Sam pulled up outside the restaurant in his new car, a beat up Ford with fading paint and a dent in the driver's side door. He stepped out on to the quiet sidewalk and smiled at the familiar sight of the Impala parked across the street, and his smile only grew wider as he entered the restaurant to see Dean sitting at a small table, already sipping a beer, side by side with a woman with long brown hair and freckles across her nose.
"Sammy!" Dean said, standing up to greet him and pulling him in to a tight hug. "How the hell are you?"
"Great," he said, patting his brother on the back. "How long has it been?"
"Hell if I know, maybe six, seven months?" Dean said, finally releasing Sam from his embrace but still holding him at arm's length to get a good look at him. "Aw man it's good to see you."
"Back off Winchester," said the woman at the table as she stood up to join them, "it's my turn!"
"Hey Annabelle," Sam said, as she pulled him in to a hug almost as tight as his brother's.
"Long time no see," she said, "you look great."
"You too," Sam said, finally taking his seat opposite Annabelle while Dean sat back down beside his girlfriend.
"So how's hunting going?" she asked.
"Oh you know," Sam said, his gaze flickering to Dean, "you win some you lose some."
"Well it's not long 'til deer season now," she said. "You sticking around here for a while? We'd love for you to stay." Sam looked to Dean again, who shrugged slightly.
"It's up to you, man," said Dean. "It'd be great to catch up but if you've got some other… big game that needs catching…"
"Nah, I'm good," said Sam. "Maybe I will stay for a while."
"Great," Annabelle said, smiling. "Let me go get some more drinks, I'll let you two catch up."
"Thanks, baby," Dean said. He paused for a moment until she was out of earshot then turned to his brother.
"So really, how's hunting going?"
"Same as always," said Sam. "Nothing out of the ordinary really. Took down a pretty big nest of vamps in Alabama a couple weeks ago… Hey, you'll never guess what I ganked last week."
"I dunno, chupacabra?"
"No way," said Dean, lowering his glass that was only half way to his mouth, looking at his brother with surprise and excitement. "I haven't seen one of them in years."
Sam saw the familiar passion illuminate his brother's eyes and frowned at him. "You're not hunting at all?"
Dean's gaze fell back to his drink. "Nope."
"Not even if a case falls in to your lap?"
"Almost never happens. It's pretty damn quiet out here." He paused and took a sip of his drink. "Saw a couple of werewolves maybe six months ago but I just called another hunter and had him take care of it. Can't risk getting myself tangled up in something that could put Annabelle in danger."
"Don't you miss it?"
"Not really," Dean said, watching the bottom of his beer glass as he rotated it slowly on the table.
"Well I'm pretty sure there's a couple of vamps over in Barry if you wanna - "
"I can't," Dean said sharply, although he glanced up at his brother almost apologetically as he did so. "It's just… I actually did it, man. I got out of the life. How many hunters can say they managed that? I'm not just gonna jump straight back in now I'm finally free."
Sam felt a prickle of irritation. "Free?" he repeated. "I didn't realise hunting with me was such a burden."
"C'mon, you know that's not what I mean."
"Well what do you mean?" Sam asked, his voice low but his temper fraying. "Last I checked being a hunter was all you ever wanted and now you're playing house in the suburbs and you won't even gank a vamp if it dances ass-naked in front of you - "
Dean cut him off with a sharp kick under the table as Annabelle returned from the bar with the drinks. Sam switched on a smile and thanked her as she handed him a beer, but a short silence followed as Annabelle sat back down and looked from brother to brother. Before any of them could speak, a tall, middle-aged man in a shirt and tie approached their table. The shiny gold name-tag pinned to his shirt read: Hank Wilson: Manager.
"I uh, I hope you don't mind but service might be a little slow today, we've only got one waitress on you see. Had to make some cuts… Anyway, I'm sorry for the delay, I'll send Dana over in a minute."
"No problem," Sam said, "we're not in a hurry." Hank Wilson: Manager just nodded, and with a quick, slightly harassed-looking smile he hurried back towards the kitchen.
"So," Sam said before another silence could fall, "you spoken to Cas lately?"
"Who's Cas?" asked Annabelle, taking a sip of her own beer and watching Dean with curiosity.
"Just an old friend," Dean said before answering Sam without looking at him. "Not in about a year."
"A year?" Sam echoed incredulously. "He's your best friend."
Dean just shrugged. "I've had other stuff going on." Annabelle looked slightly confused and opened her mouth to speak when there was a noise behind them that made them all turn. A middle-aged woman at the table beside their's was clutching her wrist in pain, the handful of change she had been holding littered across the floor, a few coins still rolling in all directions. Sam crouched down to pick up the coin than had rolled to a halt at his feet and placed it back on the woman's table.
"Are you okay?" he asked. She looked up at him, bewildered, and wordlessly showed him her palm, in to which a perfect circle had been burned, about the size of a nickel.
"I'm fine," she muttered at last. "Must be an allergy or something." Sam frowned as the woman tentatively picked up the last of her change, this time with no ill effects. She mumbled a bemused thank you at Sam then left with her husband.
"That was weird," Sam said, sitting back down. "Did you see how that coin burned her hand? It can't have been hot because the waitress just handed it to her…"
"Yeah, weird," Dean said, although he sounded completely disinterested. "Like she said, must have been an allergy or something."
"It doesn't seem like an allergy," Annabelle interjected. "Considering she picked up the same coin a few seconds later."
"One of life's little mysteries," Dean pressed, trying to bring the subject to a close, but Annabelle continued.
"Besides," she said, "an allergy would never have caused such an acute burn." Sam couldn't help the feeling of satisfaction as Annabelle Warren, surgical resident backed up his suspicions while Dean tried to squirm away from any topic that could be vaguely related to the supernatural.
"You've got to admit it's weird," Sam said.
"Not really," said Dean.
The waitress stopped beside their table to let the manager pass through the narrow gap between the chairs but as he walked past her, she grabbed him suddenly by the arm. "Hank," she said matter-of-factly, "I've been stealing money from you for the past six years. I must have taken about $30,000. That's why you're going bankrupt." She said it all completely calmly, her expression barely changing. The yelling that ensued was deafening, and Sam, Dean and Annabelle all exchanged the same look and then sidled out from their table and scuttled out in the cool and mercifully quiet autumn air.
"Okay, you can't tell me that wasn't weird," Sam said.
"Would you just drop it, Sam?" Dean said sharply. "Quit seeking out trouble, God knows it finds you anyway."
"How about we just get a takeaway?" Annabelle interjected, abruptly diffusing the tension. "And there are plenty of beers in the fridge at home."
"Sure," Dean said, taking a deep breath and letting it out as a heavy sigh. "You remember where the house is, Sam?"
"Yeah, I'll meet you there," he said. Dean looked around for Sam's car and his gaze landed on the blue Ford.
"Oh we're going to need to have a talk about that, Sammy." Sam just smiled as he watched Dean and Annabelle get in to the Impala. He stood on the sidewalk until the car was out of sight, then hurried back in to the restaurant to seek out trouble.