as hot as he could take.

The warmth penetrated, soothed bruises and scrapes, swept away small pieces of dirt and blood. Sam's bloodshot eyes teared up when he thought about how warm water for bathing would be an unspeakable luxury in the near future.

Suddenly Dean's voice came shouting over the din of falling water. "We wanna call Bobby?"

Sam stilled and looked through the cloudy shower curtain, not sure to be scandalized. His wires were so crossed right now, his nerves raw. Even the dim, run-down bathroom light felt harsh and overexposed.

He pulled the curtain aside. Dean was at the sink packing their toiletries.

"Yeah. Call Bobby. Tell him to stay inside."

"What's outside?"

"Remember I said aerosolized? Direct contact with it falling from the sky is gonna kill some people. And I have no idea who or why, so we need to stay inside too."

"You don't think you're immune to this one too?" He gave Sam a look. It both acknowledged it was a sore spot for them and too soon to bring up but still pleading with him to just answer; it was important.

"I have no idea."

"So better to err on the side of caution and assume you aren't." Dean picked up the thread quickly. Sam nodded, noticing Dean shifting in place, conflicted. Sam was feeling it too: on one hand, Sam didn't want to be uniquely immune to anything demonic in nature but on the other hand it would be an advantage if he were. 

"We'll be fine once the aerosol clears the air." Sam squeezed his stinging eyes closed. He had no idea how long it would take for that. Didn't it have to do with the size and density of the molecules? And the weather - the winds in particular where they were, would it keep the virus in the air longer or perhaps blow it all out to sea? He knew absolutely nothing about this. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Tried to find solace in the hot water spraying down on him while he tried to keep this conversation with his brother.


"Hand me a towel, would you?" Sam shut the water off. The leftover steam cooled him.

Dean got a nice dark green one for him as he opened his flip phone. He put it on speaker. The ring trilled around the bathroom acoustics.

"So you believe me?" Sam murmured, drying himself down. It sounded weaker than he wanted but he was scratched to hell, his eyes were painfully strained, and potentially billions of people would start dying and resurrecting for the sole purpose of eating several other billions' fresh flesh in a matter of hours.

Dean shrugged. "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst, right?"

Sam nodded, appreciating the logic but wishing Dean knew, wishing Dean had seen it like he had. It must've shown because Dean caught his shoulder as he stepped out of the tub. "Hey, I got your back, Sam. I believe you."

Sam swallowed and nodded shakily.

The phone was still ringing; Bobby didn't have a machine.

"Okay," he nodded again, this time with more confidence. "Okay, hang up. We'll try again later." He pulled a second towel off the rack. They weren't half bad, thick and warm and comforting under the shock he was trying to get past. "We got a lot more people to call."

"Don't forget we need our own plan too."

"No kidding," Sam agreed, throwing his jeans back on. He touched his brow. "Man, my eyes are killing me..."

"Your psychic vision burst some capillaries around the pupil," Dean gestured around his eyes, pointed at Sam then the mirror.

Sam turned, blanched. "Oh."

"Yeah you look pretty spooky. You ready to come out here and tell me everything you saw?" Dean asked as he walked out to where he'd set their duffels out on the beds.

Sam washed a hand down his face and nodded. He came over and sat down on the foot of his bed. Dean moved over and sat next to him. "Okay," Dean murmured, ducking low to see under Sam's bangs. "Walk me through it."

The claws of a demon had embedded themselves into the base of Sam's neck and gouged upwards into his brain until finally the psychic vision took him away altogether. At first he saw nothing, just cloudy white air, an easy dim light diffused through everything. Then a curved slate gray panel of metal materialized, and Sam realized he was following it as it moved so fast beads of water streamed along under the pressure. Sam's vision zoomed out to see more missiles in formation. He watched as they angled down to the American west coast.

A head-splitting screech and flash and the vision had changed. Now he heard music outside, the captivating smell of hot dogs and hamburgers permeated the air. Parents and kids dressed for fall laughing and playing, sitting down to eat and looking up at the sky curiously. It was a block party in some apple pie suburb. The kids called for their parents to look up. The mothers in reasonable jeans and chardonnay, fathers with their Nikes and beer stood up from their lawn chairs, shaded their eyes. The music cut out as everyone insisted on viewing the spectacle above. Even civilians could see the small missiles passing over were too close to the ground. The adults looked at one another, unease spreading among them but none of them knew, none of them could possibly know about the particles floating down upon them in the air.

Sam's vision supplied him with the knowledge that not one of these people would make it out alive.

