Every creature had its own smell. Most of them fucking reeked.
Shapeshifters, Dean had learned, smelled like a mixture of bleach and decay. He didn't know where the bleach came from, but most of the crap he dealt with thrived off death or rotting flesh, so the last part was no shock. At least shifters only created their own waste, and didn't wallow in the dead as much as some.
The aroma on the breeze stung his nostrils. It was coming.
He reached across the table, feeling the bumps under his fingertips. The pistol he picked up was heavy with bullets, but he popped the clip and felt to make sure they'd stayed in place. The top bullet rolled under his finger, so he slipped the clip back with a satisfying snap and crouched.
The branches scratched the roof overhead, with a bit of a whine. Dean ignored the chill dancing down his back.
A creak was the only warning he got. But he managed to keep his hands on his gun as a fist connected with his gut and sent him flying. He hit the floor with a thud, and he coughed as he sucked in dust.
"And hello to you too," he said.
The shifter didn't reply. Instead, a crash came from the other side of the room, and Dean pointed his gun in the direction of the crash. But he didn't fire. He waited until he could hear the heavy breathing of the shifter, off to his side.
Fucker was playing with him.
He exhaled, and jerked the gun toward the breath sounds. He squeezed the trigger, and inhaled as he heard something heavy hit the ground. He got to his feet and edged forward until his boots contacted something soft, and he smelled an iron tang in the air.
For good measure, he slipped a knife out of his belt, felt along the corpse for the chest, and sunk the blade in. The body was twitching, but not in response to the stabbing. Still. Better safe than dead.
He took out the knife and wiped it clean with the edge of his shirt. Once it was back in his holster, he pulled his cell out of his pocket and held the first button.
"Bobby," he said when the line picked up. "I think I'm ready for that beer now."
Dean dragged the shifter into the wood shed just behind the cabin, and went back inside to change clothes. Once the flannel warmed his torso - there was more of a bite to the air, now fall had set in - he ran a wet washcloth over his hands and face. Wouldn't do to wear shifter guts in public.
His hand dropped to his chest. But no matter how ingrained the habit was, he couldn't clean an amulet he didn't have anymore. With a quiet grunt, he grabbed his sunglasses and stepped outside.
Sweet pine filled his nose as he locked up the cabin, and a breeze rustled the trees as he grabbed a large branch he'd propped up on the side of the cabin. He was going only a couple blocks, but he'd tripped over rocks and holes during other walks, when he didn't leave the path entirely.
His body ached, but not as much as it usually did after a hunt. Certainly less than it had after the past couple.
The bar was the kind of hole any stationary hunter could love: almost in the middle of nowhere, busy enough to keep a lone guy from standing out, but quiet enough to drink solo without question. And Dean had drunk by himself plenty of times. He just didn't feel like it now.
The sound of muted music and smell of stale smoke told him he made it. He tossed his branch off to the side, adjusted his jacket and glasses, and walked up to the building. He touched the cool concrete walls until he found the frame of the door, and pushed his way inside.
"Hey, Dean," a woman said.
"Lynette. How you been?"
A chuckle. "Keepin' on. Your usual?"
"Sure. The booth in the back free?"
"Yep. Head on back."
He walked in a straight line, keeping the edge between the carpet of the area with the booths and the slick floor by the bar under his feet. He only stopped when the tip of his boot connected with metal, and when his hand met smooth tabletop.
"Anyone sitting here?" he asked no one in particular.
When no one answered - he didn't expect anyone would - he slid in, bouncing a bit on the cushion. He didn't come in contact with any jackets or purses, so he figured he was safe.
Footsteps announced Lynette a couple minutes later. She smelled like flowery perfume, and her shoes clicked on the tile.
"You waitin' on someone?" she asked as she put Dean's beer on the table. Her voice was rough, as it always was, but kind.
"Actually," he said, "I am."
"What your friend drink?"
He took the bottle. Perspiration dripped on his hand. "Same as me."
"I'll be right back with your drinks."
"Take your time," Dean said. He stretched his arms across the back of the booth and let his muscles ease. "It'll be a few minutes."
"You want something to eat in the meantime?"
He considered. He wasn't hungry yet - adrenaline needed to wear off a little first - but he figured he'd be drinking a few tonight. An appetizer couldn't hurt.
Lynette stepped away, and Dean sighed. A low hum of conversation and a quiet jukebox near the front door was enough noise to keep him from drifting too far in his thoughts. Just the way he liked it.
After a minute, the onion rings arrived. The bowl scraped on the table as Lynette slid it back, and Dean took the edge, even though it was hot.
"Careful, hon," Lynette said as she walked away.
"I'm good, thanks."
It came with a tangy barbecue sauce, and for a moment, Dean luxuriated in the taste of the breading and the honey-laced sauce on his tongue. The onions were a little too hot, but a good hot.
"You want a napkin, son?"
Dean laughed, half-choked, and swallowed hard. "Could give a guy warning, Bobby."
"Didn't want to interrupt your love fest." The booth bounced as Bobby settled in. "I haven't seen you this happy since…well, a while."
"What can I say? They know how to clog your arteries here." Dean reached forward for the napkin holder in the center of the table and withdrew a rough piece. He brushed it over his face and felt crumbs and sauce catch. "My face messy?"
"That's putting it mildly."
"No blood, though?"
A pause. "Blood?"
"There was a shifter in the area. I took care of it."
"I thought..." Bobby sighed. "Didn't you come out here to get peace and quiet?"
Dean rolled his shoulders as Lynette's tell-tale boots clicked up. Another bottle hit the table surface, and Dean waited until the boots clicked away again.
"I needed to think. The whole Lisa thing got my head mixed up. I failed at being a normal guy, so I didn't know what was left."
"Were you..." Bobby cleared his throat. "Did you ever think of..."
He didn't need to finish. He knew where Bobby's head had been when he couldn't use his legs. "I promised Sam…well, I promised Sam I wouldn't try to get him, and I'd look up Lisa. But I figured I promised him more than that."
He heard a quiet gulping noise, and a low exhale. Bobby's next words came with the scent of beer.
"And I woulda brought you back to tan your hide," he said.
"Have you talked to Cas?"
"No," Dean said shortly. "And I don't want to. I just got rid of the angels; I don't want any more of their crap."
"Not even Cas?"
"Not even Cas."
"I said no."
Bobby cleared his throat after a moment. "So you're back."
"Guess so," Dean said. "Need a partner?"
A hand clapped on his shoulder. Dean smiled, and felt the most raw he had in months. But he slipped a hand under his sunglasses and brushed away the water rising to his eyes.
"Always," Bobby said.
Dean grinned. "Great. We can start by burying the shifter."
"You didn't bury him?"
"He's not going anywhere. I promise."
"You never change, you know that?"
Dean snorted a laugh, but didn't answer. It was pretty obvious he had changed.
But it was nice some things hadn't.