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Breathe

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Dean breezed past Bobby and John, and was already halfway up the stairs before “I need a shower,” could be thrown over his shoulder.

 

The two older men exchanged glances, then turned their eyes on Sam.

“Somethin’ happen down there, Sam?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I was in the pool, he was in the bar.  I’d ordered a beer but was looking at the menu after the waiter left -- they’ve got their own microbrewery.  Did you know that?”

Bobby nodded, and John shook his head like an irritated bull.  

“Um.  Anyway, just all of a sudden he was like, ‘Dad and Bobby are probably awake now’, and he was on his way out.”  

“Nothing happened?”  Bobby queried.

Sam shook his head.  “Not that I saw. I mean, he had the TV on, but other than the two bartenders, we were alone in there.”  

“What was he watching?”  John’s sharp gaze ground into Sam as if he could somehow pierce his son’s skull and read the boy’s thoughts for himself.

Sam’s brow furrowed.  “Not really sure. Had my back to it.  News, I think?” He spread his hands in a  helpless gesture.

John grunted.

Bobby clapped Sam on the shoulder.  “Well, I been lookin’ forward to grillin’ some steaks ever since we bought ‘em this mornin’.  Got ‘em marinatin’ even as we speak. Care to get the coals hot while I work on some potatoes?”

“Sure, Bobby.”

“Stuff’s out there already.”

“Right.  I’m on it.”

 

Bobby waited until the boy was out the door before turning on John.  “Somethin’ I should know, Winchester?”

The look the younger man turned on Bobby was not what the old hunter had expected.  “I don’t know, Singer. I don’t know.”

Uncertainty and fear were two emotions that Bobby would have sworn John Winchester hadn’t felt since his wife died, and Bobby glanced off in the direction that Dean  had gone. “You want I should check on him?”

John shook his head.  “He probably really is in the shower.  I’ll give him a few, then see if I can figure out what’s up.”  He waved a hand as if brushing away a fly. “It’s probably nothing.”

Bobby grunted as he turned away.  “He’ll say it is, but with that kid, it’s never ‘nothing’.”

 

John hung his head until Bobby’s footsteps receded.

Once the older  hunter was safely in the kitchen, John straightened, breathing deeply through his nose, holding it for a full second before exhaling in a heavy sigh.

 

His steps were unnecessarily heavy as he made his to the second floor.

 



Dean stepped back from the cool spray, allowing the bar of soap to coat every square centimeter of exposed -- and some not-so-exposed -- flesh before moving back under it.

He watched the suds rinse away.

 

Steam billowing out from behind the torn curtain

Water scalding him

Bottle of shampoo, dried sticky around the top

Scrub

rinse

Scrub

Rinse

Scrub

Rinse

Until the water swirling down the drain ran clear

Not pink with blood

And it occurred to him that they might come back

 

The bar of soap slid from his fingers, landing on his foot, startling him back into the present.

He reached for the shampoo with a shaking hand.

 

Plausible evidence.

My t-shirt, those mattresses, that nasty-ass carpet.  How much fucking evidence did they need?

 

He lathered his hair, then smoothed the excess lather over his skin, spreading it across his chest and down his groin before reaching for the bar of soap.

Neck, behind each ear, across the top of each shoulder, into his armpits, down one arm, then the other, back to his chest and belly, thick lather in his pubic hair, deep into the crease of each thigh, base of his dick and up, careful around the head, over and around and behind his balls, down each leg, between each toe, bottoms of his feet, reach behind, ass cheeks first before dipping between, soap bar running over his asshole, up and down the crack, get clean wash it away gotta be clean.

He tugged the handheld sprayer from its perch, rinsing as thoroughly as he had lathered.

All that stuff I gave them.  Hedley said it was enough. Said it was good.  Said they caught them red-handed.

He reached for the shampoo, repeating his ritualistic cleansing one more time.

Lack of plausible evidence.  No eye witnesses.

He’d said there were six others besides me!  Six that they could identify. How could they not have any witnesses?

 

Clean white suds swirled down the drain, taking Dean’s sunrise with them.

 

 


 

 

He walked out of the bathroom towelling his hair, caught sight of someone sitting on the bed, and startled so badly he bruised his shoulder blade on the door frame.

“Jesus Christ, Dad!” He balled up the damp cloth and tossed it back into the bathroom with unnecessary force.  “You scared the crap outta me!”

“Sorry, Dean.”  

 

He was holding the TV remote in his hands.

 

Dean eyed the screen warily, noting the news program, the silenced volume, the closed captioning.

He looked away.

“Was it them?”  John kept his eyes on the remote that he turned endlessly in his fingers.

Dean felt a shamefully familiar ache in his chest along with a sudden need to sit down.

Although he was already fully clothed, he crossed to his duffle, squatting down with his back to his father while he rummaged for nothing.  “Was what who? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Please don’t push this Dad

Please

I can’t

 

The silence was oppressive.

 

Dean heard his father take a deep breath.

“Bobby’s grillin’ steaks.  Try not to take too long.”

 

He left without Dean ever having to look him in the eye.