Another flash and thunderous bang in Sam's mind and he vaguely wondered if his head had just cracked open in real life before he was shown a busy outdoor mall, a giant sign blazing White Plains Mall. Shoppers laughed, talked on their phones, held the doors open for each other going in and coming out of big department stores. There was a chill in the air; sweater weather in full swing for what looked like the east coast and every coffee or pastry shop wafted pumpkin spice specialty brews and treats. There were Halloween decorations all around, most notably the bright orange pumpkin lights strung up along the tall brush plants lining the cement paths linking store upon store in the commercial sprawl. Sam's vision finally fixed on an amphitheater where pockets of friends and family sat to talk after a spree or a good meal. A few employees on their breaks skulked in the shadows smoking cigarettes together. A tall teenaged boy with a few other friends dropped his skateboard and sat down, cradling his head in his hands. An older woman shuffled to the edge of the first bank of tiered seats and did the same. Several more followed the same pattern of fatigue.

Then they began to tremble. Uncontrollable tremors in their hands first. Those who'd been with friends had them vocalizing alarm, trying to form plans on what to do, nobody really noticing it was happening in the whole amphitheater.

One of them, the older woman, fell to the pavement.

Time sped up in Sam's vision. The woman who'd fallen had been found by her husband. Panicked, he sought her pulse and found none and he was sobbing in grief over her body when she resurrected.

She grabbed his face and brought his neck down to her open, chattering mouth. With surprising strength she chomped down on her beloved's jugular and the man's gurgling screams echoed around the amphitheater, soon to be compounded by the teenagers, the smokers, the post-dinner gossipers. After that, it'd go quiet but for the hungry moans of the resurrected horde.

Sam was thrust from another town to another and another all over the United States, witnessing the devastation and horror until he'd finally been released to wake up in a bed, his body feeling like it'd just gone ten rounds, his brother's presence a balm to the terror of what he'd just witnessed, and then the unyielding nausea that drove him to throw up a few scant moments later.

The sun rose but it remained dark in the town of Matilda's Pass and its surrounding region. Gray cloud cover as far as the eye could see. The weather forecast on the radio cheerily alerted its local inhabitants of cold rains in the afternoon. The wind hadn't abated. It had only increased its voracity like a predator, maliciously intentioned to aid Croatoan's spread as soon as they met. The gales buffeted the front lot and back alley of the brothers' motel, made the windows shake in their sills, the doors creak in their wood frames. The whole building structure shuddered under the onslaught but the motel's warm yellow lights stayed on, the heater still worked, the microwave buzzed pleasantly when they went to reheat their coffee as they figured out a plan in between calls to warn everyone they knew who might believe them.

Sam's voice was like gravel, his face gaunt. Dean was tempted to quip he looked like death warmed over. Instead he found a wool blanket in one of the empty dresser drawers and draped it around him. Sam nodded and gave a meek thanks as he snugged into it and scooted to lean against his bed's head board.

"Okay so what're we looking at here?" Dean asked, getting up to pace. Sam tracked him with his bloodied eyes at first then deliberately closed them for relief. The stress and tension was still in his voice when he answered.

"Panic, chaos. A military response. Evacuation. Temporary shelters are gonna get set up, then overrun. Same with military evacuation points."

"Mmhm," Dean hummed so Sam wouldn't have to open his eyes to see Dean's reaction. "How fast will they be?"

"Military response time? Three or four days for evac-"

"The Croats, Sam. How fast are they?"

"They're fast," Sam admitted with trepidation. "They don't have functioning pain receptors. They don't get winded, they don't feel that burn in their muscles that makes you slow down. And we definitely can't try to restrain them. They'll have no compunction against twisting their joints or cracking their own bones to get you."

"And by 'get you' you mean full-on Romero cannibalism?"

Sam pressed his lips together and gave a grim nod.

"Damn," Dean whispered vehemently.

"They're stupid though."

"How stupid?"

"They can't open doors."

Dean side-eyed him. Sam rolled his eyes. "I'm serious, they're dumber than velociraptors."

"They can open doors accidentally though, right? Like scrabbling enough, they could jiggle it open."

"Well, okay," Sam conceded with a mocking voice. Dean smirked. The brief levity was nice. He sat down at the table by the motel window and looked out.

It was a Saturday morning. Beyond their motel parking lot Dean could see people were waking up, coming out of their homes. Quick trips to the grocery store, walking their dogs, one woman bringing a lot of potted plants in from the turbulent winds, a construction worker in a thick canvas jacket and a reflective vest making his way inside a diner.

Sam's voice was in the background of Dean's observations. His little brother had gotten a hold of some hunters, was now trying to relay what he knew but coming up against some doubters on speaker phone. Dean huffed with disdain. Hunters, of all people, should not be questioning Sam.

Dean's eyes drifted lower to the pavement where he'd found his little brother earlier. He stared at it until he was sure he could see spots of blood Sam had left behind.

Sam got off the phone with a frustrated grunt. "I don't know if I said it before but thank you for believing me, Dean." Sam's voice calling his name punched through Dean’s reverie. He startled, half-turned to his brother but then went back to face the window. He folded his arms against his chest.

"You were gonna ditch me."

A pregnant pause, then, "I was, yeah." Sam’s voice was flat. Dean faced his brother. Sam wilted. "For what it's worth I wasn't positive I was gonna go until I woke up this morning... at three. Realized I couldn't just lie low like you said we should."

Dean clenched his jaw, waited Sam out for more of an explanation than that.

Sam huffed. "Dean, my mind was running circles on all the ways I could hurt you, man. Betray humanity, be coerced or possessed to do even just the slightest thing to get me going down a path that'd end with you pulling a trigger and..." Sam's eyes glistened. "I couldn't sit still for that, Dean. And I didn't want to see your face. No more talking about me and my fate and Dad. We did that yesterday and it's… it’s hollow. So yeah I was ditching you," Sam sighed, rubbed his face. He looked back up at his brother, those stupid puppy dog eyes, streaked with burst red vessels now. "Are you..."

"Sammy," Dean cut him off before he asked some stupid namby-pamby shit like 'are you still mad at me?' He continued, "A natural extension of the wise old adage 'don't go to sleep angry' is 'don't be in a fight during the zombie apocalypse.'" Sam snorted. Dean smiled. "We're fine, man."

And they were. Dean understood enough where Sam was coming from and anyway Dean just wasn't a guy to get worked up about things that hadn't actually happened.

Well, except the zombie apocalypse.

"Okay," Sam nodded guiltily.

"It's crazy different now though, huh?"

Sam nodded heavily. "Whatever plans there were for me and children like me, they've all been..." Sam put his hands up, trying to shape the enormity of the upheaval, "completely blown out of the water now. This strain of Croatoan is still demonic so I was tapped in with the vision but I could tell... it's all from a different source. Just as powerful as yellow eyes but with a totally different agenda."

Dean winced, rapped his hand against the wooden window sill. "Can't figure out if I'm relieved or horrified by that."


"Is this gonna be isolated to the states? North America?"

"I only saw what looked like typical American locations."

"There's some hope to be had there."

Sam shrugged, nodded. Dean's phone rang. His eyes widened. "It's Bobby," he explained eagerly as he hit the button to answer.

"Bobby!" They chimed as Dean put him on speaker.

"Hey guys what's going on?" Bobby's voice was open, upbeat.

"Zombie apocalypse is what's up," Dean offered. Sam made a face.

"Come again?"

"It's a new strain of a very old demonic virus, Bobby, and it's hitting the east coast of the states first. It'll be to you probably by mid-afternoon because I know it'll hit White Plains New York at dusk. Now look Bobby I know it's a lot to take in and you probably don't believe me but-"

"Stop right there, kid, I believe ya."

Sam took a breath. "You do?" His dimples showed, smiling with Dean over Bobby's words coming through the phone.

"Course I do. You think I got a panic room against ghosts and demons 'cause I'm a skeptic?"

"Bobby you are awesome," Dean laughed, totally without filter.

"Yeah, yeah," Bobby dismissed but they could hear his smile, “So gimme the details."

And they did. They explained the mechanisms of infection they knew of so far, the aerosolized virus, and Bobby mentioned he still had his old gas mask from ‘nam but should go get a couple more modern ones now.

"I didn't even think of that," Sam blinked. By Dean's put out expression, he hadn't either.

"Get a, get the stupid motel pad of paper we're making a shopping list with Bobby right now," Dean snapped, literally snapped at Sam and the pad of paper as Bobby chuckled and ordered them to get a satellite phone too.

Once they covered how best to handle the demonic undead, Bobby's questions came back around to them. "I'm gonna have to go pick a few things up but overall I'm pretty set to weather this. How 'bout you boys? Where'd you say you were again?"

"Matilda's Pass, Oregon. Just over the California border. First town you hit."

"That's not the most strategically desirable locale," Bobby gruffed, concerned.

Sam was impressed when Dean, having clearly thought about this where Sam hadn't, nodded and replied. "Yeah. We're hoping most Californians will head straight west for the Rockies but there's still gonna be a solid amount of people escaping north heading straight for us."