 



Dean waited until he heard his father’s voice join Bobby and Sam’s in the backyard.  Then he closed the french door leading out to the balcony, locked his bedroom door, and shut himself in the bathroom.  He closed the toilet lid and sat on it, staring down at the throw-away cell phone in his hands.

 

Untraceable, or so he’d been told.

 

Sweat was cold on his skin.

 

He dried one palm, then the other on the clean denim covering his legs.

 

His hand shook so badly he could barely dial, and each ring on the other end of the line caused the vise in his chest to tighten with a pain so vivid that he was half-expecting it to silence him.

 

“Detective Hedley.”

 

Dean’s breath stuttered in his throat.

 

“Hello?  This is Detective Hedley.  Can I help you?”

 

They got away how did they get away

 

“It’s --”  he broke off, clearing his throat.  “It’s Dean. Dean K-kayser.”

He heard the detective’s sigh clearly.  “Dean.”

He pictured the man leaning back  in his chair. Maybe closing his eyes; maybe running a hand down his face.

“I was hoping you’d call. Could sure use your  help.”

Dean swallowed, terror bubbling behind his breastbone at the thought.

“It was a real shit-show up here.  That fucking attorney they hired…” His voice trailed off, and he exhaled heavily.  “We couldn’t prove that any of the victims were unwilling participants.  Most had records for drug offenses; could have taken the roofies on their own.  Sketchy sexual histories, and although the victim’s past shouldn’t matter, in the courtroom, it does.  As far as evidence -- fluids, prints, DNA -- turns out there was actually too much of it. Bitch of a defense attorney had experts lined up willing to swear that there was no way to tell who had done what to whom and when, let alone whether any of it was non-consensual or not.”

 

Dean slid off the commode, wedging himself into the corner where the bathtub met the wall.  He pulled his knees up to his chest, resting his elbows on them with one hand holding the phone while the other covered his face.

 

“As for the stuff you gave me: it was good enough for the DA, but this witch had it thrown out as hearsay.  It wasn’t an official deposition; no one in authority witnessed your testimony, and you weren’t available for cross examination.  Plus there’s the whole false identification and fake insurance card used to pay your hospital bill.”

“I can’t testify.”  Dean hadn’t realized that he was going to speak.   Didn’t recognize his own voice.

This time both the detective’s inhale as well as his slow exhale were audible.   “Yeah.  Kinda figured that.  Wish I knew what you were runnin’ from, though.  I got a pretty good instinct for people, and you don’t strike me as the criminal type.”

“I’m not,” he answered before he could stop himself.

 

The silence stretched out between them.

 

“What I do -- my job -- I help people.”  Dean didn’t know why, but he needed Hedley to know that.  “I save them. But...I can’t....I have to stay off the radar.  It’s not safe for me...for anyone to know who I am.”

 

The thick pine of the faux log walls provided effective sound-proofing, leaving nothing for Dean to hear aside from his own unsteady breathing and the pounding of his heart.

 

“So...ah…”  The detective was clearly fishing for just the right words.  “Does that mean that you have...resources...to possibly...amend this situation?”

 

Dean closed his eyes.

 

Hunt them.

 

He pictured their faces, friendly and laughing, then sadistic and hungry.

 

Can’t.   I can’t.

 

He didn’t answer.

 

The detective drew in a long breath.  “Look, Dean...I’m really sorry about how this turned out, okay?  I feel like...you brought me all of that, and...I read what you...what you remembered….and I really wanted to get these guys, you know?  I really wanted to put them away. Not just because they should be put down for good, worse than a bunch of rabid fucking dogs, but to show you...to thank you for that.  It took courage. I owe you, and I let you down. I’m sorry.”

Dean found it painful to swallow.  “You didn’t let me down. It’s a system...and I couldn’t…”  He shook his head. “I couldn’t play my role. I’m sorry, too.”

 

More silence.

 

“Just so you know...if they disappear, no one around here is going to look real hard for the assholes.  You understand what I’m saying?”

Dean closed his eyes.  “Yeah. Yeah, I do.” He blinked away the dampness coating his lashes.  “You take care, Detective.”

“You, too, Mr. Kayser.”

 

Dean rested his wrist on his bent knee, eyes unfocused as the screen in his hand went black.  He blinked, then snapped the phone closed, allowing it to hang limply in his palm while he tilted his head back against the wall, closed his eyes, and just.  Breathed.

 

He shook his head, fisted the wetness off his face, and pushed himself to his feet.

He pulled the SIM card from the phone, crushing it under the heel of his boot before dropping it into the toilet, flushing away any hope Hedley may have had of finding him.

He leaned his palms on the edge of the sink, allowing his head to hang while he thought about steaks on the grill, Sammy and Alesia, the sound of Bobby’s laughter, the rare sight of his father’s smile.

He raised his chin, finding his own eyes in the mirror, and tried out a cocky grin.

Feels plastic, but it looks right.

 

He detoured through the kitchen on his way out the door, holding up a six pack as he three pairs of eyes turned towards him.  “Sorry I’m late, but I had to stop and grab some beer.”

 

This time the smile felt a little better, and if his attention wandered every now and then that evening, no one seemed to notice.