"Right. Gotta prepare yourselves for... survivors making it to this small town of yours, spillover from the interstate."

Sam and Dean exchanged meaningful looks. Bobby didn't explicitly says there would be massacres occurring all over America's interstate highways once panicked traffic had deadlocked. He didn't have to.

"Yeah," Sam agreed lowly. He cleared his throat. "Um, Bobby, you think we should come to you?"

"Eventually? Yes, absolutely. Now? No."

"You're too far from us."

"Exactly. Trying to travel in this will be a death knell. Gotta survive the initial waves and then we can start trying to come back together, you hear me boys?"

Dead air gently swayed between all three men, Bobby's words affecting them. Sam sniffed and wiped his eye. "We hear you, Bobby."

"Yeah, good," Bobby encouraged, sounding a little rough himself. "And hey get a real nice radio in addition to that sat phone, okay? All the higher tech infrastructure should hold for a decent amount of time but you can't go wrong with a quality CB."

"You got it, Bobby," Dean confirmed, gesturing at Sam to jot it down on their list. He looked at his watch. "We got a couple hours now, we gotta go, Bobby."

"Don't let me keep you. You take care of yourselves. Call me later today if ya can."

The brothers grinned, pleased to have something normal to look forward to tonight. "You got it. Thanks, thank you Bobby."

They hung up and rushed to the Impala, their shopping list clutched in Sam's hand.

They found a medical equipment store for the gas masks, a guns and ammo store (where they didn't actually get any additional arms or bullets but rather shopped for silent weapons to bludgeon heads with), and finally landed at a big warehouse-type store for the communications tech they wanted and any nonperishables Dean could practically scent like a hound as they passed by the high pallet shelves. They maxed out every fake card they had.

Underpinning their excessive supplies run was their mutual awareness they wouldn't be sitting this one out watching the zombie apocalypse unfold from the comfort and safety of their motel room. They were hunters - they grew up saving people and hunting things. To hunker down and batten the hatches was unthinkable. So, they needed these supplies.

While they were out they continued calling every contact they had to warn them. Dean objected when Sam decided to try his old Stanford friends though.

"Who knows? Even if someone genuinely believes I'm prank calling them-"

"Or having a psychotic break," Dean scoffed.

"Maybe they'll still subconsciously prepare," Sam argued back. Dean rolled his eyes and a few minutes later snatched a big bag of freeze dried fruit that he knew Sam would love for being a good person.

As the clock struck noon, the brothers settled in front of their motel room's window and waited, watching the parking lot and the intersection beyond. It was still dark, still windy. The sky was threatening to break open but so far there'd only been drizzle.

Sam was grinding his teeth as he looked out, scrutinizing everything. Dean wanted to joke how funny it'd be if nothing at all happened and this whole thing was a sick prank courtesy of yellow eyes.

…good lord how he wished that'd be true...

Suddenly a car's horn filled the quiet, someone having slammed their hand down hard and not letting go. A raucous screeching sound of brakes rent the air, a woman nearby let out a pitchy ‘oh my god!’ and then the collision, metal crashing into metal, the vehicles wrenching and knifing into each other as they slid to a stop right at the edge of the motel's driveway.

"Here we go."

Chapter Text




As the clock struck noon, the brothers settled in front of their motel room's window and waited, watching the parking lot and the intersection beyond. It was still dark, still windy. The sky was threatening to break open but so far there'd only been drizzle.

Sam was grinding his teeth as he looked out, scrutinizing everything. Dean wanted to joke how funny it'd be if nothing at all happened and this whole thing was a sick prank courtesy of yellow eyes. Good lord how he wished that'd be true...

Suddenly a car's horn filled the quiet and it didn't stop blaring. A raucous screeching sound of brakes rent the air, a woman outside near their room let out a pitchy "oh my god!" and then the collision, metal crashing into metal, wrenching and knifing into each other. One was an SUV, the other a low sedan. The sedan was overtaken by the larger vehicle and the two cars screeched and slid to a stop right at the edge of the motel's driveway.

"Here we go," Sam's voice wavered. Dean shoved a gas mask to Sam's chest. Sam put it on, eyes never leaving the accident.

Sam vaguely felt Dean checking he had his mask on properly, tugging and catching his hair but Sam ignored it, squinting at the windshield of the sedan facing them, trying to see if the occupants were alive.

"Okay you're good." Dean said. Sam blinked and looked over. Dean's mask was a little crooked on his face.

"Hold still." Sam fixed it. "Okay you're okay too," Sam breathed shakily, adrenaline pumping through him.

"Good," Dean pulled his gun, released the safety. "Now c'mon."

Sam nodded and followed his brother outside. The chilly wind was whipping around just like this morning and it filled Sam with dread. The windier it was, the less likely the Croatoan strain could fall unimpeded to the ground and go inert. At least that was his working theory.

Despite the inclement weather, a small number of people had converged on the two vehicles, shocked and gaping at the destruction. Smoke billowed out over the wreckage.

"Everybody take twenty steps back!" Dean shouted through his mask. People startled at the sight of him in the mask - he realized it looked scary. It gave him an edge. Cars honked over on the other lane, slowing to get an eyeful of the accident.

Sam took long strides to the street to yell at the vehicles to keep moving, stop gaping. Dean turned back to the crowd.

"Back up! Back up!" Dean shouted, waving and stepping forward to intimidate when they didn't comply. One middle-aged man with a sour face stepped up and demanded to know why they were wearing gas masks.

“Get back,” Dean growled, pushing him harshly. The guy fell back, cowed. A minute or two and Dean had gotten most of the civilians backed away.

The town's general traffic wasn't enough for a big jam even with the gapers. Once Sam had charged the slow-moving vehicles to keep going with his own booming voice and smacking on the roofs of the vehicles with his hands they quickly did as they were told (largely in fear for the welfare of their cars) and sped off.

With that taken care of, Sam turned and shared a look with his brother. As one, they split off to each investigate a car, Sam the SUV that'd been at fault for the collision and Dean the sedan.

Dean stepped carefully around the debris to and smoke to peer through the windshield. The car's two occupants, two women, were possibly dead, hopefully just unconscious. Dean tried the door. It was locked. The engine was still running, more and more smoke was billowing out from under the hood. Dean tried the back seat door but it was locked too. He swore and used the butt of his gun to break the tempered glass. The sound of his labor made it so he barely heard his brother's panicked shout for him from the other side of the wreckage.

"Sam?!" Dean called back, immediately dropping his rescue operation to get to his brother. He rounded a corner of steaming metal out of sight from the crowd of civilians he'd wrangled to see Sam staggering backwards, blanched at some sight before him. Dean rushed to him. "Sam," he said lowly, grabbing him, and Sam startled but latched onto Dean's arms.

"Dean." Sam pointed. Dean looked.

A man was growling and spitting as it dragged its body through the open window of the passenger seat towards them. Beyond, Dean could see what had probably been a woman in the driver's seat.

"Shit," Dean muttered faintly. Whatever had been done to her, it hadn't been a car crash. Their first good look at the new strain of Croat continued its journey into the pavement, its body mangled, red and drying black blood soaking into its hair and clothes.

It screeched as he fell out of the car and landed awkwardly onto the pavement. The small group Dean thought he’d successfully warned off got braver. The brothers had a gasp and turned, finding the small group peaking, stepping over for a book look in tiny steps and sounds of muted horror.

"No! Go back," Sam ordered, hints of genuine alarm underneath though. He didn’t want them to see what they’d have to do to this thing.

Dean pointed to the other car. "Go save the occupants in the other car. They're unconscious."

"I've called 9-1-1," a voice from the group announced.

"They won't be coming for awhile. Turn off the engine and get them out of the vehicle."

"What are you two even waiting for, you gotta save this guy!" A young man in work coveralls burst from the crowd and ran to the Croat.

"Don't! He's infected!" Sam shouted, panic lacing his tone. It actually succeeded; the man paused to look up even as he hovered over the newly transformed demonic zombie. In his moment of distraction though, the thing moaned and rose up to latch onto his elbow. It was in the perfect position to unbalance its would-be savior enough to fall in the ground in front of him, a perfect vantage point for a second meal after the driver.

A gunshot rang out, screams from the crowd, Dean's smoking barrel lowered back to the safety of the ground.

“I’m calling the police!”

Dean rolled his eyes.

The man in coveralls looked up at him, eyes blazing. “You fucking lunatic,” he accused.

"It would've infected you," Dean shouted back, frustrated as he looked around and saw the rest of the civilians staring at him in terror.

“He’s right. There’s… there’s a virus,” Sam struggled. Indignity flushed through Dean. They didn’t need to explain themselves.

“Go save the people in the other car,” he barked.

The sour-faced man and others ignored him. "Is that why you're both wearing masks? If it’s a virus, is it airborne?" Sourpuss spat out from the group. "We have a right to know!"

The civilians agreed. Dean swore quietly. Sam cast a sidelong look at him.

"It might be airborne," Sam hedged, not wanting to start a panic. Because the brothers could hope if they got this little group frantic with fear they would just scream and scatter preferably indoors somewhere but panic didn't really work like that. Panic made people dumb as bricks, made them emotional and easily distracted, had them come up with cockamamie ideas and glaringly flawed plans. Basically it was just never the right call to cause people to panic. "Get indoors or find a mask if you want to be safe," Dean offered gruffly. It sounded like reasonable advice and after witnessing so much, many people peeled off from the crowd in ones and twos, hunched over and shocky and wanting to get home and watch the news, have a stiff drink probably...

Dean could relate.

He grabbed Sam. "C'mon let’s get to the other car." His brother nodded and ran back around, bypassing the witnesses who stayed, staring at the dead Croat on the ground. They'd watched Dean execute it, not knowing it was a Croat, thinking it was a victim begging for help and Dean was a cold-blooded killer. Not good, Sam thought. If the world didn't go to hell in a handbasket soon, they'd have to skip town to ditch those cops that’d be coming after that phone call. Hopefully, in a sickening it’s-the-zombie-apocalypse way, they were already too busy.

As he followed his brother past the group, he kept up his brother's litany of going home, staying indoors. In return, he obliquely heard talkback from angry guys, vaguely registered a couple gasps, coughs, some distressed voices that had nothing to do with yelling at Sam and Dean. Sam made a clicking sound with his mouth, frustrated and shaking his head as he rounded the crash site with Dean. He skidded to a halt and breathed a sigh of relief that three people - including Whitney - had stayed behind and finished what Dean had started by breaking the window and getting inside to save the occupants.

The car's engine had been turned off and the two victims were laid out on the pavement. There was still dangerous smoke emitting from the crash though. Sam followed its source and booked it to the SUV when he realized its engine was still on.

Dean shouted after him but Sam gestured at what he was doing. Dean gave him a thumbs up before turning to Whitney and the others to help the survivors.

Sam reached the driver's side and focused on the woman with the gored face sitting in the driver's seat, her belt still buckling her in. The window was down. He could just...

Sam winced as he reached through the window. "Please don't be a zombie please don't wake up."

His hands scratched and scrambled with trembling fingers along the steering column trying to find the damn ignition, the poor woman's mashed, eaten face right by his shoulder now. Sam held his breath as the rank scent of her corpse filtered into his mask even past the stench of burnt rubber and gasoline.

He wondered why he’d done this but the urgency of getting the engine off and the simple task of turning the keys had him thinking it’d be fine until it felt like an eternity dangling his damn shoulder in front of a woman who might reanimate at any second and take a juicy bite out of him.

"Fucking finally," Sam gasped as he got a firm hold on the keys and turned the engine off.

All of a sudden a strong arm looped around his waist and wrenched him backwards. “Sammy!” Dean roared and Sam smacked the back of his head on the roof as Dean pulled him out.

“Ow,” Sam gasped, rubbing the injury as Dean kept his arm around Sam's waist. "What the f-“

"Dumbass. Look," Dean breathed and pointed, unconsciously drawing Sam further away from the vehicle. Sam limply followed Dean’s manhandling as he saw.

The corpse had resurrected. Her hand, adorned by a white-gold wedding band studded with small diamonds macabrely stained with blood now, was scrabbling along the shattered glass gravel in the window, the other hand blindly feeling around the wheel. The lipless maw in her face opened for a scratchy moan that slowly, painfully ripped into a scream.

Sam froze and watched, repulsed by the sound coming out of this poor woman who'd been alive and unharmed probably only fifteen minutes ago. The screams turned to wails that never ended.

Dean pulled Sam tighter against him, instinct kicking in to keep him close. Sam went with it for a second, leaned on his brother before his eyes angled to the remaining crowd.

There were about six of them and they weren't paying attention to Sam and Dean anymore; three were on the ground gagging with the rest trying to help.

"Is 9-1-1 still down for you?"

"It's not down, I've got a hold signal."

"Water, Tom, here, come on." Whitney insisted, holding a bottle in front of a man in his fifties. The guy was clutching his chest.

The other two people were trembling and coughing on the pavement, just as bad off. One was Sourpuss. Nobody was helping him. Dean wasn’t surprised. The other was a nice middle-aged woman with a man tending to her. They seemed familiar enough with one another, perhaps husband and wife.

"We need to get inside," Dean said, looking around. The area was now eerily quiet except for-

"What is that wailing?" Someone asked fearfully. “Is someone else hurt?” Sam and Dean exchanged looks.

“Someone else is infected,” Sam offered with emphasis. "We need to take cover," Sam repeated his brother’s sentiments. He broke away from Dean and got over to help the man Whitney was helping, Tom. He got him to his feet and looked to Dean but it was Whitney who spoke.

"The office," Whitney suggested firmly over the winds. Sam and Dean shrugged and nodded, figuring it was as good a place as any. Sam and Dean's room was kitted out with supplies but it was still too small. Dean for one appreciated they weren't showing their hand on supplies just yet anyway. He helped Sourpuss up, now red-faced from coughing.

They hiked down the motel parking lot past the brothers' room to get to the office. The pair that could’ve been husband and (sick) wife broke off from their troop, intent on getting home or to some other imagined safety. They barely bid their farewells, just staggered away and to a car parked on the street outside the motel’s parking lot.

When the group filtered into the office they were whittled down to Whitney, Sourpuss who Dean had discovered was named Bill, Whitney’s buddy Tom, and two girls who knew each other well enough to be clutching each other. They looked college-aged and wore blue button-ups, name tags (Leah and Tal) with an auto service patch embroidered above. It matched the one down the street Dean had noticed a day or two ago.

The brothers took off their masks and wipe the sweat off their faces. They surveyed the civilians. Dean gave the girls a wan smile. “You sisters?”

Leah, the taller one, was trembling just as much as her sister but she nodded. “We heard the crash. Thought we could help.”

Dean chewed his lip and shrugged with nod of respect. They probably could’ve helped if it weren’t the zombie apocalypse. He glanced at Sam looking at the pair of them, eyes soft and knowing.

When they all shuffled inside, Whitney had rushed to a small beat-up TV on the office counter. It was static at first but then it’d cleared and the group huddled around it to watch.

It was live news footage from a helicopter hovering over a high school and its football field. It was obvious several physical education classes had been running outside because there were at least a hundred kids on the field, most of them sitting on the grass, many now waving at the helicopter. “There have been numerous alarms and 9-1-1 calls made from Bayneville High School and authorities have managed to respond despite the flood of emergencies that have rocked this area to its core.”

Dean turned into his brother and Sam backed up until they found a small corner to talk.

“Bill’s infected.”

“And Tom,” Sam contributed, eyes focused intently on Dean so he wouldn’t give away they were talking about the two men by even so much as glancing at them.

“You’ll notice the emergency and police vehicles are setting up as we speak and assessing the situation, determining whether it is dangerous to proceed to those who may be in need of health services out on the football field,” the man droned.

Sam swallowed, shifted in place. “I mean, all we can do now is wait and see how long it takes for them to,” Sam swallowed, shifted in place. “Y’know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dean replied tiredly, wincing and looking around. Minutes ticked by, Sam and Dean in their own worlds deep in thought. Sam was heavily considering going back to their room and stocking up while Dean started checking all the nooks and crannies of the office to see what resources they had at hand. The television continued.

“Jake, can you tell if they’re just sick? Is this just a sweeping illness out on that school field? We have reports of assault by those who have taken ill.”

“I… don’t… know,” Jake the reporter replied uncertainly. “There are some scuffles down there but nothing definitive, Tina. But oh, the authorities are making their move now past the field’s fences and into the field to administer triage…” he trailed off, watching, rapt.

Dean came up alongside his brother, sighing and looking at Tom and Bill, who’d both just collapsed onto the small sofa. Whitney sat on the small square coffee table next to Tom with water and a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You know, we might have to quarantine them. Put them in their own rooms,” Dean murmured.

Sam shook his head. “It’d throw the rest into a panic. They already saw you execute a man-”

“That wasn’t-”

“I know. But… we gotta just let them resurrect in here with us. Unless there’s some other way to convince them it’s the zombie apocalypse.”

Everybody gasped, the auto sisters shrieked. Sam and Dean turned, startled.

“Oh my god, oh, oh no, Tina are you getting this?” The reporter cried as the scene played out below. Sam and Dean finally paid the broadcast attention, watching a chaotic riot unfold between the suburban streets, field, and high school. “Police and emergency services are getting attacked by several of the reportedly ill high schoolers, many of which are now racing out of the broken field fences. How the hell…”

Dean unconsciously grabbed Sam's wrist, pulled him closer. Sam let him, noticing the sisters were similarly closing in with each other as they watched, unblinking eyes glued the screen.

The footage cut out just when the cameraman in helicopter zoomed in on a particularly brutal attack of a young athletic girl leaping onto a police officer’s shoulders and taking him down. After a few beeps in a black void, the channel went live again with their anchorwoman at the station, Tina. She had velvet red lips, black eyeliner, and the desperate fear in her eyes made her look like a vintage horror movie poster starlet.

"We have just gotten word from the United States Government in conjunction with the World Health Organization that this unprecedented attack on North American soil is both chemical and biological in nature. It was released over the East Coast by a global missile deployment of high viral loads in gaseous form from an as-yet-identified foreign power at around 12:15 this afternoon. While the United States is taking every measure to stop it, these missiles are nevertheless continuing their course across the country and expected to reach the midwest, particularly Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans by late afternoon," the anchorwoman’s voice wavered as though she had family in one of those cities. "Authorities are urging everyone to stay at home under the safety of their roofs and away from their windows until the gaseous matter has cleared. Estimates indicate the gas will have grounded in about 72 hours. Wednesday morning." She paused, took a steadying breath. “The CDC in collaboration with the World Health Organization are..."

"The sick are gonna die before 72 hours," Dean murmured.

Sam nodded, lips a thin line. "We’ll see if we can put them in separate rooms now. They'll ask."

"Yeah." Dean rubbed his chin.

Just then everybody’s phones went off like their own form of a siren. Whitney noticed the brothers were out of the loop and walked over to them holding her phone up.

"Emergency text message system," she explained, handing the phone over. Sam squinted at it, reading while she continued. “National Guard is setting up a temporary shelter down the road."

Dean shared a meaningful look with his brother.

"What's the temporary shelter?"


Dean raised a brow at Sam, sardonic. “I was pulling for a waffle house.”

“You coming?” Whitney asked, hopeful. “I gotta get Tom and Bill some help.”

They both winced.

Tornado sirens went off, blaring all over the entire town.

“We’ll help you get to the shelter,” Sam huffed, hardpressed.

“What about you two?”

“Not our scene,” Dean quipped with a smirk. “But give us a second, sweetheart.”

Whitney made a face at the endearment but turned to go back to Tom.

Dean dragged Sam over to the side. “Are you sure we’re gonna help drag Tom and Bill to a shelter?”

“I don’t think it’ll make a difference,” Sam sighed. “Infected people are going to be going there anyway. And who knows. Maybe they have a cure.”

“Sammy,” Dean admonished.

“Well what the hell are the ethics of handling civilians during a zombie apocalypse anyway,” Sam whined, his eye still so red and painful-looking. “Jesus Christ.” He wiped his face roughly.

“Okay, how about this. Everyone!” Dean announced, and got everybody’s attention surprisingly fast. “We don’t advise you going to that shelter. It’ll get overrun just like that damn football field in no time. But if you think we’re wrong, and you want to go to the library, Sam and I, we’ll help you get there.”

“Okay yeah, we’re staying here,” Leah said firmly, loudly. Tal nodded shakily. “They told us to stay inside anyway.”

“Good girls,” Dean approved, throwing them a thumbs up. “Whitney?”

“I gotta get Tom help,” she said, looking up from tending to him, eyes wide.

“We… we can take care of him here,” Sam tried. “We can’t… really trust any traditional form of safety or sanctuary right now.”

“Fuck this,” Bill smacked his palm on the arm of the sofa. “I’m going home.”

Everybody watched guiltily, not particularly interested in stopping the obnoxious man from departing.

“Wait,” Whitney finally relented as he reached the door, rolling her eyes, “Bill, come on. Don’t be an idiot.”

“To hell with ya, Whitney,” Bill retorted. He kicked the door open and disappeared. A few seconds of everybody watching Bill’s progress crossing the street through the office window, Dean turned and shot an incredulous smile at Sam. “Well that problem solved itself.”

Everybody was still watching Bill's progress and Sam gasped while the others shouted in horror as a zombie darted from seemingly out of nowhere and tackled the man. Dean turned just in time to see Bill and the zombie fall behind a car.

“Oh,” he said, sickened. “Well.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” Tom announced, finally able to speak. He had a strong, commanding tone despite all he'd witnessed. “Whitney hon, turn up the news. We gotta know what we’re dealing with.”

Dean gave Sam a sad look about Tom. He seemed like a good man.

The small group, now just the sisters, Whitney, and Tom found chairs and watched the TV as Sam and Dean settled down on either side of the office window as look outs. They agreed if they saw any innocent uninfected they’d try to get them inside as fast as possible too. Otherwise, surviving the first wave of the zombie apocalypse was their primary objective and it was well under way. The brothers knew this was just the beginning.